Arn't I A Woman?: Does Anxiety Dream of Electric Sheep?



May 3, 2014

Does Anxiety Dream of Electric Sheep?

Ever heard that Leonard Cohen line “4 o'clock in the afternoon and I didn't feel like very much?”
That’s usually how I feel on my groggy-I-don't-know-what’s-going-on-in-my-life-anymore days. Guess it helps me stop just short of entering into victimhood territory, because if Leonard Cohen can feel so gloomy then maybe it’s not so bad after all; there is still art to be made and stories to be told. Life goes on, and all that, in spite of the darkness.

But it’s still 2:17 PM and I just arose from my bed half an hour ago, having forcibly squeezed my eyes shut upon each ever-hopeful fluttering attempts to drag me into the hellish daylight that as of recent is riddled with rather unbearable acute anxiety.

I will painfully hold on to the last few hours I have left where my brain isn't functioning amidst constant chaos, thank you very much.

I used to wait tables, and once during a Sunday morning brunch shift a co-worker disdainfully remarked “How can anyone already be in a bad mood as soon as they wake up? Nothing has happened?” His words immediately hurt me, like they were written with an old-fashioned quill pen dipped in poisonous ink. Whilst referring to a rude table of ladies who perhaps had indulged in one to many morning mimosas and copped a light attitude with him, (he also, had a tendency to flare towards the dramatic anyways, so I don't really know what he was getting all uppity about. No one really ever understands anyone it seems) the statement has resonated with me throughout years.

I just remember thinking: “If only you knew.”

This reverie illuminated my body’s first pre-emptive wake-up call; ‘it’s 8 am and I already feel awful,' I thought. There is at present a cloud of doom “ominously hovering” over my bed, waiting to rain down upon me and drench my half-awake body in worry, fear, and insecurity.
It’s the recycled anxiety that I've been feeling all week. It doesn't go away during sleep but rather gets displaced, perching itself on the bedpost to watch my slumbering body, waiting for the precise moment my brain first awakens to greedily devour it. This illicit evening vulture reminds me that any peace of mind I find is temporary and elusive.  Where does the anxiety really go while brains are turned off; does it dream of electric sheep, too?

Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself, a voice internally murmurs. I still hear it. Most of my anxiety is nestled in expectations and judgments I have about the external world and myself. If I want to be anything of worth, anxiety tells me, I have to always be operating at my highest level and all deviations are processed as failures.

In these ways, anxiety can feel like its own, separate entity, entirely self-functioning and operational and able to exist and even sustain itself entirely autonomously; a machine I am fighting inside my own head.
Can we work within our anxiety instead of against it?

The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.


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Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention

Akron, Ohio