Monday, September 29, 2003

The Wheels of the Bus

I don't know what it is, exactly, but I still feel really disconnected from things. It's like things don't mean anything anymore, they just happen, as if happening to someone else. Have I practiced, unto perfection, a sense of apathy (as a quick substitute for acceptance) and am now unable to give a shit? Or is it a vestige of depression lingering (or malingering, as the case may be) after its Autumnal Equinox due-by date? Or is it something else?

Actually, now that I'm thinking of it, it's not that I don't feel things when they happen... it's just that I find , once the moment's done, the feelings have gone along with the moment, and I can't really access them again. And then I no longer feel connected to the thing or the moment. I guess, then, that it's perhaps a trick of memory, being unable to recall the emotion or feeling of past moments, only the details (and those are fuzzy, too).

But then, I'm also not feeling terribly connected to my writing, either. These posts all seem so dull, and they're shamefully infrequent, as well. I wonder if it's because I've been doing this blogging business for so long now that the novelty has worn off and blogging has become a ho-hum workaday time-killer... or worse, a tedious task. Or is it, I wonder, merely part of the same disconnectedness I feel towards events and moments?

Conversely, is it possible that the disconnectedness I feel about my actions is caused by the lack of novelty in my activities? That even the most entertaining and exciting moments are starting to seem sort of repetitious? When I was on stage the other night, triumphing (even if I do say so myself... and I only say so myself because a number of other people already said so to me, but they aren't here now to say so to you), it all seemed just a trifle passé.

The part that really stands out in my mind from that night was later, when I was going into one of my mounting tirades, expounding on the epidemic of flat-butted women who don't look behind them when they buy pants that are made for more-voluptuously-buttocked women and then end up walking around with pants that look very like Austrian shades in the back, and suddenly realized I was talking too loudly and everyone in the restaurant could hear the big drag queen in the orange gown ranting about flat-assed women.

By the way, I looked unspeakably fabulous Saturday night, as did Miss Linda Lear on the left and Royal Grand Duchess XII Angelique deVille on the right:

But, to return to what I was kvetching about, it seems that only embarrassment sticks clearly in my mind, not triumph. To be honest, though, I wasn't really that embarrassed. I was only concerned that I might develop a reputation as a loud-mouthed queen, or worse that I might be falling into the bad habits of a loud-mouthed queen.

Nevertheless, it was a negative rather than positive moment, and I feel it more acutely now than the positive. And actually, now that I think of it, when I got off the stage I was more concerned that my furs had become difficult than the fact that I had just nailed my number right into the floor... that exhilarated feeling I expect after getting a big round of applause was simply missing.

Or maybe it's just that I didn't get quite enough sleep last night, and everything seems sort of fuzzy. I just don't know. I wish I did. And while this will all be terribly fascinating to some future psychoanalyst (when I give up retail therapy in favor of psychotherapy), I don't want to bore you with it. But then I haven't got much of anything else to bore you with, so it will just have to do.

Speaking of boring, I have been engaged in backing up all the information on my computer, as I now have a new computer here at work... all four of the workstations are being replaced at once, something rather new for us. But as I noticed about a year ago, when I was planning to leave this snake-pit (and boy am I glad now that I didn't), I have a lot of crap stored on this computer. I am loath, however, to leave any of it behind and losing something useful or important.

So today I am compressing the files and loading them onto 100-mg Zip disks, then taking them home and decompressing them on my home computer, then burning the files onto CDs and bringing them back to the office so I can load them into the new computer (whenever it gets set up... we hit a snag trying to get the server onto the DSL line, and the whole project has been gummed up). For extra entertainment value, my CD burner tends to make disks that can only be read by other Gateway systems... so I have to shove the disks into the office laptop in order to get the CD to read, and then transfer the files to another CD. It's very wasteful and confusing and time-consuming.

And, of course, boring. I think maybe that's the feeling I'm having: I'm just a trifle bored. It makes matters worse that I am also busy... the only thing worse than being bored is being so busy with boring things that you can't even relish the relaxation of the ennui.

So the time has come to either challenge myself or start cutting down on my activities. Guess which one I'm more likely to do...

Thursday, September 25, 2003

And then... and then...

Would it surprise you to know that after I went home on Monday, bent on cleaning out my drag room, I actually ended up falling asleep as soon as I got home and then suffering from heat-prostration because I didn't open my window or turn on my fan when the sun was beating down on my Venetian blinds and so I slept in a hundred-plus-degree airless room for two hours, and so spent the rest of the evening drinking icewater and lying very very still? That's what happened. Would you further be surprised to learn that on Tuesday I went down to the drag-room, figuring the least I could do was cull the actual garbage out of the area, but after picking a ripped shopping bag and a couple of candy-wrappers out of the pile I just gave up? That happened, too. So after all my good intentions, my drag-room and basement are exactly as they were.

I'm having a hard time giving a shit.

Today I choose to embrace my slovenliness. I'm a big ol' mess, my life is a big ol' mess, and I live in a big ol' mess. I go with my surroundings. It's part and parcel of who I am. Tomorrow, of course, or more precisely next time I'm looking for an important paper or a matched pair of shoes and can't find anything in my rats' nests of bedroom, basement, trunk, or desk, I will despair of my slovenliness and wish to change everything about myself, from my poor filing habits to my dental hygiene to my favorite ice-cream to the color of my hair.

I vacillate between a desire to accept myself as I am and an equally strong desire to be better than I am. When I am unhappy or dissatisfied, I spend a good deal of time trying to figure out if I should change my behavior or my expectations. I suppose vacillation is a form of balance, but I'd really rather just do one or the other, or at least know which one to do in a given circumstance.

Perhaps the problem is that I want everything to be easy. T.H.E.Y. say that things that come easily aren't worth having, but it has always seemed to me that you can fill your life right up with the things that come easily, thereby saving yourself a lot of effort. And I'm all about saving effort... never stand when you can sit, and never sit when you can lie down (and gentlemen, can I tell you that sitting down to pee is a lot less effort than mopping around the bowl or remembering to put down the seat).

So of course, I will be more likely to try to change the thing that is easiest... but is it easier to change expectations rather than behavior? It certainly takes less physical effort, but isn't mental effort just as tiring?

Today I am feeling so lazy that I don't want to change anything at all. Not my expectations, not my behavior, not even my underwear. Of course, I will have to change my clothes later on, and have a shower and comb-out and all that. Caroline and I are having dinner at Chez Panisse tonight, and I can't very well show up at one of the finest restaurants in the Bay Area wearing my schlubbies with my unwashed hair sticking out in all directions. I'm pretty excited about this dinner. I've heard so much in praise of Chez Panisse, it should be something extraordinary.

We're dining out in celebration of Caroline's birthday, which was yesterday (I won't tell you how old she is, only that the number rhymes with "firty-thive"). Since I neglected to get her a present, I figured I ought to spring for a rather fancy meal. Actually, I got her a present, I pre-bought some months in advance, but then I gave her the present in honor of our joining the gym together, and forgot about having done so until I went looking for the present earlier this week. That's one of the problems of buying gifts 'pre-need,' one is often tempted to present them earlier than one intended.

So anyway, that's what's going on in my life today. That and my quest for black boots and black fur and black evening gowns... I'm working up a new alter-ego for a certain Halloween festivity in which I intend to participate. My new alter-ego will be the Baroness Griselda von Beitte-Meihasse (pronounced "bite-my-ass," for my non-Allemanophonic readers), whom I envision as an Edward Gorey version of a Weimar-era dominatrix. So far I've got a pair of riding boots, a black fox muff, and some jet beads, and I've got my eye on a monkey-fur stole and a rather sinister-looking damask corset. I'll keep you posted on how that works out.

Monday, September 22, 2003


I love that word, it's so evocative. Imagine, if you will, that you're walking down the street, minding your own business, pondering the imponderable, meditating on the mysteries — when suddenly, out of nowhere, somebody whacks you in the face with a big white feather pillow: Baffle.

That's now I often feel, how I feel today... a prolongation of that moment of disconnect when all of your senses are physically blocked by an enveloping white softness, your mind blanked out by surprise and sensory deprivation and disbelief.

The other day, a gentleman of literary bent shared with me his perception of my emcee-ing style, during a discussion of the last time I emcee'd the Living Sober Follies (in which I forgot people's names, forgot what I was going to say, and forgot who was next in the lineup), which he described thus: "Like an ambassador's wife who discovers herself at the wrong cocktail party." The sort of confusion and disbelief, covered with smiles and charm and self-deprecating giggles, of a society dame confronted with an unexpected situation.

Apparently, being baffled is part of my charm.

Last night I was pretty damned baffled as I co-hosted "Cookie After Dark," where I got the lineup mixed up twice, where I forgot what I was going to say three or four times, where I was reduced to helpless giggles when Cookie made a poo-poo joke, and where I forgot the words to the song I sang. And people loved it. Go figure.

Exacebrating my usual bafflement, it was about a hundred degrees inside, with all the people and the lights and everything, and there I was in a wool sweater-dress and a fox wrap, all ready for winter. I had planned the outfit weeks ago, little thinking that it was late-September, the beginning of "Indian Summer," the only truly predictable season in the Bay Area, the only time of year when you can really count on warm weather. Fortunately, my second outfit was chiffon and quite cool. And today, in chinos and a polo-shirt from Banana Republic, I feel fairly comfortable in the heat, but I'm still hot and I don't like it.

The heat is killing me. It's baffling in and of itself. One would think that after thirty-five years on this untidy little planet I would have learned to deal with it. But no, each time takes me unawares and leaves me stupid, disconnected, and uncomfortable.

On the plus side, this afternoon I will be working in a very cool place, my basement. However, every rose has its thorn, and I will be peforming a most necessary but loathesome and laborious chore: cleaning out my drag-room. And my only consolation is that at least my drag-room isn't in the attic.

Regular readers will have cottoned on to the fact that I am the poster-child for acquisitve materialism run amok. I have too much stuff, and I live only to obtain more. In my bedroom, where I keep my regular clothes and my jewelry and my books and my magazines, it's fairly difficult to keep up with the shuddering piles of stuff that take up most of the floor-space; but, since I have to live with these things, I tend to edit the content a little more frequently... about once a year I go through my closet and get rid of clothes I don't ever wear or can no longer wear, and I periodically archive my magazines in order to come upon them as a pleasant surprise at some future time. These magazines, as well as boxes of books and videotapes that were moved to make space for new items, are usually stored in the basement next to my drag-room.

And since I don't have to live in my basement or in my drag-room, there isn't so much of a drive to keep the area liveable or even navigable, so there are vast repositories of stuff that need to be gone through, weeded as it were, and the refuse sorted out into garbage piles and donation piles in readiness for the Big Junk Pickup on Wednesday (our local scavenger company does this once a year, and then one of the donation companies, usually Saint Vincent de Paul, comes by later the same day).

My plan of attack is to go through my drag first, since it's the messiest, and get rid of anything I can't wear and haven't managed to give away to friends, and donate those to whoever comes by. Then I have to go through the two dress-racks and edit and organize, so that I can dismantle and discard the broken rack that leans like the Tower of Pisa (but not so elegantly) and lighten the load on the larger and stronger rack. Then I have to put all the things that don't hang up into nice boxes. And then sweep and mop and gather up debris and sort out refuse and all those horrid things. Then I will have more room to restack the boxes and crates of books and magazines that I want to keep (I'll never throw those things away, never).

The last time I cleaned out my bedroom closet, I counted how many sweaters I had left after the purge, and I'm still not sure if forty-four sweaters is really excessive (and I've probably bought twenty more since then). I am anxious to do a similar count of my evening-gowns, and see how many of them there really are.

When I'm down there looking for a particular gown, or trying to decide which gown to wear for any given occasion, I don't really appreciate the scope and scale of my drags... but other people, when they see the jumbled sty of my drag-room, are often vocal in their amazement at how much stuff I have. There are gowns that are too big and need to be taken in, and gowns that are too fabulous to be worn lightly and are being saved for a special occasion, and all sorts of skirts and tops that I've simply never managed to match to each-other. It will be interesting to instill some sort of order on the mess, maybe even a written inventory that I can consult when I'm thinking about what to wear.

I have a feeling, though, that I will waste a couple of hours just sitting there, baffled by the size of the job, unable to even think of where to start. That often happens when I'm cleaning or tidying anything in our house. I'm not the only one, you see, who has too much stuff. I come from a long line of horrendous packrats. Four generations of packrats have lived in our house, filling it with stuff.

My great-grandmother left boxes and boxes of things in the basement and attic... suitcases of old clothes, a Stanley steamer-trunk filled with doorknobs and drawer-pulls from the Old House, tins of ancient rice flour and blocks of antique tea (she died in 1948), bottles of Chinese medicines and folk remedies, crates of ginger and soap.

My grandfather, her son, left behind cases of correspondence from paid bills to Christmas cards, every shoe and garment he ever wore, every issue of National Geographic going back to December 1931, the contents of his office-desk when he retired, cigar-boxes full of miscellaneous unlabeled keys and locks, trays of salvaged screws and nails, mysterious tools and rusted shovels and elderly lawn-mowers, camping-equipment that looks as if it might have been used by the Pharoahs, and an immense hoard of unused wallets, lighters, handkerchiefs, and manicure-sets received as gifts over the eighty-seven years of his life.

My grandmother has filled the cupboards and cabinets with great big boxes of unfinished craft projects like paint-by-numbers sets and rug-hooking sets and crewel-work sets and fabric-painting sets, huge laundry-baskets filled with fabric-scraps for unrealized crazy-quilts, old pots and pans and utensils that are "still good," fruit-crates of cracked pottery and old plastic strawberry baskets intended for potting plants "someday," an unimaginably vast collection of Tupperware and Avon from her career in home sales, boxes upon boxes of old family photographs going all the way back past the beginning of the century, as well as boxes of never-opened photo-albums into which all of those photographs were intended to be archived (again in this mythical "someday"), and of course every shred of clothing she's ever owned.

My father and aunt and uncle have also left their marks, old toys and boxes of school-papers and trunks of souvenirs, clothes and books before they went on to stack up their own homes with their inherited packrattism (though they have managed, through age and experience and tidy-minded spouses, to cure themselves somewhat of the awful family curse, none of them have anything like a half-empty closet or a spare room in which a guest larger than a Pekinese spaniel might be accomodated, and only one car is ever parked in any two-car garage).

My generation is well-represented, as well, though only my sister, my cousin Jamie, and I have lived with Grandmother for any extended period of time. Jamie pretty much left behind everything she'd brought into the house at the time she graduated from high school (essentially everything she owned) until she graduated from college, so her entire teenage life is archived in the garage; my sister, on the other hand, who is probably the worst packrat of us all, took most of her stuff with her... still, "most" is not "all" and there are boxes and bags and barrels of Suzie's stuff still down in the basement where she lived for two years.

And then there's me. When I moved back in with Grandmother in the summer of 1992, I brought with me a milk-crate full of books, a trunk full of papers and souvenirs, a small box of objets d'art (I use the term lightly), a cardboard tube of posters, and two garbage-bags of clothes. Eleven years later, I possess all that and much more, and it would take a moving van of at least 500 cubic feet to convey my innumerable possessions out of the house; and I don't even own much in the way of furniture or housewares... pressboard bookshelves and a dresser, some coffee-mugs, some sheets, a TV and VCR and stereo, my computer and desk and chair, a couple of mirrors and two framed pictures. The rest is all clothes and books and magazines and videos and jewelry-boxes and porn and knick-knacks.

There's something gothically glamorous about having a family curse. Like the House of Usher or the Baskervilles or what-have-you. I envision a pulp novel entitled The Curse of the Manners Packrat, luridly illustrated with a craggy-faced young detective menaced by a careering tower of Samsonite and Tupperware. And if we can keep it up for a few more generations, we might be of interest to a future archaeologist, or maybe even the Smithsonian.

In the meantime, I have to go through it all and separate the trash from the treasures, and then organize the treasures as much as possible. And fight the Manners Curse as best I can when I feel compelled to save the receipts and shopping bags and laddered stockings and stained gloves out of my drag room. I will be baffled by the enormity of it all, but at least I will be cool.

Baffled. Such a great word.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Nothing Clever

It's been a terrifically busy week. Loads and loads of work to do, and then errands to run, and fun things and boring things and tiring things.

I have been disappointed by people a lot at work... people who say they're going to do something and then don't. I find that upsetting. Or who do things that make extra work for me, even with good intentions behind them. I find that irritating. But away from work I have been elated and delighted by people who do things without being asked, out of the kindnesses of their own hearts, or after being asked in a roundabout way. And that makes me feel all warm and squishy inside.

But as we all know (or should know, if we are ever to attain happiness), we can do nothing about the actions of others. We can wish, we can hope, we can drop passive-agressive little hints here and there, but ultimately we cannot control others. Again with the free-will thing.

So this week I am trying to concentrate on doing what I'm supposed to do, what I say I'm going to do, what I wish I could do, what I don't end up doing for whatever reason. Am I being kind? Helpful? Generous? Not so much as I could, and I have been giving in to irritation rather more than I should. I have let myself get angry and stay angry. I have let myself be lazy about how I say things, not fully considering the feelings of others.

I've been human, I suppose. Not much of an achievement for one who attains to divinity... and barring that, just wants to be let alone.

Am I babbling incoherently? Yes I am!

Here are some things I don't like about myself that I can't figure out what to do with:

    1) Shaving. I hate shaving. But I am a drag queen so I can't grow a beard. And even if I did grow a beard, I don't like beards and would hate that too. Damned testosterone.

    2) I'm far too good at justifying my actions, even when I know I am wrong. I'm so good it takes me eons to notice that I'm justifying.

    3) I become incoherent with rage whenever I feel that people aren't listening to me. I know on a logical and rational level that perhaps that person is hard of hearing or maybe my headset isn't close enough to my mouth, or maybe there is an infinitesimal tiny wee chance that I am in fact mumbling... but whenever I'm made to repeat myself I just see red.

    4) I project shockingly dishonorable assumptions and motives onto people who I know to be better than that.

    5) I want things to be clean, but I don't want to clean them. I don't want to clean anything. Ever.
Here are some things I do like about myself, in hopes of counterbalancing the above:

    1) I'm a damned good drag performer. I don't know what it is that I do, but I can feel when I'm transcending, and I love watching myself on video. I'm just so impressed with myself.

    2) I almost invariably do what I say I'm going to do. I might do it late, I might do it wrong, I might go through a myriad convolutions and contortions to avoid saying I'll do it... but once I say I'll do it, I do it.

    3) I like to share what I have. Even when I don't have it.

    4) I try. I want to be a better person and I do try.
Well, that was an interesting exercise. I keep thinking of things to add to the first section but am struggling to think of things to put in the second section. What do you suppose that means?

On a lighter note, Graham Norton at the Alcazar was amazing. I laughed so hard my face hurt. He's a funny, funny, funny man. The timing, the tone, the playing off of the audience in a truly improvisational manner. And his rhinestone-encrusted white jeans were divooon. I'm half-tempted to break down and subscribe to digital cable so I can get BBC America.

So anyway my darlings, I need to get started on my day. I have people coming over this evening and I have to start cleaning (nononononononononononono!) the house from stem to stern. Well, maybe not that much, but I need to do some dusting and some tidying and some vacuuming. And it will probably take me a good hour or two just to talk myself into starting... and then there are fruit trays and cheese plates to arrange, two dozen red carnations to find a frog and bowl for, a table to re-clothe, and furniture to rearrange for guests. So I'd best get cracking!

Love you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Now What?

I feel rather at a loose end. My great fanfaronade of avoidance has spun to an end and I've finally done the thing I've been avoiding doing all this time. It didn't hurt as much as I thought it would. I wouldn't want to do it again any time soon, but it wasn't as bad as I'd feared... and it's such a load off!

My depression seems to have lifted, as well... when I woke up this morning, before the alarm went off even, I didn't wish I could stay in bed forever and ever and ever. I also went to the gym togay for the first time in ages, and felt really good doing it, moving and sweating and all that, something I haven't been able to do while the depression was sapping my strength. Hopefully I'll be able to return to Pilates, too.

And my tiara finally came in the mail, the vendor had accidentally written "Windsor CA" instead of "Oakland CA" (I can't imagine such a thing happening by accident, but I won't question it), which resulted in the week-long delay. I wore it almost all day, though I did wonder if it's appropriate to wear a tiara in a union office, and I did garner a few odd looks while driving around on my errands... but never underestimate the mood-lifting power of jewelry on your head.

So, now what to I do? This one big thing is finally over with, and this other big thing is over with for the time being, and these little things have all worked themselves out. What next?

I guess I can worry about my first live solo singing performance coming up this Sunday... I'll be singing "To Keep My Love Alive" by Rogers & Hart. It's a pretty easy song to sing, one of those things you can do with or without a singing voice... it's pretty hard to do as written, but it's pretty easy to take liberties with. I think it will go quite well, though I am going to have to try to practice more this week than I am used to practicing for shows.

I can also worry about getting by without money for yet another week and a half, since after paying my car payment and my student loan payment and my credit-card payment, I spent all of my discretionary income rather indiscriminately at the Great Mall on Sunday (though I got four fabulous evening gowns and a mess of CDs, including The Ethel Merman Disco Album). My lunch allowance has gone for another fur, it was too fabulous to pass up that auction, it's a muff and matching stole of stone martens. Yummy! So what if I starve!

Other than that, life is one long smile! It's nice to come through the storm and enjoy the calm weather. Doesn't give me much to write about, though... but maybe I'll have something to write about after I go see Graham Norton at the Alcazar tomorrow night with my dear friend Mary.

Hope your life is one long smile, too!

Friday, September 12, 2003


I feel right now like I've had my skin pulled off... not my physical skin, of course, but rather my emotional skin. I'm feeling feelings, and they're just sitting here not going away, and I feel like a snail with its shell off, sort of quivery and gelatinous and weird. But also a little bit freer. Lighter.

Still, I need to talk to someone, and it's too late to call anyone on the phone... though I know some of my friends are still up at this hour, I don't know which ones or if they're busy bathing or writing or fucking or watching a good movie or something else that I wouldn't want to interrupt. So I talk to you, here, because I know I'm not interrupting you or waking you up from your much-deserved sleep.

I (finally) just now finished writing my Ninth-Step letter to my friend Kevin, and I didn't realize until about halfway through the letter just how much I really missed him. I haven't talked to him in four years, and that four years of missing has just fallen down on me and I'm feeling every minute of it all at once. It doesn't really hurt, but it's a big feeling, and I'm having a hard time grappling with it. I'm also crying, which I haven't done (without watching a tear-jerker movie) since I don't know how long ago.

I had expected to feel Feelings when I wrote this letter, so I was somewhat prepared... but I wasn't really prepared for this feeling, nor for so much of it. I was ready for regret, self-recrimination, loneliness, anger, sadness, I don't know what else. But I didn't expect to feel this terrible longing of missing someone, of wanting so badly to see someone again.

The thing is, I didn't expect, when I started this letter, that I was going to ask Kevin to forgive me and give me another chance with our friendship... wait, that's not quite accurate... I knew I would ask him to forgive me, and that I would leave it to him whether or not to communicate with me and see if we could salvage our relationship, which is exactly what I did do in the letter. But I hadn't expected to want it so badly, to really, wildly, and passionately hope that he would contact me and become my friend again. I would completely understand if he didn't want to do that, if he just tore up my letter and never thought about it again... but now I feel the actual intense desire to have him back into my life. And that desire leaves me open to the pain of rejection. Hence the skinned feeling, I guess.

And there is a huge amount of regret over the loss of our friendship that is far more profoundly moving than I thought it was before I started writing. It was a flawed relationship because I was a damaged person, but there was genuine love between us. I don't really know how he felt about me, largely because I never asked him... the chief flaw of our relationship was that I was never honest with him about my feelings toward him and never gave him the opportunity to express any feelings about me, either — there was only one feeling I wanted from him, but I knew I wasn't going to get that feeling, so I buried not only my desire for that feeling but also any knowledge of other feelings that he might have had.

Still, when you love someone, however unhealthy the demonstrations of that love might have been, no matter what our sick psyches do about that love, the love exists on its own despite the passage of time and the absence of the person.

Well, there's really nothing I can do now. I am not going to send this letter until I've had a chance to go over it carefully with my sponsor and discuss my motivations and my hopes. Besides, I don't have Kevin's address and don't really know how to get in touch with him. I'd have to ask for the favors of an intermediary, and I have to not be a heel about asking (I guess I fear the intermediary feeling used, a means to an end... I know I'd hate to feel that, myself, but also have to give the intermediary the chance to not feel used and rather be happy to help, a chance I often fail to give people).

All I can do is sit here and feel my feelings. And if Kevin chooses to let sleeping dogs lie and the dead past bury its dead, I'll have to feel that feeling... and if he does choose to reunite with me, I'll have to feel those feelings, too.

As I've shared before, I'd simply rather not feel feelings. I mean, one likes to feel pleasure, happiness, excitement, maybe sometimes even fear or anger... but I like to feel them in a refined way, in comfortable doses, felt through a silken veil, as it were, delicately presented with a garnish of dainty flowers and swirls of piquant sauce on the plate... not this raw welling of emotion that makes my eyes and nose run all over the place and makes me think that my heart is going to rip apart as it swells. There's just too much snot and intensity involved.

But there it is... I'm feeling the feelings and there's nothing I can do about it. It's precisely what I was trying to avoid by putting off this letter. But it is necessary to my growth as a human being to feel feelings, as well as to clean up the wreckage of my past and to do what I can to redress my wrongs. Maybe next time I won't be so afraid of the feelings that I spend a little over six hundred dollars on drag in two weeks. Maybe next time I'll just go ahead and feel my feelings and do my duty. Or maybe not. I don't know.

Either way, I'm glad I wrote the letter. Not only is it off my mind, but it's off my chest.

And speaking of chests (because I have to stop somewhere, and I'm getting sleepy now)...

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

In Which Our Addictions Rule Us

I think I may have fallen into what can best be described as a Dry Drunk... I have been avoiding feeling my feelings by indulging in my replacement addictions. I spent pretty much my entire income this pay-period on drag: aside from three gowns, a skirt, some necklaces, a handbag, a bracelet, a wig, and some makeup purchased in stores, I've also bought two tiaras (one is a gift, but nevertheless), seven evening gowns, a pair of earrings, and a fox stole from eBay... but more importantly, I have been trolling eBay relentlessly, for hours at a time, looking for things to buy. The money, though certainly a pressing problem, isn't nearly as much of a concern to me as the time spent obsessively searching and clicking online, to the exclusion of things I should be doing like going to the gym, talking to people, and writing my Ninth-Step letter.

This letter is becoming a bit of a bête noir for me. I realized recently that the reason I am avoiding it so strenuously is because I don't want to feel the feelings that I'm afraid will come up in the writing, especially if I am perfectly honest with myself when I write... I am simply terrified of tapping into a reserve of squashed emotions while detailing my past wrongs to my former best friend.

I've done this sort of thing before, been innocently minding my own business and thinking about something to do with my past wrongdoings, and I suddenly wander along a train of thought that erupts into a full-on emotional meltdown. It was extremely unpleasant last time it happened, which was some time ago when I was doing a Fourth Step, and the memory of that pain still echoes in my mind.

The thing that is frightening me now, though, is that the avoidance of feeling emotions is a particularly alcoholic behavior. I drank to avoid my feelings more than for any other reason... feelings of fear, of anxiety, of anger, of love, of happiness, anything strong and uncontrollable was damped down and rendered manageable by the alcohol. In sobriety, I have learned that the problem with replacement addictions is that they don't address the flaws in our personalities that lead us back into drinking... they're okay for a stop-gap measure, but they aren't a permanent solution.

So I have learned to distrust behaviors which seem to take me away from my feelings, because these are replacement addictions, and if not managed properly will become addictions of their very own, and might very well lead me back to the original addiction I was trying to replace.

Drag shopping is a perfect replacement addiction. First, it feeds my need to feel financially secure, a childhood thirst for material comfort that is common among people who grew up in squalid poverty; but the financial security of mad shopping is an illusion, as having the money to spend on frivolities of beaded gowns and dead animals is (in my case) contingent on putting myself into financial peril with my credit card and other debts. Second, it removes me from reality and into the dream of glamor that is Marlénè Manners; though my drag persona is so integrated into my personality that drag isn't as much an unreality as it used to be, planning my drag by shopping for new pieces is not part of Today and Today's grim emotions, but part of a Tomorrow that only exists in my mind's eye as I visualize myself garbed and jeweled in the articles in question. And third, the practice of online searching and bidding at eBay, then waiting for the items to arrive in the mail, occupies exactly enough brain-space to keep me from thinking about the reality of the situation, the limited finances and the avoided tasks and the ignored emotions.

There is a fine line between retail therapy and shopping addiction. And so now, along with my fear of feeling the feelings that I'm trying to avoid by shopping, I fear falling further into my addiction... because from there, it's a short step back to other addictions like overeating, smoking, and then drinking.

On the other hand, I am aware that my mental state is currently being affected by my physical state of depression, and so I have to be careful about pushing myself too hard and actually exacerbating the depression by punishing myself for not doing my step-work in a timely manner. When I'm depressed, the feelings that would come up in a Ninth Step would be unnaturally magnified, and so there's a perfectly good, practically medical, reason to avoid feeling the feelings.

And yet, at the same time, I want to get the damned step over with. I've been on this step for far too long, I have been putting off the writing with a slough of perfectly true but nevertheless lame excuses since March (I'm too busy, I'm too tired, I'm too sick, I'm too overwhelmed). It has been suggested to me that I need to revisit previous steps, particularly the Seventh and Eighth, in order to gain the willingness necessary to do this step.

It has also been suggested to me that if I am feeling unwilling to do my Ninth Step, it might be because I am still suffering the character defects I asked God to remove in Step Seven... namely fear. And that perhaps the reason I am still suffering those defects is because I don't really believe that God can or will remove those shortcomings. Which means I need to go all the way back to Step Three. I am perhaps experiencing a crisis in faith that is at the root of the whole fear and unwillingness problem.

Nevertheless, my plan now is to write the letter on Friday and give it to my sponsor on Saturday, when I will be seeing her in a social situation. Then we'll make a date to sit together and talk about it... but the main thing is to give her at least a complete draft on Saturday, and to tell her about it beforehand so she's expecting it on Saturday. That gives me a workable deadline... sometimes all it takes is a little pressure for me to get things done. If the pain gets too much for me, I'll call people and work through it, and/or suck it up and just do it. The rest of my plan is to stay off eBay until I finish it. And Amazon and HSN and so on and so forth.

So anyway, that's what I'm going through today. In the meantime, I just started a new book (reflected in the Cast column), put a different CD in the car stereo (ditto), and reinstalled my comments (now that YACCS is back! Yay!). I have to go work on a newsletter and a couple of other time-consuming tasks here in the office. Then I'm going to the gym for the first time in two weeks. And then grocery shopping with the Grandmother. And then, and then, and then...

Friday, September 5, 2003

The Valley of the Shadow of Dreck

Astute observers have probably noted that I am somewhat depressed this week, rather more than I have been all month. I am working on the assumption that this is the darkness-before-the-dawn of my depressive cycle... it might not be, it might just be a cold or allergies or fiscal-worry or Ninth-Step-Letter-Avoidance-Guilt, but it seems best to assume that this feeling I'm feeling will be over soon.

Of course, all feelings are ephemeral things. It is a personality feature of mine, though, to always think that the feeling I'm feeling right now will last forever. My sister has the same problem, so maybe it's genetic. But the idea that any emotion or mental state can be prolonged eternally, or even semipermanently installed, is very teenager-y. The "I'll love you forever," "Without you my life has no meaning," "I actually believe that a person can die of embarrassment" sort of mentality belongs in the same epoch as pimples and growth spurts... I think most people grow out of that sort of thing in their twenties. But then, I always was a late bloomer.

From the perspective of thirty-five, it's easy to see that there's no such thing as a completely ruined life, something that we often believe can happen in our youth... with experience we learn that along with the fragility of that Divine Spark of life itself, all conditions and circumstances of one's life are liable to change at any moment. But when a person is contemplating suicide, it is (I think) in the belief that the despair or grief or pain or loneliness one feels at the moment will be a condition of life from here on out.

But no feeling is ever a condition of life, not happiness, not despair. No matter what, there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. But the light I see at the end of the tunnel isn't Hope, as I once thought... it's simply the knowledge that This Too Shall Pass. The light isn't some sunlit meadow of euphoria in my future, it's merely the lights coming up on a change of scene. And we don't have access to the script, so who knows what the next scene will be like? And being an insatiably curious person, I want to know what's next.

How did I get on this topic? Oh, yes, because I'm depressed and I know I won't be depressed for very much longer. It's amazing how much easier it is to manage depression when you can understand it as a physical sensation rather than an emotional state. I feel like shit, is all. If I take care of myself, get plenty of sleep, eat properly, and don't act on things too rashly, I can weather through.

Also, if I keep others informed of my physical state, their expectations remain realistic: "How are you?" asks my boss on his way in; "I feel like shit," I reply, "not as shitty as yesterday, but still pretty shitty. Yesterday I felt like a puddle of diarrhea, today I feel more like a solid turd." He absorbed the info and went about his merry way with the knowledge that today isn't a SuperSecretary day, and treated my work accordingly.

The follow-up question, though, when I apprise people of my physical state, is "And what are you taking for that?" To which I reply, "I'm taking it easy, and one day at a time." I have a dislike of drugs, and feel that, if it's possible to do something without pills, I should do it without pills. I mean, I won't even take an Advil until I can't bear the pain.

I think what I distrust here is the Fix-It mentality. It falls into the same behavior pattern of trying to change circumstances that one doesn't like... while I vastly prefer to change my attitude towards the circumstance (it's more effective and much easier to do). The concept of taking a pill or having a procedure to correct something that you could easily learn to live with strikes me as silly. It's like trying to prevent or assuage colds... sucking zinc lozenges, anti-bacterializing one's hands obsessively throughout the day, drinking echinacea (nasty!) instead of tea, and getting immunizing shots that only work about a third of the time. It's easier, cheaper, and in the long run more effective, to simply get a lot of sleep and eat properly and let the cold run through your system. If the discomfort prevents sleep, take something that assuages the symptoms long enough, but other than that there's nothing you can do about colds and flus except accept them on their own terms.

The same goes for depression... if the depression is preventing your functionality, then by all means get a prescription or something. But if you can weather through with only a general diminution of functionality, why bother with all the rest of it? I mean, for myself, I work a little slower and come in later in the mornings (one feature of this state is that I can't stay off my natural sleep cycle of 2 am to 10 am), and am sometimes a little more surly than usual; socially I tend to operate just fine, though I purposely avoid spending too much time with my more wearying people, like my mother or small children or large groups of strangers.

Is this all an elaborate justification for my not seeking assistance for a physical condition, a serpentine piece of self-sabotage, an apologia for medical recidivism? Perhaps, perhaps. But it's what's on my mind today.

Also on my mind is the arrival of my tiaras and foxes, which were supposed to be in today's mail. Well, the regular mail came already, I'm hoping there will be a parcel-delivery afterward, but I wish it would hurry up and happen. I don't want to have to come into the office tomorrow (when I have planned to work on my letter and my living-room Venetian blinds), and I have to have the things before Sunday and even paid extra shipping to ensure their early arrival. It's making me very anxious.

But they will arrive eventually, or my need of them will pass, one or the other. The world just keeps on spinning, time keeps ticking by, and nothing lasts forever... even the Universe is expanding towards its own dissolution (according to those know-it-all astronomers and physicists) and eventual reconsolidation into a nothingness that may or may not repeat itself into the next Big Bang.

Oh, yay! The mailman came with two big boxes... my furs, which are a pair of red fox pelts with the heads and hands and all (all of my furs have their extremities), are unspeakably gorgeous and a lot larger than I expected; also in today's post is a new green velvet and taffeta dinner-dress that is a little too tight in the waist but might respond to corsetry. But now I have to come back on Saturday for the damned tiaras (unless they're coming via UPS, which gives me some hope).

I'm going to type up my meeting notes now, then go buy a new wig, then get my nails done. Have a nice piece of art (Pelt Merchant of Cairo by , Jean-Léon Gerôme, 1824-1904):

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Redecorating an Irrelevancy

I've been thinking about doing a redesign of this site, from the color-scheme and the font all the way up to the domain name.

Actually, I'm supposed to be writing a Ninth-Step letter, and I am resisting it with even more energy than I usually devote to resisting doing things I know are good for me but which are nevertheless painful, and have done everything in the world I can think of to avoid writing this letter... I've spent untold hours and far too much money trolling around in eBay searching for jewels and gowns and furs; I have had entertaining but entirely unnecessary conversations with my grandmother and my nephew; I have watched television; I have watched videos; I even did all my laundry (you know I must be desperate when housework of any kind is better than the task at hand).

So now I have twelve loads of clean clothes, an avalanche of packages coming in the mail, a nearly-empty bank-account, and a passed deadline for getting this damned letter written... and here I am at work enjoying a particularly uneventful workday. Am I using this lack of event to devote myself to writing this letter? No, I'm thinking about new domain names and researching their availability.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

  • MannersFromHeaven (which I like best, but might be copyrighted since it's the title of a Quentin Crisp book)

  • MarvelousManners

  • MannersManse

  • MannersWorld

  • MindYourManners

  • Mannerist

  • McManners
Most of these are available, I think, in dot-coms and dot-nets and dot-orgs and what-have-you. All of them are, I think, fairly easy to remember (unlike the unfortunate current title, which most people read as Mannerisms, which is a real word, instead of Mannersism, which is a word I made up... never dreaming that people would confuse it for another word). Of course, these are just the names that incorporate "Manners" somewhere... there is a universe of other possibilities that might some time or other occur to me.

I'm pretty sure I will switch over to Moveable Type (I like BloggerPro just fine, but I hear on good authority that I'll like MT better), and I of course have to find some new comments system, since YACCS has apparently disappeared off the face of the Earth... ideally I'd like something that is contained in my own domain so I don't have to rely on others. I'm also questioning my devotion to this flame-suede-and-parchment graphic-scheme as well as my commitment to serif Roman fonts. I know I want to keep the pictures up, and keep my links of the front page, but beyond that I'm all at sea.

Advice? Why, I'd love some! Since my comments are kaput, write me an email if you have something to say. My time-frame is to launch the new domain on December 17 (the second anniversary of my blog), so there's no big hurry. Plenty of time to screw around finding a new domain-name and a nice new template and all that.

In the meantime, I've updated some links and pictures and whatnot today. And maybe I'll manage to get that Ninth-Step letter written before my sponsor completely loses patience with me. Or perhaps I'll get all the Venetian blinds in the living room repaired and in place. Or maybe I'll polish all the hardwood floors in the house. Or maybe shop myself blind on eBay. Or some combination thereof.

Really, how hard is it to write a letter?