Karen Rivers

Some reflecting, and a wildcat.

Karen Rivers

Lately I've been feeling like I want to inhabit my life more loosely.  

I think what I mean by that is that gradually I've begun hanging on too tightly to everything and as a result have developed a worrying tension across the back of my neck and skull that feels like someone is cupping my brain in his hand.   It's not as comforting as it sounds.  It is not a pleasant feeling.  

I did not invite anyone to cup my brain in his hand.

I'm feeling like I want to let go of more things and more feelings and particularly the feeling that someone is cupping my brain in his hand.   That's overusing the word "feeling" but at the end of the day, isn't that all we are?   A collection of feelings held together in a fairly standard package of skin and organs.   (The hair is just for decoration.)

I compulsively buy foundation on the internet.  That's a confession.  

I feel as though if my skin were better, the rest of my life would silkily fall into place, the light reflecting off my flaws and making me seem as though I'm glowing and not just strangely flushed across my nose and cheeks.   I rarely bother to wear it, instead I collect little glass bottles and jars of liquids and powders all in the colour of me.  I line them up on the shelf.  A monotone rainbow of myself. 

The Birdy says, "Mum, what is your favourite colour?"  

And I say, "You are."

And she says, "I'm not a colour!"  

And I say, "Well, you aren't invisible."  

And she says, "What is your favourite COLOUR?"

She's getting angry, so I say, "Greenish blue.  Or bluish green, depending on the day."   

She's wrong though.  She's definitely a colour.  So am I.  Today I am 'I'm so money, Honey'.  

That's a colour.  

Someone is paid to make up those names.  Someone who is better than me at turning words into money.  Honey.

I could do that, but I don't know even how you would begin to do that, so instead I write novels and Facebook status updates and think about how lucky I am and how comfortable these jeans are and how I love it when my dog lies across the back of my chair, feet dangling over my shoulders, warming exactly the part of my neck that is being cupped by the uninvited hand.  

Being anxious is not a cakewalk.   That's an obvious thing to say.

I think having anxiety is like living with a wildcat somewhere inside you.  When you tell people about the wildcat, the wildcat immediately goes away and you find yourself trailing off mid-sentence, surprised, saying, "Never mind, it's gone now."  

But your instinct is to not mention the wildcat, to keep it hidden.  It's a bit embarrassing to have a wildcat.  It seems like something that you shouldn't have, as an adult human in standard adult human packaging.  Why does it come with a wildcat?  That must be in the fine print that no one ever reads, along with the warnings about cancer.

Maybe, after all, it's the wildcat who is cupping your brain, although that metaphor can't work because wildcats have paws, not hands, and aren't given much to cupping.  

There's a conclusion in there somewhere:  Don't forget to talk about the wildcat.

Also, that no amount of makeup can disguise you from you, there's not enough light for that.  

Try this:

Lighten up.

These things are probably true:

1. You are late for school.

2.  The kids hate school.

3.  The kids are tired.

4.  The kids hate homework.

5.  You are also tired.

6.   You also hate homework.


So do this:

1. Sleep in.

2.  Go for a walk in the woods.

3.  Let the homework fester where it should fester, in a big pile of festering repetitive tasks that don't actually need doing.

4.  Stop swearing about the homework.

5.  Stop swearing, period.

6.  Stop standing at the front door and screaming, IF WE ARE LATE FOR SCHOOL EVEN ONE MORE TIME SO HELP ME.   Instead, sit down.  Look at the dew on the grass and the hummingbird at the feeder and wait for the kids to choose a book to read in the car, to find their shoes, to ride their scooters down the front walk to the car.   Do not, under any circumstances, yell.   This will all take the amount of time it takes, regardless.

7.  Stay up too late.   Read books.  Look at the stars through the skylight.  Remember that what they will remember is how you shouted.  So stop doing that.  Make this what they remember:  the way the moon shone through the trees.   The way they read the Guiness Book of Records out loud in your bed while the dogs curled up at their feet.  Make it idyllic.  You have time for that.

8.  Shouting is not idyllic and it really doesn't matter if they are late for school.

9.  Change their school.   

10.   Breathe.

Those are just ideas.  Ideas that I write down because I write and I have ideas.  These ideas are not a prescription for you, just for me.  

I have rosacea. I think that's why I'm so fixated on the foundation.  I thought I should mention that, in case you thought it was a weird fixation.  But of course, it IS weird.  

We're all weird.  

Isn't that great?

We should let that happen instead of trying so hard to hide it, our neck muscles tight and clenching, our smiles forced, while inside us, a wildcat growls.  

You probably think the wildcat thing is funny.  Well, it is, I suppose.  But mostly only from a distance.  Like any good joke, you have to get far enough away from it to really understand the punchline, far enough away that the flaws are rendered invisible by careful contouring and a magical trick of the light.