Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Damn Me

I should have kicked & screamed when plans were being made for my mother's memorial service in Missoula. I am booked until about Friday, November 6, & had earlier advocated for doing it on Thanksgiving weekend but I acquiesced to doing it on the 1st. I didn't know how much I needed to see old friends, of mine & of my parents, & to see my oldest nieces & nephews.

It's like a whole new fucking death, this being cut out of the formality of saying goodbye. What was I thinking?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Life Is a Buffet

Last night Daisy & I stood next to a young woman on a cell phone as we waited for the light to turn across from the Binge Store. Daisy gave her a happy look & she said, "Oh, what a cute puppy!" Unfortunately, Cute Puppy's look of interest swiveled immediately to the trash can on the corner which was filled to the brim with the tossed out eats wrappers of the intersection of Binge Street & Binge Boulevard. She jumped up & started pawing around before I pulled her out. I slid a look to the cell phone woman & said, "She's a buffet eater."

The light changed & I heard her telling her friend my remark. It made me think as I doled out ice cream to Daisy, freezer-burned enough that I think I may have lost my taste for the stuff for a minute. I've been low lately & using my blog as a way of talking. This strange zone of quasi-grief is not the only thing in my life. There is a buffet of moods, observations & tasks that I don't report here.

For one, after I posted yesterday, I took a galley & a gift over to Daisy's Uncle Gerry. We sat in his garden & I told him I'd ordered Eye Witness guides to Belgium, Amsterdam, Cracow & Budapest, but that I'd also been looking at a website called The Blue Army because I have an itch (mainly to buy up the girft shops) to go to Fatima & Lourdes. Fabulous tour but, we agreed, unbearable after a maximum of three hours because of one's fellow tourers. He gave me a handful of leaves to smell, lavender that kept breathing the scent of wellness every time I crushed them again. A small hour-long chat that did worlds to bring me out my morning funk.

I have decided that the only thing more wonderful than a slender woman wearing black balerina flats is a slender woman wearing red ballerina flats.

As Daisy & I were crossing yet another street (sans ice cream for once), we slowed our pace to match a whizzy-haired hippie mom with two kids who were ahead of us. She was loaded down with their backpacks & of course one had the name tag "Maya" hanging from it. I think even Daisy rolled her eyes.

It's odd that if I were to hop on a train & go ten minutes beyond New York City the leaves would either be in great yellow piles or blazing on the trees. Is it the ambient heat of the city that keeps the same trees that turn colors everywhere else from turning here. It's rare to see a tree in fall foliage. I didn't grow up with much of it in Montana so I miss it more keenly knowing it's out there, a ring of fire around the city.

Today I terminated & cut up two credit cards. One company tried to convince me the monthly fee & 23% interest was in my best interest. The other asked what they could do to keep me. I told them I wouldn't keep any credit card that was more than 14%. She very generously came back & offered me 14.99%. "That's 15%," I said. "Yes it is," she agreed. I terminated. Did Citizen's Bank think I would listen to the fourteen rather than the ninety-nine?

And finally, an overheard conversation between a yuppie mom & her eight or nine-year-old son.
Son: Mom, do you like nature?
Silence as both parties think about this question. Son realizes it's a sumb question.
Son: Like, you know, leaves?
Mom: Yes, I like nature. I like trees & flowers & animals...
At which, Daisy began barking her big scary bark for no discernable reason.

I wonder if there is a book in the Blue Army? I wonder what a year of Marion devotion would make me?

Now I have to deal with all the jewelry I brought back from Arizona & confirm the appointment with the possible new therapist. Noon on Halloween. Doesn't that sound...auspicious...?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Contrary to Evidence

This morning it occured to me that I need to go back into therapy. I wish I didn't. I have a pretty good idea of what's wrong with me -- low self-esteem, depression, addiction, social anxiety. I also have some ideas about what's right with me -- talent, intelligence, wit, generosity. But I don't know how to get the two categories to balance each other out.

I've been sitting at my computer most of the morning doing the usual things, taking pleasure in none of them and wondering why I'm doing them. I need to get into my files, three feet away from where I'm sitting, and find some stuff for my publicist and editor. I planned to put away all the clothes that happen to be out. None of this is difficult work but I can't do it.

My brother called to tell me that my last and favorite aunt is in the hospital being treated for lymphoma. I spoke to the cousin I'm closest to in that family and it was good in the moment -- we cried about our parents and laughed about our parents, recounted the many ways her father (my father's youngest brother) and my father were tied together. But when I hung up I was empty. Empty or full. Full of a feeling of what's-the-point. I walked Daisy, then walked myself to the ice cream and cookies at Gristides, took two klonopin and we shared a bingelet.

Today I'm on the verge of tears.

The deal with me is that whatever happens, I accuse myself. Objectively, of course, I didn't kill my mother but it's easier to mutter "I hate myself" than be sad. That has to be fixed. So far, I haven't been able to.

When I realized I should get a shrink, I wondered what sort. I trotted my fingers over to the Psychology Today website to look for therapists in my neighborhood. Much as I love Dr. Miller, it was a three-hour commitment to get to the Upper East Side and back again. It's time to shop local. The website has a nifty diagnostic test and this is what it told me:

  • You appear to have experienced at least one major depressive episode.
  • You show signs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
  • You appear to suffer from panic disorder with agoraphobia.
  • Your responses strongly indicate that you suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

I also came up as having lesser symptoms, kind of like having a minor subject area in college, linked to "Social Phobia," post-traumatic stress disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Who, I wonder, decides which of all these states gets capitalized??

My body dysmorphic would have been off the scale if it asked questions besides those concerning anorectia/bulimia.

I found a therapist a few blocks away and emailed him. I think it's time to try a male shrink again. Now I'll have a cigarette, brush my teeth and get ready to call my father about my conversation with my cousin. That may call for a nap.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Onward through the Fog

I thought grief would be a spectacle. You know, breaking down in public, asking the missing one if everything is OK or if she has some wisdom to shed on some subject. I went through a grief similar to that when the Boy from Connecticut dumped me in Round I but this is different.

I don't get it, frankly. I always thought that when my parents died, I'd be headed for Payne Whitney. Up until last May, Mother was the person I was most consistently open with, the person I went to for advice about everything except men. It's not that I don't have a lump in my throat as I write those sentences, as well as the operative phrase "until last May," but this frame of mind I'm in is more like a fog than a fire.

My concentration is almost nonexistent except for stupid computer games. Sunday I slept 19 hours. I never really unpacked from my trip to Prague and came home with some of my mother's jewelry and scarves so the Bat Cave is like a jigsaw puzzle dumped out of the box.

I keep losing things. My checkbook went missing in Arizona but I found it at the last minute and packed it in my suitcase. It did not, however, come out of my suitcase. I've looked ineffectually for it everywhere. Then my ATM card went missing. I found it but only after I'd gotten a replacement. And those are just the important goners.

Nor can I remember things. I sat down, sans checkbook but with a notebook, and paid bills, writing them down. When I looked at my checking account a few days later, there were bills I wrote down that hadn't gone through and bills I'd paid that I hadn't written down. It took an hour to find check blanks and a new ledger and then I called all my credit cards because I had no idea what their balances were after traveling for four weeks out of five. I bought a gift for friends, along with a few other items, and discovered when I got home that the box was empty.

And let's not forget handing over my passport at the bank to get a new ATM card and being unable to remember my social security number for a good three minutes.

I feel haunted -- not by my mother but by a feeling that I've forgotten something important. When I'm out on the street I'm in a rush to get home and do something but as soon as I arrive, I stall out.

It's a miracle my animals are alive and that I haven't walked into an oncoming delivery truck.

All this forgetfulness and losing stuff makes me incredibly anxious. Add stomach problems to the mix. I would love to be able to sit down and cry my eyes out if only I needed to. I'd much rather be in paroxyms of grief than in this light-headed Alzheimer's state.

I'm clinging to accomplishing small things and to the hope of another day's abstinence. I was so wound up over the bank card and keys I needed to return yesterday that I couldn't decide what to do or in what order. But I managed both as well as groceries. I went through masses of papers last night. It took at least two hours when someone else could have done it in 30 minutes, but things are paid and National Public Radio is $25 richer. Today I've done one load of laundry and found a photo for my Lab Lady blog. I've brushed my teeth and taken my morning meds. I remembered that a hungry stomach means I should eat before getting into a new twitter of disorganized organizing.

For the time being I guess I'm going to have to slow w-a-y down, keep my lights on dim and the windows open.

But if anyone finds my brain, could you let me know? I'll gladly pay overnight shipping.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hello Again

Thank you everyone for so many kind wishes, prayers and listening ears.
I got home very late Monday evening from three weeks of mostly dealing with the Aftermath. Sorting, giving, tossing, organizing; reading tiny bits of paper to my father; eating & sleeping; absorbing.

It's good to be home. I have a lot more absorbing to do.

This is not so much about Mom being gone. She began to leave, emotionally and mentally, when she fell in late May & was in such rotten shape that to regret her dying when she did would be an act of cruelty. She would have been 88 years old this month & she was ready. When the social worker at the nursing home asked her three days running (she couldn't remember much by September) if she knew what hospice care meant, she replied it meant end of life. Then asked how she felt about that, she replied, "Shit happens." I'm more OK with her death than I imagined I would be.

But it was an intense time of family & looking at family. Much of this began earlier in the summer & circumstances conspired in various weird ways to keep me looking back in time. Conversations with cousins, with people I knew in grade school, being a unit with my father & brother, making calls & receiving visits, figuring well, we're talking living wills and family trusts -- is there a better time to ask about my birth mother? Much was revealed, much has been forgotten, only a little of it all is something some of us can address.

My brother & I were pretty united over the summer in our efforts to help & plan but death, even a benign one, is a wall one hits, I suspect, with the kind of impact that brings out undercurrents. I collapsed one day soon after Mom died, binge-reading, napping & finally sobbing hoarsely. Jim did not collapse. He soldiered on, reading mail to Dad, sorting business papers, making business phone calls, wrapping up my mother's official life. I have lived alone my entire adult life & I'm not only used to having a lot of private time, I need it. I wasn't surly through that day but I was not communicative nor was I a team-player. Around five I began to stir & Jim walked into my room & said, sarcastically, "Are you going to connect today at all???"

I snapped back in equal sarcasm, "I'm going to take a shower." Which I did & then came out & made crab quiche for dinner.

When we drove to the airport for his flight home, I got a lecture between his taking cell phone calls. Dad was hurt by my moodiness. Dad didn't know if we could all spend time together in the future. Et cetera.

I listened & was mortified. I'm used to being as much in my own world when I'm with my father as he is -- I thought -- used to being in his own world of talking books, science lecture series, football & the Discovery Network. I didn't mean to hurt my father but my "mood" was exhaustion, escapism, grief & a response to how accustomed I am to Dad being literally plugged in to anything but live human beings in his home.

And, dammit, I listened & accepted without retort. I began to see an old pattern re-emerging in that week with my brother. He kept answering for me or cutting me out. People would ask when I was planning to leave & despite my having an open ticket & no set plans, he would give them a day that for some reason he thought was best. We had a small remembrance party with my parents' Arizona friends & the hostess said Jim would say a few words & then Francie would say a few words -- except that Jim thanked everyone for coming for me.

Years ago, he took me to see his shrink to see if I had any memories of childhood that would shed some light. I'm a pro at shrinks & after a while the man broke in & said, "You're great. You know, I met your parents & I've been seeing Jim for a while but nobody ever talks about you. It's like you don't exist or something."

Yes, well, that's a pattern. & rather than turn things narky, I said nothing of my own hurt feelings & ability to speak for myself & let him codify me into whatever story of me he's comfortable with.

I'm "sorer" about that than I am about my mom's death. Once again I feel as though I have no brother, both because the man who calls me "Sis" (Sis? When the fuck did I become SIS? I HATE that name; it's as bad as being called "Fran". Sis makes me feel like a 16-year-old snake & Fran is a nasally whiny version of "fat". Sis infuckingdeed) doesn't get that I am a grown-up (& he could have spoken to me at 2 in the afternoon instead of letting his resentment fester until 5) person on my own, and because I eventually came to feel resentment & disgust rather than anything more fond for him.

I laugh that he is my mother's child -- uber-organized & organizing, dogmatic according to his own lights, a little belittling of my father for Oedipal reasons of his own. I'm my father's child -- happy in my own world, relaxed about certain kinds of things. He needs to DO in order to justify his days & I need to BE in order to survive mine. He's far to the right socially, politically, theologically & I wonder if this gives him some sort of patriarchy complex, a need to be the Man.

I'm sighing here & thinking, whatever. The full story turned out not to be all about Dad being hurt. I felt more manipulated yet. I wonder what other childhood attitudes will blossom in the next few years & I wonder if I'll have a brother after them.

All of this was particularly odd because a week or so after he left, two cousins came to visit. They were eager to hug & catch up & I had to warn them that I am the Antichrist to their similarly conservative headroom. It worries me a little -- I am glad-handy with everything they find reprehensible. It worried me more when I jokingly said that Catholicism is as heathen a religion as anyone could wish & they nodded solemnly. It's a paradox that I'm sure the Old Testament, somewhere, warns against: how can one love someone whose advocacies in life are anathema -- possibly, in their gestalt, sinful?

All of which makes "love" feel a little fragile.

I've always known death brought out the worst in people but I thought it was material rather than whatever this is. I went on to spend two nice weeks with my father & if Jim's competency with legal papers made me feel pointless, I did a lot of heavy lifting & cuticle-ruining going through closets, drawers, desks, under beds. Dad & I drove up to the Grand Canyon, which in nearly 20 years of spending half or more of the year in Arizona I've never seen. We had a nice time & we experienced that wonderful rare thing of synchronicity when we stopped at an Indian market outside the Park as we drove toward the Painted Desert. I don't know why that was so but we enjoyed it the same way, inhabited that 15 minutes so happily that our rhythm the rest of the day was set. It was a two-day excursion we'd never done because in those nearly 20 years my mother simply hasn't been well enough for it.

There are second acts to come even as, once again, I wonder why I can't open my mouth to stake my boundaries and my self, & why I'm not right -- as in, stable & OK -- the way I am.