No. I am not okay.

My father has been in the hospital for over a month, with a week in the middle, in a nursing facility for rehab. Most of the time he has been bedridden. It really doesn’t look good, and I have no idea how long he has.

Every time I post an update somewhere, people ask if I’m okay. I appreciate the concern but I don’t like being asked that because I don’t have a simple answer. I don’t like that question because I feel like I can’t answer honestly in an off-the-cuff fashion like the way people say “fine.”

It’s complicated. And most people who ask you how you’re doing in social settings are looking for a one or two word answer. They’re not expecting a full buffer-dump of details about all of the crap you’re dealing with.

Right now I am extremely tired. I’m stressed out more than I have been in my entire life. I’m trying to maintain a job, make sure there’s food in the house, get my mom to her appointments when she has them, check on my dad, and make some very unpleasant and difficult decisions on his behalf. I’m also trying to take care of myself, pay my bills, and get out and spend time with friends and in nature, and get as much rest as I can. I am probably dealing with a certain amount of depression and anxiety. I’m seeing someone monthly to talk that out. But none of this will begin to resolve itself until my dad is better.

I know everyone has their hearts in the right place when they ask, but when I see the question “Are you okay?” my first reaction is to roll my eyes.

I’ll be okay, just not right now.

Advertisements

But it has always felt like I was there…

It was 1967. I was 4. For a couple of years I had been going to a daycare place a couple of streets over from my grandparents’ house. I never liked being there. The owner and her daughter were mean and would spank us or threaten to spank us over the most trivial things. One Thursday the owner read some story to us about a farm. Then she had us line up single-file and she asked us where cows were found. The thing is, if you didn’t give her the answer she wanted you got your hand swatted with a 12″ ruler.

Every kid was saying the wrong thing. There was even a girl ahead of me who said, “in the country where the farms are,” and she got swatted. I had seen a few Tarzan movies and probably had looked at one or more of the comic books. So when my turn came up I said, “In the jungle.” She hit my hand several times with that ruler, and it stayed sore the rest of that day. When she was done with her interrogation of the last child in the line she told us that a cow is found on a farm. I may or may not have seen African buffalo in the movies, but the female of the species is referred to as a ‘cow.’

After I got back home I told my aunt that my hand hurt. It was red but not swollen, as far as I can remember. She asked what happened and I told her that the woman read us a story and hit us if we answered a question wrong. My aunt told my mom and grandmother, and they had to talk my mom down from going and confronting the woman. And I started going to a different facility after that.

I have a memory of  my aunt coming to me and telling me that they were taking me to this woman’s home to watch me for a while, while the adults all went and did something. I remember being there for several hours. I did not trust the woman, and I was scared of her. Three or four hours seems like an eternity to a 4-year-old. It was so long that I started crying. And eventually my aunt came back to get me.

Recently I told my mother about that day from 50 years ago, and I asked her if she remembered what everyone was out doing that necessitated leaving me with that woman after what had happened. She said that they hated that woman for what she did and that none of them would have ever taken me to her home to babysit me. She suggested it was either a dream or something my mind cobbled together due to trauma. I have bits of memories from dreams over the years. This has always felt like it actually happened. There wasn’t anything ‘off’ about the surroundings like you’d have in a dream. kind of the way you can tell the CG effects in a movie from actual scenery outside.

I’m going to take my mom at her word, that they wouldn’t have put me through being babysat by that woman. I may have in fact dreamt it but it didn’t fade like most of the other dreams I’ve had, and it’s always felt so real.

Raindance

One night a shaman stood in a field, barefoot. The ground was riddled with cracks. He scratched at the dirt a couple of times with the toes of his right foot. A scorpion crawled up from between the cracks in the soil and the shaman grinned as it scurried across his feet. He squatted and placed his left palm in its path. Lifting it, he watched the scorpion’s pincers wave in the air as it sat in his hand, the starlight glinted slightly off its black exoskeleton. He let it go and stood again. The eight stars of Orion’s bow moved into view overhead. He closed his eyes again, and slowed his breathing. His diaphragm expanded as his breathing deepened. The aroma of the air entering his nostrils became heavy, dusty, the scent of an approaching storm. Eyes still closed, he could hear, or thought he could hear, the first drops of water descending through the air, traveling down from thick, dark clouds. They were large drops and they stung a little when they hit his forehead. Lightning danced from cloud to cloud and back. Seconds later its report reached his ears. The rain hit the ground around him like a high-pitched, but muted drumroll. He felt dirt, still dry, fly up from a raindrop and land on his foot. The drops came faster, and he began to feel the dirt moisten. Then mud began to squish up between his toes. There was a second thunderclap, and silence. The shaman opened his eyes. The red star Betelgeuse, which makes up Orion’s right shoulder, was now directly overhead. He began to walk across the dry earth and plant stubble.

Roughly a day later, a half-foot of rain fell on the area.

Most of us don’t have that depth of connection with the water element. Our world is concrete, paved. We spend a chunk of our lives riding, commuting. We schedule things around the weather. Rain is many times an inconvenience. While it’s irrigating fields and our yards it’s making the roads slick. It serves both as a blessing and a danger. We’re not standing on raw land feeling mud squish between our toes. We’re not even standing in our backyards feeling that. We’re driving or riding home in it, probably at night…a thousand things on our minds. In one part of our thoughts we are happy to not have to water our lawns and gardens for a bit. In another part of our thoughts we know we’re going to have to get out in this slop shortly and slosh our way to the door. It’s a borderline love-hate and there’s no escaping it if we continue our urban, rat-racy lives.

I still complain about the rain. I don’t like driving in it, day or night. And living in mild drought areas, when I complain someone is always there to remind me that we ‘need’ the rain. And we do. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over wishing that I didn’t have to get out in it. Maybe the key to that is pausing the rat-race itself. I think what I’ll start doing is to stop and stand in the rain for a couple of minutes before I open my umbrella. I’d rather be on that open field, but until that becomes my reality it’ll have to remain the stuff of vacations. I need to feel the connection to the water, to be happy when it comes, even if the circumstances aren’t what I’d prefer.

I don’t love you like that anymore…

…and I probably never really did.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast, and the guest talked about not loving people that he didn’t love. At first, and on one level, I found that idea off-putting. As a former Christian I’d been trained over the years that we were to love everyone, unconditionally, and if not, there’d be Hell to pay.

That’s the idea….love one another, or else. How it gets meted out in the lives of individual believers is another topic entirely.

I call that kind of love, loving people under duress. Love is a consensual action. It’s something you cannot command or coerce. And loving out of obedience or under orders, or threats is a form of coercion.

As I thought about it, I realized that the guest on that show is right. People shouldn’t be able to lay claim to our love without our consent. There are people in my life that I want around as long as I live. There are others I really don’t care if I ever see again. Both have been members of churches I’ve attended.

One of the things I started doing when I left the Christian religion is taking back my heart and mind from it…taking back my agency. Love and love commandments are one of those areas.

In churchy circles there are numerous platitudes tossed about. People are always saying things like ‘God bless you,’ ‘I’m praying for you,’ and ‘I love you.’ Then when this last is not enough, some say, ‘I love you with the love of the Lord.’ I don’t talk that kind of language anymore. It’s a cutesy sounding. It makes everything seem warm and fuzzy. It also negates the individual’s ability to love at all.

Humans have loved, feared, hated, envied…they’ve felt things and experienced many emotions long before what we refer to as the Common Era….long before Christianity.

If I love you I’ll tell you. If telling you would make things awkward, I’ll find some way to let you know. It’s between the people. Gods and religions have nothing to do with it.

Car 

Back in December my Chevy Trailblazer, that I had been driving for over 7 years, caught fire on the way to work. I made it to the parking lot at the office, got out, popped the hood and saw a flame about 9″ wide. I shut the hood, got my stuff out, and called 9-1-1. By the time the firefighters got to where I was the fire had gone out.

For a few weeks I had been hearing a low-pitch droning or grinding sound when I’d shift into drive. I never heard this when backing up, only when I was first pulling away from a stop. I never heard it in Park or Neutral. I kept telling myself, during that time, that I needed to have it looked at. But I never got around to taking it to anyone.

All that changed on Friday, December 16th.

I called AAA and got it towed to a garage. I sat in the waiting area at the garage for a couple of hours waiting for a ride. While I was there the freak-out portion of the morning’s events presented itself in the form of overthinking.  I knew the vehicle would need a rebuild of the transmission at best, and a new one at worst. I also knew that I didn’t have the cash to have the work done. So I set an appointment with a sales rep at Carmax.

At Carmax I sat in a few vehicles, mostly other SUVs, but I have to give my parents rides to their appointments and they had a really hard time getting in and out of the Trailblazer, and it was lower to the ground that most SUVs I see. As I was taking with the rep I brought up the subject of cars. She let me sit in a few, and towards the end I checked out a couple of Nissan Altimas. There was a tan 2014 that was a couple of thousand lower than a 2015 next to it and had lower mileage. The problem was the claim tag. Carmax places a hold tag on the dash of vehicles someone has said they want. So I thought I wouldn’t be able to get it. The rep looked at the tag and realized that it had expired. You have 72 hours to come back and complete the purchase, and that customer failed to do that. So she filled out a claim ticket for me and we went inside to start the qualification process.

A couple of hours later I drove off the lot in a 2014 Nissan Altima with 20,100 miles on it.

It took a few weeks to for me to quit feeling like I was low enough to drive under the car in front of me. I had a pickup from 2003 to 2010, and a midsize SUV from 2010 to 2017. So I was used to a different perspective on the road. For a while. being in a car was weird.

The plan was to hold off getting into another car loan until this coming summer, but the universe and the Trailblazer had other ideas. I’m still  working on cutting costs so I can fit this car note into my budget better. The gas mileage is vastly improved over the SUV. So that was an immediate reduction. I’m still learning about the Altima, even the controls have taken getting used to, having had GM vehicles for nearly 20 years.

When the universe has other ideas

The lunch wagons are kinda loosely ‘scheduled’ near the office. Sometimes there’s the one you expect and on days like today there’s not. I went down towards the area and headed back in the direction of the office. Instead of taking the sidewalk I walked on the pavement. This downed dove chick has a hurt wing and was here by the curb. She wouldn’t let me scoop her up to help her onto the dirt away from traffic. I messaged a friend from the office who came down and helped get her up off the pavement. There are bushes she can hide under until she heals a bit more.

Jammin’

20170509_150250This past Saturday night I was at a birthday party for one of my musician friends. I joined them on stage with one of my Irish whistles for a few rounds of improvisation. This was a wake up call for me to get back in practice with my whistle.