I bought a steno pad in the grocery store a few days ago while I was quickly shopping, grabbing essentials, trying to spend as little time in the store as possible, and not inhale or exhale toward anyone. And don’t touch your face, asshole! (I like to use little extra motivating words on myself.) I wanted that steno pad right away the second I saw it. Is that an essential? No.
I wanted to grab it and put it under my arm and walk away from my cart and all the breathing people around me and do something new. First, I never buy office shit in the grocery store, it’s weird. Second, this isn’t the time. Third, I haven’t bought a steno pad for twenty plus years. I haven’t used one forever. I went through them fast when I worked in offices as a -- dirty word coming, secretary -- for years to support myself right after high school. Right after high school, job, apartment, steno pads . . . no discussion. It was better that way.
I brought the grocery store steno pad home and it’s been empty on my desk for a few days now. But just this moment tonight, I am panicking. I have these attacks of anxiety, but it’s worse right now. So I am trying everything to stop it, thinking about the anxiety constantly, which of course doesn’t work, one cannot “stop it”, that’s not a thing, one must “accept one’s panic”. I’m terrible at that. So I’m pretending to myself that I am thinking about the park across the street, pretending I am having calming thoughts, ha, sitting by the window, breathing, not breathing, counting my breaths, counting my pulse, nothing working and then I notice my cat, Olive, staring at me, so I start staring back.
I have lived with Olive for four years now and I’m pretty convinced that when I’m at the end of my rope she is well aware. I am thinking about how she almost died twice and then . . . belief? rears its confusing head. (This belief thing has been knocking on my door for a few years now, but I’ve been a bit stand-offish.) As I stare at Olive, counting my breaths, I am having the thought slash belief that she didn’t die because we’re not done yet, me and Olive . . . what is that . . . faith, what’s happening? The desperate cries of a woman with chronic anxiety living in a new world now that is feeding that anxiety like a fire hose sending messages -- you were right, Linda, it is all a disaster.
That same feeling I had at six-years-old, frozen in my memory, sitting in front of the TV, hearing my parent’s voices upstairs, and suddenly knowing, like I was a jaded forty-year-old, this is all there is -- and then feeling my stomach drop out onto the floor, but then willing my brain to go back to being six-years-old and just watch the damn TV stupid, you’re a kid, you don’t know shit . . . .
But what’s up now panicky Linda? Are you believing in something because you actually believe in something? Or is this where panic takes you, Cat Belief?! Olive's eyes still burrowing deep into mine. (She knows I'm a mess.) And then an idea fully coalesces and I run to my desk, making my heart beat even more uncomfortably faster, and I write it down in my steno pad. It is my current pad. I always have a pad I write notes in and things to do, but it’s mostly been spiral notebooks, smaller ones. I have a small desk so a large spiral would feel like too much. I have a small desk because I live in New York and space is at a premium, because I had to chase my dream and live in New York! Great idea.
I write this new thought I am having as fast as I can in my new steno pad, and it's a mess. My handwriting is big and loopy and tense. I think this thing that made me leap to my steno pad belongs in one of my old plays, I think it might be a better ending than the one I currently have. But I also think this thing/thought/idea belongs in my life.
I’m still panicking, everything I think makes me panic, but the idea is getting bigger and longer so now I’m typing it on my computer because my typing fingers are faster than my steno pad writing fingers and the thoughts are coming fast and I no longer trust my memory to hold shit so I’m typing as fast as I can, and my husband says he’s making food do I want some, and I wish he’d not talk right now, and I wish I could stop the panic. But I’m also a little bit proud of myself than in the midst of my panic, I had a really clear solid, beautiful idea that I like, that is wound up in faith and love and feeling like I need to let it all in, everything that is happening.
Maybe this is all I can do, write stuff, get it all out of me, say it. This is clearly not a time to hold back.