Did I become sick because I was lacking balance in my life?
Or, did I feel so unbalanced because I was festering a cold?
Maybe it was Mercury Retrograde, or a full moon, or daylight savings, or the change in seasons that made me feel so overwhelmed and inept at life.
I went home from work early on one day, and then stayed home the entire day the next. Truthfully, I didn’t feel that sick. Sure I was stuffy and my throat was sore, but I could have powered through that. It was more the listless, nervy ache deep in my bones, and the total lack of energy to do anything other than beach myself on the couch and watch six episodes of House, MD.
You guys wanna laugh at something?
I actually had myself convinced that it wasn’t just a cold. The body aches made me terribly anxious. So, of course the logical progression of events was to assume I had pancreatic cancer.
That’s the thing about having an anxious brain.
And it’s also the thing about being/feeling unbalanced. It’s like walking on a ridiculously high balance beam. Plus you’re scared of heights so it gives you vertigo, in addition to just the usual trying to move forward on a narrow rail.
You make these leaps that are really awkward and unseemly and terrifying. It’s terrifying first because you think you are literally dying and you try to imagine saying your goodbyes to everyone, and then it is terrifying because you can’t believe your brain would do that to you.
That’s also where watching a marathon of House, MD is not such a great plan. (But! But, Hugh Laurie! His blue eyes totally ease the pain!)
So, we all have a good laugh about what an anxious freak I am. Because, really, what else can we do?
It helps to sit on the couch and chant, It’s just a virus. It helps to remind myself that there is no history of cancer in my incredibly healthy family, and that I am young and fit (sort of not really) and that it’s just a virus.
The moment passes, and we look back and laugh at it.
But the truth is that it is hard and exhausting and yes, terrifying, to live inside an anxious brain. Most people just don’t get it, and that makes the anxiety feel worse because I feel like I stick out like an Umpah Loompah with bright orange skin and bright green hair and flashing, neon signs pointing at me that says, “Hey, look at this freak.”
It takes a lot of effort to own my anxiety and to stand up a bit straighter (when I really just want to give into gravity and fall the fuck down), and be mindful and present and here and fucking now.
Can you believe that some people are actually just in the moment without having to expend all their energy being there? I find it really hard to believe. And I don’t really know what it is like, because my brain is usually racing around like a frightened mouse, scampering here and there trying to guess at and then approximate what is really real.
Thankfully, I can usually get to Pancreatic Cancer Is Not Your Reality in a relatively discreet amount of time, without too much noticeable flailing around on the balance beam.
Then I stand there, muscles clenched, and slowly let out my breath. Sometimes I take a very confident step forward. Sometimes I just stand there and catch my breath. But not for long because then the kids come home and just because I’m not feeling well doesn’t mean dinner and baths don’t still need to get made and taken.
That’s the thing about living in an anxious brain as a mom– I don’t always get the time and space I need to process what’s going on. Sometimes it just gets shoved down and shut away like socks in an overflowing drawer– not quite out of sight or out of mind. There is always something just beneath the surface, ready to spill out.
And don’t even get me started about how anxiety regarding my kids can take over even the worst fear of pancreatic cancer in less than an instant. Zombie apocalypse ain’t got nothin’ on the freaky crap wandering around in my brain. I mean it. Really. Don’t get me started on it.
I’m feeling better.
My sick/well time from work was worth it, despite the additional anxiety that using it causes.
It was just a virus.
I’m feeling better.
The leaves were more beautiful than ever this fall. At least I’d never noticed such stunning foliage before. It caught my eye daily as I drove to work for about a month, each day the trees appeared brighter and more breathtaking than the last. Until one day when everything was just brown.
I’ve never liked the color brown.
And I’ve always had a really hard time with transitions.
So, when Jack comes home from his theater class and has to do homework, eat dinner, change for karate, and get into the car to drive to karate– I understand why he melts down and just can’t handle life. Transitions make me want to scream and throw stuff too. He’s too much like his mom, that boy of mine.
I live in a part of the world where we have four very distinct seasons. This is nice, as each time of the year dazzles us with unique weather events. But it can also cause a lot of internal drama for someone who has a tough time with transitions. This time of year, going from the outdoorsy extroversion of summer and early fall into the chilly darkness of late fall and winter is particularly prickly. It feels kind of like walking into a deep forest where sunlight struggles to trickle in through dense pine boughs.
At least it feels that way for me.
I keep wanting to turn around and look back out towards the light. Eventually, my eyes will adjust to the dimness, and will be able to pick up on the subtle beauty of a new landscape, but until them, it is a bit of a challenge and it feels kind of sad.
When I think of the word “Transition,” I think of giving birth to Emily– the anniversary of which is coming soon. My labor with her was almost all transition, the time of the birth process during which contractions speed and intensify to hep baby down into the birth canal.
It was terribly painful and very fast– I birthed Em in 45 minutes and three pushes. Had my labor with her lasted any longer than that I would have begged for an epidural, but as it was so fast, I got to experience the entire thing full strength. Which I weirdly think of as one of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever been given.
My daughter emerged from me pink and fresh and new as a piglet. She had gorgeous eyes that were round and luminous as the moon as she quietly contemplated me for the first time, and a darling rosebud mouth that clamped right onto my breast.
It was one of the best days of my entire life, and probably what I would pick to live over and over if I could turn back time.
The way time turns us and our world inside out and creates something new that often hurts to behold before it feels comfortable and great and then changes again into something else.
When Jack has transitional meltdowns, I try to help him be calm, and usually end up making him a lot angrier in the process. I wonder what would be helpful– for both of us– during times when we are feeling the pinch of growth and change? One thing I do know, that Jack does not yet know because he is still so young, is that resistance is futile. Leaves will change, snow will fall and then melt, and then green buds will pop out and dazzle our eyes yet again.