Anxiety Ruined My Chance To Meet Damon Young

It’s a beautiful sunny spring day here in Pittsburgh. Chilly, but I can get away with leggings and a light cardigan. I’m  sitting in the parking lot of my therapist’s office, listening to the oldies station and trying to soak up some sunshine – to feel some fragment of joy.

I feel only misery. Yes, some of that is due to allergies. But most of it is due to my intense longing to go back home, shut the door, and unclench my jaw.

This bout of depression has been awful. I don’t want to go anywhere. To please Laura, I agreed to go an Italian place in Greentree. It was fine. The food was fine (not great, but a little above ‘meh’) and the service was fine. After dinner, we stopped at a nearby Starbucks where I bantered with the barista about the matcha tee before opting for my usual. I ran into the bathroom while Laura collected our beverages. She got us set up at a table which took me aback – it never occured to me that we would stay. I had spent my social energy on the barista; I wanted to go home.

So we did. We drank our beverages on the sofa and watched Netflix.

On Monday, I tried again. We have a ‘spring ritual’ of going for ice cream at Antney’s right after it opens. Monday was pretty cold in the evening, dipping down into the 30s, so we agreed on hot fudge sundaes. We got there and it was empty. I was super nervous, my thoughts were spiraling because I knew the hot fudge sundae would come in a styrofoam bowl and that felt like a horrible thing to do. And how could I enjoy the ice cream but how could I not? I did not want to ruin our ritual. So I faked it. And as we sat in the car eating (it was very cold), I saw all these people getting in line and started ruminating about the parking lot and crowds and worrying about the folks who were obviously arguing and it was just terrible. I just wanted to go home as soon as possible.

I used to treat myself after therapy with a stop at Starbucks or the local bakery or some such space. Now, I just go home. Having to stop for errands makes me very unhappy.

You can see how that’s pretty miserable. The only place I enjoy going is to the homes of my good friends where I can recreated my sense of security from our home. That’s not a great quality of life.

But I keep trying because it matters that I do. It matters that I went through the motions with the ice cream even though I hated it because getting through added to my personal resiliency. I can think back on that and say “I did it” even as I cringe a bit.

Tonight, I have tickets to see Damon Young speak through the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series.I bought them months ago – on January 23 to be precise, because I really wanted to be there. I think Damon is brilliant. He’s just released a new book to much acclaim. It is called WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU BLACKER
A Memoir in Essays. I have not read it because I was going to buy it tonight through the local bookseller to be doublesupportive.

I can’t go. My morning was off to an odd start, followed by a trip to therapy where I learned some shocking news, and then I had the groceries. I can barely breathe at this point. I want to crawl into bed and get the spiraling anxious thoughts to stop. Resiliency is not on the agenda for tonight. I did put away 98% of the groceries and folded up the bags so there’s that.

This was my one chance to potentially hear and meet Damon Young. He doesn’t do meet-ups with white middle-aged queer lady bloggers, even those who live in adjacent neighborhoods. He has a family to support and care for and a community to support and care for. Accomodating me is not on his radar. To be fair, he has liked some of my content on Facebook and that’s gracious of him.

I read Very Smart Brothas regularly and share it when appropriate. Damon helped me understand why this was the appropriate white lady response to Beyonce. I’m proud that he’s from Pittsburgh and lives in my neighborhood and has wrestled with critical issues that require time and attention, especially for QTPOC. I don’t want to be that over eager jagoff who presumes a claim on his time because of our proximity. This man owes me nothing.

John Allison in reviewing the book has this to share:

He is, at age 40, the American writer who could bridge our racial divide and bring about deeper mutual understanding and harmony. What’s his magic touch? It’s simple: Young doesn’t appear to give a darn about healing America’s racial wounds. He writes as if that’s the furthest thing from his mind, a lost cause, a chimera wrapped inside an enigma.

Damon Young writes to tell the truth of This Black American Life, in painstaking personal detail and with laser-​like acuity. The majority of those truths are told in side-​splitting jest, sometimes as profanely magnificent as a Richard Pryor routine, but just as often droll in the vein of David Sedaris. Young writes less from anger than from two other A-​words — anxiety and awkwardness, the two conditions that nurture his empathetic humor of recognition.

Ironic isn’t it that anxiety is keeping me from spending a few hours listening to Damon talk. It is a bit soul-destroying because I bet he gets that feeling. Living in a City and a society predicated upon toxic white supremacy is destructive and ugly and vicious. I’m not comparing our experiences; I’m comparing an indelible fact in our disparate experiences where we both end up anxious for reasons that have not much to do with one another.

I am pretty sad about missing this. I hope he’ll speak in Pittsburgh again. And I will buy my tickets four months in advance again because I know I am meant to listen to what this man has to say.

And that’s the win for me.


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