Jennifer Lawson / The Bloggess won the 2016 Audie award for Humor with Furiously Happy.
My youngest is 16. She was diagnosed with anxiety in 1st grade and could have been as a toddler if we’d known to look for it. She’s also a smart bunny and a good kid.
Monday afternoon she was going through her binder, rearranging things due to the change of the order of classes in her second semester of 11th grade. She pulled out a paper and said “My creative writing teacher told me this was funny. He said I should write sarcastic essays but I felt like he was laughing at my anxiety.”
“Well, did you write in a sarcastic way? If so, that makes it funny and you can’t complain that someone thinks it is. Can I read it?”
“Don’t laugh at me, ” she says as she hands it over.
I was laughing out loud within a paragraph. I finished it, after several breaks to explain what I specifically found funny.
“You should have a blog. This is great stuff.”
“I’d be too anxious about the people reading it to be able to write anything.”
“What do you think that the Bloggess does? She writes even though she has anxiety and she makes it OK to laugh at things that shouldn’t be funny like rapists on the other side of the door and panic attacks and dead animals.”
I think my Large Fry has captured some sarcasm from me and some writing ability from Jennifer Lawson. This must be what happens when you let your then 12 year old read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.
(The assignment was to write about an accomplishment or something you were proud of.)
I can’t think of what to write. Well, no. I can think of what to write, but nothing’s going well. I get about a paragraph in and I want to delete the whole damn thing. My brain’s fried after winter break and a gratuitous amount of time spent playing video games. So I guess what I’m proud of is being able to write anything at all.
I’m just exhausted. After a nice, relaxing break, we’re slugged in the face by the imminent exams. That’s not what I want after a vacation. Final projects, deadlines, worries over passing, all of these are culminating into one giant mound of stress. Fortunately, the pressure hasn’t really gotten to me yet.
I thought of the concept of “blood raptors” and while this sounds cool, I have no idea what I can write about it. Raptors made of blood? Vampire dinosaurs? Hell if I know. I’ve got ideas and I can’t use them.
I’ve got background stress from my quantitative literacy final project. Basically, we’re figuring out living on our own, based on income from randomly picked jobs. I make less than $2,000 a month as a bus driver, apparently, and I don’t think I can buy a car with that money and still have enough to live. Unfortunately, I can’t live on my bus. Or with my parents.
In game development, the class has been split into two teams to work on making a game. We’re getting half a school quarter to do it. I’m sorry, but organizing these people into various tasks like coding or designing levels sounds impossible. It’ll be like herding cats, and the cats are blind and deaf.
Right now, I just want to lay on a couch and sleep/read, or play video games. School’s important, yes, but so is my willingness to even do anything.
This class is fine. I just utterly loathe the idea of reading my creations out to a classroom full of people I don’t even know. The poems, the stories, those are all mine. I don’t want complete goddamn strangers judging them, and don’t say something like “Oh don’t worry about it!” because worrying is an inherent quality for me. That, and social anxiety amplifies stage fright to result in me having a breakdown at my seat.
There are people who are nice to me, but I’m worried they’re not being genuine and just use me to get help on assignments. Maybe they’re being genuine, but it’s a trope and my anxiety is no help.
I need to check that I’m registered for the Accuplacer, and I’m scared I’ll forget to check, or that I won’t find the people I’m supposed to talk to.
My mind is a mess. All these worries and fears are, unfortunately, burning me out. I can’t wait for finals to be over.
Honestly, I’m proud of this because I wrote and I vented.
The above is from the brain of my kidlet, MFS. Copyright 2016.
Twas a most excellent event!
Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess has written another book. This one is called Furiously Happy and comes out next week. She had some help with the book trailer again and it’s a beautiful thing. *hands tissues*
Amelia & Me
Later—after we’d run out of energy—we’d walk through the graveyard and try to piece together stories. We’d start at the largest, most prominent tombstone (usually a mayor or a town founder) and work our way out, piecing together the lives and deaths of the people who’d once made the town come alive, and from there we’d embellish.
For example: Samuels was a town founder who’d gone through three wives in his long life, but in the end, he was buried next to his first wife, Georgina, whom he’d been married to only a few short years before she died at 22. Her tombstone was larger than those of the other women, with a weeping angel standing watch, and a spot at the top was dark, as if charred.
“Or,” my mom said knowingly, “as if a man had laid his hand there many times over his past 60 years.” “Or,” my father added, “as if hobos used it as an ashtray.”
We walked on to the Smith family plot, about which we made up long and complicated stories filled with imagined scandal and laughter and heartache. In our minds, the oldest son had been an incurable dreamer who died young while attempting to create an early (and painfully unsuccessful) jetpack. The Smith plots were overgrown, though, and it seemed as if the family line had died out—and the only stories still told about them were the ones told by people like us: poor amateur detectives with strong imaginations and no access to cable.
Inevitably, we always ended up with at least one tombstone that didn’t quite fit with the rest. Set off from the others, it bore a last name that didn’t seem to match anyone else’s. There were no special engravings, no “beloved child” or “She is not dead. She only rests.” Instead, there was just a name and, possibly, a date. Those markers always made me the saddest, probably because I identified most with them.
Even at age 10, I already knew that I was different from most people. My anxiety disorder was still years from being diagnosed, but it affected me quite deeply. I was too afraid to speak out in class, too nervous to make real friends. It was always the single, lonely grave that I’d stop at to pull out the weeds and leave wildflowers. In a way, I suppose, I was mourning for myself, for the outgoing, friend-to-all person I would never be. At that young age, I already felt as if I’d always fade into the background. I was terrified of slumber parties, let alone leaving the house. I couldn’t give a book report and, instead, would stand in front of the class laughing nervously without ever uttering a word.
It was during one of our long walks through a cemetery that I found the grave of a girl named Amelia. Her tombstone stood at the edge of the cemetery, apart from any of the others, as if purposely hanging back. She had died in her 30s, and the lettering of her tenure here on earth was worn by 70 years of rain. “Perhaps,” I whispered to myself, “she does have a story. Maybe one so incredible that no one would ever be able to capture it on a simple tombstone. Perhaps she stands out of the way because no one ever came near enough to understanding her. “Perhaps” I said a little louder, “she was a traveling tightrope artist with tattoos that told stories and a throat that spit fire. Perhaps she retired after she fell from the high wire, only to retire here and live quietly. Perhaps she died from a lonely heart, her name on the lips of a dozen men who never had the courage to speak to her. Perhaps she was attacked by vampire cougar who still roams these parts after being improperly beheaded.”
Lisa came to stand behind me. “More likely she was just some girl who died of dysentery,” she said. My sister had played too much Oregon Trail as a child.
“Possibly,” I replied. “But I prefer my story.”
And then I took a deep breath and walked purposefully into the story of my own life—finishing school, growing up, having my daughter. Even though—more than 20 years later—I still struggle with anxiety. I still deal with the fear, and it still limits me. But when I feel like I can’t possibly survive one more day in the real world, I think back to Amelia. I think of all the things that Amelia might never have had the chance to do, and of all of the amazing, ridiculous things she accomplished in my imagination. I think of the fact that I still haven’t seen the view from the top of the tightrope and that I never will if I don’t push myself to fight my anxiety and confront the terrifying task of living.
Then I grit my teeth and make myself do the very things that scare me so much. I force myself to talk to the bafflingly perfect-looking moms at my daughter’s school (almost all implausibly named Heather or Tiffany) whose shoes cost more than my car. When I walk past tattoo parlors, I no longer say, “Oh, hell no!” Now I say, “Maybe.” Or “Soon.”
Some people think it’s strange to have a hero who is just a gravestone in a cemetery, but even today, believe it or not, Amelia is more responsible for getting me out of the house than my husband. She taught me that we all have stories in our lives worth passing down, stories that may or may not involve surviving brutal vampire-cougar attacks but that can make a lonely child—or adult—feel so much less alone.
I’ve been posting Foo Fighters and Doctor Who stuff for a couple of weeks and now have nothing to share, except for the thought that I have nothing to share.
Perhaps I can share my name of the day from the
It is ever so nice to meet you. I am the Rogue Authority of Pretzel Indoctrination