So the euphoria and tryptophan of Thanksgiving wore off, and left in their wake a horrible stomach flu that is spreading like wild fire to all of our friends and family. It also left behind a rather cranky, bloated, and easily annoyed b*tch…. Whoops, at least that positivity lasted about .2 seconds. I do what I can.
Though I am back to bitchy (that would be an excellent name for a song)I am not entirely hopeless. Cranky and hopeless exist on vastly different planes, so you can be simultaneously hopeful and excited while becoming very easily annoyed at every well meaning person struggling with the flu. Tomorrow I start a detox with a group of friends, propelled by a lovely woman I know from high school (she writes a FANTASTIC blog – check it out! http://msmorphosis.com). I am excited about that. I am excited to find a way to take back control of my body and have some people to be accountable to. It should be really fun, though I say that now and I am well fed and have easy access to candy, sugar, and endless amounts of meat. Take that away, ask me to add two shakes of discipline and willpower and maybe my hope will go out with the candy. We’ll see. I’m really looking forward to the whole thing… call me crazy, but I am. I’ll keep you posted how the whole thing goes. When you see a fit, skinny, cranky lady walking down the street, it’s probably me. Wave at your own risk.
A lot of stuff went wrong today. Everyone is puking. So there’s that. My brother in law collapsed at work from awful back pain. So there’s that. I cried spontaneously while working out because someone made a comment about how my movement made them upset in their peripheral vision. So there’s that. And it all seems so dramatic. SO DRAMATIC. It really shouldn’t. What’s the big deal, it’s just some puke, pain and inability to control one’s raging hormonal emotions. NO BIG DEAL. NBD. NBD for sure. I do some of my best thinking when shit goes bad. I was thinking today about how much of the things I’m mad about today were with me all along but I failed to see them. I didn’t recognize that people had small amounts of pain, I didn’t see them building until it was too late. I didn’t notice people getting irked until they were mad enough to explode. I didn’t notice Herbert until he built a high rise next to my brain, even though he made plenty of noise in construction. I just didn’t notice.
There is a This American Life episode, a live show they did in theaters, called The Invisible Made Visible. It’s a series of stories about the things we just don’t see. Here’s an excerpt “And today on our radio show, we have all kinds of stories of people trying to take things that are normally invisible to them and make them visible. I’m talking about unspoken feelings. I’m talking about people’s secret lives.” There is SO much that is just not visible to us. Things we choose to ignore, things we see but fail to acknowledge and the things we don’t have space to see. It’s interesting to think about when we choose to see those invisble things. When do they find meaning for us? Are we waiting to be ready for them? What made me see Herbert? What made me see someone in pain and give them a hug? What makes the scores of strangers who share intimate life details with me, from the woman at the gym, the man at the nail salon, or the mom in the grocery store, feel ready to share? Why now? Why with me? What makes the invisible visible to us?
My favorite part of the This American Life episode was David Rakoff’s piece. Rakoff was a famous author, known for his sharp wit and cynicism. His ability to weave a story was without compare. His vocabulary was unmatched, he was a true wordsmith. I say was because he has since passed away. But in this episode, he was very much alive. He tells the story of what happened to him after a surgery that was part of his life long battle with cancer left him with a flail limb, a dead arm. He talks about how daily tasks that were so frequently taken for granted became tiresome and annoying. In his own words “Oral hygiene. Hold the handle of the toothbrush between your teeth the way FDR or Burgess Meredith playing The Penguin bit down on their cigarette holders. Put the toothpaste on the brush, recap the tube, put it away. You really have to keep things tidy, because if they pile up, you’ll just be in the soup. Then reverse the brush and put the bristles in your mouth, proceed.” Not impossible, just annoying. But in his dreams, in his dreams he can dance, like he used to. His movements are not methodical and calculated, but free. He describes this dream and then, just when you think he is going to walk off stage, just when you think he’s had quite enough, he’s awoken from the reverie of his dream and back to his reality, he dances. He gracefully owns the stage, moving back and forth, elegantly, stylishly. It was a performance that certainly brought me to tears and I had no handicaps to speak of when I saw it. It was beautiful. David Rakoff died shortly after this performance. In a This American Life episode dedicated to David, they play a story where he recounts his first experiences going through radiation, his first bouts of cancer induced anger. He describes it here, “They say that times of crisis are the true test of one’s character. I really wouldn’t know, since my character took a powder that year, leaving in its stead a jewel-bright hardness. I was at my very cleverest that year– an airless, relentless kind of quipiness. Every time a complex human emotion threatened to break the surface of my consciousness, out would come a joke. Come on, give us a smile.” I related to that. Rather than address any of the boiling emotions that bubble right below the surface I tell jokes. So dedicated am I to my humor that I tattooed the word laugh onto my forearm, neglecting to realize that strangers will look at my body and be compelled to laugh, at me, and my body. For no reason. Perhaps it may not be the best way to deal, but it is my way to deal. It is my way of making the invisible visible. I am seeing what my illness is, it is inscribed on my arm, permanently. So I don’t see it how I should or how many might want me to. So I can’t address my emotions with any degree of sophistication. Who needs that? Who needs sophistication when you are laughing so hard milk comes out your nose and you think, “hey, I wasn’t even drinking milk!” That joke must have been really funny. I don’t deal, I quip. When I try to deal it brings this terrible lull over the room.
Take my thanksgiving toast for an example. My dad starts us off with a cheers and thanks to all for being here, blahdy blahdy blah… No one is more excited to eat than me but I stop us. “um…er, um hey, I would like to say something…” My father gives me the go ahead, I wasn’t really asking for it, I was going to say my piece whether they wanted me to or not. “Um, so this year has been weird,” Oh crap, that wasn’t how I wanted to start. I should have written this down. I have some solid one liners in my phone, I should pull it out, meh, too much work. I continued, “a lot has changed…” I wasn’t exclusively talking about Herbert here but to list anything else seemed to cumbersome as my audience and myself were already beginning to cry. Except for the more awkward of them who seemed they either had a joke on the tip of their tongues or they were going to crap their pants from their discomfort (or their flu). “So with everything changing (SOB), the one thing that hasn’t changed is our family and the love we share. I just wanted to urge you all to take in these moments, to be present, because we can’t ever get them back. This, here, this is all we have. Cherish it.” Then it got incredibly awkward, my sister made a joke that our tears would oversalt our turkey and my mom’s bestie (yea, mom’s have besties too) decided to raise a glass to my health. Well that certainly was not the point of that toast. Epic fail, now it was awkward. I nervously set about eating as much as I could, as fast as I could. So sincerity and emotion, while one of my strong-suits only serve to make things too real. More real than anyone wants them to be. So I veil them under jokes and rather bitchy mannerisms that admittedly take getting used to from the peanut gallery. It’s not much but it is all I can do to make Herbert, in all his invisibility, visible. Because, afterall, you can’t face something that you can’t see.
Peace and love