As you may know, The Bloggess is my hero, so it may come as no surprise to you that the highlight of my trip to New York was that I got to meet her!!
Should I say that again?!
I actually got to meet The Bloggess.
Sometimes, when my sister-in-law is really excited, she can’t contain herself. At these times, I’ve seen her put her face in her hands and scream. That’s how I felt about meeting Jenny Lawson.
I was unbelievably nervous. I was afraid that she wouldn’t like me. Or that there would be thousands of people there and I would chicken out. Actually, I was really certain that I would chicken out. I hate crowds. I hate meeting new people. Or I was afraid that I wouldn’t chicken out, but they would shut the doors behind the 2000th person, and I would be person 2001. Or I’d have to wait behind those 2000 other people just for Jenny to bang a signature stamp on my book and say “Next!” and I couldn’t think of anything more disappointing than that because I hate waiting in line, especially if it’s just to get a stamp.
This sounds like I was afraid that Jenny wouldn’t be a friendly person. That isn’t what I mean at all! I was just certain she would be so popular that she wouldn’t physically have time to say a word to anyone, and there would be bodyguards preventing anyone from getting near her. I may be a bit nuts. But in my defence, Jenny was afraid that no one would show up at all and I was way closer to the truth, so there.
Anyhow, now that you know a bit more about how a simple thing like attending a book signing can wreak havoc with my mind and keep me awake at night for weeks on end, I should probably skip to the part where I actually tell you about how it really went. And the fact is, there were a LOT of people in that bookstore. And even though I was right in the front row (directly in front of Jenny herself!) for the book reading, I was, of course, nowhere near the front of the line for an autograph. But I
anxiously grudgingly happily waited for my turn while tapping my feet and checking my watch with the patience of a saint, wondering the whole time what I would say to her. I tried to plan it in my head, because I’m not good at thinking of things to say on the spot.
Did I tell you about that time in JB Hifi when I was unprepared to speak to a stranger? I don’t think I did. I’ll get to that some day, I promise.
Turns out it didn’t really matter how many times I thought about what I would say to Jenny, because in the end I was so terrified when I got to the front of the line that everything I know about everything completely fled my mind and all I could do was stare at her in panic. And then I blurted out “I am so terrified and excited and nervous to be here.”
And she smiled and said, “Me too. We’re twins!”
And then I felt so much better. I’ve always wanted a twin.
She signed my book for me. And she wrote “Pretend you’re good at it” for me, which is the advice Neil Gaiman gave her when she asked him for help conquering the terror of recording her own audio book. I think it’s exactly the kind of advice that I need.
People like to tell me all the time “Relax” but I don’t actually know how to do that. If I did, I wouldn’t have an anxiety disorder. So while it seems obvious, it’s less helpful than you think.
I’ve also been told to remember that “You’re stronger than you think” which is actually really nice advice. I mean that seriously, it is a lovely thing to remind people who feel like they’ll never get through a big, scary ordeal. Unfortunately, I personally don’t seem to benefit from this because I KNOW I’m strong enough to survive. In fact, I perform extremely well under pressure, as my mother is proud to note. So proud that she consistently piles more pressure on me all the time, in a show of faith that I can handle anything and everything that the world (read: my mum) throws at me, and then she’s unbelievably proud of me when I “thrive” in that kind of environment. What she, and a lot of people, don’t realise is that the pressure is killing me. I thrive because the thought of failure makes me physically sick. I get through things because I know that I will never be able to sleep if I don’t. On the days that I can’t bear the thought of doing anything but lying in bed staring at the wall, I get up because some anxious little voice in the back of my head asks, “But how will you explain? Who will do the things you need to do? How will you ever catch up afterwards?”
I know. You’re all thinking “Relax.” See above.
I can do all sorts of terrifying things. I passed my motorcycle test. I went abseiling down a waterfall in a cave. I once faced a psycho with a knife. This morning I went to Coles by myself. The problem is that EVERYTHING is terrifying to me. Speaking in public. Catching a strange bus. Calling to order pizza. And even though I’m strong enough to do most of these things, I face every one of them with a stomach so knotted up I feel like I’m going to be sick. One time I even got a stomach ulcer over it.
What I need is to work out how not to feel sick over every. little. thing.
So … “Pretend you’re good at it” seems like good advice. Because, surely, if one is good at something, one needn’t be afraid of doing it at all? It isn’t like I freak out about putting shoes on in the morning. Well…actually, sometimes I do because I don’t want to choose the wrong ones. But I don’t freak out about putting on my makeup, or writing a postcard or … I’m struggling to think of a third thing for this list. The point is, if I can pretend to be good at everything, I might just turn out to actually be good at it all.
I’ve always been able to lose myself in a character onstage. Now I just have to pretend that all the world is my stage, and I’ll be fine.
But I completely digress. What happened next? Oh – because I love Jenny and she may have just saved my life, I gave her a Queen Gen badge because I give those to people I love (which is not to say that I don’t love you if you don’t have one). Then I asked her to please please please take a picture with me. But not just a lovely smiley picture, because who wants to see smiley happy people all the time? That kind of thing is disgusting.
So we pretended like we were bored and neither of us was scared at all, because she goes to book signings, and I travel to New York and meet my hero all the time.
Best. Day. Ever.
PS. I was totally devastated to realise that I very narrowly missed out on meeting Thoughtsy as well, because I had no idea that she lives in Washington DC. This is what happens when you don’t stalk people. I think there’s a lesson for all of us in this.