Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yes, it's possible to be hurting and happy

A few minutes ago, Dick said to me, "It's good to see you smiling." I said to him, "It's amazing. I'm in a lot of pain and I'm in a great mood."

He jokingly responded, "Well, if you can package that, you've got something to sell."

Maybe I do have something to sell, but I'm giving it away free. That's right, folks. Step right up and get it free. Today only! Free tips on happiness! Get them while they last!

What I could sell is a book, but it's a book that has been written many times before, and by people who are far more qualified than me (or is it I?) You see? I need an editor or a good book on grammar.

Sheesh. I'm really putting off getting to the point, aren't I? This subject is just too big, and I've been having some trouble writing lately. I used to be perfectly fine with my beating around the bush style of writing, but in spite of my being in a good mood, my lack of ability to distill my thoughts into terse sound bites is starting to annoy me. I know what I feel, but it's almost pre-verbal. That makes it quite hard to put into words.

If you've been following my blog, you know I have chronic pain problems, and suffer from moderate-to-severe depression. Right now, I can't even imagine being depressed. Everything feels perfectly fine. But it isn't.

Last week, I started to tell someone that one reason I was in a good mood is that I was feeling better physically. Then I realized that simply wasn't true. Not only is it not true, I'm feeling physically worse than I was when I was depressed. Every single depressive episode I've had in my adult life has been preceded by an increase in pain or a new ailment. So, why aren't I depressed?

That question makes it sound like I want to be. I can assure you that I do not.

Veering off course for a moment, the other day I was thinking about how most people are quite attached to their problems. It's not a criticism, but an observation. Our neuroses and quirks are part of our personalities, or so we think. Or perhaps we don't think that, but resistance to change is a major impediment for most folks. Somewhere inside, we think we'd disappear without the problems that make us who were are, even if they cause us pain.

Now, my physical pain has not disappeared, but my attitude towards it has changed. I finally stopped trying to run away from it. I don't like it, but I no longer rebel against it. This is not the same thing as complacency. I go to physical therapy, do the exercises they tell me to do, and spend quite a bit of time attending to my own care. But, I'm not unhappy while doing these things. Nor am I particularly bothered when, like earlier today, I discover that there is something I simply can't do. Once, I would have been very upset, maybe even cried a bit, when I saw that I was "disabled."

Today, as I limped and lurched into the house after foolishly carrying a heavy bucket of maple sap, I sat down, tried to massage my feet, discovered my thumbs hurt too much to do that, and then pulled on a pair of tighter compression socks. That helped. I had a cup of tea and relaxed for a while before doing some work.

Why am I re-telling this boring little bit of my day? Well, once, all of the above minor events would have caused me grief, but today they did not. It was the same yesterday, the day before, and the day before that, for the last month or so.

Something in me has essentially shifted. Every time I think a negative thought, a positive one pops up to follow it. At the same time, I tend not to see any thought as actually "negative" or "positive." They're just thoughts. It's the meaning I give them that makes them toxic or not. Thinking "I can't do a lot of things I used to do" has no inherent feeling attached to it.

You may think that's not true. How could one not feel bad about that? Well, I say, why should I feel bad? What good would it do me? None. Absolutely none at all. There's plenty I can still do. More than enough for a couple of lifetimes, in fact. Why should I add to my own suffering?

It all sounds very logical, but emotions don't often listen to logic. Yet, I've been practicing refuting my own bad logic, and this refutation has finally become a habit. It's as good for me as exercise, maybe even better.

There's so many things that one could be upset about. Every day is filled with problems and annoyances. I seem to have stopped seeing the cup as half empty. But, believe me, it's taken a very long time to get to this point. I generally don't even like to use the word "very", but not only have I done so, I've italicized it, for I don't want to give anyone the impression that any of this attitude changing stuff is easy. It's not. When I wrote I have practiced, I meant it. It takes practice, just like learning an instrument, or learning to read. You can't snap your fingers and change - poof! - and sorry, no, you can't just pop a pill and have everything be all right. Antidepressants don't stop the bills from landing in your mailbox, though I'm sure many wish they would.

It takes work to get over one's problems. Lots of it. It also takes faith. Not faith in something larger than oneself, but faith in the idea that one can change. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, a good majority of people think that if you're over 21 to 30 years of age, it's too late to change a thing. This is simply not so. We change every single day, whether we like it or not. When does it stop? When we die.

So, we can change simply by breathing, or we can participate in our lives more fully. Old thinking patterns are hard to break, but if I can quit smoking, I can do anything. Really. And so can you.

I'll continue this lecture another time. I want to do some knitting.

Image note: John James Audubon "Common Blue Bird" (probably an Eastern Bluebird)

On the old tv show, "Laugh-in", someone used to say "May the bluebird of happiness fly up your nose." I have no idea why.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The miseducation of youth

I should be studying right now, but there's something on my mind, and it won't go away. I feel like I have a growling, angry dog pulling on the leg of my pants. He won't let go until I address him, but I have no idea what to say. "Go away, you rotten doggie!" just won't do.

Lately, I've been taking care of two girls, ages 9 and 11, once a week. I've known these girls for about four years, and love them dearly. So, when I was asked to care for them on a regular basis, I was happy to do it. Now, I've got a dilemma.

This morning, while sitting in my kitchen, the younger girl suddenly noticed that I had an Obama sign on the wall. It's been there since November, but it finally caught her attention. Perhaps it caught her attention because she's been learning new things from Mom's new boyfriend. She scrunched up her face and said, "Why do you like Obama?!" Unfortunately, I was bleary with sleep and unprepared to deal with this question, so I said, "It's too early in the morning to give you a good answer." She didn't like that, and said, "Well, I hate him." I bet if I had looked under the table, she might have been stamping her feet.

"Why do you hate the President?" I asked. "Oh, I don't. know", she said. "Well, you should know why you hate someone" was my response. She got very serious and announced, "He's giving free health care to little kids who don't deserve it and. . ." I cut her off. I then said that sometimes people decide not to talk about politics and religion because they have very different ideas and that it leads to problems. How about we try that? And so, the discussion was over.

I drove them to school, all the while thinking I had copped out. Her words about little kids echoed in my mind, making me upset and angry. Someone's been feeding this kid Rush Limbaugh-ian ideas, and it pisses me off. But to make matters worse, I know that these children are on all sorts of government aid. WIC, AFDC, Section 8 housing, and who knows what else. And here she is, spouting off nonsense about "little kids who don't deserve it." She should know that her family is exactly the type of family that Limbaugh-loving folks despise. Shouldn't she?

But, if I say something, it's highly likely that I'll never take care of these kids again. So, I said that talking about religion and politics are off limits, and I do not feel good about it.

I need to figure out what to say. I don't want to refute or shame her. The latter, sadly, would be quite easy to do. I need to say positive things that might open up their quickly closing minds. But, the thing of it is, I don't know what to say. I haven't a clue. I know how to speak to adults about these things, but kids? My mind is an unhappy blank.

The youngest girl has already pronounced me a "weirdo." However, I know they both like me, but I'm some sort of alien amongst the adults they know. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment. I need help, and so do two little girls.

Image note: I didn't know what image to use. Did you know Dr. Seuss was also a political cartoonist?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Miko's new chair

Sitting in meditation has become increasingly more painful for my back. Now, the abbott of a monastery I once stayed at had told me, "When you become the pain, there is no pain", but the truth is, I've learned the lesson that phrase teaches, and now it's time to do things to ameliorate whatever pain I have. That isn't the same as running away from pain. If one steps on a nail, one pulls it out of the foot.

So, I went on a search to find an affordable back rest to supplement my zafu (round sitting cushion). In Japan, there are countless styles of zaisu or floor chairs, but here in America, this is truly a specialty item. I found about a half a dozen, ranging from $130 to $400 and up. And then, there is the Back Jack:

I've sat on a Back Jack before, and I remembered thinking it wasn't particularly comfortable. In spite of this, I ordered one. I saw I could get an additional pillow for it, and added that to my order, thinking that it might make a difference.

On Thursday, the Back Jack arrived. I set it up in my yoga/meditation room. I confess I didn't meditate on Thursday night or any time on Friday, so when Saturday morning rolled around, and I was to go to the Zendo, I hadn't tried the chair yet. I went into my room to get it, and saw that the seat was heavily covered in cat hair. I got a roll of tape, cleaned it up, and left the house.

The chair was a flop. It caused me to slump. It was too short, and I kept pushing the added cushion up the back until it fell off. I tried using it backwards, and that seemed a bit better. In the end, I decided that it was not only a dud for meditation, but a waste of money. I would return it and find something more suitable.

Nowadays, most companies have quite liberal return policies, but the company I bought it from does not. I have nothing against them, so I am not naming them here. But, I didn't read the fine print. A chair can be returned for a full refund if it's in perfect condition. If it's not, there's a re-stocking fee of up to 25% of the purchase price. I was surprised, but it was okay because I had only used it for an hour. All I had to do was work a little harder with the tape to remove the remaining cat hair. But no, after one use, it looked a little scuffed up. I got out a sponge and tried to remove what looked like dust, but it just spread around more. I felt fed up, stupid for buying something I had doubts about, so I put it aside.

This morning I noticed that Miko was sitting on the chair. She had wedged herself deep into the back angle and was fast asleep. I felt a pang of something akin to guilt. My cat loves this chair. How could I return it? Coming back to the reality of wasting my money, another thought quickly followed: Now I would have to work even harder to remove her Siamese silver fur.

When I came home this afternoon, there was Miko, again, sleeping in the crook of the chair. I put away the groceries and she stirred a little. She woke up, stretched, and then laid back down. Miko usually is hiding when I get home. I'm lucky if I get a glimpse of her. Now, she was happily sitting in the kitchen, content in her new spot. On her new black Back Jack.

I'm thinking of ways to make that chair work for me. I was thinking about it yesterday, too, but now I've just got to. I'm not taking that chair away from my cat. I once felt rather cool in relation to her, but those days are gone. If Miko has found a chair that makes her spend more time with us, I'm keeping it. As for my back, I'll figure something out.

Photo note: Read what Geekologie has to say about 2007's most expensive chair. I doubt Miko would like it. Nor would I, but at over a million dollars, I should hope not.

Friday night update: Miko sat on "her" chair all through dinner tonight. We even had a guest. She has never sat through an entire meal with us, and if someone is over, one minute of visiting is about all she can handle. That black Back Jack must have some kind of cat hoodoo.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Professing to know

A writing teacher (or perhaps a professor) gave a friend of mine a book about writing. Since I am not a professional writer, I probably have no business assessing this book. And since I am not a professional writer, I'll put this bluntly: That "professional" book? It sucked.

If you peruse this blog, you will probably have a hard time finding the expression "it sucked" anywhere. I tend not to write about things I have any critique of (excluding politics, social phenomena, bad products, service, and advertising). Okay, so I do critique.

But, when it comes to books, music, and art, I tend to keep mum. My opinion is that it's all opinion. Now, that's one heck of an awkward sentence, but I'll let it stay.

When I was in art school, I was taught how and why to critique art. I've forgotten all of it. For each professor professed to know exactly what was good and bad, and in every decade it was something different. So, I came to dismiss criticism. I loathe the expression, "I may not know anything, but I know what I like." I may know something and I know what I like is more to my taste.

I don't feel badly when others don't like the same things I do, and I hope you feel likewise.

Now, what was I writing about? I forget.

Oh, the book about writing.

First of all, the author has absolutely no sense of humor. I suspect anyone who doesn't have a sense of humor. But still, I had to give my friend a reason why I didn't think this book was good besides that "it sucked" and the author didn't seem to find humor in anything.

He did have a rule for everything. No long sentences (hear that, Monsieur Proust?) No curse words (fuck that). There were so many rules for no this or that and very few rules for what makes for good writing. If there were, I don't remember.

But the kicker was a chapter of writing examples from his sad students. My friend read some of them out loud (and then e-mailed them to me). Here, he gives examples of terrible, pathetic, and unknowing imbecilic sentences involving the dreaded and no-no word "like". Some of these were the best sentences in the book:

"McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled with vegetable soup."

I burst out loud when I heard this. I think it's great. It's a perfect description. I don't see pictures in my mind with ease, but I can see this, and I can hear it, too. Mr. Professor, if you think this is terrible, I almost feel sorry for you.

"Her vocabulary was as bad as . . . like . . . whatever."

Almost perfect. No, I take that back. It's perfect. I thought that the word "like" might be best left out, but it serves a dual purpose here. The word "like" is interjected into so many people's vocabularies, like, I don't know, like that, y'know? Whatever. You know what I'm talking about, like, right?

Another rule - never use dashes:

"The hailstones leaped from the pavement - the same way that maggots do when you fry them in hot grease."

I admire the person who came up with this image. How on earth did that leap into their mind? Had they actually seen maggots fried in hot grease? I somehow doubt that, and so, I am impressed. It's good fun and a hell of a lot better than any description of a hailstone I've ever heard, especially since it leaves out their size. Why are hailstones always described as peas or golf balls when one can use a real form of measurement?*

"He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells - as if she were a garbage truck backing up."

The sound trucks make when backing up aren't exactly bell-like, but using that image and sound as a descriptor of the love-struck individual works beautifully. It shows the absurdity of blind love in a fresh way. Sorry, Mr. Professor, you need to lighten up. I am also afraid your classes and book may be squelching young talent's creativity.

I do hope my friend doesn't follow a word of advice in it (including "never use contractions").

Image note: Arthur Rackham
'The Professor Can't Stand that Sort of Thing' 1932

*This reminds me that when I tattooed, people would frequently call and ask, "How much would a half dollar sized tattoo be?" I got sick of it. I started asking folks, "Have you ever seen a half dollar?" Yes, that was obnoxious of me, but the truth is, I don't recall ever seeing a half dollar in my life. And, even if I had (which I suppose I must have), the price of a "half dollar sized" tattoo depends on many more factors than it's size.

Lacing my shoes

Today I got a temporary handicapped parking placard. My feet were very happy about this. I love to walk, but right now, my feet get so tired, I start sweating. Aren't you glad I told you this?

I presume the doctor thinks that within 90 days, things will get better. Otherwise, he would have given me a form for a new license plate. Part of my right foot will not get better, but since it's numb, it doesn't bother me at all.

After I got the placard, as I was driving out of the mall (yes, the Department of Motor Vehicles is in a mall), I realized that I needed some other things that might make my life a bit less painful. A pair of scissors for arthritic hands. Cooking utensils with rubber handles. An orange polka dot shopping bag with wheels and telescoping handle. Two more "PenAgain" ergonomic pens. I'd like a latex or memory foam bed, but I couldn't fit that in the car, and besides, it's a huge (HUGE) expense.

When I got home, my feet were aching quite badly. I've got a pair of new orthopedic shoes, but I haven't gotten my custom orthotic inserts yet. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered seeing something about how lacing your shoes properly can make a big difference. So, I googled it. Indeed, there was a lot about this topic. Ian's Shoelace Site has 33 different ways to lace up your footwear (and more to come). The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society has only four suggestions, but they are all different than the standard way that most of us lace our shoes.

Ian's Shoelace Site has more information on shoelaces than I could ever digest fully. Who knew? But I suspect if you scratch under the surface of anything, there's an obsession waiting to be discovered.

Meanwhile, I'm armed with new red shoelaces, laced up using the "Lock Lacing" method. My shoelaces were made by me, using the red cotton twill tape that held together the new tablecloth and napkins I purchased along with all my handicapped person gear.All I did to "make them" was to tightly wrap some clear packing tape on the ends and then snip them cleanly.

My, I went on a mini-shopping spree today. Thank goodness for Marshall's and TJ Maxx. Sorry, but if I had bought locally, that would have been an impossibly expensive bunch of purchases. Yesterday, I bought some Kinesiotape in a small local medical supply shop, and I spent ten dollars more than if I had bought it on line. That kind of difference really adds up. It's a shame, but the local store has just lost my business. I know they have to make a living, but it's important for stores to be aware when their prices are so drastically different than what's online.

This is getting to be too dry a post, so I'll wrap things up. Today, I finally started getting serious about accepting my physical problems. But, as Dick picked up my new scissors and said, "Everyone should have these", I thought, if everyone did, maybe we all wouldn't be visiting chiropractors and physical therapists by the age of fifty. And, perhaps if I hadn't worn impossibly high heels all through my late teens and twenties, my feet wouldn't be the way they are now. Ah well.

The thing is, though, I can't imagine not having worn those thigh-high black boots. Was it worth it?

Image note: Lock Lacing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sidebar update

My sidebar is getting unwieldy and overly long. I'm guessing most of you don't even notice when I add anything to it. Last night, I put "Library Thing" on it. I'm not quite sure what this Library Thing is yet, but here's a link to my library. On it are books I've loved and books I'm reading. The list is not complete, not by a long shot!

Good Morning, Mr. Pain

As many of you know, I've been living with chronic pain for a long time. In the last couple of months, I've been doing quite well with it. It's not been better, but my attitude has been. I've been more accepting and self-caring.

I just deleted a re-telling of my morning thus far. You don't need to hear a blow-by-blow. It's boring.

Suffice it to say, I'm overwhelmed. My pain is about an 8 on the pain scale, which is high, but my ability to deal with it is close to zero. I need to talk to someone, but there's no one to talk to right now, so blogging is what I'm doing. It helps, somehow. I also need to see a doctor, and part of my feeling of overwhelm is due to the impersonal way in which the doctor's office responded to my call. I'm sure they get lots of emotional people in pain calling first thing in the morning, especially on a Monday.

Yesterday morning I thought I might need to go the emergency room. I was feeling what I call "I-can't-stand-itis." I could stand it, and I did with aplomb. Armed with three sizes of bandages and three types of soothing creams and gels, Dick and went to watch a curling tournament. It was exciting, and got my mind off how I was feeling. From "I can't stand it" to simply enjoying myself is a big leap, one that seems impossible to make, but pain is a slithery thing.

This morning, I had planned on doing schoolwork and taking care of my neighbor's kids from 3:30 to 9:30. I can't imagine doing either. So, here I am, just waiting for a phone call from the doc's office and hoping it'll come soon (fat chance). I need to make arrangements if I can't take care of those kids. I'm projecting into the future about my schoolwork - "If I keep feeling like this, I'll never finish." All of the machinations in my mind are the big problem, not the pain.

I'm sure if I had a friend over and I was engaged in a meaty discussion or smelling an array of perfume, I'd be feeling much better. If I didn't have obligations, I could just attend to myself. This tells me that I should just attend to myself and forget about the rest. That is the world of chronic, oppressive pain. Living on that slim edge between total disability and taking care of oneself is difficult.

I write this not for pity, but for therapy, and also, with a bit of hope that others who struggle in this way might feel better when reading it. Most of the time, my life is fine, pain or no pain. I had said pain was a slithery thing. It's a slippery thing, a thing that morphs and constantly changes. It's hold on a person varies with a stealthy cruelty. One moment everything is fine. The next, screaming pain tears through a leg, settles down to a dull ache. The mind is confused and wants to both run away and be hypervigilant at the same time. It's exhausting.

I called my morning pain "Mister", and then thought how pain is often dressed in leather, latex and high heels. Not my pain. This is no "she." Mr. Pain is really devoid of gender. And I realize, the minute I see this pain as "not me", it gets much worse. The minute I push away something that is part of myself, it cries out "I'm you! Don't push me away!" Okay, pain, I'll try to accept you and nurture you. I know you need some help. Maybe pain is my baby, and I wouldn't let my baby keep crying out of need without some attention.

Ah, the heating pad feels lovely. Now, what shall I do while I wait for the doctor's call? And should I be the wretched squeaky wheel who keeps calling the doctor's office. I know how much they hate patients who do that, but still. . .

I just don't know. After all this time, I just don't know.

Image note: I wanted use a painting from the Pain Exhibit, but the "save" function has been disabled. Instead, here's the cover of Bob Flanagan's book. He turned his lifelong struggle with Cystic Fibrosis into performance art and wound up leading the longest life of anyone with CF.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sunday afternoon meme

Preface: Find the typos. I'm sleepy.

I got this meme from Return to Rural who got it from Pop Culture Librarian., Then I saw somewhere that it's been on MySpace for years. Whatever. It looked like more fun than the average meme. It's not a list of questions like "What did you eat for dinner last night?" Once in a while, kicking back and answering a bunch of silly questions is very relaxing.
1. You can press a button that will make any one person explode. Who would you blow up?

I must preface my answers to all questions involving violence to others with the following: I would not intentionally do anyone any harm. Seriously, I'm not even sure indulging in murderous thoughts is a good idea, but a little bit of silliness around this subject isn't too harmful.

So, who would I blow up? George W. Bush. It bothers me no end that he was president of this country for eight years, got us into a war under false pretenses, tripled (or is quadrupled?) the national debt, ignored the Geneva conventions, and hasn't seen a lick of consequences for any of this. I just might, in this case, press that button. But, I'm afraid death by sudden explosion might not be a good punishment for Mr. Bush. I would really like to see him tried for war crimes.

And you expected a fun answer. Oh well.

2. You can flip a switch that will wipe any band or musical artist out of existence. Who will it be? Billy Joel. I don't know why, but I really, really, don't like him. I don't like his music, but that doesn't explain the intense visceral dislike I have for him. I hadn't liked him previous to this, but he was highly vocal about how horrible the punk rock scene was in New York, and said something stupid about how "real" New Yorkers wouldn't be caught dead in a place like CBGB's. I now question my memory of his comments, but I still adhor him. I used to see him around when I lived near his home on Long Island. I hated seeing his face. You see, we're talking about pathological dislike. Shame on me.

3. Who would you really like to just punch in the face?
Well, I've already made George W. Bush explode, so I'll go with Cheney. That friend of his whom he shot while bird hunting should get first crack at this, but evidentally he didn't feel the need. I'd prefer it if someone from the court at the Hague punched him in the face, but I'll do it in a pinch.

4. What is your favorite cheese? Jarlsberg. Why is it so expensive? It's fairly ordinary. I also love brie, extra sharp Vermont cheddar, havarti (especially with dill), and the little squares of La Vache qui Rit (the laughing cow), which I always forget still exists. Living here in Maine, I miss the cheese shops of New York City. When I was a kid, it was always a treat to go the cheese shop and sample some new cheese.

And I do love creamed cheese, which I think most folks forget is, in fact, a cheese.

Wait. I also forgot that I love good mozzarella, especially the little balls that are soaked in olive oil and herbs. And freshly grated parmesan. And Ricotta Fresca. . .oh, I do love cheese. I probably eat too much of it.

5. You can only have one kind of sandwich. Every sandwich ingredient known to humankind is at your immediate disposal. What kind of sandwich will you eat? Does this question imply that this is the only sandwich I will ever get to eat for the rest of my life? Well, in that case, the answer would be, given the second sentence, a sandwich with every ingredient known to humankind in it, on a really good whole wheat sourdough roll (which is hard to find.) Then I could pick out what I don't want every time I eat it. Hold the onions, pickles, relish and ketchup. I don't like those on sandwiches. And hold the liverwurst, too.

6. You have the opportunity to sleep with the movie celebrity of your choice. We are talking no-strings-attached sex and it can only happen once. Who is the lucky celebrity of your choice? This is a little creepy, isn't it? What are we, 16? Moving on...

I don't want to sleep with a celebrity. I'd just be uncomfortable thinking about how he is way more good looking than I am. And I wouldn't pick anyone who I didn't think this of, for what would be the point? What's the point, anyway? Is there a celebrity known for being really good in bed? If so, maybe I'd pick that one. And please don't tell me it's Tommy Lee. Well, I could sleep with him, I suppose. Why didn't I just move on already?! Um, maybe k.d.lang would be a good choice. Julie, stop this right now!

7. You have the opportunity to sleep with the music celebrity of your choice, who will it be?
Didn't I already answer this?

8. Now that you've slept with two people in a row, you seem to be having an excellent day because you just came across a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk. What do you buy?
The sad part is that one hundred bucks would not cover the price of what I'd want to buy if I suddenly found some money to blow. All the perfumes I currently am wanting are more than that. Isn't that ridiculous?

9. You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?
Paris. I am afraid I'll die without ever having been to Paris. Really. I've wanted to go there since I was ten years old, but I've never made saving money to go on trips a priority, and I've never made much money.

10. An angel appears out of heaven and offers you a lifetime supply of the beverage of your choice.
There's a organic Earl Grey Tea angel?

Rufus appears out of nowhere with a time-traveling phone booth. You can go anywhere in the PAST.
This is a difficult question. Would I like to go back in time to rectify something in my life? Sometimes I'd like to, so I could go to medical school. Then again, if I did that, I would not have had the life experiences that have made me who I am today. So, nix that, even if I do wish for it on occasion. I wouldn't mind traveling back to the 18th century. I wouldn't stay long, for I'd probably get sick and drop dead. I would bring back some good linen cloth, which was once so ordinary, and is now terribly overpriced.

You discover a beautiful island upon which you may build your own society. You make the rules. What is the first rule you put into place?
I'd make a rule that rules are made by consensus (except for the first one, of course). This means that everyone has to agree to them. It isn't as hard as it seems. In consensus, if someone doesn't agree with something, and it doesn't mean that much to them, they just keep their mouth shut. Sometimes, a little arm-twisting is necessary with this type of decision making, but it's a good one.

13. You have been given the opportunity to create the half-hour TV show of your own design. What is it?
I would like to host a TV talk show. I would interview "regular" people who do interesting things, and I don't mean weird stuff. If someone makes their own shoelaces (something I'd like to do right now), I'd interview them. I'd interview perfume makers. It would sort of be like this blog, about everything, and with very little about anyone famous.

14. What is your favorite curse word?
I have stopped cursing, for the most part, since I stopped tattooing. I used to swear like a sailor, though I'm not sure that cliche holds up any more. My most used curse word was "fucking", as in "He's a fucking nutcase." Was it my favorite? I don't have a favorite, though it was very funny when Dick's sister-in-law from Norway discovered the word "douchebag" and was using it a lot.

15. One night you wake up because you heard a noise. You turn on the light to find that you are surrounded by MUMMIES. The mummies aren't really doing anything, what do you do?
The mummies are just hanging around? Why would they do that? Are they waiting for me to get up and make them breakfast or something? Look, I don't believe in mummies, or at least I don't believe in people who are wrapped up in bandages after they've died coming to life, so I don't care if they are doing something or not. If I woke up and there were mummies in my bedroom, the first thing I would do, being serious here, is call an ambulance that would take me to the nearest emergency room for an assessment.

16. Your house is on fire! What do you do? I'd try to get to my phone so I could call 911. Then, I'd try to find Miko and get out of the house. What about Dick? Hopefully he'd be taking care of himself. I bet he'd beat me to the phone, or have started putting out the fire. He's so handy.

17. The Angel of Death has descended upon you. Fortunately, the Angel of Death is pretty cool and in a good mood, and it offers you a half-hour to do whatever you want before you bite it. Whatcha gonna do in that half-hour?
If I just had a half an hour to live, I think I'd just sit and talk with the Angel of Death. After all, I don't believe in the guy (or gal), and if I turn out to be wrong, I'd be really interested in what he had to say. I'd also have a cannoli and a cup of espresso, both of which I can't eat right now. If I was about to die, a little stomach ache wouldn't bother me. Maybe I'd have a big piece of lasagna and a glass of Chateau Petrus wine, which is supposed to be the best in the world right now. It's $1500 a bottle. Don't worry. I'll put it on my tab.

18. You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what's even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! Is eternal life a super power? If so, I'll take that one.

19. You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again? That's not much time to do anything too serious... The answer to this question is not fit for publication.

20. You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be? Nothing. Another case of believing that all past experiences have made me who I am today, and I wouldn't want to change that.

21. You got kicked out of the country for being a time-traveling heathen who sleeps with celebrities and has super-powers. But check this out... you can move anywhere. I said I'd like to visit Paris, but if I had to live somewhere else outside of the United States, I think I'd choose the United Kingdom. That way I wouldn't have to struggle to learn another language, but I could easily travel to different countries. I would like to live in Japan, but I have no idea if I would want to stay there, so that's not the answer. Why am I taking this so seriously?

22. This question still counts, even for those of you who are under age, if you were banned from every bar in the world except one, which one would it be? I don't drink, so it really doesn't matter much to me. I do like two bars in Belfast, just for their atmosphere. One is an old bar and the other a new one. They are so different. Okay, I'm pick Rollie's, the old bar. It's quite homey and they don't serve the really good beer I like, so I wouldn't feel bad not drinking it.

23. Hopefully you didn't mention this in the super-powers question... If you did, then we'll just expound on that. Check it out… Suddenly, you have gained the ability to fly! Whose house are you going to fly to first, and be like "Check it out I can FLY!?" I'd probably go to Lisa's house first, because I tell her everything.

24. The constant absorption of magical moon beams mixed with the radioactive vegetables you consumed earlier has given you the ability to resurrect the dead famous person of your choice. So which celebrity will you bring back to life? Why are people so obsessed with celebrities? I don't get it and I never will. I would like to resurrect my mother. Okay? I have super powers, so don't mess with me!

Photo note: This is a still from the 1960 movie "The Time Machine." The movie is in color, so I don't know why this is black and white. It looks much older than 1960, but I did some verifying, and it is indeed correct. It is based on the H.G. Wells book of the same

The only reason why this entire post is in bold is that I made a mistake and it was easier to make everything bold than to pick out the wrong html code. As I've said, I am sleepy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Japanese toilet and other ruminations on an unmentionable topic

Earlier this week, I read a long excerpt from Dogen's Shobogenzo in "Eat, Sleep, Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple." It was about how to use the toilet. This chapter is nine pages long, and can be read in its entirety here (chapter seven).

The level of detail on how to conduct yourself before, after, and during one's cleansing of the body and eliminating waste products is mind boggling. I thought to myself that I'd have a hell of a time if I were to follow these instructions. I would probably pee in my pants before I got to the toilet, or I'd be so flustered that I might do so simply out of anxiety. Don't get me wrong. I don't make it a habit of messing myself. I haven't since I was younger than five, maybe even much younger. But I can go to the bathroom pretty much any time that I want, and I don't have many rituals I must perform.

This evening, a friend and I discovered what is called the "Super Toilet." Here's a video of a man showing us a low-end model of the Japanese toilet (and yes, he uses it, but he's very polite):

In many Japanese public rest rooms for women, there is a recording of the sound of flushing toilets. Evidentally, women are very uncomfortable about anyone hearing them do their business, so they would repeatedly flush the toilet to drown out any offending sounds. I wonder why they don't just pipe in loud music instead.

The top of the line Japanese toilets do an amazing array of things: They lift the lid if you are facing away. They lift the lid and the seat if you're facing forward. They have heated seats, air-conditioned seats, and some have air-conditioning for the whole room. They are also bidets, and most have built-in blow dryers. Some even play music!

The company that is the world leader in the manufacture and design of these toilets is Toto. This Japanese website is in Japanese, of course, but you'll get an idea of just how intense the technology is, as opposed to the typical American toilet, which seems downright barbaric in comparison.

I noticed, at first, that I thought "those Japanese sure are crazy." Every society has its own craziness. The Japanese are a bit obsessed with poop. One can buy books about how to divine your future by looking in the toilet bowl (sort of like tea leaves). But, you can also buy books about how to assess your health by looking at the same thing. That makes sense to me. In America, our neurosis is the polar opposite. We want to pretend that this bodily function doesn't even exist. Notice how I didn't use the word "defecate" once in this post. Yes, I just did, but only after noticing how I was tiptoe-ing around it.

My grandparents were somewhat obsessed with poop. When I stayed with them, my grandmother would ask me every day at 9:00am, "Did you do you duty yet?" She may have been saying "doody", but I'm pretty sure she wasn't. Either way, it felt the same. In her mind, one should do one's duty every day at the same time. If not, it was prunes, wheat germ, or enemas. I lied and hoped she wouldn't check.

Now, I have an ordinary toilet with a seat that is loose. It is nearly impossible to clean properly. I'm hankering for a modern toilet, but those Japanese models cost nearly two thousand dollars for an entry-level model. Interestingly, in Japan, they cost 200-500 dollars. More people in Japan have these than they do personal computers. Surprised? I was!

Photo note: For more great signs, go to this Flickr group, "Signs of the Times."


I wish I could have found a picture of Miko without her collar on. But, during the months when there's no snow on the ground, Miko has her collar on all the time. She's on a ten foot (or so) lead, and this is her world. If she ever runs out the door without being hooked up, she stops dead at the end of her imaginary rope. She acts bewildered. Believe it or not, she has never ventured beyond this territory. Never.

Miko is an odd cat. It took me years to come to love her. I used to feel vaguely guilty, for I felt no attachment to her at all. Now I do. When we were away, I started to miss her terribly, and when I realized I could hardly wait to see her again, I was glad.

She's rather hard to love. Most of the time, she's invisible. I don't even know where all her hiding places are. She will sit on my lap a few nights a week, if I'm lucky. It's unusual for her to stay long upon my lap, for if I make the tiniest of gestures, she becomes unnerved and runs away. She is a nervous cat. I don't know what happened to her when she was a kitten, but I wonder if she was abused. Even after living with us for over five years, she's still a scaredy-cat. We treat her with nothing but kindness, if she's around.

Miko is a lynx point Siamese, but that's a breed that isn't recognized by the la-de-da Cat Fancy Association. That's okay with me, for I have no interest in showing cats. I have gone to cat shows, for I love looking at the different breeds. But, to be honest, the whole thing creeps me out some. Sorry, but I find it strange that many cat show people have cats that are much better groomed than they are.

I said I would write a post about Miko, and I feel like I've got very little to say. She doesn't have much to say either, which is fine by me, for most cats with any Siamese in them have a grating voice. Miko meows once in a while, usually over something I can't figure out. She also makes funny little sounds when she's looking out the window. If there's any birds, squirrels, chipmunks or other cats out there, I can tell by her strange chirp-like vocalization and the twitch of her tail.

Miko is not a picky eater. She'll eat any cat food, but she doesn't care all that much for human food. She does like beef, but lately that's something we don't have all that much. And when we do, if it has the slightest bit of gravy or seasoning on it, she'll just walk away. I used to have a cat who ate anything; Doritos were amongst her favorite treats. Miko wouldn't stoop to eating a Dorito.

Miko kills mice, but she hasn't figured out that she can eat them. Or perhaps she doesn't think they are tasty. How would I know?

She's a beautiful cat with slightly mysterious ways. It's fitting to her name, which is Japanese for the female conduit between the animal and human spirit world. Miko is also the name of the star of one of the most popular hentai* in Japan.

I'm rather glad that she's not an overly affectionate cat. Nor is she particularly playful. This is great for a knitter. She can sit next to me when I'm knitting and not have the slightest interest in batting at my yarn. She doesn't sit on my chest when I'm reading a book. She doesn't sit on my laptop, either. This is a real problem with some cats. Miko just doesn't get in the way or knock things over. The only thing she does that's a problem is mess up that nice chair.

Because she's so sparing with her affections, I feel honored when she does jump in my lap. A few weeks ago, she fell asleep on my aching belly when I was in bed. This is a real rarity. I laid there smiling as I drifted off. I also wondered if she was responding to the fact that I was in pain. I tend to think it was a coincidence, for she isn't attentive to people's needs.

Maybe she knows I'm writing about her. She just came over and she's purring. She's smelling everything that's around me, even though there's nothing new here. But, I usually don't spread out my schoolwork in the manner that is in now. That's another thing about her - she hates it when anything is moved.

And now she's scratching at her favorite chair. It's a disaster. The arms are all frayed and furry looking. But since this is the only place where she scratches , I'm loathe to make her stop.

That little visit took all of two minutes. She has now run up the stairs to wherever she is hiding nowadays.

We used to do yoga together. She'd roll around on the floor. I'd roll around on the floor. And sometimes, we meditate together. I think she's just hanging out, doing whatever cats do when they're just sitting. I'm may be just sitting too, but somehow I doubt she struggles with intrusive thoughts.

Sometimes I wish I had a dog, with whom I could walk. I tried training Miko to walk on that leash, but she became terrified if a car went by. At the time, there was no place to walk in the woods. Now there is, but she won't cooperate. She has no problem with it keeping her from freely roaming, but there's no way she's coming with me. And if you're wondering why I put her on the leash, you should see the road I live on. The likelihood of her being hit by a car is high.

Maybe Miko is the perfect cat for me. A bit neurotic and aloof, but highly affectionate once in a while. Sounds like me!

*La Blue Girl, a cartoon porn series about a girl with secret sexual powers that can kill and her struggles with an evil society in an alternate universe.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Buddy, can you spare an idea?

My past strategy for jump-starting the flow of ideas (admitting I've run out of them) hasn't worked. So, I'm taking suggestions. I'd put up a poll, but I never get more than a few responses. C'mon, help a blogger out!
Photo note: For those who haven't seen my Twitter photo, these are my hands (and no, they are not that huge). I'm wearing what are called wristers, pulse warmers, or fingerless gloves, depending on where in the world you live. They are so easy to knit! The yarn isn't anything special. I took an ugly pinkish-purple skein of yarn and threw it into a dye pot with very little water in it. I sprinkled dye on the wool in a haphazard manner and let it simmer for twenty minutes. I love being a sloppy dyer!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dakota prefers Jicky

On Friday, a friend was over, and I told her about how Jicky had perked me up. She'd never sniffed it, so she did, and put a bit on her wrist. I also mentioned to her that I was enjoying Sarah Jessica Parker's Covet, much to my surprise, and that I had picked up an ounce of it at TJ Maxx for five bucks. So, she put a bit of that on her other wrist.

She told me that when she got home, her dog, Dakota, kept sniffing the wrist with Jicky on it. She completely ignored the Coveted wrist.

Jicky has a basenote of civet. It can't be the real thing for it's no longer 1889. If I'm wrong, someone please correct me. But the scent molecule for civet is there. Can Dakota recognize that? Or perhaps Dakota just prefers Jicky,for she's a dog of very good taste.

As for my reviewing Covet, I won't. I seem to have lost the ability to say more than "I like it" or "I don't like it."

Today's scent is Annick Goutal's Encens Flamboyant. I like it.

Photo note: Dakota, with a cow's hoof in her mouth.

Friday, March 13, 2009

No more bare feet

Yesterday I received a prescription for orthotic shoes and inserts. Afterwards, I went for a fitting. The choice was better than I expected. My idea of orthotic shoes are the ones my grandmother used to wear - as heavy as a bowling ball, black, and ugly. Most of the orthotic shoes are indeed quite ugly, but some of them are accceptably plain and don't look like something one needs a prescription for.

I saw that there were slippers near the wall of shoes and asked if they were special. "Oh, you can't wear those", said the orthotics expert.* "Well, what should I wear in the house?" I asked, quite innocently. He answered, "the shoes." "Shoes? In the house?" I was appalled, not because I park my shoes at the door, but he seemed so deadly serious.

Then he went on to explain to me just how serious my foot conditions are, and that going barefoot, even on the beach, was now a thing of the past. I should wear lace-up shoes at all times, and if I want to put my feet up on my sofa, I'll just have to unlace my shoes. What will I do in homes (or a Buddhist meditation hall) where no shoes are allowed? I have no idea. Perhaps there are orthotic slippers out there somewhere for me, but he was adamant that they were not for me. I looked at the fleece lined slip-ons with longing.

Being told that I should never go barefoot again feels like a turning point in my life. It's not that I'll never feel the sensation of grass and sand beneath my feet, because I can certainly take off my shoes when I sit down. But somehow, that's different. The truth is, I haven't been able to walk barefoot since last Spring, when my right foot started bothering me. Since then, both my feet have gotten progressively worse, and now, even walking in the best shoes I've got makes my feet hurt so much that they wake me up at night.

So, what's the "turning point" feeling all about? It's the end of youth. Sure, I know my youth ended quite a while ago now, but this feels different. The restrictions, ever mounting, on what I eat, wear on my feet, how much I walk, what kind of exercise I can do, the amount of energy I expend in a day. . .well, this is the antithesis of youth. Youth, almost by definition, is carefree.

As I bid the past adieu, I am trying to accept what is. Today I missed the poetry workshop at Treetop Zen Center, for I woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible bout of GERD and, in the wee hours of the morning, a lot of inflammation and pain. I slept through my alarm clock and when I finally was awake enough to get up, the workshop was just starting, 45 minutes away. Even if it was down the street, I felt too awful to go. The urge to cry washed over me, but it passed as I thought about all the things I could do here at home. I can acknowledge my feelings of loss, but I don't have to let them ruin my day. Yeah, I feel like crap, but I can read, knit, write this entry, listen to some new audiobooks I just put into iTunes, and even have a nap later if need be. Perhaps I needed a day off, even as I wanted to attend the workshop. I'm beginning to listen to my body very carefully. I used to fight what my body told me it needed, as if it was something separate from myself.

So, here I am with two aching feet. Today I am looking forward to my orthotic shoes! I'm wondering what I'll do with all the lovely high heels that are sitting in my closet. Anyone have a size 8 foot? There are shoes that need good homes!

Photo note: I guess I won't be wearing these 19th century boots. I do have a pair of boots that are similar (in black). I can't bear the thought of parting with them, though I haven't worn them in at least ten years. That's a bad case of attachment!

*What he's actually called is beyond me, and I should know, considering I'm studying medical transcription. But, since I am studying medical transcription, and am taking a break at the moment, I refuse to look up the term.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

And now, more soap

I enjoyed browing Google images after writing "One always needs soap." I meant to name all the files well, but I got lazy. However, I did make a mental note of this: I haven't a clue whether their products are any good, but Claus Porto sure knows how to package their soaps beautifully.

Where did my thoughts go?

What happened to the days when I wrote two or three posts? Or even one a day? I've been feeling as if I have nothing to say lately. Now, periodically I write an entry where I say that I need suggestions, and instead of taking any, I suddenly become prolific. Somehow, I don't think that's going to happen this time (but we'll see, won't we?).

My thoughts have been dry. Today, I'm wearing Guerlain's Jicky, and as I'm feeling quite tired, I'm enjoying it's sharp, crisp scent. That's all I have to say about it. Not very entertaining, eh?

I started using an anti-inflammatory gel for my arthritis. Now, this is the most boring of subjects, but the gel must be measured out on these little strips of paper so that one gets the dosing right. There's an entire booklet that comes with the prescription. In the past, I might have written an entire entry about this arthritic gel. I have enjoyed making mountains out of molehills and finding deep meaning in the littlest things in life. Lately, I see the little strips of paper as just that - little strips of paper. Yawn.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not depressed at all. I'm in a very good mood. I wonder if that's the problem. It's certainly been a suspicion of mine for years that a certain kind of depression increases my creativity. I'm afraid it might be true.

Uh oh.

Maybe I shouldn't have put the Jicky on this morning. I had had bad night's sleep, waking up at 4:00am to a lot of pain and a (thankfully) short-lived wave of intense emotional distress. When, at 7:30, I awoke to a better mood and a whole lot less pain, I was tired. I eschewed the usual suspects of scents I've been wearing lately and reached for the Jicky, thinking it would keep me buoyed up for the day, and it has. I even used it in a purely aromatherapeutic way as I was driving. I have a small roll-on bottle and I held it up to my nose. The car hit a bump and the roller ball hit me (gently) right between my nostrils. So, I'm still enjoying the scent. Any perfume that can be pleasant when deposited right under one's nose is a good one. I may even do it again the next time I'm a bit too sleepy to be driving. "Jicky - even better than caffeine."

Painting note: "Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs", artist unknown, 1594. Read more about this painting here. In lieu of a lively post, I resort to a bit of titillation. More paintings from the Fountainbleu school to come.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rambling thoughts spurred by the last post

Thank you, dear readers, for your responses to the last post. I appreciate them all. I want to respond to each one of you personally, for you all had something interesting and provocative to say. I know I'll be writing again about all the topics I touched on. Aging, self image, body image, control, insecurity, strength, acceptance. I could pick any of these topics and devote an entire blog to it. But since I contend that "everything is interesting" I won't be doing that. Speaking of single subject blogs, my second side blog is not being attended to. Again, I am keenly aware that I am in need of at least three lives. Perhaps they'll cure death before I die. Somehow, I doubt it.

When I re-read what I had written, I had to disagree with myself about one thing. I wrote that I had not gotten over some of my anorexic thinking, "not by a long shot." I still have remnants of anorexic thinking, to be sure, but I am over most of them. And I want to acknowledge that, not just for myself, and not just to set the record straight, but for anyone who is suffering from an eating disorder. Yes, one can get well.

What's left? I still am attracted to extremely thin people. I admit it. One part of me recoils in horror as another part of me is attracted. But at the same time, I have come to find all shapes and sizes attractive. Unfortunately, I do not extend that to myself, but most of the time I just do not notice. Another thing that is left is what is called "body dysmorphia." When I look in the mirror I see what I feel, not what is really there. These days, this is a positive thing. I like the person in that mirror. It's only when I have to try on some pants in a dressing room that I notice I'm not thin.

In the downscale stores, the dressing rooms are a horror. The designers of these torture chambers are idiotic. For one, turn the lighting down. The room should feel candlelit, slightly romantic and luxurious. I'm not the only person who feels drained and stressed out after leaving a dressing room. The last time I tried on some jeans, I left the dressing room with sweating palms, and much to my shame, a mess. I was shaking slightly. Victoria's Secret has great dressing rooms, but they don't sell minimizing bras, so I don't go there any more. Listen up, Kohl's, if you want your next quarter to be better, pimp out those dressing rooms.

Now that I've veered off course, I'll try to reign myself in. One commentor had mentioned that Annie Lennox looked like she had plastic surgery. I'm not so sure, but I'm no expert on this. Here's what she had to say to Reuter's:
"I still want to be an empowered performer, an empowered woman. I want women to see that and think, 'It's OK, she's got a few wrinkles and it's fine.' I don't have to lie about my age ... What's to be ashamed of? And what is so wrong about being older?"
Lennox is 54 years old. She's just put out an album. Personally, I'm not all that interested in hearing it, but it's great that she's still at it. Patti Smith is still at it, too. Now, I'm fairly certain that she hasn't had "work done."

I'm not posting these photos to be catty. These women have been role models to me, as I once was a performer trying to buck the beauty standard and just perform. Of course, sex appeal and charisma are a big part of being a popular musician, no matter how edgy one is. But, there are some women who have either not relied on their looks to carry them or who have had great fun playing with their adrogyny. Patti Smith and Annie Lennox are two of them. Others that I can think of (off the top of my head) are k.d.lang, Laurie Anderson, and Sinead O'Connor.

Patti Smith genuinely changed my life. I wasn't a fan of hers. She was too "pop" for my taste. But I had never seen her in person. I was a bit too young to have seen her at CBGB's, and saw her play at at fairly small venue just when her album "Horses" came out. There were balcony seats and I was in one of them, but not for long. I was mesmerized. There was a woman on stage who was not seducing the audience with her sex appeal. She was as intense as any performer I'd ever seen. She looked like an innocent waif girl and a young street boy at the same time. She howled. She stalked. She twirled. She was doing exactly what she wanted, at least in my eyes. It was a revelation. I wound up at the edge of the stage, barely breathing, transfixed.

That week I started playing guitar in a band. I didn't give a damn what I looked like and what others thought. Seeing Patti Smith gave me that strength. Me, a terribly shy kid, almost mute, who had absolutely no faith in herself, no self-esteem, almost complete self-hatred, somehow, miraculously, played my guts out on stage. I still don't understand it.

Tonight, I'm trying to cover too much ground. The last post brought up a lot for me. The comments, too, touched me. And so, I'll end it here, for now. To be continued. . .

Addendum: I wanted to mention that TMC posted "Strength, Part I", a mosaic of strong women. I'm looking forward to Part II (and more?)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Not myself

After I've finished reading something on BitterGrace Notes or Smells Like Boi, I often think I shouldn't write. Both bloggers are such beautiful writers. Truth be told - their skills intimidate me. Yet, I must remind myself that there are many different styles of writing and ways of expressing oneself.

I hesitate to say that I write the way I think. This may sound odd, but as I meditate more, I feel as if I don't think about things all that much. Until I put voice or word to any thoughts, the thoughts waft through my mind like fast moving clouds.

I allow myself to write stream of consciousness and it's rare that I edit (as if that weren't obvious). I once participated in a short writing workshop that turned out to be about how to turn off one's internal editor. I thought, "I haven't got one!" We were told to write something as fast as possible in ten minutes. I spewed out pages and pages of nonsense. This reminds me that I sent an editor two rough drafts way back in July and haven't heard a thing from him. It's damned impolite.

See? Those last two sentences weren't on topic. But I am loathe to change. I feel as if I'd be giving up something honest about myself if I did. I don't practice the art of writing. I'm just talking to myself and letting you in on it.

Oddly, this was supposed to be the introduction to a post on anorexia. Now that seems too sudden a shift. But is it really? My allowing myself to write just as I am is related to my allowing myself to accepting myself just as I am, isn't it?

Anorexia is the antithesis of being just as one is. It is the ultimate control. Those who haven't experienced it may think that a person who stops eating has lost control of themselves (or their minds). But, most people who have had anorexia report a deep sense of satisfaction at having mastered their appetite. It feels like a triumph.

When I had nothing in my refrigerator but bottles of sparkling water and wore a size 0 pair of pants, I felt unconquerable. I also sported a crewcut. At my thinnest, I shaved my head clean. The androgyny made me feel powerful, too. Even at 5'1", I could pass for a young man and often did. Seeing my bones through my skin looked beautiful to me. I loved my sharp hip bones and the way slinky fabrics draped over them. Never mind that I had so little padding that I got bruises on those hipbones all the time and it hurt to sit on my bony backside. I felt like the master of my little universe.

Once a week I would meet with another anorexic friend and we would go to TCBY to eat frozen yogurt. It was our big, naughty treat. She was stricter than I, for she'd get the yogurt with the imitation sugar in it. I never would use that stuff. In the midst of slowing killing myself, I cared about not putting fake sugar in my body!

I didn't think I was killing myself. Not in the least. I have never believed that there was such a thing as "denial." I always thought that if a person was in the grips of an addiction or a behavior that was bad for them, they knew it. They just didn't want to or weren't able to stop. I was wrong. I had no idea that I was anorexic. I looked in the mirror and thought I looked gorgeous; like a model! I was photogenic for the first time in my life. A friend took a picture of me when I had bleached my hair. I looked a bit like David Bowie. It astounded me. Here I was, a woman who had always been plump, who had been teased for being fat and being busty when I was in elementary school, and I looked like a model or a rock star. Finally!

What I didn't know is that my doctor was planning on doing an intervention on me if I didn't stop losing weight. She was constantly encouraging me to gain a few pounds. I thought she was nuts. Me? I needed to gain weight? I'm not too thin! It was impossible for me to believe.

The intervention never happened, for I did start gaining weight. My love of food finally got to me. See? Even now, I couch the end of my anorexia with a phrase that implies that the end of being thin was something bad. I'll write it again: my love of food finally got to me. You see, a part of me still longs to be that thin. Maybe not that thin, but thin enough not to think I look like crap from the side or feel that I must wear a high turtleneck to cover my double chin. No, I'm not over this by a long shot.

I agree with my whole being when I read about being a "ferocious crone" on BitterGrace's blog. Yet, these demons still haunt me when I'm struggling to get into a pair of jeans or look at a photograph of myself. Other times, I must admit, I look in the mirror and just see me, a person whom I like.

Photo note: Somehow it seems unfair to Annie Lennox to put her face at the top of this post. I searched, in vain, for a painting that spoke to me. Then I typed the word "adrogyny" into Google, found this photo, so lovely, and said "this is it." No, Annie Lennox didn't have anorexia, as far as I know. She had a beautiful, shapely body. I thought the contrast of her womanly form and her adrogynous style was "to die for" (though I've never uttered those words in my life). In order to be more like her, and less like myself, I starved myself. No, not to be Annie Lennox exactly, but she was my ideal. She is gorgeous. And she is gorgeous still. I will find a recent photo of her to post, but not tonight. Tonight, I am done.

I'm somewhat normal

"Thus an average man—one with 120 friends—generally responds to the postings of only seven of those friends by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”. An average woman is slightly more sociable, responding to ten. When it comes to two-way communication such as e-mails or chats, the average man interacts with only four people and the average woman with six. Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are somewhat higher, but not hugely so. Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26. Men communicate with ten, women with 16."

-"Primates on Facebook", The Guardian

So, I'm a bit under par.

Painting note: Pierre Bonnard
"Young Woman Writing" 1908 I imagine this woman is writing letters. I used to write letters when I was a girl. I had a penpal in Australia for many years. In my twenties, I sent out Christmas cards (on time). Now, I find it hard to stay in touch with anyone who doesn't use e-mail.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Now I know why I'm coming late to Facebook

It's just too much. I've only got five friends and I'm overwhelmed. However, if you're on Facebook, scroll down the sidebar and click on my badge. I do need more friends. Only five friends is an embarassment.

I'm also reminded of why, when I was in the seventh grade, I made a decision to opt out of being in a clique, even if they were all smart kids. I couldn't keep up with the social obligations.

For me, time flies by much too quickly. At the end of the day, I've never done all the things that needed doing. And to top it off, I've always tired easily.

One lifetime is not enough. Not by a long shot.

Image note: I'm blocking on the word for "piece of an image." Google didn't help. I think I'm starting to have those senior moments. . . Anyway, this is from an engraved National Times Savings Bank certificate issued in 1884. And now I googled the bank's name and came up with nothing. I think it's time for me to get off line and look at the great new (real, with paper pages) book I got in the mail today, "Bankei Zen."

Addendum: Father Time is the devil.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A bad message a day?

I think they were always there but I wasn't paying as much attention. It seems that every time I open a magazine or surf the Web I find yet another bad message. You may be thinking, "Only one?" And if you are, I'd say the question is a good one, for there are bad messages about women's bodies everywhere. And I'm sure that there's plenty of bad messages for men, too, but I haven't started noticing them yet. Just wait. I'm sure I will find them soon.

Earlier this evening I saw a banner ad for some sort of eye cream that showed a before and after shot of a woman's eye. In photo number one the undereye was puffy, creped and discolored, the lid drooping and the crow's feet deep. The after photo was perfect. Sorry folks, but without surgery (and Photoshop) this is impossible. But besides the blatant absurdity of thinking that any beauty product could produce those results (and that it was the same person's eye), the before shot was amateurishly doctored. It looked like someone had applied heavy foundation makeup under the eye and then took a hot blowdryer to it, causing it to cake and bits to fall off. You'd think it would be the lovely after shot that would look fake, but no, I suppose whoever put this sad ad campaign together assumed we wouldn't look at that awful eye for too long. What's sadder is that someone out there is buying that product.

A few hours later, this popped up in yet another banner ad:
"My wrinkles were getting worse and I felt embarassed and ashamed."

Now, you tell me why anyone would be embarassed or ashamed about wrinkles. I certainly can understand feeling poorly about watching one's face age, even as I wish that weren't so. But ashamed and embarassed? That would mean that someone had done something wrong to create the wrinkles. Is this imaginary woman feeling guilty that she hadn't used the correct creams? Maybe she'd never washed her face in her life. That must be it. Otherwise, what's there to feel ashamed by?

All kidding aside, I know that I wouldn't have these fine lines around my lips if I hadn't been a smoker, or at least they may have been put off by some more years. But still, I am not ashamed or embarassed. I have been noticing them more, and part of me thinks it isn't so much about my past smoking as my habit of pursing my lips and this certain face I make when I look in the mirror. Years and years ago, a friend pointed this out to me. When I look in the mirror, I suck in my cheeks slightly, tuck my chin in a bit, lower my eyelids and turn up the edges of my mouth. I used to try on hats on my lunchbreak years ago when I worked in midtown Manhattan. I am a bit sorry that girl pointed out this odd habit of mine, for I've been aware of it ever since (and the habit could never be broken).

Why did I do it? I probably noticed that many models hold their heads like that. I also never had any discernable cheekbones and tilting my head foreward helps create a shadow under my chin, which is very small.

Should I be ashamed and embarassed by my weak chin and lack of cheekbones? Maybe I should be. I ought to have saved the money to get plastic surgery, right? I mean, in this society, from what I gather, I'm remiss in not doing everything I can to look like the beauty standard and keep myself from looking old. If I don't, I'm not complying.

If I don't, I may even be causing others grief. Years ago, when Clinton was in office, I knew a man who groaned every time he saw Janet Reno on TV. It wasn't because he thought anything bad about her politically. It was because she was "old and ugly." He was offended that he was obliged to look at her when he watched the news. And good ol' Rush Limbaugh would probably agree with this point of view. After all, one of his reasons for not wanting Hillary Clinton to win was totally apolitical. He said he didn't want to be forced to watch a woman age in public. What a horror show!

Ideas like those above cause me to envision a dystopian future in which women will be socially ostracized for not having plastic surgery or having to cloister themselves away after they've passed their youthful "prime."

There is irony here. That glass ceiling may have been shattered in 18,000 pieces (or whatever number Clinton named), but the tyranny of the beauty standard seems to be getting worse. Or perhaps, now that my youth is gone, I am just noticing it more.

But, I think not.

Image note: Quentin Matsys' "Grotesque Old Woman", a painting I have always disliked immensely.

Yet another side blog

I've had a side blog before and I let it go. Well, I started another one a few weeks ago. It's called "Just looking." You'll see it in my blogroll - see, I'm a fan!

The only reason I'm doing this is because if I have a blog "on Sugar", I have access to all the Getty images that are copyrighted. I thought perhaps I'd move this blog other there, but Sugar is just not as good as Blogger.

Not much to check out on that site yet. A few more pics of Dior's stunning red gown that I've posted about here. An interesting black gown by an unknown designer (and if anyone knows who, please leave a comment). And three bottles of Annick Goutal's Encens Flamboyant. They do have a great image editor, but I haven't quite figured it out yet.

Image note: Portrait Of A Lady In A Yellow And Black Gown Adorned With Lilies Holding A Black Bird, 1901, by Ilya Efimovich Repin
The new blog is about fashion and art. I stay rather mum. Sounds impossible? Not in the least.