Friday, April 29, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award: Now Tattooed on My First Born Son!

I didn't know WHAT to do with this shiny new award I just got from the delightful Cherie over at Ready. Write. Go. (Honored I am, indeed!)

At first I thought this might be some kind of master Ponzi scheme. If I give five people awards, and they give five people awards, and so on, and so on, we'll end up with really thick and lustrous hair, or maybe in prison! I wouldn't like prison. Unless I had really shiny, nice hair, which I could sell for contraband so that my fellow inmates could make knock-off Barbie dolls and sell them, to others who would then re-sell them to still other people...oh, I digress.

So I thought the best thing to do with this nice award was to display it to my neighbors, in case they forget to read my blog. So I took my kid to a tattoo artist and had this done. He was upset, but I was proud and pleased.

Relax, everyone, this is not really my kid! He doesn't even look like me, man. No, I never saw that kid, I swear. I got this photo off Flickr. He has only TWO teeth and I have lots. Where are you taking me?
Without further adieu, the rules of this blogger award are:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
2. Share seven random facts about myself.
3. Pass the award along to 5 new-found blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.


1. I have never tattooed a child. I am Caucasian with a wee bit of Native American tossed in the pot, and that kid is not mine.
2. I was once painted green, and I have updated my profile photo to share that, in honor of my new green award! Green is my favorite color, too. Especially when featured on a Lilly Pulitzer outfit.
3. I lived in Athens, Greece for a year at age 13.
4. I can play guitar but...
5. My singing is frightful. (I'm working on it, though.)
6. I have a costume trunk in the attic that contains wig, fake animal noses, and all manner of marvelous tag sale finds.
7. In elementary school I decided I wanted to be called "Pony," hence the true origin of this blog's name.

And the award-ees! I'm betting that a couple of these peeps have this award already (I searched but could not find it), but if I am first to hand it over, GO ME! (By the way, I feel sort of shy and goofy giving this award. Shucks. I like these people!)

1. Anita Howard
2. Angela, aka The Starving Novelist
3. Bethany, aka Rookie Riter
4. Mary Frame, aka Marewolf
5. Holly VanDyne

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why Query Tracker Is Like Fertility Friend

Years ago, before I had birthed me three buoyant boys, I used to frequent a site called Fertility Friend. One could track one's BBT (basal body temperature) each morning to determine when the time was ripe for baby making. You had to lie quite still and slip the thermometer under the tongue, lest a sudden movement jack your temperature up a degree and skew your results.

This clever site would track your ups and downs on a little chart, showing the slight dip in temp before the release of this month's Most Glorious and Noble and Hopeful Egg, and then the rise afterward. And, if the egg met its match among those wee struggling swimmers, the upward trend might carry on, up and up, and on...on toward baby, and infinity.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!
I used this site not because I had any real trouble making those babies--in fact, quite the opposite. I made a whole slew of 'em. I used it because I was obsessive. I had to know. I didn't want to guess. I wanted to see the telltale rise that spoke of success long before an EPT from the local drugstore could pick up the minute traces of whatever hormone etched two pink lines instead of one.

I have always hated waiting.

I gave all that obsession up after my first son. It didn't seem important anymore. I had one now, and that was all that really counted. I suppose I ought to visit again, should I ever find my password, and say: "Carry on, good folk! Your day will come!" But I'd feel like an interloper by now.

But I still remember the forums--the hopeful "baby dust" that posters would scatter on the mournful whose charts went awry. Posts were filled with dancing "hugs" and sparkly unicorns and angry little green faces of rage at AF (Aunt Flo), whose arrival put off success for at least another month. There was also a gallery of charts--failed charts, charts that showed ovulation, charts for women 40 and older, charts for overweight women, charts for women five feet tall who lived in Poughkeepsie, and charts that resulted in squealing babies.

It was all completely fascinating and addictive.

So not long ago I found this awesome site Query Tracker, where hopeful writers gather to find an agent, and track their stats for queries, submissions, rejections, feedback, and more. I was reminded of those long-ago days when I would scour the Fertility Friend forums. On Query Tracker, instead of uncomfortable details about "fluids," one can find out whether an agent is a non-responder, writes a polite form rejection, or mocks her own slushpile through her Twitter feed. One can search for success stories that show the hopeful line of dots on the chart trending higher (a partial request!) and higher still (a full request!!)  and finally—sometimes—reach a pinnacle of delirious excitement (I got an offer of representation!!!) Jackpot, baby, you've got a bun in the oven.

One can console the downtrodden who, week after week, failed to find themselves "knocked up" but have a gleam in their eye that won't quit. One can cheer on the excited who are "late" and waiting, waiting for that answer. One can gnaw vaguely on one's jealously while reading the stories of others who have made it. Yes, we're happy for them, but I want one too, damn it!

It is all completely fascinating and addictive.

One hopes that each and every one of those Trackers will walk away with a twinkle in the eye that, 9 months, or 18 months, or 2 years later will bear fruit. They'll have something to hold in their hands. They'll say, "I made it. I made this." Isn't there enough luck and goodness in the world for all of us, then?

And one day, walking home from the train on a spring evening, a glimpse through the trees of red shirt, green shirt, flashing among the shrubs. Boys—grown boys, laughing—chasing through the spangled light. And hope.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Press Button, Receive Bacon

Press button. Get bacon. Many things in life are not this easy. One should accept the gifts that the Higher Power giveth. Gratitude for the bacon! Gratitude for the pork product which cometh forth like a stream of unctuousness!
Seen in a Wendy's bathroom off Route 95 near Warwick, RI.

7 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Thanks, Anita, for the Tag challenge, for I was sorely absent of blog material tonight!

1. I don't like to see a pile of trimmed toenails next to my bedside.

2. I once danced atop a fire truck, dressed as the character "Fire," to the tune of Low Rider.

3. I have a vast shoe collection bequeathed to me by my friend's mother, otherwise known as the Imelda Marcos of Rhode Island. I can't wear half of them because I can't walk in heels for more than a few tottering paces.

4. I can't throw a book into the garbage, no matter how awful it is. I have to put the book in a "go away" box and hope that some other person might one day enjoy its awfulness.

5. When I was little I hid a hot dog in the bookshelf behind a volume of Day of Infamy. I would check on it periodically to see its progress. It never changed.

6. One time I got in a furious argument with a coworker who used to insist that cut flowers were "mutilated genitalia" and also drank her own urine for cleansing purposes. She told me that she hated a certain piece of fiction because it had snakes that spoke and, as she said: "Snakes cannot talk! Stuff and nonsense!" We almost came to blows over the issue. I rose from my desk and shouted "Get out of my office!" My voice was reported to be heard on the next floor down.

7. My Dalmatian "Tammy" once escaped from our house in Michigan wearing a tutu. She ran out the driveway, past the new neighbors (mouths agape), and into the woods. She returned two days later very cross, and without the tutu.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In the Land of the Winkies

I can't possibly write a new blog post, for I am up to my nethers in a new work in progress. I am writing it like wildfire! I am very excited, and use many Capital Letters and screamers!!!!

While you are waiting, I shall send you back in time (with great alacrity! And some more exclamation points!) to a smattering of posts that may have escaped your attention, 'cause you may be newish here. This selection is all about motherhood in a land of boys. Want more? Just ask. Future hand-picked selections to come.

Don't Cry Silly, You're Not Dead Yet
"My children were in that lit house down the way, waiting for me. I could not, could not, could not face their eager little faces and their wild, full-tilt runs right into my legs as soon as I walked in the door (usually, the eldest places his head right at the level of the pubic bone and charges like a bull)..."

Throwing Food at the Moon 
""Da moon is hungry," he announced, and began tossing food up toward it. It rained down on our little picnic blanket. We joined in, tossing food at the moon in an effort to fatten it. Planes passed overhead and we threw food at them, too."

Three Conversations

Calling my Invisible Hermaphrodite on the Mermaid Phone
"He picked up the Ariel phone and dialed with a self-important air."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Three Rejection Letters: Should They Sting and Burn?

For those of us who are writers, it's hard not to take a rejection letter from an agent or editor personally—especially early in the process, when each word of a simple form rejection can feel like bee stings, BBs in the buttocks, or hot acid. And it's difficult indeed to see querying, and the inevitable rejections that come with it, as the subjective process it is.

Let's imagine then, for a moment, that rejection letters were par for the course in other very subjective contexts. Would you still take them personally? Would they still sting and burn? Does rejection stink no matter how it's served? Or are we sometimes wearing puce-tinted glasses? I wonder. Let's see:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lugnutz,
Thank you for the opportunity to tour your lovely home at last Sunday's open house. While we admired the billiards room and the wet bar in the master bedroom, we're afraid to say that we just didn't quite fall in love. We're looking for something very specific, you see: A home in which we can raise our pet ferrets in a hutch in the backyard. Upon measurement, your backyard—while filled with fragrant spring flowers and that pleasant tinkling fountain—just doesn't have the correct contours for our needs. We hope that you find a buyer who will bestow upon your house as much love as you have clearly put into it.
Misty and Hugh Greenteeth

Dear Sadie-Lou,
I enjoyed our blind date on Saturday. You are clearly a personable young lady, with many charms. Among them are your very voluptuous rump and your extremely advantageous bosom. Despite these assets, I just didn't feel the chemistry required to see you a second time. You deserve a man who will want to ravish you at each and every opportunity, and for a reason I cannot fathom (and at times excoriate myself for, for you are a hot number), I am not that man. I wish you the best of luck in finding love elsewhere.
Bobo Bunface

Dear Freckles, Sassy, Jiminy, and Bobo,
Thanks for the opportunity to consider each one of you to be my new puppy. I enjoyed your boundless enthusiasm and the spittle that flew from your tongues. Unfortunately, I may choose only one puppy whose poop I wish to scoop during endless walks, and that will grow old with me by the fireside. When I saw little Spot—plain and piebald though he was—my heart jumped, for I sensed a kindred spirit. I know your angry little hearts are burning with jealousy and rage now, little pups, but you want an owner who will be true to you through all. Trust me, you will find someone who loves you. Yes, even you, Freckles, with that bum leg and that wandering eye...for perhaps you will try harder to beat the field than any of them.
Orphraim Zizzlewat

Funny, I set out to prove a point here. But I'm still feeling a wee bit sad for the Lugnutz couple, Sadie-Lou, and the little Lumpen puppy Freckles. I hope they keep their chins up. I think that they will.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I tried the antidepressant Mirtazapine and was soon trapped in a relentless dream about the Smurfs.

Dear FDA,

The loony psychiatrist gave me a drug to sample that he said, if taken even in a small dose, would take care of my occasional insomnia and also perk up my spirits a bit. It is called Mirtazipine  Mirtazipone Mirtazapine (aka Remeron), and it messed my head up so badly I can no longer spell and now write love sonnets to Gargamel, the evil wizard from the Smurfs, in my spare time.

Write down "Mirtazapine" so that you NEVER TAKE IT, FDA officer! Is your name Gladys, or Bob? I would like to make this as personal as possible.

This drug is the most vile and evil poison since the invention of "roofies," "mickeys," and other potions favored by date rapists. I took 1/4 of a 15 mg pill Thursday night before bed. Within minutes, I was out colder than a whacked haddock and had started to dream about the fucking Smurfs. I was hanging out with Gargamel and his horrible cat Azriel. I wasn't even on the side of good! Gargamel's eyebrows sit on top of his misshapen skull like two fat black caterpillars. His hair is extremely oily.

Do you think I liked looking at this, Bob? Gladys? No! I did not.

"Jazz hands" would have looked a little less sinister, Gargamel. Just sayin'.
Note I say 1/4 of one pill. If I had taken the whole pill, I would probably have been swept into the Smurf Vortex FOREVER and Smurfette would be my best pal, and we would be texting each other some shit all the time, like about this Smurf and that Smurf, and how—oh God, this is all really horrible to contemplate.

I warn you, FDA officer, that this drug is bad news. At one point I woke up because one of my sons was crying, right in my ear. He was crying so hard he was blowing bubbles of snot. He gets growing pains in his legs and sometimes, at night, he wants them rubbed. I heard my husband groan: "Not again! I was up with him an hour ago."

I couldn't remember how to sit up. When I finally figured it out, I couldn't remember how to stand up. My legs looked like stuffed scarecrow legs, and I stared down at them stupidly. I tried to speak but all that came out was "wuh-no-no-no-no." I slumped back into the bed.

This time I had dreams in which I read entire books of 17th-century poetry, ate buttered toast from a giant toasting rack, and was allowed to visit the Smurf village and consort merrily with the Smurfs in fields of daisies. They seemed to accept me and forgave the fact I had so recently spent time with the wicked Gargamel (whom I missed, as he had been something of a father figure to me).

After sleeping and sleeping like the dead through noises of all kinds, and perhaps even a fire (who knows?), I finally awoke to a blistering headache and a hideous hungover feeling, as if I'd been up all night doing shots of Jagermeister. I spent all day feeling like hot, groggy poo, and nearly walking into walls. Plus I feel like the Smurfs may have stolen some of my IQ and are using it to brew new potions to tempt unwary depressives and anxiety sufferers.

I hate medications. 

Into the garbage with ye, Mirtazapine! Badbadbad poison. Smurf go 'way. Make a note of it, Gladys!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Early Drafts of Famous Clichés: Now Discovered in a Cache Near the Dead Sea!

These early drafts of famous clichés were recently unearthed in a cache near the Dead Sea, proving once and for all that all writers—even those of famous clichés—must undergo an arduous revision process. The notes contained many crossings-out and occasional curse words in the margins, and I have attempted to replicate them here as accurately as possible.
Those who live in a house of meat must not throw forks.
Those who live inside an egg should not peck with their sharp beaks at others who live outside the egg, for they will surely crack their own egg in the process, and be sad, and will be born before their time as chickens.
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
[Writer's margin notes: I am going to get representation for sure with this beauty. Agents, take note!]

Depressed losers generally like to hang out with other depressed, pathetic losers.
That miserable shithead John is dating that wretch Sally. They are frigging perfect together! I sort of hate them both, and their long mournful faces.
Misery loves company.
[Writer's margin notes: I am feeling kinda low myself. Hey, maybe I will seek out the company of other writers! But writers are weird. Sometimes they gaze out the window and spill soup down their shirtfronts while they obsess about this character or that. I hate writers. But I am a writer. Damn it, this cliché is so good I cannot stand it. I need a martini.]

My white friend Bill called my other white friend Jim "white." It seemed kinda dumb.
That's like the squirrel calling the ferret a rodent!
That's like the pot calling the kettle black.

[Writer's margin notes: My kettle is stainless steel. This doesn't really work. I'll fix it in the next draft.]

Caught between my winkie and my anal aperture.
Caught between Scylla and Charybdis. Shit, that's been used. Why can I not be ORIGINAL?
Caught by my wife in bed with another woman, and unable to attend to the dinner that is currently burning on the stove and setting off all the smoke alarms.
Caught between a rock and a hard place.[Writer's margin notes: No one will buy this. My writing sux. "Rock." "Hard Place." How much more boring can I be?]

Worth one's weight in pork products and fatty sausages.
Worth one's weight in doubloons, unless one is really skinny or even anorexic.
Worth one's weight in gold.
[Writer's margin notes: My professor will like this allusion. I will get an A. Not that HE ever wrote anything so spot on. Are clichés like this selling these days? Who can predict the whims of the market. I have to have faith.]

A crazed toddler in a store filled with expensive breakables.
An angry marmot inside the pants of someone with a weenie made of porcelain.
A big machine running roughshod over a person who has porcelain arms and legs! And also a porcelain head!
A bull in a china shop.
[Writer's margin notes: Nailed it. But, will editors be familiar with bulls? Perhaps I should use "rampaging pony" or maybe "stompling lion." Too wordy. I am riddled with doubt, as always.]

Laughter makes me piddle my pants and forget about my sorrows and failings, so busy am I changing my pants and doing laundry, endless laundry, as well as changing my underwear. Could I be incontinent? Damn it! I should not have had all those children, for they damaged my undercarriage.
Laughter is the best medicine.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Night of the Lovies: A Graphic Novel (Chapter Two)

When we last left our hero, Little Pushkin, he had fallen into the clutches of the evil Schtinky Teddy and his band of foul cutthroats, and was sold into slavery on the docks.

To think that, I, Little Pushkin, would sink to such despair. Sold into bondage at the dark and hideous Lovey Work Camp, I was forced to sort nubby plastic pieces by color while the snarling guards watched my every move. Corpses of other workers lay about like disregarded offal. Oh, pity! Oh, terror!
Just as I had suspected, the overseer was none other than the nefarious Schtinky Teddy, who had had his nose repaired by a coquettish seamstress, no doubt. He lurched up over the walls, sauced on Bourbon, and laughed cruelly at my plight. His eyes were battered from a life spent bouncing down stairs and being flung at walls for no reason, and the light of ursine kindness was not to be found there. He had a fine new ribbon about his neck—surely bought from the spoils of his slave trade!
I knew then I must flee. I escaped by cart under cover of night, while terrible slavering hounds pursued me.

I escaped the hideous canine beasts and hid in the jungle, my heart pounding. I was but a wee little creature, and who knew what fiends hid here in this wildness? My withered leg hurt me a bit, but I am made of stern stuff. I, Little Pushkin, would survive!

Good God! He lurched out of the fronds like a fiend from a nightmare, part of his gnawed-upon and licked-upon face dangling down and tickling my neck and filling me with a nauseated loathing. Schtinky Teddy, doth Hell have such devils as ye in it?

He was done with me. "No good as a slave, me poppet!" he shouted. "Your kind are more trouble than they are worth in hoisting bricks and blocks, for you will drive the others into revolt. Prepare to greet your maker!" I was tossed in a chariot filled with rubbish, bricks, and used cars.

He tossed me into the junkheap, where I fell atop a pile of horrid cars due to be crushed later that day. "This is so derivative of Toy Story 3!" I screamed, but his ears were closed to my pleas.

Help was at hand! Three little mice threw me down a rope and rescued me just in time. Their maniacal giggling was unpleasant, but Little Pushkin was in a bind. Now, I simply had to gather a band of allies, defeat Schtinky Teddy at his cruel game, and break up his Work Camp. To be continued!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The profanity-spewing psychiatrist, the deranged captive child, and the forgotten poo

In my quest for mental wellness, I decided I would finally seek the service of a reputable psychiatrist. I'll take herbs and kickboxing over SSRIs and their ilk any day (see All Doped Up and Can't Even Drive My Big Rig), but when driving even one exit on the highway kickstarts the sweats and the jim-jams, perhaps action must be taken.

Most psychiatrists (MDs, not psychologists) I have met over the years are as weird as the daylights. I called one to try to arrange an appointment, but she sounded so drunk on her return message, with so much mumbling, hacking, snorting, and shuffling of papers, that I became really alarmed, and was tempted to call 911 on her behalf.

So I called another guy and got an appointment yesterday. He operates out of a private home in the next town over—a very tony little suburb of Westchester county.

I sat in the waiting room. A sign pinned to the door said to call a cell number for the doctor. He answered and said he'd be there "in a moment."

So I waited, for twenty-five minutes. Behind the door of the waiting room, I heard another therapist working with a child. The child must have been rather troubled, for the therapist was saying things like: "Point to your left arm. No, no, that's your right."

The kid: "Aw, nuts! I got it wrong again."

Then the therapist put on a tape, in which a deep robotic voice starts speaking:

The first word in the series is MEEP. The second word in the series is HEEL. The third word in the series is VEAL. The fourth word in the series is GLURPLE. The fifth word in the series is SNEEM.

And it went on! Finally my doctor showed up—in his car. He stumbled up the walkway in a dirty old T-shirt and baggy jeans, carrying a box of what appeared to be gardening supplies. I followed him into his home, where I was met by a gambolling cocker spaniel.

"You're not afraid of dogs, are you?" asked the doctor.

"No, but if I were, this would have been a very bad therapy experience so far."

I followed the doctor through a warren of rooms in his house, filled with figurines, piles of dusty books, and inspirational signage. It might have been a set-in-progress for Hoarders.

Finally, we reached the so-called "office" at the back. It was dark and strange. Open cardboard boxes of medication samples lay scattered about the floor, and dusty prescription pads (many already filled out for various drugs) covered the table. If I had the inclination to steal prescription pads, it would have been the work of a moment, for the doctor wandered off at least twice.

I sat on the couch.

"Can you slide over a bit?" asked the doctor, gesturing. "The dog usually sits there."

I slid over obediently and the spaniel made herself at home, with her head on my lap. I wondered how many patients with a dog phobia sought this man out! I stroked the dog. She seemed like a nice animal.

"Extra fees for touching the dog!" barked the doctor, and laughed.

He opened his laptop and I heard the sudden maniacal shriek of a child. I jumped from my seat, disturbing the dog.

"What the hell was that?"

"Just my son!" he chortled. "I must have clicked on a video file by mistake!"

His phone rang. It played an Irish jig. It rang three times during our session, and he answered it each time.

The whole time we spoke he stared into his laptop through glasses bespackled with smudgy fingerprints. I wondered if he might be staring at weird porn? I wondered if I might be about to be murdered! The dog would lie forlornly by my corpse for warmth. The child in the next room was a prisoner of the two doctors, and would be forced to say incantations over my body such as "MEEPLE GLURPLE VEAL."

Despite all this, I kind of liked the old coot. He used profanity! He told me he could cure my panic attacks. He said he knew how horrible and painful they could be, and that when it came to such things efforts like yoga and meditation were like dandelion seedlings tossed into a storm. And he didn't prescribe me any SSRIs.

Instead, he said: "Take this fucking Xanax! It's really a delightful drug. One should thank God every day for its invention. Fuck yeah, it's good!"

I expressed concern that Xanax was known to be addictive. I wondered if the doctor himself was snacking on Xanax at this moment.

"Do you know that 40,000 people a year die in driving accidents?" he said. "Does that keep you from driving?"

"Actually, doctor, yes it does. I have a driving phobia!"

"Oh, well...never mind that! Did you know that thousands of people die a year from eating food? Does that mean you won't eat food?"

When I got up to leave I asked to use the bathroom, and he went in to turn on the light.

"Whoops!" he said. "Forgot to flush!"

As the toilet gurgled down a forgotten poo, and I stared into its waters, I suddenly felt much better.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

90 Minutes a Day

Instant gratification via the blog quickly becomes a drug of sorts.

Choice A: Work on new novel, which may take 184 months to ever see the light of day.
Choice B: Dash off a blog entry which can be published…now!

This would be easier if I had more hours in the day to write. Here is my so-called writing schedule:

7:04 am: Wake to the snuffling movements and thrashing vagaries of Second Son, who has crept into our bed. He often mutters to himself and tells knock-knock jokes in loud whispers, making sleep impossible. He also makes noises out of his anal aperture. Oh, Second Son! One day you will be great!

7:30 Breakfast for three sons. Sometimes involves a great deal of buttering of flat, inanimate objects.
"Moah miwk pwease!" Jellies are spread. Many jellies wind up on the face and lap of Third Son, who announces: "Clean my hands and face and I am all done!"

8:15 Sons off to school. Involves much gesturing and stern talk and not much any writing.

8:32 Train to NYC (or, if working from home, to the email!) Sometimes can get writing done in small, wavering notebook on lap. Eye on fellow passenger who may or may not be about to slump into me with gaping, drooling maw.

Lunchtime: Gym class (when possible). At best, dreaming up plots and ideas while on bike, elliptical trainer, or during kickboxing class. No notebook available to jot down ideas. Great angst that they will be forgotten.

5:30-7:30 Boys' dinner, games, books, bed. Told to fold more paper cranes for Japan by Second Son. Pulled into "secret discussion" with First Son in which he tells me (sotto voce): "Did you know that there are three books in Pullmans' His Dark Materials series?! Can you imagine how cool that is?" Yeah, I suppose I can! Third Son (age 2 and 3/4) wants me to dance to Salt 'n' Pepa circa 1993, which he has yanked off the CD shelf: "If I/ wanna take a guy/ home with me tonight/ it's none a ya bidness!" Um....

7:30 Time to write! Briefly distracted by large, brimming martini set down next to laptop. Thank you, Husband!

9:00 It’s all over, baby. I need to eat dinner.

10:00 Sometimes a resurgence and a slew of writing until late-late, which will usually lead to grogginess and angst when 7:04 item (above) repeats itself, as it invariably will.

When the hey do you all write, anyway? I am curious to know!

So anyway, here's a neat Charlie Rose video with Stanley Fish and Roger Rosenblatt about writing, which I watched tonight while eating dinner. Watch it! It's inspiring. I am dreadful tired. Beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pursued by Bears

As some faithful readers of my blog know, I suffer from panic disorder and generalized anxiety. If that sounds a bit passive (for shame!), there is a reason: That's what it feels like. It's pretty horrible and debilitating, to the extent that driving a car much past the grocery store can result in palpitations, dizziness, feelings of unreality, and rabid wildcats loosed in the passenger seat. I will win, however.

The more attention you give the thing, the more it grows. Feed it and it lives. Starve it and it dies. If you distract yourself effectively, or forget that you are driving a large piece of machinery, you can trick the anxiety down into normal levels. The anxiety and panic and fear are entirely created by you, and no one and nothing else. Medication won't cure it. Rather, replacing the bad habit of anxiety with other, better habits—including robust, intellectual diversions—is the cure.

So here's the weird conundrum. One of my "robust, intellectual diversions" happens to be writing. What should I write about? S'pose I wrote a really strange and funny memoir about battling years of panic disorder? (Oh, I have plenty of fodder. I had my first panic attack at the age of three. I decided the toilet was coming to eat me.) Or should I divert myself with the silly YA novel that I enjoy writing? But if I don't write the book about the panic disorder, will I eventually heal myself and then forget what it feels like to have panic disorder and then lose all the horrible details to unreliable memory?

Aw, hell.

I think I will call my book PURSUED BY BEARS. 

Anyway, my 7-year-old let loose with a good old-fashioned panic attack himself tonight. He started out tired and hungry, which is a recipe for disaster. He was taking a shower and he suddenly started screaming like big, black bees were pouring up out of the drain. I ran in and found him covered in suds, with shampoo draining down into his eyes, his elbows at his side in a fixed, bent manner.

"Gemme out of here!" he screamed, hysterical. "I can't breathe! I can't see! My elbows hurt!"

The kid doesn't do well when he doesn't eat right, or exercises too much, or decides that he's had a funny/weird day. Today was a vicious combination of all three—trampoline jumping, garden work, soccer—and he went quite bonkers. I hugged him tight in a towel and thought how alike we are, and about the strange sway of genetics. I heard him say: "This week has been all bad!"

I said, "No, you had a great deal of fun this week. You did so many fun things."

"The week has just started!" he corrected me. "It is Sunday, and the beginning of the week. And the week so far has been all bad. It will not get better. It will go downhill from here."

I dressed him like he was a baby, his white skinny legs goose-pimpled with cold and his hair in stiff wet spikes. It was startling how he reminded me of myself, and the untethered and fine imagination running wild, fast, and reckless to the borders of the garden, pursued by something he has dreamed and divined. Pursued by bears.