See that brightly-smiling lady snuggled up to the singularly handsome bearded gentleman?  This picture was taken at a Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Johnny Lang concert last summer.

Judd and Donna's Big Adventure

Judd and Donna’s Big Adventure

It was held at a medium-sized, very crowded venue called the Hard Rock Rocksino.  To get  to the seating area she had to walk through acres of slot machines, noise and flashing lights.  She’d never been there before, had no idea what to expect, but look at her–she’s absolutely glowing.

You’d never guess it, but for years that same lady was terrified of crowds and unfamiliar places.  She developed a comforting routine built around well-known stores, arriving just as their doors opened and scurrying home long before the thundering herd (read: more than ten people) arrived.  Anything outside this routine left her riddled with anxiety and totally drained of energy.

I know all this because I’m that lady.

The year leading up to that concert was insanely stressful, and I’d been clinging to my safe little burrow even more tenaciously than usual. My wonderful husband and I both tend to be homebodies, so there was no pressure to go out, do stuff, socialize.  I might have stayed in my cozily decorated rut indefinitely if I hadn’t seen the ad online: “Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Jonny Lang.  Hard Rock Rocksino.  June 23.”

I knew my husband liked both of these performers a lot.  The date was close to our anniversary, and tickets to the concert would be a terrific present.  The price was reasonable, the drive wasn’t bad, and he’d be thrilled.  Making Judd happy is one of my favorite things to do, so I jumped out of my chair and headed for the stairs to run it by him.

And then the voice of the Great God What-if weighed in, stopping me in my tracks.

Oh, the melodrama...

Oh, the melodrama…

What-if my nerves short-circuited and I got sick on the way to the venue?  Or, even worse, what-if I got sick at the venue? What-if I passed out?  (Note: this last thing has never happened to me in my entire life, but  I tend not to consider such fine points when I’m in full-blown catastrophic mode.)

“Better not chance it”, warned the Great God What-if.  “You don’t need more stress in your life right now.  Stay in your comfort zone.”

“But Judd would really love to go to that concert,” I argued.

“Judd won’t even know about it if you don’t tell him.  No harm done.”

I would really love to go to that concert!”

“Now, Donna.  What if you get all the way out there, have a panic attack and have to come all the way home again?”

That almost stopped me.  I visualized the humiliating scenario and cringed.  But then I straightened my shoulders, tossed back my hair and replied, “What-if I don’t?”

And the Great God What-if fell silent.

With that, I pounded up the stairs to tell Judd we were gonna go see Kenny Wayne and Jonny.

Bye bye (Gall)Bladder

I’ve often moosebeen told I have the pain tolerance of a moose.

Sometimes this is a good thing, like when I need to get blood drawn, or do battle with an overgrown rosebush.

Sometimes it’s a not-so-good thing, like when I find blood all over my keyboard because I didn’t feel the killer paper cut I inflicted on myself earlier, or when the “slight” (to me) nasal congestion that’s been tugging at my attention for weeks turns out to be a five-alarm sinus infection.

And sometimes it’s downright dangerous, like this past April when my gallbladder decided enough was enough and I ended up having emergency surgery to yank that sucker out.

For weeks I’d been blowing off the relatively minor (to me) pain in my upper right side as punishment for hauling something too heavy, sleeping in an awkward position, yadda-yadda-yadda.  The lack of energy I blamed on stress (of course) and a highly active dream life. The increasing bouts of indigestion I attributed to getting older and needing to watch what I ate. Nothing to worry about.

Until I woke up at 2:15 one morning feeling like I was being ripped apart from the inside.

The trip to the hospital was ungodly, with every bump in the road providing its own exquisite torture.  When it was time to get out of the car I thought I’d die, and I will always have fond memories of  the wonderful person in the E.R. who set me up with my first IV drip of morphine. After the laparoscopic surgery, the doctor told me my gallbladder was in such incredibly bad shape she couldn’t believe I’d been walking around upright for so long.

Before this adventure, I had never given much thought to my gallbladder. Being me, now that I didn’t have one anymore, I suddenly became vitally interested in just what was that little gizmo’s place in the the scheme of things, and how (if?) I would survive. So I cruised the internet and discovered that the gallbladder’s main function was to store bile from the liver, and I would be just fine and dandy without the pesky thing.

Once I got past the post-op fun and games, I felt better than I had in years. Getting rid of all the pent-up bitter bile and hard stones did such wonders for me physically that I wondered if a similar, albeit non-physically invasive, procedure might do the same mentally.  So one day I went out to the battered marble circle that serves as a picnic table at chez Frahmann and conducted a small ritual.   I won’t TMI you with all the details, but here’s part of what I said:

“Just as I was physically rid of my gallbladder
Which was filled with stones, bitterness, and bile,
So by this ritual I rid myself of the bitterness and bile
of resentment
And the slow, seeping poison of self-doubt and self-sabotage.
By this ritual I banish resentment of:
–my past and current circumstances and my place on the path;
–other people, their circumstances, their behavior towards me and their impact on my life;
–frustrating and unfair world circumstances which are beyond my control;
–obligations which I see as infringements on my freedom
–myself, for my mistakes and errors in judgment, and my ever-appalling, eternally frustrating lack of perfection.

By this ritual I banish:
–Perfectionism that makes me afraid to leave the starting gate.
–Whatever it is that makes me afraid to color outside the lines
in my creative and everyday life.”

Life didn’t instantly become perfect, of course, because nothing ever is. But after giving the heave-ho to all that mental sludge I carried around for far too long, I’m feeling better than I have in years.