Turning anxiety into self-awareness

I’m living in a turbulent time right now.

Aren’t we all you might say and if you do, then you are right and I hope this life lesson of mine, might help a little to relieve your stress and anxiety. 

Yesterday I ran to meditation as an alcoholic to the bottle. Four times I turned to Sarah Blondin’s soothing voice and mothering words to calm my nerves. 

Our landlord is an arse, and in Greece—as was the case in Egypt—a lie fall out easier than taking the time to be honest. Seven weeks ago I reported a water leak from our bathroom, causing damage to my daughter’s bedroom. 

“We will look at it in September,” the landlord replied via WhatsApp. “Nobody works during August in Greece,” he ‘explained.’ 

From the apartment upstairs the insane sound of drilling didn’t support his lie. As the drilling continued, driving us all to despair, the wood flooring in my daughter’s bedroom bulged like badly constructed speed bumps

I was lucky to get two weeks rest bite from the drilling when I was in Norway. 

On my return, I sent the landlord a video of the floor, that by now had cracked open. The speed bumps, looking more like volcanos, were releasing a foul-smelling breath of rot. 

A week of WhatsApp messages ensued. I asked for a schedule of work. It was rudely refused—“you can move out if you don’t like it,” was the landlord’s solution to my plight. This morning two blokes appeared at my door. Forcefully they ripped up the floor and tore off the wall, exposing the leaking pipes. Then another WhatsApp message; “We have finished, will be back in two weeks to replace the floor.” 

I was shaking with anxiety. 

I worried for my daughter. How will she cope with the upheaval? She’s just started high school, at a school she mostly attended virtually last a year. With Covid, she didn’t get to meet new friends. I worry about that. 

From upstairs the drilling persisted, by now the sound aching to a dentist living inside my brain. 

Running from the mayhem of our living room, now crowded with the content of my daughter’s room, as well as the office, after I swiftly moved items, before the ‘destruction team’ entered, I again sought solace for my anxiety, from InsightTimer. 

Help me deal with this! My inner voice shouted. 

Stay here, it replied. Be only in this moment, only with this breath. 

Then Sarah Blondin started talking; “This week on I’m awake, learning to surrender.” 

Then the High Schooler came home. 

“What the fuck?” Her reaction to the mess in our living room. 

I opened my arms wide and looked at her. She dropped her school bag and charged past me, through the office— since the leak started seven weeks ago her bedroom door have been wedged partially shut and the office has been the only thoroughfare, via the back veranda—into her room. I followed. 

“What. The. Fuck! They didn’t even tell us they were coming?”

She stepped inside and I watched her starting jumping on one of the broken floorboards, trying to break it even more. So this is how she gets her anger out, I thought, as a smile made its way to my lips. 

“Come and help me!” she called with her back to me. I joined her. Holding hands we jumped and jumped but even with the pelting weight of more than 100 kilos, the wooden board kept rigidly in place. 

Aggression. It’s a great emotion when you know where to direct it. 

“So, where will I sleep?” She lamented. 

“Yes,” I started. We had moved to the living room, sitting on either side of the corner sofa. “Here are the options,” I said and payed them out for her. After choosing the office as her temporary room she headed to the kitchen.

“Where is the hammer?” 

She got both our hammers from the tool cupboard, wielding them like drumsticks in the air. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” she practically skipped back to her destroyed room and went, with the hammers, at the broken wall. 

“Here,” she said, handing me a hammer, “give it a go.” 

“Mind the pipes,” I said as we gave the wall some heavy-handed knocks, letting plaster and bricks fly. 

My anxiety debating. 

We had a plan. 

She had food to eat, I had work to do. 

For the next many hours I cleared and cleaned the office. I moved in her mattress, hung her paintings and vision board on the walls. When her dad came home he helped move her desk in too. I set up her desk lamp, draped the fairy lights and connected her bedside lamp. All the while listening to Catherine Gildiner’s audiobook, ‘Good morning, Monster, on my headphones. Her patients came to her with the most horrific childhood stories. They stayed in therapy for years and slowly got a new life. A good life. These cases are so heartbreaking and extreme, I thought, how is this helpful for me, to listen to this? 

I made up her bed on the floor with fresh linen, covering it with her favourite blankets. Retrieving her teddy and other soft ‘friends’ she’s had since childhood, who still comforts her, I place them around her pillows. From the basket and basin where I had dumped her stuff when swiftly clearing her room this morning, I retrieved her books, makeup, charging cables, scented candles, bits and bobs and placed them around the room. Then I switched off the ceiling light and took one last look. Fairy lights were twinkling.  

Still in my training gear—from this morning’s run up the mountain—I felt it stick to me in wet patches, soaking up perspiration. I smelled like vigorous workout. 

“Ok, you can come and see now.” 

She launched herself from my bed, where she’d be chilling with YouTube videos.

Grinning at me tentatively, she crossed the narrow hall and peeked into her ‘new room.’ 

“Oh my god! Mum! I love it!” Jumping and twirling. “I love it more than my own room!” 

I nearly burst into happy tears. “Oh, that makes me so happy and relieved honey. A hug would be called for now, but . . . ”

“Yes Mum, you’re too smelly and sticky.” 

She danced a bit more, then shoed me out the door. 

I was enough. I had been enough. I had done enough. 

With a large glass of cranberry juice and sparkling water, I fell onto my lounger on the veranda. Time to put my feet up. The cool breeze was a welcome relief to my hot skin. 

What happened here today? Why had I been so anxious? 

I took a greedy drink and listened to the ice cubes clinking as I put down the glass on the side table. 

I had had an adverse reaction to a situation I tried to, but could not control. 

No matter how unfair the arse hole landlord, the only thing that can give me peace is to accept the situation for what it is. I can not control arse holes. BUT I can control my reaction to them. I know this, and still, today I had lost that ability. 

Later, in the shower, I thought about what Catherine Gildiner had said about how some children react to trauma by blocking out their feelings and as a result, they may lose the memory of the painful events. As the warm water washed honey fragrant lather from my naked body a new truth opened in my heart. 

My father, a sea captain, fancied himself as a carpenter. He even had a carpentry certificate, I found it in his ‘important papers’ after he died. It was from a course he did in Canada in 1971. 

Every home we lived in, he renovated. These were new homes, no renovation required, he still he insisted, “the shoddy workmanship of the builders had to be rectified.” He would start a home improvement project a few weeks after arriving back from the sea. Donned in overalls he would strut about, full of his own importance, uprooting our living rooms, kitchens, basements, he even remodelled whole staircases. The sound of hammering and sawing interspersed with macho shouts for me to ‘give him a hand.’ 

I see now how my younger self found the noise and upheaval scary, but I’ve forgotten all about it. It was how it was in our home. More often than not he would return to the bridge of his oil tankers before the renovation project was complete, leaving us to live in a building site for the next six months. 

No wonder, I thought, turning off the shower and wrapping myself in a large towel, I’d flipped out when the landlord wouldn’t give me a timeframe for how long the repairs would take. 

While the drilling from upstairs continues, I keep my AirPods firmly plugged in, listening to Spotify on full volume, another lifesaver. 

Stay here, be only in this moment. 

And breath. 

Love and Light

Vig ❤️