Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Borrowing Lives

I came back from vacation, was home for 2 – 3 days, and immediately headed out for a house sitting gig. The biggest part of the house sitting is actually dog sitting. The dog is an adorable little pug named Biscuit. She’s a real sweetie.

But it occurs to me, here I am sitting in a 3 bedroom house taking care of a dog. This is not my life. In my life, I rent a room from a friend and have cats. This is someone else’s life, I’m just borrowing it.

This isn’t my real life. I don’t live in a place this nice — in fact, I don’t live in a house, I live in a mobile home. And that’s mobile home not manufactured housing, with wheels under the floor and everything. This is a real house with a yard in front and back and a driveway. Mail comes to the house. They get a daily newspaper. It’s completely different.

I get to try on this life for a few days. Just long enough to see if I like it or not, then change. Some things about this life I would do differently, but they are superficial. You know. different decorating or other food in the pantry. But those aren’t big.

The house is comfortable and homey. I have been given free range of the place, except for the area where the remodeling is happening, and that’s fine. I’ve been watching tv in bed which is a real luxury for me. I don’t have a tv in my bedroom — where would I put one? — and I don’t pick the programming very often at home, it’s more my roommate’s taste. Which is fine, I’m not complaining, I have Netflix on the computer and headphones if there’s a real dislike for the chosen programming.

In other news, I have acquired cruise crud. Probably airplane crud, actually, since it started after I got home. I have a lovely chesty cough and some congestion. I did buy cold medicine and it seems to be helping so at least there’s that.

I also did a video interview today. It was my first one. I don’t like it. I don’t like seeing myself in video, I don’t like hearing my own voice. I suppose I’d better get used to it, since this is probably the wave of the future. It seems like one more layer of complication before actually meeting with people about a job, one more time when they can dismiss you without ever really experiencing your energy. Just a video. Just another recording. Bye. No notice, just ignore. I am not pleased about this development.


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How Do You Know What You Want?

I opened up an ebook that is mostly about goal setting for the year. The first question in the first exercise completely stumped me.

“I’d like to experience ______”

Well I have no idea what I’d like to experience. I feel like I know nothing, there is so much out there, so many options, how can a person choose? It’s not that I want to experience it all, but not making a choice is like choosing nothing, and I don’t want to come to the end of my life without experiencing anything.

Now some things I’ve done. I’ve given birth, that’s a biggie. I’ve been married and divorced. I’ve been in love and I’ve truly hated someone (just one). I’ve lived alone and I’ve lived with people. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I’ve eaten great food, and I’ve eaten hot dogs and ramen. I don’t feel like I’m deprived in any way, I’ve experienced a lot.

I want to go to Alaska, but I will do that one day. Or Elcie and I will. Just like we’ll go to Japan. But that doesn’t seem right. I feel like that doesn’t answer the question.

I’m thinking I’d like to have a relationship again. It’s been, what, 10 years now? I’m a little tired of being single. Though I don’t know where in my life I’d fit a relationship. I feel like life is pretty full most of the time. I have roommates, friends, a daughter. There sure are a lot of people in my life. I want to be special to someone, though, and I want to have sex again. Not random sex, I could do that pretty easily, but meaningful sex. Connection.

I guess I’d like to experience love again, but that seems like a facile answer. And there really is a lot of love in my life, just not the romantic kind.

A friend of mine suggests I’m overthinking, that it could be something as simple as “I want to experience walking in a warm rain.” Which is another thing I’ve done, actually. But I get her point.

I can’t achieve a goal if I don’t have a goal. I just never thought much about goal setting and now, well, I don’t know how to do it. I’ve spent so much of life learning to just accept what happens, I’m well past the age of developing agency but here I am.

I’d like to experience the certainty of a clear path.


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I Have No Words

Let’s see if I can even wrap my brain around these things that are floating around the politisphere.

The president has commissioned 5 new child detention centers.  Private of course.  So now there is a money trail for what’s going on.

The US is separating young children from their parents at the border.  Now let’s be clear that these are illegal immigrants, and the illegality is part of the asylum process.  The adults are sent to jail; children can’t go to jail so they go someplace else.  But we are still pulling families apart.  It’s a shame.  Have we done it in the past?  You betcha.  Doesn’t mean we should do it now.  The past is not our destiny.  We can choose to do something different.

We wtihdrew from the UN’s Human Rights Council.  Withdrew.  What are we hiding or embarrassed about?

But apparently we will have a 6th branch of the military.  The other 5 are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.  Number 6 would be the space force.  My gawd, really?  As the meme says, who needs health care (or an infrastructure, or good public transportation or free education) when we can have a space force?  *sigh*

You know, it’s not like I follow politics all that closely.  It’s just things like this that keep coming up again and again.  Fred reads them off the internet.  My Facebook feed is full of pro-Trump propaganda and liberal rebuttals.  The news covers it.  I can’t get away from it..

So here I am, worked up and no idea what to do.  I’m pretty sure I’ll figure it out and then, look out.


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Yay, Fog

I left the house early Friday morning to drive to work. I leave before the sun comes up, which already is not my favorite time to drive. But that day, there was fog. Not mist, not haziness, actual fog. I couldn’t see the house across the street. The streetlight at the end of the street appeared suspended like the moon in the sky; it did not illuminate the area like usual.

I tried to drive, but I wasn’t out of the neighborhood before I realized I couldn’t do it. I went home and waited a half hour before trying again.

Now let me be clear. I am not a fan of horror movies so this isn’t like I believed monsters were going to get me. I felt like I could not see well enough through the fog to be safe. I didn’t want to hit anyone and I didn’t trust my reflexes due to the early hour.

At the second attempt, there was fog the way most people think of fog. I got on the highway, creeping along at 50 mph, feeling like I was going too fast for what I could see. However, other drivers felt that 65 or 70 was a better speed. I realized I was a hazard and pulled over, waiting until the sun was fully up.

I called my employee assistance program and they talked me down, I was so freaked out. I wanted to cry. I was unprepared to be so afraid of driving in less than sunny weather.

Of course I was late for work, which is a different problem, but still a factor.

After work, I went to my doctor. I would have gone to the psychiatrist but he is closed on Fridays. I was shaking and upset. I actually did cry in his office because I am so frustrated by this situation. I just want to go to work, nothing unusual.

Doctor asked if I thought this would happen again. Well, we are coming up on 2 weeks of bad weather, so yes it very much could happen again. He prescribed me some rescue meds to take the edge off. Catch 22: they may make me too sleepy to drive. So I have meds to take to calm down during stressful driving that could stop me from driving at all. I hope that doesn’t happen because I can choose not to drive without taking meds if it comes to that. I want to drive and get on with normal life.

So I have put new tires on the car and during the bad weather, I’m taking the train to work.

I just want to live life without freaking out over things.


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Being Bipolar

This is actually a draft of a paper I’m writing for my abnormal psych class. Enjoy.

My Experience with Bipolar Disorder

Over the years, I’ve known several people with bipolar disorder. Most of them were men. Joe is a research biologist who had a psychotic break in college that resulted in being fished out of a tree on the quad in nothing but his underwear. He now takes almost the lowest possible dose of lithium that even doctors don’t agree is therapeutic but if he misses a dose, he feels like he’s losing touch with reality. Pete was a musician with a tender heart who chose electro-convulsive therapy, known as ECT, to treat his bouts of debilitating depression. This is a rather extreme therapy that involves running electrical current through the brain. Doctors are not entirely sure why this works but in some percentage of cases it’s very effective. Jim was my ex-husband. He did not take his medicine regularly and this past fall he committed suicide. I wonder if he felt this would make things better for the rest of us or if he just got tired and overwhelmed, and wanted to rest. I think the difference would be whether he was manic or depressed at the time. There is one woman I know through work named Mary. Mary takes her medicine and lives alone with her 2 dogs. She comes into work daily and has what appears to be a normal if solitary life.

And then there is me. Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I treat it with medicine and therapy. I have never been depressed enough to be suicidal and I do not have the extreme mania where I lose touch completely with the everyday world. I do have long stretches of time that feel hopeless and stuck combined with more energetic periods of little sleep and poor decision making. I believe part of the reason this wasn’t noticed when I was younger is that it follows a school schedule. I tend to be depressed during the summer months, which I find too hot in way that saps energy. The energetic period generally runs during the holiday season, from about my birthday in the beginning of November until sometime in January when Christmas shopping probably hides the true extent of retail therapy in which I engage. The rest of the time, I am what I consider to be normal. I am not sure my understanding of normal is correct so it’s hard to be definitive about it.

I had originally planned to look at the individual diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 and talk about what those look like in my life. I think that may be beyond the scope of this short paper. Suffice to say, I was surprised to find out that things I thought were, I don’t know, charming or quirky were actually signs and symptoms. Apparently eccentric is a good way to describe bipolar II and it is a description that’s been applied to me for most of my life.

I take Prozac and Abilify. The Prozac makes me a bit jittery and I need to watch my eating with it. I need to be sure both that I eat enough and regularly, and that I don’t eat too much. It’s not that I’m hungry so much as that I tend to interpret other problems like tiredness as needing to eat. The Abilify I take at night and usually I’m asleep about a half hour after taking it. Good sleep hygiene is also very important for me, things like maintaining regular hours even when on weekends.

What I have learned in my brief research is how lucky I am. I have been more or less functional until into my 50’s so I really am not hugely afflicted by this disorder. I was born at a time when medicine is available to treat my struggles, which is really only since the mid-1950’s, about 10 years before I was born. I have a small experience with other bipolar people whose lives can be object lessons of what to do and what not to do. The great strength of people like Pete, Joe, Mary and even Jim remind me of our common resilience and simple human weakness. I have options for support groups if I feel like I need one, and a therapist who knows me, who is capable of letting me know if I’m heading into mania often before I realize what’s going on. That’s important to me because I find the mania harder to manage than the depression.

I am still learning to navigate this strange and amazing disorder. I am learning to build a life that makes me happy and takes into consideration that I am very changeable over the course of a year. My guideline is not “what is normal?” so much as “what is healthy?” In a world full of choices, I choose to pursue health.


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What Is Identity?

Lately one of the family history websites has been running a series of ads about finding your “true” ethnicity by sending them a DNA sample.  The one I remember best is a man in lederhosen talking about how he was raised believing he was German but DNA testing showed his heritage was more Scottish, so he traded in his lederhosen for a kilt.

Part of me says, both are non-pants ethnic costumes, not a big change.  Part of me says, Celts settled in Germany and France as well as Ireland, so not such a leap considering that there has to be a common base culture underlying it all.  At least the Romans thought so.

And part of me wonders, how did it turn out that he “thought” he was German but he’s “really” Scottish?  Are we now supposed to worry that the culture we thought our family embodied is somehow wrong because it doesn’t match our genes?  Doesn’t this sound a lot like the eugenics that are fundamental to Nazism?   If someone moves to another country, are the children the ethnicity of their parents or of the adopted country?  

But what interests me here is the idea that ethnicity can change.  Just like that, you’re not Black Irish, you’re actually Spanish.  Which is historically accurate, since the Black Irish are descended from the remnants of the Spanish Armada.  So trade in your whiskey, shamrocks and St Patrick for sangria, bull fights and St Anthony.  Because somehow you are wrong about who you are.

So for me, as I’m dealing with this new diagnosis, the question has been whether I am still me.  Which is silly because of course I am the same me I have always been, or at least the same me I was before the diagnosis changed.  My internal process isn’t any difference.  My values have not changed.  I love the same people, enjoy the same activities, face the same dilemmas.  Nothing changed except a label, and those change all the time anyway.

Labels change.  I am no longer anyone’s daughter, since both my parents are deceased.  I am also no longer a wife, since I am a divorced person.  Don’t call me Mrs. because I used my father’s last name not my ex-husband’s.  Labels can tell us something about a person but therein lies the risk of stereotyping.

Stereotyping is a slippery thing.  In some ways, it’s useful because it allows our lazy brains to categorize people in ways that can be surprisingly accurate.  However, it is also limiting and it can be very wrong.

Story about that:  I was at a party where there were people of various ethnicity present.  Several black people were comparing notes on their childhoods:  “Do you remember eating beans and rice for dinner and going to the food pantry?  Did you ever go to school with your sneakers taped up because they were coming apart but you couldn’t afford new ones?  And what about hand-me-downs?”  Their point was that black Americans live in a very different country than white Americans do, and the larger context was white privilege.  (Black experience is different from white experience, and I’m not saying white privilege is or isn’t real.)

The hostess, who passes for white but recently discovered she very much embodies her Native American heritage, overheard their conversation.  “I remember those things,” she said, “but I thought that was because we were poor.  I didn’t know I was black.”  (And of course in American there is a huge wealth/class divide that breaks along lines of race, but that also isn’t my point here.)

So I have a new label now:  bipolar.  (Hey!  Earth and I have something in common, we both have two opposing poles!  *eye roll, cuz I know I’m a dork*)

It does tell you something about me.  It says I can have big changes in my mood and ability to handle life.  It tells you I can be obsessed today and listless tomorrow.  It tells you I might be a good listener because I have nothing to say or a bad listener because I keep interrupting you.  It tells you I can be changeable.

But it can also cause you to stereotype me.  I am not suicidal, nor do I get that high euphoria and sense of invulnerability that they tell me mania can cause.  I have times when I feel like I might be able to be successful if I just keep at it, and other times when I can’t find the energy to get out of bed let alone get dressed or eat something.

Labels give the illusion of understanding, but really we don’t understand as well as we like to believe.

So I have a new label and it makes me wonder if I’m any different.  And it reminds me that a label doesn’t capture the full reality of something, just an aspect.

I am not just my label.

I am still me.

 

 

 


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Define Normal

I have been having a hard time getting myself together the last several weeks.  It’s hard to talk about because there isn’t always a specific reason.

I did have stomach pain for several days which resulted in a call to a specialist, but it seems like it has resolved itself without much input from him.  Or at least, I moved my tummy meds from morning to bedtime so I don’t wake up with pain.  I have a follow up with him tomorrow.  To me, it feels like this is legit, it’s something actually wrong.

Other stuff doesn’t feel like it should be such a big deal, but it is.

Sometimes the hardest thing is just to get going in the morning.  The alarm goes off and I hit snooze.  It only snoozes 3 times, so I actually have multiple alarms set 15 minutes apart.  It shouldn’t be that hard to wake up when you need to, but for me it is.  It’s uphill the whole way.  Most of the time I just kind of power through it but every now and then I can’t.

And I feel like a failure when that happens.

Starting about a week ago, I’ve been having issues with getting to work.  One time I actually got to the train stop but my ears were ringing and I was just all freaked out.  I actually rode past my stop and called in sick that day.  The ringing stopped after I passed work again on the way back from the end of the line.  I don’t like that.  I don’t know why I couldn’t just get off the train and go to work.

I also saw my psychiatrist again.  I told him about a day when I tried to run a simple bank errand and ended up shopping.  I had to call my daughter to come get me, just to interrupt myself.  I didn’t need to spend that money.  I can still pay my bills, don’t get me wrong, but it was money that should have been saved not spent.

I told him about the first night I was housesitting for a friend.  I couldn’t sleep at all that night even though I tried.  I went to work expecting to be extremely tired at some point and never did.  I went to bed at a more normal time that day and slept just fine.  I also told him about the day I spent just laying in bed.  That was the day my stomach hurt the worst.  Just taking my morning meds and vitamins made me nauseous.  I didn’t eat that day.  I laid in bed with the cats napping on me, didn’t get on the computer, didn’t watch any videos or work on art, no shower, just laid there in my pajamas.

And you know, I could do either one of those right now.  I could get interested in something and stay up all hours to pursue it, or I could get into bed and lay there for 12 or 14 hours.  The obsessive part seems saner than the doing nothing part, but either one seems feasible at the moment.

The doctor changed my diagnosis.  I am no longer having bad pms, I now have bipolar disorder.

I feel like he told me, I’m no longer in the range of things that are normal, I’m actually crazy.

The day I went shopping, I actually felt crazy.  I felt out of control of myself,  My therapist tells me that’s the manic part but I thought there was supposed to be an element of euphoria in mania, and I certainly didn’t feel euphoric.  I didn’t feel bad either.  I felt like it was okay to buy a few things that I want, that I deserve to spend some of my money having fun.  Maybe that’s not true.  Maybe I don’t deserve to enjoy having a little cash.  Maybe it should be all paying bills.  I don’t know.  What do normal people do?  Do they spend money when they want things, or do they just suck it up that there’s nothing left after necessities?  I’m not normal any more so I don’t know.

I feel like my whole life is now up for grabs.  Everything is analyzed and second-guessed and reconsidered.  I’m playing a video game and I get caught up in it and lose track of time.  Do normal people do that?  Do they realize what’s going on after an hour, or after 3 hours?  Why do I feel like I have the energy to visit a friend but not the energy to do laundry?  Is that normal?  Do normal people struggle with daily tasks?

The game is to pass as normal.  We changed my meds, and it makes me less normal.  I sleep through my alarm clock now.  I am late leaving for work and my roommates ask  how I’m doing.  Kinda crappy, thank you.  I’m doing my best and I can’t pull it together.  Everything is big and overwhelming and I am alone.  I want it to be okay to be overwhelmed, and it’s not.  It’s not because it affects work and accomplishment and motivation.  People get bothered when I don’t act like other people.  Folks who are inclined to help me start to feel like I’m taking advantage of them.

What it looks like from the outside is not how it feels from the inside.

Give yourself grace, says my therapist.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Really?  The people I live with are freaked out that I’m there at 8:30 in the morning because my shift starts at 7:45 and I need to be out the door between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning to get there in time.  Only apparently I woke up enough to turn off the alarm – which I don’t remember – then slept until 7:30.  The new meds do this to me.  What they don’t do is make me look normal with only 1 or 2 doses.  They take time to build up.

My next step is to call HR and see if we can change my shift.  Right now I work 4 10-hour days and when you add in lunch (which my employer does not count as part of my day) and the 2-hour commute each way to work, well, I’m often out of the house 15 hours at a time.  I come home, eat, and go to bed.  I need enough time in the morning to get dressed etc.  I don’t sleep 8 hours most work nights, more like 5 or 6.  So maybe I can get HR to shift me to another position or at least another shift that isn’t quite so early and is 5 8-hour days instead.  It’s a big company, there are other jobs.  But I don’t want to say too much to them either and have it used against me.  See, there’s the second guessing part.

Give myself grace.  I’m crazy, what does that even mean?  That it’s okay to be crazy?  My crazy freaks people out, why would I want to give that grace?  I feel like I’m going to end up a street person, because I don’t make enough money to get by on my own but I don’t know if other people can live with my crazy.

I need to tidy my room.  That will help.  It won’t resolve anything, but tidy looks more normal and I do need to find my winter clothes so that’s a good excuse.  Tear it apart and put it back together.  Wash the sheets that are covered in black cat hair.  I don’t know how that cat does that, I believe there is more cat hair in my bed than on the cat.

And I need to make art.  Making art feels normal to me.  Making art makes my heart happy and my soul shine.  It seems to eat up the crazy and make all things possible.  Make the room tidy so I have a place to make art.  That’s a decent goal for tomorrow.  That and seeing the doctor again.

One day at a time, just get though today and have a plan for tomorrow.  It’s all I can do anyway.


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Mind and Body Are One

I have two chronic conditions and they interact.

I learned in the last year that I am subject to panic attacks. It isn’t regular but when stress gets to me, I have issues. They aren’t hugely severe in a physical sense, but emotionally I become detached and feel like I’m floating or like my head is going to explode. Disconnected. Disembodied. Buzzing in my ears. Can’t make decisions. Even basic things, like getting dressed, become huge trials when you can’t figure out how to put together an outfit. What shirt to wear with what pants should not be overwhelming, esp. since most of pants are black and anything that’s not a t-shirt is fine for work.

Fortunately they make a medicine for this. They probably make several medicines for this, but the one I take is Prozac. Works pretty good. Now I am not a huge fan of medicines as the best answer for everything so I went years of not feeling optimum because I was trying other methods. But sometimes you can’t control your brain, which means you can’t control your thinking.

The body is an organic electromechanical interface between what we think of as self or soul and the physical world. Not going to get metaphysical about the idea of self here, though I could, but it’s not my point today. Sometimes the equipment fails. Maybe it was flawed from the beginning or maybe I did something that caused damage. In either case, functionality was less than peak.

Now that isn’t necessarily bad. Any engineer will tell you that a machine can sufficiently well at less than 100% I mean, if I could feel 90% on an average day, that seems acceptable, It’s not a peak if it is, in fact, a plateau. And a plateau can be a great place to pause, rest and reflect before pushing on again.

Anyway, with regard to brains. Brains need a certain balance of chemicals in order to function properly. If the chemicals are out of balance, your brain doesn’t work well. All the positive thinking and motivation in the world are not going to help a brain that misfires. I tried many kinds of self-improvement which did not solve my problem. Medicine helps. So I take it, and feel disbelief that it works because life should not become manageable due to taking a pill. But it does. (See the title of this post again, mind and body are one, because changing the chemical situation in my body actually changes my mind.)

The other condition is a highly acid stomach. I apparently don’t have an ulcer, but I do take medicine. It stops my stomach from hurting. Since this crept up on me, I didn’t realize I was in so much pain until I started taking the medicine. Now if I miss a dose, I have PAIN. Eating sometimes helps since anything bready soaks up the acid and moves it out of my stomach, so for a long time I was frustrated by trying to diet (since I am a person who should really lose a few pounds) and the fact that restricting food intake made my tummy hurt. Now I have medicine that stops the pain. It’s kind of amazing.

Again, I’m not a huge fan of medication for no reason, but the right drug at the right time is a real blessing.

So how do these interact?

I don’t get big physical effects from the anxiety, just a little shortness of breath sometimes and a sort of butterflies in the tummy feeling. Stress goes right to my stomach, always has, my mom even commented on it when I was a kid, and the way to help was to eat something.

Wait now. Physical symptoms of stress can be resolved the same way high stomach acid was resolved? So, yes, my emotional state affects how my body works. Treating the anxiety helps the stomach problem. That doesn’t seem so hard to understand.

It’s the fact that it works in the other direction that astounds me.

If I miss my stomach meds, I become anxious. This is not because I am somehow concerned that I’m sicker than I am. It’s because my body reacts very similarly to missing this medicine as it does to anxiety. Close enough, in fact, that my subconscious interprets the symptoms as being upset and will add in the other signs of anxiety. I can be aware that I do not feel emotionally bothered at all, but my body is acting like I’m really freaked out about something.

For example, I might have a cup coffee at breakfast and at lunch have a sandwich that had a tomato on it and a pickle on the side. These are all common foods, all of which I enjoy, any of which I might eat on a typical day. Only, all together, it’s too much acid and my stomach is already highly acid, so now I have butterflies and tension. Then my subconscious decides this is a sign of anxiety, and suddenly I feel like I can’t breathe properly and I can’t focus on my job. Not bad enough for me to call it a panic attack, but enough to distract me and affect performance. Then I do become stressed, because I realize I am not doing as well as I could and I know I can do better, and the stress increases the acid.

It’s all connected, body and mind, mind and body. What affects one, affects the other. Finding balance becomes very important. Sometimes it seems impossible. Sometimes I have to be very regulated, even though it means I look like a party pooper, because for me the consequences are greater than simply being tired the next day. Sometimes I get frustrated with restrictions and limitations. Yet the most beautiful Shakespearean sonnets are created within specific guidelines, so knowing your functional boundaries can be a great thing.

Tomorrow is Christmas and then we are heading into a new year. What I wish for you, is finding your balance.


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Life Changes Fast and Slow

Do you remember a game called Boggle? It was a box with a grid in the bottom that held dice with letters on them. You shake the box to scramble the letters, then compete to see who can form the most and the longest words.

Sometimes I feel like I live in a Boggle box.

I feel like, for no reason I can discern, life is shaking me up and reconfiguring the pattern and I’d better adapt and do my best to get a high score.

Other times, I feel like life takes so very long to happen. Sometimes you’re doing everything you can do, but the process takes longer than expected or you have to wait on something else to happen that you can’t control.

So I’ve been having both situations simultaneously, and they impact each other.

I’ve had my job just over a year now, and I have been trying all this time to get full time hours. I can bid up again when the shift bids come in July, but there’s no guarantee I’ll get anything. On the other hand, I’ve been allowed to participate in some cool projects and offered a little additional responsibility, which is all good. My boss also showed me a job in another department that he thinks I should try for. It’s fewer dollars per hour but it’s full time, so I’d get about the same pay. The company likes to see wide experience in employees, so even though it’s sideways (ie. not a promotion) for now, it would be good to say I’ve done it. And full time employees get tuition reimbursement, so I could finish my degree. Education is very important to get ahead in certain types of job and it would sure help here.

So this is all very good, but it has taken a long time to get here.

Or at least, it feels like a long time to me right now. Because I am not making enough money for anyone in Texas to rent me an apartment on my own, and even if I have a roommate, most people want to qualify us separately not as a unit. I’m an adult, if I could qualify on my own, I wouldn’t be thinking of a roommate.

The people I live with are VERY unhappy that I’m here. I moved in about a year ago, and I believed I’d be able to get full time hours at work and I wouldn’t be here very long. We wrote a contract for 6 months, and I truly believed I wouldn’t even need all of that. Only it’s been 12 months, and I’m still here.

In January, the husband offered me a ride to work and said “I’m not telling you to get out, but the contract said January, and it’s almost the end of January, and you’re still here.” Um, how is that not telling me to get out? And there have been consistent reminders that I should leave on a regular basis since then, including a few actions that were clearly designed to make it uncomfortable to be here. Because apparently knowing you aren’t wanted but having no place else to go isn’t uncomfortable enough.

Now about 10 days ago, my daughter finally decided she’s ready to strike out on her own (see previous blog post “On Being a Mother Hen . . .”) and that changed A LOT about the kind of apartments I can rent. I’ve been looking at 2 bedroom apartments so my daughter could have her own room, but I can live in a studio if it’s just me. That changes rent from $800 and up, to $500 average. And THAT changes the income requirement from $2400 a month to $1500 a month, which puts things down into my price range. I was hoping to be out by the end of this month or during next month, mostly due to the time it takes to find a place.

Monday I went to a stress management session. My stress is so high that I am unusually grumpy and my stomach is creating enough acid to start damaging my esophagus. I have meds that should help until the root cause can be handled. While I was in the session, my phone kept going off with messages. I ignored it, because my powers of ignore are very strong but when I checked it later, my daughter had texted that I need to call her.

Your kid telling you to call her is very scary for a parent, but it isn’t always bad. Sometimes it’s just too complicated for text. I called, but I didn’t know what to expect. She walked into the other room, saying “I don’t think it matters, but there are ears here.”

Hmmm, not ominous at all! It made me suspicious more than anything.

“The husband has been yelling at the wife for the past 2 days about evicting you. She went down to the police station today to get the eviction order.”

Well crap.

And, eviction orders don’t come from the police, so maybe she already had it and was getting a cop to serve me?

But there wasn’t anything I could do about it at the moment. It was my day off, I had a few errands to run still then I got a very long phone call from a friend. I made some more calls to rental offices to see what could be done fast.

I also talked to a very good friend — you know, one of those friends who is more like family, even though there’s no genetic connection — and he said, basically, I needed to get out of there regardless of whether was an eviction, and I could stay with him and his wife.

Sunday is my next day off, so I am moving on Sunday.

There’s much more going on here than this, which I may or may not post about.

But the point is that for a year I have been needing to get out of here. I have tried everything I knew and could not change my situation. I could see change coming, but I couldn’t hurry it up. Life was moving very slow. Then suddenly in the last 2 weeks, the situation changed. And on Monday, I was in the Boggle box.

Still trying to spell the new words, not sure if everything is fully settled yet or how long it will take to get into the new place.

Just the knowledge that everything is different and it’s a new game now.


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On Being a Mother Hen When Your Chick Needs an Eagle

My daughter is approaching her 19th birthday. Seriously, next week she’ll be 19.

For most of the last year, she has talked about how she doesn’t want to handle things on her own, she wants a parent to do it for her, she isn’t ready to adult.

She says it that way, with “adult” as a verb. I think, but don’t say to her, that most of us are still figuring out how to adult! A lot of us are still faking it until we make it, and are a little nervous that someone might actually discover we don’t really know what we’re doing. At least not all the time.

Now, on the cusp of her 19th birthday, my daughter came to me shyly and asked if she could tell me something. She hemmed and hawed for a minute, then started with “I’ve been thinking about some things . . .” which kind of trailed off. So I cut her some slack, since I am impatient sometimes, and told her to just go ahead and blurt it.

“Would you still be okay if I didn’t live with you?” she asked, all eyes and uncertainty.

No, I thought, no I will not be okay. I haven’t had nearly enough chance to be your mother. I haven’t loved you enough. I haven’t bought you everything you ever wanted. I haven’t been your best friend. I haven’t sat at the dining room table and done homework with you. I’ve been a crappy role model because all I can do is take care of today so you’ve never had someone show you how to plan for the future or pursue a dream. I never even taught you to drive. And when you go, I will be all alone and my world will be smaller and darker and emptier. No I will not be okay.

But that isn’t what I said, because even though it’s true, it isn’t exactly true. For most of her life, she lived with her dad, not with me. I have lived without her before. I will go to work, hang out with friends, go away on weekends, go shopping, read books, feed the cats. Life will go on pretty much the same as it always has, I will just live alone. I’ve done it before. I’ve done it most of my life in fact. It’s normal for me. I’ll be fine.

Plus, well, I’m not young any more myself. I’m 50. It’s not exactly old but I outlived both my parents who were 47 when they died, so this is kind of a milestone. I’m entering the second half of life, and at some point there will come the time when I won’t be able to live alone any more. When that happens, I’ll be back at her door telling her she needs to put her life aside at least a little and make room for me to come home. Not right away, but maybe in 25 years or so.

It sounds like a long time, but when you’re busy having a life, it’s surprisingly short.

I’m looking at my bucket list, culling the list simply because I’m not sure there’ll be enough time to do all of it any more, deciding what adventures I must have and which ones I won’t regret passing up. I’m thinking about, what are the last things I want to get done in life, to be sure they are complete and I am full of memories and experiences. Some of them I need to do now while I still have energy and ability to do them, so I’d better get on with it.

My daughter? She’s just starting out. She’s at the other end of this process. She has a whole wide world out there waiting for her and she doesn’t even know what she wants to do with all the time she has. Not yet fully, anyway, even though I think she has a basic plan.

Tell her to stay here with me, to be limited by my limitations which are only going to increase in coming years? Clip her wings so she can’t see what’s over the horizon? Not a chance. This is her time to go and do and experience. Have adventures. Fall in love. Change her mind. Whatever it is she needs to do to be a full person and a citizen of the world.

“Would you still be okay if I didn’t live with you?” she said.

This is not asking permission, even though it’s phrased that way. This is a declaration that after a year of saying she’s not ready, now she’s ready.

Now she’s ready and I want to fluff my wings around her and say, “No, no, you’re fragile and it’s not safe, and you need to stay here with me.” Instead, I keep my hands in my lap and I don’t get emotional.

“Of course I’ll be okay,” I say.