A Quiet Place, and the Evolution of My Anxiety

I saw A Quiet Place on Friday evening, and it was excellent, in part because it played on every single one of my parental anxieties.  Am I teaching them enough? Am I showing them how much I love them? Am I helping them develop into siblings who look out for each other? Am I doing everything I can to keep them safe?

The haunting question the film asks… “Who are we if we can’t protect them?”

The tears came several times during the film, but none more so than in that scene.

I never used to understand anxiety.  I’ve been a student (a poor one, but a student nonetheless) of mindfulness for years now, and it was always easy for me to stave off any fears by categorizing them as “not reality.”  Even after Pippin was born, for the most part, my struggles were with depression, not anxiety.  That changed with Rose.

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Past the initial baby blues, I was relieved to avoid the darkest moments of my previous bouts of depression.  But for the first time in my life, I began to experience spirals of anxiety that I couldn’t easily talk myself out of.  At first I thought it was just hormonal, and maybe it still is, but at some point I had to come to terms with, this is just how my brain operates now.

For a really long time, I had a couple of recurring nightmares, one of which involved losing control of a car I was driving.  Inevitably, the car would end up airborne, beyond any rescue, headed toward an unknown end — and that’s when I’d wake up.

After seeing A Quiet Place, after weeks of thinking about the windows in all the kindergarten classrooms at the school my son will be going to, after losing it at Amanda Palmer’s update of Strength through Music, after the past couple of years, my dream returned with a new variation.

This time Rose was in the backseat, in the cheapest of the four carseats we own, when I lost control in a snowstorm.  I woke up before the fall-out, like I always do, but I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night.

A fellow writer-friend of mine told me once that, after kids, your capacity for fear evolves.  I finished re-reading the Harry Potter series recently, and it was different, going back to it as a parent.  The things that I remembered as dark from my initial read gutted me this time around — Molly’s boggart specifically hit me at my core.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to channel this into some sort of art lately, to give the anxiety and fear some purpose beyond paralyzing me.  I wrote a poem the other day I haven’t had the courage to look at again quite yet, but it helped me get through the moment at the very least. It was a good lesson in the power of art to act as catharsis, which is valuable even if nothing else ever comes from it.

While I can’t say that the viewing of A Quiet Place was particularly cathartic, something in the experience was healing. To translate so many of my anxieties to film, so directly, so strikingly, I have to imagine the creators involved understand at a similar level what I’m dealing with.  And while knowing that I’m not alone isn’t enough to banish the monsters I fear, it is something, at least.

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