Ho snap! I’m ALIIIIIVE!
Despite all attempts, the consecutive flu’s of January didn’t kill me. I just spent my birthday asleep and in pain on the couch after my bosses decided they weren’t paying me to die at the office. And then I threw up on a wheel of brie that Mom got me.
The past week that I’ve been officially on my feet again has been spent writing, working, and finding out what I’ve missed and lost track of while I was an invalid with Fever Brain. Not the most pleasant of activities because it makes me feel like a loser, but everyone’s been really great about helping me get back on track. Today just happened to be the day I remembered that I had a blog!
Aside from wanting a redo of the month of January, I’m pretty much okay now. I’ve started my docent training at the Walters and did my first presentation before the class today to all positive reviews. I had a sudden yet small anxiety attack as soon as I stood up, causing me to talk much faster than I intended and say “sort of” a lot, which attributed to the small collection of critiques. At least I wasn’t saying “um” or “uh” every other word. Give thanks for the small miracles.
It’s simultaneously frustrating and encouraging when these anxiety attacks happen. I’ve had performance anxiety my whole life – which puzzled my Mom for YEARS because I was such a ham bone at home. It’s not small part of why I decided to focus my attention on writing as a teen instead of continuing with the performing arts. The other reason is that professional musicians and theater people are almost universally dicks. As I’ve mercifully exited adolescence, I’ve manage to push the anxiety back a little more with every moment in the limelight, so that I’m not spending the minutes, hours, and days before a presentation feeling sick and panicked. The frustration comes immediately after the performance when I feel like I’ve failed by not overcoming this uncomfortable quirk of mine completely. A sample of my mental conversation:
“This is simple stuff we’re talking about and we know a ton about the subject; why are you freaking out about something we could tell our friends about in our sleep, Brain?”
“Fuck if I know, Maria. Now grab an Ativan or twenty and help me cut the eye holes out of this paper bag so no one sees us.”
This is my brain every time someone asks me to do something in front of other people. Just so you understand why I look like you’ve just killed a kitten in front of me.
But then, after the panic chemicals have receded from my brain a bit and my legs stop twitching uncontrollably and cognizance of my environment returns, I can look back on the sequence of events and go:
“You know, we did okay this time, Brain. We held off the panic X seconds longer than the last time. We deserve a cookie!”
“Fuck you and your cookie, Maria. Now take me across the street to that place where they serve the ice cream sundae that’s soaked in booze and set on fire.”
And then I compromised today by going home and drinking a chocolate stout milk shake.
I am very proud of myself, though, and not just for giving a good presentation in itself. Even though I felt like I was falling apart inside at first, I managed to hold on to myself, and no one could tell I was nervous. My teacher couldn’t believe that I was panicked when I told him, nor could any of my classmates. I was cheerful, engaged and engaging, and my voice was well modulated and projected across the space (I can’t tell you how many times teachers in middle school used to have to ask me to speak up). I came in under time and my teacher said that he could see me being a hit on the kids tours.
Being a docent at the Walters has become so important to me over the past year. This museum has been a stable point throughout my life, an anchor that so many happy memories and aspirations have clung to. It’s almost a compulsion, my desire to share this place with others. I image missionaries feel this way about religion. That I did well today and seem to be on an upward trend of improvement is such a relief. I need to be able to push past the anxiety to share this place like I want to. Because while public speaking is arguably bad for me, the act of sharing this museum and its wonders to children and new eyes gives me a world of satisfaction. I need to do it, nerves be damned and today’s presentation showed me that while it’s still hard, it’s possible. I may not have defeated my anxiety, but today I didn’t let my anxiety defeat me. That’ll do for now.
The rest of my day/night/week/whatever has been spent writing. I tore apart, well, almost all of Nevermore last fall and restructured it. I love what I’ve got outlined; it feels like the book I wanted to write had I not gotten bogged down in other nonsense and thoughts of what it was SUPPOSED to be instead of what it was. What it is is awesome in narrative form. But I have to rewrite about half of what I wrote in 2011 and 2012, if not more. That’s roughly 150k words. And I’ve been slightly petrified by the momentousness of the task since last fall. I’ve hit a pretty good grove this week though. I just have to keep the momentum going. And cutting. And being vastly more concise. (Yikes.) I’ve discovered a trick for when I get stuck. Outline the chapter to annoying detail until I’ve basically got the whole thing written except for the window dressings. It’s working better than it should, I gotta say. Also, imposed word count limits. I am sick of useless words. 2013 will be the year of words that mean what they say.
It’s been a good year so far, though, sickness notwithstanding. Here’s hoping it lasts.