Sunday, April 28, 2013

I am no expert. In anything really.


I'm just trying to find my way. 

I've had health issues for over three years now. Skin discoloration, digestive issues, fatigue, nail fungus and pimples and boils galore. It's an embarrassing list of flaws I try to hide from everyone I meet with socks, coffee and makeup. Over the years, I've attempted to treat these problems separately, but last week, I found an article online, which suggested that these separate issues could all be reactions to particular foods that become inflamed when you have the delightfully entitled ailment, Leaky Gut. I won't try to explain it. I'm no Gastroenterologist. But I'll say that there might be some holes in my intestines, which need time away from certain foods in order to mend. So I'm trying this thing where I avoid——among sugar, alcohol and caffeine——grains. All grains, even quinoa and corn and brown rice! And, nuts and beans. It has been two days. I do feel better, I think. Anyway, I just wanted to say to you that I am no expert. In anything really. I read what I read. I believe what I believe. But trust me, I want to be open. I realize I look like a hypocrite now for my last entry is literally called "WHOLE GRAINS ARE GOOD FOR YOU". I apologize for the aggressive all CAPS. Grains——even whole grains——among a few other triggers, are potentially what has been causing much of my discomfort these past three years. So I just wanted to say to you that if my foot was made of avocados, sweet potatoes and spinach, I'd have it in my mouth this very moment.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"WHOLE GRAINS ARE GOOD FOR YOU!"

We walk to the little vegan Thai place around the corner. I don't want to get take out. I want a date. A date means no cell phones, no television show, no video games, no dog barking at every neighbor opening their door. I zip up my navy blue boots, comb my hair in the bathroom mirror and put on my pink scarf and winter coat. Scott turns off the computer and shuffles in his socks to the closet to grab his green sneakers.  

Five years ago, the saying, "If you can't beat em...join 'em", circled through my thoughts like an antique merry-go-round with chipping paint, a rusty motor and an 89-year-old attendant with dementia and smudged lipstick. 
If you can't beat 'em...join 'em. 
If you can't beat 'em...join 'em! 
IF YOU CAN'T BEAT THEM. JOIN THEM!"  
Faster and faster it whirled until one Christmas morning——after being a vegan for a year and a half——I decided to eat my mother's scrambled eggs. 

At a table with a slight wobble, while we sit and eat, he tells me——in regards to trading in my smart phone, quitting Facebook and being a vegan——to change the saying (which I tell him I detest) to, "If you can't beat 'em, coexist with 'em." 

I do! None of my friends are vegans. Most are not even vegetarians. No one in my family is vegan. And when we discuss food, I try very hard to not talk much about it. (Though, I admit, I've been known to occasionally lose my temper and scream, "WHOLE GRAINS ARE GOOD FOR YOU!") But I don't want to lose friends over this. And I don't want anyone to think I'm pressuring them into eating tofu, broccoli, or beans. No one wants to spend time with a protesting preacher type. Someone who points out all the flaws of the world, while calling everyone else naive for not noticing. Butthis is my place. So here is something. I hate——yes a very strong unpleasant word——but I hate how so many people think eating dead animals is justified because they eat only the fancy organically—fed dead animals. The ones killed (they imagine) by rugged men in Carharts who cradle their cows before carrying their carcasses in coolers to farmers markets.  

I just wish our first world country would progress past these uncivilized and barbaric practices. But I do coexist. I do. I understand that people are more than what they choose to eat. That some people just don't quite realize that pork means pig flesh and that jello is made from horse hooves. But I don't say this out loud! New friends and acquaintances usually don't even know that I'm a vegan for months after meeting me. Which doesn't mean that I don't care! Just that I prefer conflict-free conversations. Even when spending time with those I love most who praise their four-egg omelets, their heavy cream cappuccinos and their salmon salads, I smile and try not to suggest that they get their cholesterol checked. But I hate when they try to convince me that the meat they eat is OK because they pay some pretentious blood-thirsty butcher $8.95/pound to wrap it pretty paper. Or that their diet is warranted because "that is the way the world works, Rachel, and has worked since the days of the cavemen. Everybody else is holding number tickets at the deli and ordering chilled cadavers, but you. People eat meat. Deal with it. You're the freak. And you're making me mad. So shut up."  

——You might think this is about you. But it isn't. Really. And I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at the words you sometimes say. At the reasons why you say them and at the history that has lead you to believe them.——    
     
We drink lemon water from our large glass goblets and talk about Science and God; the sauce that comes with the vegetable dumplings; our potential plan for the next couple years and the raspberry chocolate chip cookies I left cooling on paper towels in the kitchen. I tell Scott about the resistance I felt when I was a vegan for the first time. That I didn't want it anymore. That I decided I would rather ignore my own feelings than deal with the pestering hostility and the judgmental "how are you possibly getting enough protein" kind of questions. Scott says that my choosing the word, "resistance" means that I was pushing just as much as I was being pushed........... He's right. I pushed emails at my family, pleading messages with horrid pictures and videos of animal cruelty. I wanted them all to change with me, but they wouldn't. And, of course, I'm pushing now. Every word I write is a poke, a shove and maybe even a stomach punch. Well, I'm sorry if I've made you mad and uncomfortable. Most of the time, as you know, I coexist quite peacefully within this meaty American culture. It's just once in awhile that I get the compulsion to stand on my chair and scream, 

"WHOLE GRAINS ARE GOOD FOR YOU!"

Monday, April 8, 2013

We walk on.



I watch Miranda July's film, The Future, while munching on apple slices dipped in sticky peanut butter. Then I have FOUR chocolate cookies with ANOTHER spoonful of chunky peanut butter. The supper of a spinster. 
I wear a long loose sweater with balled wool and navy blue leggings. Beneath my chin, a plate is in position, ready to catch and cradle the crumbs. I do surprise myself. That I can dress and eat in such a way while watching this delicate doll, this wafery woman on screen without laying on the floor and rolling my spine into crunches. I really love this movie. It fascinates me. 

In bed, the peanut butter causes me to fart into the mattress, vibrating my flattened fanny. I call Scott. He doesn't answer, but while it rings for the fourth time I imagine a stranger picking up. A stranger with a uniform's jargon, calling me "mam" and asking how I know my own husband. When the machine starts it's spiel, I hang up. 

It's 12:03am now. He went out at 7:30pm for a work "bonding night" of bowling. He invited me once I was in my leggings, sweater, had removed my bra, sneakers and socks and had washed my face. 

"No thanks." I said. 

Now is the time when a lover waits with secret worry. I was starting to get worried! I fantasize saying as he stands silhouetted, framed within the rectangle molding of our shared bedroom——the night air still clinging to his yet-to-be removed coat. 

I call again. 
Riiiing. 
Riiiing. 
Riiiing. 
Hang up.  

"Will you be awake when I get home?" He asked before leaving. 

"Probably. Yes." I told him. "Will you be late?"

"No. I'm opening in the morning." 

Now I'm not so sure that I'll be awake. I could sleep this stress away. Will somebody call me if he's hurt in a hospital somewhere?  

My phone rings. It's 12:28am. He'll be home in ten minutes. 

"I will be asleep." I say before hanging up. 

Pressed into my pillow, I wake to wind-battered rain splattering the windows, to branches tapping and to tires shushing. I am alone. Just as when I left my consciousness seven hours before. Scott has sunk beside me in his underwear, wrapped his arms around my ribs, slept and risen; all while I lay beside him with my eyes closed. Although, I vaguely remember a groan escaping my mouth, my body wanting to say "hello" to my husband. 

A little while later, I sit staring at the online tax website. A jar of water, employment papers and handwritten notes watch me from their positions on the coffee table. Penny is suddenly excited, showing me her teeth——her smile——which I usually only see when I've come home after being away for a few days. She yelps when I look back to the screen. She runs to the kitchen and returns with her ball. I go to grab it, but she holds it just far enough away. You're gonna have to get up! She says, her tail like a metal coil pulled to the side and released. She wants to go outside for our morning walk. She's too excited to wait. She thought she'd just lay at my feet avoiding the gray capricious clouds, but she's too excited now. 

We tread the littered sidewalks, my dog and I. She pulls to soggy doughnuts, breakfast sandwich bits and squirrels. The air is thick with exhaust.
Car. 
Car. 
Car. 
Bus. 
Car. 
Truck. 
Really big truck. 
Car. 
Car. 
Car. 
Car. 
Car. 
Car. 
Car. 
Bus. 
Truck. 
Trash truck. 
Car. 
Car.
Scrap metal pick up. 
Bus. 

We walk through Wrigley. I forgot today is Opening Day for Cubs baseball. The fans dress in royal blue. They look like pigs. Even the skinny ones. Pinked cheeks, they stand in dark clubs drinking beer before 9am. Parking flags flap from lawn chairs. Security officers pace the stadium's lot. And the McDonald's across the street is crowded with cholesterol. 

Through the fickle drizzle, we walk on. At around 9:15am, I wrap Penny's wet leash around a pole and knot it, dropping a handful of kibble between her front paws. I go into the cafe where Scott works. Tall and slender with black-rimmed glasses and his red and blue plaid shirt, he smiles when he sees me. He didn't expect we'd come because of the rain. I ask him if he's tired. He will be. It's a ten hour shift. But for now, he's fine. He makes me a tea and I sit at the counter, watching him work. 

At home, I throw the windows up. The breeze feels fresh, as if filtered by the screens. Wind bursts in. The plant in the bedroom window with its long cascading leaves falls to the floor. I rush to it like an emergency room nurse, scooping its dirt back onto its bony roots. Then a shampoo bottle and a box of bar soap topples into the bathtub. Then the two lime green plants in the living room fall from their sill, the ottoman softening their landing. Penny paces, trying to get between my legs as I rush from window to window. Eventually she climbs into the porcelain tub of chipped paint and gray molded grout. I place the fallen plants into the sinks and give them all time to sit and soak in new water. I sweep the dirt, dust and dog hair. Then I wash my hands and make a sandwich. 

I sit alone on the couch again; another plate poised under my mouth. The trees are so courteous——I think to myself—— to let in the winter light through their bare, unfettered branches, warming our musty windowsills and salivating our sweat glands for summer.  


   

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I'm off the map, but you can write me a letter.


 

On Facebook, my brain is like a home ransacked by thieves. Every morning, I'd wake to things taken--the present mostly-- and a dreadful mess of broken bureau draws, scattered dirty laundry and torn diary pages. It had been unravelling for years; slowly spinning out of control like a sad, drunken ballerina. I couldn't see straight. 
I am ugly. 
I am unsuccessful. 
I am unhappy. 
I am judgmental, labeling my life, defining myself through a catalogue of meticulously phrased posts and comments and digital photographs.  
Here I am! 
Here is my face! 
Here is my body. 
Look what I'm eating. 
Here are the people who love me. 
This is where I live. 
This is my dog. 
This is my dog. 
This is my dog. 
I wonder if others are paying as much attention to me as I am to them. I hope others are not paying as much attention to me as I am to them.  
Was that too liberal? 
Too conservative? 
Too stupid? 
I'm so stupid. 
And that thing I said there wasn't funny. Just weird. Now all those people think I'm a wacko wobbling atop a soapbox. 
I'm such a loser. 
Why am I checking this again? 
More cat pictures,
more carefully contrived gloating,
more sappy song lyrics 
and, maybe, one link to an article I'd like to skim. 
Mostly though, it's just a carload of damp junk from FREE boxes, cluttering my mind with mounds of molding rubbish. 
All of it. Such mind numbing triviality. 

So I quit. 
With my pointer poised over the mouse, a passing panic attack rattles my thoughts into a tumbling tangle of "what ifs". But after the click, I feel a gummy ghost--like a demon decomposing between my bones--escape from my skin and fly away. 

Once like a lonely intern, I ran an individual marketing team, promoting the brand that is my name. But now I retire from this thankless, dead-end job to find my footing on a rugged path of solitude. No, I will not be moving to the woods alone to quietly curse our culture of pocket computers, social media obsessions and idling engines, but to stand here truly alone. To listen to what my soul says, and not what I think my soul should say. And to do what I believe is right, and not just what is easiest and expected.  

I understand now why so many of my generation have become petulant alcoholics; raiding liquor stores, parties and pubs, thirsting for their daily dose of oblivion.          


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Now

The back stairwell smells like mayonaise and marijuana.  Someone's getting high and making tuna fish sandwiches. I've been running up and down the dirty blue stairs since 7pm tonight doing laundry.  Five washes. Countless dries. It's 10:22 now and I'm wondering if the tumbling towels and blankets will be dry by 11. I work early tomorrow morning. I left the dog too long today--miscounted the hours. Poor pup peed on the bed. When I get home, she doesn't make a sound, but when I open the bedroom door she whines and puts her paws on my shoulders, licking an apology onto my face. No, I'm sorry. We go outside. There are dogs everywhere. I like this city. I like it's porches and vegan variety. I have friends I love living near and a lake I can't stop staring at. But I'll be ready when our adventure here is done and I can return to the quiet of the country. I want a little house one day with green land and farm stands to give my money to. Apple orchards to raid and a mountain trail to hike. I have adapted well to Chicago. Like a monkey at the zoo. Windows on all sides, my glowing yellow lamp shining on my shrunken habitat, projecting out like a television screen. We are seen. We see. I take the bus and sometimes ride my bicycle--though the brakes are broken and my kick stand has fallen off-- and I drive and parallel park and put my quarters in meters and slow down for those who are deliriously stupid with road rage. I am one of many, but my soul is in this body and so it's here within this dry winter skin where I learn my twenty-ninth year.  I can slow my pulse. I can stop my mind. I can see the moment around me.