Our animal nature
Yesterday I drove my 12 year old daughter down to the University where she will be spending the week with her choir, singing and sharing music with other choirs, being twelve in a new environment with kids her age from all over the country. After leaving her with her group at the dorm (Liaison to kids: “If you get locked out of your room you can call Campus Lockout and someone will come let you back in. They are super nice and will help you even in the middle of the night.” Choir director to kids: “They are terrible monsters who will haunt you the rest of your lives. DO NOT LOCK YOURSELF OUT OF YOUR ROOM”) where they will be staying, I wandered the campus a while to see the place and find the library. Despite having been on that campus three times before, my sense of direction there is dangerously bad, and by the time I found the library it was time to find my car (which took another 40 minutes) and head home.
The drive home was peaceful, as a drive alone frequently is, and when I got home it was late and I was tired. I caught up on some business, made a few promises to others to be in contact today, and went to bed. After only about 45 minutes of sleep I awoke to terrible pain in my head and stomach, pain so intense I had the urge to groan, though I suppressed it. I also noticed that just as I woke there had been a thought: what if disaster strikes and we can’t find each other. I took some deep breaths. The pain eased slightly. Was it something I ate? No. I knew this middle-of-the-night pain. This wasn’t the first time. This was anxiety. I closed my eyes to sleep. My head throbbed, my guts clutched. Again the urge to groan. I opened my eyes. Again deep breaths. I was not going to indulge this beast by laying awake making speculative plans to reunite myself with my child in the event of an emergency. I got up and took the half Xanax I keep nearby in case of this kind of wakening. In the bathroom I relieved my guts. I minded my body, but not too much. I wanted to sleep. Back in my bed I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the racing thoughts: screw anxiety, screw panic attacks, screw that unconscious beast that roars at night not that she is not safe but that we must be in proximity to rest. I regretted that I had swallowed the Xanax with water rather than let it dissolve bitterly in my mouth, halving the time for it to take effect. And yet I was ready — to be rid of the fear, to take rest when I should, to accept the night and its unknowable measure of risk — and the ache in my skull faded and I felt the fear release its grip on my guts, my head, my thoughts. I would not entertain it, the fear could not stay. I slipped into sleep until morning.