On my walk home today I met a man and his dog. He was doing the thing that responsible dog owners do and picking up his dog’s business while she nosed around in the sand and then rolled happily in some smell or another. As she did so I smiled and said to him something about hoping it wasn’t a particularly vile thing she was rolling in. He laughed.
“She does that right after I bath her, too.”
“Is she a mum?” I ask as she writhes now on freshly mowed grass – at least that smells good. I had noticed her swollen teats as she rolled blissfully about
“Yeah, ten puppies, here let me show you a picture!”
“Ten! oh my goodness!” No wonder dog was enjoying herself outdoors.
The sheer joy and pride he took in showing off her babies to me was endearing. We chatted a little about how hard it was to find a place to live that allowed dogs – which these days is basically nowhere unless you own your own place. Mama dog nosed me, but she wasn’t really all that interested in anything but rolling in some more dirt.
I had been feeling a little flattened out, depressed even for the last little while, but seeing the simple joy he took in his pet, who obviously adored him right back, made me feel better.
I think it’s easy to lose sight of the simple things in life – which are often the more important ones: moments like that one where he could share his joy with someone else and not be afraid. There was nothing else, just a man and his dog and me sharing in his adoration of her and her puppies.
These days people are so caught up in things they have no control over, bigger things that are far too vast to deal with: global warming, electing Trump or not, Syrian refugees, war, bombings, economic collapse you name it. All these things are important, but we forget that half our problems start with something as simple as how we treat others.
No one ever had to teach me to feel empathy or compassion. I had an over abundance of it as a child in fact, which caused my mother some worry, and some laughter. (I wouldn’t eat baby carrots because it was mean, and went so far as to ‘rescue’ them by hiding them in weird places where I’d forget them until mom unearthed them.) But I had a hard time learning that compassion could cost me, and that I needed to have some for myself, to find a balance.
It was nice to be reminded that it is the simple things that help you get there.
I have these moments (ok, days) where I can barely function – the ‘what if’ part of my brain kicks into over dive along with the part of my brain that likes to remind me how useless, worthless and/or ugly I am. They call this anxiety and depression, respectively. This week, having realized that an important appointment was coming up, I starting what-iffing myself into a near total meltdown. What if it goes badly? What if I fail? What do we do then? Why is it so fucking easy for other people? All of a sudden I felt like every last person was secretly judging me for what I perceived as failures. (A situation not made simpler by the ever-ignorant question “If you have a degree, why are you not working in your field?” I loathe that question. There is no one simple answer and for some reason I can’t seem to tell people that it’s really none of their fucking business and only just barely manage to restrain myself from issuing a punch to the face. It really is none of their business, but how do you tell someone that without sounding rude? I really need to come up with some pat answer to put people off…)
I recall being incensed when a random GP – on an initial visit mind – told me I needed antidepressants because I experienced mood swings before my period. “Everyone gets moody then!” I protested – but as the years continue I fear she may have been right – though not for the reasons she listed. Granted there’s a higher likelihood of my low points coinciding with the erratic emotions associated with PMS, but they are just as likely to hit at other times. Usually in tandem with perceived failures and/or slights be they real or imagined. (I have the tendency to dream rather vividly, and sometimes I can’t tell if events actually happened, of I dreamed them. This can be a little awkward sometimes.) I have so far refused to drag my sorry ass to the doctor and request an assessment by the appropriate specialists for only one reason: I really don’t want to be dependent on pills for my emotional stability. I’ve survived thus far by sheer pigheadedness.
Yesterday, I wrote out a list of all the things that were dragging me down and then went through them one by one. I could cross a out lot of them as ‘phantoms’. I cannot stop my mind from producing horrifying scenarios, but I can stop myself from believing them. There is no logical reason to believe that this upcoming appointment will be a disappointment even though previous ones have been – for reasons totally beyond my control. The other part of it is fear of the unknown. I don’t know what to expect, so my brain focuses on what might happen if it doesn’t go well.
People know me as an optimist. A viewer of the silver lining. This isn’t always a natural thing. I have to focus on the positive in order to avoid going crazy and falling prey to the black dog. So I can get up and go to work every morning. I can force myself out of the meltdowns, but sometimes only barely. I used to use my writing as a means to deal, but I have been having problems committing anything to paper for a while. This is also something I’m forcing myself to work on. In the last year I’ve written more than the last three combined. (Yay me!) Some it is total crap, but I tell myself that’s not important. The act of writing is: purging the crap out of my head so that I can look at it from the outside. It looks different in black and white and that is so terribly useful. Some of it has been pretty good and I have high hopes for that stuff – if I can get the rest of me on track.
Some of the other things; like diet and such, would be so much easier to get a handle on if my partner wasn’t so oblivious to how being overweight makes me feel. It’s like I have to cry about it every week to keep the issue fresh enough in his mind that he doesn’t bring home KFC for dinner as a surprise. It seems that my pigheadedness does not extend to refusing food that smells so damn good – especially when food has become a replacement for other gratifying things.
I have done a little therapy, and it has helped in regards to a few things but in the end, even with the therapy it’s up to me anyway. A therapist is like a director: picking things out and asking you to think about stuff from other angles so you can transform them into something easier to handle or understand. I’ve got to take all of it: what has happened and what hasn’t and turn it into something useful. I’ve got to take this road one hill, one pothole at a time.
Listening to: Ride: Supreme Beings of Leisure
drinking: Earl Grey Tea, hot
eating: cucumber sandwiches
I have – like many, I’m sure – struggled with depression. Hell I’ve struggled with even admitting to myself that that was what I was struggling with. Of course, hindsight is clearer than any vision you have while you’re down in it and it’s obvious to me that I’m going to be managing it for the rest of my life. I am not chemically stabilized. I refused to go to doctors for it because a) I didn’t feel I was that bad and b) I was afraid of admitting, even to myself, that there was something “wrong” with me. I blame, in part, my upbringing. I was taught not to talk about myself as it was a ‘vulgar’ thing to do. One could say, on one level that I was raised to be an upper middle class snob. I’m sure that’s how it came off in some circles, but was considered “manners” in my own family. Of course, my mother has been doing some self-discovery of her own and apologized for several aspects of my upbringing, which got me thinking. Ask me about myself, and I will tell you any number of facts – probably too many, but start asking about the real me and I all of a sudden get vague. I love people who never prevaricate, who are genuine and say what they mean and mean what they say because that was something I felt I lacked for so long. I never felt good enough, or interesting enough to hold my own, so I had no opinions or at least never offered them until I had discerned where my companions own opinions lay in order to avoid conflict. I equated conflict (even disagreeing on something) as a negative mark against my personality.
Events seemed to compound my conviction that I wasn’t perfectly good as I was. I even went so far as to alter myself in order to be loved. I don’t think my first few boyfriends – or even the man I almost married had the benefit of knowing the real me.
I contemplated suicide but I realised those same obligations that got me out of bed would keep me alive – and that it was a cowardly way out. I dabbled in risky relationships. I drank too much. I ate too much. Frankly, only my sense of obligation to my partner and my job, to other people got me out of bed in the morning. I went through the motions, made stupid decisions and then came home and went to sleep again. Figuratively, or actually, it didn’t matter which. Escapism dominated a large portion of my waking hours.
Then I woke up one morning and I’d had enough. I was tired. Granted I was tired before, but this time, I was tired of being tired. I was tired of being sick, of being fat, of being a liar and lied to. And I thought; the only one who can change this is me. I can’t expect someone else to do this for me. Then I looked in the mirror; at that same ugly face that has looked back at me for years and thought: this is not going to be easy. And I almost gave up right there and went back to bed.
So I took a deep breath. Start small, I told myself. What can I do now to make myself feel better that doesn’t involve eating half a chocolate cake or drinking before noon? What can I do that doesn’t involve sitting at the computer or cracking a book?
I went for a walk… and I’m still walking.
listening to: Awolnation – Sail
Drinking: jasmine tea
reading: Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby
wrote today: 613 words
Several years ago, I was in a very dark and numb place in my life. I say several and honestly I’ve lost count. I’ve got to that point in my life where I still think that 1997 was yesterday. (That was a good year…)
My ex had left… rather, he had vanished in a cloud of controversy which made it impossible for my roommate and I to stay living where we were, and so we moved in with a work friend of hers. At the time, I kind of knew it was a bad idea, but I had no other option that didn’t involve moving back in with my mother, which meant moving away from the city I wanted to go to school in. Which even then, in my benumbed state, was not negotiable.
Besides, I’d sold my beloved car (mistake) and lost hours at work for numerous reasons; not the least of which was my inability to deal with some of my coworkers with anything but a blank stare or mechanical cheerfulness. To my credit, I never called in sick, even though there were days that it took everything I had to drag my sorry ass out of bed (a mattress on the floor, which made gravity that much harder to resist) and out the door.
But this apartment- suite – place. Whatever it was, it seemed a bit like a godsend. All I really remember is sitting on the living room floor of the previous place, (the one still echoing with my ex) clutching my dwarf bunny to my chest as the local kids threw rocks at the glass in the windows and the balcony doors, hoping they didn’t find any large enough to actually break them. I had the newspaper spread out in front of me, the phone and a pen next to me and even though I had circled ads for apartments, I either couldn’t bring myself to call; paralyzed by an inchoate terror that I’d have to explain why I needed a new apartment, or they seemed too far away or expensive for my and my roommate’s minuscule income.
So when A came home and said she had found us a place all I felt was relief. I didn’t even hear the “but”. That “but” turned out to be that we’d be living with a girl, let’s call her SB, (never mind what that stands for) who I only knew vaguely as a part of a group of girls who had delighted in being less than nice to A and I in high school. They hadn’t stooped to physical bullying, but they had never had anything nice to say while they were part of their pack. (And this is a nice way of saying they were total teenage bitches – but I chalk that up to teenage insecurities – for the most part.) I expressed some misgivings, but allowed myself to be assuaged by her “she’s different now, this isn’t high school.”
Little did we know.
The basement suite was in a house out near what we refer to as “Admiral’s Walk”, which in bus terms is essentially buttfuck nowhere near downtown. But there was a bus that went past the front door at reasonable times for getting to work. (Reasonable meaning that even though we had to bus for an hour, we’d still get to work before openings.) The entrance was at the back of the house and the first time I saw the apartment was the day we all moved in. There was a little back yard which I was happy about because it meant I could take the rabbit out on his leash for some exercise.
The entrance opened into a hall that hosted the three bedrooms. One on the left that SB claimed at once, since it had a big window on the back of the house. The other two, with the high basement suite standard windows were A and my rooms – only the wall that divided these rooms also bisected a window. The upstairs, which was occupied by a woman (who shared my name – and thankfully little else) and her kids shared the laundry room with us which was directly opposite the stairway – which meant we could not lock the door, or have complete privacy.
This was obviously not an entirely legal suite. There was a small space between the window and the wall that we could fit our hands through. This didn’t really matter to us, since we’d been friends for nearly ever – so I got the one closest to the staircase. At the time I still had M’s furniture so I moved his bed in and my meagre stuff and we set about being roommates.
We set up house, we rented movies and I pretended to be anything but morose. A got a kitten and SB’s little shih tzu poodle thing decided it disliked my tiny little rabbit. We even had a few parties with their bf’s and A’s brother and I forced myself to be social, but it took every ounce of energy I had, especially with my ex’s mother calling at stupid times in the early morning to sob, drunkenly in my ear about how she hadn’t deserved this and how the universe was out to get her. Being ridden with guilt myself I couldn’t bring myself to tell her to go to sleep and hang up. So when I wasn’t working – which was part time at best and even then not enough hours to be able to afford everything I needed to get by (thank god for A, or I would never have been able to eat at all) – listening to M’s mother or showering incessantly, I slept. It was all I had the energy to do. A urged me to find a different job and I dutifully printed out my resumes and got dressed in the least wrinkly clothes I could find to hand them out before work, but I think it was obvious to everyone I handed my resume to that I wasn’t ready for anything but more sleep. (There are very few pictures of me in this period. I’d had my hair cut boy-short and there were continual dark circles around my eyes that made me look like a raccoon.)
A’s and SB’s boyfriends came and stayed the night regularly. This in itself was not a bad thing, but the fact remained that I could hear everything that went on in the next room. That made missing M that much harder. As if that wasn’t complicated enough.
My weekly visits to the prison probably did nothing for my reputation with the landlady. Just writing that sentence makes me cringe and there is no way to describe how any of that felt from the inside that anyone on the outside would entirely understand. (I recall a counsellor asking me if I was going to be able to stick with M through the whole thing and when I said yes, he had said “most people say that, but not many actually can.” And I felt like yelling at him “How on earth am I supposed to know how I will feel in a year when I don’t even know how I feel now?” but I didn’t. I think I should have. But of course, he was right.)
Let me describe this woman, our landlady. She’s tall and skinny. I won’t say slender because this looks like a hard won thin. Her face is too narrow because of it. She should have a few more pounds on her to look less like a skeleton. She has long reddish hair past her waist. She’s old enough to have children only a few years younger than me and I’m in my early thirties. She calls her hair her ‘crowning glory’ and keeps it long because ‘that’s what men like’. Honestly she looks dried out and would look far better if she smiled once in a while. Her feeling that men were there to protect their women and that every woman needed a man to be complete kind of put A’s teeth on edge.
Soon I decided that I couldn’t go on as I had been. I wrote M a letter, stopped going to see him and called his parents to come pick up all his stuff. Sadly all his stuff amounted to most of what I had as furniture, so I moved everything left into one corner of my room; the one furthest from the staircase so I didn’t have to hear the landlady or her obnoxiously loud children stomping up and down it quite so personally. I had two single mattresses, a dresser and a cheesebox full of clothes. My single bookshelf and most of my beloved books where in the living room, underneath the rabbit cage. I later moved Sylvan into my room – not that it helped anything, but his small animal noises were soothing.
This was about the time that SB and the landlady had sort of become best friends – and the landlady got herself a semi-rich boyfriend. A was going to work by bus now and not getting rides with either of the other two, even though they all worked at the same place. So she was getting up very early and getting home very late. The landlady started locking the laundry room so that only she and SB could do laundry. The first time they did that my work clothes were in the dryer and I had to go to work in clothes that were respectable, but not cool with the store policy. (It was a clothing store, I had to wear their fashions as best I could. Thank god my boss was an amazingly understanding woman.) A would ask for the key and she’d get it (sometimes), but I never could – and I didn’t feel like arguing when the landlady just bald-faced said “no” to my face. I didn’t have the energy to smile, let alone argue or even ask why. So I did my laundry in the sink when no one was home. I hung each piece up to dry in my room and steamed my pants when I had a shower.
And then the landlady decided that the carpets were being destroyed by A’s kitten and my dwarf rabbit who looked just like this. A’s cat only peed in the litter box or her boyfriend’s shoes. (That cat knew things, I swear.) Sylvan never peed anywhere but the corner of his cage, even when he was on lead and I’m sorry, but bunny poops are dry enough you can pick them up by hand or vacuum them: no harm no foul. It was SB’s stupid little ankle biter who peed on everything – including the couch. Problem being that the damage had been done even before we moved in by the landlady’s very own daughter’s pit bull puppy that they had to give away. (Gee, I wonder why.)
Regardless, this and my late rental payment now and then (even though I had cleared it with her beforehand so I could buy groceries – and once clothes for an interview) was enough to suddenly get us evicted. I’m sure there were other factors but I was not privy to those interactions with A, SB and the landlady – but what I do know from A was that she was suddenly the third wheel, if not the scapegoat for all that went wrong. So much for leaving High School.
The eviction would have been fine as it was, but the landlady had to go ever further. When A and I had moved out: she with her now fiance and I with a new boyfriend, she decided to sue us for the damages to her suite. Funny how SB was never included in this and was obviously still living in the basement. I stopped caring when SB started calling me names and accusing me of stealing her food. (I hardly think a handful of croutons constitutes stealing the entirety of her food budget for a week. Besides, it was the only thing I’d eaten in two days. Maybe three. And when I’d asked she’d sneered at me and told me I should get a job, or a boyfriend to look after me since I obviously couldn’t do it myself. Under normal circumstances I might have slapped her, but at the time I just shook my head, called her a bitch and went to sleep some more.)
The best part was when the landlady woman would show up at our respective workplaces to shout at us, first to serve us papers, then to shout at us to pay her. I recall she came into my store when my boss was in the back (my boss being a very petite, nonthreatening and roundish little woman) and was leaning over the counter, her face thrust into mine as she screamed at me about how much of an ungrateful bitch I was. I had learned that shouting back merely fed her fire, so I said nothing, merely leaned away from her flying spittle, when my boss came out of the back room. I suppose the landlady had thought I was alone because she straightened up right quick. My boss had to look up into her face, but she very sternly and calmly told the landlady to leave and – I’ll never forget this – “we don’t serve your kind here”.
“My kind?” the landlady spat.
“Yes,” she replied. “People with nothing better to do than make fools of themselves in public.” The landlady didn’t argue or say a word – just left.
A and I went to legal aide and even though the lawyer (and aging hippy with an beard I swear could host several bird nests if he sat still long enough) agreed with us, there was no way our word was going to hold up against an angry woman like her. We tried in spite of him, but it came down to whether it was just easier to pay her and hope she would stop harassing us, or if we wanted to spend more money than the lawsuit was worth to make it go away. It was months of hell on top of more hell.
Now, however many years later I see this woman again, working in our local grocery store. I know from this that she’s making the same, if not less than she was when she was being a bitch to us. What is even more clear is that she doesn’t have that man she claimed to have needed to make her whole. I especially liked how she pretended not to know who I was when I went through her checkout with J.
I can’t help but feel a tiny bit vindicated by karma over this. Especially since A now has an adorable daughter and a teaching degree and I’m working in accounting and making enough to make this episode seem to be as horrible as it may ever get.
Listening to: Lily Allen
Reading: S.M. Stirling – Dies the Fire
Drinking: Sweet lemon Iced tea
Word Count: 2510
My good friend JJ wrote an excellent blog about migraines in May, and it was rather timely because I had been struggling to explain to someone exactly what my migraines were like and had merely settled on the less-than-perfect description of ‘sheet lightening and halos” on the one side of my face.
I have obviously not suffered from them as much as JJ has, but when I do get them, they make it difficult to function as a normal human being. I manage, because I must: a result of my own stiff-upper-lipped British upbringing I’m sure. But there is nothing I’d rather do than just lay down and sleep it out. Doesn’t matter where, I’m sure I’d be happy to lay in the middle of the street if it would stop the march of tiny razor-footed elephants over my skull. I often wonder if it would be less distracting if migraines were not limited to one side at a time. But that isn’t why I’m writing this post. I was very interested in JJ’s last point: the fact that migraines contribute to experiences as much as they can hinder them. I have not had an experience like hers with Red Sorghum, but my attachment to certain music – particularly the album Semantic Spaces by Delerium – could have something to do with this peculiar aspect of migraines.
I remember laying on my bedroom floor; I had four large pillows for sitting on and had one of these under my head, another under my knees. The floor was cool and it was hot outside. I was home alone and had woken with a migraine; the creeping needle-points were probably what had woken me up. I put on the music and lay down to wait for the pain killers to do their work. But it was too little, too late. My sheet lightening had already begun, smearing the colours of my room into randomness in time with my heartbeat – in time with the music. I think it was my first experience with lucid dreaming; because I was there, and not at the same time. The colours and music quite literally transported me. I felt loose inside my skull, which has happened once or twice since. Regardless, it precipitated one of my first outpourings of creativity. It was a tidal wave. Granted it was mostly poetry full of teenage angst (and a few really surprisingly erudite lines) , but it was, in sheer volume, more than I had ever produced before.
Having said this I think migraines can also give a peculiar kind of focus. I have observed this on several occasions recently. It’s almost as if I have to concentrate harder on working around the pain or the obstruction in my vision that whatever task is at hand is barely enough to make it fade into the background. I am not a fan of pain killers and often I won’t take them when I should on the off chance that the ache I feel will not turn into a migraine. Stupid I know. Anyway, after reading JJ’s post and thinking about it some, I can’t seem to decide if this focus is a mechanic of the migraine or a means of coping. Thoughts?
Listening to: Delerium – Flowers Become Screens
Drinking: Lamb’s Black Sheep Spiced Rum and Pepsi
Reading: The Rules of the Tunnel – Ned Zeman
Wrote: 2789 words today, 3218 yesterday.
The weather network/radio forecast 2 cm and we ended up with nearly a foot all told. Between this snowfall and the one previous the white stuff is almost to my knee in some places. The Malahat is closed, or it was last night. I don’t know if it still is. Mom did call to say that there was a possibility that we may have to postpone ‘Christmas’ until she can get out of her driveway.
When we left the apartment this am we stood under the prettiest birch. Ok, usually that particular tree is quite ugly because of the nasty hack job the municipality did with it’s branches, but today it was really pretty because each and every little branch was covered in snow. It was that heavy, damp kind that sticks to everything. It was really quite pretty when J and I were walking back from his staff Christmas party.
Of course, downtown is a mess. The main roads are clear, but it’s obvious that the less-travelled have been unplowed because of the sheer number of people who have put chains on their tires. Of course, chains are necessary if all you have are all-weather tires, because let’s face it, it never really snows here, so no one has anything but, but once these cars get downtown, the chains are just chewing up the pavement, and lord knows what they do to the underside of a car if there’s no snow. Yes, I can understand putting them on the firetruck. Even the ambulance here – even though their mere existence slows these vehicles down on clear roads. At least this time there were fewer retards fishtailing all over the hill outside. Those that have no idea how to drive in the snow are learning to take the bus when it’s running, even though it’s not on time. (And who cares if it’s not on time. It’s running, so shut up!)
The Starbucks I go to in the mornings sometimes still has no heat. I don’t get it. The shop is on the outside of the mall, don’t you think that the mall would be responsible for fixing the heating system in one of the spaces they rent out? Responsible landlords and all? But no, they’ve been wearing sweaters and scarves behind the counter for four days now. Lame.
I am behind on the Christmas Spirit. And the shopping. I have the families done, but not everyone else. I suppose that’s ok because I won’t see most of them until after the actual commercial travesty that is Christmas. The radio was talking about cancelled flights and car accidents and heating problems all morning so I turned it off. The Island has no idea what to do with snow, it’s actually kind of funny.
I’d like nothing better than to just sit at home in front of a fire. With a book. Or good company. With hot chocolate. But that would require a fireplace and I don’t know many people who have one of those. It would also be nice if I could stop barking. I mean coughing. I’ve had this cold since the end of November and it’s OLD. I was coughing so hard yesterday I gave myself another bloody nose. I had one last week that made me late for work because it just would not stop.
Funny how I’ve been finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit.
I’m exhausted. Things have not been peachy. I dropped the ball in more ways than one and I feel like I’m scrambling to catch things up. I’m behind at work, I let things slide so badly. Things just didn’t seem as pressing as they were for a while and I’m paying for it now – through the nose. (This may also be why a lot of you have not heard from me for a while either, and for that my apologies.) Things are also weird with J because I dropped the ball there too. It’s an uphill battle it seems and I feel like I’m thigh-deep in mud the whole way. I’m trying very hard, it just seems that all the wrong things come out of my mouth to the point that I have no idea what to say about anything and I end up second-guessing myself into silence. I have to stop doing that. I just know that I don’t want to be the kind of person I’ve been for the last while.
Anyway. Happy Holidays.
listening to: Portishead – Deep Water