What was that? I ask myself, as I lay in bed, trying to will myself to sleep. A tiny twinge of pain in my head (Aneurysm!), or a knotted pain in my stomach (Cancer?), and I’m sent swirling into a spiral of anxiety or panic. On the REALLY heavy nights (Sundays, amirite? IYKYK), it veers to the more existential: the dying of our democracy, an unrelenting pandemic, climate disaster. The chaos of the world, of my middle-aged worries, of the things I cannot control, have all taken residence in my bed, in my mind, in my body. And I’m tired. I’m so tired of fear and despair and hopelessness.
I’ve talked to my therapist about this, and she assures me I’m having a garden variety midlife crisis. But this is so much deeper than that. I feel fundamentally unsafe in the world, as though all of civilization is careening towards this proverbial brick wall of destruction. And I’ve learned that so many people share these feelings, which makes me feel simultaneously better and SO MUCH WORSE. I’m used to being the anxious worrier-I need other people to ground me. It’s like when you’re on a plane and turbulence hits, or the plane makes a weird noise-what do you do? You look towards the flight attendants. If they are walking about and doling out beverages, you relax. I love to be right and validated, but not in times of worry! Tell me I’m wrong, that I’m overreacting, that it’s OK. Keep pushing the beverage cart, so to speak-don’t buckle yourself into the jump seat and suspend service. I need YOU to remain calm.
I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression my entire life, but this is something different. It’s paralytic, almost. And it’s making me angry. I have an almost non-existent fuse, now. Por ejemplo: I was recently at an intersection, where I waved a man on. He then responded by throwing up his hands in exasperation, which was…confusing? Rather than ignore it, I screamed “F**K YOU!” out the window and gave him the finger. At 8am. What kind of monster does that? But it’s like it’s all bubbling there, right at the surface. The only thing bringing me any sort of real contentment and fulfillment is…get this…work. I got a promotion early this year, and I have been loving my work. And I’m taking very careful steps not to sink into it, because the last thing I need right now is professional burnout. But it’s the only thing that feels predictable and controlled.
I don’t really know why I’ve made the decision to share all this, especially after almost two years of silence on this blog (a medium which now feels painfully outdated, but hey, I’M now outdated, at 40). I think I’m just at max capacity. I mean, where are you guys at? How are you processing this hellscape we call the 21st century on a dying planet? The few things that seem to help me are: my friends, my sister, Andy, and D, being outdoors, and (of course) listening to Daddy Obama tell everyone it’s going to be OK, on podcasts. But what does the other side of this look like? IS there one?