The last couple of months I have been caught up in moving to a new apartment. This is not a big deal for most people. Most healthy, well-adjusted people that is. I have a friend who moved from LA to New Orleans. She had a lot of stuff and a very complicated life, but she just packed it up in one of those really big moving trucks and rolled off down the road to forge her new empire. She didn't just move, she started a business and set up a workspace as well. In a whole other city on the other side of the country.
She's the one whose car I drove to New Orleans for, the one with the unfriendly lizard. When I got there, something like three days after she had arrived, her stuff was all put away. I remember being so disoriented walking into her apartment and seeing her art up on the walls, and her books on shelves. No boxes of stuff loitering around anywhere in her place. There were doilies on her end tables. That's what really got me. The doilies.
Me? I'm still in a state of total turmoil, bullied and burdened by my boxes and I've been in my new place for a month already. It's not like I even have that much stuff anymore. In fact, I'm missing some really key elements. I have no desk. I'm a writer and I gave away my desk. I got rid of stuff like someone trying to keep a faltering plane up in the air, heaving furniture out onto the sidewalk, begging my friends and co-workers to please take away things I paid good money for. I made so many trips to Goodwill, they started getting picky and rejecting the worst of my junk. Which I might have been insulted by, had I not been too overwhelmed to stop and think about it at the time.
I'm the kind of person who draws comfort and stability from controlling my physical surroundings. I make little arrangements of objects on surfaces that have meaning to my current goals. I nest. And I desperately need to be able to freak freely in privacy and safety, away from the judgement of others. Until I get the necessary elements lined up properly around me, I’m a mess.
So, I've been listening to a lot of David Sedaris on audio book, because I find him incredibly soothing when I'm unsettled. Aside from being a talented writer and a wonderful reader, he's my designated crazy person, my current surrogate mental case. For me, it's like there was a dark, disgruntled fairy at my birth who decreed that there will always have to be at least one lunatic in my life. At different periods in my past that was a painful curse, at other times a source of bewildering comedy and, once or twice, a privilege and a joy.
I need at least one reliable crazy person in my life to meet the quota, so I don't have to be the crazy person myself. Instead, I can be the helpful, accepting person who stays calm. That rule of at least one has stuck pretty hard through the years, but I've managed to adapt and get around it. I've learned to pick and choose, as opposed to feeling I have to let in whoever comes along. And they do come along. On some level, I must shine like a beacon to the differently minded. They see me, and they know that I am one of them. I try to be nice to all of them, unless they seem vicious or are gooey in some way that I just can't tolerate. But as for making real friends, I only allow in crazy people who are good at heart, and not so far out that they're likely to harm me at some point when their interior voices get too itchy.
Listening to David Sedaris has become a very enjoyable workaround. I've listened to him so much, that I really do consider him my friend – which I know is a little crazy. But he makes it easy to feel that way because of his confessional, conversational storytelling. He's like my invisible friend who talks a lot and tells me all about his family and is really okay with me being quiet and just nodding my head and laughing at his jokes. And besides, I'm really inspired by successful crazy people. Successful in the sense that they’ve learned not to just live with their particular type of madness and still function, they've also figured out how to make it work for them.
David Sedaris has achieved that kind of success, and I love him for it. It warms my heart that he managed to transform from an unknown, drug addled, OCD house cleaner, into someone who is adored for offering up his most humiliating moments with generosity, eloquence and great humor.
I'm hoping that I too can make my madness work for me and become adored for being awkward, intense and scary. I'll share the dark, weird thoughts that shadow my face and make people think I'm upset or depressed when really, I'm just watching something interesting and awful in my head. I'll keep writing my creepy, disturbing stories about likable, yet monstrous people while I work in a shiny, happy place where the lights are bright and a smile is a mandatory element of my uniform. On really bad days at work, I think of David, wearing his Elf suit at Macy's and it always helps me smile.
Someday, all those people who need to have a little controlled fictional horror in their lives to keep from being overwhelmed by all the uncontrolled factual horror going on out in the world will love me too.
(Originally posted Monday November 10 2008)