Monday, September 9, 2013

Water and No Water

When I was a kid living in rural eastern PA, we had a well. As a child, I didn't really understand the mechanism of the well, just that it was underground and through a series of pumps and pipes, provided all the water for our house. I think it may have also required electricity to run. Which means that when the power went out, so did the water. 

I remember the feeling of panic that took hold of me whenever the power went out or there was a mechanical problem with the well. The panic was connected to the sudden scarcity of something I took for granted. Bear in mind too, that for someone with OCD--which I've had it since I can remember--it's important to keep clean. No water for going to the toilet, no water for washing hands, no water for taking a shower. Frightening brown sediment would rise up into the toilets and sometimes the sinks. I didn't know when the water would come back on, only that the forces were completely beyond my control. 

I can hear Joanna-therapy-voice interject here: sometimes a child is just born sensitive.

One time I remember my panic was overwhelming, and my mom tried to distract me by reading a book about horses together. A love of horses was one thing we had in common. This book had all different breeds of horses in it, their historical origins and the countries they came from accompanied with fantastic illustrations. I remember Lipizzan horses capable of astounding grace, stocky Clydesdales, tall and rangy Tennessee Walking Horses, Arabians with their unusual concave faces... although the panic never went away,  the stories slowly replaced it in the forefront of my mind.

[I wonder what my parents thought about my panic. I wasn't diagnosed with OCD until I was 18 and certainly neither of my parents knew what it was before then. What did they think of my strange tics and ongoing anxieties that rarely seemed to ease up?]

* * * 

This morning when I was in the shower, suddenly the hot water cut out and there was just this unmitigated torrent of cold water sluicing down on me. This can happen in apartment living of course... one just has to shimmy to a corner of the tub that is mostly out of the shower stream and wait it out... but this torrent went on and on... finally I dove in and turned off the water entirely. I turned just the hot spigot back on. Nothing. Somewhere a pipe knocked dully. 

Perhaps in response to my stream of compound-complex swear words, Mike asked if I was okay. I imagined the cold shower causing all my muscles to seize up and the fibro ache lasting the whole day. I requested a washcloth so that I could rinse off from the tub faucet and not the shower. 

When I turned the cold water spigot back on though, there was no water coming out of there either. More distant knocking of pipes. I had the feeling there was no water anywhere nearby, although Mike said there was still some coming out of the kitchen sink--probably what was left in the lines. He brought me a bowl of water.

We called the management office and they said that maintenance had to shut off the water for "an emergency repair downstairs" and they didn't know when it would be back on.

* * * 

No Water changed The Plan. 

Regarding The Plan: have I mentioned my recent strategy to tamp down my constant panic with structure? I visualize each of my days as a box. Each day has A Plan. As The Plan is executed, I picture little colored strata start to fill the box. At the end of the day I have made it through. The box is filled. 

Where did I get this visual? I think there was a video game in the eighties involving colored lines slowly filling in or draining out. If anyone knows, leave it in the comments. 

So I have this strategy, but I'm not great with changes in The Plan. For today, The Plan was housecleaning in the morning, vacuuming, washing and wiping, doing the catboxes, in the meantime having loads of laundry going on the second floor. Additionally, I told myself had to rock today's Plan, because I was practically useless yesterday: semi-functional in the morning but in the afternoon and evening, tearful and trapped in a pit of self-judgment.

Last night in the middle of hysterical sobbing I thought look at my fucking life now --my mother did this to me. One last strike so we could both go down together. These thoughts are pretty close to my worst thoughts: the fear spiral that leads to places too dark to blog about.

How strange that she could be so kind one day, so unmerciful another. I mean it: how strange. I thought it was strange at eight. At thirty-eight my mind still can't get around it.

I think of that eight year old girl, vulnerable and not in control of her world, trying to provide structure with rituals, which came along with horrible tics. Today, I lost my shit when the water went off. 

* * *

When I taught at University, I shepherded my students through a campus lockdown because there was a shooter on the grounds. There were three incidences of gun crime at this school during the six years I taught there. This never kept me from going to work. 

If you would have asked me, I'd have said yes, it's scary, but there's nothing I can do about it. The people who are in charge of doing something about it are doing something about it.

Fast forward 2.5 years and I'm totally couchlocked, blogging about waters and wells and horses and my child-self because I can't even execute PART of today's Plan. See, it has to go a Certain Way, follow a certain procedure and it can't with no water and... and... I feel like eight-year-old-me.

All I can do is deep-breathe and say it's scary, but there's nothing I can do about it. The people who are in charge of doing something about it are doing something about it. But I can't get off the couch.

No comments:

Post a Comment