My next undertaking will be to drill a well for my small arts center. I have been stalled about this for months, as I haven’t had the cash to pay for it myself, and the idea of having an open house at The Studio and hitting folks up for money before I had any programs underway just didn’t feel right. As if from the heavens, a surprise and unexpected gift had been given to us; a sum of money earmarked specifically for the job. Although it was hard for me personally to accept it, it was necessary that I do so. Today I would just schedule the damned driller and start us moving into our bright future. I had been psyching myself up all weekend for this moment. Today I would pick up the phone and start the process. I’d thought it was going to be a landmark, forward-moving day, but it wasn’t.
As I sat at my desk with the well contractor’s papers before me, phone in hand to call, I began to feel my face getting warm. I must be nervous. Then again, maybe it was my personal money situation. I had been looking at my bank balance on the computer screen in front of me, and had been surprised at what I’d seen. I was just beginning to digest the numbers before me. Three times now a creditor out of my past had presented my account with a debit which I hadn’t the funds to cover. I had received no call about this, nothing in the mail. Was this legal? Had I once given them permission but forgotten? Our interactions had been halted for a few years now, yet here was this debit made from my account. It might have been one thing if I’d expected it, but it was a total surprise, and when you’re dealing with headroom of less than $10, a surprise can can be hard to recover from. I’d planned on going to the bank to make a deposit as soon as I’d called the driller. If only I had gone to the bank first, at least one of these fines might have been avoided. It made me sick to see three $35 fines posted from Friday afternoon to early this morning. It would take all I had in my wallet just to cover the fines, and then I’d be basically back at $10 again until my next piano student paid me. I felt my face getting hotter. I felt my pulse begin to race. I felt like crying, like giving up. It seemed I had some real work to do on money issues. I was experiencing a lot of lack the past few years. Although I tried hard to think positive, attract what I really wanted, and dissuade the negative thoughts – behind it all a persistent, small voice continued on: ‘face it Elizabeth, you’ll really never do more then just get by’. As I looked at the numbers again I began to feel weak. I felt defeated, and my body was starting to feel truly sick. How could this have happened? Once again, in the red. No wonder I felt so crappy. A few more seconds passed, and then – I got it. This wasn’t related to my checking account at all. I was having another anaphylactic attack, and it was coming down the track full-steam. Another surprise.
I considered at the very least calling the contractor as I thought I would have a few minutes before my reaction really kicked into gear. I also thought about calling the bank and appealing to them to remove the fines. Usually I find the oomph to finish things, leave them somewhat tidy before I bail. But not today. Within minutes my heart began to race, and with it my breathing. My hands and feet began to itch, as if I’d fallen into a patch of poison ivy. I knew that I had three benadryl pills left somewhere upstairs, I had to get to them fast.
I stumbled up the basement stairs like a drunk. Man, this one was scary. I remembered two past attacks that were absolutely horrific. They’d both started somewhat slower. Five minutes had elapsed, and this one was now consuming me. The whites of my eyes were dark and bloodshot. My hands were now turning red and getting puffy. I was humming inside like electricity was being shot through me. I felt as if I were tethered to my body and hovering above it; I was out of it, yet I was in it too. The physical discomfort was growing, gathering, roiling, reaching its fingers into every system of my body. Words are not enough to convey what goes on in this kind of an episode. When I got to the refrigerator I found the benadryl, swallowed two and then called my mom. I knew there was nothing she could do, but I called her just in case – I’m a long way from the road and it would be awhile before anyone found me should I pass out, so I thought she should know. By this time I was running cold water over my hands for relief as they burned, and I could hardly speak. Pain now entered my gut. A wrenching, fire-hot wave rolled over my whole abdomen. I could do nothing at all but wait for the miracle medicine to take over.
The attack continued to escalate. I’d asked my mom to call back in ten minutes to check on me. I was fast losing my ability to stand, to lift a phone, to do anything, so I called her after just five minutes to check in. A co-worker said she’d already left for my place. Although she and I get along just fine, my mother and I keep each other at a figurative arm’s length when it comes to demonstrating love and intimacy; true closeness just doesn’t feel easy. Part of me really didn’t want her to come as I had no energy to deal with that awkwardness, yet I was surprised to notice that some other part of me exhaled, and felt relief. There would be nothing she could possibly do for me, but she was on her way. How lucky was I? My mom was coming. A lot of my friends’ moms weren’t even still living. Mine was coming over. (I once wrote a story in college about a troubled boy who himself didn’t have a very communicative relationship with his own mother. He goes out on a ‘fuck you leave me alone’ sort of mission and comes back to find a pile of neatly folded laundry on his bed; his mother’s wordless show of love. Looking back I can see how that story was really about me and my mother.) I understood how she felt. I was her child, and she was coming to take care of me. I thought of my own feelings for my son, how I would naturally want to tend to him. It is fundamentally what a mother does.
When she got here I was doubled over on the couch. I could simply find no position for any comfort. My lower gut felt a pain I’d never known before – or at least not since the big attack I’d had last year. I remembered now. Yeah, I remembered now what this was about. This thing wasn’t kidding around. “This is worse than labor” I grunted, rocking on the couch. “Really? That bad?” she answered. Her sober tone told me she got it. Labor, while the single most painful experience of my life, was at least somewhat organized and focused. I knew what I had to deal with, and roughly what to expect next. This time, I had no idea, and the discomfort was everywhere. Waves of more intense pain came. I moved ceaselessly, circling like a dog preparing for a nap. I wondered aloud if I should take the third and final benadryl in the house. I concluded that my own child, who weighed about one third what I do, had himself once taken two at a time; three would not be too many. It was all I could do to stumble into the kitchen, find the tiny metal package and a pair of scissors. Opening those small packages can be a pain in the ass. Trembling, I cut it free and took it. My mom sat with me on the couch as I writhed in pain. My poor mom. I know how she feels. But at least she is here. I’m sure she feels better to be here. I myself wonder if I’m really in this much pain, or is it somehow amplified by her audience? Was I trying to justify her being here? Crazy thoughts to have at such a time. I also thought how much like labor this really was; I was constantly changing positions in search of comfort, panting, groaning to summon strength, moving like an animal with no regard for modesty.
Through the waves of pain I would give my mom parts of the story – how my account was overdrawn, how I still hadn’t called the well guy. My whole day would be for naught. By now it was approaching noon. The school bus would be here in a few hours, and I needed that time to rest. As we sat waiting for a respite, we recounted the other attacks – what were common factors? My first attack was when Elihu was three and we were living at the Riverhouse in Dekalb. Fareed had been out of town as usual. I remember the attack lasting many hours – I lay on the couch just watching my son play with his trains, unable to move. It was sometime in the warm months, rather like now. I hadn’t been stung by a bee, something which had in fact triggered my second attack, but rather I’d been outside near dusk and had received several mosquito bites. But two days ago – there had been no sign of a bug bite, nor was there one today. The only common element we could find was the time of year. As my mother sat, just watching me, I noted that little by little the pain was diminishing. We sat like this for about a half an hour, just waiting for a change. Finally I was over the hump, and she was free to go. She offered to do some errands for me. At last she had a concrete way to help, a mom task. As she walked back to the door, I thanked her and told her I loved her. I was surprised to hear the words come out of my mouth. It occurred to me that since I’ve moved here I’ve never said that. I’d only ever told her this on the phone as the conclusion of a rare phone call. Now that I lived next door, I didn’t tell her this anymore. “I love you too.” she said as she turned to leave. Usually she honks as she rounds the turn in the driveway. I waited. No honk. Maybe honking seemed too trivial a thing to do with me sick like this. Funny the things we think.
I fell asleep on the couch. Pure, soft, deep, restorative sleep. When I opened my eyes my first thought was that I felt nothing. Then I thought, ‘how wonderful… I feel… nothing‘. It struck me that I spend most of my life trying to feel something. The next moment, the next snack, the next buzz, the next distraction. And here I was, feeling nothing. No pain in my body. No to-do lists in my head. No one needing anything from me. Nothing. The air was even still and perfect. It was a nothing moment, and in that nothingness it felt like everything was going to be alright.
Another surprise for me today – learning that nothing can be a good thing. And thank goodness, cuz for the time being, I got plenty o’ nuttin’.