Here is an excerpt from a 1994 entry when I decided it best to jot down a very thorough prayer. It’s basically a contract if you write them down, you know. I added some notes because I just couldn’t resist and I figure I’m bound for hell anyway at this point. (Joking. Kinda.)
I pray for L****. (A boy who assaulted me in 1993). Please help him with his problems. I love you the most (move over Mother Theresa, coming through). Please forgive me for all my sins (because as a nine year old I’ve got a lot of them). Thank you for everything you’ve ever given to me. (And are sure to continue giving me after that whole ‘love you most’ comment).
Please help the poor and the homeless. Please help Chelsey with what’s she’s going through. Help Dad with his feelings. (Men really shouldn’t have them at all, you know. I hope you can address that glitch) Help Mom. (real specific, I’m sure the angels are gathering in their strategy room as we speak). Don’t let there be a fire or let anyone be sick. Help the people at Oaknoll (a nursing home nearby).
Let everyone get right to sleep and have good dreams (especially me… sorry)… (No, I actually wrote that in my diary.) Let them have a good day and be in good moods. Don’t let there be any erosions (a word I had recently learned and quickly added to my list of worries), earthquakes, hurricanes, tornatos (tornadoes), thunderstorms, rain, snow, or sleet. (Whoa, I’m apparently anti-weather). Don’t let anyone get raped, murdered, killed or kidnapped. (Well that took a turn. But I like how the rain bit took priority). You are the coolest ever (I’m clearly hoping I can flatter myself into his good graces here and avoid that whole fire/kidnapping/snow situation. Worth a shot. He’ll never suspect). I love you. (The most!!) Amen.
Postponed Postscript…14 years later…
I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there. I’ll tell you all about how I became a dupe watching Cersei alight the iron chair.
I read an article a while back regarding the eerie similarities between our current political and environmental climate and the fictional world in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series (and the HBO series Game of Thrones). When I read the article, I was entertained by the clever parallels and focused on Martin’s wit in writing a world that so accurately captured the emotions and complexities of the reader’s world today. But since late January, when our very own Cersei was “elected” by a “free democracy” to sit as commander-in-chief, I’ve been feeling less entertained and more like the poor suckers in the scene above, watching in devastating shock as a narcissistic tyrant climbs the stairs to power.
January and February tend to be my roughest months of the year when I tend to lean towards apathy and sadness. This year I think I’m in good company when I say life has been more difficult and complicated. I just want to curl up with the bears in a cave somewhere and sleep until the sun comes out. Survival mode kicks in and I focus on my routines of work, study, self-care, and sanity-keeping. I spend less time blogging, writing, taking photos, etc. Thus my hiatus from the blogosphere.
Part of my shock and sadness comes from the knowledge that a portion of the country (approximately 26 percent of the eligible voting population) voted for a Cersei figure. I don’t believe there is a simple answer as to why they did and I plan to do my homework in order to understand all sides. It is tempting to point fingers at the poor and dirty children who helped execute Cersei’s plan.But what about the society that created a generation of poor, neglected children so desperate they turned to a figure of influence loudly promising them control, money, and safety?
By considering their perspective, I’m looking to understand, not to discount the perspectives of the remaining majority of the kingdom. In fact, the more perspectives I can consider besides my own, the better I will understand (I hope). But I also want to remember that “kings rise and fall” while standing on the backs of their obedient and dutiful workers. While trying to understand the human emotions and motivations of the game, I want to figure out how we realize our own collective power and take back our fair share.
“Winter is coming,” in a very literal way, as our planet revolts against our neglect. We need to figure out how overcome our differences, validate each others struggles, and work together on our most pressing problems before the ice and snow of the North crashes down to destroy us. One of the only bearable ways to undertake such a serious, scary, and yes, dramatic endeavor, is (for me at least) to find inspiration from a magical fantasy world where the underdogs rise up and free slaves, ride dragons, and unite against their oppressors.
- First do no harm. Act in an environmentally conscious way, support environmental advocate groups and companies, and learn and avoid those that do harm.
- Take care of myself so I can help take care of others. If I’m going to participate in a resistance, I need to remember not to lose sight of our basic needs like health, financial security, hygiene, food, shelter, etc. I can only help others so much if I neglect my needs.
- Read other perspectives. Reading fosters empathy which encourages direct and open communication with any so-called “others” including Muslims, LGBTs, members of a different political party, members of a different race, class, professional status, pretty much anyone different than myself. The more I talk to others and learn about their perspectives, the better I’ll be able to work on our problems and organize for solutions.(So far, I’ve read Kindred by Octavia Butler, & Listen Liberal: Whatever Happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank- I recommend both).
- Support my local library. During times of uncertainty, the library has always been a safe haven where I can find resources to help me answer any questions. These days it is also a place where I can find information I trust is accurate, where facts are just plain facts. It is also a place where everyone is welcome, where communities can interact and come together, or sit back and witness democracy in action though some try to silence it.
- Listen. That’s it.
- Find out who my local senators and congressmen/women are. Contact them when I see a need for change.
- Read up on the 1%.
- Read up on the history of propaganda and political rhetoric.
- Join/support local protests, demonstrations, marches, etc.
- Volunteer/Donate to Planned Parenthood.
- Drive less. Bike or walk more.
- Research reliable news sources and read only those.
- Limit social media exposure/Balance it with human interaction. On the internet, communication and privacy breaks down, empathy disappears, and I feel more isolated.
So these are my goals so far in response to this weird time. I’m sure I’ll update and revise as I go along. Please share what you are doing or what is helping you during a strange and scary time in US history. Thanks for reading.
A teacher of mine from high school once told me that she thought I lacked focus (after telling me about my various other faults on multiple occasions). I think about her now and then when I carry bags of books out of the library with subjects ranging from interior design, to photography, to writing, drawing, psychology, history, etc. I also think about that when I look back on my two writing degrees and my career in retail, banking, and now the library. I wonder why I’ve had such trouble staying on one subject or career. I’m not sure about the answer yet, but I do know that I am endlessly curious and I don’t think that is something to be discouraged, particularly by an educator.
I thought about that teacher today as I read Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me? when she started to describe one of her friend’s boyfriends who had gone to graduate school for multiple degrees, but drifted from one entry level job to another. She went on to declare this man to actually be a boy, even though he was technically thirty-two. I am thirty-two. I have multiple degrees. And I am now back in an entry-level position. (I know Mindy Kaling was definitely not referring to me in any way and even if she somehow was, I could only feel flattered by the mention.)
But it gave me pause in which I thought those decisions were right for me. I could have become an Assistant Manager at the bank where I worked. Several managers told me this. But I didn’t. I quit banking and started over again at the library on the bottom rung. I followed my interest and my values and put those above status, money, and other people’s opinions (which has more to do with them and their own need to feel superior). I think if anything, my tendency to consider the opinions and desires of others (who don’t have to live my life) have interfered with my ability to discover what I want and need for myself. So yes, I could see how this would appear as “lack of focus.” But in reality, I’m focusing on you all so much, what “you” want from me, that I lose track of what I want and care about.
So, to combat this I’ve decided to increase my efforts to write more and examine my own thoughts and opinions in this blog. Also, I’d like to continue to “focus” on my photography and work on forming a side business in selling and marketing my photography. This is another interest that I’ve put off really investing in because a mentor once told me that so many people were interested in photography that the chances of my making money was slim. Maybe that is true. But even so, I love doing it and if anyone else would enjoy my photos, I want to make them available. So, to that end, I’d like to share my new photography website where my photos are now available to buy in various formats.
When I started this blog, I thought I would do more raw first-person writing about my anxieties and how I deal with them. After all, the title of the blog has the word “Anxieties” in big, bold letters. But the truth is, I’m anxious about writing about my anxiety. I don’t think it is a weakness. I know it is a chemical, biological, scientifically proven… thing. But I’m afraid to talk about it even though it’s something I’m constantly dealing with. I mean, I talk to my family about it because they all totally get it and won’t meet my rants with concerned looks as they slowly back away from me a few feet. They’ll enthusiastically exclaim, “Oh my god, me too!” when I tell them I had nightmares for a week after watching the first episode of Black Mirror or that I’ve started to sanitize my library books because I’m afraid I’ll get a paper cut and then contract HIV from some random stain left from the previous borrower. Oh, and then I’ll research the progress made in HIV/AIDS treatment for an hour online.
My default coping mechanism is to withdraw, it’s definitely not writing my feelings in a public blog for all to see. I mean, a few sentences alone will give me hours of anxiety time later on. Did I punctuate correctly? Did I overshare? Do I need to work on my boundaries? Is there any way to make more readers find my blog but fewer of my known friends and family members find my blog? I mean, whenever I see anyone I know, I’ll be silently wondering if they’re judging me for some random comment I made in my blog. Then they’ll make a face that affirms my suspicions and I will remember the exact expression of smug dissatisfaction each night as I lay awake trying to do the stupid mindful breathing my therapist keeps assigning to me.
It’s so much simpler to write book reviews and hide behind sarcasm and jokes that get me through my life than to pour out the thoughts that necessitate those defenses. But I started this blog in an effort to start being authentic and unapologetic in my anxiety. So, even though I had notes on a book review, here I am.
Sleep for the Strung-Out
One of the worst parts about my anxiety disorder is the effect is has on my sleep. I absolutely love sleep and pretty much everything about it. I love pillows, pajamas, slippers, curling up to say goodnight, tucking myself in and turning out the light, spooning my boyfriend, and letting the cat under the covers to curl up by my chest. You’d think a bed fanatic like myself would be able to fall asleep, right? Oh, no. Anxiety makes me work for it. Hard. But over the years I’ve discovered some tricks. Maybe they’ll help you too:
- Eat a bowl of whole-grain cereal before bed. Apparently the combination of calcium, carbs, magnesium, and tryptophan are a proven remedy for insomnia.
- Avoid chocolate, soda, coffee, alcohol, sweets, (pretty much anything really tempting and yummy after 5pm) or it will interfere with your sleepy-time.
- Speaking of which, I highly recommend any “Sleepytime Tea” before bed too (plus bonus! cute bears on the box). Just make sure to leave a little time between drinking and hitting the hay or you’ll just have to get up to use the bathroom. Then the problem starts all over again.
- No bright lights an hour before bedtime. Try to unplug before bed by turning off the smartphones, pads, tvs, futuristic watches, etc. Our crazy monkey brains see that bright light and think it’s prime hunting time or running from mammoth time, or whatever our caveman versions did.
- If you need TV to lull you to sleep, I recommend documentaries or Bob Ross videos. But don’t be fooled by some of those nature documentaries, it can be stressful watching penguins freeze and and ice caps melt. Learn about climate change in the morning. Bob Ross on the other hand, has a very soothing deep voice and a positive outlook that is difficult to resist. Always a comfort.
- But I recommend audio books or reading before bed above TV or movies. Ideally a story heavy in dialogue narrated by someone with a British accent.Or a classic like Jane Eyre or Jane Austen. Anything involving a Jane will do. Just make sure to use a soft reading light conducive to nodding off mid-chapter.
- Exercise for at least 20 minutes, preferably a cardio exercise that gets your heart rate going for a bit. If you’re like me and find this difficult after a day on your feet, try a morning walk or yoga to start your day off right. (My anxiety tends to be highest in the early morning so these exercises work to calm me down and ease me into my day. It also gives me something to focus on besides everything that could possibly go wrong in the next 24 hours.)
- Keep a worry journal by your bed. If you absolutely cannot turn off the endless “what-ifs” or “why did I’s?” then just getting them out of your mind and on paper can really help. You can also return to it the next night and reality test your fears. How many of those concerns came up today?
- A warm bath. There are certain products that seem to help me more. I respond best to lavender and vanilla scents but you can experiment to see what works best for you. Worst case scenario you just got some good relaxation time and you come out smelling all nice and flowery. (If you’re like me and you worry about water conservation, try to find ways to conserve in other ways like cutting down on laundry or running the dishwasher.)
- If you’re really desperate, try this song. For some reason the transparent reverse psychology works wonders on me.
After seven years of working at a community bank and a lifetime of feeling like a misfit without a tribe (family excluded), I’m excited to report the reasons I am so very thankful for my new job at the local public library.
There are happy children everywhere talking about stories and asking questions. They’re actively and excitedly looking to learn and their egos don’t even enter the picture. They just want to know answers to their questions and they’re excited to explore and discover. This morning was the weekly story time, where youth service librarians read aloud and play games with kids and parents before the library opens. So my day began with checking in books and listening to silly stories, nursery rhymes, and laughing toddlers. My day used to begin by calling a list of overdrawn customers to ask when they could make it in to bring their account positive and review their growing pile of fees. Each task is important and necessary, but so far I prefer listening to laughing children rather than yelling adults.
I’ll just list some observations to show you what I mean: A fellow worker approached me today to point out a particularly cute picture book cover with a cartoon mouse wearing pants held up by twine. Another coworker invited me to a “Biblio-Ball” in which we attend a ball at the library dressed as our favorite character from classical fiction. The staff lounge is covered in baked goods and invitations to employee events like weddings or concerts. The supply closet houses a pet rock, nicely labeled “pet rock” with a small, yellow post-it. I checked in about twenty books with cute dogs and puppies on the covers, all labeled “Puppers!!!!” in the computer system, by an enthusiastic librarian putting together a doggy display table.
My boss invited me to join a stretching circle this morning in which the Pages appeared to be doing Tai-Chi moves. I wasn’t sure what the routine entailed, but I curiously stepped into the circle and mimicked my coworker’s exercises, listening as he explained the benefits of the moves and how library work can strain certain joints and muscles. I was surprised and touched at the thoughtfulness of this gesture. We’d all been given pamphlets from HR regarding ergonomics and had to watch a cheesy 80’s video on back pain. I was delightfully surprised at the thorough and kind attention to our physical comfort on the job.
Hordes of Helpers.
Everyone is eager to answer questions without judgement and offer amazingly thorough resources including procedures, guides, cheat sheets, indexes, shortcuts, etc. to help me navigate the new software, policies, and procedures. I’m not sure why I’m surprised by this, considering that librarians by definition organize information and strive to make it as accessible as possible. But they seriously have a guide for everything, so even if I were left alone, I’d easily be able to find answers using the searchable manual, or the indexed procedures, Excel charts of card comparisons and requirements, and so on. Librarians also educate so I’m also not sure why I’m surprised at how helpful and thorough my coworkers are. But these are all very pleasant surprises, of course. I hope to return the favor someday or at least “pay it forward.”
I actually get paid to blab about books, movies, and music with patrons and coworkers. I’ll also get paid to attend library costume parties, decorate display tables and desks, and write book reviews about my favorite recent reads. I already have a list of ten titles I want to add to my GoodReads “to-read” shelf after listening to customer and co-worker recommendations. I’ll let you know if I find any amazing reads. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before I start writing reviews on this blog, since I’ll be doing it for work anyway. Fun!!
Thanks for reading. I’m thankful for YOU too!
More than anything, the 2016 election has stirred within me a burning desire to sit Trump down on a couch and just jump right into the shit-storm brewing in that psyche. (Granted I have a helmet, a life jacket, and a sturdy pair of boots.)