Poops and Roses
Written April 9, 2012, at the Watertown Free Public Library
By Julie Greene
Picking up after Puzzle is one of those simple daily tasks that is as much a part of my life as is my habit of writing every day, and waking after sleep. I don’t ever feel repulsed by Puzzle’s poops. They are digested food. Nature takes in and gives back. Intake and output.
People talk about stopping to smell the roses. I never take this advice. I’m not a flower person. It gets to me that such a big deal is made of these blossoms that sell for hundreds at shops. The human tear is just as beautiful, costs nothing, and unlike a bunch of roses, serves a practical purpose. Tears cleanse. Tears are output. Tears express. Tears teach us. Tears can pray or cry out or speak pain or beauty or gratitude. Tears can say “I love you” every day, but hardly anyone can afford the daily expense of roses at a flower shop.
No, I don’t stop to smell roses, but I always stop when Puzzle gets into that funny position I have gotten to know so well, one that is uniquely hers. I let her take her time. Her back end bobs and quivers as she skillfully moves her stool toward her anal opening until it slides out—and then another, and another. She’s not a dog that waddles along while she poops, so her droppings don’t fall in a long trail, but rather, in a single pile.
Sometimes, a stubborn last piece gets stuck to her, and refuses to fall as it should. She waits, but not very long. She favors Plan B. She twists around, and in a flash, snatches the thing as a tasty appetizer.
Humans don’t do this. I question our sense of superiority when we say these acts are disgusting and done by animals only, thereby defining ourselves as so-called civilized, that is, distinct and separate from Nature. Perhaps we have gone so far that we can no longer do something as simple as poop without pills, enemas, and surgery, coupled with the obsession that the toilet as well as the colon must be kept spotless. I question why these private areas that no one ever sees must be cleaned raw while we pour our waste into precious wetlands. To me, being civilized means not only caring for the planet and my surroundings as best as I can, but capturing and holding onto the understanding that I as human am part of Nature. I have input and output. (I have my ugly and disgusting side, too.) I’m a contributor to the goings-on, a member, an adult.
I kept two flip-top Baggies in my right pocket and one in my left. I used the one on my left first. I stuck my right hand in the Baggie as far as it would go. Then I used my right hand, protected entirely by plastic, to pick up all the pieces of poops. With my left, I turned the Baggie inside-out, shook the poops to the bottom, and twisted the bag shut. I gently placed the warm bag into my left pocket, and forgot about it until we arrived home. At our parking lot, I tossed the poops into the dumpster, and never saw them again.
After this morning’s walk with Puzzle, I had the occasion to walk into the hallway trash room. Someone had tossed out a bunch of withered flowers. Perhaps they were left over from Easter. This was the day that Jesus rose from the dead. These flowers were not roses and were well past rising ever again. I wasn’t going to stop to smell them, or stop to smell anything else in the trash room. Sadly, I also saw cans that hadn’t been recycled, empty glass bottles, and even bottles that could have been returned to the store for money. One of these days, I’m going to get very uppity about recycling around here.
But I didn’t stop. It wasn’t time to think about the cycle of trash, which was already dead, not now while I was still living. I slipped back into my apartment. I sat on my couch. Puzzle, who was usually tired after her walk and meal, trotted up to me, and hopped up onto her rear legs, sliding her two front legs to the right of me on the couch. She twisted her back toward me, exposing first her side, and then, bit by bit, her chest and belly. Her hair under her was so sparse that I could see her pink skin clear through. I petted her over, and over, and over. And then, when I was done, I bent over, and touched my nose to her chest. I stopped. Then I inhaled, deeply.
Note: I love this essay, but due to its TMI subject matter, I doubt anyone would want to publish it.
Note also: I changed Puzzle’s diet in May 2012 (a month after writing this essay) and it’s been ages since she’s engaged in “Plan B.”
Note also: This essay illustrates a handful of Unitarian-Universalist Principles. I’ve just come to realize this.
Note also: Photo not included. Perhaps the reader is appreciative.
To survive Alcott, I made a list of things I liked about myself. I thought I’d share it with you today, maybe it will help someone. The list is unfinished. Please read what I wrote afterward.
I wrote the following in July 2012:
I am actually the bravest person I know.
My body is more resilient and durable than the average human body. I have excellent physical endurance.
I am articulate.
I am well educated.
I am a skilled writer.
Some people think I’m wicked funny.
I’m wicked smart.
I can turn on the charm.
I can turn on the wit.
I can turn on the good manners.
I look cute in a tie.
I am an innovative knitter.
Puzzle is the best-dressed Schnoodle in New England, wearing her L.L. Greene sweaters designed and knitted by me.
I don’t put cute puppies and kittens up on Facebook, nor do I quote God.
I tell it like it is.
I say what I think and encourage others to do so as well.
I am good with money and write up a budget I can follow.
I don’t think I have bounced a check since the 1970’s.
I actually enjoy being poor and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am wicked good with computers.
[skipping this next one, I have mixed feelings about it.]
I am car-free.
I am proud that I never got married.
I like my name.
I am proud of my past, my history and heritage.
I belong to an awesome church.
I am a squeaky wheel.
I overcame many bad habits that I picked up in the mental health system, including whining, rocking, and speaking like a child.
I quit smoking.
I had the same wonderful partner for 13 years and we were best buddies for four previous years.
I am a straight-A student.
I have written 5 books [now, 6].
I am a two-time [now, three] National Novel Writing Month winner.
I have written a lot of music.
I can type without looking at my hands.
I own over 700 books.
I give a damn good reading.
I am good at public speaking.
I am a member of the Gold Key Honor Society.
I ran a 5k at age 52.
I performed stand-up comedy in a bar.
I once hopped on my bike and rode 100 miles without a map and 45 cents in my pocket.
I hitch-hiked across the country with my dog when I was 21.
While undergoing brainwashing by a religious cult, I figured out what was going on, secretly tried to alert others, and got kicked out of the cult.
I make sarcasm fun.
I had sex in the McLean Hospital tunnels, made famous in Girl, Interrupted (not exactly the mile-high club).
I am a good storyteller.
I am published.
I was on the front page of the Watertown Tab once, above and below the fold.
I got a standing ovation at my grad school graduation.
I earned my undergrad degree summa cum laude.
I survived the death of my partner.
In 2005 I was brave enough to fly to the UK to meet a man I met online.
I am capable of falling in love with a person of any gender.
I am out of the closet.
It appears that I ended the list here, though I intended to continue. I had not run out of ideas but had run out of energy and time and perhaps had plenty else on my mind.
What would I add now? A lot. I have accomplished quite a bit since that time. I am in a much better space than I was then, too. I don’t need a list to remind me that I am a worthy person. In addition, I don’t need to prove to anyone else that I am a worthy person and deserve space on the planet. All humans are worthy of that. My paranoia may tell me that the planet is trying to kick me off, but the first Principle of UU tells me THERE ARE NO ASSHOLES HERE. I can look at Puzzle’s cute little face and that tells all.
I’m very proud of myself because today I didn’t do a lot of procrastinating or wasting time, nor did I get distracted the way I usually do. I got to church. I have been going since October and this was my first time being late…about five minutes, I think. The service always starts on time and there are sometimes latecomers. Someone laughed afterward and said it was pretty amazing that all this time, I’ve always been on time for church. I spoke with the minister afterward. I spoke with a lot of people in the congregation. The babies sure grow up fast. Next Sunday during service, I am reading a piece I wrote especially for this service. The topic is “pets.” I wrote the piece in one sitting a while back and have been tinkering with it ever since. It is an honor and pleasure to be doing this.
When I came home, I worked on some paperwork, looking through written documents and taking notes. I had some phone calls to make and I have done them. I have more phone calls to make tomorrow. I left a message and am expecting a return call soon.
Tomorrow I might attend a social event. Who, me? Yep. It is a GLBT intergenerational event. Young people are invited as well as people 55 and over. I wrote to the person and asked first of all if 54 was okay, and secondly if it was okay that I wasn’t a resident of the town where this was taking place. All is fine and I am welcome there. I’m sure there will be a good turnout even though it’s due to rain quite a bit. I have things going on every day next week. I will be out every day and I will be spending time with people. I’m not looking forward to the bus and subway fare increases. Everything’s going way, way up. Sometimes, I walk rather than take the bus, and now I’m going to be doing that a lot, cuz transportation has become expensive. I put money on my “Charlie Card” and I hope it lasts a few weeks. I guess it’s worth it cuz now I go out and do things and make new friends.
At church today, we made wishes and/or prayers for our community, for the world, and for ourselves personally. We sang some great songs. We sat in a circle, instead of sitting like a church congregation usually sits, in pew-like formation. I thought about the changes that I’d like to see happening in the world. I listened to others’ wishes while we all shared, around the room. Some people mentioned specific parts of the world, for instance, Syria. We thought of the kids and of environmental issues as well.
I have come to realize that now that I recycle, my attitude about certain things has changed. I try to find other uses for things before tossing them into the recycle pile. It is amazing the effect it has on me to be thinking about minimal waste. This branches out into other areas of my life as well.
So today, I didn’t waste much time. I got done what had to get done and now I will do some writing. See y’all.
Humans. What a nuisance. If you saw the way I act around my neighbors, surely you’d know that this is the way I think. I live in an eight-story building on the second floor, which is the ground floor. I’m guessing there are twenty apartments here on the second floor and I know by name only two of the second-floor residents. I know the name of one fourth-floor resident and there’s another resident whose name I used to know but now forget and I haven’t a clue what floor she lives on. I have lived here since September 2008. Over three years, eight stories, three and a half names. Since September 2008, I have conversed with only one of the three and a half people. Twice, I think. Add one or two other people to the mix for good luck whose names have escaped me now and that about sums it up. Most of my private thoughts and things I say here in my blog about my neighbors are spiteful and bitter. Sometimes, I get needlessly worked up in my spitefulness and bitterness and hatred and end up in a bad, bad negative space over this. I have heard, “You should be nice to them. You should treat the elderly with respect,” but I cannot feel sympathy for people who sit on their behinds and gossip, gossip, gossip all day long. They don’t know my name even. They haven’t asked what my name is. They haven’t asked me what my dog’s name is. They aren’t friendly to Puzzle or ever pet her. This was established very, very early on, and I began the habit of sneaking in and out the back hallway to avoid walking past them and their gossip. It’s very handy to have this back door my apartment door. On my way out, I can walk down the back stairs and out the back door and be completely invisible. Simple arrangement. On my way back in, however, it’s a bit trickier. I can’t enter through the back. I have to go in through the side and then either up the elevator, or slide through the “community room” and up the back stairway again. If I travel up the elevator, I might have to put up with some nosy person in the elevator with me, and then, the elevator exits into the main hallway, where I have to walk out where everyone can see me, and it just plain sucks. I try to avoid the elevator routine, but I can’t always cut through the “community room” either. Puzzle isn’t allowed to walk through there, for one thing. I don’t go through there when they are serving “community lunches” in there, certainly not, because this is can be awkward as hell with my former neighbors in there, who make their indiscriminate comments about my weight. I am not kidding you. You wouldn’t believe the things they have said, or not said. Maybe they just look me up and down. That is bad enough. At night there are the card-players I tend to avoid, building residents, gossipers I assume. I look for a darkened room. If it’s dark, then no one’s in there and it’s safe to walk through, go up the back stairs, and make a quick dash to my apartment door. All this extreme effort just to avoid being seen by my gossipy neighbors. Yes, I am rude, unfriendly, cold, aloof, stick to myself, not neighborly, the works.
My phone. Yes, it does ring, but who calls? Telemarketers and “professional fundraisers” on behalf of bogus charities that prey on the elderly and anyone else they think they can snare. I get these calls about twice a day, maybe more. Being on the National Do Not Call List hasn’t gotten rid of them. What I am saying is, my phone is no longer a tool for useful, intelligent human conversation anymore.
Therapy. I normally see my T twice a week. Surely, this is intelligent human conversation. But this week, I canceled not one, but both sessions. Monday I was sick. Thursday I was sick. I screwed up somewhat the week before as well. I can assure you that my T is very unhappy with me right now. I can assure you that my T has possibly even fired me. So much for further opportunity for intelligent human conversation.
Not that this is the only reason I go to therapy. But the lack of human out-loud conversation this week has been so extreme that if it weren’t for the fact that I babble to myself non-stop every night as I’m headed to bed, I’d probably wonder if I still had a voice. I had one phone conversation all week, and it was a good one. I think this was Friday, at least I am fairly certain that it was. Also on Friday, I stopped at the church and spoke with the minister. I told him, very excitedly, about my new book. I asked him what this Sunday’s sermon was going to be about, but then told him that I was going to be there Sunday, and that I’d wait and find out and be surprised. So that was intelligent conversation #2. The third was with my primary care doctor when I saw her Wednesday.
You know, I will go for days, sometimes, days and days, without talking to anyone intelligently. Maybe a word or two to a store clerk. Or maybe I’ll talk to people, but I’m so insane that the words just float around, or I fake my way through a conversation and I’m out of my head and pretend my head’s okay, I just smile and nod but I can’t even concentrate on what’s being said. I haven’t been Stark Raving Mad, as I’ve come to call it, for a number of days now, thankfully. I am hoping that this stays at a minimum.
Last Sunday at church I was Stark Raving Mad. I was completely out of my head. But I was still me, and church was still church, which meant that I was still just as welcome there and church was still just as wonderful. I did have to fake my way through conversations during social hour, nod and smile and stuff, but I wasn’t connected enough to be scared. I’d say it was so weird and interesting that I didn’t get a chance to be scared, not at all. The Director of Religious Education read a story to the children during the service, while all the children gathered up front to listen. I heard the title of the book, then the rest just went off somewhere. I told myself that if this was going to happen with a children’s book, then the sermon was going to be really tough for me to understand. But I wouldn’t say that this was exactly the case. The sermon was simply a different experience. I didn’t hear the sermon the way I usually hear sermons. I saw it laid out before me. Kind of like a puzzle or a skeleton or a graph, something bare-bones that had to be put together. As is the tendency when I’m Stark Raving Mad, I get a thought, and then the thought completely leaves my head as soon as it comes into my mind. So all this was happening with this skeleton before me that I was trying to assemble. I heard the congregation laugh periodically. I heard snatches of words here, then gone. I felt a heat rise in my chest at the end of the sermon and I felt the warmth of the words as the flowed and spun around, and I thought that something was there that had to do with being held close and protected and loved. Something happened in the congregation just then, a bubbling, and then a release.
It wasn’t until much, much later, that night, or maybe the next night, yes, probably the next night, and I think it was in the shower, that I looked back, and suddenly I was able to recall the entire sermon! Yet I couldn’t comprehend any of it while I was sitting in the church last Sunday. Why this recall? Memory is a very, very strange thing indeed. As I sit here right now I realize that it is late, and I am truly exhausted, and at this exact moment, my memory of the sermon is only vague. I have yet to read the online text of the sermon. These are generally available shortly after Sundays, usually Monday or Tuesday.
Tomorrow is Sunday. I am not thinking of having the opportunity for human interaction tomorrow. That’s not really my primary concern in fact. I think what I’m more focused on is showing up for church on time and remembering my name button. That’s very basic stuff. Church is church and I’ll get to sit there and be there and that’s the important part. The music will be awesome and everything will be awesome because it always, always is.
Showing up is awesome. Remember this.
Oh yeah, the coffee afterward is a great bonus, too.
I wish this wasn’t the case. But it is.
I woke up alive. I was glad to get adequate sleep. About 7-1/2 hours. Nice. I slept rather late. I had dreams. I don’t remember them now. I felt scattered in my thoughts this morning but eventually I got focused and into a very angry space. Then, I decided I’d better get a move on and get on with my day, take a shower, get dressed, and so on, get Puzzle out, as it was really well into the morning. I found that my anger was morphing into despair. Then I interrupted myself and came here. I decided I’d write about what I was feeling. Here I am.
I’ve been posting on Facebook lately. This is highly unusual for me. Just using it as an outlet, expressing myself, reaching out, as my birthday approaches…what the heck. Mostly my Goddard classmates are on there. Excellent folks. Many are on Pacific Time. Things happen late at night.
I awoke this morning wearing my pajamas. Well, this makes sense because I went to sleep wearing my pajamas, and I didn’t take them off in the middle of the night. I have these bright red fleece footie pajamas. I took them off when I went to pee when I got up. I wished and wished and crossed my fingers that the edema that I’ve had for days and days now had disappeared in the night. This sometimes happens. Well, fat chance. It didn’t. I have the ankles of an elephant. Still. My skin is so stretched that I have these terrible sores and I had to put lotion on last night to keep them from getting worse. If you have never had anorexia you don’t know how terrible this makes me feel inside, to have legs, or at least calves, as if I am about fifty pounds heavier than I really am. Well, forty. Sucks just as much. My body is betraying me. When all this edema stuff suddenly started at the end of last April, I really thought that my body was ruined and that my life was over. I died, really, a long, long time ago. I am not the person I was. The world has not been the same. It is a cruel, cruel place.
I must slink around at this point. I must avoid hospitalization at all costs. I am terrified. This is an unrealistic fear but it is a fear nonetheless simply because it is always a possibility due to the fact that I am a mental patient and people have their prejudices. I see my therapist on Monday. I wrote January 8 on my calendar, the day of my 54th birthday, and I wrote, “Happy Birthday.” The next page was blank for a very long time. I guess it was yesterday that I noticed its blankness. I wrote in the date, January 9th, and I wrote in that I see my T that day.
On Sunday, I will be 54, and I will still be 54 on Monday. So when I go to see my T, I will be 54.
I don’t know what I was getting at. Well, I do know. Hospital means nut ward. Nut ward means state hospital. State hospital means absolutely no eating disorders treatment whatsoever and staff who have absolutely no knowledge of eating disorders. Actually, the staff in state hospitals probably are completely uneducated and possibly don’t even have high school diplomas and most likely barely speak English. State hospital means sitting around all day every day in a wobbly chair surrounded by other patients who can barely put a sentence together. Maybe I’ll take up smoking again. It might be the only activity they offer.
My life. What’s left of it.
Avoid hospital. Be free.
Things left: Puzzle. Church. I’ve got a few friends, God bless them, but most have left me. Not that I blame them. I blame some of them, though.
I am really, really blessed to have my church. I am blessed to have what I have left.
I am blessed to have my writing. I have been writing a lot lately. It is necessary.
Now, I will take a shower. It is late.
I hope the shower is hot. I have my showers, too. I do have a lot left. A fair amount. Today. All day today. All day Sunday, January 8th, my birthday, when I will show up at church a bit before 10:30, in time for the service.
The weather is supposed to be nice here in Boston. Quite fitting, I think.
It will soon be 2012. I don’t know what the new year will bring. You don’t know what the new year will bring, either. It is a leap year, a little longer than most years.
It is hard to believe that four years have passed since 2008. A lot of the people who were my friends four years ago aren’t my friends anymore.
I have given away just about all the clothes I had four years ago to charity. Or I threw them out.
I don’t live in the same location.
Prices have gone up. At least that’s something that isn’t surprising.
I have fewer teeth.
In a week, I’ll be 54 years old. I may or may not have mentioned this, but I’d like to spend all of 54 out of the loony bin. It’s a lofty goal. A year is a long, long time when they say you’re supposed to take things one day at a time.
To tell you the truth, I’ll be totally relieved when 53 is over and done with. Right now, I feel like I’m tiptoeing around very, very scared, still very much in 53. I am trying not to count the days. Counting is kinda dumb. I’m really that my birthday falls on a Sunday, so I get to be in church that day.
Tomorrow, I get to light the chalice at church, to bring in the New Year. I get to do this because nobody had signed up for it. So I signed my name in the blank. Julie Greene. That’s me.
I will be reading the Epilogue from Kenny Fries’ book, The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory. I get to read from a book that has a long title because 2012 is leap year, a longer year than most.
I guess here on the East Coast in a half hour it will be 2012. Happy New Year, East Coast.
I have noticed that human beings break promises, and I am no different. I broke the promise I made to myself that I would not have caffeine today. I didn’t have morning coffee. I often don’t have coffee in the morning simply because I forget to make it or I make it and forget it’s there, and find it hours later still sitting on the counter waiting for me, stone cold. I spooned down a cup of Roastaroma right before leaving for church this morning. At church social hour, I drank herbal tea. That’s a first because I always have the coffee there and I always pick the largest mug and feel that surely I am being selfish for doing so. I came home and slept for two hours and then got up and felt groggy and headachy. I took two aspirin and gave in and had my coffee. I feel better. Improved. Not great though.
That’s not really what I wanted to talk about. I was just at church as I usually am on Sundays. I am going back in a bit and then a bunch of us are carpooling over to this place and then we are caroling there and then going back to the music director’s place for a get-together. I am a busy girl. But I felt it was important to write in here with the little time I have in-between.
You just don’t know anything about the future. You can’t predict New England weather. It is cold outside today. I am cold, very cold sometimes.
After church–well, let me just say that church is different each time I go. Each time is special. We had the Christmas pageant today.
When the kids were up there singing, I thought I was going to start crying. There I was, sitting in the second row. I was scared the kids would see my crying, and not understand my tears. Does anyone understand my tears? No one really needs to understand them. Many people cry at church for their own reasons and it’s none of my business why they do. I put a smile on my face and held the liquid tears inside my eyes and did not let them fall. I willed my nose not to run.
Bodily fluids. Water.
I have decided that it is no longer a good idea to drink really fast or a whole lot at once.
I don’t have much time, because
I am leaving in a bit.
At 4:45, I have to be at church for carpooling. But I am getting there early. My mom taught me to be early. She was notoriously late. For everything. Actually, it was a horrible thing that she was late. This was one way that she neglected us kids. It was gross neglect because her tardiness often put us in dangerous situations. Or she would forget us entirely and not show. By being chronically late, I learned. I learned to be early. Because it is better to be early, or to plan to be early just in case there are delays. I am always on time. Or sooner than expected.
Why am I poisoning this entry with talk of my mother? I was just in a deep sleep. I slept for nearly two hours. I woke up and the edema was gone. I asked myself if all the fluid had gone into my head and that’s why I had a headache.
I have been Doctor Greene all weekend. Survival.
I have just peeked. My legs are gross again. When I left the house this morning I thought about how this really does a number on my self-esteem. Actually, I read on a website that the common denominator among people with eating disorders is low self-esteem.
I could use a shower after that two-hour nap.
I spent some time praying tonight. I wanted to know where the heck God was. Where are You?
Then I found myself begging God to take my life from me. I pleaded with God over and over. Just take it away. I have had enough.
I feel better now. It’s kind of a relief to have done this.
I’m going to go to bed now, or in a little while I should say, and then in the morning, maybe go to church. I think they said the building opens at 9.
I’m not done sleeping yet, just thought I’m pop in and say hello. My last entry was at 11 last night.
I peeked out the window and it’s fairly white out there, but not as deep as they predicted. I’ll be wearing snow boots to walk Puzzle, though, and to get to church.
I received an e-mail overnight from someone at church asking if I was coming to the newcomers’ breakfast on November 6th. I have known about the event for a while, and have wanted to go. I will be thrilled to be there…but…breakfast? Food? How am I going to deal with that? Especially breakfast food. What will they be serving? How am I going to handle this? Maybe they will have some sort of fruit salad I can eat. Probably a huge buffet. I don’t have to put syrup on anything. I should just relax. No one is going to look at me funny if I just eat a little bit. If I worry too much about the food, I won’t enjoy the people. I’m there to meet new people and learn more about the church. I can do this, and I will.
So much for positive self-talk. It’s 4:30 and I have a headache again. I’m going to go get some more sleep. Probably take more aspirin, too. I’m so glad I’m capable of sleeping now.