“We’ll Eat You Up – We Love You So”

I’ve never really understood why we as a culture experience grief at the passing of celebrities. I had a conversation about this last week after observing the outpouring of sadness in various pockets of the Internet over the death of MCA – a person whose music was an integral part of formative periods of many of our (though not my) lives. To the best of my knowledge, no one that I know personally knew Adam Yauch, or will feel his absence in their day-to-day lives – and yet many were shedding tears over his death, just as many did over Steve Jobs a few months ago, or Michael Jackson a few years ago. I don’t get it.

That said, I gasped when I heard the news of Maurice Sendak’s passing this morning. Much has already been written about him, and in much more eloquent ways than I can manage, but that gasp of sadness seems justification enough for adding my words to the pile.

Perhaps it will come as no surprise that I was a bookish kid, or that books (and my thumb and blanket) were my truest friends from early childhood. This photo of my brother and I circa 1984 was taken at my aunt’s apartment in Iowa City, where I first remember encountering the stories and illustrations of Maurice Sendak. In fact, if you look closely, I think that the stack next to Mark includes one of the Little Bear books, illustrated by Sendak.


I remember reading The Nutshell Library with my aunt, the small books just the right size for a child’s hands. We read In the Night Kitchen – what a strange story – and I remember experiencing a thrill of the forbidden because Mickey is naked as he gets baked into the morning cake. And of course – Where the Wild Things Are. The story and illustrations figure large in the imagination of people my age – larger than the monsters who threaten to eat Max up because they don’t want him to go.

For a year, I lived in an apartment with the beginnings of murals on the walls of my living room. There was the Lorax, speaking for the trees, and Curious George, reaching for the hand of The Man in the Yellow Hat. And then, in the west and north corners of the room, a pair of Wild Things:

Day 5 - 7/28/07

The Wild Things cemented my love for that apartment, and were the source of wonder for friends who visited, and confusion for those who woke up on the couch to a lovingly menacing face:

Wild Rumpus!

And I loved – and continue to love – his illustrations for The Animal Family, a small and magical book about a hunter, a mermaid, a bear, a lynx, and a child. That a war poet and a noted curmudgeon could create a world so intricate, sensitive, deliberate, and wonderful – it gives me chills.

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … What I dread is the isolation. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”

So today I am sad because this amazingly talented and insightful person is no longer in the world – that monsters, both real and imagined, will go undrawn. And I’m grateful for all the magic his work brought to the lives of so many children, young and old, for so many years.

Things I’m Afraid To Tell You

There’s this thing that’s been going around the internet for the last week. It started with one woman writing honestly about aspects of her life that were incongruent with the persona and lifestyle depicted on her blog, and spiraled out from there. These confessions have ranged from very superficial to very personal, and have left me thinking a lot about what I do and don’t share here (or in other, less public fora).

I’ve written here since 2001, though the URL has changed a few times, and much of what I wrote in the early years is no longer public. Since I started this blog, I have lived at 15 different addresses in 6 cities, worked at 13 different jobs, and had 4 serious relationships, much of which has been documented here. When I need to remember what I was thinking or feeling at a particular time, this is one of the places I turn. On this site, as in real life, there are few topics that are off limits – but on this site, as in real life, I’ve constructed an identity that incorporates the parts that I’m willing and able to share.

The last 6-9 months have been a rollercoaster for me. I’ve been trying hard to put my finger on a triggering event or events, but end up with more questions than answers. In doing so, I’ve been working on being very honest with myself about a lot of things. Along the way, I’ve realized a few things I’m afraid to tell you:

Over the last few years, I’ve used my tendency toward introversion to avoid investing in my relationships. It’s not that I’ve ever had a shortage of friends. It’s that I stopped trying to really connect. Since realizing this and starting to open myself up, I have experienced a depth of connection, communication, and honesty in friendships that I’d forgotten was possible.

I require fulfilling work to be happy. Of those 13 jobs, I can point to two that really made my heart sing: the year and a half of gyne instruction and the almost three years at GSLIS. I’ve had jobs where I worked with wonderful people, and I’ve had jobs where the work was challenging, and I’ve had jobs where both of those statements were true, but for the last few years, I’ve been stalled professionally. My current job holds a lot of promise in this area, but I’m trying not to swoon yet. I would like to be one of those people who can leave work at work, for whom a job is just a way to pay the bills, but when I’ve been in those jobs and when I’ve aspired to those things, I’ve felt myself steadily go numb. I would be such an excellent housewife if I could just turn all of this off.

I really don’t know how I feel about having kids, and that’s a pretty scary thing to me. Most days I’m resolutely in the anti-kids camp, in part because I can’t see a persuasive reason TO have kids. But my strong opinions on this subject are undermined by a nagging fear that I’ll change my mind after it’s already too late. I also worry that the fact that I’ve never had a serious pregnancy scare points to some underlying fertility problems.

I have a very hard time communicating my needs in relationships, intimate or otherwise. I’ve become inured to disappointment, and to a large extent, that’s my own fault, as I haven’t given my partners or friends the opportunity to be the people and things I’ve needed them to be at the time, and so of course I’ve been hurt and disappointed. This tendency grew out of a terribly low self-esteem that led me to believe that no one would ever love me as much as _______________ did, and so I’d better do whatever I could to be happy with whatever was given, rather than advocating for my needs – emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, etc. I have worked hard at this in the last few years, but I’m still so far from where I need to be.

I have never been able to establish the habit of flossing. I also keep nail clippers in my desk because I will destroy my cuticles otherwise.

I worry that I’m too selfish to be in a real, lasting relationship. Since starting this blog, I’ve had two relationships that lasted six years, a relationship that lasted three years on-and-off, and a relationship that lasted one very tumultuous year. I don’t (think I) have unrealistic expectations about relationships. I’ve been there. I’ve done the work. But then I’ve also not done the work in significant ways, and I’ve hurt partners, and I’ve failed partners, and I’m no closer at 32 to understanding any of it than I was at 21.

I’m afraid of failure. Like, really afraid. You’re saying to yourself “duh, everyone feels that way,” but I feel it acutely, and am often simultaneously too lazy to do anything about it. I’ve been a perfectionist and an overachiever since at least age 5, when I came home from kindergarten in tears because, as I told my mom, I felt like I had to turn my brain off when I went to school. I was moved up to first grade shortly after that, and haven’t stopped being my own hardest critic since. If there’s anything you might think is wrong or could be improved in me, you can rest assured that I’ve already dug into it and remind myself of it all the time. Like my failure in relationships or my stagnated career.

I’m trying to practice vulnerability. This post is part of that practice.

On Cleansing

May is all about getting my shit in order after six months of chaos. Between job hunting, moving, moving, teaching, job hunting, leaving my job, moving, moving, starting a new job, and other things that I will talk about eventually, my day-to-day life has lost all sense of order. An important part of fixing this is getting my diet in order – and getting my ass back in the kitchen after months and months and months of not cooking.

The Whole Living Action Plan seemed like a good way to kill a few birds with one stone: get my food stuff under control, eliminate foods that might be causing me trouble anyway, and help my body bounce back from a few months of abuse. I started on Monday, and will continue with it for two more weeks.

Biscuits & Gravy
Everything in this photo is forbidden. Including the silverware.

Week One (right now): no dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, animal fats, beans, soy, grains, gluten, processed food or beverages, or added sugar. I’m also not supposed to be having caffeine or alcohol, oops, so I’m enjoying the latter in moderation, and the former at the normal rate of consumption.
Week Two: add back seafood, beans, lentils and soy.
Week Three: eggs and gluten-free grains, yum.

Some observations thus far:

  • Juicing is fun! And noisy! And messy! This week’s breakfasts are all about juice, and I’m very thankful for Steph‘s loan of her beast of a juicer. I’ve had carrot-grapefruit, beet-carrot-apple, and carrot-grapefruit-ginger. Tomorrow’s juice might involve mangoes.
  • Monday night I was so grumpy and hungry that I nearly started crying at Home Depot while trying to find the right bolts to mount my new Illinois license plates.
  • Man, I really don’t like drinking water. And I really need to drink a lot of water or else I get headachey and dizzy and my contacts start behaving weirdly.
  • The monstrous headaches from Tuesday and Wednesday have finally subsided – only to be replaced by terrible abdominal cramping, which may be due to the cleanse, or may be due to the questionable avocado I ate Wednesday night after walking my bike 3 miles home after getting a flat on my first ride out of my neighborhood.
  • When I weighed myself yesterday morning, the scale claimed that I’d lost 7 pounds since Sunday. That isn’t actually physically possible, and is a good lesson in why you shouldn’t weigh yourself every day. Today showed a much more reasonable 4 pounds, most of which is probably water weight from pre and post-race carbs.
  • If you eat a lot of beets, your pee might turn pink. Apparently this is less common than I realized.
  • I appreciate that the meals were built around produce that is readily available in the winter – citrus, root veg, and dark greens – though I think the menu would be more fun in the summer.
  • I feel like a giant pain whenever I try to order something at a restaurant. Next week should be easier.
  • Running has been OK but not great. I had to walk a little on Wednesday, but was fine this morning. I couldn’t do this while training, which is another reason it’s perfect for May.

Foods I have been craving like nobody’s business:

  • Ice cream, but that’s pretty normal.
  • Cheeseburgers.
  • Pizza, especially after reading this post.

Five days (almost) down, sixteen to go. And then maybe I need to see a man about one of those burgers at Kuma’s Corner.