Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Swimming Anxiety

This morning I swam 3200 meters by mistake. That is, I only set out to swim 3000 but I lost track somewhere in the middle there and by the time I figured it out I'd gone 200 extra meters.  Like that's a bad thing.  So we have a new record of farthest distance swum by Jen.  That's twice I've done 3000 and this time I felt like I could have kept going, maybe made it to 3500.  So my quest for 5000 meters is evidently heading in the right direction.  Whoever invented Gatorade (yes, the low sugar version -- it's at least a little better than the Really Bad Stuff) gets my thunderous applause. Whoever invented pureed fruit to be sold as baby food, however--he and I need to have a talk.  Somebody told me I could stay away from the Snickers bars by eating some of this pureed fruit, which conveniently comes in little squeezable bottles.  Well, that pureed fruit is some of the worst stuff I've ever put in my mouth.  Ick!  It's supposed to be plain fruit, but it's so ridiculously sweet that a diabetic might lose consciousness. And they feed this stuff to babies?  No wonder they scream.  Next time, when I shoot for 3200 again (this time on purpose), I'll try just plain ol' blueberries and sliced bananas in a baggie.  And chew them really, really fast. And try not to pay too much attention to the "No Food Or Drink Allowed" sign that dominates one whole side of the pool room.

In other news, I've just realized something.  It is this: I basically have no faith in people who say they are going to do something.  This comes from work, of course.  I spend much of every day asking people to bring me things, send me things, tell me things.  They always say they're going to do whatever it is, but for some reason I just don't believe them.  So I put a little note on my calendar and I call them a week later to see if they've done it yet.  Sometimes they have.  More often they say something like, "Oh hey, I forgot all about that.  Thanks for reminding me!" Or something along those lines that's a little less polite. Or, as occasionally happens, "Did you pay my invoice yet?" to which the answer is generally, "Let me check with the accountant."  Which means no, in case you don't understand business doublespeak.

In case you haven't guessed this, I'm also a regular whiz at nagging people. I have a particular system where I call people every week, then twice a week, then three times a week, and then every day until they cough up whatever it is I need.  It never fails (well, except for this one hospital, and I can't call that a failure just yet because I've only been calling every day for about a week now).  Never call more than once a day; that's harassment. (Yes, I used to work for that arm of a bank that calls you when you're late with your credit card bill.)  But call at different times of day.  Try nine o'clock, then three, then ten-thirty, then four in the afternoon.  If they get wise to your work number and send you directly to voice mail, call from your cell phone.  If that doesn't work, either, start faxing letters.  My goal in these situations is to make it easier for you to send me whatever I need than continue to dodge me.

The thing is, I don't know how to turn this off when I'm not at work.  If somebody says she's going to call me about something or other and then doesn't do it for whatever reason, I'm equal parts surprised, hurt and anxious.  I seem to be incapable of grasping the simple concept that just because something is important to me doesn't mean it's life or death to anybody else and that sometimes, shit just happens.  Your kid gets the flu or your husband loses his job or the heater goes out in the middle of December and you're too busy handling the crisis, whatever it is, to get back to me.  No wonder I feel kind of equal parts silly and whiny when I call people to see if they've done what they said they were going to do.  That doesn't stop me from doing it, though.

When I told her about this, Joan pointed out that any time things don't happen on my timetable, which is evidently the most important timetable on the entire planet, my anxiety gets triggered.  In case I didn't mention this to you guys, I don't have a problem with anxiety.  Anxiety IS my problem.  If I could get a grip on the anxiety, I could probably get a grip on everything else just fine, but short of chemical solutions, anxiety is just not that easy to get a grip on, people.  And those chemical solutions are great, but they come with side effects of not being able to drive and occasionally falling asleep sitting up.

The most recent example of this involved my health insurance company, my doctor and some phone calls.  My doctor, not me, had to make these phone calls; they would not do any good coming from me.  Now, most people would just call the doctor (or, as is my wont, send him a fax) and let him/her handle it.  And I did do that, after a fashion, as in, I didn't call back every day to say, "Have you handled it yet?" I wanted to, but I didn't.  And after about four days, which would be pretty reasonable to anybody's timetable that isn't mine, my doctor called and told me that it was handled.  All fine and dandy, except I won't get back the four days I spent obsessing about it and wondering if it was too soon to call and check up.

This is about as un-Buddhist-y as you can possibly get, except maybe killing somebody.  Buddhists are supposed to be patient and calm and not worry about things.  Maybe you get that way after you attain enlightenment, but I ain't there yet.  Thich Nhat Hanh talks about giving others "the gift of non-fear," especially in scary situations; he uses the situation of a boat full of refugees being blown about by a storm.  Everybody's starting to panic except one guy, who starts saying, "Everything's going to be okay.  Don't be afraid," and since he seems to be very calm, everyone believes him and settles down.  Thich Nhat Hanh doesn't end this story with what actually happens to the boat because the point isn't the fate of the boat; the point is to not be afraid, and to help other people not be afraid.

People tell me I stay calm when I handle things.  I'm the one in the office who's most likely to say, "Okay, calm down, give it to me, I'll fix it."  I never feel calm, though.  Maybe it's possible to act yourself into being calm.  Or, at least, not adding to the general anxiety.

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