I'm a mentally ill person raising another mentally ill person. With chickens.

This morning, in a high school parking lot, I saw a giant “Trump, Pence: Make America Great Again” decal in an old pick up with new paint, new rims, new tires and of course, a great big lift kit.  I wanted to quit being a 44 year old mom, find a marker, and write “make America stupid again” over it. But my grown-up and cynical self behaved and just went on with her day. 

Until I came in from hanging out with my chicken posse and found that my friend Alicia had summed up exactly how cynical I feel about being an American these days in a post about (and I can’t believe I’m typing this) The Kardashians.  I am not a fan. I don’t know why we continue to make stupid people famous. But, I didn’t need to be a  fan to appreciate her words.   I’m passing them on in hopes that you’ll do the same:  

Look out, I’m getting my rant on.  I tried to ignore it but I’m just so irked.

“Ms. Kardashian West, a reality television star, was robbed at gunpoint of jewelry worth at least 8 million euros, or nearly $9 million. She was alone in a luxurious apartment in the Eighth Arrondissement” NY Times. 

Others estimate the haul at $10 million.  That’s the number I’m going to play with -you know I’m riled up when I break out a calculator.  One ring was 4.5 million. One.  And we won’t even go into where diamonds come from or how they get to her finger. 

This woman, who is rich for nothing more than being famous and marrying someone equally rich for just as little, was robbed.  She was travelling with $9-10 million dollars in jewelry.  That’s just what she packed for her trip.  How much jewellry do you pack when you travel and how much do you leave at home?

Let me show it to you in real people numbers.  The average American salary is about $52,ooo/year. I don’t come close to that, do you? I help people for a living!  That’s 192 working people’s annual income-neighbors, relatives, friends buying homes, raising families, saving for retirement.  The average student loan debt is $35,000 (mine’s almost twice that).  That’s 286 educations in pretty rocks.  286 teachers, nurses, plumbers, people who actually contribute to and directly impact your life.  

She went there on a private jet (how does one even google that price tag?), stayed in an ultra exclusive hotel that costs I’m guessing about a year’s average american income, to attend  fashion week, the apex of conspicuous consumption and the jet set.  This doesn’t include her clothes or luggage.  

When her husband heard about this he walked out of his show – where he gets about, low end, $250/head.  He immediately hopped on a private jet, and flew to France himself.  

I was trying to ignore this because quite frankly I believed these people need to be ignored. But as I typed those words it occurs to me they are a symptom of a disease, a serious disease, and therefore should not be ignored.    We have parasites!  This is Versailles and every other out of touch dynasty that was rightfully (albeit brutally) smashed.  I’m not satisfied with entertainment “cake.”   This is bullshit. 

–Alicia Dohn (Sheesha❤)

We are Americans!  I don’t know how it happened, but we’ve found ourselves under the thumb of a bored aristocracy again. (If that confuses you, ask a history teacher, and enjoy your wall.) No, we don’t have a monarchy with a court of attendendents and hangers-on hoping to be granted a favor from a royal. Instead, we have a group of people that we’ve deemed important by virtue of their beauty, fame, athletic prowess, record sales, and wealth.  This aristocracy 2.0 runs around with their crews, posses, homies, fams, BFFS, entourages, etc. doing anything they want, hurting anyone they want, not respecting or valuing anything but their own wants and needs.  This new aristocracy  is the 1%: the ones whose net worth is so large we can’t even fathom it; the ones who couldn’t survive a week on what most of us do in a year; The ones so many admire as if they were actually royalty! I have to agree with my friend, Kim and Kanye may as well have “let them eat cake” tattooed somewhere where the paparazzi will be sure to see it, because I hear a rumbling in the distance. 

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So I am behind again, but I am letting myself off the hook for it and plugging away, because I don’t want to give up. I may not do this challenge perfectly, but I am determined to do it the best that I can.  Getting back on the horse isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

So the decision about back surgery has been made.  It’s happening because it has to.  The nerve root needs to be decompressed sooner rather than later.  I am afraid that it is already too late to prevent at least some permanent damage, and the fact that all the doctor will say is that the numbness is the last thing to go away is not reassuring.  But I keep telling myself, and everyone else, that the one positive thing about having the bottom of your foot be numb is that I can step on a Lego and barely notice. So I guess that’s a perk. I could have had surgery Monday,  but I didn’t get to my physical on time Thursday, which was also the day my phone was broken, and the surgeon’s office set one up for Friday but due to a lack of communication on their end didn’t call the house phone number I’d left them, so I didn’t get to that one either.  Sigh. It was a tough couple of days and I think there’s a few more tough days ahead, but I am on the surgery schedule for the 19th and I have a physical scheduled for the 13th.  They ARE going to try and move that up, because the situation is deteriorating, but I guess we’ll see.  Rural medicine does have its downsides. 

And that brings me to this depressing article from the Washington Post that my father in law posted on Facebook.   We don’t know why it came to this’ is about the increasing number of early deaths of white, lower middle class, women from the Midwest.  We lost my husbands cousin to circumstances similar to the ones described in the article, and I have a friend who I expect will not see 60 for these same  reasons.  I didn’t realize, though, that this was a wide-spread and recognized phenomena. And that is truly a depressing thought.

Brave

I’ve been watching American Idol this season, because it’s the (cue stadium announcer voice) FINAL SEASON. I admit to having a love/hate relationship with the show, and can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for the invention of the DVR I probably would have given up on it a long time ago. That fast forward button is what kept me watching (or not watching) through parades of idiots hoping for their fifteen minutes, through Paula, Ellen, and Kara refusing to say anything meaningful, through Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, and Niki Minaj forgetting to speak English, and through the endless vitriol and narcissism that is Simon Cowell.  I can honestly say that the show today is much improved and I am a bit sad to see it go.

I am also thankful that little fast forward button helped see me through til the end, because I think I am witnessing something great this season, and I would have missed it if that little button hadn’t saved me from all the trash that came before.  I can only imagine what you’re thinking of me right now.  Greatness and Reality television are not synonymous by any stretch of the imagination. And music is subjective, so how dare I tell you that these particular singers are “Great”.  But it’s not the talent that is making it great, and its not the game show format.  I’m seeing something unexpected from the land of all that is fake and vapid and cookie cutter.  I’m seeing BRAVERY shine out of the television, and I am surprised and humbled by it.

 Leaving an abusive man is HARD. Being okay with it is even harder. Twenty-five years later I can barely talk about what happened to me; but, LaPorsha,she OWNS her story, she OWNS her strength, and she KNOWS she deserves someone who likes the things about her that she likes: “my hair, and my church, and my singin'”.  On her home visit she told the women at her former shelter that she sang Mary J. Blige’s No More Drama “for us” and I choked up a bit because I heard my name in that “us”.  Even if LaPorsha didn’t have the hair (that glorious hair!) and the voice, she would still be blessed with strength and bravery.  And the crazy thing is, she isn’t the only one!

LaPorsha has been on my radar from the beginning (with that hair, she may be on NORAD’s radar 😉 ) because her story touched my heart. But when they had the artists tell something about how they came to be artists I didn’t fast forward (probably because I was eating) and I heard something that totally shocked me. Dalton (aka Billy Joe Armstrong 20 some years ago) was talking about how as a kid he would “Feel everything so much more than other kids”. He went on to say that at nine years old he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I couldn’t believe my ears. I actually hit the REWIND button and listened again. Yep, he said bipolar disorder. Wow. Just, WOW.  That may not sound like a big deal to a neurotypical person,  but admitting that you’re bipolar to anyone, let alone millions of people is incredibly brave. I have still told very few of the people I see every day.  I never told anyone at the job I had for almost six years. I told TWO people in my Master’s program, and only one was a professor and she DID use it against me.   The stigma attached to mental illness is real, and its scary. I have a Masters in counseling, and I will never get hired in this town because everyone knows I’m a client. That’s just life. BUT,    since that sound bite Dalton has talked candidly about his disorder, including a conversation with the artist Sia where she states that she is also bipolar, which is truly amazing and a huge step forward for everyone out there dealing with a mental illness and hiding it. We all need to be as brave as Dalton, and as Sia, if we want the stigma to go away. I aim to try harder. This illness is not something to be embarrassed about: It makes me the person I am as much as my blue eyes and my sweet tooth and my inability to get up early and that’s totally fine.

Just a quick step onto my soap box: Bipolar disorder is a disease that unfairly strikes creative minds. There’s even a book about it: Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament  by Kay Redfield Jamison. Entertainers of all kinds have kept this illness a secret and self-medicated with whatever they could get their hands on rather than face the stigma attached to having a mental illness. Far too many brilliant artists have left us too soon, and we wonder why?   Using words like crazy, messed-up, not right, off their rocker, psycho, etc. makes you part of the stigma, and could be keeping someone from seeking help they desperately need.

And because Idol is “pulling out all the stops” for their final season, the brave moments don’t end with Dalton Rappatone.  I have no words for the beauty and pain of Kelly Clarkson’s Piece by Piece, or for how hard it must have been to sing that song, on that stage, while being that pregnant. And hats off to Keith, Harry, and Ryan for being guys who can let real emotion show. Oh, THE FEELS!!!!

 

 

 

 

Critic

Critical:  adjective 1. inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily.

So, when I decided to do this challenge I was pretty excited about having the weekends off in case I needed to catch up, but I honestly didn’t anticipate being behind on the second day. Sigh.  I didn’t use that as an excuse to quit though. I’m going to write today’s letter and get on with it, nothing bad will happen.   It’s not life or death, it’s a self-imposed challenge. Calm down.  Once I was a musician, and I was the same way about playing, too.  I suspect that is at least partly why I could only advance so far: because there came a point where I needed to be able to play through mistakes in order to grow, and I just could NOT.  If I flubbed a note-on the piano or the flute-I absolutely had to fix it. Performing is about “the show must go on” and I am just not capable of that.

It’s weird that I can be such a perfectionist.  I am NOT a perfectionist about everything.  My house is barely  avoiding being an episode of hoarders, and I am NEVER early to anything.  But following rules for performing or for writing or for really anything others will see (I don’t have people over) is something I’m hard on myself about.  Writing takes me a LONG time some days:   I want every word to be just the right word, every sentence to have just the write tone, every paragraph to  flow just the right way into the next one.  That isn’t easy at all,  and my internal critic is pickier than any of you, dear readers, could ever be.

I’m trying to move past the perfectionism as a writer, at least a little. I try to remind myself that putting my own words on the page is not the same as reading and interpreting notes put on a staff by someone else.  My inner critic is slowly learning to be nicer about what finds its way to the page, which is nice, because my words on the page are just a voice looking for a safe space to be heard.

Now, if that inner critic would start to say something about my HOUSE then maybe we could actually have people over.

Awake

I almost missed day one of the A to Z challenge, but since I haven’t gone to sleep yet, I’m calling this good.  And being awake more than usual lately has me concerned, actually, because I think that it is messing with my mood.  I can feel that I am just a bit out of sync, but I can’t quite put my finger on what the problem is.  I’m a little to chatty with people, and I am a bit too rambling in my emails and messages. I THINK mostly only I am noticing it right now, although one of the nurses kind of gave me an odd look today when I got my epidural spinal steroid injection, so I might be talking kind of fast too. And it all comes back to being AWAKE too much, or awake at the wrong times.  Sleep deprivation is a common trigger for a lot of people with mental health issues, and it’s definitely my main trigger.  I think hypomania induced by lack of sleep pretty much describes my time in my Masters program, which wasn’t all bad. I got shit done!!! and for the most part done well, I just crashed really hard after graduation, and it took awhile to bounce back from that crash.  Bigger ups and downs aren’t as catastrophic to my life now that I’m middle aged and maintaining my med regimen all the time. I don’t get fired, or kicked out of places, or flirt with strangers, or drink, so not a lot of risk taking or dangerous behavior anymore.
I think that they’re harder on my overall health though, mentally and physically:  Too much binge eating and avoiding people, too much pain; slow response time, not enough attention span to read a book, forgetting things.  Bipolar in middle age is quieter now than it was in my twenties, but, lying here awake at 3:30AM AWAKE for the I- don’t- know-how-many nights in a row now makes me wonder if quieter is better. This seems somehow more insidious.

Starting April 1st, since I haven’t been able to get myself back on the blogging track for a while, I am going to take the A to Z challenge.  Every weekday in April I am going to write about a new topic starting with a new letter of the alphabet. Saturdays and Sundays are free (or in my case probably time to hand in late “assignments”). That comes out to 26 days.  I hope that in spite of obstacles like blogging from my phone, and some serious inertia I can complete all of the days. I think it would be good for me to feel like I had some purpose again, and I definitely need something to keep me busy. There are  no length requirements, so some days may just be a quick sentence or two, but I figure that is still getting “back on the horse”.   Some people give themselves a theme for all 26 letters of the alphabet, but since I’m an A to Z challenge virgin I am not going to try to do that.  I will most likely ramble on about myself and my family and my chickens (dogs, bunnies, garden, etc.) as usual.  Sometimes I am as surprised at what ends up on the page as you are, dear reader.

Did “what on earth do you write for ‘X’?”cross your mind?  That is one of the easiest letters:  The X-Files. I heart me some David Duchovny circa 1998 thank you ver 

The “Fake Geek” is Not The Problem When It Comes to “Fake Geek Girls” by Chris Brecheen

You know, I really appreciated this. I love MANY geek things (I’ve read all of the Dresden Files, twice. They improve as they go along. Butcher’s writing skills get much better, I promise.) I love Star Trek, but mostly TNG, and Dr. Who (but I also haven’t seen all of the originals, shhh) and Supernatural  (even though it’s silly) and Tolkien, and Stargate, and OMG, the X-Files! But I don’t know every detail of every episode. I have read and watched Harry Potter numerous times, but do I have all the differences between the books and the movies memorized? No. Do I have the minutiae of ANY series memorized? No. Does that make me love them less? I don’t think so. It means I have a life, IRL (that’s gamer, and now online dating, speak for “In Real Life”). I have kids, and dogs, and chickens, all of whom I am pretty fond of too. And I’m not going to waste time that I could spend doing REAL LIFE things memorizing random facts to prove I’m enough of a geek to anyone else.  It’s a dream of mine to attend the San Diego ComiCon some day, and I don’t feel less than anyone because I don’t know enough random trivia, or where every easter egg in every anything is hidden. The actors, writers and directors of most productions (George Lucas might be an exception) don’t memorize the tiny bits of minutiae that some “hard core geeks” do, because those aren’t the bits that make a story. And I love my geeky things because they have stories: stories of journeys through space and time, of wizards and witches, of monsters and monster hunters, of aliens, and of boldly going where no man has gone before. I don’t know when being a geeky fan turned into having to know “stats” like sports fans do. If I wanted to know stats I would watch sports. (Which wouldn’t be good, because most of them don’t make much sense to me: something with a ball, run, yay! That’s all I got.)

I’m not a gamer either, in fact I don’t even get the appeal of them, but I know they HAVE an appeal, because I’m married to a serious MMORPG player. But I don’t think not being a gamer should ruin my geek cred either. So what if I don’t want to hang out online with people I don’t know going after pretend monsters and earning pretend gold? I don’t like to hang out with very many people IRL that I actually know, either. But when I do hang out with people I want to talk about real stuff, like do we like Peter Capaldi as the Doctor or not? And has anyone working on Supernatural ever taken a geography class?
Anyway, thank you for standing up for us female geeks.  There are more of us than you think.