Friday, September 30, 2011

Someone Shared This With Me Today...

Never had heard this "Annie" song before...

Annie--Jonatha Brooke

Annie, I hope things line up for you
All in a row, shiny and new
You can't keep on living in one small room
When you never let anyone in
You never let anyone in

And Annie, you think the whole world's been cruel
All the stars took advantage of you
Your mother was cold and your daddy'd no love
So you stomped your feet till they noticed
You stomped your feet till they put on the kid gloves

Now they're walking on eggshells, they're walking on glass
Sing hallelujah each time that you pass
And someday you'll pick yourself up off your ass and go

And Annie you think the boys never played fair
Tripping you up, sticking gum in your hair
Wherever you run, it's yourself you face there
And he might be gone when you need him
And he might be long gone when you find you care

'Cause he's walking on eggshells, he's walking on glass
He sings you a lullaby each time you ask
And someday you'll pick yourself up off your ass and go

And Annie, I love you, that's always been clear
It's the layers of history that won't let us hear
The twisted compassion that's burning our ears
The distance from there to here
The distance from there to here

'Cause I'm walking on eggshells, I'm walking on glass
We sing you a lullaby each time you ask
And someday you'll pick yourself up off your ass and go

'Cause you're gambling again and the stakes are too high
Your ante is fear and my bet is desire
Took you far from the truth and into the fire again

And Annie, I hope things line up for you
All in a row, shiny and new
You can't keep on living in one small room
When you never let anyone in
You never let anyone in, you never let anyone in
You never let anyone in

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Self-Harm Meat Sauce-Sharing a Secret Recipe

My psychotic ex-boyfriend was dead-on about one thing. I make meat sauce when I'm in flux. Always when I'm steeped in anxiety. The meat sauce takes all day to make from scratch. It's complex, cathartic and so worth the effort. I make a huge batch and freeze a lot of it, or give it to loved ones, and it's really fucking good. If it were a man, I'd pour it on the floor and roll around in it naked.

Somehow, the sauce got the moniker of "Self-Harm Meat Sauce" some time after I quit cutting and turned to cooking as a coping mechanism because I couldn't cut myself in the arm anymore. (Cooking, not necessarily eating, as a coping mechanism. If eating were the mechanism, I'd weigh more than 115 lbs.) Still, it remains one of the few things I'll eat with some degree of vigor.

Historically, the sauce is produced when I anticipate some major life stressor, or I'm in the middle of difficult decisions, or when I'm acutely depressed. In trying to figure out what to do while my family is away, I'd toyed around with the idea of drumming a lot, hanging out with as many friends as possible, et al, to pass the time in a healthful way.

Then the sauce idea hit me. Badda-bing!

I had an even better idea. Since TOC and I had dinner plans next week anyway, and he has had the sauce before and loved it, I thought I'd invite him over for dinner to share it with me at my house. I so rarely get to have friends over, since I live with my mom and Luke, and I think the atmosphere will be cozy and relaxed and give us a chance to just be "us," without worrying about what we talk about in public, who might run into us, or whatever. We can put on the iTunes, share a meal and chat up. I told him to book me for Tuesday night after work, that I'd planned on making something special and wanted to share it with him. He was, as usual, agreeable and inquisitive about the idea. Some friends warned me that he might be "uncomfortable" in my house alone with me, but I refuse to see why. We're friends, and friends have been known to eat dinner at other friends' houses. What makes the two of us any different, knowing our dynamic as well as I do, mystifies me. So onward with the plan.

Naturally, when I told my mom about the sauce plan and the TOC coming over plan, she freaked out about the cleanliness and presentation of the house. "I'm not ready for company," she said. Yet the company is not coming over to see her. He's not coming over to critique our house, which is clean and tidy enough. He's not coming over to judge me or my mother's decorating style. He is not the uppity type who will snark at our middle-class living situation. He's coming over to be with me and have a meal, point blank.

And yes, I plan on sending him home with a container of it to share with his wife. Happy now?

So here's the no-longer-secret recipe for the sauce. My ingredient estimations are loose. It's easy to make; it just takes hours and hours to simmer and stir and whatnot.

3 cans of Dei Fratelli imported Italian crushed tomatoes (It has to be Dei Fratelli. If you use Hunt's or other American tomatoes, shame on you.)
2 cans full of water from the tomatoes
A large can of tomato paste to blend in for thickness
A Fucking Crapload of Garlic--4BULBS, painstakingly peeled, and put in the mini-chopper to a fine grate (not CLOVES of garlic, BULBS, trust me. The garlic cooks down so the sauce isn't overly-garlicky)
A handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley
A Mass of chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
A couple of teaspoons of sugar to take the acidity out of the tomatoes
1.75 lbs of ground sirloin (90/10 fat or 96/7 leanness)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

You'll need a mini-chopper or a food processor. Now, my mom hasn't unearthed her new food processor from it's box, so I can use the chopper, but I have to do the meat with my hands. Great.

In a big fucking stock pot, saute about 3/4 of the garlic in olive oil until it's translucent and a little golden brown. Stir constantly. Add the tomatoes, water and paste and stir again. Add at least half the basil and parsley and stir that in too. Leave on medium heat so it can begin to boil.

Separately, make the meat mixture. In the food processor or by hand, mix the sirloin with the remainder of the garlic, basil, parsley, salt and pepper, and perilously brown it in a large pan into tiny bits until it's pretty much cooked through. Pound it down until it's in as small of chunks as possible. Add the meat mixture to the sauce, which should be close to a rolling boil by now, including the fat from the meat (don't drain the beef). Stir that in really well, bring it to a simmer and lower the heat to low. Simmer the fuck out of it for the next 4 hours, stirring very frequently. Taste it to check the acidity and salt-pepper ratio and add as needed. Have a loaf of crusty bread handy to dip and taste while you're making it.

For the love of Christ, don't put onions or wine* in the sauce. Ick. Ick. Ick. (*Wine goes well WITH the sauce, not IN the sauce. This is how Polacks make an Italian speciality. Trust me, again.)

Once you've simmered the hell out of it, serve over your favorite pasta (mine is Barilla Plus--easier on the carb load, enriched with protein and other nutrients, and stays al dente and not mushy like whole-wheat pasta tends to get if you overcook it by 2 minutes). Have a bitchin' salad to go along with it, and more crusty bread to sop up the rest of the sauce from your plate. Serve, if you're so inclined, with a nice cabernet (or, if you're an alcoholic, let your guest pour him or herself a glass or 2 and dump the rest down the kitchen drain). (NO, the plan is NOT to get TOC buzzed and take advantage of him. It's just that wine goes really fucking well with the sauce and let's face it, the guy works hard all day and deserves a relaxing chill out. And no, it wouldn't bother me in the slightest if he were drinking while I couldn't.)

The recipe should yield approximately 5-6 medium Tupperware/Ziploc containers of extra sauce that you can freeze easily. I split it up into meals large enough for 3 people per container.

The best part about making the sauce is the simmering part. You can smell the sauce all the way down the block if the windows are open, and it's fun to taste as it simmers with a skoash of bread dipped in it. But you have to keep stirring it or it'll all stick to the sides and the bottom of the stock pot, which is a bag of dicks. The real reward is when you sit down for a plate of it and all the work pays off.

Most likely, it'll be the most I eat in one fell swoop while my family is away.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I'm Sure There's a Medication for That....

Still trying to finish yesterday's blog...thought of this clip...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Some Love is Just a Lie of the Mind.

I told my ex-boyfriend years ago that I wouldn't know a healthy relationship if it bit me in the ass. "THIS is what healthy is, Annie," he convinced me. He veiled "healthy" by essentially buying me off. He was wealthy and generous with his riches, and wouldn't let me forget who bought me that pair of shoes, or put that food on my table when I lived alone and had trouble affording food for myself and my son, or who upgraded my wardrobe to be stylish and chic, or put that jewelry on my wrist or in my ears. Despite having thanked him with vigor at the time of the receipt of any given gift, I had to keep thanking him, because he kept reminding me that without him I'd have nothing. THAT was the healthy dynamic.

The tricky thing about abuse, about Stockholm Syndrome, is that you're convinced that what's utterly and completely fucked up is what normal people do. My mom pointed out, long after the breakup, that I'd come home from a weekend with him and require what usually amounted to a 2-hour nap, and that my lips and face would be chapped and red. I'd return from time spent with him exhausted and drained, just in time for my son to return home from his dad's, having to mentally switch from girlfriend mode to mommy mode, in a seamless, unnoticeable transition. That was maddeningly difficult sometimes. I just wanted to pass out and be left alone, shell shocked.

When he was around my mom or my friends, he was the poster boy for polite interaction. He could charm anyone into thinking he was a cultured, peaceful, gregarious hunk of a fella, and would say things to my mom like, "What a WONDERFUL daughter you have!" All the while, though, he entrapped me into a universe of messed-up, dangerous interaction. To this day, my mom feels pangs of guilt that she couldn't see through his facade, and admittedly, I was very, very good at hiding the discomfort I perpetually endured. I defended him to the end. In my own fucked-up way, I loved him and craved his attention.

There was just enough "fun" coupled with the violence to keep me coming back, and it got me out of the house for the night or the weekend, which was always a welcome distraction. Or at least until close to the end, when I was going to his house begging him, "Please don't hit me tonight." In his defense, when I asked, he would comply.

Despite the fact he tore my ego down to literally nothing with snide comments like, "You're me," meaning he thought I was pretty but nobody else would, or at least that was what I got out of it, I kept coming back for more and I can't even explain why. Intellectually, I knew I was being maliciously abused, but he painted it all in such a light where it eventually did appear "normal." That we were perfectly mundane but not vanilla, refusing to see the fear and terror in my eyes, or listening to me when I'd call out the assigned BDSM "safe word," which was "airplane," which upon hearing it, he was forced to stop whatever he was doing. He was too wrapped up in what he was doing to me to hear it half the time. And I was afraid of the ramifications of uttering the safe word. He'd get into this mental zone, this awful place, where I felt threatened and scared, and his intensity was overwhelmingly intimidating.

I should've listened to Luke, who disliked him from the very beginning, chiefly because he made it abundantly clear that he didn't like my son and there was something innately creepy about him that made Luke uneasy and worried about me. My ex doesn't like anyone's kids other than his own daughter, who is Luke's age, though he treats her like she's a moron who's still 5. If our relationship was "normal," it wouldn't have taken him 3 years to even introduce me to his daughter, under the auspice of it being in his kid's best interest to not know that her Daddy had a girlfriend. Even when I did meet her, which was once, I was introduced as his friend, not his girlfriend, and he insisted on having a third party intermediary presence at the dinner party. Come to think of it, I was never introduced to anyone as his "girlfriend." I was always his "friend." That made me feel belittled and unimportant. An embarrassment. I'd tag him in pictures of the two of us on Facebook, and he'd un-tag himself, not wanting pictures of the two of us to show up on his profile, under the guise that it was to protect his personal privacy, of which he was literally obsessed. That also belittled me and made me feel he was secretly ashamed to be associated with me.

Likewise, I never was introduced to his parents or sister, which I always took to meant it reinforced his "no one else would love you, but *I* love you, isn't that enough?" It embedded in my conscience a feeling of never being good enough, of feeling like a permanent embarrassment. Sure, that's normal, whereas he'd met my whole family and most of my closest friends. He told me honestly that his mother wouldn't like me because I was a blue-collar person of Polish descent, and had an eyebrow piercing. With an endorsement like that, it soured me wanting to meet his parents in the first place.

Being the narcissistic person he is, he told me when we finally parted ways, "You'll wake up one day and realize you're not in love with me anymore." At the time, I doubted that, but it was amazing how quickly that day came. I looked at the grave reality of the last 3 1/2 years and realized that precious little about our relationship was deemed "normal." That's not to say I've forgotten all about the good times, for I do remember what was fun and warm. But the bad memories overshadow all of that in spades.

If only the relentless nightmares would stop. I put this blog to rest yesterday morning after waking up at 5am and went back to sleep for an hour, at 9 am, during which I had yet ANOTHER nightmare about him. Woke up at 10am, with my mom taking one look at me, me telling her about the dream the night before, and her commanding I go back to bed again before work or call in sick, because I looked like hell. Finally woke up at 11 and got ready for my work day.

The nightmare the night before consisted of him wrapping my entire body in duct tape, with me unable to move, and involved comments and actions he did to me in reality. He'd say to me, literally, while on top of me, "Try to move. Use all your strength. You couldn't get out if you tried." I would employ what little muscle I had and he was right; I couldn't move. He'd grab one of my skinny arms and forcefully tell me, "I could break your arm right now if I wanted to. I could kill you and you couldn't stop me if you tried." Phrases like that always terrified me. Because he was serious. I was tiny and powerless, and he was 6'3" and weighed upwards of 280 lbs. He'd excuse his behavior by saying, "You know, I promise I'd never do anything to actually physically harm you permanently." So psychological torture was ok, as long as he didn't actually follow through with successfully killing me. Yeah, that's "normal."

My therapists encourage me to talk to people more openly about the post-traumatic stress disorder and residual anxiety I feel regarding the violence in the relationship, but some of the people who love me most can't bear to hear the full details, which I understand. I want to protect my friends and family, and the stories are all rather sickening in detail, but I feel like the more I admit and the more I share about my fright, the more helpful others will be in helping me to cope and get over it, though I think sometimes that's a pipe dream.

My mom, for example, has a very hard time hearing the details, and doesn't understand PTSD very well. I don't mean to gross her out, but she needs to know why I'm grumpy because I only slept for 3 hours, or I'm too nauseated to eat, or other things that trigger the symptoms. I explained it in full detail to my brother, who is likewise grossed out, but is sympathetic and despite his uber-Christian "love thine enemy," wants to see my ex dead.

It's an unfortunate blessing that my dad is dead, because surely he'd have shot my ex to death by now.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This is What Happens When You Leave a Blog from Thursday Unattended.

Thursday: Woke up at 5:00 am, moderately nauseated after puking twice before I went to sleep last night. It's amazing how poorly and slowly one can digest corn, TMI and FYI, I have learned. I had this trifecta nigthmare...

PTSD: I parked my car next to my ex-boyfriend's in his condo garage on purpose, but why I don't know. Walking up the stairs instead of the elevator, I was donning a long black coat and wearing a hat so he wouldn't recognize me if he bumped into me. Naturally, he did anyway, and proceeded to introduce me to his new wife, literally rubbing it into my face how happy he was and what a great decision it was to marry her. In reality, I pity the fool who gets involved with him, in the long-term anyway. (Apparently, he's such a dickwad that his most current girlfriend couldn't even stand to be Facebook friends with him, and thankfully, I know nothing of his present romantic situation.)

Separation Anxiety: The song on the Flaming Lips' epic 1999 album, "The Soft Bulletin," that reminds me most of TOC is "What is the Light?" It's not gushy, and I'm not sure WHY it reminds me of him, and Lord knows the light around him isn't "chemically derived," unlike mine most of the time. I didn't know until this morning that the full title of the song is this:

"What Is the Light?" (An Untested Hypothesis Suggesting That the Chemical [In Our Brains] by Which We Are Able to Experience the Sensation of Being in Love Is the Same Chemical That Caused the "Big Bang" That Was the Birth of the Accelerating Universe)"

Hmmm. The universe proceeds to accelerate forward when he's away from me, but I feel like he's my center of gravity sometimes. My voice of reason when I go off on tangents, my non-judgmental cheerleader, my big human stress ball to mold with my hands. It's too much responsibility to put on him, and maybe he doesn't want to be burdened by it, but he's never voiced his opposition to it either. I think part of him likes being needed again, now that the kids are grown and independent. I dunno....

Anyway, in the dream last night, I sought his comfort after running into Chris, and he rejected me. When he's unavailable to me physically and emotionally in the real world, he appears as such in my dreams, which is disturbing and anxiety-laced. I've had similar dreams involving my father, who is perpetually out of reach for protection and comfort.

(iTunes Shuffle: a Chopin piano piece followed by Blondie's "Call Me." Oooh yeah.)

GI Issues: It's been a gastronomic nightmare this week. Everything I eat comes out one way or another, requiring a bevy of Rx-strength anti-nausea, anti-diarrheal, anti-pain meds and I have no idea why. It'd be terribly inconvenient to be hospitalized right now, though I'm blowing a call into my doctor this morning, who's been sitting on my refill request for the anti-nausea meds for 3 days now (I have one left). I threw up twice last night before bedtime, pleading with my son to please go to bed so I could rest. It happened again this morning, again with me pleading with my son, this time to rush out of bed and get ready for school because I was puking. "Do you have to go to the hospital?" he asked. "Yes, to WORK today. I'm not being admitted." Time will tell today. Hence, the part in the dream last night about the icky food in my college cafeteria (rotten, fishy sushi and no vegetarian choices, the nerve!).

I'm supposed to meet my spiritual adviser tomorrow morning for breakfast and our weekly talk, though we've picked a place where there's literally nothing I can eat. I'm not even sure they serve hot tea. It's one of those typical diners: eggs, bacon, hash browns, French toast, corned beef hash, all blech-inducing. I best stick to my Atkins bar and tea before I leave and just sit there while we talk. I've also traded my chiropractic appointment in favor of my secular mental therapist since my hand is essentially functional and I haven't been to therapy in 4 weeks because of being sidelined with my injury. Despite the fact I have to drum all weekend.

Which reminds me, one of the multitude of things on which I've been procrastinating is fixing my bass drum pedal. My brother noticed a tiny screw that was missing at the picnic, leaving the chain that holds the pedal in bouncing place askew. We rigged it up well enough for it to function, and I honestly hadn't remembered the problem until I remembered that I had spare screws in the glove compartment of my car last week for some otherwise inexplicable reason.

The Apple Thing is happening again at work. As previously stated, I begin eating my daily apple at the end of Break #2 in the afternoon. Walking back into the hospital, into the elevator, and winding down the hallway back to my office, it never fails that SOMEONE asks me about the apple I'm eating or about the subject of apples in general. Every time I get on the elevator. Every time anyone spots me consuming the apple in public, it sparks sociological interaction of a strange and mysterious frequency. Another litany of "On your lunch break?," "Is that a Honey Crisp?," "Aren't apples delicious this time of year, with so many to choose from?," "Did you pick that at an orchard?" or "How do you get to Entance B?" (Dude, my mouth is kinda full at this time, so excuse me if I just point you in the general direction.)

Fast forward to Friday: I meant to post this blog, but it was going nowhere, so I left it aside for the time being. Plus, Luke had embarked on a journey on my laptop to find spare Lego parts to build all the characters in HALO with Legos and was busy ordering shit with my credit card while I napped on the couch, so I had no access to my computer half the weekend anyway.

In the interim, I did indeed meet with my spiritual adviser, where I ate a bowl of Cheerios and had half a grapefruit, as well as some drippy, hard-to-pour hot tea, which sent me into a hypoglycemic attack by the time I had to drive to my therapist's in the city. She and I had a good session, mostly centered around the Luke being bullied problem, and I was coherent enough by the end of the session to drive home. As usual, my therapist did little but agree with me on all topics du jour and said the words,"Yes, exactly!" no fewer than a dozen times.

I fixed my bass pedal all on my own, without the help of any man, and rocked it out at band this weekend. No trouble from the hand...seemingly all healed. Church was great last night, and the more I get to know our new Pastor, Dave, the more I like him. He's younger than I am, and this is his first main gig at a church, and he's handling it well. His opinion of the band is that we're solid, our extensive practice time is evident in our finished product during the service, and he gets my irreverent sense of religious humor.

Friday's best surprise was a catch-up call from TOC on the phone. I prodded him for details about his trip to Florida with the wife, but he provided scant details, other than the fact that he ate a lot of fish, and proceeded to tell me what kinds of fish he ate. Otherwise, he offered no details about what they did together, if they had fun, et al. I still sense that he sort of wants to keep "their world" separate from "our world," either out of consideration for my feelings or just because it's THAT boring and he's THAT apathetic. But he literally picked the first free chunk of time he had since his return to call me, while he was making homemade pasta sauce (which I argued couldn't be as good as mine, though his is vegetarian and mine is meat sauce) for dinner and she was apparently not home from work yet.

He was far more interested in the happenings of my week, and I proceeded to tell him a lot about what I referenced above (including the GI troubles), about our stupid supervisor at work's new master schedule (which he gives 2 weeks to utterly fail before we go back to doing things the way we have been, which has worked out marvelously), about Luke and the bullying and weight problem, which he had good advice regarding, and about my wonderful trip to the preschool to talk about Curious George, which he saw the picture of and thought was the cutest thing on Earth.

I appreciate that TOC appreciates that I'm 39 and still sleep with a stuffed animal. I explained that I segued my sleeping with George into a discussion with the preschoolers about what animals or objects (blankies, et al) they all sleep with to keep them cozy and safe. I think I defended myself by saying, "You probably think I'm weird..." but he said "Not at all," and said "Aww' an awful lot.

He asked me again when my mom and Luke would be away, and we once again made plans to make plans (we roll like that) to go out for dinner while they're gone, something to which we're really looking forward. I've got the week mostly covered with plans with friends to get together for dinners, to keep me out of trouble and to make sure I eat, peppered in with some much-needed alone time, just to BE. So all good. I'll see the fabulous Super Juls, my girlfriend Anne from both high school and college, whom I haven't seen in 15 years, and a dinner with TOC.

This weekend is hard for him. It's his youngest daughter's birthday, and she's away from home for the first time, at college in Boston. This is their first birthday apart in 18 years, and he's not quite sure how to react, other than to be forlorn about the fact that she wants to spend her birthday partying with her friends, rather than Skyping over a virtual cake and candles with her parents. I told him the last little bird has left the nest, and that he needs to accept that and let her go. Which goes back to what I was saying earlier about him loving me because I *need* him. At this point, the kids don't really need him for anything (other than money and care packages), and he feels a little lost. Fortunately or unfortunately for him, there's always something going on with Hurricane Annie that requires his attention. Bless you, Tatus.

And here, I'd wondered and worried all week if he either missed me or was happy to have a break from all my bullshit and drama. From his intonation and giddiness on the phone, it was apparent that he did, in fact, miss me, and was joyful to catch up with me. So yay to that. We parted over the cellular waves excited for Monday to come and the chance to see one another again.

This Sunday morning, I'm trying to listen to clips from the Flaming Lips' "Found a Star on the Ground," their mammoth 6-hour long song adventure. I like what I've heard thus far, but I'm afraid I'd have to be doing an awful lot of drugs to get through 6 hours of it in one fell swoop. I can pick out drum patterns that Steven was working on acoustically, fiddling around with his son's drum kit months ago (I posted a video of it on my blog a while back, under "Because This Friend Makes Me Happy.")

Well, we're down to comparing the fat on Luke's stomach to the hanging skin, not fat, on my abdomen. I'd give my right arm to borrow 20 lbs from my son.

"Is this 'Let it Be?'" asked Luke. Uh, no, Luke. iTunes just shuffled onto "Angie" by the Stones. Close but no Cuban. I don't see the similarities in the 2 songs, other than the employment of a piano. Smartypants kids. "Why are all the songs you listen to so sad?," he asked, to which I had no answer. I listen to plenty of happy, whimsical songs, but the fact of the world is, there are more sad songs than happy songs. Because "Sad Songs Say So Much!" (No, that's NOT on my iTunes.)

Watching Luke organize Legos is fascinating. He's systematically organized over a dozen heads onto one platform, the same with sets of torsos and legs. It's an exercise in OCD that pleases my neuroses greatly. It'd be a much more pleasant task to behold if he's quit passing gas sitting next to me, but he is, after all, 11.

Ok, I desperately need a dose of fresh air....

Monday, September 19, 2011

Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus With Needles: Or, "Everybody's My Friend."

The above is quite possibly the best ad I've ever seen. Beer for you and baby. Before the advent of Mother's Little Helpers, apparently. My first taste of beer didn't come until I was about 5 or 6 and my dad would make me fetch one for him from the kitchen because he couldn't get his alcoholic ass off the couch. "Can I have a sip, Daddy?" "Sure!" Glug glug glug. Beer wasn't my sneak drink of choice as a child, though. Far tastier were the Manhattan-drenched cherries from his stronger drink of choice. My memories of my dad continue to fade in relativity, for I only knew him for the first 11 years of my life, but I remember his drinking with clarity. It unfortunately defined him (and killed him). (Aw, ironically, Cat Stevens' "Oh, Very Young" just shuffled on iTunes. How appropriate.)

It's a bleak, rainy, chilly Monday morning in Chicago. I awakened at 5:00 am ready to surge through the day, though with my usual unpleasant bowel troubles, a little disjointed. Had a dream where I was trying desperately to please Dr. C at work, looking for something to do, only to find little dolls of Gumby and Pokey in his inbox. Anxiety dreams about work are increasing in frequency, though I must say they're better than the PTSD dreams about my relationship with my ex-boyfriend. Still, not pleasant dreams.

Ack. Another week with TOC off on vacation. Makes the works stress less, for there is one fewer doctor to manage during the course of the work day, but he's easy to manage and I thoroughly enjoy his presence, unlike, well, everyone else in the office quite frankly, and I will miss him. Last week, Nab interrupted our socializing to inform me there were patients at the desk waiting to check out that needed tending to. Yeah, fuck that. I was getting my groove on with my randy paddy git friend. Enjoy Jupiter FL, TOC, and be sure to visit the Burt Reynolds museum and bring me back a trinket.

The neighbor across the townhomes, Alanna, wakes up every morning at 6am. How do I know this? Because when she has her windows cracked open even an inch, you can hear her annoying, buzzing alarm clock going off. She leaves the alarm buzzing, though I assume she's up and getting ready for her day, for upwards of 2 hours. Buzz, buzz, buzz, over and over again. This used to particularly annoy Craig and I when we lived in the townhouse next door to my mom's where I live now, when we were married. So much that Craig wrote this insanely creative, rhyming poem about how irritating her alarm was (I wish to death I had a copy. It was brilliant.) Now, when I go out to smoke, or on the warm and sunny mornings when I can go outside to write on the patio, I hear the incessant noise in the background and it distracts me from my budding creative pursuits of the day. I have half a mind to type her an anonymous note encouraging her to turn her alarm off when she wakes up, but she's a Taylor Street Italian, and the last thing I want to do is get on her bad side, for she is fierce when agitated. So I put up with it in the interim.

(iTunes break: The Bee Gees' original version of the song made famous by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, "Islands in the Stream," really sucks. Shuffle! "Whole Lotta Love?" Much better.)

Yesterday, I heard an obscure, minor hit by Kansas from 1983, "Everybody's My Friend," a song about the downside of being a rock star and how everyone wants something from you by virtue of your fame. How everybody wants to get close to the rock star and use him for things. "They all want to you make a lot of money?" (Relative to most professions, yes, he does.) "Did you change your name?"(With a name as cool as Drozd, why would you?) "What's it like to be a rock star?" (Exhausting.) Everybody wants to know when they can hang around. Everybody's my friend."

It made me think of Steven (my Flaming Lip, not my brother). It was a song he wasn't familiar with, but I explained the gist of it to him, and told him that I have never valued him because he was a rock star. I was in the middle of shopping at Target (yay, I DID get out of the house yesterday!) when his texts came through. I put my cart aside by the shoe department and texted him the following back:

"I don't value you because you're a rock star. I value you because you're compassionate, kind to me, supportive and creative. I throw bullshit at you that you don't have time or patience for sometimes, but you seldom turn me away. I really appreciate that, Steven." He is humble and has very little rock star ego (though he does get his blackheads removed, but he was metrosexual before the term was defined), so he takes compliments and gooeyisms with some degree of undeserving discomfort.

I've never defined my friend as a rock star, though people like to remind me that he is, in fact, one. I just love him because he's Steven. He's famous. He's won Grammy awards. He's a musical genius. All of that is very cool and makes him a unique friend to have, but it's hardly what he's all about. Sure, I get VIP treatment at Lips shows and get to hang out with the band, the best seats in the house, and the perks of knowing someone famous. That's all cool and I'm very appreciative of his generosity, but I'm not at a Flaming Lips show to experience just their music, though I do love it passionately. More so, I just want to see, hug, and catch up in person with my friend.

We're compadres in addiction and mental disease, both musicians, both intelligent and well-spoken and kinda nuts. We're both raising kids while managing our recovering maladies. He encouraged me, during my family's upcoming time away, to throw myself into something musically. That it really helps him cope. That's why I plan to use part of my day off to just kick back and learn some Who songs on the drums and jam.

It's sometimes charming and cool and sometimes gravely irritating when other fans of The Flaming Lips try to get close to me because I know Steven. Those fans are few, and I've become good friends with other Lips fans who share like-minded vibes with me. Through knowing Steven, I've met and become friends with some terrific people. So I guess his fame has an upside in my life. Still, my point being I'm not friends with him to go along for the rock-n-roll ride. I love the guy because of the guy he is, which is just an amazing guy.

Final thought for the morning: I can't promise you much, but, if nothing else, I promise you that something in a future edition of the DSM will be named after me. Or, once I'm a Psy.D, coined BY me. My blog may never reward me with fame, but I'll be dipped if a psychiatric syndrome escapes without the Miklasz name attached to it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One Million Billionth of a Second on a Sunday Morning.

Bipolar disorder is grossly misunderstood by the common person. Folks hear the term "manic-depressive" and either a) wish they could be as productive, creative and grandiose with accomplishment, as during a manic phase, or b) hear "depressive" and proceed to ask you 1,000 questions as to what's bothering you, fearing you're on the brink of suicide and ever-watchful of your delicate mood. Because surely "depressive" means something's "wrong" with you. The truisms of either phase are complicated and diverse.

Outside of the world of psychology and psychiatry, manic-depression scares a lot of people. It's a clinical disability that, when left pharmaceutically uncontrolled, CAN indeed produce hyper-reactions of gross instability that threaten the patient's well-being and impede functionality in society. Soothed by mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics, perhaps enhanced by an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs, is often highly manageable and the patient can maintain day-to-day activities with little or no difficulty. (That's usually how I roll.)

When I'm manic, I let people know, if it's not blatantly obvious by my many differing moods and my general refusal to stop talking, writing or starting 18 tasks at a time with the ego-laden ideals of rocking them all out at once, when in retrospect, little if anything is followed to completion successfully, the exception always being artistic pursuits, which are my chief coping mechanism regardless of my mood. (I particularly point out my manic episodes to my co-workers, who need the most forewarning about what I might act like on a given manic day.) I'm far more prone to manic episodes than depressive episodes, as I've previously pointed out in my blog (see "Mania: Defined").

Non-psychiatry buffs continue to ask me why I become either manic or depressive, given I'm on medication. There is no clinical explanation for becoming symptomatic. I'm med-compliant but sometimes, it just inexplicably happens. It's no one's fault. Not mine, not the people around me, and there is no clear trigger. The instability passes in due time, when my brain chemicals are ready to redirect. I'm good enough with my meds to self-tweak doses of my bipolar meds, which sometimes work out wonderfully, and sometimes make me sicker. (I know, "consult your physician." Screw that. I live in this brain. I can manage it.)

When I'm depressive, which is a rarity but is my present state this weekend, the medications really help me stay basically functional, though my ambition is scant. I hesitate to mention it to anyone outside of the medical field because I don't feel like responding to the onslaught of sympathetic "Aww, you poor thing" and "What are you depressed about?" The fact is, I'm DEPRESSIVE, not DEPRESSED. There is a huge clinical difference. My brain's wiring is abbreviated, muddied, and toned down. My head is still full of perpetual ideas and thoughts that can be positively expressed, though it takes more time and effort.

Before I was medicated, a depressive episode consisted of me not getting out of bed for 3 days, not showering, and barely taking care of my son's basic needs if he was in my custody at the time. This was before I was able to hold down a job. There were a couple of instances where I let him stay home from school, much to his delight, because I couldn't find the energy to get in the car and drive him there. I slept most of the day and night, or just lied around in a veritable daze.

Medicated, I'm still capable of working, taking care of Luke, and assuring the most basic tasks of daily living are successful, even though I'm depressive. This particular depressive episode hit when I awakened yesterday morning, at 6:30, typical for me, and whilst smoking and wiring myself chock full of caffeine, I sat down to write my blog about my friendship with my late friend, Mico, for his birthday. Mico's birthday was NOT a depressive trigger, though many would argue it was. The blog took me 4 hours to write and 6 episodes of diarrhea to endure, which frustrated me and is atypical of my creativity (the diarrhea notwithstanding, that's a separate problem). My mom said last night that I push myself too hard sometimes, which to a large degree is often true, but it was the one thing yesterday I was determined to accomplish. And I did.

I also fed my son 3 square meals, made my bed, showered, dressed and spiked up my hair, with every intention of completing the errands of the weekend (laundry, grocery store, Target). I did, however, allow Luke to spend the entire day dressed only in his boxer shorts, which wasn't so bad, and we completed a school project due Monday together amid his own random anxiety attack. I was extremely proud of the way I kept my cool during the project. I employed mindfulness and calmly talked him down, pointing out the positives and successes of the project rather than getting on his ass about it, though I do admit to having sarcastically called him a "baby" when he started whimpering, which I just thought was inappropriate and immature given his age and intellect.

I wrote another short blog about the death penalty and listened to and analyzed a lot of music yesterday, a semi-productive effort. Yet I never got out of the house. The daunting, looming idea of a trip to the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon overwhelmed me with a "don't go there, not today" vibration. I did a load of laundry and dried it, but it never got put away. After feeding Luke and myself, I did do the dishes, purely out of the expectations surrounding my responsibilities at home.

The errands would have to wait until today, though it's noon and they still seem daunting. I *should* shower before my mom gets home from church, but I have not. I once again DID do the breakfast dishes, out of obligation and politeness. I dirtied them, so I should wash them. The grocery store/pharmacy won't have my 3 refills ready until 2pm, so I figure I have some solitude in which to loom my weary frame before venturing further than 15 feet from my back door.

Luke likes to ask for eggs on a Sunday morning, and the prospect of something as effortless as scrambling a couple almost threw me over the edge. The most overt downside? The only shredded cheese we have in the house, which is that Mexican cheese that I can't spell correctly, had a scent that had me literally gagging over the stove while I scrambled the eggs. That was uncool. Among my morning medications was an anti-nausea pill.

This morning, I completed a short blog about how much I hate parental honor roll bumper stickers, and engaged in extensive film and music criticism commentary with some friends from college on my Facebook page, ultimately regaling the story, once again, of how I spent an evening at age 17 getting drunk in a hotel bar with the late, famed singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson. So depressive, but not exactly lazy (unless you count going outside to smoke in the rain sans umbrella and allowing myself to get wet your definition of "lazy").

I have iTunes on shuffle today, and am amazed at the randomness of my musical tastes and breadth. The Flaming Lips' "Convinced of the Hex" followed by Hank Williams Jr's theme from "The Dukes of Hazzard," followed by Sugar's "If I Can't Change Your Mind," followed by a Lennon demo of "Real Love," followed by "Boyfriend" from Best Coast. My musical tendencies are as manic-depressive as my personality. If I were truly depressive and non-functional, I would literally spend the time listening to all 873 songs on my iTunes (it's a new computer, so I've barely scratched the surface), which would take 2.4 days.

iTunes just provided the following inspiration to get moving for the day: the soothing Beatles' "Let it Be" followed by a live version of MC5's "Kick Out the Jams," where the lead singer starts out the song "And now it's time, now it's time, to KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKERS!"

And verily, I press forward.

Parental Bumper Stickers

On my Chrysler Pacifica, admittedly a minivan though labeled a "crossover," which is half SUV and half minivan (I have to have a car big enough to haul drums around), I have stickers of the following: the symbol for Alcoholics Anonymous, one for my favorite tattoo/piercing parlor, my Coyne/Drozd 2012 Presidential advertisement, and one blandly advertising my son's parochial grammar school.

I have a high honor roll student at home. By the time you get to high school, the institution bestows upon the parents a bumper sticker advertising your child's braininess (ha ha, you poor schlubs with simpleton spawns! Fuck you guys!) "MY CHILD IS A HIGH HONOR ROLL STUDENT AT MAINE SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL." A proud moment for any parent, granted, but I'll be damned to Hell if I'm putting that on the back of the Pacifica.

That's not to say I don't comment about my son's intelligence on Facebook, for example, as I'll give him a shout out for straight A's on his report card. I am a proud parent. But Luke's not smart because Craig and I made him smart, though we fostered intellectualism and individualism in him from baby-on. Genes are part of it, but not a huge component. I see no reason to validate myself by advertising to the masses that my kid is smarter than your kid.

And what kind of bumper stickers do they give to kids in special ed? "I'm sort of proud that my underachiever didn't get held back another year?"

One of my best girlfriends can't wait to display her daughter's academics on her car. I find this confounding. I suppose it's part an ego thing and part a living-vicariously-through other's-conquests vibe. Then there's the "what if?" factor. Let's say her kid slips up and doesn't make the honor roll for 2 semesters in a row. Do you remove the sticker? Write over it? Cover it with "I'm the proud parent of a reasonably intelligent child who failed to garner a 4.0 this term?"

My son has mixed feelings about the aforementioned bumper stickers. In one realm, he finds them embarrassing. Conversely, he doesn't understand why I *wouldn't* want to publicly show my pride in him. I explained to him the validating my own esteem aspect of it, which he understood, and he pointed out, "I'm not an honor roll student. I'm a HIGH honor roll student." True, Luke. And that's great. But does the whole world need me thumbing my nose at society about it?

I prefer the late comedian George Carlin's idea of a parental bumper sticker, that says the following:

"We are the proud parents of a child who's self-esteem is sufficient that he doesn't need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car."

All that being said, I just went online and ordered an anarchy symbol sticker for the car.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"It Has to Be $40 or Less." Who knew? Luke and His Mom On The Death Penalty

(Apologies in advance for the font change. I couldn't fix it. Deal with it.)

Sitting down to dinner last night, Luke asked my mom and I what we'd choose as our last meal if we were on death row. I said "cheese fries," naturally. My mom had no response. Luke commented, "It has to cost $40 or less." I did not know that factoid. (Will save for future reference.)

Recently, my son has spent an inordinate amount of time researching the death penalty, perhaps sparked by the controversial petition circulating regarding the impending doom of Troy Davis, wrongfully convicted. I signed the petition that states this:

"We, the undersigned, call on Georgia authorities to take all steps necessary to ensure that Troy Anthony Davis is not executed. Seven of the nine witnesses have changed their story and no physical evidence links Davis to the crime. No one should be executed, especially when there are so many doubts about guilt."

Fair enough, methinks.

Back in college, I was pro-death penalty, especially regarding notorious cases like that of Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. Not enough to hang out outside the jail with "Nuke 'em!" signs or anything, but at the time, I thought they were getting their due.

As I matured into a passive but engaged anarchist, my thoughts on the subject evolved. Some argue the death penalty saves taxpayers money by eliminating another mouth to feed in a jail. Some argue it's an eye for an eye. "You killed somebody, so we, the government, will kill you too."

As a Christian, I'm a big believer in the Lord's line, "Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." Who are we to judge the value of another human being's life with abandon, for the sake of revenge of the fallen and due cause? Call it God, call it karma. Those that live and act out violently will be judged by God, not by us.

Lately, Luke's been looking on Wikipedia for subjects such as "lethal injection" and the electric chair, in addition to the aforementioned "last meal." He asked me how, if I were on death row, I would choose to die. Well fuck, if I get a vote, I'll take lethal injection. It's the most humane of the choices. Having seen on video what preparation goes into and the outcome of the electric chair, that wouldn't be my preferred route. And hanging is so passe. A shooting gallery sucks.

My personal feelings, which I expressed to my 11-year old, were that I found the death penalty to be inhumane, and further, that I thought criminals should be made to sit in a jail cell until they die thinking about the crimes they've committed against other people. I like life in prison without the possibility of parole. Killing them, though cost-effective, just doesn't make sense to me. Some criminals are mentally incapable of grasping remorse for their actions and have little soul. They're insane in a not-terribly-charming way, unlike me. Others rehabilitate into what I believe are capable, functioning members of society (let's use Leslie Van Houten, one of the Manson Family, as an example. Parole that bitch already, Jesus).

My son, from what I gather, is pro-death penalty. Is that typical for a pre-teen? I don't know. Given he's a Christian pacifist, I'm not sure his morals are in sync. That's part of growing up, though, and kudos to him for being intellectually curious enough to research the topic in the first place.

I gave him my two cents' worth and closed the discussion by offering the following: "Luke? Lesson? Don't ever fucking kill anyone."

For Mico Curcic, On What Would Be His 43rd Birthday, From Your Boobelah.

I learned a very important lesson this summer: When you have friends, friends you love dearly, you hold them in high regard. You keep your plans with them. You get together, even if it's in dribs and drabs. You keep promises. You stay in touch. You check on your friends' well-being. You take the time out of your own busy life. If you love someone, you tell them. Frequently. You give a lot of hugs and kisses. You help them help themselves. You insist on it. To date, I hadn't done a terribly good job at all of that.

For an inexplicable reason, I had my cell phone on my desk at work that evening in mid-July of this year. I usually keep it in my purse. I had another 1/2 hour to work. A call came in at 5:30 from a local number, which I didn't recognize but answered anyway. It was Amy Isbaner, my friend Mico's ex-wife, chillingly calling me to inform me that "we'd lost Mike" that day. (A lot of people called him "Mike," but I always called him by his Serbian given name, "Mico.")

I sat there listening to her with my work phones ringing off the hook in an utter daze. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He was only 42 years old. I only remember saying, "What? WHAT? WHAT?" and asking her how it happened, and she was only able to give me brief details. I told her, before having to hang up and work, that I wanted to be kept informed of the arrangements and the typical, "If there's anything I can do, call me..." blah blah. It was all I could muster to say.

I drove home from work smoking furiously, in freezing shock, though I hadn't started crying yet. My mom asked me what was wrong when I walked in the door. "Mico died," was all I said. I regaled the scant details I knew at that point, and sat down to pick and poke at my dinner, sans appetite and feeling like I was going to throw up. I texted TOC that I'd lost my best platonic male friend and to please call me on his way home from work that night, which he did. Even explaining it to TOC, I didn't cry yet.

Mico and I had been in and out of touch this summer, our last texting session, looking back at my phone, on May 5th, though we were keeping in touch through Facebook, commenting frequently. His last text was a well-being check on me after I'd broken up with my ex-boyfriend, Christopher, and him telling me if there was anything I needed, "Boobelah," as he called me, I knew where to find him. We had plans for this summer. I was long overdue for a dinner at his house, where he planned to grill me his fabulous fajitas and make his delicious, from scratch "Mico de Gallo." We had plans to meet at my church (where my drums are kept) so we could jam to The Ramones on guitar and drums, which was a long-standing plan we never got around to. He'd played guitar in front of me before, and he was really quite good. He liked to play metal.

I knew very little about his latest relationship with his girlfriend, Crystal, whom I'd never had the chance to meet, though that was another one of our plans. The last I'd heard from him about her was that they'd had a falling out, had unfriended one another on Facebook, and were rocky. I recall, at that point, snarkily posting to his Facebook wall, "Does that mean I can come over for my fucking fajitas now?" and him responding, "Lay off, Annie." So I let it go.

Mico had what he liked to call "Spidey Senses." Premonitions that eerily usually seemed to come true. A sixth sense. He told me a couple weeks before he died that he KNEW a "big change" was about to happen, but he didn't know if it was good or bad yet. Turned out he was absolutely right.

Not one to take particular care of his body, he'd been having transient chest pain and episodic passing out for several weeks, his friends all begging him to have it checked out by a doctor. I referred him to TOC (who is an interventional cardiologist) months before, given he'd had 2 mild heart attacks in the past from too much heavy fun years ago (he used to use cocaine but had been clean for a long time). He had an enlarged heart. I learned that he passed out driving his cab recently, which scared him enough to visit the Lutheran General ER, who wanted to admit him for extensive testing, which the big dope gave his usual "fuck you" to, checking himself out against medical advice. It didn't make sense. He wasn't poor anymore, having come into money after his mom passed away just months prior, and could afford the hospital trip. (A few years ago, he depleted his life savings having survived treatments for lymphoma, found during some dental work.) He thought he was invincible. And he was a stubborn Serbian.

(Once I told all of this to TOC, he hostilely said that Mico's death could've ultimately been prevented had he just stayed in the hospital. He said how sad it was when people chose stupid decisions like refusing treatment.)

Mico's father is elderly and traditional, and thus a traditional Serbian funeral was planned, though that was the last thing Mico would've wanted. He'd have preferred to be cremated, his ashes scattered somewhere in Wisconsin Dells, where he was looking at vacation properties to buy just weeks prior to his death. He believed in God, certainly, as we'd talked about it before, but he was frequently and typically angry at God for his consistent life misfortune. He was convinced he was going to Hell, though I thought nothing could be further from the truth, for he was just a heavenly-type of guy who belonged Up There to shackle the shit out of the Big Guy.

The funeral was on a Friday, when the weather was cool and dark gray clouds loomed over the Serbian Orthodox church. Taking my mom with me for moral support, as by this time I was really a veritable mess, we walked into the church and stood over his handsomely but eerily laid out body. His hair was off. It wasn't how he spiked it up himself. He was wearing a dress shirt from his favorite band, Rammstein. His father walked up to me and I introduced myself to him, telling him I was one of Mico's closest friends. "I TOLD him, you gotta quit smoking and drinking," his dad said, "I TOLD HIM. I BEGGED him, and he WOULDN'T listen to me. It should've been ME that died, not my Mico." I sympathetically listened and agreed.

His girlfriend, Crystal, walked in alone. She had this awful look on her face of utter shock that made her look stoned out of her gourd. Not having dated Mico that long, not knowing many of his friends or family, she sat in solitude during the funeral, as I looked back at her, recognizing her only from the pictures of her on Facebook.

Mico loved thunderstorms. A lot. That was one of our quirks as friends. Texting one another when storm watches and warnings were advised. "Are you watching The Weather Channel? We're in for a big one! I'm going outside to take pictures!" he'd say. One of the fiercest thunderstorms this summer blew over the church just as the funeral began. Latecomers were arriving with umbrellas, soaking wet. Huge, booming thunder erupted through the service, overshadowing what the priest was babbling on about, half in English and half in Serbian. (They really should've given that dude a better microphone for God's sake.)

That thunderstorm was PURE MICO. Voicing his displeasure at the funeral arranged for him and giving one last motherfuck to the universe and to let all of us know he was still there. I believe that with my whole heart. I watched his 3 daughters (one a grown woman, Amanda, one a teenager, Jackie, and the youngest, Rachel) and Amy sitting in the front row, with chills. The tears I could hold back no more.

I didn't follow the funeral procession to the cemetery, but Amy invited all of his friends and family to a celebratory gathering at his favorite restaurant and watering hole, Jimmy's, in Des Plaines. I went alone, and had to get to band by 7pm. I greeted Amy and spoke with her for a while, meeting some of Mico's other friends and greeting his family, though I didn't get to talk with Amanda, who was busy at a booth. While most everyone was drinking, which is typically uncomfortable for me, I ordered a Sprite and asked Amy if Crystal was there. "Yes, would you like to meet her?" she said. "Yes, I would." Crystal was sitting at the bar, still with that dazed look on her face, talking to someone I didn't know. I introduced myself, or Amy introduced us, I don't remember, but we began chatting right away. A really striking blond, I liked her immediately and could see immediately all that Mico saw in her. They'd mended their relationship since I'd last commented with Mico on Facebook, and it was she who sent the Des Plaines Police in to do a well-being check on Mico after not hearing from him for 24 hours, fearing the worst, her gut instincts on-target.

Crystal and I went out into the beer garden for a cigarette or two, and got to know one another. I spent most of my time at the dinner with her, encouraging her to eat, though she hadn't in upwards of 3 days. None of us had. We were all starving ourselves and nearly everyone was on an anti-anxiety drug to get through the last week. Mico's best guy buddy, John, had come out into the beer garden while we were smoking and commented on how many Xanax he's needed in the last several days.

Crystal is special. She and I have corresponded (she lives in De Kalb) since Mico passed away and have formed a unique bond that wouldn't have likely happened had he not died. She's someone I want to be friends with forever. I wish she lived closer so we could hang out. That girl can count on me 24/7 to help her get through this nightmare, which is still very raw to her, naturally. It's easy to tell someone "Life goes on.." but to actually live it is a different story, as is true for anyone who's lost someone they loved. She and I still write on Mico's Facebook wall, little messages to him, thinking in a silly way that he can see them. It's a coping mechanism, we realize that. But if it helps to take a little bit of the edge off the grief, go for it. I remind Crystal that she's got kids to take care of, work to do, and responsibilities outside of pining away over Mico, as we all do. I want to encourage her to be as strong as possible, as I do with Amy and the kids too.

I'm a firm believer in spirits from the great beyond. I talk to Mico, just like I talk to my late father, and I pray to God that they hear me. And I think they do.

A display was set up in the restaurant of pictures of Mico and his friends and family, which I took the time to observe. I thought it was cute that they included his favorite pair of shoes, his trademark Converse All-Stars. And his guitar. And his NASCAR memorabilia. Some of his favorite DVD's. A fitting tribute. Instead of all sobbing, we did our best to celebrate the man he was and always will be in our hearts. Eventually, I had to bid farewell to the gang and head to band, harried but ready for some therapeutic drum practice. His brand new Dodge was parked in Jimmy's lot, Amanda driving it, and I took a picture of it with my phone. His car was there at the party but he was not, nor will he ever be again. For that, my heart just breaks.

(Separately, iTunes is on shuffle and "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd just came on. How fitting.)

Flashback to 2006. I was making friends over on myspace (yes, it was THAT long ago), where I received a kind and humorous message from a man simply named "Mico." He lived in Des Plaines and I lived in Park Ridge, so I friended this new neighbor. We shared a lot in common--the most prevalent being our obsessive-compulsive desire to keep our homes clean, which I found most unusual given he was, after all, a man. He loved to cook, I loved to cook. He went to Maine East, I went to Maine South. We both played musical instruments (guitar and drums, respectively). We both had sarcastic, biting senses of humor. We both smoked and liked to drink. His emails were great. He could write very well, but he spelled like shit. He was high-school educated but extremely smart.

After emailing back and forth for several weeks, in December of '06, we finally decided to meet at Cheeseburger in Paradise, a restaurant in Des Plaines, for a beer. After a long conversation about a stubborn stain he couldn't remove from somewhere in his house, I brought him a welcome gift to the bar: a box of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. (They truly DO work! On everything!) Mico was at the bar with a couple of other female platonic friends, and we met. I found him to be slightly shy but still sarcastic and charming. We hit it off right away.

I was in an alcoholic daze, so I don't remember very much about our early friendship until after I separated from Craig and moved into Camp Swanky, where Mico was a regular visitor. Mico joked that I lived in Camp Swanky South (actually the Northwest Side of Chicago), and he lived in Camp Swanky North. "Where are we gonna meet, Swanky North of South?" he'd ask me. He dug Luke and Luke really liked him, for he was playful and friendly. Luke, being the best barometer of good people for me to be around, gave Mico an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

You could always hear from upstairs when Mico arrived at my apartment. He was driving a vintage Monte Carlo, and would always be blaring heavy metal out the windows. It was before his cab was his chief mode of transportation, back when he was bartending at the Sugar Bowl, our Des Plaines watering hole at the time. A good bartender, he was. Shame on him for letting me drive away drunk as many times as he did, but he was drinking at the same time behind the bar, so his judgment was a iffy at best.

Mico and I each thought the other was really cute, but we never ventured into romance. Our vibe was consistently that of a big brother and little sister. Being an only child, Mico always called me the "little sister he never wanted." We'd comment on how good the other looked at any given moment, but we were never romantically interested in one another. More so, we'd bitch to one another about our failed attempts at romance with other people like two girlfriends would. He was an admitted metrosexual, in touch with his sensitive side, which was very true. Not that he went so far as to get manicures, but the man dressed to the nine's when he wanted to and rocked it out, and took meticulous care of his hairdo, and wore killer male scents that would make any woman want to eat him alive, though his hookups were sporadic and dissatisfying. Never the right girl. Other girls seemed to suck the life right out of him, over and over again, which always made me sad for him.

Though he did introduce me to his single friend, Art, who I ultimately dated during the summer of 2007. It was a toxic relationship, as we were both raging alcoholics, and failed miserably, for which I don't blame Mico, but would often show up at his apartment frazzled and in tears over not being able to find Art, not being able to get a hold of Art, or Art just being a general dickwad. I'd get too drunk to drive and he actually would let me sleep it off on his couch with some regularity. (That was how I met his youngest daughter for the first time. She was sick one day and Amy had to work and Mico had to take care of his kid. I think Rachel was only about 3 or 4 at the time.)

Later, he was on one dating site that he convinced me to join, which was where I ultimately met Christopher. (Thanks a LOT, Mico. THAT TURNED OUT WELL, YOU FUCKING IDIOT!). For our large social circle, we still sought out people to date online. It was somehow safer for the shy side of each of us. Mico always preferred the company of a few good friends to that of a big crowd anyway, as did I.

The times I would take the train downtown to stay with Christopher, Mico would pick me up in the cab from the Cumberland station and drive me home. We'd always meet at the "Kiss-n-Ride," which we called the "Hug-n-Ride," and goddamnit, I ALWAYS paid him for my cab rides. I never mooched a ride from him. He deserved that and more. He could get from O'Hare to the Cumberland station, or from somewhere in Des Plaines, to pick me up in literally 5 minutes. God knows how he did it. But just like driving the Monte, the cab was always blaring the Rammstein and he was smoking a cigarette. His typical cab customer was a "regular," which was usually an old lady going to a doctor's appointment or the grocery store, after which he'd always lend a hand and help the old fogie inside and lug groceries, or put a walker or wheelchair in the car or house. He had a big, giving, open heart and would go to great lengths to help other people. That was just his nature. It's a cliche to say he'd give you the shirt off his back, but he would. Literally.

("Wish You Were Here" just shuffled on. Mico, leave me alone! I'm trying to write, you fucker!)

Mico was very supportive and proud of me sobering up. He had enough self-control, though he liked to drink a lot, to not drink in front of me, and resisted my requests to meet at Jimmy's for dinner, because there was a bar there. Instead, he'd have me over to his apartment and always had pop on hand. He reluctantly would, after I harranged him enough, to let me have some of his pot, which only ever served to get me nauseated and paranoid. But at least he shared. It's a blessing that drug never worked on me, in hindsight.

Our friendship was a lot of give and take, compromise and pacify, soothe and encourage. We loved one another a lot. I welled up in tears preparing to write this blog early this morning, thinking of him again, with both love and anger in my heart. When he died, I commented that I didn't lose a friend, but had gained another guardian angel. And that's absolutely true.

At the top of this page is the only surviving picture of Mico and I together, from 2007, drunk at The Sugar Bowl. My brother from another mother. Mico Curcic, I miss you terribly. I think about you every day. I resist the urge to text you in the parking lot at work while I'm having my morning smoke. I'll take care of things down here as best I can. You better be watching out for me from Heaven.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Because I'm a Polish Fighter.

Saw these at the little Polish store in the same strip mall as the chiropractor's and had to have them. Because I'm Polish. And a fighter. And they kick ass. I think they're meant to be hung over your rearview mirror, but I prefer to put 2 fingers in each one and beat on Luke. And bonus! I managed to complete the entire transaction IN POLISH with the store clerk. She never knew I wasn't 100% one of "her kind."

"Hang With Me"

Following up my dream from last night...

Will you tell me once again
How we're gonna be just friends?
If you're for real and not pretend
Then I guess you can hang with me

When my patience wearing thin
When I'm ready to give in
Will you pick me up again
Then I guess you can hang with me

And if you do me right
I'm gonna do right by you
And if you keep it tight
I'm gonna confide in you
I know what's on your mind
There will be time for that too
If you hang with me

Just don't fall
Recklessly, headlessly in love with me
Cause it's gonna be
All heartbreak
Blissfully painful and insanity
If we agree
Oh, you can hang with me

When you see me drift astray
Outta touch and outta place
Will you tell me to my face?
Then I guess you can hang with me

And if you do me right
I'm gonna do right by you
And if you keep it tight
I'm gonna confide in you
I know what's on your mind
There will be time for that too
If you hang with me

Just don't fall
Recklessly, headlessly in love with me
Cause it's gonna be
All heartbreak
Blissfully painful and insanity
If we agree
Oh, you can hang with me

Will you tell me once again
How we're gonna be just friends?
If you're for real and not pretend
Then I guess you can hang with me

And if you do me right
I'm gonna do right by you
And if you keep it tight
I'm gonna confide in you
I know what's on your mind
There will be time for that too
If you hang with me

Just don't fall
Recklessly, headlessly in love with me
Cause it's gonna be
All heartbreak
Blissfully painful and insanity
If we agree
You can hang with me

Don't fall
Recklessly, headlessly in love with me
Cause it's gonna be
All heartbreak
Blissfully painful and insanity
If we agree
Oh, you can hang with me

A Crazy Dream That Makes Some Sense

Crazy dream, though I think I know it's origin. I want to get it down while it's still fresh.  *Not meant to be a great piece of writing.*

Had to go down to Outpatient in the hospital with TOC so he could have a test done on his bowels. He had to drink a prep liquid, and while he was doing that, I was frantically searching these rolling files of blank paperwork for the right form to fill out for his test and couldn't find one.  I called upstairs to my office to have Mary the filer run me a form down ASAP. 

Filled it out and watched "Boogie Nights" in the waiting room waiting for him, which was bizarre, and furiously talked with my office about when I'd be back to continue working. It was crazy in the office and crazy in Outpatient, reflecting my anxiety at work when we're super rushed and busy, and there I was off wasting time with TOC.  He was wearing scrubs to the test (which he wore all day yesterday during his office hours, whereas usually he changes into a shirt and tie, and one day a few months ago I told him I'd give him $50 if he stayed in his scrubs all day and didn't change, but he didn't. I think he looks really good in his scrubs. Maybe he remembered that, I don't know.)

He finished his test, and I asked what took him so long, and he complained that it gave him diarrhea that he was having trouble controlling. I had to get back to the office and he had to rush home to his family. We went out to the parking lot where he was driving a brown minivan (he really has a black Ford Escape SUV). A computer in his car let us know that he had 5 emergency calls from the office he needed to answer.

He started telling me about a trip he took camping with his wife and family and some other people. (He's leaving for 3 days in Florida w/his wife on Sunday night in reality and will be out of the office all next week, which makes me anxious and sad.) He was complaining that his wife chose to sleep with another person they were with, female I think, in a big sleeping bag while he slept alone. "No Tim in the sleeping bag," he told me. I pretended to feel sorry for him about this, and instead of him driving me back to my office entrance, he drove me home.

My house was more like a compound, and my brother and his family were living in a little house in the back yard, and we had a big garage filled with racks of dresses, tools, and it had stairs leading down into it (not terribly practical to get a car inside), and I told him my brother liked to skateboard up and down the stairs. Luke was home playing video games, my mom was inside, my late grandma was there and wanted to meet him, and my sister-in-law came home from work and was completely atypical of her quiet, shut-down personality.

Now, TOC knows my mother and brother in real life, as well as Luke, but he wanted to meet the rest of my family. He was in no rush to get back home, though I kept reminding him he was going to be late getting home to his wife. His diarrhea let up, apparently. He kept kissing me on the cheek and making small talk with my family. Luke was also watching "Boogie Nights," which no, I would never allow, but whatever.

I never did return to work, and went into a bathroom to look at myself in a mirror and my hair was all down. I had a big receding hair line too, which my brother really has, but I don't. Anyway,  I used Vaseline to spike it back up, which was too goopy and didn't work well. (He and I were just talking about what I use on my hair yesterday to keep it spiked up. He asked if I used mousse, which I said was too pliable and fluffy, and told him I use special glue.)

We parted company so he could go home, after having spent an inordinate amount of time with my family. Knowing I wouldn't see him again for several days, I hugged and kissed him on the cheek (which is customary, which we didn't get to do yesterday, and then he forgot to call me on his way home from work, which upset me and I gave up and went to bed, only to dream of him later).

I'll have to ask Kate what she thinks the dream meant, since she's really good at that, but I think it's a desire of mine to draw him closer to my life and my family, hence the addition of the dead grandmother to the fold, and to take care of him, and to keep his wife as far out of the picture as possible, though he's expressed that "someday" he wants me to meet her, though neither of us is in a big rush. I think I'm nervous at the prospect of him taking a little vacation with her, without the kids, and naturally a tad jealous and possessive. Especially given that I specifically asked him--no more like told him--to call me last night and he didn't. I have no idea what time he finally got out of the hospital, but he had a mountain of things to get done before he left for the weekend.

My body slept in an extra 2 hours this morning so I could enjoy the duration of this odd dream. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bad Mood Rising!

It seriously just took me about 6 minutes of fiddling to put a light bulb in the lamp in my bedroom. My hands shake THAT much. I'm THAT inept.

It's 75 degrees in the living room where I'm writing at the table, and I'm wearing a long-sleeved long underwear top, a t-shirt with Steven Drozd's heroin-dazed "Christmas on Mars" face on it, and an old, giant sweatshirt that belonged to Chris. I'm also wearing flannel pajama pants and a pair of Ugg boots. And I'm still completely freezing. My 113-lb frame is just not insulated. I freeze all day long, no matter how many layers I incorporate. It's sort of like being in perpetual drug withdrawal in it's utter discomfort. It's like chasing the dragon with no dragon at the end of the road to breathe warm fire onto your weary bones.

My mom has the television on, and I'm listening to a morose iTunes mix with my ear buds. Though I had to skip around and listen to "Hey Nineteen" again because TOC still hasn't figured out the musical dildo-laden question I asked him last night, which made me laugh more at work today. I caught him off guard and he said he really hadn't paid much attention to the question, but that I should not tell him who the band or song were. Since I'm relatively certain he's still not reading my blog, I figure I'm safe.

Today's kindest moment? TOC was eating raspberries as he had no lunch, rationing them out little by little before he saw patients. He moved on to a container of watermelon, and while I was at my desk working, he came over and offered me the last 2 pieces. "Want some watermelon?" he said. I wasn't hungry, but he looked down at my freezing body and fed it to me off a fork anyway. It was good. Not enough to sustain me, but every little bit helps. That's half-why I engaged him in helping take care of me while my mom and Luke are both away in October. Left alone, I will just not eat, most likely. But he's supportive of what I do eat, and that is very important to me and as I've said before, helpful. A true act of love and kindness.

I put in for a day off of work on October 4th. I texted TOC that I wanted a day alone "to just be Keith Moon all day." I desperately need a day off of work with nobody in the house to take a mental break. My job stresses me out completely, daily, to the point of exhaustion. True, I'll lose money that I desperately need to pay my bills (drugs being the most expensive thing I have to buy, as my insurance covers neither my anxiety pills and only half of my pain pills). But it's a mental trade-off. I need a day where nobody has any expectations of me, unless it's one of the engaged friends who plan to take me out to eat for dinner that week my family is away. I technically *could* have Luke home with me that afternoon/evening, but I frankly don't want him there.

By that time, I will have a full month's supply of benzos and narcotics, and could easily procure booze if I so desired. I could sit around the house and get really high and go wail on my drums all day, though unlike Moon, I doubt I'd accidentally drown myself in a pool after drinking and mixing Antabuse. I'm a dumb junkie but not THAT dumb. And I'm too proud of my sobriety/cleanliness. And I'm too disciplined with my drugs now to do that. The fact remains I *could* do it. I'm confident I won't. But I could. Especially taking the day off. Still, I figured I deserved some unadulterated alone time for a day, and chose the day where I work 1-7pm, in a frenzy of activity, one of my most stressful days. I gave my so-called superior no explanation as to why I wanted the day off. I merely put the requisition on her desk and walked away. I heard her say "October 4th, what day is that? A TUESDAY?" and opened the office door, mumbling to myself, "You got THAT right, sister. I'm taking off on a Tuesday." Fuck ya'll. It's nothing if not a chance to let me go to church with my iPod, sit down and concentrate and learn the fills to "Behind Blue Eyes." I'll behave, I'll behave, I'll behave.

Ma's watching a documentary on Jackie O. They're presently on the early White House days, blah blah, and everything is graceful and beautiful, and life is good, and their China is very pretty and well-coordinated, and she took Dexys to stay awake during the day, and they have two beautiful young children, blah blah. (Do you not know what Dexys are? Do I have to teach all of you about every single drug addict reference in junkie-speak?) I'm half-listening out of one ear to hear what her audio-taped opinion was about all of her husband's philandering. Say what you want about JFK as a president, but goddamnit, that guy got LAID. I, for one, would prefer the leader of my country to be a satisfied man. Look at Clinton. Great president. Married to a prude and getting blown under his desk. Call me crazy, but at least he got shit done and the country was a better place for his affairs. George W. Bush? The whole place went to hell. He should've stuck to snorting Fine Columbian.

I love my mom fiercely, but her negativity-laden banter sometimes upsets me when I'm trying to frame my psyche in the most positive light possible. This afternoon, I Tweeted the following: "It's pathetic how many times throughout the day my mom says the word pathetic." I don't think she realizes how often she employs the word. Not quite pathetic, but I feel sad for her. My friend Bob tweeted back, " As in, "This spoon is pathetic!" "This toilet is pathetic!"?" He didn't know how on the mark he was. His post made me giggle, but he was right. Quite literally, everything in my mom's world is somehow pathetic. Today it was the tag on the back of her shirt, which she couldn't see to cut off with her shearing scissors because her eyes are so bad, which is pathetic, and it was pathetic that the tag was sewn so tightly into the fabric of the shirt, to the point where she said, after I said, "Its' a TAG. On a SHIRT," "It's a BIG FUCKING DEAL!" Oh, let's simmer down there. I understand her eyes really bother her and the tag was hard to get out, but I see no reason to panic. There was a black spot on the kitchen floor tonight that was pathetic too, I think. I could cite several more examples, but how pathetic would that be? The only thing more pathetic than her saying "pathetic" is that I seem to be perpetually around to listen to it. And taking the time to complain in my writing place to pathetically postulate about how pathetic my life is! I really need to get out more.

(For the record, Jackie O had one of the most bourgeois speaking voices on the planet. No wonder her husband was getting it on with Marilyn Monroe. This is what it sounds like when doves cry!)

Next Wednesday morning, I'm going to a preschool and giving a talk to a group of 3 and 4 year olds about my favorite little monkey, Curious George. They're learning about him and reading the books, and I happened to mention to my friend who is their teacher that I still sleep with the Curious George I got when I was a baby. I brought him outside to show off, and he's worn, tattered though not torn, and stinky as hell. I sleep with him in the crook of my neck, never a night apart. I'm 39 years old. George has been there with me for literally ALL of it. Every night. One of my favorite pictures (that I can't find) is one Craig took of Luke sleeping on my chest when he was 2 days old, where I'm also asleep, and George is beside us, wearing "I Love Mommy" booties that were supposed to be for Luke. Juvenile of me, I realize, but still cute. So I have to tell this preschool class about all the adventures George has been on with me, like going to college, on vacations, on my honeymoon, all my trips in and out of the hospital, without the most colorful and interesting story, "Curious George Goes to Alcohol Rehab." A shame, as that story's a real pip. I'll wear my Curious George work scrubs for added effect. I won't let the children touch him, whereas they can touch Luke's still new-looking version of George that I'm also bringing along. A) I'm totally OCD about who gets to handle him and B) there are enough germs laden on George's body for the students to all develop cholera. I refuse to wash him, for he'd lose that Andrea smell and that tattered, "Fuck you, I've survived the loony bin and these are my scars" look he's got. Living with me, Curious George didn't have a goddamn paper route in a red wagon. He went through hell and like me, lived to tell about it. Curious George: The Survivor.

Speaking of whom, it's time for us to get Luke ready for bed and go cuddle together for what I'm hoping is a restful night's slumber.