Tag Archives: Anxiety

Bored

I’m bored.

I know that’s a luxury most of the world can’t afford.  I’m working very part time.  I rent so I have no house projects, indoors or out.  I got super organized before I left to live in the UK in January so all my finances, paperwork, etc. is in order.  There’s no travel in my near future.  Socializing is limited.  It’s so hot that my cooking creativity is limited to salads, and there are only so many salads I can eat fast enough before they go off.  I no long shop for recreation, and I limit grocery shopping to every 10 days.

There’s always TV, reading, and online courses.  But for today I am just not into anything.  It will pass.  Everything does.  Tomorrow something will grab me.

Yesterday I went for a bike ride without checking the weather first.  It was another hot and humid but beautiful day.  I rode three miles to Lake Phalen, an average sized Minnesota lake— about 200 acres.

There was a lush bee garden planted beside the lake.

Even the green slime on the water plays a role in creating loveliness, contrasting with the dark green trees and blue sky.

A mural on the bikeway.

La la la la la!  I was enjoying myself, dreamily tootling around the maze of paths, bridges, underpasses, and small lakes and streams adjoining Phalen.

Then the rain started, a few gentle drops.  “It’s only water,” I told myself.  I saw people running from the beach to their cars and wondered why they wouldn’t just wait it out.  Surely it wouldn’t last long, right?

I have an infinite ability to believe that, since it hasn’t rained for a week, it will never rain again.

The wind picked up and dark grey clouds swept in.  I biked away from the lake into a neighborhood and sheltered under a Maple.  The wind began to roar and small branches fell around me.  I was still fairly dry with my back up against the northwest side of the tree.  But then I wasn’t, and then the hail started.  Good thing I was wearing a bike helmet!

But my phone …. A year ago, as you may recall if you’ve been reading for a while, I dropped my phone in a toilet in Koyasan, Japan and it died.  An expensive lesson.  Lynn gave me a waterproof phone bag for my birthday.  Was I using it?  No.  I started to panic and whimper.  Why am I always so stupid?!  These are the kind of thoughts I revert to under duress, even though logically, I know that I am only stupid once in a while.

Next will be the lightening strike, I thought.  Just like me, to get struck by lightning during a global pandemic.  Another drama-infused go-to thought that I half believed and half laughed at through the water pouring down my face and washing sunscreen into my eyes.

I heard someone calling.  A resident across the street had spotted me and she invited me to wait out the storm on her screen porch.  Very kind.  She even gave me a baggie for my phone.  I feel bad today because I wasn’t wearing a mask and I told her during our distanced conversation I had “just” returned from the UK.  I wonder if, after I left, she realized that the UK has the second highest death toll in the world.  I should have mentioned I’d quarantined.  Oh well!

I headed home once the rain tapered off, but it burst back into a raging downpour when I was about a mile from home.  The wind was ferocious.  Branches were scattered all over the sidewalk and there were sections that were flooded.  It made for quite an obstacle course.

A car sped by and—purposely?—sent up a tidal wave of water that would have soaked me through if I hadn’t been already.  I laughed maniacally.  Nice try, bastard!

I got home.  My phone is fine.  I wasn’t struck by lightening.

Maybe it’s natural and okay to feel bored for one day.

Some other photos from my week, starting with a deer encounter.

Independence Day with the granddaughters.

Squirt gun bandito, aka my six-year-old nephew, on our weekly day out.

Bad Focus, Good Focus

Last week’s post was a real downer. This week I’m feeling much lighter.  Why?  See below.  I know I will have down days; most of us do, but they will pass.

I’ve been back from the UK for a month now.  In the last few days, I have started having flashbacks of my time there.  Well, “flashbacks” is too dramatic a word.  An example: I was sitting in my living room reading yesterday and suddenly I had the strongest image and sensations of being in the living room of “my” house in Oxford.  I could see the blue curtains, feel the breeze coming through the window, and noted the objects on the shelf above the telly.  This has happened a few times.

Then, yesterday in my yoga class, I had the feeling of floating above my own body during the ending meditation.  The instructor wasn’t doing anything different than she has in the last three or four years since I started taking classes with her.

Am I just really focused on the moment these days?  Maybe that’s why I feel less anxious and am having fewer catastrophic thoughts.

I haven’t been trying, but I hell, it’s summer.  I am fortunate to have the time, so I’ve been getting out for long bike rides and walks.  Here’s a view of Pig’s Eye Lake with a train in the foreground and the St Paul skyline way off in the distance.  I stood there for the longest time, waiting as the train slowly crawled toward the coupling yard.  I can hear the smashing sounds of the coupling at night in my house, two miles away.  I wanted to get the red Canadian Pacific Railroad car in the frame.  It’s not that exciting, after all, but the point is that I stood and did nothing but observe for a good 10 minutes—an eternity in our times.

Children help me stay in the moment.  Add nature and bubbles helps break the focus on generating worst case scenarios.

Being around children usually involves laughing.  I took my nephews for a bike ride.  The nine-year-old tried to do a trick and fell sideways.  It could have been disastrous, but he sprang up, and there was this message spray painted on the wall over his head.  “I guess lord Jesus saved me!” he joked.

Finding amusement, and time with friends, helps.  I found this cache of classic BBC sets that can be used for Zoom backgrounds and played around with them during the weekly Friday happy hour I join with UK friends.  Thanks to the time difference, they are drinking G&Ts while I drink herbal tea.

(That’s the interior of the Tardis from Dr. Who, in case you don’t know.)

Speaking of things that feel silly but are really good therapy, I do a couple of no-weight arm workouts every other day.  I don’t know if they are actually “toning” my arms, but something about waving my arms furiously for even five minutes makes me snap out of any funk I am in.

I’m brushing up on my Spanish using Duolingo, taking an Introduction to Classical Music course from Yale, and looking to add a birding course. And it’s all free!

All this leaves little space for worrying.

So I totally forgot that last week, I ended my depressing post with the promise to research why people think in terms of catastrophes.  The article that came up most frequently, oddly, was from Business Insider: What Catastrophizing Means and How to Stop It.

I was relieved to read, “Nobody is born a catastrophizer … Babies are not born catastrophizing… it’s a protective mechanism, because we think ‘if I think the worst, then when the worst doesn’t happen I’ll feel relieved.”

Whew, I had worried I was wired to worry.

Catastrophizing can become a habit, especially if you’ve had a bad experience that you didn’t see coming.  That makes sense.  Every person on earth has had that happen of late.

Catastrophic thoughts need to be deconstructed with logic.  If you can’t do it on your own, call a clear-thinking friend who can help you to untwist them—preferably a friend who will also laugh at you.

Catastrophes, Real and Imagined

I just got a new laptop after procrastinating for over a year.  My old one was 11 years old.  They say that’s like driving a 1958 Buick.  I would have kept the old device forever except that my internet goes down about once a week and when it came back on, the old laptop couldn’t reconnect to wifi unless the router was rebooted.  The router in the apartment above me.  It’s kind of embarrassing, having to text my neighbors and ask them to reboot the router.  I felt like a loser.

Technical stuff does not come naturally to me.  I spent hours researching which laptop I should buy, then just asked one of the tech guys at one of my client organizations for a recommendation, then just bought it.  It is not the cheapest but it’s far from a high-end model.

I kept expecting something to go terribly wrong as I set it up.  How would I ever get support?  I bought it on Amazon and it was shipped by Sunflower Tech Store, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

But nothing has gone wrong.  I gave myself two weeks to make the transition, but my old laptop lost the wifi signal again today so I plunged in and dealt with everything—buying Office, transferring files and bookmarks, re-entering user names and passwords into every single website  I use regularly, etc.  Much of it looks slightly different.  The keyboard has a number pad so I have to get used to not typing on the right.  And I have.

So after almost a year of angst-ing and procrastinating, I’m basically good to go after a couple hours.

But I still expect something to go terribly wrong.

Here’s something I’ve noticed about my thinking since the pandemic began and was then layered over with civil unrest, financial uncertainty, and living in a crime-ridden neighborhood where sirens and gun shots and fireworks and hot rods and loud music are blasting day and night.

I have always been good at imagining worst-case scenarios, but now the tendency is magnified.

I have a portable fire pit that I never use so I’m going to give it to my brother.  Every time I think about it, I immediately see my six-year-old nephew tripping into a bonfire and being burned over 85% of his body.  I try to think happy thoughts, like about taking my granddaughters to northern Wisconsin in September for a cabin weekend.  Immediately, my mind goes to  a vision of the nine-year-old being abducted by some  creep-o who lives in a shack in the woods. I imagine head-on collisions when I’m driving, coming home to find my house burglarized and ransacked, or falling down the basement stairs when I’m doing laundry and having to lie there with a broken hip for days.

There must be a psychological explanation for this catastrophizing.  Is it an (irrational) way of feeling in control, of “knowing” what is going to happen in such uncertain times?

There have been coronavirus spikes around the US lately, so far not in Minnesota.  The Wall Street Journal editorialized that headlines trumpeting a resurgence “are overblown.”  Many new infections are connected to prisons and meat packing plants, and hospitals are not overwhelmed, they say.  I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I want to believe they are not saying it’s okay to sacrifice prisoners and slaughterhouse employees to keep the economy going.

I have always perused the obituaries on Sundays.  The “Irishman’s sports page,” they are sometimes called.  These are a few I caught that were Covid-19 related deaths.

This one was particularly poignant.

Some have said it’s “just old people” dying; they were going to die anyway.  Some have “joked” about how much money we’ll save on Social Security if all our seniors die.

But I wouldn’t wish a Covid-19 death on anyone—alone, in a medical coma, with a tube down your throat, catheterized, on IVs, flipped head down. Tended by people who look like aliens in their masks.

I know, I should look away.  No wonder my brain is generating intrusive disaster scenarios.  I will research the phenomenon this week and let you know what I learn.

Pandemic, Protests, Panic Attacks

Three people I know have had panic attacks lately. They all thought they were having heart attacks.

I may be next.  No, not really.  But I do feel the stress.  A number of people have said, “Being locked down isn’t that different from my life before.” They live in comfortable homes, have access to limitless entertainment, and have the means to get whatever they need delivered to their door.  They haven’t been impacted financially.  They don’t live near the protests.

“It’s psychological,” a friend said yesterday as we were socializing on his deck.  “I’m playing pickle ball in a Covid-19 ‘pod’ of six guys. I’m an introvert anyway.  I’m retired, so staying home shouldn’t bother me.  I Skype with my mom, but I won’t be visiting her any time soon.”

His mother, in India.  Her short-term memory is gone, but her face lights up when she sees her son.  He was visiting every two months.  It’s a grueling trip with long flights and ground transport. I thought he would be relieved to have an excuse not to go, but no.  He’s a good son.

“In the UK, they talked about BAME people dying at much higher rates from Covid.” I said. BAME is black, Asian, and minority ethnic.  And by Asian they mean Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian.

My friends looked a bit thrown.  Should I not have said anything?  “They don’t know what the causes are.  It’s doctors dying, not just poor people.”

“So it might be genetic,” my friend said.

“Or something to do with darker skin blocking Vitamin D absorption, which supports immunity?  Or that Asian families tend to live in multigenerational housing in densely populated areas?”

“It’ll probably turn out to be a complex set of factors,” he said.

I am still doing contract work from home.  My duplex is comfortable and the weather has been great so I can get out and walk at a distance from a friend or ride my bike.

I am going to have my granddaughters and nephews once a week (separately).  I want them to have a wonderful summer.  There’s no reason they shouldn’t as long as we can be outside or in the car with windows rolled down.

I took the girls on an unintentional tour of Minneapolis due to a detour.  Every storefront is boarded up or charred.  On the plus side, there is a lot of great street art.  I explained what had happened in very simple terms.  The nine-year old said, “But that’s not right. That’s like what we learned in school last year, about Martin Luther King.”  I thought it went over the head of the four year old, but days later she said, out of nowhere, “Cops killed a guy.”

I’ve decided to move.  Again.

My neighborhood was dodgy before Covid and the unrest caused by the murder of George Floyd.  Many houses have been bought by investors and filled with registered sex offenders, including one kitty corner from me which must have 5-6 guys in it.  It must be very lucrative.

Then there’s the noise—in spring, the punks tear up and down the streets in their extremely loud hot rods.  You would think my neighbors who lived through the Vietnam War wouldn’t be fond of fireworks, but you would be wrong.  Several nights a week, the BOOOM, Booom, Boom goes on until one or two in the morning.  I’m not talking firecrackers; I’m talking industrial grade fireworks.

Then Covid came, and an area with lots of people in low-wage jobs became an area with lots of people with no jobs.  The uprisings began.  I’ve seen numerous cars without license plates, this one was abandoned at the end of my alley for days, even after I called it in to the police.

There was the incident of the cops with assault rifles surrounding my house.  Finally, two nights ago, I woke to the sound of a dozen gun shots.  Sirens and a high speed chase ensued, then a CRASH in front of my house, then the police shouting through megaphones, “Come out with your hands up!”

Seriously? This does not align with my brand.

I’ve got a lead on a condo-sitting gig near the Mississippi in St. Paul. Fingers crossed.

Doing the Next Indicated Thing

In 24 hours I will be on a bus headed from Oxford to Heathrow.  I hope.  Of all the legs of the trip home, this is the part I’ve been most anxious about.

What if … the bus zooms past me at the bus stop?  What if it doesn’t stop at my stop anymore?  What if the bus stops but the driver cuts off boarding at me, because they are only allowing 10 people on the bus v. the usual 50?  What if the service is cancelled completely?  They did that with the route to Gatwick airport.  I have a return ticket from my last flight—but should I buy a new one online so I can reserve a seat?  Service is down from every 20 minutes to every two hours.  If I miss the bus, the next one wouldn’t get me to Heathrow until 20 minutes before my flight takes off.  A taxi would cost about $100.

I suffered heart-thumping anxiety for years, now have been anxiety free for a decade except for the occasional work deadline.  Now it’s  back, in a milder form.  It’s a bit annoying, but given the state of global affairs, it would be kind of weird if I wasn’t anxious.

I have learned to Just Deal With Things that induce anxiety.  So I called the bus company.  The customer service guy, Josh, answered after two rings and assured me that ridership was so low I would have no problem getting a seat on the bus, at my stop, and I could use the ticket I already had.

He sounded bored.  I think he would have been happy to chat for a while.

I felt reassured for about an hour, then the What Ifs started up again.  What if he didn’t like my American accent so he purposely gave me the wrong information? What if he was new and didn’t really know the right answers? What if they changed everything right after I called?

I waited a few days, feeling dumb for continuing to worry, then emailed the bus company with the same questions.  Josh replied almost immediately with the same answers. Oh no, how embarrassing! Did he know it was me?  Did he wonder why I was asking the same questions again?  I usually thank customer service people, but I didn’t this time because I would have felt compelled to explain why I didn’t trust his answers the first time.

This second set of answers—maybe because they were in writing—erased the anxiety.

I may sound loopy but there it is.

My last day in Oxford.  I am doing laundry, cleaning the house and the chicken run, and fiddling around with packing.  I will go for a long walk later. Where should I go?  Into the city to gaze at the medieval colleges?  Along the Thames Path to see the waterfowl and other ramblers and the canal boats?  Up to Iffley lock and the church where I have watched the seasons change and enjoyed so many quiet moments?

This was my last view of Scotland last week.  Friend and driver Bob stopped the vehicle so I could hop out and take a snap.

I visited Iffley Church the next day.  The churchyard was strewn with wildflowers and an English robin perched on a headstone.

The next day I walked for hours through town, taking photos or just appreciating things I’d never noticed because I was trying not to bump into the 5,000 other people on the sidewalk.

Will I ever return?  The longing to live here forever see-saws with the excitement of the return journey and arriving home after four and a half months in the UK.

I gave the garden a good pruning, then sat and read the Sunday Times Rich List.  I should have gone into online gambling or started a hedge fund.  But then, I probably wouldn’t spend much time relaxing in a garden.

Here is a good question from HSBC.

I was born in New York, grew up in Minnesota, and feel at home in England—and most everywhere else I’ve sojourned.

Once I am on the bus, I will exhale and feel at home.

Shoguns and Squats

I’ve already written a bit about Nikko, how I arrived there on my fourth day in Japan and it was there that the anxiety that had trailed me from the US ebbed away.  As I wrote in my last post I am feeling a lot of anxiety of late, but I know it comes … and goes.  I’ve never had a full-blown panic attack and ended up in the ER like some people I know.  I get out and do things despite feeling anxious about them.  Ninety-nine percent of the time everything turns out okay.

And sometimes, like in Nikko, physical exertion, attraction distraction, and serenity of a place help the anxiety disappear.

Nikko’s claim to fame is that it hosts tombs of the early shoguns.  The shoguns were hereditary military commanders who ruled Japan for nearly 700 years, until Emperor Meiji was given real powers during the Meiji Restoration in 1868.  “Shogun” is Japanese shorthand for “Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force against the Barbarians.”

Now here I came, a barbarian wandering among their tombs.

The structures are unique because they are Japanese interpretations of Chinese shrines.  This means that, unlike the simple, spare style seen elsewhere in Japan, the shrines in Nikko are over-the-top ornate.

Guidebooks and online advisories will say you can “do” Nikko in a day. Maybe that’s technically true—if you arrived by tour bus and had a guide barking, “hurry, hurry, on to the next shrine!”

But why would you want to hurry?  Nikko is so much more than the shrines, as I discovered.  I spent three nights there and could have easily spent a fourth.  Or the rest of my life.  Nikko is in the mountains and the soothing sound of water coursing along little streams and springs is ever present.

I found the pedestrian entrance to the shrine complex, which encompasses half a dozen shrines, each of which encompasses a dozen structures. Every shrine charges an admission fee of $2 to $12.

I climbed and climbed the irregular stone steps, in the rain, to the main square, then wandered around trying to decide which shrine to visit first.  I could just catch glimpses of golden rooftops.

I decided on the mausoleum of Iemitsu, grandson of the first shogun, Ieyasu. The shoguns often have a birth name, a warrior name, and military titles that makes keeping them straight challenging.  So I didn’t try.

I figured I should use the toilet before entering, where I encountered my first Japanese-style toilet.  No, not the ones with lots of electronic features, but a squat.

Pivot: Iemitsu designed his own mausoleum to be “subtle” so as not to outshine his grandpa’s.  This is just the hand washing station at the entrance.

Ladle up some water, wash your left hand, then your right, then have a drink out of your cupped palm.

I remember this as “the quiet shrine.”  It is set in ancient woods and the only sound was birds calling back and forth.  I was one of only three people there that day.

Near the handwashing station there was a jumble of mountain scenery, with two stone statues that I only noticed because I stopped to contemplate the forest.

More steps, and through an ornate gate with fabulous protectors on either side, borrowed from Hinduism.

This structure was basically a storage unit for giant bells and drums used during special events.

There were a thousand stone lanterns, all “donated” by feudal lords to the shogun. I liked the moss and fern hat on this one.

I stopped at each landing to look out over the tree tops and listen to the birds.  At last I arrived at the top and the inner shrine, where photos were not allowed.  There wasn’t really anything to do there, so I slowly walked back down.

I guess most of the lanterns can be lighted, and I would see this later in my trip.

From somewhere, I heard the music from the Waltz of the Sugar Plum Fairies wafting through the forest.  What it signified, I had no idea, but I chose to take it as my dinner bell.

There—just writing this remembrance has brought me a sense of calm.

My Name is Anne, and I’m Anxious

I need to write an honest post about anxiety.

I could tell myself it’s not logical to be anxious.  I should be grateful, even.

I don’t have to commute or work full time. I haven’t touched my savings since quitting my full-time job in December.  I’m healthy enough that I feel safe forgoing health insurance—which would cost me over $800 a month for a lousy plan—and instead use a healthcare sharing program, which costs $220 a month.  I enjoy my contract work with my former employer, working on million dollar proposals to the UN and US government.  I enjoy my very-part-time job at the YMCA minding little kids.  It’s summer, and I’ve got free time to go berry foraging or biking the wild paths along the Mississippi.  I live in a charming and affordable duplex.

Vince, who less than three years ago emerged from prison with nothing, owns a home, is a dad, and is getting married in 10 days.

Yeah, I know I have it good.

Then why do I get ice-cold stabbing pangs of fear in my solar plexus?  It’s not every day, or all day, but it can last for hours and it’s extremely unpleasant.

I think it is thanks to my nemeses, the what ifs.

My financial future is uncertain.  What if my contract isn’t renewed next year?  Should I get another full-time job?  What if no one wants to hire a 59 year old?  I recently read that the average job hunt for someone my age is 12 months. Maybe I should have started looking months ago!

Could I try to live off my savings?  It’s not my regular monthly expenses that are a problem; they’re very modest.  There are always things like new tires ($$), a new phone ($$), and a crown on my molar ($$$$). What if my engine gasket blows, or I need two crowns next month?

I have a plane ticket to Panama for December but haven’t booked accommodations.  What if Panama turns out to be super expensive?

Those are the semi-rational what ifs.

If I allow it free reign, my mind conjures up additional scary possibilities that are unlikely to ever happen.

I saw a sign warning of coyotes at the river today.  What if I was attacked by one on my walk and couldn’t work?  I would lose everything and end up one of those homeless people on the freeway exit holding a sign that says, “Sick.  Can’t work.  Anything helps.  God Bless.”

I swore at another driver on my way home from the river as we both fought our way through a traffic jam. What if I lost it, rammed someone with my car, and ended up in prison?  How humiliating would that be?

Images of these things happening actually flash through my mind.  Usually I am barely aware of them, and I can laugh them off.  But they probably contribute to the anxiety

And those are just the neurotic thoughts about me and mine.  I despair that my country can put a man on the moon, find a cure for Hepatitis C, and produce all sorts of genius inventors and entertainers and artists but we cannot come up with a single solution to gun violence.  One of my neighbors was killed in a mass shooting in 2012.  Will I, or someone I care about, be next?

Then there’s climate change.  Contrary to what millennials seem to believe, not all of us baby boomers have been callously disregarding the environment all our lives.  My first environmental protest was in 1974.  We were calling on the government to clean up the Mississippi River.  And it got done.  But as I sit in my car writing this—at the river, on the latest of a series of unusually hot days—I fear we are all doomed.

When I travel I do feel nervous about finding train stations and such. But mostly I am in the moment every moment and my anxiety is fleeting and mild.

I’m went to the Mississippi today to hike uneven terrain, to throw myself off kilter so I would have to focus on each step or I’d pitch headlong into the dark, swift current.

There I go again!

What Iffing

Why am I finding it so overwhelming to plan for Japan?  Is it the language barrier?  I’ve traveled in places like Jordan and Palestine where I spoke none of the language except for marhaba (hi), la (no), and yanni (a sentence filler like ya know).

Is it because I will stand out and look different?  No.  I remember standing in a square in El Salvador, all 5’ 3” of me. I was six inches taller and ten shades whiter than everyone else.  I had a great time.

Am I worried about the expense of a month in Japan?  It’s not a cheap destination.  I quit my job in December.  I’m working on contract for my former employer but after June there’s a cliff.  So yes, cost is on my mind but it’s not what’s making my gut churn.

Is it the sheer number of accommodations, train rides, entry tickets, and restaurants that must be found and booked?  Partly, but my Japanese sister in law and Lynn, my British friend who will join me for two weeks, are both working on this plan too.

The closest I can recall to feeling this panicky is planning three weeks in Italy, Malta, and Spain. The what ifs took over.  What if I can’t figure out how to get from the train station to the hotel in the dark and have to sleeping in a park?  What if I can’t figure out how to use the subway and end up on the wrong end of town, and the subway closes and I have to sleep on the floor of the station?  What if I miss the last bus back to Sorrento and have to sleep on a bus bench?

My worst-case scenario always involves sleeping outside, exposed to muggers, rapists, and crooked cops who try to shake me down for bribes. It is always dark, cold, and raining.  There is always an unshaven man in a ratty coat who tries to steal my suitcase.

I think it goes back to my young adulthood of living on the verge of eviction, bounced check fees, and going to food shelves.  But in all my travels, nothing like this has ever happened.  If it did, I would deal with it.  I’m no longer a passive, vulnerable young single mom. So thanks, blog, for helping me analyze my irrational fears!

I am going no matter what, and if I have to sleep in a train station Japan is the place to do it because it is so clean and safe.

Maps, guidebooks, and websites are not particularly helpful in planning a Japan itinerary, unless you enjoy falling down a rabbit hole.

While my map of Australia was overwhelming due to the vast distances, the Japan map is so densely packed it requires a magnifying glass.

I had found Frommer’s Easy Guide to Australia helpful; it boiled everything down to 300 pages.  I bought their Easy Guide to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Western Honshu.  Notice it’s not the whole country, just two cities and their regions.

This got my attention:

“One difficulty in finding your way around Tokyo is that hardly any streets are named.  Think about what that means: 9 million people living in a metropolis of nameless streets.  To make matters worse, most streets in Tokyo zig-zag—an arrangement apparently left over from olden days, to confuse potential attacking enemies.  Now they confuse Tokyoites and visitors alike.”

And this:

“Tokyo has a unique address system.  A typical address might read 7-10-1 Ginza, Chuo-Ku.  Chuo-ku is the name of the ward.  Wards are further divided into districts, in this case Ginza. Districts are broken down in to chome (numbered subsections), the first number in the series.  The second number refers to a smaller area within the chome—usually an entire block.  Thus, houses on one side of a block will have a different middle number than those on the other side.  The last number refers to the building.”

Lynn wrote, “We’ll have to accept we’ll get lost more than usual.”

I will remind her she said that when we’ve passed the same intersection for the fifth time.

A Case of the What Ifs

In three weeks I will be on my big road trip to New Orleans.  My friend Lynn arrives on Saturday afternoon from Scotland and we’ll head out the next morning.

Here’s the itinerary I’ve mapped out:

Sunday, April 3: 8-hour drive from St. Paul to Chicago with a stop for lunch with cousins and a niece in Madison, Wisconsin.  I am told we must see the protest singers at the state capital.  I have no idea who or what they are.

Monday, April 4: A full day in Chicago—Millennium Park, architectural boat tour, another niece

Tuesday, April 5: 8-hour drive from Chicago to Memphis, check out Beale Street and Sun Studio or the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.

Wed, April 6: Visit the National Civil Rights Museum which is in the Memphis motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated, then hit the road for the 7-hour drive to New Orleans

Wed-Sun, April 6-10: In New Orleans for 5 days!  French Quarter Festival will be on, and there are so many other things to do, like an alligator swamp boat ride, plantation tours, and fabulous architecture, gardens, and cemeteries.

Monday, April 11: 6-hour drive from New Orleans to Oxford, Mississippi.  The University of Mississippi at Oxford is where America’s university system was forcefully integrated.  I also wanted to stay in at least one sort-of-small city.  Oxford’s population is 20,000, although I don’t know if that accounts for university students.

Tuesday, April 12: 6-hour drive from Oxford to St. Louis.  Dinner with a friend from grad school, preferably in The Hill neighborhood renowned for its Italian food.  At least eight people have told me we must—must! visit the City Museum.  They say it’s lots of fun, that you can play around on the art like a kid, but it’s really for adults.  I’m not that good at fun, but it is something I’m working on.  I wonder if Lynn, being English, will find it fun.  I’m not at all clear on what it is, but we’re going to find out.

Wednesday, April 13: 8.5-hour drive from St. Louis to St. Paul to get Lynn to the airport in time for her late evening flight.

Whew.  I admit I am anxious about how it will all play out.  What if the route times on Google maps don’t allow time for bathroom breaks or lunches?  That would mean all my times are off.  What if the routes aren’t scenic?  What if Lynn thinks all Americans are racist yahoos?  What if every city is just a mass of Walmarts, Star Bucks, and strip malls?  What if my GPS breaks and we get lost?  What if one of us is mugged?  What if the museums aren’t open on the day we’re there?  What if my back hurts from so much driving?  What if we get into a fight over what to do in New Orleans?  What if we arrive after dark in one of these big cities and the hotel has no record of our registration?  What if a meteorite hits the car?  What if the car breaks down in a bayou and we hear banjo music?

My anxiety is nothing like it used to be, but it’s interesting to notice it.  I’ve learned a lot of tricks for dealing with anxiety over the years.  Some of the ones that work best for me are to:

– bring myself out of my head to focus on my surroundings.  Notice that I am not currently in my car surrounded by alligator-filled swamps or muggers, but in a chair in my dining room writing this post.  This usually helps bring me back to reality.

– remember that nothing lasts.  I may feel anxious right now, but it will pass if I don’t latch on to it.  It’ll probably come back, but then it will pass again.  So it’s not permanent.  If it did get to be constant and lasted for a week, I would call a professional.

– know that, if I do end up surrounded by hillbillies, I will deal with it then.  For now, I only need to do the next indicated thing—finish this post and post it.  And so I will.