dirty ramblings

One of the many, many problems of living with one’s Olds is that one no longer has much choice about certain things. Although they are always very clear that this is my house too, and that I belong here and all of that, when it comes down to decisions about the house and its contents, I have no say.

Which is probably for the best most of the time, because I hated owning a home and having to do things like mow the yard and call plumbers and vacuum. It was all a lot of energy that I could have been putting somewhere more valuable, such as learning to get along with other people in a professional environment—-HA! Oh, that was a good one.

I have already mentioned the Olds’ new furniture idea. Nothing has changed yet, but at any moment a large truck could roar up and start unloading things. Because it is clear now that I will not be getting any warning about future home improvement products. For instance, a week ago, the Olds went out for the afternoon, and came back with a gleam in their eyes and expressions of utter satisfaction on their smug little faces.

“What did you do?” I demanded, breaking up their little whisper and giggle fest.
(I am not kidding when I say it is like living with 4th graders. Ones that drink vodka instead of juiceboxes, but still)

They both sit up straight, mentally smoothing down their straightjackets, and one of them says, in a not particularly friendly way:

“WE bought a washer and dryer!”

The other Old nodded and glared at me as if to say “YEAH WE DID, MOTHERFUCKER!!”

They seemed very defensive about it. “Oh, good” I said, carefully. “When is it being delivered?”

“On SATURDAY!!!!”, they crowed, arms crossed, with, I swear to god, some hair tossing. Well. Head tossing, to be more precise. Not a lot of hair to toss on one of them.

I looked from the burning gaze of one to the barely concealed eye rolls of the other. Unable to think of any safe reply, I backed away with what I intended to be a pleasant look on my face, and shot down the stairs to my lair. I listened intently for any explosions upstairs but heard only some slapping…..which was disturbing until, I realized they were high five-ing each other.
Which, was still disturbing. It was just the least upsetting thing that such a sound could ha—-ANYWAY.

I will not recount the actual delivery and installation of the new appliances, for it is too annoying and too early for vodka. But it is here, and apparently, it works. For everyone but me. I have now tried to do three loads of laundry and I have a feeling they will be my last. I could probably figure out all of the seventy million different settings if I tried; that’s not really the point. What is going to drive me the rest of the way out of my mind is how one of the Olds keeps trying to help me. She does this from a different floor of the house, by yelling instructions which I cannot hear and which make no sense anyway, and then she threatens, I mean, offers, to come up and “help” me. This counts as technology instruction and is therefore unacceptable.
I’m either going to have to start going to the laundromat or just wearing my clothes in the shower to get them clean.

Leave a comment

Filed under home life, olds

Interior desolation

Sometimes, the Olds get an idea. Usually this happens because they are bored, or because they have suddenly realized a fact that the entire world has known for many years. Or both. Right now, this idea concerns redecorating the living room.

This is something that strikes a chord of horror deep in my soul.

It is not just the thought of the Olds with a new project, although that rarely means anything good for me. It is that it is a project which they are only slightly less equipped to deal with than I am. And, I am useless when it comes to redecorating, or decorating in the first place, at least when it comes to human sized living spaces.

I do not care about things like faux finishes and matching curtains and statement pieces or pretty much anything to do with any program ever shown on the DIY/HGTV networks. As someone who makes things for [an impoverished and poorly planned] living, one might think that I would be someone who loves sewing throw pillows and slipcovers and who has “theme” bathrooms. After all, I spend a huge amount of my life looking at colors, finishes, texture, composition, and designing. Choosing four* colors of beads for a project can take me hours. Not only do I choose the colors, I have to decide on size, finish, placement—all of this for things that can be as small as a millimeter across. Wouldn’t you think that, say, choosing a bedspread and curtains would be fun or satisfying for me in some way?

If you do, then you are wrong.

Here are my long cherished and practiced beliefs about interior design:

1. Get a house.
2. Put your books and art supplies in it.
3. Done.

There are other variations, like “Get an apartment” or “Put your books and DVDs” in it. But this is the general idea, and it has served me well, or at least adequately, so far. Yes, I do like to have a bed and other furniture, especially bookshelves. But this covers the essentials.

The Olds’ beliefs are similar, except that they have always had much larger living spaces than me, and their central focus is usually the kitchen and wherever a television can be placed. Quite often things like curtains and wallpaper and such look very nice in their homes, but that is either an accident or because someone else picked those things out.

Yesterday I came upstairs for my mid morning break and found both Olds dressed and flailing around looking for shoes, car keys, pants, and other things they can never find when leaving the house. Since it was barely noon, I was shocked. I asked “What’s wrong? Who is going to the ER? Or are you going to Ohio? Did someone die???”

One of them paused and glared at me. The other one was busy cursing because he’d just tripped over a pile of my shoes.

The Glaring One said (in a shirty, snippy tone) “WE are going to look at furniture!”

Me: “What?? For where? Here??”
Glaring: “Ha ha, very funny. For the living room, of course.”
Other Old: “Goddammit these fucking shoes why can’t you blah blah blah nonsense words angry sounds etc”
Me [ignoring him]: “Why? What’s wrong with the furniture we have?”
Me: “My my, we are all a little tense today! Maybe you should have a little wine before heading out! Wait, let me get you a bottle and a straw to take with you!”
[duck back downstairs ASAP]
Olds: [thumping, stomping, grumbling, possibly throwing things? back door opens and SLAMS shut]

Later, I was out, and when I got back, they were in their usual positions, accessorized with an empty wine bottle and mostly empty wineglasses. They have not found any furniture they like that also matches the dog. As I made for the stairs, I heard one of them say “Well, we have to find the furniture before we decide what color to paint the walls”.

I’m going to have to move.
*design note: almost never choose four of something; choose three or five. Odd numbers are always more pleasing to the eye. This is science. Or math. Maybe geometry? I read it somewhere once, realized I already do that, and made a note to refer to this source when teaching. Obviously I lost that note.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Superhero days

What I Did Today
a List by Wendy, Mistress of The Beasts

—Engaged in spirited discussion re: merits of Spider-Man vs Batman with 7 year old and 11 year old boys.

—Tried to avoid being hit on head with homemade “weapons”[made of foam rubber and duct tape]

—Requested sword and axe fighting take place in separate room from me until finish gallon of Starbucks

—Spent two hours with 5 kids from 7-14 discussing which superpowers were the most powerful, deciding on which ones we all possessed, the specialties and limitations, and everyone’s kryptonite, and why Aqua Man just sucks and is completely lame and whether or not Iron Man has a good costume, degenerating, again, into acerbic debate about Spider-Man being the best possible superhero, which was only headed off by children deciding to invent MY superhero persona.

Name: Mistress of the Beasts
Super power: being able to communicate with animals; also uncanny ability to understand boys between 11-15 perfectly
Costume: Can’t remember color but had awesome boots and very long cape and clawed gauntlets which were my primary request
Kryptonite: people who don’t like kids or animals and also school
Backstory: unfortunate zoo accident as young child. Possibility of being raised by wolves explored and abandoned as vegetarian diet impossible in such conditions

Afternoon activities:

Costume workshop for tomorrow’s LARPing event during which helped to produce:

–fake fur tunic
–pleather body armor
–full length satin cape
–pleather sandals (12year old’s original pattern and design)
–black jacket with detailed flower appliqué (designed and created by its wearer; I only helped tack flower down so could be completely sewn on by 11 year old boy genius)
–two sets fingerless gloves
–did not help with but marveled at pheasant feathers cured on skin by 13 year old. Amazing.
–Various belts and pouches to hang on them, along with holders for “weapons”

Other activities:

–Watching children learn and perform zombie dance
–Asking children to scream in their normal voices, not the high pitched one that makes the blood vessels in my neck pop out
(Request consistently ignored)

–Laughing almost continually

–Already looking forward to tomorrow as I drive home

–Comparing today’s child-centered fun to that of a year ago, and missing those particular children even more than I already do, every day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Explanations and exits

I have been having a difficult time writing lately. Well, I’ve been having a difficult time in general. Every time I think that my depression has receded a bit, it comes roaring back. I started this blog to mostly write about my Olds, because I felt that their behavior is sometimes too ridiculous for a single status update on Facebook. The Olds have more fans than they know [and I would prefer to keep it that way, thank you very much, tattletales]; plus, laughing at my day to day existence keeps me from remembering why I am where I am and how bleak the overall picture of my life really is. But it seems like I am writing less about the Olds and more about myself, and specifically, about how bad I feel most of the time. And that was originally not my plan here.  Maybe the Olds are not the only ones who need parenting.

Usually, when I am depressed, there are things I can do to distract myself. Watching Criminal Minds for nine or twenty hours without stopping can help. I admit that it may be a little off-putting to some that I enjoy watching serial killers so as to make my own life seem more bearable. But it does help. No matter how miserable I am, no one has broken into my house and stabbed me with an icepick. (Yet).
Watching the serial killers themselves at work does not make me feel better; quite the opposite. It usually makes me feel worse; most of them seem to be incredibly organized with a real talent for planning ahead, so it is just another profession at which I could never succeed. If I can never find the ice scraper in my car, what makes me think I could remember to keep a tarp and a few axes in the trunk? Answer comes there none.

The problem with my depression this time, is that it isn’t the the usual chemical dark cloud that descends for no reason. This time, it is situational, and the situation cannot be fixed. I have mentioned leaving my church, and why I did it. I am tired of talking about it, and I am tired of defending my position, and I am tired of spending so much time and energy on thinking about a place where I am no longer welcome, and where, even if I were, I would never set foot again.

I am tired of being angry and exhausted by sadness, and I’m also tired of mourning. But I can’t seem to stop doing any of that. I knew that the church was a huge part of my life. I knew that leaving it would hurt, and that I would probably feel lost for a while. I also knew that I really, really didn’t want to go—but that my own mouth would, sooner or later, open up and say things that could never be unsaid.  I would have become increasingly bitter and unpleasant, which had already started happening before I left.  And I didn’t want to do that, because I didn’t want people to hate me. Well. So much for that.

I’ve realized that the only way I’m going to be able to get through this particular bout of depression, is to write, but I don’t have happy or funny things to write about right now.  So if you are looking for funny OldsStories, you might have to wait for a few days.  Right now, I can only write what I have, and what I have had for a while now is a broken heart.  Glossing over it hasn’t helped.  Crying hasn’t helped. Neither have venting, wishing, being angry and bitter, pretending it never happened, ice cream, reading Elizabeth Bishop,  or any of the usual cures for a broken heart.

That’s the difference between losing an individual and losing a community, I guess.

I also need to write about it because I do not want to forget the good things.  If the church had not been so amazing, this wouldn’t hurt so much.  Even up until two weeks after I resigned, I hadn’t given up on it completely.  I still trusted the beautiful parts of the church to eventually triumph over these problems.

Most of all, I still trusted people I loved and respected to see beyond their defensiveness, and to believe that I acted with only the best of intentions, and to see what I did as something that came from a good and loving place.  After all, I’ve been asked to do that continually since last December.  It is only recently that I realized that the same consideration has mostly not been extended to me or to the friends of mine who share my position.  Yet, all of us acted out of the best intentions, and all of us are people for whom honor and seeking the right path are as natural as breathing.  None of us have done anything but tell the truth, and ask others to do the same.  So, here we are, most of us on the outside.  And until I really understand why we are out here, I don’t think I can set this aside without the danger that when I least expect it it will all coming flooding back.

These are the things I need to figure out:

What does it really mean to believe only in peoples’ best intentions?

How realistic, useful, and even safe, is it to only ever assume the good in someone’s actions?

How far am I willing to go for what I believe, even at the expense of people I love?

and finally–

What obligation, if any, do my loved ones have to support me when we disagree, or when I’ve taken a stance with which they might agree, but would rather not deal with the hassle of defending?

This last one is something that I have thought about quite a lot, and probably will continue to.

This week, a dear friend let me read something she wrote about this situation, and something she said has been circling around my head ever since:

“I realized that I want a church where someone will run after me when I run out”.

When I read that, I realized how much I wanted the same thing. After all, isn’t that what everyone wants in life?  Don’t we all want to matter enough to at least one person so that if–when–we run away, from something, there will be someone comes after us and says:

“Stop. Please don’t go. I care about you. I want you with me. Nothing is perfect and it never will be, but my life is closer to perfect when you are in it, even if right now that seems too hard to do. And, if you absolutely can’t stay, then I am coming with you.”

My friend and I don’t agree on some things about the events that led me to leave the church, although when it comes to our deepest selves, we agree on pretty much everything.  One night we played that game where you have to draw out something, like a phrase or name that someone has to guess.  My friend and I were sitting across the room from each other and couldn’t see what the other was drawing–but most of our drawings were so similar that it was almost creepy.  And also, amazing.

So when she has opinions that are different from mine, they are opinions that I take very, very seriously, and do everything I can to understand, even if I can’t always agree.  She is still part of the church, and this is the right thing for her, even though it isn’t for me.  And when I read that about how she wants a church where someone will run after her, I knew that even though some of our drawings might not match up, that most of them probably always will.

You see, she ran after me, even though it has been difficult and terribly hard for her at times to do so.

She is not the only one, either.  The fact that she and other people ran after me has meant everything to me, because I can’t remember the last time anyone ran after me, for anything. Some of the people who ran after me completely shocked me, because at least one of them is someone I have taken for granted more often than not, and because I am someone who goes much more by words than actions.   I am finally starting to learn that words mean almost nothing if they are not combined with actions–and that actions without words can say more than entire alphabets.

When I applied to college, I took hours and hours over every application; proofreading, correcting the tiniest mistakes, making sure that absolutely everything was as perfect as it could be. Except for my Vassar application.

I had decided to not even apply to Vassar, but at the last minute, to satisfy a nagging Old, I stomped upstairs to my room and whipped it off in 10 minutes, shoved it in an envelope without looking at it twice, and threw it at the naggy Old so he could drive it to the post office before midnight.

On my Vassar application, I was just me, and really, I was the most annoying and bratty part of me. I was sloppy, and I was careless, and unlike all of my other applications, I was completely honest.  I answered all the questions about my future with what I really thought, not with carefully parsed sentences designed to make me look as much like Ivy League or Seven Sisters material as I possibly could.

The earliest acceptance letter I got was from Vassar.  And I was definitely Seven Sisters and Ivy League material, judging from my other acceptances.  But Vassar accepted me when I was sloppy and angry and completely honest. They saw the best of me and they saw the worst of me.  And they still wanted me. That’s why I went there, and why I felt so at home, and always will.

The friends that I have left from the church, I think, have seen my best and my worst, but they still ran after me.

And that has made all the difference.

1 Comment

Filed under depression, mental health, religion

They’re [almost] heeeeere……

It is Mother’s Day this weekend, and that means one thing here at Oldenhome. The siblings are coming. BOTH of them.

When the three of us are together, our lifelong Contest goes on warp speed. This is the Contest in which we compete for the title of Number One. Technically, I am Number One, since I am the oldest. My brother is then Number Two [heh heh heh I said number two] and the youngest, our sister, is Number Three. Except chronology is not at issue here. The numbers instead denote which child is currently the favorite one. The Olds usually have different favorites at different times, but the object of this Contest is to be the overall favorite. My brother, for instance, is always Number One with one of the Olds. She pretends that this is not so, but it is. When I emerged from my studio yesterday, I came upstairs to lots of delighted chatter and giggling and then the announcement: “HAVE YOU HEARD THE GOOD NEWS?!”

Me: No–did someone die?
Old: M— is coming for Mother’s Day!!!
[I swear to God: then she did a little dance of joy. It was scary.]
Me: Oh, good!
[Remind myself to remove needles from sewing machines, as once when brother was here, he thought it would be fun to “sew” and ended up sewing parts of his own shirt together. While he was wearing it.]
Other Old [morose]: You know what this means?
Me: Shit.
Other Old: Yes.
[the two of us make runs for our respective lairs]
Joyful Old, who has been twittering and humming to herself: Where are you going? I HAVE TASKS FOR YOU!!!!
Me & Other Old, from above and below: I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

The Joyful Old was in such a good mood yesterday that we were able to avoid being Tasked for the most part. But. She has now completed what she views as her own list of tasks–moving around stacks of cookbooks, which she calls “organizing”, and disposing of about 12 magazines from 2012 on the living room coffee table so that there is room enough to set a single coffee cup. All remaining Tasks, most of which involve actual work, will be outsourced to the other Old and me.

Therefore, I must leave the house immediately. This may affect my standing and drop me down to Number Three, but that is a risk I am willing to take compared to the diseases I could contract from cleaning out the refrigerator. The other Old will not be pleased, but at times like this, it is everyone for themselves.

Ominous footsteps are overhead as I write this. I may have left my escape too late. PRAY FOR ME.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

There and back again (no hobbits)

And Lo, for she did returneth from the big city, and verily, twas goodeth to beeth at hometh! Twas goodeth to visiteth my sister of courseth. But, she hath no dogs, and verily, I saith unto you, she hath cleaning standardeths which are far beyondeth mine comprehension. Forsooth, for the things that should match, sucheth as towels and sheeteths, matchedeth!  Hie thee to the kitchen, whereth the sink be empty of all and whereth the refrigetator hath only non-rotted produce! Selah!

I know that when astronauts return from a space mission,  they have to go into seclusion for a while before they are re-integrated into earth or something because of gravity and such*.  I can see the value of that as I have been re-integrating myself into life with the Olds. My sister’s house does seem a bit like outer space compared to this one. I think possibly the gravitational pull here is stronger, because when someone sets something down, like, say, a stack of books on the kitchen counter, it seems as though they cannot ever be moved again. At my sister’s house, stacks of things set on things stay there for possibly ten seconds before you are gently reminded to move them. The fourth and fifth reminders are no longer gentle, though.  And subsequent ones–really a little nasty.
I don’t know how my sister and I grew up in the same family and emerged with such opposite ideas about things like housekeeping and being socially correct and wearing matching socks and stuff. Maybe it is because I am the first draft, being the oldest, and by the time she came along so many years later, the Olds had learned more about shaping their offspring into people who could more successfully fit into society. Hahahaha!!!! Good one! Of course that isn’t it. My sister is more socially acceptable because by that time the Olds had figured out that it was best for their offspring to use people besides themselves as role models.

At any rate, since I have been home, I have been suggesting ways in which the Olds could improve their surroundings and mine by living more like my sister. Most of my suggestions have been met with sighing, grumbling, or outright hoots of laughter. There have even been suggestions to me that perhaps I should just “go right the hell back there” if I think my sister’s house is so great.

I have neglected to share with the Olds that I am pretty sure that my sister does not want me back, since I spent a lot of my time there giving her suggestions that were equally unwelcome.  Apparently, kids these days believe in putting each bit of trash in the garbage can as it is made/found. They care about the environment and the planet, but what about caring about their fellow humans? It is much easier on me to wait until I have a nice pile of thread ends, fabric snippets, gum wrappers, and mostly empty Starbucks cups and then throw them away all at once. They really weren’t hurting anyone sitting there on the coffee table for three days, and I felt like they gave her picture perfect living room more of a homey, lived in look anyway.

The thing is, no one appreciates me and my point of view. It is lonely, being this ambassador between the worlds of the neat and organized and the, well, NOT neat and organized.  I am trying to bring understanding and awareness of others, and no one seems to want to hear it.  Just yesterday I was explaining to one of the Olds about how when my sister cooks a meal, by the time it is on the table, the kitchen looks much as it did when she started. This is because she cleans as she goes, which is something that I also do. Well, back when I used to cook, I did it. I think. Anyway, I pointed out that when my sister cooks a meal for three people, the kitchen does not look as though a war has been fought between the forces of good [the counters] and evil [dirty dishes], with evil reigning supreme over every square inch of space. And, furthermore, that even if her kitchen did show evidence of a minor skirmish, that she would not leave the bodies there to rot overnight so that innocent bystanders would come upstairs for their coffee in the morning and be greeted by the aftermath of the slaughter. Seeing that kind of chaos can really upset the serenity of my morning, but no one cares about MY needs. Yea, for I do walk through the valley of death, and sometimes, I would just like to be able to find one clean coffee cup in it.

Like most of my suggestions and attempts at making conversation since I’ve been home, this one was greeted with an exasperated sigh and then a request for me to stop speaking.

I think the Olds did miss, me though, because they both wanted to talk to me a lot when I first got back. This is something I try to avoid most of the time, because the more talking, the more chance there is for annoyance on my part. But, I took pity on them and stayed upstairs a bit more my first couple of days back. Then, the Tasking started, and I realized that it was just that they’d been trying to gently lull me into a warm and friendly stupor so that I would not notice when I suddenly started receiving direct orders one after another. Only one of them really does the Tasking, but it is in the other’s benefit to have me around because then he can devolve his Tasks on to me.

“Tasking” is what one of the Olds does when something needs to be done that she’s decided she doesn’t want to do herself. And, if you are on the same floor of the house when she decides on a task, you’re fair game. Most of the tasks are not that onerous; for instance, I do understand that sometimes people get tired of tripping over the nine pairs of my shoes that I need to keep by the back door.  What I don’t understand is why, if someone is THAT worried about “breaking [their] ankle” or “dislocating [their] knee [again]”, they don’t just come in the front goddamned door.  My time is valuable too and maybe I haven’t had time this week to put away those shoes.

Plus, I try to live my values.  I am more than willing to help carry groceries in from the car and even put them away, except when the reason that the Old can’t do is is because she’s watching her “stories”. That is behavior I cannot enable, even if it means that the ice cream melts all over the back seat of her new car.  Besides, we have a goddamned DVR. Can she not just record them like everyone else in the world and watch them ten minutes later??

Anyway.  Now that I’m home, I need to start paying more attention to their general physical and mental conditions.  When I left, there was a new bottle of Jamesons in the kitchen.  I thought that the one I saw in there last night was the same new bottle.  I was wrong.  I also wondered why they are eating their box of Florida oranges so slowly, until I realized, they aren’t eating them as a food.  They use them as a mixer when they make old fashioneds.   So.  It is probably time for another cardiac spot check.  One of the Olds went to see his cardiologist the day before I left for Chicago, and so I did one the night before that.  He passed it with a really excellent flail and shriek, and the doctor concurred with my assessment that his heart is in good shape.  I think I might have to do another one tonight, just to keep on top of things.  After they’ve cracked the new bottle of Jamesons, they should be pretty relaxed.  Hopefully.

* I would look it up but really, that seems like a lot of work for one analogy, and you have google, so you do it if it means that much to you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

1 Comment

Filed under depression, mental health, Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under ADHD, mental health

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under home life, olds