Posted by David
on May 22, 2008 in Upside-down Hippo
| 0 comments
Now that the serotonin is flowing again, I can tell you about my most-of-a-week in glamorous New York City. Four sevenths is most of a week. I didn’t realize until Monday that I had stupidly forgotten my medication in Maryland and was going through SSRI withdrawal. The symptoms for this are mild to extreme dizziness, a bizarre series of headaches that feel like rubber bands snapping repeatedly around my hairline, a numbness around the face, and a sudden increase in panic attacks and other delightful swings of mood I actually managed to largely stave off this time. I talked myself out of returning home early so I could go with Rob to see a series of short one-woman musicals, one of which was breathtaking, one of which would have been much better if it had contained different music, and one of which had a lot of heart. “Had a lot of heart” is what I learned you’re supposed to say about musicals that suck. But then afterward, walking up Ninth Avenue, we kept running into people who claimed that they had just come from the worst musical reading ever, and no hearts were mentioned at all.
One of my friends just wrote a tirade against theater people being too obnoxious to hang around with, and I can see his point. There are few other professions that attract so many people who require so much external validation. Rob isn’t like that, but some of our friends are, and it’s something you just sort of get past. What irritates me instead are the lies. Like, “You were so good!” comes out of one side of the face and “He was so terrible!” comes out the other. I suppose it’s to satisfy that whole validation thing, but it bothers me. I never tell someone that they were good if they weren’t, but I have devised a series of hearty damnations by faint praise that seem to get the job done. I usually can’t tell if people are good or not anyway. I can tell if WRITING is good, but nobody pays any attention to me because I have no credentials other than being the theater wife who gets largely ignored at any gathering. But I think there are very few people who can judge writing—in itself, not how it is performed—as well as I can. When Rob says a good performance can save an awkwardly written scene, I want to do something rash. He’s usually correct, but why not have a well-written scene AND a good performance? (By the way, I can’t tell if my own writing is good, so there is some irony for you. I am like the prominent local theater critic who wrote one of the most heart-filled musicals ever, A Baltimore Christmas Carol.)
It was a strange four sevenths of a week for me. Insomnia return? Check. Serotonin evaporation? Check. OCD working overtime? Check. I didn’t touch anything with my hands, went through a bottle of hand sanitizer anyway, held my breath and squeezed my eyes shut whenever someone so much as looked at me, and STILL got sick. Also, I had to be careful to keep all of my bags’ zippers closed at all times in case a roach or bedbug wanted to climb in, I could not get out of bed unless my iPhone said the time ended in a five, and I got so wrapped up in whether I was One With Life a la Eckhart Tolle that I could barely function. A couple of times I managed to be One With Life and it was pretty nice. I floated through an afternoon with Ann’s mother with nary a care in the world, but that involved two carafes of hot sake and a klonopin so I’m not sure if that counts—but I totally managed to be One With Life in Carl Schurz while walking Goblin, and I came close enough after Rob and I ran into the Squirrel Lady and she told us about a territorial red squirrel that got its comeuppance in the end, and we got caught up on four years of rodent, raccoon, and hawk gossip. She also mentioned that her cat has developed an aversion to the Fresh Direct delivery people, to which the only safe reply was “Oh, my goodness.”
It was also an uncharacteristic most-of-a-week because I had a number of unexpected revelations about my life, some good ideas for the book I’m working on, and was so massively proud of someone else’s achievement that it literally did not once occur to me to feel bad about my own lack of achievement. It is claimed that this is a sign of being One With Life because you’re supposed to celebrate all success as if it’s your own. There’s enough success to go around, and if you begrudge someone theirs, you are closing the door to yours. But then I couldn’t figure out if my lack of success to date meant that I had been insufficiently One With Life in the past. Oh man, I need to move on to a new chapter in that book so I can find another reason to curse my poor brain.
Here is one revelation that I had: Ann and I were walking down the street and we encountered hundred-foot-tall banners of Indiana Jones fluttering against the sides of Madison Square Garden. “Are you excited for that?” she asked. “Do you like Indiana Jones?”
“Well,” I answered, “Rob is sort of obsessed with Indiana Jones, so I’m sure we’ll see it soon.” And then I realized that most of my responses to questions and pronouncements from out of the blue are either about Rob’s obsessions or my compulsions. Between the two of us, we’ve got a fairly complete disorder going, don’t you think?
On the train, on the way home, despite the increasing serotonin headaches, I read Joel’s book and cried most of the way through. I realize that much of it is supposed to be funny, and it is, but it’s also so moving, and it made me upset to learn the amount of trauma he has gone through since being my friend that he didn’t share. He is always there to listen to my nonsense. After the train hit Wilmington and we shot into the Maryland countryside, I put the book away and stared out the window. It was drizzling and everything was grey and greenish-grey. The crackling of the rain against the windows sounded like someone right behind me opening a never-ending candy wrapper and I tried to fight down my irritation. Be One With Life, I reminded myself. This is not supposed to be something you can force but rather just allow to happen. The train passed trailer homes with the most appalling things in the yards and I tried not to judge them. We are all the same, I thought . . . not just comparatively but literally. We are One. On top of the headaches, my TMJ was acting up something fierce as I clenched my jaw, squeezing out these positive thoughts as if through a tiny opening drilled in my skull, like the one they just used to diagnose Ted Kennedy’s almost certainly terminal brain cancer.
There’s a lot I need to explore, but I think I’m on the right track.