Pushing Me Out of the Way

I am starting to find out, between all my writing and reflection, that I am my biggest obstacle, and I don’t know how to get me out of the way. I have ADD without hyperactivity, and it is constantly plaguing me at work. I don’t fall short with big picture details… it’s only when something so small needs to happen that it runs under my attention and hides just beyond my reach.

It’s a huge deal to me, because I cannot think of one single thing I’m doing wrong, because this problem is not new. It has plagued me since elementary school. I know within myself that if I could think of a solution, it would be implemented by now. I’ve read Driven to Distraction, and like one of the case studies in the book, I know I’d be late to the psychiatrist’s appointment to talk about my ADD as well.

I’m at the end of my rope, and it doesn’t matter whether I’m late to the psychiatrist’s office or not. It’s either get this taken care of now, or let it continue to plague me until I’m dead. Those emotions create so much fear in me that something has to give. I cannot live my life this way anymore.

There are all kinds of psychiatry that would help me, most notably cognitive and behavioral therapy to implement habits. Creating habits, for me, is just as hard and stressful as higher mathematics. I can deal with infinities as well as I deal with finding my keys/phone/bag every damn morning, which is to say, not well.

I go completely inside myself, gathering my strength, because some days feel like battling my own mind just to get it together. I’m awfully hard on myself, which is why when life gets difficult because of my disease I tend to spiral into self-fulfilling prophesies of failure.

Talking to Dana helps, because she suffers with the same disease. However, she is much more consistent than I am about having coping mechanisms and using them. I’m often jealous that she is so much more put together than I am, but then again, because she’s not working right now, she doesn’t have as much on her plate to handle as I do in a given day. I am sure that if she were working, I would see more of her struggle than I do right now. In my darkest moments, I realize that I rely on her organizational skills way too much. Her nickname even reflects this- she is my “Danabase.”

I am putting these words down on paper to have something tangible to hold myself accountable to my words. I said I need help, now I need to get it… else this will be another detail I let fall through the cracks, and it’s the one thing that will heal the cracks from happening in the first place.

Reminiscence

I’ve had just enough time away from the events of the summer that my body and mind are starting to relax. When I think about how tightly wound I was, I can’t help but wonder why my response was so vehement. The thing is, though, I’m not in that place anymore. I don’t understand me the way I did in the moment. I only have lenses that provide me with a window of past insight.

As far as I can tell, it has been a process of learning to self-soothe my way into wholeness and the acceptance of who I really am… and how that person is different than the person I thought I was.

In a way, it seems childish to define myself by another person’s actions. That’s not what adults are supposed to do (even though we do it a lot)… or at least, that’s what it looks like from this far away. In the middle of it, I was re-living everything I’d been taught as a child, unable to “age it up” because it didn’t fit me anymore.

I also had to learn that it was okay to tell, ok to release, ok to stop taking her story at face value without allowing myself any input. Up until last summer, I really had this feeling that what she said was gospel, and I didn’t get to help write it. After almost a quarter century of feeling bound and gagged, it was time to stop trying to save her and start trying to save myself.

The best news I’ve gotten in a long time is that it worked… but that doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I rethink things and wondered if I could have handled it any better. The reality is that it’s wasted time, and I try to catch myself in the act so that I can consciously move to a different topic.

But, of course, that only works for so long, and then I have to think about it or it will keep popping up. That’s another thing I’ve learned. Stuffing things down doesn’t work, because it will come back up, either as an emotional well of grief or pychosomatic illness… and by that, I do not mean that the symptoms aren’t real, just that they’re brought upon by stress.

For me, that stress came from knowing things about my family that only family members know… but others have gotten a taste of it over the years… or at least, enough to know that my story is valid. Anger and fear boiled over when I realized that the situation wouldn’t change just because I wanted it to. The situation didn’t change when I presented my side of the story. The situation didn’t change when I made it clear that I wasn’t dealing with my own childhood issues, but the ones created for me by someone else.

Adults have so much power when you’re a kid… often much more than even they know. In this case, I don’t think that she can plead ignorance. She would always refer to how lopsided our affection was, but there was no recognition that as the adult, she set it up that way. I just didn’t have that kind of power.

The blessing this year was seeing that I had gained it.

Saturday Night

On Saturday nights, I work alone. I have an impossibly large caseload, but so much time on my hands that I’m already way ahead of the game. No one expects me to finish the whole thing, but it wouldn’t be a bad feeling if I did. When no one else is here, I can get an impossible amount done. At the same time, though, it’s Saturday night and I’m here while my friends are either out partying or getting together at someone’s house. If I was home, it would be mine. Alas, I am not.

I deal with this by calling the morning I get home “my party.” I invite Dana as if it were a real thing. If she’s asleep, I watch a movie, and when she wakes up, I say things like, “we enjoyed it. Too bad you weren’t here.” And then she says that she’s always fashionably late to a party and I laugh to myself that even when the party is held in our living room, Dana doesn’t show up on time.

What she lacks in promptness, she makes up for in enthusiasm. Dana is the best guest I could have chosen if I was going to throw a party every day. We are just hilarious, and it makes me happy that we can laugh at each other instead of zoning out to TV. You all are welcome to come to my party, but I don’t generally send out invites because very few people want to drink a beer in the backyard when the sun is barely up… especially on a Thursday or Friday, my days off.

Fortunately, that may change soon. I don’t know exactly when or what shift I’ll be on, but it might be good to have a day schedule again. It’s a catch-22, because I like actually working at night when there’s less going on, but at the same time, it wreaks havoc on my personal life. I don’t know what I want, so I think I’ll just take what they give me. I don’t have that much seniority, anyway. :)

 

Relearning How to Live

Mike: I like your hair that way. It looks like you just rolled out of bed.
Me:

The hardest part of working nights is knowing what time to do things so that your brain remembers how to live. When you work days, there is a certain rhythm. Working nights is recreating that rhythm when you have to figure it out on your own. I do things like forget to take medication or forget to shower because I haven’t ordered my day the right way. I am sure that showering is a priority, but did I take a shower “this morning,” or perhaps “last night?” When I wake up, it’s not even “tomorrow” yet.

I am fairly certain that I don’t have much longer on this shift, which makes me excited and reticent all at the same time.

Nights have their own pace, their own topics of conversation, and the pleasure of knowing that we’re not like everyone else. For starters, everyone just expects you to be tired. What they don’t know is that we’re not tired. We’re beyond tired. We drink more caffeine than you can possibly imagine and by the end of the shift, the caffeine isn’t even working anymore. We’re running on the fumes of adrenaline present right up until they’re not. It’s an exact moment, one in which all of the energy in your body exits like the plane is diving toward the scene of the crash. I was at my dad’s a couple of months ago and in the middle of dinner, all the blood ran out of my face and I said, “I have to go home.” It was instantly like, “yeah… get her out of here… she’s goin’ down.”

It’s happened to me multiple times. Sorry I fell asleep at your birthday party, Stacy. For those of you keeping score, that was when I fell asleep at the Indian restaurant. We’re going to a Mexican restaurant on Thursday. I’m thinking about loading up on chiles and jalapenos to give me a fighting chance. If my mouth is burning, it is less likely that Dana will have to carry me home fireman-style.

Resurrection

It’s a hard day for my old church community in Portland. Eight years ago today, we lost Ellie and Quinn, infant twins of members that had been at Bridgeport since the beginning. Their parents’ loss was incredible, but there was a sense that we all lost them, and we did. It was a moment that shook everyone, and we all reacted differently to the same type of stress.

When I opened Spotify today, Bach’s Mass in H Mol was on my recommendations page. I turned it on, and as the Kyrie started, I saw a picture of the girls in my Facebook news feed. I didn’t mean to celebrate their lives in this way, but it made the picture all the more poignant.

My mind instantly went to my abuser, because it’s on days like this that her absence is viscerally noticeable. After the girls’ funeral, I got a letter from her saying that she didn’t want to miss the possibility of us- not in a romantic way, just in an “I think of you as my family” sort of way. It hit me like a ton of bricks, because so much relief and gratitude flowed from me.

It was one of the great letters of my life, because it described in detail what it was like to attend such a service, including small details like the smell of the grass, and what people wore- it was near Easter, after all. She set the scene for me, and her writing was so painful and real that it made me realize how our connection had stayed so strong, despite not always being in the same city; her writing speaks to me in a way that breaks my soul into little pieces, but not in a bad way. It’s just that when she cracks my outer shell, it lets the light shine through. In some ways, she’s a better writer than I am, but I will never admit it. ;)

The brass are magnificent as the Mass plays on, from the Et Resurrexit to the Sanctus. It brings me peace, as if the brass are the heralds of great joy. That’s because in the story of Quinn and Ellie’s loss, there is so much resurrection. Beginning again was a superhuman feat in which we all passed from grief into once again experiencing joy. We had to give ourselves permission.

Just like I had to give myself permission to write down this memory, because the letter and the twins are inexplicably interrelated in my mind. I can’t think of one without the other… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Walking away from creating bad memories and focusing on the good ones is what resurrected me.

Too Much of Me

It’s 5:30 AM, and the house is quiet- except for Dana’s occasional toss, turn, or snore. I am trying to decide what I want to do next, because I have to keep myself busy until the appropriate time for me to go to bed. Lately, I’ve found that it keeps my schedule sane if I sleep right up until I have to get to work, because that’s what you do in the morning. I wind down between noon and 1:00 PM, and wake up somewhere between 8:00-10:00. It’s not the best schedule I’ve ever had, but I am more used to it than when I started. Apparently, flipping my schedule around so that I’m up all night is more me than I thought previously. However, it does feed my dark side, and I’ve had to become conscious of it.

For instance, I feel like I’m a lot more snappish, because the rest I’m getting is not as deep. I am a lot more isolated, because the only people I see regularly are my coworkers and Dana. I am not available when the rest of my friends are, and when I make allowances to be available to them, I am either exhausted at work or fall asleep in front of God and everybody. So far, I have fallen asleep at a night club and at an Indian restaurant. It’s okay, though. People just assume I’m drunk and that someone will eventually take me home.

It is good that I have an online life in which I create content for the web rather than consume it. There hasn’t been a better outlet than writing during this graveyard shift because it’s something I do where I do not need or want interaction with other people. I do not have to carve out alone time to create this web site. I have built-in swaths of time where I don’t have to ask anyone to leave me alone so I can spend time in my head (with my head?).

My writing is becoming more important to me after having to put it away for a while. Writing about my childhood took a lot out of me, and it gave me some fear about blogging… but not for the reasons you might think. Blogging has a singular subject, which is you, the author. Many people write professional blogs, but that’s not how the medium started. The medium started with the idea that all our stories matter, and we should have a place to put them.

The struggle for me is not dealing with others emotions when they read what I’ve written. It’s gathering the strength to get my words out of me in the first place. I have a separation regarding what I write and what you read, because I know so well what I’ve written and what it cost me that anything you say in reaction is not going to have a tenth of the emotion that I had myself before I hit “post.”

I don’t shut down posting when I’ve had too much of you. I shut down posting when I’ve had too much of me.

Does that ever happen to you? I get lost in my own version of myself when I’m processing, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am exhausting. If I had me as a friend, my role would be the one to tell me to shut up and enjoy the moment.

Not blogging is shutting up and enjoying the moment. I have to take a break between digging really deep into the past and preparing for my future. I tend to write about things that happened a long time ago for two reasons.

The first is that I am of the age where knowing how you got hurt way back when gives you better strategy for dealing with emotions right here and now. The second is that I have to have some distance from a memory before I can describe it in detail. The present goes by so fast that I cannot live it and reflect on it simultaneously… although I did like Dmetri Martin’s joke about liking digital cameras because it makes it possible to reminisce immediately.

My blog is always going to be months and years behind what is currently happening, which is the best reason I know to get together in person…

Until I fall asleep.

Better Fool. Better.

I’m starting to lean in to the excitement of being.

Years ago, Oprah did a talk show on education, and a mother stood up to ask a question. She said, “how can I get my young black son to stay in school?” Oprah didn’t flinch. She said to tell him that the price had been paid for him to get an education and he should take that crown and Put. It. On. I was literally struck dumb with emotion. She was right. So many people died for him to have that opportunity. What was the point in wasting it?

I remembered the story because I’ve been sitting in the back yard alone, thinking about the kind of human I want to be. I have had such a hard time and so many people around me have sacrificed to help me get better… particularly Dana, without whom my stars would never align. What am I going to do with my life now that they’ve done it? How do I prove to myself that their efforts were not wasted, and neither is my time on this planet?

Jason Moran and the Bandwagon is playing in my headphones while Dana and the cats are snuggled up in bed. I’m trying to keep my schedule flipped around so that I don’t have such a hard time staying up on Saturday. Because of this, I’m in a contemplative mood, and jazz is the perfect fit.

I spent the first part of my night reading standard operating procedures for work, because I was in this total mood to beautify everything. Earlier, I realized that the house looked a little too lived in and scrubbed down the kitchen until it shone. That lead to wanting to continue being a rock star at work… beautifying my soul, because my confidence about what I read put me in a fantastic mood.

Now that I feel good, I want more of it.

Action begets action, and I want to do everything I can to move myself forward. The trick is not taking on too much at once, because I don’t want all the plates I have spinning to break. I’m measuring my expansion to avoid hostile takeover as Jason flips to a minor key.

It’s a chord that gives me pause. My mind flips to my insecurities, and I realize that I don’t want to go there. I want to figure out how to re-frame pain into warmth and openness. Everything that I’ve thought of as contrived about life is morphing into the way things actually are. Life really is that beautiful, but you have to look for it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. See? It sounds like a Hallmark card. It sounds like something somebody else would say while I sit behind them and laugh.

I laugh because sometimes I feel that platitudes are sound bites for emotions never meant to be boxed in the first place. Lately, I’ve realized that the limitation is not in the emotions themselves, but the difficulty of describing them to someone else. The English language feels inadequate in moments where the experience is just too big to digest verbally.

To go back to my entry from yesterday, the biggest way I’ve changed is that letting go of my abuser erased the tape in my head so that I stopped looking for approval from it. She can’t parent me inside my own head. Wow, that sounds creepy to say out loud, but that doesn’t make it untrue. My abuser wanted me to come to this realization and didn’t realize the role she was playing in order to keep it from happening. I could not process the enormity of loss and care what she thought at the same time.

I also know that I have come to this realization several times before, have broken this pattern, and she thinks that we can be friends again, but she doesn’t change her behavior at all, and the cycle repeats itself. Until she can allow herself to be vulnerable with me, I will react to her the same way, because the expectation of me is that we can just push all this unpleasantness under the rug and go on behaving the way we always have. It ruins me from the inside out, and I just don’t have the energy anymore. I can’t think of it in terms of all the years I didn’t make the connection that I was exhausted. I have to think of it as “how do I fill my life with relationships that don’t exhaust me?”

The two relationships that always give back are Dana and work, so I have thrown myself into both. Paying more attention to both. Learning more, faster than I ever have. Racing toward my destiny…

…whatever that is.