One of the common denominators that many of us periodically experience has the propensity for impacting us physiologically. The symptoms may include palpitations, a pounding heart or an accelerated heart rate accompanied by sweating, a sensation of shortness of breath and feelings of being light-headed. Those symptoms could also include chest pain and nausea. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced all of those symptoms simultaneously, but when it comes to knowing the sensation of a panic attack, I’ve had more than my share.
There was a time that public speaking could trigger that kind of experience for me. Regardless of the amount of preparation, the butterflies that accompanied the speaking engagement weren’t always cooperative in flying in formation. I guess I’ve now had enough experience in public speaking that a genuine panic attack is seldom present. That’s not to say that butterflies aren’t still evident, but I generally have the sense they are headed in the same direction.
In all of those instances where public speaking was the catalyst for my sense of panic, once the first sentence was out of my mouth, I generally relaxed and the rest was figuratively easily sailing. In recent years, sensations related to panic more often than not are associated with misplacing important items and fearing they will not be recovered.
For example, it has been about twenty-one years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in Chicago for a meeting of a national organization. When I travel, I don’t waste time after hours staying in my hotel room. I want to see everything there is to see and this was my first trip to Chicago. A colleague and I were meeting up after the Chicago Cubs game was over. I declined his invitation to go to the game with him and opted to go sightseeing on my own beforehand.
Although at face value, the Magnificent Mile in Chicago seems like a safe place for tourist and pedestrians, one can’t be too careful. A friend from Austin, knowing I was headed to Chicago, told me horror stories of the crime rate, robberies and murders in Chicago. He said of himself: “You couldn’t get me to go to that city. It is all about the Mafia and organized crime”.
Why take a chance? Though I didn’t really expect trouble, I opted to leave my wallet in my hotel room. I actually put it out of sight inside my luggage. The next morning, before heading to my meeting, I went to retrieve my wallet and it was gone. I looked carefully through my luggage and my wallet was nowhere to be found. It was absolutely unbelievable.
It wasn’t just the loss of cash that troubled me. It wasn’t even the credit cards. It was my driver’s license. Without it in my possession, there was no way I could get back on a flight to Texas. I was sweating bullets. I’m sure my heart rate was over the top as well. I was in the midst of a genuine panic attack. Okay, so did I really put my wallet inside my luggage? I looked through the clothing I had hung in the hotel closet. I looked through my brief case. I looked through my suitcase once more for safekeeping. The wallet was gone.
My spirits were less than high as I made my way to the morning meetings. What was I going to do? I really didn’t have a plan. I also didn’t have a credit card. I had a little cash, but that wasn’t going to last for long. I also had no way to negotiate getting on an airplane to fly home. I was a little bummed out. Okay, so I was very bummed out.
When the meeting broke for lunch, I retraced all of the steps I’d taken earlier that morning. Initially, it looked like a lost cause. At some point, I turned my luggage upside down and pounded it on the floor. I guess I should gravitate toward being a magician. My wallet fell out from wherever it had been lodged. Grateful and relieved are the two best words I can find to describe the experience. To say that it was an answer to prayer is an understatement!
Recently, I visited with a friend and made reference to the fact that whenever I travel, I’ve learned through experience to put my car keys inside my brief case. Without doing that, I invariably discover at the end of the day, I’ve left my briefcase at a meeting and it could be hundreds of miles away when I make that discovery. In addition, the Apple notebook I carry is critical to generating my morning blog. I can’t afford to replace it and I don’t want to lose it.
The friend responded: “I know what you mean. I now do the same thing with my violin case”. He actually may have referred to the violin case as his “fiddle case”. I think he primarily plays country/western music in public venues. Consequently, he may have used the term “fiddle” instead of “violin”. What I do remember is the thoughtful and poignant observation he made about his musical instrument. I surmise that it is a family heirloom that has come his way across generations. Consequently, his having it in his possession serves as a trigger to remind him of the musical legacy that came to him as a gift. He doesn’t take any of it for granted.
It was almost with a sense of reverence that he said something closely akin to: “The fiddle isn’t mine. I have it on loan. I’m simply privileged to use it while I am here. Family members who crafted their music before my time passed it on to me. When I’m done, it will be passed on to others who follow me. They will continue the legacy and gift that I’ve been fortunate to receive”.
My friend is good at his trade. He knows how to make the fiddle talk in ways that express years of practice, skill, expertise and innate ability. His skill set is beyond human instrumentality. He knows that. Consequently, he doesn’t take any credit for himself. His humility is genuine and his sense of gratitude for the privilege he’s been given is real.
He then shared with me an intense story that very likely left him in the midst of a full-blown panic attack. In fact, just his recall of the story probably elevated his heart rate. From his body language, I could sense his panic associated to the event. He didn’t name the business, but he had returned home from playing a gig with his fiddle and had been home for about an hour. Before calling it a night, he decided to play some more. It was then that he discovered he failed to bring his fiddle home with him.
I could almost imagine the level of panic that was his as he frantically looked to locate the telephone number, hoping against hope and praying that someone would answer the phone. His prayer was answered. The manager of the club was still at work and said she’d found the instrument. Consequently, she had placed it in safekeeping. He left immediately knowing that sleep wouldn’t come without his first reclaiming the musical instrument from his family history that he considers on loan until his time is done.
All My Best!