No one has ever described me as socially awkward to my face. I was often called a weirdo in school and maybe that counts. But I have felt socially awkward my entire llfe. I didn’t know that absolute knot of dread was anxiety until I was diagnosed as an adult. What does it mean for me to feel like I am socially awkward? It feels like always being afraid I am going to say the wrong thing and endlessly looping encounters with people beyond my innermost circle to mine the exchange for how I might have messed up. It means, that if I do say something ill-timed or not calibrated or coded for the person or people I am talking to, I spiraled into a dark place of self-reproach and shame, far beyond what the situation may have called for and long past when apologies were made and accepted or things were resolved.
I’m better now. That diagnosis—and the therapy and coping mechanisms I learned from it—helped a lot. I can spot the dread on the horizon and make adjustments. I didn’t expect it to come back with a new look when I started publishing and again when I started the podcast. Publishing was one of my life goals and I was taken aback by my own mind’s betrayal of the accomplishment. I initially had no clue how to navigate the social aspect of publishing and I didn’t have a filter for how to deal with comments about me as a writer. The work was a different story; I’d been in enough workshops with other writers trained to talk about the work to know criticism of the writing was valuable and not about me as a person. Comments about me were a whole different story.
I’m grateful for the fact that I had writer friends further along the path who had dealt with similar feelings about being out there as a writer and how imposter syndrome can dampen the joy of big and small successes. I’m not sure I would have kept publishing without them.
Starting WitchLit brought up a whole new level of anxiety about saying the wrong thing. The inevitable miss-steps would be recorded and online, in theory, forever. A year and a half in, I’m less worried about saying something wrong because I’m socially awkward. I do continue to examine my beliefs and unconscious and often conscious, but maybe unexamined, biases in what I think and say and who comes on the show, etc. That’s a lifelong project of unlearning and relearning that I don’t ever plan on being done with. Anxiety still dances in my periphery and often occasionally obliterates the whole view but I feel like I understand it better. With my acceptance of its existence, we have come to a sort of truce.
We have been on a stalemate about the newsletter, or blog, or whatever you want to call a Substack account though. There has also been a lot going on in my immediate family that has made focusing on anything beyond what had to get done difficult. There’s a long list of to-dos that need to get reorganized and taken care of.
One of those is the last pass through the Verona Green manuscript before it goes to the final line editing and proofreading. It will come out on November 4, 2023—my birthday. After the last couple of years, it felt like the very best present I could give myself. These new characters have been itching to see the light of day for a long time now and I can’t wait for you to meet them.
But I might be a little anxious about it too.