And Another Thing . . .

One of my neighbors died around Thanksgiving. She was an elderly lady so it wasn’t a great shock but it was enough of one that I’m still thinking about her. I didn’t know her well. I’d only talked to her twice in the almost 5 years I’ve lived here. The first time was when she went around the neighborhood on her mobility scooter to hand out envelopes asking for donations to the American Heart Association (she’d survived a heart attack). The last time we’d spoken was when I returned their wayward dog. The inmate, a curly mop mini dachshund named Chuckles, liked to escape from their back yard. I went to return him to his prison and we chatted a bit about nothing in particular. After this, I’d usually hear him bark at me from their white fenced back yard as I came and went. They seemed nice, all three of them. I wish I could remember everyone’s names. Unfortunately only Chuckles’ name seemed to stick with me. The only clue I had that my scooter-bound neighbor had died was from seeing her family come and go after Thanksgiving. They were cleaning out the house and left a lot of stuff piled for the garbage truck. Inductive reasoning, my dear Watson.

I rarely thought of her at all unless I saw her or anyone around her home. They were always fleeting thoughts that vanished as soon as I got in the house or in my car. I probably thought about her more since she’d passed on than I did in all the years she’d spent alive and less that a couple of thousand feet away from me. I watched her family from the window in my office (between bouts of working) as they cleaned, painted, and fixed things. Sometimes the kids played outside, chasing each other with rollers or reading on the hood of a truck. The legacy of someone’s life in some small degree playing out in front of me. It was somehow both a little heartwarming and a little sorrowful at the same time.

And that brings me to something that happened this week. Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi, died in a helicopter crash. It’s shocking on a different and somehow similar scale. He was 41 and she was 13. They were both entirely too young as were the 7 other people who died with them. I rarely thought about Kobe or his daughter except for when I saw that meme of them talking at a basketball game. Probably less than I thought about my neighbor (odd that I know more about Kobe but I guess that says something about me that I don’t like). I’m sad for him and his daughter. I’m sad for the 7 other people that died along side them. I’m sad for their families most of all. I can empathize to a degree. I still remember thinking that the pain was going to be permanent; an ever-expanding galaxy where I’d never find the edge and would have to float in the darkness of it forever. It was permanent but became bearable over time and I’m grateful for the reason I have it.

I mention him because I had a conversation with someone who was upset because of the amount of public mourning. In this person’s mind, Kobe was a stranger to these people and a villain of sorts. There were greater tragedies to consider, in their opinion. I didn’t completely agree but I could see their point. Over 150,000 people die every day around the world. Every death is sad but we can’t stop and mourn the unknown. Unless we know them, it’s high level tragedy. We aren’t close enough to touch it or have it touch us. I understand why some grieve for Kobe and his daughter, too. I can’t articulate people feel like famous strangers are close to them. I’m not smart enough to speak about parasocial relationships but I know a little something about grief. Grief is a complicated emotion and emotions can’t be policed. I can’t pretend to know the totality of Kobe Bryant’s legacy. To some, he was more than a basketball player: he was a legend, a mentor, a role model. He was also a problematic person with a complicated background (and on some level aren’t we all). Others can speak about what he meant to them more than I could. But I can acknowledge that people can feel a multitude of ways about him without placing a judgment on that. It’s terrible that a person who made such an impact is gone. There’s a weight to it that I don’t feel but I can see.

I wonder if this isn’t all part of the contract agree to keep in continuing to be alive – that we have to face death. Not only of other people, including the ones we love, but our own death. It’s the deal we make every day we wake up and continue breathing. We will always be facing death on some level. I struggle with it. I used to lay awake at night thinking I could solve death like some word problem (if Erin is going 30 miles and hour headed north). But it can’t be solved. It simply is. There’s no getting around it. Sometime it can be delayed but death (O death, you fiend) is still waiting in the wings for the grand entrance. Or exit, I guess. Permanent impermanence. I guess if you work at it, you can avoid the reality of it. In a way, that’s both good and bad. We should be aware of the limited time everyone has here, ourselves included. If we’re lucky, it can inspire us to do great things with the time we have left. But I also think, what a wonder it is that we can be essentially surrounded by death and still find a way to feel something when we notice it. Somehow we aren’t all completely inured to it. We still feel the weight of loss, be it the loss of a stranger, a neighbor, a friend, a family member. And in this world that’s too big, too complicated, and too on fire, I’d like that to count for something.

I decided to look up my neighbor to find her name and I found her obituary. Her name was Dorothy. She was 98 years old and grew up in Iowa. During World War II, she was a defense worker at a bomber plant. Dorothy had 6 children, 12 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great grandchildren. And a dog named Chuckles. I hope that she was the kind of person who will be missed by them all. If not for her sake, then definitely for theirs.

Boring Girls Club

I’ve been a bad, bad girl.

Guess who’s back on their bullshit!  This girl!  That’s right, I’m a bad, bad girl!  But not THAT kind of bad girl.  No, I’ve been the boring kind.  Not the kind you see movies about.  You know the movies I’m talking about; where some beautiful starlet is wild and fun and out of control.  And she makes mental illness look sexy until the final act of her bad girl struggle where her lips are a little chapped and her eyes a little too wide and kind of scary but still what someone might call “totally bangable.”  Yeah, that wasn’t me. I had food stains on my shirt, bags under my bloodshot eyes, and I didn’t move from my couch for so long it gave me back problems.  But I don’t think that makes for an entertaining movie.

I stopped taking my medications.  No real reason, except for that I missed a doctors appointment.  I forgot to put it in my calendar and then I missed it.  I got a note, basically a written wrap on the knuckles, from my doctor reminding me that I shouldn’t do that again and, if I could, please refrain from wasting their time.  Which I totally understood and felt guilty about.  So that guilt stopped me from making another (because they’ll see my name and think “that girl!  That stupid girl who wasted our time.  Look at this bullshit, wanting another appointment”) So then I ran out of pills. Then I kept eating foods (because, hey there substitute for medication and self esteem and friendship and love) and gained weight.  And I knew that all of these things meant I should get back on medication.  But I needed to lose weight so the doctor wouldn’t talk to me about how much I needed to lose weight.  Plus, they’ll know it’s been a while and that I stopped my meds when I shouldn’t have. So yes, I’ve been the unsexiest bad girl and I need to be punished with lectures about how I’ve let people down.  I’m a disappointment, daddy.  Sternly tell me how much I’ve disappointed you.  Am I doing this right?  I don’t think I’m doing this right.

I’m actually at a point now where I feel pretty good in terms of energy and getting things done.  And I’m not letting my entire life and relationships backslide so that I have to rebuild EVERYTHING.  But I can’t sleep at night.  The obsessive thought patterns are back and I’m having trouble making them be quiet.  (Side note:  why do my obsessive thoughts have to be about the general nature of death?  Why can’t it be mathematical equations or entertaining stories or brilliant articles or something that makes use of this broken brain bullshit?  It’s always so dreadfully, existentially boring).  I wish I had a legit reason for getting to this place again.  It would be easier.  But all I have are basically excuses for not doing the things I should be doing.  What can I say?  Broken-brain bullshit happens, I guess.  I’m trying not to hate myself too much which is not an easy feat for any of us.  We’re, all of us, olympic medalling experts in the self hating endurance event.  I guess the best thing to do is take stock of how better this time was vs. the last time and look at what I did right.  I didn’t completely fall back.  A minor slide into a dungheap is better than a headlong dive.  And it isn’t hopeless.  It’s just difficult.  But what life isn’t difficult, really?  Mine, by comparison, is relatively easy.  Just a minor bout with broken-brain bullshit.

Spring is here and everything seems to be in bloom now.  I was born in the spring so I’m a creature of rebirth, I guess.  Hopefully I don’t get reborn as the same thing.  Here’s to another sloughing off of the skin.  The next bad girl will be a little better.

I still don’t think I did this right.

The Loneliest Number

Hello from jobless quarantine. That’s right, jobless quarantine; where the days blend together and time becomes meaningless until bills are due. The fact that this is happening as we careen from spring into summer only adds to the weirdness of it all. Things are greening up where I live and both the sun and the pollen are out in full force. It makes what’s going on in the world seem surreal. And as I lay in my backyard hammock listening to synthwave covers of songs I liked in my teenage years, I start to feel a bit displaced in time. I’m starting to feel a bit like I did during my teenage summers. Here’s a confession I’ve never made to anyone ever but dear readers, I hated my teenage summers. 

Well, hate may be a bit strong. I was a giant blob of apathy. I probably gained most of my weight during those summers. I spent a lot of time listless, deeply sad, and feeling terribly alone. They weren’t all like that. Although a lot were. For reasons I won’t get into, my childhood summers were sometimes spent as a caretaker but that had blessedly stopped by the time I hit 11. I was learning to connect and be a kid. I was developing a different kind of relationship with my older brother, who was finally starting to trust me with not-kid things. We were hitting a brother-sister stride that you see people carry into adulthood with their siblings. Then he died. And I was alone.

I don’t remember much else from that summer beside the funeral. I think my parents repainted my bedroom with me but that might’ve been the next year.  We didn’t speak much as we did it and it all felt oddly quiet and strained. Early on it was often quiet with just the three of us. The three of us. Even all these years later, it feels unnatural to me. There were four of us.  I had a brother.  Now I don’t?  This isn’t right.  It never feels right.

In the summers, my brother and I didn’t always do a lot together. He was older than me by 4+ years so sometimes we didn’t have much in common. Not to mention how different we were. But he was there. I would walk by his dark room in the mornings and know he was sleeping. He was there. A presence. Sometimes he’d have me make him a sandwich with a lot of mayo. Or tea with too much sugar. Sometimes I would watch him play video games and other times he’d have me join in and laugh at the faces I’d make while playing. Usually it was just nice to know he was there. Somewhere.  

After, it was weird walking by his room. I wanted to walk in there to find him buried beneath his hideous 70’s orange-brown knit blanket.  The worst dream I ever had, he was sleeping in his room and I had to get him up.  It was just that simple and it felt real. So very real. I woke up and walked towards his room hoping he was still in there. Please god, let me wake my brother up. But I felt it, the lack of him being there.  The only things in his room were his stuff and a light layer of dust. Left behind skin cells mixing with dirt. When my parents went back to work, it was just me and the dust in the basement. 

Summers were blurs. I’d wake up at noon. Maybe I’d go to the pool. Sometimes I’d walk down to my friend’s house where Misty and I would watch soap operas. Days of Our Lives had an arc where Marlena was possessed by the devil. I think it was the same year that the OJ trial was everywhere.  Some days I’m not sure I’d talk to anyone but my parents if only because I had to go upstairs to have dinner.  I hated school because it meant people laughing at me for being fat or a loser or what have you but I’d see friends every day, too. So school was a bit of a reprieve from the isolation of summertime.  I’d never felt so alone.  At a certain point it became a blanket. Being alone was just another part of who I was and it became more difficult to feel normal around people.

I grew up and got a job where I had to be social and that helped because even if I didn’t enjoy what I did, it got me out and kept me in touch with people.  It gave me friends I cared about and a disposable income.  When the layoffs happened, the hardest part (outside of the constant worry about what I would do for food and doctors and medicines and the like) was not having a routine and a group of people to interact with everyday.  I had to make routines for myself (which I suck at and I openly admit to that).  I had places I would frequent and sometimes I would force myself to chat with people.  It wasn’t always easy.  I have a lot of social anxiety and sometimes just getting out of a car to walk into a coffee shop requires a 10 minute self-pep talk that would on occasion fail so I would end up just going back home.  

With everything going on (“in this new normal” or “in these strange times” or “as we navigate this new landscape” or whatever all those companies who want to sell you their shit start their emails now), my work dried up and everything closed so I’ve been home.  Alone again, naturally.  I’ve had zoom calls with friends and that helps me not feel so weirdly alone and I’m lucky to get to see my parents. But I have this deja vu heading into the summer.  It’s THAT summer all over again: deathly silent and still and I hate it.  I hate this loneliness that I wear like armor I somehow can’t take off.  I hate this anxiety that burns and bubbles in my chest until it’s hard to breathe because I don’t know how long this will last.  I miss my friends and work and people.  I miss my brother.

I hate this.

(Also, please keep social distancing and self quarantining if/when you can.  It’s about helping other people where you can folks.  Be the helpers.)

The Power of One: Pedro Zamora and the Real World and Me

When I was a teen, nothing was bigger than MTV.  It was the end-all, be-all of television.  It was THE cultural touchstone for Gen-X’ers and some early Millenials.   And if you grew up in Nowhere, Kansas (where the tumbleweeds roamed free and the nearest city with a decent mall was 3 hours away), MTV was the gateway to the rest of the world.  I watched world premier music videos from Madonna and Michael Jackson.  I got to see spring break be wild before I even knew what wild could be.  Kurt Loader told us when Kurt Kobain died.  Yo! MTV Raps, Headbangers Ball, and 120 Minutes showed me that there was music beyond country and easy listening.

Continue reading “The Power of One: Pedro Zamora and the Real World and Me”

Into the Void

I’d been thinking about voids a lot lately.  Not a space where something is missing or gone but an endless vortex of darkness.  Having depression means circling that vortex more often than one should and fighting very hard not to get sucked in.  When you battle, you try to save yourself but you keep slipping anyway.  And you’re never far away from that vortex.  It’s always there, sometimes in the distant background where you don’t even remember why you worry about it.  Sometimes it’s right next to you, a constant reminder that you’ll never escape it.  When you lean over that vortex to peer into it’s blackness, there’s a pull.  “Fall in.  You want to.  Stop fighting.  Just fall in.”  What is it about this disease that has us fighting against the basic human instinct of survival?   Continue reading “Into the Void”

It’s the Most Multicultural Time of The Year: Bentonville Film Festival Edition!

It’s the first week of May in Northwest Arkansas which means that it’s time for the Bentonville Film Festival.  Yes, this once small town which grew to be full of corporate imports of all kinds is now sharing that space with MOAR corporate people and some film industry types.  It’s very weird, to say the least. Continue reading “It’s the Most Multicultural Time of The Year: Bentonville Film Festival Edition!”

From Debt to Shining Debt: Adventures in American Healthcare

I had to make an evening visit to the hospital a few nights ago due to persistent symptoms of gaucheness.  Or to put it another way, I was clumsy and hurt myself.  I was making myself a salad and cutting up some green leaf lettuce with a fairly new knife.  I hadn’t had a new knife set in over a decade so sharp knives are still a bit new to me.  I was being a bit quick and careless and I hit my thumb.  I laughed at myself after it happened and just tried to get the bleeding to stop.  It hurt a little but it wasn’t the first time I’d done that (persistent symptoms of gaucheness) so I wasn’t too alarmed until my thumb didn’t stop bleeding about 20 minutes later.  I called my parents to see what the time limit is on when you should call it and just go get stitches – as it turns out the time limit is 20 minutes.



Continue reading “From Debt to Shining Debt: Adventures in American Healthcare”

I Am Mine (Some of the Time)

The shirt from days long past.

I was in 7th grade and wearing a new Pearl Jam t-shirt (even though all I knew of Pearl Jam at the time was what I’d heard on MTV).  It had a little girl with paper and crayons on the front and on the back it said “9 out of 10 kids prefer crayons to guns.”  Super edgy and smart, right?  I was so excited to show off my alternativeness (hipsters didn’t have anything on 90’s grunge attitude).  No one anything to me about the shirt until I left math class later that morning.  We had just been dismissed and were flowing out of the room into a crowded hallway when I heard two guys laughing behind me.
Continue reading “I Am Mine (Some of the Time)”

No Matter What Others Say, Love is Still Love

The following is in response to Larry Phillip’s Opinion column, “No Matter What Movies Say, Gay is Still Gay” published on Leader & Times Online.
What exactly are “traditional Christian values?”  Are they to judge and devalue others?  That doesn’t sound quite right to me.  And how much of Christianity revolves around sexuality and sexual behavior?  It seems to me that some are very focused on it.  But what does Jesus say about sex?  In the Bible, He talks about divorce and adultery (Matt. 5: 27-28, Mark 10: 11-12, Luke 16:18) and we know He frowns upon those things.  Jesus also talked about lusting after others so be careful with the temptations (Matt. 5: 27-28).  Outside of those things . . . well, there isn’t much else.  That isn’t to say that Jesus would or wouldn’t be alright with homosexuality (given when and where he came of age, he probably wouldn’t be).  But his teachings tell us nothing on the subject.  

Continue reading “No Matter What Others Say, Love is Still Love”