Monday, January 28, 2013

Involuntary Reactions

Whenever my lips become exceptionally dry, and I’m nowhere near my balm or gloss, I’m a pro at projecting stoicism. But it’s an act - internally, I’m falling apart. I lose the will to speak or smile. The rest of my skin crawls, the way some human bodies involuntarily react when they hear the sound of nails on a chalkboard or Rush Limbaugh’s voice.

After my lips severely chapped up yesterday afternoon, I searched through my bag and jacket pockets for a quick fix. Nothing turned up. All of my tubes and containers were in my apartment, avenues away. I flew into a CVS, held one package of lip treatment in both of my hands, stared at it for half a minute, and reluctantly headed toward the checkout line.

I didn’t do it. I couldn’t spend several dollars on a product I already have piles of at home. So my mouth stayed miserable.  

Sometimes I forget that I don’t live paycheck to paycheck anymore. And that my scary-broke years are over. I used to tailor the hems and waistbands of my pants with binder clips from my office.

A couple of years ago, I collaborated with a guy who first came to this country as an undocumented resident. He’s now a U.S. citizen and noted that he often finds himself going through life the way he had during those undocumented days, constantly looking over his shoulder, assuming he’s still in danger, unable to let go of the creative survival instincts, no matter how much time has passed.  


  1. My husband is 85 years of age. He grew up during the Depression and then went into World War II. This generation has a specific mindset. I call it the "Depression mentality," which pervades everything. He has sticker shock all day long, from Starbucks (well, EVERYONE have sticker shock at Starbucks!)to Costco ("How can they say they are 40% off retail?")He buys clothing at thrift shops, but usually he doesn't buy clothing at all, until a pair of pants rips completely apart, or the underwear falls down to the knees. I did not grow up during the Depression, but often I still have that mindset, because my parents had it, and I absorbed it. If I ever win the Lotto or the Powerball or the Mega, I will still have the Depression mentality. And, in a society of celebrity worship and extreme excess, maybe that's not so bad.

  2. I hear you. I think that the trauma of previous experiences never leave us entirely... and sometimes we're so desperate NOT to find ourselves in the same boat again.

  3. Nothing wrong with being frugal to a point, but with your reaction to dry lips, you should have granted yourself the lip balm! My mom grew up during the Great Depression, and even though she lives on a fixed income, she is not destitute, yet she has refused to buy real maple syrup for her pancakes because the fake stuff is so much cheaper. I lectured her about the need to treat herself well at eighty-plus
    years of age, and won the battle of maple syrup temporarily, but will not be surprised if she reverts back to Log Cabin brand--or rather Log Cabin's generic cousin--yet again.

  4. Ah! Your writing is beautiful.

    I found you via dear Azra's blog (Azra and I have followed each other for quite a while now) (...since May 2012, in fact!) and I'm glad I've found you, too.

    Your (brilliant) description of how you feel when your lips are dry-to-the-max and there's no balm around is dead on. I feel EXACTLY the same way.


    Rush Limbaugh needs to disappear, like, yesterday. ::shudder:: How is his kind not yet extinct?! ACK!