One of the raised garden beds in the back of the yard is made from old cindercrete blocks stacked up, the internal space lined with weed-barrier, then a big pile of old wood, then compost and soil from the garden. The idea behind this way of doing things is that the wood retains water, and as it rots, provides nutrients to the soil and warmth. In a way it’s like an active compost bin that you grow plants in. This particular bed is for tomatoes, cucumbers, chard, a watermelon that may or may not produce, and some Mediterranean herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary).
The space however has become home to some wasps. Earlier in the year I didn’t mind the fact that they were there because they didn’t bother me, and I apparently wasn’t bothering them. But last night when I went to pick a couple of cucumbers for my mom, I realized that as I lifted the vine from the side of the bed, the wasps were acting to defend their nest. A swarm of about 15 wasps came flying out, looking at me, wondering what I was about, and wondering if I was a threat. Wasps tend to sting/bite first, ask questions later. My experience is based purely on the number of times I’ve been stung. At times, wasp stings have felt spiteful, angry, cruel. They occur without apparent reason and as I’ve gotten older, result in swelling and burning.
Anxiety often behaves like a wasp sting.
I got some text messages today, work related, that under any normal circumstance wouldn’t matter. But for some reason today there was a sting. My stomach tightened up, my body fills up with a kind of mauve-green feeling, a tremor followed by tickle in the stomach which isn’t pleasant; it’s like the beginning of a stomach upset. The feeling doesn’t go away. It lingers. In the moments following, your mind is pushed into defensive thought: how can I protect myself? You shift into isolating yourself from the incident that created the anxiety to try and bring an end to it. I send a text asking to be removed from these messages in the future.
Which from their side of this is going to seem bizarre, strange, odd; there’ll be head shaking, there’ll be “here we go again, the drama queen is at it again”. I can’t help it. Many people in my life have tried to find an explanation for why I have these episodes. They’ve theorized that I’m having late-stage teen temper tantrums, that I’m trying to get out of doing tasks by making excuses. Again and again, I keep telling them my experience until I find myself, literally at the point of realizing that they just don’t get it, they don’t want to get it.
But you have to go on. You can’t stop. So I attempt to embrace the anxiety. I call it what it is, a chemical reaction that I have no present understanding as to why it is triggered some days and not triggered others. You hope that people won’t be disappointed if it gets in the way, and in the next breath you realize that what I am experiencing is no different than what a diabetic experiences if they require insulin.
I’ve considered medication. I know that some people have had success with meds. But I’ve also watched people who have medicated walk into a more out-of-control state of being than I experience now. I’ve decided that the moments of anxiety when they happen, and they’re happening with a lot less frequency now, are easier to accept than the moments that I would experience contending with medications that are possibly messing my brain chemistry more than I am on my own.
Saint Francis asked his gardeners to leave a patch of the ground for weeds to grow, weeds to flower and in their own way exhibit the praises of God in the action of a plant. I’m not sure if these episodes are exhibits of praise from my brain, but they’re definitely weeds. At times, they’re even wasps. The true art of the gardener is to allow a balance to exist between weeds (nature) and intentional planting. This is the act of faith, that in moving forward into what it is I have to do, the anxiety will diminish in it’s severity and control.