Lately, I'm all over the place. Emotionally, physically. Let's talk about the emotionally part first. Then the physically part.
For instance, this "got milk" ad with Angie Harmon made me cry the other day. I don't really like her. I don't agree with her politics. I'm not convinced she can act. But, my God, those children. Those beautiful, beautiful children. I'm tearing up now describing how I was tearing up. So, yea. A bit fragile.
Photo from here
OK, then. So, physically, but not the ordinary sense of physically. I mean, I'm not lots of different places. Rather, my body is, physically, very unpredictable. Every hour is different, it seems. One hour of good. And when it happens, my God, it's like a miracle. And of course I overreact, then do too much, then bring on... hours of bad. Hours of weakness. Followed by, who knows. If I'm lucky another hour of good, but more likely, minorly bad. Bad, but not enough that I need to shut down. And then...good. And so on, and so on. A humongous roller coaster while blind-folded. Apparently, this is just how it is with MS. Medicine or no. Regardless of degree of physcial disability. It just is and clearly, I just have to accept it.
Overall, it just makes it hard to plan things. I control nothing about my body. And that leads me to have to cancel things I desperately want to do. And some things I don't want to do, but you get the idea.
I've cancelled more things, disappointed more people (including myself) in the last few months than I care to tally. The worst was probably when I had to cancel the ticket I had to see a taping of the Colbert Report a few months ago. It was great luck to even get the ticket in the first place - I had happened to sit at the computer the moment the tickets went on sale (the Colbert Report ticket people favor the smart phone crowd, I guess) and, miraculously, I got one. But I was too sick to go. And, just as bad, I'm missing, right now, Fun Day at my daughter's school. And last night she cried about it. Admittedly, she is a bit of a little actress, but still, it hurt. I just simply feel too bad to go.
In any case, going on with the roller coaster theme, I thought I'd tell you the quite roller coaster-y story of my meeting with David Sedaris. Or rather, what was going through my head during and right after my meeting with David Sedaris. (In case you think I actually met him in any real way, I really didn't. I met him at a book signing. Keep in mind the fact that he met maybe a thousand other people that night and meets thousands of people during his book tours. To me, though, I met him. Technically true.)
Polaroid of David Sedaris from this awesome idea for a blog
I had never been to an event of his and was ridiculously excited for weeks. This was last fall, so I was feeling somewhat better. Not really, but, I was already on the community college campus because of an adjunct job teaching, so it was easy to go.
After the reading, I rushed out the door (the things I do to meet famous people, apparently) and got in line to meet him. I was maybe 15th in line. Exciting, right? Well...being the guy that he is, Mr. Sedaris said that the people who were turned away at the door earlier due to selling out, were to be kept in the lobby and then brought out first to meet him. Mother the fuck, there were about fifty of them. Anyway, no big deal. Like I said, early days with the MS symptoms and I toughed it out. (Oh, Stephen. Would that I could've toughed it out for you. *sigh*)
Finally, it was my turn. I was just going to say "Oh, I'm such a big fan...blah blah blah." Oh and I was going to tell him that I had dental implants (five!) because he specifically asked that people talk to him about that (otherwise, it would be weird, right?) because he had just gone through the first phase of the process himself. And he was curious about what was to come. ("It hurts like hell," eventually I did say. "Really. Like...a lot." Oh, and "I'm so very sorry.")
But the thing is, he cut me off. Before I had a chance to say anything, he says to me "My goodness. You know, you rarely see women with their natural hair color anymore." Maybe he said something then like, "Oh, but it looks so lovely." Let's pretend he did. He could have. Unsure. I was just freaking out, thinking, "Well, shit. What do I say now?"
And then I thought of my guru aunt. And her premature graying in her thirties. And how I was going along in a family tradition by not dying it. You know, to pay tribute to her. And in response I get a kind of a blank stare from Mr. Sedaris, but let's be real, he's heard tons weirder. Still. I had blown it. And then I told him how painful implant surgery, part two, was going to be and then I was done. Damnit.
A bit about my aunt and then I'll tell you the two options I thought of later for what I should've said. (Damnit.) So...I have an aunt who's a guru. I haven't seen her in a decade at least. Maybe fifteen years. I guess 1996 was the last time. I sent her a birth announcement for my daughter five and a half years ago, but got no acknowledgement. I had had to send it to her foundation's general address, though. And she probably (surely) doesn't know my husband's last name, so wouldn't recognize who it was from. I didn't get an actual address from my dad because he didn't have it because he has dementia. With a heaping side of alcoholism. Actually, the alcoholism came first. Doesn't matter. In summary, we're not in touch, my aunt and I. But still, she looms large in my family's story. So, she randomly came to mind when questioned by David.
Ganga-ji (right), her partner Eli (left) and her teacher Papa-ji (center) in 1990 from here.
This is how I remember her. She looked roughly like this the last time I saw her. She was 48 then. Ten years older than me now. She'd had fully white hair since her mid-thirties. Adds to the guru-ness, right?
More recent image of Ganga-ji from here. We have similar noses. Unfortunately.
Oh, I can tell you one thing that happened that was kind of special between her and me. At her father's, my grandfather's, funeral in 1995, we were all standing at the graveside after the service was done. Standing in a circle. The three children - my father and his sisters - and their children and spouses. And my father began to weep. To a degree that I'll never forget.
In truth, that week was the beginning of the end for him. Within a year, he was committed, against his will, to a psychiatric unit for severe depression and then was given electro-shock therapy, or whatever the more PC name for that is. And then after that, the alcoholism he had so diligently suppressed for twenty years took over again. And it took him from us permanently, as it would turn out. Slowly and painfully took him from us.
He's alive today, but he's not there. His mind is completely gone. Talking to him is exactly like talking to someone in a dream who just won't. fucking. listen. And then who vanishes when you look away from him for a second. And who comes back a second later to kiss you on the forehead before he vanishes again.
So it was coming, at the funeral. All that. And I think I saw it and was bewildered by it. This man who was so competent, so good, I thought, was just in agony and was just so bewildered himself. And Ganga-ji (Aunt Toni as was) saw the combination of sadness and fear in my eyes and she said, "You really love him, don't you?" and I was truly kind of stunned that she saw me. I'm used to being invisible in my family.
The craziest thing is that those words, in particular, became even more important a few years later when my dad and I had a big show-down. I told him that he was an alcoholic and needed medical help and he said "You know? Of all my kids, you...you never loved me..." He then said other things, but I didn't really hear it. It was devastating, of course, and took years (a decade?) to get over. But I always had in the back of mind Ganga-ji's words and since she saw it, somehow, I know that that was the real truth. Not what my dad said.
So, while my mom and sister have questioned her guru-ness, I never have. Not since my grandfather's funeral. It's like she saw the future, or something. That I would need those words. What I'm projecting onto her and giving her credit for probably doesn't fall under the bailiwick of a guru, but still...mystical.
You should go to her website. It's kind of fascinating. Fairly incomprehensible to me, but fascinating. Here is a quote of hers, from her website: "The recognition of life itself is extraordinary, and the possibility of this recognition is that you recognize yourself as life itself – not separate from this form, but free of it." Unsure what that means. Maybe it's my brain lesions, but I really am unsure what that means.
It's all very well-meaning, though. It has always been a goal of hers, it seems, to help those who are suffering. Once, when I was in college, my parents and I were on a little fishing boat on the river near our house. It must've been during the summer. We started talking about Ganga-ji and her philosophy, as much as we could understand it anyway, and I said something profound. (I know. It was weird.) I said, "Well, I think she helps people searching. And I'm not searching now, so I don't get it. But maybe it's not for me to get, anyway." Shit. I'm the fucking family philosopher. That, I understood. I should start a foundation and collect donations on-line.
BTW, one book title of hers is "You Are That," which is a nice sentiment. Almost as nice as "You Are All That." If I entitled my book "You Are All That," would I have to pay royalties to the makers of that Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie, since it's a similar title? Hmm. Probably not.
So that's what happened with David Sedaris.
And now, here's what I should've said, #1:
Have you ever been in a New Jersey hair salon? Jesus. I spent about five years, going every six weeks, each time for roughly three hours, to a New Jersey hair salon. If I were to have to do that for the next fifteen years...well...I'd consider it a kind of a sentence, really. A loud, claustrophobic, extremely socially awkward (on my part), horrible, horrible kind of a sentence. A sentence for the crime of vanity, I suppose. No thanks.
Imagine this, only with big gold frames around the mirrors too. And lots and lots of women speaking loudly. And horrible music. (Photo from a Google Image search, that led me here.)
Oh, a good example of the kinds of women you would find at these salons:
I was wrong. Here are the boobies. With a side of anger. And a bucket-full of tanning cream. Photo from here.
What I should've said, #2:
I'm going for distinguished. Have you seen Up in the Air with George Clooney? Shit, dude. I just saw it on cable, and dude is hot. Smoking. I want that, but in the female version. Wait. I want to be like that, but in the female version. Yea. That's what I meant.
Photo from here.
Somehow, I think that last one was the way to go with Mr. Sedaris. Next time.