“None of her actions was in the least inauthentic, but her degree of alienation from goals, actions, simple states of being — the acute, inescapable self-surveillance of the addict — resembles that rarefied ontological space of the depressive, the anxious, the ill, the poet.” (Joshua Cody’s [sic] — A Memoir, W.W. Norton & Co., 2011)
I’m getting more than a little tired of reading something like the above and slamming to a stop, thinking: OMGsh, that’s ME! (I know good grammar calls for ‘That is I,’ but it sounds SO grammar police.)
It IS me, and I think that standing outside myself is a natural consequence of abusive parenting. As is not being able to tolerate authority without behaving like a 5-year-old (I learned that from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Finally, I understand why neither my sister nor myself made careers, but just had jobs we mostly hated.)
Of course, it’s not the understanding that’s tough (although it’s taken over six decades). It’s the doing. It’s the grabbing onto something (that would be me, myself and I) and stopping the terrifying slide back into addiction, the 15 pounds I’ve eaten back since my Aug. 10 high school reunion.
Russell Banks’ Lost Memory of Skin has the most spot-on description of addiction I’ve ever read. When The Kid indulges in his addictive pasttimes, “he could feel and almost hear a corresponding series of clicks in his brain. A warm spot would emerge at the back of his skull and spread up over the top of his head until he felt like he was wearing a heated cap.” That’s me and a box of Wheat Thins, me and a pack of Marlboros, me and computer solitaire.
The problem is that pesky alienation from your own life, and, again in Banks’ words, “The rest of the time he felt as if he were his own ghost — not quite dead but not alive either. A dust bunny shaped like a person.” Brilliant.
With the big reunion over, baby girl spending the semester in E. Africa, a two-week+ cold and Seattle-worthy weather, I feel as though I’m scraping up against something really meaningful about my addictive personality. (Insert whatever metaphor you choose here: The white water throws her against the rocks, eg.)
Walking the puppy this week, I thought about a friend who told me in July that she’d had breast cancer two years ago. She didn’t want anyone to know it now or when she was going through treatment because she didn’t want to become the Disease in people’s eyes.
And then I thought: I’ve been happy to have people see me as Weight Loss, not JoAnn. But that is losing/has lost its excitement. It’s time, again and again and again, to get to know me the person, let others know her and get to know them as well.
Russell Banks’ again (this is another life-changing book, can you tell?): “Maybe if he just acts like he has a third dimension whether he’s seen by others or not…if he acts like a three-dimensional man then maybe, just maybe he’ll turn into one. Isn’t that how everyone does it? By acting?”