Aunt Nancy, Please Don’t Put Radish In The Jello Salad

You know that weird jello salad that everybody’s Aunt Betsy brings to each and every gathering? That is my brain right now.

I’ve spent so much of the last 30 years trying to ensure my daughters grew up to be strong, thoughtful, and independent. Ever in fear of breeding another doormat into this already infested world, i wanted my daughters to become paragons of badassery in whatever way suited them. And as you know from previous posts, the efforts were successful. I am inordinately proud of the women my daughters have become. Tho very different from each other, they both are fierce in their passions and principles. They are hard workers, big dreamers, and fair judges. Everything i had asked for.

When you have adult daughters like that, it’s a bit like living in an underground women’s magazine of the 70s. Force them into polyester pantsuits and big sunglasses, and they could be on the cover of “Ms.” (Don’t worry, my awesome weedlings. No polyester pantsuits for you, i promise!) But just like so many of the celebrities of that political era, life is more than a magazine cover.

What good is a life of untamed equity if you have no one to share it with?

But it takes a special man (Or woman) to accept a badass woman as a partner. It isn’t for the weak, or the staunch, or the confidence-less. A warrior woman doesn’t want someone who just lets her take all the sun. Nor does she want someone who is going to constantly battle her for it. It has to be someone who can let that Light flow back and forth like one of those waves-in-a-box that are supposed to help keep you calm at work. The conduit between the two shores must be strong and clear, the water going over and around obstacles, precluding dams and producing energy that feeds the tides as it goes. It is a precious balance. One that some never find.

And yet, both my daughters have found it.

In a few short weeks’ time, both my woman-weedlings have gotten engaged to awesome men. Ones who respect them, support them, and adore them. Ones who are strong enough themselves to share the spotlight… Not just as a mechanism for leadership and recognition, but also as facilitator of growth. These men are amazing, and each also a badass in their own way. And so, on the whole, i am crazy happy for them having found partners who truly see them, get them, and love them.

Which brings us to the jello salad.

Jello salad is one of those things that can be really yummy. I mean, sugar and flavoring and food coloring has that magnetic appeal to the 5-year-old inside us. Throw in some fruit cocktail or pie filling…. Oh, yeah baby!  There is usually some  cream cheese or something thrown in to make it more adult and fancy. Mmm mmm! Love me some sweet and savory together! Toss in some marshmallows because… Well, because marshmallows!!!!! What’s not to like?

But then the devil steps in.

To distinguish it from “dessert”, Aunt Sally always throws in something “salad-y”: celery, pepper, shredded carrots… Crap like that which has no business being in jello.

In the midst of my heartwarmed-happy jello concoction for my daughters, there appears some of Aunt Sheila’s lunacy. (Oh, Aunt Sheila… Is that pickled onions i taste in here?) It took me a while to figure out exactly what it was. I mean, like i said, i am over the moon for my daughters and adore my soon-to-be son-in-laws… So what could those bitter, chewy bits possibly be? And why the hell are they in there?

I answered myself subconsciously but out loud.

“What now?”

I only just figured out parenting adults, but married adults is a whole other level. Especially for me. Lets face it, three past marriages make me the exact opposite of an expert on it. And before you joke that i should just tell them to obviously do the exact opposite of what i recommend, i promise you, that will make me cry.

Like Hermione, i kind of pride myself on being an insufferable know-it-all. But my daughters are about to embark on something i cannot help with. Yes, i realize they don’t really need my help, but that is beside the point. Mothers want to help. It’s what we do. And i can’t. That fact leaves me stumped. It is the carrot in my otherwise delicious jello salad.

The irony of it all… In having raised daughters without so many of my own issues, i have made myself obsolete.

So that’s what those crunchy bits are: self-pitying garbage.

When confronted with jello salad, one has three choices. You can refuse to eat it. While that is an option, it also means you miss out on all the good stuff in it. No marshmallows. No maraschino cherries. That is a big price to pay for a little bit of green pepper. Not an option i would choose because marshmallows!!!!

Or you can just force a smile and pretend you aren’t gagging every time a bit of celery finds itself in the mix. This is, of course, the polite option. And if i were at a once-in-a-lifetime visit with The Queen, i would probably take that option. But this isn’t a one-time gig. This is the rest of my life. And once i get past the celery, there will be grandbabies and other things that i know nothing about and will become the next crunchy bits. So this is probably not the best option.

Then there is the last option. The practical option. Enjoy the jello salad, but surreptitiously pick out the crunchy bits when no one is looking. Make sure there is a lettuce leaf somewhere on your plate to hide the shredded carrots under. Or a rabbit to feed them to, thereby disguising your disappointment as an act of kindness.

That, i can do.

Decades of therapy has made me pretty damned decent at picking out my useless negativity and turning it into energy for other things. So when i find myself thinking about my weedlings and their awesome partners and their limitless lives ahead and starting to wonder what purpose i can possibly serve in it; i will remember that i can and will be whatever they need. If i don’t know how, i will learn, just as i did when they were babies and i knew nothing of raising children. I learned. And if i didn’t always do it right, at least i did it well in the end. And when there are more wee ones, i can read to them like i did to my own. I can help teach them to be independent badasses like their parents. And i can help show them that sometimes you just have to pick out the sour bits and just be happy for all the wonderful things that will come to pass.

My babies are growing up and getting married.

Holy cow.

If i make Aunt Shelly’s jello salad for the celebrations, I’m gonna leave out the celery. Who needs it anyway? Things are so much better without it.

 

Advertisements

The Iceman Cometh

I haven’t been writing much lately. I can blame it on any number of things: The holidays keeping me busy, wrenched my back again, transitioning to a new job at work, too tired, too cold, too too… But i’m not sure if any of those are the reason. Or maybe they are all-added-up-together the reason. It’s hard to tell. Winter is always harder for me. For all of us really. And in spite of taking my extra Vitamin D, i’m having a hard time forcing myself to be thoughtful and productive.

Granted, having spent most of the last month treating yet another back injury hasn’t helped. Momentum creates momentum. Energy creates energy. So laying on heating pads, or even dangling from my inversion table, is hardly likely to give me enough get-up-and-go to get thru more than the bare essentials of the day. But things did start to improve once i realized i was defeating myself.

I had painkillers left over from my neck surgery, so i was using those in conjunction with all the usual fixes: Rest, ice, heat, aspirin, muscle relaxers. But the problem was, when the narcs wore off, the pain seemed worse than when it started. (Yes, i already knew that was how it works, but when you are in pain, you forget everything you’ve learned that might keep it from going away. ) So after a few days, i stopped taking those. Within 24 hours, the pain had leveled itself, and i was able to move around some… Which has spawned improvement ever since.

But even physically doing better, my brain is still aching. And tired. I would say that the things which usually bring me joy aren’t working, but in truth, i haven’t had the will to try them. It’s an odd condition, to be honest. It’s like being confined by one of those electronic dog fences. There is no leash, no gate, no gunman manning the exit, but you keep telling yourself there’s no way out.

And of course, i sit here and intellectualize it. But even still, chances are, i still won’t break for the door this evening.

Many don’t understand the need to be self-confined. The old saying, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer…”  When you are your own worst enemy, self-confinement is often a necessary treatment. Unfortunately, like chemotherapy, the treatment causes its own problems and sometimes makes you worse.

I’ve been living with this wasp nest of a head for a long time, and i have amassed some amazing friends, so in my silver years, i am lucky enough to be called out before my self-imprisonment becomes a death sentence. This time, i was able to call myself out before they did it for me. (There should be a scout badge for that or something. For reals. The slippery slope of isolation is a real bitch.) I forced myself to a birthday gathering that i was ready to make an excuse for. And while i am sure that i was not the best of cocktail company, i am still proud that i went, instead of canceling and spending the night in bed with sudokus and a couple of melatonin.

And i am writing today. Tho this won’t make it to my Top Ten Posts Ever, it was effort and gets me closer to the other side of the fence. It is my hope that others who are also fighting the brain maggots get caught up in solidarity and take a step of their own toward the door, figurative or literal. If i can do it, so can they. Or you.

We’ve got this. One move at a time. Fake it til we make it, yes; but more importantly, make it for real after a while. I know, I know. It’s hard when it’s too blasted hot or cold (Depending on which side of the equator you’re on) to walk more than a quarter mile outdoors. When you’re broke from the holidays and feel fat from all the extra eating. It makes it worse. It sucks. But it isn’t going to win. You know how i know that?

Because we’ve got shit to do. We’ve got friends to meet, sunsets to see (I accidentally typed “sinsets” at first… And i’m thinking we could use some of that too!), trips to take, and impacts to make. Too many things ahead of us to give in to the mental Ice Man. It is so hard sometimes, tho. That alarm goes off in the morning and you think, “If i called in and knocked myself out, i wouldn’t have to deal with life for another 6 hours…” That is me. Every. Damned. Morning. Only my fear of falling back into that black cave, one i’ve been running from for years (How does it follow us? Is it really the mouth of a beast?) forces me to get up. But i do. And so do you. Yeah for us!

Like, for real. Yeah for us! We beat that beast!

So fuck the winter. Fuck pain. Fuck bills and scales and frigging Valentines Day on the way. Fuck all those things. We are our own army. We will slay it all in due time. One step at a time. And if we see a low point in that fence, lets jump it.

Sometimes, when you’re being chased by a beast, it is worth it hop the fence and outrun it for a bit. That interim between the jump and when it catches up with you is bliss.

Row, Row, Row Your (Holiday) Boat

For those of us who face depression, the holidays can be a real bitch. Lost loved ones seem especially far away. Our bodily systems fighting the drop in sunlight hours (Take your Vitamin D, my brothers and sisters!!!), weight gain from all these social gatherings that we dread (Because, you know, too many people), and the commercialization of the holiday leaving us anxious, frantic, and financially strapped. Makes you want to double your medication and hide out til Spring.

I don’t have a cure. Truthfully, i’m as beaten as you are. The sadness inside masked by the chatter of holiday greetings and special sparkly lip gloss. Oh the power of a good lip gloss! Anyway, most of the time, the holidays feel to me like that scene in Star Wars where they are getting squashed in the nasty trash compactor. Everything is closing in; the stench of stress coming off you like yesterday’s fish sticks; and the inescapable thought of, “Maybe if i close my eyes, it will go away.” (Yes, my non-ICD-10’d friends, this is part of why we sleep so much.)

Now, as my sister reminds me on occasion, decades of therapy merely make me a profitable therapy patient, not a therapist. So i don’t have an actual solution to the problem. I am not even sure if there is one. But i DO know that we can arm ourselves with the occasional bit of pain relief. And it can be found in some unlikely places.

There are some things in life that are just so good, fulfilling, enjoyable that they can make the worst of times seem a thing of the past, even if only a moment. Some of them are obvious: The laugh of a baby, for example. Some are a little more obscure: Seeing that the schmuck who cut you off 2 miles back is now actually stuck at the same light you are. (Was it worth the karma, dude?) These things don’t cure depression. But they can offer a bit of a reprieve, and sometimes, that’s all we need to make it thru another day.

So if you find yourself getting dark when you want yourself to be light, set your heart and thoughts on life’s helium balloons… Those moments that feel really good… And lighten the load for a bit:

Those mornings when you don’t have to set an alarm and can wake to your body clock.

A beautiful holiday song – Close your eyes and listen.

A piece of really good chocolate – Sometimes there is no better way to spend a couple dollars than on a handmade truffle.

A really good poo – I mean, there really is no better feeling. 

When someone sends you the perfect meme at the perfect time.

A scalding hot shower on a cold morning, or a hot bath before bed.

Taking your bra off after a long day. (Sorry, guys, there really is no male equivalent.)

Seeing a baby deer walking off the side of a road. 

A beautiful sunset or sunrise.

A full moon – And if you see someone fly past it on a broomstick, wave to me 😉

Climbing into a bed with freshly washed sheets.

When you finally get to fart after holding it in forever – Extra points if it is crazy loud!

Homemade mashed potatoes.

Getting the best parking spot, just by happenstance.

The sound of wind rustling thru the trees.

The smell of fresh bread – Worth a visit to a bakery. Usually the smells are free.

When something costs less than you expect.

Hearing from an old friend.

Getting a compliment from your kid – Rarer than a golden goose egg, but also far more valuable.

Hideously gaudy, Griswald-style Christmas lights.

Fresh, hot latkes with applesauce and full-fat sour cream.

A handsome man or beautiful woman in a goofy winter hat.

Hot chocolate with extra marshmallows and stirred with a candy cane. (Make it for yourself. You are worth it.)

A moment of true peace and quiet.

 

Try remembering these, my friends. I hope they help. It is also worth noting that, while you don’t have to do it all, don’t avoid it all either. Pick one or two things to commit to, and let the rest be up to your mood. Baby steps. Take it one event at a time. Take it just one moment at a time if you have to. And if it isn’t enough, up your game by talking with someone. Find your local crisis center, meet your preacher for coffee, find a support group, message people… You’ll be surprised at how many of us are in the same boat…

And since we are all in the same boat, you don’t have to take it all on yourself… We can take turns rowing. And then we will all get there. Together. Just don’t give up.

You got this. We got this.

 

F33.1

That cloudy state of mind where

The voices become tinnitus,

And the world beyond the perimeter becomes

As vague and amorphous as the view thru a

Greasy window.

That underlying sound ebbs and flows

From peaceful cicadas to screeching sirens.

The view waxes and wanes

From lava lamp to acid flashback.

And inside this…

Inside this plexiglass box…

I still seek refuge in the corners

Where the screaming mumbles are quietest,

And the melting swirls are more colorfast.

I hate this tardis-like container of mine

That apparates of its own accord,

No warning or pattern.

Neither banging my fists on its walls,

So flexible, they seem liquid,

Nor shouting for mercy thru tears of

Sanity (Insanity?) at its edge

Break the plastic barrier between.

Between me and everything else.

Everyone else.

I give up.

I give in.

I wait for its moment of weakness,

By then too worn and tired to fight,

And instead, like pulling the sword from the stone,

Walk gently thru to the

Other Side…

 

 

The Artistry of Nuts

“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

How much truth there is in that statement! There have been  a lot of articles out lately about the fact that some of our most creative individuals have been decidedly nuts. As if this is a new concept. Those of us who live in that realm would tell you that it’s our predilection to wayward thinking that makes us be able to see, paint, play, design, write things in a different way. It enables us to see the beauty in unlikely things, and also to see the pain behind the beauty. It gives us the ability to make comedy out of things that would otherwise be tragedy. Creativity is our way of dealing with all the unfairness and ugliness in the world. Because we can’t take that ugliness and unfairness. It hurts us. Deeply. Because part of us is the neglected child, the abused spouse, the dehumanized minority, the aching Earth. Those all live within us. A strange type of Empathy that causes us to seek out and create for those phantom persons within us. And the spoils of our labor make us happy, even in the face of the world’s sorrows.

In other words: We have to laugh, because if we didn’t, we’d have to cry. And that’s no way to spend a life.

It’s true, few of us are going to start a revolution or lead the charge of the light brigade… We count on our logical, pragmatist friends to do that. Mostly because we are too unorganized to run anything. (Have you seen our desks?  Seriously, if you have, let us know… We haven’t been able to find it in months for all the mess atop of it…)

Granted, very few of us are Picassos or Einsteins (Yes, he was a creative sort, too. Science and math is an art for those who can see past the numbers. Einstein didn’t stumble upon his theory of relativity. His roundabout way of thinking knew it was there long before the math could prove it.) Most of us are points on a spectrum. Creative versus rational thinking is often an inversely proportional graph. The more your creative mind blooms, the more you are thought to be nuts by the rational people.

What they don’t get is that, when we turn the graph to have ours be the primary axis, they are the ones who are outside the curve.

An aside:  When i say “nuts”, i am talking about the benignly nuts. The quirky weirdos who fight their feelings and poles daily. You might not know what to make of us, but you know we aren’t going to hurt you. The malignantly insane, however,  are on a totally separate graph. Serial killers, Genocidal dictators, Deacons of the Westboro Baptist church… These are people aren’t nuts. They are medically insane. Which is a different issue altogether.

Back to the topic at hand…

To people who are benignly nuts, the rest of the world doesn’t always make sense.  The fact that some other people don’t have a child, or a madman, or a person of a different color or persuasion living within their psyche… No wonder those people have such a hard time seeing things from another’s point of view! They can only see what they know. They can’t see beyond. And they will never be able to see anything from a totally new perspective. They aren’t nuts enough to see beyond their own reality. Which pretty much precludes creativity.

Empaths and visionaries… That’s what we are. But i personally prefer the term “nuts”. Firstly, because it is taking back a term, claiming it for ourselves, and someday, hopefully, removing some of the bad connotations associated with it. Secondly, because it makes people smile. And, in the end, that is what most creativity is about. Making people smile. Smile, feel, wonder, and find peace.

It’s a worthy goal, and not really crazy at all.

So to all my fellow nuts, whatever it is that you do to bring newness and art to the world: Whether you draw or dance or garden or quilt… Keep doing it, even if others don’t always get it. Even if after they examine your work, they sometimes look at you with pity and fear and pat your head like you’re a cat who brought home a dead mouse to his master. Keep on. All God/Goddess/Universe asks is that you make a joyful noise. She never said you had to be Paul McCartney. Not everyone can be a Beatle. But use what She gave you. She gave you that special case of nuts for a reason. It was a gift. A true gift. Use it.

As Robin Williams once said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

 

 

 

Worth and Nakedness

I am a big fan of photography books. Especially those over-sized, glossy paged, portrait type coffee table books that weigh a ton and where the photographer somehow projects both the outside and the inside of the subject. And i have many of them. Too many, probably. But one of my favorites is a gathering of photos by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. A book of diptychs. On the left side of the page, a well known porn star in their usual street clothes. On the right, in the same pose, the same porn star undressed and made up for filming. TG-S is an amazing photographer. He captures the thoughts and emotions going on behind the eyes. And in the case of this particular book, in nearly every single spread, he captures something that makes disturbing sense. With maybe two exceptions, every subject is visibly more comfortable in the naked photos.

When i first bought the book, the startling reversal of the usual level of comfort, clothed and not, took me a second to wrap my head around. Even knowing that these people make their living naked, it seemed invasive to stare at their bare selves. But it seemed even more intrusive to stare at their obvious discomfort when captured in clothing. The looks on their faces resembling  cats forced to wear Halloween costumes. The awkwardness and antsiness is palpable. And to those of us who make a living with clothes on, it seems strange, and even a little sad.

Why do i bring this up today?

I was side-swiped by a reminder last night that i’m a bit of a Classist. I am distrusting and uncomfortable around people with money and social standing. And while most people associate Classism with the oppression of poor people, it also comes into play in reverse. Some of us who grew up “without” never quite adapt to life “with”.  Even if we have worked hard and earned the right to cross that social barrier, we will forever feel foreign when we get there. Some of it comes from formative years questioning our worth in a society that values wealth. The rest of it lays with the simple human need for familiarity. And just like no knowledge of kale being a superfood makes it any more palatable, no understanding that “worth” and “value” have little to do with money or titles makes it any easier to talk to the master when you feel like the house elf.

Don’t get me wrong, you can dress me up in gilt and pancake, and i will perform like i was born to be at the ball. I will talk and dance and socialize like i am Rita Hayworth’s red-headed step-child.  But it is just a performance. I might as well be playing a giant praying mantis for all the common i have with the character. It feels absurd. Dishonest. And definitely not like my best stage work.

To tell the truth,  my inability to step confidently in that world annoys me.

I try my best to treat everyone as an equal. I strive to treat all with love and respect. I evangelize the need for equality amongst humanity. But i myself feel like a fake when i call my higher-titled coworkers by their first name. And if they speak familiarly with me, i assume there is some need or reason that will turn out to be a play on me and bite me in the ass. It’s just stupid. These patterns in my head. Stupid. I know they are the same types of neural patterns that once caused me to keep getting married… The repetition becoming a bad habit. But where marriage had visible, undeniable implications, a faulty mindset often doesn’t. And it is harder to correct something that doesn’t eventually slap you in the face with a price.

Just like the porn stars and their comfortable nakedness, we grow to accept these bad habits, these self-imposed labels of beastliness, as familiar friends, even tho they are the kind of friends who ditch you at the bar for the first cute guy that walks thru the door, leaving you half drunk and without a ride.

With friends like that, we become our own enemy.

I suppose the solution is the old “Fake it til you make it” thing. Force yourself to behave like you belong on both sides of the tracks, and eventually you will believe it. Retrain those neural pathways to take healthier routes. Accept that the equality you favor for others also applies to yourself. Take stock of your own worth. Reassess your own hierarchy. Learn to be comfortable in the clothing you deserve to wear, lest you end up naked in a coffee table book.

It beats the hell out of waiting for Harry Potter to give you a sock.

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Do you ever have those days where the thoughts rush thru your head so fast that no thought gets finished before the next begins? Like there is a monkey in your head spinning a radio dial back and forth while making that insane laugh noise that only monkeys can make? Like the mystic being in charge of your brain has decided to play 52 pickup with a deck of flash cards? Like you gave a room full of four year-olds kegs of Mountain Dew and an unlimited supply of Pixie Stix?

Welcome to my world today.

I am resisting the urge to forcibly shut the voices down with wine or Valium or the fishing channel . Instead, i am relying on tea and nature sounds and fresh bed sheets. This is how i self-comfort. I am moderately successful. Sometimes. Well, more than half the time, anyway. I am still learning.

Do we ever really stop learning?

Baby steps.

You may remember when i first started on the road to self-soothing. My unsuccessful attempt to learn meditation (Stream of Consciousness ).  I still suck at it. But i have learned a few tricks that make my mental state more like a ballad by Meatloaf and less like a Megadeath concert. Still not zen calm, but better than mental thrash metal.

Why did on Earth did Marvin Aday want to be called “Meat Loaf”?

Baby steps.

I may never learn to truly quiet my mind. I may never master meditation. And i may end up taking something to help me sleep tonight. But i am still better than i was. More tranquil than i was. The voices are softer and there are fewer of them.

No – not those kind of voices. My own voice. Just multiplied. And i won’t shut up.

I talk too much. Even to myself. Like a one-woman Broadway show that no one wants to see. Carrie: The Musical.

Why would anyone think that was a good idea?

I think i have that book somewhere. Where did i put it? Oh, an i must find that book of funny poems while i’m at it.

There once was a girl from Glen Hart…

Baby steps.