Brunch

So, I’m sitting here felting away like a good little crafter-attempter, and suddenly I realize I haven’t written a blog post yet today.  And now I’m hugely distracted yet again by a puppy dog who wants to play, and at least one kitty who ways to chill in my lap…it the way of my trying to write, naturally.  And my ever-behind PVR-watching, of course!

I think this one will be shorter than most, and that’s okay.  At least I’m writing, and I can always revisit it all in more depth another time.

I went for brunch today.  I think it’s probably my favourite meal ever.  I have a Brunch of Awesome that I make sometimes…usually on a long weekend like this.  I’m not doing it this weekend because a) I knew I was going out today, and b) I’m broke so my breakfast-y meals this weekend consist of toast with brown sugar and cinnamon spread, or blueberry waffles and 100% pure maple syrup.  And blueberries.  Because delicious.

Anyway, I was super late for brunch…again.  I think I’m late for everything but work (most of the time).  Even appointments with doctors and such.  If not late, then cut close.  And I hate it, always being late.  Like, just assume I won’t be on time.  It’s pathetic but true.  I am always late.

What I think I hate more than being late, though, is leaving my apartment.  It’s a constant daily struggle.  I don’t know how to describe it, really.  Part of it is all the preparation involved; trying to remember everything and make sure I’ve got everything.  My brain and I take it to extremes, though, because I try to plan for every possibility.  It’s…insane, really.  You should see all the stuff in my ever-present backpack.  It’s like either I don’t know how to carry only what I’ll need, or I’m too afraid to risk needing something that I left at home.

Or what if something happens at home while I’m out, and I lose something I end up wishing I’d taken with me, instead.

Though there is also the risk of having something with me and losing THAT while I’m out.

I mean, that’s a lot of stress.  Every time I try to leave my safe haven.  It takes a long time.

I think the only reason I can do it for work is because I’ve been doing it for over 15 years.  It’s a routine.  A habit.  I can do it with my eyes closed, kinda.  More or less.  I try to do everything the same each morning, all in the same order.  It’s crazy, but it helps me remember.  More than that, though, it contributes to my sense of safety and control.  It’s all connected.

Even taking Brody out is a thing.  I had to set myself up a routine surrounding that, too.  I even had mini anxiety attacks sometimes when we were out, and kept trying to go when there would be fewer people out.  That didn’t last long and I am more adept at navigating doggie culture than I was, but I think that’s all largely due to Brody himself.  He’s very chill, and some of that has rubbed off.  He teaches me patience, and to slow down, and to acknowledge people in front of me instead of just walking by.  I don’t wear headphones when I’m with him because I’m with him, and want to be in the moment, experience the world around us.  Enjoy our time together.

Plus, I get to pet WAY more doggies than I ever could when I didn’t have a dog with me!  Way less stalker weirdo now.  In appearance, at least.

If I could afford to work from home and just go out to walk Brody, I think I’d end up being a shut-in.  Not because I’m agoraphobic.  I don’t think.  I just don’t like people.

So naturally I live in a city.

It’s easier to be invisible here, though.  For the most part, no one looks at me, or sees me, and that’s how I like it.  I like to have alone time.  I need it.  Most people need social time or they start to get a little stir crazy, but I have always been the complete opposite.  I need time to quiet my mind or I can’t shut out the noise of the outside world vey well at all.  I get overwhelmed.

The thing is, I actually do like going out for brunch and things.  I like Friday Night Date Night.  I like being around people, one on one or in small groups.  Most of the time I still have trouble talking and being present, but I miss it when it’s not there, and look forward to it each and every time.

I just have so much trouble leaving my apartment.  And hate everything in between that and getting to where I want to be.

This wasn’t as short as I thought it would be, after all.

 

More Than Routine

I suppose I’ve always been a creature of habit; of routine.  Like many – maybe even most – I have specific things I do when I get up in the morning, and before I go to bed at night.  I travel the same route to and from work most of the time, and usually go for the same spots on the subway and streetcar.  I  have a favourite area to sit in the movie theatre.  I even buy pretty much the same things at the grocery store.

Many of those routines and rituals are born of convenience and logic.  They are things I need to get done before I leave for work, or it’s the quickest way from Point A to Point B.  Things I do every day because they need to be done, and usually on a schedule that is also the same each day.

I’d be super easy to stalk, really.  I rarely deviate except out of necessity.

But there are so many more things I do that most people don’t know about, and that I barely catch myself doing, in part because they are habit and in part because they make no sense.

I breathe a certain way if I feel there are germs in the vicinity, because inside I feel like it helps keep me from getting sick.  It doesn’t but I feel like it does.  I say certain things to the animals before I leave the apartment, because I feel like it will keep them safe.  Maybe they also have a better understanding of what’s happening because they hear the same words at certain times, but while that’s a best case scenario, I mostly do it because I feel it’s like a protection spell to last until my return.  It’s not, but I feel like it is.  I try to make sure my right hand is the last one to touch them before we part, instead of my left.  I like things to be in odd numbers instead of even, from the time my clock displays when I turn off a light, to the number of seconds I count in my head when rinsing with mouthwash, to the number of treats I give Brody after a walk.

All of these things are so small, they are barely noticeable even to me.  They are not quite superstition, but their power exists in my inability to shake the certainty that something terrible will happen if I don’t do them.  And what’s worse is that the terrible thing will actually be all my fault.

On a logic level, I know that’s ludicrous.  But the feeling is so powerful that I’d honestly rather be safe than sorry.  I’d rather leave a bit late while I wait for the minute display on the clock to be an odd number than return home to find my apartment burned to the ground.  Logically I know that the odd-numbered minute does nothing to prevent or cause such a thing, but inside me, there is actual panic freezing me in place.  And while the physical manifestation of these little habits has changed over the years, the certainty that I would be to blame if something terrible happened if I didn’t do them has, I think, always been there.

Does that kind of pressure – having to remember to do all of these things in order to prevent something much worse from happening – cause much of my anxiety?  Or is it the anxiety of knowing so much of what happens in life is out of my control the reason that I started trying to invent small ways of retaining some sense of control?

Chicken or egg?  Either way, they are for certain related to one another.

For the most part, I see no reason to be concerned.  These little habits don’t hurt anyone, and so far they at least haven’t taken over my life to the point of being frozen inside of my own mind, and only able to move about the world in tiny increments.  I still live a pretty normal life from the outside. The panic has not yet crippled me.  There’s always the chance that it will, but I think – if it does – it’ll be a slow build and I will be able to see it coming.

Of course, whether or not I actually do anything to rein it back in is a different matter.

I remember as little kids, my brother and I would always get a hamburger happy meal when we went to McDonald’s.  It was a treat to go there, because there wasn’t one closer than a half hour’s drive away.  One time, our babysitters took us to what was then a new-ish drive-thru option, and we ordered hamburgers while they ordered cheeseburgers.  Naturally, the order got messed up but no one noticed until we’d pulled away.  We only got cheeseburgers.

With mild trepidation, my brother and I took a bite of the hamburger with cheese, then immediately realized the genius of having cheese included on a burger.  After that, we always ordered cheeseburgers.  Those kinds of habits are different, of course.  We just didn’t know yet how much we loved cheese.  Nothing bad was going to happen if I didn’t eat my regular hamburger, other than perhaps not loving what I ended up eating instead.  But it feels much the same inside.  There’s the same kind of uncertainty, but added to it is, like, actual fear.

Incidentally, remember how awesome happy meal toys used to be?  I’d totally go for much of that stuff even now!  They should offer retro/classic happy meals for adults, with toys from Tron and The Black Hole and the like.  I’d be all over that.  I remember getting a plastic “watch” that had a secret compartment where the watch face was. Of course, it wasn’t that secret because it was freaking huge, but still cool.  Made me feel like a spy, or something.

I took a course in, like, first or second year university- I can’t even remember what it was now – and the prof taught us the various stages of conflict that each of us must go through in order to grow as a person.  The first one happens before you are born – Trust vs Mistrust.  You have to feel safe enough to enter the world in a healthy and confident way, apparently. Something occurred to me that day, which has stayed with me and been reflected upon several times since.

On an emotional level, it’s entirely possible that I’m still inside the womb.

Edited to add:  It was9:13am when I pushed the “Publish” button on this post, but it switched to 9:14am as it was posting.  I’m going to try to be okay with that, because hitting the button was the only part within my control.

 

Picture Book

I haven’t slept much the past few nights.

My mind and emotions about work are all over the map, and I end up laying awake churning through it all.  Panic, confusion, despair, anger, fear, sadness, hurt, resignation…it all spins around inside my head and heart and I can’t settle it enough to get much rest.

It’s very draining.

And it’s the weekend, so it’s not like I can do anything practical about any of it, anyway.  None of what’s spinning inside me is real yet – it’s all just hypothetical scenarios running through my exhausted brain and making it all feel more desperate than ever.  Tomorrow is Monday, so it’ll all become real then.  But for now, it’s completely out of control.

Well, almost completely.

I’ve been trying to keep busy while I’m awake. It’s easier to distract myself  with actual activities.  I still spend more time than I’d like to in tears, but when I actually manage to focus on something else, it’s easier to maintain that focus for longer than I can when I am trying to sleep.

Yesterday I wrote the first draft of a potential picture book for kiddos.  I had a ridiculous amount of fun doing it, and spent some time afterward still trying to think in rhythm and rhyme.  At one point I reminded myself of that scene in The Princess Bride.  You know the one.

“No more rhymes, now, I mean it!”

“Anybody want a peanut?”

Classic.

Anyway, the point is, writing took my mind off my current situation, and the fact that it was fun made it even better.  I was remembering a poetry unit I helped teach a grade 8 class when I was practice teaching back in school.  I got to do haiku with them, and some of the kids decided we should try to have whole conversations in haiku, and it was hilarious! They got really good at it, too.  So last night, by the time I was getting dinner for the fur babies, I was thinking in rhyme and reading the draft of the book to them (mostly Brody, but Piper got draft #2 read to her a few times already today), and I was smiling instead of crying.  The feeling didn’t last, of course, but it definitely helped.

Now I’ve been awake since 4am, but I’ve walked Brody a couple of times, had something to eat, and completed the book’s second draft.  I liked it last night, and love how it’s coming together today.  I got the rhyme pattern worked out, and established the number of syllables per line.  I feel like there are still a couple of more awkward-sounding spots – lines that don’t flow as smoothly as I’d like – but overall I am quite pleased with how well it’s coming together.

My initial plan for the book’s structure was a bit different, and even as I was assembling it last night I wasn’t sure which way I’d go with it, but a lot of it pretty much wrote itself, so I’ve decided not to mess with that.  Plus, it’s fun to read out loud.  I just have to tweak it a bit more to get it to flow better.  But I already have some picture ideas in my head and I feel like, all things considered, it’s coming along very well, and has provided an unexpected and wonderful distraction for my otherwise anxious mind!