Anxiety and my life

Imagine this scenario: It’s evening. You work in a coffee shop, but thankfully you’re on a break. When you return from your break, you discover that your best friend is sitting in one of the booth seats with a friend of his from high school and that person’s fiancée. You also knew this guy from high school, but you never really liked him, and you’re pretty sure he never really liked you either, which was fine by you. It wasn’t that you particularly disliked this guy, exactly, but he wasn’t exactly kind in high school (what kid is?), so there’s no love lost between you. But the other young man is your best friend, and this is his best friend, so what do you do?

Well, if you’re me, you do your best to ignore them and push down the panic in your chest and throat until you get off from work, and you thank the gods for small favors since you know they’re going to have to leave before you get off work (because you’re closing the store) and so you won’t have to make small talk and at least you were on your break when they ordered their drinks, so not only did you not have to take their orders, but you also didn’t have to make the drinks they ordered. And you silently curse your best friend for innocently trying to include you in their conversation, especially while you’re working and when you weren’t expecting to have to be anything more than passingly genial for the rest of the night.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have issues with anxiety. Why in the name of all that is holy would I even care if my best friend, the person I trust most in the world and love more deeply than I have ever loved any man, brought his best friend to my workplace? It’s a freakin’ coffee shop, after all; what the hell, right? Well, yes; what the hell.

It’s called a trigger; some little, usually inconsequential thing that causes my chest to tighten, my vision to blur, and my pulse to become erratic. Sometimes I don’t even know what the trigger is; I just suddenly can’t breathe and I have to sit down or throw up (or both). I go into “fight or flight” mode, and everything moves to a singular point at a time and if I focus, I can manage not to freak out in public, but the longer I have to act like nothing’s wrong, the longer it will take me to recover afterward.

I don’t think I know what it was in this case. I just saw my friend sitting there, and I wasn’t expecting him. I was surprised, but it wasn’t a terrible thing, and I was surprised by that, too. But then I saw his friend, and I kind of stopped and frowned. And then I smiled and said hello and continued on with my work. But my stomach had already dropped out at that moment, and my first thought was “Why did they come here?” And then, when my friend tried to engage in conversation while I was working, I actually cursed. At least he laughed, so… no harm done? It was just… I can’t explain it.

I took more deep breaths then, until they left, than I have in a long time. My chest hurt, and it felt like my heart was falling out of my chest cavity. What was I even worried about? I don’t know. I had thoughts of my friend leaving me, of his friend laughing at me for working in a coffee shop, of the fiancée looking at me like I wasn’t worthy of… what? I knew from the moment I saw them that it was paranoia; my friend has never given me any reason to doubt him, despite my repeatedly giving him due cause. No one is perfect, of course, and my friend is no exception, but he’s the closest person I’ve ever known to be qualified for sainthood while still living. Which is somewhat ironic, actually, because he’s an atheist. But that’s neither here nor there.

So, they left, and as they were leaving, my friend said something like, “If I am in the state and able, I will make sure to come.” That’s when I knew that the guy and his fiancée were getting married.

My first thought then was “Oh, no. Not another marriage. What is it with people getting married all the time?” And I decided in that moment that there was no way I could ever attend my friend’s wedding, if and when that happens. It would hurt too much. It would have too many triggers. I don’t like weddings anyway, since they’re too tied up in the patriarchal hierarchy for me to be even close to comfortable condoning them (much less attending). (Actually, let’s not even get me started my problems with weddings and marriage.)

My coping mechanisms include deep breathing, hot showers, and making chamomile tea with honey. (Other, more destructive coping strategies include cutting and cutting myself off from all outside contact, both of which I managed to avoid despite my panicked state of mind.) When I got home, I almost immediately took a shower and washed my hair. I stood there under the spray until it started to turn cold, and then I got out, covered up from the neck down, and heated a kettle of water for tea.

I felt so vulnerable, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing my friend after that. It felt like he was contaminated, and I knew I was ridiculous and paranoid for thinking that. It wasn’t a problem that he visited with his friend, or that he visited with his friend in a coffee shop, or even that he visited his friend in the coffee shop where I work. It’s a free country, after all, and it wasn’t like anyone was encroaching on any of my freedom or liberty, or anyone else’s. No, the real problem was that I had some problem with it when I really had no reason.

My heart was saying, “Forbid him from hanging out at your place of work!” (among other, darker things) and my mind was saying, “WTF are you talking about? It’s a fuckin’ coffee shop, for christ-sakes.” I knew it was irrational, but I was still feeling it. So my question now is: why? Do I simply have a jealous, possessive personality? Have I been hurt one too many times and now I’m just holding onto anything I can get, even if it may hurt me in the future? Am I so out of touch with “what adults do” that there’s no way I could ever really be one?

What the hell do adults do, anyway? Live on their own, get married, have children. I’m not doing any of those things, so what the hell even makes me an adult anyway? I’ve lived on my own, true, but I’m not now, and honestly, “getting back out there” isn’t even my first priority. I’m never getting married; I’m certainly never having kids. I don’t even like kids. I didn’t even like being a kid when I was one myself. Most adults I know also drink socially, and I don’t do that either.

Everything gets tangled in my head and suddenly, just because a friend (or not even a friend, just someone I know) brings in someone else I know or something unexpected happens, I’m hyperventilating and clutching my chest and I can’t think or breathe or do anything except try not to flip out right there on the spot.

I’m so angry about this; why the hell am I so fucked up? Why is this kind of thing a big deal for me when it doesn’t seem to be for everyone else? Why is it so hard for me to do the things that most people seem to have no trouble with? Why do I even care what the hell anyone else thinks, anyway? They don’t know me. I know me. My best friend knows me. And I like to think I know him. He’s honest and loyal; he’s never intentionally hurt me. This wasn’t a slight on his part. And his best friend I’ll probably never see again, if then. So who the hell cares one way or the other, even if the guy was laughing at me for working in a coffee shop?

I need to figure this out. I need to work on it, but every time I think about it, it becomes this huge black mass in my head overwhelming and suffocating me, and I just put it all away again, hoping it will just disappear on its own. Well, I’ve got a newsflash for myself: it’s not going away unless I deal with it.

Well, fuck.

Quick hit (pun intended) on Neal McDonough

All right, so I’m watching Tin Man (finally) and the title character is played by Neal McDonough… I knew I recognized him from somehwere else, but I couldn’t place it. So, I looked ‘im up (thank gods for Wikipedia, seriously). I read the info and noticed that he was fired for refusing to do sex scenes, which I’m like… kudos, man, kudos for sticking up for yourself. According to Wikipedia,

McDonough was set to star in the ABC dramedy Scoundrels but was fired for refusing to do sex scenes for the show. He credits his family and his Catholic faith for his decision.

So, good for him. Whatever. But that didn’t tell me where I’d seen him before, so… I’ve seen Minority Report (which is mentioned in the opening couple of paragraphs) but not in a long time, but I have seen it, so at first I thought it was that, but then I scrolled down the filmography and (re-)discovered that he played Bison in The Legend of Chun-Li. Which I was like, “Oooooooohhhhhhhhhh, that’s where I remember him from, for sure.”

But then I remembered that Bison (played by McDonough) at one point uses a woman for a punching bag—literally. And it was the most difficult part of the film for me. Here’s what I wrote in 2009 (links in original):

There’s a serious women-in-refrigerators moment when Bison and Balrog are in the weight room using the punching bags. The camera pulls back on Bison and we see that his punching bag is actually Cantana, Bison’s black widow of a woman who gives up important information about “The White Rose” to Chun-Li in the bathroom of a dance club. Luckily (I guess), Cantana is already dead by the time Bison uses her for a punching bag (literally), but that didn’t make it any easier to swallow.

And so I was sitting here thinking, “You won’t do sex(y) scenes on screen, but you will beat up a dead woman/desecrate a corpse/be an overall misogynist asshole?” What the fuck is that about? What happened to “family and Catholic faith” for that decision? Seriously, in what fucked up world is it okay to decline work because of sex (which is fine by itself, by the way), but not decline it because of violence towards women?

Oh, wait.

Martin Freeman and all the BAFTAs

Yes, so here’s my contribution to The “Gee, Martin Freeman should probably have all the BAFTAs” Postcard Project.

All the information you want for this project is in that link, so don’t come running to me if you need help. (Well, I could probably help you, actually, but don’t come running until you’ve checked that page at least, will you?)

Martin Freeman postcard front
(ie: unassuming front)

Martin Freeman postcard back
(on left)

Dear Mr. Freeman,

ALL THE BAFTAS, SIR.
ALL OF THEM.

Very sincerely yours,
VE Duncan

(on right)

Martin Freeman
c/o Creative Artists Mgmt
4th Floor
111 Shoreditch High Street
London
E1 6JN
United Kingdom

Honest to gods, guys; I don’t think I’ve ever sent anyone fanmail in my whole entire life, not even a postcard. Oh, okay there was that one letter of gratitude to the writers of L&O: SVU for a line they wrote for Elliot Stabler in the episode “Mask“, but other than that… never.

In any case, if you like Martin Freeman’s work in BBC’s Sherlock, please consider sending him a postcard yourself, too!

Spelling

This morning at 6:21 AM PT, I was left a (spam) comment on my post about Strawberry Eggs by someone calling themselves Samira Stoots (email address Kornfield[at]gmail[dot]com—yes, really). It reads

Certainly I like your web-site, but you have to test the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very troublesome to inform you. However I will surely come back again!

Um, no; sorry. I’m laughing at you right now. Not to be mean, but… well, yes, actually… I am being mean here: everyone makes mistakes (gasp! even me, heaven forbid!), but I’m not the kind of person who makes spelling mistakes on a regular basis. I’m a writer; I should hope I don’t make a lot of spelling errors, you think?

Anyway, I’m deleting that comment, but I thought I’d share the laughs with you all, too.

The Testaments

Author’s Note: I was going to just put a short note at the end of my Sister Missionaries: the Beliefs post, but then I realized as I actually watched the film, that there was no way my “note” would be anything close to short. So here’s another post specifically about The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd.

A note on The Testaments (wiki)—the first part of which you can watch here… It’s pretty clear to me that something is amiss when, in the official LDS media, the following disclaimer is applied: “While the exact location of the events in the Americas is unknown and some of the characters there have been fictionalized, the appearance of the Savior and His ministry actually took place” (emphasis mine). Seriously?

And what is it with—not even five minutes in—the American natives somehow knowing about the birth of Jesus by a book that a prophet gave to them? (I presume that’s the Book of Mormon.) Obviously, the man who wrote the Book of Mormon knew nothing about the native peoples of the Americas. Even I know pitifully little about them, but I’m pretty sure I’d have heard about it if there was historical evidence that they had known of the Christ’s birth during the time is occurred.

I’m not convinced. I might be able to get into it, if it wasn’t presented as Something That Actually Happened™ (something I admit I’ve had trouble with before). The main character, Jacob, has a crush on another character, and what does he do? Not go and ask her out, and not do whatever it is that the native culture expects for him to be able to court her… No, he throws rocks at her while she’s in the river picking waterlilies. That… is not impressive. The story of Jacob, as portrayed by The Testaments, portrays something that echoes Joseph Smith’s own life (or perhaps the missionaries would say that Smith’s life seems to echo Jacob’s)—and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Good fiction writers often use what they know to make their stories more believable for their readers.

The narrative skips between the Americas and the Middle East. In the Middle East, Jesus performs his miracles, which we learn about in the New Testament of the Bible. I admit I looked more kindly upon these sequences, but I think that’s because they were introduced to me at a much younger age than the Mormon parts were, not because they’re actually any more believable. The TestamentsThey might, in fact, be less believable because the Bible is so much older and has had more time to be corrupted (which Joseph Smith said it had been, which necessitated the need for the “restored gospel”)—if not for the complete lack of historical evidence relating to Jesus in the Americas accounted in the Book of Mormon.

That is to say, I’m more inclined to believe the Bible because it’s backed up by secular, historical documents—even some documents that try to discredit Jesus as the Son of God—while the Book of Mormon is backed up by… testimony. There isn’t even such a thing as “reformed Egyptian“. If the original Book of Mormon existed (Joseph Smith said that the golden plates were taken up by an angel after translation), we’d be able to see what it said for ourselves, and the people who disbelieve reformed Egyptian and other Mormon nonsense (including myself) would have a lot more to deal with—Mormons would have more than faith and testimony to stand on, and nonbelievers might actually believe.

And if Kohor really did have his life engraved in stone (see here), he would have been rich enough to have it written down somewhere else, too, and we’d have a copy or two by this time, don’t you think? (Actually, Jacob, who Kohor hires to engrave this great masterpiece, chooses to cut out of stone an image of what he says is wisdom. “It’s you, Kohor,” he says. So it is, presumably, possible to have seen such engravings from ancient America and then have the Mormons claim that they are what the Book of Mormon is talking about, whether they’re sure of it or not.) But really, if there really was a House of Holy Records anywhere in the ancient Americas, why haven’t we found any historical evidence of it at all? I mean, seriously.

The primary love interest gives this speech to her mother (after the mother stereotypically puts all women into the ‘feminine wiles’ category by saying, “A woman’s instinct is wiser than reason”) about how no one can come to God (and yes, she did mean the one God of the Jews and Christians) except through the Messiah, and without the Messiah—“They call him the Lamb of God, the Savior of the World,” she says in the fourth part—no one can be saved. It made me think about what we need saving from. If I lived in a war-torn country where my life was threatened and I was unsafe even in my own house, I would surely cry out for a savior, too. And maybe, if I was saved, I would worship my savior. I don’t know, though, since I’ve (thankfully) never been in such a position.

Kohor reminds me of the primary antagonist in Immanuel’s Veins; he could be so complicated and interesting and even good (despite being an antagonist—yes, it is possible), but no. He’s painted as completely predictably against whatever the protagonist’s viewpoint happens to be. “By this secret pledge,” he says with a sneer to group of his followers in the fifth part, “we shall combine against the believers and swear as one TO DESTROY THEM!” It was practically eye-roll inducing.

Hearing all the “thee”s and “thou”s of the King James Version as if they were how people actually spoke to one another was really off-putting, and I have to admit: hearing Jesus talk about himself as the Way, the Truth, the Resurrection, and the Life really bothered me. (It’s one thing to hear someone else talk about him that way; it’s completely another to hear him say such things about himself. It made me wonder if [1] he had such a god complex that he thought he could say that the only way to heaven was through him and get away with it, and [2] the people listening to him were delusional.)

Also, it’s implied that the natives are reading about all the cool things Jesus did during his time on Earth; when they open a scroll or book of scripture, it flashes to another part of the world where Jesus is performing miracles or speaking out against the Pharisees or whatever. That is, it’s as though they’re reading the New Testament before it was even written. These two stories (one in the Americas and one in the Middle East) are supposed to be happening simultaneously, so how do the natives in the Americas know anything about what’s happening in the Middle East? They might have prophecies—that’s something I could get behind—but even if they did, no doubt the believers would argue about whether any given prophecy was being fulfilled or not. That’s exactly the schism between Jews and Christians, after all.

The Testaments assumes that there were Christians in the Americas before Christ even got there—and that’s assuming he even went there after his Ascension in the first place. (See also the MormonInfo.org review, especially the paragraph near the end that begins with “Probably the biggest problem I have…”) There’s no evidence for such a thing outside the Book of Mormon, and that tells me that said book is fiction (which is fine) that is being presented as fact (which is most definitely not fine).

Change in perception?

When I was a junior in high school I took a psychology class in which we all took some version of the Myers-Briggs Test. I was scored as INTJ. That is: Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging. The Extrovert/Introvert section was so unsure that I had to answer extra questions about it so that it could score me properly.

I just took a similar test, ten years later, and was awarded with ISFP, or: Introverted, Sensitive, Feeling, Perceiving. (ISFJ came in a close second, and there was no question about Extroversion versus Introversion this time.) Here’s what I was told:

If your personality type is ISFP then you have some deeply-held values that, even though your life may be somewhat unstructured, direct the things that you do and say. You probably take a caring and sensitive approach to others, more so than may be apparent to others because you showing your feelings in acts of kindness rather than in direct statements. You probably have a strong sense of the type of lifestyle you enjoy, which you want to maintain.

Here’s how INTJ (my former score) compares, from the same website:

If your personality type is INTJ then you have a strong, private sense of strategic vision, both for the future and how that future will can be achieved. Your vision, or sense of knowing, may be difficult to articulate, but even if wasn’t others might find it difficult to accept (e.g.: as impractical or unrealistic). Pursuing your vision might be a lonely task, therefore, as you develop and pursue plans without anyone else really understanding the nature of what you are trying to achieve.

Later, the reports of both scores talk about “mental muscles” meaning… that I was once more intuitive, thinking, and judging…? and now I’m more sensitive, feeling, and perceive things better? What? How does that even happen?

Seriously, I would really like to sit down with a Jungian psychologist for an hour and hash this out. I don’t feel like I’ve changed that much… but maybe it’s true because I’m feeling it and not thinking it? ha ha ha haaaaaa

A matter of legacies

EDIT 17:03 PDT: Yes, I did actually (for reals!) send this letter to KD National and to the editor of The Angelos.

a matter of legacies
article referenced in my letter. click for larger.

Dear Kappa Delta,

I read your note about legacies (see above) in the most recent issue of The Angelos (vol. 89 no.3, Spring 2011, pg. 49, “a matter of legacies”) and am disturbed by its implications and assumptions. You mention—correctly—that it’s impossible to accept every legacy into KD. (I’m sure it’s a relief in the most impacted chapters not to be under pressure to accept them, if, indeed, they remain not pressured.) What troubles me isn’t that KD selects “the best and most harmonious women” or that some legacies choose a different sorority (or—gasp! shock and awe—choose to remain GDI). That’s to be expected.

What bothers me, instead, is this. First, you write that some legacies may “feel more at home with another National Panhellenic Conference sorority”—the implication being that there are only NPC sororities in existence at all. As I’m sure you’re aware, NPC sororities actually make up only a part of the sororities and women’s fraternities available to potential new member candidates. Other councils and associations include the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations, the National APIA Panhellenic Association, and the National Multicultural Greek Council, not to mention all the unaffiliated national sororities and local sororities that exist in the United States.

Second, you write that “[t]he important thing for KDs to remember is that NPC sororities are more alike than different.” That’s sadly true and, combined with my first complaint, makes it seem like every young woman who wants to go Greek is going to end up coming out of a cookie cutter mold by the end of college. The reason most KDs want their legacies to join Kappa Delta is for the reasons it’s different from all those other sororities and because they want to share the KD bond with their loved ones, not because the sororities are all so similar that they’re basically interchangeable.

Third, you make a point of saying that Kappa Delta can honestly hardly accept all legacies on one page (pg. 49) and then ask us to register legacies on the next (pg. 50, “Register Your College-Bound Legacy with KD“)! That’s very frustrating and seems futile after having just read your note about legacies in general. (Also, would it kill you guys to show pictures more inclusive of this country’s diversity? Seriously, I counted just one KD of color in the entire magazine [at the top of page 9], and page 50 is representative of that. Or are these pictures representative of a sorority that has done little—if anything—to curb the racism by omission that’s present in these photos?)

Kappa Delta does many good things, but I was sorely disappointed in your comment about legacies. I hope the sorority’s official stance will continue to evolve into something even greater, as I know it can.

Sincerely,
V.E.
Eta Lambda, 2008 alumnae class