Frame Job

A couple of months back, I ordered a print from the amazing and fabulous artist Jennifer Cox. Once it arrived, I put it in a frame, and I placed it on my desk:

Office Thoth
“Thoth Likes Extra Foam”

The End.

Right. So that’s basically what happened, just with a few key details edited out. Following is the full story (melodramatically rendered in present tense), which provides an excellent example of how my Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder works:

I find the artwork while browsing around on Etsy and note that it comes in three different sizes. I print out black-and-white copies of each size and tape them to various walls a) to see if the design will go with the rest of the décor around the house, and b) to determine which size will be the most aesthetically pleasing. I also print out two copies of a different illustration by the same artist, because while I’m not buying it right at this moment, I might eventually, and I need to make sure the two pieces will complement each other.

After an epic internal struggle, I settle on the 5 x 7 size and make the purchase.

The print arrives at my office. I open the package and prop the print on my desk to see if I want to keep it here instead of taking it home — after all, Thoth is associated with Hermes, who is associated with Mercury, which is the ruling planet of notaries, and all of my notary stuff is up here. I ultimately decide it would look better in the apartment, where I remember that I have a cool, multicolored picture frame. I locate the frame, take it apart, dust it and rinse it off, wash the glass separately, towel it all off vigorously and let it air-dry overnight (don’t want any errant water droplets ruining everything).

The following morning, I reassemble the frame and insert the print, and then spend forty-five minutes rearranging the knickknacks on my writing desk to properly fit it in. (I want it next to my St. Expedite statue, but then I would have to move a regular jar candle to a space between two seven-day candles, which is unacceptable.) So I finally get everything set exactly, and it looks great! Except…

The yellow and green corners are at the top of the frame, and while the yellow doesn’t look bad, the green clashes with Thoth’s nemes. Granted, this could be easily remedied by turning the frame upside down so that the red and blue corners are up top, but (and here’s the crux of the matter), whoever designed the frame intended for the yellow and green corners to be at the top, and therefore turning it upside down might destroy the entire universe. WE CAN’T TAKE THAT CHANCE.

I make it about a day and a half before I can’t stand it anymore and run to the drugstore down the street to pick up a plain, black frame. So now Thoth is on display again, just with no extra embellishments to distract the eye or drive me insane. All is well. Except…

The new frame is black metal, and all the other frames in my living room are black wood. I try to accept this, guys; I really, really do. But a few days later I cave and take the print and both of the frames to work with me, thinking that this whole situation would be a lot easier to resolve if all I had to do was just find a couple of hobbits to help me get rid of a ring.

So I’m up at the office the next day, and the first thing I notice is that the multicolored frame looks pretty awesome with the David Cowles caricatures across from my desk. I take Thoth out of the metal frame and put him back in the wooden one, and… ye Gods but that green corner is going to give me a seizure.

I know what has to be done.

Gritting my teeth, I pull Thoth out of the frame one final time, rotate the frame so that the red and blue corners are at the top, and put everything back together. The universe in fact does not explode, which is a pleasant surprise, but also, the color combo is now pretty much perfect. You know the relief that overwhelms you when you dislodge a popcorn kernel from between your teeth? It feels just like that, except the popcorn dislodged from my frontal lobe.

There is a brief moment of panic when I realize that the Thoth print plus the Erté Queen of the Night greeting card next to my computer might equal an unbalanced number of framed items, but I only have to spend about fifteen minutes repeatedly removing and replacing each piece individually before I decide both can stay.

Fin.

So yeah, that’s what it’s like in my head. No-brainer, throw-away tasks become onuses: One second I’m trying to choose a picture frame, and the next I’m in Ancient Greek hell, pushing a boulder up a hill. The upside is that I know OCPD is just a vestige of my treated anxiety, and if the worst thing that happens to me on any given day is that I compulsively move a doodad across a shelf in half-centimeter intervals versus endure sixteen hours of hurricane-force panic attacks, then I’m probably doing okay. I may have to tell myself over and over that I am okay, but the reality is I really am, regardless of anything I can’t control, or that isn’t in order, or that gets reshuffled against my wishes.

I am okay.

PS: A tech guy just walked into my office with a new computer tower (my previous one pulled an Old Yeller and had to be taken out behind the barn), and the first thing he said was, “I’m going to have to move some of this stuff on your desk.” I screamed silently for only the briefest of moments before replying: “Oh, that’s fine, move anything you need to. It’s not a big deal.”

And it’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal.

Say it with me, guys.

It’s not a big deal.

It’s not a big deal.

It’s not a big deal.

Misfitting In

There’s a leather-and-Levis organization in town called the Misfits, and I’ve always harbored a semi-secret crush on the group as a whole. If the Houston-area gay community were a high school (and sometimes I could swear…), the Misfits would be the varsity football team — they even have stylish leather vests with their logo on the backs in lieu of letterman jackets, and frankly, I think I would look adorable in one.

The Misfits themselves apparently agree: Some of the members have been talking me up to the quarterback president, who in turn has been reaching out and encouraging me to pledge. Officially, I am flattered by their interest, and I’ve promised to give the matter serious thought. Behind the scenes, however, I’m acting like a teenage girl who just received a care package from Taylor Swift.

Alas, not everyone in my immediate circle is as thrilled by the Misfits’ inclusivity as I am. Cross, who’s normally very supportive of whatever weird shit I get into, was like, “Huh. Well, they do have an event coming up, so they’re definitely going to need some warm bodies to help run the show.” Awesome. But I will deal with him later, since the foil currently demanding my attention is that guy from the sober leather club who went all After-school Special on my panic disorder, and who is the opposite of amused with my Misfit potential.

 “This is NOT putting your recovery first,” he yelled, when I inexplicably told him the Misfits were trying to recruit me. “You’re going to hang around in bars with them and get triggered, and then what?”

I tried pointing out that several of the Misfits don’t drink (including my buddy Doc, who, back in the day, took it upon himself to babysit me during benders, and who also kept a running list of everyone I inadvertently insulted and/or offended, so that I could offer formal apologies the morning after). Additionally, I reminded him that I still hadn’t decided if I even wanted to join, but he wasn’t having it.

“You’re really putting yourself in a dangerous situation,” he continued. “And have you even considered how this will affect your anxiety?”

Ah, yes, I thought. My anxiety. Mustn’t forget how deeply concerned he is about that.

And I called the Misfits president to announce my intent to pledge.

I’m going to look so fucking cute in my vest, you guys.

PS: I shared this story with Simon, which led to the following conversation.

Me: “There are people in my life who are never going to be who I want them to be. But if I’m not comfortable with who they really are, I’ve got to wonder why I feel the need to have them in my life at all.”

Simon: “I have seriously been waiting the entire six months we’ve been working together for you to realize this.”

Me: “Dude… we’ve been working together for over a year. We had an anniversary in April.”

Simon: “Oh, I don’t keep track of dates. What’s important is the present, the here and now.”

Me: “Wow. Way to get out of buying me jewelry.”

Simon: “Honey, it’s going to be at least 20 years before you’ll get jewelry out of me.”

Me: “Then on my 20th recovery birthday, I expect a doorknob on my finger.”

Simon: “I’ll be happy to glue an actual doorknob onto a ring for you.”

Me: “You know I would totally wear it if you did that, right?”

Simon: “Just tell everyone I went to Jared.”

Property Management, Shirley Jackson Style

The upside to having both a panic disorder and an attention deficit disorder is that I am a medal-worthy multi-tasker. Need seventeen separate projects completed by yesterday? No problem! I’ll switch between them as my interest waxes and wanes until the anxiety kicks in and I screech into overdrive, and I’ll still find time for personal correspondence and social media updates.

The downside is that sometimes said projects get a bit mixed up in my head, such as what happened a few minutes ago, when I was copying text into an HOA’s monthly inspection report while having a lively email debate with a bunch of Bacchic Orphists and taking phone calls from contractors and ordering lunch. I paused for a quick second to glance back over the report before sending it to the Board of Directors, only to discover that  the section on deed restriction violations now proclaimed, in proud, bolded font:

“You all heard it. He volunteered to be sacrificed.”

Couple of thoughts on that.

a) Thank the Gods I always proof-read.

b) If I left that sentence in the report, and they didn’t immediately terminate our contract, no one would ever violate the deed restrictions again. In which case I may have just found the cure for a veritable crate-load of headaches.

Hot Stoves and Cock Cages

quietgirl

Back in early 2014, during a period when I was feeling a bit adrift and disconnected, I joined a sober leather club. I was picturing burly, bearded dudes wearing biker jackets with recovery symbol patches, but it turned out the club was more of a support group for guys who were into leather and kink and whatnot before they got sober, and who were now trying to navigate those interests in recovery.

My own experiences in these areas are limited, but without fail off the deep end. Here’s how they generally played out:

Him: “So there’s this… thing I’m into.”

Me: “Okay.”

Him: “But it’s pretty kinky.”

Me: “What is it?”

Him: “Well, it’s [insert unanticipated and/or bizarre thing here].”

Me: “… Oh.”

Him: “Does that freak you out?”

Me: “No, no, of course not. It’s just that I’m not… actually, you know what? Let me freshen my drink real quick.”

[Twenty minutes and five cocktails later]

Him: “So you’re really not freaked out?”

Me: “Nyet. Bring it.”

And then I would do the thing. I never got myself into a situation I couldn’t ultimately get out of, but some stuff went down of which I’m not overly proud, nor comfortable discussing. As such, when I started getting to know these guys (well before I was diagnosed with a panic disorder), a wall immediately went up, since conversations with them often broached subjects that got under my skin and poked me in the fight-or-flight reflex.

One meeting in particular set me off badly enough to where I couldn’t go back for a couple of months. A group of us were sitting around chit-chatting, when one of the guys brought up an accessory he found at Ye Olde Neighbourhood Sex Shoppe.

“It was called a cock cage,” he explained. “It’s a chastity device, but for men. Apparently, some tops, like, own their bottoms.”

“Well that’s weird,” said another guy. “The whole point of being a top is to give the bottom the scene he wants, since the bottom’s really the one in control.”

Everyone else agreed that this was indeed odd and Not The Way Things Are Done, and then suddenly I realized my mouth was moving and words were coming out of it.

“As someone who was once in training to be owned, and who was going to end up wearing a cock cage, I can say that in a true master/slave relationship, the bottom derives pleasure from meeting the needs of the top. There is no ‘scene,’ and the bottom does not have any control.”

“Huh,” said everyone else. And then they went on to talk about a different topic, and I had a panic attack and ran out of the room.

Subsequent meetings resulted in more panic attacks, but eventually I started taking medication, and tentatively stuck my toes back in the sober leather club waters, and I found that I could actually sit through the meetings and participate in the discussions without losing my shit. I accepted that the guys weren’t going to judge me for my past, and I even gave a talk on sex and panic, which went over very well, if I do say so myself. The trick, I learned, was transparency: I could be an active part of the group, so long as I was honest with both myself and the other members about my triggers, and what I could and could not handle when it came to the meetings themselves.

Unfortunately, this month’s meeting fell into the “could not” category. It was billed as a sort of demo night, with everyone giving a hands-on presentation on their own kinks. I got twitchy as soon as I heard what was planned, and although some of the guys encouraged me to do something on rope bondage, I begged off, explaining that I really needed to sit this one out.

And I thought they understood.

This past Thursday, one of the guys texted me a meme that read, Studies show that if you’re afraid of spiders, you are more likely to find one in your bedroom. I am really afraid of Gerard Butler! Which, ha, I found amusing, and I texted back cheekily that yes, I too was really afraid of Gerard Butler.

To which the guy replied, I’m glad you’re only afraid of that, and not afraid of going to the meeting and talking about your fetishes.

And with that, I was done. The group is getting together tomorrow, but I will not be there. And I will not be returning.

Mark Twain once wrote, “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.” I get that the guy was trying to be funny and goad me into attending the meeting via reverse psychology, but instead he created a stove lid. I let my guard down and got vulnerable, and one of them used that against me; ergo, I will not let any of them past my defenses again.

There is a distinct possibility that I’m overreacting — after all, we’re right in the middle of a Mercury retrograde, and miscommunications are bound to crop up. But right now, my Inner Survivalist is telling me to shut out anyone who isn’t conducive to my self-esteem or peace of mind, to focus instead on the handful of people who I know like me exactly the way I am.

I will miss being part of the group.

But I won’t miss feeling like my broken brain makes me less than everyone else.

I’m the only one on medication, which really explains everything

I just returned from a big family get-together in Galveston, and after spending two days in a condo with my closest relatives, I have finally come to accept — and I say this as an alcoholic with a panic disorder who practices Witchcraft — that these people are fucking deranged.

In my family’s defense, I should mention that I was not at my most charitable, as my weekend had gotten off to a rocky start. Instead of crawling out of bed at an unreasonable hour to drive from Houston to Galveston, I figured I’d just crash at Douglas’ apartment on Friday night, since he lives way out on the South side of town. That way, I could sleep in an extra hour, have a leisurely cup of coffee with my bestest friend in the whole wide world, hit a 12-Step meeting for extra fortification, then skip off to the island. Douglas asked what time I wanted to get up, and I said 7 a.m., then fell asleep on the couch.

On Saturday morning, I popped awake around 10. Apparently, Douglas’ repeated attempts to rouse me (which were basically “making coffee loudly” and clearing his throat every time he walked past the sofa) were unsuccessful, and he hadn’t seen his boyfriend in hours, so he left a key on the kitchen counter and bailed. It was pouring outside, so I called my parents and explained that the rain was causing a delay, but I’d be out there as quickly as possible. At this point the Universe gave me the chance to opt out of the weekend, as my parents we all, “Oh no, you can’t drive in the rain! That’s too dangerous!” And actually, I hate driving in the rain. But the implied message that I am incapable of driving safely got under my skin, and so to prove that I can get in a car and turn on the ignition without the vehicle bursting into flames, I was all, “I am an excellent driver, and I’m on my way.”

Funny side note: I’m a terrible driver. But my parents don’t need to know that.

So anyway, I finally made it to Galveston and caught up with everyone, at which point the assorted neuroses and passive aggressions flared in earnest. Following are a few of my favorite moments:

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When You Laugh, The Voices Laugh With You

 I saw my psychiatrist yesterday to have the dosage of my meds adjusted, because one of the side effects of my anti-anxiety medication is anxiety. (Yeah. I know.) So we’re discussing that, and we’re going over strategies to deal with my Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (itself an expression of anxiety), and I launch into some tangential story about friends who come into my apartment and blithely move things around after I’ve spent hours arranging everything just so, and he says, while tapping away at his computer, “hang on one second; I want to finish writing down everything you’ve said.”

At which point I review the talking points of the story I’ve just told and come down with a scorching case of the church giggles, because if he’s truly written down everything I’ve said, my medical records now contain the phrase “flying penis statue.”

Mental illness is sometimes a lot more entertaining than people give it credit for. In other news, I’m pretty sure someone at my insurance provider chokes on his coffee whenever he reads my claims.

Of Human Bondage Buddies (or, Acceptance is the Kink)

You know how sometimes you’ll make reservations for a Japanese rope bondage seminar, but then your date cancels, so you call a semi-stranger and are all, “Want to go to a BDSM workshop with a bunch of pervy straight people?” and he’s all, “I’m in,” and that becomes the defining moment of your acquaintance, and from that point forward you’re each other’s official Plus One for weird events that none of your other friends would ever want to attend?

All tied up and nowhere to go.
All tied up and nowhere to go.

I mean, we’ve all been there, am I right?

Anywhoozle, that’s how I know Cross.

It started with Douglas inviting me to breakfast to meet a friend of his (Cross, natch), who was looking to spend time around other Pagans. We got along well and exchanged numbers, and I figured I’d run into him again along the way somewhere, but I didn’t give the matter further thought. That is, until whoever was supposed to go with me to the bondage thing bailed, and with desperation being the mother of last-minute invitations, I took Cross with me.

We made it through the seminar without getting excommunicated from the Houston-area rope community [Ed. Note: There’s totally a Houston-area rope community], and now we’re each other’s go-to when one of us doesn’t want to wander somewhere off the map by himself (i.e. “Please don’t make me hit this clothing-optional art opening alone”). Last month, I accompanied him to a formal leather awards dinner, for which we had to help each other get dressed, cowhide not being the most pliant of textiles. It was when I had his calf in a strangle hold and was shoving his foot into a biker boot that I realized our friendship was based entirely on tying each other up and squeezing each other into fetish wear. And I was okay with that. And so was he.

”Just cinch it.”
Just cinch it.

So, back to bondage. We’ve started going to weekly rope classes, where we’re learning all sorts of handy ways to restrict the movements of kidnapping victims willing and consensual intimate partners. (Instructor: “So now, let’s talk about strappado techniques.” Cross: “Strappado? Isn’t that the name of–” Me: “No.”) Last night’s class focused on hip harnesses, which is a favorite subject of mine, because a) they are practical, and b) they make awesome fashion statements (see left). So we were shown the pattern we were supposed to create, and Cross was dutifully binding me to the gills, when the instructor said, “The line along the hip bone is usually diagonal, but if you want it to look more masculine, you can move it horizontally.”

“It kind of does that on its own,” said Cross, pointing to the rope around my waist.

“Yes, it does,” said the instructor’s partner, draped in hemp cords herself. Then, to me: “You’re curvalicious, but you are definitely male.”

Alrighty then. We interrupt your regularly-scheduled blog post to discuss body issues, and what got me into ropes (so to speak) in the first place.

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