I asked this a few years ago of some of my friends, or at least I think I did. I asked them to answer a few questions for me so I could more accurately portray them in Straight Up and Dirty. I begged for specifics, not some general useless crap using words like "sad" or "shut down." I wanted to know how they lived it, their panicked moments. I learned that one friend, to gain control of situations, makes about ten lists a day and constantly revises them. She gets upset if the piece of paper on which she started the list is too small and she runs out of space. I love quirks like this. It’s why I love making new friends. I have a new friend who is terrified of peaches. Genuinely scared. She says some people are vegetarians. She is a texturtarian, terrified of certain textures. She couldn’t read James and The Giant Peach. "I can’t even look at the cover!" It’s adorable to me, the weirdness in people. She went home and asked her husband to name some of his quirks. She couldn’t think of any, which left her mildly distraught. "I guess you’re my quirk," he responded, which kinda made me love him. I wonder how such quirky people withstand crisis, how they navigate it emotionally.
I think I pick stuff out of my ears, inventing skin or bumps, or anything.
I pick my scalp.
I basically pick anything, but not casually. I really pick, like get in there good. And uh, bad.
I rip the edges of all my nails then peel them off.
I "ride the train," a term used to describe when someone furiously shakes their knees, or bounces a foot, as if the motion signifies they’re riding a runaway train.
I lose weight. It’s the one time in my life when it happens effortlessly. I lose all flavor for fat, for fried, for milkshakes even. Nothing can taunt me. I’m far too anxious.
I don’t match or care what I’m wearing.
I shower but don’t blow dry or wear makeup. Perfume is frivolous. And when I’m having a crisis, that’s how everything that once seemed important feels: frivolous. Reservations and calling people back. Emails and blog entries. Chapters. All of it doesn’t matter when something "big" happens. At least it’s big to me. When I’m responding to a crisis, it happens quietly at first, sunken. I never cry when you’d expect. When my doctor told me my pregnancy wasn’t a good one, that I’d need a D&C the next day, I didn’t cry. I just blinked and went silent. Phil couldn’t believe it, thought it was strength. He honestly once said to me, "You freak out about little things, but when the big stuff happens, you’re a rock." And I laughed, realizing how easy it is for people to confuse blinding fear with strength.
Doesn’t it always seem the quiet people who never know what to say, who choose their words so carefully, who rarely speak, always seem to grab our attention when they do? Really holding our attention, as we listen to their careful words, certain there’s something profound in there. Usually, they’re just shy and awkward and fear they can’t add much to the situation. Except in movies. In movies, the one who never talks really is always wise and omniscient.
Once my silence wears thin, and things begin to sink in, I talk it over with anyone who’ll listen. It’s my way of getting it out. Each person thinks I’m turning to them first, certain I wouldn’t confide such details to just anyone. They’re wrong. I need to get it out. I need to hear the advice that matches what I actually want to do. Maybe I need people to feel sorry for me, to get angry for me, to tell me not to worry, to reassure me that I’ll be okay. Then, when I’m too tired to repeat my current crisis to one more person, I write it all out and try to determine what I can actually control. When it finds its way onto the page, it’s there for problem solving. Everything before that moment is talk, helping to form the theories of my next move.
How do you respond emotionally to crisis?