I woke up feeling behind glass, vaguely anxious. Anxiety, for me, is rarely truly anxiety. It is terror I am keeping at arms’ length. The hard part about this is that, of course, I want to know what the problem is. I want to solve it, but everything is behind glass and I don’t know. I can cast about in my head for things that could be the cause, but I have found this scares me. It’s as though there is the real problem, which I can’t identify, and—oh, shit—there are all of these other problems I hadn’t even thought to worry about yet.
So I don’t do that.
The saw has stopped for now. The house next door is almost finished: They are nailing on the tin roof. The sad part about this is the beautiful view I had from that side of the house is completely shut out. I just see house. It used to be beautiful in the morning from the bathroom. I would look out the window—brushing my teeth or washing my hands or whatever–and see lights spangled across the hillside in the dark mornings. That’s gone now.
Instead of the saw, there is a backhoe further down the street, its engine whirring. It starts up around 6:30 am or so. It doesn’t sound like a saw, but I think any humming, whirring, machine sound is enough to trigger the memories. This is why I knew I had to deal with the saw. Y-town is exploding. I am going to hear somebody building something somewhere until the day I leave this town. And since Country X has not discovered the sawmill or the stone cutting shop, I am going to hear every sound associated with building a structure right here. This is the cost of development.
Anyway, I made coffee and generally cleaned up a bit in the kitchen.(Something smells in there. The drain is highly suspect.) Still feeling anxious. Still not knowing why. I have some thoughts about flashbacks, about feeling worthless in them, and that seems to help. Afterwards though, they seem to melt away. I forget all about them.
But C’s phone rings. I called her mid-morning—what the hell, why not….and it rings. It has been switched off for a week. I wasn’t exactly worried, but I don’t think it made me feel more relaxed. The fear this morning seems to be about something else. But I don’t know exactly.
I did not tell you I saw her family yesterday. They were moving the rest of their possessions out of their old house. I helped them move some of the furniture. The neighbour ladies all helped and a couple of young men—I don’t think dad was there. Maybe he didn’t come, or maybe he was going to get the truck.
C was not there. I suppose she is still with her aunt. I saw her siblings, but I did not see her.
It gave me this feeling, the feeling that she really is safe. I don’t think I was consciously aware in my mind that I had a specific job to do. There was a specific problem she needed help with and that was to be allowed to attend boarding school next year instead of living with her parents. I don’t think I was aware that, because her parents argue and then change their minds about her future, I never felt this was done. Even though I talked to her mom about it and she agreed. Even though I talked to her stepdad about it and, according to C, he agreed. There were still opportunities for them to fight and change their minds again. There were still moments when they could use C as the object through which to play out the accumulated resentments in their marriage. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Through this process, I have realized you can shut down your awareness of an emotion. You can avoid thinking about whatever sensory memories come to mind. But you cannot control the way they distort your cognition. To get your cognition balanced again, you have to actually be able to regulate those emotions. There is no other way.
If you are scared, you will be hypervigilant. You will note all the possible sources of threat. Your awareness of the world around you will be shaped by threat-tinted glasses, and this creates the uncomfortable experience of paranoia. This will make it harder for you to trust others—after all, everything they do is being filtered through this lens of searching for threat. When possible, you will interpret their behaviour as threatening. There usually is something innocuous that can be read that way.
You might then be overly aggressive, or you might be compliant, or you might just try very hard to control. In C’s case, it usually made me try to control. Mostly, I kept this hidden from her. She didn’t realize I felt that way, but I did and I did not always like it.
It gave me a sense that I needed to know where she was all the time and to monitor at least distantly her online activity. It created this compulsion towards what felt like surveillance. Parents actually do what I did. I wasn’t grossly out of line. But I still didn’t like it.
What happened somehow is the deadline I had created in my mind for problems to arise passed. It passed, I got this kind of indirect information that she is better at attending to her own needs than I thought (and maybe she has more confidence at doing it now), and now her phone is on so she is not trapped or helpless in any sense. The outside world is there when she wants it. And I feel so completely different now. I feel a difference I had not expected to feel.
It had really seemed, for the longest time, that I was worrying to worry. Once one mini-crisis had passed, I found a new one. And maybe I will do that again. At the moment, however, it feels different. Just different.
I feel as though the job I had in front of me has been completed and my work is done. I succeeded. I do not think I have ever in my life really had that sense, deep down, of work actually being finished or of success ever having been obtained. There was always the other shoe to worry about. I could worry about the other shoe now and, yet, I feel like, “Nah, it ain’t gonna drop.” I am not telling myself not to worry. I feel like not worrying. When I start to worry again—and I do, out of habit—I don’t feel like following through with it. I have that sense of, “Why bother?” about it. I just don’t want to worry.