My sister thinks I have anxiety. She’s probably right too. I am nervous and cautious. I worry about things girls my age shouldn’t be worried about. Mostly I’m afraid of dying. It got worse when I married Justin. Sometimes I just get this desperate feeling like I just can’t lose him. I love him too much. I’m afraid to die because it would mean being separated from him. It would also mean taking a leap. It would mean it was time to see if my faith is going to pan out. Time to see if all the stuff I know and believe is real. I know it sounds silly. Perhaps it sounds like I lack conviction, or real faith. That’s just how it is for me.
I’m not afraid all the time. Like the other night… the other night Justin and I went out for a movie while we were in Santa Clarita for our anniversary. You might say the movie inspired me; or maybe I was just in the right place at the right time… We’d been to Pasadena earlier that day and it was beautiful there. It was beautiful in Santa Clarita too. We went to the Santa Clarita mall, the buildings were big and lovely and there were rows and rows of expensive looking stores, but none of them were responsible for the feeling I had. What got me were the roses.
White roses. Coincidence or no we had seen a lot of white roses that day. I stopped to smell one on the way in to the theatre. It smelled good—just your average rose. But when we came out of the movie late in the night, when we walked slowly and quietly (as my dear husband does) the roses were calling to me. I walked up to one, caressed it’s soft petals, breathed in its scent, and I thought about Heaven . I thought about divinity. I thought about how absolutely wonderful it was to be alive right then and there. I thought about how people spend their whole lives trying to inject meaning into their world, trying to find the drama of the moment, to be more than just average, more than just human. All this time it was right there in front of them. Just stop and smell a rose. Touch it, feel it, call to it. It will call back. And suddenly everything makes sense.
Anxious, nervous, fearful. Every time I get into a car, or a plane, every time I get a sunburn or eat junk food, I get all worried that I’ve made a choice I can’t take back. Violent images will string through my head like flashes of a camera bulb. It’s really cliché actually. I realized this on the road between Pasadena and Santa Clarita. I was talking to my mom on the phone and Justin was driving. We reached a stretch of freeway that seemed unfamiliar and a big semi-truck was next to us on the on-ramp. “Wouldn’t that be terrible if I died right now with my mom on the phone?” I thought, and instantly horrific images and a stream of audio started playing, all jumbled and terrifying. My heart raced. I felt sick. Sadly, this was not an uncommon experience. This time, though, I was watching myself do it. I thought about it the way I was taught to think about things. I looked at it with the critical eye my diploma says I am supposed to have.
Some things I noticed: 1) The images were strung together in weird flashes, just like every movie scene of a car wreck 2) The audio was not really plausible. It wasn’t even my voice screaming 3) The images were overly dramatic, heart wrenching, there was dripping blood and crunching noises.
I realized that the things I was seeing in my fit of anxiety were implanted there. That lots of my concerns were concerns that lots of people have. Lots of people exposed to computer-graphics filled action movies and the sensationalism of the American news media. Adorno would have laughed at me, quivering with fear as I tried to stave off a full-blown panic attack.
And then I smelled the roses, and a very different feeling came over me. One of calm reassurance, of self-confidence. One of gratefulness and intelligence. Awareness—like I’ve never felt it before. I was suddenly alive. Suddenly fearing death seemed all too silly. You can’t die if you haven’t truly lived. That’s not to say that I think my life has been a waste of time, or that I discount any of my experiences or anything like that; what I mean to say is that I am done letting movie directors decide how I see life.
I’ve been thinking about a detox for a while now. There was a point , amidst the stress of finals and and graduating and all that , that I screamed it to the heavens. “ I’m done with the computer screen, with the hunching over a keyboard. I’m done with processed grease and not even knowing what I’m eating, or watching or thinking or doing. I’m done with screaming or crying into my pillow at night because I'm exhausted and yet dissatisfied with what I did all day.” I screamed it, shouted it, prayed for a miracle. Then I came home and laid on the couch, ate cake, and surfed the web. It didn’t seem all that bad when the pressure of deadlines and becoming something were lifted.
Still I have this knawing feeling that I need to smell more roses, and I also have the feeling that I can’t do it immersed in a culture of mindlessly absorbing everything the money-chasers shove in front of me. I don’t plan on being radical, I don’t plan on never going out for a movie, ( it was going out for a movie, after all, that gave me the roses) but I do plan on a detox. A physical, mental, emotional, spiritual detox. Starting tomorrow I am going to spend my time outside instead of in, away from the t.v. and the computer . I’ll write down my blog posts on paper. Starting tomorrow I am going to eat things I can trace back to an original source , I’m going to try a few different things to flush the popcorn butter and pizza grease out of my body, I am going to let myself drift in thought, rid myself of violent emotion. I am going to do yoga and meditate dang it! Just for one week. Then I am going to re-enter society. But this time I am going to direct my life. I’m going to keep things in perspective. I am going to smell the roses.