There are many kinds of Panicky Jitters. Today I’m thinking about: the ones that magically appear when you commit to an Adventure.

Like a mysterious project, something we’ve been understandably avoiding.

Or when you sign up for Rally (Rally!). Or say yes to a giant and powerful — and therefore slightly terrifying — voyage like Crossing the Line.
Password: haulaway

I think the Panicky Jitters might also be related to the Grumblethrum Collective.

The first question.

For me, the first question is always about how I can care for myself:

What can I do (or what needs to happen) right now so that I can feel safe, supported and sovereign?

And what usually comes out of that line of questioning is the recognition that not only do I need safety and stability, but so do my fears, monsters and walls:

Okay, what needs to happen for the Panicky Jitters to feel safe too?

There are three assumptions here:

  1. All fear/pain is legitimate. Even if I don’t remember the source or understand why it’s there.
  2. The secret mission of the Panicky Jitters is this: they want desperately to keep me safe from Bad Things (like rejection, humiliation, depression, loss). They want me to be safe and supported.
  3. I also want safety and support, so by giving these to the Panicky Jitters, I’m caring for me. And vice versa.

What does a safe room look like?

It depends.

If I’m in a situation where I can ask the Panicky Jitters what they need, I will. But sometimes they’re being so loud and intense or so vague that it’s impossible to interact with them until they’ve calmed down.

So I declare the existence of the perfect-for-them safe room.

No one can get in. It is completely contained. There are loving lion-guards outside the door.

I go by feeling:

Should there be skylights? Hmm. Not today. It needs to feel really cozy and snug.

Blankets everywhere. Cubbies. Things to hide under.

Are there bright colors? No, not bright. But warm. Muted maroons, rich deep autumn oranges, velvety blues and browns.

What kind of food should there be? Is there a pantry? Pizza delivered by elves?

There are red bowls everywhere, filled with nuts and dried fruit. There is a giant pot of steaming delicious soup. Which you can drink from little mugs. Okay!

What do the Panicky Jitters do there?

Whatever they like.

They can nap. They can draw with crayons. They can read in the library where the books go all the way up to the ceiling. They can sit by the fireplace or take long baths in the heated soaking pool.

They can make requests for any changes, additions or alterations that they like. It’s their space. It’s their home for as long as they want to be there.

And once they’re there, we can secretly make plans to circumvent the things they are afraid might happen. By proxy, if necessary.

Step 1: Giving legitimacy.

The Panicky Jitters are almost ridiculously normal. Everyone gets them.

This is what’s going on in my head when I am about to be a student/participant at an event/retreat/whatever:

“I’m not going to like anyone. And then I’ll be stuck there with these horrible people who will not just be horrible but annoyingly self-congratulatory about their horribleness.

There will be nothing for me to eat. I’ll spend the whole time thinking about food. I’m hungry right now just thinking about it. It will be hellish.

Also everyone there will be a real [insert all my insecurities here about not being whatever it is I think I should be] and I’ll be the awkward outsider, like always.

There won’t be space to be alone. I’ll cry and have anxiety attacks. It will be a huge waste of time and money.

Not to mention: what am I going to weeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar?!

Sometimes I just need to remember that even untrue and absurd fears deserve to exist. And that I am not alone. These are communal fears. They hang out in the ether, and we all plug in to them.

Step 2: Reassurances and back-up plans!

What follows is the answers I’d give to people coming to Rally or an event at the Playground.

Plus the answers I’d give to myself if I were going to someone else’s thing. Your reassurances and back-up plans might be different. That’s fine!

What if the people suck?

Me to you: My people astound me. They’re lovely. I always end up adoring all of them. You’ll discover all sorts of things in common, aside from the shared Panicky Jitters.

Me to me: I can be on Silent Retreat! I can have a strong force field. I can look for the one person who is always there that I connect with. I can be in a secret costume!

But I don’t know what to wear!

Me to you: You will definitely be better-dressed than messy moi because I pretty much wear the same thing every single day. Even Selma changes clothes more often.

Assume that I will be wearing black pants. Probably these (the first one). With a t-shirt or a loose cotton dress. And a hoodie? If it’s cold. That’s me. Wear whatever you like.

Me to me: Eh, the thing about being eccentric is that there is leeway. You’ll already be the one with the duck. People will make allowances for everything else. Just wear stuff you can stretch and feel comfortable in.


Me to you: There is the yummiest food in the world on our street. Plenty of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, whatever you need. Plus snacks. See the Rally FAQ.

Me to me: I can pack snacks! I can have emergency back-up plans.

What if everyone is X and I’ll be the only one who is Y?

Me to you: We all have outsider syndrome but it won’t be like that. Promise.

Me to me: Oh, right. Outsider syndrome is never true. It just feels true. I can look at why Now Is Not Then. And I can pop the bubbles.

What if I get overloaded? What if it’s too intense? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh?

Me to you: We will definitely be doing this in a way that’s not self-abusive and miserable.

Free time every day. Optional activities. Choice. Space. Daily designated time to projectize, nap, run away, decompress. Plus you can always take yourself to the Refueling Station and close the curtain to be alone.

Me to me: I am a sovereign being. I can make my own choices. I will pause when I need to, and I can make my own breaks.

But the awkwardness! Total strangers!

Me to you: It’s going to feel like a reunion. A hilarious Fluent-Self reunion of people you didn’t know you were friends with. You will feel right at home.

Me to me: I can change how I am present by preparing for the voyage. By preparing in general. By setting it up. And I can do the alignment exercise.

What if it’s great while I’m there but then I go home and forget it all?

Me to you: No point making all these changes and not getting to keep them! We’ll cover implementation magic and how to take it home.

Me to me: Once something is planted, it’s planted. Let the fractal flowers take care of it. You need this for some reason, so now your job is to trust that you will find a way to use this. Also: Now Is Not Then.

I don’t know what to bring!

Me to you: We’ll give you a packing list. Main thing is gigantic notebook and something to write with, because there will be much scribbling. And warm socks. And a raincoat. Really, that’s mostly it.

Me to me: Pens. Notebooks. Socks. Lipgloss. Duck. Phone charger. Secret costumes.

Back to the safe room.

Whenever I start to interact with the Panicky Jitters, it always seems like their panicking and jittering is infinite. Like the List of Seventeen Billion Things.

But when I insist that their fear is legitimate and that they’re allowed to feel safe, and that we can come up with sneaky ways to make sure they get what they need, everything changes.

It usually turns out that there are maybe eight things they’re worried about. And then we’re set.

Sometimes they like the safe rooms so much that they want to move in. Go for it.

Play! And the comment blanket fort agreement.

You can make safe rooms for your own Jitters, panicky or otherwise.

You can deposit Monster Concerns here and we will take care of them in the Monster-Watching Collective (we have toys!).

You can practice giving legitimacy and loving reassurances.

As always, we all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process.

We make room for people to have their stuff, we take responsibility for what’s ours, we notice patterns.

We keep this a safe space by not giving each other unsolicited advice.

Love to all the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads.

If you’re thinking about coming to a Rally (Rally!) in 2012, do it during the not-for-much-longer Plum Duff days. Password: extraraisins

The Fluent Self