My Old Friend Montezuma Stopped By, and He Brought His Cousin, Ralph

happy superfriends birthdayThis year’s birthday really, really sucked ass.  Then again, I should refrain from any toilet-related verbage for awhile, probably.
I appreciate the birthday wishes everyone sent me Tuesday even though I didn’t reply to anyone on Facebook or anywhere else.  I wasn’t being rude intentionally.  I was home in bed and quite miserable- and not because I wanted to be.
Monday, when I’d already arranged (of course) to take the day off for Sophia’s birthday and then to take Tuesday off for my own, I got to spend both days in the company of Montezuma and his cousin Ralph.  They are not nice houseguests.
diarrhea tsunamiNot my idea of a good time.  Ever.
Steve-o and I left early Monday morning with Sophie to go to Easton so she could do Build-a-Bear for her birthday.  We got through the Build-a-Bear (she picked the Hello Kitty- and her clothes) and then I got deathly ill.
I’m just glad I knew where the ladies’ was at Easton, and that I could trot fast enough to get there in time to avoid a most embarrassing and aesthetically unpleasant scene.  Not too many people are “down with the fountain of brown.” Steve-o had to take me home and I spent the rest of the day Monday and most of the day Tuesday between bed and…well, you know where.
overflowI had better aim than that, thankfully, but yeah, it was about that bad.
It was my typical bad luck to schedule days off only to be sick, but then I thought at least, 1. I had taken vacation time already anyway, and 2. getting sick while on vacation saved me the dreaded necessity of calling off, which I won’t do, unless, of course, I am physically unable to remain vertical.
Tuesday night, once I did manage to keep down some saltine crackers and Diet 7UP, I felt a little bit up to reading the pages on fasting in our Lenten study book from church.  I know my sort of imposed fasting of late isn’t exactly what I’d call a spiritual discipline, at least not when the cause for one’s fast is: Don’t eat – unless you want to visit Cousin Ralph.  Even so, I did not fail to see the irony in reading about fasting when all I’d had to eat in the past 24 hours was a few saltine crackers.  Being hungry sucks.  It sucks even worse when you know that anything you think you’re going to put down is going to come right back up.
throw_upNot one of my favorite activities.  It’s right down there with standing in line at the BMV.
I know as a diabetic, fasting from food, in the traditional sense of a fast, is Not a Good Idea, especially when my blood sugar was 60 Tuesday morning (don’t worry, it was 110 yesterday morning and 118 this morning, which is acceptable, so today at least, I’m staying vertical.) For the past few days, though, in spite of being somewhat vertical yesterday and today, I’ve felt like a freeze-dried dog turd.
crappy-mug
However, even in my non-voluntary fast, I learned a few important things.  One is the ever present lesson that my physical body and stamina are quite limited.  Lately I had been burning the candle at both ends as well as in the middle, and it caught up with me.  Sometimes these annoying (though thankfully, usually brief and not deadly in the long term) ailments give one just enough time to stop and rest and realize that there’s too much noise and too much running around and various crud going on.  Saturday I was between Columbus and Marion.  Sunday I was between Columbus and Lancaster and then back to Marion. Monday I’d gone back from Marion to Columbus after staying in my parents’ guest room, being kept up all night by the spooky sounds of the trains.
train2
It’s a backwater, but even in Marion the trains are diesel-electrics, not like the cool steam engine pictured above.
If you live there, you get used to the trains, but when you don’t live there, the incessant noise of the trains is creepy, probably like the airport would be for people who don’t live less than a mile from Port Columbus.
diesel-electricThis is a diesel-electric locomotive engine- the ones that are in use today- constantly hauling thousands of coal cars back and forth across central Ohio.
The bottom line was I was running too much, and trying to cram 10# of fertilizer into a 5# bag.  That’s sort of normal for me, only the older I get I have less and less tolerance for it.  If my body and mind don’t get the rest and recharging they think they need, sometimes they take it by force. Sometimes they hire Monte and Ralph to do the job.
I was forced to step back and realize that no, I wasn’t going to be able to get all the laundry done.  I was going to have to ask Jerry to go get catfood (and hope and pray that the catfood bags still have pictures of cats on the front so he doesn’t come home with hog feed or something.) I wasn’t going to get to spend a day traipsing about Easton with my son and granddaughter.  I was more than aware that if I wasn’t able to get myself vertical and drag myself out the door that calling off Wednesday would have been a distinct possibility (and maybe should have been…)
catfood
Jerry: no, it’s not cat meat in the bag, it’s what you feed the cats.  Just so I’m clear.
It’s hard to take a hiatus from our own demands, (even if we try to plan for it) but it’s even harder to take a hiatus from the demands of others.
I think I understand what John Lennon meant about sitting and watching the wheels go ’round and ’round.  I’d like to get off the merry-go-round from time to time, but it seems the only time I get that opportunity is when my grip on the merry-go-round gets overwhelmed by the centrifugal force of the world spinning.  I let go, and I fall off of it.  Unlike John Lennon, I don’t have the luxury of staying off the bloody thing for too long, but I need to do it more often, and before I have to be pried off of it by illness, weakness and sometimes, even, my own pride.
There is an even more profound lesson to be found in all of this.  All of our provision comes from God.  Apart from Him I am not able to do anything.  It’s not my strength we’re talking about, but His. Sometimes I need times like this to be reminded that it’s not about my plans or what I’ve set out to do.   Sometimes God simply says: “Sit down and shut up and rest for once. You have no power at all save for Me.”  It’s a necessary and humbling reminder.
Monte and Ralph have beaten me up pretty good over the past couple of days.  I will need to change the cat boxes tonight though, because Jerry will NOT do that.  I took him way out of his comfort zone by asking him to unload the dryer and hang up his clothes. 🙂
 Explosive-DiarrheaThen again, maybe not.

Definitely Not Normal, So Adjust, (and Learn When to Say “Tough Titty!”)

I never really liked the word “normal,” because “normal” is a most subjective word.  What is normal for me is probably not normal for most other people, and vice-versa.  That’s OK, because I’m comfortable with the way I’m wired, and I can navigate with it pretty well.   The problem for me is that the rest of the world isn’t wired the same way, so I have to modify my methods and approach accordingly in my interactions with the rest of humanity.  My peculiar wiring gives me some advantages (for instance, for me, speed-reading has always been a mechanism that is both automatic and near and dear to my heart) but my wiring also gives me disadvantages when the only route I’ve been given is not the well-traveled road.   I see much that others miss, but I miss much that others see.  I miss the subtle cues of facial expression and body language that most people cue in on automatically.  I have to make a conscious effort not only to read non-verbals, but also to be sure that I’m sending the right non-verbals, both of which are vexing for me.  I’d much rather communicate in print so I can revise as necessary and say what I mean to say.  I also have to make a conscious effort to do anything requiring gross motor skills.  I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was almost 8 years old, and in spite of intense physical therapy when I was 3-4 years old, and my mother’s misguided attempt to force me into ballet lessons a few years later, (too bad they didn’t have video cameras then, because my abysmal attempts at ballet dancing would have been a hoot to watch) I’m still doing good to walk without falling. 

A better term for “normal” in my world would be “neurotypical”- meaning the vast majority of humanity, i.e. people who can walk across a room without tripping on their own feet, and whose perception is not perennially “cranked up to 11.”   Neurotypical people have to learn to read the written word the hard way (something I still don’t understand, because I can’t remember a time in my life when I couldn’t read) but for the most part they automatically pick up on empathy and relating to others, while I have to consciously develop and practice those skills- the hard way.  I also have to train myself to narrow my focus, otherwise I would be kept awake by a star’s reflection in my window or by the whistle of a far off train.  The danger in this is if I turn down the perception knob too much or hone in on one tiny spot for too long I truly do shut off the rest of the world.  One of my greatest talents is the ability to ignore. I have to consciously keep a balance between the two extremes.   I can go from near-catatonia to panic attack in a heartbeat if I fail to keep the “need to shut down” and “need to experience everything” parts of my mind balanced. 

I have suspected for a long time that I have Asperger’s Syndrome- the description of Asperger’s explains much about my rather “abnormal” intellectual and social development.  I understand how easy it is to simply shut down.  It’s hard for me to describe, but I can see both how and why autistic people do shut down.  It’s easier than the constant fight to maintain the balance, and it beats panic attacks and/or manic rages.  Leave me alone in the ivory tower, because it’s a lot easier that way.  Yes, that I most certainly understand.

I remember all too well Mom used to backhand me for “being rude” or “staring” when I couldn’t see what was wrong with a.) stating the obvious, or b.) making an observation.  Then again I may have had some advantages in such a harsh upbringing.  Mom was a big believer in operant conditioning, and more specifically the negative reinforcement component of operant conditioning.  She would backhand you for a dirty look, or for missing a response whilst doing the Catholic calesthenics during Mass.  In her economy one’s behavior better be appropriate at all times, and to flying hell with any reason you might provide for behavior she deemed inappropriate.   My sisters had a different MO for beating the hell out of me, (unless they could beat me and make me scream so Mom would also beat me- for screaming) and they beat me a LOT more often than Mom ever needed to.  They beat the hell out of me because I was an easy target and it was something to do when Mom locked us outside and cranked up the volume on the TV.  Who knew sadism could be so entertaining?  Today they have video games for that, but not back in the 70’s. 

In my opinion, “telling it like it is,” is simply being honest.  You can be honest and tactful, but tact is an acquired skill, and not necessarily one that I excel in.  I acquired a good measure of tact with the quickness when I was about five- after I commented that one of Dad’s friends was getting really fat. Gotta love that operant conditioning. You will shut up after being backhanded into next week- but it didn’t change the fact that Dad’s buddy was getting downright lardy.  One of the nice things about cougardom is that I don’t have to be as tactful as I was required to be when I was five.  Age buys one at least a slight bit of gravitas in some ways.  I can call a lard ass a lard ass and get away with it, though if I must comment on someone’s superfluous girth, I generally just say “large” and move on.  I’m not consciously trying to be rude, but I do call it as I see it.  I can make commentary as much as I want to at my age without having to be as paranoid about offending people. 

One of the reasons I really hate political correctness is that it gives people excuses to be wussies.  I was never allowed to simply follow the path of least resistance and shut myself down to the point of being cloistered away in a padded room with a stack of adult diapers (though I think I would actually have to leave my little private enclave to at least use the toilet and bathe) and vast selection of reading material.  No one catered to me.  I had to adjust to everyone else and if I didn’t like it, it was tough titty.  I was held to a higher standard because of my IQ scores, with no mercy or accommodation for my motor deficits or emotional and social deficits.  My family forced me to be social and to function in the neurotypical world whether I wanted to or not.  I was not given the choice to withdraw from human interaction.  The best metaphor I can think of is that I was thrown in the pool and left to sink or swim.  No water wings, no instruction, no floatie for me.  Use what you have and figure it out.  I probably could have done without all the beatings and likely the attempts at ballet lessons too, but for the most part I don’t think that I would have the ability to function in the “normal” world today had I not been forced to do so. Sadly, today no one has the audacity to require kids to adjust and to learn how to navigate the world with the wiring they’ve been given. 

Granted, I am probably not an exemplary picture of mental health.  I freely admit I have Issues.  Then again, had I not been thrown into the fire I can guarantee my Issues would be far more profound and limiting.

So, just shut up and make it work.  That’s what has to be done sometimes.