To Shake a Predator

March came strangely to us this year, in like a lion, out like a sharknado. Our usual exhale of joy when the yellow mimosa trees bloom and our gloves are swapped for sunglasses was overshadowed this time by a huge upheaval in our local community. I will write about it one day, once time has smoothed out the creases in my perspective. For now, I’ll simply say that we’re in recovery mode as a family.

I’m still engaged in my odd tango with anxiety, sashaying close and dipping apart to a tune I’m unable to hear. I started taking supplements a month ago after I realized it wasn’t normal to associate worst-case scenarios with every object in my line of vision. I could hardly bear to drive; every other car was on a collision course with me, the engine thrumming through my grip on the steering wheel was a half-second away from explosion at all times, and what if I suddenly developed narcolepsy on the freeway? It was a funny kind of horrible. It still is sometimes. Like I wrote last month, I’m no good at identifying cause and effect—what causes anxiety to swoop toward me on its slick shoes or what spins me, however temporarily, from its grip.

I do know one thing: that writing for me is intricately connected to the dance. This makes me want to spontaneously combust. When I’m writing regularly, I feel strong, easy in my skin, and fundamentally okay. Anxiety can snatch away my ability to write in a hot second though. It tells me that I have nothing of value to offer, that all the opportunities of my life are behind me, that I am incapable, lacking, and so pathetic that I should curl up in bed wearing a burqa for the rest of my days as a favor to the world. It turns writing into torture and not-writing into a slow death.

This is where I’ve been this year, dancing with a predator. It’s why my blog has been so quiet and my email inbox so full. This is not the 2015 that I wanted for myself, and I keep butting up against the impulse to bazooka this whole mess to smithereens. I don’t want to be in recovery mode. I don’t want the ebb and flow of process. Drastic decisions sound so much more appealing: Convince the family to move to Bali. Start a new career in data entry. Say yes to crack. (Kidding, of course, kind of.) Fake invincibility until I convince even myself.

Staying human—that is, staying vulnerable to the learning experiences of life—is always the harder choice, but I’ve tried shortcuts enough times to know for certain that they don’t lead to peace. Inevitably, I’d end up again and again at the choice to slow down, face my limitations, and work through anxiety until I took it. I suppose then that this qualifies as a dispatch from the dance floor. I’ve written this, with actual words, which is the kind of victory worth celebrating with gelato. Tomorrow, however, I might be back to gripping the steering wheel with bone-white knuckles and imagining a large red F scribbled on every last aspect of my life.

It’s okay.

I mean, it’s not okay-okay; I have no intention of spending my life in partnership with anxiety. It’s okay to be working through it right now though. I’m reminding myself day by day that I’m allowed to focus on the tango, even at the expense of normal routines and productivity, because predators aren’t shaken off on their own. It takes two. And also celebratory gelato. And the kind of grace that turns small steps and staying power into eventual recovery.

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  1. I have been thinking of you a lot lately, hoping that your days were brightening as the days have been growing longer. I am so happy to see your words here, and know that I am sending you love and love and more love across the ocean to your very own heart. xoxoxoxxoxoooxxxx

  2. This is a great post, Bethany. Thank you.

  3. There’s so much hope in this sentence: “And the kind of grace that turns small steps and staying power into eventual recovery.” Keep doing the work and I so appreciate your honesty. I’ll include you in my prayers.

  4. Thank you for writing this down, Bethany. Do you have someone to talk to, someone trained and excellent? I’ve talked to a trained therapist for over 20 years and it has saved my life in so many ways. I cannot imagine dealing with all of this stuff while living cross-culturally, my friend. I pray you have good friends, trusted friends, who can be family for you as you struggle and as you grow. We are so intricately designed that it is sometimes impossible to tell which happens ‘first’ – physical complications or psychological. They all wind together, don’t they? And each piece of us influences every other piece. I am triply sorry for the tsunami you reference in the first paragraph, guessing what it is and feeling so terribly sad for you. Never hesitate to write, even Skype, if you need a friendly old face to cheer you on.

    • This is one of those situations where living abroad really feels like a disservice to myself. 🙂 Thank you so much for your friendship, and I very much might take you up on your Skype offer! Stay tuned…

  5. I’m so glad you wrote and told us what’s going on. XO I think of you often, hoping your heart is OK and continuing to heal through these dark times that come out of nowhere. I’m just emerging from my own Anxiety Stretch, so very relieved to be in a place of peace and a massive lessening of fear again. Wishing the same for you soon. XOXO

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