Thursday, October 22, 2009

Around here

On Wednesday evening, I was out with a couple friends for a brief respite from studying and other things I am stuffing my days with as of late. One of my friends looked at me from across the table and asked, What's up with your blog lately? I asked her what she meant by that. She said that I haven't been writing much.

But I just posted the other day about Camelot and being a sparkling drop.

She rolled here eyes, said, BORING.

Before you get defensive on my behalf, let me say that she said that with a smile on her face and an exaggerated tone, as if she were imitating a child. This friend enjoys when I relay stories, especially stories about times which she was part of, or where she knows all the characters.

Then she elaborated. What about those posts you used to write about, about your friends or the cabin and sitting around the patio and laughing?

Well, I smiled, it's not exactly like I'm having those times lately. We laughed at that because truer words could not be more true. What's also true is that it's not exactly as if I'm my usual self lately.

Let me give you a quick example: It took me about fifteen minutes to organize my thoughts and my words into the brief bit I wrote just above. Why that long? Because if I took my thoughts directly out of my brain, and left them unscrubbed, the first paragraph above would like like this:

On Wednesday (a negative times a negative equals a positive) evening, I (a fraction describes a part over a whole) was (Maria) out (Eddie) with a (Kelly) couple (my GRE test is in one week) friends (math homework) for (the difference between any two sides of a triangle must be larger than the third side) a brief (etymology) respite from (Pythagorean triplets are 3:5:4, 6:8:10, and 5:12:13) studying (homework, homework, homework) and other (Maria) things (bisecting a square diagonally creates two 45:45:90 triangles) I stuff (the shaded area equals total area minus unshaded area) my day (many coordinate questions are really about triangles) with these (a ratio is a part over part relationship) days. One (an even negative raised to an even positive gets bigger) of (what does saturnine mean again?) my friends looked at (area of a parallelogram equals base times height) me from across (vocabulary flashcards) the (use FOIL - first, outside, inside, last, to multiply two algebraic terms) table and (Maria) asked, What's up with your blog lately? I asked her what she meant by that. She said that I haven't been writing much lately.

Need I go on? My head is so filled with math rules and new vocabulary words and concern over loved ones, that my thoughts will not stop. Although tired when I go to bed, sleep has eluded me for many nights. If sleep is the ball on a roulette table, well it just bounces and bounces and never lands. Okay I confess, I capture an hour here and there. But real sleep, that wonderful kind of sleep in which all the individual hours of sleep are connected by hours of sleep? There hasn't been much of that in the past couple of weeks. On the rare and delightful occasion when I am able to get there, I have nightmares that are filled with triangles and unreal scenarios and I wake up in frightened or sad confusion.

I need to separate something here. I have so much concern for and heartbreak over a friend who is ill, and for her lover, but I am capable of handling those emotions because I put my sadness and anger and desperation into prayer and conversation with God. I am strong in this capacity, because I have learned to be that way. And that strength, that is how I can be there for my friends, how I answer a very real need they have.

What has me losing sleep is the fact that I am filled with such anxiety over the math in my upcoming GRE that my nerves have overtaken the knowledge that I do have and I stare at the questions on my practice tests and don't understand at all what I'm being asked to solve. All the while, a sweat breaks out all over my body as I imagine a gigantic clock, tick tick ticking over my shoulder, about to announce to the world that I will not get into graduate school because I cannot do simple arithmetic, and then a global email will be sent and that email will say: ISN'T ALISON PATHETIC? Because, seriously, how the hell can she not understand how to convert 0.167 into a fraction and multiply that by the long side of an isosceles triangle to arrive at the volume of a parallelogram, which don't we all know is just a box? (panic, panic, panic)

My GRE study course teacher told me during a one-on-one tutor session a couple weeks ago that my problem is not math, that I know the math, my problem is me and my anxiety towards math. I smiled at her and told her that she didn't understand that my tackling math is the most difficult thing I've done in years, and I've been through a lot in the past several years. As the words came out of my mouth, I thought, Wait a minute. And then I realized that, yeah, maybe I do have some anxiety there. But something needs to get a shake down, because, seriously, math? Math does not compare to the real world, and the little battle I have with fractions and decimals has no place at all in the rest of my world. Period.

But still, anxiety is NOT a reasonable thing. So, asking or telling the anxiety in my head to calm down because I've survived more and others are fighting way bigger battles, does nothing.

Trust me on this: Anxiety is a selfish and self-feeding logic-eater.

Yesterday, I was prescribed something to calm me down. It's a very small dosage of a powerful substance to calm my nerves enough to allow me to focus. That small dosage is going to get smaller tonight because although I did sleep wonderfully last night, when I woke up I felt as if I'd been hit by a truck and the resulting impact left me with mashed potatoes for brains. It took me three cups of coffee before I could feel my head atop my shoulders, much less use the brain inside that head.

Anyway... all of this is to say that for the time being, it's not all patios and laughter-filled conversations with friends and loved ones around these parts. Part of the reason for that is painfully beyond my hands, but in my prayers. The other part is the GRE test looming large on my horizon. Someone recently reminded me that this test is not something that defines who I am, but rather a means to an end. And nothing more. And that is something I keep telling myself. Over and over and over again. I hope the 1/16th of that pill I'm taking is listening.


ghost said...

you pray for your people alison. ill pray for you.

Pony Writer said...

Alison, Go somewhere and ride a horse this weekend. Don't feel guilty, don't do anything except get outside and use the other side of your brain for a bit. Don't do math for ONE whole day. When I was showing in dressage, when I got to the medium/upper levels (which is all very mathmatical until you do musical freestyle) I would work and work and work and my horse and I would think and think and think and be precise over and over again for days on end, repeating every movement that wasn't perfect. Then, when I thought we'd both die from the seriousness of it all, when my head was going to bust and she was beginning to get grumpy and round her back at me when I'd ask for a lead change or something, I discovered something that made all the difference. The day before a show I would put a western saddle on her and take her out on the trails for a few hours. Used a hackamore so there was no bit, left my reins long and loose so there was no contact, nothing that reminded her of the ring work or moving away from the pressure of my calves or seat bone, nothing but meadnering and lollygagging and grabbing mouthfuls of tall grass as we meandered the trails. Worked like a charm. The next day, because we had had the day without studying, everything clicked in both our minds because we had allowed it the freedom to do so and she went into the ring relaxed, and all business. We performed perfect (well, almost perfect) tests. I discovered this by accident, and when one time ... only once .... before a really big show when I was far too nervous to take her on the trails, we didn't go and we were both so full of things like equations and precision and beats and tempos and numbers that our test was mediocre at best and we left the ring exhausted, weary and never wanting to show again. Give yourself a break and remember, God made the two sides of the brain different for BALANCE. Use it! And good luck!

CreekHiker said...

You know, there aren't too many patios and friends in my life either... and it's affected my own blog.

I hope you get through your test and that we all settle into this 'new normal' soon.