I hate to leave the numbing cold and soot-encrusted ice piles of NYC in February, but I’m headed to the Bay Area for a few (Jewish-culture-related) book events. They are as follows:
1. Tuesday, Feb. 12, 7pm: Osher Marin JCC, bit.ly/Wk4Rvh (with a panel of experts who may or may not attempt to cure my anxiety RIGHT THERE ON STAGE!)
2. Wednesday, Feb. 13, 7pm: Oshman Family JCC, (Palo Alto), bit.ly/Z5yKSM
3. Thursday, Feb. 14, 7pm: Jewish Community Library (San Francisco), bit.ly/X0OrHN
C’mon, West Coasters. You talk a good Zen game, but I know you’re nervous!
Here’s the full episode of my talk with the great Marc Maron. We talk about all sorts of things: sex, self-involvement, circumcision, college, love. Do it up!
WARNING: Those readers offended by vulgarities, explicit sexuality, and stubborn, roiling, ugly resentments against family, culture, and the universe should proceed with caution.
This Thursday I’m going to be on WTF with Marc Maron. Here’s a preview.
A reader sent me this old Bob Newhart sketch. Not the most effective form of therapy, but heck, I’m willing to try anything.
Or should I call it “avalanche anxiety”?
I’ve been slammed, folks. This is a good thing. I’ve been talking on the radio, publishing essays, traveling here and there, and going on TV. The “reading public” — that shrinking but powerful and beloved entity — has shown a sincere interest in Monkey Mind, and I’m enormously grateful. My cup runneth over.
But some things have slipped, and foremost among these has been my presence here on the website. There have been no videos, no “Ask Dan’s Mom,” no “Tales from the Amygdala.” The gears have slowed. But with any luck — and, I suspect, an unwise amount of coffee — they will start up again soon.
So stay tuned. In the meantime, I give you this — a pleasant conversation I had recently with Gayle King on CBS This Morning. The only weird part was forgetting to leave the studio before I took off my makeup. (The makeup woman, incidentally, was one of the coolest people I’ve met in a long time. A Turkish woman. We spoke of Istanbul, where I dream of someday living. Gayle King was supercool, too. We had a long conversation in the green room about how I lost my virginity.)
I’ve got a new piece in The New York Times about anxiety. This one is about anxiety and habit; I argue that while anxiety might come on as an affliction/disorder, it continues because it is a habit of mind. Whatever else might help us feel better, recovery demands that we find some way to alter the damaging, insalubrious patterns of thought into which anxiety leads us. (“Lead” might actually be the wrong verb; it seizes us by the lapels and yell into our ears.)
The essay, titled “The Anxious Idiot,” is part of the Times’s great Anxiety series. It’s the third I’ve done for the series. The first essay, published in January, was called “It’s Still the ‘Age of Anxiety.’ Or Is It?” The second essay, published in May, was called “Do the Jews Own Anxiety?”
I’ve added some new events to the Author Appearances department of this website. Most immediately, I’ll be out in Los Angeles on Monday, reading and signing books at Book Soup, and I’ll be in the Boston area on Thursday, at Brookline Booksmith. I hope you can make it out.
Also, I’ve been invited to a very cool event, sponsored by The Jewish Week, at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, on the Upper West Side. I’ll be in conversation with Joy Ladin, the author of Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders. I’ve just received Joy’s book and it looks fabulous. I’m really looking forward to talking to her. The event is on Wednesday, July 25, at 7pm. Information here.
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety is now available at your friendly neighborhood bookseller — or from whomever or wherever you choose to buy your books. Publication date was July 3, and the book’s been getting some very nice attention, including an interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.
Check it out. I hope you like the book. Just remember: if you don’t buy a copy your inaction will trigger a series of debilitating panic attacks from which I will never recover. That’s on you.
Today it is expected to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the greater New York City area. At midday the heat is already close to unbearable — except of course that one has to bear it. What choice is there? You can lay down and die, but that hardly seems honorable. What would people say? “It got too hot for him to handle.” If they use a common idiom in a literal way, you know you’ve really screwed up.
For an anxious person, heat as intense as this is added burden, because anxious people tend to sweat more than average. Sometimes they sweat way more than average. I’m one of these people. Since I was in my early twenties, I have sweat so copiously that it has warranted a diagnosis. The dermatologists call it “hyperhydrosis,” and the condition mainly afflicts my armpits. Even in mild weather, the sweat glands beneath my arms become so hyperactive that it seems appropriate to refer to them as faucets rather than glands. As with much in anxiety, there’s a kind of cyclical thing that takes hold: first the underarms begin to sweat a little, then I get nervous that they’ve begun sweating, then my nerves make my underarms sweat more, which makes me more nervous, which makes them sweat even more, which makes me more nervous … until pretty soon my shirt is drenched through and I’m walking around like Frankenstein, hands pinned to my side in a futile effort to hide my affliction.
I suspect that this, above all is, is why I became a writer. It wasn’t so much about loving the English language or having something to say. I just wanted to work alone.
I talk about sweating at some length in Monkey Mind (which, incidentally, comes out in two weeks), but I bring it up here because since I handed in the manuscript I’ve begun taking advantage of a medical procedure that it is fair to say has changed my life: Botox injections.
I don’t know where I first heard that you can use Botox to paralyze the sweat glands under your arms, but I imagine I felt the way the Elephant Man would have felt if someone had told him they could make him look like Matthew McConaughey. Why hadn’t I known about this? What was the catch? There has to be a catch!
But there’s no catch. It doesn’t even hurt that much. The needles are really thin, the procedure doesn’t take long at all, and best of all … it actually works! When I first had Botox injected into my underarms, the doctor told me that, in very rare cases, a patient can suffer from “compensatory sweating.” Translation: the body gets confused that the underarms can’t sweat anymore and transfers the impulse to some remote and strange region of the body.
This freaked me out, because I have terrible luck. So of course I pictured myself having dinner with some friends when all of a sudden my nipples started sweating profusely. But for once my luck held out, and the procedure has worked perfectly. For six months, until the Botox wears off, my armpit sweat glands — my hated glands! — are docile, inactive, dormant. Yes, it looks a little off when I run, because everything else sweats. But I don’t really care. Particularly in this heat, all I care about is being dry and unhumiliated.
God bless modern medicine.