A Little Bit of Everything

First, let’s get some business out of the way. My domain name needs to be renewed, and it’s only $18. If you haven’t donated and enjoy this site, please do. If you don’t enjoy this site, donate anyway. I will be allowed to keep feeding your dislike. :P~~~ If every one of my readers dropped a dime in the box, I’d have at least a dollar. I think. Anyway, more than grateful if you can do it, not a problem if you can’t. Just putting the idea out into the universe. Paypal link is on my sidebar.

And now, on with the show.

I got to hold one of my three-week-old “nephews” I’ve adopted through chosen family, and I am not exaggerating when I say that my ovaries exploded. I absolutely cannot imagine having my own child, so it was very nice to borrow one for a few minutes. We sat on the couch as he alternated between sucking his bottle and falling asleep in my lap- the most perfect moment I’ve had in a long time. There is nothing that lifts the grief of my mother’s death better than watching a new baby come alive with personality. For instance, one twin finds it comforting to be swaddled. The other will kick off the blankets immediately. I am grateful that they are fraternal, because as they grow I’ll actually be able to tell them apart. Right now, I have to look very, very closely…. or, at least, I think they’re fraternal. I will have to ask. Right now, they’re so little that they look alike in the way that all babies do.

We had to cut off the water main to the house so we could take out a washing machine. Hopefully, it won’t take that long, because I’m supposed to FaceTime with my father and grandfather later. They really won’t care what I look like, but I do. There’s only so much I can do with my current haircut that doesn’t involve a lot of wax. My hairdresser thinks it looks cute. I’m not convinced. I’d show you a picture, but I really don’t want to. Theoretically, I could fix my hair with bottled water, but it’s in the refrigerator. That is a no dice situation right there.

The weather is beautiful, and I’d like to get outside. I’m having to weigh that against my allergies. I’ve taken Zyrtec, Sudafed PE, and Advil. Therefore, I am now allowed to complain. I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s a thing in my family:

Family Member 1: My ____ hurts.
Family Member 2: Have you taken anything for it?
FM1: No.
FM2: Has it kicked in yet?

I’m sure I’ll feel better a little later, but right now I’m waiting for everything to start working. It can’t happen soon enough. Regardless of whether I decide to take a walk, I have to venture out eventually to get groceries. Even that small time outside is a problem without Zyrtec on board. Spring can really hang me up the most. Once summer rolls around and most of my irritants have burned off, I’ll be fine. Now, everything is starting to bloom, and it’s not deadly, but it is truly annoying.

The only thing to which I’m allergic that will literally send me into systemic urticaria (full body hives/rash) and shortness of breath is sulfa drugs. When I was a kid, I had to spend an entire week in the hospital being pumped full of adrenaline, susprin (basically adrenaline extended release), and steroids. It was so much fun, and I looked attractive. It did save my life, though, so I got that goin’ for me.

Back to you, Bob. Let’s go to the phones.

I watched the president’s entire rant on Fox & Friends, and it was hysterical. He just went histrionic on every topic. Even the anchors looked like deer in headlights. This is because they couldn’t figure out how to get him off the phone. The best part was him going full tilt batshit crazy by saying that he’d made NBC a lot of money, so it wasn’t fair that they were now treating him badly. He also called basically every news organization fake news, for which the anchors at least had the decency to look uncomfortable and awkward.

You know, if every news outlet is “treating you badly,” at what point do you make the realization that you’re the common denominator? With Trump, my guess is never.

The other funny part was when he was ranting and raving over DOJ, and the anchors were all like, “Mr. President, it’s YOUR justice department.”

There was only one point at which I truly got angry. The rest of the time, I was just writing him off like Anderson Cooper, who said that he sounded like a crazy guy on a park bench. The anchors asked if the Republicans had done a bad job of representing the black community, and he said “it was a custom….” Then, he backpedaled and said that Lincoln was a Republican and he did the thing.

I assume he meant freeing the slaves, but he did not give any more details. I honestly believe he couldn’t, great history scholar that he is.

I’m actually starting to feel bad for the Republican party, because even when they try to reign him in, try to get him to keep his damn mouth shut, they fail miserably. If Democrats hate President Trump, I truly believe they hate him less than the people who have to work for him.

The problem with not picking an establishment candidate is that they often have no idea how anything in Washington works, and are dumbfounded once they get there. However, this president is not dumbfounded. He doesn’t know anything, and doesn’t seem to care.

I am mystified by all people like that… both people who think education is elitist, and the people who vote for candidates who believe it, too. I don’t understand not wanting the smartest people in the room to be in charge. If you ask me, and so far, no one has, the biggest problem in American politics is that the skills needed to campaign and the skills needed to be president are at complete odds. For instance, policy wonks like Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would have been great presidents, but they’re just not as capable with “show business.”

And that’s what campaigns have become, starting in 1960 with the first televised debates between Kennedy and Nixon. Now, believe me when I say that this is not a treatise on why Richard Nixon should have been elected that year. It’s just that one of the reasons President Kennedy beat him was that he looked like a movie star while Nixon sweat profusely and had to change shirts during commercials. Leaving politics out of it entirely, people are naturally going to vote for the candidate that’s poised and eloquent over the guy who consistently looks like death warmed over.

Much like I do right now, because I can’t take a shower or fix my hair…. and I’m about to be on camera, too.

Send help.

In Retrospect…

I’ve thought a lot about what I wrote yesterday, and having my mother die while I was trying to pull myself out of my own head was the best worst thing that could have happened. I got to see up close what it would have done to my family had I succeeded in my quest to get off the grid. I got to see the turmoil, the tears, & all of the absolute misery. I got to see how long it would have taken them to recover, if at all. Moreover, I wouldn’t wish anything I’ve felt on anyone else. It was learning everything I didn’t know I didn’t know.

There are some things that are impossible to experience until they happen. Thinking doesn’t prepare you for even a quarter of the ups and downs of grief. It doesn’t prepare you for either sleepless nights or, for better or for worse, dreaming. Sometimes I see my mother in her casket. At others, we are having the greatest time ever, in future fantasy or in past remembrance.

The first few days are just shock that strikes one dumb and deaf to the world around you… or perhaps it’s more dumb than deaf, because you can hear things, but you cannot comprehend or respond.

It is a delayed response. Everything you’ve heard builds up over time and you explode with the emotions seething under the anesthesia. Even people who are extraordinarily in touch with their emotions cannot possibly process all of it in the moment. And by “it,” I mean the most comforting things people around you have done, and the most stupid. But you can’t really get angry at people who say and do stupid things, because it’s never out of malice.

Very few people really know what to say, or worse, the people you thought would be there for you because you’re supposedly so close disappear, and the ones you never thought you’d hear from are johnny-on-the-spot. But you can’t get angry at that, either, because people tend to retreat out of fear. It takes bravery to confront the grieving…. to show up and say anything, even if it’s “wrong.”

In my own case, I didn’t really want anyone to say anything. I wanted silence and contact comfort. The behaviors I liked the most were friends simply saying, I’m sorry, and then just sitting there with me, an arm around my shoulder, and it being ok when companionable silence replaced conversation.

Everything about the situation was something I couldn’t explain, though through blogging, I tried. I did not have the capacity to reach out to people who would talk back. I only had the ability to write things out into the ether to try and capture how I felt so I could read it later. It didn’t matter to me if it made logical sense; I didn’t care what anyone else thought. Everything I felt about my mother’s death was my own story, and no one could tell it for me. I wrote even when I thought I couldn’t, because I believed in preserving that time in my life for posterity. I put in all of the crying jags, all of the private, angry, “fuck you” moments in my head because I couldn’t stand comments like “she’s in a better place.” Ummmm… I think her better place is with me. I had to bite my tongue through a shit ton of bad theology, and sometimes, still do. It’s also a horrible experience to handle pity. I feel sorry enough for myself without other people drawing attention to it.

I don’t feel sorry for anything in the past, because that’s useless. I feel sorry for everything I won’t get in the future. Actually, I take that back. The one thing I feel sorry about from my past is not being able to say goodbye…. like, what would I have said if I had known it would be our last conversation? Would I have said anything differently? I sort of doubt it. Black humor was never my mom’s thing, and it would have been my natural go-to. Although perhaps it would have become so, because what else can you do about knowing you’re dying but laugh? Sometimes the sadness is just too much. There has to be a release valve somewhere.

For me, that release valve was letting the Mento drop over the Diet Coke here, and for that, I am extremely grateful. Not only do I appreciate my own pensieve, I know this has gone far beyond me, reaching others who’ve lost their own parents. I know for certain that hearing how I navigated grief tapped into the way they did…. and nothing has ever been right or wrong…. just extraordinarily personal.

The one strange thing I’ve noticed in all my ruminations about what getting off the grid would have meant, I have never thought about what it would have been like to lose me. As an introverted writer, I am my own best friend, my own best company. Now I know that I would have lost someone close to me, too. I didn’t put that together until right this moment…. probably because I would have lost my best friend without even knowing it.

I wouldn’t even have thought to say goodbye.

On Death and Dying

So, in my last entry, I mentioned my friend Donna Schuurman. What I did not say is that she used to be the Executive Director for The Dougy Center, a place for kids to go when someone close to them dies, such as a parent or sibling. Donna is often called in when tragedies happen all over the world, because grieving children know no national boundaries. But this story is one that has to be told, because she was preaching at Bridgeport UCC when she told it, and I laughed so hard that I thought I was going to asphyxiate. Whenever I feel really, really down about my mother dying, I remember this illustration, and I feel 100% better.

I’m not sure if she still lives in the same house, but when I lived in Portland, her next door neighbor was a five-year-old boy named Jackson. Now, Jackson had a much beloved cat that unfortunately passed away, and his mother was not sure how much, at five, Jackson knew about death. So, she told Jackson that his cat had gone to be with God.

Without missing a beat, Jackson turned to his mother and said………

Wait for it………

What would God want with a dead cat?

Tolstoy Abridged

…she had learned from experience that Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty.

-Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

It is funny the lengths to which we will go, the things we will withstand, when we think we need something or someone… most likely someone. Things are an achievable goal. People are moving targets of emotion. In most relationships, but not all, there is some bit of lopsidedness to it. Not everyone finds that marriage, that friendship, that boss in which esteem and respect are equal to one another.

And yet we go on, trying to please and tolerating others’ behaviors as if they are normal in order to learn their particular brand of dysfunction. As Leo Tolstoy says in Anna Karenina, “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” No family is immune to it- to fit in, we adjust our expectations from the ways we were raised to the way they were… because equality is about compromise, and need is ingratiating ourselves, sublimating the parts of us that are completely different so “we’re on the same page.”

I didn’t learn this from my biological family. I learned it over years and years of emotional abuse. Early and often I changed my behavior so that I didn’t rock the boat, and walked on eggshells, afraid to be myself… because when I was, it was a signal to me that I wasn’t needed anymore. Agreement meant love; disagreement meant “I just don’t know what to do with you. I can’t win, so I’ll just leave.”

Appeasement was the name of the game, and we all do it, but some less than others. Take, for instance, your work phone voice and the voice you use when you’re just shooting the shit with your friends. If “the customer is always right,” sometimes that means swallowing words that need to be said and aren’t… mostly things like “you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Customer service is the only profession I know in which trying not to fake your own death so you don’t have to go to work is a daily struggle…. because people won’t unload on the others they’re mad at, but they have no problem treating the clerk at Target or the waiter at Jaleo like that. They think it’s impersonal, having no idea how deep their words cut… because hey, they’ll never see you again.

And that’s where they’re wrong. They need you. It’s not like they’re going to abandon going to Target or Jaleo, and they’ll see you again whether you want to see them or not. As soon as they walk in the door, you remember their “kick the dog” syndrome and try desperately to find someone else to help them.

But sometimes you’re stuck, and it’s a crapshoot as to whether they’ll remember and apologize.

This same behavior happens in relationships. We’re mad about something else, and unload on the people we love the most, because we know their softest spots. Unsurprisingly, they also retreat, and if the words cut deeply enough, and apology isn’t necessary, because they won’t hear it, anyway.

Because sometimes the emotional abuse is given, rather than received… especially if that’s what’s been modeled for you long enough. Others tiptoe around you, so that you don’t pick up your toys and go home… the exact scenario you were trying to avoid with someone else. You watch as they change their behavior around you, rarely self-aware enough to know they’re doing it, because you’re doing the same thing… your own egocentricity in the way… both saying to each other “please don’t leave me. I am broken and I know it, I just don’t know how to fix it.” Just not with words.

But that’s what happens with fully-functioning adults. As a child and an adult in any kind of relationship, the balance of power is off to an enormous degree… and any perceived anger is all their fault. There is nothing within them that says “this person is treating me unfairly and I need to stand up for myself.” This is because when the child tries to stand up for themselves, it leads to witholding of affection and long, drawn-out silences in which the child takes on the “I have to fix everything” mentality. Instead of another adult compromising themselves into your crazy as you adopt theirs, children cannot begin to comprehend what they’ve done wrong.

And often, this is the root of the problem with adults who also think that every slight is their fault. You don’t get away from it, there’s no relief until you can take back your own power… and it never, ever happens in an instant. It is a lifelong process of examining why you think the way you think, because even when you think you’ve made progress, you’ll fall back into old patterns because they are so ingrained. It is a lifetime of two steps forward, and between one and four steps back. Just like one is never cured of addiction, one is never cured of codependency.

Adulthood modeled badly for children leads to future adults that cannot trust their own intuition, often relying on other people they perceive as just as damaged as they are because they know they can take a healthy person and destroy them. Sometimes it’s a good thing to share experiences, as my friend Donna calls “compatible wounds.” At others, it’s one awful pattern feeding the other with no end in sight, because neither one is aware of just how much they’re doing to excoriate good memories.

The eternal rub, the thing that makes both of you bleed, is that when you’re saying awful words to each other, it’s really just a cover-up as to how you feel about yourself. If you think you’re worthless, that’s how you’ll treat others. You don’t really think that about the other person, you’re expressing your own disgust at yourself, and it comes across as rage and anxiety… words coming out of your mouth before you even have a chance to connect consequences. If someone has treated you that way, why would you? It’s “what you’re supposed to do” in an argument. For two people abused as children, these are fights that are designed to cut both people off at the knees, mutually assured destruction in which both parties have trouble standing back up.

The craziness continues because you’re so afraid of getting “crazy spatter” on healthy people… or at least, the people we view as such… not really taking in that everyone is fighting a battle of some sort. These days, I tend to believe that there are no healthy people, only healthy actions… and, as Elizabeth Gilbert says, “I don’t know of any story of self-enlightenment that doesn’t begin with getting tired of your own bullshit.” I had to decide to get healthy. I had to decide it was time to, in the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, “put away childish things.” However, just like deciding to come out as GLBT, you don’t do it once… you do it every day. I can’t just decide once. I will die having to make these decisions.

If Need accommodates cruelty, it is a choice to step away from it…. not once, but each and every day. I would amend that statement to say that Need only accommodates cruelty when it is based in lopsided affection, when you think you need something not meant for you. Healthy need is interdependence, not wishing and hoping someone will finally realize what you have to offer… because pro tip… they won’t. Users that make it impossible to please them will only move on to someone else when they realize they can’t get adoration from you anymore. They’ll just lovebomb someone else until they’re so wrapped up in the lovebombing that they can’t understand why it would go away, and what they did to deserve it.

“Putting away childish things” is the realization that you know exactly what you did. You took those childhood behaviors and carried them into adulthood, where they no longer serve you… but again, it’s not a realization that happens once, but every time you interact with others. You have to ask yourself if you are really happy and healthy, or in the company of others, whether everyone is just unhappy in their own way. You have to stand up and say………….

I’m not going to get into the ring with Tolstoy. – Ernest Hemingway