I awake in a cold sweat, my soon to be seven year-old heart thudding in my chest. Tomorrow is the day of the Spanish assembly. I am a soloist in the “Como Te Llamas” number. And I have not learned a word of my song.
I run into my parents’ room and shake my dad awake. I am terrified of humiliating myself in the morning. Because my dad is the jam, he gets up and leads his shaking six year-old to the living room.
Thanks to a tape my teacher gave me, a gargantuan amount of patience on my dad’s part and what I like to think of as a mind like a steel trap, I have the song memorized. I am ready for my assembly. Not well rested, but as a professional, I know that I can keep it together.
Upon asking me how the assembly went, my father learned the true bounds of unconditional love as I casually replied that I had messed up the date and that I didn’t need to have the song memorized until January 31st .
How I made it through childhood without anyone wringing my neck is a mystery beyond my comprehension. I had the highest anxiety level of any elementary school kid I’ve ever met. I woke up in cold sweats about science projects that were due five months down the line. I was terrified of failing or falling or flailing. And both my parents were lucky enough to get to experience most of those late night panic attacks with me.
As a teenager I tended to have my panic attacks during waking hours. When I got a D for the quarter on my report card in Algebra II sophomore year of high school, I hyperventilated so hard that my teacher requested a meeting with my mom and the guidance counselor. In college, I was so constantly anxious that I gave myself an intestinal disorder.
Though I’m still not known for my cool head, I have gotten a little less high strung in my old age. I think facing rejection and disappointment as an adult have grounded me a little and helped me to seek solutions where once I only saw road blocks and calamities. Just yesterday, I had a small anxiety hour, but with the help of a good friend and a little starfishing, I was able to breathe through it. And I didn’t even have to wake up my parents.