Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Congratulations, you've got cancer! or "A Topical Topic"

So I was applying a new lotion last night--you know, some good-smelly stuff--that a friend had given me as a gift. Apparently he gave it to me to "balance me out"--that's what the label claims this particular lotion is capable of, and, if some scented goo can accomplish what neither collective years of therapy nor a myriad of antidepressants have been unable to, well, then ALL HAIL THE GOO.

So here I am, a-slathering away, when I notice a very unusual thing: it seems this particular lotion not only comes with a convenient single-serving pump...it also comes with an *ahem* warning label.

"What's this?," I ask, eyebrows raised.

Interest piqued, I click on my bedside light and read the following message. For your convenience, I will CAPS LOCK the most interesting parts.

Ready?

"Warning: This product contains a chemical known to he state of California TO CAUSE CANCER. Do not use if...(blah, blah, blah.) Studies have shown that THE USE OF INGREDIENTS IN THIS PRODUCT MAY POSE A RISK TO YOUR HEALTH. Discontinue if...(blah, blah, blah.)"

Does anyone else see a problem here?

Or am I the only one struck by this very unusual ad campaign:

Arbonne Essentials Prolief: Hydrates As It Kills You (also considered: Arbonne Essentials Prolief: for those who prefer a soft-handed corpse.)

I am a hypochondriac. Do not cough next to me. I WILL imagine my death from the plague. Do not sneeze in my vicinity. I will gargle with Purell. And, for the LOVE OF GOD, do not try to balance me out with cancer-ridden lotions! Not only will I race to the bathroom and scrub my hands raw, but I will also do the unthinkable--blog about it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Powdered Oatmeal

I think, initially, it's the sound that I miss.
The shuffling and banging downstairs, even as my eyes refuse to open.
The dreaded opening of the door.
The harshness of the light.
Brutal.
"Time to get up."

Even among the protests--the groans and the roll overs and the "Noooooo"s--resistance was futile.
It was morning and you were getting up. To too lumpy or too runny powdered oatmeal. To fights over access to the bathroom. To "You have to leave in 20 minutes."
Yes, it was morning and you were getting up.
End of story.

...

I live on my own now, for the first time in my life.
And, as I am presently on break, I do not have to set my morning alarm.
I can wake up leisurely and whenever I choose.

The thought gives me panic attacks.

As soon as my mind becomes conscious, it knows something is terribly wrong.

There are no noises in the kitchen. No shuffling. No banging of pots and pans.

It knows that no one is coming. To open the door. To turn on the light. To force me to get up.

Somehow it knows that I am alone and that no one, save myself, is here to usher me into the new day.

...

I am alone.

And lonely.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Hotrock, On North Star, On Double Entendre

By my father's definition, I am insane.
By Jeremy Riegel's, I am sensitive.
By any number of various others, I am disposable.

Today I sank to a level and rose to a height that I ne'er before conceived possible.

My friends, today I moved mountains.

Today, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I reverted to a time before I was broken.

And the harbinger of my time-traveling adventure...the winged Pegasus on which I climbed...the purveyor of my starved soul's Houdini feat...was a borrowed SR Suntour Hotrock.

That's right. Today I RODE A BIKE.

It's no Knights Templar secret that, in many ways, I've clung to the past like Reynolds wrap to a casserole dish, desperately trying to relive, reconfigure, retry, redo and outdo my former me.

The results, like the cellophane wrap, have proven difficult to navigate, impossible to manage, and frustrating to the point of exhaustion.

So recently, I have given up said activity. The past, while vivid to me, is unattainable, and, like grabbing for a 10 foot up snack with a 2 foot up stepladder, I simply ain't got the reach to get me there.

But in letting go of the bad aspects of the past, it seems I have made a blunder in the present: namely that, having a grasp on the past provides peace of mind in the present, assuming of course that in the presence of the present one is recalling the positives of the past.

Follow that? *wink*

Alliteration and allegory aside, (note the differing uses of the word "present" and its derivatives) I'm basically saying that when you put your past behind you, you lose a lot of bad stuff. But you lose a lot of good stuff too.

When epiphanies of 2011 allowed me to bury the past out back with the hatchet, I patted down dirt on the whole damned thing. All the tears, all the tears (tears--like "present" in that, while spelled the same, two differing meanings present themselves. And yea, the use of "present" at the end of that statement was intentional. I'm just that fucking brilliant. Or insane. Or sensitive. Or disposable.) all the war wounds and battle scars...all were buried. But so were the smiles.

This bike is too big for me. When on it, I cannot touch the ground with my feet. Which was perfect, really.

Legs dangling, I was shaky at first, wobbling back and forth as I did when the experience was new. I couldn't remember what the numbers on the handle bars meant. I almost fell over when attempting to change gears. I took a turn like the world's eldest nursing home patient and still managed to flail about on the wrong side of the road. But when I got going, I remembered the sensation that came with the wind in my hair. And I was transported.

I grew up in a neighborhood marked by four things: an abundance of trees, a lake, my best friend Stephanie's house, and hills. Lots of them. It was in this shady, lake-loving, friend-building place that I learned to ride my first two-wheel bicycle. It was called a North Star (I know because I used to make up commercials for it in my family room. And, lest you ask, yes, I still remember the jingle I came up with for the commercial. The ending? "North Star." Said with the tone, inflection and whispery cheese of "Soul Glow" in "Coming To America." Try it. I know you want to.) I got it for Christmas, and it had a banana seat and purple accents. I went everywhere on that bike.

Before cars or boyfriends or high school dances--right around the time I used to choreograph routines to Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls" on a deserted lot on my street--my bike was my ticket to freedom from my mini-world that, aside from unfettered (if unfostered) imagination, offered me none. I used to fly on that bicycle. Up hills. Down hills. No brakes.

Never any brakes.

My friend Kelli always used her breaks.
She fell once. And got Staph infection from the cuts.

I wonder whatever happened to her...

I wonder whatever happened to me...

There was once a time I was really good at this--flying at incomparable speeds, fearing nothing but the temporary slow of the cul de sac.

Where is that girl? Did I bury her with the hatchet? Or did she suffocate long before?

My legs are tight from pedaling. And my crotch hurts. Seems that when you're an adult they no longer outfit you with a banana seat. Shame really. It was a leisurely seat on which to escape the tears...and tears...

A couple of laps and a couple of flights later, I am tired. Getting a bike around the block is difficult, and getting it up two flights of stairs will take one to the borderline of a psychotic break.

Which brings me back to my beginning. Maybe I am crazy. Or sensitive. Or disposable.

To you.

Maybe I am a break-neck speed North Star banana seat rider with wind in my hair and Prince in my ear to me.

In truth, there are many times I don't know who in the hell I am.

The only thing I do know for sure is that I want to talk to the girl flying down the hills of Lake Forrest subdivision.

She's too swift to catch though. No fear in that one.

She says she is going to grow up to be a famous actress. And famous novelist. She practices her acceptance speeches for awards shows and appearances on Oprah. She choreographs dances because she knows Broadway will want her input when putting on its next smash hit. She pedals around on a North Star. No brakes. Never any brakes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Standard Deviation" or "Whatever Do You MEAN?"

Standard deviation: from probability theory/statistics: a widely-used measure of variability or diversity that shows how much variation or "dispersion" exists from the average (mean).

A low standard deviation indicates that the data points tend to be very close to the mean, whereas high standard deviation indicates that the data points are spread out over a large range of values.

Deviation. Deviant. Apart from the "norm" or "standard."

In other words (ie. plain English): just exactly how fucking weird are you?

Where does your data point fall?

I've always felt a bit like an outsider. When other children were pretending to be horses on the elementary school playground (Stephanie Lipsky and Nicole Quinn), I and my friends were discussing birth control (I wish I were making this up.) When my gymnastics group lined up their equipment for performance, I refused to release mine. Why should I trust some other bozo with my equipment? I put the stickers on that shit, I should get to hold it!

When it came to childrens' games, I always took over--not because I wanted to rule the roost, per se. Just because I saw the inefficiencies on how things were being done (by 8 year-olds) and decided from that tender age that I could "do it better."

Despite the bredth of my academic pursuits, I've had few classes that incorporated bell curves. But in each of those you could count on me to be the one asshole to throw the average. (Econ 1101 an obvious exception.)

Yes. I learned early the value of "maximize profits while minimizing risks." Or minimizing others. Guess I have been guilty of that too... I made a life of attempting to live at the apex of the bell curve.

And ironically, I think it may have made me mean.

Lately I've been thinking about life's little bell curve. The apexes and the fringes and the data points in between. I've been thinking of where I fall on the curve...and where I used to fall...and whether or not the deviation between those two points means that I am falling.

And when does falling become failing? Or failing become flailing?

Have I deviated too far from the mean?

And if so, what does that mean?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Paranoia, Paranoia Everybody's Comin' To Get Me

It's a familiar feeling: that sucker punch in your gut, accompanied by a sudden, wrenching oh-my-God-I'm-gonna-vomit nausea.

Yep.

It can only be one of two things: 1. You're pregnant. And likely far along. Or 2. Someone is definitely lying to you.

Assuming the first choice is out of the question, (Ha. "Choice"...easily an ethical/political debate spur there...meditate on it.) the mind immediately races to the second: "Holy shit. Is this person actually standing here in front of me, lying through their lying liar teeth?"

Do we have a "pants on fire" situation here?

The rational decision in such a cirmstance (should we choose to take it) would be to jump to...um...rationale...to search for answers. "Perhaps I am misunderstanding this." "Perhaps I am misreading this." "Perhaps when I walked in the room and saw my boyfriend boning the Fizzoli's waitress, he actually was just trying to get something out of her eye. With his penis."

For the purposes of this missive, apparently "rationale" will heretofore substitute for "denial."

But, as many of us opt NOT for rationale, but rather for the "completely flying off the proverbial handle" maneuver, that gut-kick-vomit-gag experience is usually followed by a two-octave, volume 11, wake the neighbors, break the China then break his/her face scenario.

It's happened.

Once or twice.

So what do you do when you know, instinctively, that someone is lying to you? Which route does your internal GPS navigate?

Do we choose rationale (ahem, denial) or full-force, full-throttle attack?

Which yields more positive results? Repression and resentment that will likely later be taken out on an unwitting postman or literally just going postal?

And what happens if you're wrong?

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Tip of the Hat: MISS PISSED or Hyperbole And A Half

Ever have one of those moments where you realize that the situation at hand calls for an emotional reaction of, say, a 4 or 5 on the ten scale...but you, for some reason, are clocking in at a solid 8?

It starts simply.

Like with a parking lot.

Just drivin' around, lookin' for a space.

A minute later, slightly flustered, still drivin'. Appropriate irritation level: 2. Erin's personal irritation level: generally a 4.

Five minutes later, STILL driving, finally spot a space. Appropriate elation level: 5. Erin's elation level: akin to world conquest.

Go to pull into said space, douchebag in a Chevy Cobalt whips in. Crooked. Appropriate emotional response: 6.5. It involves yelling. Some fist waving. Perhaps a rude gesture. Erin's emotional response: Erin cannot come to the phone right now. Erin is too busy horsewhipping a mother who, having just parked at the neighborhood Kroger, was attempting to unbuckle a child from the rear seat of a Chevy Cobalt.

Yes, yes, yes.

This kind of thing happens to me all the time. And usually, my response remains static: "The situation obviously called for action. Good thing I brought along my pick axe..."

But lately I fear the horsewhip and pick axe may be lashing and hacking the prospectus of justice (yes, it now comes in the form of a convenient, pocket-sized leaflet) a bit too often.

Like at my bathroom sink. Which WILL NOT, despite all attempts to the contrary, flow without shuddering so violently that the reverberation knocks over that basket-thingy that hangs from the shower head. Appropriate emotional response regarding the clunky fall of my soap from the hangy-thing dish: 3. My actual emotional response: I'll let you know once I've finished tearing the 106 year old sink from its wall mount.

You see, it's not that I'm insane per se. It's really just that I feel things more deeply than other people. And I should know. My therapists, my parents, my teachers, my bosses and the voices in my head have confirmed this on several occasions.

And the Saint John's Wort doesn't help. Neither does the Prozac, the Zoloft, the Lexapro, the Wellbutrin, the Effexor or any other SSRI, MAOI or any other anagram the market has to offer.

You go out of town for two days? Normal "miss" factor: 4. Erin's "miss" factor: add a coupla zeros to the end.

You say something insensitive? Normal "pissed" factor: 7. Erin's "pissed" factor: ask me as I leave your stupid ass at the 7-11.

Choose to leave my life forever, claiming any number of whiny, woe-is-me excuses? Normal "miss/pissed" factor: 9. Erin's "miss/pissed" factor: I may not like loud noises, but when I'm pissed my hands are steady. When I aim, I DON'T MISS.

Wow. That got negative in a hurry. Actual scale of negativity of last statement: 10. Level of negativity necessary to drive point home: 6. Thus making me at a current Overreaction Scale level of +4.

Not bad for a Monday morning.

Aw, for heaven's sake. Come out from under your desk, you big baby. I'm not going to shoot you. Damned thing's not even loaded anyway...

But I am gonna cry if you go away for a few days. And I am gonna laugh louder than anyone else in the room at a joke that clearly only rated a 5.6. I will take it personally and seriously when it was meant with a wink. And I will wink inappropriately when you wish to God that I would, "straighten up and take this seriously."

If it calls for a 3, I will give you a 6. Which, I guess, means if you're needing a 6, I'll give you a 9.

There goes that inappropriate wink again...

Guess you could say I'm just programed this way. Maybe I am Hyperbole And A Half.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cloven

I'm not a smoker.
Never have been.
But I tell you, I'd give my December rent for a pack of Djarums right now.

It's the end of the semester, and I have plenty of time but zero energy. Hiya Ovid, Camus? Just call me Sisyphus. And this guy? Oh yeah. THIS is my boulder.

All my life, I've been tempted by the proverbial "view from the top"--believing that once I get there--if only I can reach that summit--then finally I can rest. And finally I will be able to look down on the struggle, stare out across the progress, and up at the possibilities.

They say you can see for miles up there. That the world somehow makes sense when viewed from above.

Down here, I see nothing. Too much sweat in my eyes.

Polygnotus immortalized his Sisyphus on an urn. My immortality likely lies in one.

Ashes to ashes, as they say.

The gray waste of a clove cigarette.