Sunday, December 22, 2013

My First Separated Christmas

I don't have anything funny to say about this pain in my chest.  I will say that clenching my abs when I feel this pain begin sometimes helps.  I will say that Assistant has taught me to lean forward when the tears well, that the damage to my makeup and overall facial composition will be less severe if they run down my cheeks than back across my temples to my ears as they do when I lean back.

Fuck Christmas in the neck with a cookie cutter.  I'm homesick.  I'm exhausted.  I'm longing for the normal that never was.  I'm forgetting why I left.  I'm angry.  I'm resentful.  It's Troubled's fault I can't go home.  It's Juvie's fault I can't go home.  It's Mr. K.'s fault I can't go home.  I'm waiting for him to fuck up and stay a drunk and go to the hospital for the third time and maybe finally admit that he needs help but it will be too late because he's already lost me.  Anyway, he's taking too damn long to implode, and, in the meantime, I'm missing Christmas.

I want to make cookies.  I want to see unpack my Christmas things.  I want to argue about whether it's the year for the small tree in the bay window that I like or the large tree taking up the whole damn room, even up against the wall, that Mr. K. likes.  We alternate years because I'm accommodating like that.  I know lots of couples where the wife gets her way about everything, mostly because she cares about getting everything just so, and the husband cares more about keeping peace and being left alone. But in my family, I want things a certain way, but I don't feel strong enough to fight for them.  Mr. K. wants the opposite almost on purpose.  You can tell it wasn't something he felt strongly about until he saw that it would be a fight.  That he would always win.

I want to make Christmas.  Except I don't really.  In fact, a small part of me is rather relieved that I don't have to make Christmas this year.  Because either Christmas makes me hypomanic or my hypomania makes Christmas, but either way, it's a huge effort.  One that I used to make, and gladly.  But this year, because I don't get to, I don't want to, and I'm glad I don't, because I don't have that manic energy this year.  I only have sadness, regret, longing, nostalgia, anger, and malaise in equal measure, in quick succession or all at once, I can't really tell.

I will stop by the house to bring the kids their presents, having agonized whether Troubled will be there, whether I should give her a present, whether she will give me one (last year she gave me two left suede pumps from Walmart, I am not even kidding right now), whether she will once again make herself the center of attention in that we will all nervously anticipate whether she will come and how she might act, whether she will be high, whether she will bring Juvie, whether he will enter the house, whether I will freak out about it when he does because you just know he will.  The friends I see once a year will be there, and they will pull me aside and we will go into the bedroom where I will recount an abbreviated and watered-down version of the Nightmare Year, with the fact that we haven't discussed it until now hanging between us in a cloud of clumsy embarrassment.  And the thing that will save me, the thing I will remember, the thing everyone will remember, is that I will have swept my adolescent son away to the movies, to the horror or amusement or envy of the gathering, for a joyous, irreverent viewing of Anchorman 2.  


Well, that escalated quikly

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In Which I File the Papers

The local branch?  The maple kind, yeah?
The local branch, could I go there?  Would they accept the filing there?  Did I have to go to the main courthouse, far away in the county seat?
Who could tell me?  Only automated answers, no help I could trust even if a person answered.  They're all civil servants, marking time until their union-enforced ten-minute break, who cares if they give this desperate woman with social anxiety and OCD the correct information about where to file the papers to legally separate herself from the man she has been married to for TWENTY-TWO YEARS.

This is really happening, I am doing this.  The decision has been made.  I am merely carrying out the plan -- going to the courthouse (fuck, the COURTHOUSE, OMG) but it's not open yet.  Okay, then, Starbucks, double tall soy vanilla latte, feigning nonchalance, waiting for it to be time to drive up the street.  Isn't it on the right?  The even numbers on the right, the odd on the left side of the street.  Isn't that how it goes? Maybe not in this town.  Rules are never followed when I need them to be.  I drive to where I think it is, but maybe not and there is traffic behind me, I shouldn't slow down to check.  Nope, that was it, there I go right past it.  Now a U-turn, but now there's a median and nowhere to cross so another U-turn.  The symbolism is not lost on me.  It never is.  My life is one fucking symbol after the next.  That's the way my mind works.  Metaphors in everything.  Fuck there it is, a low-slung building, ranch-style, mission-esque, my Kalifornia Kitschy Kounty Kourthouse.    Papers in my briefcase in the trunk, *are* the papers in my briefcase, *is* my briefcase in the trunk?  I have to check, I always have to check, I could check and see that they were there, and then check again and they'd be gone.  I try to make it easy on myself by announcing the beginning of a new system:  I'm going to keep these important papers HERE.  THIS will be the new place for them.  And promptly forget so that there is new terror when I go to look for them everywhere but in the NEW PLACE.

Lately, this has been getting worse, I think as a function of having no real system any more.  I haven't put a new system into place, so these little "okay THIS is the calendar I am going to use from now on" and write down five dates in it, then lose it, or abandon it for some new system that will be equally ineffective.   ZOMFG and then I got my first smartphone.   Assistant kept nagging me, then begging me, then shaming me.  "Klonnie, they're a dollar now, you deserve it, what the hell are you waiting for, get the contract while he still has to pay for it."  Assistant is so wise.  Young enough to be my daughter, yet so far beyond me in so many ways.

So I got the smart-phone on a recent impulsive, defiant whim.  And now add guilt to the mix (kidding, it's the main ingredient), I'm supposed to be using the phone to run my life and whatnot but I don't know how and I keep meaning to sit down with it and really learn it but there isn't that "okay this is the official smartphone-learning time."   So I catch as catch can (note to self, GTS the origin of that phrase sometime) and fly by the seat of my pants (ditto) and just teach myself to do the basic things like jot notes, ask Siri for directions, send texts (now I can see the conversations, or in my case, my unanswered messages to Mr. K., four in a row or even five sometimes, screenshots are awesome little pieces of evidence aren't they?), and run my FB page (not very well, the app is weak and I'm dumb about what it can do).   Let's see, what else?  Oh!  Rdio is cool but I thought it was a free trial but now that's over but everyone else can still make it play songs and all I get are playlists.  Whatever.   I manage all this better on my Chromebook, anyway.  The Chromebook rocks, thanks, Google, for that, for everything really, except it sucked not having bank when you IPO'd, once again a missed opportunity, once again a disappointing metaphor.   On the other hand, talk-to-text has been life-changing.  Welcome to the conversation, as my asshole friend likes to say.  (This is a test to see if he reads my blog.)

Where was I?   Right.  The courthouse.  Right.  I got the big shakedown at the door, two sheriff's deputies lanky and laconic.  ("Morning, Sheriff," I always think when I see them, tipping my imaginary hat and straightening my imaginary holster like in Bonanza or some shit).  There is one of those metal detectors like at the library although the one at the library is only there to make sure you're not walking off with some book you didn't check out.  Library larceny, although let's face it, that's almost always an oversight, just forgetting to check out the book, you're not really there to STEAL FROM THE LIBRARY and isn't the whole concept of a library kind of larcenous anyway, considering you are getting to read a lot of material whose author has only been compensated once despite the fact that hundreds of people are going to enjoy it for free?  Don't get me wrong, libraries are in my top five favorite things today.  Wouldn't it be cool to make a list like that every day or a certain day of the week on the Facebook page, only call it Today's Five-orite Things?  Hang on, let me ask Siri to remind me about that later.  Siri-mind me.

Where was I?  Right.  So I got through the metal detector (sorrow detector?  bullshit detector?  idk but I got through), and the next thing was to determine what line to stand in for which window.  It wasn't a huge decision, but I was having trouble seeing because Maintenance must have been hitting the place pretty hard with some anti-seasonal allergen tear gas made of onion juice, although looking around, it didn't seem to be affecting anyone but me.  So I figured it out and got in line and there was only one other person at the window so I waited pretty far back because I figured if there was ever a time to respect someone's privacy, this would be it, and not some pharmacy consult (because let's face it, I've listened in on a couple of those and I could have done a better job with no notes).

Suddenly, it's my turn and I make my way to the window, which is low enough that even I gratefully accept the chair that awaits my bottom.  I sit with all my papers, looking at them and praying that everything's in order (even though I don't pray ordinarly, apart from the "dear lord I'll never ask you for another thing if you <insert some dreadfully important and yet somehow inconsequential thing>).  So far so good, as the very kind woman (thanks be to the Goddess of Insecurity and Social Anxiety) is stapling and stamping to beat the band and I overhear at the next window, a man talking in a very agitated manner, with a heavy accent.  He's supposed to be paying child support from what I can gather, but he was sent to the wrong office (I KNEW it) and now they can't help him and he has to catch a bus and take a 45 minute ride and he's already had to miss work and they might give his spot to someone else if he doesn't show up in 20 minutes.  So right then and there, I knew my problems were pretty insignificant, relatively, so I started having some embarrassed guilt, which helped strengthen my resistance to that onion juice tear gas that had been plaguing me earlier. When the woman asked me for my $400 check for the filing fee, the flash of adrenaline I felt before I remembered I had it in my wallet made me feel very much like the woman in the that meme about first world problems.

JK I only have one Lexus.  JK I don't have any Lexus.

So.  Ticked and tied.  Licked and stamped.  Done and done.  I walked out through the metal detector again (had I somehow PROCURED a weapon in my brief stay in the clerk's office?), through the doors, out into the parking lot.  I looked down at my hands.  Trembling.  But other than that, I didn't feel much different.  Married, divorced, separated, it's complicated.  It's just a Facebook status in the end.  So much more to a person than whether they were ultimately brave enough to stand up and say "enough" to propping up an alcoholic, "enough" to emotional abuse, "enough" to feeling panicked and inadequate and scornful and alone.  There had been many tears, and doubtless there would be many more.  But today, I stepped out into the mid-morning sun, thankful that the traffic would have abated by now, and that my drive to work would be smooth sailing.




Monday, October 28, 2013

THE VERTIGO: In Which the Run-On Sentences Take Over Once Again

I stayed home from work with THE VERTIGO this morning. My head doesn't spin and I don't feel faint but I don't have any balance.  I'm just wobbly.  I get up and it feels like I am going to fall over if I don't hold on to something.  This happened once before and I went to Urgent Care because I thought I'd had a stroke or something.  And they took it seriously enough to give me a CAT scan and all kinds of other stuff including a prescription for something really expensive that turned out to be Dramamine.  Thanks, WebMD.  I should send you the invoice.

Anyway, the point is, it's better today but I still feel wobbly. I'm trying to get it together to go in to work because my desk is messy and I have projects half-done and someone might rifle through my papers and judge.  I can't let it go and just stay in bed, even though when I called to confess that I had been careless and let myself be weak and ill, that's exactly what Assistant said to do.  

Yesterday, I was practically crying over being wobbly and not being able to do anything but lie here, practically crying over being wobbly and not being able to do anything but lie here.   Well, no, I wasn't practically crying.  I was literally crying.  (But NOT snot-crying.  There's a line.)  I'm freaked out because I feel like the world is judging everything I do because I left my home and my marriage and to an outsider it might look like I abandoned my son.  

My best friend forever, hereinafter known as BFF,  told me that I never take any time for myself and this episode is a sign that I need to take a break and just rest.   But I can't take a day off to be sick, especially with something so whackadoodle as THE VERTIGO, because I'm a Nutjob who has to take psych meds and here is one more example of everything that's wrong with me.   I can't have this!  I'm losing points in the Passive Aggressive Olympics!  

You and I both know that I am right for leaving Mr. K. because he is an alcoholic who will never get well if I keep propping him up and making it seem like everything is okay when it's not it's not it's not!   <stamps foot, pounds table, rubs stomach, pats head>.  BUT I KEEP FORGETTING.  And I think maybe there *is* something wrong with me for leaving Mr. K. and my home and not talking to Troubled any more.  I must be a horrible, unforgiving, petty, angry Nutjob with a mood disorder who can't trust her perception of reality because feelings.  

I know it probably looks like that to the rest of the world and let's not kid ourselves that is what really matters and maybe there really is a Passive Aggressive Olympics and that Mr. K. and I really are competing for who is more worthy of sympathy (him) and who is more blameable (me) and that little red underline is telling me "blameable" isn't a word but fuck that noise because it is too a word because it's what I am.  

So once again the run-on sentences have taken over and you know I do that for effect and to make you smile because goddamnit if I can't then at least someone should and I bet you are going to send me some really nice and supportive messages full of helpful suggestions and you know I love you for it but I do moderate the comments so you might not see them until I can find the little "publish" button because of the crying from the horrible guilt and fear and all the things because THE VERTIGO.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Told You So or I'll Save You a Seat: Equally Good Titles And I Can't Decide

Her ex-husband died of pancreatitis, more specifically, organ failure as a result of pancreatitis.  Chronic; necrotizing; fatal.  In his particular case, the pancreatits was caused by decades of drinking, every night, till he got drunk, not a little high, not tipsy, but swaying and pontificating in a voice thickened with bourbon.  He died of pancreatitis and she went to the funeral with her adult children to prop her up, though she didn't really need propping.  His doctors showed up to pay their respects.  At the gravesite, she walked up to them, spoke to them, very clearly and very plainly, so that everyone could hear.  

"He said YOU said it was okay to drink."

Everyone suddenly became very quiet.  The doctors looked helplessly at one another. Turned together and walked away.

Okay, that didn't happen.  Correction, it hasn't happened yet.  But it might.  And it will be horrible.  But inside the horror will be a tiny shred of vindication.  

I told you so.  

How can you say "I told you so" to a dead man?  But "I told you so" will be the motet that will ring out loud like bells at whatever memorial service we end up having.  Presumably he will have enough time before he dies to realize that he needs to make that clear - what he wants us to do about him after he is gone because he would not help himself,

You might think I am a monster for letting this scenario play out in my head.  But it's probably more likely than another fantasy I have where he has an epiphany, goes to rehab, turns into the awesome person he might really be under all the disease and denial. That fantasy is a little scarier even than the dying one.  He goes through all that, does all that work that I've told him for so long that he needs to do, and we get to the other side and I find that I still don't like him.  I learn that I prefer to be on my own.  I don't want to reconcile.

I need him to stay sick so that I have a concrete reason to leave him and stay gone.  An understandable reason.  A forgivable reason.  Not just "she up and left on a whim one day so she could go be happy alone and on her own."  That's the story he is telling.  The sad victim.  Shaking his head and wringing his hands like the weakling that he is.  Like it matters what people think.

Fantasy, the prequel:  He has another bout of pancreatitis and wakes up in excruciating pain.  He gets up to go the bathroom.  He falls.  Hard,  And noisily.  He hits head, he passes out.  The Gamer finds him, calls me in a panic.  I'm there in seven minutes, get him to the ER.   Here we go again.  And I'm the hero.

My online friend teases me.   "That's a very stirring story, Klonnie, but you're no hero.  I saw you in your fantasy.  I saw how it really was.  You didn't go straight to the ER.  I saw you drive around the block about 27 times."
I protest.   "Hey!  I was listening to a 'finish in the driveway' song.  I couldn't pass that shit up."
We laugh and he says, "You're going to hell.  I'll save you a seat."

I mock him.  "You always know just what to say.  Now get out of my fantasy.  You're kind of ruining it."

Dear Reader, smooth your scandalized brow.  This is gallows humor.  My fantasy won't conjure these events.  You can't make things happen by wishing them so, and you know it.   If that were possible, wouldn't we have fixed all this ages ago?  

Still, can you blame me for hoping he waits till I can lose ten pounds?  I've got a black dress that hugs the curves a little too tightly right now, but give me six months and I'll be all set.  See you there.  

I'll save you a seat.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

In Which I Am Invited to Rejoin the Household

There's a very brief  scene in Woody Allen's Annie Hall, when Alvy Singer is trying to find a couple who seem happy together so he can find out how they make that work.   He sees a beautiful couple walking down the street and he runs up to them asks them, "Here, you look like a very happy couple. How do you account for it?"  And the woman, lithe and blonde, says  "Well, I'm very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say." She looks to the man who says, "And I'm exactly the same way."


*   *   *   *   *

Money and kids.  The one-two punch of arguments in a marriage.  My husband and I are going over the budget. We come up against the following issues without actually fighting about them.

--  His nephew, Artist, an adult, who has been living with us for a solid year, rent-free.


--  The low five-figure cash account he has -- funded by jointly owned savings bonds, cashed in and ostensibly used for ski trips and other out-of-budget items.


--  The cash account I opened as a hedge when he started talking about separate accounts.


--  The money he gave to Troubled and Juvie, including $1,600 to pay off warrants, $1,400 for their "apartment" that turned out to be a room in some house of which they wouldn't even give the address, let alone let us see, and other surreptitious fistfuls of cash over the course of the last year.


-- The impounded car and who's fault it was (his) and how I had to use the last of the money I had inherited from my mother to pay off the car loan before it ruined our credit.


Each time one of these issues comes up, I will myself to sit silently.  I start to say something, and snap my mouth shut before I do.   Keep your mouth shut. Do not engage. My anger comes in brilliant flashes.  The injustice, the betrayal, the hurt come flooding back despite months of protecting myself from all the feels. 


"We could save a lot of money if we didn't have to pay your rent," says Mr. K.  Again, my mouth opens and closes like a fish on a hook.  We have to pay rent for me to live somewhere else because he drove me away with his drinking, his indifference, his refusal to be a husband to me and a parent to our children.  Now he wants to blame me for our unbalanced budget.  Nothing new here.


"If you move back here, we could save almost $10,000 a year."  (By switching to Geico? I think, with an internal squeak of hysterical laughter.)    "What do you mean?" I say aloud. At first I thought he meant that one of us (him) would move into PreMed's room now that she had gone to college.  He watches me expectantly as I tried to envision it.


"God.  I don't even really know what you are talking about.  What would that look like? Would you take the room, or would I?"  Thinking,  how would we be separated if we lived in the same house?   Dismay with a tinge of bemusement.  Like the attorney who wanted to see us together in order work out our separation, he just doesn't get it.  He was boldfaced and innocent and optimistic and hopeful.  Imploring me silently with an almost desperate expression.


"I thought you might move back in.  With me.  Get back together."


I stare at him as it washes over me, what he thinks is possible that I would agree to.


"I'd like to invite you to rejoin the household."


Is he fucking kidding me right now?   Reconciling.   When a mere conversation about the household budget provokes decades-long anger and resentment and bitterness.   The feelings that won't subside until we're really apart and can use that distance to get perspective, to start trying to forgive.  But he is immune to that, determined to pretend everything is okay.  He just wants it to be okay again.   Just.  Please.


I can almost hear his thought process, a waterwheel grinding the grain of blame and denial.  Please just move back and make everything okay.  Because when you won't (and I know you won't), I can blame you for being unreasonable.  Look, Troubled has moved back home, she has a job, she is registered for school. All the things you were unhappy about are fixed.  Why can't you come back now?   


It's so much easier to charge me with the job of breaking up this family on a capricious whim  than to accept his role in the collapse of our marriage.  Easier to accuse me of walking out on our family when what I did was walk out on him and his emotional abuse. All that is far preferable to dropping his denial to the floor and manning up for the hard work he refuses to even consider that he needs to do.  


Just please, he implores with his enormous and tear-filled eyes.  Please let us be the happy couple in the Woody Allen movie.  Please just be the blonde woman, very shallow and empty, with no ideas and nothing interesting to say, so that I can be the man with her, exactly the same way.  


Thursday, July 25, 2013

In Defense of Hot Messes Around the Globe


I got a fair bit of blow-back today in PMs from my Facebook page for my (and I'm paraphrasing here) irreverent, disrespectful and callous treatment of the situation with Amanda Bynes.  And although I don't need to apologize for the nothing I have done wrong,  I would like to say this in response:


Hey.  Don't talk to me about how I've treated the situation with Amanda Bynes.  I *am* Amanda Bynes.  A very, very, very lucky version of Amanda Bynes.  Who had the sense to lose her mind well before the age of Instagram and Twitter.  Who didn't have to get her batshit crazy on in front of millions of people glued to their iPhones lest even one humiliating minute go unremarked.  The final scenes of the trainwreck unfolding in the libraries and lecture halls of a midwestern college town as opposed to racing back and forth between New York and Hollywood, and culminating in a convenience store in Ventura County.  I had to share my nightmare with only a small group in OT, not with a world-wide audience on TMZ.  If you have to go crazy, stay home, because it turns out there is such a thing as negative publicity after all.  Phew.  Dodged a bullet there.


But I'm confident that Amanda and I shared at least one aspect of our respective psychotic episodes:  absolute terror.   What in God's honest fuckhouse is happening to me?  I can't understand it and I can't control it and I AM PETRIFIED.  In case you were wondering what's going on with that "hot mess" (your words, not mine) Amanda Bynes, she is, among other things, PETRIFIED.


While Hollywood mocks, and her family wrings their ineffective little hands, and we decry the stigma of mental illness in our society, and lament how law enforcement's hands are tied, and shake our fists that the person really has to ask for help, and on, and on, and on:  Petrified.  


And I mocked too.  Jeez, Amanda, sit the fuck down, you're ruining it for the rest of us.  Good thing she finally figured out how to drill down to the necessary "danger to yourself and others" clause.   When all else fails, go for the flammables.  Remind me next time to hit the Rite-Aid for lighter fluid early on and save everyone about six months' worth of butterfly nets.  Oh yes.  But to the righteous defenders of the celebrity infirm, lest you think me monstrous, just know that I mock because recognition.  I scorn because empathy.   And I do stand-up on a soap-box because attention. 


Who has two thumbs and is crossing everything crossable that Amanda Bynes can finally right the ship with the support she's finally getting because she finally put the necessary points together to finally take it to Level 5150?   

This Nutjob.  This Nutjob right here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blame, Avoidance, and Denial, Oh My

Bitches be blogging about George Zimmerman, but not me.  I'm way too self-absorbed for that.  Besides, as a white woman living in a progressive state, what new dimension could I really bring to the discussion?  Race relations in this country are as bad as they have ever been?  Possibly.  Our hearts go out to the Martin family?  Definitely.  

<polite yawn, thank you, Klonnie, next blogger, please>  


Just because I *can* blog about something, doesn't mean I should.  By the same token, just because I'm not blogging about the current issues doesn't mean I shouldn't blog at all.  So instead I offer the following, another chapter in the ever-growing tome titled:  My Book About Me.


Today's blog post is brought to you today by Anger
It's one of those days, you guys. Riding the rollercoaster. They don't call it "rapid-cycling" for nothing. Dear Lance Armstrong. I ride this cycle more rapidly than even you, and I don't take steroids, I take mood stabilizers. Whatever.

Hey, I'm fragile lately. Troubled moved back home last week and the clusterfuck, temporarily suspended, resumes.  My soon-to-be-ex, never my ally when it came to raising our kids, showed his ultimate true colors by encouraging, financing and facilitating my daughter's relationship with her loser, drug-dealing boyfriend, throwing me under the bus and destroying our family in the process. Now she wants to come back home and once again, Mr. Fucking Useless Passive Adolescent Addict So-Called Parent refuses to set any kind of limits, citing his reasons to be that 1. I fucked her up with my anger issues and 2. I don't have a say because I left.


<outstanding>

I tried to get Mr. K. to lay some ground rules for her being there -- for example, she has to be in school, there can't be any drugs in the house, and Juvie can't be here.  Ever.   At all.   She was hostile, sullen, resentful, and mocking when we sat her down to lay this out for her.  Of course Mr. Fucking Useless Passive Adolescent Addict So-Called Parent was apologetic and conciliatory.  Five bucks says Juvie will be back in the house within ten days.


<frownie-face emoticon>


And guess who's going to be gone for two of the next three weeks on business, but "whatever you decide to do, you have my complete support"?  Mr. Fucking Useless Passive Adolescent Addict So-Called Parent, who has never done one thing to support me in running this family except stand aside and mock me and judge me. 


<whereupon Klonnie bursts into yet another round of ridiculous and useless tears and runs away>


This dynamic permeates all of our family relationships.  Mr. K. wrings his hands over The Gamer -- "He plays video games all day.  I'm so worried about him.  I offered him some alternatives. I tried to make him stop but he won't."  Of course he won't, he knows you are Mr. Fucking Useless Passive Adolescent Addict So-Called Parent.   Step aside, let me show you how it's done.  I go in to The Gamer's room and start dealing out instructions and consequences and not backing down and of course everyone is horrified. I am a mean bitch.  Really?  Really?  That's fine with me because (stop the presses) mean bitches GET SHIT DONE. 


From making sure *his car* gets smogged because the registration is due next week, while he leaves important papers for me to find days after action was required,  to flicking the switch in the circuit breaker that turns off video games in The Gamer's bedroom, while he looks for the charger to his iPad, I GET SHIT DONE.  From holding the line on spending so that PreMed's tuition gets paid, while he plans a trip to Portugal, to calling Social Services and counselors and everywhere else I can think of to deal with the trainwreck that our household has become, while he has "just a quick nap," I GET SHIT DONE.  


From kicking ass to taking names,  I GET SHIT DONE.  


While Mr. Fucking Useless Passive Adolescent Addict So-Called Parent sits in sullen silence, like the teenage children I am trying to raise.  Watching, judging, and blaming.


But I'm sugar-coating it.  Some day I'll tell you how I really feel.  


Namaste.  


Monday, July 8, 2013

Disoriented

She's back in her house for the week, while her (ex?  when do you start saying that?) husband is on the East Coast for business.  So far, the reviews are mixed.  It's nice to be able to take care of things as she thinks of them, but the clutter and chaos are maddening.  If she could, she would just pack three boxes of things to keep, back a Dumpster up to the front door, and haul everything else away.

She woke up, disoriented, in her own bed, in her own house.  Her phone alarm went off, but it wasn't on the right side, like it is where she sleeps now.  It was strange, to wake up in a familiar place and yet not know where you were at first.  And then the sick feeling of recognizing where you were, and realizing why it didn't make sense that you were there.  She wore that feeling all day, a cloud she couldn't shake off, no matter how defiantly she shrugged her shoulders and tossed her head.  It's impossible to get out from under the cloud when it descends.  Panic ensues when she sees it coming, no way to get around it.  It's like a train is bearing down on her.   A trainwreck, more like.

They had planned to play Boggle after dinner, but something struck her while she was doing the dishes, and she just couldn't face sitting down to the game.  The waves roll over her and she has to hang her head, and run the hot water to try to make it look like it's not tears, but perspiration that is making her face red and wet.  "What's wrong?" people ask.  The answer used to be that she had a mood disorder, that nothing was objectively wrong, it was her responses that were wrong.  Now what's wrong is her marriage is over and her family is in ruins.  And she has a mood disorder.  Let's not forget that.  No.

It is overwhelming to think of all the things there are to do, all the decisions to be made, all the awkward moments to go through.  All the feelings.  Exhausting.  The manic months of the Nightmare  Spring have caught up with her and she can barely slog her way through the evening's activities.  She just wants to sit on her (former) bed and drink beer and write about all her feelings in the third person in an effort to make them somehow literary and not pathetic.

So we'll always know where it is.
It's disorienting, to feel all the feelings, all at once.  She's been doing that her whole life.  Apparently it's not a good thing, although for so many years she didn't know that, and she didn't really have a choice.  Now she understands that she is somehow different.  She mistrusts her responses.  She cries a lot, seemingly out of the blue.  She laughs out loud, hard, sudden laughter, maybe disproportionate to the joke, but it feel so good pouring out of her.  She feels angry, she feels love.  And these days she feels distracted, exhausted.   Like usual, only more so.  Even more so.  As if that's even possible.



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Does This Seem Right To You?

As the day begins, she is at her best.  A morning person.  French roast.  In the driver's seat by 6:30 a.m.  The last person on Earth who still listens to broadcast radio.  They do play good music sometimes, music she hasn't heard for a long time.  Music she has never heard before.    She listens to the traffic report.  Every ten minutes on the eight.  It is a big production.  Sky Three.  Mobile Two. She loves the traffic report because as rough as her commute is thought to be, there are others that are generally much worse.  She wouldn't live in the East Bay for any amount of money.  Well, no.  That's an exaggeration.  Piedmont is nice.
As Faye Dunaway looks on.

Exaggeration is her medium.  Hyperbole is her argot. A big tough talker. She mentally pounds her fist on the desk.  Says "goddamnit" to just about everything.  "Seriously?  Really?  Fuck me dead." Phrases that pepper her interior monologue.  She stomps her foot on the gas, changes lanes without signaling, without looking.  Things that would enrage her if someone else did them.  Fuck that noise.  She pounds her hand on the steering wheel (oops, that was the horn, huh).  Mad as hell.  Not going to take it any more. Cue Peter Finch.

Because it's not fair.  None of it.  Being blamed for the current clusterfuck is particularly outrageous.  She owns the things she did do wrong, a long time ago when she was sick and no one would help her.  She rakes herself over the coals, she analyzes and examines and has insights and revelations and tears upon tears upon tears until she laughingly gets up to rehydrate.

Because how they got here happened in the last ten months.   The wrongdoing is so recent that it is still raw.   He won't even acknowledge, let alone apologize and atone.  All he can do is fold his arms, grit his teeth.  And deny, deny, deny.

By day, she gathers up her righteous indignation and drapes it like a shawl around her brave, squared shoulders.  Pounds her fists and swears her swears.  Goddamnit.  Motherfucker.  Yes.  All the injustice.

"Does this seem right to you?"  As the day progresses, she grows tired.  And uncertain.  Doubtful of herself, her judgment, her ability to assess situations.  When she was little, she learned not to trust her version of things.  What she thought and felt couldn't possibly be right.  Then she grew up and was told the same thing.  You have a mood disorder.  Everything you do is suspect.  Every thing you feel.  None of it is real or right.

"Does this seem right to you?"  She is embarrassed to admit she doesn't know and so she refrains from asking other people.   If they said (which they did), "No, not even a little bit, not even close," the next thing she heard (even if they didn't say it) was "How come you don't know?"  And the next thing she heard after that (even if they didn't say it) was "Why haven't you changed it yet?"

They are fair questions.  Why indeed?  Goddamnit.

She takes off her wedding ring, with many tears, and little fanfare.  And rubs her finger where that ring used to be.




Thursday, June 6, 2013

In Which I Am Introduced to R.E.M.

When I was twenty years old, R.E.M. released their first album.  I had some sort of virus that jacked my temperature up to 104 and all I could do was lie on my futon on the floor and listen to Murmur on a cassette player that would repeat the sequence of songs in a perfect circle of acquaintances and friends.   Occasionally my fever would break and I would wake to find myself dripping with sweat.  I'd fade in and out and dream about changing my drenched t-shirt.  Murmur would begin again.  And suddenly I had chills, bone-aching cold that would not subside no matter how many blankets I wrapped around myself.  I would doze and wake to Murmur gently rolling on.

It's so much more attractive inside the moral kiosk.   Rest assured this will not last, take a turn for the worse.   Did we miss anything?  The lyrics swirled dreamily in figure eights around my fever-addled brain.  This went on for days.  I was so sick that I wasn't worried about how sick I was.   There was just the litany of fever and chills, the call and response of Catapult and Radio Free Europe.


Finally, the fever broke for good and I felt like raising my head.  Gingerly, I sat up and turned off the stereo.  Steeling myself in case the virus resumed its assault, I made my way to the bathroom.  I turned on the shower and sat weakly on the john while the steam rose and fragile tears of relief rolled down my face.  


Not everyone can carry the weight of the world.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I'm Blogging for Mental Health: May 15, 2013


You guys.  I can't believe I forgot about Mental Health Month Blog Day.  Well, actually, I can believe it because, quite frankly, I've had a lot on my plate lately what with leaving my husband and tough-loving my kid and trying to keep myself together AGAINST ALL ODDS because oh, yeah, I'm MENTALLY ILL.  Whatever the fuck that means.  So here's an oldie but goodie and I hope you'll like but it won't bother me if you don't because I'm really not paying attention to anything besides hanging on by a thread on this emotional rollercoaster ride I am on at the moment.  But you should pay attention to mental health and stuffs because it sucks being blamed for being sick.  You just never know what's going on with someone so just don't assume.  Unless you see me wandering around in the supermarket in my bathrobe.  Because then you should assume that you need to take my elbow gently but firmly and lead me back to the car and drive me home.  But I digress.  Surprise.

I wrote this post before I even had a blog.  I was inspired by a friend who had just been diagnosed.  She was in a full-blown manic episode.  Watching her go through that reminded me of what my own episodes were like.   I'm calm enough now to articulate what it feels like to be so brilliant that you can't describe it.  Which is pretty goddamn ironic, if you ask me.

A Beautiful Mind--it's a lot like that
The hallmark of mania for me is how I feel like a superhero.  Creative and brilliant and simply on *fire* with wit and humor.    When I was riding the crest of a manic wave,  I used to say that I didn't need to eat or sleep because I was bionic.  I got really angry with people who said I was wrong to feel that way and that I needed to go to the hospital and take meds so that I wouldn't feel that way any more.   I would get so angry that I would snarl at them and claw and hiss and refuse to get out of the car.  Wouldn't you?  After I was finished the treatment that stopped that wonderful, invincible, genius feeling, I would quit taking my meds cold turkey.  I would carouse until all hours of the night, telling anyone who would listen my bright new ideas that tied up every loose end in the universe with one beautiful bow.   Holding court on the floor of my room in college, knocking over the bong with my expansive sweeps of my arms as I pontificated to my housemates, who thought I was brilliant, but knew I was nuts.  Destroying relationships.  Winning hearts and breaking them. Staying in my room for days, talking to myself and scaring my roommates away.  Ending up in the nut house time and again.

Now I can recognize when that superstar quality starts to burn and I know I have to nip it in the bud.  I let my husband know (like he can't tell) and I go see the shrink and get extra support and what have you.  It is the hardest thing in the world to voluntarily let go of that genius feeling.  I simply cannot tell you.  But I know that I must.  As great as the high feels, the low is going to be a gut-punch that knocks me flat, even though I know it's coming.  So I take my meds and gather my loved ones around me and brace myself.

The hallmark of a depressive episode for me is not wanting to be here. I don't think about suicide per se.  I don't want to die.  I just want not to be here.  Everything I've done wrong (which is basically everything), every mistake I've made, every conversation gone awry, every wasted opportunity with my kids, my career -- they all gather together in a threatening thundercloud that hovers over me.  The horrible angry voices of what I call "The Committee" begin the litany of exactly how worthless, no, harmful my presence on the planet has been.  As evidence of why I shouldn't be here.  Shouldn't *have been* here.  This whole time.  I just want to curl up as small as possible, until I take up no space.  No one sees me.  I'm not here.

So.  Staying in the middle is a good thing.  Boring and safe.   Learning to feel my feelings, but not too much.  That's a tough one.  Because I feel my feelings.  A lot.  Possibly more than I should, whatever that means.  Apparently there is a normal amount of feeling, though how you could measure it, I don't know.  It certainly doesn't sound very fun to me.

My job is to stay safe.  To have creative energy, but not too much.  And to channel it in ways that make me glad to be here.  And to let it be okay to feel sad, from time to time.  But if "worthless" pops up on the psychic horizon, it's time to blow the whistle.  Time to remember to do the things that help me, in addition to my meds.  Swimming.  Playing music.  Creating this page, working out my thoughts, writing, laughing.  Making people laugh and shake their heads in self-recognition.  And maybe a little relief that they are not alone.

SUIT UP!
I have a mantra that is blinding in its banality.  It's insultingly simple.  And yet it works for me.  I'm embarrassed to admit it, but my mantra comes from a sitcom (yeah, I watch TV, I have teenagers, don't judge) called "How I Met Your Mother."

"When I'm sad, I stop being sad, and be awesome instead.  True story."

Of course it's not that easy.  But it reminds me that this too shall pass and I will be awesome again.  Until I'm not.  And so on.  In the meantime, I have a blog and a page.  And a lot of friends I've never met.  Who get it.  More than most people I know in real life.  I'll take it.  I mean, what else ya got?

Namaste.  And if you're wondering what that means, suffice to say that we meet in the middle where there's mutual respect and understanding.  We give each other the benefit of the doubt.  We forgive ourselves and each other.  We're good to one another.   We don't have a choice.  This is it.  Namaste.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Things Mr. K. Did Wrong


You guys.  Once more unto the breach.  That's Shakespeare.  Big whoop.  In any case, there's one last thing I wrote before we roll credits on this marriage.  If my husband won't listen, if the counselor won't listen, I know you guys will listen.  But it's okay if you want to skip some.  It's superlong.  And that's not what she said.  Dirty.  Anyway, one more round.

Response to Counseling Session, Part 2

Mr. K. has had a lot to say about what I did during our children’s formative years.  I’d like a turn now to observe how Mr. K. behaved during that time.  

Mr. K. worked hard to make the money our family needed to thrive, and I don’t want to minimize that.  He is an excellent provider.  As much as we fought about money and the best way to spend it, we never wanted for anything.  I know that Mr. K. wished he could stay at home and do fun things with the kids.  I felt sorry that we weren’t able to swing that financially.  I felt that Mr. K. resented me because I got to stay home.  

When I was pregnant, I read books, made a birth plan, went to childbirth classes.  I think  Mr. K. found these things awkward and they made him uncomfortable.  He didn’t seem to enjoy the Bradley classes we attended.  He didn’t want to do the exercises.  Once the kids arrived, he refused to change diapers.  Three kids. I think he changed maybe ten diapers.  It was a big joke.  

Since the very beginning, Mr. K. needed more sleep than I did.  I got up with the babies in the night and changed them and fed them, while Mr. K. slept on.  It was hurtful to me that he wouldn’t wake up to help me.  I told him that many times.  He responded with polite indifference.  Occasionally he would joke that since I was already up, he didn’t need to get up too. 

He wanted to sleep in on the weekends and I did my best to make sure he could do that.   When the children reached school age, I would get up with them each day, help them get ready, and get to school on time.   I drove the carpool when it was our turn.  In the mornings, I would be concerned that Mr. K. was oversleeping.  I would gently shake his shoulder and ask whether he needed to going for work and he would be annoyed with me that I had woken him up. 

Because he was had to be away from them all day during the week, weekends were precious quality time.   Mr. K. was passionate about family trips, Saturday excursions, Sunday trips to the zoo. While we all enjoyed these outings, it often seemed that his idea was solely to entertain the children.  I used to joke that we could never get divorced because he was already a weekend dad.  

He did lots of projects with the kids and they got a lot out of the knowledge and experience he brought to our family.   At the same time, Mr. K. acted as though playing was more important than learning important life lessons as though the two were mutually exclusive.

While he loved to go places with the kids, there were events and excursions and weekend trips that Mr. K. did not attend.  An annual spring weekend in Yosemite was an event that the families from school put together.  I think in the fourteen years we have been attending, Mr. K. went with us possibly three times. Throughout those formative years, the ones that only come around once, the ones that he claims that I demolished, "Where's Mr. K.?" was a question I heard more times than I can count.  

Throughout the decade that I managed the children’s schedule and got them everywhere they needed to go and insured that they had all the supplies, clothing and equipment they needed to bring with them, I heard very little from Mr. K. in this regard.  I think he was in awe of how I could take care of everything with such efficiency.  We used to chalk it up to the hypomania of bipolar disorder.  We laughed together about the man who thought he was a chicken.  His wife didn’t want the doctor to cure him because they needed the eggs.  My ability to manage multiple projects, a side “benefit” of being hypomanic, was the egg our family couldn’t do without. 

Now I would like to talk about my bipolar disorder and the support I needed to get it under control and to manage it.  Mr. K. says that he was panicked for years about what to do.  He saw me struggling, but felt powerless to do anything to help me.  He stood by, wringing his hands, and watching the debacle unfold.   At the same time, he blamed me and judged me and resented me.  He felt he needed to protect the children from me.  Looking back on it now, I’d like to raise a few points about that.  

If I was that out of control, if the children’s well-being were truly in jeopardy, I think Mr. K. would have, or should have, taken charge to change that situation.  If he truly felt he needed to protect them, he should have done so by intervening as soon as he realized they were in danger.  If he were truly worried about what was going on with me, if he felt that my illness was out of control, he would have and should have taken over and forced me to get some help.  He has made it clear that he feels I was out of control.  If that were the case, how could I possibly take the necessary steps on my own to realize that, seek treatment, and regain control?  I did eventually come to that conclusion on my own, and sought help on my own.  Mr. K. likes to talk about how worried he was, but looking back, I see now that he was very passive, taking no initiative to get me the help I couldn’t recognize that I needed for myself.  

Now I would like to talk about how focusing on my bipolar disorder and things that happened years ago is a very useful smokescreen to avoid talking about the more recent events that have led us to the brink of our marriage and family life.   Mr. K.’s indulgence in Troubled’s wayward behavior and his dismissal of my protests have led us to this point far more directly than events from the distant past ever could.   If Mr. K. is going to assert that Troubled is living in a crack house with a drug dealer because I yelled at her a lot ten years ago, then I feel confident that my decision to end this marriage is valid.  There is no way that such a relationship can or even should continue.  

It is cowardly to hide behind issues from the past to avoid facing the current ones.  Mr. K. is determined to keep rehashing scenes from our past in order to deny that his alcoholism has prevented him from taking an active role in our parenting partnership.  It has prevented him from paying attention to what is happening in our family.  It has prevented him from seeing how destructive his own behavior has been.  If our counseling sessions are not going to address this, then I want no part of them.  

The Fall of the House of Klon began in earnest when Troubled first met Juvie and sneaked him into her room overnight.  She neither sought permission nor asked for forgiveness.  Troubled moved Juvie into our house without seeking permission.  When I questioned her about it, she would tell me that Dad said it was okay. It became clear to me that Troubled was talking to Mr. K. about these things after he had had a few shots of alcohol and sometimes an Ambien.  She would eke out the answer she sought and he would have no recollection of her having done so. 

Around this time Juvie’ friends began to hang around the house.  Sometimes they were there when no one else was.  When The Gamer came home from school one day, there was a stranger passed out on the couch in the living room.  The Gamer had brought a friend home from school that day.  But it turned out that they went to his friend’s house instead, because they couldn’t rouse the man and it creeped them out.  Troubled and Juvie smoked pot in the house constantly.  I would insist that they stop.  I was met with derision.  Mr. K. did nothing to back me up.

It was around this time that Mr. K. was hospitalized for the second time with pancreatitis.  (His first bout, two years earlier, required a week-long stay.  The doctors told me to watch out for signs of alcohol withdrawal, which can be fatal.)  

I took him to the hospital the morning after he had fallen in the bathroom so hard that he broke the toilet tank.  He had washed down his Ambien with vodka.  That stay in the hospital lasted only three days.  I sat in the room, holding Mr. K.’s hand, when the doctor told him he couldn’t drink at all with his condition.  Mr. K. confided to me later that he didn’t think he could face life without alcohol.   In the next breath he told me that that wasn’t what the doctor had said, that he’d be okay if he just cut down.  

Troubled began to fail her classes.  She would go to work high.  She let Juvie drive our car.  When I protested because Juvie wasn’t insured, Mr. K. contradicted me in front of Troubled, saying, “It’s the car that’s insured, not the driver.  It’s fine.”    It turned out that it wasn’t fine.  The car was impounded when the police discovered that Juvie was driving with a suspended license.  Mr. K gave Juvie money to clear the warrants.  I paid off the car loan rather than ruin my credit with the bank.  And still nothing was said, still nothing was done.  Still I was cast as the villain when I demanded that this madness stop. 

Troubled came home with a puppy, again without permission or apology or acknowledgment or gratitude that we would allow it.  She was incapable of managing the puppy’s housetraining and it shat everywhere, but oftentimes, she wouldn’t clean it up. I threw a fit one day because I found five piles of puppy shit throughout the house and no one made a move to help me clean it up. Troubled and Mr. K. rolled their eyes at me.  Mr. K. allied with Troubled to my face, agreeing with her that I was unreasonable, encouraging her to disrespect me by doing the same.  That was the first time I left.  I spent the day at a friend’s, asking, “Does this seem right to you?”   Of course it did not.  Not even a little bit.  Not even close.

But still it continued.  It got worse, if that’s even possible.  Juvie finally moved out shortly before the end of the year.  Because he insisted that he had nowhere else to go, he began sleeping in his broken down Cadillac that he had had towed to our cul-de-sac.  I called the Abandoned Vehicle Hotline several times in the hopes that they’d tow the car away.  But every few days, Juvie and his friends would push the car a few yards down the road, and then back again a few days later.  And still Mr. K. said nothing, did nothing.  At one point, the pair spent several nights in our SUV parked in our driveway.  They ran an extension cord from the house to the car so that they could watch movies on our daughter’s laptop.  Mr. K. called it “romantic.”  

During this time, Juvie was arrested at least once that I know of.  The police were aware of Juvie and his proximity to us.  They came one Sunday to tell us that Juvie’s ex-girlfriend had attacked the pair while they slept in the Cadillac around the corner.  I had to sit and listen to the police lecture me on my poor parenting skills and what I should do to correct the situation with my daughter.   I was furious beyond measure.  And still Mr. K. did nothing.  Still I couldn’t convince him that action was required.

It was around this time that I realized I could no longer tolerate the way Mr. K. ignored my concerns, refused to acknowledge how dangerous the situation was getting, dismissed me and blamed me and called me crazy and selfish.  I began to believe him when he told me there was nothing wrong, that the problem was with me.   It was like a nightmare and I couldn’t wake up.  I moved to a friend’s house because I couldn’t take the madness any more.  Mr. K. admonished me that I had “broken the rules” by taking our private issues out into the public eye.  I was having trouble processing any of this.  He had changed so much from the man I fell in love with so many years ago.

I spent as much time as I could with The Gamer.  I couldn’t bring myself to make him leave his home, so I did my best to make sure he was taken care.   I made sure he knew to call me if he had a problem or wanted to talk about what was going on.  I continually asked him if he understood that what was going on was wrong.  He assured me that “the takeaway was:  stay in school.”  I would leave work in the afternoon to spend time with The Gamer after school.  After I saw him through homework and dinner, I would return to work and stay late to make up the time.   This was during tax season, when I was working 15 hour days as it was.

The slide hasn’t really ended, although at every step along the way you would think that that rung was the bottom.  Currently our daughter lives somewhere in another town twenty miles away, in a room that we haven’t seen, for which we give her $400 per month for part of the rent.  She claims to be taking online classes but I have not seen the bill nor the receipt for these classes.  She does have a job making sandwiches at the deli counter of a large supermarket chain.  But she posts pictures on Instagram in which she and Juvie are smoking pot.  The most recent picture was of Juvie holding a bag of pot with $20 and $100 bills spread out over his thighs. It added up to over a thousand dollars.  Yes, I counted.  it’s what I do.  Clearly they are selling drugs.  

At this point I need to stop talking about what we should do because there really is nothing to do.  I have simply given up.   Mr. K. is just beginning to see how hopeless the situation has become.  Whether he will ever admit that he encouraged and exacerbated it through his failure to take action at any point along the way doesn’t matter now.   The damage has been done.

Nevertheless, I feel compelled to tell the story as it is instead of how Mr. K. would like it to be.  The fact that I even have to defend myself in light of recent events is ludicrous.  I look back with disbelief at the pages I have written here.  It looks even more incongruous on paper than it does in my head.  My daughter is living in a crack house with a drug dealer.  But it’s not because my illness was uncontrolled when she was growing up.  Not even a little.  Not even close.

Things Klonnie Did Right


You guys.  Another round in the email wars.  Now it is a letter instead of an email because Ms. Pussy Couples Counselor doesn't have an email for her clients to use.  (I'd like "Things That Make You Go 'Hmm'" for 400, please, Alex.)  Anyway, here's some stuff I wrote to the counselor.  It's called "Things Klonnie Did Right".  I'm mailing it tomorrow.  I'm copying Mr. K.   Take what you need if you can use it.  Nod in recognition if you recognize.  Pound your fist on the desk if you are so inclined.  There's another document in the works.  It's called "Things Mr. K. Did Wrong."  (It's at least twice as long).  But anyway, here we go.



Dear Ms. Pussy Couples Counselor:

Your gross mis-management of our session yesterday was a real betrayal.  You allowed Mr. K. to throw the equivalent of a three-pointer at the buzzer.  And all I was allowed to do in response was sob and swear and cut a check for the privilege.  Mr. K. stated that there was a direct line drawn from my issues with my illness to the family crisis in which we find ourselves today.  He let that sit out there with no opportunity for me to rebut in my own defense.  He should never have been allowed to make that kind of statement in the first place.  But having done so, it should never have been the last thing said before the session ended.   It was a clear violation of my emotional safety that you, as a trained professional,  are supposed to maintain during sessions like these. I’m surprised that you have not called me to apologize yet.  I was expecting your call by the end of the day.

I’m going to take the time and space to rebut what was said.  I'm going to detail all the things I did for my kids in the twenty years that I have been their mom. I’m going to talk about all the good things I did.  I’m going to talk about the good stuff I taught them, the positive messages they heard.  Things we somehow don’t address when the accusations come up.   I also have several pages worth of things to say about Mr. K. and the events of the last few months.  I have created a separate document for that, so that Mr. K. has an opportunity for rebuttal, a courtesy that so far has been rather unevenly extended.

Before the babies were even born, I was thinking about them and planning for their arrival and what it was going to be like to have children!  When the kids were infants, I took them with me to La Leche League meetings, where I could get support with breastfeeding and meet other moms.  We developed play groups and I played a pivotal role in that.  Throughout the time that the kids were little, I worked to keep the house clean and neat, to have clean clothes and healthy food, to nurture them and make sure they had what they needed.   

As they grew, their needs expanded and they went to nursery school, where I volunteered and also watched other babies so their moms could volunteer.  When it was time for kindergarten, we decided to take them to a parent participation school.  I attended and eventually led the parent education workshops that were required for parents to work in the classroom.   I studied child development and worked to implement the things I learned.  I was concerned about concrete things like limiting tv time, performing chores, completing homework.  I tried to teach them how important it was to have a little bit of work and a little bit of play, a little bit of healthy food, a little treat, all in balance, a little bit of everything each day.  I encouraged their emotional growth by talking about feelings and how to handle them, how to interact with other children, how their behavior affected others, and how important it was to pay attention to that, to have respect for other people and their feelings.

I volunteered for everything that came up.  I worked in the classroom and at home to make sure art was available, crafts, cooking projects.  I babysat for other moms and arranged for play dates both at home and at the park.  I coordinated music lessons, sports practices, and social lives (birthday parties, play dates, outings).   We laughed about my calendar and how detailed it was – color coded for each kid and their activities, highlighting where events conflicted, etc.  There were days when there were three different soccer matches on three different fields all at the same time.   There were many days when I got up at 6:45 a.m. for school and didn’t wind down until after 11:00 p.m.   And through all this, I still managed to stay out of the nuthouse, despite all the triggers I was facing, pretty much single-handedly.

Each year, in each child’s classroom, I was assigned a different project.  I had two kids in two grades.  That meant four hours in the classroom and multiple hours of prep each week.  I also had a toddler at home to account for while the school activities required me to be away from him.  There were field trips -- about twelve per year for six years -- I drove a carful of children and chaperoned every one.

I got up every weekend to make sure they were where they needed to be with the stuff they needed to have.  I signed them up for every sport they wanted to do.  We did swimming, soccer, whatever they wanted to try, every season.  I was on the executive board of every group my kids ever belonged to, from soccer to swimming to PTA.   I want to emphasize the fact that at times this kind of socializing was extremely difficult for me given the vagaries of my illness.  There were many days when I felt overwhelmed by the tasks of the day that lay ahead of me, yet I got out of bed, got dressed and did what needed to be done.

I focused on Troubled especially.  Soccer was extremely important to her and I made sure that she got to all the practices, all the matches.  When there were weekend tournaments, I made sure she got to those.  I rented motel rooms and socialized with other parents, way outside my comfort zone.  I did all this precisely because it was so important for Troubled to foster her self-esteem and well-being by encouraging her to excel at something she loved. 

I supported Troubled through all her academic struggles, arranging for tutors, trying to find ways to reach her when she was at her worst in high school.  When she got caught shoplifting, I went down to the mall to get her.  I single-handedly dragged her through the last quarter of high school, or she would not have accumulated the required classes to graduate.  Troubled would not have walked with her class if it hadn’t been for me.  

I offer all this not for any kind of applause, but to point out that, even in the throes of bipolar disorder,  I managed a complex system for three children, keeping them engaged and active and stimulated and healthy.    I created and maintained an incredibly nurturing environment in which the children were encouraged to do their best, to learn and to grow and to thrive.  When I lost my temper, I did my best to calm down each time almost immediately and apologize and explain what had triggered it.  I did have lots to work on, and I freely acknowledged that.  I did a lot of work in therapy and tried to implement what I was learning at home.  I explained what I needed and asked for support.    We are done beating this dead horse.  It is old news and does not need to be revisited.  Ever again.  Not even a little bit.  Not even close.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

In Which a Bird Chases Me Into the Fridge

I'm renting the downstairs bedroom in my friends' house, blissful surcease from the nightmare my own house has become.   I'm very grateful to these friends -- without their love and support I wouldn't have been able to leave.  I would still be stuck in the madness, miserable and resentful and angry and guilty and frustrated and trapped and all the things.   So. Damn. Grateful. As we are fond of saying in my Facebook family.  I am grateful, really I am, to have this place and these friends.

But fuck me if they don't have a bird.   IN THE HOUSE.   They take it out of the cage and it sits on the dude's shoulders. And its wings go all fluttery and rustle-y and fuck if it doesn't start flapping all around the place and the next thing I know, I'm climbing in the fucking refrigerator.  I know I exaggerate sometimes but this time is not one of them.  I'm climbing in the fucking refrigerator and the dude is
either not noticing or pretending he doesn't and I'm all embarrassed and polite, like "oh, um I kinda have this bird phobia, really it's nothing -- no-- aaaah -- as the bird is swooping and diving all around the kitchen.  I try to pull the fridge door shut behind me.  "Really, it's no big thing really, I just -- aaaaah  -- okay."   I continue talking with my face nestled into the corner of the freezer.  I am seriously IN THE FRIDGE.

And maybe he's passive-aggressive or maybe he thinks I'm kidding or maybe he has Asperger's which isn't likely since he seems genuinely sensitive and receptive otherwise, but the thing with the bird is fucking freaking me out.  But he doesn't do anything to corral the bird which is mixing metaphors but fuck it, I'm in a weakened state. So I have to get out of there and head to my room and pray to all that is holy including Tom Fucking Cruise like in Ricky Fucking Bobby that the bird does not somehow follow me and fly into the room before I can shut the door like Tippi Fucking Hedren.  So of course I nee -- er, want a double klonopin with a beer back but the beer is -- wait for it -- in the refrigerator and I so very carelessly left it behind during my recent stay there.

So I wait at the door of my room, listening for sounds of the bird being put back in its cage and that dude who I have decided is neither passive-aggressive nor oblivious but downright sadistic going upstairs so that I can run back to the refrigerator, (my new vacation home) and retrieve a beer to wash down my evening klonopin (and before you get all up in my grill about drinking with my benzos let me assure  you that I have honed the craft of medicating myself to a fine art, having thirty years of practice as I do. And let me also tell you that skill comes in quite handy when I find myself in situations like the one I just described which takes place with the veepveepveep squeaky violin soundtrack that heralds the pivotal climax of most Hitchcock films, especially The Birds, a film that solidified my distrust of birds in general, and birds inside the house in particular.)

So, as much as I am enjoying the solitude and freedom from all the bullshit that has been my marriage for the last few years and the clusterfuck of the last few months that put it in the ICU, I do have moments like this time with the bird where I wonder if it's worth it, and other moments when I feel such homesickness and grief that I am this close to running over and slipping in the back door so that I'm in the kitchen making french toast and the coffee's ready when he gets up because I just want it all back to the normal that it never really was in the first place.

And now it's time to say "Namaste" as I often do at this point in the post, but I have to confess that I will have come back to write this part later when I edit it because I can't really see well enough to type at the moment because I'm crying pretty hard.

And there you have it.  Namaste, you stupid bird.  Hit the lights but leave the fridge door open because I might need to climb in there whether you're in your cage or not.