I lost four pounds in three days.

Then I gained three pounds in less than one week. And then I lost three pounds in four days. My friend Sara saw me during my most recent downswing.

“Wow, you look so lean! Have you been running more lately?”

No, I admitted. It was my diet: the Nancy Mendez-Booth high-anxiety diet. It is my default program and it kicks into high gear during times of increased stress. I become so consumed by fears and worries that I cannot consume or stomach food. Eventually, only massive amounts of Mike and Ike, Laffy Taffy, Oreos, and bagels can ease my inconsolability. It is a tiring and maddening cycle. Relaxation techniques help me manage my anxiety. It takes less time to escape the funnel cloud, but I stumble out spent, gasping and battered.

The anxieties-of-the-moment include: I finished my manuscript…now what? What if it never gets published or read? Does that mean I’ll never get a decent teaching appointment and be an adjunct forever, stuck teaching Freshman Comp? Have I wasted the past five years of my life on this dumb pursuit? Why didn’t someone smack me? Doesn’t anybody love me enough to save me from my foolish delusions? Will I grow old alone, with no one to change my diapers? What if I lose my teeth to decay and have to spend my final years eating apple sauce, instead of Skittles or peanut butter cookies?

I was similarly gripped by fear last year. In March of 2012, it was the approaching completion of my MFA program that wrung my gut and had me sitting on the bowl as much as in front of my computer. I was afraid my thesis would be a failure, I’d never get a story published, or ever get a job. Well, I graduated, won a residency fellowship, got two jobs, had a story published, did some readings — basically, kept writing, living, and moving forward instead of hiding under the covers in bed (which is what I still want to do every morning).

I will be re-posting last year’s post-MFA fears series over the next three weeks, starting with the very first one: Post MFA-Fears. I’m re-sharing these for two reasons: 1. As a reality check for those who are paralyzed by their own “holy-crap-I’m-graduating-this-May” fears. 2. A reminder to myself that yes, life feels impossible in moments of panic, but I’ve been strong enough to get this far. And no one — no fear, anxiety, bogeyman, chupacabra, no one — is gonna be big enough to hold this boricua back.

Read. Comment. And remember: relax.

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