10 Rules for Coping With Panic: Rule #9 (Part 1)(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.)

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written another installment in the seemingly-neverending “10 Rules” series. My original goal, as you can read in the link above, was to slowly traverse through a list of panic-related rules that I’d received from my favorite therapist. She photocopied it onto a tiny, wallet-sized piece of paper. I keep it clipped onto the back page of my organizer and now, even after only four or five months of dragging it around with me, it’s crumbling.

And this is a good thing.


There was this guy in high school who sat in front of me during American Cultures in eleventh grade. (How do I remember the layout of a classroom I sat in twelve years ago when I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday? Good question…for another blog post.)

Anyway, one day before class started, he was reading Lolita at his desk. I noticed that he was being very gentle with the book. He treated it as if it were some sort of delicate and irreplaceable antique, not the Penguin Paperback it (probably) was. He monitored his page-turns carefully, taking caution not only to avoid cracking the binding, but also to avoid giving the book that “I’ve been read” look.

I wondered why.

I remember the day he finished the book. He was talking to another classmate about how he never writes in his books — he doesn’t underline important passages, he doesn’t dog-ear key pages, and he never opens books wide enough to lay them flat on a desk. He wanted his entire book collection, he said, “to look perfect.”

And there Lolita lay, looking virginal and untouched, on his desk.

I can’t do that. I can’t do that with books. In fact, I can’t keep anything looking shiny and clean and new.

But nor do I want to.

Part of the beauty of books and notebooks and lists we clip to our organizers is this: we use them. We use them up. We crumple them, we write in or on them, and we make them ours.

My “10 Rules” list has been around the block. And I sort of hate that phrase, too — “been around the block” — but yet, given that there was a time during which I couldn’t even walk around my block for fear that panic would masterfully strike me dead (or at least down), it’s an appropriate metaphor.

It’s mine, and it’s wrinkles confirm its usefulness.


And so, with that, I give you Rule #9:

Plan what to do next. When you begin to feel better, look around you and start to plan what to do next.

This time, I’m not going to describe why this step might be difficult or easy. I think those things are obvious.

But here’s what I will say: scale.

Check back later in the week for the second part of this post.

Creative Commons License photo credit: romana klee