*When I am unable to write, it is often due to anxiety or depression. They are my writing blocks. This week, I was able to work through the block by listing out the things I was feeling anxious or depressed about. Here is one of my journaling therapy sessions. Feeling overwhelmed? Give it a try
I turned thirty-seven this week. Then I did the thing I have been avoiding for a while; I let my thoughts wander to that dark side of regret and self-doubt the same way I might indulge in chocolate ice cream and watch romantic comedies. I listed all the failures that have been bringing me down: gaining weight; losing my job; only having one bathroom; my double hairy chin; gravity; this week in social media; never finishing laundry; spending $80 on a T-shirt to fill yet another void; not really knowing what is next. I know the pressure will build up and a spectacular storm will brew inside my head. Bursts of dangerous lightning ideas would flicker into a rumble of pity and depression and anxiety. They have always been my monsters; my burdens. I booked an emergency session with my therapist: my journal. She speaks calmly – reassuring this crying, ice cream inhaling mess of a woman everything would be ok. Make a list. Ten things I am depressed about lately. Then make a second one; the ten things I am grateful for. I start to feel better. There are a lot of stressors and sometimes they converge into one big cluster of doubt. She encourages me to speak in metaphors and I tell her about this merge I keep encountering in the middle of my town.
For one teeny tiny little light, the left and right lane become one. There is a large yellow sign that warns drivers of this convergence. It reads “Left lane ends; merge right” with plenty of time for drivers to get over. This intersection truly infuriates me. There is always a stray driver or two that conveniently misses this sign and speeds up to cut off the line of obedient cars. Every time I see this happen, I yell at the cars in front of me. Go!!! Don’t let that asshole get over. No! Go! Awe!! You suck. I have this conversation almost daily. There is something about this merging that sends my anxiety into a hamster wheel.
Turning thirty-seven has been my merger. I am on this road. Next is this giant sign commanding me to merge the way losing my job has forced me to merge into another life. Why was I staying in the right lane, just waiting and waiting and waiting only to get cutoff. The most glaringly obvious answer was to take another route. One that weaves in and out of brightly colored tree-lined streets and old colonial style homes. This way always takes longer and there is always a chance I may take the wrong road and end up turned around and right back home. This is the road I have been forced to take. Four years ago when I started my job, there was no heavy merging. I was going to take the road and it was going to lead me straight where I needed to be. I was going to rock this, but somehow I failed. Maybe I was the one that missed the giant yellow sign.
I am taking my kids to the library – on the other side of the yellow sign. Like a prophet, I predicted there would be that person, the last-minute merger. He inched over a little. I didn’t budge. He didn’t even have a blinker on so I wasn’t even sure this fight was real or presumed. I persisted ahead and he pulled over behind me just as the lanes melted into each other. See that. I told the girls. Not today jerk face. Not today. I took the turn at the next light on my way to the library and he followed. As I was turning into the library he pulled up next to me and rolled down his window. “Fucking Bitch!” he screamed.
I am living every mother’s fantasy- I am going to the grocery store alone. My mind is filling with recipes and healthy eating and thinking about actually getting to read labels before I buy so I don’t end up with the four hundred calorie “no trans fat” soup. As always, that yellow sign interrupts my thoughts. There is a box truck ahead of the line so cars are inching along hoping to make the next light. There is one car in the left lane, obviously ignoring the line of us patiently waiting out the light. I clench my lips and shake my head mentally going through the usual lecture. I hug the bumper in front of me a little closer than normal. Then the car in front of me does the same and the car in front and so on. There were five or six cars our united caravan against bad driving. I glanced in my mirror and watched the helpless blinker of the car that no one would let over as the line of traffic passed. A few cars back, they finally were able to get into the lane. My smile was victorious and I felt a sense of comradery with the other cars that unanimously decided: not today.
There will always be that intersection. There will always be depression and anxiety. Some days the drivers in the intersection will be completely inconsiderate jerks. It will depress me and trigger a hamster wheel of anxiety. But there is nothing I can do to change it. I doubt my town would invest on infrastructure since one resident regularly loses it. I bring this up to my therapist. What is one thing that you like about the intersection? She asks. It is in the middle of my beautiful town.. There will always be mergers in the road. They will never be smooth and someone usually looks like the jerk. I anticipate it but refuse to keep letting it bother me. The only thing I can do is to take a deep breath and say: not today.