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…

Changing Spheres, and Back to Everywhere and Nowhere

It’s been awhile since I have been here.  So much has happened since my last post. 

I’m finally living in my grandparents’ old house.  It feels like home, and I haven’t been home in a long time. 

I thought the trains would bother me, and maybe they will when I can turn the air conditioner off at night.  I do hear them above the A/C, but more as a backdrop rather than a theme.

Jerry is terminally ill, permanently disabled and all that.  The pulmonary fibrosis is only getting worse.  He lies in that bed with the oxygen box on alternately sleeping, then barking orders, often unintelligibly. 

I don’t know what to do.

The move here was horrible- Jerry wanting to hang on to every worthless piece of crap, and me just wanting to snag the essentials and get him the hell out of there.  I couldn’t keep everything, and with the limited amount of time and help I had it was surprising it went as well as it did.  

I am setting myself up for living alone which is almost a comfort when Jerry has his explosive coughing fits- and irrational fits of rage. He is often positively evil to me, and I don’t know how to respond.

It’s getting creepy being around him.  

And even in the midst of this I have been most pleasantly surprised by the chance appearance of an old friend from the very distant past.

He is not the old friend/ former paramour that I have obsessed about for the better part of 20 years and whom I pretty much have written off. He’s someone who has never been on my radar screen until now, even though I’ve known him casually for the past 35 years or so. 

Here’s to old middle school admirers who I never knew I had.  When other guys were chasing my oldest sister he was watching me from a distance.  Fun to find out after all these years.  And even now it is oddly satisfying to hear a man say that,”fucking your sister would be like fucking a fence.”  I had to be catty and add my thought that he would have had to tie a board across his ass to keep from falling in the abyss.  Comedy is indeed the flipside of tragedy.

I am both pragmatic and cynical enough not to get my hopes up. I have said it forever that when Jerry dies I won’t seek a replacement, but I won’t turn down an upgrade. 

Men in …Dresses?, and Other Bad 1970s Clothing, Nasty Things in Jell-O, and Lingerie Musings

 

kaftans-386x699What self-respecting non-terrorist dude would wear these nighties? These outfits call for an immediate forfeiture of one’s Man Card, and/or enlistment in ISIS.

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Maybe this explains rappers? Maybe the lace-up pants with the waistline at the titty nipples explain the sagger trend of the 90s and beyond?  Never again will we have BATHROOM SITUATIONS!  You know, the bathroom situations that ensue when nature calls and one cannot drop one’s pants quickly enough to direct the shit shower cleanly into the toilet bowl.  The opposite problem is equally disturbing though.  I don’t want a grown man shitting himself because he can’t untie his pants fast enough, but I also don’t want to see a grown man’s hairy crack because his waistband is under his ass cheeks.

I must say platform shoes for men are actually not a bad idea, at least for short men.  Dad’s only 5’6″ and he used to have some platform shoes, back in maybe 1976, until the dog decided her happy ass needed something to chew on. Then again, that dog was an inbred ankle biter who lived to be 16 (though blind and toothless and probably quite senile at the end.) Sad to say no one knows of her exact demise except that Dad let her out one night and she never came back.  If I know the redneck nation here in Marion, I would assume someone was driving around drunk and or stoned and hit the poor old thing as she wandered around in the middle of the road and didn’t know it.  She was probably all of about fifteen pounds and had the IQ of paint.  I love dogs, but this one was not the sharpest tool in the shed.

As far as the shoes, though their life was short, they did help keep him from getting Jackie smacked – like Benny Hill would smack poor Jackie- all the time.

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Man, I loved Benny Hill.  I love British humor (or should I spell it humour) precisely because of the innuendo and double entendre.  I guess I can be easily entertained.

gross jello salad

1950s food was surprisingly dismal, at least from some of the pictures and recipes I’ve found.  I think I understand why people back in the day were so bloody thin.  Putting nasty things like celery (gag) and olives stuffed with pimentos that look like demented eyeballs (barf) and what looks to be squares of cheddar cheese (? good on their own, but not in this context) in lime Jell-O and then garnishing it with tomato wedges (the only thing that looks remotely edible here) and wilty lettuce is just plain gross. I would lose a lot of weight if this were the only thing I were permitted to eat.  I could probably even wear one of those June Cleaver dresses that also requires wearing a long line bra and girdle- and still be able to breathe- if I could only eat nasty stuff like this.

fifties girdlesI think I’d almost rather die than be corseted like this, even though it does make dresses look a hell of a lot better.  My grandmother used to be a lingerie buyer for a swanky department store.  She sold this stuff.  Wore this stuff.  Fitted people for this stuff.  I have worn this stuff only on special occasions and it’s hard to ward off both hypoxia and heat stroke wearing this stuff.  It’s hot and you can’t breathe worth a damn, let alone move. And the likelihood of having BATHROOM SITUATIONS is just as bad as with the lace-up pants, or with Levi’s 501s, which have button flies.  Yay.  Not to mention it’s hell on my nails.

At my age I need to be able to get to the crapper and drop my drawers with a minimum of pomp and circumstance.

 

Things That Might Be Right With the World, Absolute Truth, and the Arrogance of Supposition

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I listened to an interesting theological / philosophical discussion today regarding pre-modernism, modernism, and post-modernism this morning.  Post-modern thinking explains much of the downright irrational insanity rampant in society today. I can’t find myself signing on to the post-modern paradigm even though most of the rest of the world already has.  This must be where the media gets the insanity that there are seventy-nine different genders, and that some men get periods.  (I might argue the PMS theory, but if I did, I would have to posit that men have PMS all month long.  Men are actually more emotional and less adaptive to change than women, at least in my experience, although I really don’t want to get into that debate.)

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There is such a thing as absolute truth.  As my illustrious offspring (who is even more of a rational, practical type than I) will tell you, nobody gets away with breaking the law of gravity, and if you think you’re the exception, you’re going to have a bad time.

I do understand the value of asking questions and of questioning authority- especially today.  I have a lot of doubts regarding the “voices of authority,” especially in the media and in science, and I think my trepidation is warranted.  Being the cynic that I normally am, it’s logical for me to question things that fail to make sense.  It probably doesn’t help that I am very much a literal thinker.  I tend to see things in black and white.  I know the gray areas are there, but I’m not much for living in them.

When I see hoof prints on a farm, I’m going to act on the supposition that the resident equines are horses rather than zebras.

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This being said, I am not against change simply because it’s something new to learn.  I am against change that is enacted simply for the novelty of it, or change to avoid offending “special snowflake” sensitivities.

I say again, there is absolute truth. Three does not equal five no matter what kind of argument is put forth. Absolutes don’t change no matter how badly we wish they would. There are boundaries that cannot be crossed, and laws (like the law of gravity) that cannot be broken.  There are near infinite kinds of idolatry conceived in mankind’s denial of truth and rebellion against it.  In the wake of the Fall it seems all we can do is set up substitute systems that are destined to fail because they are built on lies and human hubris.

Of the three philosophic worldviews (pre-modernism, modernism and post-modernism) I would have to categorize myself as subscribing to modernity (the post-modern deconstruction of truth and complete dearth of certainty is an utterly distasteful concept to me) for most of my life.  I wanted to believe in the god of Science.  I wanted to latch on to the Brave New World.  For seven years of my life I tried to say to myself, There Is No God.  By the grace of God, He smacked me down and made me realize that it’s not my world, it’s His.  I am not the creator, I am not the captain of my soul, and I am not in control. Here are more corollaries of absolute truth, courtesy of the pre-modern world- or more accurately, courtesy of the Creator, who does not have to honor man-made constructs.

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The pendulum of popular opinion will reach its shift point eventually.  As was demonstrated in the farce that was the Obama administration (no matter how rosy a picture the media tried to paint) the reality was the Emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes.  There was no substance to that regime and no purpose to it except maybe as a warning against eliminating standards and ignoring national borders. The post-modern theory that there is no reality and there are no absolutes is just as nonsensical and illogical as a grown man thinking he is adorned in finery when he’s naked as a jay bird.

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I wonder what’s going to happen when boys who think they’re girls (and vice versa) realize that the reality of biology is an absolute.

I wonder if the Western world will realize (in time) that toxic ideologies do exist, and that Islam is not a “religion of peace,” but in reality it is a form of fascism more extreme than Nazism hiding behind a false religion.

I wonder if future generations might discover the reality of Absolute Truth and forgo the social experiments.

 

Deliver Me from the Kia of Death, Making Sarcasm Out of Pretty Much Everything…

2003 Kia OptimaI could only wish that the unfortunate 2003 Kia across the street were in this good of condition.  Someone recently decided to use its roof as a trampoline, and in the process broke out the back glass – which can’t be replaced because the roof rail is bent- so the back glass consists of that plastic people use in the winter if they don’t have storm windows, and duct tape.  Lots of duct tape.  I feel sorry for her for having to drive it.  The only cure for this thing is C4. Then again, when I see the volume of Natty cans in the yard and around their fire pit on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I understand.  All. Too. Well. She’s living la vida drunksitter.  Both her husband and her father-in-law make Jerry look like an amateur at drunk-n-stupid random destruction. Jerry destroyed stuff, yes, but even in his drunken stupidity, deep in that primal, reptilian part of his brain, he knew that trashing my car was a Really Bad Idea.  Apparently this tipsy redneck has discovered, the hard way, that if you want to go car surfing, you need something with a sturdier roof than an aged Kia Optima.  I hope she kicked his ass. She is twice his size.

put_up_the_pool_januaryThis is the same guy who put up the pool on January 5.  FYI: Central Ohio’s average January high temperature is 23°. Yes. Fahrenheit.  Then again this is the same rocket scientist, in the same pool,  who passed out on a floatie in the middle of the pool , surrounded by empty Natty cans, in the heat of the day, on a 90° (also Fahrenheit) day in the middle of July for a few hours. When all was said and done,  he was just about this RED.

I know when the Kia of death starts up.  It does actually start and run consistently which must be considered a plus if it’s the only thing one has to drive. It gets fired up at 5:55 AM every morning, just as I am about to get the Corolla out of the garage and get on my way.  It has a cracked exhaust manifold (and yes, I have been around things automotive long enough to know that sound) and makes about as much noise as something with a four cylinder engine possibly can. It could wake the dead.  It’s even louder than the old man’s Harley, and that’s saying a lot considering he can usually be spotted sporting t-shirts that have such pithy sayings as, “Loud Pipes Save Lives,” or “Gas, Grass or Ass, No One Rides for Free.”

I really don’t mind my redneck neighbors too much as long as they leave me alone and don’t repeat the shower of bottle rockets on my roof when the 4th of July rolls around. I don’t care if you burn down your house- after all, arson is sort of a tradition on the west side- but don’t burn mine down.  I do have homeowner’s insurance (and it’s not cheap, because of all you firebugs out there) but I don’t want to have to use it.  I hate moving and I have sworn not to do it again, Lord willing.

I don’t find much humor in the drunk and stupid episodes even though I am not the one living that nightmare anymore.  I might have a twinge of schadenfreude when I see the poor woman across the street dragging her man in off the front lawn when he’s passed out, but it’s more like a thankfulness that this time it’s not me cleaning up the mess and doing the dragging.

We are fast approaching Sun’s Out Guns Out season.  This means large, pasty white people are going to be wandering about outside in scandalous states of un- and ill- dress.

walmartShe has some nice tats. I have tats too, so I shouldn’t talk. Just no names, and no poorly drawn Pitbulls…

 

 

Not Like the Others…Autistic Kids Will Be Autistic Adults

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I have shared some insights on what it is to go through life as an autistic person from time to time. It’s funny because there is so much being said and done about accommodating children on the ASD spectrum but there is next to nothing said about what happens to these children as they become adults.

I sincerely understand what challenges autistic kids go through and what sheer hell growing up on the spectrum is, especially when you know you don’t belong, and no one, especially your own parents, knows what to do with you.

In their defense, they tried. Doctors had no answers. All they could say about the 2 year old who could read the dictionary but did not want to be touched, who was terrified of anyone who was not an immediate family member, was plagued by night terrors and screaming fits, and could not walk or run properly without falling, was I had “congenital gross motor deficits.” Physical therapy for my gross motor deficits was nominally helpful, as was vision correction. I am coordinated enough to drive a manual shift car and walk across a room without falling. I eventually got to where I could ride a bike and rollerskate, but much later than most kids and not as proficiently. Nothing anyone could do could assuage my anxiety and social ineptitude. I have worked with psychologists and counselors (some good, some bad, and some positively abysmal) but to this day I still struggle with both anxiety and social ineptitude. I have had to build my own roadmaps and navigate my own way.

Medication (Prozac and Catapres, prescribed by a one time family doctor who had some understanding of anxiety, depression and autism) and educating myself have been helpful in this endeavor, but there is no “manual.” There simply isn’t much help out there for people like me.

I had to figure out how to script, how to mask, and how to put up a good front to survive. It’s good that the bullying and mocking isn’t as widely tolerated (and sometimes even encouraged) as it was in my youth. Perhaps there are ill-coordinated, awkward, badly dressed, terrified, myopic, autistic girls like I was who don’t get thrown in the bushes or tossed head first into the trash cans every morning at school. That would be a start.

However well intentioned early intervention and active assistance for autistic children may be, the challenges and the social dystopia don’t disappear when one turns 18. If anything, life becomes more painful and complicated and isolated because there is a dearth of help or advice for autistic adults.

I’m 50 years old. I grew up in a poor backwater town where educational resources were sparse at best. On my first day of second grade the teachers were arguing in the hall because neither of them wanted me in their class, and both claimed that the principal had promised each one I would not be in either teacher’s class. Eventually they came to an agreement, in which the teacher with the least seniority had to take me. I am hyperlexic and could read before I was two years old. The teachers in elementary school were intimidated by my vocabulary and reading ability. They didn’t know what to do with my constant freakouts- like when bees or wasps would fly in the room and I would lose it in terror at the sight of flying insects. They had no idea what to do with me, and in retrospect I can see that my mere presence freaked them out. I don’t blame them. I wasn’t normal. I didn’t look normal and I didn’t act normal. I hated (and still have trouble with) maintaining eye contact with people. I don’t like being touched.

I have no explanation for my reading ability or the compulsion to read everything I could find in print, but I am thankful that I was verbal at a young age. I was probably spared a great deal of injury and abuse simply because I could speak out to some degree.

Even though I was verbal and quite literate very early, I still have issues processing emotions and making my needs known- or even knowing whether or not my needs are valid or appropriate. My constant and intense anxiety (which has not gone away with age) makes it difficult for me to communicate when I am stressed. I was easily intimidated and was routinely beaten up by my older sisters and kids at school. I was an easy target. The terror, insecurity and reticence to speak out or to defend myself remains.

My own mother would backhand me for “staring” when she thought I was too focused on someone or something, or for being “rude” for not hugging and kissing on people who were her friends, but who I didn’t know from Adam’s house cat. Physical contact of any kind is uncomfortable for me unless it involves a close family member (and then only in certain situations)- or a dog. My aversion to physical contact has gotten even more acute with age.

To make my childhood even more fun I had chronic health issues-including constant respiratory infections and a bout of rheumatic fever that has led to heart arrhythmia, joint damage and constant pain. I have ongoing difficulty with spatial perception which I am sure contributes to my poor gross motor skills.

On the plus side I have managed to stay gainfully employed since I was 16, my son is thankfully neurotypical and doesn’t have my wiring issues. But life on the spectrum is different. It’s hard to know where you stand with other people.

William Shakespeare once wrote,“All the world’s a stage, and we are merely players.” This is so true for me when my every interaction with other humans must be carefully analyzed and scripted, and even then I am terrified of being inappropriate, using language that doesn’t resonate with my intended audience, and sending the wrong body language. To make it worse, when I’m tired, sick or stressed, my ability to script and filter goes right out the window. I am not normal. I can put up that front, but it has a very high cost. The older I get the more maintaining the “normal” facade exhausts and depletes me.

I understand I am the one with the disparity and I am the one who has to be accommodating and I have to adjust. No one is going out of his or her way to make my life easier. This world wasn’t designed for people like me.

At my age some of my idiosyncrasies get a pass. I dress how I want for the most part, and can decline most social activities outside of work that I deem stressful. It’s a mixed bag.

I wouldn’t say that being wired the way I am is easy but then again it’s the only way I know. I still have more questions than answers.