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.
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.