Monday, July 9, 2012

The Anxiety of Separation

As a child, I had to limit my attachment to things and to people.

My mother, a hoarder in her own life, rode a pendulum that swung to the other extreme when it came to other people's possessions, obsessively purging them. She threw away childhood mementos, including VHS tapes of several of my local and national television appearances. She returned some of my childhood drawings and short stories back to me, and disposed of others. In fact, I don't think she has one piece of me left.

Her emotions and affections rode that same pendulum, one moment depicting me as the devil incarnate - some reincarnation of her abusive father - and then the next moment, lauding me, favoring me over my sister.

As some kind of control or retaliation measure, she prevented me from forming any real friendships with anyone. She limited my access to my family: favorite uncles, godfather, cousins, anyone with whom I could've connected in any significant way. Ultimately, she turned the only two other people in my life - my sister and father - against me entirely, leaving me alone in this world with only myself and the astute perception of how much she hated me.

So, on the rare occasion that I got to sleep over a friend's house, I was not homesick.

When I went away to college, I did not yearn for home.

Upon arriving in London for my semester abroad, I was really only wistful for the boyfriend I'd left behind. And within days, inexplicably, my heart turned cold to him.

Over time - and not just thanks to my mother - I've learned that all good things must come to an end. All new things must get scratched and worn. All fresh food spoils. All hot baths run cold. Love fades. Men cheat. People grow old, get sick, and die. You cannot dwell. You must move on.

Getting rid of a lot of my stuff while I was packing up and getting ready to move was an unsettling process too reminiscent of the purges of my childhood, but I scaled down as necessary. Some of what I tried to keep got broken in the moving process. I took a moment to mourn the loss, and I let it go.

But I've noticed a disturbing development in my own behavioral psychology, an aberration in my emotional psyche: I have developed tremendous separation anxiety.

No, I'm not anxious to be away from my friends, my family, my apartment, or even my own bed.

I am outright terrified to be separated from...my car.

A year ago, I was merely peeved when I had to leave my car in the shop for repairs and instead drive a rental.

But recently, while getting a routine oil change and tire rotation, I had an utter, unmitigated breakdown when my service provider, Ruben, told me I needed new front brakes and air filters, and tried to get me to leave the car at the dealership.

"Oh God oh God oh God..." I chanted, placing my hands flat against my temples, squeezing against my cheekbones, rocking myself back and forth and holding back the tears.

"I have a meeting at noon!" I protested.

"We'll give you a rental car - for free!" he assured.

"But...there are things in my car I need!" I was quickly spiraling downward.

"We'll bring your car around so you can get them," Ruben offered.

"But..." I stammered, "Oh God. I can't come tonight to pick it up. I can't come tomorrow morning. I need my car!"

Despite my distress, I capitulated and allowed Ruben to walk me to the car rental facility, which, to my increased hysteria, had just run out of cars. "Give her the shuttle," the clerk at the counter instructed.

"No, there's no shuttle right now," Ruben said, shaking his head.

"Oh God..." I moaned.

"Don't worry, we're gonna get you a car." Ruben walked away with purpose, and panic wracked me.

"Ruben!" I called after him. "I can't do this. I need my car. Please give me my car back. I'll bring it in some other time. I can't do this now."

Once behind the wheel a few moments later, I felt like an addict just after a fix. I burst into tears, mostly out of relief. Seatbelt clicked, window rolled down, ignition turned, I felt secure.

I rocked myself back and forth a little bit on my way to my noon meeting, for which I arrived late and with tear-streaked cheeks.

After a little over a week's worth of mental preparation, I brought my car back to the dealership for the much-needed service without incident, apologizing to Ruben for my bad behavior.

"That's OK," he said, "You had to work. I understand. Work is stressful. I just want to make sure we got you taken care of."

Was that it? Was my work-related stress reducing me into a blithering basketcase? Or have I formed some kind of unnatural attachment to an inanimate object, whose motorized functions have given me the false impression that it participates in our adventures together - as some kind of partner in crime - instead of merely as a mode of transportation, the mechanics by which I am able to move forward?

Have I somehow elevated my vehicle to best friend status, in a town where I desperately need one? Have I fooled myself into thinking that it is my true kindred spirit, or some kind of soulless soulmate?

Gold help me.

Related Reading:
Letting Go
Moving On
Leaving It Behind Me

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