I used to call the moments of brain dysfunction writer’s block. But after the birth of my third (then fourth kid) mom brain has become the more appropriate term. It was about my second pregnancy when I realized how downright dumb I felt. As if my intelligence and actions were somehow blocked, like a kink in a hose blocking water flow. I’m smarter than this, when I walked into the kitchen for the tenth time forgetting I simply needed a glass of water. There was an incident, somewhere near the end of my second pregnancy, that involved a parked car and me fleeing to another grocery store to make it go away. Hit and run sounds so dirty, so we will call it a panicked pregnancy glitch followed by a knock at the door. It didn’t take long. It was the image of a pregnant woman, wet from sweat and tears on hot June day, and an equally confused husband who just couldn’t answer the question of why, that most likely got me in much less trouble than I deserved. To this day, I can’t answer the question of why beyond the loss of reason, intelligence and impulse control that goes along with a body swelling with hormones and water retention.
The Uncomfortable Monster
I live in this haze of memory and future fear, feeding the monster.
That is how anxiety works, it is the monster that lives inside of me. It scares me into two corners of past and future and get stuck there, unstuck from this present moment. The monster creates “to-do” lists and completion checks. Then it slides me into depression like the ocean waves hitting the sand it curls around me as I distantly get caught up in my own thoughts and worries. Everything becomes a reminder of the future – the things I should be doing- the mother, woman and human that I should be. It dictates my shame and tells me dreams don’t count unless they have financial value. Suddenly title, whether a book or job title, matter more and important things are only measured in currency. And I retreat into absence.
So I have been noticeably absent lately.
Absent from my writing, my goals or even my persistence. It is easy to do. I have been battling a case of seasonal anxiety. It is a lot like allergies. There is the mental fog, pressure, pushing against the brim of my nose until it itches. The uncomfortable itch of allergies pressing from my cheeks to the whites of my eyes. They begin to water. Something isn’t right. I desperately want to sneeze, to release. My nose begins to water, trying to drip in sync with the tears that slide down my face and brush a salty glaze onto the corner of my lips. I am in full bloom anxiety season. Medicine is my first instinct. It could unclog some of the pressure on my face, slowing down the need to sneeze (release) and the need to cry. But it puts me in a fog, a haze, like trying to see out of the front window of my car through a film of pollen disposed from the trees. Just like allergies, there is no magic solution for the pressure. In the midst of this anxiety season I am working harder on coping techniques. But pills, like coping techniques, only work when I take them everyday like a routine.
There are also bad coping techniques
Self pity fills my eyes with tears. I blame myself, then I blame others. They are too demanding, or distant or unable to give me the answer i want to hear. Or they are struggling their way through anxiety season as well. I look at the pages I just wrote. The only friend that listens completely to my words, and becomes them. I sneeze on the pages. First there was the itching, then the pressure that squeezed the brim of my nose. Look at the light. I have been told. So I stare right into the bright side and sneeze beautifully onto my blank journal page. I am finally able to fill my lungs with oxygen and see the entire portrait
Writing is my strongest weapon against the monster
I have always known I need to write. I call it a lot of things, my dream, my passion, my saving grace. It is the release of the words and thoughts that are swirling around my head like magnets on a refrigerator. When I write, I can organize, control and beautify them. My pen is my armor and my sword. Sometimes other people read and relate and I get high on that feeling, that connection. Sometimes I get high on my own words, like an artist who just painted a masterpiece.
So I just keep writing.
Easing my future, calming my past and keeping the anxiety monster under my bed.
** drawing by my amazing daughter. I asked for a cute little monster to personify my anxiety. She added the goat characteristics because “goats always look anxious”
The sweat. It is wet, hot, and a newfound uncomfortable that is becoming associated with running in the summer time sun. It tickles down my back, like a monster’s hot tongue, slowly licking between my shoulder blades, then on my forehead and pooling up to drip down my temples.
I keep running despite the discomfort
I imagine my legs could just give out at any second and press the souls of my shoes into the ground more firmly then I am used to as I steady my pace. The sun has been following closely behind me and occasionally reaches out touch my shoulders, burning them. I push up a hill, the dreaded incline. It is a test of how much heat my run can handle. The sun illuminates the path around me like a spotlight on my journey. Up the hill, in a small celebration of victory I steady my pace, once again feeling the pressure in my calves releasing and my mind resting. Through the pain and the heat, I can still feel that sense of peace.
And that is what keeps me going.
(notes on a work in progress)
I am at work, juicing citrus, part of a new normal I could have hardly imagined one year ago. I am in the middle of prepping for a shift when it hit me –suddenly, I always feel like I am in the middle of something. Every once in a while, I get into a perfect grove. But today, a tiny paper cut on my middle finger is reminding me that citrus is not my friend. I try not to let the little springs of juice touch my finger. A sharp sting tells me I am not successful. There are always tiny scrapes on my mom hands. From attempting to put a hat on a Lego during their pleading screams, both of us fearful that it cannot be done. (Since it can’t) to pulling a special toy out of a nook and scraping my hands along the uneven ridges of cheaply made storage furniture. I suffer through this, my least favorite part of the job, squeezing limes and calculating how many margaritas this evening will bring. Once the bottle is filled with sour liquid, I pull out a piece of masking tape and mark the date. I think of my grandparent’s basement. The tools, the pens, paper, safety pins, thread: all of life’s potential clutter was always neatly organized and categorized by markers and masking tape – the weapon of the obsessive compulsive, the organized. After a memory-filtered tour of my grandparents’ house through childhood-coated glasses, I am jolted back to real life. Back to the citrus soaked bar fingers and back to this informal midway process of nearly everything in my life. I imagine sitting between two strangers on the bus, claustrophobically placed in the middle by no fault of my own. They sat next to me, boxing me in. And that is where I feel I am right now.
We had a cat. She hides under couches, behind doors or in the dark corners of the basement, terrified of strangers and half the people living in our house. Except Layla, she loved Layla and they were best friends. That is the hardest part. She was the runt of the litter, the shy one, and Layla immediately loved her. It took her eight years to go out side. One day, we watched her boldly come to life and walk out the back door and onto the end of the deck. She never went farther than that. But don’t worry, she didn’t die a virgin. A male cat snuck inside and her life was different, for that moment. “What is happening?” The girls asked. “Is she ok?” Then we continued our awkward talk about sex and other adult things.