The anxiety ridden pre-party turned out to be unnecessary.
I survived the party intact. For a few days before the big event--my parents' 40th wedding anniversary for which they had invited about 18 friends and immediate family to their home--I acted like Anne Lammott describes--a nervous horse kvetching and pawing at the ground, locked in my stall but wanting to run free, really really free.
I had this idea that people I didn't know or whom I have known for decades but haven't seen in years would ask me how I was or what I have been doing and I would have no answer.
I had considered asking my parents Who They Wanted Me To Be and What They Wanted Me to Say before the big event, but I didn't want to act as ridiculously as I think, nor did I want to add any pressure or worries about me to their lives.
So I decided to wing it.
My therapist told me it would be OK if I didn't rally very well for it, but I told her that was not an option. I wanted to gift my parents with a sane daughter at their 40th anniversary celebration.
I think I mostly pulled it off.
It helped that I had my camera security blanket, having decided that an album of photos commemorating the event would make a nice gift.
It also helped that most of the guests were not all that interested in me. My aunt and uncle had both fallen ill (laryngitis and pneumonia, respectively), so they stayed home in Northridge. That was a bit of a bummer because I haven't seen them in a really long time, but also meant that the most inquisitive guests would be absent. Most of the rest of the people I didn't know that well or hadn't ever met, so I got away with just telling them I am a photographer and I've been painting and even sold a few pieces recently.
Dan and Jeannie were the only two that I have been relatively familiar with and close to for the California stint of my life--which is all but the first 6 years or so--and they were the only one I told my dark secrets (totally published for all the world to see, but probably not read by many at all). It helps that they are both trained in psychology and have two children only a few years younger than me. I didn't mind at all telling them about my situation of miscarriage and falling out of teaching and brain work and now not even working in a restaurant because sustained stress makes me fall apart, whereas little rushes of fun (like photographing events and then working creatively and privately and adding interaction as desired, like going to the Art Academy) totally work for me. I'm kind of a professional at it, since I make some money at it and do it pretty well, but I'm just getting started.
I don't know why I worry so much, except that it is part of my nature and part of my disorder. It's almost as though I was afraid I'd be the center of attention at some point in conversations, but A) I was not and B) I am pretty good at directing a conversation in a direction (a skill of a journalist and a teacher). The only time I was the center of attention was when I stood up to give a toast and tell a little story about my parent's love (tell ya later, we're going to breakfast soon) and announce the (until then) secret purpose of the party.
So I survived and even enjoyed myself, save a few moments where I just had to sit in a chair and watch the people while at the same time hoping I had a little force field around me that would deflect any contact with others.
It was good. And fun as these things are fun.
Yay! Victory is mine.