Category Archives: tl;db (Too Long; Don’t Bother)

General Update

Exercise:

Haven’t been posting about it since my shame receptor burned out, but going to the fitness club is now painless.  Helpful hint if I ever fall off again:

  • Change your SHIRT AND BRA AT WORK;
  • Change your PANTS AND SHOES AT GYM.

Changing clothes is my least favorite part of the process.  I hate flapping my tits at the gym (terrifyingly packed with coworkers) while I try to untangle my sports bra.  I hate changing pants and shoes at work, because our floors are not safe to touch and my ride is waiting while I fumble with keeping shoe soles from touching work clothes.  It works well to split them.  Takes less time at each end, lowers stress all the way around.

Still need to find a reliable distraction.  One session on the treads was wrecked by having more than half of the TVs showing the same revolting right-wing news show, with the other two TVs valiantly screeching about the same stressful crazy-time stuff from the “please don’t kill people without good cause” / AYFKM end of the spectrum, with the rest being two-teams-I-don’t-care-about-playing-football-poorly.  UGH.  But I can’t read when I am treadmilling it, I hate podcasts / being read to, and my music choices always, always fail when I make playlists in advance.

Diet:

Failing so far, not worried for now.  I have a plan that is ready to execute, but I also have a workplace happy hour tonight.

Work:

Unhappy hour.  We’re all ready to quit or burn the place down.  One reason for the happy hour tonight is to break in a new team member, see if we’re heading toward jelling, or heading toward disaster.  The person seems like a dim shipwreck but we’re desperate here.

Family:

Has been better.  LOTS better.  Home-prime is alienated for both of us.  My best friends are struggling with marriages and illnesses and newly emptied nests and new normals.  My own reason for being is having surgery next month.  My aunt is guilt-tripping me to visit her before she dies, and my baby sister, who is still in her 30s, not only had her breast cancer return, but found that it’s metastasizing.  That gut-ache is too much to talk about now, or here.

Mental Health:

Visualizing what I look like in a state of rich contentment is depressing.  Had a panic attack at work yesterday, leading me to skip the gym, go to the store, have junk food for dinner, and not do as I had intended and make a plan for mental health.  Hell is certain.

 

 

 

Advertisements

11/14/2017 – morning thoughts, late for work

Working out and paying attention to fitness is reminding me of my timelines:  relationship to food, others, self.

I was a skinny, happy kid.  I liked being fancy AND I was a total tomboy.  The nature of kidness for me was minimally gendered and all about fun.

When my grandfather started molesting me, I started gaining weight.  (Family photos show a sudden transformation from a laughing, long-haired sprite to a bulky, short-haired brick with a frown and tired eyes.)  I had already been discovering sexual feelings on my own, thank goodness for that, but I was also being heavily gendered and sexualized by an adult who bought me my first pair of heels and thigh-highs when I was nine years old.  We lived in the country. I had precious little human context, so whatever I saw from people seemed like what it all must be.

Moving around made me the new kid, not fat but chubby.  My first defense mechanism was brains — staying in at recess, reading books all the time, making friends with teachers and getting their approval.  I played sports for a while, but not well.  My second defense mechanism was humor.  At that age, it was a withering sarcasm, suitable as shield AND sword, a habit it took a long time to outgrow.

Junior high unpopularity waxed and waned.  I was borderline hysterical, going from a school an hour away (where my aunt was a guidance counselor, hissing at me between classes about letting her down, she bragged about me, the teachers aren’t seeing it, I’m a laughingstock and it’s All Your Fault!) to a home that was terrifying.  We were back living with my grandparents, and I was sleeping on a cot at the foot of my grandfather’s bed, tired all the time, scared to use or leave the bathroom or be alone with him, trying and failing to do my algebra homework, crying in the shower, getting chewed out by my mother and grandmother, thinking about the night time to come.

The summer before high school, I determined to be thin, funny, vivacious, blithely indifferent to anyone’s regard for me, and keenly aware of the effects I had on others.  There was no secret hope that this would make me popular; only that I would be loved by all. (I used to think that’s what popularity was; now I know better.)  I did it.

Skinny waxed and waned in college, but morale was sunk by my first boyfriend being a churl, and second boyfriend being a charming abuser with a scorching case of borderline personality disorder.  My looks were a comfort to me, as was the admiring attention of strangers.  I loved the interim times when I could just have anonymous encounters with strangers — relief, reassurance, gallantry on both sides, a pleasant memory, without strings or feels or fuckups. Occasionally running into “silent partners” in grocery stores or social situations, with nothing but a secret smile or open chuckle of acknowledgement, a grin to the host and inside joke with a fellow guest. My hat is off to you all; you did me more good than that one night!

Weight waxed and waned with depression in my first marriage, which was a mistake, but we did the best we could until giving up in 2000.  I didn’t get TRULY fat, EXTREMELY fat, until my current relationship — which started gloriously and turned scary for me, moving to a new town, struggling during the cementing phase of the relationship, fighting a lot, having no support or resources or career — but having access to a bottomless well of beer and quality Mexican food.

Wash, rinse, repeat until 2010-2011.  Relationship happy and smooth; grief from leaving my beloved and profitable first career behind as it was no longer either; beginning grad school.

It’s 2017.  I’ve finished grad school and associateship and am now licensed.  Still very happily married, but lots of personal stuff put to the side over the years…nearly 18 years now.  Enough time to grow up and get my shit together, I hope.  But what a colossal mucking out I need.  What an enormous debt to work down.  What austerity awaits me during what should be the prime of my life.  So much starting over.

But I did my best, did what I had to to survive.  I always said I’d pay for it later, and later seems to be now.

Quarterly Report: A Compression of Horrible Events

(Or: the Daughter, the Sister, the Aunts, and the Cousin)

Part One:  The Daughter

End of September, my honey gets a call from his hometown:  his second daughter (who stopped speaking to him years ago) is in the hospital.  She was visiting older daughter and had a scary-bad headache, which they diagnosed as a brain aneurysm (later modified to subarachnoid hemorrhage.)  They treated it with medication only (which was good) and kept her inpatient at a superior facility (which was good) but the hopes for recovery were very much not good.  She was unable to complete sentences or thoughts, had impaired motor control, etc., and then we heard nothing.  Older daughter was busy taking care of business, what with insurance and doctors and her sister’s ex in Arizona refusing to take their infant back.  Meanwhile her job, college courses, and care for the three young children she raises on her own made demands of their own.  Can we go home to help?  With what money, to do what?

Of course, her mother — her thieving, abusive, mentally ill, drug addicted, but very loving and codependent mother — was going to hop a flight and come take care of her daughter and her grandchild.  I hated to hear this, since she was the one who knowingly put this child in the hands of molesters and abusers; she was the one who kept this child out of school for years of her young life; she was the one who did meth with the child; she was the one who taught the girl how to be a criminal.  But daughter adores mother and needed her.  Naturally, my already acute frustration with a family that does not know what questions to ask doctors, and phrases things in the  most dramatic, catastrophizing, inaccurate ways (true to their Southern heritage) became staggering.  (Or maybe I’m an asshole for thinking it’s better to ask a doctor about a prognosis than it is to make wild statements about how She’s Going To Be A Vegetable Forever And Ever!)  Part of my frustration was stifled anger, of course.  I never keep things from my husband, and it took a force of will to keep my mouth shut, but his daughter’s condition is one almost always caused by trauma recent or remote — exactly the kinds of trauma she experienced in the care of Evil Mom, during their years off the grid and out of his reach.  The idea of Evil Mom showing up as nursing angel made my chest tight with rage.  But the news dried up.  We heard nothing.  Perhaps she did save the day.  Bless her if she did, right?

Then the “hearing nothing” phase turned into “mother never showed.”  Second daughter checked out AMA, went home to her local boyfriend, wrote a note, smiled and laughed, kissed him goodnight, and took all of her pills.  Back in the ER, back inpatient, heart breaking.  Idiot boyfriend didn’t catch on for a long time and then called sister instead of 911.  Second daughter, in a coma.  Good brain activity, but completely unresponsive.  Yours truly, furious that no social work / case management had occurred.  And again the news dried up.

After waiting patiently, we begged for more news.  Oh, she’s fine.  I think.  Constitution of a meat axe, that girl.  She woke up.  Evil Mom arrived, checked daughter out AMA (again), and took her back to their hometown in Arizona, meth capital of the west.  The end, no moral.

Part Two:  Intermission:  No Music, One Aunt

So this takes us to mid-late October, a brief respite before the horror show that was the US election.  It’s been covered extensively elsewhere.  I’ll spare you the sick stomach and heartache.  But November was also fraught for me and mine.  More health scares.  The loss of loved ones.  The loss of beloved pets.  Assaults at work.  The failure of a tax measure in my state that will deprive the elderly and the infirm of care and keep their basic needs unmet — not to mention making thousands of working families unemployed.  Brace yourself for homeless and unmedicated children, old people, veterans, mentally ill and developmentally disabled people.  With lots of pressure at work and the prospect of unemployment for me (and still no employment for my spouse), this started a process of negativity, fear, stress, and simply being in shock all the time — still the backdrop for my life, but a fresh hell that began here.

About this time, my mom’s cousin, a dear lady who means a lot to me, had a stroke and went into a nursing home.  She was one of those folks we grow in the northern states:  hardy, brisk, sweet, sarcastic, unemotional, hardworking, loyal, and with a robust joy and determined good nature that kept her ancestors afloat as prairie farmers.  She was a salon owner in the 80s and I owe a voting share of my first burst of confidence to her, for she lovingly cut, colored, and permed me into a state of social elevation.  She gifted me with Camaro Hair.  And now she is tearful, mute, and desperate, because incapacity is what we fear.  She won’t cooperate with PT, engage in activities, or talk to anyone but my mother.

And my mother, in the anti-therapeutic tradition of the northern US, chided her for being weak, chided her for not turning to Jesus with gratitude for her life, chided her for being afraid.  When I asked if anyone was treating her for depression, Mom got angrily defensive, and listed all the many people who showed up to tell her to “snap out of it.”  My pointing out that this is not an effective treatment for depression revealed that my mother believes therapy to be Satanic, that it makes things worse, that it is “the petting of the flesh” and not of God.  I knew she was that way about psychology and long-term, non-problem-focused therapy, but I had taken pains to explain that short-term, goal-oriented treatment is different.  I thought she got it.  Instead, I got an earful of why my new career is occult bullshit.  Not true, but it hurt to hear my mother say it to me, especially after her hearty endorsement of my career change, going back to school, and reshaping my life.

Part Three:  Aunt the Second and Sister the First

The backdrop for this battle:  my sister and mother drew a line in the sand with my local aunt.  This aunt was another saint to me from junior high through college, and the (adoptive) mother of my two cousins, boys who were like brothers to me.  The good son, whom she worships, went to West Point and Harvard, and is a published professor with a published-professor wife who started a foundation, writes books, and is a MacArthur Fellow (winner of the “genius grant”).  But Aunt’s local son worships her — even though he was always a bad boy, dropping out of school, getting arrested for DUIs, etc.  She kicked him out young and wished him luck with his alcohol abuse, but he was her shame, even though he eventually got married and got work and came running whenever she needed a job done.

This aunt has a long and mixed history with my sister.  Their relationship turned weird.  Auntie became domineering, demanding, and insulting; sister became passive, and very resentful of the domination, but did not say anything.  I am not a victim-blamer, but I also know that if you are dancing with someone who keeps stepping on your feet, and you don’t ever utter one goddamned peep, it is not appropriate to stew in silent resentment of this person who is treading on you.  If you feel too much is being asked, it is incumbent on you to say no.  If you feel overused or ill treated, it behooves you to speak up.  It is never okay to mistreat someone, but if you are going along with it, it’s not out of line to assume you just have a funky boundary dynamic that might mean you’re actually really close.

So my sister puts her foot down — but not about her own issues; instead, she insults the aunt by accusing her of worshiping her older son and “trying to force the rest of us to worship him too”.  Oh shit; shots fired.

Remember, this family is diehard backwoods Christian.  Idolatry is a horrible accusation.

Lots of drama, lots of she-said/she-said.  Aunt says, “you’re dead to me”.  Mom says, “if she’s dead, I’m dead.”  Sister huffs and puffs on her high mountain, wondering why her righteous accusation did not result in Aunt modifying her behavior and mending fences — after all, that’s what Sister herself does when Mom pulls that shit on her.  Isn’t that the way the world works?

Sister asks me to talk to Aunt about all this.  I say sure, but what do you want from it?  If you think she’s going to apologize, she’s not, and if you want to reconcile with your abuser (for things really went down that path eventually), I don’t know if that’s a great idea to me but it is up to you.  Sister beats around the bush, but intently.  “I just want her to know how much she’s hurt me, and she won’t talk to me so I can’t tell her myself.”  Okay, but what is the outcome you want?  Are you trying to punish her for hurting you?  Are you trying to demonstrate why her apology would help?  Are you hoping for reconciliation ? “I just want you to tell her.”

This aunt did not speak to me for years.  When Mom and Sister were fighting with Aunt, they used Good Cousin’s standing me up years ago as the example of Why You Shouldn’t Worship Him.  Of course Aunt came to his defense.  But she didn’t ask me for my side, and so she never knew that I didn’t give two hoots about being stood up after the first flush of anger.  Mad at the time?  Sure.  Grudgy?  Heck no.  So I was pissed that Mom and Sis used me as a tool against Aunt, and pissed at Aunt for not finding out from me how I felt.  But this whole non-issue was the excuse for their fight.

Part Four:  The Cousin

When I visited Home last spring, my local cousin pulled me into his truck and begged me to talk to his mom, my aunt, on the phone.  He dialed and held it to my ear.  She was stiff, but I wasn’t, and having some small talk warmed her up a little.  No frost in my tone.  I made some humorous self-deprecating remarks, and asked about good cousin’s family, and she was getting on a roll when she lost her nerve, had to go, bye now.  Cool.  And cousin was shaky with relief — he loves us all and hates for us to be fractured.  I said to his wife later, quietly:  if it weren’t for him, I think this family would just break apart.  She nodded vigorously and said, “Yes.  Yes.  I totally agree.”  Not happily.

Cut to December.  My local cousin was feeling crummy and went to his chiropractor  / naturopath for help.  His wife works for this dude, so they get a discount.  He did some kind of cleanse and had abdominal cramps that took him to the hospital.  They admitted him, drained more than a gallon of fluid from his abdomen, and told him to rest for a few weeks.  His construction job said they would take him back, but they needed the money — one in grammar school and one in diapers, which a part-time office worker can’t support.  But my cousin could not even drive due to confusion and pain.  Rehospitalizations occurred.

The family did not handle this well.  Cold, damp weather aggravates Mom’s rheumatoid, and she won’t take so much as an ibuprofen for it.  She becomes, for want of a better term, mean as catshit.  The pain is crazy-making and she can’t think well, but she is good at being mean and hard to avoid.  She and Aunt are back on speaking terms, but Mom keeps saying shitty, withering things — while Aunt goes into flights of fanciful hope, Mom deals with fear by being snotty and hard-hearted.  Sister goes into full judgment mode, unable to mention Cousin without referencing his addiction, and always in the most harsh and denigrating way, without an iota of compassion, and the joke is on you if you think her Christianity is tainted by any sincerity or kindness.  She is also unable to mention Aunt  without resentful, accusatory butthurt.  Any hint that a very sick person could at least be spoken of without reference to his always showing up at family gatherings with alcohol on his breath were met with the rapid and righteous chorus of “But It’s The TRUTH”, and a litany of why “I’m not going to pretend he’s not an alcoholic just to cater to your bleeding heart liberal bullshit.”

Called Aunt at first hospitalization.  I had been postponing this due to the unclear message from Sister on what she wanted from the conversation, but how often does my younger, stronger cousin go to hospital?  We talked for 45 minutes and it began in a fraught way, but Aunt can’t help but pepper her language with obscure references, and I can’t help but snort and answer back.  There was some of the sweet feeling when someone really gets your little ways and is right there with you.  And we ended by cheering each other up about Cousin, thinking about how soon he would feel better, and this might be what helps him to lasting change, and hey, why not hope?  It was a good call.

Afterward, I was busy thinking about how this could be a good groundwork for a LOT of family reconciliation — that if Aunt trusted me, I would not betray that trust, but I would try to push things back on the rails with her and Sis.  Naturally, this was more of my bleeding heart liberal bullshit.  Sister emailed the next day, cold and cryptic, asking for a good time to call.  Then there was some cold and cryptic questioning.  Apparently Aunt called Mom right away to say we had had such a great talk and “I’m glad at least ONE of your children gets my sense of humor!”  Sigh.

I said Yeah, and?  It was tactless, but that is the beginning of her acknowledging that there is a real gap between you, and there is.  It’s a start.  If you thought that she was going to call in abject humiliation to beg forgiveness, you know that’s not ever going to happen.  And if you thought that my conversation with her was going to be a call out of the blue to heap abuse on a mentally ill 75 year old woman whose younger child was just hospitalized, you know that’s not the way I would do things either.  This was just an opener.  What is the problem?

Sister’s tits were calmed a bit, but she said something that rocked me:  when Mom told her about the call from Auntie, Mom said, “She must have sold you out.”  The fact that my mother would assume that I would do that was a punch in the gut.  I have never and would never do that.  This changed the conversation. Sister didn’t back away from that (of course she didn’t; “But It’s The Truth”) but suggested I talk to Mom.  I said I would need to think about that for a while.

Because the fact is:  I never told my sister that the grandfather she adored, the man who raised her as a father, molested me when I was in grammar school and she was in the crib.  She found out later, and we have discussed it obliquely.  But we have the understanding that her experiences were different from mine, and we both had valid experiences for all they were so different.  I actually referenced this when I said I would talk to Aunt, because I know what it’s like to have no one on your side against a family member who has hurt you.  I said I would have to work up to it, and she accepted that, or at least accepted that she had to wait for me to find the right time.

Part Five:  Code, and Coda

I didn’t have the chance.  Cousin got worse and worse, in and out of the hospital, more and more fluid drained from his abdomen.  My sister did dwell on his alcoholism, but only once acknowledged that he got hepatitis when he was a teenager after being violently sexually assaulted in jail.  My cousin died in the hospital (where my grandmother, my mother, and I all worked) on the 30th of December, 2016.  He’ll get a post of his own.  But the aftermath is here and now.

His wife ploughed into action:  had him cremated, did all the death tasks, arranged for a memorial potluck at her boss’s church, officiated by her boss’s pastor, and attended by her family and the friends and coworkers of her and my cousin.  Mom is too crippled to attend — she couldn’t even see Cousin in the hospital.  Sister might not be welcome — she never got along with the wife.  I can’t go due to work and money and an ice storm.  Even his brother, the Good Cousin, already had a trip planned that he is is attending rather than changing — so even his own brother won’t be there.  And Aunt’s twin sister, like Mom, is crippled by arthritis.  She plans to send wife the money she would have used to travel.

I am just sad.  So fucking sad.  The last time we all came together was for Good Cousin’s wedding, twenty years ago, but we’re all staying home from Local Cousin’s memorial.  I admit that as much as I want cremation for myself, having no burial or interment makes the event uncentered for me; all of our people are in the same cemetery by the park where we used to swim.  I find it right and proper that his widow’s wants are everything right now, and she has arranged things to her taste.  I don’t believe she would be happy to see us, and might have a resentful thrill at our absence more than any hurt for her man.

But my poor Aunt will be alone among strangers at his funeral today.

My heart breaks for her.  But I will say it here, among silent friends:  her adoration of her older boy, with his genius, his talent, and his sweet good humor (now lost to pompous  amour-propre) excluded her younger son, with his raw physicality and disinterest in school.  He was the black sheep.  He spent years trying to gain her adoring regard for himself, and she let him do that with thanks but no love.  When his older brother, my Good Cousin, found the kin that gave him up for adoption, he changed his name to theirs and traveled to see them every year.  That’s fine.  He let Aunt come stay with his family for months every year to provide free childcare.  And she was thrilled to do it for her older son, much as her younger son would get out of bed in the middle of the night for her, and drive to her house from two towns over to do some minor errand  at her whim.

My local cousin never wanted to find the blood relatives who gave him up for adoption.  When the topic would come up, he would look at me with those black sea lion eyes and say, “This is my family, right here.”

My poor cousin.  Martyr to our family’s dysfunction. And his funeral today, the day after the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. And I endured her funeral apart from my family, babysitting Aunt, who was making crude jokes and and snide comments in my ear the whole time.  The grandmother I adored was the mother who used to beat her with a broom, and cursed her for a liar when she accused her uncle of raping her.  This same aunt took me in days after the funeral when I had an allergic reaction at Mom’s house and couldn’t breathe.  Mom paid for my urgent care visit and my inhaler, but viciously and persistently insisted that I hated her and hated home SO MUCH that it was giving me a panic attack.

Ladies and gentlemen:  my family.

(da capo)

My dream is that sometime in summertime, we can all come home to celebrate him.  The weather will warm the bones of the old ladies.  My good cousin and his wife will bring their kids to play where my cousins and I played, at the house my great-grandmother built, where my grandmother and mother and I have lived, and Mom lives still.  My aunt and sister will have had time to reconcile, if they are going to, and we can remember my cousin in his natural habitat — in the mountains, at the lake, in the grassy yard where we ran and wrestled.  His widow can come and bring his kids, but she knew a man we didn’t.  This will be for us, and the boy we knew, and the family we used to be.

226.6

I’ve been depressed for a while now. It didn’t seem like depression because it was a process, an extenuation and worsening of the negative side of normal. I would have caught it sooner, I think, if it hadn’t been for my inner Pollyanna and her relentless cheerleading. She works hard to keep me going, but part of her snappy patter is refusing to believe things are That Bad. Well, sometimes they are, and finding the upside of a crummy situation results in continuing the crummy situation rather than saying WHOA, this is fucked up, time to start changing things. It dovetails nicely with the Puritan farmer mentality I grew up with – but unfortunately, both of those are geared to help you ENDURE hard times rather than solve the problem. In short, it helps you put up with shit rather than fix it.

My attempts to get back on track have all failed. This is probably due to not addressing the cause of the problem. Pressuring myself to do better is just adding pressure if there is zero motivation for change. Add shame to the mix. Sometimes I would have a balanced moment and acknowledge that I wasn’t trying to change right now but that I recognized the need to take better care of myself. But most of the time, all I could do was chide myself and hate myself and concoct schemes to jump start my motivation. Unfortunately, false starts and dead ends and restarts get me down – way down. Failure might light a fire under some fannies, but not mine. It drains me of motivation and makes me hate myself more when I try and fail and try again and fail again, despite the well-known quote from Samuel Beckett, as seen in a thousand earnest tattoos.

Over the holidays it got worse – more food, more drink, more escapism. I got fatter, and that made me sad, even though I had applied myself so diligently to those activities that make me fat. After the new year, the depression didn’t get worse, but things happened that made me turn to my recently cultivated Bad Habits™ to cope. Alan Rickman died, David Bowie died. My favorite patient, the person I’ve worked with longest, died, as did another patient a few days later. These things did not help. One of my aunts is still dying, and that’s sad enough without factoring in the effects on her brother and childhood best friend, who happens to be my father. The three-year mark passed since my husband had a job. My own work stress accrued. A new boss started at my work, and the change stressed me. She seems very nice, but there are perhaps a dozen reasons why I can’t stand her. The capper: because I have Teacher’s Pet Syndrome, I need to please her and I can’t seem to, ever (only another Teacher’s Pet will understand how vexing this is.) And then there is the SCA. Stopped playing before Thanksgiving, so no breaks, no socializing, no dressing up, no letting off steam. It’s for the best, given the local crowd, but like work, it’s one more coping tool that’s not working for me, while food and beer and Netflix are.

And then there was the PMS. And the perimenopause. And the hideous problems that come from stuffing myself like a Strasbourg goose: constipation, skin breakouts, lower libido, snoring loud enough to wake the neighbors, hormone changes, headaches, poor sleep, and other effects from clogging my system with excess matter. I have been eating so much that it has overwhelmed my magical machine for processing and filtering and fueling and eliminating. Poor old wagon, overloaded, and trying so hard to keep me going.

My house is dirty. This says more than anything else. And I’m hairy: hairy pits, hairy legs, unpolished toes and fingernails. These are all signs, for those who know me. And Honey knows me better than anyone, but he accepts me wholly and without judgment. If I want hairy legs, he supports me in that. The problem is that I don’t – but I have zero motivation to shave. All I can do is lie here, hating myself, and occasionally wondering what that rustling-leaves sensation is between my calves when I walk. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I realized it was the fluffy leggings I grew myself. I have known gorgeous brunette girls with dark, straight body hair that looks sleek and strong and which lies flat against the legs. Mine is sparse and nearly invisible and sticks straight out every which way. My legs look downy, like a baby bald eagle’s. Now I can laugh, but there was great disappointment in myself when I realized that this was yet another one of the ten thousand things I was neglecting, wrecking, or half-assing.

Sunday was my iron wedding anniversary with my darling man, and this summer will mark 15 years together. All in all, this is delightful, although my pleasure was dampened severely by my feeling more and more certain that I am a worthless sack of shit as a human being. On Sunday I called home to talk to Mom — it had been longer than usual, maybe a lot longer — and after chatting a bit, I asked if she was feeling well because she sounded kind of croaky. Mom said that was a little bit of news: she was done fasting.

DONE FASTING!

Ten years ago January, my grandmother died, after a long and painful deterioration. Her birthday is coming up in a few days, and I always try to be extra supportive of Mom from Jan to March. When Grandma was dying, I had no idea what was happening. Long distance bills were still a thing and I was earning too little to call. And Mom was too busy to talk. She was working with Grandma’s husband in shifts to perform personal care during her final weeks. Round the clock feeding and cleaning and soothing and medicating, and the emotional attrition wore them both down, and out. They would have qualified for respite care if they had put her in a home, but they sacrificed their time and health and well-being to help Grandma die at home. This is everything to me, since I remember my Great-Grandma begging to die at home and her children not allowing it. I like to think they were hoping for a miracle, but she knew, and I am still horrified to think of her dying in a sterile ward instead of in the home she and her brothers built by hand just after World War I.

Mom, in the process of caring for Grandma, neglected herself; and having no time to prepare her own food, relied on nutritional supplements for all those skipped meals. Then Grandma died. Mom still couldn’t eat more than supplements, couldn’t sleep more than an hour at a time. Mom had to put Grandma’s house in order, make all the funeral arrangements, deal with the insurance and banking and paperwork and wills and deeds and titles and taxes. Weeks passed and still no solid food. I came for the funeral and stayed a month – but I had to retreat to my aunt’s house for part of the visit. I don’t know if it was dust or stress or pet dander or constantly being choked up, but I literally could not breathe. I had never had an asthma attack or shortness of breath and it was terrifying.

Mom took this personally and wanted to fight about it all the time. She accused me of everything from giving place to demons to hating her so much that I couldn’t stand to be around her. Every word hurt like hell, but I was too busy gasping for breath to fight or defend. In retrospect I feel it might have been Mom blaming herself for Grandma dying, Mom taking her grieving anger out on me, but I know my gasping scared her and my moving out wounded her and made her feel abandoned all over again. By the time I returned to my own home in February, Mom still hadn’t resumed eating food — she would drink coffee but nothing else hot. No solid food. No broth or real food liquefied, either. The Lord told her not to; the Lord told her to fast. The Lord told her to rely on nothing other than the little jars of nutritional supplements she had been living on since Christmas.

At one point, some months later, my sister called me outside of Mom’s hearing, to talk about the fights they had about it. There were even larger fights in following years. My sister and I spoke with a different aunt about an intervention, even calling the county to do a wellness check. It never came to pass. Eventually we just accepted it.

Last week Mom asked the Lord what to do about this cold that’s been plaguing her, and asked a peer to pray for her. Her throat was so bad that she couldn’t swallow her nutritional supplements and she was getting weaker. The peer told Mom out of the blue that God told her that Mom’s fast would be done when she could no longer drink “those things”, but she didn’t know what that meant. Mom did. She started with a little chicken soup and the next day she had a poached egg on toast. She said it was the most delicious thing she’d ever eaten.

Just writing this makes me weepy, and I was choked up on the phone. This didn’t last long, of course, because our joyful chatter turned into a bigger argument than we’ve had in months (catharsis?) and a period of banal conversation to normalize things afterward. I was still upset and stayed upset for many hours, taking refuge as I usually do, in eating too much, drinking too much, and planting ass firmly in cushion. I figured I felt terrible because of the argument, and the physical symptoms of my PMS. It didn’t occur to me to consider that I might be getting sick, too. But I was freezing and aching and my throat was sore, and my weeping was also mucky eyes. Not exactly typical for Hormone Hell Week.

Woke up at three a.m. drenched in sweat, but weirdly euphoric. I took a shower and tried to rally for work, but still felt another wave of miseries coming on and breaking over me. Between the continued symptoms (especially the fever) and the VERY short night, I felt justified in calling in. But despite the physical horridness, I still felt peaceful, even cheerful; as if a burden had been lifted. I felt free to make good choices because I actually wanted the better choice and wanted the better outcome for myself, rather than knowing the right answer and not wanting it but choosing right out of guilt or shame or “should”.

I felt like I wanted to take care of myself again, not because I had to (and *need* to — I have neglected myself for ages, really given up) but because I felt, deep in my bones, that I was worth caring for and doing maintenance on and even nurturing. I can’t tell you the last time I felt that way. And I didn’t feel hungry! Didn’t feel the desperate urge to go fill myself with food. I can’t tell you the last time I felt that way, either. For ages now, I’ve been an insatiable glutton, all binge and no purge. And it’s not that I don’t have a larder full of tasty treats. It’s just that I didn’t feel that anxious and urgent need to eat myself tranquil.

Other strange feelings: I wanted to take out my earrings. Three steel hoops in each ear, and I’ve not taken them out since having them pierced four years ago, almost to the day. I didn’t, but I keep feeling the urge. I would do it right now, but I don’t have a place to put them to keep them separate, keep them safe. (If I didn’t organize them properly, I’d never be able to put them back in due to screw direction and so forth. But once I find the wee bags, out they go.) One thing I did really want to do was cut my hair. So I took off over 12 inches of it. I weighed myself and have hit a record high that I recognize as needing to be addressed sometime, like remembering to take an old suit to the cleaners. I feel light as a feather.

The reason why Honey and I chose 3/20 as our wedding date was because it’s Nowruz, Persian New Year, as well as the first day of spring. Fresh start. I will celebrate any new year designated on the calendar and deeply feel that every day is a new opportunity to change. But this morning I didn’t wake up thinking I needed to change. I woke up feeling that I already had.

I am just doing what I feel supports the change. I don’t want that feeling to go away.

Spleenvent

One of my favorite patients died recently and I’m feeling raw. Lots of things are getting under my skin lately and I would rather vent them here than put a lot of hot sauce on my conversations with people I love. I’m sure I irritate the bejaysus out of them too, and I’m grateful that they don’t try to shame, shun, or change me – so by venting here, I’m returning the favor. Besides, this is a well-traveled road that I just need to revisit. Once I’ve stomped up and down a few times, and visited my Shrieking Tree, I will return, refreshed, to society.

Begone from me ye demons:

COWORKER:

The new cube-neighbor at work who keeps getting enraged by any critical comment I make about our government-agency employer. When I say something like, “It bothers me that I’ve been here nearly two years and I still don’t know who our safety officer is and haven’t had a fire drill,” she gets the bit in her teeth and is furious when she can’t change my mind. Badgering me with irrelevancies such as how they did it in her previous cube farm does not even address my problem, much less refute my complaint that training here is terrible. Even if she had the right answer, hearing it from a peer, at this late date, does not change my contempt for the lack of safety and orientation given new employees. Then my lack of change based on her input infuriates her. I don’t get fuffed but I don’t give in, and she digs herself a fit and falls into it. This has happened about once per week since she moved in and it’s exhausting.

WALLOWING:

Speaking of narcissistic rage, I’m FED fucking UP with people who wallow in ersatz righteous anger. They post things that are disgusting in order to feed their judgmental righteousness – and I am not talking about real-world news that should properly generate action or motivation to change. I am talking about made-up anecdotes about ancient disabled veterans being denied restaurant discounts by snotty managers who Never Even Served Their Country, LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU AGREE!!!! Or cute little kids who say the perfect thing to turn the tables on the evil librul teacher trying to force the THEORY of evolution on her innocent classmates. Or, god help me, the social justice warriors, who not only disgust the people they are trying to “protect”, but who give the right wing nutjobs an excuse to hate civil progress even more. At least the Left tries to rein in their idiots. The Right just keeps making their extremist idiots leaders.

SPEAKING LIKE A CHILD:

Also hateful: being told by a manager at work that my direct use of language is intimidating. I can’t be sorry for something I worked hard to achieve. Growing up with the passive-aggressive, self-effacing “Minnesota Nice” was crippling. I am diplomatic in my speech, and the content is not the problem – I asked for clarification on this. But because I no longer couch all my statements in passive corkscrew ways, because I don’t upholster my ideas in fluff such as, “well, I don’t know, I mean, maybe, but then again, and I could be wrong – well, I probably AM wrong, just tell me what you think – it seems that we might do a leeetle bit better by trying an ever-so-slightly different approach….” Apparently it’s not cool to say, “Hey, what do you guys think about X? Here’s why I think it might work.” Would she voice this complaint to a male worker? I just can’t picture it.

It also seems incredibly disrespectful of the audience.  It assumes that the person being communicated with has a childish ego, one so frail that any difference of opinion is painful, offensive, and a personal attack.  Unless any difference is couched as lovingly as a kiss, it’s intolerable.  Courtesy and tact are critical, but driving ten miles out of town so you can surprise someone by coming at things from a different direction assumes the  person is Joffrey Fucking Baratheon or that spoiled-witless prince from the Aerie.

AGAIN WITH THE SELFIES:

Another thing that’s getting under my skin: relentless self-promotion. I have no problem with giving oneself a pat on the back in public. Share those victories! I am not talking about celebration of things done. Run three miles?  Way to go!  Make some cookies? Go You! Lose a few pounds, get a raise, sell a painting?  Tell the world and let’s all cheer, hooray!  I love the folks who share, even trivial stuff, because it lets me feel in touch with their world — the highs, the lows, the creamy middles, the sacred and the mundane.

What irritates me is the endless – constant – chronic bragging from those who are a 24-hour channel called How Awesome I Am.  NB: these are not the folks who frequently post Hey I Did The Thing, which is looking for motivation and support and self-accountability.  It is not the same as the people who continually post and repost My Boobs, My Ass, My Nails, My Immaculate Coif, My Flawless Toilette.  As I have mentioned, I have some lovable friends that post so many selfies, especially of their derrieres, that I imagine the same results if you gave a camera to a baboon at the zoo. Hey! My Butt! Check It Out! My Butt! SOME BUTT, HUH! BUTT!BUTT!BUTT! Jesus, people. What would Freud say?  Also, I’ve seen your cooch more than your gynecologist, and we’re not even dating.  It’s not so interesting, perhaps, as you think.

MORE SHITTY COWORKERS:

The work performance of others is not my business or my problem.  I know this.  But when I see people come in an hour late, take a two hour lunch, fuck around on their devices and surf the web and do laps of the cubicles to schmooze and have loud, long, non-work phone calls…and leave early…after slapping out some work that is incomplete, incorrect, and filled with typos…it makes me homicidal. I just despise them, is all.  This shit would never fly in a non-public-sector job without major family connections to the owner, and then, hey, it’s their money!  Working for the government, however, means it’s MY money.  As a coworker I try to mind my own business, but as a taxpayer, I want to fire some of these lazy-assed bitches.

SINCE I’M RANTING:  LIKE, SHARE, REPOST!

Self-serving crap. Whether it’s religionists posting smugly about that terrible person who prayed for the tornado to move down the road (demanding God kill her neighbors instead, I guess) or the anti-theists posting rabidly about the Gospel of Barnabas PROVING that Christ was never crucified (using one piece of fanfic to disprove another, I guess), it’s all terrible. The sole purpose is to make an insecure person feel a little safer. For that reason, I suppose, I shouldn’t worry about it, but the things that we used to read about in the paper at lunch, tell our friends over drinks, and forget about the next day, now go on record and get passed to morons worldwide via the Web. Put something in writing (ahem) and it becomes a historical document.

LAST FOR NOW:  AWKWARD SOCIAL SITUATIONS

We have friends that we adore. We planned to stay with them next weekend. They just let us know they will be hosting a completely foul human at the same time. That person is much admired, has substantial social rank, and is much loved by many. That person, when we met, spoke at length in a way that denigrated the poor. Another person and I both mentioned that we grew up poor, and tried to temper the conversation in a different direction, but no dice; this person instead went on at length, adding bonus slurs to the exposition about Untermenschen.  I could not share my weekend with this person and backed out of the plans.  I suspect that my vague excuses will make me look like a churl, but I didn’t want to say, “You know the story.  Have a blast.  But I’m not going to break bread with someone who has referred to me as ‘trailer trash’.”

(For the record, anyone who thinks there is no difference between hard working, bill-paying farmers and shiftless, improvident sister-fornicators living in filth…simply because they both live in trailer homes and lack educational attainment…can’t see past her own resume.  Replace the praying farmers in Millet’s L’Angelus with screamers from Jerry Springer and you’ll get the picture.  That said, the chain-smoking wig-rippers are as human, and should be accorded the same respect as anyone else — but for all we’re equal, we’re not the same.  The respect I require for myself I would expect for all.)

(Next time:  On How To Cultivate Empathy For Privileged Idiots, And Why To Try.)