Today is a weird Monday. I decided to bike into work, and 15 blocks from the office, my bike chain broke clean off, right as I was crossing a busy intersection. Luckily I had the right-of-way, and my city is really bike-friendly so I wasn’t in any real danger as I tip-toed my bike to the curb. But damn if it wasn’t the perfect (read: most annoying) way to start my Monday morning.
So, I rolled my bike alongside me as I power-walked to the office. It was a nice cool morning and I let my hair down to wave around in the wind as I tried my best to make it look like all of this was intentional – like I hadn’t just experienced my third transportation failure of the summer.
When I got to the office, I showered off quick in the locker rooms and headed up to my desk, only to find out that the internet was down until noon, at the earliest. So I unloaded the food I’d been hauling in my backpack and grabbed my computer to work at a coffee shop across the street.
The place was so busy that the internet was moving along like a slug. I answered a few emails, reviewed a couple of documents, and shook an psychic fist at my computer, willing it to beat the other MacBooks out of the way for a good signal.
Eventually I gave up, walked back to the office to grab my charger, and walked to another cafe across the river, where I had a lovely lunch – a fancy philly cheesesteak sandwich and a cup of soup. When they brought the bill, though, I realized they charged me $2.50 for a glass of soda water with a lemon wedge… $2.50! Almost every other place I’ve been doesn’t even blink at bringing soda water to the table. Not this place, I suppose. $2.50 is the price you pay for extra bubbles.
Yes, I know. These are all very inconsequential problems. I realize this. I’m incredibly lucky to have a job that allows me the freedom to work from fancy riverside cafes, where I have the financial means to afford a $2.50 soda water, even though it makes me grumpy. My broken bike chain isn’t going to ruin me – it’s a simple fix worth 20 minutes of my time, the cost of a new chain and some elbow grease.
But today just feels… weird. I know why, and it’s not the bike, or the internet, or the $2.50 soda water.
It’s the fact that this afternoon, I’m going to the first Instagram meet up that I’ve been to in almost 5 months. I went to several of them over the winter, and enjoyed myself quite a bit. But that stopped pretty abruptly in May.
I stopped going because when my ex-boyfriend decided to move from his city to mine this Spring, he began attending those meet ups, too. I somehow figured he would, and so I stayed away. The first time I drove to a meet up (at a brewery, nonetheless!) and saw his car sitting right outside, I felt sick and anxious and hot in the face. I turned around and went to a different bar, where I proceeded to suck down 3 beers in one sitting. I felt too fragile to be in the same space as him, to be in a position where he’d have access to me, where I might have to stand up for myself and tell him off.
See, as much as I try to build myself up internally, I’m so not a confrontational person. I like trying to keep the peace whenever possible. Whereas other people might have no problem puffing their chests up and getting in another person’s face about inappropriate behaviors, I tend to slink away, allowing my anxiety about the situation consume me. My vision gets ever-so-fuzzy and my chest gets tight, and the my limbs start to feel like they’re having a hard time keeping up with my brain.
My therapist says I have anxiety. Yeah, I’d say she’s probably right.
So, anyway, I’m going to this meet up today. There will be people I know there, people who I can trust to stand between me and the ex if he shows up. But I still don’t feel entirely ready. I don’t know if he is going to be there tonight, but if he is, I have to be ready enough to not wither away beneath my anxiety. He may be shooting daggers of hatred in my direction all night, he might try to approach me, or he might do whatever he can to ice me; I’ll have to do my best to hold my shields up for as long as I can and not let it bother me.
Why not just avoid the meet up, you say? Why even go, if there’s a chance he’ll be there? Why put yourself into such an anxiety-inducing situation?
Part of me doesn’t really know. The meek part of me is prone to agree – c’mon, Em, why are you going to do this? Isn’t it easier to keep avoiding the situation? Just go home!
Yeah, maybe. But then I think to myself, how much of my life am I going to compromise and hide around the city, all in an effort to avoid this motherfucker?
I’m tired of it. The psychological hold I’ve allowed him to have over me has to end. At this point, he’s a bigger threat to my emotional wellbeing than my physical safety, and the longer I avoid these meet ups, the longer I relinquish my personal power over the situation. I can be pretty stubborn sometimes, and I’m not about to let this guy push me out of a community I want to participate in, just because he decides to show up in a space that used to be safe for me.
Besides, there are people there who I genuinely enjoy seeing. It’s a community that I’ve come to enjoy. I want to give this one last shot before I decide whether to just move away from the Instagram community or stick with it. If it’s simply too uncomfortable to bear, I know that the power to simply walk out the door is in my hands. It’s an easy failsafe that I can carry with me wherever I go.
So, yeah. I’m nervous. I already feel the anxiety creeping in. It makes me stomach feel weird. But, I’m also feeling a certain level of clarity about the situation that I genuinely don’t think I would’ve been able to achieve, had I not decided to get sober. My mind has an easier time wrapping itself around the concept that this situation isn’t really unique – many people have felt this same exact level of barfy anxiety about seeing an ex, and they’ve survived.
I will survive.
I’m hoping that the level of personal growth that I’ve achieved through sobriety will help me give slightly fewer fucks about potentially being in the same space as my ex tonight. I hope that all the fucks that I give about the situation will help me navigate it with grace, kindness, and even compassion toward him. I don’t want to be angry or anxious anymore.
Because, you see, there’s another side to this stubborn part of me that doesn’t want to let him take over my community. There’s the softer side that is trying to gently force me into recognizing that all the pain, confusion, anger and sadness that I’ve felt about how things ended with this ex are probably very similar to how he felt. We both hurt, and we both felt anger toward one another. Lots of anger. Lots of hurt. That soft side is begging me to show humility, loving kindness, and compassion toward him. It’s not asking me to forgive his shitty behaviors or the hurtful words he’s said about me – it’s simply asking me to see him as human, just as I am human, with failings and redeeming qualities and pain and joy and a weird desire to be right all the time, even when it’s not beneficial emotionally.
I guess what I’m saying is that today, on this 66th day of my sobriety, I am going to attempt to tackle a personal demon without walking into battle anesthetized. I can’t control how my ex will act or react – if he’s there at all, that is – but I can control myself, my feelings, my behavior, and my words, down to the very moment I decide to walk out the door and out of the situation.
Today, on this 66th day of my sobriety, I’m choosing to say: “fuck anxiety. I don’t have time for this shit anymore.”