Friday, September 26, 2008

"All I want," she sighed, "is..."

Let me start off by thanking you for your understanding, advice and support. Further, I'm feeling a little grayer after so much blackness. Getting a very small cold that's kept me away from the nursing home has also given me a small space -- very small because I've been sleeping like it's my new profession and I am not abstinent. There hasn't been room for the Great American Novel in the gap my cold gave me, or even room to do the laundry or bathe every day. But I'm in less despair than a week ago.

Just before I set out on the afternoon dog rounds, I was sitting in my kitchen not enjoying the taste of my coffee and whining to myself. "I don't even know what I want," I said of today's soporific atmosphere.

That was immediately and transparently one of the stupidest things I've ever said.

I want to be abstinent, I retorted.

I want a bunch of money.
I want to be thin.
I want to start chapter three of my novel.
I want to get Pam's situation under control.
I want some energy.
I want to be in [my 12-step] Program.

Those were the items that came to mind at the moment. Here are some more:

I want to live in a home where I can give a dinner party.
I want my body not to ache.
I want a television that's not snowy and a DVD player in both my computer and my television that works.
I want Barak Obama to win the election. I want him to get us the hell out of Iraq. I want him to make Brian Schweitzer Secretary of Energy.
I want to go on a real vacation.
I want my debt to be less that five thousand dollars.
I want to know if my Missoula friends are still my friends.
I want lilac bushes.

I have no illusions that these things will make me happy-with-a-capital-H-Happy, but they would certainly promote comfort, satisfaction, community, existential meaning, and hope.

What have I done as I've slowly (and I do mean slowly) pulled myself up out of this dark place? I ordered most of my Christmas presents. I figured out how to make some stuff on Cafe Press. I've given reasonably good dog. I've eaten what I wanted, or thought I wanted, at night.

As I look at this list, I'm struck by how achievable they are. I'm pretty powerless over Pam's recovery in and of itself but I can coordinate things to facilitate it. I'm quite powerless over the election and I wish the Obama people would stop emailing me forty times a day to "call my friends and talk them into voting" for him. They have in their records my zip code. I live in a zip code that sports Obama placards in twentieth-story apartments; I don't know anyone here who's not voting for him and I won't risk yet another family schism by talking about it in certain quarters.

I'm utterly powerless over the appointment of Schweitzer to a new cabinet.

I'd say the big stumbling block in the way of everything is lack of abstinence and lack of energy.

I wonder if they're the same thing.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I'm going to sound very whiny in this post, so if you're a critic of that tone or that tendency in me, go away.

I was talking to one of Us last night and saying there's not much "me" in my days lately. Everyone I know is in terrific emotional and/or physical pain and I've become the listener and, in some cases, adviser or advocate for my friends and family.

It may have started when my dog Roger moved away. That was also about the time my mother, who has chronic congestive heart failure, was rushed to the hospital for three days to treat fluid in her lungs. My blessed brother Jim handled that crisis and flew down the day she got out of the hospital and stayed long enough to get everybody settled and for my father to have the first symptoms of shingles.

They asked Jim if we could take turns going to see them for a few days every two - three months, so I'm going out for their birthdays in mid-October & for Christmas. Jim will get to do the spring cleaning.

It was also about the time I learned my former sponsee, whom you may remember from PFT as "Pam," whom I gave my fat clothes to, has been back and forth between the hospital and nursing home since early April after everything that could go wrong with a hip replacement went wrong: raging infections, two strokes, a breakdown in health care, severe depression. Her health care agent, the person who is in charge of making decisions when she can't and advocating when she can't (and she can't: she's on so much morphine and in so much pain, she can barely remember her own name, let alone remember to ask why she has shooting pains in her left foot), lives in Michigan and can only do so much from so far away.

It became quickly apparent that she needs someone at hand to chase down doctors, go over medical records, get physical therapy for her partially paralyzed left arm going. It also became quickly apparent that person was going to be me.

This means I have to tightly organize my days. Get and drop off dogs on time, bathe in mid-day, have food ready for dinner, be braced to race over to Cobble Hill to talk to people. & I've become a pretty disorganized person who seems also to be on call for other people's problems. If it's not time I spend for and on Pam, it is, therefore, guilt. Which is also exhausting.

Mix in one of those 90-minute apocalyptic phone conversations in which two people lay their cards on the table and leave rattled but as up-in-the-air as they were before, the observation that one of my dogs was peaky -- losing weight, lethargic, drooly -- taking her to the vet and finding out she does, in fact, have Lyme Disease (my first thoughts were reprehensible: 1. thank God that HUGE amount of money I signed on their credit card came up with something, 2. I'm proud of myself for noticing she wasn't well when there were no overt symptoms), and finding two women from my Missoula past through Facebook and touching on old feelings...

You have someone who has been severely depressed, in and out of sugar, incredibly, seemingly incurably tired.

I'm getting a cold now, which doesn't in the least surprise me except for the question of how I could get one with so little human contact. I may well have dug into my own system to find a little teeny weak virus to exploit for the purposes of shutting down further -- shutting down even on the pain that I have allowed myself to feel.

I talked about this last night and ended up in the sugar. Writing about it will either do the same or begin to shake off some of the load that's been so heavy I don't want to talk about it. We all know that depression and food are the Catch-22 of all Catch-22's. I know that I can shake out of my depression a lot faster by getting out of the food and that I cannot entirely shake it if I'm in the food.

So it's Day One. I can't take my germs to the nursing home (how convenient) and I discussed with one of Us last night how, when we're really depressed, brushing our teeth or taking a shower counts for a lot. I think I can brush my teeth today. I have written a blog, which seemed beyond me.

Now I need to learn how to build rooms for other people's pain and lock the doors on them until I need or must get into them.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Waiting for Hannah

You can cut the air with a butter knife right now. Until the storm really blows in it's going to be sheer unmitigated misery outside.

Then it will be a different kind of sheer unmitigated misery outside.

Yesterday was borderline horrid but evocative. I've never really been any place tropical but the very tip of the Caribbean was covering Brooklyn, sometimes in sticky stillness, sometimes in a breeze that "almost" made me want to dance. Almost = it was still damn humid, hanging out at between 60 - 80%.

So we wait. I'm in several cycles that I don't enjoy but have to go through. I have two extra dogs today, who hated each other -- "Allen," who needed to be out of the movers, & Henry, whose humans are suffering through the US Open. Tomorrow Daisy and I go to Mally's house for 3 1/2 days, juggling Mally with the other dogs, although thankfully Boomer is away for two weeks -- they hate each other & Roger went after Henry today that left a number of bloody scratches on my left arm & thigh, which is enough for a while.

The best thing about Roger moving, aside from fewer scraps, is that I gave him a red triceratops that is sewn as tightly as any object I've ever seen & is only slightly smaller than Roger. It's become his demon twin & he is hilariously attached & scared by it in turns. The other best thing about this dog is that when he goes in for a scrap, I can pull him out, not only because he weights about 25 pounds, but because he lets me. I hauled him away & we sat & had a talk about being jealous of Henry & I told him about the people I'm jealous of & I cried & he rolled over for a belly rub.

The worst thing about Roger is my sore heart at losing this demon seed. He's a scary, scared dog but so smart & understands me better than anyone but Daisy. Unfortunately, because Daisy owns me, she doesn't give a shit very often about how my novel is going or how much I wish most parts of Henry's humans' lives were mine. The second worst thing is that he didn't kiss me goodbye, but that, like losing weight & waiting for hurricanes, is an act of nature & nothing you can ask for.

The best thing about the Mally gig is his owner asking if I was prepared to hydrate their elderly cat. The cat's nickname is "Little Boo" but Tim put the question both more and less formally: "You OK with Left Pocket and the bag?" You tell me, but I had a long pause in which I had to put various scenes from The Godfather out of my mind.

The latest act of nature perpetrated upon me is that I got on the scale this morning & it told me I've gained four pounds. Oh God, why hast thou forsaken me??? What did I do? It's one of those "All I Want" days: "All I want is to break 240".

All "All I Want" modes are suspicious, even when I think they're realistic. I'd like to say, for instance, that all I want is a shower. But I want a cheeseburger more & I want to NOT want a cheeseburger even more than that. Whatever accounts for those four pounds is in the wait-and-see ether.

Still. I really want to break 240.

This is a grab-bag post. I'm listening to Annie Lennox. I cleaned the tops of my stove today & bought a flame-thrower with which to relight the pilot light in my oven. I walked past a Ford Explorer this morning & thought it said "Extortioner," which made me giggle, & when Henry wanted to kiss a baby's feet & I steered him away, I heard myself saying, "You don't eat babies' feet, Silly. You wait until they're toddlers."

I've spent too much time alone lately. Can you tell?

With more to come as Hannah sweeps up from New Jersey.