I often attempt to keep things positive in this space because positivity is what fuels my mind, body, and soul. Because good juju is simply good for the soul. But I am also a truth-teller, according to my brief bio on The Manifest-Station, which just re-published an essay of mine on breaking the ties that bind us. And I think this characterization is apt.
I find it impossible to maintain a blog, to be any kind of a writer without revealing some dirty, uncomfortable truths; after all, the honest tales about ourselves are where we find connection. It’s in reading lines like the ones below from Cheryl Strayed’s essay “The Love of My Life,” within which she spills the hardest truths about her mother’s death, that we find relief. Wherein we realize we are not alone, and we are instantly forgiven of our deepest sins. In the essay, Strayed speaks of long-lasting grief, admitting:
We are not allowed this. We are allowed to be deeply into basketball, or Buddhism, or Star Trek, or jazz, but we are not allowed to be deeply sad. Grief is a thing that we are encouraged to “let go of,” to “move on from,” and we are told specifically how this should be done.
I nearly wept when I read these lines; I felt so sheltered and wiped clean by them.
So, today I am straying from my intended focus on positivity to talk about anxiety, the animal that has lived beneath my skin for as long as I can remember. One that grew bigger fangs and teeth once I became a mom.
Picture this. It’s snowing here in Frederick, MD, coming down like cats and dogs, like frogs might’ve rained down during the plagues of Egypt. Like, a lot. And my kid is still at school. Yes, our county has canceled school countless times for a little bit of freezing rain that tapered off in a couple of hours but decided to stay in session on the one day of the entire winter when forecasters predicted several inches of snow. I think this qualifies as the dictionary definition of WTF.
In the county’s defense, we only had a bit of sleet by 8:00 a.m., so I could see why they might bring kids in for maybe a few hours of learning before the white stuff began. I was OK with a few hours, but once my boy climbed into the metal jaws of the school bus at 8:31 a.m., I surrendered control over when they’d willingly bring him home.
By 10:30 a.m., it was snowing fairly a lot, when we finally got word of a two-hour early closure. Two hours early?, I thought. That seems a bit late…. I went about my morning, feeling antsy and unsettled, watching the green grass disappear before my eyes.
Around noon, the fast-coming flakes had ballooned to quarter-size, and the streets were filling rapidly with thick, white powder. This is when panic mode set in. I cursed the county and all of its officials. I cursed myself, too. Why had I let my boy go to school despite my instinct to keep him home? I paced the floor, contemplating whether I should go pick him up myself, a full two hours before he was due for release. But I felt paralyzed, a mama deer whose baby was stranded across an abysmal highway.
Knowing I had to get it together, I started envisioning palm trees, sand, a yoga teacher talking me through restorative stretches. But my chest continued to tighten, my breath growing shallower.
That’s when I heard it: the guttural rumble of the snow plow. My knight in shining armor. I began to let go, just a little. And then a little more. Each time the truck passed up and down the street, in fact, the encroaching tide of panic receded farther back into the deep.
It’s just after 2:00 p.m. now. Snow continues to fall, this time, more gently. I am not sure what all the fear was for, but it rules many of my days despite my best efforts to assuage it. Despite a healthy diet, exercise, pretty good sleep, and a regular glass of vino in the evening.
My house is filled with joy: with too many Lego pieces, Tinker crate boxes, Cricket magazines, and a million odds and ends that my seven-year-old leaves laying about to claim his space within these walls. My husband is supportive and loving, my best friend and most treasured mentor. There’s no reason for anxiety to fill my veins and make my heart quicken with such regularity. There’s no sinking ship, no apocalyptic zombies at my door. There is just me, living a beautiful, little life. So, how can a little snow have me so tied in knots, fearing my child would never make it back to me?
In “The Evolving Anxiety of Motherhood,” writer Courtney Martin speaks straightly about the anxiety which took over once her child was born, about the ever-constant fight-or-flight mode that switches on when we have babies, yet she ends the piece in lightness, relieving the reader of her stress and discomfort, emphasizing the ever-changing state of a mother’s emotions:
The flip side of fear is gratitude. Just as my momma body can be flooded with anxiety for my girls, I now have moments of feeling almost euphoric with an awareness of their well-being. It’s the gift that goes with the risk if I am wise enough to pause and actually feel it.
The afternoon moves on. My boy is quietly playing in the snow with his best friend up the street. His cup couldn’t be fuller. I tap, tap on the computer. The refrigerator hums. The pipes creek from the heat that fills them. Warmth and love expand around me, traveling down the alleyways, melting snow in their path.