14.

I put things in boxes. I make lists. (I am definitely more like my mother than she knows.)

One of my siblings turned 14, yesterday. I celebrated by making a list of things that happened in my 14-year-old life, while he was playing Halo 4 with his friends.

When I Was 14:

  1. Had my first kiss. First “boyfriend.” Awww. He did change my life, though.
  2. Stopped using a Sharpie as my preferred writing utensil.
  3. Participated in my first theater competition. Shakespeare festival. I was Viola, from Twelfth Night.
  4. A rumor was spread about me secretly being a prostitute. Which some people believed.
  5. Eyeliner! Black. And black t-shirts. Became acutely aware of how much I hate wearing floral prints.
  6. Started eating. Lost 2o pounds.
  7. Found Korn. Judge me all you want. I love Korn.
  8. Flew by myself for the first time. To Long Beach, from Salt Lake City. I felt pretty special, walking across a tarmac.
  9. Cast as a 40s secretary in two plays. Hyperventilated on stage — on purpose. The skills I learned during those shows have stuck with me, but apparently my roles don’t count as work experience.
  10. Played poker for the first time. Had some major beginner’s luck. Have never won a game since.

What were you doing, when you were 14?

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Visions of Sugarplums

I found a new hobby. Nut-cracking.

I mean that in the most literal sense. Almonds. Hazelnuts. Walnuts.

I had never used a nutcracker before. We’re not talking the dancing Tchaikovsky kind. We’re talking this kind:

In my mother’s neighborhood, there are many neighbors who exchange Christmas gifts with one another. Said neighbors often give things such as popcorn, cookies, or 2-liter bottles of Sprite. Mom gives people things like homemade fudge, or Chex mix made according to her dad’s delicious recipe. This year, someone gave Mom a bag of nuts…the unshelled kind.

I took it upon myself to crack some. And oh my goodness, I just found the greatest stress-reliever.

Now, I need to find a way to roast the shelled ones, or something, so that they taste decent. 🙂

*****

In other news, I continue to have Supernatural marathons, with my brothers.

I seriously have NO IDEA why it took me so long to start watching this show.

*****

Also, everyone should check out abebooks.com for all their book-buying needs. Today’s awesome story? I bought a textbook that, according to the campus bookstore website, cost $125. On abebooks.com, I got it for $41. Hooray!

Aaaand…that is my plug for the day.

Bye for now. 🙂

Ramblings.

I used to have a box labeled “Broken Electronics.” This was not a figurative box inside my brain, but an actual box that sat on the floor of my closet. Old phones and CD players and mp3 players and voice recorders filled this box. I don’t know what happened to that box.

I’m getting to the point where I need a new laptop. Mine is old (3.5 years) and dying. It will cost more money to replace the parts that need replacing than it will to just get a new machine. So. I’m shopping for laptops.

I also need a new phone. The screen on mine has been cracked for almost a year. It doesn’t bother me, so long as the cracked pieces of screen stay intact, and don’t stab me in the face while I’m on the phone. But, the power button has recently become skitzy, and doesn’t always allow me to turn on my phone. So. I’m shopping for phones.

I hate buying new electronics. I suddenly become aware of how spoiled I am, and I don’t know how to reconcile that with my self-deprecating personality. “I’m really not that awesome, but I have all these new-fangled gadgets.” Mm. Brat. I also become aware of how consumeristic America is, and that makes me sick. And then I go and participate in it. Hypocrisy for the win? *Gag*

Truthfully, I want to just bide my time until someone invents a printer that I can hook up to my brain, and then I can compose volumes without having to use a computer of any sort. And I’m waiting for Jennifer and my mother to pick up on my telepathy so I can dispense with a phone altogether. Thus far, no one can read my mind.

Even when I can read theirs.

*****

It is “Christmas” break. My breaks are normally spent watching copious amounts of crime dramas and eating excessive amounts of homemade snacks. This break has been no different.

I started watching Supernatural on Netflix. I do not personally have a Netflix account, but my brother does. And he and I have late-night Supernatural marathons in our mother’s basement. I don’t know why I have never watched this show before. Attractive men hunting ghosts and demons, who are occasionally attractive women?? Haha. Kidding. Though that is pretty much what happens. I’d love to write papers about Supernatural, someday. Though, I’m more interested in how religious people perceive crime dramas in general. My mother, for example, hates most of the shows I watch because she thinks it’s bringing evil into my mind. Crime dramas are my superhero movies. I don’t get into people with crazy powers saving the world. But I do like watching human beings take down bad guys.

*****

I don’t attend church on a regular basis, but when I do, it is typically with my family. Like I did yesterday.

I have this thing about church musical numbers. Most of them are cheesy and detract from whatever sense of good will toward humankind that going to church supposedly instills in people. Some are beautiful. The beautiful ones aren’t usually “appropriate” for the setting. There was one such musical number yesterday. A lovely classical piano solo.

My spirituality is tied heavily to music.

Also, I have never understood why people think it’s cute to listen to little children sing. Unless the little child is mine, in some fashion, I hate hate HATE listening to little kids sing. Not cute. Very obnoxious. Encourage kids to sing. Teach them about music and its power to uplift and inspire. Just don’t make me listen to it.

And on that note, I’m going to track down some hot cider. It’s blizzarding, outside.

Infection, Disease, and Illness. Oh my.

Jennifer and I were conversing earlier in the week about the conditions formerly known as STDs. Jennifer doesn’t agree with the relabeling of these conditions as STIs. Had our conversation not been rudely interrupted by the need to do our jobs, I think I would have been able to persuade him that this renaming was/is a positive move.

Why? Because the word “disease” is so stigmatized. Anyone can get an infection. Infections are spread to humans by other humans anytime humans touch something that is attached to or has been touched by other humans. We’ll count breathing air as a sort of tactile phenomenon, for the sake of the argument. Such are the ways of bacterial and viral infections.

Did you know that chicken pox is caused by a virus that is part of the herpes family?

Cancer is a disease. Cancer is serious. We refer to people who have had cancer as “So-and-So, you know, the one who had the cancer?” Chicken pox? Meh. Every kid gets the chicken pox. It’s caused by a viral infection. There is no “So-and-So, you know, the one who had the chicken pox?”.

Referring to the array of conditions now known as STIs as, well, infections, encourages people to spend less time focusing on how diseased they may be and more time on treating their infections. This leads to a healthier, happier populous. Hooray! And this paves the way for better, more effective dialogue between those who research or treat said infections and those who have or are at risk (are you a person? you fit in this category) to have them.

Sounds great, right?

 

So, then, let us talk about other illnesses. Let us talk about mental illnesses.

 

Generalized Anxiety. Major Depression. Social Anxiety. PTSD. OCD.

Welcome, friends, to my brain.

I have spent much of my evening — since consuming that large bowl of peppermint stick ice cream — reading articles about mental illness, and absorbing the attitudes people have toward those who are somehow mentally ill.

People are not very nice.

Physical illnesses are taken seriously because their effects are visible. I was recently diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy — a condition that was probably caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and resulted in the right side of my face being paralyzed. I was eating dinner with my family, and my brother made me angry. Then he cracked a joke, and I tried not to laugh. But I started to smile. Until I noticed that only half my face was moving. We thought I was having a stroke. Emergency room. Imaging. Blood work. Thousands of dollars. My face is almost back to normal, five weeks later. My trip to the hospital unearthed other physical-health-related concerns, so Dani has more doctors and tests and bills to look forward to, over the next few months. 

Nevertheless, when half my face was unable to move, I got away with a lot of things. I got extensions on papers. I got leeway at work. People were extra nice to me. No one complained when I spent my free daylight hours sleeping. I got to wear an eye patch (my pirate name is Stroke-Face McGee). People seemed genuinely concerned with my welfare, and tried very hard to be supportive in whatever way they could manage.

I’ve spent my collegiate career struggling with debilitating anxiety. People are not incredibly willing to let you sleep off a panic attack when you have ten of them a week. People are not incredibly understanding of an inability to compose because your brain will not calm down. People sometimes tell you to stop talking about how unattached you are to staying alive, because they are sick of hearing it. (You read that correctly. People tell you to stop telling them that you are having suicidal thoughts.) People tell you to get over yourself, stop complaining, and function.

And, just so we are clear, my experience with mental illness is relatively mild, in comparison to many of the people with whom I have lived, or worked, or been friends, or otherwise interacted.

I’ve read so many comments today from people who tout that mental illness is a cop out, or that it didn’t exist back in their day, or that single-parent households are the breeding grounds of psychosis and if young people would just keep their hands to themselves and wear clothing with higher necklines then these things wouldn’t exist.

Near my old apartment, there was a billboard that read, “You wouldn’t say, ‘It’s just cancer.’ Depression hurts.”

I’m not going to equate depression and cancer. They are two different beasts. My dad’s cancer went undetected for quite some time because his brain tumor caused him to exhibit symptoms of depression. But it wasn’t depression that killed him.

Still. Depression needs to be taken seriously. Mental illness needs to be taken seriously. There need to be better resources. There needs to be a better dialogue. People need to be able to get the help that they need to live healthier, happier lives. And those whose lives are fortunate enough to not be touched in one way or another by mental illness need to be considerate of the experiences of those who are struggling. And those whose mental health is under control need to be considerate of those whose mental health is not, for one reason or another. We need to erase the stigma that those with mental illness are lazy or damaged or freakish or what have you.

This has become quite the extensive treatise. In short:

Be kind. Be understanding. Try to ask for help, if you need it. Be willing to help, if you are asked. Do not pass judgment. Keep a lookout for those who need someone. Be someone else’s person. Extend to others the words and actions you would want to receive, if you were at your lowest point.

You know.

Basic tenets of positive human interaction.

Pain. Perfection.

(Credit for the title of this post goes to Jonathan Larson and RENT.)

Somewhere in the back of my mind is a dilapidated box labeled “Painless”. It is dilapidated because that is what happens to boxes when they are left, empty, in the back of an attic. My brain is, in many ways, like an attic…with fewer spiders.

I remember being so emotionally numb that I craved physical pain. I needed a fix of feeling. Any feeling, really — but pain registers to be a strong feeling, and I wanted something strong. And then I remember being in so much emotional pain that I tried to drown it by making myself physically numb. And then, a few weeks ago, I was in agonizing physical pain, and nothing would take off the edge.

Pain and I go back quite a while. Hence, my box of Painless things has been empty for some time.

Now, I know I started this post off with something that would seemingly segue into a deeper discussion on pain and the value of being able to feel, or something. We may have that discussion at a later point in time.

Right now, I just want to talk to you about ice cream.

Much of my attachment to the break between fall and spring semesters is tied to food. “Holiday” food is incredible. Fudge. Chex Mix. Wassail. Brownies. A plethora of soups, and breads, and side dishes that somehow incorporate potatoes. Homemade wonders. And there’s always the surprise unknown-something-or-other that a neighbor drops by…you do not ask what is in it, but you eat it. And it is surprisingly delicious and doesn’t give you food poisoning.

In my beloved place of residence, we have Farr’s Peppermint Stick ice cream every Winter Break. A bowl of said ice cream is the official kick-off of three weeks of gluttony. I top mine with dark chocolate syrup.

So, I just had my Inaugural Bowl of Amazingness. And now I’m biding my time until the pain kicks in, because I am NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT DAIRY. My out-of-control anxiety does a lot of crazy things, including but not limited to mimicking various physical disorders of sorts. Like lactose intolerance. Ergo, Dani isn’t supposed to eat massive bowls of Farr’s Peppermint Stick ice cream.

But she did anyway. Now we are sitting here, waiting for my body to engage in war against the celebratory dairy product that has been consumed by it. Do I care? I am sure my answer will differ in half an hour. For the time-being, we are contented.

Yet another experience that will leave the Painless box empty.

C’est la vie.

Christmas Memories: Part One

The Holidays. Theoretically, the most wonderful time of the year. Yes?

It can be.

I remember being…little. I must have been eight, because it was a year when we were at home for Christmas, and not visiting my grandparents in Arizona. My dad was still alive. I was the proud big sister of two brothers. I must have been eight.

Dad had been out of work for awhile. My family jokes about me being able to remember everything. Truthfully, there is a lot I don’t remember. I don’t remember how long my dad had been out of a job. I don’t remember if the company he had been working for was the insurance one, or the marketing one. I don’t think it was the computer-ish one, because that was the last job he worked before he died.

Actually, it was the computer one. It was my last Christmas with my dad, if I am remembering correctly. He’d been out of a job since October. Like many of the Christmases I remember from my childhood, we had the “talk.” The one about money being tight, and Christmas being small. I didn’t care, because I never really cared about the stuff.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that it was a couple days before Christmas, because the box contained food. So, a few days before Christmas, there was a box on our doorstep. A big box. Inside were presents and food from people I didn’t know. But I did know the box was for us. From people who wanted to give something to someone whose Christmas was going to be small.

I don’t believe in big turning points. I don’t believe that the course of an entire life can be whittled down to a bulleted list of phenomena that directed the trajectory of one person’s existence. I am comprised of some big moments, and innumerable small ones. My story is composed of a handful of “aha”s, but the pages are filled with details that are seemingly inconsequential.

Like a box on a doorstep.

But each Holiday season, I think about that box. I think about what it means to be grateful for what I have. I think about how fortunate I am to have had the experience of receiving kindness and generosity from those who were in a position to give it. And I think about the position I am in now, and whether I am becoming a person who remembers with gratitude the help she has received throughout her life — and whether she’s becoming a person who will extend help toward other people.

I don’t really have an answer for the question posed in that. I cannot tell you with certainty that I remember, or that I give. Sometimes I do. Sometimes, I do not.

But like clockwork, each year, I do remember — even if it is just for a few moments. A line in my story. A fragment. And I hope to someday be a person who affects change in the lives of others. To leave a box on someone else’s doorstep, and ease a little anxiety and heartache.

Blogging About Blogging

Once upon a time, there was a Less-Blog-Obsessed Dani. She’s currently on vacation with Sane Dani and Healthy Dani and No Anxiety Dani, somewhere in the Mediterranean. Santorini, is my best guess. I am here, instead, eating hummus on mini-croissants and watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

I was in junior high, when I started my first blog. My background was a picture of London, at night. Everything was dedicated to London, to the idea of getting out of the States and living above a locally-owned book store in what I perceived to be the World’s Greatest City. There wasn’t much writing on my blog. Most of my time was spent reformatting the pages to look just so. Dark, with the text in platinum, as though the words were my light, guiding me toward London and away from the fear I had grown to associate with my locus.

Today, I have seven? active blogs — one for each of my personalities. Joking. If you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and I have just offended you, I apologize. Seven active blogs. Four, including this one, are public. Two are places for me to vent where no one can come in to my room, look for a pair of socks, and happen upon my pages of inked-in-Sharpie venting sessions. Most spiral-bound notebooks do not come password-protected. The last one is how Jennifer and I keep in touch, when he visits his family in Canada and I am relegated to the status of a socially awkward conspiracy theorist who does sudoku and watches too many crime dramas (from my previous position as the same sort of human person, but with friends…a friend…singular…).

Like the boxes in my brain, I create new blogs as a way to start over, or regroup, or do some in-house mental feng shui. To compartmentalize:

Me: Ooooh! I will create a blog specifically dedicated to my personal crusade against slut-shaming and misogyny.

Brain: Great! And your second post will be about Tumblr and the need for pictures of cute cats.

Me: But I already have a blog dedicated to cute cats. That is why I created a Tumblr account in the first place.

Brain: Your point being…?

And so forth.

Very little balance is restored. And yet, I continue to try.

The more I blog, the more I read blogs. I sometimes dream about being the person whose witty comments make the day of some person I have never met. Whose blog is one of the cute “Most Visited” tiles on Google Chrome’s New Tab page. But, until that day arrives, I will find contentment in reading the witticisms of other lovely bloggers. Bloggers more eloquent than I could ever be.

But I keep trying, nonetheless. I’m like The Little Engine That Could…without coal. Or inclines. I don’t do inclines.

Enter Jennifer, Stage Left

There is a box containing Healthy things. It used to be a box labeled “Only In Dreams,” but then I met Jennifer.

I’ve spent much of my life navigating among messed up relationships of one sort or another. Jennifer is my bestie. (Yes, I call him my bestie. Don’t judge me.) He was the first person to show me that I was navigating among a host of unhealthy relationships, by showing me what healthy interaction looked like.

I told you that I apologize too much. Well. Tonight, I was apologizing to Jennifer. He has been sick, lately. He told me to stop apologizing. I apologized for apologizing, and told him that it is just me. If I knew how or who else to be, so as to not aggravate him, I would change accordingly.

Do you have a person who, theoretically, loves you unconditionally? When said individual is about to call you out for being an idiot, does s/he give you a particular look? My mother has a look.

Jennifer has a different look, but the meaning is the same. He shot me that look. “I’m not asking you to change. I’m not asking you to not be you.”

I love Jennifer for a multitude of reasons. But, this is one of them. Jennifer is the first person in my life to accept me, in all my glory and all my folly. At this time last year, I was trying to figure out how to be the person my then-partner wanted me to be. I’d done it before, and I assumed I would find myself doing it again, at some point. It didn’t compute that I was in an unhealthy situation.

I thought that only in dreams and novels and Nora Ephron movies did people love one another and accept each other in all their imperfections. So, when Jennifer showed me what healthy interaction looks like, I had to relabel my box.

 

I’ve been fairly sick, recently. My body has decided to join my mind in plotting my early demise. I’m floating somewhere between We Don’t Know What’s Wrong With You and Let’s Wait And See If Things Fix Themselves. As my box of Healthy things rids itself of my body and sends it over to Wish We Were Canadian things, I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about what has found its way into that Healthy box.

Like Jennifer — who does have a box all his own, but likes to travel.

Introductions.

Hi, World. I am terrible at introductions…my apologies. Um. Where to start? Name. I am Dani. I’m a student at an underrated state school, studying literature. Literature, rather. This morning, it deserves to be capitalized. I’m a terrible writer. You’ve probably gleaned that from my usage of “terrible” twice…three times, now…in the same paragraph. And my excessive inclusion of ellipses. Sorry about that.

I apologize a lot. People tell me not to. It’s unattractive. It undermines my purpose, whatever that purpose may be. I apologize for apologizing.

I like boxes. Drawers. Filing cabinets. Tupperware. I like to organize things. A ritualistic cleansing, of sorts. Life is messy, and I am a mess. Everything in its place? I am learning quickly that not every thing has a “place.” Some things have two places. Three. More. My life is composed of things that have nothing to do with one another, all of which are connected. Their place is inside my head, where I spend most of my time.

Yes. I spend most of my time inside my head. And I have spent most of my life trying to compartmentalize things. There are Family things. School things. Music things. Friend things. Unrequited Love things. Unrealized Dreams things. Anxiety And Depression things. Dead People things. Run Away With Me And Travel The World things. Get This Out Of My Head And On To Paper things. A lot of things. But these things do not stay in their boxes. They escape, and run around inside my brain. They free other things from their boxes, joining forces, creating alliances, all in cahoots against my sanity.

It’s a conspiracy.

Regardless, the things come and go from their “places” as they please. They connect. They break up. At times, they are torn apart. Or forced to sit in timeout with one another until they can behave and work together. Whatever goes on in the outside world, life is never boring, in here. Inside my head.

Would you like to come in?