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365 Days Hath January

I used to really love winter, and I still do in theory, but there is something about January that I am starting to find unsettling. It’s not really about the weather, although these stretches of spring-like temperatures are both a pleasant break from the chill and a terrifying hint of future chaos. There is just something that seems interminable about this month, as if I’ve gone through a whole year in a mere thirty-one days. Maybe I’m feeling that way in particular this year, as I’ve purposely heaped a lot on my plate, or maybe this infernal back pain has really been a reminder to take it easy. I’ve spent an awful lot of time on a heating pad this January.

Well, today is the last day of January, and I think things are going to speed up. If my back does not heal, I’m going to have it surgically removed, and that will cut one of the anchors that are slowing me down. I will just be a front zipping about my business, the jauntiest front in town. It’s just the sunny side of the hill for me in February.

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Despite All My Rage

I read once, I think in a scientific journal, that the ghosts of our ancestors are watching us all the time, even when we poop and have sex. But that they aren’t judging us on the quality of our pooping or sex techniques or anything; those ghosts are so evolved beyond bodies that they are just amused at the demands being corporeal places on us lowly humans. It is like us watching the habits of animals at the zoo, said the scientific journal. I don’t go to the zoo very often, but I watch an animal in my bedroom all the time. This particular animal retreats to her corner to gnaw on cow bones or slurp on her own forepaws for hours at a stretch. Regularly, she will emerge to issue demands that her stuffed yeti be tossed or her belly rubbed. This is an alien creature, I will think, with a correspondingly perplexing worldview. We try to communicate, but as with the ghosts of our ancestors, we are each trapped on our own side of the veil, doing whatever it is we do.

There is a meditation I’ve been doing lately that invites us to imagine that we are not our thoughts and deeds, but the silent space that contains them; that we can observe our thoughts and be the observer and not the thinker. Esoteric, but I thought I understood enough of the gist after a few weeks that I would watch my thinking with a certain detachment. “This is not me, this is just what I am doing right now.” Which in itself is sort of liberating but nothing compared to when I woke up in middle of last night and, accidentally, conjured up the real deal. Was my brain sleep addled? Was it a psychotic break? I felt a tremendous calmness and suddenly had a unique perspective on my life, as if I were a ghost watching from the outside, as if I were a Boston terrier peeking out of a corner at the confounding behavior of her human. I saw that not just my thinking and emotions and actions, but my very perceptions are cage that I habitually navigate, almost blindly, responding to external triggers rather than shaping my own experience. And honestly, even the idea of “external triggers” is ceding too much power, as they are really flare-ups of my own exhausted or insecure or self-centered mind. This seems a bit depressing to type, but honestly, the feeling I had as it was occurring to me was calm, optimistic, liberating.

Today, in the waking world, it was business as usual in my brain, but every once in a while, I did catch a glimpse of the cage of my thinking and, blessedly, the space beyond.

In other news, I am starting to regret not having had any descendants. Who am I going to watch when I am a ghost?

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My Encounters with the Healing Professions

All of these visits to the skeleton doctor remind me of when I was caught in a feedback loop between the frankenstein and the mad scientist, the former wanting me to talk through my problems and the latter wanting to medicate me into forgetting I had any. No pharmaceutical on earth was up to that heroic task, and I was tied in knots by the frankenstein’s grab bag of uplifting metaphors: I think I was supposed to be swimming over waves while pedaling a bicycle at one point, and I don’t even know how to swim. Luckily, acupuncture saved the day back then, but it’s taking its sweet time with this back pain situation, which is ironic since half of my patients are now former back pain sufferers thanks to me and my needles of stinging love. I think I have started psychically absorbing their symptoms, sort of like Jesus, except, I hope, with a better outcome.

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The Chupacabra of Inflammatory Foods

Written last night:

I have eaten nothing but wholesome, nutritious foods for the past two days, having eliminated sugar, dairy, gluten, grains, and (my preciousssssss!) wine. Red meat, citrus fruits, and soy are other random items on the verboten list. I could tell you more, but there is not a person on earth who under any circumstances cares what another person on earth is eating; my entire agenda for bringing it up was as a prelude for announcing that I feel like shite. Shite, I say! Yes, I know that eliminating processed foods and genetically modified foods and potential allergens and whatnot is supposed to make you feel as perky and joyful as an angel’s boobs, but that smug and blissful state comes on the other side of the WITHDRAWAL. OMG, THE WITHDRAWAL!!!!!!!!! Headache, malaise, lack of focus, depression, bouts of rage, intense cravings. In. Tense. Cravings. Let’s just say that if Twinkie the Kid were passing by, I would take him in every way a boy can take a Twinkie.

Written today:

Whew. Perky and joyful, that’s me. I felt a little off in the morning, but have been energetic, cheerful, and focused since then. Breathing easier, thinking clearer, and I think my back even feels a bit better now that I’ve gotten that damned chupacabra off of it. The chupacabra of inflammatory foods! That is the worst kind of chupacabra.

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A Transition

Yesterday, after having my hair cut by Fabulous New Stylist Cara, I decided to drop into the adjacent dog grooming studio—not because I felt the need to have Cara’s work adjusted, but because the same woman who owns the dog grooming studio sold me an eight-week-old Goblin Foo Uvula on October 7, 2000, and I wanted to say hello. She was delighted to learn that Goblin is alive and well and full of sass and pizzazz, and to inform that Goblin’s older brother, Bob, is alive, although now deaf and mostly blind.

Goblin’s mother, Annie, died a couple of years ago.

It was information that weighed on me for the rest of the day. At bedtime, as we were getting comfortable, I scooped Goblin into my arms and broke the news as gently as I could. She took it placidly, her cloudy eyes meeting my gaze for several seconds. Maybe she didn’t remember her mother, or maybe she had already known, somehow, in the way dogs seem to know things. And we snuggled extra close under the covers. And I was still rubbing her tummy when she started snoring.

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FRIDAY CHUPACABRA BLOGGING, FIRESIDE CHAT EDITION

“I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about chupacabras—with the comparatively few who have always understood the dangers of chupacabras, but more particularly with the overwhelming majority who, until recently, saw chupacabras as a distant and imaginary species. I want to tell you what has been done in the last few days, why it was done, and what the next steps are going to be. I recognize that the many proclamations from State Capitols and from Washington, the legislation, the Chupacabra regulations, etc., couched for the most part in cryptozoological and military terms, should be explained for the benefit of the average citizen. I owe this in particular because of the fortitude and good temper with which everybody has accepted the inconvenience and terrors of the Chupacabra Red Alert. I know that when you understand what we in Washington have been about, I shall continue to have your cooperation and not have to order that you be shot on sight.”

—President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 12 March 1933

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The Species that Dare Not Speak Its Name

I don’t know why chupacabras are not a part of our national discourse. They did not get a shout-out in President Obama’s stirring inaugural speech. There are no hot chupacabra-oriented questions on Quora. It’s as if they don’t exist. And from my self-appointed throne as America’s Chupacabra Expert, I declare this omission unacceptable. I declare it unAmerican. 

In other news, I woke up today with the kind of headache that comes from wildly underestimating how much Bailey’s Irish Cream is left in the bottle when you think you might as well pour the rest of it into a glass to finish it off. Also, my visit to the skeleton doctor went swimmingly, and I had an encouraging meeting about my upcoming wellness practices book.

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That’s What Happens

Are you still here? I confess, I thought one of us would have given up on this thing by now. I am running out of material.

Today, I ate a black bean burger and a little bag of potato chips and went into a blood sugar coma that knocked me out for hours. My brain synapses are still flickering tentatively back on one by one. In contrast, whenever I drink a cup of coffee, I am awake for days. And don’t get me started on the heroin. I am so delicate, like a flower. But not an ugly flower like the daffodil. I think I would make a nice daisy, if you want to know the truth. Maybe a tulip. Sleek and uncomplicated, that’s what I would be, and that’s what you should be, too.

Well, I’d love to stay and chat, but I have to go climb Kilimanjaro.

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History

Happy Inauguration Day! Hey, do you remember that time that little girl on “Love Sidney” was playing with matches and accidentally burned down the couch? Or was that Punky Brewster. Anyway, in the interim, we got into some wars and financial crises and then we got a black president. (One of these things is not like the others.) I am not at the festivities because I have a patient later, and also because I can’t leave Goblin unsupervised for that long. If nineteen-eighties sitcoms have taught us anything, it is that plucky little girls are a danger to us all.

My memory, or lack thereof, is a familiar topic around these here parts. Why can I remember the words to every 1980s sitcom theme but not, I don’t know, Spanish? Why can I remember that “BJ and the Bear” was preempted the day they released the Iran hostages but not what the new movie about the Iran hostages is called? These are mysterious times. I will put on my paranoia cap and blame our black president. First he came for my memory, and I did not speak out because I forgot to. Then he came for my guns, and hoo boy!

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Sign Right Here, Mr. Jones

I have made a deal with the devil. The devil requires that I perform certain rituals to initially heighten and eventually alleviate my suffering. The devil knows that the only way out is through.

Whereas, etc. etc., in this year of 2013, blah blah . . . hmm, oh, here we go . . . David solemnly promises to do the following on a daily basis: (1) Write one page of his wellness practices book, until such a time as it is completed. (2) Write one page of his ancient, languishing novel, until such a time as it is completed, OR (3) write one blog entry. (4) Study for ninety minutes for the national acupuncture board exams, until such a time that he has passed all three of them. (5) Meditate for fifteen minutes.

In exchange for participation in these rituals, etc. etc., the devil agrees to provide: (1) A completed wellness practices book, (2) a completed novel, (3) many thousands of loving blog readers who send me many thousands of presents, (4) some additional letters after my name (Dipl.Ac.) that will allow me to practice acupuncture in most states outside of Maryland, (5) complete peace of mind.

This is my fifth day into the agreement, and I think I need to call my lawyer.

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A Social Life

I do, so, leave the house. Last night, I went to a party attended by all of the people I have been too otherwise-focused to meet for the past decade. Buffeted by a wave of alcohol, I navigated my own intense social awkwardness, the drinks spilled in my vicinity, and yes, that man who hit on me without shame. That last was actually the easiest to deal with because of my past life as a slut who was simultaneously hard to get, whereas I’ve never known how to get red wine out of wool.

Something else that happened was a kind party-goer complimented me on my store, which shut down during the recession. I usually avoid this topic—an emotionally bloody one for the past four years—at all costs; in this instance, as I do when it comes up without warning, I prepared myself for an Ocean Of Regret and was surprised when it was barely a River Of Regret. Possibly a Creek Of Regret. Maybe in another four years, it will be something I can integrate more comfortably into the wider tapestry of my life, a mere Thread Of Regret I use as a conversation starter at parties the way I used the ancient Chinese theory of immunology  last night. (And maybe it is something that won’t send my fellow guests running for the booze table to escape. See again: last night.)

By the way, the guy who hit on me insisted I take his email address and call him daddy, both of which I had drunk enough to do, if only ironically on the latter. Maybe I should stay home more often.

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FRIDAY CHUPACABRA BLOGGING

I am going to go on the record as having no idea what to make of this chupacabra. This chupacabra is All Over The Place. You may accuse me of being a chupacabra racist, but where are her eyes? What is that honeycomb thing in the background? Do chupacabras live in bee colonies now? Also: those are the pointiest elbows in town.

I know, I know. Who am I to go around critiquing other people’s chupacabras? Who died and made me the grand poobah of all the chupacabras? I will tell you who: the Internet. Behold the search results for this very blog.

I know what you’re going to say, that I could perhaps pull in some extra income by advertising as a chupacabra consultant, but that is a game for the young. At 15,001 days old, I have bigger fish to fry.

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Since Before Your Sun Burned Hot in Space

It is my 15,000th Day Alive! I can’t calculate my exact time on earth any more granularly than that since my mother claims she forgot what time of day I was born, an unlikely story no doubt concocted to cover the involvement of space aliens. Let us say it is somewhere around 360,016 hours or 1,296,000,000 seconds, give or take a few. I refuse to lament here over how much of that time was unproductive, although the idea is certainly on my mind. There is something about my encroaching middle age that leads to a reflexive review of my decisions to date. In general, I think I have done the best I can with what I’ve had, but at the same time, vanishing in a puff of smoke is an increasingly appealing lifestyle choice.

But you’re stuck with me for the time being.

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INSERT JOKE HERE

Are you there, god? It’s me, Margaret. Do you know how many times I’ve made that joke in these pages? And my name isn’t even Margaret, for god’s sake. But I do keep sort of trailing off and then bursting back onto the blogging scene, better than ever. Quite possibly not bursting, but sort of appearing stealthily and largely ignored? And quite possibly not better?

In any case, as a part of my plan to dust off some cobwebby aspects of my life that I’ve been missing, as well as to inspire myself to keep going in some new and exciting directions . . .

Ta da!

So what’s new with me is that I went from being in arguably the best shape of my life to being an inert puddle of goo in the past month thanks to a mysterious stabby pain that has appeared in the middle of my back, which no acupuncture or rolfing adventure has yet cured. Nonetheless, my acupuncture business is taking off in fits and starts, I’m finally able to focus on a book that I am supposedly writing, and I plan to stop putting off studying for the national acupuncture board exams any day now thanks to my new Accountability Buddy of Doom. (She does not know about the Doom part yet.)

What’s new with you?