Thursday, January 31, 2013

Head of Steam




Have I talked about anxiety before? No? How strange. How very strange. A gross oversight, as Sherlock Holmes might have said to Watson.

Watson, my dear, how remiss you have been not to see the elephant under the carpet. Do you not see, old chum, how the edges of the carpet are three feet off the floor? Come come! Upon closer inspection do you not find that the pipe that you have been unsuccessfully trying to light is, in actuality,  a large tusker elephant's trunk? My dear, Watson.

My anxiety, some of which is genetic (I blame my mother, see the motherfucker gene, MTHFR) is the steam engine of my train. I throw logs into it's fire with my little blue-striped train conductor's cap on like I'm a Looney Toons cartoon, and get all sweaty doing so, I am covered in soot, and I ring the bell. Who rings the bell? I ring the bell. Next station stop?

There is no "next station stop," Watson, because -- isn't it obvious -- this train is runaway. When given the choice to fight or flight, it turns heel and fleets like Atalanta, baby. This train is bound for glory.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Moms

My mom is in her dream city of Kyoto on her way around the world teaching with my dad on a boat. She won't be back until May. Some people's mother's are dead, and will never come back and definitely not through Barcelona in May, and suddenly I tremendously feel this. That I'll be a member of the club my husband is in, and that my mother herself is in, and that I didn't want to join.

Remember the Almodovar movie All About My Mother when the daughters are talking about how they miss the smell of their mother's farts? Well, I do now, too, and also, strangely, her breath, which I never noticed that I actually have noticed and filed away somewhere in my infant brain, and find familiar, comforting, and like kefir.

And the smell of her perfume of which I am have never been until now a fan. A gigantic white flower pouring out of the pillowcase like Hawaii has erupted. And her mohair cardigans, which, had I known I would miss I would definitely not have guessed since when she hugs me there's always the potential of a hairball.  And her tiny screwball script. She always signs her notes to me upside down as WOW and I used to think was so corny and now I so don't.


Friday, January 25, 2013

On My Desk

Like the pet-store gerbil, the writer should come with a Easy Care and Feeding tag.

Judging from the flotsam around my desk, I stay afloat via various mugs and cups. In them, writerly beverages. Coffee. De rigeur, my darlings, de rigeur.  

Earl Grey tea bags, their strings snaking out of the tea cups like thin tails.

There are also bowls filled with dried crevices, leftover enticements. Fried rice. Nut butters (from an experiment to make them myself in the blender and in so doing saving probably less than one half of one cent, but the pride! the pride, people, in making one's one nut butter!)

Spoons, forks, a thesaurus given to me by a friend, A Prayer attributed to St. Francis is affixed to my old-school monitor and I've highlighted "where there is discord, union" in pink Hi-Liter and various humorous (to me) postcards of witches, which is more and more how I see myself. There is a bottle of supplemental calcium for my bones.

In one postcard a classic witch with an upheld hand is about to throw something into a cauldron. Green Pez candies? Emeralds?  This, of course, is what writing is.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

School for Womanly Arts

I've always thought of myself as a head, Mr. Potato Head. A goofy mind, attached to this mass below, "my body" (that I even have one, a sin of an admission.) This is what it means to be raised Episcopalian. Best boy choirs in the world, good lemon curd what what?

There is certain sensuality in our pomp, but day to day, I'm as dry as a good walking stick on an post-prandial constitutional. 

So I think it's time for me to go to Mama Gena's School for Womanly Arts. Except we haven't a satellite in Baltimore, nor do I have the cash to cover "Pleasure Bootcamp," as it's known in New York, so I'm on my own, learning about nitric oxide, the pleasure chemical, just as I was in junior high school blowing the cap off a Coke with baking soda and vinegar. This experiment could go either way, you know?

Mama Gena makes the point that when she says "pleasure," everyone titters lasciviously, and thinks "sex." But it's more than that. Thank Gawd, I say to myself. Maybe I'll be good at it.

I've made myself a curriculum. Step one: Identify things that give me pleasure. Gawd, I feel like the cartoon strop Cathy even writing the word, "pleasure" it makes me feel sticky, and like I have crabs. What to do? So I doodled. Added "dome" to "pleasure." Pleasure-dome. Snarf! Hee-hee. 

See? I'm still here. Stuck on step one.  First base. Isn't that the truth? But, like coming down the stairs into the 1970s Plato's Retreat, you have to start somewhere.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

School for Womanly Arts

I've always thought of myself as a head, Mr. Potato Head. A goofy mind, attached to this mass below, "my body" (that I even have one, a sin of an admission.) This is what it means to be raised Episcopalian. Best boy choirs in the world, good lemon curd what what?

There is certain sensuality in our pomp, but day to day, I'm as dry as a good walking stick on an post-prandial constitutional. 

So I think it's time for me to go to Mama Gena's School for Womanly Arts. Except we haven't a satellite in Baltimore, nor do I have the cash to cover "Pleasure Bootcamp," as it's known in New York, so I'm on my own, learning about nitric oxide, the pleasure chemical, just as I was in junior high school blowing the cap off a Coke with baking soda and vinegar. This experiment could go either way, you know?

Mama Gena makes the point that when she says "pleasure," everyone titters lasciviously, and thinks "sex." But it's more than that. Thank Gawd, I say to myself. Maybe I'll be good at it.

I've made myself a curriculum. Step one: Identify things that give me pleasure. Gawd, I feel like the cartoon strop Cathy even writing the word, "pleasure" it makes me feel sticky, and like I have crabs. What to do? So I doodled. Added "dome" to "pleasure." Pleasure-dome. Snarf! Hee-hee. 

See? I'm still here. Stuck on step one. Identify things that give me pleasure. First base. Isn't that the truth. But like coming down the stairs into the 1970s Plato's Retreat, you have to start somewhere.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sonata

Call me a nitwit (I am a card carrying member) but I'd forgotten about music. It's transfixative power for the good. The last time I sat on the floor among albums was 300 years ago in high school making a mix tape to make a boy like me. That was how powerful it was. It could make you a boyfriend.

Sure, I "listen" to music, on my phone, as I take my walk daily over the fields, stopping for photos of interesting frost formations and whatnot. That's half-assed. But then I came in from the cold, and said to myself, Why on Earth shouldn't I have some Schubert?

Well holy crap! I was pinned to my sofa like a butterfly in a museum's fabulous Morpho collection. I've been like a cave man and I re-discovered fire.

The hearth, round which everything warms their hands, is music. Especially piano sonatas by the Romantics, for me. They are indescribably good. I thought it was chocolate cake. That was a misstep. What's really nourishing is a cascade like a stream flowing out of a gigantic curved piece of wood strung with wire that's banged on by hammers.

I only pay bills listening to Beethoven's Pathetique now, because anything less is barbarism.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Abdominal Ultrasound

The last time I had an ultrasound I was pregnant with my second child and the dark room was a joyful buzz with me, Husb.,  the technician, and then a fourth pouding heart, the size of a tiny beet.

This time it was just me and the technician.

I made the usual chitchat about pancreases, but it was mid-January, my belly was not full of baby and I was there for an examination of my gall bladder,  not friendship, the technician made that abundantly clear. "Ma'am, turn to the right. No, not that right. The other right."

How had it come to this? A dark room, a stranger, a storeroom of fascinating drugs, no doubt, in Amsterdam it could have gone so many different ways, but she said, "Your aorta is very superficial." I wanted to say,  I could have told that. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Perfect Perimenopausal Outfit




Tissues ( How will you feel about anything? Who knows?)

Pen and paper (for writing down whatever it is you forgot a moment ago, but now -- praise god -- remember.)

Pneumatic tube into which you can be sucked,  in the event of a stressful situation like the mall, or traffic, or anytime, really,  that connects you directly to a warm bath, scented with lavender, attended to by an eager attendant of your sexual choice.

Large, unfashionable handbag the kind you used to make fun of your grandmother for carrying, that you refer to un-ironically and without a trace of humor refer to as your "handbag" and "life support system."

Cardigan 1
Cardigan 2

Cardigan 3 

A slightly thicker cardigan, like a Poncho.

An antique pill box, passed down through the generations of women in your family, in which there is a
a jumble of Antacids and 

Tranquilizers. 

A sketchbook. Recently you've gotten in to bird watching. You poor, poor dear.








Friday, January 11, 2013

Your Estradiol Is Shit

I have a new gynecologist, and this wouldn't otherwise be news, except that it is news, because he's a man. My first male gynecologist is also the  funniest, intuitive, and most humane gynecologist I've ever had in my long and illustrious career in the stirrups. "Let's get out of the stirrups-room, so we can talk," he said. "Want a couple of ounces of dark chocolate?"

By way of introducing the subject of perimenopause, he said: "When my wife was going though perimenopause, she wanted to bite the heads off of cute baby birds."

I was like, Wow, not only do I like, him, but I like his wife.

"Anyway, you're not crazy," he said. "Your estradiol is shit. And for that matter so is your FSH, and also you live in the shitty suburbs and you aren't making enough art."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fill The Void

My children, like all children, like to color.  I can do this, too, I thought. I can color, too.  But that's exactly not the right way to color. The kids don't start out all, "I'll draw a cat." It's more like a cat just happens to them. It's all about that damn beginners' mind thing.

It reminded me of the tongue in cheek book Coloring for Grownups. The page I'm talking about has a swirl on it. "Fill the void," it says. Sweet baby beets, I know that feeling.

The blank paper was just starting up at me, like a nursing child. You know how they have those vast, whale-eyes that seem to contain the deep vernal pools of wisdom of the ages? So did this newsprint. It was like, "I know you, Elizabeth. I know you...and you have nothing to draw, not even a cat."

"Goddamnit, Void, I will fill you," I said to it. And I took up the stub of a crayon and drew a square. And then another square, with lines connecting it to the first square so as to make a cube, and then I drew myself in it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep

My parents are in the Pacific Ocean on a ship. Holy shit. My parents are in the Pacific Ocean on a ship.   Peace, pilgrim, is what I want to say to my freaking-out self.

Their four-month journey around the world is my four-month journey without them; the transformation has happened, I am the parent, on shore, tsk-tsking and they are the kids, out at sea, having a bold worldly adventure, sending cryptic messages like,"there are fairly large swells." This is preparing me for when my kids grow up and fledge. Will I be nonplussed? Or, will I puff-ball, like our female zebra finch that we have named Finchessa?

I know how they felt when I drove in a fading Impala across the country one summer, my freshman year, now.


Monday, January 7, 2013

More Haiku of the Perimenopausal

With the Cart Boy in the Parking Lot at Wegmans

You there, you I said,
Why are you calling me, Lady?
Are my roots showing?


Scheduling a Colonoscopy

Press 1 if you have
someone driving you here. If
need a friend, press 2.

Follow-Up Visit

They still don't know what
is wrong with you but more tests?
Oh, definitely.

Flax Seed

On toast, on yoghurt
sprinkled like holy water
roasted golden flax.

Cardigan Is A Verb

I cardigan. You
cardigan, she: cute young thing isn't cold
in that string bikini  but wait till she's 40s.
I guess this isn't a haiku, either.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Confetti

There's nothing like party leftovers: 2/3 of a cake, and piles of multicolor disks of confetti shifting in the heat vents of the terrarium of my apartment like little Saharan sand dunes. Like a 1930s Dust Bowl portrait of a Dust Bowl woman, staring off into the camera; out of the frame, on my hip a laundry basket, full of unmatched socks while elsewhere a plane takes off for a southern port city of such superb international awesomeness, that in my brown study, I cannot imagine lush foliage or the souk scent of coconut and ambergris.

The Mid-Atlantic in January. Like the Inuit have words for snow, there are more than 50 shades of gray, as we used to say in Pittsburgh, is it Pittsburgh gray? Grit. Dove. Duck ass.

When my husband's Costa Rican grandmother came to visit years ago, she (who had never been out of her green universe, or seen the winter spindle of a anything deciduous) asked, "What's wrong with your trees?"



Friday, January 4, 2013

Bon Voyage

Tomorrow two fearless adventuresome seniors, people you'd expect to take up knitting and backgammon in their golden years, or maybe write a book will leave from my house. Their first stop? San Diego. Then it's a quick port of call in Hawaii, and then Tokyo.

Me and the kids are following their boat, the aptly named MV Explorer, on a wall map, with purple yarn and pins, demarking their meandering whaleman-like voyage across the Pacific, down into the Indian Ocean, around the Cape, and then, steadily getting closer to home, landing in Barcelona in May.

For years I have been leaving them. For college, for Seattle (in a misguided attempt to remake myself West Coast), for Israel, for Venezuela, for Rome. This is the natural order of things is it not?

Being the one left behind this time, I can say it is harder being left than doing the leaving. My only consolation is a boatload of confetti and Champagne, and the memory of how stoic they were when I went away, they would always stiff upper lip and say, "Safe voyage, safe return," and now I will too, but burbling, sniffling, and wiping my tear-wet nose on my sleeve in exactly the way, as a kid, I was instructed not to.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Non-Doing

Resolution shmesolution. I think I've kept less than 1% of them unless they were about more and not less chocolate and in that case, I know I've been totally stick-to-it and one tenacious motherfucker.

However this year, I'm about non-doing. Moment to moment.

That's my big goal and a surprisingly tough row to hoe, just being and not grasping for the better experience than this one. Blah blah blah present moment blah blah blah. My internal bullshit meter goes haywire when I say the words "present moment" like I've found something radioactive in the grass or a ring as I did once, with a metal detector.

I'm completely unqualified to even sidle up to the present moment like I'm going to make a pass at it at a cocktail party, it being so awesome and beautiful and out of my league, but I'm already belly up to the bar on this one, already in it to win it.