(I can’t get no)

My theory is, the same way my body craves proteins and vitamins when they’re lacking, I get cravings when there is an emotional or intellectual deficiency of some kind. I go through phases of fixation on one particular element of my life.

Material cravings have me browsing online and mail order catalogs like it’s my job.  Next, I’ll spend every free moment working out or planning a workout, my refrigerator is stocked with fresh, lean organics, and I get my hair cut and revamp my skincare regime.  Then I’ll read three books in two weeks and entertain the notion of going back to school for an advanced degree.  And when that passes, I sprout social butterfly wings and make a point to catch up with everyone I know before retreating into a domestic phase.  That usually involves a comprehensive scrub-down of the entire apartment and the rearrangement of furniture and decorative accessories.

Sometimes it leads to attempts at creating decorative accessories myself.  That’s a warning sign for a creative spell.  The creativity cravings are the most difficult to satisfy.  It’s like craving something, but not knowing what it is.  Because what I want, what I crave, is somewhere within me, unseen, and if it gets stuck, simply wanting it to emerge isn’t enough to make it happen.  Sometimes I feel just desperate to conceive something of words or colors and when I can’t draw it out, it’s like I’m imploding and exploding at the same time.

What’s unsettling is, lately, I haven’t craved much of anything.  It’s like I’m caught in the trough of a wave, just riding it out.  It’s odd, though, this absence of want.  It’s like a deficiency of deficiencies, but that doesn’t mean I’m thoroughly satisfied.

{P.S. What are you non-gastronomical cravings? Material? Physical? Intellectual?  Social? Domestic? Creative? Or otherwise?}

I resolve to turn the volume down

By the time I came across 2 1/2-months-to-New-Year’s-Resolutions Resolutions through Design Crush, it was almost half a month down, two to go, nearing the end of October.  It remindes me so much of the “It’s okay . . . ” pages in Glamour, my favorite magazine pages of all time, the pages that single handedly lead me to choose that magazine over all the others when I’m in line at the airport or under the helmet dryer at a salon.

Unlike all the placid allowances made by Condé Nast, some of the resolutions pinch me.  13. Remember, love doesn’t find you on its own. Oh.  31. Don’t waste another second. Please? Fine, fine.  Since you asked nicely.  I’ll try to try.

Just over the cusp and into November, the day after a call was made for our resolutions, new updates ceased.  Did the project run out of steam?  Funds?  Resolve?

This is the resolution I submitted:

Maybe not the metaphor one would expect.  Then again, less or lessened volume isn’t always a bad thing, metaphorically speaking.  And literally, it’s almost certainly a good idea.  Turn the volume down, please.  Protect your hearing.  Be kind to your ears.

I recommend Nutella to replenish the chocolatey hazelnut reserves in the bloodstream

I’ve always wondered about comfort food—is it a specific type of food?  The way Chinese Food is, at least as far as my apathetic Western pallet can tell, a specific type of food?

For a long time, I associated the term so closely with macaroni and cheese that I wouldn’t have put it past myself to point at a pot of elbow pasta and cheddar syrup and say, “please pass the comfort food?”  Then it was linked to mashed potatoes and I thought “comfort” cuisine must have a Thanksgiving significance.  Then I learned that BBQ chicken and collard greens comfort Southern diners.  And one Sunday morning in college, someone glanced at my plate-sized waffle and clucked, “comfort food?” and I figured it must equate ‘hangover food.’

There is an element of nature versus nurture in defining comfort food.  As a general rule, “comfort foods”are carbohydrate-based.  I could pick a different comfort food any day of the week; I think my physical cravings manifest as emotional cravings based on what my body needs.  Sometimes I want desperately for red meat—a temporary iron deficiency?  Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about apples with peanut butter—low blood sugar?  And sometimes I crave spaghetti, a carbohydrate through and through, even in whole wheat noodles, but it doesn’t always sound appetizing without Boca burger ‘meat’ sauce—not enough protein?

I think I like Latin American food so much because I like the taste of multiple saturated flavors blended together.  Hot or cold; homemade, ordered, or microwaved, it tastes simple and complete at once.  It sustains—nature.  And yet, I recognize instantly the memory, the nurture associated with cheese melted on a tortilla.  No meat, no beans, no salsa.  In the toaster oven for two and a half minutes, fold in half, nibble.  The crisped edges and soft, warm center remind me of sitcoms on the couch after school with my mom.  I relish every bite—hold the relish.

I’m crying small, sticky tears as I write

Introduction to Creative Writing met at one o’clock on Wednesdays.  I took a violet spiral-bound notebook to class.  On a lavender post-it that I stuck to the inside of the back cover, I wrote:

“. . . Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.”—D. Foster Wallace

The only work that I have ever read by David Foster Wallace is the commencement speech in which he said those words.  The line was preceded by the following:

“As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head . . .”

That’s what depression is like.  A constant, hypnotic monologue damning each pleasure, every hope, any purpose and all courage.  It corrodes human resolve.  It bleeds out energy.  It’s paralyzing.  It will confine you to the inside of your own head and the only way out is to take back control over how and what you think. 

It scared me that the Creative Writing course was one of the things that triggered such despair.  The possibility that deliberate writing, and the introspection and vulnerability that accompanies it, might always be so damaging was depressing enough.  I didn’t want it to be that way.  I really wanted to believe that, armed with philosophies like Wallace’s, I could cope my way past all the classic hazards of sensitivity, perception, and creativity, and get better.

To this day, I’ve never read a word by David Foster Wallace that wasn’t in his commencement speech.  At first, I abstained out of fear.  My depression was an imaginative and particularly superstitious monster.  I believed that reading Infinite Jest or Consider the Lobster would bring me closer to the author, but I also believed that if I got too close, I would break the spell.  I might threaten his control over his own thoughts.  And I might shatter any hopes I had for myself.

I’ve still not become a reader of David Foster Wallace’s work, and now I only wish there were some validity to my irrational fear.

The speech is archived at Marginalia.org.

I still have the post-it.

Shooting up a love flare

My mom has this thing that she says: “Love your guts.”

It’s the verbal expression of those moments when emphatic love flares up so brightly that you want to force someone between your ribs and squeeze them into your chest cavity to get them just that much closer to your beating heart.

It sounds a little gory, maybe even a little morbid.  But isn’t that just like love?