>Tractor Beam

>I had a meltdown at my office this morning. Over the weekend, a new program was installed in everyone’s computer, and this morning all of our “My Files” had disappeared. Wiped out. I’ve spent hours putting together a census list of my patients: phone numbers, diagnoses, prognosis, physicians. Gone, just gone. Templates that I use when writing patient notes. Nowhere to be found. PDF files of articles that I use all the time. Lost. Pictures of my grand-babies. Shot to hell in a canon. Or so it seemed. My colleagues corroborated: everything gone. I really lost it, screaming and cursing. Loud and ugly. Someone had to tell me to chill, and then I just started crying. Then felt terribly embarrassed. I hate to be seen crying at work. Not to mention that my face shows the effects for hours. Literally.

Why? Why did this enrage me so? It only took about 30 minutes for someone to locate the “ghost drive” where our personal files were stored temporarily. They’ll be back on our desktops tomorrow. No big deal, right? But shouldn’t someone have prepared me for this, so that I would not have to feel like the bottom of my world was sagging, imminently threatening to fall out from under me? No, the relevant question is, why did I feel this way? Don’t I trust anyone or anything to look out for me? Apparently not.

Driving up to my poetry workshop a few weeks ago, I felt the need to stop feeling so angry all the time. I was quite surprised at the thought, I hadn’t really admitted to myself that I am holding a great deal of anger. I don’t mean the chronic, constant anger that I feel about the woes of the earth; I can’t undo that and wouldn’t want to. This anger that I am holding is very specifically about me. About being tired and depressed and unable to get what I need. Anger at specific people. A chronic sense of feeling thwarted and obstructed, of turning the corner and finding someone standing in my way, making my life harder than it should be. A paranoid sort of anger where I know that no one is trying to frustrate me, but I feel as if there was something deliberate or at least uncaring going on, some one knowingly causing me pain. So there was this thought that I should try to release this anger, let it go. Try instead to imagine the other’s vantage point, consider that their annoying–or worse–behaviors are connected to some pain or sadness or difficulty of their own that I am unaware of. That for all of my own trials and tribulations, they may be, often are, suffering in ways that I know nothing about, but could try to imagine. It wasn’t difficult to practice kindness at a poetry workshop. It’s never hard to practice empathy when I am in a patient’s home.

But this anger, this morning. It took me back to another place, another job, another computer. 1998. I was promised (at least I thought I was) a new computer, mine was driving me crazy with malfunctioning. I was overworking and feeling exactly the way I felt this morning, but every day, bleeding into nights, weekends, vacations. I was chronically depressed and having panic attacks. When I found out that I wouldn’t be getting a new computer, I had an authentic psychotic break. The felt experience of kicking a door down and then pushing my boss to the floor and kicking her over and over again felt so real I later had to call a colleague to ask if I had actually committed this assault; I had not, but there it was, still is, inside of me somewhere. At that point I had an emotional breakdown and couldn’t work for several months.

I’m thinking about the tractor beam. The one they used on Star Trek to pull another spaceship into their orbit and imprison it. This is what these sorts of experiences are about. The computer today triggered a failure of defenses (“our shields are down”) that allowed my psyche to be trawled into the orbit of a past experience. I know this, I spent a lot of money and time and effort in therapy to understand when I am living in the past instead of in the present. But it doesn’t always seem to stop the power of memory to enslave me to the past. The way that sliding backwards on the ice in my car this past Friday pulled me back under the truck that totalled my car last June.

It is particularly hard for me right now to encounter so much anger inside. For some years now, I have skated along in a peaceful, accepting, tolerant state. Something goes wrong, I think: no one is dying, it will work out. I lose something, I think: it’s not lost, it’s just not here anymore. I’m late for an appointment or someone cancels a date, I think: it can wait, I can adapt. I liked that person a lot more than I like this person who breaks down when things don’t go her way. I know that I’m working too hard, making unreasonable demands of myself, not finding time to take care of myself in ways that allow that person to live and to work. I know that I foiled depression for 8 years, but it didn’t really go away. I know what to do. The problem with being angry is it is a loud voice inside that says: I won’t do what I should do just for spite.

This is why I say I need a new narrative. A new story about myself that carries me past this boulder that stands in my way, jeering at me, taunting me to stay angry and exhausted. I am the hand that is not reaching out to lift me.

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