Yesterday was another rough one in anxiety land. I texted Z to let him know I forgot to buy a key ingredient for dinner, so how about take out instead? He reasonably suggested just buying the ingredient on his way home. I told him I was also anxious, which was code for I don’t think dinner is going to happen. He told me he’d help. Sometimes when he presses me it backfires and I shut down, but it worked yesterday.
He came in the door with the dried mushrooms I needed and said, “I’ve invited some people over, that’s ok, right?” He couldn’t even get to the end of the sentence without giggling like a schoolgirl. I told him not to waste my time teasing me if he couldn’t even do it with a straight face. He was appropriately disapointed with his performance. We got started making dinner and he began to tell me about his day.
He’s super excited about this elective he’s teaching this semester. The class is working with a local business to design products that might go into production through a small business that is being started through grants and with the help of a local nonprofit which will provide job training and employ jobless people from a very economically depressed neighborhood in Syracuse. I’m going to be very braggy right now, but Z was part of the team that came up with the small business idea. I’m really proud of him. All the players involved were at the first class yesterday and he was telling me about how it went.
Mid thought I interrupted him and asked him to check on C who was in the other room to make sure he wasn’t choking. He was very cool about me raining on his parade and humored me. A couple of seconds later he was back to tell me everything was fine. I told him I was very worried about C, very worried about him choking. Z asked if I’d taken a pill. I had. Then I took a breath and told him that I found out some terrible news. A family friend has a friend with two kids our boy’s ages. This week the youngest one choked. And he died. He died.
Z held me as we thought about and then tried not to think about the absolute worst thing that could ever happen in our lives. “Is this why you kept asking me to make sure C wasn’t choking when we were driving home from down south?” he asked me. “No. This happened a couple of days ago.” I said, “I’ve been scared of choking since the beginning. It gets worse when I’m not well and I’ve been thinking about it nonstop lately.” He asked why I’d never said anything to him.
I don’t know what the answer to that is. Mostly I think of myself as an open book, hell the shit I blog about here? I’m the queen of over sharing. But I also live in my head a lot and I forget to keep Z up to speed. On my birthday I wrote a little about the horrific shooting in Connecticut. After Z read it he said my behavior of the prior few days made sense. He said “You’ve been thinking about this a lot, huh?” I thought he knew. He asked how he was supposed to know if I didn’t tell him. This probably doesn’t make sense, but I don’t know I’m not telling him stuff. I assume he knows everything that goes on in my brain. Which is supremely unhelpful, especially because my brain doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense much of the time. So the things I expect him to figure out are not at all intuitive.
The mother of the child who choked lives hundreds of miles away. We do not know each other, she will never come across this post. But she has been in my thoughts for days. I don’t pray to a god, but I pray for her and her family. And I wish there was something I could do to alleviate her suffering somehow. The awful truth is there is nothing that will make her life make sense ever again. The world is simply that fragile for all of us, there is no pattern, we just try and blunder our way through with our fingers crossed that random horrors won’t find us. I feel hopeless for her, for all of us. The risk we take by engaging in life is paralyzing some days. My anxiety tells me the smartest thing to do would be to wrap my boys in cotton and never let them out of my sight.
Pain in our lives is unavoidable. Anxiety disorders are a coping mechanism-some of us have messed up brain wiring and the resulting anxiety disorder is actually our subconscious trying to keep us safe. It tells us if we take zero risks we will avoid all pain. The sentiment is from a good place, but what a crock of shit. We can’t avoid it, the pain is coming for us. But if we choose to live life we can have joy and beauty and love as well as hurt. That is what the anxiety accidentally takes away.
The mother of that child will always be in my thoughts now. For my boys, my husband, for her I hope to fight to choose joy and beauty and love as I navigate the hurt and hold my breath hoping I’ll never experience what she has.