How Much Worry?

The last time I saw a therapist in person, I filled out what seemed like reams of paper questionnaires. When we spoke, it was clear she thought I had an anxiety disorder. It kind of surprised me though because I never figured I had any issues. I knew what anxiety looked like, my son has suffered with it mightily since he was a small boy. I had never before considered it was an issue in my life because I never had Evan’s problems. Nothing I dealt with looked anything like what Evan dealt with.

Evan has suffered with anxiety for as long as I can remember. It was actually diagnosed at around seven, but I was on the front lines dealing with it, in all its forms, when he was tiny as well. We had a brief and disastrous medication trial but decided to create an environment where he could thrive and his anxiety could be managed without it. I often thought to myself “it shouldn’t be so hard to be eight” – or nine, or ten. Of course we went to many, many professionals of all ilks and stripes. I don’t remember exactly when it was that we found Steve – but he was the one. Even now when things get tough, “I need to talk to Steve” will prompt a call for an appointment. As a teenager, things have leveled off a bit. But every once in a while something will happen to set him off and it will hit me in the face, “Oh yeah, this doesn’t really go away, does it?” My old skills kick in and try to help him rebalance. But sometimes I no longer have the patience to deal with an almost grown boy when my own stuff is looming over my head. And believe me, I’ve got stuff. When he was little, I didn’t allow myself to have “stuff” (again, a topic for another time.)

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I remember the first time I actually considered whether or not I had an issue with anxiety, I was reading this article about having an outgoing personality but an anxious mind.  All the points in the article hit home surprisingly hard for me. While I probably suspected that some of those things were iffy, I truly did not understand that they were not the norm for most people. Think about it, if you aren’t someone who is comfortable sharing stuff like this in the first place, how can you possibly know that what you are feeling is not the common, universal experience? The one that that really got me was #8 – you mean other people don’t worry that someone has actually died if you don’t hear back from them. That’s real for me. I don’t even know why.

One of my significant issues is that I have a hard time opening up enough to share my problems with people. I don’t know if it is because I have trouble trusting people, or it’s because I inherently don’t believe people want to hear about me. I also worry incessantly over things I have already said and done. I understand the futility in that, and still it literally keeps me awake at night. Oddly enough, “anxiety” would also explain my absolute abhorrence of calling people on the phone. I have a repeated pattern of closing myself off, going into myself, shutting down, when things get tough. I even know it’s happening. What I don’t know is when to come out, when it might be appropriate to prevent it, or how to reverse it. Guess I still have work to do.

My son definitely has an anxiety disorder; but maybe I do, too. It’s hard to say whether or not what I deal with would rise to the level of “disorder” or not, but I have come to realize that there is something going on. After all, did I really think Evan’s issues came out of nowhere? (For the record, yes. Yes I did think they came out of nowhere.)

This was harder to write than I thought. I’m going to have to try again later and say more.

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OMG I Just Signed Up to Host a Sofar Show at My House

Sunday night I went to my third Sofar show and it was just as great as all the others. I managed to find a friend to go with me and she liked it just as much as I expected her to, which was nice. This time the first act on was the best one of the night – Mobley (https://www.facebook.com/mobleywho/) from Austin and I highly recommend him. Second act was OK, and the last act was a Latin style guitarist on a loop pedal. Both good, but not great.

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Mobley on his brother’s guitar, he even unplugged and took a jaunt through the crowd to sing

The best part of the evening is that I stepped up. I started chatting with a guy about other shows I had been to and it turned out he worked for Sofar. He asked about the locations of the other Sofar shows I’ve been to and complained about when he’s had to do them in people’s houses when the hosts themselves don’t know how to be quiet. I casually said – I’d love to host a show and his eyes lit up. Really, he asked?  Yes, really. And next thing you know, I was giving my email address and being told I’d be contacted and given the opportunity to pick a preferred date. Bing, bang, boom.

About two years ago Beans on Toast was looking for places to do house shows in the U.S. I contacted Xtra Mile Records to see if I could do it, but to my chagrin, my friend Cheryl and her cousin Amy had beaten me to the punch for this area. Ever since then I have harbored the desire to have a show at my house. Of course, I don’t have a McMansion, so I am going to have to do a little work to make the the house suitable. You’ve all seen the living room, but you haven’t seen “the mess behind the screen.” This is not a paraphrased Wizard of Oz reference, I have a literal screen behind my sofa segregating off the former dining room area. It’s currently a sloppy mess of a room that houses sundry homeschooling books, science equipment, and assorted junk. From now until the day someone stops by to assess how many people can fit in my house, I will be cleaning that area up so I can rearrange the furniture just a tad more to accommodate a show. I’ve often said that it’s a good idea to throw a party to induce oneself into cleaning one’s house, this is a HUGE inducement to clean up an area of my house that I have ignored for YEARS.

I don’t know how far out they schedule shows, but I am looking forward to being on their calendar and having an honest to god show in my house. You can be sure I will have pictures and make a full post about the experience.

I am Arwen

I just named my son’s life’s work! OK, let’s back up.

Evan is 17 and dual enrolled at Northern VA Community College while he completes high school. He’ll be getting his A.S. in Psychology before transferring to George Mason to get a B.S. in the same, and also enter their accelerated Masters program in Psychology with a concentration in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience. This is a tailor made program for him and I cannot believe it was the last school we looked at. In his idealized 17 year old brain, his life’s goal is to be remembered for doing, making, or discovering something, in the textbooks famous. In the crudest of forms, he is interested in pursuing eternal life and mental telepathy. That makes him sound crazy, doesn’t it? However, if you talk to him long enough, if you listen behind the teenage bluster, if you take what an adult knows and how things can possibly apply in the real world, he’s got a point.

evan

After his biology class the other day, Evan was telling me about one of his theories. The degradation of telomeres at the ends of our chromosomes is responsible for the aging process. After a certain point, the telomeres are diminished to such an extent that accurate cell replication can no longer occur and dying of “old age” can happen. It is noted that in cancer cells, the telomeres do not deteriorate. Evan speculates that it is not an infinite failure to deteriorate, but possibly an order of magnitude of seven. So, he wants to figure out how to isolate the greater telomere regeneration in cancer cells and transfer it to healthy cells. He speculates that he’d be able to get the growth phase of humans to extend. But, I said, if the telomeres had that much more regeneration and created an extended growth phase, wouldn’t that create “bigger” humans? Yes, he thought, bigger humans, with more mass, for a longer time period before degeneration (aging) began. We would be a race of taller, younger looking humans – we’d be elves. To which I responded, YES Project ELF – Elongate Life Force! You need to call your thesis Project ELF!  I then demanded credit for the name when he used it to submit his research grant at George Mason. We laughed. And then I told him I was serious, I wanted credit. In the textbooks.

Well I was born in a small town

In the last post, I marveled at “what a world we live in” because I feel like my experiences are now so wide. I want to talk about where I come from, how I grew up, and why I was so eager to leave it behind.

I grew up in a small town, with conservative (although not religiously conservative) parents, and a privileged upbringing. I married a conservative Marine/cop and held my tongue in liberal Northern Virginia for many, many years, most of the time not caring enough about politics one way or the other to make a stink. But my views have changed. They say that if you aren’t liberal when you are young you don’t have a heart and if you aren’t conservative when you are older you don’t have a brain – well, I just screwed that up!

The earliest evidence of this sentiment is from an 1875 French biography by Jules Claretie where, “Mr. [Anselme] Batbie, in a much-celebrated letter, once quoted the Burke paradox in order to account for his bizarre political shifts: ‘He who is not a républicain at twenty compels one to doubt the generosity of his heart; but he who, after thirty, persists, compels one to doubt the soundness of his mind.’”

I don’t know why I ended up being the conservative one for so long. I have two sisters that were brought up the same way and I think they have always been more liberal than I. Maybe it’s because I was the oldest? Maybe it’s because I have a powerful sense of personal responsibility (that by the way hasn’t always served me well….) I don’t know. But in just the last half a dozen years or so I have been exposed to more different kinds of views than I have been exposed to in the entire rest of my life. My upbringing was provincial, my schooling was insular, my jobs had a narrow focus (government contracting), and my social circle with my husband at the time reinforced all those things. I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to have broken out.

I grew up in a town SO SMALL. How small was it? I once addressed a letter:

BROWNING

18471

and put it in the mail to prove to my college friends that my parents would get it. Inside it said “Call when you get this.” Three days later they called. My friends were gobsmacked. But I never understood that I grew up rural. You see, I lived in town. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that it dawned on me that you don’t have an “in town” unless you are rural. Somehow the fact that some of my friends’ addresses were Rural Route Numbers, meaning they didn’t have HOUSE numbers, these were just randomly assigned numbers given by the post office, didn’t sink in. Shit MY HOUSE didn’t have a house number, we used a P.O. Box. When we needed something delivered by UPS (which requires a street address) my mother would give them 1876 and the street name. But 1876 is the placard on our house that the town gave us to indicate when the house was built, it’s NOT a house number. We had no gas stations and no stop lights. The only retail establishment was the “little store” across the alley from my house, and across the street was “The Comm”. The Comm, or Waverly Community House, was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia and held many vital Waverly institutions.

waverly-collage

I had my first job at The Comm. I was the Saturday morning librarian. It was small, I mean really small. People look back fondly on the days of card catalogs – ha! I was expected to know the names of all the patrons who came in to get books. When they chose new books, all they had to do was hand them to me, I’d pop in their pre-stamped due date card and hand them back. After they left, I would write their name on the take-out card and file it away. Occasionally I’d have to do some detective work if I couldn’t come up with a name. I’d try to remember the last book they took out, go find it and see what name was written down on the card. My school bus stop was at The Comm, which means I had a warm, dry place to wait – kids at school hated us for that. We even had a fire in the fireplace going for us on cold snowy mornings. There was a gymnasium (where we could roller skate on Saturdays), a candy store, a post office, a bowling alley, a playground, a thrift store, a dance studio, a daycare, tennis courts, and meeting rooms (my Girl Scout meetings were there.) So you can see, where I lived didn’t seem rural at all. 😉 Of course, we always went to the farm to get our ice cream, but I digress……

When I grew up we had a mall. One. No big box stores, no internet shopping. The “big city” was not somewhere we went very often. As a young girl, I was taught that when we did go, we had to dress up. My dad was an attorney there and I guess my mom (who was from just outside of Philly) didn’t want to embarrass him. Looking back, I really am surprised by all the signs I missed. There was nothing much to do. Not as a kid, not as a teenager, not on a date, surely not as an adult. We had one, yes ONE black kid in my grade. And he wasn’t even there all year. He was the son of migrant workers and was only there seasonally. Even now, the entire minority population is 9% at my old high school, I looked it up. By comparison, where I live now, only 28% of the kids are white! I don’t know the percentage, but I think a lot of kids did not go on to college, but I sure as hell was. I wanted out. Granted I went to a small, mostly white, liberal arts college, but I also never “went back home.” I stayed at my parents’ house the summer after my freshmen year and again after my sophomore year, but then never lived there again.

This might sound like I didn’t like where I grew up. You couldn’t be farther from the truth. I loved the life I was given and I was blessed to have lived it. I regularly went back for visits and thought “What a wonderful place this is.” But it was quickly followed up by “What do people DO here??” I guess I became a big city girl. Which is a good topic for another time. So maybe my transition wasn’t the “expected” young idealist to older establishment, but was more like provincial to worldly. In that light, it makes more sense.  So unlike the song reference in the title, I’m *not* going to be dying in a small town, not me.

My Life Online

Do you believe online relationships are real, honest to goodness friends? I do. I think a lot of people my age think that they have their limits, but I will stand up and say that I can and do embrace them fully.

My first experience with relating to people online began over seven years ago when I joined an online forum for a band I loved. For quite a while I wanted to stay anonymous and protected all aspects of my personal identity – real name, where I lived, family status, etc. But then I really started to get to know these people. We were talking about way more than just the band and their music. I even had two sisters who were also on the forum and it became quite apparent that we were a sister group. So, anonymity started to lessen. A different, more tightly knit online group was formed and we all got to know each other much better. People started meeting each other. In Real Life. This group had people from all over the world – US, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Australia, Finland, Sweden, South Africa, Croatia, Belgium, and I am sure others that I can’t remember. People were traveling to meet each other, to go to shows together, to make lasting friendships. I also started meeting up with people from around the US for concerts of all sorts of bands and people came to me as well. I went to *London* to see a show and stayed with a group of these people! All the while, we were still growing our online friendships. I’ve had subset online groups going where 4 or 5 of us end up talking about particular issues for months (or years in some cases) and some of this migrated to Facebook. Some of these people I will never meet. Some of them I went to Ireland to see when I took my first solo trip in 2014. But either way, they are real and true friends.online

There are other kinds of online relationships too. Twice I have been involved with men online as well. Now don’t be aghast, I met both of them in person first but neither lived local to me. They were short, intense things and although I didn’t see them very often, it was what I needed at the time. I don’t regret being involved with someone where our primary interactions were online, but I can’t say I would do it again.

Which brings me to the newest kind of online relationship I have started. I am currently at a place in my life where professional counseling would do me good. I have been less than impressed with the therapists I have used in the past, but I know some great ones exist (my son’s is a gem!) Knowing that I am comfortable expressing myself in writing (and I really like the idea of being able to think through what I am saying several times before committing to it…) I embarked on an experiment with online counseling. My therapist is someone I email. Any time I want, as often as I want. She emails me back, usually the next day. We’ve even had a live chat session.  I have been surprised by how well it works for me. The ability to “access” someone anytime I want (rather than once a week) is surprisingly valuable. One of the biggest upsides is that I have someone to “talk” to who’s business it is to listen to me. I don’t feel like I am burdening a friend with my sorrows, my troubles, my whining. Sometimes I have to talk about something over and over and over before I get off my butt and do something about it and friends get tired of that. Therapists, not so much. Sure she asks me the tough questions, but if I ask her to back off, she does – for a bit and then circles back later when it is more appropriate. I know there are many people out there who would say that too much is lost when a therapist isn’t face to face with their client. And I agree there are many, many instances where that would be a valid concern. But for me, this seems to be the right level of support and I know that I was willing to try it because I believe in online relationships and know that they are real.

That’s my experience. Fairly varied, all successful in my eyes. What a world this is when my best gig partners live in New York, Austin, and Arizona, I’ve “dated” a man from a far away city, and my therapist is from the mid-west.

New Friends

friendslogoI made a new friend. Do you know how hard that is to do as an adult? Seriously, when was the last time you made a new friend? Someone who was a complete stranger to you 24 hours ago that is now saying “Hey, we should do something together!” Don’t get me wrong, I have made loads of music friends and they are precious to me. But we get together for shows. Frankly, many of them live states, even countries away. I’m talking about a meet me at yoga and then go to lunch new friend. AND THAT’S JUST WHAT HAPPENED.

I went to a bar down the street that had a friend’s husband’s band playing. The friend never showed because she had vomiting children (such a legit excuse!) But that meant I was alone. A woman liked my freshly done, just-got-it-four-hours-ago tattoo and we started talking. We had some things in common, she took my number, and lo and behold, she texted me and asked if I wanted to join her at yoga on Saturday. I’m not super into yoga, but I am super into people reaching out to me, so I said yes. Turns out the studio had a sweet starter deal and I will be able to try as many classes as I’d like for the next 30 days for only $29! With it only being 5 minutes from my house, I think I will get my money’s worth. Afterward we went to lunch (sushi!!) and got to know each other. She even said “I hope we can be friends.” How cool is that?

Friends are important at all ages and stages of life.  It’s sad that it’s so hard to make new ones as life advances.  Many times, these are the days when things are changing and you need new kinds of people in your life for new kinds of things.  I hope this new friendship works out.

I bought a TV!

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I haven’t had a TV in six years. Well, that’s not exactly true, there is a TV in my house, a huge analogue monstrosity that sits (and fills) a corner in my family room. But if you turn it on, very little comes through and a high whine is emitted that drives my sons crazy. So it doesn’t get turned on. A long time ago, before broadcast TV was digitally transmitted, I watched my TV. Through the air. Via an antenna (the antenna has long since blown out of alignment.) How about that? I was so far ahead of the “cord cutting” trend, that maybe I am even hip – I’m a “never-corder”. I have never had cable (or satellite or Direct TV…) When I lived in my parents’ home, they didn’t have it yet and ever since I have been on my own, I never ponied up for the expense. And yet I love watching TV. I always figured that with as much as I loved TV, I would watch it all the time if I had cable. So, since it would have been a stretch to afford it at many times of my life, it seemed a good idea to avoid it.

So how did I stop watching my TV in the family room in the first place? Over six years ago, my son’s anxiety was in high gear and I had to work very hard to help him manage it. All of a sudden, he could not be on a different floor of the house than an adult, ever. He would check several time before falling asleep to see if someone was there and even woke a few hours after he fell asleep to check again. Since I was the only parent at home at bedtime, I was forced to abandon the TV in the basement level family room. So I began watching things on my laptop. I started with Netflix, added Hulu, and finally Amazon Prime. I’ve been watching like that ever since.

About a month ago, I needed to change some things up, so I decided it was time to buy a TV. I ended up redoing my entire living room to accommodate the TV, and I love it. It’s now light and airy and just gorgeous! New rug, new curtains, repainted tables, new pillows, and a Craigslist find as a TV console table. My wonderful new smart TV came with Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube right on it. I quickly added ChromeCast to the mix and now everything I watch on my laptop can now be slapped up on my TV. I am giddy with excitement. And am watching a little too much TV!