Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Kernel of Fear

For about a year now, we've had a leaky bathtub faucet.  I've been assailed by guilt whenever the radio reminds me to turn off the tap while flossing, reprimanded by my kids for wasting water while waiting for it to heat and lain awake listening to the drip-drip-drip.
It's not that I didn't want to repair it.  As soon as I realized it couldn't flip all the way off, I got on the phone and the landlord sent a plumber out.
Unfortunately...he couldn't twist the faucet off the wall because it had rusted together with the pipes behind the wall.  "No problem," I was assured, "We just go in from behind.  It'll take a day, two at the most." 
Well...behind that wall was a massive china cabinet, with every piece of china and breakable knick-knack that I had any desire of keeping intact.  In the interest of protecting those breakables, the whole thing had been tightly bolted to the wall.  Which would take a day or two to reposition by itself.
I'll admit, I hid behind this feat for much longer than necessary.


The fear of corn.
You see, in order to get to the pipes, they needed to slice through the wall.  When they were through, they needed to replaster the wall, patching up the drywall.  And there's corn in that. 
Cornstarch makes a handy adhesive that doesn't appeal to bugs.  (Hm, I wonder why?  Maybe they instinctively suspect that it's dangerous?)  Interestingly enough, I've heard that there's wheat starch in some drywall compounds, too.  Of course, gypsum is the main ingredient.  But there's corn, too.
And where there's corn, there's pain.
They'd be filling my house with cornstarch, turning off my water, and taking over the bathroom.  While I hung out, smiling politely and asking if there was anything I could do to help besides stay out of the way. 

Knowing my reactions to corn, this just built the dread.  And the longer it's gone on, the bigger the tower of dread.  I huddled in the shadow of it, thinking.  I hate missing events.  I was too sick to go to the science fair last year.  I was miserable through at least one concert, and passed out on my husband's shoulder when a woman wearing too much ethyl-based perfume sat down next to me at a concert.  I bloat up to a 5 month pregnant belly just walking past the kettle corn booth.  And let's not talk about what happens when food hits the irritated areas of my intestines.  We'll leave it at, I want to be home alone for that.  I was home alone for that the first time the landlord called to schedule things.  I leaned my forehead against the cool ceramic side of the bathtub, listened to the "drip, drip, drip" of the faucet, and immediately decided I didn't care.  I pleaded stomach flu, and put off rescheduling for um...well...yes, a whole year. 

Home is my refuge.  My safe space.  My bubble.
I let certain things in, take calculated risks.  But...we make sure they aren't airborne risks.
Sawing through drywall would create airborne corn.  To settle on the counters.  The table.  The pots and pans hanging on the wall. 

Now, I try not to let corn dictate my life any more than it already needs to by virtue of it's presence.  But...this...This was different.  It meant a lot more invasion.  It meant nowhere to hide for an indeterminable amount of time.

I'm glad to say that we finally dealt with it.  Our kind landlord found a lovely, no frills gentleman who looked at the job that I was assured would take nothing less than a full days work, assuming nothing went wrong once they got into the wall, simply nodded and said he could do it.  He didn't elaborate.  He arrived at noon.  I hid in my room as I heard the sawing commence immediately.  Not long afterward, the faucet clanged into the bathtub (Which is just outside the door to my room).  After about 3 hours, he was spackling up the patch on the wall.  And we opted not to paint, since that area is generally covered by a piece of furniture anyways.

I've been corned.  But not as badly as it could have been.  Not nearly as badly as my nightmares warned me.  The worst part is actually the discomfiture I feel inside.  The massive emotional reaction I've had to the whole incident.  The dread, the memories of whispering responses through cramps as I try to smile politely.  The fear of being mid-reaction when he showed up. (It would just be embarrassing.  I know, I know.  Grow up and deal with it.  But...) I lived through similar experiences just fine.  So why do they haunt rather than reassure?  How could I have let this go on for a year because of a simple fear?  (There were plenty of other things to focus on, so it's not like the tub was the only thing on my mind for the past 365 days, but still.  You'd think I'd have acted sooner.) 

I can't really justify, only acknowledge that corn in particular can wreak havoc with your emotions.  It makes a person feel paranoid.  Seeking bananas or eggs from a "safe" source can make you feel like you have OCD.  Taking great pains to keep the corn free dishes isolated from a few drips of citric acid enhanced tomato sauce or even a few crumbs of enriched flour, doesn't improve that image much.  And I don't know about others, but when I take a step back, my precautions always seem ludicrous.  But when I let go and try to act normal...I get sick.
Not just "Ugh, that didn't sit right.  Hopefully I'll be in for lunch" kind of sick, but an ongoing, slow recovery, frequent backsliding kind of sick. 
After a few brushes with trust and food, or just breathing, it seems relatively fair to be paranoid.  
It's enough to make you crazy.  But, as this incident has reminded me, even when grounded in cold hard truth...fear can't dictate your life. 

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