Opinion

Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #9 (The Performance Anxiety Version)

Note: Here’s another one from the dusty archives that is still relevant today. I only had to change one word (okay, it was actually a number) to make it current…

So, despite the rumors you may have heard in the back alleys of Internet society, I’m a basically decent human being. (No really, I’ll take a blood test. Sign me up!) And, as such, I possess the lovely human quality of being able to get far too stressed out about things that may or may not matter in the end. (Well, some humans possess this quality. During my down time from worrying about things, I have run into some people who never worry about anything. I am envious of these people. How are you able to be this way? Do you avoid processed foods? Did it involve surgery of some kind?)

Still, many esteemed psychologists (and by “many”, I mean “I can’t really name any right now because I’m just making things up in order to move this post along”) say that you should talk about your fears in a comfortable group setting. Okay, fine. But since I generally am not comfortable in group settings involving anyone other than me, I’ll have to go to Plan B, which means redirecting my emotions into a keyboard and then clicking on a “submit” button.

In other words: Different day, same drama, same keyboard.

And here we go…

ONE. The elections that are happening in 23 days in America.

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you are most likely aware of my political and social leanings. (Unless you’re one of those folks who scroll through your feed and click “like” on everything in a misguided attempt to achieve numbers instead of true interaction, never actually reading anything or even visiting the site.) There are so many things I could say about the cluster-truck that has been this election cycle, but I’ll limit it to this (admittedly recycled) bit:

I am stunned by the sheer number of Americans who are planning to vote based on hatred, racism, xenophobia, sexism, willful ignorance, and an apparent incident in your childhood that presumably eviscerated any chance of you becoming a mature and responsible adult. Maybe you should be the one taking a blood test to see if there’s a drop of humanity in you.

Okay, that felt good. And I promise that’s the last of the really-serious soapboxing in this edition, for those of you who are a bit clenched right now and just want me to get to the funny.

TWO. NaNoWriMo.

Many of you writers out there know about National Novel Writing Month, an annual event that runs throughout the month of November, a challenge wherein participants try to achieve the lofty goal of producing 50,000 words for their latest work-in-progress. (If you pause to think about it, this is a concept based in madness. That’s a hell of a lot of words, considering writer’s block, the limited number of hours in the day, convincing other family members to leave you alone, and the need for things like food and personal hygiene.)

But the whole experience is also a rush, if you can hold on for the entire ride. 50,000 words is half the length of a robust novella and a third of a decent-sized novel, so it’s thrilling to amass that much story in thirty days. As many authors will tell you, the hardest part in writing a book is getting the story far enough that it begins to feed itself. Once you hit that point, things become easier, and NaNoWriMo is one of the tools that can help you get there.

Now, there are some naysayers (and it’s valid naysaying) that forcing yourself to focus on a word count can distract you from quality. And that’s fair. But it’s really part of the process with NaNoWriMo. Abandon your anal-retentive need to get it right the first time, and just let all your random thoughts flow into the keyboard. Run with it. You will end up with a lot of crap that just has to be excised later, but you’ll also trip over a wild, promising seed that you wouldn’t have noticed if you were carefully cultivating your garden instead of letting things grow naturally.

THREE. What do people in India really think about me?

Not that you asked, but the stats for my blog reveal the following demographics about the country-of-origin for interaction: People in the USA hit me up the most. (No surprise.) People in the UK are just behind that. (Again with the no surprise.) Third place, Australia. (And here is where I should point out that gaining the trust of an Australian blogger is a good thing, because those folks can become your staunchest supporters. I don’t know what it is, but it’s great. No offense to other countries, I’ve met some wonderful people from everywhere, but Australia tickles my fancy.)

What surprises my fancy? That India is fourth on the list. In one respect, when you consider the math, this shouldn’t be a surprise. There are roughly 74 billion people in that country, and probably 73 billion bloggers. Still, I guess I naively assumed that there would be language and cultural variances that might impede a connection. (And I suppose that shows my ignorance of world dynamics.) In any case, I’m glad that this avenue has opened up, because I’ve found that the Indian bloggers I follow are, for the most part, very spiritual in nature. (And I don’t mean this from a religious perspective, although there is some of that.) The writing is just very reflective and respectful and thought-provoking, something you don’t always find with American bloggers who are sometimes so jaded that their point is lost amidst all the noise and hollering.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if my connections in India are here because they like my writing or they are just really friendly people who support everyone even if they are jaded Americans who holler.

FOUR. The rollercoaster of retirement.

Retirement is different for everyone, but many folks follow this path (at least in America): You save up enough money in your 401k, IRA and pension plans that when you walk out the door you can chunk all that capital into decent investments and then hope you can live off the base and the potential profits. The key words here are “hope” and “potential”, since your livelihood is basically tied to the financial markets. If Wall Street has enough really bad days, you can go from the prospect of a modest but viable monthly stipend to suddenly being shoved back into the work world, sobbing and rending your hair.

This situation sucks mightily. Of course, “financial planners” will tell you that you just need to ride it out, there are highs and lows but the markets always eventually trend higher. The thing is, I want that market to trend higher during the part of my life when I am still cognizant and mobile, not in my declining years when I’m in the Beaver Valley Home for the Wretched and Incontinent, confusing the one niece who still bothers to visit me with the physical therapist who annoys me with his insistence that I get out of bed every few days or so.

Something to ponder: I can remember being a wee bairn in the early 70s and garnering 5% annual interest on my tiny little savings account that I initially opened with ten dollars in quarters. (There was a promotional thing, wherein the bank gave the tykes a fold-out pig (for “piggy bank”) wherein you could insert quarters in little slots until you satiated the pig, and then you were an official banking customer, even if you couldn’t drive or otherwise make responsible decisions.)

5% annual interest. On a savings account. It’s unheard of these days. The current average is .01%. If I could still get a 5% return on my savings and accrued pension, I could live comfortably until they finally invent that magic pill that allows us to live forever. And then I could keep going.

That right there is one of the fundamental flaws in America with not just banking but the whole concept of retirement. If I have dutifully saved for decades, I should be secure in my retirement and not dependent on the whims of Wall Street. When are we going to get away from Big Business ruling everything in our lives? Oh, right, that would mean we have to start electing people who aren’t lobbyists for Big Business. Can you hear me now? Your pocketbook surely does.

FIVE. The sunset.

Since I’ve broached the subject of my eventual internment in Beaver Valley, I couldn’t help but reflect on a few things. Granted, as long as I make at least minimal attempts at living a somewhat healthy lifestyle, I should be good for a couple more decades, maybe three, if I can remember to take my daily vitamin supplements on an actual daily basis. Still, you never know, and I’d like to end this post with a few queries that we should all be asking ourselves.

Did I do the right thing more often than I didn’t?

Did I go to the places that I’ve always wanted to go?

Did I learn to not care about what other people think?

Did I seize the day?

Did I make sure that the people I love understand that I love them?

Cheers.

 

Previously published in 2016, just prior to the election that unleashed Trump on a stunned world. (Everything we feared at that moment has proven true, and then some.) As mentioned, just a whiff of a change made with this re-post, pertaining to the number of days until the next national election. Let’s hope that enough Americans do the right thing in the ensuing 23 days so our country can begin to heal and move away from the dark, divisive, deadly cloud we have been under for the last four years…

 

43 replies »

  1. I hope that you get your wish for this election (o as best of a wish as you can, gven that they ARE politicians, and most are cut from the same type of cloth, although it might be a different colour or pattern to get your attention.

    Moving past that, your last five queries are very valid, and i hope that before the sunset turns dark behind my retreating soul, that i can honestly say YES to them all. 1 and 5 are my “Yep I did” and 2 to 4 are “I’m working on it” – there always has to be room for improvement in life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Questions five;
    1/Yes, mostly. 2/No, I’ve always had a yearning to see the exotic visual and cultural treat that is Oklahoma, so that’s more than disappointing.3/No, unlike Don I give a crap about showing I have human foibles. Sad! 4/ I try to, but the day always slips away before midnight. 5/At last, an unqualified yes.
    As for 23 days, I just pray that LardAss doesn’t rise from the political dead. The Good Book of Polls said chapter and verse he’d lose in 2016, but surely even a Don deal with the devil is only good for four years. Especially when Old Nick finds Don’s soul is yet another empty promise.
    On that note, have a nice day. We’re counting ’em down.

    Liked by 2 people

    • First, even though I realize you are just joshing, I must advise that you never go to Oklahoma, even as a lark. There are some very good people there, but they are outnumbered by the dead-souls running rampant. You will feel unclean for a very long time.

      Second, yep, the polls got it wrong in 2016 but, to be fair, not really. After all, Trump did not win the popular vote. It’s that damn Electoral College we have in this country that put him in office, not the people. If there IS a blue wave in the next election, it’s very possible that the College will be booted, and it should be. Without that mess, we would have had a solid run of Democratic Presidents for the last thirty years…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Hedy. What has been happening in this country for the last several years has been a huge embarrassment. If things don’t change, there will come a time when no decent-minded country will have anything to do with us…

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s true Brian it will be tough for us in Canada as well…these disorienting times…as I’ve repeated myself this Netflix series can’t end soon enough…and then we need a plan…lots of work ahead…I’m playing the believing story Brian…sending joy and all good things…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I won’t comment on the horror that is our political climate these days, it’s simply too early in the morning to drink. But never fear, I shall visit you at the Beaver Valley Home for the Wretched and Incontinent. We’ll raise a glass and toast the good ole days… though neither one of will remember why we thought they were good.
    🍸

    Liked by 1 person

  4. With everything else going on, I’d at least take Nano-rhymo off the table. My new novel is 52 000 words and 185 pages–longer than a novella, and won’t give you a hand cramp trying to hold it!
    Hopefully, in around 3 weeks, we’ll all be feeling a bit more hopeful (even though I’m Canadian, it still affects us up here!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have considered skipping NaNo this time around, despite my faithfulness for many years now. At the same time, I love the explosion of creativity it can inspire. I’m not a lazy writer, as I’m constantly fiddling with words, but I’m very unfocused, skipping here and there and finishing nothing, and Nano makes me stay with one thing for at least 30 days. We shall see…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved those final questions, Brian. Could you ever have imagined when you wrote this four years ago that the world would look like this four years hence? Let’s hope the outcome of this election sets us moving in the right direction. We’ll have a lot of work to do….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Donna. The world has indeed shifted, and the effort to correct the swing of the pendulum is daunting, but I’m one of those people who functions best when backed into a corner. And I’m very tired of this corner. Onwards and upwards…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I, too, have wondered about the recent surge in my followers from India.
    I wondered – I am very grateful for every one – but still I wondered how the internet gods directed them to me.
    I hope your money continues to maintain your lifestyle that you choose. I worked in financial services for 40 years in one way or another, and that was always the question. Do I have enough?
    My answer would be, probably if you don’t live too long.
    Thanks for the post, Brian – always fun…with something to ponder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sheila. The money thing has been weighing on me heavily, ever since I retired at what was an admittedly young age. In retrospect, I should have held on longer, stockpiled a bit more, but at the time it seemed the best option if I wanted to retain my sanity and health. I don’t have the lifestyle I once had, but I have much more peace, and in that respect I’ll just have to deal with whatever this way comes…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I can answer YES to all the questions except the travel… I want to go everywhere and all the money & time couldn’t satistfy that. I *do* have plans to “run away from home” when Ben is entering his “adult” phase of life… ten years or less.

    The upcoming election has me worried. I believe that even the staunch Republicans have had enough of him, but he won’t leave quietly. He’s pretty much said he won’t trust a loss. My ballot came so I’ll be mailing it this week… and making sure my daughters mail theirs.

    I’m more afraid of another 4 years (or another civil war) than I am of the Kootie!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree with your last sentence. This country cannot survive another four years of madness. It will already take a long time to counterbalance the wretched destruction of hate-filled people who refuse to think of anyone but themselves, so the sooner we get started on a path to decency, the better…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Good luck with your Nov election, Brian. We’re hoping to get our friend (officially) back. 🙂

    As to your questions, my hits come up 1) US; 2) jockeying between India and UK and 3) Canada. My understanding is that internet access in India has greatly increased over the last five years, from about 25% at that time, so that probably accounts for the difference.
    I worry about all those questions you’ve asked, and on any given day, don’t really know the answers, either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course, there are also the population stats. India has nearly 1.4 billion people and roughly 18% of the entire global population. I guess it makes sense once you think about it. And I’m very appreciative of the Indian folks who visit Bonnywood, as they are usually faithful partners in blogging and generally check in regularly. It’s nice, especially when compared to many Americans who are just seeking a follow-back and then they disappear…

      My answers to the Five Questions are basically a work-in-progress and probably always will be…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. On your five questions, how are you grading? Because I think I have a barely passing grade.
    1. Probably yes, but I’m counting on grace to cover the times that I did the wrong thing. Given that, I’m at 100 %.
    2. Rarely having a desire to travel, I can give myself a yes on this one.
    3. At the right times I succeed at this, but sometimes I think it should matter. As in, I don’t want to offend you even when we disagree, so I will try to say things in a gentle and respectful way rather than rudely and curtly.
    4. I’ve been conversing with another blogger about whether we should “seize the day” or “cease the day”–whether we put too much stress on ourselves trying to make the most out of life when we could relax and enjoy what life serves.
    5. I hope so. J.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No real grading, just seeds for reflection…

      To me, as long as folks are thinking about things, then they are making progress, however one wants to measure that progress. There are far too many people who never vary from their formative learning experiences, refusing to alter their concepts and opinions, and that’s just sad…

      Like

  10. Okay then. O_o (NO criticism offered, either implied nor actual, just to be clear right from the beginning). Perhaps I’m being sensitive, but I feel I trod on your bloggin’ toes one day recently when all I said was “Okay then”. I just wasn’t feeling the windy in the willows that day, it wasn’t YOU.
    1. This one scares me sh*tless. Which is a bad thing to be if one is past a certain age and relies on the pipes working in a regular manner. I cannot resolves myself to viewing this event with any hope and I’m really terrified of what name they’ll pull out of the hat this time. I will vote. I’m under no delusion that it will matter any more than a fart in a high wind because a) I’m female and in Utah being female means one is not considered about anything, let alone the election of one of a bunch of stinky old men; even if they do have female running mates. and b) I’m purple (in the ‘color wars’ that have to do with party affiliation) or green, and this state is RED y’all. If one isn’t red, one is ignored and shunned.
    2. I cultivated the seed last year. It hasn’t gone anywhere in the time in-between and I’m possibly too depressed this year to give the project the proper care and feeding it deserves. But you go brother!
    3. The people in India no doubt love you dearly, just like the rest of us sensible adults who read your stuff do. Be at peace. Namaste.
    4. This is another high anxiety causing ‘ride’, the future of which is certain to kill me and I hope it’s sooner rather than later. If the answer to #1 turns out badly (which it will whatever gets elected), old retired folk are SCREWED. In my sour opinion any way. I’m glad to note that others have far more optimism than is left in my particular unwashed glass…
    5. Er….I’m not a big fan (in this moment) of longevity (any more than I possibly can help) BUT

    Did I do the right thing more often than I didn’t? I sure tried.

    Did I go to the places that I’ve always wanted to go? No. Covid is real, whatever the mindless think about it. Although it would hasten my demise (potentially), I haven’t been motivated to go to Ireland (if they’re letting Americans in) or on that lengthy Rt. 66 trip I’ve always admired doing. I don’t have the money to travel…so….Meh.

    Did I learn to not care about what other people think? More so than last year. It’s very freeing too. (What other people think of ME is none of my business is one of the best quotes I’ve read)

    Did I seize the day? No. Seizing things at my age and in my state of non-limberness, means something less savory will seize up and pain is not my friend. I’ll let younger, more hopeful souls (like yourself) do the seizing thanks.

    Did I make sure that the people I love understand that I love them? Probably not. I’m reticent about sharing deep feelings due to my Mormon roots (they were very non-touchy feely people) and the trauma I’ve gotten from over-sharing my tender feelings in past scenarios. People who need to know that do. I love you (in a sisterly kind of way) as a matter of record, but you knew that. See?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t even begin to respond to this comment in a worthy manner, as you have touched on a number of critical points (most of which we’ve discussed previously, a few of which we have not). I am scraping your words and placing them in a follow-up folder, giving me time to compose my thoughts. Trust that you move me in mysterious and satisfying ways, and we’ll go from there…

      Like

  11. Having been extremely ill for way too long, and having been treated at Beaver Falls’ Fine instituition of learning and healing, I was both rending my hair and gnashing my teeth, when it occurred to me, a visit to Bonnywood Manor was both timely and much needed… and then I stumbled upon this insightful and erudite article. I have perused said article with great gusto and appreciation. My hat is off to you. My blood pressure has dropped to a life sustaining level (thank you ) I believe Bonnywood is good medicine and shall partake of regular dosages with the expectation of a complete cure. (thank you again!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • And even though I realize that there might be a slight bit of tongue-in-cheek with your response, I’m still moved considerably. I want nothing more than to share words that somehow provide at least a minimum of soothing balm in the madness of the current world. We all need release from the pressures, whatever the origin or cause, and I’m happy to be the Clara Barton who proffers a cool compress in whatever feeble manner I can…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Glad you reposted this. I attempted a “wait-and-see” attitude after the 2016 election, which maybe saved me a bit of anxiety at the time but it sure didn’t play out like I hoped.

    NaNoWriMo!
    *gasp*
    Maybe I could do it this year — I’m on reduced hours, working from home… maybe? Of course, if I do it, I’m going to cheat and work on something I’ve already sort of written.
    Hmm. Have to give this some thought.
    Thanks for the nudge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I almost always cheat and work on something I’ve already been fiddling with. (Okay, the first few years I actually tried to adhere to the original concept, but that was soon tossed aside.) I would love to be NaNo buddies with you, encouraging one another, but I will not apply any pressure at all. Contemplate, consider, and choose your poisons wisely… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I just discovered your blog and I am enjoying reading your posts. Those last questions are the ones we should truly answer. They made me think a lot. The hardest for me is did I learn to not care what other people think. I mostly have but it has taken a lot of years and experiences. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, thank you for finding Bonnywood and taking the time taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Second, I’m right there with you on the “learning to not care what others think” angle. At times I think I’ve managed to move beyond such, but then something will happen and I’m tumbling back down the well again. Every day is a new day.

      Third, I hope you decide that Bonnywood is a place of acceptance. I like your voice, and I hope to hear more of it.

      Cheers.

      Like

  14. Since I am Australian, I can attest to being a staunch supporter and avid reader. Hoping I can continue to tickle your fancy 😉 with Partner’s full consent of course!

    1) I have no fucking idea. I certainly hope so. And there you go triggering all of existential anxieties again!

    2) No. Too often fear keeps me rooted in place. This pandemic has taught me that it is better to explore with fear, than be rooted. So I can’t wait for the world to open up.

    3) No. I work on this daily.

    4) Possibly. I am learning to stick to my guns, not to let others dissuade me. If it is not to be seized, then it’s a lesson learned and experience gained.

    5) I hope so. I tell them in as many different ways I can. It’s not just words, it’s actions and I hope mine are enough. I love you and your ability to make me step out of my comfort zone and into something new.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1) I can say, in general, that I tried do the right thing “at the time”. Looking back, I now realize that many of those decisions were not right at all. So my stats on this one are in question. And I’m very good at triggering anxieties, especially my own.

      2) I love traveling, and I have been lucky to visit a wide array of places. At the same time, I can’t stand flying (anxiety, natch) so I don’t take advantage of as many opportunities as I should.

      3) I’m terrible at this personally, even though I’m always telling other folks not to worry.

      4) My trouble is that I seize TOO many things and I end up not getting a lot accomplished. (Ergo, six years since I last published a book. Ugh.)

      5) I completely agree that actions are just as important as words. And I’m glad that I had a small part in your stepping-out journey…

      Liked by 1 person

  15. WordPress Discover pointed me to your blog and I’m glad as I was nodding and smiling throughout at lots of stuff, anxiety, Australians (didn’t know this one but since I am one, sounds good to me 😉😂), and the absurdity of letting faceless corporations rule. Great post 👍

    Like

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