When I got home that night, I noticed the smiling jack-o-lantern in my front yard was crushed. If he had legs, I thought, he’d be pacing back and forth, talking to himself, trying to deal with his anxiety. I did that all the time, after all, and there’s absolutely no reason why a carved pumpkin wouldn’t want do to the same.
Anxiety usually starts small, barely noticeable. A worrisome sticky thought, a slight tightness in your chest, a feeling that something is not right. But it grows quickly, and in a matter of hours, if not minutes, you find yourself unable to concentrate on anything but that thought. The world fades, leaving you alone with your anxiety that is, by then, bigger and more powerful than anything you have ever seen. That’s when I usually start pacing.
Alas, my jack-o-lantern was just a poorly carved pumpkin, with no legs, so pacing was out of the question. But why was he so crushed? Did he suddenly realize he was a pumpkin? Or that he had just a few days left before retiring into a compost bin behind the house? Did he tap into the temporal nature of life and did it bring him that overwhelming feeling of liberation and fear? While pondering those thoughts I realized that the biggest question was more practical. How did a hollow pumpkin with no legs managed to get out of the kitchen and into my front yard?
I was one hundred percent sure I left it in the kitchen before going to bed the night before. I did the dishes. I flossed. While I was brushing my teeth, my mind wondered about all the ways my life could go terribly wrong. Then I set my alarm to 6AM and retired to bed. But what happened next? I suddenly realized I didn’t remember why I was standing in my front yard in the first place. Did I go to work? What day was it? I didn’t even remember having a front yard!
I opened my eyes. It was still dark outside. My cat was sleeping. I looked at the clock. It was 5:58 in the morning. My chest felt a tiny bit tight and there was this feeling that something wasn’t right.