It’s Time For the Bad To Be Over

October 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

Otherwise known as: Remember this blog? Let’s start it again.

I wrote this on my birthday last week but I figured it was a good way to ‘rebirth’ the blog. So, enjoy.

So I’m thirty eight today and I’ve just managed to convince a three year old that a nap is in her best interests. I did so because my kitchen table is covered with potential art. I’m making shadow boxes, and paper cuttings and “altered houses” and Sculpey things for Fall and (christmas). At the same time I am reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott in an effort to make myself write. I am also looking for a job and trying to find a way to make a million dollars without getting a job, dealing with newly bloomed back pain that my doctor says “let’s just deal with it!” instead of “MY GOD YOU POOR WOMAN, LAY DOWN WITH SOME CAKE” like I want him to, and ill timed PMS that takes me from near perfect contentment this morning to unbearable sadness about fifteen minutes ago because Todd looked particularly lonely.

The thing is, Charlotte’s asleep and for an hour and a half I can sit here and do whatever I want. I can lose myself in a book, make tiny apples from clay, paint, sketch, write, bathe my stinky dog…and none of that sounds good. Frankly I’d like to lay down on the couch with said dog and think about all the things I’d like to do and imagine how great they’ll be when I do them one day “When I Feel In The Right Mind Set To Do Them”. I put stuff off every day because my literary dramatic nature demands that the “time” be right. Writing needs an eight hour minimum with no possibility of television parole. I need to have taken a long bath and be carried by words to the notebook, bursting with gems of dialogue and description. Art demands a frantic mind, a cloudy day, a positive outlook, an almost obnoxious happiness and energy.

In fact, for the past decade or so, I’ve done great damage to myself and to others, laboring under the illusion that nothing can be properly accomplished unless it’s done in the midst of happiness and peace. I can’t imagine doing a scrapbook page while angry, or sad, or lonesome or hungry. I can’t imagine writing when I’m jealous or frustrated or fed up. In fact, the list has grown longer so that I can’t find myself cooking an interesting dinner, cleaning the bathroom, organizing a closet or going to the library without a pre-approved emotion to guide me there. It’s no surprise to me that after quitting painkillers I never went back to pottery class. I loved throwing clay on the wheel, going back to discover a beautifully glazed, if a little crooked, coffee mug with my name etched in the bottom. I loved the entrancing focus that centering the clay required, the accomplishment that surged when I properly pulled a bowl up and out. But i never went to class without first taking my pills, ensuring that I would be euphoric during my creation.

So for years — YEARS (I quit in May of ’08) I have been ‘waiting” for my brain to return to normal. For the endorphins to straighten out and the pleasure centers to repair and for natural happiness and euphoria to take their place. I’ve been waiting for life experiences to increase my serotonin and dopamine levels before I ‘get back’ to who I was. The fact is that I may never get back there. I jacked up my brain something fierce and trained myself to believe that if I wasn’t ecstatically buzzing with creativity and energy then I was “sick” or “sad” or “depressed” when actually I was just “normal”.

My mother gave me a little “helpful hint” about a year ago that I promised her I would take to heart, and I actually did try to do so for a while…but then I got laid off and it became easy not to … do anything really. Sitting around moping became my hobby. She told me that a friend of hers in recovery gave her a quote that said:

We do things to feel better, not wait until we feel better to do things

So brilliant in its simplicity and SO. HARD. TO. DO. But I guess that’s my focus for this year. I would like to feel the joy I once felt doing the things I loved, including things that would be so good for me like yoga or swimming. I would like to learn how to make myself feel better rather than laying on the couch waiting for an antidepressant or an antianxiety pill or a couple of tylenol to do so.

Charlotte will wake up within the hour and ask to “do halloween”. We’re making decorations together this year to save money, and it makes her so happy to cut a piece of cheesecloth into a ghost on a string. There’s almost nothing to it, but it thrills her beyond belief. So that’s what we’ll do. And i’ll make sure that it’s fun.

At the Movies

September 29, 2009 § 1 Comment

(partially reconstituted from my old blog)

The plain and simple truth is that ever since the age of nine, or maybe even before, I’ve been living my life as if it’s being filmed, or more broadly, as if I’m being watched, monitored. To some this may translate to self absorption, but to me, it’s a journey through great directing and cinematography. The key to it is…I don’t really care if anyone really IS watching. I’m living my own Truman Show. And in fact, the majority of my performances are ‘filmed’ in solitude. Very often, when I’m alone (and thank God Marge or Todd could never speak and report these things), I narrate my life in a sort of Morgan Freeman-esque style, as if everything is a flashback.

She made chocolate chip cookies that day…golden brown and chewy…not knowing that the biggest phone bill of her life was waiting in the mail box. Not knowing that things would never…be…the same.

Sometimes, if the soundtrack to my life dictates it (a certain song comes on the iPod or the radio I mean) I will stop what I’m doing and stare wistfully in a mirror, remembering that trip I took to Manhattan, where I met Michael and Roger and we were roommates, just trying to make it in this crazy town. Or I’ll break down and cry at the kitchen sink at the loss of my twin brother Gareth who drown off the coast of Nantucket so many years ago. It’s like…it’s like he’s still with me. And then I’ll pick up a little spoon or a glass and ‘remember’ the good times we had with a pyrex measuring cup. Or wait…what was that sound? Has the murderer I’ve been tracking for the government (because I’m a world famous profiler/model/mother/novelist) finally found me in my remote cabin in the forests of Maine? I’ll creep around on the sides of my socked feet to find out.*

But really, some of my best performances are on the train. I’ll gaze out over the racing landscape, wondering if I’ll make it to the hospital in time to see Vincent before he’s gone forever, and will he forgive me for shutting him out of my life. Then I’ll do the slow motion blink/eye shift (and I do it in slow motion) that movie makers are so fond of, and see Mitch…who’s been tailing me since I left New Mexico. What does he want? It doesn’t matter, don’t make eye contact. Check the doors, the exits, listen for the next stop, fiddle with your gloves, sunglasses. Tuck a stray lock of hair slowly behind your ear. Stay discreet and he won’t know you’re there. Then I get off the train and walk briskly (if I’m wearing brisk walking high heeled boots), and look over my shoulder to make sure I’m safe. It’s also fun to pretend to be blind, deaf, foreign or my favorite, JUST A TOUCH INSANE. I’ll stare at people with kind of a steely gaze, out from under the eyebrows, or I’ll grind my teeth or crack my knuckles. At the very least, I give people something to talk about.

“I saw a fairly nice looking profoundly retarded girl on the train today, rocking back and forth and counting the stitches in her scarf.”

There’s an off chance that a lot of people think I’ve got some sort of Annette Funicello Slow Motion disease or something because I really like to use the slow blink, the slow “flashback” smile and laugh, and when I’m walking the dog, I like to do my slow, turn around and smile over my shoulder move. I only do it in the dark though, so some young Hispanic Gang Members don’t think I’m ‘taunting’ them with my middle class sensibilities.

I do a LOT of musical montages. Getting ready for work, I do a lot of laughing and smiling in remembrance of a failing romance. In the shower I do theatrical trailers for thrillers – FROM THE BEST SELLING NOVEL BY JESSICA MCCARTNEY….

I become startled and peek out of the shower curtain, or I splay my hand out and slide it down the wall as if I’ve been stabbed to death…or I’ll bring a real after school special aspect into it and slide down the wall, naked, and fake cry beneath the warm water, either because I’m a pregnant teen, or a bulimic, or I’ve been abused or something. I also like to do the afterschool special when I’m taking my pills in the morning (or any of the other sixty times during the day). I’ll put the pills on the bathroom counter or I’ll hold them right in the middle of my palm like on a commercial and stare at myself in the mirror, frowning at what I’ve become. Look at yourself. You can’t live without the smack, can you? You can’t even go to your own daughter’s confirmation unless you’re high, can you? And then I take the Fibercon or whatever other nerd medicine I’m taking that day and stare at myself again. Get a hold of yourself, junkie. And I splash water on my face and watch it drip off in dramatic fashion. Then I’ll finish the trailer with a big ‘chase scene’ through my house, hiding behind furniture, a hand closing over a doorknob, pointing an invisible gun down a hallway. Then I adopt a low, voice over guy tone and say,

Sometimes, the last person you can trust…IS THE LAST PERSON YOU SHOULD.

“THE BROKER. RATED R.

Sometimes I’m not so much in the movie as talking about during a retrospective of my life. I like to do the E! True Hollywood Story of my successful marriage, my struggle with chronic pain, my battles with major publishers to get my controversial stories published. I also do testimonials when I’m wearing jeans and black turtlenecks, like hip people do.

“My name is Jessica McCartney. I’m an actress and a writer in Chicago and I’ve been using Apple computers since I was 12.”

While I’m talking to myself I pose in still shots from magazines: me waving to the crowd, me trying to hide from the paparazzi, me on the beach, shading my eyes.

“McCartney struggled with weight her entire life, and now she’s a stunning size six, strong and prepared to face the world.”

I’ll admit that this is all much harder to do now that i have an almost equally dramatic two and a half year old girl running around the house with me, but the way I figure it, she could be written into the script, a baby washed up on the beach and I’m the nun who adopted her – with hilarious (touching? world changing?) results. Or we could just build forts.

So if you’re ever wondering why I’m such a homebody and I don’t mind spending so much time by myself, it’s because I’m mildly insane – and I’m making a movie.

* Have you ever noticed this? Women “creeping around quietly” in movies, be they shoed or socked, walk around on the outsides of their feet for some reason. Jeanie (Shauna) from Ferris Bueller is an excellent example, when she’s trying to sneak up on Edward R. Rooney dean of students as he breaks into her kitchen. She walks on the outsides of her feet. Are these the “quiet” parts of the feet?

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