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Sunday, July 3, 2016

You've Heard of the "Summer of George"

After a particularly grueling year, George Kostanza, Jerry Seinfeld's best buddy, declared a Summer of George. Instead of doing the things that he didn't like to do, he was going to be his most legitimate self. Well, this is the Summer of Sherry. The purpose is a bit different though. While George's declaration stuck it to everyone and everything that annoyed him, I am sticking it to fear.

One year to the date after my father died I almost met him in heaven. A staph infection had gotten into a bug bite. Of course, I thought nothing of it since everything in the house was antibacterial. I went along business as usual. And then things got bad. 15 minutes from dying my doctor got me to the hospital. I was scared after that.

I was scared a lot. And the things that I was afraid of were legit, pause for caution things to be afraid of. I had just been practicing my most authentic self for about 4 years at that point. And then started to slowly sink back into conformity mode. PTSD grabbed a hold and everything came back to land on my head, screaming "Stay down!"

The doctors had scared me about my rosacae. "Stay out of the sunshine!" I am more afraid of the Orc sized oozing pustules on my face they described and the Sebum Highway under my skin that I was told would carry the rosacae everywhere along with a host of potential immuno-deficient agents. Near death once was okay. Deformed forever was not. So I stayed out of the sun. I stayed out of the outdoors unless I was well shaded. I stayed out of the water because I knew once I was in I wasn't getting out. I threw myself into the indoor activities. Outdoor adventures were rendered moot in the busy tourist season because I was so busy and then soooooo tired after two promotions.

Then last Summer, after the one time that I got out and about I spent a week in bed with a severe case of tonsillitis. And then, busier than ever, I didn't stop until I nearly died again this Spring. I got as close to a heart attack as a person can get without actually having a heart attack. Doctors told me to get out of that line of work to save my life. I was a little scared. And a lot mad. I have a lot of things that I still want to do. Despite looking forward to haunting the shit out of some people, I wasn't ready to go. But my body wasn't ready to let me do anything either. Solid month of monotonous bed rest ensued. I don't want to die bored. I don't want to die without having lived in the first place. I don't want to die afraid to do the things that mean something. I don't want to die as a crappy Stepford clone of myself.

So the Summer of Sherry, while the meds are adjusting and my heart rate is unpredictably wonky still, I am getting out. I am doing the things that I like to do. I dyed my hair purple. I am going to the lake. I am being outside the way I like to be outside. I am going places with my friends. And instead of driving around looking at everything like I did two Summers ago, I am going out and doing things. I am being me wherever I go.

None of us are getting out of this existence alive. The people that we worry about thinking poorly of us don't really matter. If they don't like our most authentic us they don't deserve an opinion. This is true of the Dream Killers. And so much more so true for the random people we meet each day who will never have any impact on us whatsoever other than the curled lip and turned up nose when they see our purple hair. Random old codger in the grocery store doesn't matter to the greater context of your life. Random blue haired church lady doesn't matter either. She can buy her powdered milk and glare at you for your 6.00 glass bottle of organic local milk. These people don't matter. They shouldn't be the ones to hold us back.

When we do what we like, when we are most authentic the anxiety shrinks. I don't know why or how. I have a suspicion it has to do with dopamine but I'm not biochemist brain specialist. I don't know anything other than this:

When we are within our own bodies, being our most comfortable and authentic selves, and looking at our own lives to compare growth from one day to the next, one year to the next and in the company of safe people, anxiety shrinks. When we compare ourselves to others we give it the chance to lie to us and let it grow. No matter what reason we have anxiety and depression, we give it a chance to fester when we are not with safe people, when we compare to others and when we decide to be less of who we are and more of who we think others want us to be.

If I can maintain the current level of anxiety I have I will be okay with that so long as I am not growing it. And then, maybe later I will have the strength to knock it down some more. In this Summer of Sherry, while my heart is getting stronger, I am grabbing all the happy inside me that I can. It won't fix anything. But it will let me keep the ground that I have gained.

It isn't too late to make this the Summer of You. Whoever you are.... do what you have always meant to do. It doesn't require a lot of cash. And if it does require cash to do something expensive like a con or flying to Europe, then make a plan to spend that money and go as soon as you can. But do all the little things that you aren't doing because you are afraid. Do them. Do them now.

And share with your safe people what you want to do, what you have done. Sharing encourages others to do the same and then it makes you stronger to.

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