Getting Out of Safety Mode

"Are you here for an MRI?", the lady asks. I nod my head, and she does not ask my name before closing the slider and settling back behind her glass bunker.

Symptoms: twinges in my hands and feet, vision loss on the inside of my left eye, headaches, memory loss. Self-diagnosis after a couple of sobering jaunts on WebMD: MS. OR a big hairy brain tumor. 

After alternating days and weeks of denial and abject fear (what twinge?), I am strangely calm. But it is so cold in this tube. I have earplugs in, and the sounds are STILL deafening. They rattle my bones. Three snaps, five claps, two pings… my thoughts wander.

2015. *shakes fist* All transitions and noise. 

Since the beginning of this year, my oldest son has had three surgeries. He was accepted to college, and graduated from high school. Jeff had a killer bout of sciatica. I had foot surgery. We put our house on the market: we packed, donated, sold, recycled, trashed, repacked, landscaped, repainted, repaired, staged, received offers, countered, underwent inspections, appraisals, attended the closing, said goodbye to neighbors, and drove away.* 

We road tripped from Maine to Georgia to South Carolina to Maine. Then to North Carolina and Virginia. We dropped Quinn off at college, and I did not cry, having convinced myself that he was <insert calming yoga voice here> simply going to summer camp, and that we'd see him in three months. Jedi mind trick.

Actually, I think my mind is just broken. Or a switch flipped, and my brain went into safety mode. I am numb, trying to make sense of the patterns of clangs and clicks. Trying to think of anything except how tight this tunnel is that I am slid into, willing myself not to think of my mother- she was terrified of small spaces- in a tube just like this one some thirty years ago and in a coffin for twenty. Fear is writing my story.

It is September. My tests are back, and I am fine on paper. Nothing was revealed except some “nonspecific  changes” - white spots on my brain - I’m guessing that’s where my crazy lives? I am feeling better though, through the gauntlet of spring in Maine and summer in limbo. My sense of humor is thawing. 

Our remaindered family is nomadic this year, outrunning winter, working on farms, and living out of a 1967 Airstream. A 27’ silver tube (<-- oh, the irony!) that Roman has dubbed Sputnik.

Since September, I have laid flooring, shot a nail gun, planted hundreds of bulbs, transplanted trees, removed fencing, stacked firewood, weeded thistle, cleaned barns, made a basket, learned about food foraging, battled gorse (a spiky invasive plant that is the devil's business), canned tomatoes, and made chutney. I read a book! I walked on the beach, hiked in the redwoods, and sat out under the stars. And it is warm.

The dismantling though - going from chaos to calm - this is violent and profound. It is stripping away, ripping, mining, rebuilding, and changing perspective. Because sometimes nothing is wrong except the noise and the story you tell yourself. After all, a tube can be a cold terror, and it can be a warm haven. 



* We loved and lived in our house for a decade, and as we drove by the last time, Roman’s little voice piped up from the back seat: "Bye, house. Thank you, house!” Heart. Broken.

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