Things that Shouldn’t Give Me Anxiety, but Do


  • Presents.  (Subcategory underneath “surprises”).  I don’t like unwrapping presents.  There is that moment where the ______ is unveiled & I realize what it is.  I like it.  I gush about how much I like it.  I fawn over it & start wearing it on my head.  Or…maybe I hate it.  & I start absurdly babbling about great it is & how on earth did they know this was exactly what I need.  Or what if I don’t really understand what it is.  What if they have packed it in a box that is something completely different than what the box actually contains?  Maybe I started to react too soon.  & now I have to continue before I even see the item.  Do I react subtly?  Do I react over-the-top?  Perhaps a stunned silence could be appropriate.  It has to make sense in relation to any other presents they might have seen you open on the scale of gladness.  (The holidays are a tumultuous time for me, you can imagine.)
  • When someone keeps the door open for you as you just happen to exit simultaneously & then you both start walking the same direction.  & then all of a sudden you’re walking with a stranger but since they held the door open – there is this feeling of kinship like you can’t just shun them because then you’re the rude one.  They held the door for you!  What are you, some sort of monster?
  • When I was younger, I used to be anxious about potentially being murdered.  But I consoled myself with the knowledge that Jessica Fletcher would solve the case & give my family + friends closure – so it would all be okay.

5 thoughts on “Things that Shouldn’t Give Me Anxiety, but Do

  1. presents, yes. Sometimes there is a feeling of dread as I unwrap, knowing there is some likelihood the item is going to be all wrong for me – junk I don’t want or something that shows the person thinks I am some other person. Then I have to deal with whatever it is – and if I can’t find it a new home I return it. At some point I got tired of getting things I have no use for, that cost me effort to deal with, so now I try to speak up so I don’t get more of the same. People think I’m a jerk, but I’m a jerk with less gift stress. And the whole balancing act of reciprocation, I don’t like that (unless I’m on top). And unwrapping – tearing the paper bothers me a lot.

    For sudden unintended walking partners, a discrete slowing of cruising speed usually works. Then you’re not running away from them or butting in front, but peacably ambling along…

  2. Once read a great Joan Didion quote where she described how paralyzingly anxious she would get, as a young woman, when someone opened a door for her. Struck close to home!

  3. Finally found it. I was slightly off. It was about a semi-autobiographical character Didion created, in her first novel. Here’s where I read about it, and here’s the quote:

    “I read Didion’s first novel, Run River, and encountered the deeply autobiographical character of Lily Knight McClellan, about whom a jerk college boy at Berkeley says: “Taking out Lily Knight was like dating a deaf mute.” Lily’s sister-in-law remarks acidly (Didion’s fiction always includes the wisecracking, jaded older woman): “Somebody holds the door open for Lily in a hardware store, and she thinks she has a very complex situation on her hands.”

    Something about that really struck me. There are so many things that are “complex situations” for us mentally, when to an outside observer, they seem like perfectly ordinary events. Too true, Joan Didion!

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