The f***ing struggle is real.

I’m reinventing myself yet again.

No, I’m not changing the very core being that exists within. I’ve worked long and hard at perfecting her, and while she may never be everyone’s cup of tea, she is genuine and honest and capable and strong. She kicks ass and takes no prisoners when she gets involved in something. She’s street-smart, book-smart, and life-smart. She’s one awesome bitch. She’s an ever-evolving work in progress, and she will never, ever be “finished” until she is cold and dead and laying on a slab in a morgue, awaiting the flames of the crematorium oven. Even then, she will flicker and flare in the afterburner of electricity that some call ghosts and that I call after-energy. Nah, I am not reinventing her. I’ve grown to like her a little bit.

This time, I am reinventing what it is that I do for a living. Since the medical issues are still prescient, I have to adjust and modify. I’m fluent in more than a few vocations, but a master of none of them. This time, I am taking those that I know are marketable and that I possess some talent for and I am throwing them all together. I have taken on a job as an independent contractor for a Remote Call Center company. You bring the equipment and the skills and they place you with a client who needs you. You make your own hours and deduct your own taxes. You follow the company’s guidelines and rules and you get to operate from your home. It’s freelance work, if you will. I am being paid pretty well, and the best thing about it is that I don’t even have to leave my house. I can “show up” in my pajamas if I want, and my looks don’t matter at all. For a tatted, pierced, crazy-ass hairstyle person with a penchant for black, gothic clothing and band t-shirts and who also deplores most of the human race and craves solitude, this is a fucking dream job. It actually takes a lot of self-discipline to commit to something like this. The tendency to procrastinate and lay in one’s bed, bemoaning the unfairness of having to get up? You can’t do that if you’ve contracted yourself to show up and log in from your home office to provide services for callers. Not if you want to make a paycheck. So, you can be a slug, but only a partial slug. A slugling, if you will.

 

female-telemarketer-headsets-25305878This is a stock photo of me if I were 20 years younger and more professional-looking.

 

Now, I can follow rules pretty well. I don’t tend to go rogue unless it’s really justified and necessary. We don’t have to follow a script; we are simply expected to speak in a professional manner and to handle ourselves in the way in which our company can be proud. I can do this, but there’s one aspect that worries me. It worries me whenever I work, actually. It worries me whenever I am in an unfamiliar or “proper” setting or circumstance.

It’s my fucking potty mouth. It’s as bright as the entire color spectrum. It’s a plumage of decorous and audacious feathers of every brilliantly-decked bird on the planet, including the extinct ones. It’s outrageous as an 80s-inspired Halloween costume. It is brash, bold, sarcastic, murderous, and rancorous in a way that I don’t think I ever envisioned it becoming when I was but a 5 year-old child being taught Pig Latin curse words by the big kids in my neighborhood.

Me: Mommy, what’s uckfay ouyay mean?

My Mom: I don’t know. Where did you hear that?

Me: Just the kids at the playground.

My Mom: Hmmm, well, we live in an Italian neighborhood. Maybe it’s Italian. I’ll call your Aunt Rose. Her parents are “off the boat” from Italy. (Picks up the phone and dials) Hi Rose. Your goddaughter has learned some new words and I think they’re Italian. Here, Lori. Tell them to Aunt Rose.

Me: Hi Aunt Rose. What’s Uckfay ouyay mean?

Aunt Rose: Well…..I don’t know what that is, but it’s not Italian. Maybe it’s German? Or Swedish? There’s lots of Swedes around here.

I swear like a trucker who’s been to prison and made someone his bitch. I swear like a sailor who’s been out to sea for 14 long months. I swear like a pirate who’s out to pillage and plunder and who drinks all the rum and then bemoans its absence. I swear so much that I think it probably sounds bizarre to hear me put on my professional voice and actually manage a customer or another human being with that Polly Purebread personality. I don’t apologize for it, never have, and never will. My mouth is legendary and lascivious and blunt, and I am well-known to have come up with a few curse words that no one else has ever heard of.  I will likely swear on my deathbed, driving out the Padre who comes to administer the last rites. (Note to my children: Nix the Last Rites. I will not fucking need them where I’m going, which is Nowhere. And if I’m wrong and it isn’t Nowhere, don’t worry. I’ll go where I belong. I’ve earned it.)

Usually, after I become used to a workplace, I learn when I can curse, where, and who I can curse around. Swearing isn’t as verboten as it used to be. I had a coworker who refused to use the F word (but everything else was fair game) because she claimed it showed “a lack of intelligence on the part of the the person using it”. I call bullshit. Moreover, I call fucking bullshit. What other word is more descriptive, more elegant, more colorful, than the word FUCK? It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It’s an adjective. It’s simply fucking brilliant, fuck is, and it cannot be fucking denied. There is no fucking substitute for fuck. It just fucking rules. Anyway, I am pretty good at getting the lay of the land and being professional.

This job, though, is another kettle of fish. Since I am in my home, the rules are somewhat lax, shall we say? Hell, if my cats could talk, they’d be the sweariest cats you ever met. I’m amazed their meows don’t sound like fuck, shit, and damn (and every other word George Carlin said you can’t say on TV. He would be both gratified and upset with the colorful language you get to hear on TV nowadays. He’d have to redo that list and change his bit.) at mealtime. My coworkers and I connect to each other via Skype and some other inner-office chats. We also have email. There are quite a few who run neck-and-neck with me in the cursing department, but the thing is, I have to take them at their word. Because we are prohibited from cursing in our chats and personal emails between each other. We can say “frick” and all the other white bread words, like crap, darn, flippin’, freaking, and whatnot. Outright swearing, though? It’s off the table.

fuck

In short, I’m in uncharted fucking territory here. I have to tightly wind my shit together and be professional even when on Skype, so it’s going to be a whole lot of reigning myself in, especially when I get the inevitable douchebag tool customer who uses up my last fucking nerve. Where do I go to piss and moan? My cats? They’ve heard it all, trust me.

I think I can pull this off. It’s going to be hard. I’ve often joked with the husband about installing a speed bag in the house so that I can take out my aggression on it. I’m thinking that I will ask for one for Christmas this year. He can install it in my office, and I will not only refine my ability to act and speak in a more professional manner, but I will develop some serious fucking guns in the process.

speed

Wish me luck.

A Momorial, or let’s not do this sad stuff, okay?

My mother died five years ago. This is the anniversary date. You know, I don’t think we should group death into the anniversary category. There should be a separate category, like “endiversary” or “passing day” or “A Fucking Sad Event Occurred Day”.

I’m going to go with endiversary, because I made it up and I like it.

A few days before the endiversary, I start to feel things. Little twinges of emotion, shortness of temper, and the desire to hide myself away. Now, I suppose those in my immediate realm will exclaim, “Wait! You’re like that ALL THE TIME!” but they’re just being assholes so ignore them. Things are somehow magnified in their intensity, and I am not as up to to coping with things as I normally am. Truth be told, I am so caught up in the effort to be stoic that I am likely to crumble under the weight of such a feat.

In the five years that have followed since her death, I have gone through every conceivable stage of grief that could be possible. Hell, I think I may have discovered some new ones. I really think that I cried so many tears in just the week after that this is why I have no tears now. I simply used up my available bank of leaky, salty, eye waters and when the well went dry, I was SOL.

After the tears came the love, profound and crushing in its reality. During that phase, no one could have loved their mother more than I did. I saw only the good, the loving ways, the things she did that were phenomenal, and, in doing so, I crafted a halo to perch atop her head. It was made of silver and emeralds because those were her favorite precious metals and jewels and it was a beacon to all in Heaven that I was honoring my mother. I was beatifying her.

Of course, the halo came crashing down to earth when the next phase of grief hit me. It fell and it hit the ground and it shattered into a million little pieces, and it was not at all repairable. Her post-mortem fuck-you came in the form of an estate utterly lacking in preparedness or the funds to see things to their conclusion. In the end, she took the phrase, “You can’t take it with you” so seriously that she decided that it really meant “You can’t take it with you and you should also leave the bill for someone else to pay because what the fuck do you care? You’re dead.” I was so angry at her for many months following this discovery. Just as her admission, shortly before she died, that I had never been able to please her and that it wasn’t entirely fair….this seemed to be another piece of proof that she really had regretted having me all those years ago.

What do you call a stage like that? To this day, I still don’t know.

Eventually, I struck a sort of happy medium. It was a peaceful cohabitation of love and hate, which I suppose characterized our relationship from beginning to end. I had to give up the ghost, so to speak, and quit providing safe harbor to the demons that terrorized and taunted me, their teeth gnashing as they delighted in tearing me apart from within the confines of my troubled mind. I suppose she had her own demons to fight, too. I suppose she took them with her, silencing them forever. I suppose that she finally found her own peace. But I find that time has a way of wearing down the anger into just a slight twinge. Now, there is really only love.

It has been five years, and so much has happened that she missed. Four new great-grandchildren have been born. The thing about my mom? She adored her grandchildren. She delighted in them and then delighted in their children. We did see eye to eye about the fact that my kids are blessings.

The Male Sibling Unit has really matured and blossomed in ways that would make her proud.

And her granddaughter married the best guy in the world. I do not tell my daughter this, but I see the best parts of my mom in her. Her creativeness, her earnestness about everything she does, the gentle way she has with children. Sometimes, her eyes will light up and she will pop off, make a smart comment; and it’s my mom, as I remember her when I was a little girl. I see the mother who made me something out of nothing; a cardboard box was designed and drawn on and parts were cut and pasted and my 3 year-old self had a play car to sit in and “drive”. Play-dough was made from scratch. Paper dolls were drawn and cut out for me to dress. Every holiday was an event and every day, she found ways to engage me in learning, creating, and being myself. She might not recognize these qualities in her granddaughter as being reflections of her, but I do.

I wore a skirt with a green flower print to the wedding. I had planned on wearing a gorgeous dress I bought months ago, but I the end, I decided that my mother needed to be present in some way. She would have been so immensely proud and that she missed it makes me so genuinely sad that it makes the dull ache of missing her pale by comparison. So I wore green – her favorite color – and I imagined her sitting on the bench next to me, clutching a wad of tissues and smiling beatifically as she watched her youngest grandchild become a wife. If I believed in God, I could wax poetic about how she was “smiling down” from Heaven, but I don’t believe that. Instead, I believe her presence was felt in the whisper of winds amongst the trees and the way the sun was shining upon a bride so beautiful, it took our breath away. She was there.

She was there.

Five years is a long time to be a motherless child. I think about her in some way every single day. Her voice is still fresh in my memory. I don’t feel the need to please her anymore, nor do I have the added stress of a religious faith that indoctrinates Heaven and Hell and cows us into believing “they can see us” after death. I felt her for a long time after she died, and I think that takes time to fade away, like fog in the morning on a warm, sunny, Autumn day. She’s here, yes.

In the whispering of winds in the trees.

NO. This is NOT NORMAL.

Everyone is going kamikaze apeshit over the Sean Spicer appearance on the Emmys last night.

Seriously? The things that have been going on in this country and around the world, and you’re outraged at a joke? Would it have been “funnier” had Melissa McCarthy delivered it? Less “outrageous”? Less galling for you to digest?

Spicer is just another diversion. While we’re freaking out about his audacity to make a joke about crowd size, there are really shady things going on. But like that dog in the movie UP, someone just yelled “SQUIRREL” and there we go again, down another rabbit hole. Or squirrel. Except that I dont think squirrels live in holes. Okay, holes in trees, but not in the grou….wait. Sorry. I strayed off-subject.

(See what I did there?)

Like it or not, the guy did his job. Have you ever worked somewhere and had to play by the company’s rules because you NEEDED your job and were required to at least look like a team player until you could figure out a way to GTFO? I know that I have. I believe that I have shared those experiences right here from time to time. I know a lot of people who have. Please, spare me your platitudes about self-respect and honesty. The guy was working in politics, which, as far as I know, ranks up there with lawyers and used car salesmen (and televangelism) as being the most disingenuous, cutthroat, facetious profession in the world. He did his job; at times, very badly. But he did his job as well as anyone who has taken one despite knowing, in the pit of their stomach, that it was a bad idea, could do. He was rewarded for it by being ousted for another guy who lasted a week. For a guy who made the phrase “sucking my own cock” a part of the dinner conversation and the water cooler talk and the mainstream news media. That was HIS lesson to learn, not ours.

Perhaps it should have been our lesson.

The point is, we are normalizing this crap with every passing day. When school shootings were happening with increasing frequency, I worried out loud that we would stop being as horrified with every occurrence . I worried in the same way about terrorism. How many of us have watched the news, read it, felt pangs of sadness and been momentarily aghast at the atrocities man commits against man – and then simply gone about our day?

*Raises hand*

I’m not proud to admit it. It speaks more to my growing insulation against an outrageous and despicable world than I care to face. That I can read about someone walking into a school and shooting the place up, or driving down a crowded city street and mowing people down, and then go make myself a sandwich? In a less caustic and embittered world, who does that? Who does that?

I do. You do. We do.

We have to stop insulating ourselves. I know, it’s probably a form of self-preservation. We don our armor because we need to get through the day and thinking about the fact that this world is at a level of batshit fucking crazy that we’ve never experienced before is simply too hard to digest. The problem is, by waiving it aside; by shrugging our shoulders; by exclaiming “I can’t believe this shit!” and then walking blithely away, we are digesting it. Maybe we feel like we’re wrongfully incarcerated inmates and the food in front of us is shitty, but it’s all we got – but it’s also not. Because we are not inmates.

Neither, in the end, was Sean Spicer. The truth of his tale is yet to be told, but I think that we’re being fed little appetizers in the form of his recent appearances, and the whole meal is yet to come. We can argue that he lacked principles and that any self-respecting person would have never taken the job of Press Secretary for such a corrupt President in the first place, but the fact is, others have in the past. And others will in the future. Again: his lesson.

We have to shed the insulation and feel all the feels, so to speak. The only way to change a situation is to first change how we react to it, and then to act. How do we do that?

I don’t fucking know.

Look, I’m as frustrated and clueless as you are. I’m agitated, stressed, and I suspect that my new crop of stomach ulcers can be blamed equally on the fact that I am angry every single day at the state of the union. I’m as guilty of normalizing crazy and inviting it into my living room for an evening of charades as anyone else. I don’t have answers that I can articulate. What I have is action. My words, in print and voice, are action. My participation in civilized activism is action. My vote is action. My rejection of “normalizing” this shitshow is action. It’s the best that I have right now. I think that, if we all could come together as a collective and simply agree that none of this is normal, we might begin to dissolve the contrails overhead that have made things so overcast. Once we are out in the light, then maybe we’ll be able to see the path in front of us. All I know is that sitting complacent in our seats and muttering a mantra of “Mueller will make it better” isn’t going to work. While we are looking at the shiny objects in front of us, the dark magic is happening.

We need to get to work. I am not okay with leaving this dumpster fire for my grandkids to put out. That Sean Spicer lacks any modicum of self-respect is not my fight. I’m more concerned about the fact that so many others think it should be. And so should you.

Don’t get distracted.

Things don’t go as planned for a reason, and it’s not because of God.

Crossroads: they’re part of life.

We all experience them at different points in time. They are the stuff of coming-of-age, meeting our destinies, and in many instances, confronting truths. I suppose that I could make an argument for life itself being one big crossroad event, but I’m not feeling that philosophical today.

Crossroads can be a brutal, bucket of suck. I have reached one such crossroad, and let me tell you this: any crossroad that involves being brutally honest with yourself about who you are is never going to be a fun-filled retrospective of memories. When you have to face certain realities and confront a less than optimistic truth, it is easy to bog yourself down in self-pity and sadness. You want to wallow. You should wallow. But not for long. No one wants to hear that, see that, accept that; not from themselves, and certainly not from others. We are an increasingly insensitive, isolated, narcissistic species and loads of us absolutely abhor the feeling of responsibility for someone else’s sadness. By responsibility, I don’t mean that we created it, but that we feel the need to “fix” it. We tell ourselves we’re just too busy, we have too many of our own concerns. We may even be so inclined as to actually be concerned and sad for them. We will attempt to quickly divert them with phrases and pithy responses. We pay lip service to their misery; “Cheer up! It’ll be fine.” With that in mind, you must choose your method of wallowing carefully, so as not to offend any of the dozens of easily-offended people in your immediate realm.

While my initial reaction to those who seem personally affronted by my wallowing is to say “Fuck all y’all” I know better than to do that. It is better to choose which direction you take without the bitter resentment at others’ indifference to your personal pain. Irrationality can color a situation in an unrealistic way. In my stubborn way, I am always tempted to insist, “I can do this on my own.” The truth, though? I shouldn’t.

I am a writer. Always have been, always will be. It doesn’t pay the bills, though, and hasn’t been a possibility due to other life events taking up my brain and my time. I began my adulthood working toward a career in writing but was quickly sidetracked. I faced a crossroads: continue with my education or drop out to follow a man and raise his children. I can never, ever say that I chose wrong.

Throughout that journey down that road, I often pondered returning to that life of study, if only part-time. I wanted to be something, someone. I was convinced, though, that writing wasn’t going to put food on the table and help our situation. My biggest influence in that life was my husband, and he treated my desire to write as if it was just a childish indulgence. Better to focus on something else I had always been interested in: nursing. I would get catalogs from the local university and plot my course. Invariably, though, something in life would force me to focus elsewhere. A few job losses (his), a natural disaster (flood), and the reality of raising 5 kids becoming more and more expensive. There will be time later, I would silently tell myself. You’re still young.

Later, when the children were getting older and the next crossroads loomed ahead, I made another choice: to love someone else. Thoughts of nursing school would surface, bobbing quietly in my stream of consciousness, and then eventually disappear. Life was so busy. Life demanded that I put out fires constantly. I began to write again, blogs, poetry, little story ideas. I was good. I knew it. Friends, strangers, family told me so. This was still possible.

The nursing thing, though? It was always there. I have always taken care of others in some way, from childhood to now. It’s been not so much a calling as it is a part of who I am at my core. I’m a nurturer, an empath, and apparently amongst the 1% of personality types classified as an

INFJ

INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.

How wonderful for me, right? It’s actually a pain in the ass to be this way and to be depressed. It’s probably why.

Be that as it may, nurture is what I do. Putting out fires is what I do. Combine the two, and you get a nurse. And it pays well, too.

The idea was this: go into nursing. Write in my spare time. Certain events coincided in such a way that it suddenly became possible. At 50, I was going to work in a subordinate nursing position and go to school. I was overjoyed. This, I told myself, was finally The Right Time.

Until it wasn’t.

No pity party here. I am 50. I have tried to be healthy, but my body has always had other ideas. The neck birth defect, the spleen compromise at 16, my heart deciding that it wanted to be a rock star and beat to its own, eventually dangerous rhythmn. The depression. The fucking depression!!!!

And now, this eye condition. We don’t know what it really is or how it began or if it will eventually be cured. We don’t know anything, really, except that I don’t have tears. None. I have tried everything, even watching The Notebook. On the one occasion that I cried because I had no tears, I ended up crying harder because I had no tears. (Cue Alanis.) My corneas are damaged. I can’t even get new glasses because my eyesight has degraded to a point where a new prescription is not possible. I am in pain. Discomfort. And I need to put drops into my eyes at an hourly rate. Sometimes more, if the sun and moving air get to them. I exist most days in the dimness of subdued lighting, venturing out only to do what is essential. My opthamologist has been less than helpful, and quite unavailable most of the time. We fired him. Next at bat is my PCP, and I admit, I have way more faith in her. She at least shows up for our appointments.

The point is, I can’t work in a healthcare setting without eyesight, and certainly not while being a slave to a bottle of drops. It’s not sterile, hygienic, or wise. If it corrects itself eventually, yay for me! I’m pragmatic, though, because have you met me? Nothing is ever simple. If I won the lottery, it would most likely coincide with the fucktard-in-chief deciding to raid all 50 states of their lottery coffers to pay for his goddamned Wall. I’d end up with an engraved brick somewhere along the Texas state line.

The neck has spoken, too. Because it can’t just be one, simple, mysterious eye affliction, can it? At 50, the neck has decided that Fuck this shit. It may tolerate some more shots before going kaput, but behaving as if I am not in pain when I am not, in fact, in pain is apparently baaaaad because when the pain eventually returns, it is worse. My left side is significantly weaker than my right. That means being careful. And that limits how much physical activity I can safely get away with. Bottom line? No joining Cirque De Soleil. No Wayne’s World, Bohemian Rhapsody-esque headbanging. And no nursing.

Crossroads: they suck sometimes. And the thing about dreams is that that’s all they really are. You can work hard and do everything right and sometimes, they just don’t happen. And so you wallow, and then you put drops in your eyes and it may take you three days of pecking away at this blog but you do it because guess what? You still have this.

I am a writer. No one can take THAT dream away from me. None of the roadblocks, and all of the five-gallon buckets of suck that life has dumped on me, can take this gift that I have away. If my eyes are fubared? I have a voice. There’s Braille.

Whatever it takes! Maybe all the crossroads I have found myself at were necessary to get me to this one. To the true path. I have options along the way, too.

So let’s get going, shall we? Bring a pillow for your ass – because riding with me is bumpy. Bring your sense of humor – because it will save your life. And bring pizza. And nachos. And wine. Because why fucking not?