January 31, 2009

Panic rising; flooding likely.

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:16 pm by the Green-Eyed Siren

I can feel my anxiety level rising with every hour that passes. The cold sense of fear and dread that started in my gut this morning has risen to my neck; I can feel it now when I swallow. The reason for my distress is simple: tonight at 6 pm I will be joining my husband at a work event in which we will be asked to play paddle tennis. What is paddle tennis, you say? Here’s a very brief introduction:

So, why the worry? It’s perfectly friendly, everyone is very nice, and I sincerely doubt that anyone will get crazy competitive on a person as unskilled as I. But still I am on the verge of becoming a total basket case. This is an event which will require me to summon far more than the usual amount of courage required when I leave my house to, you know, be with other people actually in person instead of via Facebook.

I am freaking out for the following reasons:

1. I haven’t seen any of these people in about a year. Since that time I have gained 20 pounds, and I was less than svelte to begin with. It’s been a stressful time due to sorting out Unfocused Girl’s educational needs, making the move to the new school, accepting my new commute, and, last but certainly not least, watching the entire fucking earth implode economically. So I’ve done a little too much wine therapy and a little too much chocolate therapy and a lot too much sitting on the couch in emotional paralysis. I’ve earned every pound, but that doesn’t mean I am anxious to put them on display.

2. I do not enjoy wearing exercise related clothing in public. Or, really, in the privacy of my house either. It’s part of the feedback loop described in item 1; it’s tough to keep the weight off if you won’t put on the accursed jogging pants.

3. My lungs are still not quite healed from my recent flu, and breathing cold air prompts an annoying cough. I don’t have any singing to do for a while, but I still feel protective of the apparatus and don’t like to do things that might aggravate it. The paddle tennis will take place outside (although on courts that are heated in some way), and it will be chilly (although thankfully not bitterly cold), so there will definitely be some risk of re-injuring those slowly healing lungs.

4. I have no experience playing paddle tennis and virtually no experience playing regular tennis (as adolescents my friend bb and I wandered over to the public courts maybe 3 times; our attempts to serve and return were utter failures and did not lead to repeat efforts).

5. There is nothing in this world that I am worse at than attempting to pick up a new physical skill while other people are watching. I so desperately prefer to have the chance to work it out privately first, think it through, go slowly so I can keep it straight in my head before it goes through my body. When I am asked to try an activity in a group situation it doesn’t matter how hard I try to put a cheerful face on it (and I do—I truly, truly try) I end up revealing myself to be physically awkward, powerfully angry, and, most unattractively, unable to muster a gracious acceptance of my failings. I actually have moments of physical grace, the result of a decent stretch of studying ice skating when I was a kid, but not when I’m trying to pick things up under pressure.

An example: Mr. Unfocused took me to an all-day Lindy Hop class back in the days before the kids came, and I spent the entire lunch break railing at him about what miserable torture it was. I was totally and completely unhinged in my anger and frustration, and because the safest target of feelings like that is always the person who you can trust to love you anyway, I put him through the wringer. Once the break was over, I headed out to the line, smiled at my next partner, and made pleasant small talk as I fumbled my way through the afternoon. It was not the first time I demonstrated my Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, and it won’t be the last; I’m desperately afraid it will happen tonight.

This is really the number one problem, much more important than the fact that I have no good options for what the hell I’m going to wear without looking like a complete cow, or my lungs hurt, or something like that. I hate going to that place in my head, hate being so out of control. I am totally and completely aware that it is an enormous personal failing, and I know that I am a grownup who ought to be capable of controlling her actions—but in spite of my very best efforts, which I sincerely promise to make, I know that if I actually try to play paddle tennis tonight I will end the evening spouting bitter invective at a man I love deeply. It will be unfair to him, and he will steel himself as best he can; he knows me well, and knows that it’s my insecurity and anxiety talking, but that doesn’t make it pleasant to listen to. No one really cares for one’s wife to turn into a shrill, demonic shrew. And God forbid I allow any of that to come out at a moment when one of his work colleagues might happen to be close enough to pick up on it; I can’t imagine how mortifying that would be for both of us.

I swear to you I am not this way, at least not in such an exaggerated form, most of the time. I have been married long enough to understand the importance of choosing your words carefully, especially in anger; long enough to know that it cannot work if you cannot be generous of spirit with your partner. I have learned how to keep myself from going off of my personal deep end, both because it is the best thing for me and because it is the best thing for my marriage. But part of that is avoiding situations that will bring out the worst I have to offer, and tonight I need to walk right in to one that is tailor-made for me to fail utterly.

Well, I’d better go dig through my closet, maybe put some laundry in. I’ll have to wear something other than courage tonight. Send positive vibes my way, please!



  1. The Lass said,

    Belated good vibes. Hope it wasn’t as awful as you’d anticipated.

  2. Jenn said,

    Hope everything worked out, I feel for you. That would send me up the anxiety tree as well. Your post led to my recall of the first time I met Mr. Everything Under the Sun’s family (at least his dad/stepmom side of the family) and multiple stepsiblings, etc. I felt like I was already “on stage” for being the new girl and lo and behold they decide to have EVERYONE, EVERYONE play volleyball. Innocent enough, but pure torture for the athletically-challenged trying to make a good impression on her boyfriend’s family. To top it off, some of then knew I went to Mother McAuley, the volleyball capital of Chicago. What they wrongly assumed was that I was good at volleyball; I sucked. Ok, I need to go have some wine just thinking about it. It was awful, at least from my perspective. I hope everything went well for you!

  3. Unfocused Me said,

    For the record, the Siren did a very good job. She talked to a people, stayed mostly off her iPhone, and didn’t yell at me in public *or* in the car on the way home. Gold star.

    As an aside, I suck at paddle tennis as I do at any sport that involves hitting a ball, but I did provide entertainment for the Siren who watched me freezing my ass off from inside the Paddle Hut.

  4. bb said,

    Was Mr. Green Eyed Siren wearing those really short, seasonably unsound dolphin shorts again?

  5. Unfocused Me said,

    BB – “And while they didn’t remain highly fashionable, they’re still popular with runners, who like the free and easy movement, and the chance to show off the shapeliness or musculature of their legs.”

    I’m just saying.

  6. Lauren said,

    ooooohhhhhh weeeeeeeeee you are a great writer. i am into the angst.

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