Venturing outside my comfort zone

As I posted before, this past Thursday was an incredibly long day. But, the way it ended was how I’ll remember it.

After the evening support group meeting, some people were headed down the street to a local favorite lesbian bar. I had heard of it. But, I had never been there. Before I left, I asked if it was ok if I joined them. They said sure, and we were off. I’ve noticed for sometime that this group of regulars would often go out after the meeting. But, I’ve always been too shy to ask if I could go along. The fact that they didn’t seem to mind and didn’t make it seem like I was going to be a fifth wheel made it easy to join in.

As we approached the door, I looked for a place to lock up. I hesitated, but eventually locked my bike up to a parking meter. There was another bike locked to a near meter, so I gave it a shot. I wasn’t sure a potential thief couldn’t just lift the bike up over the meter. But, I found after I locked it up (with two locks), I wasn’t able to lift my bike over the head of the meter. Now, I must say that this is the point where I might run if I didn’t have a handle on my social anxiety. I’ve often found myself in this position. I’m with a group. But, at a key moment, I become seperated from the group, for just a second. If I rejoin the group, I will have to join them in a crowded atmosphere. The thought of this makes a chemical in my brain kick in. I suddenly find it hard to breathe. The only thought I have is that I have to get out of there. But, this time I did not. I locked up the bike. And I walked in.

My ex-roommate was the first person to mention to me the existence of this bar. He told me that it was a warm welcoming place. And I see what he see there as well. I have to think about it. But, it might be the first business I have walked into on E. Colfax Ave. outside the GLBT Center. I usually steer clear of Colfax. It has a seedy reputation. But, I decided to give my self a pass this one time to work on my socializing skills. Once inside this incredibly skinny bar, I easily found the people I came with. I bought a can of Coke and they told me that they would be hanging out up in the loft toward the back of the establishment. Before heading up there with them, I saw a movie playing on a big screen television mounted above the bar. I recognized the movie, but couldn’t remember the name. Without thinking, I asked a woman at the bar if she knew the name of the movie. Before she could answer, the woman to her left looked back at me and said “Hey You!” It was another person from the group who I hadn’t seen in a few weeks. She was really surprised to see me considering the fact that at the last group meeting I had seen her at, I became pale and near sick when she and another woman tried to tell me that venturing out in “girlmode” to bars was a natural step in transition. At the time, I expressed to her and the others that I don’t like going to bars and I don’t like crowds. Now, please understand that I don’t go anywhere in “girlmode”. Not even in my own bedroom. But, she was surprised to see me given my social anxiety and the fact that I said I don’t go to bars. I told her that I was trying to venture out of my comfort zone and that I was there with people from the “thursday group”. I mentioned that it was great seeing her and that I was heading up to the loft area. She said she would come say hi to the others in a few.

The fact that the bar area takes up half the width in this rather skinny bar made me think that everywhere would feel tight. But, once your past that area you do feel like you can breathe a little better. The back of the main level has a small seating area with some stools up against one side. And behind that is the one bathroom. Next to that is a stairway that looks like it goes down into a storeroom. Even though the light was on, I didn’t go down there. But, I did go upstairs. Once upstairs, you’ll find four couches, a couple of chairs and several foot stools. Near the landing against the wall is a big screen rear projection television that wasn’t on and several board games on a shelf that no one was playing. The board games reminded me of playing Scrabble with my friend Tamara. I miss that. I plopped down on one of the couches, joined the conversation and wondered how the hell they got all this stuff up there.

What I found here was a safe, accepting place where it was ok to be yourself. It was like a normal evening. I had some very deep conversations about self acceptance. Life in general. And had some much needed laughs. I even had a few drinks of alcohol. I don’t like beer. And I rarely touch hard liquor. But, I did find out that they serve Mike’s Hard Mango Punch. My friends tell me they think drinks like Mike’s Hard Lemonade are girly drinks. But, I don’t care. It’s what I like. Over the course of the nearly 5 hour long evening, I only had 3 of these “mango” drinks. But, since I don’t drink very often, it doesn’t take much to give me a buzz. When I bought the third, I decided to go next door to get a slice of pizza to put something in my stomach. I ended up getting a second slice for a young woman with our group who is unemployed and didn’t have any money. She offered to pay me back, but a slice of pizza isn’t expensive. I told her I didn’t want to eat alone.

When it was getting close to midnight, I decided to check my phone for the bus schedule. I didn’t feel tipsy, but thought it wise not to ride home. I was disappointed that I would have to wait until nearly 1AM for the next bus. I decided that I would use that time to stop drinking and I think I laid down on one of the couches to rest. I didn’t sleep. I just laid down and listened to people talk. Most of the bar had cleared out by now. And a few from our group had already left. I’m glad I had this chance to rest. When I did leave I had more energy than I had earlier in the day. I eventually said my goodbyes and it turns out that the rest of the group followed me out. I didn’t want to be the last one there. But, as it turns out, I was cutting that close.

I rode down closer to the skyscrapers, but got to the bus stop much faster than I planned on. I rode around the block as I considered my options. Right after I passed a couple of pedi-cabs at Larimer Square and asked if they wanted to race, I decided that I was feeling good enough to ride home. I usually ride home with headphones in my ears. Over the course of my life, headphones have been the crutch to get me through life. I never leave home without them. But, I thought they had fallen out of my pocket at The Center. I was mad at myself. But, I had a back up pair at the house. Being without the distraction that my headphones provide gave me time to think about the evening and life in general. My friend Kara likes to run. I remember her saying one time that she uses her running time as a peaceful time she can be alone with her thoughts. So, she doesn’t wear headphones while she worksout. After riding home without my crutch, alone in the night with my thoughts, I see what she means. I wasn’t listening to a podcast about technology or news analyzing the days events in Japan or whether or not the federal government would be shutting down and how that would affect Planned Parenthood. I wasn’t peddling to adrenaline inducing Sammy Hagar belting out Van Halen songs. I was alone in the black. Just me. Once I got past Platte St., I don’t think another car passed me. I thought about how I was holding myself back from moving forward. Was I using the excuse that I needed facial surgery as a way of holding myself back? How would I handle a family situation that was causing me so much stress? What have I learned in recent weeks? The books I’ve read. And the people I’ve met. By the time I pulled into the driveway, I was hoping I would never find my headphones (I did find them the next morning).

Sure, Thursdays are the longest day of my week. But, they also can be very rewarding. I now find myself looking forward to Thursday.

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About Frogtosser

A former sailor and pizza maker who is done hiding from the world and is now living life to it's fullest extent. I'm a single speed bicycle commuter who enjoys writing and photography. I'm a voracious reader. And a huge geek!
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