Sister

I never wanted to be an only child. I really didn’t. I always craved a sibling growing up; I would imagine how cool it would be to have a little sister. I wouldn’t have minded a brother, but I would rather a sister. With a sister, you could confide, with a brother I only saw someone who would want to compete. I was never about that. I wanted to sit and talk about books and feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I was very competitive with my friends when it came to sports and pretty much anything else, but I always enjoyed hanging out with girls.

So now we are in present day, and most of my closest friends are women. Most of my interactions on-line are with women, save for a few pretty awesome dudes (you know who you are.) I tend to shy away from men who are too “macho.”  I consider my wife my best friend, and I know that everyone says that but I actually mean it. I think that, deep down I am still looking for my little sister, or older sister as the case may be.

I am not close with anyone at all in my family. I was only close with one person, my mother. We could fight and ignore each other for over a year (which we did, more than once) but at the end of the day we could pick up right where we left off. When she died, circumstances brought on by outside influences rendered my relationship with my step-father dead in the water. My biological father has schizophrenia, and we talk, but we are not close in the familial sense. He is too busy living in his world which doesn’t really include too many “real” people, but that’s a different story for a different day. If I just had a sister, I would have someone to talk to. I could share all these things that are locked up inside my head.

If I had a sister.

 

 

Crows

He arrived earlier than expected, and as he stood at the gates to the cemetery, he wondered aloud if he should enter. There was no one there to answer his query, even the crows seemed to have left him alone to solve the problem. Taking a deep breath, he put one foot in front of the other and in no time at all found himself standing before an empty patch of grass. He was befuddled; was there not supposed to be a marker of some sort here? Looking around at the vast rows of polished granite and marble, the swatch of green lawn he was standing on seemed woefully out of place. Perhaps he was at the wrong destination. Quickly checking his papers, he realized that he was where he was supposed to be. Not one to enjoy idle time, he fancied himself a walk around the grounds; hopefully by the time he returned everything would be in order for his arrival. Taking a leisurely stroll around the expansive lot, he noticed the artistry that went into the monuments were quite intricate. Delicate carvings and introspective engravings found his eye wherever he turned. He noticed that he was relaxing; the troubles of his youth seemed so trivial now. How could one be anxious amongst all these pillars of devotion and remembrance? When he made his way back to whence he came, he hardly cared at all that he was tossed high with the breeze, floating along the tops of the Maple trees, flying forever with the crows whom so gallantly picked him up and helped him find his way.

 

August

August is my enemy. Tomorrow, it will be seven years that my mother has passed away. We had a complicated relationship, but in true movie fashion, just as we were working our way back to normal, she was gone. This was not unexpected, she was battling terminal illnesses (yes, plural.)

So now, here I sit, in a new house, in a new town, starting a new life of sorts. Seven years later and I still forget myself and reach for my phone to give her a call. That is the part that hurts the most. She always said that she just wanted to see me happy, and she never really got to see that. My mother was able to meet my wife (version 2) and my step-son, and she hung around long enough for us to be married. She adored my step-son, but by that time she was too far down the road to ruin to be able to truly enjoy being a grandmother. Then, as my wife held her hand, I watched her take her last breath. If I close my eyes, I am still in that hospital room. August is my enemy.

What defines you?

I enjoy making lists, so I thought it would be fun to make a list of some of the things that I feel define the type of person I am. Perhaps it’s a bit of a psychological exam.

1. Empathy: I have strong feelings toward my fellow human beings. I enjoy providing comfort to those who need it, and I take great pains to bring myself to a better understanding of every unique situation.

2. Feminism: It’s not a dirty word. If you replaced Feminism with Humanism, or perhaps Equal Rights, the message is still the same. People deserve to be treated fairly and equally. Why is it called Feminism? If you really have to ask that question, you have really lived in a bubble, haven’t you?

3. Atheism: I have been told that a lack of religion automatically makes you an evil person. Because I fear no supernatural retribution, I cannot possibly live a moral life. Is there any better explanation to show that this kind of thinking is exactly why I am an atheist? See #1 as proof that this theory has been disproved.

4. Mental Illness: I have been diagnosed as bi-polar, then it was changed to just depression with a splash of generalized anxiety disorder. Medication never helped, and believe me I have tried a lot. The problem is that you can’t label problems so easily, can you? Depression is going to manifest itself differently in many people. It is such a broad, sweeping label, and that is why pharmacology fails more often than not. What we have left are shells of our former selves, with our minds numbed to the point of impotence. What living with mental illness has taught me is that I am not alone in my struggle. I will never be so arrogant as to claim it is a gift, but I will say that it has taught me a lot about understanding people’s actions and motives. If you can learn to separate from yourself, even for a moment, you will find that the whole world opens up to you. Honestly, I live in varying shades of terror every day. I can invent a tragedy like no other. The trick is to not let it consume you, and I fear that many people have already given up.

5. Learning from my mistakes: If I wouldn’t have mended some of my ways, I never would have met my second wife. She is the fire that keeps me alive, and a great woman that I truly do not deserve. She taught me that it is natural to want to please your partner, but if you are also not doing it for the betterment of yourself than you are better off not doing it at all. Never make empty promises. Acts of service go a lot farther than any diamond necklace ever will.

Perhaps I will continue another day. It does get tedious talking about yourself.

Rant #2 (Valid thought, or a by-product of Mental Illness…?)

A friend of mine recently suggested to me that I start doing a “Gratitude Journal.” The premise is, when you wake up in the morning you list 10 things that you are grateful for. You have to make a conscious effort to list 10 new things every day. I tried it for a week or two, and I understand the point of the exercise, but it didn’t really have an overall positive effect on me. In reality, the exercise reminded me of some things about society that I don’t care for, namely, the “it could always be worse” syndrome.

We are programmed at a very early age to feel guilty (perhaps guilty isn’t the best word, but I think you understand what I mean) for our wallowing because, you know, there is always someone who has it worse, Let me ask you a question: does that help you make the pain go away? When my mother passed away 7 years ago, I grieved for a solid year. I’m sure many people have lost a loved one. Maybe some of you lost both parents at the same time. Maybe there are different tragedies you are dealing with, and I empathize with you. However, it doesn’t make my burden any lighter. Sharing my ordeal does not bring me comfort. I will gladly accept your hugs, and your kind words, but commiserating over who has the bigger loss doesn’t bring things into perspective for me.

I am aware that the exercise is supposed to open your eyes to the fact that you have many things to be grateful for, and that they should override whatever negative element is influencing you at the moment. Maybe that works for a lot of people, but I know it doesn’t work for me. When I am struggling, I am well aware of what I have in my life. I am well aware that there are many people who have less than I. I pay attention to poverty. I pay attention to the basic struggle for human rights. However, one should not be made to feel that their struggle is less significant than anyone else, because at that moment it might feel very challenging to them. If I stub my toe, telling me that there are people who have broken their toe does not bring me comfort, it does not lessen the pain.

The better thing to do, in my opinion, is to listen to what the person is saying. Don’t use examples from your own experience unless you downplay them, meaning, show empathy but don’t hijack their misery. You may have lost a pet, but your pet wasn’t their beloved Mr. Scruffles, so even though the events are similar, they are not the same. Everybody believes that their suffering is unique. What is really wrong with that?

 

Reflection #1 (July 24, 2014)

In 9 days I will be leaving my job of 16 years, and the area in which I have lived all of my 38 years. Granted, my family and I will only be moving 2 hours away, but that distance is enough to permanently sever some relationships, for better or worse. Friends and family that we already see sporadically will now most likely trickle to obsolescence. To be honest, I am not sure it really bothers me that much. A fresh start is a welcome addition to my life, and perhaps what I need to repair some of the many damages to my brain. I am a creature of habit out of necessity; being one of the millions of people afflicted with an anxiety disorder has caused me to become somewhat of a hermit. I’ve become stagnant, but not comfortable. I am hoping that moving to our new town will spark the old fire of creativity inside of me; I have not felt that welcoming warmth in many years, and I miss it. The past few years spent here have caused considerable damage to me mentally, which in turn has wreaked havoc on me physically, as well. Mental illness cannot be cured, but there are multitudes of scientific data that proves that it is not a lost cause, there are ways to rewire your brain, and in turn alleviating your misery. With a new location, and coveted solace, I hope to begin anew.