Posted by: mew | January 13, 2010

this is only a test

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath.  Stress is an ignorant state.  It believes that everything is an emergency.  Nothing is that important.  Just lie down.”

— Natalie Goldberg

I have to laugh at myself sometimes.

The sirens for the Oconee County nuclear station went off this morning.  A little over an hour ago, actually.  Even after a year of living here, those air raid sirens still freak me out… and much more so when I cannot find my calendar which tells me when the tests are scheduled.

I’m glad they test the emergency sirens periodically; I want them in top-notch working order.  And I’m glad they send out a calendar at the beginning of each year to inform those of us who live here when the tests will be.

But when you can’t locate your calendar and those sirens start up, shrilly slicing the silence into sharp shreds of anxiety, well, let’s just say that living within the 10-mile radius of a nuclear power plant can be unnerving.

My mind was simultaneously conjuring up maps of evacuation routes, trying to remember where the cat carriers were stored, and berating me for not having gone to the health department to get our free doses of potassium iodide for use in the event of a radiation leak.  (Note to self:  seriously, Mer, go and do this today.)

The mind’s eye was also playing rather touching outtakes from the movie in which F. and I suffer and die from radiation poisoning.  Faintly ridiculous, but there you have it:  ego freak-out stew.

A simple Google search reassured me that this was merely a routine, scheduled test of the equipment to notify us of an emergency.  Directly after I read the pertinent information, the sirens quit screaming, and blessed silence returned.  It was all over, and in exactly three minutes my ego had taken my entire body up to def-con 3.

I walked into the bedroom, and there lay Leo, not in the least disturbed by the idea of imminent disaster.  His paws were curled just so over his head, and without even waking up, he rolled at a perfect angle to invite belly rubs as I approached.  I reached down into that soft, thick fur and then lay down beside him, and I felt everything slowly relax and return to neutral.

If this was a test of presence and awareness, I failed utterly.  And yet I didn’t feel sad about it as I lay there beside my Zen-master kitty.  The whole incident had been strangely freeing.  I actually felt like giggling.

How many times do I do this to myself in life situations where the consequences of my worries coming true would be far, far less threatening than a nuclear disaster?

And how often do any of those worries actually materialize?

Hardly ever.  Some minuscule percentage.  Most of the time, the worries consist of me reacting to my own ingrained thought patterns.

This is only a test, indeed.

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.”

Natalie Goldberg quotes



  1. LOL…cute kitty pic! You remind me so much of myself in many ways, Meredith. I’m a borne worrywort but, in the past couple of years, I have made a point of practising being present in the ‘now’ moments and that has really helped. However, if a present moment were to consist of nuclear warning alarms, I’m sure I would quickly go into a mad panic too. lol

    P.S. – I very nearly didn’t come to check out your post because when I saw the heading – This is only a test – in my blog list, I first assumed you were just testing blog settings or layouts. lol

  2. Love those sweet little paws!

    I recently read an article that talked about the adrenal surge and that it lasted just a few seconds past when we realized something was NOT going to happen, whereas the mind held onto this feeling we call “stress” for hours, and sometimes days.

    Sad isn’t it, that we do it to ourselves?!

  3. Thank goodness for the zen kitties (and doggies, and horsies) of the world. They not only calm us down in times of stress, but teach us that going up to defcon 3 isn’t really necessary in the first place.

  4. Remember to breathe Mer….and watch Leo.
    I think we should look to the animals for clues. When I lived in Ca. the birds flocked like crazy and lots of dogs barked hours before we felt an earthquake. A lot of people notice that.

    • Do you really think they’d sense a radiation leak? I’m not sure. I know our cats sensed before we did when a tornado was coming, but that was a weather event, not man-made. But at any rate, it won’t help me survive if I panic. You’re right that I should watch Leo, in any case. 🙂

  5. My, how guilty I am of this kind of worrying. My husband calls me out on it all the time because I am always thinking of the worst possible scenario. But you’re right: these scenarios hardly ever materialize, so why do we spend so much time fretting?

    I know for me, it’s from being raised by two controlling, over-protective, and very cynical parents. I can’t even remember how many times I heard “believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” This saying, among other things, constantly has me on edge.

    • Believe *none* of what you hear? Seriously? That sounds extreme, and I’m sorry you had to grow up with such cynicism. 😦 But let’s hear it for going our own way as adults!

  6. […] not, on the whole), I’ll give you a link to two posts on my other blog.  Recently, I wrote here about how Leo was a touchstone of sanity during a routine emergency equipment test at the local […]

  7. Leo is one wise kitty, Meredith! But then they mostly all are wise, even the not-so-smart ones, aren’t they? It’s hard to be stressed around a sleeping cat, especially one that is also purring.

    • So true. Cats are my touchstones — well, one of them, anyway. The other touchstones are in the garden. 🙂

  8. I’ve been doing my own mental assessment lately, about staying in check if an emergency happens (same mode of thinking, ‘where’s the cat carrier?’, etc). In my mind beforehand, I may feel a little rushed, but I’m otherwise calm. If it were to actually happen, I’m sure it’d be far from the truth. I think I kind of hope that pre-planning in my head will help me at the time.

    *scritches the kitty*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: