Diet and Ex-orcism

Track

Within the past half-year, I have been participating in a cruel and unusual recreational activity known as exercise.

Don’t get me wrong; I love some exercise, like sprinting. I especially love the challenge of racing out of the blocks, elbow-to elbow with contenders, barreling toward a long row of impenetrable hurdles.

Those last few sentences should have been past tense. I haven’t had the physical ability to hurdle since creating human beings. Baby production takes your nutrients, smooth skin, ability to sit on a metal chair, and sprinting capabilities.

To be honest, I still have enough youth left in me to be able to sprint. That’s one reason why I’ve been participating in YouTube aerobic sessions and occasional gym visits: to be able to move.

Whenever I get impatient about being fit, I feel like I’m trying to drag a fat body (mine) with me around the track.

Not one to settle for one form of masochism, either, I’ve recently added dieting.

If bottom-shaping exercises online are led by twisted, pain-driven persons; and my adherence to such a thing is a form of crazy cultism; then voluntary sugar-starvation only cinches my questionable sanity.

Why? Why, universe? Why did I ever give up the wonderful delicacy that was sugar; most especially, chocolate?

I hate to say it, but it seems to be working. I’ve noticed a difference.

Cutting refined sugar and white bread out of my diet has been the most-effective weight loss I’ve ever done. Like, 2 lbs lost a week.

It definitely works better than my past plan: eat really healthy until around 3:00 p.m., then consume whatever’s edible until bedtime. (Coincidentally, 3:00 is the time my grown offspring return from free, educational, public babysitting.)

I may want to kill someone for a chocolate chip at the end of the first day or two, but it’s worth it to push through past that hurdle. I’m really only competing with myself.

And the end result? A winning figure.

Petites Boîtes

When I was but a francophiliac teenager, we learned a song titled “Petites Boîtes.” The first stanza of lyrics is as follows:

Petites boîtes très étroites
Petites boîtes faites en ticky-tacky
Petites boîtes, petites boîtes
Petites boîtes toutes pareilles.

Translated, which I will not attempt in a reasonable English stanza for the sake of not killing Graeme Allright’s fun-sounding word-rhymes, it says:

Little boxes, very narrow; little boxes made of ticky-tacky; little boxes (x3) all the same.

The obvious gist of the song is that everyone goes through life staying in these boxes that look the same, that they’ve always been in: growing up in the same neighborhood, attending university, making children, their children follow exactly the same path; we even die and are put in boxes in the ground.

I hate boxes.

When I converse with people, I begin squirming at social categorization. Ironically, I have (of course) already placed the other person into neat little groups in my mind. Ah, he’s wearing a camouflage coat and just got out of his jacked-up pickup truck. As he strokes his mustache and stubble, I can tell he must be in favor of: hunting animals, no gun control, and (perhaps) being suspicious of all authority figures.

Meanwhile, I feel like parking down the block so no one sees that I came by minivan. I dislike discussing religion or politics. When asked about favorites, I sweat.

Thing is, I may fit into many of these boxes (petites boîtes -it’s so fun to say!). I just don’t like the idea that someone places me immediately into one, only one, and assumes I’ve all the associated characteristics of someone else who also might behave in a way that places him or her in there.

So… I tend to introduce myself in a way that shakes up typical introductory patterns. “Hi, I’m Chelsea and I can write with my toes,” or “My favorite food? Good food, definitely.” Or, most often, I’m going to just sit and nod and pretend I also like what’s-her-name-Gaines and that I actually watch TV and so they assume I can hang out in their little corner of interests.

Mature, I’m sure. Perhaps you, the reader, have a better approach.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get into my mom-van and pick up children from school, as part of a carpool. I’ll be listening to alternative music on the way and acting like I own a much different vehicle.

I’ve always wanted a lifted pickup truck and camouflage jacket…

Bad Habits Die -Look! A Dancing GIF

A few years back, I wanted to start writing in earnest. My only outlet was a strange social website involving faces and books, so I thought to start there. I definitely could not start a blog. Those things were going out of style; were old news. No one would read what I wrote on a blog.

That’s not to say that Facebook didn’t have problems, too. I know! I thought. I’ll make it what want to read. Others will follow suit and I’ll have a veritable salon of thinkers, writers, and readers. I’ll post whimsical brilliance that will be loved and shared the world over.

I knew my writing was better than what my “friends” posted. And, re-posted. And, re-posted.

I began writing daily. I tried funny; well-written; poetry; observations. I imagined my audience to be thrilled with this departure from the mundane. Surely, everyone would flock to me and what I offered, instead of to the flashing, dancing cat gifs.

Sadly, ’twas not so.

After about two years, I had to admit defeat. Besides a general dropping-off of readership, I had personally developed impulse-driven tendencies and depressive conclusions about my popularity.

What really got me? Facebook notified me that my friends, even the ones who really were friends, were commenting and re-posting GARBAGE -while leaving my posts silent.

As most artists can attest, my writings were so much a piece of my soul at times that I felt personally disliked.

At the suggestion of a real-life friend; in real life; with real, spoken words -I moved my writing over here to blogworld.

Hi.

Facebook, meanwhile, can continue its downward spiral to an advertising cesspool. I tried, but all its users want it to be what it is. Nothing more; continually, much less.

As for us, keep reading. Keep writing. Keep expressing.

The Inside Story

I love order. I live with a Grumbling Mind Monster, who views the havoc of the house and complains constantly. Sometimes he is a niggling whisperer; but other times he yells so loud that I, in turn, yell at everyone around me to DROWN OUT HIS VOICE!

Inside of me is a Tease. She impishly skips around, looks at the organized disdainfully, then tosses her head to prove she doesn’t care. Often, she is a small suggestion of silliness or a wry, satirical response. Other times, she plots disruption and kicks me out of the house to do anything but be stuck straightening.

Children’s Books, a Decision

This month, our neighborhood book group is having a casual get-together; a potluck. “Bring your favorite children’s book to share,” the e-mail instructed.

Ah, favorites. I’ve mentioned them before.

Although, I don’t feel pressure to show off in my selection of a favorite children’s book. Instead, I feel an anxious inability to limit myself to just one.

I’ve even told myself I’ll only choose from picture books. Still, I’d have an easier time if, say, I’d been told to choose my favorite child (yes, I have a favorite).

After looking over our two bookshelves of children’s picture books, I’ve narrowed things down to a paltry 17 titles.

Favorite Books

Dinotopia, by James Gurney; The Sneetches and Other Stories, by Dr. Suess; The Adventures of TinTin, by Hergé; The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg; Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak; Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein; There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, by Mercer Mayer; Magical Hands, by Marjorie Barker and Yoshi; Oh, Were They Ever Happy, by Peter Spier; Le Livre de Bruits, by Soledad Bravi; Just Go to Bed, by Mercer Mayer; The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds; The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf; The Napping House, by Audrey and Don Wood; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst; King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, by Don and Audrey Wood (sadly, not pictured); and Tuesday, by David Wiesner (also, sadly, not pictured).

This would be a long post, indeed, if I were to tell why each of these is significant to me.

The short answer is that I have an emotional connection with each: humorous, happy, relatable, impressed by quality, familiar -and all, save two, nostalgic.

I now realize I’ll need to devote an article to these, one at a time, in the future. They deserve nothing less.

In the meantime, how do I choose?

Once the hour arrives, shall I close my eyes and Eeny, Meeny, Miny Moe it? Point? Pick a number?

Well… what would YOU do if your (bookgroup) asked YOU?

The Best Christmas Ever

Four eventful years ago, on Christmas day, I was still recovering from recently giving birth by Cesarean Section.

He was my third trip down the necessary-surgery route, so I knew the drill. I wasn’t carving any turkeys or wrestling other offspring.

In fact, I was lounging like a holiday whale in my parents’ armchair. I sat within reach of my newborn on one hand, and the Christmas tree and presents on the other.

At some point, I got up to adjust something. My short-term memory is barely reliable, so we’ll assume I was changing the music on the CD player behind the chair.

I slipped.

I fell onto the arm of the armchair, with said arm jabbing me cushily at about my uterus.

This was the worst spot to land on. The armchair had struck true. Panicked, I checked down South in the bathroom. Sure enough, I’d started bleeding heavily.

Bless my parents; they immediately offered to keep the other three boys entertained, while my husband drove me and our youngest up to the emergency room where I had delivered just two weeks before.

I told my story to the check-in, to the nurse on staff, and to the on-call doctor.

Fortunately, the bleeding stabilized. Happy ending.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to remember this Christmas, either. I wouldn’t be surprised if the staff went home to their respective families that end-of-shift and said, “The best Christmas story today was this woman, who slipped on a present…

Greetings Cards Have Not Been Sent

Glass Balls

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve felt swamped this season. I’ve got a few balls spinning precariously in the air: the boring blog job, my day job of stay-at-home mothering, writing, present-buying, cookie-making, and THE Christmas Newsletter -all threatening to drop and break into a thousand tiny glass-ornament shards.

Someone should have taken all this into account, particularly knowing I’m a horrible juggler.

It’s the small hands. Might be lack of practice, too.

Point is, it’s December 21st and there is no way I am going to get these Christmas cards to people before Christmas. I know. The post office told me.

After navigating an endless, winding line of hopeful package-senders, I addressed the top of a head behind an overflowing counter. “WILL THIS ARRIVE BY CHRISTMAS?” I yelled.

I think the hair moved. A mumble made it through the wall of bubble-wrapped envelopes and Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes. A finger poked through to point at their posted notice: Priority Mail Not Guaranteed to Arrive if Mailed after December 20, 2017.

“So…. I HAVE A HOPE?”

I think the pile sighed.

And yet, I push onward. I’ve typed up a funny newsletter and sent it inside a crappy Wal-mart card for over a decade now. My audience needs me.

I think.

That, and it’s a decade of tradition. As Tevye would say, “…It’s a tradition. And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is, and what God expects him to do.” Though I don’t actually send one to any deity, you get the idea.

Besides juggling and general motivation problems (a standard writing prompt of mine on this very blog), I have made chronicling events difficult for myself. Impossible for myself.

I take my writing seriously when it’s not 2 a.m. before a deadline. I assume a new angle each time is imperative. So, the work gets pushed back and pushed back.

We got a few cards in advance this year, which was nice. Usually I don’t get so many until I’ve sent my famous offering first. All of them are photo cards; the families smiling in matching clothing, standing somewhere ethereal like their front yard.

“We should do a family picture next year,” my husband noted, examining our mail.

I glanced up from the 75 envelopes I was hand-addressing, trying to psych myself up for the next three steps. “I don’t know,” I sighed. “A picture seems like so much work.”

Out with the Wash

Our clothes washer died last month. We were surprised to see it go so soon. It was our new washer; our fancy one with a glass-domed front and a song at the end of its cycle.

It didn’t go quietly. Of course, that’s how we learned it was planning to perish. “Loud spinning” on webwashermd told us the bearings were shot.

“Can you save her?” I asked the repairman, my eyes tearing up.

“I’m afraid it’ll be cheaper to buy a new machine,” he drawled. The old toothpick held between his teeth moved somewhat as he tried to shape his cowboy features into one of sympathy.

“I’m sorry, Girl,” I told our faithful appliance. I patted the sci-fi door.

A few hundred computer searches later, we finally settled on a replacement. The options were tempting: two-in-one machines, cycle-sensing, vibrant color options, and consumer report favorites.

In the end, we picked a mid-grade model of the top load variety. I figured: if the fanciest model wasn’t able to grab my clothes, wash them, dry them, and fold and put away; I wasn’t going to spend a dime for more than basic clothes-bathing.

The purchasing session timed out midway, which may have been an omen. It may have been the old one’s electrical interference in protest. It may have been our spotty connection, frequently occurring between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily.

I gave The Internet a good hour to figure things out, then tried again. The order went through and immediately, stalkingly told us by electronic mail that the purchase was done.

After a week of scrubbing our clothing on the washing board of our nearby creek (conveniently inside a couple of neighbor’s houses), the delivery truck arrived.

I sunk to my knees in gratitude, ready to kiss the unshaven faces of our deliverymen. They could not have known the first-world issues I’d been facing all week, or that I was wearing pants that had not been cleaned during that entire interim.

“So, you bought a washer and dryer, right?” Deliveryman One asked. He stood near two boxes, each with our last name inscribed in a diagonal up the side.

“No,” I said, confused. “Just a washer.” We looked more closely. The boxes were identical.

Apparently, I was so grateful for washing machines, I had ordered two.

A few phone calls later, and we hoped everything was worked out. Our old washer was dragged, dripping, away. She left behind a few marks on the floor where her feet had agitated, two old hoses from whence she drank, and the mold of a decade that only a front loader can accrue.

Our new machine, meanwhile, was separated forever from its twin. Installed upstairs near a strange dryer, it opened its transparent lid in a final farewell wave.

We never saw the other washer again. Perhaps he was adopted by a nice family nearby, raised near hot water sources, and enjoys having his drum cleaned monthly by an attentive old lady with no other projects pressing on her time.

I’ll miss him, but he’s probably happier where he is now.

As to our old machine, may she mildew in peace. Perhaps her parts will live on, thanks to generous junkyard donor programs. Thanks for the songs, Old Girl.

The Blue-Green Pill

Glasses

“You take the red pill, …and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Some small part inside me loves Morpheus’ challenge: Do you have what it takes to see and accept the truth? While others might settle back down on the couch, chewing another handful of Cheetos, I foolishly stand.

Truth is a deep motivator for me. I cannot be fully religious because of this, by the definitions of many sects. I squeeze under the radar of my current denomination, by telling myself I trust it will all be cosmically explained someday.

My rational voice, upset by a few years of Atheism, plays Devil’s Advocate (ironically). It warns that no explanation will come when I cease to exist.

Why bring up such things? This is where my mind goes; this is the side effect of swallowing the left-hand option.

Surely my mindset, worldview, and even depression are Truth. They are me, as much as my blood type or detached earlobes. I need to be true to myself, to accept myself, and -above all- to not smother my emotional expression.

And yet… my daily red dosage has somehow morphed to a less-swallowable shape.

I noticed a slightly misshapen quality when I began listening to a counselor. “Your core is never negative,” she told me. Furthermore, she said my depressive reactions and tendencies were all learned behaviors.

I read self-help books on the subjects of happiness and self-esteem. They made valid points as well; like, that people honestly can raise their baseline of happiness.

However, all the psychological affirmations and literary anecdotes in the world were not enough. With or without seeking Truth, it came anyway. It laughed at my hopes and optimisms as I repeatedly returned to the dark corner of my mind.

On Facebook, I wrote the following:

When I spoke fluttering lies and raised my smiling mask, I cried inside.
But you didn’t know.

I tried to write about sunshine, as my heart grew ever overcast.
You didn’t look between the lines.

I sat in my small, shadowed corner at home, as you visited each other and laughed.
And didn’t care.

Sometimes I curiously contemplate the world without me there. Surely my departure will cause a ripple somewhere.
Instead, you’ll stand with the friends you always do, and say, “I didn’t know.”
And forget what was never known.

I got a few internet hugs in response. I felt morosely validated that, yes, they did not care.

The problem is that there is no red pill. We cannot be freed from our minds, because we are delicately and intricately attached to them. And, Truth is always, always affected by our perceptions.

Had real-life Neo entered my counselor’s office with me, he may have been given a third option: a doctor’s referral.

I’ve been dreading medical intervention for years; assuming, as I said earlier, that I would lose myself. I also assumed I would only ever have the option of anti-depressant, horrible-side-effect, me-changing medication.

Instead, I have been offered the blue-green pill.

It’s a small dose of seratonin: popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.

I’ve swallowed it once daily for the last three weeks. I thought there to be no difference, but my husband disagreed. Given that I’ve had only one depressive episode since first taking it, he may be right.

In fact, I have been able to think in a manner that is less depressive just this weekend -a first for me. I attended a few social events Friday and Saturday; and did not feel the lingering effects of my usual, self-critical social hangover.

I feel able to agree with and utilize the strategies outlined, previously, by my paid friend and the self-help book.

I see, now, the red pill was the placebo all along. To change my life for the better I needed a new perspective -not some supposed Truth. It could not come from only me, however, since I stand a few feet lower in the ground than others.

Are you, like me, sunk in the Swamps of Sadness? Affirmation will not work. Get someone to look at all your options. Even if the dry ground you need is found through heavier medications, I can now say it’s worth it.

Normal?

I come from a proud heritage of screwed-upedness. Most of my close ancestors have been religious, so the party hasn’t been as raucous as it had potential to be.

Still, I’ve spent the younger years of my life in anticipation of a horrid emotional surprise. Each year brings ever closer the question of whether I may finally be classified as a mental condition.

Do I have Depression? Anxiety? Social anxiety? Ooh! Maybe I can be diagnosed with a cocktail of disorders I’ve not yet heard of!

A cocktail is what to expect when one applies to a psychiatrist -one of medications.

I learned, in school, that a person is defined as having a mental condition when said condition interferes with normal life. And so, each day that is a bit more difficult than others, I wonder if I’ve finally crested the abnormal wave.

“Everyone feels that way,” I’m reassured, by a spouse who does not spend the morning crying.

“Oh, I’ve had those days,” says my neighbor, from her newly-decorated sitting room. I haven’t gotten around to mine for …four years.

Eventually, one of my children brings a true threat of fratricide within earshot, and I have to leave my self-pity rut.

It’s still there, though. Even a medicinal mix wouldn’t erase it. I often feel that drugs create potholes in other locations: side effects fallout.

What is normal?

How do I get there?