I KNOW It’s Okay Not to be Okay… but

In my 20s, I suffered from a serious bout of situational depression. I write frequently about the drinking I did to muddle through my depression, but not a lot about depression itself.

That’s because it scares me.

Although I’d struggled with depression before (from about 8 onward into college), I’d never been completely knocked on my ass by it. But, at 26, I found myself in such a dark, hopeless place that I couldn’t find a reason to put one foot in front of the other. So, often I didn’t. I drank until I blacked out. I missed work incessantly. I would come to in a complete panic–which immediately shifted into despair over the shitshow that was my life. I had people that loved me. I knew I did. But I couldn’t feel that love. I couldn’t feel anything.

Somehow, I managed to take baby steps toward getting better. I started doing yoga, alone in my bedroom. Sometimes, I managed to take my Boxer, Jezebel, for a walk. I took antidepressants prescribed by my doctor–but they didn’t work so well coupled with 12 Bud Lites a night. I could see a glimmer of hope that things wouldn’t always be so dark. But many, many days were still consumed by a sorrow I can only liken to grief. It was all-consuming. And so very, very painful. 94596518_97728a25d5_o

It took one of the worst, most painful events of my life to make me realize that I wanted to live. I’m not sure how or why, but that trauma jolted me. It brought me from darkness back toward the light. It gave me the will to fight. Day by day, I rediscovered joy. And purpose. It was like I’d been rebooted or something. Miraculous, really.

BUT…

Every time I wake up feeling blue, every time I feel listless and uninterested, every time I feel deeply sad–I’m afraid it’s back. Intellectually, I know it’s okay not to be okay. But I struggle–not with letting people know how I feel. I mean, I’m kind of an open book here. But with actually sitting with my feelings. I fight against feeling the entire spectrum of human emotion–which sometimes includes intense sadness or–gasp!–ennui.

When I stared freaking out earlier this week, I got scared. Scared because something that looked perfect wound up not being perfect at all. Scared because I started getting all in my head about what I lacked–instead of celebrating what I have. Scared because I felt down.

But, for real, it’s okay to be down because a big client fell through. It’s okay to be bummed that I haven’t published that book (that’s sitting in my computer, just waiting for an agent). It’s okay to be frustrated at the messy house, the sassy kid, the barking dog.

It’s okay.

I am okay.

 

 

Oh…FREAK OUT!

Yesterday, I had a pretty big mind-explosion moment that got me stuck in the super-helpful & ego-building WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?? cycle.

I’d been working up to this freak-out for a good week or so. I could feel it. For days, I didn’t sleep well. I’d wake up to find myself sweaty and panicked. And, let me just tell you, there ain’t shit going on over here. I mean, no one is trying to take my kid away from me. I know where I am going to sleep tonight. I have enough food to eat. Everything I’m dealing with is completely middle class, privileged mid-life crisis type stuff. Unfortunately, recognizing where my plight lies in the spectrum of human suffering doesn’t make this particular point in time any less frustrating or agonizing.

So what put me in a tailspin?

Losing something I never actually had in the first place. 

Two weeks ago, a former client called with a project that would’ve spanned over the course of a year–and would’ve significantly added to our income. Significantly. The client & I discussed pricing and timeframe. They suggested some light reading (think more like reading the operating manual to a Boeing 747) to catch me up on the industry. I was just waiting for confirmation on due dates and the topic for the first written piece.

Then. The client backed out. At the last minute.

And I was crushed. 

I spent most of yesterday wondering why I ever thought I could be in business for myself–and what I was doing wrong, exactly–and simultaneously reminding myself that I never actually had the gig in the first place.

I had the promise of something. Not the thing itself.

It wasn’t like the client looked at a draft & was like “GOOD GOD, WOMAN, THIS IS THE EPITOME OF SUCKITUDE.” They just went in another direction on a staffing level.

Once I simmered down a smidge, I began to think about what the Universe might be trying to show me. It’s hard for me to be still & listen lately. My mind whirs incessantly. So, looking for insight was a challenge–to say the least. But what I finally got around to admitting was that this particular job (or I guess the promise of this job) didn’t light me up like some of my other work does. It was absolutely the right thing to take it when it was offered. But now that the offer was no longer on the table, I began to think about what this might free me up to do.

And there’s this project… oh, how I am ON FIRE with excitement about this project. I’d be supporting a friend in her own passion project–one that I believe in so wholeheartedly that it’s hard for me to contain my enthusiasm when I talk about it. But supporting her in a real and meaningful way involves researching and writing grants–which is a helluva lot of work. But it’s work that can literally change the world–and it’s work that is part of who I am as a person.

So maybe, I realized, this was why I got a no when I wanted a yes. Maybe it was so I could say yes to the work the Universe is calling me to.

Maybe. Either way, today feels less like a crisis and more like an opportunity. Which, I’m gonna just go ahead & call a win.

Late Night Cuban Coffee

Dani tapped her fingers on the counter, waiting for the guy who was supposed to be taking her order to stop flirting with the waitress long enough to do his job. She’s way out of his league, anyway,Dani thought absently, pulling her hair back into a quick bun on the top of her head. Some people chewed their nails when they were nervous. Dani put her hair in a bun. Then took it back down. Then put it up again. It was her biggest tell, not that she had a great poker face anyway. But what did it matter? No one knew her well enough to know her tells anyway.

When Flirtypants finally wandered over to Dani, she gave him her best aloof glare. She’d been practicing it in the mirror for the last 200 miles. She thought she had it down pretty good. But instead of being stunned by her iciness, he smiled.

Huh. Need to work on the glare, I guess. She noticed a scar above his top lip. Probably had it since he was a kid,she thought. As she continued to examine his face, she accidently found herself staring into his eyes. Damn it, she thought. He looked at her curiously. In this intense way that made her feel seen. She wasn’t used to being seen, not really.

It didn’t matter anyway. In 10 minutes, she and mom would be out of here. Headed west on Highway 58. Toward whatever it was that kept drawing mom in. Or was she running away from something? Dani honestly didn’t know. It’d been a year. Always on the move in their beat-up RV. One campground after another.

This boy behind the counter was just one in a long line of people that she shouldn’t bother getting attached to. She fixed her gaze back on him and stared him down. He looked away first. Dani felt pleased for a second. Powerful.

“What can I get you?” he asked, wiping the counter while he spoke to her.

“A Cuban coffee.”

“It’s 10 p.m.” the boy pointed out, sensibly. And maybe a little bit intrigued.

“It’s for my mom. We’re on a road trip,” she lied. Not about the coffee. The coffee was for her mom. But a road trip was too sunny a name for what they were doing. This was more like an epic quest. And it was getting exhausting.

“Cool,” the boy said, looking more interested than Dani wanted him to. Now there were going to be a million questions about where she and mom were going and what they were doing. And Dani hated, more than anything, to admit that she had no idea what was going on, where they were going, and that she didn’t know how to get mom to stop moving long enough to figure out the truth.

“Yeah,” Dani said, dismissing him with an eye roll. “Whatever.”

Dani drummed on the counter while the boy painstakingly made the Cuban coffee. It wasn’t that she wanted to get out of there. Or maybe she did. Was forgetting how to be a regular person that had regular conversations with people? Ugh. She felt fidgety inside, like she was waiting for something to happen all the time.

The boy slid the coffee toward her. He nodded. “Have a good trip.”

Dani wasn’t exactly sure why, but she reached out and touched his hand. “Thank you,” she said, earnestly.

“For what?” he asked, surprised by her sudden intensity.

“For giving a shit,” she said. “A lot of people don’t, you know.”

She pushed the door open with her forearm and let it swing shut behind her. The warm, Florida breeze blew strands of her hair in front of her face. Dani hardly noticed. She barged through the door of the RV to find her mom inside, starting intently at a map. She shoved the coffee toward her.

“I’m going back to the diner to get my own coffee. And when I come back, we’re going to decide together where we’re going. Not just to pass through. But to stay. Because, if we don’t Mom, I’m going to forget how to be one of those people who actually gives a shit. And I can’t let that happen, Mom. I can’t.”

Without waiting for an answer, Dani jumped out of the RV and walked purposefully back toward the diner. She felt a tentative smile spring to her face. Maybe it’d work better than her glare. For now, at least.

 

 

Why I Never Want to Grab a Drink

I remember the moment the truth clicked for me: I can’t drink anymore. 

I don’t have a really good “rock bottom” story. I’d finished all my real theatrical drinking a few years before. By the time I reckoned with my alcoholism, I didn’t even want to drink any more. I’d exhausted myself with the constant hiding, the blame shifting, the lies I told myself–and whoever else needed telling. I was functioning fine, I suppose, but certainly not living my best life (unless my best life consisted of being able to pound back 12 Miller Lites in one sitting, but somehow I doubted it).

I’d long ceased fearing what I’d find when I finally sobered up. I just figured it had to be better than the shame I carried every day.

So I quit. October 13, 2008.

I’d rigged up this story in my head where I was this tragic character that needed saving. And so, I believed (deeply) that when I told people that I’d quit drinking they’d react with wonder at my stoic fortitude.

Yeah. No.

I’d gotten so good at hiding the ugly side of my drinking that no one really thought I needed to stop. Cut back, maybe. Stop? Well, that seemed a little dramatic. Now, if I’d had this bright idea about 5 years before, everyone that knew me would’ve been on board. Hell, they would’ve offered to drive me to a meeting, or rehab, or whatever it took to get me to pull my shit together. But now? Folks were kinda lukewarm about the whole idea.

My first act of resistance: Believing that I knew myself better than anyone else knew me.

I stuck with what I knew: I can’t drink anymore. 

So, I sat my ass in a Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Hated it pretty much from the start. But sometimes we do things we hate (just for a while) to get to a life we love.

I met a handful of people in those meetings that I still hold dear almost a decade later. People who knew how to live their lives with authenticity and unflinching honesty, and who were willing to teach me to do the same.

Was it easy? Fuck, no.

Every day, I’d wake up and calculate how many days it’d been since my last drink. At 30 days, I got a chip that marked “30 days of continuous sobriety–including nights and weekends” (those AA folks have a sense of humor–mostly). And I wondered, as I walked to the front to pick up my chip, if I’d spend the rest of my life counting days.

Good news: I have no idea how many days I’ve been sober. I stopped counting somewhere around 90 days. The days kept adding up, whether I counted them or not. Besides, I had work to do. They like to say in AA that “alcohol is just a symptom.” Which meant I was the problem. So, I had to figure myself out, if I wanted to stay sober.

And I did. From the very first day, I wanted to stay sober.

I put in two years of hard work to figure my shit out. (Getting sober isn’t for the faint-of-heart.) For me, staying sober is about accepting life without fear & resentment, about living into my truth, and about celebrating who I am. I surround myself with people who aren’t afraid to get real about themselves & this beautiful/awful/joyous/painful world we live in.

And I never stop being grateful for this second chance.

 

 

Photo by Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

My Kid’s a Nerd

My kid is a nerd. And she completely embraces her nerdiness.

How did she discover she was a nerd?

Well, I suspected she was a nerd from the first time she asked to do math problems at the breakfast table, using Playmobil people to add and subtract sums. But when I found her in her bedroom–where she’d been silent for almost an hour–doing math problems by herself for fun, well that cemented it for me.

She, however, didn’t know she was a nerd until one recent drive home from school. She was in the backseat, saying the same word over & over & over again–to annoy me, of course. And it was working. I finally got exasperated. “You’re such a…” I said. Then I paused for one frantic moment. Because “asshole” would’ve been my typical go-to for an adult. Not so much for a 7 year old. So “nerd.” Popped out.

She stopped being annoying and earnestly inquired: “Mommy, what’s a nerd?”

Oh boy.

I had to start by admitting I’d committed the terrible sin of using the word out of context (seriously, I was horrified. I am a writer. We do not use words out of context), but that a nerd was someone who loves books, math, science, and learning new things.

She lit up. “Oh, I AM a nerd!” she yelled gleefully (because 7 year olds do not speak. They yell. So much yelling)

She’s really embraced the whole nerd thing since then. Belle is her favorite princess because…. book nerd. She’s got a panda nerd necklace (he’s wearing taped glasses), which quickly became one of her favs. And, right now, she’s at Nerd Camp for a month (shout out to Atlanta Public Schools!), where she’s currently studying The Art & Science of Slime. Why does she love Nerd Camp so much? Because it’s just like school, she says exuberantly.

See? Nerd.

She comes from a long line of nerds. I’m one, for sure. But, as a kid, my shyness & self-doubt often got in the way of curiosity and scientific exploration. I liked to read. A lot. But I didn’t push myself to discover and learn the way Jane does.

She’s like a NEXT GENERATION NERD.

As she embraces her nerdiness, though, I’ve begun to point out that there’s more than one way to be smart. Together, she and I look for classmates and friends that display intelligence other than book smarts–emotional intelligence, curiosity, inventiveness, creativity, kindness…

She gets so excited when her friends excel–and not just in academics. She often comes home with reports about kids who are learning to manage their behaviors better and make good choices. She celebrates when classmates get rewarded for kindness or hard work. And she loves–maybe more than anything else–to tell me when one of her classmates went above & beyond to make someone feel special, included, or loved. And she almost always tears up when she’s telling me about it.

I love that she’s a nerd. And I’m proud of her for valuing her own intelligence. But I’m even more proud of her for recognizing that everyone is smart in their own way–and that we all have something of great value to contribute to this world.

 

It’s Who We Are

Outside our small, yellow house in Atlanta, a huge Pride flag waves in the breeze. I love that flag. It tells a part of our family’s story that is no longer easily visible.

The near unraveling of our marriage in 2016 broke something in me. I thought I’d try to piece it together, to come up with some patched, passable version of the life I wanted. But, sometimes, when something breaks, the best thing to do is clear away the wreckage and begin again.

I felt so shattered by Simon’s transition that, for a long time, I insisted that I was a lesbian and he was… well…him. But ultimately, insisting I am a lesbian doesn’t honor who Simon is. And, besides, it makes it harder to explain the cute, bearded guy I’m married to. Eventually, I settled on “queer” because it honors our whole story. And, really, it’s a story worth honoring.

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Photo Credit: RM Lathan

Watching Simon grow fully into himself has been profound. I respect the thought he puts into the kind of man he wants to be. It’s amazing (and unusual) to be privy to this kind of conscious choosing–choosing the way he moves in the world and how he wields his privilege.

Truth be told, Simon isn’t the same person he was before he transitioned. Not really. For a long time I wanted him to be. Sure, there are soul-elements that’ve shown that they’re impervious to change. And he still knows that I love chocolate covered marshmallows and that I’m afraid of birds. But big life events change us all.

I’ve spent a lot of time getting to really know and understand him over the past year and a half. I’ve found that I love this version of him. Really love. Not out of convenience. Or habit. But that daily I choose him.

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Photo Credit: RM Lathan

We’ve had to work hard to build a relationship after the Unraveling of 2016. When I wrote about it last Summer, I didn’t understand how far from done we were with the rebuilding. In fact, we’d barely begun.

That’s the trick about putting a marriage back together: it’s a process.

But, sometimes, when I look at him, I get that little spark that starts in my chest and zips down to my toes–the small bolt of lightning that feels like love. And I know we did right by each other.

Right now, our biggest problem is how to get our kid to stop rolling her eyes at us. And how to let folks know we are a queer family. I thought about just getting a shirt that says, “The cute bearded guy is trans.” But, I mean, would I have to wear it every day? He does have a collection of trans-themed t-shirts in his clothing rotation–and on those days we feel seen. But we haven’t found a good way to let folks know exactly who we are.

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His shirt totally says “This Is What Trans Looks Like.”

Right now, that giant Pride flag outside is our way of being visible, of declaring that things DO get better, and of being proud of our story. And of our love.

 

 

Pride Flag Photo: Peter Hershey on Unsplash

Higher… higher…

Jane & I went rock climbing a while back. She’s been obsessed since then. When I say obsessed, I mean more conceptually than practically–it took me months to get her back in the rock climbing gym after that first time. But surely not for lack of her asking. And asking. And asking.

Here’s the thing about rock climbing: it’s hard as shit.

I consider myself a pretty active, in-shape kind of person. I could not move my upper body for DAYS after the first time we went rock climbing. Days.

Here’s the OTHER thing about rock climbing: it involves, well, climbing. Up a wall. Far off the ground.

I am afraid of heights. Like, for real afraid.

I freeze. When I was a kid, I used to climb trees. Which was great. Until I wanted to get down. Then… stuck.

I figured rock climbing would be a GREAT way to overcome my fear of heights.

Ahem. I made it about 5 feet off the ground the first time. Jane made it about the same height. Then we bounced down to the ground on our auto-balays. The next climb I made it about 7 feet off the ground. Then I froze. I tried to climb back down, but Jane convinced me to just push myself off the wall and let go.

I did. And I did not die. That felt like a win.

When we went back this time (only our second time climbing), I thought I’d just be able to scamper right up the wall. Or at least up to the highest point I’d reached on my last excursion, no problem.

Nope.

I got 4 feet of the ground. 4 feet. And I was completely paralyzed with fear. My brain started freaking the hell out, saying a bunch of stuff which added up to: you can’t do this.

I said fuck it and did it anyway.

I didn’t climb all the way to the top. And I had to work at it, going just a little higher each time. But Jane & I made a game out of it: “Can you touch that pink rock that looks like a brain this time?” “What about the orange oven mitt up there? Can you just tap that one with your hand?”

It was… fun.

I didn’t make it all the way up to the top. But I did make it about three-quarters up the wall. I climbed until my hands were so sweaty that they slipped off the rocks, and my arms were so tired they literally couldn’t hold my weigh anymore. I fell of the wall 3 times before I gave up.

Know what Jane did? Everything I did.

She never gave up. She never got discouraged. She pushed past her fear. And she far exceed her own expectations.

It was a very, very good day.

 

There Is Nothing to Apologize For

I’ve been pondering a bit more how my anxiety manifests itself on the daily. It’s been a companion of mine since I was 8 years old. And, truth is, we’ve settled into our own kind of peace, my anxiety & I. I’ve developed workarounds and strategies. Sometimes I just tell it to STFU. But it’s rarely just not there. 

So, when I read this piece by Discovering Your Happiness, I got smacked with overwhelming gratitude for the way Simon has helped me move through my anxiety. He’s really the reason I was able to adopt the whole “my-anxiety-doesn’t-define-me” mantra.

What does that look like in our every day world?

It looks like him finally corralling everyone for an excursion (after shoes have to be put on and phones have to be found and lights have to be turned off) only to have me make it all the way to the door, then turn back around to check that the toaster oven & the coffee pot are unplugged, that the gas burners are in the off position, that the dog’s crate is snapped shut–and then watch me do it again… and again.

Or his always knowing where the closest bathroom is. (It’s a huge anxiety trigger for me to have to pee & not know where a bathroom is)

Last Saturday, it looked like driving me by Jane’s friend’s house on the way home (where Jane was sleeping over), to make sure they’d made it home okay from the pool. They didn’t answer when I texted or called, and I just needed to know their car was there. That everyone was safe.

Sometimes, I don’t experience anxiety for weeks on end. Then BAM! And Simon never says a word about it. He doesn’t try to dig down to why I’m feeling anxious. (Often there’s no real reason) He doesn’t even flinch when I start checking and double checking things. Or when I flip out about money (another big anxiety trigger for me). He just carries on like there’s nothing going on. And I love him for it.

He never treats me like I need to be fixed.

He never acts put out.

He never blows off my concerns.

He just rolls with it.

I used to apologize profusely when these things would happen. I mean, I KNOW it’s my anxiety causing me to worry & kicking me into fear-mode. But the knowing doesn’t always mean I can turn it off.

For almost 15 years, he’s said the same thing: “There is nothing to apologize for.”

He said it so much that I started to believe it.

And now I do. Believe it, that is.

 

 

Photo by Eric BARBEAU on Unsplash

42 Things About Me

In no particular order:

  1. I am a Virgo/Libra cusp. The cusp is crucially important. I bring it up every time someone asks about my zodiac sign.
  2. Chocolate covered marshmallows go down as my favorite food of all time.
  3. I’m the oldest of 2 kids. I’ve got a little sister.133657_497803774632_4055268_o
  4. When we were kids, my sister & I looked nothing alike. As we’ve gotten older, no one can seem to agree on whether we look nothing alike or just alike. 

  5. An inebriated young gentleman once wandered up to me in a bar and carried on a full conversation that I understood none of. He thought he was talking to my sister.
  6. I run. Running balances me out. It’s meditative for me. I both love it and hate it. But I do it often.375123_10151486290019633_714277389_n
  7. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 8 years old.
  8. A trusted adult told me I couldn’t be a writer–that I’d never make enough money to live on. I believed them. I regret that.
  9. When I was a teenager, I was a hellfire & brimstone Christian.
  10. I am still a Christian, although not that kind.
  11. It is easier for me to tell people I am queer than to tell people I am a Christian. Christians in American exhibit all kinds of hateful behavior that I’d prefer not to be associated with.
  12. At various points in my life, I’ve struggled with anxiety and/or depression. It is part of my story. It in no way defines who I am.
  13. I came out when I was 19 years old.94571603_020d5ef0ed_o
  14. My family was displeased.
  15. I had the same girlfriend all the way through college. She is still part of my everyday life. We are not together (and haven’t been since 1998).
  16. Being queer is a core part of my identity. It has made me who I am.
  17. Until about 3 years ago, I identified as a lesbian.
  18. Then my partner transitioned from female to male. That complicated things in every sense of the word.
  19. I now identify as queer. It makes the cute guy I am with all the time less confusing to other people.29683110_10156215924602889_6613959919811764476_n
  20. I’ve come to believe in the fluidity of sexuality. It no longer frightens me. Identity can be fluid & still be important.
  21. It’s been fascinating to watch my husband, Simon, navigate creating his own version of masculinity. I’m proud of the path he’s forging.
  22. Simon and I have one child, Jane.IMG_6017
  23. It took 2 years to conceive her.
  24. I’ve been pregnant 4 times. I only have one child. She is a miracle.
  25. Jane calls Simon “Bobby.”5897461755_cdfc42fae7_z
  26. She used to call him “Baba” and me “Mama.” When she was just over a year, Jane heard me say I wished she’d call me “Mommy.” She started calling me Mommy right away. She also started saying “Bobby” all the time. “What’s a bobby?” I’d ask. She’d giggle and yell, “What a bobby!” We finally figured out that she assumed if Mama=Mommy then Baba must equal Bobby. She’s going to be AMAZING at the SATs.
  27. Simon transitioned when Jane was 4.
  28. We immediately put her in therapy.
  29. About 3 months in, the therapist looked at us and said, “You know she doesn’t need to be here, right?”
  30. We read Jane the picture book Red: A Crayon’s Story to explain her Bobby’s transition. She understood right away.
  31. I’ve been sober for almost a decade.26546_366357324632_4758338_n
  32. Getting sober was the best decision I ever made. It’s the reason I have all the beautiful things in my life.
  33. I got sober in AAI no longer go to meetings. I still think AA is a stellar way to get sober.
  34. I’ve had the same best friend since I was 18 years old. 

  35. She’s loved me through a hell of a lot. I am really grateful.
  36. If you ask me what I want to eat, I’m going to pick Mexican food.
  37. I look almost exactly like my mother.10250053_10152195642889633_5883091160908392911_n
  38. Sometimes I laugh so hard I have to sit down–no matter where I am.
  39. I’ve written a middle grades novel. It’s not been published. Yet.
  40. The older I get, the more I settle in to who I am. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.IMG_6228
  41. We moved to Atlanta 2 years ago this July. I adore Atlanta. It is home for me.
  42. I hate small talk but love people. I want to talk about things like religion, politics, books, life philosophies. And I prefer to do so over coffee.

Bonus Disney Picture Collage! (Disney is kinda our thing)

 

For more stories, happenings, and general shenanigans follow me over on Facebook at Writerly Atlanta & on Instagram at writerlyatl.

What Did I Do Over the Memorial Day Weekend? Told My Anxiety to Suck It.

On Friday afternoon, I kept getting texts:

“I’ll be there at 1:00”

“Dead standstill on 75. Looking more like 1:30”

“Alrighty. 6 minutes away according to Waze.”

When she finally peeked her head around the corner in the elementary school cafeteria, the two kids were right in the middle of a dance number. Or was it a song? Maybe it was a mashup. Sometimes its hard to tell in a first grade talent show.

When I saw her, I jumped out of my seat (among all the other amused and (relatively) proud parents), stifled a squeal, and ran over for a hug. Was I a spectacle? Eh. Maybe. Did I care? Nope. After hugs, I drug her back to my place in the crowd to watch Jane sing (and dance. Turns out first graders rarely do one with out the other).

 

 

It was all remarkably normal. For other people. For me, inviting a friend to share my space for a long weekend is remarkable. Because it means being seen–really seen–for days on end.

I spent all of my 20s and the first part of my 30s hiding behind a bunch of bravado and too much Miller Lite. Most of what I did and said was a red herring, anything to distract people from how anxious I became when I had to be honest, vulnerable, real.

Even 7 years into being sober, I struggled to connect one-on-one with people. I was terrified, way deep down where the fear feels cold and makes it hard to breathe, that I had nothing to offer. That if people really saw me, they’d be… what?… bored?… maybe. I don’t really know.

7 years ago, I couldn’t even manage to go out and get COFFEE with my friend who visited this weekend. I mean, it’s true that she’s kind of infinitely cool. I’m totally not. But anxiety is more than being afraid someone won’t like you… it’s a fear of being seen that is so deep, and so horrifying, that running away feels like the only answer, even when what you desire most is connection.

So, how did Captain Anxiouspants end up inviting a friend to stay for a long weekend?

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I did the simplest (and most difficult) thing: I just let life happen.

When circumstances pushed me toward friendship, I stopped talking myself out of coffee dates, hanging out, opening up. When I felt nudged by the universe to befriend someone, I began to honor that as a higher calling (ignoring my anxiety completely). When I was in a one-on-one situation and felt the onset of a panic attack, I owned it, by giving voice to my anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t like to be spoken, I found. The light of day makes it haul-ass. For me, at least.

I began to choose for myself the power anxiety got to have in my life. The answer for me: none. It’s not that it’s never there. It’s just that I address it the same way I address all the other parts of me: my lack of height, my nearsightedness, my flat feet. None of these things stops me from living my life. I just mentally stuck my anxiety in the category of things that sometimes require a workaround.

So far so good.

One Sunday, I texted my dear Florida friend to tell her how much I miss her. She responded by searching her calendar for a long weekend she could come visit us in Atlanta. Excellent! I love a woman of action! But, truly, it didn’t even occur to me to be nervous about her being here all weekend. We’ve been friends for several years now. We don’t see each other much, but she’s part of my tribe. So, of course she could share my house–and my life–for three days.

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I didn’t panic until the morning that she was supposed to show up. Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to panic, because there was book fair, and a talent show, and the last day of school (read: I was living my life instead of pandering to my anxiety). But sure enough, by the time we were an hour away from her arrival, I was teetering on losing my shit. Why? Dunno. Anxiety isn’t logical. It’s just destructive. So, yeah, I thought I was totally going to puke. I was fidgety. But, notably lacking was any real desire to run away.

Which is nothing short of miraculous.

She arrived in time to see Jane’s performance. I did not puke. She blended right into our family for three days. And, yeah, I felt seen. Girl kept me up til 1:00 a.m. talking about, well, ALL the things. But I’m okay with being seen. It’s worth it to love & be loved back.

Because I may not ever be all that cool. But I am pretty damn worthwhile.