If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be too cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down. – Annie Dillard
Day Nine: Practicing what I preach
The ninth day and I honestly thought it was going to be a failure in that no obstacles were presenting themselves. I was going to try to make this a pure work fear related post and talk about how my social anxiety affects my job and doing something to symbolize my effort to conquer it. The thing is, with my job, I’m forced to face my social anxiety day in and day out. The phone rings and it is my job to pick it up. I have to talk to strangers all the time. If I try to avoid something, it hunts me down and and forces me to pay attention to it.
My poor coworkers do have to put up with my whining and complaining. My boss knows anytime she asks me to do something, it isn’t going to be a simple thing. She knows I’ll do it, but I’m going to mull it over, examine it, and question it first. It really is just my way of getting comfortable with the idea.
Faced with this reality I didn’t think I’d really get to face down a fear today and what a low note that would have been to go out on. I should have planned for a big reveal climax to give this whole series of blog posts some pop and sizzle. At 1:36pm today, I got a chance to put all my talk into action. For the past eight days, I’ve been in control of which fears and anxieties I got to face down. I even had the option during all of this to opt out, and just not face them. When I pulled into the gas station today and realized I didn’t have my wallet, I felt disaster looming. I raced back to the office in hopes that I put my wallet on my desk (for whatever reason, it would have been odd since I don’t ever do that). It wasn’t there.
This sort of ‘minor incident’ can usually send me in a complete panic. Several things were stacking up against me (or at least my imagination was stacking these things up against me). My phone battery died and I was running low on gas. Now come with me as I give you a tour of my dark, awful imagination. The scenario running through my head went something along the lines of… I run out of gas on the expressway. I can’t call AAA because my phone is dead. Highway patrol stops to see what the problem is since they don’t like cars sitting on the side of the expressway. I’m asked for my license and registration. I don’t have my license since it is in my wallet. The only proof of insurance in my car is the temporary one I got when the original cards didn’t arrive. I’m suddenly slapped with all sorts of tickets and fines and who knows what else (because it is a non-transparent bureaucratic system) and this one incident blows all the financial planning I’ve been organizing the past week out of the water. Meanwhile my wallet was picked up by someone, my corporate charge card gets used for unsavory items and it results in my getting fired.
That entire scenario played out between my leaving the gas station and arriving at the office. My imagination loves to go to extremes. I could feel my heart just pumping away. I wanted to ask for the rest of the day off so I could just verify my wallet was at home. I stood at my desk for several minutes, I’m certain my coworkers thought I was truly crazy. I went through the motion of telling myself to SHUT THE FRAK UP. One – my car has enough gas to get me home, guaranteed. Two – I’ve only been pulled over three times, never issued a ticket, why would I suddenly get pulled over today. Three – even if I did, the temporary proof of insurance is valid, and the fine for driving without a license is something I’d deal with if it came up and there was no reason to get myself worked up over it at that moment since there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Four – if I was truly in dire straights, a coworker offered to lend me money for gas, I have a friend who works not but two miles away from me and another who works about four miles away – both of whom would have lent me money or given me a ride home.
Instead of letting my imagination blow minor problems into monstrous catastrophes, I need to turn it to good, to solving the problems. There are always solutions.
Today also forced me to keep in mind that I have a lot of work to do to deal with my fears and social anxiety. Obstacles and problems arise all the time and if I let each one become a stumbling block, I won’t make much progress towards any goal. The fear of being labeled a loser can only come true if I accept defeat and never try again. I’m not so deluded as to claim I’ll ever be a champion at life, but I can say that I’m still plugging along.
Since this is the final post in this series, I want to take a moment to distinguish my social anxiety, which is mostly caused by my own mental make up, and the social anxiety that is caused through neurochemistry. I am a victim of my own laziness and irrationality, while many people are victims of their chemistry. I do not want anything I’ve written or done to be construed that there is never a need for medicine and professional help. I’m also not saying that I am not in need of professional help, myself. That is on my ‘big fear’ list that I’m ramping up to doing. I’ve been given contact information for a therapist whom I will be contacting once I do reach that level of courage. I encourage anyone who feels weighed down by their fears and anxiety to seek out similar professional help as soon as they can.
After school specials have nothing on me, right? Just like those after school specials, if you’d like to know more about social anxiety and social phobias, here is a link to a list of articles and books on the subject. http://www.socialphobia.org/
I really want to thank those of you who have suffered through reading all nine days of updates and thank all of you for words of encouragement and support. Finishing this series of posts represents another accomplishment, another achievement of fnishing something I started. This is a trend I’d like to continue. I was hoping I’d have a killer ‘wow’ moment over these nine days, but I think overall this is a more realistic and acceptable turn of events. There are no sudden fixes to years of insular thought and living. There is only the day by day slog to keep moving forward.