This is a Stick-Up

There are many forms of addictions, and although coffee may not seem like a bad one, if it leaves you less well than it found you, it’s not good. And coffee gives me migraines and it costs me three dollars a day and it takes away my afternoon energy. The one iced Americano I have every morning at Peet’s does make me love everyone for a solid twenty minutes and it makes me want to schedule appointments, and so I have clung to it fiercely. Those twenty minutes are awesome. I feel like a nail—solid and useful. I also feel like I could go mental with the swirl of thoughts that get stirred up in my head, and so I have to walk fast after I drink it. Sitting Anne down and giving her coffee is like tying up a Golden Retriever and then throwing a ball.

The time after the twenty minutes is spent waiting for the next morning so I can, basically, rinse and repeat. Tomorrow is always a new day, and three dollars down the hatch promises a window on the good life. The trick is to learn how to thrive more during the other twenty-three hours and forty minutes.

I recently listened to Melissa Walker’s Ted Talk, Art can Heal PTSD’s Invisible Wounds ( and I went and made myself a mask. I got an orange and two screws, one for the mouth and one for between the eyes. I got a black Sharpe and made two dots for eyes and a straight line for a mouth. That screwed up orange is the me I have developed to protect myself--the me underneath. More about her later.

I first wrote about wishing I could find a way to drop what felt like the skin of a fruit, an orange, from my face when I was twenty-two. I didn’t call it a mask because it felt to close to who I actually was. I didn’t think it was something like a mask that could actually be removed. I thought it was me. I was living in L.A. and had just come back from Al’s Bar with my roommate, and I hadn’t talked to anyone new. There was something wrong with me, with my face. It was stern and sad. I could feel it, and so I couldn’t make connections. I couldn’t get a date, even though I was actually a funny whack-job who would have made a fine companion for a man with similar leanings. But I was stuck with this face that lied to the world and told it I was a worrier, the spot between my eyes screwed tight, that I was thickly rinded, less than girl. That I was not worth hello. The skin kept me captive, and so I lived like a worrier. When I would go to a new chiropractor, I would write on the intake sheet my skin is too tight for my body, but that only made them laugh. The problem was I was serious. I was living like a captive in the tight bag of myself.

The thing about making a mask of the you that is a burden or that falsely represents you or that you hide behind is that once it is there in front of you, once you actually make the mask and look at it, it’s no longer on your face! And you can talk about it in a way that you wouldn’t have if it was still attached to your corporeal self. As I looked at the orange with the screws buried deep in the third eye spot and in the mouth, I felt my actual face soften. The screws weren’t there anymore! They were on the table, in the orange! I was myself! I felt my whole SELF soften! I was okay! Everything was going to be okay!

I don’t usually go crazy with exclamation points in my writing because I think they are like cayenne pepper, but I’m letting those last ones stay. I am seriously excited!!!!

And then here’s a wild thing: I realized the mask is the one that likes to drink coffee, not the softer face, my face, that remained. The mask likes to get wired and aggressive and wants to feel it can take on the world. The face that remains wants to stay in bed a little longer every morning and meditate. That face wants to feel the luxury of living in the world with a body. That face wants to breathe into her feet, into her hands, into her belly, her heart, and feel what it means to be a human being.

I wish I could ask everyone I know to make their mask and then to give it to me. I want to cover a wall with these masks and then I want my friends to come to dinner as themselves and we can eat under the wall of masks and we can talk about what we used to carry and who we are without that false cage.

I would serve delicious food. Wine. Coffee for those who wanted it when the meal was over. I’d be happy drinking water. It’s what I like.