Yesterday was going to be the day I wrote about the events and people who helped me become capable of handling short bursts of social activity. And it was.
It’s just that there are some memories that I’m not sure are ready for prime-time. While I hope they will be soon, I still need to protect them. Plus, the writing itself was pretty ugly and disjointed and emotional and there was just no way that it would make sense to literally anyone else. Even writing this, my words are skewing that same direction.
So I’ll sum it up, for today, like this. After a solid three-plus decades of being shy and not speaking up and just letting life kind of happen, I got sick.
I was sick for awhile, and it was the kind of sick that made me vow that, if I were lucky enough to be healthy again, I would start to say yes in positive ways. Not just in ways to make people like me and to smooth over potential conflict and to keep the peace, but in ways that would make me uncomfortable and force growth and change.
There were very important people on that journey with me who did not have that choice. Who helped me through it but didn’t make it themselves. And so I decided, as my hair grew back in ridiculous corkscrews and my face stayed chemo-puffy and I looked even worse than my eighth-grade school picture and it was absolutely the wrong time to start trying out my voice and learning to make conversation and going back to college and raising my hand in class, to make those choices for them.
Don’t get me wrong. The healing wasn’t super smooth, and every time I thought I was getting better, a new kick happened…relapses and new diagnoses in friends and family, my sweet son graduating and starting his life with his own struggles. I drank a lot. I fought people who tried to help me.
The other part was that, once on the other side, I faced life with none of the ones who had gotten me through the worst of it except those I had pushed away. I credit my parents and stepmom, my brothers and sisters, for holding out their hands after I had slapped them away for so, so long.
But they stayed. And I met my now-husband, Josh, and his parents, who were all so patient and beautiful and kind to me. The kind of people who gave me space but also encouraged me.
So I moved, after an entire lifetime (40 years!) in the same town, to be with Josh and, by a huge stroke of luck, my longest-running non-biological sister, Lori, who lived just a couple of miles away.
And my family stuck with me, even though they kinda questioned the haste of my newfound “yes to adventure” phase.
And my son battled his own demons and came out stronger than ever with his own best friend and life mate, Shelby.
And, most importantly, I quit drinking. There’s no point in saying yes to EVERYTHING risky, you know?
While I am so grateful to everyone who stuck with me, who encouraged me, and who helped me start new adventures, I still struggle every time I leave the house with social anxiety. The way I get through the worst of it now, without alcohol, is in a couple of ways. The first and longest-running, that I first adopted in my days practicing interviews, is to pretend that I’m playing the role of someone confident and social. It helps to lay down that blanket of removal from the situation…I’m just playing a part, man, and it’s only a one-night engagement, so I’ll give it everything I’ve got.
Suffice it to say, this does not work every time. I’m lucky if it works half the time. Because, the other issue with being sober in social situations is that most other people are NOT. So in those cases, I try to do the bare minimum to play the part without anyone noticing me.
I also know my limits. I can make it about an hour, in any social setting, before I shut down completely. Kind of like the coach turning back into the pumpkin. So I try very hard to time things accordingly. And then get the hell out of there.
Finally, never forget the ones who want to help you. Today, I’m thinking of my father-in-law, Bill, the one who helped those tricky early days with Josh’s family become so much easier. His was the hand I could always hold in a room full of loud family who went back generations.
Bill would be 75 today. In his honor, I made a butterscotch meringue pie. I could never master this while he was alive, and I kind of hope there’s some small flaw in it (only small, I’m not a martyr) to keep with tradition.
I love you, dad, and I miss you so much. Happy birthday.
Movie of the day: Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, Amazon. I finally saw this yesterday, and it was amazing. Weird, absolutely, but amazing. It was the first of two Best Picture winners for Michael Keaton, whom I love.
Show of the day: Punky Brewster, Amazon Prime. Call it a holdover from the nostalgia from earlier this week. I don’t recommend purchasing episodes individually, but if you’re home a lot with disposable income, do it. Why not.
Song of the day: I noticed that embedding these frequently gets them removed from the site, but here’s a link to a great little also-nostalgic song, Limahl’s Never Ending Story. Also a great movie, but I already stuck Birdman in there.