November 22, 2017

Cheerfulness Breaks In

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I’ve got malaise. It’s partly due to the way it doesn’t get light in the morning, it gets gray. It’s partly due to having come off an exceptional burst of creative energy in which I sang the Queen of the Night, finished my first novel and helped put together a second volume of the All Present Songbook. I have to keep reminding myself that I should expect a gray period after all that.

It’s a lot to do with the news, which is hard to read but hard to not read.

My behavior regarding the news feels like my experience growing up with an alcoholic father and a disturbed, unpredictable mother. It was hard to leave the house because I felt I needed to track everything that happened so I’d know how to stay out of the way. It was hard to come home because I never knew what I was walking into. The best way to cope was to monitor everything –the moods, the explosions, the drinks—every hour of the day. It gave me a feeling of having some control.

I’m doing the same thing with the news. I get up wondering who is next in the parade of sexual assaulters to go down, what horrible legislation has slipped through and which of our rights as Americans have been further impinged upon. It used to be that the news delivered a shock to the system once a month or so. Now it’s five times a day. Obsessive monitoring of the news is the way Trauma behaves. Not everyone has it as bad as I do—and some have it worse– but I think on the whole, we are a traumatized country right now.

My malaise is the flip side of my anxiety. When I short out on the panicky feelings, I fall into dullness: instead of watching MSNBC, I watch movies from the Lifetime Movie network, aka All-Men-Who-Aren’t-Jerks-are-Rapists network. They are awful movies: bad scripts and bad acting. Not that different from the White House press briefings actually.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The most productive and happiest non-pharmacological remedies for depression I know are gratitude and humor. I’ll pursue the first and hope I find the second:

I’m grateful for my friends who are my family. Over the weekend I had tea with Kay and Maxine, the feng shui goddess. Maxine started in on a story I have heard about 16 times. Had I been feeling less vulnerable, I might have cheekily finished the story for her. Had I been feeling less fragile, I might have rolled my eyes and told her she needed new material. As it was I sat back dreamily in my chair and thought about how lovely it was to be with my friends.

I’m grateful for my wonderful neighbors. Once a week I see a movie at The Gwen: the big screen TV in the plaid room of my neighbor Gwen who knows something about just about everything. I walk across the street with my house keys, cuticle cream, eye drops for persistently dry eyes and two fingers of Scotch. I let myself through the secret gate into Gwen’s exotic courtyard and do the secret knock on her side door. Gwen opens the door with a bourbon in her hand and we proceed to the movie. All that’s missing are the head turbans and cigarette holders.

Gwen and I made our semi-annual trip to Costco last week. I love these outings. We, armed with lists, are in and out of there in 45 minutes. While Gwen grinds her coffee, I write her a check for my portion of the bill because I’m there on her membership. I bought a pound and a half of organic power greens, which I belatedly realized expired in four days. I did it: I ate the whole thing. When they cook down it doesn’t seem like quite so much. I am so much better off for having eaten my power greens.

Bill across the street recycles his Sunday New York Times to me every week. I in turn read it, then use it to start a fire (in my woodstove, I don’t do anything illegal) or to line the yard waste bin. Bill brings the sections over as he finishes them, which mean he drops by almost every day. We chat and he plays with the kittens.

The kittens. We’re all doing pretty well at Elsinore. Laertes had his first vet appointment about six weeks too late for his booster shot so now I have to start the vaccines all over again. Otherwise he is in great shape. The gunk in his ears is not mites but kitty earwax. He doesn’t have worms or fleas or a respiratory infection. The big challenge with him is how much he eats. He’s going to be a huge cat. His paws alone look like fuzzy orange combat boots. So I have two feline grazers and one gourmand.

On the turrets

Regarding the smallest of the grazers, Hamlet is coming along. He is now consistently in the room with the other cats, with me, and with whoever has come in the front door. He and Laertes play, fight and sleep together. Hamlet plays with anyone who pulls his favorite mouse toy in front of him. He lets me stroke him occasionally but more often leaps up in alarm, retreats and watches suspiciously. He really does live up to his name: quietly and mutely suspicious. Other than that, he knows the hour of treats and he has a persistent little meow.

Hamlet and ghost

The big grazer, Artemis is resigning herself, I think. I am quietly optimistic about this. She takes great umbrage at Laertes’ energetic appeals to her. She hisses and he backs off but doesn’t remain discouraged. I have noticed that the three of them seem to do just fine when I’m not around but the minute I show up, Artemis gets pissy. She commands the bed at night. No one sleeps with me but her. She even used to run Winston off, god bless his soul.

The Garden. Tim is putting the garden to bed for the winter and I am making paths. I never replaced the lawn mower that died years ago. Either Bill or Gwen magnanimously mows my lawn a couple of times a year but my goal is to not need a mower at all. I’m going for a field. Or the London Park look. Kensington Gardens is a field with mown paths. Currently I have cardboard paths crisscrossing the yard: big pieces of ugly cardboard weighed down with bricks and pots. It’s hideous. The idea is to smother that grass and let the rest grow high. Kind of a poor person’s maze.

I’m getting a noble fir the day after Thanksgiving. Bill is loaning me his 50 pound Christmas tree stand and will help me secure it.  I’m hoping the kittens will climb it. I’m looking forward to the lights. I have this idea that if I turn on the tree first thing in the morning while it’s still dark, I won’t want to read the news and maybe I’ll write a few cards.

And finally, if you live in Seattle, this weekend is the annual Dibble House Holiday Craft Sale at 7301 Dibble Avenue NW. More friends, warmth, hot cider and cookies. It’s tradition that’s been going on for over 20 years.

Friday, Nov. 24th 4pm ~ 8pm (where yours truly is the entertainment)
Saturday, Nov. 25th 9am ~ 6pm
Sunday, Nov. 26th 12pm ~ 4pm

My malaise has lifted. Maybe you’ll get one of my Christmas cards.






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