On the way to Igor’s today my mind went to a memory that I don’t like to think about. It is a memory that I have locked off and put in solitary confinement. As that wasn’t enough to protect me from this dreaded memory I also installed locks, guards, barbed-wire and other defenses such as denial, repression and a fire-breathing dragon or two to guard against it entering my consciousness. However today this memory got free and it surfaced into my conscious mind. At first I resisted it, but it was too strong. I relented to the memory and went on a trip in my own personal time-traveling anxiety machine, and went back to the day that He-weasel lost his job only two short months after moving to Austin. I remember all the details of the moment like it is a photo that I have studied and that someday soon someone will test me on it. ”Where were you?” What were you wearing? What music was playing in the background?” “What exactly did He-weasel say?” “What did you do after?” I can tell you all these things and much more in the most minute of detail. And I can tell you that today, almost three years later, that when I think about that day that I feel sick. Not just a little nauseous, rather full on PTSD related nausea that requires a couple of slurps of Pepto Bismo and an Ativan chaser.
As I was reliving this horrible day in my head I started to do a comparative study and tried to think of a day that might make me feel sicker—not that I wanted to feel sicker, my masochism does have its limits, I just wanted to know that there had been worse days in my life. And I could find plenty of bad days to turn to. Trust me, there have been plenty. Let me give you a sense of how many. One therapist that I saw for only one session, told me that I had too many traumas for her to process. Just her hearing my history had given her a bad case of vicarious traumatization. I tell you that not to brag (I am truly not a trauma overachiever) about my impressive trauma history but just to make it clear that I have some shit days I could call on. When I thought about the top ten traumas I couldn’t get any of them to feel worse than the day in Austin that He-weasel lost his job. This is what is really interesting. This is what made me see the significance of this memory that came to mind. It isn’t true that there are no worse days than this one. I think anyone would say that one’s husband losing their job is not as bad as almost getting killed. In the hierarchy of shit it is clear, obvious and indisputable that death is worse than job loss. But as much as I tried to make these other memories feel worse, I just couldn’t. For today the job loss felt like the worst thing that ever happened to me.
Let me back up a bit. When we moved to Austin I was sad about leaving Lake Bluff, as you might imagine, and I was still grieving that we had officially given up on TTC*. However as soon as we got there I found myself surprisingly determined to make the best of it. I worked hard at imagining a new life there and having a good attitude and I really believed that we would make it work and be happy and that all would be well. Sure, I moaned and bitched and grumbled but at heart I really was surrendering to our new life and to making the best of it. And as soon as I began to really surrender that is when He-weasel lost his job and all hell broke loose.
As you may know, I just recently got to a place of accepting and actively choosing to stay in Southern California. It has taken two-years of therapy, a lot of moaning and writing and more moaning to get to this place of being okay with where I am. Now that I have two offices and a practice here it seems pretty official that we are staying. I think Pasadena is a brilliant choice for us and I have very little in the way of doubts. Now, let me be totally honest, I am pretty dispassionate about this choice. I feel fine about it and maybe even content-ish—and those are words I don’t usually use. I like words like ‘love’ and ‘hate’. ‘Content’ and ‘fine’ seem kind of blah. For me, to use those words is progress. I think? Another sign of progress is that I dreamt about being back in Lake Bluff and I didn’t wake up sad and full of longing.
The biggest progress, I think, is that today I am thinking about the day He-weasel lost his job. I have a theory on why this is true and Igor backed up my hypothesis. Here it goes: I am thinking about that day because I am at a place of wanting to be here. And now that I want to be here my anxiety is reminding me of the last time I surrendered to staying in a place that I wasn’t altogether sure about. My psyche is saying, “see, remember what happened. If you settle down and decide to stay here then all hell will break loose.” As soon as I articulated this to Igor I knew how true it was. Igor seems to think that this anxiety is so up for me is the best sign of all and that it means that I really want to be here. He was much more upbeat about it than I am, however he doesn’t get nauseous, cold sweats and heart palpitation like I do when I have to talk about this miserable memory.
I am afraid that now that I want to be here, now that I don’t want to go, that something bad will happen and He-weasel will lose his job and other bad things that my anxiety refuses to specify. I know intellectually that there is no way that He-weasel is losing his job but even to write that feels like we are now immediately doomed and everything is about to go terribly wrong. Several times while writing this post I have had to stop myself from calling He-weasel at work in order for him to reassure me that all was well. I have so far resisted. However if tonight when he comes home if he asks me to go out to dinner with him, and he suggests the Mexican restaurant across the way, I will not go with him. I will not sit on the patio. I will not sit in a chair that faces the fountain. I will not order a double margarita with extra salt. And if he gently broaches the subject with “I don’t think this job is going to work out” I will change the subject and change it fast.
*TTC: Trying to conceive
Note: I found a picture of the restaurant where this happened. I almost included it in the post, only I couldn’t stand to see it. It was so triggering that I decided to skip it. No need to cause any self-inflicted pain in the name of accuracy.