You Call it Bipolar-I Call it MSD
Annie and I arose on the early side yesterday, and strolled out the door at 4:30AM, bound for Ione to see Lito ring the bell, after receiving his diploma at the Cal Fire Officers’ Training Academy. This was the culmination of a six-week training camp, reminiscent of a military-style boot camp. Forty men and women started out, and thirty-nine successfully completed the course.
For me the day was a test of my ability to travel five hours in the car each way, attend a public event, with a lot of pomp and circumstance, and not allow anxiety or mood to interfere with my enjoyment of this venue. My attendance was an unqualified success, on all levels, and it began with our preparations. We had run down a list of necessary components, including the decision to hold off taking my anxiety medication, because, frankly, there was no anxiety. That in itself is a first.
Next Annie and I had a key discussion about where we would sit. She said to me, “I want to sit close to the front so I can see.”
“Well, that sounds reasonable. How close is close?” My former students heard me tell them for years that I always choose the back left-hand side of any public venue I attend, because it allows for the best exit strategy, should I need to employ it.
“I want to sit at the front, because I’m short. Last year I couldn’t see anything.” Last year we had come to this same location, to watch Benny walk across the same stage.
“Maybe you and Vanessa can sit up front and I can sit by myself at the back.” The prospect did not thrill me, but neither did the idea of being in the center of a mass of humanity. I have to be candid. Sitting in the middle of a row of seats, with folks surrounding me, continues to be something that I cannot do. Period. There is no exception to the rule.
I do not try to comprehend the source of my anxiety; I listen to the sonic boom that whispers in my mind, at even the thought of such a fool-hardy idea. As it turned out, because we had had the foresight to leave our house well in advance of the time we calculated necessary, we were among the first to enter the hall. Annie drifted instinctively to the left, and we found that the podium was off-center, and positioned closer to the side we were contemplating. By snagging the outside three chairs, I could sit on the edge, and cope. It was a perfect compromise. People to the front, right (Annie) and people behind me. But no one to the left. OK, ready for action, ready for danger.
The trip was well worth the effort, already, before Bill Baxter, the battalion chief who runs the academy, noted Nathaniel’s name being called, by striding past the clasping of the badge on his chest, back to where I was standing, watching while Annie took a picture. He approached me, holding out his hand to shake mine. “I have had the pleasure of training two of your sons now. Outstanding effort, on the part of each of them. Outstanding.” By going out of his way, to single me out for this acknowledgement, he made me feel as though I were a king. I now better understand why Benny spent so much time, extolling his virtues. I expect to hear the same from Lito.
As far as mood spectrum disorder having no effect on my participation, all I can say is, “Outstanding.”