Category Archives: Fear

Sweaty Betty, an Update

It took less than an hour after I posted my Fretty Betty Disorder story to develop a new obsession:

What if the memoir-writing class doesn’t get its minimum of five students? They’d have to cancel. So I’m in, but what if? I’ve had other writing classes cancel at another place.

Now I have a lemony-fresh thought to worry about. What a relief. I must be a stress junkie.

I do fight this. Really. I tell my brain about how popular this class is. It’s always full. There’s always a wait list. It’ll happen.

My brain thinks I’m a chump.

(Paul is Rachel, and I am both Monica and Phoebe – mostly Phoebe)

Fretty Betty Disorder

I have no off switch for worry. If there’s any way to chill and let things flow, I can’t find it.

Then there’s Paul, my vanilla-flavored glacier. He can’t envision a reason to push events forward at top speed or sweat about anything.

I don’t get it. Why doesn’t he recognize the value in unnecessary stress? It could be that he sees when I freak out, I’m no less uptight, but it’s more likely that there’s something wrong with him.

Like when I recently submitted a project description to apply for a ten-month memoir-writing class.

I said, “Oh, my God. I’ve waited a year to register for this. I thought I could just sign up. I have to wait for approval. The instructor’s going to scratch her head and wonder how such a moron could belong in her class.”

Paul’s response was as disturbingly calm and predictable as always: “Don’t worry, Sweetie. You’ll get in.”

How naïve.

So I spent sixteen years between August 8 and August 14 waiting to see if I would be accepted. I hit the refresh button on the submissions website seventy times an hour, and it stubbornly said, “Submitted” every time. No “Accepted,” or more sensibly, “Rejected.”

Then came August 14, and the site conceded that indeed I was “Accepted.” This bewildered me, but I was happy. For five minutes.

Then I realized there were probably 40,000 people applying for fifteen seats in the class, and they would all get into the class ten seconds after registration opened the next day.

Starting at 7:00 in the morning on August 15, I began checking the institution’s site, only to find that the “Register” button was available for every class but the one I wanted.

Trying to get any work done while hitting the refresh button every five minutes isn’t easy. Plus after three hours, I imagined that the class’s fifteen seats were full, with a wait list of 39,985 people ahead of me.

So I emailed the school, and they said, “Well, for this class, you have to register by phone. We sent you an email about it.” There was no email in my inbox.

Now my mind was whispering, “This is a special, secret society, and you don’t belong.” Made sense to me.

When I called and told the nice lady that I didn’t receive an email, she said, “The message is in the submissions site, which is a separate program from regular email.”

Of course the site has a separate email system. It’s a secret society. Why hadn’t I thought of that? But maybe I could still get in. I took a deep breath and asked if I could register, and she said, “Sure.” That was easy. Too easy.

Now I’m in the class, but part of me expects to be the accidentally registered sixteenth person, and I’ll be turned away on the first day. Still, that insane part of my mind hopes to be surprised in a pleasant way.

But I think my paranoia may not be a disorder after all. If I hadn’t fretted and sprained my finger hitting the refresh button and then finally asked, “What’s up?” I wouldn’t be in the class. So everything’s fine now.

But what if it’s not? What if my printed confirmation is the product of a random punking scheme? Thank goodness I have thirty-four days to worry about this. Otherwise I’d just have to invent another obsession.

Paul doesn’t know what he’s missing.

I Put the I in IED

When I go too long without something to outrage me, I break out into hives. So I’ve added “lack of anger” to amoxicillin on my list of known allergies at the doctor’s office.

This condition is called “IED,” or intermittent explosive disorder, which I officially have because I found the term online. “IED” also stands for improvised explosive device, which means I’m fun-loving in an extemporaneous way, and people enjoy my company because they never know what’s going to happen.

It’s also great for Paul because I help keep his life on track by way of constructive nagging. Like the other day as he headed to work, and I thought he was late for his weekly meeting. I tried to resist the urge to say something about it, but I did anyway because my disorder forced me too.

He grunted something unintelligible, which I assume was “I’m so grateful for your concern. Without your supervision, I couldn’t even tie my shoes.”

After he left, I remembered that he teleconferences in the car until he can be at the meeting in person. I texted an apology even though I didn’t need to because I have a disease.

I was happy and not worried again, which was really upsetting. Then I read the newspaper. I feel better now.

plague
Rats didn’t bring the plague. It was sustained happiness. Chumps.

 

Image by Wellcome Images

 

 

The Diagnosis is Right

During my latest annual kidney cancer screening, I anxiously sit in the waiting room until the x-ray technician throws open the door and shouts, “Cindy Valleley, come on down!”

I jump up and down as I run toward him, my old-lady boobs alternately slapping my knees and face as Paul and I try to hug each other. The three of us race down the hall to the examination room and high-five people carrying blood samples, sometimes smashing the vials against their palms because we’re all just really glad to be on TV, win or lose.

When we enter the x-ray room, I get to play a game involving golf, math, and beating a clock. I’m not good at any of these things, but I try. When I lose, it doesn’t mean I have cancer for sure, so I still get to have the x-ray. I’m having a great time as I wave to Paul in the audience.

Then the tech pins my x-ray to a huge wheel. There are two giant sticky notes above and below the picture of my lungs. One says, “Cancer,” and the other one says, “Suck it, Cancer!”

I give the wheel a mighty spin and cross my fingers as I hear Paul shouting “No cancer, Sweetie!” As the wheel slows, I start to sweat, and just when I think I’m going to pass out from the excitement, it lands on “Suck it, Cancer!”

I can hardly believe my insurance pays for this. I’m grateful they do, and I’ll never tell them how enjoyable the experience is just in case they believe suffering is the only thing they should subsidize.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s CT scan. It’s so much fun to lie in the tube and rapid-fire punch the panic button when I get bored. The techs love it when I do that.

V0025809 The "sink or float" method of seeking out witches. Woodcut,
Float Test in the ancient game show, “Are You a Witch?” Same one my doc uses at CT scan time. Given my body fat level, I’m gonna nail this one.

 

That Time I Dated Henry Kissinger

Or just had a dream that I did.

I felt so perturbed by this that I told Paul in order to offload the creep factor, but he seemed more bothered than I was.

In my defense, I said, “But it was when Henry was younger. You know, in his salad days. When he was bombing Cambodia.” This did not have the calming effect that I hoped it would.

Plus I started thinking, “What’s the origin of the phrase ‘salad days’ anyway?” Apparently it comes from this quote:

“CLEOPATRA: My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.”

I think Cleo’s saying, “If I don’t get to be pen pals with Caesar, I’m going to slaughter every one of my subjects.” I wish I could love like that. Sometimes literally.

I suppose the “green in judgment: cold in blood” part applies to Henry’s ambition to murder lots of Cambodians who were provocatively going to school or the dry cleaners, or maybe out to eat, so that works.

But then I remembered that there was literally salad in my dream. I was sitting at a counter in a diner, and a lady brought a salad to me while I sat there spinning lettuce in a spinner (which is much more efficient than throwing it at an oscillating fan).

I can’t decide if this dream is telling me I need psychotherapy or more roughage. Maybe I’ll just take a therapist out to lunch and spare myself money, time, and insight.

Liz Taylor_Cleopatra_public domain
Salad is boring and Henry is, you know, ick. So here’s a photo of Liz Taylor. ‘Cause damn.

 

 

Confidence is My Faux Finish

Every time I believe I know what I’m doing with finances, it freaks me out.

That’s usually when I find out I’ve forgotten to pay the electric bill or haven’t checked our bank account in two weeks and now we’re overdrawn by several hundred dollars or, as just happened, miscalculated our IRS tax payments, which caused our anticipated refund to drop by eight hundred dollars.

Even when I get things right, I experience heavy sweating, just waiting for the next fun monetary surprise. I’d like to feel good about the little things I do well, but that feels like total hypocrisy.

What’s it like to experience a sense of confidence that doesn’t lead to a panic attack?

Anyone?

I believe in me_public domain
                                                                                      Liar

 

 

That Time I Shot a Piano

Or very nearly did, anyway.

I’ve developed a new psychiatric disorder: Dysfunction Envy.

The other day I started reading The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr. In her introduction, Karr relates an anecdote about bullet holes in her mother’s kitchen walls. This is on the first page, and she hasn’t even started the memoir portion yet. What a hook.

Although I’m enjoying the book, I’ve fallen into a funklet (not bad enough to be depression, but I’m not giddy either). I’ve recently written a few things I’m not happy with, which is okay. I don’t mind trashing or savagely editing stuff. But for some reason, Karr’s book has me worried.

Have I run out of dysfunctional material to mine for my memoir? Is my nine-month class this fall going to consist of me sitting there, doing nothing, while my classmates turn their trauma into gold? Where’s the gunplay in my story?

Then I remembered that time when I was twelve, and I found the .22 pistol that Mom kept under her pillow, loaded, with the safety off. For my protection.

As you know, I’m not able to offer much defense for my parents’ exciting decisions, but there was an incident that caused her to believe that a loaded firearm in our house was the best choice for her daughter. I’ll talk about that situation another time.

So I’m standing in the living room with the pistol aimed at my piano. My finger’s on the trigger. The whole room’s in soft focus except for the piano, and everything gets quiet like our house is made out of a giant pillow fort.

When I decide to pull the trigger, it occurs to me that if I shoot the piano, I might not be able to practice my lessons, and my teacher will be disappointed in me.

As the rest of the room becomes visible again and the sounds of the world return, I switch the safety on the pistol so that at least it won’t blow Mom’s head off while she’s sleeping, and I tuck it under her pillow.

I never told her how close I came to shooting the piano, mostly because she was busy with Glen, the womanizing truck driver she pretended to marry in Tahoe, who later left her for a gum-smackin’ poodle groomer with a platinum up-do, frosted nails and lipstick, and leopard print miniskirts. Her reason for the sham marriage is part of yet another story.

I also believe Glen was Mom’s last-ditch effort to be heterosexual, and that leads to another story for another time.

The tales I’m telling now are reminding me of so many I’ve forgotten, and there’s no evidence that this twisted river will run dry in the near future. What a relief. It seems I’ve got what it takes to compete in Dysfunctiondome.

me and guns_public domain
At least my finger isn’t on the trigger. Yet.

The Malicious Mind

I’m starting to wonder if my brain has a vendetta against me. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to fears it can invent.

Paul knows that when he leaves the house in the morning and I say, “Be safe,” what I’m really telling him is:

Please don’t get into a massive fireball of a car wreck. Generally speaking, come home alive, preferably not maimed.

He’s pretty cool about it because he’s a freak who sees the positive in life. He always gets the great parking space, so why wouldn’t he see sunshine everywhere? It’s irritating.

I might be pushing my luck, though. The other day I finally confessed a new paranoiac low that may include a trace of the psychotic. He headed out the door to go rowing, and of course I said, “Be safe.”

Then I told him what I really mean:

Please don’t be murdered by a sniper hiding in bushes along the canal.

I know, right? But this fear seems reasonable to me. All they’d have to do is lead him a little.

My mind keeps telling me this is a legitimate concern despite the fact that I’ve never read a news report involving snipers and rowers. So whatever I did to piss it off, it’s not done punishing me. Bastard.

Paul’s finally shocked. Well done, me?

the-rowing-bath
Bonus: fewer snipers

Serenity is just a Word to Me

The other day Paul met a cheese he didn’t like. I never expected this. I’ve seen him savor cheese platters that smell like an autopsy being performed in a college locker room during a natural gas leak. My world suddenly made much less sense.

Just as I was recovering from the shocking cheese aversion, he made the bed. For the first time in twenty-two years. I panicked and asked, “Why would you do that?” in the same voice I’d ask a home invader, “Why here?”

Paul said, “Because the people across the street can see our bedroom.”

I blurted, “But they’ve been able to see our unmade bed for five years. Why is this important to you now?”

He shrugged and ambled away, leaving me reeling in confusion and anxiety, somewhat like when my surgeon told me I had cancer. The fact that I’m reacting at all similarly to a bed-making crisis and life-threatening health news may surprise you, but not me. I have a long track record of overreacting.

Like that time in Buffalo, New York as it was approaching Christmas during our first year there. I heard a fire engine siren a couple doors away, so I chucked Muriel the cat into her crate, jammed my arms into a coat, and shouted at Paul, “Fire! We have to evacuate! Now!”

Paul complied, taking what felt like an ice age to get his coat and shoes on.

I burst into the foyer of our duplex, wide-eyed and sweaty, Muriel’s cage dangling from my hand. Her eyes bulged with terror as Paul slouched behind me with his hands in his pockets.

The couple next door were standing just inside the main front door with their three young children, all relaxed and smiling. None of them were dressed to evacuate during an Upstate New York winter. I understood nothing at this point.

They turned from gazing at the fire truck, and I shouted, “Where’s the fire?!”

The littlest kid pointed toward the truck as the vehicle slowly made its way toward us. He said with glee, “It’s Fire Truck Santa!”

I looked again, and sure enough, that sadistic holiday bastard was waving his Christmas cheer at all the happy kids in the neighborhood.

The three of us slunk back into our unit (as much as a cat trapped in a crate can slink) to the sounds of laughter. I mumbled, “Merry Christmas” as my face turned a bright Rudolph-nose color.

chicken-little_public-domain
Yes, I am Chicken Little, although I’ve never been this adorable.

I suppose that wasn’t as bad as the escalator incident at Sea-Tac Airport. A tank-sized drunk guy passed out at the top and hurtled backwards, landing on a tot and his mother (they were fine).

Paul and I were standing nearby, and as I was unaware of the embarrassingly obvious red emergency stop buttons on escalators, I did the next best thing. I spread my arms out at an angle, and in my most commanding voice yelled, “Stand back! My husband is an occupational therapist!”

At six-foot-five, Paul did his best to be invisible as he slowly sidled away from me. Sadly for him, at this point there was no hiding. He came forward to help—which he would’ve done anyway—but his facial expression said, “Good God, I hope no one thinks I’m the guy she’s talking about.”

I probably should work on the overreaction thing, but I worry that Paul might be staying with me just for the entertainment value.