I know that some might see these things as small accomplishments, but for me they are pretty major.
Every year I go to services with my family–we call them the High Holy Days–to a synagogue we’ve attended since before I was born. The Rabbi is the same Rabbi who was presiding when I was born. The congregation watched me grow up, and although some of the faces have changed, I still know a lot of them. Well, those that are left, anyway. Our group grows smaller every year, to the point that we are on the verge of closing down. Last year, we held services in our smallest room because there wasn’t enough attendance to fill the large room. But the air conditioning wasn’t working right and the room had only one door into a hallway…at the end of a closed hall, so air flow was non-existent. I was also at the beginning stages of my “Prilosec fever”, so my anxiety was on the upswing. So the room was hot, and for the size of the room there were a lot of people. And due to my chronic illnesses, I am very heat intolerant. So partway through the services, I had a pretty bad panic attack. I didn’t know at the time that this is what was happening, but I recognize it now. I fled the room in tears and ended up sitting alone in the front lobby, in the dark, huddled in a chair trying to recover myself. It was a down time for me.
This year, the air conditioning in our building was, well, stolen. “Vandalized” they say, but technically someone ripped out all the innards. So we are holding our services in a borrowed room in another building. When we arrived tonight and I stepped into the room, I wanted to cry. For some reason, the room was hot as hades, and the air conditioning didn’t seem to be on. I have no idea why no one went to track someone down to rectify the situation, but considering it was nearing 7pm, it’s not likely there was a maintenance person on duty anyway. So I stripped off my pretty lace “jacket” and dropped it on a nearby chair, and prepared to get overheated. Even though the outside temperature wasn’t all that bad, it was horrible in the room, and I spent most of the evening pressing my arm and shoulder against the brick wall, trying to absorb whatever coolness I could from the stone. I fanned myself with a piece of folder paper I found in my purse, and I tried desperately to stay in the moment. I followed along closely with the readings and kept lifting my hair off my neck (the NIGHT I decided to wear it down of course) to keep from overheating. My mother repeatedly looked at me to see if I was all right, but I just nodded and tried to keep calm. The heat was bad, ya’ll. I wanted in turn to sit down and cry, and sit down and go to sleep.
In the end, I made it through the evening without doing either. I didn’t panic, I didn’t give in to anxiety. I used the hell out of that brick wall, both for its innate cool temperature and to keep me grounded with its rough texture. I didn’t repeat last year’s panic attack, even though it was the exact same situation that really could have triggered a body memory reaction and sent me over the edge. I’m so stupidly proud, even though it was a stinky evening.
Unfortunately, tomorrow we go back again, to the same room. I hope fervently (and feverishly?) that someone will turn on the air conditioning before we show up. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to cope again tomorrow, especially without being able to eat or drink.
Easy and meditative fast to those who do.