Friday, May 21, 2010

I Can't Drive 55....

I stated in an earlier post that I had recently learned some rather ugly life lessons, and that I would be posting about those lessons separately. This is the result of people asking me "what lessons were you talking about?"

First let me present a bit of background. That'll give you a slightly better understanding of what happened and why. It is not meant to excuse my behavior in any way. It is not meant to attempt to place blame for what happened on the shoulders of Anyone other than myself. And if, by chance, you somehow take some of this as an attempt to do such, you're either projecting your own faults onto me, or you simply want to be a prick.

I've been known over the course of my life to be a bit scatter brained at times. It's been a curse since I was a kid, although I usually work really hard not to forget anything Important. Unfortunately, the way the Curse works is that I can remember all the Trivia in the world, but can't remember things like.. oh... the names of my children in a moment of crises, or court dates for speeding tickets.

I've also suffered for a long time under a curse shared by a lot of women in our society: I was taught while growing up to play ostrich when problems arose, and to rely on the men around me to Fix It.

I grew up getting told that if I was a good girl, then mom & dad.. or the church, or the school teachers, or the government, or my husband/boyfriend (depending on my age at the time)... would kill my "snakes" for me. As I got older, I failed to have the lesson completely sink in that if I wanted my 'snakes' killed, I would have to do it for myself.

So, fast forward about 30 years, until I'm 40. I've managed at this point to keep myself out of trouble, I've never been to jail, and I'm one of those almost gaggingly stereotypical respectable/responsible types. I've raised my children to a point where I can lay down some of my stress, and start living my life for myself rather than for everyone else. Not all of it was peaches and cream, but not all of it was horrific, either. And it really didn't matter, because that portion of life was over and I was set to move forward and start rebuilding fresh.

I sold my house, moved out of state, started fresh elsewhere, and 10 months later got asked to return to Oklahoma by my dad, as his health was deteriorating. Being the dutiful, responsible sib in the family, I packed up and came home. A year later, dad had a near fatal stroke that turned him into a complete invalid, and dumped everything into my lap to take care of. Now, less than 2 years after I'd finally managed to free myself of almost overwhelming amounts of responsibility, here I was over loaded again, and responsible for myself and someone who was incapable of doing for themselves for valid reasons.

For the first 6 months, things were pretty much alright. I kept a lid on things, got everything done that needed to get done, held down the fort, etc. Then my brother decided he didn't like being the eldest and not having control - mostly because I refused to finance his drug habit - and started making trouble. Over the course of the next year, things went from bad to worse due to a series of problems that never quite finished resolving themselves, and my stress load simply continued to climb.

By the time the first 2 years had passed, with dad living in a nursing home for all of it, things were already pretty much a shambles. I ended up behind the 8 ball and trying desperately to catch up, moving from one various crises to the next with brief periods in between to hopefully catch a breath.

Then dad's doctors informed me that they were placing him on Hospice and he was estimated to have less than 6 months left to live. I gave up the fight he and I had been waging at that point, and moved him back home with me, so that I could at least offer him the final dignity of dying where he wanted to - in his own bed, rather than warehoused and anonymously numbered. I figured that 6 to 12 months I could handle, regardless of the stress load.

Boy, was I wrong.

Things were ok for the first couple of months. And even, perhaps to a large extent, for the first 6 months. Then I quit being able to take more stress, with no way to really get rid of any significant amount of it, and things headed into the toilet in a hurry. By this point, it was the beginning of October, 2009, and my recent ex and I had just met. I was stressed out, on the edge of a nervous breakdown which finally showed up in late December, and being threatened with possible misconduct charges by adult protective services because of mistakes I made while stressed out.

Fast forward 2 months to near the middle of December, 2009. Ex and I decide to take a quick trip from home up to the portion of the state he moved from, in order to pick up some of his things. Money being tight, we opted not to take the turnpike, and instead headed for the 2 lane Route 66 that winds it's way up the same path, which is what the turnpike replaced. Route 66, though, has a plethora of small towns dotted along it's length, with their attendant speed variations. At this point, I was driving.

No sooner did we start along Route 66 than we begin to pass through the small speed trap town of Arcadia, Oklahoma. I wasn't paying attention. I was speeding. The officer that pulled me over did so legitimately, and was polite, respectful, and even kind in letting me off with only the speeding ticket, since I couldn't find the insurance verification form for the car. It shook me up, so rather than continuing to drive, I switched places with the ex, and he drove for the rest of the trip to Tulsa and back home. Court date listed on the ticket was for the first week of January.

Things continued forward, and at the end of December as it all came to a head, I finally cracked and suffered the nervous breakdown that had been creeping up on me for a while. I turned into a gibbering idiot, nearly in a state of catatonia for a few hours, and proceeded to misplace what few marbles I had left at that point.

What disappeared along with my marbles? Being able to remember that I had a speeding ticket, with a court date still pending on it. Strike 1 for missing a court date.

Word of advice? Never miss a court date in a small, rural town that relies on those fines for the majority of their income. They put out warrants in a hurry for FtA (failure to appear) - and then send their police to your doorstep in short order to arrest you on that bench warrant. And if they're a Really small town, like Arcadia is, they won't even have their own jail! Which means, of course, that they send you to the County Jail in whatever county they happen to be part of.

So off to county lock down I go, my hands cuffed behind me for the ride, to be patted down, fingerprinted, have rather terrified looking mugshot photos taken, all of my tattoos recorded and put on record, my clothing and such replaced with ugly orange scrubs that said "Jail" on the back of them, and tossed into a 10' by 12' concrete room with 2 steel bunks, a combination toilet/sink in one corner, whose door only locked from the outside, and a pair of race hatred motivated roommates as the other occupants of this cozy space. And I wasn't of their race.

One week and almost uncountable amounts of psychological trauma later, I was finally released by the judge on an OR (own recognizance) bond, and a new court date given to me. The trauma was caused by a multitude of things. Food so bad I wouldn't force my dogs to eat it. (I ended up loosing 12lbs that week, from being unable to stomach the majority of it.) My only company being various hardened drug addicts, drug dealers, accused murderers, multi-count thieves, and those charged with assault and other violent crimes. And this was in the Women's area of the county jail.

So I go home, determined to pick up the pieces of my life, get back on the psych meds that I'm supposed to be taking, never miss another court date for the rest of my life or do Anything that could land me in a similar position a second time. I write down the new court date on the calendar, and put a note to myself in my phone for that date as well, with an alarm programmed, so I don't forget.

Court date approaches, as I keep an eye on the calendar, and then I realize something. The date I've written down on the calendar is a Saturday. No one has court on Saturday, right? Of Course no one has court on Saturday - that's the Weekend, and court is a Weekday thing!

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ, wrong answer, but we Thank You for playing "You Bet Your Life!" I proceed to convince myself that I had to have written the date down wrong, and so I don't show up - again. However, I took myself there first thing the next Monday to present myself to the judge to work out payment arrangements for the mounting fines and associated court costs.

And promptly found myself handcuffed and driven downtown to the County Jail a second time, for a 2 week reprise of my earlier visit. That makes 2 trips, spanning 3 weeks total, in a matter of 8 weeks of time.

I've learned a lot from the experience. I've learned never to rely on anyone other than myself to deal with a problem. No one else is going to, even if they offer to, or have claimed responsibility for you and your life. I've learned never to take something I "know" as something that I Actually KNOW - verify, verify, verify. I'm learning rapidly not to think I can get away with playing ostrich about anything - the stress doesn't go away, and eventually when I lift my head for a peek to see if the danger has passed, it's going to be hovering with teeth bared. I'm working on learning better coping skills for the stress itself, though that's a lengthy process. And I've learned that yes - there IS worse food on the planet than a couple of my more "creative" ex's cooked - it's served at the Oklahoma County Jail.

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