There is a crack in my wall.
In the middle of my wall, running from the ceiling to the floor.
It looks like something you’d see in a commercial about failing foundations. That’s because my foundation is failing. At least, I’m pretty sure.
I’ve noticed other little cracks on the outside of my house recently, but I’ve chosen to ignore them. This one, however, jumped out at me while I was sitting down to do some work this morning.
“Here I am!” it yelled, “Proof that your entire house is falling down around you!”
I tried to get still and breathe deeply.
In the quiet, I heard the unmistakable sound of water dripping. In the other wall. Because, obviously, my roof is leaking and it’s raining because it’s January which is the most bleak, wet, depressing month of the year. Except for February, which is coming next.
Getting still clearly was not working, so I decided to get busy.
I made a worry list. I was going to put everything I’m worried about on that list and then make a matching action list so I could tackle one thing at a time. I was on #17 when I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to be worried about Alice’s feet, because she always walks on her toes and so the pediatrician is sending us to an orthopedist, and holy shit that appointment is in FIFTEEN MINUTES.
So, we interrupt this anxiety attack for a completely different one. Namely: Where-are-Alice’s-freaking-shoes-and-what-kind-of-mother-forgets-about-an-orthopedist-appointment-and-which-car-should-we-take-the-one-that-has-the-check-oil-light-(again)-or-the-one-that-is-grinding-suspiciously?
Sometimes adulting is too much for me.
I spend time reading personal development books that assure me that I am a badass, and I can awaken the giant within, and be a peaceful parent. Then, life happens and my giant is nowhere to be found. Maybe my giant is the bumbling stupid variety, like Gawp in Harry Potter. Or maybe it’s just really, really asleep. Either way, it is not showing up.
So Mike gets Alice out the door to the doctor and calls me to say, “While you’re making a comprehensive worry list, remember that the downstairs toilet is broken, we need a real plumber. And the towel rack is falling off the wall. And… there is no emergency.”
The magic words.
THERE IS NO EMERGENCY.
Back at Berklee I had a friend who lent me tapes (yes tapes) designed to help people overcome anxiety. I’ve always had a problem with anxiety, but even if I hadn’t, Berklee would do it to anyone. So, there I was, swaying on the T (the Boston subway), headed to one of my eight classes, listening to a walkman while a soothing female voice assured me that there was no emergency.
Of course, it FELT like there was an emergency. I was about to perform some song I’d been given one day to write, or play scales (which were so bizarre that they sounded wrong even if they were right) for a panel of examiners.
“There is no emergency,” the lady repeated. And even though I didn’t completely believe her, by the time I got to class, my sweating had slowed to a near human level and I felt like I could get air at least halfway down my lungs.
So this morning, if you are freaking out about your job, or your kid’s feet, or your student loans, or your crazy neighbor – if you’ve reached that paralyzing place of anxiety where absolutely EVERYTHING seems way too big to handle, including breathing, just repeat after me:
There is no emergency.
There is no bear, no fire, no gunman, no choking child. (If there is, and you are reading this, for godsakes, stop.) In this moment, you are okay. You can breathe. You can figure out your next steps, which may be as simple as a walk around the block.
My next step is a shower.
I’m gonna throw a little hot water on that sleeping giant within and see if I can’t convince him to call the foundation people. And the roofer. And the plumber. And the mechanic.
Wish me luck, I’m sending some your way.