No Longer Invincible (As if I ever was)

I am laying on a hotel bed in the dark as my stomach pulses threatening to heave again.  I close my eyes and breathe slowly, hoping the retching is over.

Jeff has just left with the kids to see his mother, and while my body desperately needs sleep and down time, I am suddenly too anxious to sleep.  I am worried about being separated from my family right now– we are so far from home, and everything about LA seems strange: the sunshine is unrelenting and the ubiquitous palm trees look so alien to me.  I love seeing the mountains when we walk out of our hotel room, but now that I am left behind, I worry about Jeff swerving off the road or someone hitting the car filled with my precious people.

I should have gone with them.

My world

My world

I wonder if this is PTSD– this fear, morbid and dark, that stalks me when I leave my city limits.  I make a note to ask my therapist and hope that when I do, he gives me an answer: Yes or No.  I once went on a vacation with five people and only four came home, so I am wary, I am shaking, and I want my three to all come back tonight so we can do our modified hotel bedtime routine.

I am pissed that I am no longer invincible. And I will never ever feel that way again.  Terror has made that impossible, which may be a good thing overall, since I was never really invincible anyway.  Those three people out on the road in our rented Hyundai have made me more vulnerable than ever.  Invincibility is laughable.  I worry now about everything: Sadie when she walks a curb like a tightrope, arms outstretched and body wobbling; Simon when he tries to keep up with his big sister who can and will somersault off any surface she can reach.  When I slide into a seat on the train back home, I wonder if the “disaffected youth” I am sitting next to has something to kill me with under his baggy hoodie.

Is it normal to be this scared?

In the dark tonight, I remember what it felt like to do stupid, life-threatening things because I was young and unattached. I thought I was invincible.  I flash to the night of a Jimmy Buffet concert at Starplex amphitheatre in Dallas–I should not have been driving on I-75 that night because I had been drinking.  I thought it was fine– and maybe it was.  It worked out OK, other than taking other people’s lives in my hands at age 19, and the small matter of how awful Jimmy Buffet is.  So stupid.

I know that worrying won’t keep anyone safe, but still it feels like a talisman I have to grasp with both hands until my three walk back through the door with breathless tales of all their fun adventures at Grandma’s house.  In the dark I think that becoming a mother was both the bravest and scariest thing I have ever done, even though I had no idea until it was too late.

So, I pray the prayer that I saw in an Anne Lamott book years ago: Please let my children outlive me.  Please.


51 thoughts on “No Longer Invincible (As if I ever was)

    • Me too. I would stand in line for hours to get tix to see her speak. She’s the new rock star. Have you read her new book? I am downloading tonight!!!

      On Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 9:25 AM, Outlaw Mama

  1. I don’t know if it’s normal, but I’ve stopped wondering. I can’t seem to make it stop, so I do try to simply breathe through it. That terror, that fear that something will happen that I could have prevented had I been there (though, likely not but don’t tell my mind that) is always with me. Sometimes it’s high and sometime’s it’s low. Sometimes it’s a constant thrumming inside my head, a vibration that makes its way from my mind to my hands to my feet and makes me pace because my control — I’ve lost it. They are out in the world and I’ve left it up to my husband to bring them back to me. I’ve left it up to strangers to not kill them with their cars or other devices. I’ve left it up to others and that haunts me until they return. So, normal? To a degree I’d say yes. And then sometimes? No.

    • Yes, you described it as it goes for me. Constant thrumming sometimes and other times, it’s very low grade, like an AC unit that I barely notice. What a weird ass post– is what I am thinking about this right now…thank you for commenting. I am not myself.

      On Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 9:26 AM, Outlaw Mama

  2. I secretly (ok, not so secretly now) love Jimmy Buffet. I even read his book A Salty Piece of Land. There. I said it. My sister (who is pregnant with her second) recently told me that she never really knew what it was like to be afraid of anything until she had her first last year. And now, she is afraid of everything. I am not yet a mother, so I don’t know, but talking to her made me think that it is motherhood that brings with it a keen understanding that none of us are invincible.

    • I will admit to having a soft spot for He Went To Paris but I have too many bad memories set to Buffett. Casualty of going to big Texas state college. It must be motherhood. Biology. Hard wired.

  3. Sadly, with all the violence we’ve been seeing, I would say it’s completely normal. Sometimes when I’m daydreaming, I’ll suddenly imagine horrible things happening to the people I love and I get all freaked out, and then I have to remind myself that, yes, it’s possible, but highly, highly unlikely. Our minds can be scary places!

    And is it completely inappropriate to say that your husband has a really nice butt? 😉

  4. A guy once told me that worrying is actually praying to oneself. Also, Anne Lamott as great as she is knows full well she’s nuts. And you’ll hear it in all her talking about praying and her Higher Power and the entire Traveling Mercies is about trying to stop thinking she is God. I love her. And you. Too bad both of you are human.

  5. i am afraid every day. when i’m just sitting with one of my babies, i’m prone to crying, just because they are so beautiful and perfect and i’m afraid of the world and the passage of time. i’m afraid of the fragility of life. i’m afraid to send them out there. i also, remember being so young and cavalier with my safety. so stupid. so young. I am so afraid of their stupid, naive youth as well. yet, i can’t let my fear become an obstacle for them or me. we must keep going with the business of living. it’s scary but beautiful. every day is a gift.
    appreciate appreciate appreciate. that’s what i tell myself every day… and eat some ice cream. 🙂
    i love anne lammot
    hope you’re feeling better.

  6. Catching up on your blog. Finally! Sorry I’ve been MIA.

    I can relate to this post so much. “In the dark I think that becoming a mother was both the bravest and scariest thing I have ever done, even though I had no idea until it was too late.” I think I’m suffering from some sort of PTSD, too, because now it suddenly feels like the things I used to tell myself to calm my fears just aren’t true anymore.

  7. Being a mother plus being sick = ultimate vulnerability. I worry like this sometimes. Beyond its clear POV, this post was so intriguing to me. What happened when someone didn’t come home? Did you take a train to LA? This was so deep yet so universal and I loved reading it. My only problem? I wish there was more.

  8. As I think you know, my kids are in college. Every time the phone rings (when they’re at school), the first thing that goes through my mind is that something has happened. I don’t know why. I just do. And I’m not a worry wart sort of person. I know from experience (my next door neighbor lost her 19 yo son 3 years ago (while away fresh year at college) to suicide). It haunts us everyday. You always want to outlive them because life without them is unbearable. Not a weird ass post at all. It’s how you’re feeling and you’re not alone as noted above. And…looks like there is lots of appreciation for hubby’s rear. I concur.

  9. Am I the weird one who couldn’t see past Sadie’s curls to your hubby’s butt?

    My fears always smack me in the face any time Scott heads out with all the kids. I take about three seconds to do a happy “I’m alone” dance before the sad “I’m alone” thoughts creep in. Motherhood means your heart is walking around in someone else’s body.

  10. I think it’s partly a sign of a deep love. You fear losing that which you can’t live without. Whenever I’m having a good day I’m afraid to call it a good day in case we get hit by a bus. My husband thinks I’m silly and superstitious, but he’s lucky that I save us from a bunch of bus accidents by not speaking of anything too good out loud. You’re NOT crazy dear!

    • I agree. After a very bad 2011, I’ve had a stellar 2012, full of wonderful times with family and friends, yet I’ve found that adhering to the psychology mandate to “live in the moment” has required me to disregard altogether my inner realist who’s fixated on just how fleeting the moment is, and how it can all get screwed up catastophrically within seconds. Sigh.

  11. I’m like this with my oldest right now. He’s a first year driver with an attitude, driving a rear wheel drive truck in the greasy slush we get that passes for snow.

    I think this worry stays with you until they move into their own homes. You still worry then, but you don’t know all they minute details. As in what you don’t know won’t bother you.

  12. Back in the day, I wouldn’t let David take one of the twins in the car without the other one–I just wasn’t comfortable with it. I was so anxious. Over time, I’ve learned to let go and let God watch over our gifts, our blessings–our children. I’m doing my part, but there is only so much I can do and the rest is out of my hands. It is sooooo difficult! Love Anne Lamott–there are a lot of her chats with Kelly Corrigan that are good views on youtube. 🙂 Great post–sip on some pedialyte pops.

  13. You’re not alone. I cry every time on the rare occasion I leave town without my family – or they leave without me … even if they are just going to the store. All three of them in the car makes me jittery until they come walking back through the door. I don’t know what it is, but that scary feeling of losing my whole world overwhelms me too. I once met a girlfriend in NYC for a few days and cried my eyes out when I got there because I missed my boys so much. Are you feeling better? I sure hope so.

  14. Awww, honey. Sick and vulnerable – the worst. And yes, I know the terror you’ve described so eloquently. I love and agree with this line: “In the dark I think that becoming a mother was both the bravest and scariest thing I have ever done, even though I had no idea until it was too late.” So very brave we are. I hope this finds you feeling better and relaxing your precious, brilliant mind. xoxo

  15. “Is it normal to be this scared?”
    I hope not, because I feel the same way, all the time. And if everyone lives like this I feel sorry for us as a species.

    I’m leaving this weekend for some time alone. And all I feel is fear. After months of begging to have some breathing space, some thinking space, all I feel is intense, gripping, tiger-right-behind-me fear. For them. For me. For the certainty of change.

    Please let them all be okay.

  16. I think what you’re feeling is normal. After I had my son I had a lot of crazy, irrational fears and scenarios pop into my head of what *could* happen when he’s not in my care. Really irrational. But then, crazy crap does happen, maybe not how I imagined it, but crazy nonetheless. Stuff that stops us in our tracks. Newtown, of course, but that’s not the only example, albeit the most recently obscene.

    I tried talking about this fear with my husband while we were having lunch at Panera. He got all practical with me, but his reasoning flew out the door when the diner next to us stood up and I saw the gun strapped to his waist. I had already spent the last 10 minutes with a wary eye on another diner I’d profiled in my fear. The armed guy was perhaps an off-duty police officer, I suspect, but that did not make me feel any better. At all. That NRA suggestion to arm more people? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that will drive me straight to hermit-ville.

    Excellent prayer. Mine has always been “keep them safe” but I like hers better.

    • I would have had a cardiac incident if I had seen that in Panera. Jesus. I do not get the gun thing. This isn’t a game– it’s a freaking lethal weapon. Hermitville for me too.

  17. Thanks for still calling it “Starplex.” You know you’re a real Dallasite when you do that. Oh, and thanks for all the fabulous writing and sharing your deepest feelings and all that, too. 🙂

  18. Oh dear, Christie. I am in my office with tears streaming down my face reading your post. I am so so so so sorry just doesn’t cut it. It’s one thing for me to still have this level of anxiety and attachment issues after 25 years, but another that you so do you when you didn’t have to be there. Please call me if you ever need someone who understands the exact fear you share. Or call and yell at me, I can take it. 217-6911 and I think you know the area code where I am.:) It’s so hard to not be overcome with the fear that anyone close to you can be taken in an instant. We know it all too well. I know my husband is so tired of hearing me tell him, “I love you,” at minimum 5x a day. It took him about a year to figure it out. 🙂 Now since mom has died, poor thing, he has to deal with me alternating between aloud prayer and directly threatening, “Please let me go first.” I’m sure you have discussed this ad nauseum with your therapist, but please know you are not alone. If I can help in any way, I’d love to try. Peace to you, Christie. xoxo

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