One evening this week, I was spotted in public again-- this time at a youth choir Christmas event at the University of Georgia that a member of my family was performing in. I had some initial reservations much the same as I had about going to the church Christmas event I attended in Atlanta last week-- strangers, people, noise, commotion, fear of what could happen, all of the wonderful voices in my head that PTSD loves to turn up loud.
I went anyway, for the record.
The venue was a performing arts center on campus at UGA. I'd never been there (and in fact haven't been much of anywhere at UGA yet) but since it's on a campus I was willing to convince myself that it would familiar there. There was a parking structure, so parking was easy, although it was eerily familiar to the one I called home when I was first on the street at Wisconsin. (A lot of places are, but distance in both time and distance from then helps.) The venue itself was of course nice, the lobby already full of all of the relatives and friends of the kids who were going to be singing.
The lobby: crowded. Noisy. Family had been there for a while so they had a spot close to the actual entrance, which also meant that I ended up in the crowd at the actual entrance. This was okay, I took a few deep breaths here and there, but it was okay.
I also made note of all of the exits, fire alarms, staff, all of the infrastructure. Double checked my pockets, which I'd already checked, made sure my pocket knife and Leatherman and flashlight were all where they belonged.
The performance: an opening cellist. A couple hours of really good music and singing. I like a lot of different kinds of music and I really do like live performances-- even (and especially) classical stuff. The crowd was of course polite because it's a classical music thing-- once you're in your seat you stay put, turn off your cellphone, and pay attention.
Me, I follow the music and the singing and just go with it. Two hours went by in a few seconds. The kids doing the singing approach the arts the same way I approached computers as a kid, and that shines through.
Afterwards, a reception. Finger food and punch, lots of people standing around and lots of small talk. Certainly not my favorite environment, but again a few deep breaths here and there helped. It was important to me to stay for the reception to show my family member who had performed that I was both there and really enjoyed being there (and I really and truly did enjoy it).
None of this should imply that PTSD wasn't a factor. It most certainly was.
There were a few anxious moments, flashbacks, times when my heart tried to beat itself out of my chest. More than a few times that I reviewed where the exits were. At least a couple of time where I realized I was somewhere else for a few seconds or a few minutes.
It was a little weird too because going to a kid relative's Christmas concert is something that "normal people" do-- it's hard to imagine (although based on hats, there was at least one other veteran there) that there were a lot of people in the audience who were imagining the entire place in flames because the enemy had sent in a surprise air strike.
Tentatively, Christmas proper is scheduled here for this next week-- this is the time and place when Family Who Are Here get together and "Do Christmas".
I'll be there. (!)
I haven't actually "done Christmas" for a long time-- for the past several years it's been just another day where I hoped Mickey D's was open for dinner. When work was open, I always worked on holidays instead of sitting at home. I didn't have family in Madison anyway, and really didn't feel like dealing with all of the potential shit that comes with family and holidays enough to go visiting. And, I usually didn't have much in the way of resources to go anywhere anyway.
I'm not buying gifts for anyone, nor have I asked for gifts-- as in years past I don't have the money to buy gifts and so I figure it's fair not to expect any back. If I go to someone's house I'll bring food-- a cheese tray or something like that because if I'm eating your food, I should supply some too.
At some point, if things get too loud or complicated or whatever, I'll find the front porch or back porch and go outside for a while-- I don't smoke, so it won't be for that reason. I'll go out and look at the trees or the stars or whatever, give myself some space.
As to whether I'm going to church this Sunday I haven't decided. I'm not sleeping right-- up until dawn, sleep till late afternoon-- and when I do sleep I dream fast and hard so I wake up tired. That's one of the reasons I kept the workaholic schedule I kept in Wisconsin, so when I got home I'd be exhausted and fall asleep. That kind of schedule makes it hard to be up for church on Sunday morning (even more so when the church is an hour away).
Normal people seem to manage it every week though, so.
That's kinda the theme lately, trying to put the past few years into some kind of perspective and move the fuck on. Try doing some things, like being with family at Christmas, that at least imply normalcy. Beyond that, no promises, but I'm trying.