Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Strength Prozac

I was thumbing through my coffee table book of New Yorker cartoons recently and saw a drawing of a huge pill bottle with a label reading, “Holiday Strength Prozac.” It was funny. So I smiled. But, seriously, where can I get some?

The holidays are upon us and with them are bourne so many emotions that it is often impossible to sort, identify or trace one before the next is tugging at us for attention. Case in point: I found myself yesterday standing in the middle of a wide empty room at a client’s holding a green christmas ornament in one hand tearing up for no good reason.

It suddenly ocurred to me for about the thousandth time that Christmas was coming and something was missing; I felt that I was in a taxi on the way to the airport and knew I had forgotten something critical to the trip without knowing what it was I had forgotten. Then I remembered: My grandmother was gone.

She died a few years ago, but – somehow – the coming of Christmas without her still causes a catch in my throught and tears in my eyes at the most random moments. I stood there marvelling that life could go on so seamlessly without her, and, at the same time, felt like a child who woke up in the middle of a bad dream; it took a minute to get my bearings and find my place in life and that moment again.

I find the older I get, the less I seem certain of anything and there are days when life is reduced to its most primal needs written on a wheel that never stops turning: Work. Food. Warmth. Fear. Yearning. Love. There are no words to quantify these things in real time; they are known by face, form and feel alone and if one of them is fractured we become totally disoriented.

Disorientation can be overcome, and I have a friend who, very sensibly, cooks when she is not feeling up to competing with the world. So, some weekends when everyone else is busy about things for themselves, she can be found at home listening to country music, sipping a glass of something, and turning mounds of various ingredients into a refridgerator packed to bursting with enough labelled packages to feed her staff and random hungry relatives for the next week.

They read like post-its your mom would leave in your lunch box, those packages, but grown-up: Smashed potatoes like you never imagined! Aparagus sauteed with bacon. Special shrimp oriental stir fry especailly for Linda! Turkey noodle soup with extra thick noodles. Really wild rice. The best stuffing in the world. She calls it her therapy and I know she takes comfort in the fact that through feeding people she is needed.

Everyone needs to be needed . . . almost more than anything else – more than to be fed, clothed, admired or loved – we need to be needed. But sometimes even being needed cannot fend off the lurking, malignant feeling that we are superfluous. We are extra. We are disposable. So what, then?

I don’t know, and this sometimes scares me. I feel I might disappear entirely if I let go for a second the carefully compsed image that is myself. There are moments like the one yesterday – ornament in hand – when I feel as if I were holding myself confidently in my own hands like a soapy dish that suddenly, inexplicably, slips from my fingers and falls into dangerous fragments at my feet before I can catch my next breath. I look about to see if anyone else has noticed, pick up the fragments and pretend that everything is fine, but I still know that something elemental has changed and I am a little less certain than I had been.

The days that make up November and December are like a great sink of soapy dishes waiting to be dropped while attempting to prove to others that I am worth enough to be among them and to myself that I am needed. So it’s a good thing that the holidays require so much cooking, after all.
(Note: Lori passed away aver a year ago, but this piece, written in 2007 originally, demonstrates how she just comes to mind everytime a large meal is prepared or a holiday looms.)

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