April 20, 2018

pull the other one, it's got bells on

You know that thick silence and stillness and increase in static electricity that comes right before a powerful thunderstorm hits and knocks down three of your trees and scares the shit out of your dogs?  That's how I feel right now.

Somethin' ain't right here.

Lille's preoccupation with her object has gone from a nine to a two.  It's been that way since last Friday.  This never normalizes this quickly.  At no point in my life has that happened, not for the genuine article.  My record is roughly two months.

What I have done differently is, I've been successful at avoiding well-worn triggers like checking e-mail every forty-two seconds, contacting the person based on impulse instead of a legit, organic flow, and intentionally engaging in attention fantasy, preferring the idea of the person, which Lille can manipulate as she pleases, to the real person.  I prefer the real one this time.  Maybe I'm getting time off for good behavior?

If this is genuinely done and dusted, then I don't think the credit is due me.  The person's understanding and accommodation have been nothing short of prodigious.  That's a new variable in the equation.  A well-pitched curve ball.

But I still don't trust the change in me.  For the past week, I've been stuffing my mouth with whatever is at hand, sweet or crunchy or bread-y or even marginally edible.  Salad isn't in it.  I really do think my brain has swapped addictions and is capable of swapping them back for its own undisclosed purposes, probably with a vengeance, just as soon as I choose to get the eating under control, which must happen and happen quickly.

Case in point:  The person and I were supposed to have coffee together yesterday.  Not only was I not thinking about this every single moment with angst and anticipation (the way I did the first time we met for coffee), instead perceiving it merely as a pleasant thing to look forward to later in the week ... which is absolutely not normal at all and makes me raise an eyebrow at the food thing ... but we also had to cancel at the last minute, for some good reasons, and instead of being devastated and Lille feeling all rejected and abandoned and gasping for air, I was actually an adult about it, with normal feelings of mild disappointment, understanding, and the ability to forget about it fairly easily.  There will be another one and I feel patient.

That's the point.  No one, in even the most far-fetched of circumstances, has ever accused me of being patient about a thing.  I fear my brain is trying to trick me.  I keep holding my hand to my forehead, peering into the distance, looking for the storm clouds.  I'm due.  I have to pay.  I always pay.

I don't know what to make of this.  The preoccupation feels like it's transitioned to a healthy friendship, the best of all possible worlds, and I'm thinking that's a Halloween costume, except that it's April.  Gratitude wants to burst forth, and fondness, and eagerness to know and be known, but they're held back by suspicion.

It's too risky to hope for the reprieve.  *smacks table*  I call bullshit.  Pull the other one.

April 19, 2018

stuff it

Cocoa sniffs using a glue spot.
When I was ten and eleven, I had a black Pound Puppy named Cocoa (a sure sign of my future predilection for very dark chocolate) that I slept with every night, held so tightly for so many years that his nose came unglued and his plush was piled.  I still have him.

Some nights, when I was trying to fall asleep and had exhausted the fantasies about my Teacher, I went through a phase wherein I would fantasize instead that Cocoa was running away from [fill in random pursuing menace] and accidentally ran right to me, and was terrified of me as well as [same random pursuing menace], but decided to trust me, and I banished [still the same random pursuing menace] and earned his enduring trust and affection and he decided to be my pet and I loved him unconditionally and comforted him and spoke soothing words.

The anthropomorphism pales next to the blatant manifestation of childlike need-meeting.  I was a bit old for that, but apparently not so old that the basic need to be trusted couldn't come through play.

Cocoa came with me on my honeymoon.  Don't fuck with my stuffed animal.

But he has been shelved for years, replaced eventually by my son's stuffed Build-A-Bear monkey, named Monkey.  (I don't know why we thought we'd be stifling his creativity by not going along with the name he gave it, as clearly there was not any.)  The making of Monkey at the Build-A-Bear store at the mall was a torment.  The workers dumbed things down to the level of their young customers (approve), asking them to make a magic wish and close their eyes and jump up and down three times to make the animal come to life, but then expected the parents to play along as well and do those things (drop dead into licks of flame, lady).  I was never so happy to give somebody at a cash register some money to make it all stop.

Monkey has always been well-loved.  But once my son moved on to seals, Monkey was up for grabs, and he became mine.  I still sleep with him.  He's never had to run away from [yet another random pursuing menace] into my arms, because he knows he's always been well-loved.  And anyway, um, it's for good sleep posture, since I'm a side-sleeper.  That's the only reason.  I swear it.


Sometimes P.J. poses Monkey in various yoga-type positions for me to find when I come home from work.  She has nothing to say on the subject of my sleeping with Monkey, because she has a head-sheep named Lambchop that she uses for shutting out light and sound.  She is going to murder me in my sleep tonight for making this disclosure.  I hope Monkey doesn't see it happen.  He will be scarred for the rest of his life.  So much blood.

April 18, 2018

sweet sorrow

It's been about a year since our friends-who-were-family departed our lives.

I still wrestle with how much of the falling out and parting of ways was my fault (the attempt and the first catastrophic hypomanic episode and making a big deal out of everything), and how much was their fault (being burned out but not having the courage to say as much, which was the repetition of a pattern they have long experienced), and how much was just the Universe being its dependable self and pushing things through their natural progression.  Things have life spans.  Friendships have to live and breathe, and sometimes they are born, live good, long lives, and then die.  This is not always true, but the enduring ones are exceedingly rare, I would guess.

I always say that people are like chemistry class.  If you take any two people and put them into a beaker together, you might get salt or it might turn purple or it might explode.  You never know.

Our friendship lived a good, long life.  They were brother and sister to us, and still it feels like we are estranged from family rather than bumped forward in life with them in the past.  There is always a tug toward them, and then comes the memory of all that was said and done, all that happened, all that is immutable, and we sigh and think about other things, and let it be.

Thus it was a sweetness tinged with sorrow when I got a Facebook message from their daughter earlier this week.  She's the same age as my son, and he lost a friend when we lost ours.  She reached out to me with her own account, just to say hello and that she's "still awkward" and that it's been a while.  She shared a picture she had drawn (one hell of an artist, that young woman) and said she's coming to the same high school as my son next year.

Joy and dread.  Sweet sorrow.  What if we run into them at an open house or an event?  Fear.  Hope.  Terror of confrontation.  Fulfillment of dreams where I run into them somewhere in public and all gets healed.  Reality of looking around when I pick up an order in a restaurant that we used to frequent together on Friday nights.  We live in the same town.  I'm always looking over my shoulder.  Hoping.  Fearing.

There were good reasons for parting ways.  A lot of good reasons.  But love does not die after living and breathing, and we overlook a good many faults in our brothers and sisters.  In our friends-who-were-family.  I do not know what the future holds.

I do know I loved hearing from our niece.  A precious thread not cut.

April 17, 2018

being 'that person'

I retrieved my son from driver's ed last night.  We've been rewarding him with frequent fast food in exchange for having to go to school three extra hours each day for two weeks.  This is not in his best interest, but it's damned convenient and short-lived and keeps him from whining (mostly).

Maybe it was all that waiting, or maybe it was the semi-rancid coffee, but yesterday evening, I was in an odd mood, a house blend of bold and indifferent to others' opinions and sanctimonious and irritable, tinged with upright citizenship.  Fits my hypomania.

Is there anything more fun than making your teenager squirm?

As we were leaving his school, we read the sign out front:  "Congradulations [Random Academic] Team - 1st Place State Championship!"  The "d" screamed at me.

Me:  "You have got to be fucking joking.  This is out by the road.  It's, like, everybody driving by knows the best high school in the county can't be arsed to proofread its own marquee.  I'm e-mailing the principal as soon as we get home."

Him:  "Oh my god, no.  Don't.  Seriously.  Don't."

Me:  "It's not like our last names are the same.  He won't know."

Him:  "He will.  He knows.  You always write him about stuff.  We're associated.  He knows me because of you.  Do you know how mortifying it is when you're walking down the hall and the principal walks by and singles you out and says hey?"

Me:  "So what?  He cares.  He'll come out here tonight in his truck, you just wait."

Him:  "Jesus Christ.  Please don't."


(The principal wrote me back almost immediately and was on his way to fix the sign last night.  I let the kid think I forgot to e-mail.)


We hit the McDonald's drive-thru and he asked for a Big Mac meal.  The voice coming through the speaker was extremely loud and distorted and if they hadn't had the display screen showing the order, I would have had to proceed on faith alone.  I pulled forward.

There was a large sign placed at the corner of the building showing the current Happy Meal toy offerings.  They're endangered animals, I think, and they all look slightly demon-possessed.  A wolf.  A tiger.  A tree frog.  If I were four years old and got one, I would not be able to fall asleep in my own room while it was there with me.

Him:  "Those are spooky as fuck."

Me:  "Agree."

Him:  "Next time I'm getting a Happy Meal and giving you the toy."

We reached the first window.

Me:  "I'm going to be an asshole."

Him:  "Please don't!  Stop!  Don't be an asshole.  Just pay, okay?"

Me:  "If I don't tell her, nobody will."

(The employee was using her hand to press her headset mic right to her mouth whenever she spoke to someone in the drive-thru line.)

(Window opens.)

Her:  "$5.42."

Me:  "Here you go.  Hey, can I tell you something?  I wear a headset all the time so I totally get it, but back there, it's really distorted, so try not pushing the mic all the way to your mouth.  Just trust it.  It'll free up a hand, too.  Just letting you know.  Thanks!  Have a good one!"

I pulled to the second window.

Him:  "You really did just do that, didn't you?"

Me:  "Well, how else would she know?  I just fixed her life.  She has a free hand now and people won't keep saying, 'What?  Hunh?'  See?"

Him:  "I wanted to disappear."

Me:  "Here, take your drink.  And here's your Big Mac.  You're welcome."

Him:  "Are we going straight home now?"


I don't want to become "that person" ... you know, the one who makes it her business to go around setting the world to rights.  And I'd like to blame it all on the hypomania, but that would leave out the part where I was at his elementary school spring carnival years ago and saw signs in all the door frames that said "PLEASE KEEP CENTER ISLES MOVING" and I didn't see any sand or palm trees, so I took a pen and wrote in the missing "A" on all the signs.

This was not by any stretch the first time I'd done that sort of thing.  I can't tell you why correctness in the world is so important to me.  It isn't necessarily OCD; it's more an aversion to apathy, that of others and the temptation of my own.  Not OCD.

Um ... there is a difference, isn't there?


Scariest.  Creepiest.  Fucking.
Thing.  Ever.  See?
Now you're awake.

April 16, 2018

waiting room

They've taken her back and I'm in the waiting room.

She said it's a simple procedure and shouldn't take too long.

I'm restless and before choosing a chair in the sparsely populated room, I go over and make myself a tiny foam cup of coffee with powdered creamer and Splenda packets and coffee dispensed from a push-top carafe.  The finished product is sour and I make a face, but I keep drinking it.  I didn't sleep well.

I select a chair next to an end table and out of anyone's direct view, and sit and arrange my possessions, the tart coffee on the table and my computer bag and purse beside me.  I pull out Lord of the Rings and join the battle in the Pelennor Fields again, stab the King of Angmar with Merry, feel Eowyn's arm go numb, hear Theoden's last words to Eomer, and then I'm jerked back into reality by an elderly couple nearby.  They are sharing a publication and saying back and forth to each other, "Boy Scout Mega-Camp."  He says it to her, and then she says it to him.  They say it seven times in total, then lapse back into silence.  He has a hearing aid.

I return to my book and shift the position of my feet.  My shoes make it uncomfortable to sit cross-legged in the chair, but I do it anyway, and feel the Velcro buckles biting into my calves.  This is a posture of drawing in and self-defense.  I have a complete lack of control over what they are doing to P.J. in the back of the building.  I make myself compact in the chair and draw my arms in, hold my book closer.

Frodo and Sam cross Mordor slowly, dust in their mouths.  The seconds and minutes creep by, the ring heavy around Frodo's neck.  The clock in the waiting room is deficiently slow.  Except that it agrees with my phone's clock.  Sam finds a tiny creek and refills their precious skin with water that is foul-tasting but safe to drink.  I get a second cup of coffee.  It's colder now and this does not improve it.

By now the procedure must be well under way.  I notice I'm gently rocking back and forth, but no one can see me.

A man begins to open the door, peeks in, realizes he is in the wrong place, backs out and closes the door.

Faramir stares east from the wall in the garden outside the Houses of Healing of Minas Tirith and waits.  It is all he can do.

April 15, 2018

lodge ii

You know that urban legend where a guy goes to a party in a hotel room where he doesn't really know the people, and gets drunk and somebody drugs him and he passes out, and then he wakes up in a bathtub full of ice cubes and there's a note that says those people harvested his kidneys and he needs to call 911 immediately?

Yeah, it was like that.


I need to start treating hypomanic episodes exactly like being drunk.  It would be like going to a party and just before going inside, I'd turn to P.J. and say, "No matter how much I drink, do not let me tell the story about what happened that time at the midnight pig-calling contest in Virginia."  But then we'd get pulled apart and would be mingling and then she'd get a horrified look as she heard me across the room, loudly and artlessly telling a cluster of people all about that one pig and the rubber mats from the car and the barbed wire and how funny the whole thing was, as they stood transfixed with shocked smiles and glasses that suddenly needed filling elsewhere.

Yesterday, we attended the annual property owners' association meeting for The Lodge's neighborhood.  It sounds all stuffy and official, doesn't it?  This place is great, though ... the dues are low and are all used for the roads, and people pitch in and help each other out with problems that crop up, big and small.  There's a community gazebo with a broom left there, so whoever comes along and feels moved by the Holy Spirit of Community Pride to do so can sweep off the pine needles.  I did that one day.  People walk their dogs and wave at each other.  A man once took a picture of our cabin in the snow and e-mailed it to us so we could see what it was like, because we couldn't get up the mountain due to ice.  There isn't an obscenely expensive and unnecessary clubhouse or an invasive political undercurrent.  It's laid-back, humble, the people and the place together as a gestalt.

Anyway, I'm mildly hypomanic right now, and we went to this meeting, and listened, and asked thoughtful questions.  Then they asked for volunteers for next year's board, and I leaned over and whispered to P.J., "Do not let me stand up and volunteer.  Seriously.  Don't let me."  Because I suddenly cared, a lot, and felt moved by the Holy Spirit of Committees to volunteer.  It's probably because I love this place and what it stands for, all that humble-ness and laid-back-ness, but that does not excuse my ignoring P.J. and standing up and volunteering, tossing my name into the hat as though there is the least bit I can contribute, short of a willingness to stuff lots of envelopes when needed.  And there wasn't even a vote because they had just enough people to volunteer, so now I'm on the board of a POA and I don't know how to be on the board of a thing and I never volunteer for committees because I'm not one of those totally with-it people who instinctively know how to do things, and now I've gone and put my foot in it and probably have to talk in front of some people at some point.

Lille is just staring at me with a blank look because she doesn't know who I am or what the fuck to think.

This is something grown-ups do.

April 14, 2018

what it's like to remodel a motor home

"I'm not proud.  Or tired."  -Arlo Guthrie

When you've been in a desperate situation for an extended period of time, knocked down again and again by Life, questionably sane things can seem like perfectly reasonable options.

This is an expansion on part of our cabin saga.

The land we bought in 2013, as I mentioned before, was full of good points.  We'd searched long and hard and after trekking up the steep roughed-in driveway and standing panting on the cleared pad at the top, we took in the mid-range views of green forest and felt the sunshine on our faces and heard near-silence, and we knew we'd found our place.  P.J. said it was a "light place," far more of a statement about how it made her feel than about solar rays.  We made an offer and signed some papers in a lawyer's office and we were handed the proverbial keys.  An acre and a half of light place.

We went through the Burger King drive-thru and took camping chairs up and sat and had lunch in the middle of a small field.  We knew peace.

That was the good part.  That day right there.  There was a gentle breeze.

Then we started learning Things ... like how the other residences on the mountain had completely tapped out the local reservoir and nothing else could share in that water supply.  And how the zoning regulations were incomprehensibly strict and we were zoned with the strictest of the strict and we probably weren't even allowed to sit there eating Whoppers on our own land.  And how a few of the trees, excepting the one that fell down right across the driveway, would need to be felled.

We could deal with these things, of course.  We'd have a well drilled and put in septic and then build a small house.  The cleared area wasn't terribly wide, but the tiny house movement is all the rage in that area of the mountains, so we'd go that route.  It would be cute.  We'd be all environmentally responsible and shit.

Oh, except a tiny house would completely fail to meet zoning regulations.  And a yurt?  Forget it.

We decided to build an "accessory structure", a twelve-by-sixteen shed to be used, of course, for storing things like lawn equipment and chairs and other purely non-residential items.  They didn't need to see our plans for converting it into the tiniest of tiny houses.  Then the guy we hired to coordinate the various tradesmen and processes went down to the City Permit Office to get a copy of something and sat at the counter and ran his mouth about our big plans to sneak and use the shed as a home.  We were outed as the criminals we were and from that day forward, invited intense scrutiny of all our doings.  He was a nice guy.  Too nice.  "Surreptitious" was not in his vocabulary.

We still needed water, no matter what the future's dwindling prospects held.  Then the well rig truck couldn't get up the driveway under its own power, and we would have had to hire construction equipment to push it up, and there was only one spot because of all of that that they could try for water, and if they didn't hit after six hundred feet, we were royally fucked and the property became next to worthless.  We called off the well-drilling.

We sat in our camping chairs on another Saturday and munched BK chicken sandwiches and made our puzzlers sore.  Then we had an idea.

A motor home.

We were allowed to park a motor vehicle on our own property, weren't we?  Libertarian sentiment swelled within us.  And if we decided to live out of one of our cars, let's say, what could the City possibly say?  This was the point where reason took a lunch break and planned to call in sick for the rest of the day.

And that is how we ended up buying an old motor home, not a coveted silver Airstream but a 1980s beige-but-yellowed-with-age Georgie Boy with great potential.  A gay couple had already begun renovations, ripping out the orange and brown carpet and painting the walls sky blue, and we liked where they were headed aesthetically, so we bought it and named it Madame George in their honor and drove it home and then realized it was going to be hell getting it up our driveway, but we did anyway, and there it sat for a year and a half. We couldn't park our cars in the garage.  It loomed.

I wish I had some way of knowing how many dollars and calories we burned while giving almost every spare moment to this undertaking and ordering hot- and cold-running widgets from Amazon.  I know I spent a fair amount of time, many, many hours, on the roof and went through fourteen tubes of caulk and some special paint-on sealing stuff because there was a leak in one of the bedroom cabinets in the back and we could not find the source.  When I wasn't busy attempting to not fall to my death, I was laying new vinyl flooring that looked like wood plank, re-building the shower, cutting and hammering quarter-round trim into place, and painting various things.  A fold-out table became a small bookcase with a tile top.  The sofa was re-covered in Ikea fabric.  So were the two "living room" club chairs.  Curtains were dyed.  New carpet was cut and laid in the console area.

The front seats lost their hideous brown textured plush pattern and were painted a tasteful gray with fabric paint, as were the bits of orange carpet that couldn't be removed.  The broken door handle was sourced and found and bought and installed.  We had a guy with a truck and large muscles take the broken generator out and we replaced it with our own baby generator and two marine batteries, after I rebuilt the housing for all of that.  LED lights that would not tax the new electrical setup were installed throughout.  Solar panels and a charger system came into play.  We bought a rain barrel and pump and filtration system for non-potable water safe enough to use for showering and dishes.  I built the most beautiful composting toilet in the history of mankind.  It used a Home Depot bucket underneath that said "Let's Do This" and was still capable of passing liquid to the black water tank.  We even scrubbed enough to return the exterior to a pale, acceptable beige, and used Coca-Cola and aluminum foil to remove rust from the tongue and chrome bumper.

The twin beds in the back bedroom had new pillows and comforters and good mattresses.  A small lamp sat on the table between them.  We placed an artificial orchid on top of the bookcase.  It was ready to move to our light place.  It would be our home there, and no one had a leg to stand on in protest.  It was just an overgrown truck.  We would have a patio there made of wood pallets (which are far more difficult to come by, if you've tried, because of all the people on Etsy making artistic things and bits of reclaimed furniture out of them, when all we wanted was to line them up on the ground and put an outdoor rug and couple of chairs on top of them).  I had it all sketched out on graph paper, which made it official.  We have friends in the vicinity who were sneaking wood pallets and collecting them for us whenever they saw them.

The day came.  It was time to move it to the mountains.  P.J. buckled her belt while I waited in the RAV4, ready to follow the motor home, and she turned the key.

It wouldn't start.

We made sure the gas was fresh and in both tanks.  We made sure the battery was good and properly connected.  It still wouldn't start.

I will omit the yawn-inducing details of the mechanics and Google searches and tinkering with various tools and all of the things we tried, but in the end, the way we got it to move was by means of a huge hook and cable attached to its chassis, which was in turn attached to a large tow truck normally used for tractor trailer cabs.  We had to sell it to a guy for about one-sixth of what we had put into it, all the nickels and dimes, and watch it go away.

We were very, very happy to see it go.  I think we hugged each other and smiled.  We had our lives back.

We went back to the land with a bag of Croissanwiches and some hash browns one day, and looked up from the bottom of the driveway and realized that even if we'd gotten it there, there was no way in any hell you care to name it would have made it to the top.  We'd been wrong all along.

We ate the Croissanwiches and then phoned up our realtor and sold the property to a nice couple in Ohio who would drill a well and build a little house and enjoy the spectacular view.

April 13, 2018

complex ptsd

(Warning:  Bucket of psychobabble quicksand ahead.  Enter at your own risk.)

Therapist Not-Gumby-But-Some-Other-Flexible-Thing-As-Yet-Unspecified stumbled upon something that resonates.  There is this relatively new concept called complex PTSD.  It's the equivalent of carpal tunnel syndrome vs. an anvil falling on your arm and snapping it off at the elbow.  Childhood trauma, it posits, can result from lower-grade abuse (including verbal) and neglect (just enough to cross a threshold into not-enough) that happens chronically, as opposed to an acute traumatic event.

But you weren't abused or neglected, I protest.  So many kids have had it way worse.  Locked in closets and shit.  How dare you consider yourself to be among them?

But I was also a "sensitive child", so it wouldn't have taken nearly as much to inflict the lacerations on my psyche.  That is not anyone's fault.  It isn't whining or self-pity.  It just is.  And was.

I know the sources of neglect, many of them from the late-1970s parenting style.  "Don't pick her up when she cries, it will spoil her."  That sort of thing.  And my sitter, where I had to shut up and refrain from asking for anything whatsoever - affection, comfort from scary things, food, a diaper change - because she found it annoying and weighed in excess of 500 pounds and did not want to get out of her chair.

Here is the bit from Pete Walker that grabs me:

When anxious perfectionist efforting [sic], however, fails over and over to render the parents safe and loving, the inner critic becomes increasingly hypervigilant and hostile in its striving to ferret out the shortcomings that seemingly alienate the parents ... the child’s nascent ego finds no room to develop and her identity virtually becomes the superego. 

This is the first legitimate thing I've been presented with that might point to the source of the self-injury.  It's really survival instinct.  No matter what I do, you're not meeting my very basic needs to survive, so I have to be perfect, and if I'm not, if I do something to threaten perfection and risk your disapproval and the withholding of what I desperately need, I'm hostile to myself, all superego and no ego, and the anger turns back on me, furious and fierce.

Fierce.  I wasn't allowed to be angry then.  I am now.  And it rides a boomerang and comes right back at me.  Black eye.  Blood.  Fingernails.

It explains why when an obsession-object gets put in the place of that caregiver by Lille, having shown some sign of promise that they are a fountain-head of need-meeting (even though they're not, but I've always likened it to a pedestal), the appetite for their unceasing attention, the need to possess them and draw from them, is so voracious.  And all of that goes on at the same time that I'm successfully adulting, maintaining healthy relationships and parenting and being the grown-up I've become.  Is it any wonder that I'm mired in mental chaos when all of this is clashing and vying for mental real estate?  Is it any wonder that Lille's pitiable interference is capable of fucking up some of the adulting?

Unfortunately, the therapeutic approach for resolving all of this meshugas involves a barrage of positive self-talk, months and years of it, and I would rather drink warm yak milk from a used Home Depot bucket than consider engaging in that mantric bullshit.

There simply has to be another weapon to disarm the superego.  Maybe I have to build one.  And it turns out I'm surrounded by some amazing, loving, creative people who might be able to help me draw up the schematics.  They've got pencils tucked behind their ears.  They're as crazy as I am because they think I'm worth the effort.  (Yo, Pete, "efforting" is not a word, man.)  I'm tired of self-injuring, not the least reason being how it affects those crazy people who love me.

The side of the Home Depot bucket says, "Let's Do This."

April 12, 2018

e=m(change)^2

"The only constant is change."   -Heraclitus (who is not Louise Hay)

So there's about to be massive upheaval at work and I'm all croggled and need to sit down and make a pros/cons list, but I'm still at that early stage where you sit slightly gape-jawed and zone out because it's too much to think about and you'd rather listen to music in your head and ponder the color of the fabric on your cubicle walls.

There is a job I applied for three times in the past and was turned down each time because somebody better came along.  Now there are ten of them, and I know I should apply because I would get one of the ten, or at least consider myself firmly told loud and clear to never try again if I didn't get one.

I could decide not to try, to stay put because I'm very happy where I am, but even if I do that, there is going to be a mass-exodus in my little room here and new people will be coming in and I might not be able to be the one who sits in the back and cusses a blue streak and makes snarky comments any more.  I might have to rein it in and be stifled.  Right now I can completely be myself.  Everyone in here already knows about my attempt, my orientation, and my propensity for expanding their vocabularies a bit.  For some reason I know all kinds of medical shit, so they call me Dr. Lille.  I have an established identity.  I make our boss laugh.  I make my co-workers laugh.  I'm settled in.

And that is about to be taken away.  So if change is inevitable, I might as well grieve the loss of comfort and face the boulder-roll of fear and make a decision based on everything that is not those two things.  Because I can totally see around the boulder right up in my face.  Yeah.

This is going to sound DeVos-level shallow, but the other job would mean wearing a uniform, and I have amassed everything Old Navy sells for the past two years and I have all these dresses and tights and Mary Jane shoes, sandals and scarves and silky flowing pants and blouses, and I feel good about myself when I wear my clothes, and I'm not going to get that from khaki Dickies men's pants and a polo shirt.  That doesn't sound like a big deal, but, well, it kind of is.

On the other hand, nobody would look at me weird this time if I had a screwdriver in my hand.  I think I was born to be a field tech.  I like climbing ladders and poking my head up into dropped-tile ceilings and making network cables by lining up the tiny little wires.  I've had several of "the guys" pop in and ask me if I'm going to apply, and I get the sense they're not going to take "no" for an answer.  It appears to be a coordinated effort.

That should make me feel really, really good.

But my tennis racket is on the wall now, and the plants that I've had for years that are all healthy and green because they came from Ikea and also they're plastic, and my certificate that one of the guys made for me for dealing with a particularly difficult customer, commemorating the "get your crap off the keyboard" incident of 2016.  I have coffee pods and my calcium chews and my little Ikea lamps.  (P.J. once said the sentence, "But we don't need to go to Ikea this weekend, we don't need anything there."  Isn't she funny?)  I've got Dilbert cartoons pinned to the wall and a place to hang my umbrella.  I have a place.  A space.  It is mine.  I would lose it and be ousted.

My daddy came by an oscilloscope once when I was a kid, maybe while he was doing the electronics correspondence courses.  My wavering looks like the read-out on that little screen.

April 11, 2018

louise hay was a very positive person

Just like everybody else.
No, really, I mean what I said:  Fuck that affirmation shit.

A friend phoned me up yesterday to take the piss and present me, out of the blue, with a "life affirmation" from Louise Hay.  I'm pretty sure I told him to fuck off and hung up on him, but only in the most loving possible way.

He sent me another today, a photo of it, so I couldn't hang up on him.  I had to take a Zofran to ward off the nausea.


Okay ... I have been known to say that it doesn't really matter what a person adopts as their worldview, even if some or most of it is completely and against substantial proof incorrect.  If they do no harm, then they can have at it as seems best to them.  I apply this to pagans, to the religious, to conservatives, and sometimes even to positive people.  But the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I can't even see this woman, she's so far off in the distance and beyond the line.  Nor does all of this fall within the scope of "does no harm".

I had gone my whole life without knowingly reading her tripe.  Thanks, my friend.

From her official web site, a few snippets of drug-dream nonsense she wrote while riding on the back of a unicorn over a distant rainbow:

No, wait, I have to address the photo first.  The one of her gazing at stone-wall wildflower blossoms with an expression that makes her look either constipated or three sheets to the wind, or both.  What is even up with the matching enamel yellow earrings and bracelet?   I don't care if you were close to 90.  Just stop.  Chico's wants their costume jewelry back.

Sorry, back to the affirmations:

1.  Life loves me!

Life is not animate and does not have higher-level executive function capable of producing emotion.

2.  I am divinely guided and protected at all times.

I assume this includes time spent in the restroom?

3.  Only good can come to me.

Put spin on the flu.  Go ahead.  I'm listening.

4.  I am beautiful and everybody loves me.

I hear this in Cartman's voice, during his tea party with his stuffed animals, in the early seasons of South Park.

5.  I am safe in the Universe and All Life loves and supports me.

Somebody please re-animate a saber-toothed tiger.  Right now.

6.  I become more lovable every day.

This is called dementia.

7.  My life gets more wonderful every day.

See number six.


Absolute refuse.  (I re-discovered the word "refuse" by Googling "rubbish synonym".)  The sort of stuff you'd find in God's Little Coffee Table Book.  I keep seeing people trudging along the sides of our highways carrying all their worldly possessions in a backpack, or people in third-world countries hauling skins of water while flies land on them, and then I read these and wonder where on the planet she holed up in order to produce delusional personal bliss.

Hay House Radio, live stream:  I dare you.

What I do not understand is why others pay money to read these.  Why is she revered?  Who can look around at the world and then turn and swallow all of this?

There are people in my life right now, people I love and respect, who will gently chastise me for writing this and who will point out that positive thinking can do a person good, help them change from within.  And maybe I'll go along with that, since I already think it's arbitrary and since I'm probably delusion anyway at this point, given all my other facets of mental illness.  Why the hell not?

Here, let me try one:  I am surrounded by a field of positive energy and all my movements are one with the Universe.

Hey, did that sound good?  Can I have some money now?

They say it's wrong to speak ill of the dead, so I'll say something positive about Ms. Hay:  At least she can't write any more of this stuff.

p.s. Some actual real, non-unicorn-riding affirmations can be had in Jenny Lawson's coloring book, You Are Here.  Even I can stomach these.  They're good stuff.

April 10, 2018

piano piece ii

Official-looking thingie
Not only did I repair the pedal ... I tuned my own piano last night.

*smug dance*

See, what happened is, there is this little screwdriver-type thing in the bottom of the toolbox in our kitchen that has been there for eleven years, and I never threw it out because I didn't know what it was for, and it had a curved end and a square socket so it looked vaguely official and important, so there it sat, conversing with pliers and bits of wire and some kind of device that has a flashing red light and measures something.

I was looking at piano tuning kits on eBay yesterday, because I absolutely, compulsively must fuck with things, and saw one of those curved tools among the rubber stoppers and metal tuning forks and was all, "I have one of those!"

A shortage of hubris wasn't an issue.  I brim with it.

I did my weekly grocery shopping.  John was gathering carts out in the parking lot and I told him that he has mad skills because he pushed a mile-long line of carts in-between two cars and had less than an inch of clearance.  He didn't say anything.  Once I got home, I grabbed that weird gadget and went downstairs and opened the piano.  It fit the pegs perfectly.  For all, um, two hundred and thirty strings in there.

Right, then.

I started with the note that made me make Picasso faces when it was struck, because it was supposed to be an A but was sort of a B-flat-flat-flat-flat-flat.  There are three strings and you have to get them all on the right note and make them all agree with each other so they sound like one string.  What I learned is, you have to possess amazing subtlety (not my strong suit), because the slightest little turn has a profound effect on the sound.  I immediately gained great respect for the hand strength and prowess of professional piano tuners.

But I don't need this to be grand-piano concert-grade tuned by a pro who could do it with perfect pitch.  I just need to be able to stop whimpering while trying to play it.  I got it across that threshold.  I can keep at it until it's right, but god-damn-it, it felt good to sit down and try to play.

There have been some extra little moves added to the smug dance and it probably looks really stupid now, but I danced it anyway.  I danced like no one was watching, but only because they weren't.  Fuck that affirmation shit.

April 9, 2018

southern lies

My weekend was a fiendish hell and looked like a seismographic read-out during a minor but detectable earthquake.

This morning, I came to work.  "Hey, how was your weekend?" I was asked by several co-workers.

"It was good, can't complain.  Too short.  How 'bout you?" I replied.

It's rote.  Nobody wants the actual answer.  They want to hear this instead.  It's like honey bees waving their right antennae, greeting each other through instinctive behavior.  We're Southern.  It's what you do.

There is truth, and there are lies, and there are Southernisms.  They're more of an omission of the truth, cleaner than white lies.  It's socially unacceptable not to stay within their confines.

"How's your son doing?"

Acceptable answers:

"He's doing well, thank you!  Growing like a weed, you know how it is.  Eats everything we've got in the refrigerator."

"He's doing good.  Hard to believe he's already in high school.  The time really flies, doesn't it?"

"He's good, he's good ... I never realized I'd be spending most of my time driving him around!"

Unacceptable answers:

"He's all right ... has some anxiety issues now and high school has hit him square between the eyes, but it's going to get easier."

"So-so.  God, puberty is hard!  He can't keep the body odor under control.  I don't mean deodorant; I just mean that sometimes, he kind of smells like ammonia, you know what I mean?  Like, his sweat, or something.  I hope he gets through this stage soon."

"Oh, lord, honey, you just don't even want to know.  I keep having to buy him lotion and Kleenex and he stays in his room all the time now."


See?  The first three aren't untrue, but they aren't the truth.  They comport with a few universals that keep it light and on the surface.  The last three would land you soaked and wet in the town square water fountain of Awkward City.

Spouses are always fine and you don't discuss their chronic health problems, job search, or the argument you had last night.  But if a parent is ill or died, it's perfectly okay, and expected, to say that, and to share every detail.  It's probably been that way for two hundred years.


“Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between."  -Harper Lee

The Southern modes of speech are perhaps the biggest lie.  You really can't take the South out of the girl.  Somewhere along the way, even though I was reared here in North Carolina, I lost my accent and came out sounding network-neutral, when I'm being myself and around my family and friends.  I don't really think like most of the people around me.  But if I'm talking to someone with a Southern accent, mine kicks in, usually involuntarily, and I lay it on thick.  It's my native language.  Someone hearing just my end of a phone conversation with a Southerner (like my daddy) stops and stares and usually gives me hell afterward and makes fun of how easily I just turned single-syllable words into three-syllable ones.  It just ... happens.  "I belong to y'all," my temporary accent says.

That's a walloping Southern lie.  But there's truth in it.

April 7, 2018

meet lille

Lille, age seven and a half,
because the half counts.
Someone found an old clipping from when Lille read a zillion books at school and got her picture in the newspaper, along with a group of other book-zillionaires.

My best friend was beside me, but says she was too obsessed with buttoning the top button of her dressy blouse to help me with my collar that day.

Lille thought she was ugly back then.  Her sister told her so.  Now I think she was adorably imperfect, the kind of kid I would dig today.  I don't say that lightly.  I don't really "do" kids in general.

She doesn't look vicious, does she?  I've decided she isn't.  There is something else afoot.  Where's my god-damned magnifying glass?

cobwebs

The sixth time I woke up this morning, I knew there wasn't going to be any real writing today.  My brain is full of cobwebs.  Last night was terrible, one of the truly bad ones, and sleep can usually act as a "reset button" on my brain and stop the spinning thought funnel, lift the reality-blindness, give me at least a fighting chance at doing it differently the next day.

I awoke at five and immediately regretted it, then spent the next four hours refusing to not still be in bed asleep.  The fucking reset button had failed me and I chased after it, cheated.  I dreamed.  I dreamed that my obsession-object was touring a campus today with a college-bound daughter, and I was not her.  That dream contained a glimpse of this incredible garden-stone area, little fountains and Greek statues, places to sit and complete peace, all somehow naturally formed and not landscaped.  I wanted to go there, badly.  I still do.  I dreamed that I was back at my old church and sneaking in on a Saturday morning with my coffee mug and pajamas and increasingly worn Lord of the Rings paperback, to sit in the big preacher's arm chair up front, corresponding with where I sit on my living room sofa during such a weekend morning ritual.  I kept getting caught by members of a band who were practicing in an adjacent hallway and were also serving breakfast.  I was warily handed a plate of bacon and pancakes; then the person hurried out because even though they had been there all morning, I arrived and I belonged more than they did.  I exuded it.  I went back home to get my phone to check for e-mails containing healing words, but there were none, and on my way back to the sanctuary and my cup of coffee, massive webs blocked my way and I couldn't get through them or around them.  I was denied.  I dreamed I was staying in Iowa with friends and someone I've seen photos of but never met was also staying there, and he was a drag queen, but I knew it was a fucked-up dream because no drag queen ever employed a muumuu and Dorothy sparkling red flats and I couldn't find my milkshake because everyone's cup looked the same.  I kept checking my phone in the dream for a text from my obsession-object.  I wrote e-mails in my mind, processing, while looking out over the ocean from my host's apartment balcony.  In Iowa.

When I finally threw back the blankets, pissed off, at 9:15, I knew I was doomed for the day.  My head was already spinning with what I should say and anger and forty reasons why the anger is not deserved and little poison arrows aimed at me by my own self, pricking my skin.  I hadn't even brushed my fucking teeth yet.  Coffee was a bitter subject.  I began picking apart and sweeping aside the cobwebs of dreams and thought, trying to discern what was real, what mattered and what could be released.  No spiders.  Just cobwebs.

It's 9:55 and today is going to be one of the hard ones.  My son wants to go clothes shopping and watch a movie with me tonight.  His presence will be what keeps me from self-injuring; he'll pull me out of my own head a bit.  But this morning, my protein granola tastes like ash and my bloodstream is full of poison and my worldview would wither a slug if I stared at it.  The arrows are relentless.  I need laughter.  There is none.

There will be no real writing today.  This isn't even a blog post.

Update:  Except that laughter comes when you're out shopping with your kid and he points to a purple t-shirt and wants it and you tell him that he's fucking queer, because he is and that's how the two of you joke around, and at that moment he, being a teenager and thus hypersensitive to others' opinions, turns around and out of the corner of his eye sees a rack of shirts right behind him with a sign about head-height and thinks it's a person and that person heard all of that and the kid nearly jumps out of his skin.

April 6, 2018

the sacrament of laughter

Tanzanite. It's even
the perfect color.
My current obsession-object is a jewel shining out among the lengthy queue of former pedestal dwellers, stretching and winding into the time-distance.  The tennis racket, it turns out, has all these holes in it, and things get through, no matter how tirelessly I swing it.  Well, shit.

It's still on my cubicle wall, because I've had three people ask me, "Oh, do you play tennis?" and I say, "No," and they don't know what to say after that.

So the new tactic is to choose to laugh at every single manifestation of the mental distortion that has control of my brain right now.  To pay attention, call things out, point at them and make fun of them until they lose their power.  I proposed this, and the person is game and plays along beautifully, willingly, determined to help.  Already I feel some hope, against rather towering historical odds, that this will prove a good coping strategy, in lieu of angst and intense neediness and ineffectual sports equipment.  At least this time around.  Because this time around, I happened upon a jewel.  Maybe tanzanite, a rare and finite thing, like the pale stone set in the carefully chosen ring P.J. gave me at thirty. 

I write:

" ... When my brain does this thing, it's really relating to somebody in my head and not the real person, right?  So the real corporeal you, sitting there right now reading this, are doing whatever you are doing, and the 'other you' that is only in my brain has, like, the most completely boringest life EVAR, because among other things, you're about to sit in the middle of my driveway and watch me mow the lawn, and think the whole time that I'm really cool because of how I mow.  Later, you're going to watch me eat a slice of pizza (pepperoni and pineapple, in case that helps), and then become captivated by watching me type e-mails and a blog post, and spend forty-five minutes thinking I type fast and how awesome and amazing that makes me.  You're not even allowed bathroom breaks ... I need to objectify and laugh at all of this, so I might type shit like this at you, here in the thick of things.  Laugh with me.  What else have you got to do, other than watch me feed the dogs?"

Mocking myself makes me see how ridiculous it is, engaging this mental construct to feed my own need to be special, making a buffet for Lille, who often looks emaciated and like she could use some hearty meals.  I have to wonder if she's just sucking it in, for looks, or wearing an over-sized t-shirt.  I laugh at that, too.

Dark humor is best, I find.  I'm laughing now at my mental tangle.  I laugh at my suicide attempt.   "How long are you going to let this pot soak in the sink?  It's been here since yesterday.  If I was dead, it would languish here until it turned into a fucking Petri dish."  P.J. to me:  "Don't forget your Klonopin this morning."  Me:  "Why can't I take sixty-two of them?"

When depression takes me and I cannot laugh, it's the single most distressing symptom, and conversely, the litmus test for when I'm on my way out of the pit and back onto level ground.  It is ringing music when it returns.  A wafer on my tongue, received with something akin to reverence.  The reverence behind irreverence.

My tennis racket is full of holes and it leaves me powerless.  Laughter seems like a twelve-step-program Higher Power now, power I can tap into and use for transformation.  A sacrament, a paean to there always being another way, a third path.  P.J. believes there is always a third path, if one looks hard enough for it.  She is wise.

I wonder if my obsession object knows about sitting in the passenger seat of my car on the way home from work yesterday, covering the main vocals of "Take It Easy" and "Seven Bridges Road" while I sang the high harmony.  It was far more interesting than watching me put cardboard into the bin at the recycling center.  Damn, the short girl can jump high.

April 5, 2018

woodpile

I became obsessed two years ago with Ancestry.com's two-week trial and went balls-to-the-wall researching both sides of my family.

This information had always been obscure, hidden from me.  My mother will scarcely speak of her father, given some less than stellar childhood experiences, but at some point I did catch his name, and that was sufficient.


I knew enough of my daddy's side of the family to know Granddaddy's name.  I received my middle name after him because I was supposed to be a boy, because I was a big baby and that's what they thought back in the 1970s.  (I was born feet-first like a pike-diver, so it's no wonder I was my mother's last child.)  There was also his sister, who killed herself back in the 1960s.  I have to wonder.  Maybe my disease is in my family somewhere.

Ancestry.com has amassed enough intricately cross-indexed information by now to allow two names to be adequate fodder.  Every lunch hour I'd pore through records and build my chart until it looked like a Katsura tree.  On my mother's side, I hit a wall at the mid-1800s because both of her parents were French Canadian and the only records were hand-scrawled baptismal books that I couldn't read.  So I'm half-French Canadian.

I made it back to the mid-1600s and found that most of my paternal ancestors emigrated from Ireland, with a smattering from England, Germany, and France, and one Ulster Scot in the woodpile.

The woodpile.  I had heard my daddy speculate on several occasions about our genealogy, but he doesn't Internet very well and didn't have the means to delve like I did.  So I had a mind to present all of this to him as a Christmas present that year.  I knew he would be delighted.  His natural curiosity would be satisfied in one corner.  I squirmed for months because I wanted so badly to give it to him, to see his face.

On Christmas morning, I set the stack of carefully organized charts in my daddy's lap and declared the fruits of my work.  I watched his face.  He was pleased, briefly, and asked me to show him how it worked.  I went through and traced the directions he wanted to follow, especially his own daddy's great-grandparents and where they were from.  He knew some of Grandma's history.  Then he said, "Well, that helps me.  I was just wondering if there was, you know, something in the woodpile."

I have fought against my daddy's conditioned racism since I was seventeen.  He once used the N-word in my house and I quite literally kicked him out that day.  He hasn't done it since, but he loves to make disparaging allusions against Mexicans and African-Americans to push my buttons.  I don't think this was one of those times.  I think he meant it.  The fucking woodpile?

Congratulations, Daddy.  We're all-white.  We're plump little chicken breasts.  Are you happy?  Because I'm not.  I wish something had turned up "in the woodpile" and made you face yourself down, gain some perspective and take a hard look at this part of your worldview.  When you're forced to do that, I always see you grow.  Like when your first grandchild died.  Like when I came out as gay.

Please grow.

April 4, 2018

three, sir

"... Who, being naughty
in My sight, shall
snuff it.  Amen."
Monty Python's Flying Circus led me to My People.

My childhood and early teen years were spent devoid of any trace of geek culture.  When you're born a predisposed geek, and there is no geekdom to be found, you know there is something wrong, but you can't put your finger on it.  None of my peers was the least bit geeky.  Dungeons and Dragons was an inane Atari 2600 game.  I'd never heard of Magic: The Gathering.  I didn't watch Star Trek.  PBS stopped airing Doctor Who when I was young.  I hung out at the library a lot, and the librarian said I was probably too young to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when it caught my eye, and I wouldn't "get it."

Comedy Central came along when I was sixteen, and that is when I discovered Monty Python.  They aired episodes, and then I found there were loads of them at our video rental store, a line of VHS tapes I'd never given a glance before.  I'd had no idea the back wall was lined with treasure.

Sometimes, my mother would try to watch an episode with me, and then she'd leave the room shaking her head after five minutes.  She didn't get the humor, nor why I was about to shit myself laughing at things that were not, to the non-geek, funny as hell.  It turns out I was as foreign to her as the show was.  I still am.

I read the Hitchhikers' Guide omnibus edition when I turned seventeen, and was thereafter mad as a mailbox of hornets at the librarian for discouraging me years before.  I read it eight more times, just to be sure I'd read it.

It was during my freshman year of college that I developed a loose hang-out-style association with a couple of quiet, long-haired guys who introduced me to MP and the Holy Grail.  I devoured it.  I had thought there were only episodes; discovering their movies took it to the next level.  They quoted the entire thing while we were watching, and soon, they had me doing the same.  Where had these people been all my life?

Our World History professor showed it to our class later that same year, in an attempt to harness the humor of the rampant anachronisms for didactic purposes.  Only two of us "got it" and the rest kept looking at each other, exchanging glances of mutual torment.  I remember craving popcorn and enjoying their discomfiture.  It was wonderful.

In my twenties, I found that knowing bits of the movie served as a form of underground handshake or secret password to ingratiate myself, and I found geeky friends and geeky friends of friends, online and in cities bigger than my hometown.  They were out there.  They were waiting for me, holding the door and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and a trove of belonging.

It's proven true that most of the people who have extended the gift of their friendship to me can quote bits of the movie, or they at least speak of it with fondness.  It's also true that P.J. out-geeks me without breaking a sweat.

To the Pythons:  Thank you, sirs, for the penguin on top of the television set, for the Church Police, for the wattle in the bottle, for the frozen-stiff parrot, and for teaching me about the extensive variety of cheeses in the world.  I've sampled a few.  You did more for me than making me laugh.  You led me to My People.

April 3, 2018

adrift

I told my best friend today that I feel like I'm in a little wooden boat, and I'm keeping the inside dry and orderly, but my boat is adrift in a sea of my current addiction object and I have no way to steer and just have to hope I hit land some day.  I am lost at sea, but I am not drowning.

There is plenty to distract me right now.  I went last night to look at a free piano and it's coming to me; I just have to arrange some movers.  It cost something until some parents brought by their seven-year-old last week with an eye toward getting him piano lessons, and then the kid sat on the bench and stomped hard on the sustain pedal because I think he was trying to drive the piano instead of play it, and something went "tttthwaannngk" inside and snapped and now the pedal is floppy and dead.  I would have been mortified if that were my kid, but the parents apparently shrugged and said never mind, now we don't want it because it's borked, and offered no restitution or assistance, or consequences to the kid.  I do hope karma's a bitch.  I want to believe in it at times like this.

So now it's a free piano, and I think the lady giving it away is much happier to have it coming to a household without a seven-year-old in it.  It's uglier than Einstein's rectum, because the legs are all spindly and have lots of grooves and turns, but P.J. is working on coming up with some kind of veneer coverings or maybe a leg transplant for it.  It even comes with a bench full of sheet music.

Fuck the sheet music.  I'm re-learning the prelude to Messiah before I even play a scale.  I want that back.  Yesterday people were wishing I'd keep my hands on the steering wheel when I was driving, but instead I've been listening to the Sinfony and pretending I remember all the chords, and I've probably also been head-banging at some spots but I didn't realize I was doing it.

The piano needs tuning, and someone to look at the post-"tttthwaannngk" pedal situation, but the action on the keyboard is perfect, the felt hammers unworn, the strings taut.  I'm getting a piano.  Ermahgerd.

Then there's my son being a standard-issue asshole this week.  So far I've been disobeyed, disrespected, lied to, used, usurped, supplanted, emotionally manipulated, and tuned out, and it's only Tuesday.  After this morning's text exchange, he now has his choice of which orifice to use when relieving himself in the restroom.  I'm over it.  Just like I've been over it before, and will be over it again, many times, but I keep stepping up to the plate because I like abuse and I'm a mother and I have to keep going to bat, because the kid is utterly lost without that.  And so am I.

Who the hell signed me up for this?

He's usefully annoying, too.  Last night he was upstairs playing video games in his room and making high-pitched squealing noises, and they wouldn't stop, and he kept squealing because he and his friends probably thought it was funny, and who cares about the rest of the household, so I marched upstairs and hammered on his bedroom door and screamed, "THAT CARPET COST $1,200 WHEN WE HAD IT PUT IN AND EVEN THOUGH IT'S GOT THAT STAINMASTER STUFF, ALL THAT PIG BLOOD IS NOT GOING TO COME OUT SO UNLESS YOU'RE CATCHING THE BLOOD IN SOME SORT OF LARGE BASIN WHILE YOU'RE SLAUGHTERING ALL THE PIGS, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GERMANY NEXT SUMMER BECAUSE YOUR ASS IS SAVING UP TO REPLACE THE CARPET INSTEAD," and went back downstairs.  I heard him laughing, but you know what?  The squealing stopped.

There's a lawn to mow, and laundry to fold, and I never did finish that puzzle, but all of those activities leave me too much time to think.  Swat, swat, swish.  The splash of little waves.

A gift for writing?  Seriously?  I play tennis and baseball and the piano all while in a boat.  I'm a god-damned bartender for mixed metaphors.

It's only Tuesday.

Update:  I fixed the pedal!  It only needed two longer screws to replace the ones that little Speed Racer stripped out when he slammed his foot down on it.  Well, that and a screwdriver and someone reckless enough to take the piano apart and look.  I started playing and quickly realized that it will be unbearable to do so until this sucker is tuned, and I don't have the right tools, so I'm already in the process of hiring a tuner to come out and for the love of god make it stop it sounds so bad my ears are bleeding gahhhhhh.  I forgot, you see.  I forgot how sensitive I am to pitch.  But I'm all smug-dance about the pedal now.

April 2, 2018

i went to the mountain

Tired.  So tired.
A grueling climb, ascending to the peak of Mount Meru in search of a Yogi.  Stones tumble away as my feet gain elusive purchase.  The oxygen is thin up here and my breathing is labored ....

I have been climbing for months, in therapy, and would be continuing to climb, if P.J. and I had not stumbled upon the plain answer last night during our dinner discussion.  I have set aside my climbing gear and provisions.  Lille is struggling mightily with another fissure-depths preoccupation, one with startling intensity, and she has been baffled by the impossible question of why, after ten years of absence, the pattern reappeared and shook her awake.

I was shaken awake this morning by my alarm, and the thought immediately rushed into my head:  Addiction.

That tennis racket is going to come unstrung soon.  It's been busier than a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest, as they say.  (No, Spellcheck, I didn't mean "Ares".  I meant "arse".  I do not recommend attempting to kick Ares, with one leg or many.  It is not a good idea.  Please trust me on this one.)

I've spent the better part of a year assuming that this vexing pitfall of iterant infatuation results from, and has reared its head again because of, the onset of bi-polar disorder.  I've not been able to tell whether it merely correlates with or actually induces a hypomanic state, but they are in lock step regardless.  This explanation conveniently fit the bill.  Fire spreads.

But there remained the questions of why it went away in the first place, and whether what I gain from the pattern of twisted object-relational projection is meant to feed the voracious appetite for being seen as "special" in lieu of possessing a sense of intrinsic worth.

It came together this morning, six seconds after I hit the "shut the fuck up" button and my alarm stopped screaming.

Feeling special is an addiction.

It began in early childhood, because I was gifted and my first teachers' plaything, and I have needed it like air ever since.

I am not devoid of a sense of intrinsic worth.  I thought I was, as one tends to do when part of your brain is trying to kill you.  Therapist Gumby and I talked about what it's like to have that, and while it might not be the strongest bit of me, when I'm stable and not riding the sine wave, I do experience those things.  A bit of self-confidence.  Peace.  Sort-of liking myself.  Being glad that I exist and taking satisfaction in existence.  A quiet satisfaction.  An acceptance.

Discovering all that surprised me.  I assumed I was filling one in for the other.  So feeling special is not a substitute for detecting the presence of one's intrinsic worth; that theory has been blown out of the water.

The attachment-addiction's nature is telling, too, and this is what P.J. and I discussed last night.  It is exactly like having to quit chain-smoking, every single god-damned time.  In my twenties, the objects of my fixations were the cigarettes, and I just smoked the hell out of those little fuckers until I ran out.  I'd smoke them to nubs and then try to light the butts to get a last hit out of each one.  I'd run out, and would be forced to quit for a time.  The withdrawal was rough.  Then I'd find another stash and grab my Bic.

But I'm forty now, and I have learned to fight back, and I have a broken-in tennis racket.  When you voluntarily put down the cigarettes, you think every ten seconds, I want a cigarette.  You try not to, but the thoughts come anyway.  And you have to swat each one away, never wavering, every day, until the thoughts come less and less frequently.  You can't put down the tennis racket until they stop altogether.  You pick it right back up again when they return with a vengeance, and start over with the initial relentless onset, swinging, swinging.  They always return.

It's hard enough to quit once.  I will have to do it over and over.  It's an addiction.

Why did it come back?

My gastric bypass.

Everyone who has bariatric surgery is warned - early and often - of the potential, and likelihood, of addiction transfer.  Food filled that for years, sometimes decades, for many of us.  Suddenly, the ability to indulge food addiction, the emotional eating aspects, the "hit" from eating and eating, discovering you just ate the whole box of Oreos, is yanked away, and there is a void, and voids want to be filled.  Alcoholism is prevalent.  Gambling pops up.  Sex sometimes comes into play, and smoking is easy to embrace.  Did you know high-fructose corn syrup hits the same pleasure centers in the brain as cocaine, and that they're finding it's more addictive?  People don't seem to understand that food addiction is real, very real.  Being fat because of food addiction is not a shortcoming of a person's character.  Read that again.  It's important.

And sometimes, we regain all of our weight.  Addiction is real.  Addiction is terrifying to overcome.

Leave it to me to come up with my very own unique addiction.  Pretty inventive, for an eleven-year-old.  I had food, then, too, but my emotional emptiness required two addictions.  I grew up a bit and met P.J. and my cup was filled, and that after several years of therapy addressing the infatuation pattern.  That's the only explanation I have for why one addiction went into hibernation.

It heard a bugle and knew it was needed.  It kicked back in four months after the bypass.  To the day.

It's a year and a half later, and I'm still in the ring, fighting my third round.  And these Oreos are the cookie butter-filled ones, or maybe the mint-flavored Thins.  The Mike Tyson of Oreos.  It's a hell of a round.  I want to cave in, so badly, to take long drags, to crunch and taste.  But I have resolved to keep swinging.

Maybe there's a payoff for having mental biceps of steel.  And I still have questions, like why certain people trigger this in me and others do not.  I don't care for Double-Stuff Oreos, for that matter.  They're overly sweet and insubstantial.

I just decided that I'm going to go buy a cheap tennis racket and hang it in my cubicle.  It's weird enough to qualify as something I'd do, won't surprise anyone in my workplace in the least, and only I will look at it and know what it means.

Update:  Tennis racket, bitches.


April 1, 2018

easter

If you push me to say that all the molecules in Jesus’ body were summoned together and the processes of death reversed and Jesus just got up out of that grave and went through a few walls and that’s what resurrection is all about, I think you’re missing the point.  I can’t tell you how God raised Jesus within history.  I, like most theologians— process or not—am convinced that resurrection is something utterly different from resuscitation ... Resurrection is the power of God to overcome evil, to bring hope to otherwise hopeless situations, to make creative transformation possible no matter what.  -Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki

I overslept this morning and missed the sunrise, along with the "Son Rise" services that dotted the lawns of churches all over these mountains.  I never could understand why the ladies of our church hit that tiny kitchen early enough to make scrambled eggs and toast for over a hundred people, just so we could all stumble out of bed while it was still dark out and show up at church in order to capitalize on a mighty pun.

So what the hell does Easter mean to an atheist who still allows, a smidge, for the possibility of a process theology-modeled god?

You see it all the time in the liberal feeds of many of my Facebook friends.  All the "Jesus was a rebel" and "Jesus was a bleeding heart liberal" stuff.  I was almost thirty before I heard the "Jewish zombie" bit.  I still grin.

But you've got me here:  Jesus lives.

Jesus is alive whenever we get together to march angrily in political protest against a government doing things we believe are profoundly wrong.

Jesus is alive when a teenager stands up and questions the status quo and throws down the gauntlet before those who sit in power.

Jesus is alive when someone famous realizes he or she has great potential to influence and uses that potential well.

There is nothing supernatural about it.  A group of people believed a thing, and told that thing to others in such a way as to make it a big thing, big enough to lead to written recordings and martyrdom and canonization.  Proliferation resulting from determination and lucky chance gave way to the rise and almost immediate variegation of several major religions.  The path is dotted with impassioned belief and fervent prayer, wanton murder and sanctioned massacre, and interpretation through any number of lenses over the meandering course of a couple thousand years.

No, there is nothing supernatural about it.  Yeshua lives today because of very, very human things.  He's no different from composers and writers and rulers who live on.  I think the only real miracle here is the written word.  They all live on because we are able to know about them.

I roll my eyes when I see the three crosses with the middle one draped in purple in front of evangelical churches every spring.  But there is the crux:  My friends who fight for good do it because they read the same book others did and came away with a different understanding.  There was this guy in history and they try to emulate him and the Greek-influenced ideas and principles attributed to him.  Loving your fellow man and caring for the poor were pretty new ideas to the scene.  Hating the rich and powerful were old and still endure today.  It's not difficult to take away the words so many early Christians put in his mouth and see the charismatic idealist who made the news that year. 

For my part, he was probably decent enough, if you strip away the misogyny and other culturally ingrained bits that I personally find not so much to my liking.  I see the stories and images of men and women in the Civil Rights Movement, protesting in the sixties, knowing they would definitely be arrested and beaten and might be killed, and doing it anyway.  I see a half-emo teenager who decides to rebel just to be different, accidentally gets two hundred thousand Twitter followers, matures a little and sees the opportunity to aim at something and take it down, and unwittingly nudges an ongoing movement forward.  I see a woman who makes a good salary but lives near the poverty line herself because she pays the rent and buys groceries for a struggling immigrant family in the apartment complex next to her house, until they can get on their feet.  And then she does it again for another family.

There's your Yeshua.

He lives.