January 17, 2019

square clouds

I told Therapist Gumby earlier this week that I can feel the swing down into depression coming.  There are little portents.  Not many, but the one I've noticed this week is how I keep drifting onto memories of times when I did something stupid or wrong and was humiliated.  Like the time Kate came to play in my city and I was the host, and almost nobody showed up in spite of my canvassing the city with posters and submitting radio announcements to our NPR station and e-mailing the shit out of everybody.  And because that wasn't bad enough, I was cleaning up the main room afterward and Kate witnessed me rush and trip over the edge of a rug and stumble and drop the table I was trying to carry.

Just little things like that.  My brain likes to remind me.  You did that.  That happened.  That's you.

Sometimes I escape into Minecraft.  I started playing it when my son was much younger and it was suited for his age.  Now he's pimping in Grand Theft Auto V and leading open-server sieges in a virtual world.  I'm still looking for sand biome villages so I can trade coal and wheat and iron ingots.

If you're not familiar with the look and feel of Minecraft (many are turned off by the intentional pixelation), it has a day and night cycle as part of the play.  As the rectangular sun moves across the sky and grows large and orange and begins to set in the west, the square and rectangular patchy clouds drift in the same direction, and the sky begins to darken.  You can watch it wash over the sky in sheets, a line moving across the sky, a tiny shade darker, then another shade darker, until at last little square stars begin to appear everywhere.  The blue becomes black a little at a time.

That's what these humiliation-memories are like.  They come in waves, just before the night voices.

January 15, 2019

this north carolina woman took sudafed and you won't believe what happened next

"So yesterday, I had this really amazing accomplishment that demonstrated personal progress, except that I didn't do that at all."

Therapist Gumby's face did not change expression as he listened.  He knows better than to change his expression because it just encourages me.

I continued.  "But I really wish it had.  See, what happened is, I got angry.  At P.J.  Because [thing that happened].  Really mad, the kind that usually means I'm checking my face the next morning for bruises.  The kind I always turn on myself because it's not safe to feel at the other person."

He asked, "Why didn't you self-injure?  What was different this time?"

I said, "I went to Target at lunch time and got some Sudafed.  The short-acting kind because, yeah, you read my blog post.  Don't want that to happen again.  Jesus.  I bought it and took some when I got back to work.  That's when I found out about [thing that happened] and got upset about it.  I sent some angry texts and felt that horrible pressure build up, and then texted that I needed to spend some time calming down so I could think rationally --"

"-- always a good idea --"

"-- and set the phone down.  I tried square breathing and I tried not thinking about it and I tried empathy and I tried framing things so I could view the actual harm done realistically, and of course, it wasn't a big deal, but when you're angry, it's a huge deal.  And then suddenly, I felt kind of peaceful and light and like I'd reached the other side of the anger.  It was resolution.  Somehow I had worked it out and I felt positive again, and I grabbed my phone because I knew P.J. was probably miserable and I wanted to make her feel better."

"So what is it that you did that you think worked so well?" he asked.

"Nothing I did worked," I said.

"But you felt better," he pointed out.

"Yeah, I did.  You want to know why?  I realized later that it's because I took the Sudafed when I did.  It kicked in.  I didn't deal with my anger at all, at all.  I should have been hiding in the women's bathroom on the third floor, pummeling myself in the face.  I should have had claw marks running down my arm and a Kleenex to mop up blood.  It was totally the Sudafed.  It makes me high now."

He shrugged.  "Well ... better living through chemistry?"

"I wanted so badly to believe that I'd gotten better at letting myself be angry.  Fucking Sudafed, Gumby.  I didn't do anything at all."

January 14, 2019

non-drowsy formula

I know that my anti-depressants from pre-gastric bypass later poisoned me and made me suicidal, but I didn't expect the same one-eighty from Sudafed.

Come to think of it, I've taken the pee-water version of Sudafed for colds for the past two years, as punishment for accidentally buying a jumbo box of the phenylephrine stuff, which was summarily rejected by my family.  It helps me a little, almost enough to merit the effort of taking the pills in the first place, and I've slogged my way through the whole box.

I came home from work early on Friday, all sore throat and sinus pressure and the kind of fog that makes everything you squint and peer at in front of you look like an inviting, quilt-covered, fluffy-pillowed bed.  I tried to nap, but Molly kept wanting to snuggle and merge with me on a molecular level, so it was fitful at best and I gave up.  I dug around in the cabinet and found a box of 12-hour Sudafed tablets.  I took one, knowing the pseudoephedrine, the "good" stuff that requires a driver's license and fingerprints and FBI surveillance for signs of a meth lab in your garage, tends to put me to sleep, no matter how many times they slap "non-drowsy formula" on the box.

P.J. came to me at 4:30 a.m. to say good-night.  She went to bed.  I turned the next page of Welcome to the World, Baby Girl and kept reading.  I was tapping my foot and humming.

I was not drowsy.

Today, I stopped by Target and picked up the four-to-six-hour version, because I really need it, because all my top teeth hurt and my head has been pounding and the pressure has led me to recall that episode of The X-Files where the government tests sonic waves and the test makes some people's brains explode out of their ears after they bang their heads against their car windows because they ran out of road trying to drive west.

I took some of the Sudafed at noon.  Now it's three o'clock and I feel at one with the Universe and everything is beautiful.

I think I just discovered speed.

Peace, man.

January 10, 2019

big dumb stupid metal princess

On our first Valentine's Day, P.J. got me a cute little machine that made hot cocoa by heating and stirring around the cocoa and sugar and water you put inside it, and then made it frothy on the top.  That is what the machine did.  It had one job, which it did incredibly well.

Twelve years later, we know each other so much better.

I feel sorry for her.  She never saw the gargantuan practical streak coming.

And today, she set up the new cappuccino machine.  Apparently, as I watched, I had a face like a cat's ass as she demonstrated its myriad functional possibilities, all ending in "o" or "e".

Me:  "So what happens if you want to use grounds instead of whole beans?"

P.J.:  "Well, see this little hatch?  It's a bypass.  You can use this little scoop to put in grounds instead."

Me:  "What scoop?"

P.J.:  "This scoop."

Me:  "The one you need a microscope to find?"

P.J.:  "...."

Me:  And where do they end up?"

P.J.:  (pulls out fancy-ass metal drawer)  "They're in here."

Me:  "And what are those metal pointy things right there?"

P.J.:  "Sensors.  They tell you when it's full and you have to empty the grounds."

Me:  "It doesn't even empty them by itself?"

P.J.:  " .... "

Me:  "What does that thing with the little thing on it do?"

P.J.:  "Oh, this is really cool, watch.  You can lift it way up if you want a tall drink, or you can lower it if you have a small cup for espresso.  That way, it doesn't sploosh out."

Me:  "Or you can lower it if you want it to blow bubbles while it's making your coffee."

P.J.:  "No.  You use the steam frother to make bubbles."

Me:  "You can't use the dispenser to make bubbles?"

P.J.:  "No."

Me:  "Why not?"

P.J.:  "It can't."

Me:  "I think you're holding it to really low expectations and that's not good for it."

P.J.:  "What?"

Me:  "I'm just saying that you're enabling sub-par behavior.  At this rate, it's never going to learn to clean itself or empty its own grounds into the trash can.  It's acting like it gets to tell you what it can use to blow bubbles.  You've got to raise the bar.  It's for its own good."

P.J.:  "Fine, I'll give it tough love."

Me:  "I'm just going to give it tough.  Tough-tough."

January 9, 2019

the c word

No, not "cunt".  Nothing offends me about "cunt".

I'm referring to "creativity".  (*ptooey ptooey ptooey*)

I indulged frequently in the holidays' ample comestibles and the time has come to pay.  No, not pay.  Restore balance.  Return to myself.  Experience a sense of control.

(Please don't let me become a Louise Hay-person.  If I do, kill me at once.  It's for the best.)

To re-frame thinking, a person has to try.  And it requires the C-word.

Last night, the frozen moment we all experience:  My hand had grabbed the protein bar, one of the really good ones, out of the habit of eating to eat.  My right hand was poised to begin peeling back the wrapper.  And then, I chose to stop.

I stood still, caught in that tense space between animal act and rationality.  Seconds passed.  I felt the wave of resentment that comes when dieting meets denial, when want meets "no".  I wanted to move forward, but my brain arm-wrestled with itself.

Thoughts passed through ....

... me telling The Kid ... "solve the problem.  Tell me three things you can do about it."

... from my recent readings about Buddhism ... meditate ... experience the moment; palpate it; feel it.

... from my current re-read of The Hogfather ... Susan holding her arms out, spreading her fingers, swinging them down to stop Time.  A ritual.  A motion.  A symbol.

I put the bar back in the cabinet this time.  I had somehow harnessed creativity.  Today, I'm spending mental energy reinforcing these things.

Don't you dare tell a living soul.

January 7, 2019

every head bowed, every eye closed

I finished Unbroken.  For a non-fiction biography, I found it a captivating read and devoured it in the same fashion as I would fantasy or YA fiction.  That surprised me.

But like a movie with a predictable, incredibly tidy plot twist, I didn't like the way it ended.

It had Billy Graham in it.

Zamperini got "saved" under the auspices of the evangelist, and forgave his captors and found peace.  That part is awesome.  Whatever works.  He deserved that peace a thousand times over after what he endured.

It was the account of Graham's tent revival in Los Angeles that chafed.

I already knew from video tapes I watched while growing up in my Southern Baptist church that he paced back and forth.  I knew the path of his sermon that seldom varied over decades.  I knew the cadence of his voice.

In the book, he then said a phrase that I heard repeated often by preachers and youth ministers and other adults, part of our unwritten liturgy:

"Every head bowed, every eye closed, no one looking ...."

I felt a gentle but tangible skin-crawl.

The phrase was used to induce a sense of ceremony, formality, a social tension made more effective after hypnotic preaching, and often mistaken for the attribution of significance to the words spoken next.  It was a manipulation of a state of the human mind and of emotions, an ersatz intimacy and connection with the speaker.  It was most frequently used on youth.  They weren't yet hardened to and familiar with the experience.

Then they were asked to examine their hearts and decide whether they had truly let Jesus in, repented of their sins and asked for forgiveness and grace.  Still hypnotized and surrounded by peer pressure, many left their pews and walked down to the front of the assembly in response.

Preachers called this a "harvest for the Lord".

I don't think it's fair to use a scythe.

January 5, 2019

omg this sounds so yummy

Four full days and nothing has come to me to write.  I've been reading instead ... Unbroken at my son's insistence ... he's been at me to read this since they read it in English class two years ago, his eighth-grade year.  I've been surviving in a raft in the middle of the Pacific, with only rain water and irrational hope in my possession.  Even now, all is quiet.

Below is a post I began earlier as a draft.  I will finish it, and then finally take down our Christmas decorations.  They've lingered not so much out of observing the Twelve Days as an artifact of both bustle and apathy.

Washing Your Dog (Double-Batch Recipe)

Prep Time:  2m
Cook Time:  6m
Clean-Up Time:  1h 30m

Stack of worn-out towels that are now kept in a pile in the hall closet
The pet shampoo behind the towels in the closet
Triple-antibiotic ointment

Preparation:  Change clothes.  Grab junk towels from hall closet and pet shampoo from bathroom cabinet.  Place in bathroom where washing will occur.  Sneak and close pet door to prevent victim from escaping outdoors.  Call victim in a sweet, sing-song voice to attract her.  Gently remove collars and coax into bathroom with a treat.

Recipe:  Open shower door, ignoring victim's wariness.  Remove hand-held shower head and turn water on, adjusting to correct warmth.  Secure victim and drag against resistance toward shower.  Pick up victim, step into shower together.  Close door.  Hold door closed tightly as victim makes futile attempts to escape.

With free hand, use shower head to thoroughly wet victim until fur is fully saturated.  Still using free hand, attempt to pump shampoo in bottle onto victim's back.  Curse.  Hold bottle between your knees and unscrew the lid of the bottle while continuing to hold shower door closed.  Pour shampoo liberally onto victim, ignoring mauling of your lower extremities during continued attempts to escape.  Rub shampoo vigorously into victim's fur, paying careful attention to mud-crusted legs, while speaking in soothing tones.

Still using the shower head, engage in seemingly eternal task of rinsing victim with one hand.  Continue rinsing until there is no sign of shampoo.  Continue rinsing.  Continue rinsing more.

Turn off water.  Set shower head on floor of shower.  Employ Olympic-grade skill level to open door and simultaneous grab the largest of the junk towels.  Use three-quarters of a second at your disposal to throw the towel over the victim before she begins shaking water.  Fail.  Follow victim around bathroom, drying with towel when accessible.

Note:  You may notice a shampoo ring around mid-section in spite of thorough rinsing.  This is a sign that the victim was not rinsed long enough.

Clean-Up:  Use remaining junk towel(s) to wipe down water-sprayed walls, cabinet surfaces, and fixtures around bathroom.  Use additional towel(s) if necessary.  Spray walls of shower to remove fur.  Dispose of fur clump sitting on floor drain.  Use clean towel to dry legs.  Apply ointment to any actively bleeding wounds, using bandages if needed.  Mop floor with all soiled towels.  Carry towels to basement and begin load of laundry.  Find victim.  Remove heavily dampened duvet cover from bed and hurry to add to laundry load before agitation cycle begins.  Notice additional wounds on hands and apply supplemental ointment.*  Use paper towels to wipe off any walls throughout house that have received water spray from victim's vigorous shaking.

Allow victim to dry completely before releasing her outdoors.

Observe mud-covered victim returning to house through dog door.  Dry towels while preventing victim's muddy contact with any surface.  Repeat steps above to make this recipe a double batch.

*Make note to purchase additional ointment.

There's nothing quite like the smell of freshly-washed wet dog filling the house!  So tempting!

January 1, 2019

why we don't have any espresso

*we agree that we need to buy a cappuccino machine*

P.J.:  So what's my budget on this?

Me:  Whatever you want it to be.  Just make sure the machine isn't huge because we've got to fit it in the kitchen somewhere.

P.J.:  I was thinking of putting it over on the brown counter.

Me:  What?  There's no room there.  Everything that's there needs to be there, like the dog stuff, and stuff.  You can't put it there.

P.J.:  We could move some stuff off of it to somewhere else.

Me:  Noooooo.  It needs to go over on the regular counter, like beside the cutting boards and banana holder.

P.J.:  That's prime cooking space.  We need that room.

Me:  No, I mean put it where the cleaners are.  We always have two or three bottles of cleaners sitting out taking up room.  We should just put those back in their cabinet instead of leaving them out.  Then there's plenty of room.

P.J.:  Cleaners don't stick out that far.

Me:  Okay, so we could put something there that doesn't stick out and then put the cappuccino machine wherever that thing was.

P.J.:  Even the small ones are pretty big.

Me:  Okay, so we could put away the KitchenAid.

P.J.:  But it's heavy.  So when I use it, it would be a nightmare to get out.

Me:  You mean once a year?  I'll be happy to get it out for you.

P.J.:  I use it more than ... well, yeah, okay, but it's heavy.

Me:  Plus it looks good.

P.J.:  Yep.

Me:  We could move the KitchenAid to where the cleaners are.

P.J.:  The fucking cleaners ... look, it's too big.  I told you.

Me:  Okay, well ... hmm.

P.J.:  We could move the toaster and put the cappuccino machine over by the Keurig.

Me:  And put the toaster where the cleaners are?

P.J.:  WHY ARE YOU OBSESSED WITH THE CLEANERS?  Anyway, no, we'd have to move something else.

Me:  What about the basket of hand towels?  It holds hand towels and pot holders from 1987.

P.J.:  Because you need towels sometimes!  Well, we could move it.

Me:  But then if you put the machine there, you'd have to move the paper towels.

Both:  Nope, can't do that.

Me:  What about the stuff beside the KitchenAid?

P.J.:  You NEED to have that stuff out!

Me:  When's the last time you used balsamic vinegar, 2014?

P.J.:  Within the last six months.  Yeah, that can go in the cabinet.  But the olive oil and salt and pepper have to stay out, beside the stove.

Me:  There's room for all that and the toaster.  Just put the salt in front of the olive oil.

P.J.:  In front of it?

Me:  Yeah?

P.J.:  But then it would always be looking over its shoulder.

Me:  .......

P.J.:  *sigh* I guess we could put away the KitchenAid.

Me:  We could move the banana holder.  We hardly use it.  We could slide it over to where the cleaners are.

P.J. is still laughing as I write this.  And this is why we don't have any espresso or cappuccino.

UPDATE:  P.J. is fighting back with subtlety and grace:

eschewing the calendar

I recently posed the question in the "game of tag" regarding whether the respondents observe significant events and anniversaries around the calendar year, or whether those things are left to drift and float and are brought to light when reminders appear, regardless of the date, the time.

I've always held close to the calendar.  In part, this is because of my memory and synaesthesia.  I remember that Ronald Reagan's birthday was February 6 because that was the same day as my childhood friend Kendra's birthday.  I met Nanci Griffith on October 24, 1998.  P.J. gave me her aunt's heirloom ring as a token on March 9, 2007.  Most dates bring something to mind, tinged with color, associated with weather and the slant of the sunlight, but far more based on a printed calendar, a number line in my mind that looks like a paperclip.

I still do the freaky date recall thing, but New Years Eve got on my nerves this year.  Last night I combed through Facebook and found any mention of resolutions and fresh starts to be unbearably annoying.  I stomped around the house a lot.  At midnight, I could barely be arsed to observe our family tradition of watching the ball drop and opening the back door to let out the old year.  I did it anyway, because tradition, but it was devoid of meaning, save that later, I'll look back and be glad it was done.

The dates are losing their meaning - and, more to the point, I am beginning to suspect that they're harmful to me.

It's warm out today, but the barometric pressure of social conformity presses down on me anyway.  I need to make a resolution.  And I know what that resolution is going to be.

Except for reminders in my Google calendar, needed to keep me from forgetting to put pants on in the morning and pick The Kid up from school and show up at the dentist, I am going to rip my gaze away from the calendar and, instead, focus on each day.

I know this is going to take serious practice.

I also know that it's the only thing that will save me.

It's the thing that will allow me to lose the weight I've gained back these past few months, because I'm the sort that looks ahead and feels doomed to "forever" and oppressed by the expansive terrain of the future.  Instead, I resolve to choose each morning what to do with that day toward the end of taking better care of my body and reversing the damage done.  If I fail, I have only fallen off a one-day-long bandwagon.

It's the thing that will allow me to release some of my anger at my disease.  I view it as a life sentence to be served, no time off for good behavior, no parole.  I want to learn to see it as a single state contained in a single day, whatever it may be, and address it as such, a string of pearls instead of a solid, infinite chain.

A friend shared a phrase in an e-mail years ago with P.J., who then shared it with me.  "Observe and allow."  I often think I need to buy some sort of book on how to be a Buddhist and start learning more.  Begin changing.

If I go for a walk today, it doesn't mean that I have "begun walking" and am hereby committing to walking every day for the next five months.  It doesn't mean I have to get used to wearing my step tracker again and deal with the pink ring of irritation around my left wrist.  It means I am going for a walk today.

That's as far as I've gotten in making a resolution.  I've likely set the bar too high.  For all that, it seems worthwhile.