Something interesting is going on. In the wake of our country’s hot economic mess, I am deeply stressed. There is inequality and disparity AND we (Americans) are privileged in this world. Confusing. We are supposed to feel and practice gratitude, while most of us feel sort of screwed over. Things are tighter than they’ve ever been, and yet there is still room to breathe. It’s really an odd time.
A few days ago, I flipped out. I can only describe it as a feeling of complete cellular overwhelm. My entire body was in a state of vibrating physical chaos, and my brain was full of nothing.
My family has been ill for over a week now. My daughter got the flu, and I got the flu. The same day my daughter’s fever broke, and there was light at the end of the tunnel, little man came out of his nap with a fever. At that point, I’d missed a week of work. My earning potential being further removed from me pretty much blew the fuse.
I started to make bad decisions, as an agitated organism is prone to, when I was relieved of my duties by my dear husband. We have a code. “I think you have a phone call?” Or, “Do you have a phone call?” It works.
Immediately, I stood up and stomp-walked to fling-grab my bag and head to the store. Yes, that’s right, my safe haven is the grocery store. I went to the store, where there are blissful rows of absolute nonsense – 60 options for shampoo, 40 for toothpaste, a whole bunch of shit that barely qualifies as food, and then some good stuff tucked here and there.
Usually I call a few lifelines from the parking lot, my good friends who understand, and if they answer and are available, I just talk. Then, I wander into nonsense land to let the fuss pass. In the past, I’d have gotten a bag of caramel corn, maybe some chocolate, definitely a coffee, and that might have some caramel in it too.
Then, I’d wander and stare at All That Stuff. Just sort of mesmerized by how wasteful-but-pretty our little world really is. And then, when I was good and serotonin bumped, by my blanket of sweet tasting friends, pretty things, and pseudo-aloneness (via smiles shared with strangers), I’d return home and perch like any good bird returned to the nest. Big hugs for both kiddos, a few jokes with daddy, and gracefully sweep it under the rug and move on.
On this particular day, I went to the pharmacy to pick up the medicine the doctor’s office had called in to shorten the duration of influenza for little man. It cost $150 after insurance. I said, “Nope, don’t fill that, thanks.” and wandered out of the endorphin factory. I did not even buy a coffee. These are new days for me.
I started the car, and listened, the whole way home, to NPR talking about refugees escaping from Africa to Europe. A woman from Cameroon talked about paying a human trafficker, and then hopping into a rubber dinghy to cross the Mediterranean Sea. *!*She got into an inflatable raft, with her 3 year old daughter, and 15 other people, and fled from Morocco to Spain*!* She was in her 9th month of pregnancy. The boat held 5 other pregnant women, and three children.
Around 1,800 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to escape in the past ONE WEEK. The woman featured in the story said they washed up on a Spanish beach after 14 hours, as their raft was deflating. This was some serious perspective. Further, they asked a man working at one of the refugee centers what he’d like to say to the politicians meeting about this crisis, and he said, “Don’t forget these are people, that’s what’s fundamental.” – Not what often frequents our headlines here.
I pulled back into the carport at my house, with it’s big ass yard, in my Subaru (bless it’s little 200,000-mile-beleaguered heart). I walked past all the bikes we own. Stepped over the hose that ports water to my garden. Stepped over an extra pair of running shoes my husband uses to mow the lawn. Walked into my house where my children were eating soup made from fresh vegetables. Set down my iPhone, and my bag full of lip balm and all manner of fussy sensory indulgences, and felt ok.
Was I stilled wigged out by the situation that first got me stirred up? Of course. And realistically, it’s not all rosy, and I’m not sure it will ever be, but I was able to Feel my Privilege, and Surrender Deeply to the People who have Nothing, and Hug my Kids – who only have influenza to face.