I couldn’t navigate successfully into Friday. I forgot key components of my morning ritual. Every time I sat down at my computer I remembered something important and had to get out of my chair. I was in a state of irritable hypo-mania. We still had the car negotiation hanging over us. Watson was desperate to complete the deal since the AC in the pickup bit the dust a few days ago, just as Houston’s little cold snap retreated. Our pea soup air was scheduled to warm into the 80’s.
“Dripping sweat does not make a good impression on my clients,” Watson said while he prepared to leave the house for a 10am job.
I had a date to meet a friend at the Center for Contemporary Crafts at 1pm.
“I can’t cancel again,” I told him while we built a spreadsheet to calculate monthly payments out of the price and interest rate Cal had given us.
“Tell me what to do. I just want to get this over with.”
He defers to my tendency for hyper-vigilant ruthlessness in stressful situations regarding money.
“Why do they trap you in the dealership for hours?” he asked, as he slammed files into his briefcase.
“They know stress makes people less likely to think rationally. If they let you get away without the new car you are a million times more likely to change your mind.”
I formulated our plan while I paced circles through the house. There was no point trying to do anything else before Watson left. I blamed my scattered brain on the stress wafting off of him.
When he finally got out the door I called Cal, “How long will it take to appraise the truck?”
“Watson will bring it to you for appraisal when he’s finished with his morning appointment. When you can quote a trade-in value, we’ll proceed from there.”
I spent my first 30-minute productivity block shuffling papers on my desk while my neurons popped this way and that trying to determine which of my projects I was willing to abandon while I worked on another. Urgency was the overriding emotion of the morning. I felt that I had to be extra productive in this already shortened morning to make up for my planned afternoon off.
When my timer chimed allowing me to get out of my chair and resume physical activity, I tried to focus on my body. “Muscles: relax the overused ones, build the weak ones.” But a voice continued to chide me for not accomplishing any work, for not trying hard enough.
Back at my desk for my next block I gave up on creative productivity and answered email instead. I launched into a diatribe of self-pity in response to an email from a friend regarding a wholly unrelated topic.
“I’m having a bad day, anxiety over buying a car and spending the afternoon with a friend. I don’t want to do anything, go anywhere. I want to hide here and work.”
Seeing my words in print summoned recognition, activated reason in a way that made me realize I was overwhelmed.
Important rule: “When overwhelmed, stop demanding. Force will only prolong and enhance the dysfunction. Treat yourself with gentle kindness.”
Fear stepped right in to take advantage of the situation. “You must cancel your date. You are not in any condition to be socializing.”
But reason won out. “No, you will meet your friend. In light of the current difficulties, it would be wise to start the leaving-home process now.”
I had over an hour left before the scheduled meeting time with V (not her real name). It felt ridiculous to waste time I could be working, simply to get somewhere early.
But I followed the voice of reason and released my body into action. Good thing. In motion, without the torturous brain-chatter about productivity, I realized there was thirty minutes of drive-time I had overlooked. I had barely more than half an hour to prepare. I filled the time with the many tasks of leaving. It was imperative I pick the right shoes and extra layers of clothes. I packed:
- emergency snack
- reading material
- The folder full of documents I might need to field questions for Watson when he arrived at the car dealership.
- weighted blanket
I carried everything to the car and checked my picnic hardware. Back in the house I committed the closed curtains and locked doors to memory. I readied a good-bye treat and a fresh bowl of water for Rumsfeld, the giant standard poodle dogging my footsteps through the house.
“It’s going to be okay,” I told both of us.
He just smiled.
When I got in the car I only had five extra minutes. I needed them because I couldn’t summon the route to the Center for Contemporary Crafts, even though I have driven there dozens of times. It was trapped in the static in my brain. I might have remembered it as I drove, but I might not. I put that anxiety to bed by pulling up a Google map on my phone.