Saturday, May 26, 2012

After the Rain...

comes oppressive tropical heat & humidity.  The dog walker's question is always what X season is going to be like.  If this summer is like today, I think I will turn choleric orange of irritation and restlessness.

A friend and I were just talking about the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, sampling two sets of adjectives any 12-stepper knows: "happy, joyous and free" and "restless, irritable and discontent".  We agreed that we're stuck on ad in the latter.  I'm writing this post, once again, in some effort to have done something writerly with a day that feels, with an hour of it to go, wasted and certainly itchy with wishing for anything except reality.

I just came back from walking dogs and had sundry thoughts out on the muggy streets.  They are mostly empty except for tourists, and the tourists were oohing and ahhing and saying they'd want to live in the Heights.  One young girl said, "I'll buy you a place."  The dogs and I happened to be walking toward the mansion where Turman Capote rented the garden apartment and wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood.  It just sold for $12 million and I was ever so tempted, if only lassitude and ennui hadn't gagged me, to tell them what it would cost to live here.  What a snotty thing to even think but how perfect for someone who has an ungreedy landlord and lives in a Bat Cave.  I can't afford to live here. 

The smell of the climbing roses on 70 Willow was almost solid in the thick air.

I remembered the two summers I was both thinnest and employed by the nastiest woman I've ever met.  I would trek off to Starbucks with a manuscript (these were the days of being an agent) and read in their air conditioning, then go to Saturday night Mass and wander around in a cloud of discontent.  I was thin -- I was making a good living -- I was funny, had great clothes, and was nice and I was wandering around the neighborhood wishing I had a boyfriend or any friend, mystified that I did not.  I felt I deserved one after losing so much weight.  In fact I felt owed all over the place -- the pretty clothes that I couldn't really afford, the shiny new job working for Satan, weekly manicures, a big social life, and having a facial and massage once a month.  I didn't seethe with this sense of entitlement; I was disappointed.  I was disappointed because I didn't feel I deserved any of that stuff.

Eventually I would drop my manuscript off at home and go have dinner by myself.  Alone but among other people.

I was shaking my head at the memory tonight.  I'm almost a month abstinent and commented to my sponsor that I don't feel I've lost weight.  If I put a battery in my scale, I would kneeling in prayer before it every day, so I can only go on how clothes fit and comments, the latter of which which usually fuck me up.  Better to rely on clothes because a shirt that fits is an 8-hour satisfaction but doesn't lead either to complacency, self-consciousness or boasting.  I did that the first time around.  If a decade of struggle and depression have taught me anything, it's that I have a fragile and manic-depressive ego.  I hope I haven't jinxed myself even by writing about being abstinent.

I think I was wishing I was thin tonight.  For a moment it promised an answer to my restlessness.  For once I stepped back into those days of being thin on a three-day weekend when one tends to feel more an outsider than usual and I knew it would not make me happy.  Cooler, more energetic: yes.  But happy or hopeful: not a chance.

In a sense, then, big deal if I have or haven't lost weight.  And so what if I am such a toxic brew of cravings, disappointment, perspiration, loneliness, self-pity, irritability and bitterness.  I don't have much else to do and I did not speak to the gregarious out-of-towners.  I'm tempted to end this by saying I have the air conditioner on and sugar-free lemonade powder in the kitchen, so life isn't really so bad.

But you know?  Sometimes life sucks. And the sole positive thing I can say about that is that if you think life is sucky because you're fatter/older/poorer/lonelier, it was probably sucky when you were thinner/younger/richer/engaged.  At the same time, however, if you feel like it's all a bunch of waiting for nothing, you're neither wrong nor alone.

P.S.  I was also thinking about words that should be banned from the language.  "Scent" is one of them, ergo the roses smelled -- "odor" is almost as bad.  Same for feral, creosote and bespoke.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Petty Complaint Department

One among thousands of problems I face every day is the dreaded short space of time between one true obligation and another.  As I begin to write this, I have forty minutes before 1) leaving my house, 2) going out in the rain, 3) meeting a friend to) get on the A train and 4) see First Position.*  What do I do in the meantime that will have some meaning?  I’m showered & in non-dog clothes so I don’t want to clean.  If I got going on the revision of Sex and the Pity in the next thirty-seven minutes it could be damaging to leave it.  I am sick unto death of computer games.  There are numerous small things I could do – transfer money and pay a bill, put earrings away, clean my desk – but there is every chance that by the time I get back and walk dogs, I will be psychically exhausted.**  I’d like to do, or at least begin something, that counts toward my real self...whatever that is.

As I was being scalded in the shower, adjusting the hot and cold water knobs which are, for some reason, reversed in my bathtub, waiting for the “water-saving” shower head that was foisted upon us all by law a few years ago, my eye caught a note on the cream rinse bottle.  “Turn off the tap,” it touted, while conditioning your hair.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I thought.  I am the very victim of male thinking right now.  The “water-saving shower head” takes forever to adjust to a tolerable temperature, thereby wasting water.  It takes at least twice as long to rinse my hair under it as it would under a hard spray, and if I’m, say, coloring my hair, it takes about five times longer.  If I had one finger to shower in cold water, I’m sure it would water, but in the ordinary course of things, it’s a waste of both time and water.

And now I’m told to turn off the tap while I condition my hair.

First off, does anyone really condition her hair?  If she does condition her hair, would she spend five minutes slathered under the stuff without doing something else in the shower?  Surely she’d take that time to shave her legs or loofa her back.  What kind of idiot just stands there?

If I were to turn off my tap, it would take three minutes of fiddling with the hot and cold to find a tolerable temperature. 

And does anyone really shampoo twice?

I am being admittedly sexist when I say that it took a man to think this stuff up.  A bald man.

And who at Maxwell House wants to take credit for the design of their coffee cans?  They have base and rim of metal but the tube is made of cardboard.  The crime in this design is twofold. 

First, the rim juts out so that it’s nearly impossible to shake the last coffee grounds into either the new can or the pot.  I know, I know: there’s not many grounds left so what’s the big deal? 

The big deal is Anne Frank.  She could – and would – have collected those grounds until she could make her papa a weak cup of coffee after dinner on the first day of Chanukah.  I resent my right to thrift and apocalyptic generosity being thwarted.

Second, how do you recycle said coffee container?  I am a slave to recycling, always fussing at it downstairs where my busy neighbors dump wine bottles in the baskets clearly marked paper and their newspapers in those clearly marked plastics.  For whatever reason, New York City recycling wants milk and orange juice cartons in with the soda bottles, but this is graphically clear as well.

So I looked at this coffee container and estimated it was more cardboard by square inch than it was aluminum and duly tossed it in the paper recycling.  When I saw the bags outside, it had been moved to metals and plastics.  Would it be too much to ask Mayor Bloomberg to pronounce upon where such mixed messages belong?  Or might Maxwell House take a look at oatmeal packaging which is all cardboard except for the recyclable plastic lid?

The above ate up the time I had before leaving for the movie.  Twenty-four hours later, I have combed through the private information I store in a big coffee can (a CafĂ© Bustello can, made entirely of aluminum) by my desk and cannot find a recent letter from World Financial Capital Bank.  (I keep everything with account numbers to burn in a friend’s fireplace.)

A month or so ago, I opened a bill that I expected would either be about $90 or $7.50, depending on whether the company had received the items I returned.  Instead it was more than $150, with a second charge marked “bath” after it.  Bath?  I’ve ordered nothing for the bath.  I went online and this bath charge was not among the purchasing history that went back some months.  I called my credit card.

A nice woman took my information and said there would be an investigation into the bath order.  In the meantime, they had received my return and that had been deducted from my account.  She couldn’t access my order history so I could only tell her that this bath-thing didn’t appear.

A few weeks passed and I received a letter from the World Financial Capital Bank, which seems to own every merchandise card out there.  How could I have not saved this?  My students fresh off the boat from Gabon could have written a more understandable business letter.  At least one boner included something along the grammatical lines of, “You are responsible for any other charges, Due on your remaining balance.”  Then, from what I could puzzle out, the letter went on to say that the bath charge had been removed not because there had been a mistake but because the package had been returned as non-deliverable.

Funny thing, I’m here in the Bat Cave for about 20 hours a day.

This was my latest but not my only run-in with WFCB because this winter I had received a yearly fee bill for a card I thought I had closed, do not possess and had never called to open.  I called, explained to the person that I wanted the account closed and the fee removed.  He kindly said it was taken care of. 

A month passed.  A bill came from the same company came, now twice the amount because the yearly fee had collected both interest and a late fee.  I called once again and was assured it would, now, be taken care of.

This month they asked me for Daisy and my Barbie collection.  I called once again, this time to find out that Capital One had taken over that particular credit card.  I explained yet again and have been assured that, this time, the charges have been removed. 

The ironies are rife.  They had, in fact, closed my account upon my initial request but had not gone through the rest of the motions they assured me were to follow.  Someone out there, they thought, was either rich, lazy or dumb enough to send in Busy Gal Barbie and a yellow Labrador to an account that doesn’t exist.  Credit card companies are as bad as Zimbabwe email scammers.

The next irony is that I got a letter from my Discover card sharply reducing my credit limit.  I use that card for big purchases and emergencies; there’s never much activity on it.  At first I thought, oh so what.  Upon re-reading the letter, however, I saw that their reasons were late fees and nonpayment.  My pride was injured.

A big shout-out to Discover, the only credit card whose operatives not only identify themselves by name but by location.  We went through the problems, which I had to explain in exactly this detail, the representative put me on hold for less than a minute and then came back with a reinstated credit limit.  We laughed about the situation and I once again praised Discover for being the most co-operative credit card company I have dealt with.

But thanks to WFBC, my credit rating is probably about 200 right now. 

It’s bad enough to be a day late because I couldn’t haul my ass out of bed – it’s bad enough not to have the wherewithal to shower every day – it’s bad enough that I pick the yucky deli container someone didn’t rinse out of the paper recycling – but I’ve been hopping mad at the illogic behind what I do manage to do.

* I am s-l-o-w-l-y emerging from this long, long semi-death that includes incredible social anxiety.  Each of the above is an impossibility.  I already feel like throwing up.

** Psychic versus emotional exhaustion.  Topic for another post.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Apology to ED + Everyone Else

Is it the food or is it the depression?

I've had enough days away from food to be able to say yes to both.  It's strange waking up & not regretting what I ate the day before but that's not enough to keep me from going back to bed, back to sleep, back to non-caloric oblivion.

Is it the results of the food or depression?

Again, probably yes to both.  My body hurts in ways it hasn't for 14 years.  I'm detoxing.  But while I see no point in binging, I see no point in anything else either.

Most days -- it seems to be running at 3:1 -- I feel like an elephant in a collapsed circus tent.  How hard would it be to bathe?  Too hard.  Do the dishes?  Too hard.

So I go back to bed.

Is it depression?

Yes.  I wake up exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open for what must be done in the morning.  I forget things -- keys, filling out deposit slips, phone calls, transferring funds, paying bills (I have some nice late fees this month when my one purpose in life is to pay off debt: good show).  I swing between days of being hungry but with no desire to eat -- it seems like such an awful lot of trouble -- and days of having little appetite at all.  Walking to the grocery store and interacting with clerks requires a nap just thinking about it.

But the food, the weight and the depression are my three ring circus.  I can write this only because the food is down and because I caught an extra 5 hours' sleep this morning - afternoon.

I think I bottomed out when I realized that eating a pizza quite literally made me pass out.  When I came out of the coma, I threw out the left-over pizza only to pick it out of the trash the next time I woke up.

It can't help my depression to have that fresh in my mind.

Thursday morning I woke up, abstinent, with few dog obligations and a lunch date with you.  I swam out of bed, had some coffee, sleep-walked Daisy and fell back into bed.  It had been two days since I'd last bathed or brushed my teeth.  I don't remember the last time I washed my hair.  I slept deeply until 4 o'clock that afternoon.  I was too limp to turn on my computer and figure out where you were staying to call and cancel. I'd left my phone off the charger and my cell phone was dead as well because maintenance is not high on my list.  I couldn't call until the next day.

When people ask how overeating hurts anyone besides oneself, remember this post.  It murders energy.  It plays roller coaster with self-esteem.  And then, if one is prone, as I am prone, to depression, I can't show up even for apologies.  My dog needs much more walking and play time.  It contributes to my inability to call my 94-year-old father.  It s-t-re-t-c-h-e-s my response time to paying clients and friends depending on me.  I have nothing to say and thinking is an activity best not engaged in.

And the only thing that will help me out of it is medication, abstinence from sugar and flour, and twelve steps.  I trust the elephant handlers and circus guys will get me out of the tent.

I want to say I've hated myself or hated being myself but hate is an emotion I don't have the energy for.  I simply wait.  For the odd "good" day, for more better days, for my body not to hurt so much, for my interests to return.