Reptilian Me

It’s been a grey, rainy May, as it was five years ago, after Eric died.  Maybe that’s why I’m waking up too many mornings with a low-level churn in my stomach.  There is lots of change coming and already come — I have a grandson, I’m leaving my job and the world of regular income, Sam and Marianna have done a 180 on their plans — so the churn could certainly be related to that.  But this is more, gut level anxiety that my body remembers from those early weeks of grief, waking to my new reality, our “new normal” as the kids and I called it.  The world without Eric in it sucked and made me anxious and wish I could somehow just not wake up.

I chatted with a good friend today, just home from a visit with her frail and elderly father. Talking to her about my anxious waking this week she said, “I know, I did it too this week.  Being back with my family, I’m a little girl again.  Why do I do that?  I know what’s going on, but there I am with a churning stomach.”

I was thinking about our talk as I drove to get soil and compost and alpaca poo for my garden today.  Cutting across back roads from Pittsfield to East Concord, I saw a dark shape on the side of the road.  A snapping turtle.  A big snapping turtle, well over a foot long, just sitting there, head out, though he pulled back into his shell when I got out to take a photo.

He was my totem animal today, my reminder that I have a reptilian brain, the ancient core that takes care of basic survival and that knows when to “fight or flee.” As the Buffalo State University website on the brain says, “the overriding characteristics of reptilian brain behaviors are that they are automatic, have a ritualistic quality, and are highly resistant to change.” Reptilian me.

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