Sunday, September 6, 2009

mission: possible

I'm feeling a little on-edge tonight. I have been looking forward to this evening for a couple of days now - Brian is working, Dora went to bed early, and I can now focus on a couple of projects I've been wanting to get to all weekend. Writing, organizing a website-redesign project for a friend, making a gift for another friend's birthday. Perhaps its just that I have such high hopes for tonight, and so many objectives, that I know I can't do it all.

I don't want this blog to become another stressor for me. I don't think it is - yet. But it has been on my mind a lot in the past few days. My goal is to write every day. For one thing, I want to start "marketing" this blog in some way - even if it's just casting a wider net with my friends and family. I don't want to ask people to look at a post that's two weeks old. I'm also taking the advice of one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, who advises aspiring writers to write, and read, as much as possible. As a full-time working mother, wife, pet-owner, friend, etc., that can feel like a tall order indeed. But, to be honest, most days I feel like I have something I'd like to write here - even if it's just a short recipe or exclamation about my day with Dora - I just don't always have the time. I have all of these snippets of posts floating around in my head, waiting to be written. Jotting the ideas down sometimes works, but usually if I don't have the chance to write about the topic when the idea comes to me, it later feels a little bit untruthful, a little bit contrived.

I've been meaning to write for several days about something that happened on Thursday - a little incident, somewhat humorous, somewhat disturbing, that makes excellent fodder for a blog. I wanted to write about safety - the illusion of safety, the desire for us to keep ourselves and our families safe, and how this affects our behavior - and how sometimes, ironically, we can be confronted with feelings of danger even when we try to line everything up in our favor.

I couldn't get to it that night, though, but I tried to keep the idea alive in my mind - like fanning a tiny flame to try to get the fire started. The odd thing is that I ended up experiencing several other things over the weekend that could be used for the post about safety. It was almost as if my desire to keep the blog concept alive in my mind led me to these situations in which I experienced a feeling of insecurity, loss of safety, even danger. Perhaps I was just more aware - I don't know. Regardless, over the course of several days we encountered people acting strangely (not that unusual for Asheville actually), were nearly hit by a car while out walking, removed a giant splinter from Dora's hand, narrowly avoided Dora being severely bitten by a dog, and lost a large amount of blood. Okay - the last one is a bit of a stretch. I donated blood on Friday - an experience that can definitely be frightening, but was decidedly voluntary.

Still, all of this - even the voluntary blood donation - comes down to the constant struggle to be in control. I want to be in control of my time, in control of my environment enough to keep my child safe, in control of my home enough to keep my pets healthy, in control of my marriage enough to keep us happily in love. I haven't flown for years and I know exactly why. It's not the act of flying itself that scares me - in fact, I love it. It's fast, convenient, relatively inexpensive. It's the potential for a bad ending that keeps my tightly connected to the ground. It's the knowledge that, no matter what I do, once I set foot on a plane, it's out of my control.

I'm not sure why exactly this is such an issue for me, but I have a few ideas. My mother was really into worrying about things, and trying to control her environment. She was averse to many things - heights, small spaces, snakes, flying, doctors. In the end, her fear of doctors, and her addiction to tobacco, took her life. My mother was many things to me - my best friend, my guide, my champion, my book club president, my advisor, my mentor. She was also a great model for anxiety, and losing her only confirmed for me that terrible things do, in fact, happen.

I know this kind of fear, this intense desire to control, doesn't work. I've watched it not work and I know it's not keeping me any safer to stay on the ground. For example, I don't think a guy, in this age of intense security on airplanes, could have gotten away with flashing me his hot pink bra if we were on a flight together. But, this did happened to Dora and I a few nights ago in our safe, cozy, middle class neighborhood. I don't want my girl to grow up afraid of as many things as I am. If her behavior thus far is any indication, I think she's going to be fine. She seems to be kind of a daredevil.

But, even so, I've worked and worked, and continue to work, on my anxiety levels and the way I convey those fears to her. And I really, really want to go back to Europe, and being on a boat in the middle of the ocean for a week isn't my cup of tea either, so I've got to get back on the horse (or plane, as the case may be) - and I know that.

This is going to be one of those things that I struggle with for my entire life. I don't say that to be overly negative or to create some self-fulfilling prophesy. I say it because, although I don't know what I want to do with my life, and I don't know how to prioritize all of my tasks, and I don't know how to crochet, I do know that trying to be in control, trying to stay safe, is a part of who I am. It's as much a part of me as nearsightedness and long, skinny toes. If I were to remove this part of me completely, well, I might finally like rollercoasters, but I would lose some essence of myself, too.

The key, I guess, is to strike some balance between the two. I have to try to be the nervous flyer who prays, or drinks, or holds tightly to the seats, instead of the nervous flyer who just never buys a plane ticket again. I have to be the creative writer who takes notes, writes as frequently as possible, and gives myself a break when I miss it for a day or two. After all, I have a child to take care of, a husband to love, pets to snuggle, and a penchant for anxiety that I'll continue to respect and work through, no matter how impossible it sometimes feels or how long it takes. I'll aspire to be less paralyzed by my fears, and more like my dog - aware enough of her surroundings to sense an unfamiliar voice on the street or a storm cloud gathering on the horizon, but secure enough to sleep vulnerably in the sunshine.


  1. Oh, Carrie,... so much I can identify with in this one. I think you are absolutely right about anxiety being rooted in the need to be in control. As you know, I experienced the anxiety of flying again recently. I felt, as you describe, not the fear of flying, but the fear of putting myself in a situation beyond my control. (The fact that it was 37,000 feet above the ground only compounded things).

    This labor day weekend is the first weekend in a long time that I refused offers to spend huge chunks of my time on someone else's plans. If there was something going on that I didn't want to participate in, then I didn't participate. Did I feel less anxious because I could get more things done, or because I was in control of my time for a change? Either way, I did accomplish more and felt less overwhelmed by too many obligations. So simple, yet so difficult sometimes. I can only imagine how much harder it is when you add a child to the mix.

    By the way -- some fantastic pics in this post, too. I loved them all.


    P.S. You DO have freakishly long toes! :-)

  2. Thanks, Angie! I know you can relate to some of this stuff. I am impressed with you taking so many trips this year - that is great!

    I really appreciate you reading the blog and all of your fantastic and supportive comments.

    Thanks so much!!