So I'm reading FURIOUSLY HAPPY by Jenny Lawson, aka The Blogess, and it's making me feel lots of things because her crazy and my crazy are kissing cousins. I've put off reading this book forever because she's funnier than me and her books sell better than mine and she has more taxidermied animals than me, and I consider all of that deeply insulting. Still, the book is resonating, and so I want to tell you a story that her book reminded me of.
A few months ago, I was in Denver, Colorado for Anachrocon. This is exciting because I've believed for many years that Colorado didn't exist. I mean, come on. A perfectly rectangular state full of huge mountains and elk? Impossible. I had daydreams of my plane landing on this big blank smudge, like, Whoops, it's not real. You were right! But instead, the plane landed in the weirdest airport in the world that's probably above a secret apocalypse bunker for the president and Beyonce and other national treasures. Seriously. Google “Denver airport conspiracy theories” and look at that mile-high, red-eyed, blue-skinned murderstallion standing proudly out front and tell me this place was not built by the Illuminati. Or, more likely, the Masons, because that is literally what masons do.
Anyway, I had an amazing week hanging out with my buddy Kevin Hearne and then I went to stay at the con hotel for Anachrocon, which is a great fan con run by fabulous people. It was a lovely hotel room, by which I mean there were no bedbugs (YES, I CHECK EVERY BED AND EVEN UNDER THE MATTRESS), and the pillows were nice and flat and the mirror made me feel pretty in part because it made my eyes look like the eyes of a goat on ecstasy. I was very fond of that hotel room and went there often to decompress, because like Jenny Lawson, these events use up a lot of my spoons and I eventually have to go take meds and drink vitamin powders and commune with my friends on Twitter without worrying about sucking in my stomach or having weird stuff in my teeth.
So the thing about me and hotel rooms is that when I have one to myself, I keep it pristine. I put everything exactly where I want it, and I fold myself into the bed like it's a crisp new Trapper Keeper folder, and when I get up in the morning, I fold that little triangle of the bed back and POOF! The bed is made. The first thing I do (after checking for bedbugs and goat eyes) is to put their Do Not Disturb sign up because I'm terrified of people knocking on the door. The hotel room becomes my fortress of solitude, and I don't want strange people coming in and rearranging my earrings and touching my shoes. Or, even worse, I don't want them to bang on the door so that I'm forced to explain why they can't come in. The hotel staff doesn't seem to understand the word NO, or the words NO THANK YOU, or even NOT NOW PLEASE; I'M NAKED; YOU CAN GO AWAY.
On my second day, I got dressed and double checked my schedule and the con map and my outfit and my bag of swag and all the various things that make me feel like I have my shit together, and I made sure the DO NOT DISTURB sign was up. Unfortunately, the housekeeper was right outside my door. I noticed this when I looked out the peephole to make sure the hall was empty, and I timed my exit for when she was in another room so I wouldn't have to speak to her because I am terrified by speaking to people in this dance of WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE WHAT DO YOU WANT EXCUSE ME EXCUSE ME. So she goes into another room, and I dart out the door, and she must hear the teeny tiny click my door makes as I gently shut it because she lunges out of the other door as I hightail it down the hall and says, “I can clean?”
So I turn around like a deer in headlights and say, “No, thank you.”
And that should be great. She should be able to mark that down on her log in the “Freaky weirdos” category and take ten minutes to play with someone else's jewelry. But that is not what she does.
SHE PURSUES ME.
AFTER I SAID NO THANK YOU.
“I can go clean now you are gone?” she asks, and she looks very forbidding, like a teacher who doesn't like me very much and wants to double check my backpack for a jar of spiders. And I wish I had a jar of spiders to throw, because she is now Terminator-walking down the hall toward me, and I can't figure out if she's going to tackle me until I promise to remove the DO NOT DISTURB sign or if she wants to clean out my ears for me or something.
And I realize that if I don't put a stop to this insistence on invading my personal space, she's going to wait until I'm in the elevator and go in there and probably put on my earrings and use my perfume, and that thought makes me want to burn everything I own, because DON'T TOUCH MY STUFF, so I turn around, fidgeting my fingers like a nervous hamster, and I don't know what to say, and she's still stalking toward me, and I'm afraid she's going to touch me or yell at me or something, and I'm a grown-ass woman of 38 quaking because a housekeeper is frowning at me, and what comes out of my mouth is the honest-to-God truth.
I shouted, “PLEASE DON'T GO IN MY ROOM BECAUSE I DON'T LIKE IT WHEN PEOPLE TOUCH MY STUFF AND MATCH UP MY EARRINGS AND YOU'RE MAKING ME REALLY, REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE RIGHT NOW.”
And before I could see how she reacted to that for-shrinks-only confession, I ran into the fire stairway and down three flights of stairs because I didn't want to stand in front of the elevator pushing the button repeatedly like some dumbo in a horror movie as she continued to T2 toward me with increasing rancor.
My heart was racing, and I was filled with panic, and all the while, I was very aware that this was in no way an actual big deal or a problem. Like, a woman who wanted to do her job asked if she could just go and do her job like she was supposed to do, but it just so happened to be the straw on this introverted camel's back, and she was probably just standing in the hall trying to figure out where my nurse was and when I would be given my proper medicine, because it's not normal to shout at people not to match up your earrings.
A housekeeper did that once, and I still have nightmares. I had them all in a jumble in the little cardboard box I travel with, and she TOOK THEM OUT and LINED THEM UP on a HAND TOWEL, and I felt like I was in Sleeping with the Enemy. So you can see why this is one of my fears.
That's what anxiety does to you. It can take some perfectly normal situation and ratchet it up to an 11 on the scale of Normal Things That Are Okay, and suddenly it's not okay. I doubt this woman had any idea that I had to huddle down in that emergency stairwell and dig in my purse and take anxiety meds because of a simple question. When I mentioned the interaction on Twitter, I got several responses along the lines of, “Wow. Yelling at housekeepers. Privileged much?” And I just want to shout back, DID YOU JUST START FOLLOWING ME BECAUSE I AM A SMORGASBORD OF WRONG REACTIONS TO NORMAL SHIT. I can give myself a panic attack by hearing the wrong Pink Floyd song or deciding that an ingrown hair is cancer. Being verbally confronted in a strange place is bound to mess me up.
The takeaway here is that FURIOUSLY HAPPY is making me feel better about being a cornucopia of neuroses and ailments, and that it's normal to be slightly crazy. We all have something that pushes our buttons, and we all do our best to stay functional. I went down those three flights of stairs, put on my Public Extrovert Happy Face, and did my best to be a great con guest. My hope is that no one who talked to me or came to my panels knew that I'd had an anxiety crisis in the hallway and was secretly terrified to return to my supposed fortress of solitude and find a death threat written on the goat-eye mirror in someone else's blue sparkle toothpaste above a skull made of my own jewelry.
Depression lies, and anxiety is an asshole, but you should never shout at someone who uses a Do Not Disturb sign. They've made it pretty fucking clear what they need to be okay: Do not disturb them.