Tag Archives: fear

the reward of fear

If they had not told me I was ugly, I never would have sought my beauty.  If they had not told me that they would break me, I never would have learned I’m unbreakable.   If they had not told me that they were trying very hard not to be mad at me, I wouldn’t have known that they failed.  

 

 

“We live in Bozeman,” my facebook friend Lanny wrote me.  “Stop by.  Sarah and I would love to see you.”

lanny wrote "william clark and the shaping of the west" which is an incredible account of how this dude did the lewis and clark expedition and other things.  i have a william clark plush toy i take everywhere on my journeys.  william clark has a facebook page which lanny runs.  ain't that neat?

lanny wrote “william clark and the shaping of the west” which is an incredible account of how this dude did the lewis and clark expedition and other things. i have a william clark plush toy i take everywhere on my journeys. william clark has a facebook page which lanny runs. ain’t that neat?

I arrived in Bozeman expecting saloons, hitching posts, wood sidewalks and the clop-clop-clop of horses.  Instead, there had been some geographical hocus pocus because Bozeman is basically a very sweet, charming college town with soigne restaurants and trendy clothes stores. It looked to be imported from Massachusetts except for the mountains at a distance.

“I could get used to this,” I thought.

To be fair, greater Bozeman seemed to stretch a mere four blocks in every direction, but that was so much larger than any ville I have been in for the past week so I was impressed.

I followed the directions Lanny gave until I got to the part where I was to follow the switch backs.

wow, just drive up to the edge of the side of the mountain, then do a u turn and go to the other side.  yikes!

wow, just drive up to the edge of the side of the mountain, then do a u turn and go to the other side. yikes!

I am scared of heights.  Sky rise hotels I’m the one asking for the second floor.  All of the West Virginia by ways spooked me.  I have never been to the top of Willis Tower even though I lived in the Chicago area 53 years.

I cried all the way up to Lanny’s house because at every turn I thought I was going to fly over the edge of the road and tumble down the mountain.

Shortly after I arrived, Sarah returned from a grocery trip.

“How do you DO it?”  I cried.

“Oh, you get used to it,” she said.

And she’s absolutely right.

After I left the Joneses, I traveled up to Canada to Banff.

a sixties show f-troop included a cameo appearance from a character from banff.  the town was pronounced banf-f-f-f because it is a little confusing about what to do with the extra f.

a sixties show f-troop included a cameo appearance from a character from banff. the town was pronounced banf-f-f-f because it is a little confusing about what to do with the extra f.  i had such a crush on ken berry.  is he my soulmate?

 

in Banff, I visited my facebook friend Madame X.  Madame X doesn’t want me to use her name because she has a stalker ex-boyfriend.  She’s even changed her name on facebook in order to shield herself from him.  I totally sympathized.  We had a wonderful evening in town and the next morning we climbed Sulphur Mountain.  There is a series of switchbacks up the 7500 elevation mountain.  There were spots when I would look down and cry.  There were spots where I told myself that it was okay, I have lived a long, lovely life and I have two great sons to show for it.  There were spots when I counted my steps “one, two” and then stopped and started over.  This wasn’t altitude sickness, this was naked fear.

But there was a weird part of me that was proud that I was keeping up with Madame X.  After all, she’s an adorable, athletic twentysomething year old.  Here I am fifty four years old and I’m keeping up.  Then we got to the peak.

“Sorry I was pretty slow,” Madame X said.  “But I twisted my ankle a few days ago.”

Wow.

Still, I got up the mountain. I even sat on top for a bit and even looked down.  But now I had a problem.. . . how to get down.  i am a western girl used to switchbacks but not quite ready for the ride back down.  Maybe you’re afraid of something–lightning, clowns, spiders.   I believe you are not afraid that you are inadequate, but your deepest fear is that you are powerful beyond measure.  xxoo

 


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!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,220 other followers