Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Same 10 Questions I Always Ask Myself, November 2018

It's been a dreadful long time since I posted on this blog, so I decided to resurrect this recurring feature from the distant past.

1. What are you wearing?
A "schwag" fleece given to me by a former employer, which is too embarrassing to wear because of the logo, but is awful warm. It makes me feel like a "Best Buy" employee who is forced to wear the company uniform. So I will wear it around the house in a lurking fashion.  I think I may have to sew a patch over the company logo. Then it will be acceptable.

2. What's the nature of today's hypochondria?
The theme of 2018 is definitely mental illness. My WebMD searches reveal such terms as "How do you know you're going crazy?" and "Signs you have Schizophrenia." I even took a quiz that asked me  if I heard voices and saw things that "obviously aren't there." Obviously? How do I know that they are "obviously" not there? I see nothing and hear nothing, obviously. Unfortunately, this means I am mentally well. Is there a pill for this condition?

3. What was today's workout?
I sat my ass in a chair and typed. I'm angry about it. Note to the wise: Work out in the morning, lest the day escape you.

4. How do you do what you do and stay so sweet?
I use the phrase "bless his/her heart" whenever appropriate.  I learned this from my Texas friends. It's a phrase that really means "Fuck this asshole," but it sounds so much nicer.

5. What's that burning smell?
The house mouse ran into the fireplace and extinguished itself.

6. If you were an animal, what kind would you be?
Today I should be a turkey vulture, and settle upon a still-warm carcass. I actually enacted this role last summer, with some campers. Digging out their entrails was good fun.

7. What are you drinking, and why?
I am drinking down the angst of too many days wasted and ignored. Nights there are when I sip a sullen hunger.

8. In what ways hast thou offended?
I failed to plan for dinner tonight and thus hast ordered many pizzas, which feed my hungry sons but provide no real pleasure in the cooking arena. I opted for Blue Apron as a test. It will be delivered this Saturday. Bring it on.

9. What's the next big thing?
Summer camps for adults. S'Mores and cocktails. Slip 'n' Slides followed by rabid dance parties. Arts & Crafts with body painting. That sort of thing.

10. Music selection?
Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Netflix Presents: The Caged Orangutan

I've been watching The Crown on Netflix. Although the Queen is rather priggish and tweedy, the series has many merits. Among them are the chance to practice one's parade wave (it's really quite dismissive, without any sort of real effort—it's just a wiggle, without any jazz sauce thrown in) and one's accent ("Why, thenk ewe—best delivered after the children have inadvertently put the dishes in the actual dishwasher just because it was open and blocked their path to the sink.)

It has given me cause to think about what Netflix might produce next, and I do believe I have the answer, thenk eww. My series shall be entitled: The Caged Orangutan. It will cover the all-too-brief presidential reign of Donald J. Trump, and ooh, it'll be a goody.

Focusing on the truth rather than the facts, The Caged Orangutan will present a sympathetic story of a beast too noble for the chains and limitations of public office. The series will offer viewers a rare glimpse of behind-the-scenes triumph as the titular Orangutan handily escapes a fetid, burbling swamp of his enemies' making and, instead, rises to glory.

Herewith, I present Season One's list of episodes. All shall be directed with the utmost attention to historical and period detail, but may be altered as regards the facts, for facts are alternative. I await the day when we can hearken back to this timeless era! Oh, do I.

Episode One: "A Thrice-Married, Incoherent Fool, Say You?"
The Donald unites the nation with a soaring, eloquent inaugural address, which draws crowds larger than ever imagined by man or beast. The mall, fouled with many human footprints and empty fast-food wrappers, becomes a symbol of a nation soiled by too many liberal Democrats. Chuck and Nancy engage in a plot to kidnap orphans and sell their spleens to pay for Medicare.

Episode Two: "Alternative Facts"
Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway stuns and awes the populace with a newly-coined phrase. The Donald chastises Spicey over his poor wardrobe choices. Eric shoots a magnificent lion. Melania engages in fisticuffs with a rogue WH staff member, and upsets the tea service. Barron retires unto a closet where he still awaits for someone to come get him out.

Episode Three: "Rise, Frederick, Rise!"
The Donald invokes the spirit of long-dead Frederick Douglass, inspiring a nation of young African-American men and women to don MAGA hats and follow his Twitter feed with acclaim. Jared makes progress with the Kremlin, and Mitch McConnell's face grows 73% droopier. Paul Ryan gets an unexpected handjob.

Episode Four: "Your Ratings Are Rather Poor"
During a prayer breakfast, the Donald demonstrates his Christian values while he simultaneously savages the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nordstrom drops Ivanka's clothing line, leading to a massive boycott and an almost-complete shutdown of the economy and the train lines. Conway saves the day with a selfless ethics violation. Spicey renews investors' faith in Wrigley's gum products by gnawing 56 sticks in as many minutes.

Episode Five: "Tapp This!"
Notorious foreign-born black dude, Obama, is caught red-handed tapping Trump's phone lines, and is excluplutated to Mexico, homes of rapists and a few good folk. Donald Jr. wrassles a snake. Hillary is caught mangling multiple email accounts. Eric shoots a giraffe. Tiffany makes a surprise appearance. The economy comes to a halt due to Obama's prior machinations. As a result, we are now 1.4 trillion dollars more in debt! "Thank eww, Democrats, for doing nothink but badnesses in the name of poor and sadly uninformed and ill-dressed poeples," says Ivanka. "Thenks to the dreary democrats."

Episode Six: "The Mooch"
The Donald obstructs justice, but with jazz hands. James Comey perfects his ice-skating routine. Anthony Scaramucci delivers a searing and uplifting speech, and is subsequently fired for poor footwear. Ivanka tries on new shoes. Melania is fitted for a new outfit. Don Jr. and Eric work on their collusion strategy, and attempt a high-five, with poor results. Several national monuments become limited, due to their unfortunate life choices.

Episode Seven: "It's Mueller Time!"
The Donald visits storm-battered Puerto Rico, where he tosses cans of tuna, cartons of eggs, and rolls of napkins at the poor, to much acclaim and some head injuries. Mueller closes in and indicts Flynn, Manafort, and Papadopoulus. The latter is recognized as a "very brief little wee piddling underling and perhaps coffee boy in his Majesty's court." "He perhaps once brought us an herring," says Ivanka. "'Twas a very small herring."

Episode Eight:"Rocket Boy"
Regretting his early  months as being "soft," the Donald engages in a war of words with North Korea. "Little Rocket Man" responds by firing a payload of nuclear weapons at an unnamed place in the ocean. Eric bets on a horse. Don Jr. retains new attorneys. Melania purchases new real estate, banking on the planned tax bill to come. Obama windsurfs and sports new board shorts.

Episode Nine: "God Bless the United Schstateshsh"
After the Donald's dentures come unhinged during a speech, his dentist is brought in for a routine waterboarding. Melania researches vacation spots. The IRS continues their unjust audit of Trump's taxes. but promise to keep the audit going "as long as you are King, mine seigneur." Don Jr. and Eric shoot an infirm water buffalo. Melania adjusts Barron's bowtie. Kellyanne retains a new math tutor for brothers Eric and Don Jr.

So much is to come in Season Two, so stay tuned!

The all-star cast of The Caged Orangutan:
Douche-Schwister McFister as "Steve Bannon"
Gloriana "Jennie" Boobaster as "Kellyanne Conway'

Jonny Dirtdover as "The man with the face of the turtle"
Gen'l Dirk Fistfihéter as "Mike Flynn"

Wendy Smith as "the Swamp Rat"
Homer Gorphins as "Paul Ryan"

Judy Lovephin as the voice of "Jared Kushner"

Lyle and Erik Menendez as Eric and Don Jr.

(c) Bricklayers Union of America. 

Whoever she is. Dude, I would date her if she were not my daughter.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dear President Trump, I Demand My Pony

Dear President Trump,

You may not remember me, but we met at one of your rallies. I approached you and expressed my need for a pony. I said: "I am one of your sorrowful and fragrant forgotten people, and you need to do me a SOLID. I am a 'Party Pony,' yet I possess no pony. Sad!"

I got your signature on my #MAGA hat but you didn't notice the fine print stitched inside the hat, which reads: "You will be getting a pony from me, Donald J. Trump." Because you don't like to read I did not bother you with it.

Without a pony, I am like Obamacare in its "death spiral." Without my promised pony, I can no more hold my head up proudly than you can count on KellyAnne not to rattle her chains in the "Black Hole of Calcutta" which is another term for the SUB SUB BASEMENT of the White House.

Is my pony down there, Mister President? Because I would very much like to claim him!

Does KellyAnne have my pony??!!

My pony will need a wall. A large wall. This wall will protect him from DRUGS and PONY TRAFFICKING.

I would like my wall to be 85 feet in circumference plus 8 feet in height to protect from marauding deer and pony rapists and peddlers of biblical literature. I would also like the wall to have the name TRUMP in giant gilt lettering so the animals know to be scared. I would like a separate bathroom for each type of animal, excepting the queer ones. They can piddle in the woods.

Can I get the name "Trump" tattooed onto my actual pony, Mister President? I would like the tattoo to be in gold. Can you please make the tail end of the "p" in "Trump" look like a flowing mane and the top part of the "p" look like a pony's face? Here is a sketch so that you get it perfect:

If I don't get my pony, which I will, then more DRUGS and bad hombres will liberally drown my pony in offal. This is what my pony would look like on drugs and do I need to tell you that this is bad?!! No, I do not. I drew this picture of my pony while on so many drugs it's ridiculous! Unbelievable!

I want my pony to be a handsome animal, President Trump. He should be bedecked and beblazoned with COAL DUST and other detritus of planet-destroying badness. He should wear a collar of plastic bags from the Great Plastic Garbage Patch! Which is a hoax! I shall call him: TRUMPLETTE, and he will be mighty among very small horses.

My pony will shit into the beautiful streams of our great country! Its farts will cause the ozone layer to COMPLETELY DECAY! Ha, ha—that's fake news because THERE IS NO OZONE LAYER. My pony will belch forth great witticisms and strategies and (unintelligible)!

I would like my pony to be delivered by military aircraft. And I get to keep the aircraft. No, wait. I would actually like my pony delivered by ARMADA. Use MapQuest, please. I will also be keeping the armada. Send the aircraft too, at a discreet distance so my neighbors don't get alarmed.

My pony needs to be super-duper, higher, better, better. In fact, this will be its middle name! Actually, find me a pony whose middle name is ALREADY "Super-Duper, Higher, Better, Better." I want this documented and I want to see its birth certificate. Make sure the "higher" part is figurative because I don't want any stoned-ass, pot-smoking pony.

The pony's last name should be "Unintelligible" because I see that you used this word maybe EIGHTY-FIVE TIMES in your latest interview so it must be a word that you love very much! I will also love my pony very much!!!

Make sure that you find me a pony whose last name is ALREADY "Unintelligible." I do not want to have a pony who has changed his surname, because that pony might be Mexican, which means the pony is a gang member. Gang members are impalatable to me and to many others, including youth.

My pony will be the greatest pony in the history of, but you know what, I'll take that also, but that you could be. He will be the greatest pony but I will also accept the other. You know what I mean. Just get me my pony.

You promised me a PONY. I am not yet weary of winning. I have much energy!

Eagerly awaiting delivery of my pony, "Trumplette Super-Duper, Higher, Better, Better Unintelligible,"
The Party Pony

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Things We Remember, for Tamar Kitzmiller (1954-2017)

Do you remember the time, Tamar, that we hiked that wild mountain in Vermont, so intent on our gossiping that we missed the trail junction and continued for a full mile down the wrong trail? We recognized our mistake far too late into the game, and quickly became panicked at the realization that we had to pick up your tween daughter at a local ice-skating rink. She would be disappointed and annoyed. Rather than fess up to our own idiocy, we concocted a fake story about encountering a mother bear and her cubs on the trail. They had menaced and delayed us! And the cubs were dreadfully cute. There were three of them. One had a stubby tail. One had a lisp, etc.

Your daughter ate up that story, She quizzed us about the adorable cubs. We lied like bandits to her, and to the kindly dad who had given her a ride home from the rink. The truth came out quickly, of course. Do you remember how I snortled, "We sure fooled that old Griff fellow!" without realizing that we had failed to properly hang up the phone and he could still hear us? (His name was something like Mr. Griffin.) Did we ever get the business from J and H, who were both disgusted and amused! ("You rotten, rotten liars.")

I could be altering some details of the story because memory doesn't always serve, but I suppose it doesn't matter. You're not here to correct me anymore, Tamar, so it's my story now. But it's still ours. It was a long time ago. Forgive me.

You surely remember our trip to the "Bloody Brook," in dead of night. It was in your hometown of Norwich, VT. We thought it would be a grand old idea to venture out en masse and skinny dip, drinks in hand. When we arrived at the Blood Brook, we found that the relative lack of rain had limited the brook to a shallow trickle. We went in anyway, dipping our nethers in a few sad inches of water. We laughed and laughed, and we scrabbled over the wet stones to find our shoes. We looked up to the full moon. We padded home in the dark, shoes in hand, drunk with love of our lives.

On another occasion, J and S polyglued eggs to an old railroad tie and we shot them clean away with BB guns. And we lit a bonfire by soaking a roll of TP in fluid and firing it down a zipline from an upstairs bathroom into a big garbage can of combustible materials. Does this sound impossibly dangerous? Oh, yes. But you have to understand: We were all guaranteed to live forever.

On so many Halloweens before I had children of my own, we painted our faces and carved pumpkins and roasted the seeds in olive oil and salt and ate them until our stomachs were sick. I spilled a mason jar of seeds into your front lawn and picked them out of the grass blades and ate them anyway. I was dressed as Ballet Pumpkin, or the Octo-Moose, or a Flying Purple People Eater—my costumes have always been a bit unique, and you lent your support with your clever sewing and additions. You always styled yourself as a one-of-a-kind witch—with such enormous creativity! I recall the Halloween when you had a smoking urn of dry ice on the lawn, and you sat in grand splendor with makeup so thick and green that no one could recognize you.

(Years earlier, I also recall arriving at your home for a visit and going to use the toilet, after a very long drive. I opened the lid to a smoking cauldron of doom. I thought the toilet was about to explode! Dry ice. Thanks for the panic attack, guys.)

You had a red door on that house, and a yellow lantern. You had cross-country skis on the wall of your garage. I once dug a flowerbed for new tulips in your backyard. When we had boys (all three of them), we sat in your backyard and made "Pine Noodle Soup" and played catch with a rubber chicken. I always felt at home there. We sat under a tree that oozed with sap and looked out on the half-pipe that J built for your son W and we talked until the sky grew light. We never ran out of things to talk about. Nor would we now, if I had the chance.

Just give me one clear night. One afternoon, in hazy sunshine. Give me your cats Blossom and Addie, who once crawled into my guest room and kneaded my chest for comfort in the night, or your small black cat, Misty, who darted in terror from our amateur movie-making, in which we made her an unwitting victim of a fiend that rose from the leach field. But most of all, give me you, Tammy. I miss your sweet, chuckling, authentic laugh. I wish everyone reading this who didn't know Tammy could hear  your  laughter. It was the best laugh ever possible. Real as anything you can touch with your hands. Yours was a laugh that suggested there was a deep river of goodwill flowing beneath us all, and you were privy to the source. You loved your life.

My god, but every moment matters. Because you're gone now, Tamar, and you were my sister in heart, and I never ever thought you would be gone. I sort of thought we would have another moment, another time, to recollect each and every one of these stories. I know you were a bit older than me, and all, but I never thought of you as such. You were young in every way. I could come to you and say: "Let's make fancy hats and costumes and parade down the road and toss water balloons at everyone just to delight their souls and knock them off their rockers," and you would never ask "Why?" You would only ask, "When? And do you have the water balloons handy?" Or better yet, "Let me fill them! Where's the nearest water tap?"

I remember my very first trip to Norwich, VT. Our dear friend S introduced us. I met you and J, and we sat by the fire, and he tossed popcorn at your knees, for no reason I could discern. There was a bright painting of hummingbirds above the mantel. The next day I slept in, and you all teased me relentlessly, saying I was "due the sleep to which I was accustomed and would sleep until the time to which I was accustomed." We went to a local apple festival and bought and ate crisp apples, and you gave me a lunchbag stuffed with goodies and trail mix that I took home and ate, bit by bit, until it was depleted. You called me "Princess Pomme" and later "Princess Pumpkin." I took your teasing for love. I pretty much knew that I loved your family then and there. I loved you. I love you. You one day said I was the little sister you never had. I couldn't be more grateful for that role.

Over time, over years, as your children grew, their artwork came to fill the walls of your home. The green-snouted thing with the purple eyes. A massive sunflower. Lopsided little clay cups on the windowsill. And as your children grew further, we played games. Your daughter drew a rabid raccoon during a game of Pictionary, and it stayed magnetized to the refrigerator for years, its eyes two magnificent little spirals. A quote appeared one year, attached to a cartoon, perhaps: "God does not play dice with the universe." J put that there. He's wonderfully clever, often challenging us to logic puzzles and math games. He loved you for more than 40 years. And we love him. He is as much a part of us as you are. And so are your children. We aren't related by blood, but we are all family, forever.

Do you remember, Tamar? I know you do. Every story, every inside joke, every prank, every night by the fireside singing our hearts out with the boys strumming the guitars, every conversation, every walk in the woods. We lost you sometimes in the "Triangle" and then we found you, and then we lost you again. You and I roamed about at night in our pajamas, and we lay down on the clean earth to look up at the stars. Who will remember your laughter? Who is going to remember "Mahlon Bither" and "Team Goat" and "Braised child under 10" and all of it, all of it, except you and those of us who remain?

Tamar, everything you ever did and said is part of that deep river flowing fast toward we know not where, and we're all standing in it together, and we are stronger and better and braver for having known you. We will all work hard to make this place better than we found it, for certain.

I love you, Tamar.

For Tamar Kitzmiller, 1954-2017.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

6 Horrifying Attacks on America! Unreported by Dishonest Fake News Mainstream Media!

Now revealed! Horrifying attacks on U.S. soil, unreported and disregarded by the dishonest and failing fake news mainstream media! We now honor these terrible tragedies and mourn the victims. May they remain forever in our hearts and minds.

Grizzly Vengeance (Every Classroom in America, 2003)

After their last remaining habitat was completely destroyed due to the construction of Trump Glacier National Park Casino and Trump Continental Divide Plaza, undocumented Grizzly bears poured into classrooms everywhere and snacked on lots of little children. Sad! #wearegrizzlyvengeance

If only the little mites had been armed, this senseless slaughter could have been averted.

Vulv-A-Lago (Palm Beach, Florida, 1980-2017)

Many innocent vaginas were indecently grabbed during this ongoing series of heinous attacks, conducted anywhere from airplanes to furniture stores. The perpetrator is still at large. Sales of skirts have fallen sharply since the attacks began. The ominous rattle of Tic-Tacs is usually the only sign that the attacker is approaching. #bevulvalagovigilant

Victims of the Vulv-A-Lago Attacks describe "stubby" and "grabby" hands that were nevertheless "surprisingly quick," "octopus-like," and "seemed to be coated in Cheeto dust."

The Haunting of the National Mall (January 20, 2017)

Hundreds of thousands of dead people, most of whom voted illegally, descended on the National Mall for the Inauguration of the 45th President. The spectres made many spooky noises such as "boo!" and "woooo!" in an attempt to scare the living daylights out of the sparse crowd of flesh-and-blood humans. The living, however, took little notice of them, given that they were fixated on the completely insane scary-ass bat-ass crazy carnage spewing from the new President's mouth. The massive crowd of dead folks—which amounted to the biggest audience to ever witness an inauguration in all of human history, period, end of story, shut your pie hole—went completely unreported by the dishonest and failing news media, who claimed they "couldn't see them."

I see dead people. SO MANY dead people. More dead people than YOU will ever summon, loser.

The "Holla 'Bout the Cost" (Walmart Store, Birmingham, AL, July 7, 2010)

Walmart shopper Wanda Chunks severely annoyed other patrons of the store when she decided to make a big ruckus over the price of an irreverent T-shirt, saying, "I'm not gonna pay eight dollars and fifty-eight cents for this piece of China-made crap!" Ms. Chunks continued to rant and holler about the cost of the T-shirt throughout the transaction, until she grumpily exited the store. Scarred patrons had to be consoled for hours. Despite the fact that the failing and dishonest media omitted the traumatic incident from their news coverage, an official Holla 'Bout the Cost Remembrance Day is now in the works. In a spirit of inclusiveness, Holla 'Bout the Cost Remembrance Day will honor basically anyone who has ever been annoyed while shopping, or irritated by anything at all.

Thanks to new trade tariffs, the price of this T-shirt is now $43.99.

The Fact-Butcher (Multiple Locations, 2016 and ongoing)

This bloodthirsty villain strikes quickly and decisively, mangling and butchering facts with a savagery only equalled by a too-hot flatiron and a dearth of hair conditioner. Distracting its victims with a plea to "look into its heart," the Fact-Butcher then dispatches them with a patently ridiculous statement. Do not engage with the Fact-Butcher. Do not look into its eyes. It will tear your entrails out and feed them to its army of wild pigs. You have been warned. 

I have the appearance of being sorta dead, at least on the inside, and I voted. So, you see, millions of other creepy half-dead and actually dead people must have voted as well. That's why we need an immediate investigation into massive voter fraud. Which must have taken place because my Dear Leader told me so. What do you mean there's "no evidence"? What about the evidence that's in my heart? 

The Man-Turtle Terror (Washington, D.C., February 7, 2017)

A terrifying half-man, half-turtle hybrid ponderously crawled from the sludge at the basin of Washington's newly-drained swamp and, without provocation, attacked a women who was trying to do her job. The creature then fled into the sewers. Any sightings should be reported to the Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency. The dishonest so-called "media" continues to claim that the Man-Turtle Terror is merely a Senator from Kentucky who happens to look remarkably like a turtle. So nasty! Terrible! #StopTheManTurtleTerror

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Fibromyalgia Autobiography: We Are the Brave

I don’t know what to do or even how to write. The pain is so bad that it permeates every second of every day; I get no respite. If I thoroughly distract myself with something consuming, such as drawing every fibre and curve of the poinsettia plant on the table, I can sometimes, most fleetingly, eliminate the pain from my top-of-mind consciousness. Even then, I know it’s there. I know it’s glowering at me, demanding that attention must be paid. How dare I presume to ignore it. It should know that I’m most decidedly its prisoner, and ignoring it is impossible. I’ve merely placed it in the second shelf of things I cannot forget.

Imagine internally repeating a word or a string of digits, something you know intimately well, over and over and over. Your name. The numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42. It would seem like madness. So does the word I repeat, but it is more of a tome than a word, a dull and singular autobiography that tells but one incessant story. I repeat it while making coffee, while reading Prince Caspian to my eight-year-old son, while hugging my 11-year-old son goodnight, while I’m making a joke to my 13-year-old son about the “sentient basketball” his kindly and generous godfather gifted him for Christmas. 

(STOP. Okay, the sentient basketball is this basketball that links with an app on your smartphone and it tracks all the shots you take and calculates the trajectory of the ball and it’s seriously smarter than all of you. I have suggested that it may devolve and start shouting things at my son such as “Missed the hoop AGAIN. Sad! Loser!” by which point it will have detained our entire family in a special “camp” while it bounces recklessly across a keyboard linked to its Twitter feed. But I digress.)

The story in my head has the word “pain” is embedded in the title of every chapter, in every monotonous sentence, and in the cliffhanger at chapter’s end. Synonyms for “pain” could of course be employed here: ache, agony, spasm, torment, misery, distress. I’m afraid that, while in pain, I’m not even clever enough to call upon any of these vocabulary words. It’s all simply pain. It makes for extremely dull reading: “This book sucks. One star, but I’d give it a zero if I could! Sad! Loser!”

(But if I were to be imaged and mapped as an electrical grid, I would be very exciting indeed. I would tell a strange story. Spasms, and flares along the knots and hubs, and bright loci, all firing, firing, firing, until the world’s end.)

Even as a prisoner of the very boring and pedestrian pain, I sometimes still think: I wonder if I made this all up. Because if I did, I can fix it. I know I can. Many doctors said it was all in my head before I was diagnosed. They could be right! I will fight like a wounded dog in a ditch to fix this. Because I have beautiful people in my life who love me, and they are counting on me to be brave and beautiful and to ignore the pain. (Sometimes, when I pass a mirror, I think the expression I wear resembles that of a hurt animal that cannot speak and dumbly wishes to be put out of its misery. My friend, the veterinary surgeon, sees this look all the time, before she expires the animal. And then I tend to think that I’m really quite good-looking. And someone this ridiculously good-looking cannot possibly be sick, right? I also have great legs and really decent biceps and fine, upstanding boobs. But I digress.)

If this is all in my head, then all I need to do is relax. Breathe more. Take some Aleve. Do yoga. Stop worrying. Swim when I can. Hot water. Pay attention to my posture. Take supplements. Use the Miracle Balls. Ahem, this is really a thing—“miracle balls” do help.) This was honestly supposed to be part of a different post, the post that listed “All the Things That Help Me With My Fibromyalgia.” I don’t want to suggest that these things don’t help! In fact, they certainly have. The problem is that they are temporary. Maybe I just need to use these remedies more. 

But just when I’m exulting in the moment of finally selecting a new “inner dialogue” volume from my shelves—perhaps its “Just Keep Moving! You Are Fantastic!” or “Bonus Energy Surprise! You Won the Fucking Lottery Today!”—I reach out and pluck out that sad, dog-eared volume on pain whose author looks like she got whacked with a cudgel studded with stabby Christmas ornaments. Whacked hard in the knees, ribs, shoulders, back, elbows, ankles, fingers, collarbones. Still smiling, wanly. Her author photo tells the whole story. She’s an absolute expert on her subject. Not many people can see her pain, because she’s smiling well enough. But I do.

It’s so very hard to choose another book.

But I will. I must.

How do we go on? People who have Fibromyalgia are in constant, sometimes unimaginable pain. Some are in worse pain than I am, which I cannot imagine. How do we even face the day? How do we read a book, or hug our children, or cook dinner, or fold the laundry? How do we commit to jobs that require us to smile at people? How do we shop for groceries and actually return our carts to the cart corrals (please tell me you do; Fibromyalgia is no excuse here.) How do we continue to stand out in the cold wind and gas up the car? How do we limp down the driveway to collect the mail? How do we sit in a chair, as I do, and type out blog posts that will garner us no favors or fame or money?

Because we are the brave. No matter how bleak it seems, we will never just read one simple story. We can acknowledge that we have read, and will read again, that dreadful autobiography: The one that I call Pain. It will always and always sit on our shelves. But it isn’t who we are. We are a great  library of poetry and truth and submarines and whelks and tangerines and fireworks and ocelots and 17th-century history and rockets to the moon. We are here for a reason, and we will be called upon when it counts. Because we already know what heartbreak feels like and we have been brave and strong for so very long. We will never give up, never stand down, never falter.  

If there is to be a resistance, I will be at the forefront. I am not scared. Why would I be? I am well-versed in pain. Maybe I could finally place that awful, boring volume called Pain way down to the fifth or sixth shelf, well below the volumes of Dignity and Honor.

Postscript: Please. Return your carts to the cart corral. Or even to the very door of the store. We aren't the kind of people who leave our carts parked upon the curb, even when we are bone-tired. The carts do tend to get away and cause mayhem.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Fox and the Rabbit: What Does Fibromyalgia Feel Like?

What does having Fibromyalgia feel like? I've read numerous descriptions and, although there are definite themes shared among us, every person's experience is unique. I tried to find a blog post that captured all of my particular symptoms with perfect eloquence. I couldn't. What I found is that, even though I think I'm suffering like a Christian martyr trudging up a slope strewn with shards of ice, rusty screw guns, and carnivorous sticky buns, there is always someone whose pain is worse. Sometimes much worse. That doesn't offer me much solace. It just makes me sad.

Haven't a clue what I'm talking about? Learn more about Fibromyalgia here or here.

But I do want to explain how Fibromyalgia makes me feel. It might help when a friend or loved one doesn't understand why I keep grimacing during, say, a board game. Maybe after reading this post they will say: "Ah! You feel as if someone has turned your sinews and muscles into sharp metal strands, and is now braiding them quite viciously," or "Well, NO one cares for nails made of hot gravel being pounded into their joints! I'd grimace, too. Carry on, it's your turn." Or even "Malevolent sticky bun latched on to your brainstem again, what? No wonder you're so sluggish and foggy-headed!"

Here's a simple experiment. It may seem unseemly and unpleasant. First clench one hand tight into a fist. Now choose a part of that fist and bite it, for as long as you can tolerate. Your curled fingers will do. Give it a fair amount of pressure. Give it five minutes, if you possibly can. Notice what happens.

The immediate "victim" of the bite, your clenched fist, will begin to protest. It's already remorselessly tight, and now something is biting it? Seriously?! Not good. But, there's more! Soon, your jaw may become tense and tight, even sore. The exertion of holding the fist, along with the bite, will begin to seem intolerable. All you have to do to release the pain is to open your mouth, open your hand. Why are you doing something so ridiculous as biting your fist, just because I suggested it? Please do not do this in public.

If you have Fibromyalgia, you probably know where I'm going with this analogy. If you know a loved one who has Fibromyalgia, you might have your whole fist stuffed in your cakehole at the moment, and are feeling surly, and I appreciate that.

Fibromyalgia feels as if your body is gnawing on itself, every minute of every day. (Even on the "good days," when it's just gnawing with less fervor. On the best days, it still nibbles, like an itch that can never be scratched or eliminated.) As I've suggested, your body itself is already intolerably "tight." It has become a fist that never opens. Then, you visit it with numerous indignities, and they are certainly not confined to the hand—you sink pain into the neck, into the knees, into the edge of the jaw itself. Note that I do not use the passive voice in the sentence above, because you sense that your own body is conducting this cruelty.

I am hideously aware of the pain in my own jaws and also of my victim's pain.
It's not cool.

You become intolerably aware of the pain. You are the jaws of the predator, and there is no pleasure in being the predator. You will never kill your victim. You are a fox worrying the rabbit to death, over and over and over. Unlike an actual fox, you feel the rabbit's pain. You aren't even hungry. You feel remorse for the rabbit. The rabbit and the fox, the jaws and the flesh and the pain and the grief, are bound together forever in a singular dance.

If you are still biting your fist, stop, you fool. You probably look like an idiot, with tears springing to your eyes on the Metro North. You probably look like a woman who wants to scream because she is so heartbreakingly frustrated and is biting her fist to prevent herself from doing so.

Thank you for trying, if you did, but no one should suffer for very long. Where does that leave me? Some mornings, when I wake up to another day of stiffness and aching and mind-numbing pain, the phrase "What did I do to deserve this?" sometimes springs into my head.  I really thought that today might be different. I limp my way down the stairs, leaning heavily on the banister. My entire frame feels off-balance and wobbly. Trembling hot shards of pain fire through my shoulders, knees, elbows. My upper back and neck burn as if I've been beaten heavily with a cudgel, scalded, racked, and seized. I think that maybe the nasty local gang, the "Sharpened Hot Sporks Laced-With-Acid Boys," took me down last night, unawares.

I had a haircut last Friday. My first in many weeks. A woman was washing my hair and massaging my head and I relaxed a little bit and had this random thought: "Hey, I wonder where I would get heroin in this town, if I truly wanted heroin? Because I heard it's a real suburban problem, but I'll bet it would take my pain away. For sure it would. But, goddamnit, it's heroin. I probably should never try heroin, right? I think barfing is involved. OK, forget it. How does one get one's hands on medicinal marijuana? Would I qualify? I don't want the kind of stuff that makes me mistake a can of Mandarin Oranges for a can of Marinara Sauce and serve a very wrong and disgusting meal. I just want the pain to go away."

Not very tasty atop pasta. Oops?

Then there is the horrible malaise and fatigue. Making even the simplest breakfast for my sons feels exhausting. Bending down to pick up a bowl from the cupboard, walking it to the breakfast table, removing a carton of milk from the fridge, returning to retrieve a spoon from the cutlery drawer, extracting a box of cereal from the cupboard, setting it on the table—a series of small steps that is, somehow, torture. Every move hurts, in varying degrees, and depending on the day.

My sons are perfectly capable of all these tasks, of course. But if I were to languidly dictate orders from my fainting chair, I fear I would become the cover girl for Bad Parenting magazine. As I write this, I realize that delegating every single task in the house would be the best thing for my sons. It wouldn't hurt them one single tiny bit, and they have energy to spare. It's just my guilt that keeps me on my feet, thinking "I should be a better parent. I should have more energy. I shouldn't hurt."

I have never been a person to collapse on the couch, except when I've come to the very end of my rope. I have to keep going all the time. I can't sit still. My mother, in her late 80s, is the very same way. She will insist on painfully ascending the stairs to the second floor just to ensure the pillows on the guest bed are fluffed, no matter how many protestations we utter. She will wander around endlessly, buffing the counters, long after she should be in bed. I've despaired of her perseverance, yet I am proud of it in a way I can't explain. Well, yes, I can. I explain it this way: We are not lazy people.

So I don't stop, ever. A day without exercise is wrong. My overactive mind will punish me for it. My body will feel restless and unfulfilled if I didn't swim or bike or walk or run, even if it is simultaneously crying out in agony. I can be utterly exhausted, defeated, and in agonizing pain—in a place where I have no business anywhere but in bed or on the couch—and I still insist on exercising, hauling firewood, dragging around set pieces for the middle-school musical, playing piano, toting groceries.

Being Strong and Tireless is part of who I am. A me that isn't "strong and tireless" isn't someone whom I would recognize or even care to know. I'm the person who can pick up the 80-lb canoe solo, if asked. I'm the mom who can swim a mile and then spend another hour playing "pull-up" with the kids (a vicious form of Sharks and Minnows in which you literally have to dive down deep to capture your minnow and drag him/her to the surface). Why, just two days ago I was hauling a huge and recalcitrant fake Christmas tree, part of the decor for the middle-school musical, out of the school foyer. The damned tree was collapsing on my head, barfing out ornaments and tinsel. I was sweating and grunting. A man paused and asked if I needed help. "Oh, no thank you, I got it," was all I said. Then I went and got another tree, and dragged that one out, too.

I felt good dragging those trees. I felt like the warrior I know myself to be. I didn't hurt a bit while I was dragging those trees. I would have dragged a thousand trees. I don't know if this is true of anyone else with Fibromyalgia, but sometimes the harder things are the easier things. They make you completely forget that you are all torn up inside, because, after all, every day and every moment you are all torn up inside. Lifting rocks and bricks and boards makes the "torn up inside" feeling make sense. Of course it should hurt to drag that heavy load. It would make any healthy person hurt. Therefore, I am healthy. Or just very stupid, because I probably pay for my exertions later. Plus, I won't take a moment to rest.

It's the little things that hurt, the small and ordinary offices of life. Putting away laundry is just dreadful, and that's probably true for people who don't have Fibromyalgia, too. When I hear "I need help turning on the water for my tub!" from up the stairs, my mind bends and wavers. It's a weary climb up one short flight, a cranking of handles. Why does something this small have to be so painful? When I pass the pile of papers and school photos that should be trimmed and filed and put away, I always think: "I'll do that tomorrow. I'm far too tired today."

It all feels rather hopeless, sometimes, because even watching television is painful. How could watching a television be painful? As I sit there, trying to focus on the plot and to lose myself in the story, I am bitterly aware of my muscles spasming, of my utter failure to relax, of the tight hold the invisible, gnawing thing has on my neck and shoulders. Sometimes I stretch, and my tight joints protest. At other times I try a little self-Reiki, palms to jean-clad thighs, and I wish the pain away.

I have been successful on a few occasions. Sometimes it recedes, and I am able to forget (for 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes?) who I am. This happened two days ago while I was drawing this grasshopper. I used the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and I drew this grasshopper upside down, in an attempt to shut down my anxious time-clock left brain and activate my right brain.

My sketch of a grasshopper. It will probably be devoured by a hungry predator within minutes, its short and fleeting life meaning nothing. 

Guess what, little grasshopper? My pain went away, while I was drawing you. Now that I'm writing this, it's back in full force. It eats away at the base of my skull, and at my shoulder blades, and inside the architecture of my knees, and it burns along my back, and here I am staring at this grasshopper and I know that while I drew it the pain was still there, somewhere waiting on the sidelines. But it didn't matter. Because I wasn't trapped in my body. I was calculating the precise distance between wing and leg, and dreaming of hauling big loads.

I don't have any real wisdom to give. The only things I have ever figured out are to stay busy, to not be lazy, and to keep on, and on. Never give up. Keep doing. I'm still in pain. Sometimes it's bad. Some days, really bad. 

The fox is still dancing with the rabbit. The rabbit gives itself wholly, unwillingly—taut as a wire. The fox digs in with claws and teeth, but it has no love of the conquest. I watch their exertions with my clenched fist held between my teeth, praying for absolution. Praying that I can hold on long enough to be a proper poet for the fox, the rabbit, and the breaking day. Give me enough time.