Week Twenty-Eight (Twenty-seven skipped town)

I have a lot on my mind.

I had a friend message me the other day about something I had posted on Facebook a while ago, wanting a discussion about some heavy stuff that I was not capable of discussing at the present moment. Not because I don’t like discussing heavy stuff, but because I am just flat-out OVERWHELMED right now. (I hadn’t realized exactly HOW overwhelmed I was until this friend messaged me. But that was, apparently, my breaking point. Sorry lady. You had no idea what you were getting yourself into. The perils of being my friend, I guess…)

In an effort to convey exactly why I was incapable of discussing the intricacies of the differences between “tone-policing” and “gaslighting” (Yes, there are differences. No, I am not going to write an essay about them tonight. Go spend some quality time on Google, people. Or take a class or something. I don’t know. Just don’t ask me right now. Later. Maybe.) I sent her a list of some of the things that are percolating and stirring in my brain right now. And it was incomplete. I stopped around seven. Simply because to go any further would be too exhausting.

This is why I am having a hard time blogging lately. This is why my sanity is hanging on by a very thin thread. (And sure, I seem reasonably functional to the general public. Because that is WHAT I DO. I work my ass off to seem functional. Some days require a much larger effort than others. If I break in front of you then I have failed. And I hate to fail.)

Things I am worried about that are causing my shoulders to be tense, my neck to hurt, my stomach to twist, my blood pressure to rise, my head to ache, and gravity to drag me to the ground:

1. The state of our country

(Huge despair there. Enormously disappointed. And so very, very tired of watching us step on our own air hose. We suck. It makes me sad and angry. And ashamed. And angry again.)

2. Student loans

(I have to reapply for that whole financial hardship deferment or whatever it’s called. And it’s depressing. For many reasons. And I’ve been putting it off. Along with a million other life-management things that I really shouldn’t be putting off. But I’m in the middle of a nasty depressive episode here and self-care items such as that gets pushed way down on the list. All the better to give me something to beat myself up about. You know, because I like to have REASONS why I can think I’m a failure at everything. Because my stupid brain wants me to fuck it all up so it can justify the self-loathing. It’s very clever in self-sabotage. Years of me trying to work around it has made it get creative.)

3. Yard that is rapidly becoming jungle

(I’m too tired to even think about that right now. Because it requires goats, at this point. Or a small meteor.)

4. Garage that hasn’t been cleaned out since I moved into this house around seven years ago

(It is full of stuff in boxes from when we moved in. And since my marriage imploded a few months after we moved in, a lot of stuff just never got unpacked. So, when I go through the garage it will be an enormous undertaking that also involves dealing with a lot of emotional crap that will need to be unpacked as well. There are reasons it’s been festering for this long. I have been a tiny bit too busy raising my kids and surviving to take the time I’ll need to go through all of that stuff and deal with the emotional ramifications therein. This is why I have therapy. Because I can’t clean out my garage. Functional people can clean out their garages. If I were functional, this shit would have been done a long time ago. But I close the door and pretend that room doesn’t exist. Because I like to avoid emotional black holes wherever possible. Nevermind that the avoidance of said black hole only serves to create another one, into which I currently find myself dipping my toes. This is why it’s important to DEAL WITH YOUR EMOTIONS WHEN THEY ARE HAPPENING. I know this intellectually. I do not practice it very well in reality. Which is why I have Depression. It’s self-feeding. How convenient.)

5. Dysfunctional uterus that apparently is not quite dysfunctional enough for my health insurance to cover any kind of solution, but just enough to make my life extremely painful in new and interesting ways

(You do not want to know. Believe me. I don’t want to know either, but I have to live in this body so I have no choice. This feeds a whole different level of anger on the state of our healthcare system. Because if I had money this would not be an issue. But I don’t. So my pain is insignificant according to the insurance company. Fuck them so very much. And fuck the government for even DEBATING taking away my healthcare. I am very angry right now. I don’t like anger. It leads to the Dark Side.)

6. Teenager who is starting high school in the fall and also getting to an age where interpersonal relationships get a hell of a lot more complicated

(This is a big deal. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. High school is fraught with drama, and my child is a Queen of the Dramatic. It’s going to be a fun ride. Thank goodness she’s an awesome kid. I swear I hit the jackpot there. Even with the drama. She’s fantastic. I am ridiculously lucky. But she’s still a teenager. So… yeah.)

7. An adolescent son who is needing a ton of guidance to navigate and cope with middle school

(I have never been a teenaged boy. Despite having a haircut called a “boy’s regular” when I was his age and occasionally being mistaken for one…  I watched my brothers evolve through those years, but as a sister and from a distance. So I still have no clue. And now I have this fabulous kid and no idea what the hell I’m doing. I hope I don’t screw this up. And I worry about the role model he has. Because I used to live with that role model. I divorced that role model on purpose. But that’s his dad. And you follow the examples set before you. I worry. All the time. I’m a mom. I can’t help it.)

8. Family stuff

(My baby brother is getting married in a few weeks. The wedding is taking place at my parents’ house. My mother is relinquishing control of her kitchen to caterers. She is a dear, sweet human being. But if you fuck with her kitchen she will cut you. So this has been interesting to watch unfold, from afar. I think weddings are crazy-making no matter who you are or how you go about it. And this is going to be a fabulous one because the people involved are completely awesome. But the crazy-level has been holding pretty steady here in the run up to the wedding, and I’m fairly certain it’s not going to dissipate until it’s all done and dusted. But hey, there will be cake. And cake is always good.)

9. Ex-husbanderial unit stuff

(So that whole “gaslighting” vs. “tone-policing” message stemmed from a post I made on Facebook about gaslighting. It involves a long story about my ex-husband and the events of the last few weeks that culminated in me standing in my driveway last week confronting him for various reasons. [And seriously, dude, if I have to take you out of the house and into the driveway to tell you off, you know you’ve gone too far.] I did not tell the story on Facebook, and I’m not telling it here. Suffice to say I had to explain the concept of gaslighting to my teenaged daughter. I am still angry. All I have to say about that right now is NEVER let anyone else tell you what you hear with your own ears and what you see with your own eyes is WRONG. Fuck that. Do not let other people dictate your perception of reality. Period. No matter who they are. I lived with that shit for YEARS. No more, goddammit.)

10. So many other things… that I have to stop now. Because I’m tired. And I’ve had a migraine for two days now. Which has made it even more difficult to get this written. Computer screens are not friendly for migraines. Migraines are my body’s way of telling me I need to shut the world off for a while. And because I am me, I have been ignoring this message. Which is why the migraine will not go away. It’s going to make me listen to my body whether I like it or not. Dammit.

But I needed to vent. Not venting leads to bigger migraines.

And yes, this list is significantly different from the list I sent my friend. Because she’s my friend and she gets me unedited, to a certain extent. There are things I do not blog about. If you want to know what they are, you’ll have to get to know me better. And that way madness lies.

May the Force be with you.

Week Twenty-Six

It’s the Fourth of July. I am supposed to feel extra patriotic today. And I do. But it’s a painful patriotism at this particular moment in history. I am worried about this country I reside in. We are in trouble. Lots and lots of trouble. (Don’t pretend we’re not. There is no point in faking it. Too much window-dressing in our reality these days, anyway. May as well call it what it is.)

I am watching my country fall apart in new and interesting ways. (As opposed to the old, worn-out ways… Look at us being all innovative in our destruction. I always knew we had it in us. We are nothing if not creative.) My country, that I love so very much, is in dire straits.

Yet still, I do love it. Our America. I think we can be more than we are. I think we have potential.

Despite our faults. Despite our blindness. Despite our resistance to positive change. Despite our inability to look critically at ourselves, at our actions in the world around us, at the way we represent our United States of America everywhere and in everything we do. (Self-reflection can be a very good thing. We really ought to consider practicing it a bit more.)

Through the veneer of flags and fireworks, of parades (heavily policed, even in my small town), barbecue, and beer, we are not as shiny as we want to believe we are. We have a lot of work to do. We need to grow up.

Right now our America represents fear, regression, and the last flailing throes of some dinosaurs who are about to realize their God of Money is ultimately worthless. A pretend God. A God that will not buy them clean air, drinkable water, or respect. Big change is coming, and those dinosaurs are scared to death. Fear infuses everything they do. And they try so hard, and effectively, to infect everyone else with that fear.

I wonder, quite sincerely, if we – as a country – will be able to survive this coming struggle. We have a choice, here. I’d like to think we are capable of greater things. That we can rise above this cesspit we’ve fallen into and become the America we could be. That we should be. But I have been infected by fear, too. And I suffer from grave doubts.

That still doesn’t stop me from dreaming.

In my ideal America, we acknowledge and learn from our faults. We are not infallible. But we also try not to actively cause harm. In my ideal America we take care of our fellow humans to the best of our abilities. (And yes, that means accepting refugees, ensuring a living wage, and giving everyone health insurance.) Because we are not assholes and we should know that lifting up the people around us lifts us all up as a whole.

(Notice, I did specify very clearly that this was MY ideal America. I’m sure there are a lot of other people out there in this country who have very different ideas as to what America means to them. And they are welcome to go write a blog about it. Because it’s America, and currently it is still okay to do that. But this is my ideal. And in my ideal country, people behave like compassionate human beings. And they don’t bloody well live in fear all the damn time.)

Humans have a lot of potential.  Americans have a lot of potential. Unrealized potential. I would very much like to see us become better than what we are. Because we can.

(Lately, the scene from A Bug’s Life, where the ants realize they outnumber the grasshoppers in vast numbers, keeps playing in my head. Do with that what you will.)

In the meantime, my neighborhood smells of sulfur. Booms continue to echo at random intervals, sometimes with an accompanying crackle.

We are celebrating America, as it is, in all its flawed glory.

(None of my cats are happy right now. This noisy nonsense does not amuse them in the slightest.)

My family has lived in this town for ten years now. The celebration has grown a bit since we first started attending. But it’s still a small-town American parade. With the Shriners zipping and honking in their little cars, sporting fezzes. Local businesses tossing candy and coupons into the crowds (which get bigger every year). And the local high school band, doing their high school band thing, in among the random clubs, horses, and ancient (but shiny) cars.

When we first started attending the festivities, ten years ago, the kids were toddlers and the ex was still husband. (It’s weird living three blocks away from my former husband in a tiny town. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. I mean… Nope. It’s just weird.)

We would spend time getting the kids all dressed up in patriotic garb and put them in the little red wagon, replete with bags of tossable candy for the kiddie parade (the precursor to the main parade). A few blocks through the hot sun with toddlers and we were usually paraded out. Thus followed a low key afternoon, ending with the fireworks extravaganza in the riverfront park in the next town over during the evening. It’s become a tradition.

Even post-divorce, we all go to the parade and fireworks together. Some years it’s more strained and awkward than others. But this year, five years post-divorce, we seem to have a pretty decent routine down. (Two major holidays a year – Christmas and Independence Day – that we share for the sake of convenience. Christmas is harder. Independence Day is a cake walk.)

This year the strain and awkwardness stemmed from the fact that my teenaged daughter has started bringing companions to the fireworks. And by “companion” I mean teenaged boy who seems to be attempting to cultivate a mustache and is just as excited about YouTube personalities as my daughter currently is. Entertaining to watch. Horrifying to contemplate.

This follows a recent trip to California where there were older teenaged boys in the hotel pool who were openly flirting with my child. (Risking their lives, too, with me sitting right there watching. Because I know for damn sure I’m a better swimmer. And she is only fourteen. I don’t want to have to use my swimming skills for evil, but if properly motivated…) She was, of course, oblivious. (Sometimes she is SO my child.) Her friend and I pointed out the flirty behavior when we were walking back up to the room. My daughter was aghast at the thought.

My kid is right on the edge of high school. It is not going to get less awkward.

This everyday stuff is what is happening even as I despair at the state of our republic. My kids are growing up. They’re just now starting to see that there is a world out there around them. And that maybe the things happening in that world can affect them on a more personal level.

They look around and see a different world than I do. They look at our country with greater cynicism and a more critical eye than I ever remember having when I was a teenager. [I’m really proud, actually, of how clearly they see the world around them, even at this ridiculously young age. (Shut up. They were toddlers yesterday.)]

These kids, their world will be very different. Maybe even better. If we can just stop feeding the dinosaurs and let clearer heads prevail.

I have hope.

Remember, humans, we are all travelers on the same rock hurtling through space and it would behoove us to work toward the betterment and survival of our species. Otherwise this fantastically livable rock will kick our pestilent little asses off like the vermin we are, and some other species will fill the void we leave behind.

Let’s not be vermin. Let’s be something better.