As of this writing, nearly 600 people have read my last blog post, My Friend Mark.
Six hundred of you large-hearted beauties. It blows my mind.
Four people - strangers!- emailed me, sharing their stories of anxiety. Friends texted me all day. I got so many paper airplanes of affection.
I went back to my gym, Left Coast CrossFit, the very next day. Everyone was kind and very polite as they asked how I was, or how I was doing. One member approached me and shared their experience with anxiety. Then, this person asked a big question.
"How do you cope with that? Like, what do you DO?"
I checked my body language, sensing that this question was more for them than for me. "I come here, every damn day. That's what I do."
And then I did the workout. And I felt better. A lot better.
Yes, yes. Of course you're right. There are lots of other things I do, many of them so ingrained I no longer notice them. I cannot wear high necked tops, or collared t-shirts. I must have the doors and windows open. I cannot stand people behind my back. And I am the one that knows where the emergency exits are on planes. I hope you never get the chance to thank me for knowing where they are.
As a writer, it took me a long time to not be embarrassed about my athleticism. Writers are supposed to be dreamy, sedentary little things. We wear all black and mope with our cats. We smoke and drink heavily, stay up late frantically scribbling and wake up the next morning groping for water near our headboards. Right?
Yes, sure. Okay, okay, yes sometimes I DO do all those things. I do. But mostly I get up very early, before the rest of the house needs me. Before there are a thousand things to distract me, to demand my attention, big alarms calling out for me to COMPLETE THIS NOW. I read, and write, and revise. I sit in that time when my mind is still as sleepy as the house and I let it do its thing.
Then, after the kids are off to school and everyone is fed and clothed to the best of my ability, I go to gym. Six days a week. I do not skip days. I do not.
I spend the rest of my day, in my head, or in books, or amongst manuscript pages and made up friends. Students rush in and out of my-not mine- office. When we talk about books we are talking about BIG IMPORTANT THINGS. And that? That demands all of my attention. Literature deserves all of my attention. So do my students. So do my own stories. Because they are all that important.
But when you spend that much time in your head, you need to actively work to maintain holistic sensibility. What I mean by that is this- that I go a little bit crazy if I don't work out, if I don't use my body to the best of my abilities, just like I use my mind the best way I know how. Two days is the longest I have gone on purpose and I was fit to be tied.
Fit to be TIED.
I call it, "feeling stabby" and sometimes that happens even if I miss just one workout. I'm not just saying it when I say that I hate rest days. I really really really hate rest days.
But, see? See, here is the thing. When you look at it from a different light, the dedication and commitment required of an athlete is the same that is required of an artist. You must get up early. You must do the work, even when no one is looking. Especially when no one is looking. You have to find those that know what you don't know, and ask them to teach you. Study them. Emulate them. You must not get discouraged when you fail. You will do more work outside of the gym then you ever will inside the gym, just like your "overnight success" of a novel will actually have consumed ten mostly unnoticed years of your life.
You will keep fucking going.
And that, my large-hearted friends, is why I show up every day, panic attack or not.