Hate Isn’t Strong Enough

Prescription for indigestion before bedtime:

Put the finishing touches on your post, hit "publish", and receive an error message that something has gone dreadfully wrong in a server cabinet in Texas or Siberia or wherever the hell they keep the effing things, and realize in horror that your whole post has just evaporated. Log back in to the site and see that they have cruelly "saved" just the first line of your post and NOTHING ELSE.

Curse you, Blogger. Curse you.

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Happiness Is… Not Trembling With Fever. Warning: This Might Take a While

I thought it would never end, but it finally has. The fever finally broke on Thursday night or so. At least, the teeth rattling, body shaking, i-can't-hold-the-bottle-of-pain-reliever-still-enough-to-tumble-a-few-pills-out-into-my-quaking-palm-type fever is gone. I'd never thought I would see the day when I would pull a muscle in my back from having such convulsive chills. My poor body was trying to do a Richard Simmons workout routine in one square inch of space while excreting every last drop of moisture onto my skin in an attempt to cool my burning body down for three days straight. I still woke up this morning and gasped aloud when i discovered I'd left an actual wet spot on the sheets from sweating all night. My pajamas were soaked. Apparently, I still have a little more heat left to dispense with. But the chills, the chills are gone. I can sleep the whole night without having to tuck my knees under my chin to make my teeth stop chattering. I can sleep in less than 5 layers of clothing. I can finally exclude "fleece hat" from my nightware repertoire. Hell, I can finally SLEEP through the night.

This illness really knocked me on my ass; and, being an opportunist at heart, I like to take time spent flat on my ass to do some reflecting. Something about this flu really slowed me down. Really, really slowed me down. My brain was in such a fog that I couldn't, I physically couldn't, worry about anything. And for a stress case like me, well, that's nothing short of a miracle. I usually spend the time immediately after dinner until the moments right before I fall asleep at night to worry about everything from what I am going to wear the next day to whether or not we're going to solve the world hunger crisis. My nights are not really my own. They are just blocks of time when every little issue in the world becomes comes flying into my head and disrupts the "power down for the night" routine. Instead of coming to a slow, steady halt, a la HAL singing "Daisy Bell", my brain instead lights up like a Christmas tree and every memory, every concern, every worry, anxiety, unfinished thought, grocery list, and mnemonic device comes crashing into my head like a hoard of ants descending on a unfinished peanut butter sandwich. Poor CLH has gotten quite practiced at quelling my fears in a nearly alpha wave state of drowsiness. I usually find the need to talk about this kind of stuff just as he is falling asleep. Our conversations usually go like this:

Me: Did you lock the doors?

Him: Mmmhmmm.

Me: Do you think the tree out there would likely fall into our bedroom or onto the neighbor's house? You know, like during a wind storm.

Him: Hunh?

Me: Are you happy? I mean like, are you happy with your life? Like, do you ever wonder if you've made the right choice in being with me, in living here, and stuff?

Him: No...mm.....I mean, yes. Yes. I'm happy...mmmm

Me: 'Cause I wake up sometimes and I ask myself what on earth I'm doing here. Like big picture. Like what is my purpose in life. And it scares me when i can't answer. It really scares me. You just seem, i dunno, just so happy and content and stuff. It makes me feel like I am missing some crucial point about life, about being able to enjoy simple pleasures. Like, how come I can't just sit in front of the TV like every other American and forget about stuff? How come I don't like drinking all that much anymore? Am I fundamentally flawed? Am I incapable of feeling happiness over puppies and babies and stuff like that? Know what I mean?

Him: zzzzzzz.....

So the flu really calmed all that noise down. Oh sure, it still tried to worm its way into the folds of my gray matter as I lay there trying to fall asleep. But, louder than the burning questions coming from all parts of the universe was another voice. My own. And it was saying, over and over again: go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep. My body was actually trying to preserve itself. It was trying to REST. It was trying to GET BETTER. And that urge was so strong, it actually dulled the sound of a million unanswered questions. I am trying to find words to describe this sensation, and the only thing I can come up with is NUMB. I felt numb. I felt neutral. It was a little like being high. I felt like i could find another day to worry about the crisis in the Middle East and whether or not we would run out of bread by the weekend. I've never been good at quieting my own thoughts; and this just felt magical and auto-pilot-y, like some other force was doing it for me and I will never forget it. I felt like if I could just hold onto this feeling... just memorize this feeling of being temporarily UNABLE to manage the list of anxieties occupying my head and being okay with it... that maybe I could recreate it at a later time. What a glorious trick the flu would be teaching me.

So, I've been going slow. Walking slowly. Making dinner slowly. Not letting some irrational sense of urgency hurry me along. I really hope this lasts.

No flu reflection would be complete without the requisite "what is it, again, I do for money?" and the resulting feeling of supreme letdown. While I am proud of what I have accomplished in my life, I am also, well, getting bored. Yesterday, i finally left the house for the first time in five days, and decided that I needed to trim the yellow, fuzzy halo of baby chicken down that has grown out of my formerly awesome haircut. And when I sat in front of that ginormous mirror, most of my body shrouded in a black vinyl cape, and the stylist asked, "what do you do?", i felt the smallness of myself as I answered, looking straight at my reflection, "I'm a bookkeeper". Ugh. Of course that's not all I am. Of course I am annoyed that in America, that question is one part small talk and one part the hallmark of our culture. I hate that it's so loaded. I hate that I assign such weight to it. What we do, for money, is important to us collectively, no matter how healthy our relationship is with money. And I could be all Ram Das about it and claim that, hey, man, i don't work for the man, and hey, man, like lay off and stuff. But the truth is I'm getting sick of answering that question. Mostly because I feel like such a loser when I answer it. And why should I, really? How petty of me. I mean, hello! There are are people who DON'T HAVE JOBS, you selfish jerk, people who are struggling to make ends meet. You see? This is the battle that wages itself in my head. This is where all my dichotomous feelings about worth and accomplishment and happiness get all jumbled up. Who am I? How do i reconcile my feelings of utter boredom and love of mastery? How do I reconcile these feelings of supreme gratitude for the opportunity to work, in my jeans and sneakers, no less, with my feelings of dissatisfaction with that work?

All this, of course, is exacerbated by this one thing. See, when the Advil finally kicked in and I had about four hours of normal body temperature, shivering free time to myself, i decided to do something a little weird. I decided to do something that I have always wanted to do but never really had the time time to: read Dooce's blog from start to finish. I'm a little embarrassed to be reading a MOMMY blog, for godssake, but there it is. I said it. She's wickedly funny, and a friend of mine turned me on to her because he thought she was brilliantly funny. That she's also a new mom is really just incidental. Before she was a mom, she was single, worked for a corporation, blogged about her coworkers (in a less than complimentary way, shall we say) was discovered, got fired, found the man of her dreams, got married, moved to Utah, bought a house, and started a family... all the while documenting the whole damn thing. Well, I'm up to year four or so (there's eight year's worth of stuff to read, people), and though i am totally loathe to admit this... i feel this incredible sense of companionship with this woman stranger. I don't want to admit it because, well.... here's another battle that goes on in my head daily, and it's the reason I don't belong to Facebook or other social networks (and can't sleep at night): I don't honestly believe that the connections people are feeling to people's updates or wall scribblings and stuff are, well, REAL. I know, i know. What a cold, soul-less bag of garbage I am. Before you write and tell me that I am a cold, soul-less bag of garbage, you should know that I am changing my stance on this. Not that I'm going to join Facebook anytime soon, but I GET IT. You CAN have things in common with strangers, or people you haven't spoken to in twenty years. You can also have absolutely NOTHING in common, too. But, you really can feel a sense of connection, and that's what everyone is so damn addicted to. I get it. I really do. It's not that i didn't get it before. It's that I didn't want to admit it was true. But now I have to. 'Cause I really feel like this Dooce is my long lost twin sister or something. And I have been silently crying when I read about her hard days, and I am laughing out loud when she writes funny shit, and I am deeply moved when she discovers something profound about herself or her relationship or her child. Her relationship with her husband is one of the most moving things about the blog. I have learned SO MUCH about ... gulp... LOVE from this woman, I am embarrassed to admit it. Who ever heard of such a thing? Learning what other relationships look like, and therefore how mine could improve, via a blog? When CLH couldn't get my attention the other day because I was so deeply engrossed in it, and he gently chided me for becoming so obsessed with reading this blog, i actually snarled at him:

So, Dooce, and everyone else out there who has managed to crack open my hard, bony heart with your honesty, I thank you. Thank you for letting me into your poopy diapers, the workings of your relationship, and your swear word filled rants about annoying neighbors and dumb coworkers. You have given me courage and hope. You, and the workings of the flu on my exhausted body. I am always left grateful at the end of ordeals like this, and I have a long list of thank yous to deliver. Thank you for giving me perspective. Thank you for making available, through the magic of the Interwebs, your unfiltered life, so that people like me can stop feeling so alone and sorry for ourselves. Thank you for making me feel like I too, might be reaching someone right now with my long winded diatribes about insomnia and the horrors of trying to buy jeans that fit. Thank you for restoring my humanity. Thank you for making writing for a living a possibility (take THAT, you effing nay-saying family members of mine). Thank you for making this flu a bearable, teachable episode in my life.

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Happiness Is… a good Spackle job

Since the good folks at Advil have afforded me a few hours of peace in between spells of feverish sweats and hacking up globular pieces of my immune system...

I submit, for your perusal, a list of things done today, while battling the flu:

Picked at a yesterday's granola and yogurt breakfast, now gelatinized in take-away container. (Half empy box now sits on nightstand.)

Defiled handkerchief with substance that freely and unexpectedly launched itself out of lungs.

Brought laptop to bed. Checked email.

Listened to Hans Rosling talk about world poverty on TED.com. Admitted to myself that statistics, when combined with bright colors and animation, are about as sexy as anything I've seen. Sword swallowing at the end of any talk will pretty much guarantee that NO ONE will EVER FORGET your presentation. EVER.

Checked email again.

Blew nose several dozen times in sodden handkerchief. Realized that flu symptoms render all normal notions of hygiene and pride void. Moist spot on front of shirt was, no doubt, caused by leaking pipes and laziness with the handkerchief. Flu-like self does not care and just changes shirt (but not before using shirt to wipe nose one last time.) Normal self would have had shirt burned and anything it had touched.

Took shower under new light fixtures in bathroom. Thank Jeebus for CLH's handiwork. The holes are patched, the ceiling's been painted, and there's just the walls left to do. Even as my body is wracked by fever and chills, I am comforted by the even surfaces of our newly spackled walls.

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This link was sent to me by a friend. She doesn't (yet) call herself a writer, but I know she's got a book or two in her. ;) For many reasons, this link was VERY timely.


This was incredibly inspiring. I'm totally up to my armpits in tax stuff right now, and I have so many wonderful things to share with you about tax code, but I thought I would launch the discussion that should ensue after watching this clip: mainly, why do I (and so many other writers) demand that our "genius" be synonymous with madness?

I am moving away from this association in my mind. It first started to come undone in a therapy session I had years ago. I don't exactly remember the context (maybe the foot-dragging about writing?) but my therapist wanted to know why I thought that art should come from this deeply wounded place in a person's life. I didn't have an answer, really. I presumed that ALL art came from a place of deep insecurity, loss, tragedy, whatever. He told me that he created his best art when he was joyful. At the time, I was all HUH? JOY inspired art? Get off the dope, buddy. After my initial disbelief, though, I could see his point. Why DID I think that my art could only be drawn from the painful parts of life? Why COULDN'T it be about joy? Where had I learned that art was ONLY a coping mechanism for the most atrocious events in one's life?


I woke up this morning, and yesterday morning, with poetry in my head. Poems often write themselves in my dreams. I rarely can recreate them verbatim after I wake up. I was just in the final stages of the dream (and the poem) when CLH kissed my forehead on his way out the door. Now, most people would be touched by the tenderness of that action: a man gently kissing his still-slumbering love goodbye as he heads out the door for the day. When you ARE that still slumbering love, and you just LIVE for strokes of genius like this and your brain is writing this incredible poem about this character you've been dreaming about, complete with alliterative references to Lot and his wife turning to a pillar of salt and killer free form structure... and someone wakes you up just as your brain is putting the final brushstrokes on your masterpiece, and your brain activity immediately jumps from "Writing The Next Langston Hughes Award Piece" to "What Was That Sensation, Now Must Put Food In Mouth".... well, you kinda lose your shit. And then you sulk about it for the whole day.

Elizabeth Gilbert expertly tackles this very conundrum. She quotes two writers, Ruth Stone, and Tom Waits, each of whom have ways of dealing with the incredibly inopportune times that "genius" comes knocking (like when your dear CLH just wants to say goodbye to you while your lazy ass is still sleeping). Not once have I ever, like Tom Waits did, told Inspiration to cool its jets, that I was driving, for god's sake, and would not be able to get to a pen and paper. Instead, I have, over the years, stocked the car with several notepads and writing instruments, and driven with my knees while I balance a pad on the steeting wheel, trying to scribble down the five words or so that suddenly come into my head from out of nowhere. My approach to writing is rather like a hunter's is to hunting: I lay many, many traps for the poems to get snared in and hope for the best. I have notebooks in my bedroom, in my messenger bag, in my car... in practically every place I can think of so that I won't ever be able to say I wasn't ready.

Maybe if I was a little more deliberate, a little more practiced, a little more regimented, I could be have a better working relationship with that Inspiration instead of being resentful at it for having smacked me in the teeth at 5 am, or while I'm doing 65 on the Interstate.

Gilbert claims (and i agree with her) that it is much more healthy to say that we are not the geniuses ourselves, that it is the writing that is genius. We can thereby take the onus off ourselves to produce works of mindboggling brilliance EVERY time we write. I think this fear that I will miss something, that I won't be a "genius" every time I write, is what keeps my car and nightstand stocked with paper.

Why do we get so impatient with the source of inspiration and beg it to hold on for just one sec while we grab a pencil? Why does it always feel like it's rising up over the horizon, threatening to swallow me whole if I don't defend myself with a pen? This is what the practice of writing must teach me: that it is my job to show up, to do my best work, and to tell Inspiration to buzz off once in a while, go bother some other writer. I can't be poised like a nervous stenographer every moment of the day. It's exhausting. The writing can come from a place that is light and airy. The part that holds all these words hostage isn't always a dark cave. Sometimes it's a window thrown open, a bright clear stream overflowing its banks. And I can let them loose whenever I want.

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It worked! The sourdough starter didn't die and the bread rose just fine. I found a recipe online for "sheepherder's bread" and it looked simple enough, so I went for it. It's a wheat bread (and even though the test results say I can eat wheat, my intestines disagree) so this bread was made for the manfriend. It was dense and tasty (i had to taste my handiwork so I nibbled the bottom crust). I could barely taste the sour flavor, which is good because these native east coasters don't really care for sourdough. We prefer our bread to taste like manic depression and stoicism.

I'm going to attempt to bake another loaf or two this weekend. That little bio hazard has been sitting in the fridge (you just take portions of it at a time for each loaf; you always return a little blob to the icebox) for a few days now. I think i am ready to commit to the feeding/throwing away/baking cycle. Sourdough requires attention like a newborn. You can't just leave it on the counter top and say, I'll get to you later, little guy. And I have left MANY a baby on a counter top, so I would know.

I think I will try something in the rye bread department. Most recipes I have found for rye bread require rising times bordering on insane, so I will be picking something that can be made this century. I'll keep you posted.

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