Tuesday, December 29, 2015

So that was awkward

 I work my butt off to overcome my anxiety and it's hard as hell -- I'm incredibly thankful for those moments with people where anxiety doesn't live.
The other day I was perusing Fred Meyer for some black tights for Ella.  Her wardrobe really lacks in the dressy clothes area, so I needed to get her something for midnight Mass.  I spotted the toddler section and pushed my wobbly, below average cart down the aisle when I thought I heard someone I knew.  I looked past the kiosk of men's socks and noticed it was a strange face and continued on.  A seemingly ...nothing sort of situation, yeah?  Who cares if it was someone I knew?  I'd engage in the short, semi-awkward chit chat of "how are you's" and "good to see you's" and move on without a second thought.  My internal reaction to this unknown person's voice clued me in though that that wouldn't be the case in the slightest -- my sweaty palms, increasing heart rate and overall oh shit what am I going to say vibe informed me that I'd probably attempt to hide behind men's sock kiosk.

It's the end of another year.  And per usual, I've reflected on this past year, have gone through my note cards, checked off goals reached and achievements made, and evaluated areas where I need work.  And that ridiculous situation in the aisle at Fred Meyer made me realize that while I've made strides in overcoming my anxiety in some areas, there are other areas where I haven't even scratched the surface.

Story time.

When I was in 5th grade (for the second time), I was at a friend's house.  My friend's mom told us that it might be nice to call this other friend and invite her over.  So we headed over to the landline with the long, curly cord (haha) and proceeded to debate who would call her.

You call her.
No.  You call her.
It's your house.  Why do I have to call her?

I, being the older and wiser (again, haha), ended up making the call to which I got the answering machine.  Panic set in, but my 12-year-old self pushed through, left a message and left it all at that. The friend never came over.  She never called back.  Later, I got a good reprimanding from my mom: did you leave a mean message for (let's call her Stacy) Stacy?  No, I didn't.  Apparently, this friend's mom called my mom saying I left a mean message and was upset and wanted me to apologize.

And so it all began.  My career of sounding mean, looking mean, enduring a lifelong battle of resting bitch face.  As absurd as all of this sounds, it unfortunately couldn't be more real.  And since it's real, since I can't tell you how many times I've been told I make a bad first impression or that I sounded mean or that I didn't come off nicely or that I (unknowingly) gave someone a dirty look, I've developed crippling anxiety when it comes to small talk, phone calls, running into acquaintances, meeting new people.

So there have been times when I simply haven't called someone back.  When I dodged the opportunity to meet someone knew.  And that networking event?  Please, forget about it.  There have also been times when I've tried to take opportunities in attempt to yank myself out of my comfort zone.  But over the years, I've gotten comfortable hiding in my corner looking angry but feeling fine instead of walking up to whomever and engaging in pleasantries.  Because who wants to sweat over .5 seconds of small talk with someone you're probably never going to see again?  It's too exhausting.

But I'm a mom now.  And there's no room for that.  I have a lifetime of phone calls, play dates, run in's with parents on a soccer field (or ice rink -- hint for my son to play hockey), parent/teacher conferences, doctors appointments, birthday parties ahead of me.  I can no longer let my anxiety get the best of me when interacting with people.  So in 2016 my top resolution, aside from putting my socks in the hamper, is to go to that mom's group.  Yeah, that one I wrote about weeks ago.  The one I said I was going to go to.  And to slowly, just like I did with driving, get on the road.  It could be colossally awkward.  I could be drenched in sweat by the time I get home (no big, I won't wear gray). And someone could walk away from me thinking that woman and her mean voice.  But I'll smile through it.

2016 is for putting aside a lifetime of that (to be frank) crap, and to look at myself through the lens that my best friend sees me, and walk with my head held high.  If I run into any more of those unpleasant comments?  Well that's what the "you don't know me's" and z-snaps are for.

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