the audience members staring expectantly, nary an eye blinking; the grit on my sandpaper tongue course and abrasive against my soft palate.
My words roll out more and more rapidly, stumbling on top of each other incomprehensibly, punctuated by loud swallows and awkward breathing patterns.
“Just relax and try to envision your audience in their underwear.”
Now I am not only terrified of giving my speech, but confused as to why everyone can just sit there so confidently sans clothing. I mean, aren’t they cold?
I can feel the watery heat trespassing my ocular region at an alarming pace. No!No! No!
I know once the tears push their way to the surface, I’m done. At that point, it will be impossible to communicate words through my blubbering face.
I’ll stop and take a slow deep breath to suppress the emotions that are threatening to steal my voice. I wonder if anybody would notice if I took 5 to 10 minutes to regroup. Maybe I could meditate for a bit.
After I somewhat pull myself together, I begin to focus primarily on the actual morphemes rather than the content, so that I can keep my hyper-sensitivity at bay. Doing so allows me to hear myself more clearly. Ugh, you couldn’t PAY me enough to sit through this drivel.
Yet no one has left yet, quietly excusing themselves, mouthing the word “restroom,” then tiptoeing out, never to return to this epic shitshow. So, there IS that.
I need to reel my audience in with a little humor. I’ll tell a joke.
Crap, I don’t know a joke, uh…
“Kirsten who is currently paralyzed with fear at the thought of continuing to speak.”
Well, that didn’t go as I’d have liked.
I become more acutely aware of my hands. What do I USUALLY do with my fingers? Balling my fists seems too aggressive, but letting them hang limp like boiled fettuccine noodles only emphasizes my cowardice. I decide to let them fall “naturally” next to my body, but notice that in obsessing about my extremities, I’ve completely stopped talking. How long had it been?
I bring the paper up close to my face so my voice is muffled and difficult to make out, but at least I’m shielded from THEM. Next time, maybe I can just ask someone to speak on my behalf.
My mood is determined approximately 93% by what I’m wearing at a given time.
It started from infancy, with comfort being a priority. Think: soft cotton onesies and dry diapers. As I grew into toddlerhood and through my early years of schooling, comfort flew by the wayside in favor of glamor (at least what was considered “glamor” in the 80s).
When I was in 4th grade, my parents received a call from the teacher asking if they were aware that I was sporting high heels at school each day.
Apparently my mother’s adult-sized shoes on my kid-sized feet clued Mrs. Smith in that these were not my pre-arranged footwear.
This was not the first contact from school regarding my fashion choices, however. A few years prior, the teacher had asked during a conference if any changes were going on at home. After mulling this over for a while, my mom couldn’t come up with anything:
“I-I was on a business trip last week. Why? Is everything okay?”
“Aha! That must’ve been it, then!” the teacher proclaimed. “Academically she’s been fine, but wore velvet and taffeta dresses with dirty running sneakers to class all week. It was just rather strange.”
Apparently my dad was indifferent about the “homeless-chic” ensemble choices that his child determined were appropriate for kindergarten.
I was lucky enough to have a mom who didn’t fret over the details of my get-ups, unless it compromised the integrity of my family. For the most part 90s-fashion was pretty low-key, anyway, though I sometimes looked with envy on the kids who identified themselves as goth.
Long black dresses and capes, pale faces with dark lipstick;
I wanted to try it, but didn’t think I’d be able to pull off the “too-cool” countenance that seemed so effortless to that crowd.
So I decidedly blended in through high school and college. I kept up with the trends (platform foam flip-flops, tank tops atop other tank tops, risqué mini-skirts, wool sweaters from J. Crew), but didn’t really try anything new during that period of my life.
Upon leaving school and joining the work force, I needed to maintain a sense of decorum, so I dressed preppy and older. My glasses and “teacher-bun” (complete with writing implement jabbed through the center) rounded out the “she’s such a professional” look.
As long as my job was as a professional hot mess, I realize when I look back.
The only thing that set my wardrobe apart were my shoes:
My collection was vast; enviable. Every color and shade was represented, from fuchsia to forest green. But what they all had in common? Height. Towering peep-toes and the tallest wedges took me from pocket-sized to altitudinous amazonian. I was able to walk long stretches, run a marathon if needed, and- most importantly- stand sternly eye-to-eye with my eighth-grade students who had hit growth spurts over the winter break.
I stood straighter and more confidently in my heels, but the moment I switched to flat shoes, I rolled my shoulders forward and waddled like a mallard. Every footfall brought a sense of woe. It’s fascinating how an item of clothing can influence temperament to such a degree.
When I was more than 7 months pregnant with my daughter, I recall slipping my feet into a pair of 4-inch pumps before a night out. I specifically remember that feeling of pleasure I had, to be able to put something on my body that actually fit- that felt GOOD even- was so satisfying. Though it was only 8 years ago, it feels like a lifetime has passed.
I actually can’t pinpoint when I began wobbling.
Looking back I can remember starting to lack confidence in my ability to get up from the table in a restaurant and walk to the restroom. I felt like all eyes were on me: had I drank too much wine with dinner? I could never remember.
During my second pregnancy, I kept falling, especially as my belly grew bigger and threw off my center of gravity. I took precautions to help me balance for the little guy’s safety. After all, I was supposed to be his protector, and it was only a few months that remained. I sat for longer stretches, I gave up exercise, and I stopped wearing heels. I remember that time of my life as being very dark.
After he was born, I was (perhaps a bit selfishly) excited to get my body back.
Falling was more infrequent, but my balance issues were still there. All of a sudden putting on taller shoes was difficult- not because they hurt or didn’t fit, but I genuinely began tottering and weaving awkwardly, as though I was heavily intoxicated. It was a slow progression, but eventually I had to phase out my beautiful high-heeled shoes.
I got rid of most, because I couldn’t bear to let my beautiful shoes see me like this, a shell of my former self, but I presently have a couple of pairs that I’ll slip on- if just for a moment- and let them electrify my soul and uplift my mood.
Then I take them off my feet carefully in favor of some sensible tangerine-and-aqua-floral-patterned flats.
Fear, that coward; that bully who frightens his victim into resignation.
Defeat this oppressor with action, simple as it may be, for it is in the stagnation that he performs best.
I haven’t sat down to write like I used to. This presents a considerable problem (not to the outside world necessarily) but to my own psyche that thrives on the outpouring of my soul onto paper.
There are a slew of reasons why: excuses, some of the legitimate, some of them not so much. Time being one of these justifications: who has the time? There just isn’t enough time. Maybe tomorrow, next week, when things slow down, someday…
It becomes scary when “too much” time has gone by. All of a sudden, the blank page faces me and I find myself in the grungy hands of fear. I need to make a change.
In my spiritual quest as of late, I’ve been reflecting on time, specifically “time dysfunction” as Deepak Chopra describes it. I consider what is most important to me, in the now:
Spending meaningful moments with my family
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
I ask: How can I arrange my now, my present life, to care for and nourish those things that are most important?
I think of those things that I’m already doing, and I give myself a gold star before moving on. Then, I begin to-politely- ask fear to leave, as he is no longer welcome. My behaviors require constant reinforcement: You’re doing great, Kirsten! Keep up the good work! This is for yourself, and you’ll be a better person for it. Promise. Swear. Girl Scout’s honor.
“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
So I will not be, as Mr. Emerson says, a timid adventurer, and write I shall.
The time is now!
Drinking has become a chore. Finding the alcohol in every situation…
There’s no drink service on this plane/in this comedy club/at this tapas joint? How can I possibly deal? Will I be able to sneak a bottle into that festival/concert/cruise ship? How will I function without alcohol at this holiday party/high school reunion/completely random social gathering?
Perhaps there is a comfort in knowing exactly where to go (the bar!) and what to do (get a drink!) when entering a potentially awkward situation, but hopefully this is something that a mature (kinda) adult can deal with.
I’m not a person who has some amazing blackout-rode-a-llama-home-from-the-bar-and-there-are-3-people-who-I-don’t-know-sleeping-on-my-kitchen-floor-and-how-did-I-end-up-with-MORE-money-in-my-wallet-than-I-started-out-with-? story, but I’ve definitely had periods in my life during which I imbibed a little more than I should: when I was dealing with my diagnosis, coming to terms with my separation, that time(s) that my kids just would NOT STOP (okay, so that’s daily).
And my interest has just not been where it used to be. I truly feel that sometimes I’ll have a cocktail out of habit, not enjoyment.
Of course it’s better for your body to stay away from alcohol. As per WebMD, drinking, even moderately, boosts one’s risk for several types of cancer (but, let’s be honest, that site is infamous for diagnosing everyone, even someone with the slightest swollen glands, with the big C).
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism discusses the horrific effects of drinking on most of one’s anatomy, including the brain (shocker: it’s harder to think clearly when you’ve been consuming alcohol), the heart (stroke, among other issues), the liver (I think we were all aware of this one), the pancreas (dangerous inflammation and swelling), and the immune system (maybe get 2 flu shots this year?).
Further research discusses how the chronic abuse of ethanol (alcohol) can have permanent effects of brain function.
And of course my health in particular, which has taken a turn for the worse as of late. I know drinking alcohol is disproved of among the medical community in regards to autoimmune diseases, so this is precisely directed toward my goal of taking MS down!
I’m not talking about the dude that has a couple of beers on Saturday night with his buddies then calls it a night, and I’m not implicating that woman who meets her co-worker for a drink after work.
I’m also not talking about that guy who needs a couple of shots of vodka in his orange juice in order to function for the rest of the day or the lady who carries around a flask of rum to work to pour into her coffee. The chemically-dependent individual is on a whole different level.
I’m talking about ME. I am not a binge drinker. I wouldn’t even consider myself an abuser, but I do drink.
I’m just a girl, standing in front of a bordeaux, saying “No thank you.”
I just don’t need another “thing.”
I remember quitting smoking. How it seemed completely impossible in the beginning. I couldn’t even wrap my brain around the concept of going to a bar and NOT smoking.
Being in my car and NOT smoking.
Eating a meal and afterward NOT smoking.
Taking a smoke-break at work and NOT smoking.
Now, however, I feel so completely free of the burden of cigarettes: of buying them, of having them in supply at all times, of smelling like them (in retrospect, eww!), and of having to go outside in the middle of January to have one.
Will I feel more unburdened without having alcohol in my life?
I smelled fire.
The moment I walked into the house from the garage, its pungent odor invaded my nostrils, but I couldn’t see the source.
To my right I saw him sleeping on the couch with the TV blaring ‘Lethal Weapon 3’ on TBS, the ingredients for the dinner he had promised to make while I was at class sat on the kitchen counter. I wondered how long that pork had been out.
I’ve finally found someone with whom I share myriad interests and passions.
We enjoy the same kinds of movies (horror and comedies- nothing that makes either one of us feel emotions).
We have the same taste in music (all over the place; much like my mindset).
Figuring out our food options is never an issue (sushi again? Sounds great!).
I think I’ve found my soulmate.
My new book has arrived! I’m super-excited to present “Paint Your Way to Health: Using Art as Therapy for Patients Living with Neurological Illness.”
Please check it out on Amazon– it’s free for Prime members, 99 cents if you’re not.
If you don’t use an e-reader, you can easily take a gander using your computer; it’s really short. Please leave feedback for me on Amazon. I’d love to hear your thoughts, as I am working on the second publication in the series right now.
The lies that I told were usually to intentionally create the kind of Beverly-Hills-90210-Dawson’s-Creek-esque drama that I kept vigil over each school night instead of studying for world history. I became this theatrically foolish teenager as my relationship with my very first long-term boyfriend, Brad, progressed.
Thankfully this phase only lasted about a year, but there were plenty of characters whom I involved in my web during that time. Good people. Innocent people. When I think of my behavior during that time in my life, I get sick to my stomach.
When I tried to lie my way out of it, a web of deceit began to grow. Before I knew it this web had entangled me, got twisted in my hair, and caught in my mouth.
It tasted like tinfoil, and the flavor was that of treachery. When I allow the synapse of my brain to meander through these recollections from my teenage years, I taste the cold aluminum and feel as though I’m being zapped in a shamefully purgatory-like episode.
Unfortunately, the web ensnared others as well, Brad of course being a large fraction.
Normalcy came with time, with realization of my own worth, with amazing friends, with supportive family.
I can only speak from my perspective, because I never asked, but it seemed that everyone was okay. Quite a bit more okay than me, but I’ll never know for sure. Because I never asked.
In his yearbook just before graduation, I quoted Janice Joplin:
“I’d trade all of my tomorrows/ For one single yesterday…”
When Brad read it, he looked at me quizzically, like a sudden deformity had developed on my head. “Why? That doesn’t make any sense.” Then he closed the book and walked away.
Find one who notices the goosebumps on your thighs, rubs his hands together and blows his hot breath on his palms, then rubs his warm extremities on your legs.
Find a man who is dependent on you in some respects, yet invaluable in others. You should both better the other.
… opens his eyes on a lazy Sunday morning, smiles sleepily, and kisses your elbow, because it’s the first skin he can get to, and he needs to touch his lips to you immediately.
… who makes you laugh uncontrollably and genuinely.
… who appreciates YOU: your sense of humor, your quirks, your un-made up face.
… who doesn’t even flinch when you storm in the morning, angry and ugly; pissed at everyone, pissed at life, pissed at the morning sun. He just simply says “Coffee?” (Bonus points for making it himself)
… who doesn’t lie.
… who doesn’t judge.
… who hopes that you’ll talk back, then truly LISTENS when you do.
Ladies, you deserve the best, as do I, though sometimes it’s hard to realize that. We make excuses, we try to change them.
Love isn’t supposed to be hard.
P.S.- I compiled this list based on my son’s actions toward me within the past 24 hours.
P.P.S.- Before you all “aww” about his behaviors, please note that on the flip side he outwardly refused to make his bed and/or clean his room, smacked his sister on the arm, and made up a song with the chorus, “Girls are such stupid-faces, with dumb butts.”