Despite what you’ve assumed from multiple teen witch movies (in which a handful of adorable teenaged girls with suspiciously clear skin accidentally summons Beelzebub while trying to make Kimmi’s hair fall out for the crime of flirting with Andy when everyone KNOWS Andy belongs to Misty), the word “occult” doesn’t mean demonic or supernatural or witchy.

It just means “hidden.”

And isn’t that so very human? Anything we don’t understand or which remains hidden automatically becomes supernatural, evil, suspect. We fear the unknown, people.

Really, it’s just unknown AT THE MOMENT. Can’t find your car keys? Well, that makes them OCCULT car keys – how thrilling! Does that mean they’ll engage the lava-powered engines on Satan’s Maybach? No. It means they’re in the pocket of yesterday’s jeans and are going to cost you $200 for a new set when you stupidly run them through the machine with the laundry.

And they say cleanliness is next to godliness. Right.

Wait. Didn’t I have a point?

Got it. I’ve refocused: Occult means “hidden.”

This thought occurred to me today because I had another dental implant put into my jaw on Friday. After the jawbone grows around the screw (which takes 6-9 months), a dentist will hang a new molar on that screw and I will have powerful gnashing teeth well into my senility. An advantage should I decide that orderly is due a little course correction for his flippant ways.

Because my oral surgeon slips a little chemical paradise into my veins before he goes a-drillin’, there is nothing even remotely painful about getting an implant. Even in the aftermath, the most pain I’ve felt is a distant ache and the sense that things are sort of raw in that quadrant of my mouth.


This isn’t my first dental implant rodeo. (Wouldn’t that be a public event to cherish? A dental implant rodeo? With dental implant rodeo clowns dashing around the teeth to distract the massive, angry tongue from the clever, darting, silvery drill?)

And I know that the problem here isn’t pain – it’s post-anesthesia after-effects. Last time it took me a full week for my 60-year-old body to finally process all that heroin-like poison – and this time is no different. Let’s review what I’m feeling now, four days after waking up with a little Home Depot sprouting from my gums…

First – and I suspect this won’t surprise you – my ability to focus is SHOT TO SHIT. I’ve always been something of a “oh, look – a bird!” kind of person. But today, I spent some ten minutes trying to decide whether Satan would favor a Maybach or a Lamborghini. Maybach – too wealthy and powerful for the average human and so a good Satanic image. But “lava-powered Lamborghini” has such alliterative juice to it, and a Lamborghini is such an aggressive asshole of a car.

Still, my concept of Satan is more in a perfectly-tailored bespoke suit and not in racing leathers, so – Maybach.

What was I … right. Loss of focus.

Also: Inability to regulate my internal temperature. I was shivering under a down quilt yesterday, which led my son to immediately assume I had the corona virus. He made me take my temperature, which was 95.4. “I’m cold because I’m cold. Go away.” An hour later, I was putting my hair up in a clip and reaching for the ceiling fan remote.

Also: Depression. There is a voice inside me that is questioning every possible effort. I feel as though I’ve temporarily forgotten The Terrible News I’ve just gotten, and any minute now it’s going to come back to me and I’m going to be shattered. So I keep finding myself braced for something horrible that is clearly going to happen.

Now, I have an advantage, here: I went through this with the last dental implant and I know that it lasts about a week. All I need to do is endure. Hold on. Stay calm and be kind to myself.

(And – despite what you think – I am NOT going for vigorous exercise. You’d think that you could process anesthesia faster by getting up and moving around, but I tried that last time and nearly collapsed under the weight of the confusion, depression, and temperature swings that resulted from the sudden exposure of a neurotoxin best dealt with slowly over time.)

Now – if I can hold on to my focus for just a few minutes longer – I’m going to bring it all home to an actual fitness observation that might have value to you:

People who are challenged by health and fitness (especially, I think, people who have always confronted weight issues of any kind) have been trained (by society, by family, by themselves) to believe that their challenges are self-created. “If you don’t eat so much, you won’t weigh so much,” is the whisper. Maybe no one is saying it, but that doesn’t mean no one is hearing it.

We all think that if we could just apply a little more self-restraint – if we could pull ourselves together – if we could just stop being so lazy/greedy/weak, then we’d be grinning through triathlons and showing the kids on the Ultimate Frisbee course how it’s done.

But I’m here to tell you: There are OCCULT REASONS why you are the way you are.

(There – I brought it back to the beginning. Remember?? Occult means hidden.)

You wish and strive and try to achieve some goal, and progress is so slow that sometimes you can see that you’re actually back-tracking. And because of that, you’re inclined to kick yourself and think you’re the problem.

But maybe it was the anesthesia.

Or – you know – some other occult cause. You just don’t understand it YET. Maybe you never will. But that doesn’t make it invisible or supernatural or evidence of a weakness in your moral character.

JUST KEEP GOING. And be kind to yourself.

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I feel I could have tied this up more neatly. I also feel that I haven’t given nearly enough thought to the concept of Satan driving an extremely hot Tesla, because that logo is just so damned good looking.












Ooh, lawsy – at the dawn of aviation, those little Europeans could NOT get a plane across the Atlantic to save their lives. Hah! Americans were cruising over with no problem. Clear a path, Frenchie – I’m setting this big bird down on your terre.

The American aviators were cocky about it. They had that “new world” swagger as they strutted about in scarves and leather caps. When Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, the city went wild. The entire WORLD went wild. It was pandemonium. Those Americans! Right across the Atlantic! Ooh-la-la!

So what was it? Was it Lindbergh’s rock-chiseled jaw, his steely gaze, his goggles worn dashingly at the neck? Was it American superiority? Was it manifest destiny?

The Americans certainly thought so.

Turns out – Lindbergh was a fierce racist, manifest destiny is a crock, and America is no more superior than any other nation EXCEPT that our gasoline, just by a fluke, has a higher octane content than the gas then being processed in Europe.


There was a REASON so many European aviators had to flag down a passing ship as they stood, like Captain Sully, on the wing of their slowly-sinking plane. If they’d had American gas – or if they’d started in New Jersey instead of Paris – they would have made it, too.

But nobody was measuring octane. Nobody KNEW about octane. AND LET THIS BE A LESSON TO YOU, she said with sudden accusation in her voice.

There is SOMETHING that we are not measuring in the human body. Some version of octane that we just don’t know about yet.

I was sitting on a (really very fascinating) zoom workshop yesterday, starring Chip Coleman – the nutritionist at Body Dynamics. (Too short a definition. Chip is a ballet dancer. He would say he WAS a ballet dancer because no one is paying him now to arabesque across a stage, although if you get him in just the right mood, he’ll whip out a move that will make your heart stop, it’s so pretty. Chip is also the personal trainer who’s teaming up with Barbara Gallagher Benson to pave my way to a healthy old age. Barbara focuses on global muscles; Chip on stabilizer muscles; and they talk to each other. I don’t stand a chance.)

Chip was telling us that the foods we ate would either boost or depress our natural immunity – a fairly critical matter in this COVID age.

I asked about stress eating. Of COURSE I asked about stress eating. I’m using the corona virus as an excuse to abandon every good nutritional habit Chip has ever managed to glue to my forehead.

His reply was EMINENTLY REASONABLE. Sugar will depress my immunity. Fresh foods and plenty of water will bolster gut health – and the gut manufactures roughly 70% of the immune system’s power tools. And, he said, I would feel better if I ate better.

Well, now I’m a European on the wing of my plane trying to flag down the passing Titanic.

I don’t feel better when I eat better. I don’t feel worse when I eat badly. I’M NOT GETTING THE SAME INPUT AS HE IS. And we’re just not measuring that correctly.

If I had more body-octane – if my body would respond clearly and measurably to the factors that influenced it – then perhaps I would be a former dancer, too.

But that’s not what happens.

If I diet, I gain weight. (In fact, I can no longer afford to diet; I’m just too fat.)

If I sleep on a steady schedule for fourteen days, I can blow it on the fifteenth without so much as a backwards glance.

If I refuse to exercise, I don’t feel itchy or twitchy. I feel pretty good. I settle my plump butt more comfortably in the cushions and make sure the iPad is plugged in for a marathon reading session.

The ONLY thing that’s keeping me going is the big old brain at the top of the spinal column – and any psychiatrist will tell you: Intellect is WAY weaker as a motivator than instinct. And really, really weaker than the knowledge that there’s ice cream in the freezer.

My point is… what was my point? Oh right:

I SEE YOU. I see you trying to do your best and never quite living up to your goals. I see you trying to eat right and having the cookies anyway. I see you planning on exercising but – well, maybe tomorrow. I see you, my sister or brother. I know. I’m with you. We’re Harrison Bergeron-ing our way through life, trying to be healthy with twenty-pound weights chained to our good intentions.

ONWARD, brave warrior. ONWARD. Keep paddling. We’ll get to Paris eventually!

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It was Bill Bryson who told me about American octane, in his awesome book “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” That’s a good book. You could read it if you were climbing the walls. Plug in the reader, settle your tail in the cushions. It’s a long one!