Betty Duffy

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Feel Better

Wanna hear about the rest of my vacation? 

I quit keeping a journal about the minute I stepped off the plane. Sort of a disappointing thing for me that writing has not been going well for several months. I wanted to write thirty minutes a day while I was away, and I thought that leaving the computer behind would eliminate some of the distraction I find at home. But alas, my mind is a wasteland of placental forgetfulness, so if I've had an opinion on anything other than how I feel in the last month or two, I surely cannot remember what it was. 

California also has it's own way of distracting people, and for me, primarily, that way is with food. I picture the state of California as a giant coastal buffet. My most poignant thoughts over the weekend had to do with planning my next meal.

I was just reading in Magnificat the other day that unless you mortify the flesh, even in it's licit desires, you cannot be a truly spiritual person, and that goes a long way in explaining the way I approach the West coast, and why I somehow always leave still hungry. 

My husband kept asking me what I wanted to do this weekend. Should we go somewhere fun? We could drive to Tahoe or Yosemite for the Saturday and Sunday he's not working. We could spent a couple nights in downtown San Francisco. Last year we went down to Big Sur and stayed in a yurt. But the best I could come up with was revisiting a Tai Restaurant in a strip mall down the street from the hotel he stays in when he's there. And the Jamba Juice across the street-- I wanted to go there too.

I didn't really have energy for the hills of San Fran, so when my husband was in class, I went to Berkeley in search of a good lamb curry. Here I found myself at a bit of a loss for not having my computer. My husband had to take his phone with him to work, and his local eats app along with it, so I found myself feeling my way through the town a little blindly, passing hundreds of Indian restaurants without the slightest idea which one would be the best. Quite a bind.

I ended up at the House of Curries in an old white motel, straight out of a Joni Mitchell song. Order, get your tea and water out of the fridge, pick a table, wait for service, eat very spicy lamb curry, clear your plate. 

You know, it was fine. A little too much spice, not as much flavor, but it satisfied the Indian portion of my food quest.

I still had the Tai bug to feed, and a sushi bug--the cooked kind, maybe a spider roll? And other kinds of seafood --Cioppino with sourdough bread, some fried calamari. There was no way to fit them all in in just two days of eating, and indeed, the sushi had to wait. But we did get to the Fish market, and Chula Tai, and an Italian place for calamari. None of them hit the spot quite like I thought it might, which I also attribute to placental forgetfulness, because about three bites into any meal I started to feel bloated and belch-y, and I'd think, I know that eating calamari seemed very important to me just a few minutes ago--I wonder why that was.

So, I got my hair cut at a sport clips. I bought a ring from a sidewalk vendor in Berkeley, then got a 75 dollar ticket driving back over the Bay Bridge since I'd spent all my cash on a ring and had no money to pay the toll. I took a few naps. 

I read Quo Vadis--a fictional depiction of the persecution of Roman Christians under Nero in the century following the death of Christ. I enjoyed it, possibly because the author exercised much greater enthusiasm in his descriptions of Roman orgies than he did in his descriptions of Christian austerity and virtue--and yet still--Rome fell on its sword, and Christianity triumphed in the quiet, oxymoronic fashion it always does. Good job, Underdog!

Over the weekend, we drove to Lake Tahoe, and rented a tiny cabin for two nights. We hiked towards the Flume trail on the first day. I made it about a mile up the mountain and had to turn around for my nap. My husband kept going for another 18 miles on the Rim Trail. Then I picked him up, stiff and dehydrated, and we hobbled out to dinner. Did the same thing the next day, only I made it three whole miles on a flat trail to Emerald Bay, while he doubled back to get the car and pick me up (making his hike six miles to my three). I slept in the car all the way back to San Francisco. I'm not usually this lethargic, really. But we had fun. I won't go into detail.

I had one more day on my own before heading home. Went to San Mateo for Mass at St Matthew's and coming in off the streets, from window-shopping and desiring, walking alongside so many other wayward pilgrims doing the same thing, I felt a distinct impression that these little old ladies, these bent pillars you find in Catholic daily Masses in every little town in the world, are somehow holding up civilization. I always forget that this is where I want to be.

There's a large mural of the face of Christ over the altar in this Church--sort of an art deco icon, if I had to describe it--and it was so mesmerizing, illuminated by spotlights in the dark, modern interior of this church. There You are--I found myself thinking, after a weekend of trying to figure out exactly what I needed next in order to feel better; it had seemed like such a puzzle--The right combination of flavors? Rest? Something pretty to perk up my self image? To be in one of the most beautiful environments in the world? 

Thank God He knows what I need before I even ask. It makes things so much simpler--not to mention less expensive. 

I've been home now for a couple weeks. Had a happy reunion with the kids--as absence does make the heart grow fonder. I hugged. I kissed. It wasn't an effort.

Our plans for the rest of the summer are pretty simple. A splash pad has opened up at the park across the street from us--one of those playgrounds that shoot water out all over the place--fountains squirting up from below, showers from above, tunnels that spray water all over, and giant squirt guns that you can aim at people. On any given day for the next three months you will find us there, the boys giving themselves water enemas by sitting on the fountains, my daughter manning the guns, and me, sitting in the shade of a newly planted birch tree, with an unopened book, a sunhat, and my teeth gritted into a smile that looks more like a frown.

I'm beginning to feel better.


dylan said...

Loved the description of the "bent pillars" that are possibly holding up civilization! They're everywhere from Boston to Barstow, from New York to Naples!

Lizzie said...

Beautiful stuff - love the last comment about the gritted smile. I had one of those as I went to the woods with my son after school today. Then, it turned into a real, heartfelt smile as I so enjoyed being in beautiful ancient woodland and playing ball and laughing with my son on the grass at the centre of the wood. Really, what a joy - I wish I could recognise it more often.
And yes, they really are the bent pillars holding up civilisation. I feel the weight of it when I go to any weekday mass.
Just trying to live in the light of eternity....

Sally Thomas said...

"Writing Was Not Going Well" will be my epitaph.

Melanie B said...

It took my brain a minute to wrap itself around "Went to San Mateo for Mass at St Matthew's" but then I just woke up from my own pregnancy-induced nap.

I love the phrase "placental forgetfulness". So apt.

And I forget what else I was going to say. Oh well.

BettyDuffy said...

Melanie, I can see now why that was confusing. I should have explained, San Mateo, the town, has several parishes, one of which is St Matthews.

Caitlin said...

You sound like my mother. She will think about her next meal while still finishing the current one!

Matthew Lickona said...

Should read:
"Our plans for the rest of the summer are pretty simple. Head out to Wisconsin for Gerasene '12, let everything else take care of itself."

MrsDarwin said...

Everyone's inspired, but I laughed at the phrase "water enemas".

My epitaph will read, "The minor detail was all."