May 30th, 2011eating
My eyes hurt from looking at the computer screen, from pollen, from being rubbed too hard, from contact lenses, and from being stuck in this what-the-hell look for so long. My internal monologue has been overtaken by 50 Cent’s voice because I’ve been listening to Get Rich or Die Tryin’ for the past week. In my dreams, my cat talks to me about shopping. I wake up and my book is in the shambles in which I left it.
I’ve been working really hard on my book for the past couple of months, and right now, I’m super-close to being done with another draft and, at the same time, I’m completely full of self-doubt and self-hatred, so much so that I spend much of my time in a syrup-world in which things are not exactly good or bad, but they are not the way I left them last I checked.
Last night, hoping to take advantage of having today off work, I tried (and failed) to stay up late writing. None of the words on the screen made any sense. I couldn’t remember the chronology of my life at all. My eyes stopped focusing a little, so I picked up two books that were given to me as gifts: Art & Fear by David Bayles and Red Orland, and Zen & the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.
Lately, I have been pretty much consumed by fear. When I received Art & Fear as a graduation gift from a classmate in 2009, my only real writing-related fear was about how my writing would be received by those I care about. Now, as I told one of my UW colleagues the other day, I worry every second of every day that I lack the skill and talent to revise my book to get it into the shape it needs to be in to be accepted for publication. Deep fears. Am-I-really-a-writer fears. Bayles and Orland write, “Even at best talent remains a constant, and those who rely upon that gift alone, without developing further, peak quickly and soon fade to obscurity.” Yeah, that. I worry that, as a twenty-six year old, I wrote a book my skills are not ready for.
But the more I work, the less I worry, and the more I think, I got this. Last night, I re-read the Bradbury, which a friend gave me when I left Maryland for Seattle in 2007. Bradbury writes, “The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers.” I’m not sure I agree with him on this—on the first draft, for sure, but after that, I don’t believe in inspiration. No disrespect, but I’m glad I’m in charge here—I make decisions and calculate moves. What happens if the words just don’t come like magic?
In “The Joy of Writing,” an essay following the other, Bradbury does make a point that reminds me why I wrote my book and why I’m going to revise it into existence:
“How long has it been since you wrote a story where your real love or your real hatred somehow got onto the paper? When was the last time you dared release a cherished prejudice so it slammed the page like a lightning bolt? What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?”
The memoir is all of these things. My next steps will be to revise some stuff, rearrange some stuff (see the index cards taped to my window frame—those represent chapters I’m rearranging—I think Dollie approves of this chapter order), cut some stuff, and present the changes to my agent. I hope this doesn’t take very long because I feel like I’ve been completely wrung out and am functioning at 7/10 of personhood, with the other 3/10 dripped out of my eye sockets into my keyboard.
But this is a blog about eating, so I’ll get to that part.
Two weeks ago, my doctor put me on a new drug to counteract the slow, insidious weight gain caused by another drug I’ve been on for the past three and a half years. Since September 2007, I’ve been mad hungry all the time, and I’ve gained 40 pounds, which is a known side effect of the drug, so my doc told me to give this thing a try after I tried the willpower thing and it just didn’t work.
The new drug is cool. I’ve lost five pounds already. I’m not hungry, and I’m also becoming a lot more frugal. All of a sudden, my food life has changed dramatically. Before, I would eat anything in sight, often feeling compelled to stop at the “Hop-In” convenience store on my way home from work to buy nine Laffy Taffy ropes (they’re 3 for a dollar). Also nachos. Also lots of things.
Now, here are things I am learning are Elissa-friendly when I realize I need to eat:
1. Baby carrots. These are tasty, healthy and easy to eat.
2. Hard-boiled eggs. Nutritionally sound, portable, easy to eat.
3. The big venti cup. I like to fill it with iced coffee, iced tea or water. Hydration is especially important now.
4. Cheese. I like cheddar at home and string cheese to go.
5. Mike’s Hard Lemonade. All of a sudden, this is my jam. My desire to drink alcohol has greatly diminished, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade is not terribly hard. I like the mango hard punch flavor the best. I’ve been looking around for the strawberry flavor. It’s not the most delicious thing in the world, I know, but it’s cheap, sweet, and refreshing. I like to drink it at a barbecues and parties, when my friends make fun of me and call me a thirteen-year-old girl, and it’s gluten free and easy to find at any gas station, where, unlike a thirteen-year-old girl, I can buy it for myself (I am not super proud).
6. Celery and peanut butter.
7. There are some fancy hot dogs they have at my grocery store that I throw on the grill and eat with pickles and cream cheese.
8. Dinner made for me, because all of a sudden, I’m actually really, really enjoying food instead of just craving it and scarfing it down.
Bayles and Orland write, “Hovering out there somewhere between cause and effect, between fears about self and fears about others, lie expectations. Being one of the higher brain functions (as our neocortex modestly calls itself), expectations provide a means to merge imagination with calculation. But it’s a delicate balance—lean too far one way and your head fills with unworkable fantasies, too far the other and you spend your life generating ‘To Do’ lists.”
All I can do is keep writing and keep trying to quiet my wonderings—how much weight will I lose? Will my change jar ever run over, I wonder, as 50 Cent tells my ear, “I let my watch talk for me / my whip talk for me / my gat talk for me,” but then, I fill my Venti cup with iced green tea, peel an egg, and cut into chapter four like I got beef with it. I got this.Tags: coffee, string cheese, writing