Sweeping generalization, I know, but after being cut off mercilessly no fewer than 5 times between Conway and Little Rock (a span of about 25 highway miles, nearly all of which are currently under construction) by four semi trucks and one bright green Kia with no hubcaps and sporting the name Torres across the back windshield in a “Traditional Gothic” font (I looked that shit up), I can make this generalization with a slight bit of authority, however hyperbolic it may be.
Despite the six-point-five hour drive, I made it to downtown Little Rock for the literary festival. As I write this, my forty year-old feet are propped up to bring the blood back into the reaches of my circulatory system and out of my ankles. That is a long-ass drive.
The area around my downtown hotel is filled with people – thriving, one might say. I circled the block before arriving (because I honestly did not know where to park) and saw two restaurant patios full of almost middle-aged people like myself and baby boomers. (Technically, I realize I am middle-aged, but I still think of my parents when someone says the term, so give me a few more months to get used to it, OK?)
I am here on a quest of self-discovery. The festival is an excuse to step out of my comfort zone. I booked the hotel and pre-paid months ago so I couldn’t back out. Last night and this morning, I probably would have had I not paid our hard-earned money on the reservation.
My anxiety level is tremendously high – or it was this morning before I left and last night before I finally fell asleep. I know I have issues with crowds and with being by myself in a crowd and with doing things alone in general. A few years ago I had an anxiety attack trying to register at a Jazzercise convention. Too many other women around, too little air to breathe. I didn’t make it into the convention room before I was out of breath and sweating as if I had just worked out with Judi Sheppard Missett herself. I went to my car and drove home from the hotel where it was held in tears. I lost money on the registration at the convention, and that pissed me off.
Last summer I suffered one trying to find a parking spot to meet a friend for an outdoor Shakespearean play. I texted my friend, told her I was sick, and I went home instead of getting out of the car. I sobbed all the way to the house then, too. My husband consoled me, but I felt like a loser. Such simple tasks, and I couldn’t do them.
Turning forty probably wasn’t the catalyst for this sudden desire to finally put on my big girl pants and do something on my own, but it certainly is a motivator. I am learning about anxiety, and my need to overcome it without medicating myself into the blue nothingness (as antidepressant drugs made me feel when I had postpartum depression years ago). I will conquer this shit, and I’m starting today. Now.
I need to do this, to step out into the evening air in downtown Little Rock and see the sights, to taste what it has to offer. Only then can I get up again tomorrow and navigate the city streets to listen and learn from writers with more guts than I currently have with the hope of gaining some of my own.
Fortunately, it is all within walking distance, and I won’t have to deal with those crazy Arkansas drivers until Sunday.