Jangled Bundle of Nerves

When I was much, much younger...and I'll have to find and scan that picture..., I used to do karate. Somewhere I still have my certificates. I loved karate...mostly.

Mostly. I was always ill before class--the normal shakes, vomiting and gastric distress (allow me my euphemism), so that wasn't fun at all, but I know why I felt that way--we had our sessions in front of a mirrored wall, and that kind of open display was torture. Everyone could see me, and worse I could see me, and I felt exposed and vulnerable. I have the same problem with physical therapy, too. All the patients in one room and where confidentiality is out the door since they can hear your therapist and watch you. And again, usually with freaking mirrors.

I was supposed to do physical therapy last fall--12 tortuous sessions. I attended one and never went back. Not enough anti-anxiety meds in the world.

Now I realize that most people would never believe that I'm tightly wired inside. After all, I have fuchsia hair.

Cool, right? No way I can be shy if I routinely have wildly colored hair, teach, and speak in front of others, and truthfully, none of that bothers me at all. None of that makes me nauseated or ill. I don't mind being noticeable everywhere I go. I don't mind standing out. I like being different and seeing my tribe grow with each passing month--the wildly improbable hair colors are really catching on.

But that doesn't erase my internal reality that I am often anxious, prone to panic attacks and in general, really skin jumpy. I thank the accidental cosmos everyday for modern medicine. Since my brain has to do its own thing, it's comforting to be able to throw meds at it to calm its ass down (and yeah, I know my brain doesn't have an ass...well...hmmm).

Things like the boy being out walking by himself--being gone for an hour--man, he makes a two mile walk stretch out--leave me breathless. Yes, I know he's 23. I know he's been doing this walk for several years intermittently, but as the minutes stretch on and I wait for him, well, my heart pounds.

I have a Stephen King kind of mind, and I often see the worst-case scenarios in my mind, so it's no wonder I'm just this flood of chemicals getting ready to fight or flight. I know he's fine, and he's got his phone, and honestly with find-my-iphone, I can track his walk if I want to. And even ping him just to mess with him, which I will admit I do.

And I know that my jangled nerves aren't just about him. Rosie plaintively offered up that none of her friends talked to her yesterday at school, and each night she expresses her sadness at having to go to school. I know she's fine there, once she's there, that she's not being bullied, that the teachers love her, but I do understand that none of that makes up for wanting to play but not being able to initiate. And I ache for her, wish I could fix that. Wish that my brazenness, and I am, I really am, would wash off on her.

Oh, I do. And Lily, bless her, she gets taller and more grown up each day. She's managing fifth grade better than I could have ever hoped, but this is uncharted territory for us both and I am worried about next year and the middle school...the junior high? oh my...where she will be with 6-8th graders. I worry.

I worry incessantly about things beyond my control and in my control. I suppose I worry because if I think about it enough, I'll see all the possible eventualities and maybe be able to steer things the direction I want. Oh shit, and then I collapse laughing because I know how absurd that is.

We cannot see every eventuality. Cannot predict every outcome, and sometimes, when we get our ass handed to us on a platter, as we recently did, it really shakes our foundation to the core. And it amps up the worrying, because if we couldn't see it--couldn't see that a good decision could end up twisted around and biting us in the ass (lot of ass metaphors today), then really? How good are we at judging character, especially in jobs where that's what we do?

I think that the biggest lesson I take away from the last few months and the failure of some of our decisions to pan out the way we'd hoped is that I am forced to confront that lack of control and the reality that no matter how hard I try to be pragmatic and rational and think things through, to look for where my own cognitive biases might be getting in the way, that I can't always do that. I can't see my shadow side, as Jung called it. After all, it's in the shadows.

And while admitting all that is painful, it's the only thing that works to calm down my jangled bundle of nerves--to realize I am human and make mistakes, that I am fallible and vulnerable and it's okay.

We can't see every eventuality. We don't know the future. But we can sure as hell pull up the find-my-iphone app and see where the boy is in his walk.


melbo said...

It's so interesting how many of us are at the same point. No matter how many years go by, I continue to struggle with the concept of control. My approach has been to find out as much as I can, to see all possibilities and to prepare for whatever might lie ahead. The lesson I have yet to learn is that no amount of preparedness will spare me from having to work through the emotional side of things. I will still have to feel. =)

K Wombles said...

Yeah. And it's that emotional side of thing that's the worst. I think, sometimes, that emotions wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have to physically feel them in our bodies. But we're meant to, I suppose. All I know is that the older I get the more I have to balance the pain with the joy, and that it's a really precarious balance many times. It probably doesn't help that our culture doesn't really allow us the space to feel anything but up and encourages the myth that pain and loss aren't an unavoidable part of life.

Barbara said...

You had me at the uncomfortable PT gym - exactly my criticism when I toughed out a 6 visit series last fall. I'm a PT and I mentally composed a letter to the PT asso magazine titled "I'm not a gym-kind-of-person."

It would likely be impossible to get that series of visits re-authorized, but could you call around your (relatively small) city to see if you could garner a private room for the sessions?

Methinks many others hate the "gym venue" for therapy, probably more than the number who have pink hair. ;)