For starters, the music at Panera is not matching my groove right now, and for that I am cranky.
Well, more cranky than I was already.
I'm annoyed by the people near me, talking animatedly and contentedly.
Go away, People, this is the Cranky Corner.
I just ate some carbs -- and then some more carbs -- and I am washing them down with bottomless iced tea, so hopefully I will become less cranky as I write this. Ideally, not cranky at all.
Because I have spent too much time in a bad mood lately.
At worst, it's disturbing me. At best, it's a reality check? That my life couldn't have continued on that floaty bubble for much longer?
Maybe I need a pastry. And to run to my car and get headphones, so I don't have to listen to this crap music or this party planning at the table across the way.
All right. Brownie procured. Tea refilled. Patty Griffin Pandora station, take me away.
Perfect. First up? Mary. The song that introduced me to Patty, after I read about this exact tune in Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz, a peaceful read in the midst of an anxious final semester of college.
I am blaring this song.
It is drowning out all the noises of Panera.
I think I'm breathing again.
Thank you, Jesus, for new breath.
My breath has been rattly and shallow for weeks.
I don't mean to sound dramatic, but unfortunately my reality is kind of dramatic these days.
All of a sudden, I'm not very happy.
I just typed that and I'm questioning if that's even true.
But I find myself slipping into anger, and annoyance, and impatience, and negativity -- OH THE NEGATIVITY -- every few hours, so doesn't that, on some level, indicate unhappiness?
My 12-year-old self would be so disappointed if she knew I came into a season like this. She was so happy. So positive. So non-comparative to others. She proudly marched down the middle school hallways in religious t-shirts, paying no mind to the girls with make up on, who had attended parties over the weekend where kissing games were played.
Twelve-year-old, never-been-kissed me was more than content perfectly matching her brothers' sarcasm, reading her Babysitters' Club books, cutting and pasting pictures of cows onto three-hole-punched paper and assembling not one but two "cow scrapbooks."
(These scrapbooks are available for viewing at Mom and Dad's Place, Kansas, USA).
It's not that 30-year-old me isn't content with who she is, quirks and cat obsession and all. [I've moved on from cow scrapbooking, but I still have occasionally insane attention for the detail of cross stitching.]
It's that she's so hard on herself.
I was out for a walk earlier this week, and I realized the real reason I hate working out. (By the way, I used to love to work out). It's not because it's hard, or boring, or that I'd rather be eating fried chicken.
It's that I spend the entire time I'm pounding the pavement not celebrating the fact that I'm doing something healthy, but instead berating myself for not measuring up, for not being enough.
Wow, 12-year-old Bailey is PISSED. Gym was her favorite class.
"Sure, you put on your work out clothes at the end of the work day and you're covering four miles, but you're not running those miles," says Berating Bailey. "It's good that you're walking, yeah, but your stomach will still be soft when you finish this little stroll around the block."
I'll be the first one to recognize that this is terrible. I don't take this negative self talk lightly, which is why I'm trying to address it in the most natural way I know how -- in writing it out.
I started my day today with a little coffee, fried some bacon so it wouldn't rot in the fridge, and then I got to gettin'.
I schlepped many clothes to the washer.
I made my bed.
I cleared everything off my desk, wiped the dust off.
I moved some furniture.
Put books on a shelf, vacuumed two strips of carpet, arranged knick knacks.
I cooked lima beans.
I ate the lima beans! Not quite a vegetable, but better than chips, my first food group.
I shuffled clothes in my closet. I grabbed my laundry. I called Dad, bubbling about the fact that I had discovered via Facebook that one of his classmates at the community college used to work with me.
The happy rug pulled out from under my feet, and I laid into myself.
Look at your room, it's still such a mess.
Who cares that your foot hurts? You should suck it up and go for your nine mile walk, to train for your race.
Alex sounded buoyant on the phone. Why don't you feel that way? Better not go hang out with him or you'll bring him down.
I just don't know when my mind decided it would be acceptable to turn every inaction or anything short of pristine perfection into failures.
I used to view women as women. Sisters, friends, my makeover queens, the ones who made me laugh in ways the boys never could.
Now I view them as yardsticks. Skinnier, prettier, more accomplished than me. More organized. Martha Stewart bakeresses extraordinaire. Ones who keep their spaces neat and take their trash out at acceptable life intervals.
Exercise used to be an option, one step away from being a luxury. My body already looked the way I wanted it to, and I used the activity as a way to chase off anxiety, the blues, and to feel a rush of energy and ecstasy.
Now I can't win. If I don't exercise, it's a reminder that I have folds under my t-shirt. If I do, it's a slap in the face that what was once a pleasure is now a slow crawl to non-guaranteed success that seems unattainable.
Worst, I largely blame my anti-depressant/anti-anxiety/mood stabilizing meds for the last several years' weight gain, when I know good and well those puppies saved my life. I will of course choose the pills over slimness, but damn if that's not frustrating.
I used to salivate over books, unable to get my hands on the next masterpiece by Bill Bryson, Lauren Winner, James Herriott, Bailey White, fast enough.
Now I can hardly read three pages of a new novel without focusing on the fact that the author is only a few years my senior and has already published several books. What did they do that I didn't to achieve such success? Surely they have no struggles in life.
I hate that you guys are going to read this and start worrying about me.
I guess I also love that -- that I'm not alone or uncared for, and that my blog (which is almost 7 years young!!) is not a futile cry into the darkness. It falls on listening ears, which is more important than the fact that the number of people in that audience may be a humble one.
I guess I wanted to believe that the tough part of my life story -- Frodo's battle*, Holden's angst, Jo's being silenced by publishers -- was over. I lived through the anxiety, the depression, I held my head up, I cried, I found helpful medication, I talked to counselors, and now I can be stabilized with 22 milligrams a day and that's that. Now my job is to take care of the people not quite past their Frodo battle. But me? I'm past all that.
*Frodo had a battle, right? I may not have been quite riveted by the Hobbit to make it further than 100 pages in.
It's funny -- not exactly "ha ha" funny -- because I kind of feel like I'm fighting the battles now that most of my cohort fought when we were twelve.
I attended a youth gathering in high school and heard four words there that I will never unhear.
Gianna Jessen, an incredible singer, had been leading the worship portions of our week's events. I appreciated her talents, but had no idea that there was a possibility I could have missed those talents, until she told us one night that she was living with cerebral palsy, because she had survived a failed abortion.
I can still hear her saying, measured and powerful:
The crowd roared, so blessed to have this singing light before us, realizing that for days prior we had taken her voice for granted, not realizing it could have potentially not been there to encourage us.
As long as I'm being honest here, I will say that I'm not on the brink of death. I'm not thinking about harming myself. I'm not thinking about giving up.
I -- thank God -- don't have to overcome feelings of not being wanted, as I was born to parents who rejoiced over my birth and have ever since lavished love and praise upon me, helping me through all the muck life would throw at me.
So it may be extreme to use the phrase "I have not died" as some sort of pick-me-up in my life right now.
But another phrase comes to mind. From the late, great Ms. Angelou:
Sure. I'm having a rough go of it. There may be no tool to get me through it other than time. And as always, there is no way through but forward.
But as hard as it is for me to ignore negative self talk, I have been given this ridiculously powerful survival instinct. When my friend George first met me, he mentioned that he could see it in me. We were simply chatting over some beers about our love for Kansas City, yet he saw something floating in me, like the froth on our drinks.
So here's my game plan, Folks, because I can't stand to be grumpy any longer, and I hate letting Nastiness win.
When I see my shadow on the sidewalk, I will not see love handles.
I will see a body that can walk, and a sun providing warmth and light.
When my room is messy, I will not count myself less than my peers.
I will recognize that the task of organizing one's life is large, and I will note my progress.
When I am not typing, I will remind myself that my daily observations and meditations are future words on a page.
When I remember that my name cannot be found inside Barnes and Noble, I will tell myself that I am not "published" or "unpublished," but that I am Bailey.
When I get cranky, I will breathe. I will eat. I will walk. I will regroup. I will call the people who make me laugh, and request prayer from the ones who often bow their heads.
I will pack up my things at this Panera. I will take a pee break -- because WOW! all the tea. I will drive to see my muffin top, sweet sweet Alex. I will do my best to quiet the negative and to enjoy the evening with the precious man who loves me and whom I love.
And when I feel like I've lost a better version of myself, I will remember my Shepherd.
I will know that I am one of His lambs.
I will remind myself that all I have to do is wander the field, snack on some grass, and that He will not lose me.