Thursday, January 19, 2017

a thousand tiny fires

I am afraid of everything.
Afraid of eating out at a restaurant and not having enough money to pay the bill.
I am afraid that my kids will die before they open their Christmas presents.
Afraid of overfilling my car with gas and it somehow start a flash fire.
Afraid of having a whole cart of groceries and forgetting my debt card pin number.

Afraid of throwing up on an airplane.
Of throwing up in a movie theater.
Of throwing up in general.
Afraid that a kid will fall out of my car on the freeway. Mainly, Sophie's little sister Pepper. She scares me. A lot.
Afraid my kids would die in their sleep.
Afraid of leaving a curling iron plugged in and have it burn the house down.
Afraid of finding the right hiding place in a home invasion robbery.
Afraid that if I did call 911 the operator would talk too loud and give me away.

Afraid of spinning out on black ice.
Afraid of overdrawing my bank account.
Afraid of being picked up for shoplifting because I put my hands in pockets.
Afraid of eating undercooked chicken.
Of skidding off the side of a dirt road and over the edge of a cliff.
Afraid of slipping into poverty when I am old and alone.
Afraid of overhearing something I'm not meant to hear.
Of staying in hotel above the 4th floor.
Of over inflated car tires so that they explode.
Of power tools.
Of guns.
Balloons popping.
Kids being kidnapped.
Of running out of gas.

And if I were to throw up on an airplane what if it didn't all fit in the tiny airsickness bag?

I am afraid my dad will have a heart attack while driving like his father did.
Of unenforced masonry.
Of getting stuck in tight spaces.
Of being arrested.
Of people slipping off cliff edges and the Hoover Dam.
Flash fires.

And if I was staying above the 4th floor in a hotel and there was fire- what if there was a 300lb woman in the stairwell in front of me. Could I get around her? Would it rude to try?

Of being trapped in an airplane as it sinks below the water.
Of getting into a traffic situation that I can't navigate and totally freaking out.
Afraid a bear will attack my kids sleeping in a tent while I am safe sleeping locked inside the truck.

I am afraid if my kids all ride in the same car it will crash and kill them all- especial around holidays.
Afraid of going out for a run and never coming back...
Afraid of being separated from my kids in a natural disaster.
Afraid I will suddenly forgot how to drive.

I'm afraid if I throw myself a birthday party no one will show up.
Afraid of doing something I can't take back.
Afraid my kids will never be happy.
Afraid of choking to death; really how embarrassing would that be?

Afraid of being pulled for advance screening by airport security.
Afraid the fire extinguisher by the woodstove will get so hot it will explode causing a fire.
Afraid the propane camp stove will do the same.
Afraid of offering to drive someone else to a gym meet and having my car break down.

Afraid of deciding to go to the mall or the movies and there will be a mass shooting.
Afraid of being shot in the head while idling at a red light.
Afraid of getting hopelessly lost in a strange city.
Afraid of dropping a baby that someone wants me to hold.
Afraid of you dropping a baby...

Afraid of being late.
Afraid I will forget what my sister looked like.
Afraid of things I'm not willing to say and of those my mind hasn't yet created.

This is what anxiety looks like, irrational and erratic. But it's not how it feels.  Anxiety is like another person who is always with you and he never stops talking.  He questions everything you do, everything you think of doing, and everything you might have done.

Sometimes the things he says are funny and you can laugh off the absurdity of them.  Things like giants stepping over the mountain and cartoon style series of events. Sometimes what he says is so dark you feel guilty for even listening.  Things like exploding children and burning flesh. Then there are the embellished truths.  Reasonable things to worry about but instead of them whispering through your mind like ash they stick and ignite.

I don't know if my friends and family know this about me.  If they understand all those little quirks & "fears" are part of the glow of a thousand tiny fires I spend my time stomping out.  I know it wasn't until I was grown with kids of my own that I saw my father's many safety concerns were not so much fatherly protection of his 3 little girls as they were the manifestation of his own anxiety.

But I don't suffer from anxiety rather I feel I work with him. He comes with surprisingly useful side effects.  As a writer I like to capitalize on his instant recall feature. Borrow his dark view of human nature.  Flat out plagiarize his story lines and adjectives. 

As ME, I fight back against his vision of who he attempts to tell me I am.  And because I'm afraid of everything I am always gaining ground; everything I do is outside my comfort zone.

Anxiety powers my compassion for others. He keeps me grounded in what really matters.  He makes me reliable and almost always running on time.

Given the choice I would like to think that I would separate myself from his company but the truth is I'm afraid if I wasn't afraid, well then I would be in real trouble.

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