aim high and don’t forget st. paul’s advice about personal grooming

on december 31, 2010 i made a different sort of new years resolution:  i decided i would meet all 324 of my facebook friends.  i posted a video about my resolution on facebook.  it was the first video i had ever uploaded and i was quite proud of myself.  the next morning, as i had time to reconsider this,  so many of my facebook friends had commented that they were looking forward to seeing me.  i even got a facebook friendship request from a woman who said that while she lived in wyoming (very far away from my home in winneta) i was not to worry because she was moving to iowa (much closer).  and a friend from the philippines posted a picture of a roasted pig and wrote that his entire village was going to give me a big party when i showed up.  too late to delete the video. . .

that felt like a lot of pressure.

UH OH! what have i done??? most years, i resolve to lose five pounds and give up drinking--and that lasts until twelfth night when i go on a white wine and chocolate bender. and nobody even knows about my failures!

but i really believe that what is truly worth doing must at first glance appear impossible.  and my resolution seemed impossible:  i would have to be on an airplane nearly every week.  i would have to visit nome, alaska at the northwestern tip of america, florida at its southeastern tip and everywhere in between.  i would have to visit thirteen countries.  i would have to be organized about it because, like every other new years resolution, it’s for one year.  365 days, 325 friends.  and i couldn’t weasel out of it because everybody i knew on facebook knew about it.

so i started visiting friends, the ones closest to home until i got a little more confident and could consider a lane ride. . . and i ignored the “how are you ever going to get yourself around the world?” that popped in my head.  there isn’t a single day last year that i didn’t think “i’m giving up” and “this is stupid”. . . and there isn’t a single day  last year when someone didn’t tell me “you should give up” and “this is stupid”. . . oddly, my facebook friends–the so called “just facebook friends” — posted encouragements and support.  it really does make a difference.  if you have a facebook account, go out today and randomly pick five friends.  post something positive on their wall.  i promise you, they will glow. . .

at the end of 2011, i had visited with 292 friends–exactly ninety percent.  the remaining ten percent either didn’t want to see me, are dead, are in jail, have abandoned their accounts, have been involved in their own travels so that i can’t pin them down, or are spambots.  oh, and four people who have become too famous to consider me their friend anymore.

this year, i have been more focused on visiting friends who are like me.  there’s a name for me–agoraphobia, or what the ancient greeks would call “fear of the marketplace”.  i like to think of myself as reclusive, hermetic, withdrawn, or maybe just shy.  and maybe scaredy cat is a good one.  i’m one of those people who would never leave my house if i didn’t have to.  you have people like that in your family, in one of the houses on your street, amongst your friends.

yesterday, i really didn’t want to leave the house but i was scheduled to visit facebook friend #302.  janet browall lives about two hours away from me and i was worried because my windshield is cracked.  my car is falling apart.  and also, to be fair, i ALWAYS want to stay home.  but i dutifully drove west. . .

i know what you're thinking--that i didn't actually see janet and that i googled "goldie hawn" and have slapped her picture up on this blog. no, this is actually janet. she's gorgeous!

we spent a wonderful hour filling in the gaps of facebook.  you can’t be friends just by paying attention to posts.  there has to be some physical interaction, even if it’s just sharing a cup of coffee at starbucks.  she has panic attacks and is worried about an upcoming flight she has to take on her own.  i have suggested self-hypnosis because it worked for me.  also, a preflight beer.  or four.

i felt like janet and i had known each other forever and i would have liked to spend more time with janet, but i had one other errand to do. . .

one of the things i am amazed by is the wide variety of religious and spiritual beliefs amongst my friends.  i have come to appreciate how we all strive to make a connection to something beyond ourselves.  my facebook friend bonnie bradlee was the #70 friend i visited last year.  we knew each other in high school and last year we met in person for the first time in thirty years.  bonnie has become a christian and her faith has led her to become part of missions of healing and support around the world.  last year, she went to hydrabad, india to mission.  she had a remarkable story to tell me yesterday.

she also related to me that when she was in india, people wanted to have their pictures taken with her more so than with any other person on her mission.  at the end of the trip, it was with a weary and sorry heart that she discovered that the reason people wanted that souvenir was because she is, well, overweight.  and she believed God has spoken to her, telling her that she cannot mission to his people who are sick or starving when she represents excess.  so for her, this year is about bonnie.  we worked out together and i saw an incredible determination to lose weight.  not for vanity’s sake, or to attract the attentions of a man, but to be able to better serve the Lord.

however, i am a mischievous woman.  and i believe God appreciates a little whimsy.  i took bonnie to get a manicure and a pedicure.  after all, Paul the Apostle said to the Corinthians “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  you are not your own; you were bought at a price.  therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  he had some definite opinions about manicures, pedicures, working out, getting a good haircut, although he really didn’t go in for laser hair removal and restylane.

today, i will work on getting that windshield fixed and then i have to get myself out on the road again. . .

41 responses to “aim high and don’t forget st. paul’s advice about personal grooming

  • pratyushnalam

    amazing story. can i meet u too?

  • Harold

    I think it is great what you have accomplished! Also all the support you have gotten, that can be the best help and motivation. Keep on keepin’ on!

  • sherrylcook

    I am so glad I’ve found your blog, this is very interesting and I look forward to reading future posts. I would like to invite you to check out my blog also, I just started this month and I hope to inspire others to find peace within themselves and to live in the moment with gratitude and love. Hugs! Sherry

  • nowickcandle

    Very inspirational! Thank you!

  • meredith

    Again, good for you! Every day you leave your house is a victory for you and tremendous inspiration for people like me, who, on a day like today, feel like leaving the house is a worse decision than taking the risk to fall down publicly.

    Thank you.

  • Bluejellybeans

    I read your story and just want to tell you that you are an inspiration to many and an example to all of us.

  • eof737

    Great idea and project. Loved Erica’s inspiring interview and found my way to your blog… Have an awesome year and keep going!

  • Linda

    Hello ArLynn,
    I’m so impressed with your project to overcome your phobia. Agoraphobia came to visit me in my 30’s and I was told that had I not sought help I could have been housebound. Needless to say, I did what the specialists advised and conquered it!
    I get the occasional panic but it doesn’t last long and I’ve travelled alone far and wide.
    You are an inspiration to all those who suffer with this. Brilliant!

  • midnitechef

    Lovely true story!
    I’m wondering if I have agoraphobia, the last time I bought groceries was a month ago. Don’t worry, I’m not starving, there’s a pantry and freezer and a Husband who goes shopping for me. He gets frustrated that I don’t want to be around people or go out. It’s a feeling that comes and goes with my ups and downs of bipolar disorder. Are the two related?

    • arlynnpresser

      i’m not a psychiatrist but i am somebody who’s lived a fair amount of years. which counts for experience. you don’t sound like being this way is something you like. often we have a “safe” person we don’t mind going out with. maybe make time for that safe person to be with you and go to some new places. i can’t help but think that staying in your house and isolating yourself a bit doesn’t make the bipolar stuff worse. but that’s just an opinion. . .

  • Srv

    Nice 2 meet U.
    I don’t know is it laziness or else but I do like to stay in front of my computer…I do have self confidence probs too. I think I m useless….lol….

    Anyway I will visit Ur blog regularly now.

    God bless.

  • sheri deloach

    Another good blog and stories! I applaude you and your efforts and success through God’s guiding hand to reach out! Giving of yourself is what life is all about and it appears you are certainly doing it well! I am new to this blog as of yesterday!

  • writeanne

    What a find your blog is, ArLynn! I came across it because of it being featured on wordpress news. What a great idea – the mission and the blog. All the best to you.

  • nonexpert35

    Hi, Arlynnpresser.

    I really like this:

    “this year, i have been more focused on visiting friends who are like me. there’s a name for me–agoraphobia, or what the ancient greeks would call “fear of the marketplace”. i like to think of myself as reclusive, hermetic, withdrawn, or maybe just shy. and maybe scaredy cat is a good one. i’m one of those people who would never leave my house if i didn’t have to. you have people like that in your family, in one of the houses on your street, amongst your friends.”

    Well, that is me. But wait! There’s more to me than being a scaredy cat. I’m a “total, devout coward.” There! I got it out.

    So congradulations on all your efforts to actually get out there and meet with people, Arlynn.

    Also, I want to add a comment about what Dr. Phil once said. He said that at the root of all anxiety and phobias is a fear of losing control. I think that people might feel violated in some way by other people if we feel we can’t be in control of the situation, that is, is control of ourselves. I think there is a fear that other people will take control and take advantage. Anyway, that is one of the most valuble perspectives I got from Dr. Phil.

    • arlynnpresser

      there is something to the notion that a true agoraphobic really only has one panic attack. everything else is the anticipation or the avoidance of having an attack and of being that much out of control! many thanks to you!

  • SusanWritesPrecise

    Congratulations on the success you’ve achieved thus far. It’s impressive. I wouldn’t leave the house if I didn’t have to, and I always want to be home. It wasn’t always this way, though. I guess it started a few years ago. Hard to pinpoint. In any case, I am happy to have found your blog!

    • arlynnpresser

      it’s not the worst thing to want to be home. i mean, there really IS no place like it! but it’s only a problem if you feel that there is some of your life that you’re not living, some of your potential you’re not using, or places you really really really want to go that you think you can’t. i so admire you! bestest, arlynn

  • Faye-Merrill Geller

    Dearest ArLynn,
    Thank you so much for replying to my comment so quickly. You amazed me with the huge number of comments you replied to today. I discovered why the link to my blog didn’t work, and replaced it wIth the correct one.
    Much Love,

  • keithosworld

    Great idea and the best of luck on your travels, there has to be a book in there somewhere at the end. I can see the film, a few people being a little wackey and off the wall… the plot thickens, any how stay lucky!


  • Sharp Little Pencil

    ArLynn, I happened on your post (congrats on the article that made the WordPress home page) and wanted to let you know, my mom had agoraphobia, too. I was the only person who could coax her out to the car and then drive her to the doctor, and that was the only trip out she could make. I applaud your courage! Not just in meeting 90% of your friends (and the famous ones always drop you because you “remember them when”!), but in taking that first step out onto the Welcome mat, into the world. I’m bipolar and PTSD and blog from home… actually was slipping into agoraphobia but pushed through it. Like giving birth to myself! Peace, Amy

  • Carrie-Anne

    Very inspiring story! My so-called fiancé has severe agoraphobia which is worsening because he deliberately avoids doing anything that would require facing his fears. It’s very frustrating to be with someone who knows he’s sick and needs help, but prefers to only go within 15 minutes of his house (really his parents’ house) and come up with all sorts of reasons why he won’t go to therapy, find a list of outs to keep him in stressful situations, cut the umbilical cord, etc. Maybe someday he’ll finally be in the place you got to, where he realizes he needs help and has to change himself because no one else will and it’s not normal or healthy to live his life like this. (He’s also got a whole boatload of other disorders and issues, as if severe agoraphobia weren’t enough.)

  • peacelily70x7

    Bonnie Bradlee sounds like an amazing woman, I would love to know her…. right away I knew she was a sister in Christ!!!

  • peacelily70x7

    P.S. I was a shut in for 2 years … I’m only just coming out of it… I love your passion and strength to beat it, I know it’s not easy! Also, you’ve got some pretty neat people on your blog! I’ll be checking in on your writings…. I felt really blessed from what I’ve seen and read so far. Thank you for sharing!

  • John J. Rigo, Texas' Poet

    Dear ArLynn,

    What a wonderful story you have shared. The World was long overdue for your sharing of your love for others. Continued blessings in your life long journey.

    John J. Rigo
    Author and Publisher
    Amidst Series of Poetry Books
    “Serving the Homeless Cause of Texas”

  • Carmen Hamilton

    I’m sure you’ve been told this in every other comment…but you’re a real inspiration! For others with agoraphobia, I’m sure, but also for anyone struggling with any mental disease, disability, or problem. Rather than doing what most people do – accepting their problems as permanent and unchangeable – you’ve made the decision to overcome your anxiety…and you’ve done so in a really unique way! good luck! and I totally agree with the poster who suggest their could be a book or movie in the works 😉

  • thalyacabrera

    wonderful blog. congratulations, Im come from Gran Canary island ( Spain ) I had agoraphobia by 21 years, today Im free, Soon I will open my blog about agoraphobia and I will explain techinques I use out agoraphobia. I would like to invite you to check out my blog.I indebted to those who suffer from agoraphobia. HOPE because it comes out, I out, here there is an association called OPEN HORIZONG, I learned understand this phobia and has come out of it. I help people who suffer the same with experts in them. also my doctor is honor and cause of the association.
    There is Light at the end of the tunnel.
    Best reggard.

  • wilhelminatunnels

    Ah yes, I see I am not the only one who calls them tunnels.

  • bargaindiva

    What an incredible blog! What an incredible adventure! I am behind you 100% that you should take care of your body by treating yourself with a pedi/mani every so often! This life can be very hard so it’s important to take time to enjoy the little pleasures…like chocolate…and massages…and pedicures… you get the picture!

  • dearsuburbia

    Such a beautifully inspirational blog! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!! I’ve also struggled, still sometimes struggle, with agoraphobia. So important to share these stories and experiences. Blessings to you!

  • living4bliss

    I suffered this condition but I have been free for decades.

    You are moving in the right direction.

    Eventually the anxiety will subside (you will always have butterflies when facing something different) but just breathe deeply and work through it.


    Congratulations on your journey, thus far.

  • editormmm

    Reblogged this on Manic Musings Magazine and commented:
    Great story about step-by-step triumph over fear.

  • Bonnie

    Thanks for an incredible day, and for the shout out about my blog. Guess I’m going to have to get back to the keyboard! Sadly, my fingers are bare again, but my toes are still a beautiful shimmery purple!! Can’t wait til we get together again. Next time is your neck of the woods!

    • meredith

      I just read your comment, Bonnie, and I read the post about your adventure, too. I have to say this really gives me hope about our future, as a people… everywhere. We are as broken as we choose to be, at times.

      This is Grace in action. It’s beautiful.

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