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Rapid hearts

We were a Tupperware family. Pastel and tinted. Yellow, green, blue, pink and white containers of all sizes filled our shelves and fridge. The big, square one stored the gum and candy packed for the long drive to northern Wisconsin every summer for family camp – and then held the one of a kind smell of Big Red, Coffee Nibs and Minocqua Maple Fudge inside it’s rubbery plastic walls all year, no matter what else we put in it. I would lift its lid at will to remember my summer.

There was another container that didn’t carry such happy memories. It was the Mother Bowl. It was HUGE, yellow and I could have comfortably sat in it until age 8. (Go ahead, Leslie, make the short joke…).

My brother apparently had something wrong with his heart (he’s totally fine now, as far as I know). My old and addled mind only remembers that he went to my grandpa’s cardiologist to get it checked out – and he had to run on a treadmill. They found that he had something called WPW, which apparently translated to ‘rapid heartbeat’. It would go like this: he would be playing basketball in our driveway with his friends, and then suddenly, he’d run in to the kitchen, grab the Mother Bowl, fill it with ice and water and plunge his face into it. And then he’d stand on his head.

Apparently, shock therapy was the remedy du jour.

When I was in high school, I started getting anxiety attacks. I thought I was dying and I was too scared for a while to ask anyone if I was – scared that the answer was yes. My way out of them, when they hit me, was to move. I had to bust my body out of the terrifying static that was paralyzing my limbs, eyes, ears, brain.

And it recently occurred to me that I, and maybe you?, were taught that when things really got going, when our hearts were racing and our minds were burning and our bodies were firing with energy – that the thing to do was jump off the track, get out, make it stop at all costs.

I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have someone grab my little scared hand, or better yet – for a magnificent voice deep inside me to grab my attention, and say, “Don’t go. Stay with it, ride it. Because this is the road to the next thing. This is the good part.”

Image credit: EraPhernalia Vintage

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Siddhartha says:

    Ah, that’s the thing though. How do we know it’s a good part coming or the end of our lives?

    We spend so much of our lives trying to figure out how to anticipate what’s coming up next. If we’re really fortunate we realize early on this is a futile effort because no one really knows what’s coming next.

    In the end all we’re left with is just being ready to accept whatever happens.
    .-= Siddhartha´s last blog ..Do You Have a Phone? I Need to Take a Picture =-.

  • Van says:

    You’re braver than me. When that horrible anxious feeling returns I won’t ride it out and see where it takes me. I’m going to get busy, clean, work, do anything to distract myself from it’s tyranny over my body and emotions.

    Very beautiful blog post. Today I reflected on Childhood memories too, and how they shaped us and effect what we do now, even in the present.
    .-= Van´s last blog ..Honoring Creative Beginings =-.

  • Lindsey says:

    Thank you for this powerful reminder. It’s taken me 35 years to even BEGIN to know that. And yet, even though I think I do know that the good part comes with the fear, anxiety, and pounding heart, I still fear the inevitable hurt on the other side. I guess the trick from here is to realize that’s just part of it and to trust that without the racing heart it would all just be boring and beige. And I KNOW I don’t want that!
    .-= Lindsey´s last blog ..One phone call from our knees =-.

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    How powerfully said! I’m riding exactly that wave right now, Julie. I’m doing so many things — and all of them seem like they’re going to be amazing, but the sensation is still an awful lot like panic. I keep thinking, “I’m doing too much. I need to stop. I should push my self-imposed deadline, or hold off on this project until the summer, or something.”

    The funny part for me, especially in light of this post, is that my whole flurry of activity started when I finally decided to get some treatment for my own anxiety (social anxiety, in my case). Every day I’ve spent improving, I’ve also found myself hungrier and hungrier to do great things.

    It’s quite a ride.
    .-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..What I Learned about Writing this Week…from Heroes =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    I feel the need to jump in here and say – especially to Van and Lindsey – that my post reads, “I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like…”

    I’m getting ‘better’ (if that’s the right word) – but I think this is a life-longer.

  • @jenhalloran says:

    Lovely post, Julie (per usual). So needed a reminder today to choose to see this — whatever “this” happens to be at the moment — as something good.

  • Jill Fisher says:

    Sorry the big square tupperware with the wonderful summer smells is long gone, but we do still have the big yellow one. Maybe…..if I toss that one too, lose that old crutch, and try your approach to anxiety, I’ll have better luck with my own. Thanks for this great trip down memory lane…..that maple fudge really was goood!

  • Jesse says:

    I JUST did that very thing!! Not 5 minutes ago. For the first time ever!! The timing of my reading this is almost a little scary.

    I got the mildly threatening email, felt my palms get sweaty, felt my heart race, raked my fingers through my hair, felt my posture slump in the chair. And then I remember that not two days ago, I told myself to grow a spine and take charge.

    The universe handed me a test. I rose to the occasion. Damn it feels good. I wasn’t nasty in my response, I was forthright and honest and I addressed it head on.

    Because I can, because I should, because it’s healthier.


  • Delanie says:

    Great post – very insightful and helpful.

    “Don’t go. Stay with it, ride it. Because this is the road to the next thing. This is the good part.”
    ~ LOVE IT!
    .-= Delanie´s last blog ..Dear Mother Nature =-.

  • Todd Jordan says:

    Staying with it and through it. We don’t do that often enough.

    To make an awkward analogy, it’s like having that 1st orgasm. Your breath becomes ragged, your body is in heat, your hear races, but what happens next is worth it.

    So much I believe we approach those high points in our life with nervousness and trepidation yet what we need most is to free ourselves to stay.

    For me, it’s like that. I have to stop and remember to breathe and let it wash over me. I’m at my best writing, programming, or even gaming when the flood comes.

    Thanks for writing this and reminding me to stand fast some times.
    .-= Todd Jordan´s last blog ..31 Days of iPad Day 12 =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Todd – as always, you add so much to the conversation. Thank you for saying both ‘orgasm’ and ‘stand fast’ on my blog.

  • Catherine says:

    Hey Julie,

    Great post. If my kids 25 and 18 read this post they would definitely laugh, recognizing the big yellow bowl as their “get sick bowl”. It has to be the same bowl.

  • jenni says:

    Ummm…reading this in my running clothes, just back from a jog. The rapid heartbeat always seems to strike when it’s almost time to write.
    .-= jenni´s last blog ..Fashion Crisis: Please Help Tomorrow (Saturday)! =-.

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