Yeah, okay. The word "tricks" isn't the most graceful, but better than referring to myself as an old dog.
The process of “aging” continues to surprise and delight. (As I type this, sixty-two is staring me in the face. No, sixty-two isn’t ancient, but it ain’t thirty-two. Or forty-two. Hell, it’s not even fifty-two).
My most recent and one of my most valuable realizations: By god, I may be getting old, but I’m still growing and learning. It’s possible to learn new tricks even as I realize that some stuff ain’t worth learning.
In the latter category is my recent encounter with a life-long phobia. The worst part of that affair (which still had me rattled a day later) was the realization that during what’s left of my life, I’m probably not gonna overcome that phobia. It's not worth my time.
But that episode made me think: What fears and shortcomings and stuff-I-don’t-like-about-myself CAN I overcome or change? What is worth my time?
As it happened, the phobia crisis happened about ten days before I was supposed to travel by train to Denver to sign books at the Great American Beer Festival. I also planned to rent a car so that I could visit the Denver Botanic Gardens (to see its collections of bonsai and conifers) and do some specific shopping (I live in a small town; I’ve learned to maximize any trips to Big Cities).
In other words, precisely the kind of agenda that normally makes me nearly ill with anxiety.
I don’t do well in crowds (a “crowd” being more than two people). I’m shy and introverted and talking to people is painful no matter what the circumstances. I am, hands-down, the most directionally challenged person I know. Put me in a paper bag and it’ll take me a looong time to figure out how to get out of it and I can guarantee that a) there will be tears involved; and b) I’ll probably have to ask for help. I avoid driving whenever possible and especially in unfamiliar terrain. (NO ONE, not even The Husband, knows how terrifying that prospect is; I can always expect to be in tears and totally lost).
This time, however, and post-phobia-nightmare, I decided things were gonna be different. I may never “cure” my phobia, but by god I was gonna figure out how to take a three-day trip without having it end in mental/emotional breakdown.
People. I DID IT. All of it!
Before I left, I spent two days studying maps, plotting routes, and typing out said routes (turn north here, turn east there, etc). (I don’t own a smart phone or carry a wireless device, so, yes, I need paper copies.) The result? For the first time, I a) drove in a strange town without having to pull over and sob (I’m not kidding); b) drove in a strange town completely confident about my exact whereabouts; c) navigated a massive crowd (in this case, twenty-thousand-plus people).
AND talked to strangers.
AND drank some spectacular beer.
AND had lunch with two people I don’t know well. One is a guy I’ve known professionally for almost a decade and whom I revere. (Stan Hieronymus, to be precise.) The other was someone I’ve “known” virtually for six or seven years, admire greatly, but had never met. (Jeff Alworth, to be precise.)
AND met and drank beer with another guy I’ve known virtually for six, seven years but had never met in person. (Tim Beauchamp, to be precise.)
Am I feeling a tad tickled? Yes, since you ask, I am. Okay, “tickled” is an understatement. Giddy and exhilarated was more like it.
By god, this old lady probably won’t overcome her phobia, but she’s still capable of learning a lotta new tricks.
Now — When’s my next trip?