Sunday, June 30, 2013

Protecting the time on my hands

"Don't leave me here with all these critical voices, cause they do their best to bring me down."

[Written Saturday June 29. Posted Sunday, June 30.]

Anxiety. How I hate thee.

I dropped Neil at the airport this morning for at 8:30 flight. He's in Colorado Sprngs, at the ANA Summer Seminar, aka Coin Camp. He'll be back in one week, next Friday.

It's 102 degrees here right now, feels like 107, and I'm hiding in the coolness of the house. I promised myself a weekend off from bead making, a reprieve from repetitive strain for my neck and arm and hand. On Monday I'll get back into routine, beads in the morning, 3 miles on the treadmill at the fitness center in the afternoon. Back to sweating, or in my case, glistening, as I don't really sweat that much, as long as I stay in line with the fan.

I have no ability to be lazy and still. I don't watch much TV. I'm not reading anything gripping at the moment. I meant to make some beaded necklaces today, to take some over to my friend Pam for consignment in her little glass art shop tomorrow, and maybe to try selling some online. I created a new shop section for finished jewelry in my Etsy shop, and plan to list some things, just in case the market for jewelry is a little better than the market for my beads is at the moment.

But I'm feeling more or less immobilized by anxiety and I can't even say what the reason is. It's a tightness in my chest, a feeling that I'm gasping for oxygen. I hate this shit. I have everything I need and want. But I feel isolated, disconnected and from there it's such a quick spiral down into insecurity and fear. Fear of loss, fear of loneliness, fear of the abyss.

I fight it. I drink green tea. I call my daughter. I email a friend I've been too long out of touch with. I text back and forth with Neil, who is ensconced in a dorm room at Colorado College, getting ready to spend the next five days studying problem coins.

When we started dating, I showed Neil my coin collection, a band-aid tin full of Mercury dimes, buffalo nickels, wheat pennies, a few Morgan silver dollars. All seriously circulated and tragically abused from rattling around in that tin. I was completely ignorant about numismatics, but enraptured with learning about the hobby. Coins are interesting, a bit of history combined with the beauty of silver and gold, especially in the case of mint state and brilliant uncirculated certified gem quality specimens.

It was fun traveling around the country to coin shows, often combining trips with hiking outings and sightseeing in new cities, starting my own modest collection of uncirculated, or about uncirculated coins. I was interested enough to go to Coin Camp with Neil in 2005, but the experience was a mistake for me.

I might have enjoyed Neil's hands-on coin-grading course, but I deemed myself too inexperienced and chose instead a sort of overview of coins from antiquities through time. I'd have been better off taking the "spouses course," some light coin basics in the mornings, excursions in the afternoons. Instead, I spent five days in a very cold classroom, listening to a lecturer, a little past his prime, who made it all seem very dull indeed.

I think he must have felt the same way, a little bored by the material, because he would doze off during his own slide shows, and snooze through presentations by the guest speakers he invited in. The class was small and diverse, a teenager on a youth numismatist scholarship, a couple of older gents, a couple of return spouses who'd previously taken the spouses course, and me. I went with high expectations and it was agony. The slow water-torture variety.

I was still working at my corporate job then. The weather in Colorado Springs was dreamy, sunny and temperate, and I hated spending my days indoors in air-conditioned monotony. I was on vacation from a job where I spent too many vapid hours in windowless meetings, and my favorite parts of the seminar were the 15 minute breaks that I spent sitting on a bench on the campus, drinking up the light and the warmth and the view of green mountains in the distance. I went to every damn lecture session, because I knew Neil would be disappointed in me if I cut classes, tempting as it was.

Neil still is sure that I simply had the unfortunate luck of the draw with this particular teacher, and that I would enjoy Coin Camp if I'd chosen a more scintillating professor and subject. While that may be true, I haven't wanted to risk it again. I've become so protective of my time that I won't go to a movie if I think I won't enjoy it. I'm unlikely to chance another five days of coin bondage.

So here I am with all that time I'm protecting on my hands. And what am I doing with it so far but enduring it? Thinking too much, hiding from the relentless sun, longing for cool Colorado mountain air, but knowing I'd miss the cats. Feeling conflicted, afraid of being alone with myself for a week, feeling safe and loved, but also haunted by the fragile nature of happiness, unable to deny that the abyss is out there.

Maybe it's time to talk about the abyss.

Will talking about it allow me to shrug off the self-doubts that have been creeping back in, the feelings of underachievement, the rejection-sensitivity, the questions about my right to be human?

I can hope. I can try. I have a week.

It's no big secret that I've grappled with depression, off and on, for as long as I can remember.

There. I said it. A good place to start.

I've had a good long run in remission. I'm fine now. It's just that I know it's out there. I've always known that. It's part of what makes me me.

And it's really a story of courage.

There are no hospital stays, no self-harming behaviors, no attempts on my own life. No time missed from work, no radical therapies, no episodes of psychosis.

Just a lot of tears, a lot of shame, a lot of grief and a lot of guilt.

But there is also much joy and pride and happiness and grace.

I'm the ultimate conundrum.

Be ready to be riveted.

But right now, because writing is one of my drugs of choice, I've talked myself far enough from the ledge that I'm thinking about going out and getting some bath salts at Ulta with my coupon that expires today.

And then maybe I'll string those beads.

"I could be daydreaming but for a moment
And somehow they're creeping back in
I could be sleeping awakened the torrent
Somehow I get caught in their grips again

And here I am in my shame spiral
I'm sucked in to it again
And I reach out for your benevolent opinion
And you bring the light back in

Don't leave me here with all these critical voices
Cause they do their best to bring me down
When I'm alone with all these negative voices
I will need your help to turn them down

I could be listening to a conversation
The story I'm not even in
These voices have their way when I am unguarded
Suddenly I step in quicksand again

Once again in my shame spiral
I am glad that you've weighed in

Don't leave me here with all these critical voices
Cause they do their best to bring me down
When I'm alone with all these negative voices
I will need your help to turn them down."

[Alanis Morissette, Shame Spiral from Bright Lights and Havoc]

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz