About a month ago, my friend and I signed up to volunteer for a few hours cleaning up the area around a large river. Yesterday was the day the event took place and the hours were supposed to be 9 - 2. However just getting there was a comedy of errors for us.
I was ready to go and waiting on my friend when she called me from home at 8:45 to say she had just woken up. At that point I was ready to write the whole thing off wondering what I was thinking signing up to do unpaid physical labor so early on a Saturday morning. But she was insistent on going.
By the time she got to my place, and we had stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee, and we had found the place we were supposed to meet the other volunteers, and we had parked the car a mile away in a free parking lot, it was after 10. To make matters worse, I was wearing the stupidest choice of shoes. The activity coordinator said to wear sturdy shoes and I knew that they should be shoes I wouldn't care about getting grubby. Therefore, I didn't want to wear my favorite (and only) pair of sneakers which are maroon and purchased on zappos at a huge discount. I had instead selected an old pair of black slip on shoes with thick solid soles that I've had forever and were basically on their last leg.
What I didn't realize was that my shoes were impossibly uncomfortable for walking any distance. I hadn't expected walking to be involved and continuously berated my decision as I hobbled down the road. Finally we made it back to the meeting spot and there were no volunteers to be found. We had the cell phone number for the activity coordinator... back in the car.
After another walk back to the car in the dreaded shoes I was at that point, really pushing for calling it a day and going out for breakfast. But my friend, good person that she is, offered to call the guy and just tell him we had car trouble or something and did they still need us to come? We were expecting to get his voicemail or at least have him say not to bother at that point but instead he was delighted to hear from us and eager to have us join the effort. So eager in fact that he called her cell phone twice while we were once again enroute, just to make sure we were coming.
We finally found the group and were greeted joyously. I realized that in the world of volunteer work late truly is better than never. We were told what to do - we were supposed to be cutting the over growth with hedge clippers in the area between the road and the river. The area of course happened to be on an incline. In my stupid shoes I nearly tumbled into the river several times before even getting started. Hearing my distress the activity coordinator said he had another job for me instead which was really a blessing in disguise.
He led me to a flatter surfaced area near a bridge that was covered with trash and gave me gloves, a trash bag, and a stick with a little spear at the end for skewering the trash. Then he wished me luck and left me there by myself. I know picking up trash isn't the most glamourous job in the world, but it was certainly easier that pruning shrubbery on a slippery incline. Plus, I enjoyed working by myself and not feeling like anyone was watching my progress.
And I found some interesting things! There were plenty of papery objects which were easy to spear but there were some things a bit more challenging. I discovered that if you step on a beer can so it is dented and can't roll away, it can be speared quite easily. I found that fabrics are tough to spear and you really have to give it your all, and that empty glass liquor bottles can't be speared at all and have to be picked up by gloved hand. I even found some used condoms and the top of a syringe. (And in case you were curious, condoms can be picked up with a spear, but syringes can't.) I also found some unused condoms still in their packages and I drove my spear through their centers I thought to myself, "well these won't be preventing any venereal diseases or unwanted pregnancies."
I found what must have been a homeless person's domicile. There was a large spread of flattened cardboard boxes laid out on the ground about the size of a bed. There were also boots (standing up about feets-width apart as if someone had been wearing them when they just happened to spontaneously combust), a pair of jeans laid out neatly, and even a pair of underwear. I was half expecting to find a dead body or a limb or something. If I have ever felt like I was on an episode of CSI, this was the time.
All in all it was very exhausting but very satisfying to see the end result of a trash free natural setting. It really made me wonder what the heck is wrong with people that they can so casually litter nature with such horrifying objects. I did feel a little bit bad that a homeless person was going to arrive later and find that his bed and boots had disappeared. But on the other hand, I noticed a small bunny hiding in the grass who stayed nearby watching me most of the time. So I felt really good that I rid his habitat of used condoms and hypodermic needles.
¶ 8:38 PM
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Ever since the new craft studio opened up nearby I've been making jewelry like crazy. Most of it is wire and bead type creations which are not hard to mess up.
The other night I went to a craft event to make fancy bangle bracelets. I didn't know what to expect but it turned out to be plastic bangle bracelets that you could wrap ribbon around, attach velvet to, glue sparkley things on, etc. It had so much potential.
After sewing a strip of dark blue velvet and sawing the plastic bangle in half to fit the velvet onto it, I looked at my beautiful bracelet and thought, "this looks great but it needs something more". So then I made the mistake of glueing sequins and sparkleys and all sorts of things to it. It was a mess - glue everywhere, sequins hanging askew, etc.
So much for my artistic vision. I don't honestly know if I can wear it in public. It looks like something a kid might make at summer camp. I should've just glued on some macaroni and called it a day.
¶ 8:38 PM
Sunday, September 11, 2005
On a recent vacation day I went to visit my parents on their vacation. Every year they go for a week to a place that is a combination of a New Hampshire farm and a resort/summer camp. The place hosts activities for all ages - swimming, horseback riding, tennis, etc. There is also one main dining hall and all meals are served at particular times and marked by bells so guests know when to come. I had never been there before but other summers my parents took my sister and they always coordinated their visit with my aunt, uncle, and cousins.
The drive up there was fascinating because I passed through all these non-places which made me feel like I was in the middle of nowhere. What's strange for me to realize, having spent my entire life living in the suburbs of Boston, is that a lot of Massachusetts is really quite rural. There are these city areas and then in the middle and the western part of the state, it's mostly small communities. Some I've never even heard of. I drove right through the center of one town which was full of banners advertising their annual chili bake-off as if it were the high point of the year. Then I saw a sign I was entering another town, and saw nothing but rolling fields and wooded areas and the occasional sign for something with the town's name on it (the local church, library, gas station, etc.) I swear this went on for ages, maybe even 20 miles before I finally entered another town. I could not imagine growing up in a town like that.
Finally I arrived at the farm and found my parents. Before long I realized that the guests were not my demographic whatsoever. There were plenty of older people and young families with children. No one my age. The whole setting (all the little buildings, the mountains in the background, the dining hall, the end-of-the-week talent show) really reminded me of Dirty Dancing sans any sexy dance instructors.
The highlight of the day was when my mom and I went exploring and found a working hot tub in the basement of one of the buildings. We were enjoying it for all of two minutes when an unwelcome visitor floated through the swirling waters right past my chest. Yes, it was a huge daddy-long-legs spider. If you know me you know how I feel about spiders and daddy-long-legs are like mutant spiders on steroids in my opinion. I was out of the hot tub in seconds flat screaming loudly. My mom is completely indifferent to spiders. She assured me the spider had long since drowned and she proceeded to try to catch it in her hands to throw it out of the hot tub but she kept losing it. I stood dripping in my bathing suit a safe six or so feet away pointing, "There he is! Get him! Oh god!"
Finally she asked me to hand her the piece of wood on the side of the hot tub attached to the key we were given in order to get into the basement. She scooped him up onto the wood and laid him on the side. It was still too close for me however because I couldn't even look at the thing let alone get back in the hot tub. She nonchalantly said that I should take the wood and dump the spider into a conveniently nearby wastebasket. No small task for someone who couldn't look at the spider. I had to trust her to tell me that I was picking up the far end of the wood and then after waving it frantically over the wastebasket I would hold the wood out and say, "is he gone?" But he wouldn't go away! He was wet and stuck to the wood. My mom suggested scraping him against the edge of the wastebasket and the whole process was greatly traumatic. Just writing this now I am getting chills. I think I've blocked out whatever happened next because the next thing I know I was peering into the hot tub for other offending creatures before gingerly climbing back in for a brief time.
Needless to say I was so very glad to return to the city at the end of the day where although we do not have annual chili bake-offs, at least the spiders are smaller.
¶ 9:46 PM
Thursday, September 01, 2005
I've been on vacation this week which explains my absence here - sorry. It's hard to get motivated to sit and write especially since my computer is so much slower than my work computer and I swear this one has a virus. Every other page I pull up triggers a little pop up asking me if I want to download micromedia flash or something. No matter how many times I say no, they just keep asking.
The other day I went to the Science Museum and spent a good deal of time exploring the feature exhibit about the human brain. I watched a little movie saying that half of all people will experience a brain disfunction at some point in their lives. I was slightly horrified until they started giving examples and the very first one was anxiety disorder. I guess I'm covered then.
A lot of people, particularly those who don't have anxiety, don't seem to understand that it is physiological, like any illness, and not just something a person does to cause trouble and inconvenience for themselves and everyone around them.
I've always had slight anxiety over one thing or another and I've suffered my share of panic attacks. But four and a half years ago, for some reason, it all became much worse. I always avoided elevators for as long as I can remember, but I was o.k. in other settings that may have seemed claustrophobic to some. Then one day, we were having a meeting at work in the conference room with no windows. Even though I had sat in there for countless meetings in the past, when the door was shut on that particular occasion, I had a panic attack and an urge to jump up and run out of the room. I didn't of course, but knowing I could get up and open the door was no longer enough to make me feel safe. I suddenly had a new concern of what people would think if I got up and opened the door.
Right around the time of that first panic attack, I had another one while riding in someone's car. It was someone I didn't know well and I was in the backseat and we were on the highway. Out of the blue for no apparent reason I realized that I was stuck and not in control. I was not controlling the car, I couldn't get out, I was basically trapped until we reached our destination.
Over time I have gotten a little better and I don't mind telling you that I am taking Zoloft. Although Zoloft has the super cute bouncy spokes... person? Bean? Bubble? you have seen the commercials I'm sure, it is certainly not so magical as to make the unbearable bearable. Medicine can take the edge off, but the anxiety is still there, and the avoidance is extremely difficult to overcome.
It's especially difficult when people become frustrated with me. Just tonight I made plans with my dad to go on a few errands tomorrow involving a car (more on the car in a future post!) He himself suffered from the same anxieties years ago (unbeknownst to me until recently). But he asked if I minded him driving, saying "you don't feel anxious with me driving, right?" The fact is I feel anxious with anyone else driving. Yes, I have taken short trips through town in my dad's car but that doesn't mean I'm cured or that I will never again feel anxious with him driving.
So my mother and I were talking about it and she got really frustrated with me asking, "well, are you going to be like this the rest of your life?" God I hope not. But this is the same mother who has experienced her own "brain disfunction" in the form of depression. The same mother who reasoned with me when I was hesitant about taking medication that if I had a disease, I would take medicine for it, right? It would be stupid not to.
She thinks I need to go to therapy or take more medication or something. She thinks those things will help. I feel hopeless that nothing will help because I've tried it all. How is talking about my anxiety going to make it go away? And how much medication do I have to take to feel nothing? Do I have to take a daily tranquilizer or something so that I don't end up frustrating people with my anxiety?
My father called back and kindly told me not to worry, I could drive for our errands tomorrow. I hung up the phone and I just started to cry. When I have to defend my anxiety to someone I feel like I'm giving the anxiety more power. People don't seem to understand it's not so simple. It's not like I can make the decision to ride in someone's car and do it and then suddenly I'm over the whole thing.
I wasn't always like this and I don't want to be like this anymore. I'm frustrated with myself probably more than anyone else is. Do you think it's easy arranging things so that you're always the one driving? Let me assure you, it can be very tricky with people you don't know well enough to confess all this to. And besides, I don't want to confess it to anyone else. When I do people are always nice enough to let me drive all the time and that's not really helping me in the long run is it? I don't know what to do, I really don't. But at least I've got my brain disfunction out of the way right?
¶ 9:43 PM