"Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible." - Carl Jung

"Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." - Mother Teresa


Tuesday March 31st, 2009

Today's entry will have no clear cohesiveness, however under everything I hope to say I intent to wrap up a very difficult month. While it would be rediculous for me to think I could neatly tie everything together and put a bow on top, I do hope to conclude March with clear, well articulated words that convey my thoughts and feelings as clearly as possible in hopes of promoting some sense of clarity for the month.

A simple summary would be thus communicated: March 2009 has been the most difficult and challenging time of my entire life. I would leave it at that except cliff notes do our lives little justice so I'll instead begin by sharing a little bit about the last two days and where they've taken me.

I woke up yesterday feeling extraordinarily refreshed. This was unusual for two reasons: 1) I didn't get to bed until 2 or 3am and 2) the status quo for the month has been waking up in relative to significant physical pain. To be quite honest I was surprised with how well my body was feeling and even went as far as not evening making a note of it until getting out of the shower when I had the thought, "Jeeze, where my back pain?" But there's a saying, "Never look a gift horse in the mouth," so I didn't. I spent half of my day feeling relatively normal and the work day flowed by at lightning speed.

5 o'clock comes around and the pain is back (pun not intended). Typical. Even then it wasn't your typical Monday. The day went quickly. The pain was easily managed. I stopped by Home Depot after worked and picked up some wood (at a reasonable $1/6' length!) and thin plastic covering so I can build a makeshift tool to help me with the wood finishing I need to take care of. Got home, took the wood inside, then went through the long laborious process of rolling my all year tires from the downstairs closet to the back of my car so I could take them in to Les Schwab's to get changed over (today is the deadline). Finished doing that with the expected pain then cleaned the cat litter, started the dishes, and took care of some other odds and ends before starting the builds, logging into work, and writing here. The day, though uneventful, was relatively "okay".

I've never met a human being who isn't in some regard superstitous. Me? I believe I simply recognize what my superstitions are without imposing them on others. No, I don't throw salt over my shoulder or sometimes avoid walking under ladders, but I'm apt to think if I'm having a good day (which translated directly into an "okay" day these days) that it's not going to last. What goes up must come down. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And more importantly: no good deed goes unpunished.

I went to bed last night after reading a letter from someone who, without provocation, decided to write several pages about what a terrible person I am. Not only am I a terrible and self-centered person, but I'm also a terrible parent. Likewise, my parents are abusive, in the clinical sense. Apparently this wasn't enough, they felt it necessary to inform me that not only was this their opinion, but it was also the opinion of their friends, family, and even therapist.

They closed the letter by attemping to convince me that they really care about me.

What do you think?

I think God was looking down from the clouds, notice I was having the best (relatively speaking) day I've had in weeks, then explaimed, "Shit, this just won't do!" An all-powerful finger is waved through the air and wa-la, life's back to "normal".

I'm not going to sit here and rationalize to you that I'm somehow a perfect person. I'm not. But I'll be damned if I'm going to sit on my hands while people, regardless of who they are or what their relationship is to me or how old they are, treats me in such a objectively poor fashion. Yes, I recognize this person is suffering, but that does not give them a right to behave in such a fashion. I am not an emotional punching bag, folks, so please, if you read my words and one day hope to start a friendship or relationship, know that I won't tolerate being treated that way. Not anymore.

There's a horrible irony to all of this. On examining the two closest relationships in my life I've come to the conclusion that there's something about me that seems to make people believe they have the inaliable right to treat me in whatever fashion they want.

In one corner (as they say in boxing) is someone who I've dedicated seven years of my life to. I made a decision, a promise, that no other adult I've ever known would make. I've made enormous sacrifices to keep my promise, monitarily, emotionally, and spiritually. I've made every reasonable effort, and then some, to keep them in my life, and have kept them actively involved, asked them what they want and honored what they shared with me, especially when lawyers were involved. I've done everything for this person short of seeling everything I own and handing them a check in order to prove my love, loyalty, and sincerity. Even after this person was literally removed from my day to day life I continued to reach out to them, to include them in whatever way I could in mine, and yet over a period of five months I've only been able to see them three times! Indeed, I was lucky to see them for a few hours on my birthday; apparently there were other, more pressing things they needed to get to. And then I had a really tough month which included two visits to the ER, visits I would not have made unless I was concerned for my life. While I acknowledge they did send a couple short messages recognizing what was going on, I never got a get well card, flowers, nor any indication that they wanted to see me. But I don't want to get into that as it inevitably becomes a he-said-she-said issue. What I will say is that I wasn't doing well and there were days I could barely get out of bed, much less write an e-mail or make a phone call (though I did, a day after my first ER visit, write them a detailed letter letting them know what had happened--I won't even go into the apathetic quality of the response). Long and short of it, I wasn't in a physical place where I could reasonably be expected to connect with this person for at least a week and once that week was up I had to be real with myself and recognize that every single time I thought about connecting with this person I instantly experienced cold chills and became very ill. Like it or not I had to recognize I was suffering from some very real psychosematic responses to the relationship, in particular the feeling that it was lopsided, that I could go as far as ending up in the possible and barely receive a response. To be honest, though I recognize they believe they care about me in a substantial way, the apathy I experienced left me feeling I had little worth to them, that they only saught me out when they needed someone to complain to about their life. And you know, up until the point I'd been in the ER a couple times I was fine doing what I could to support them, listen to ALL their troubles, support them in whatever way I could (often saying things like, "Let me know what you need. I'll do whatever's in my power to help you out, okay? Just let me know and I'll be there for you). So there I was, suffering and experiencing things I'd never in my life experienced, but did I lash out? Did I complain, write them angry letters, or tell them what a shitty person they were (something I don't believe, btw)? No, I didn't. I spent my time focusing on myself, seeing doctors, getting better sleep, improving my diet, I did everything I could to improve my health and not just but to live, but also so I could put myself in a better place to connect with this person. Seems thoughtful enough, yes? So, having decided I'm not in a good place to connect for awhile and also that I'm really in no condition to listen to the challenges of their life, challenges which by comparison frankly made me feel that they didn't understand the seriousness of my situation. A week or two go by and I receive an arguably charged letter; it's not the nicest letter in the world but I can see that they're frustrated, a little confused, and hurting, so I began planning the response in my mind (at this point I should note that it's not unusual for me to write them and not receive a response for or week or two, and sometimes never, so on some level I'm keenly frustrated with the double-standard that was applied to the situation). So there I am, struggling day in and day out, trying to juggle my health and work, hoping to find the time as well as physical and emotional stamina to sit down and respond to their letter but before I can even put a single word to paper I get another letter from them, this one even more heated than the last, a letter that flatly crosses half a dozen boundaries. I was shocked. What had I done to them to deserve such a verbally abusive diatribe? Sure, I'd taken some space, but that was only after telling them about the ER visit and trying to connect with them over the phone (they were too busy). What absolutely terrible act had I committed to become the receiver of so many judgmental and hate filled words? Their behavior was absolutely beyond me. So I sat down and for 6 hours tried to carefully word a response. In that letter I did my best to describe why I hadn't been in touch after making several attempts to connect and why I had been taking space. I explained, as clearly as possible, that I was in a very tenuous place, both physically and emotionally, and even the most subtle of social difficulties with other people often resulted in significantly negative physical reactions. I did not call them names. I did not put them down. I acknowledge and admit that I brought up some subject matter that was hard for them to hear, but it was absolutely pertinant to the subject at hand (as they are things that are in large part responsible for much of the stress I've experienced over the last several years and as a consequence of that, my worsening physical health). I knew they'd have a hard time hearing me but I felt they deserved a complete and honest answer; based on the reality I knew we wouldn't be able to connect again until it was discussed and out of the way. Indeed, the only thing I did which might rationally be construed as having a directly negative connotation was me saying basically...hell, I'm not going to even try and rephrase what I wrote, here are my exact words:

"...I've done my best and while I'm hurt, I do recognize on some level you've done yours as well. Just please, wait to write back until you've heard what I've had to say, recognize why I'd feel hurt and take space, and that you too have some responsibility in all this. [Name omitted], truth is, sometimes I need your support more than you need mine and past few months that's been true."

There, you see, nothing harsh, nothing judgemental, just a heart felt plea for love and support. And you know, after not hearing back from them for awhile I began to believe they were taking the time to really consider my words. Then last night I got the letter, the one I referenced at the beginning of this journal entry. I was shocked. I was hurt. I was an still am completely beside myself. I have never, in my entire life, done so much for another human being only to be spoken to in such a fashion. There I am, the most terrible thing I said being until you can speak to me more respectfully I need to take space. Never said I never wanted to see them again. Never said I'd break my promises to them. No, I just asked for some space and to be treated with the same respect any human being deserves simply by the fact that they're human. Result? As mentioned above, I was insulted. It was implied that I'm abusive, that I'm somehow responsible for all the struggles in their life. Likewise my parents are criminally abusive. I'm a selfish person, self centered, and ever decision is all about me; the last was one of the hardest to read as I have, until my ER visits, always put their future and well-being before my own, something that can be attested to by countless friends and family members (I do recognize that most of the pain I have from these comments is personal, I do pride myself in the sacrifices I will and have made for the well-being of others). I was called a terrible parent. They ended the letter by concluding that despite anything I might believe they really do care for me. To top it off the letter was followed up by another, which I received while at work today, trying to convince me just how caring they are and how absolutely blind I am not to agree with them.

Wow. I mean...just wow.

Sadly this isn't the only person I'm close to who apparently, at least on a subconscious leve, believes insulting me and putting me down is a form of emotional support that I should somehow get down on my knees and thank them for. Two people, the only two people I'm close to within a hundred miles of my house, they both have regularly behaved as if I'll want to connect with them after being on the receiving side of such behavior. And you know what? It perplexes me, absolutely fracking perplexes me. Would you walk up to a friend, tell them they're a bastard, that you never want to see them or talk with them again, then a day or two later expect them to answer the phone when you call as if everything's hunky dory? Or would it take you a few days, maybe even a week, to recoup from the attack (especially if it was unwarranted)? And if you were the type of person who is loyal, who wants to resolve all conflicts but do so in a thoughtful, non-reactive, non-emotional way, wouldn't you need that time to gather your thoughts, to heal some of the bruises incurred from the name calling (and no, that old kid's rhyme "sticks and stones" is bullshit)?

Believe it or not I do not like being in fights, I've had enough in my 35 years for five or six lifetimes. I also DO NOT take space to be passive agressive, not one damn bit. I take space ONLY after 1) one or more personal boundaries have been crossed, 2) I have articulated those boundaries at least three times, and 3) the person crossing my boundaries demonstrates no desire to respect them. Though I do admit I "loose it" from time to time, this is generally always when I've been cornered. For example, after a fight I don't like being engaged in a conversation if that conversation doesn't start with one simple question: Are you ready to talk (or do you need more time)? I can answer that question with a simple yes or no. What I can't be expected to do is engage in a conversation to resolve things if I'm still feeling hurt, angry, upset, or what have you, and to have another person engage in that conversation without first checking the weather and respecting my possible continued need for space--well, it doesn't make much pragmatic sense to me. And finally, I think I'm a pretty forgiving and laid back guy. While I have strong opinions about nearly everything under the sun, I really don't give a shit what other people do, what they think, or what they say, except if and when what they do, think, or say, hurts others (in a fashion that is objectively observable and would be interpretted as such by your average person). As I said with tongue and cheek to someone earlier today: I don't care if someone jacks off in the corner, but I begin to care the moment they decide to do it on my leg! That said that's where this entry is coming from, the upset and irritation I have that others have decided, consciously or not, to go out of their way to let me know just how terrible a person I am.

I've been on both sides of this fence. Fifteen years ago that's exactly how I handled my problems, by finding the person they related to and taking a knife to their soul, ripping it down the center, then I picked and poked at their insides as if I was being compassionate, as if by psychoanalysing them I was helping improve them as a person and that they'd thank me for it some day.

I'm still waiting for that thanks. Fortunately I've woken up. I no longer expect it. Nor do I expect the people I spoke to in this manner to ever seek me out again. I didn't treat them well. I held them to double standards. I frequently put them down. You might say those friendships ended on a sour note, n'est pas, where I was constantly reminding them what abysmall failures they had been to me as friends, as human beings--oh, I ripped at every ounce of worth they had and it made me feel slightly better in the short run so why the hell not?! I just would never treat anyone like that again and expect them to stick around. And indeed, when I have fucked up on people in my more recent life I don't expect forgiveness, I don't expect understanding, and when I apologize I try to leave it at that. No explanation. No begging for forgivess. Just a simple, "I'm responsible. I feel regret. And I am sorry." Last but not least I might follow this up with, "I want to make this right. Tell me what I can do to make it right."

What I can't stand, what's only added to the sadness and frustration and hopelessness of 2009, is this sense that there's a club out there devoted to meeting weekly and maligning my character. Okay, I admit that's meladramatic, but I put it that way to make a point: a) there are a significant number of people out there who have never met me or who haven't spent a sufficient amount of time or energy getting to know me in any kind of significant way, b) these people are sometimes engaged in negative, judgmental conversations about me behind me back, and c) there's a general consensus that I'm a terrible/abusive/bad/worthless human being who has unrealistic needs and expectations.

I hear you, I'm projecting, I'm saying something I couldn't possibly know. And you're right, I wasn't there so I am, on some level, making some pretty big assumptions, assumptions that are only leading me to feel more worthless than I really need to feel. But I do know. Why? Because I've been told, both in letters or in person. It might go a little something like this, "My friends think you're being passive aggressive every time you take space" (and again, I'm not and don't appreciate being judged by someone who doesn't or barely knows me). Better yet here's a direct quote of once instance: "many people have said that u love conditionaly my cousilor included."

On a side note, I can't imagine a therapist ever saying something like that. First and foremost, it's unprofessional and doesn't help the patient. Why? Because therapy is usually about helping the patient see the world around them more clearly, recognize what power they have over the world, and act accordingly. Specifically this is called "Reality Therapy" and is usually included as part of the regimine for any type of modern therapeutic session along with Psychoanalysis, Cognitive/Behavior therapy, and the like. Joining the patient in this kind of character assasination is never helpful and I've yet to take a psychology class, read a psychology book, study, or manual, which indicates that engaging in negative gossip like this is therapeutically beneficial (on a side note: given this I'm somewhat leery that what the therapist said was heard as intended). Second, a therapist who encourages their patient to blame the outside world instead of interact with it in a more adaptive fashion is legitimizing a victim mentality; when a psychologist or psychiatrist engages a patient in blaming the outside world for their challenges and difficulties they are, as an authority figure, reinforcing a victim mentality. Last but not least I'm a little stunned that a psychologist would make such a statement without ever having once met me. Maybe your average person doesn't know any better, but psychologists are TRAINED to know better. While I cannot comment on their overally therapeutic method--while I can't even say whether or not the one comment they made was acurately shared with me--it's my educated opinion that any psychologist who frequently used such treatments should immediately loose their license or at the very least be blacklisted.

So in summary the main thing that drives me nuts is this sense, by some at least, that they can treat me in an objectively harsh fashion and expect me to, as one put it, "get over it". Not too surprising when the tables are turned they're able to hold onto things...well...damn near forever.

The next thing I'd like to talk about is double standards. What is a double standard you ask? A double standard is defined by Wikipedia as:

"Double standards are when certain applications may be acceptable to one group, but seen as taboo to another. Such double standards are seen as unjust because they violate a basic maxim of modern legal jurisprudence: that all parties should stand equal before the law. Double standards also violate the principle of justice known as impartiality, which is based on the assumption that the same standards should be applied to all people, without regard to subjective bias or favoritism based on social class, rank, ethnicity, gender or other distinction. A double standard violates this principle by holding different people accountable according to different standards. The proverb 'life is not fair' is often used to justify double standards in life."

Wow, you know what's amazing?!? While it seems every hurtful thing a person can say to another has been said to me in 2008 through the present nobody's quoted the pervasive saying, "Life's not fair", never once did I hear it, never once was it used to justify a double standard...oh shit, now that I think about it, it has. As Doctor McCoy once said, "Hope springs eternal!"

Anyway, for sake of argument lets say I know a reptilian space alien from the planet Gamma Sigma 7, who's name is Arkak who drives me up a wall because he treats me according to a number of double standards which are as follows: Sbithllu

  1. Sbithllu doesn't always respond to my e-mail or phone calls but Arkak gets angry with me if I don't respond to his within a few days to a week.
  2. Additionally, Sbithllu seems to routinely ignore questions I've asked him. While I'm compassionate towards him in areas he's sensitive (questions like, "Why don't you ever wear clothes?" or "Do all reptilians smell like elderberries?") it bothers me that he'll avoid sensitive questions yet become acutely angry with me if I don't answer them immediately, directly, and thoroughly.
  3. Worse, sbithllu sometimes asks me some questions that put me in a corner. Catch-22's I call them, no-win situations. For example he might ask, "Aslynn, are you dissapointed with me that I'm not working on my English lately?" Truth is, I have been a little dissapointed for two reasons: 1) I want the best for him, 2) he's not yet fluent enough in the language to get along in society on his own, and 3) because of this he usually needs me to translate nearly everything for him (amidst profuse apologies that he'll get around to learning the tongue). Now while I may be frustrated I don't see a reason to jump on his ass over it, but I have my concerns and they are legitimate ones, especially if we plan to travel to England this summer as we've been planning, so I may try to honestly but politely answer, "Yes, I don't want this to come across as hurtful but I am sometimes dissapointed in your progress." I might add something like, "But I want to do my part to help," or, "You're doing your best, I know you are. Anyway, Sbithllu will typically become irate with me, though it's clear as hell that they were the one that asked and as such I make the assumption that they're ready for any answer I might have to give. Since that often results in a fight I've tried changing the subject, avoiding the question, or just not answering--I can't even begin to tell you how this is take as dismissal, a rejection, and I spend anywhere from the next 5 to 30 minutes defending myself. Where's the double standard, you ask? It's simply this: While they're hypersensitive to me answering the most straight forward and explicit question they might ask me about themselves, they have no qualms about telling me whether or not they're dissapointed in me. In fact, they'll go out of their way to tell me when I haven't asked. In fact, they'll even go as far as to iterate through a list of dissapointments and reasons behind those and...
  4. Sbithllu can get pretty angry with me when I say, "Hey, dude, you've just crossed a boundary, treated me in a way that I"m not okay with. This is my boundary [insert here], please respect it." I say that to Sbithllu quite a bit. Do you know what his typical response to me usually starts out with? "Well..." Yep, that's it, one word, "Well." And well is always followed by a reason that it's somehow okay for him to cross my personal boundary, a reason he believes justifies his behavior completely. For instance we might be sitting there just doing our own thing when Sbithllu decides he needs to talk about his childhood; in fact, he wants to go so far back he needs to talk about the period he was in the egg still (btw - his race is conscious and aware of the external world for 3 months in the egg prior to hatching). Now Sbithllu didn't have the easiest hatching. His mother wasn't living on her home planet and her father--oh, sorry, they're asexual--well, there were a lot of other races on the planet he was born, mostly mammals, and these warm blooded hairy bastards treated him like shit until he was large enough to eat them. So while he's sharing all this he decides, for no reason I'm aware of, to tell me I'm just like those hariy warm blooded nipple sucking sexually incomplete bastards and I'm just sitting there shocked, hurt, but mostly amazed that he'd say something like that. So I respond, "Sbithllu, I realize that just like that I'm a mammal, but I don't appreciate being compared to them in that fashion and would appreciate it if you could just keep such things to yourself. I just don't think it's very nice" to which he responds, "Well..." and before I know it he's accusing me of not listening or caring. The double standard? Sometimes I accidently cross their boundaries and there's not if's, and's, or butt's about it, I'm expected to respect them and if I don't, "Well..!" You get the picture.
  5. Sbithllu's very sensitive about talking about some subjects like his mother, getting his green card (haha, I made a funny, get it, he's green!), or the fact that he needs skin moisterizer on earth (and this makes him look sticky). When I mistakenly bring up one of these subjects he asks if we can skip the conversation. I say sure, why not. On the other hand I too have topics that make me uncomfortable. When he brings those up and I ask if we can skip them, he might acknowledge me for a minute, but within five or ten he's talking about it again.

If you haven't figured it out Sbithllu isn't a real person. In fact, there's no such thing as a reptilian and the name Sbithllu is an anagram describing my personal feelings about double standards.

I'm not a big fan of double standards and work extremely hard to avoid them. Golden rule and all that. And while it may be hard for you to believe I don't judge people when they slip up and hold me to them. No, I do my best to communicate what I see going on and get things back on a fair playing field. Why? Because it's my believe, both via psychology and personal experience, that double standards are unhealthy and make it difficult to relate to another human being. Indeed, one can never quite be sure what to expect in a relationship, what standard one will be judged by or when.

Interacting with other human beings is hard so we, as individuals and cultures, create sets of rules for appropriate conduct. When entering into a different social group than our normal one we usually apply the straight forward rule, "When in Rome". This allows us to respect and conform to the rules and customs of the group and lowers the chances of offending or hurting anyone.

In my life I have found the "When in Rome" method quite useful when making friends. I can't exactly expect someone I barely know to psychically know what my expectations, standards, or boundaries are, so it's better to err on the side of caution, try to conform to what I believe their expectations, standards, and boundaries to be. I think most of us to that naturally and subconsciously in order to make it easier to get to know someone new. Then, as we become more familiar with someone, we let them know more and more of our specific boundaries and guidelines and they do the same with us. Ideally two individuals can enjoy mutually exclusive sets of expectations, standards, and boundaries, while at the same time respecting each others.

Double standards throw a wrench in the entire process. How? First, the "When in Rome" rule goes out the window from day one. When someone is imposing a double standard they don't care what's done in Rome, they only care about what's done in Hood River, Oregon (or wherever they're from). The result is even more obvious and destructive when two people become more familiar. Expectations and boundaries are well known but the double standard guru throws them out the window and replaces them with the commandment: "Thou shalt respect my boundaries but not be blessed by them; thou shalt excuse me for doing and saying as I wish but be held to a higher standard than this. For these are the words of the Lord."

Okay, okay, that was a little dark satire, something I wrote somewhat tongue and cheek, but it does convey my honest feelings about double standards and how absolutely frustrating they can be for the person on the receiving end.

Enough on that.

So I've shared some pretty direct and difficult things tonight. In some respects it's been therapeutic, especially since I have only one or two people I can share these things with and likewise it seems like there's a cabal in Portland and Salem that, last I heard, hates my guts. And you know, if I wrote this explicitely often I'd understand why some would be frustrated or hurt or angry but to be fair for years I've more or less kept my mouth shut and haven't told anyone, here or otherwise, of some fairly negative things people have done to me or around me, things which have hurt me enormously as well as caused enormous emotional and fiscal damage. While I know I'll be critisized, even maligned, in my defense I've mostly kept my mouth shut. I don't tell a friend when my partner hits me or makes an underhanded comment about having an affair some day; I try to work it out directly with them when I'm in a place where I'm not going to overreact or say hurtful things I don't mean or might regret. I don't call my parents when I get a letter from someone they know and love just as much as I do, when that letter goes into some detail about what a terrible person I am and they are; again, I try to work with the writer directly in hopes of ending the argument or fight as I simply am not interested in going back and forth with hurtful words.

I should also say, before I conclude this entry, that I don't intend to spend much time writing about the negative underbelly of my struggles for awhile. I made a strict deadline of March 31st for myself and regardless of how I feel tomorrow I intend to stick to it. Granted, I don't foresee things magically getting better just because it's time to flip to a new page on the calendar, but I think it's important to communicate that it is possible to share some pretty negative thoughts and feelings and not be owned by them. Put another way, I'm choosing to write about these subjects because I need to, because I'm hurting in a big way and writing somewhere where one other thinking and breathing human might some day read it makes all the difference in the world, makes me feel enough a part of the human race so that I can keep going every day without deciding I'm done, stop eating, and just lay in bed.

I'm not controlled by my feelings but believe that expressing them honestly is integral to health and true understanding of oneself. Likewise, for those who will judge me for that I should add, no one forced you to read these pages. I've never expected anyone I know to read my journal entries and I've definitely never asked, much less demanded, someone make it a daily ritual (though I, like anyone else, would be flattered by it). For those few who might judge me, who I *might* have referred to in some of my entries, if you're not ready to read what I have to share, if what you read isn't beneficial or helpful to you and your life, then DON'T READ MY JOURNALS!!! It's as simple as that.

On a related note to those few who might feel angry with some of what I've felt the need to express I'd like to ask them to consider the words written or said to me within the last month or two and compare those to the things I've said here. For my part though I have been extensive in writing can it be said that I have been dishonest, unfair, or untrue? Could it be argued, undeniably, that I am judging people and not behavior? And could it be said that the things I've said are remotely comprable to the things said to me?

My opinion: nothing I've said here even remotely comes close to many of the explicitely negative and hateful things to me including but not limited to:

  1. You're a jerk!
  2. You're just like my family! (Such comparisons, I agree, can sometimes be helpful, but not when used as a character attack; hell, I don't compare anyone to any of my family members, no matter how much they might sometimes remind me of them, it's just not okay)
  3. YOu don't care about me! (I'd like to note this one is especially frustrating when there's a plethora of evidence to the contrary)
  4. You don't love me! (as with #4 this frustrates me; additionally both make me feel it's hopeless to even try loving someone especially when so many of the evidence took a great deal of time/money/energy--does it make any sense to keep trying when it's not acknowledged?)
  5. You're a selfish person! (Again, as with #4's and #5 hearing this is just frustrating. If all I've done and sacrificed leads to that conclusion, what's the point of trying anymore?)
  6. If you keep acting like this one of us will have an affair (I can't imagine anyone reacting well to this and given I've never considered having one I'm left to believe this was a Freudian slip)
  7. I hate you! (as I've stated before, with the exception of physical abuse this is, in my humble opinion, one of the most destructive things one can say to another human being)
  8. I don't want to see you again (rejection never feels good, but it's especially difficult when coming from those who I've kept my promises to, who I haven't left except for brief periods of personal healing after being told some pretty terrible things)
  9. Get over it! - Wow, I need to get this one out of paranthasees (sp?) because I'm just shocked by it. I've never been in so much physical pain in all my life. It's chronic, it's daily, and it's amazingly difficult. I've only known one person under 60 who's experience such wide spread chronic pain (though fortunately they've found a way to overcome most of it) and they've been exeptionally supportive of my struggle (something I'm enormously appreciative of!). Shockingly I've had two people, the two I'm closest to in Portland and two people I've gone out of my way to support and do things for and with EVEN when I've been having a 7+ day on the one-to-ten scale, on a few occassions tell me I somehow needed to buck up, get over it. I've even had it implied that most of it's in my head, that if I just had the "right" attitude and had the "right" lifestyle I'd suddenly start to do better, or that it's all just a result of my pain medication (to the last I simply have to say that I've had periods where I haven't been on any opiods and the pain is pretty much the same, maybe just up by a notch to two because I'm not able to control the pain with anything except over the counter medications which, frankly, don't do shit). Anyway, long and short, while I recognize that what I'm going through will and does have an effect on the lives of those who spend a significant amount of time around me, while I recognize that they have a right to express their own personal frustration with the limitations my condition imposes on their lives, it still doesn't in any way, shape, or form, make it appropriate for them to belittle, question, or insult what I'm going through. I honestly can't imagine a person saying anything more hateful to someone's who's obviously suffering, who's often in dispair, and who's scared for their very lives. IT IS FUCKING NOT OKAY!

I apologize again for my wordiness, I intended to keep the list short and sweet but as always I seem to have outdone myself. What can I say? This is pain that's now rooted deep in my heart and I need to somehow pry it out.

I was going to write and say that it's easy to say harsh things, in an argument or out, that I've refrained from going there, no matter how hurt I am...but that's not entirely true. On one occasion I have flipped out on someone in the past year and my intent was to hurt them. My reasoning? I wanted them to know what it was like being on the other side of the fence and while it wasn't in any way useful I had some sick and twisted hope that they'd say, "Wow, that sucks. I won't treat you like that anymore!" And I acknowledge that on a few occassions on IM I've gone off the handle, but in my defense a conversation was started with me before I was ready...if I would have been asked--without any expectations being linked to the question--I think I would have been able to say no, leave it at that, then patiently wait for a time where I was ready.

I am not perfect. I sometimes fuck up. But rarely, ever so rarely, do is my intent to hurt anyone. There was a day where that was my reaction to pain, but rarely, if ever, anymore, do I find myself in that space. Likewise when I do screw up I believe I have integrity, that is, I take responsibility for the things I've done and said, even going as far as not walking in expecting forgiveness. When I make an apology it's heart felt and sincere. When I fuck up I carry it in my heart for the rest of my life--though to belay your concerns this is not necessarily a negative thing. I use this knowledge of my mistakes to become a better person, to learn how to treat others better in future situations, and evolve closer and closer into the person I want to be.

It's nearly 11:30pm and I need to get up early. It's a little hard too, I have a lot more to say before the 1st, but I promised myself I'd spend a little bit of my time tonight learning to use the cartoon program I mentioned last night. Also, it's like that last cigarette just before you quit. If you're a smoker you know what I'm talking about. That last cigarette is one you suck every last bit out of. It's not like other cigarettes, you really do try to get the most out of it before going off them. Likewise I'd like to squeeze every little bit of personal reflection and healing and understanding and whatever else it is I can get out of this page.

I'd also like to say I understand it if many of the March entries have been difficult for you to read. I don't think I'd be able to read them again without some difficulty. Know, too, that they were not easy to write...it was just something I had to do.

Do you understand?

I want to close with two things.

First, today while chatting on Yahoo! Messenger my x-wife (I need to come up with something else to call her, the whole notion of that term has negative connotations but I have nothing but positive feelings for her and the friendship and support she gives me) asked me if I'd ever consider getting back with my x-girlfriend and I immediately and without hesitation answered: Yes.

Would you like to know why? Would you like to know what I'd need before that happened? Do you think there's a chance in hell it would (especially if I'm as vile a person as so many have made me out to be)? I mean, something else I've never shared here is that she broke up with me at least once a month for two years. It was her knee jerk reaction to an argument when she was feeling afraid or unsafe. Personally I feel I've had almost superhuman compassion and understanding for it. Why? Because my biggest social wound comes from a lifetime of abandonment by partners and peers. While I again recognize she has done it to protect herself it always causes me enormous psychological pain and suffering (which usually and unfortunately translates to increased physical pain) and yet up to two weeks ago I never responded by looking her in the face and say, "I'd be an idiot if I kept ignorning the obvious. You obviously don't want to be with me. I'm just going to leave now. Goodbye." Nope, I chose the route of compassion and understanding (even if that took a few days to work it out in a way I could adquately communicate in a civil conversation). And yet even when she's done it, even while it hurt me, I understand that she's not completely in control of her actions when she's upset, that's she's blinded by her pain and unable to regulate her behavior towards me.

I understand and empathize with that. I feel I've been extraordinarily patient regarding it too.

If only her innermost child could recognize, even in the most difficult of conversations, that I love her with all my heart, that I always do, no matter how I'm feeling or how she's treated me, and that I always do. If only she could have seen that I took space not to hurt, inflict damage, run away, or gain control (as many might) but instead to take care of myself. I don't like hurting people so when I'm angry I prefer going for a walk, grumbling under my breath, and spitting at trees--and I've done things similar enough to that before. My preference is to express my anger in a way that hurts no one and maybe you only get to that place after you've allowed your anger too hurt too many too many times.

I wished she could have trusted me. I wish she could have recognized just how patient I was, how I used to be the kind of person who quickly jumped to conclusions and went well out of his way to get in other people's faces...but while there are still echos of that person, it's not who I am anymore. I want to listen. I want to adapt. I want to care. Sure, I don't ask a lot of quesetions, I don't show the same fascial expressions she counts on from her friends, but I listen and I listen and I listen, in my own imperfect way, and damnit, no matter how badly I'm treated (fuck up or not) I care!

And nobody can take that from me!!!

Even when I'm hurt. Even when I've realized the only thing I can do to insure my boundaries are respected are to leave the room, leave the apartment, or when I feel no others options have been left to me, leave the relationship.

I got tired of the suffering every time she left me. I got tired of being accused of rejecting her when I took the space I needed to heal from the wounds of our fights, but never once said, "I'm done with you, I hate you, and don't ever call me again." Indeed, for all my failings leaving with the belief and hope in my heart that we would return to each other to resolve things when we were in a better space, that was always there in my heart, waiting to be recognized for what it was.

The answer is yes. And maybe she's open to that. I wouldn't know.

She wrote me a letter.

I've been too frightened to read it. I've never been that frightened of the truth before. I don't want to know what it is. I can't handle it. Not emotionally. Not physically. I don't want to be rejected again. I don't want to hear "I love you but..." again. I don't want to hear "lets just be friends..." again. I don't want to hear, "You're a good person and will some day meet someone who loves you better, I'm just not that person..." again. I'm tired of hearing the same old "well intended" words that always conclude with me alone, licking my wounds for months or even years, before I know I'm ready to start another relationship with a relatively healed heart and soul. And though there are those who believe I don't listen, I put so much more time and energy into trying to understand, hear, and empathize with others, whether I agree with them or not--and I just don't have the energy anymore to do that, to read a letter, to recognize another point of view as being equally as valid as my own--and yet finding that I'm alone, I'm hurt, and I'm looking back at another 3 months, 6 months, or 2 years, thinking wow, did I really give so much only to be drop kicked like a pet who started peeing in the carpet? Am I truly that universally unlovable, worthless, and unwanted?

In all my relationships I've found one thing to be true: Everyone has their reasons and while their reasons generally differ (usually as a function of their respective hopes and fears) that last letter is nearly always the same one...and my soul cannot take another and after nearly a week that fact continues to shock and upset me.

I have never been at a place like this before and I don't know where it ends or if it does end. I'm just tired and need something better. I don't know how I could do this for a year, much less the rest of this life.

That said, here are my suggestions, my needs, though I guess more than anything this list represents what's left of my hope (and that aint much, folks): Poetry. Some flowers. An apology. An admittance of responsibility for personal wounds. A solid commitment to work on them. A sincere promise to find some other mechanism to deal with fear besides saying hateful things and breaking up. I don't care what it is, just that it's something. And last but not least I need a commitment. I want to get married and start a family. How and where and when we do that is subject to debate, but I need someting we can look forward to together because it is something that's importat to me. And maybe that's really why things didn't work out: I want a marriage with kids while she may simply never be ready to settle down.

Sorry...doing a few last minute edits on these sleepy pills...so doing my best to keep the words from falling off the paience

I don't even know why I'm sharing that here. I don't expect her to read this. Hell, she's even said she won't be reading my entries. That makes two people who won't. Just one more thing that hurts. Never expected anyone not too, but it hurts when people go out of their way to say, "I'm not going to listen to what you have to say." That's a pretty hard thing to hear someone say to you and something I haven't said to her until I got that letter last week in the mail. I listen to others as best as I'm able because I want the same in return; I have only said no a few times in my life and things have really had to get pretty bad before I reach that point.

To close I'd like to share some lyrics from a song titled Longest Days by John Mellencamp which I couldn't help but feel connected to today while listening to an interview with him on Fresh Air with Teri Gross. These aren't the most positive lyrics but they're honest and they're what I need to hear right now:

But nothing lasts forever
Your best efforts don't always pay
Sometimes you get sick
And don't get better
That's when life is short
Even in its longest days
No good deed goes unpunished.

Farewell and goodnight,

P.S. I'm done. If you want to know anything else about the specific struggles I'm experiencing you'll need to ask. If you do so politely and civily and it's appropriate for me to answer your questions I'll do so as honestly and articulately as I'm able. Expect between one and two weeks for an answer; while I've been able to simply write what's in my heart and soul in my Reflections this month I HAVE NOT had an easy times writing letters (in large part due to the fear that I will not be heard and/or everything I say, however well meant or carefully worded, will be thrown back in my face).


Monday March 30th, 2009

I'm not exactly sure why but Saturday while at Fry's, my favourite geek store, I purchased a software program called Manga Studio. No, I really don't know why I made the purchase as I don't draw anymore, nope, I stopped drawing after the 7th grade when I decided I'd had enough of art, was fed up, done, finito, no more man.
Before I'd made the decision to grab the program I had decided, for some bizarre reason which I'm still at a loss to figure out, to purchase a drawing pad. You know what I'm talking about, don't you, one of those pads and pens you can connect to the computer to write, draw, manipulate photographs, etc. (basically a pen replaces the mouse--though both can be used at the same time, for the truly ambidextrous at least). The decision to get the drawing pad was simple: I'd like to focus more of my energy on my photography and needed a tool that would allow me to edit photos more easily. That decision made I spent a few minutes talking with a Fry's associate who'd taken some digital art classes and was familiar with the differnt pads (I ended up getting a different one than he suggested because I wanted something smaller, especially to start out, and likewise didn't feel like spending $200 on a technology I didn't know how often I'd use). Then, while browsing the software (mainly to price a copy of Partition Magic; I'd like to make my laptop dual booting, i.e. install both Windows Vista and Ubuntu Linux Operating Systems on the same machine), I found myself staring at the sulty body of an Anime drawing. Picked up the box and looking it over realized that it provides the ability to do something I've wanted to learn how to do for years, that is, draw cartoons. Sure, I could draw, but I've never had the tools to set up the pages, story boards, panes, and whatever else the cartoonist tools and methods are (but I do, thanks to Chasing Amy, know what inkers and tracers are, lol!).
So I purchased the software and spent a large portion of my night last night learning how to use it--okay, perhaps "learning" is a stretch, I jumped in without any manual or help files and overall I'd say my knowledge of the software is nearly nill, yet I was able to produce a few decent drawings, only one of which I saved. I'm not sure what I was going after and indeed, I would have liked to have added colour and texture but I haven't figured out how to (correctly) do that, so the picture posted with this entry represents my first legitimate cartoon in some years. I'm also not sure what those two creatures behind the sign are, but after some reflection I decide they're my first visual depiction of Green Pygmies. With any luck you'll be seeing more of them in the future...although you should know it's not bloody likely.
You see, while growing up I didn't have many toys, at least compared to my peers, nor did I have anyone to play with besides my brother (we lived five miles from town and rarely lived next to anyone close to our age). Solution? Use what you have and I had plenty of pencils and paper. So it wasn't uncommon for me to spend my free time drawing, doodling, and what have you. For example, when I was in grade school I really wanted Garfield posters for my room but my parents, my dad, didn't want to spend money on that; to fulfill my desire I'd put aside an hour or two, examine a small copy of the poster I wanted, grab my large sheets of art paper and pencils, and begin to carefully, oh so carefully, create a personalized copy. My peers were in awe of my skill and though I have always been critical of my artistic abilities looking back I can now see I had a gift many of my peers envied, and yet back then I would have gladly traded it for $4.99 so I could order the real deal!
(One of my favourite Heinlein quotations is, "Keep your children short on pocket change and long on hugs." This personal story is one of many I have where my parents' frugality had an incredibly positive effect on my mental, emotional, and artistic development. I may be repeating the quote but I do so because I'm not and may never have a child of my own and if you're a parent, if you have the opportunity to make a difference in the development of a young human being then listen, please listen, and take these words to heart: shower your children with love but do not poison them with stuff!!!)
Anyway, long and short of it was I had a talent, a gift, and though my parents didn't buy me much in terms of hobbies and interests (outside of Christmas and Birthdays) my mom always made sure I had art paper, pencils, erasers, and the like. Additionally, around 6th grade they enrolled me in a private art class taught by a friend of theirs in her basement studio. It was there, with three or four other kids, that I began to learn more seriously about sketching as an art form. It was the beginning of the end.
In 7th grade I took the art class because, well, I'd always taken the art classes. What I didn't know was that by the end of the year I'd be fed up with art. In fact, it wasn't art I was sick of, it was the pressure my parents put on me to grow up and become an artist. I didn't want to become an artist. I wanted to be a lawyer or a psychologist or a computer programmer or any of a number of other things; I did not want to become an artist! I was angry with my parents. Why didn't they encourage me to do things I wanted to do with my life? Why did they keep encouraging me to make an occupation (and not even a good one, at that) out of something I only wanted to engage in as a hobby? For example, since seeing the first Apple IIe computer entering my grade school I was absolutely fascinated with these machines that could do amazing, almost magical things. I loved Apples! I loved how they looked, I love the feel of their keyboards under my fingers, and I loved the green text on those little black screens. I would have done extra chores for a year if they would have saved up and bought one; I wanted so badly to look under the hood of the machine and spend my free time discovering all the magic contained within.
Sidenote: Fortunately I was lucky, after a fashion. My mom worked in the English department of the high school so after school got out I could spend the time I was waiting to go home with them there on the Apple II's and on the weekends they were allowed to take a computer home to do grades and such--though to be honest I often ended up being the only consumer of the machine. On the down side, while I had access to the machines I didn't have anyone to teach me nor books--or an internet!--to learn from. Nearly everything I learned during my first three or four years programming was either purely by accident or the result of reading through someone else's source code, as long as the code wasn't terribly much more complex than what I could understand at the time. The other down side (I didn't know any better at the time), the only compiler I had was the AppleSoft Basic compiler which is built into the BIOS of all AppleII computers; being an "interpreted language" I never had the benefit of compiling any of my programs and thus distributing them to anyone without having to likewise distribute the source code.
My parents' inability to hear me and respond to my needs/desires eventually poisoined my love for art. Well, that and I don't feel I ever had a "good enough" teacher. What I needed at the time was a teacher who would get me to relax. I wanted to draw everything as realistically as possible (though I didn't know it at the time I loved Realism) and though I could come closer than my peers my art didn't come close to what I demanded of myself. I wanted my pictures to be the sketched equivalent of photographs. And when our class painted murals for the hallways (murals which are, by the way, still up and enjoyed by the present staff as well as new generations of children) I remember getting irate with kids who couldn't even trace the lines of the pictures being projected onto the canvas. Jesus Christ, what was their damn problem? Couldn't they trace?! And when it came time to paint I became doubly infuriated. They wanted to what?!? To use all manner of bizarre colours that didn't match the horse or the sky or whatever it is they had decided to add to the murals?
Okay, I admit I could at times be a judgemental prick (though I typically kept it to myself) but before you judge me out of hand I challenge you to grow up an exceptionally smart and gifted kid who picks up most things (besides socializing, which especially at that age is full of games, backhanded communication, and ethically questionable BULLSHIT) easily. But that's besides the point. The point is I was tired of drawing. I wanted to program computers. I wanted to play a french horn that didn't look like it had been run over by a train (you ever see that episode of M*A*S*H where Charlse Winchester the III plays his french horn and they get so tired of it they run the thing over with a jeep? The bell of the horn I played up to and including my junior year looked like the horn from M*A*S*H had been bent back into a shape well enough to be playable again--and it embarrassed me to no length every time I had to play it in public or, worse yet, join a bunch of strangers in Bend for a couple of days to play in the honor band or whatever it was called).
I haven't drawn much since middle school. A little here, a little there. Usually, if you do catch me doing something artistic, I'm either editing a photograph on my computer or, even more rarely, attempting to learn to oil paint (I bought a set which I plan to use more frequently once I finish the art room/den; my goal is to finish the room this summer and while this may seem to be a lazy plan I'd ask that you consider my physical condition). So picking up that cartooning software package was a bit out of the ordinary. My first thought was I was throwing money down the drain. But who knows? As I'd hoped I enjoy drawing with the computer much more than I do on paper and once I get a feel for the pen/pad as well as feel comfortable using all the features of the program I can see myself making a short cartoon here and there, maybe writing some political cartoons, and if I really begin to feel good about it I may consider writing a "graphic novel" and submitting it to DC or Marvel; I know, I know, that's a long shot but then again I have nothing to loose and gotta do something to keep my mind off of my miserable shit hole of a life which will, for all I know, come to a premature end later this year as my body crumbles from the stress of life, the loneliness of life, and whatever stupid physical condition I continue to struggle with.
And so here it is, my first cartoon in a bazillion years, two Green Pygmies standing by a sign on a path to freakin' nowhere (oh, or a laundry matt).
P.S. If you'd like to hire me for my professional art skills my going rate is $150 per hour or $25 per picture.
P.P.S. Did you really believe that load of felgercarb?

Sunday March 29th, 2009

Well shit.
Yesterday's journal entry was cut short by a moody desire to go run some errands, do some arguably unnecessary shopping. I had quite a few memories I wanted to share, memories of a better time, but I didn't get home until around 10pm and writing was the last thing on my mind. I apologize. That said, I didn't get around to publishing Saturday's entry until late this afternoon so if you haven't read it don't forget to head on down and get your latest and greatest Aslynn fix (that' an attempt at reverse self-depricating humor or some such thing--if you're not getting it, don't ask).
Slept in until about 1pm Saturday and Sunday. I guess my body needed the extra sleep. I guess my emotional body was on the same page as well. Sleeping in, for those of you who understand sleep cycles, encourages longer periods of Alpha waves, or dreaming, so I had more than my share of strange and bizzare dreams. Yesterday I was on a plane to Australia, a bizzarre theme that comes up in my mind from time to time. Today I had a ton of dreams with my grandfather, who died when I was about eight. I don't recall any of the specifics, only that I realized, time and time again, that he was supposed to be dead. I even asked him at one point what the hell he was doing around and he just smiled at me knowingly.
I sure hope that isn't some kind of psychic foreshadowing. Yikes.
Overall, besides the dishes and two loads of laundry, I didn't get anything done this weekend. What have I been doing otherwise? Not much, really. Wrote a few e-mails. Returned a call to my parents. Installed the latest antivirus software on all my computers. Watched a PBS documentary about obesity and a Terry Gilliam film called "Tideland" (or some such thing)--is it just me or does his directing style say, "Wow, that was some really strong LCD?!" Hmmm, lets see. Ate some not so healthy food, like donuts today, and healthy food, like apples and bananas. Petted the cats a little. Really, an eventless weekend which I suppose is a good thing as the last thing I could handle right now is another snippet of bad news or some unwanted drama except that which is already accounted for inside my heart and mind.
Any thoughts for the weekend?
I'm dissapointed where we are as a race. Not sure how to explain that one except to say that we're an irrational lot, we'd do much better to examine our problems in a rational fashion then use science, common sense, and past experience/data to move forward--but we don't. For example, I've known for some time that putting prisoners in solitary confinement for too long causes them to loose their minds but we somehow continue to enforce this inhuman punishment on people anyway. So today while listening to NPR I heard a guy recound studies that demonstrate that people put into solitary for for than a couple of minds more or less go insane, become more aggressive, and so on and so forth. The scientific data clearly demonstrates this and many of the people who run prisons would like to put an end to it because they have to clean up the messes but when they try to abolish this outdated punishment the public, elected officials, etc., come down on them hard usually forcing them to reinstate the punishment though in the long term it has a negative effect on the prisoner, the prison culture, and eventually society (when the prisoner is released in a worse state than he/she was when going in!).
Man, as a species we're pretty damn stupid!
Alright, so if I've got an issue with how we make decisions as a species don't I have an obligation to get my butt out there and do something about it? In many ways I think yes...but I've been wondering, is it possible to make a positive change or will it be the fact no matter how big of an impact we make the larger picture will always be defined by those in real power, those with money, those with political capital, those with armies at their disposal? After reading that book, Evil Genes, I really started to wonder if those who make the biggest impacts are largly those with Narcisistic disorders, those who manage to get on top by stepping on the hearts and minds of others. Don't see to many compassionate, simple, quiet, thoughtful, and compassionate people in power, do you? Yeah, yeah, I hear you saying the Dalai Lama is, but if you're going to make that argument I'd ask that you consider that he has power because he was born into it so in many ways he doesn't count--though if you perform an objective study of his life through the years you would recognize he could be described as having a bit of an ego (it would be incorrect to suggest his desire to free Tibet is purely selfless).
What else have I been thinking about?
Heard a song on A Prarie Home Companion today. Would never have connected with it in the past but did today. It was a song about growing old. Wow, the words just cut me in half, really struck a cord of sorrow in my heard. Damnit, Garrison Keiler, don't you have better things to do than to mess with my fragile little heart! Oh man, if you weren't a Lutheran I'd...
Well, like it or not tomorrow is Monday so I need to buck up and get back in gear. Not looking forward to the week. The stuff I've been working on for the last few weeks...I'm behind and some of it just isn't the working the way it has in the past and it's got me close to pulling out my hair. Really frustrated. Also, gotta take the car in to get the winter tires switched (oh, do I just love getting those heavy tires into the car then back into the house!) and get my butt in gear, start and finish up the taxes before the date the IRS comes after me (and given I can't seem to keep up with anything lately I have to keep reminding myself, "Okay, remember, this week you need to go through your files, organize them, pull out the tax relevant receipts, install TurboTax, and get the returns rolling!!!).
I don't have much else to say. I should goto bed.
P.S. My web cam is back up and running. Nothing exciting to see, just me, probably with my hair uncombed and my face unshaved, but it's there for those of you who want to see the crazy nut ball behind these words. Waaa.

Saturday March 28th, 2009

A little over a week ago, last Friday night to be exact, my partner and I went to the Baghdad theatre in SE Portland, Oregon to watch the season finale (and indeed the series finale) two hour episode of Battlestar Galactica. If you're new to BSG do not be afraid, I will not give any spoilers, at least none that will give away too much.
For those of you who believe in synchronicity what I have to share, while it may prove unique, won't be terribly surprising. For those of you who don't, I respect your point of view however it is not germain, after all, it's my subjective perspective of my own story which defines my story, not anothers'. That said...
I admit it's strange, these last several months. I've been living my life, managing my pain, going through the various ups and downs, then Friday would come and I'd watch that week's episode of Battlestar and boom, I'd notice something odd, the story line, when translated into metaphors matched the same exact metaphors from my own life for that same week. For example, in one episode there's a split in the fleet causing one half to go against the other half and in the end a character I've had a great deal respect for, a character I always viewed as a person of honor an integrity, takes the side of those choosing fear and bigotry. His pain twists his soul against himself, causing him to make choices he never would have made earlier in the series and the end result is his demise. At the same time I was experiencing a similar feeling in my own life, that the part of me I consider to be about honor and integrity were undergoing an almost spiritual battle against the pain and fear I was feeling and then boom, the pain became so bad I went to the ER a second time.
I know, I know, that doesn't seem like much and truth is, one of the reasons we're attracted to certain TV shows is due to our ability to empathize with the characters. If we can't empathize with any characters in a program we tend to immediately dismiss the show as bad or stupid when more often that not if we take the time to watch the program anyway we'd find the reason we aren't hooked in is we have nothing in common with the characters; we'd have to come to the conclusion that the reason the program is successful (i.e. hasn't been canceled) is that there are enough people out there watching who do empathize, who do "get it", at least enough to keep it on the air. But this is more than simple empathy. This bizarre sense of "that episode describes the direction of my life over the past week" has been consistent and unavoidable for the last ten or more episodes. The similarities have been uncanny.
So we come to the finale which is split into two parts, two hours. The theme of the first could be summarized as humanities last ditch attempt at victory against a highly superior foe. The theme of the second is new beginnings.
I went in thinking ok, I'm pretty sad that the series is ending but I'm excited to see how the writers have decided to wrap it up. I'm also thinking ok, is the path my life is on going to somehow magically be tied to these episodes? So I watched with this in mind yet while I was sitting there sampling those addictive McMinniman's cajun tater tots I couldn't quite work it out, how did their last struggle and their second chance at a new life have anything to do with me? Without giving anything away (to those still watching the series via Netflicks, Amazon Unbox downloads, or whatever the case may be) it took a day or two, but everything became pretty clear.
The first episode was a lot like me going to the theatre with my partner who seemed like something was troubling them but every time I tried to show my support they said no, they were just moody, so I decided to just be there, do the best I could, which was enjoy the show. This is similar to how a significant number of the Galactica crew decided they needed to do something right, just do it, even if all around them things might seem to be going to hell; indeed, the reason to watch the finale, the reason the crew decided to go on a suicide mission, was because it was the right thing to do, because I needed to do something representative of hope and life and not giving up even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
As I mentioned the second episode was about new beginnings. I've watched the episode a couple of times since last Friday and every time brings tears to my eyes. It is an equally happy and equally sad story. For some characters it turns out for a chance to begin anew. For other characters it's also representative of significant loss; yes, they get to start out from scratch but for various reasons they're forced to do it on their own.
I empathize with most of the characters on the program; there are very few that I do not. Yet there's one that I've connected with the most every since the first episode, that 4 hour miniseries from years and years back. I won't tell you who, that'll make it more interesting if you ever decide to give the show a chance, but I'll just say that if I were thrust into the BSG universe I could easily see myself standing in the shoes of this person, struggling with the same things they do socially, ethically, and otherwise. Here's the only clue I'm giving you: I can truly relate to this character's need to always do the "right" thing even if it isn't always the "correct" thing (as other characters have sometimes informed them). I can also relate this this character's loneliness, the reality that no matter what they do or how sure they are of what they want, they always seem to end up a) in unpredictable relationships with partners who are just there for the ride, b) in reasonably secure relationships with partners they sincerely love but still feel alone with, or c) absolutely and undeniably alone (and not just in terms of romantic relationships but also in terms of familial relationships and close friendships).
So when I see this character standing out on the field, telling their closest friend, what they intend to do with their future, I sit in awe, hearing them say things nearly identical to dreams I've had. And when they find themselves completely alone, talking to the wind, I am hit with a sense of absolute synchronicity with this character. I feel exactly the same way. I feel like every time I get close to someone, every time I begin to tell them what my dreams are, when I'm standing on land that would support those dreams, poof, I suddenly find myself alone again, alone and talking to myself, and I look around. Where did you go? What's going on? Why the frack is it every time I start to believe my dreams might just come true, why the frack is it the moment I begin sharing that with someone, I'm unmistakably alone again? Why?! I look around and around and around and then...
And then I realize I really am alone.
When you're alone your dreams change. Yeah, you can build the house you dream of. Yeah, you can grow the crops that will sustain you. Yeah, you can sit out on the porch and enjoy the sunsets. But you'll be doing that alone, buddy, so get used to it. And while you can do a lot without the support and companionship of others there are some you simply can't. You can't enjoy a close conversation with someone you'll spoon every night before falling blissfully asleep. You can't start a family, you can't raise children. You can't watch them as you grow old together and you can't rely on that amazingly wonderful reality that there will always be someone there at your back. Nope, your life has been limited to do what you can with what you have, do it on your own, and grow into one of those old folks who is polite and helpful to those around them, who enjoys helping others and is willing and able to do more than most would. Why? Because they're not spending their time babysitting the grand kids. There are a lot of older people who live this life, some out of choice, some because they could not stop the aging process and ended up passing the point of no return. I am on the verge of the point of no return. It is not the future I want. It is not the future I would choose. And frankly, it's not a future I look forward to.
I have no desire to walk the path towards my dreams alone and in some respects I would rather die...except I must do the "right" thing even if it does not feel like the "correct" thing.
Frack me.
I cried in the shower this afternoon. I don't cry that often, but over the course of 2009 I've experienced sorrows so great I have not been able to hold the tears in. What's pushed me over the edge is a sense of hopelessness regarding my life, my future, and my health. And sometimes, when I'm least expecting it, memories of my childhood overwhelm me, memories of Act I take over my conscious mind and it is at these moments I would do anything to flip a switch, become three again, and start all over, but it's not within the realm of possibility so I do the only thing left to me: I cry.
On May 18th, 1980, Mount Saint Helens erupted. My family and I went to the high school football game that weekend. Though I had never understood why people liked watching sports, especially on TV, I loved going to the game. We sat on the wooden bleachers, watched the game, then at half time the marching band would come out and play. Everyone around me cheered. It was exiting. I loved the marching band uniforms and even the silly hats they wore and I knew one day I'd get to be the one out there, I'd get to play an instrument and march in step to the rhymth, boom, boom, boom, I'd get to be part of something so well organized, contributing to something of obvious skill. We always went to see her play and this night in particular was memorable because it was dark and the electric lights around the field highlighted the ash floating through the air like a spring snow. We were 150 miles from the eruption and yet we were part of this historic event and it was wild, exciting, and beautiful. I would have been in kindergarten back then which would have put my sister in about seventh grade. Did the seventh graders march? Maybe they didn't. If not, why did we go to the game, we never went to watch the football game, we went to watch my sister. Perhaps I'm mixing two memories together like a tasty fruit smoothy; regardless I remember that night, I remember the snowy ash, and I remember the awe: A mountain has erupted and I was part of it.
I remember getting up on cold winter mornings. The house was cold so I'd jump out of bed, turn the electric heater on the wall on, and get dressed. I knew dad would get mad if he caught me using the heater, all that wasted electricity used up just so I didn't freeze my balls off, but I did anyway. And I loved that heater, the incredible warmth of it. Then I'd go to the kitchen and my mom would serve breakfast. Eggs and bacon or pancakes or waffles or porage. Sometimes we drank tang and sometimes it was real orange juice (my brother and dad liked tang, mom and me didn't though). Then I'd grab my backpack, toss it by the door, and stand on the rocks right next to the wood stove in the living room, oh, I love warming my butt and legs by that thing. The clock would click, click, click, and then it was time for my brother, sister, and I, to head down the gravel drive way, stand by the aluminum mail box and a juniper tree, and wait for the bus. We'd shiver and chat and maybe play a game. The bus would come and being one of the first stops on our rural route we got our pick of seats. I'd always take the fourth or fifth seat towards the back, either side would do. It was just over the wheel well and that's where the heater openning was. I'd stick my feet in the outlet, get some warm air on my feet at least, then I'd look out the window and daydream that I was a star ship captain or I'd imagine I could fly over the fields right towards school and other the other kids would see me flying and go, "Wow, look at that, he can fly!" The bus would stop and go, stop and go, until it was full, all kids who like me, were growing up in the country. Then we'd be dropped off outside the grade school, on the side near the gym. Sometimes I'd find my friends and play but if it was really cold I'd stand on the steps to the library waiting for the school to open up; yeah, in those days they didn't open the doors until the first bell rang and us kids would just have to tough out the cold and I'm glad we did, it gave us strength and patience. I remember one time getting off the bus and finding two quarters by a tree there, they must have been someone's lunch or milk money, and I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world!
Life was so simple. Though I knew the world was a troubled place, that any day Russia and the United States might nuke each other into oblivion, all I cared about was where I was at and what I was doing. I looked forward to the bell ringing, it being the announcement that it was time to go to another class or lunch or get to the bus. I especially enjoyed the fire drills, how loud that bell was, how the class would walk out and line up outside and wait and wait and wait for the alarm to get shut off. I remember lunch, sitting at those long tables. My mom usually made my brother and I cold lunches which we took in our lunch pails (one of which, covered with Peanuts cartoons, I still have); every day the same thing, a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich, a handful of vegetables, and a quarter to buy a small carton of half frozen milk. The day I looked most forward to was the one day a week we'd get to have hot lunch. My brother and I would bring home the lunch menus and mark off the days we wanted money for hot lunch. I always choose either fish and chips day or pizza and I seem to recall my brother liking chicken day (oh God I hated their chicken, it was usually baked and slimy--I guess I was picky, I only liked really crunchy fried chicken and then would only eat the drumsticks!). I had this weird habit of sitting at one of the tables, eat my lunch, and I'd shake my right leg, I don't know why, but I just wanted to see how fast I could shake it. Guess I was a little weirdo but then I liked just being me (and now, of course, I'm a big weirdo!). Oh, and I had a huge crush on a girl named Elena, wow, I thought she was soooo beautiful! In fact I had a crush on her for years and in fourth grade I finally admitted it--well sort of. Do you remember Valentine's day, how everyone was expected to give everyone in their class a Valentine's day card? Yeah, that, I always loved picking out the cards, then writing some message to every kid in the class, a lot of kids I was usually too shy to say anything too, and I wrote her a card signed "Your secret admirrer" and I think I wrote a poem. I remember writing it too, I was sitting in my room trying to work out how I could say something nice that might get her attention but be abstract enough to allow me wiggle room if I were feeling too shy. Oh, I could be such a weirdo sometimes. In the end she and her friends figured out who had written it and, as is the custom at that age, her friends all came over to me and asked but like a huge chicken I denied having anything to do with it, I "knew" she'd reject me anyway (though looking back I wonder if it might have turned out differently if I had just had the confidence to say, "Yeah, it's me, I think Elena is georgous and I want to go steady with her!").
Ah, childhood crushes, how I miss their simplicity! Having girl to go steady with was wonderful, someone to share ones deepest feelings and interests, someone to look forward to playing with on the playground. Sex and all the bullshit that comes with it wasn't an issue back then, it was enough to hold hands and oh, what a wonderful thing that was! Or maybe, just maybe, we'd kiss, and though it was only a peck, that little peck would keep me in a state of joy for the rest of the day. And I suppose I was a little advanced for my age, I always had someone I had a crush on and though I never thought I was all that attractive (and wasn't treated like I was) I had at least one girlfriend a year, even if it only lasted a week or two. Even in kindergarten, if you believe it or not--though that was admittedly a really strange relationship. This girl, and I don't recall the relationship, would want to play house with me, pretend we were married, and give me lots of kisses but at that age boys were scared to death of kisses so, like any other boy, I'd run away and it became a game of cat and mouse for her; ironically when I made best friends with another kid in second grade who had the same birthday as me he'd "dated" the same exact girl for a little bit in 1st grade and she'd acted out the same roles with him! Lets see, first and second grade I was single with silent crushes, third grade I had a crush on a petite blonde girl who I just thought was the bomb and I dated several girls. One of them was named Tonya and she was quite physically "advanced" for her age, if you catch my meaning; I actually dated her again in sixth grade but that's another story. In fourth grade I went out with a girl who, while I thought was great, the thing I liked most about her was that her best friend was Elena. We used to play a lot on the swings during recess and I remember how Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, had just come out, how it was the big thing, and I started wearing a black leather glove over my left hand, just like Luke Skywalker after he'd had his hand light sabered off my Darth Vader, so she started wearing her hair up in buns like Princess Laia. OMG, it was true love, lol! Then one day she played a mind game most kids (and immature adults) do at some point, she asked if I liked her or her friend better, and since I'm the kind of idiot who does the "right" thing rather than the "correct" thing I told her the truth and boom, just like that the relationship was over and I was shocked and kept trying to ask, "Why are you breaking up with me? I told you the truth! Wouldn't you rather go out with someone who's honest, who turns the hard six, who's willing to fess up when it's easier just to lie? Don't you want an honest boyfriend?" It's no surprise that didn't work; most kids simply didn't see things the way I did/do. I'm a truth junkie, I've almost always chosen to do the right thing even when it gets me into trouble, even when it's meant I end up playing on the monkey bars by myself.
I loved the playground. One of my best friends growing up and I loved a lot of the same science ficion, including Doctor Who, so we used to play on this one thing made of pipes, about ten feet tall, and we'd pretend it was the Tardis, from Dr. Who, or it was a rocket ship, or whatever the case it became a futuristic device and once we got off we'd landed in some strange world and all the other kids were aliens who'd we have to interact with. Then there were the large tractor tires and I'd get on top of them and jump from one to another (they were eventually removed from the playground due to kids getting in the tires then peeing in them, believe it or not). The swings were always fun for awhile, I'd try to see how high I could go and would imagine getting so much energy into my swing that I'd flip over the top and start going in full circles. There were tall poles, maybe forty or fifty feet into the air, like firefighter poles, that I'd climb, get to the top, ring a bell that was up there, then come back down as fast as I safely could. Of course there were areas to play baseball or kickball but I rarely did, I wasn't very good so they'd never ask me to join them (even when my "best" friends were playing, fucking snobs!). Basketball was always a good fallback. I didn't like playing with other people or one against one, but I did enjoy making shots and get pretty into it, so much so that while chasing the ball once I ripped the knuckle of my left middle finger wide open (the scare is barely distinguishable today). I loved smacking kick balls against the 3rd through 5th grade building, but got into major trouble with the teachers for it (sent to the office at least once, something that scared me shitless back then because 1) I was frightened of authority figures and 2) my parents were teachers thus were in frequent communication with mine, if I fucked up they'd know about it immiately and I'd be punished a second time once I got home! Needless to say I didn't get in trouble often!!!). Lets see, what else?
Oh yeah, sometimes kids would bring action figures to school, usually of the Star Wars genre. We weren't allowed to bring much so no one brought the bigger toys like the Millenium Falcon, but we all brought the characters and ran them all over the monkey bars and such. My god was that fun! Sadly, I once borrowed my brother's Lando Calrisian figure in forth or fifth grade and my best friend at the time, Tim, thought it would be fun to drop him down one of the seven foot vertical pipes one of the monkey bar things was supported by and to this day Lando has been stuck there, imprisoned for all time in a metal pipe! Shall I admit an adult fantasy of mine? Sometimes, when I drive by that playground and see those monkey bars, I fantasize about going back in the dark of night with a hack saw and freeing Lando from his imprisonment, taking him back to my brother, and saying, "Here, I'm sorry to have lost Lando, but here he is!" I would call it Mission Calerisian! Shall I admit something else? I've seriously considered doing this but have decided not and only for two reasons: 1) the jungle gym thingy is right next to the main drag in town and cops are always going up and down that road so I'd probably be spotted well before I could saw through the damn thing and 2) these days they most likely have cameras watching the playground and last thing I need is to end up before a judge who's looking at a video of me dressed like a ninja with a hack saw trying to explain how it makes any sense for a grown adult to vandalize a playground simply to get a 20 year old action figure that's probably nothing more than a glob of weathered down plastic. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, probably get myself committed. But then I think everyone has a few wild and wacky things they want to do in their lifetime, things no one else would ever understanding, at least in a rational sense of the term, yet things we'd like to do anyway and fuck the rest of the world, we get it and that's all that matters.
Be patient, Lando, you will see the sun again! hehe

Friday March 27th, 2009

I used to look forward to weekends just as much as anyone else. The weekend as a time to get out, hang out with friends, ride my motorcycle, play, or just catch up on the house work. The weekend represented freedom, the weekend represented an opportunity for wild abandon, and weekends were something to look forward to. Yeah, Saturday, woohoo Sunday! I haven't had this outlook on weekend for...well, about five or six months now. Wait, wait, before you jump to the incorrect conclusion that I'm addicted to my job, allow me to explain.
I never know if tomorrow will be a "good" day or a "bad" day.
I'll start with describing a bad day to get that out of the way. A bad day is a day where I wake up in pain (often having spent the night tossing and turning from back pain), it's a day where my joints pop more than normal and where my pain makes me want to spend most of my time sitting or lying down, and it's a day where I feel fuzzy headed, unmotivated, even slightly but unexplainably depressed. A really bad day is one where I've considering going to the Emergency Room or had to call my primary care physician at least once. On a really, really bad day I'm in the ER.
A good day, on the other hand, are all the other days. On a good day I'm able to wake up at a reasonable time and get to sleep without arm wrestling insomnia. A good day is one where I have ankle, knee, and back pain, but it's minimal enough that I don't think about it most of the time and likewise it doesn't stop me from doing anything I want to do (such as finish a woodworking project or ride my motorcycle) or need to (such as dishes or lawn work). Yes, I am in significantly more pain than most people are, on average, but I've had to learn to accept that as a fact of life, my life. I suffer from chronic pain. I may suffer from it for the rest of my life, it may continue to progress, and I may need to manage it for thirty or forty years, however long it is until I kick the bucket. Until then a "good" day is a day I can manage the pain while functioning in a reasonably "normal" fashion.
Since November I've had to readjust my standards. The level of pain I used to throw in the good day category is no longer a regular reality. For example, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most pain I've ever had in my life, I used to experience between 3 to 4 on most days so that became my good day. These days my average daily pain is a 4 to 7 on that scale so a "good" day is not quite the same as it was six months ago, especially not what it was a year and a month or two back. In order to maintain my sanity I've had to do a little mental gymnastics, readjust how I view things, so my "normal" day is closer to the good side of the scale. Yeah, I admit this is artificial, a subjective decision with no truly quantitative underpinnings, but it makes me feel better. I allows me to frequently have days where I'm at a 5, 6, or 7, without snapping, quitting my job, then getting on my motorcycle and leave without telling anyone and never come back (the fantasy, which is admittedly bleak and somewhat silly, has me taking all my money out of the bank then just riding and riding until I'm all spent out, then camping out in some forest in the Rocky Mountains until I either starve or freeze to death).
Today is a "good" day. My level of pain has consistently been a 7. When I make major bodily movements, like standing up from a desk or walking, my joints pop like there's no tomorrow; I even have new pops in joints that weren't popping five or six months back. My left knee feels like the underside of the kneecap was burned by a blow torch a week ago and is in the slow process of healing from the burn. I've got medical tape wrapping my right wrist as using a keyboard and mouse has started to bother it (and doing the tape thing usually helps that go away after a few days). Shoulders are tight and hurt. Back hurts. Not having heart burn so that's a plus though I'm a little loose at the other end. It's a good day.
So back to what I was saying: Weekends. I don't really look forward to them in the way I used to. Why? Simple. Think about what a "good" day's like for me. That's what my weekend tends to look like and with that kind of pain I end up just wanting to sleep in and spending the day engaging in whatever things are the least painful. Sure, I'd love it to be sunny, I'd love to feel great and go on a day long motorcycle ride, but for all I know Saturday's going to be a bad day or maybe it'll just be painful enough to keep me at home. Happy-happy, joy-joy. And truth be told I don't have any friends in Portland, well not since last week, so it's no longer an opportunity to get out and do fun things; if I want to see a movie or go to an art museum I'm going to be doing it on my own, as I learned to do long ago during long periods of social isolation. Same with motorcycling, though I could find people to ride with (nice thing about that is you don't need to be terribly close to ride with another person, just enough that you have the same riding style, stamina, and comprable skill levels). Now say I do plan to do something on my own and I spend my entire week looking forward to it then, boom, I get to the weekend and I can't. Maybe the weather's prevented it. Maybe I'm in too much pain. Either way, 2009 has been a year of weekends gone down the shitter. Last but not least, I've gotten to the point where I work most Saturdays and Sundays. Why? First, I usually have nothing better to do and second, it helps me catch up and possibly take care of a few things so I don't have to the following work week.
So I don't look forward to weekends the way that I once did, the way that most people do. Do I look forward to them at all? Yes. Can you guess why? I'll give you a hint, it has something to do with the fact that I don't have a couch or bed to lay down on at work when I've reached a 7, 8, 9, or 10, on the pain scale.
Reasons I've been writing so much lately:

A sedentary position is one of the least painful for my boday lately.

I've been struggling with extreme bouts of depression this past week and am unable to keep myself from having a complete melt down; writing takes my full attention and prevents me from going into negative talk and self-mutilation (of the psychological kind).

Writing is a form of therapy. In fact, it is the only one I've found useful when I've hit my lowest. It helps me to:

Examine my thoughts and feelings.

Work through my thoughts and feelings.

Express my thoughts and feelings in a tangible way.

Share my thoughts and feelings with others.

Writing, believe it or not, helps me feel less alone. I admit it's strange, I am alone and I have no way of knowing if anyone's read my entries (though I have a statistics tool to check--but I can't tell the difference between a human reader and a search engine parsing the page), but just the possibility that someone might maybe some day read what I've written gives me some unexplainable sense that I'm not going to spend the rest of my evening by myself. Ironically I don't get involved on all these new fangled blogging sites and things like Facebook; though there are far less people coming to The Temple and likewise it's less likely that someone will stumble on me from Google or what have you, I prefer using my web site as my place where I express myself and my art on the web.

I write to (hopefully) improve my writing skills (but to be honest I'm a million miles away from being the writer I ever want to be which has always been being a published author--and blog publication doesn't count!).

I write to (hopefully) teach. You see, I've been through a lot of shit in my life and I want to transform that into something useful and being an introspective fellow who likes to write I figure I might be able to do that. So I write in part in hopes that some things I say may teach you more about life, the universe, and everything. And I do, from time to time, get a letter from someone saying just that and it's one of the best results of keeping this journal, touching people like that and helping them over a bump in their life by sharing some of my own.

I write because I have no one to spend time with.

I write because I have nothing better to do.

Not included in the reasons I write:

To libel or otherwise malign those I disagree with or believe have treated me poorly.

As a means of attempting to resolve something with someone; if and when I want to resolve something I do that directly either through a letter, on Instant Messenger, on the phone, or in person, basically by any method that allows a "conversation" to occur. Since writing a journal does not in any way constitute a conversation I do not use it in any way to resolve something with another person, however I do use it to resolve things for myself.

In an attempt to convince the world, as well of myself, of the truth of something.

That brings me to the next section...

I recently read an article entitled The Total Perspective Vortex (this is obviously a nod to a device in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series which caused most people to go insane because it made them see how inconsequentially small they were in relation to the entirety of the universe). Here's a quote from that article:

In 1988, psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown published an article making the somewhat disturbing claim that positive self-deception is a normal and beneficial part of most people’s everyday outlook. They suggested that average people hold cognitive biases in three key areas: a) viewing themselves in unrealistically positive terms; b) believing they have more control over their environment than they actually do; and c) holding views about the future that are more positive than the evidence can justify. The typical person, it seems, depends on these happy delusions for the self-esteem needed to function through a normal day. It’s when the fantasies start to unravel that problems arise.

One of the primary reasons I believe that my average day is harder than your average life is I'm not the person that does a, b, or c.

a) I do not view myself in unrealistically positive terms. Indeed, I think if you're a regular reader of my journal you'll have read many, many entries where I've discussed aspects of my personality most people would instinctively bury--the last thing most people would do is come out on the internet and say, "Hello world, did you know I have anxiety attacks?!" Nope, that's just not me. I know what my failings are and I'm not afraid to talk about them, I know when and how I fuck up and I have no qualms about discussing it with anyone, and I firmly believe that to evolve as a human being, to really overcome suffering, I must view myself as realistically as possible, the positive as well as the negative. In fact this is fundemental to the Buddhist philosophy. The Eight Fold Path was the world's first twelve step program, except it didn't include steps necessitating the belief in Jesus Christ or Buddha as your personal savoir. Instead the Eight Fold Path includes only those steps necessary for a human being to overcome ANY problem no matter what it is. And you know what, it works! But only when one is willing to be completely and absolutely honest with oneself and others.

b) I don't believe I have any more control over my environment than I do. Actually, if you examine my life you'll quickly determine that for a large portion of it I didn't feel like I had any control over my life. I was depressed, I felt like I was where I was at because of other people, their choices, how they treated me, and the like. It took me decades to teach myself to see what control I have over my life. I started to become conscious of just how much control I had when I was 26 and as I grew older I often asked myself, "What do I have control over?" followed by "Ok, now what do I want to do about it?" Being a fairly intelligent guy I've also realized it's possible to go overboard, feel like one has more control than one really does, and being aware of that I've been extremely conscientious to always ask myself these kinds of questions I believe I've nearly always been able to realistically judge what I have control over and I what I don't. I do, for instance, have control over what I do and say. How I feel. How I perceive the universe. I have control over how I spend my money. I have control over my diet and I have control over how much time and energy I put into my hobbies, my house, and my relationships. And I am completely in control over what relationships I choose to engage in and which ones I walk away from. Things I don't control: What others say and do. How others perceive the universe. How others feel. Also the weather, the stock market, and where my cats decide to throw up fur balls.

c) I don't hold views about the future that are more positive than the evidence justifies. Indeed, most people would say I'm pretty darn negative in many of my views though I believe I'm a highly critical thinker and most people immediately interpret this as negative. Again, I've spent much of my life on the other end of that bell curve fighting to get to the middle. Now? Now I think I tend to see things more or less how they are, though I reserve the right to "feel" differently and express my frustration one way or the other in a way that makes it seem like I'm really way on one side or really way on the other. There is one way I do do this, though, and I refered to it yesterday: Hope. I often, especially in friendships and relationships, take in quite a bit of hope and I've had people question that hope (to the point of pummeling it to death). But the thing is if you look at the hope I have it turns out that hope is a hope in straight forward goals, goals like marriage, starting a family, etc., goals that are tangible, goals that quite a lot of people are able to make a reality. Indeed, study after study shows that relationships thrive on hope, relationships with hope are able to ride the bumps better, partners that believe in hope believe in each other more than other couples do. So you know, though that hope isn't always supported by factual evidence it's supported by enough that it doesn't really matter because it surves it's purpose to keep the relationship together, to provide me a foundation where I can usually respond to perceived difficulties without rushing to end of the world conclusions. Nope, I won't apologize for hoping when its in the form of believing in my parterns and believing in my friends, I won't apologize for seeing the best in them and reaching for the most positive future with them in my life. I won't apologize one damn bit for a quality I think is far too lacking in this world.

I shared this quote with my x-wife and she thought it was spot on the mark and I thought she would empathize: she is the only person I have ever met who likewise doesn't conform to a, b, and c. That's one reason I fell in love with her so many years ago, she had the unique ability to flat out acknowledge her shortcomings. Like I said in c, I think this characteristic is far, far too lacking in the world. Don't believe me? Then try this little experiment. Find someone you know quite well, someone you know who has an obvious shortcoming.

Allow me to take an example from my own life.

Several years ago I was feeling lonely about my life. Like now I had few or no friends and I wanted to branch out. I was frustrated with where I was at so I shared it with a family member who responded by suggesting, "You need to go to church." I respected what they were saying and know church is a good place to meet people who often take friendships and relationships more seriously but it wasn't for me so I responded, "I'm not a Christian anymore. I appreciate what you're saying but I don't like the idea of going somewhere where I need to pretend to be something other than who I am to be accepted. It's just not going to work." This answer didn't satisfy them, though, they seemed to think I was simply dismissing their idea, that indeed I was opposed to any idea that might potentially end my situation. So they kept pushing and pushing and pushing and I finally had to tell them, "Look, I know you care but you're pushing your views and your religion on me. I have some really valid reasons for not going to a Church so I'd appreciate it if you'd hear that and if you can't I need to just ask you to back off." The conversation ended, we talked about something else, said our goodbyes, and that was it...until weeks or months later when they made the same suggestion and I reasserted my boundary. This conversation must have taken four or five times yet never was my viewpoint acknowledged; more importantly, they never acknowledge their own shortcoming, their inability to listen, their need to push their opinion and religion on me.

Boundaries. We all have them. We all expect others to respect them. Yet few, except maybe our closest friends and partner's, do. The question is: do you?

As I mentioned I've experienced two acts of my life that somehow had everything to do with boundaries and expectations. During what I called Act II I was an "expectation whore". I didn't have realistic boundaries and the reality was I couldn't, my expectations were too high, and they were high because I'd built a wall of fear, a wall that said under no circumstance would I allow any love in because if I did that, if I allowed certain people to love me the way they wanted to, through the very real acts of kindness and love they were already showing me, and if I let that love in, if I admitted that love was as bright and powerful as the sun yet was still depressed, was still suffering, was still hurting, I'd be forced to recognize that emotional difficulties were not the result of other people, that it was something I had to heal deep inside of me then the only left position, the only choice left to me, was whether I was going to do the healing on my own or with others.

So somewhere deep down in my psyche, so deep I couldn't see it for what it was, I decided to blank out any love others had for me. It wasn't easy to do. You see, I had to create some pretty unrealistic expectations. Think about it, someone says, "Hey, I can see you're upset, I'm here to listen if you need me." That's a pretty straight forward and unambiguous statement of caring, don't you agree? But if I acknowledged it I'd have to face my depressed feelings in the frightening privacy of my own soul, so I needed to pin the responsibility on sources outside myself; it was therefore anethema to acknowledge their warmth and compassion. Solution? I twisted what they had to say. I might, for instance, respond with, "If you can see that why didn't you do anything earlier today?" Perfect solution, easily rationalized, I could tell myself if they really cared they would have said something earlier. Or I might react with, "If you're really interested in listening why didn't you ask yesterday when I called your work, you asked how I was, and I said so-so? Why didn't you read between the lines then, huh?" Yeah, sure I knew they couldn't get into a conversation like that while working, but the truth was I would have found a way at my job, I would have found someone to take the till while I went to the back office to chat on the phone for a friend, I would have found a way because that's the kind of person I was--so it was easier than hell for me to project that expectation on everyone else.

The point I'm trying to get to here is that I thought these were boundaries and I was convinced (or more accurately convinced myself) that others didn't respect my boundaries so it was perfectly okay for me to rip others a new asshole whenever I decided they hadn't respected them.

It took me many years, and many a broken heart, for me to finally admit to myself what I was doing. And for the longest time afterwards, Intermission B I think, before I began to stop contorting my expectations into boundaries, until I was able to see that I had boundaries but that they had nothing to do with my depression or my feelings. That's the difference between and expectation and a boundary, an expectation can be born in fear and an expectation made from fear will tear people apart, a boundary, however, surves one purpose, to protect oneself against a real, not perceived, act of aggression, abuse, or in the worst case, physical violence.

In regard to those people who really loved me, and yes, there were a few, I can think of very few instances where I needed to communicate and stick to my boundaries, very few indeed.

It's been a long, long road, but in that time I've figured out not only what my boundaries are (see previous journal entry) but what the purpose of them is. Unfortunately I have this habit, as I've mentioned before, of getting too far into a friendship before I begin to put my foot down and tell people to respect them. The result? I've allowed a relationship to be established where I can be stepped on, where I can be yelled at, called names, and threatened, where it suddenly seems to others that I've become a completely different person when I've only stopped, taken a deep breath, and realized, you know what, I deserve to be treated well, and even when I fuck up, even when I cross another person's boundaries and behave in a way that is not becoming, I still deserve to have my boundaries respected just as I need to get my head out of my ass and respect the boundaries of others.

I've written enough for today. I owe a good friend a letter.

Photo by Sophie Goss © 2009

Thursday March 26th, 2009

When you have hope, I mean real bonefied absolutely verifiable hope, there is no such thing as an obstacle. Sure, a hopeful attitude allows for the recognition of challenges, difficulties, all the things we label as "negative" and that cause stress, but living a hopeful life is all about living without focusing on these things.
It's like when that little "check engine" light goes off in your car. Mine? It seems to have been on more often than not since buying this used '98 Volvo station wagon. It happens so frequently I've learned to expect it.
When that light goes on I have two choices.
My first choice, the choice I subconsciously make when I'm not living with hope in my heart, is to stress out. Is the engine about to die on me? Maybe it's nothing big or worrisome but then again maybe one of the pistons isn't working or maybe the transmission's about to go out. Click and Clack, save me! Worse, my stress extends beyond the time I'm driving but follows on my heels when I walk into work, as I work, when I'm home cooking, when I'm running errands, it's always at the back of my mind nagging at me so eventually I check my bank account and ask myself, "Do I have enough money to cover a vehicular catastrophe?" which is followed by a recognition of how tight my financial situation has become.
The other choice is to note the light, make an appointment to have the car diagnosed, and then decide, based on the work estimates, if I can afford it or if it's something that can wait. If I choose to live with hope this is the route I'd take. By choosing it I only experience stress while I'm actively taking care of the car.
Option number two is obviously the one to live by but it's not how most of us live most of the time. Most of us have dozens, if not hundreds, of "check engine" lights going off all day; we spend an inordinate amount of time stressing ourselves out over them instead of simply recognizing the issue, defining a plan of action (usually one we should recognize can only be taken care of at a future date), then acting on it at the appropriate time.
Living with hope doesn't make all the check engine lights go away, but it significantly changes how we react to them. Sure, the light's on, but it's not the end of the world, if the car breaks down I have a motorcycle and if that falls apart I can ride a bike and if the tires go flat I can always walk or work from home. Hope encourages us to view indicators of challenges or difficulties in our lives as nothing more than something that needs attention at some future point, not something that will bring about catastrophe or a nuclear holocaust. A hopeless attitude, on the other hand, causes us to over focus on every challenge, so much so that the challenges become obstacles; the more energy we give to viewing something as an obstacle the larger and more insurmountable it becomes, the more stressed out we become about it, then we either try to avoid it or force an immediate solution which results in more and more stress.
The lack of hope is the beginning of this cycle while hope is the beginning of the end.
Now it's possible to have hope about some things and not about others, but what an amazing transformation it would be if we could all see all of our problems through the lens of hope. Imagine that! Let me give you some examples of how I've viewed the world differently because of hope.
My present job is the most challenging one I've ever had. It's often difficult and time consuming. I don't often feel appreciated and some weeks I do very little programming, which I was trained and hired for, but perform mundane functions that nearly any computer savvy person could do (such as installing software). Yet even when it's difficult, even when most people would probably consider giving up and leaving, I view my job as a chance for personal growth. I often say to myself, "Wow, this is quite the challenge. There are definitely some areas I don't like but my job gives me so many positive opportunities. I have the chance to learn new programming languages. I have the opportunity to manage groups of people towards common goals. I get to learn to manage my time better and learn to be more and more efficient. Sure, right now I feel like I'm buried by it all, but I can dig myself out; all the energy I put into that will teach me a great deal both professionally and as a human being. There aren't many jobs that would provide me all this, give me a paycheck, have such good benefits, and be so close to my house. Yes, I'm stressed out right now but I'm going to just take it one day at a time, plan for success, and get to tomorrow on my feet." While I acknowledge I don't often acknowledge my feelings towards my job in that fashion, while I typically "bitch" when I'm most unhappy about my job, and while the fact remains that I really don't love my job and maybe never will, the underlying reality is that I appreciate the opportunities, challenges, and benefits, my position affords me. Plus there's free coffee!
Another area of hope has been my health, at least prior to 2008. I've had all manner of challenges, ones that can be captured under the somewhat ambiguous category of Fibromyalgia. The first was the knee pain which I've had for about four or five years now (wow, it's been a long journey!). When I first started having pain I simply went online, researched exercises I could do to help. When that didn't work I went to a joint specialist and when that didn't help I went to physical therapy. I've been to numerous therapists, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, and a pain management clinic. There's not a day that goes by where I don't have three or four medical bills I have yet to pay (frack me). Soon I'll be signing up to see a specialist at OSHU and might be starting up with their fibromyalgia clinic. Point? Though the pain just seems to get worse and worse I've never given up, I keep living every day, I keep going to work, I keep writing, I keep working on the house, and I keep getting on the motorcycle and going out for rides (though it can, at times, hurt like a mo fo). Especially during the first several years hope enabled me to envision a day where I could jog again; the solution was out there somewhere whether it was via medicine, surgery, or something as simple as improving my diet, getting better sleep, and regular exercise. Sure, there were days where I've needed to call into work sick, crawl up in bed and watch a movie to manage the pain but I never thought I was going to stay in bed, I always had something in mind I was going to do the moment I felt a little better and as soon as I did, boom, up out of bed and moving again. It was hope that kept me going. It's been hope that's kept me alive and living.
(That said if you've been tuned into my journals lately you'll be aware that this is rarely true anymore. My symptoms have increased so much since April of 2008 that I've started to wonder if I need to simply accept that I'm going to spend the rest of my life managing increasing chronic pain. For instance while driving home today my hips and knees hurts so bad I just thought wow, I wonder what it's like NOT to drive home feeling this way? Indeed, after trying a new doctor or new therapy I always require a great deal of time to scrape together what little hope's left before trying the next thing, talking with the next doctor, heading to the next clinic. Frankly there have been moments of extreme fear where I think wow, I'm just going to keep getting worse and as such I should prepare for the worst. Oh my God, do I only have three or four years left to live? Maybe I should get to the point and accept my fate now instead of nurturing hopeless hope. I can't begin to express to you how difficult and terrifying those moments can be and unless you've experience them for yourself there's no possible way you can empathize with this feeling of complete fear and helplessness that comes with not knowing the future and not being able to improve your physical condition no matter what you try. That said, while I feel 95% of the hope I had five years ago is gone, I still have enough to get up in the morning, stay in touch with my doctor, and try new things. Even 5% of hope is that powerful!!! And maybe one day that hope will lead me to a doctor's office where the doctor will look at the results of my blood work and say, "Aslynn, I know it's been a long time in coming but we're finally there. You have a rare genetic condition called yadda yadda ya but there's good news, we've developed a treatment. It may be difficult, sometimes painful, but as long as you're patient and committed to the process you'll feel much better after a year and in two you should be good enough to jog again. After that point it'll be a matter of simply taking care of yourself. Sound good? Now lets get started!"
You have no idea what I'd pay or do to hear those magical words some day!!!
One of the most important areas where hope has influenced my life and my perceptions is in my friendships. While I can't claim to have been successfully, socially speaking, it's my opinion that my hopes have kept friendships alive for years when they otherwise would have quickly shaken to pieces. Instead of focusing on someone's negative behavior towards me, especially when that behavior is, by psychological standards at least, a form of abuse, I instead focusing on a brighter future that's a real possibility. I'm able, in my mind, to separate a person from their behavior, to see their behavior as no more than a maladaptive way of dealing with suffering; put another way, behavior does not make a person; it's hope that allows me to see through this illusion. When I look at my relationships in this manner, when I interpret other's negative behavior towards me with hope, I don't see a reason to protect myself, I don't see a reason to seek justice or retribution, and I don't see a reason to walk away from the friendship. Indeed, hope allows me to recognize the fact that another human being is suffering, that they deserve to feel joy and safety and warmth just as much as I do, but they're so trapped in the moment by their pain and suffering that they aren't able to get their needs met in a non-confrontational manner.
Hope leads me towards compassion, understanding, and empathy for others. Sure, there was a day where I always reacted to people's explosions instinctively, where I protected myself by blowing up in equally maladaptive ways, but over the last ten years I've erred on the side of hope until such point my patience has been pushed to its limit. So yeah, on that note it would be accurate to say I sometimes go off, sometimes, after being called a few dozen names and being accused of things I'd never said or done (the worst of these is having my sincerity and love challenged) I'll absolutely loose it and behave in a similarly destructive fashion--but in the last ten years I can honestly think of a handful of instances where I began this way (though there have been instances where a fight hasn't been resolved and days later I "go off"--but in my mind the argument never ended).
But I digress...
Hope nurtures compassion, understanding, empathy, and yes, patience. And frankly I've been in more verbal fights with people in my life than most people ever will be, I no longer see a point for it, no longer have the energy for it, have no desire for it, and when it happens, when I see that it's going nowhere, I try to politely excuse myself. That's hope too, folks. Why? Because I do so without saying, "I'm done with you, I never want to see you again!" I'm just taking a break, getting some fresh air, and space. Indeed, any decent therapist will tell you there's a point where the best thing you can do is take space.
Unfortunately that usually backfires on me. I leave with a hopeful intent that both of us will take the chance to breath and collect our feelings, but usually it is viewed as rejection. Worse, instead of respecting my space I usually find the other person pushing, pushing, pushing to continue the argument, pushing to talk, pushing to be together...and that only drives me away (as I once drove others away in a similar manner). Sadly one of the most healing and straight forward methods for ending a difficult conversation that's turned violent, i.e. taking space, ends up backfiring on me regardless who I've tried it with or what words or method of communication I've used (though now that I think of it I should pay tribute to my father who takes the time to think things through and return to the conversation speaking in a more civil fashion with an ability to validate my point of view! Kudos for my daddy!!!). It's only when one person's reasons for taking space are questioned or when one can't honor the other's desire to take space that taking space turns into a complete fucking mess. Forgive my French but having been on both sides of that fence I know this to be an absolute fact.
I digress (yet again). Hope and relationships. You see, I've had some pretty big challenges in my personal relationships. I've been lied to (innumerable times). I've had an STD scare. I've been cheated on. I've lost many girlfriends, friendships, and familial relationships due to the poor choices of others. I've been used. I've had my wallet leached and I've been called every name in the book and told "I hate you" by a couple of people I've been close to over the last five years (and these, in my humble opinion, are the most harsh and damaging words you can say to another human being). Likewise, I've had people regularly threaten to leave me--though, sadly, I can't recall anyone saying what I specifically did to cause them to feel this way or what I can do to change it, it's just that they don't "feel" warm towards me anymore and if I don't magically make them "feel" happy again they're going to take off.
Me? I have only chosen the most extreme solution, that is leaving a friendship for good, when I've lost hope, when it seems clear to me that they have no desire to see my point of view, recognize my boundaries, and respect them. Me? I'll stick with someone as long as I see them improving in their behavior towards me, I'll stay by their side with hope in my heart when I see little things here and there that demonstrate they're capable of growth, that they want to treat me in the fashion I feel I deserve (though honestly most of the time I'd be happy enough if they'd treat me with the same courtesy they treat their other friends, family, and associates!). Hope has kept me in these relationships, it has encouraged me to believe in people when their superficial behavior would result in a quick boot from others, and even when things have been hardest, even after the shock of being smacked in the face, I still had a twinge of hope in the back of my mind thinking, "It doesn't have to be like this! Join me, lets choose hope, lets jump in fully with commitment, and lets choose to believe, believe, believe! Doing that with hope and love is the only way we will overcome our difficulties, it is the only way we will view them as challenges and not catastrophes waiting to happen. Hope and love, they will lead us to working out our differences in a thoughtful, mature, and adult fashion when we're upset. Sure, we'll still be able to express our feelings, but we'll no longer choose to do so in maladaptive ways and when the check engine light goes on we'll be receptive to it and react accordingly, in a hopeful fashion."
Whether you see it or not, that is and has been my primary mind-set for years. It's all about hope and it's is a wonderful thing. I'd even go as far as saying it's priceless, more priceless than material riches. It was hope that kept me from making the ultimate decision when I was suicidal depressed. It was hope that has allowed me to keep going through circumstances that would crush most people's psyches. Hope has allowed me to see things from other points of view, to never give up when it seems like that's the only choice left to me, and hope that has been the Super Unleaded of my life. Without hope I wouldn't be alive, I wouldn't be who I am, I wouldn't have sought out friendships or relationship, without hope I would have found a simple job, found a small apartment, blacked out the windows, and spent the rest of my life protected from others in the dark; I'd limit myself to books, movies, and writing; I would never get out, I would never seek out companionship, I would never look for something better, I'd not get on my bike and head to Hell's Canyon once a year (hell, I wouldn't even have a bike!), and I wouldn't care at all about my diet, sleeping schedule, or how I treated anyone (after all, "anyone" put me in that place so "anyone" deserves what's coming to them!).
Without some inkling of hope I would have spent this entire week saying extremely vile, graphic, and unethical things about several people who have been part of my life recently and who have all, for one reason or another, abandoned me. Their choices have left me broken, hurt, abandoned, and angry, that I've tried so often to listen and meet their needs, even at times while they went off on me yelling and speaking in a way no human should speak to another regardless of how angry or hurt they are. No, I've had some semblance of hope, some belief that for all I want to share my side of things in complete Technicolor, it's not a hopeful or decent thing to do. Sure, I know some may disagree with me, say that I've been an absolutely judgmental asshole who's crossed the line of writing about my feelings to sharing personal information, but I disagree entirely. Though I would agree my words are charged I've been very careful to keep them to a minimum; likewise, I try to focus on behavior, not personality, while on the other hand it seems that most people who attack me favour the ad hominem attack, words which on the face of them have no substance yet still hurt like hell to be on the receiving end of.
Fortunately hope is sort of like a liver, you can cut it in half and eventually, especially if you take good care of it, it will grow until it's a healthy size again. And like a liver (wow, didn't mean to continue with this analogy, but it fits) hope is an emotional detoxer, it helps clean our minds and spirits of negative thoughts and emotions then encouraging us to move in a positive direction regardless of how shitty or hopeless or scary or pointless something might seem.
As far as how I feel now, I don't know what to tell you. I literally haven't felt a positive emotion in almost a week now, not happiness, not security, not warmth, and certainly not hope, the latter of which is the most disturbing to me. Maybe I should masturbate, lol (just kidding). Anyway, I Instant Messaged with a friend earlier and while it didn't make me feel great, I had this slight feeling of worth for a moment, something that I haven't experienced for a week--though it saddens me that the only people I seem to be able to find a consistently compassionate, non-judgmental connection with are 120 to 2,500 miles away. Somehow finally hearing someone tell me I'm doing the right thing to take care of myself, that while I'm not perfect I've been a pretty damn loving and patient and hopeful person considering some of the ways I've been sometimes treated, and most important of all I needed to finally hear someone tell me I'm not crazy, that my concerns are absolutely valid, that anyone would have felt hurt, scared, and powerless if treated the way some have treated me at times...that's not to say I'm perfect, I fall off the horse too, but it was refreshing to finally hear someone say something like it's not okay for anyone to speak to me in an abusive fashion, even if it occurs only 2% of the time that's still 2% too often!
Back to me and hope.
I'm concerned that I've lost it. I've never had a hard time finding some, even when I was suicidal. I mean, I'd be there laying in a bathtub, hot water rushing over my feet, razor blade in my hand, and I'd think, "What am I doing? I'd rather be out there, going to college, making some friends, finding solutions to life. If I do this I can't seek solutions, there won't ever be a possibility for improvements, it's over, finito, done. That's not acceptable!" I used to think like that and eventually it helped me get out of that cycle of suicidal behaviors which frankly wasn't consistent with what I wanted out of life (though it was consistent with my frustration over things not looking anything like I wanted). I've spent a great deal of time looking back at my 20's, have been awed with how much I've learned and grown, how much more patient and caring and selfless I am (most of the time, anyway)...and yet here I am and my life looks nothing like I'd like it to look, nothing like anyone would want theirs to look, and I keep thinking wow...wow...I don't know what to do with myself and I never seem to plan what I'm going to do later in the day or week...it's a symptom of something that scares me just as much as my worsening health: I don't have any fucking hope anymore, do I? If not then where the hell did it go? I don't feel anything except a vague annoyance and impatience every moment of the day, no matter what I'm doing. I don't like my life at all right now. It's wake up, shower, head to work, work, work, work, head home, take care of the never ending chores, eat, find things to keep my mind occupied, head to bed, sleep.
At least the "head to bed" and "sleep" no longer includes insomnia. I've tried everything over the years and nothing helped all that much. Then ambien came along and it has literally changed my life, at least my nights. I have not experienced insomnia for nearly two weeks now. I guess that's an area to place my hope but honestly I'm having a hard time doing that. True, I'd be lying if I didn't say it's helped keep me from completely going off the edge physically again, ending up at the ER again. Sleep is a precious thing and you don't know that until you routinely never get it (see the last 20 years of my life). Now that I get it it just is and I couldn't imagine long nights staring at the clock again...couldn't imagine it, don't want to imagine it, and frankly, I don't think I could handle it right now.
Hope. If you don't got it get it. If you think you got it but aren't planning your future in a positive way then you don't really have it. If you're overly focused on the shit, you definitely need to stop and go looking for it. That said, what am I up to? How am I taking care of myself when I've hit a place and time in my life different, harder, and more challenging than ever before? To be honest most of the time I haven't a clue. I walk around in a daze, a funk, my mind all over the place, earphones on my head, podcasts running, but only hearing a word of it here and a word there as my internal dialog does circles around me. What do I need, what do I want?
Well, what I want I could write down and it's pretty straight forward, realistic, and possible, but it's a wet dream so I'm going to keep it to myself and let it die in peace.
What I need?
1) I must take care of my body adequately so I don't end up in the hospital again or require someone to take care of me at home. Sadly, with the exception of calling 911 and getting an ambulance I have no one to help me (besides coworkers, an option I only want to take if absolutely necessary). Fucking hell, I'm in a worse situation than some senior citizens living in isolation watching The Price is Right reruns and I'm only 35! (My God at times it's a fracking nightmare to be in a place people should never be but even then, people in our culture don't generally experience something like this until old age and senility!) Anyway, long story long, gotta take good enough care of myself so I don't end up on the floor unable to get to my cell phone.
Fun stuff.
Item #2: I need to find hope. Why? Because without it I won't get through this, I won't have a reason to live, I won't have a reason to eat better, take care of my body, or reach out to people in good times and in bad. Truth is even at my lowest I've always had enough hope for it to encourage my thinking in a positive way, enough hope to believe in something better for myself, for my life. It just seems so laughable anymore, a complete waste of time. So I've got no choice but to find it again before another huge bump hits. Don't have much choice. I simply have not been able to weather major bumps well this year and particularly now that I'm at an extremely fragile place there's no room for error. Must find hope and must find it soon.
That's all I've got for tonight. Gotta do the laundry.
P.S. On a wild tangent I've often been just as afraid of growing old and senile as I am ending life short with whatever I've got. The problem with senility is a lot of our old daemons come back to haunt us and that's not something I ever want to experience. For example, in the geriatric community lately they've been having a huge problem with Jewish survivors of Nazi concentration camps. Their brains are no longer functioning correctly, they're delusional and confused, and most importantly they have lost the ability to consistently distinguish between the past and present. The result? They often believe they're in Auschwitz or some other death camp and as such they begin to live in mortal fear of the staff, visitors, and the like. So very sad to hear this and I, for one, never want to have to relive my old memories in a similar fashion. Got through it once, don't think I could do it again!

Wednesday March 25th, 2009

Today I realized my life can be organized into four acts:

I. Joy
II. Illusions
III. Boundaries
IV. Pain

The picture at right will be discussed in acts II and III. For now simply know it's one of the most famous examples of the psychological concept of multistability.


Act I: The Joy of Living
From birth to 7

The year was 1973. The time was 8:36am. The place, a little town in Victoria, Australia about four miles West of Melbourne. I was thrust into this world.

I remember the pain of birth. I remember being held by the doctors, the nurses, and my mother. I remember them testing my sight and my hearing. Most people I tell this too don't believe me but in the last few decades neurological studies have uncovered supportive evidence for the formation of early memories. Basically it comes down to myelin. You see, the neurons in our brain, the cells responsible for storing memories, usually have little to no myelin sheaths wrapping them. The fatty coverings are like the plastic surrounding the wiring in our house, they protect the wires from short circuiting and additionally, in the brain at least, they help us store memories. Most people's brains don't begin to really form the myelin sheaths well until ages three thru ten after which point memories are more easily stored. This is the reason most people only remember a few things from their early childhood, "flash bulb" memories as they're known in psychology. This is the norm, the middle of the bell curve and on one of the extremes are those rare people like me who remember quite a few things from the first years of our lives. Why? Simple: advanced neurological development.

(There are some other interesting characteristics surrounding those of us who's brains developed faster but as I don't recall what they are I won't go into that today.)

The first seven years of my life were defined by the Joy of Living.

I loved being alive. I loved breathing. I loved having new experiences. I loved exploring the world. I loved figuring out how things worked. I loved meeting new people. Being alive was a joyful experience.

During these earliest years the world was my personal amusement park. I don't remember feeling shy or limited, I just jumped in wherever I recognized an opportunity to do something new. Even things that would seem terrible were wonderful events, opportunities to learn, grow, and have fun. I'll give you three examples.

Example 1: Once, when I was two or three years old, I was sitting in the back of a car and the door was open. I distinctly remember having this strange, almost "spiritual" urge to stick my thumb in the door and see what it would feel like to have the door slammed on it. Sure enough one of my parents slammed the door. Unlike my birth where the pain was equally spread throughout my body this pain was relegated to one ever so tiny part of my body. It was if all the heat of the sun was focused on that one spot and the contrast between the extreme pain in my thumb and the lack of pain in the rest of my body made it that much worse. It was unbearable yet at the same time wonderful! What a joy to be alive!

Example 2: My second example is about pure joy. I was three or four years old. We'd just moved back to the United States; until then I had only known Australia. First we lived in Spokane, Washington, and then we moved to Prineville, Oregon where we lived in an apartment not too far from the Lutheran church. Then we moved out to the country, about five miles outside city limits. I remember that first day, the first day my parents drove my sister, brother, and I, out to the house I was to spend the next decade or more of my life in. I remember getting out of the car and seeing this huge, green, living grass and smelling the cool, fresh country air around me and just running, running, running from one end of the lawn to the other with my hands in the air and my head up high. Somehow I knew this was my home, I knew this would be the lawn I would play in the sprinklers, the field I'd chase cows in, the country roads I'd ride bikes on. It was like that first scene from the sound of music, there I was, arms high in the air, and I could fly!

Example 3: I discovered gravity at age 3 while living in Spokane. I was standing near the road by the front of our house. My mom and sister came out and my mom told me to get in the car, we were going to the mall. But I didn't want to go to the mall. Why would I want to do that? I was enjoying the fresh air and didn't want to go anywhere. So I did what any three year old would have done in that situation, I picked up a piece of concrete, threw it straight up in the air, then it came back down and hit me square in the forehead. I remember my mom and sister looking on in shock and disbelief. What the hell was I thinking? Wow, didn't they get it? I didn't want to go to the mall and this was my ticket out! So I stood there, blood pouring into my eyes, and was taking to the emergency room. I remember seeing Snoopy characters taped up to the walls. I remember the doctor taking a look at my head. I must have been in an argumentative mood because I didn't want him touching me, I just wanted to be outside running around, didn't they get it? So what if I hurt? Let me go, let me go! I ended up flipping out on the doctor kicking and screaming, "I'm going to kill you! I'm going to kill you!" They quickly realized they would have to restrain me and though I now know they were working in my best interests it was the first time I have ever felt what it was like to be abused. And yet the feeling didn't stay with me, I didn't take it out of the hospital back to my house; I was not psychologically or emotionally bruised as a result of the restraining. I just saw the whole experience as new, interesting, and yes, painful, but not necessarily in a bad way.

And so it was. I loved living. I felt joy in life. I loved taking things apart and meeting new people. I thought the old pastor at our church, the oldest person I had ever seen, was God. Wow, so nice of him to come down from heaven to talk with us! And I loved cuddling on my mom's shoulder during church and the people on the adjacent pews would look at me and coo. I was thrilled to learn to ride a bike with only two wheels and I felt the unimaginable excitement of flying a kite. I was thrilled to death to get a new toy or book or whatever and would spend hours playing with whatever it was. I liked my baby brother; he was a couple years younger than me and before he could talk I was the only person who could communicate with him--though I didn't realize it at the time I was an empath and was capable of communicating directly with babies! I enjoyed learning to do anything my parents did. Mom, please teach me to cook! Dad, please teach me to mow the lawn! Mom, please teach me to knit and sew and crochet! Dad, please teach me to build an old fashioned wooden go cart! Wow, I sure loved to learn and every day was a chance to learn something new, hell, I remember once in kindergarten one of the teachers brought in and showed us how to use an envelope and I thought yeah Gods that's the most amazing thing I've ever seen, a piece of paper that you could put other pieces of paper inside! I felt true joy watching the birth of kittens, I felt joy feeding the baby sheep milk out of a bottle, the feel of the bottle shake with every gulp, the bubbles forming and dripping from the little guy's lips, the smell of the warm milk. Oh, to live on a farm with cats and dogs and sheep and cows and 3.3 acres of Alf Alfa to play in and a small creek to build dams in and trees to climb and gravel to search through for agates and a wood pile to make forts in. I never ran out of things to do and learn. I was always impressing and getting the praise of everyone around me. I loved my home, I loved my family, I loved the way I looked, I loved everyone around me, and most importantly I loved myself.

This was the joy of living.


Intermission A
Ages 8 through 14

And so we come to our first intermission, a short period of time where my life transformed from Act I, a life of joy, to Act II, a life based on illusions. I should note that while I am clearly quantifying these intermissions it would be incorrect for me to suggest that it's objective to do so. Indeed, the start and ends of these "intermissions", as I've chosen to label them, are not well defined; the edges are blur into the act(s) before and the act(s) after. That said, experiences that fit into this intermission may or may not fall within the time period defined above.

Intermission A is defined by several key experiences. While I will not share them all here, there are a few worthy of sharing.

1) My First "Best" Friend. Before kindergarten I just played with whomever was around and for the most part I feel like relationships with peers were all pretty positive. I don't remember having best friends or regular groups I spent time with, like I said just played with whomever was around. At the age of 6 or 7 my mom took me over to one of her co-workers house and introduced me to the woman's son, Jason, who was the same age as me. Please forgive me if I've told this story before, but I walked in his house and saw an inflatable clown toy, you know, one of those ones you punch and it goes down to the ground then flips back up so you can punch it again. I walked over to it and just touched it, didn't even think of punching it, when Jason, who I'd just barely met, ran towards me screaming. He stood between me and the toy and violently demanded that I not touch his toys. And you know, I'd never before experienced anything like that. At our house we shared our things; sure, we asked for permission but we shared. Likewise, we didn't scream at each other and violently grab things from each other and that too was a shock (okay, I admit my brother and I got into tiffs, but not like that and not as bad--besides, we weren't strangers and knew we would forgive each other but Jason, he didn't even know me, to treat me the way he did was unconscionable (sp?)! That experience and many after it taught me that a lot of people value things over people and that they're more likely to react (often violently) than think things through in a rational, logical fashion. Indeed, this is the period where I began to see other people didn't value honesty, logic, and rational thinking the way I did.

2) I used to take my favourite toys to kindergarten because I loved them so much I wanted to share them with everyone. One was a Jack and the Bean Stalk game my grandparents gave me for my birthday, another was this Jaws-Shark game, and yet another was tadpoles my parents had got me through some mail order thing. Every toy I toy I took to share was utterly destroyed within the first hour. I could believe it. I was beside myself with shock. Why would other kids choose to destroy my things? I didn't understand why other kids didn't respect my things. It just didn't make sense. I also was shocked to see that so many of the other children were so careless with my things. If it were one then I could avoid them, I'd be able to think to myself, "Wow, that kid's pretty messed up, I'm not going to share with them without keeping my eye on them the entire time!" But it wasn't just one or two, it was most of the kids and they were just careless with my things, but seemed purposely violent towards them, as if that were the purpose behind a toy, to see how much of a beating they could take. So yeah, it just shocked me how little respect other people had for each other's property, it's no wonder Jason flipped out on me, maybe he was just spoiled but maybe he'd had his toys destroyed by friends who just didn't know how to care for things, who didn't see that you treat another kid's toy with more respect than you might your own.

3) I met the next door neighbor kids when I was eight or nine. They were with their dad over by the shed on the other side of the fence down by the creek and pond. I had become shy by this time so I didn't rush over to greet them (this was at the point I'd started to become sociophobic, much of it in response to experiences such as #1 & #2) but was impressed at how easy going they seemed, how unafraid they were to come over to my brother and I to introduce themselves. The boy was either my age or a year younger and we got to be pretty good friends; we got together nearly every day after school to play. Nice kid but he lied to me a lot. I don't remember the exact lies, I just remember that he lied as easily as he might breath. Maybe he'd lie about the reason he couldn't play. Maybe he'd lie about a toy he had. Maybe he'd lie about his dad. It was the weirdest thing and completely challenged my perception of reality. Me? I never lied. Indeed, I didn't see a purpose to lying. Why would a person lie if they could tell me the truth, create a more meaningful and intimate bond with me? It just didn't make sense. And the older I got the more I saw that most of my peers were habitual liars and that their lies nearly always resulted in a negative consequence either for me, themselves, or those around them.

4) Again, I ask your forgiveness as I know I've told this story before. During the period of kindergarten through second grade I became really close with the daughter of my pastor. We were the same age and she was just a beautiful, creative, talented, and imaginative friend to spend time around. Wow, we were close and our friendship brought me great joy. In third grade I started out in the intermediate English class but my teacher quickly realized that it was under my level, that I needed a challenge, so I was moved to the advanced English class and to my elation she was in that class! Woohoo! Obviously being my closet friend at the time I'd want to sit next to her so I walked towards her desk and guess what? Yeah, you're right, she completely ignored me. Indeed, as if a light switch had flipped she stopped paying attention to me that very day. I might as well have been dead for all it mattered and it was a truly shocking experience, I'd just never been treated like that before. Hurt and confused I asked my parents about it and they responded, "That's just how girls are at this age," and as I've mentioned before even at that young age I realized how utterly sexist their comment was and how both my parents and hers were supportive of her behavior which was, I believed then and believe there, flatly immoral. I tried not to let it get to me though. I continued to say high in the halls, try to play with her at the playground at church. At church she wasn't rude to me but she still did her best to avoid me; it was obviously so her parents wouldn't see what a snob she'd become. A year or two later their family moved to Salem and I continued to try and maintain the "friendship" sending her a letter once a month or so. It went like this: I sent a letter, she responded to that letter (with a comparatively short one), I responded to her letter then she didn't respond at all. I'd wait a month or two then write her again. She's respond, I'd respond to her, then I'd wait another few months. Then one day I got a letter from her written on one page of lined school paper that had obviously been crumpled up (maybe after being thrown in the garbage, or so I interpreted it). It was two or three sentence long, obviously written in a hurry with no care what-so-ever given in writing it. Finally recognizing just how empty the friendship was I made her a friendship bracelet and sent it to her without a letter or anything else, a last ditch attempt to send one simple message, "No matter how you treat me I have been and am your friend." So in conclusion, she was one of many people who demonstrated to me just how little friendship means to some people, how easily tossed aside a person was, how inconsequential, how worthless, and again this was a shock to my system as everyone I met and befriended had value to me. I just loved and cared about all my friends, old or young, boy or girl. It was genuine, it was real, and it was healthy...but it was not something I saw in my peers. Watching their example it seemed friendship was a place to get something whether it be more toys, popularity, "in" clothes to share, and the like. Friendship was fickle and a friend could be treated as carelessly as my toys.

5) The biggest brick in the wall was something going on at home. Again, a story I have told, is of my father going blind and his emotional inability to admit to himself what was going on. Instead he started by taking it out on my mom. The flash bulb memory is of him putting her in tears at the kitchen table with the vile, hateful words streaming unnecessarily out of his mouth. Sure, maybe my mom screwed up the bills or made some other mistake, but that didn't give him the right to treat her like a piece of shit. Indeed, I have never believed that anyone, no matter what they do, deserves to be treated in the fashion he acted that day and so many days afterwards. As I got older and as his blindness progressed I, as the oldest boy, became the target of much of his verbal violence (while my mom would instinctively protect my little brother--an act which to this day causes me great emotional pain to think about). Long story short, my dad's tantrums just weren't right, they weren't the way things were "supposed" to be, and I knew deep down in my heart there were a thousand better ways to deal with frustration and fear than screaming ones guts out at another imperfect feeling human being that had done nothing and could do nothing to merit such an onslaught. While I loved my home and often found it a sanctuary from the dramas and immature bullshit at school it was a place where I had to watch my step, grow eyes in the back of my head, and learn to predict his outbursts so I could quietly sneak out of the room without him noticing. Home just wasn't always a safe place, something that was completely upside down from the way it had been the first six or so years of my life. I loved my dad but he could not control his pain and his fear but instead he looked for any possible reason, no matter how minor, to blame someone else (in the family, of course) then proceed to violently chip away at our sense of personal worth. In his defense I will say he was never violent; indeed, the few times I was spanked he did so unemotionally and fairly.

Experiences like these challenged my joyful view of existence. I viewed the world as a place to enjoy. I viewed people as worth my honesty, love, sincerity, and loyalty. I respected people's things and endeavored to always treat them better than my own. I saw life as an opportunity to treat each other with love and respect and kindness and I simply didn't understand that if we all have the option to treat each other in such a positive fashion--why the fuck would people lie, cheat, steal, destroy, hate, ignore, ostracize, slander, libel, and lash out? Have you ever went to see a movie and accidently walked in and sat down in the wrong theatre only to realize it two minutes into the credits? That's how I started to feel, as if I'd signed up for a life where I could do and receive all these things but instead ended up being born on the wrong fucking planet.

And so as I slowly ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge I began to see a world I did not like, a world I did not feel I belonged in, and a world where I felt less and less joy, could be less and less myself, a world where all the things that were anathema to joy were held in high esteem by others--or at least tolerated, as is the case with the ubiquitous "white" lie. And so my heart and my soul began to twist against itself and to survive I created for myself a world of illusions.


Act II: Mindful Illusions
Ages 15 thru 25

Buddhist philosophy is based on the idea that we all suffer and that suffering is rooted in illusions, illusions being an incorrect way of viewing reality. Buddhism then is the practice of learning to separate reality from illusion in order to stop the suffering that is born from our illusions. Me, I began creating illusions in a vane attempt to protect myself from the hurtful things I experienced during the first intermission.

For example, one of my biggest personal illusions, one I consciously created for myself, was this erroneous idea that adults did not lie, cheat, steal, destroy, hate, ignore, ostracize, slander, libel, or lash out at each other. I decided on this belief for three reasons. First, beside my dad's outbursts I never saw adults do these things, not at church, not at school, not anywhere. Sure, my relatives on my dad's side were a bit cold and self-centered, but they didn't call me names, talk behind my back, or break my things. The second reason for the belief, and the one that eventually made the illusion cause me grief, was that I wanted to believe that I could tough it out; if I was patient, waded through the mire of bullshit, graduate from high school, and go to college, then I'd be surrounded by serious adults who had serious life goals and who had grown up in to mature, caring, thoughtful, and loving people.

So when I hit 18, 19, 20, when I got out into the "real" world, I was shocked. While I did meet decent people from time to time, I saw a lot of terrible things. I discovered that not only did adults act in ways I had hoped to leave behind, but now that the stakes were higher, i.e. money, sex, and drugs were involved. A heart broken in the fourth grade didn't feel great, but the same thing at 23 could also include loosing a great deal of money or property, feeling the utter sense of pure worthlessness after learning your partner's been sleeping with someone else (and though I admit I wouldn't know I expect it feels like being raped).

Anyway I digress. The illusion was adults were mature and loving and that I could get through my younger years to adulthood, my salvation. When I got to be an adult and learned the world isn't the way I'd hoped it would be--it, among other things, lead to a chronic suicidal depression.

Here's another personal illusion: When people promise never to leave you they won't. Not only did I learn that this isn't true, that most people people don't respect the sanctity of a promise like I did and do, I also saw how fickle people could be about friendships, relationships, and the like. Indeed, as I got older I learned, partially as a matter of circumstance, partially by accident, and partially as an evolving habit, that the seeming only way I could get people to stick by me was to become more and more depressed. Threaten to kill yourself and the people you care about most won't leave. That was one of the most terrible habits I got in to. It didn't just hurt me, but everyone around me. The illusion that the only way I could keep a friend was by continuing to feel depressed and suicidal ruined more than my self-esteem, but every friendship I had.

Okay, so I've shared a few of the dozens of illusions I had, illusions that kept me depressed and unhappy, illusions that damaged my friendships and relationships, illusions that hurt everyone my life touched. I'm not going to share them all but I'm going to share the most important one before going on, and that is this:

I would not let people love me and the illusion that caused me to put up this wall was not that I had no worth (the conclusion most people have jumped to when analyzing my life), no, I knew I had worth and was special and that just made things that much worse. The illusion? That no one could see my worth, no one understood my worth, and just like all the people that had hurt me growing up anyone I met didn't care, they'd all hurt me and take advantage of me eventually, and at its worst the illusion was that people had to continually and consistently and repeatedly prove that they cared and loved me.

Imagine that for a moment. Imagine living in a world where you're always questioning other people, their love, their loyalty, and so on and so forth. Imagine spending all your time looking for clues, clues that conclusively prove that person A doesn't give a shit, the person B needs to try harder, that person C needs to apologize before their sincerity becomes a fact. And then imagine even after A's made you a wonderful dinner, after B's spent the afternoon sitting on a bed listening to your every concern, and person C apologizes for nearly everything they've ever done short of farting while in the same room and not excusing themselves. Just imagine living that life, a life where both your conscious and subconscious mind is full of fear, where you're always looking for a reason to fault someone else's friendship, and where nothing they ever do is "good" enough to prove, once and for all, their sincerity, their loyalty, their commitment, and so on and so forth.

Looking back I am ashamed of myself but worse, I want to kick myself for having allowed fear to colour my life so much. Fear was the force that allowed me to build a wall which deadened my perceptions of others. It was not easy for me to feel loved, to let love in. Looking back now I see that while I had a large number of arguably shitty friends, I also had many excellent friends who loved me, who came to me when I was ready to slit my wrists, who held me when I cried, and who helped me time and time again to get back on track, to go back to school, to stay at my job, and to keep living.

By blanking out their love I didn't just harm myself but I committed a terrible crime against them. What was that crime, you ask? Simple: I questioned their integrity. And my opinion is that's one of the worst things you can do to another human being, question their sincerity. I mean sure, if I found another guy's boxer shorts in my bed I'd have every reason to confront my girlfriend about it, but if I don't have anything but an insecurity based on the fact that they didn't respond to me right away when I asked how their day was--well, then I'm just questioning their integrity and creating a rift in the relationship.

Every time I questioned a true friend's loyalty or love I might as well have just slapped them in the face; the result was the same. First, they started to feel just hurt, hurt that they were judged so quickly and without substantial evidence to demonstrate my case. Then they started to feel shocked; they were demonstrating their love in ways both big and small, they were even doing all the things I said I needed, yet it still wasn't enough. After this they'd begin to feeling hopeless; nothing they did was "right"; they were doomed to fuck up whatever action they took. Finally this sense of powerlessness turned into hopelessness; they became numb, quiet, fearful, unresponsive; they stopped seeking me out or responding as quickly when I said I needed to talk, when I said I needed them. Eventually they stopped returning my calls, they stopped responding to my letters or e-mail, eventually they either just disappeared, started seeing other people (sometimes without telling me), but always, always, they stopped feeling they had worth while they were around me. They felt like a mistake, they felt like an afternoon with me would inevitably turn into one where I was pointing out all their faults and shortcomings. Somewhere deep down I knew they were loyal, I knew that they loved me, but because I would not, could not deal with my own shit, because I could not see how willing they were to stay with me if I did, I instead choose to tear them down until they had no self-esteem and no self-worth, until our relationship, to them at least, became one where all they had was fear, fear that lead to the only question that was important to them anymore: "What's the next thing he's going to put me down for and please, God, if there's a way for me to avoid it, if there's a way for them to hear the love I have for them, please let me find it!"

Back to illusion: The illusion was that people had to prove their love to me in order for me to feel loved. The result: I put up a wall preventing me from feeling loved when it was absolutely there for me to receive had my eyes been open. The price: Destroyed some of the relationships that were the most dear to me, did substantial and even permanent damage to people I truly loved (and still love), and finally, I created a mountain of regret that I am to this day attempting to resolve.

Moral of the story?

Just because you don't "feel" loved doesn't mean you aren't being shown love up to and including that magical thing known as unconditional love (well, at least as near as humans can get--unfortunately we all have our limitations...).

What did I learn from this?

If I'm not "feeling" loved but there are objective facts the prove someone loves me then it's time for me to take a long look in the mirror. It's time to do some personal work. It's time to heal.


I hate to say it but the old cliché about love starting with ourselves is true. You don't love yourself, you can't love others, yeah, that's the saying. What follows from that? It's this: You don't love yourself, you'll have a harder time accepting the love of others as its presented to you.

Think about it. I did. And it changed my life.

Oops, I almost forgot. You remember the picture I added for today's entry? Well, if you haven't seen it before it's a famous optical illusion. If you look at the picture closely you'll see one of two things, either a young and beautiful woman or an old ugly hag. During this period of my life all I would have been able to see is the old ugly hag; rarely was I able to see the beautiful young woman. And, as you have probably already guessed, the ugly hag represents the ugliness in myself or more accurately the negative perception I had of the universe, a perception that I projected onto others. Sadly, even though I was empathic, even though I was able to see deep into the core of other's hearts, I would still read between the lines things that were not there, I would still question their integrity, their loyalty, and their love for me. Though I wanted so badly to see the beautiful woman, though I knew she was somewhere in the picture, all I could see was the old hag...and maybe, at least on a subconscious level, that's all I wanted to see.


Intermission B
Ages 26 thru 27

My life changed sometime in my early twenties. I saw God. Really, I did.

I was laying in bed taking a nap. Didn't take too many naps so maybe I was just depressed or maybe I'd just taken a bunch of antihistamines for my allergies and was drowsy, either way I was in bed sleeping on my back, as I rarely was able to do, when I had a vision, as real as you or I, of a naked young boy standing by my bed. He leaned over me and looked directly into my soul and it was then I knew I was seeing a vision of the Divine spark showing himself to me in a form that would make sense to me at that time. His eyes looked into my mine and his lips didn't move but I heard him speak with a powerfulness that shook my entire soul from the inside out. This is what he said:

"Get up!"

On a superficial level this "vision" is just a random jumbling of perceptions but I knew through and through, to the deepest part of my spirit, what he was saying--demanding--of me. He wasn't telling me to get out of bed. He wasn't telling me to wake up and get back to my studies. What he was saying, clear as day, was that I was not living the life I was put here to live, that I was wasting it away in self-loathing and misery, and that I was causing great damage to myself as well as those my life was meant to touch. With two simple words communicated directly to my soul I was immediately informed that I needed to get off my ass and start living again, that it was unacceptable to continue down the path I was on because I knew better, I knew I had a greater purpose and it was not in any way right or just or good for me to continue ignoring it.

Now I'd love to say my life changed overnight. It didn't. I continued to struggle with my Depression. I continued to struggle with suicidal behaviors. And I continued to fall deeper and deeper until I committed then unimaginable actions towards those I cared for most.

Yet, though most would not believe it, I was on the right track. Why? Because I was trying. Because I'd heard the message and I thought about it on an almost daily basis. What can I do to improve my life? What can I do to be a better person? How can I treat others in the way they deserve to be treated? How can I accept the love offered me without complaint. Yeah, I really fucked up sometimes, but my eye was on the horizon, yeah I fell down and rolled back down the hillside, but I always got back up and started climbing back up. Yeah, I hurt people, but I did my best to recognize it as soon as I was able and make things right again (at least as much as I was capable and as much as others would allow).

This was probably the most difficult period of my life.


Act III: Hanging onto Boundaries
Ages 28 thru Present

I began shaking off the person I was around 1998 and by the summer of 2000 I had shaken off the last of my fear. My feet were finally on the path they were meant to be on. But boy, has it been a lonely one.

It all began with a simple but seemingly callous act. I kicked my then girlfriend out of the house. Why? Because she didn't have a job, because I was going deep into a debt supporting her lifestyle, and yet all she seemed to do was watch TV, drink soda, talk on instant messenger all day to countless virtual friends, play video games, smoke cigarettes, and get drunk. I stayed in the relationship because I was lonely, because I was afraid to begin living the life I needed to live, but mostly, because I didn't really know how to maintain healthy boundaries with people.

And that's been the theme of the last eight years: Boundaries.

I think it all came about because I recognized, during intermission B, that my fears had caused me to become an extremely distrustful and critical person. For instance if someone demonstrated they cared for me by asking how my day was I'd instead jump to, "Well, didn't you notice me frowning twenty minutes ago? Are you blind?" If someone sent me a card in the mail I'd react with something like, "Why didn't you make it? Clearly you don't want to dedicate any time to me." And if someone told me I was a good lover I thought wow, they're saying that because they really think I'm mediocre.

For any positive act shown to me, however clear it was, I could come up with a negative explanation. Either the act wasn't sincere. Either the act wasn't good enough or by extension, I could think of something that would have trumped it (and if they really loved me why hadn't they done that instead, isn't it obvious?).

I had to make a change in course.

That change was simple. If I found myself judging someone I would ask myself one two questions: 1) Is this worth my time/judgment? and 2) Is the criticism valid or is it based on my own personal bullshit (i.e. my fears, my hurt, my sadness, my loneliness, my past struggles, etc)? If the answer to the second was that it was my own bullshit then that was a red flag telling me I needed to take a look in the mirror, figure out why I was being critical and do what I could to keep from acting on it. Likewise if the answer to the first was no then I'd count to ten, let the thought go, and move on with my life.

I've done a lot of mirror gazing over the last decade and it would take me weeks of writing just to scratch the surface. The result of all of this is I've gotten to know myself on a fundamentally deep level better than most people ever will in their entire lifetimes. I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses. I know why I react to some words negatively and not others. And most importantly, I know that 90% of the times I get upset over something it's because of something in my psyche reacting to an event that's objectively neutral.

A lot of people who know me would probably agree with that assessment as they may have seen me react to quite a few things. Yet I'm going to disagree with that assumed assessment and it goes a little something like this: I only show my upset 10% of the 90% of those times I get upset over something that's my own bullshit. Simply put, most of the times I get upset over something that's my own personal bullshit I immediately or very quickly recognize it as such and don't say a word.

Most people never see or hear about most of the things that upset me (except, maybe, via these journal entries). I just keep them to myself.

Now another things some might argue is that by keeping things to myself they build up and build up until the pressure becomes so much that eventually I pop, exploding in everyone's face. And I admit, during Act II that was a really common occurrence. Now? It happens but not that often. Usually things bother me, I acknowledge them, and move on without any more than an intellectual attachment to them.

Enough said on that note.

As a result of this change, this conscious decision to judge people less and less and less, I've had to ask myself this: when is it appropriate to judge people? And this is what I've decided.

The only time it is morally or ethically correct to outwardly judge and criticize another human being is when that person has crossed a personal boundary. To be fair to all people those boundaries must be expressed clearly before someone can be expected to keep them; it's not okay to expect people to psychically know what our personal boundaries are (another mistake I made continually in Act II of my life).

The next question then becomes: What boundaries are healthy and correct and what boundaries are crossing the line?

Allow me a moment to explain my thoughts on this.

We each have personal boundaries. A lot of them are the same. Many are different. The same is true of our tolerance level for any given boundary being crossed.

If I'm going to have a boundary I want that boundary to be fair, just, and ethical. That may sense on the surface but I don't think most people have really thought about this one much. For instance take the example of marijuana which is illegal in the U.S. except for states that allow its use for medical purposes. We have boundaries, called laws, which say people can't smoke pot. But is this an ethical, fair, or just boundary? In my opinion it's not. Why? Because we as a culture have imposed, forced our boundaries on others (i.e. camouflaged in them in irrational moral abstractions). When a person does this, when we push a boundary on another person in a way that takes away their freedom to make choices on their own we take away their freedom.

Here's another, less politically loaded example.

Suppose you're a vegetarian. It doesn't really matter why you're a vegetarian--maybe you think killing animals is murder, maybe you know all the unhealthy results of eating meat, and maybe you're just against the meat and dairy industry--it only matters that you've made a personal choice not to eat meat. It's your body. You have every right to make this decision and no one, absolutely no one, has a right to take that from you. Now suppose you go to meet your partner's family for thanksgiving and out comes the turkey and your mother-in-law, who just cooked it, guilt trips you in front of everyone for not eating it. To be fair the mother "feels" like her cooking has been insulted and likewise that her lifestyle has been frowned upon. The result? She pushed harder and criticized even more, usually through subtle verbal barbs. The mother thinks she's trying to define her own boundary, that others should conform while in her house, but that boundary is not fair or just. The boundary is disrespectful of another human being's right to decide what to do with their own body, a decision nobody has the right to take from us.

So when writing up my own list of boundaries I've had to be very careful not to make ones like the mother in the previous example. Sure, I don't like kids wearing baggy pants dropping nearly to their ankles; I think they look like morons. And yeah, I hate cars with mufflers so fucking loud they'll wake you up at night. But the things is, if someone isn't directly impacting my immediate life then what's the point of harping over their choices, their behavior, things that only bother me because I choose to allow them to?

It's pretty weird in some ways. I used to have a bazillion boundaries, I used to be sensitive about nearly any goddamn thing. Now? I have very few boundaries and each is fair and just. Why do I believe so? Because when it comes down to it they're all about my mind, emotions, psyche, and property; they serve as the minimum requirements that I expect from someone for me to say, "You respect me."

Here are a few of my boundaries:


Don't lie to me.

Don't call me names.

Don't threaten me.

Don't swear at me.

Don't engage in ad hominem attacks against me.

Don't slander, libel, gossip, or otherwise talk about me behind my back.

Don't judge me for something I haven't done

If you do feel justified in critisizing me for something do so on objective, factual evidence; I do not respect being judged based only on gut feelings or emotional interpretations.

Don't corner me, especially if I ask for space.


Don't grab me

Don't prevent me from freely moving where I want to (i.e. blocking a door or standing in front of my car)

Don't slap, hit, or kick me


Do not take or use my things without first asking

Treat my things with the level of care that I do (or higher)


Don't tell me what I think

Don't tell me how I feel

Don't project your own fears, anger, or upset onto me

Don't transfer your fears, anger, or upset onto me

This is not a complete list but I've hit most of the big points. I should also say that some of these are higher in priority to me while others are lower. For instance, I'm going to be much more tolerant of someone who's projected their own fear onto me as a reaction to my swearing reminding me of their father, but I'm not going to be nearly as forgiving if I'm lied to. In general I think I'm pretty fair about how I prioritize these as well. The hard it is to stop doing the more tolerant I'll tend to be. For example it takes a lot of personal growth for a person to keep themselves from projecting and transferring their own personal stories onto other people, but it's pretty easy to not lie, call names, or threaten another person, so the first ones I'm pretty lenient about, the latter ones I have a short fuse regarding. Why? Because it's easier to modify the words that come out of our mouths than it is our perception of reality.

I've left out the most important boundary I have and it's this: Never say "I hate you". Now you're free to agree or disagree, but I believe this is the worst thing you can say to another human being. It is, in my humble opinion, worse than physically assaulting someone. It is, in my opinion, the verbal equivalent of raping someone.

I may seem to be going overboard but I'll bet you if you look at things from a purely energetic perspective you'll find that people that commit heinous physical acts are nearly always people that say, "I hate you". Why? Because they've crossed a line from simply expressing their hatred verbally to doing it physically as well. That's not to say all people who verbally express hatred will cross the line to physical abusive, but in my opinion and experience people who use those words are walking on thin ice, energetically speaking, between pure verbal abuse and physical abuse.

The other big one for me? Don't corner me. Why? I believe that we all have an inalienable right to take space. I also believe healthy people know when they need to take space and do so. For instance a few weeks back I needed to take space from some because I was crying and they wouldn't hold me so I just needed to be alone. Because I knew I'd blow a circuit if I didn't take the space, that is go off on them in a terrible way, I knew the healthiest thing to do was get some personal space to think, to cry, and to heal. They didn't respect my request, one that we had agreed to acknowledge months before, and it really just resulted in things going downhill.

I was using the bathroom at my primary care physician's office today when I read a sign on the door. It asked three questions:

Has your partner hurt you?

Has your partner hit you?

Has your partner threatened you?

Has your partner put you down?

If so please tell your doctor all call this spousal abuse hotline.

Before I go any further I want to say I'm not answering these questions in regard to any specific person, but I can say, with complete honesty, that the answers to these for most of the relationship I've been in over the past 8 years have been: Emotionally and sexually, yes, no, but I have been hit by one partner once, and yes, I've frequently been threatened by every partner I've been with, and yes, I've been regularly put down by every partner I've been with.

Now what does all this say of me? Think about it before you jump right to an answer. I've spent the last decade of my life lowering my judgements of others, weeding it down to a list of healthy boundaries, expectations I expect anyone to follow if I'm to feel treated well and respected. In these past years I haven't been afraid to tell people when they cross my lines? Why? Because I don't expect anyone to be psychic, I believe they should know what my expectations for treatment are before I judge them for unintentionally crossing that line. I think in that regard I've been pretty up front and fair.

The other thing is I'm pretty patient with people and I feel I need to say that because I was recently accused of being "intolerant". I couldn't quite believe my ears and was in fact quite offended that I'd been accused of that. Granted, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think if someone feels the need to throw it at me it better have some weight behind it. The fact that I have a three strikes and you're out rule (compared to their one strike rule) says a lot about how tolerant and patient I am.

You might argue that it's my tolerance that gets me into trouble and you know, I could agree with that. In fact, I'd quite most friendships pretty damn swiftly based simply on the fact that it's usually within the first day or two of knowing someone that a boundary will be crossed, I'll say, "Hey, would you mind not calling me names," only to which I'll be shrugged off, avoided, or laughed at. Someone does that six or seven times on a date and it's pretty good evidence that while they may expect their own boundaries to be respected they're not exactly responsive to other people's except when it suits them and that's not respect, at least not in my book.

It's getting late so I'm going to do my best to wrap this up for the night.

Having boundaries is hard for me. On the planet I came from and was meant to land 35 years ago our people treat each other with love and respect. We're heady, we think about these things, we've got ourselves figured out, and we crap our mental issues all over each other. But in this world a healthy person has to have good boundaries to survive and those boundaries, to be healthy, in my view, must be fair, clear, and based on one's body, space, and property.

What's hard for me is not communicating my boundaries. I think that's pretty easy. And when to do it is not hard either. I feel the only time to express my boundaries, unless we're to have a philosophical conversation about the, is when one has or is about to be crossed. This is in my opinion the most ethical and correct place to bring them up because bringing them up at other times can make people feel preemptively judged and frankly, it's just unnecessary. For example, how would you feel if we just met and we were talking and I said, "Don't ever call me names. If you call me names I'm going to leave the room until you can speak to me with respect." Whoa, I mean, wouldn't you be a little shocked by such an unfair presumption of guilt? You might as well say, "I expect you to fuck up on this note so I'm warning you right now, when you do I'm going to walk out on you."

Yeah, real nice.

I have more rules for when and how to communicate boundaries in a healthy-mature fashion but not tonight, not enough time. Besides, haven't I written enough already.

I want to end on this final note. In Act III of my life I went through a transformation that allowed me to see both the ugly old hag and the young beautiful girl. I could see either anytime I wanted and without fail. Likewise, I'm now able to go the next step and see both of the woman at the same time, I can see the ugly one and the beautiful one, I can see the old one and the young one, I can see the hag and I can see the woman, all at the same time.

Do you understand what I'm saying?

Do you understand how that relates to my perception of people, their interactions, their boundaries, my boundaries, their behavior, my behavior, their feelings, my feelings, it's all part of the same picture to me, both pictures all at once the same picture and at the same time a third picture which is neither an old ugly hag or a beautiful young woman.

If you can understand this, it's relationship to perception, to empathy, once you understand where it ties into boundaries, to taking responsibility for person choices and perceptions while recognizing I can't be held accountable for the choices and perceptions of others, once you understand that you'll understand me...

That said, I feel I am pretty healthy when it comes to boundaries. I raise them in real time and if people respond to them directly with immediately acknowledgement of the boundary and having crossed it, then I'm amenable to letting it go and moving on. That's what I believe, we should stand up for ourselves but when people admit they screwed up we immediately forgive and move on.

Unfortunately I don't feel I've been given many opportunities to prove this aspect of my personality. I have, however, been accused of making everything about me but in my defense, once my boundaries have been crossed I'm not going to just push them to the side, make them variable and redefinable. I used to do that and the result was that people would walk all over me. No, that doesn't work. You've gotta stand up for yourself in real time and expect others to treat you with respect in real time and everything stops the boundary is given the proper respect.

And of course that goes both ways! If I cross another person's line then everything stops until I demonstrate the respect they deserve. That's how healthy communication works, in my humble opinion.

That said, in the last 8 years I am yet to meet one person who doesn't react defensively to me expressing my boundaries. I've tried all manner of expression to. I've tried with letters. I've tried to be polite. I've tried to be curt. I've stayed away from personal judgment when I do and stick to discussing behaviors and when I ask a person to ask in a certain way I'm extremely specific about it. Also, in asking someone to act in such a way I am careful not to demand that they change who they are. Indeed, it has nothing to do with them as a person but how they treat me. It's as simple as that.

You know, I would pay a $1,000 to make a friend or to have a partner who responded to me pointing out a boundary by acknowledging and responding to it. Gotten to the point where I feel it's hopeless, where articulating any boundary is the sure fire way to get someone to respond immediately with "I hate you" and "I'm going to leave you" and "You suck!" You know, it's kinda scary to think that's usually the response I've gotten from dozens of very different people. So I have to wonder. Am I articulating my boundaries in some retarded fashion? Not according to psychological books on communication; according to them I'm typically doing things right down the line. So what's going on? I really don't know, I just don't know anymore, but I do know I'd give one of my kidneys to hear someone say, "You're right, I screwed up, I crossed your line. I'm sorry, will you forgive me? Good, then I'll do my best to respond to them immediately in the future and not immutably accuse you of trying to hijack the conversation, I can now see why you bring up your boundaries when I need to talk, when I'm feeling afraid and start to cross some lines. I love you and that's worth working on. So now that I've honored and respected your boundary can we talk about what I need to? Again, I will do my best to communicate in a more neutral and non-judgmental fashion, okay? I may not always do it perfectly, I may make mistakes, but I will do my best. Is that goo enough for you?"

And I would say, "Yes, absolutely."


Act IV: The Pain of Living
Present thru Death

I don't know what lies in my future but if I were to be completely honest I'd have to say I don't like the way things are looking.

As I've mentioned over the last several years my physical health has just gone down the shitter culminating in two hospital visits. I see a GI doctor next month and undergo two exploratory surgeries to see what's going on with some parts of my boy and truth be told I'm pretty scared about what they'll find. My joints continue to pop more and more every day (my right shoulder's now the worst new popper) and last night I noticed a strange jelly bean sized bump under my skin just above my right wrist. I have no clue what's going on with me. Most days I'm okay, I just push through, deal with the pain, and other days I can't help freak out and think I must have cancer that's gone to every joint in my body or something worse, a slow breakdown of my connective tissues. I'll admit on some level I've become a hypochondriac but given the circumstances can you exactly blame me.

On top of that my work has become much more difficult over the last year and a half. We've had substantial changes at our company changing the culture and the products. We've made massive changes to management, most of whom are still learning the ropes. As of January 1st, 2008, my work had pretty much doubled. Based on some decisions this January that worked tripped. The expectation that we meet our schedules along with all the challenges that have been encountered along the way have made it necessary to often work after hours (usually from home) and sometimes on the weekends. In truth my work schedule + expectations is a huge part of why I ended up in the hospital, both times in fact. Fortunately this has gotten the attention of management and the Human Resources person so they're doing what they can to plan better and delegate much of my work out better, but even then what might seem to need 6 hours of work turns out, due to computer gremlins, take 16 hours instead. Sure would be nice if our estimates were always right but we just don't know when we hit some technological bump in the road and we have many, many times since December 2008. I want to sincerely succeed at my job and sometimes, like yesterday and the day before, I worked from home all night and it worked out fine, I didn't let my body get overly worked, listened to my emotions, and did what I needed to take care of myself. It was nice, however, to be able to stair at a monitor which I'll admit is an adult version of a security blanket (for me).

Then there's my social life. Last December I lost one of the most significant people in my life, my daughter. Did I loose her to death? No, I lost her to selfishness. I haven't heard much from her after my hospital visit; she didn't seem to react in what I'd consider a "normal" way to hearing her father had a heart attack. Hurt by this and just not in a good emotional space I wasn't able to keep up our writing back and forth like I had for months before that. I was just hurting and needing to take care of myself. And then she sent me fairly angry hate-filled letter which I just couldn't believe. I know she feels I may have given up on her but that seems a pretty big leap to be making. So finally, after getting a second fairly passive aggressive letter I responded, said it's not acceptable for her to talk to any adult in that fashion, especially me. I said I haven't been doing well, that I've been doing the worst I've been in my life. I admitted I felt hurt because I didn't get a card or anything to demonstrate she loved me, was scared for my life, and that she wanted to see me. And when I tried getting some time to talk with her she couldn't because she'd be with her grandparents, people that hate me. So I'm just a bit hurt about all of that, I can't imagine keeping two people away from each other, esp. when one's been hurt, because there's some kind of ridiculous feud going on. This whole thing seems unnecessary, the worst example of apathy that I've experienced in my own life. It just adds to all the other pain I already experience on a daily basis.

And then there's my now x-girlfriend. I wanted to marry her. I wanted to start a family with her. I love her. She is the love of my life. But I got tired, tired of her crossing so many of my personal boundaries. It boggles me too, I don't bring them up all the time, just when they've been stepped on, and I don't make them vague or hard to act on. "Don't call me names", it's something that's pretty easy to do. The same with "Please stop breaking up with me every time you get scared."--in all honestly I don't get it when she says I'm not loyal, I've never broken up with her (until this time), I've never put an ad on Match.com or anything like that, I don't have other single friends of the feminine sex that I might bed, indeed the only thing I've done on a regular basis is take sometimes several days of space at a time after she's gone off on me, calling me all matter of names, making all manner of assumptions (like I'm supposed to know she needed to talk while we went out to a movie), and all sorts of slam-boom-bam reactions when I don't somehow psychically get everything right. I don't know what else to say. She is the love of my life. I want to be with her and i know if we got back together again we'd have many of the same things to struggle with, but God, I'd sure like things to be so she realizes she can bring up anything with me anytime she wants as long as she 1) checks to see if I'm ready and willing to talk about a specific subject (I think it's disrespectful and unrealistic to force a person to be ready when they're not) and 2) to communicate using neutral thinking-feeling language (and saying things like, "I think you don't care because I think you let me down a lot) is not neutral language. And I've heard her do it before and she's improved her abilities in this area by leaps and bounds it's just that I'd asked her to keep serious conversations out of the bedroom, I need it to be a sacred space for like enriching activities such as sleep, cuddling, and sex. Somewhere that request, which I thought was pretty clear and fair, got lost somewhere (which is one reason I got so upset that morning, that she's tried to get me to listen while I was mostly asleep on the bed--it just doesn't work and tends to make me "pissy").

Ok, so I lost all the support systems I have in Portland. Sure, I know a few people work a little, but not in any significant way. Maybe I could make some bonds there, but I doubt they're grow into much (you can usually tell when you meet someone where something will go). So I'm going to be spending the next few weeks, months, years, or decades, pretty much alone again. Back to square one, Aslynn supporting Aslynn, Aslynn playing video games with Aslynn, Aslynn talking to Aslynn, with breaks here and there to pick up groceries or go to work or what have you.

Then again maybe I'd just prefer that, maybe I'd just prefer living here, sticking my nose in my job, have a few fuck buddies here and there, get another cat here and there, then once 40 comes I'll be in a wheelchair so sell the motorcycle, purchase a clyver-1 (sp?). Or maybe I should sell this home and everything I own, move somewhere deep in the country/forest away from everyone, live off the land, no electricity, no people, no more people to dedicate my life to only to hear how much they hate me. Nah, none of that crap, just a chance to smoke a pipe, enjoy the side of a mountain, and turn into Grizzly Addams.

Or things could turn around quite suddenly. My daughter starts talking to me respectfully and does what she needs to do so she and I can spend more quality time together. My X apologizes, takes responsibility for hear fears, and shouts out that hope is what healthy relationships are built on but that no relationship is perfect, partners screw up, but loving partners always come back that much more loving and willing to recognize their mistakes and learn from them. And things at my work would smooth out so I could work 8 hours a day (finally) and get everything that needs to be done, done, and my body would start to feel healthier, slowly, day by day, until such time I no longer will need pain killers to get through my days. I'll loose the extra 15 pounds on my stomach, I'll go to school and find a second occupation, my belle and I will fix up the house and sell it at quite higher rate then move to some beautiful older house in town. I'll win the lottery, gain superhuman powers, and save the world from nuclear annihilation.

Or I'll just sit here writing a lot wondering what it is about me that makes people seem to think they can treat me differently than they'd treat their friends and family. If (and that's a big IF) and when I figure that one out I'll let you know.

So Act IV really is about the death of hope and even possibly about my death in the not too distant future. Less hope than I've ever had before, I just am kinda wandering without too much purpose lately and as the situation I'm in is unlike any other in my life, is much more intense and from many, many more areas of my life all at once and in more intense ways than ever before...the idea of hope just seems a bit out of place in my life right now. I've never felt that way before. It's weird. I feel like someone died but I missed the funeral. Hope, where are you?


Where are you?

Tuesday March 24th, 2009

Am I a failure?
Is all the "progress" I've made over the last fifteen years pointless?
Will I always end up alone?
Do I matter?
Is it worth asking?
Will I die alone?
Will I live alone?
Does it matter?
If there's a God, why is He/She/It ignoring me?
Don't I matter?
Don't my prayers matter?
Don't they?
Don't I?

Monday March 23rd, 2009

I feel like shit today but what's new? I've survived 82 days of 2009 and of those days I've had maybe 4 good days, 14 decent days, and 64 crappy to shitty to seemingly unlivable days. I define a "good" day as a day where I am little to no physical or emotional pain and have experienced joy or happiness for longer than 5 minutes at a time. A decent day is one where I have pain and stress, but it's easily managable, not anything worth reports. And I define the rest as medium to extreme physical pain, a sense that my life is going nowhere and I have little to no worth.
Today is one of the latter.
I don't know if I can share with you some magical strategy for getting through days like today. Just like you the minutes go by, one after the other, and I'm better off not focusing on the things that are causing me to suffer (in as much as that's possible). Fortunately if I'm feeling really unwell I can take the appropriate steps to work part of the day from home (though to be quite honest until I'm able to move my desk into the den this isn't the most comfortable workspace in the world--but it beats being stuck in a cube!). Another thing that helps is planning some things out for my day. For example, I plan on starting a load of laundry by 5pm. I also plan to pay a few bills, get that out of the way. This evening I'm going to eat left over macaroni and cheese and if really start to feel sick I'm going to lay down for a bit with my comfort blanket which happens to be a 32 year old stuffed elephant appropriately named Eli. I may do the cat litter. I may sit in the living room for awhile. I may do the dishes. Whatever I may or may not do boredom is not one of my complaints.
Oh yeah, I might write a bit too.
For years I've had this theory, that I have this singular ability to bring out the best and the worst in those I get close to. I've maintained that theory because it's fits the fact, in every friendship I've ever had I've consciously tried to bring out the best in the other people (and have usually succeeded); likewise, for some unfathomable reason I push the sorest of people's buttons. Now I'd thought that this was my own curse until I met a few other people I'd describe as "empathic", that is, people who's sense of empathy is nearly a super-power in strength. I couldn't help but notice these people also had the uncanny ability to bring out both the best and worst in everyone in their lives, myself included. So maybe it's not a function of my eccentric personality but a side-effect of being an empath. Who knows and what psychologist would chance the redicule of their peers to test it (much less admit there's such a thing as an empath)?
I've recently started to formalize another theory which may not only be more easily tested, but may have already been studied. The theory is this: There is a statistically significant chance that a socially isolated person will bring out the "worst" in others.
Let me explain.
Since moving to Portland in 2000 I have been what most people would consider socially isolated. Sure, I've had a few friends here and there, I lived with a roomate and her daughter for six or seven years, I've dated, and I go to an office five days a week, but most of my free time is spent alone. When I'm not alone I'm generally around only one person at a time or, if it's more than one person, I'm either at work or spending time with a friend's friends and/or family. It's rare (if not unheard of) for my friends or partners to spend time with me around my family or other friends; I'm usually the visiter to their tribe and at times it's made me feel like the odd man out, the spare tire, or at worst, the intruder. While probably a more common type of social isolation, it has some interesting side-effects.
One result of this type of social isolation is that the new connections I build with people are generally through an existing friend or romantic partner. For example, as a result of my friendship with my x-roomate I built relationships with her parents as well as her brother, sister and law, and their children; indeed, after seven or so years these relationship had become fairly substantial and I had grown fond of her brother's family (people I care for dearly and have an enormous amount of respect for). Then boom, one day in late 2007 she decides I'm a complete asshole son-of-a-bitch (something that boggles me to this day given I helped her raise her daugher for that time at a cost of nearly $60k), moves, and likewise tells everyone in her circle what kind of person she thinks I am. In an ideal world these people, many of which I consider family, would call me up or write me an e-mail, make some kind of effort to hear the other side of the story in order to a) uncover a deeper truth and b) reassure me that relationship still exists but in my experience that's a very rare thing indeed. The result, more often than not, is as a result of loosing one friend I loose all the other relationships I spent weeks, months, or years building.
That may seem cynical for me to say but in the "real" world human beings organize themselves into tribes and tribes tend to behave in very instinctual ways. Suppose for instance there are two tribes, the Ookie tribe and the Gibler tribe. The Ookies live near the beach, primarily eat seafood which is always abundant, live in a single large log cabin which was built out of Redwood which is also abundant, and worship the Goddess of the Sea and God of Rain. The Giblers, on the other hand, live in a high desert where they spend their days hunting and gathering for whatever they can find; their homes are lightweight tents which they can carry to wherever the food is and they're so busy surviving they don't have time to worship anything.
The tribes usually don't interact. Not only don't they need to but they live in completely different environments and for the most part they like where they live. Every now and then, though, the Gilbers will seek the Ookies out. Maybe there's a drought so they need to find water or maybe they've run out of game to hunt and the fruit and berries aren't in season so they grab their gear and head to the beach where they trade those few items available to them in the high desert, such as obsidian, for fish and rights to the fresh water streams. Sure, the Giblers could fish for themselves but they're from the desert, they have no clue how to fish, none of them can swim, and frankly, it's not a skill they want to pick up when it's easier to pick up a common rock, carry it over the mountain, and trade it. Likewise the Ookie's don't feel the need to travel to the desert, they've got a fairly coushy life there next to the beach worshiping their gods and goddesses and they can get everything they don't have when the Gibler's show up. Other than that the only time they see each other is when the tribes intermarry which, while rare, helps insure they stay on speaking terms with each other.
Unfortunately every now and again some Gibler, hungry and unable to fish, grabs a salmon out of the Ookie's tribal pantry without asking and some Ookie forgets to ask to borrow a tool because they're in a hurry to get a new idol carved for the upcoming worship celebration and single's night. Usually this isn't a big deal, the Gibler admits to taking the fish and likewise includes some self-depricating humor about their inability to swim while the Ookie says yeah, sometimes they can be zealous in their worship and forgets that while borring things in such a fashion would be perfectly normal in their tribe it's unnacceptable to do with another. Misunderstandings are met with patience, dialog, understanding, and even though their customs and lifestyles differ dramatically they share the mutual desire to interact peacefully.
..but every now and again a younger or more stubborn nosed and cocky Gibler or Ookie gets it into his or her head that their tribe is somehow superior to the other or maybe they get it into their heads that their customs make sense but there's no good reason to respect the other tribe's. Say for example marriages in the Ookie tribe are all arranged, something that makes sense for their culture and environment, while the Gilber's decide who gets who based on physical strength, health, and will often use physical competition to decide, especially if two people are vying for the same mate. Now suppose a young Gilber boy gets the hot for a gorgeous young piece of Ookie ass. He sees that she's single and doesn't notice anyone actively courting her by strutting their stuff so he decides to ask her to go on a walk during which he decides to carry the heaviest stone, climb the tallest try, and so on and so forth, all to demonstrate what a great guy he is. He then asks, "Do you like me?" and not knowing any better she says, "Yeah, I like you," so he slaps her on the butt and says, "Alright then, we're engaged. Pack your things and lets head back to the high desert so we can get hitched." Shocked, the Ookiette runs back to her village, tears rolling down her face, and shamed she hides but is soon found by her father who takes her to the village elder, an old shaman, who gets her to admit her sin. The boy, excited that he's now a man, rushes to his tribe and shouts in glee his conquest.
When the elders of the Gibler tribe hear what's happened they're as shocked as the girl was. Having visited the Ookies for decades they know a great mistake has been made and, recognizing their role as both enforcers of the tribal law and teachers they get the entire tribe together and publically chastise the boy for what he's done, indicating that he must immediately go back to the Ookie tribe and apologize for his misdeed. Likewise the Ookie shaman has recognized the young girl is not at fault but an apology must be made. That night the Gibler boy returns, formally apologizes to the girl and her family, and all wrongs are amended. This is the way of peace, the way of stability, this is the manner in which the wise elders insure the two tribes can continue good relations with one another. Feelings are hurt but in the end the truth prevails and everyone is happy.
That's not the end of the story though. In the Ookie village live a young boy and girl who are not betrothed to each other but are none-the-less madly in love with each (they strutted their stuff and said, "Oh yeah, baby, bring it on!"). Seeing the Gibler tribes much more liberal marriage customs the boy decides to smack the girl on the behind and they sneak off to consumate the marriage. Unbeknownst to them the girl's little brother, a curious little fellow, follows them in to the woods, watches their intercourse, and returns immediately to the village both disgusted and excited by this bizarre strange thing he's seen his sister do he tells his parents who are in dire shock. They immediately meet with the shaman who decides such behavior is detrimental to their culture and since they believe a man's semen is from the God of Rain who seeds the earth it is the boy who will be held primarily responsible. As judgement he is cast out from the village and the girl, as a lesser punishment, does her penance by becoming a nun who spends the rest of her days mending the fishing nets, a message to others that she is mending her ways and won't let another fish get through the net (if you need me to spell out the symbolish for you you're shit outa luck! ;)
Having grown up with a fairy sedate lifestyle the boy is thrust into a shocking world where he has no permanent home and must quickly learn an entirely new set of skills to survive. He tries building a makeshift hut near the ocean but quickly recognizes he cannot fish; he has no net and does not know how to make them as this was a woman's job (at least in his tribe). Hungry he attempts to build his own net but it falls to pieces the instant he throws it in. Frustrated he makes a spear but is only able to catch small crabs and the like; within weeks he has eaten all the small and easily caught game on his stretch of beach. Scared for his life he recognizes he must move on or starve.
And so the boy, lets call him Moogly, takes what little he can carry and begins moving up the beach, covering a few miles a day, hunting and foraging what he can as he goes. Eventually he bumps into nearby tribes of Ookie people's who instantly recognize him for what he is, I mean, Ookies don't travel so he must have fucked up and been kicked out so no way were they going to invite such bad karma into their villages.
He moves on. And knowing he'll only encounter more Ookies as he wanders up the coast line he heads inland. If the Gibler's can survive over there than so can he!
I won't lie to you, the first couple of years were extraordinarily hard. Most of the animals he was encountering were fast, like the rabbits, or huge, like the deer, and he didn't have a clue how to catch them (though he eventually figured out how to catch the rabbits, at least 50% of the time). There seemed to be plenty of vegetation, but it was hit or miss as to what was edible and he spent his share of nights puking his guts out after eating the wrong berry or other days wandering around in a psychadelic haze from some mushrooms he'd gathered. And unlike the coast, where seasons were mild, he found himself scorched by the sun in the summer and nearly freezing to death and covered by snow in the winter.
Worse yet, the longer he wandered and the more he suffered the more his mind began to slip further and further away from himself. As the days grew longer he found himself talking to himself, to animals, to plants, to the sky, and to innanimate objects. True, he did bump into the random Gibler wandering about as well, but their interactions were usually relegated to a short greeting or maybe at most a week or two with a group until the Giblers recognized not only did they have too many differences, but they were spending far too much of their time supporting this "adult" who lacked the simple survival skills to help the group survive. And so as a result, though he was lonely, so much so I cannot do it justice here, Moogly spent most of his time alone doing everything within his power and limited abilities to survive. To help he would often watch the Giblers but at a distant, learn their hunting and building techniques, and after some years became just as skilled, if not more so, than most of the Giblers yet now they didn't accept him because he had become--how do I put this politely?--far too eccentric for their taste.
Surviving on his own was not easy but it forced him to become self sufficient than any of the Ookies or Giblers. He could string a bow and down a deer, he could distinguish between the poisonous mushrooms, the edible ones, and the ones that caused him to feel a strange sense of lightness and joy as well as hallucinate. Once he'd become adept and hunting, searching for edible foods, and building shelters that would serve him year round, he had plenty of time to think about life, the universe, and everything. He had grown up in one culture, lived within the other, and used the unique knowledge and insightfulness of both to survive. He saw the universe in a way members of neither tribe could. He saw the best in each tribe but he also saw the worste, how tribal members grew up learning certain "truths" and were therefore blinded by them, how members of the tribes agreed to sets of said and unsaid rules that limited their lives, stunted their ability to connect with one another, and worse, brought them unnecessary suffering. You might say Moogly became sort of a wandering mystic. Still, he remained lonely and though he was able to conform to the limiting customs of the groups he ran into he was never completely accepted. Hell, he wasn't generally even called by his name but by the Ookies was known as "He who humps the Redwood trunk" and by the Giblers he was just "Fish". As much as he would have loved to have been accepted as part of the group, as much as he recognized he had skills that would benefit both groups, they could not see beyond their idea of what he respresented to them; in other words they did not see who he was but defined him in terms of what he wasn't.
This is the tribal way, the tribal mind. This is group think. And Moogly, while a wonderful guy with a challenged past, suffered enormously from this social isolation. It was not the life he wanted to live but it was not within his power, he knew, to force others to accept him.
Sometimes his thirst to have a home and family was so strong he would intentionally seek out a tribe. In order to find a place with Ookies he knew he'd need to find a tribe that didn't know him then dress and act more like a Gibly, otherwise they'd immediately ostrasize him. Sadly he would not do this often. He hated pretending to be something else so it was only when he was deathly homesick that he'd play the role of a Gibler and go back home--and even that wasn't worth it as, not being from the tribe, he was not welcome inside the communal house. As far as the Gibly tribes he was freer to be himself yet found to be accepted as a man he had to always prove his worth by acts of physical bravery and the like, something he tired of, and worse, his age and lack of a wife or children was a great stain on his life, at least in their view.
Indeed, as any human might he sought out sexual companionship with Gibly women but it was difficult at first. Obviously he did not quite understand the nuances of their courting rituals nor did he quite believe the women really were only attracted to the most gung-ho of men so his heart was never completely in the act when he tried and his insincerity was immediately picked up. If only he could find one woman who would accept him for who he was.
And a few times he did.
He once met an older woman named Peek. She had been married many times before but her husbands had all died premature deaths showing off by hunting things like, say, bears, panthers, that kind of thing. Though Peek had grown up a normal Gibler girl with normal Gibler attractions she'd outgrown them, so much in fact that she was leaning in the exact opposite direction. She would have considered having the elders contact the Ookies, arrange a marriage with a more heady man, but truth is she liked living in the high desert and couldn't imagine living in only one place! How crazy is that?! So in many respects Moogly was exactly what she needed. He didn't stay in the same place all year yet he wasn't a cocky jackass like her tribesmen.
Moogly, of course, was head over hills in love and cherished Peek more than you can possibly imagine. His love was absolute and genuine, he would have done anything for her, absolutely anything.
As the relationship went on sometimes Peek would become insecure. She'd gotten many of her needs met, but she started to miss the cockiness of the other males. And instead of recognizing this for what it was she projected her feelings onto Moogly: he wasn't satisfied with her, he missed Ookie women, especially the Ookie girl he'd screwed that morning in the forest, he was the one the was most likely to cheat on her. And when she brought this up in screams and shouts Moogly was in shock. How could Peek say such things? How could she doubt him?
And as the relationship went on sometimes Peek would become irritated with Moogly's life style. He didn't move enough during the year (staying for one spot for even one season was too much for any sane human, she thought) or sometimes she hated the fact that he moved at all, that he was a fake that wasn't true to his heritage. So she'd yell and scream and shout at Moogly and he was in shock. Why did Peek go off on him so? What had he done but love her the best as he knew how and live a life of integrity always being true to himself and others?
Peek was his only solid connection to the Gibly tribe. While they were together he could join the tribe in their activities and they'd treat him like family. It was a wonderful, exciting feeling and he started to feel like he'd found his second home. After he and Peek had a fight they'd go their separate ways, he to the quiet serity of the forest where he'd go for walks and try to find some inner peace, and she to her fellow tribespeople. Time would pass and they would come back to each other, talk, forgive each other, hold each other, and make love. All was well with the world.
Then he noticed something distressing.
If he decided to return to the tribe's camp before she came back to him everyone would look at him funny. Indeed, whereas they might have greated him with a smile earlier that day, now they would look at him distrustingly, arguably much less kindly than they did when he was just the "fish". It always happened after a fight and it was always worst with those that Peek was closest too. There was only one conclusion: Peek was telling them her side of the story and as such they were angry, upset, and as any good friend or family member might be, protective.
What Moogly could never understand is why no one asked him what had happened or how he was doing. Indeed, on a fundemental level he was shocked by their lack of empathy towards him, their lack of desire to hear him out or show their support. He even tried to tell a few of the Giblers what he believed had happened but they did not at all act receptive to him. It was just as he had seen so many times in the past, a member of the tribe had shared their story and because the other side was that of an outsider, a visiter, a fish out of water, the tribe would come together and reinforce it against the visiter. Fortunately this was usually limited to body language but there were times it came to words or even someone assaulting him. Once he and Peek worked things out things would go back to normal, her family would start treating him like family, her friends would start treating him as a friend, and things were, at least in his mind, as they should be.
The tribe accepts and the tribe accepts at the drop of a hat. The tribe chooses its own over another. The tribe, he knew, valued group consistency more than getting down to the larger truth.
As you can imagine things didn't go well for Moogly when Peek decided to end things and start sleeping with a bear hunter. Indeed, that day he not only lost her but every member or her family and every friend; sure, he'd spent years developing relationships with them but he met them through her and they considered her "more" family or friend than he and since they were done, finito, over, likewise they were done, finito. Such is the tribal way and not just of that group of Gibly tribespeople, but of all the Giblies he encountered and it was not just a Gibly trait but something that occurred with all the Ookies he encountered. And it frustrated him to no end. In general he was not readily accepted into a group unless he had made a good friend or sexual relation within that group, but in doing so he risked loosing the all social connections if the initial social connection was lossed.
They were all or nothing affairs.
He eventually got over Peek, moved on, found other groups, fell in love with other women, but always the same pattern. He was the outsider and therefore the larger social circle was typically hers. Sure, he tried to introduce his lovers to the few friends he met along the way but they generally never expressed interest (and sometimes even expressed a desire not to meet his friends). The problem was most of the people he knew were, like himself, oddball wanderers who weren't affiliated with any tribe. They were too different and his lovers generally could only accept one person who differed too much from the Giblies at a time. And so he simply came to accept that to have a larger circle it would need to be his partner's circles; he began to accept when she left him, so too would they.
What I'm trying to say, if you haven't gotten it, is that for the past twenty or so years I've been a Moogly, I was kicked out of my tribe for acts of non-comformance and likewise when I find a group I start to feel is "home" it's always through someone else, a friend or partner, it's the lives of their friends, their family, that I enter into, and when we part lives I inevitably loose nearly every social support system I thought I have.
The tribes stick together.
You know what I'd give to see something else? Do you know how much I'd pay to see one member of any of these tribes come up to me and ask, "So, they're pretty upset, but I can't imagine you're that bad, I mean, why would they stay with you? What's going on? What's your side of the story?" And truth be told I'd bloody well have a heart attack if, after telling my side of the story they went back to their sister or brother or roomate or best friend and say, "I know you feel hurt but after hearing both sides of the story I gotta say I think you're in the wrong and you'd do yourself a lot of good to recognize your shortcomings, swallow your pride, and apologize."
But that's not how tribes work, is it?
So yeah, socially poverty. I've lost a lot of social support systems over the last decade because the "family" I thought I'd made was taken away from me the moment one person decided to go back and tell their story. I've lost a lot of people I loved when that story painted me in such a bad light that I have to wonder, if I were really that bad why aren't I in jail? And you know, you'd be right to say I shouldn't keep all my eggs in one basket, but problem is, like Moogly I've generally had a hard time meeting people who were interested or open to meeting, much less becoming close to, my other friends; it's not, in fact, uncommon to experience the reverse, have a friend or partner tell me that under no circumstance would they like to get to know the other important people in my life (or at the very least they want to severly limit any contact with said persons, which is usually the behind the back treatment my parents get). And it's hard, it's really really hard being the spare tire, the visitor, the one that comes in seeing all these new and wonderful people and generally liking all of them, feeling a bond with all of them before boom, all gone, like that, as fast as lighting it's all fucki
P.S. Before going I should mention what Peek told her tribespeople about Moogly before leaving him. She said that he treated her badly and threatened to leave her if she didn't start putting out more; as a quick reminder the truth is she'd been looking for excuses to leave him (she really just wanted her cake and to eat it too) so she waited a long enough period for it to look good before jumping in the sack with the bear tamer. To Moogly this was a fate worse than death and for years afterwards he would think about this as he walked through the woods, think about all those people who disliked or even hated him in large part for things he never did but that's transference and projection for you.
P.P.S. Thought I had only a few things to say today but I guess I was wrong as I often admittedly am. Blah blah blah.
P.P.P.S. In all my rambling I didn't get to give an example of my theory in action. In essense it comes down to this, because the social circles Moogly and Peek were in were almost surely all Peek's peeps she was in power position. Specifically, she knew she could tell people her story and they'd side with her, regardless of whether or not their were supportive facts, regardless of the data to the contrary. Second, because she knew he was socially isolated she could treat him rougher than she might treat a fellow member of the tribe. In my mind (and experience) it's fairly straight forward: a) those in social isolation are vulnerable, b) those in social isolaation are not benefited by the protection of the tribe, and c) it's really fucking easy to rationalize one's behavior towards another human being when nobody (at least nobody we respect or would fear loosing) is watching. Moogly had the cards stacked against him from a get go, he knew what the odds were of something like that happening and how little control he'd have if Peek decided to set the ball rolling...and yet he choose to love her anyway and folks it's not because he was lonely or didn't have many mates to choose from. Nope, simple solutions have their attraction but they don't always go to the truth of the matter.
P.P.P.P.S. The truth is Moogly valued the connections he did have with a depth and sincerity few Ookies or Mooglies would ever experience. It's as simple as that.

Sunday March 22nd, 2009

I've made a decision. It's not an easy one to make and it's taken me many years to come to this point but it's time to make it. Time to wake up and start living the kind of life I deserve.
Actually, now that I'm sitting down to write I've realized I've made more than one decision.
This weekend I've had my old high school sweetheart, one of my few dear friends, drive up to Portland with her husband, daughter, and son, to visit. They're good people and though we don't see each other often we make it a point to keep in touch, see each other in person at least once a year, and if they ever needed me at a moments notice I'd be there for them and I'm sure the same is true for me. We love each other in the most meaningful sense of the word.
They came and we spent time catching up on each others lives. I played with the kids and let them play with a lot of my toys. I made the adults coffee and we talked more. I walked to Alberton's with my old highschool sweetheart and we had a touching conversation about our struggles in life (though I didn't share anything about my drama today as I don't usually do that and am simply not ready to--plus I don't want to ruin their visit by dropping a bomb-shell on them like not only have I been to the ER twice this year, but today I broke up with my girlfriend). I made dinner for everybody. We ate. I helped the kids make up their beds. We watched a movie. The entire time was filled with joy, kindness, and warmth. Never did any of them feel the need to critisize the way I cook or insult my choice in movies. They never called me names, never said they were dissapointed in me, and never threatened to end the friendship because I did something like, say cook fancier Annie's Mac & Cheese instead of the el cheapo brands kids are most accustomed to.
At no point did they ever say anything harsh, mean, or critical to me. And you know, in a way that's a shock to my system. I'm not sure what to do with myself when I'm with people who aren't seemingly looking to find fault with everything I do. Been around it so much I started to believe I wasn't worth being treated better than that. Indeed, I'd come to recognize that expressing a boundary, however straight forward and justified, would regularly lead to those closest threatening to leave me.
I wish I were making that up. I wish I were just here bitching, that I have something messed up in my brain that makes me hypersensitive, that I'm somehow always leaning towards taking offense easily and going off on people. And I wish I couldn't remember all the arguments so clearly, remember how things went from simple difficulties or tense dialog to bloody out of control the moment I said something like, "Hey, I don't appreciate being called names," or, "Hey, please don't swear at me," or, "Woah, I understand you're upset but please stop comparing me to your family/friends/sister's friend's uncle's former roomate." How such a thing so frequently, consistently, and predictably leads to "I hate you" and "I never want to see you again" and "You suck" is simply beyond me.
I realize my entries have been consistently negative this month. I would apologize but truth is, I haven't been doing well and I have few social support systems with which to share my struggle, therefore I share it here, with you, with those few reader's of my electronic home away from home. The theme this month has been struggle, difficulty, fear, anxiety, and loneliness.
The quotes at the top of this page summarize how I've been feeling. The quotes at the top of this page accurately describe how I feel, especially now that my friends have left for home and I'm alone again, back at the computer writing, back at the computer working, back at the computer which I love too much because it is my most constant companion.
There's nothing like being alone. There's nothing like knowing there are many out there who don't know you well yet have summarily judged you without hearing your side of the story. There's nothing like waking up in the morning and your first thought is that the people you have done the most for say terrible things to your face seemingly without any recognition of the psychological effect such words have all warm blooded feeling human beings, myself included.
Back to my decision. I've decided that no matter how few friends I have, no matter how lonely my life is, no matter how much I thirst for human contact and love, I'll no longer be tolerant or patient when others' cross my personal boundaries, especially when those boundaries have been clearly articulated, especially when they've struck out twice already, especially when they ask me to respect theirs, and especially, and here's the most important point, especially when I've honored them by inviting them into my house and home.
As of today I have hit the lowest point in my life, at least in regard to a sense of personal worth and self-esteem. That's how I feel: worthless. And I'd rather be up front and honest with you than pretend that I've got it together when truth is I do not. I am not ashamed to admit that. And I do not fear being judged for something that is true. It simply is, it's the Goddawful 100% bonefied unquestionable truth that is my life right now and I won't get to the place I want (need) to be if I ignore reality. That, for the record, is part of the theory behind a psychological school of thought called "Reality Therapy".
I recognize on a purely stone cold intellectual level that I theoretically have worth, that if I don't begin enforcing my boundaries at the outset of a friendship or relationship, make or break it immediately instead of spending years of my life hoping against hope that one day I'll be treated the way even the lowest human deserves to be treated, that if I don't make that expectation clear on day one that I'll always end up on the recieving end of behavior nobody, besides me apparently, would put up with for more than a fortnight.
Last week I taped a fortune cookie to one of my computer monitors. It says, "Family is more valuable than money. But you will have both soon." I sigh now when I read it. I don't believe any of that will come true, that I've already lost most of the things that are most important to me over the past several months. I've lost my daughter, I've lost the woman I wanted to start a family with, I've lost my health, and I've lost my self-esteem and sense of worth. All that's left is my job which translates into the roof above my head and the shirt off my back.
I won't know what to do if that goes too.
I'm getting old. It's getting tougher and tougher to dedicate as much of my time and energy to my work as I used to be able to, to succeed in the eyes of my managers and my peers. Frankly, while I am putting as much time and energy into it as I'm able I haven't felt like I've been successful, much less been able to keep up, in nearly six months. I don't have the energy anymore and my physical struggles aren't making it any easier. As far as marriage and a family, that's been something I've wanted since I was very young and I've never wavered in believing that hope might somehow come to pass--until now. Unless by some magical twist of fate I meet someone I respect, love, and can see spending the rest of my life, sharing my home and bank account with, get married, and start a family within the next two or three years, I'm going to be out of the game. I'm nearly too old to begin something I wanted to have all throughout my twenties when I was young, healthy, and ready to run with the ball. I simply cannot see myself raising children when I hit my fiftees and sixties. I'm thirty five now. It's either sometime in the next few years or the next life.
So you know I have considered adoption, but I very much doubt I'd be able to make that happen. First, I'm single. Second, I don't have many support systems in Portland that can help me out. Third, I have a history of emotional struggles (or what psychologists, in their infinite compassion, label "mental disorders"). Yeah, I'd love to fly to Africa or Asia and find a baby that needed a home, fly them back to the states, and give them a better life, but it just seems every time I try to make a positive change in the world I encounter a mountain of jagged rocks and glass. Like it or not, the cards are stacked against me adopting.
Foster care, however, may not be out of the question...and while it would allow me to have a positive effect on the lives of multiple children, deep down inside I'd end up feeling like a retard, one of the few and rare people who have spent their life wanting to procreate but seemingly incapable of doing what humans have taking for granted since the beginning of time.
To conclude, while I have a few more things to share this month, once it's done and over with I'm either going to write about something completely different or I'm going to retire The Temple for all time. The latter probably won't happen, but some part of me feels tired, like the only person I'm talking to is myself, and that for all the hope I have that my writing in some way, shape, or form, teaches and informs those who are able to discover my message, that my writing is nothing more substantial than technological masturbation.
I honestly don't feel like it's getting me off anymore.

Saturday March 21st, 2009

The other day I was writing a letter to a friend I haven't written to in a month or two. It's not that I haven't wanted to write, let her know where I'm at, it's that I literally haven't had the time and arguably the emotionaly stamina to sit down and let her know. So I wrote and I ended up writing more than ten pages, a rambling freewrite, an emotional attempt at giving her an accurate update...it was a very difficult thing to do and I'm sure I crossed well over the TMI or "Too Much Information" line. Anyway, point I'm trying to ramble on to this time is that one of the things I've shared with her is that the last few months have been the hardest of my life and while that would sound like emotional overstatement/meladrama given how 2008 went for me, it's the absolute God aweful truth.
And I'm not the kind of person who tends to respond, "Oh, fine," when a friend asks me how I'm doing if/when I'm not doing well.
Truth is, I'm not. What would you have me say? Physically I have been getting worse for years now and have been to the ER twice in the last two months. My job often requires me to work more than 8 hours a day (this last week was 10+ hours days every day and I'm even working today); I don't feel like I'm appreciated there and my workload seems to only increase and become more and more like what I call "monkey work" as the months progress. I have few friends and only one in Portland and for all the love I have for that person, for all the patience I've shown then and all the times I've forgiven then, they still regularly question my love for them (and therefore my integrity).
Funny thing's happened to me recently.
You see, when I want something from someone I figure the best way to get that need met is to tell them what I need and ask for them to fulfill that need. For instance, the other day I needed a ride home from work so I turned to a co-worker and said, "Hey, I don't have my car or bike today, would you mind giving me a ride?" They could have said yes or no but I was lucky, they said yes.
What I don't do is ask then critisize said person. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. "Hi, mind giving me a ride? And oh, by the way, I think you're kinda snobbish, mind working on that?" Nope, doesn't work. And when I look at other people's relationships I don't see that as a typical aspect. It doesn't work. Why? Because it's the opposite of social lubricant. It makes others feel bad about themselves therefore they're less likely to want to give me what I ask for.
In the past month I've had two people come to me with a need, but at the same time they've literally went off on me. I don't use the phrase "went off" lightly. They've both went well out of their way to tell me what they think of me, to put me down, to critisize, threaten, and guilt trip me. Me? I'm at an absolute loss.
Would you expect me to do something for you if, when asking, you felt it necessary to point out my faults? Would you expect me to meet you needs if you threatened me or told me you hated me?
So why are so many people shocked when my reaction to being treated that way is to walk away, take some space, and wait until such time I'm treated with the appropriate respect?
I just don't get it. And I never will.
P.S. Read more at my online journal which you can find via Google. Cheers.

Thursday March 19th, 2009

The following entry (truncated) was written for the daily Oregon Public Broadcasting radio series Think Out Loud:
When I was a sophomore in high school I tried out for my very first play; as a natural introvert this was especially challenging and having one of the lead roles my performance blew those who knew me well away. I enjoyed the experience so much the next year I went in to the auditions only to learn that year the play was Pride and Prejudice.
Oh man, I was offended!
You see, I have never been a fan of period pieces from that specific time period. I could not find a character I was even remotely interested in trying out for and frankly, I saw no redeeming qualities in the play. End result? I was offend by the choice in plays and by the fact I'd have to wait another year to be in one! (Darn drama teacher!!!)
On the other hand I, not anyone else, was not a fan of period pieces, I, not anyone else, wasn’t interested in the characters, and I, not the director and not my peers, saw no redeeming qualities in the play. I was the one with the emotional reaction, not anyone else.
Here’s a silly idea: offense is in the eye of the beholder.
That said I reserve the right to be offended. I reserve the right to express my feelings in a civil fashion when I am offended. And most importantly, I reserve the right to offend you.
Oh me oh my, did that sound harsh? If so, that’s not my intention but I ask you to listen. You see, I base the above statements on one simple premise: human beings are subjective, emotionally motivated, animals. Sure, we’ve got big brains and opposable thumbs, but when push comes to shove our motivations are emotionally, not intellectually, based, and therefore the things we are offended by are subjective-emotional responses to external stimuli which are, objectively speaking, inherently neutral. The notion that there's a magical rulebook out there that defines what's offensive and what is not is perhaps one of the most ridiculous notions accepted by a significant number of Americans but it’s just not supported by psychology, sociology, or cultural anthropology, the three primary sciences that investigate the subject of “offense”. Because I cannot hope to control how you ultimately choose to perceive me, because I cannot choose what you will be offended by and what you will not, I therefore reserve the right to at times offend you. To do otherwise would be to choose a life where I must walk on eggshells in some vein attempt to adjust to the unique sensibilities of nearly seven billion emotionally and culturally diverse human beings!
As many of you have already noted the first amendment guarantees all Americans free speech. The consequence of that is that sometimes someone is going to say or do something that offends us. That’s the lay of the land. This land is your land, this land is my land, yadda, yadda, ya.
So about the woman who challenged the school play.
I respect her right to voice her concerns. I also respect her right to voice how she’d like her public school to be run; every tax paying parent has that legal right. Likewise, I respect her daughter’s right to be offended by the play.
Just as I had the choice not to be in Pride and Prejudice the daughter has the same choice not to be in her play; frankly it offends me that she and her mother feel the need to express their offense by attempting to change how and what other children, parents, and teachers, can have dialogs about in the public school system. I simply do not respect the mother’s attempt to force her reality or morality on others.
Me? Based on what I heard of the Steve Martin play my friends and I would have absolutely loved it finding it witty, edgy, and smart, exactly the kind of thing we were into. Likewise, I wouldn’t have attempted to force my sense of humor and intellectual curiosity on others; if they didn’t get it they just didn’t get it. Live and let live, it’s that simple.
Me? When I was a high school freshmen I had peers who were attending public school for the first time in their lives; they’d spend the first eight years of their education home schooled and had grown up in highly controlled, conservative Christian environments. Surprise, surprise, they were all shocked by many of the customs and social norms found in the comparatively tumultuous world of the public school system. I find it ridiculous that a parent would be shocked by this. Yeah, we can improve the public school system culture, we cannot expect our children not to be shocked when stepping from one environment to a significantly different one.
I grew up a Christian. I also grew up a bright, opinionated kid who understood the Bill of Rights. And now, well, I’m a bright, opinionated adult who, like so many, keeps a blog (Shameless plug: Google my name). And when I heard this story I couldn’t help but think of some of the Christian families I knew growing up, some that were very conservative, some that protected their children from nearly everything in the “real” world--and when their children went from home schooling to public education they were in for a real shock--and their parents were often offended by the things being taught (such as this silly evolution science thingamatheory). Well guess what, when a child goes from an extremely protected and closed social environment to a very open one, there’s going to be a sense of shock, maybe even horror at the cultural differences.
C’est la vie, mes amis!
By the time a modern child in the
ublic school system hits their teenage years they’ve heard as much about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, as I would have my senior year in high school (’92); statistically, nearly half have already dabbled in one of the above by the age fourteen. I’m not arguing that’s a good or bad thing, that’s an altogether different conversation, but I do bring it up to make another point: it’s not rational for a parent to believe their children aren’t aware or haven’t dabbled and as a result it would be unconscionable for teachers to avoid dialog on these subjects.
Teachers and parents are on the front line. By enabling open conversation and expression about those “adult” subjects children are already talking about on the playground and in the locker room we create a positive environment where our children can openly engage with us about them, where we can teach them what we know and help them make the right decisions. It is correct, right, and logical, to have this conversation over a novel read in English class, in a play practiced after school, in gym class where sex and gender specific issues often come up in relation to different sports, and in science where the nitty gritty details of the birds and bees should be discussed so children are able to make better choices in order to live healthier, more fulfilling lives. In my humble opinion that is something that parents and the public school system should partner in doing.
Parents who want to protect their children (or imho base teaching programs on ignorance and abstinence) can do so on their own time at home; if they’re still offended they should home school or enroll their children in a private school that engenders their values. It’s no more complicated than that.
As for me, here’s how I plan to raise my children: First, I’m going to teach them that they’re responsible for all their feelings, including when they take offense. Second, I’m going to teach them to define and enforce healthy boundaries; if they’re offended by something they should be able to express their feelings in a civil fashion and likewise if something offends them in the extreme they should be able to leave the situation without forcing their views on others. Third and most important, I’m going to do my part to help them build a strong and healthy superego. Instead of wrapping my child in air bags and cushions that can be used as floatation devices I’m going to teach them to experience the world “as it is” while maintaining their integrity and ability to choose of “right” from “wrong”. After all at some point they’re going to leave the nest and meet “the real world”, isn’t it my responsibility as a parent to insure they make that step on their own, that they don’t react with shock and by loosing themselves to their surroundings?
In conclusion: To be offended is human, to expect not to be isabsolutely un-American.
Take care,
P.S. On a last note I do take issue with the drama teacher picking a play that included only half a dozen roles. While I agree with him that most activities aren't all-inclusive, that not all students will make the cut during try-outs, to choose a play with such a small casting for the high school setting is absolutely rediculous and anethema to the whole point of public school: education. Could you imagine the English teacher saying she's only going to teach the 6 kids she likes? The math teacher saying he's only going to teach those kids with good handwriting? The football coach who will only allow kids on the team who have tatoos? Or the band teacher who says, "This year I'm only directing a brass quartet, so sorry, the rest of you can sell you instruments on Craigslist". A teacher with that singular of an attitude would eventually get canned. Should a drama teacher be treated any differently? I think not.
P.S. Read more at my online journal which you can find via Google. Cheers.

Wednesday March 18th, 2009

Barely any time so some unrandom randomness...
I heard today the Crook Country high school may be cutting all sports programs due to budget shortfalls. Ironically, this sorta makes me sad. You see, back in high school I would have jumped up and down for something like that to happen. Does that make me an asshole? Well, see it from my point of view. I was in band. My band instrument was a french horn, the bell or the horn looked like it had been run over by a tank. School didn't have money for that, but they had plenty for new football uniforms every year (oh, we had to supply our band uniforms ourselves). Once the pep band was required to go to Portland to play for the girl's basketball team. The girl's team got to stay in a hotel and skip two days of school. The pep band? We had to go to school then right afterwards we got on a bus, went to Portland, played for the game, then went back home--got back around 2-3am. Got up the next day and did the same thing again. Same kind of treatment occurred for most of the other school activities I was involved in so as you can see, I would have loved to have seen the sports program finally get some justice. But no, I'm actually a bit sad about it. Why? Because unless the school district has gotten its head on straight and is sharing the $$$ across all programs in a more fair fashion--which I doubt--then things like band are really getting it.
Useful axiom: "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
So I went out to see Watchmen this evening. Glad I read the graphic novel first. Interesting book. Movie did a decent job of adapting the novel to a theatrical form. I can see why some people would like the film and others would hate it, why some would label it "good" while others "bad". Me? I've gotten to this strange point in my life, a point I wonder if many get to. I see the good, I see the bad, I see both being able to coexist without difficulty. Weird thing is I didn't necessary like or dislike the film. It just was and I was just watching it. Sure, it wasn't anywhere as deep as the novel, but what movie is, folks, and how could they have possibly fit all that in to two hours?
Lets see, what else?
Been taking some chances, doing things with people from work. Not sure what to think of it so far. Maybe I have so much healing to do that any human connection barely feels like a bump on the path to a new life.
Not sure what that new life is yet. No clue. But must say, it's weird how healthy my diet has become over the last several weeks. Healthiest it's ever been, in fact. So I had this weird urge to stop at McDonald's after the movie tonight and you know what? It tasted blande, boring, and unhealthy! Yes, I was hoping for that! So tomorrow it's back to fruits, vegetables, yogurt, bread, rice, and a better life.
Dunno what else to say. My puter is sitting here doing nothin and I'm not going to wrestle with it all night. Here goes. Oh wait. It's kinda working again.
Yeah, actually I am done....need to get to bed...just not enough time in a week anymore...frack.

Tuesday March 17th, 2009

Here's a little quote from Wikipedia:
"An epidemiology study consisting of an internet-based survey of 2,596 people with fibromyalgia[21] reported that the most frequently cited factors perceived to worsen fibromyalgia symptoms were emotional distress (83%), weather changes (80%), sleeping problems (79%), strenuous activity (70%), mental stress (68%), worrying (60%), car travel (57%), family conflicts (52%), physical injuries (50%) and physical inactivity (50%). Other factors included infections, allergies, lack of emotional support, perfectionism, side effects of medications, and chemical exposures."
So from that you should be able to infer I've been diagnosed, in-as-much a doctor can diagnose it, as having fibromyalgia and this list, well, I think it's pretty darn accurate. In particular emotional distress is the one thing that can make my physical health get to the point where all I can do is lay in a bead growing from the sudden racking of pain. Never felt like that five years ago but these day emotional stress, a change in the weather, worry, or what have you, can quickly translate in to some pretty severe physical pain of the depth and level most people will never have or understand.
I've kept my mind open for the last year. My primary care physician has brought the idea of fibromyalsia up but it didn't seem right, at least with all the things I knew about it. And besides, what were the odds that me and my x-wife picked up a syndrome that cannot be trasmitted sexually?
And it's been worse. Worse and worse and worse this year. And the last few weeks and the weeks before, hellish. Most days are a struggle. I've got pain in my knees, pain in my ankles, pain in my back, pain in my front, pain in my shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Half of my body seems to be in pain while the other half is wondering how soon will it be, one month, three months, a year, two years, before they are all enjoying it.
I got a fortune cookie today. It said, "Family is more valuable than money. But you will have both." And you know, I needed to read that more than you can imagine. I needed to believe in it so much I taped it to my monitor where I intend to keep it as I move forward with my struggle to eat healthier foods, sleep at more regular times, work reasonable days, and so on and so forth. Today I am alone, scared, depressed, tired, and sometimes angry, I hope that by reading this fortunate every day I'll remind myself that I can make these things happen with my life, just need to keep my eye on the prize and keep going...or the alternate possibility, I have little to no control, dying from something yet to be diagnosed, and bam, time to plan my funeral. Well, least it would give me something to do.
Until then I commit to live as normal a life as I can while managing the pain as best I can. And while it may seem weird to say, you're no different than I. We're both where we're at. This is my suffering. Whatever yours, it's not any different in that you have it and you can choose to manage it in a positive fashion or a negative one, does it compliment you or destroy you, do you learn from it or does it all happen without you gaining knowledge or wisdom from it?
Every life begins with: You are here.
What you do next is up to you.
That's the ticket, the ride, and hopefully the wisdom.

Monday March 16th, 2009

Only going to write a little bit tonight. Not been easy writing lately. Either I'm not doing well physically...or...I'm not doing well emotionally...or...I'm feeling okay enough to take care of the dishes or the vaccuming or the laundry so am focusing what energy I have on those things. Work isn't quite as stressful anymore. Yeah, I can work 8+ hours if I want, but at least one manager has been making meaningful changes keep me from overworking myself...things change when you end up in the ER twice less than a month.
I'm not exactly sure what to make of anything anymore. There was a day life made sense. Do good things and good things will happen to you. That's what I thought. Not do good things and bad things will happen to you (or more correctly, bad things will be done to you). All I know is both my body and my mind reached the breaking point a month and a half back--wow, it all feels like it was just yesterday. Sure, there's the saying that God only gives us as much as we can cope with but this time She crossed the line, this time she gave me more than I was ever able to deal with during my entire life, and I've never been where I'm at right now.
I feel lost. I feel like I woke up one morning and the entire world was empty of people, like everyone had died but me. Yet I know the world is peopled, I know that when I get up in the morning I need to get ready to head in to work and at work there will be all these people and for 8 hours I'll push my emotions to the side, do A, B, C, and D, then at 5 or 5:30 I'll get back in my car, listen blindly to NPR, arrive home, feed the cats. If I'm in a lot of pain I might turn on the heat then lay down. If I'm feeling better I might clean or make a meal or sit and read or watch a movie.
I don't watch movies anymore. Don't watch TV anymore. It all feels so empty.
I've never felt like this, never before in my life for an ongoing stretch felt like wow, this is it, this is how it is, the end of the road. You've lost the things that mattered most and when you see Laura Roslin shaking as she walks across the hanger deck, so close to death, so brave as she takes the Admirals arm, I wonder how long before I'm going to have to be the brave one holding anothers arm, a pained smile on my face on the outside while on the inside I'm dying. Then I just feel like that girl with the wailing wall, the girl who's ready to start crying over the littlest suffering another must face, she, she just comes to tears. And lately that's how it's been sometimes, I look in the corner, see a monkey on the floor, the monkey I remember when I was at so and so with so and so and cryings all I got so I spend the next 15 minutes listening to Prarie Home Companion with tears running down my face and I think...
I have never been this way before.
Dark places, yes. Places few have ever been, yes. Places few would ever understand, places people fear, places far away and altogether too close all at the same time, I've been to all of them. And I've handled them, learned from them, been trained by them, grown and evolved as a result of them, I have overcome by them and learned by them and grown a thousand breaths of hope by them but...
No, I have never been this way before.
Wake up, shower, drive, work, eat, work, eat, work, drive, keep-busy, and sometimes, in between, I cry a lot for no particular reason. Maybe because I'm in a lot of physical pain. Maybe because I'm feeling lost or lonely or like the best days are gone. Cry about once a day and that's one time more than I have ever cried in my entire life. Not quite sure what to do with that, no, not quite sure, so I lay down in bed every night, lay down, rest, move on, no need to become overly concerned, it too shall pass.

Tuesday March 10th, 2009

Well, haven't written for nearly a week and you know, I got a doctor's note, at least two doctors' notes. Feeling much better...but still...wow, last week really took me for a ride.
And I'm still tired as hell from it.
Anyhow, something I wanted to share from The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch:
"...it makes no sense to talk about rights without also talking about responsibilities.
Rights have to come from somewhere, and they come from community. In return, all of us have a responsibility to the community. Some people call this the 'communitarian' movement, but I call it common sense.
This idea has been lost on a lot of us, and in my twenty years as a professor, I've noticed more and more students just don't get it. The notion that rights come with responsibilities is, literally, a strange concept to them."
This book continues to inform me, amaze me, and give me hope. Worth reading. Pausch really had some life lessons to share. I hope I do as well.

Wednesday March 4th, 2009

A few months back, three, maybe four, I began to recognize the signs that I was close to a physical, mental, and emotional break down. Having been there before--at least an emotional one--and not exactly liking it, I realized wow, I'd better do something about it.
I started by identifying the things I have control over. A few include:
Now I'll admit I've been on a bit of a roller coaster with each of these. Sometimes I'll end up working until midnight for no other reason that I'm behind at work, want to catch up, and just feel like I've gotten more done. Sometimes I'll end up at the Taco Bell drive through though I know I'll probably spend the next twelve hours regretting it. And sometimes I'll stay up until 12:30am watching Hell Boy II though I know I'll be tired as hell in the morning.
But I try. Most nights I get in bed around ten or eleven--even though I typically end up tossing and turning until 2am. I've gotten to the point where I'm eating two or three regular meals most days and most consist of fruits, vegetable, and fibers. And though I've slipped up over the past week or two I've generally left work a little after five and have only logged into work from home to check and respond to e-mail.
The thing is, though, when I fuck up and end up at the drive through I'm the person who pays the price for that choice. I feel that's an important point to make. That said, even if I did everything by the book I've had to consciously recognize the challenges in my life have been so stressful that I can't get through them alone this time around. Sure, I'd love to, I don't like having to rely on other people (if for no other reason that I've never been able to rely on other people "reliably"). But this time...
I need help. And I am not ashamed to admit that.
So I've reached out.
First, there were my medical builds. I've already told that story so I'll move on... As for others in my life I haven't asked for money, I haven't asked for anyone to clean my house or do the lawn work. Nope. Indeed, I haven't asked anything substantial of anyone nor would I ask anyone to change who they are nor do I expect anyone to give more than they are capable or willing of being able to give.
Here are a few examples of the fairly straight forward things (I'd like to think, at least) that I've asked for:
Please hold me.
Please spend time with me.
Please listen to me without interupting me, telling me how I feel, or trying to fix me.
Please mirror me in order to understand me, validate me in order to let me know I'm not alone, and empathize with me to make me feel worthy of love.
And please, don't ask me to work more than 8 hours a day or give up my weekends anymore.
Sometimes I've gotten what I've asked for, others not. C'est la vie. That's life. Actually I should note two friends, my x-wife and high school sweet heart. One lives in Eugene, the other in Ohio, and both have recognized just how difficult things have been for me over the last year or so--though I haven't yet given them an update on the last week or so because I don't know what to say anymore or what to ask of them from such a long distance that will help me keep standing with hope in my heart. But I do love what both have done for me. They write me loving letters, recognizing my struggles as difficult, wishing if only they could do more. And more important than anything else they don't spend their letters pointing out my flaws or mistakes, they don't tell me how to view life or make decisions, they're just there listening and empathizing with someone they love who's said he's been on the edge of completely loosing it for some time. I could not ask for more from them and need to say so now, just in case something doesn't happen and my body truly is as badly off as it's started to feel.
Anyway, it's not my intent with that last comment to be meladramatic, but when the test results always come back negative and the pain continues and a few dizzy and naseous spells sneak up on me here and there...well...I can't help but feel I need to be ready for the worst.
What a fucking way to live, don't you think?
So sometime during the first week of February I had the distinct feeling I was on a one way trip to the hospital. Had visions of it, to be quite honest. Increasingly worried I decided to share this with the people closest to me. The result? No one took me seriously. I'm guessing they thought I was being melodramatic, maybe going even far as emotional manipulation, some sort of power play. Looking back it really upsets me. Fifteen, twenty years ago I was a master at this--indeed, it was the only way I knew to get support from the people in my life. "Hey," I'd literally say, "I'm gonna kill myself so PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!"
What an asshole, what a scarred, hurt, suffering asshole.
Ironically fifteen years ago no one ever accused me of playing games with them to gain attention or force them into scenarios where they had to prove their love to me or fail in doing so--which wasn't hard because I usually set the bar so high it was impossible for them to win unless they became my own personal puppet-people. So I cornered them, questioned their love and their loyalty and their friendship, and did everything in my power to rip them a new asshole. I mean shit, if they loved me they'd just know how to treat me, right, they'd just know how to "make" me feel loved, right?
Looking back I can't believe I put the people I loved most through that, asked so much from them and questioned their love and devotion to me no matter how many times they demonstrated how real it was. Looking back I'm sure I did it because there was someone I had to prove something to and that was myself; on some seriously fucked up level I needed to see just how far I could push people and still retain their friendship. Why? Simple: the further I could push them the less insecure I thought I'd be, the less likely I thought they'd leave me if and when the going got tough.
It's hard to believe I used to be so wounded I would actively (though not knowingly) push people in order to feel more confident about their loyalty. I don't expect you to believe that was okay or healthy, it wasn't. What I am asking is that you read what I say and understand it.
Can you do that for me?
I had so much wax in my ears back then (or my heart, if you prefer) that I was nearly deaf to other people's support, especially if that person happened to be my romantic partner. Any small mistep or mistake or fumble and I'd be all over it, go off on them, sometimes even for hours and blocking the door if necessary, forcing them to prove themselves, pushing them to their emotional limits until I was satisfied that their love was genuine. The sad irony, which I'm now getting to in a roundabout way, is that nobody ever called me on my behavior. Nobody. They just tried reacting to my anger, my loneliness, my fears, and each time they'd get a little quieter and a little quieter until one day they didn't have a voice at all. I'd taken it completely away. And then, in order to maintain their own survival and sanity, they naturally stopped returning my calls moved on.
I wish someone had slapped me across the face and said: I love you. Hear me and stop living in fear or I will leave you because you have gone to far, Asly, you have gone too far!
Do you hear me?
Believe it or not I've grown up. I don't corner people anymore, I don't question their love. Sure, when boundaries are crossed, when harsh words are spoken I say I'm not okay with that and sure, if there are no behavioral changes I take the space I need to protect myself, but I no longer push people to the brink in order to assure myself that they aren't going to leave me. It doesn't work, folks, it just does not work. Do that and you will push people away. It's that complicated. You will push them away because they're left with no other choice but to walk away, their hearts in a sling, tears streaming down their faces, and they would do anything, absolutely anything, to keep from being forced to prove their love and friendship again.
There are few things more hurtful than to have ones love for another questioned, especially when that love is as close as humanly possible to unconditional love, something only God and the angels are capable of.
I've replaced this manipulative social strategy for a better one: telling people where I'm at as clearly and unambiguously as I'm capable. I do my best to communicate my point of view, how I'm feeling, both emotionally and physically, what's hurting me, what's helping me, what I need, and most importantly, what they can do for me. Even when I have to say some pretty uncomfortable things it's fair, it's straight forward, and it's the only way to establish a solid-real relationship based on honesty, trust, understanding, and compassion.
So I'm going to tell you where I'm at today on the Peace & Happiness scale of 1 to 10, 10 being high on life, 1 being I was just hit by lightening:
The reason I have 1 for Spiritual Health & Happiness (and not 0) is that I have a smidgen of hope left (I.e. still getting up in the morning, still writing this stupid fucking journal, still eating, and giving the life I dream of one last fucking shot). The reason I have physical health at 2 is I felt so sick at work today that I had to come home and lay down and have also been regularly concerned about my stomach and heart--truth is I'd have gone to my GP again except my medical tests never seem to show any "positive" results until I actually piss out the kidney stone or end up in the hospital ("See Doctor Know-It-All, I told you so!!!"). Emotional and Psychological health are both 3 because I'm somehow able to keep track of goals and do things I need to like take care of the cats, make meals, and so on and so forth--though it's been yo-yoing between 5 and 2 throughout my days.
So what do I want/need from outside myself right now?
1. I need those who have hurt me to recognize how and why their actions and words have, to apologize directly for them, and to commit to whatever actions are necessary in order to decrease the likelihood that it happens again, whatever those actions might be (i.e. I need something more than, "I'm sorry and I'll do better"--which I've heard so many times now it'll be the thing I end up babbling the day they wrap me in a straight-jacket and roll me off to a comfortable little room).
2. I need those who care about me to listen, validate me, and empathize with me without interruption, criticism, telling me what I think or feel, or trying to "fix" me.
3. And fucking call me selfish, but I need someone to take care of me for once; I've never experienced so much difficulty taking care of myself. Based on my physical health, the major losses I've experienced over the past year, and the stress of work, medical bills, mortgage, etc.--I'm just not in a good place, my dear reader. Hell, even if things turned around tomorrow and were "perfect" it would take me weeks if not months of consistent-hard work before I felt like I was standing on solid ground again. I need someone--or someones--to help me get there because three days at the beach just aint cutting it anymore, the scarring runs too deep.
...deep breath.
I don't know what else to say. I need to lay down--but I have to take care of a few other things first--then I need to lay down and imagine I'm a chimpanzee in a zoo.
P.S. I am not trying to insult those times people have supported me. It would be wrong to say people haven't from January 2008 to present, given me a shoulder to cry on, a ride from A to B, or an ear. But all in all I am a mess, I spend my afternoons, nights, and weekends alone, and I'm tired of being disregarded, pushed, judged, and expected to magically bounce back from a plethora of stressers that most people--fortunately--don't have to try and get through at the same time. These aren't trivial things either and I'm not making this shit up just to grab your sympathy or to make you show up at my doorstep and help me with the lawnwork. My fellow beings, I am suffering more than I ever have and I do not know what to do with it anymore (though I'm sure a few will be happy to tell me--and again, I can't say enough just how much that's exactly the opposite of what I know I need--at least that's one thing I know for sure, woohoo!).
P.P.S. Fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck. And then some!

Tuesday March 3rd, 2009

This story begins in late 2007.
One afternoon I was sitting in my room minding my own business when my then roommate came in and began, with no earlier provocation that I'm aware of, insulting me, putting me down, and calling me names. While I don't recall the exact details of how the "conversation" started it was most likely over a parental decision. You see, early on in the partnership we'd agreed on a simple rule: No means No. In other words, if we needed to make a decision regarding our daughter we'd talk about it but if one person's answer to the issue at hand was "no" then the other would respect that decision. This mechanism, though fairly superficial, prevented us from becoming entangled in power plays which are never in the best interests of a child (if you share child rearing responsibilities then you understand the necessity of such a simple rule to prevent power plays which almost always result in hurting the child).
One such example is as follows: that year our daughter's grades had been suffering and it was pretty clear, in my mind at least, that she was having difficulty keeping up with her homework while attending karate and at the same time taking care of her household responsibilities like sweeping the kitchen and feeding the cats. Simple and straight forward, right? Uh...no. We tried any number of solutions including making sure she did her homework and reviewing her report cards with her to little avail.
As a point of background I grew up in a household where we prioritized values in this fashion: the family life came before chores, chores came before school, education came before extra-curricular activities, and these activities took precedence over hanging out with friends. My parents, both teachers, taught us these values in large part because it teaches responsibility as well as an understanding of what foundations in life come first.
While I recognize most people don't grow up with the same values I did I cannot, with any certainty, tell you what my former roommate's were. After living with her for over six years the nearest I could tell is that when it came to such values she floundered; instead of relying on a clear set of consistent ones hers tended to be "on the fly" emotional reactions instead of fundamentally sound parental strategies. As you can imagine this made the "No means no" rule that much more important, especially for me. I wasn't interested in fighting with her. I wasn't interested in getting my way. I simply had a clear set of values that differed with her lack of values and when we couldn't reach a mutually satisfactory agreement the only logical solution seemed to be: rely on a superficial fallback.
Back to the example.
More than likely the "conversation" started out with something like this and I made the observation that we'd tried any number of other solutions yet her grades continued to suffer. Since I feel education is more important than extra-curricular activities I said, "Look, I understand you want to keep her in activities where she's spending time with her peers outside of school, but her grades are really beginning to suffer. We've been trying other solutions for years and while I've respected your desire to keep her in karate she's so overwhelmed with all her various responsibilities that she isn't even getting to bed on time anymore. She's clearly suffering because of that so we need to take something off her shoulders, let her catch up and feel more successful. Since education is more important than karate I really believe it's time she stop going, at least for the next three months. I think it will help her catch up, feel better about herself, and raise her grades. Once she's accomplished that she can go back to karate again."
As another bit of background, I'd wanted to take her out of karate for nearly a year at that point. As a parent who grew up with certain values it made sense to me. As someone with plenty of child psychology under my belt it was the only solution left to us (unless, of course, we wanted to shrug off the reality and allow her to continue to spin). Up to this point I hadn't gone as far as saying "No" to karate, though; I respected my roommate's point of view and was willing to try every possible solution before going to a more extreme solution. But we'd gone there, tried all the other things, with no positive results.
It was time to say "No".
And that--or something like it--caused her to go into a fit of anger not uncommon in our little happy household.
Over the next twenty or so minutes I sat there, physically cornered by my desk, shocked but not terribly surprised, at the profanity that streamed from her mouth. Her utterances included but were not limited to (and to quote):
"I hate you!"
"You suck!"
And last but not least:
"I'm moving!"
Nice woman, don't you think?
Now that you've gotten a little background it's time to tell the story. Fast forward a few weeks. We're still living together. She's found an apartment but hasn't yet moved. We're on speaking terms and have been civil to each other but for obvious reasons I am secretly waiting to party the moment the last of her things are out of my house.
The story begins a little something like this:
One day she starts feeling pain in one of her sides which would come and go throughout the day. Given the chronic nature she became worried. I asked her to describe the pain and do a few things like touch her feet; having had appendicitis I knew the touching toes exercise would exacerbate the pain, which it did not. One evening she comes to me, bent over at the waist, in obvious pain. "Please take me to the emergency room," she asks me. So I do.
That's what decent people do.
Again, I won't paint myself as a complete saint. In the back of my mind there was a trace of anger and resentment. Did she really deserve to be taken to the hospital after the things she'd said to me? Hearing, "I hate you," really has a way of destroying one's self-esteem and mine was the lowest it had been since the fall of 1999 so as you can imagine I wasn't exactly happy with her. But I didn't say anything, just told our daughter she needed to do her best not to worry, get in bed and I'd be home later, got in the car, started it, waited for the roomy to get in, then drove her to the Emergency Room.
Because that's what decent people do.
Due to a lack of parking spots outside the ER doors I dropped her off, said I'd be in shortly, then drove over to the parking garage. Having been to the ER many times before for various reasons (both myself and others) I knew the drill. So I sat down, gave our daughter a ring or text message (I don't recall which) to let her know that we'd arrived safely, and waited for one of the doctors or nurses to contact me and let me know that I could come back or at least let me know how she was doing.
That's what professional doctors and nurses do, you know?
I sat in the waiting area for two hours. No one came out to let me know what was going on. No word. Now I realized, both then and now, that I could have at any time gone to the front desk and asked, "I dropped off so and so an hour ago, can you tell me what's going on?" Sure, I could have done that but, based on passed experience, knew someone would at some point find me and give me the news one way or the other. That said, I can't exactly put all the responsibility on my x-roomy who was, as I already mentioned, in a considerable amount of pain and may not have been thinking straight. Still, didn't she at least once think, "My daughter's terribly worried about me, I should let her know I'm okay."
I mean, that's what decent (*cough*) parents do.
Two hours come and go so I decide enough time has passed. I go to the front desk, inquire as to her state, and am conducted back to the ER where I find her laid back in a hospital gown, an IV in her arm. High on morphine she's content as could be. She barely acknowledges me with a stoned grunt nor does she do anything like, say, thank me for making sure she arrived safely.
Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Okay, so she's high as a kite, but not so delirious that she can't engage in banter with the cute doctor who's been coming and going. So I stand there, wait for all the results to come back, but truth is I'm pretty pissed. I'd just swallowed my pride to bring someone who "hates" me to the emergency room and I don't even get a, "Hello, thank you so much for bringing me, I appreciate it." Nope, nothing even remotely close to that for me and no verbalized desire to assuage her daughter who was no doubt at home, in bed, thinking the worst. So I spend the rest of the wait staring at the television and biting my lip. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes go by, finally she's ready to be released and I take her home.
She lives with me for another week or two.
She never thanked me.
Big surprise.
Yeah, I'm such an asshole.
Fast forward a little over a year.
I wake up at 7:45am on Tuesday February 9th, 2009 to fairly severe stomach pain. I've had acid attacks before so sat up in bed, grabbed the liquid antacid from the nightstand, and take a generous gulp. A few minutes go by and feeling dehydrated after a long night of tumultuous sleep I take a few sips of water. A minute later I regret this, race uncomfortably to the bathroom, fall to the floor, lift the toilet seat up, and shaking violently as I hold onto the porcelain spend the next ten minutes vomiting uncontrollably.
Finally it stops. Every muscle in my body is sore from the convulsions. I'm dizzy, out of breath. My throat stings from the stomach acid. I have never had an attack this bad before, certainly none that has forced me to commune with the porcelain god, none that a little antacid didn't help.
Slowly I got up, limped over to the nightstand, took another swig of antacid, and got back in bed to catch my breath. "Why couldn't this happen tomorrow?" I thought to myself, "I've got three days off, a short but much needed vacation, I had only one more day to go, why did I need to hit bottom now?"
Ten minutes of even, deliberate breathing later I felt somewhat better. I slowly sat up, stepped out of bed, took off my clothes as if they were limp-dead animals hanging off of me, and got in the shower. Surely, there's nothing better in the morning than hot water streaming over an achy body. I got in, the steam surrounding me, but did not feel better. I got out, walked the short distance back to my bed, painfully crept back under the covers, and laid there, arms and legs sprawled randomly, gasping for breath like a dying fish on the sea shore.
You see, I wasn't interested in loosing another sick day. It was only February and I had to save those up, use them when I really needed them, when the chronic back and knee pain became so bad sitting at a desk is an agony not readily understood by those who have never before experienced chronic pain. I'd had a sour stomach before and it was usually just a matter of taking a few breaths of fresh air, taking a hot shower, and drinking something cool, that was usually enough to make me feel better but that morning it didn't. I lay there feeling exhausted suffering from stomach pain, a scorched throat, shortness of breath, dizziness, and the chest pain that I had become accustomed to feel whenever my esophageal sphincter took a turn for the worse.
Yet there was another pain this morning, a pain somewhat different than I've experienced in the past, a deep pressure around my left shoulder, as if one of my cats were sitting on it getting heavier, heavier, pushing it down, down, down towards the bed. "No, no, no," I must have thought to myself, "I can't have a heart attack. Not on top of everything else, no, I can't, please no."
A mix of ironic frustration and fear began to swallow me as I lay there looking at the clock. I should feel better by now. Maybe I'll just call into work, tell the team I'll be in a little late, they'll understand. Yeah, I'll be okay. Just keep breathing. Drink some more antacid. Drink some more water. It'll be okay. You're going to be okay, Aslynn, you're going to be okay.
I didn't get up to get the phone. It was across the room, on the other side of the bed, a continent away from me. No, that would hurt too much. I still have time before I'll be considered late, before I miss our daily meeting, I'll lay here, start feeling better, I'm okay, I just have a stomach bug or something, it'll pass and I'll feel right as rain, get dressed, make a phone call, then head into work. But I didn't start to feel okay and I didn't go into work.
Suddenly I had another overwhelming urge, this time to use the toilet. Instead of using the master bathroom, which has the older style wood seat which hurts my butt (I know, "too much information") I raced to the guest bathroom with the new seat, sat down, and proceeded simultaneously loose myself to a bout of diarrhea while at the same time nearly blacking out on the bathroom floor. How did I get to the bathroom? Wasn't I just in bed?
Goddamnit, I'm having a heard attack!
I wiped my ass quickly-lazily, I washed my hands as if the ritual would do me any good, then forced myself to grab cell phone in hand. My vision was blurry, the screen was dark, and the pain in my chest much worse than it was before. Quick dial, quick dial, quick dial. How do I do that again? Where's the screen? I stood there stark naked at the top of the stair case wobbling back and forth, holding the phone in one hand and balancing myself against the doorframe with another.
Fuck, I couldn't figure out how to use my phone!!!
And truth be told I'm not exactly sure how I managed to make the call. Somehow found the screen with all the pictures of peoples faces, somehow identified a co-worker I knew had a car, who knew where I lived, knew was a "good" Christian I could trust to show up, no questions asked, and do whatever was necessary to help me out in a life or death situation.
"Hello. This is Aslynn. Can you take me to the emergency room?"
"Uh, Aslynn? Yeah, I'll be there in a minute."
I'm not sure why I remember the conversation--and I wanted to write "clearly" because I do and I don't. I remember what was said, but I felt as if I was being put under for surgery and if you've been there you know what that fuzzy half-in, half-out state of mind is like, almost as if you're holding onto consciousness with your fingertips. I recall barely being able to talk, having to push each and every word out my mouth like boulders, one after another, my thoughts saying, "I have so much more to say but I can't figure out how to make this talking thing work." Hell, maybe I was having a stroke, but near as I could tell all mental functioning was down five notches, not just speech.
I hung up the phone and holding tight to it as not to loose it tried to figure out what to do next. A voice in my head went, "Get downstairs, unlock the door in case you can't." Okay, okay. But I was naked and silly me I didn't want to be found downstairs naked, better for the door to be locked and be found dead naked upstairs. Went in my room, grabbed whatever clothes from the drawers, no matching, no caring, just need something. Remember to grab everything. Grab your keys. Grab your watch. Grab your man-purse. Grab, grab, and hurry. I had this strange thought that I should look half-way decent for my co-worker when he showed up so combed my hair, threw a hat on, then, looking around my room in a daze, realized okay, okay, you need to get out, just get out, just get downstairs, don't sit down, don't lay down, keep moving, keep your heart going and carefully get yourself to the bedroom door, okay now, hold on to the hand rail, okay, now step by step by step, okay, now we're downstairs, downstairs, don't sit down, don't sit down, don't sit down or you'll die.
Oh shit, where am I? How did I get here? Did I call someone? Oh god, I need to call 911! Where's my phone? Oh yeah, still in my hand. And scared like I've never in my life been afraid I lifted it and dialed those three numbers we all know too well, three numbers I've never in my life had to call, and carefully, one at a time, began to dial.
"Hello, this is 9-1-1".
"Hi. My name is Aslynn. I think I'm having a heart attack. I live at such & such address." It all raced automatically out my mouth quickly. I needed to get it out quickly, before I blacked out, before I the grey became overwhelming but I was too fast, she asked me again then she asked me question after question and I was "yeah" "no" "yeah" "no"--I just wanted off the phone.
"Okay, an emergency vehicle is on their way. Would you like me to stay on the phone?"
I remember thinking, "I don't understand. Stay on the phone. Why would you stay on the phone? Shouldn't they be here? Don't you have other things to do? Are we going to talk about my hobbies?" It was one of the many moments that morning where my brain, like it or not, was short circuiting, where a simple statement or kindness was interpreted as the most bizarre and unnatural thing. "I don't want to die," I thought to myself, "and I don't know you and where's the ambulance--do I know you? Why do you want to talk?"
I don't know if I thanked her or not, I just said no, hung up the phone, and proceeded to walk around thinking keep moving, keep breathing, doing give up, don't fall over, don't die. Maybe I did this for two minutes, maybe ten, maybe twenty, I don't know, I just remember eventually seeing an EMT walking up to the door, I opened it and let him in, he asked if I was the person who had called, I said yes, and he asked me to sat down. I sat down. The living room became abuzz with people, felt like hundreds of people all of them looking as if they had just gotten to another day at work, all nice enough but this was no different for them than me getting up and sitting in front of a computer and having my first cup of coffee. My cats, my cats, all I could think about was my cats getting out. Oh, and there's my co-worker, will you take care of my cats, I asked him, will you feed my cats. I'm dizzy, I'm having trouble focusing, my chest hurts, it really hurts, please feed my cats, if I have to go to the hospital, if today is my last day on this earth someone please take care of my cats, make sure they're okay, and close and lock the door so they don't run away and get hit by a car, of all the oddities I was momentarily more concerned about the cats than my life.
That is the kind of person I am.
The ride to the hospital was one of the longest I've ever been on. In pain, scared as hell, bumpy--omg was it bumpy! Arrived at the hospital, was rolled through the doorway (ironically just one door down from the door I went in the last ER visit story), back, back, into a room. Confused but not so that I wasn't aware of my bodily needs I asked to use the head. Getting up from the wheel chair I realized I was in more muscular pain than I've ever been in my life and waddled down the hallway feeling like I was eighty years old, spiking pain going through my left arm and leg every other step. Used the bathroom, got back to my room, got in the bed, and the testing began.
I'm going to stop the story here because by this point I felt like I was in good hands. Sure, I was scared, yes, I couldn't believe what was happening to me, but my first thought wasn't hey, hurry up with the morphine, it was once I get out of the bathroom I need to ask them to check on my co-worker who was going to follow the ambulance to the hospital. Yeah, silly me, I wanted to know if he was okay because, well, I asked him to leave work at the drop of a hat, drop by my house, pick me up, take care of my house, then follow me to the hospital. Yeah, I wanted him to call work, let them know what was going on, but to be honest it didn't matter how much pain and fear I was in, I didn't want to leave him hanging.
I did another pretty strange thing that morning. I thanked him for taking care of my cats. I also thanked him for showing up at a moment's notice. After he got to the hospital and it was clear I was stable he stuck around. I thanked him for that too. Hell, he stuck around until I was released, gave up an entire vacation and/or sick day just to hang out with me in the hospital. Had to thank him for that. And you know what? It was sincere thanks. I appreciated everything he'd done for me. Strangely, I'd never done much for him in the past--unless you include all the work I've been creating for him for years at our job. Nope, he didn't have a damn thing to gain from it. He simply understood something most decent people do. What you ask?
That it was just the "right" thing to do.
That day really woke me up. I realized, for instance, that I hate the expectations my job's had of me for years and years; I may be loyal but not so much that I'd like to die to hit a deadline. I also realized that my gut instincts about people are right. For example, I knew who I needed to call first thing that morning and that they'd somehow sacrifice a day of their time to hang around just to sit and chat with of all people: me. I knew who'd take issue with the fact that I didn't call them first (or shortly thereafter, though I really was in no mental or physical space to be making calls after the 9-1-1 one). I also learned that some people would react to the news that I'd been hospitalized as if they'd really instead been told, "Hey, just got back from having my teeth cleaned at the dentist"--no get well card, no flowers, no phone call--and no, I'm not making this shit up, and fucking hell, I wish I was!!!
The level of apathy I experienced afterwards still shocks me.
Thank the gods I had a three day trip to the beach scheduled starting the next day, thank the gods my GP said I was okay to go, thank the gods for weekends. Wasn't nearly enough, but hey, the last few days I've been feeling pretty close to needing another visit. Maybe I miss that beautiful nurse, yeah, Nurse Marsha-Marsha-Marsha. Yeah, life would be perfectly grand if only I could visit Marsha again.
Or get a card.
Or a thank you.
Or an apology.
...more on that tomorroW

Monday March 2nd, 2009

So, not really feeling well tonight. But I said I was going to write. But I'm not going to write about what I thought I was going to write about earlier today. I don't fucking feel like it.
Oh yeah, and the time's 7:44pm. There.
I left work a little before 5pm. Stopped at the Shell station. Smoked. I mean, why not? Then I stopped at Taco Bell. I dunno why. Thought maybe a Taco would make me happy (it didn't) and picked up some movies thinking they might keep me occupied (they haven't). Got home around 5:30 and I've been working ever since. Not sure why. My doctor says I need to stick to working 8 hour days. Why? Because my body is pretty fucked up but that doesn't matter, gotta spend my evening writing status reports and testing this and writing that and blah, blah, blah, you know what, I'm really fucking tired and I just want to get in bed and sleep and sleep and sleep but can't, gotta work, gotta not loose my house cause nobody's helping me with the mortgage and nobody ever will.
Quotation of the evening comes from grim reaper George from Dead Like Me:
"I guess the clock in my heart is still ticking, I mean I'm still here, I must be clinging to something. I just wish I knew what it was."
Rented this movie they made three years after the show was cancelled--it sucked. Watched it and was just wow, that's where I'm headed. Don't want to, I mean wanted to get married, have children, grow old, but you know, I've got this really bad feeling that what I've really got is as yet undiagnosed cancer and I'm going to be in a lot of pain for the next two years, some doctor's going to go hey, woah, didn't anybody notice these symptoms before, you got a year to live so enjoy it while it lasts.
So three or four months ago I begged someone to help me with my medical bills. Not to pay them, mind you, but I recognized that I was reaching a level of psychological stress that I haven't been, since, well, since around 19 or so. So yeah, so I'm weird, I kinda-sorta know myself and I realize I was on a road to burn out city, ask for some help, but boom, instead of calling the insurance company to see why they weren't paying the bills I get back the bills sorted into three envelopes by hospital. Funny, I learned to sort by shape, colour, and size, when I was a little kid. Before kindgerten even. I mean: wow.
So, one of many attempts to cut down on stress failed, miserably failed.
And you know, since then I just keep failing miserably. Must be something wrong with me. Try to get more sleep, end up awake at night stairing at the ceiling. Try to eat better, feel sick to the stomach. Support people I care about, they're all too busy. Voice my boundaries so clearly they become bullseye's (what caliber you carrying?). Tell some people if things get worse I'll end up the hospital, they don't seem to take me seriously, and boom, less than a week later and guess what? Vomit, puke, heart attack! The things I gotta do to get an extra day off.
Then not too many nights ago I just needed to cry, heck, like I've never cried in my life, like literally and not to gain your sympathy but never cried uncontrollably while taking a piss crying-crying. Had someone around. They saw me crying. Was pretty hard to miss, especially after about fifteen or twenty minutes of it. Did they hold me? Nah, I mean, it's not like I was doing something like screaming obsenities or calling names or accusing them of not loving me, nope, nothing like that, just laying there, stairing at the ceiling, silently crying as the tears rolled down my cheeks, and I realized wow, I've really just reached the pinnacle of worthlessness, wow, and do I get held? Of course not. Even after saying, "Will you hold me?" Nah, I get a list of hoops I gotta jump through to be held. Funny, I thought all you needed to be comforted was being a human being in pain but apparently not me, I'm a fucking failure and I have no worth and everything about me is wrong including but not limited to the mother fucking sheets, so I thought I'd try to take care of myself and knowing I wasn't getting any human warmth where I was I got up, walked to the door, and calmly said, "I need to go in the other room and cry by myself for awhile." No drama. No silence or bullshit. Contrary to popular opinion I don't leave rooms because I want to fling shit or hurt people or play passive aggressive--I got over that bullshit in my mid-twenties when I realized wow, I'm wasting my life here, maybe I should try working things out until it's clear I'm a walking target and need to dig a fucking fox hole and cover my head and THAT'S when I fucking leave the room because it's either that or let people jab screw drivers in my eye sockets (flat head and Phillips, just to be fair).
Seems like whenever I try to take care of myself it backfires. Hey, got a bloody nose from crying too. Sinuses were congested. I am so fucked.
So here alone tonight. 9:36pm. Gonna jump in the shower in a bit. Didn't get one this morning. Pilot light on the hot water heater went out. Happy, happy, joy, joy, just one more slap in the face. Then, once I finish my wonderful shower, I'm going to sit down at the computer and work, because that's exactly how I'd like to round out my day, working! And maybe just for an encour I can finish off the last three years of my life before spending the final few months in a hospital bed. Something to look forward to, some time to think.
Everybody else seems to know better than me, of course. Me and my silly boundaries. Me and my silly feelings. Me and my silly hopes and dreams and promises and commitments and life ambitions. Me and the silly idea that I know who I am, what I want, what I'm about, and that this shit is really not what I signed up for (God) and I'm really sick of it (God).
But what do I know?
(To God: I want a refund)
P.S. Haven't felt this "great" since Monday February 9th. Great things to look forward to.
P.P.S. Woohoo!

Sunday March 1st, 2009

It's 7:34pm. Approximately thirty to forty five minutes ago I arrived home after visiting my parents and brother's family in Prineville, Oregon. Last Wednesday my mother had gastric bypass surgery; it was a last ditch effort to prevent her weight gain and diabetes from getting worse which would probably have resulted in her loosing her ability to walk, if not her feet and/or legs, her sight, and eventually her life as a result of the Type II Diabetes (a worsening epidemic in America that more parents raising overweight children need to be aware of). I wanted to be there for the surgery and help out directly afterwards but work's been pretty busy, so much so that after my own little visit to the ER and the subsequent days I took off I didn't want to rock the boat and take too much more time off than I needed--especially during a time where I'm sincerely concerned that my emotional and physical health may force me to need to take a day off at a moments notice. Anyway, both seemed well, especially my mother; the surgery, while invasive, didn't seem to have knocked her as silly as I'd originally believed it would. Kudos for modern medical procedures! Oh yeah, I visited with my brother as well. He and his family arrived at my parent's house yesterday afternoon and I'd just gotten up so I visited with them for a little before they left. Later that evening took my dad out to see a movie at the new downtown theatre. Today my brother dropped by at noon so we went out, grabbed some lunch, talked for an hour, then I took him to his house where I visited with him, his wife, and three kids for around an hour before getting in the car and heading home.
I guess I'm telling you this because I really don't feel like telling the story again, the answer to "How was your weekend?" and "What did you do?" I guess I'm saying that because I'm trying to be polite about it when in truth I feel pretty damn rotten and scared about my life at the moment, so much so that I lack the simple patience necessary to answer such simple questions when I really feel like saying, "You know what, I feel like I barely made it through the weekend without giving in to blatant displays of random physical anger and/or verbal aggression. I think I've done pretty damn good and I simply have no desire to chat about the weather. Maybe we could talk about something more substantial like what's been on my mind, specifically, the fact that I feel lonely and unwanted, maybe we could talk about all the reasons I feel that way and what you could do to help me change that. Yeah, maybe we could talk about that and not the superficial meanderings of my weekend. What do you say to that?"
(Hence the quotations I've chosen for this month; see top of page.)
Road trips used to be pretty healing for me, used to try to take short ones (100 miles or so) every month or so, longer ones every year or two. Now-a-days I barely feel I've left by the time I get back and I look at my watch and think fuck, if I won the lottery I'd get on my motorcycle, head east, and continue on until I felt better...and I'm thinking it'd take at least two weeks at which I'd turn around, come home, and get back into things. Anyway...enough of my wet dreams, really not worth sharing 'cause it's never going to happen, and what's the point of having a dream that'll never happen?
It's been really tough writing this year. I've wanted to, trust me, there have been plenty of ideas going through my mind. But there have been several factors (aka challenges) preventing me from consistently writing Reflections. And now, in no particular order, here they are:
1. Time - The first and most notable has been time. So far this year my average work day has been 10 hours. On a typical work week I also work at least 3 hours on the weekend, sometimes 5, sometimes 8, depending on necessity. And frankly, when I have a few spare moments the last thing I've wanted to do has been to sit down at a computer--a significant detour from the life I once knew, one where free moments were inevitably spent behind the relative comfort of a computer monitor. No more, so no Reflections.
2. Multitasking Algorithm Severly Damaged - As you may already know I began having some pretty severe back problems in April, 2008. In the process of resolving this I've gone to physical therapy, had steorid injections, and have been on heavy duty pain killers. The latter, while working much better than nearly anything else, tend to make multitasking more difficult (though to be fair they knock most people silly). Where in the past I could use my three monitors to work on up to 6 projects concurrently, once I began taking my prescription my ability to multitask was brought down to a maximum of 3 projects at a time (one per monitor)--that is if I want to deliver quality work. I've also been keenly aware that the more stressed I am, the less sleep I get, and so on, well, the harder it is for me to multitask. Long story short, whereas in the past I would have worked on any number of things while writing a journal entry, these days I simply refrain from attempting to work on my journals while doing anything besides watching a tv program (currently watching Heroes: Season 3, Episode "Building 26"). End result? Fewer journal entries.
3. Motivation - Wow, I mean: WOW! How do I explain this but to say that I felt like I barely survived 2008, arrived at 2009, and my insides had been turned inside out and left on the side of the road for rabbid dogs to dine on. I know, pretty gross analogy, but that's how I've felt and much of the reason I ended up spending one lovely Tuesday morning in the Emergency Room on the edge of life and death. Since then I've been pretty numb inside--and contrary to the opinions of some, I have never felt quite so emotionally blotto in my entire life. Even when I was 19, severely Depressed and suicidal, I was a highly motivated person and if I had been paying more attention I would have realized that I was less Depressed than I'd thought, that I was actually pretty damn hopefull and goal oriented for a person who believed they wanted to end their life--my behaviors and my beliefs didn't quite match up. I wanted to overcome my Depression. I wanted to go to college and earn my degree. I wanted to write short stories and become a published author. I wanted to find the love of my life and get married and have children. Depressed or not, I woke up in the morning and asked, "What do I want to do with my day?" Now that 2009 has come, now that I've experienced some pretty difficult things like the ER visit and the reactions of people to it--I don't wake up anymore thinking "What do I want to do with my day?" but my first thought is nearly always, "Can I just go back to sleep?" When I have free time I don't think of all the projects I could work on, like the art room or writing or reaching out to a friend, I just want the day to hurry up so I can get in bed and go back to sleep. Sleep is, you see, the only time of day that I feel okay lately. Granted, I've had my share of nightmares lately but overall it's the only place where I can usually find a sense of peace and clam, a place I can exist without physical and emotional pain--for a short time, at least. The point I'm trying to make here is that while I've experienced some pretty tough emotions in the past, even during times I wanted to take my own life, my mind was always on the next book I wanted to read, the next computer program I wanted to write, the next person I wanted to hang out with, the next CD I wanted to buy and jam out to. The point I want to make is over the past few weeks the only thing I've consistently looked forward to, the only thing I've felt I could count on with any certainty, is sleep--if my battle with insomnia doesn't get in the way, that is. So, no real motivation to write means fewer journal entries. No real mystery there, eh?
4. Who Cares? - I've been writing Reflections long before the term "blog" was coined, back when web pages were written in text editors like Notepad in unambiguous but simple HTML. Sadly, I did not keep most of what I wrote over the years; I liked the Buddhist observation of impermanence, that nothing in the universe is forever (maybe not even the universe: see entropy), so every time I wrote an entry I wiped the old one, like a sand painting that had been blown away by the wind of a young disciple's palm. Onward and forward...while I lived in Eugene I rarely had friends. Sure, I had a few good ones here and there, my social circle would grow and diminish, back and forth, up and down. Having someone to talk to on a bad day was a luxery, something I valued much more than most because I knew it wasn't a certainty, so the Internet provided a way for me to write and feel like people were listening no matter what my social circle looked like at any given time. And sure enough, some people did read. Some friends read. Some strangers read. People wanting to get to know me read. Potential partners read and back then most of them went straight to accusations that I was some kind of narcassist (so either I was well ahead of the curve and nearly every twenty-something these days is too or I have always used the written word in an attempt to connect with others, especially those who recognize my words as an opportunity to connect on a deeper level). So anyway, yeah, writing made me feel like I could express my thoughts, feelings, ideas, and that at least one person cared enough to read and maybe by doing so, understand me a little better. But truth is, not too many people read my journals. Don't get me wrong, that's okay and understandable, after all I don't do much in terms of advertising and my blog isn't RSS accessible or on any of the major sites like MySpace or YouTube. Nope, this is my own little corner of the internet paid for monthly by me and you know, for an extra $1 a month I can take a look at how many people have viewed my site a day and you know what? The average is about 30 or so. You know what else? Most of those are search engines, like Google and Yahoo, "crawling" my site for content. Only a few flesh and blood people come here and though some of my best friends know this is where I share some of my deepest feelings many are quick to admit that they either don't read or don't want to read my Reflections--I mean, wow, I don't ask whether or not people are reading, I don't ask people to read or say, "You know what, it would mean a lot to me if you were interested in reading"--but I gotta admit as a thinking-feeling human being it doesn't exactly feel great when someone goes well out of their way to tell me it's not something they do. Sorta makes me feel like, "Who cares?" And lately that's how I've been feeling. I sit down to share my soul, try to encourage a deeper level of understanding and compassion and warmth in the universe, and I don't get much in the way of, "Wow, what you wrote really helped me understand and be a better friend to my partner" or "Woah, what you wrote really helped me learn to forgive someone who really hurt me" or "OMG, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels different, judged, and alone! I may still feel judged but after reading what you had to say I no longer feel so different or alone." Nah, I write, it goes up on my site, sometimes somebody reads, usually nobody does, and I've started to feel like man, I got so much to say but does anyone really care to know what I have to say anymore? Do my closest friends understand that my Reflections are a de facto key into my soul?
Maybe that was just a rediculous pipe dream all along, n'est pas? Maybe I am a foolish man with foolish dreams. Maybe I should pipe down and get to work. Maybe I should stop dreaming. Dreams are for kids, silly rabbit.
Oh and anyway, there are other reasons for not writing too, but these are some of the main ones: Time, Multitasking Difficulties, Lack of Motivation, and Who Cares? But you know, I need to write, this month I need to write, and not just because I'm paying about $7/month for The Temple to exist, I need to write because this weekend I've recognized just how shredded up my insides are and that if I don't find something healthy to stand on, some kind of foundation to focus myself on, some way to make sense of my existence, then I'm going to fall apart. Some would say I'm being meladramatic, but some said the same thing when I warned that if things got worse I'd end up in the hospital.
I'm not going to make my way through 2009 if I'm not able to sit down and figure out who I am, where I'm going to go from here, who this Aslynn character is.
  1. Does he believe he is a "good" person?
  2. Does he believe he's done "good" things and made "hard" choices in order to improve the lives of others? Does he understand the importance of the Sacrifical Lamb?
  3. Can he live with the fact that no one else seems to see it in the same light? How will he respond to that? How will he live with that?
  4. Can he tell others what he needs and have those needs met without being shaken to his core by the everpresent fear of loss, that in expressing himself so he will cause the universe to vibrate, at first subtly, then louder and louder and louder, until finally everyone looses their grip and is flung away across through spiral nebulas, black holes, and dancing pulsars?
The questions are many. The process, however difficult, is necessary. And that process, I've come to realize, I must start here and now. I need to believe someone is listening, it is an essential ingredient to my writing, helping me find the "right" words. My audience, though not large, though mostly automated, is just large enough to make me aware that the way I write, the things I think, and the way I share it, effects a number of people, all in different ways. In taking this journey I may find the healing I need, but also educate those who care enough to listen that the heart is a truly amazing things, it can be ripped to shreds, it can loose hope, it can have everything it ever valued ripped from it, and still, somehow, through hard work and perseverance, bounce back. And that's gotta be the goal this month, right? Bouncing back. So I'll share, in shiny technicolour, what it's like to have an honest to God breakdown, one that's left me fearing for my life every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to bed, I'll tell you what helps, what doesn't help, what my thoughts and emotions are like during the days. Maybe it's a bunch of crap, something I do to keep myself busy, but maybe, if we're both insightful enough, we can dig down deep and find clay, we can mold it and play with it until it has shapes like understanding, compassion, and knoweldge, all of which can be burned in the kiln, each of which can hold water.
I could just wrattle the cages with anger--and honestly the most child-like part of me wants to do that right now, screaming at the top of my lungs, "Milk! I'm hungry! I'm lonely! Come be with me!!!"--I am pretty angry--but more than anything I want this to be a process of self-discovery that results in understanding, compassion, love, warmth, friendship, connection, and self-knowledge. The human race could use a little more of those things, don't you think? A little more love, a little more compassion, a little more being the most beautiful person we are capable of while at the same time accepting others for the most beautiful people they are capable of.
Wow, what a fucking whacked out world that would be! And if we weren't all so stuck in our own ways we might actually one day get there!!!
Or maybe I'm just a stupid future minded guy with rediculous dreams of a better future for our race, I mean, why would someone sharing their deepest suffering help you see how to love others (or even yourself) better?
Crazy notion, eh?
P.S. What do you think about it?