Friday, October 28, 2016

Sarajoy (not so) Fresh!

This summer, I was asked if my husband was my son. He still looks about 25, so the illusion that we are not of the same generation is clearly his fault. Also, the person who asked was 8.

This fall, as I shuffled across the soccer field, Coyote was asked if I was his grandmother.

What's next? Blue has suggested: "Congratulations on your pregnancy! You look like you've already been through menopause, so that must have been a real surprise!" I'm not pregnant, but I admit that I have extra hardcore.

Ending the garden
Then I needed my first major dental work in 8 years: crowns. I made it to 40, so "king me." Everything went wrong and it took over three hours (stretching in to two months) and we all cried. These days, they add epinephrine to the Novocaine (or whatever -caine they're using now) and this constricts the blood vessels and makes the numb last longer. But I can't have epinephrine (unless I'm in anaphylaxis from duck eggs, then I prefer it over death). The first and last time I had it, I leapt from the dentist chair and started pulling everything out of my mouth, screaming, "What did you just put in me, ohmygod! ohmygod!"  And that's how we discovered that I can't have epinephrine in my -caine. So every few minutes they had to shoot me up with more plain old -caine and it wasn't super effective.

And there was nothing to do, or think about, or look at. So I just contorted myself in pain and endured. When in unavoidable pain, I like to think about the best feeling part of my body, usually a toe, and how good that part feels. I tried to make myself feel lucky that I didn't live in medieval times. I felt grateful for our era until I remembered that I have actually had perfect teeth ripped out. I was 8. It was done without -caines. A la medieval Europe.

It started with a teeter totter accident. I'd been on both the giving and receiving end of many a cherry-bomb, but the last one launched me into the air (weee!) and dropped me on my face, messing my mouth up a bit.  It was postulated that the accident had caused my brain to make extra teeth and a multitude of surgeries ensued.

For my first bit of dental work, at 6, I was thoroughly numbed. Afterwards, my dad brought me to the library, a nice, quiet place for me to be quiet and calm. He introduced me for perhaps the first time to the children's section while he wandered into the reel-to-reel film section, looking for something appropriate for our neighborhood movie nights or possibly Sunday School. You would think a library would be a nice place for a good girl to be quiet and unsupervised, but you'd be wrong.

I'd only ever known "The Bookmobile", a bus/RV made to look like an aisle at the library. It moseyed out to our neck of the woods bi-weekly, parking in front of the Furr's house. It was fine and innovative for it's time, but it had few options, and once you'd read everything in your range, it wasn't terrifically interesting. Looking back, the bookmobile seems like an Anime character, strange and magical, and it makes me feel I'm from another era, an anachronism, a time-traveler. But this library thing, it was huge, rows and rows of bookmobiles. As thrilled as if I'd just discovered Narnia, there would be no quiet calm for me. And in the excitement, I met a friend and we jabbered despite warnings that I not talk with my mouth numb as my teeth wouldn't know to avoid tongue and cheek.  But it was all so exciting! Also, I met a computer for the first time and my friend and I played a lemonade stand game.  But the numbness and the talking were not a good combination and by the time I got home, I'd chewed the inside of my cheeks to ribbons and blood was pouring from my mouth. My mother was pretty irate at everyone involved. So the next dentist was told of the horrors of over-numbing my mouth, so he ripped out my canines without anything. My mother was pretty irate at everyone involved.  

My mother finally settled on a good, Christian dentist, one who believed in the merits of judiciously applied pain-killers, to guide us through the process and yet the psychological damage was done. Once a year, tipped back in his beige chair, something small would set my little self off and I would bolt from his office, a quaint house in the small town of Ferndale. I would run to a little Hallmark-y gift shop and hide among the crystal figurines until my mother would return to the dentist office, be informed of my escape, and find me in town.  It wasn't as if I literally thought, "I should run off and cause problems for these people!" I simply thought, in a very smart yet reptilian part of my brain, "FLEE!"  When we moved across country, the dentist gave us the tome of my complete records. Half the width of the folder was due to the many apologies my mother made me send him. 

Mouth: work in progress (hair, face, clothes too)
I have tried to suppress these memories. I do meditative breathing and distract myself with the sumptuous fullness of my big toe. But sometimes it all comes back, my true feelings invade, aiming to steal my sanity, and make me FLEE again.

So I tried laughing gas for the first time this fall. At first it felt so incredibly good, I worried I'd orgasm on the dentist chair, thus bringing to life the worst nightmares I've ever had.  So I sat up and screamed, "Turn it off! Turn it off!"  They dialed it down a bit, but instead of feeling happy and giggly, I got really really sad. So sad that I cried. So sad that I came to deeply hate the maple tree outside the window, leaves turning red in front of my fucking face. Bitch. How dare time move forward like this! How dare the seasons turn so blatantly AT me! I have been crying a lot at the turning trees, especially the one that tumbled off the back of a school bus, but that day the sad was so unbearable it turned to hate. Apparently, everyone reacts to "laughing gas" differently, they said. And I either felt way too good, or was capable of killing an entire office with only my soul, there was no in-between for me. I was so sad, I made everyone in the office sad. Even the dentist. I saw the light in his eyes go out; I made it go out. I've heard that dentistry has the highest suicide rate of any profession; if you're not a sadist, you're just going to live your life knowing that you are everyone's worst day. You are worse than Mondays. You cause pain and everyone hates you. No one thinks of their teeth when they don't hurt; the gratitude doesn't last. Your face is the face of torture and phobias and huge, unwelcome bills.

As I laid in that chair for 21 hours straight, thinking about my big toe, I forgot about all of the other parts of my body and how to keep them in line. I have a faint recollection of my right shoulder shooting for the bathroom while my lower back tried to get out to the parking lot. My body could not agree on which direction it was fantasizing about fleeing in. By that afternoon, my contorted back left me nearly unable to walk. I couldn't move all weekend. So I went to the chiropractor. It was during these weeks of shuffling about, every step causing deep, scarring pain, that I was accused of being Coyote's grandmother.

My massage therapist randomly mused, "I should have gone in to dentistry, that's where the big money is at."  I said, "I'm pretty sure that my dentist wishes he'd gone in to massage therapy at this point." Then he hit a surprise alarm button in my gluteous maximus, and I was pretty sure I'd rather be at the dentist.

Then I somehow got a gig doing a commercial for a grocery store chain. My audition must have gone well on some level because I got the job, but it was also a train wreck prompting my "talent agency" to offer a free class on how to do auditions. I knew I'd flubbed the technical aspects of the audition with my complete ignorance of common acting terms. I was told to do my "slate," but just stood there, trying to figure what that was without revealing that I didn't know.  Apparently the director showed my agent the clip and a class was born.

The only thing I knew heading in to the audition was that it was for a grocery store. I have no idea how to prepare for these things, so I did what I could think of: I got my eyebrows and nails done (things I've never previously had an interest in and now, at 41, have no idea how to do, so I am obliged to hired them out) and then practiced being pleasantly surprised by reasonable prices. But when I got there, I discovered they were going for an emotional connection and was told to welcome my son home from war. And so I imagined what that would be like and in less than a minute was hugging, clinging, and clawing the poor stand-in, and literally crying. Because that's what I do these days apparently, thanks to my TBI; I cry at the drop of a leaf.

In this commercial/fantasy-land, my "husband" was a hard-living 65 and my son was about 25.  And my back hurt and my temporary crowns hurt. And my hair is un-dyed, which no one does these days, and which seems to confuse the world, what with my face being a freckled forty and my hair apparently eighty. Not only does the camera add 10 pounds (this is true!) it also apparently adds two decades, but only to women. Despite a little sadness at playing a 55 year old, it was a thrilling experience with some rushing high's: I made a camera man cry with my acting and the director kept yelling, "Can we get more of that gorgeous hair in the shot?!"

And then Blue started Driver's Ed. My daughter is taking the wheel and the metaphor couldn't be more apt. I am in the passenger seat for this beautiful, last thing we do together. When I first got her, she didn't even know how to move her arms. She crapped herself dozens of times a day. We taught her to walk. We taught her to eat with utensils (not that she ever uses them). We taught her her first language (although it made me sad to limit her in this inevitable way... training the brain to hear a limited range of sounds). We taught her to ride a bike (it took 3 years).  Certainly there are other milestones in our future, but this feels like the last of this type.  And there she is, behind the wheel, steering herself, navigating through the college parking lot on a Sunday, Security having been duly alerted by a concerned and observant citizen and following us with their high beams on. It's a beautiful baton pass. But this forward plunge in to the future is accelerated by the fact that she started college this year too. I wasn't expecting that. And the leaves are turning. And the parts of me that do not include my hair and my teeth and my back, feel too young for this parent/child rite of passage. But it comes none-the-less. Hold back the autumn. Hold back the crimson from the leaves. I know what comes next, the leaving, the winter.

I had a vision of myself at 95. I appeared much like a woman I saw when I was 11, visiting my great grand parents in a yellow-hued North Dakota nursing home. She lingered in the hallway outside their room, hunched in her wheel chair, wiggling the fingers in her lap and chanting, "Knit one, Pearl two." I was told she thought she was knitting, the yarn and needles all in her head, which I thought was sort of nifty. You get to spend all day doing something you love and no one gives a shit if it's real. But I saw myself in that wheel chair, in that dim-yellow hallway, an imaginary smart phone in my hand, scrolling through an imaginary facebook feed, turning to my imaginary friend from time to time and saying "Look at this! Isn't that something!" And the little girl in the hallway asks her mother what I'm doing and her mother tells her about the ancient past-time of social media.

Some people say it's passe to grouse about arbitrary cultural milestones, as if their opinion is somehow objectively superior to my honest emotions.  I had a hard time with 40 and am grateful it's over now. And so what if you (or someone similar) think that's dumb. You know what I think is dumb? Trying to direct and dictate how people should feel or even how you yourself should feel. You're at where you're at when you're there. There's really no controlling it. For some, 40 is a lump in the throat, a speed bump, a time to reassess. For others, like my absurdly youthful husband, it's just another day in another seemingly inevitable year. Our interior worlds are what they are. They are inscrutable and not subject to rules of logic.  Dictating how one, anyone - self or other, SHOULD feel is to deny, to lie, to assume control that isn't there. How we feel is it's own truth, observable, real, essense-ial to our own unique being.

"The basis of all integrity is accepting what’s happening in the present moment. Fighting reality, through denial, minimization, fantasy, or avoidance, puts everything we think and do on a wobbly foundation. To accept reality, we must allow ourselves to know everything we know and feel everything we feel." - Martha Beck "The Integrity Cleanse"

For much of my life, I would ask: What should I feel here? What is best? Expedient? Logical? And then I would go about forcing myself to feel that way, to have the "right" feelings.  But what are the "right" feelings? Who decides? The "right" feelings are typically those that feel safe to whoever assumes they are in charge. The way we "should" feel is mostly just some sort of convenience. The head is easily corrupted, and the mind controlled, but the heart is where the truth of who we are lies.  And anyone who wants to tell you how you "should" feel (through shaming, fiat, any number of ways) is afraid of that truth and wants it smashed. Hell, my illogical feelings scare me too, but there's always something to learn from them. So now, I've got my heart here and it's in charge of what I feel. And my head is now in charge (marginally) about the why of it and what to do about it.  And whatever I subsequently do with those feelings, is also a truth about who I am.

There will be discomfort (maybe yours, certainly mine) with my feelings: about 40, the dentist, drivers ed and college. I am where I am. I feel what I feel. My feelings don't need to please or comfort you, or even me. They are, more or less, the essence of being an individual. And now I'm not telling myself I SHOULD be okay with the dentist, and 40 and time. I'm not. And now, now we can deal with those truths face to face. Not doing that, literally caused me more pain. We are clear now: pain is there. We know that it is unbearable; no denying that. So I used my emergency anxiety medication for my latest dentist visit, and for me it went quite well, for me anyway. My dentist, however, still has black holes where his eyes used to be. I'll used that anxiety medication again when I open the bill from the him.


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