I'M IN A BOOK and Now I'm Scared to Death

Our topic today is anxiety. Specifically, my anxiety. Specifically, my anxiety with regards to OH MY GOD A BOOK I’M IN CAME OUT TODAY OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD. 

Let’s cover the most important point first (ha, see what I did there?). This here

Is now available on Amazon, from iTunes, or at Barnes &Noble.

What is it, you say? It’s a collection of some funny and some touching essays by women, mothers, daughters, aunts, and all around badass bloggers.

So that’s awesome, you say. Where does the anxiety come in? Excitement, sure, but anxiety? What’s wrong with you?

That’s the problem—something is wrong with me. I don’t have anxiety so crushing it keeps me from living an ostensibly normal life, but I am afraid of things like having to talk to strangers, asking people to do things that directly benefit me, and speaking in public. All things that will need to be done in the next few months if this book is to be successful.

I’ve struggled with anxiety most of my life. When I was a kid, I just assumed I was a “fraidy cat.” I don’t know if it was necessarily a bad thing that I was, because I’m sure it saved me from engaging in a lot of risky teenage behavior. I was terrified that the first time I did any drug I would be transformed into a hopeless junky, so I did none. I drank a little, but wouldn’t have driven for anything because I was sure I’d plow into a tree, even if I’d had only the smallest amount to drink. My one high school friend who convinced me to sneak out of her house with her spent the entire time we were out assuring me that we were perfectly safe, even as I spent the entire time looking back over my shoulder for our would-be attackers.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more uptight about…well, pretty much everything. Just last week I was sitting in a meeting at my kids’ school in which we were being trained on a tool I already knew how to use. For laughs, I made a list of very high level things that make me anxious. Here’s what I wrote down:

  • Strangers and that they might be scary or mean
  • People I know because they might be mean to me
  • Leaving the house because something bad could happen to me
  • Developing agoraphobia because I never leave the house
  • Crossing the street because a rogue car could come out of nowhere and hit me
  • That someone on my side of the street will be the person who commits one of those freak crimes where they pull out a gun and randomly shoot the people around them for no reason
  • Kids because I’m afraid they’re judging me
  • Adults because I’m afraid they’re judging me
  • Driving and having an oncoming car crash into me
  • Being a passenger and having no control
  • The idea that everyone who was watching me make this list was judging me for not paying attention, even though I already knew how to use the tool we were being shown

So you see.

That’s far from a finite list. I also worry about being able to find a table at Wendy’s, getting a parking place, and that my kids will be bullied in school. And that I’ll get cancer. And that my husband will drop dead of a heart attack. And that I’ll get fired. And that I won’t be able to think of anything to get the kids for Christmas this year. Sorry, I’ll stop now.

I’ve been through a parade of therapists and social workers trying to “work past” the problem, but I’ve never been able to overcome it. I know all the techniques, all the tools: ask myself what exactly I’m scared of, review the possible worst case scenarios and problem solve how to deal with them, visualize a situation from beginning to end with a positive outcome. I also know that old line about life beginning at the end of your comfort zone, so I have pushed myself outside my comfort zone from time to time. I started doing Crossfit even though I was terrified of the idea. I signed up as a Girl Scout leader, even though that has the potential to put me dead in the sights of some of the judgiest judges ever.

I don’t know the solution, and I wasn’t really planning to resolve this issue here and now. This is intended to announce my book, and possibly get a few sympathy purchases from you guys. You will go buy it, right? Please? See, now I’m all anxious that you won’t, and you’re annoyed at me for asking you. I’m going to eat some chocolate now. 

Vocabulary Lessons

My sixth grader is struggling to catch up on some missing assignments these days, which is causing me to have flashbacks about my own grisly academic experiences. I’m doing what I can to help him get the work done by providing a quiet environment, structured time—20 minutes of work, 5 minute break—and the tools he needs (a compass and ruler, mostly). At this point if I could do the exercises myself and turn them in for him, I probably would, because I’m so sick of having to nag him.

I told him the story about how I learned the hard lesson that it’s easier to do the assignments when they’re given than try to catch up after the fact: In the fourth grade we had a vocabulary building workbook called Wordly Wise. It was a fairly common tool in use at the time, and still exists today. I’ll even admit it was a good tool, and thanks to it I know things like what “scruple” means.

Wordly Wise lessons all followed the same pattern: they presented a list of featured words, then used the same three or four exercises to teach the definitions and correct usage. They tried to make it fun, but it’s hard to inject a lot of charm and appeal into what’s essentially rote memorization. The last activity in each section was a sort of crossword or acrostic through which ran the answer to a riddle or the punch line to a joke. I’m sure that like most things for kids at that time, they were fairly lame. The bar was pretty low—after all, most of our humor came from bubble gum wrappers or Dixie cups, and consisted of knock knock jokes and puns—but even with that pitiful standard, Worldy Wise managed to undercut it.

I loathed Wordly Wise.

So much so that at some point in about February of fourth grade, I made an executive decision and declined to engage further with Wordly Wise. My rebellion was discovered sometime around May, and my decision was overturned. The upshot was that I had to do an extra Wordly Wise chapter each week in addition to completing the one that was actually due.

You’d think I’d be smart enough to just do it and get it over with, but you don’t know what a stubborn little asshole I could be. While I did the other two or three activities more or less according to their rules, the acrostic was not anything I wanted to have anything to do with. Instead of using the vocabulary words given, I read the clues and thought of other random words that would fit the definition and used them. If that meant I needed to draw a few extra boxes on the end, or that all the boxes weren’t filled, well, the world wasn’t always a perfect place, was it?

Naturally this second flouting of the rules didn’t go over well with any of the authorities involved. I was given a pink pearl eraser and told to fix that shit, and fix it fast. I probably had some other pentaly that most likely involved a suspension of television viewing privileges. Clearly that punishment made little impression on me, but the lesson I learned from dicking around and not doing the work did.

I guess the conclusion I can draw is that while the loss of permission to watch “Donny & Marie” or whatever may have encouraged me to avoid a similar situation in the short term, the memory of how unpleasant the whole experience was is what has inspired me to keep myself caught up (more or less) over the last 35+ years. 

My intention in telling this story to my son was to help him avoid the same mistake I made, which clearly didn't happen. Secondary to that, I hope the same lesson I learned will translate to him and he'll avoid getting into this predicament in the future, because I’m really over this shit.

Register NOW for SickCon!

Calling all Teens and Tweens to SickCon! We’re offering a special conference just for you! We know you have it really rough--your parents just don’t get it: They make you go to school, be responsible for your own stuff, and give you that ridiculous curfew that’s, like, so much earlier than all your other friends. We hear you!

Here at SickCon, we provide a forum for your frustrations. Mingle with other kids who feel the same way you do about your mom’s dorky clothes and your dad’s pathetic attempts to like your music. Share how pissed you get when your parents insist you help out with the housework, because you live in this house too, young man. Participate in panel discussions on important topics like hanging out, Minecraft, and the best apps for editing and enhancing selfies.

We’re also offering a series of breakout sessions on important current topics:
  • Exaggeration is Like, Literally, the Best Thing Ever
  • Totally Killer Apps: Kik, Snapchat, and More
  • “OMG My Parents Suck!” A Coping Strategy Session (early registration required due to high demand)
  • Lame Teachers Are Lame
  • Ten Reasons to Ditch Facebook NOW (Number One is Your Mom!)
  • Should You Go Hipster? Pick the Right Contemporary Subculture for You!
  • Grown Ups are Morons: What to Do When You Know Everything
  • Just Remember Who Pays for That iPhone, Missy

Come get amped at SickCon! It’s, like, hella cool, bruh!