It’s such a simple word, anxiety. If you or a loved one doesn’t suffer from it, it is hard to understand how deep are its roots and how multi-dimensional are its presentations.

We have always known that Joseph has anxiety. It’s common in kids with autism. But lately, it is up — and I mean way up.

For instance, maybe Joseph is downstairs and I’m upstairs, or maybe he’s in one room and I’m in the next. Regardless, every few minutes he calls out, in an anxiety-ridden voice, “MOM??” If I don’t answer promptly (and sometimes, out of utter frustration, I don’t), the calls get more insistent and more panic-stricken. There is nothing I can do to convince him that I won’t leave without him, which is the big fear.

Today we went swimming. Joseph is a seven year-old boy now, and I needed to do some private business in the bathroom. We had a rather long conversation about the fact that I was going to leave him to go to the ladies’ room and that I would be right back. He assured me that he wouldn’t panic — so, hoping for the best, off I went.

I came back about five minutes later to find him in tears, desperately asking a man in the pool if his mom had left him.

This was bad, but not as bad as the time I left him standing outside the ladies’ room at In & Out Burgers. There I was, stuck on the toilet, listening to him crying loudly, “WHERE’S MY MOM?? MY MOM IS GONE!”

By the time I made it out, there were a dozen people around him trying to figure out what to do. At least no one had gotten around to calling the police!

Here’s the weird thing. Earlier this week we were also swimming (it is summer time, after all), and someone nearby commented on what a confident swimmer Joseph is. When I told the man how Joseph had been terrified of the water his first couple of years in swim lessons, his swim teacher piped up.

She maintained that Joseph had only been anxious because I had been anxious. She said that, when I had finally relaxed, Joseph’s entire relationship with swimming had shifted.

I threw a soft, inflatable ball at her. Sometimes I really don’t like this invisible, cosmic connecting of the dots that people do. Especially when they point to me as the source of all badness.

Nonetheless, I of course now have to look at what my part is in Joseph’s current state of unbridled anxiety.

I am anxious. I’m making some new career moves, putting myself out there more, and it’s scary. I am face-to-face with my not-good-enough issues, and sometimes I wonder who will win the final point.

And then I have my long-lasting anxiety about Joseph. My current favorite anxious scenario goes like this: He’s made it pretty well through Kindergarten, but now — NOW — he’s gonna fail. First grade is real school, and Joseph’s mind is too disorganized to make it there.

Besides that, my mind continues, kids get meaner as they get older, and Joseph will soon be the victim of bullies — not to mention frustrated teachers.

Here’s another weird thing. Joseph’s main fear — that I will leave him — is, in fact, one of my main fantasies. When I’ve had enough, I imagine simply walking out the door and driving somewhere — to the coast, to the airport for some exotic destination, to a meditation retreat — anywhere where I can be in the beauty of nature and gloriously, uninterruptedly, alone.

The kid’s onto me. No matter how much I insist that I’m not going anywhere, he knows better. He is way too psychically connected to me to go off what I say. He feels me.

Sigh. I’ve heard it said that the Universe is always, and only, ready. Therefore, I am going to do some inner work to investigate my anxiety and need to escape. Certainly I would rather be the yogi — trusting God, finding contentment in each moment, and allowing the Universe to shift accordingly. But right now, the message is loud and clear that there is work to be done.

It’s been over a year since I last wrote. Hi to everyone, and welcome back to My Inner Adventures In A Rather Difficult Outer Situation.

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