Monday, July 21, 2014

life's a beach and then you die

I’ve never been addicted to any substances, unless you count food, in which case I’ve been in a shaky kind of recovery for thirteen years. But without belittling actual chemical dependence, I think I have an addictive personality. AK is the opposite—she can go to bed at a different time every night, and her only bad habits have more to do with a lack of good habits.

I, on the other hand, can practically feel my brain latch onto a thing—whether it’s a substance or a behavior or a thought—and go, Hey, this could be a good one! Let’s definitely eat ALL the potato chips. Let’s definitely Google ONE MORE DISEASE. The simultaneous feeling of surrender and control is intoxicating. Literally, if I understand how serotonin and dopamine work, which I quite possibly do not.

The past four years have been dramatic, and sometimes it takes me by surprise. Who me? The kid who lived in the same house for eighteen years and whose parents watched TV from exactly 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night? Other times I wonder if I’m addicted to having major tumult at three month intervals.

Maybe that’s just another way of trying to control the narrative—if I’m bringing the drama, I can stop it. If I’m to blame, I can save myself.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I desperately want to stay cancer-free and adopt a kid or two and save the drama for the characters in the books I should be writing. On a day-to-day basis, I ascribe to Liz Lemon’s philosophy that the one universal human desire is to be left alone to eat a sandwich. I want my life to be calm so I can eat a sandwich.

God, I miss this show.
And yet if life is a big churning ocean, and I am a reluctant surfer—still bruised and shark-nibbled from learning how to stand up on my board—if this is the metaphor we’re working with…I have come to crave the waves. It’s not that I like them. But my body has learned how to go into a certain mode: core tensed, knees bent. And the body so easily mistakes the familiar for the good. That’s kind of what addiction is, at its heart. Sickening and exhilarating.

But there’s a more positive way to look at it too. Today my therapist reminded me that anxiety serves a purpose (he didn’t say what, but from an evolutionary standpoint, it probably has to do with staying away from bears). Mine goes haywire at times, and at other times I think I’ve conquered it. When I discover I haven’t, I get mad at myself. But I guess it’s not just pathology. It’s life.

Not a Beyonce kinda surfboard, you pervs.
At my last all-clear cancer check-up, in April, I thought: Awesome, now it’s time to get back into the thick of living before I start worrying about the next one. (Now that it’s July, I think I am already worrying a little bit.) My sense wasn’t so much that I had a smooth-sailing future, but that I needed to get back on my board and ride as many waves as I could.

It may not be totally irrelevant that despite growing up in a beach town, I’ve always been a crappy swimmer and afraid of the ocean. I’m an urban, inland kinda girl. But it’s like I’ve moved to the beach and there’s no turning back. I’ve acquired a taste for salt. But fuck, I hate how much sand is in my swimsuit.

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