One night last June, I woke in the middle of night surrounded by the calamity of a shell that was trying to become our cabin. I was awake from 3am to 6am, that time when it starts to get light and you squeeze your eyes shut and whisper cuss words, willing yourself to sleep, trying to bring on what is now known as “last night.” I hear people talk about this phenomenon, this not being able to sleep thing, and I always nod my head with absolutely no understanding of it and all I can think is “Damn, you’ve got a lot on your mind.”
Something was tormenting me.
When Mike told me he wanted to get a boat, I was like “Yay! I like boats! Boats are awesome!” What I didn’t foresee was the collision between my excitement about boats and water and my short history of worry that my child will die a watery death.
On our inaugural boat ride at our new cabin, I can’t relax and enjoy it the way I used to. Liam jumps and flits from one side of the boat to the other until I scream “LIFE JACKETS!” He lays down on the bench in back, near the 90 horsepower motor, and I worry that he’ll roll out and get chopped up in the propeller like that guy that died underneath Gloria Estefan’s boat. I see other boats on the horizon and picture them aiming straight for us unless somebody DOES SOMETHING! LIKE NOW! I wonder why lakes don’t have lanes and traffic lights and police officers directing traffic. I wish the speed limit was ten miles per hour.
And when Mike installs Liam at the wheel, I start engraving all our tombstones, especially when he gets distracted by a birdie and absent-mindedly turns the wheel in the direction of his eyes. Dead. All of us dead.
It was so unenjoyable that I actually think “Maybe I should pop an Adavan before coming to the cabin. Perhaps then I won’t die.” I can put it in the first aid kit with the tea tree oil and the cat’s claw and the milk thistle and the Free & Easy Wanderer pills and all the other pure and natural remedies that reveal my distaste for synthetic pharmaceuticals. I don’t even know if Adavan works on an “as needed” basis but, if it does, I would throw all my hippie alternative ways out the window and pop those pills like Tic Tacs.
What rich irony is this? That I need to be medicated to relax at the place where I go to relax?
I understand the nature of anxiety and I try not to give in to it’s pull. I tell the voices in my head to fuck off. I watch Mike and follow his lead; I’m like the person with no rhythm at the concert, watching everyone else’s hands so they can clap on the beat. I copy his level of response (or lack of response) and I trust his judgement. It’s his child, too, right? If he’s not nervous then I should calm the shit down. So when I see Liam driving the boat — without crashing — I am both scared….and proud. So proud I can hardly stand it. I take pictures to document this moment, the moment he becomes a boatman, so I can show the boatmen (and women) that came before him that their boating genes have been activated.
And then I throw up.
Over time, with repeated exposure, I’ve gotten a little more comfortable. I don’t feel like throwing up anymore. I now know that Gloria Estefan’s boat was much bigger than mine. I even watched while we dragged Liam behind us on a tube, at top speeds, while he clung to a skinny rope and bounced over wakes like a rag doll in an earthquake. I didn’t protest and I didn’t ask to slow down. Instead, I looked at Mike and said, “People fly off these things all the time, right? That’s normal, right?” He laughed and nodded his head like “duh, that’s kind of the point.”
But I must be blunt. “What I mean is, they don’t die when they fly off, right?”
“No. They don’t die.”
You’d better be right, I think to myself, or I will totally kick your ass.
I know I’m not alone. I know that many people, including some of you, have some crazy-ass anxieties about totally stupid stuff (and seriously, if you could share them with me, that would help my mental health immensely. Maybe you are crazier than me and that would be awesome!!!). I also know that this is a first-world problem that I am lucky to have. But leisure is not just a luxury, it is also a necessity for wellbeing, regardless of privilege, and if my leisure is inhibited by this singular anxiety than I’m in a real pickle. And this cabin experiment could be seriously tarnished.
My self-imposed treatment plan will be to collect other people’s irrational anxieties and surround myself with them in order to both expose the ridiculousness and feel better by comparison. So bring it on, crazies. Let’s put this shit to bed.