Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Frank Sinatra Can Kiss My Rosy Red Ass

Once upon a time there was a young woman who fell in love with a young man who liked Frank Sinatra in a hipster-ish "oh look at me, how clever and anachronistic I am" kind of way.  She loved him and he loved Frank Sinatra, so she saved up her money and scalped some tickets to surprise the young man for his birthday.  They went to see Frank Sinatra put on a show with a bunch of aging femme fatales wearing mink stoles and bright red lipstick and their husbands wearing tasseled loafers and English Leather.  

And it was all very ironic and adorable.  And time passed.  Periodically during the twenty years that passed, the young man would get out his Frank Sinatra CDs and wax nostalgic about a time before he was born.  And the young woman would murmur and nod uncertainly at the young man's range of musical appreciation.  From the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Dvorak and back.  Via Frank Sinatra.

And then the years of drinking that the young man had done turned him in to an old man.  An old man who put Frank Sinatra on his iPad and lay in bed for hours at night with the music so loud you could hear it across the room leaking from the earbuds.  With his eyes closed and a beatific smile on his face, bobbing his head up and down. So happy.  And so pathetic in his sappy happiness.

The young woman, now a "mature" woman, lay down next to the old man tripping out on Frank Sinatra and tapped him on the shoulder to tell him that the music was too loud.   Adding to the lengthening list of things she is dislikes about him, he is growing deaf.  He is gradually and inexorably descending into geezerhood.  He snores, he farts, he wears his bathrobe all day, then grows chilly and jacks up the heat rather than getting dressed.   He makes endless cups of tea that he lets get cold while he lies on the couch and lets the chaos of the household swirl around him unnoticed.

The mature woman calls to the old man.  "Honey?  Honey?"  He continues to lead the Nelson Riddle arrangement of the strings that accompany Ol' Blue Eyes.  She shakes his shoulder.  "The music's too loud, I can hear it across the room,  you should turn it down, you're going to hurt your ears."  She speaks to him as though speaking to a child.  As so many people do, he is becoming more childlike as he ages.  And more childish, too, it seems, because at her touch he sits bolt upright and yanks the earbuds away.  "What do you want?"  he growls.  He sets the iPad down on the bedside table.  He is clearly quite angry.  "I'm sorry," she says, as she always does.  "It's just that the music was so loud, I thought it must be hurting your eardrums."  She can see she has completely fucked up.  Of course he was enjoying himself, having a moment, transported in his nostalgia to a place and time before he was born.  And now she has ruined it.  

She tries to placate him.  "Go ahead, put it back on, I didn't mean you had to stop listening."  And as always, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," in an endless apologetic litany.  "No," he says. "Never mind.  Forget it."  He gets out his puzzle book.  He won't exonerate her by resuming his private concert.    She turns away, gets out her book and begins to read.  She stares past the words on the page, lost in bewilderment.  When had her life become like this, how did her marriage grow so diseased?  The years pass, and like lava, the discontent seeps, then spreads.  She is married to an old man she doesn't respect because he likes Frank Sinatra, not ironically, not as a hipster, but for real.  

The message she hears when he listens to his music is this:   This is who I am, this is who I have become, someone you don't like and didn't sign on for and can't understand how you came to be saddled with.  And you are trapped. 

And in reply the message she thinks is this:    Fuck that noise.  Fuck you  and your iPad and your earbuds and your pouting and your drinking and your denial.   Kiss my rosy red ass.  You and Frank Sinatra both.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Am Invisible. I Am Inaudible.

I did not want this boy to stay here and I said so.   I said it in a whisper.  I said it in a scream.  I said it in a calm voice. I said it in a trembling voice.  I wrote it.  I sang it.  I texted it.  I posted it.  I tweeted it.   I did not want this boy to stay here and I said so.

And yet.  He stays. Today he got a package addressed to him.  Here.  This is now his address.  This boy that I said I did not want to stay here.   Now gets mail here.  I did not want this boy to stay here and I said so.

And yet.  He stays. Today I was taking out the recycling and found a cut-down box that once held a mini-fridge.   I can't even bring myself to look because I know the mini-fridge is in my daughter's room. This boy that I said I did not want to stay here.  Now shares a mini-fridge with my daughter in her room.  I did not want this boy to stay here and I said so.

And yet.  He stays.  I am not comfortable with him here, I said.  It is not good idea for our daughter and her boyfriend to live together in our house, I said.   I have the right to say who gets to live here and who does not, I said.  But I was overruled by nothing.  By the nothing that was said when I said what I said.

I said I did not want this boy to stay here.  And he said nothing.  I said if this boy were to stay here, he would have to sleep on the couch.  And he said nothing.  I said I didn't want this boy to smoke pot here.  And he said nothing.  I said I didn't want this boy to drive our car.  And he said nothing.  I ranted and raved and shook my fists.  I ranted and raved and stomped my feet.   

And he said nothing.

I am invisible, inaudible.  My rage makes me shrink to nothing to fit inside the nothing that he says.  

"I am not listening to you because you are yelling.  I do not respect you because you cannot contain your anger."  That is something that he says.

"I am yelling because you are not listening to me.  I cannot contain my anger because you do not respect me."  That is something that I say.

There is a boy living in my daughter's room with her in my house and I said I did not want him to and no one is saying anything and no one is listening to me and no one respects me. 

I do an invisible dance with my fists and my stomping feet.   I sing an inaudible song with my whisper voice, my scream voice, my calm voice, my trembling voice.  I did not want this boy to stay here and I said so.  And yet.  He stays.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Shit's Gettin' Real. Yo.

I walked out on my husband today. 

He's an alcoholic.  He's completely in denial.  As far as he's concerned, there is nothing wrong with him or our family. As far as he's concerned, any problems that I see are merely my own distorted perception.  This has been going on for years.  Decades.  He's a dysfunctional alcoholic who manipulates my children against me.

We bring the lights up on a bedroom with at least four piles of puppy shit on the floor.  The horrified mother has begun to clean it all up.  The rest of the family is absorbed in other things.  The mother begins a tirade that includes a torrent of f-bombs.   The woman's young adult daughter gets up and comes wandering into the scene.  

Daughter:  What are you so angry about?  Calm down.  Jesus.

Mother:  <insert swears as you see fit>  It was irresponsible to get a puppy when you work and go to school all day.  It was disrespectful not to get my permission first.  You don't care for the puppy, you don't supervise her, she is not being housetrained.  I am happy to take on that role and care for the puppy.  But if I do, she becomes my puppy and I will take over her care and training.  <turns to husband>  Is there NOTHING you care to offer by way of support in all this?  <the way she says it implies that this is a conflict she has been struggling with for a long time>   

Father:  <silence>

Daughter:   God, mom, I just got up. Can you wait until I have some coffee before you begin screaming at me?

Father:  <stage whisper>  I know. I got a raft of it yesterday morning. 
The two share an exaggerated eyeroll

<scene>

So I left. Quietly and under the pretense of going to the gym. I did go to the gym, but then I went to my friend's house and talked and cried all day and got my resolve together.

Then I came back.  I came back to take care of my son.  I came back because this is my home.  I came back because I live here. The rest of them can go fuck themselves. I will come here after work for a bit to check in with my son, make sure he's done his homework, make sure he has clean clothes and something for lunch the next day.  I will sign the permission slips and make sure the band uniform is complete for concert night.   If he wants to and can be ready in time, I can drop him off at school on my way to work. I am figuring out where I will sleep. Maybe here. Maybe somewhere else on nights when I feel especially angry and need to detach.

When I got back, I told my son that if the puppy shits in his room, he is sadly going to have to handle it himself. If he doesn't like that, he needs to talk to his sister about it, and make her do it. Essentially he should keep the door to his room shut. He is on board.

I ignored my husband.  Last night we had a long talk about how his drinking is going to kill him.  A couple of weeks ago, he was hospitalized for the second time with acute pancreatitis, in his case, a disease directly related to alcohol abuse.  His doctor told him that he had to stop drinking.  Anything.  Ever.  During the course of our conversation, however, he let me know that that's not what the doctor had said at all.  And that he will drink a little every once in a while because he can do what he wants and it won't be a problem.  Which means that he will drink four or five shots of whiskey as he has done EVERY NIGHT FOR THIRTY-FIVE YEARS and it will make him deathly ill and it will be a huge problem.

Okay, I said.  If it won't be a problem, then I won't have to worry about you washing down some Ambien with your drink and I won't have to listen for you stumbling around the house and embarrassing everyone and falling down in the bathroom so hard that you BREAK THE TOILET TANK.  And I won't have to take your sorry ass to Urgent Care when you get so sick that you are doubled over and cannot drive. I am glad to know that it won't be a problem because doing those things was getting really exhausting.  

Tomorrow I am going to my first Al-Anon meeting. (Well, not really my first.  My first as a spouse.  The other meetings I went to were as a daughter.)  Then I am calling an attorney.

My dysfunctional alcoholic husband is manipulating my children against me and destroying himself and our home and I will not allow myself to be sucked into this madness.  

Namaste, Nutjobs.  Let's do this thing.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Stupid Blanket That I Hate

Scratchy red wool.  Some kind of plaid.  Royal-Stewart-Tartan-MacCallen-Something.   My dad sent it years ago for Christmas.  And because of that, the blanket is traumatic.  No matter how many times you wash it, it smells like anger and tastes like cigar smoke and sounds like opera.   The blanket sounds like opera.  Yes.  

It is The Stupid Blanket That I Hate.  


The Stupid Blanket That I Hate vies for a spot on the bed with The Beautiful Duvet That I Love:  Smooth, sleek, lightweight, shades of lovely blue.  It smells of fresh air and sunshine.  It doesn't sound like opera.  It doesn't sound like anything at all.  But if it did, it would be the ocean or gentle rainfall or something soothing.  Not opera.

My husband loves The Stupid Blanket That I Hate.  He doesn't know that I hate The Stupid Blanket That I Hate.  But he likes it and it makes him happy.  He doesn't understand that it's wrong for the room and wrong for my head.  He doesn't know how The Stupid Blanket That I Hate holds me in its thrall.  And so he drags it out every fall like clockwork and throws it over the bed on top of the The Beautiful Duvet That I Love.  So that when I look at the bed I am transported back to my childhood full of choking cigar smoke, raging temper tantrums, diagramless crossword puzzles (can you imagine?) and opera.


I try different ways of dealing with The Stupid Blanket That I Hate.  When I make the bed, I fold it in half lengthwise and line it up on his side of the bed, covering it with The Beautiful Duvet That I Love, arranging the pillows meticulously to make sure that there is not one single centimeter showing.  At night I get into bed gingerly, lest I pull back The Beautiful Duvet That I Love and see The Stupid Blanket That I Hate.  When my husband comes to bed, I try very hard not to notice that The Stupid Blanket That I Hate is showing on his side.  And then I snuggle under the Beautiful Duvet That I Love with my back to my husband and  . . . well, you know.


The way that I have set up this scenario is an awesome piece of passive-aggression, if I do say so myself.  The Stupid Blanket That I Hate reminds me of growing up unhappy and scared with my angry family in a house filled with cigar smoke and opera leaking out of the windows.  And I get to blame my husband every time I look at it.   He doesn't love me enough to see that, because I hate The Stupid Blanket That I Hate, he should hate it too and offer to help me get rid of it because HE LOVES ME THAT MUCH.  But I guess he doesn't.  Le sigh.


Sometimes I think that I am being ridiculous and I should just get rid of The Stupid Blanket That I Hate.  Just ball up that bad boy in a Hefty Cinch Sak, toss it in the hatchback and off we go to Goodwill.  But I'm not a monster.  My husband likes that damn blanket and I can't help but see it as a metaphor for our marriage.  I'm not willing to throw it away, even as unhappy as it makes me.  I'll keep it around for his sake, but only if I can hide it and not have to see it or deal with it.   Just like all the little issues you develop over the course of twenty years of marriage. You can deal with it.  As long as you have a Beautiful Duvet That You Love to balance out The Stupid Blanket That You Hate.  That doesn't smell like anger and taste like cigar smoke and sound like opera.  No matter how many times you wash it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Quest For Banana Coffeecake


We had to get up early to get the replacement retainer fitted because he had lost the last one so long ago and had either forgotten to tell me or been too afraid to tell me and we were both in denial about it.   Now he needed to be fitted with a replacement retainer because it had been months since he had actually worn it and his teeth were slipping.  You might want to console me and say it's not my fault, but it is.  Everything is my fault.  Not a pity party.  Just stating facts.

I drag him out of bed at the usual time ("But Mom, it's a late day!") to get the new retainer fitted.  I have to miss work to do stuff like this.  Before, I could always just drop everything and make it happen.    But now I have to take half-days off and miss meetings and deadlines and let my work-team down because my family-team's needs come first.  I resent them for needing me.  And then I feel guilty for resenting them.

We slam our doors shut and I start the car.  He looks at me sideways with a sleepy eyeroll.  I can tell he hasn't bathed or changed his clothes, but I don't say anything.  I'm a horrible mom.   But not always.  Sometimes I'm a mean mom.  Sometimes I insist on chores and homework and personal hygiene.  A mean mom and a good parent.  Sometimes I'm a nice mom and a horrible parent.  Really what I am is a tired mom who is kind of nice and kind of mean and kind of horrible and kind of not.

We get to the orthodontist. The Gamer signs in at the little desk and waits on the bench to be called.  I sit down in the waiting room, mentally slapping my forehead, as I always do, that I didn't bring something to do with me while I wait.  Nothing to do but flip through the ridiculous magazines, which I loathe, except classy ones like The Atlantic and Harpers.  Sitting with nothing to do makes me feel antsy and wasteful.  I should relish this kind of moment, but I never do.  I resolve to sit quietly and try to empty my mind.  Pffft.

The ortho comes out and says that they took the molds for the retainer but it won't be ready right away. Can we come back tomorrow and pick it up?  They don't seem to understand that I'm working now.  I can't just show up whenever the way I used to do.  No.  I took the morning off so let's do this thing.  Fine.  Come back in an hour and it will be ready.

Yes!  Mental fist pump.  I turn to The Gamer.  Just enough time to go out to breakfast.  We head to the car.

"Have you ever been to Mitch's Cafe?"  I say.  "No? You've never had the banana coffeecake?  Let's go remedy that right now."   I look at my watch.  Mitch's is all the way across town.   If we are efficient, we can get breakfast, return for the retainer and then get to school before the late day beginning bell at 9:30.  Challenge accepted.

But snags began conspiring against us.  I get stuck on a narrow street behind a garbage truck that wouldn't yield for several blocks.  I miss three lights in a row that were supposed to be timed together.  I forget where the turn for Mitch's was and have to double back, missing another light.  And so on.  Finally, one last light stands between us and the restaurant.  At the train tracks.  Dun dun.  Dun dun.  Did that sound like Law and Order?

The light turns yellow just as we approach it and then the clanging starts and the red lights flash and the gates start coming down to prevent dumbshits from getting stuck on the tracks and having to be rescued by Hancock which was a stupid movie but it's always fun to see Will Smith.

And guess what?  Little Miss Goodytwoshoes who won't allow herself to break the rules no matter how ridiculous because I. Always. Get. Caught. Always. pushes the pedal to the floor and races across the train tracks and crosses the double yellow line to slide into Mitch's Cafe's parking lot.  And immediately hear the siren of the cop car that was OF COURSE parked there lying in wait for dumb fucks like me to fuck up because they are TRYING to have a nice moment with their son who they have really not been there for because they started back to work just as seventh grade was beginning and without warning the kid had to suck it up and deal with life for himself so for the love of god could I just please take him to breakfast to have delicious banana coffeecake before we have to go back to retainers and school and work and just everything PLEASE?


Blinking back tears (surprise!), I roll down the window and wait for the officer to make his way up to our car.  I get the necessary papers together.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see The Gamer mentally rubbing his hands together with a sly smile on his face.   Even as the adrenaline-soaked thoughts tumble through my brain (I think I can do traffic school when's the last time I did that now show The Gamer how it's done if there's any chance I'll just get a warning no one ever just gets a warning only in the movies), I see him predicting what is going to happen next.

"Do you know why I pulled you over?"  The officer peers into the car, sizing up what kind of reckless scofflaws he might be dealing with.  "Yes, I do, officer."  I take a deep breath.  "I sped up through the intersection at the train tracks which I have never done in the twenty years I have lived in this town because it is horribly dangerous but I'm taking my son to breakfast because we are waiting for his retainer to be made from the molds they took at the orthodontist's so that I can get him to school before the late day bell at 9:30."  I figure I'd better cover all the bases.  The right to remain silent be damned.  I have never invoked my right to remain silent in my almost half-century on the planet and I wasn't about to start now.

The officer stands back. "Surprised" is probably too strong a word.  "Non-plussed," maybe?  "License and registration," he growls.  I hand them over like the dutiful child I become in situations like this.  "I think you know what you did was not only illegal but dangerous.   I appreciate that you told me so right away.  It shows that you know you made a dumb mistake and you are pretty unlikely ever to do it again."  I am amazed at what it is beginning to sound like here. "I'm going to let you off with a warning."  (LET ME OFF WITH A WARNING DID YOU HEAR THAT THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING I scream inside my head).

"Thank you, officer," I hear my self saying in a calm and business-like manner.  "I really appreciate you not giving me a ticket.  I promise it will never happen again.  A stupid mistake and I really won't ever try that again."  I can practically *hear* my son's eyes rolling around in his head but I don't look at him, I won't look at him, not until the officer is gone and we are finally safe.

"Well," I finally say to him. "I think we have just had what is known as a 'teachable moment.'  What do you think the point was of what just happened?"

"That you can break the rules and get away with it," he says.

(Terrific, I think. Fantastic.)

"Well, I think the point was that the authorities look favorably on you if you acknowledge your mistakes.  Getting out in front of it is really important."

"Yeah, mom.  It's also called 'kissing ass' and you rocked that pretty hard."

I swing my head towards him in a kind of pleasant shock.  "You think I handled that well?"

"Hell's bells, Mom," he says.  They have such a delicious sense of irony, my kids.   "You talked your way out of a ticket.  No one ever really does that. Only in the movies.  It was awesome."

We head into the cafe for some delicious amazing motherfucking banana coffeecake.  We'll get the retainer and carry on with the day's routine but we had a moment.  This sometimes mean and sometimes nice and sometimes horrible but always tired and definitely well-intentioned mom and her grubby and vulnerable and hilarious son.   Had a moment.  For serious.  Hell's bells.












Sunday, September 9, 2012

Heartbreak Hotel: A Study in Anxiety


I want to cry.  In fact, I have been crying off and on all day.  Mamas (and papas too, I suppose), don't let your kids grow up.   Because the day will come when they break your heart in ways you never even dreamed of.  And you know how they will do this?

The exact same way you did it to your parents.   And guess what?  You are going to feel like it is all your fault.  Just like they did.  Or maybe they didn't but they might have and how awful that must have felt because goddamnit I feel really awful right now so buckle up because I am going to tell you.

Right now I have three kids all breaking my heart, each in their own way.  I feel funny writing about them, because it's unfair to them that I write about them all over the internet.  I don't mention them by name but still.  Anyway, this hypothetical bipolar nutjob who pretends she's a big deal to some people she met on Facebook has three kids and each of them is tearing her up like you tear up the turf doing donuts on the football field in the drum major's Jeep for your senior prank.  How's that for anonymous?

Heartbreak No. 1:   19-yo daughter is in love with this kid who's been taken from his parents and put in foster care and been in juvie like three times and doesn't really have a place to live and it's not really clear to us wtf the story is but she loves him and we're not completely heartless to his plight but she has him stay over even though we said we didn't like it and I'm just so wracked up over this I can't get my breath.

Heartbreak No. 2:  17-yo daughter is getting ready to leave for college and the tears are streaming down my face as I type this because I'm the hypothetical bipolar nutjob from two paragraphs ago and I have no business even trying to live in the world, let alone raise kids who are going around breaking my heart over and over.  And sometimes it feels like this kid is the only thing standing between me and the cliff over which I would drive my car over which is a huge exaggeration because I would never do that but I might consider running away.

Heartbreak No. 3:  13-yo son is packing on the pounds and all he likes to do is play that card game Magic: the Gathering which is actually pretty okay with me if he would stop eating so much junk and maybe exercise a little more and who the hell can tell that to their kid but he also needs to pay a little more attention to his schoolwork because he is superbright but he is going to be mad at himself later on when he realizes that he got left behind because he wasn't motivated to do his best because his parents are still struggling with how to encourage him without making him fucking nuts.

So yeah that's my blog post and I'm just posting it without editing it NOT because I need advice (please don't give me any) but because I need to put it out there and please for the love of God understand that the run-on sentences are a stylistic device I'm using to show you how the thoughts are running through my head but you have to know that they are running even faster than this in fact swarming is actually a  better word and that's another reason I have to post this without editing it.

Namaste and thanks for reading if you even got this far because god knows it's hard to read this style of writing without editing the fuck out of it but as I may have mentioned I'm not going to so there you go.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hope Or Something Like It: Hope 2012: A Blog Relay



Write about hope, they said.  It’s for the Olympics, they said.  It’ll be irreverent, and full of swears, I said.  That is why we selected you, they said.  Hold up.  Selected, you say?  I’ve been selected?  Moi?  All of a sudden I am on board.  Who could resist? I can spell “narcissistic” really well for a reason.  

What can I write about hope?

I was writing in my head about something else when this “hope” thing came along.  Could I get that writing to be about hope somehow and get my lazy ass off the hook?  Kill two blogs with one piece?  Because quite frankly, I don’t have much to say about hope these days.  

Truth be told, I was writing about being stuck in a downturn.  You may not see it, because like the foam on my soothing sweet vanilla lattes, when I’m sad I churn up a froth of humor and creativity.  But to be honest, I store that mirth and energy during the good times and ration it very carefully.  It needs to last.  To get me through the down times, like now.  

Is that hope?  Some day I might feel better and you guys would still be around to laugh with?  Whoa.  Back that puppy up.  Some day I might feel better?  That sounds hopeful.  I bet I will. I always have before.  But it feels pretty goddamn hopeless at times.  Will I ever be all the way better?  There is little hope of that.  That’s not how this works.  With a chronic illness, there is no “all better.”  There’s okay.  And not okay.  And great.  And horrible.

Today I am all over the map.  There’s rapid-cycling and then there’s completely chaotic.  I’ve been so anxious all day and then suddenly I’m crying.  Blindsided once again.  What is it about?  What is it ever about?   So many regrets. So much wasted promise. I'm just a lump of weak, lazy sloth. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.   

I need new meds. 

Dealing with this illness all of my adult life, you would think I’d have a better grasp on it by now.  But I’m continually amazed by every aspect of it.   Even at my worst, I know that I’d rather feel all these feelings than be numb.  Some of the treatments and medications I’ve been on made me numb, and it sucked.  So maybe that’s how I can tie the hope theme into this rambling piece of drivel.  I’d rather feel than not feel, even when feeling is overwhelming.  I don’t have a hope of being cured, but every day that I get out of bed is a hopeful one.  There are open windows, but I keep passing them, and that is hope.  And sharing this madness with you is hope for us all.

Namaste, good people who read my blog.  I always get teary at this point.  I think about how difficult it all is, for all of us, even for “normal” people.  People with a diagnosis at least get to play the crazy card.  I don’t know what all you normal fuckers have to pin your madness on.  You should work on developing a mental illness.  It’s so freeing.  

So I guess, after all, fuck yeah, I’m full of hope.  Hand to God. True story.  

Goddamnit.



***********************

Now, according to the sweet lady at Abandoning Pretense, I'm supposed to tag other blogs to challenge them to write a blog post about hope and then tag other bloggers to do the same.  I'm reluctant to do this because most of the bloggers I know are already challenged enough.  Here are the instructions, which I hate, because I love instructions, but no one else ever follows them and it pisses me off.  

Step 1: Write a blog post about hope & publish it on your blog.
Step 2: Invite one (or more!) bloggers to do the same. 
Step 3: Link to the person who recruited you (me, in this case) at the top of the post, and the people you're recruiting at the bottom of the post. 

Melanie Crutchfield will be holding "Closing Ceremonies" around August 10 and will gather up little snippets from people that wrote about hope, so make sure you link back to her as the originator of the relay.


Having said that, I'd like to challenge:  

Slice of Humble
Unconventional Wisdom
and
mediocrates

to write about hope before the Olympics are over.  And time is running out.  I don't know when those fuckers are over, but now that beach volleyball is done, the TV coverage will dwindle fo sho.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Do's and Don't's of Depression, and They're Mostly Don'ts


Even in a depressive episode, I still need to write.  I have to keep those fingers on the keys.  It’s probably not good writing, but I feel compelled to put it out there.  I figure it’s better than shutting down, which is what I would do otherwise.

People want to help me when I’m depressed.  But some things they do actually make me feel worse.  So here are some tips on how to approach someone who is depressed or in a depressed episode of bipolar disorder.  Someone named “Me.”


In no particular order--

Don’t tell me to shake it off or snap out of it.  

Don't tell me jokes.  Slapstick might get a muted chuckle, though.

Don’t send me internet memes to cheer me up.  Seriously.  Do not do this.  It makes me question why we are friends.

Don’t tell me any variation of “hurry up and feel better because we need you.”  That is about the worst thing you can say.

I’m not just in a bad mood.  

I’m not grumpy.  

I didn't get up on the wrong side of the bed. 

I’m not just having a bad day.

I do not have PMS. 

It is not anything you did.  

Don't be too nice to me, because I will cry.  I'm an ugly crier.

Don’t command me to feel better.  Believe me, if I could feel better, you would be the second to know, right after me.

Don’t try to fix me. I just want to be heard and understood. 

I have been through this before. I know what will work.  I am not open to suggestions.

No, I cannot go back to bed and read a book and eat candy. I have to go to work.

No, I cannot take a bubble bath and call a friend.  I have to go to work.

No, I cannot sit down in the middle of the day and start drinking.  That would be about the worst thing I could do.  Besides, as I believe I mentioned, I have to go to work.

Don’t ask me what’s wrong.  I have a mood disorder.  That’s what’s wrong.   

My depression is usually proportional to the mania that preceded it.  But please don’t accuse me of not heeding my symptoms.

It might seem like everything you say will be the wrong thing.  In that case, it’s okay to say nothing.  But don’t ignore me.  I can see where this would put you in a bit of a bind.   

Yes, I am aware that there are medications I can take that will help me with this.  Yes, I have some.  Yes, I do take them.  No, I didn't forget to take them.  

Yes, I have heard that St. John's Wort has been used to treat depression.  No, I don't take it.  See above.

I may have moments where I have a little energy and even laugh a little.  This is not a sign that I am all better.  

I am not being passive-aggressive.  

I am not an attention whore.  

I am not a drama queen.

Don’t tell me that you are having a bad day, too.  That is like telling someone with a brain tumor that you have a headache.  Unless you have a brain tumor like mine.  In which case, I will totally scooch over to make you some room.  

Do ask me if I want to talk about it.  And let it be okay if I don’t.  

Do ask me if you can do anything.  And let it be okay if you can’t.  

If I say there is something you can do, please do it.  Without fanfare.  You went to the grocery store.  You did not give me a kidney.

Don't make me feel guilty about being depressed.    Sweet Jesus, whatever you do, don't tell me that I am missing out on the best time of my life right now.

I am not ungrateful for your attempts to make me feel better.  I do appreciate your concern and love.  But you have to tread very lightly around me if I let my guard down enough to let you in.



Doc, it's only a scratch


In the words of Rocky Raccoon, "I'll be better, I'll be better, Doc, as soon as I am able." 

Namaste.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Today's Rave: Random Stories

My boss has a gift for storytelling, and he hones his craft by telling stories about himself, the same ones over and over and over again.  I am so lucky and happy to have this job that I don't mind one bit.  "You know, years ago," he'll begin.  His remarks are always a valuable lesson in business or human nature or how to be a mensch.  Often he'll preface them with something like "You know, years ago, when I first started this practice . . ." or "It was November of 1963  . . . " and off we go.

You know those word ladder puzzles where you change one letter at a time to turn one word into another word?  My boss plays a similar game with ideas, even though he doesn't realize it.    He begins with one thought, and little by little, with no real conscious understanding of what he is doing, ends up somewhere else.  And by "somewhere else," I mean "light years away from where he started."  

We are in a staff meeting to discuss the progress of various audits.  My boss looks at the agenda and notices that we will be discussing the Smith case.  The file number is 1812.   He inhales deeply and leans back in his chair.   He matches up the fingertips of each hand and brings them to his lips.  Looking at the ceiling and then off to the corner of the room, he is lost in thought.  I check my watch.

"1812, 1812.  Yes.  Isn’t that interesting.  That reminds me of history class my sophomore year in high school.   The War of 1812.   Do you like classical music?  You ever hear that piece?  I think it's Tchaikovsky.  Or is it Stravinsky?   No.  <long pause>  Stravinsky wrote 'The Firebird.'  I think that's a ballet.  I don't know anything about ballet.  <long pause>  I hate ballet. "

(I nod with understanding.  It's not for everyone.)

"Where was I?  

(I point to the client file.  Staff meeting.  Case status.)

"Right.  The War of 1812 Overture?  The one where the cannons go off.  What was up with that?  Anyway, I heard this piece once at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium.  Back in the day.  You know, years ago, they used to have classical music concerts.  God.  This would have been--wait, how old are you?"

(I dutifully tell him.  For the third time.  Today.)  

"Right.  Well, this would have been the year you were born. 1963.  I was in middle school.  And my school, Herbert Hoover Middle School, you know it?  This was back when it was still called 'Junior High.'  Stop me if I've told you this before."

(I would never.)

"In any event.  See what I did there?"

(So proud.   I taught him that.)

"We were kids in junior high--excuse me--middle school.  Whatever.   And we would come downtown for these events the Symphony would do, Concerts for Kids."

(I try to contribute to the narrative.)  "They still have those, my kids go all the time."

Undeterred, he continues.

"Years ago, God, I guess it would be . . . . <very long pause>  . . . .  I guess twenty years now.  Has it really been twenty years?  There was this promoter by the name of Bill Graham.  Big deal in the music industry, brought lots of bands to San Francisco, worked almost exclusively with the Grateful Dead.  You know that band?"

(Yes.  Vaguely familiar.)

"Yeah, I remember when I saw them at the Cow Palace.  What a great name for a concert venue, huh?  The Cow Palace?  Remind me to tell you the story behind that one some time."

(Mental note.)

"So this was in  . . .  <longest pause so far>  . . .  1970.  Forty years ago. More.”

He stops and smiles wistfully.  Helplessly.  "Long time ago, huh."

I smile too.  Encouragingly.  But I can't resist the impulse and I tap my watch with my pencil.  Ever so slightly.   Tick-tock.

He continues to smile.  And looks down at the files in front of him.
"Okay.  I guess we should get started."  

I have hurt his feelings.   I want to make it right.  Before I turn to my spreadsheet, amid the rustling of papers,  I ask him, “What should we do about lunch?”  He smiles and waves his hand airily.  “Let’s get some sandwiches and go over some stuff.”  I nod.  He’s appeased.  More stories at noon.




Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance



She hadn’t known she would be getting an award.   “Mom, I got an invitation, but idk what’s really going to happen.”  She says the letters. Eye. Dee.  Kay. I want to jump up and throw my arms around her when she does that.   Because she knows it’s funny.  My kids are so cool.  You’re probably going to say it’s because they have a mom like me.  But you’d be wrong.  It’s because my kids are so cool that I even stand a chance.  

Even though she is reluctant to have me there, I go anyway.  I know she must be winning some kind of award or she wouldn’t have gotten an invitation.  When she does, she will feel sheepish that she told us not to come.  

The Senior Awards Night event is being held in the theater.  I wait in my car until after almost everyone has gone in.  If I slip in late, I don’t have to sit alone waiting for it to start.   I will stand in the back. Happy just to stand there. Not taking up a seat.  Easy escape if necessary.  All the way at the back means there is no one behind me.  I take up no space and no one sees me.  There is nothing to see.  I am not here.

I might get through this after all.  The ceremony continues, award after award is announced and bestowed.  The degree of mawkishness varies.  The severity of my scorn ebbs and flows.  The lacrosse scholarship gets visible lip curling.  The first in his family to go to college gets a nod of respect.  Past and present are swirling together.  I got lots of awards in high school.  National Merit Finalist.  Outstanding Achievement in Music and Theatre.  But it’s not about me now.  It’s about my daughter.  Who has gotten here through her own choices.  What she valued.  No one else’s expectation of her.  Except that she please herself and do her best in equal measure.  That’s what we’ve always said.   Sometimes I envy her for the way she is being raised.   Is that irony?  I'm never sure.

*************

“You’ll be fine.  Really.  You will get through this and then you can go home and have an enormous drink.  And chat with me. You are going to be fine.”  

She reads the text surreptitiously.  This is the part she had been dreading.   The graduation ceremony is not in the theatre.  It’s on the football field.  There is no wall to back up to, no sneaking in late, there are no lights to dim.  It’s the other parents she wants to avoid.  Always comparing herself to them, finding herself lacking.  Turning that inadequacy into scorn.   Easy to do from the safety of her car.  But now it’s time to get the mask on, time to nod and smile.  She used to be good at this, working a room, mingling, small talk.  But as she’s gotten older, she’s drawn herself inward.  The inner voice she used to try to shake off, to drink away--she doesn’t tap dance for it any more.  She listens to it, and that voice is calling bullshit.

“Okay.  But will you text me?  Maybe around 6:20? 

“I don’t know if I can, babe, but I’ll try.”

Okay.  At least someone out there knows what she’s up against.  Strangely comforting that someone she doesn’t really know is out there to help her.  Better than trying to rely on those around her.  Even if she could get their attention across this chasm, even if she wanted to, she’s pretty sure they wouldn’t understand.

They are not late, but not early enough to get a good seat.  She spies a row of clearly empty chairs.  Not about to play the awkward “is this seat taken” dance.  Of course the seat is taken, dear.  We were smart enough to get here early.  Rules like “no saving seats” don’t apply to us.  She settles in and tries not to look around.    Busily begins to peruse the program.  Her phone buzzes vigorously in her hand.  Her blogging buddy.  He jokes with her the whole way through Pomp and Circumstance.  Elgar's Earworm.  She remembers made up lyrics from long ago.  My reindeer fly sideways, your reindeer fly upside down.  She stifles a giggle and opens the next message.  Suggestive phrases that make her smile.  Industriously, she texts her replies.  She realizes that she has missed the excruciating opening remarks and gotten halfway through the diplomas.  Why didn’t she know about this decades ago?  She looks at her phone and reads.  Hold the phone in your lap and I’ll text you at random intervals.  Call me and let it ring, she replies.  She used to chide the kids for this.  No texting at the table.  But Oh Em Gee, she thinks.  This is awesomesauce.


She looks up suddenly to see that the ceremony has concluded.  People begin to mill around, looking for their graduates, stopping to hug and shake hands. People she has known for decades now seem unfamiliar and hostile.  She strides off purposefully, looking into the middle distance, pretending to be on a mission to find someone who doesn’t exist. Stopping at the goal post, she looks at her phone again.  This time she is reaching out to a real person.  She wants to see her daughter, her graduate, the reason she has sucked it up and done visualization and doubled up on her meds and texted her way through the ceremony.  

“Where are you?”

“I’m with Kelsey and her mom.  Look for the huge sign her boyfriend is holding.”

Almost done now.  A few arduous photos where the tension of this ordeal will play on her face despite her attempts to relax and smile.  A few more hugs and handshakes.  Deflecting the questions about work and life.  Mutely nodding at the insistent reminder that they must get together soon.  Almost done.  Like the dentist says right before he drills for another quarter hour.  

With relief, she sees that they are back at the car.  Going on rote must have blocked out that last few minutes.  The graduates have left for an evening of festivities.  Her son and daughter are eager to go out to eat.  Her husband wants to get home to catch up on the ball game.  Thank god for DVRs.  She starts the car.  “I thought that was very nicely done,” she says.  Mentally pats herself on the head.  And the phone in her purse.  Is that irony?  She is never sure.

**********

I hear stirring at my daughter’s door.  God bless her, she just got up. The school has an all-night party for the graduates and they stay out till 5 am. It's to keep them from going out drinking and driving after graduation. The side benefit for me is that I neither have to throw nor attend a party of my own.  Ell Oh Ell.

Just listening to her talk about the party is energizing. She has such an engaging way about her when she tells stories. Her laugh is infectious. I keep tearing up and blaming it on allergies. But she is too intuitive for that. She watches me try to shake it off and smiles ruefully at me.

I sit with her and watch her eat. She tells a hilarious story of the hypnotist's show that was part of the evening's entertainment. I try to soak up as much of her as I can. I had been anxious and agitated all day. Sometimes Klonopin has a wicked backfire. But then she got up and made herself eggs florentine for breakfast at four in the afternoon.  She set herself down in the middle of everything and told her stories and wove grace throughout the house.  I relaxed for the first time in 24 hours.

There is an open house tonight, given by a friend's parents. We are meant to attend in the loose way that open house invitations are issued. Bless her, she knows before I even prepare what I am going to say. "I know, Mom, it's okay."

And I say "If it were really important to you, I would suck it up and figure out a way to go and I would enjoy it. If you really want me to. Please tell me and I will."

And she said, "No. Mom. It's not that big a deal. I don't even know who else's parents are going. Maybe no one. I'm not worried about it."  And she looked at me with benevolent understanding. I guess I taught her that much. The child mothering the mother.  Is that irony?  I'm never sure.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stuff and Nonsense

"Are you sure the 5 x 10 space will do it, then?  The 10 x 10 isn't that much more, you know?  It's easier to fill up than to pare down."

She smiles ruefully.  "Yeah, I know, but that's what I'm trying to do.  Pare down, I mean.  The more space you have, the more likely you are to fill it.  I'm just trying to get to the bare essentials."

"Whatever.  It's totally your call."  The manager doesn't have time to philosophize.  "Okay, now it's a dollar for the first month, that's the promotion.  Then each month after that is 80;  You can cancel any time, but you'll pay for the whole month if you end it early."  (How about that, she thinks.)  He rips off the contract off the screechy, old-school printer.  "Sign here and here," he indicates with X's. “Annnnd, initial right here where you decline the insurance."

She follows his instructions by rote, her mind on the boxes she's packed.  How long she's thought about doing this, how many miles she's trotted on the trail, planning, deciding what to bring, how to sneak it away unnoticed.  

She can't leave.  But her things can.  They can live in this tiny, windowless room.  She'll put a chair in here, and sit with her books and papers.  There might be room for the fold-up card table.  She'll pretend she lives alone for two hours at a time.  

Pack some boxes surreptitiously.  No one will notice.  In all the clutter what's one box more or less?  Or three.  Or five.  She gathers things up periodically to take to Goodwill.  Once in a while she could drive right past Goodwill and stop at the storage place instead.  If she ever decided to leave for real, she could do it on a moment's notice.  The few things she cared about would already be gone.  As it is, she has an overnight bag stashed in the car, disguised as a gym bag, an emergency kit.  A few days' worth of meds, some toiletries, cosmetics, a change of clothes and so forth.  It would be quite easy, really.  Given the amount of time she has spent envisioning it, it would be smooth as clockwork.  Like a diamond heist in the movies.  11 Harrowhouse.  The Italian Job.  Score.


She sighs resolutely.  Crumples the paper with the code to the gate and drops in the bin on her way down the rickety steps.  Already put it in her phone.  What would she say if she were discovered?  The truth?  Hardly.  Who could stand to hear that?  I don't love you, I don't want to be here, I need a place of my own that we can't afford, so here is an office I've created for myself in a storage locker.  I'm leaving you in fantasy so I won't actually do it.  Games she learned from the books on raising toddlers.   How fitting.

************

They moved into an RV in the driveway once, for five days while they had the floors done.  Packed up as for a trip.  They smirked about their "staycation."  Clothes for five days for two adults and three kids.  Sleeping space for all and tiny places to tuck things away.  An awning.  A picnic table.  There was a small kitchen area, but they ate a lot of take out.  It was just five days.

Now she runs with the dog on the path to the bay.  There is a trailer park--sorry, a mobile home community.  Some of the parking spaces are filled with RVs and she thinks longingly of that time when she only had to deal with a limited space, a discrete amount of stuff.  Paring away to essentials.  She could do that again.  By herself this time. 

What would she need, really?  The laptop, her few business clothes, a couple pairs of jeans.  Even the books she would need, she could get at the library.  Return them when she's done with them.  Nothing outstays its usefulness.  She's camped before, not real backpacking, but gear to make a tent cabin feel homey.  Strings of chili pepper lights, a checked vinyl tablecloth.  A few candles.  Things she doesn't think to do at home now because there's already too much clutter, other people's possessions.   When you come right down to it, everything she needs is right there in her mind anyway.   

Irony is both sad and funny.  A solitary person, petrified to be alone.  Who surrounded herself with noisy people and lots of chaos.  Only to learn, too late, that to be alone in silence was what she liked best of all.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Today's WTF: Saving a Life on Facebook

The internet is a powerful thing.  Disconnected people come together and feel connected.   At the same time, people are disconnecting from their real lives to connect with friends they make on Facebook. 

I have a Facebook page that over 12,500 people like.  Sometimes they are known as "fans" or "followers."  I back away from those terms because I am neither a celebrity nor a leader.   I just say “likers” with ironic air quotes and leave it at that.  Mostly I see they are people who enjoy my humor and maybe recognize themselves in some of what I joke about.  It is ridiculously gratifying and I take enormous pride in how witty they see me.  I’m kind of a big deal.  On the internet to people I don’t know, but it feels like I do.   So much so that I feel comfortable enough to bare my very soul in some very personal writing.  

When Timeline came around, I said I was worried about the "message page" feature.  I was all worried that the Nutjobs would be messaging me to send them bales of hay in FarmVille  or to read their poetry or promote their video of a canary tap dancing across their sleeping dog or whateverthefuck thing they need me to do.  


“So, just turn it off,” said my page admin friends.  If I turned the messaging feature off, I might keep the bombardment at bay.  And I do turn the feature off, sometimes.  Sometimes I get crap from people who probably don’t even realize how what they are saying sounds.   I have to shut that out.  My tough talk is just an act.  I’m a very fragile Nutjob who can read criticism into the morning weather report.  


But what I came to tell you is this: I saved a life on Facebook!   I can’t believe my restraint.  I waited *five* paragraphs to get to the only thing I wanted to say.  I fucking *saved* a life on Facebook.  A woman was sick and hurting and alone and maybe going to hurt herself.    I chatted with her for a bit, but she started getting vague and scary.  I didn’t know what might happen.  So I fucking looked up Emergency Services in her town and fucking called them up.  I said “This is going to sound really weird but there is a woman in your town and she is sick and she gave me her address and I am a time zone away but I wonder if you would go check on her.”  And of course they wanted to know all kinds of things like who I was and how did I know her and why did I think this was happening and I just said, “I’ll be happy to chat with you while you drive to her house, but really, don’t you think you should hang up now and head on over?”  Then I hung up and chewed my nails and wondered what to do next.  But it was late and I have to take care of myself too so I took my head meds and went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, I wanted to know what had happened but at the same time I didn’t.   I just kept my fingers crossed that if she really needed help, she was able to get it.  I didn’t want to think about any alternatives, including the one where she was totally fine and maybe now a little irritated with me for getting all dramatic.  I didn’t really know what to think.  

Then my cell phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number.  I just picked it up and said my name in my usual business-like manner.  There was silence for a moment, then a voice began speaking.  It was the woman I had phoned the night before, the dispatcher from emergency services.  She wanted to let me know that they *did* go out to that woman's place to check on her, and she *had* been in trouble and alone and they *had* brought her in and she was okay now in the hospital.  She would be going home in a day or so.  She didn’t want to talk to me, but she wanted the staff to make sure I knew and to thank me.  

“How do you know her, again?”  The woman seemed incredulous at the way the whole evening had gone down.  “You’ve never really met, but you have a blog and run a page on Facebook and this woman reached out to you and you phoned us from another state?”  She kept repeating these phrases and I could see her in my mind, shaking her damn head as she thought about it.  “That is really amazing.”  I agreed.  I was shaking my own damn head and getting chills at the thought of what would have happened had I not pushed past my fears and called.  I saved a life.  My page and I. Saved. A. Life. 

I am blinking back tears as I type this.  You never know the effect you can have on people.  It is a blessing and a curse and a huge responsibility.  I cannot do this every day.  I have to turn the message feature off.  I simply cannot handle it.   Because we joke about it a lot on my page, my whole Ron Burgundy shtick, “I’m kind of a big deal.”  But goddamnit.  I guess I really am.  How great and terrifying and tear-inducing is that?  

Namaste, bitches.  We out.  With more love that you can possibly imagine.  For all of you bat-shit crazy Nutjobs.  Take care of yourselves.  Be good to one another.  <Imagine me ruffling your hair as I squeeze you so tight it might make it difficult to breathe>  Now get out of here.  Goddamnit.