I just bought a five and a half pound pork loin at Whole Foods. The nicest young butcher guy kept bringing out progressively bigger pieces of meat, to which I would turn away aggressively, asking for yet a bigger cut in a slightly maniacal voice. I really wanted to call him Garçon.
When we finally reached the perfect Flintstone-esque sized slab of pig, he dabbed away sweat and politely asked me if I was having a party. I told him yes, with an enthusiasm of one celebrating something truly glorious like the end of a war, or Martin Sheen being the actual president, and told him that it was my two year panic-iversary.
His smile only slightly wavered before the forklift put my meat in my cart, and I said good-bye in somewhat of a sing-songy way before going to buy all the cheese in three counties.
I blame all of this on my neighbor, and the wanton in my soup, Lowercase Kate.
Shut up, Kate, I'm literally about to explain...geez.
So, last Sunday whilst I was knee deep in eating a curried quinoa with asparagus and broiled Trader Joe's salmon (I don't want to toot my own horn here, but...honk.), I sprawled out on my couch with Neighbor Magee (Lowercase Kate) and I announced out of nowhere that I wanted to celebrate my panic-iversary this year. It's been two years, and I want to have a "treat yo self" day, I decided, mid-mouthful of dinner. Kate has never batted an eyelash at anyone's weird ideas, so she was immediately on board.
Poor Kate has been dragged through this blog more than anyone who suffers my madness, but, she's wise AF and super chipper about all this crap. She asked: Did I want to take the day off of work (which I'm not above doing for literally no reason)? Maybe get a massage? Or a mani/pedi? Or get all the hair waxed off of my ape-like body? Or go shopping? Or sit and read? Or sit and write? (#lol...that's work) Or a movie...or a day trip...or sleep all day...or get my hair did?
I swallowed my overly spicy bite, told her to shut her wet mouth for a minute and told her exactly what I wanted: dinner with the crew.
So here I am, cutting some carrots and potatoes (be impressed that I've done anything more than 20 minutes in advance), listening to an audio book, and having a glass of wine.
It's so mundane. It's so normal. So everyday. So not a good story.
And that's why I'm so happy right now.
I start pouring an entire bottle of balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan, turn the heat on high and turn on every fan I own. A balsamic reduction is worth every second, if you survive the fumes.
I have a few minutes, so I pull out the little cards I'm going to give my guests, thinking of how silly this is, and how I'm going to own the crap out of this party.
So what does any of this matter? Well, it doesn't. To you, it doesn't. Just like your wedding anniversary means Jack to me. Or your birthday, for that matter. We celebrate other people's things because we want to show them that they matter.
I'm celebrating this, because I am going to show myself that I matter.
Two years ago I was a genuine certified hot mess. For more than a week, my ears were ringing, I was light headed, I would find myself shivering for no reason, and had this weird compulsion to pace. Pacing...like, in circles around the house...for an hour at a time because I felt so restless. I felt in my heart of hearts that something was really wrong. I thought I had an ear infection that went septic. Then I started having these funny sensations in my chest...then the cold sweats. It was a weird week.
This week has been a weird week too, I muse, as I try to decide if I like my friends enough to make a Spanish almond cake. I get into a Pinterest loop and sort of idly think about my week. I recorded a tough podcast about weight last week, and have been waiting in the shadow of the gallows waiting to see if it would blow up in our face this week. Plus, it was fantasy suite week on The Bachelor...so, clearly, I need not say more about that kind of stress. The windstorm we had in the west has made my big-girl-job so busy....actually, now that I think about it, the last time we were this busy...humph. It was exactly 2 years ago.
On March 10, 2015, I was running a conference call, and had just gotten some pretty rude feedback about something, when I had a sudden tightness of my chest - my breath became shallow, I started sweating, my vision narrowed, my hands went cold, and I had the most fascinating sensation of doom. And I mean doom...it's a sensation that I'm not sure I can describe, but just imagine the worst things ever, and know...just know that they're about to happen.
I, for some stupid reason, finished the call, then promptly packed up my things and went straight to urgent care. I was too embarrassed to go to the ER, because something in me said that I probably wasn't actually dying. That poor doctor. I told him about the ear infection that had so obviously traveled to my heart, and that I come from a family of heart disease, but could he figure out what was going on because it was really busy at work and I didn't have much time.
He asked me to take a breath.
Then he asked me about work.
"Oh, 16 hours a day, every day for two months? And how are you sleeping? Yes, I'm not surprised you're not sleeping well. Erica, you are not having a heart attack, and your ears look perfectly healthy. Have you ever heard of the term 'panic attack?'"
Yeah, I scoffed, from losers and hypochondriacs.
"Well, it's a real phenomenon, Erica, and it seems you've had at least one. I am going to write you a prescription for something to help relax you and that will help you sleep. This is for only ten pills and it's non-habit forming. I would recommend learning how long-term stress can affect our bodies, and it probably wouldn't hurt to cut back on the caffeine for a while."
As the balsamic bubbled softly, I reminded myself to find out if anyone wanted coffee after dinner. Adults do that, right?
It's funny how memory works. What I remember about the rest of 3/10/15 is crying the entire way home on the phone with my best friend, getting my prescription, taking one of the pills, then Googling "panic attack" for the rest of the night.
The thing about March 10th is that, well, that could have been the end of it. People have panic attacks all the time. It's sort of an unfortunate side effect of having a pulse. The thing is, I didn't talk about it. I read into every twinge in my body, and kept it to myself because I didn't want to be put away into a home for the interminably insane.
Oh, don't forget to get buttermilk. Someone please text me and remind me to get buttermilk. What kind of a mashed potato is it without buttermilk?!
It was a slow burn after that first panic attack. It's a lot like getting kicked while you're down when you're in that state. You get the wind knocked out of you, and before you can get back on your feet, someone kicks you right in the fellas. And after you finish crying about that, a bike messenger runs you over and steals your McFlurry. That's what it felt like to me. I would go to work, have a rough day with panic, come home, eat a banana and go to bed by 6pm. If I didn't have to go to work, I wouldn't leave my bedroom. I missed meetings, and made excuses to everyone. I tried forcing myself to do the things I loved like the movies or the gym or shopping...but I would have a panic attack, and turn around to walk to my car in tears.
Feeling you've failed at something so simple might be only a smidge less painful than being drawn and quartered.
Speaking of shopping, I wonder if I'll have time to go to the mall tomorrow...I wore that whole outfit with the tags on just so I could return it, after all.
I remember the first time I went to the mall after all that initial bewildering drama. I didn't die, shockingly, but you would have thought I had just run a marathon. I was sweaty and proud and exhausted.
I kept taking one micro-baby step at a time, and eventually got the courage to do all kinds of weird crap like yoga, and a woman's group, and went and got me an anxiety coach.
Don't let me forget to take a thousand pictures of stuffing this pork with other pork and cheese and send it to Kelli and make her actually die of jealousy.
I torture people with greatness now. My life of giving all of myself until there was nothing left was harmful and left me resentful. Now I know that when I give a gift, or time, or grace someone with my overly fabulous presence, I'm giving from the fullest place I can.
Except when I take pictures of food and text them to Kelli. I do that out of the blackest part of my soul because she made me do this blog and I'll never let it go.
My life got really weird two years ago...and thank the tiny baby Jesus that it did. The beginning of these last two years was almost unbelievably hard...like I'm not sure that anything else I'll go through will be harder than pulling myself up by my bootstraps like that. But I did. I did some impressively hard work, and my life is exactly what I want right now. I keep doing things that make me power sweat and make me a little nauseous - like this blog...or the podcast (that freaking podcast). I talk to people and tell them about my weird and wonderful life, and I get to see the spark in people's eyes when they feel heard. I didn't have that before 3/10/15.
Before 3/10/15, I worked from the second I got up until I fell asleep watching TV because I was afraid of the thoughts swirling in my head when it was quiet. That was my whole day, and it was the only thing in my day.
Because of 3/10/15, my day is every possible kind of strange and I dig every second. Sometimes I watch 6 episodes of a show on Netflix. Sometimes I read half a book. Sometimes I write a story for a friend just because I want to know if I can. Sometimes I go for a walk. Sometimes I get a drink with Neighbor Face, then get the COB from Red Front (don't tell DeFazio's) and eat it in my car while listening to something funny. Sometimes I go to therapy, or take a drive, or call a friend and preach at them for two hours about mindfulness. Sometimes I visit my nieces then go home and sleep like a starfish in my bed without kids because I can. And this is all in the winter! Get out of my way when the weather is tolerable.
I'm totally throwing myself this party, unabashedly and unapologetically. I'm doing the thing I love the most: feeding people. What silly little thing would you celebrate if you had 6 friends that were just as weird as you?
Because of 3/10/15 I have a 3/10/17, and I don't know about you, but I for one think that's worth celebrating.
Ps, I'm making this pork stuffed with proscuitto and manchego cheese (had it in Spain); and honeyed roasted carrots; mashed red potatoes; and I'm toying with doing a braised red cabbage with reduced balsamic. There's also a salad that I cannot discuss because it's a surprise....but let's just say, if I pull it off....there will be literally no reason to ever to back to Moments of Alicante.