Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Broken Eggs (or It's Hard to Have an Appetite When Something Is Eating You)

I haven't been hungry in over a month. Oh, I've felt hunger pangs and certainly followed through with them by eating something. But I haven't felt any kind of craving or enjoyment from it. I just eat when my stomach feels empty and stop when it feels full. But I don't enjoy it at all. Even the thought of eating sometimes makes me feel quite nauseated. It's something I've never experienced before, as I used to do exactly the opposite when things got difficult.

Of course, my first reaction is to assume that I have some kind of tumor sitting on that part of my brain that controls such things. My second reaction is that I really need to stop watching House every single time it comes on (What can I say? I have a thing for Kal Penn.) After I think about that for a while, I realize that my issue probably has something to do with sadness, or disappointment, or pain, or stress. When I start feeling anxiety or insecurity, apparently my new reaction is to shut down. My digestive system switches to survival mode, and when I do make myself eat, it's always an egg sandwich. Egg, cheese, sometimes bacon, on a bagel. And I chew and swallow as mechanically as a fuel pump. My stomach just acts annoyed at the whole process.

I can feel the anxiety coming on every single time it happens. I never know how long it will last or how people will react to it. It's a bit like carrying a raw egg around. If you carry it in your hand, people will think you're nutso. But if you put it in your pocket, eventually it will break and you are nutso anyway AND have egg yolk running down your leg. No matter what happens, you can't set it down and just walk away from it. It's your egg, and no one else can care for it but you.

At the point when my appetite went away, around the end of December, I was carrying no fewer than a dozen eggs around. Switching them from pocket to pocket, trying to keep them all hidden, but feeling that at any minute, all of them were going to break.

And so last Wednesday evening, as I sat here on my couch looking at my apartment which was still in shambles from moving in, thinking about everything I had to do and everything I wanted to do, I dropped my eggs. The anxiety finally broke through. First, there came the fact that I've been living in transit for over a month, between apartments, making calls every single day to the broker, the landlord, the cable company, the electric company...everyone. There was the added stress of trying to do my job while all of that was going on, and with that came the egg of never making enough to make ends meet without spending every waking moment on top of it doing freelance work, which I haven't gotten in almost a year. Additionally, there is my writing, which I could never sit down long enough to do without remembering some other huge task that needed to come first. And then there was the fact that I had been on a few dates with someone I'd had a crush on for a while and felt the ugliness and paranoia that comes with having an ex (one that I see every day) who cheated and manipulated and left me to build my self-esteem back up from the foundation. And then, if that weren't enough, there was the strange smell coming from the refrigerator, the fact my oven doesn't work, and the yellowing leaves of my houseplants. I couldn't just fix everything and get on with my life, and it made me crazy. By Friday, I was psychotic. And over the next four days, all I could do was muddle through, watch TV, and cry.

When I was a little kid, it was my job to gather the eggs in the henhouse. I would walk out with my big metal bucket, gently nudge the chickens aside, avoiding their sharp little pecks, and steal their eggs. Sometimes I would break one. Sometimes they would already be broken. But most of the time, I was able to get them all back to the house with their shells intact. At least until the day I discovered the laws of physics. I liked to swing the bucket around and around and marvel at the fact that if I went at just the right speed and without stopping too quickly, the eggs would stay right where they were in the bucket. I could have my fun and never break a single egg. But during one of these magical lessons in physics, I stopped the bucket mid-swing right over my head. The eggs fell out, and all of them broke. I then had to carry an empty bucket back to the house and confess, egg yolk and shells in my hair and a guilty expression on my face.

I broke the eggs. Literally twenty years ago. And figuratively last week. I can't put them back together. And I certainly can't make an omelet out of the mess. So, what do you do with a bunch of broken eggs? I guess you pick up your bucket and you walk away from them. You trust that soon you can eat something besides egg sandwiches again and that it's going to be all right.

(The included photograph is "Broken Eggs" by Canadian photgrapher Reuben R. Sallows, taken in 1911.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Fun

I have never really enjoyed snow. I know a lot of people do, and I do understand why. It's white, pretty, and cold like Keira Knightley. And it is rather peaceful to sit at your window first thing in the morning and watch the snow fall. It covers your sidewalk. It covers the cars across the street. It covers the body of the homeless person who froze to death in your driveway. Eventually, it's just hills of white as far as the eye can see.

Later, you can get bundled up in your best pair of thermal snowpants and go sledding. Or build a snowman. Or roll around and make snow angels. Or hide the body of your best friend who met his untimely demise with the business end of a snow shovel. There is certainly fun to be had in the winter if you possess the ability to have fun.

I, however, do not possess that ability. I find snow to be inconvenient, cold, and prone to hitting me in the face and getting caught in my eyelashes. And then there were the terrible experiences I've faced that involved snow. Allow me to tell you my story.

I was traveling through the Yukon territory with only a large husky for company. It was 75 below zero. And I needed to build a fire really badly. (I should have listened to the man from Sulphur Creek, I tell you. But oh, no, I was too stubborn.) I dropped my matches in a snow drift. And then my hands and feet went numb. So I thought about killing the dog and putting my hands in his entrails for warmth. But, alas, my hands were useless stumps by then, and then I went to sleep for a long, long time. It was a very, very unfortunate experience that left me quite scarred. I refuse to visit the Yukon ever again. Mostly because of the snow.

I suppose my next terrible experience could best be described as "a plane crash in the Andes that resulted in me and a few companions being forced to feed on the bodies of our fallen comrades" because it was in fact a plane crash in the Andes that resulted in me and a few companions being forced to feed on the bodies of our fallen comrades. I don't recommend the experience to anyone and would really rather not discuss any further. All I will say is that snow is to blame.

And then this other time, I was hired as caretaker of this secluded mountain hotel. And there was a lot of shenanigans involving a topiary and an oversized mallet. And I started drinking again and seeing naked dead people in bathtubs, and it was just a whole big mess. In retrospect, I was not the best caretaker. And since I was totally snowed in for months and months, it's no wonder that I went a little crazy and burned the whole place down. (Yes, burned it down. If you say anything about getting lost in a topiary maze and freezing to death, I'll burn you down too. Ahem.)

So, as you can see, snow is nothing but trouble for me. Which is why I would really rather be at home under my covers and not outside on a day when death may be found under those 3-4 inches of accumulation.

Who wants hot chocolate and some of this meat I just barbecued? Anybody? No?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Formerly Fat People Should Shut Up

It's popular to believe that when you get thinner, your life gets easier. So many companies insist that it's true in order to get you to buy their chocolate-coated ephedra tablets or use their acai enema kit. There is always the short-skirted lady gushing about how her husband just can't keep his hands off of her. "Thin is happy," she says as she runs down the beach in her bikini, free from the 300 pounds of flab she used to carry.

I'm not buying it. And no one else should either.

First of all, there is no way that you ever go from 300 pounds to 120 without ending up with a ton of stretch mark scars. Bitch, please. You aren't ever gonna wear that bikini without a lot of cosmetic surgery up and down your midsection, all over your upper arms, and down the backs of those legs. Just because you lose several hundred pounds of fat doesn't mean that your body goes along with the idea, and suddenly you look like Kelly Kapowski. Don't believe me? Deflate a balloon sometime and try to refill it. Also, quit running because we all know those knees are still aching from carrying around so much weight for so long.

Secondly, if your husband was uninterested when you were heavier, he's a dick anyway. When menopause hits, don't be surprised if you find him frequenting local pep rallies with a video camera.

All formerly fat people have a story. A stolen box of cupcakes frantically eaten in a closet. Other children throwing sticks. Being picked last at dodgeball. Sobbing to Richard Simmons on national television. The story is really always the same. "I was fat. I'm thin now. Therefore, I'm better." But is that really true?

I can tell you that it's not. Why? Because I've been on more miracle diets than the cyborg who replaced Oprah Winfrey in 1999.

My first big diet was at the age of 11, when I discovered that I had broken the 100-pound mark. I decided to get out my mother's 1980s aerobic tapes. Now, everyone knows that aerobics tapes from the 80s were really just softcore porn. So, rather than losing any weight, I learned how to lick my lips seductively while repeatedly shrugging my shoulders.

I spent the next 18 years trying to be thinner, fighting the battle of acceptance, being self-righteous when I succeeded, and kicking myself when I failed.

Being fat is hard. And I'm not talking about, "I was so thin in high school. Then, I had a baby and gained 20 pounds! Oh, my god, I'm so fat!" I'm talking about solid mass that starts during the awkward stage of puberty and stays with you until you are well into adulthood.

I remember this girl in college who was gorgeous, and perfect, and thin, and how she told me one time that the meanest thing a guy had ever said to her was how one of her scars was ugly. And I thought, "Bitch, you don't know from mean comments." When you're fat, everyone feels the need to point it out to you. Guys you're interested in, friends, teenage boys on a school trip. And you try to pretend you don't care, but it gets in there anyway and cuts at you until the day you die. (Or so I suspect.)

You find yourself trying to be one of those, "I like myself!" kinds of people, who knows exactly what size Marilyn Monroe was at her biggest and throws out that nugget of information when a supermodel is on TV.

And when you lose weight, it's equally hard because total strangers think you want to talk about it. It's like going up to a pregnant lady and asking her how the sex was. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, ASSHOLE! But you find yourself feeling slightly flattered anyway because it's nicer to hear that than some assfaced jerkwad call you "Wide Load" or something equally unoriginal. It makes me feel ashamed. Because I was fat. Because it has taken me so long to accept myself as just a person and not a fat person. And because I allowed people like Dr. Atkins, Oprah, and Valerie Bertenelli to make money on my insecurities for 18 years, when I could have been eating chocolate cake.

In short, no, I have no answers, or dieting tips, or any pairs of extra large pants to stand in while I hold the waistband out in front of me. I'm just a person who swims a few times a week and eats things. And right now, I want some candy. Oprah will just have to deal with that.