Plague Diaries #11

It’s no secret that I’ve been dealing with major anxiety, so bad that for a while there it was all I could do to force myself out of bed in the morning, bed being the safest place on earth.

It’s also no secret that I took some medical leave from work to deal with getting my head back on straight. I am trying everyday to meditate, walk, knit, listen to podcasts, read, and do other kind things for myself so that I can relax enough to get my breathing back to a non-panicked state.  It’s been slow, but my mood is lifting and I am getting better.

The one sticking point is writing. Some asshole will probably point out that I’m writing this, but that’s not the same thing at all. Here is just a journal of thoughts, feelings and events. It isn’t creative, although some other asshole might argue that too.

But this is where things brighten. I have a friend who teaches at our local university, let’s call her LC. I’ve known LC for almost as long as I’ve been living in Florida which means we’ve been friends for over fifteen years. She’s always been a shining light in my life, even though I don’t get to see her often. But we have been talking a lot on the phone lately and she has been prodding me to get back to creativity.

We recently read together an essay, deconstructed it, and then each wrote our own homage to the formula and the brilliant writer. I like the first draft of my essay about goats (Greek goats, specifically), even though I was wheezing through the entire process of getting words down on the computer screen. I tweaked it a bit the next day and became more pleased with it, even though it isn’t nearly as poignant and heartbreaking  as the original. But it was good to be writing something again.

LC is great at giving feedback. Always starting with the positive and then moving gently to where things could be improved. She’s a brilliant writer herself and I can’t wait to read her version of the essay. (It’s her wedding anniversary today, so I’ll cut her some slack.) But the feeling of putting words together and making some interesting connections fired something in me that had been doused by a bucket of mood disorder.

Things will always happen that will try to keep my from writing. The death of my mother stoppered things for a good year. This pandemic has strafed me as well. And next year it will be something else. Maybe the murder hornets will set up shop in the gardenia bushes out my back door. I don’t know.

But no matter how much water is thrown on the fire, I’ll keep going. Nathan Hill, the amazing author of The Nix, and a local, wrote this essay recently that said much more succinctly than what I’m trying to do here. Read it here:  Postcard From the Pandemic: A Solid Little Feeling

I will get back to writing. After my mother died and nearly a year had gone by I started with smaller pieces, flash fiction and some essays. Some got published in online and literary reviews. Maybe if my goat essay gets polished enough I’ll try sending that out too.

Writing is the fire in my blood. I might slow down, I might stop altogether from time to time,  but it always comes back, no matter what catastrophe I face. And if I just tempted fate with that statement, so be it. Bring on the murder hornets.

 

Change your tune

As Tom Petty once sang, “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.” And when you are waiting for something, be it doctor’s tests or whether or not you got the job, it is the hardest part. Even when you are pretty sure of a good outcome, there is still that tinge of dread that things could go this way:

Usually, however, there is no battle with a lion following. (Although I’d take Russell Crowe in a gladiator’s kilt any day.)

Why is waiting so hard? Obviously it is because we generally have no control over outcomes and that makes us anxious. The unknown sits like a vague shadow just out of our reach. Does it have fangs or is it smiling? Or, God forbid, both?

I am a champion worrier. You give me a topic and I can winkle anxiety from it with little effort. I can conjure entire conversations, scenario after scenario of how things can go wrong and hardly break a sweat. It is no small thing.

But what does it get me? A big fat load of anxiety, and time still marches on and events unfold like they were always going to. Except I’ve just given myself a headache from clenching my teeth in my sleep.

I once saw a meme on Pinterest of a monk sitting on a rock in the middle of a lake. Underneath it were the words: Relax. Nothing is under control. And as hokey as that might sound, it is wisdom I try to take to heart. Most situations in life are out of our control and there is very little we can do except change how we react to it.

Back to Tom Petty. You all know I am prone to ear worms. The last few days I’ve been replaying “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.” And while that isn’t a bad tune to have stuck in your head it is making me fret. Every time I reach the the chorus I feel the spring coil a little tighter.

But then this morning I had a flash of brilliance. In high school I was a big fan of Guns N’ Roses. And while most of their music palls to an enlightened feminist such as myself, there is one song that could effectively supplant Tom Petty’s voice in my head.

“Said woman, take it slow

And things’ll be just fine.

You and I’ll just use a little patience.”

Sing it, sir.