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Enterprise columnist

If you were paying attention last week, you noticed that I reheated my column instead of whipping up something nice and fresh. It wasnÕt by choice. It just was what it was. There wasnÕt one droplet left in my creativity well. NothinÕ in there but an echo.

WritingÕs a lot like sex. Sometimes youÕre in your zone and everything ignites effortlessly. Sometimes you arenÕt in the mood at first but if you play along, things spark up. And sometimes, itÕs clear: The pilot lightÕs out. Might as well just stare at the ceiling and plan your grocery list for the next seven minutes.

Last week was a grocery list week for me. Sadly, they wonÕt pay me for a grocery list, so I fell back on reruns. Trouble is, I was so mentally fried from weeks of forced rapid-fire decisions about everything from tile to granite to paint, my chooser was spent. I got down to two columns and sent them to poor Sebastian over at The Enterprise, whoÕs been putting up with my obsessive-compulsiveness for years (Hey, SebÉ that semi-colon in the fifth paragraphÉ Can you change that to a dash?) and had him choose. Even my eeny-meeny-miney-moe-er was trashed.

Sebastian picked my Bunny column. I hope you enjoyed reminiscing about Bunny. I could use a bunny right about now. TheyÕre amazingly centering when youÕre all wound around the axle. You cradle them in your arms, all soft and warm, those vacant round eyes staring back at you, little pink nose perpetually bouncing É mesmerizingly sweet. And then they pee all over you.

Anyway.

When last I had some cerebral function left, I was waxing philosophic about how adversity forced me into some lovely discoveries. My broken foot introduced me to yoga, and getting flooded into homelessness propelled me into a fitness club, where I discovered itÕs still possible to get an endorphine high after your running days are over. But these werenÕt the only things I learned by force. Having my entire home dismantled and subsequently being thrust into a public living situation forced a few more epiphanies down my psyche.

It wouldÕve taken years of psychotherapy before I acknowledged that I have an agoraphobic streak. This is quite a conundrum. When IÕm Òon,Ó IÕm the party princess. Give me music, a glass of wine, and a room full of people to chat with, and IÕll be buzzing around all night. But not when IÕm Òoff.Ó

ÒOffÓ mode means diving into my vine-covered abode after work, not unlike a bunny dashing into the protective cover of the hedgerow, and avoiding everyone else at all costs, with the exception of my cats and my Big Cat. This is something I truly appreciate about The Cutest Man In The World Ñ he has an ÒoffÓ mode too, and when our modes are in sync, cuddling on the couch, the hush of catsÕ paws padding across the carpet and the slow rise and fall of his breathing the only audible sounds, itÕs pure bliss.

Well. ÒOffÓ mode is just peachy when TCMITW is around, but he works in Silicon Valley during the week, which means that until our house is reassembled, IÕm ÒoffÓ and alone, without a hedgerow. Even worse, the severity of my ÒoffÓ mode is proportional to my stress level. The higher my stress, the more ÒoffÓ I get. And now, thereÕs nowhere to hide.

Living at the inn, complete strangers are unavoidable while heading to the kitchen for coffee or dragging in after work. You canÕt just plop down on the couch and be a grump. You must interact. You must be pleasant and cordial, even if the last thing you want to do on Earth is speak. Trust me, after six weeks of this, the stress is cumulative.

Besides having to interact when you donÕt want to, you have to be extra, extra courteous all the time. You can never truly relax. You canÕt play music at 10 p.m. Or talk too loudly at 5 a.m. You canÕt leave your dirty dishes in the sink when youÕre too tired to wash them. You canÕt rip a healthy burp after drinking a beer. You canÕt run around in a tank top and panties Ñ my very favorite outfit Ñ because itÕs not nice to make strangers barf.

Dinnertime is the worst. Cooking in the common kitchen means longer exposure to an uncomfortable situation. Going out to eat is the same problem, different situation: still forced to be around people when I donÕt want to be. IÕve always hated eating alone in a restaurant, because the last thing I feel is alone. Quite the opposite. IÕm sure everyoneÕs staring at the poor gal who doesnÕt have anyone to eat with. The only exception is the sushi boats at Fuji, because my love of their dragon roll is greater than my dislike of eating alone.

IÕd always just waved off my avoidance of eating alone in public as something I simply didnÕt like. But the situation was easy enough to avoid. I never really had to confront it. Not now. I have to feel the stress and do it anyway.

Living outside my comfort zone forced me to step back and look at my whole neurotic self-portrait, and itÕs quite clear: I lean toward agoraphobia. Except when I donÕt. And when I donÕt, I really donÕt. Just ask TCMITW. HeÕs had to peel this party princess away from the karaoke machine more than once, long after my coach has turned into a pumpkin

So. One person, two personalities. For most people, this would trigger an ongoing relationship with the friendly neighborhood psychiatrist. But most people arenÕt Geminis. Split personalitiy is how we Geminis roll. IÕm cool with it. But it still feels a little strange when your self-perception sharpens into focus midlife É kind of like, ÒHey Debra Ñ meet Debra.Ó

I know, I know Ñ IÕm weird. Of course, you probably already knew that. Me, IÕm still figuring it out. Consider it a flood of reality.

Ñ Follow Debra DeAngelo on Twitter. Links are posted at and http://www.edebra.com http://www.wintersexpress.com. Find DebraÕs columns online at http://www.wintersexpress.com, http://www.edebra.com and http://www.ipinion.me

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