I am a skittish person, easily affected by changes in the weather, billboard ads, songs on the radio, things in the road that I perceive to be baby animals or worse, baby babies. My mind works in an associative manner that I manage to keep pretty much under wraps, for fear of blurting out something to you that ultimately has no relevance to what we're discussing but happened to hop from one reference you made to something that sounds vaguely similar to it but is not related at all, and having you brand me as some sort of socially malfunctioning human. Few but my closest friends have witnessed the jumps my mind makes from one thing to another, and the ones I feel free sharing that with can generally relate.
On the occasions when I'm in a social setting and somehow I manage to herd all those thoughts into a corral so they can bleat back and forth to each other and not come out of my mouth-hole to be directed at you, my brain is still working overtime and I end up babbling about something or another. I want to amuse you, astound you, teach you things. Little tiny grad students are excavating random bits of information from my cerebral cortex, paying little to no mind to my present company and their respective interest in what might get pulled out of the nooks and crannies. Among my favorite avenues of discourse are: bees, insects besides bees, birds, racehorses/horse racing, art, weird murders, weird stuff.
•Did you know one German cockroach female, Blatella germanica, can produce up to a million offspring in one year?
•Did you know Secretariat had the biggest heart on record for a horse, at 22 pounds?
•Did you know bees can't see the color red?
And so on and so forth.
When I'm not doing either of those, I'm desperately trying to recount a funny from 30 Rock, the Office, How I Met Your Mother, etc., and miserably failing because I don't necessarily remember funnies in the order that they happen so I have to backtrack and add in seemingly minor details that end up being essential to the joke. By the end it's a jumbled mess that makes sense to me because I've seen it, but leaves you wondering whether or not I'm sane and thinking perhaps that my favorite shows suck and aren't funny at all. My mind works better in cold hard fact, apparently. (Not.)
I'm also a worrier, as if you couldn't guess. I worry about everything: you, my friends, my family, strangers in the store, baby animals/baby babies in the street*, world peace, my life, ad nauseum. I have kept myself up all night worrying about things that are either completely and utterly out of my control or were previously in my control until I screwed up (another side effect of being a skittish girl). I have had panic attacks about the most inane and trivial things, panic attacks where my lungs cease to function in any reasonable matter and I am left quivering on the couch trying to breathe like a pregnant woman to stabilize my nervous system (no pun intended). I have worried relentlessly and without reason that family and friends, if they haven't called me or texted me back within what I consider a reasonable time frame (e.g. a few minutes), are lying in a ditch on the side of the road. This particular trait is one I inherited from my Polish grandmother, who probably has all manner of security and safety phone numbers either memorized or on speed dial in her giant-button cellphone.
One Devil's Night I tried to get a hold of my mom to no avail. Every time I dialed her number I was greeted with the monotone beeping that says she is on the other line - except that my mother rarely talks on the home phone. So I tried again all night, on the off chance that perhaps she was on the line, with an old friend or a bill collector whose voice sounded pleasing. Two thoughts (it being Devil's Night and her living in Detroit amidst abandoned houses ripe for torching) screeched into my discombobulated brain, crashed into each other lustfully and with abandon and bred a scenario in which arsonists and other wrongdoers broke into the house, tied her up, knocked out the phone line, and were proceeding to vandalize/rob the house and torture her and the pets. Breathless, I had my then-boyfriend drive me over to her house about twenty minutes away, and burst into the house with as much bravado as I could muster, sort of ready and almost willing to fend off any ruffians I might encounter. Mom was sitting in her living room chair working on a cross-stitch pattern. No hoodlums. No torture. No wrongdoing. Just that tame and relatively harmless art of embroidery. The cats had knocked the phone off the hook hours before and she'd neglected to notice.
I wish I were joking that that happened. It did. You can ask Mom. I was practically beside myself with embarrassed tears. I'm embarrassed just thinking about it now. I did that.
My anxiety also physically and publicly manifests in nervous hand motions. I twiddle, I pluck imaginary or unseen threads out of the air, off my clothing, I twirl my hair, I crack my knuckles, I 'play' the keyboard, I 'play' the drums, I conduct imaginary orchestras, I scrape my fingernails along my palms, I pull my fingers, I pick at my lips, I fuss with my eyebrows, I spin phones on tables, I swirl straws in glasses, I will basically do anything to keep my hands busy.
I shred napkins, a lot, mostly when I'm outwardly nervous (watching The Red Wings muck up Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals with Sharon) or inwardly nervous (out with friends at a bar whilst being inappropriately and quietly concerned about the status of a relationship that's not really a relationship at all). Few people have failed to comment on this nasty little habit of mine, least of all the various and sundry bartenders and waitresses who are no doubt appalled at the mountain of paper I manage to create. I always say I'm sorry and I always clean it up, to my credit.
It's often been suggested that I take up smoking, and it's something I've thought about, with and without the prompting. Being able to move my hands about, give them a busy task, all the while engaging my mouth and my oral fixation (uhm. More on that later. Maybe. Maybe not.) sounds like a killer deal. But I've never so much as touched a cigarette other than to hand it to someone, or make sure it's 100% completely out (p.s. I have a rather deep-seated fear of fire, which will absolutely be addressed in a forthcoming post as we near a very harrowing 'anniversary' for me), or to throw a pack of them in the lake when my cousin and I thought we would "teach" our grandma a lesson about smoking. I grew up with smokers, I rode in cars that had a thick carpet of ash on the driver's side, even in the backseat (I don't know how that happens), I probably have the lung capacity difficulties inherent in living with smokers. I also don't even have the cashflow necessary to start my career as a smoker, given that I struggle to pay my bills each and every month.
So now you know at least 1% of my idiosyncracies. Pat yourself on the back. Go get a cookie. Go smoke a cigarette in my honor, and try, in my honor, to not worry about cancer.**
*I'm sure it has become painfully obvious now that I am quite concerned with this.
**this came out way more judgmental than I meant for it to be, but I'm not really that concerned with how it came out***; I will be worried enough about you getting cancer for both of us!
***This is me trying to take control of my rampant worries, concerns, and woes. Go with it. It's a good thing.****
****I love you, Martha Stewart.