If you are not careful, station KFKD (K-Fucked) will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop… Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on. –Anne Lamott
Already, before you write the first ‘the,’ you’re screwed by your own unworthiness. –Carolyn See
The blogging conference is coming up, and I’m worried about getting myself out of the house. Once I get to the airport, I’ll be fine—probably even happy and excited. But that liminal period is fraught with anxiety. The last time I traveled alone, I almost turned around several times while driving to the airport.
Travel-induced anxiety makes sense, I guess. Travel is loaded with uncertainties, and those concrete uncertainties suggest a kind of psychic uncertainty. Even though I had a tendency toward anxiety since childhood, it was my first major trip—to France—that brought about what I now know as panic attacks. The first one happened on the Paris metro. I was sixteen years old. I’d never been very far from home. I didn’t know if I believed in God. I had a boyfriend mostly because I was scared to be alone. And the train, rumbling loudly, plunged into an underground tunnel. I could feel it, then, palpably: existential anxiety. This trip was like life itself–loud and scary and disorienting–and I didn’t know what I was doing and I could barely speak the language.
I feel that kind of anxiety less when traveling now, partly because I’m well-medicated and partly because I’ve had a little experience moving about the earth. There isn’t a cure, but if you just sink into the anxiety and let it happen, and move forward despite it, it will abate. The anxiety I feel now is more about fulfilling some sort of purpose. It’s being afraid of both failure and success. The more I invest into writing and building an author platform, I worry, the more devastated I’ll be when I fail. But imagining success is even scarier: if I succeed, surely it will be at some cost.
I don’t know why I think this. I don’t know if it’s my pessimistic take on the “Can women have it all?” debate, or something darker and more primitive, a belief seated deep in my hindbrain that individuals are allotted only so much happiness. (See this post for my concept of The Arbiter of Happiness, but fair warning—if you don’t like leprechauns, you may never sleep again.) All I know is that I’m scared to ask for anything more. Scared to go to the conference. Scared to have a second child, because the first one may have used up all the genes for health and cuteness and smartness.
Abby, that’s not the way genes work. And that’s not the way the world works. Trying new things isn’t tempting a capricious god.
More and more lately I keep remembering the year I turned thirty, where I left off with my memoir posts. I’m with Gills-and-Fins on my thirtieth birthday, a couple of months before we break up. I’m sitting on the couch. He’s brought me a brownie with a candle in it. It’s time to make a wish. I’m slightly drunk, and in that space of a few seconds before I have to blow, two wishes flit through my mind:
I want to have a family.
I want to be a writer.
The wax is dripping into the brownie. Without thinking, I wish hard for the first one. I’m afraid to wish for both.