Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Today's Rant: Patience is a virtue. Don't honk at me.


Woman on the verge.  I am doing my motherfucking best to keep it together.  I get really really batshit manic at Christmas because I'm really excited about it all.  <getting shit done! bake shop wrap bake shop wrap drink drink drink drink drink>  Other times, I’m low at Christmas and it's all I can do to come out of my room.  We’ll set those times aside for now. 

This Christmas is the first time I have had a full-time job since my first kid was born 19 years ago.  Let me tell you it was a LOT easier putting Christmas together when I wasn't working full time.  (Outside the home.)   But I will tell you that my Christmases were pretty fucking far out when I didn't get to have to be away from home for almost twelve hours every day.   

I may have mentioned that I love my job, but it has definitely compromised my ability to put Christmas together in a timely manner.  And that’s . . . okay.  Gratitude moment:  I have several people who know how to shop, wrap and bake.  It is comforting to see my girls (19 and 17) learn to put Christmas together for themselves.  They get to decide what they think is important and do it.   They are getting along so well it's scary.  My oldest, always somewhat distant and scornful (hmm, I wonder where she gets it), has been downright loving, smiling, engaging.  The other night, they spontaneously jumped in the car to go on a shopping run for art supplies.  They even grabbed their 12-year-old brother, who was only too happy to be included.  I keep teasing them that they are replicants of their former selves, like in Bladerunner, and they just smile softly to themselves.  Tacit agreement.  They feel it, too.

I get off work early today.  Reluctantly, I am in my car by 2:00.  No excuse to dodge my chores, no defense of fatigue to avoid the inevitable.    The usual hour-plus commute home takes half the time.  Holiday traffic?  I guess they're not going my way today. 

Stop at the spa for a gift card for my sister.  Every year we go to have a hot tub and a sauna.  A side trip on her extended visit from across the country  I reluctantly exit the freeway to reach the chic-est part of the chic-est town.  I simply loathe everything about it.  Materialism pretending to be soulful and spiritual.  Indulgences for the new millennium.  The irony is thick, palpable, my scorn is oily and black.  I dodge what I know must be pitying judgment from the staff, who wear the right clothes and chant and meditate and anoint themselves with homeopathic unguents that smell of earth.   But I do love the wood tubs, the little rooms with New Age music piped in.   And the sauna, the annual challenge of besting the heat with stern resilience.  Ritual, galvanizing endorphins.   

On to my favorite grocery --Trader Joe's.  Whole Foods mentality at discount prices.  The racist versions of the brand name depending on the kind of cuisine.  Trader Ming, Trader Giuseppe.  Chalkboards with artsy lettering, glib descriptions.  My daughter longs to draw the labels.  She wants to get paid to doodle.  On quiet days I stop to consider the possibilities.   I am allowed to experiment.  If my choices fail to satisfy, I am entitled to return and refund.  But I would never admit such a defeat.  This failure would be my fault.  For example, I never liked goat cheese.  It's a flaw I freely admit.  

Today though (the Friday before the day before the night before the main event), the store is packed beyond my efforts to negotiate it.  My mental preparation to stay calm and in the moment dissolves within seconds of negotiating the produce aisle.  Still, I am nice.  Kind. Indulgent.  I let people cut in, I wait while they figure out which fucking kind of lettuce to buy.  Arugula is spicy, I want to tell them, but they haven't asked, so I will wait and see if they do.  I volunteer nothing.  I am an empty vessel, a blank slate.  I wear my serenity like a cloak.  I protect it as it protects me.

Repeat the mantras I have developed over time in my own personal anger management workshop . . . <everyone's doing the best they can, this too shall pass, we will get there eventually> . . . .  Follow the rules, cart down the right side, keep out of the way, smile and yield apologetically.  Inwardly grimace at the many (most?  all?) who don’t reciprocate.  Rules have always outlined my consciousness, irritation at those who don't feel that compunction shade the content.  

I hold it together till the checkout.  The clerk has a sense of humor, we border on flirting, but settle for banter.  Once again I have forgotten my bags.  I do the paperbag walk of shame as I wheel my cart past the bell ringers, gritting my teeth as I lie that I don't carry cash. 

At last I reach my car, which I have stationed in quite possibly the farthest spot in the section of the elephantine parking lot designated as Trader Joe's despite its proximity to Wal-Mart.  I transfer my brown paper bags from the cart to the hatchback.  I have hit the wall.  My husband calls and I answer.  He asks whether I've left and I tell him that I'm still in the parking lot, but I am coming home.  I need to be home.  I need to be done with this.  I need to touch base.  He understands.  

Seat belt strapped, I sit quietly for a moment before turning the key.  Verge of tears, deep breath, steady.  I only recognize the wall after I’ve hit it, just as I only recognize PMS after my period has begun.  In retrospect.  As if precognition would have helped.  I am destined to play out my Greek tragedy.  Unavoidable melt-downs.  Too little, too late.

I put the car in reverse and look over my shoulder.  Such a blind spot.  I slowly release the brake and roll backward out of my space.  The horn behinds me alerts me to my folly.  My heart jumps, my pulse pounds.  Not a friendly tap.  A hard palm leaning on the belly of the steering wheel.  I am backing out of a spot that the car behind me is waiting for.  Like an Escher print, we are caught in an infinite loop.  Of the two of us, only I recognize the futile irony.  He wants my spot, yet is unwilling to yield the space I need to make that possible.

I continue to roll back.  What should I do, I ask myself.  I need to get out.  He needs to get in.  Why is this such a problem?  I do not understand.  Blind confusion.  As I turn the wheel to pull forward, I hear a growl begin that ends in a sob.  “Fucking motherfucker!  What the fuck to you expect me to do?  Goddamnit!”  My window is half open; several shoppers overhear my spasm.  This is how I know that once again I have let the holidays break me. 

I follow the rules.  I give all the quarter I can.  I take prisoners.  I play nice.  And still I don’t get the break.  Still I don’t feel the love.  Every year at holiday time, every fucking day of the year for that matter.  I need you to hear this.  People of Earth.  Don't fucking honk at me as I pull out of the spot you are waiting for.  It’s not your fault.  You do not know what you are doing.  You do not know with whom you are dealing.  You don't know that I have a tire iron in my hatchback.  You don’t know that I would rather beat myself with it than confront you.   Enjoy your oblivious holiday.  That is all.  Carry on.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Today's Rant/Rave: Shopping


Life is short.  See Chagall first.
Most people are writing about Christmas right now, and of course, Christmas shopping is a good blog topic.  I hate Christmas shopping even more than regular shopping.  Basically I hate any kind of shopping.  I get "mall brain" before we've even parked the car.  "Mall brain" is like the shopping version of "museum brain."  That's a phrase I developed for that overload you get when you've taken the family on a Sunday outing to the museum and it gets to be 3:45 or so and you've just had it.  There's just too much art.  It's just too much to look at.  After a while it's not fun anymore.  So I always head to the moderns first, then the impressionists.  I'm sure you have your order as well.  For once my OCD does not require me to begin with the cave art and proceeding in chronological order.  

Where was I?  Oh yes, mall brain.  Shopping.  Right.  I hate clothes shopping and I'll tell you why:
  
1.  Three-way mirrors.  
2.  No money.  
3.  Nothing looks good.  
4.  Three-way mirrors.  

[Ed. note:  No doubt some of you love Marshalls and that is great for you.  When you write a blog about how much you love Marshalls,  I promise not to come over and comment about how much I hate Marshalls if you'll refrain from telling me how much you love Marshalls on my blog about how much I hate it.  How's that for a deal?  Better than the one you'll get at Marshalls, I daresay.]

Shopping at Marshalls is a battle.  First, I am already stressed before I set foot inside the place because there is some incipient life event that is necessitating this clusterfuck.  An alliance is forming (wedding, baptism, bris), an alliance is about to be formed (job interview), an alliance has ended (funeral).  And I suppose a bris is also ending the alliance between a foreskin and a penis.   In any case, there is a change in the human condition that is challenging my ability to accept it.  Mostly because it requires new clothes.  Cue Henry David Thoreau.  Head to Marshalls.

If there were enough lead time, I would have scored a deal at Goodwill, because I would have had the time and the patience required by that sort of shopping (fishing) expedition.  Don't ask me why I prefer the Goodwill experience, so similar to Marshalls, yet so different. Maybe it's the comfort of other people's clothes.  Someone chose this item once, someone thought it was a good idea.  Or maybe their mother did.  But times changed, waistlines grew and the owner moved on.  Their clothing ended up here.  For me to pass up or to choose to buy for 6.99.

This is what I see when I think "shopping."
At Marshalls, there is similar disarray, linoleum floors, multitudes of racks, horrible lighting.  Discount prices on brand name clothes, so the shoppers are aware of fashion, but at the mercy of the merchandisers.  They want name brands, but not at name brand prices, so that makes them both shallow and cheap.  Double fail.  And apparently they love to shop.  So we have absolutely nothing in common.


Shopping makes me feel stabby.
I paw through the clothes, the racks of ugliness.  Where is the plain cream-colored jersey shell that is all that stands between me and that job?  Where is the black wool dress in a size 16?  How could my uncle have the nerve to die on the East Coast in December.   I have no winter dress clothes any more because where I live it is never cold enough for that.  I push my way through the racks, slam the hangers down the poles, giving each item a scornful, cursory glance.  Begging the clothes to be what I want, fighting with them, disgusted by them.  Enraged that I have to be wasting my time on this futile, tiresome quest.  I could instead be running with my dog on the trail to the bay.  I could instead be howling the blues, slapping my guitar,  pretending to be Bonnie Raitt, or at least on tour as one of her back-up singers.  I could instead be having a Breaking Bad marathon with my teens because we love it so much and their dad would hate it if he knew that we watched it.  Because any of those things are going to do me way more good than looking for the blouse I will never find despite my nightmarish scavenger hunt through Marshalls.  Basically because situationally appropriate clothes I like in a size that fits at a price I can afford just. DO. NOT. EXIST. 

Turns out I was supposed to reinvent myself this week.  I completely fucking forgot.  And now there's no time because I can't afford Ann Taylor or Bloomingdale's.  So after a miserable hour, I heave a huge sigh and leave Marshalls empty-handed, just as I knew I would, talking to myself like the crazy woman waiting outside the store with her cat in a shopping cart.  Only she is dressed way better than I am. 

There *is* one kind of shopping I like.  In my view, the only good kind of shopping is food shopping.  Even if I can't afford it, I'm pretty sure no matter what I get, I will like it and it will be the right size.  Even if it's expensive, it's still a great price compared to what I am forced to spend on clothes I don't want, hate wearing, and can't wait to take off.

*Now* we're cooking with gas like Sylvia Plath
I love to shop for food.   I love the farmers market, the fancy cheese shop, the Chinese bakery, even the supermarket.  I draw the line at Costco, though.  Costco makes me feel anxious because there are so many other things to look at besides food.  For example--clothes.)

Food is my companion, my ally, my muse.  I love to think about it, to smell it, to taste it. I love to read about it (except on Facebook at Thanksgiving--check out my blog post about that).  I love to plan how I'm going to make it, what wine I'm going to drink with it, how it's going to look, how much the people around me are going to love it and love me for making it.

I don't get anything even remotely like that kind of gratification from clothes.   I infinitely prefer food.   And who could blame me?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Guest Blog! Frenchie, the Burlesque Diva

I have more online friends than real ones.  Mostly because I am terrified of social situations.  Delusions of grandeur at the keyboard, massive insecurity anywhere else.  But I have met some awesome people online.  Some I have known for over a decade.  Like Frenchie Renard.   She has graciously agreed to give us a peep into her life as a burlesque queen.  She wouldn't do this for just anyone, you know.  But she loves me.  And of course, I'm kind of a big deal.  


(That's really her in the photo.  Real.  And fabulous.)

Alors, ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs! Permittez-moi de vous présenter la belle française--Frenchie!  


********************************************************************************************************

There’s only one stand-up mirror backstage, so we either take turns or try to cram two-at-a-time to administer glitter lipstick or check the positioning of a pastie. Brashly flouting the warning in capital letters on the bottles, we share mascara, spirit gum, body glitter and various props.  


LPM stretches out on the floor behind the queue of burlesque performers at the mirror, while CPPP checks the tackiness of the glue spread over her nipples. It’s cold backstage, and it takes the adhesive awhile to stick to her pasties.  For this routine they are heart-shaped and bedazzled within an inch.  Every performer is her own costume designer and choreographer and most of their creations are simply breathtaking.  Tricks and tips are traded and coos of appreciation for other’s handiwork are liberally offered.  It’s some kind of craft fair, I tell you.

I unpack my suitcase of its be-sequined and beaded and be-fringed contents, changing from my street clothes into a red thong ($3 at Target!) onto which I’d painstakingly sewed rhinestone loops and black fringe only the night before. There are many clever tricks in burlesque costuming we use to frame our best features and for our “problem areas”, to distract from while delighting the eye.

CPPP, who is a size 20, wears a corset that emphasizes her generous curves. VV wears heavy jewels and other accessories up top to de-emphasize her pear-ish figure. My issue is my belly, but with my aged dancer’s legs and enormous-yet-perky breasts, a little distraction goes a long way.  I apply my pasties and wait for the glue to dry, looking around at the other performers in their various costuming stages.  

Confidence is sexy.
Every age is represented here, every body shape and level of fitness.  Each performer has her own look, her own style, and her own portion of a captive and worshipful audience.  Our emcee this evening, CV, is a veteran of Vegas shows, Broadway and the theater life that goes along with that background.  She personifies the word “vivacious” in a manner rarely seen in real life.  Resplendent in a hot pink corset and tutu ensemble, she warms up her vocals while checking the set-list.

I sort of backed-in to the world of burlesque, if you’re wondering how a 43-year old fat mother of five with a broken back ended up on stage in a 6 -foot samba headdress, clad in only a thong and strategically-placed stretch sequin, shaking her ample behind.

Earlier this year I held a breast cancer fundraiser and hired drag queens, burlesque queens and roller derby girls to entertain.  It was Heaven.  The head burlesque queen, VV, mentioned that beginner burlesque classes were being offered the next month.  As a birthday present to myself, I signed up.  Six months later, I am samba dancing on stage, everything jiggling and heaving in a way that elicits whistles and cheers from the (mostly female) audience.  I have a FB page and a little over 300 “fans” of my character.  I fucking love it.  My teenaged girls were a little embarrassed at first, but once they got a load of the costumes, they were all-in.  They’ve accompanied me to several photo shoots and have hatched plans for their future burlesque routines.

What is the appeal of burlesque?  It’s more than a free boob show, for starters. It’s a completely DIY, freelance hobby that boasts a wonderfully supportive and non-competitive female community.  Everyone is welcome and massively encouraged.  Stripping is rarely considered an empowering activity, unless it’s more tease than strip (no technical nudity is allowed in burlesque) and no money changes hands. As CV likes to say, we’re involved in illegitimate theater, but theater nonetheless.  

Bachelorette parties and birthdays are regular (and especially rowdy) audience members.  The men present are almost always accompanied by females, no lone creeps that I’ve seen so far.  Most of the performers are married or in relationships, their significant others are usually helping out with the show in some capacity, or sitting together in the VIP section setting up video cameras, or fetching whiskey for their lady.

The stage kitten, who picks up the burlesque droppings on stage and has ardent fans of her own, helps me into my corset and zips up my dress.  I’m going full classic burlesque for this act: long black gloves, a beehive wig, a gorgeous red formal gown, Cuban heel stockings, glitter heels and a heaving black boa.  I feel amazing and can’t wait to get on stage.

xoxo Frenchie
   

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Five Hundred Words That Began In Jest

I Want A Dumpster Baby wanted 500 hundred words about her by the time her plane touches down.  She asked for the short essay in joking dismay that some people didn't seem to get the point of her blogging, her niche, her shtick, her back story amazing story true story.  Maybe they did get it, but maybe in their haste to be helpful or droll they forgot, maybe they remembered but were being ironic.  I bet she didn't expect that anyone would write it, but I did.  Maybe others did, as well (but not as well, see what I did there?).  We shall see.

Every day in every way.
I Want A Dumpster Baby and I cyber-met in the summer of 2011.  I'm trying to pinpoint exactly how it went down.  I had started the Klonopin Chronicles page in a burst of manic test-prep-avoidance.  Somehow I saw a blog IWADB had posted about quitting smoking.  I wrote to her because I had quit smoking too and I knew she was going to need a lot of support.  Then it turned out that not only was she quitting smoking, but she was ten years sober and wrote a gut-wrenchingly funny blog.   I knew we had lots in common and lots of things to talk about and a pretty similar outlook on life;  Although she is a fair bit sunnier than I am, we are both lavish with gratitude.  We both have been in the looney bin.  Doubtless on 72-hour holds.  Doubtless buying enthusiastic rounds when we were flush and accepting without shame the proffered drink when we were not.  

And of course she wanted to find a Dumpster Baby.  By now I hope that everyone realizes that the Dumpster Baby is a hyperbole, "which is a rhetorical device and not literal so suck it," as I like to say, so often that I quote myself.  No doubt IWADB would welcome a Dumpster Baby if she found one, but I see now that there more to it than that.  To show what lengths she is willing to go to bring a child in her life.  To quit smoking for God sakes, to appeal to adoption agencies or potential birth mothers, to be as healthy as possible to encourage baby-making in its most basic biologic terms.  I can only surmise.  I’m intuitive like that.

Two things called to me in deciding to write this. One is to promote my gal, whom I love like a sister. even though that might seem scary.  And two is to talk about the dismay you feel as a writer when people don't remember who you are when they read your posts.  They miss the point, they don't get your joke, they want to make it about them in their comments.  Sometimes they want to pick fights or scare you with their disjointed obsessions, almost pitiable if they weren't so terrifying.

She likes owls
Blogging and running interactive Facebook pages is so different from other kinds of writing we do.  Where else do you get to respond to the writer right away, have dialogues, meaningful exchanges?   Where else can you do a sniper assault and slink off into cyberspace, never to be heard from again, until you invent the next persona, or wander off, getting weirder with every day that goes by without your meds?

All I meant to say with all this is that please don't offer IWADB alcohol.  Please don't make your response to my status updates all about you.  Please don't contradict my OPINIONS or criticize the thing I JUST GOT DONE TELLING YOU I LIKED.  Not stabby, no blame or shame.  Just that sometimes I wish I could redirect the conversation back to the original intent.  It helps to make the connection.  It helps to feel the reinforcement that people out there "get us."  

Namaste, you crazy bitches. 

[Ed. note:  the piece came to 800 words, but technically only 500 of them were really about IWADB and the rest tangential musing, so we’ll let it stand.  Plus you should have seen how much TKC cut it down.  It was easily over a thousand words at one point.]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Today's Rant/Rave: Thanksgiving

I think I may have mentioned that I have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.  I rarely feel one way about anything for very long.  Which is why I really love things until I don’t anymore.  And conversely.  Other people get to have this be a perfectly normal part of their personality.  For me, it’s a symptom.  Go figure.  This condition sometimes causes my raves to turn into rants.  And again, conversely.   So here we go. 


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Food, football and gratitude.  It appeals to the part of me that likes to eat, watch sports and feel grateful.  Also, no presents, which appeals to the part of me that hates to shop and spend money.  Win win win.  Win win.  Even better, I get to cook.  It’s my day to shine.  I make *my* dishes.  You know, as in “Oh won’t you please make *your* green bean casserole?”  Or “I tried to make *your* cranberry sauce but I just couldn’t get it right.”  All about me.  For a change.  


Rockin' the turkey back in the day


I never thought I’d be a woman who had signature dishes, let alone signature *holiday* dishes.  I mean, in my younger days, I had been known to put some pretty interesting ingredients together.  Stirring a scrambled egg into a pot of ramen?  That was me.  Box mac and cheese too boring?  Toss it up with some salami and green onions and invite your boss over for a festive, spontaneous evening.  Hey, I was the one that started that whole “Guess the Secret Ingredient in the Guacamole!” craze from back in the day.   (In my case it was tequila.  It was also the secret ingredient in me.  Except that was no secret.)   Once upon a time, when I was having too much fun to pay attention to how much fun I was having, Thanksgiving was showing up at my one married-couple-friends’ house with a bottle of dry Riesling and a bag of carrots.

But as I’ve mellowed into my forties, I’ve taken my childhood memories of traditions like Thanksgiving, stripped off the horror, and remodeled them into memories that I can live with my kids recounting to their shrinks.  None of the kids’ grandparents are alive any longer.  Sad, but freeing in that we can put together our holidays in the way that suits us.  When I can remember that that’s what I decided would be okay.  Sometimes I'm stung by the realization that I’m pretty sure I’m not doing this right, followed quickly by the thought that I want my therapy money (and decades) back because I’m not even close to cured.  But for the most part, my husband (equally traumatized by his own childhood) and I take hands and step together into the hopeful illusion that we can heal ourselves by creating a happy childhood for our kids.  


With shallots?  Seriously?


So. Thanksgiving.  Traced-hand paper turkeys.  Dried corncobs tied to the door.  Cranberry sauce with the ridges still there from the can it slithered out of.   Everything we like, just the way we like it.  And then, the food snobs set upon us.  It starts innocently enough.  A magazine in the check-out line suggests water chestnuts in the stuffing as one of the “Ten Quick Jump-Starts to Your Sleepy Holiday Table.”   Then our local newspaper (yes, the print version, yes, we are going to hell) reviews all the different ways to cook a turkey and recommends “brining.”  As if.   But the cornerstone.  The death knell.  The watershed.  The Waterloo. 

The Thanksgiving Facebook Food Status Update.

Beginning around Halloween-time, I log on to Facebook and am seized by a spasm of inadequacy which invites a stab of anger to jump-start my sleepy holiday table.  Because it turns out that when I thought it was fun to cook green beans in condensed cream of mushroom soup with Durkee French Fried Onions on top, now I’m feeling very defensive and I can’t understand why.  I mean, I kept Velveeta off the menu despite my husband’s ridiculous love of the vile stuff, right?  All of a sudden I’m getting treated to one status update after another where foodies preen over their holiday meal in vivid glossy detail.  Salad made with the red quinoa they gathered on their latest trek to Machu Pichu.  Syrah-soaked walnut and Gorgonzola amuse-bouche topped with fresh-pressed extra-virgin snobbery.   Turkey that went to a Montessori kindergarten while eating organic brown rice before it died peacefully in a Buddhist hospice.   Each menu more out-land-dish than the last.    See what I did there?

Don’t misunderstand me.  I like good food.  I understand the importance of eating organic, unprocessed food that comes in groups and has nutrients.  I even get involved in my food.  I bake bread.  I make soup from scratch.  I don’t even mind it when the lettuce is spicy. (Seriously, wtf is up with that?)  But I have enough insecurity to power a major metropolitan area.  And I can turn that insecurity into bristling scorn at the drop of a hand-crafted Argentine balaclava.  

See what just happened?  We started out with a great big love-fest for Thanksgiving and wound up with this sniping, bitter conclusion about it being ruined by people who, let's face it, think they are better than me because they probably are. That’s pretty much how it works over here in my brain.

Oh, so we're eating flowers now?  Fantastic.
So, in an attempt to heal, I call upon you food snobs around the globe to set down your seafood forks and admit once and for all that on occasion you have driven miles out of your way to a McDonald's in a neighboring county and eaten a Big Mac.  Furtively and greedily.  In the car with the windows rolled down.  And let’s face it, bitches:  You banged the hell out of that burger.  So don’t even with me right now.  The end.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today's Rant: Cleaning House


Here's what I hear, everywhere I go.  “My house is so dirty, I have to clean it all the time, I hate it, sorry, the place is a mess, blah blah blah.”  Ladies and gentlemen, please.  Seriously?   Enough.

Here’s the thing about cleaning:  No one likes to do it.  Except for a chosen few, who have a clinically diagnosed condition called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  And in their case, they *like* to clean, so no problem there.  In fact, I’m thinking of hosting an OCD support group so that bitches will freak out at the mess when they come over and start cleaning the fuck out of my house.

"It didn't get up and walk away, now did it?"
I love the idea of a clean house.  Once in a while I get “the cleanies.”  This is a what my husband calls “putting bipolar disorder to good use.”  But even as revved up as I get, eventually I have to stop and things get dirty and messy again PDQ.   It’s called “entropy.”  It’s a thang.  My hubs told me about it.  He’s a rocket scientist.  F’rills.

But I cannot stand the chaos.  Every horizontal surface in this house is piled with it.  I come in the front door and the clutter jumps on my back and pushes me down to the floor.  The chaos in my head is reflected and amplified by the clutter in my house.  What's in this pile?   Is this a bill?  Where is the IRS letter, the grad night flyer, the doctor's note, the Groupon, the love letter?   The de-cluttering books (and yes, people, this is a genre) all say to start small.  Choose one tiny place and make order there.  Use that success to move on to the next project.  So now I have a house full of clutter with one drawer of Legos arranged in rainbow order.  

One way I have learned to handle it is this:  I treat my home like a public space.  I go through the house and gather up all the shit that belongs to me.   The stuff I need.  The stuff I'm responsible for.   Then I stack all the rest of it at the end of the table and let the rest of them figure it out.  Nice metaphor, huh?

My husband has on occasion suggested that a housekeeper might not be a bad idea.  It’s a horrible idea.  For one thing, we certainly can’t afford it.  And if we could, I still wouldn’t because I could buy a lot of great wine and even more not-so-great wine with that same money.  In any case, it's a good thing I can't afford a cleaning lady because it would make me crazy that my house was messy.  I don’t think I’d actually *clean* before she came, but doubtless I would *have* to straighten up.  And I'd probably follow her around while she was here.  Who knows what kinds of things are lying in wait to embarrass me?   How do you say "dildo" in Spanish?   It won't matter.

My daughter, a very wise and together young woman, overheard me apologizing to someone about how messy my house was.  (I know, right?  Apologizing.)  Afterward, she said to me, "Mom, look around.  Many intelligent and fascinating people live in this small space.  We are all interested in lots of things. Cleaning doesn’t happen to be one of them.  You are a bright and capable woman.  If you wanted it clean, you would clean it.  Move on." 

[She’s sixteen.  I have to keep reminding myself that they come through us, not from us.   But I want the credit for that one right there.]

Of course she is right.

My point is that housecleaning is a hugely divisive and counter-productive issue for women.  (And let’s set aside the whole gender issue of who *does* the housework.  One rant at at time.)  It’s just one more basically meaningless thing that we waste time measuring and comparing and judging and feeling guilty and helpless and angry about.  Listen to me very carefully.  No one cares about your dirty house.  NO ONE.   So could we all please just  LET IT GO  and get on with more important things?   Like being awesome.  I'll start.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Today's Rave: Nature

Yes, I am a ranter.  But I am also a raver.  And today's note is a rave.  Yay for nature.  Yay for snowmelt streams, yay for hypoxic altitude highs.  There is nothing like being in the mountains.  Sleeping bags.  Snowy peaks.  Warm premade margaritas straight from the bottle fortified with extra tequila.   For breakfast.   I threw that in to keep you from unliking my blog.  Because it just might be too damned heart-warming to hear me tell you that I only had to take 0.5 mg of Vitamin K each evening and that was only because I was worried about bears.  Bears really like Klonopin and I wasn't about to give mine up.  So that's ironic--see what I did there?  Especially when I found out at the ranger station that the bears won't even look at the generic.  They really like those cut-out Ks.

Once upon a time I climbed a mountain.  Then I took this photo.   The end.
The outdoors is very therapeutic for the mentally ill.  I came back down the mountain with all my problems solved.  You might think this to be the death knell for the KlonChron.  But not to worry.  As soon as I hit sea level, all the problems started looming again, and the solutions I had worked out all, well,  dissolved.  Because that's what solutions do. 

Anyway, I got a taste of what it might be like to be not-so-mood-unstable and I'm trying to hang on to that.  But it does feel a little bit like being in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  This is a great flick if you haven't caught it, which would be highly unlikely, because it has to be in the top ten flicks of any nut job worth his salt.  A taste of mental health is like a taste of crack.  Well, technically I don't know what crack is like, but it's a simile which is a rhetorical device and not literal so suck it.


But I digress (of course I do).  The ESotSM analogy is where I wanted to be, so back to that.  Stability and health is like the place that Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are trying to find where they can hide from the memory-eraser.  But kinda in reverse.  More of an elusive place you occasionally stumble upon but can't remember how to get back to.  All the while the chaos of life is swirling around and distracting you from your quest.  Being up in the mountains is a place like that for me.  I can't wait to go back.  I'm having tears just thinking about it.  (Don't worry--it happens at least twice a day.)   I have to figure out a way to stay there forever.  I'll be getting on that just as soon as all these people who have appeared in my house stop distracting me with their clutter and demands and randomness.  It could happen.  But don't flush the K just yet.  Kisses.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Mania Means to Me

I wrote this post before I even had a blog.  I was inspired by a friend who had just been diagnosed.  She was in a full-blown manic episode.  Watching her go through that reminded me of what my own episodes were like.   I'm calm enough now to articulate what it feels like to be so brilliant that you can't describe it.  Which is pretty goddamn ironic, if you ask me.

A Beautiful Mind--it's a lot like that
The hallmark of mania for me is how I feel like a superhero.  Creative and brilliant and simply on *fire* with wit and humor.    When I was riding the crest of a manic wave,  I used to say that I didn't need to eat or sleep because I was bionic.  I got really angry with people who said I was wrong to feel that way and that I needed to go to the hospital and take meds so that I wouldn't feel that way any more.   I would get so angry that I would snarl at them and claw and hiss and refuse to get out of the car.  Wouldn't you?  After I was finished the treatment that stopped that wonderful, invincible, genius feeling, I would quit taking my meds cold turkey.  I would carouse until all hours of the night, telling anyone who would listen my bright new ideas that tied up every loose end in the universe with one beautiful bow.   Holding court on the floor of my room in college, knocking over the bong with my expansive sweeps of my arms as I pontificated to my housemates, who thought I was brilliant, but knew I was nuts.  Destroying relationships.  Winning hearts and breaking them. Staying in my room for days, talking to myself and scaring my roommates away.  Ending up in the nut house time and again.

Now I can recognize when that superstar quality starts to burn and I know I have to nip it in the bud.  I let my husband know (like he can't tell) and I go see the shrink and get extra support and what have you.  It is the hardest thing in the world to voluntarily let go of that genius feeling.  I simply cannot tell you.  But I know that I must.  As great as the high feels, the low is going to be a gut-punch that knocks me flat, even though I know it's coming.  So I take my meds and gather my loved ones around me and brace myself.

The hallmark of a depressive episode for me is not wanting to be here. I don't think about suicide per se.  I don't want to die.  I just want not to be here.  Everything I've done wrong (which is basically everything), every mistake I've made, every conversation gone awry, every wasted opportunity with my kids, my career -- they all gather together in a threatening thundercloud that hovers over me.  The horrible angry voices of what I call "The Committee" begin the litany of exactly how worthless, no, harmful my presence on the planet has been.  As evidence of why I shouldn't be here.  Shouldn't *have been* here.  This whole time.  I just want to curl up as small as possible, until I take up no space.  No one sees me.  I'm not here.

So.  Staying in the middle is a good thing.  Boring and safe.   Learning to feel my feelings, but not too much.  That's a tough one.  Because I feel my feelings.  A lot.  Possibly more than I should, whatever that means.  Apparently there is a normal amount of feeling, though how you could measure it, I don't know.  It certainly doesn't sound very fun to me.

My job is to stay safe.  To have creative energy, but not too much.  And to channel it in ways that make me glad to be here.  And to let it be okay to feel sad, from time to time.  But if "worthless" pops up on the psychic horizon, it's time to blow the whistle.  Time to remember to do the things that help me, in addition to my meds.  Swimming.  Playing music.  Creating this page, working out my thoughts, writing, laughing.  Making people laugh and shake their heads in self-recognition.  And maybe a little relief that they are not alone.

SUIT UP!
I have a mantra that is blinding in its banality.  It's insultingly simple.  And yet it works for me.  I'm embarrassed to admit it, but my mantra comes from a sitcom (yeah, I watch TV, I have teenagers, don't judge) called "How I Met Your Mother."

"When I'm sad, I stop being sad, and be awesome instead.  True story."

Of course it's not that easy.  But it reminds me that this too shall pass and I will be awesome again.  Until I'm not.  And so on.  In the meantime, I have a blog and a page.  And a lot of friends I've never met.  Who get it.  More than most people I know in real life.  I'll take it.  I mean, what else ya got?

Namaste.  And if you're wondering what that means, suffice to say that we meet in the middle where there's mutual respect and understanding.  We give each other the benefit of the doubt.  We forgive ourselves and each other.  We're good to one another.   We don't have a choice.  This is it.  Namaste.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

This Is What I Know Instead of Things That Are Important: A Dialogue in One Very Short Act

Bedroom.  The couple lies together in the dark.

Him:  Who is that actress from "Friends?"

Her:   Jennifer Aniston.  Courtney Cox.  Lisa Kudrow?

Him:  Yeah, the spacey one.

Her:   Lisa Kudrow.

Him:  What was that movie she was in, about high school . . . .?

Her:   Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion.

Him:  Yeah. God, you're good.

Her:   Yeah.  This is what I know instead of things that are important.

Him:   Which one was she--Romy?  

Her:   She was Michelle.  Mira Sorvino was Romy.  God.

Him:   And she's related to Nicolas Cage?

Her:  No, she's Paul Sorvino's daughter.

Him:  Where do I know him from, again?  The Godfather?

Her:  Goddamnit.  Goodfellas.  <sighs impatiently>  

<long pause>

Her:  I could have cured cancer with this mind.

<fade to black>

I fantasize that there will come a day when a terrorist takes an office building hostage and the only thing that will save them is whether someone in the group knows who did "Dancin' in the Moonlight."  And I will come forward and say "King Harvest."  Roll credits.


Let's make it a true Daily Double, Alex.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Silly Six Pins

When my son was five, he had a game called "Silly Six Pins."  It was a bowling game, with a battery-operated stand that would flash and beep when you knocked the pins down. But it was the box, not the game, that is the point of this story.  Once, when he had had his fill of the shenanigans around the house, when the imagined slights (and the all too real ones) had gotten to be too much, he put a pair of pajamas, a stuffed animal and a copy of "Each Peach Pear Plum" in the Silly Six Pins box and headed out the front door.

I looked up a few minutes later.  “Has anyone seen the Gamer?”  No one had.  I looked outside and saw him sitting cross-legged at the corner of the cul-de-sac, elbows digging into his knees, face in his hands.  

My neighbor saw me and came out.  "This is about the cutest thing I have ever seen," she murmured. "I saw him walking off and I figured what was going on.  I called to him and he said, ‘I’m running away.'  So then I asked if he wanted to come over and hang out with us.”   

(Hmm.  That sounded familiar.  Wanting to run away, but needing to clear it with headquarters.  Check.)

I walked over to him and he glared at me, but his lower lip was quivering.

(Damn you, lower lip!   Mine has failed me on numerous momentous occasions.)
  
“What’re ya doin’?” I asked.

“Running away.  I’m mad at everybody and nobody’s my friend.”    

(Roger that, little man. Loud and clear.)

“I’m your friend.  Are you mad at me?”  (I steeled myself for this very real possibility.)

“No.  But I just needed to leave for a little while.”

(Get out of my head, you telepathic little shit).

“Well, I’m going to the little store for a Choco Taco if you want to come with me.”

It was nonchalance first, then relief that I saw play across his face.

"Okay, mom, but I just need to put this stuff on the porch first."  

Later that evening, after a Choco Taco for him and a furtive double Grey Goose rocks for me, he brought the box inside and put it in his closet.  

“Do you want to put that stuff away?

“Nope.  I’m just going to keep it in there with all this stuff in it.  If I need to, I’ll be ready to go.”  

(Duly noted, my dude.  And an excellent idea.  Everyone needs a go bag.  Or box, as the case may be.)