Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Anxiety & the Writer/Mom

Do you remember that old Bing Crosby song, "Count Blessings Instead of Sheep"? That song was going through my head tonight while I waited for the dryer to finish that load of whites so I could put the dog to bed. (He sleeps in the laundry room. With the dryer on, he's too hot. But my daughter needed a specific outfit for tomorrow, so....)

Even though I've always loved that song, tonight it only added to my dread. So here it is, just past midnight. The dryer just finished, but I'm too exhausted to crawl into bed. I'm recovering from a headcold that seems to have moved in for the season, and looking forward to tomorrow being a very big, very long day into which it would be nice to enter on a full night's sleep.

But I'm a mess.

It's funny to see my cute little signature below, "Serena" and to think about what that name should represent: peace, tranquility, serenity-- and to juxtapose that against what's going on in my gut right now. Because it is the exact opposite. (Of course, that's why my chosen surname is "Chase." I just can't catch the serenity bug long enough or with a firm enough grip to hold onto it for any length of time.)

Ahh, anxiety. My nemesis. It appeared briefly last night, but faded fast. Tonight... I can only hope for a fade.  What brought this on?

Well, I could blame the decongestant. Or my Vitamin D deficiency, since I've forgotten to take my vitamins lately. Or nervousness about upcoming medical tests that will tell me whether the severe acid reflux that's plagued me for the last 6 months is from something internal instead of just a result of letting myself get too fat this close to 40. (Is it pathetic that I'm almost hoping for option A on that one?) I could blame all those things. But there's more to it than that. Welcome to the insanity, the anxiety, that IS the writer's life when that writer is also a mom with kids at home.

This afternoon, I committed to 5 days away from home. Five. Three visiting my cousin, which is a visit long overdue, and two attending a writers conference in her city, using her house as my home base. And, even though I'm incredibly cheap (ask my kids), my writing budget--heck, my ENTIRE budget!-- is tight tight tight due to the costs of quality professional editing on an epic fantasy manuscript. (per word, baby. And you know I'm long-winded.) Just hours past event registration completion and... I'm regretting that commitment like those shoulder pads I held onto for too many years past the 80s.

"But this is not even an expensive writers conference, as conferences go!" I argue with my anxiety. "It's quite affordable for a full day and a half of quality instruction." But the arguments aren't as loud as the fear. The fear of having blown my budget, the fear of the trip, the fear of what will happen at home while I'm away for that long (God complex, anyone?), the fear of disappointing my family....

I always get this way when I make a decision to travel somewhere alone. Nix that. I even get this way when going away with my husband. Part of it is because I'm a mom and there is this faithless little fallacy that was born with my girls that tells me that they have these awesome guardian angels (how could they not? I've been praying for these girls since before they were conceived!) and that as long as we're together, we're all safe. But if I'm on my own? Well, maybe my angels aren't as buff as theirs. I don't know. But I know I'm not as wonderful as they are; not nearly so worth a miracle to save as my girls.

(Yes, I know. Someone's got a Jesus Juke ready for me on behalf of that last comment. Don't worry. I'm not dissing the miracle gift of salvation. I own that. It's the everyday stuff I struggle with.)

Sometimes I go so far into this madness of anxiety that I picture all the messed up celebrities who lost their mothers young and never recovered and I think: what if a semi-truck crosses the center line, or I fall asleep at the wheel, or a random bowling ball bounces--yes, bounces--into my path and I die and my girls are left motherless?

I don't think I'm the only one who thinks these things. (Well, maybe the bowling ball one.) Mainly, because the one or two people I've been brave enough to confess this lack of faith to in the past have haltingly admitted to similar battles with their own thoughts. So there are at least three of us out there who profess faith in Christ and yet suffer these anxious thoughts.

And did I mention that the battle is all that rougher if my lone-traveling has anything remotely to do with writing? Well, it is. I think it's because of that little voice in my head (not the Still, Small Voice, the other one. The one that sounds like me when I have PMS and the flu and somebody just insulted a book I love.) That nasty girl whispers how selfish it is to pursue the writing life. How sad it is that the hours I spend with imaginary people, both as a reviewer and an aspiring author, far outweigh those spent in actual quality interaction with the family I supposedly love so much.  Oh, how she mocks. How base is it of me to expend so much time reading and creating stories and researching locations and studying the craft of fiction, she says, when I could be volunteering in my kids' school, or rescuing kittens, or cleaning my house, or feeding my family something that didn't get pulled out of the freezer complete with a long list of preservative chemicals that could put an oncologists' grandkids through college. Oh, I could go on. Like I said: she's mean. And while she may try to douse MY creativity, she's got plenty of her own when it comes to birthing guilt and anxiety in my heart.

What's that? She's suddenly silent?

So now it's 12:30a.m. Acid is burning in my throat as usual, but my gut isn't roiling so much with anxiety as it was just thirty minutes ago. Perhaps confession truly is good for the soul. Perhaps this confession, strange and bloggy as it is, made it past the noise of all-things-cyber and found a passage straight to the throne of God.

Ahh, Comforter. You know my name. And You chase me.
images from www.amazon.com: 
sheep: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31Sebi-sRaL._SL500_AA300_.jpg
Crosby album: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AOv60xxAL._SL500_AA280_.jpg
So I'll go to sleep... counting my blessings.


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