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.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

More Statements for the Record

Since drawing has never been my strong suit, I’m not a doodler. When I squirm through a boring meeting or a long wait-time during a phone call, I don’t use the pen within my reach to produce intricate little sketches or cartoon figures on notepads and napkins. I make lists – which could someday become illuminating artifacts of my legacy if I ever have, say, a presidential library or a museum exhibit in my memory.

When I recently re-organized some old papers, I found a list I hammered out at age 21 or 22, enumerating the people I’d put in the (co-ed) bridal party of my future wedding. All these years later, the names on that list haven’t changed or been added to.  

That’s what I was still thinking about the other day, as I sat by my computer, waiting for an email file to come through. And it’s undoubtedly what led me to stick with the “future wedding” theme when I suddenly began drafting a lengthy and eclectic preliminary itemization of songs that absolutely must be played at the reception. At all the best weddings I’ve been a part of, it was the music (in concert with the multiple full-open-bar stations) that tipped the balance.

In the weeks leading up to their weddings, I’ve asked a number of brides whether I could expect to hear and dance to “Like a Prayer” at the reception. Every last one gave me some version of: “No, don’t count on it. A lot of older religious relatives will be there and they wouldn’t like that.”

I have religious relatives too. If any of them have a big problem when “Like a Prayer” (the first song on my current, work-in-progress playlist) streams into the air on my big day, the reception venue’s exit doors will be clearly marked and my ego won’t be shattered if they decide to knock off early. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Concocter (Who Prefers Evening Hours) Is In

A credible West Coast street psychic once relayed that I was a healer in a past life. (She also said I’d been a man. We didn’t get into whether I was a male healer; or a female healer in one life and a male something else in another, separate life - if I had held onto her business card, that answer could be one phone call, and a $10 debit-card payment, away.)

My healing strategy is to avoid medication as much as possible. I went off birth control last summer and can’t remember the last time I swallowed ibuprofen. My mom taught me that vigorous cardio helps with cramps; an old Doctors' Book of Home Remedies commercial taught me how to control a toothache by icing my hand; I taught myself that getting more sleep and disengaging from toxic people will help with tension headaches; and I’ve kept my Hashimoto’s Disease in check with dietary modifications and exercise.

I’ve been known to reverse sore-throat symptoms with pinot grigio.

Last month, a suffering co-worker told me about her hernia diagnosis. The doctors would only treat it with painkillers, which weren’t doing much. The distress in her voice was all it took to get me on the case. She’s sewn up holes in my clothes before – in a Senegalese restaurant.

After 20 minutes of online research, I prepared a list with tips on how to naturally treat hernias, emailed it to her, and followed up on the phone. The prize piece of advice involved elevating the head end of her bed with bricks. She declined my offer to grab the bricks for her.

When I sashayed toward her on a subway platform one morning last week, she looked as radiant as my future in this field. I won’t hang up a shingle until I’m able to cure the flu. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

In Good Consciousness

On New Year’s Eve, midday, I received a text from someone who had extra tickets to that night’s Jay-Z/Coldplay concert in Brooklyn. There’s a long pattern of my being out of town when these kinds of last-minute invitations come down the pipeline, and I’ve never seen Jay-Z perform live. “I always miss the good stuff,” I peevishly blurted out to my best friend a few minutes later. She laughed at me. 

The good stuff is generally simpler and more regular. Over the weekend, I walked down a boulevard I’m so familiar with that I rarely pay close attention to anything on it other than the traffic lights and my fellow pedestrians’ paces. This time I didn’t zone out.

I noticed a poster announcing a major going-out-of-business sale at a stationery/party supplies/novelties store. The space was small, overcrowded, and overheated. I expected no fewer than 3 or 4 of the bargain hunters to massively, mindlessly, act up in the claustrophobic heat.

Not at all. The customers – smiling, making warm eye contact, unnecessarily excusing themselves when they shuffled past one another - had scrupulously read their “How to Behave Like a Midwesterner” manuals. There was an unspoken agreement to obliterate obliviousness, at least that afternoon, in those awkward aisles.

I stocked up on discounted decorations, birthday cards, and thank-you cards. The birthday cards are the higher-end elaborate ones that I would never buy full price and the thank-you cards are a cheery shade of yellow.