Popeye and me

braccio-di-ferro

I’m 56 years old. I’ve never fit in. I’ve never been what anyone wanted me to be, or thought I should be. At times I’ve tried – especially when I was young – but it never really worked. I always end up just being me.

My original mother and father didn’t want me. My adoptive mother wanted a daughter, but she didn’t want me. She wanted me to be more like her, and I tried, but I just wasn’t. Our relationship has changed now because I take care of her and I’m all she has, but we still argue about the way I do things vs. the way she thinks I should do things.

I’ve never had a lot of friends, and I’ve managed somehow to alienate almost all of them sooner or later throughout my life. Depression played a large role in that, I’m sure. It’s what has damaged all of my relationships – with men, too. In many ways, that, more than anything has shaped who I am.

I’ve made the wrong decisions about almost everything in my life and I’ve failed at almost everything that ever really mattered to me.

At work, as I’m winding down my career, I find that I’m not fitting in with the 15-year olds who are running things now. I’m getting the message everyday in a thousand different ways that there is nothing about me that is valued in this company. It’s hard to get up in the morning knowing that I’m going to go to spend the day being reminded over and over again that once again I don’t fit in.

Social media tells me that I’m not living life the right way. The 15-year olds tell me I’m not working the right way. Most people I know have friends and family, as they have managed to live a full life, in spite of obstacles. On TV my life would be portrayed as the butt of jokes on a sitcom.

The Loser.

I’m a loser, baby. So why don’t you kill me….

In spite of all that…I’m here. I’m alive. I’m real. Against all the odds I’ve made it this far without being a burden to someone else or to society. I’ve struggled to stay alive and to become a better person. I have value simply because I’m here on this planet.

I’ve worked since I was 14. I’ve worked a lot of different places in several different capacities. I ran a business of my own for 5 years. I’ve given 18 years of my working life to this particular company. I have done a crapload of good work over the years. I have experience and I’m loyal. If others fail to see that, too bad. When I started here, many of my current co-workers were learning to use the potty or drawing pumpkins in elementary school. Someday, I’m guessing, they’re going to know what it feels like to be devalued, too.

So none of it matters. I’ll keep fending off the blows, healing the wounds, and going on. All that matters is me and what I think about my work and my life, and I think I’m doing just fine. My mother won’t live forever and in 5 1/2 years I will retire. I’ll be free in my life then in a way I never have been and who knows what I might accomplish? Who knows what I’ll have to offer the world before I’m gone?

I’m not done yet, and I am who I am; simply me. One and only. Not a loser, not a winner. Just me, doing the best I can.

And that is enough.

 

Advertisements

Acting out

4134b763cf6a8e79477e952198f3df66

I saw this on Pinterest this week. I think someone intended it to be funny, but when I saw it I thought, Yeah, that’s exactly the way I feel.

Going through the motions, trying just to get through the day. Whatever. So much has happened in the last few weeks, starting with Clare’s ear thing, and escalating from there – Sunday the hot water heater at my house (not the house I live in) gave up the ghost – that I’m just running from one disaster to another, putting out the flames, mopping up the water (literally), trying to put everything right again.

It’s not a life, really, just a list of things that need attention and going from one thing to the next and watching as the list just gets longer and longer. Beginning with my mother, who is really a huge soul-sucking abyss of need, and going on from there.

I’m so over all of it. That doesn’t make it stop, though. It just goes on. Even without the disasters regular life is just one thing after another. No thought required. No choice. No interest. Just what needs to be done.

Whatever.

That’s just the way it is for women, isn’t it? We clean up the messes. We put others first. We do what needs to be done.  It’s both the best and the worst of who we are.

If the women in this country – in the world – finally stood up and said to the privileged white frat boys who run it — f*ck you — what do you think would happen? If we stopped fixing things, smoothing over, cleaning up the messes, and keeping quiet about it all – what do you think would happen? If we started taking an ACTIVE ROLE in the fate of this country and the world – what would happen?

What if women, and the ways they suffer in our society, mattered? What if the voters had rejected Donald Trump because of the the kind of man he is and the way he treats people, especially women? What if the Senate rejected Brett Kavanaugh because of the disdain he has shown for women in his life? What if women stood up for each other and didn’t give men like that power? What if?

Whatever.

It won’t happen any time soon. I’m really struggling with all the ways I’m not active in my life the last few years – all the situations in which I’m not in control of my experience. I’m unable to make choices about a lot of the things that determine my happiness and feelings of safety and wholeness, including what’s going on in the United States government.

I’m not taking an ACTIVE ROLE in my life in any way that matters to me either because I can’t change things without doing damage to myself – where I live or the job I have because of my mother – or, because I don’t have the power to change things – like what’s going on in Washington.

So I’m left just trying to get through until a better time. Taking care of things as they come up, always on alert, trying to be ready for anything all the time. Totally reactive, not at all proactive, or creative.

So, whatever. In some ways it’s better not to think than to feel defeated and hopeless all the time. I don’t have time or the inclination to keep up with the news, and that’s probably better than having my worst fears about what’s going on confirmed by every news story with a Washington, DC dateline.

I just keep going on – the water heater is being installed next week. The car will get fixed at some point next week. Clare is fine. Mom is feeling better. I have a plan to take care of a couple of the less urgent things when I have more money. The list for the weekend is pretty light, so I’m hoping for some reading time and a walk or two in between rain storms.

I can’t do anything about Brett Kavanaugh or the way women are devalued in this country and around the world. Or guns. Or poverty. Or racism.

Except VOTE. I can take an active role in that, and I will.

 

 

 

All or nothing at all

Dm_zwe0XgAAEaL5

I’ve been working hard this year on accepting what is. It hasn’t been easy, as most of what is is not what I would like it to be. Resisting is not only demoralizing, but exhausting, however, so I’ve been trying to just let things be and rest in the NOW.

As is. All of it.

I say “trying” because I’m not really very good at it. Mostly I’m overwhelmed at how wrong everything seems and how unhappy I am with most of the circumstances in my life, and then I feel ashamed because I don’t have it as bad as a lot of people; those in North Carolina who just lost their homes, for example, or several people I know who have died suddenly lately and left families and friends grieving their loss.

It’s kind of a spiral I get caught in fairly regularly, and though I try to just be still and grateful in order to stop my brain from spinning out of control, it doesn’t last long, if it works at all in the first place. Feel bad, beat myself up for feeling bad, feel worse.

Over and over again.

And now here it’s Fall. The end of everything that I enjoy about life, and the beginning of suffering through cold and ice and no color and no life for 8 months or so. Last winter was so bad for me I get choked up when I think about going through it again.

I keep trying to think of a way out – a way to “fix” what seems wrong, or a way to “disappear” that wouldn’t hurt anyone else. Sometimes I feel desperate for change.

But, I know, there is no way out.

There is only a way through, and that’s what I’m working on. Acceptance. Day to day, minute to minute. I have to remind myself constantly that all I really have to worry about is right now. Friday morning. Not winter. Not next month, or next week, or even tomorrow.

Just today.

It’s Friday and the sun is shining.  I’m not in danger, I’m not ill, I’m not homeless. I have a job, money, and plenty of food. I’m alive.

Easy to accept the good, harder to embrace the rest. It’s all there, though; it’s all life. A package deal. Never all good, never all bad. A mix of both, always. All or nothing. Not in equal measure, but both always there. I hate the expression, “It’s all good,” cuz it’s not all good. Clearly. But it’s all now. Present in every moment. All the good and all the bad.

Here. Now.

Life. Accept it.

 

Scary Clarey

Clare

This is Clare. Notice how her right ear looks a little odd? Well, we had quite an adventure with that ear 10 days ago, or so. If she could talk, I’m sure she’d tell you all about it. It was a small thing that turned into a very big deal.

She has trouble with her ears fairly often. Week before last she was going after her right ear with a vengeance and the things I do normally to give her some relief weren’t helping. Then she started acting like she didn’t feel well, so I called the vet. We went to see Dr. Rob on that Friday, and he discovered that she had a sizeable hematoma in that ear and an infection. She would need surgery.

So I left her there and went to work, and planned to pick her up later that afternoon. They called me after the surgery and said that all went well, and that she would be ready to come home about 4:00 pm.

A couple of hours later Dr. Rob called me. He started out the conversation by saying, “I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, but…” So, of course, I was instantly panicked. “Clare seems to be having trouble waking up from the anesthetic.”

My heart in my throat, blood pressure pounding in my ears. My baby! What have they done to my sweet girl?!

So, he said, she’ll need to stay overnight, but we think it would be good if you came to visit her this afternoon.

I rushed out there right after work. She was in a cage, and she looked so small. I petted her and talked to her and told her when she came home she could have all the treats she wanted, and that we were all waiting for her and we missed her. She opened her eyes, but she couldn’t focus, and she could barely hold her head up.

The vet was next to me saying he thought maybe she was just sensitive to the anesthetic and that it was just going to take a little longer for her to wake up. Okay, I’ll go with that. He seemed worried, though, and that scared me. They told me the next morning that he stayed late with her and hand fed her cuz she was still half asleep. He’s a good guy, and a good vet, and I think he was just as worried as I was.

The next morning was Saturday and I went to get Clare as soon as they opened. She was awake, and pissed. When I brought her in the house, she paused briefly next to her treat spot, scarfed a couple down, and headed upstairs. She went in a closet and didn’t come out except to use her litterbox and to eat for the whole weekend. She hissed at Grace whenever she ventured near, and she completely ignored mom and me.

Fast forward to this weekend and she’s doing really well. Her ear is healing nicely and she’s more her regular sweet gentle self. I have gunk I have to put in the ear once a day and she’s even been a good sport about that. Slowly over the course of the week she has forgiven us and life has gone back to normal, for the most part. She has to go back next Friday to have the stitches taken out, and that might be a little scary for her, but she won’t have to stay and she’ll get treats when she gets home, so not a big deal.

It all worked out well and this event will just be a scary memory. We were lucky, because certainly things can and do go wrong very quickly all the time. I think it’s good to be scared like that once in a while. This was a good reminder that you can lose something important to you in a heartbeat, and you probably won’t see it coming. Life can be so harsh, and unlike in the movies, there isn’t always a happy ending.

Just like that what really matters jumps into sharp focus and puts everything else into perspective. Scary, but I’m grateful for the jolt. I’m grateful for our good and caring Dr. Rob, and I’m grateful for my sweet little Clare and her willingness to forgive and forget and just get on with it.

Treats all around!

The life I’m not living

37363174_10211385893512257_3079328634532528128_n

This is the family I don’t have – my birthmother, Linda, in the middle, with my brothers and sisters (l to r) Robert, Julie, Betsy, and Andy around her. The man in the back is Linda’s husband. This picture was taken this summer at the get-together they have every year with all of their families at their cottage on the lake up north.

I don’t know my siblings, and they don’t even know I exist. My birthmother knows who I am and where I am, but wants nothing to do with me.

I think they’re probably an average upper middle-class family, with their ups and downs like everyone else. They’ve done well financially thanks to the start given them by my grandparents and the business they built and handed on to my bmom, who handed it on to my sisters when she and her husband retired several years ago.

They go to church in their small town and are very involved in it. Bmom and hubby are involved in the community volunteering, clubs, etc., as are my two sisters, who still live in that town. My brothers are in two different states far away. All my siblings have children – lots of them – and I’m sure all of their families are nice, but with their joys and sorrows, too. Betsy, for example, is divorced, and I’m sure that’s been hard.

I don’t imagine I have a single thing in common with any of them. I might have, if I’d been raised with them. I would have been the oldest; one of 5 children, rather than an only child. My whole life would have been very different, and I think about that a lot.

I think about the moment that changed my bmom’s and bdad’s lives, and sent my life hurtling in a completely different direction than the one I might have experienced. There was a moment in the summer of 1961 when Linda told Richard (Dick) she was pregnant, and he walked away and left her on her own to “solve the problem.” In the space of an instant following her telling, and before his response, my life balanced precariously between What Will Be and What Could Have Been.

The moment in which he turned his back on her was the moment I became a different person than I was just seconds before. Instead of Linda and Richard’s daughter, I became Byron and Colleen’s daughter. In that instant I became the only child of an uncomfortable mother and a wonderful but weak father, destined for a lonely, difficult life marred by depression. My bmom went on with her life, my bdad on with his – my life simply a footnote in theirs. A blip on the screen that maybe sent a little pang of sadness through them in later years, perhaps.

Linda married someone else, had four more children and has lived a comfortable (from the outside it looks really good) life. Dick was a Vietnam veteran and (when he came back) an alcoholic and died young. Whatever. They had choices. They made them and went on.

I had no choice. I had a troubled childhood, but that may have been my lot anyway. If Linda had married Dick and I had grown up with them, I may have had a difficult childhood living with an alcoholic and/or experienced a “broken” family if they had divorced. If Linda had made the choice to keep me in spite of Dick’s abandonment, I might have been in that family photo above as the oldest sister, or she may have faltered as a single mother and we would have both suffered in poverty. Or she might have married someone else completely and who knows then what our lives would have been like?

It’s all What If.

There are a lot of What If moments in everybody’s lives. I have a bunch and I have regrets, but this is the one that haunts me. I think what bothers me about it is that it isn’t my What If. I think about it all the time. It might have been different. I might have been different, but it wasn’t my choice. I look at that photo (and the ones from other years) and I think how lucky my brothers and sisters are to have each other and to have their own families, and to have grown up with young fun parents who had enough money to have a vacation cottage and to give their kids a good start in life with college paid for and a ready-made successful business to hand them.

None of that happened for me, but as I said, it might not have anyway. Life is a web – break one string and the others vibrate and change shape. I grew up with a wonderful father and a grandmother who was everything to me, and for that I’m very grateful. I’m too old now to blame my failures (or my successes) on my childhood anyway. It happened the way it did and that’s just the way it is. It’s water under the bridge, and it’s only hard for me to remember that now because I’m so unhappy in my current circumstances and the thought of a different life seems appealing. I could have made choices in my life that had led me down a different path, too, so I take responsibility for where I find myself now.

That’s not what this is about. There are times when I can’t help but think about that moment, and the life I’m not living and the family I don’t have. And sometimes it makes me feel better for a short time to think that it’s not fair and it’s not my fault.

But…of course it is.

It’s just what happened and all any of us has to work with is this moment and what’s happening now. The rest is gone.

Frankly, even If I could make it so, I’m not sure I would change any of it. I do not believe that things happen for a reason, and I don’t believe in destiny or divine providence or anything remotely like that. But I do believe in karma and I don’t believe you can avoid the lessons you were meant to have in this life. I think I’m probably living exactly the way I was meant to live and most of it is my fault. My choices, my consequences.

Happy belated birthday, Linda. I wish you and your family well.

 

Spinning my wheels

19642551_10209527566812706_6722060519940696347_n

It’s a lovely sunny fall day here; not warm now, and not predicted to get warm, but sunny, nonetheless. We’ve had rain and cool temps for the better part of 10 days so it’s nice to see the sun. I’ve only managed one short bike ride in the last 11 days, not just because of the weather, but also because my daily life has become a long To-Do list, and there isn’t time for much else. Throw crappy weather into the mix and the bikes just sit in the garage for weeks at a time. Fall is here and the party’s over.

By “party” I mean my chance to enjoy an hour or two out of each day. By “enjoy” I mean feel like myself, feel free, feel like I’m going to be okay and that life is worth living.

Over. Gone. Finito. Stick a fork in it…it’s done.

Now begins 8 months of fall/winter and if it’s anything like last winter, I can’t even think about it. The weather was ridiculously horrible and life with my mother equally so. Now here it comes again, and this morning I feel like I can’t go on. I can’t face another day, another week. Week after week, after week, after week…

I will go on, of course. I go on everyday. Every moment of everyday I think I can’t do this anymore.

And then I do.

Nothing changes, and it gets harder and harder, but I go on. I get out of bed every morning before it’s light and I go to the job I have come to hate, and I go home at midday and make lunch for my mom and myself and then I go back to work and then I go home after work and make dinner for my mom and myself and do the dishes and take out the trash and watch TV and go to bed and get up before it’s light and go to work… Somewhere in there I deal with the problems – the millions of problems with my mother or the cats or the house or something – and I go grocery shopping or pick up prescriptions or pay bills, or something.

Everyday. Over and over. The weekends are only different in that I sleep later, do laundry and watch more TV. TV’s all my mother can/wants to do, so that’s what I do. Occasionally we play cards.

No friends. No freedom. Nothing that I like to do. Nothing I choose. No time.

No life.

So I feel like I can’t go on. Not another day.

And then I feel horrible and beat myself up over how ungrateful I am, and how awful to be so miserable over such small things. At least I am alive – I can think of a lot of people who are not who would trade me for just one more day. And what about people who have lost everything in a flood, hurricane or fire, or are ill, or in pain, or living in horrible poverty? What about John McCain all those years in a prison camp? He survived and went on to do great things – to make his life worthwhile.

And here I am – nothing, no one – complaining about my less-than-perfect life. Shame on me.

So the wheels in my head go round and round, and nothing changes and I feel worse and worse. I feel bad about my life and I feel bad about feeling bad.

I just wish I could ride my bike. Somehow when those wheels are spinning, everything gets better.

Maybe tonight, and then I will go on some more.

Balancing Act

I’m not really into working today. It’s gloomy outside and I didn’t sleep well last night. It’s a perfect day to be curled up on the couch with a cat reading and/or napping. I had a meeting with a department director first thing this morning, though, so I couldn’t take the day off, and so far it’s been a typical Monday, which makes me wish I wasn’t here just that much more.

If it hadn’t been for that meeting, I would have called in (actually I email) and rolled over and gone back to sleep for a couple of hours. I took last Monday off (pre-arranged) and it was really lovely. No Sunday night dread feeling, no Monday crap. The weather was beautiful that day, so I had a nice long bike ride and really enjoyed the day.

What was nice, too, was that I had taken the day off just because I wanted to. I didn’t feel the need to justify it to myself or anyone else. I wanted to do it, I did it, and I enjoyed it. Easy peasy. Doing something just because I want to is one of the things I have missed the past few years. My life is not as uncomplicated as it used to be, and there isn’t much time, money, or energy available these days to indulge my whims.

I’m focused mostly on what needs to be done in the next 10 minutes – cuz there’s always a list and plenty on it between work and home – and I forget to have fun. I forget to just be. I forget that there are things that make me happy that don’t require a lot of effort or money or time, and that I need to do them/have them.

All work and no play makes this girl depressed.

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that I was wearing the same pair of earrings everyday and had been for quite a while. Kind of a silly thing, but it was a red flag to me that I was in “robot” mode, and that if I didn’t try to get out of it I would be completely emotionally paralyzed soon enough.

So I got out all my jewelry and picked out things I hadn’t worn in a while, and I’ve been trading off different rings and earrings everyday. Believe it or not, it makes a difference. Ditto food. I bought some different things at the store last week and I’ve been adding a forgotten favorite or something new to every meal.

Friday I went to the fish market and bought smoked whitefish paté, a particular favorite that I don’t usually allow myself cuz it’s expensive and high in calories, but man, is it good!

Saturday night I had a campfire. I made s’mores, and sat outside in the dark watching the flames and drank a beer. Yesterday I had fried potatoes with breakfast.

Just because I could.

Most importantly, I rode almost every evening after work last week and both afternoons this weekend I was out for 2 hours or so in the heat and the sun, turning the pedals and getting happier with every drop of sweat I shed.

It’s summer and this is my favorite time of year. I need more outside-enjoying-it and less inside-working/doing chores. The work and the chores need to be done, and sometimes even need to come first, but there has to be time for the good stuff, too, or life is just too hard.

So I had to work today, but when I get home I can have some crackers and whitefish paté, and maybe even a short bike ride if it’s stopped raining by then. After dinner and the dishes and the evening with mom, I can climb in bed with the good book I’m reading, and then (I hope) get a good night’s sleep. I’ll think of this as a good day, cuz there was time for everything, including and especially me.