Glass EVERYWHERE

Look, I’m jaded af, okay? Very little surprises me, because I think humans are, well, human, and many of them have no business living in glass houses.

But today….color me whatever color “Holy fuck, I had no idea just how many skeletons could fall out of a closet” is.

I had a big family of great-aunts and uncles. My grandma had 9 siblings. One great-aunt, in particular, was perfect. I mean, she portrayed herself as such. Perfect home, perfect job, well-respected. Churchgoing. Educated. My great-uncle (my grandmother’s older brother) was cut from the same cloth. These were the people you “had to behave yourself” around. Their home was pristine, and beautiful. My grandma called her “uppity” and “a goddamned snob.”

They came to blows once, when my aunt and uncle were newlyweds and my aunt got a little too snarky with my grandma. At least, the blows came from my Scots Irish Gram, while my aunt cowered and whimpered. Grandma – she of the strawberry-blonde hair, fierce temper, and no-nonsense countenance, who would go on to attempt to murder my grandfather (you can read about that Here) with a butcher knife before leaving his deadbeat ass to support herself and two children and then marrying another dumbass who was mean to her kids so she had to take the piss out of him before leaving and deciding to use men as playtoys henceforth – did not take kindly to being poked with a stick. My aunt picked the wrong person, on the wrong day. She learned, quickly, but their bickering back and forth was the stuff of family legends. I’d never seen two women love/hate each other quite like them.

I was my aunt and uncle’s chosen favorite. I was showered with gifts, they babysat me, doted on me, and let me do things no one else could. I could go into their guest bedroom and touch all the pretty things no one else could touch, like all my aunt’s dolls and stuffed animals from childhood and her crystal decanters and fragile, porcelain figures. I was my uncle’s designated “train assistant” because their basement was a model train wonderland. They purchased special occasion dresses and shoes for me – expensive clothing my mother could never afford. They let me drink pink catawba at Christmas. My uncle adored me, but he smoked a pipe, and it both comforted/scared me, so it was rare that I even sat on his lap. My aunt spoiled the shit out of me, so much so that my mother was very jealous. She told people that “She has her sights set on my daughter. She would take her away from me if she could.” My grandmother agreed.

I wondered why such a loving couple, who obviously could have given children anything in the world, had never had kids of their own. I asked, and was told that they never had kids because they “couldn’t.”

Well, today, I know that answer to be false; at least partially. My aunt was actually able to have kids; so able, in fact, that she had a daughter in 1944, who was given up for adoption.

My aunt lived in a house absolutely filled with precious glass.

I received a letter, with proof, from that daughter today. She is 75 years old now, and wants to know her mother. She found me courtesy of my family tree on Ancestry. One of her relatives had contacted me about the possibility through Ancestry many months ago, but they were sort of vague so I forgot. She has since done her homework.  She sent me a photo of when she was younger. She looked very much like my aunt. She also sent her pre-adoption birth certificate, unsealed by the state of New York. I will, of course, gather my wits about me and provide her with everything I can; remaining relatives are far-flung and may not have the info that I do. And much info, I have. And photos.

My cousin, left. My aunt, right.

I feel conflicted, of course, given my close relationship with my aunt. Will it hurt my newfound cousin’s feelings to know that my aunt lavished so much attention on me, born when my cousin was 22 years old? Or will she realize what I did, almost immediately, after reading her letter: I was a surrogate daughter, given all the love and affection that she could not give to her own child, who she named “Becky,” a name very similar to her own. In any event, I will dig out every photo I can find, and I have a lot of writing to do. I would prefer to give her all the stories I have accumulated, all the memories, in person, but she is 75 years old now, and COVID-19 has effectively fucked up a heartwarming meeting with her.

It’s really depressing to know that I have this information now, when the cousins are scattered to the four winds and all the old people are long gone. I am about 99.9% confident that this was not something anybody, except possibly my uncle, knew about. She was living and working in Buffalo, New York, which was 100 miles away and a major trip back then. She worked in a Defense plant during the war, so her family may not have known, either. She either met soon after, or already knew my uncle (who was also stationed in New York State) because they were married 11 months later. I don’t think he was the father, because why wouldn’t they have married then? Given that we both did DNA tests and do not link as blood relations, he simply could not have been.

If this skeleton had been known, I would have already known this and not have been completely smacked upside the head with this information. This is the stuff that tenuous and volatile relationships, like my Gram’s and my aunt’s, feed upon. Would she have been looked down upon by our family? Certainly not; my mother, uncle, and I learned, the day of her funeral, that Gram herself had given birth to a stillborn daughter at age 16. The birth was attended by my great-grandma at home. I can only guess that the baby was buried, with no real ceremony, by my great-grandfather, who oversaw the cemetary grounds in those days.

However, my aunt’s family put on a lot of airs; they weren’t rich, but they did well. She tended to look down upon her sisters-in-law; she worked in offices, while they were housekeepers, factory workers, homemakers, and farmers. She had the grand, ranch-style home; they lived in apartments, trailers, or worse: still at home with great-grandma.

Still, my uncle was the salt of the earth and devoted to his family; he and my Gram were particularly close. Another family legend had them fighting, as teenagers, in the back yard. The next door neighbor was having a church-type meeting, and the attending minister was leading the guests in prayer. Suddenly, my Gram shouted, “GOD DAMN YOU, Forrie!” and my uncle shouted back, “God Damn YOU, Rhea!” At that point, the minister said “Amen.”

Funny stuff.

My aunt assimilated. She was a Rose. She, therefore, belonged. She was ensconced within a sacred trust. Even when a Rose daughter married, she did not become a Smith or a Covert or a Barr or a McKinney; her husband was now a part of the Rose clan. As Mando would say, this is the way.

My aunt and uncle in the late 40s or early 50s

No, if this was knowledge shared within the family, it would have been imparted to me to illustrate that “no one in this family gets to put on airs.” They didn’t know. That was her right. But now, everything about her genuine devotion to me makes so much sense.

I want to impart the fact that she was capable of such love to her daughter, my newfound cousin.

My aunt lived in a really thick, glass house. It did shatter, but at the right time: without anyone of importance knowing about it. I find that I respect her courage and her ability to keep such a big secret. In these days where everybody knows every fucking thing about every fucking body, right down to the ingrown hair on their butt cheek, it’s refreshing to know that I come from a family that knows how to really keep a secret. I’ve learned from the best.

I am looking forward to knowing my new cousin.

A white girl story

My first boyfriend was black. We were 5. I didn’t know he was my boyfriend until my friends in kindergarten told me he was. Apparently, he was pretty certain of the fact, because he couldn’t stop telling people all about it.

“I grabbed her and pulled her into Mr. Singer’s (the janitor) closet and kissed her and now, she’s my girlfriend.”

It was quite the grade school scandal. It was also categorically false, but I never lived that 5th Ward School tale down. It became legend.

I first met Eddie when we were 4 year-olds at Headstart. Headstart is a preschool program that helps economically disadvantaged children with early childhood education, health, and nutritional services. It was founded in 1965, so it was relatively new when I was enrolled in 1971. It is an angel network of helpers. You know who helpers are, right? Mister Rogers, my aforementioned Dad, coined that phrase and it’s the best way I can describe the legion of teachers, aides, parents, and assorted individuals who have championed this invaluable program and given it the wings with which to soar. My daughter is a Headstart teacher. I haven’t got the words to adequately express how proud I am of her.

Sometimes, helpers have horns and their husbands are wearing tutus.

Anyway, that’s where Eddie and I met. It seems hilarious to say, “We met when we were 4” because saying you met someone conjures up visions of mixers and parties and chance encounters in a coffee shop – at least, to me, it does. It was more like we were out on the dusty playground and we threw dirt at each other, and chased each other around the swings, and rode the merry-go-round together, with a bunch of other kids. I can’t say, with any real certainty, that I remember him from Headstart. I already had a best friend at that age, and her name was Iva, and we met at the Crippled Children preschool we both attended as toddlers. Me with my neck, and her with, well, I don’t know what was wrong with her to make her have to go to Crippled Children, but we were fast friends, and my mother would pick Iva up for school, and later, for Headstart, because Iva’s mommy didn’t have a car. The point is, when you’re 4, you have a pretty limited scope of reality. Having a bunch of friends doesn’t matter when you’re 4. You just want to play, and laugh, and it doesn’t much matter if you have one friend or ten to do that with.

I do remember that, when I entered kindergarten, I recognized Eddie when I saw him from across the classroom. Back in those days, there was a school in every neighborhood, and Eddie happened to live in mine. Kindergarten was only a half-day in 1972, and remained so until my own kids were in school, and then it switched to full school days.

Back in those days, we also could walk to school. Yes, at the tender age of 5 years and six months, I walked to school. On the first day, my Mom walked me to school, but she trusted me to make my way home after. It was only a street-long block and up a small hill to our house, so I was good. I wasn’t scared. Back then, you didn’t have to be scared. Those first few days were kind of a blur; new friendships were forged, if that’s what you could call them. I still remember the other Lori in our class, who vomited on the floor the first day. I remember being taught how to shelter underneath our tables, where we sat, four students at each one, in case of a mysteriously-coined “bomb threat.” The idea was that, if there was a bomb, we were to drop to the floor and get underneath the table.

When the teacher said “bomb,” this was what I thought she meant.

Being 5 year-olds, we knew absolutely nothing of nuclear weapons and the Cold War and any of that. Why anyone would want to go all Wile E. Coyote on us or our towering school was beyond our comprehension, but we practiced dropping to the floor and crawling underneath the table, where we giggled as the teacher commended us for our speed. The fact that our classroom was in the basement of a humongous, three-story brick edifice that, if bombed, would come tumbling down upon us, crushing and burying us, was something that escaped our childish wonder. We had a door to the outside in our classroom, but I guess that you don’t want to be outside when there’s a bomb, even if you won’t make it out from underneath your formica table alive.

My year of kindergarten is mostly a jumble of vague memories. Life had not begun to have its way with me yet. I remember that first day – and how I wet the bed. I recall having to go into the restroom so the teacher and the school nurse could examine my body for chickenpox when my mother sent me back after a feverish, itchy 10 days of what my mother and grandmother called “the worst case of chickenpox we have ever seen,” and my delight at being given my own clay (I can still remember that it was reddish, and slightly sticky, and how it felt and smelled) to put in the plastic container my mother had sent with me. That’s pretty much kindergarten for me. Oh, lots more happened; the teacher had a conference with my mother a month in to discuss placing me in First Grade because I was very advanced and “kindergarten bores her”. My mother politely demurred, not wanting to place me ahead of my own age group. Nowadays, we do this all the time. The name of the game is advance at all costs. I sometimes wonder what would have changed for me; I suspect not much. I made friends. I discovered art class, and music class. That was glorious.

Eddie and I would often walk to and from school together. He would always have a little gift for me when I would meet him at the bottom of my street; a little, plastic egg from a penny gumball machine with a ring in it. I would accept with a blush and wonder where he got them. When I asked, he said, nonchalantly, that there were machines in the offices where his daddy worked. “Why do you go to your daddy’s work?” I asked. His answer surprised and mystified me:

“My daddy runs the junkyard. I live in the junkyard.”

When I asked my mother about it, she explained: Eddie’s dad was in charge of the daily operations of the junkyard, which was across the street and then the creek and began as a vast expanse of trash and treasure a hundred yards or so from its banks. I could see the mountains of cars, metal, and assorted other discarded junk from our front door. The junkyard was called “Goodmans” and Eddie’s dad was the caretaker. He, his mom, dad, and little brother, Petey, lived in a little house right in the center. Not too long after we started school, Eddie’s mom left, taking Petey with her, and moved to New York City, where she was from. My mother told me to be kind to Eddie. “He’s going to be sad and have a hard time,” she advised.

Eddie and his brother had the nicest, warmest, milk chocolate-colored skin I had ever seen. Eddie’s mom was like me, which is to say she was white. Eddie’s dad, a congenial, gentle, towering giant of a man, was much, much darker than Eddie and Petey. I loved to wave to him when he drove by our house in his truck, “Sonny!” I’d holler, and he would slow down, grin, and wave at me. “That Sonny is such a nice guy,” my Gram would say, “but at night, you can’t see him in that truck until he smiles.” Please don’t judge my Gram, born in 1912. She didn’t have a racist bone in her body. Her father was the caretaker of the cemetery where their home sat just below on the hillside. Her earliest memories were of being terrified as she and her siblings watched from their bedroom windows as the KKK burned crosses among the graves behind them. My great-grandfather would fearlessly trudge up the hill and put them out after the band of cowards had dispersed. Yes, this was the north, but yes, racism existed even here. Especially here, where we ruefully call our region “Pennsyltucky” because the Rebel flags wave and we have rednecks and sometimes because of the attitudes, you honestly think we fought for the Confederacy. The founders of our town were rough men, oil men, hard-working and ambitious. That working-class ethic still remains, even if the jobs didn’t.

As we grew older, Eddie used to tell the story of how he “fell in love” with me. “When we were in Headstart, I first saw you, and I knew you were like me, ‘cuz I thought you was Chinese.” I have told the Story of how I was often mistaken as having Asian heritage because my hair is nearly black, my skin is olive-toned, my head is pretty round, and my black eyes possess just a bit of a tilt at the outer corners. I had to deny it more times than I could count. As I got older, it changed from Asian to Native American. Sorry, folks, but there is nary an amoebic-sized smidge of Asian or Native American DNA in me; my Ancestry test doesn’t lie. And, I might add, so fucking what if there was?

Senior picture. This was why I was asked if I was Native American. Really?

It has always stuck with me, though.

“I knew you were like me.”

What did Eddie mean by that?I mean, I’m a human. Of course I was like him. But, I suspect that it had more to do with just looks. Maybe we did both look “different” from all the uber-white complected kids in our school, but we were both bullied a lot, too. I suffered from kids teasing about my lack of a paternal unit and then the usual girl-centric fights that cliquish gaggles of girls have. He, on the other hand, was teased for being black. He was teased for living in the junkyard. Those kids who themselves went home to dads who were drunks or deadbeats or who beat their mothers or their kids – our neighborhood had pretty much 50-50 lower middle class to low-income – thought they were somehow better than this boy whose father worked very hard every day but who committed some sort of societal faux pas because he lived in a house in a junkyard. Me? I’d have given anything for a dad like Sonny. He was worth 100,000 of those loser dads. I understand it now, but I did not then.

Sometimes, Eddie would lash out at me, chasing me, knocking me down, calling me names. He would change. He would not be the Eddie I knew. I was a little afraid of him when that happened. Again, I understand now. Life was having its way with him, and racism was a part of that life. Still, on one of the happiest days I can remember from childhood – the day The Male Sibling Unit was born – I was with Eddie, playing at the park. My dog had just chased him across the field and he was laughing uproariously at how “Whiskers wants to rip my pants in the butt” when my cousin, who was staying with us, called for me from across the street. Eddie followed me back to the house, always cautious, because there were parents who would tell him to “GIT” and he had to be careful. I beckoned him to come along. “What’s the matter with you?” I asked. “My dog might bite, but my grandma has false teeth.”

When my Gram told me the news, I spontaneously grabbed Eddie and hugged him. “I have a little brother!” I squealed. He let me squeeze him for a moment and then pushed me away, slightly embarrassed. “C’mon, gee! Little brothers ain’t that great. You’ll see,” he said, knowingly.

This is one of the last times we were really close; less than two years later, Eddie would leave Bradford to live with his mother in New York. His father died. “Brain tumor” was what I heard. I was terribly sad for Eddie, but out of sight, out of mind. New York City sounded exciting, and big, and I was a bit envious.

Life went on. I grew up, became a teenager, then a Senior in high school with hopes and dreams. Racism was still not a part of my reality. I had Asian friends. Bradford was possibly one of the whitest communities ever, but we did have non-caucasian doctors and businessmen. I think, when I was 17, we had exactly one black family in town. One or 500 – it wouldn’t have mattered to me. I don’t want to say that I did not see color; I was book smart about the problems, educated about the challenges of racism, civil rights, and the horrors of slavery and the Civil War that came to signify intolerance for it. I knew it existed. It just didn’t in my tiny, little world.

I can’t remember who told me that Eddie was back in town. He and his mother and brother had come back here, and I don’t know why. I think she had family here. My mother said something about New York being tough, and Eddie and Petey getting into trouble, and their mother wanting a better life for them. I do remember thinking, “Why here? Why Bradford?” I was solely focused on getting the fuck out of Dodge as soon as I could, and to me, going to New York City, with its lights and tall buildings and all the people and opportunities galore seemed absolutely wonderful. The movie Fame had enamored me of all things Big Apple. That’s where real shit happened. Anywhere but here, I thought.

Looking back, I empathize with Eddie’s mom’s hopes. I still don’t think this was the right place, though. Knowing what I do now, that is. Knowing that this place isn’t kind to other races. Oh, we say we are, we think we are, but hate permeates everything here, and racism is but the tip of an iceberg of angst and apathy and wasted opportunities that many citizens in this community sit atop, angry armchair warriors all. I can say now that yes, I see color. Do I judge because of it? Again, I have to admit that yes, I do. Is that a form of racism? Yes, it is. It is not the kind of racism that hurts people though; not the kind that passes negative judgment on them. It’s more of a blanket feeling of sympathy for them:

Oh, you’ve moved here, have you? I’m sorry you did, because this town is awful to outsiders. This town is awful to insiders. This town. Is awful. Period. Please don’t judge us by the kind of welcome you receive, though. Some of us, who have lived here our entire lives, are outsiders, too.

That’s the way in which I have been guilty of racism. I hope not to be judged by that.

Eddie and I met on the street one day, when I was walking home from school. He was a big, powerfully-built young man with the same, creamy-chocolate skin and jet-black hair that I remembered. His eyes were a tawny color, warm and tender, as he gazed down at me. His regard for how I had grown up was evident in his effusive compliments. “You’re not the little girl I remember,” he said, admiringly. I blushed, feeling warm. “Well, you aren’t a little boy anymore, either.” I replied. I don’t know why he wasn’t enrolled in school; I do know that he and his mom and brother didn’t live here long when they returned, and they ended up in Olean, New York, about 25 miles away and with a more diverse, racial demographic than Bradford. We talked for a few minutes and he asked me if he could call me sometime. I said sure, my number’s in the book. We parted; I walked away, feeling flushed and sort of unsettled. I had a boyfriend at the time. What was this, exactly?

True to his word, Eddie called a couple of days later. He cut right to the chase.

“I want to take you out,” he said, “to a movie, or dinner, or whatever you want. I just want to go out with you.”

“Eddie, I can’t,” I said, quietly. “I have a boyfriend.”

He was quiet for a moment, and then was direct and blunt. “Oh. It’s not because I’m black, is it? I didn’t think you were like that. Is it because I’m black?”

I felt gut-punched. Fuck! I raged inside, at war with my feelings. I kind of wanted to go out with him. But there was Kevin. Kevin was sweet. I really liked Kevin a lot, and Kevin seemed to adore me. The fact that I was even slightly indecisive should have told me chapters of information about how things were going to go with Kevin, but at this point in my young, inexperienced life, all I knew was that if you had a boyfriend, you didn’t cheat on him.

“Eddie, no. I don’t care what color you are. I just have a boyfriend. If you’d have called me a month ago, I would have said yes.” All that mattered to me was that he not think that I gave a crap about his race.

He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “Okay. I just really like you is all. I always did.” After that, he became really cavalier, talking about gangs and fights in New York and how tough he had become. We spoke a little while longer, and then, I had to go.

When I got off the phone, my mother asked, “What was that all about?” When I told her, she smirked a little and said, “I knew he liked you 12 years ago. He said he was going to marry you.” When I exclaimed, “Uh…..WHAT????” she told me that Sonny had told her, when we were little kids, that Eddie would ask him to fish the little eggs with the rings in them out of the penny machine so he could give them to me because “Someday she’s gonna marry me.”

I lost touch with Eddie after that. Then, I married a man who pretended to be like me: accepting and loving of all humans. Hindsight is 20-20, but in any event, Eddie didn’t fare so well in this town. He would leave, then return. Each time, he was a little harder than rougher than he had been when he’d left. Life had its way with Eddie, and he got into a lot of legal trouble, and eventually died. I can’t remember what killed him, but I do know that we were only in our 30s when it happened.

I will always remember Eddie. He was one of my earliest, truest friends.

I’m not sure why I needed to write this, really. Well, yes, I am. It’s just a story from my life, but it’s also an offering, of sorts, to the universe. It is a tale of childhood, and a certain kind of color blindness. Maybe it illustrates ignorance, but I hope not in a bad way. When I had to explain the riots on the tv to The Male Sibling Unit last night, and George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, amongst others, Eddie popped into my memory. The Male Sibling Unit doesn’t understand racism. It isn’t even remotely a part of who he is. After I made my attempt to adequately explain the hate in this country to him, he was no longer innocent. I am sorry that I had to do that to him.

I am sorry for lots of things. I’m not so full of myself to think that going out with Eddie all those years ago might have changed the trajectory of his life, but I wonder now…..what if?

I would like to be able to talk to my friend again.

Memories are not always unkind

Irish Poet John O’Donohue

This was today’s Facebook “memory.”

2009. Iraq deployment. He was stationed in Texas. I could not kiss him “See you soon.” Tiffany and the girls were there with him, and she took this photo.

I remember the day he texted me, saying that this was going to happen. It was a few months before it actually did. I was at work, at the front desk of the car dealership where I worked. When I read the message, I threw the phone across the desk, as if it were hot. I pistoned my legs reflexively, and my chair hit the wall behind me. I stood up abruptly, not sure what to do. I was not prepared, even though I had braced for it since the day he and his brother had both enlisted. Boots on the ground in Texas, the other set of boots going underway for months at a time on a massive, nuclear submarine. I didn’t sleep well in those days.

As I stood there, locked in a momentary panic, my boss walked out of his office, where I sat sentry to the right. Our eyes locked and something on my face seemed to alarm him and his eyebrows shot up. I turned and walked quickly toward the side door and outside, not willing to trust my voice or my composure. I couldn’t explain this. I couldn’t allow myself to think.

My boss was not the warm, fuzzy kind of guy you could relate to. Most of the dealership – okay, all of the dealership – feared him. He would arrive in his truck every morning, well after everyone else, and a couple of sale staff would scurry out: one to carry his briefcase and the other to leash and walk his bulldog, who almost always made the two-hour commute from Erie with him, where they lived. He’d stride in, a stocky, brooding figure in a fedora and leather jacket, a pipe or a cigar clamped between his lips. He exuded an air of wealth and privilege, holding court in the General Manager’s office, where the orders he had issued by phone on the way in were confirmed.

Then, he would settle into his day in a dark, richly-paneled office, surrounded by large pieces of leather furniture, his face lit by the glow of the massive Mac screen on his desk. State-of-the-art exercise equipment gathered dust in a corner, his paunchy figure defying their existence. I liked the days when he smoked a pipe; it was fragrant. The cigar days were not. Soft, classical music would drift out to my ears as I did my work, and occasionally, I would be called in to do some task. I’d pet Buster softly and call him “Baby.” My boss would growl, not unkindly, “Don’t spoil him.” As if.

His temper was legendary and he unleashed it often and without prejudice. When he wished to “have a pep talk” with the sales staff, he would first send me upstairs, where we would shelter in place while he tore them all new assholes. One time, I made my way downstairs, nature’s call unable to wait. He had been shouting for nearly 30 minutes and I needed the loo. As I gingerly opened the door, he finished a sentence that included “…..you’re all lazy, fucking cocksuckers,” and turned to look at me. “What, Lori?” he asked quietly, positive that there must have been some earth-shattering knowledge that I needed to impart to him because why would I interrupt his “constructive sales meeting?”

“Sorry, but I have to pee,” I said, walking toward the one restroom we had for both employees and customers. We’d had two when I started, but the building had undergone a massive renovation after a flood and he had decided we only needed one unisex restroom. He was rich, but he was a tightwad when it came to certain things not for himself, too.

“You came down to pee?” he asked, exasperation tinting his query.

“Uh, yeah?” I retorted, “You’ve been yelling for a half an hour now. How many more ‘motherfuckers’ have you got in you? We womenfolk need to pee occasionally.” I entered the bathroom as silence enveloped the cavernous showroom. When I emerged, it was to furtive grins and a much more composed, quiet boss. Thank you,” I said to him, heading back upstairs. “Yeah, yeah,” he waved me away. Things were much quieter after that. Less than give minutes later, he opened the door and called up the stairs, “Lori? I’m done.”

“Finally,” I shouted.

I wasn’t afraid of him, like everyone else. I respected him as my boss, and I respected him when he was worthy of it. Sometimes, he was not. He would receive my intractable resting bitch face when he was a dick, but I was not going to cower in fear at the feet of a guy who – last time I checked – was no better a person than anyone else. I think he knew it; he would rant and shout at nearly everyone else when his ire was up, making the women cry and the men shake, but he never, ever did that to me. One time early in my employment, a salesperson attempted to throw me under the bus for an administrative error that he, himself had made. As we stood in front of the boss’s desk, this ferret-faced little worm attempted to shift blame onto me. I threw it back in his face, enumerating the ways in which he had made the mistake, and finished with “Don’t stand here in front of Mr. T and lie. I’m not going to go along with your bullshit. And don’t ever cross me again.” I think that established a basic fault line that our boss respected.

This day, though, the day of the text.

I deserted my desk and didn’t forward the phones and it wasn’t the protocol but I didn’t trust myself to remain composed in that moment. When your child tells you, “I need you to be calm. I’ve received my deployment orders,” and it immediately registers with you that he doesn’t mean Germany or Alaska or even South Korea, but that hot, sandy place where people are getting killed every day, something chemical happens in your brain. Adrenaline rushes to all nerve endings and yet, you’re numb. You’re numb and you’re terrified and you think, “Who can I call to complain to?” and you realize with bleak finality that this isn’t grade school and there is no principal with which to lodge your complaint on your child’s behalf. Nope, you’re an Army Mom. Suck. It. Up.

So I went outside, and leaned against the building, taking gigantic, gulping breaths. These were pre-Xanax and antidepressant days, when I (didn’t) manage my mental illness much, if at all. I knew I had to get it together; work was not the place to break down, and breaking down, in any event, was not constructive. I wondered, fleetingly if all the other mothers who had received that message from their child throughout history felt like they were free-falling and that the ground rushing toward them would be a merciful fate, shutting down the panic?

As I was working through this thought, my boss walked outside and stood in front of me. “What is it?” he asked quietly, concern lacing his words. I could not speak. That unease in his voice undid me, and my throat began to constrict. I didn’t know, at that moment, whether I was going to cry or vomit on his shoes. I grunted and tried to walk away, but he blocked my path. “Tell me what’s going on,” he commanded softly, and it all came out in a rush:

My-son-got-his-orders-and-he-is-going-to-Iraq-and-I-wasn’t-ready-and-I’m-scared

And then fat tears snaked down my face.

Big arms enfolded me into an embrace and a hand softly held my head against his chest. I could smell his cologne and the soft pungency of pipe tobacco on his flannel shirt. Mr. T softly crooned to me, “It’s okay,” as I sobbed. As cars drove by on the busy street and people entered and exited the building, no doubt wondering “What in the actual fuck?” he comforted me. It seemed like forever but it was only a few minutes.

Finally, I pulled away, embarrassed and aghast. “I’m so sorry,” I said, and he wiped my eyes, saying, “Shit, I just wiped mascara all over your face.” I hiccuped and said, “But I got snot all over your shirt.” He chuckled. I shied away from him and he asked, “Tell me what I can do for you?” We talked a while longer, and his kindness nearly undid me; but it also made me strong. I was allowed this moment to be scared and the universe gave me exactly who I needed in that moment to come undone and to lace myself back up again. When he knew I was calmer, he told me, “Take whatever time you need. Call him. Call your husband. Hell, you wanna go to him? Go to Texas? Do it. Do whatever you need to.” He went back inside and barked at everyone to answer the phones for me and I made my calls and calmed down and then finished the day in a blur of numbness and resolve. My boy would never have to see or hear my fear because that guy took it upon himself. That was a different kind of service.

Many more times, I would feel that wave of panic until the day of this photo dawned. My son and I spoke on the phone and he texted me just before he boarded the plane. One of my coworkers offered me a valium. I refused. This was something I needed to feel fully: fear, intense pride, and calm resolve to send waves of my mother love to him. It would envelope him, like a force field, and keep him safe.

He survived that deployment, and another, to Afghanistan. He came home, and he eventually got out, and now he has five kids and knows all those feelings parents feel about their kids. I hope he will never have to send a son, or sons, off to war, but if he does, I want to be the one he can turn to in that momentary panic. He will be more prepared for the realities than I was. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

This Memorial Day, I am grateful to those who served, and those who serve. I am grateful to those who support and respect and revere our military. Today is a day in which our country – our world – has become intimately aware of sadness and very slight sacrifices. While we may be engaged in a different sort of war, we need to remind ourselves that this is small potatoes compared to what those soldiers of past wars and the ones who came home experienced. Today, we remember, and we say, “Thank you for your service.”

Thank you, my two sons, and thank you, my son-in-law, for your service. Thank you.

With friends like that, it is no wonder that I prefer my cats

I have a friend who lives in the Pacific Northwest. I followed him on Facebook for a number of years; he’s a very good writer and he sorta sucked me in with his gift of painting vivid pictures with his words. After a couple of years of this following, I decided, “You know what? Fuck it. I want to be this dude’s friend.” I had no reason to think he would accept me, a stranger who was essentially stalking his words – and thank you, Facebook, for making stalking legitimate with your “Follow” feature – but I was delighted when he did. I think I said something dumb, like, “I just really love your writing” but for whatever reason, he decided I was worth taking a risk on.

Over the past few years, we’ve become authentic friends, even though we’ve yet to meet. When we began our friendship, he still lived in the same time zone as me, but life has a way of doing some twists and turns and he soon found himself the owner of an RV. After that, it seemed only natural that he would take the RV on a most excellent, mystical journey throughout the country. His co-pilot was also most excellent, she of the chocolate-colored hair and soulful, medium roast eyes and a warm nose.

Izzy.

He’s had so many adventures along the way, including picking up two more co-pilots, Radar and Sophie,

Radar and Sophie. Both very good girls.

badly breaking his leg, convening with nature as a summer park attendant at a breathtaking spot in Oregon, and embarking (see what I did there, wink-wink) on a lucrative career as a dog-walker/sitter in a bigger Pac NW city. He’s met tons of his social media friends and someday, we’ll be in the same hemisphere again and I’ll be able to give him a hug – when social distancing is no longer a “thing.”

Along the way, great things happened and everyday things happened, and we benefited from his observations and the antics of daily life as a troubadour of canines (and a few cats, too) by getting to read really wonderful, descriptive, essays about “a day in the life.” We, his many friends, cheer him on and encourage him to publish these essays in the form of a book someday. He is so good and honestly, those words should be shared. He takes the good with the bad, and there have been bad times – his beloved Izzy passed away, for one – and sometimes, he has to take a break. This is where I feel him the most, because no one fades to black with as much skill as I do. Through our private conversations, I know him well, and I can almost always predict when he’s going to need to go dark for a bit. With the current reality resembling a Stephen King Novel-Meets Idiocracy right now, diving into the depths is not only expected of those of us with that dark passenger, D, but it is also feared.

So, this friend started dating a new lady before Shit got real. He had been hurt in the past. Really hurt. We (his collective of friends) had worried about him a lot, but then celebrated his new relationship because this one seemed smart, sassy, and very well-balanced. They were very happy.

New lady friended me – not sure why, except that my congratulations came with a thinly-veiled threat (If you hurt this guy, I will find you and I have a particular set of skills….) and maybe I scared the fuck out of her. I dunno, but fine, it’s fine, you want to be friends with some of his friends (I don’t actually know how many others she friended) then cool! She was fun, she could spell and make coherent sentences with her goodly words, and she clearly adored said friend – who I clearly cherish.

Pandemic hits. Relationship may be tested – she had a lot of dramatic, personal posts, interspersed with really informative, caring ones – but they do fine. She’s got kids, she’s traversing a situation in close quarters, and they are nowhere near a “moving in together” aspect of a relationship, so he sees less of her than before the Covidpocalypse. I asked him how things are; things are all good. They’re making it work. They’re happy.

Until they aren’t.

I’d noticed less from them both on the social media fronts. He and I have always shared extremely funny (to us) and sometimes not appropriate (to many others) memes with each other. Whole days would pass by where our only communication was sending each other memes

and laughing. This is the best kind of friend to have.

I felt him go dark before he announced it. I waited. No one likes to be inundated with “What’s wrong?” messages when one is in Low-Down Funky Town. You’re sad, you’ve got reasons, you love that they care, but it’s exhausting. The last thing I wanted to do to him was that which I also don’t like. And the definite last thing I wanted to do to him was question The Relationship. After all, not every, single bout of depression is triggered by relationship problems, and we all have much more prescient reasons, right now, to be depressed, anxious, and stressed.

When he announced the breakup, I was sad for him, but I also knew, by his tone, that this wasn’t like another time, when that bitch ripped his heart out of his chest, stuck it on a sharpened stick, and whipped it through the air, where it landed, with a wet thwack. This wasn’t as dire. They both seemed okay. And yes, I reserved judgment about her because hell, relationships sometimes just don’t work out even when the two people are nice and a new relationship begun just before The Time of COVID-19 could definitely be put to the test.

Things were quietly normal for a day. Then, my friend count dropped by one, and my momentary thought was “Yay! A Trump Humper bites the dust FINALLY” to “Oh no she di’int!”

Oh yes, she did.

I’ve got to say, I am a little bit offended. I mean, damn, bitch: was I not an engaging-enough friend? We shared a lot of common interests. She was funny. Had they simply just not been able to make it work, I’d have been sad for the both of them, but I’m over here in Pennsyltucky and they’re in the Pac NW so we weren’t going to have any embarrassing run-ins while out for coffee or anything like that.

Her unceremonious unfriending of me made it clear that she was either

just collecting mutual friends of his

Or

scared of my protectiveness

Or

thinking I was interested in him.

Not a single one of these reasons shed a positive light on her. In pretty much every scenario, it seems like it was a “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” kind of thing. In any event, this isn’t junior high, I don’t want yo man, but I will beat the crap outta you if I see you in the restroom between classes because no one likes a two-face thot. Btw, I have a pretty fine husband of my own already, who totally gets my friendship with this other guy and, in fact, salutes it – because he reaps the rewards in scads of inappropriate memes.

When I informed my friend that I was down a friend, he wasn’t even slightly surprised and confessed that he wasn’t really all that upset. Apparently, she brought too much drama with her.

Dude. Same.

Notes from the Darkside; where there are Oreos, but no TP

This pandemic, y’all.

Laugh all you want at the inexplicable prospect of finding a roll of tp to purchase in your town. I know I did, last Friday, when I saw nearly bare shelves. “Do all of these people think the virus comes out of their asses?” I mused. People cling to those comforting things that they buy when there’s a snowstorm coming, or hurricane. They buy the things that have been drummed into their heads: milk, bread, toilet paper. The herd mentality is always present in times of natural disasters looming on the horizon. Is this a natural disaster, though? None of us has ever lived through an actual pandemic in this country. The last worldwide killer that affected the US in large numbers was in 1918; my long-deceased Gram was 6.

The shuttering of nonessential businesses in my state does not really affect my day-to-day life. I don’t frequent bars or go out to eat a whole lot. We do take-out or delivery, if anything. When I joke that I’m a hermit in a hobbit hole, you laugh. Don’t, because I’m actually telling the truth.

The closure of nonessential, community-based centers DOES affect me in that now, The Male Sibling Unit has nowhere to go to 1) express himself socially, and 2) get out of my hair during the week.

He cannot close himself up in his man cave like his hermitish Elder Female Sibling Unit; as much as I might crave solitude, I also recognize his need to be around someone. That someone’s going to be me.

He also does not understand the words “social distance,” “quarantine,” or “flattening the curve.” In his world, these things do not exist.  You get a cold? You (very reluctantly) take some medication and sniff, sneeze, and cough your way through the day. The Male Sibling Unit has an extremely high tolerance for pain and discomfort; I have mentioned this before. He has had

a fractured ankle

a fractured wrist

Shingles all over his torso

Pneumonia ×2

Two testicular surgeries

along with a host of childhood viruses and disease; when he got chickenpox, he was so covered in pox, my mother bound his hands with mittens and tape. He was a walking model for full-body Calamine lotion – a pink nightmare.

Every time, he has taken, at best, Tylenol. Throughout all of these maladies, the only time I have ever known he was definitely sick, it has always been 5 seconds before he’s vomited all over the toilet. My cue to shout, “GET TO THE BATHROOM!!!” is when he stands, motionless, in the hallway, whimpering forlornly/urgently.

“Uh…uh…uh…no…I-don’t-want-to”

At this utterance, I feel my blood going cold in my veins.

The Male Sibling Unit finds it inexplicable that I am insisting that he tell me if he isn’t feeling well; even just a bit warm, and tired, or a runnier nose than normal, given his seasonal allergy situation. He finds it laughable that I am urging caution, and that something “like a cold” could be dangerous. I have to describe COVID-19 this way because he cannot comprehend the intricacies of the virus. He was young when he had pneumonia; he doesn’t remember what that felt like. He fails to understand contagion, and that this new coronavirus is much more contagious than the flu.

All he understands is that he doesn’t get to see his friends. He can’t go to work. We can’t lolligag at stores, looking at things. Going out to dinner anytime soon isn’t going to happen. That it could get exponentially worse is not even something his brain can make room for. The whole world may be grinding gears and halting, and we all might be experiencing varying levels of unease, fear, uncertainty, and stress, but for him, this means fuck-all. His WORLD has changed drastically. And he is not going peacefully.

I’ve spent the evening, once again – for what seems like the thousandth time – trying to explain things to him. The call from his rehabilitation center, where he works, was expected after the Governor announced stricter measures to flatten the curve. It didn’t lessen the blow; when I told him, his face just fell. He asked, in a little boy voice, “Why?”

He has asked at least a dozen times since. He has raged, talking to himself and saying, “FUCK the virus.” He’s made pointedly miffed Facebook posts, his displeasure on full display. He waited until the husband left for work to begin needling me; he knows that if he blows my cool and I erupt, his brother-in-law will be all up in his bidness.

“When will I go back?”

“Why did that Governor do this?”

‘When will I see my friends?”

“Why can’t I go out?”

“What do you mean, no Mexican next week?”

“But I’m not sick.”

“Fuck this.”

“I’m pissed off.”

“When will I go back?”

If this continues as long as experts are warning, I may not make it. I won’t be a COVID-19 victim; I will have a stroke.

I wonder when I should sit him down and explain exactly what it was like to watch our mother die, swiftly (for us) but agonizingly slowly (for her) of pneumonia. I wonder if I could then apply that scenario to his girlfriend, who is 63 and has advancing COPD. Would that be too traumatic?

Sometimes, shock and awe is all that works. It may be all that stands between my sanity and simply acquiescing to his maddening questions and incessant prodding.

By the way, watching someone die of pneumonia sucks. Being told their brain has died, along with their kidneys, their digestive system, and their respiratory system, is horrifying. Knowing that their heart is choking, gasping, and wheezing as it attempts to pump blood to organs that lay, deceased, on the open plain of their body’s hemispheres is actually heartbreaking to ponder. Having to make the decision to shut off the respirator and other machines is surreal.

Now, imagine having to do that all because someone decided this social distancing was hyped, people are overreacting, it’s “not as bad as it sounds”, it’s “just a cold,” or the worst: “a hoax.” They thought one, some, or all of these things and then in turn infected your loved one, who is elderly or immunodeficient. They did this because COVID-19 inconvenienced them.

I get that the future seems uncertain. I know that people are frightened. Will we be able to work? To pay our bills? Will someone we know get sick? Will we get sick? I know that we all cling to the things we know: familiarity and routine; routine being probably the most important thing. Right now, a virus has forced us to reconsider those routines, and nothing looks familiar. We’re watching our own lives unfold like an apolcalyptic thriller. This month was written by Stephen King.

If you’re refusing to see the danger of a virus that is, at the moment, defying assumptions, I think maybe I should sit down with you and describe what my mother’s death looked like, and how it broke me in small increments until I was in pieces. I’m still gluing them back together.

In the meantime, wash your fucking hands, order a pizza from a small business, and cue up Netflix. It’s going to be a looooong, hot summer.

Oh, and….Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Drink a pint or twelve. It won’t stop the virus from marching on, but at least you’ll be shitfaced for a day. My people have elevated suffering to an artform. ☘

We don’t need another hero. We need a woman.

When I was a little girl, I wasn’t raised with the idea that I could be anything I wanted to be. One might be shocked at that, really; my family was stocked with really strong, opinionated women who were quite comfortable telling men to fuck right the fuck off. My great-grandmother ruled with a benevolent, iron fist that would pull you into her arms for a loving embrace even as she was ordering you to go outside and cut yourself a switch. She was truly the head of the family, and her children – 4 sons and 6 daughters – idolized and followed her every word and deed.

My grandmother was a much freer-minded spirit than her mother, but she proved, again and again, that men were a luxury to her – not a necessity. When my grandfather established the pattern of an Irish drunk who had numerous talents, but who could not hold a job long enough to provide a stable life for his wife and children, she took matters into her own hands. I mean this literally. She knocked the crap out of him, beating him about the head and shoulders with a stilleto heel while he lay, passed out. He awoke the next morning, hung over and bruised, thinking he’d had a fall.

She took jobs housekeeping, and when the final straw came – he went to the bars on a Friday after work and spent an entire paycheck on booze, staggering up the hill on Sunday afternoon with naught but lint in his pockets – she sent him away, chasing him down Hillside Avenue, a butcher knife in her hand. Had she caught him, who knows if I’d even be here today. She then moved in temporarily with that mother who gave her that strong countenance, and took a fulltime job. She divorced my grandfather. This led to a much higher-paying job, and when she took a chance and married another man who proved to not be up to the task of providing, and who committed the cardinal sin of disrespecting her children, all bets were off. She lived, happily single, for the rest of her life. Oh, she dated, a lot, and a couple of guys were fortunate enough to meet her exacting standards and were permitted to stick around for long periods of time. One, I even knew as “Grandpa Mick.” The point was, she never needed a man to fulfill her; they were simply an option.

My mother – her daughter – was as tough as her, but I think she craved a different kind of happy ending in the beginning. She had a father she adored, and visited, and I think she thought that having the husband, the kids, the house, and the picket fence was the ultimate win. She saw her friends doing it and dreamed of such a life, too. She also dreamed of travel, and independence. She wanted to be an airline stewardess, but lacked the willpower to lose weight. She was never quite able to disentangle herself from my grandmother’s apron strings, though, and so they were kind of a package deal.

My uncle noped it the fuck out of town as soon as he was 18, joining the military and going to college, but my mom never seemed to be able to envision a life without her mom in the picture. She also possessed a nasty temper, as fiery as Grandma’s, and a vicious, rapier-tongued attitude. She lost a lot of jobs because, when some man would tell her what to do, she’d be just as likely to tell him to shove it up his ass as she would be to follow directions. She liked to drink, too, and this led to bars, and an eventual meeting with a smooth-tongued asshole who she thought she could tame. That he was already married wasn’t important. She wanted what she wanted, and when she got the kids, but no husband, house, or picket fence, she was sufficiently put off men as necessities – for good.

No, I was not taught that I could be whatever the hell I wanted. I was taught that I didn’t need no man. Men were, at best, luxuries. At worst, they were a nuisance. A man would try to control you. A man would hold you back from the things you loved. A man would lie. A man thought only of himself. Men were optional in one’s life, and the minute they overstayed their welcome, there’d be the trouble of getting them to go, and who the hell needed that headache? It was better to just forget they existed.

I weighed this advice carefully, but with suspicion. My aunts – my mother’s closest friends who were not related by blood but who I referred to as aunts – had husbands. Their husbands, my uncles, were nice guys who provided well for their families. They were great daddies, as far as I knew. They were funny and kind and honorable. My great-uncles were, too, even if they were old guys. They had all made really wonderful, successful lives. All of my great-aunts had careers, too – in independent, small business; in farming; in office administration. These couples seemed to complement each other inasmuch as being partners in marriage.

While I never said it out loud, privately, I held onto the thought that my grandmother and my mother tried to instill the belief that all men were shit into my psyche because they hadn’t met the right men. I wasn’t going to be like that. I’d be smarter, meet a good guy, like my uncles, and he would respect me.

Uh, yeah.

Okay, it took a while, and my first choice was made hastily, out of a desire to escape being stuck, like my mother had been. It was made because no one had ever said they loved me with the fervent conviction that he did, and I needed that. (Girls, if he says he loves you 5 days in, please take it with a grain of salt until a lot of time has passed and you’ve fully vetted him. I sure as hell wouldn’t have believed him today.) That choice was certainly a Big Fucking Mistake, but I scored five huge prizes, so it wasn’t for nothing. I’ve made massive corrections in that thinking, and chose more wisely the second time. No, I don’t need no man, but the one I have, I truly want.

That was as far as my female predecessors got in teaching me women’s rights. I grew up knowing I wanted to “do” something; something that included writing. I did not believe that I wanted to shatter glass ceilings and charge at the head of a pack and to lead. I’ve learned, along the way, that I am a natural-born leader who prefers to go it alone if given the choice. I’ve broken a couple of plexiglass panels, I suppose; but I definitely have no desire to aim for the sky above.

I did not -for instance – dream of being President of the United States. I admire those who did, and who do. That kind of single-minded ascension does not appeal to me. I am good – great, actually- in a crisis. You want me there if you need triage or a quick assessment. I’m as apt to do as I am to issue quick orders, because I’m impatient and convinced that, while I think you could do a good job, I can do the thing the way it needs to be done. Nope, I would not be a good President, because politics is filled to the brim with acts of diplomacy and the delegating of tasks. I’m too much of a lone wolf, and I know that would be a recipe for disaster.

We are living in a reality TV shitshow. The entire planet is suffering an existential crisis of common sense, kindness, and community. Calmer heads are not prevailing, and the only credentials one seems to need in order to run a country is that they’re louder than the loudest person in the room. (And more orange, but I digress.) There’s a novel virus tearing ass through all of the countries, and glaciers are melting; kids are eating laundry soap pods and yeeting themselves out into traffic. We are arguing about how we all deserve a piece of the pie but that we don’t want to pay the wages to get it. People in this country are dying because yes, they have insurance and yes, they do work fulltime, but they’ve been diagnosed with MS and the copay for a series of shots as treament is over $100,000. Yes, you read that right – I have facts to back that up. Insulin is unaffordable. Life-sustaining drugs and healthcare are unaffordable in this country for most.

Going to college means taking on debt in your first semester and not being able to pay it off until it’s time for your kids to start college. You have to be situationally aware everywhere you go, because somewhere, there’s a mentally unstable person, off his meds and growing increasingly paranoid, who may decide that the day you chose to go get groceries was the day he was going to shoot up the store; that is, after he posted his manifesto on 4chan.

Your kids are being taught by teachers who qualify for food stamps, have to work second and third jobs, and who buy a lot of the school supplies your kids use themselves because the school district’s budget doesn’t include funding for pencils, erasers, and yes, even paper. And let’s not even get started on kids in cages and robbing Peter (The Pentagon) to pay Paul (The Wall).

Meanwhile, your President plays his 238,004th round of golf on your dime, tweets reflexively and compulsively, and undermines the authority of every organization on the planet. He’s a fucking imbecile, but he does this with aplomb.

These are just some of the problems our country faces, deals with, and wades into. We, the people, face these realities every day. “It all needs fixed,” we say, “but what do we do?”

Elizabeth Warren had a plan for it all.

Elizabeth thought through all of these problems and wrote down her thoughts. She methodically consulted with experts and asked constituents what they thought. She weighed pros and cons and ins and outs and ups and downs. Then, she came up with plans. No, they weren’t perfect, but they were smart, and allowed for a fostering of ideas and a coming together of like minds. It would be hard, and dirty, and decidedly not pretty, but she rolled up her sleeves and beckoned to us, “Let’s go DO THIS.”

We let her down. In refusing to get behind her and to make her our candidate to defeat the Orange McMenace, we essentially said, a-fucking-gain, “A woman cannot lead.We let so many down, from the first woman who said, “No, you may not disrespect me simply because I’m a woman” to the Suffragettes, to every woman who burned her bra or walked into a roomful of men and explained her ideas. We let down the female warriors of the past and present: Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Clara Barton, Abigail Adams, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Gloria Steinam, Louisa May Alcott, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sally Ride, Sacajawea, and Oprah. We let down Oprah, y’all.

We let down RBG; RBG, who famously said “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

Mostly, in continuing to allow old, white men to advance in a world that is so 🅒🅞🅛🅞🅢🅢🅐🅛🅛🅨 🅕🅤🅑🅐🅡🅔🅓 that it doesn’t even resemble itself anymore, we let down ourselves.

This cocked-up mess desperately needs a woman to fix it. It needs her to inject new life into old attitudes and mores that have become stagnant. It needs her to find all the misplaced things the men can’t find – values, decency, empathy, patriotism, truth, and fundamental good – that are hiding in plain sight, like the car keys/his glasses/his phone. We’ve been doing that for millenia. We’re doing it now. We’re the “fixers”; the doers, the nurturers, and the no-nonsence pragmatists. We need COMPETENCE. And Elizabeth Warren is the epitomy of that. She is nothing if not credentialed to the max; she is unapologetically exemplary.

Yes, Elizabeth had a plan for it all, and yet here we are, facing a choice between Statler and Waldorf to overcome the old, demented, but eminently dangerous self-tanning nightmare currently inhabiting the Oval Office.

We deserve everything we get.

Bullies have small brains.

That title is true, by the way. Look it up. I’ve got one more story about Childhood: The Teen Years to tell.

I promise you, my life hasn’t been one sad situation after another. I haven’t been victimized from start to finish. There have been beautiful times of love and happiness and camaraderie and acceptance. There are, as a matter of fact. Every, single blessing that has come my way has been set upon my altar of gratitude and acknowledged. Some, I didn’t realize until they were long past, but the point is that I did celebrate and give thanks, after moving obstructions out of the way that made it impossible to see. I am fortunate to have what I have, to know what I know, and to be loved. Luck hasn’t anything to do with it.

So, onto this last story, which has been something I’ve wanted to write about, but has proven difficult. However, with the recent, worldwide furor and concern shown a young Australian boy, Quaden Bayles, who has been relentlessly bullied because he has a form of dwarfism – you can read his story HERE if for some reason you haven’t run across it – I want to share my bullying story in more graphic detail. Do I think it will help stop bullying? Not for a single minute. Am I going to trot out the hope that “if this story moves one person, one parent, to begin teaching their kids that kindness and acceptance is the right way to be, I will have done my job”?

No. Fuck no. I don’t want one person to get the memo. I want thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Everyone.

I wrote about my suicide attempt in the 7th grade in This Blog Post and gave the vaguest of details about the situation that drove me to it. Now, I’m going to elaborate, and change some names not to protect them, but to protect me in the extremely rare instance that those who know who they are and what they did want to call me a liar. It’s doubtful, but in this age of lawsuits and people crying “fake news,” it’s necessary. Okay.

*Deep breath*

7th grade was a nightmare, from beginning to end. Not only was I in a new school, with new structure, and being instructed that “this is how you learn to be responsible,” but my home life was a shitshow of magnificent proportions. My grandmother’s dementia was progressing, and coupling that with her rapier-sharp tongue, it was really ugly when she got going.

My mother was deep inside herself at this point, being dragged down by the daily skirmishes with Gram, as well as coming to terms with the fact that she now had a severely handicapped child, in the form of The Male Sibling Unit, who she must advocate for.

The late 70s were still unchartered waters where advocacy was concerned; children with mental and physical disabilities were relegated to group homes and institutions and sequestered in classrooms away from “normal” children. Mainstreaming was not yet a thing. Not only did she have to come to terms with the finality of this thing, but she was also mourning the breakup of her covert relationship with our father. She couldn’t blame The Male Sibling Unit for our father’s removal of his affection, so she picked me. At the age of 9, I was informed that I had ruined her life. It was a heavy burden to carry after assuming, until The Male Sibling Unit’s diagnosis, that I was loved and cherished. In any event, she needed a target for her anger, hurt, and fear, and I was the closest one available. I made it easy for her with my dogged attempts to change her mind. I remembered a mother who had once loved me. Maybe, if I tried hard enough to make her smile, she would be that mother again. It never worked. But I still had to try.

So, things were really ramping up at home, and our financial situation was, as always, perilous. We lived on Gram’s tiny pension, her Social Security, and public assistance programs: cash and food stamps. The Male Sibling Unit was not receiving SSI just yet; that would come soon. The summer before 7th grade, there was some sort of government crisis or strike, and no one in Pennsylvania was receiving their public assistance. When the checks were held up in August of that year, my mother told me there would be no new school clothes. She simply didn’t have the money for us both. The Male Sibling Unit was beginning a preschool program, so he came first. She did acquiesce one afternoon at a local retail store, and bought me a gauzy peasant blouse and a kelly green vest because they were on clearance and the total for both was only $4.50. I would at least have them for my first day. My jeans from 6th grade were still wearable, but they were unwashed Wranglers with slightly flared legs. The straight leg, designer jeans fashion movement was in full swing at this point; you wore them tight, and you rolled them up (pegged them) right at the ankles. My old jeans could not be rolled up and even if they could, I had grown taller that year. They were decidely high-waters now. There were no new shoes, either. I had a pair of clogs my Gram had bought me the year before at a discount store for $7.99 that still fit.

What a sight I was that first day, in my mauvy blouse and green vest, my high-waters, and my white socks in those cheap clogs. I don’t need to talk too much about how important it is to try and fit in when you begin at “the high school” – this was quasi-high, since we still had “junior high” and not the middle schools of today. This was the big audition for how it was going to go at the big school, when you became a sophomore. You’re with your little class from elementary school, the same 20-30 kids you’ve known since kindergarten, but now, you’re mixed in with a half-dozen other classes of kids your age who don’t know you. You’re not in one classroom, but a whole series of them, moving from room to room. You don’t get much one-on-one from teachers, who simply have too many kids to keep track of.

You’re on your own, and friendships are important. You need others to cling to in those first days and weeks, while you navigate semi-independence. A class system begins immediately, too, and you might find that you were a sort of big fish at your elementary school, but you’re plankton now. You’ll sink or swim, depending on a whole list of variables: how you look, sound, smell, act. Sight is the first thing 12 year-olds used to judge back then. Were there other kids in the same boat as me, or worse? I am certain there were. I can only relate my experience. And it was not great.

I made a few new friends in homeroom. There were some very nice kids who chose to look past my sorry state and to get to know the person I could let them know. My homeroom teacher was, at first sight, a beautiful lady who dressed elegantly, and emoted with a restrained grace. She was a cool cucumber. Her husband had been my art teacher the year before, and he was a lovely man, so funny and kind and talented. He let us listen to music on Fridays and even swore sometimes. I was eager to impart, to my homeroom teacher, that I had loved taking her husband’s art classes. She shut that down immediately with her initial appraisal of me. You know that way some people have of looking you up and down and finding you wanting? This is precisely what she did to me, and continued to do, the entire 3 years of junior high. I mean, I was no prize: dumpy, bad hair, awful skin, bad clothes, and likely reeking of my mom’s stale cigarette smoke and fried food from home. She would only speak to me when she wished to put me down. Other kids loved her, and she favored the kids of privilege. I was relieved to never actually have her for English, which is what she taught.

As an aside? When my daughter was in high school, she had this teacher for a class. She adored her. This teacher adored my daughter. They had dozens of positive interactions on Facebook and after my daughter graduated. My hope is that maybe she evolved and became a nicer person. I know she was young when I had her, and she went on to have her own kids and then go through a divorce from that cool art teacher. Maybe she learned some empathy. That didn’t stop me from wanting to post hateful, childish shit whenever she was praising my beautiful daughter, and showering her with compliments. “Remember me? You couldn’t stand me from 1979 to 1982. You treated me like garbage. You belittled and dismissed me and I almost died because of it. You were a contributing factor. As an educator, you failed me. Cunt.

I never spoke up, and now she’s retired, and only occasionally shows up in some local social media. I still dislike her. And so, I dismiss her from having any importance, the same way she did me. When a person shows you who they are the first time, believe them.

The details of the events leading to my suicide attempt in early May of 1980 are chronicled in the blog I directed you to. The relentless bullying, over months, not days, had taken their toll.

One classmate was especially cruel. I became his target early in the school year. He was a little guy who looked like a cherub until he opened his mouth, and then it was all loud joking and sarcasm and outrageous behavior. He had a compadre who was as diminutive and blonde as he was, and who had the same first name. They usually got into trouble together and we referred to them as “the two Toms” (name has been changed) and they did everything together – including harass me.

“EWWWW, you are so fucking ugly. Why are you so ugly?” Tom would say to me on occasions, like lunchtime, when I couldn’t escape and we ended up at the same assigned table. He would then detail and amplify the ways in which I was so physically abhorrent for the whole group. His wit was sharp and his words were vicious. The other Tom would agree and snicker. Sometimes, other girls would defend me and tell him to stop, but usually, they just giggled while I sat there, red-faced and ashamed. “Why is your face like that? If you were my kid, I’d have put you out of your misery.”

Shortly before things completely imploded and I went off the deep end, he leveled me. “I don’t know why you don’t just kill yourself. Please, just do it and make the world a better place.”

After committing the capital offense of making a joke at the expense of the most popular girl in 7th grade, life became an exercise in futility. Every day that I went to school that late Winter and early Spring, I was either ignored or taunted. If I asked a question, my classmates would say things like “Don’t fucking talk to me, you ugly loser” or tell me to go away. The couple of so-called friends I did have were embarassed to be seen with me because then they’d be taunted, too, and it was just so important to fit in and be accepted. When a ship is going down, you get as far away from it as you can. The teachers didn’t intervene; were they even aware that my life was being torn limb from limb? I doubt it. I never confided in any adult, not even the one teacher who was kind to me, Mrs. D. The adults at home, who were supposed to love and protect me, did not. Why would I think that strangers would extend that kindness? I was alone. And being alone was unbearably painful. I have never felt that exact pain with quite the same intensity since, although I have struggled with suicidal thoughts all my life.

I got through it, after that one, mammoth act that robbed me of so much. I wanted the hate to cease. I felt that I could not exist in a world where there was not a single person who saw any worth in me. All of the adults in my life utterly failed me; the first adult who saw me was that ER doctor who looked at my lab results and asked me, quietly but with a kind urgency, “Sweetheart, what did you take?” and who afterward told my mother that her little girl needed help, for whatever reason.

After I had recuperated physically, I began seeing a therapist who drew out all those broken pieces inside me and fit them all together, making a scarred, but whole person out of me again. This therapist taught me how to cope, and what to do, and how to avoid letting those kids get to me. She then met with my mother, and then my grandmother, along with an evaluating psychiatrist, who spoke some very harsh, difficult truths after he evaluated us all. I was released from any responsibility for the way things were, because I was an innocent. He told my mother to pull her personal shit together and to quit taking out the choices she had made, on her own, on everyone else: especially me. And he advised her to “get that crazy woman out of your house, for the good of everyone”- my grandmother. It took her a year, but she did.

A part of me did die that day. The part that cared about what those kids thought was laid to rest. The part of me that survived was filled with hatred for them all, and so that part of me was placed into a medically-induced coma for a time. It was the part of me that could believe that people were capable of being kind and good. I worked hard, quietly and diligently, to fit in, but under my own terms. Every penny I earned babysitting and through gifts was used for my appearance; clothes, shoes, toiletries and makeup, hair. My mother never bought me another article of clothing for school even when she could have. I “looked” the part at last, but inside, I was seething. The ones who hurt me the most? I built brick walls around them and they ceased to exist. That talent I have has served me well throughout life.

A couple of years ago, I ran into “Tom” at a restaurant. He had moved away after graduation and along the way, changed his name. He lived a tumultuous life in California, was an alcoholic and an addict, and had also come out as a gay man. Through a school acquaintance, I had learned that he had lived a nomadic lifestyle, burning bridges as he went along. I had rarely thought of him and, when I did, felt nothing. I was therefore not prepared to see him when he introduced himself to the husband and I as our server. His burned bridges had brought him back home. He recognized me immediately and began effusively gushing and fawning over me. I was polite and I think, kind, but the husband could feel an undercurrent of something as he left our table. I told him, tersely and calmy, feeling a bit numb. We ate, left him our customary 20% tip, and departed. Only then did I allow myself some anger.

One day, my son mentioned him, because he rode the same bus to work as my son did to campus. They struck up a conversation, because this guy is a chatterbox and as ebullient as anything. He had mentioned to my son that we had gone to school together. I told my son how that had gone. My son went from thinking it was a cool happenstance to wanting to pummel him into the pavement the next time he saw him. I told him it didn’t matter. I could see this guy was as much a trainwreck as I had been told he was before he came back home, and I knew he’d be burning his Bradford bridges eventually. It took him a couple of years, but he managed to alienate everyone who was kind to him and now he’s somewhere down South, stacking the blocks again so he can knock them down. I wish him, well……nothing. I wish him karma, and that he has the kind of life he deserves.

Bullying is just the worst, don’t you agree? Haven’t we all been bullied by someone in our lives? That my experience included many someones doesn’t make my story any more or less poignant than someone else’s. How do we stop this kind of unacceptable behavior that causes little boys, like Quaden Bayles, to want a knife to stab himself? That causes 13 year-old girls, like I was, to ingest a massive cocktail of pills? The answer is that I don’t know. What I do know is that we can’t stop trying to find that answer. And kindness, people. For fucking fuck’s sake……kindness.

For more information about bullying and what you can do, you can visit this website .

This was my bullying story. It feels good to see it in print. Now, it can fuck off. I give it wings to fly away. Bye bitch.

Where there is negative energy, you must include positive.

Since I promised that I’d be more upbeat the next time I blogged, I figured I’d show you what I was up to during my little hiatus from this place.

I have a very large family, and Christmas can be a disaster, both logistically and financially. We are inundated with the most ridiculous amounts of commercialism and insistent prodding from before Halloween to charge ourselves into tremendous debt or put a second mortgage on our homes to afford the gifts of iPhones, iPads, gaming systems, and cars (who the fuck can actually afford to buy a new car for their loved one for fucking Christmas?!? The alleged-Lord traveled by donkey, muh’effers.)

I wasn’t having it.

Well, I couldn’t do it, so that’s why I wasn’t having it. I have been experiencing a sort of renaissance of artistic endeavors for the last year, and so I decided to put that creativity to work. I’m still from that school of thought who truly believes a handmade gift is much more dear than any store-bought item. Yes, I buy gifts, but I would rather receive heartfelt, from one’s own hands gifts than some impersonal gift we’ve become conditioned to buy – because stores package them in festive but cheap holiday wrapping – and we have so little time and money with which to work with.

I had none of the money, but loads of the time. I warned everyone ahead of time, too. “Homespun Christmas, y’all,” I said, and hoped they would understand.

We had recently cut down some small trees on our property line. I could see the raw material for my art taking shape, and so the husband got out the table saw and cut me hundreds upon hundreds of soft maple, wooden discs. I had so many ideas!

And I got to work. Here are some of my creations: handpainted ornaments, crocheted gift sets, and cookies. Also, my new interest, amigurimi, will prove to be a great idea for next year. I hope you enjoy.

Snowflakes and trees!
Family sets of ornaments
More family ornaments
Both wooden and clay-sculpted ornaments
My Ghost-inspired Year Zero snowmen wooden paintings, as well as on small canvas
Crocheted gift sets, homemade Baby Yoda cutouts, Slovakian Maknovík, and kolachy
Wooden disc wreath

As you can see, I was busy. Now, check out these Amigurumi I have been making! I’m not a crochet expert, but I have discovered that I can learn much easier with a calmer life and heart. Every, single one is without a pattern; I thank Satan for Pinterest, which gives me visual ideas. I then modify what catches my interest and make it uniquely my own creation. I am eternally grateful for my artist’s “eye”, because if my brain can conjure it, and I can see it, I can do it. With each one I make, I get better, and with each creation, I fall more in love with the art.

Clockwise: donkey, Rodrigo and Rosita llamas, Baby Yoda, and Dash the cat

I also made a Baby Yoda set for my new grandson, who’s basically due any day now. His mama wants to do a photo shoot:

Finally, there’s Goose, my soul kitty. I have many kitties, each deserving of their own blog, but Goose is special. We’ve been in love with each other since he was about 3 weeks old and we locked eyes when I picked him up out of the nursery where his mama, Quinnie, was caring for him and his sister one day. We’ve been inseparable since. I think we function as service creatures to each other; I am his human, and he is my furbaby. He’s very small for his age, and has always been petite. His mother was the same, not reaching her full, average size until she was 2, and never coming into heat until she was 5 (hence Goose and Azriel).

He used to follow me around constantly, bawling his head off. I would hold him and he’d be fine, and sometimes, his anxiety would be so extreme that I would swaddle him just like a human baby. It calmed him, but I simply couldn’t walk around, holding him all day. One afternoon, the husband was observing me try to placate Goose, crooning and cuddling him, and suggested, “Maybe we need to buy him a sweater.” Hmmmm? I thought about how thundershirts calm skittish dogs when there are storms or fireworks. It was still very warm – balmy, actually – and the A/C was still on! Still, a lightbulb went off over my head. “Maybe,” I allowed, “he’s cold.”

The next time we went to Walmart, I looked at the dog sweaters. The smallest size – XXS – seemed about right. There were only 2 in this size. I picked out a maroon, argyle print, choosing it over one with a teddy bear on it – because Goosie might have been tiny, but he was all man – and we put it on him when we got home. He looked so funny, walking around in a sweater when it was still 85° outside, but it worked. He didn’t fight or try to take them off; he would very dociley lift his paws for me to guide into the leg holes. He’s turned into a more independent young man, and he knows they go on at dinnertime and come off at breakfast when it’s very cold. Winter has been uncharacteristically mild this year, so often, he sleeps in front of the wall heater, but on those single-digit nights, a sweater goes on. He’s still my constant companion, but a much happier one. He’s become very popular on social media, and has his own Instagram. You can find him at @goosejoseph!

Anyway, buying sweaters was fun, but costly. I began making him some. He now has 10 sweaters and even “modeled” the parts of Baby Yoda because friends begged me to do it. Here’s my guy, being fabulous:

Rrrrriiiccccoooo. Suave.

I adore his face. He has more followers than me!

I promise that I am working on this terribly bad attitude I’ve had lately. Until then, I’ll crochet, and hold my Goose, and let my mind wander into avenues of artistic ideas. It’s my therapy, and it works. We all have it within us to fight the demons. And if you’re feeling weak, reach out. I’m here.

Knowing your shit when you know you’re shit

I’ve been Xanax-free for nearly a year now. That little pill saved me from the reality of my severe anxiety disorder. “Disorder” is exactly what it is, because it throws your mind, and in turn, your life into a chaos that tumbles as you stumble, trying to find walls to steady you while the ground turns to uneven, jagged gravel that makes the walking as perilous as the lack of balance. There is no reasoning with it; it shows up at the times you’d expect, and then sets upon you when you’re just plodding along, thinking you’re okay.

In the past, I had that small, inconspicuous pill that I could simply swallow dry. I would then wait for the calm to slow my heartbeat as it galloped along those corridors of my entire being, its cries of “CODE RED! CODE RED!” clanging loudly in my brain as its echoes bounced dully against the inside of my skull; a metal pinball ricocheting from surface to surface. My limbs would feel it first: that chemical numbness adding itself, slowly mixing through the streams and creeks and small tributaries of my body’s venous map, stilling the tremors and winding down the elastic whir-hum of electricity coursing throughout me. Then, I would listen to the crowd in my head slowly recede as Anger, Excitement, Fright, Urgency, Bombast, and Peril ceased their cries, slowly backing into their abodes, shutting their doors. My heart would clip-clop back to its point of origin, putting away the megaphone and returning to safe mode. I would feel less like I was free-falling from a high mountain top into an abyss. The fatal crash onto and, indeed, into the ground below never came. It was like in cartoons: you’re falling, falling, waiting for everything to go black as your body liquefies at the point of impact, but some force stops you a foot from the ground. Silly image, but as truthful a description as anything I can come up with. That feeling of freefall was with me so much, it was a mood.

If this scenario happened only in times of severe stress or worry, it might have been, well – normal is the word that comes to mind. We all experience it. For me, however, it had become such a part of my life that I assumed its constant interference was normal. It was when my doctor formally diagnosed my depression that I became aware that the sludge of my sadness was constantly being cut through by these surges of fight-or-flight. I used to be able to do one or both, but now, the sludge of depression actively held me down and forced me to endure. I would be frozen, cowering in fear, wondering which was going to kill me first.

It is an inexplicable state of being, when you’re so frightened but you also don’t care because at least everything will cease and the silence would be so fucking welcome.

My doctor recognized the electric current of panic humming underneath my surface at an appointment (I think she could hear it) and asked me a series of questions. I was afraid even as I answered them and then realized when am I NOT afraid? I accepted the prescription for the little pill; it was a tiny dose and I figured it probably wouldn’t help, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.

That it actually helped was a revelation. At first, I accepted its effective blanket of calm like person who has been lost in the wilderness for weeks accepts safety: quietly, graciously, emotionally. It was so comforting to know that help was on its way once I swallowed that pill, welcoming the slight bitterness on my tongue because it signaled relief. Now, with the combination of the daily pill and these “one every 8 hours as needed” pills, I felt strong enough to manage. It provided clarity, too. Problems were just obstacles to remove from my path, however difficult or heavy or burdensome. Before, I simply deployed countermeasures in the form of irrational and mostly wrong choices, and things that might temporarily suspend the problems, but never fix them; this would also invariably create new problems. You know that saying about the hole in your path and falling in, every time? You haven’t? Here:

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

This was me, constantly. Until Xanax. And then it wasn’t.

For a long, long time, I stuck to the directions on the pill bottle. I was mindful of addiction and how it is woven into my DNA. I can’t make any excuses, and I am done with lying about what a problem it has been. I simply love substances that make me feel floaty, satiated, good. I love them in plentitude, and I have no “Off” button. I love substances that remove inhibitions, uncertainty, my absolute belief that I am shit, and of course, pain that has plagued me all my life, in different forms. The booze, the painkillers.

And then, Xanax.

Eventually, that little pill became less effective, and I was afraid to ask my doctor for a higher dose. A higher dose meant that I wasn’t managing my life. I wasn’t in control. While I have never been one to refuse to admit when I am wrong, I am also not one to say that I am weak. Or that I need help. It began innocently enough; I’d take a pill-and-a-half. Then, it was 2. Then, it was 2, twice a day. Soon enough, it was 2, then 2, then 1. Sometimes 2 more, on bad nights when I was alone with only self-doubt and I am shit as companions. When I began running out before the month was over, I began to ration it. I’d manage whole days with only one, because the reward was a day of 5 and the sweet bliss of IDGAF. I told myself this was only temporary, because in all aspects of my life, I was attempting to Be Happy and someday, I would be, and when that day came, I could throw those pills away. Then I am shit would tap my shoulder, and I’d simply acquiesce and continue.

When my words left, and whole blocks of memory went with them, I was momentarily confused. What was happening? Was this just the effects of age? When I began to need to consult Google for “that word that means…” whatever, I began to be scared. I have this incredibly large bank of useless knowledge at my disposal, and always have. The perks of being an outcast – a wallflowerish oddball who is also pretty intelligent – are that you spend all that alone time reading a lot, and watching television a lot. You digest things. And as a creative, I get bored easily, and therefore, my interests are wide-ranging and varied. I like to know everything about something that fascinates me, and then I bank that knowledge when I move onto the next interest. (Currently, it’s the art of Amigurimi.) That I am a master of nothing except knowing that I am shit is not distressing to me.

So, not being able to use that large bank of useless crap was baffling. Not recalling large chunks of the past was terrifying. I began to research things, quietly, without voicing those fears to anyone, because fear is still a weakness and I still operate under the assumption that if I show weakness, everyone I love will retreat. It isn’t that I don’t trust them; it’s that I think they might be kidding themselves if they think that I am in any way adequate and deserving. Old habits die hard. And sometimes they don’t die at all.

There are always possible side effects that accompany taking medications. Sometimes, the side effects are worse than the ailment.

With Xanax, it’s memories, and words. Not whole speech, just words. Names. Stay on Xanax too long – or any benzodiazepine – and you risk losing those abilities forever. Sometimes, even relatively short-term use can permanently remove those abilities.

Permanent. That word was incredibly terrifying, horrifying, traumatic – in short, all the words for “OH MY FUCKING GOD, THIS IS SCARY.” I just didn’t have them right then. I am a wordsmith, a writer. I weave them in such a way as to enchant and delight, to shock and dismay, to describe and to move, and to elicit a response from those who read my work. To not have the tools with which to do the one thing I know that I am not shit at was enough for me to come to a sudden fork in my journey. I could choose to follow the fuzzy comfort of Xanax and the eventuality of permanent brain fog, with brief stops at Addiction and Abuse; or I could rip the bandaid off, expose my wound to the sun, and hope that Vitamin D would heal me, with the help of music and therapeutic art. If I chose that road, I might end up at the destination of having lost some of my words permanently – or not. That road was mysterious and fraught with inevitable worry. Since I am an Atheist, I could not “let go and let God,” so it would require believing in myself. I’m really not good at that.

Alas, I persisted. I titrated off the Xanax and eventually, there were no more.

I got my words back. I think. I am able to pull up a word when required without Google. That vague fog is gone. Some memories are what I lost. I call it “mid-term memory” because short-term is fine and I can still remember being a toddler. I’ve lost whole spans of time and if I were able to weep, I would.

The nightmares are back. The panic attacks at odd times are returned, but until lately, I was able to fight them. I spend incredibly long periods of time in solitude, both due to not wishing to be around or to inflict myself on people, and my eye issue/poor sight, which requires care. The less I interact with people in person, the harder it gets to tolerate them. I’m too much, usually, awkward and either too loud or too soft. I am the eternal dorknerd I always have been, but with a catch: I’m getting cranky with maturity. My fear is that someday, it will be just me, with a mess of white hair, no teeth, voluminous, baggy clothes, cradling my cats, and shouting “GET THE FUCK AWAY” at passersby. Everyone I love will be gone, driven away by my insufferable me-ness. Because remember: I am shit. Only then, I will be old shit, and no one has to tell me how quickly society discards the elderly. I’ve seen it.

I feel like I must somehow fix this, but my courage in pill form is gone, now. I recognize that this blog entry is morose as fuck and definitely not the first blog of 2020 that I wished to vault out into the webiverse, but there it is. In choosing to put it out there, I’m hoping that some real courage in the form of solutions will appear to me in a burst of clarity. You all know that I’m a walking shitshow, so in a few days, when I revisit this, maybe I’ll read it and declare “Fuck this shit” and plod a plan of attack.

Right now, though, I’m feeling like an impostor again. Because no, I do not have Zen, or clarity, or a sense of well-being. I’m one to insist, “Everything’s going to be ok.”

What if it’s not?