Sanctum Excrementum 1

{Dear Readers: Allow me to introduce to you Mavis Marble, reporter extraordinaire. In her guest blog, Sanctum  Excrementum, Mavis continues the Animarrative tradition pioneered by Francine Lafollette in her Romantic-Recovery blog Francine’s Guest Post 1 (Or see Francine’s Guest Posts on main page.) For those unfamiliar with the term, Animarrative is a story-telling form that combines narrative with animation video, pictures and drawings, ideal for those readers affected by attention deficit disorder.               June O’Sullivan-Roque}

Sanctum Excrementum

Greetings! Some weeks ago I agreed to present a series of events that are being recounted to me.  Please note that  I am only the recorder.

First, a bit about myself:  My name is Mavis Marble. For twenty years, I worked as a reporter and writer for newspapers and magazines in a large and bustling city. Three years ago I decided to give up life in the concrete jungle and move to a semi-rural area. My two-acre property, which includes a sizable garden, is nestled in the foothills of a mountain range, and I run a small craft shop in the town itself, a half mile away. I consider myself a free and fearless fifty year old,  with no family ties or other constraints.

Many years ago, I decided to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, sometimes subsisting solely on raw foods, mostly because it helps me to keep my chakras open and allows my mind to explore, but also because it makes eating easier.

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My habits, which some consider odd, are very suited to country life. The few friends I have no longer consider it strange to see me eat a rose or a petunia when they visit me in my garden. And they are always surprised at the tasty dishes I create from simple items growing there. Flowers, herbs, and plants in general, have always had special appeal to me; I enjoy their flavor and find them very palatable. In fact, I consider everything in my garden to be of culinary or medicinal value. Of course, my garden is untreated by pesticides, and I happen to know intuitively which plants are suitable for consumption.

On Mondays, when the craft shop is closed, I walk to the top of Daisy Hill, (Dizzy Hill to some locals) where I relax in my favorite spot under a beautiful oak tree. I take my journal with me, and sometimes lunch, but there is always plenty to eat there – purslane, red clover, wild raspberries, and mushrooms growing in abundance in the shade of an overhanging rock.  A spring bubbles from a crevice close by. That day, the sun was shining hot, but there was a nice breeze coming from the west. I remember thinking how perfectly harmonious the setting was –  birds chirping, water trickling, sunlight dancing on the branches swaying in the breeze. I settled back on the rolled grass pillow I had made, and watched a train meander through the town below.

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I must have been there for a while, scribbling, nibbling, meditating……Suddenly, a man (or a woman, I couldn’t really tell) appeared before me. He or she was trying to get my attention by shaking my shoulder as if I had fallen asleep, though I know I was quite awake.

When he thought I had come to full awareness, he introduced himself as Elisiba, leader of the Resistance in Merigonia. I later found out that he considered himself neither male or female; however, I get a decidedly male energy from him, and since we do not have a pronoun in English to represent both sexes, I am going to refer to him in the masculine. Merigonia, he explained to me, is a nation in a world very similar to ours in its composition, except quite invisible to us in our normal state. I understood that they spoke English, or at least that English was one of their languages.

The leader of their nation, in addition to a host of other atrocities, had imprisoned, banished or disenfranchised all the writers, reporters, literary professionals. In their attempt to restore order to their country, Elisiba and others had found the ability to cross into other worlds. Among their many tasks, one was to find a writer to record the events, which he insisted should be made known to as many people as possible. Somehow this was considered a service to humanity, and some kind of Karmic obligation – to alert other nations contemplating the kinds of choices they are making or have made and that are leading to their destruction. Elisiba did not clarify whether their annihilation has already occurred, whether it is imminent, or even whether it can be avoided. He is very dismissive of my questions about this.

According to Elisiba, I was chosen for my general integrity, and for my ability to stick to the facts and make them clear.

At some point during our conversation, Elisiba was joined by two others, clearly a man and a woman. They did not introduce themselves, but held my hand, which I took as a gesture of assurance that they were indeed flesh and blood.  Elisiba seemed to be about forty, and the other two were older. They all had short curly hair of different colors and a goldish-brown complexion.

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One of them gave me a fountain pen with which to sign an agreement, written on parchment, the main thrust of which was that I would tell the truth as it was presented to me; on this they were quite insistent. I do not remember if there was any finger-pricking or any blood involved, but I was impressed by the sincerity and the seriousness of everyone present.

So, I agreed to become an official chronicler of the Merigonian affair, which I have entitled (rather aptly, you’ll agree) Sanctum Excrementum.

To accomplish the task, I would be provided with video and audio recordings, meeting minutes, and diary entries, with Elisiba filling in whatever information he can. And though it seems like a technological impossibility, I have to convert their video into a format that can be displayed by our system. I assure you, no one was as surprised as I was when it worked. The informational material is kept in a cave nearby, which I have tried in vain to find on my own; this leads me to suspect that it does not really exist in our dimension.

When they left (disappeared, really), I realized that only a half an hour had passed since I was under the tree, though my time with them, talking, taking notes, visiting the cave, felt like hours. No, I did not get a copy of the agreement I signed; neither did I think it was necessary. It felt like a symbolic thing. I did have in my hand, though, a small metallic box containing a video and instructions on its conversion.

I am going to start from the very beginning, that is, when things began to take a turn for the worse in Merigonia.

It was the time of the 49th election, and the people were choosing their new leader.  The Merigonians have a curious tradition for choosing their leader. They begin by gathering all candidates who can secure the greatest wealth. Their followers are willing to give them great quantities of cash if they believe in their leadership. Many presented themselves, but they managed to narrow it down to two, a man and a woman. The day of the final decision arrived, and each candidate prepared to present their spoils to the people.

The video below has been converted from the Merigonian, and the sound is not perfect, but it is a fine representation of the springboard from which the subsequent events took place.

 

 

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Francine’s Guest Post 4

Night-time Musings

Well, I did go back to the gym. No disguise either. The gym-Bobs saw me and smiled and gave me water, and I smiled back.

I decided I would do everything – exercise, diet, mental and emotional therapy, everything. I’m going to begin by eating half of what I normally eat. That has to do something, right? My mother says my body looks fine and that I’m imagining all kinds of symptoms. Mothers always tell their children they’re beautiful. Well, at least I don’t have a thick neck like that Tracy chick that Mr. Wrong is running with now. There is nothing you can do about a thick neck.

I suppose I should also be grateful that I don’t really have serious problems, like one leg, or weird back-fat producing genes.  That would be awful. God, what if I have that body dysmorphic syndrome that’s going around?  Oh, enough, Francine! Here’s an opportunity to practice that gratitude thing from The Secret. I’ll transfer this to my Gratitude Journal later. I am grateful for my long legs, which draw attention from the horizontal spread behind be; I am grateful that I was able to get rid of Mr. Wrong before he caused any serious problem, like get me kicked out of my house for non-payment of rent, or like get me pregnant. That’s something to be grateful for! Also, I did notice that since I’ve been going to the gym, I lost a ½ pound. I’m grateful for that, even though, you know, sometimes you think you’ve lost it and a couple days later it just shows up again, because it was just hiding? And ending this section on a positive note, I’m grateful that I have three part-time jobs.

Morning Decisions

This morning I woke up to see the mail that I had neglected to read yesterday. In it was a letter from the health insurance announcing some new benefit that was practically free: mental health treatment from the professionals at St. Margaret’s hospital. All I would have to pay is $20 per visit for five visits. Should I? I said to myself several times. Well, I ended up calling and making an appointment with the only doctor who had availability. Serendipity brought the letter… it was supposed to happen.

I’m a little nervous and excited about the appointment as it’s my first time seeing a psychotherapist. I’ve always wanted to take one of those mysterious Rorschach inkblot tests. Maybe she will even give me something for the insomnia. I will resume writing, dear readers, after I’ve seen the doctor. I am looking forward to telling you about my visit.

May I have Some Inkblots, Please?

I’m going to tell you right now that I don’t think that I’m cut out for picking doctors. I will call this one Dr. Grizzly. You will see why in a moment. What was I thinking when I took an appointment on the ides of March?

When the secretary ushered me into the doctor’s office, it took a few seconds for my eyes to get used to the dim light. I understand that they do this for its anxiety reducing effect. Not such a good idea in this case because it just emphasized the creepiness of things. Dr. Grizzly had a giant head, I suppose to hold all that doctor knowledge, huge gray hair, glasses, a weirdly anachronistic face, and jerky movements. Oh, and clothes from the seventies. I was not born yet, but I’ve seen pictures. Anyway, so you don’t have to take my word for it, I took video.

She greeted me and offered me a seat, grunting all the time, very disconcerting – may have been a medical condition, or allergies. My grandmother used to grunt when she had seasonal allergies. She claimed it helped clear the itching in her throat. I’m going to write most of the conversation, but also my thoughts during, so you can have an idea of the experience, in case it is something you want to try.

I told her about my problems – the insomnia, the racing thoughts, the break-up, Mr. Wrong appearing in random places…

“Just now I was checking my Instagram, and there he was, with his nasty girlfriend,” I said.

Grunt. “Instagram?” She looked puzzled.

“It’s like Facebook. I deleted him right away.”

“You deleted – ”

Just then, her cell phone rang.

“Sorry, I have to take this,” she said, and rushed out into a little antechamber, where she shut the door and started talking. Well, you know how you think you shut the door, but you didn’t? I think that’s what happened. Still, I couldn’t make out much, except the tone – angry, but controlled, half-whispered, and I’m pretty sure I heard the F word three or four times.

“So sorry,” she said when she came back two minutes later. “So you saw his picture on Face Time.” Grunt.

I didn’t bother to correct her. They were probably still using manual typewriters when she graduated from college. I just added that concerning Mr. Wrong, I was angry at myself for having chosen badly and that I felt stupid and ashamed for having let myself down.

“Oh, that’s all very normal,” she said, and wrote in her notebook. “Normal feelings.” Grunt.

“I don’t know if those feelings have anything to do with the fact that I’m forgetting things and obsessing about things. Yesterday I found my keys in the freezer after searching for them for two hours.”

Grunt. “That could be from the lack of sleep, losing things,” she said.

“Yes, about the sleep, I think I need some help with that, like pills.”

“Oh, I’m not able to prescribe medication,” she said, “but we do have a psychiatrist on staff who I can refer you to, if I think….”

Oh, here we go again. A wasted trip. Apparently, there are laws, established by God knows who, that separate the pill-prescribing doctors from the mind-treating ones. Then she told me about “creating an ideal sleeping environment.” I was getting annoyed now.

“What makes you think you’re obsessing about things?” She continued. Okay, reader, just feel free to insert a grunt either before, during, or after each utterance of Dr. G’s.

“Well, in the elevator coming up here, this guy kept saying “Installation” over and over to himself, but really loud.  So I asked myself, is he trying to remember something he needs to tell his doctor? Why doesn’t he write it down? Maybe he doesn’t have a pen. Was he practicing the pronunciation of the word to use it later? Why was the word so important to risk public ridicule? No, the question was, why was it so important that I know? And I know it’s going to come up later, and I’ll be thinking about it again, probably at night, trying to figure out why. Is that normal? Also, I find myself unable to tolerate deviation from order, or sloppiness. Like, if I’m waiting in line somewhere, and the people ahead of me are not making a straight line, like you can’t tell who’s ahead of whom, I want to push them to straighten them out. I want to say, “Move to the left, move to the left!”

“And how do you feel at those times?

“Tense, annoyed.”

“And what do you do about those feelings?”

Questions, questions, I need some answers here.

“Nothing. I curse internally. My sister sings when facing such stressful situations.”

“Oh? Do you think that would work for you?”

“No.” If I thought that would work for me, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be saving $20. Because singing is free. . And I just noticed that I involuntarily used alliteration four or five times in a row.

She continued writing.

“I may have obsessive-compulsive disorder, and I’m wondering if it’ll turn into Tourette’s syndrome,” I said aloud.

Grunt. Like a negative grunt. Then more writing.

Like right now, I’m looking at your hair and trying to help. A curling iron, a stiff brush, some hair gel? Something. And is that masking tape on your glasses?

“Well, we will look into all those issues in time,” said Dr. G.

And who were you talking to on the phone? (Must be the husband. He’s probably a jerk.) But you might not be a peach to live with either. (Or it could be her adult child. He’s living with her and using drugs. Or even selling them. Yeah, probably selling them. And she wants him out!)

Then she wanted to know about my family – normal. And my childhood, which I admitted to her, was perfect. Yes, I loved my father, and he adored me. Yes, he died ten years ago. Yes, my mother and I have a very good relationship, my siblings too. Nothing there.

“When do I get to see the Rorschach inkblots?”

“Oh, I use cognitive behavioral therapy exclusively. Situations such as yours can be addressed with something called exposure and response prevention. Here’s a leaflet that explains it. In the meantime…..”

“Oh.” Really? Foiled again?

Then she explained and wrote down some exercises, among them, breathing. I was only paying half attention to this.

And you would think the inkblots would be more her style, wouldn’t you?

I left Dr. G’s office and saw that Whole Foods was right next door. You didn’t even have to leave the building. I bought a chocolate rugelach and sat down in their café and ordered some tea. First I wrote down everything that happened and tried to analyze it; then I amused myself by making my own inkblots.Eventually, the question arose: Would I return to Dr. Grizzly’s den? I listed the pros and cons so far:

Pros                                                                                                              Cons

-the secretary has dark chocolate                                       -there are no inkblots

almonds in the waiting room

-it’s right next to Whole Foods                                           -she is not easy on the eyes

-the parking is underground and free                             -does not give pills

I will add to this as ideas come.

When the attendant served my tea, he said, pointing to the rugelach, “Do you know you could get a whole box of those for $4.99?”

Now, that’s my idea of helpful therapy.

Do think this looks like a cat with fake eyelashes?

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Francine’s Guest Post 3

I Chase the Elusive Morpheus

The insomnia having gotten out of control, I made an appointment to see a doctor. The new insurance had a list of about fifty thousand doctors, so after narrowing them down to those who were accepting new patients, I closed my eyes and picked one. And let’s call him Dr. Young.

His secretary seemed quite anxious to take my appointment, and that kind of aroused my suspicion. Not that I wasn’t grateful for a same day appointment, but which doctor has every slot open from 9AM to 4PM? Why hadn’t I been more careful in choosing?

As soon as he walked into the room, I knew my fears were justified. Dr. Young looked like he had just graduated from high school. He could not have been more than nineteen. And it was obvious that he had never shaved in his life. What can this child do for me? I asked myself.

I was able to make a short video to prove to you that I’m not making this up.

“So, you’re having trouble sleeping,” he said.

“Yes, I sleep about 6 hours per night, if I’m lucky,” I replied.

“That’s actually not that bad,” he said.

“I used to sleep eight hours before,” I said.

Then he started to recite the ways to “create an ideal sleeping environment”, which is very popular now on the internet. He must have seen the annoyed look on my face because he stopped halfway through the list.

“Do you have some medicine to make me sleep?” I said dryly.

“I do, but I don’t think you need any medicine just yet…If this continues…”

“It has continued,” I almost shouted. “It has continued for three weeks! I just need something, anything, just to get me through the next few days. I have 60 essays to grade! I have to get some rest!” The desperation in my voice was palpable.

“E-e-exercise also helps,” he stammered.

This little twerp thinks I’m a drug addict, I thought.

“Your health is very good otherwise,” he continued. “Come back and see me in a week.”

Not bloody likely, I thought.

And with that we parted company.

 

Here is a list of the items I collected before I left:

– 6 tongue depressors (Yes, I wax my own legs. I buy the wax in bulk, and I get the applicators from doctors’ offices.)

– 2 syringes (you never know when you’ll need them.)

– 2 rolls of bandages (the soft, expensive kind.)

– a stack of make-up applicators (I don’t know the medical term, but they look like a Q-Tip, but longer.)

Now uploading the video, I notice that little rectangular blue thing on the wall behind him, which I think may be a camera. I zoomed in, but couldn’t be sure. Why would there be a camera in a doctor’s office, right? I came up with these answers:

  1. They’re doing some social experiment at the hospital, to try to figure out what kind of people steal medical supplies.
  2. The camera is to watch him, to see if he’s playing video games while he’s supposed to be working.

I’m more inclined to think it’s B.

It would be real embarrassing if it were a camera, though, right? For me.

 

Francine’s Guest Post 2

Pizza, Thighs, and Exercise

Well, no one objected to the cheese, so it remained in the box with the clothes. Grendel did give me a sour look when I passed by her cave yesterday. I don’t know if the exterminator truck parked outside had anything to do with it. Rats are known to like cheese. Anyway, I’ve got bigger problems.

I seem to be running out of clothes that fit. I’ve been trying to convince myself that they’ve been shrinking.  Well, that may work for the knitted items, but not for polyester or silk.

How can a slice of pizza – okay, two slices – make your thighs rub together overnight? I’m never eating pizza again.

At lunchtime, today I decided to go to the gym after work. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, says the Internet, it increases energy, improves your mood, and helps you sleep. I need all of those things.

On my way to the gym I stopped at a restaurant to get some healthy food for afterwards. I did not want to be so hungry that I would stuff myself with anything I could find in the fridge. While waiting for my food at the counter, I heard a commotion behind me in the restaurant.

“I got a seat for us, Tracy! Where’s your man?” I turned around to see that the drunken loudspeaker was Mr. Wrong’s cousin, Tim, the recipient of those nightly phone calls. I remembered hearing that he lived in a rooming house with a bunch of male and female roommates. The girl he was talking to was one of two busty, scantily dressed women, also drunk. I concluded that they were part of the group home.

“He’s parking the car,” slurred Tracy, as she lurched into the seat, gulping from the beer bottle she was holding.

I grabbed my food and slipped outside. Not twenty feet from where I was standing, I recognized Mr. Wrong’s car maneuvering into a parking space. Well, suddenly, a few things became clear. The cousin had been a decoy. No wonder he insisted that I check his caller ID every time he called Tim. Then Tim would give the phone to Tracy the Tramp and I’d be none the wiser. Slick. Well, he’s neither gay nor incestuous….and he’s still a slug.  I hurried down the street to my car, thinking how stupid they all must have thought I was.

Better her than me, I finally said to myself. Now she’ll have to deal with the freeloader. Or maybe they’re all freeloaders, living off each other in that rooming house, hiding from creditors, on that precarious raft of deceit and depravity.

By the time I got to the gym, thoughts of Mr. Wrong had completely left my head. I was very excited about this new gym-venture. I had been there before, and I had undergone their little presentation, because who wouldn’t, for a free three-day trial? This time I was determined to give it my all. So I allowed Bob, and his fellow trainer, whose name was – guess what? – also, Bob, to show me around and explain the machinery. Well, it didn’t take me long to start yawning, and I was getting pretty annoyed. I mean, after all, I did come there to exercise, not to listen to some boring information about how machines work.

“I came here to tighten up my behind,” I said to the Bobs. “Can you just lead me to the machine that’ll do that?”

Grudgingly, they did, and I was on the machine for a good twenty minutes, working myself into what felt like a sweat. Oh, I’ll increase the resistance, I thought, and pulled what I thought was the resistance-increaser. Well, it obviously was not the resistance-increaser, as everything felt really loose after that. But at that very moment I thought I saw Mr. Wrong walk into the gym, so I whipped my head around, lost my balance, heard a loud clang, and ended up in a most embarrassing and precarious position.  Fortunately, the Gym-Bobs were there in seconds. The two of them disentangled me, to the great amusement of all who were pretending to concentrate on their weightlifting,

The picture below was taken from the video surveillance camera and given to me by the gym boss, who was delighted that I agreed not to sue them.

I’m pretty sure I broke their machine.

The guy I thought was Mr. Wrong turned out not to be – much better looking.

It’ll be a while before I go back there, of course. Unless I can find some different gym clothes.  And a wig.

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Francine’s Guest Post 1

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

or

Should the Cheese Stand Alone

The idea of a blog came to me after the break up. Mr. Wrong and I had not been seeing eye to eye for quite some time. But after I threw him out, things did not get much better.  Don’t get me wrong; the freedom I felt after I closed the door on his lying, despicable face was indescribable. It’s just that I can’t seem to settle into a comfortable place no matter what I do. I keep judging myself, I have constant internal monologues, and I have trouble sleeping. My mind is a hopeless tangle of what-ifs and I-should-haves. As a temporary solution, I decided to follow the advice I often give my students and use writing for the clichéd catharsis and self-discovery that it produces. So, my dear readers, you will be receiving weekly reports (more frequent, if I can manage) of my journey out of what I am beginning to suspect may be a depression.

So that you may have a glimpse of what goes on in my life, and in order to ensure that everything I write reflect reality, I have installed a video camera in strategic places in my home. Hopefully by the end of this blog, the cloud will have lifted, and I will become myself again.

In the video above, you can see an example of what I do when I come home from work. I lie in bed, drink tea, read, (yes, I sometimes read without looking at the pages), take long baths, and generally sulk.

I don’t think I’ll be able to write much about Mr. Wrong right now, except to say that I should have seen the signs. Here are two of the most salient:

  • What grown man over thirty does not have a bank account or a credit card?
  • Who calls their cousin at ten o’clock every night “just to touch base”?

Anyway, I packed the rest of his belongings in a box, and took them down to the office of my apartment complex for him to pick up because I told him that I’d rather not have any contact with him as I didn’t want to be responsible if I SNAP at the sight of miserable face.  The idea of removing from my home every single item he owns appealed to me immensely, and I relished packing them in the box: some clothes (including his favorite sweater), some books, his Spiderman thermos, and of course, his precious cheese. Yes, Mr. Wrong is a connoisseur of cheese. The riper the better.

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So here is the dilemma: I hate soft cheese, almost as much as I hate Mr. Wrong, but I also hate waste.  I decided not to throw the cheese out. It is a brand new, very expensive Camembert. The thing is, I had only one box, and so it was packed quite tightly, very close to the favorite sweater, as I remember. It was only later that I found out that he wouldn’t be able to pick up his items for two days. And I had already taped up the box and left it with Grendel, the Keeper of the Gate, whose idea of a response to “Good morning” is “Unrghh!”

I have done the research. I know the cheese will survive at room temperature for a couple days, but what about the clothes? Will they survive? Should I have double-wrapped the cheese in plastic? But wouldn’t that make it sweat?

On the other hand, am I putting too much effort into accommodating the needs of this vermin with whom I wasted two of my precious child-bearing years and who contributed only to my awareness of evil and my ability to withstand adversity?

Readers, I place the fate of the cheese in your hands. If in the next two days I get one request, just one, to walk down to the office and separate the cheese, I’ll do it.

I definitely did not foresee this dilemma.

As I write this I see that I may be a little obsessive.

See? Already this blog is working. Fantastic.