Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Moderation Is the Key

I saw this article today that showed several rock stars' high school photos.  Most of them looked like dorks or druggies, but Kurt Cobain of all people looked pretty, well, sweet.  Like a nice boy you'd trust to water your orchids and feed your dog when you went out of town.  Not at all like someone who would grow up to create brilliant songs about how fucked up we all feel but then seek solace at the wrong end of a shotgun.

I look back at my own high school yearbook photos and I look pretty sweet too.  Not that I write brilliant songs or plan on killing myself.  But I'm yet another artist who complains about my miserable existence as a young person, and yet the photos show otherwise.  Here I am on the left with my friend Jennifer on the right in my senior yearbook, looking like a bouncy, happy Phish fan long before I met my husband who turned me on to the band:


Why is it I mostly remember sobbing alone on the floor of my bedroom, listening to The Smiths, rather than blowing bubbles at the park with a friend?  Why do negative memories take up so much space in our current consciousness?  

I think that's why people turn to drugs like heroin, like Cobain did.  Lays Sour Cream and Onion chips and clonazepam, like me.  Milwaukee's Best, like my brother Pat before he died of self-inflicted liver failure.  Drugs, food, and alcohol soothe an anxious soul.  Sometimes you need a break from the negative memories.

The trick is to use your crutch without abusing it.  After a lifetime of disordered eating, I finally feel like I have control over my vices.  I've been invited to write my personal story about what life was like for me as a fat kid.  My story might be used by a professional writer in her third book about Health at Every Size®.  I'm so thrilled to even be considered for such a project.

And yet, I'm also terrified.   

When I was twenty, taking classes at the community college, my composition instructor, who also was the music editor at a local newspaper, asked me if I'd like a job writing for the paper.  He had called me on the phone.  I stood holding the receiver up to my ear, dumbstruck, staring at the white wall of the apartment that I'd soon abandon when I realized I wasn't quite ready to be a responsible adult.

"Who me?"

We stayed on the phone for what felt like hours but I'm sure was really mere minutes.  I thanked him, but declined.  I wasn't ready.  I lacked confidence in my ability to work on deadline and for such a large audience.  He couldn't believe it.

"You don't have a fear of failure.  You have a fear of success," he told me.

Well who doesn't?  It's been my experience that the cockiest people are just not living in reality.  And so people who are less sure of themselves need to find ways to calm down and realize it's not that big of a deal, precisely because life is so meaningful that if you focus too much on the challenges you might worry yourself into a state of demotivation.  So when I worry too much, I take a few deep breaths or I take a walk to clear my head.  And when that doesn't work, I pop open my prescription medication.  What's the harm?  That I'll be able to function in life and reach out to people I think could be helped by reading my stories, and not worry myself into a state of catatonia?

What was it the late, great Bill Hicks said?  

“You see, I think drugs have done some good things for us. I really do. And if you don't believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight. Take all your albums, all your tapes and all your CDs and burn them. 'Cause you know what, the musicians that made all that great music that's enhanced your lives throughout the years were rrreal fucking high on drugs. The Beatles were so fucking high they let Ringo sing a few tunes.” 
― Bill Hicks

By the way, happy birthday today, John Lennon.  Thanks for letting Ringo sing a few tunes.

My grandma, a sharp and clever wit, needed her "nerve shots" to get out of bed each day.  My mom, an artist of the ebay and etsy-selling variety, smoked for forty years and zones out in front of the TV.  I dabble in my own ways of coping with the anxiety that seems to feed our family's creative forces.  But I'm healthier than I ever have been.  Just recently I had to throw out a sack of Lay's Sour Cream and Onion chips because they had grown stale before I got around to eating them all.  

As my amazing, creative husband Will says in one of my favorite songs he's written, "Moderation is the key to survival in today's world..."