The Struggle is Real

I haven’t posted since mid-October which might lead you to think that I failed in my OktoberFast mission to avoid ice cream and dirty dishes. I am super proud to announce that I did, in fact, successfully complete my OktoberFast and, although I have since eaten ice cream, my sister and I have continued to keep our dishes washed and put away. You know, like grown-ups and stuff.

My office is in the home of the couple of work for. Their home is always very neat and clean which has led me to be more diligent in keeping my own home neat and clean. Well, maybe “keeping” isn’t the right word. A better word would be “making.” As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been much of a housekeeper. I’ve been better at it some times than others; but, I’ve never kept my house Company Ready. But I’m getting closer and that feels really good.

I have believed for a long time that the state of my house often reflects the state of my spirit. When I am depressed, my house is VERY messy. When I am up-beat, my house is more presentable. The correlation really isn’t accurate right now because, although my bed is made daily and my house is vacuumed and dusted weekly, my spirit is struggling. I spend a lot of time alone. I’m fat again. I’m out of shape. My ankle/foot hurts almost all the time. Finances are always a struggle. It has gotten me down.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been down like this, although I wish the last time had been the last time! I know that I have a history of beating times like this 100% of the time; but, I’m just so sick of fighting, you know? The struggle is real and, frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it and that doesn’t help anything, either. Yesterday was particularly bad.

Then I talked to a friend.

I’ve shared with you all that I have been treated for depression since I was in my early 20s. For more than half of my life, I’ve had a monster living in my mind – a monster that tries to destroy me on a daily basis. I tell with absolute conviction that without a handful friends over the years (you know who you are), that monster would have won. While the monster is not threatening my life at the moment, it’s certainly being a pain. I don’t like to call on my friends with every episode for fear that they’ll get tired of hearing about them. (I know I get tired of experiencing them, for sure!) So, I was reluctant to tell my friend what was going on in my head yesterday. However, the man reads me better than nearly anyone I’ve ever met. When I finally told him what was going on, he said this:

“…you’re on my team and I’m on your team.”

It humbles me and amazes me every time someone chooses to like me. I’m hard to get along with. I’m hyper-critical. I procrastinate. I’m often full of shit. I try to be better. I am rarely successful. But, I try. I struggle. My struggle is real.

So is my team. I thank each of you.

(Team t-shirts coming soon!)

 

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Disorderly Conduct for OctoberFast

Y’all, I’ve finally admitted to myself this week that I have skid row self-discipline. Every night before I go to sleep, I make to-do lists and swear resolutions like a drunk with her head over the toilet. I promise to do the laundry and actually get it all put away on the same day (!) just like that drunk promises to never touch another drop of alcohol. And just like that drunk pops a cork the next day, I’m sitting on the couch on the next day with my feet up, eating popcorn, and watching Game of Thrones while the laundry sits unfolded on the kitchen table.

And, frankly, I’m getting on my own nerves with it.

My house is NEVER ready for company to just drop by. I stop at fast food places for dinner, meanwhile salad ingredients liquify in my refrigerator. I drink WAY too much Diet Coke because I just don’t like to drink water. I still can’t walk for exercise; but, I don’t haul myself to the pool, which I could do. I have such a huge list of things I need and/or want to tackle, I don’t get any of it done.

My boss was talking the other day about something she does – OctoberFast. For the month of October, she gives up one unhealthy thing – like Lent, but in the Fall and without Mardi Gras parades. So, I’m tackling my list by giving up two things: 1. ice cream, and 2. leaving dishes in the sink.

no-ice-cream-for-youNow, for a reasonable person, giving up ice cream might mean no dessert for two nights a month. Not for me! The ridiculous truth is that I eat ice cream at least four times a week. (I told you it was ridiculous.) And I just haven’t made myself give it up; so, I’m doing it for October – 31 days with no ice cream. I’m not giving it up forever, but I can handle 31 days. I can handle a finite period of time without my favorite treat and with a new chore.

My dishwasher died several years ago and I’ve never replaced it. I lived alone for much of that time and it just wasn’t that important to me. Now, however, my sister lives with me and the dishes pile up faster since neither of us are big fans of washing them. I get annoyed with her when she doesn’t wash them when I think it’s her turn; but, the truth is, I don’t do them like I should when it’s my turn, either. I’m currently saving up for a dishwasher; however, it’s unlikely that I’ll have the money for it before the end of the month So, for the 31 days that are October, I will wash the dishes every day and put them away before I go to bed. That’s such a basic adult thing to do, it really looks like that would be a non-issue, doesn’t it? Well, whatever. It is and I’m dealing with it this month.

This October is a time to tackle two places where I display no self-discipline. I’m hopeful that I’ll notice a change in my motivations by the time the month is over. I’d say that I’m looking forward to it, but that’s not really the truth. (Didn’t you hear me? I’m giving up ICE CREAM!) But, I know the process is good for me; so, I’m doing it. I just OctoberFast really is…..er…fast.

Clearing Space

Twice this year I have helped move other people. As I packed their belongings, sometimes I wondered why they kept some of the things they did. Sometimes, I wondered, but only sometimes since that kind of question leads to uncomfortable introspection in my experience; so, mostly, I just kept my mouth shut and packed.

At the best of times, I am not a great housekeeper. Knick-knacks give dust a place to settle. Knick-knacks also create an obstacle course for dusting, making an unpleasant task even more unpleasant. So, I rarely do it. The cooling temperatures motivated me to do a some Fall cleaning this weekend which has lead to a little introspection on why I keep so many things.

I have books that I bought 10 years ago intending to read.  I still haven’t read them. My guess at this point is that I’m not going to. I have bowls that belonged to my grandmother. She used them daily. They have been in the back of my cabinet for 12 years. I have two 32″ CRT television sets. One hasn’t been turned on since December. The only has been dark for 5 years. I have enough mismatched wine glasses to have 30 people over for cocktails and canapes. I don’t even know 30 people I’d want to have over for cocktails and canapes! I have shelving units and storage furniture that does nothing but store things I don’t use –  things are weighing me down. They are cluttering my space, making it harder for me to keep an orderly home that feels good to be in. So, I started boxing things up, listing them for sale and giving them away.

It gave me a stomach ache.

Can you believe that?! I actually felt physically ill when I delivered a reproduction ice box to a woman who wanted it. I felt panicked putting books into a box to go to the library. How silly is that?

Every item I identified as useless, the hoarder in my soul identified as something with priceless memories attached. “You can’t get rid of that book on felting with cat hair! Think of all the projects you are going to make with that!” I felt like a child with a toy I’ve long ignored until someone else wanted to play with it. Suddenly, it was the Most Important Toy Ever.

Organization experts say to keep only those things that make you happy. Get rid of things that you are keeping out of guilt or habit. Keep useful things that contribute to your positive sense of well-being. As I sorted through things to keep, my Inner Hoarder said that everything makes me happy – in fact, I might need a few more things! My Inner Hoarder talks too much, contributes nothing to the bills, and won’t dust for love or money.

So, I have these useless things all around me, clogging my space, draining my energy, hiding dust that makes my nose stuffy and, still, I am reluctant to give them up. I know that it is wasteful for me to keep them when someone else can actually use them; but, still, I hesitate. I know that I will feel better physically if I get rid of the dust that hides in all these extra books and knick-knacks, and yet…….

They are familiar. They are tradition. And I don’t like change even when it’s good for me.

From the looks of all the storage facilities lining the highways,  I’m not the only one.

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Maya Angelou Flunkee

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.      –Maya Angelou

Yeah, except that I don’t.

  • A stitch in time saves time.
    • The button that came off my duvet cover this weekend isn’t back on the duvet. Are you kidding?! It’s on my nightstand where it will stay until it gets lost forever.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
    • I buy apples all the time and a few days later, I throw those same apples into my compost pile when I take my fast food containers to the trash can.
  • Haste makes waste.
    • In my case, haste makes waist – I can down a pint of Phish Food with frightening efficiency.
  • Well done is better than well said.
    • I talk about eating right and exercising all the time; but, where some people are healthy by following the 80/20 rule, it’s a banner day if I’m 50/50.

Since I have not been able to go to work, I don’t have a set time when I have to be up most days, which means that I can get up really early and enjoy the day! Um, we’ve met at least virtually, right? Yeah. So, no. I am sleeping late, then napping later – no early to rise for me, Poor Richard! I don’t have a schedule or routine which, it turns out, is super bad for my adulting efforts. So maybe I need a roommate or chaperone (whatever).

I got one. My sister has lived with me for the past 18 months or so which is both a good thing and a really bad thing. We keep each other on track with a lot of stuff; but, we both struggle with adulting on some of the same issues. We don’t fold clothes or put them away. We don’t dust. We don’t wash dishes. We don’t clean out the refrigerator. There are lots of things we’re just really not very good at. I don’t want you to think that my house looks like an episode of Hoarders, it doesn’t; however, if you walk into my kitchen and can see the top of my table, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m expecting guests. When I say that we don’t do those things, what I really mean is that we don’t do them willingly. We do them, but there’s a lot of pouting and foot dragging that goes on.

I see people and I know people who never have a pile of clothes sitting around waiting to be folded. There’s never a dirty dish in the sink. The brightware in their bathrooms is always sparkling. I am not one of these people. It’s not rocket science on being one either, is it? I mean, if you take clothes out of the dryer, fold them and put them away. Wash the dirty dishes and put them away right when you’re done with them. I don’t need an algorithm to figure out how to do it. I know how. I know better. I just don’t do it. I flunk Maya Angelou.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about how you don’t get a Gold Star just for doing the minimum. Yet, I have to admit that when I go to bed knowing that there are no clothes to be folded and put away, that the floors have been vacuumed and that there are no dishes in the sink, I feel like I should get a gold star. I feel like I’ve done something note-worthy. It’s not particularly note-worthy in the larger scheme of things; but, these days, when my universe has been limited largely to my own home for months, I really don’t care about the larger scheme of things. I don’t. These days, I’m trying to motivate myself to rejoin the human race. I’m WAY behind the curve now that I’ve been sidelined for so long; so, sometimes, the only step I make in the direction of a reunion with humanity is putting away the dishes. Maybe you’d say that doesn’t merit a gold star; but, right now, I say it does. And I’m going to take it.

 

Drowning in Disability Depression

If you’ve read my blog over the last year, you may know that I’ve been struggling with foot issues. July 2016 I began to experience extraordinary left ankle and foot pain. I’d been suffering with plantar fasciitis in that foot for several months; but, this was something else, something worse. Several nights I left work literally in tears, hobbling like Quasimodo on a bender. Let me put it in perspective for you on my pain scale:

  • 10 – childbirth
  • 9 – folded meniscus
  • 8.92 – this foot and ankle pain, hence the “extraordinary” adjective

Resized_20170411_115300I began consulting an orthopedist which has been a very expensive proposition, both in terms of bills and in lost wages. I’ve had stress fractures in the foot as a result of a  fibrous calcaneonavicular coalition in there. I’ve worn a walking cast/boot for so long that the rubber at the ankle is beginning to tear. I’ve been in a hard cast twice and I’ve been unable to work since the end of December. A little over a month ago, I had surgery to remove the tarsal coalition in my left foot. What that means in practical terms is that the doctor drilled a hole in the middle of my foot to allow the bones that were previously improperly connected to each other to move freely – that’s actually my x-ray with the shiny new hole in it.  As of today, I’m still in the orthopedic boot. I hope that changes when I see the doctor on the 22nd.

This foot problem has impacted every area of my life and I hate it. Walking with crutches or using a knee scooter is such a hassle and because I couldn’t walk without them for so long, I stopped going places. Because I didn’t go anywhere, I wore my pajamas most of the time. Because I wore my pajamas most of the time, I felt like a slug. Because I felt like a slug, I got depressed. Because I got depressed, I ate more. Because I ate more and couldn’t walk, I gained even more weight.

My skin feels greasy. My hair looks like crap. I’m enormous….again. I feel ugly nearly all of the time. And I feel so ugly all the time that when I get dressed, I can’t tell if I hate what I see in the mirror because it’s an I-feel-ugly-because-I-feel-fat thing or because it’s a genuine WTF are you wearing thing. I would ask my sister (who is my roommate) but since I left her favorite stuffed monkey Zip outside and the dogs chewed him up when I was four, I can’t completely trust that she wouldn’t let me walk out looking like Holy Hell Barbie just to pay me back.

As you know, I have battled depression since my early twenties – sometimes the battle is a raging internal conflict, sometimes there is an uneasy peace. These past months have been a constant, intense onslaught due to pain, immobility cause by the pain, frustration caused by the immobility, and anger caused by the frustration. Throw a little self-loathing in there and you get a pretty good idea of where I am today.

Normally, I try to end my posts on a positive note – you know, since I’m the Positive Thinking Blog Goddess and all – but, y’all, I just don’t have it right now. The combat has exhausted me and although I am able to get my head above water from time to time. I feel like I’m drowning.

Maybe this is overshare. Maybe you don’t want to know all of this. Maybe you don’t care. But, maybe you do. Maybe you’re drowning, too.

Maybe you know where the life buoys are?

 

 

Choosing to Love

 

“Love stinks.” – The J. Geils Band.

Basic survival instincts send an animal away from something that causes pain. We flee fire. Dogs cower from raised hands. We are programmed to avoid pain; however, in the case of love, we actively seek out something which can cause us tremendous pain. Why?

You might make the argument that we risk the pain of losing friendship because the benefits from the friendship make the risk worth it. The sense of community and the support of friends increases a person’s chances of survival and even quality of life. But pets? Cats? Dogs? What do we get from them?

I was upset when Blu disappeared; but, I was gutted when my sister found his body under the house. This is the second of my feral colony that has chosen to die at my house rather than wandering off, as animals so often do. The White Queen died at my back door and is buried in the back yard. Sunday, Blu joined her in the little feral cemetery. I cried all day over this cat I’d never even petted. Why? Why was I so upset?

Three of the kittens of the feral colony are in my house (Wallace, Link, and Lucy); but, the colony was much larger than that. At one time, there were 14 of them. Of the eleven who lived outside, only The White Queen let me pick her up, pet her and brush her – she loved a good brushing! Twin lets me pet her from time to time, but only with one hand and only scratches around the head and neck. The others observe a strictly No Touch policy. But I continue to feed them, talk to them and, yes, love them. Why? It’s not like they give me anything.

Or do they?

MANY years ago, before I realized that he was Jerry Springer without the folding chairs, I watched Dr. Phil’s show. A broken clock is right twice a day and even the doctor was right at least this once: we engage in behaviors because there is some kind of payout in it for us. After I’d fed the ferals for a few months, the man I was seeing told me that I was going to have to stop feeding them – they were just costing me money. (He was right, it was a little tough on my budget; so, I rearranged some things. I continued to feed them, but he’s not around anymore. Draw your own conclusion.) It’s a real honor to me when these feral animals allow me to approach, verbalize to me, or even just blink slowly at me acknowledging that I am not a threat. After much contemplation, I think that my payout is that they trust me. And, in trusting me, they somehow validate me. The trust they give makes me want to be the kind of person who deserves it. Like Helen Hunt to Jack Nicholson, the cats make me want to be a better (hu)man.

Maybe that’s the payout for love – that it makes us want to be better. It makes us become people we like more. It makes us worthier in our own eyes. In the end, though, as I sit here with a dog at my feet and cat hair on my shirt, I’ve concluded that it doesn’t matter Why we love. It only matters That we do.

 

 

A Bellyful of Mortality

See those flowers? I bought them as a treat for myself. Normally, I eat my emotions. This weekend was kind of a tough one and I didn’t want to dive into the Ben and Jerry’s; so, I bought the flowers to lift my spirit. If looking at them doesn’t work, I’ll be having them with ranch dressing later.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, a friend stepped outside of his home to smoke a cigar. Five men he didn’t know were standing there. He suggested that they leave. They shot him twice. My friend is a retired Air Force officer and pilot. He is a war veteran. He is a bona fide  American hero and these thugs shot him. He is hurting and has quite a bit of rehab to do; but, he should recover just fine. He’ll have no income and a ton of hospital bills because those jackasses; but, he should recover.

Saturday afternoon, I began to smell death around my house. By Sunday morning, it was unmistakable. My sister went under the house and found one of my feral kitties – Blu – had curled up in an area the ferals use as a den in bad weather, and died. Blu had been missing a couple of weeks ago. He was limping when he reappeared; however, because he did not allow touching, I had no way to know how badly he was injured. After showing up for three mealtimes, he disappeared again. As I said, my sister found and buried him Sunday morning.

Sunday lunch was spent with a friend who has metastasized breast cancer. She has one of the greatest survival stories I’ve ever heard. To escape childhood sexual abuse, she literally ran away and joined the circus – well, carnival. She traveled with the carnival and it saved her life. She hasn’t had an easy time of it by anyone’s measure; but, she is a kind woman with an amazing spirit. She’s dealt with some pretty horrible things in her life and here she has another one.

Injury, death and illness. It was an awful lot of mortality for this empath to handle in 24 hours. My mind is awhirl with thoughts of love and motivation. As a professor,  Robert Pirsig (author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) literally drove himself insane trying to define the idea of quality. I’ve felt a little bit like that today trying to define the idea of love and divine the motivations behind our love for people and things.

I can easily tell you why I love my son – he’s funny, with a kind soul. He’s nobody’s fool and knows how to draw boundaries for himself. He’s intelligent, curious and articulate. But, I didn’t know that he was any of those things the night when, as an infant of only maybe three months old, he began fretting in his sleep. His diaper had leaked, leaving his pajamas and sheets wet. Now, the truth is that he was so little, I could have changed his diaper and his clothes, put him at the dry end of the crib and he’d have been fine. But. I didn’t do that. I changed his sheets, too, so that his whole area would be clean, dry and comfortable for the rest of the night. Why? Because I loved him. I didn’t really even know him; but, I loved him. I had chosen to make that Love commitment to him, plus there was all the biology going on encouraging me to nurture him, ensuring the continuation of the species.

I say that like it’s a given, don’t I, that mothers will love and care for their babies? But we know that’s not always true. It wasn’t true in ancient Rome where brothel babies were routinely killed and disposed off in the sewage system and it’s not true now when babies are killed and hidden under couches. The Love commitment -or perhaps, I could more accurately call it the urge to nurture doesn’t always happen. I’m less interested in why it doesn’t occur than in why it does.

The loss of something we love hurts. We know that it’s going to hurt long before it does. Most of us have a biological imperative to mate. We are compelled to find a partner. Many of us are also compelled to reproduce. The species wants to continue; so, we many of us are programmed to have and care for babies. I can objectively understand the biological urge to do those things that overrides any desire to avoid the pain of losing that mate or a child. But what about friends and pets? Why do we risk that pain?

Why do we choose to love?

Brew up some coffee or steep some tea tomorrow morning and we’ll talk some more about it.