The literary equivalent of Alex Kintner after the shark ate him. 

When you’re a writer, you have to write. I mean, you have to, okay? You have to even when you don’t want to. You have to when it isn’t convenient. If you’re very  fortunate,  you have to because it puts food on the table and pays your bills. When I say that you have to, it’s because of all those things, which also flow from the very need to write. Words, ideas, phrases all cram themselves into every crevice, nook, and cranny of your brain and if you are a writer, you know that you must purge them or drown in them. Some of them string together in such a way that they’re poetry. Some are viciously funny or violently dramatic. Some are quietly poignant and simply eloquent.

And some are crap. Utter rot, totally pointless and without direction. You know those ones the moment you put them to paper (or monitor) and you feel this sinking feeling from deep within that tells you that you’ve just wasted an hour or more of time you could have spent rearranging your band t-shirt drawer alphabetically or scrubbing the grout between the backsplash tiles.

Oh, fuck that. You weren’t going to do that stuff. Okay, I wasn’t.

Anyway, I have a lot of words crowding up my brain tonight, elbowing and jostling and knocking around, and it’s uncomfortable as hell.  I’m a writer. I call myself one, and people tell me that I am, and who am I if not a weaver of witchy witticisms and eclectic coloquialisms? I’m going to spill them out all over, probably just like Larry Vaughn feared that Kintner boy was going to spill out all over the dock if they cut that shark open in Jaws. Nice visual, eh? Think of my words as partially digested body parts.

Who decided that we should wipe after going to the bathroom? Who was that person? I want to thank them. Brilliant.

Personal space. How is it that this became a thing? “Please stand back. You’re invading my personal space.” Sorry, bitch, but it’s crowded in here with all your uppity assumptions that you own this air right here.

Donald Trump’s hair. I mean, what is that? I can’t with the swirly, cotton candy comb-over that really isn’t.

Paul Ryan’s face. Hell, Orrin Hatch’ s face. And what the hell is it with Rick Santorum? Did this guy crawl straight out of a sewer in Harrisburg? Because he is really that shitty of a person. Oops! Did I just “out” my choice of political party with these observations of horrible people? Sorry. Can’t get away from the drama for a second, apparently.

How was it decided that actors and singers  should be paid more money than police officers, or soldiers, or firemen? Who the hell made the assumption that people would be fine with paying ridiculously huge sums of money to people for playing make believe and music? Who placed more value on entertainment than saving lives? Turns out, whoever that fucker was, he was taking a page right out of HG Wells’  time machine, because look at the figures entertainers get for one starring role or one huge song today. On the other end of the spectrum, a soldier with a family probably qualifies for food stamps. There’s something wrong with that. If I’ve gone all preachy-judgy, I apologize, but it’s been bothering me and we’re at the social commentary part of my little ditty, here.
Quantum physics. These are apparently laws. Or something like that. I don’t really know, but that’s how I clear out my brain: I introduce quantum physics, or anything that begins with the word “quantum”. Even that show from the 80s or whatever, with Scott Bakula. Want to clear the room up in my noggin? Introduce quantum anything. Or couponing. That’ll do it.

See? I got nothin’. Here’s a sleeping kitten:

Am I the Highway? 

I’m feeling….all the things. The things I desperately try not to feel.

It’s been building again, after a brief respite. The past year has been a roller coaster for me, with short pauses at the tops of every hill. Those pauses allowed me to catch my breath and to listen, for that blink-of-an-eye moment, when my heart and gut were in agreement. Then down again, into the depths, where the ride seemed to take forever before slowly climbing to the plateaus of clarity once again.

I’ve made some really great decisions at the crest of those hills. A year ago, I was testing unfamiliar waters and deciding if I could swim, after being unable to go near the edge for a while. I jumped! I took that chance. I found that I was a fair swimmer,  but then someone dunked me and I went under. When I resurfaced, it was once again all about survival, treading the choppy waters and curling up into a survival ball and bobbing along on the surface. I felt the way a shipwreck survivor must feel, wondering if they will ever see land or be rescued before the sharks come and rip them apart. Ideally, one wants rescue, not the deserted island. No one wants to be Tom Hanks,  babbling on to a soccer ball with a happy blood face. In a way, that was me at my job, only the cooler was my deserted island and I guess you could say that a gallon of milk served as my Wilson. (No blood face, though. That would have been a code violation.) I was alone, and unsure, and there really was no one, in a crowded sea of people in and out of that building, to reassure or rescue me.

I understood, from the beginning, that this was not the right fit for me, but you don’t  get to pick your desert island when your ship goes down and safety appears on the horizon. You go for it and then you make the best of it. In this case, the island was inhabited by people but they were all doing the same thing as me: trying to survive. And some had been doing it a lot longer than me, so they weren’t always forthcoming with the ways in which one could get better at it. You had your saboteurs, too; the ones who ran things seemed to be in legion with them. It’s beginning to sound as if I was stuck in a metaphorical goddamn Lord of the Flies, doesn’t it? I guess that says more about the situation than I expected. That is unfortunate. Because not all of it was bad. But most of it was. The minute I saw a way to escape the island, I took it. I was at the top of a crest again, and I saw with brilliant clarity what was right for me.

Yeah, you’re shouting at the screen right now, telling me that if we’re mixing metaphors could I at least fucking warn you, right? Sorry, but if you’re reading my stuff with any regularity, you have already agreed to my terms. This is my brain, and this is a typical day of my brain on lifesaving drugs. Any questions?

Okay. So I am off the island, and it is good. Please, don’t think that I regret anything about the fact that I left my shipwrecked mates to survive anyway they could. Because I don’t, not at all. That may seem heartless, but for a great deal of my time on that island nobody gave a single fuck about me because they were all too busy doing their own surviving. Maybe it would be better if the survivors banded together to tame the island, but in this case, the island is way too big and way too supernatually powerful. It chews up everything in its wake and spits it out. Ask any struggling smaller town in America about the carnage left behind when one such island rises from the ground and consumes everything in its path. Yes people, I’ve got metaphors shooting out of my ass today! This is how we say what we want without saying, “Walmart is an evil fucking entity that must be stopped.” Oops. So much for metaphors!

I am free, and I am on a ride that, for now, contains no inclines that I can see. Problem is, it’s on lower ground and there hasn’t been a lot of sunshine. I know that I insist that I am a vampire, and that I love the dark, but the darkness I love is hard to navigate right now because of some of the things that happened to me while I was on the island. My eyes were damaged by the conditions of my cooler-cave, and it’s a big “if” right now as to whether or not I will get them back. If not, then I get to go on a cornea transplant list and wait for a dead person to give me their corneas. This is not the island’s fault, because it stems from a pre-existing condition that I never imagined would travel into my eyes. Alas, I am angry at the goddamned island anyway. Because now I can’t see in the dark, and that’s scary. I can’t read books for more than a few pages before the need to cover up one eye in order to focus wears me out and I give up. I have to put drops in them numerous times a day and that only works for a while. While my eyes feel better now, they aren’t there yet, and that frustrates me. It’s worrisome, because I need my eyesight for my career path. It’s just another health issue to stack on top of the growing pile. Which leads me to think about age. And then the state of clusterfuck that this country is in with healthcare. Will I even be able to get a cornea transplant if it turns out that I need one?

So many things like this swirl around in my head, ripping and tearing at the walls. The panic attacks come swiftly and with more frequency when my brain is under siege. And that makes me feel low. And when I get low, then my shadowy nemesis, Depression, attempts to stage another coup. This is what it’s like, all the time. Plateaus of clarity and lightness of being that simply do not last long enough. You want to stay on solid, level ground, yeah, but then you’re vulnerable to attack. Why do you think cats like being up high? They’re safer there because they can see the enemy.

I know that I can’t stay up on high all the time, because the air is a little too thin and then I don’t always think clearly. That can be as dangerous as the low country and the predators that lurk in the shadows. It’s just this, though: I get tired of having to stay vigilant. I would like longer stretches of time up there. It doesn’t have to be forever, because I know that life is a sequence of hills and valleys and winding, twisted roads.

But this. Depression, and then suicidal thoughts. This is what it feels like. Exhaustion, sadness, and the idea that you simply cannot do it another day. And then it turns into another moment and then, BOOM. Or actually, *sigh*. Just

sigh.

You’re Chris Cornell. Or Robin Williams. Or someone you know. You wonder – do you know someone who is getting to that last moment of exhaustion? You might just. In fact, I’ll bet an entire bottle of Zoloft that you do.  But that is what it feels like, and Chris Cornell is what it looks like. Those of us who fight this battle recognize others who are fighting, too. We nod at them, maybe even give them a little smile.  We take our pills and force ourselves to live because we still have enough fight left in us to remember that there’s going to be another hill. We aren’t being relentlessly attacked at every turn. We’re either treading water or just riding along, depending on which metaphor you prefer. Sometimes there’s a sneak attack, an ambush, and we have to fight with everything we have. If we are lucky, we aren’t completely alone when that happens, but if we are, it is imperative that reinforcements show up quickly. Sometimes, they just don’t get there in time and then the cry goes up into the sky and we find out that another warrior has been lost. Those are the hard ones to take. The ones who led so many of us through the unknown with their words, their songs, their laughter. When we lose one of the Commanders, we dive into our bunkers and lick our wounds. We mourn. And then, we correct our course, and reemerge to move toward the hills again.

I am not alone, and the hills loom off in the distance. I can see where I am going. But look around you. Do you see a warrior with no backup? Maybe follow them for a while. Until the hills get closer. Or maybe designate yourself as their sherpa, if they will let you. The point is, don’t let them travel alone. There is solitude, and there is loneliness, and then there is alone.
Don’t let them be alone.

Anmiversary.

4 years ago on this day, I was lying to myself.

I’ve always been a believer in my gut, because that deep, gnawing awareness of things has never steered me wrong. My heart has always been my gut’s most worthy adversary, and God knows, I’ve let “the heart have what the heart wants” too many times when my gut was fairly screaming inside my head, warning me that my heart is selfish and narcissistic. 4 years ago, my heart was not ready to admit what it had known at the same time as my gut: that 2 days prior, when my brother came upstairs and said, “Mom needs help” and my daughter had flown down the stairs while I threw on some clothes, the 911 call I would make that day was going to be the last of its kind. We’d made so many throughout the years and indeed, my whole life had been framed by 911 calls. As a child, the frantic calls for the ambulance were made for my grandmother, and then as my mother’s health declined decades later, they were for her. With every single one before September 22, 2012, my gut had reassured me that things might have been a little sketchy occasionally, but “pull through” was what my mother always did. This time, my gut was pretty quiet. As I pulled on a pair of jeans and tripped over my own feet while trying to pull my hair into a ponytail, my gut whispered, and that whisper was louder than any scream. This time is different, it said. You know this time is different.

Throughout three days of reassurances and care plans and then alternative efforts to make Mom’s slow southward descent turn around, I kept telling my gut to SHUT the FUCK UP. My heart was not letting go of the promise of the past few months. We’d been working our way back to a healthy mother-daughter relationship, which was something we’d lost back around the time my brother was born when I was 8 and THAT shitstorm had commenced. 37 years I’d been hanging in the wind while she blamed me for all her bad choices. 37 years of my own bad choices made out of loneliness and fear and not belonging anywhere or to anyone. We were working it out. She was feeling better. She was my mom again. Really my mom. Obviously, my gut was a fucking liar, right? Because I had waited all those years to finally have her in my life in a positive way, and my heart wanted that. Needed that.

In the early hours of September 24, 4 years ago, I couldn’t sleep. My gut was whispering again and I needed to silence it. At 4:30am, I called the MICU and had a quiet conversation with the kindest nurse I’ve ever known. I wish that I could remember her name. She was the charge nurse and supervised all the RNs assigned to each individual patient. My mom’s nurse was busy, so this nurse talked to me. I began to realize that she sounded a lot like my gut, and that I needed to let her talk directly to my heart. In that calm and comforting way she had, she quieted my heart’s cries that I needed my mom. I was able to sleep a bit, and then things happened the way they did. I still remember each and every moment of that day, and that in the end, my gut and my heart locked hands and helped me to make the decision that had to be made. When it was over, and my girls and I had held her hands as she left us and the sunset was so breathtaking over Lake Erie that I just KNEW she had gone peacefully, that charge nurse was coming on shift. She asked me, “Can I just hug you? I wanted to so bad when we talked and I would like to if you would let me now.” Of course. Of course.

The last 4 years have been challenging. I have fallen apart in many ways. I have been at war inside, still wondering if she ever truly loved me. In this process of falling apart and slowly trying to make myself whole again, I have come to accept that yes, she did. She did in the only ways she knew how. Maybe it wasn’t what I deserved, but it was what I was given, which is more than so many lost souls get. It has to be enough, and so my gut is telling me to open my heart and let the sadness I feel in, but to not wallow in it. Let it have the relevance it needs, but to then let it go. Embrace the love that surrounds me, and laughter, and live each day feeling gratitude. Remember that sunset when she left us, and bask in its glow of peacefulness every single day.

I will always miss my mother.

The Beautiful Ones, you always lose.

Alright, I wasn’t going to write because I had nothin’ earlier, but I kinda lied.

Just perusing the news and seeing all the stupid, unfounded articles about Prince has been upsetting me since his death, and today, we have a major rag that fills itself with lies “recreating” what his death “may” have looked like based upon the report that there might have been CCTV footage in the elevator. Seriously?

It is becoming increasingly hard to deny that Prince was suffering from a prescription opiate problem brought on by years of terrible pain due to injuries as a performer. This is still not confirmed, but given the CREDIBLE reports, it’s probably true. My heart aches for his suffering, because unless you’ve ever experienced crippling pain, you cannot possibly understand the agony and incessant need to just make it stop for a little while. Relief is in pill form, but it becomes fleeting. You take more and more, just to calm the gnawing pain.

I’ve coped with pain due to my spinal issues all my life. I’ve sought the relief of muscle relaxers and opiates and even alcohol. I am at a crossroads with it now where I need to see a specialist. Before my hysterectomy, I coped with that pain by using vicodin. A lot of it. When I think of the ways in which I used – no, abused is the right word – it, and I think about what Prince must have gone through….I say a little prayer of thanks that I am still alive. Was I an addict? Not in so many ways, because once the pain was gone, I stopped using. But I was on Percocet – Prince’s chosen drug – for six weeks after that surgery and let me tell you, that was some of the most wonderfully blissed-out time ever.

I think back to my opiate use almost nostalgically and sometimes, I wish I had some now. That must be what an addict can’t “get over”. The pain I experience now varies from intense agony when I move to a heaviness and as if something immovable is blocking my body from moving. My neck always feels as though I have something heavy hanging around it. I have carried this burden since birth, due to a birth defect. I have reached a point where conventional medicine isn’t going to work, so I will be seeing a neurologist to explore some options.

Did Prince have all the best care? I would hope so, but maybe not. Maybe he was like so many others and refused to confront the inevitability of aging and to slow down a bit. Maybe it scared him. He was, despite the lofty elevation we fans lifted him to, human. That he may have suffered so much that he sought the numbness of drugs fills me with sadness. But I understand. I miss him. I loved him, the man, the work, the very essence. He was a constant in the last 36 years of my life. KISS was my first musical love-obsession, but Prince was certainly my second. I just hope he is resting in peace, and that his legacy will not be forgotten amongst all of the bullshit circulating by the mediaprince-purple-rain-ws-710.jpg

And a gratuitous Happy Mother’s Day to you.

leave-in-a-basket-mothers-day-cardI dread greeting card holidays. Seriously! Even when I’m the honoree, like today, I find little about them to enjoy. I’ve never been one to bask in attention given to me about, well, anything. It’s incredibly embarassing and sets off waves of anxiety for days before said occasion dawns.

When I was a kid, I bawled at my own birthday cake cuttings, when everyone sang “Happy Birthday”. (Had I known that there was a little white pill that could erase all traces of the nervous waves of agitation and fear coursing through my body, I would have been a pillhead at 5.) All eyes on me? Baby shower time, when everyone watches as the expectant mom opens each gift? Lord….it was horrible. Don’t look at me. Please. No. Avert your gaze. These have always been my mantras.

I have always regarded greeting card holidays with suspicion. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Administrative Assistant Day, Grandparent’s Day….there’s a “day” for every “title” now and we’re urged to buy gifts and cards and shower attention. Yes, I still went all out on my mother when she was living, but I never received the kind of gratitude one would expect. Maybe this is why I am kind of repulsed by the whole thing. Often, she would read the lovingly purchased card and just set it aside, commenting, “That’s nice” and gaze at whatever gift I chose with puzzlement or better yet, a question:

“A new summer robe? Well, I have one.” (Yes, and it’s stained with coffee and food and I can’t get it clean no matter how much I wash it for you and you never get dressed anymore so I thought this one in your favorite color would make a nice replacement but what the fuck do I know?)

“Oh, flowers? I hope the cat doesn’t knock them over.” (You’re welcome.)

“A necklace? Oh, it’s pretty. I just don’t know when I’ll wear it.” (How about to the nursing home when I haul your ass there because I am so tired of your shit!  Okay, I never, ever would have said that. I damn sure might have thought it, though.)

My dad was not present, and would not and does not deserve a day in his honor, so Father’s Day was a non-event for me. I still dreaded it, because I didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate the way others did. Now, if American Greetings would like to sponsor a new holiday for people who grew up fatherless like me and name it Worthless Sperm Donor Piece of Shit Day, I’d be all over that business! A card would be purchased! It would be titled, “Fuck you, Asshat” and the verse would read as follows:

You suck. But I’m glad Mom didn’t douche. Thanks for nothing, Buttplug.

I’d lovingly brown bag my dog’s feces and set it aflame before knocking and leaving it on my dad’s doorstep with the card propped up prominently! I think this should be a “thing”. As a matter of fact, I encourage it.

Anyway, I guess my point is this: Zoloft and Xanax make days like this bearable for me, when I am touched and filled with love and appreciation from my kids and my friends who call me out and say, “Hey. You don’t suck as far as parents go.” It is nice to hear it and to read it all over social media. But why do we need “days” to celebrate the good people in our lives? I think it’s more important to celebrate them every day, in some way. Even if you only think about how fortunate you are, or, like my daughter and I are so fond of doing, send silly emoticons in texts to each other’s phone (One day, I sent her a goat. She replied with a cheetah. That’s as pure a sentiment of love as you’ll ever see.), you honor your love for them genuinely and authentically. Sure, that guy who works in the factory that makes the greeting cards needs his job, but there are plenty of other occasions to print cards for. Hell, here are some new ones I’ve thought of to take up the slack:

Annoy Your Neighbor With the Lawnmower at 6am Day

Stinky Old Man on the Bus Day

That Aunt Who Spits When She Talks Day

Pharmacist Day (For people like me, who adore theirs because they provide courage in pill form)

Walmart Greeter Day (Don’t write this one off. I DID this for 4 of the longest hours of my life recently, and these people are grossly underappreciated by multitudes of thankless assholes who don’t address with gratitude the fact that the wheels on their cart aren’t bockety because their greeter separated the shitty carts from the good ones. You’re fucking welcome!)

I’ll be waiting by the phone for my call from you awarding me for my genius, American Greetings. Well, maybe not.

Anyway, it’s just this. Love as a constant, daily affirmation. It is the best gift. Give it. That’s what I’ve got today.

My site ate my homework.

Have you ever worked on a blog only to find it just disappeared? Like, poof. No blog. No words. Naddafingah.

I am so pissed. Pissed. I poured my heart out in that thing. But you know what? Maybe it wasn’t meant to be read. Maybe pouring one’s heart out on one’s birthday is not the sort of thing one will look back fondly upon.

I’m not doing anything for my birthday. It truly does become “just another day” after a certain age. It’s wonderful to be remembered, and kind words are felt right in the beating muscle in my chest. I had a rough, physical week. I need a day of rest. That it falls upon my birthday is fortuitous for me, but others might be puzzled. No cake? Nope, because I’d have to bake it myself and I can’t be arsed. No celebration? No. There’s no one to celebrate with, because many of my family members are at work, and others are too far away. I feel their love. It is enough, more than enough, to sustain me. Just no. No….nothing?

Yep.

Today, I am reminded that life ends in one second. The bulk of my life is over, and the seconds from here on really DO count. I can spend those seconds being afraid or looking back in regret, or I can live them. That single second that snuffs it all out is coming. Any second. 2016 has been an ass rape where my inspirations, idols, and influences have been concerned. Barely a ragged breath has been taken before another punch in the gut happens. Words escape me. But pictures explain it perfectly.

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Lemmy Kilmister

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David Bowie

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Alan Rickman

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Prince

It’s time to party like it’s 1999. Will you join me?