My mom and dad are in Italy this week. No, not the town in Ellis County, Texas. The country shaped like a boot on the other side of the planet. They're going to Rome and Florence and Venice and places that have more syllables than consonants in their names. They're going to hang out and eat pasta and drink vino and have a fabulous time. At least, I hope they are. (And I'm stuck here at Afrah eating stuffed grape leaves and akawi pie. I can't even tell you what a tragedy this is.) There was a time when I did that whole international travel thing, but I have to admit it generally took place in years where I didn't have to replace a roof and a water heater and a stove and a washing machine and a huge transmission component for the Saturn and a cell phone and half my wife's mouth. Yeah, we can kind of forget international travel this year. I'm trying to figure out how to get the two of us to Phoenix some time around the holidays so we can reassure our friends and relatives of our continued existence.
Anyway: I don't think I have ever once in my life had occasion to yell, "Call security!" I did, once, have occasion to yell "Call my lawyer!", but A. I yelled it in English and everybody around me spoke only Swedish, and B. I didn't have a lawyer, so it really didn't have the kind of impact I would have preferred. Security, though, is an interesting concept. For some people it means big ugly guys with guns and six-cell flashlights. (In my mind, the six-cell flashlight and gun disappear, and I'm carrying a mere Detex watch clock. Yes, I was a security guard in college. The things people will do to, you know, eat.) For some, it's all about money. For Linus, it's a blue blanket. (Please, I beg of you, get this pop culture reference. Lie to me if you don't. Because if you don't, I'm going to lapse into despair and start into one of my what's-wrong-with-kids-today speeches and nobody wants that. Not even Linus.)
For most of my adult life and probably most of my youth, as well, I've been plagued with anxiety. What the heck is anxiety, anyway? Well, that's probably something else that means different things to different people. What it always meant to me, still means today, is a fundamental, lizard-brain feeling that I Am Not Safe. Yes, this floor looks very sturdy, but be not fooled; I'm about to fall through it. Yes, this job looks pretty promising, but don't hold your breath; I'm about to get fired. Yes, this relationship looks happy and stable; but she's going to leave me any second. And any number of dreadful occurrences are going to happen before you can say Jack Robinson. (Don't ask me who Jack Robinson is. I think he's just one of those people whose name just doesn't take very long to say.) Tornado? Fire? Flood? Gout? Mitt Romney? Yep, expect any or all of them any second now. And once this feeling gets started, it does not want to go away. There are things that help, but the only thing that's Guaranteed To Work is the judicious application of pharmaceuticals. Legally prescribed ones, that is. And what are they prescribed for? Uh, severe anxiety. Imagine.
Now, this here's a Buddhist speaking. We're supposed to be all calm and relaxed-like. And I am, most of the time. Unless the anxiety jumps me. Does meditating help? Yes, somewhat. Does chanting, reading stuff out of one of the sutras, something by Thich Nhat Hanh help? Yes, again somewhat. Does plunging into a project and just working like hell until I forget what I'm so anxious about help? Yes, though it doesn't stop it from Coming Right Back as soon as the coast is clear. but if I need a guarantee, if I want to be positive that I'm going to stop wanting to jump right the hell out of my skin in twenty minutes or less, pharmaceuticals help the best.
I'll give you an example. I was talking to the New Guy last night about one of those things I really don't want to talk about. I have quite a few such things, and generally deal with them by saying "Yes, that happened. It was gross. Let's move on." The thing about visiting mental-health care professionals of any stripe, though, is that you really have to talk about the stuff you don't want to talk about or visiting doesn't do you a bit of good. So I have this way of sneaking up on something, whacking it with my paw, and then taking off at great speed, only to return a few minutes later and sneak up on it again. I learned this technique from my cat. New Guy played along pretty well (he must also have a cat, although I haven't asked him). And gradually we got close enough to the big icky thing I didn't want to talk about that we could, you know, talk about it. Afterward, in the parking lot, I was a jangly mess of nerves. So I did something I have not done in a while. I Took Something. It kicked in, in about twenty minutes, by which time I was home. And calm. And secure. And starting to get very darn sleepy.
That, in my humble opinion, is the biggest problem with pharmaceutically-induced security. It comes with a side effect of unconsciousness. Joan said she had a terrible time waking me up. Shaking my arm didn't do it and patting my face didn't do it. She finally had to take off my shoes. I don't know why that wakes me up, but it does. Maybe in a former life I was a World War I soldier in the trenches, and I had to keep an eye on my boots because boots got stolen a lot. I don't know. Anyway, I got up and stumbled into bed and woke up this morning with a hangover. I haven't been hung over for so long I'd forgotten what it was like, but, yeah. It was a hangover. That's another downside to the pharmaceutical anxiety treatment.
Still, today's a new day and today I feel better. No crawling out of my skin, no looming threats of tornadoes or earthquakes or Romneys. And I'm late for my meeting. Ciao.