Shouldn’t

Okay, so we’re not evacuating. From what the news says, it looks like the Keys are going to get it, and Cuba is going to get it (for the second time in two weeks), but we personally are not going to get it, at least not too bad. For most South Floridians a Category 2 is like, “Oh, eh. Well, I guess we’ll just have the barbecue next week.” I’m more grateful than I can say for myself and my family, and more horrified than I can say for everyone else.

Pretty much as soon as I knew we wouldn’t be leaving, I began to freak out over, well, everything else going on in my life: the unemployment, the uncertainty about New Zealand (which, I just realized, I’ve had for like a year now), the isolation here on this gorgeous island, where I seem to be the only 33-year-old woman without a) a mansion and b) four children. I don’t know If you ever have those kind of low-key slow-spiral-of-despair anxiety attacks, but man did I have one yesterday, where I sat on my mom’s bed and second-guessed, out loud to her, every decision I have made since July of 2007.

To wit: maybe I should have just come back to the States last year. Maybe I shouldn’t have spent money on traveling in NZ and the Pacific. Maybe I should have taken that job when it was offered to me in April and not come back here in May, even though it would have just delayed everything, not solved everything. Maybe I shouldn’t have got involved with a fantastic hot young international boyfriend who is currently in Darfur and whose voice I haven’t physically heard since late July and whom I won’t see until January at the earliest. Maybe I shouldn’t have sold all my stuff. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered applying for residency but just got another crappy apartment in Seattle and gone back to work at the university. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone out to eat for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner with friends in Seattle for two weeks. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to grad school and put myself into student loan debt for the foreseeable future.

Maybe I shouldn’t want more than that year and a half in Wellington, maybe that’s all I was supposed to get. Maybe I shouldn’t want a bigger life. Maybe I shouldn’t bite off more than I can chew.

So on and on, round and round, the worries about the hurricane (well, this hurricane) replaced seamlessly and instantaneously with worries about the rest of my life. I know I won’t be really happy until I am convinced that I can’t do anything else to get back to New Zealand, I know I won’t be able to live with myself unless I try as hard as I can and unless I give up only at the last possible minute. That’s what happened last time, you see: I tried real hard, in a low-key but dogged way, for what felt like a long time, and it totally paid off in what felt (and still feels) like spectacular ways. Before getting the bad news about London and making it into good news about Wellington, I don’t think I had ever persevered very much with, well, anything—I have been queen of the Good Intentions For Big Ideas thing, the kind that never go anywhere and seem kind of embarrassing after a while. I have a whole lot of other data points to indicate that giving up (or, you know, “accepting reality” or “facing facts” as I have called it before) is kind of sucky but inevitable, but now I also have this one big huge data point to suggest that hanging on and seeing it through is AWESOME, in ways I never imagined—I mean, becoming comfortable wearing tube tops in public at the age of thirty-two is only the beginning of what I was signing up for when I decided that even though I couldn’t go to London I was damn well going to go somewhere.

Which doesn’t mean this time in my life isn’t frustrating and upsetting and anxiety-provoking, not at all, not in any way. It doesn’t compare to a flooded house or not being able to get to the hospital because there isn’t much gas in the tank and all the service stations are out, I realize that too. I know everyone wishes they had my problems. But still. Here and now, in my orderly, privileged life, I am slowly freaking out: not knowing what comes next, not knowing what to do about anything, wondering about everything I shouldn’t have done in the first place.

9 comments

  1. “I don’t know If you ever have those kind of low-key slow-spiral-of-despair anxiety attacks” – yes, actually. Pretty often, and its nice to see them labeled so clearly, since it is hard for me to get far enough a way to call them anything except ‘Ack! Dread! Angst!’ in the moment.

    I am rooting for you and what comes next.

  2. You should ALWAYS do. This is a trough moment–you’re not on the crest of a wave right now, but you’re still surfing. You’ll be on the crest again. You should ALWAYS do.

  3. As an observer I have to say feel all the conflicted you want about the stuff that is to come but don’t ever use the term “shouldn’t” in relation to all the stuff you have done. You’ve done great stuff, even the stuff that didn’t go perfectly (kangaroos!) so please don’t regret it.

  4. Don’t even worry. 33 is gloriously young. In your old age you’ll look back and be glad you had the guts to do all this.

    BTW I’ve just read a book called Johnny Bunko (“the only career guide you’ll ever need”) and according to that, you are doing the exact right thing, if it’s any help. Even if you temporarily mess up, it’ll be an “Excellent Mistake” (yielding new knowledge and getting you closer to glorious success).

    So just relax already.

  5. “low-key slow-spiral-of-despair anxiety attacks” Yes. I will have been having one of those for exactly two weeks as of tomorrow.

    You are doing the right things, I think.

  6. As always, your bravery and drive inspire me. Love you, sweets. It’ll be OK.

  7. Should, should, should, should, should. You should have done it all and you did. I wish I had as many shoulds as you have racked up.

  8. R and I agreed you seemed happier, more content, more centred, and more certain of yourself than we’d ever seen you. I don’t know whether to attribute that to your decisions or not, but it seems as good a place to put the credit as anywhere else. So I’m with “should” and with “stay the course.” Through literal as well as mental maelstrom.

  9. I have to second what Ginger says – it was great to see you, and yes, you did seem solid and more confident and more content and more, well, you.

    I think most of us have to sometimes go through that long, dark teatime just to get it out of our systems, and so we don’t just act as our own yes-men all the time. ‘SOK. I think we’re allowed.

    PS I passed my motorcycle class & test (and the on-bike part was non-trivial, I can tell you), and have my motorcycle stamp on my driver’s license, and have a helmet & boots & gloves. A is obsessively RSSing the Craigslist bikes for us. Lots to worry about, but probably worth it anyway. Wheeeeee!