I’m jealous of Z. Like really really jealous.
We’ve got a new deal going on with scheduling. He’s teaching all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays so on Mondays and Wednesdays he’s with the boys in the morning and I’m with them in the afternoon to give each of us time to do our own thing. I want my own thing to be writing. I’d like to write here more often, but I’d also like to give fiction the old college try.
I’ve wanted to try my hand at writing stories for several years. I think about it all the time, have half a dozen plot lines in my head, compose paragraphs as I shower, and get none of it on paper. On the first day of our new arrangement I packed up my laptop and headed to a coffee shop around the corner from our house. I ordered my drink and settled in. I actually managed to open up Word and start writing. Then the stomach cramps started. After about 15 minutes it became clear to me that the dude forgot to make my coffee. I sheepishly headed back up to the counter and he looked up and didn’t recognize me at all, even though there were only two other people in the shop. I gently reminded him that I’d purchased an iced mocha and I watched as he slowly remembered the previous interaction. A few minutes later he brought my drink over along with what I like to think of as a guilt cookie and profuse verbal apologies. I told him it wasn’t a big deal, I was planning on staying for a long time so it didn’t matter when my coffee arrived. Which basically guaranteed I’d be leaving in the next 5 minutes. Sure enough I had to run to the bathroom moments later. And ask for a to-go cup for the rest of my drink right after that.
The coffee guy asked why I was leaving and I lied straight to his face. Told him I was having a child care situation. Thought that was kinder than the truth-that I was having an anxiety attack with a side of IBS flare-up. Of course he left the shop at the same time and started walking towards my house. I broke out in a full body sweat. He and Z know each other casually and if he walked by our place and Z was out front it would be clear I lied to him. Thankfully he got into a car about a block away from home, not before kindly offering me a ride. I declined, told him I was right around the corner. I felt like such an ass. Back at home I sequestered myself for the rest of my time in the 3rd floor and got maybe a page written over the course of several hours. Then on Wednesday I used the morning to write a blog post and wrestled with an upset stomach the whole time.
So what does the rambling story about not writing much, IBS, and being forgotten by a coffee guy in a near empty shop have to do with being jealous of Z? Everything. When Z wants to do something he fucking does it. He was miserable in NYC, so he got it together to apply to grad school, got into one of the top art schools in the country, and the experience changed his life for the better. I am hella proud of him. He missed playing music with people, so he set up Syrauke which became a thriving gathering and led to an artist-in-residency and the gig with the modern dance company. He embraces life and opportunity after opportunity comes his way, not because of luck, but because of his hard work. He not only embraces life, but he loves people. By getting involved in so much he meets tons of folks. Everywhere we go he seems to run into acquaintances. Part of that is because he’s such a character. People remember him because of the way he dresses and because he throws himself into any social interaction.
Back when we lived in NYC the same thing would happen so often it felt like an incredibly trying joke to me. I’d see someone I’d previously met and greet them. They’d have no idea who I was. I’d tell them I was Zeke’s wife. There faces would light up, “Zeke! How the hell is he?” or “He’s such a great guy!” I felt totally invisible. Which was and is by design. I’m awkward in public, uncomfortable in my own skin. I clearly value myself so little, why would a stranger bother with me? It became a very vicious circle. Z is fun and flirty, I’m a stick in the mud. For years I’ve pretended that I don’t want attention from others while watching Z sort of blossom under all the attention he receives. My honestly uncomfortable admission for the day is I want to be part of the action as well.
And finally the writing thing. I’m trying to put myself out there on the page, or more accurately on the computer screen. It kills me to acknowledge the years I’ve wasted. I don’t think I wasted them because I’m lazy. I’m not afraid to work. It’s the paralyzing anxiety. I’m scared I’ll suck, or make a fool out of myself, and the fear is so humungous it has made taking a chance on anything impossible. Mental illness has been the most powerful force in my life for so long. It’s not like Z doesn’t have those fears as well. But he just does his thing anyway. He is an amazing person, an amazing example for me. I really do look up to him. When I’m not eaten alive with envy.
After all this time I’m finally trying to be a part of life again. And it feels so hard that my throat is closing up just writing about it. But my suffocating fear of failure is preventing me from living. For years the safety that the fear provided won, it was worth it to miss out if I didn’t have to risk being hurt. But that isn’t good enough anymore. The trade off is too costly. When Z looks in the mirror he sees someone he likes. He might as well be saying, “Hello you handsome devil!” When I look in the mirror I see every single flaw magnified a hundred times, the ones on the outside and the ones on the inside. I’ve come to realize my way is much more self indulgent than his way. Yes, I’ll have a hard time, the anxiety will get worse in certain moments. But I vow to put myself out there. Maybe I’ll even try some flirting. Hell, maybe someone can have a crush on me for a change.