Paniciversary 2018 - A Year That Will Live in Infamy
Today is my Paniciversary.
It may seem silly, but I celebrate my Paniciversary every year now. This is year three, and the second of the celebrations. Last year I hosted an overly elaborate dinner, complete with a little present for each guest. (I’m almost, like, *too* great?)
I love going over the top. It’s all to celebrate how I found myself in the scariest place that I didn’t even know my mind new how to get to, and somehow picked myself up by the bra straps found my way out. The Paniciversary, March 10th, is the day it all began.
I loved last year’s shenanigans. I was with my people, and they may not have fully understood at first why I’d throw myself a party, but they went along with it, because when push comes to shove, that’s what we do. When something is important to someone we love, it’s important to us too.
I thought this year I would have loved to recreate that magic.
Actually, I thought I might have needed to.
It’s hard sometimes to look back on what life was like during that scary time - albeit a relatively brief time, considering the scheme of things. I sometimes worry that I might slip back to that place. That I might lose myself again, or that I’ll find out that I haven't known who I am at all.
Recently, I will find myself worrying about that more than I thought I would. All of the panic its ensuing crap lead to taking care of myself for the first time. That lead to therapy and coaching (hey Kelli). That lead to writing. Which lead to the podcast. My weird and beautiful life has shaken awake things in me that I didn’t know were neglected.
This whole coming out thing is nothing to sneeze at. Among my other worries, I'll also find myself wondering who exactly I was for all those years, and why exactly I feel like a different person in so many ways now. If I was so sure of myself then, and it turned out I wasn’t living as a whole me, what does that say about who I am right this second?
Is this “me” skin that I feel so confident in a fraud too?
It’s scary to think that you don’t know who you are, or that you’ve lost yourself and you may never get yourself back. It’s scarier to think that everyone expects you to have it all figured out.
These thoughts coursing through my brain can sometimes take me out at the knees and leave me slumped in a chair wondering what happened. That’s when I find myself “doing.”
Not all the time, but sometimes I just don’t want to be left with my own mind, so I go out and I do. I take myself to the movies, or to get tea, or on a random day trip somewhere to write, or to have dinner with a friend, or to the gym (#lol...it’s been a minute).
Sometimes I find myself doing things I don’t even want to do just because I’m afraid of the sound of my own voice in my head. I’ll go on three dates in a row with women I’m not interested in. I’ll stay on a terrible date two hours too long when I’m sick because it’s somehow nicer than the things I’d say to myself if I went home early and alone.
Then there are the days I don’t want to “do” at all. It’s those days that I sit, glued to the couch, ordering takeout - again - and wishing that someone who loved me would notice the signs that I’m not ok and come save me from myself. Then I immediately hope that no one ever sees me in such a state. The latter usually wins anyway.
Like lemon drop shots at the bar, neither one of these versions of “doing” are a problem in the least when taken in moderation. It’s the self talk that accompanies them that gets sticky. It’s when that deep voice I’ve worked so hard to muffle starts calling me a loser and an impostor and a screw up and pathetic for doing things that seem to cause me a rash, indigestion, and bout of major cognitive dissonance.
And that’s why this year, for my Paniciversary, I again wanted to be with the people in my life who ground me and keep the world from spinning away under my feet. The voices can't possibly have anything to say when you're surrounded by your people.
But I've learned something in the last three years: of all the things the Universe wants to teach me, finding my okayness outside of my own ass is probably at least in the top five. Which is why it was of little surprise that everyone on the invite list had plans this weekend.
How’s a girl supposed to be codependent under these conditions?
And that’s why I booked myself a trip to Colorado.
I mean, I know. I hear myself.
In theory, I could be home practicing self-awareness and patience and mindfulness and the art of being alone.
I could take a few hundred bucks of my tax return and get the hell out Dodge to treat myself.
So I did. And this is exactly where I should be writing this from.
Colorado Springs has been one of my favorite places since the second I saw it at nine years old.
I then loved visiting my favorite aunt and uncle every year since I was fifteen. And when it came time for college, even though school never made sense to me, moving to this place where I always felt like the truest version of myself did.
This is the perfect place to spend this week.
It’s so strange to visit a place you thought would be your home. Not just your home...the place where you thought you had finally found who you were.
It’s stranger to be here, reflecting on the life I had, and also remembering why and how I left.
Of course this is the perfect place to celebrate this day. I’m happy to tip my hat to the Me’s of former lives: the nine year old awed Me; the fifteen year old forlorn Me; the seventeen year old indignant Me; the nineteen year old confused Me; the twenty year old RA Me; the twenty-four year old ambitious Me.
Ten years on from my leaving this place, sitting in a restaurant that was built where there used to be prisoner halfway houses, my Me’s and I feel less like strangers these days, and more like sisters that are finally reunited and catching up.
Humph. That’s new.
I sort of realize as I’m waiting for my table and looking out at the mountains whose silhouette I have committed to memory, that looking back on all of my former lives without waves of shame and regret is one of the skills I’ve acquired in my work over the last three years.
These last three years have felt like a lifetime, but in the best sense. Or maybe like a new person’s life. In a lot of ways I feel like I’m living a brand new life. And those are some of the days where the thoughts creep in. Thoughts and sometimes disappointment. I used to have a whole routine for shaking off the dark cloud thoughts when I was afraid for my life, what’s changed?
I’ve found that when I’m in crisis, it’s not all that hard to kick myself of whatever layer of bedrock I’ve hit and find the ways to help myself. It’s when the acuteness of the urgency dies that I find my struggle. It’s finding motivation to keep searching during the mundane and calm. That's where I feel stuck.
It just takes so much energy to find the good, assume the best, and to look up all the time, that it’s so easy to put my head back down and take a rest. And I have.
I’ve been thinking about writing something for my Paniciversary for weeks. What would I say this year? It better be amazing. Ground breaking. Awe inspiring.
And I’ve felt nothing.
Well, not nothing. I’ve felt tired and run ragged. I’ve felt like I’ve done enough work, and that it’s time for someone else to take the reins of this particular bucking bronco. I’m not in amazed or awed anymore about the things I’ve learned over the last three years. And certainly nothing I've said has been groundbreaking.
It’s just my life, so why would anyone want to listen when I barely want to hear myself?
And that’s when my waitress, Vanessa, entered stage left.
Vanessa, with her simple reverse braid and long frame, poured me a glass of water and thanked me for being there. She asked if I had ever eaten with them before, and I hadn’t. Her beautiful eyes lit up with excitement like she owned the joint. I didn’t ask if she did, but it wouldn’t have mattered. She put a kind hand on my shoulder as she navigated me through the menu, showed me her favorite things, and told me I made great choices.
It’s when she walked away, and I looked at what I had written so far, that I found part of myself again.
Isn’t this the exact point of the crap I drone on about? The best parts of my life are not objectively amazing. Or groundbreaking. Or necessarily awe inspiring. This moment is the whole heart of everything I believe to be true. Kindness and excitement over someone drinking their first vanilla chai latte. Looking up and actually noticing Vanessa’s fun and funky jewelry, and the simple but classy infinity tattoo on her wrist.
Looking up. Duh. That’s what got me out of all of this to begin with.
I’m in this beautiful place, which I will probably crop in pictures to keep out the run-down buildings and the traffic. I’ll SnapChat my incredible meals and filter funny selfies to make my eyes look more blue. That’s what we all do when we’re on vacation: we want everyone to see the way we want the world to actually look like.
But this - here in this booth, with my laptop and notebook in front of me, and my avocado toast with it’s poached egg, and my vanilla chai - this is what I begged for when I was crying on my bathroom floor on March 10th, 2015. I begged God and the Universe and giant pinwheel that John Travolta prays to for this to be my life.
I wanted to feel calm and reflective without feeling dragged underwater by the weight of the problems that weren’t my own. I wanted to enjoy a delicious breakfast in a place I love without crying when I got back in the car.
I wanted to have the capacity to look in to a strangers eyes and feel how they were a real person just like me. I wanted to be able to appreciate the feel of the hand on my shoulder as I decide what kind of egg I want on my avocado toast. And I wanted a life where I can visit places that make me feel more like me, and not worry about running from the “me” that I was trying to leave at home.
I wanted to have the space in my day to actually taste the chai. To notice how sweet and thick it was, kind of like that feeling of a good hot chocolate in your mouth on a snow day (#thatswhatshesaid). Sometimes it takes some serious concentration to feel how warm the mug is in your hand, and how the chai makes you feel just as warm from the chest out.
I feel very thankful to Vanessa, that magical flower. I needed her today.
As I always do - like a big creep - I left her a note under my cash and told her that she inspired me, and that I’d be writing this, and where she could find it. I hope she does. We should all know when just showing up and doing the thing we’re supposed to be doing actually affects someone else.
So, thank you Vanessa. Thank you for telling me that your tattoo was during your “basic bitch” stage, and laughing about it. Thank you for the kind touch on the shoulder, and for getting excited about ordering me your favorite hot drink.
I doubt mine was the only day you made brighter, and I hope you have people in your life that do the same for you.
This is exactly what I wanted my Paniciversary to be. I didn’t want fireworks, or a parade, or flowers, or some huge cathartic moment. I needed exactly what I’ve worked so hard to appreciate this whole time: mindfulness, kindness, and a crunchy/salty snack.
I can't wait to get home and tell all of my Dummies - new and old - about this day I now love so much.
And Vanessa, if some-unknowingly-how you’re gay, and willing to move to New York, and want to give me unwavering affirmation and make me vanilla chai lattes every day of my life, look a girl up.