One of the most irritating parts of my anxiety is that I'm often afraid to have interactions with employees at stores, restaurants, etc. I try to be rational--that these employees are just doing their jobs, and that people go in and out of stores and banks every day. I am always worried I will do something wrong and those around me will think I'm stupid, or other errand-runners will look at me and sense I don't belong. It's like they can smell my fear, and I'm embarrassed simply by existing in these places, more than once resulting in me dropping items while trying to check out or saying weird things to cashiers and then mentally scolding myself the whole way back to the parking lot. Last December I walked into a World Market to find a small Christmas present and felt so dizzy by the crowds of other people shopping that I had to turn around, walk out, and drive back home. At least my car gets his exercise.
Over the weekend, I went to a bar with a couple of friends. I walked in, and automatically felt like all attention was on me. I realize this sounds COMPLETELY self absorbed--and it's not really. It's not like people don't have anything better to do than look at me, or that they even want to, but the feeling of being noticed and analyzed is crushing. I think deep down I know that people aren't actually seeing every small thing I do, but am irrationally convinced they are. My friends weren't really taking initiative so I decided to be brave and walk up to the bar (which is not an act of bravery at all, but rather a totally normal thing that people do in you know, bars). But I was feeling exhilarated from looking like I knew what I was doing, and I ordered my drink with confidence. The bartender then casually asked to see my ID. Now usually, when I am going through a transaction and someone asks to see my ID, I smile and say "Thanks for asking!", because that means they are taking the extra step to verify it's me and not someone stealing my card. But, on this fall night, I decided to smile and loudly say, "Thanks for asking!" to the bartender (who obviously asked for my ID to make sure I was over 21) with the enthusiasm of a forty five year old woman who hasn't been carded in twenty years. Oh my god I thought, maybe he didn't hear me? But no, he looked me in the eyes, like why the hell are you thanking me, you absolute weirdo, and made my drink.
Honestly, it wasn't as bad as the last time I was at Bibibop on a lunch break. See, Chipotle-style ordering (for lack of a better descriptor) really puts me on edge. I have to be able to think quickly, I might miss something I really want to add to my food, or even add something by mistake. To make matters more complicated, there is usually a glass barrier between those ordering and the food for sanitary reasons. This barrier is usually higher than me, because I am literally 5 feet tall, and often blocks noise or the faces of those making my food so I can't see their mouths while they are talking to me. And likewise, they usually can't hear me. So I go through these lines frantically shouting on my tip toes. Bibibop was pretty bumpin' on this particular afternoon, so my static hands were starting to sweat as soon as I navigated through the door. I got to the second person in the food-making line, and he asked which type of protein I wanted. "Uhh," I stammered, even though I knew I wanted chicken, and said, really loudly "Meat!"
I answered the question "Which type of protein do you want?" with "Uhh, meat!" I guess it was better than "Thanks for asking!"
I also went to the Renaissance Festival this weekend, and had an amazing time. There were a few goals I wanted to complete, and proudly checked off each one.
I wanted to:
1. Eat a potato soup bread bowl because I ordered one at the same Ren Fest when I was 12, but a fly landed in it.
2. Find a crystal pendant necklace because one of my RPG characters wears one, and they are kinda in style right now~~the 90s are SO back.
3. See a fortune teller.
Before we left, we came upon a cute little shelter where a Sage Woman was doing $10 psychic readings. I was determined to meet her and waited for about half an hour until it was my turn. I walked in, and automatically didn't know what to do with the $10 in my hand. It felt weird to just shove it at her, so I sat down and put it on the table, scooting it towards where she was seated. She put a giant crystal on it, which eased my nerves because it seemed like I did the right thing if a giant crystal was involved (really I think it was a paperweight so it didn't blow away). I then really looked at her and instantly admired her big, feather hat and rosy cheeks. Her eyes were like frosted glass. She resembled Aggie Cromwell from Halloweentown, and I felt comforted right away.
The Sage Woman decided to do a Tarot Card reading. She asked me to first touch the cards with good energy, cut the deck into three piles, and then put them back together in any order. She then laid out my cards and sweetly smiled as she gave me very positive news. She told me that I was doing well at my job, that different key people in my life were going to continue being supportive and proud of me, and that if I kept working to fulfill my biggest goal, it would eventually come true. She said this was not magic or good fortune, but a practice. The path to success is to do all of the leg work and actually take your thoughts and make them a reality. "You know what you have to do," she continued. "You get your inspiration from an other-wordly place, and if you put in the work, you will achieve what you want."
"There are people walking around here who do not know this is the reality of achieving what you want," she explained. "Here at this festival. They blame their time, their jobs, and other factors when the only thing in the way of what they really want is them."
It was then that I remembered everyone is walking around with reservations of what others might think. Perhaps they don't go for their goals because they are scared, or don't have the means or resources. There were people walking around the festival who were probably as frightened as I was the day I walked into the World Market. Yet, they were here. I was here. We did it. We wanted something, and made it happen.
Okay, so I realize this whole concept is slightly hokey. I could have read it in a horoscope or a fortune cookie, but with this woman so kindly spelling it all out for me, it made sense. We all know we have to work hard to achieve our goals, but the Sage Woman was so empowering and encouraging that an age-old lesson seemed so simple. It was like she was giving me permission to keep doing what I'm doing, which felt good. Really good. So I'm here to give you permission too. That may not mean much, perhaps I don't have the authority, but regardless, I support you. There are no guarantees, but putting effort into something will give us better odds at succeeding than not doing anything at all.
And that really is the funny thing about ideas. They have to be brave enough to come out of our heads and into the world. They have to make it outside, and not turn around and drive home no matter what people think about them or what embarrassing things they may say to bartenders.
And, as Aggie Cromwell says: "Magic is really very simple, all you've got to do is want something and then let yourself have it."
So, let yourself have it.