So here I am, once again, looking myself in the I. This time I am comfortably ensconced at “Clair de Loon”, my friend Laura’s house on Balch Lake. The lake is frozen, snowmobiles zipping back and forth past the bob houses. For those of you unfamiliar with this New England tradition, a bob house is headquarters for the serious ice fisherman, a portable shanty for storing gear and providing shelter out on the frozen waste. Good luck drilling through all the snow we’ve had this winter, plus the thick ice these cold temperatures have generated. The fish are down there, but you’d have to be some kind of dedicated to be dropping lines in this weather.
I’ve got a different kind of fishing to do, staring down through the dark ice, plumbing the depths of my own psyche.
#1, there’s the stark reality of the accident I had on the way home from Boskone, my car up on a snow bank with a tree shoved half-way up the engine block. If I had lost control of the car at a different point, in traffic, on the highway instead of a rural back road, I could have died or been horribly injured, and taken who knows how many other people with me. As it was, the only casualty was my car, which was totaled, but I walked away from it. So they tell me. I can’t remember a thing.
#2: That I don’t remember scares me even more. I don’t know why or when I started drinking on the drive home. This was the second big convention in a month. I hadn’t really recovered from the first and here I was once again in the chaotic thick of it, dealing with the multiple pressures of running a book table, being on panels, taking advantage of promotional opportunities and constant social interaction. I started in with the anxiety meds to try to keep functional. And somewhere along the line, my conscious self checked out. I switched to autopilot. It wasn’t just my car I lost control of. I lost control of me.
So, here I am trying to figure it out, what went wrong, what I need to do to make sure it never happens again. First, I shoved the Lorazepam into the back of the medicine cabinet with a shudder. Also, I have not touched alcohol since. I may never drink again. Friends have been very supportive, although they must be getting weary of my emotional crashes. They ask if they can help. Truth is, I’m the one who has to do the helping. It’s like the old joke about the Buddha telling the hot dog vendor, “Make me one with everything.” When the vendor tries to give him his change, the Buddha refuses, saying with a smile, “The change must come from within.”
Or the one about how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb: only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.