Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Numbers

Current Mood: Living Recovery in an Eating Disordered World

"You're big. I'm small" Liv chirps from her car seat. "That's right," I say encouragingly. Then she comes out with this, "Why don't you be small and I get big."

I had to laugh because even though she has no idea about anything, her statement was pretty meaningful. Think about it. Don't we ladies spend our entire childhoods trying to be bigger than we are? And then when we finally get big, we focus a lot of our energies on trying to be small. I've spent a good portion of my 32 years on a diet, planning a diet, starving, exercising too much, or immersed in a binge/purge cycle. I'd like to believe that my experience is singular, but I know that it is not. We take to a diet like a holy calling. And it all boils down to The Numbers.

I spent a rather disturbing afternoon in the year 2000 walking 7 long and lonely miles on a graveled track. I had not eaten in 5 days and I had not had anything to drink in 12 hours. I didn't know at the time why I was driven to do this...and I still don't know. If I had a Delorian and a flux capacitator, I'd go back in time and slap the shit out of myself. Old me was scary crazy. New me is normal crazy. I diet and I exercise, but I don't take things too far the way I used to do. But I'm still sad about the state of things, about the way that my mind is a ceasing calculator of numbers.

120 calories in 2 tablespoons of dressing
3.5 miles ran
45 minutes spent walking
110 pounds of weight
6 oz water
20 almonds

Some people listen to music when they run. I look at The Numbers. I watch intently as they creep on their intense journey zero. I can't be distracted away from The Numbers. They are my guide. And while I have no intentions of walking 7 miles on an empty stomach ever, ever again, I can't help but see parallels in old me and new me. When does this focus on The Numbers end? When will I stop needing to quantify every bit of every experience? Sometimes when I really decide to examine myself, I realize that the more I change, the more I stay the same. I just find new rituals with which to torment myself.

It doesn't mean that what I do is inherently harmful. There is nothing wrong with being conscious of our bodies, of our accomplishments, of our intake. But I just don't understand when that conscientousness stops being helpful and starts being pathological. This is hard to decipher in such a culture as this that we live in. Everywhere I look there is something or someone telling me I'm not good enough, that I have to try harder, that I have to eat less, that this will give me cancer, that this will lower my cholesterol, that I am not doing what I'm supposed to do. Why can't I just fucking live? Living is too much work. I guess I have a horrible work ethic.

What do we lose when we focus so much on The Numbers? Do we sacrifice quality in our lives? Do we discount joy? I don't know if it's possible to be happy and not be allowed to eat ice cream. But there are moments when I'm eating that and really feeling the love for cold, creamy goodness and I can't help but feel empty. Like something is missing...and then that something hits me like a shovel to the back of the head: Guilt. The Numbers kicking me in my fucking skull. How many miles do I have to run to burn off this indulgence? How many crunches do I have to do to make up for this "moment on the lips", so it doesn't end up "a lifetime on the hips?"

I look everywhere for sanity. I can't seem to find it. I learned during the therapeutic treatment of my anorexia what put the "disorder" in my eating. I just never learned what was normal. I can't help but feel this country is in the throes of a raging eating disorder. It's really hard to live recovery in such an environment. It's like being an alcoholic and forced to live in a bar 24 hours a day.

I heard that in some elementary schools they send home BMI reports to parents of the kids now. If they ever send one home to me I will tear it to shreds and then put the shreds in the kitty litter box and let my cat shit all over them. If a child is having a weight problem, pay attention to it by all means. But why determine BMIs of children who do not appear to be unhealthy or overweight? What is the fucking point of that? We are sending a message to these children that The Number is very important. And we marvel over the fact that about 80% of 7 year old girls are dissatisfied with their physical appearance. These children are inheriting our national disease. And it makes me sick to my stomach.

Obesity in children is on the uprise. Why? Is it because we weren't paying enough attention to The Numbers? I personally believe it's on the uprise because we are. I remember when I was little, playing outside was a gift. We'd play freeze tag and kick ball and dodge ball and jump rope and it was FUN. Now we mandate physical activity like a fucking spelling test. Kids start looking at softball like a punishment. The more we focus on The Number of calories they're burning vs. The Number of calories they're eating, the more they stop listening to their internal cues about hunger and satiety, about pleasure and punishment. Kids, for the most part, have an innate sense of when they're hungry and when they're full. Don't fuck with that. It's perfect just the way it is. Anyone with a toddler can attest to the fact that they are bundles of limitless energy. Maybe most kids would maintain that energy if we weren't saddling them with tons of homework after school or allowing them to sit in front of a computer for hours on end instead of sending them to play outside. I'm not saying I have the answers...I'm just thinking out loud because I'm worried.

Will Liv escape the curse of The Numbers? I'm going to do everything in my power to facilitate that. Right after I get back from running off this pizza I just ate. And thusly I join the Hypocrite of the Month Club. Member Number 1.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Van, Van Go Away

I was just driving home yesterday, listening to some good music, enjoying the sunlight making its way into my heart via the sunroof. I was feeling happy and content, a really rare moment. But the universe always sees fit to punish me for having anything good. So here was my punishment this time: I saw the most horrifying thing. There was an old white van that had one of those rusty ladders on top; you know the ones that look like they haven't been used in three decades? Like why have a ladder on the top of the roof if you aren't going to use it, asshole? I've known people to have ski racks too and never ever went skiing a day in their whole life. I hate them. Well this van is right next to me at a light and then got in front of me, which, of course, put me in prime position to witness a thing that no eyes should ever have to gaze upon. On the back of this atrocious box of rust was affixed a bumper sticker. Horrible, right? But it gets even worse. It said:


What in the name of all that wakes me up in the middle of the night sweating, nervous, and cursing the day I was ever born? That right there is an example of everything that is wrong with America. Butchering the English language is a fucking shame. Butchering the English language on purpose is a crime against humanity. The person who drove the van and the person who put the bumper sticker on the van are complicit, no doubt. But they are also victims in a way of a much larger terror. Even more culpable are the ones who manufactured the bumper sticker in the first place. Even the people who made the sticky stuff on the back of the bumper sticker have some accountability. But the person who needs to die is the one who woke up one morning and said "I have an idea. Why don't I misspell words and put them on a sticker so that people can advertise how ignorant they are and I can make a shitload of money?" If I saw that person get pinned under a van that was a blazing inferno fueled by gasoline and decaying ladders, it would be the happiest day of my life. If the person offered me all the money that was made from the bumper sticker business venture to help him out, I'd take all his money and then throw it onto the flames to fuel the fire instead.

I hate vans. I hate people who drive vans only a little bit less than I hate stepping in dog crap. So to see a van, a driver of a van, and then a fucking bumper sticker all at the same time was really traumatizing to me. Here is an updated list of things that I hate because I know that some people like to keep track and that isn't an easy thing to do when it comes to me:

7. Computer programs that try and "help" you when you're typing and only end up fucking everything up.
6. Me
5. Robin Williams
4. People who drive vans
3. Stepping in dog crap
2. Vans
1. Bumper stickers that slaughter the English language

I hate so much stuff but these things in particular angry up the blood like nothing else right now. I don't understand and I never want to understand why spelling things wrong and being grammatically incorrect became so acceptable, even fucking quaint. People need to start getting punished for some of this shit. Take for instance, me. I made these beautiful photo books with pictures of my dead sister for my parents, but I didn't proof-read the back cover of the book. That's why I am 6 on the "things I hate" list at the moment. Because as it turns out, I made a grammatical error and now they are ruined through and through. So I did the only right thing to make it better; I cut myself a few times with a knife on my arm.

I'm just kidding. I don't do that anymore. But I wanted to and that's the whole point. If more people were like me and wanted to murder themselves or at the very least inflict a lot of pain on their own bodies when they did horrible things like misspell words, or make despicable bumper stickers, or put them on their vehicles, or drove vans then maybe they wouldn't do those things anymore. And I wouldn't toss and turn at night and have terrible dreams about oversized vans causing an imbalance in the beauty aesthetic of the world and destroying all the roads leading to heaven or the alphabet slitting its own throat rather than suffer any more abuse and choking to death on its own blood. I'd eventually run out of things to hate and then maybe I could focus on being a better person and helping people, which was my original plan that went all awry when I saw that business sign "Caribbean Tanz" a while back. I haven't been the same since I saw that sign with my bare eyes and everyday that it continues to exist my soul dies a little bit more. That store is on Old Lincoln Highway by the Oxford Valley Mall. If you ever see the sign, look away immediately or it will fuck you up too.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Few Small Nips

Sometimes I feel like I live my life teetering on the edge. Of what, I have no idea. I have something to say but maybe I don't have the courage to cut it out of me or vomit it out of me, or whatever other disgusting metaphor I can conjure up. Did you ever wonder what it would feel like to have a metal rod penetrate you from your stomach to your pelvis?

Neither did I. Until Friday night when I saw some things, some raw unfiltered things hanging on the wall of the art museum. Except those paintings and pictures weren't just hanging there, they were opening mouths and screaming obscenities at me. They were making out with me. We were having an angry dialogue. And then we were having make up sex. Looking at the work of Frida Kahlo was like understanding all that was ugly and all that was beautiful in the world at the same time.

Truth be told, I may not know what it feels like to be pierced by a metal rod, but I do know what it feels like to be penetrated. We women spend our whole lives being penetrated. The fate of the human species depends on our willingness to be penetrated. Isn't that insane?

I love having sex, so don't start thinking I'm some puritanical, frigid prude. It's just that sometimes when I think too deeply about things that happen every day and I whittle and whittle and whittle away at them I come up with a realization that makes me cry. Not in a sobbing, sad way. But in that futile sense where tears come into your eyes but never fall. When I think about sex, I realize that the act removes all the trappings of civility, it reveals what we are at our most base level. At the risk of being crude, when we're getting fucked, ladies, we're being conquered. In those moments, you are somebody's property. It is difficult not to feel a sadness about that. And it makes me think about the limitations we have as humans...about myself as a woman and all the women who came before me doing the exact same things and feeling the exact same feelings. I shudder to think about the way evolution has made us vulnerable. No matter how hard we work, no matter how much we educate ourselves, no matter how much we pretend that men and women are the same, it doesn't matter. We, as a gender, will never be stronger. Submission is innate. It is necessary for the proliferation of our species. And I am very ambivalent about that fact. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel about my place "in the family of things".

There is the goddess pose in yoga - Lay on your back, bend your knees, touch your feet together and spread your legs. This is goddess. Opening myself to the universe...letting go. And even though I hate this about myself, I am very comfortable in this asana.

Part of me is appalled that I put these words down for your consumption. But it is all just ideas. I think about Frida Kahlo and her beautiful, strong, winged eyebrows. I think about her lonely art, sitting side by side with herself, heart outside of chest, holding her own hand. I think about Diego Rivera, the husband never faithful, but in the end the only suckling child she would ever embrace as her own. I imagine her lying in traction, like a pained statue, still, except for her hand ever painting her pictures. Without hope, sin esperanza. So vulnerable, open mouth, funnel in, force fed meat. I am sick for her empty-wombed soul.

It is amazing to me that out of all that misery, her only progeny was born: Art. Art so lovely it took my breath away. It is in this way ugly becomes beautiful, surrender becomes power, the ephemeral becomes tangible, death becomes immortality. In a small way, I am part of that life cycle. Not just because I am a mother, but because I am a writer. Writing for me is like being penetrated - it is letting something foreign into the most sacred part of me. It is being brave enough to tell the truth about things, about my thoughts, even if they are horrible, even if they are sick or violent or obscene. You can't create anything beautiful if you lie. And you can't learn anything either.

I guess that's why I have this desire to strip everything down to its bare bones. I want to learn what I am, what my purpose is, before it's too late. I have to believe that I have something more to contribute than this...this miserable existence. And maybe you think I'm strange and maybe you think I'm gross and maybe you think I'm pathetic, but at the very least I let you in ...and I never lie to you.