Monthly Archives: April 2015

Different perspectives

A thing that I have not done in quite a while, is leave Indiana. Which, to most of those who do not live here and to many of those who do, may seem incomprehensible.  Right now, I’m in Chicago for a week, and I had forgotten that calming, centering joy that overtakes me at the sight of a proper skyline.

chicago from the sky

I love Indiana, although without Bloomington, I’d probably keep flying over it til I hit New York. When I went to college in upstate New York, I finally figured out why I was always offending people all the time. It was because I lived in the wrong place. Had I been raised in New York, I would have seemed completely normal, and sometimes probably even nice. I understand people there, especially in the city. They are not rude, they’re direct. They aren’t polite and fakey, they are honest. And the main thing they are not is unfriendly, they just have shit to do. If you are not contributing something to their day, well, then move out of the way and leave them alone, because they’re busy. New Yorkers pretty much all have ADHD, which is natural since the city forces you to think about ten different things on about ten different levels all the time. I always thought I would end up living there, but once I got older I realized that I have two main requirements for a home: no roaches, and no shared walls with assholes. There went my dreams of the East Village or the UWS.

And then, when one of my best friends graduated a year ahead of me and went to Northwestern for grad school, I discovered Chicago. I’d been there as a kid several times, since Bloomington is only a few hours away by car. But I had never been there as an adult, and especially not as an adult hanging out with one of the most fun and also ill behaved people I have ever known.

Chicago has lots of what I love about New York–great museums, beautiful architecture, incredible diversity, and excellent baked goods–but it doesn’t have apartments so small that the shower is in the kitchen, and I have never seen a roach in any of the many places I’ve stayed in here. To be fair, that may be because when I was young and poor with poor and young friends, I was often in a state of altered consciousness while in their homes and did not notice the skittery horrors. But I think it might also be that Chicago’s winters are so cold that even roaches, who could survive a nuclear holocaust, could not make it through a winter here. In fact, I am astonished anew every year that so many humans manage to make it through a Chicago winter.

I know just how horrible they are, because my sister lives here, and because every winter she likes to send me photos of the snow accumulation on her outdoor table. Well, I say “winter” but what I mean is “early October”. By the time the snow’s depth is remarkable enough for her to record, it is already at least a foot deep and often sandwiched between layers of ice. I believe that this is God’s way of saying to Chicagoans “Fuck you, what do I have to do to show you assholes that I never meant for your species to LIVE here??” Yet, they persist in doing so, and I think this is probably because in spite of being city dwellers, Chicagoans are also Midwesterners, and as such, are extremely stubborn and tend towards the passive aggressive. Whereas the New Yorker would just tell God to go fuck himself, the Chicagoan nods, says “Why thank you, Lordy McLorderson, I will surely consider that!” and then just does exactly what he wants anyway. I respect that, even though my natural tendency is towards the more direct version of blasphemy.
I have chosen the best time of the year to visit Chicago. The blossoms are out on the trees; the days are almost warm; and the sunlight is pretenaturally bright from bouncing off the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan. Soon the summer will be here, and God’s summer efforts to tell people not to live here are often as unbearable as his winter ones. Even though it is so much further north, Chicago makes the heat and humidity of southern Indiana look like a child’s game.

All of that said, though, I would still be glad to be here in Chicago and away from Bloomington right now even if there were three feet of snow on the ground. This is because:
1. The Olds are not here. Enough said. Glory, glory hallelujah, praise be to Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and their little dog too!
2. I will probably not run into anyone here that I’m currently avoiding at home, a group of people that seems to grow exponentially all the time.

I have been trying to remember anything else I’ve ever done that’s made as many people as mad as pointing out homophobia to a group of liberals and requesting that they address it and reject it. Back in the day, this was something I did a lot, and even though I was usually condemned by some people, they were the people displaying the homophobia, not the ones who deplored it. I mean, I’m pretty accomplished when it comes to infuriating people in large numbers, but this time I’m in a whole new league. I remember when I first read about “post feminism” and was so infuriated that I had to lay down and not speak to people under 30 for a few weeks. Perhaps I’m just witnessing the beginning of the post-gay rights era, when it isn’t just Log Cabin Republicans and gay fundamentalist Christians who think we’re “beyond” all that.

If that is the case then I am going to have to stay here, or at least in some city large enough where I can’t afford to even walk through the wealthy gayborhoods where such people live.

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Art and lies

Depression is a sneaky, two faced son of a bitch. I have always preferred foes who make themselves known, rather than those who stealthily undermine one with smiles on their faces. Anger and grief are painful, but at least they are straightforward. They knock at the door and come on in for a while, but they usually leave at some point. They’ve been around a lot lately, and I can usually handle them, when I don’t have to entertain depression at the same time. The three of them at once is exhausting, and I haven’t been able to pay attention to anything or anyone else for a while.

Depression is always in the house, but most of the time, it stays out of sight, and when I’m lucky, I forget it is around at all. The problem is, depression fights like a girl. It will bide its time and wait til I am my weakest moment. And then, it attacks from the side, or from the back, so that I’m down before I know what hit me.

When I had cats, I kept their litter boxes in the basement. I would empty them, and forget about them. Then every so often, I would catch a whiff of….something. And then there was more than a whiff. Eventually, the cats would weave themselves in and out of my legs, meowing at me reproachfully and trying to nudge me towards the basement. I would give in and descend the stairs, where the smell would slap me in the face and I would feel like a horrible cat mama and human being and rush to do their bidding. And then, it would start over again, but most of the time, I would deal with the boxes before they got to the eye watering stage.

Depression is a lot like a litter box, only you can’t empty out your head and fill it up with fresh brain. With the right treatment, I forget all about it sometimes. I keep an eye out over my shoulder, yes, and I avoid things that encourage it, like watching terribly sad movies, thinking about Republicans, or taking stock of my life. If I feel myself starting to slide, there are things I know to do that help, like immersing myself in old, familiar books, or running my hands through beads, or taking a walk in the woods. I might knit while watching horrible TV, and dogs help more than almost anything.  That’s because they keep me in the moment, which is one of the hardest things for me to do.

Lately, though, none of my tricks are working. Depression has been following me around, tapping me on the shoulder, invading my dreams, and whispering endless lies to me. I think they’re lies, anyway. After a few days, depression is the only voice I can hear anymore, and my own voice gets tired of trying to overpower it.
That’s why my posts have been nonexistent lately; because I haven’t had the strength to try to write through the lies, and I’m afraid of accidentally writing lies that I might believe.

Until I have my own voice back, I have to rely on the words of others. For the past two months, some of the words uppermost in my mind have been these :

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

–Elizabeth Bishop
VC ’34

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ADHD, or Why I Seem Like A Dick A Lot Of The Time

One of the worst parts of being me–I know, I know, it’s not just all endless glamor and fun–is having ADHD.  This is not something that I mention that often just because it requires explanation which most people do not want or care about, and also because I have ADHD and I get bored easily and also forget stuff.

Lots of people think it’s cute or funny to say they have ADHD; I could go on about how annoying and sometimes offensive that is, but I’m sure there’s an article by a really earnest twentysomething on HuffPost that talks about that much more thoughtfully and diplomatically than I can. Suffice it to say: unless a psychiatrist has talked to you at length, and probably a therapist or two has as well, and you’ve done stuff like lose friendships and relationships and jobs–well, you probably don’t have ADHD, so shut up about it. Being able to multitask is not ADHD. Being overcommitted and unable to say no is also not ADHD. Fucking up your life so thoroughly that you move back in with your Olds after age 40–definitely could be ADHD.

Until well into my 30s I really assumed that most people’s brains worked like mine. I assumed that everyone else’s thoughts whirled constantly about everything  in the world on about seven different levels all at once, stopping only when they fell asleep, during which they dreamed vividly in color all night, and started whirling again immediately on waking. I could not understand why people were always mad at me for things I said.  If someone said one thing, but meant something else entirely, except when obviously using sarcasm to be funny, I had no idea that they didn’t mean what they said. I did not understand why most people do not read five books at a time, or why many people work on one art project until it is finished and only then start a new one. I assumed that the reason that most people’s offices at work were not covered in piles of things like mine was because they did not have any work to do(actually, in many cases, that was true).

Apparently, most people don’t do most of the things listed above. And they certainly don’t do all of them at once, unless they have ADHD. Much of what I’ve just described are ways in which ADHD manifests primarily in women and girls, which is different than it does in males.  Typically, girls with ADHD get accused of daydreaming a lot, or being “somewhere else”. And there are other things, like not being able to edit oneself, not picking up on social cues, and being able to work on lots of things or read tons of books at once.

Since I am above average in the smarty pants department, it is not surprising that it took me until my late 30s to be officially diagnosed with ADHD. I had enough coping mechanisms that I was functional, it was just in the self-editing department that I was truly lacking. It was not until I lost my job that one day my psychiatrist said she wanted to give me a quiz to see if I might have symptoms of ADHD. I scored something like 90% on it, and a score of higher than 50% is cause for concern. She gave me a book to read about women with ADHD. I came back the next week and skipped into her office practically shouting “OH MY GOD THIS IS ME THIS IS ME ARE OTHER PEOPLE REALLY NOT LIKE THIS?! OH MY GOD!!” or something.

Reading that book was a revelation in the way that most things people refer to casually as revelations are not. It honestly was the first time that I understood that the way my brain works really isn’t what we call “normal”, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  In some ways, I love having ADHD.  I love being able to read five books at once, and being able to do at least three things at a time most of the time.

But, there are some ways that ADHD has made my life much, much harder than it needs to be.
My biggest challenge is interpreting social cues. I am terrible at them. And knowing that I am, sometimes makes it even harder. Sometimes I honestly would rather not talk than risk saying something completely inappropriate or wrong. I know that’s hard to believe. But that’s why I spend so much time alone, because sometimes I am not fit for speaking to other humans. Being alone by choice is much better than being alone because you’ve made everyone mad.  Which I am really, really good at doing.

Say you are in a work meeting about a controversial issue, and you are in the minority view, which your supervisor and her supervisor are not, and someone asks you, “Wendy, what do YOU think?” When someone asks me that, I always assumed that they wanted to know what I think, because that’s what they SAID.   This is not true.

When you are continually offering opinions that are not popular, even though in many cases they are also right, or true, or both–well, sometimes what happens, is that you end up with no job and, as in my case, no career, either. It also means that quite often you have friends one minute and realize two months later that you don’t have them anymore.

When I look back over my life to date, I can see so many examples of what I always just thought was me making people mad because I was a horrible person. I did not try to make people mad or hurt their feelings on purpose. (most of the time. Sometimes, I did, but those people were probably horrible themselves and they deserved it). But I did offend people often, and later I found out that my best friends were apologizing for me behind my back a lot of the time. I only found that out after I was diagnosed and started asking my closest friends painful questions.

Let me clear: having ADHD doesn’t make it okay to offend people, because it doesn’t. But when you know you have it, you can (sometimes) figure out why you’re being annoying and you can (most of the time) try to change your behavior.

Keeping my mouth shut is something that I work on a lot. And, although it is hard to believe, I am much better. It’s just that when you consider how far I had to go just to get to where I am–well, then you can probably see that the only way I am ever going to get to “socially acceptable” in that case is to have my tongue and vocal chords removed.

I can also be literal to a fault, and I do not understand subtlety in many human interactions. When I saw the movie Mean Girls I was completely confused, because I do not know how to “fight like a girl”. I realized, I would have no idea if someone was doing that to me. I had to call in some girly girls to consult, like my sister. I was shocked to find that EVERYONE knew how to do this fighting like a girl thing, and that everyone for the most part could also recognize it when they saw it.

Another problem I have,  is that I do not care what most people think of me. I might have figured all of this out a lot sooner if I cared about impressing people in general.  It would have helped if I’d realized that maybe I honestly couldn’t help being an asshole, and that if I understood why I was and how to deal with it, I could at least lessen my assholity.

Usually, I have a small selection of people whose opinions are important to me. Sadly, I am usually no better at interpreting social cues from them than I am from movies starring Lindsay Lohan. This can lead to situations like several of my relationships, where, because someone said that they loved me, I ignored all of their actions that said that they most certainly did not love me, because in my literal little head, I took those words at face value without considering what was behind them. Or, where I paid attention only to their actions and refused to hear what they were clearly saying.  Apparently, you are supposed to look at both of those.  And, you are supposed to be able to tell when one is true if they don’t match up.  This is terribly confusing for me.  Why can’t people just have little post it notes attached to them with that info on it?

For instance: If someone says he loves you, but will not tell you where he has hidden his sock of money in the house [because he’s a paranoid idiot who won’t open a bank account] because, as he said: “Then you wouldn’t be able to tell a thief where it was even if he tortured you”–Fact: that is not someone who loves you. That is a sociopath who does not love anyone and who you should kick out of your house and then move somewhere that he can’t find you, like an apartment where you need good credit to get a lease. Do not live with him for 5 more years and allow him to get away without paying for utilities or food. Still–he said he loved me, and I was too busy hearing that to notice what he was actually doing. Which, btw, was mostly sitting on the couch watching TV and asking me when I returned from a long workday what was for dinner.

Then, there was the person whose actions said that she was as in love as a person could be—but who denied it. Stop a moment and remember how bad I am at social cues. I know. It’s cringeworthy. So when I say that someone was clearly in love with me–that I, of all people, noticed it—can you even start to understand the level of lovesickness we are talking about here? Thank you. Finally, I did get an admission that “just because someone HAS certain feelings, doesn’t mean that they have to act on them.” My response to that was, “You mean like they say in gay conversion therapy?” That was just as well. There was no newsstand large enough to contain all of her issues.

But my social issues aren’t just limited to romance. No, I like to be well rounded, so they also happen with friends too. Sometimes, there are people who are nice to me, and who seem friendly. Maybe we hang out a few times or something, or maybe we are really good friends. People get busy, time goes by, I don’t hear from them for a while. I know that I am wont to make assumptions that are quite often wrong, so I try not to take it personally. But what sometimes happens is that I find myself in a situation where I keep trying to be friends with someone who has no interest in being friends with me. Because I am going from the assumption that we are friends, I will just cut them slack when they don’t contact me for a while. Oddly, I am not most people’s –actually, anyone’s–first priority, and to most people I come pretty far down the list. That’s ok, because I often do that on purpose. I am too good at screwing things up to want to be too important to anyone. But for that reason as well, I often don’t realize that someone has done everything but change their name, email, phone number, and send me a registered letter saying “FUCK OFF NOW” to tell me to go away until they actually do one of those things. I am trying to be better about this, but I have already pretty much given up on relationships, and I don’t want to give up on friendships as well.

Oh no. I’m being called to the door. I have to sign for something. Probably that registered letter.

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Keeping up with the Oldses

One of the many responsibilities I have as Keeper of the Olds is making sure that they are still healthy and in [mostly] working order.  And, in spite of the fact that they treat their livers like amusement parks and eat according to the four food groups of caffeine, sugar, red meat, and cheese, they are both in better health than they have any right to be at their age.

Since I live with them, I am well aware of my limitations.  I no longer try to keep up with them in most ways.  For example, I know that I cannot drink their coffee, for I have a human heart that will stop working with that amount of caffeine flowing through it. They are both proud that they stopped putting cream in their coffee years ago, but since I believe they could put heavy whipping cream in what they call coffee and still only turn it a dark, murky brown, I give them no health benefits for this.

I also do not eat the same diet as they do much of the time, because I eat very little red meat, which they believe should be eaten at least once a day.  I also refuse to eat what I define as “cute” meat.  This includes lamb and veal. The Olds, on the other hand, often drive past fields of darling baby animals in the springtime and remark on how delicious they look.  Perhaps if I could drink more than a tablespoon of Irish whiskey at a time, I too might be numb and dead enough inside to feel absolutely no empathy for God’s most adorable, fluffy creatures.

Since they are from rural Ohio and had me when they were about 14 years old, the Olds are not actually that much older than me.  My sister, though, was born when they were around 35, and she cannot keep up with them either.  The Olds like to visit her, because she lives in Chicago and has an excellent wine shop around the corner from her house. Usually, about 36 hours into their visit, I will receive a phone call or a text from my sister, explaining that she is lying on her bed unable to move and believes that she may be dying. Her head is pounding, her stomach is a sea of discontent, and in general she feels as though she has just been on a three day bender with Henry VIII. This is because she tries to keep up with the Olds’s vacation schedule when they visit, which is even more shocking than their regular schedule. It goes something like this:

1. Wake up. Drink nine cups of coffee so as to achieve same effect as one cup of their homemade brew
2. Go in search of breakfast. In Chicago, this usually means doughnuts from Glazed and Infused. Go look at their website. I will wait here for you.
[Did you see those things? They are unholy, unless your religion is doughnut worship, in which case, they are a collection of gods made of sugar and fat]
3. Talk about where to have lunch.
4. Look up menus of lunch possibilities on the internet
5. Go to lunch.

6. Possibly, do some sight seeing or shopping.  Meaning, they usually end up at the wine store buying all of the French wine they cannot get at home.

7. This is exhausting, so they either go back to hotel or my sister’s home and nap for two hours.
8. Wake up, realize is 4pm, meaning is 5pm in Indiana and therefore they may start drinking
9. Start drinking cocktails
10. Get ready for dinner
11.  Go out to dinner, usually at excellent and often quite expensive place. Have enormous dinner with proper wines and post dinner brandy, port, or Irish whiskey.
12. Olds: return happily to hotel. Sleep the sleep of the innocent for a full nine hours.
13. Sister: stumbles home and tries to stay alive
14. Next morning: Olds bright eyed, bushy-tailed, and confused as to why sister and her husband are moving slowly and avoiding loud noises.  Ask them loudly how they are feeling seven or eight times.
15.  Repeat. For three or four days.
Then, they return home and say that they are worried that my sister is coming down with something due to her lack of energy and general greenish coloring.

It is at that point that I have to remind them that not everyone approaches life as though it takes place at a medieval feast with 15 courses and gallons of ale. They cannot understand why that is, and I suppose that is why they are in general, pretty upbeat. Either that, or they no longer have enough brain cells left to switch between different emotional states.

Because of their tendency to excess, I often worry about their cardiovascular health. That is why I like to do random spot checks on their hearts and their reflexes. I often have to change up my techniques to keep them on their toes, but generally, I conduct my spot checks as follows:

I wait until they have retired for the evening. Then I make sure they are finished getting up and down to get a drink of water, going to the bathroom, finding their teeth, taking their nightly meds, and all their other pre-sleep Olden activities.  I can tell when they’re finally settled in because one of them starts to snore intermittently and the other one reads, passive aggressively turning pages with as much crinkling and rustling as possible because he’s trying to wake the other one up enough to stop her snoring.  Once the rustling and crinkling dies down and the snore subsides to a steady buzz, I know that one of them is sound asleep, and the other one is engrossed in his book and starting to relax into a drowsy haze.

Then, what I like to do is creep up the stairs to their open door, stick my hands into their room, and CLAP as loudly as two hands can CLAP.  Sometimes I also yell or whoop very loudly. It depends on how in-depth of a spot check I’m doing.

What is good about this method is that it enables me to check on their heart health, because one of them used to have atrial fibrillation. Usually, there is no episode of that, which is good.
It also allows me to see if their reflexes are still fast enough for them to be allowed to drive, because usually one or both of them scream and fling all four limbs into the air in terror. Also, it proves that their hearing is still functional. All of which I remind them, before running for cover, which I have to do very,very fast since they also still have pretty good aim.

And they read very heavy books.

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