My Amma Doll

May 15th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Introspection | Spiritual - (0 Comments)

In which I write about a toy. A doll. A temple idol, a spiritual tool.

I’ve had an Amma doll for a long time, and over the years I’ve collected all the outfits and extras, and I keep it all in an old wicker picnic-style basket. I can dress her in her whites, or as Devi, Krishna, or Kali.

There’s also a nightgown, socks, a swim dress, perfumes, a sun dress I made, and a tiny Home Depot apron (in case she ever wants to do some yard work or something). Garlands, necklaces, earrings, belts, a mala. A hairbrush.

There used to be a sweater, but apparently I’ve lost it.

Amma doll

I’ve read treatises written by those who don’t yet grasp what spirituality is or what it’s for, droning on and on about the phenomenon of white women and their Amma dolls, trying to make all kinds of Freudian implications about infantilization and adult women “playing” with dolls, as if there were something wrong with play, something sinister about child-like joy and absorption.

Yeah, yeah, I get it. There is evil in the world (although this is not it), and the dolls creep you out. Whatever. Your mistakes are your own. Or are they?

Because the fact is, this doll isn’t a Barbie, empty of meaning. It’s not a collection of plastic crap that symbolizes only imperialism and consumption. This doll is a profoundly useful spiritual tool, whether anyone who thinks they’re weird is capable of understanding that or not.

When you’re nearly always apart from your guru, being able to play with and cuddle a toy, one imbued with layers of complex spiritual and philosophical information, is a fucking oasis in a desert of streaming services, social networking, avarice, empty affluence, fear, and anxiety.

The process of handling the doll focuses the mind on the guru. Changing the costumes over time creates deep curiosity — why does Kali have a garland of skulls? what issues are there to consider about religion and violence? is suffering different than violence? is death meaningful? what the fuck is a demon: is it a literal bad entity, or a representation of one’s own flaws? is the mind a demon? Does Krishna’s flute, like, symbolize something? maybe Krishna just liked to play the flute? does it have to be meaningful? What’s the difference between information and meaning? what’s it feel like to be enlightened? aren’t the enlightened supposed to be without preference? so why the flute and not something else? — which drives self-education and awakens the understanding that all this shit represents something.

Kali Ma

These symbols are not just arbitrary foreign cultural weirdness. They have meaning. They peel like an onion.

When you see your guru for two days a year, and spend maybe 4 minutes of those two days actually with her, you need a conduit, a way to get back, a helpful symbol. When you’re losing your shit because you don’t know what the fuck is going on with your life or what you are or are supposed to be doing, you grab your Amma doll and you have a good cry.

Or, as I frequently do, you bitch God out for this stupid reality in which one has to have a mind capable of suffering in order to want to become enlightened: you cannot even want enlightenment without suffering first! It’s built-in! What the fuck!

Brahman dwells within itself, forever content. In the deeps, God isn’t even aware of us. If he’s the brilliant scientist in the state-of-the-art lab, we’re some random bacteria in the sludge around the drain in the unused third sub-basement he doesn’t even know about.

This occasionally makes me so infuriated I bitch and hiss at my doll, because it’s easier to have a conversational focus in the form of a small item than it is to try to somehow address the entirety of the manifest universe at once, because seriously, where would you even look?

My Amma doll

You look at your doll, as a representative of That, and you complain. You lay out your grievances. You pitch a fucking fit. You say you know everything that exists is a manifestation of an inherent quality of the Lord’s, and you know that selfishness, stupidity, and greed are just as much expressions of God as generosity, intelligence, beauty, and sacrifice, and that’s cool, but: suffering! Why is there suffering? Why even manifest as apparent discrete entities with minds of their own when that is itself literally the cause of suffering? What’s the point of us even being here to experience shit when it’s frequently so awful? Why even do this in the first place? How can You be loving if this manifestation with all its inherent bullshit is a fundamental expression of what You are?!

And then you get the brain dump. God, Guru answers. No, you don’t see visions or hear voices, but suddenly you have understandings that you didn’t have before. Knowledge just appears in your head, intact. (I’ve noticed when reading Matruvani that devotees’ stories are often like this. They’re waiting and waiting for whatever outcome they think they want, and eventually they get freaked out and complain to the altar or a photo of idol or guru, and then, and only then, at the final hour, the thing, the outcome, the whatever, occurs.) I think that it’s perfectly fine and okay and even encouraged to natter and nag and bitch at the Beloved. Amma even says several times in various books that one should have a running commentary and be always thinking of and talking to one’s beloved deity. Don’t gossip with others, tell the beloved. Don’t complain to others, tell the beloved. Don’t suffer needlessly and stoically, tell the beloved.

The whole point of and thread running throughout is about where the mind should be. The mind should be not on worldly bullshit, but on any symbol that will eventually lead it inward. Apparently this is called pratyahara, and is the process of withdrawing the mind from distraction and turning it inward toward its source. It’s a pain in the ass, in one way, because it’s hard and tedious and sometimes it hurts. But it’s also effortless, in the sense that at some point you realize that there is no effort, only grace. Because you feel like you’re making effort but you eventually come to know you’re not: you go years sometimes without effort, and then suddenly great strides are made. Your heart is arid and then the rains come, and you’re not the rain. You reach for That when the guru wants you to, and at no other time.

Another irrationality, that, as most of it is in this arduous process of destroying the world, and yet once you know it, you know it. Since there’s nothing to measure, you can’t prove it, but you have experienced it and know it to be true. They say if you take one step toward the guru, the guru will take a thousand toward you, but you also know that shit does not move at all without the guru doing it, because you’re not the doer, you’re not even real. You are your mind, and your mind is a reflection of consciousness.

Just like you know God’s not an asshole but doesn’t really find human suffering all that compelling, in the same way a human being does not find the death of a few skin cells all that compelling, and yet, by the same token, some aspect of God does shit like takes birth and gets nailed to a cross like Christ or dies of cancer like Ramakrishna or crucifies herself in her darshan chair like Amma in order to point us in the right direction. They come and They come and They ever come, these incarnations, and They show infinite love and beauty and grace and They say, look, I’m suffering my balls off here, because hey-what, the suffering of the mind and body is irrelevant. And let me teach you why.

And it’s utterly impossible to encompass, but there it is. The whole thing’s a huge joke somehow. You’re not even here, your you-ness isn’t real, it’s a soup of consciousness your mind is building the whole of reality out of, and your mind is not even conscious itself. It’s a construct! It merely reflects! I’m waiting for the punch line!

Terror is the mind realizing you know it’s not real, and that you’re becoming willing to surrender it to That in order to escape suffering, which is also not real.

I’m waiting for the punch line!

Another ride

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Life | Panic & Anxiety - (0 Comments)

I’m so fucking high strung, you guys.

So I woke up this morning, had a hummus/tabouli/falafel/feta lettuce wrap, drank some water, decided being awake was stupid, and went back to bed ’til afternoon.

Detail

Got up a second time, had some water, rearranged my very dirty hair, put on eyeliner, dressed, took my shit out of one bag and put it into another, and went for a bike ride.

Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. No one to see. It was so easy when I lived in a small town and didn’t have a car. Got my exercise in without noticing, in the form of transportation.

It was raining. Low-seventies. Nice light spring rain.

It rained

Rode to the Midtown Global Market again. Locked up my bike, under a tree to help keep the seat dry. Went inside.

Walked around for a few minutes. Realized I was hungry. Walked around until I found a place selling chile rellenos. Ordered some. Wandered over to a coffee shop. Didn’t buy coffee. Felt anxious and weird, dizzy maybe, and realized that my vision isn’t really up to dealing with very high-information environments: the two different prescriptions, both out of date, plus the addition of the floaters that have been slowly and regularly increasing over time, make my brain feel weird.

Chose a table. Took out my readers and a magazine. Leg bounced. Felt like I just wanted to get back on my bike. Uncomfortable. Not an anxiety attack yet, but close. Also, the body, so unaccustomed to exercise, feeling different than usual.

I had cheese chile rellenos

“Number one seventy one? Do you want salsa?”

“Please.”

“Mild or hot?”

“Hot.”

“Green or red?”

“Red. Thank you.”

Sat down to eat. Can’t really see my food; really need to get in to see the optometrist. Put my readers on. Methodically and rapidly devoured a chile relleno. Unwrapped the tortillas. Cut the other chile relleno into thirds. Made three chile relleno tacos. Wrapped them up. Took off my readers. Cleared my table. Got a container from the counter and put my tacos into my messenger bag.

Walked around the market some more. Really should have enjoyed it, because it’s really the sort of place I would enjoy, with all the international stuff and all the interesting people, but didn’t. Just wanted to get the fuck out, get back on my bike, move, use up some energy. All the little shops: didn’t go in. Last time I was there, last winter sometime, I saw a really great top in one of the booths. Didn’t even look for it. Walked by the coffee place again, decided I didn’t need a drink because I had a water bottle on the bike. Really not feeling at all normal. Just being here is fucking difficult. What the actual fuck. I have nothing to do until work at 6 tonight, and I came here to sit and read and write, didn’t I? What the fuck is even wrong with me?

Sat down at a table in the central seating area. Readers and magazine out. Knee bouncing, I made it fewer than five minutes before I got up and left.

The rain had stopped.

Unlocked my bike, tied up my right pant leg, and off I went.

Nice ride. Much better. Leg muscles working felt good, damp air felt good, the lilacs are finally in bloom.

Most of the Midtown Greenway is in an old train corridor, beneath the streets and safe from traffic. Saw Mexicans under the overpasses. Some were singing. One was sleeping.

My Schwinn

Pulled over at a rock and sat for a few minutes. Thought it would be a nice place to meditate, but didn’t want to mediate. Wanted to go the fuck home and relax. Got up, rode the last thirty feet to the Soo Line Garden, dismounted, and pushed my bike up the bark trail to street level.

Flushed, hot, inwardly shaking my head at how honestly hard it is to walk my bike up a steep hill, almost there, almost at the top, slow steps, at least nothing hurts.

Still aware of how floaters confuse my brain’s interpretation of what I’m seeing and what’s moving when I’m outside and the light is bright. I don’t notice them at all in familiar or low-light situations, but out in public in bright light there’s a sensation that everything is moving, even though it’s not, and my response to weird vision and being in public is to ratchet everything up, fight-or-flight style. My internal experience is one of great agitation and intensity and nervousness, and I’m having to deliberately focus on the feel of the air and the smells and all the nice nature around me rather than the quite frankly irrelevant internal experience.

Meanwhile, while all this weird shit is going on, simmering half a degree below a full-blown goddamned panic attack, I look like a pleasant, plump, white lady, slowly walking her retro bike up a hill through a garden, wearing black linen palazzo pants and a slouchy V-neck, meditation beads and a messenger bag. Really makes you realize that nothing is how it looks. You see someone and have no idea what it’s like to be them; who knows what goes on in the skulls of other pleasant-looking, plump, white ladies?

They’re probably all mad geniuses but too pleasant to say so, or gacked out of their head on street drugs just walking along, looking like somebody’s grandmother, smiling pleasantly.

Blathering on about change

April 11th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Food | Introspection | Whining - (0 Comments)

In which I catalog not terribly relevant stuff!

Realizing that your youth is well and truly over is so fucking weird.

One, you now know that people don’t even know what youth is until they’ve left it. Two, now you’re a grown up, and you’ve finally gotten some wisdom and some work ethic, and now you do chores because you prefer to have a somewhat tidy apartment rather than out of childish resentment, but you can’t help mourning your lost measurements rather than being grateful you’ve lived long enough to even become middle-aged.

I have no idea what to do with this body. It’s fat. It’s low energy. It’s hard to dress because it’s basically square, and it’s even harder to lever up off the floor. I’ve been dieting for months, and after losing an initial 4″ off my waist: nothing. No change whatsoever that isn’t monthly cycle-related. I mean, I feel better, yeah, but I’m still fat.

Also, the diet’s morphed from a sincere LCHF attempt to just plain old calorie restriction, because I wanted to eat some motherfucking beans and bread already, but since I tend to end up gorging once a week my calorie restriction attempt isn’t all that legit. You’re eating a thousand calories a day for six days, then you have a 2,100 calorie day because you can order literally any meal you can think of to be delivered.

Doubtless our bodies evolved for frequent bouts of lack, but our brains engineered themselves into a future completely filled with food.

I mean, where, exactly, is the line between reasonable discipline and self-flagellation. Being on a diet can turn the normally pleasant act of eating into an unsatisfying chore. “Oh, well, I’m hungry, and I have 300 calories left for the day. Looks like I need more protein, but the idea of a cheese and olives and almonds again makes me just not want to eat.”

My hair. I don’t want to be vain and idiotic, but: my hair. It’s so fine, and thinning, it’s brittle and frizzy, and it looks like shit. I don’t want to be attached, I don’t want to resist what is just regular old change, but MY GODDAMNED HAIR. I’m trying not to be negative about what’s happening to my skin with the puffiness and the wrinkles and the sagging and the — based on what my relatives look like — unavoidable jowls, but MY HAIR.

I feel like my boobs are more or less normal, I guess, especially when I have them squished into a sports bra so they’re not getting in the way, until I see myself in the mirror and realize I now have Matron Bosom. What the actual fuck.

I watch a lot of period TV, espcially British period TV, and I feel like I should replace all my clothes with, like, whatever 48-year-old adult women should be wearing, but I have no idea what that is. Used to be a dress and sensible shoes, I guess, or a pantsuit? What do 48-year-old women wear now, leggings and tunics? And what do you even do about Matron Bosom?

I’ve spent the last week in a pair of boxy sweat pants and a tank top, with some long sleeved t-shirt or another. I never leave the building.

All those years I thought I was fat! All those years! Now that I actually am, I want to go back and smack myself upside the head for wasting energy on nonsense.

All those things older women wore and said that I thought were ironic but weren’t. All those things older women wore and said that I thought weren’t ironic but actually were.

I’m in a relationship that feels comfortable and easy, but I never could have been in it before. Part of it working as well as it does is that my body doesn’t want to go out and do stuff all the time, and he’s a homebody. If I were even ten years younger, we’d probably be, if not fighting, at least getting along less well, because instead of doing the dishes I’d be out at a my full-time job or with friends at the bar or at a gig or just somewhere he wasn’t.

These days I just don’t want to go do things very often. Couple times a month rather than couple times a week. I really can’t even imagine him with a woman his own age, to be honest, which is probably why he ended up with my old ass!

We get along so, so well, but as I am now and not as I used to be. When we met, I had a robust social life and a band. I was out all the time (even if I was getting sick of the band and beginning to realize that “going out” wasn’t any fun without the drinking; that it really wasn’t about the people as much as I’d thought).

These days, when I go out, he stays awake until I’m home, and usually texts me things like “???” if I close the bar. I feel conflicted about that; on the one hand, I’m fucking thirteen years older than he is, and I can stay at the VFW until it closes if I goddamned well feel like it. On the other, he actually gives so much of a shit about me that he stays awake and texts me when I’m out alone. And not because he’s a controlling fuck, because he’s not, but because he cares.

Right now, I have an embroidered pillowcase on my pillow. Last night as we were preparing to go to bed, he turned it over for me so the smooth side was up. He does shit like that every single day. Like I said before, relationships aren’t hard work at all when you’re not with an asshole.

Amma’s summer tour schedule has been announced and I’m obsessed with my job’s time off board. It currently ends June 30, and they should have posted the first week of July yesterday but didn’t. I want July 4 & 5 so we can go to the D.C. programs again, but might not get them if I don’t request the 4th the second it’s posted. Other option is Boston the 1st & 2nd, but it’s farther so the airfare would probably be more. I haven’t been to the Boston programs since Reni and I drove the East coast part of the tour probably fifteen years ago. Old me probably wouldn’t even consider driving the tour because it’s so exhausting. (I mean, if Mother herself told me to get on the tour bus, I would, but like that’s ever gonna happen.)

The best part of being shaped like a sailing frigate is that I still wake up with zits! Somebody once told me they’d go away when I grew up, but they never did!

The day before yesterday, it was 70F. Last night, it snowed. LOL Minnesota.

In which I rather complain a little.

It’s 29F outside. I cracked the windows while I tidied did the dishes and made the bed, and it can’t be over 73F in here, but I’m overheating! Very hot water just used to be very hot water; these days it’s like I’m being tortured and my hands turn red and swell up! Just doing the damned dishes!

Then there’s the times I’m suddenly freezing and need a blanket, though nothing’s changed in the past half hour. Temperature regulation: I barely seem to do it anymore! How weird is that!

I will probably die this summer. It’s impossible to keep this apartment much under 80F even with blackout curtains, because the building is made of brick and both windows face south and have no awnings. The entire external wall just radiates heat all fucking day long all summer long, and the AC unit verges on useless. Last year I was miserable. I don’t know what I’ll do this year. Sit in the bathtub in the dark with ice cubes, I suppose. Or spend all day every day in an air conditioned coffee shop at five bucks an hour.

And I’ve been on a diet for, what, two months now? No pizza, no pasta, no lattes. I’d kill for a bowl of black beans and brown rice, let alone a nuked tray of cheesy, creamy, carbolicous Stouffer’s® mac & cheese! I’ve had maybe six pieces of bread, and all of it was 100% whole grain! I’m being good! Where are the results!

Breakfast

I keep refried beans, which used to be a staple of my diet, as a treat. (I know I said that in my last post, but OMG seriously. Fucking beans.)

I’m living on omelets, vegetables, cheese, hard boiled eggs, tofu, and miso. Shredded cabbage really doesn’t substitute for hashed browns, no matter how hard you try to pretend it does, and spaghetti squash gets old real quick, even drowning in cream sauce or marinara and cheese. I’m completely bored of Boca burger lettuce wraps and mugs of broth.

Lunch

All this deprivation and I should be getting results, no? No. I’ve lost a couple inches off my waist, and my ankles don’t bloat as much during The Curse. That’s about it. My fat feels ever-so-slightly less firm, maybe. I see no visual evidence of success, and while I do feel better, I’d like to also look better if I could, please!

Last time I did low carb (well, as low carb as one can as a vegetarian), the inches fell off. Now, my physiology has decided this fatness bullshit is my set point, and I get the feeling I will never not have jowls again. I can barely stand to see myself reflected in anything.

And I’m not eating any sugar! Once a week I let myself sweeten my coffee with Equal. I’ll have a 5 oz. glass of Crystal Light, for fuck’s sake, if I’m craving a soda or fruit juice, and even then I usually dilute it with unsweetened iced tea. I had some sugar-free jello a couple weeks ago. You try eating under 40g of carbs as a vegetarian. It’s ridiculous. (And honestly, at this point, I’m not even really a vegetarian for moral reasons: I just cannot eat flesh. My jaw won’t do it. My stomach won’t do it. I’m just as likely to eat your face as I am a cow.)

They really aren’t kidding about it getting harder to lose weight as one ages. It’s not harder, though, it’s impossible! Gah!

In which I’m dieting.

Tired (again) of being fat and miserable. Dieting (again) in an effort to be less fat and less miserable.

As a vegetarian, I find it very difficult to do really low-carb, so I’m doing a combination of “as few carbs as possible” and calorie restriction.

Eating a lot of eggs, tofu, Boca burgers, olives, and nuts.

Diet jello or Crystal Light when I’m desperate for a “treat.”

CURRENT STATUS: Desperate for a bowl of fettuccine Alfredo. Or mac ‘n’ cheese. Seriously. WANT. So, so bad.

I’m in my third week. I’ve lost a few inches off my waist, have more energy, and feel better overall. My nighttime teeth-grinding and snoring seem to be reducing. I’m meditating daily and ticking off the boxes on my housewifery list with much less struggle. My laundry is done. My mood is much improved (although being off the phones at work while I’m on the 90-day chat pilot also helps).

But I’m still fat. My current hip measurement is forty-three inches, which is insane for a person with a 30″ inseam.

Being fat is miserable. Fatigue, bloating, back pain, low energy, and a pervasive feeling of dis-ease and discomfort.

But beans are a huge part of my usual diet, and I’m missing them. (I had half a cup of refried beans yesterday, but they’re high in carbs, and so are rationed. I miss them.)

Tofu is so boring. OMFG. I fry it in ghee with spices, and put it in broth or eat it with sriracha mayo for dip, but it’s so boring.

Fried tofu

One gets bored of eggs. And you can only eat a single can of tuna per week if you don’t want to over-mercury yourself… so getting enough protein is hard when you’re a lacto-ovo pescatarian-who-is-really-mostly-vegetarian.

But seriously: a huge plate of creamy, gooey noooooodles, with garlic French bread?! And a lovely, light salad? Am I right?!

Or a broccoli-cheddar pot pie with lots of gravy, or a baguette with brie!

Gah!

Oh, well. No refined carbs for me. I guess it’s more omelets.

Feta omelet

Current status

February 5th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Domestic Goddess | Food - (0 Comments)

In which it’s Superb Owl Sunday, and I’m not even sure who’s playing!

It’s 1:24 in the afternoon and I’ve already downed this:

Bloody Mary

(It’s a brilliant bloody mary with lots of pickle juice.)

And this:

Tostada

(A mostly-homemade bean tostada of excellent excellence.)

Life is a wonderful — and delicious and tipsy — thing!

‘Twas the night before Christmas

December 26th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Family | Love - (0 Comments)

In which we each opened a present on Christmas Eve.

I got a ring!

Oooh! Pretty!
Terrible picture brought to you by low light and my cell phone.

According to the listing, it’s a “created Alexandrite pear ring, set in .925 sterling silver with rhodium finish.” I have no idea what rhodium is.

When my grandfather came home from WWII, he brought back a small collection of unset gem stones. When each of his kids, including my mother, graduated from high school, they got to choose a stone and have it set into a ring.

So they’ve all got these rings set in white gold with giant pink stones (pink sapphires? I’m really not sure what they are, but they’re HUGE and they’re PINK) that are unique, and yet still sort of part of a matching set. They’re all different shapes: square, round, rectangular, etc. And my aunts all wear their rings to this day.

When I graduated high school, I got a small Alexandrite — there were no huge pink rocks left, after all five of his kids — and my grandmother had it set in white gold for me. It was so cool and I loved it! A custom-made ring, just for me! And it was a color-changing stone, with tones of purple and aqua. It was my first piece of ‘real’ jewelry and I should still fucking have it.

Buuuuut I don’t. It got stolen out of my bathroom during a party in junior college. (I’ve always been bummed about that. It should have become a fucking heirloom, but my dumb ass lost it. God only knows where the ring is now.)

Then I saw this ring and it reminded me both of my own ring and the rings of my aunts and uncle, so I put it on my wishlist and GOT IT FOR CHRISTMAS! Yay!

He got fuzzy plaid lounge pants.

In which there’s a rant about the joyous experience of aging-while-female.

This piece about perimenopause made me laugh. Especially the line, “Last week, I cried because I saw a high school marching band coming down the street playing Stevie Wonder.” (I sobbed during the end of White Christmas last night, and I’ve seen the damn movie a dozen times. Shit, I nearly cried watching part of an episode of DS9.)

And this fuck-you-menopause rant was pretty great, too, mostly because I too have been asking myself why I feel like shit all the time for the past few years. (Although, to be fair, I don’t feel bad as much as I don’t feel good, if that makes any sense. I’m not in pain or anything, I’m just missing that throbbing vibrant good health of breeding-age hormones.)

I mean, I know there is much room for improvement. My diet’s pretty good most of the time, but not always. (I’m either eating homemade, additive-free soup and home-baked whole wheat sourdough or I’m horking down fries and a Frosty from Wendy’s. Sometimes I live on soup for a couple of days in a row. What the fuck do you want from me.) I definitely need to be more physically active, and, knowing that, I do asanas and mild calisthenics; I go on walks and bike rides (during the three months a year it isn’t 98F with 100% humidity or -11F with a fifteen degree wind chill factor). Sometimes I just do circuits around the apartment building because it sucks ass outside but there’s three storeys and a lot of stairs so it’s a pretty good walk.

But ye gods, this weight gain! The thinning hair! The jowls and the sagging skin! When I take the time to really look at it, I can barely recognize this body as mine. And what, just what the holy fuck has happened to my thighs? They’re horrific! Jiggly and squishy and weird-looking. There are fucking varicose veins appearing on my feet and legs! I HAVE DEAD SKIN ON MY HEELS, for fuck’s sake, AND IT’S GROSS. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE.

My lovely 33-day menstrual cycle is now down to, what? Twenty-seven days? I have thirteen-and-a-half periods a year now, rather than 11! What bullshit!

And yeah, sometimes I go to pee and it’s a thimbleful. Fuck that; it’s a waste of time and toilet paper.

My nipples now officially point floor-ward. Do I care? No, not really. I mean, my identity isn’t substantially compromised, but yes, yes I fucking do care, because they didn’t used to and now they do and I haven’t done anything wrong and what’s the bloody point of this?

Sometimes I can’t sleep much, which is interesting for someone who spent most of her life having trouble staying wake, but not all that great. I generally use the time to meditate, read, or do chores. But being wide awake for no fucking reason is weird.

And then there’s the intense anxiety, the hammering heartbeat, and the miserable hot flashes. It is possible to be intensely miserable about absolutely nothing, you see, and it fucking SUCKS.

Then there’s the horrible heat intolerance that makes me very nearly incapable of accomplishing anything at all beyond basic metabolism all fucking summer. It has literally made me cry, just being too hot. How stupid is that? You can’t handle a little temperature! Your brain shuts down and in your misery and confusion you cry. You can’t even figure out that what you should do is go get in a cool shower; you just lie there and weep until your fiancee puts you in the truck and drives you around for the better part of an hour with the A/C on full blast and all the vents pointed at you. Eventually your brain boots back up and you say, “I should have taken a cool shower,” and he says, “I suggested that but you said no,” and you think: holy shit, what the fuck is wrong with me? I never used to have problems in hot weather. I never used to have a brain that would go offline, leaving me helpless and stupid.

It’s the subtle changes in nearly everything that just make me feel off, somehow, but not in any, like, emergency medical way, but in a is something wrong? sort of way. Dizziness. Bloating. Joint pain. Tingling extremities. Unexplained fatigue. Brittle nails! It’s a motherfucking laugh riot, this is.

You have no idea how robustly healthy you are until you find you’ve aged out of it. That constant background sense of well-being goes away and you find yourself forever listening for doom.

All the sites say the same shit: stay hydrated. Exercise. Keep a routine. Don’t drink or smoke. (I did quit smoking last spring, but I’m not interested in giving up the wine just yet.) Exercise. Take psych meds. Exercise. Consider hormone therapy if your symptoms are awful. Exercise. Avoid caffeine. Exercise. (One almost senses a trend.)

They also say a lot of stupid shit, even the apparently bona fide medical sites, too, like “take vitamins” or “get acupuncture,” which is troubling, since neither supplements or acupuncture do anything but separate one from her money, but my species is not generally known for its logic.

Let it be known that I am soooo not looking forward to “night sweats,” which is a thing women get, apparently. They sound fucking awful.

Just now I’m feeling more okay than usual, for which I am grateful, and I’m getting cleaning and laundry done while I’m feeling sprightly. But sometimes it’s about all I can do to keep up with the dishes and make the bed every day, let alone exercise or be creative.

Also: not to whine or sound vain, but I want my hair back. This shit on my head now is baby-fine, straight, brittle, and thin. Three years ago it would still curl, if I put product in it and scrunched it under a hair dryer just so; now it’s just straight. It’s like somebody else’s hair altogether. And I color it not because I care about the grey, but because it gives it the tiniest bit of body. So there’s another mystery solved: not only do women my age know exactly what they look like and not give a fuck, but they — we — also aren’t coloring our hair because we think it makes us ‘look younger.’ No. We’re coloring it because Better Living Through Chemistry.

So not only is my face melting off my skull and pooling under my jaw, but my hair is crap, too? I have no waist, my feet are ugly, my hands look old, I feel bad more often than not, my sleep cycles are fucked up, I have hot flashes and anxiety attacks: can’t I at least have nice goddamned hair?!

Force it through a sieve!

December 9th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Food | Recipes - (2 Comments)

In which I’m astonished at the texture!

I like to read recipes. I have liked to do so since they were in actual books rather than on the internet.

I especially like to read old recipes. The oldest through the newest, to see what’s changed and what’s the same. Ancient recipes, medieval recipes, 20’s recipes, 70’s recipes. War time recipes, Southern recipes, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean and Indian and Ethiopian, I like to read recipes.

Well, even in the first version of The Joy of Cooking I ever owned, which was an 80’s version, they sometimes directed you to “force it,” whatever it was, “through a sieve.”

In fact, a surprising number of older recipes direct the cook to force “it,” the soup or sauce or whatever, through a sieve, before adjusting the seasonings and serving.

I have never in my life forced anything through a sieve, because I assumed that modern blenders obviated the need.

I WAS INCORRECT AS FUCK.

Here’s the scenario:

Yesterday, I made broccoli cheddar soup in the electric pressure cooker. I used a bag of cheap, frozen broccoli, because it’s been so long since I’ve bought cheap, frozen broccoli that I’d forgotten why nobody ever buys cheap, frozen broccoli: the bags are always half-filled with stems rather than florets, and the stems are woody as fuck. Every. Single. Time.

Once cooking was done I opened the Instant Pot, removed the liner, and carried it over to the counter, where I proceeded to blend the soup with the immersion blender. Super excited to nom down a bowl of homemade soup! Ladled some into a bowl, toasted up some whole wheat homemade sourdough, and sat down at the table.

Delicious!

Except, um, a little fiber of stem. Kind of unpleasant, but not a big deal–

And another. And another.

And another!

Aaaaand basically this soup is inedible, because after every spoonful you’re taking bits of what basically amount to centimeter-long hairs out of your mouth.

UGH!

Later that evening, I blended it again, well past what your typical broccoli cheddar is like, far into cream soup territory.

Tasted it again.

Same fucking thing: tiny little hair-like fibers in every mouthful!

So there was only one thing left, before throwing out the whole pot: force it through a sieve.

sieve

Turns out something that thick will not go through a sieve on its own, hence the word “force.” Turns out you use the back of a big spoon (I used a small ladle) to push it through. Doesn’t take too long, once you find the right spoon.

And then, OH. MY. GOD. The texture! Not only is that stupid stem fiber gone, but they are not fucking kidding about this forcing-it-through-a-sieve bullshit. What comes out is silky smooth and luxurious and amazing.

How have I never done this before?!

Moral: If it says force it through a sieve, then fucking force it through a sieve.

Even if you’ve used modern blending equipment. Just do it. It’s so worth it!

Traveler’s Notebook

December 8th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Nerd | Travel - (0 Comments)

In which, yet again, I become what I judge. This time was quicker than usual! (It took twenty years for me to end up fat and the owner of a fake Christmas tree, but only weeks to end up with a Traveler’s Notebook!)

Behold. My Traveler’s Notebook.

Traveler's Notebook

This object has totally captured my imagination. I’m not really sure why, as it’s just a piece of leather and some elastic, a tin clamp, a waxed thread bookmark, paper, and accessories, but I adore it. (No hyperbole. Sometimes I just sit and hold it and look at it.)

So elegant and clever. So satisfying. The smell of the leather, the feel of the paper. The thoroughly modern faux-rusticity.

You feel as if, should the world end, you’d carry this with you always, and scribble in it with the smallest and most cramped hand to save what little paper was left. Future feral generations would marvel at the even-cut edges, the fineness of the paper, the way the leather was treated. The impossibly complicated dried-out old plastic-and-steel pen, and the precision-milled pen clip. It would be scarred and bent, but beautiful, and you’d have put all you knew in it for them.

IMG_20161208_142718

(Of course, what will really happen is that when this journaling generation goes, there will be millions upon millions of these things, stuffed with inspirational stickers and craft paper flowers and tabs and clips and cutesy drawings and a personal, woman’s-eye view into life way back in the teens, unearthed in boxes in grandmas’ houses and glutting the antiques market and whatever will pass for eBay by then. If they come back in style, like Polaroid cameras have now, people will probably buy them and gut them and re-use the by-then antique leather covers.)

I got the notebook itself (a “fauxdori,” made by a company called September Leather) for free, using points from my Chase Amazon card. (I can’t tell you how much I’ve spent on accessories since it’s completely embarrassing.) I soon restrung it with a Midori repair kit, even though the original elastics were just fine, to make it look more like a Midori.

Notebooks

I’ve purchased hand-made inserts, official Midori inserts. Pencil boards, kraft folders, pens. Colored pencils, brush pens, a couple of stencils. Book darts, washi tape, a repair kit, double sided tape, pen holder clips, and Midori post-its designed to fit inside.

"minimum"

And, if all that weren’t enough, I also bought a passport-sized Midori, plus a few accessories for it, too.

Pens

I use the little one as a wallet. It’s the most expensive wallet I’ve ever carried, and it’s not even a wallet! But it does hold one’s passport perfectly, plus money and cards.

I looooooooooove it.

The big one, the standard size, is my daily journal. And sketchbook. And spiritual journal. And place for lists and to-dos, and a catch-all for random bits of paper, and post-its dispenser, and pen holder, and it just looks cool and feels cool and is fun to handle.

Traveler's Notebook

It’s really nice to journal by hand again; I haven’t done so regularly since high school. It’s different than writing online or even typing, and I’m enjoying it very much. My wretched handwriting is slowly improving, and I’ve begun to sketch and doodle, too — something I’ve never really done.

Sometimes I sketch things from books I’m reading; other sketches are scenes from what I’m watching on TV. I have no talent for art but it’s fun, and feels better than wasting time scrolling endlessly on social media.

Matilda

I discovered the Traveler’s Notebook by accident when looking up Bullet Journaling. And here’s where the judgement comes in.

In August, I posted this innocuous entry about the chores I’d done that day, and Jinjer, whom I blame completely for my journal obsession, told me about the world of BuJo and posted a handy link.

I clicked.

And fell down the rabbit hole of modern planner obsession. Just like standing in front of a Franklin Planner display back in the day, only seemingly infinite. Instagram hashtags, Pinterest, endless blogs and YouTube flip-throughs. And eventually I stumbled across the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, a refillable Japanese stationer’s flagship product, and that was that. Had to have one. Had to have two.

The judgement thing was that, at first, as I looked at all the stuff, at the endless pictures of piles of planners and journals and pens and stickers and stamps and tapes and myriad other stupid meaningless and often plastic accessories, I thought, “Gross. Wasteful. Needless. These people could bullet journal with a Bic and a two dollar spiral notebook!”

I came across online stationery and pen stores, and thought, “How fucking stupid and pretentious can anyone be? Nobody needs a two hundred dollar fucking fountain pen.” But before two months were out, I’d placed my first Jet Pens order, and read through maybe half of their lovely, clever tutorials, learning several useful things.

Full disclosure: I did buy a fucking fountain pen, but it was under two bucks. I just wanted to see if I, as a leftie, could write with it. Turns out I can, but I have to hold it upside down, in order to pull rather than push the nib. I’m not super fond of it because I prefer superfine pens, and it writes medium-to-heavy.

Fauxdori Traveler's Notebook

So my knee-jerk reaction was a negative judgement, and I ended up turning into what I’d judged. In almost no time at all.

Do I need not only one but two relatively expensive journal solutions? No, I could write online here, or in a private local document. Or if I simply had to go analogue (which I felt I did, as there appears to be evidence it’s good for brain plasticity), any pen and pad of paper would do. It’s just typical Western gluttony and wastefulness (even if it does stimulate the economy (which I’m not confident is wholly good no matter what they say)).

Do any non-professionals need special paper types, wide varieties of writing utensils, or other accessories? No, not at all. I’m no artist, or famous diarist, or world traveler.

But do I really need most of what I have? No. And I’m ashamed of it, honestly, but not enough to force privation on myself. I focus instead on my gratitude and good fortune, most of the time.

Much of my adult life I couldn’t have afforded to buy these things on a whim; I would have put them on wishlists and eventually forgotten about them. Now that I’m in a spot where I can drop sixty bucks on a glorified wallet I don’t need, well, I did. So I’m just like everybody else and I use my discretionary income to buy shit I do not, in any way, shape, or form, need, but only want.

I love this thing

It feels weird. It’s strange that when my life is at its most abundant and comfortable, I’m mentally so Spartan in outlook. I frequently feel a sense of melancholy about how normalized my relative wealth is, when so many are still suffering heartbreaking lack. I have so much, from hot running water to grocery delivery to the luxury of enough free time to make my own bread and pickles and salsa and soups and sauces and hats and socks. Other people are literally shooed off of the park benches they’re trying to sleep on.

Oh, well, enough pontificating. The positive outcome of all this is that not only do I have a couple of objects that give me great pleasure every time I use them, and a new habit of offline analog time, but also I donated an equal amount to the local food kitchen and shelter just so I could stand myself! True story.