This is a post all about being uncomfortable. It is all about that heavy, nasty, sickening feeling of being just downright uncomfortable in a situation. This took form in three ways in my life today; anxiety, underwear, and Edward Albee.
I have anxiety. In fact, I have so much anxiety that I’m almost positive I will be diagnosed with an ulcer any year now from the amount of acid reflux my emotions cause me. Most of the time I handle it very well. I know when I need to make a time out and stop back, and while I have medication, it is only for when I am out of control and that hasn’t happened since this time last year. But as I near the end of the semester with stress levels high, and no free time to be had (though I forced myself to sit down long enough to write this), and my coffee pot working overtime, I have found myself more and more anxious lately. In fact, I haven’t gone to bed before 3am in two weeks because as soon as I fall into bed my head keeps swirling with all the things I need to get done and I can’t fall asleep, and when I do fall asleep I have stress dreams about the things I have to do when I wake up. It’s a vicious cycle of sleep depravation and anxiousness. The week before finals is always stressful, but it has been made more so this week by the fact that, somehow, I have a performance every single night. Oh, and did I mention that I’m terribly ill? Yes, of all the weeks I could have gotten sick, of course it was this one. But enough whining, I digress. The point is I’m a little stressed this week.
Earlier in the day I got into an argument with a friend who was simply being unreasonable and rude just to push my buttons, and that in itself set my teeth on edge. Then, while I was outside, waiting for the stage manager for the show I’m in to show up to work on costumes, I was approached by a friend of a friend who, long story short, very nicely but directly requested that I keep my mouth shut about a certain piece of information I have, as well as make sure my group of friends keeps quite as well. It was a reasonable request, but stressed me out because I started to wonder what my friend had said to his friend and if he thought we were all talking bad about him or something, and then it made me wonder if maybe that’s why he wasn’t texting me back all day, and frankly I began to spiral into a dark pit or inescapable doom that made me feel like I was going to vomit.
Well my stage manager finally showed up, ten minutes later than I thought she would, and I was already late for work, and then she tells me we are going to have to wait longer because she doesn’t have the keys she needs and the person with the keys is busy. At this point I was on the edge of tears and I basically told her that I was sorry, but that I had to get to work, and I left. And then of course I felt bad because it wasn’t her fault I was having a horrible day, it was just, simply, the day I was having.
After work I called my mother and had a very long chat about how everyone in the world seemed hell bent on making me crazy when all I wanted to do was curl up with a box of tissues and sleep until I could breathe again. She very calmly explained to me that I was being too sensitive and that everything was going to be alright, and I felt a lot better. But I still felt queasy.
Every Tuesday I have a night class, and on this particular night I got to class and realized I had forgotten my backpack which had all of my notes, and my homework, and everything in it. I sat there, trying to be calm and trying to just focus on the lecture, but I realized that I felt nauseous, and that I was having trouble breathing, and that the world was starting to a little blurry. My friend next to me, who also has anxiety look over concerned. I texted her;
“I think I’m about to have an anxiety attack, but I don’t want to just leave…”
“Ok, what can I do? Do you want me to walk out with you?”
“No, I’m just going to go outside, and if it doesn’t pass, can you bring my things?”
She graciously agreed and I tried to leave as unobtrusively as possible. I stepped outside and started hyperventilating so hard I felt dizzy and had to sit down. I pulled out my phone and called my mother again, needing someone to just talk to me to distract me from the painful weight in my chest. We hung up and realizing I had no more medication, I mad my way to my car and texted my friend to come rescue me, and I just started to cry. I cried because I was overwhelmed, I cried because I was sick and tired, I cried because I was embarrassed that I had to walk out in the middle of class, but mostly I cried because in that moment I felt so broken. I felt so incredibly worthless, like a watch with no hands. I just started to think about how if I couldn’t even handle a week of responsibilities, how am I ever going to be a wife, or a mother, or an employee? How am I ever going to actually have a productive life when I couldn’t even control my emotions enough to sit through a two hour lecture?
Finally my friend arrived and she just held me as I cried and told me it was going to be alright. She told me about her day and distracted me and never once asked me why I was the way I was as most people do. Se just accepted the fact that I was having a rough day and let me be, in that moment, whatever I needed to be, which was vulnerable and weak. And trust me when I say those are two adjectives I very rarely let myself be. I finally pulled myself together enough to drive my car up to our dorm and brave a room full of woman who were gathered to have a lingerie shower for a dear dear friend. Here is where the second part of my story begins.
The thing about my engaged friend is that she is kind of a prude. Not in a bad way, just in the sense that she gets uncomfortable very easily when people make jokes about sex. She had requested that her shower be kept high brow and that the jokes and references be kept to a minimum. We did just that and had a lovely evening. It did, however make me start thinking about what makes other people uncomfortable. For me, I would love to have a night of my friends celebrating me and the fact that, after twenty something years I was finally going to sleep with my husband. (It’s quite an event when you live in celibacy). I would think it was hilarious if my friends made jokes and we played slightly raunchy games, that’s just how I am. I also would be more than willing to show the gifts I got to everyone in the room, where as my friend was not. I am not saying anything about this friend because I think it is totally acceptable for her to feel that way, that just isn’t how I feel. Sexuality is one of those things that I find so fascinating, and that I think, as a culture, we take to the extreme far too much. We either view sex and sexuality as a sinful, dirty thing, or we make light of it to the point where we openly talk about things that really should probably be kept private. I think embracing and being comfortable in one’s sexuality, and being able to be mature about it is a beautiful wonderful thing. I also, however, have a lot of respect for woman who can be comfortable in themselves, but also have some class and keep to themselves what should be kept to ones self.
My third, and final story was inspired by the play Zoo Story, by Edward Albee. If you have never seen this show (and you probably haven’t) it is a beautiful one act that can make an audience cringe, cry, and laugh all in one sitting. The first thing I should say before I continue is that I go to a Christian College. If you’re not sure why that’s relevant, you’re about to find out. I have a friend who directed Zoo Story for our annual One Act Festival. Now Zoo Story is not family friendly, in fact, I’m not sure I would even take a teenager younger than 16 to it just as a matter of principle, but I also think it is a masterpiece. The way the show is written there is some harsh and vulgar imagery, and some topics that are far from kosher, but it is intended to make everyone uncomfortable, including one of the two character onstage. Because it makes the audience uncomfortable, it is able to have more of an impact later on in the show. Because I had class tonight I had to see the show earlier this week and so I was very excited to see what everyone else had to say after tonights performance, since I had loved it so much. When I returned to my room this evening my roommate, who in many ways is much more conservative than myself, asked me what I thought of the show. I told her I loved it and her only response was, “Really?” She proceeded to tell me about how offensive she found it and unnecessary and vulgar. I just listened, and tried to explain where I thought it reasonable to, but I soon realized that she had been so offended by the show, that she had missed the point. She had done what so many people do when they disagree with something, and stopped listening, and stopped looking for the value and redemption in the show. She didn’t see that everything Edward Albee wrote was intentional, She missed the heartbreaking beauty because she was too focused on whether or not it was appropriate for a Christian College. She said it wasn’t because it talked about pornography and sex and homosexuality. I say that it is the perfect place to talk about all of those things. I think the fact that a room full of Christians watched that show was a triumph. I hope that everyone who saw it walked away thinking about how they could look at the show from a Christian perspective. I also hope that not everyone stopped listening when they heard the word erection. After she left I simply texted the cast of the show and congratulated them on a beautiful piece of art that offended people. Because if their offended, it means they had a reaction. And f they had a reaction, it means they were forced, for 50 minutes to think about something that made them uncomfortable, and that deserves a little praise.