Sunday, November 3, 2013

Truth and Consequences...

In  my mind, there's actually a very simple delineation between the two of them. 

The first - a statement of Consequences - doesn't tell you that you "can't" do something.  It simply informs you of what you can expect to see happen in response to Your Chosen Actions. 

Example of a Statement of Consequences: 

It's up to you whether you pay your bills..... or instead decide to go out to the movies, go camping for a couple of weekends out at the area lake, and take a trip out of state over the course of a weekend as a sort of mini-vacation.
The consequences of the first: your life doesn't really change.  Your electricity, gas, water, and cable all stay connected, your car is not repossessed, and you are left alone by "the powers that be" (the folks where you had bills due.)
 The consequences of the second:  Immediate gratification on a superficial level, followed by all kinds of Bad Things happening to you.  You have a lot of fun out camping, and spend some great time with those folks you went to see while you were outta town.  However, when you get Back, you find that you no longer have Electricity - which means nothing works in your house, you get to go hungry, all the food spoils in your fridge that no longer works, you can no longer relax after work watching tv or playing that favorite video game - and your car has been repossessed.  Which, of course, means that all your Other bills are going to be past due and get cut off in the near future, because you now have no means to get to and from work.  Or to and from those fun camping trips, the visits with outta state friends, or the grocery store for milk (which, hey, ya can't store anyway - cause ya chose to spend your money playing rather than being responsible!)

Example of a Threat:

If you don't pay this bill, I'ma send a couple big guys named Guido 'round to have a lil "Talk" wich ya - and they're gonna start breakin bones til it reaches an amount equal to whatcha owes me, see?

Not easily confused, but some people manage to do so anyway...

Here's hoping that none of my readers mistake the two, or ever do anything to cause the second to come to pass...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ghosts of the Past

For a good portion of this year, I've been struggling to come to terms with certain portions of my past.  I've only touched very briefly on those portions in this blog, where they happened to coincide with other things that I was writing about at the time.  A major one of those came home to roost this evening after reading an article, and I decided it was time to do a bit of venting in an effort to put my thoughts into a more coherent order.

I've mentioned my maternal grandmother briefly, in regards to how she typically acted at family holiday gatherings.  Beyond that, I have refrained (until now) from saying much more on the rather sore subject of the woman that I've long referred to as "The Bat."  She's a sore subject in my life for a multitude of reasons.  Hopefully, by writing this particular entry, people will begin to understand a few of those reasons - and understand better why I am who I am.

I came to refer to my maternal grandmother as "The Bat" as sort of a standing joke, meant to explain why I frequently tell people that I'm "bat shit crazy."  After all - with all the various shit The Bat has pulled during my life, it should be understandable that it would drive me quite literally insane.  One thing to understand here: this is a woman who has spent the majority of her life being Emotionally - and sometimes Physically - abusive towards me.  She excels in emotional blackmail, degradation, humiliation, double standards of the worst sort, and makes the guilt trips a stereotypical Jewish Mother is capable of look like child's play in comparison.

My earliest memories of my grandmother start with getting yelled at - at the age of 3 - for something that my slightly older brother happened to actually be guilty of.  The yelling was inevitably followed by swats, usually with a thin switch pulled off the peach tree in the back yard.  For years after I became an adult, I couldn't force myself to eat peaches, or anything with a peach flavor, despite loving the taste - when I did, it brought back memories of that damned tree, being sent out to pick a switch to be used on my backside, and being sent out repeatedly until I brought back exactly the Type of thin, whippy, long green limb she wanted for the task of punishing me for whatever imagined crime I had committed that particular day.  From the day that she decided I was old enough to be sent out there, at around age 6 - saving her the trip herself - I had to pick the switch I was going to get a beating with.  Inevitably, my brother would do something - then blame me - and my grandmother would assume I was therefore the guilty party and punishment would commence.

At the age of 5, as I was just starting kindergarten, there was an incident that should have clued me in to how things were going to stand for the rest of my life when dealing with this woman.  School was still in the early portions of the new fall semester, and Monday was to be Student Picture Day.  It was early October, and here in Oklahoma, the days were still exceedingly hot, and even most nights hadn't cooled off significantly.  That weekend, my brother and I were sent - as we often were - into the back yard to play, while our mother and grandfather were at work, and The Bat watched TV and did what little housework there was to be done.  There was a wheelbarrow in the back yard, filled with dirt which our grandfather had dug up out of the garden in order to plant something earlier that summer.  It had turned into something rock hard, and much resembled concrete, due to being alternately rained on and baked by the Oklahoma heat all summer.  My brother had gone into the garage, and gotten one of our grandfather's hammers - the type with a ball on one end, and a claw for removing nails on the other - and had sat himself in the wheelbarrow and set to work digging at the rock hard mound of dirt with the claw.  Being 5, I rapidly grew bored with playing by myself, and went to stand near my brother - but out of the easy swing of the hammer - and asked him if I could play with him.  His answer was to shift his position just enough to deliberately hit me in the face with the ball end of the hammer, right smack in the eye, and then going back to digging at the dirt with the claw end, never saying a word.  I was in pain.  I was in enough pain that I screamed and ran into the house holding my face where my brother had just tried to knock my brains in.  Our grandmother's first reaction was to snarl at me to shut up and quit being - as she put it - a whiny brat crying over nothing but a scratch.  Then my hand got yanked away from my face and my chin was grabbed, in order to force my head up so she could take a look at the damage.  When I sobbed out that my brother had hit me in the face with the hammer, I expected (as any 5 year old child would) to be comforted.  Instead, what I got was told, "Well you obviously did something to deserve it - he's far to sweet a child to hurt anyone without a reason."  She admonished me again to quit making "a racket" to disturb her, and sent me to our bedroom to wait until Mom got home to deal with it.  By the time mom got home, my eye - indeed, almost that entire side of my face - was one massive bruise.  And it was obvious that it wasn't going to be gone by Monday morning in time for School Picture Day.

Things went down hill from there.

As we grew older, my brother became more Creative in the mischief that he would perform - and less subtle as the years went by in hiding the fact (at least from me or our mother) that he was doing a lot of it out of spite, because he knew that our grandmother would never punish him, instead taking out his transgressions on me.  Food was taken from the window between kitchen and family room?  Must be Her, because he would Never steal - besides, she's "the fat one."  (I was by no means "fat" at that point - but because I also wasn't waif thin and emaciated, my grandmother referred to me as "fat.")  Something got thrown in the family room, while The Bat was on the other side of the house, and a vase/lamp/knicknack got broken?  Well he Assured The Bat that it was Her - and he would Never Lie.  Her homework is missing in the morning when getting ready to go catch the bus for school?  She must have lied about doing it, because he would Never destroy it - he said so.  The dog got kicked, the cat got thrown, a window got broken?  It couldn't be Him - not her precious grandson - he'd already told her who was REALLY to blame - his Sister.

And then the other, more subtle, forms of emotional blackmail and abuse started up.  If I got a B in one subject, it should have been an A.  If I got an A, why wasn't it an A+?  It didn't matter what my teachers said about my reading level being 8 to 10 grades higher than my age - according to her, I would never be a good reader, or speller - because I was stupid and useless and just in the way of Her Perfect Grandson.  And of course, when he got something less than a perfect grade - it was never his fault - the teachers were picking on him, or they were trying to teach him to far above the level of whatever grade he happened to be in.  If he wasn't picked for a sports team - the coach was obviously biased against him for some reason.  (Could it be that the "bias" was favoring kids who could actually Play the sport in question?)

I thought - rather mistakenly, it turned out - that when I graduated high school (my brother had dropped out and taken a GED, saying he was "bored" - when in fact what he was, was rapidly becoming drug addicted, and had skipped to many classes to successfully graduate without being held back at least 2 years, placing my graduation ahead of his own) the Bat would finally ease up and start admitting that her Other grandchild had some inherent worth as a human being as well.  What I got instead was castigated for not being Valedictorian.  Then came the diatribes about my intention of going to college (Worthless, elitist, snobbish hogwash that would simply make me put on airs above my allotted station in life) and that I was going to be attending as a Music Major - Performance major, education minor, with an intention of teaching at the high school level when I finished.  According to her, I was jumping feet first into a life of drugs, promiscuity, recklessness, and virtually proclaiming myself a harlot to the world - because "everyone knows" that all professional musicians of any sort are worthless partying drug addicts who sleep around with anyone and everyone!

And then I dropped out of school.  Only to hear about how I was "neglecting Gawd's Gift" to me as a talented vocalist.

And then I got pregnant, despite being on the Pill, and using Condoms and spermacide - and back we went to the whole "worthless harlot" thing.  But only AFTER asking me why I was doing this to HER, and declaring that I would be getting married or would be getting kicked out of the family - that she simply wasn't going to have the rumor mill at Church churning about how such a God Fearing Christian woman could have one of her own turn out so.......... Un Godly.

27 years, a divorce, several live ins, and all of life's ups and downs later............... I'm 47, my brother is 48, and The Bat (89 in March) is one of the few remaining Relatives I have left other than idiotboy and my children.  Things haven't really changed.  He once again lives in her home, mooching off her while she proclaims to the world that he's actually somehow "helping" her with her bills.  And I'm still "the fat one" (he ain't no skinny minny these days - he outweighs me, and now looks like the stereotypically fat, balding, raggedly dressed, ego driven biker)...... I'm still "the failure" because I don't have a job (my bills are paid, I don't require public assistance, I'm not leeching off the public teat or constantly asking her for a handout to catch up) never mind that I'm medically retired with the same thing that put her daughter in an early grave.  I'm the "ungrateful" one - because I would never allow her to successfully Purchase my respect or my love, and I still won't.  I'm the "ungodly one that's doomed to burn in hell" because I'm an out and proud Pagan who shuns her version of deity and the religion of guilt and fear she believes in.  (I won't call it Christianity - and it's Certainly not anything remotely resembling being a true follower of The Carpenter.)  I'm the "spiteful one" who insists on not lying to people to keep her reputation untarnished.  I'm the "dishonest one" because I tell Painful truths that she would rather stay secret - and that she's convinced herself over the years never Actually happened, because no Good Christian Woman of Her Standing would do something of those things!  (Lie to yourself and the rest of the world often enough, and even you begin to believe your lies? Is that how that works?  It must be.)

I'm scarred.  I still have wounds that never really healed, caused by one of the people who - during my infancy and formative years - I should have been able to trust implicitly to do what was best for me, to love me unconditionally, and to nurture me.  I will likely carry some of my trust issues with me until the day I die.  Those never completely go away - especially when people further down the line reinforce that lack of trust over time - regardless of how many good, trust worthy individuals happen to come along as well.  There are pieces of me that are stunted.  Pieces that I'm not really sure whether they developed and then hid, or simply never developed. 

I simply am....... who I am.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cha cha cha changes...

While no doubt some of you are getting really tired of hearing about the various struggles and issues attendant with having a systemic illness like Lupus or Fibromyalgia, over the course of the past year - while I fought with a severe flare, the stress that caused it and was in turn caused by it, and the consequences of both - this blog has begun to turn into something primarily dedicated to that struggle.  It has become both an outlet for my Lupus/Fibro induced frustrations, and a place which I hope - in time - will serve as a source of hope for others who are suffering from either of these particular complex disease issues.

Lately, one of the things that has come to the fore in my life due to the illnesses has been a desire to focus more on my Health and Well Being.  I've been taking a much more critical look at some of my various (bad) habits.  What caused them?  What are they, in turn, causing?  Is there anything I can (realistically) do about some of them, or are they stuck with me for the rest of my life just like the Lupus and Fibro are here to stay?

In some areas of my life, I'm as stubborn and strong willed as it gets.  Once I dig my heels in about something, you'll have as much luck moving me as you would dragging a mule who has decided it's not going one step further.  No trick, no inducement, no bribe or threat, is going to change my stubborn planting and digging in roots.  Unfortunately, this is only true in Some areas of my life.  In others, it's almost the exact opposite.  I have zero willpower, and it takes the prodding, pushing, coaxing, threatening, bribery, and coercion of someone else to get me to make a decision and/or stick with it once it's made.

And of course, it's usually the seriously Important areas of life where that second set of circumstances happens to hold sway.  Taking care of my health - giving up unhealthy habits, changing areas that seriously need to be changed for my own good - happens to fall.... where?  You guessed it - right smack in the middle of the "someone else is gonna have to push me to get it done" area.

One of my really bad habits - which has lasted for 3/4 of my life span - has been smoking.  I've tried to quit several times in the past.  I've sworn time and again that I was Through, over, done, kaput, wasn't gonna spend that money any longer, couldn't stand the smell, the health risks to myself and (through second hand smoke, etc) others, hated being Dependent on something which has (during the course of my 47 years) become a severe social stigma (even though it wasn't when I Started smoking, or even during the vast majority of the time which I've been a smoker.)

I've been a smoker since I was 12.  That's right, 12.  I'm 47 now (or will be as of mid-June) which means that I've been a smoker for 35 years.  That's longer than a good many of my closest friends have even been Alive.  I smoked through 2 rounds of childbirth, and the deaths of my sister, all but one of my grandparents, and both my parents.  I watched my father suffer from COPD, emphasymia, bladder cancer, renal failure, and stroke due to his smoking habit.  I've watched as my world grew smaller and smaller as far as where I was allowed to indulge my addiction to nicotine - from being able to smoke in the mall, restaurants, stores, on the street, and at home - to only being able to smoke in my car (with the windows down, since other half is allergic) outside at home (again, other half, allergic) or outside at work (while I was still working, because they closed the smokers break room in an effort to force everyone to quit.)

I have spent literally thousands of dollars over the years feeding my addiction.  Cigarettes were $.55 a pack when I started 35 years ago (at least here in Oklahoma that's what they cost back then.)  Now they're more than $5 a pack.  I was in my late 20s, after the birth of my oldest daughter, when the price went over $1 a pack around here.  I decided then that I was going to quit due to the price.  That lasted a whole 2 days, and I simply made adjustments in my spending priorities to continue to accommodate my addiction.  Every time the price went up... $2, $3, $4.... I said the same thing as it was announced that prices were going up again, "If it hits X amount, I'm quitting - this has gotten to expensive."  And every time, it hit that mark, surpassed it, and I continued to be a smoker and simply adjust how I spent money to accommodate the ever increasing price.  In the past 5 years, since the price spiked over $5 a pack, I have spent nearly $10,000.  That's just in the past 5 years.  When you consider that I've been smoking for 35 years, I've probably spent enough money on that one habit to have bought and paid for a house by now.  Certainly I've spent more on tobacco than I have on vehicles or their maintenance.

I've watched over the past several years as more and more evidence came to light about smoking's ill effects on health.  I watched what it did to my dad, vowing I would quit rather than allow it to affect me the way it had affected him.  I still smoked.  I've dealt with my fair share of the whole Smoker's Cough, wheezing, decreased lung capacity, etc., and told myself "this is it, I'm quitting, I can't stand this any longer."  And I still smoked.

I've dealt with the snide remarks, the catty comments about the smell of smoke that clung to everything, the sidelong condescending looks, the sneers, the hateful glances from non-smokers while in public settings (even those which were outdoors.)  I have had to deal with the increasing stigma, the guilt, the shame.  And I still smoked.

Now for those of you who are sitting there thinking, "well if  you wanted to quit, why didn't you simply Stop and not buy any more?"

It's not that simple.  It's no simpler for someone who is physically addicted to nicotine to simply "stop smoking" than it is for someone who is addicted to Heroine or Crack cocaine to simply "stop" using their drug of choice.  It is, quite literally, a physical addiction to the active Natural chemical in the tobacco.  Withdrawal is very real, and unpleasant.  Nicotine as a biochemical attaches to the same receptors in the brain which nature intended for Serotonin - the feel good happy chemical that our brain produces through hormonal activity.  It effectively acts in ways that are Similar To, but not Identical to, Serotonin.  It keeps us calm, helps us deal with stress to a degree, and gives us a (false) sense of well being.  As the Nicotine attaches to more and more of the receptors naturally intended for Serotonin, the naturally produced biochemical has no where to go - and as a result, the body produces less and less of it, thinking that it's in more than adequate supply.

Now you cut off that supply of chemical that attaches to the receptors, keeping us calm and functioning.  Can we say "homicidal maniac in Capri pants - especially if she's still trying to quit when monthly hormone changes take place"?  I knew we could.  It's not pretty, it's not pleasant, and getting on my nerves or pushing my buttons when I'm nicotine deprived is asking for a hormonal rage of the sort that men shiver in fear about when a woman is having "that time."

Don't get me wrong.  I'm still trying to quit.  I still Want to quit.  I'm (once again) weaning myself off cigarettes and onto a nicotine vaporizing e-cig.  I can step down the amount of nicotine in the vaporizer slowly over time, once I've gotten myself (again) using it and not buying actual cigarettes at all.

Keep your fingers crossed.  Wish me luck.  Pray, light a candle, invoke your various deities (if you're pagan) and perform a spell (if you happen to be a practitioner of That sort.)  Whatever it takes to bring both luck and willpower this direction - while keeping me from going postal and accidentally killing someone who happens to annoy me unintentionally during the process.  I've set a quit date - at least to be completely free of actual tobacco.  Now let's see if I can stick with it this time.

Happiness and Trees

So I was doing laundry earlier and started contemplating the recent changes in my life.  After all, at the end of this week, I have another birthday - always a time for looking back and making those various comparisons of "then" vs "now."  And since 3 months ago I was doing laundry by waiting until every stitch of clothing was dirty so I could make a single trip to the laundromat, rather than being able to take considerably smaller loads out to the utility room here at home and do them in my own working washer and dryer.  And that in and of itself - having a working (and still brand new, no previous owner) washer and dryer at home, which is still a luxury even though most people count it as a necessity - is what had me thinking about recent changes, and various cliches.  I paused in the midst of doing laundry (which I Detest having to do, necessary chore that it is) and asked myself - looking at my still new, bright and shiny, high efficiency, water saving, all the bells and whistles available without costing as much as my (used) car did washer and dryer - "so, are you really Happy with your life these days?  You weren't for a long time.  Has that changed?  And if the answer is Yes, has it changed Enough?"

While the person who came up with the cliche that, "Money can't buy Happiness," wasn't completely Wrong - well - he (or she, though I'm thinking it Had to be a guy) wasn't exactly Right, either.  They weren't completely right about the whole "Money doesn't grow on trees" thing either - cause paper Is made with wood pulp after all!

As anyone who has ever been Poor  (I mean Seriously poor - not knowing whether all the utilities were still gonna be on next week/not sure whether you could make rent this month/not certain whether you could afford food/walk everywhere cause you don't own a car and can't afford the bus kinda poor - not the whole "OMG, I'm gonna have to choose between whether to go to Rio for Carnival or the Bahamas for Vacation!" kind of pseudo-poor) can tell you, while money may not buy happiness, it certainly eases life up enough that you aren't always miserable.  Knowing that the rent/house payment is covered, all the utilities are square, you can afford a trip to the doctor if you start hacking up a lung from allergies, there's plenty of food in the cupboard, and you still have money left over to keep gas in the car (Despite the outrageous price of gas these days - $3.49 a gallon with 10% ethanol that my car can't choke down? Really? In the middle of Oil Country??) relieves a lot of worries and stresses in life - the very things that tend to make you miserable when all other factors remain equitable and relatively pleasant.  Having the latest and greatest gadgets to play with won't make you suddenly ecstatically happy - but they will keep you from being bored outta your gourd as long as the electric bill was paid so you can keep them charged up and usable.

In the past few years I've run the gamut from having a $4000 a month household budget to play with to having a $0 per month budget to worry about and back to having sufficient income between myself and my other half that - while we'll never live in a mansion or take vacations to exotic places (unless one of us starts playing the lottery and somehow manages to win)  the rent and bills are no longer a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul, or juggling skills that would amaze visitors at a Renaissance faire. 

We're finally at a point where we're fairly Comfortable.  The cars are old and were bought used - but they run reliably, they're cheap to insure and tag, and we don't have to make payments on them.  The computers - while not top of the line couldn't be upgraded at this point because the better equipment hasn't come out yet - are new, and more than adequate to either of our needs - and managed to replace our pair of dinosaur machines before either of them completely crapped out and stopped working.  We don't have to deal with the laundromat any longer, and while the washer & dryer weren't The Best I could have gotten - they're new, they're paid for, and they aren't the bottom of the barrel set that I "could" have gotten, and they won't have to be replaced for a very Very long time.  I've managed to replace my old, worn out, ill fitting, stained up and ready for the trash heap wardrobe with clothes that fit well, look good, and aren't second hand, stained, ripped, or so out of style I look like I walked out of a 70's ad. (I'm still working on getting him to let me do something about His wardrobe for when he's not at work - eventually I'll wear him down about it.  I hope.) I've managed to pay off the doctor bills, and not have to choose  between groceries or the various meds the rheumatologist has me taking to keep the lupus and fibro under control.  My relationship with my other half is stable, comfortable, and better than any relationship I've had in the past 20 years.  (I know - that last part isn't saying much, when you consider some of the scum sucking bottom feeders that I've dated - but this is the difference between a man who has a stable job, a work ethic, and no overweening ego issues and one who lacks all of those things.)

So yes, I'm happier than I've been in a long time.  And yes - some of that happiness has been because of the change in financial situation, and subsequent "stuff" that the financial change enabled. 

I'm a lot happier doing laundry at home - where I can toss a load in and come play on the computer - than I was having to deal with going to a laundromat.  I'm a lot happier having my kitchen more up to date, and having some of the gadgets for it (like my KitchenAide stand mixer and all it's various attachments) than I was with a stove that barely worked and sometimes wondering if we were gonna be able to afford to eat healthy.  I'm a lot happier knowing that I can afford my meds, and dealing with a good Rheumy to get my illness under control than I was in keeping my fingers crossed and hoping I simply didn't have a bad flare.  I'm Considerably happier having not 1 but 2 running cars between us, so that I don't have to sit around bored if I want or need to go do something - and I don't have to set my schedule around making sure the car is home for someone to get to work on time.  I'm a lot less stressed, a lot less worn out from worry, and therefore - yes - a lot happier knowing that everything is covered, and there's still at least a bit left over for entertainment or emergencies.  I'm much happier being able to go to the gym, both to work out and try to regain some of my health and flexibility, and simply to relax in the sauna and hottub if I'm having a serious pain day.  Not only does the gym keep me from being bored at times, it's (supposedly) good for me, and it gets me out of the house so I don't turn back into a human hermit crab.

Yes, things have changed.  Yes, those changes have made me happy.  Yes, I can even say they've changed enough.  Though honestly - if it's the right sort of changes, I'm not going to suddenly become UNhappy if various other things decide to change as well.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Long and Short (or Thin and Fat) of it all

I've spent my whole life struggling with my weight.

When I was in high school, 25 years ago, I thought I was huge as a healthy size 7 to 9, because I went to school with a bunch of size 0's and 1's (the Popular girls - the cheerleaders, the honor students, the fashionistas, and favorites of all the guys at an age when that was Incredibly important for self image.)

 25 years, 2 children, a few hormonal changes, and a nasty illness (Systemic Lupus) later.... and I'm still struggling with my weight, though for different reasons.

I don't consider myself huge any more. I eat Healthy, rather than obsessing about it. I don't worry about whether I could fit into the hideous clothing that high fashion dictates we're all supposed to be able (or at least Want to be able) to fit into. While I wouldn't mind being able to loose a bit of weight for the sake of my joints, I've accepted the fact that as long as I have Lupus (meaning = the rest of my life) I'm GOING to be on corticosteroids and I'm GOING to have weight issues due to those medications regardless of how healthy I eat. I've long since accepted the fact that I will Never Again be Physically Healthy enough to get sufficient exercise - because most days I count it as a win if I'm able to get out of bed without spending a few minutes whimpering in pain and hiding tears of agony from my partner.

Being thin - regardless of how I were to get there - is not going to make the Lupus go away.
Being thin - regardless of how I were to get there - is not going to make the Fibromyalgia go away.
Being thin - regardless of how I were to get there - is not going to make the joint and tissue damage go away.
Being thin - regardless of how I were to get there - is not going to get me off the meds, take away the medication induced diabetes, restore all the myriad things I'm not able to do any more, restore mobility lost due to joint damage that wasn't caused by weight, suddenly make it to where I'm no longer allergic to being out in the sun because of photosensitivity, take away the depression that having a serious chronic illness and being allergic to myself causes me, take away the migraines or the muscle problems or the constant pain or the creeping vision loss.

None of that is EVER going away, no matter how thin or fat or in between I happen to be, not until the day I die.

Birth and Death and Everything in Between

As some of you might have come to realize, writing posts for this blog is frequently a cathartic experience for me.  I use it to work through various emotions when I'm having stressful times, or I use it to alleviate boredom or because something specifically piques my interest and I become passionate about it.

Today is a cathartic day.  I'll state that up front as a warning in case you desire to move along to other things.

For the past 6 1/2 years, I've been coping off and on with the results of my father having a massive and debilitating stroke, rendering him completely disabled and with a total inability to care for himself and his own needs.  If you've read any of my earliest posts to this blog,  you'll also know that when the initial stroke happened, everything essentially got dumped in my lap to take care of. 

Earlier this year, on 1/16/2013, I found out that.. much to my surprise... dad had died.  I didn't get the phone call that I've been expecting for so many years. No, I found out that my only remaining parent was dead when I received a letter from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Division, Office of Body Donation, expressing their condolences on our loss and thanking us for dad being a willing body donor.... 10 days after the fact.  My brother - and our maternal grandmother (whom he lives with and sponges off of) - didn't consider it Their problem to inform me of our father's death.

 My older brother was (and remains) an utterly useless PoS who wants nothing to do with anything that even Remotely resembles .... (dun dun dun)... 


Which of course meant that he has spent the past several years avoiding any potential for me to rely upon him to help out with dad's care, making certain that dad was in a decent nursing facility, making certain that dad's bills got paid, being sure that any paperwork that needed to get done for anything got done on time and properly.  The only thing my brother has wanted in all this time was for me to cough up money out of dad's accounts, on demand, to pay His bills... screw the fact that dad's money was there for Dad's bills.  He's threatened me, he's tried once to kill me (thank the gods he's an absolutely incompetent nitwit, or I'd be taking the concept of Ghost Writing to a whole new level!) he's committed fraud several times, he's tried to set me up to go to jail for fraud several times, and he's caused so much financial grief that it ultimately led to losing the family home last summer and me nearly ending up in the hospital with a lupus flare from all the stress that brought about.

So today, much to my disgust, I was forced into the position of having to deal with my idiot brother one final time.  He's named as a joint beneficiary on one small life insurance policy, and due to company policy in such cases, I have to have him sign a copy of the claim form, so that they can send him his token amount directly.  Now the good part of this is that after he signs that form tomorrow, I won't ever have to deal with him again for as long as either of us is alive.  That's the ONLY thing he's listed as a beneficiary of, and he made it plain today while on the phone with me that (according to him) it's somehow All My Fault that there's not some huge amount of money waiting for him to claim it as should be his by right.

He feels like I somehow managed to "cheat him" out of what he considered "rightfully his" - "rightfully" in the sense that he figures since he was the oldest surviving offspring, and the only male offspring, that he should have gotten anything and everything (except the remaining bills) that happened to be there after dad stroked in the first place.  He's incredibly bitter about the loss of the family home - both because he now has zero chance of attempting to claim it as His inheritance, and because it can't be sold and him claim the lion's share of the money from the sale.

In all of this, he still manages to avoid accepting any responsibility.  He refuses to see that many of the financial problems - up to and including the loss of the family home - are a direct result of choices HE made, actions that HE instigated, and people that HE associated with.  He and his former girlfriend (dead 2 years ago due to a drug overdose - good riddance to bad rubbish) hid a lot of crucial and time sensitive paperwork from me during the first 6 or 7 months after dad's stroke.  They hid paperwork about property taxes that were due, which started the cycle of the taxes never getting caught up - which led to the loss of the house.  They hid paperwork about dad's long term disability insurance from me - which led to the loss of the insurance paying dad's nursing home bill - which led to me having to pay that bill out of dad's retirement funds (the inheritance that my brother is so bitter about the loss of) until there was nothing left.  He himself personally stole a few checks from dad during that time, to bolster his own squandered money spent on drugs and booze, with no thought then or now about what sort of problems that caused - because according to his reasoning, it was somehow Owed to him, because it was supposed to be His Inheritance anyway.

When I informed him that there are still bills coming in that are in dad's name... which, by the terms of the will, are supposed to be paid out of the insurance before either of us get anything that's left... he was quick to tell me that it wasn't his problem.  Dad's dead, they can eat the costs of whatever bills remained, because he has no intention of spending the insurance payoff that way.  Then he went on to tell me that the bills should be my problem anyway, since I was the Trustee of the family Trust - and the bills are the Trust's problem.  Which makes no sense when you think about the fact that in the past 7 years he's stated numerous times that he should "by right of being eldest and only male" get anything in the Trust.  By his own former logic... that he should get everything that remains of the trust... the bills ARE his problem, and his alone. He's changed his tune on that score drastically now that the only thing left of the Trust is a slew of bills that he wants nothing to do with.

The bright side to all this, as I said a moment ago, is that after tomorrow I'll never have to deal with him again for the rest of my life.  I can forget that he exists, and finish writing his worthless arse out of my universe.  I think I may celebrate after I have that signed paperwork back in  my hand. 

No doubt some of you are sitting there thinking "Wow, she really hates her few remaining relatives."  You'd be wrong if you think that I hate him OR our grandmother the Bat.  You see, the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.  In order to hate someone, you have to give a flip about them.  I stopped caring about either of them sufficiently to hate them years ago.  I hate their Actions.  I detest his myopic self absorption and delusions.  I find him (and her) to be rather pitiable excuses for humanity, due to their entitlement attitudes and utter lack of self responsibility or accountability.  But I quit hating THEM.. the individuals... a few years ago, when I came to the realization that I just don't care enough one way or the other about them as people to invest the emotional energy in such a Personal set of feelings as Hatred.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The End of an Era

How often do we use the phrase "end of an era" to denote the passing of something which has been a constant in our lives for a very long time?  For me, there truly Has been the End of an Era of my life recently.  An Era that I've blogged about in the past has finally come to a close with the passing of my father from this mortal coil.

You never really think, in the back of your brain, that your parents will eventually be Gone.  You don't want to realize that eventually, they aren't going to be there any more to comfort you, rescue you, advise you, laugh and cry with you, or rejoice with you in the accomplishments of yourself and your offspring.  You learn early in life (at least, if you're lucky enough to have good parents who do what they Should) to rely on Mom and Dad to always be there, waiting in the wings, to pick you back up when you fall, dust you off, tell you it'll be ok, and send you back to try your hand again at whatever it is that you were doing when  you fell down.

 I've whined more than I should have, about the general hassles of what happens when your parents become dependent upon you, the way you were dependent upon them when  you were a kid.  I've grumbled and griped, bitched, moaned, and complained about the headaches involved in caring for an aging or disabled parent or other family member.  I've railed frequently about how much I disliked having to deal with some of the issues.  I've snarled rather bitterly a few times about just how much I hated having to cope with doctors and lawyers and a moneygrubbing sibling who wants none of the responsibility but all of the rewards.  I've even surmised a time or two that my life would actually Improve once my father finally got on with things, gave up fighting for life, left his ailing body for the hereafter, and quit being a factor in all my decision making processes.

I'm of two minds about his passing, now that it's actually Happened.

I find that I cannot, for the most part, grieve in the normal sense of that term.  I've spent the past 7 Years going through the grieving process for dad, and now that he's finally actually GONE... I've already reached the Acceptance phase.  He's been terminal for so long, completely dependent upon full time nursing care, and not a Daily factor in my life, that it was easy to get to a point of no longer thinking about him as my Parent.  I quit being able to depend ON him, instead having to deal with him depending on Me, that I had long since lost that feeling that "daddy should be here to pick up the pieces for me - why isn't he HERE when I need him, damnit!"

I haven't actually Missed having him around in quite a few years.  After tolerating having him live with me while he was on hospice, and the changes that wrought in our relationship, missing his presence is something I'm pretty much incapable of doing. 

Don't get me wrong, he was my father.... the man who raised me, provided for me while I grew up, advised me when I needed it (and sometimes when I didn't think I did) looked after me, cared for me.... when he didn't have any Biological stake in how I turned out, or even whether I survived into adulthood.  I will forever be grateful to him for taking in the children spawned by another man, raising them as his own, and doing his best to see to it that we turned into decent, productive adults.  (Even if he Did fail miserably with my brother.) 

But missing THAT man... the man who raised me, cared for me, and spent his life providing for me and my mother and brother... isn't the same as missing the man who recently died.  I've missed That man - the one who did all those great things while I was growing up - since the first stroke happened 7 years ago, and took That man out of my life, replacing him with a petulant, grumpy, overgrown child dependent upon others for everything from his housing to his personal hygiene.

No, it's not difficult to not miss him.  It's certainly no loss to me not to have to deal with the issues caused by his plethora of health issues.  At the end, those issues ranged the gamut from Emphasymia and Asthma, to brain damage both from multiple strokes and early onset Alzheimer's, to Bladder Cancer and Kidney Failure.  According to the death certificate, it was another massive stroke there at the end that caused his final demise.  But it could as easily have been the bladder cancer, the kidney failure, or an inability to breath from the COPD and Asthma.  It was a race being run by multiple disease processes, and the high blood pressure causing a fatal cranial event was simply the winner of the race.

I was correct those times that I surmised my life would improve when dad finally gave up his fight.  He was, even after the initial stroke, a good provider for his family.  He always had been during life, and it doesn't surprise me that it didn't change with his death.  Dad was pulling a pension for the past few years due to his forced retirement.  When he started pulling that pension, he was given the option of naming a survivor to continue receiving those payments (in a partial, slightly lower amount) once he died.  With mom long since gone to ashes with her death more than a decade ago, and dad's parents both gone either prior to his first stroke or after he was already laid low by that first one, and his only Biological child gone to the grave before my mom died, that left him three possible choices.  The first choice, in my mind, would have been to not name a survivor to receive the rest of his pension payments.  The second and third choices were of course me, and my brother.  Dad was in one of his more Lucid moments (which, unfortunately, were rather rare the last few years of his life) when he filed for his pension.  He even explained to me WHY he filed it the way that he did, though I remain to this day a tad surprised by both his thoughts concerning the issue and his capacity to Have those thoughts despite the brain damage he suffered from the stroke. 

He knew that he had become a major pain in my rump by that time.  He knew that I was overburdened with having to make difficult decisions, that my stress levels from dealing with everything were off the chart, and that my brother was consistently making things more difficult than they should have been via his intransigence.  Dad also knew that my brother would simply spend any funds left to him on alcohol and drugs to feed his addictions, which dad had tried (and failed) to get him broken from. Lastly, he was aware that my own health was chancy at best, since I had long since been diagnosed with Lupus and Fibromyalgia - the very things that put mom into the grave while she was still in her mid-50s - and that I would be exceedingly lucky if the Lupus didn't require me to go on Disability at an age when I would otherwise still be working and no where near ready for retirement.  He chose to name me as his survivor, to start receiving half the amount of his initial pension, when he died.  He did that so I would still have a means of paying my bills despite my failing health, and ... in his own words... as a compensation for all the hassles he was putting me through by surviving that initial stroke rather than dying before all the money he set aside for retirement got eaten up by health care costs.

No, I won't miss the hassles.  I will live better without the headaches and the stress.  The insurance policies will pay off a few long standing bills that have been waiting for what seems like forever.  (Which should help improve my credit score to a point where it's not in the basement.)  The pension will keep the bills paid, and make it possible for me to continue seeing my doctors (since I lost my job - hence my insurance - the day that dad died) so that I might possibly regain something of my lost health.  I won't miss dealing with His doctors, or the nursing home, or the seemingly endless bills with his name attached to them that I had to deal with, or listening to my brother whine about how I should have saved 'his' inheritance by not putting dad in a nursing home at all (and therefore not having to pay a nursing home Bill for dad with dad's money.)  I won't miss the trips (no matter how infrequent they were, there towards the end) to the nursing home, nor shall I miss having to lie to an ill old man and tell him that life was great and things were going fine even when they were in the dumpster.

What I will miss are the things that I've missed for 7 years now.  I will miss our chess games, discussing philosophy and religion.  I will miss our debates about politics, religion, philosophy, and life.   I will miss his insight.  I will miss his sense of the absurd.  I will miss the many times, even after I was an adult, when he assured me that no matter how old I got - I would always be his little girl, and could always count on him.  I will miss his love, his emotional and moral support through thick and thin, and the various things he did throughout my life to bring a smile to my face even when I would rather have been crying over some hurt.

Rest well, pop.  You earned it.  And the man you were before the strokes... the man who raised me, loved me as his own, and supported me even when I was wrong.. will be missed for the rest of a lifetime.

In loving memory of Daniel Raymond Williams, 7/21/1945 to 1/6/2013.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Symbols and Sycronicity

Who I am: what I have done in my life, what I have lived through, experienced, thought, and felt; those are the things which define ME.  My personality, it's quirks and idiosyncrasies, those gifts (and Flaws) which make up the sum total - those are Who I Am.

The symbols that we choose are just that - an abstract representation of a reality.  That reality remains, regardless of the symbols attached to it or discarded by the wayside.  The symbols which we hold dear to us, however sentimentally attached to them we might become for what they represent within our hearts, do not define Who We Are. 

They might serve to remind us, if we are unfortunate enough to lose our way from time to time,  unmindful of what life has taught us or heedless of the greater sum.  But they cannot, in and of themselves, make us who we are, or change who we fundamentally become over the course of time and life.

While I have recently given up a Symbol, it's presence or lack does not in any way advance or diminish the intrinsic ME.  I am still now, and shall remain, the person I was before I gave up that symbol.  I did not change to suddenly become something I was not, in and of myself, when I still had that symbol.  It does not define me, rather I, being who and what I am, define IT, and it's place within my life.

A piece of jewelry, no matter how precious the concept behind it's form, is just that.  A simple piece of jewelry - an ornamentation that adds nothing, overall, to the value of the underlying flesh upon which it is lain.  Nor does it's removal somehow detract from the overall value of the body that it's removed from.

I know who I am.  I don't need a piece of jewelry to remind me of who I am, where I've been, what I've seen and done, or what my overall value is.  Whether the rest of the world sees who and what I am rests upon the shoulders of others - who will either acknowledge it, or not - but it's not for me to open their eyes.