On Easter Sunday, I threw my winter clogs into the brook behind my house. We pulled into the driveway, returning home from dinner at my parents. I took off my shoes, strode through the soggy, bloated yard and chucked each shoe as hard as I could into the water. The windswept rain from the past week had turned our peaceful bubbling brook into the River Wild; the clogs got swept up in the current and flew downstream like two harbor seals in swift retreat. James looked on in stunned silence as I slogged back up the driveway in my muddy socks. Caroline and Paulie laughed and began to remove their shoes but we got them to cease and desist.
To me, those clogs represented the mental and physical rut I've been in for weeks. Better to take out my frustration on a pair of Steve Maddens then on the people I love, I say.
"Hang up your chairs to better sweep, clear the floor of the dance, throw the walls into the fireplace." - REM
It was time to clear some cobwebs. I'd been sporting those MF clodhoppers since November. In the beginning, they were a somewhat stylish alternative to the woolly suburban footwear I spy around these parts that tend to be too flat for me -- at 5'3" -- to wear with jeans or a loathsome sweatsedo (and I absolutely refuse to have yoga pants hemmed). The clogs were safer than high-heeled boots that sink into the grass, trip you up and muddy your arse. I wore those clogs to all of my doctors appointments as I spiraled toward my diagnosis. To all of my chemo infusions thus far. I wore them throughout this seemingly endless April cold snap. But most of all, I wore the clogs because my unforgiving Chemobrain precludes shoe shopping because I don't even know what I like anymore.
On our home computer, we have a scrolling slideshow of all the pictures on our hard drive and I barely recognize my old self. Suppah Clubs and Nantucket trips, gardening with the kids last summer, kitchen hanging with James on a random weeknight. I can't reconcile the person in the photos with the bald, lashless, hollow-cheeked hag in a do-rag I see today. I belong on the Sci Fi Channel.
Second Phase of Ass
I'm not delusional. I wasn't expecting round two of chemo to be a joyride on the ding dong cart. I did not expect to start punctuating my sentences with woo hoos or for my energy levels to be restored to 2008 proportions. I was just expecting to bounce back a little. Granted, this second phase is not NEARLY as soul sucking as the first. But since the treatment is every Monday instead of every other Monday, I am subsisting on a steady stream of low (low!) energy with zero in-between days. I'm a naturally high-energy person so this can be frustrating at times.
For instance, last week the sun shone for a few hours and temps edged toward the high 50s. I put on my wig and a Sox cap. I grabbed the iPod and headed out for a walk, volume cranked as a forcefield. I barely made it around the loop without sucking wind. Vito would've put me to shame.
It's not just the energy. I can't do errands, attend the kids' soccer games, or go out to dinner with James or friends without feeling completely self conscious. And, call the waaambulance, I'm tired of having to reach for my wig whenever the doorbell rings (that is, if I even answer the door). I'm becoming a total recluse.
Hermit Flashback, Summer 1986
This feeling isn't completely foreign to me. I started remembering another time when I felt freakish and hermetic. When I was 16, I had a back operation to straighten my lower spine that was dangerously curving toward my left lung (the original Lefty, I suppose). I was in the hospital for two weeks and then had to wear a back brace for six months that was basically a large plastic girdle. Though you really couldn't see the brace under my clothes, it made me appear excessively hippy and flat chested. NOT good for an achingly self-conscious 16 year old. The only thing my friends and I ever did was go to the beach. Since bathing suits were out of the question, I stayed in the house the rest of the summer eating potato chips and watching the Peoples Court. When school started, I wore baggy, XL sweaters as camouflage (which were luckily the style in 1986). But soon, I became paranoid that people (boys) would physically bump into me in the halls and think I was some kind of bionic-plastic freak. So before school, I started taking the girdle off in the Dunkin' Donuts bathroom in Kenmore Square and stuffing it into by book bag. After school, I'd return to the same DD's and put it back on. One day, however, I decided to swing into Planet Records on my way home and my worst fears were realized. Three boys from my school (a few grades ahead of me) were skulking around and one accidentally brushed by me. He raised an eyebrow, then knocked on my back three times. Cardiac arrest. His other two friends walked behind me and did the same. I was so mortified I ran out of the store still clutching an empty record sleeve. I ran all the way down Comm, Ave with a 20-pound bag of books, praying I'd be hit by a bus. So, this bald 39 year-old in a do-rag is not so different inside from that 16 year old hiding out in Dunkin' Donuts bathrooms.
Caroline Knapp often wrote about the difference between solitude and isolation. In her essay "The Merry Recluse," she wrote that social muscles, like actual ones, must be flexed often so they don't become atrophied. Man, when she was right, she was right. I love my solitude, but I've been inching toward isolation these past couple of weeks -- and not just from the outside world. I've become delinquent among all my social mores: Email, Texting, Facebook, Twitter -- the lifelines of a lifelong phone-hater.
It was clear I needed to get out immediately! So, after four or five cancellations, we were finally able to nail down dinner plans with old Big Dig pals. (A dinner plan that had become so complicated to arrange that my friend Kathy likened it to "assembling the Pentagon")
Thurs., Apr 9, Batten down the wig! Off to Mistral!
My fierce wig was filthy so I decided to go with my long red one from Dorothy's Boutique. It doesn't fit as well but I figured it'd work fine in the dark corners of Mistral. But when I pulled into the parking lot and caught sight of myself in my rear view mirror, I immediately regretted leaving my safety zone. My wig had ridden up very high on my forehead and had shifted to the left. I knew it wouldn't stay put all night long so I gathered my drag queen hair into a side ponytail and sprayed it to stone with some archaic hairspray I found in the glovey. Of course, the ever present high winds prevailed and I held onto my wig for dear life as I walked upwind on Columbus Ave. As I passed Club Cafe, two men who I'm sure could spot a Dorothy's wig a mile away turned to look at me. I imagined them whispering, "What's up with girlfriend in Red Hot #7." I'm pretty sure the doormen and hostess at Mistral looked at me sideways too. I felt like everyone was on to me.
At the bar, it was hugs all around. I became more at ease after a dirty, filthy martini. But all was not well with me. Besides expressing mild horrification at learning that some of the men at our old office used to refer us as "The Spice Girls," I couldn't remember how to participate in a normal conversation. There was a heated exchange about Tom, Gisele and Bridget and some recent Vanity Fair article. My eloquent contribution to this was something like: "They're dicks. All three of them. Dicks."
I was definitely a merry spectator all evening, however, tucking into my beef tenderloin pizza with white truffle oil.
Aside: I was chewing slowly and deliberately on one side because of some leftover mouth sores from AC chemo that simply won't heal. I was able to coherently reassure my friends that I was NOT having a stroke at the dinner table.
Return of the Sunday Night Creepies
When I threw my shoes into the brook the other night, I think it may have been in defiance of a new brand of Sunday night creepies. Knowing that you have chemo every Monday colors Sunday nights with a dread similar to that of knowing you have to get up and go to a job you hate the next day. Years ago, when James and I hated our jobs, we would listen to "Blues on Sunday" on 92.9 FM and wallow in the creepies. It's a similar feeling now. Although I'm pretty sure I prefer chemo to the PR firm where I used to work.
My former co-worker and good friend Brad (or "Sugar Brad" going forward for the Hermes scarf he sent to cover my bald head when temps get too balmy for wigs.) used to make nooses out of paperclips during interminable, pointless meetings. The meetings were bad enough but lunchtime in that suburban office park was pure, unadulterated hell. Every day in the lunchroom, a keg-shaped account manager would hold court with her little Igors on such scintillating topics as: *I like sweet pickles * So and So's husband wants to buy a camper * How many Weight Watchers points are in this mini Charleston Chew * On Fridays, they'd all ply themselves with generic salsa, shitty margarita mix and manufactured outrage.
Yes, I'm certain I prefer the DF on Mondays over that place.
When I get into a rut, the guilt piles up quickly. I feel like a crappy, inattentive mother who can't even muster the energy for a game of iPhone checkers let alone go on a bike ride. Some days, I feel like the roles are reversed. Caroline recently asked if she could read ME a bedtime story. Paulie patted my do-rag and asked if I needed a juice box and a snack.
Caroline busts out her karaoke mic and sings the National Anthem before Bruins games. Paulie follows it with the Renee Rancourt pointing and fist pumping.
James got Paul a giant T map of all the rail lines for his room and he almost fainted.
PAULIE: (walking into his room earlier today) Mom, I keep forgetting about my train map. Every time I walk into my room, I get excited about it all over again. C'mon, look at my map with me. I want to show you where Haymarket is.
At the playground a few weeks ago, Caroline ran to the top of a structure where a group of boys were playing around a large captain's wheel.
CAROLINE: (commandeering the wheel). This is a ship! I am the captain! All of the boys, get into the water! (They all did)
She'd make an awesome Somali pirate.
Things that are Better than a Giant Plastic Bag of Happy Pills from my Doctor
Retro WWII dishtowels, TimTams, fragrant soaps, CDs, New Yorker articles and other magical mystery care packages from the Roving Lemon (not Rovingle Mon) Down Under.
Molly Kristant Brown
A good kitchen chinwag in SoBo with Nic & Di
Nic sporting the Snuggie
People I don't have to put on wigs for when they ring the doorbell: LPD and her Vertical Watermelon belly bumrushing the house with all kinds of good cheer.
James photographing, then fishing my clogs out of the brook, hosing them down and dropping them off at the Swap Shop at the dump. Sayonara, sad footwear.
So, the curmudgeonly ruts are a reality but they are fleeting.
Now I have to go cut about an inch off my yoga pants so I can wear my sneakers with them.
Seven Songs of the Day -- 4/14/09
Today's playlist courtesy of Dawn Flanagan-Haley
"I tried to think of songs that reminded me of spring, but I’m not even really sure why these do" - DFH
- House of Love – I Don’t Know Why I Love You
- Throwing Muses – Not Too Soon
- Belinda Carlisle – Circle in the Sand
- The Cowsills – The rain, the park and other things
- The Cardigans – Carnival
- Elvis Costello – Veronica
- The Beautiful South – We Are Each Other