THE HOMESICK MINIVAN
Anxiety, Meditation, Reading Bukowski
By Justin Grimbol
For the past month I have had brutal anxiety. I feel doomed.
I imagine horrible scenarios.
I’m a Home Health Aid and once imagined one of the old guys I take care of pulling a gun on me. “Please! I have a wife and children!” I’d beg. “You got no children!” he’d tell me. Then he’d shoot me a bunch. I thought this might actually happen. I was terrified to go to work. But I forced myself to go anyway.
That day, the old man asked me to buy him beer. I told him I was not allowed to buy him booze. He got mad. He told me he didn’t like me anymore. He told me I was too straight. He called me a nerd. But he didn’t shoot me. After that I got worried that I was supposed to buy him beer. If I didn’t he could get the DTs and die. I called the nurse who was working the office that day. I asked if I was supposed to buy him beer. The woman laughed. “I doubt buying beer is on his care plan,” she said. “You did the right thing.”
I have had anxiety before. Last year it got so bad I had to quit my job and I ended up shaving my head and face and looking like a Hellraiser turtle (I had not seen my jowls in a long time) and I was humiliated and I wept on the floor in front of my wife and punched myself in the face a bunch of times.
I don’t plan on shaving my beard off ever again. Not this time around. Instead, I have gotten into meditation. My hope is it will teach me how to slow down and have some control over my thoughts.
Usually, I have trouble getting into New Age stuff, but the meditation class is pretty down to earth. The instructor keeps it simple. She has one Buddha statue and a couple candles. She even allows me to sit in a fold out chair. I love sitting in chairs.
The meditation is about a half hour long. I love it. I am getting obsessed. There is nothing mind blowing about the experience for me. Nothing ground breaking. It has not cured my anxiety. I am not a changed man. I have not found inner peace or anything like it. And it doesn’t feel like I will. Still, I love meditating. It’s good work. Like exercise. It’s like going to a gym for my moldy little mind.
Sometimes, during meditation, I have a hard time focusing. My mind wanders away from my breathing and I have trouble bringing it back. So I try to picture myself sitting on the fold out chair. For some reason, when I am in that state, I picture myself as Lena Dunham with a beard. Then I try to stop thinking about that. I try to think about my breathing.
After a bit of mindful breathing, my mind wanders and now I imagine myself as Rosie O’Donnell. I refocus on my breathing. My feet itch. But I don’t do anything about it.
I get myself to think about nothing but breathing for a good long while. Then my mind wanders again. And I imagine my mom. I think of her on a rock ledge. Near the creek. Sun bathing. Breathing. Not dead. Breathing. I like thinking about this. But I still bring myself back and focus on my own breathing and how my feet itch.
Here is another thing I have done to deal with my anxiety. I’ve been reading Bukowski again. It’s been years since I have read that surly old man. I was afraid that I wouldn’t love him anymore. But I got three pages into his book, Factotum, and he had me howling — laughing my chubby butt off.
Bukowski always comes through. Once, when I was in college, I got busted smoking weed in a dorm room. I was an older student. About twenty-six. So to get busted smoking weed at that age was embarrassing, and anxiety producing. I wanted to stay in college. I wanted to read and study and flirt with people.
As punishment, I had to do community service, mopping the cafeteria. Then I had to write an essay explaining why I wanted to stay in college. And I did. I felt pitiful. So I read Bukowski to deal with all those emotions. Reading Bukowski helped me back then as well. He reminded me of something important. I don’t know what. Something. Maybe I just laughed and found it all exciting.
So I took that laughter…that something…that sloppiness, and I dropped out of college. I moved into my girlfriend’s dorm room. Got a job as a janitor. I cleaned the dining hall. Just as I had for community service. Only now I was getting paid the big bucks. Eight bucks an hour. Minimum wage is a little better now. A little. I should probably go back to school.