an american roller coaster

When I was in the bathroom this morning, brushing my teeth and getting ready for work, I discovered this:

img_2111My dear sweet wife is the only person who shares this bathroom, this drawer, and this Q-tip box with me, so there is little doubt – not even reasonable doubt – as to who left the cotton swabs in such disarray.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could the woman I love do this? Certainly it wasn’t simple carelessness. . . She must have had a convulsion, or a twitch, like I do when I’m not medicated, or something worse. Or maybe she did it on purpose just to mess with me. After twenty-some-odd years of marriage, perhaps she is finally trying to end me by a disorderly-swab-induced panic attack to collect the life insurance money. I decided that was probably it, so I confronted her with a text:

img_2119I was certain that she would offer a sincere apology for imposing upon me this fear of the type of day it would surely be if the q-tips were this bad, and offer maybe to take me to lunch to assuage my anxiety, but no.

“Whatevs.” This is the compassion I get. Like an ice cube flippantly tossed under the warm covers, or maybe some hot grease splashed on my skin as a wake up from a nap.

So I contact my psychology friend to see what I can do to help her. He tells me to come on in for a visit. When I arrived at his office there was a young black female in her car, blocking the driveway. I rolled down my window as I pulled up beside her and then asked if I could help. She said her car had died. I think we both recognized one another as humans rather than the carriers of any latent prejudices, and I told her that I would pull around and come from the other side to connect a tow strap and pull her out of the street and into the parking lot. I did so. Her name was MaryBelle, which is a delightful name. We got along well, and did not even speak of anyone’s lives mattering or not, because we both knew both did. I forgot about the q-tips for a moment.

I went into my friend’s office and we talked about fear and anxiety and panic and worry, and to my surprise, he focused on me more than my wife. He drastically minimized my wife’s problems – probably due to the fact that it isn’t chronic, now that I think about it.

He explained that fear and panic go together as both are based on present, immediate issues, while anxiety and worry couple up because they are based more on future problems.  He further opined that fear and panic can lead to anxiety and worry like one domino hitting another. (not quotes but paraphrases here – I was in no shape to take it in perfectly). I calmly explained that disorderly swabs force a person to consider what else about a given day will likely be COMPLETELY JACKED UP, and this leads to fear, panic, anxiety, and I don’t know about worry – I really don’t have an issue with that. According to Marcus Aurelius, a good way to lose an obsession is to dissect it into less compelling bits, so this conversation might have helped in his century, but not today.

After I left and finally made it to work, as I explained the q-tip disaster to coworkers I heard from CASA that an old ad-litem client (truck stop case mentioned in Child Abuse) of mine was becoming homeless and needed help. This was bad news. I represented him when he was a small boy, abandoned by his mom at a truck stop to be picked up by his Dad, who opted against it.  He has been floating through the foster system for most of his childhood, and now after all this time, he moved in to his mother’s home to reunite. He was there one month before she kicked him out. Depressing to think of how a mom can release a child so easily, once in elementary school and all over again at age 19.

On the way there, “Safety Dance” came on the radio. Good song, however stupid.

img_2117-2I haven’t seen this young man in several years, but it was the highlight of my day to drive to Bigelow and pick him up to transport him to Deliver Hope, Inc. which was waiting with a room for him. He was about waist high to me when I last saw him. He is now staying in a shelter operated by Deliver Hope, and happy to be there. He is also looking for a job.

This all reminds me how much I enjoyed juvenile work in previous years, and the value of it. Both CASA and Deliver Hope are wonderful organizations that deserve recognition and support.

When I returned to my office after all this, my Q-tip problem was gone. Any fears and anxieties I had were placed into perspective.

I am constantly amazed at how many negative emotions gratitude can erase.

To end the day, I enjoyed a Double Decker chocolate bar that a friend brought for me from Scotland. Good Stuff.

Screenshot (98)

 

It was a roller coaster of a day. I would think actual roller coasters are similar everywhere, but this was an American Roller Coaster. Here’s what I mean:

I exaggerated my response to the Q-tips (all day – to mess with M), but based on my neurosis for which I take medication, it did bother me slightly. I fought the urge to straighten them out. In many countries I simply wouldn’t enjoy the luxury of having q-tips, much less being concerned about their orderliness. The panic was like a small dip in the coaster ride. When I helped the girl with her car, it was easy because the streets were paved, and we pulled her into a safe college parking lot. American luxury. But she still had a real reason for feeling stranded and anxious, which I did not. Her car was dead. She had a bigger drop in her thrill ride than I did. She called someone with the cell phone in her lap to help her from there. We take so much for granted.

A stupid song on the radio temporarily took my mind off all else: a fun, more than scary, part of the roller coaster.

When I picked up my old client, though he had been in foster care and basically orphaned most of his life, he was (is) quite healthy, and was wearing an Apple watch paired with his Iphone 7, and he had several bags of possessions, including a few video game consoles. Material possessions have been given to him by many people over the years, but his parents abandoned him and no one ever adopted. His life has been a roller coaster of disappointment and hurt but he has more stuff than my kids. American values?

No part of my day was so bad that a good chocolate bar didn’t help.

As far as I can tell, an American Roller Coaster has the same climbs and drops and thus the same rush (good or bad) as the roller coasters of other countries. The difference is just that it is perched on a taller pile of money than other roller coasters, which makes very little difference at all in the anxiety and fear category.  On the other hand, our low spots simply don’t compare to many countries. The low spots of our ride are comparable to the high spots of theirs. But we still complain about the drops.

I am amazed at how many negative emotions even a little gratitude can erase.

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