Sitting with Anxiety

Patsy asked me to do something yesterday that felt very odd, at first. Patsy is my therapist and I like her a lot, and I was telling her yesterday that I am in a bad place right now. I can’t sleep. I’ve lost motivation. I’m moving quickly toward a bout with depression, and of course I’ve done all I’m supposed to do. I’m working out three to four days a week. I’m taking my pills. I’m eating well. I’m taking walks. I’m trying to write. I have no “real” worries right now. My husband is employed. My son is doing well. But for some reason, I can’t get it together. My anxiety is peaking. Patsy asked me about my anxiety. Why is it bothering you now? She wanted to know. She started talking about my anxiety as it wasn’t a part of me, but rather a separate entity that was preying on me. It felt weird.

Next she asked me to close my eyes and envision the anxiety. What did it look like? What did it sound like? What, most importantly, did it want from me? Of course this was all over Zoom. We still aren’t meeting face to face because Coronavirus, so it wasn’t working as she liked. She instead told me to find a quiet place later and do this activity. Write it down if I needed to. Try to figure out what the anxiety needs. Open a line of communication. It sounded a bit bizarre, but I trust Patsy. Moreover, as soon as she said that looking at your anxiety as a separate entity can sometimes help, without even thinking much about it, this image popped into my head. Like she was still talking about this process. About EMDR, trauma patients, etc, and I was already envisioning the way my anxiety looks, acts, feels, reacts to my questioning.

So later I did what Patsy suggested. I drew a picture of an office chair. Fun and funky. Bright colors and a nifty pattern. I then closed my eyes and envisioned that I asked the Anxiety to come and sit with me. And well, he did.

He’s not very pretty, is he? He’s a he. Of course he is. I can’t really describe him. I tried to describe him to Jerimiah, and the best I could come up with is that he is a blob of chaos. Very dark. Bright eyes. So there he is. He doesn’t have a name, he doesn’t deserve one. He’s just Anxiety, and he’s a real asshole.

Turns out he feeds on worry, uncertainty, and chaos. He gropes me. Attacks me. Latches on to me when things seem to be going okay on the outside. He relies on lies. He relies on uncertainty to get me down. He’s very good at what he does. He is swift. He’s always around waiting to be fed.

I’m sure there is more to this exercise, and once I can get back into the office with Patsy I’ll ask her to walk me through it, but this is as far as I got today. I’m not sure I want to venture further in without her. But I did want to share with you all, because the biggest take away I got from this was that Anxiety comes and goes, but does not define me. He is mean. He is hurtful. He causes chaos, but he is not me. I am not him. And I guess I’ll keep fighting him, probably forever, but at least now I know who I am fighting.

I hope you all know who is with you and against you, today. What is with you, what is against you.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

This is All Just Temporary

One of the things that I often repeat to myself is: This is only temporary. It started when Jackson was a baby. He was colicky, and the doctor assured me that it was temporary. She said around 12 weeks old he would just stop one day. And he did. Sort of like a light switch. One evening, at exactly 12-weeks, he had his normal colicky meltdown, then the next day he didn’t. And Jerimiah and I decided right then and there, that if we can make it 12 weeks through a colicky baby (he had a three hour crying fit every night and the only two things that soothed him were the vacuum and standing in front of the open freezer door) then we could get through anything.

A couple of years later, while I was lying in the hospital bed waiting to give birth to my dead daughter, Jerimiah and I looked at each other and I said, “This is temporary”. And it was. What I really meant was, if I can live through watching my daughter’s irregular heart beat on the screen for the last time, then labor for five more hours, then I could make it through anything. And still today, when I find myself way down, deep down in the dumps, I think back to that day and I remind myself that this is all just temporary.

I have an amazing friend named Beth. We met four years ago, when we were both new to Charlotte, to North Carolina, to making friends as an adult, as a mommy. She’s been instrumental in getting me through the last year of my life, and I wouldn’t trade her for the whole world. Yesterday we painted the school rock together for the last time. Now mind you, she did all the planning, the procuring, and the art, as it were, to paint a rock for someone else’s child (a task she takes on because she is kind, and considerate, and a little crazy). I always just end up running up halfway through, begging to help (because in my mind I am an artist) and she obliges. We talk, and paint, and laugh.

Yesterday, while I was asking her why she does this for other people, she explained that she likes to know that a kid will be surprised in the morning. She likes to plan, and paint. Then she said that she likes the medium. After all, it’s only up until the next person comes and paints over it, right? It’s all just temporary. Well, of course I wanted to stop what I was doing right then, take her in my arms and cry. See, I’m moving next week. Not too far away, just from Charlotte to Atlanta. But Beth is moving soon too. Maybe to a place much further away than Atlanta. Things are changing. Rapidly. We have known this for some time, but it was all very ethereal before yesterday.

And why wouldn’t things change? Beth reminds me of the second law of thermodynamics, she tells me, “As we move forward, we move further into chaos”. And don’t we always move? And aren’t we always fighting the chaos? Won’t we ever learn?

It’s a lot, I know. It’s a lot for me. The temporary chaos of this day, this week, this month, year, life. I want to be accepting. I want to welcome it. I want to shout out to the cosmos, “Nice try, you! But you won’t get me this time.” But it will get me. The chaos will get me. The changes will get me. They will do more than get me, they will consume me. I can feel the pull already.

In the meantime, I would do best to remind myself that this is all just temporary. Like a giant rock, that routinely gets a fresh coat of paint, to make a kid smile.

Remember, this is all just temporary.

M.

The deets: The kid is turning eight. His name is Cinco. He likes Fortnite (particularly the llama), chess, and YouTube. Beth is a master rock planner and painter!
The “Loot Llama”. All Beth!
Mostly Beth. I did the “shading” if we can even call it that…

Beth and the “front” of the rock. She planned it all out, I just painted it. And messed up the damn font. I’m such a loser.
Awww. Next time we will etch out initials into a tree, so it’s less temporary.
Llama!

How to Make Eggplant Parm

I made eggplant parmesan the other day. Let me write a really long run-on sentence now so that you have time to truly understand the significance of that previous statement because seriously I made eggplant parmesan the other day for my family and they ate it and they liked it and they said they would eat it again. Whew. Run-ons actually come easy to me which is probably why my gig as a stringer for the paper was short lived. Well, it was either that or that time my editor asked me what the role of a newspaper was and I gave him the standard journalism school response “to inform people” and he said, “Wrong! It’s to make money” (he was Trump before Trump was a thing) and I was all, “Wrong! It’s to inform people. It’s greedy bastards like you that made it into the other.” And then I got less leads.

What was I talking about? Eggplant Parm! Here is the thing. I don’t like to cook. Like, do not like it. I’m sort of like a toddler in the kitchen. I go in there with one thing on my mind: Oreos, and when I walk out there are pots and pans all over the floor, flour all over the counters, grapes stuffed into the garbage disposal, and sometimes there is crying. But, I do get into these weird moods where I have a hankering for something like eggplant parm and I am like, “Welp Missy, let’s try it.”

First I googled “Eggplant Parmesian” because generally speaking I can’t spell. Then I googled “Eggplant Parmasian” because Mrs. Albright (my fourth grade teacher who deserves her own blog post) said that people tend to mix up “a”s and “e”s. Then I just clicked where it said, “Did you mean ‘Eggplant Parmesan’?” Why yes, I did. Thank you Google, you sly fox.

Now usually what happens when I Google a dinner dish, is that I get so lost in all the recipes that I can’t decide on one. Then the multitude of choices forces me to stress-the-fuck-out, and I forgo cooking all together. By the end of the night I am confused, in my bathroom (where I sometimes hide from my family) sliding down the wall while I cry and watch myself in the mirror for added effect. Oh the torment! Do my eyes always look this tired? Jesus, do I need eye cream? I’m almost 40 for fuck’s sake. When did that happen?

But this time was different. I honestly can’t say why, other than I knew it was time for me to master something with red sauce, because the last time I made lasagna it was a NiGhTmArE. Listen. No, nevermind. It is too difficult to talk about. I need more time.

So I closed my eyes and clicked on a link. Lo and behold I was taken to this website that not only had the recipe “Easy Eggplant Parm” but there was also a video! Now, this may not seem too exciting to some of you, but I have come to understand myself as what people refer to as a “visual learner”. I need to be shown how to do something, rather than just told. My husband is the exact opposite and because of that he comes off as the “smarter” of the two of us because you can tell him something and he can go and do it. Whereas I need several attempts at doing it myself first. He is also known as the “less crazy” of the two of us, but that is for different reasons.

Okay, so I saw this video of eggplant parmesan being cooked and I was in heaven! All I had to do was gather the ingredients, start the video, and follow along. Saaaaweeeet!

I decided to try the recipe on a Monday so that we could partake in the ever-not-so-popular “Meatless Monday”. Seems like a snazzy idea. Of course I had eggs for breakfast and a leftover pork chop for lunch, but that is neither here nor there. I ordered my groceries with Walmart online pick-up which has helped me keep my sanity. I can enjoy the low, low prices of a huge box store, without having to go inside a huge box store. Other introverts will understand why this is amazing. Meanwhile some of you may be all, “Why not the ‘Teets’, Missy? The ‘Teets’ real cool.” And I will tell you what my husband tells me. “Stop calling it the ‘Teets’ no one calls it that but you and you aren’t going to suddenly make the ‘Teets’ happen, you aren’t an urban influencer.” And, yeah, he’s the “sane” one.

So I picked the ingredients up the Friday before and stockpiled them all weekend, even though my son saw the sauce (yeah, I buy red sauce I don’t make it, you crazies) and asked for spaghetti all weekend. He also kept asking me what the eggplant was for and whether he liked it, and more than one I used it as a weapon, as it lay sullen and alone on the kitchen counter.

Ahem, so Monday rolls around and I decide to start making it. It is right after school and Jackson and Morgan are running through the house with wands trying to make water turn into rum. If you want more of that story check out: https://mrsgoodnight.wordpress.com/2019/01/10/this-week-isnt-bringing-me-joy/. Totes not worth it.

So I have kids running around and a dog who is driving me nuts and I am hellbent on making this damn eggplant parmesan. So I start with slicing the eggplant (per the video) which is harder to watch than anticipated because I have to keep wiping my hands when I stop and start the video. Not to mention that it is on my phone so people keep calling and texting me and I keep getting distracted, then it takes me from the Safari app to the message and I start sending mean-ass messages back to people like they should know I am making eggplant parmesan right now, you assholes, why are you texting me?!

Once I get all the eggplant sliced I realize I was supposed to skin it too. Here’s a tip for ya, skin a vegetable before you slice it. So after I painstakingly skin the eggplants (yeah, I bought two because I didn’t read the whole ingredient list and didn’t realize I would only need one) then you mix up the egg mixture. So now I am stopping and starting a video on my phone with egg running down my fingers. I stop for a second to consider Salmonella, then I am reminded of that one time I went to Tijuana and shit for three days afterward. I often wondered if I contracted Salmonella, or E.coli, or Hep A, or what have you. But to be honest I saw some shit in Tijuana that like burned itself into my retina, and I was a bit more preoccupied with losing those images than whether or not my gastrointestinal upset was caused by the Camioneta de Burrito. Yeah. A Burrito. Van.

Anyway, I start taking the eggplant pieces one by one and dipping them into the egg mixture, then quickly sticking them into the Panko breading. I bought the gluten-free kind of Panko breading because I don’t read shit when I buy things online. I just click on pictures. Not unlike Karen who is going through a divorce in her early 50s and is drunk-buying purses with interchangeable zippers from QVC at two o’clock in the morning. Look it, we all have our reasons.

I keep going from one bowl to the other, while the egg mixture slings across my counter into the Panko mixture. Meanwhile, the dog is hopping up on his hind legs trying to drink the flying egg particles and I’m screaming at him to “Get down! Damn it, Duke! Get down!” and the kids are running in the room asking if I was calling for them. Eventually I get the first pan of eggplant covered and stick it into the oven that I forgot to preheat. So I turn back around and start on the second pan (of which I do not need, but now am stuck with) while I tell Siri to turn on a 15-minute timer.

I keep working on the second pan. Same shit. Dunk in eggs. Sling egg across counter. Kids scream. Dog hops around. People text. I lose my place in the video, and then have to watch a two minute ad to keep watching, and then the timer goes off. I turn around to see that I never actually turned the fucking oven on, so you know, things are going well.

At some point my husband texts me to tell me that he will be home earlier than expected, so I try to double-time that shit. Like suddenly I am in some sort of televised cooking competition and the judge is that guy from the “Cake Boss” and he is walking behind me taking mental notes of the mess that I am making, whispering things into my ear like, “Do you always let your dog lick your pajama pants while you cook?” and “You husband probably expects this to taste really great.” So I freak out a bit and start just throwing ingredients into the pan. I take out the now-baked eggplant and layer them, not unlike my lasagna (not the flashbacks, please not the flashbacks) with the ricotta cheese and basil and what not. Then I lose track of where I am in the video. Now my hands are all covered in this cheese mixture and I am trying to convince the kids that they succeeded in turning the water into rum as I start pulling dry seasoning from my shelf and just sprinkling shit in there. Oh, was that hot red pepper flakes? No one will notice. Then I stick the assembled pan in the oven and wait.

As I clean up the mess in the kitchen, which now looks like the opening scene of a Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode (red sauce everywhere) I notice for the first time that the dog has egg splattered on his head and maybe, is that, yeah, red sauce on his paws and he is tracking it through the house. Cool. Cool. Cool.

Le sigh. Listen, y’all. My husband and kid were all, “Ohh, this is yummy!” When they ate it and they ate it, all of it. I was too tired to worry whether or not they actually liked it or just knew that I had a hectic afternoon so they were pretending. Didn’t matter. I had defeated the eggplant parmesan. I am sitting at my kitchen island smiling at my husband and son, content for the first time all evening. Then my husband looks at me with a weird look and asks, “What was that?! Whew, something spicy!”.

Ahh, yeah. The red pepper flakes.

M.