Tag Archives: fear

sarah, you got this one!

while i was on the road heading into washington, d.c., i got a phone call from my facebook friend sarah.  she lives with her parents in detroit and is a beautiful, funny gal with a big heart and a great future.  sarah doesn’t leave her house and suffers with agoraphobia.

agoraphobia comes from the greek word phobia which means fear and agora which means marketplace or meeting place.  the agora was the center of greek urban life and so someone who is agoraphobic quite literally is afraid of being out and about.  this agora is pretty much in need of some renovations.

agoraphobia comes from the greek word phobia which means fear and agora which means marketplace or meeting place. the agora was the center of greek urban life and so someone who is agoraphobic quite literally is afraid of being out and about. this agora is pretty much in need of some renovations.

sarah is considering moving to texas to be with her boyfriend.  what a wonderful future they might have.  but sarah is worried about the eighteen hour drive.  if it is difficult to leave the house to walk to the corner market, an eighteen hour trip is going to be a challenge.  in her favor is that her boyfriend is an understanding and caring man and he will be driving (sarah doesn’t have a driver’s license).

i told her that she won’t be making an eighteen hour trip.  she’ll be making a series of hour or two hour trips or maybe half hour trips, or maybe even fifteen minute trips.  i asked her to consider purchasing an air card so that she can be connected to the internet and can distract herself by doing much of what she does when she’s at home.

the real secret for me is to make wherever i am my home, so that there is no agora to be scared of.  here, some kids from the marine scouts program wash my house.

the real secret for me is to make wherever i am my home, so that there is no agora to be scared of. here, some kids from the marine scouts program wash my house.

and of course, i invite some friends into my home.

sarah, you got this trip!  you can travel because the whole world, well, it ain’t an oyster, it ain’t a small world after all, no, no, the world is YOUR home!


bunkering down

i spend so much of my life afraid but i’m not much different from anybody else that way.  snakes, tornadoes, lightning, spiders, criticism by gwyneth paltrow–it’s a wonder i get out of the house at all.  and for a number of years, i didn’t.  there are other, shared fears which these days mostly revolves around random violence .  but there was an earlier, more innocent time when i was growing up when it was just the prospect of the world ending in less than twenty minutes.

if you remember doing this as a kid, we share qualifications for aarp membership and a fond memory of a crush on at least one member of the brady bunch!

if you remember doing this as a kid, we share qualifications for aarp membership and a fond memory of a crush on at least one member of the brady bunch!

in the early sixties, nuclear shelter was all the rage because america had done something that infuriated the soviets or maybe it was that the soviets did something to make us all pissed off.  trouble was, we both had a-bombs and h-bombs.  the united states government devised a plan to whisk away the president and congress and the essential folk of government in the event of nuclear armageddon.  these bunkers were elaborate and would represent the best chance for reclaiming civilization once the radioactive dust cleared.

my adoptive father don patrick even owned a business that built private bomb shelters.  we had one in our basement.

my adoptive father don patrick even owned a business that built private bomb shelters. we had one in our basement.

on my travels, i stopped at the greenbrier club.  on the surface, a nice hotel with a pool, golf course, casino from which ben affleck has yet to be barred from for card counting.  beneath, however, is where congress would alight when the soviets finally got their temper tantrum on.

 

at the greenbrier there is a tour of the bunker which has since been decommissioned.  it got me thinking that i need to get myself a bunker.  well, maybe i just need to get myself a safe place where i can be happy.  i aim for north carolina next which may turn out to be where i will end up staying.

 


my stalker

stalkers are charming.  they have to be, at least at first.  because they must scoop up contact information–email addresses, phone numbers, facebook friendship requests, blog subscriptions, street addresses–while the prey still thinks they’re harmless.

in 2011 i had a new years resolution to meet all 325 of my facebook friends no matter where they might be.  sometimes people would ask me if i was afraid of "crazies". . . that actually wasn't a problem until this year.

in 2011 i made a new years resolution to meet all 325 of my facebook friends no matter where they might be. sometimes people would ask me if i was afraid of “crazies”. . . that actually wasn’t a problem until this year.

the target of a stalker has to be, at some level, polite.  a polite person doesn’t unfriend a friend on facebook.  a polite person answers emails.  a polite person writes thank you notes, even when the flowers, candy, gifts are sprinkled with discomfort.

politeness on the part of one party and charm on the part of another.  makes for a continuing relationship even when both parties don’t want one.  while it’s easily understood that the target doesn’t want a relationship with the stalker, it’s slightly less apparent that the stalker doesn’t want the obsession.

i’m not sure when i became aware that i had a problem with a stalker.  my friend bill started off as a facebook friend after he saw me on a television show.  he commented on my posts.  he poked me.  he sent messages.  all perfectly harmless and always charming.

he lives in tallahassee, the same city as my father.  william sent me a message asking if i would mind if he sent a facebook friendship request to my father.  that seemed somewhat reasonable.  then he asked if he could friend my two sons.  that seemed less reasonable.  and then he asked if he could send friendship requests to my friends carolyn, kimberly, and andrea.

i went to tallahassee in the summer to see my father.  i posted about how i would be happy to meet facebook friends in the area.  william asked to meet me.  totally cool.   we went to lunch with my dad.  i brought flowers, which is what i often do when i meet facebook friends.  he brought me a cake, a t-shirt he had tie-dyed and a copy of a book my grandfather had written.  william was charming in a sweet, ungainly, awkward sort of way.

when i came home from tallahassee, i started to notice that he was ramping up contact.  he might comment on a status update, send a facebook message with a question, then a text with a demand that i respond to his facebook message, then an email to my hotmail account to follow up on the texts.  all within the space of an hour. and there’s a cycle of charming, flattering, sweet, needy, demanding, angry, hostile and back to charming.  william was being unfriended by my circle of friends and family who couldn’t stand the obsessive, needy, shrill contact.  one of my friends went to the police in her town in order to be reassured that he wouldn’t contact her any more.  he claimed to have made plans to quit his job in tallahassee and move to be near my home in kenilworth.

i would sort of understand this situation if there had been any romantic interest within either of us.  but that's not the case.

i would sort of understand this situation if there had been any romantic interest within either of us. but that’s not the case.  at least, not with me.  and he’s never suggested that he is interested romantically in me.

i shut down.  i stopped checking my facebook account, stopped logging onto email, dreaded the pop up of the text message notification icon on my phone. i stopped responding which made him angry.  finally, i unfriended and blocked him on facebook  and wordpress.  i monitor my hotmail account and my phone for messages because i am concerned that he might decide that he really will come up north from tallahassee.  i worry when i leave my apartment and when i return.  if there’s a knock on the door, i get scared.

i have absolutely no idea why he is obsessed with me.

i have only myself to blame because i ignored every piece of evidence that suggested he was and is nuts.  i am scared.  really scared.  with every tool in the internet toolbox, he knows exactly where i am and how to get to me.  and i have no idea how to make him stop.  do you?


we are all that one lost sheep–facebook friend #331

a week ago i posted about alcohol.  specifically, my relationship with white wine.  i didn’t feel great.  in fact, i felt pretty damn lousy.  the self-loathing ticker was high.  i had returned from florida and never got my bearings.

especially since on wednesday of last week i had a martini for the first and last time of my life.  and was suitably embarrassed and mortified by the effects and consequences.

but i never felt quite so bad as when facebook friend #331 messaged that i couldn’t come see her.  i had thought she was an agoraphobic unable to leave the house.  i thought i was being a good friend to show up, say “hey, i can do it, so can you” and i was wrong.

“i can go anywhere.  i don’t have a problem with getting out of the house,”  miss x* assured me.  “i don’t have your problem.  but i read your post.  i drink too.  pint of vodka a day.  but that’s down.”

“i’d want to meet you sober.”

“forget it.   too scary.”

“well, scary for me too.”

i told her i would drive to kentucky, i would knock on her door and if she opened the door, saw me, slammed the door it would be fine.  at least, she would know that her facebook friend wanted the best for her.

sunday night i picked up my messages on facebook and my phone at ten fifteen.  she wanted to cancel again.  i called.  she was hostile and frustrated.  her thoughts were expressed like the first break in billiards, with three balls dropping in pockets, the rest bouncing against the walls, and the eight ball scratching.

the problem to her was that i hadn’t been in communication with her since thursday.  that i didn’t phone her.  that i didn’t keep lines of communication open.  that it was too much pressure to clean the house in anticipation of my arrival if i wasn’t going to arrive.  and time–there needed to be an exact time.

i have a garmin gps that was purchased for me by a friend who was tired of reading blogposts in which i fretted over having gotten lost. the garmin tells me the exact time i will reach a location. trouble is, i still get lost. i turn at the next street over, i miss the exit, i don’t see the turnaround. my garmin shrieks “recalculating! recalculating!” and then i say . . . @%#xte$!!!!

then i listened closely.  i wasn’t listening to my facebook friend who is witty and funny and adorable in her posts, statuses, and comments.  no, i was listening to alcohol.   alcohol had taken over the conversation entirely.  and i got the impression a lot of people had said “so long, happy trails to you” when alcohol had butted into their chats with miss x.

so i said i would call her in the morning and we’d figure out whether we would meet.  i admit to thinking “nope, we’re not doing this”

in the morning, she was the miss x i had been communicating with on facebook for the last year and a half.  the one with witty, wry observations.  the one who had seen a news piece about me and friended me, saying “i don’t have your problems but boy i sympathize”  she was nervous, but so was i.

i drove the three hours from indianapolis to louisville.  i was a little early, but i thought that was good because i would catch her before she had a chance to pop a pre-meeting vodka.

i wasn’t early enough.  and she had one while i was there.  again, i had a conversation with alcohol.  i couldn’t keep up with the tangents.  and i couldn’t keep up with the emotional swings–happy, insecure, witty, hostile, frustrated, apologetic, demanding, paranoid, sweet as can be.

she said don’t judge me and i said i can’t judge you i am in jail with you.  i’m just standing closer to the door.

i shared with her what i’m doing to rein in my drinking.  she was intrigued but argued the point of whether i was an alcoholic, a heavy drinker or an amateur.  she drank more in an afternoon than i could lay down in an entire night–but she herself said she could drink any 250 pound man under the table.   she considered me an amateur.

can you name another disease besides alcoholism that’s self-diagnosed? miss x considers me an amateur, social drinker. there’s people who think of me as off the charts, ship me off to rehab. the horrific thing is the very people who will say “you have a problem” are often the people who are the first to bolt. miss x has had some bolters. i want to get out her address book and say “hey, whassup dude?” because she’s brave, smart, funny and needs all friends and family on deck. it is said that when the lions go after the gazelles, the pack separates the weak for slaughter. no, don’t separate her from the pack.  she’s your best one, the one that will tell the lion what’s what.

i believe some people drink because they are bored, boredom being shorthand for no purpose, because they are that one lost sheep that the shepherd needs to find.  miss x is unemployed, with no children to care for, no volunteer activities and–by her account–no friends (hello, i’m here in your kitchen!).

i suggested a goal, a purpose.  doesn’t matter what it is, just that she try.  i made a new years resolution on december 2010 to meet the (then) 325 facebook friends i have.  that’s a pretty silly life mission when you think about it.  but if you wake up every morning with a reason to push, you do.

miss x is adorable and beautiful and we made a contract that her goal was to walk one half hour before ever having that first drink. i’m a big believer in small goals and big goals. this is a small but manageable goal.

 

i was sorry to have to leave her.  she went to a nephew’s house to see relatives and help with a little one’s homework.  she said “i feel like i’ve gained and lost a friend in the space of a few hours” and i said no, i became your friend on facebook a year and a half ago, and i got to meet you today and i will be your friend tomorrow.

i was speaking the truth.

i am striking for cookeville, tennessee tomorrow.  i believe i meet two facebook friends, one of whom WILL be the inspiration for miss x.  i’m just playing matchmaker for two new best friends.

 

i truly hope miss x believes me because we will meet again, my 331st facebook visit since january 1, 2011.

 

*she kept saying i could use her name, that she had no secrets, but i think for the moment i’d like to let this her be miss x.

miss x looks very much like lana turner from the 1966 movie “madame x” about a mother who sacrifices everything for the welfare of her husband and infant son. except for the fact that miss x wore blue jeans.  i am so enchanted by the movie madame x, which i watched when i was barely an infant, that i like calling my friend “miss x” 

 


dear alcohol, we need to talk

dear alcohol,

it’s never good when a girl says “we need to talk”.. . . and this isn’t going to be good. but i have to do this.  i really do.

no question, you’ve been there for me all through the years. in cans, in crystal glasses, at parties, at bars, and sometimes when no one else wanted to be with me. best friends forever, you’ve always said!

i went to florida two weeks ago with some high hopes, and i didn’t think you were going to get so . . . . well, aggressive.  i was going to visit with facebook friends in tallahassee, tampa, and orlando.  i was going to bring my dad justin along with me.  we were going to bond.  you were going to be just something i had with dinner–or before flights.

bonding with my father is an ongoing process. he and my mother placed me for adoption when i was three years old. this is a picture of me and my new mother on the morning i was baptized, a few weeks after the adoption became final. i met my father and mother when i was twenty five years old–using a private detective to track them down.

 

the day before the trip, my dad texted me and said he didn’t feel he was up to traveling with me from his place in tallahassee to the other cities in florida.  i would stay with him and his wife on sunday evening, rent a car and sally forth throughout the state, returning on friday to catch a plane back to chicago.

but when i got to florida, i was surprised to discover that my father justin’s wife was going on a business trip.  and that justin was a lot sicker than i had ever imagined.  and that he was undergoing provenge treatment over the course of the week and the clinic wanted someone with him.  that person would be me.

i cancelled all the facebook friend visits outside of tallahassee. my friends were so understanding. i was going to bake a cake with jennifer in tampa and she said “no problem” and made the cake on her own and posted it on my wall. the cake tells the story of my visits to see facebook friends all over the world. thank you jennifer!

 

the first phase of the provenge treatment went well.  justin and i watched television while his blood was taken from one arm, processed through a machine and reinserted (minus white blood cells) into the other.  he was weak, he slept most of the days, he had no appetite.  he slept in the master bedroom, i slept in the guest room.

his wife came home on wednesday evening.  i volunteered to take justin to phase two of his provenge treatment on friday before my flight.  he would be given a very high dose of benadryl and his own white blood cells–new and improved by some mysterious process–would be reintroduced to his body.  he needed to have someone help him get home.  also, it’s just good to have someone be an advocate for your care.  especially since provenge is still in its experimental phase.

justin is actually the first person in tallahassee to get the provenge treatment. it went well, by the way, and he says he feels better. he will get two more treatments.  i’m not sure what happens after that.

the next morning my stepmother’s first words to me were “you need to get a hotel room because i can’t sleep with justin.  he snores and he disturbs my sleep.  he has to sleep in the guest room.”

i felt the hostility.  it’s always been there lurking beneath a surface of tight smiles–and it dates back to the total shock it must have been for her as a newlywed to have me show up saying “hi, i’m justin’s daughter!”  i sympathize.  i really do.

i sat at the dining room table.  she woke justin and an argument ensued between them, with each hushing the other as  if they believed i couldn’t hear.  she wanted me out of there. right then. it went beyond a desire to not sleep with a snorer.  and yes, i heard every word.

i felt rejected, belittled, demeaned, and exactly like a three year old who doesn’t understand why she can’t go home again.  to her real home.  why she has to be thrown away, because that’s what adoption meant to me.

and i would have left right then, walked out of the apartment and said “good luck to you guys”  but i was scared of leaving my dad.  she went to work.  i sat on the couch with him.  i said “this is exactly the horrible feeling that makes me want a drink.”  and he said “me too” and he got up, went to the refrigerator and we drank two beers.  it was nine thirty, alcohol, a little early wouldn’t you say?  but you were there for me.  and for him.

but that feeling, that wretched feeling followed me out of florida, back to illinois, everywhere i am, everywhere i go.  rejected, belittled, a failure, a wreck.  i’ve lost friendships, i’ve lost the respect of people i respect, i’ve lost love–the very things i have always wanted but you’re always there, aren’t you?  ready to console me.  ready to tell me it’s all right.   ready to tell me i’m pretty and witty and funny and i mean something.  and you keep saying you’ll never never leave me and i thought that was a good thing. what i’ve always wanted to hear.

but coming from you, maybe it’s not such a good thing.

i’ve tried breaking up with you before.  white knuckling it.  alcoholics anonymous.  a chinese acupuncturist who also threw in a few extra needles that were supposed to make me lose weight in addition to sobering me up.  nothing worked.  you always came back and always when i really need you and can’t resist you.

this time i’m getting outside help.  i’m scared.  i’m crying right now as i write this.  you have been a reliable friend.  but i can’t do this anymore.  i’m breaking up with you.

and really, it’s not you.  it’s me.

when i made a new years resolution to meet all my facebook friends, i met quite a few who have made the same decision, who have had the breakup talk with you.  some have been successful.  some not so much.  some have done it on their own.  some have needed what i’m about to do.  i hope all my facebook friends, all my friends, all my family can understand.  alcohol, i never meant for our relationship to be so . . . monogamous.

my biological mother gave me this picture when she met me. alcohol, this was a gal with promise and potential and i want to get that back.

 

 

 

 

 


airplanes don’t make nobody happy

i’m grateful for planes.  don’t get me wrong.  i started off this morning in chicago, darted over to detroit and picked up a flight to los angeles so i can visit with facebook friends.

i thought my flight was at two o’clock. so i had a leisurely morning of working out and scoping out tmz.com then i looked at the ticket and figured out that the first flight of the day would arrive in detroit at two o’clock. i needed to be at o’hare at NOON. what a delightful sprint to the airport. followed by a sprint from one terminal to another in detroit’s airport! i think i left the coffee maker on in my ex-husband’s apartment!  he’s in montana, i’m in los angeles and the coffeemaker is in chicago.  i have a feeling i might not be invited to use the apartment again!

my panic attack started as i boarded the flight from detroit to los angeles.  the plane was cramped that a flight attendant started using my head as a elbow rest as he stowed luggage.  the lady in the seat next to me fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.  the flight attendant stepped on my foot three times.  the guy in the seat behind me was quite pretezel-like and managed some stretching exercises that involved him raising his hands in the air and then back so far that if i had given him a tube of mascara he could have done my makeup!

i started shaking.  crying.  thinking about that coffeemaker and the entire building burning down.  all the apology notes i’d have to write.  i took two ativan and tried to concentrate on an episode of “how i met your mother” on the overhead screen.

and then something curious happened.  the flight attendant, for whom i had no good feelings, had relocated a passenger in the row across from me to the back of the plane.  and the attendant sat down next to the remaining seated passenger.  it took a moment to realize what i was looking at–a flight attendant trying to calm someone in the midst of a panic attack.  i wasn’t the only one having trouble.

the flight is over, i’m on the ground in los angeles.  if you’re in chicago, you might notice a curious burnt coffee smell wafting out of the streeterville neighborhood.  i get ready to meet a facebook friend tomorrow.  and i have decided it’s okay to have panic attacks on planes.  because that’s what airplanes do!


there’s a phone app for everything and now there’s one for my friends!

in my little quest to meet every facebook friend i have, i sometimes come across friends who share my secret:  agoraphobia.  fear of the marketplace is the translation from Greek, but really, it’s fear of everything.

in the 1939 movie the wizard of oz, bert lahr played the cowardly lion, afraid of everything! sometimes i feel like the lion!

 

one of the things i will be doing in los angeles is meeting with my facebook friend brandon spellman day.  he is a video game slash computer slash programming genius and he has experienced his own moments of being a cowardly lion.  he is over that period in his life and he wants to help others who are in the thick of that fear.

he is creating a phone app that will allow agoraphobics to chart, monitor and encourage themselves to shove past boundaries.  brandon is kind enough to have me help him with it and the los angeles trip is an opportunity for us to complete that project!

yesterday i had lunch with facebook friends bonnie, tony and charles. charles is presently struggling with agoraphobia. and he’s promised to test drive the phone app.

 

what about you?  would you find an app like this helpful?

i look forward to meeting my facebook friend brandon!


panic at williamsburg bridge!

mapquest said it would take me four hours and forty seven minutes.  a fourteen mile walk punctuated by a five mile ferry ride to see f2fb friend #317 michele piersiak.  i sometimes do an eight mile walk around the perimeter of winnetka, so i figured it couldn’t be that bad.

oh how wrong i was.  my theory about new yorkers is that they do fifty three terrifying things and that’s before they get to work.  i didn’t expect to be scared in quite this way.

the williamsburg bridge is the seventy-fifth longest suspension bridge in the world, which makes any american immediately say “pshaw! there are seventy four others that are much tougher!”  still, i got stuck along the 1600 span that towered over the water.  i couldn’t move forward and couldn’t move back.  this happened three times.  each time, i had a vision of me being the homeless chick who lives on the williamsburg bridge, unwilling to leave or to move.  accepting handouts and generally letting personal hygiene take a backseat.  i’d be an object of pity, scorn, and perhaps curiosity.  i’d feed pigeons.  i would have several pet rats who would be attracted by my pungent body odor.  i’d lash myself to the bridge during storms.  i’d lose my cell phone!

i had to get unstuck.  i was so scared my feet had fallen asleep and if i didn’t get moving the legs would be the next to go.  i started saying thank you.  thank you to the rain.  thank you to the shoes i was wearing.  thank you to the guy who had helped when the mapquest directions were just a bit . . . off.  thank you even to mapquest.  i said thank you to my facebook friends, pausing only briefly as i realized the reason i was going across the bridge was to meet f2fb friend #317 who had introduced herself on facebook.  i thanked american airlines for getting me to new york.  i thanked whoever built the bridge (later i learned construction on the bridge began i n1896 with henry hornsbotal as the chief architect and leffert buck as his engineer)

as i approached the end of the bridge i felt an odd exhileration.  and it wasn’t just relief.  it was a sense that i was buoyed up by all the people i had thanked, even by henry and leffert although at that point i didn’t know their names.

and i got off that bridge and found the staten island ferry . . . thanks to five different new yorkers who made me think that new yorkers are the friendliest people on earth!  i thank them too!

i didn’t expect to get choked up by the staue of liberty, so i sat on the side of the ferry that does not get the view of the statue.  but as we approached, i couldn’t help myself.  statue of liberty, dollface, i’m grateful to you!

and so i was wrong.  it could be that bad.  and yet, it also could be wonderful!


on wednesday mark zuckerberg will send us a nice thank you note!

last year, in florida, i took off my sandals and swung on a tire. i didn't know that the grass had been spread with fertilizer. when i went to the airport, i was put in a bulletproof glass cage by tsa. fertilizer combined with other materials can be a component part in a bomb. i'm not a terrorist, really, i just look like one.

on wednesday, facebook will go public.  offering shares to the general marketplace, mark zuckerberg is going to find himself a billionaire.  and what exactly does he own?  everything about facebook users.  pictures, even the stupid ones.  updates, status, posts, comments, notes. . . all the timeline of our lives.  i’m grateful to facebook because it has allowed me to meet and keep friends.  last year, i made a promise to meet all 325 of the facebook friends i had on new year’s eve.  i did pretty okay, meeting 90% of them.  still, there’s a lot of information out there that mark and facebook own.  i assume a thank you note is coming after he collects his check.

this year i am trying to pay it forward on last year’s resolution.  last year, every facebook friend did their best to encourage and support me in my efforts.  and even a few friends who aren’t even on facebook!  i traveled around the world with my eldest son and met so many people!  i reinforced friendships, reviewed histories, suffered some disappointments but it was all worth it!

tomorrow i get back on an airplane for the first time since just before christmas.  i’m believing that my fear of flying is returning.  half of my fear dissipates when i make it through security.  i seem to have a veritable talent for attracting the “random” search and the “we just need to take apart your bag”. . . really, do they have to paw through my panties quite like that???

today, i heard from molly parshall that yesterday she hadn’t really been able to take the index cards and start on her goal of a) taking a train ride with her son blake and b) becoming a psychiatrist (or other professional) who helps those with agoraphobia.  instead, she was stuck in the house a little paralyzed with fear.  i wish i could have stayed longer in coldwater.  and maybe i should have.  but i know i’m going back.  because i promised that i would.

molly is a beautiful talented and very witty agoraphobic. we made up a program using small steps to get her out of the house. then i drove home to chicago.

 

those goals are pretty big ones, and the small things in between are just like my visits to facebook friends–

while i know she feels disappointed in herself–i think it’s a good sign that she’s spending a lot of the day playing farmville on facebook.  because if she wasn’t a little intimidated that would mean that her goals aren’t big enough.  last year, when i first decided i’d strike out into the world, i spent about a week utterly out of my mind with fear.  i feel for her, but i know she’s strong, brave and going to be okay.

tomorrow i’ll be in boston to meet lisa tabbi-fuller.  it’s her birthday and we’re going to play with heights.  mastering one fear is a good way of proving to yourself that you can master all fears.


facebook, friendship, fear. . . and the power of index cards

i woke up yesterday morning with a feeling of unbearable dread.  it didn’t help that i was in ohio, having drove six hundred miles to drop off my son eastman at college, and  that there was a steady gray rain tapping at the window.  tapping and remind me that i had promised to drive to michigan.  i couldn’t do it.  i couldn’t take the highway, the cars, the trucks, the lights, the police.  put that pillow back over my head.

i drive a mini-cooper. sometimes the driver's seat makes me feel like the victor hugo character quasimoto. add a few cups of coffee to create acid reflux. which has the same symptoms as a heart attack.

still, i had made a promise to molly parshall.  she’s a new facebook friend.  i had never met her.  a lot of her friends on facebook have probably never met her because she is housebound.  her agoraphobia has reached a point that she is confined to the house although she can and does try to walk out onto the front porch and pick up the mail once a day.  but she does spend a considerable amount of time confined to her bedroom.  she asked for me to come see her.  i could not refuse her.  i drove  along the ohio turnpike which was the route i had to use to get to chicago anyway, but there was a point where i would have to make a choice.  east to chicago and home and safely.  north to michigan to molly’s house.

i sat at the rest stop for a while.  i ate seven pepcids.  then i got sort of stubborn.  i headed north, into michigan.  i realized  i was going to be late. i called molly.  it was the first time we had ever spoken.  her voice was trembling.  i asked her how she was and she said nervous.  i said i was too.  and that i was going to be late.

i was wrong about one thing, well, two.  i was probably just as scared of her as she was of me.  and i needed her as much as she needed me.   i’m fifty one years old and my children don’t need me as much.  once you are a mother, the part of you that needs to be needed is permanently installed.  a facebook friend needed me.  i parked the car.

this is a terrible picture of her house taken on a rainy, gray day. the parshalls live in a quiet, family friendly neighborhood in a small town in michigan. they have a row of trees out back and a river just beyond the trees. every new yorker with a rent controlled eight by ten loft apartment is now officially jealous and should be.

i knocked on the door.  i heard a dog barking from inside.  i waited.  and waited.  i had thought it was possible she would simply decide not to talk to me.  but at last the door opened.  she was crying, or had been.  i started crying and i did the only thing that moms know how to do.  i hugged her.

but only after she got the dog settled down.  i realize i’m sort of scared of being bitten by a dog.  we sat down in her living room and held hands.

molly is a beautiful twenty six year old wife and mother.  when she was seventeen she became engaged, then discovered she was pregnant, then lost her beloved grandmother, married, and then nursed her father through his final illness.  all this within the course of a year.  and that’s when she started being afraid.  she has had periods of time in which she has been able to leave the house.  but there’s been a definite slide and now it’s the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, then back to the bedroom.  she is trapped but communicates with the world with her cell phone and facebook.  facebook is a fun diversion and a way to stay in touch with friends (even to make new friends) but she wants more than that.  and i sort of wonder if she couldn’t communicate through facebook and phone, what would happen to her. . .

i had brought her a present for her son blake.  it’s a magic set (shhhh!  that’s supposed to be a surprise) and i had brought her a set of yarn.  she crochets and i wanted her to have something to distract her when she was nervous.  because i was going to ask her to do some things that would make her nervous.   over the next hour we came up with a plan–taking the scary things and putting them in order, least scary to utterly terrifying.  we used index cards. i’m a believer in index cards.

at the end of the visit, i realized she was nervous again.  so was i.  i drove the four hours home, thinking the whole time that maybe i shouldn’t have interfered in her life.  but we’re friends and that’s what friends do, right?

molly and i said goodbye and i promised i'd be back. she countered by saying maybe she should come to chicago. that made me so happy!

i got home and had a message from her:  she has created a blog in which she’ll write about her progress.  i’m a subscriber already!  and she had felt the urge to go out for a car ride with her husband jeff.  jeff is her “safe” person and being in the car is something that she used to be able to do with him.  i don’t know if they went for a drive, but just the optimism is wonderful.  today, i hope my friend molly gets out on the front porch for fifteen minutes, just like she promised on the index cards.  why?  because she’s crocheting me a damn scarf, that’s why!  :-)


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