Sunday, November 15, 2009

Panic Attack

This writing thing, I am just beginning to understand. It wakes me up in the middle of a perfectly good night and demands that I put down the words running through my brain and body. Literally, demands it.

So it is three in the morning. I have been awake since 2:30. It’s time to write.

I’m going to describe for you a full-fledged panic attack.

I woke from a nightmare, a ridiculous dream.

My thoughts segued to Zach. What if this dream had something to do with him? What if his plane was down? What if he’d been captured?

My heart started racing. All the awful imaginings began, the what-ifs, and it began to feel like something real.

The heart beats faster and faster and harder. Awareness of it fills your whole perception, and you breathe trying to keep up with it, knowing it is not good for you. It was overwhelming.

I did not know what to do. So I did the only thing I could do, my prayer thing: I sent pure love to him.

You can survive anything, dear heart.
Calm yourself if this is your fear I feel, my son. Take whatever you need from me. Calm strength and deep strong humor can get you through so much. Through what seems almost impossible. I know how deep you run.

My heart was beating so hard, so fast. I knew I was talking to myself as well: calm yourself, Katie. Calm strength and deep strong humor can get you through so much. Through what seems almost impossible. You can survive anything, dear heart.

This stress can kill a person. My son could be fine, and the fear of something happening to him could kill me.

This stress could kill a person if someone they loved actually was in danger. The loved one could be coping, surviving; but the ones waiting could be in mortal danger as well, from the stress of fear.

So what would you do if someone you loved actually was a prisoner of war?

You have to live your life believing that they will be okay.

I was telling myself this, and it calmed me some. I could feel my heart rate going down, but it was still racing, fighting the fear. I was putting everything I had into the contest, but at best was just holding even.

And then some being reached into my heart, and held it. Grasped it firmly.

He’s going to be okay, she told me.

I was told this several months ago. I believed it then, and I believe her now.

He is going to be okay. That belief will get you through.

And my heart suddenly calmed. I could feel her holding it firmly.

What do I do now? I asked her.

Hold up your heart’s light for anyone to see who needs it, she said.

And then she showed me. In my mind's eye, I saw/felt her reach in and take my heart. She held it up high, and it glowed in her hand. She held it like a symbol, like a torch, like something to offer.

I trust her completely.

So here you are, whoever might be reading this, worrying about someone. Believe that the person you love is going to be okay. That belief will get you through. And then hold up your heart’s light for anyone to see who needs it.

We all seem strong at times, but we are all vulnerable. I am too. Faith and fear duke it out daily on the battleground of my soul. I see them, circling like wrestlers, each watching the other carefully, trying to find the advantage, to get a hold on the other and to take it down.

But the victory is always brief; the whistle blows and a new match begins.

It is an inexorable, unstoppable part of life, this uncertainty, this grappling with fear.

So I will approach it the way I have learned to approach anything unsolvable in my life. I will unconditionally love it.

I will reach out to fear with open arms and take it close to me.

Come here, fear. Come here, you bully you meanness you deceiver. I believe that no one got to be awful because he or she was loved too much as a child. I may not be able to make you better, but I will not make you worse. I will treat you with respect and kindness and gentle honesty.

Come here, fear. Come here, you frightened child beneath the awful skin you put on to hide how vulnerable you are.

Come here, and I will hold you and love you.

Of course, I am terrified to do it. Fear can be mean and cruel. I am certainly not up to the task. But I know no other course. And I have to believe that this one will work.

At the end, I thought of the Statue of Liberty’s torch. I thought how the shape of the flame she holds aloft is much like the shape of our human hearts, if we pulled it from our chests and held them high.

It looks like what the other she was doing, holding my heart aloft, its light glowing out.

I heard the words again. Hold up your heart’s light for anyone to see who needs it.

I am just one person. But I will trust her, and not feel foolish, and hold up my light for whoever needs to see it.

The Statue of Liberty is holding her heart’s light high up, for anyone who needs to see it. I pulled up pictures of her on google.

She looks serious. This is serious work, this fighting of fear. But she looks determined and calm.

I will think of her. I will think of what she stands for, a symbol of our American struggle for independence from the lack of freedom and choice. I will think of her holding her light up high for anyone who needs to see it.

Hold up your heart’s light for anyone who wants to see it.

Good night, Zach. We look for you to come home safe. And now it is time for me to go back to sleep.


Thanks for checking in,


  1. These thoughts and fears are those of every mother of a warrior. I am thankful my son came home physically safe, and my prayers are for him and for the families of others who have not been able to hug their returning sons and daughters...I think of the centuries of parents and children who have lost loved ones to war and wonder that any of them survive the pain of loss, and again, thank God for returning mine. Your son knows he has a warrior FOR him here at home and that means so much.

    When is he due back home? Does he read this blog? What a wonderful blog...

  2. You were on my heart and mind yesterday, as i spent the holiday with my family. I was sending you and your family hugs.