I sent a letter to a friend of mine today. It was a paper letter in a nice note card. Email is convenient and quick. Facebook is fun. But to me, the act of picking out the right card, putting the words onto paper (no backspace) getting a stamp, looking up the address, and going to the post office tells a person that they mean so much to me that they are worth the extra effort to send a paper letter.
It was important to me to send a paper letter to this particular friend because I was in her safe space this weekend… the farm she shares with her wife and kids and several animals. Horses, chickens, turkeys, dogs, cats. It’s a haven. It’s a place where I can go and act exactly like myself and be completely honest and not have to worry about being entertaining or funny or intelligent. It’s a place where I can forget for a time that I am terrified of the future. It’s a place where the fact that sometimes I am stunned into inaction by the sheer force of all of the things I want to do can disappear for a while. It is a place where the younger child is the embodiment of a spunky, female child heroine from some delightful novel by an author who truly believes that girls CAN do anything, the teenager is an angsty and intelligent writer like myself, and my friend’s wife is exactly who you would think Mrs. Walton would have been if she had been a sexy and tough, yet caring lesbian instead of … well, Mrs. Walton. When you want breakfast in the morning, my friend gets eggs from their hen house and picks veggies from the garden and cooks something delicious. Look, the place is just miraculous.
I’m only outlining this because I think it is important to note that while I was in this safe space, I had a meltdown of sorts. I think I have been gunning for one for a while. I really have spent the last several days staring at all of the open files on my computer screen and not working on a single one. I’m overwhelmed with everything that I have to do and instead of just putting them all aside and just working on one, I ignore them all and either stare blankly into space, or play around on Facebook or lie down in bed and read a book or take a nap. So, come my weekend at the Farm, I was ready to just blow off some steam.
I drank way too much. Way, way, way too much. And I didn’t eat anything. And it is probably important to note that I don’t actually drink in my regular life. So, I got drunk. And then beyond drunk. And then I went into one of those states where I became convinced that everything I said was ridiculous and wrong. I took off from the rest of the group and launched into a full-fledged panic attack.
I was feeling too freaked out to go back to the party and ask for help, so I texted a few friends. Then I called my sister. When I was done talking to her, I was calmed down enough to make my way to the rest of the party, where I was able to let my friend’s wife know that I was having a problem. She took me back to the house and gave me a comforting mix of hugs, no-nonsense talk, and food. My friend came in, felt my pulse at my behest and assured me that I was not having a heart attack. I’m pretty sure I was crying and apologizing over and over. They set me up on an air mattress and gave me warm blankets and turned on a fan because I can’t sleep without one, no matter how cold I am. Then my friend gave me a blessing, or what seemed like one to me at the time. “I promise you that you will not die under my roof.” Then, my other friend got into her bed in the same room and talked to me for hours. It was the comforting sound of the low voice of someone you love. My sister later equated it to the lull of grown up voices from the living room when as a child, you are drifting to sleep. It was a cocoon of soft sound and, combined with the other care, completely brought me back to earth.
I woke up in the morning feel refreshed and better, though incredibly embarrassed. Or at least, I was embarrassed until the first thirty seconds of apologizing to my friends. They are incredibly gracious and understanding and realistic and they just *get* that sometimes people break down and when they do, you might have to put them back together.
I’m writing about all of this for two reasons. One is because somehow, I thought that once I made the right decision about how to live my life, I would suddenly be all Zen and peaceful about it and all would feel right with the world. I made the decision to quit my job and drive by myself across the country. And I decided I could afford to spend that six months writing full time. But do I feel Zen about it? No! I feel that there is a chance that I will spend all day every day staring at the computer, being overwhelmed by everything I have to do. Do I sometimes think I should just ask the grocery store to let me stay and just continue to hang out here at my mom’s house, where I know nothing scary is going to happen? Yes. I never had any belief that I could become a full-time writer. But suddenly, it has become so important that the importance is dragging me down and I am terrified. So, a mini-breakdown was probably inevitable and there is a part of me that wants to call in sick for three days and go right back to the farm where my friend points out every root so I don’t trip and her wonderful wife doesn’t let me talk shit about myself and their kids entertain me and the cat comes and sits on my lap when I am sad, and just collapse again and be taken care of and not have to worry about whether or not I am going to completely fuck up everything.
The second reason I am laying all of this bullshit bare is that no matter how terrified I am, I have started to believe that when you make the right decision, you will find a way to make it happen. I may be having terrible anxiety about my choices, but I have the farm, which is an incredible safe space. I am headed for Phoenix, where I have another circle of love. And just recently, I have met another friend who is warm and loving and non-judgmental and who somehow manages to get me to talk about every truth about myself, and still loves me. So, I am striking out on my own and that’s good… that’s the way I want it to be. I have been taken care of in one way or another all of my life, and having been recently separated from someone who did all of the filling of the gas tank and checking the tire pressure and getting the oil changed, and memorizing the directions, it is important to me to go across the country by myself… if for no other reason than the fact that I need to prove to myself that I CAN do it by myself.
But really, in the long run, I won’t be by myself. I will be carrying the blessings of all of these people who love me, both the new friends and the old. I’ll be a text away from someone who thinks I’m wonderful, no matter how much I fuck up. I’ll be able to call one of a handful of people and say, “I’m at a gas station in Oklahoma. How do I check my tire pressure?” So, yes, I will still be doing it on my own…. but I won’t be abandoned.
And maybe that knowledge is the beginning of the end of the fear. Maybe this circle of love, from my dear soul sister K to my newest friend, L and everyone in between is the invisible wall between me and panic. Maybe, just the fact that they love me and will continue to love me whether I become a best-selling novelist or remain a grocery store clerk for the rest of my life is the catalyst I need to keep making the right decisions.
Yes, I’m still terrified. But, as Walt Whitman once wrote:
Henceforth, I whimper no more. postpone no more, need nothing. / Strong and content, I travel the open road.
Yep. If you get a chance, spare me a good vibe or two for my travels.