On December 27, 2008 I moved from my first home in Redondo Beach, CA to someone else's home in Malibu.
My friend Grace told me she thought I was running away. I knew she was right, but instead of owning up to it, I wondered aloud if I would ever move back to my old neighborhood. I was running from the loneliness, stress, depression and cancer. The lure of something new and beautiful like Malibu temporarily quieted the emotional pain that was slowly eroding my happiness like an old piece of metal.
If, then arguments ran like a skipping record over and over in my head: "If I move to Malibu, then I can start over;" "If I go to the beach and run every day, then I will be happy;" "If I house-sit for a year, then I'll be o.k. financially." My subconscious mind isn't the smartest bloke on the block, but it sure is manipulative. I also ran away from everything that was helping me heal: friends, neighbors, doctors, routine, church and my sanctuary.
I ran away from home.
And then like a Forrest Gump movie moment, I ran back. Barely more than one month since I packed up my entire house and moved to Malibu, I sat on my couch on Emerald Street in Redondo Beach writing this column. My dogs have taken up their usual perch on an over-sized chair in an open, windowed foyer where they watch for dogs, deliverymen and anyone else who have the nerve to walk on their block without their permission.
There are no accidents, right?
I left much of my "stuff" in Malibu, including books and journals that I thought I would reference if I got to come back on the weekends to write. Somehow, one journal made its way back to the Redondo house: my very first journal in Los Angeles from the year 2000. I have never read one of my old journals before; I've always assumed I would be embarrassed by their contents; no doubt each book holding the saga of my latest romantic adventure or play-by-plays of quarrels with my mom. And I'm certain, I would be mortified to learn just how many guys I had pledged forever too, how many "broke" my heart, how many I declared "the one" and that I had "never" felt like that before.
It makes me squeamish just thinking about my "love-capades" year after year after year.
But I opened this journal anyway.
It was a quick read. Like so many journals before and after it, they all start with complete entries, sometimes four and five pages long. I typically gush about new love and halfway through the journal, I seem to give up on writing and find lists instead: there were adjectives to describe my ideal life, adjectives to describe the things I didn't like about my last ex, adjectives to describe what I wanted in a man (those were exact opposites of what I thought my ex lacked, of course). Eventually, the list would include to-do's, calculations for how I would pay off debt, what my routine would be like from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I would fall asleep, including what I "should" eat.
I am Certifiably Crazy.
One list, began like this:
"6:00 am Wake, write three pages, yoga, prayer and meditation (note to self: aren't yoga, prayer and meditation kind of the same thing?!)
7:00 am Shower, breakfast, etc
8:00 am Reading and writing
10:00 am Work"
Certifiably Crazy. Told ya'.
Who needs to write down their schedule for showering? Couldn't I just remember that one activity at least? I don't recall ever accidentally going to school or work un-showered because it wasn't on my morning activities chart. Was I expecting someone to give me a gold star or smiley face when I stuck to the schedule? Pathetically, the answer was and always will be: yes. At least metaphorically speaking, I am looking for the consummate smiley face.
My father's frustrated, gruff voice still echoes in my head, "Why do you always need a pat on the back, Al?" I still don't have an answer for him, but I do know that I need acknowledgment for who I am. I also know that today, I am legitimately crazy.
Certifiable, defined by dictionary.com as "legally commit-able to a mental institution" would indicate I have sought professional help and received a prescription for a few months in St. Elizabeth's or that Idaho resort all the celebrities go to when they are "exhausted."
To be fair, crazy is my word, not theirs. In fact, today at my monthly with the psychiatrist I call my pharmacologist to make myself feel less crazy, he was talking so much, I almost asked him to write ME a check for $135 at the end of our 30 minute session. (And that wasn't the Malibu price!) I guess, he doesn't exactly think I'm crazy or he's got me so medicated, it doesn't matter who does the talking at this point.
Crazy, defined by dictionary.com carries much more flexibility in word use. It could mean "senseless; impractical; totally unsound" like when I didn't know if I could afford having cancer and purchased a new bedroom set anyway. Or it could mean something a little closer to my personality like "intensely enthusiastic; passionately excited." Someone at church last week called me "excitable." That I am.
I think that "intensely anxious or eager; impatient" or plain and simply "bizarre" is a better description for my greatest personality flaws: that despite my life, despite cancer, despite over a decade of therapy and a magnitude of self-help books and workshops, I am still as hopeless of a romantic as Meg freakin' Ryan and as melodramatic as an Oscar-winning actress. And here's the kicker: I have the same problems as when I was 22-years-old! Same types of boyfriends, though most had different names (save for all the Michael's), same financial woes and concerns, same self-esteem issues and same dreams that are still unfulfilled.
Why did I have to read that journal? To discover I am not who I wished I were? To face my truth in the mirror, condemn myself for being so "certifiably crazy," and then forgive so I could live? Am I supposed to take a long vacation to recover from my "exhaustion" in a padded room? Or was it, to view my relationship patterns up close and then do the exact opposite?
My mom used to tell me the opposite of what she wanted me to wear so she'd always get her way.
The pharmacologist kept laughing at me today. Maybe he's the one that's crazy. Or maybe my life is that comical. Or maybe I'm so crazy, it makes him nervous and the laughter is his attempt to cover up his nerves.
My mother said, "Maybe, you'll learn something really valuable."
Like, I'm certifiably crazy and someone needs to put me in St. Elizabeth's for a few years? Or that I am but a human: flaws, scars and broken-hearted. I am. I am.