Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pretense is the mother f@%$er of dissention

Yes, I know. I'm slightly misquoting Plato here, but mostly I just wanted to write this post so I could use this badass title. However, the more I think about what I'm going to say to make it work, the more I'm agreeing with my miraculously brilliant brain. (See what I mean...now you are irritated with me because of my pretentiousness! Perfection!! It totally works!) Plus, I'm running a little behind on my commitment to overexposing myself so I needed to post something.

You see, I mentioned before that my mind is rebellious. I was always taught to think critically about things. Question everything. Don't accept information at its face value. As a result, I don't cognitively comply with much. I will always think, "you said you are 39, but I think you are...not."

That's all fine and well until this incessant questioning pairs itself up with a compliant spirit (also mentioned before). The problem is that a rebellious mind partnered with a compliant spirit typically manifests itself in a perpetually conflicted mind.

Then, sprinkle a little expectation on that...just a little something that someone else thinks I need to be doing...and the whole thing starts to implode. If I am confronted by an expectation, I will instantly rebel in my head, but comply (equally as instantly) in my body. First, I question the validity of the request. Then, I rebel against it. Then, I big-fat-do-it-anyway. Ridiculous, right? How can anyone be happy selling themselves out 24/7?

In fact, don't tell anyone, but the quickest way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't. And if you really want to piss me off to get slightly quicker compliance, just tell me I can't because I'm...a woman...not good at it....not smart enough...not coordinated enough...not pretty enough...not skinny enough...boring...um....well, the list can go on ad infinitum.

In practice, this looks like this...I don't want to do something, but I do it anyway. I don't like something, but I let it continue. I don't like BBQ at all, but I'll eat it anyway.

So basically, now I'm doing both what people tell me to do and what they tell me I can't do. And, it turns out, I can only do so much. I just figured out that I'm not thinking for myself anywhere in this and that's seriously fucked up! So now I'm pissed! And there is nothing worse than an angry pleaser, let me tell you!

Now, there's one more layer to this...pretense. Add pretense to this expectation that there is a perfect, one way to do things. An image to which I am supposed to aspire or something I should just do because I should. Because it is the "right thing" to do. And suddenly I don't really want to do that so much any more. Now I'm dissenting. An angry, dissenting pleaser. With a brain about to melt out of my ears!

I know I'm not alone on this either; I think this is true for most people. No one wants to be told what to do; yet we spend our entire lives trying to figure out how to follow conventions enough to get away with not following them completely. Think about all that experimenting you did in high school or college. Bucking the system is ingrained in our DNA. (Or, at least, I think it is. It should be. I'm too lazy to do the research so don't quote me on that.) But the part I never got out of all that mess was that you are supposed to end up with a definition of self. Who you are and what you think and what you do. Self-ownership.

Well, I've decided to take action. And I'm totally going to mid-life crisis my ass all over this one albeit in a very conventional way. However, I will say that back when I conceived of it, it wasn't so conventional. (At least, I'll give myself that in my quest for perfect imperfection.) I'm going to go back in time to right a wrong I made to myself more than 20 years ago! And here's what my action looks like....

I have wanted a tattoo since 1991, but I didn't do it for so many reasons. None of which are because I didn't want to. I'm not surrounded by a posse of people who would agree that getting a tattoo is really the best idea and, therefore, it bucks convention to a certain degree in my world. Because of my tendency to comply, I never really trusted myself to do it. I let myself be talked out of it many a time.

Now here's the thing...my tattoo has belonged here for so long that when I finally did it, I felt relief. It is as though my outsides and insides are starting to align. My tattoo is a reminder to me that my body and my mind are my own. A reminder that no person should take lightly. For various reasons, I've let mine be owned by others for so long and I'm taking it back! And the owl is a reminder of that wisdom.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ghost Post: Fit to be tied

I am the privileged recipient of my first ghost post. Yeah! If this becomes a popular thing, I might have to start charging. But, seriously, this was submitted by an anonymous contributor. So...not my midlife crisis. Someone else's. Enjoy!! (And let me know if you want to ghost post yourself! I would love it!)


I just heard these words come out of my mouth: "Be careful tying yourselves up!". My kids were cinching themselves to rolled-up camping pads with the straps intended to keep the pads in a tightly rolled configuration. As I walked out of their room, I started questioning myself: should they be tying themselves up at all? Should I have just shut up and let them have their fun? Is it actually dangerous to the point where they should stop? See, I have no idea. My parents might be described as having been shockingly neglectful in many ways, so I have a very limited sense of appropriate boundaries in many, many situations. But I do recall getting occasional advice from my dad, and one of the things he told me, probably repeatedly, was to never, ever let anyone tie me up, even if it's called a game. Reasonable advice? I don't know. Here's a few other nuggets from him:
  • always keep your eye on your wallet
  • if it happens to you, it's your fault (this might easily be misconstrued: I believe his intent was to address things like not getting an application in on time because the mail carrier was late; clearly you should have planned ahead a little more and given yourself some margin for error. He did not intend to blame victims of crimes or similar).
  • never trust the son of a bitch (this refers to drivers with their signals on; never believe they are actually turning until you see them turn. They might have it on and not know, or change their mind at the last minute, etc.)
Wise counsel? Seems like it. He also insisted I learn to pump gas, change a tire, and learn to drive an old three on the tree manual transmission Chevy pickup before I could get my license, and made me take hunter safety classes. But no one noticed when I snuck out my bedroom approximately 382728282 nights during high school and was hungover an approximately equal number of mornings. No one noticed when I hit puberty and overnight literally had no clothes that I could fit into to wear to school. Including a bathing suit for mandatory 9th grade swimming. I had absolutely no idea the ridiculous lengths teenage (and adult!) boys will go to get in your pants. I could go on but I'm pretty sure you get the picture.

So. Back to my probably questionable parenting practices. I know I do it wrong. I have proof! Last year one of my kids had an earache while we were on vacation. I dosed him up on Advil, feeling all competent and shit. It just kept getting worse and I kept giving him more medicine. My husband thought we should take him to the doctor and I argued. I had at least a million earaches when I was a kid, no one ever took me to a doctor. Actually, I doubt I got the meds, either. Sometimes they'd go away and sometimes my eardrum would pop and bloody fluid would come out and it would feel better. If I was lucky it was just one side. So, a doctor? What for, right? Sure enough, his eardrum popped, and my husband INSISTED we go to the ER. So we went. And the doctor, with a horrified look on her face, informed us how DANGEROUS AND STUPID it was to just ignore an excruciating earache. Huh. Who knew?

At the same time, I think I have developed my finest qualities from having been left alone to fend for myself. There must be a balance there somewhere, but I have no idea where it is. I think I'm just going to close their bedroom door, get myself a beer, and think about bondage.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Code Talkers (or, Damn it! My kids have learned to read.)

Learning to read is an awesome thing. The whole world opens up to you when you can make sense of the mess that we call the English language. However, this milestone is also one of the worst evolutions in parenthood. The parental communications system breaks down dramatically once the code is broken and I believe that it's integrity can never be fully restored.

Suddenly, we cannot let our kids play with our smart phones to kill time any more. Instead of playing games, they now read our text and email messages. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard, "Mommy, your friend said that she needs a drink! Doesn't she have water where she lives?" or "Mommy, it says that your <embarrassing item> order has shipped" I would be rich!

Not only that, but also we cannot spell our way around an issue any more because they can spell, too. We have tried a few code talking strategies, but none are viable for long. First, we went through a period of working our way around conversations using a strange array of intense "you know what I mean" looks (that don't actually end up meaning much to the person trying to understand us). Then, we used a system of unusual descriptors that were only marginally better. For example, instead of "Target", we might say "the circle dot". (Well, until they figured it out.)

Currently, we are using a strategy recommended by a brilliant friend with older kids. She explained that the next phase is to spell everything backwards. Works great, for now, but I don't have much hope it will last too much longer. Plus, honestly, I'm a terrible speller. Spelling forwards is barely tolerable. Backwards spelling takes an IQ above my means.

The other snafu in the "my kids can read" equation is that we can no longer avoid the hot bed topic of graffiti. Recently, I was listening to my 6-year old reading the graffiti on the playground equipment aloud. All was going smoothly until there was a pause and a horrified gasp. She came running over to tell me that someone had written "the f-word" on the slide. Another time, "Mommy, what's a <four letter word that start a c> ?" That was a fun one, let me tell you.

Well, the plus side is that...um...you know, I can't really think of a plus side on this one. Life was so much easier when my kids were kept in the dark. The blissful ignorance years are over. The years of awkward conversations are just beginning.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Impostor (or the not-so-funny story of PTSD)

SPOILER ALERT: This story is not funny. For those of you who read my blog for humor, you should probably just go back a post and read about cacti shaped like penises or about whacked out taxi rides. This is a little different. This will affect the way you see me. If you don't want to alter that, don't read it. Some things you just cannot unsee.

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat? Or been out walking the dog and felt that creepy need-to-get-home feeling? Or perhaps you might have even just got a plain old "bad feeling" about something or someone? Most of us have. It's normal. Our mind's eye sees things before we do. Once our brain sees something, it lets our bodies know it. Often before we even know what's happening.

But sometimes, something bad actually happens. And, when something bad happens, we can react two different ways. We can move on and learn the lesson. Or, we can move on, but our brain is still stuck in the moment trying to figure it out. It becomes a layer of awareness that is constantly buzzing in our brain as it waits for that something to happen again. Our brains don't like to be fooled. Our brains don't want to miss anything that it can protect us from. And, if something bad happens over and over again, our brain ceases to know how to handle the problem. It shuts down reason and turns on constant vigilance. At length, we cannot cope with constant vigilance. It takes so much energy that everything else becomes crippled. Normal human functioning ceases.

This is what happens to some people who survive trauma. It can happen on the battlefield. It can happen as a result of abuse or being the child of an alcoholic. It can happen after car wrecks. It can even happen when we see something traumatic on television. For me, it began when I was only 16.

I suffer from PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. And, believe me, PTSD is no fucking joke. This is the first time I've ever tried to write about this issue in a personal way so I'm not completely sure where this is going. I hope that, if you read this, you will realize that and be forgiving.

I talk about PTSD a lot in relation to the general population and trying to raise some awareness of the issue, but I tend not to make it too personal. Most people have no idea why I discuss it. They probably just think I talk about it as a dutiful military spouse. I do have a few people who are familiar with my story, but I've always carried the weight of it around privately because I didn't want people to feel sorry for me or judge me for my history. (In fact, I always say that I don't want people to pray for me. Over the years, I've learned that this is also a form of denial or self-protection. If someone else recognizes how bad it was, then I might be forced to see it as that bad as well. I don't have the strength for that...yet. Perhaps, I still feel like I don't deserve it either.)

Having said that I wouldn't say I keep it a secret exactly, but it takes a whole-lotta-while for me to cop to it. And, I tend to cop to it in a way that prevents anyone from really seeing how deeply it has hurt me. The "oh, yeah. It sucks, but I'm ok" face is very exhausting and it gets in the way of living. Actually living and enjoying.

But I have decided I'm done with that. I'm done feeling responsible for this and I really think it might be a learning experience for others out there. Because, in reality, I know I'm not the only one. This happens every day, but this is my story of my day.

At 16, I was an artist, a dancer, and a passionate thespian. I was kind, sensitive, creative, and pretty outgoing. The child of two teacher/priests and sister to two brothers. I was whole. But by the time I was sixteen and a half, I was desperately clinging to the idea of me whole, but, in reality, I had become an impostor in my own life. Completely shattered, but trying not to let anyone see it. I became an expert in becoming what everyone else wanted to see. That kept me safely hidden.

When I was 16, over the period of about 3 months, I was raped multiple times by a boy I had been dating. He had a gun and used it. I live this experience every day of my life. Every day. Without exception. Some days, it is more in passing. Some days, it grabs me by the throat and threatens to kill me. Recently, I was reminded of a song that the rapist used to sing repeatedly. Before I even had chance to realize that I was even thinking of the song, I was gripped by a panic attack. Panic first. Then reason. That's how my brain functions. My brain was not going to let him get away with it again. Ever.

It wasn't until I was 35 and in serious crisis, that my path finally crossed with someone who could help me. You see, back in 1989, when I was raped, PTSD was pretty much an unknown quantity. There was no treatment. I could have talked about being raped until the cows came home, but no one really knew how to make it better. We had a generation of Vietnam veterans who were suffering, but we didn't know how to help them. We were in the first Gulf War, but were not seeing lasting effects of trauma....yet. However, over the next 20 years, we have become all to familiar with the effects of trauma. (In particular, related to battle, but other trauma as well.) We are seeing patterns in soldiers, families with alcoholics, families with abuse, and crime victims...like me.

But, in 2009, it was a different story. I was living overseas when I went into crisis. (Some of you might remember this, but did not know until now why.) I was working hard as a volunteer base leader and my life went kaboom. I remember standing on the balcony of my 7th floor apartment and wondering to myself what it would be like to just go over the edge. It was scary as shit because I knew I wasn't thinking right. I attribute some of it to living in a place where we practiced "war mentality" such as practicing evacuation procedures and witnessing pretend gun-fights happening around us. Guns had been involved in my trauma and I had never felt safe around them.

My only resource was the military family social worker at the clinic. I met with him a few times, but wasn't getting very far very fast. I was thinking that everything I was feeling was new. Homesickness. That kind of thing. I never really made the connection to something that had happened 19 years earlier. I always mentioned it to therapists in passing and down played it as usual. "Well, yeah. When I was 16, I was raped by a boyfriend. But I'm ok now." That was my story. Because they didn't respond as though it was serious, I discounted the intensity of my feelings about it. I blamed myself for over-reacting.

But this time when I mentioned it, the person hearing my story had heard it all before and he wasn't messing around. As a military member, he'd seen PTSD and understood how to treat it. And that's when my life began to change.

The treatments for PTSD are quite effective now. Very painful, but effective. I basically had to force myself to describe (in first person) what happened to me for each and every rape. In intense detail. I told it. Recorded it. Listened to it. Over and over and over and over and over again. And then some more. As I retold the story, my social worker helped me see it for the first time as it was. A serious, premeditated crime. It wasn't until then, that I learned to understand that I didn't cause it to happen. And I finally began to feel some relief. The more I told the story, the less power it had over me. This man saved my life. I will never ever forget him for that.

The legacy of the trauma, however, infuses every corner of my life. Family life. Work life. Social life. Everything. There are still immense ramifications. It took so long to figure out what the problem was that the Impostor was the Helen that everyone knew. The real Helen actually seemed like a fraud. It has been an incredibly painful journey, but it is getting better.

Now on to the lessons.....

There are so many lessons in this whole experience and, as I reflect upon my experience as a parent wanting to protect my own children from danger, there is one fact that strikes me as most important.

This was someone I knew. This was not a stranger. All the tricks and skills I had learned to protect myself in life would never have helped me. Because I knew this person, he had time to work. It was not a sudden experience. He learned to master me over six months. Once he mastered me, he went in for the kill. This was cold, calculated, criminal.

I was a kind and patient kid. I was also the kid who tried not to rock the boat. I always tried to keep it together. If something bad happened (and it did), I would have been the least likely person to say anything to anyone about it. I didn't want to cause a fuss. He knew this, too.

He had a hard life and I thought he really needed a friend. After 6 months of painful emotional drama, things began to take a turn for the worse. For six months, he tested my loyalty and my boundaries. Once he mastered me, the games began in earnest. The insulting began. The dehumanizing began. The overwhelming control began. He would tell me what to wear. Who to talk to. Why I was no good. He would make fun of every damn thing I did, said, or was interested in. He told me that no one else would bother with me and that he was doing me a favor. That I was a "Plain Jane". And then, once he knew he had broken me, he told me he needed me.

I mention this because it is a critical step in a relationship like this. "Why did she stay in the relationship?" People often ask this question when victims don't leave their abusers. Or, worse, "I would have left." This is why. They hold their victims' minds prisoner. The victim no longer believes that the way they think about something is real. They are constantly questioning their own judgement. It happens slowly. It is insidious. (And remember, I was only 16.)

I said nothing.

It took me three years to "confess" even a tiny bit of what happened to me. The "I was raped but it wasn't a big deal" years followed and lasted until I was 35. In the mean time, the Impostor took over my life. Helen disappeared completely.

So, this is a very unpleasant tale to tell and I am already second guessing my judgement to post about it. But I've decided to tell it now in the hopes that I can free myself just a little bit more from it. In doing so, I'm also hoping that someone who might be suffering themselves can start to see that there is a way out. And, perhaps, for you parents in the midst, you might be more aware of some of the dynamics that may affect your children in the hopes that a few of them might be saved a journey like mine. Because my journey with PTSD is not yet over. And that is just how it will be, I guess.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The P-Word (or, Awkward)

In an effort to become more teacher-like, I have been volunteering in a local school to supplement my student teaching. Well, I can occasionally pull-off "teacher-like", using the most broad definition, of course, but the more time I have in-service the better my job search will be, I hope. Basically, I'm selfishly volunteering to further my own career. It's all good.

Anyway, I've been spending quite a bit of time in this one classroom in which the teacher is nearing her retirement. She's a nice lady who seems to have survived teaching with a fair degree of grace, except for one minor thing.

On it's own, this minor thing may not be a problem for her, but when you pair her "minor thing" with my "little problem" (see previous posts...here....and....here), we have sheer terror in the classroom. You see, her problem appears to be a weakness for sharing...inappropriately. Which also means she is no match for my little problem in which people feel compelled to share.

The first time I was in her classroom, all was well. The next time, not so bad...perhaps, in retrospect, a few untoward comments that suggested some struggles with mental health, but nothing significant. But by the third time (and, honestly, knowing what I know now, I'm a little surprised she held out so long) trouble was brewing.

I trotted in that morning happily flipping my volunteer photo (!) ID around my neck. I was greeted like a rock star (which is, frankly, the whole reason I even bother). And, then, I sat down and got to work with my normal duties.

The kids all got back to what they were doing when, moments later, the teacher quietly popped up behind me. I jumped and turned around only to come face-to-face with something that looked like this....

Is that a cactus in your pocket....?
Not what I was expecting, but ok. I can flex with the best. She started to explain.

HER: Look! This is a cactus from my garden. It blew over in the wind last night so I thought I'd take the chance to show the kids before I replant it.

ME: Oh! Cool! Weird cactus. Arizona has some crazy plants!

HER: I know. I love this one....

Then she leaned in close.....

HER: ....I call this "my big man".

ME: (Looking at her quizzically.)

HER: It looks like a big, hairy penis!

ME: (BLUSH!!!!!)

Now I'm a modest individual who has a hard time slipping the "p-word" in to her daily vocabulary (although I have given it the ole college try on a few occasions). But out of the mouth of a fourth-grade pillar of the community was just about more than my teensy little brain could handle. It exploded. I was, once again, speechless....and BRIGHT RED! I absolutely did not know how to respond. I must have look like an instant lobotomy patient.

She merrily turned and went back to teaching something about something and the day went on. I think. At least, that's what the EMTs told me after they treated me for near-fatal mortification.

I was so disappointed. We all know that teachers are the bastions of our society. They don't swear. (Ever!) They don't drink. (Much.) They don't share inappropriate stories. (In public.) And they certainly don't say...the "p-word". (Unless they are a science teacher. In which case, a rare exception can be made. But, frankly, those science teachers can be a little shady and I'm not terribly comfortable with bending the rules for them a whole lot.) My whole perspective on all the lovely little-old-lady teachers that I'd had in my life was tanking. Dramatically.

And, worse still, if it's not the teachers, then I have to ask, is it me? Why do people say these things to me? My face must be on a "If You See This Woman Humiliate Her" list on the internet somewhere as a joke. It must be. I simply can't bear the thought that people just think I'm as crazy as they are.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My name is Helen and I'm an addict

It has been less than 24 hours since I decided to put my social e-life on hold for about two weeks and I'm a mess. I'd be lying to say I haven't found a reason to pop-in and spy for a minute or so. There is just so much to keep up with. So now, instead of being a Facebook user, I'm a Facebook stalker. And I'm not proud. I thought this was going to be a lesson in sanity and an opportunity to demonstrate my high degree of self-control, but I'm discovering that may not be the case. Perhaps going cold turkey was a seriously bad idea.

On any given day, I am used to watching all the unfolding minutia of people's days in real time; planning for the perfect comment; liking the unlikable; sharing with appropriate frequency so that it enhances (not overwhelms) my friends' news feeds; monitoring my chat sessions; and just sitting back with my cup of tea and chillin' with my peeps in between dreary home life, school life, and work life responsibilities. As someone with peeps in just about every time zone, this is excellent social time! Who could ask for more?

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that I had finally perfected my news feed so that it had the right silliness:seriousness ratio. And now, I don't even get to see it!

Instead of annoying people selectively and in an evenly distributed fashion, I have taken to bothering my friends who text instead. Way more inconvenient for them to be sure, but it seems to help sooth the savage beast. I'm not sure they completely agree though. In fact, one wise (read "bossy") friend has suggested that I find a nice smooth rock to rub to sublimate my frustration and anxiety about going cold turkey. Here's my rock:

Isn't he sweet? And perfectly smooth for rubbing...a lot...

In order to distract from my heart's desire, I'm doing more mundane activities to include:
  • Shaving my legs
  • Planning for my tattoo
  • Cleaning
  • Writing...(yes! This counts!)
  • Playing 4 Pics 1 Word
  • Rubbing my sublimation rock
  • Painting (will probably start on this tomorrow)
Sounds fulfilling, doesn't it? My willpower is waning, but I. Must. Not. Give. Up....at least for another few hours.

Text me, PLEASE! Don't leave me to suffer alone!! (Email will work as well, if you are so inclined.) I'm lonely. (Sad face emoticon which doesn't exist on Blogger.....)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Highway to Hell (Or, it's 3 am and you must be lonely)

Actually, 2:30 AM is really when this story began. That was when I had to get up this morning to shower and be ready for my flight that left at o-dark hundred for a much anticipated trip Back East.

I am not a morning person. I'm ok if I don't have to go to bed first, but I could not justify not going to bed knowing I was traveling across three time zones, but that is really not too important right now. This just sets the stage for 3:00 AM when the driver came to get me.

The ride started off innocuously enough. I confess that I was still a little groggy. Not on my game which may have prevented my brain raising the red, DEFCON-5 (or is it 1? I can never remember.) warning flag. Anyway, bag in. Climb in. Sit down. Relax for a lengthy haul to the airport.

But then the driver started to talk.... (As a reminder for those who need to be brought up to speed, remember I told you people tell me stuff. Lots of stuff. Well, today I wish that I was warned because I would have just paid for parking.)

Really, I blame myself. I spoke first. Something like, "God, it's early." Seemed harmless enough. It was just me and the driver after all. I couldn't just not say anything. I'm not sure exactly how it started beyond that really.

The next thing I know, he's telling me about all the speeding tickets he has managed to escape, including one where he was sobbing because his girlfriend had dumped him and one where he was drag racing and didn't realize he had a cop behind him. Not exactly the kind of stuff you want to hear from the person you are trusting to get you to the airport on time.

But 20/20 hindsight would soon tell me that I should have been happy with this track of conversation because it was about to go straight to Hell.

The "conversation" (if it could so be called) lulled as I was quickly hacking out my Last Will and Testament on this stupid, (insert f-bomb here), keyboard. Making sure that those who needed the comfort of my last words had it., After a few minutes, he decided to broach a new topic.

That's when he told me that he had finally (!) figured out what's wrong with his ex-girlfriend. I tried to demonstrate disinterest, but apparently that is not well-read when driving along in the dark and so I was subject to his thoughts. All of them.

He explained that he "just" broke up with his girlfriend (5 1/2 months ago!!!!). He met her in a scuba class he was teaching during which her boyfriend dumped her and he chivalrously rode in on his oxygen tank to save her. But, I suppose, love was not meant to be and she dumped him with neither a heretofore. So sad.

In the time since, he has been researching on the Internet to figure out what happened and finally stumbled across an answer! Hooray! Apparently, she is a sex addict. (Although I'm not completely sure by which standards he was making this diagnosis.) And! And! He had proof!

It turns out that proof was on his cell phone. "How do you know this?," you might innocently ask. Well, I know this because he showed me! Pictures!!' Pictures of his ex-girlfriend in various states of undress!!! No. I. Am. Not. Joking!!

He then went on to say that he was going to confront her with it and that he thought she was getting treatment because she had stopped smoking (he believed). But, sadly, she hasn't stopped drinking yet. Again, the logic astounds.

Honestly, I'm not really sure what I said. This was pretty well up there on my list of absurd and disturbing interactions caused by my weird little problem (as I discussed in last post). But I probably said my usual stop-gap measure.."well, that must be really hard for you." But the conversation didn't stop.

Even after other customers got picked-up, he kept talking to me about it in "code". Did I think his plan would work? What else could it be? Blah. Blah. Blah.

After a very long journey, we made it to the airport and I was finally released back to the wild. Next time, I'm packing heat.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Operation Rx

Today, I had to make a quickie trip to Safeway for some dinner items and a pharmacy trip. (They'd been calling me for days threatening to put my prescription back on the shelf if I didn't get it today so it was a must.) I quickly grabbed the food stuffs I needed for dinner and sashayed my way over to the pharmacy which is always a somewhat strange experience because, you know....pharmacists know what all the drugs they serve are for.

When I told them my name, the pharmacist raised his eye brows and said, "Oh, yes. I'm glad you came." Now this might sound like a fairly normal interaction between a customer and his client, but for me, this type of statement usually leads to some exceptionally weird shit. You see, I have this little problem. The problem is that people tend to tell me stuff. Lots of people. Lots of stuff.

For example, it is not unusual for me to be in line at the grocery store and to have the person next to me suddenly tell me all their most private, personal stuff. It's pretty weird and occasionally embarrassing. I mean what do you say when someone says, "You know that butter reminds me of the last time I tried to commit suicide?" Granted, there are a lot possibilities, but few are really appropriate. I smile and nod and try to move on, but sometimes they just follow me around continuing the story. I've learned to say, "That must be really hard for you" when what I really want to say is, "What exactly did you do with the butter?"

In fact, the last time I spoke to this pharmacist, he chose to have a whole discussion about how my birthday was exactly 23 days after his and exactly what he thought about his upcoming birthday and exactly how hard high school was and that I "looked pretty good for my age" and that I should really just try this supplement. Really. Truly. No. Shit.

But I digress, so when the pharmacist started the conversation with "oh, yes. I'm glad you came," I admit I was a little on edge. He toddled off to get my prescription and came back with the goods. So far, so good.

I showed my ID, paid, and signed my name on the screen-that-no-one-really-knows-what-it's-for and looked up to find the pharmacist leaning over the counter with the container of one of my meds open. He was uncomfortably close. I was scared.

He leaned over to my ear and whispered, "This is your <for example, we'll just call it "X"> here." Then he closed it up, gave me a I-know-all-your-little-secrets look, and dropped it into the little white pharmacy baggie. Now I thought that was just a little weird even for my little problem. I felt like I was buying some Rx crack or something. But I shrugged it off and headed for the food checkout.

When I got to the checkout, I unloaded all my goods on to the conveyor belt and noticed that my little white pharmacy bag was in fact this....

It says, "signature cafe" on it!

So now I was in line with a bag that looks like it could have held donuts, but in fact held my Rx crack. I was afraid that when I told her that I paid and it was from the pharmacy that she would insist on seeing it for herself, and then my whole entire cat would be out of my little white cafe bag, and that I would be standing there with no escape route.

Fortunately, my little white cat was not forced to show its ugly little face. Not today anyway. I escaped with only the spit of my pharmacist lingering in my ear and a little more afraid to leave the house than I was before.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Surprise! You just learned something (Or, Surprise! It's the boring version.)

Wow, my brain has been on a huge journey over the past couple of weeks and it appears to have ended in a big exploding ball of both joy and humiliation! It's all very complicated really and I don't intend to be too much clearer about the details, but HOLY COW! Just too much stuff. Instead, I've just decided to skip the details and hop right to the learnings. (Which I realize is very annoying. I hate it when people don't dish the whole story, but oh well. This time you just have to trust me.) But the results are pretty universal and can apply to many situations, so deal.

Here are some lessons learned in real time over the past couple of weeks:

1. Don't be surprised by surprising events. You can be bee-bopping your way merrily along every day in the same way and all of a sudden, SMACK!, the way you see the world will change. I didn't realize how dense the fog was that I was living in, I guess. Shaking that up has brought me great joy.

2. Don't be afraid to put it all on the line when the moment arrives. It probably won't be pretty, but that's ok. It's part of living a passion-filled life. And it's a way to see who you really are with crystal clarity.

3. There is a big downside to putting it all on the line. You cannot take it back. Some people have a harder time putting themselves on the line than others. I've spent a lot of time being afraid to do so, but I think I'm learning that I don't want to do that any more. This is a good lesson for me, albeit a painful one. Not all the lessons can be completely good, I guess. This is epitomized in the words of Martin Blank (Jon Cusack, in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank) while talking to his therapist (Alan Arkin) after seeing his childhood home turned in to a 7-11, " You can never go home again, Oatman. But you can shop there." Which brings me to lesson number 4....

4. Accept pain as a part of change. Embrace it. It is an integral part of makes us human. The part of us that feels pain also feels joy. And if we find a way to dull the pain (there are lots of good ways!) we will also dull the joy and who wants that? (Just think of our good friends the cavemen. Just imagine how many people got hurt in the making of the wheel. If they didn't work through the pain, we would still be wearing stinky wooly mammoth skin dresses. Men and women. Seriously.)

Oh, stop snoring! Learn it your own damn way!