Tag Archives: Love Song of Statler & Waldorf

Decisions, decisions (it’s only dinner)

I didn’t make supper tonight.

Is that a failing or a freedom?  I don’t really know.  It is a decision, though whether it’s a capital D Decision or a small decision just for the right thing I needed today, I’m not really sure.  I do know I started to assemble things out of the fridge, all knackered out, and then looked at the ingredients out on the board in the pantry and said to myself– no.  I don’t want to.

When I came in, my dad had been sitting there for at least a half hour, snacking on all the various food he didn’t have to cook or reheat that was there in the house– and I was just wrung out when I came in on automatic and started to housewife, you know, in the ways that we do.

I didn’t want to, though.  I’m not hungry, because I’m upping the dose of the particular meds that kill my appetite dead (anorexic anti-convulsants, woohoo!), and also because I had a late snack/drink at the store in accordance with the preset alarms I’ve got in my phone and which I obey whether or not I am hungry, on the hard lesson learned that your body needs fuel whether your stomach feels like it or not.  But– having had protein and some carbs and some veggies on three occasions today, not to mention too much caffeine and other fluids, the idea of doing it all again just because I have let my dad get into the habit of me doing the cooking made me kind of sick to my stomach, physically and mentally, too.

Instead, I said– sorry, I was really just tired, I didn’t know what to cook & didn’t feel like eating in any event, and that there were X & Y leftovers to heat in the fridge & I was going to bed.  Dad did not understand the not hungry thing, so I explained, for the fourth time in two weeks, about not being hungry with the increased dose of the meds and feeling grossed out by food– and then retired upstairs.

I supposes it’s a measure that the increase dosage is working that I didn’t have a temper tantrum of rage or start crying because he just can’t pay any attention to what’s going on outside his own head.  And I suppose it’s good, too, that I still feel pretty calm and chill about the fact that I said no, sorry, I’m not your wife or your nurse, feed yourself, and am not feeling horribly guilty or like a terrible mooch.  The fact is, I do buy a lot of the food, cook & clean, do the yard work & heavy lifting.  If it’s not money, it’s still work, and it’s value– and valuable.  I’m starting to know that.

There will be a time when my dad can’t “do” for himself at all anymore, including the cooking, and then I will have to take care of him whether I feel like it or not– but right now he can, whether or not I’ve fairly/unfairly stepped into the cook/caretaker role in an attempt to pick up some of the slack my not paying rent leaves.  He taught me how to cook, after all– if he’s too tired to do it, well, then we’re both in that boat.  Any stupid decisions he makes about salt intake or junk food or excess fat or calories are just that– stupid, small-d decisions, rather than life-impacting Decisions that are the product of someone who’s senile, demented, or some other process of aging or illness.

Maybe, for example, an Illness Decision could be: someone who’s manic-depressed and making bad life choices instead of self-caring ones because they’re not really lucid?  Then again, Bad Life Choices can be really good learning experiences,  even if it takes a while in the rearview to bring them into perspective.  I think skipping dinner, though, isn’t so big as that.

Ask me next week.

One man’s trash

… is another man’s treasure, isn’t that the saying?  That little set of six glasses, espied through the window of a vintage stuff & art gallery called Hudson’s at MassMOCA in North Adams, was priced for $25.00.  I have a set just like it– maybe?

The set belonged to my mother, and she picked it up for some cheap price at some church white elephant, because she had notions of what kinds of things one was supposed to own in order to maintain a proper household.  When she moved to California to express her displeasure that I wasn’t giving her granchildren find her bliss in the sunshine, she pushed them off on me along with other sundry glassware, some of which I wanted because it had been my grandmother’s, and most of which I thought was just junk.

I say maybe I own something like it, because I really cannot recall if it’s sitting, wrapped in a box in the basement, unused with my grandmother’s china and other still-wanted possessions, or if I took the chance of leaving my husband to give it to the AIDS Action Committee thrift shop for them to sell to someone who might think that six tiny pressed-glass cordials or whatever the hell you call them would somehow make your life more complete than if you just bought some all-purpose lowballs at Ikea or Crate & Barrel.  Who knows?  Maybe the owner of this shop bought this very set from the Boomerang in JP, and it’ll bring someone else way more use and pleasure than it ever brought me, cluttering up the bottom shelf of the hutch full of shit I didn’t use and had had foisted on me by family insisting on the right way to set a table, entertain, put on a spread?

Seeing that set in the window got me thinking about the things that we keep and the things we discard– not so much that I’m going to go hunting downstairs through my stuff– but in terms of the trash versus treasure conundrum, and how invested we get in other people validating our treasure, and telling us how lovely it and therefore we are. Failing to take an interest in the same things as you is taken as a wholesale rejection of you as a person (and heck, sometimes it is but I do have some manners and usually manage to be polite, but asking for pom-poms and a brass band is too much).  That perceived rejection is a cause for drama, accusation, pouting, shaming, guilt or outrage (I don’t know your family, I just know mine, all those options are possible, sometimes within the span of five minutes), and if you dare state anything as inflammatory as a disagreeing opinion, you’re a terrible person.

You’re trash, in a word, for rejecting someone else’s treasure.  (Though you haven’t, you’ve just said you don’t want any yourself.)

People mistake the collections of objects they amass for pleasure and success, and project that mistaken impression of accumulation of happiness via stuff onto you, in a nutshell.  Go your own way, and you’re telling them that you think they’re all wrong.  It’s not that, necessarily (though sometimes it is, and sometimes it only becomes that after our progenitors start insisting you follow The Old Ways) but changing the arrangement and type of objects is deeply unsettling to some, and the lack of stuff is even moreso.  When I tell people I don’t have a TV or a car, it earns me these looks– and when I look at the house I have only one room in and think– the things I could do if I could get rid of all of this stuff– well.  I’m sure it’s crazy to some.  But I like not having to deal with the weight of so many things (or wanting them, any more) physically & mentally taking up space that could be better spent swinging into warrior pose, or spreading out in a sunny patch on the rug with a shelf-space conserving Nook.

In the two years that most of my stuff has been in the basement, there have been maybe four times when I’ve needed something.  Maybe it is time, in fact, to go down and unpack– not for keeping’s sake, but shed to even more.

Therapy homework (1-b)



I did a better job after a good, cathartic too-many-drinks with strangers gettin’ my drunk on & long, much-needed twelve hour sleep at listing some things that my dad has done right to be appreciative/positive/non-critical, or has done things that have made me uncomplicatedly happy since I moved in with him.   (Yeah, every four years or so I get four-drinks wasted.  I’m a cheap date.)

And now that I’m writing this I can think of two more:  buying me my DSLR and my smartphone, with which I took the above photo.

Neveready (solo flight)

I’ve been reading a variety of self-help books in and around trashy sci-fi and research for the NaNo I probably won’t write this month (between work and family fights and now my Dad’s being in the hospital with a complication he’ll get over, but it’s going to take most of a week).  While I’m not a fan of the genre, per se, I’ve felt the need for a different perspective than therapy (and something besides writing in my journal, which I suck at) to supplement all the therapy I’ve been doing until just the last two weeks.  The good self-help books share some things in common– they underline the essential truth that we are all human, that we make mistakes and can’t be omniscient, and that this is okay in the long run, even if it sucks in the moment.  The best books, self-help or otherwise, underline the even more essential truth that I think anyone who’s really going to be ok at the “adult” thing has to accept: everyone else is as messed up as you, at one point or another, whether or not they’re better than you at hiding that fact.

The minute you really, really grasp that absolutely everyone in the world is or has been as fucked up as you, and that everyone– everyone, unless they’re, you know, a delusional psychopath or otherwise not well in their minds– runs in circles in their own heads, all the time, saying oh my god I don’t know what I’m doing I’m not ready for this I don’t know what I’m doing someone else fix this for me I don’t want to deal with this why can’t I go back to bed until it’s fixed like magic?  That feeling, that hide-under-the-covers-from-the-real-world sensation– it’s as universal a truth as death and taxis never coming within the time they say you’ll hail them.

But accepting that truth, that everyone else is as messed up as you?  It’s a double-edged sword. Because in one sense, it’s freeing– you can be as human as you like, be as you as you like, because anyone who dares to judge you is just a hypocrite and they can go straight to hell.  The flip side of that token, though, is that at any given moment that you’re having your own “this adult thing really sucks” meltdown, someone on whom you would like to rely is doing the same thing– which winds you up even more, because how dare they?!? Don’t they know you’re trying to hide from the world, and you were trying to get them to help you fix things?

It’s hard to maintain compassion when you want someone else to help you and maybe even have gotten far enough in your shitty self-help books to be honest about it, and then people let you down– you feel like a kicked child, betrayed in the vilest of ways, because you were open and honest and got rejected, instead.  Even when the reason had more to do with someone else’s failures and less to do with their indifference to or dislike of you.

That feeling of rejection is exhausting, hard to bounce back from– it’s a feeling you’re neveready for and the shock of it drains your batteries, leaving your limp.  You feel wiped out because you’ve done what you’re supposed to: been honest, up front with your boundaries/needs/expectations, and instead, you’ve gotten nothing, not the something (anything) that you had hoped might result. Hope might be that thing that wings, but rejection is that solo crash when you’re flying blind, too close to the sun, and not at safe cruising altitude with a competent copilot.

And it’s ok to feel angry at that rejection, at that failure; in some cases, it’s okay to decide that persistent failure or unreliability by the other so-called adults in your life is reasonable enough basis to limit your interactions with them or cut them out all together– but goddamn, does it suck, the loss of somebody else whom you’d hoped maybe, might help.

I don’t regret the row I had with my mother and brother around my birthday, because it was a tempest in a meta-conflict that represented my entire childhood’s role reversal dynamic and my refusal to be made to be the mom anymore.  I made my expectations clear to my brother well in advance, and he chose lack of conflict with the crazy mother over actually doing something considerate for the person who actually tries to be helpful and not a pain in the ass.  I don’t regret, either, the words I had with my mother, because despite the fact that I’m essentially beating my head against a brick wall and she won’t ever get it, the fact still remains:  why the hell did I turn my whole life upside down if it wasn’t to stand up for myself, no matter what?  I am standing up for myself, because no one else will, regularly.

I know what I want, and I know what I feel even if I don’t know where that leads in terms of “want” in the long term.  I can be relied on to buy myself flowers.  I can be relied on to take a mental health day when I really need it, and not cast aspersions on my general ability to do my damned job.  There’s nothing wrong with my expressing that I’m done with somebody’s bull, even if it means deciding that I’m going to be narrowing my social circle, or what I trust to tell others.  There’s nothing wrong with telling people to go to hell when they betray your trust, especially when you’ve specifically asked it of them and then they blithely stomp on it (you).

I don’t regret the row I had with my therapist, either– she knew I was in a wound-up place the last several weeks but chose to push all my money buttons and essentially deliberately trigger a panic reaction in me because my insurance company wasn’t responding quickly enough to the claims she’d submitted and which I had diligently been working on and following up with her about– by email, out of session.  The fact that she essentially manipulated me into freaking out about it during a session I was paying her for– I was paying her to talk about her not getting paid, instead of her actually paying her own billing person to do that for her– and that it was only after I had gotten my higher-up benefits folks sicced on the claim and forwarded the response to her that she “apologized?”  Well.  We hadn’t been agreeing about several things for the last while, and while there are things I’ve learned while working with her, I’ve also been fed up with her resistance to my attempts at telling her that certain “therapeutic” tendencies of hers drive me batshit, and that sometimes I just need straight talk.  So– while I am still furious about her lack of professionalism (even if in general I agree she had the right to get paid) because I think she knew better but was reckless about how I would respond to her putting the screws on me– in a session I paid for– in the end, while it sucks that I don’t have anyone, currently, to talk and vent to, I suppose it’s just as well, because she wasn’t really fully listening to me.  Still.  It’s a lost relationship, and one that I’d fought hard to keep, one that I worked at because I hate talking aloud about feelings, and now it is gone.

I had a not-row with some people in my work group on Friday– we were supposed to go out to do something that didn’t involve my crazy family for my birthday, and for one reason or another they all bailed or flaked and didn’t do the work to realize where we were going or how long it would take– and I got all the way there, then had to turn around and come home, alone.  I am not going to have a big “you all suck, you let me down” conversation with them, but I won’t be asking for any help or to socialize in the future.  It makes me sad, because I had hopes for that group, but I don’t have the patience or time to keep expending effort on people who can’t pay attention.  The end.

In the meantime, though, my busy but grown up friends and some of my family did send me nice wishes, including folks I miss like all hell, and people I haven’t done all that well keeping in contact with.  My friend Dani even sent me the most beautiful flowers, which were the perfect thing Friday night when I got home ready to crawl into bed– and instead got to spend a half-hour arranging a giant bouquet of gerberas.  I have slowly been sending responses, and am going to try to catch up, because all these folks are family of sorts, friends and people worthy of love & loving responses.

My dad, of course, was responding to my blues in an overdemonstrative manner that proves another point in those self-help books:  we have to learn how to say thank you, even if the praise makes us uncomfortable and we don’t feel worthy.  We’re being hypocrites to ourselves, elsewise– you can’t tell someone to butt the hell out of your life because you’re worth something, then protest too much in the next breath.  You’ve got to learn to accept that praise and attention are their own form of help, and if they’re not in the form you specifically asked for, well– you don’t refuse to look at a rainbow just because it’s not happening on the day of your wish.

In the end, though, all the self-help books won’t help you accept– you can get as old as you like but inside your head, you’ll never feel ready for the things life throws at you, and you’ll often feel angry or depressed or self-righteous or some other amped-up feeling when something that’s really, truly not fair happens to you and you have to deal with it all by yourself, because that’s just the way that life is.  And that is what it is– but you can’t wallow.  And even though you’re not ready, you’ve got to leap off the cliff and hope your wings are on right, maybe, this time, and flap, flap like hell and head for the horizon and try to ignore the ground because looking down doesn’t get you forward.

This week, the flying freakout is dad getting older, and getting him what he needs in the hospital, even if that means dealing with my self-absorbed avoidant shit of a brother, because it’s medical and therefore not feelings but clinical for him, so he feels free to butt in even though, at the end of the day, I’m the pertinent historian and caretaker.  (Ok, so I’m not yet done being mad at my brother for being a tool.  That’s ok, as long as I fight with him where my dad can’t see.)  It includes returning emails and calls from friends and putting off plans for this week but setting them up for next week and not trying to hide in a hole just because I know I’m going to freakout about becoming a caretaker and desperately want to say to someone with the power to make it so: please, don’t make it slow, whatever you do.  Because I can wish that all that I want, as awful as that thought may be on one hand (and as miserably hopeful for everyone’s lack of suffering on the other), but life is all the freakouts and missed connections and temper tantrums, not just the plans you’ve postponed to have a nice time some day.

You’ve got to have the nice time when it’s there, even if it’s not when you planned, and you weren’t ready for it.  Here’s the thing:  you’re never ready.  And that’s sort of okay.

Care, or do not. Just decide.

I feel like this is the lesson life’s going to keep hitting me in the head with until I really, really learn it.

(edited 11/5)

I absolutely don’t blame the people I still count my friends who’ve decided that I’ve been too self-absorbed with the oh-wah-I-am-changing-my-whole-goddamned-life separation and career change(s) and general emotional thrashing and drama that comes with me trying to work through this (and clearly not very well), and while I grieve that I’ve hurt those peoples’ feelings and really wish I could fix things, if it’s clear they think I’m bad news, I’ll step off.

But just when I feel like I’m done grieving one thing and can finally celebrate something else, fate or just the shitty luck of the draw or my lack of planning comes along and slaps me in the side of the head.  I’ve had some tension with my therapist for a while, and she, a solo practitioner, has some weird billing practices that make it very hard for me to keep up with everything (which is saying something, since I did insurance law for how long?)– between her pushing my money/shame/payment buttons (during sessions I paid her for, ostensibly for the purpose of discussing my mental health, and not her accountant’s inability to pick up the goddamned phone and call the fucking insurance company) and her disagreement (without having any kind of dialogue about what she’s thinking, even when I tell her that Socratic questioning drives me batshit because it triggers all the ways my Dad’s been a critical jerk in times past) that I a) need medication b) am bipolar c) another laundry list of shit– anyway, it all came to a dramatic head during a session where I really wanted to talk about 1) how my dad drove me nuts in Italy and how part of it ended up him just being old and how that was distressing for lots of reasons, including the fact that I can barely take care of myself 2) how my mother was coming to town and I didn’t want to deal with her and her obtuseness and feebleness and passive-aggression and 3) how my whole fucking family is so passive about planning my birthday, that even though I’d already said I wasn’t going to do it and why, now everyone was asking me what we were going to do, so that I was ready to knife the first person to bring it up again (I REALLY hate my birthday, holidays in general, I end up being in charge and I hate it)– and I never got talk about any of it because it was all a giant confrontation about when she was going to get paid, the answer to which was– I don’t know, and I’ve already called them three times in the last two weeks, why don’t you try?, which she didn’t like.  After about 20 minutes I just decided– fuck it.  She cares more about getting paid than about the fact that I had to email her during my vacation because I was having a crisis– so I wrote my copay check and walked out.

It sucked.  Big time.  This is the person who has listened to me, even if I’m not really sure she’s been all that helpful, while I have attempted to get over all the major shit of being ashamed at giving up law, getting a “real” job where I feel appreciated, leaving my husband, and otherwise deciding that I was going to do what I thought was important, and fuck waiting around for other people to tell me that no, I wasn’t capable of it because they needed to feel superior, or they were ableist shitheads, or they had no concept of who I really was or… whatever.  So even though I am furious with her, I am also really, really sad and angry at the same time– it’s really hard for me to talk in person with people about my feelings without completely falling apart, and I had at least gotten to the part of telling her things voluntarily sometimes, even if it could take the whole session to wind up to one real confession amidst a whole lot of venting.  (But venting’s important, and having an outlet is too, and now I don’t have that, either, and where am I going to put my getting too worked up about stuff I know I need perspective about, but first I need to be a blowhard about it in private, because that is how I process?)  I feel betrayed because she couldn’t be a grown up therapist with a grown up billing agent who could focus her energies on therapy, not payment.  And I feel really fucking manipulated because I think she took advantage of my anxieties about money to wind me up about getting her paid by the insurance company so that I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else.  I really, really, am so furious that I feel like writing a complaint to the licensing board.

And then, of course, my mother was here.  She was mostly here to see the grandchild.  Now, this is the important part.  I love my niece– she is awesome, wonderful, unequivocally so, and I think it is darling how my brother relates to her, how my dad is besotted with her, how she and her Mom grin at each other.  I don’t spend too much time thinking about kids of my own.  I am not jealous of her,  and I don’t particularly regret not having kids.  Like I said.  I have a hard enough time taking care of myself.  And I get a lot out of helping the folks at work.  Three hundred employees is a nice round number of people with shit to sort through and make me feel useful.

But I will never forgive– I’ve decided this much is true, I guess– my mother for telling me, outright, that she was moving to California because I wasn’t giving her grandchildren, and I really, really don’t want to forgive her for the fact that I have had a hell of a lot of shit going on that a caring mother theoretically might want to come visit a daughter and be supportive about.  The fact that I don’t want her to try to be my mother, nor do I want her to come visit, because she is a narcissist and can’t be trusted with the kind of confidences you’d tell a mother is beside the point, somehow, in my illogical, adult child brain.  Add on top of that her entitlement around the trip, and her shock and surprise when she learned that I wouldn’t be squiring her around in the car I no longer owned (which she didn’t know about because she doesn’t call me because that would be putting out for long distance, and that would mean spending money), nor would I be renting a car on my own dime to squire her around, her incredulity that I just wouldn’t give her a handout so she could do that, her huffed “well,” when I told her that it was her trip, and that she should plan it, not call me and leave passive aggressive voice mails on my machine expecting me to be the cruise director about when and how long she should come, blah blah blah (yeah, I got mad and used those words, more or less).  

Well.  I should know a thousand times over by now that she will never be capable of comprehending how much I resent her and how there’s a part of me that would be perfectly thrilled, really, to never speak to her ever again, because she winds me up, all the time, and I am incapable of building walls high enough to withstand her.  I know she will never change.  Will never comprehend the need to.  Will always think I am being mean and unreasonable for criticizing her, because don’t I understand that people were mean to her as a child, or as a young woman, or 36 years ago and she’s forever scarred?

And yet a part of me still manages to feel heartbroken when she and my brother sit around like bumps on fucking logs and want me to plan what I should do on my own birthday when 1) I have to work 2) they’ve vetoed all my ideas and not suggested anything else 3) I told my brother, beforehand, that I HATE my birthday for this very reason, and yet he let it happen anyway, because to do otherwise would involve confrontation and feelings.   I want them to know me well enough to know that I am sick of being the mom to us all.  (Pro-tip: they don’t know me, and they don’t care to.)

Somehow, they were both surprised when I just walked out right before supper the other day rather than start punching my brother in the damned neck.  Somehow, my brother still managed to be a condescending bag of dicks jerk who was “sorry I felt upset.”  You know what?  FUCK YOU, stop being faux-clinical, you pretentious-not-a-doctor-yet ass, and either make a commitment to this family or stop pretending to be so goddamned polite and doing all the family stuff out of mere obligation.  Do the real thing that you feel– be honest and say– nope, you know what, y’all drive me batshit, I’m out.  Instead, of all things, he called me to try to guilt me into seeing my noncomprehending mother and pretended to be sorry using faux-clinical language that was about as sincere as a Tea-Partier at a Teamsters meeting.  But my mother did want to see me.

I spent a painful hourlong dinner with her tonight as a result, wherein it was abundantly clear, yet again, that she has no idea, whatsoever, why I decided to leave my nice husband, or my nice legal career, (she’s still stuck on this, really, it has been years, 2009 and 2011, and still, still…) so I rerouted it so the conversation revolved around her and her physical ills.  She was just so baffled in the face of my rage at my brother, who I had TOLD to come up with a plan– and instead, he’d let her mope around the house the whole weekend because he had consulting work to do and that was more of a priority than either getting the work done ahead of time or after she’d gone back to the hotel, or just saying– you know what, now’s not a good time to come.  Because why would we ever stand up for ourselves, even to blood relatives?

Not because you don’t care (even though you probably shouldn’t) but because they don’t.

So.  Yeah.  No more blood relatives whose only claim to closeness anymore is mere blood.   And adieu again to husbands and college best friends and alleged good friends who want advice they won’t heed.  Therapists I’ve spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of my life on can go fuck themselves when money is more important than their clinical duty.  If they can’t be brave enough to have real feelings and express them around me, or respond to the ones I’m having (ooooh, feelings are scary?  No shit.)– they don’t care enough to make up their minds, and they’re not worth my time, not anymore.

Today, I turned 39.  What I really wanted for my birthday was someone, anyone, to curl up with me in bed and let me sob into their shoulder because I am tired  from all the good work I’m doing at work and at paying back all my debts (OOH, I’m paying back money, someone give me an award!!!), I’m tired of fighting with people I love and who don’t love me enough to pay any attention at all, I’m tired and just needing some time to cry and grieve because sometimes you need to do that.

Instead, I got newfound resolution to not waste my time on anyone who can’t handle my request that they participate in a little thinking, a little interested interaction, a little making of decisions that would indicate some human interest, brother, mother, therapist, whomever the fuck they may be.

I did get some lovely facebook and text messages from internet and real life friends and cousins and even my stupid, oblivious ex (who means well but doesn’t seem to understand I partially loathe him for his oblivious cost-consicous asshole health insurance shenanigans, since I’ve paid over 7000.00 this year for insurance between all the job changes, deductibles and COBRA), as well as a few people at work who knew I didn’t want people to know and who instead just stuck their heads in to say hi, and then left.  I got some people who knew enough to say hi, and reach out– thank you.

And my dad, though he may drive me nuts, made me my favorite supper after I’d gotten home from the mom supper of akward-ish heck, plus cake and ice cream.  And warm boiled wool slippers, that he saw me dogear once in a catalog, then knew me enough to order and guess at the right color.  (They were the right color.)

We all make our choices.  Sometimes hanging in there isn’t the right one.  Sometimes, even if it’s only one person, it is.  But you have to decide.

I’ve decided.

My giant goes with me.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, they say.  I guess the opposite’s also true– the too-static stone becomes pitted, uneven, grown over.  Moribund, even.

Emerson wrote in Self-Reliance that travelling was, in its way, a distraction and a mere intoxication, a way of preventing ourselves from learning who we really were and getting down to the brass tacks of intellectual self-advisement.  Like a lot of Emerson, it’s both true on one level, and so much bushwah on another.  My giant goes with me wherever I go, he says, and was ever there a personal essay more analyzed to death than Self-Reliance?  You can take it to mean whatever you want.  I take it to mean that you can run, but in the end, you can’t hide– at which point, if you know yourself, then why not also travel?  There are things to be learned from travelling, by yourself or with others, and what’s wrong with taking in a little mere beauty, even an ancient round rock in a botanical garden in Lucca?  What’s so wrong with distraction?

I spent the last two weeks carrying my giants with me– I know what they are, and though I had planned for their rearing & roaring, at times I had to beat a hasty retreat when they made themselves known.  My ugly giants all emerged at one point or another: hatred of criticism and dithering and not letting me lead, especially when my companion traveller was irretrievably wrong about facts, directions, maps, planning, etc., hatred of indecision and needless delay (why yes, by all means, let’s spend an hour yakking with the hotelier when there’s sightseeing to do) when there was limited time to see all the things to be seen), hatred of the emergence of the ugly American traveler and its companion, Easy Italian (aka, Loud English), aka, complaining about how things don’t work like this at home, and hatred of a lack of any preparation at all whatsoever, couples with its impatient cousin, ugh, where is your goddamned common sense, North is that way and we’ve walked this street three times this week?!

Since I can get claustrophobic in large crowds of small Japanese tourists, was also a bit hypomanic/mixed state coming off some stress at work & the jet lag, and a travelling companion’s (much less my father’s) pushing all those triggers, hard, all at once, makes me panic, it did get to a point where I had a frank talk with my dad about how he needed to knock it off, now, and either tolerate spending time seeing sights apart (rather than refuse to do things without me and then bitch the whole time and demand to see the map every five minutes and then get it WRONG) or else I would simply go home, I was having that bad of a time.  He did mostly knock it off after some grumbling and bitching about my being pushy and me telling him to go to hell because either he wanted me to plan the trip or he didn’t, but he couldn’t eat his focaccia and have it too, but once or twice he tried to take over and again got us lost/ spoke Easy Italian and got Wrong Directions/ clutched his old-maiden pearls a little too loudly and pissed off one of our native hosts and I just… bid him good afternoon, and went off and did my own thing.  I probably shouldn’t have been as pleased as I did that he got irretrievably lost despite giving him the good books and the maps, but I didn’t say anything and he did seem to learn to say permesso and grazie by the end of the trip.

I took my giants with me when I absented myself from his Old Coot Imma Do It My Way Tantrums and threw my own mini I At Least Know Where I am Going And Am Paying Attention Tantrums in reverse, of course, but I like to think that in all that travelling and being a bit more self-assertive, my giants’ stone is rubbed a little more smooth, weighs just a little bit less, and the moss is a little more green from the sunlight it saw as I carried it wherever I went.  And I learned that it wasn’t the end of the world to say no.  I was going my own way.  And I did.  Self-Reliance, indeed.


There’s a quiet button for that as well

And then there are days when you’re filled with rage, rage and grief and anxiety that crawls up your arms and sobs that want to crawl out of your chest but all you do is say– “I’m getting out here,” and walk past the crawling traffic that last quarter mile to the T station, because you were trying to be nice, letting him drive you to work when really, you wanted the time to yourself on the bus in the first place and instead, the drive in to work is full of his incessant fussing and moaning and criticism and bitching and never, ever listening to one fucking thing or letting you finish one fucking story despite the fact that it’s your job, not his, never finish one thing you say because– because of the noise in his head, because you’re not what he’s projected as the resolution of his own disappointments and fuck that, fuck all that noise.

You walk to the train in the cool and the fog and if your breath is hitched and shaky and your skin crawls with rage because you’re more or less middle-aged and he still can’t pay enough attention to love you after all of this time well– fuck him.  You can at least get out of the car.  Walk on your own. Breathe the less toxic air.  Accept the things you cannot change.  Try to decide where your courage lies.

If you take a klonopin with your homemade iced coffee– the coffee left in the pot that for once he’s managed not to thoughtlessly drink all the way up and fail to replace as you walk the hill up to work– if you breath in, one two three four, out two three four as you open your door, resettle the papers, greet your own nine by five kingdom where people listen and come to you for advice and pay attention and don’t interrupt and think that you’re competent for the decisions you’ve made and not for the mistake that they’ve made instead, if you breathe in and rub your hands together to stop their shaking as you rub your hands over your face and say– here, I am competent, safe, happy, I make my own choices and people let me– it’s eight hours of safety, and you’ve a walk back to the bus, to the train, to time, reading alone, to look forward to, too.

And if he calls you, more than once, because god fucking forbid you not call before it gets dark, jesus christ, and make him some supper even though he’s the one who taught you to cook more than thirty years ago now– well. There’s a quiet button for that moment as well.

The cell phone thumbs off.  The bus trundles its way up the hill.  You inhale.  Exhale, once again.