I know, random, right? But….is it? Of course not. Random stays in my head most of the time, and I do like to have a decent idea about where I see the direction going when I write. Mostly. Except when I have no freaking clue, and vomitus spills out all over these pages. They can be entertaining regurgitations, but the fact remains: they can be crap.
So yes, back to the waffles. I had them two days in a row, which is not something I tend to do. Blueberry, frozen, popped into the toaster; don’t judge me on the frozen, because I like them. I have never found myself desiring homemade waffles; not even when the husband announced that he wanted a waffle maker for Christmas one year and we went to Voldemort on Black Friday, which was actually Crimson Thursday because it was Thanksgiving and blood spilled in the aisles that year due to angry parents dive bombing for Monster High dolls. By the way? I think he used it exactly once, and now I haven’t a clue where it is. All that sacrifice for one, measly homemade waffle breakfast.
I have two boxes of those blueberry waffles in the freezer, and I feel compelled to make them disappear. You see, this family is embarking on a high protein, veggie, low-carb diet.
Wait, I used the wrong word. “Diet” is indeed a four-letter word in both the literal sense and in my mind. When you say “diet” it conjures up sacrifice, misery; a carrot stick and a wilted celery stalk in a Tupperware dish for lunch. With no ranch dip. It says, plainly, “You are a fatass who makes poor eating choices and your arteries look more like stuffed pizza crust than veins.”
That last statement could be true. I do love my pizza and I will never say no to stuffed crust. I often ponder why it took so long for someone to figure out that you could roll mozzarella sticks into crust and make what is the perfect meal even better. I feel like my childhood and early adulthood were cheated by the lack of stuffed crust being readily available. Denied. I feel like maybe others feel the same way, and we should form a support group. We have PSCTSD. You can figure that acronym out yourself, right?
Alright, so “diet” isn’t what we’re doing. We are making a Lifestyle Change. I think it’s a smart one, although my heart of hearts is crying at the thought of cutting out bread and pastry. At least I can keep the cheese, and we will have “cheat nights” twice a week. That will alleviate the idea of giving up things we love, and it will also help to placate The Male Sibling Unit.
Let’s face it: the three of us are getting older. I will be 51 and the husband is days away from 47. We both could benefit from healthier eating and we both love carbs. Taking them entirely away seems like a fate worse than death, but giving in two days a week for the love of breads, pastas, and starchy potatoes seems fair and balanced. It makes that death sentence more like, well….a work week. We can do it. If I throw a large enough chunk of meat at the husband, he will happily dig in and clean up the smaller serving of something plant-based. Getting him to eat fruits will be trickier, because he doesn’t like many. If I throw too many bananas his way, he may start scratching himself in public and grunting at me. Wait…..
I have broken the news to the Male Sibling Unit. The best description I can use about the look on his face was fear. When dealing with the Male Sibling Unit, potentially unattractive prospects and limitations need to be dressed up a bit. With cheerful, optimistic, exciting exclamations that “This will be GREAT!” and “It’s ALL to help YOU!” If you make it all about him, and direct it toward every single aspect being to make him even more fantastic than he already is, he usually buys it hook, line, and sinker. That narcissism in his personality has its place. I really hope it comes in handy at age 50, when the doctor tells him it’s time for his first colonoscopy. I imagine it going something like this:
“Guess what? It’s your lucky day! Your colon is has been chosen for an important award! We want to take some pictures of it! That’s right; you get to drink a bunch of Gatorade (yep, we’ll go with that) and then you can poop as much as you want and your sister won’t yell at you for stinking up the bathroom! Then, you get to be our personal guest at an all-inclusive nap session at the hospital! That’s right! A nap! You won’t even feel the camera going in your butt! Yes! You heard me right! Your butt is SO SPECIAL that we want to take pictures of the inside and publish them on Facebook! And then your sister will take you to McDonald’s for a Filet O’ Fish!”
The Facebook thing, yeah, I made up. The point is, he loves all eyes on him and if he thinks it will push him up the flagpole of popularity, he’ll be all for it. Therefore. I needed to make this Lifestyle Change all about him. We are so invested in his overall health and his glucose readings that we have decided to work together as a team. It’s all in the name of the Male Sibling Unit’s ultimate success and triumph over diabetes.
He almost bought it. For a moment, there was a glimmer of excitement and a flash of self-importance. And then he asked, “What about peanut butter sandwiches?” The Male Sibling Unit’s fondness for peanut butter sandwiches can be traced back to his toddler years, when he loved them so much that he refused to swallow them, tucking numerous bites up into the roof of his mouth in a gesture of sentimentality that would then force my mother to pry the gummy, sticky mess out of there. The Male Sibling Unit is not so much a picky eater as he is a picky swallower. Therein lies a little bit of difficulty in getting him to embrace a high-protein diet. There will be meat, and lots of it, and I am not a creature of habit when it comes to eating the same thing, day after day, so I will want to switch things up a lot in order to keep this Lifestyle Change interesting. To be blunt, the Male Sibling Unit is lazy as fuck, and things that require a ton of chewing don’t rank high on his list of favorites. In the last two years, the Heimlich Maneuver has had to be administered because he has tried to swallow a piece of beef whole. Now? We avoid steak for him, because he is afraid of it. Not pork, or chicken; just steak. As a matter of fact, I am convinced that if I were to tell him that the piece of beef on his plate is actually pork, he would not choke. Am I suggesting that he swallowed that beef on purpose so he would choke and passive-aggressively teach me a lesson; that the Male Sibling Unit is not a fan of steak?
Damn skippy I am.
Anyway, I laid the cards out on the table for him; I would make sure he has yummy, exciting lunches for work that do not include bread. Twice a week, he can eat sandwiches. He is free to eat peanut butter on celery or apple slices or bananas or by the spoonful if he wants. Just not slathered on 4 slices of bread, 7 days a week anymore. Yes, there will be meat, but it will be soft meat, tender meat, and we will eat loads of yummy, fresh veggies and fruits that will good for him. He will be in THE BEST SHAPE OF HIS LIFE. His glucose numbers will stabilize! He will have more energy! And the chicks dig it!
Perhaps I made that up, too, but he likes it when the chicks dig him.
Most of my cats are becoming Senior cats. It happens fast. You have a 3 year old youngster and suddenly she’s 8 and-a-half and because she came from a litter where her siblings both passed young due to issues (George at 3 with renal failure, Bailey at 4 with brain lesions), you watch her like a hawk. She has been slowing down a bit and was always very, very skittish, but she is a sweet girl and I adore her.
But it has begun. She had begun hanging out with us more in the last few months, seeking out affection. Odd for her but always welcome. The “old-age circling” began, though…..and it has become bad. This is a sign that there may have been a “senior neurological event”. Brain lesion, stroke, etc. Brain lesion, I understand all-too-well, because her sister had one that caused MS-like symptoms and then a very sudden but peaceful passing. She was happy to the end despite her difficulties.
Izzy, though, is different. While the symptoms are similar, there is an overall weariness to it that tells me I may need to decide and make a vet call in the next day or so. She eats, she drinks. She purrs, she is alert, she gives me her love eyes and chirps every so often. But she is tired. And has trouble walking to her litter. I hold her, croon to her, clean her, feed her. My heart aches. I love her so. I helped to guide her out of her mother (my daughter’s cat, Chicken) and saw her little spots and knew she was unique. After losing Roo so suddenly on March 1st to an asthma-induced seizure, I don’t know how my heart can survive this when it happens, because I know it’s going to. And if I have to hold her in an impersonal vet room like I did her brother while the shot was administered and he looked up at me, believing that I was making him better, it may break me in two.
I hesitate to express these feelings here. They are animals, pets. The world is a cruel, vicious, angry place. Hate flows freely everywhere. People are dying, dealing with traumas and catastrophic events and illness, and here I am, with a blessed life, losing my shit because I am more than likely going to lose her now after losing my Roo so quickly. But they – my animals – are my family every bit as much as my human family is. I laugh at their antics, beam and crow with pride when we reach milestones, babble on to the husband about “What your daughter/son did” when he gets home at night. We integrated my mom’s two into our family when she passed and I worried over them, feeling their grief and knowing that while we shared that in common, they felt it on a much more confused level. I reveled in their eventual acceptance of us as their humans. I have stared into luminous, green eyes and felt love so all-encompassing that it takes my breath away. I have felt little paws wrap around me and grip tightly in relief when I have rescued them from the streets and provided a safe, warm place. I have birthed their babies, held them when they were sick, and delighted in their play. I have loved. I love.
I am their mother. I am her mother. And a mother should not have to lose her children. This is the thought that comes, unbidden. And yet, I will lose my children, because cats don’t live forever. My heart is torn to pieces now, raggedly sewn back together, and it is simply too soon. I don’t know if it will survive this before those wounds are at least freshly healed and scarring over.
I have spent the last week reading some of the most hateful posts, seeing so much fuckery afoot from our government, and mourning with a community in Florida. Mourning with a nation. I don’t have any creativity in me. I don’t have the ability to survey the wasteland and say, “Well, we can clean it up and grow crops.”
Nope. Not gonna do it. When things like this happen to me, and I find that I am well and truly blocked, I dip into the bank of bullshit that I call my writing and find something I don’t mind reading again too much, and then I hope that you don’t mind reading it, too. Thank fuck for years of crap in those archives! Enjoy this light-weighted, prosaic little ditty of nonsense That I penned about 6 years ago. (Let’s also remember that now, 6 years later, I have even more reasons to not want to live in this clusterfuck of a country. My musings in this dribble seem almost carefree and logical now!)
Last night, I found myself watching two of my favorite films: Notting Hill, and Love Actually.By the end of the evening, I was wistful and blissed-out and irritated. Yes, I said irritated. Every time I watch a Hugh Grant film, I find myself filled with an irresistible longing to live in the UK.
I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. I suppose it makes me sound un-American and like I aspire to become an ex patriot, and I suppose the latter is true. The former? I’m still unabashedly an American and proud to say so, at least in circles that recognize the word as it should be – America – and not this newfangled form of redneck speak which identifies a great big growing segment of this country – ‘Murica. I’m an American. I can enunciate. This is not ‘Murica to me.
And yet…..and yet. The pull of the UK is magnetic and overwhelming whenever I view Hugh Grant movies. I’m no psychologist, but I suppose the reasons have a lot to do with my overall dissatisfaction with my own life as it is, and obviously, picking up and moving to a foreign country is not going to fix most of the problems I have. If anything, it would create new ones. The very idea of moving to a foreign land and starting over is both frightening and exciting, and I’ve daydreamed about it for many years. The daydreams had mostly faded away, except for the occasional conversation with my best friend, who shares dual citizenship with Australia and the UK. She has, numerous times, urged me to come live near her, because the money’s better and while the politics are easily infuriating to its citizens, it’s not as much of a mess as it is here. She’s contemplating a move from Australia to the UK, and I guess that’s where this little seed of a daydream began for me again. I am envious of her ability to pull up stakes and make a new life if she wants to, but I know that her circumstances are different than mine and so I can’t be cross with her. Oh, how I wish, though. I wish.
When my daughter was young, we used to daydream together. We wanted to go to Ireland and find a little cottage near the sea and live in it, away from everyone and everything. We would have a garden and flowers and a goat. We would have kitties. We’d ride bikes into the nearest village and have an old, bockety car for bigger trips. It was, of course, a sweet musing between a young girl and her mother, and a beautiful one at that. I still long for it at times, but then I will view Hugh Grant in nearly any film he has starred, with his self-effacing personality and twinkling blue eyes, and I will find myself wondering why I can’t have a life like that?
Look at the elements of a successful Hugh Grant film, if you will. Listen, I don’t have a thing for Hugh Grant. I don’t necessarily find him attractive. I do find his characters attractive, but I would much rather be one of the ensemble that surrounds him. Those people lead such interesting lives and they’re all such good friends to one another! The group who supported him in Notting Hill when Julia Roberts rejected him was funny and kind and quirky and above all else, human. Who wouldn’t want a group of friends to commiserate with, to drink wine with, to just be with in both good times and in bad? Who wouldn’t want a “Spike” to gape at when he pulled something ridiculous or wore some sort of outrageous t-shirt? Who wouldn’t want a group of friends who would do ANYTHING to help another friend be happy? The same goes for the ensemble in Love Actually. Those characters are fantastic and interesting and I always find myself wishing I could just drop right in there and find my niche.
Don’t get me started on the scenery, either. Notting Hill itself is absolutely stunning in its beauty and endlessly interesting, with its shops and street vendors. It looks like the sort of place where one feels included as well as having the ability to step back and be anonymous if one wants. The building facades are charming and the overall feeling is welcoming. Who wouldn’t want that? Similarly, there’s London to consider, with it’s historical aspects intermingling with skyscrapers and the people bustling about and the charming rowhouses and the cobblestone streets. The scene in Love Actually, when the Kelly Clarkson song cues and all the Christmas lights of the London night are shown – breathtaking! Oh, I could go on forever about what I love about it. I want it all. I want to be dipped in it like a strawberry in chocolate. I want to absorb it, to be a vital element living and breathing within the throbbing beauty of it all.
Listen, I know I may sound a bit ridiculous to some. I happen to know that I don’t sound at all ridiculous to more than a few of you. I also know that it’s a dream, a silly pipedream, and that I have a perfectly good life with the ability to seek out and create beauty right here. Let me tell you though, life here ain’t so hot these days. The growing anger within this country and the fractured values, the de-sensitivity to violence and heartbreak, and the millions of faces who immerse them in little screens and big screens and who cut themselves off entirely from the whole population while “living” within their social media…..it’s becoming intolerable. I’m just as guilty as most. I pull out my phone at the drop of the hat and look up a factoid or peruse Facebook on my work break. There are usually two or three perfectly good humans for me to have conversations with seated at the table where I’m at. We could be carrying on lively conversations. Are we? For the most part, no. We are looking at our phones and shoveling in the food. It’s the same in the car. On the street. In the parks. In the checkout line at the grocery store. We are surrounded by people and yet we are completely alone. Kids are growing up not knowing how to socialize if it doesn’t include and structured sport setting or the ability to navigate through a video game of some sort. 3 year-olds are learning how to use Ipads with frightening speed.
I don’t think that it’s better in the UK. I know that these kinds of sub-human activities are going on there, too. I also know that I have good friends who would have my back if needed, even though we are scattered all over the country and in other lands as well. Maybe that’s a key thing for me. I need friends to go to coffee with right here and to drink a bottle of wine with right here and to hang out with, moaning about the mundane trivialities of everyday life. I work too much, make too little, and find the life sapped right out of me at the end of every day. I have neither the energy nor the time to cultivate such relationships, and yet, I feel that maybe I ought to, if I want to get to the place where I think I need to be in order to survive the joy and pain that is life. I have cocooned myself away, and the price I’ve paid for that is to watch Hugh Grant movies and to envy people who don’t exist and a life that doesn’t exist. The possibility of having a life like that is ridiculous; I’m too old to start over and to have to navigate my way through the uncertain waters of employment and housing and the seeking out of an ensemble of friends like in one of those movies. I don’t truly want to do the work it would entail. But I can wish, right?
But gosh, to have a friend like Hugh Grant, with that hair and those eyes!
Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching, and the Male Sibling Unit’s thoughts have turned to love.
Yes, you can groan inwardly, like I have, because the thought of the Male Sibling Unit being romantic makes me slightly sick to my stomach. Any thoughts of a family member in the throes of passion causes that knee-jerk reaction; the desire to stuff one’s fingers in one’s ears and yell “NONONONONONONONONONO” until the conversation is drowned out. Ew.
It is a double-edged sword with the Male Sibling Unit, though. His disability makes it so. He is, in a word, awkward. In his mind, intellectually, he really is an 8 year-old sometimes. With life experience, though, he has learned to fake being an adult. You know, like most of the male population! He knows romantic protocols, like taking his lady out to dinner, dancing with her at functions, calling her “Sweetie” and making all the appropriate gifting gestures. I am not saying he is totally genuine about it, because it really is all about him, even if it is all about her. The premise is great, but his mind doesn’t work that way. He rarely does an unselfish thing “just because” since his mind cannot function in that capacity. If he buys her a gift, it becomes a constant musing of “What is she going to think? Is she going to tell me thank you? Will she think I did a good thing?” It is about his gratification, and not anyone else’s. He needs the validation as much as he needs air to breathe. He wants everyone to ply him with compliments about how thoughtful he was. It sounds like a terrible characterization, but it’s just the truth. And we – everyone who knows and loves him – understand his ways, and we wouldn’t want him to be any other way.
Anyway, Valentine’s Day is coming up, and he and his lady are going out to dinner. He was given a gift card for a local restaurant at Christmas by my daughter and son-in-law, with the suggestion that he use it for himself and his girlfriend; a nice, romantic dinner. He was ecstatic and they started making plans right away. They decided to wait for Valentine’s Day, and now the event is nearly upon us and as usual, it is all I am hearing about.
“We’re going to Beefeaters Wednesday! ”
“I think Carol is going to be so happy that we’re going to Beefeaters on Wednesday.”
“I wonder what she will say to me?”
“I think she is happy about this, that I am taking her to Beefeaters for Valentine’s Day.”
Get the picture? Now, expand upon this. This is the topic of discussion every day, the entire time we are home together. When we are not home together, he texts these pronouncements to me throughout the day. In between, of course, we talk about a few other subjects, like the next time he will be going to his community center and how many tests strips he has left to check his glucose and Oh-My-Fucking-God there are only 12 left and what does that mean? We made all of his prescriptions automatic refills, so he will not have to count pills and decide when to call in for refills and so on, but these old habits die hard and it usually takes me having to remind him, once again, that he has automatic refills and how that process works. By the end of the explanation, I need a refill of blood pressure medication for myself because there is not enough of it in the world to bring my pressure back down.
So yes, romance is in the air, and now, we are discussing things like what kind of gift he should give her and what they will be eating at their romantic dinner. They discussed this at length, apparently, and the evening of romance will include two fish dinners.
They are quite certain about that, don’t need a menu, so it is set in stone. The gift? This is much more difficult for me. For who, you ask? Why for you? Well, because the Male Sibling Unit does not buy gifts. He delegates this task to me because it is less about the choosing than it is about the actual giving. I guess he trusts me to purchase something that will elicit the response he craves, which is “Oh look! You are so thoughtful!” And he will take credit for that shit 100%; there will be no bashful admissions that “My sister picked it out” because nuh uh! He is a wily fucker! He wants that adoration for himself!
I know; you think that his reasoning is that she will be so bowled over by his romantic overtures that she’ll give it up, and he is hoping to get laid, right? A normal, 42 year-old man would think that way. And again, I cannot stress this enough: Ew. But if you’re thinking that he is thinking that she’ll be thinking along these lines, think again.
The Male Sibling Unit is the real-life 40-Year-Old Virgin. Correction: make that 42, and quickly closing in on 43. He has never actually kissed a girl, except on the cheek. If one suggests kissing on the lips, and even more, with tongue, he comes undone in a cacophony of giggles and hoots and 8 year-old exclamations of “Eeeeeeewwwwww!” that quite frankly puts any 8 year-old to shame in the dramatic overtures department. To suggest that he actually have sex evokes a honking, hyena-like fit of hysteria that sounds a little bit like Tiny Tim singing and a donkey braying in simultaneous chorus. Then, when he calms down, he whispers, “Ew. Ew. Ew.” in a creepy little voice.
The Male Sibling Unit does not like mess. Or dirt. Or anything sticky, or, well, anything that excretes bodily fluids. He says he likes boobs, but I am dubious. Does he? Really? And it is certain that he does not find vaginas attractive, because he can’t even say the word without disintegrating into fits of horror, disgust, and hysteria. The physical act of sex, even simulated on tv, stresses him out so badly that his legs twitch spasmodically and he erupts into nervous outbursts of “SEX” and “They’re humping” and “Breasts”, the latter which he utters in a creepy, insidious voice that would make any woman (or man, for that matter) run away in fear. Think Golem in The Lord of the Rings, saying “My precious” and you have a pretty good approximation of the Male Sibling Unit uttering “Breasts.”
Alas, no wining and dining the lady; giving her gifts, and coming off as a debonair Jimmy Stewart-esque leading man on Valentine’s Day is definitely not on the roster for Wednesday. To be honest, it will more than likely be he and his lady, accompanied by me and the husband, because he isn’t really good at the tipping thing or the ordering thing or the paying thing. The last time he and the lady went to a sit-down restaurant that did not include an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet or the golden arches, they ordered nearly everything they liked on the menu, because my son was the chef at the restaurant and was comping them (in other words, he was paying for it as a gift to them) and it was a brunch menu. They ordered, well, everything: pancakes, bacon, eggs, toast, sides of fruit, big glasses of orange juice, muffins, french toast……the total came to nearly $50 at a place where two people can eat enough to last them for a day for about $28. And that’s if one of them splurges on cannoli! My son said. “Wow, they must have been hungry.” Nope, they just didn’t really know better and since they didn’t have to stick to a budget, all bets were off! Since they DO have a budget this time, we will tag along just to make sure everything goes okay. We might even sit at a different table, just to give them their privacy. That way, the Male Sibling Unit can take full credit for the stuffed bear he has required I buy for him to give her, but a task which I foisted onto the husband to purchase for him because he is at Walmart every fucking day and the less I have to see of that cesspool of hate, the better.
Pssssst……..hey. You. Yes, you. I want to tell you a secret.
Life is short. It gets shorter with every passing year. The days when you were a child and minutes passed like molasses, the hours slipping by so infernally slow; when it felt like you would never be grown up and never get to do the things the big people did? Those have long since passed you by. I don’t care whether you’re in your 20s, or your 30s, or if you’ve ticked away 5 decades, like me. At some point, you’re either going to become aware of a clock ticking in the background of your life or a quiet humming.
That’s time. It is passing by. You can’t do anything to slow it down. My question for you is this: What are you going to do about that?
Middle age is strange. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that in my case, I am both tired and very awake. Tired, as in weary in a way that speaks to the senselessness of the events that go on around me, both in my own private life, that of people I know and love, and in the world in general. I am weighted down with the sheer heaviness of my experiences, and some days, my only wish is to throw them off like one would a cloak. I think back to the innocence of youth and my belief that people were good, bad things wouldn’t happen, and life was a wonderful, golden opportunity and gift bestowed upon us and that we all could be as successful as we wanted.
Life is a gift. It’s a gift of chance, given to you by your parents, who chose to have you. From that point, chance plays into it, as well as your choices. You may come from humble beginnings and choose to get out of the desperation of poverty by working hard and succeeding. You may be born into a prosperous family and do just the opposite: squander that gift of privilege. The point is this: you can choose what you do. Most of it is chance, yes. You can’t just wish for good and receive it. Some bad is always going to creep in and disrupt the waters on your journey across the ocean of your life. The water is going to become choppy and the waves will crash into you from time to time, and it is very easy to veer off-course.
Keep swimming. Okay?
The awake part that I referenced? This is the moment when you are fully aware that you most likely have less time left than you have lived so far, and you’re apt to look backward and think, “What the fuck have I done with my life?” and wallow in disappointment. Okay, I will give you a moment to fully engage in how that feels.
There. Now snap the fuck out of it.
That’s right, quit thinking about what might have been, what never was, what hasn’t happened, and what can never be. Don’t wallow in the unknown variables, because they in no way define you. YOU define you. Regret is not in your vocabulary, dammit. You can choose to be fierce and loud and out there, and you can choose to be quiet and docile and gentle. You can combine them and be fiercely quiet and gently out there. See what I mean? Who ARE you? That is the question you need to ask yourself, and the answer should not be something finite and defined by the parameters others like to set for you. It should be fluid and ever-changing and evolving, if you will allow me to use a scientific word. This isn’t at all about God or religion, or the lack thereof: it is about YOU. You are the Sun in your universe. Everything in your life revolves around you, and not vice-versa.
I know; this is not a blog I normally write. I try to engage in sarcasm, satire, and sometimes, the quiet desperation I feel when I am really in my low times of depression. I sometimes choose to meet my challenges head-on and serialize them in such a way that can make you laugh, and make you think. Today is a mystery to me. Shit, who am I kidding? Most days are a mystery to me. But I see sadness, and a sense of discontent in so many others – not only in myself – and so I says to myself, I says, “Self, see what you can do to snap those dumbasses out of it. And while you’re at it, smack yourself, because you’re not getting any younger, either!” I just felt like I needed to take a moment to tap some people on the shoulder and whisper in their ears:
Life is not fucking around, yo. It’s marching, like a soldier into battle. Quit your dicking around and either engage in it and fight for what you want or lower your weapon and find a peace. The choice is yours, but know this: it’s going to keep on keepin’ on whether you like it or not.
You’re in this. And you got this. I know you do. I believe.
I do believe that the Male Sibling Unit is actively seeking to set my personal Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight. To hell with the committee that oversees the world’s Doomsday Clock, which is just a metaphor for the fact that we, as a planet, are in the shit and it’s all because the United States has a turnip for a President and the Congress is the puppet master of said turnip. There is no real “Doomsday Clock” but I imagine that if it existed, it would be pretty scary looking and it would be located somewhere in Germany. That Doomsday Clock is the least of my worries right now.
My own sprang a spring or broke a gear or something on Friday, when I discovered that The Male Sibling Unit is continuing to rush his own demise by eating sugar-laden food on the sly. The fact that his disability makes it impossible for him to truly be sly is the only saving grace in the situation. Most diabetics who try to hide their verboten sugar intake do so sneakily, like my mother used to. I will never forget the day my first husband walked into our kitchen after taking her to work in her car in order to bring it back home to do some repairs on it. In his mitts was a crumpled-up ball of empty bakery bags from the local supermarket. He had found this debris stuffed underneath her driver’s seat when he released the seat back to make way for his legs. We untangled the bags and found that there were four. When he confronted her (I did not dare, or my Doomsday Clock would have been set back then, in 1998) she became defensive, of course, and basically told him in no uncertain terms that he was not the boss of her. Actually, I think her exact words were “Fuck off” but I can’t quite remember and I sure as hell am not going to ask him, because then my Doomsday Clock will be set to one minute to midnight and possibly I will risk self-combustion right then. I swear, that woman sneaked sugar up until the day she died. I know that the doctor told me she was essentially brain dead the day she passed, but I really think she probably had a stash of Snickers bars somewhere underneath her sheets or stuffed under the mattress. The woman was tenacious AF.
The Male Sibling Unit has his own special products that I buy him to stave off his incessant, unrelenting desire for sugar. I buy him Splenda packets for his cereals, sugar-free candy, sugar-free cookies, jams, gum; you name it. If it can be procured in sugar-free form, he has it. I also watch his carb intake and even allow him actual sugar on occasion, simply to give him the sense that he isn’t foregoing every, single thing that he loves. He tests his blood sugar three times a day and we adjust his insulin injections accordingly. He attends workshops on diabetes and diabetes clinics. Everyone in his realm is invested in his personal diabetes experience. Since he’s so into himself, it would make perfect sense that he would want to walk the walk and talk the talk, because much praise is offered when his A1C levels are lower and his tests are good. He eats that shit up as enthusiastically as he does peanut butter brownies.
Alas, I was wrong to assume that. This is proven to me over and over again, as he continues to hoard food (a lifelong practice) and stuff plain, white bread down his gullet and eat jams bought for the non-diabetics in this house and sneak gulps of my Coca Cola and then put it back, thinking that I will not notice that an unopened bottle has, in fact, been opened, and not by the husband, who detests Coke. Guess what, fucker? I noticed when I grabbed it out of the fridge and opened it, expecting to hear that satisfyingly fresh hisssssss as the vacuum seal let loose, and heard…..nothing. That soda was as flat as my tits before I got pregnant the first time.
I’m not complaining about caring for him. Okay, so it sounds like I am, but I’m actually just blowing off steam. Caring for him has been a journey I willingly and enthusiastically took on from the moment we knew that he was always going to need looking after. I can still remember, with perfect clarity, standing in front of my 5th grade teacher, the dashing and charismatic Mr. Horovitz, who was quietly demanding that I tell him why I wanted to drop off the crossing guard detail.
Being a crossing guard, or “Patrol”, as we called it then, was a very big honor and responsibility. One was chosen by a committee of teachers at the conclusion of the 4th grade. Throughout 5th and 6th grade, one had the awesome responsibility of arriving at school early and putting on a strap with a badge, grabbing a flag pole, and heading out to a designated corner in our neighborhood to cross the other students, assuring their safety across streets as they trekked to school. We did this in the morning, at lunch time, and after school. We were rewarded for our service with a trip to Washington, DC at the end of 6th grade. You just couldn’t do any better than this when you were in grade school. I was a Patrol, and when my mother had broken down at the kitchen table in 1977, after being given The Male Sibling Unit’s diagnosis (Severe Mental Retardation with Autism sprinkled in for effect, never to advance any farther intellectually past a 4th grade level) I had sat on this information for a long while. I was already heavily invested in my role as The Big Sister, imagining things like turning 16 and picking him up after school in my convertible Camaro and impressing all his friends. The fact that we were dirt fucking poor and on welfare and that I would never own a car at 16, much less learn to drive then because at that point, we no longer had a car, escaped my juvenile daydreams. I was going to take him for ice cream and buy him stuff and be the coolest sister ever. Most of all, I was going to protect him. When the diagnosis came down, I realized, immediately, that protecting him was going to be at the top of the list now. I saw how people treated the kids with disabilities, and called them names, and were generally just cruel. There was no fucking way on earth that I was going to let anyone make fun of my brother or call him a “retard”. As a matter of fact, my mother had forbidden that word to be uttered from the moment she found out he was handicapped. I knew I had to be the front line to his safety, because I spent the most time with him. A big sister had to protect her sibling.
My mother was a mess after the diagnosis. She spent every moment at the kitchen table, crying, smoking, listening to the radio, writing letters, and many times, I would find her with her head cradled in her arms. Her love for me had been cut off at the knees by then, and all I received was an occasional bark commanding me to “Take your brother with you” when I would go somewhere after school or on weekends. Instinctively, I knew she needed help. What could I do, though? I needed to do something to help her. That’s when the idea formulated in my head: I would give up Patrol, freeing up an extra hour in the morning and at night, and be there for her, and for my brother. I remember writing my resignation on a piece of paper and quietly placing it on Mr. Horovitz’s desk at the beginning of the school day. Just before lunch time, he called me to his desk. He was holding my resignation, and he asked me why I wanted to resign. I had not told anyone about my brother; I didn’t want anyone to laugh or make fun of him or even worse, feel sorry for me. I was ridiculously proud and stubborn even then. My whole life was made up of secrets; no one knew that my dad was actually a well-respected businessman in the community who had carried on an affair with my mother that produced two children, or that we were on welfare. That stuff was nobody’s business then, and was of little importance to young kids anyway. Having a mentally handicapped brother was of interest, though, and never in a good way. There was no fucking way I was going to let anyone mess with him, and I wasn’t ready to reveal it to even my best friends. I didn’t expect what happened with my teacher, though. In retrospect, his heart was in the right place, but I wish he had done what he did in a different, more private way.
He waited for my response. I shifted, uneasily, from foot to foot. “I just need to.” was all I could manage to say.
“I’m sorry, Lori, but that isn’t a good enough reason. Please, tell me why.” He was not going to relent.
“Because.” I said, quietly. Because, you fuckwit. Don’t ask me these questions. I don’t want to tell you.
Another student stood beside me, waiting for his attention. I was hoping he would accept my resignation and then move on to her request, whatever it was. But nope. He was adamant. “You’re not sitting down until you give me a good reason for quitting Patrol.” I knew this guy. He wasn’t kidding. My resolve was slipping, and I knew that the next step was going to be calling my mother. Then I would be in deep shit. I didn’t even realize that there were tears running down my cheeks until Mr. Horovitz asked me why I was crying. I managed to speak, quietly, as I cried. “I have to quit to help take care of my little brother. He’s mentally retarded. We just found out. My mom needs me to help her.” He was silent, his face registering a surprise I had never seen before. He looked down. I stood proudly, my insides quaking, because I knew the little fuckstick next to me couldn’t keep a goddamn secret and the jig was almost up as soon as she could assemble a group of stupid, fucking, giggly girls and whisper what she had just heard. Finally, Mr. Horovitz looked at me and said, firmly but kindly, “You aren’t quitting Patrol, Lori. You can’t.” I sobbed a little and protested, “I have to. I have to be there and help.” He smiled, and said, “I know you want to help, but you have to remember that your mom is an adult, and her job is to take care of you as well as your brother. I know you think you’re making it easier, but you are only hurting yourself. And you promised to do a job. You can’t go back on your word.” I felt that he just didn’t understand how high the stakes were. I had to be there for my family. His next words did little to calm me. “I am going to talk to your mom, okay? I know she will agree with me. Let’s just forget about this. You will continue to be a Patrol, because that’s really important, and it’s also really important for you to do things you love, too. You’re a really good sister. I am really proud of you. But you are not going to do this.”
Needless to say, I went home, dragging my feet because I was positive, given how well I knew my mother and her present state of mind, that she was going to kick my ass for dragging my teacher into this and causing him to have to call her. I was in for the surprise of my life, though. She actually agreed with him, and was a little nicer to me for a while after that. My classmates, too, surprised me. They never made fun of my brother, and aside from a few nervous questions about whether or not his condition “hurt” him, my friends pretty much took up the mantle of surrogate protectors, too, which shows you that kids can be shitty, but sometimes, they can be pretty awesome.
Protecting The Male Sibling Unit is just a part of who I am now, and the fact that he makes it hard for me to do is infuriating and frustrating. I’m in this ’til the end, but there is no need for us to rush the end, is there? With every furtive peanut butter sandwich on white bread, with regular Smuckers instead of his sugar-free preserves, he is fast-forwarding his clock, and mine, because I swear, I can actually feel my blood pressure skyrocket when I discover that he’s been at it again. I try to be calm, to sit him down, to talk to him like adults talk, to use flattery and praise to make him feel invested in making good choices. I understand that there is some sort of short-circuiting involved with all diabetics; they seem to want what they cannot have more intensely and when they go off the beaten path of sensibility, they really stray, ending up in another county at times. They have little self-control, with regular foods and with diabetic foods. I can recall my mother eating every piece of candy that I bought for my brother’s Christmas stocking in a year before he was diagnosed. When I went to retrieve his stocking stuffers to fill it for him, there was an empty bag where the candy had been. She was scathingly unapologetic: “If you would let me eat the shit I want, I wouldn’t have had to eat his.” The same thing applied to her diabetic candies. She couldn’t eat just one or two pieces; she had to eat the entire bag. The bad thing about diabetic candy consumed in large quantities is what it does to a diabetic’s digestive system. It, well….speeds it up. The exit is nearly as quick as the entry. And when you’re an elderly woman who broke a hip and needs to use a walker to get to the bathroom, sometimes you don’t make it. And you leave evidence of your lack of self-control for your home health aide to clean up. And in my mother’s case, she did that just as unapologetically as she ate my brother’s candies, and those 4 bags of bakery items in 1998. Eek.
I doubt that the latest talk with The Male Sibling Unit had any effect. The husband and I have resisted buying a cabinet for food that is off-limits and lockable. That stubborn part of me that was so stoic when I was 11 is now an old lady, set in her ways, pigheadedly insisting that I am not going to make my life more difficult just because he’s an asshole who won’t listen. I know, it’s such a little thing, really. It will ensure his safety and enable me to avoid a stroke. It doesn’t mean that I won’t go all Lewis Black on his shit about something else, or because I have finally reached the end of my rope with some other insufferable subject, like Doomsday Clocks and turnips and how the FUCK does the Religious Right justify sleeping with a porn star within a few month of one’s wife having one’s baby as being worthy of a “mulligan” when every other politician in the world who has even sneezed inappropriately in the general direction of a woman not his wife has been forced to leave office or been impeached? I know. That was a lot to digest. But see? Lewis Black would be proud of that rant. So, we’re gonna get the lockable cupboard, and I am going to hope that I can figure out a fool-proof way to hide a key. And remember where I put it. Maybe I can hide it behind a clock. Tick-tock, motherfucker.
My eyes are drying up again, after a few weeks of a precious reprieve from the drought. This could not happen at a worse time, when a little stinging of tears are a much sought-after conclusion.
I admit it; I am sad. Not because of the eyes, but perhaps they are just another tick on the list of a lot things that have been happening to build up to this realization that this has been a very, very long bout this time.
Since about the end of last June, I have been caught up in a deep struggle. I know; that statement coming from a clinically depressed individual in the depths of an especially temperamental winter is probably not so shocking. It doesn’t invite alarmed inquiries of “What’s wrong?” and “Are you okay?” Indeed, it more than likely triggers responses akin to The Boy Who Cried Wolf; exasperated “Oh, here we go with this again.” That’s why I hesitate, most of the time, at giving my feelings a voice. I know that when I became fully engaged in writing this blog, I promised to bring my mental illness out of the darkness, where it had been consigned. I promised to be open and brutally prescient in my observations and to fully welcome anyone who has ever felt the things I do or who is struggling. Those things are still true, and always will be. As I have found my voice, and discovered my satiral point-of-view as a wife, mother, sister, and fellow human being in a world gone mad, I’ve attempted to focus on lighter subjects. After all, we are all in need of a release, a belly laugh, or even a rueful, “Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel” moment.
The fact that there is really no one thing making me sad is frustrating, and quite beside the point. It doesn’t chase away the sadness. And I realized, this morning, that I have simply been trying much too hard to chase away the doldrums. Saying you’re going to focus on the positive is much harder to do when your brain just isn’t wired that way. It doesn’t matter how many pills you take or how much vitamin D you attempt to soak up or how many therapy sessions you complete; there are moments, days, indeed weeks awash in sadness, weighed down in sorrowful drudgery. It’s the exact opposite of rose-colored glasses. When you have depression, you see through varying shades of gray, sometimes foggy, and usually smudged glasses. At the very least, it’s like having a scratch on your lense that constantly reminds you that you’ve got a scratch on your lense. All the washing in the world won’t make it disappear. It’s there, reminding you. The thing about that analogy, though, is that you can always get new glasses. With depression, the best that you can do is to find the little moments, the slivers of light, the happy thoughts, that keep you from actually following through with the idea that blowing your fucking head off is the solution to it all.
I don’t feel like blowing my head off, no. Yet, I am still sad. And I am tired of being sad, because being sad makes me tired. It’s a vicious circle of darkness. When my first thought, upon waking, is “Who the hell turned on all that goddamned light?” I know that the day is going to be a struggle. When my stomach churns angrily at the idea of having to be a human all fucking day instead of just a lump of living flesh, I know this is my chemical imbalance, starting its shit again. When I both crave/abhor the idea of being alone, it’s “one of those days.”
I’m so over it, you know?
This is what I think. I think that the world has gone stark-raving mad around us, and that it contributes to the overall feeling of sadness that we experience. Every day, there’s a new tragedy, a new scandal, a new drama. We can certainly try to avoid being caught up in the huge miasma o’ shit that this world tries to drown us in, but that requires both a bunker with no technology other than maybe an MP3 player and the ability to be an eternal optimist. I’m just going to be honest: I can do neither of these things. Cut off tv, radio, internet? Sure; I can take a break. Inevitably, I get bored, or curious, and I return to binge-watching 13 episodes of the latest “thing” on Netflix or whiling away a whole afternoon catching up on the lives of my friends on social media. Before I know it, I’m deep in the technology quagmire again, watching and reading the news and feeling angry and hostile and outraged and wanting to dosomething to effect a change or, at the very minimum, make my voice heard.
The problem is that this is when the sadness enters, as it inevitably does when I think too much. It sneaks in, quietly, stealing away the moments of perfection when I am listening to a miraculous song like this gorgeous piece of perfection or reading a really great story. It wraps its talons around the edges of my consciousness and digs in just a little bit during occasions when I’m enjoying a silly conversation via text with my granddaughter, or having deeply engaging talks with my son. It whispers, low and with a touch of regret, that these moments are fleeting, and that happiness never lasts. That gets my brain going and then I think about getting older and about how life just goes on and that someday I will be dead and it will march on anyway with nary a look back.
This is when depression sees its opportunity. This is when it pounces. Depression lies, yes. It steals. It cheats. It does all the shitty things and it never blinks. It is always looking for an in and, by God, it will find one sooner or later.
It’s found its way in again. It doesn’t matter if I insist that my life is mostly good, that I am fortunate, and that I have so many reasons to be thankful. All of this is true, and yet there it is. That scratch on my lense. And unlike glasses, I only get one life. At this moment, depression has linked arms with menopause and they are skipping gaily throughout my body and mind, making messes and tipping over things and creating a general sense of chaos within. I know it will recede, if only for a while. I am grateful for the self-awareness that happens because I take a concoction of pills that counteract the chaos and enable me to see that this too shall pass. But the sadness makes me wish that I could cry. Oh, the absolute emotional release that a noisy, sloppy, agonizing cry gives! Snot running, ugly sounds, stuffed-up nose, thought-you-were-done-but-here-you-go-again sobbing. It’s cleansing and relief-giving and absolutely the exact thing I need right now. Problem is, those pills I take shut that shit down. While everyone else is crying their eyes out during every episode of This Is Us, I’m high and dry. I’d love to cry over Jack Pearson. I just can’t. I saw a gut-wrenching clip of a family having to say goodbye to a cherished pet this morning. Everyone was in tears, wailing. The fucking veterinarian was crying. I was close, I’ll admit. I felt absolutely bereft for those people. Witnessing a lovely dog take its last breath in the arms of its human mother should have reduced me to a pile of soggy kleenex because I’ve been there. But then someone put the cork in and I was left feeling like I was going to sneeze, but the sneeze was suddenly gone.
It is like that every day. And I am tired of pretending that it’s okay, that it will get better, and that I’m a strong woman who will triumph. Maybe I will, but for fuck’s sake, can’t a bitch earn an ugly cry now and then?
Guess not. I’ll keep trying though, and the idea that you should not wish too hard for something, because you might just get it, seems worth risking, if only for that momentary feeling of having gotten it all off my chest. I’m not looking for pain or catastrophy; just a nice, hormonal release.