i think i’m scared of flying again. i was scheduled to fly into laguardia this week to meet new facebook friends and reconnect with my son joseph. then, as the dire predictions rolled in about hurricane sandy, i felt that familiar panic about getting on a plane. the three days before imagining crashes,bird strikes, fuel starvation, sabotage–to say nothing of panic attacks, homicidal fellow passengers, delirious flight attendants, ebola virus transmission. .. .
i also watched the trailer for the denzel washington movie “flight” and although denzel is the sexiest man on earth, i wouldn’t recommend watching this. even if you’re the most placid of flyers or high on a mixture of ambien and margaritas, just the preview will make you think twice about anything aeronautical.
when i made a commitment to meet all 325 of my facebook friends during 2011 i was a white knuckle flyer. okay, honestly, i was a three glasses of wine and an ativan before i get on the plane gal. i probably was in more danger from that combination than anything else.
as the year progressed, as i got on a plane just about every week, i stopped being scared. stopped thinking about it too much. drank less. didn’t even bother with the ativan. started to feel wonderful as the plane gently or bumpily lifted me into the air.
still, the hurricane spooked me and it’s been nearly two months since i’ve been on a plane. i have fallen back into the habit of fear. i’ve lost my flight mojo!
the airports of new york closed and i will reschedule. but now i will have to teach myself again to sally forth. at least i have a credit at delta airlines!
new york is like a love affair: getting out is so much harder than getting in–and leaving new york at three o’clock on a friday afternoon, with an e-ticket for a flight at laguardia, you should be prepared for an experience that will not compare favorably with the ex-boyfriend who slashed your tires and dumped a box of your thong panties, that sex toy, and the edible body lotion from victoria’s secret on your mother’s with the words, “i think these are for her.”
but i got out of new york after my visit with facebook friends azusa watanabe from tokyo and carolyn quinn and michele persiak from new york even with a cab driver who got lost, a terminal change, long lines, surly t.s.a. agents who claim they want to touch my junk because i’m “random”, gate changes, delays, cancellations, etc.
i had paid an extra thirty dollars for a “premium” seat 7a. unfortunately, united sold that same seat to someone else. the airline implemented its new “customer empowerment” policy and i lost. i was seated in a middle seat between two oversized bins (i mean men). note to united: can i have my thirty dollars back?
several times over the last year, facebook friend david janis and i have tried to set up meeting with each other. while i was in new york, we talked on the phone and i resolved that i would really do it! i made reservations at a hotel and plotted the course. a few days before my arrival, david messaged me that he was having anticipatory anxiety attacks which was particularly difficult because of some other health problems he battles. i decided that since the hotel was prepaid, i would go anyway.
david is an agoraphobic who embraces himself and his way of life. he doesn’t shy from it. and he helps others who may want to change and others who may not want to–as well as those who think they have no options. he has a lot of interesting wisdom. i wanted to hear it! i told him how long i would be in st. louis and if the anticipatory anxiety fell away i would be happy to see him.
yesterday, i went to the jefferson memorial park and i would have ordiniarily confined myself to going to the westward expansion museum. but then i thought why do i place a limit on myself or on what i believe is possible for me?
brave before you have your ticket to the arch tram is one thing. brave after you have put your money down . . . well, in my case, courage evaporated. and i think part of the mood change, the anticipatory anxiety if you will, is the same as in airports. the park rangers are now equiped with a conveyor belt, metal detectors, harsh voices. i saw one poor woman moved to tears because she had to go through the metal detector three times. finally, she lifted her shirt, as if to say “look, i don’t have anything!” and this is what we do just to visit a national park.
i needed an attitude change but i couldn’t get enough privacy to create it. after a long line that slithered down into the basement of the museum, we were loaded as a group into a room about the size of a motel six bath not included. we should have been appreciating the exhibit items devoted to the arch’s architect eero saarinen. instead, we were crowded together so tightly contemplative thought was not possible. we were half an hour late. we were then herded further into the sub-basement of the museum into another area where we were shown a three and a half minute safety and history video.
i admit it, i freaked in the eero saarinen tram car. seats five but only if the five are freakishly small or they are quite friendly in a kentucky cousin sort of way. getting off the tram and entering into the arch’s viewing area, i totally lost it. i stood in the center of the eight feet by twenty feet room, with its low slung windows overlooking the city. i waited for my legs to stop shaking.
the arch shifts a little, there are noises from the bumping tram cars, children running up and down the narrow space made me want to scream “stop it! you’re going to make the damn arch collapse!”
i waited. the park officials–can you really call teenagers officials?–looked bored. a group of teens turned their backs to the windows and took pictures of each other with their cell phones and then texted. lots of texting. i decided that yes i was scared. but hardly anybody was aware of it. except for that poor couple who had driven up with me on the tram. they were from indianapolis and i think they were glad to get out of the tram and even more relieved that i was going back down without waiting for them.
we take our victories whenever and however we can find them! and now i hope that i meet david, but if not, i still have other facebook friends to visit in the gateway to the west!
of course, my facebook friend william clark goes with me for every adventure! he is right there in front of the blue trunk! the real william clark explored the western half of the united states from 1803 to 1806 in what is commonly called the lewis and clark expedition. you can read all about it in William Clark and the Shaping of the West by Landon Y. Jones!
in order to succeed, a million things must go right. in order to fail, only one thing has to go wrong. i admit that on the morning of august ninth i was thinking there’s going to be that one thing today. four friends coming together for lunch at laconda verde in new york city. one coming in from japan. one from brooklyn. one from staten island. and me? i get lost everywhere.
i just didn’t think it could happen.
facebook friend #316 carolyn quinn woke up on that morning and had a completely different mindset!
on may 9th of this year, i met michele piersiak of staten island. she is the 317th facebook friend i have met with since i made the new years resolution to meet all my facebook friends. so often, we have friendships and partnerships that exist online, on the phone, on facebook or twitter or instagram–and it’s important to supplement those interactions with real time.
michele followed the progress of my resolution because she shares a characteristic with me–we are both agoraphobic. we both have awful panic attacks and tend to look for our “safe” zone–and that zone can expand and contract. in my case, it has expanded considerably because of my facebook project. in michele’s case, she had been nearly housebound for more than a year because leaving the house affords too many opportunities for panic. but she’s just too young and pretty and bright and with so much to offer . . . it’s a darn shame to take that away from the world.
i’m a believer in tackling small goals and in doing so creating courage for tackling bigger ones. for michele, a big goal is to become a doctor to help others with this condition. a smaller goal was to have lunch at laconda verde. i said if she could make it to the restaurant in manhattan, i would fly out and take her there. she’s been working on getting out of the house and this morning she would get on the staten island ferry. we picked her up at the station. she was accompanied by her boyfriend anthony.
michele did something that is really important. she planned what she was going to bring. as someone who now lives out of her little orange bag, i totally understand.
we got off the ferry and took a cab to the restaurant. we were met by facebook friend #326 azusa watanabe who had flown in from japan a few days before.
the second most wonderful thing about lunch was dessert! the most wonderful thing was being with friends! after lunch azusa, carolyn and i went to have our auras photographed. michele and anthony went home to staten island. i think michele can do anything she sets her mind to!
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!
staten island ferry
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!
this morning, murphy my always and forever cab driver picked me up for the ride to the airport. i had some exciting news for him.
well, maybe we’re going to have to work on our domestic bliss! i told murphy i was off to see facebook friends in new york–and he wished me luck and took down my flight information so he could meet me upon my return.
one of the most common things for agoraphobes to do is to want to remain in their “safe” place. that’s mostly their house, but sometimes it includes other places. in the past, my “safe” place has, at its best, included my house, downtown winnetka, my kids’ schools, and the place where i climb on a stairmaster in the vainglorious hope that i shall look like elle mcpherson one day. at its worst, my safe place has been my bedroom. even the walk across the hall to the bathroom seemed iffy.
but last year, meeting my facebook friends in america and abroad, i have learned to make the safe place wherever i am. it’s a discipline i have to remember every time i go out. and sometimes it just doesn’t work. i had three housebound days this week and i was really worried that i wouldn’t get to the airport. the airport was crowding because a stormline was coming in and flights were being delayed, canceled, bumped. i aimed for the nearest bar.
an airport bar is actually a great place to create a safe zone. forget about those big planes outside the window, forget about the people rushing back and forth, forget about the announcements, just find the place nearest your gate and pretend you’re in your own neighborhood. amongst friends. ..
look! even mr. clark is making friends! mr. william clark, as you know is the nineteenth century explorer best known for his travels (1803-1806) through the northwest with merriweather lewis — also known as the lewis and clark expedition. clark died in 1838 but oddly, he has a facebook profile page, posts daily accounts of his travels and is my facebook friend (f2fb friend #60). his biographer lanny jones (f2fb friend #59) sent me a Clark doll to remind me to explore fearlessly. looks like clark’s doing a little exploring of his own. . .
mr. clark getting cozy with a teddy bear who was going home to new york with another traveler. i carry my william clark doll in my bag every flight i take and the back seat of my car? looks like a damn toys r’ us!
it is a truth so well acknowledged that it scarcely needs to be written–there are four days during the year that the presser boys cannot forget me. one: christmas (who cannot forget that one?), two: my birthday (july 23rd in case you’re in the early shopping mood), three: valentine’s day (okay, okay, it’s usually associated with romantic love, but i get a pass on this okay?), and then the big kahuna of mom allegiance:
mother's day is huge! it was originally intended in the 1800s as a pacifist holiday and was nationally recognized in 1914. father's day wasn't recognized officially until the nixon administration. i actually am old enough to remember nixon. argh!
oddly, my oldest son joseph was born on a mother’s day sunday in 1988–and please don’t do the math on the date i got married although it is a medical miracle that he was born four months premature but fully eleven pounds eight ounces.
sometimes my sons eastman and joseph both, during their newly minted adult independence, have forgotten or misplaced a holiday. it’s tough to forget christmas but there’s been occasional lapses on valentine’s and my birthday. i tend to disown them in my mind. . . . at least until they remember and, in varying degrees of contrition, they have their memory and mother love restored.
in any event, this past year and a half i have been traveling a lot to visit facebook friends and i planned a visit to new york this coming may 6th in order to celebrate mother’s day with joseph and then to remain in new york so that i might celebrate his birthday on the eighth. and to visit facebook friends! maybe even wordpress friends who tell me they’re available! i fly out to new york on the sunday the sixth and return on the twelfth of may.
there’s only one minor problem which i discovered–
oh, the irony! i get so darned upset if the boys forget mother's day and here i have . . . forgotten what day is mother's day! mother's day is traditionally observed on the second sunday of may. this year it will be the latest date in may that it can occur--the thirteenth!
this coming mother’s day, i will be thinking also of my mother. i have a biological mother named aleta. i lived with her and my father until i was three years old. then my parents put me up for adoption. i tracked them down when i was twenty five years old. a few years later, my mother aleta cut me off. she has only seen my older son joseph once and has never met my younger son eastman (who just turned twenty). i recently sent her a facebook friendship request.
my mother loves animals and lives in washington, d.c. and, like me, she trained as a lawyer. when i sent her a friendship request, my account was suspended for fourteen days because facebook freezes an account if someone you send a friendship request to claims that they don't know who you are.
i am looking forward to seeing my son joseph in new york and visting with facebook friends–even if i have miscalculated. . . .
sometimes i travel a long way to see a facebook friend and f2fb friend #274 victoria stone-grace traveled to visit me! she and her friend marcus drove three hours from northampton, massachusetts to see me in new york before i headed back to winnetka. i hadn’t seen tory in such a long time that i was worried i wouldn’t recognize her. but then i saw a tall, cool, sophisticated gal amidst the earnest tourists, somberly dressed natives and, oh, yes, the santas.
new york city was host to a santa run and so a quarter of the people in midtown manhattan were dressed as either santa, a sexy santa, or an elf. i was dressed as a midwestern middle aged lady who lives out of a suitcase
then i saw a long, tall, sophisticated drink of a lady. with a dude in a striped sweater. tory grace had ARRIVED! tory is my younger son’s eastman’s age, she’s a sophomore at smith college and she had moved with her family from winnetka when she was in seventh grade to live in texas. i am facebook friends with both her and her brother alex. up until a few months ago, alex lived in chicago and i sort of assumed i would get to see him when my schedule lightened up a bit. then he was transferred by his company to mexico city. i’ve already been on a one day trip to mexico city and know i won’t get to see him before the new year–
tory told me a curious story that forms one of her most vivid memories of me: she and eastman were in fourth grade and had both been sentenced to detention. as we all know, detention goes on your permanent record and can bar you from later success in life. when i came to pick up eastman, i offered tory a ride home. she was very upset thinking that she was now on the fast track to failuretown. i told her no worries.
“you’re tall, beautiful, and you’re going to be a supermodel when you grow up,” i said. “and i might as well teach you how to walk like a supermodel right now so you’ll be ready when your big break comes.”
in order to walk like a supermodel, cross your right foot over your left leg so that it's actually to the left of that leg. then pull your left leg out from behind your right leg and place your right foot to the left of your left leg. this method is approved by giselle!
apparently, tory and i practiced supermodel walking up and down the hallway of crow island school until somebody told us to go home. it was with a heavy heart that i confessed to tory that i am not, and have never been, a supermodel. but that’s okay, because tory is a art history, philosophy and museum management triple threat major. she can be a supermodel whenever she chooses to be.
then i realized i had to get to the airport. i had f2fb friend #275 dave gotaas taking me to the apostolic church of God at eight a.m. the next morning. i had to rush. i asked tory and her friend what they were planning to do since they were already in new york. they said they were going to the museum of modern art. i did something that i could NEVER have done january first of this year. . .
directions to moma
thank you so much victoria stone-grace for coming to see me in new york and being part of my new year’s resolution!!! and if you decide on that supermodel thing, i’m happy to give you a refresher course on the walk. . .