Insomnia, Temper Tantrums, and A$$hole Cats

It’s three in the morning.  My jaw’s all fucked up from clenching and grinding on a thick bite guard.  I’ve gnashed  (…biblical, right?…) my teeth throughout most of my life, increasingly into my 30s.  And acid reflux.  Laying flat plus reflux equals a rude wake-up, and me chewing on chalky antacids and sitting upright in front of a computer screen.  And the break in my sleep routine causes the cats to believe it’s time to eat, so every time I move one or both of them begins the process of racing to the food stations.  They’re disappointed every time.  But…they’re assholes.  (Cats are assholes.  I love them…but they’re assholes.  There’s no denying this fact.  They are domesticated only in that they’ve decided to shack up because it’s generally easier to get food, water, and shelter from us.  They tolerate our neediness, and on occasion they come to enjoy us as well.  But they’re fickle…and will just as soon bite the shit out of you, leaving their bacteria-filled saliva deep in your forearm muscles, as nuzzle you.)

I woke up sweating.  Gnashing. Burping volcanic stomach juices.

I went to the dentist a few years back and, quite out of nowhere, the hygienist asked, “Do you have reflux?”  It was a question…but it really wasn’t a question.  “Do I?”  I volleyed with an actual question.  “You do…and you’re grinding your teeth.”  I’ve been anxious all of my life, with a hair-trigger temper.  Road rage.  Perfectly circular holes in walls from doors being slammed open.  Shit thrown across rooms.  One time, I savaged a cheap wooden clothes drying rack because it wouldn’t behave for me.  I mean…I fucking raged on that thing.  It was Hulk-like.  I remember snapping. I can clearly replay the first blind throw, the initial primal scream…time lapse…then the next thought was, “What the fuck did I just do?”  In between step one and, “What the fuck did I just do?” it’s all a fuzzy, rageful haze.  I frightened the cats into hiding for hours. (Assholes.)  Heavy breathing, shards of wood all over the place, pieces sticking in the ceiling, cuts and splinters in my hands and arms.  (Later that night, my wife asked me, “Where’s the drying rack?  And why are the ceiling tiles punctured down there?” I admitted the deed, embarrassed.  Prozak came soon afterward.)  And teeth clenching.  I did that a lot.  I held the anger in.  Choked it down.  Each time something opened the flood gates to rage, and leading up to the drying-rack incident it was happening hourly, I would gnash my teeth.  Hard.  This apparently isn’t good for teeth.  Or Jaw muscles. Or my emotional stability. Or drying racks.  And apparently at night, in my sleep, I’d chatter and grind.  Like the fucking Chattering Cenobite from Hellraiser.  Like Savion Glover’s mouth.  This all wreaked havoc inside of my mouth.  Acid washing over the back teeth.  Gnashing and Gnawing wearing down bite surfaces.  Emotional stability perched on a telephone wire during a tornado.  And then came the bite guard.  They make a tiny little one, and it costs like $400 because…well, because fuck you I’m a dentist and anything that we need to fit specifically to your mouth requires a payment plan.  Or, one can get a store-bought guard for $40.  I went with that one.  Here’s how it works.  Boil water.  Drop that bad boy in.  Carefully pluck it out and place the nearly 200-degree now-softened plastic into your mouth…and hold tight, but not too tight, and steady.  It cools, but not nearly quickly enough.  Fun.  I suppose that’s the trade-off…you either engage in oral masochism or tithe to Hermie, the elf who wanted to be a dentist but needed to repay student loan debt and still drive a Mercedes Benz.  But the bite guard.  It’s big.  Really big.  It’s so big that when I have these (now thankfully occasional) jags with nighttime clenching and grinding, it throws my jaw out of whack.  I have to open and close and massage it to get it back into alignment.

And through a combination of pharmaceutical, fitness, meditative, and dietary changes…I’ve arrived at a general place of decent sleep, minimal reflux, low anxiety, and a slower-burning temper of which I have awareness and control.  Except just about an hour ago.  For now, the antacid has kicked in, I’ve put some water in my gut, and I’m feeling tired again.  And this venue, putting word to screen, is a good one for mitigating further an already mitigated temper.  And a purring cat near one’s neck, even if she be an asshole 90% of the time, is a furry sack of instant relaxation.  Goodnight.


A Brussels Sprouts’ Stalk is a Cruel, Cruel Mistress

In this, the inaugural episode of the Driven to Drink podcast (d2dpod), Jennifer and I discuss an unexpected adventure with four Brussels Sprouts’ stalks (…with winds whipping and temperatures dipping below freezing outdoors and the furnace on the fritz indoors…), the booze in our glasses, the absurdity of the very phrase, “Brussels Sprouts’ Stalks”  (Is that how you’d write that, grammatically?!?!), the anatomy of said stalks, and the tap-dancing of a canine little person with ass balls.  I hope you enjoy:

Driven to Drink

What drives you to drink?  Or, if you don’t drink, what drives you to emotional places in which you need to suppress the desire to curse, to scream, to snatch a person’s phone from their hands and throw it vehemently across a room?  Or, if you are feeling quite calm, have internal homeostasis…what drives you to put in an extra 5k, a second 45 minute spin class, yoga, or a hot cup of herbal tea with pan flute arrangements playing in the background of a candle-filled, incense-fogged room?  What makes you want to bury your head under the covers, ball up in a fetal position, and pray for a reset?  But really, what drives you to drink?

For me, it’s a multitude of things.  For me, the accumulation of rigid and often inconceivable pet peeves (…losing a momentarily favorite pen can usurp most of my attention, throw me into a sympathetic nervous system sweat, and ultimately cause me to rear-end the elderly person ahead of me cautiously rolling through a four-way stop sign…) amounts to an actual mountain consisting of hundreds of insignificant molehills.  But my brain is a catastrophizer, much like the emotional stability of a 12 year old girl attempting to move through a pre-pubescence full of consecutive emergencies.

Today, and really right now…the thing that is driving me to clench my teeth, drink hot coffee like an angry, rabid dog, and contemplate violence…is Russian.  A person?  Yes.  The language?  Yes.  And really this tiny problem fits into a larger set of D2D moments that occur for a self-employed clinician who must use his car as a phone booth/lunch room/meditation space and various coffee shops as offices to compose notes and complete silent tasks in a gentle atmosphere with a clean toilet.  (A clean toilet.  Just as the little things in life can drive us to drink, so can the little things bring a sublime peace and total emotional comfort.)  In my brain, there are certain etiquette behaviors that seem fairly obvious to me…in public spaces.  The rule currently being broken is occurring two feet to my right.  Blue tooth headset.  (Generally, anyone who walks around with a blue tooth headset in their ear is someone to be avoided.)  This tyolka (…please pardon my Russian…) is having a boisterous, laughter-filled, high-decibel conversation.  In Russian.  If the conversation were in English, it would still be annoying…but wouldn’t rank quite in the territory with Russian.  (Or any language I don’t speak/understand.)  I think that’s it.  Loud conversations in foreign languages.  You really shouldn’t be doing this anyway.  I realize it’s cold and raining outside, but this is not the place nor the time to take this call…and then to continue with this call for 10+ minutes.  And here I must apologize to any native Russian speakers.  I’m neither happy nor proud that my rage-buttons are pressed by loud Russian conversations…but I cannot deny a fact.  Spanish?  I’m fine.  French?  Okay.  German?  You’re losing me now.  But Russian?  I can’t find any amount of peace in the midst of this language.  I cannot explain it.  Neither can anyone else.  Putin help them if they try to do it in Russian.

But now the conversation is done and the woman has exited…and I’m left with my brain.

Small stuff.

But then, there is also larger stuff, important stuff, professional and global stuff…behaviors and systems and interactions that I see and experience that also drive me to drink.  I want to explore these larger, more important topics as well.  The actual mountains…not the ones created by my anxious, judgmental, worrisome, self-doubtful, slightly obsessive and compulsive brain.  And we will venture there.  I’d love to engage in real dialogue, over drinks, treading lightly enough that we can experience laughter, perhaps tears, and where we can be entirely honest without worrying about offending or saying the “wrong thing.”  The goal is honesty.  The goal is truth.  We’ll see how that works out.  For now, I’m left with my caffeine.


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