The word “neurotic” went out of fashion years ago, at least among professionals, losing the little clinical value it might have once had. It’s been released to the rest of us, then, a meaningless but still vaguely loaded word we can use whenever we want. It’s a public domain diagnosis. I like it a lot.
My latest neuroses include sleep, food, and exercise, all of which seem outside the norm just enough to make them feel odd. I seem to have some form of middle or terminal insomnia, or maybe neither of those, I can’t remember the terms but I used to know. It’s not the most common form but it’s pretty common. I go to sleep immediately, I apparently sleep well for hours, and I wake up about 45 to 60 minutes too early. That’s all she wrote, too, no matter how good my intentions are, so I pad around the house some days at 4 a.m., ready to face whatever but doing it solo for the next few hours.
I make coffee and have a couple of cups, trying to let them linger until I feel it’s socially acceptable to walk around my neighborhood. Anything after 5 a.m. is OK, I figure, and I’m never alone, even if my fellow early risers are few (and mostly runners). It’s cool enough in the mornings (low 50s usually these days) to still wear a sweatshirt, and I normally walk five miles. A fun iPhone app uses GPS to track my distance, and a nice female voice whispers in my ear every 5 minutes, telling me mileage. This is unnecessary but sort of benign coaching, giving me a little incentive to pick up the pace. I rarely break the 15-minute mile over that distance but I’m right there every day, usually completing the walk in 1:16 or so. It’s a brisk speed, purposeful, and it feels good. I’m not strolling here; this is a workout.
I might do it again in the afternoon, or I might hop on the stationary bike, watch a little Jon Stewart and ride. Some days I travel 25 miles to nowhere, all told.
I come home from my walk and eat an omelet, also odd. I’m not a natural egg eater, never cared for them, and even now if Julie makes hard-boiled eggs I leave the room and maybe mutter about the benefits of a trial separation. But I have to hand it to the mighty egg; it packs a punch, protein and energy, and with a little cheese and some well-placed jalapenos I have a good breakfast.
And every two hours after that, I eat something, a whim I started 10 days ago just because. I can do it easily, being at home, and it seems to allow me to keep the calories down and still never feel hungry. Some blueberries here, half an avocado here, a little tuna…it seems to have worked. About 22 pounds down in the past month, 6 inches off the widest part of my stomach. I’m not lean but I’m lighter.
None of this particularly matters to me, except that I like having more shirt options and I feel a little bouncier. My self-quantifying soul gets some pleasure out of logging all of this, miles and calories and inches.
And you don’t have to be a professional who disdains the idea of neurosis to know what’s going on. Stress will kill quicker than calories, and stress likes to hang out lately. Stress and uncertainty and worry and fear, even though I’m pretty sure we’ve got a handle on all this now and it will be fine.
But I do what I can, as we all do, as we wait for another operation, another prep, another recovery room stay, another day in the life of a bizarre turn of medical events that leaves me doing laps around the perimeter of medical centers, waiting for my girl to be done, finally.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot control
The courage to control the things I can
And something else. Still working on the ending.