Lions Purr and So Do I

It’s true I have been dragging myself around, knuckles and jaw scraping the floor, dust bunnies under my fingernails and between my teeth. And then I came across this…

MGM Lion…and it shook my world, or at least knocked me part of the way out of my coma.

The picture is the MGM boys recording Leo’s voice. The more I thought about it, the more it gave me perspective. I spend a LOT of time in studios watching people pour their voices into microphones, but never once has there been a lion on the other side of the glass. And look at him, so elegant and poised, mane brushed, teeth polished, right forepaw turned slightly outward in a pose worthy of GQ.

I started to wonder, would you say Leo was narrating or voice acting? He wasn’t saying any actual words, at least not English ones, so I guess you’d say voice acting. But on the other hand, he was speaking fluent Lionese, so maybe it counts as narrating. I don’t know that much about lion vocabulary, so I couldn’t vouch for what he might be saying.

Shimajiro speaks Japanese and English but I couldn’t vouch for his Tigerese.

080407_1039And thinking about Shimajiro reminded me of a day we were filming in a zoo. We were by the lion enclosure, where a whole pride of females were wandering back and forth under some trees. I heard a low rumbling sound and thought it was odd because we were nowhere near a highway or railway line. Then then I realized the lions were purring.

How many people get to say they’ve heard lions purring? And how many people get to film in a zoo? And how many people are friends with Shimajiro? And how many people get to hang out with narrators and voice actors? How many people get to be long term foreign residents of a city as much fun as Tokyo?

So instead of ‘down’, I will focus on ‘up’. I will scrape my knuckles and jaw off the floor, dust them off and smile. I will hold my head up like my friend Leo. I will look up at the sky and the stars and the birds and the butterflies and all the other pretty things that go flitting by. If work people decide they don’t want to treat me decently, I will tell them to go eat worms. (So there!) I will try not to focus on the things that are making me sad because there is nothing I can do about them.

I am told that my guardian angel spent a very pleasant Friday evening sipping wine with Aunt Gerri and is now ready to return to her duties looking after me. This is good. And ten hours of sleep didn’t do any harm, either. Purr.

Bruised and Battered

Japanese trucks

This horrible week is finally coming to an end, and not a moment too soon. Sometimes the universe chooses to throw a succession of mud pies at you and you just have to duck. It feels like I got hit by a Mack truck, or more likely Hino or Isuzu. And more like a convoy than a single truck. Or maybe I’m a scarecrow in a field, buffeted by wind and rain. Or a rag doll drowned in the washer and then pummeled in the dryer. At any rate, I’m bruised.

As much as I’m a fan of new experiences, I’ve had several firsts recently, most of which I could have done without. This week’s was calling and riding in an ambulance. They sent a fire truck as well. There was no explanation except that that’s how it’s done here. Of course, my Japanese is not perfect and I may have mixed up “heart palpitations” and “spontaneous combustion”. We’ll never know. In the end, all is well and I can cross that off the list of things I never wanted to do in the first place.

To be honest, I did want to see what it’s like to ride in an ambulance, but the conditions were not ideal. It struck me as I sat there on the bench in the speeding (slowly) emergency vehicle that they hadn’t provided a seat belt. It’s funny that they go so far as to send a fire truck as well as six, yes six, EMTs but nobody was concerned about me falling off the bench and flying out the rear doors of the ambulance.

Work says they’re making arrangements to make sure I get all the hardest parts of this new project we’re working on and that I should be flattered. I’m not. They want me because I’m the best, yet they have no intention of paying me more. I’ve had to have the humiliating conversation about money three times already and am getting tired of fighting about it.

I’m tired in general. My head, my heart, my soul. Bad things are happening and there’s nothing I can do about them. I am painfully conscious of the unfairness of the universe and this leads to frustration and hopelessness. I’m trying to fight back, but there’s a limit to my strength.

Where is my guardian angel when I need her?

Moody Blues

Sincere apologies for yesterday’s post and sincere thanks for all the positive feedback (except yours, Jack :-)). I think it was a combination of Frosty and Rudolph tap dancing on my brain, and a premonition of something I’m not ready to think about. I will put on my happy face and run spell check.

Rush Hour

imagesMaking my way into the station, much too early in the morning, I descend the stairs, the sound of a thousand pairs of feet echoing around me, the thundering hooves of Tokyo’s workforce stampeding toward another day.

On the platform, the doors slide open and I shuffle into the car, a human zip file compressed among wool and down, beginning to sweat even before the train moves. Walls of jumbled body parts press against me from all sides, one to my left exuding a delicate camphor, one to my right reeking of old onions. Someone behind me sneezes and I feel his breath on the back of my neck.

A wave of sadness washes over me. I am a little mouse, caught in a trap, unable  to move, helpless and vulnerable.  A tiny moan escapes my lips. Tears fall. My reflection in the window wipes them away. Those around me pretend not to notice as we experience these unintended intimacies.

I remind myself that every soul sharing this violation must hate it as much as I do, but that thought does not comfort me. Comfort is home, my bed, my cat, my fuzzy socks, my favorite sweater, cold wine and warm cheese, not this oversized sardine can circulating around the city less elegantly than blood circulates through our veins.

Station after station streams past. People get on, people get off, a faceless blur like sand on a beach, roiling, eddying, always changing yet always the same. We grains of sand all look alike, bundled in our winter wear, but in the end are isolated individuals with nothing in common but misery.

I cannot fathom how some people do this every day. I suppose you can get used to anything if you have to, but I want to get used to this morning agony almost as much as I want to stick toothpicks under my fingernails.

Phone Zombies

I’m getting increasingly fed up with people paying more attention to their phones than to where they’re going. I just discovered that there is a name for these people: cell phone zombies.

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I spend a lot of time running around town, fighting my way through crowded stations, up and down staircases, dashing to catch trains, and the number of zombies trying to impede me is growing. I am ever-so-tempted to slap the backs of their phone-bearing hands from underneath so the phone goes sailing over their shoulder, hopefully crashing into a wall or falling into a sewer.

The funny thing is, I never really concerned myself with zombies. I don’t believe in ghosts and monsters. I figure there are enough real horrors in the world. There’s no sense in worrying oneself about threats that don’t exist. But phone zombies are very real, and a very real threat.

I heard the zombie population has grown so big that Sony Pictures wanted cash in on it and decided to do a series of films about phone zombies: Night of the Living Phone Zombies, The Texas Chainsaw Phone Zombies, Rosemary’s Phone Zombie, Silence of the Phone Zombies.

Unfortunately, nobody showed up for the auditions.

They were all too busy staring at their phones.

Seven Months, Baby!

As of today, it’s seven full months since I’ve had a puff on a cigarette and I’ve had a few thoughts on that matter.

Thought #1: I wonder if the fact that we are told that quitters are losers and instructed, “Don’t be a quitter” has anything to do with why it’s so hard to quit smoking. I kinda doubt it.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAThought #2: There was an ad for cigarettes included with the newspaper the other day. It was printed on fancy paper and looked expensive. The funny thing is I don’t think we’ve ever gotten an ad from a tobacco company with the newspaper. I wonder if they’ve been forced to advertise because our quit is putting them out of business. I kinda doubt that, too, but it would be nice all the same.

Thought #3: For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been having smoking dreams. Apparently this is common. Usually, I don’t actually smoke, but smoking is involved. This morning I dreamed that I was talking to some people and one said casually, “Oh, you’ve started smoking again.” I looked down at my hand and there was a burning cigarette between my fingers. I had no idea where it had come from. I tossed it away, appalled, and then frantically searched my pockets and purse but couldn’t find a clue. I think maybe my conscious mind has accepted me as a non-smoker but the Nicodemon is still pulling his evil tricks in my unconscious mind. “Old habits die hard” has never seemed so true.

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Thought #4: We passed a No Smoking sign in the park today in a place where there never used to be one. I wondered when I would stop noticing things like that.

Thought #5: Seven months seems much more significant to me than six did. According to my quit smoking forum, only 7% of quitters make it a full year, but the statistics improve greatly after that. So maybe seven matters more than six because six was only half way. I’m a glass half full kind of person, but a year seemed such a long time, and now it doesn’t anymore. We’ve reached the crest of the mountain and now we can make our way down the other side, our baggage lighter, our heads clearer, a feeling of accomplishment swelling in our chests.

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To celebrate this momentous occasion, The Twitch wandered onto my lap this morning for the first time and then let me pet her all over, but only with my right hand. When I tried to touch her with my left, she bit me.

She’s a weird little beastie.

Batter Up

You never know what the universe is going to throw at you until it does, and when it does, you’ve probably left your catcher’s mitt in the other room.

People keep asking me why we finally decided to stop smoking when we did and the only answer I can give is that the time was right. Something in the stars aligned, the divine consciousness came out of its comatose slumber, kismet stuck a foot into the aisle and I stumbled over it. As this year draws on, I become more and more aware that the universe is trying it tell me something. I’m trying to listen.

After boxing class the other day, I had some time to kill, so did some yoga and stretching. Sensei was softly shuffling papers in his little cubicle and dopey love songs were playing in the background. I spent the last fifteen minutes meditating and when I opened my eyes, just for the briefest of moments, I didn’t know who or where I was. I think that means I’m doing it right.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERASo when lovely Kelly invited me to a yoga nidra class at the studio she goes to, I thought the universe was once again whispering in my ear and I went. The yoga part was challenging but fulfilling. The movements of the woman next to me were poetry, especially compared to my awkward fumbling, but instead of feeling embarrassed, I felt inspired. She flowed more smoothly than a river and each pose was a transient moment of pure beauty.

The nidra part is a guided meditation that is supposed to be a form of conscious sleeping, but I guess I didn’t do it right because all I could think was, “I wish the silly woman would shut up so I can focus on not focusing on anything.” She did say, though, that we could send out a little healing to someone who might need it. I did. You know who you are.

While this has so far been an astonishing year, I am finding I need to look deep inside myself to find the strength to cope with the obstacle course that is laying itself out in front of me. Each day offers new joys and challenges. I remind myself to be grateful for all the good things in my life, grateful for the roof over my head and the food in my fridge, grateful for the good people who touch my life every day, grateful for my body as it carries me through my days, grateful for every breath I take. I can’t possibly be prepared for the unknowable, but I can keep my catcher’s mitt handy and at least try to catch a good game.

Dozens of Doughnuts

We’ve just started producing a massive project that is going to take months. I am, as always, grateful for the work, but this seems to be more than any of us is prepared to handle.

Toward the end of the 3rd day, Keiko is fast asleep.

Of course, the first part of any new project is always tough as the cast and crew and the rest of us get used to each others’ timing and personality quirks.

(Example: The scenario writer is sitting to my left and has a sniffle problem but keeps ignoring the box of tissues in front of him. I was trying to be generous; maybe he has a sinus condition or something. But then he got a cup of coffee and proceeded to slurp all the way to the bottom of the cup. This is socially acceptable behavior when it comes to noodles but not beverages. So now I know; he’s a foul mannered clod. I will find somewhere else to sit next time.)

141030_1918~02The first day we had filming in two studios, upstairs and down. There’s only one person representing the client and she had to keep hopping back and forth between the studios. Naturally the director has control over what happens, but the client gets final approval. I sit next to her at the back of the studio. They finished filming a scene and twenty heads turned toward the back to get that final approval. I looked at the empty seat next to me then looked at the director and said, “OK.”

And then it hit me. “Whoa! I just got put into the driver’s seat!” Nobody asked, it just kind of happened. This tells me two things: 1) they trust me, which is great and 2) they’re not paying me enough.

That is an issue that I will have to deal with gently. In the meantime, we managed to complete four grueling days of work which we got through without any meltdowns or significant snags except that most of the food has been inedible. So to celebrate what had at first seemed an impossible journey, I had some salad and tofu for lunch and then went out and bought enough doughnuts for every member of the cast and crew to have one.

141030_1345~01It cost me less than an hour’s pay and earned me a bazillion brownie points; people remember stuff like that. And it was fun. The doughnut lady was blown away that I bought so many and kept apologizing that it took so long for her to pack them up for me. Plus this part of town is a spiderweb of small rivers and canals and it was a breezy, sunny day. As I walked back to the studio, crossing bridge after bridge and swinging my shopping bag full of sugary treats, I felt a surge of goodwill toward the universe. I’m hoping the universe feels the same way about  me.

The Mighty Colon: A Tale of Trauma

I told my doctor that I was having some belly pain, which I thought was probably just constipation.

Fun fact: When you quit smoking, it takes at least a year for your metabolism to get back to normal. That’s why almost everyone who quits gains weight, not because food tastes better.

“You should have a colonoscopy,” says the doc.

“For constipation? Isn’t that a tad drastic?”

“It’s best to be sure. I can recommend a specialist. He’s a good doctor. He studied at Harvard and speaks English.”

Well, OK. I met with him and he explained the procedure. I made an appointment.

The next time I saw my doctor, she said she’d seen him and they’d discussed my case. (Gee, could we get some more people involved in this?) I told her that the problem had resolved itself and I was probably going to cancel the appointment.

She laughed and said, “You just don’t want to do the test.”

“Of course I don’t want to do the test.”

Big, innocent eyes. “Why not?”

Why not? WHY NOT??? If that wasn’t the most dumbass of the dumbass questions I’ve ever heard. For one thing, I don’t think it’s necessary. For another, I will have to purge myself and that can’t possibly be pleasant. Then, I have to get half naked so some guy I’ve met once can stick things in my butt. Who in their right mind would want to do that kind of test, much less specialize in that kind of medicine…is what I wanted to say, but instead I said, “Yada. (Yuck.)”

At which point I was given a lecture about how women of my age commonly develop polyps and such and it’s best to have them taken care of.

So I did the purge, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was twice as bad. You try pooping stomach acid for a couple of hours and let me know how you feel.

My heart rate was off the scale as the nurse did the prep work. Yoga breathing didn’t help. She said, “Relax. I’ve done a thousand of these. It will be fine.”  And she was right; it was fine. Turns out I had a tiny polyp which was duly removed and am otherwise pink and healthy.

The thing is, you can tell your brain it’s a medical procedure that is done by professionals on a daily basis, but that doesn’t stop your heart from feeling humiliated and your body violated. It’s how we are socialized: those are private parts that are meant to be kept covered and out of polite conversation. I even used the word “ass” above to imply stupidity and ignorance.

I came home, slept twelve hours and woke up with swollen hands and feet and joints so stiff I could barely move. I must have been wound tighter than a spool of coaxial cable.

I suppose it’s a comfort to know that nothing is wrong, but I take very little pleasure in being right this time.

On a lighter note, this is a real thing.

CollonSomebody must have wised up. They don’t make the chocolate ones anymore.

The Halfway House

halfway houseAs part of the quit smoking odyssey, I joined an online support forum. It offers tons of information, but most importantly, you can join a group of others who quit around the same time as you. Through it, I have “met” some wonderful people who I believe will remain my friends for years to come.

One of the features of the site is a quit meter. You input your quit date down to the hour, the number of cigs you used to smoke every day and the cost of those cigs. When I checked my quit meter this morning, it said 6 months, 5 hours and 14 minutes, which means I have reached the Halfway House. At one year, we enter the Clubhouse.

I will not reveal the humiliating number of cigs I have not smoked, nor the exorbitant amount of money I’ve saved. Let’s just say that between the two of us, two months’ rent have not gone up in smoke. Literally.

I should be turning handsprings and chanting ditties about rainbow-colored lollipops. They say, “You did it! You quit smoking! Now you feel so much better and have so much more energy!”

Unfortunately, it turns out that is poppycock. It’s absolute, utter nonsense. It belongs with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It’s the kind of stories people tell small children to make them behave. I feel horrible most of the time. I am moody and cannot trust my emotions. The problem is that only now, finally, my brain is getting adjusted to normal dopamine levels. It will be another six months before my metabolism returns to normal.

The glimmer of hope is talking to people who have been quit longer than me who assure me it will get better. At this point, I honestly only rarely want to smoke. My triggers seem to be limited to anger and frustration and if I can take a moment to close my eyes and breathe deeply, the urge passes. The thing is, once an addict, always an addict. I will have to remain vigilant for the rest of my life. But from the top of my head to the soles of my feet and deep inside my heart and soul, I know it is worth the battle.

I read a wonderful quote on the quit smoking site:

I’d rather be a non-smoker who has an occasional desire to smoke than a smoker who has a constant desire to quit.

*Twitchy sat on my lap for a few minutes this morning, another first. I think it was her halfway gift to me.

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