Thursday, August 29, 2013

Anyways... (That's Crazy!)

This is a typical attempt at an end to any conversation in Wendyland: "Anyways..."

It's kind of like a verbal tic, am "um..." (I don't really do those), or "so..." (I use those, a lot). Kind of a synonym for "moving right along, because what I/you/they just said probably should have been left unsaid or could have been said in ten words (but wow, that lasted, like, an hour!)" If you hear this, I am at this point in the same situation as the proverbial guy wondering how long he should wait after coitus to stop holding his partner without hurting their feelings. Or I have just gone off on a tangent and have forgotten what we were originally talking about.

This is often how I feel when I am having a conversation with other people, I'm sure it goes both ways.  Sometimes listening to other people talk is like waiting for a bus in the suburbs, you're at the stop, the iPod has just run out of charge, it happens to be raining so you can't read a book. There's nothing to look at, and you're a little bored. You tried to make it to the previous bus, watched it pass you as you approached (just too far to run), and now here you are waiting for the next opportunity to take off, start your response. Politely, of course. In the interest of getting us all to our intended destination, I have been accused of interrupting, which I guess is considered a rude thing?

But really, it's not. In my twenties, my father remarried and on top of the politely witty people on my Mum's side, I suddenly gained this much-larger wonderfully raucous pleasantly dysfunctional blended family. We were all very funny people to begin with (even when we are forced to monitor how blue our language gets, hilarious), and have interesting things to say, and were never afraid to speak or laugh a little louder than most people using their "inside voices". But in 1998 the number and variety of people almost tripled. Over the years, those sitting at the Kid's Table grew up and threw their voices in the fray. As a result, when all of us get together for dinner, now you have to interrupt just to get heard. It isn't a me-me-me thing, it's a "hey, I have something to add", a learned response to a completely out-of-control situation.

Factor in the fact my brain moves a little quickly and erratically when it is stimulated, it refuses to do less than two things at once. This organ is built to multi-task, to make a myriad of connections, to reason a multitude of things out quickly. Add to that the fact that I notice microscopic things in strange places and like to point out the sources of my hyper-focus, and really, I would be your worst nightmare as a roommate at a Buddhist Meditation Retreat. It's not that I can't relax, it's just that I happen to be the 5% of the population whose worst nightmare is being stuck in a dim room with very little adornment and no windows while having to sit still/be quiet/try to relax, striving to think of nothing (good luck) while looking at a wall and listening to what others consider to be calming music. Or chanting. Ugh.

For me, those bliss-inducing gifts commonly known as "Spa Treatments" are tantamount to the Eighth Circle of Hell, and "Ending Time-Wasting/Pointless/Painful Conversations", well, that would be possibly right up there (or in there, as each happens to be closer to the Inner Circle) with the Ninth, along with "Half an Hour Early for Your Dentist Appointment". Actually, Maleboge seems like the perfect name for a salon and day spa, it's all posh and French-y sounding, I should really copyright that. Whoops, this is what is popularly known as a tangent.

Anyways...In addition to a brain that likes to sprint, not walk, I also have dog-like hearing and a sensitive nose and palate. I'm just a big ol' mess on any bus, really, unless I am plugged in and can tune out (well, everything but the smells). This is my side of a typical exchange: "O look at THAT, that reminds me of...[insert childhood/drunken 90's anecdote here]...anyways...What's that shiny thing? Do you smell that? What do you think of this...?  THIS is what I mean, let me explain... Are we almost...? So...What is that noise?" Just imagine THAT but in the middle of a dialogue. Now realize that is just the distillation of all of the activity, not even all of what is going on inside my head.

Believe me, I am listening. When I listen to you, I get everything you are saying, plus instant replay, plus the random crap that may or may not be associated with what we are talking about, until the conversation ends, or my brain runs out of charge. Additionally, I am (in fear of not being heard over the Clampetts) formulating a response, and it may have already escaped my lips before you finished talking. Not to be rude, but I probably guessed what you were saying or was able to finish your sentence in my mind. This could be because you have been repeating yourself, but I would prefer you to think it is because we are truly connected. I am aware we are not "on the clock", or trying to win money by answering trivia, but really, you and I are both going to die one day, and wouldn't it be awesome if we got some of our bucket list finished between now and then?

Because in nature there has to be a yin to every yang, one of my other unfortunate attributes happens to be super-politeness. Queue the person who starts by calling you around the time you were just getting ready to go to bed (or approaching you on the couch at a party at 1 a.m.), add in a two-hour long conversation, which started out very interesting, of course, or you would have told them you're about to leave (or not picked up the phone at all), oh oh, here it comes..."Really? That's/you're so crazy." Now put that on a loop, because I have officially run out of wordage. I have the dumb. Truly, I stopped monitoring anything but vocal intonations ten minutes (or longer) ago, but owing to the fact I am too tired/drunk/polite to come up with a denouement to what could have easily been ended by a two year old child simply by saying "I have to go poop now. Bye!", I am forced to respond. Automatically.

Don't mistake my knee-jerk bobblehead nods while you are talking for this state, because I can guarantee nodding means I am listening and formulating a response because I sense that if I talk now, it would make you angry. But if "That's so crazy!" happens to leave my lips, you could be the most attractive, charming and brilliant conversationalist on the planet, a veritable Billy Connolly, but I can guarantee my brain has already taken off its makeup, put on its jammies and crawled under that blanket. It is so tired, it forgot to brush its teeth.

Also, did I mention that while I happen to value being direct, I am not that great at telling a story, because I tend to wander? This is the point in the blog where I say, "So..." Which I try not to use, because one of my bosses used to end that sentence with "...buttons on your underwear!" Almost as annoying as my husband's response to "What time is it?" ("The same time it was 24 hours ago, but a day later."). What was the point of this very one-sided prattling? Perhaps it is that I am not the only one in the world who thinks that most idle chat is pointless. I am not bringing up anything earth-shattering, but when I was looking up synonyms for "conversation" (due to the fact that no one wants to hear the same word ten times in a row, and also because Mirriam-Webster's online thesaurus helps everyone sound incredibly smart), as I read over the options I realized that most of them are very condescending and downright rude. Chit-chatting? Nattering? Engaging in small-talk? Wow.

Perhaps The Art of Conversation is as lost as table manners, waltzing and actually talking face-to-face to someone at a bar or restaurant rather than texting and "checking yourself in on Facebook", but I hate to think so. I know that despite possessing the skill of initiating persiflage (ooh, there's a ten-cent word, right there), I am not so good at maintaining a "proper" discussion, being able to quote famous people from memory, or recalling funny anecdotes. Fortunately I happen to know a lot of people who are, and when we get together, there is some serious artistry and handicraft going on, be it some version of a Philip Glass composition or a canvas by Chagall, our collective words float, jar and collide in just the right way. These kind of could-hardly-be-called-a-dialogue's are what make up for all of the forced chaff and chatter in the world. Every time there's a gap before I dare to interrupt someone droning on and on I think of you, my friends. Rock on.

Today, I read some fantastic advice on striking the right balance during discourse, it was written by Arthur Martine in 1866. From Martine's Handbook of Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, I hope this is something that will always hold true: 

"In conversation there must be, as in love and in war, some hazarding, some rattling on; nor need twenty falls affect you, so long as you take cheerfulness and good humor for your guides; but the careful and measured always, though perfectly correct, extremely dull and tedious — a vast blunder from first to last."

'Nuff said.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Wise Admit They Know Nothing

"I Don't Know" — Beastie Boys (RIP MCA), Hello Nasty

What's pleasing to the eye
In the delusion of my sight
Is not what I find when I reach into the light
I have lost my mind
I'm walking through time
Deluded as the next guy
Pretending and hoping to find
That distant peace of mind

I don't know
Who does know
There is no
Where to go

It's not so simple as I try to wish
But then again what is?
There is no other worthy quest
So on I go

I don't know
Who does know
There is no
Where to go

I don't know
I don't know

Okay, so there's a song, which a I swear has been stuck in my head for a year and a half, about the time that Adam Yauch flew off this mortal coil. Anyway, it describes perfectly my state of mind, anytime I happen to have a moment to stop and think of why I am here.

Why am I here?

Doesn't everyone wonder about that? This year in particular, it seems to be a theme, although it seems as though after over 40 years of wondering and wandering, I should have figured out the answer by now. I DO know it is easy for me to make friends, and that people feel comfortable with whoever I might be. I DO know, I am here to listen, that I have the ability to hear things that would curl your hair without so much as a blink. Who am I to judge, no really, who AM I?

It occurred at some point today that a month and a half ago, I was full of half of a liter of vodka, barely standing (thanks to Miss Nina Flowers Herself, who held me up as I had my picture taken) surrounded by queens, drag and otherwise. This week, I seem to be surrounded by queens of a different nature. The Three Queens, that is. The Three Queens are the mayor, the judge and the acting head of the local economic development group...these ladies help run the show in this desert town.

Soon after arriving, I was asked to join a volunteer group that The Queens are founding members of, we do things for free that others get paid handsomely to do. Namely pick up trash, weed-whack sidewalks, dig and plant flowers where there are none, while promoting a tidy Texas (what did you think I was talking about, dear reader?). Our group is one of all ages and ethnicities, but one thing they all seem to have in common is The Church. Which normally doesn't come too much into play in a normal day of volunteering. We spent a couple of hours tooting the horn about picking up trash at a local Elementary school while handing out bumperstickers and trashbags emblazoned with the slogan "Don't mess with Texas" (whoever came up with that slogan deserves a big kiss, it makes everyone laugh, then think about civic pride). After the line of people dwindled, the last bags, leaflets and stickers dispensed, the remainder of us joined at a local Mexican restaurant.

The four of us grabbed a soon-to-be notsoquiet corner table and spent the time waiting for our chiles and beans finding out more about each other and finding out what everyone already surely knew but were sharing yet again as others listened politely. Typical small town ribbing and banter, then the food arrived, and as I put my napkin on my lap, I caught a flurry of movement, many hands joining in a C above the table, reaching in my direction seeking to complete an O. Oh. Oh-oh.

To most people, this wouldn't be a huge deal, would in fact be a "must be Tuesday" occurrence, but to me, this presented a dilemma. I completed the circle, and as Grace began I silently debated and berated myself. Upon completion, I also joined the group in an audible "Amen". "What the hell, I've already prayed with them", I thought. Not knowing these people very well, I want to prove to them that I am a good heathen. This might not have been the best time to point out that all of this praying and worshiping a Christian God made me feel hellishly uncomfortable.

It's not that I don't believe in a higher power (or force), independent of myself, that helps "run the show" (much like the Three Queens...but on a cosmic level). It's just that I don't happen to believe in The Bible. A friend of mine once said she was convinced it was written by a bunch of stoners caught in a tent in a sandstorm, and though I fall short of that blasphemous rumor (your God has a sense of humor, doesn't he?), I can't help but believe that well-meaning as these chosen men were, she might not be far off. There is a nobility in those that believe, and I respect those that study and follow the words printed inside, just as I hope they respect me for my unlearned fumbling at goodness. Well, not so unlearned...

At one point, I decided to read that whole book, cover to cover. At one point, I "believed" in the whole show, was brought up in a household that went to church and sang the songs and was surrounded by friends that did the same, but somewhere along the line, The Message became just a message.

Perhaps I was disenfranchised by bad experiences, confused by incongruities, misled by a flood of new experiences and input from other religions but as my mind bent around the realization that I was not a Christian after all, I became aware also that something was running the show, and that we all directly influenced and were influenced by its machinations. That this force's fuel was love and irreverent laughter and giving a crap about yourself and others. Or not. Or no one thing and no seeming order at all, but to be thankful for it, and it will serve you as you serve it (or yourself). I don't know, and neither do you, really. So far, I am unaware of any book that expresses just this opinion (although Zen Buddhism comes pretty darn close), therefore I am without religion.

Well-meaning people have tried to "bring me back into the fold", an analogy that makes me even more uncomfortable than battling heat rash in wet woolly socks. Reminds me of how confused I was, when I asked my Sunday-school teacher what getting cottonballs stuck to my fingers as I tried to neatly glue them onto the rendering of a flock of lambs on blue construction paper had to do with Jesus, and of how she refrained from rolling her eyes and patiently related her yarn, yet again. But enough already with the sheep-related comparisons. Apologies. 

I have many friends that are very religious, this to me is equal in my eyes to any other lifestyle choice. Should their choice be the pursuit of tattooing and other body modifications, studying for a degree in Philosophy, training to be a competitive runner (or all three at once), they are my friend, and their name is not predicated by this preference, as in "Biker Rick" or "Buddhist Sean"... because this is not all that they are. To me, anyway.

I hope that everyone comes to realize that someday, but until then, I find myself joining in, in the smallest of ways, so that these ladies get to know me. The grass bends so that it does not break. I hope to ease them into it, so as not to shock, annoy or displease, because that is not my intention. I will politely decline their invitations to church until they cease. But I will not decline any other invitations, I may even choose to volunteer with their church. There is much good in organized charity, I want to be a part of that good.

It's funny, in my twenties, people I knew debated over the wording of a quote from Socrates, that I have since found out never existed. Despite frequent use and suggestion, this quote and anything similar he might have said, is ultimately hearsay, brought to us by Plato. Remind you of any other collection of words bound in leather, translated and often related down the years? It seems that the more I learn, the more I find I have much to learn. It's time we all admitted that.

(But what do I know?)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Everything In Its Right Place

Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon

Everything, everything, everything
In its right place
In its right place
Right place

Here I am, sitting importantly at my semi-tidy desk, eating peanut butter out of a jar with a spoon, and Haribo cola bottles out of a bag. Awoke to my furiously eager OCD, jumping up and down in my mind for attention like a small dog when it's owner arrives home

[You up? Great! Much to do...let's see first you can]

("Okay, if I do this, if I just do this...will you go away for a while?") 

and rather than do what normal people do at 8 am, such as shower, eat, get dressed...I found myself making the bed, cleaning a computer screen to precision, climbing a ladder to hang flystrips, dusting the house, moving furniture, removing white cat fur from the black couch, wiping the bathroom sink squeaky clean, hanging clothing in the closet...for three hours until I allowed myself a cup of coffee.

Now it is too much too late for breakfast. One indication of this would be that the (at-first frightening, now comforting) "Noon Siren" has just wistfully whined through town, reaching my ears from somewhere in the heart of McCamey.

Now, I don't feel like finishing the dishes, running a load or laundry, taking a shower. Cooking or even eating, for that matter. Damn body, why are you SO demanding, when people go for days without eating in the Sudan?! You are seriously cramping my ability to play Words With Friends or catch up on important things, such as the hottest meme on Facebook. I don't feel like addressing you OR the relentless picky parade of adult-y tasks my OCD is striving to assign me, thankyouverymuch.

[but if you build that rack in the livingroom, you can shelve those towels in the bedroom and then you can finally hang the clock in the bathroom, then you can]

There is still much to unpack, a pile of boxes looms accusingly behind me like Jenga, the Procrastination version from Parker Brothers. Three weeks since I arrived and still I am sliding, shifting, rearranging boxes to get to what I need. Remember those travel games? Flat trays with plastic sliding squares, that when arranged in order, became: a picture of a tiger, the numbers one thru 24, I was never so good at those as I am now, in this room I am beginning to worry I will never be able to call a "studio".

[organize the toiletries in the really should clean that tub today, you know, then you can]

I DO however, have pants on, not pajamas, should anyone knock on my door I won't look lazy. Pants are a symbol of being productive, right? And productive equals happy, yes? This is the way I justify things in my head, to my evil brain.

I knew there was something broken up there long ago, when I was a child I would set up challenges to meet before I could allow myself do anything else, telling myself something bad would happen should I not be successful in my little "missions" . When interrupted or prevented from completing a project I would get frustrated, and things had to be done just right, arranged just so. I thrived on, even enjoyed repetitive tasks, especially if it involved putting items in sequence or alphabetizing. There was a place for everything. I knew I would feel better once everything was in its right place. As I reached adolescence, this extended to my personal appearance, fastidious hours were spent on grooming. I couldn't pass my reflection without checking it. It wasn't vanity so much as The Fear.

Not following these urges and prompts created anxiety, a sense of not being "prepared" (for whatever might befall me), and even depression. If I felt I couldn't do it the right way, or my best wasn't good enough, I would procrastinate, rearranging priorities to create a path around whatever it was until perhaps I wouldn't have to do it at all.

After years of being on the Honor Roll, I suffered in my 12th year of education an extended illness that resulted in three months absence. I felt this lapse prevented me from "ever catching up". Rather than asking for help, so that I might earn C's or perhaps even a B Average, I decided there was no point in even trying. After teaching myself to read at the age of 3 and having been singled out for GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) at 11 years old, I almost didn't graduate from High School. It wasn't laziness, so much as The Fear.

To me, Radiohead's song Everything In Its Right Place, describes perfectly what it is like to live with OCD. It is not only a relentless voice, it is a repetitive motion, a never-ending rocking, feeding, changing of the baby, lest it whine. OCD has become synonymous for over-the-top behavior ("that is so OCD") and the affliction is often joked about in public ("and then it set my OCD off"), but for those who suffer from it, it is far from funny.

[finish the dishes, and after you finish that, you will still have the time to move the boxes, so that you can move that shelf in the office, and finally put away those alphabetized boxes of books, then you can]

I am 41 years old. I own a car, a washer and dryer and have been married for over 13 years, but despite these and other indications of adulthood, my friends still call me Woo and I don't discourage it. Woo is still hungry after grazing on peanut butter and candy, typing madly so that she doesn't have to look at the sink full of dishes, the metal étagère in pieces on the livingroom floor, turn to see Jenga boxes filling the room behind her office chair.

[Earth to "Woo"...hello? You know, if you cook... feed yourself some proper food, then you'll be able to get back to]

I'm sorry OCD, I can't hear you over this Industrial Music, and the growling of my stomach. I really can't. But there it is, the voice in my head, reminding me that any task should be completed properly... and having moved on from nagging me about the house, it has decided the newest goal is the writing of this post. Perfectly, of course. This post, which I have now read and re-read, tweaked several times, amended, read again.


("Please stop. I'm finished, see?")

Monday, August 5, 2013

Moving Right Along

"Better than a kick in the head with a frozen boot."

This is something my father always said, perhaps my Grandmother before him.

Such is my family's philosophy, and now mine, that nothing is really all that bad. There's a line from Hamlet that expresses just this, using prettier words ("...for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."), however, that certainly Saskatchewanesque mantra makes everyone laugh when they hear it, therefore it wins.

Moving right along... previously I have found myself putting down roots in an ever-green Pacific Rainforest, watching VanCity grow (as I did, too) from sea to sky, landing land-locked in The Plains and now...facing the literally Desert-ed "Wind Capital of Texas", pop. 4,500 (plus one), where am I?

As if prompted (nuture or nature?), I started looking for the "somethings" in the nothing. Fears voiced by friends and family until now bouncing off my impermeable layer of positivity, or perhaps glancing off my body, in perpetual motion, like an atom, or a shark. Having been trained by life, in its various stages

to make my own fun
to live on nothing but my imagination
to build my own army of me
to do without
to remember what I have
to make things grow
to cultivate patience
to respect and help others
to laugh it off
to enjoy my own company
to collect company
to hunt and gather (and glean when necessary)
to leave it behind
to keep going
and going

so, who knew that after biking around for an hour feeling poached in a bag due to the unseasonable humidity plus the 100 degree heat, then coming to the realization that the closest place I would possibly find flystrips was a 50 minute drive (and therefore a three day wait) away...something so small would stop me in my tracks. Albeit temporarily, it still happened. It wasn't the lack of some THING so rudimentary as flypaper in town, it was the Universal Shrug. Oh, we don't have any? Must be Tuesday...

Really, it's not Cancer, the epiphany that I am "not in Kansas anymore", that positivity can only propel me so far, and most importantly that I am truly in the middle of nowhere and if it isn't here, I am not getting any.

There is a whole lotta nothing out here, the land is flat, here and there dotted by dusty green brush, flowering cactus clumps, black pumpjacks, thorny mesquite, steely white rows of turbines turn lazily at the edge of town, stretching into the distance. Two stoplights. One grocery store. Strangely, I am enjoying this slowness, despite the chain on my mental gears slipping a bit from lack of tension, not having found yet my rhythm, the wobble of my forward hesitant propulsion, wheels tracing a faint wavy line in the dirt. Toward my open path.

Because really, isn't this potentially everything I always wanted? A house with a garden. A studio and the time to be creative. Enough food in the fridge and rent paid. No petty distractions. A black cat curled up on my lap a white cat at my feet, my friends' art on the walls. Support from friends and family. A man who loves me.

Everything's coming up roses, right? Aside from the fact that I know it's coming, there's a catch. Ha! This thing inside, this gnawing feeling, it's the worry that the one thing I may have not learned along the way is how

to be still.

Ain't that a kick in the head.