Inward and Outward

I have been turning inward, staying home, focusing on family. I have been trying to teach myself that not everything is my responsibility to fix and that when things go wrong it is not necessarily my fault. These are important lessons for me, and harder to learn than perhaps they ought to be. I keep circling around like Rabbit, Pooh, and Piglet in the woods, always ending up back at the very same sand pit. It seems like I should focus, work harder, not get distracted. Yet lately I’m running across articles and sermons speaking about reaching out. They are resonating for me and I’m discovering a desire to be a better friend, neighbor, acquaintance, writer. At the exact same time I feel like I should be drawing in, conserving my energy for the things which really matter instead of spreading myself out thin across too many people, too many communities.

I think about these things as I lay curled up on my couch with a blanket over my head. The blanket creates a warm darkness that feels safe. I carefully unclench my jaw. Again. I know that the clenched jaw is a signifier of stress or anxiety, but I don’t know exactly what the stress is or why it is there. It seems that these things ought to have a source, and that I should be able to follow the flow back to that source and figure it out. Find a way to reconfigure my internal landscape so that I can have interior pools of calmness instead of pressured pockets seeking to geyser. I want caverns and pools forming lovely stalactites and stalagmites, not underground hot springs that bubble with the stench of sulfur. Instead I squeeze my eyes tight, unclench my jaw and try to arrange words in my head so that I can write them down later.

Nothing went wrong with the morning. We got up on time, the kids ate breakfast and did their homework with only the mildest of nudges. I did have the remnants of the migraine which struck me the night before. Perhaps I was a little bit sick. Yet I followed my to do list through the tasks of the morning, even to the point of grabbing a quiet moment alone with Gleek to discuss some of the physical manifestations of her anxiety and how we could perhaps redirect those into more socially acceptable avenues during school hours. It was an important discussion. Gleek was quiet, cooperative, and communicative as we discussed reasons and options. I wore my very best therapist hat, dusted off and spruced up because it has seen a lot of use lately. Putting that hat on takes an effort of will these days. It feels so heavy sometimes. Which could possibly be a source for some of the tension, and one of the major reasons I must chant to myself that not every problem is mine to fix, nor my fault. Yet sometimes wearing the therapist hat feeds energy into me instead of pulling it out. Sometimes extending myself means I end up with more, not less.

My feet are cold even curled up under my blanket on the couch. This too is a sign of ambient anxiety. My body pulls warmth toward my core, conserving it for…something. When I am relaxed and centered I am warm to my fingertips and toes. Having the space and time to curl up and contemplate my cold toes is a luxury. Many days I must carry on and get things done without time to contemplate. I can go for quite a long time before I hit a wall, my ability to focus vanishes, and I have to face all the things I’ve not been thinking about. If I can even figure out what they are.

The day before, I watched Gleek in her classroom as the teacher handed out assignments. Unbidden, my brain took note of each one and added it to my task list. I tried to shake them off; they are not my tasks, they’re Gleek’s. Yet it was like getting rid of styrofoam peanuts, they kept drifting and clinging no matter how much I tried to discard them. At homework time, Gleek pulled out her work, and most of it was already complete. She has inherited from me the tendency to work ahead, get things done early, and to fret over assignments before fretting is strictly necessary. This is reassuring to me. I do not have to track her assignments. She will do it. I wonder at what point she will find herself curled under a blanket trying to untangle her thoughts because the same tendencies which make her effective at getting work done also create needless anxieties. All I can do is wear my battered therapist hat and hope to pass on lessons as I learn them.

Eventually enough words line up in my brain that I must record them. I lift the blanket off my head and wrap it around my shoulders. Then I go to my computer and type. Amorphous thoughts are pinned into little black symbols written in pixels, stored as ones and zeros through a mechanism I barely understand. All I really know is that I click and the words are there. My words, trying to wrap themselves around my experiences as a method of conveying those experiences to others. With my words I turn inwards, seeking my thoughts and reasons, trying to figure out why I am the way that I am. My words also reach outward, seeking to connect with others. The seemingly contradictory happens simultaneously through the same action. Perhaps the answer then is to write.