Where the Weather Takes Us

The meetup with the pen pal went well. Let’s call her “Zoey,” because there’s a connection that goes beyond New Girl. Of course if she becomes a regular and doesn’t mind me using her real name, that’s fine. But I’m not going to “out” her on a first meeting. That’s just rude. She is just as cute and funny as me, so I think it will be a great thing to have another person to pal around with…. although perhaps not so much in the immediate future, because she’s vacationing to Peru (I think…. my memory is failing in my elder years). But I definitely see hiking in the hills and walking around town in our future. Talking makes walking so much easier, because I am not constantly enmeshed in thoughts like, “my feet hurt…. my legs are sore…. how much longer?” Talking shuts down the complaint department. Yesterday was just about spending some time together and seeing if we’d click on any level. We definitely did, starting out at Kramerbooks and when they were slammed, walking to Teaism, instead. I love tea at every moment of the day, but for Zoey, she was disappointed they didn’t have hot chocolate. So we toasted to new friends with cold water. My pot of Darjeeling went quickly, and then we walked to the Metro.

Two things about that.

I started talking about the weather with my seatmate, who said that it reminded her of Germany and Switzerland. In my head, I was thinking she must be military, because obviously Germany and Switzerland are known for their large black populations. My assumption was correct. So, I asked her what her job was in the military, and she said slyly, intel. She’d retired long ago, looking for all the world like a sweet grandmother, the type no one would look twice at while carrying sensitive documents. But perhaps she didn’t look like that, then. She was retired now, having scouted out secret documents during the Cold War. My mind was blown because this was an absolutely random encounter, exactly the kind of thing I live for in DC. I am certain that by now, there are tons of movies that talk frankly about the types of ops we pulled off during that time, most of them declassified by now. It was also very interesting that she wasn’t stapled to CIA, that smash-and-grabs for documents also happen with soldiers. I don’t know why I didn’t make that connection until last night, because I saw 12 Strong, and even though the soldiers had a CIA contact to lead them through Afghanistan to the warlord contact who was willing to team up with them to overthrow the Taliban, he left after that and the soldiers were on their own.

So, this woman and I are engrossed in conversation and before I even really had a chance to ask questions, it was her stop. I was so lost in thought that I got off at the “wrong one,” or perhaps the right one considering that I was only a couple of blocks from Busboys & Poets. I had a vegan salad and vegan mac-and-cheese, possibly the first time I’ve eaten actual nutrition that wasn’t all carbs this week. MMMM, bread.

I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian, but I truly do not eat enough plants. I have to remind myself that veggies exist.

While I was eating, though, I had a truly surreal experience, because there was a mentally ill person at the bar trying to score free fries from the restaurant. Two patrons offered to have his fries added to their tab. Then, when he got them, he would neither leave nor get a table. In Takoma Park, there are literally two governments, because part of it lies in Montgomery County and part of it is in the city of DC. I had no idea where I was in terms of that line. But what I do know is that there’s no real way to call someone regarding the mentally ill except the police, which brought up such a dilemma that I’m still thinking about it. He was definitely harassing other customers, because they didn’t offer to pay for his snacks without him strong-arming them. And yet, he was black, which said to me, no one call the police under any circumstances. This is because there was little to be done except take him to jail, because there’s no way they would have taken him to a psych ward. It’s just not in their purview. So, what to do? No restaurant wants a loiterer asking for money and, oh my God, emitting such a smell that it cleared out half the bar.

It’s hard to be compassionate when you really don’t know how. He needed more help than he could get in the restaurant, and the police couldn’t give it to him, either. I think because everyone was so sensitive to racial bias, that made it even harder. We didn’t know whether the police that showed up would show compassion or wrestle him to the ground. It’s not even equal odds at this point. None of the people in the bar were worried about racial bias on our end, because it was never about the color of his skin. It was about mental illness, full stop. But we couldn’t count on the police having an equal amount of compassion.

What he needed, in my opinion, was a few days in a psych ward to get balanced again, and then a truly safe place to stay. Neither of those things would happen unless he went to the county intake facility in Rockville, now closed for the night. Having to sleep in a jail cell might have only exacerbated the problem, contributing to putting someone in the system that can’t get back out, because he has no concrete concept of acceptable behavior.

All I could do was pray that someone would stick with him long enough to get the help he needed, because nothing was going to happen in the moment. We were all just on pins and needles waiting for him to leave, and not because we weren’t trying to help in the moment. It’s that no one could stay in the restaurant overnight, and it was kind of a scary situation because we did not know the extent of his mood and behavior quirks. For instance, when the fries were brought out to him, paid for by the other customers, he threw them on the floor and insisted that new fries be brought to him that he paid for himself, completely oblivious to the fact that he had no money.

My superpower was an out-of-body experience, where I left the situation and went back to Teaism, thinking about new adventures Zoey and I would have in the coming months (years?). There is just so much to do and see around here that it doesn’t take much to find a glorious afternoon, and great conversations that begin with the weather.

Send Help

I saw a picture on Facebook that resonated with me. Something like, my diet ranges between supermodel and unsupervised child in a convenience store. I haven’t eaten very much this week, overwhelmed with writing to the point I couldn’t even finish a rough draft,ย like I said I would. This is not because I didn’t work hard on it. It just, in my opinion, wasn’t good enough. I needed more time to think before I put it in front of an extraordinary mind who would see through paragraphs of bullshit in a New York minute. This is because the book I’m reviewing is terrible. The story is solid, but there are so many grammatical errors and therefore, punctuation missteps that the entire novel was just a slog. All of the mistakes took me away from the story and I had to reread pages just to figure out what the sentences actually said. It’s never a good thing when I stop concentrating on what I’m reading and get lost in my own head, trying to figure out how I would have phrased something instead (as if I’m the authority on such matters….. geesh).

And then my anxiety went to 11 because I had to e-mail my editor and say, it’s not ready. When is the next best day I could send it? It’s the first time I’ve ever had to do it, which is probably the only reason I was anxious, because I wasn’t sure of her reaction. I told her that the book didn’t even have to be marked as “read” until Monday, and the review didn’t need to be turned in until the next one. I gave myself padding in case something like this happened, because I knew when I started reading it that it was going to be an uphill climb. I was afraid of turning my lack of preparedness into a kink in her day.

So, my appetite went haywire. Most of the week I ate a large bowl of oatmeal for one meal a day. Last night I made up for it by eating (almost an entire) pizza, wings, and a very large chocolate chip cookie. According to bumper sticker wisdom, every pizza is a personal pizza if you believe in yourself. I also drank a two liter of Diet Pepsi, something for which my mother would have chastised me greatly- not because of the amount, but because I was drinking that Pepsi mess, as she called it. I didn’t feel bad about it because most people drink that much wine on a Friday night… and besides, diet soda is my favorite form of caffeine because it’s not extreme highs and lows, it just keeps the bus from going under 50 (wow, that reference ages me).

The shame of it is that it wasn’t even Monterey’s or Red Rocks, just plain delivery…. but it was free. Free covers up a lot of pizza sins.

Now the only question remains isย how do I not do this? I can’t decide whether it’s okay or not. Some nutrition experts would say it’s fine as long as I’m getting the calories I need over the course of the week instead of every day. Some nutritionists would beat me like a red-headed stepchild. It’s not about weight control. I am extremely healthy in that department. It’s more the binge and crash of it all, as opposed to an even keel.

Being so small is sometimes as equally body-shaming as being overweight. I know this because I have been both at different points in my life. The worst story in recent memory is that I bought six different kinds of chips at 7-Eleven, joking with the cashier that they weren’t all for that night. He said, well, your skinny ass sure needs ’em. I was definitely thinking about responding with physical violence, but, alas, I am too much of a peacenik for that sort of thing.

Setting body issues aside, the reason I took off so much weight is that I’m short. When I am heavy, I bear a strong resemblance to a teapot…. which reminds me of a great story. I met one of my readers a few years ago, and one of the first things she said to me was, I thought you’d be taller. My then-wife and I got mileage out of that one for months (years?). One of the reasons I thought it was funny is that I wanted to impress her so bad…. which reminds me of another funny story. Dana and I both love eye candy, so we both fell on the floor laughing after a few moments of talking with her when I ran into a door and clocked my nose, I thought she was so cute.

The fact that both of these things happened within a few minutes of each other is something that could only happen to me…. as well as overdoing it in the flirting department to the point where she didn’t want to talk to me anymore…. a moment when I truly wanted the earth to swallow me up, I was so embarrassed. Since we were both old and married, it didn’t occur to me that I was over the line, Smokey….. a dumbass attack of gigantic proportions. I’m sure I am not alone in having moments I’d give a limb to take back, and the entire reason I rarely (if ever) have a second cocktail as to avoid my lips being too loose, creating more of them. On the positive side, I make a cheap date. ๐Ÿ˜›

However, I am absolutely 100% certain I am not the first or last woman to lament what a shame it was she didn’t bat for our team…. just one in a long line of broken hearts all over the world. I so want to tell you what it was that flipped my shit, but I would be even more embarrassed if I somehow outed her real name by a description. Enough people know that story already, including those who didn’t think it was as funny as Dana and I did. By the grace of God, the one person I didn’t manage to offend was my real-life wife, who just laughed through my stupidity. Note to self– wear sunglasses.

I think that’s about enough reminiscence for today. I need to get back to work…. just know that I really, really don’t want to.

Send help.

Twisted Mango Diet Coke

It works. I don’t know how it works, but it does. These are not two flavors that would seemingly go together. Perhaps it’s the fruit and the cinnamon/ginger combo of cola. Maybe I’m just high on antihistamines and decongestants. Whatever it may be, I would definitely buy it again. Keep in mind, though, that my palate is different than most and I like a wide variety of weird sodas no one else will drink. You have been warned, so don’t @ me, bro.

Speaking of drugs, I’m not sick, per se. I just have to take Zyrtec and Sudafed every day because my allergies are that terrible. It seems as if no matter where I live, it’s the worst possible place I could’ve moved in terms of ever-present spring fever, even in the dead of winter. Maybe one day I’ll move to Vegas or Phoenix to settle my “stuffed up doze” (no, I won’t).

Tino, our handyman, is painting the bathroom and the bedroom next to mine, so perhaps I should splash water on my face in the kitchen. Water is the absolute best home remedy for allergic reactions, because it at least removes what’s bothering me from my skin, even without soap. I also take ibuprofen to relieve the pressure in my “mask,” although it probably wouldn’t hurt to get allergy shots and eat local honey. The honey trick is that your body naturally builds up antihistamines over time to whatever pollen is used to make it. Of course, the real miracle is finding someone who has local honey for sale.

A new person is coming to look at the bedroom we have for rent this evening, so I’m hoping for good things. Between the pathological liar, the heroin addict who overdosed (and is fine now), and the psychological torture of hearing The Beatles sung loudly and off-key at all hours of the night, I am looking forward to pretty much anyone else. Actually, it wasn’t just The Beatles, it was screaming obscenities and having my other roommate record it. The .mp3 was as clear as a bell, and the recording was made from the room next to mine on the other side of the hallway. All this is to say that finding roommates who are relatively normal has been rough going. Anyone can put on a good face for an hour, so an interview isn’t necessarily the best indication… but it’s what we’ve got.

I’ve lived here for almost three years now, and it’s becoming amazing how many people I’ve seen come and go in that short a time. I feel very lucky that I’ve seriously found a home and fit in very well. I’d like to continue living here as long as my landlords will have me, because it truly is like having a second family. As Sam has said, I’ve been upgraded.

My living situation is absolutely a miracle. The Nassers were the first people I called after doing some research on where I wanted to live, and I took the room sight unseen after talking to my landlord for an hour and a half on the phone from Houston. I figured that I could live anywhere for a month if it didn’t work out, so I wasn’t terribly worried about showing up at the Metro station in a new city and just rolling with the punches. DC wasn’t new to me, but Maryland certainly was. Alexandria felt like I’d never left Houston- roughly the same politics… city is liberal, state is conservative. Maryland is overwhelmingly blue. Even the conservatives aren’t that conservative. They might have fiscal responsibility issues, but they’ve moved past the politics of kindness. There is much more in the way of statewide health care, both mentally and physically. Being able to get health insurance the moment I moved here without a job was a hug from Jesus. Though I didn’t move here to sponge off the state, having a safety net until I landed on my feet was legit #blessed.

That being said, when I switched to insurance through my employer, my deductible and copays went up dramatically. Anything would be from all free, all the time and drugs at a dollar a bottle. It has just reinforced my belief that universal health care does indeed work, and nothing gets me on my soapbox faster than thinking about the millions of people bitching about government insurance while on Medicare. Seriously, people. Connect the dots. Not realizing this makes you look one French fry short of a Happy Meal.

In terms of needing insurance, I keep myself healthy, albeit in horrible shape. My weight is under control, but I couldn’t run up two flights of stairs at gunpoint. I’m getting better through walking everywhere, but it’s not enough. I’m not getting my heart rate high enough for true cardio, and I’m not lifting weights to strengthen my muscles….. and everyone knows by now that cardio is rule number one. ๐Ÿ˜›

However, I do need to go to the doctor once a month for psych med checks and to a therapist four or five times a month. With state-run health care, all of that is free. Private insurance has a copay for drugs and generally offers 13 therapy sessions a year. I am steadily making progress on old trauma, but still need help with visioning, values, and coping mechanisms. It’s not just about where I’ve been, but making sure I get where I want to go. Everyone needs that to some degree. Most people don’t think of therapy when it comes to reaching out for more than they’re currently achieving, but I liken it to sports psychology. Ambition and drive go by the wayside when I feel terrible about myself, because I am a perfectionist to a crippling degree. If I can’t do it perfectly the first time around, obviously I am a straight up failure, no matter how many people I love provide evidence to the contrary. I hear it, but it doesn’t sink in…. I think to myself that they’re just being nice. I know how and what I truly am, which is a disaster. Therapy helps keep things in perspective, that my disorder knows the very best lies to use against me so that they are incredibly vivid and believable. Every negative thing that has ever been said about me is my true nature; everything positive is just humoring me.

Anxiety, especially socially, has a huge impact on my life. I know from past experience that if I am not paying attention, I could really hurt somebody emotionally, so I hide. I only get together with the people I love when I’m feeling up to it, which is always a quarter to sometimes. The hardest is social contact needed to maintain isolation, like shopping. I’m not even friends with these people and won’t have in-depth conversations, anyway, but cocooning in this one is strong. I have taken self-reliance to an extreme, whereas previously, I was entirely too dependent on what everyone else thought. Because I still can be, I just avoid those situations so that I am always listening to my inner landscape of thoughts and feelings. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but no man is an island… from what I’ve heard.

When I am in my right mind about things, I know that I have incredible gifts to offer the world, and indeed, have. But there are days when I just need to back off the nerve that says I’m worthless and just have a Diet Coke and a smile.