Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sample Sunday: Floating in a boat of "crazy" An excerpt from One Hundred Open Houses

 “There’s a vanity to candor that isn’t really worth it” Richard Greenberg

I felt crazy today.  I was so at my wits end I didn’t know how to talk to anyone. Thank god Louise left early to get her car fixed.  Everything I said felt superfluous or worse, untrue.  Not that I mind lying.  I think lying has its place.  Maybe I am crazy.  It’s like the crazy you feel when the phone company has you on hold for forty minutes and then cuts you off.  When you get them back you don’t even know where to start.  You voice -respond your problem to an electronic person.  When you finally scream:  this faaking phone doesn’t work, they answer,  “ I think I heard you say,  ‘order premium package.’ “  They stick to the script and even if you tell them you’re going to come after them with a ball peen hammer, they say : “All right then, thank you for choosing A T & T and you have a good day now.”
Suppose they’re right.  Suppose relentless civility would fix everything. Richard Greenberg, the dramatist says, “I appreciate people who are civil, whether they mean it or not.  I think:  Be civil.  Do not cherish your opinion over my feelings.  There’s a vanity to candor that isn’t really worth it.  Be kind.”
Once when I was at the point where life was out of control. I couldn’t raise the kids. Couldn’t! Couldn’t! Couldn’t! I remembered this book on Foreign Service etiquette.  Mostly it dealt with the language of letter writing. Your Esteemed Excellency:  We have noted that you are sending guerillas into the neighboring country and killing the indigent people and taking their land.  We would urge you to cease and desist or the good old U S of A will blow you up.  Your humble and obedient servant.”
I thought maybe it would fix us. I would leave notes addressing four children under ten and out of control as “Your Esteemed Excellencies,” and sign off as “Your humble and obedient servant.”
The second boy, who was a sort of genius, said “Why are we always so non-conformist?”
“What’s non conformist?” asked Maggie, third in line.
“Someone who wants to do things differently from most people.”
“I don’t want to wash my hair,” she said.
“That’s not it.  It’s like grandpa and grandma.  They go to the Presbyterian Church and drive a Chrysler and use Hamburger Helper and eat three-layer cakes made from a mix and put their garbage at the curb.  That’s conformist.  But your father and I, we drive a Toyota Camry and eat tofu and compost our garbage.
She looked confused and I felt ashamed for talking like that to a five year old just to be ironic. “I’m sorry,” I said to my little girl.  Just forget everything I said.  Mom’s crazy.”
“Ok,” she said.
This is how crazy I feel today.  I went to church to sort things out and I’m certain they’ve tampered with the gospel.  The apostles are fishing unsuccessfully and Jesus appears and tells them to cast their nets again.  This time the nets come out bulging with fish.  The priest says there were one hundred and fifty-three fish. That sounds bogus.   I had imagined thousands of fish and one hundred and fifty-three is a disappointing number for a miracle.   For the rest of the mass, all I can think of are those squirming, writhing fish.  While they were in water, they had never been touched and now they were squished against each other.  I couldn’t decide what made the fish most anxious: gasping for breath or being touched for the first time.  I told you I felt crazy. 
I had started out the morning with a calorie overload.  The bowl of oatmeal was fine. I made enough for two days (you can! – just microwave the next morning) and shaved an entire Fuji apple into it and sweetened it with Splenda.  It tasted so good I ate both portions but that wasn’t the end of it.   In the second bowl the Splenda just wasn’t doing it so I plopped in two teaspoons of Polaner Apricot Preserves.  There’s nothing that makes me feel more disoriented than overeating.  And hopeless, too. And then trapped in a black hole.
After breakfast, I saw Jim Carey on the Today Show. I first became interested in Jim Carey when I read that he had carried a check in his wallet made out to himself in the amount of twenty million dollars while he and his family were living in a ten-year-old car. That’s how he imagined his future.    It isn’t hard to see that Jim is tortured because despite his job success he suffers from sequential relationship failure.  His one on one record is so off kilter he married one woman twice.  Jim is comfortable being “on” but when he’s “off” he probably doesn’t feel real.  I suffer from the same “not feeling real” disorder.   Even when I say something somber about my life, people don’t take it seriously. Maybe it’s my delivery or the pitch of my voice.    Dr. Spock used to warn mothers to act casual and cheerful when they entered a sick room so as not to scare the children into thinking their illness was serious.  Harry would have a fever of 105 and blood was on the pillow near his ear.  I’d say, “Hey Harry, what’s going on?” even though I was trembling and could hardly dial for the doctor   When people make light of my enforced life choices, I make light of them, too.  Like Jim Carey I’m most comfortable in an emotional limbo, unable to differentiate between casual loss and real loss.  I think this is what is at the bottom of why I want to write and get it all down on paper.  It’s the only way I can find out how to behave in a really human way.
The stock market is crazy right along with me.  The new Fed Chairman Bernanke is definitely more chatty than Alan Greenspan and did not get the memo that no matter how tempting it is to be in the spotlight, he can’t just indulge in idle speculation because it causes wild moves in the market.  He dropped the “I” word (inflation) casually at a cocktail party and put the averages in negative territory for the year. The WENG I bought a couple of weeks ago was going up nicely but no more.  I will have to work forever.  I’ll be on a walker and trudging to some dreary job.    In my overfed fog I begin to question every choice I’ve ever made including the newest one. This is the worst part.  The worst, worst, worst.  If I had eaten sensibly this morning, I would not feel like this. I would feel in control and even optimistic. Where is that moment where I still have a choice? A moment when I can calmly evaluate whether I really need to put all that extra stuff in my mouth.
 I had Max give me computer help over the weekend and even though he was cranky and impatient and kept sighing as if I had held his head in a vice for two months, we set it up so that the journal writing was segregated and I could access it easily.    If I hadn’t eaten so much, I could probably think very clearly and at least begin.  If I don’t do something, I’ll feel worse than I do now so I’ll just write anything that comes to mind. I won’t even try to make it sensible. Anything.   I felt crazy today. I made oatmeal, not the quickie kind but old-fashioned oats and I cooked them in 2% milk and shaved some Fuji apple into it and even scraped a cinnamon stick and added Splenda.  I would have loved to add raisins because of the contrasting textures. I would have soaked the raisins in water until they were plump and easy to chew and not get stuck in your teeth, but I knew raisins would make the calories jump sky high so I left it alone. I cooked the oatmeal slowly, stirring constantly so it wouldn’t burn and when it was almost done, I turned the heat off, covered the pot and let it rest. 
I served myself a generous portion and spaced my bites instead of just swallowing thoughtlessly.  I took the time to cool it with an ice cube after I burned the roof of my mouth with the first bite.   When I was finished, before I was aware of it, I had scraped the rest of the oatmeal that now had had time to really cook and was all shiny and sprouted into the bowl and dressed the second ruinous portion with a dollop of Polaner Apricot Preserves.  Within several seconds, the oatmeal was inside me.   The rest of the day was just bad, bad, bad. Nothing really evil happened, but I was carrying around this dreadful fullness plus anxiety.   I couldn’t think clearly and it was hard to move with any agility.  You either know what I’m talking about or you don’t.
This journal is not about eating or weight.  Eating and weight are a manifestation of a life that needs fixing.
Even while I was writing this, I knew it probably wasn’t true – it just sounded better.  It was just about eating and weight.  That was my first journal entry and it helped to lift my mood.  It helped to put it down exactly as it happened. A mild electric current went through my system and zapped some of the fullness.

Note: this excerpt is from my e-book original: One Hundred Open Houses


  1. Thank you for an ejoyable read. I feel that kind of "crazy" often, even though the kids are grown and life should be simpler.
    Excellent writing.

  2. Thanks, Linda. My kids are grown, too. "Sample Sunday" is an
    experiment originated by David Wisehart to help indie writers to get their work noticed. I think it's a good idea and it makes a difference in blog views.

  3. Somehow I missed your excerpt on Sunday--I had a crazy day of my own. But I love this. I laughed out loud at the notes to the children. You know I'm a fan of your writing.