The Other Me

The Other Me

‘Life’s Short Interruption: Part II’

From about 2006 – when things started going wrong with Allie – walking became one of my great therapies. I’d go on epic walks, regardless of the weather, regularly covering between five and ten kilometres. I hated making it back home. I could walk forever, even if I was tired, sore, hungry and thirsty. Walking would burn away all the nervous energy and leave me meditative.

If I wasn’t walking, I’d be riding. I bought a bike in 2004, and used it to do my everyday stuff, like go shopping or to the libraries, (and this became a more regular occurrence as Wolf got older and couldn’t cover the same distances). Some days, I just jumped on my bike and, like I did with the walking, rode until I burned away everything.

I’d think a lot during these excursions, sometimes ruminating about problems. Other times – the better times – I just let my mind drift. When I could do that, by the time I got home my mind was clear. Well, usually.

Towards the close of 2008, I was taking a walk one day and worrying about everything when I spotted smoke coming from above a house. As I rounded the corner, a torrent of noise and movement mugged me. A crowd of people watched flames spew from the open roll-a-door of a garage. A few people ran back and forth, throwing buckets of water on the flames, which threatened to immerse the adjoining house, as well as the neighbour’s house. Somebody ran up to me and implored me to ring the fire department.

My anxiety evaporated.

I called the fire department on my mobile, reported the location (although they’d already gotten a report) and answered their questions – how big the fire was, whether there was anybody else in the house (I didn’t know), and stuff like that.

Then I zipped my jacket right up to my throat, went to one of the neighbours across the street, asked for a bucket, and joined the three or four people who were filling buckets with water, running across to the fire, and throwing water onto it. The watching crowd grew.

We doused the garage in buckets of water for about ten or so minutes (time understandably a haze), often getting close enough for the flames to scorch us. By the time the fire department arrived the fire was just about out. I returned my bucket, and continued my walk, smelling of smoke, and my face a little sunburned from the flames.

That was my little adventure for the day.

I’m good in an emergency, which is unusual given I struggled everywhere else in life. The case worker at the job placement agency suggested that situations like the fire allowed me to externalise my focus and take action, instead of dwelling inside my head. Somebody else told me that anxiety is like all this nervous energy but with nowhere to put it, so an emergency gave it an outlet.

Maybe I should’ve been a fireman.