I’m afraid so…often.
I’m afraid, so I get surges of adrenaline, tense shoulders, a rather breathless feeling, and I give off a vibe that Steve notices right away as “ungrounded”, even before I’m aware of anything. Yesterday, I wrote in a comment to my blog post that I have a fear-based outlook on the world. This morning, it showed up in a small-scale episode of anxiety. I was driving to a park to do a Kindergarten program when I noticed my engine temperature indicator dipping into the HOT zone. I wasn’t going more than 8 miles away, so I just continued to the park. Driving home, the needle stayed on the cool half of the dial. I called my local repair shop and made an appointment for Monday. Now, this does not present a real problem for me at all. I don’t have a job I need to get to, and Steve has a car I can use for errands and whatnot. But something inside me escalates things into a sense of “OMG! There are things that I need to FIX RIGHT AWAY!”, and suddenly I’m making mental lists of everything I am responsible for or slightly dreading in the next month. Subtly, of course, so that I don’t notice, but Steve does. “Are you OK?” he asks. And suddenly, I am aware that I am not quite. I am a foot or so off the ground. Tense. Not confident. Addled. Alert, but not trusting. So I take a break, sit in the sun on the couch, take off my glasses and breathe.
Why don’t I trust myself? The things that I have on my mind are tasks that are well within my range of skills or conditions that I can survive. I notice that this kind of “crisis” happens in the weeks leading up to the first snowfall. Perhaps it’s a biological trigger for preparedness. Perhaps it’s a feeling of dread brought on by the many memories I have of emergencies that happened in winter. My husband was in the hospital a lot in the winter months over a period of about 5 years with pneumonia and kidney dialysis issues. He died in the middle of February. I also have a lot of automobile-related dread triggers. I hate driving in snow. I visualize car accidents all the time, probably because of the accident I was in that claimed my sister’s life. I can never go to that default position of “it’ll never happen to me”. I gasp at the slightest jerk of the steering wheel. (Just ask my kids!) So maybe I have “reasons” to be fear-based. But I don’t want to be.
I’m afraid, so I’ll “invite my fears to the dinner table”, make friends with my demons, try to look at them head-on and learn from them. What do they tell me about life? What do they tell me about me?
Life is unpredictable. We humans have a biological mechanism to get us hyped up to respond to emergencies. “Fight or flight”, they call it. Adrenaline flows into our veins and speeds up our breathing and heart rate. It’s useful at times, and seems inappropriate at others. What do you do with adrenaline when you’re sitting in a hospital waiting room? There’s no physical outlet for it! So perhaps this response was designed for a more physical lifestyle. I’m afraid, so I should exercise more.
I’m afraid, so I should be compassionate with myself. Slowing down, allowing my heart rate to come back to resting range, I can concentrate on my thoughts, my breath, my emotions. “Are you OK?” I want to check in with myself more often and take the time to get grounded. The stuff I need to fix isn’t usually immediate life-or-death stuff. I can take it easy. I have a frightened child with me – myself. How would I care for her?
I’m afraid, so I think I’ll write about it. Maybe one day I’ll come up with a picture book about being afraid.