AddThis script

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The safety net

Years before my dad died, he quit smoking. Yet when I was cleaning out his bedroom closet last summer, a dust-covered carton of Pall Mall unfiltered cigarettes was among his things. Having it there must have helped him feel at ease—if at any time he changed him mind and needed a cigarette, it was only a few steps away. His safety net.

My safety net is a bottle of Ativan with a lone pill in it. The prescription was written mid-2008, not long after writing about how much I hated my kids (fortunately, it was a fleeting feeling) and not long before getting divorced. The orange plastic cylinder lives in a shoebox among unfinished bottles of Zoloft and a box of antibiotics that I convinced my doctor to give me before I visited remote villages in Brazil a few years ago. That lone anti-anxiety pill provides me with some peace of mind.

My safety net
Now let’s rewind to my Monday night dance class.

As my limbs stretched along cold hardwood, the teacher’s words flowed over me. She said, “Imagine a light, but don’t think of it as a light. Just experience the light without labeling it.” I tried to feel it, but my writer brain not only saw the light, it created a special stage for the light to shine from. I also began mentally typing a list of descriptors: yellow, warm, bright. So I thought to myself, “Shit, stop describing it. Can’t you just feel it? What’s wrong with you? Can’t you just be okay not knowing every detail?”

As her words continued, she read a quote. It was about being at peace in the present. Instead of fearing the unknown, find freedom in the unknown. Together, I guess the idea was to just feel life and not label it or fear it. Life without all the baggage of the cerebral cortex gives us freedom and ultimately more joy...or something like that.

That is a noble, yet unrealistic concept--for me--and I find the concept somewhat accusatory. It places fault on me for the anxiety and the worry that I drag around. For the last seven years, I’ve lived with low-level panic wondering when my son’s next heart operation will be scheduled. Of course worrying and allowing the stress to be part of my anatomy doesn’t actually change when it will take place. Yet, I cannot be free of it. There is no freedom, aside from when I’m lost in the music on the dance floor. There is no freedom, aside from when I’m asleep. Low-level panic is present like my fingernails.

“Snap out of it! Mind over matter!” I have told myself. But as it turns out, there is nothing wrong with me, per say. Words are how I perceive the world and low-level panic is on my keyboard next to the shift key. Sure I need practice experiencing the world differently. I suspect that’s what meditation is all about. And that's why I go to dance. It's a moving meditation where I feel the floor, hear the music, and allow my body to respond accordingly. There are few thoughts aside from “Keep your eyes open" or "Don’t crash into anyone.” And I suspect that’s what the lesson was about. It was another tool to help us live in the moment.

That's what I've been trying to do. Yes, I fell apart and got divorced, but I kept going. I went to graduate school, pulled the lever a few times on the dating slot machine, fell in love, got married, some step-kids, a dog and five chickens. Those are all wonderful things that help offset the other stuff.

And many, many times along the way, I have been comforted by that lone pill encased in plastic in a shoebox.

No comments:

Post a Comment