Stress monkey

“It’s probably good,” I tell her, “I’ve never had a little dog before. Clearly I let Hazel get away with murder. Is she the most neurotic creature ever? No doubt. But she’s so adorable.”

“Like dog, like owner,” Mary says.

“What do you mean? I’m not neurotic.”

Mary. Staring. “Are you kidding?”

“How am I neurotic?”

“You are a catastrophizer on an epic scale.”

Is that a real word? I wonder. “How? How am I a catastrophizer?”

“Two weeks ago you were absolutely convinced we were breaking up. ‘Is this the end?’ you kept asking. No, Jill. No. It’s not the end. It’s a Saturday.”

This seems improbable to me. But who can say? The truth of a relationship varies depending on the angle. I may actually have been convinced that we were breaking up. And she might just be telling me that sometimes I’m ridiculous, which is undoubtedly true.

I can spend so much time in my own head, that when I suddenly look around, I’m alarmed by the situation. WHEN THE FUCK DID THIS ALL HAPPEN? It’s just as plausible that she’s absolutely correct and I am a catastrophizer (if such a thing exists).

At 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I woke with this crushing sense of guilt. Oh god! What have I done? My small, adorably neurotic dog climbed up my leg and across my chest to nuzzle my face while I tried to sort out what had happened. I woke Mary. “I had a dream I cheated on you,” I told her. “I kept hanging out with this chick and there were sparks and I knew it and I hung out with her anyway. It was awful.”

“It was a dream,” she said. “Your brain is just working something out. You’re OK.”

Later, when I told my boss about this, he started laughing, “You woke her?”

“Well, yes. I had to tell her.”

“But it was a dream.”

Says you, buddy. It didn’t feel like a dream.

Maybe there’s a lot of room between the walls of taking things too seriously and not taking things seriously enough. Maybe I should set up a comfortable couch somewhere in the middle of that room.

How many versions of ourselves are we? And how many versions with someone else? When am I most essentially myself?

I have no idea. It’s like telling my dog that she’s good and watching her tilt her head like she’s considering it. I may be good. I may be. It’s certainly possible. Let me think it over.

1 thought on “Stress monkey”

  1. For years after Maricris and I met if I had a dream that involved another woman, no matter how amazing or famous this dream woman was, dream me would invariably say, “You’re great, but I have a girlfriend…” For years. And then, it seemed out of nowhere, the dreams changed. I began to…do things. I began to say yes. And oh, the guilt! Because part of me had thought, had held even my subconscious virtue up as proof that our relationship was perfect and right and all of the things.

    It’s a long, and mostly uneventful story to the place where Maricris and I are now. It’s a place I love over even the first, most sleepless excited days. The changes in us are the most powerful bits. I’m not sure I believe in an essential self. Turns out, almost all of the thought detours are inside me, about me. About change, like little epiphanies. “Your brain is just working something out.”

    Yes, exactly. And always. And so often for the better.

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