Monday, March 22, 2010

In which I decide that everything I do is wrong, and most likely will end in disaster

Oh dear Lord, why do I live my life in a friggin firestorm of anxiety? Today I feel like a fish who’s just found herself washed ashore and the tide going out.

Sample internal conversation:

Me 1: We’re going to lose our jobs and have no money and we’ll be forced to foreclose and live in a cardboard box under the overpass.

Me 2: Deep breath. These are emotions that come and go.

Me 1: What if Dear Husband dies? You know what you’re like – you freeze. Do you even know where your car insurance cards are? See, you’re screwed.

Me 2: Focus on the now.

Me 1: The now totally blows! I’m bored, and my eyes hurt. I need new glasses, and they cost a fortune. My vision’s so bad eventually there will be no glasses strong enough.

Me 2: What?

Me 1: And detached retinas. I’m at a very high risk for detached retinas. And there’s nothing I can do about it! There are no preventative measures!

Me 2: Maybe you should concentrate on finally setting up dental appointments for the girls.

Me 1: And orthodontics. Sure as anything Firecracker will have to get braces. How the hell are we going to afford braces? And they eat too much sugar. The dentist is going to secretly condemn me because I can’t figure out how to floss their teeth or teach them to do it themselves.

Me 2: Perhaps you should read a book over lunch break…

Me 1: Library fines – can you believe I had to pay over $30 in library fines? I’m so irresponsible and disorganized. And my house is impossible. I hate housework. The countertops are sticky. No matter how many times I wipe them, they’re always sticky. And the kitchen table is always piled with papers glued to the surface by pancake syrup. Which I really shouldn’t let the kids eat – real maple syrup has to be better for you, but it’s so expensive (remember the cardboard box). And now the doctor tells me they have to cut back on dairy products, which just reminds me that I’m a bad mother and my kids won’t eat anything because I haven’t, well, done something. I don’t know. Nothing works. They hate everything. They hate things they used to like. We’re going backwards. My kids are going to be fat and have rickets.

Me 2: You need a valium.

Me 1: Yes, I do. But I can’t even afford the medication I take. What if I’m on the wrong medication? Maybe my diagnoses are all wrong. What if I’m not really bipolar and instead managed to bamboozle the doctor because it really seemed that my symptoms fit and nothing else worked and then we threw in ADD but perhaps I’m just really lazy and don’t get enough sleep and both of those are over diagnosed because doctors like to diagnose you with stuff. And I think my mom was bipolar but who knows because she was in an institution in the 50s when they shocked everyone and put them on lithium and they said she was schizophrenic but then how did she get by without any meds at all? None, zilch, zero. And she swung like a pendulum. But I don’t – I’m not that bad, really. I just get depressed over and over. I don’t gamble, I don’t empty the bank account, I don’t stay up all night, I don’t think I can conquer the world (although sometimes I think I can drop the meds because it’s really okay, I’m really okay), and I don’t behave recklessly (unless you count the years of taking whatever drug was handed to me, getting drunk in unsavory situations, cutting myself, and that rather weird episode of unprotected sex with a series of men, which pretty much clinched matters for me because that was totally out of character for someone as generally uptight and painfully timid and anxious as I am, but at the time it just seemed rather free-spirited, and then just really really skeevy), and how do you know if your thoughts are racing if that is just the way they are and have been all your life? What would you compare it with? Doesn’t everyone think like that, with thoughts galloping across the plains? The speed of my thoughts feels normal. A little exhilarating sometimes, when I’m surfing them, but who wants slow thoughts, anyway? That’s the cold depths of depression, when thoughts are stiff-legged and lag behind. But it could just look suspiciously like bipolar, because that’s how I’ve arranged all my memories, now, whereas before they were all arranged for dysthemia and no one, no one, would have considered otherwise. Maybe because I lied a lot. I lie to therapists. I leave out stuff. I rearrange it. I exaggerate or understate. I actually understate a lot. If I’m really really ashamed of something, I never ever admit it, or it takes years, or I honestly don’t think it’s relevant even if it shaped me in some way. Being bisexual, for instance. I don’t mention that. Is it relevant? I don’t know. Maybe I’m not really. I mean, sheesh, I’m married here. Maybe I just hang onto that identity for some unknown reason, because it’s kind of cool to be secretly different even though it has zilch impact on my life now, except that I find it hard to imagine being completely straight. How can you be completely one way or the other? How can you find one gender undesirable? What exactly is that like, anyway?

Me 2: Do you even hear yourself?

Me 1: I hear almost no one else, because I’m totally self-centered and don’t know how not to be, because here I am with myself, keeping myself company, and whatever I do, I’m stuck in here, worrying that I’m not very giving and can’t seem to make friends and I talk a lot about compassion blah blah blah but I never really do anything, unless you count writing to my congressman twice or making donations doing something, and the only thing I’ve ever done at church was work in the nursery sometimes, because I feel really weird trying to do volunteer work, everyone else is so genuine and caring and I’m cold and remote. Trust issues you know, fear of commitment, which is why I don’t make friends. I don’t want anyone to know me, at least not the people I meet now. I’m afraid I’ll be exposed for a fraud and lose my job. And how the hell did I end up working for a denomination that partners with organizations that try to “cure” gay people? WTF? That’s not me. That’s an abomination. But here I am, 100% cynical skeptic working for people who believe in 5 point Calvinism.

Me 2: Are you done yet?

Me 1: Yes, I think so for now, because I have cherry nougats.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

School Bus - 1977

On the way to work today I heard the song "Fly Like an Eagle" by the Steve Miller Band. In a flash I remembered sitting on a school bus in fifth grade and hearing the song over the bus’s radio, which the driver had obligingly turned up for us. It was the sort of song that made me feel odd, as if I had suddenly acquired a vision of infinite wisdom that I couldn’t communicate. The school bus smelled of warm vinyl bus seats. We were on our way back from a misguided enrichment class put together for the good students. This was the 70s, and even in the backwater I lived in, some loopy educational programs leaked in. I remember making candles, learning to count to 10 in Spanish, and eating churros. Making the candles was great, although mine looked crooked and lumpy. Melted wax has a very comforting smell. If I actually learned anything substantive, I don’t remember it.

Anyway, we were on the bus with 'Fly Like an Eagle" on the radio. Stephen Walker (I still remember his name) was turned around in the seat in front of me, making some sort of withering commentary. He was a skinny kid with long dirty blond hair that he wore in a ponytail. Sometimes I saw him riding his bike to school – one-handed or no-handed, of course. He was the most sarcastic person I had ever known, and I was filled with awe and admiration. I was also rather scared of him, since it was no fun to be the recipient of one of his verbal barbs. I remember an art project in which we made placemats for our family members, decorated with drawings that said something about that person’s life. He took one look at my mom’s placemat, which I recall had a drawing of a vacuum cleaner and cooking pots, and sneered, “I guess your mom doesn’t work.” Of course I knew women weren’t just housewives, but I hadn’t considered what it would be like to have a mom who worked at a job. My mom was pretty much incapable of holding a job. Given that I had already vastly inflated my mom’s housekeeping skills (I had to draw something, after all), I suddenly felt deficient. My mom didn’t work.

I don’t know what became of Stephen Walker. After fifth grade, my mom put me in a private school, to keep me away from the “bad elements” in the local public schools. That was code for “black people,” but also demonstrated a bit of class snobbery. My parents were from a very humble background, but my mom, at least, was determined to impress upon me the importance of taste, intelligence, and keeping the right sort of company. She did this to counter the "trashiness" of my dad's side of the family. Thanks to my mom I don't live in a trailer on the front lawn of my parent's house, with a meth lab, a skoal chewing husband, a shotgun and two grimy children.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'm Waiting

I am not the sort of person who lives with stories crowded in her head and characters shouting for attention. I do not. It is not like that inside me. The rooms are quiet, dust motes floating through sunlit air, and I walk them, sometimes bored, sometimes peaceful, and other times I walk an abandoned soot-choked city with no stars. But sometimes I am visited by an unexpected urge to write. I don’t know what about. I have to wait. My soul is looking for some story or image it wants to speak through and is disturbed by the expansive expectations of the first days of spring. Buds are unfolding, the air is softening, but the season is restless. When? it asks, over and over.

Some think that creating channels the divine. It’s the sort of thought you entertain after the fact, or when you are confronted with some extraordinary work of art and your heart gallops away in a fever of love and desire. Surely, surely, surely God has marked this writer or painter or musician, because he or she awakens a longing so strong it can’t be sated by drink or drugs or sex, a longing that goes on and on and feels like a penalty as much as a pleasure. When I create, it doesn’t feel divine. It is like finally finding out how those maddening pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit together. The pleasure of discovering and resolving a pattern. Stories may never resolve, but the writing of them does.

And then, so soon after, the craving.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Good Times, Bad Times

The more you don't write, the more nothing there is to not write about.

I have a new car. And by "new" I mean "used." My Sedona finally stuck out its tongue at me one too many times. I love my new used car. It reminds me of the cute little Neon I drove when I was young.

Firecracker had her yearly brain MRI, which made me feel weepy. But it doesn't change anything, so I'm back to sneaking peeks at this illness from the corner of my eye.

A rather annoying situation at church has developed. Dear Husband was working on a Seder and was feeling that the church was not very supportive and hardly anyone was registering, so he thought he should back out. He was so miserable that I thought it the best course. Well, that resulted in a mean spirited and unprofessional email from one of the staff. As a result he's been feeling pretty wretched, but the response didn't make him feel like sticking around, that's for sure. Now the church wants us to write some sort of letter airing our concerns. Jolly.

The 4000th episode of Goede Tijden Slechte Tijden has come and gone, yet the angst remains. Lucas and Noud are still star-crossed, and I fear I will be stuck in this tangled story line until Christmas. Please note: never undertake a building project alone, at night, in an abandoned sanitarium, with a flashlight the size of a pickling cucumber, and be assured that those odd noises you hear are the sounds of someone sneaking about for an inexplicably long time instead of just jumping out and slitting your throat right away. Finally, keep your bloody cell phone on your person. If you are concerned that there is a possibly dangerous someone lurking, don't think, "Hey, I'll just leave my cell phone here while I go investigate that noise upstairs. Meanwhile, why don't you leave your cell phone next to mine and head off in that direction and look for X, who has not been seen since she wandered off without her cell phone. See ya in a bit."