Only the Bell to Tell on Me

I’ve been seeing a counselor for a year and a half-ish. I’ve talked to her about my childhood and my adulthood, and I’ve been heartened by what she’s shown to me. My habits, my thoughts, my beliefs about myself all relate in some way to experiences—both positive and negative. One of the best pieces of advice she’s given me is: Childhood is a time when you have no power over what happens to you, and that is scary. Unfortunately, you come into adulthood “programmed” with the same fears you had as a child. But as an adult, you don’t have any reason to fear what you feared as a child. You are in control now. You get to make your own decisions.

This idea reminds me of what Paul tells the Galatians about how the Old Law of Judaism was an elementary authority in the life of the world that prepared the world for Christ’s New Covenant. He gives them an analogy of how the Old Law was like a child that will one day inherit his father’s wealth. “I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father” (Galatians 4:1-2ESV). Regardless of social status, all children are placed under a person, or persons, in authority. Which means a child’s development is closely linked to the emotional development and maturity of their primary instructors, be it parents, teachers, ministers, etc. As a parent, I can vouch for the fact that I have messed up my kids in ways I don’t perceive just because I’m flawed and deal with my own emotional hang-ups. No adult has a perfectly developed emotional maturity.

Yet, with my counselor’s help, I’ve been pinpointing behaviors that the child in me is still expressing. This has given me a chance to step back and take note when I’m feeling fear—fear that has no cause, fear that is a relic of the past. Because of this, I’ve been experiencing some freeing moments and building some new emotional habits. My kids are learning that Mom’s working on herself, and that working on yourself and changing your mistakes and habits is part of growing up. That’s right, kids; adults grow up too.

Yesterday, I walked into the waiting room, as usual. I rang the bell for Dr. L’s office (she’s my counselor) and plunked down on a chair. I thought about my visit with good feelings, instead of the sense of dread I’d had before that I’d find something ugly in me I didn’t want to find. Or maybe I wouldn’t be able to communicate exactly what was wrong, and it would be a wasted visit. It isn’t ever wasted, though. As long as I’m talking—and I can talk—it’s going to work out. Maybe not this session, but it will work out. Making progress that I can see and act on gives me this sense of gratitude and affection for my counselor that I never expected to feel. (Truly, I was a clam at first. I wanted to know her family and educational background and her beliefs before I ever wanted to entrust her with me.) So, I like her. I’m not afraid to be myself around her.

All that changed when someone entered the waiting room and also rang the bell for Dr. L. He sat opposite me, and I scrutinized him. (Clandestinely, of course.) Was he running an errand for the doctor? He didn’t have anything in his hands but a phone. Maybe… A stream of cold ice shot through my chest. I looked at my phone calendar, which conformed that I did not have an appointment with Dr. L. I’d moved my appointment out to be sure I was fully recovered from my surgery. (Yay, I’m recovered!)

I jumped out of my seat like the building was burning. I slipped out the door only to realize I’d left my bottle of water in the waiting room. I opened the office door again, contemplated grabbing my water, and decided I couldn’t risk it. Her bell had been rung twice; she’d be in the waiting room any minute, thinking someone was impatient to see her. She’d see me there, and she’d know I’d made a mistake. And then it would be awkward. I pulled the door closed and raced for the elevator.

She’ll never know.
She’ll never know.

Inside the elevator, I stared at the display, willing the lift to move faster. I walked the sidewalk, crossed the street to the parking garage, and pretended. The whole time I pretended I’d only been there to drop something off. Because I was not supposed to be there! When I got in the car, I breathed a sigh of relief and laughed at myself. I’d formed a new habit alright. I was used to visiting Dr. L! As much as I like her and as comfortable as I feel telling her my insecurities, she is not going to know I accidentally came to a nonexistent appointment! The only evidence? That second ring of the bell.

Advertisements

Me, at Odds with…Me

For three weeks I haven’t looked at my manuscript. It wasn’t a planned hiatus. That’s a sign that something is definitely out of kilter. My racing thoughts are back, I’m not sleeping, and my poor, poor Realm has had to listen to me blubber about all the insane, second-guess worries that pop into my head and grow to incredible proportions. It’s been a gradual discovery over the past three weeks, as I’ve weaned off what I’ve been on for seven months. Controlling what feels like my brain on hives isn’t purely a physical exercise. I exhaust my body and my mood by trying to ‘lift’ the tendency of my racing thoughts, redirect them, step back from them and see I’ve lost focus, etc. all day and late into the night. It’s not productive. There may come a time when I don’t have the option, but right now I have the means of slowing down the misfires in my head. I’m going to take it.

I’m not going to lie: This is a very disappointing discovery. I want to do this without medication. I want to treat it with exercise and healthy eating and meditation, with prayer (and lots of it!) and patience and mature reasoning. I don’t drink or smoke. I have a super supportive family. I’ve been doing everything I know to do.

Heart surgery at the Clinical Center
Heart surgery at the Clinical Center (Photo credit: National Institutes of Health Library)

It’s a clinical issue, like a stone-filled gall bladder or hearing loss. I’ve got to accept that. I’ve got to accept the medicine, as well, because it’s clear God doesn’t work through miracles today. He works through the natural laws He designed and upholds. He works through physicians and nurses. He chooses a much more complex path to provide aids and solutions that make illnesses, diseases, and disorders manageable in our world of entropy. Well, maybe it’s complex to me. Not for Him.

I accept surgery. I accept hearing aids. I’m having a hard time accepting this because it’s something I can’t explain. When did it start? When did it become too much to handle? Could it go away? Is it the result of something in the food I eat? The water I drink? Hey, wait! What about the antiperspirant I use or the shampoo I wash my hair with? Can’t I find a natural remedy for it, take an herbal supplement or drink some kind of medicinal tea? I’ve asked all of these questions and so many more, researched my options, gradually made changes, and seen no improvements. Yet, the medicine works. I don’t like that I’m reliant on a pill, but it works.

Pill tablet
Pill tablet (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

So, now you know where I am right now, and why you’ve heard nothing from me in the comments of your posts lately. I’m frustrated with myself, and I might take that out on you unintentionally. So I don’t comment. I ask for your patience while I sort this out. And you know I can use encouragement, if you have any you can give.

The Conversation

“You were 126 a couple of months ago. Now you’re down to 123. It’s progress, sure, but it’s not enough. The goal is 114, remember?

“You know what? If you’ll work with me here, we can settle on 116. What about it? Is it a deal?”

(No response.)

“What can I do to make this an easy transition for you? Just name it.”

(Uncomfortable silence.)

“Come on! What will it take to get you down to 114K? And, yes, I’m taking back my offer of 116,000 words because you’re being stubborn!”

(The manuscript still refuses to budge.)

“Look, I’m on your side—I’ll always be on your side—but I have to look at this objectively. If I were asked to read a 123K manuscript for teens that I was reading cold, taking a chance on its writer, I’d probably pass.

“You know, the first Harry Potter book was only 77K.

“I’m rounding up.

A Wrinkle in Time was just under 50. Okay, so it’s true Eragon was 157 plus, but I want to err on the safe side, don’t you?

“Doesn’t it matter to you that you’re not published yet? Because it matters to me. I don’t want you to have to live in a box for the rest of your existence. Of course, I could always end your existence. I have that power, you know.”

(The tension is palpable.)

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. It’s just… I’m frustrated. I’ve been focused on you for quite sometime now. How long have we been together? Let me see… This September, it will be three years. Wow.

“It’s been fun, and I know it’s because I still like you–more than I did at the beginning. You bring out things in me I didn’t know were even there. Some of them are kind of embarrassing, but, all in all, I’m glad we’ve spent this time together.

“I’m not breaking up or anything. I mean, there are some other stories I’d really like to catch up with. Some of them were written before I ever started thinking about you. I feel bad that I’ve neglected them.

“Look, you’re still the one. You know that. It’s because so much about you is real, and it makes me feel fulfilled in some strange way; but then we come to these roadblocks. I admit, sometimes I question whether our relationship is healthy. What do you think? Is talking to you like this healthy?”

In trying to get this manuscript to cooperate, the words ‘wits end’ are ringing in my ears.