Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Elusive Tear of Catharsis

It sounds like a caped crusader from an exotic land or an ancient lost treasure, doesn't it?

Last week, some old girl friends were talking about the need for a good cry, not as an expression of sadness per se but as a release of emotional energy. A good run has the same effect, as can breaking significant objects. On Thursday, I decided I was due for such a release, but it is too hot to run (I prefer to run in snow or pouring rain) and there was nothing in particular I wanted to break. So I watched Little Women and bawled at the usual parts--when Amy throws Jo's manuscript into the fire (maybe this is only emotional for we writers), when Jo cuts her hair to pay for Marmee's train ticket to see Father in the hospital, when Mr. Lawrence gives Beth the piano, when Jo refuses Laurie's proposal, when Beth dies, when Jo falls in love with the professor--okay, so pretty much the entire movie/book makes me cry for joy and pain. But I still didn't feel better. What a waste of tears for no relief! Sunday night I couldn't sleep, so I took a walk and thought about sad things, which made me cry but not long enough or hard enough, I thought. I felt lonely and sang myself to sleep, which usually works, but not this time. Then this morning, I thought about how much power I have to make my future children happier and healthier than I am, and I felt all that pent up emotional energy run down my cheek in one sticky tear.

In other news, I have developed a twitch in my left shoulder. It is only slightly less annoying than the twitch in my left eye. The muscles in the right side of my body are much more agreeable.

Current song: "New York State of Mind," Billy Joel

Friday, July 25, 2008


Did you know Heath Ledger was named for Heathcliff of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights? Were his parents insane? Who names their child after a psychotically obsessed, abusive wretch who is, for all we know, a demon? Makes me wonder if they actually read Wuthering Heights.

Current song: "Love Song," 311 cover

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Getting into Character

I saw The Dark Knight yesterday. It was ridiculously awesome. I love a well played homicidal maniac, and Heath Ledger was brilliant as the Joker. That said, I spent much of the movie wondering how the role affected him. Ledger spent a month alone to get into his character, during which time he started taking sleeping pills. Little surprise he couldn't sleep while he was swimming in the cerebrospinal fluid of a psychotic killer. I am reminded of my traumatic experience of watching Devil's Advocate several years ago. I am convinced Al Pacino was possessed by Satan while he played the role, and I can no longer watch Pacino films or even listen to interviews with him. As a writer, I know what it's like to get lost wandering the corridors of someone else's gray matter and the strength it can take to push off the emotional weight when you're done with the character. Ledger's death was ruled accidental overdose, but I can't help wondering.... At least he will never watch his career go downhill, and moviegoers will remember him in a truly masterful role.

Current song: "Your Racist Friend," They Might Be Giants

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

'Zona, Part 3

Friday: Lizzy and I went to Sunsplash water park where the pavement burned our feet and the slides gave us wedgies. Though we went in the middle of the afternoon, amazingly, I did not get burned, thanks to multiple layers of SPF 45. I actually got a tan, but even with a tan I still look like I should be walking around with seven dwarves in tow. The sun drained us, so we opted to go out for burgers and ice cream. I always think going out to dinner is worth the money because a) you get good food, b) you get waited on, and c) you don't have to wash dishes. Then we crashed at Lizzy's, and she introduced me to the cheesy Mormon film genre. That's right, we watched Singles 2nd Ward. Wow. That's all I have to say.

Saturday: We went to the Mesa Temple Visitors Center. I had mixed feelings about the photography exhibit Reflections of Christ. The first 3 photos, which depicted Mary and Joseph with their newborn, were brilliant. Joseph looked beautifully awed. But the "Ten Virgins" photograph was comical to me--all the goofy expressions and poses--and so detracted from the spirit (and Spirit) of the exhibit, I thought. We also visited a cactus on temple grounds. Lizzy informed me that the Saguaro (the typical image that comes to mind when you think "cactus," i.e. tall and skinny with upward reaching arms) only grows in Arizona and Mexico (wikipedia adds a small area of California). Everyone looks at the picture and asks, "Did you really touch it?!" Yes. I mean, it's not like I walked up and punched it or squeezed it tight, but I wanted to feel how sharp the needles are.

Sunday: Church as usual. Lizzy and I made turkey for dinner. It was good. Her family was impressed with our cooking skills. After dinner, Lizzy played the piano and she and her sister and I sang hymns and show tunes and Disney songs. We ended the day with a game of cards and family prayer. I like having family prayer. Sundays are usually hard days for me, especially this past year. It was good not to feel alone this week.

New feature of my blog: each entry will now include the song(s) stuck in my head. Current songs: the entire soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera

Thursday, July 17, 2008

'Zona, Part 2

I can now verify that Arizona is hot. However, I nearly laughed in a woman's face when she said it was humid today. Said woman is from Utah, originally, and thinks Arizona gets humid during monsoon season. I am reminded of a certain camping trip in upstate NY when I waded in a river and was unable to get dry for the next two days because of the humidity. That's all I have to say about that.

Today we went to a cooking class and learned how to make pizza. That's right, I work in a pizzeria, and on my vacation I go to pizza making classes. Lizzy and I used a recipe from the class to make calzones for dinner. Her family thought they were great! I thought they were vomitous. But don't tell. I'm assuming Lizzy isn't reading the blog entries about my trip to see her.

Once burning hours were over, I agreed to venture into the sunlight, so we went swimming before dinner. Yes, I, who have been afraid of water for the past 17 years (since almost drowning at the beach in Hawaii) went swimming. And liked it. I even learned how to dive, though the first attempts were somewhat painful. Can you get bruises from belly flopping?

It is interesting, strange, and refreshing to be with Lizzy's family. They are such a contrast to my own. Since my life revolves around food, the differences between our families are most apparent in that area. This morning, I was informed that we are not allowed to have ice cream or popcicles except after dinner. I can remember polishing off an entire box of Klondike bars before lunch when I was a kid. Granted, I would hide on the roof of the neighbors' garage after eating the first one because, while ice cream was acceptable at any time of day, eating multiple expensive ice cream novelties in one sitting was not allowed. Also, they eat meals together. And they last more than 5 minutes--more than 10 minutes, even! They watch TV together and agree on what to watch. And they pray together. Real prayers. I wish my family did that. I think this is what we call a "functional family." They may even be unnaturally functional. Don't worry, though, I have seen their flaws, as well--I am just choosing not to disclose them here.

Also, I am getting much better at Wii golf.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'Zona, Part 1

I finished packing in a hurry this morning and forgot pretty much my whole life, i.e. scriptures, sunglasses, and camera. But I arrived at the airport with banana bread in my purse, so that's what counts. Right? Actually, since I'm in Arizona in July, my deoderant, bathing suits, and sun screen are probably the most important items in my suitcase.

On my flight, there was a girl with no arms. I was terribly distracted from my sudoku as I thought about what it would be like to have no arms. Really, I can't even imagine. I think I would die. I'd fall into a deep depression and commit suicide--except I don't know how I'd kill myself with no arms. Probably, I would have to use my teeth or foot to turn on the water in the bathtub, and then I could just lie down in it, but it would be too hard to slit my wrists or open pill bottles to OD. Okay, I'm totally morbid. But really, I don't know what I'd do without arms. I can imagine not having legs, and, while that would be limiting, I feel like I could adjust to living in a wheel chair. No arms, though? Couldn't do it. My toes aren't coordinated enough to be fingers.

On the way home from the airport, Lizzy and her mom were talking about how brown Arizona must look to me. It does. "But it is beautiful in it's own way. I mean, the brown is this pretty red-brown, as opposed to a grayish brown," I said. "Anna, you're becoming so optimistic!" What can I say? Been in a good mood since I crawled out of my hovel Saturday night.

Lizzy says it's hot here, but we've been inside all day, playing Wii sports and Skip-Bo and making whistles out of Tootsie Rolls, so she could be lying, for all I know. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt for now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Diagnosis: Stupidity a.k.a. Poor Domestic Skills of Teenage Boys

I was trying to get all my laundry done before my trip to AZ when Karli's little brother showed up with a mountain of his own dirty clothes. I, overly accommodating (read "wussy") as usual, invited him in and told him he could use the washer as soon as the load occupying it was out. 

An hour later, after the water filled the washer for his second load, an ominous grating and snapping sound interrupted my laughter at the Daily Show. Far worse was the silence that followed as I realized the washer had stopped working. 

I tried restarting it in other cycles (i.e. gentle instead of normal, etc.) and then starting it at different points in the cycle. I hoped, if nothing else, I could put it on spin and drain the water. Nothing. At that point, I reached into the heavily perfumed, soapy water to feel if something was caught on the agitator. Oh, and there was the problem. The machine was crammed so full that I couldn't even wedge my skinny arm between the clothes to get to the bottom. I started pulling out dripping handfuls of fabric, and suddenly the water started filling the basin again. "Good, maybe it will work now." The water shut off. Nothing. Broken agitator.

Someday, I would like to be handy enough with household appliances to fix them rather than just diagnose the problem. Since I'm not, I guess I'll have to finish my laundry at my sister's house. But when I use my sister's washing machine, I won't break it.

I have newfound appreciation for my mother's wall of laundry instructions that taught me how to wash the clothes when she was out of town. I used to think it was ridiculous that she included every detail, right down to "6 large towels or 8 pairs of Anna's jeans make an extra-large load." Ah, the wisdom of my obsessive compulsive mother!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Misunderstood, Though Not Misheard, Lyrics

Remember that song "Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine? Remember the line "Rally 'round the family with a pocket full of shells" and how I asked, "Why would anyone carry seashells in their pockets?" Yeah. I'd love to watch a video of my naivete being stripped from me over the years. I think it would be hysterical.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

That's a Wrap

I knew I was over him last summer when we went out to dinner, and, for the first time in 3 years, my entire being didn't ache at the memories and the disparity between the life he leads and the one I imagined for him (us). When he said he'd call but didn't and I contentedly watched a Sox game and fell asleep without tears, I knew I was over him. But I really knew I was over him last week when I forgot his birthday.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Brilliant or Flawed?

Are they mutually exclusive? I think they often go together, actually. Think of any great and lasting invention over the centuries. It's conception must have been brilliant, but the first model was likely flawed.

For many years, I have pondered the relationship between mental disorders and extraordinary thought. It started when I saw A Beautiful Mind. I like the movie, but I love it's title. The idea of a "flawed" mind as beautiful is intriguing and romantic. I mean, John Nash was delusional and yet absolutely ingenious. Van Gogh was insane but will be forever remembered as a brilliant painter. Starry Night is my favorite painting. In the swirling sky, I see the reflection of my muddled mind and tormented soul. I imagine Vincent sitting in front of his canvas feeling much the same as I do when I look at it. I often think that one of the reasons I am insightful is that I am not right in the head, so to speak. It makes sense to me.

What does it mean to have a psychological disorder? Essentially, it means that one perceives the world in a way that society views as abnormal, irrational. It means one has a different perspective. People appreciate the importance of taking perspective so long as it does not stray too far from the norm. But to be truly brilliant, one has to think unlike the rest of the world, to see what no one else can see. John Nash literally saw things--people!--no one else could see. Van Gogh saw the inside of a trouble mind and soul. And they both created something from that.

I do not mean to imply that all my irrational thoughts are brilliance in disguise, nor do I mean to compare myself to icons of our modern world. I am just reminding myself that this trial, like every other, serves a purpose greater than I imagine.

Today's Breakthrough

Going to counseling in the morning just leaves me with so many things to think about for the rest of the day.

Last week I had to list my issues, the one that I thought was most insightful was that anxiety is my primary motivator. Four years ago, counseling taught me to manage my anxiety to the point that I was rid of it almost entirely for a few months. The result was that I became aimless. I started skipping class on a regular basis and wasted my life watching Law & Order reruns and eating Mint Milanos for dinner. It was an identity crisis, really. Without other people's expectations to tell me who I was and what I should do, I was lost.

So today I took the Myer-Briggs personality test. I told my counselor that I always had trouble with these tests in high school because I never knew whether to answer according the questions according to my behavior and thought when I was comfortable or uncomfortable in a situation. I could never choose whether I am easy to get to know or hard to get to know (question 33) because it depends completely upon my anxiety level. She told me to answer as though I had no anxiety. This was an interesting challenge because for some questions, I could answer based on certain instances or certain relationships in which I have not felt anxious, but for some of the questions, I could barely even imagine what my answer would be if I did not have anxiety disorder. For instance, question 47: When you are in an embarrassing spot, do you usually a) change the subject, b) turn it into a joke, or c) days later, think of what you should have said? Well, usually, days later, I think of what I should have said. But that is because I am usually anxious, and on the occasions that I'm not, I turn it into a joke. I have at some point in my life been embarrassed without being anxious. Then there was question 150: When you do business with strangers, do you feel a) confident and at ease, or b) a little fussed or afraid that they won't want to bother with you? Well, no experience to draw on there. I couldn't even imagine not feeling anxious in that situation. 

Often, while I was taking the test, I found that my anxious self is diametrically opposed to the person I feel I would be without this disorder. I realized, for the first time, that my anxiety and I are separate entities. Meaning, I was born with a certain personality. The environment in which I was raised triggered a genetic predisposition to anxiety and depression, and I let those disorders overrun my natural personality. The implication is that my anxiety is learned, which means I can unlearn it and figure out who I really am.

Shaant said that was a "cool thought process." It is rather brilliant, isn't it?

P.S. Favorite question on the Myers-Briggs: 137: When you find yourself in the wrong, would you rather a) admit you are wrong, or b) not admit it, though everyone knows it, c) or don't you ever find yourself in the wrong? I'm sure there are people who answer C, but the idea made me literally laugh out loud.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

From the Mouths of Babes

Megan (5) was collecting pill bugs in a plastic cup. I told her to leave them in the grass before she came inside.

"But the ants will eat them!"

"The ants won't eat them. Ants don't eat other bugs."

"Then what do they eat?"

"They eat the same food you eat. They're gatherers. That means they walk around collecting all the crumbs you drop, and then they take them home to share with their family."

"No. There are worker ants who take everything to the queen."

"There is a queen--you're so smart, Meg. The worker ants collect all the food and take it to the queen, and she makes sure everybody gets some. It's like how Dad goes to work and earns money. Then Mom uses the money to buy food, and she cooks it and makes sure you guys all get some."

Jacob (3) joins the conversation: "Where are the ovens?"

"The ants' ovens? They don't have ovens. They go around picking up your crumbs, so they are eating the food that has already been cooked for you. They don't need ovens. Now come in and leave the bugs outside."

"But the ants will eat my rolly pollies!"


Great Minds Think (Nothing) Alike

Remember that time we played Scattergories and had to come up with a song beginning with M? You put "Machinehead" because you were sure I'd never think of it. I put "Machinehead" because it was the only song I could think of.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Lovely People You Meet in First Class

Been thinking about this story for the past week or so:

I knew it would be a bad flight when I stepped onto the the airplane, wearing my Red Sox shirt, and saw that the man in the seat next to mine had on a Yankees hat. But he seemed more interested in his rum and Coke than in arguing about the ancient baseball rivalry.

At 10 a.m. the flight attendant brought breakfast and my neighbor's third rum and Coke. I was almost done inhaling my food when my buzzed friend thrust his strawberry yogurt in front of my face.

"Want mine?"

"Sure. Thanks." I was tempted to ask for his bagel, too, but restrained myself. 

A minute passed in silence, and then the deluge: "I can't eat lately. I think my girlfriend's cheating on me. How old are you?"


"You're about her age. Listen to this and tell me if you think she's cheating on me."

He spent the next hour or so telling me about his illegitimate children, child support payments, and 19-year-old girlfriend who lived in another state and never answered the phone when he called.

"Do you think she's cheating."

How should I know? "Whether or not she's cheating, it sounds like you have some problems to work out in your relationship."

"She's cheating. I'm gonna find out for sure when I get to Dallas. I'm getting in 5 hours early. I'll call her and tell her I'm getting on the airplane. Then I'll follow her."

"That doesn't sound like a good idea. I think it would be better to confront her directly."

"I'll confront her after I follow her."

"Clearly, there are trust issues between you two, and if you follow her, it will only perpetuate that problem. I don't think you should follow her."

"Maybe not."

"Just think about it. Okay?"

"I'm gonna go to a bar first. I need to get real drunk so I can relax. I don't know if I can confront her unless I'm relaxed."

"That sounds like a bad idea." At this point I felt a rush of gratitude that this man and I lived in completely different worlds.

"I gotta relax."

"There are other ways to relax. I'm in this class right now where we practice ways of relaxing." Group therapy counts as a class, right? An airplane seemed like a bad place to teach progressive muscle relaxation, so I was debating whether to teach him imagery or controlled breathing when the captain announced our descent. Controlled breathing it is. That would be faster. We worked on breathing for 10 or 15 minutes. As we deplaned, I asked, "So what are you going to do?"

"I don't know. Maybe I won't go to a bar. But I still think I should follow her."

Better he follow her sober than smashed, I guess. I wonder what happened. I wonder whether that flight would have been better or worse if we had discussed baseball.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Counseling "Homework"

Things I would do if I a) had time, b) had money, and c) didn't feel despondent:
  • go to yoga classes at the gym
  • learn to box (yes, I have wanted to do this for more than 5 years)
  • draw/paint
  • cook real meals
  • ask boys on dates
  • clean my room
  • fix my printer
  • keep a journal
  • go back to school in something non-academic and semi-artistic, like interior design or pastry school (mmm...)
  • learn to snowboard
  • hike
  • write a young adult novel or my memoirs or both
Gee, I wonder if my therapist will say, "Start doing those things and you'll feel better." Sneaky therapists, always giving you prompts to help you realize your problems and find your own solutions.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


All the support a daughter could want.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good Idea, Bad Idea

Good Idea: Talking to cute boys.
Bad Idea: Walking away from cute boys who talk to you. Repeatedly.

Good Idea: Throwing away expired yogurt.
Bad Idea: Throwing away yogurt that is not expired because you, apparently, don't know what month it is.


Dumped out an old bottle of Lamictal just now and discovered that it contained mostly my normal 100 mg prescription as well as several 150 mg pills from that one time the pharmacist gave me the wrong stuff. The mistake must have cost the pharmacy $60 minimum. It took me a week to realize that not only were my pills yellow instead of orange but they were bigger. And today I got to experience that wonderful surprise all over again!