As I write this, a thunderstorm is rolling in. Through the window to the left of my desk, I can see that my usually bright green backyard has taken on a sunken gray hue to match the dark clouds above.
If I were still 9 years old, this is where I’d grab a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book and start reading.
Or, if I was feeling creative that day, maybe I’d grab some paper and markers and draw each of the lightning strikes I saw. (I actually did this on a consistent basis for awhile and then compiled each drawing into a book called “LIGHTNING WATCH!” with a construction-paper cover. Yep. I wore [and still wear] my “nerd” hat proudly, thank-you-very-much.)
But I’m nearly two decades older now and I can no longer remember why on earth I thought adding fear (Scary Stories) to fear (thunderstorm) was a good idea. I suppose I was a high sensation seeker…and “was” is certainly the operative word here.
I am a high sensation seeker no longer. I don’t get a thrill out of amplifying my fears. A thunderstorm is disconcerting enough when I take it at face value. And, I no longer feel a pleasant buzz of adrenaline when I strap myself in for an amusement park ride. (Of course, I still get the buzz of the adrenaline…but nowadays, it’s a panicky oh-eff-why-did-I-do-this?! sort of buzz.)
These days, even the sound of a heavy rainfall can trigger a high level of anxiety and, in some cases, pure panic. Last year when I worked in an office at an advertising company, my wee little cubicle was situated on the top floor.
It was difficult enough spending day in and day out on the top floor — after all, an escape to the safety of the great outdoors during the first rumblings of panic required a long twisty run down an echo-y staircase or a slow descent via elevator. I’d escape to the back patio — a lovely little piece of corporate landscaping with benches, chairs, flowers, and a pond. Well, not exactly a pond — a retention basin. But it did have a fountain.
And when the patio didn’t feel safe, at least I had my car.
But rainy days were worse. The rain, no matter how light, always rattled the roof to the point where it became difficult to hear what my cube-neighbors were saying. Each downpour filled the entire office with an ambient white noise that spiked my adrenaline level. When it rained, I couldn’t sit still. My heart always started pounding and I’d have to fake a calm walk from my cubicle to another floor’s break room in order to calm down.
I don’t know why the sound of rain was (and to an extent, is) so painful and jarring to me — I mean, to others, it’s pleasurable. It’s soothing. To me, I suppose it represents just another fake danger that us panickers so commonly concoct: the danger of eliminating access to the only truly “safe” place for me at my office — the back patio. If I panicked at work in the rain, where would I go?
Check back later this week for the second half of this post.