Monthly Archives: January 2012

thomas hobbes or calvin and hobbes–i make it to boston for a surprise

so the boston trip to see a facebook friend looks pretty uncertain as i head for o’hare on sunday morning.

i sorted out with the t.s.a. that even if my ticket said ‘arlynnmissl”  that’s the same as “miss arlynn l” and then they STILL wanted to feel me up!  i got to ride first class for the first time because of my facebook friend tommy chang  who took my steerage ticket and upgraded me.  i felt like a princess when the flight attendant asked if he could hang up my coat.  but i was still uncertain as to what i would find in boston.  would i have to just hang around until my flight home?  would i visit lisa in the hospital?  would i find her at her home?  was i an intruder?

i get very bad anxiety attacks when i leave my home.  well, hell, sometimes i get them when i’m in my house too.  but i’m an avoider, an excuse maker, a “sorry i’m busy” person.  i want to be social, i want to see the world, i want to be out there, and yet what holds me back is the anxiety AND the certainty that i’ll have an anxiety attack and totally embarrass myself or lay myself open to the Hobbesian truth that nobody cares about anybody else.

thomas hobbes was a seventeenth century english philosopher who thought people had not one bit of love for one another. this is not a picture of thomas hobbes, but rather of the cartoon character from calvin and hobbes. if i have an anxiety attack in public, i assume that thomas hobbes will be proved right. the world would be a nicer place if the cat hobbes were correct.


i have tried drugs, therapy, more drugs, more therapy, drinking white wine, more drugs, more therapy.  a friend sent this article about lexapro which is a drug i have tried for anxiety attack.  most drugs, by the way, make me gain weight so i end up not taking them.  also, they’re not particularly effective.  so when i meet a facebook friend who is an adult with this condition suffering for a long time, i don’t judge.  i assume they’ve tried all the same things i’ve tried and found them just as ineffective. . . .  but this writer has a different story:


so now i am in boston, and just a few hours from meeting with my facebook friend lisa tabbi-fuller.  it was her birthday yesterday.  i hope today is the beginning of a really fabulous year!  and it’s going to start with us doing the thing that scares her the most. . .

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!  🙂

the three angels of my trip. . .

i am guarded and guided by angels everywhere.  okay, maybe they’re not angels but they’re close.  they are three facebook friends who are making a real effort to help me in this year’s facebook new years resolution.

last year, in 2011, i visited 292 of my then 325 facebook friends.  i went all around the world, all around the united states, covering an estimated 60,000 miles.  i would have liked to visit the remaining ten percent of my friends but circumstances got in the way.  this year, i have committed to seeing at least ten (maybe twelve?) facebook friends who need me.   because i sure needed my friends last year!  every one of the 292 were generous with their time and their company.  and they often cheered me on as i made other stops along my journey.

for instance, tommy chang was f2fb friend #102 which means he was the one hundred and second facebook friend i saw last year.  he roared into my back driveway in a black sports car.  he had brought his galpal rachel li (now his wife) and they whipped up a wonderful chinese dinner.   i had never had chicken hearts before and it took a little goading to get me to try.  they were delicious!

this year, tommy noticed i’m flying to boston on sunday.  i am meeting with a facebook friend whose anxiety attacks have kept her from experiencing life the way she’d like to.  in fact, her attacks have prompted several job losses and she’s worried she’s about to lose her present position.  the attacks often happen when she’s in elevators so we’re going to do some playing with going up and down and back up again.  tommy emailed  me and asked if i would like to use his frequent flyer miles to be upgraded to first class.

pan am went out of business and flying isn't as glamorous as it used to be but who wouldn't want to go first class? it means i get to jump the line at the t.s.a. maybe they won't dare to feel me up because i'm. . . first class!


thank you tommy!  and thank you also to mary mcmanus, who was f2fb friend #168.  my anxiety attacks were so bad that when my older son joseph went to boston to attend boston university, i never once visited him.  last year, mary took me around the campus so i could see where he ate, where his dorm room was, where he took his classes, even where he went to church.  i was surprised to find out he went to church.

mary emailed me and asked me if i had made hotel reservations for this trip to boston.  i said i hadn’t.  she said she knew of a cute little hotel that had some cats.  was i allergic to cats?  i am, but not that bad. . .

turns out the hotel she's thinking of is hotel mcmanus, her home. i'll be sleeping in her daughter's room. if there's a diary tucked under the pillow, i'm reading it! i love finding out what teenagers are doing, especially if they're not my kids!


and then there was another angel–this morning i leave for ohio to drop off eastman at college and then swing north to aim for coldwater, michigan where i’ll see my friend molly parshall.  this will be an interesting trip.  i’m a little nervous.  i’m a lot nervous.  oh, just let’s be honest–i’m quaking.

but then this angel–hazel cameron warren, whom i have never met–emailed me to offer to extend reiki healing.  i don’t know much about reiki healing but apparently it can be done without the healer and healee being in the same place.  hazel has offered up her intention that i be safe, secure, healthy and happy.  thank you angel hazel.

angels figure prominently in the christian, jewish and muslim religions. my favorite archangel is michael the warrior. but just for this moment, i think angels hazel, tommy and mary are just dandy!

packed up for my first facebook journey of the new year!

i am ready for a facebook friendship adventure!  or at least, i’ve packed my carharrt’s bag!  tomorrow morning i head east to ohio and then ultimately, on thursday, i will end up on the doorstep of my first facebook friend of the year.  she might have a panic attack.  i might have a panic attack.  we might together panic a bit.  there’s a certain element of uncertainty!

along with meriwether lewis, william clark led the lewis and clark expedition. beginning in 1803, the duo traveled for three years across the western half of the united states, securing for president thomas jefferson the pacific northwest. although dead since 1838, clark has a facebook page. he is my facebook friend and i visited him last year. okay, maybe i just visited his biographer lanny jones.


my facebook friend in michigan has not left the house for some time.  today i had a very afraid day and i think she must have those days every day. still, i want to see her and be a good friend to her.  i think it’s really important to use facebook as a tool for good friendship, but good friendship can’t “just” be facebook.


i am packed for adventure, with my william clark doll. he has been with me for every journey. last year, he traveled an estimated 60,000 miles. well, so did i.


so wish me and mr. clark luck–i am nervous, but i know that nervousness is just the other side of the coin of excited!

sadly, pajama days must come to an end!

i have been surprised by how quickly i have rediscovered pajama days.  sitting in front of my computer, reading a novel, taking hot showers just because i can’t keep warm in this drafty old house.  it’s easy to have one pajama become two pajama days, particularly when there’s and  a chicago snowstorm.

for my friends who say that they've never seen snow. it comes down hard and fast and then has to be shoved aside by trucks. when i took this picture the driver stopped and asked if i wanted his autograph. i should have taken it because the folks who plow the snow away really are heroes.


i have realized that for all of my travels last year–thirteen countries, 292 friends, and so much love and support–i know that it’s really easy for me to fall back into bad habits of staying home.  if i do it any longer, i will end up right back into the cycle of having panic attacks, being scared i’ll have a panic attack if i go out, and then not going out of my house because of that possibility of the panic attack.  so this morning, i started off with a two hour run in the forest. . .

along the forest path, i met a cross country skier named harry who took my picture--it's hard to see, but there were deer in back of me. i think humans look pretty ridiculous to deer. like, why do those animals run on two feet when they have four perfectly fine hooves?


on wednesday i leave for the first of my 2012 f2fb trips.  east, right into the path of more snow.  it’s going to be good to force myself out of the house.  although the pajamas feel so comfortable and the pillows so soft. . .

we’re going to party like it’s 4710!!!!

today is another happy new year!  chinese new year is based on the lunar calendar and this year, year 4710, the first day of the chinese new year will be monday. but saturday is a good day to start celebrating with a traditional chinese new year’s eve family reunion dinner and to think about the coming year.  this year, for you i want good friendship–

the chinese symbol for friendship is two right hands facing each other. you will have a lot of people wish you long life, prosperity and health. don't get me wrong. i want those things for you too. but i especially appreciate and want your friendship!


legend has it that buddha invited twelve animals to dinner on the chinese new year’s eve.  he named a year for each one of the animals that showed up.  this coming year is the year of the dragon.  people born in the year of the dragon are supposed to be innovative, brave and passionate.  salvador dali was born in the year of the dragon.  so was john lennon.  i was born in the year of the rat which seems decidedly less glamorous.

if you’ve made a new year’s resolution — let’s say to lose five pounds or to visit every one of your facebook friends or whatever — you might have made that resolution on january one and now you might be feeling like you’re having a little trouble following through.  this is your chance to start again.  i have only a few words of advice:

aim high — if you aren’t scared of your new year’s resolution and your ability to do it, you’ve sold yourself short.  you should be scared of your resolution.

announce your resolution — to your friends, your family, to facebook, get the word out there so that you can have others hold you accountable the way you want to hold yourself accountable.

celebrate the small victories along the way and ask your friends to help you with making those small victories–if you don’t ask, you’re telling them you don’t need them.  

but i forgot that i have one other wish for you this year–

making any kind of change in your life requires courage. it takes courage to say that you need to and even more to follow through. i think courage is a good thing to put together with friendship.

this coming week, i will be visiting a young mom in coldwater michigan who will teach me about courage and friendship!

facebook friends come out from behind their accounts. . . .

on wednesday, i was invited to the bolingbrook chapter of the anxiety and panic support group.  it was founded by jack benton, a former firefighter who looks exactly like the calm, collected guy you want with you in a fire. . . or a panick attack.  the group has over two hundred members and meet on the first and third wednesday of every month.  but not all the members show up at one time because, well you could probably guess this, some of them are housebound.  but just knowing the group exists is a comfort for those.

i was impressed at how friendly everyone was and i thought there was nothing about them that could have tipped off anybody that they were having problems.  but once they started talking about the anxiety that plagues them, i knew i was in the right place.

they even welcomed by friend bonnie bradlee who went to high school with me and came to the meeting just to be "my support".


if you want to join this group, take a look at their website at  and if that’s too far away for you to take advantage of, you might consider visiting the adaa at


next week i’m visiting a facebook friend in pennsylvania who has trouble leaving her home.  we’ll see if we can figure something out to make her more comfortable.  in the meantime, i thank all my new friends in bolingbrook!  i learned so much!

the facebook friendship danger

“aren’t you scared of meeting your facebook friends?”

i have heard that question so often that i sometimes don’t give it the attention it deserves.  certainly, meeting a facebook friend whom you’ve known for years poses few dangers.  meeting a facebook friend who is a relative even fewer (except for possible crying jags).   the gal you sang in the church choir with but moved to st. louis?  please!  but what about facebook friends you’ve never actually physically met?

kathryn barnes went to wales to meet some new facebook friends and she was last seen at swansea's high street train station on january 4. while all her contact information has been stripped from her account, facebook of course would still have it. her mother is frantic. if i were her mother, i'd be frantic too!


the short answer to the question of whether i’m afraid is no.  the reason is that every time i meet a new facebook friend, i bring a chaperone.  during the past year, i have never taken a trip without someone there.  preferably someone who knows how to drive at night (i’m not great at it) and can carry my bags if necessary.  having the initials joseph leiber presser certainly helps as well–and my son is a wonderful chaperone and once shooed off a facebook gentleman friend who entirely misinterpreted the nature of my new years resolution.  it was “arlynn meets all of her facebook friends” not “arlynn does all of her facebook friends”. . . the chaperone who took me to mexico city was a captain in the u.s. army, twenty six years old, nothing romantic going on but he was determined i would make it there and back.  the first thing he did when we got there is something i think all american travelers should consider–he walked me from the hotel to the american embassy, making me memorize the landmarks along the way and everywhere we went in mexico city, he referenced where we were in relation to the embassy.  it seemed paranoid but really, he knew that if we ever got separated or if something disastrous happened, i was heading straight to the embassy and asking for a cheeseburger and an american flag thermal fleece blanket!

having a chaperone usually doesn’t cause a problem.  we all understand the world is a place that contains a few crazies.  sometimes i think my facebook friends have come to like my chaperones.

blaise pascal was a mathematician and philosopher. he'd probably wager that having a chaperone is unnecessary but that the horrors of the damage created by the one time i would need a chaperone are so great that i was wise to just use one every time. he had some stuff about atheism, God and hell along the same lines.


i have had facebook friends who are within such a geographical distance that i have made exceptions.  for those facebook friends, the rule has to be public place.  must meet in a public place.  and in those circumstances, i always let someone know where i was going and with whom and for how long.

caribou coffee is the second largest retail distributor of coffee in america (guess the first and you'll win a prize). coffee shops were created for the purpose of meeting people. use them!


there were a few facebook friends from the previous year who insisted on the absolute forbidden:  meeting alone at one or the other’s house.  these friends are part of that ten percent i never saw.  they wouldn’t back down on those “i’ll bring a bottle of something special over to your house tonight” terms.  one gentleman friend whom i have never met was driving to my house because i had made that exception . . . but i had not one but two chaperones with me. . . i explained my two friends would join us.  and i later got a text saying my facebook friend’s cousin had been jailed for speeding and my friend was called away.  how inexplicable but average.

i’m sure that kathryn barnes is all right.  her facebook friends have been cooperating with police.  she might just have had a tiff with her mother and wanted some time off.  she might have wanted to create an entirely new life for herself.  she might not even know that anybody is worried about her.  or there may be something totally off.  totally wrong.  totally nancy grace.  oddly, facebook now reports that all of its users are now within four degrees of separation from each other.  which means if you have a facebook account, you know someone who knows someone who is kathryn’s friend.   which makes me wonder if there was a facebook friend she had recently added, someone who isn’t part of the storyline.  this puzzle could be solved.

kevin bacon has been in so many diverse movies that a game was devised called "six degrees of separation" in which kevin could be linked to any hollywood star through his movie roles. facebook allows you to be kevin bacon but even more closely connected.

so am i afraid to meet facebook friends?  well, not on a physical danger level.  i’m more just anxious.  that’s part of who i am.  one day i will learn to own the entire anxiety piece of me.  in the meantime, i have had a wonderful year of meeting facebook friends and this year’s new years resolution is to meet twelve facebook friends who want me to make a difference for them.  i have two lined up for late january early february.  i have a friend in  st. louis who is going to get out of the “safe” zone for a cardinals game.  i have to take what i was given last year–which was a lot of time, friendship, frequent flyer miles, homemade dinners, a garmin gps system, a william clark doll to remind me that i’m an explorer, a portrait, a courage bracelet,  and a whole lot of chaperoning. . . and i have to give that back to others.  without any fear.


p.s. if you have any information on kathryn, please call the swansea police at 0110 01792 654 844 she’s a beautiful gal and she needs to be known to be safe.


tomorrow i meet friends like me. . . and some will be on facebook too!

tomorrow i will meet a lot of new friends.  they might or might not be facebook friends but they are part of my new years resolution of last year and this year.  last year i endeavored to meet all 325 of the facebook friends i had.  i reached ninety percent of my friends.

the other ten percent? some of them moved during the year, some of them didn't respond to my requests to meet, some of them became too famous to be bothered, and some . . . weren't even people at all!


this year’s resolution is to take what i have learned about friendship, about travel, about anxiety and about doing things even when you’re a little bit afraid and i’m going to find twelve facebook friends who want to meet me!  i already have two meetings set up which means that i’m on target for this year’s resolution.

tomorrow i will meet a whole group devoted to anxiety and panic attacks.  these are people who know what it feels like to be me!  they are the anxiety and panic attack support group of bolingbrook and i will learn a lot from them, i’m sure.  they meet on the first and third wednesdays of every month and give each other encouragement.  oddly, i’m a little anxious just thinking about going there–it will be dark and i don’t like to drive at night, there will be people i don’t know, i’ll be expected (or i’ll expect myself) to be witty.  i will fail at that last one.

but i have spent so much of the last two weeks sitting in my house reading messages from facebook friends, many of whom share my difficulties, that i know that i have lost practice at leaving. i need to go.

i need to get my john wayne on!