I’ve been feeling a little lonely lately. Yes I have my wonderful husband, and my son and daughter in law live next door. She’s pregnant, due in March. A grandchild! A granddaughter! We have been collecting baby things by reading Craigslist ads and going to the thrift shop and yard sales. The upstairs bedroom in our house is now the baby center and is filled with strollers, johnny-jump-ups, and play centers. We have also been collecting baby clothes. We’ve collected several grocery bags full of baby clothes from Newborn to 12 months old. At the thrift shop someone had donated vintage baby dresses, darling little hand embroidered, sheer fabric, gum drops of dresses, so cute. My sister in law and I are hosting a baby shower at the end of next month. We’ll hang a rope between the two chandeliers in the living room and clothespin the dresses to this makeshift clothesline as decoration at the shower.
But I’ve digressed. I’ve felt lonely and have been aware that there is space in my life for more friends. Three of my major friendships have ended in the last couple of years and it has not been easy to deal with the holes they have left. They died natural deaths due to us growing in different directions (biting my tongue so as not to say one of us growing and the other not.) Because how the hell do I really know? I’ve just got to keep my eyes on my own paper. There is enough stuff to sift through in my own self to spare the time to try sifting through someone else’s story.
I have put myself out there more than I usually would have. I’ve become close to one woman who I see every Thursday for tea and conversation. We have much in common and I’m really grateful for her friendship. She’s a new friend and it’s fun getting to know someone new. Like opening a gift wrapped present.
I’ve been practicing staying healthy and clear after writing about it a couple of weeks ago. Practicing smiling and engaging with people when the opportunity arises, practicing being in the moment and looking for opportunities to connect. And I’m happy to report that it really does work. So many little interactions, I feel more connected to the world through lots of these little encounters. The part about keeping my eyes on my own paper and not saying mean things about other people really has shifted something within me.
So I’ve been seeing a woman and her dog often on my walks. I’ll catch sight of them a block away or down the street. Sometimes I’d be in the alley when they were there. Her dog is young and full of energy and he would want to jump up on me as we passed. I asked if I could pet him and bring him cookies to help train him not to jump and P. said yes so I did. Every time he would sit he’d get a cookie. Then we’d be off on our way, ships that passed in the night. I found myself looking forward to seeing them and feeling a little sad on mornings when I didn’t.
P. and I started talking a little. Right in front of her I brazenly hugged my oak tree, both arms around it, cheek pressed to the giant trunk. I surprised myself and liked it. We talked a little more. One day we walked together, she changing her direction to walk my route.
Walking is the hardest thing on me, anxiety-wise. I feel very vulnerable on a walk. In a car, if I have a panic attack I can pull over and I have a fantasy about lying down in the back seat so nobody can see me, because hiding my anxious self feels very important. But walking? No place to hide, my fantasy moves toward crawling under a bush and calling my husband to come get me. I walk the same route every morning, 3,000 steps, 1 1/2 mile, but I’m never more than 2 blocks away from home. It took me weeks to inch up to this route. Each day I’d walk a little farther in each direction and mark my progress by a driveway or a mailbox and then try to beat it a little the next day.
So one morning while walking with P. I started to have a panic attack. I abruptly turned back towards home, and when she asked what was up I lied and said my chest felt congested. It was the only thing I could come up with at the time. I did not, in that moment, feel capable of telling the truth. It would have left me with no skin whatsoever and I could not stand that. P. and I had talked about having coffee together when her vacation from work gave her some free time, I had been waiting until then to have THE TALK. So I went home and suffered. I felt so bad about myself, reverting to behavior that I’d done for years. I felt like her again, the me that was so shut down, so afraid someone would find out, so ashamed. I had trouble going anywhere, anxiety was my constant companion. I slept little and when asleep I dreamed of being anxious and I lived it in my waking hours.
P. finally came over for coffee, a week or so after that day. During our conversation in the living room I had the thought that talking to her about my panic disorder wouldn’t really fit into the mood. Thinking this thought prompted me to just blurt out that I had lied to her and why. She took in the information, asked a couple of questions, and said she was happy I had shared that with her. Whew! And with that my anxiety went back to normal (for now) levels. I am learning, I’m a slow learner, but I’m still learning how to manage my big oaf of an awkward self. Sometimes I’m like a gorilla driving a Volkswagon and other times I’m a butterfly trying to tie shoes. I’m the gorilla and the butterfly all rolled into one. Deal with it.
So I invited P. for Christmas breakfast with the family, her family had already been to visit before Christmas and she would have been on her own that day. I felt pretty confident that everyone would be warm and welcoming and that they would like her as much as I did and I was right. We sat at the table eating waffles and laughing a lot and P. fit right in as if she’d known us all for years. Conversation turned to my daughter-in-law, about the baby to come, how the kids (always call them that even though they are grown) were so resourceful in finding baby items on Craigslist, etc. and how they had all the big stuff they needed.
My husband mentioned that as soon as we knew it was a girl, we had gone to the thrift shop and had bought bags of clothing for little Vada Grace. P. said it was too bad she hadn’t known me before she gave away all the little special baby clothes that she and her sister had worn many years ago. I asked who she had given it to and she mentioned a store downtown. I thought she meant the antiques store but no, finally it was determined that it was the thrift shop where I had bought all the adorable dresses. My son went into my bedroom to get all the vintage dresses I had bought and amazingly! all but one of the baby dresses I had bought used to be worn by my new friend and her sister. Our jaws all fell into our waffles.
Full circle. All of life right now is full circle. We are all connected by strings and guts and Kleenex. We just forget and think we’re all here on our lonesome own. Finding our way through the dark is so much easier when we can borrow each others’ flashlights. I hope to remember this more often, please remind me.