So, I have a little problem. I sometimes get antsy. No, not really antsy. It’s more like I get jittery; some may even call it restlessness. It’s nothing; it just keeps me on my toes. Right? Oh, who am I trying to kid? Sometimes, I am an unglued basket case!
I did not even feel stress before the age of 35, but something happened; something changed. Maybe it was the day I crossed over into that next box when checking age on medical and insurance forms: 35-44. Maybe it was the day I told a funny joke in class, alluded to LA Law, and saw my students’ blank stares. Maybe it was the day I was at a party and everyone was talking about 401Ks, Roth IRAs, and College Advantage, and I knew we were, for the moment, on the verge of bankruptcy.
Whatever the case, I became anxious. I started thinking about everything: the cost of milk at Giant Eagle as opposed to Marc’s, the number of times I drive to dance class and waste precious time in the car, the number of loads of laundry that need to get done, the number of essays that need to be graded, the amount of money I could be using to pay off bills if I wasn’t a guilty Catholic paying Catholic school tuition. I became obsessed with controlling every facet of my life. I needed to do it all: work, take care of my family, take care of my house, and on some Saturdays in months that end with “Y”, take care of myself.
It was a difficult way to live, so in the last few years, I have found methods to relax. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the girls are becoming more self-sufficient and Tom works days, so we are home together in the evening to share the hectic evening activity schedule.
Be that as it may, in the middle of the night, when the lights are out and everyone is asleep, sometimes, I wake up with a pit of pain where my stomach used to be. Anxiety wields its wrathful wallop, and I am left alone, racing through a labyrinth of thought.
Scenario: 1:00 AM on a Monday night. Everyone in the house is asleep. The window is slightly open letting in a cool breeze. Seemingly, everything is peaceful. I, too, am in a light slumber dreaming about marigold flowers and closet space.
What? What was that noise.
I realize Linus is having a bad dream. His feet are moving as if he were running. His throat holds a low growl. My mouth is dry.
Linus. Linus! Wake up, Boy.
How many more of those Night essays do I have to grade? How can I get those kids to try harder? And The Crucible rewrites. I need to get it all done soon, quarter ends next Friday.
I feel my stomach churn.
I need to relax and fall asleep. It will take care of itself, it always does.
My arm feels weird. I clench my fingers a few times.
Are my fingers tingling? Wait. I think my whole arm is tingling. It’s my left arm? Isn’t that the arm that forewarns about stroke? What if I am having a stroke? I don’t have very good lesson plans past Friday. Shit. Who will grade all of those essays? Will I miss Carson’s cheer competition? Tom only has two sick days left. He won’t be able to take off work if I am in the hospital. This better not be a stroke. It’s my cholesterol. All those bowls of Cheerios and oatmeal aren’t helping. I ate pizza last week. And wings. It’s a stroke. I think it is spreading into my neck. No. This can’t be a stroke. Breathe. Breathe. What if it is? If I died, would Tom write a final farewell on my blog page and tell everyone sorry I couldn’t finish out the year? Man, I hope I can make it until January.
I grip my left arm with my right arm trying to wake it up.
I hope I don’t die. Please God, don’t let me die. I want to watch my children grow up. I want to enjoy life. I do. I do enjoy life. Thank you God for all I have. Please don’t let this be a stroke. Please help everyone I know stay healthy. Help baby Kenna and Anne and Ricky and Tom and the girls. Please God, help us all be healthy.
I force myself to take a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
Breathe. Maybe if I switch positions.
I roll to my side.
Oh that’s a little more comfortable. Maybe it’s not a stroke. Maybe it was the forty minutes on the elliptical. Maybe my arm is just tired. I have to just stop thinking and fall asleep. Scarlet Letter– I have to prep Scarlet Letter. In the morning. I need to relax.
I open my eyes. It is close to 1:30 AM. I force myself to stop thinking. I pet Linus and think only about falling asleep. My body is craving sleep. I need to shut my eyes, and…