Two Steaks, Twenty Dollars and My Mind

15 Aug

When I moved to Naperville, I hated not knowing where I was. Oh, I knew where my house was in relation to the major highways, but I didn’t know the city the way I had known Oak Park. To be fair, Oak Park covers 4.7 square miles directly to the west of Chicago. Like Chicago, its streets are straight, running north/south or east/west. Naperville covers 35.5 square miles. There are a handful of straight streets, mostly in the older, downtown area. In the newer sections, and there are lots of newer sections, the streets have been designed to curve and wind gently through the rolling countryside, I suppose to make up for the fact that all of our houses look exactly alike. Actually, there isn’t much countryside left out here and any rolling is manmade.

Naperville seems to specialize in streets that take you right back where you started. In my own neighborhood, there are numerous “courts,” or cul de sacs. You enter and exit from the same point. That’s actually pretty straightforward. More confusing are the “circles,” which are streets that have two points of origin. My husband, who routinely blew off our street when we lived in Oak Park, would appreciate it if we lived on a circle. Then he’d have two chances to get driving home right.

For a while after we moved, knowing how to get Target was sufficient. Soon, though, I wanted more mastery over my geography. With no lake to serve as a point of reference, Naperville proved a geographical nightmare.  So, I would get lost. On purpose. What with the circles, cul de sacs, unincorporated areas and streets that change names mid-street, it’s pretty darned easy to get lost in Naperville. Obviously, I always found my way back home.

I haven’t always been lucky in loss. Frankly, I’m a world-champion loser. I am resisting the urge to write, “Just ask my kids,” but, clearly, I am losing that battle with myself. See? I really am a loser.

I have lost all kinds of things. Recently, I lost two steaks. They were big fat rib-eyes, grass-fed, that I snatched on sale at Whole Foods. In the pantheon of things that will stop your heart cold, rib-eyes are up there with an air embolism and Tori Spelling without makeup. I make myself believe that, if I buy them at Whole Foods, the good I do the Earth balances the evil I do to my body in a sort of personal health “cap and trade” program.

I got the steaks home and then they disappeared. For days, I rummaged through the refrigerator and the freezer hunting down the steaks. Eventually, I gave up, assuming I’d find the steaks the same way I found a pound of hamburger I lost when my son was a baby—by smell. But, the house didn’t start smelling like the stockyards on a summer afternoon so soon enough, I forgot the steaks.

I don’t just lose meat; I lose money. Now, I’m not talking about making bad investments. I don’t need to invest one cent to lose money. I lose money just by letting it out of my hands. The problem is that I don’t let the money out of my hands in a controlled, habitual manner. If I were to take money that is given to me and immediately place it in my wallet, I would not lose money. But I don’t, thinking that if I do, I will then spend the money. So, I put money all over the place. I put it in my back jeans pocket. I put it in my jacket pocket. I put it in the cupboard with the coffee cups. I put it on top of my clothes drawers in the closet. I put it in any of the three or four pockets inside my purse. I put it on counters, in drawers, in cups, in nooks and in crannies

I love winter, but not because the snow is pretty and covers up all the ugly gray drabness that is Chicago after autumn. I love winter because I find money in just about every pocket of every coat I own. The first few weeks of winter are like winning the lottery. Every day, I find anywhere from one to ten dollars waiting to make my day. So far, most of the money I’ve lost has come back in due time. Still, there is a twenty-dollar bill floating around the house somewhere.

I lose my keys, but everyone loses their keys. I lose whatever book I’m currently reading at least two times per day. I’ve found them all sorts of places, like in the gazebo, under the dining room table, in the car. Once, I found a paperback on a shelf under the sink in the bathroom.

Something I’ve never lost, though, is my mind. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder sometime after I had my son. I’ve been treated for depression. I’ve been treated for dysthymia. Never, in all the years I’ve been treated for my myriad of mental maladies, have I misplaced my mind. Frankly, there were times I wished I could. I was naturally curious then when I discovered iCarly, the kids’ show on Nickelodeon, would be airing an episode titled “iLost My Mind.”

I was warned that this episode would present a terrible picture of mental illness and institutions that treat it. Mental health support groups implored parents to boycott the show. Of course, my daughter wanted to watch it. So we did what we’ve always done when my kids wanted to watch something I was pretty sure was crap. We watched it together.

“iLost My Mind” is crap. I did not say, “I told you so.” We did talk about what was funny and what was not. Not funny: dirty walls with signs on them saying things like “Don’t eat the puzzle pieces” and “Friends don’t kill friends.” Funny: a male character dressed up as one of the other character’s moms. My daughter admitted that she understood that delusional people don’t act the way the characters in the show did but she thought one of them was funny anyway. And, we talked about how people with mental illnesses are a lot more like her mom than the characters in the show.

I found the steaks. They were delicious. I have no idea where the $20 went. Perhaps my son knows. And my mind? Firmly and permanently ensconced in my skull.

© Copyright 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

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