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The Hobbling of Dr. Frank

April 12, 2011

When I was 26, I had some pretty bad anxiety to contend with. That first sentence I wrote, that won’t make you feel it, and at this point in the evening, I can’t write the words to show you.

I can’t feel it anymore myself, but back then, I’d lost control of several relationships that meant a lot to me. Instead of freaking out about that particular situation to the depth and degree that I felt it, I did a trick where I mirrored it onto other things. Mostly, I worried about the weather.

It sounds crazy to try to explain, but I became so phobic and scared of tornados that I couldn’t sleep, or relax, or focus my attention on anything else if the sky so much as dimmed. I couldn’t breathe through a rainstorm.

Not that I got to choose what I was doing, but I don’t recommend that method of coping; it is not coping. I couldn’t have specified then exactly how I do effectively cope, but these days I know that good coping for me is done by putting myself in quiet proximity to some large natural formations, like a body of water, or a mountain. Or I can do it through exercise. And for me, a lot is done through human connection.

That year, I did spend a lot of time at Barton Springs, which is a clearly sacred space. I also exercised my ass off. No, literally. And I made a sympathetic friend who’d had his own bouts with fear, and he helped.

He hung around me and even seemed to enjoy my company when I wasn’t able to act entirely rational. He (along with some others) sent me to see a therapist. And for times when I wasn’t with my friend, or with the therapist, he gave me a tiny foam lion, large enough to squeeze, hard, in my hand. It also worked on another level because I could gaze at the lion, and remember that someone wanted me to feel better.

I’ve saved Dr. Frank — my lion — through many years. He’s made the cut through eight address changes. He was most recently living in my jewelry case until the other day when my two-year-old opened the case and ransacked it. He loved the sparkly beetle pin he found, the Bengali bangles, a bejeweled hairclip.

And then Henry removed the top tray and discovered Dr. Frank.

I could tell you that we approach lions with great reverence and solemnity in our home at the moment, but that’s not wholly accurate. Because we revere them, we shriek at them to express our joy. We make them fake-roar, and then we tear around in circles with them.

Good thing that all of the lions we have are fake.

Henry clearly felt that he’d hit the jackpot.

One of Dr. Frank’s legs was already half-torn since long ago, like a bite out of a nerf-ball. Henry wobbled it back and forth quite a bit, not realizing the personal significance of his new toy to his mommy. I urged him to be gentle, but then, the inevitable.

Dr. Frank, now an old dingy foam lion with one leg lost in the shuffle, stands sentry on my bookshelf, still somewhat solid.

He’s wondering his fate, and he’s reminding me of how he helped redirect mine.

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