Monday, January 29, 2007

if you never say your name out loud to anyone

Right before I started elementary school in EBF, I started developing stop-in-your-tracks stomach aches. Acute and piercing, they would just flare up inexplicably. The local pediatrician, after observing me a few times, diagnosed them as related to stress. My parents had not thought to consider this option, for a few reasons. First, my parents had no concept of school being in any way a cause of stress, especially not before there was any real homework or exams to worry over. But moreover, I had not given the slightest indication that the impending event of first grade was causing me any anxiety whatsoever. I never told them I was scared of going to a big public school as the only person of color, that I was scared that I knew no one, none of it. I did not tell them, because I was not aware of it myself. The stomach pains were real; my body was telling me I was anxious when my brain refused to acknowledge it.

My parents shipped me off to school every morning. The pediatrician advised that they might as well, the idea being that I would acclimate and realize there was nothing to fear. For the most part, that was true. But as a result, every time my stomach is unsettled, I spend a long time teasing out how much of it is due to illness and how much of it is my body trying to alert me to something I am conveniently ignoring.

I have had a pretty steady, dull ache for the past three days. This should come as no surprise to anyone reading the past few posts. If you punish your liver with an endless barrage of vodka, it's not a shock when your stomach cries uncle. Hangovers always mean a little unsteadiness of the stomach; every meal is a question- will my stomach tolerate this? But the unsteadiness persisted into Saturday, which came as a surprise.

On Saturday, I wanted badly to snap my stomach out of it, but the uneasiness warned me not to go for a run. Instead, I hopped in the car and headed to the peninsula to hit a paved trail where I would not need to worry about creepy people or mountain lions. I took a leisurely 5 mile walk with my trusty iPod humming in my ears. The slightest hints of fog licked the tops of the trees stretching out in the distance. The trail encircled a reservoir. I watched the light dance against the gentle ripples of water. I learned to breathe again. I learned to drink in my surroundings without gasping, to allow the moment to enter into me, and to say to myself- you're not leaving this, because you will always have this with you. And I was slowly feeling much better.

But by the time I headed to maisnon's soiree, much as I tried to rest up beforehand, my stomach was back to teetering between queasy and uneasy. The party was great. As always, maisnon's taste is impeccable. She had picked a great new lounge, the music was perfect for dancing, her friends are all a nice and outgoing lot, and there were various blogging luminaries that were in attendance. The more I willed myself to stay, the more my stomach rebelled against me. And so I had to excuse myself early. I got home, and still couldn't sleep.

On Sunday morning, coworker-GBF insisted we go to brunch. It was actually passably warm on Sunday, a monumental event right now, and the sun was gently casting a nice glow on the city. I picked him up and he informed me that he had invited an additional person. My face fell; I just wanted to be alone. My stomach immediately went from a dull ache to an acute pain. That was when I realized that this pain had its roots in more than alcoholic excess.

It took me a while to square away CGBF + 1, but I finally managed. I came home, and knew I was going to have to just power through the pain. Some of the uneasiness seemed likely to be restlessness. After a week of mindless drinking and floating about without an anchor, I was yearning for solid ground. Two batches of scones later, I was still uncomfortably fidgety. On the advice of AL, who knows a thing or five about recovering from a hangover, I went for a solid run at the gym. It did not really help, but it served as a reset button of sorts, bringing me back to a normal routine for a Sunday.

When I went back, once again, back home, the original GBF called me. He has been out of the country for two months, and prior to that was traveling without a care in the world through Europe. When I heard his voice, I breathed out, feeling slightly more comfortable. Fellow Mission dweller, he sounded like home. He coaxed me into joining him for dinner. When I got to the restaurant, he hugged me so tightly, kissed me on the cheek with such little hesitation that I felt warmer than I have felt in weeks.

But I have not seen the OG in a while, a long while. A lot has changed. And when I told him about The Goal, I could feel him retract a bit. He looked at me the way a lot of people have been looking at me lately, with this conflicted mixture of being happy for me and feeling they need to steel themselves to the notion of me leaving. They wonder if they should hug me tighter, or get used to the notion that I am already gone. I found it endearing, though he chided me about how I would never have any time to see him once I left San Francisco. I wanted to protest, but I know things now, and I know no one believes my promises anymore anyway.

And when I got home, the enormity of that weighed down upon me, and I could see that the dull, insistent uneasiness was not going to leave me, not any time soon. A million little things add together to a crushing weight. Even all the carousing was probably a reaction, a defense mechanism to avoid thinking about how much I need to sort through in the next few weeks. The stomach would not ease up until I acknowledged it all, acknowledged the sheer volume of stuff that needs to be done, that a lot of inconsequential nonsense is serving to distract me from it, that it is growing tiring to keep such numerous secrets, and that I have been in a state of suspended animation about everything. And that all of that needs to change, just slightly, just mildly. If I can do that now, I can avoid a complete and utter panic attack/meltdown later. And my stomach will thank me for it.

My explanation for All My Little Words as this week's song tomorrow.

No comments: