The sound a rotary phone makes
When you hang up the receiver.
The smell of tires
And how you know before you walk in
the door of the auto shop
that the computer will be old,
and the colors will be red and black.
The sound of ice in a glass
And a something liquid gold
pouring slowly in.
When Monty’s Tail Wags While He’s Sleeping.
Riding in a cab
In New York City,
The urban slideshow
through a square cracked window
slows down the fast city.
and the driver mumbling
in a quiet language an American girl
will never need to know.
The way Gwyneth Paltrow smokes cigarettes in The Talented Mr. Ripley.
The second of stillness
When you drive under a bridge in the rain.
New showering products.
A woman tying a man’s tie.
The crinkling of a newspaper
When a man eats his breakfast
With one leg crossed over the other.
Being a woman
Wearing a dress
and the clicking of heels
on the old wooden floor
toward whoever spent the time waiting.
A fresh piece of chalk
on school chalkboards.
And the slowness and fragility
of that 90 year old librarian
Who stamps the due date in my book
with her veiny tissue hands.
That feeling you get
When you kiss someone new.
Like everything is different
Though everything’s the same.
I spent last Spring in a playground called New York City. My brother and sister-in-law had this great apartment in TriBeCa with huge windows and a doorman. As newly jobless, apartment-less, boyfriend-less- New York City felt like the perfect place to spend some time and get to know myself again. I had lost all of my “identifiers ” and it was time to get in touch and adapt. It was truly a treat staying there while I reconfigured what my life was going to look like. My brother spent most the week in Boston teaching at MIT and Estee worked full-time, so I had this great little cube in the city to myself a lot.
My only responsibility as a guest there was to walk the dog, Lilly. Lilly was cool. Sweet and low maintenance, she was happy to spend day after day sitting on top of the heater with me and looking out the window to life below. I wrote, read, and occasionally played music super loud and danced alone in the living room. (One day I danced “the Dougie” too hard and exhausted myself for a week) If anyone were watching from the building across the street, it would have been quite a show. Lilly sometimes barked at a dog below or a UPS man unloading boxes, but mostly we just watched. It was a perfect, small existence for me at that window. New York City had a way of making me feel intricately connected to the pulse of life, even though I was sick and on the outskirts, and my only participation was mostly observation from the 4th floor. I never felt isolated in New York. Sometimes I ended the day feeling like I had interacted with so many people and in fact I hadn’t actually talked to anyone. There’s something so involved there, that even as a spectator I felt implicitly a part. I would watch the people walking their dogs or babies in strollers, laughing or yelling on their cell phones, entering restaurants and hugging friends hello, and it all made me feel incredibly human again. I could watch life from that window all day and never get tired of the sights. And most days, that’s all I did.
I really had to get used to the “free time.” I know that sounds like an illegitimate complaint, but going from working to not was hard to navigate. To strangers it sounds fun..”You’re so lucky! You don’t have to work.!” But that’s kind of like telling someone in a wheelchair “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to walk!” Truthfully it can be extremely lonely and isolating having absolutely nothing but time on your hands, but possessing none of the means in which to do the things you used to. It took me a long time to adjust to not having a typical day schedule to follow. Such is life. We notice things more once they go missing.
It was surprising how responsible I had to be with my free time. You can’t just do nothing. Nothing is the gift you give yourself after you’ve done something. But if you’re not actually doing anything, the nothing part becomes completely sad. You have to be responsible. It occurs to me now how much security and diligence there was in my fulltime job. A schedule is basically simple. Follow the rules 5 days a week, get paid, go home. There are things you say in an office and things you don’t say. Wear and don’t wear. I worked at that gallery because that was the progressive step after college. It was safe there. I knew exactly what was expected of me and I was good at what I did. And on the 1st and 15th of every month I was paid 1,060 dollars for following the rules and doing my work dutifully. There was a time work began and ended. And there were two entire days a week you had to yourself. It didn’t matter what you did on those days. It only mattered that you showed up on the right days and were on time if not early. Then all that was left was following the rules. Performing tasks. I do miss the stability of that old life. The one where at least I felt like I knew what I was doing and where I was headed and what was coming my way. Now there is none of that routine or structure. There isn’t really anything expected of me now. No tasks to check off, no paycheck twice a month. There’s no real order, and it’s a strange thing to very quickly lose something like that. There is ease in order.
As easy as it is to complain about work, to dislike your boss or co-workers, there is something very essential in human beings that gets fulfilled in just getting dressed and going to work every day; contributing to the “whole” some way and getting paid to do it. Even if the work is mundane or repetitive. Even if your co-workers are punks or your boss is a turd-sandwich, there’s something gratifying about good old fashioned compensated labor. Life becomes pretty different without it.
Part of my biggest adjustment in getting sick has been surrendering to a schedule that I can’t control. I don’t know how I’ll feel one day to the next, what I’ll be capable of. I don’t know if Ill sleep at night for 12 hours or 10 minutes. (Or if I’ll be up at 2 am writing this blog like I am now) So in a very bizarre way, the illness has literally forced me to live one day at a time. One moment at a time. What am I capable of right now? OK, I’ll do that. It has become that specific. And I think after nearly two years of no “real” job and crashing my siblings couches, I am finally understanding and accepting life without schedule, rules, tasks, and order. Or what I was perceiving to be order. The funny thing is now I see that even in my highly organized, scheduled life, I still wasn’t in total control. It only felt that way. It looked that way. I still got sick. Life still “got to me.” My life is no more or less in control now than two years ago. It is truly, just perspective.
My brother Nick encouraged me to read while I had so much downtime, and that was good advice. Here I was writing all the time, but never reading what was done before me. And you need context in everything, especially literature. I still have a ton of reading to do, but I’m really glad I discovered the real joy of it. Growing up it always felt like labor– a requirement that didn’t interest me. Now I find real freedom in it. There is nothing like getting lost in a story. I admit it’s more fun to read than to write. There is anxiety in me sitting down to write. But there is total surrender in sitting down and investing in a story.
Anyway now that I didn’t have a schedule to adhere to or specific tasks to perform every day, I was now up to my own devices. I realize that sounds like a really spicy thing to say. But mostly it was me in and out of dreamworld on the couch or sitting on the heater, looking out that window, and drinking coffee with Lilly. Every once in a while we mixed it up. Like when I dressed her up in my hat.
Or put her in my laundry basket.
Or if it was a healthy day we’d walk to the piers and watch the joggers and boats.
As nice as our walks were, I think I was most content at that window. In general, I am happiest by windows. I gravitate in every house to the room with the most light. I like to see outside. Hopefully one day, I won’t be the girl at the window, but the participant outside. The subject of someone else’s observation. But truly, I ‘ve become happy with this spectator form of my life. I don’t think it will always be this way, but it has granted me a unique perspective. It has made me step back and examine. It’s given me stillness in a very fast world. Even sick in bed, I can still examine life, ask my questions, read and write for the answers. None of this could happen in my old busy life. There was simply no time for it. There was work during the week, and sick recovery on the weekends. Now I have a new kind of work. It doesn’t pay well (as in, it doesn’t pay) but my boss is cool (that’s me) and every day is “Bring Your Dog to Work” day. Maybe the best part is, I am never too far from a window. For me, for now, that is enough.
“Participate with joy in the sorrows of the world.” -J Campbell
Health, Happiness, Windows
My friend Gabe took this picture of me at the NY window at night. Thanks Gabe!
I discovered the cure for insomnia–it’s waking up! So here I am. Totally tired, but unable to sleep. Go figure.
I’m writing from the luxury of an aerobed in the living room with New York City rain slanting down our windows. There’s something about New York that makes me feel connected–which is funny because it’s a large city of strangers who don’t know or care about me, but on a walk outside I feel like an absolutely intrinsic participant in life and that things are as they should be. Even inside an apartment, on the third floor, behind shades..the pulse beats in. I like watching people walk down the sidewalks, enthralled with their busy lives. I like seeing every breed of dog and owner pass in front of our building. And I like seeing a light go off in one room and on in another. No one seems to notice me at the window, but I smile at them if they do.
It’s funny how at home I feel in NYC. And I sortof cheated at New York. I lived and worked here for two summers and spent a few months here last year when I was sick and jobless. My first job was an unpaid internship at GLASS Magazine in Brooklyn. It was unpaid, so my brother let me stay with him for free, and he gave me the bed. The next summer I came back and served drinks to tourists and New Yorkers on a sailboat called The Shearwater that toured the Hudson River. That job seems way too cool for me to ever have had, but my brothers friend got me the gig and I took it. That job paid but Nick let me live rent free anyway. I say I cheated at New York because as most New Yorkers will tell you, it’s a hard city to sustain in. Not just financially or career wise. It can be a dark city too; isolated, unapologetic and relentless. Most people here have gone through some sort of struggle tied to the city in order to get where they are. I on the other hand never really had a struggle to overcome here, because Nick did that for the both of us. He moved, worked hard, met cool people, found all the best spots, and then just sort of shared them with me when I came. In that way, New York has always been glamorous to me. It’s the New York in the movies. All my attachments here were temporary and I never owed anything to it–except those $600 in parking tickets I accrued that one summer. Shit, I still need to pay those.
I’ve spent the last week making art, listening to music, and wondering what’s in store next. I’ve started to become a lot more comfortable with the uncertainty of my life. There is no plan. There is no “mine.” And there’s not much money or organization. I don’t even unpack my suitcase when I go home anymore. But that’s something I think I needed to go through. There are no certainties in life. Even the most promising plans aren’t resilient to fairness or the universe. As much as I used to think there was, I see now there are no rules, and no fair or unfair. There just is and I just am.
I always have this fear that when I sit down to write or draw that what I create will be terrible. I guess the fear is that if I create something terrible, then I haven’t succeeded with the purpose, and then I’ll be cursed and everything I create from then on will be crap. But I see now that not only is that fear irrational, it’s useless. I know this sounds a lot like an after school special, but the real failure is never sitting down, and never giving voice to the things that move you. When I was here last spring I was strongly considering doing stand-up comedy at a comedy club run by my friend Mark. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, at least once. Because the thing is, if I bomb, then I’ve got this great story: I did stand up comedy in NYC when I was 27 and got booed off the stage. WINNER. And if I succeed, then I’ve made real New Yorkers laugh–and that’s a hell of a story too. I was speaking with my mom about it and admitted I was nervous to try and she said “What’s the worst that can happen? You get on stage and no one laughs?” “Uh, right. Yeah. Exactly that.” That was the worst that could happen, and that scenario is kind of a nightmare. But I think going for it is a success in itself. The very act of braving the audience and swallowing the risk of humiliation is half art in itself. One day New York..I’ll tell you jokes one day.
Anyway, I’ve decided I’m just going to keep trying things. I’ll keep drawing even though I’m not very good and I’ll keep writing even though I don’t really know where it’s going. There have been few certainties in my young life so far. But I do know that every person I look up to has continued and persevered even when they didn’t quite know where they were going. They took risks and they didn’t always play it safe. So I’m going to keep creating. Even when I’m tired, even when I fail, even when I have no idea what in God’s name I’m doing, I’ll just keep going. And hopefully along the way, it will happen one day. Whatever it is I’m looking for, I’ll find it. Something tells me I’m close. Or maybe it’s just begun. Either way- like the struggles and people and persistence of NYC, I won’t spend so much dissecting everything–I’ll embrace change as it comes and forgive all the plans I had. There’s just no other way to do it.
Here’s the most recent drawing. It’s titled: “As You Can See, I Don’t Have a Job” 8.5 x 11. I’ll post the rest tomorrow.
You’re in the right place. This is still the blog about fibro, pills, humor and attempted awesomeness. I gave the blog a little makeover and I’ve been putting it off for a while now, but the time has come my people. First, I shortened the address from 25pillsday.wordpress.com to just 25pillsaday.com so we can all breathe easier knowing we have 9 less characters to type. Also as someone who’s 5.3 feet proud, I always argue that shorter is better. Secondly, all the crap that used to be at the bottom of the page is now easily accessible at the top. See? Right over there. >>>>>>>>> And that old picture of all those drugs that were the colors of library furniture have been replaced by bright neon cascading pills in the background. It’s all so magical. It’s funny that I would even consider so heavily the design or lack thereof of something that makes me no money and is in most people’s eyes just a hobby. But truthfully, it’s my baby. I care a lot about it. And in recent nights I’ve woken up like Wait, should I put the links on THE LEFT SIDE?? Then I’m like OK there are wars going on and the location of links and font color is not so big a deal. I just needed to pull the trigger. So bang. I’m also reminded of the time I spent an hour picking out a dog collar for Monty and I guess it makes sense I’d take so much time with this. If you don’t like it, just give it a few days. If you still don’t like it, feel free to email me with only these words: YOU BLEW IT! I’ll know then what I’ve done. There will be some new additions to the blog but I thought I’d ease into those slowly. We’ll start just with cosmetics.
What else? I’ve spent the last two weeks in California at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Orange County, California. (Side note: I recently realized my life is whole lot like Rob Kardashians, and that makes me have quiet moments of extreme discomfort.) It’s funny, because both my sister Amelie and my brother-in-law Keegan work full-time jobs, like most normal people. So in the morning they’re getting ready for work and I’m laying on the couch lifeless, half conscious. Sometimes I don’t even wake up to them scrambling around because I think my sleep schedule is so incredibly screwy that I’m in my REM cycle at 8:30 a.m., but that’s something different altogether. Last week Amelie was putting the final touches to her work attire in the bedroom and Keegan was getting ready to walk out the door. I was fumbling through pills on the couch. Before he walked out Keegan asked “Are you sure you don’t want me to leave the car here for you? Like are you going to get restless?” Amelie and I answered in a monotone voice in unison: “No.” “You’re not going to get bored?” Again, from both of us. “No.” Then we kind of all laughed, maybe for different reasons, and the functioning people went to work and I opened my book.
I am reading two books. I must admit, after I finished reading Freedom I felt like there was this new hole where something solid used to be. The way it feels after you lose a tooth. Then when I was in New York, my brother told me Strong Motion written also by Franzen competed heavily with Freedom so I brought it with me and have been enjoying that one too. It’s written in true Franzenian form and I once again feel like I’m getting a literary/science education just by reading the work, so it’s fun. But I don’t know that anything can top Freedom. OK I’ll stop talking about that now. Except wait I have one more thing. On NPR people with cool voices were all telling Jonathan Franzen he needs to keep an eye on Nell Freudenberger and there was all this jabber about the book The Newlyweds and so I decided to give it a try. So far it’s really good. She isn’t as inventive with the prose as he is but her writing is clean and the storyline has me going; a mail order bride from Bangladesh marries a 30 something engineer dude in upstate New York and there are hints of secrets and controversy and all the good stuff that makes good books good.
The other book that I just finished is The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav and it was really, really incredible. Not as dense as A New Earth but just as enlightening and really reassuring, especially if you fear death. And for a while I think I became a little too obsessed with this idea that I was going to die. In the sense that I would actually start to wonder, maybe I just won’t die. Like maybe I’m exempt? But duh, I’m not. And it’s cool, because he says all this stuff that makes so much sense and I basically underlined the entire book. I feel like I’ll just keep it at my bedside forever now. Until I..you know, die.
OK, that’s all the housekeeping for today. Or should I say book-keeping. Get it? Health-wise I’ve been managing pretty well. This morning was my first migraine I’ve had since leaving NYC two weeks ago. That’s a long time for me! Good stuff. Maybe I just need to be by the ocean for the rest of my life. California is awesome, but weird. I’ll talk about that next time. Cliffhanger!!
I bought a watch in the airport on my way to New York. The battery in my old watch stopped ticking not too long ago, but to be honest, it mostly served an ornamental purpose anyway. It’s not like I have a real job and am constantly under a time crunch. But after wearing one for a while, I realized how nice it was to flip my wrist and know the time, instead of wondering around the house to find my phone, which was usually dead, plugging it in, and waiting for the numbers to appear. (There are three clocks in our kitchen at home: The one on the stove. The one on the microwave. And an old clock that hangs on the wall. They tell three different times.) Anyway I found this store in the Atlanta airport where everything was ten dollars. This impressed me. It was the equivalent to The Dollar Store with a less than typical airport markup. So I found this basic orange watch and purchased it for $10, which in my opinion is the deal of the century. But now I’ve been doing all this reading and studying about the concept of time and how letting go of the past and future, even immediate pasts and futures, is an important step towards consciousness, presence. Of course the telling of time serves practical purposes. In my case, it helps me know that I am always ten minutes late for everything. Anyway, I was watching Oprah interview Deepak Chopra and he showed her his watch and you know what it had on the face of it? RIGHT NOW. I was like dude, that’s what I’m talking about! I thought about scribbling that on the face of my new watch with a sharpie. That would of course ruin it aesthetically, but hey, it was only 10 bucks. Bargains rock.
I have been practicing presence. Lucky for me, I am so conditioned in slipping out of the present moment that it has become seamless, so each day gives me plenty of practice. I catch myself becoming sad at feeling sick, disappointed in my productivity, jealous of others resilience, or irritated at not feeling understood. I say three words to get me back to the present: Here and Now. The best way to handle these scenarios is first, not to judge yourself for the feelings you have. Just recognizing when these feelings arise and acknowledging that they exist is the beginning of progress. (If I’m understanding what I’m reading correctly) The second step is to not react to these feelings. And that is the harder part. But as soon as you have created a gap, the tinniest of gaps, between your emotions and a typical reaction, be it yelling, throwing, saying something hurtful, manipulating etc., you’ve done it. You’ve conquered that moment. You’re far from done, because your life consists of a gazillion moments that you can accept with grace, or resist and pay the emotional or physical price; pain, in any number of forms. If you’ve done it once, you can do it again. Now the goal becomes to live in the gaps. As Gary Zukav so beautifully puts it: “Live your life like a feather on the breath of God.” Cool!
I have been thinking a lot about the new state of mind I am consciously trying to move toward. And I’ve been thinking about the illness and its role and whether my state of mind makes a difference. Truthfully, I am not incredibly better physically than I was this time last year. Certainly the first few months of 2011 were the worst. I remember before seeing the specialist in Miami, we had to take data a few weeks before going. One of the assignments was to stand for 10 minutes and then have my blood pressure taken. I remember finding this exceptionally difficult. For the last few minutes I had to lean against the couch because I felt too heavy, too weak to stay standing. We found later this was predominantly due to low blood volume among other things, but the point is, while I have made progress, every day is still somewhat of a battle. There are constant symptoms showing their faces, coming and going, almost as though they have a life of their own. As though they make up their minds to visit me, then leave. Like the last two weeks where I had a migraine every day for nine days. I was doing nothing different but my head seemed to… hate me. Anyway, I just try to deal with each day as it comes. But what has shifted more than anything is my personal assessment of where my life is. I’ve let go of a lot of anger and resentment. I had to go through the emotional work of it, grieve the loss of my old self. But in a strange way, I have come to see the illness as a gift; not a hindrance, not an enemy. It is what I needed in order to evolve. This has not resulted in me getting all better. There is a real possibility I could be sick the rest of my life. But that’s not the point. Although if that turns out to be the case, so be it. I’m learning it’s still entirely possible to live well, love well, and find peace–sick or not. It really isn’t up to me to judge these circumstances. It’s only up to me to persevere with what I have and what I am with grace and wisdom. The part of me that wants to call my set of circumstances unfair, unwise, unlucky, or stupid, is only pushing me further out into the ocean of despair. (Haha, ocean of despair. Yessss) I’ve never met a happy or successful person who was working against themselves, against the pulse of life. Everyone I’ve met who is joyous and successful has taken what they’ve been given, and put it to use, not tried to cast it away.
So that is how April 2012 is different from April 2011. In simpler metaphors, I’m like a crappy car. I have this somewhat dysfunctional body, but that is not so serious of an issue in terms of achieving my purpose. The soul is not heavily effected by external circumstances like these; the personality is. And making that distinction is important. Our bodies are just a vehicle. So, my body is like a car that can only go 10 miles at a time and frequently overheats and needs constant oil changes and runs out of gas quickly. But even 10 miles at a time, a car can still get to where it’s going.