Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fear: Now with solar flares!

Two nights ago I settled myself into bed, exhausted and ready for sleep. And just as my head hit my pillow, I realized I'm actually doing this. By "this" I mean, leaving my family and a group of friends it took me seven years to accumulate to move to a place I've been to once. And then I almost threw up.

So much for sleep.

This also happened last weekend. I was in Deep Ellum and my group walked to a bar through the urban setting, I looked up at the Dallas skyline lit up and framing everything I know, everything I'm used to, and for a millisecond I couldn't breathe. My heart skipped a beat and I felt like I was drowning.

Tonight my mother asked me, "So, have you had any 'what am I doing?' moments yet?"

I just laughed maniacally. I guess this is what it feels like to run away with the circus.

Listen, I am full-steam ahead on this decision to point my wagons west but still, I can't help but be occasionally and violently felled by waves of fear.

But that's to be expected, right? (Can I get an amen?)

And yet I don't remember these stomach drops I'm experiencing, the kind you get when you ride over that first crest of a roller coaster, back when I moved to Atlanta or New York, even London. So what the F, already? I love to sleep! And, additionally, I hate to throw up! So....?

Welcome to my life. This has been happening to me pretty much since my new boss told me I got the job a few weeks ago. "I guess you feel like the dog that caught the car, huh?" He said with a laugh over the phone, and I looked down and noticed my hands were shaking.

"Do you think it's because I'm older now, that's why I'm so fearful?" I asked my friend Genie.

"Well, I do think as we age, we tend to have a greater understanding of risk," she said.

As a teen I couldn't wait to go on roller coasters. I spent entire summers at Six Flags upside down and backward, in the air and plummeting back to dirt. And my absolute favorite was the tower that took you up to the top and paused, then with a click, dropped you straight down. And Lord, if I didn't love a spinning pit that stuck you to the wall.

Well, guess what? I hate that shit now. In fact, a couple years ago I went to the State Fair with my friend and her boyfriend and the b.f. convinced me to go on this horrible loop roller coaster, kind of like the pirate's ship that swings back and forth, but this one went upside down. There was nothing cute about the heaving yell that rose like a dark incubus from my gut. Instead of a light and giddy feminine "squeeeeeee!" the sound that I emitted was more like a flat and sustained "gahuhuhhhhhuuuh." I couldn't look at my friend's boyfriend in the eye after that. I don't think he could look at me either.

Look, at some point my adult risk-analysis gene kicked in, and it would really rather prefer a nice Malbec than dance with death in the hands of a carny.

And yet, that's exactly what I've done, isn't it?

So everytime my mind settles down, I have those weird Dr. Who moments again, when I feel the past and present and future colliding inside my brain and I realize that I'm moving, as my sweet niece says,"far, far away." Then my head spins and I feel incredibly mortal and I hold my breath so that I don't freak out. And it's terrifying.

What the hell am I doing? Where the heck am I going? Will my dog be bitten by a rattlesnake?!

And I hear my mother's voice again, "I mean, you've only been out there once."

It's in these moments I like to blame the solar flares.

Let me explain.

Genie says she first learned about solar flares in elementary life science class, which makes me a little sad because my own children's life science class will learn about how dinosaurs walked with man on an earth that is only 5,000 years old and be taught that Adam and Eve were always fully clothed, even when bathing, because of Jesus. But I digress.

Now, what we know about solar flares is that they emit something like 1/6 of the energy of the sun and after a couple of days of bouncing around in space, that energy hits our atmosphere and screws up electronics and satellites and stuff.

But let's all put on our hippie-dippy do-rags for a moment (the one you haven't washed since Woodstock, and not the lame Woodstock from the 90s. The real deal, dude. You know the one.) and pretend crystal deodorant works and the smell of  nag champa doesn't automatically put a drug-sniffing dog on edge. Basically, let's be one with the earth, if you will.

Because, lookit, solar flares will blow your mind!

Take this paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta that says, in a nutshell, solar flares make people feel bad, then people decide to dump their stocks because they "attribute their feelings and emotions to the wrong source... Specifically, people affected by geomagnetic storms may be more inclined to sell stocks on stormy days because they attribute their bad mood to negative economic prospects rather than bad environmental conditions." Basically, people thought they were sensing something was afoot in the market and they dumped their risky shares. But they were wrong, it was the solar flares jamming up their systems.
A geomagnetic storm can make people feel bad enough to shake up the system around them permantely. For example, the rates of heart attacks and stroke after a flare increase-- that'll shake you up. And the number of people admitted to hospitals for depression rises as well. Solar flares make people feel sad, or at least pretty icky; enough so they'll actually try to do something about it.

Case in point: February 17 saw the biggest sun storm in four years hit us. Less than 10 days later, a street vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire protesting his government. The Middle East blew up in revolution and I crawled out of my skin and decided to uproot and move to a dusty, West Texas town. Coinicidence? Yes. BUT STILL.

Solar flares.

Think about it.

But it's not over yet..."The sun's 11-year cycle of activity, driven by tangled surface magnetic fields, will hit its maximum in late 2013 or early 2014. Magnetic messiness will peak around that time and prompt nasty solar storms," writes National Geographic.

So for the next few years, don't worry! Just go ahead and bet on the fact that you're going to feel itchy for change and that might lead you to do something radical and somewhat irrational. S'coo. It's the sun's fault. Ride the waves, man. Or as my freshman theatre professor always said, "let it wash."

And when the panic of your future freaks you out, that's OK too. Think of it as a forced meditation. We're supposed to live in the moment, right? Well, nothing puts you squarely in the moment like never having seen the town you're moving to and being too busy to ruminate about the past you're leaving behind.

In Eat, Pray, Love that girl took almost an entire year to center herself, learn to be fully present, and move forward. All this has happened to me in the span of  one month. Bish, please. I got this. Bring it on.

But I will say this, folks: thank god for Epsom salt baths and liquor. Because, let's be honest here, those are pretty much the best things going for keepin' me afloat.

Please do NOT tell that to the sun.

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