Cold Weather, Warm People

Winter whipped itself into the state last week,  from 44 to 18 overnight with wind to drag the feel of it to nearly zero. Despite thirty-seven years of Iowa living, it never fails to surprise me. I can prepare, I can wear the appropriate clothing, but I can’t anticipate the shock of the first cold bite of wind across my cheek. On this particular anxiety ridden, somewhat sleep deprived morning, I found myself dismayingly gloveless and scraping ice off my car in a hotel parking lot, chipping away at the spare minutes I’d built into my drive to a live TV interview about my book. I’d forgotten about the ice that appears overnight even without causal precipitation.  There is certainly a scientific explanation. But that’s well outside my purview.

Lately, I’m more interested in precipitating anxiety and all its little fluxuations. Like the weather, I presume it to be causal. A set of conditions=weather variations. A different set of conditions=personal anxiety or self-doubt. But, like ice on the windshield, the causal factors are sometimes invisible.

Two days earlier, I’d had a book launch party for The Genuine Stories, where I read and answered questions and received an astonishing amount of love and good feeling, the only kind that can come from one’s close community of friends and family (even the nine year old listened!). On Sunday, I drove to Des Moines to spend the night, feeling a certain warm afterglow and nary a hair of  internal barometric variance. I was good to go. Or so I thought. Apparently good to go didn’t mean good to sleep. 

I’m a storyteller, so it’s no surprise to me that my mind itself can make up its own narrative. And the observing writer in me can engage in a counter narrative. After all, what could really go wrong in a fifteen minute interview?

Midnight. First alert.

Mind: You will forget the interviewers names.

Me: That’s ridiculous. They have little plaques. (I watched others being interviewed ahead of time).

Mind: No they don’t. That’s just what shows up on the screen.

Me: It’s midnight. Go to sleep.

Second rally. 3 AM

Mind: Hey, are you sure you brought the right clothes?

Me: Shut up and go to sleep.

Mind: What are the interviewers names?

Me: Turns on the phone and looks up CW Iowa Live. Jackie and Lou.

Final call. 4:30 AM

Mind: I’m ready to get up.

Me: It’s pitch black and I need more sleep.

Mind: I think you’re going to talk too much. You’re going to interrupt their questions. You do that all the time.

Me: Okay. Fair point. I’ll keep that in mind. Oh, that’s you. Okay, hold on to that thought while I go back to sleep. I need more sleep.

Mind: You know you won’t. But that’s fine. We can lay here together and talk.

Me: About WHAT?

Mind: Oh, you know, anything. Everything. By the way, do you think that red sweater was the right choice?

Me: It’s too late now. It’s all I brought.

Mind: I know. I was just pulling your chain.


Mind: I’m still here. What are the interviewers names?


Mind: Hello?

Despite Mind’s view of things, there was no need for anxiety. Jackie Schmillen and Lou Sipolt were amazingly warm and friendly. And brilliant. They read a short intro from the producer while I was getting mic’d up, and from there the interview flowed as if they’d read my life story and were exposing the most salient bits to their viewers. And we laughed! But I shouldn’t be surprised– this is Iowa, a state filled with warm people.  I didn’t feel cold for the rest of the day.

Click this for a link to the interview.



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