The Music of the Morning

The distant beep beep beep of a backing-up garbage truck
Residual rivulets of rain on the roof
Ringing in my ears

A Benedictine monk was told to repeat a Psalm over and over in his head
When it was all he could hear, he asked his superior what then.
Repeat it until you become it.

Without the outside distractions of beeping and running water,
the ringing becomes all consuming.
How can I turn down the dissonance and resonate with the truth?




Dogs barking
mammoth bees buzzing
The clunk of a workman’s van
The low, distant rumble of a jet

A child singing
A man whistling
A car passing

Why is it so easy to be out there
rather than focus in here

I don’t know if I’m scared of the work
or what I’ll find

Stop This Train

How do I shut off the interior noise?

How do I ignore the gritty, tacky texture of frosting on my fingertips and ringing the ring on my finger?

How do I remember that the ashes on my forehead are an outward sign that everything I do is in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

How do I stay focused with the distraction, the inability to focus, gravity pulling me elsewhere, my eyes to the side when they need to be focused front and center?

My brain feels fuzzy.  It has that detached feeling that comes with being unhinged.  “Unable to prioritize” as the postpartum/anxiety literature says.  That’s a nice neat term for what I’m feeling.  A gross oversimplification of the split between my rational and emotional selves.  I can prioritize.  My mind can still order things, ranking them in order of importance.  But my [free will, stubborn mule, FU factor, overwhelmed stressball of anxiety – pick one or all of the above] ignores that list, places it behind a film so the suggestion of it is there, but I can’t quite grasp it.

In the sleep-deprived days following the birth of my third, I finally came to understand what my grandmother and other relatives described as a futile searching for a word in conversation.  You know what you want to say.  The idea is fully formed in your head, but you cannot transmit it out your mouth and to the understanding of those around you.  Grasping, pinching, clutching, coveting those words, like a linguistic Scrooge, you can’t pull the one you need down from the clouds in your head.  You would share if only you could.  Being at a loss for words truly brought home how sleep deprived I was.  With the birth of the second, third, et al, child, you don’t have a choice but to continue on with the routine of your family as if nothing happened except a new addition to your family and sleepless nights.  It’s easy to ‘forget’ or repress how damn tired you are – until you stammer like a blithering idiot because you truly cannot form a sentence.

That’s the sensation I get now – only not with words, but thoughts.  I cannot light on one particular thought before being pulled to another before it’s fully formed, and another and another, ad infinitum, until I write obsessive lists because I’m so desperately afraid that one most important thought will fly out of my head.

With my three year-old chatting next to me and the priest’s microphone shut off for the second half of mass so his words only slightly permeated the walls of the cry room, I actually did get some peace.  Before the microphone went off, a handful of most important words permeated the walls of my heart.  Everything we do is in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Comforting and terrifying at the same time.  The ashy smudge on my forehead, at least for today, gives me a tangible reminder to hold my tongue, cull my words carefully, not let my obnoxious, self-absorbed anxiety-ridden self rule my role as mother, wife, human being.  I want to ooze peace, love, and hair grease (well two of the three anyway).  I’m in my own miserable little world lately, but I need to relate to the greater world and try to improve at least my little corner of it.

It’s hard to break out of rotating loop of mindchatter, though. – especially when it comes at you like the feed from a manic channel surfer.

So how to do it?  Shut off the TV by going to sleep?  Prayer?  Beating my head against the wall?  Go on vacation?

Any suggestions?

Too Much Stimuli

Anxiety = Distraction = Stupidity

That’s usually the formula when I get super-stressed.

Nearing the end of my pregnancy with Julia and a hectic school year, I rushed from my teaching duties to get Bella at daycare.  A tractor-trailer truck making a delivery pulled off the road just enough to make me think in my altered state of mind that I could squeeze through, but not enough for me to actually do so.  My side-view mirror thwacked against the bottom corner of the loading shelf at the back of the truck, leaving an ugly black gash.  The truck was none the wiser, my little car a gnat flying by in great, stupid haste.

A year or two later when I was stay-at-home mom leaving the house solo for the first time for an extended period of days for a writing institute, the mornings were harried to say the least.  I zipped to the adjacent capital city and through the busy streets, late of course.  On one particularly narrow street always lined with cars, I again misjudged my time/space continuum and thwacked that poor mirror.  I’m surprised that poor thing hasn’t just shriveled up and fallen off the car in protest (though the automatic adjusters are not quite as precise anymore).  Perhaps it would have if it’d happened a third time.

Luckily, it didn’t.  This morning, it was almost the front end of the car that got it.  And it was not an inert object on the other end of the deal.  Fortunately – for the mirror, the car, and my marriage – all that occurred were many angry faces directed at me through two windshields worth of glass.

What is it about anxiety that makes my mind go elsewhere?

Postpartum, it was intrusive, irrational thoughts that invaded my consciousness.  My thoughts are no longer reaching those levels of irrationality, but the fact that they’re more ‘normal’ is almost worse.  It’s easier for the distractability to fly under the radar until it’s nearly overwhelming, until it’s almost too late.

Except for the moments when I freakishly self-aware.  The moments when I can feel my thoughts spinning out of control; an energy boiling up under my skin threatening to force its way out and roll on down the street; my mind grasping for one singular thing to hold onto and coming up empty.  At those moments, it’s like I’m at the center of a maelstrom of thoughts, worries, ideas swirling around me with no one stationary object to use as a marker.

Planning meals for the week and writing a grocery list?  Choosing which household chore to do first in the limited amount of time before the kids get home from school?  Prepping the house for a realtor’s evaluation?  Aaahh!  I’m supposed to prioritize in this state of mind?  Choose from myriad options and lists of items?  No wonder I drive into things.  I’m driven to distraction.  Unfortunately the next stop is stupidity.

I must get a grip – maybe it just shouldn’t be on the steering wheel till this storm passes.


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