The evidence is stacking up and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that I’m not just tense. I’m past tense. I’ve been in denial about this until today, as you would have noticed if you’ve recently seen me and made the common mistake of asking me how I am. “Oh God, I’m great,” I would have said. “Look at me! Don’t I seem great?” And if there seemed to be any doubt lurking in your mind that I was anything but great, I would have mounted a production of Jody Reale’s Great: The Musical! right there on the spot that was so perky that it makes Up With People look like The Cure.
But today I saw my dentist—voluntarily, which I give myself extra credit for. I went for my six-month checkup after only six months, instead of the two years I usually wait in between six-month checkups. The findings were that my teeth are stained from the perpetual infusion of coffee and iced tea entering my body, and apparently, I’ve been clenching my jaws—and maybe even gnashing my teeth—with enough force that I’m damaging my poor choppers. “Remember,” the good dentist said, “when you’re not eating, your teeth should be apart.”
This is the third time in a few months that a member of the medical community has pointed out that I could use a few deep breaths, or a heroin habit. The last time I saw my endocrinologist, I had to ask him to palpate my thyroid gland one more time, just to make sure it was still normal. I put my hands over my throat and told him, “It feels like there’s a pair of hands choking me until my eyes bug out and my head inflates like a balloon.” He indulged me with a second look, and remarked that the back of my neck and shoulders felt like they were made of cement. “You don’t need a doctor,” he said, “you need a massage therapist.” When I said I would try to find one preferably next to a methadone clinic, he patted my knee and told me I was precious.
In order to solve a problem, one must acknowledge that there is one, and for me, the problem is two-fold: I’m smack in the middle of a personal growth spurt at a time when my living situation is in flux.
In February, we sold our house all lickety split-like, and moved into a tiny rental in downtown Boulder’s swankiest neighborhood while we looked for the next place for us to hang our hats and hearts. We thought such a move would be novel, fun for summertime strolls to where the action is, and above all, temporary. While it has been novel, and maybe even a little fun, it’s turned out to be not all that temporary, as we still haven’t managed to buy a new house to live in on a not-so-temporary basis. And, being a non-millionaire renter in a multi-million-dollar neighborhood that kind of has a stick up its ass has been a little weird.
My parents still live in the same house they bought when they married in 1968. It’s in a barrio now, but it’s theirs, free and clear, and the first time I ever had the pleasure of schlepping all my crap to some place new was when I went away to college. “Well, this moving thing sucks,” I remember saying to my roommate the day I moved into my dorm room for the year. I’ve moved only four times since graduating in 1991, and when we move out of this little bungalow in Boulder that belongs to someone else, it’s going to stick for a while, like it or not. You can call it keeping my world very, very small, but it’s that kind of simplicity and intimacy with my roots that helps me keep my eye on the ball that’s most important. It keeps me focused and grounded, and prevents me from becoming one of those people who is, in a Texan’s parlance, all hat and no cattle.
It sounds pedestrian, and it is, but I find comfort in knowing exactly what mechanic I would use if my car were to need service. I want to know exactly where the dry cleaner is, even if I haven’t worn anything needing dry cleaning in half a decade. I need to know every square inch of my local grocery store, so that I can go directly to the Pop Tarts aisle the second I start having one of the “Oh my God! What am I doing with my life?” crises that have been wearing out their welcomes as of late.
If you believe that women have all kinds of cycles, cycles that transcend the menstrual kind, I would tell you that it’s true for me. I have cleaning cycles and emotional cycles, health and fitness cycles and even intelligence cycles. But the cycles that are the most painful and fickle of all are what I call my self actualization cycles. Every few years, I stop dead in my tracks, look at my watch and say, “Holy shit! I’m going to be DEAD someday. I’d better become all the things I ever wanted to be—now!” I then try and become a millionaire cowgirl midwife horticulturist overnight.
These are binges in which I obsess over my own personal manifest destiny, the two-steps-forward-one-step-back approach to life that’s gotten me this far, which is probably plenty far, but still. And then I remember: Oh yeah, we’ve got no place to live come October. This is no hurricane; we’ve brought these “problems” on ourselves, but the tension is no less real. I still have teeth starting to buckle under the weight of my thoughts; I still have bouts of what’s called esophageal spasm, a condition that is every bit as sexy as it sounds.
Alex and I are two crazy people who can’t seem to get our act together enough to choose a house in one of the nicest places in the US to live. Maybe we should stop rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs and just have a seat. Look, honey, the band’s still playing. At the time of this writing, two real estate agents have fired us, an event that I didn’t even think was possible. I’m starting to envy the Wicked Witch of the East, who actually had a house fall right on top of her. Looks like it was a brick three bedroom ranch, too. Some people have all the luck.