Beyond the Void, Someone to Talk To, and Miscellaneous Tidbits

hell_is_realI know where this sign is.  You can see it on southbound I-71, somewhere in Madison County- between Columbus and Cincinnati.

I don’t like to think about that most terrible place I think of as simply the void, but I was reminded of it in of all places in church this week.  It’s that bone chilling, thought shattering, crushing experience of being everywhere and nowhere and immersed in grinding, mind-blowing pain that is brought on by extreme trauma, whether it be emotional or physical.  Stephen King sort of describes it in his short story, “The Jaunt.”  What I mean by the void is a sort of airless, timeless limbo that is between time and space (if that’s possible to comprehend.)  It’s the moment in which you are hit with unspeakably horrific, life-shattering news and the grief and disbelief and shock hit you like a tidal wave- and worse.

In “The Jaunt,” the entry into the void was a bit different.  A scientist discovered that teleporting things almost instantly across space was possible, but that live animals and humans only made it through “the jaunt” if they were anesthetized.  Live animals came through the process aged and weak and died shortly after arriving at their destination- and the few humans that attempted it came out on the other side certifiably insane.

insane

Maybe King’s story isn’t the best analogy, but it’s the closest reference I can find to those times in which the wind is knocked out of you, you are transported to an airless, breathless, motionless state, and your world falls apart.  It’s infinity in there.  And not in a good way.  It’s what I would imagine to be a tiny sampling of hell- and no I’m not referring to the BMV.  I have to go there soon enough for the dreaded driver’s license mug shot, for which no matter what I do it will turn out positively frightening and should say “Correctional Institute Inmate” on the picture somewhere, because yes, my driver’s license pics have always been That Bad.  Even so, I’d gladly take an hour at the BMV waiting on having a shitty picture taken vs. one millisecond of the void.  Believe that.

mclovin-oldMy driver’s license is valid, but the pic is just as bad.

I don’t like to be reminded of the void or of the times I’ve been there.

Hell_LavaPit1

However, as far as psychological pain goes, I am almost always a delayed reactor.  I can only think of one time that I completely fell apart instantaneously, and that is when I got the news about my four year old niece being killed, which was completely unforeseen.  It seems that in order for me to fall apart I have to be caught off guard.

For years I dealt with- (and at times, still do deal with) post traumatic stress, which is the gift that keeps on giving, those brief illogical terrors that show up unbidden and in the least likely of places for the most bizarre reasons.  One of the most memorable unbidden episodes was back when I was working a really crappy job.  The only thing that kept me from going nuts in that place was that they sent me out to run titles from time to time.  It’s not rocket science but it does give you a lot of time to yourself.  You find the title offices of surrounding counties and turn in the paperwork so people who just bought cars get their titles registered and all that crud.  Most of the time back then, title offices were in the courthouse in whatever county seat so I got to investigate some really cool old 19th century courthouses.  Today public buildings might as well be prisons, but back in the day architects built things not only to last, but for their aesthetic value.  That part of the title running thing was almost fun.

courthouseThis is the courthouse in Marion County.  I hope that the powers that be don’t decide to tear this one down too.

I had to go to Union County, which was only about a half an hour out.  The title office had temporarily been moved to the old high school which was slated for demolition, while the new county building was being built.  So I find my way through the vestibule and follow the arrow upstairs.  The staircases were well-worn and crumbling, but the metal framework beneath them was holding fast.  I had a really strange feeling in that building, as if I were violating someone, or something’s space.  I found the temporary title office, completed the transfers, and as I was leaving, a huge framed glass and gold leaf memorial caught my eye.

world_war_one_memorial059

I don’t have a pic of the Union County memorial that was in that high school, but this memorial displays a similar concept.

It was a memorial of WWI veterans who came from that school.  There were at least fifty names on that memorial, and I believe eight of those names had stars next to them, indicating that they had been killed in action. I wasn’t able to linger there long.  For such a small, rural town to lose that many was sad, but the fact that the memorial was in a high school sort of struck me.  These weren’t old men.  This wasn’t a picture of grinning old men reminiscing over old times at the bar in the VFW.  These were kids just out of high school- boys who either came home jaded and scarred, or never came home at all.   I don’t know how to describe the wave of emptiness and profound grief that washed over me that day, but I had to run back to the car as fast as I could, and for some reason I was overcome with sadness and rage and I don’t know what else.  I wept over strange young men who I had never met, who had experienced terrors beyond anything I could imagine, and to this day I have no idea why.

On a brighter note, I remembered that I haven’t put up any pics of my newest kitty, Jezebel.  Jezebel was one of the feral kittens Jerry trapped back on the shop lot the week before Halloween.  The other three went to the owner of the body shop’s horse barn to keep the vermin away from the horses.  I wasn’t planning on another cat, but Jezebel, well, she’s all black.  All black cats don’t fare well in feral or outdoor settings, so we made her a house cat.  The first week or so she had to be handled with a welding glove (this is sort of normal with feral kittens.)  Now she is very social and fond of human attention, Isabel (and she looks just like a mini-Isabel) and really isn’t fazed by much of anything, including dogs.    The key to socializing cats is getting them before the socialization window more or less closes at 12 weeks.  These kittens were about 6 or 7 weeks when we found them, which is the perfect age to socialize them.  They can eat solid food and live OK without Mommy, so the mortality rate is low, but they can still learn to get along with humans, other cats and dogs.

Jezebel instantly gravitated to Isabel, (who is also all black) which we are grateful for because Miz Izz loves other cats and has always been good at schooling youngsters.  So now I have a 14 week or so old kitten who is going to have to be spayed here in the next few weeks.  But Jezebel is already a really good cat.  No welding gloves are currently required.

366Jezebel- “Mini-Izz”

Nothing That Years of Psychotherapy Won’t Fix, Pragmatic Politics and Obscure History

I’ve never been a true believer in Freudian psychology, especially his premise that all behavior goes back to sex.  If that’s the case, and everything revolves around sex, I’m in really big trouble, because in that regard I am extremely low mileage- as in barely driven off the dealership lot.  That vehicle’s been sitting on the lot so long the tires are dry-rotted and the battery’s dead and the upholstery smells like locker room funk, if my sex life could be compared to a used car.

But it only has 200 miles on it!

I also have problems with the touchy-feely approach that some psychologists take where it’s all about “embracing your inner child.”  When I was a child I didn’t want anyone touching me for any reason.  “Touching” usually involved getting my ass kicked in some sort of way.  I was the geek kid that nobody associated with unless it involved me getting an ass kicking, or it involved someone trying to bribe me to let him/her cheat on a test.   If you’re trying to improve my self-esteem, then why do you want me to “embrace” the geek kid?  I have to wonder about that approach.  I have to wonder about all the hoo-hah about self-esteem.  Today’s kids are all about self-esteem, even if they suck.  I would rather know I suck than have some lying ass pilot fill me full of crap about how great I am.

I was the butt-ugly geek kid.

My childhood was not nice. It was mostly hell.  There were good moments- but they were few and far between.  I won’t blame my parents.  They did the best they could with what they had, and in their defense, they got dropped a raw deal.  There are no child development manuals that could have offered them any help.  No parent asks for a child with physical deficits, and no parent asks for a child whose intellectual, emotional and social development can only be categorized as highly abnormal.   There was no option of specialists or special schools, especially when it was a struggle for them to afford the bare necessities.  Hell, Mom was at the zoo herself most of the time, being bi-polar and untreated- and unpredictable.  Dad was at work just about all of his waking hours- partially out of necessity and partially because he didn’t know if he’d come home to Jekyll or Hyde.  When I say that my grandmother (actually both of them, but more so my Dad’s Mom, who was within running distance) saved my life many times, that is an understatement.  I know Mom probably didn’t appreciate Grandma’s interference (when she was aware of it) but it was Grandma who stormed the principal’s office and kept me from getting the hell beat out of me waiting on the bus.  It was Grandma who took me to the Dr. and stayed with me when I was sick with rheumatic fever.   It was Grandma who gave me a safe place to go when my sisters and/or the neighborhood kids were looking for someone to pummel again.

I will say that Mom’s unpredictability set me up to deal with future coke-head bosses pretty well though.

Given what they had to work with, it’s a miracle that I am vertical, gainfully employed, and not a serial killer.

Needless to say, I have spent several years in various types of counseling- some more effective than others.  The first counselor I went to, when I was 13-16 was tolerable.  Better yet, it didn’t cost my parents anything for me to see her because she was a family friend.  I learned fairly quickly the answers she wanted to hear- no, I’m not going to kill myself, yes, I am thinking positive today (retch,) but truth be told more than anything I appreciated getting out of school early every other Tuesday to sit and pretty much just shoot the shit.  Because she was a family friend, I don’t think she believed me when I told her that my oldest sister was a sadist and a psychopath, but by that time my oldest sister was so much more interested in whatever money and assorted favors she could extort from the boys that she didn’t have much time to waste torturing me.

The second counselor I went to truly wasted my time and money.  About a year after Steve-o was born I was having panic attacks and full-blown PTSD, as well as I was going through a rather nasty separation and divorce.  I thought it a good idea to seek counseling because I truly was freaking out.  The only thing she did after a couple of sessions was to tell me to buy a copy of the book Codependent No More and wished me happy trails.   In hindsight I think it was because I had shitty insurance and she was afraid she wouldn’t get paid.  I got really cynical about the whole counseling thing after that, and figured that mental health must just be too lofty a goal.   So I decided to just deal with life the way I’d always had since I’d become an adult: chain smoking, binge drinking whenever I could, obsessive overwork, and indiscriminate liaisons when I could get away with it.  I was a Ruthless Bitch, and that worked for about seven years- until my physical health really started to go south.

Thankfully my path necessarily changed because of my health failing.  By the grace of God I got back into a relationship with Him and got involved in a church.  Also by the grace of God I gave up smoking.  I went to a counselor for a couple of years who wasn’t in it to either bullshit me or rip off my insurance company, and learned some helpful ways to navigate the way I’m wired and to deal with my past (which is an ongoing project.)  I also acknowledged that I have inherited and organic tendencies toward anxiety and depression that require medical treatment and medication as well, which has helped me deal with PTSD and work beyond it.   It’s a journey, not so much a destination, but I would have to say I am mentally healthier now than at any point in my life, which is almost scary.

I registered to vote on my 18th birthday- for what it’s worth.

This year is another year in which I not only have to be careful not to get caught up in the rhetoric (which is easy for me to do) but I feel as if I have to stand back and look at the election with a pragmatic eye.  Voting for a third party or a write-in, i.e. Ron Paul, Mickey Mouse, Ron Jeremy, Dennis Kucinich or even posthumously, Ronald Reagan, effectively is a vote for Obama.  Staying home and not voting is also effectively a vote for Obama, and it would also take away my right to bitch about him should he be re-elected.  And I am going to bitch about him, re-elected or (hopefully) not- believe it.   I would rather have fire ants poured down my underwear than to be complicit in re-electing the worst president ever, and I state for the record that Obama is The Worst Ever.  Even if I include Pierce, Buchanan, Wilson, Harding, Nixon, Carter and Clinton, Obama takes the Worst Ever prize hands down.

I’m still not a huge fan of Mitt Romney.  The last truly good president this country has seen is Ronald Reagan, and sadly, he’s been in his grave for eight years.  But even though Mitt is no Reagan, I can think of FAR better choices to be sitting in the Oval Office than Obama.

Sheena, the mentally challenged Husky.  Bonus: her birth certificate is just as contrived as Obama’s, but it’s a little more creative.

Ron Jeremy

Karl Pilkington (yes, he’s a Brit, but hey, BO didn’t have to be a citizen!)

The guy on the Quaker Oat box

Satan

Just remember, folks.  The people who voted for Ross Perot bought us 8 years of Bill Clinton.   That was bad, but Obama’s a million times worse.  As much as I hate the adage, “choose the lesser of the two evils,” what do you do when one of the choices is overwhelmingly odious, the other one is less odious, but still not quite good?  <Sigh…>

When Is Panic the Appropriate Response?, Views of the Macabre, and Wake-Up Songs

 

Perhaps as a person who has dealt with PTSD, major depression, and panic attacks, it would be helpful for me to know when panic is the appropriate response.  I have been known to vascillate from near catatonia and total apathy to going postal over a popcorn fart.  One thing that I have noticed after being on Prozac for the past six years, is that my reactions seem to be a lot more “middle of the road.”  I don’t freak out easily and for no apparent reason like I used to when I had panic attacks on a regular basis, but I don’t go into total apathy mode either.  I do notice and still care about all the things that are screwed up in my particular dystopia, but not to the point of losing sleep or climbing the walls.  This is a good thing, I think, unless I should be freaking out and just don’t realize it.

Jerry freaks out about the grass.  I don’t know if all middle-aged to elderly men have a thing about having a perfect lawn and freaking out if you don’t, but Jerry sure as hell has a lawn fetish.   He always thinks the grass needs mowed, especially if he can see any dandelions.  Personally, I like dandelions.  They are nature’s way of giving lawn freaks like Jerry the finger.  There are limits to what you can do with grass.  Our lawn is not a golf course.  There’s a bus stop in front of our house, so a lot of the time, as they wait on the bus, the freakazoids from the drunk and domestic apartments behind the body shop are tossing their cig packs, drinkie cups and various other detritus in the front yard.  I swear I picked up- with the shovel- a trucker bomb in the front yard the other day.  So as long as the height of the plant life in the front yard is compliant with city ordinances, I wouldn’t be too paranoid about it.  The back yard is the dogs’ shitter.  Do they care if they shit in dandelions?  Probably not.  George Carlin once asked (in reference to cats, but same principle) how many gourmets lick their asses.  How many dogs really care about the quality of the greenery they’re dropping a deuce in?

Thankfully, yesterday, when he finally moved out of Tipsy McNumbnuts mode, Jerry decided to call his half-brother Ray Earl (oh, the joy of redneck names!) who repairs lawn mowers, to see if he would take a look at the one he trashed.  In the meanwhile, he managed to start one of the beat up old mowers he buys at yard sales to sell on Craig’s List, and he did quite fine last night mowing the grass with it.   Since he was sober and acting like he actually had half a brain for once, I decided to be nice and pick up all the visible dog shit in the back yard for him.  That was partially for my own benefit, because he always seems to either step in it (and then, of course, he will traipse it through the house so I get to clean it up off his shoes and the floors) or it gets mulched in the mower, so you step out the door and it smells like shit.  Neither alternative is pleasant, but  I was overjoyed to be spared a field trip through the seventh circle of hell with him in Sears or Home Depot.  Scooping up shit is not nearly as bad as following Jerry around in Home Depot.

I am not much of a shopper, especially for a woman.  I dislike crowds, and generally avoid stores altogether if I can buy what I want online.  But home improvement stores are Jerry’s equivalent of DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse- one of the hugest shoe stores in the Midwest-with locations all over beautiful Central Ohio.)  Jerry can spend hours looking at building supplies and tools and chain saws and trimmers and mowers and all the various crud available at home improvement stores for hours on end.  I find gawking at that stuff insanely boring unless I need a particular item to do a particular job, then I get what I need and get out.  It usually smells like fertilizer or paint in those places, and I really don’t want to linger. I don’t think I could spend as long in DSW as Jerry spends on his forays to Home Depot.   Ideally he would go to the home improvement store with Bob- they both know what they are after, they both like to gawk at things like varnish and caulk, and I don’t have a freaking clue.

I do try not to be one of those old geezers who bitch about really stupid things.  I don’t want to end up like the old bitty that lived across from Mom and Dad who complained about kids “stealing her snow.”  She was dead for four months before anyone realized it.  Her kids never bothered to visit her, and everyone who lived in the neighborhood avoided her because she was constantly calling the cops on everyone.  I don’t want to become so petty that I end up calling the cops over dogs barking or loud exhausts.  Usually I only bother law enforcement if there’s something dangerous going on, like people shooting off shotguns, or there’s a drunk guy passed out in the drunk and domestic apartments’ parking lot when it’s 20 degrees out, and he’ll freeze to death if nobody retrieves him.

I figure cops have better things to do than to hassle people about dogs barking or to give the young punks fits about the ass-nasty rap music they like to blare through their sub-woofers.  I’m not saying I like it when people let their dogs bark incessantly or when anyone plays rap music, but I’m sure I do things to annoy people too.   

Jerry got an interesting piece of junk mail yesterday- from a cemetery up in Lewis Center (a small town about 25 miles out) extolling the beauty (and quoting pricing and payment plans) of having your very own pre-paid grave plot

I hate to say it but I find such a thing a bit macabre.  It’s one thing to realize you eventually might need one, and go trolling for grave plots on your own, but it seems just a bit morbid for a cemetery to be sending out flyers with the ValPak coupons. 

I am planning on being cremated if for no other reasons than to save money and space.  I should consider buying my urn ahead of time. 

If I leave it up to Steve-o I’ll end up spending eternity either flushed down the toilet, or in an old Folger’s can that Steve-o will eventually mistake for an ashtray.

I am going to have to compile my CD of  “Songs to Wake Jerry Up” for use when he’s hungover because he was partying like a rockstar the night before.

Here’s a preliminary list:

“Stars and Stripes Forever” – John Philip Sousa (this is a wake-up classic!)

Ren and Stimpy’s “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” song

“Shiny Happy People”- REM (it can be a just plain annoying song)

“Dixie Highway”- Journey

“Rock and Roll”- Led Zeppelin

“Crazy Train”- Black Sabbath

“Bastille Day”- Rush

“Smells Like Teen Spirit”- Nirvana

“For Whom the Bell Tolls”- Metallica

I could have fun with this collection.  I will have to troll my MP3 collection tonight and see what I can find. 

Something tells me I really don’t want to know.  After Steve-o did the 7/8″ earrings in his earlobes, I didn’t have the courage to ask him what else he has pierced.  Some things are TMI, even for me.