fight or flight

According to physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon, “animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the animal for fighting or fleeing. This response was later recognized as the first stage of a general adaptation syndrome that regulates stress responses among vertebrates and other organisms.” (thanks Wikipedia)

I’m fortunate to have had only one physical encounter that might count as a threat, about 17 years ago. I was walking along with friends one Saturday night, in the heart of Adams Morgan (a neighborhood in Washington DC). The sidewalk was crowded and I ended up a few paces behind my two friends as we approached an intersection. Some guy, stoned out of his mind, tried to grab the gold necklace right off my neck. I yelled “Get off!” and pushed him away. I got away from him so fast, my friends could barely believe it had happened at all. I remember that feeling so clearly.

This was me then.

And it was me last night, in the safety of my own home, sitting on the couch next to my husband as we watched the series finale of “The Closer.” Except I wasn’t “safe.” I was on facebook.

Remember my neighbor, who shares some of my political views? Yesterday she shared an article I had posted about Romney’s and Ryan’s awkwardly positioned views on the capital gains tax.

Another neighbor and friend (with whom I do not share political views nor political articles on facebook) responded rather quickly, calling the article “slander” and reminding the posting neighbor (or the world?) not to “canonize” the “Teleprompter” President. He responds to most political things in this manner, and I’ve learned to accept that. He was respectful, if maybe a little inaccurate and off-topic.

But then another person–the one responsible for most of the rage I described here–posted. She demanded to see the President’s birth certificate, his college papers and records, and said that anybody who is offended about not seeing more of Romney’s tax returns is buying into class warfare and has a compromised “sense of discernment and reasoning.”

I thought for a split second that she was trying to be funny, but then, minutes later, she directed her next post at me. She said, “@MYNAMEINALLCAPS! Wisconsin Weeps? LOL!” and then went on about why Wisconsin really should be weeping, given how much money Romney and Ryan had raised in just a couple of days and how the President had barely anybody come to his recent event.

She had clicked on my name from my friend’s original article share. Not being my facebook “friend,” she could only see things I’ve made public on my page, which includes timeline cover photos. One was an image of mourners of victims of the Sikh temple shooting. You may have seen one on the news: people held illuminated letters spelling “Wisconsin Weeps.”

I am embarrassed even to describe how I felt. Suffice it to say that my husband I were watching our favorite show and I literally could not hear what was going on, I could not think, and I could not move, except to put the iPad under a throw pillow.

I looked at my husband as he sipped from his glass of wine and munched on popcorn. I felt so off-kilter I was afraid if he looked at me he’d think I needed an ambulance. But he did look at me, and apparently I looked fine.

So I took a deep breath, and posted.  ‎”@Name, you don’t know me and do not have access to my profile, so I’ll forgive you for your statement above. That photo was taken of mourners in the aftermath of the mass murder at a Sikh temple 20 miles from where I grew up, at a temple some of my friends attend.”

She deleted her post, and posted “My apologies, [my name, not in all caps].”

She sent me a private message too: “I’m not on your fb page. True. However, when [my neighbor/friend] forwards things from your fb page, those who read or click on what she posts can see certain things on your page. It wasn’t my intention to offend you personally, however when she posted the info about Paul Ryan from your fb page and I clicked on it, I saw the “Wisconsin Weeps” which looked like something you posted about Paul Ryan. Thus the comment. My apologies for your loss.”

Now, I wanted desperately to respond again, to “engage,” as my husband (after I showed him all this stuff) warns me not to do. I wanted to say, “The photo is clearly dated August 6 and Ryan was named VP pick August 11, and what you should apologize for is not my loss, but for jumping to conclusions to suit your purposes.”

I typed it all in the message window. I was soooo close to clicking “send.”

My husband shook his head, waved his hand, smiled at me.

I deleted it all.

My neighbor later sent me a message, apologizing on her cousin’s behalf. Apparently this cousin does this to her a lot, and it drives her crazy. My poor neighbor. I responded to her immediately: “It’s okay. Don’t give it a second thought.”

And then I asked her if she wanted to meet for coffee or lunch.

replacement therapy

This is interesting:

“Man Is So Made That He Can Only Find Relaxation From One Kind of Labour By Taking Up Another.” (from The Happiness Project).

Gretchen Rubin asks her readers about what labor they take up in order to relax. It’s nice of her, to give readers a chance to demonstrate their industriousness and mental health.

Our nature is to feel productive, to keep ourselves occupied. Our nature is “To Do.” Is that a good thing? The thought bums me out, frankly: as if it is not in our nature to find relaxation by Being. As if Being (whatever it is you are) is perhaps more work than work itself. What if we read Ms. Rubin’s question to mean this:

“What do we replace in our lives in order to avoid being [fill in the blank]?”

A friend of mine recently divorced her husband. (I once referred to her as Woman B). She had been miserable in her marriage for a long time, and truth be told (by her), she never really loved the man she married. She married him because she had been very hurt by a former true love, and never wanted to be hurt again. They were married for about 13 years, and then she met a new man. She fell in love with him, hard and fast, and she left her husband.

And now, this new man wants to marry her (has wanted to, since they started their relationship). And now, she’s no longer head over heels in love. She reports that the new man is possessive, and mutual friends (and I) found him a bit controlling. Worse: she’s a bit stuck financially: she works for him and they just bought a house together. But, she reassures friends that everything is fine.

I asked her several months ago why she moved in with this new guy right after leaving her husband, rather than setting up her own home to give herself a chance to adjust to her new circumstances.

She said, quite honestly, “I would have struggled.”

I wish I had said to her then, “And? Isn’t the life you want worth a little struggle?”

I wish I could say to her now, “Things aren’t fine. And you’re not stuck.”

But I didn’t. And I probably won’t. I substituted honesty (and true friendship?) with silence, because being quiet was easier.

Replacement therapy is over-rated.