Self-Reflection While I Try Not to Vomit: Control and Anxiety in Daily Life


Hi. You caught me in the middle of breathing exercises. And self-reflection. 

I’m not in labor. Just trying not to vomit. This is some self-reflection while I try to control the contents of my stomach.

It’s fine. I can talk. Talking helps. I’m sitting on a train. A fast train. With my purse in my lap like a catchers’ mitt. Ready for, well, you know. My breakfast.

The train rocks from side to side. Trains should never rock from side to side. Is a giant shaking the cabin? No. We’re just moving too fast. The world races past my window, and the air vibrates with screams of iron battling iron.

I love being in control. I am demonstrably not in control right now. Not being in control is not a preferred state. I want to push a non-existent brake with my foot. I want to grab the steering wheel that isn’t there. I want to break into the cockpit (trains have them, I checked) and demand the pilot move over because I’m taking over. Taking charge.

I am petrified by twisted iron wreckage. By falling, losing even more control. My head plays Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor.  

The nausea says it all: you are not at equilibrium, you are not comfortable, you should not be moving this fast.

I am suffering. I get nausea from moving too fast. Trains, cars, airplanes — forward I go and up it comes. I take pills, but they don’t work.

Motion-sickness pills address my physical  not mental  needs.

And this is a mental issue. Because here is the completely paradoxical thing. I hate moving fast, except I move fast all the time. I learn fast, walk fast, think fast, decide fast . . . all things fast. I am careening through life on all cylinders. Iron fist grabbing iron opportunities.

I love going fast because I feel powerful, alive. I know I might fail, but that is OK. I hear Handel’s Messiah, Hallelujah Chorus.

How is this possible? Why don’t I get nauseous?

Well, not nausea, but some physiological indicator that says: I am not at equilibrium, I am not comfortable, I should not be moving this fast. In fact, I get more upset when I’m not moving fast in life, when nothing is happening. I feel sick to my stomach, uncomfortable, ill at ease.

Why am I comfortable moving fast metaphysically but not physically?

Why do I have this ludicrous notion that I — ridiculously unsuited for flying a paper airplane — would be better at controlling an aircraft than a trained pilot would be? Or a train? Or maybe I don’t think I’m better, but if we’re going to go down, I want to be the one in control. I’m the kind of person who often self-reflects, I know this isn’t just nausea. It is being in control of someone else — in this case the train — rather than myself. What if they drive me some place I don’t want to go?

It comes back to this: When I’m driving (in charge), I’m fine going fast. When I’m driving, I’m fine going fast. When someone else is in charge . . . cue half-digested oatmeal.

It’s about control. I will surrender myself to speed if Im driving.

Having control, not having control . . . does it really matter? For me it does. It’s a subconscious battle that many people — not just I — deal with. (Or ignore and let manifest as nausea.)

I am a Type A personality with a lot of goals and predicted outcomes. Why? I dunno, hubris? Someone once told me I could? (I’m operating under the half-baked belief that I transferred my parents’ repressive great expectations for me into hubris.)

I don’t have my future figured out, but I have a plan to get there. And “there” is a pretty fantastic place, in my mind. When you are on such a path, you run, fast, because you have tons of runway that you created. (Of course, psychology will say I’m running fast to escape a negative outcome rather than towards a positive one, but that’s another post.)

It can feel very frustrating to be taken off that path. No. frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it. It feels debilitating. Suffocating. NAUSEATING.

There is nothing scarier than putting yourself under someone elses control.

What if I let someone else be in charge of my path, let up on productivity, and it gets me someplace less? What if the “there” I arrive to is different? Worse? What if I have to sublimate my own goals and desires for this external force?

It is surrender. Something extremely difficult for humans — especially Americans with our wanton individualism and self-empowerment — to do. (Unless pets are involved, of course).

But is it, really? To let someone else drive fast such that I can’t get off, is that really surrender? And if so, what are the implications? Time to incorporate mindfulness.

Three things I consider when faced with lack of control (thus the feeling of going too fast):

1. I can arrive at a better outcome

The shared knowledge, experience — someone else driving might just take me to new and better places. This is a surrender, but it could be worth it. (I believe this 65%.)

2. I can use this time to relax, reflect

Be on auto-pilot. Reflect on simple, beautiful things around me that. The kind of thinking that will surely improve my abilities even if I take a short break. This is a surrender, but again, worth it. (I believe this 30%.)

3. Most of all, I am not really surrendering, not entirely

One must separate one’s path and one’s self. My path, my goals — are not me. They are outcomes of me and my abilities but not who I am. I exist — thrive — without goals and outcomes. Thus, surrendering them is not the same as surrendering my self. In this version, there is no surrender. I like this option the best, but I only believe it 10%.

These are ideas I’ve tossed around. They are intellectually sound, but my natural instinct is to suspect anyone else driving, mostly because changing the image we see as ourselves is extremely difficult. There are many implications. I’ll need time to process.

In real life, the train ride is over. I made it. I’m just going to wait for Mozart to wrap up, and then I’ll be on my way. Will I be going fast? Yes! As fast as usual? We’ll see.

I should slow down, stand still, surrender a bit.

Something to think about on my return journey. While I try not to vomit.



To keep up to date with the latest news enter your email below.