Tag: Anxiety

27Aug

How to Pray [If You’re Me]

Weigh butter and chocolate on the little kitchen scale gifted two years ago by a friend who understands how your heart-language is pooled in the creases of your hands. Double the amount needed. Pause, and triple it.  Swirl the lumps into liquid over simmering anxiety as your future fades in and out on the fringes of heat waves. Swelter wordlessly. Breathe the fragrance deep.

Brownie-making - 1

Sift in sugar and salt with a shaking hand. Unclench fingers along with illusions of control, and pour in a generous freeflow of vanilla steeped long months in an old medicine bottle, its brown pharmacy glass as familiar to you now as the life you ache not to leave. Stir in flour and watch the textures morph and meld, ever shifting toward goodness.

Brownie-making - 5

Slide triple-heavy pans into the oven to swell and stabilize in the pressing heat as you tackle the grand mess left behind, knowing that every last angle will soon come clean. Wipe away sweat and trickling fear.  Sideswipe batter into your mouth. Remember other kitchens you have created in, other spillovers of grace from your own half-written story, and wash your way down to the marble-smooth surface of trust.

Brownie-making - 7

Wait in the front row as baked chocolate offerings cool on the countertop. Imagine the faces of your intended recipients and exhale gratefulness. Whip together butter and sugar and tingling drops of peppermint into frosty decadence, and spread with a hand that has learned lavishness. Top chocolate with chocolate, and catch molecules of hope on your tongue.

Brownie-making - 8

Dissect your labor of thanks and arrange it bite-size on a recycled platter, a shabby but heartfelt gesture for the men who are giving your husband the financial backing to chase his dreams.  Rest assured that they’ll understand the language of brownies. Tear ripples of aluminum foil and seal a wave of joy in with the gift as you dare to believe that the wide miracle fields stretching ahead are as true as the simple ingredients you hold. Feel, earnestly to the brink of bursting, and for once, find no need for words.

Brownie-making - 10

26Jul

Mrs. Bean

It’s summer break!

…Or at least that’s the word on the street. “Summer” implies a certain temperature range which this soggy gray July is failing to reach, while “break” seems to indicate time off, and oh my goodness gracious. I can remember times of my life in which I must have been busier, surely, but my here-and-now has a competitive streak and refuses to concede the Most Likely to Drop Own Skull While Juggling Schedule award to any former time period.

This is the first summer that I’ve worked in addition to having the girls home from school, and I’m basically feeling like Mr. Bean on both fronts. My children have to call “Mommy!” in a steady crescendo for an average of four minutes before I hear them because I’m too busy making lesson plans or translating, and my bosses have to accommodate babysitter dashes and my awkwardly-sized schedule openings. Ideally, I just wouldn’t work over the summer, but our family has some big adjustments coming up, and every chance to bolster our bank account eases a bit of stress.

As with 95% of the things I worry over, the Mr. Bean routine probably shouldn’t register as a big deal. After all, most of the other moms I know also work. However, they also tend to have nannies (or willing grandmas) and housecleaners (or extra-willing grandmas), and summer camps siphon off their children’s excess energy quite nicely. Here is where I start to feel [rightfully] ashamed of my first-world problems, because my outlook keeps boiling down to Waaaa, I want a nanny! Waaaa, I want a housecleaner! Waaaa, I want an investor to cover my children’s summer camp expenses for life so I don’t have to keep agonizing over their lack of organized fun! Good grief.

What I really want is to feel sure that I’m meeting my family’s needs in the right way, and please tell—Does any mother ever feel truly, completely certain that she has found the right balance between parenthood, finances, and good old-fashioned sanity? If so, I could use her secret before parenting or working morale drops any lower around here.

Sanity has left the building (Sanity, as you can see, has already left the building.)

 

15Jun

Present Perfect

My head is full up to here. Lesson plans, present perfect study guides, proper British spellings, and would they translate it as cinema or theatre in the UK? Dust clusters, cheese baked onto forks, a weekend filling up fast. Blank pages staying blank, clock face a blur, heart applying whiteout with a heavy hand. Lists like a rolling sea and the tide coming in.

We leave to camp our way across Europe in just over a week, but the days are still picking up speed, and I’m bracing myself for the almighty impact of vacation… or rather, the night before vacation when we’re playing Trunk Tetris with the car and my eyes are only half open and I still have half the kitchen to pack. Being a detail person generally works well for me, but I do have a habit of drowning in my own practicality—especially, say, when we’re T-9 days from an epic camping trip with pretty close to nothing planned. We haven’t even figured out which country we’re going to spend the last week of it in. That would be more than enough to overwhelm my head if there were any space whatsoever left in it right now.

But seeing as there’s not, I can’t manage to work up a good panic, and truth be told, involuntary oblivion is kind of nice. I guess all that really matters is that four of us leave home together and come home together, even if I forget to pack the kitchen sink and/or we accidentally detour through remote Slovenia. (Come to think of it, that could be fun…)

I’m grateful for these spastic little glimpses into the brain clutter reminding me that yep, it’s pretty full in there, no room to worry about the future, and hey what do you know, we’re all surviving. What’s more, we’re all happy to be here right now, and I suspect that two weeks from now when the unknown is our new right now, we’ll still be glad to be living it. However, if there were room in my head for the kitchen sink, I wouldn’t complain. Just saying.

14Mar

Picture of [Im]perfection

As you may have guessed, the last couple of days have been rough. I never know what might be a trigger until I’m rubbing my eyes on the other side of a long tunnel, emotions bloodshot, wondering what the hell happened. Thank goodness for work. I’ve heard distraction recommended as a coping strategy for PTSD sufferers, and it was actually a relief to have to get out the door early this morning and focus on teaching a class. It snapped my mental energies back to the here and now, and it always does my soul good to be around people and places who don’t remind me of anything. Later, an irrational translation client had me laughing (I apparently “ruined” the central Italian landscape with my un-poetic word choice and grammatical consistency; I guess it’s true that the pen is mightier than the real world?), so I think it’s safe to say I’m back to myself.

I often wonder how these episodes are going to end up affecting my girls. I worry that seeing me sad and struggling to cope will traumatize them, but at the same time, our conversations during the hard times are incredibly precious. The girls know that my sadness is only occasional and has nothing to do with them. They know their mom is human and fragile and willing to be honest with them about both. They also know love. They’re experts in it already, and their hugs and notes and daughterly concern add up to the most healing treatment plan I can imagine.

Thank you for your encouragement too. I always ricochet between feelings of stupidity and feelings of guilt whenever I let on that I might not be the picture of psychological perfection (might not, mind you). Authenticity will probably always be a struggle for me considering my background. However, Jennifer pointed out that naming something is powerful in lessening its hold, and I’d like to think that writing about it goes a step further—aims typeset floodlights into the shadow, illuminates the sniveling nightmare, and says I’m not afraid to expose you (even if I am). I’d also like to think that my honesty with the girls will help them flip the tables on their own fears one day, though hopefully with less neurotic two-stepping. More than anything, I’d like to think that my ability to write this today means that love is the one winning this struggle.

10Jan

Dramamire

I feel like I should preface whatever comes out of my fingers next by saying that sometime during the night, my brain tripped into a custard quagmire and is now up to its eyeballs in thick, eggy blandness. I have nothing interesting to say although you might think I would considering I’m hopping on a Florida-bound plane Sunday morning and have less than a week to arrange for my family’s survival in my absence and to talk myself out of any dramatic airport scenes. There’s a slight possibility that I’m not looking forward to the trip. (Maybe that explains why I spent all morning avoiding my damn to-do list? And now I’m swearing. F—crap.)

Here’s the thing: While this trip really isn’t a big deal—just a skip over the pond to renew some documents and eat fried okra as much as possible—my imagination has taken it upon itself to prepare me for any eventuality. The following is a sample of likely trip outcomes, courtesy of my flair for the dramatic:

  1. Blizzard-hurricaness bury the plane during my layover on the East Coast, pulling down frigid air from the melting polar ice caps that freezes everything on contact and ushers us into the second ice age just like Dennis Quaid predicted; I miss my flight.
  2. I arrive safely, but the U.S. customs official revokes my citizenship because I chose to live elsewhere, and I am forced to spend the rest of my life wandering the airport countryless à la Tom Hanks.
  3. I forget to leave detailed instructions for our washing machine (which no longer has indicative markings because the factory painted them on with a special air-soluble glaze), and my family runs out of clean clothes and slowly dies of scabies while I search in vain for free wi-fi.
  4. Everything goes smoothly and I’m allowed to return home, but my ears explode on the flight due to pressure changes and the fact that they are world-class wimps, and the resulting spatter of gore gunks up the landing gear resulting in a spectacular crash; my corpse is recovered and donated to science who rejects it on the grounds of earlessness.

I guess what it all boils down to is that I don’t want to leave my husband and girls, even for a week. The thrill of adventure is notably absent this time; travel-related calamities are no fun without my little family to share them with. True, I’ll get to read entire books uninterrupted on the plane, and I might even get to eat my Sky Chef boeuf bourguignon while it’s still hot, but… I’ll miss them. A lot. The end.

Custard, take me away…

6Sep

Pollyanna With a Mortgage

Everyone else is in this recession too, I think. Everyone understands the feeling of Not Enough, the rubber band stretched between temples, winding and winding and then releasing with a snap of nausea that knocks out the stomach.

By this, I am trying to tell myself that you will understand if I write about trying to find renters to offset our mortgage in the States and about the nosedive my imagination takes when each prospect falls through. Chances are, you know that pinch.

But the pictures, I think.

This morning, I uploaded an album of snapshots for friends and family who couldn’t spend the summer with us. In photographic form, our summer has been rich and eventful, punctuated with adventures and saturated with color. In reality too. With some creative budgeting (and a willingness to sleep on the ground), we’ve been able to get our traveling fill. Our last few months have been fantastically fun. How could I possibly complain about Not Enough when our treasure trove of happy memories is overflowing?

I don’t want to try so hard for positivity that I replace my honest voice with Pollyanna though, I think. Our basic needs are met, and we are enjoying life, but that shouldn’t discount what I’m feeling right now.

Which is anxiety, pure and simple. A job I had hoped, hoped, hoped to catch sailed neatly into someone else’s hands, and I’m having difficulty keeping those first slender tentacles of panic at bay. And the house. What does one do with an empty house  halfway across the world? Well, worry over it until your jaw forgets how to unclench itself, if you’re me.

There’s got to be a neat ending somewhere in here, I think. Maybe some enlightened realization that our happiness depends so little on the number in our bank account that I wouldn’t even care if we ended up destitute. Or maybe an affirmation of trust in those sudden miracles that light up our world from time to time. Perhaps a well-aimed punch in the ear for being so self-centered when current needs around the globe far outstrip our own.

But the drab truth is that I’m not as enlightened or trusting or selfless as I wish I were, so in lieu of a neat ending, here’s a hope that you do understand the feeling of Not Enough, that we can be complicated and human together, and that you’ll punch me in the ear when I finally acknowledge Pollyanna to be right.

Supper on the balcony - Mommy caught something

23Mar

Malady Du Jour

Today’s malady du jour: vertigo. I woke up this morning to a head skipping like a scratched disc, waves of dizziness repeating ad nauseum. The doctor, diagnosing by phone as I was in no condition to leave the house (or, um, the bed), suggested it might be an inner-ear infection, which I want to make sense. I could use some extra sense right now, and perhaps a mysterious bug caught in the mazes of my head can explain the host of physical-mental symptoms I’ve been muddling through. Like headaches, great and small. Backaches. Stomachaches. Leg-aches. Heartaches. Draft folders crammed with half-written e-mails and blog posts I can’t seem to finish. Telephones ringing off the hook while I put another pillow over my head. Panic attacks. My body closing in on me until I have to force each breath. Loss of appetite. Loss of motivation. Loss of that little  somethin’ somethin’ that used to add sparkle to my days.

“It’s probably a milk allergy,” assured one friend. Another one told us of an endocrinologist where I could get my thyroid checked. Another friend suggested I ask for antidepressants, while yet another one told me about some great counseling services… 6,000 impossible miles away. Suddenly it’s not just the vertigo making me dizzy as I spin through the options and consider the frightening subjectiveness of medical diagnoses. I start to feel claustrophobic at the thought that I live in a non-English-speaking country, but I should be honest: I wouldn’t know where to start looking in the States either.

I go to the doctor in a few days, and I desperately want to solve myself before then. I am reluctant, embarrassed, to explain the multitude of ways in which I am sucking right now, and I would love to tell him, “Look Doc, I seem to be suffering from a food allergy. Please to medicate.” Doctors appreciate it when patients diagnose themselves, right?

The one good thing about this prolonged mystery illness is that, as it slowly drains the color from life, my priorities come into sharp black-and-white focus. I may not be able to accomplish much right now, but I can snuggle my girls for a long afternoon nap… and realize how much more important that is than cleaning or shopping or worrying about everything I’m not getting done. The world won’t stop if I’m unproductive this month, and perhaps marinating in the love of my sweet family may be my best treatment plan.

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