Wednesday, October 22, 2014

REBELLION


 
I had a bizarre urge to stop at a local bar and get drunk the other night. I’ve been drunk maybe a half dozen times in my life. The last time in the late eighties. Where alcohol is concerned, I have a stop button. It isn’t a conscious thing. It’s just there. I don’t choose to not get drunk. Not getting drunk chooses me.
Lately, getting drunk sounds wild. I’m wanting to be wild. To dance on tables, hike through the wilderness, without a shower or a real bed. I want to be scared, be uncomfortable, be crazy, be loud, be incorrigible. I want to dig ditches, drag race, smoke cigars, get in a fight. I want the stories to tell that happen when you’re drunk.
If my kids and husband are reading this…
What I really want, is to have the energy to do those things. I want to not think about my back pain or my blood pressure or how tired I am. I want to have the energy to stay up past nine pm, hear a band, and dance on tables. I want to wear high heels and cute skirts and feel good doing it. I want to feel desirable. I want to feel on fire.
I don’t want to go to the doctor or physical therapy. I don’t want to talk about the doctor or physical therapy or meds or sleep number beds or anything to do with being unwell in any way. I want to get dirty in the woods and stay dirty and shoot a deer. I don’t really want to get drunk. I want to have the energy to get crazy and do the unexpected.
To do the unexpected…
I quit wearing my motorcycle helmet this week. And every day, while I’m still not tired, I go riding. I take roads I’ve never been on before. I ride fast, I listen to loud music and love the feel of wind in my hair.
It’s my small rebellion. The one that says “I’m not done yet”. Because I’m not done yet.

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

When Life Gives You.... Oh Never Mind


I’m not sure how I feel about positive thinking. About gratitude, acceptance, believing in yourself, staying strong, and all those other Facebook memes cluttering up my newsfeed with positivity. Not that Facebook is the only place describing how you’re attitude entirely determines how good your life is. There are bzillions of self- help books on how to perceive life in order to have a better life. Even the big box stores like Target and Pier one sell art work with instructions on how to be happy and fulfilled.
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results”

“Find a place inside you where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain”

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow”
It’s like pain isn’t real.
Several years ago I had a friend die of cancer. An ugly cancer that took over a beautiful young woman’s body. The kind of young woman you can’t imagine dying. When alive she glowed. People noticed her wherever we went. Drop dead gorgeous with an incredible sense of humor and energy. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of her in my mind. One particular day when I was feeling bad about myself and she appeared to be everything I wished I was.
During her illness, when she was up to it, we e mailed. There was also an e mail chain for her friends and family that was all about staying positive and helping our friend stay positive. The message being “we can change this if we stay positive. She can change this if she stays positive”.
It’s like the pain isn’t real.
In actuality my friend wasn’t all that positive. She told me so in one e mail. Saying she was “having” to stay positive but in reality…wasn’t. I don’t recall the exact words anymore. What I do recall is knowing she felt guilty for believing she would die and not being able to find the right attitude. The attitude that would keep her alive. As though she were responsible for her illness and therefore her death.
It’s like the pain isn’t real.
It’s like we’re supposed to live without pain.
I guess how I feel about all that positive thinking is this: While being positive is better than being negative and absolutely can affect our lives. Our attitude is not always responsible for our pain. Sometimes, our pain is responsible for our attitude.
Sometimes it is flat out fucking impossible to find the silver lining. It’s more comfortable when we can find it. Like the first blush of a good buzz from a nice wine at the end of a terrible week. But it isn’t always going to be there.
Sometimes the pain is just real. Until it isn’t.
 
 
 
 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Anatomy of Friendship


 
 
In the rearview mirror I see my friend Jinny has fallen far behind. That’s unusual. Jinny is my motorcycle “riding soul mate”. We’ve traveled close to five thousand miles together. Having found each other through a love of riding and a search for the type of self-worth that comes to women through women friends alone.  
This year we’re riding from Arizona to Idaho, then Eastern and Central Washington. We ride “fast and tight”. More like one unit than two motorcycles. At the moment Jinny starts to fall back we’ve been riding a Utah freeway at roughly 85mph. I slow and pull off on the shoulder as her bike rolls up to mine.
Her face is covered in blood. Her bike’s windshield shook loose and blew into her face. She lay down on the side of the freeway saying “I just need a minute to put my head back”. First I took a picture to post on Facebook (like you wouldn’t!). Then called 911. Can you say “HIT WITH A WINDSHIELD AT 85MPH”?!
After the EMT’s cleaned her up and let her go we rode on. By the end of the day we’d been broke down on a mountain pass, planted a smiley face sticker on a homeless man and an outhouse, guzzled some alcohol, and laughed and laughed and laughed.
The anatomy of a friendship.
I think a lot about friendship. About people who have come and gone and why or how they mattered. I think about the people who remain in my life. Why and how they matter still. It’s important to think about these things. There is only so much time and energy. 
Jinny and I are walking back from the store with three of the twenty women we’ve ridden motorcycles with for thirteen years. Every year anywhere from twenty to forty of us take a three day motorcycle trip. We’ve been to Canada, Idaho, Montana, and several places in Washington. We’ve ridden horses, rafted rivers, skinny dipped, danced on bars, been banned from ever coming back and been begged to come back again.
This year we’re in Leavenworth. A beautiful town near a beautiful river that escaped burning down just before we got there. I’ve volunteered to go to the grocery store after spending hours in my room incredibly fatigued. This thing that’s wrong with me, this thing… rearing its ugly ass head to interrupt something I love once again.
 We’re walking back carrying our grocery bags, unusually quiet for us. My mouth opened up before asking my brain. “I’m not happy about my health”. Jinny stopped and looked at me with awe on her face. “Thank you for that” She says. “I was wondering. Everything you’ve said about it is always so positive and strong”. That made me cry. Sob actually. I sobbed. And the women gathered. They put their arms around me.
In Deanna’s arms I’m crying: “I miss my old self. I miss who I was”. She replied “that’s okay honey. We all do.” Deanna who has seen tragedy. We walk back to the house in silence, prepare dinner and do cartwheels.
video
The anatomy of a friendship.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Talking About Grown Kids


Several months ago I asked my friends and family on Facebook what they thought I should talk about via my blog. My sister in law posted “grown kids!” A request made weeks before her youngest child, who had survived his older sister by twenty years, died of a heroin overdose. Yesterday, along with a picture of her son and daughters graves, she E mailed “This is what my life with kids is reduced to...tending grave sites. I can't stand it.” 
 
I’m going to write about grown kids, for my sister in law. Who will be tending the graves of her only children until her death. Who will face every mother’s day, every holiday, and her children’s birthdays with nothing but memories of them, and gravesites. I will write about grown kids because “there but for the grace of God go I”.   

Grown Kids 
 

People with little kids don’t know how those of us with grown kids are watching them. Watching them try so hard. Believing they have answers their own parents and their friends parents didn’t. Believing their kids won’t be drug addicted because mom is going to be home and not working, or working and not home. Because they are going to home school. Because they, unlike us, understand that you can’t spank or you have to spank or you need to let kids have a voice or kids need to be seen and not heard. Parents of children not yet grown are always going to do it better than we did.  

No they’re not.  
 
There are reasons why the person who is in and out of jail has a sibling who’s a healthy functioning adult. Because children are people to. They are individuals. They are affected by their peers, their teachers, strangers, neighbors, television, books, and most of all by their perceptions of the world around them.  

There is only so much a parent contributes to the life of a grown child.  

The parent of young children who is determined to not parent the way their parents did, has no idea how their children will respond to that. They decide to live in the same house in the same neighborhood for the duration of their child’s schooling because they moved around a lot growing up. Unbeknownst to them their child would have been better off in a different city in a different kind of school.  

I’m largely convinced that one of my daughters would have been better off had I not moved out of the low income school district we lived in when she was very young. She was at the top of the heap in that hood. With the nicest home, the nicest clothes, and parents who supervised her. It made her special. She needed to be special. We moved to a much “better” neighborhood when she was in fourth grade. One where less than 10% of the school received free lunch as opposed to the 80% at her prior school. In that neighborhood she felt “less than”. Everyone else’s houses were nicer, clothes were nicer, they’re mothers didn’t work, and they took trips to exotic places on school break. She spent the rest of her school years trying to live up to her peers and in her opinion, failing miserably. Go fucking figure.  

The things I thought I was doing right when my kids were little turned out to be either totally wrong or not that important to them in the long run. Neither of them followed my lead in regards to exercise, no cigarettes and healthy diets. Something I believed was incredibly important to their overall development and would carry them into adulthood. I might as well have just fed them hot dogs for dinner every night and chain smoked.

My husband and his ex-wife DID feed one of their son’s hot dogs with mac and cheese for dinner every night. It’s all the kid wanted and they allowed it, making a separate meal for the rest of the family. I’d have thought they were nuts and never ever allowed it. Today that kid is an uber fit sports competitor and healthy eater. Go fucking figure.  

There is only so much a parent contributes to the life of a grown child. 

I’m not absolving abusive or neglectful parents. I spent many career years trying to repair the damage parents can do. I’m not writing about those grown children. The ones whose parents were so bad they deeply scarred them in ways that other people can’t fathom. I’m writing about all the others.  

Over the years I’ve developed a theory. The theory: there are two types of parents. The really bad ones and all the rest. I have never known a parent, professionally or personally, that I would say is “the one”. The one that all parents should model themselves after. The reason I’ve never met them? It’s simple. The perfect parent for one child is not the perfect parent for another.  

I was the “put your oxygen mask on yourself first” mother.  Among many things it meant that when I realized my marriage was bad for “me” I left. One of my daughters barely noticed, other than how it affected things important to her. Like not being able to afford cable television. I can say with 95% confidence that her parents’ divorce did not affect her development in any direction. The other was absolutely devastated. For nearly a year after the divorce she carved broken hearts into walls and furniture. If she wasn’t carving she was tearing family pictures up. She didn’t smile for a long time.  

Had I known then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have left. Would staying have made her adult life any easier or better? I don’t know. Now days she can’t even imagine her father and I together. Seeing us for the people we are instead of just her parents.  

Those of us with grown kids spend a lot of time questioning our parenting then and now. I would suggest we stop that. It’s too late to change anything. Our “kids” are no longer kids. They are grownups. They have the same amount of responsibility for themselves that we do. They are not simply products of our parenting. They are products of a ginormous universe. A universe that includes DNA. A universe that with any luck, they will live in without us someday. They will make their way as best they can just like everyone else in the world does. Just like we do.  

Your adult child’s life will become what they make of it, not what you make of it. So give yourself a break.

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Creating Your Life: Suburbs and Marriage


I hate the suburbs. At least the suburbs of Arizona. It’s difficult to find anywhere blander than a gated community in Gilbert/Mesa/Ahwatukee/Glendale Arizona. The houses are so close to identical it took me a year to find which street was mine without conscious effort.  If you’re a stalker trying to find my house let me tell you where I live. I live in a beige house in a beige neighborhood a couple miles from a strip mall. Good luck with that.
I like to walk, and you can walk in the suburbs. There are pathways and wide sidewalks. It’s safe. And like a lot of safe things it’s exceptionally dull. You can walk but where can you go? There’s nothing to see on the next block or the next mile that you aren’t seeing on the first one. That is not a symbolic statement. It’s literal.
I can walk to a Starbucks of course. I mean who can’t? If you live in China I’m pretty sure you can walk to a Starbucks. If you live in Seattle you can crawl to one. There is also a nail place, a Gymboree, a Jack in the Box, another nail place, a Panda Express and a Target.
Picture me rolling my eyes while making the universal “gag me” sign.
The worst thing about the suburbs is how lonely they are. I tell my family I’m starting a front porch revolution. I sit out on the front porch drinking coffee in the morning or drinking wine at night just hoping to see something. Anything. Over coffee I see people drive out of their garages and over wine I see them drive back in and shut the door. It confounds me to some degree. Isn’t anyone else bored or lonely? Doesn’t anyone else want to share stories on a porch and watch kids play in the street?
 
A couple of the neighbors have felt obligated (by sheer force of my will and smile) to come close to the porch and say hi. Later, as they come and go from their garages, they pointedly avoid eye contact.  Last week my husband and I stayed with a friend in Portland Oregon who lived in a real neighborhood. The neighbors talk to each other and have poker parties. She’s a new widow and just before we left one of her neighbors came over to say “hi”. They all check on her. The twin six year olds come tell her all about their day and she tutored their dad in math.
Sigh.
Is it me? Maybe I should brush my hair more often.
I’ve tried to create a neighborhood in our home. I invite people all the time. I encourage them to stay for days and even weeks. I’ve made one side of our home a virtual guest house, stocked with mini shampoos, magazines, and a separate TV for guests. I have stacks of towels sitting out by the pool and a full bar. If I can’t go to the neighborhood maybe it will come to me.
I’ve had a measure of success with my creation. Our home is the place for people to come. It’s full fairly often. A pale shade of what I really want. To live where there is color and vibrancy. To see some dreadlocks and/or purple hair at the independent coffee shop I walked to in my neighborhood. To never see an Applebee’s again.
In middle age I think a lot about the life I’ve created. How close is it to the one I want? Am I making too many compromises or not enough? Have I become lazy or apathetic? I’m not entirely sure what it says about me, that I live in the burbs, hate them, and do it anyway. Although in large part it says I’m married, and I want my husband to be happy to; and he loves the burbs. It’s his world. Everything all lined up in order, the HOA making sure no one builds metal sculptures in their yard or covers their house in seashells.  Nothing wrong with that. It’s his thing and we’re not the same person. I like metal sculptures and houses covered in seashells.
 
My husband isn’t forcing me to live in the burbs. If I made it a big enough deal he would live where I want to live. He’d do his best to ignore the homes where the weeds are prolific or the owners are “creative”. He’d tolerate my love for the murals he thinks are ghetto. He’d even suck up the extra hour to work it would take him. He wants me to be happy to. 
In creating the life I want I’m creating a life with another person. That means I don’t’ always get what I want. Which means defining where not getting what I want is okay and where it’s not okay.
I love my husband
I want us both to be happy
I hate the fucking suburbs
I love my marriage
Stay tuned

 

 

 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

When All Else Fails: Whine


It began in luxurious beautiful sleep. Sleeping when I was tired. Laying my head down at night and falling asleep. The kind of indulgent sleep that had eluded me most of my adult life. Then a day of luxury. Doing nothing but laying on the couch reading a good book.
At some point, book in hand, I thought “my mother would be so proud”. Year after year she would say to me “slow down Kelly. Take some time to relax Kelly. Why do you always have to go go go?” I thought “finally, at close to 50 years old I’m relaxing”. I’d smile to myself throughout the day, giddy with the extravagance of doing absolutely nothing. I thought “I deserve this, I’ve been busy, I’m learning to just be.”
Slowly the luxury turned into a type of need and seemed odd. Even though I was sleeping like a log, I was so very tired. I’d wake up tired. I’d get my coffee tired. I’d start doing dishes and five minutes later think “I just need a little break then I’ll finish the dishes”.  Thirty minutes later I’d look at the dishes and think “I’ll feel better in a while and do them then”. It might take half a day to feel well enough to do dishes. I’d read, watch television, skim facebook or throw in a load of laundry.
I never felt better.
A day of luxury and relaxation turned into a life changing year. I quit working out the way I always have and began just walking or swimming. I quit grad school, never rode my motorcycle, and planned my days around not being far from somewhere I could “rest”. I started to hate the word “rest”.
The one millionth time I looked for an answer online, I watched a video of a man with MS describe his fatigue. “MS fatigue is different. To call it fatigue doesn’t fit. If you called what most people think of as fatigue a firecracker and MS fatigue Hiroshima that would about describe it”. I thought “that’s me”. Telling people I was “tired” or “fatigued” simply wasn’t the truth. It was something else. Something deeply organic and all consuming.
Then one day, after tons of lab work, two MRI’s, and three different doctors it just... went away. December 24th 2014. I was baking cookies around two in the afternoon and realized I wasn’t tired. Then realized I’d felt normal for about twenty four hours. I blogged about that earlier this year. Thinking doctors had missed a simple infection by not doing the most basic of tests, a urine sample. 
That was five months ago. I thought it was gone. It’s not.
A different doctor, a Mayo Clinic doctor, has a possible line on the etiology. I don’t care. I just want my energy. I don’t want to “rest” EVER. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. “This is what it must feel like to be truly old” I think often. Wanting your energy and health back because your mind hasn’t given up on things your body has.
This post feels a bit morbid because I’m feeling a bit morbid. Whatever is wrong with me I can’t make go away using the tools I’ve spent a lifetime developing. I can do everything right and it still won’t go.the.fuck.away.
 I’ve beat debilitating anxiety using exercise, healthy food, and a positive mental attitude. I’ve had a difficult surgery and quickly got back in tip top shape using exercise, healthy food and a positive mental attitude. I’ve gone through divorce and loss and heart ache using exercise and blah blah blah you get the point.
My tool box feels inadequate and instead I’m whining in a blog. If exercise, healthy food, and a positive mental attitude doesn’t do it maybe whining will.
Yep, I feel better already.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Gravy Days

I wrote an article called "Gravy Days" not long after my nephew died. Found by his parents on the floor of a room in their home. It consumed me and everyone else near them for a couple of weeks. It still consumes them. The rest of us are living different lives. I can barely wrap my mind around that fact. They are living every minute with unimaginable pain while the rest of us begin to go about our days. It divides us.

For now.

Gravy Days is acknowledgement that while today our lives may be consumed with the mundane: irritation at our spouse or children, grocery shopping, working in a cubicle, or feeling bored. The mundane and the every day is temporary. It's an acknowledgement to my loved ones that while I cannot change your pain, as a human being I share in it.

I love you.

Gravy Days is published by an online zin called Fifty is the New Fifty. You can read it at the link below.

 http://www.fiftyisthenewfifty.com/gravy-days/