Anxiety is a tameable beast.

We woke up at 2:30am, wiped the baby’s eye boogers, cruise-controlled the two hours to the Atlanta airport, listening to half a podcast on how MDMA is in stage 3 trials for PTSD treatment, then enjoyed a relatively smooth Delta ride to Minneapolis with coffee and cream in Starbucks cups, 50 calories of pretzels, a Honeycrisp apple from home, a moderate amount of take off and landing screaming-child time and finally we arrived in the land of ten thousand lakes.

I now have immeasurable empathy for the parents of the inconsolable infant at 35,000 feet. God bless.

Minnesota is awash in fall foliage. Trees aflame with orange, yellow, red. Lasts bursts of life before the long dark night of winter. One of my best friends is getting married Saturday. Hence the trip.

How was your anxiety? Kate asked after a tour de force of her side of the family. Fine, I said, truthfully.

Two weeks ago I went to a therapist to discuss this trip, this weekend, passing the baby around 3.0. Family time 1 and 2 were botched jobs, by all accounts. Stress, fear, anxiety, anti-social behavior, marital conflict, hard feelings. The list slides on.

How was my anxiety on Day 1 of this Minnesota trip? Much much less. Especially in one-on-one or small group settings, where it hovered right above none, zero, zilch. Alone with Auntie Nickie or alone with Nana, for example. Very okay situations.

But even in the dinner shebang of aunts, uncle, grandma, grandpa, great grandma (whose shaky hands previously knotted my stomach into an ulcer and rather emotional outburst), I stayed pretty calm and collected and genuinely enjoyed the sight of the baby laughing with and because of people who love her.

I say anxiety is a tamable beast, like I think alcoholism is a manageable vice. Both take practice and the patience of all involved.

Last night’s shabang slid into anxiety only during the last fifteen minutes of the evening. Which I'm deeming victory. I should say calling the last fifteen minutes anxiety could merely be a misdiagnosis of exhaustion. We did get up at 2:30am. Exhaustion aside, I think after a certain point, my capacity for group time just elapses. It's a knowing myself, boundary issue.

I’m tempted to apologize to everyone in the extended family for previous poor interactions. Something like: hey sorry I was a pain in the ass before but I have these head space issues and I’m getting better but I’m still sorry, can we move on?

Aunt Nickie wants the baby to call her Coco because she thinks Nickie will be too difficult to say. I call the baby mumpissimo and mumpississimo, so I think the two-syllable constant heavy NICK EE will come out fine. The mental turning point yesterday (because I was anxious as hell anticipating this trip) was likely watching Nickie hold Ellie like an airplane and fly her toward and away from the dog named Sparkle. Ellie was fists to mouth in laughter, giddy with glee. Nickie logged enough sky miles with Ellie to pound into my dismal dark brain that IT IS OKAY, IT IS OKAY, IT IS OKAY. It took three and a half months, three previous visits on egg shells.

But hey. Such is life.