FOMO, but for stuff you don’t want

Downstairs neighbours are moving out. Heading home to Prince Edward Island, which is a pretty great place to be in general, and a really great place to be in the specifics of a pandemic. And I’ve got this just kind of … ache in my belly … that makes no sense because of the four of them (two humans, two dogs), I only know the puppy’s name. It’s Truman.

I have, in the parlance of both armchair psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, abandonment issues. I don’t know where it comes from (sincerely). We moved a lot when I was a kid, but I was always the leaver, not the leavee. Maybe it doesn’t make a difference. It’s friendships severed and relationships laid to waste all the same.

So the neighbours are moving out and I’ve been in a weird funk about it all morning. It’s not just the neighbours, of course. It’s also the friends who are buying houses. And having babies. And travelling, like, for fun. The people who are switching jobs or quitting jobs or building new businesses. The potential election on the horizon. The weird in-between state of being half-vaccinated. In each of those there’s a weird feeling — it’s not really about being abandoned, but it does carry the unresolved energy of being left behind.

It’s not quite FOMO, because I’ve bought houses and had babies and have travelled plenty. I switched jobs last year. I’ve done my time in election war rooms (and loved slash hated it, as is the custom). I’ll get my second shot … eventually.

So what is this feeling? Why can’t I settle my brain? Is the simple fact that I’m trying to figure it out actually making it worse? (I’d put at least $10 on that.)

I read something awhile ago, in some kind of self-help context — or maybe it was a sourdough bread recipe? — that said, in essence, that we need to let the passage of time do the heavy lifting. Just sit in the uncomfortable feeling, and let some imperceptible fraction of your pain fall away with each passing hour. Or day. Or week. Whatever it takes.

Part of this — most of this — is rooted in plain old middle life, and what I suspect is a lifelong, low-grade, undiagnosed and untreated anxiety disorder. Put those two things together, and it’s chaos: “Oh, all I need is time? THAT’S THE ONE THING I AIN’T GOT, FRIEND.”

In the end, I do what most of us do. Stuff the weird feelings down and hope they don’t come out all drippy and strange at inopportune times (like, say, the time I had to leave the film Meet Joe Black because a friend was moving away and I had to go ugly cry in the movie theatre bathroom for 45 minutes). It’s like someone handed me a Jeni Armstrong Operating Manual when I was eight, and the only instruction it contains is to just slap some high functionin’ on it! Cleans up good as new!

(Spoiler alert: it does not.)

Whatever this feeling is, I could do with less of it.

Which … uh … would actually make a pretty great tagline for an anti-anxiety med.

Damn it.

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