Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Voice Found and Ready to Speak


I have spent the years since my MFA graduation restructuring my life, gaining strength of mind, finding joy, laughter, love, and meaningful work. I needed to be practical, and make sure I was on my way to building a retirement. It takes time to calm the distractions enough to focus on writing. I have missed my writer self immensely.

And so I begin…

A while ago, I discovered something. It was a discovery that hit me right in the middle of the stomach. Two emotions overwhelmed me: regret, and embarrassment. And with the force of those two emotions, a door to a new world blew opened. What was this discovery? What kind of power did this discovery have that gave me a complete paradigm shift in my life?

Let me try to explain it before I name it. Think of an object. Think of this object as beloved. This object is virtuous, fantastic, and fabulous. While holding this object, look at it from all sides. See its beauty, its goodness. Then, suddenly something changes. Now look at the object again. While you look at it, I will explain the result of this change:  This object does awful things, this object causes great heartache, this object is to blame for all that goes wrong, this object is bad, stingy, horrific, and dreadful. Geesh. This object must be maligned, and destroyed!

How does this object go from virtuous to wicked? Where did such perceptions of that object come from in the first place? As a child, the adults in my life influenced my perceptions. The most dominant person in my childhood, as with many, was my mother. She controlled my environment. She convinced me that her perceptions were right, and valid. She wanted me to believe that these objects that were once one hundred percent good were now one hundred percent bad. The poor woman had some major psychological issues that she had no idea she possessed.

This is how I grew up. My childhood was defined by the needs of someone who manifested the mental structure of a borderline personality disorder. The pattern was like this: A person would enter into our lives. This person would be all wonderful, all loving, all kinds of fun, until something would change. And that change was when my mother would declare that this person was now all bad. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the numbers of people who did awful things, caused great heartache, and were to blame for all that went wrong. The many good people who became so bad that they had to abruptly disappear from our lives forever baffled me.

It turns out that I do not have Borderline Personality Disorder; thus, there was always a part of me that had extreme difficulties with this “splitting behavior.” In that environment, I was not the norm. I was abnormal. I thought there was something wrong with me. Most of the time, the leaving of the all-good to all-bad person was dramatic. And I was always full of questions that were never answered. Thus, I had two things to do in my life’s journey. One was to find the answers, and the other was what to do with the answers once I had them.

What would cause my mother to declare that someone who was all good was now all bad? How could that happen so many times? Why did she have a circle around her who would fiercely defend, and believe her? I have insight because I was once in that circle. As a child, what choice did I have? Who could I turn to for different perspectives? If I caught a glimmer of a different perspective, I had to be brought back under her influence. As a result, under her influence, the perception of my reality was constantly being re-spun. She could keep me by her side that way. I would never leave her. That was her intention. As part of the characteristics of this disorder, abandonment was her all-consuming fear.

It wasn’t until I finally got myself in a somewhat stable adult relationship that I was able to hear the words other people said to me. Some of these strange words were: “That isn’t normal.” “Nothing is ever black or white.” “Tell me what you think about this-use your thoughts, your words based on your experience with this person.” Oh. I was schooled by people who genuinely cared for themselves, and for me, who could think outside of their own damaged selves, and valued consistent, and healthy relationships. The door blew open, my soul opened up, and wow, it was one deprived place.


I was on my way to a complete paradigm shift. I had to restructure my whole life, restructure my entire perceptions, and beliefs. I had to learn that nothing in life was black or white. This journey was and is a process. And, for me, the beginning of this shift was dramatic, and seemingly something I couldn’t survive. But, survive I did. And that is my story. The one I can return to writing now that I have had some distance from the beginning of this journey. And now that I have found a way to sustain myself through my own financial independence, and my own healthy relationships, I can use my voice. And I will use it without fear of my mother’s retaliation. Well, there is some fear there, as will become evident and validated…

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Just another theory among others

August 13, 2014

As we know, the world has lost a fellow depressive. Robin Williams, the funny man, ended it without an ounce of humor for us. He was done, and he meant it. Many don’t understand-I mean he was scheduled to start filming the sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire.

The movie came out in 1993. I remember it as being a fun gender bending trope, along the lines of Tootsie. It was fun, silly, with the appropriate happy ending, and a dialogue starter on social constructs. 
 
As someone who understands a lot about depression, I know what it’s like to be in a depressive state, “the down,” as I call it. I can maybe hypothesize that this movie sequel would not be enough of a trampoline to get back into the healthy thinking stratosphere.

Actually, I don’t know a thing about Robin Williams' depression. He was brilliant, and he could be manic in his brilliance. He was adored, he could fill auditoriums. He was amazing. I can’t relate to any of that celebrity royalty stuff. I can only relate to a feeling of that pit of sadness with a perception that the only thing to look forward to is some silly thing that will require tons of energy and time.

And so it seems he did something depressives shouldn’t do: over extend, get too tired, forget that your brain chemistry requires intellectual stimulation, your heart requires connection, and your body requires rest. If these things are thrown out of whack, there isn’t much a depressive can do, except wait it out. Wait until those things become in sync again. I have developed many strategies over a lifetime of how to get my out of sync self on that trampoline and jump back into that healthy thinking stratosphere. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have the will to wait it out once again. And he stopped the clock. Serious business this flipping sad stuff.


That’s my two cent theory anyway. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Space

I’m not in Omaha anymore. When I drove out of town last May, I drove, and drove determined to put as many miles as possible between that place and myself in one day. 800 miles later, blurry-eyed, thrilled, I stopped in Rock Springs, Wyoming for the night.

Being back out west is a dream. I love the west. It’s a lot more densely populated than the spaces that stretch from Rock Springs, WY to Omaha, NE. But out west is where I belong. I can breathe. It seems the spaces in the Midwest are vast. But in my experience, the space to be fully human was small, and cramped. I did cross paths with some wonderful people. And they were the kind of people that give the Midwest its good name. But there were those experiences that were beyond the absurd. And it is only now that I’m feeling that my experience of Midwest oppression is becoming more and more distant. In a year or two, it will all be nothing but dust.
So, I still do carry some anger. Who wouldn’t after completely changing your life, and then having to put up with some really stupid, unnecessary situations? But, I am beginning to talk as if I can now. Freedom is sweet. And I am turning that anger into a determination to be the human being I choose to be. I don’t want to be an angry, bitter person. My life even before Omaha could have turned me that way. But, no. Screw that. I want to be that soft, compassionate, but stronger than anyone thinks kind of person. Of course, it’s not always so easy to be that way out west either. But I don’t care. I will, “to thine ownself be true.”


So after some re-entry adjustments, I have a job as a cardiovascular sonographer, my stuff is out of storage, and either donated to the Goodwill, or with me, and I have a cat. Somehow I have inherited a cat along the way.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The New Post-Modernism: The Lyism Age


I hate this political campaigning season more than any other, which is saying a lot because I hate all political campaigning seasons. I've tried to stay out of the fray because it's all so icky. But, I would be wrong not to take a step forward, and not say something.

This season is particularly disturbing. The lying is so blatant, so in our faces, so justified, and so righteous that it’s truthful. Yes the truth is in the lying.

In listening to some of these unashamed lies, I can’t help but think—if you keep lying, then at some point, just through repetition, it becomes believable. This was a Hitler strategy, he said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

In January, the Lyism age got a push start. Let’s take Mitt Romney. He said that his first name is Mitt. If you look at the facts, his first name is “Willard.” Hmmm wasn’t Willard a 1971 horror movie about rats?

It’s hard enough to weed out the facts from the propaganda in a political campaigning season, because everyone wants to be the winner. But when lying big becomes the right thing to do, we really are stepping into some kind of horror movie.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

○ Cycles ○



The air in the Midwest has cycled into summer. It is saturated with heat and humidity, which seems to mirror the heaviness I feel most days here. The plains’ winds serve to blow the heat and dampness around, but never shoo it all away.

In about a month I will have lived in Nebraska for a year. It is also the time of year that will mark the third year of my sister’s passing. I still haven’t floated by the day without thinking of her. I do wonder when the time will come when I will look at the calendar and realize I hadn’t noticed that it was June 29th. Not this year I suspect.

Right now, I am in the middle of the long summer session of my school program. My days are saturated with  homework. And those pesky insects I call bumps in the road that I find more than a nuisance. I still haven’t gotten used to this place that sets rules, then breaks them, and then throws you around in the pieces for awhile. At least I am not going to pieces. I am becoming someone other than the one who arrived here last year. 

During this season, I don’t have the sense of play, or the sense of humor I know I have inside me somewhere. I hope when the air isn’t weighing me down anymore, it will come back. I’m guessing it will, just as winter will.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

The first week of Spring always meant “March 21st.” My youngest sister’s birthday. So naturally, she has been occupying my thoughts. Every year when I get a new calendar, I wonder if I should stop marking her birthday in it. I don’t know if there is an answer other than whenever the time comes when I don’t note it.

The other thing that brings her to mind is my recent start of clinical training. So far, twice a week, I am in a hospital 8 ½ hours a day. Not visiting. I’m learning how to take pictures of and understand people’s hearts, and vascular systems.

It seems every time I enter a patient’s room, I remember the hospitals of our childhood. I can’t help but check the patients’ toes for unnecessary filth. I know this is an acute care medical facility with very high cleanliness standards and protocols, and not the state run institutions where the staff were thieves, and the fungus ran the place. I guess my point is childhood memories appear at the strangest times.

As I passed by families gathered in ICU, and others who were sound asleep on the couches outside the unit’s doors, I felt a twinge. A twinge of a complicated relief. I wasn’t the one who had to cry.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Culture Adjustment

It has been a disorienting couple weeks in Omaha. I’m still adjusting to the ways things are done here, the implicit signs and symbols of what is and isn’t allowed. And once again, I had to be told to be a good little lemming. I was feeling like a scolded child. So yesterday when UPS left a package slip in my door, I had a funny sensation. I felt like I had just found Wilson (remember Tom Hanks crying over his pet volleyball?).
When I went out to California for the winter break, I had rummaged through my storage unit looking for warm things—my heavy coat, sweatshirts, long-sleeves—anything. The temperature while I was out there on break was in the high 60’s, and sunny every day.  I was reminded of when I packed up these warm things in the middle of August. I had stuffed them in a crate that became a sturdy shelf for stacks of boxes. I wasn’t thinking about anything cold.
Finally, after messing up my balanced columns, I was able to get to what I wanted. But what I really wanted to do was close the metal door, and spend the night with my stuff. Yet, the contract I signed states, in big explicit print, that storage units are not places to sleep. It’s not allowed.
Because I couldn’t fit my old sweatshirts in my suitcase, I had them packed into another box, and had it mailed to Omaha. And weeks later, I held a dulled knife, and gingerly cut through the packing tape until I saw my pink sweatshirt and my green Antioch University sweatshirt. Tossing the knife, I picked up my warm clothes, and pressed them to my face. They smelled of California. I put on the pink one, and all during the evening I would bury my nose in my sleeve, and breathe in the scent while wishing it would never fade away.