Monday, March 22, 2010

Unsettled in my world: The need to be in control

I'm up housesitting for my brother-in-law. It's a wonderful house up in the cherry orchards above the Columbia River. It's private, spacious, quiet, and relaxing here. My good friend Diane is sharing these first few days of the week with me. We write well together, have lots to talk about, and enjoy each other's company. But for the first two days I was restless, uncomfortable, craving.

At first I thought it was grief. Jake's death has unsettled my world. There's a hole in the fabric of my universe where he lived and I'm feeling his loss keenly. So some of my restlessness is probably grief.

But even more depressing seemed to be that I was responding to the fact that my new laptop computer had somehow had its wifi card turned off and I could not access the web from it. Yes, my world felt even more off kilter because I couldn't get technology to work for me in a way I wanted. I watched myself get upset with this (all the while pretending I wasn't) even though I could use Diane's computer to check my email. And if worse came to worse and there was something seriously wrong with the computer, I could drive back to Portland (an hour) and get the old laptop and bring it up and use it. There were lots of options. But I wanted it to work now. I wanted to be able to check email any time I wanted without inconveniencing someone else. I wanted to be in control.

It took me a while to recognize the obsession. To see how not having email (a connection with a certain part of my world) made me irritable and anxious. It was all too familiar. I was stuck in addiction again.

Now, I'm not sure email is actually an addiction. I'm not sure what happens to my brain chemistry if I email a friend or get a work inquiry or can connect with my sister in her office. But I definitely felt out of control around it. I wanted this damn machine to do what I said when I said it. I couldn't control Jake's aging, or his illness, or, in the end, the fact that he would die sooner or later. So I focused my well-being on whether my machine would let me view my mail.

I was able to connect by phone with my computer guy this morning, and we sorted it out. It took a little bit to do it long distance but he was patient with me and I with him. What surprised me was the deep relief I felt, like things were okay again. That I was in control of my world.

It's an illusion, of course, the being in control. But somehow I really needed that small illusion as I deal with my grief.

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