Press “send” for instant panic

By Emma Pearson

April 20, 2024

Main image by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

9 June 2023

Last Sunday, after I had arrived in Milos in the early morning but still too late to join the other intrepid swimmers for all day open-water swimming, I just pootled around. It was a blissfully leisurely day.

I enjoyed a second breakfast, unpacked my belongings, had two short swims, read, worked, and generally had a relaxing day.

It was the kind of relaxing day I don’t often have. No responsibilities to anyone (including pets) other than to myself. Simply ensuring I didn’t get sunburned seemed to be the biggest imperative.

I was fully relaxed.

Until I checked whatsapp messages.

And saw a missed call, then a short message from Clive that had just six words in it.

Can you give me a call? X

Instant panic.

The X kissy doing nothing to alleviate my panic.

(I didn’t even notice the X kissy until I relooked at the message just now).

What? Why does Clive want me to call? Why no longer text, or audio?

Clive is who Megan has been living with for the past 2+ months in London as she completes her exciting internship.

Clive is also Mike’s best buddy from the age of dot. Clive has been so preciously generous at so many levels to help Megan not just have a safe and comfortable space to live for a few months in a new city, but also help to fill in some of the multiple gaps in her knowledge of her dad’s younger years. I know it’s been a rich treat for both of them in different ways.

Clive and I typically touch base every couple of weeks. Sometimes he’s in the background while Megan and I catch up on zoom, and sometimes we liaise about something else. But he never asks me to just “give me a call”. With or without a kissy X.

If I had tracked my heart rate in the moment, I would have seen it skyrocket.

Something must have happened to Megan.

Something awful.

Why else would Clive ask me to call – making his request in as few words as possible. Calling me first, but without leaving a message?

I was shaking. Fingers trembling. Legs weak.

My breath shallow and high in my chest.


I called him back. No answer.

Called him back again.

Again, no answer.

Aaarrggghhh!!!!

Think think think!

Get out of the amygdala and engage pre-frontal cortex.

Breathe breathe breathe!

Think think think again…

Okay – it’s Sunday. It’s not a work day. Is that good or bad? Does that mean Clive is with Megan?

Oh – it is Sunday. I could call Megan. She’s a grown up now.

She has her own phone. I can see if she answers, and if she does, then everything is okay.

I called Megan.

She picked up.

Sweet relief coursing through me.

Limbs still shaky, trembly and weak.

My weak, thin, scared voice saying, “Oh sweetie – I am so glad you’re okay. Clive left me a message asking me to call and I didn’t know why and instantly worried something had happened to you”.

Megan is so sweet.

She knows – straight away – why I react like this.

She knows I am not being silly, over-reactive, over-protecting, over-controlling.

She really gets, immediately, that my whole being naturally and involuntarily fears the worst.

She doesn’t mock me.

She soothes me.

She mothers her mother.

Until my parasympathetic nervous system reactivates and brings my overall system back to some place resembling “calm”.

For my sympathetic nervous system is on high alert.

Always.

It takes but 6 short words in a text message to send it into instant panic.

Kissy or no kissy.

I still seem to live on something resembling a tightrope.

About Emma Pearson

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