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  1. Holden On

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    by Helene "what the hell are you looking at, cat?? Gresser







    "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."
    Holden Caulfield
    Catcher in the Rye



    Did you ever read that short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper"  - where this woman is basically confined to a room to help recover from her post-partum depression, and she slowly loses her mind, being driven crazy with confinement and isolation and the horrid, peeling yellow wallpaper? How about "Catcher in the Rye"  - one of my all-time favorite books, the very first book I remember laughing aloud at in my high school library - where Holden Caulfield is disdainful of everyone for being "phonies" and he is this lonely soul wandering the streets of Manhattan and wondering about the ducks in the duck pond in Central Park in the wintertime? 

    "...New York's terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night. You can hear it for miles. It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed. I kept wishing I could go home and shoot the bull for a while with old Phoebe."


    I've been fixated on the word "neurotic" for the past couple of days. I always had my own, slightly wrong interpretation of what a neurotic person was, but this is the definition from Wikipedia, or at least an excerpt of it: 


    "...According to The American Heritage Medical Dictionary, it is "no longer used in psychiatric diagnosis". Instead, the disorders once classified as neuroses are now considered anxiety disorders.
    There are many different specific forms of neurosis: obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety neurosis, hysteria (in which anxiety may be discharged through a physical symptom), and a nearly endless variety of phobias as well as obsessions such as pyromania. According to Dr. George Boeree, effects of neurosis can involve:

    ...anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc., behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc., cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. Interpersonally, neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc...."



    Well, hell,  I'm a damn neurotic, then. I once had a crazy stalker-dude when I was in grad school, whom I initially did not realize was crazy-pants, but quickly grew wary of him when he refused to let me be. He called a lot, he stopped by, he pestered me. And when I had to aggressively turn him away, he called me "neurotic," which I angrily objected to. But damn if he wasn't right. But hell, even Paul Simon got called "neurotic" by his ole pal Art Garfunkel when Simon wrote "I Am a Rock":



    "...I have my books and my poetry to protect me. I am shielded in my armor. Hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no one and no one touches me...."

    I work from home most of the time, researching listings for my real estate job, writing blentries for blogs, writing sets for comedy, slowly going insane with the 250 square feet and the cats needing to be on top of me, and not interacting with people in an office for days or weeks on end. When I do go to the real estate office, having no assigned desk, I have to use some uncomfortable and wide open "public" computer and every loud conversation from every agent in the office penetrates my earholes and keeps me from concentrating on my work. Noise distracts me. i have ADD, remember?  I have hundreds of songs on my computer, many more CDs on my shelves, and I rarely play music while working. I like my quiet and my isolation in many ways. I do some of my best work this way. But it is starting to affect me in strange ways.

    I have started to buy things on a thrift store auction site: much , much too much stuff for my tiny space. I am obsessed with bargain-hunting in my local thrift for pristine, high-end clothing and shoes. For ridiculously low prices. But my closet is stuffed with clothing, and I have stacks of folded laundry with no sufficient bureau space in which to put them. I keep shoes stacked like cord wood.I think it comes from having denied myself anything for so long. Or I have developed an addiction. Hooray. Shopaholic is a such a trite word. I am ridiculous. 

    I have started picking at one area of my scalp, where a bump is, and I cannot seem to stop. I am a monkey, self-grooming, albeit neurotically, like a caged beastie. I think I shall go bald in that one spot. 

    I am not organizing my papers. I am letting things pile up, and I fear I am an episode of Hoarders waiting to happen. 

    I write my comedy sets as I head towards my gig, daring myself to have enough material for a longer set, and have some semblance of order magically occur, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of my messy life. I succeed sporadically. 

    When I am in someones airy, sunny home, a sense of calm permeates my constantly buzzing brain and churning stomach and I think " WHY THE HELL DO I LIVE IN A TINY DARK APARTMENT IN MANHATTAN?? WHY??? I WANT SUNLIGHT AND AIR AND SPACE FOR MY CRAP AND CAT BOX.! WHY CAN'T I LIVE IN A BEACH HOUSE LIKE DIANE KEATON DID IN THAT MOVIE WHERE SHE WAS A PLAYWRIGHT AND FELL IN LOVE WITH JACK NICHOLSON?? WHY DON'T I LIVE IN MINNEAPOLIS? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?"

    I shout in my thoughts like some John Irving character. I grind my teeth. I broke a tooth, WHILE FLOSSING. I talk to my cats. I have two cats. I HAVE TWO CATS. I have two cats.

    Somehow, I manage to be surrounded by the most amazing friends. Many of them suffer as I do: manic, neurotic, depressive, creatively frustrated, living in small-ass apartments with possessions piled high to the ceiling in towers of claustrophobic proportions. But they save me from myself --- somehow instinctively knowing when to reach out into my tiny, hot cave and pull me out before I pop another Xanax or smoke another Camel or date another bad boy. I am sucking at communication so hard lately, all up in my hibernation mode, I do not know how any of my pals tolerate me as a friend, frankly. I feel selfish and self-absorbed and cynical and ache with worry and anxiety ---- but so do they. And they share their tales of woe, and their intermittent joys, and they pour me wine and make me laugh, miraculously, or feed me a meal (since all I do is eat from my local 24-hour deli these past few months, so much so that the cashier and I are all chummy and shit.) Or they loan me giant sums of money to pay my always-overdue rent -- I now worry I will never be able to repay them fully for months to come. It eats me alive, this anxiety. Terrific fun, I am. 

    But the friends, you see, they understand, they tell me to pull up my big girl pants and get the hell to work. On time, goddamnit. They tell me to keep performing, to keep writing, to keep my creative life alive. They don't try to stop me and reason with me and tell me to give all of it up and work in an office again. Hell, I may start making a shit-ton of money in real estate some day, who knows. They listen to my tales of romantic woe, which, being me, there are no shortage of. They visit me at my bar where I bartend. And then they remind me that I am HELENE GODDAMN GRESSER! BUCK THE FUCK UP CHUCK!! GET 'ER DONE! QUIT YOUR WHINING AND JUST FUCKING DO IT. 

    I get by with a little help from my friends. Get high with a little help from my friends. Gonna try with a little help from my friends. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries. 


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  2. 3 comments:

    1. Rhonda said...

      Jeez, thanks for reminding me just how traumatized I was by that creepy (PBS?) televised version of the Yellow Wallpaper. Oh yeah & thanks for reminding me how glad I am I'm allergic to cats. Otherwise I got the whole Hoarders thing covered. Cue the Sanford & Son (junkyard) music...

    2. Lady Ha Ha said...

      Yep. I get it all as I stare at the mounds of papers, heaps of laundry, piles of unpaid bills. We're living the life, ain't we? Rock solid blentry.

    3. I feel less alone in my crazinesses. :-)

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