Unlike most people, I don't mind paying the bills when I know I have the money to pay them. I'm not rich, but you pay along the way and I understand that this is the way life is. I don't resent dollars and coins and debit cards being our currency, I don't actually hanker for the old medievil barter system, because money makes the exchange of goods much simpler. I don't mind that in place of giving the grocer a hundred bales of hay I don't have to feed his cow I can give him dollars and walk away with food. I can't grow hay. Lots of people can't. I just don't grudge having to pay for the things I can't make or grow myself, or don't have the time to. I don't have money issues. I like it. I like to earn it-spend it-dream of saving it-and at the end of the day it is never my god. It's just money.
I also used to really enjoy getting mail. All kinds of mail. I love letters, catalogs, packages, and the bills don't bother me much. I have beautiful recurring dreams in which I go back to the house I lived in twenty years ago and collect all the stacks of fat letters and fascinating packages the post office has continued to deliver to my old mail box. I hate waking up from this dream. Erratic postal delivery service makes me itch. I like to be able to set my clock by the mail man's arrival on my doorstep. But this love affair with mail was bound to sour eventually, right? I mean, it was just too expectant, too naive.
The one bad thing about growing up, getting a life, owning things, and staking your taxable claim on this land is that you will never be free of paper ever again. It will follow you everywhere. It will breed in the dark dust of your attic where you think it lives secure in file boxes. It multiplies like republicans in the white house. It will pile up in all the corners of your house, it will eat your cat, clog your plumbing, and if left completely to it's own devices it will seal you into your own house. You can scoff if you want to, but this is the truth. Kids are free to throw away any paper they want to, but adults must keep all documents for at least seven years, longer than most marriages last these days. Every day the mail brings fresh rashes of paper that you will have to decide to keep or toss into the recycling bin. All the papers adults get sent look official so that you have to open every damn piece of shit advertising to find out which ones are the bills you actually owe.
I have anxiety. I used to call myself a worry-wort (which may have been responsible for some self esteem issues, what a hideous thing to call one's self!). That was my ugly yet gentle way of describing what is actually (in my case, not yours, I'm sure) a serious problem with stress. Stress that elevates my heart rate, causes palpitations, shortness of breath, knotting of my stomach, inability to focus, obsessive thoughts, and eventually passing out. There have been times when this was a constant feature of my life. The panic attacks. I went to cognitive behavioral therapy and began taking a small dose of paxil and consequently had a lot fewer panic attacks. My general stress level is much lower, which is much healthier for both the mind and the body. But lately, the paper has been creeping into my brain. It sits there all day long taunting me. I have begun to dread reciepts. I feel I have to have them in case all the mice in China go parasailing...in case I have to prove I really do buy cage free eggs...to prove to a court of law that I couldn't have killed my chicken-hating neighbors because I was shopping at Safeway at the time...but then I take the reciept and it fills my wallet. What the hell do people do with their reciepts? Once my wallet is stuffed with them and the seams are bursting they begin to drift to all the corners of my purse. I'm afraid of them.
I'm afraid of my reciepts. Of my mail. Of not noticing that I tossed out a real bill and kept the ludacris offer for a credit card that will allow me to spend as much as I want to and never pay them a penny for the rest of my life. I'm afraid of throwing out the notices that say I'm being sued by the city for not weeding my front yard more than once a year. It feels like life is constantly piling up and then draining into this vast wasteland of pulp. I am finding it increasingly difficult to face the mail and the resulting stack of crap I have to sort and make decisions about. So I let it sit. It steeps and collects my peace of mind, it taunts, it molds and then when I can stand it no longer, I attack it.
Life should be simpler than this. But it's not. My challenge is to find ways of diffusing the power these complications weild in my life and my brain, while at the same time not allowing the effort to increase my stress levels. Anxiety is not a rational condition. Decreasing it is a delicate thoughtful operation requiring a lot of repetetive talk and work. Some days it's harder than others. Right now I feel relief at tackling that pile and I know that it will have multiplied over night while I am dreaming of hat shops in which every hat not only fits but makes me look fantastic. It will be waiting for me when I wake up. Hopefully, between now and then, I will have convinced myself to just be okay with it.