One of the most exciting things happened to me recently: after years of daydreaming about riding horses again someday, I found a trainer who is willing to give me lessons. I told her about how I had taken lessons as a child but haven’t ridden anything aside from trail horses for about forty years or so, and she assured me she had a great school horse for me to re-learn on. She has access to a large terrific facility that’s only 15 minutes from my house and on the much-anticipated day of my very first lesson I …

…almost canceled, like twelve different times.

And I mean I really had to stop myself from messaging this lady and being all, Oh no I can’t come my uhh car fell in a sinkhole. Even though I wanted to go! It wasn’t like it was a pelvic exam, I had specifically sought out this experience and I was legitimately so thrilled about it and what the FUCK, brain.

I expected some anxiety because that’s just how I roll (into a worried ball like a potato bug): if I’m gonna be doing a new thing, there’s gonna be stress. But this was kind of a crushing amount of the kind of anxiety that I can only compare to the personal experience of waiting in the roller coaster line at the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas: I have chosen this, and it was a terrible, terrible mistake.

Anxiety has really come to the forefront of my life lately. I guess I used to think of anxiety as being a nervous person filled with excess energy — jittery, darting from one thing to the next, maybe. But anxiety isn’t always like that. It can be paralyzing. It can be an all-encompassing sense of dread. It can be a mess of intrusive thoughts and what-ifs, or the inability to focus.

It can be the difference between hanging in there for the “fun” icebreaker Zoom question or dropping the call because you can’t take the pressure and then berating yourself for being such a stupid! Piece of shit! Weakling!!!

It can manifest in all sorts of unpleasant physical symptoms, like for instance waking up at 3:45 AM with a pounding heart because OH NOoooOOoooOOO except there’s nothing wrong? (Aside from everything that IS wrong, of course. With an immediately obvious source of worry, there’s always, say, climate change to consider!) Or feeling absolutely poleaxed by nauseating amounts of cortisol/adrenaline over a relatively non-stressful occasion, so much so that I avoid making commitments now because of how a 6 PM hangout with someone I legitimately enjoy and feel comfortable with will ruin my entire day.

I often suspect this New and Improved Anxiety is menopause-related, even though I’ve had anxiety all my life. It feels … biological in nature sometimes, if that makes any kind of sense. It feels like a thing that is happening in my body more than it is happening in my head, even though there is plenty of not-great stuff happening in my head. It feels like an OVER-REACTION, frankly, sort of like an auto-immune disease.

All that to say, I did make it to that first lesson. I’ve been riding weekly since, and it’s one hundred percent the best thing I have done for myself in years and years.

I still honestly have to life-coach myself out the door each time, which I resent. Here is a thing I love and value and look forward to, why does it still have to be so hard?

During our spring break we took the kids to Seattle, our first time going back as a family since we moved. We drove by our old house, which Zillow now horrifyingly ‘zestimates’ to be worth $1,194,500. It sure doesn’t look like a million-plus dollar home, because it is not by any measure aside from Seattle Housing Market Insanity, but it was interesting to see how it’s changed: very little, actually, except for an entire-ass chicken run added to the backyard.

The boys remembered almost nothing of the area, which was kind of hard for me to absorb. You mean you don’t remember the little park down the street from our house, where we walked so many times when you were so very small? No ping of memory from the still-shlocky Crossroads Mall, where we spent I don’t know how many restless afternoons? Not a single whiff of déjà vu from the Kelsey Creek farm and all its once-so-beloved animals?

Dylan has the better memory of the two, but he was awfully young when we moved. Well, they both were, really: it was eleven years ago! (Holy shit look at the tragic vibes in our Eugene house before we moved in.)

We did a lot of touristy things — rode up the Space Needle, marveled at the wildly disgusting Gum Wall, bought those addictive hot donuts at Pike Place, collected sea glass at Alki — and it really did feel like I was a full tourist. I don’t really know how to describe it: sights were familiar, but I had zero sense of belonging. I felt like a stranger in a strange land, no different from the people holding maps and peering around snapping photos.

But it felt weird to feel that way. Like, didn’t I live here? Did I live here? Did those years really happen? Why does it seem like that was a whole different timeline, a whole different universe? I picture all these different versions of myself and the places I used to go and the things I used to do and it feels so ghostly, barely-there dotted line outlines of moments that don’t really feel … real? Is it normal to feel this detached from your own past?

Also, the traffic. My GOD, the traffic. I was relieved to be on our way, to be honest.