Wednesday, January 05, 2005


I'm a somewhat chaotic random personality who is bent more toward the urgent than the important, who is led by inspiration more than structure, who finds time to do all the little things that I love over and against the bigger things that feel hard yet necessary. In other words, I am allergic to organization and duty.

As a kid, my temperament lost my flute twice a month, my purse once a week, and forgot weekly assignment due dates every single week. Serious. I remember distinctly laying in bed at night worried sick that my flute would be gone this time, not willing to tell my mother so that she wouldn't worry with me, literally shaking in my bed and boots.

In the morning, I'd wake with singleminded determination to get that flute. (I loved the black case with the lime green fur inside it as much as the flute.) I'd arrive at school and like a guided missile I'd retrace every step from the day before until I found that flute. I always did find it. I was often late to first period math as a result, which may account for my miserable failure in Algebra II all those years later...

Ironically, I did well in school, earning mostly A's and making both my parents and teachers believe I was a "good student." I've had a surprisingly organized brain for thoughts and ideas. I can usually pull those up a lot faster than I can locate my keys.

But the "era of losing things" (which began in 5th grade and reached its peak of intensity in junior high yet has continued to dog me well into adulthood), of not knowing where my "stuff" was, of arriving to class and not having the current event again for the fifth week running cut a groove into my psyche that I have traveled down thousands of times since.

For the past two years, I've experienced anxiety - the "you need to breathe and do yoga" kind. And now it's generalized to the stupidest things. Last night—case in point.

A little rain never hurt anyone... unless it wakes you up at 3 a.m.
We are now swimming in water here in Ohio. It's starting to look like Minnesota there has been so much melted snow and rain over the last few days. Little lakes in our front yard, side yard and everywhere I look. And unfortunately, at 3 a.m. I realized that there would be a lake in our basement by morning. Now at 3 a.m., who can do anything about it? No one. But I actually stared at my dark ceiling worrying about it, slighlty sick to my stomach, chest constricting my breathing the way asthma used to.

I worried that the rain would mean that our dog would keep peeing in the house. That I'd find that pee with my new slippers and ruin them. That I'd have to go out in the rain to the store to buy more Febreeze. That he'd choose to pee on my theology books or the big Shakespeare volume under the bench. My fantasies ran in a million directions, even went so far as to consider new and better locations the dog could pee. Had I really been on a tear, I could have written some post-it notes and put them in "better pee locations" for Rocky's viewing and peeing pleasure.

As if that weren't enough, I suddenly remembered that the AM Vets (charity) were coming for our used clothing, that the two big bags weren't on the front step and the step would be wet from the rain which meant protecting the bags from water, and collecting the jumble of loose cords and Christmas lights from the same porch so that the AM Vets wouldn't get greedy and take those too... Then I had to consider what conatiners I might have free for all those loose cords and wracked my brain walking in my imagination through a highly cluttered basement, mentally tripping over dress-up clothes and screw drivers.

Then while thinking of charity, I remembered that I was supposed to jumpstart Noah's old car in the rain so that we could give it away too, which would mean getting my clothes and hair wet and possible electrocution. Now electrocution didn't worry me nearly as much as standing in the rain soaking my clothes and hair, not sure if I'd get the yellow end on the right postive or negative part of the battery.... Turning the key and hearing nothing....

This went on and on until I finally just stopped my mind with a mental shout: Shut up!

I started breathing and relaxing my body. I drifted back to sleep.

Today, I am going to face my rainy life at a little slower pace and do a lot of breathing.


WordyKaren said...

Julie, I enjoyed reading about your middle-of-the-night anxiety attack. Well, enjoyed is hardly the right word. I mean I was pulled in and was with you as I read...made me feel better, made me smile too. I remember those 'lost flute' days! I'm often awake at 2:45. It seems my chronogiological alarm clock is 'set' for that time. Period. It's my time to be anxious if I have something to be anxious about, prayerful when I have something to pray about--and don't I always, and simply peaceful when I'm in a place of contentment. I used to fret about this. Now I accept it, breathe through it, and suddenly it's morning. It was nice for me to hear what you're up to around the same time! Love you, Mom

australisa said...

Ahhh, familiar scenario.

I always worried about loads of rain when we had a basement. I remember when our sump pump went out. That was a panic! Which reminds me of when I found a 6-foot snake in our basement.

Ahhh, nostalgia! Just read the memory vs. nostalgia post. :-)

julieunplugged said...

Mom, I thought you'd get a kick out of the "flute days." Yesterday Jacob couldn't find his math book for an hour and I went into a panic on his behalf (and resorted to unsympathetic shaming as well, I'm sorry to say). Liam found it right where it should have been but somehow neither of us had seen it there. Grrr.

Maybe it's time for reading glasses and FINDING glasses. :)

Thanks for the tips about insomnia.

Lisa: Our bassement fills just enough to spend twenty minutes at a time scooping the water up. It doesn't cover the whole basement floor (thankfully)! But it's enough to drive me wild anyway. I'm not a basement fan to begin with. Too dark. Too dank. (great word)