Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Expanding on some thoughts, part three of...well, you know...

Warning: This isn't sweetness and light. It may well contain TMI. It does contain strong language and adult themes...but not the fun kind. Read on at your own peril.

Speaking of phobias...

I have a few. Obviously not spiders, snakes, or other creepy-crawlies. I don't fear anything nature made - not fire, not volcanoes, not floods or wombats or hurricanes or tornadoes, not earthquakes or mudslides or rivers or dingo attacks...nope, none of that. No, my fears are more related to the human side of things. In no particular order they are: xenophobia, claustrophobia, acrophobia, and agoraphobia.

Xenophobia is a fear of people. OK, that's a simplification, but in my case, it's what's pertinent. I used to love people. When I was a child, I would hug anyone, loved chatting with and listening to folks, loved being among them. Then I experienced a series of events that quashed that friendly nature. I withdrew, making the conscious decision to stop associating with the things that brought me shame, pain, and fear. This fear of people grew with the careful ministrations of my grandmother...I know she meant well, but you really shouldn't tell a young child that people are judging her and she's never good enough, and blah, blah, blah. Now, I don't like people looking at me. Not one little bit. Hey, I'm fat...that would be reason enough not to want to go into public! I don't like meeting new people, having to open myself up to more judgement and censure. People scare the whey out of me; I break into a cold sweat, having to go out in public or meet someone new. This goes hand-in-hand with another item on the variety plate, but I'll get into that another time. Aren't you thrilled?? It's not rational, but there you go...fear never is. How do I deal with this? I am a musician. I go up on stage and I sing. On stage. Where people are not just looking...they are staring. On stage. Up. Perform. Me. You can't let the fear win. And the music is stronger than the fear. Thank you, Goddess.

Claustrophobia is a fear of small spaces. Lots of people have this to varying degrees. I think mine is relatively mild. I am uncomfortable in small spaces. Elevators make me nervous...I worry that the cable will snap, it will crash to the basement, and I'll end up with broken legs and have to be hauled out by twenty big, burly firemen who aren't wearing any shirts because it's hot down there and...wait, is that a fear or a fantasy?? Seriously, I do worry that the little box will crash. I didn't have this fear as much when I wasn't so big. It's weight related. You pack on more than a hundred extra pounds, get teased about being a ten-ton-Tessie who'll get stuck places, and see if you don't have a concern about things like the seats being too small, the elevator giving out, or the escalator groaning to a stop. How do I deal with this one? I get on the elevator anyway, or take the stairs. I'm probably better off hiking up, anyway.

Acrophobia is a fear of heights. Again, mild one for me. Some folks can't be two floors up without being ill. I used to climb trees. I loved climbing trees. All the way to the top. There was an old Hemlock in New Hampshire that was my best friend for a few years. I miss that tree. I liked going all the way up and swaying with him, being there in the quiet with the whispering branches and the sweet, gentle breeze. I went skiing. I lost the feeling in my feet on a regular basis because I would ski every minute I could. Downhill, anyway...cross-country just didn't appeal to me. I loved the mountain tops, all the snow, looking out and down and seeing Lake Winnepesauki (I have no idea how badly I mangled that spelling) and the slopes below me. I wasn't great at it, but I stayed up far more than I fell down, so I guess I have some bragging rights. I loved flying, especially from the mainland to Martha's Vineyard in those little puddle-jumpers. Every seat is a window seat! It was exhilarating. I lost that joy somewhere around the two-hundred pound mark, when an offhand comment about how they'd have to adjust the way the luggage was stored to offset my weight for balance hit me square in the ego. I stopped skiing...what if the lift couldn't handle my weight? I stopped mountain climbing...what if I couldn't make it across a skinny spot in the trail? I stopped climbing trees...what if the tree branches broke, or the tree fell? Now I won't even go up a ladder without serious forethought. And never up higher than a chair's height. Except when I go up Stone Mountain on the gondola, or ride a roller-coaster, or change a light bulb, or whatever. Sometimes I even walk to the edge of the precipice and look over, just because I don't want to. Can't let the fear win, remember? I'll go skiing again when I manage to drop a hundred pounds or so and won't worry about starting an avalanche when I go ass-over-teakettle. I still won't go up on the roof, though. A girl's got her limits.

Agoraphobia is...here, let me get the definition from a better source than my over-taxed noggin: Agoraphobia is a condition where the sufferer becomes anxious in environments that are unfamiliar or where he or she perceives that they have little control. Triggers for this anxiety may include crowds, wide open spaces or traveling, even short distances. This anxiety is often compounded by a fear of social embarrassment...Agoraphobics may experience panic attacks in situations where they feel trapped, insecure, out of control or too far from their personal comfort zone. In severe cases, an agoraphobic may be confined to his or her home. Many people with agoraphobia are comfortable seeing visitors in a defined space that they feel in control of. Such people may live for years without leaving their homes, while happily seeing visitors in and working from their personal safety zones. If the agoraphobic leaves his or her safety zone, they may experience a panic attack.

There you go. I like my house. It's messy, but it's mine, and no one can get to me in here without my permission. The world "out there" is dangerous and full of mean, angry, hateful, judgemental, and downright cruel people, and they all want to get me. The world "in here" is safe, quiet, mine. I don't do malls at Xmas...except for the Festival of Trees, because I won't let those kids down for anything short of death. I don't like concerts, plays, or movies when they first open...too freakin' crowded and everyone is breathing MY air. I have to get really Zen to go out in crowds. Really, really Zen. Deeply Zen. I would like to be deeply stoned, but I have a kid to think about, I'm not eighteen any more, and besides, it's unlawful. But still... I travel to shows to perform. Yeah. Again, the music is stronger. Thank you, Goddess. My van is my portable safety zone. How handy is that?? I may never fly again, as long as I can drive to my destination. I can control temperature, music, smell...yeah, sweet. In my van, I am safe. Well...as safe as you can be, hurtling up to ninety miles per hour (shh, don't tell the cops) down the highway in a ton-plus metal-and-plastic vanister (See that? I made a play on the words "van" and "canister", aren't I clever?) surrounded by other fools and madmen doing the same. My mum's house is safe, as are several of my friend's homes. I even have safe places in Ohio and Massachusetts. Some days, I don't want to go out, but I can. Some days, going out is horrifying, but if I must, I will. Some days, well...I won't even walk to the mailbox. Not even out to the garage. Not even if I am starving and the only food to be had is out there in the freezer. I'll go hungry, thank you. The only thing that trumps the phobia on the worst days? My son. For him, I will go out, do anything. Maybe shaking in my shoes, internally, but I'll go. Most of the time, you'd never know I was miserable outside of my house. I can smile, laugh, even enjoy myself...but coming home is always a sigh of relief. How do I handle this? As with the rest, I get on with life. What else is there?

I know where my fears came from. They have a source. Several sources. I don't need to get into them here. Know what? Knowing where they come from, why I experience them, how irrational they are doesn't matter one little bit. They're still there. Knowing that others see them as stupid doesn't matter, either. Knowing that what I am experiencing isn't real to anyone but me makes no difference. The phobias don't make a difference, either. I'm going to do what I am going to do. Every now and then I just don't have the energy, but most of the time...most of the time I get the hell on with life and ignore the phobias. It's all I know how to do...keep slogging through the muck until I hit solid ground.

I go to strange places, get up on stage, and sing. I am one of the female leads in my band, so I am often heard over everyone else. I am one of two main songwriters for the band. Our fans (all six of them) know this. People look at us up there. They look at me. So what? I'm happy, singing, and as long as I don't make their ears bleed, I'm fine. Sometimes the stage is up high. OK, fine. Usually, after a concert, I have to go out and greet our viewers, schmooze with them, hug them. I have to smile, listen, greet, sign things (no, I'm not famous, but our fans are nothing if not loyal, bless 'em), and sometimes hang out for hours with folks who love the music, too. And all the while, I am wishing I could just go be alone and not have to plaster that damn smile on my face any longer. But hey...we're sharing something, and it's part of being a performer...and once in a while I catch myself enjoying it. Shh, don't tell anyone, OK?

Here's a funny little fear...I don't know where to stick it, besides..well, never mind. I am utterly convinced that as soon as I go to California, it will fall right off. Yeah, I know...but still...are you willing to risk it? I'm not...haven't been, probably won't go any time soon. You can thank me with cash.

Right, on with the laundry. Bird's out of undies...which apparently means the world is at an end or something. Later, y'all!

1 comment:

Rob Houston said...


I'm one of the people who had the extreme fortune and pleasure of sharing a cabin with you and the band at FPG (you may remember that my good friend Michelle and I butchered, er... changed the lyrics to "Grandmother, Grandmother" to "Hamburger, Hamburger"). I sat front row at the unplugged concert you guys put on.

This is all going to sound extremely strange, so be patient with me, my thoughts don't always translate into real-world english too well. Here goes: My personal phobia is looking people in the eyes. I'm not really sure why, or if there is even a technical name for it, I just know that (with a few exceptions) looking people straight in the eye scares the living hell out of me. I tense up, stutter and generally make an ass out of myself if I accidentally do so. HOWEVER, I had no problem doing so with any of you guys (the band), probably because I feel like I know all of you on some level (I can't help it, I've been a huge fan since the first time I heard your music). But I distinctly remember seeing this strange look in your eye when you'd look over at me, and even went so far as to ask my friend Joe is I had something stuck to my face. It all makes sense now.

I apologize if I freaked you out at all... I'm sure I had that goofy grin on that I'm known for.