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The Mice in My Head

Living with an Overactive Imagination and Overwhelming Anxiety

Vintage

I love old things.

I love vintage clothing, not because I have some underlying motive to save the earth through sustainable and pre-used clothing, but because I just like the way it looks and feels when I wear it. I love having a small piece of history hanging on my bones as it did to some stranger with a life and stories of their own.

I love second-hand clothing for the same reasons, but also because it’s cheaper to raid a stranger’s closet for nice clothes than it is to buy from a major store. I love a good quest or treasure hunt, especially when it yields some magical finds.

I love antique stores because so many of the items are hand-made with blood and sweat and tears and love soaked into every crack and every fiber of the materials, built and created for a specific purpose, for a specific place, for a specific person. Handmade wedding dresses abandoned to dusty shops break my heart; someone made it for a specific bride, for a specific love and life, and someone probably found it in a trunk and discarded a part of their own blood’s history.

I love old houses and buildings, especially those old farmhouses that were built in the past century for their families to grow in, as the home was added onto to accommodate them. The old buildings that decay faster than anyone expected after being abandoned by descendants of deceased elderly parents and grandparents, no one wanting to bother to move in, rent it out, or keep it up, are fascinating to me as nature reclaims her space.

I want to know their stories. I want to know where they came from, who they came from, and how they came to rest where they are.

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Storytelling: The Good, The Bad, and the Excessively Detailed

I am not a fantastic storyteller…

But then why, you may ask yourself, or me, or whoever is sitting next to you pretending to pay attention to your random comments on your internet browsing, would I decide that writing a blog is what I want to do?

Well, I’m a terrible storyteller when I am face to face with my audience telling them an unscripted non-fiction story about a first-hand experience of my own. I start out okay, and then I realize my audience is missing some small background detail that I consider pertinent to the story. Then, I have to fill them in on those details, and, of course, any other details from those background tales that may also serve them to be aware of. This results in a total loss of the original story, and, in some cases, the contextual relevancy that initiated the telling of the tale to begin with. This particular problem has resulted in awkward conversations with stories left unfinished, someone interrupting me (I can’t even blame them), and friends saying things like “buckle up, she’s telling a story; we’ll be here all day,” (in a jovial, friendly fashion, of course).

This particular shortcoming of mine is bothersome to me for a few reasons, but I’ll highlight the most important one here. My mom and dad (and my extended family of prior generations) have always been excellent at telling stories in an engaging, yet succinct manner, that I can only assume comes with being a part of Southern farming families, where the same stories are repeated time and time again, without ever really growing dull. I’ve always loved hearing these stories and have written a few of them down over the years to make sure I never lose them. So naturally, I have fallen in love with oral storytelling; but again I say to you: I’m not very good at it.

Now, I may not be a great oral storyteller when it comes to my own stories, but I can regurgitate (doesn’t seem like the best word there, does it) the stories of others as I heard them with some sense of ease. However, I want to share my own stories as well. Which is really the reason I ended up starting this blog. The mice in my head are the reason I’m terrible at this thing I love.

However, I’m not a horrific writer…or at least, I hope not. I still love to tell stories, but my best medium for doing so seems to be in print. In addition, the more fictitious my stories are, the better I am at conveying them. Why might this be?

Maybe I’m better at making things up because there is no pressure for accuracy–no one is going to correct me on some detail I neglected to include or some fact I seem to have put down with any level of inaccuracy. Maybe that’s completely wrong…because if you’ve ever had a detailed conversation with a die-hard comic book fan, you know they will call out a creator in a heartbeat if their writing doesn’t follow canon–more specifically, their preferred canon. Then again, maybe I’m not great at writing fiction at all. Maybe I’m overly detailed there, too, but I really love a heavily detailed scene in a work of fiction, like in ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo, or anything by J.R.R. Tolkien (I admit I’ve never finished one of his books–shoot me later, but I deeply enjoy his writing). I don’t want a single detail to go unknown, because I want to make it as real to the reader as it is for me in the depths of my imagination.

Maybe I’m good at this writing thing.

Maybe I just suck.

And maybe I don’t care enough.

Realizations about childhood favorites

When I turned seven (I think? I mean, I was in the first grade), we went to go see “A Bug’s Life” in theaters with three of my friends, all of whom had names starting with A, resulting in my parents calling us the A-Team.  

While the rest of us were seated in the theater, my mom went to the lobby to request a courtesy cup so she could put some popcorn from her large bag into the cup for my 2-3 year old brother. Keep in mind, the staff were the only people with access to the soda fountain, so lying about the purpose for the cup would not have done any good. The lady behind the counter tried to charge my mom full price for the cup, and Mom asked why, and after the lady got super rude, the manager got involved, my mom got the cup, and also some free tickets out of the deal. 

After the movie, we returned to our house, had cake with “A Bug’s Life” characters on it, and opened presents, including a Barbie  with an inflatable chair (it was 1998-1999–inflateable furniture was very “futuristic,” and therefore very hip), and a Furby puzzle (first generation Furbies were the coolest toy you could have at that point). 

None of this matters to the point I intended to make here. 

A Bug’s Life was basically about an outside regime of bullies enslaving an entire other species and then demanding taxation without representation–not because they needed the food, but because they needed the power. There is a whole scene where Hopper literally explains that it’s not about food, but the principle of ensuring those who are “less than” the grasshoppers stay “in their place.” 

It’s taken me almost twenty years, but I see you, Pixar. I see you. 
Also, Flick was responsible for the first metaphor on growing up that I remember clearly understanding. 

Pretending to love coffee

I love chocolate. I love the smell of coffee. I don’t love the taste of coffee. But if I can get the caffeinated benefits of coffee and it smells like delicious sweet chocolate, that is the perfect beverage for me. 

The End of Things

All good things must come to an end.

Someone said that–I don’t know who.  I know I could Google it and figure it out but to be honest I don’t want to, and sometimes I get a bit irritated about how accessible information like that is.  I don’t even have to go to a library to research things anymore.  All that matters at the moment is that someone said it, someone else liked it, and it got repeated in that fashion over an over until it got here.

It’s true.  As humans, we are transient creatures, and so everything must end–the good, the bad, the mediocre, that which doesn’t even register on any scale of quality.  Even if you were blissfully happy for the rest of your life, that happiness would eventually end, because your life would.  Unless you have access to the fountain of youth, or the philosopher’s stone.  If you have something like that, let me know.  I don’t think I would want it, but, like the largest ball of twine, it would be neat to say I had been there and seen it.  Also, I think it’s important to note here for anyone who was put off by my saying happiness ends with the end of your life, that I’m taking into account anything earthly, because ultimately no one knows for sure what happens, if anything, after we die.  I’m not going to specify my own thoughts on this subject, as they are personal, and I don’t feel like arguing with people about something that no one involved in the conversation would be willing to bend on, regardless of their point of view.  Plus, I enjoy playing devil’s advocate and would probably argue in favor against what I believe if someone approached me in a hostile manner with the same argument.  I just don’t like assholes, and sometimes get a kick out of getting them unnecessarily worked up.

ANYWAY.

The last few months have brought a lot of changes.  Mostly not good.

In January, we lost a friend from college very suddenly.  No one saw it coming.  This guy was talented, and smart, and had a fantastic work ethic, and didn’t seem to have a problem ever taking on a new challenge, no matter how random it seemed.  He was funny, and friendly.  He had just finished up grad school, and was touring with a band, and making art.

I was out with friends, when I started getting frantic texts and calls from friends back home, and finally I got the terrible news.  I picked up the phone and thought “What’s wrong? What’s happened?” but said “Hey, how are you? What’s up?” in as pleasant a voice as I could have.  It felt like a block of concrete was dropped into my core.  Then, when I was told he was dead, it was like a hand had gripped the concrete tight and crushed it, sending chunks of horror everywhere.  I cried, and made phone calls, and that weekend many of us who had known him gathered at the bar in the town where we went to University and, with at least three tables pulled together, basically took it over as our own.  Many of us hadn’t seen each other in more than a year, and though the reason for our congregation was not what we would have preferred, it was therapeutic for us all to see each other and know that everyone was alive and well.  It was strange though, because I kept thinking any moment, he would walk through the door and join us.  He was supposed to be with us.

Over the days that followed his death, I grew angry and bitter.  I was not angry with him for dying, not angry with death itself, nor at God for taking him, which is Who I expected to be upset with.  No, I was angry at the injustice of it, the unfairness of it all.  We should have been gathering for a wedding shower, or a wedding, or a baby shower, or baptism, or birthday, or engagement party, or recital, or graduation, but never a funeral.  I was angry because we aren’t supposed to be dying yet.  He was only a year older than me, and he was supposed to be able to do so much more, and it’s like he left the table after eating a dinner roll, and then got called away before the main course even got to the table, and we all are just sitting here eating our own meals, while his is sitting there uneaten, and it seems like we should take home the leftovers and do something with them, because he never had that chance, and we would hate to waste something with such potential to be so wonderful…but the restaurant doesn’t allow sharing, so we all are just going to eat our own meals, and some of us will leave them half eaten, and others will clean the plate, but regardless of what we do, the meal will end eventually, and the restaurant will close, and we will have to go, too.  And maybe, we will encounter him there on the street after we finish our own suppers, and maybe we will all sit down for another meal, and maybe we will go on to do better things.

Sometimes I still find myself feeling angry about it, but it won’t change anything.  I don’t think he wasted what he had, and I refuse to waste what I have.  So, I’m going to say yes to new experiences and new adventures.  I’m going to do things that I’ve been putting off because life kept getting in the way.  I’m going to keep in better touch with those I love, and I refuse to compromise myself for the comfort of others anymore.

I’m really awful at goodbyes.  I’m not particularly good at hellos either, but I’m really never sure how to end things.  So here’s what I’ve got:

“All good things must come to an end” was apparently taken from the poem Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer.  You may know him as the guy who wrote the Canterbury Tales, which is where A Knight’s Tale (yeah, that Heath Ledger movie) came from…in fact, the naked writer in the movie was supposed to be Chaucer.

 

The Trouble With Holidays: Why I’m a Scrooge McGrinch

I’m going to be up front: I’m not a huge fan of Christmas–or rather, the Christmas obligations such as decorating, listening to Christmas tunes, and buying presents because it’s expected.

I love buying presents for people.  I hate doing this for Christmas and for birthdays.  I don’t like being told that I have to do these things.  I also hate shopping in crowds of people.  I like to buy things for people at random times because I see something they like or need.  I also am horrible with remembering birthdays, and I always feel like I have forgotten someone around Christmas, or perhaps overbought for one person compared to another (in these instances it has nothing to do with my fondness for the people, but more to do with how many things I came across that made me think of them; some people are just difficult to shop for in general).

I enjoy riding in the car and seeing everyone else’s Christmas decorations.  I enjoy the twinkling lights dancing along the eaves of strangers’ homes like faerie lights spying upon sleeping residents.  However, if I am unlikely to host a Christmas gathering, or even to be in a particular location for Christmas, I don’t particularly enjoy the presence of decorations for my sake alone.  If someone else may enjoy them, that is fine.  But if it for only my own pleasure, decorations are more likely to end up in the way or dissected and redistributed throughout the house by my cats.

As a musician, I have grown to truly despise 97% of Christmas music. You may ask,”Why–How could anyone hate Jingle Bells and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas? It’s tradition!” to which I respond: Exactly.  I have been playing the same 50 or so songs for many many years.  Don’t get me wrong, if it was something I only dealt with in November and December, it might be different; but every person who has ever been involved in middle school and high school music programs knows that a lot of Christmas preparation starts all the way back in August.  By the time the actual holiday season comes around, I am all Christmased out.

I could honestly take these issues in stride if not for one other thing: visiting and spending time with my family during the holidays.  I love my family and spending time with them.  But my family is broken, splintered into pieces that have been glued to other pieces up and down the East Coast.  My parents separated in October of 2000 when I was in elementary school, and my mother, younger brother Logan, and our cats Weezer and Cinnamon moved into an apartment, with my father and our dog Shadow staying in our old house.  That first Christmas, Dad came over and opened presents with us on Christmas morning and it was almost like things weren’t so different–but they were.  I knew they were.

Every year from that point on, we would trade off between parents for Christmas morning as per the custody agreement (I guess).  This arrangement worked really well until we moved to a separate state from our dad the summer before seventh grade.  Suddenly, keeping up with the holiday trade got trickier.  Dad came down, his truck weighed down with presents every year and stayed with my grandmother Mama Nell, and, after she passed, he stayed in our cousin’s guest apartment.  When I turned 18, and went to college, it became more my choice (I honestly could have chosen any time) who I wanted to spend the holiday with.  Here is my real problem with this time of year.

My dad lived between seven and eight hours away from me, and my mom, with Logan and my then four year old half-brother Christopher only a half-hour drive up the road, but travelling was not the problem.

It felt like I was being forced to choose which side of my family I loved more every year.  It would be impossible to see everyone in one day as I had when I was younger.  I became acutely bitter toward my parents for not considering that I would have to make that terrible decision every year, every major holiday until I am capable of hosting myself.

By the time this became an open decision-making process, Logan and I were old enough to know the deal with Santa, but Christopher was just beginning to understand and appreciate the experience of having his family together for Christmas morning.  So, now Logan and I spend every Christmas morning with Christopher, and I take a train at midnight to visit Dad, my step-mom, and step-sisters.  I have begun choosing where I go for other holidays based on which elderly family member will be attending and how likely they are to die before the next year.

I get to see everyone during my winter break from work, but it doesn’t happen without excessive planning.  I don’t know my step-sisters well enough to buy them gifts with great confidence.  I’m worried Christopher feels like I’m running away from them after Christmas every year.  I’m worried that my dad questions how much I love him because I’ve not seen him on Christmas for years.  We visit one of my step-families for various holidays, and I never feel like I belong, not matter how welcoming they are of Logan and me.  I simultaneously look forward to and dread the days when I will be established enough as a functional adult to host Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and Easter, so I may have my family all in one place, together.  I look forward to it so maybe I won’t feel so stretched and splintered on those days anymore; I dread it because…what if they can’t get along? What if the holidays become worse because I have to referee the two mixed up sides of my family?  What if I move to northern Virginia so everyone is about the same distance to visit, and no one does?  What if, in order to avoid conflict, still only half of my family is ever in one place?

What if I just move to Guam and skip decorations and Christmas carols? What if I just send postcards letting everyone know everything is great and I love them I miss them and I’ll visit during the summer when it’s too hot to stay at home? What if I find a way to keep Christmas from coming?

grinch

Postscript: Obviously toward the end there the mice started scurrying through my head and clawing their way out my ears.  I apologize.  But I think it’s important to show exactly how this situation affects my thought processes during this already stressful season.  So, I guess I don’t actually apologize.  I unapologize.

Food is Boring

Every few months, my brain decides that I don’t need to eat.

Bear with me here.

It doesn’t matter if I’m hungry.  It doesn’t matter if I have my favorite food sitting in front of me.  I simply must force myself to consume that which keeps me alive.  Chewing is unpleasant and my throat fights me when I try to swallow. My mind tells me that this is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever had in my mouth, and I should spit it out immediately.  Every texture is repulsive, the smell of food unappetizing.  I must treat my body like an impertinent child refusing to eat his vegetables. But in the end, the deed is done, and I go on to live another day.

I’m not sure if this is anxiety-related, or if my wires are crossed somewhere.  This feeling comes out of nowhere and dissipates without recognition until it comes back in all it’s irritatingly poignant ennui.  Because that is what this sensation is: boredom.

funny-bored-meme-i-am-so-bored-i-wish-i-was-hungry-picture

There is nothing particularly thrilling about food for me.  My taste palate is not sensitive enough for subtle differences in spices to impress me.  Texture is either lovely or repugnant–there seems to be no happy medium.  So my brain decides that since we get no actual enjoyment out of the consumption of a meal, it is unnecessary, and possibly even detrimental to my well-being.

It is during times like these that when making dinner plans with friends and family is especially frustrating (for myself and anyone else involved).  The questions of “Where do you want to eat?” and “What are you in the mood for?” are returned with a very honest “I don’t know,” or “Nothing,” or “I have no preference.” Insert this into a conversation regarding date plans (as it has in previous relationships), and it could be the beginnings of a ridiculous conflict over recurring indecision, when in this particular case it is, in fact, indifference to the entire culinary experience.

egg-burritoI have found recently, that a means of tricking my brain into letting me eat is to feed
myself food with some nostalgia attached to it. For example, last night I prepared two scrambled egg burritos with mild salsa, which was a favorite meal when I was a child.  I was able to eat the first without inner conflict, but the second proved to be difficult to swallow…literally.

I know: this is a riveting read, and a fantastic second post.  Hey, I can’t promise anything interesting–just a series of random thought mice running through my head and put down in writing.

My Pest Control Problem

I have mice in my head.

gus-gus

Obviously, they aren’t actual living, breathing mice.  They also are not dead mice.  I don’t experience some horrific sensation of there being actual rodents skittering about and chewing at the backs of my eyes (like that girl on a bad acid trip who described through monologue how she came to stab herself in the eyes with her grandmother’s knitting needles in in that play I saw in middle school).

No, the mice in my head are the thousands upon thousands of random distracting thoughts and anxieties that infest my daily life.  I could be walking down the hallway and I think, “this carpet is the same color and texture as the carpet we had when I was six…I remember playing with our big orange cat, Cinnamon, in the hallway on Penny Lane…I remember the time I compulsively poured heart shaped beads over that same sweet cat’s patrick-nagelhead just because I could (which I still feel guilty about 20 years later)…I remember my parents taking the container of beads from me and putting them out of reach in the top of the closet that was just at the opening of the hallway at the top of the stairs…at the bottom of those stairs was the front door, and behind that front door was an art print of a woman I thought was my mother, which now hangs above the couch in my apartment (this same picture is featured on the cover of a Duran Duran album)…outside the door was a set of concrete stairs…how many were there? Six? Seven?” …And then I lose a good ten minutes of my short existence trying to remember how many stairs were outside of my childhood home we moved from when I was nine years old…and perhaps another ten minutes or so will be lost as I attempt to recall every phone number I’ve had since we lived there…

This is an example of only one of the trails my mice run down.  Most of them end in guilt and anxiety over things that are long past and of little to no importance (neither then nor now).

On occasion they completely overtake my mind like the rats that infest grain warehouses shown in some Discovery Channel documentary.  Those seemingly sudden, but truly gradual infestations manifest as uncontrollable anxiety and panic attacks that leave me curled in a ball of shaking tears and snot, rambling about some inconsequential detail (like the inflated cost of candy corn) that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  It was during one of these occasion that my boyfriend referred to my run away thoughts as “mice,” and it struck me as being a very apt description.

So, this is what I’m going to write about: the random turns my mice take, the strange things my brain does, and stories (albeit overly detailed and likely rambling) about my life.  I hope to manage my anxiety through this blog–maybe getting some of these rats on a page will act as something of an extermination.

 

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