Unpredictable Grief, Hopelessly Whitebread, and Only by the Grace of God

It’s probably a sad commentary on my current mental state that I really miss my dogs today. I’m ashamed to admit it but my heart aches so much more for these guys than for my late husband (hard to say, and sad- but true.)

It’s been almost three years since Jerry died and mostly when I think of him I guilt trip because I really don’t feel sad about it. It’s like I should…but I don’t. It feels like when Mom dragged us to Confession and I knew I should confess all the unforgiveness I held on to for all the shit my sisters and their friends did to me, but I just didn’t feel the remorse. I was going through the motions because I knew I was supposed to.

This condition of knowing- you- should- feel- bad- but- you- really- don’t caused me a lot of theological cognitive dissonance, (i.e. Catholic guilt…) until I realized that it is God who grants the gift of repentance, and it is God alone in Christ who forgives my sins. This is fantastic news, because in and of myself I just can’t do it. I can’t force myself to regret or feel sorry or to forgive. Back to Lutheran theology and Christ Alone. I get the sufficiency of Christ alone, if only because I am so pathetically weak and emotionally and spiritually impaired. Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Creed states it pretty clearly:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. – Martin Luther

Most of humanity, quite honestly I can do without, which may not be right, but I freely admit it. Clara and Lilo, I miss them both, and painfully at times. Even though they were dogs. I love the dogs I have now (Brutus and Lucy) and I am incredibly thankful for them, but there are days. Clara, especially, was my heart.

Emotions are just so damned complicated. Then again no dog ever did anything to hurt me, and I can’t say that about any relationship I have ever had with other humans. Especially Jerry or my sisters, because, well because. The wounds are deep and the scars profound. Can I forgive anyone by my own choice? I can only forgive by the grace and intervention of God, and it’s a long, hard process. The old Adam fights that one with a pernicious tenacity.

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I know part of the human condition is that no one gets out of life alive, but knowing my vulnerabilities and blind spots it is almost impossible for me to be open with anyone because I don’t know what weapon they are going to use against me. I don’t read people well at all. I’m fine with keeping everything on a superficial level but the deep dark secrets? I don’t mind letting others confide in me, but the converse is most certainly not true. I don’t want to rely on anyone because people use me and let me down.

I can’t say I understand what “normal” people think or feel. I’ve never been “normal” or anything close to it. All I know about “normal” is what I can see and script for navigational purposes. I put up a good front, but that’s exactly what it is, a front- a stressful and draining, but necessary, front.

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I don’t think I would have done well with the 1950s housewife gig.

I can only see where I have been and I can only navigate through the mechanics of my own wiring, which has got to be skewed. I am sure that a psychologist would have a field day with me at this point in my life. It’s been over 15 years since I’ve seen a counselor (that probably would be a good idea, but I don’t have the scratch to afford it, nor can I take time off work.) There’s been a ton of crazy shit that has gone down in my life since then.

Oh, yes, crazy shit. Living with an alcoholic and the insanity and crazy-making that goes with that for 20+ years does wear one thin. Then he gets a terminal disease on top of that…which makes him even meaner and more irrational, even though at first he does try to do the right things to a degree. Add having to watch your best friend die, then having to dig her grave, (and I am referring to Clara, who was a dog, so don’t get any macabre ideas) then having to move in a fire sale, desperate sort of way, all while my terminally ill, alcoholic husband is screaming and raging as much against me as he is his inevitable death.

It’s hard to write that. Maybe the delayed reaction is kicking in after all. PTSD – the gift that keeps on giving. We can add in all the other right psychological terms too- learned helplessness, chronic anxiety, and our miserable old companion major depression, who is always camping out on the door mat waiting for the slightest opportunity to slip in the door and come in to stay for a good long time. It doesn’t help that anxiety and depression go hand and hand with autism, and there is mental illness galore in my family history. I even took one of those genetic screening tests for shits and grins (as if I didn’t already know my ethnic ancestry…oh yeah, living advertisement for the Most Whitest Anglo Saxon Ever…)

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The ethnic info was no surprise. It also showed I carry specific genes that increase one’s chances of being bi-polar, and of suffering from major depression and schizophrenia. That explains Mom’s family…and her to an extent, which is scary as hell because there are days when I seriously doubt my mental stability.

Sometimes I want to scream, cry, sleep, run or stage a twisted combination of all of the preceding. I’m afraid to even mention some of the good things happening in my life (and there are a few, and I thank God for everything with everything I can) because I’m not convinced it’s really real…and I’m afraid I’ll jinx it if it is.

There is something deeply sweet and undeserved about being able to be safe and loved in one’s home, and that is both majestic and terrifying because I have never been in such a place before.

There’s still a LOT of pain- emotional, spiritual and always, physical, and I don’t know where that’s going to go. I think it wants to translate into fear. I don’t want to give in to fear. The panic attacks are thankfully getting less frequent and less severe but they still happen. As for the arthritis flares, medication usually keeps it down to a dull roar, but when the fire is on, it’s on, and not much will touch it.

I spend a lot of time in sacred music and Bible reading these days even though I know that forgiveness and healing are not things I can do- but what God does for me.

Kyrie Eleison…

Part of Ancient History, Under the Radar (which is where I like to be…)

68toyotacoronacoupeThe above pictured Corona is older than me.  Not by much, because this is a 1968 Corona.  Unlike me, when this car was new it had 90 BHP and would (theoretically) do 90 MPH. Maybe it would with the standard “four on the floor.”  I can assure you no conventional automatic transmission paired with a 90 BHP engine will do that unless one is traveling downhill with a hefty tail wind.  If only Toyota had discovered the wonderful benefits of treating their body panels with rust preventative processes before 1988, there might still be some of these around here in Ohio. The drivetrains on these old beasts would last forever.  Sad thing is, today when one says “Corona,” it is usually in reference to an overrated Mexican beer.  Then again, I am biased because I simply don’t care for any kind of beer.  It all tastes like ear wax smells.

corona beerYuk.

In some respects there isn’t a whole lot lingering around that is older than me, at least things that haven’t been demolished, renovated or added onto.  That’s difficult for me in terms of appreciating architecture because I am very much a purist and I hate to see modern junk tacked onto beautiful old façades, windows bricked over, or lovely varnished woodwork painted over.

I understand today that nobody cares about the aesthetic in architecture- function is all that matters, even though that has led to the proliferation of churches that look like pole barns and houses that look like cardboard boxes. The schools that were torn down in the 1990s were replaced by prefabbed monstrosities that are reminiscent of prisons. It is wrong to warehouse children in such bleak surroundings devoid of light and beauty, but in a way it’s “right,” if you think about what’s going on behind those walls.

Today’s schools are little more than holding cells to help prevent the kiddies from shoplifting, battery and assault during the daytime hours.  Their minds are being filled with feel-good garbage while their parents are out scoring drugs and creating more children they can’t support and refuse to educate.  There is a sad irony in this only in that today’s educational system is all about political and social indoctrination and not about critical thinking or aspiring to something beyond one’s self, but I digress.  The dumbing down of public education was just beginning when I was in elementary school. I dare say that the quality of public education will not improve until every person who cares about his or her offspring’s education refuses to enroll them in the public schools.

I can appreciate the beauty of a Gothic cathedral, though I admit I seldom have time to seek out a time for prayer and solace in one.

canterbury-cathedral.jpgIf I ever make my way to England, I will have to check out the Canterbury Cathedral.

I know it’s dangerous to wax nostalgic, especially because not everything was better in the “good old days,” but there are some things from 50 years ago (not necessarily the old Corona pictured above) that might have been worth keeping around.

Penny candy is a good example.  Especially those wax cola bottles with the mystery liquid inside.  Or candy cigarettes.  Political correctness be damned.

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Then again, the fact that candy is significantly more expensive keeps me from being tempted to indulge in it.

Of course, music.  My playlists pretty much end by 1985. There are a few notable exceptions, but for the most part, there is not much beyond Steve Perry.

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I like remaining under the radar on my birthday.  It’s kind of fun to just observe the day quietly.  Every day that Obama is NOT president is a good day. Sort of like it’s a good day when I’m remaining vertical and still sucking up valuable oxygen.  Been doing that (more or less) for 50 years straight now.

In some ways it’s hard to come to terms with being 50 years old.  There are days in which I feel like a piece of ancient history, and others when it doesn’t seem that long.

I’m old enough to know that there is no such thing as permanence- at least not in this lifetime.  Entropy is alive and well in this world.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

A Dearth of Reference Points, February Funk, and Wisdom from Dante

 

winter miseryIt’s February again.  That shortest month of the year, and the month in which the most people die. I think people just give up in February.  Christmas is long over (not that I am a great fan of the holiday hype,) and winter seems to just keep hanging on.  Most people are still paying for the crap they blithely and wantonly purchased for Christmas, that the kids have either broken or gotten bored with already. If you’re going to go, why not now? All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

That is a morbid thought, and I am no stranger to morbid thoughts.  I am always pulling worst case scenarios out of my imagination.  I should write horror movies, or at least get to narrate a guided tour of the Mütter Museum.  (I should get to actually go to Philadelphia to see the Mütter Museum…it’s on my bucket list.)

This morning’s drive was particularly sucky.  40-50MPH winds combined with temperatures in the low 20s and snow squalls meant that not only was the car being blown around, but there were little patches of ice hiding beneath that blowing snow.  I got here OK and with little incident, but some jackwagon in a Jeep Wrangler bought a trip to the ditch, likely arising from the erroneous assumption that 4 wheel drive makes one invincible.

Days like this remind me of my own fallibility and mortality more than I would like. Yes I know I screw up (a lot) and that every passing day I’m (to quote Pink Floyd’s song, “Time”) one day closer to death.

Days like this remind me of how not normal I am too.  Maybe it’s the overwhelming fatigue, or the inevitable joint pain that accompanies a low barometer, but I suspect it’s something deeper than weather. I went to the Dr. just the other day and my labs and such are mostly normal, so I probably don’t have any additional health failures. Even so, I am so tired I could sleep for weeks.

Maybe I am still guilt tripping.  Call it survivor’s guilt or maybe worse.  It’s not right to feel as if a weight has been lifted from me.  I feel like I don’t deserve a normal life…and maybe it’s not.  I don’t have a clue what “normal” is, nor have I ever had an accurate frame of reference and it scares me.  I don’t know what I am supposed to feel.  Then again, feeling anything always seems foreign to me.

I needed an extended sabbatical a long time ago but for various reasons that wasn’t able to happen. So I have to take bits and pieces of mental rest and reflection where I can get them.  Sometimes drive time is good for that.  Not lately, because driving is stressful when the weather sucks, but sometimes. I should have a Cougar Nap Saturday coming up and I will take advantage of that if I can.  If I take a few hours to just nap and watch reality TV (Botched is a good one, or The Incredible Dr. Pol, if I am in the mood for watching farm animals) on a Saturday, who can blame me?

I do need to set up a time (probably next Saturday) to get my oil changed and tires rotated, or I might arrange to drop the car off one day next week and drive the truck.

I am not looking forward to my birthday, which I hope most people I know will overlook. Usually they do because it’s at the end of February, when the winter funk and the it’s-not-quite-winter but-definitely-not-spring blecch season is in full swing in Ohio.

I think I might decide to set up some sort of weekend getaway sometime soon.  Maybe.

And it is quite OK to forget my birthday.

 

 

The Dismality of February, and This Will All Thaw Someday

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Oh, the dismality of February yet again.  There is a reason why February only has 28 days (at least for three out of four years,) and that’s to put a lid on the number of people who die in February.  If February were 30 or 31 days, half the damn population would die in February, and that would just be weird.  We have to spread the death throughout the year better.  Not that everyone should die from heat stroke in July, but jeez.  I can understand losing the will to live when it is 90° and 100% humidity if there’s no air conditioning, perhaps a bit more than most, because I am not at all equipped for high temperatures.  I can abide cold a far sight better than extreme heat.

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But at least in July there is sunlight, and Ohio winters are notoriously dark and sunless. I can go all week without seeing sunlight save for maybe a ray or two on the weekend-  unless there is a damned blizzard going on.  And even if the damned blizzard is going on and it’s 4° below, Target still has nothing but bathing suits, tank tops, sandals and sleeveless dresses on display.  If I need a parka, I will have to wait until July when they put them back out.

Here in central Ohio we have been enduring a rather harsher than normal winter.  Oh, yippee skippy, because I just adore driving in ice and snow.  I’m all about those below zero temperatures too.  There is simply nothing like one’s ass freezing to the toilet seat unless I break down and turn on the space heater in the bathroom.

“Spring” will arrive someday. Probably sometime in May there will come a day when my back yard will transform from frozen tundra into Dog Shit Lake overnight.  Oh, the smell of Spring in the air.  Temperatures will go from -4° to 90° and 100% humidity within the span of about 12 hours.  There is really no Spring in Ohio. There is just arctic cold and wind, followed by stygian heat, usually accompanied by torrential rain.

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This is Brutus, the Catahoula^ (Catahoula Bed Hog Dog)

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This was Clara^ (God rest her sweet soul) the Malinois

Note to self: the 80# Catahoula shits according to his size.  For those unaccustomed to dogs, for an example, a 65# Malinois has the strength to overpower a 300# man.  The 65# Malinois consumes, and disposes of about the same number of calories as a 300# man every day. Imagine that kind of waste load deposited in your back yard every day for six months from October until the May Thaw arrives.

In all fairness, since a Malinois is an ultra high energy, high metabolism dog, a 65# Malinois and an 80# Catahoula are pretty much identical in strength, energy consumed, and waste put down.  My paradigms have been pretty much the same for awhile.

There’s going to be a lot of dog shit to deal with.

You Know Who You Are, and the Past Should Stay There

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Every now and then I entertain myself with a game of “what if,” even if that game simply reinforces the feeling and the thought that I have spent the last year walking away (relatively unscathed) from a 20+ year long train wreck.

Perhaps I have some “survivor’s guilt” and maybe a panic attack now and then, but even a necessary amputation is going to leave a scar.

I wondered if the 1 year anniversary of Jerry’s death would be traumatic.  Not so much. I spent a rather lovely day with family, and the date didn’t cross my mind until someone brought it up.

I do wonder if my experience of grief (or the lack thereof) is cold and heartless- because I don’t really miss him. He had managed to kill any affection I had for him long before he died. Between the alcoholic rages, browbeating, name calling and other indignities, I had gotten beyond angry and went straight to numb. I can’t say I have felt much of anything except maybe relief.

It used to be common wisdom (though we know better now) that children were born as tabula rasa, or with a clean slate- no experience, no biases, no predispositions.  In some ways I feel sort of like that, as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, but then I feel as if I should have some kind of sadness.  Maybe I do feel a bit melancholy for years wasted or opportunities lost, but not what I would really call regret or even mourning.

I don’t think I am a heartless bitch.  Maybe numbness is a lot better than unforgiveness or just plain rage.

 

 

A Tired Theme: The End of The World for the Thousandth (or More) Time!

everythingsuckingPragmatism is my way of life.  It keeps me from having too much faith in humankind.  I may not be a Calvinist as far as my theology, but I go along with Calvin 100% regarding the Total Depravity of Man. Even though I intentionally try to avoid the news, because as far as I’m concerned mainstream news is nothing but proof that Orwell was right, I do have to go out and deal with people in places like Walmart.  Devolution has been going on ever since the Fall, and there isn’t enough chlorine to fix the human gene pool.

Let’s face it, most people suck.  If people didn’t suck, God wouldn’t have to tell us to be nice to them.  Being nice to other people takes work because they suck. I suck as well.  We all suck, which is why we are so crappy to each other. There are plenty of things in this world that completely suck too. Buck up, buttercup, and deal. I can buck the natural progression in subtle ways, but I can’t change the parameters humanity has been given.  As long as we are in these bodies, on this planet, things are going to suck.

I am wildly amused by date setters- people who think they have nailed the date and the time of the End of the World (even though Jesus tells us not to, and you don’t have to be a fantastic theologian to figure it out, just read Matthew 24:24-36 .)  Nobody knows when the world’s going to end.  I don’t particularly want to know, any more than I want to know when I will drop dead.  The surprise is part of the fun.

I am not afraid of death.  I just hope it’s a matter of going to bed and waking up dead.  Jerry was fortunate that way in that’s how he went.  He wanted to stay out of the hospital (especially after watching the hospital completely ignore his Dad’s Living Will and DNR orders) and he managed to do that.  Pain is what I am most afraid of- a long, suffering lingering death.  Pain and suffocation. I’ve always had a thing about suffocation especially because that was one of the torments my sisters loved to engage in when I was a little kid.  Just sit on your younger sibling until she turns blue and stops moving, and/or Dad thinks it’s getting too quiet, so he gets off the couch to investigate, sees that one of his offspring is losing consciousness, and makes you get up off of her.  What a fun game!

If I am given a choice I just want to go to bed and wake up dead. But that’s not for me to decide.

Our friend David Meade claims the world’s going to end tomorrow.  If that’s true then I shouldn’t have bought that pack of new underwear or bothered to stock up my fridge for next week.

I think I might just chill to the REM song End of the World as We Know It a few more times.

 

 

 

Strange Song Lyrics, Walmart, Livestock, and Back to 1981 (or not)

Guillotine-Names

I was just thinking what an interesting world it would be if I wrote trivia questions for money. I have stored away too much esoteric and ephemeral knowledge for my own good over the years. Making it multiple guess would be too easy.  I go for fill in the blanks, which at least requires some thought and/or creativity.

The first question I came up with? It’s a real blast from the past.

Name a song with the word “guillotine” in it.

I am sure there are more than one, but the one I am thinking of is, “Bastille Day” by Rush.

Even cooler is the rest of the phrase: “the guillotine will claim her bloody prize.”

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At least I used a cartoon. Lighten up.

Imagine the lyrics police on that one today, although it’s better than all the sister raping and cop killing in rap music. If you could understand the lyrics in rap music, that is.

I am dating myself in saying that, especially knowing that rap has been around since before Blondie and her song “Rapture,” and that dates back to 1981, when Reagan was President, Steve Perry was the hottest thing in Spandex, and all was right with the world, except that the cars sucked.

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Some things really suck about getting old. Since my car was trashed almost 3 months ago (yes I am pleased with the new Corolla, but still residually pissed about the perfectly fine 2014 Corolla that got trashed) I am finally feeling somewhat normal again.  Therapy for my shoulder did actually work, which I am glad about even though I have had to fight the other guy’s insurance for bloody everything and I am still hashing over various things.  I didn’t ask to get rear ended by some moron with a history of seizures who should have known better than to be driving.  I didn’t ask to deal with four or five full blown arthritis flares along the way either.  Thanks, asshole.

Maybe I should have gotten a lawyer, but I hate the legal profession even more than the medical industry. I refuse to refer to the medical industry as “health care.” They don’t care, and the last thing they want for their pocket books is for anyone to actually be healthy. The legal profession, insurance companies and the medical industry are all rip-offs, and all are in cahoots.  Follow the money trail.

Yesterday I saw another one of those displays of cross stitch patterns that are a bit on the dark side. I love cross stitch, but haven’t done it in a long time.  I would like to indulge in a nice cross stitch piece with a dark saying or two.  I saw one that had a cactus, then underneath it the word, “prick.” That one is funny. I am considering designing a simple one about being a sweetie and wiping the seatie if you sprinkle when you tinkle.  Then again, maybe a subtle DON’T PISS ON MY TOILET SEAT would serve me better.

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It’s been enjoyable being able to cook again- real food like beef and noodles or rotisserie Cornish hens, or grilled meat. Jerry was never pleased with anything I cooked, except sometimes bacon, and toward the end about the only thing I could get him to eat were chocolate covered mini-donuts. It was sad but there wasn’t anything I could do, and I felt like everything I did do was wrong.

I have said it before, and maybe it’s cruel to see someone’s passing as a relief, but Jerry’s truly was. He had been unhappy and ill and suffering for many years, and I bore much of the weight of his frustration and pain and sorrow.  When I see people who I’ve not seen in awhile and have to explain what happened I can’t pretend to be all grief stricken and weepy.  It’s not my personality anyway to be emotional and maudlin – yes, autistics get emotional, but not on cue, and not usually in any kind of “normal” appearing way.  I strive to keep my emotions private and sometimes I am so good at it I convince myself I don’t have any at all.  Then something taps the latch and the floodgate springs open at the most inopportune time.

I’ve had a few freaky dreams lately. The one about hanging out in a pen with a bull- yes, as in bovine-was especially weird.  Why was I the only one he would be docile around? Everyone else would just aggravate him and make him aggressive, but I could do anything with him.  Maybe it’s about boundaries or control issues- both are things at which I completely suck in the real world.  Being the bull master in dreams- not really the stuff power trips and fantasies are made of- but I guess I have to take whatever power I can get.

I’ve had that effect on dogs and a few cats, but I generally avoid animals larger than dogs. I have a healthy respect for horses.  It’s been years since I’ve ridden a horse.  I like them, but they are harder to read than dogs and there is a lot less margin for error with them.  You cheese off a dog and you get a warning snarl or raised hackles or any number of other warning signals.  Dogs are good at body language, even to the point of getting an autistic person to get it. Dogs normally want to help.   Cheese off a horse, however, and you are like as not to get kicked across his stall with little or no warning.  Horses don’t have to be nice.  They are only nice if they respect you.

Of cattle, I know nothing.

I never really had to hang out with cattle, except in Newark, Ohio.

There were, and likely still are, some Really Fat Cows there. Even 20+ years ago there was a stampede of heifers sporting too much cleavage stuffed into too small bras, and the parade of big butts hanging out of leggings stretched beyond reasonable limits was on.  It was when I worked in Newark that I could buy “dinky sizes” such as 10 or 12 on the clearance rack at the discount store.  I could also find 38D bras marked down which never happened in less ample parts of the world. It was also in Newark that I learned there is such a thing as women’s size 20 underwear, and that they could also serve as a car cover for my Corolla with room to spare.

Granted, morbid obesity is a thing in rural Ohio and it’s almost as bad as heroin or crack. People don’t have much to do other than watch TV, play on the Internet, screw, and scarf those dreadful greasy $5 pizzas from Little Caesar’s, unless they’re shooting heroin, making meth or smoking crack, that is.

There is Wal-Mart though. Wal-Mart is an endless source of entertainment.

Sometimes I think it would be funny to strap on a Go Pro in Wal-Mart and just see how it goes. What kinds of weird shit would I encounter?

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