Tag Archives: fear

Like The Star Wars Trash Compactor

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I am having a hard time with having lost Boris (our small Mexican dog with the big Eastern European name) and doubting my choice to let him go. Not in any rational sense; on paper, logically, I know I did the right thing. But in my heart, I feel sorry and sad. I hope he understands; but maybe not–I’d love a world where animals had the same treatment as people, but would I love that because no one would get euthanized for having run out of quality time, or because people wouldn’t have to suffer for so long, either?

I just know that I really, really miss that little guy, and I am responsible for his absence.

———–

The trip to Chicago was really emotionally hard, and the key piece of that was understanding that I can’t depend on my spouse to advocate effectively for me when he is in his place of origin. On one level, I get it–he reverts to his kid role, he’s overwhelmed, they are extremely difficult. On the other hand, I’m angry and disappointed. I really am on my own, and since that is true, I will never go back with him to visit them unless something is really wrong on a deathbed sort of level. I can’t put myself through that. If they come here, as they have threatened, I will go out of town. I’ve given a lot to them over the years, and they’ve taken a lot more than they’ve given back, and their son can’t set good boundaries with them. So, I will have to set boundaries to take care of myself.

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Long after I am gone, I am sure medical science and genetics will evolve to determine how mental illness–or at least the propensity for it–is passed down. Borderline personality disorder runs in my family, and while I am sure the process is somewhat akin to alchemy more than straight genetics, it means that right now there are two Borderlines running about– each from a different generation. That’s just my mom’s side, too–there’s also depression, anxiety, alcoholism, sociopaths, suicide, self injury and drug problems coming from both sides. The question maybe is how do any of us make it out alive? When you know that someone is ill, and you’ve proven to yourself that you cannot help them, you have to detach and protect yourself. Sure, their behavior isn’t personal, it’s pathology, and yes, they are in tremendous pain, but that doesn’t mean you should allow them to hurt you. The moat is in place, the drawbridge is up. All signs say, “Go away.”

You’ve reached the boundary, you’ll need to turn back.

———–

One of my tenants called me today, in tears. One of the roommates’ mother had committed suicide last night. Walked out of the room from an argument with her kids and killed herself. The tenant who called me kept saying she was sorry for burdening me and I told her she wasn’t, I care about her, it’s a horrible thing. I reminded her to take care of herself so that she can keep on being a good friend to her roommate. I told her that her grief is valid, and doesn’t need to be measured against the roommate’s. Gosh, there’s enough grief to go around, really–you won’t run out, or take someone else’s, go ahead and grieve. I suggested that she not judge anyone for how they act right now; grief does strange things to a person, and suicide is like knowing an asteroid is coming to vaporize you–maybe then it might seem rational to ask about how much the house is worth or what should be done with the cars–those are solvable problems, whereas the asteroid is just this terrible thing hovering above your head. Maybe it’s not possible to look right at it; at least not at first. I told her we’d cover the rent if it was late, not to worry.

I revisited, for a moment, Ray and Ruby and John. But then I let them go back to their places. You never get over it, I told my tenant, but you learn to live with it. It takes a long, long time.

————–

The theme is who do I have to take care of, and how much? I have to take care of myself. I have to take care of my child. For ten minutes on the phone I can take care of my tenant. I do not have to take care of people whose mental illness could cause them to harm me. I do not have to take care of people who have no space in their lives for me. I do not have to take care of people who aren’t doing their work.

The shrink said that when we’re about to refine something, or pass to another level of understanding, just before we get there it feels like the walls are closing in, and the problem is everywhere. All around me demands are being made for my attention and energy. People want me to put them ahead of myself. So each time I say no, I’m moving forward. No, you cannot come to my house and ring my doorbell a million times and pound on the door. No, I won’t go on a trip where I will be lonely and ignored and pushed beyond my limits. No, I will not act as a buffer for you to avoid your family.

She also suggested that I probably need a really good cry. This is also true, but a far more elusive beast.

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The Whole Kettle of Fish: A Study in Emotional Exhaustion

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We have returned from a trip to the Chicago-land area to visit the in-laws. As it always ends up, it was challenging.

The Thursday before we were to leave, I took  a very old, very sick dog to the vet for the last time. I had been up all night with him, setting me up for going on “vacation” (and I use the term very loosely) exhausted. It’s never easy to decide to euthanize a dog, and I don’t judge others whom I know love their pets dearly, as do I. We do the best we can.

I had only just returned from the vet, and the child and I were weeping in the hallway (without hugging, since I had dog poop all over me) when my doorbell started ringing over and over again. A peek outside confirmed it was someone with whom I want no contact, and from whom I fear violence. Unlike a normal person, this one chose to ring the bell over and over and over again, pound on the door, ring the bell, etc, for around 15 minutes. The child and I retreated to the back of the house and called the police. They just missed our unwelcome guest, but will now be watching for her. I was so stressed that the responding officer took both my violently shaking hands in his and said, “I can tell you are really frightened. Take a deep breath.”

——

The next day should have been for resting and packing, but I had bought tickets to see Wicked in a nearby city for that night, the night before we would leave for Chicago. We went, but I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I’d have liked–I was too caught up in feeling like I wronged the dog, angry with the unwelcome visitor (who should know better), worried about packing and, oh, the fact that I find flying terrifying. I found that at each musical number, I was beset with an almost overwhelming urge to ugly-cry. We got home late, got up the next day, packed, and headed back to that same city’s airport to fly out.

We were fine from El Paso to Austin, where we circled and circled and due to storms were diverted to Dallas. We sat on the ground in Dallas for three hours, while our flight to Chicago left without us. We flew back to Austin. I had quickly booked a hotel online while we lingered on the tarmac, paying an outrageous sum of $200 for a near-to-the-airport La Quinta. By the time we arrived in Austin (Trapped in Texas, Chapter 1), the airport was all but shut down. They booked us on a morning flight that would go through Dallas once again.

La Quinta refused to accept our distressed passenger voucher because they are total dicks and I hope they are someday financially ruined. We stayed in a room with a shower so gross none of us were willing to use it. The bathroom door wasn’t a door, per se, but two cabinet type doors with shuttered vents (like closet doors) that couldn’t be locked and the knob fell off. The hotel was full to the brim of loud, shouting, running people all night. I had not packed any wine, so I spent the night dozing and hallucinating to the tune of six Benadryl, while also berating myself for my needs.

We made it from Dallas to Chicago, and went directly to the Huge Family Gathering that the in-laws had scheduled so we could “see everyone.” It was raining. They did not, therefore, move the party into their house, they moved it into their filthy garage, next to the truck they for whatever reason did not see fit to move to better accommodate their guests. The first thing my FIL said to my husband was not, “How are you?” or “You must be exhausted.” It was, patting stomach, “Getting a little bigger, huh?”

My MIL informed me in whispers that she hadn’t told my husband but she had developed a serious spinal condition (Spinal Stenosis) and had been unable to walk and might need surgery. This is par for the course. My FIL explained to me and the child that the reason it was raining here but California had a drought was because “the liberals” got rid of the smog, which used to hold the rain in California. The child is 13 and he was baffled by this amazing, magical bullshit. We met cousins with whom we had nothing in common. We talked to other people about themselves and no one asked me much about me (also par for the course). Oh, except for when my FIL told my husband’s cousin that she should have me make her wedding dress, and also that I make, “Crazy weird costumes with funny legs and stuff.”

Oh yes, I know that this is what the FIL considers “praising” but I am far too evolved to accept that being passive aggressive is anything other than what it is. Which makes it hard for me with them, since I won’t play pretend.

The evening goes on and on and on until I finally say, “I am too tired. I must go to bed.” Then I am stranded in the filthy, moldy basement because not only are there stairs, said stairs have a pretend railing that threatens to fall off should one use it. My husband realizes this belatedly.

There are stairs at my BIL’s house, which means I must carefully plan my ups and downs. There is also an atmosphere of suppressed rage that I am especially attuned to, and which my spouse can’t notice. It takes us forever to get our shit together the next day, sitting in the ‘burbs in the rain, and we finally meet up at a Dave and Busters. I drink. I can’t help but simply order two drinks per encounter with the parents-in-law. The child balks initially (look at all those KIDS, he says, in disgust) but then has fun. Then we all retire to the BIL’s to sit and stare at each other.

The BIL disappears to the basement to play video games with the child. The MIL asks how my hands are (it has been two years since diagnosis, they still can’t stick with a conversation long enough to find out what I have). I say they aren’t very good. I mention that since it’s genetic, I have to just try to pace myself. My FIL asks me if changing my diet would help. I say, very evenly, that this is a GENETIC disorder, meaning my GENES are flawed, and the GENE that is flawed is present in 90% of the body’s structures, so NO, it’s not an issue of changing my diet. He falls back to his climate change theory and then they spend 45 minutes giving us an intimate blow-by-blow of my MIL’s recent, very scary MRSA infection. The MIL can hardly tell her own story because the FIL is trying to talk over her. My silly story is left far behind.I go to bed at 8:00 pm, alone, which is how it always works there.

Everything we eat is gluten. I give up and accept that I will just take immodium every day and gain five pounds.

Day three it rains. The BIL takes the child to the movies and the husband and I go to a nearby suburb’s charming downtown, have an expensive lunch and a bottle of wine, wander about, then collect them. We later meet the in-laws for dinner at an Italian restaurant they like. I stick my FIL with buying my dinner and two glasses of wine. My MIL mentions that we aren’t staying for very long. I resist mentioning that it feels like a life sentence. We planned four full days–not our fault one was lost to travel, but that one still would’ve been spent sitting in their goddamned garage. I mention that guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days. She agrees gaily, entirely missing the point, which is that we are staying four and when they come out to see us, they never stay less than an entire week.

Day four we go into the city. The in-laws refuse to go with us, but resent that we aren’t, I guess, sitting in their living room. We take the train, and are planning to take a boat tour of downtown architecture. The BIL leads us on a forced march that despite claims of, “We’re almost there” is far, far too long and too fast and too many stairs for me. My husband weakly mentions maybe a cab but is overruled by the BIL.

I should have stopped. I should have insisted on a cab. I relied on my spouse who cannot function or be decisive around his family. So it’s my own fault that every step I go up now, my left knee snaps and then grinds.

The boat tour was fun. Then we faced another forced march through the city, where we couldn’t find anywhere to eat, where the husband couldn’t make a decision, and there were words in the business district. I was hangry, exhausted physically and emotionally, and as usual, he didn’t have my back.

Upon returning we declined meeting the inlaws for dinner, and I went to bed. Alone. Early.

We met the inlaws the next day for breakfast before our flight. They, predictably, chose a place that could be called “Breakfast in Anywhere, USA”. They aren’t gourmets. Any anecdote I related about things that interest me was met with a complete lack of understanding, being talked over by my FIL with his penguin laugh, or silence.

Soon, the husband and I will have a little post-mortem, and I will explain that this trip we just finished? It’s the last one I’m taking to Chicago.

Someone’s got to have my back, because it hurts right now, along with my hips, my knees, my ankles and my calves.

Jumbled Thoughts and a Jeep

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Endless analysis isn’t healthy, yet my brain loops happily long after it’s productive.

My spouse wants to buy a WWII-era Willys Jeep. I am angry about the Jeep. I could spend hours trying to figure out why. But I would still be angry.

So, I’m angry. I feel like I’ve been set up to be the person who is no fun. I feel jealous. I feel left behind. I feel set aside, unnoticed, left out. I feel afraid.

Afraid of a Jeep? Yes, apparently I am. I have listened to things like “stiff suspension” and “bouncing around the goat trails” and “fun” and I know those first two mean that the last isn’t happening for me. It is something he will do without me; and not because I don’t want to (which is the position I am outwardly holding) but because I don’t think I can, which is the part where I feel like crying instead of feeling angry and hateful.

I feel left behind. The next thought that seems to follow that is that I feel that way about our upcoming visit to see his parents in Chicago (the Chicago suburbs, I add, hastily, having learned there is a VAST difference—learned because “my parents live in Chicago and have a pool” conjured an entirely different scene than “they live in a suburb in a smelly house with a crappy above ground pool full of goose shit.”). We stay with his brother, who has stairs. I am deeply worried about the stairs, and also feeling exposed and vulnerable and on my own–which is how those visits ALWAYS feel to me, and that was before I was so affected by EDS.

That’s it, really. I feel alone, and like I am being left behind, and like I am not worth the trouble. I cannot sit in one position on the couch for very long without something starting to hurt; I won’t do well being bounced around in a Jeep. It’s like when we talk about how much we think the child would like snowboarding and I wonder what would I be doing? Sitting alone in a hotel room?

Before my Grama died my mother and I took her to California for a niece’s wedding. We went out shopping and Grama said she would be perfectly happy sitting in her hotel room while we did that and I still feel like crying when I think about that and how much I don’t want to be left behind. I don’t want to miss out. I don’t want to be excluded, or cast as no fun, or the problem.

The Jeep makes me feel like I am. The stairs make me feel like I am. Right now, my spouse makes me feel alone. Not out of spite, but out of not being in my shoes.

They say that ultimately, we are all alone.Pity it makes us so uncomfortable.

Oh, Yes, *More* Would Be Lovely

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I’m sick. At the almost worst possible time to be sick, I am felled with snot, buzzing nose, ringing ears, cough and fever. I have from now (almost 11:00 am on Friday) until Sunday at about 5:00 pm to get vastly better in time for the first dress rehearsal of 12th Night. I went in today ONLY because I had a student who said she would be in at 9:00 am to work on her build for this show, and my coworker wasn’t going to be in until 11:00. You know how it is, when you are sick, and every step is measured and harder and exhausting? Get up, take a shower, put on the makeup, get dressed, get in the car, go to work. Then, said student didn’t waltz in until just after 10:00 am, when my coworker (knowing I was sick) arrived early. So, there was no reason for me to go in at all. Twenty-year olds and their self-centeredness, I swear. I was offered no apology, either.

So I have dragged myself home. Having EDS and chronic pain and all the related things makes it that much harder to tolerate anything else going wrong. Of course people get sick, but my reserve for such events feels dangerously low already. Something alarming is threatened in my personal life as well, which has taken the stress level to Defcon 11 plus infinity. The personal life thing will likely resolve and go the way of many similar flare ups that seemed really huge and then died out, but again, how much reserve do I have? Daily chronic pain chips away at my reserves until I cannot afford to think anything beyond, “What do I need to do NOW to feel better?” And so, in the face of a bad cold or something that might happen in the future, I have to rededicate myself to just the Now.

Right Now, the possible bad thing hasn’t happened.

Right Now, I do not have to go to dress rehearsal.

Right Now, I am caught up at work.

Right Now, I am hungry and need lunch.

That’s it. Pretty simple. The hardest things are always the simplest.

Should vs. Is

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How something “should” be contrasts wildly with how it “is.”

This is a central struggle in terms of acceptance and also action. I have to accept how things are, which means I must let go of how I think they should be. Also, though–until I accept how things are, I can’t take action to potentially make things more the way I would like for them to be. My path right now is to seek the middle; the narrow tight rope where I can balance between the extremes; in this case, the extremes of Should and Is/Are.

The Should:

should be able to come home from work, change into comfortable clothes, and then work in my studio for a few hours. I should be able to make at least a little bit of progress on my own work each day, even if I went to my day job that day. The reality, the is/are is that I come home from work, sit exhausted at my computer for up to an hour, then make dinner, start drinking wine, and go to bed in pain and worn out.

I really want the Should. That is what I feel I deserve and what I feel I want and what I feel I must have. I. Must. Have. As long as I cling to that, as long as I draw a line in the sand and tearfully, furiously demand it, the current Is/Are is where I will remain trapped. As long as I am trapped in the Is/Are, the angrier I will be that I can’t have the Should. 

It seems so easy, right? Ease up on the Should. Don’t let it go and free fall into the current Is/Are, but stop being so rigid about it. Explore the myriad of (stupid, not what I want, irritating, lesser) options that exist given the facts.

Fact: I get home from work progressively more exhausted as the week wears on. So, if the rest of the weekdays were playing cards, I can turn the Thursday card face down right now–there is no way I will have the energy to work creatively on Thursday. Often, I don’t have the energy to so much as fix more of a dinner than something frozen I can put in the oven and collect when the timer instructs me to do so. Thursday’s child with EDS, then, is not going to sew or draw.

Looking at Monday, though, there is a chance that most or much or often I *will* have the energy to spend a little time on my own projects. Monday, then, needs to be protected. I don’t have to leave as early for work because I see the Shrink at 9:00 am, and my last class is done at 3:20. If there’s going to be a chance for me to have some creative me-time, then on Sunday I should be making a dinner (or prepping food for the crock pot, or enlisting another household member’s help to prep) that will become leftovers for Monday  so that my shot at that time isn’t eaten up by the task of meal preparation.

See? That edges me back onto the tightrope again, balancing a little less precariously.

There will be Mondays when I had to work late and I can’t come home to create. There will be Mondays when I don’t feel good even though I had a shorter day and fixed dinner ahead of time. But at least SOME Mondays will be days where I can find the time to take care of my creative needs.

Tuesday shows that potential by maybe 20% less than Monday–but there is still a sliver of hope. That means that instead of dinner Monday being leftovers from Sunday, it should be a crock pot recipe that also covers Tuesday. IF I get an hour of time in my studio on Monday, that means Tuesday may only find a half hour; but the possibility is still there.

Wednesday I teach until nearly 5:00. There definitely won’t be any leftovers. Ideally, then, I would fix a dinner on Wednesday that is both easy and plentiful, to last into Thursday when I am completely fried.

Things I will have to limit:

On Monday, no booze until bedtime. Limited computer

Tuesday, the same, but maybe a bit more computer.

Wednesday–some computer, hot bath, booze.

Thursday: Whatever it takes to get through. Bath, booze, early bedtime, minimal dinner.

Even knowing that accepting certain realities will allow me to get closer to including things I want in my life, I feel resistant, which is the pull of the Should. I resent having to plan my life like this, losing some spontaneity in terms of when I will choose to work creatively, having to plan around pain and exhaustion. Yet, I can resent, dislike, rail against, resist what Is/Are all I want and I will change nothing and lose precious energy doing so. In writing, it seems a very small step to do what I have listed above, but emotionally it feels more like leaping a canyon. Except, if I look hard enough, there is probably a bridge that will allow me to cross the canyon one step at a time. That’s going to be the only way to the other side.

The Muse is Accustomed to Being Fired

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I’ve had to let the muse go due to intense hip, back, shoulder, wrist and hand pain. No longer am I enamored of my patchwork collection, instead I am judging it wanting and a waste of time. It probably isn’t either of those things but the chronic-pain-colored glasses view it as such. Every step I took yesterday hurt my hips like a wide band across my lap, from deep in the joint to radiating outward over the muscles of my thighs. By the end of the day, of course, it was worse and I lost my composure entirely and had a sobbing fit in my bed while the husband and the dog tried to figure out what to do with me.

I suspect my emotional fragility at the moment is partly due to the above and maybe somewhat influenced by hormones (O, perimenopause, you wretched, wretched bitch). While I cavalierly said I didn’t care if I was once again making a collection of things no one would buy, today I DO care about this and perused my Etsy shop just to make myself feel worse. I don’t know why I cling to Etsy when I haven’t the time to devote to keeping it up. It’s the excuse for my thrifting addiction, “I can sell it on Etsy” but no, no I can’t, not consistently. There are times, like today, when I feel like my constant making of things is foolish and sad since rarely do I have an answer to “What will you do with this?” or “Who would buy this?” Earlier this week I was content to simply be creating, happy to be in the process and satisfied by the process and the products. But the process that makes me so happy and satisfied is the same process that means I was in bed crying at 8:00 pm due to pain.

The Shrink and I are working very hard on being in the Now, since that’s the only thing we have any control over. Last night, eyes leaking, my brain kept saying, “Okay, so this is the Now but the Now is horrible and what if it’s the new forever (no, no, forgive yourself for that and go back to now) Now sucks, Now is awful!” Or, as my husband finally put it (canceling out hours of mental looping and self-criticism) “Today’s just a bad day.” Yes. And I have to learn not to then tack on, “And what if tomorrow is, too? Or worse?” Because I don’t know that, and I can’t determine that until tomorrow becomes the Now. It’s a bit of a rabbit hole.

So today is slightly better so far except that I feel like a giant, potentially leaky vessel of tears. I have a massage and maybe that will ease some of the pain. Maybe I will look at my last assemblage of pieces and find it more favorable than I did yesterday. Maybe tonight will not be a night wherein I find myself freaked out about not having pain drugs, sobbing into the dog’s neck and panicking about the future. A future in which I will possibly drown in clothes, fabric, and partially finished quilts.

Mostly, except.

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In order to preserve my energy and space it’s important to try to stay grounded in Now, and look away as much as possible from the Past and the Future. Of course that is easy to say and hard to do. For the most part, I look down when I walk, never looking much ahead or behind, because I that is how I end up falling down. I had no idea that walking could also involve looking around without also resulting in crashing to the ground, having rolled an ankle on a pebble or a crack in the sidewalk. It’s sort of like that; keep my eyes on what I am doing.

A huge trap for me is starting a thought that goes this way, “X amount of time ago, this activity was easy for me, and here I am, 45 years old and this task is now really hard for me and that is ridiculous.” Yes, it used to be that I could haul loads of clothes on hangers back and forth all day, push heavy clothes here and there on racks, lug boxes and organize clothes with no ill effects. That I knew of. But now I can’t. Tying what I can and cannot do to my age is also pointless. I’m 45 and I’m still not an Olympic athlete, either, but what’s my point? I want to do more than I can, and I can do less than I could previously. The next thought in that chain is about the Future, “How long am I even going to be able to do this job? Next week? Two years? Five? Why do I have to give this job up?” Right now, I am still able to do my job effectively and well, albeit with some accommodations that allow me to save myself for the things that I am an expert in, which is not putting heavy object A on rack B.

Today we did a lot of work in our stock, and it was hard. Three hours on my feet, moving clothing, pushing it hither and yon, starting to move a rack and then stopping myself and throwing a 20-year-old at it. My co-worker worrying that I was carrying too many things (probably right, I conceded, and grabbed a 20 year old). Me wanting to just be able to Do. It. But also trying to recognize that I *am* doing my job in using my expertise to determine how to organize and decommission stock, so that then someone less skilled can do the lifting and hauling. It’s a balancing act.

For me, then, it’s really better to keep looking down.