Tag Archives: Friends

This Is My Brain On Cheese

It started Friday evening with a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat and ended last night with a Twix bar in bed watching The Good Wife. Yup. I fell off the no-dairy wagon. I fell mightily.

I’d been off of dairy and eggs for a little over 2 months. The first few weeks were rough, I hadn’t been “clean” in a while, but after that it wasn’t bad. I bought a new cookbook and experimented with a few new things like seitan (pronounced like Paula Dean might say Satan). I was feeling pretty good, getting in the groove, and then about a week ago I started craving cheese. Mainly pizza, but other forms too. So Friday night, after everyone else in the house had a grilled cheese sandwich, I broke down and made myself one–with real cheese.

It went from bad to worse. I wound up sitting at a Panera Bread for a 4 hour stretch on Saturday (long story). During this time I wrote, read, surfed the web, eavesdropped and had a large helping of their macaroni and cheese. I swear they put crack in that shit. It is friggin’ amazing. My taste buds went insane. I wanted more. I pictured myself selling everything I had on me, my netbook, my cell phone, my 16-year-old’s paperback copy of The Language of Flowers, my BJ’s membership card, my Lamy fountain pen, my wedding ring, my contact lens solution. I might have written the term paper for the college kid I was near or let the creepy guy spilling coffee and talking to himself sit next to me and cop a feel. I’d wind up sitting in the middle of the mall, mac and cheese smeared across my face, empty Panera containers piled around me like bedding, eyes glazed, hands shaking, saying things like, please Dude, and com’ on Man.

Once you’ve had cheese, why not other things with milk? That’s right, like Halloween candy. Now there’s a bottomless pit of an addiction if ever there was one. A few Lindt balls here, a Kit Kat there. Oh yeah. Mama’s back.

They say if you do something for 21 days it’s a habit and you won’t want to break it. That’s what this guy says anyway–and he teaches at Harvard so he must know what he’s talking about. His name is Shawn Anchor and I saw him on PBS in the midst of my setback. I think he had some really interesting things to say and I am secretly (actually not so secretly) fascinated by neuropsychology. After listening to him I can say with certainty that he’s never had to battle a cheese craving. However, he talked about seven little tricks he’s devised through his research to get you to happy. I liked the one that encourages you to take 2 minutes every day and write a few sentences to someone in your social network. You do this for 21 days (of course) and it helps you feel more connected and I suppose ultimately, more happy. You can’t just do a Facebook post about visiting a pet store or drinking martinis with your ex. You have to make it personal, to someone you care about. You have to individualize it, let it take you back to that place that connects you and this friend in the first place.

I miss a lot of friends. I wish we could have tea together, take a walk, listen to street musicians in Harvard Square, watch an old movie, gossip, grab a bite at Flour or La Paloma or Nick’s, solve the world’s problems, talk about writing and books, laugh until it hurts.

I’m one day dairy free. I’m working on connection. I’m blogging because I need to. Maybe it will keep me out of the mall.  Maybe it will get a few neurons firing in the direction of my novel. Maybe it will connect me to some new friends. Maybe it’ll make somebody smile, which this guy Shawn says, eventually, will make somebody happy.

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Fifty-Five But Who’s Counting

Today is my birthday. I’m not that fond of birthdays. I think it takes a certain amount of courage and energy and self-confidence to really enjoy your birthday, and in general I cannot muster all these things at the same time on any given day, let alone on a hot muggy day in August. But I’m pretty old. I’m not trying to be morbid but I do think I should take advantage of the fact that I’m still around and post something. Here’s what I thought about today.

1) I definitely look better in mirrors that are slanted forward. They hide my double chin and make my eyes look bigger. Maybe I should try to stand leaning forward (or maybe backwards?) to get the same effect.

2) Betsy Lerner has the same birthday as me. I find this remarkable. I’m a huge fan and read her blog religiously. If you’re a writer you will recognize yourself somewhere in Forest for the Trees. Buy the book, read her blog, like her, friend her, tweet her, build a shrine to her. You’ll thank me.

3) It’s getting harder to care about my day job.

4) I got calls, cards, and emails from friends who know me and love me beyond reason (you know who you are). This is such a gift. To have people in your life who know you in a way you barely know yourself. To realize there’s a piece of you out there walking around in someone else’s heart–that’s something worth having a birthday for.

5) This is a message from my dad–“Why the hell do you have a cell phone if you don’t answer it?! OK, Happy Birthday.”

6) The birthday cake: lemon strawberry. All you chocolate fiends are booing, I know, but it was delish. And it was vegan. I’m back to no dairy which is tragedy of Oedipal proportions but it had to happen. It’s been 13 days. They say you need to get to the 3 week mark and then it’s a piece of cake (vegan cake, of course). Had to go off my anti-inflammatory meds so I’m feeling pretty inflammatory. No dairy should help. But cheese-less pizza is like when my dog humps a stuffed animal–you just know it’s not the same.

7) It’s almost midnight. I made it through another one. I’m hoping to wake up tomorrow and face the next year with a little more stamina, a little more humor, a little more faith. I’ll keep you posted.

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I’ll Know My Name As It’s Called Again

I dropped this blog like a hot potato. Left it like a runaway bride. Ignored it like a Hare Krishna in Harvard Square. Tuned out like some tool on a blind date. Let it fade away like my memories of Davy Jones until I was startled when he died. Hey Hey we’re the Monkees. People say we monkey around. Davy Jones was the cutest Monkee but I always liked Mike, the strong silent type. Except I was afraid of what might have been under that hat.

I’m not writing. I know, I know. A real writer has to write or they die. They can’t imagine not writing. They can’t stop themselves. So if I’m not writing, what does that make me? A hack? Or an artist afraid of walking into the tunnel, dealing with the bloody darkness and wrestling the demons. Or am I afraid of making a fool of myself. Making mistakes. Maybe I create drama and angst to veil laziness.

But crisis is a strange thing. It can kill you or, as they say, make you stronger. Bring you closer to or farther away. And it’s insidious. Is my mother’s illness and subsequent death still a family crisis? No, But yes. It still affects me. Pulls me along its currents good and bad. And there are others. A job without meaning. A child lost to herself. A body straining from daily transgressions. Too much salt. Too much white food. Not enough sun, air, sand, storm clouds, green, sweat, release. A flat ass glued to the chair. Inertia. Wondering why a God would let his only son get nailed to the cross. Wondering if music can bring me out of this place. Wondering if I still have hope. Wondering why Monkee Mike never took that hat off.

Recently I sent this email off to a friend:

“Had to work this week so didn’t get my day off for writing. Am floating further and further away from it. It’s starting to feel like a dream, a past life, an albatross, a joke, a hooker who won’t have sex, a jar of dark clouds, a diary burned to ash. Help.”

Here’s what I got back:

“Open a new file right now. Paste in the words albatross, joke, hooker, jar, and diary. Hit enter. Type more words, in the voice of one of the main characters, for ten minutes. Save the file. Walk away from the computer. Walk back. Open another new file. Type in the words diary burned to ash. Type another paragraph. Save and close. Go have a giant glass of water. Open one more file. Type in the words A Past Life. Type a paragraph beneath it. Save and close. ”

I hope anyone who’s reading this has someone like S. to get them through these moments, days, weeks. Someone to help them find their blog again, take the risk or toughen up or open up or whatever the hell it takes. Because doing the work is hard. It’s just damn hard. I know I can be a baby and a drama queen and a space shot and a ghost and an optimist and a nay sayer and even a tool. But putting all those personas aside, because Lord knows they get in the way sometimes, the work is just hard. And anyone out there doing it regardless of which direction that current is going in, you are amazing. Even if you’re spitting out pulp or mixed metaphors or writing stories about tiny woodland animals, you are the bomb. You are the ones I envy and love and cheer on.

So join me. Get your blog on. Spin your tales. Sputter, gnash your teeth, loath yourself, laugh like a crazy person, eat candy, sing songs from Broadway Musicals, curse, blame your mother. I’m there. I’m with you. Writing.

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