May 8, 2013 § 27 Comments
I recently decided to start seeing a psychotherapist. I had some life-stuff to work out, and I knew other people who swore by therapy, so I thought I’d give it a try. After my first session, I texted a friend who had encouraged me to make that appointment:
I ought to have recognized some of the telltale signs of needing this kind of thing long ago. For example, when friends would talk about what they’d do if they won the lottery, they’d say, “Buy a beach house,” or “Pay off all my debt and move to France,” and I’d say, “Hire a shrink and pay them to listen to me talk about my life and my relationships and my kids and my work and my dreams and my failures and my conflicts and my shame and my hope and EVERY SINGLE THING IN THE WORLD.” And then inevitably someone would stare at me like I was weird, and I’d look down and stir my drink with my finger and start whistling.
Anyway, I finally decided that there’s no sense in waiting to win the lottery or to have a big, dramatic reason to get a little help sorting out all the craziness that is adulthood. And so far, so good.
What works for me might not be what works for you, but just in case you’re thinking of giving it a shot, I thought I’d offer up a few tips based on what I’ve experienced thus far. Bear in mind, I’m only just getting started. But here’s what I can tell you:
* * *
1. Take Advantage of the Free Kleenex
See also: Free coffee. I mean, “free” is perhaps not the precise term for things one uses after paying a large sum of money for an hour’s worth of time. But as far as I can tell, there’s no limit on the number of Kleenexes one can take. So if you use enough over time, you probably come out even and maybe even turn a profit.
* * *
2. Give Yourself Extra Time To Think
The time spent in the therapist’s office is one thing. But you can’t fix your life in an hour. So build in plenty of time for sitting in the waiting room, where you can read, look at the Zen waterfall, and just be quiet and mull over questions you’ll be talking about that day. I enjoy this part so much that I’ve been arriving earlier and earlier. Next time, I might just arrive the day before and camp out, maybe bring some food and a mini-grill, make it a tailgate kind of thing.
* * *
3. Embrace Freedom of Speech
I was about four minutes into my first session when I launched into a description of a feeling that really could not be said without profanity. Then I apologized. You know what my therapist said? That my language was nothing compared to the language of some other patients. Traumatized veterans, for example. (Finally: Proof that I do, in fact, curse like a sailor. Like an actual, military sailor with PTSD.)
So now I just let it all fly, no editing. It’s a win-win, because I can express myself efficiently and accurately, and my therapist can pick up some interesting new compound cursewords* to take back to the veterans.
(* Oh! Speaking of which – I have a new one: fucktank. As in, “That situation was a fucktank of complexity.” Or, “I’ve got a fucktank of things to talk about. Should we tackle them alphabetically or just start with the stupidest problems?”)
* * *
4. Keep It In Perspective
I resist the urge to point at other people in the waiting room and say, “I’m not as crazy as that guy, right?” But I comfort myself with the knowledge that there are people way weirder than me going in and out of those doors on a regular basis, and that whatever I have going on, the therapist has definitely seen worse.
Just to make sure everyone keeps it real, I recommend starting each session with a “confession” such as:
- “Yesterday, I killed someone for sport in a jungle island people-hunting game.”
- “This morning, I pretended to give someone a puppy and then took the puppy away and ate it.”
- “I think it’s important to have role models, which is why I pattern my life after Lindsay Lohan.”
Then you can say, “Nah, just kidding. My real problem is ________.” And suddenly it all looks pretty normal and easy to solve. Everything’s relative.
* * *
Disclaimer – No one warned me about this, so let me warn you: Apparently it’s normal to feel like a wrung-out dishrag after each session. Summoning the balls to be totally honest and open for even a single hour of self-examination is exhausting. My therapist says it’s BRAVE to deal with life and people head-on. My friends who’ve done this before me say it’s worth it. So I guess I’ll keep going until I’ve gotten my money’s worth in free Kleenex.
“Brave” by Sara Bareilles:
April 17, 2013 § 62 Comments
The first time I said, “Fuck math,” I was in 8th grade. I haven’t stopped saying it since.
(For the record: It was algebra’s fault. What the hell are X and Y doing in the middle of a math problem? Math is supposed to be about numbers, not letters. Letters are my thing. Leave the letters alone and keep walking, math, you greedy sonofabitch.)
Don’t get me wrong. I see the value in numbers. I like balance and evidence and science. And I totally know that math education is important, so please, teachers, don’t get all over me for this one. Just let me make my case.
* * *
Fuck Math: Exhibit A
Gather ’round, ye fellow nerds. I need to shed a dorky little tear. A few weeks ago, I went into a big chain bookstore and tried to find a new novel that had just been glowingly reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. This place is the only bookseller anywhere near my part of town, so it was my only choice if I wanted the book in my hands that day. (We used to have a great independent bookstore, but it went out of business.)
They didn’t have the book in stock. They did, however, have 16 shelves of calendars (3 shelves just for the ones about cats) and a wide selection of coffee mugs, bookmarks, and chocolates. The sales associate explained it to me as such: “Well, it’s just, like, that’s kind of a weird book, so, like, if we don’t know how it’ll sell, we don’t order very many copies. It’s just, you know, math.”
Outwardly, I said: “Thank you.”
Inwardly, I said: FUCK MATH.
That’s not the first time I’ve had that book shopping experience. And look, I’m not going to get all You’ve Got Mail about it. I understand that superstores with the benefit of massive purchasing power can sell things for less than the cool little bookstores that actually curate a good inventory. That’s why the little places go under and the big places survive. Then, when the big places are the only ones left, they can sell or not sell whatever they want. I get that. I took economics. But still: FUCK MATH.
Oh hell, never mind. I AM going to get all You’ve Got Mail about it. In Nashville, where I don’t live but maybe should, there’s a glorious little bookshop called Parnassus Books. It’s co-owned by the novelist Ann Patchett. (Perhaps you’ve read about it.) It’s fantastic – a glorious selection of books, not to mention a delightful shopping experience. The well-read staff love what they do and can help you find what you want. I enjoyed it so much the first time I visited that now I call and order books from there sometimes, just because — even though I like Amazon and dig how I can have any book in the world on my doorstep the next day — I like to support a bookstore that puts some thought into what it sells. Maybe I pay a buck or two more, but you know what? FUCK MATH.
* * *
Fuck Math: Exhibit B
Recently, I went down to my favorite getaway spot – a little island off the Carolina coast where I’ve been spending summers and random weekends for 25 years. It’s home to me. Over the past dozen years or so, I’ve increasingly had to put my hands up like blinders as I crossed the bridge to the island, because where once there were unobstructed views of the water, there are now a CVS, a Chili’s, and a Bed, Bath & BeFuckingYond. Where once there was a sandy playground, there’s now a parking deck and a conference center. What once was a small, quirky, friendly community is now a “resort destination.” I understand that the economy is rough these days and that a place has to do what it has to do to keep cash rolling in. Money is important. But also: FUCK MATH.
One of my favorite things to do upon arrival on the island is to stop in at the Red & White, the only grocery store on the island itself. Sure, I could drive back over the bridge to a major chain store, but shopping at the tiny, bizarrely stocked, locally staffed Red & White is an experience. I have known my way around that store since I was a kid, and I could maneuver its aisles blindfolded, starting with the bin of colorfully worded drink can koozies.
So when I was out there this month, I headed straight over to the Red & White to get a magazine and a jug of wine (oh, I said jug, yes, I did) and maybe a box of waffles. But oh-sweet-humanity-save-my-soul, the place was closed. FOREVER.
I tried to explain my horror to someone else, and they said, “Well, yeah. That place had moldy produce and sticky floors and magazines that cost $7. There’s no way they could have stayed open in this economy.” So you know what I said, of course: FUCK MATH.
* * *
Anyway. I know I’m a big dummy to get all sad and enraged over things like this. The world turns on math, when it comes right down to it. And math is just doing what it does. It’s about numbers. (Except when it’s about letters.)
Some things cannot be quantified. Not properly anyway. So FUCK MATH.
* * *
PS: I’ve decided to add Fuck Math onto other catchphrases, thereby forming new, compound catchphrases which put forth helpful messages while also relaying a disdain for math-based living. Like so:
Save The Whales. Fuck Math.
Rock The Vote. Fuck Math.
It Takes a Village. Fuck Math.
Live and Let Live. Fuck Math.
Don’t Eat Yellow Snow. Fuck Math.
Give Blood. Fuck Math.
You get the idea.
* * *
PPS: The lovely folks over at YeahWrite invited me to share this post over there this week. (Thank you, YeahWrite.) They’re doing neat things. If you haven’t yet, you should check out YeahWrite, for several reasons:
1. If you like reading good blogs, you’ll enjoy clicking through their great weekly collection of posts. Good stuff.
2. If you’re a blogging writer, you might like sharing your own post there with their readers.
3. Just for fun, you can also vote on your favorite post of the week (voting is open on Thursday and Friday), and the bloggers there (that would include me, this week) can win prizes. I didn’t totally read through the contest details, but I’m pretty sure it’s like a pot of gold and a live unicorn and maybe the winner also gets to make out with one of the editors there? Something like that. So I’m in.
April 4, 2013 § 22 Comments
So here’s some news: Last weekend, while my family and I were out for a walk, an enormous dog attacked us. Actually, you know what? Dog is the wrong word. Let’s say, Giant Toothbeast.
I’m not exaggerating or using “attacked” in a melodramatic way. That is the exact word for what happened. The Giant Toothbeast – who was about the size of me, but, you know, a dog – was probably 20 yards away when he spotted us going down the sidewalk. He was unrestrained. Unattended. And I love dogs, so for a split-second, I was like, “Yay, doggie!” but then no. Not yay doggie. When he saw us, he started galloping. GALLOPING, I tell you — while snarling and making deep, guttural Darth Vader noises with his mouth wide open. Like this: “RAAAWRGHRRGAAAAAHRGIMGONNEATYOUAAWWWRGH”
If this has never happened to you before but you think it might one day, let me prep you for what will go through your mind when the time comes:
That dog wants to say hello!
Holy matchsticks, that dog is running fast.
Is there sound coming from that dog’s EYE SOCKETS?
OH MY SWEET SOUL, THAT DOG IS GOING TO BITE MY BALLS
WAIT A MINUTE, I’M A GIRL, I DON’T HAVE BALLS
MAYBE HE THINKS I DO HAVE BALLS
Does that mean the dog is gay?
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I completely support his freedoms and rights.
Although dogs don’t really get married.
Are dogs even monogamous?
Why am I thinking about this right now?
OH FUCKING HELL, I’M GOING TO GET EATEN BY A DOG.
All of that kind of races through your mind at once.
And at the same time, louder and more persistent, this:
THAT CREATURE IS GOING TO HURT MY CHILD.
Anyway, the Giant Toothbeast surveyed our crowd as he ran and decided to head for my son and me. We had about two seconds to react. So I screamed, “NOOOO,” in a movie-slow-motion way and jumped in front of my son, planting my body directly in the path of the Giant Toothbeast’s maw.*
(* Note: I have never read an article about what you’re supposed to do in a dog attack, so this was probably the wrong thing, but seriously… dog attack. Not a lot of time to Google it.)
The Giant Toothbeast slammed into my leg at full speed with his wide-open jaws, tearing at the fabric of my jeans with his teeth, still aiming for my son behind me. Unfortunately, one scrappy mama doesn’t do much to deter one ferocious Giant Toothbeast, and the animal still got a mouthful of my boy. But apparently offering up my leg as an appetizer reduced the impact of the next bite. Thanks to that and to a very tough pair of kid pants, my little guy was shaken – literally and figuratively – but his skin wasn’t broken. No blood was shed; there are just bruises.
I don’t know what made the Giant Toothbeast decide to run off after that one bite, but he did. Just turned and ran.
This is the part of the story that I keep thinking about now that it’s over: The fact that there was no thought at all in that moment when I saw the dog eye my child. That the first, gut instinct was to step in front of him. No weighing of pros and cons. No hesitating.
And I’m not saying this makes me a great parent – that’s totally not the point here. (I’m a godawful parent at least half the time. I look at my phone too much, and I forget to make dinner until the last minute, and sometimes when a Saturday soccer game is canceled, I don’t do a good job of hiding my delight at getting two hours back in the day.)
I’m just sort of in awe of the instinct that we humans have to protect what’s important. To lunge, in a second, toward what matters most.
So here’s the deep metaphorical concluding line: The people you want in your life are the ones who’d jump in front of you — or the ones you’d jump in front of — when the Giant Toothbeast comes.
[long philosophical gaze]
March 6, 2013 § 17 Comments
Some things need to be renamed around here, dammit.
For example: This week is our Spring Break, meaning my children don’t have school. Thus far, the term is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s neither spring (first week of March? really?) nor a break (because both kids have spent the week sick with the flu).
Let’s just call things what they are, shall we?
* * *
“The Flu Shot” –> Needle Full Of Fairy Snot
Oh yes, we got the shots. Back in October. A hell of a lot of good it did us. One child started complaining of aches the first day of the break; the other followed within 36 hours. After calling around, we discovered that a few of their friends were down and out as well. So basically it’s just like that movie Contagion, except sorely lacking in Matt Damon appearances. And if you’re not going to get to grab onto Matt Damon with one clammy hand and rasp, “Save me,” what’s the point in having a horrible virus? So, science nerds at the CDC or wherever, listen up: Either make me a vaccination that actually keeps the flu away, or bring me Matt Damon. You know what? Fuck the vaccine. Just bring me Matt Damon.
* * *
“Fever” –> Crimson-Faced Raving Delusions
When the nurse on the phone asked, “Does he have a temperature?” my son was actually standing in our kitchen, red as a bell pepper, ripping his clothes off and screaming, “SOMEBODY HELP ME! I’M ON FIRE!” Yeah, he’s got a temperature. It’s approximately one-hundred-and-three-point-crazy. This is more than “fever” – this is full-body hallucinations. I could melt ice cubes on my kid’s face. Hell, I could cook s’mores over my kid’s face.
And yet I didn’t. Because I’m a great parent.
* * *
“Tamiflu” –> Rare Golden Butterfly Wing Serum
It took calling around to 12 pharmacies to get our hands on the virus-curbing drug. (Ultimately, the only place that had the elusive elixir was the Wal-Mart by the highway, where all sorts of interesting transactions go on in the parking lot, and I’m not talking about recipe swaps, youknowwhatimean.) Let me just tell you, when a doctor says my baby needs medicine and no one can seem to get my baby the medicine, this is how I handle it:
* * *
“Spring Break” –> Winter’s Final Fuck-You
Nature flipped us a middle finger a few days ago. Let me explain: We live in the South. My children almost never see snow. They were supposed to spend this week visiting their grandparents who live further north, where there’s lots of the exotic white stuff. So when the kids got Ebola and their travel plans got scrapped, so, too, did their chance at seeing snow just once before spring. Except: On Sunday, while they were both passed out blind with fevers, we had a freak cold front that brought… yep. Snow. Not much. Not enough to stick. But lots of pretty white flakes whirling outside our windows. And the kids didn’t see a bit of it, because it only happened while they were sick as dogs. And because Old Man Winter is an asshole.
Happy Spring Break!
* * *
- I decided to post a spring break update this week, because I realized it’s been one year since I Miss You When I Blink was born, and the very first post this time last year was a spring break recap. To all you goofballs who have stuck around to read this silliness over the past year, thank you.
- On a non-humorous-but-kind-of-interesting note, I don’t know if you saw this article in the Wall Street Journal last weekend: The Tyranny of the Queen Bee. Personally, I’ve almost always had fantastic experiences working with fellow women. But I’ve heard lots of stories about queen-bee types and have encountered a few myself. Dr. Peggy Drexler, the author of the article, writes: “Something is clearly amiss in the professional sisterhood.” That reminded me of a poem I wrote, which was published last month by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. (It’s also part of a neat project my writing partner, JD, and I are working on. Stay tuned for more about it later this spring — we’re excited to tell you more when the time comes.) Anyway, here’s the poem – anyone ever had an experience like this?
It’s dawning on me now that we are not
Thelma and Louise, Laverne and Shirley,
Cagney and Lacey, or Oprah and Gayle,
We don’t sing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,”
Or “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves,”
Or even “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar,”
We don’t “stick it to the man” together,
Or hammer away at the glass ceiling,
Or break down the walls of the old boys club,
Because there is no solidarity,
No sacred girl code or “hos before bros.”
We’re the only two females on this team,
And in front of everyone it was you
Who sent me out of the room for coffee.
January 1, 2013 § 68 Comments
Happy new year!
I don’t know about you, but some years are bigger resolution years for me than others. Last year, I had a bunch. It was a year for lots of change. This year — maybe because I’m all resolutioned-out after 2012 — I could only come up with things like, “Wear striped socks more often.” Which I am doing already:
The fact that I don’t have oodles of resolutions for myself doesn’t mean I haven’t made any resolutions, though. Oh, no. It’s just that I’ve made them for others. Such as:
* * *
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian –
Resolve to name your baby something unique, you two. First off, congrats. Great decision to start a family. I see no way this goes wrong. Second: Look, I know it feels like there’s a lot of family pressure to give the baby a name that starts with K, like Klairol or Kleenwipes. But I urge you to resist. Be original. Give the child a standout name befitting his or her spectacular combination of DNA. Might I suggest:
Oh, I think that last one may be it. Sequin. I like it. Heed my words, Kimye.
* * *
The Ice Cream Man –
Resolve to stay out of my neighborhood. This is not me taking a stand on child obesity and unhealthy eating – although it could be, because seriously, what is even IN those SpongeBob-on-a-stick things? – I just don’t like your skeezy truck. Or your sixth sense for knowing exactly when I’m deep in thought at work and choosing that moment to come wheeling around the corner, playing your weird little chime music.
What is that, anyway? The soundtrack to a Stephen King movie about clowns? Come to think of it, I’ve heard that song before. It sounds a lot like The Entertainer, which is causing me to have flashbacks to that tapdancing class in second grade when all the other girls knew each other and I was new and uncoordinated and my tights were too big and bagging around my knees and I held my little jazzy top-hat in front of my face and cried. You’re giving me fucking PTSD, Ice Cream Man. Find a new neighborhood.
* * *
My Hair –
Resolve to get your shit together, hair. Curly or straight, pick a direction. I’m not wasting this Moroccan Oil on you anymore until you make some choices.
* * *
People With Cameras and Bathrooms –
Resolve to stop taking bathroom mirror selfies and sharing them. I mean, I get that it’s hard. You’re looking awesome, and you want to snap a photo to show the world your awesomeness. I totally know the feeling. One time, I had on my favorite combo of pajama pants and T-shirt (a pair of surgical scrubs pants with my I [heart] BACON shirt), and I had just put my hair up in a bun to wash my face, and I realized that in the flickering over-sink light, I kind of looked like Reese Witherspoon if she were a doctor who was secretly strung out on meth, and I thought, “I bet EVERYONE wants to see what Dr. Reese Witherspoon, MD, would look like on meth!”
But everyone else at my house was asleep, so there was no one around to take a picture. It was a bummer, but you know what I *didn’t* do? I didn’t hold out my phone toward the mirror and snap a photo of myself holding up a phone, thereby also showing everyone the contents of my bathroom counter and my dirty towels. Skip the photo. Or find another backdrop. That’s all I’m saying.
* * *
Coffee Guy At The Farmers’ Market –
Resolve to keep being adorable. And I will keep giving you all my money every Saturday for coffee. That is all.
(* Slightly fictionalized portrait of the coffee guy.)
* * *
And now, an announcement… If you like The Random Penguins, this news is for you. (If you think they’re stupid, look away for a sec and hum an angry little song.) The penguins started at Thanksgiving as a holiday thing — a gift of thanks to Blink readers. They were going to ride off into the snowy sunset on New Year’s Day. But then they made a whole lot of friends in a short time, and I have to admit, even I have become rather attached to them. So what the hell — let’s just keep at it a while longer. The penguins can stay.
Bear with me as I figure out what their schedule will be. Not sure whether they’ll stick with every weekday or maybe just go three days a week. (Perhaps Wednesday/Thursday/Friday… doesn’t “WTF Penguins” have a nice ring to it?)
* * *
And one more thing: Just a little thank-you and Internet high-five to the folks at YeahWrite, a group that highlights blog writing and encourages good blogs to interact with one another. I first stumbled upon it a few months ago. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not even sure if my column here counts as a “blog” — these are not deeply personal essays I’m writing, nor is this a regular account of what I’m doing every day. Is it a blog? I don’t know. But the gang at YeahWrite call their project, “1 part blogging showcase, 2 parts writing challenge, 3 parts bathtub gin.” I feel at home anywhere that’s 50% gin. Anyway, they just tweeted a little hello and said, hey, why don’t you join us this week? So I did. I love friendly people. Go check check their stuff out.