Tall Drink of Nerd: Shrinkage

 In *Archives, Amy Robinson, Fierce and Nerdy

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a blogumn by Amy Robinson

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin.  That quote sometimes plays over and over in my brain like an annoyingly catchy Smashmouth song.  As a perfect test subject, my life proves the theory of this quote to be true.WizardLionClose

At the present moment, my life is quiet and simple and as shrunken as a lamb’s wool sweater that has spent 3 hours on high in your clothes dryer.  A Barbie-sized life.

The past year I retracted my various curiosity tentacles, internalized meditation on the meaning of life and focused on healing my psyche.  Visiting friends, going to parties, meeting people or being creative seemed mildly terrifying.  Invitations were ignored or responded to with a clean “No.”  One of the problems of continually saying “No” is that eventually people stop asking.

Being social may not seem all that courageous, unless you find it scary, which I do.  Unfortunately, a big bite of this tendency to fold-up into myself is genetic.  Agoraphobia is known, in my family, as Grandma Berg disease, or “acting like Agnes”.  My Mom’s mom, Agnes Berg, was terrified of going places.  She lived on the wide-open Colorado Northern Plains, with 7 kids, on a farm, with no electricity or plumbing for most of her life.  That’s crazy brave to me, but she absolutely hated getting in a car, traveling to weddings or other family events.  Her panic vexed her children and grandchildren.  They still tell stories about how limiting and annoying it was.

I always knew I had a bit of ‘The Agnes’ in me.  When the world scared me, I retreated inward, writing stories about imaginary pals who would never judge or let me down.  God forbid I let people know about my bouts of heebie-jeebies.  It’s impossible to define how your skin buzzes with anxiety and your brain completely freezes into an ice cube of dull terror. Plus, it’s embarrassing to be shy, or worse, paralyzed by a fear of people.  Confidence is king and the terrified girl blends in with the wallflowers.

Even with the primal fear of society bubbling in me, I knew wallflowering was not my fate, so I decided to try theatre.  When I was acting, my joints would seize up and my hands would drip with flop sweat during the terrifying moments before my entrance cues.  But when I actually stepped onto the stage, fear melted away.  My heart didn’t stop, matter of fact, it seemed to grow stronger.  This is when I decided to be brave.

Fortunately, my own parents were courageous enough to let me make life decisions on my own.   At the tender age of 21, I headed from Haxtun, CO (population 1,000) to Chicago on my own with $80 in my pocket.  I roomed with a woman I had known for 2 weeks, took improv classes, sang in blues clubs, produced a few plays, even taking the stage in a couple.  I fell in love, collected friends, enjoyed a beautiful (but cold!) city and felt like I owned the town.  To paraphrase Ms. Nin, my life expanded.

Since then, my strength has ebbed and flowed.  I’ve had moments of agoraphobic despair and loneliness.  I’ve had exceptional times of growth, success and triumph.  As I am a little bit older/wiser during this ebb, I’ve used this self-imposed solitude to listen to, then quiet, the fear.  Instead of freaking out about being alone this time, I chose to focus on acceptance.  Time to greet whatever I am doing with love and patience and excitement, not dread.  Now, I’m ready to re-join the world and pay attention to something other than ME.

Luckily, it’s possible to actively make the choice to head back out into living again. I am excited to reconnect with the community I had started building here and to join a couple of new groups I’ve had my eye on while “convalescing”. In a big town like Los Angeles, there are an overwhelming amount of opportunities to expand with.  So my new goal is this – Be courageous and come back to life.

That’s what agoraphobia kept from me.  Life.  It’s pretty simple equation.

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Showing 38 comments
  • Elise

    Wow, Amy. Thanks for sharing that. I’m “convalescing” too.

  • Elise

    Wow, Amy. Thanks for sharing that. I’m “convalescing” too.

  • Elise

    Wow, Amy. Thanks for sharing that. I’m “convalescing” too.

  • Elise

    Wow, Amy. Thanks for sharing that. I’m “convalescing” too.

  • Gudrun

    Amy I feel you. As someone occasionally struggling with my own courage level, I appreciate hearing how others are dealing with it. I recently read "life without action" as a definition of boredom, and it's stuck with me the same way your Anais Nin quote haunts you. I think they're related, and I think action requires courage, and courage can be slippery.

  • Gudrun

    Amy I feel you. As someone occasionally struggling with my own courage level, I appreciate hearing how others are dealing with it. I recently read "life without action" as a definition of boredom, and it's stuck with me the same way your Anais Nin quote haunts you. I think they're related, and I think action requires courage, and courage can be slippery.

  • Gudrun

    Amy I feel you. As someone occasionally struggling with my own courage level, I appreciate hearing how others are dealing with it. I recently read "life without action" as a definition of boredom, and it's stuck with me the same way your Anais Nin quote haunts you. I think they're related, and I think action requires courage, and courage can be slippery.

  • Gudrun

    Amy I feel you. As someone occasionally struggling with my own courage level, I appreciate hearing how others are dealing with it. I recently read "life without action" as a definition of boredom, and it's stuck with me the same way your Anais Nin quote haunts you. I think they're related, and I think action requires courage, and courage can be slippery.

  • Jeff Rogers

    Beautiful, Amy. I hope Elise and I get the benefit of your return. But I disagree with your last statement. Sounds like you've been deeply immersed in life during your convalescence, just your inner life. Not that you need this recommendation, sounds like you've got it covered, but I recommend Thich Nhat Hanh–I've gotten some good out of his stuff during some recent troubles–he writes about mindfulness meditation. And he talks about treating your pain like a mother would–accepting it, nurturing it, making it feel safe and cared for. Again, sounds like you got there on your own, so you may have moved past Thich, but if you want something that might resonate with what you've been going through, it's there.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks for the support Jeff. It helps to have persistent friends pull me outta my shell.

      Thanks for the recommendation too, I'll never be so enlightened that I move past loving meditations/mindfulness from Thich Nhat Hahn. He has been a very big part of my meditation routine. I read a chapter from Peace is Every Step each night before I go to sleep (they're small chapters) and it resonates with me through the next day. Just like gaining happiness, the thoughts seem simple, but are so slippery to attain. (I heart Thay so much he's the main co-philosopher on my other blog: http://learnfromlingling.blogspot.com/)

      I can also recommend podcasts from Zencast, The Chopra institute and Learn to Meditate from the Meditation Society of Australia. They are all free and Zencast sometimes has a few minutes of Thich Nhat Hanh speaking before the main lecture.

      I look forward to continuing this conversation IRL very soon :0)

  • Jeff Rogers

    Beautiful, Amy. I hope Elise and I get the benefit of your return. But I disagree with your last statement. Sounds like you've been deeply immersed in life during your convalescence, just your inner life. Not that you need this recommendation, sounds like you've got it covered, but I recommend Thich Nhat Hanh–I've gotten some good out of his stuff during some recent troubles–he writes about mindfulness meditation. And he talks about treating your pain like a mother would–accepting it, nurturing it, making it feel safe and cared for. Again, sounds like you got there on your own, so you may have moved past Thich, but if you want something that might resonate with what you've been going through, it's there.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks for the support Jeff. It helps to have persistent friends pull me outta my shell.

      Thanks for the recommendation too, I'll never be so enlightened that I move past loving meditations/mindfulness from Thich Nhat Hahn. He has been a very big part of my meditation routine. I read a chapter from Peace is Every Step each night before I go to sleep (they're small chapters) and it resonates with me through the next day. Just like gaining happiness, the thoughts seem simple, but are so slippery to attain. (I heart Thay so much he's the main co-philosopher on my other blog: http://learnfromlingling.blogspot.com/)

      I can also recommend podcasts from Zencast, The Chopra institute and Learn to Meditate from the Meditation Society of Australia. They are all free and Zencast sometimes has a few minutes of Thich Nhat Hanh speaking before the main lecture.

      I look forward to continuing this conversation IRL very soon :0)

  • Jeff Rogers

    Beautiful, Amy. I hope Elise and I get the benefit of your return. But I disagree with your last statement. Sounds like you've been deeply immersed in life during your convalescence, just your inner life. Not that you need this recommendation, sounds like you've got it covered, but I recommend Thich Nhat Hanh–I've gotten some good out of his stuff during some recent troubles–he writes about mindfulness meditation. And he talks about treating your pain like a mother would–accepting it, nurturing it, making it feel safe and cared for. Again, sounds like you got there on your own, so you may have moved past Thich, but if you want something that might resonate with what you've been going through, it's there.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks for the support Jeff. It helps to have persistent friends pull me outta my shell.

      Thanks for the recommendation too, I'll never be so enlightened that I move past loving meditations/mindfulness from Thich Nhat Hahn. He has been a very big part of my meditation routine. I read a chapter from Peace is Every Step each night before I go to sleep (they're small chapters) and it resonates with me through the next day. Just like gaining happiness, the thoughts seem simple, but are so slippery to attain. (I heart Thay so much he's the main co-philosopher on my other blog: http://learnfromlingling.blogspot.com/)

      I can also recommend podcasts from Zencast, The Chopra institute and Learn to Meditate from the Meditation Society of Australia. They are all free and Zencast sometimes has a few minutes of Thich Nhat Hanh speaking before the main lecture.

      I look forward to continuing this conversation IRL very soon :0)

  • Jeff Rogers

    Beautiful, Amy. I hope Elise and I get the benefit of your return. But I disagree with your last statement. Sounds like you've been deeply immersed in life during your convalescence, just your inner life. Not that you need this recommendation, sounds like you've got it covered, but I recommend Thich Nhat Hanh–I've gotten some good out of his stuff during some recent troubles–he writes about mindfulness meditation. And he talks about treating your pain like a mother would–accepting it, nurturing it, making it feel safe and cared for. Again, sounds like you got there on your own, so you may have moved past Thich, but if you want something that might resonate with what you've been going through, it's there.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks for the support Jeff. It helps to have persistent friends pull me outta my shell.

      Thanks for the recommendation too, I'll never be so enlightened that I move past loving meditations/mindfulness from Thich Nhat Hahn. He has been a very big part of my meditation routine. I read a chapter from Peace is Every Step each night before I go to sleep (they're small chapters) and it resonates with me through the next day. Just like gaining happiness, the thoughts seem simple, but are so slippery to attain. (I heart Thay so much he's the main co-philosopher on my other blog: http://learnfromlingling.blogspot.com/)

      I can also recommend podcasts from Zencast, The Chopra institute and Learn to Meditate from the Meditation Society of Australia. They are all free and Zencast sometimes has a few minutes of Thich Nhat Hanh speaking before the main lecture.

      I look forward to continuing this conversation IRL very soon :0)

  • Jeff Rogers

    Beautiful, Amy. I hope Elise and I get the benefit of your return. But I disagree with your last statement. Sounds like you've been deeply immersed in life during your convalescence, just your inner life. Not that you need this recommendation, sounds like you've got it covered, but I recommend Thich Nhat Hanh–I've gotten some good out of his stuff during some recent troubles–he writes about mindfulness meditation. And he talks about treating your pain like a mother would–accepting it, nurturing it, making it feel safe and cared for. Again, sounds like you got there on your own, so you may have moved past Thich, but if you want something that might resonate with what you've been going through, it's there.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks for the support Jeff. It helps to have persistent friends pull me outta my shell.

      Thanks for the recommendation too, I'll never be so enlightened that I move past loving meditations/mindfulness from Thich Nhat Hahn. He has been a very big part of my meditation routine. I read a chapter from Peace is Every Step each night before I go to sleep (they're small chapters) and it resonates with me through the next day. Just like gaining happiness, the thoughts seem simple, but are so slippery to attain. (I heart Thay so much he's the main co-philosopher on my other blog: http://learnfromlingling.blogspot.com/)

      I can also recommend podcasts from Zencast, The Chopra institute and Learn to Meditate from the Meditation Society of Australia. They are all free and Zencast sometimes has a few minutes of Thich Nhat Hanh speaking before the main lecture.

      I look forward to continuing this conversation IRL very soon :0)

  • Siri

    Per usual, my dear, identical twins separated at birth. I've done a lot of what you're doing now,…still am, as a matter of fact.. You did exactly the right thing, scaling everything back so that you could go bravely forward again…and if i'm sounding pedantic in my pride, it's just because you can't hear my voice on this flat screen. i also found Louise Hay and Caroline Myss help/healthful…and delightful, too. And never forget, you ARE queen of the wild frontier, after all!! Thanks for sharing this. i adore you.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks Sirilicious. I haven't heard of Louise Hay or Caroline Myss, so now I'm off to Google them. I hope your bravely forward is as amazing as you are. Miss you and that piece of my heart that you will always have with you.

  • Siri

    Per usual, my dear, identical twins separated at birth. I've done a lot of what you're doing now,…still am, as a matter of fact.. You did exactly the right thing, scaling everything back so that you could go bravely forward again…and if i'm sounding pedantic in my pride, it's just because you can't hear my voice on this flat screen. i also found Louise Hay and Caroline Myss help/healthful…and delightful, too. And never forget, you ARE queen of the wild frontier, after all!! Thanks for sharing this. i adore you.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks Sirilicious. I haven't heard of Louise Hay or Caroline Myss, so now I'm off to Google them. I hope your bravely forward is as amazing as you are. Miss you and that piece of my heart that you will always have with you.

  • Siri

    Per usual, my dear, identical twins separated at birth. I've done a lot of what you're doing now,…still am, as a matter of fact.. You did exactly the right thing, scaling everything back so that you could go bravely forward again…and if i'm sounding pedantic in my pride, it's just because you can't hear my voice on this flat screen. i also found Louise Hay and Caroline Myss help/healthful…and delightful, too. And never forget, you ARE queen of the wild frontier, after all!! Thanks for sharing this. i adore you.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks Sirilicious. I haven't heard of Louise Hay or Caroline Myss, so now I'm off to Google them. I hope your bravely forward is as amazing as you are. Miss you and that piece of my heart that you will always have with you.

  • Siri

    Per usual, my dear, identical twins separated at birth. I've done a lot of what you're doing now,…still am, as a matter of fact.. You did exactly the right thing, scaling everything back so that you could go bravely forward again…and if i'm sounding pedantic in my pride, it's just because you can't hear my voice on this flat screen. i also found Louise Hay and Caroline Myss help/healthful…and delightful, too. And never forget, you ARE queen of the wild frontier, after all!! Thanks for sharing this. i adore you.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks Sirilicious. I haven't heard of Louise Hay or Caroline Myss, so now I'm off to Google them. I hope your bravely forward is as amazing as you are. Miss you and that piece of my heart that you will always have with you.

  • Siri

    Per usual, my dear, identical twins separated at birth. I've done a lot of what you're doing now,…still am, as a matter of fact.. You did exactly the right thing, scaling everything back so that you could go bravely forward again…and if i'm sounding pedantic in my pride, it's just because you can't hear my voice on this flat screen. i also found Louise Hay and Caroline Myss help/healthful…and delightful, too. And never forget, you ARE queen of the wild frontier, after all!! Thanks for sharing this. i adore you.

    • AmyQOTWF

      Thanks Sirilicious. I haven't heard of Louise Hay or Caroline Myss, so now I'm off to Google them. I hope your bravely forward is as amazing as you are. Miss you and that piece of my heart that you will always have with you.

  • ernessa

    You are my fellow midwestie. My grandma is also an (undiagnosed) agoraphobic, and as opposed to call it such, my family just kind of says, "You know how your grandma is." It's strange, b/c I love being out once I'm there, but the thought of actually going out is difficult for me at times. Also, it takes about two glasses of wine before I'm comfortable in a group situation like a party. That's why being pregnant was the absolute worse for my social skills. I'm surprised I went anywhere!

  • ernessa

    You are my fellow midwestie. My grandma is also an (undiagnosed) agoraphobic, and as opposed to call it such, my family just kind of says, "You know how your grandma is." It's strange, b/c I love being out once I'm there, but the thought of actually going out is difficult for me at times. Also, it takes about two glasses of wine before I'm comfortable in a group situation like a party. That's why being pregnant was the absolute worse for my social skills. I'm surprised I went anywhere!

  • ernessa

    You are my fellow midwestie. My grandma is also an (undiagnosed) agoraphobic, and as opposed to call it such, my family just kind of says, "You know how your grandma is." It's strange, b/c I love being out once I'm there, but the thought of actually going out is difficult for me at times. Also, it takes about two glasses of wine before I'm comfortable in a group situation like a party. That's why being pregnant was the absolute worse for my social skills. I'm surprised I went anywhere!

  • ernessa

    You are my fellow midwestie. My grandma is also an (undiagnosed) agoraphobic, and as opposed to call it such, my family just kind of says, "You know how your grandma is." It's strange, b/c I love being out once I'm there, but the thought of actually going out is difficult for me at times. Also, it takes about two glasses of wine before I'm comfortable in a group situation like a party. That's why being pregnant was the absolute worse for my social skills. I'm surprised I went anywhere!

  • ernessa

    You are my fellow midwestie. My grandma is also an (undiagnosed) agoraphobic, and as opposed to call it such, my family just kind of says, "You know how your grandma is." It's strange, b/c I love being out once I'm there, but the thought of actually going out is difficult for me at times. Also, it takes about two glasses of wine before I'm comfortable in a group situation like a party. That's why being pregnant was the absolute worse for my social skills. I'm surprised I went anywhere!

  • Sarah

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  • Sarah

    Hello there, this weblog seems funny and narrow when I open it using Opera. Nonetheless, it seems to be fine in IE. Does anyone else observe this?

  • Sarah

    Hello there, this weblog seems funny and narrow when I open it using Opera. Nonetheless, it seems to be fine in IE. Does anyone else observe this?

  • Sarah

    Hello there, this weblog seems funny and narrow when I open it using Opera. Nonetheless, it seems to be fine in IE. Does anyone else observe this?

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