Strength

My mother’s bypass surgery was a success and she was taken to recovery around 7:00 PM Central time on Friday.  At some point after that she was taken into ICU where, by policy, she would stay for 48 hours.  At 8:30, Mary Ann, the friend that has been by my mother’s side this entire time, was allowed into the ICU to see Mom but she was still on a respirator and highly sedated and was non-responsive to Mary Ann’s presence.

Saturday, was better.  My mother came out of the anesthesia and was taken off the ventilator.  By the time any of us out of town kids knew what was going on, my mother had been fed and had visitors and was laughing, something that’s hard for me to fathom when you’ve just had your chest split open, but more power to her.

My sister, Erin, only found this out after going nearly the entire day without a word from Mary Ann and finally calling the hospital directly hoping they wouldn’t use HIPAA as grounds not to tell her anything.  To the contrary, they filled Erin in on my mother’s condition and then transferred her to a portable phone that they took to my mother and allowed them to speak.

They spoke about my mother’s care in the coming weeks and my mother said that she felt pretty good all in all and didn’t really know that she was going to need help.  Erin pointed out that she was probably on some pretty good drugs right now and that while she might feel that way now, she might feel pretty differently when the time comes.  They further discussed timing and it was basically established that I will be coming to Tulsa on the July 5th, and that my sister can’t get there any earlier than July 12th, and depending on when the doctors want to release my mother from the hospital there may be a gap where there is no one around.

Erin’s family doctor from Oklahoma, told her of another hospital in the area that my mother could be transferred to, in place of being discharged, that is a rehabilitation hospital that is focused on longer term care, as opposed to the hospital she’s in now that will be focused on treating her and discharging her.  My mother’s response was “I’m not sure how my insurance is going to feel about that.”  This phrase of Momese is roughly translated as, “I don’t want to go to another hospital.”  What she doesn’t yet know is that her friends have already spoken with Erin and are ready, willing and able to step in and take care of my mother, 24/7 until I arrive.  I suspect that if my mother were aware of this, suddenly the second hospital would start looking much more appealing to her.

As their conversation was ending the staff at the hospital was bringing dinner to my mother who told my sister, “I just finished lunch and now they’re trying to make me eat dinner.”  As I would later discover, my mother is medicated enough to not be completely clear of what’s going on around her, and I suspect that “I just finished lunch” is not entirely an accurate statement.

Erin filled me in and I called an hour later.  My relationship with my mother isn’t the best, but I love her and I wanted to hear her voice myself, I also thought it would be good for her to hear from me and know that I’m thinking about her…  She may not remember.

I called the hospital roughly an hour after Erin did and was told by a not terribly nice nurse that they don’t have phones in the patient rooms in ICU.  I told her my sister had just spoken with my mother and she suggested maybe it was on my mother’s cell phone and she offered to give my mother a message that I had called.  I knew that not to be the case but I decided to give her a break for the moment.  I called my mother’s cell phone, but it went straight to voice mail.  I called it three more times with the same result.  When I finally called the hospital again, I was told by the same not nice nurse that she had given the message to my mother.  I explained that I had called the cell phone several times but that it was going to voicemail.  The nurse then put me on hold and after several minutes came back to tell me that my mother didn’t have her cell phone (this does not surprise me as SHE’S IN ICU.)  She then told me that if I called back in about half an hour blah, blah, blah, portable phone they could take in to her.  Why they couldn’t just do that in the first place I do not know.

Finally, I called back around 8:30 Central time and they put me on the phone with Mom.  She sounded good at first.  She sounded almost like her normal self.  She didn’t sound weak, she didn’t even sound short of breath, though she did say it was hard for her to breath.  She said it was difficult for her to get comfortable to sleep (I would imagine so), she had a couple of hiccups in the middle our conversation which I would have expected to cause some kind of wincing but she didn’t seem to react (I don’t know and don’t ever want to find out what it’s like to have your chest cracked open and then put back together again, but I would imagine that everything would hurt after that.  She told me that she’d be in the ICU until this afternoon and then she’d be taken to “the next step down in level of care”.  In other words, not ICU, but not just a regular room either.  Two days after that she’d be taken back to a regular room.  I asked her if she knew how long she was expected to be in a regular room and she said, “Well, they’ve told me several times, but I can’t remember.”  That’s when I knew that she was more drugged than either she realized or wanted to admit to, one.

She was clearly tired as is completely understandable.  One of the common after effects of open heart surgery is low levels of energy, which is why she will need help.  She will need help getting in and out of the shower (and probably onto and off of the toilet.)  She will need someone to make sure she’s getting the proper amount of exercise and to make sure she doesn’t over do it.  She will need someone to make sure she eats well, and not skip meals because she’s too tired to prepare them.  She will need someone to make sure she doesn’t fall down and help her up if she does and she will need someone to make sure she takes her medications, something she will be particularly resistant to.

I asked her if she knew when she would have her cell phone readily available again and for a moment she got testy with me, telling me that she didn’t know and she wasn’t worried about that right now.  But she very quickly lost steam and reverted to calm and reasonable, telling me that she just needed to get better and be more mobile and then she would worry about things like that.  I don’t know if the change in attitude was a lack of energy, or if it was that she realized that her attitude wasn’t appropriate.  I let it slide and pointed out that I only asked because it was hard to get ahold of her.  I had called three times before the mean ole nurses finally let me talk to her.

(Due to my highly negative opinion and the frequent unkind things I say about my employer, I NEVER say the name of the company I work for, but I will say that it’s a health-care organization – one of the biggest in Northern California – and as such I have some understanding of the staff’s side of the issue.  I also have an understanding of the patient’s family’s side of the issue and while I understand where the nurses are coming from they really need to be more sensitive to and understanding of the absent family members needs.)

All in all, my mother seems to be doing well.  It would, of course, be better if this hadn’t happened, but she’s coming through it nicely.

Folks, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this was a great relief and a great disappointment to me.

It is of course too soon to tell just how my mother is going to handle the reality of her situation when she’s out of the hospital and faced with it.  Everyone that we’ve spoken to has said that there’s no reason to think that my mother can’t recover from this and get back to her life.  Honestly, it had never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t, but apparently Erin had thought it through and considered that this may mean bringing my mother to New York to live (whether she likes it or not.)  I always assumed that she would eventually recover and go back to her life as it relates to job and friends, etc.  But I also assumed that for the next month or so she is going to need a lot of time and attention.  And it seems apparent that it will probably be me to give it to her.  At first, I was dreading this.  I do not have a great relationship with my mother and spending this amount of concentrated time with her was terrifying to me.  But as I adjusted to the idea, I started to feel a change take hold in me.  Some of what I’m about to say may sound harsh, but it is a simple reality.

My mother will not be the one in control or in charge this time around.  I am. With this visit, the priority will be for me to take care of her and her needs, for me to make sure that she gets what she needs and does what she must to recover.  This visit is all about what she needs and not what she wants.  And it is because of this, that I have the power to stand up to her, to take control of the situation, to not have her push the buttons she normally pushes, because I  think the buttons are gone.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to go there looking to pick a fight.  But I am going there with the strength I have needed for some time, to be able to take control of the situation, to tell her when her words, attitude and behavior are not welcome.  To stand up for my point of view and establish some new ground rules for our relationship going forward.

Yes, I began to see this as an opportunity and I am even starting to look forward to my trip…

And then I spoke to her yesterday.  She sounded better than I thought she would.  She sounded more stable and emotionally strong than I thought she would.  I admit that part of what I’ve been thinking has relied up on her being weak.  I expected her to be emotionally shattered, physically drained and generally dependent on others.  Now I’m not so sure.  Again, she’s in the hospital.   She’s heavily medicated; she’s being catered too and other than the discomfort she must be in and the fact that she hasn’t been home in four days; she probably doesn’t have a grasp of what her real life is like now.  Things could change dramatically, but if she’s not as weak and dependent as I expected her to be, this may not be an opportunity after all.

In the end, it doesn’t matter.  I’ve found a strength I didn’t know I had.  I believe that even if she is the same she’s always been I have the strength to endure it and stand up for myself now.  I’m doing what I must.  I am doing what is right and I feel good about it.

Waiting

A bit of a recurring theme on this blog has been my lack of patience and how much I hate waiting.  Waiting for service, waiting in a line, waiting for results or outcomes, waiting to see what the future holds; whatever it is, I hate waiting.

This is not a new condition for me.  It’s something that’s always been an issue.  When I was younger, my mother used to tell me that I needed to have patience.  I told her, “I have patience, I’m a pediatrician.  I have little patients.”  Shockingly, she never found this particularly amusing.  So it is not without some bit of irony that I am waiting now.  Waiting to see what the next few weeks hold in store for me.  Waiting to find out what I need to do, for my mother.

I wrote yesterday that my mother had been admitted to the hospital and was scheduled for an angioplasty this morning.  I was pretty worried about this until I came home from work and took the time to look up exactly what was entailed in an angioplasty.  After realizing that this was a “non-surgical” procedure and that she would not even be put under anesthesia, I was feeling much better.  I had no idea what the outcome would be.

My Sister called me at 9:00 this morning to inform me that the angioplasty had revealed one artery that is one hundred percent blocked and one that is ninety-five percent blocked and that they would be performing a double or triple bypass, “in a couple of hours.”

They took my mother into surgery around 1:30 Central time and spent an hour “extracting” the veins they would use for the bypass.  Then they began the bypass portion.  This is open heart surgery, with general anesthetic, intubation and stopping her heart.  The surgery is expected to last four hours, until around 7:00 Central time.  After surgery she’ll be taken into recovery for two hours and then ICU overnight.  I’ll have no idea what comes next until she’s out of ICU and coherent enough to talk.

It’s becoming apparent that my mother is going to need some looking after and there is no family in Tulsa, where she lives, to do it.  I am terribly dismayed by the idea of going to Tulsa to play nurse, but it will probably be necessary.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to know until I hear how things turned out and what my mother needs/wants to have happen…

So I wait.

Enough!

Wowee, what a day this has been.  If you read my recent post, Heavy, you know that things recently, for me, have been…  Well, heavy.  There are a lot of things that are weighing heavily on my mind and my heart, and I don’t have time tonight to go into all of it.

Highlights for tonight are simple.  I hate my job and the situation has become unbearable.  I know that I must get out of this job ASAP.  The day I walk into my boss’s office and turn in my resignation is going to be one of the best days of my life.  If I’m turning in my notice with the reason being that I’m going to college, it’ll be even better, but so far that issue is still very much unresolved, and I’ve become abundantly aware that I’m not going to be starting school anywhere this fall.  At this rate, I’m not even sure that spring is likely and I’ve never been good with the patience, so waiting to see how this is going to pan out is just adding pounds upon pounds of stress to my already debilitating situation.

The environment in my office is so toxic.  It’s just awful and I can’t even begin to clearly convey how bad it is.  I have lost all will to go on.  I do not care about my job.  I do not care about my co-workers. I do not care about my customers.  I just do not care.  I know that part of it is the depression that I may never truly be free of, that is taking hold to some extent as I experience these conditions, but even as I go in with the best of intentions to do my work and be productive and go about my job, before I know it, six hours have passed and I’ve done nothing more than keep current on my twitter feed, fish and read blogs.  I know I’m not being professional.  I know that my actions are shameful and yet, I can’t pull myself out of my funk long enough to do what I must.  And now after seven long years my boss has suddenly gotten the idea that he wants to have monthly one on one meetings with each of us to review our projects and their status.  I actually think this is a good thing and yet I know that he will not stick to it, something always comes up and his staff is very put-offable.  And yet, my bigger fear is that he actually will see it through and for the first time in I don’t know how long, he’ll finally realize that I AM NOT WORKING.

I have to quit this job.  I know I have to quit this job, and I’d do it tomorrow if I could only know what comes next.  I can’t rely on temp agencies to keep me working right now.  My unused vacation time will only get me so far and since I have a two week vacation planned for next month, I’m about to chop that in half anyway.  The best thing would be if I got laid off and I have no idea if there are lay-offs coming or not, let alone how to volunteer for such.

The issue of school is, in and of itself a really stressful topic because of the patience issue and the fact that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENS, NOW, NOW, NOW! with school.  That whole going into things, wanting to know the outcome problem is really getting in the way.  And then today.  Such a heavy, heavy day.

There was a personal situation that I’ll update about soon, but in a separate post that was weighing heavily on me.


We’ve all been hearing about Farah Fawcett for months and so it was no surprise to hear about her death this morning.  It’s sad that she died.  It’s sad that her family is left in such a state.  And what a horrible way to die.  But there is a bright side to her death.  The poor woman is released from all the pain and suffering she’s been going through all this time.  Her death is nearly tragic, but mostly a relief.

And then middle of the afternoon, I check the evil Facebook, only to see a report (my first) that Michael Jackson has been taken to the hospital in cardiac arrest.  Of course by now, everyone knows he has died.  Of course it’s sad.  It’s always sad when someone dies.  But I don’t have a whole lot of  sympathy, nor much passion on this subject.  Michael Jackson is dead.  OK.  Whatever.

TMZ, quite possibly the least reliable news source on the internet—No wait, check that, Perezhilton.com is THE LEAST reliable—reported before anyone else that Michael Jackson had died, and because TMZ is the second least reliable news source on the internet, I began searching for some corroboration from legitimate news sources.  And that’s when my phone rang.

It was my mother.  Due to the strained relationship we have, and my mother’s well known disdain for talking on the phone, my heart always skips a beat when I see her name on the screen.  I answered.

“Hello”

“Hi.   Whatcha doing?” she asked, in her usual just checkin’ in tone.

“Nothin’” I said, fairly truthfully.

“You working?” she asked.

“Sort of,” I told her.  I was just about to tell her what I was really doing when she said, as if she was telling me she was getting her car washed…

“Well, I figured I should let you know, I’m in the Hospital.”

“What?!?  Why?”

“Well, I’m going to have an angioplasty tomorrow,” she told me, again as if she was describing the Mona Lisa to me or something.

I inquired further and she informed me that she had been having “really bad indigestion” for several days.  She went to the doctor and they gave her an EKG which they told her was “abnormal” and then referred her to a Cardiologist.  She had her appointment with the Cardiologist today and by the time the appointment was over the doctor had ordered the angioplasty and admitted her to the hospital…

She told me all of this as if it were a description of the weather, or recounting the birth of a child.  When the conversation was over and we were getting off the phone she told me “don’t say anything negative.  Don’t say anything that’s not ‘Faith’.”  I have much to say about the ‘Faith’ angle, not that I’m knocking the faith angle, but we seem to have reached a contradiction here.  Nonetheless, I’ll save that for another time.

I was very worried until I came home tonight and looked up exactly what angioplasty entails on WebMD.  I’m relieved to know that it’s not as significant as I had originally thought.  She’ll be awake for the whole thing.  In fact, WebMD calls it a “non-surgical” treatment.  This is good, and yet, we’re talking about her heart!

My mother is angry.  She told me she was angry because, “typical hospitals” they’re not dealing with the “real problem”, the indigestion.

“Well, Mother,” I told her, “you know indigestion is one of the most commonly misperceived symptoms of heart problems.”

“Yes, I know,” she said.  “But it could easily be the reverse too.”

Heart problems are a misperceived diagnosis for days of indigestion?  Really? I’m afraid I haven’t heard that.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not wishing anything on my mother.  I’m not hoping she’ll die.  But this is scary.

My relationship with my mother hasn’t been great the last several years and as nice as it might be for this situation to be the catalyst to change that, it’s not.  The barriers that stand in our way aren’t going to be broken by this “close call”.

Because our relationship has been bad, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’ve given much thought to, “how am I going to feel when/if she dies?”  Certainly a part of me would be relieved.  There would be no more physical manifestation of her judgment and disdain.  On the other hand, she’d have died without our having resolved our differences, and I’d feel some level of relief, which would be bound to carry with it a level of guilt.

I realize, now that I’ve read up on the procedure, that she’s not in any real danger tomorrow.  I’m glad to know that, though I won’t be fully relieved until I hear from her that she’s out of “the woods” and in recovery.

It’s been a really emotionally stressful day for me today, and unfortunately, I think there are more of them ahead…  Bear with me!

Heavy

Bloggers are, as a collective group, a funny people.  I don’t mean that their funny – odd, or funny – abnormal, although admittedly some of them are.  No, when I say that bloggers are funny people, I mean they’re funny.  Ha ha humorous.  I follow the blogs of a number of people who are, simply put, downright, funny people!

My first introduction to blogs was when I found Dad Gone Mad.  Danny Evans is a funny man who finds inspiration from all sorts of places: his children, his friends, his community, even people in traffic on the highway.  About a year ago, Danny was laid off from his soul sucking corporate job in advertising and it may be the best thing that’s ever happened to him.  He took his time off and he wrote a book which will hit the shelves on August 4th. What Danny very rarely did, was write about his job and if he did, he didn’t write about his work woes, he wrote about humorous events, comic moments or his own fictitious fantasies of what could have been.

Through Dad Gone Mad, I learned about Jennsylvania.  I’m late to the party on this one for sure.  Jenn Lancaster is a funny, funny woman who makes even the most mundane of blog topics (book tour dates and locations, hectic travel, Plaid, THE 80’S) humorous and entertaining.  I’m ashamed to admit that at this point I haven’t read any of her books, but they’re on my list and I hope to remedy that soon.

Amy over at Amalah has a humorous writing style that makes even the most exasperating of her situations read with humor and lightness.  Amy has some rough situations taking place in her life and while she shares those with her readers with an honesty that is impressive and inspiring, she also manages to add just enough levity to keep them from being too heavy to handle.  Also, she has the cutest baby I’ve ever seen and regularly posts pictures of the munchkin.

Another Jenn, otherwise known as The Bloggess writes posts that have absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever and will have you in tears with the laughter and the Ha Ha’s and the “I can’t—No…  No more, no more!  I’m dying”s.  Her seemingly one long run on sentence posts cover the gamut of topics and never fail to entertain.  Her regular references to her husband Victor and his reactions to her supposed verbal commentary are priceless.  As if this weren’t enough, she now has an “advice column” Ask the Bloggess from which you are sure to pluck enormous laughs and worthless advice that is at once ludicrous and somehow irrefutable.  She also writes a “sex column”.  Sexis, surprisingly, this link is safe for work, as The Bloggess says, is about as useful as [Insert your own useless sex analogy here], completely safe for work (as safe as anything is with corporate internet and asset use policies these days) and one more way that The Bloggess will bring you to tears with her humor.

One of the most consistently well rounded blogs I’ve read; Dooce offers humorous family anecdotes (especially if you consider your pets to be family), beautiful photography with delightful narratives, graceful elegance of design and a simple openness that tugs at the heartstrings.  Heather Armstrong, also with a newly released book, has shared the day to day life of a woman on the go as she traveled the country on a three week book tour while dealing with the complexities (and sometimes complications) of being in her third trimester of pregnancy, the thrills and spills of preparing her home for the arrival of the new baby, and the day to day life of  wife and mother of a five year old.  Her stories are almost always uplifting and light-hearted and will brighten any day.

Some of the blogs I follow aren’t all about humor.  Some of them are about something more.  The A Very Public Experiment series on Cry it Out: Memoirs of a stay-at-home dad is an incredibly written memoir of the author’s story, both of his marriage and the birth of  his child, and his own childhood and how he got to where he is now.  Part 5 of his story moved me in ways I wouldn’t have expected and I look forward to where this experiment will go.

And then there are the topical and inspirational types of blogs.  The following are some of the “little people” blogs, written by people I consider to be friends.  Most are just pleasant reads.  Some are downright inspirational.

Terri’s blog, Terri Terri Quite Contrary is full of lighthearted, real-life fare; stories from her life, about her children, her bowling league and her friends.  Terri blogs about her work from time to time, but these are generally happy stories about her workplace full of friends and pleasant coworkers, people who enjoy their jobs and each other.  Recent events have caused the tide to turn for her company as a whole and Terri has written of her fears about her company’s future and what it will mean for her.  But while the news is not good and her concerns are real and justified, she manages to write her stories with an air of positivity, knowing that whatever happens, she’s got a strong support system on which she can rely.  Terri’s writing is strong, her photography is beautiful and her blog is always a good read.

Recently, I had some questions on a matter I suspected Terri would be particularly knowledgeable about, so I took a chance and sent Terri an e-mail, myself a complete stranger.  Having never interacted with Terri more than to leave a comment or two here and there on her blog, I didn’t know what to expect.  I thought she might ignore me, or toss a couple minimally helpful URLs my way and tell me to leave her alone.  Not only did she respond but she responded within 45 minutes of my e-mail and with a page and a half worth of wonderful insight and valuable information.

Stacy at I Eat Snowman Poop writes a whimsical blog that often reads as her side of an ongoing conversation between me and she.   There’s humor, there’s anger, there’s adventure.  Her blog is real and I appreciate that.

Wendy’s Building or Burning Bridges in the Community is an eclectic mix of personal life stories, current pop cultural events and LGBT activism.  Wendy’s recent posts about the uncertainty about her family’s future and ultimately their cross country move to Pennsylvania (the mover’s arrived with all their stuff today) for her wife to take a new job, has mirrored, to some extent, some of my own personal mullings.  Wendy has been a kind friend and her blog has been a pleasure to read.

And then there’s Anita.  Her Grace Unfolding ministry and accompanying blog, primarily directed toward Christian Lesbian’s, has nonetheless been a valuable resource to me in the recent past as I continue my struggle to reach some form of peace of mind about my life and my place in the world as a Christian and a homosexual.  Anita has written some really amazing and inspirational posts and just when I think maybe I’m in the wrong place, she somehow manages to write just the thing I needed to read and reminds me that there’s a place for everyone, in her ministry and blog and in this world.

Why am I telling you all this?  Why am I writing about these other blogs and not focusing on my own?  Well, I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that.  You see, as usual, I’m not quite content – I was going to say I’m not quite content with my blog, but the truth is, it’s so much more than that.  I’m not content with my life and it is ultimately, my life from which my stories must come.

I want to write a blog that appeals to people and so I want to be funny, or inspirational, or funny, or helpful in some way…  Or funny.  Sometimes I think I pull that off.  Other times I reach so far into myself trying to find the funny and the ha ha’s to offer and there are none to be had.  More often than not, I’m afraid.  Mostly, I just want to write a blog that I would enjoy reading if I weren’t the one writing it and I’m not always sure I pull that off.

I have a bad habit of looking at things for their outcome, I want to know when I start, what the end result will be.  Since I have not yet developed the ability to fold the fabric of space and time and see how things will turn out, I’m painfully aware that I can’t actually know these things.

When I started blogging a year ago, I went into it with the desire to be the next Danny Evans, Jenn Lancaster, Amalah, or Heather Armstrong.   Here is a list of things those people have and I do not.  This is by no means a comprehensive list:

1. Families

2. Books that are, or are just about to be, published

3. Money (to some extent, more than I have)

4. Friends

5. Outgoing personalities

6. Fun

7. Self Confidence (or an innate ability to fake it.)

8. Blogging/Writing as a full time job

9. Perspective

I guess what I’m getting at is that I have gone into this blogging (particularly with Riggledo) with the idea that my blog must be light and fluffy, funny and/or insightful and when it isn’t light and fluffy it must then be poignant.  I’m not sure people enjoy poignant.   Regardless, I find it difficult to write when I’m not feeling light and fluffy and funny—or rather I find it hard to write what I think I should be writing.

This blogging thing is starting to feel like one more example, of which there are many, where I try to fit myself into a community that isn’t really mine.  I’m a square peg, trying to fit in a round hole, an apple trying to mix in with a bag of oranges, a fly in a beehive – I can’t make honey.  I don’t feel like I’m being rejected, but sometimes, not being welcomed is just as bad.

I’m losing my grasp on this line of thinking…

In recent days, things have been so heavy in my real life that I have felt like, if I wrote anything, it would have to be heavy.  And so here we are, at the end of another long-winded post, 1772 words and counting, and I’m not sure what of value I’ve had to say.

Hey, if you’re still reading this, good on ya! And go check out some of those blogs I mentioned above.  They’re good.  You’ll like them.

I’m out.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Standing in the kitchen last night, waiting for the water to boil for my soon-to-be-steamed zucchini slices I was rehashing the previous night’s conversation with my mother when I realized that there was something positive to be found in the experience.  I believe it’s important to give credit where credit is due so let me take moment now to do that.

You see, I realized, that as frustrating as this conversation was for me, it was an improvement.  I have to give myself credit.  In the past, I would have sat quietly and made affirmative sounds and gestures, nodding my head as though I agreed.  I would have lied.  Not because I like to lie.  Not because I’m a dishonest person, but because without putting a lot of thought into it I would have instinctively taken the path of least resistance.  I would have felt that the only way through this was to go along and let her say her piece and then move on as quickly as possible.  I would have allowed her to come away from the interaction with the assumption that I agreed with everything she said.  Bush, Good.  Comedians, Bad.  Obama, Crazy.  Me Tarzan, you Mom.

I’m in a very tight spot here.  It’s true that the completely honest thing would have been to tell her that no, I don’t agree that George W Bush was a good President.  Yes, he may be a “Christian”, but I think “good man of God” is taking things way too far.  And, not only do I not think Obama is “crazy”, but I do believe he’s doing a good job; and, though, it may be too soon to really say, he may well be the best president of my lifetime, thus far.

I give myself credit, though, for not falling into the old default of, “Yes, Mother.  No, Mother.  You’re absolutely right, Mother.”  My silence was apparently deafening.

I give her credit, too.  I give her credit for recognizing my silence and for recognizing it for what it meant.  I give her credit for realizing that perhaps I am not in agreement with her and her fanatical politics.

I’d like to give her more credit, but how can I when she followed-up her acknowledgment with this:

“You may not agree with me, I don’t know, but if you’ve gone that far a field, I just don’t even want to know about it.”

That is pretty much what it boils down to, isn’t it.  She can’t accept that there’s any other possible perspective besides her own and if I so completely disagree with her, I must be wrong and shameful and unacceptable and she doesn’t want to know.

I hung up the phone after that conversation and for the first time in my life, I thought, “That woman is crazy!”  I don’t mean that she’s crazy in the “we don’t see eye to eye” sense.  “Crazy ole mom!”  I mean, that woman is crazy!  And now it has me thinking: Why am I so affected by her?  Why does her opinion matter so much to me?  Why is it so important to me, to feel like she accepts me and my life?  Why does it crush me so for her to speak to me with disdain and shame and judgment in her voice?  Why do I take such extreme measures to try and avoid any opportunity for disagreement with her, even at the cost of not being truly open and honest?  Why am I so afraid to hear the things I already know she would say?  And why am I allowing this person, this person who clearly is no authority on anything, to prevent me from living my life fully with confidence and courage and satisfaction?  Why?

My mother raised me, along with my older brother and sister, essentially on her own.  She was the only present parent I had.  Yes, my father is alive and I always knew him but he was never a stable part of my life and to give him any credit as a parent, as a force for good in my upbringing, I feel is to give him more credit than he is due.  My parents separated when I was two years old and I don’t know any other arrangement than this.  My mother was both parents to me.

My mother was also no parent at all.  She provided the absolute bare necessities of my existence.  A roof over my head, lights to read by, water to bath in and meals that may or may not have been palatable but were sufficiently nutrionally complete.  She did not provide emotional support and encouragement.  She did not provide a safe loving environment in which it was possible to make mistakes and learn from them, to have wants and desires that couldn’t always be fulfilled and understand the reasons why, to grow and learn and become a whole and complete being, independent and apart from her.

I didn’t know better.  I didn’t know what I didn’t have and what I ought to have been able to rely on.  I didn’t learn the kind of strength and acceptance that a person needs to be a strong and independent adult.

Despite all the things I didn’t have, despite all that I didn’t know I was lacking, she was all I knew, all I had to base my existence upon.  And so as a child it was imperative that I got approval and affirmation from her, and I would do and say whatever it took to get it, even if it wasn’t really what I felt.  Growing up, with this being all I had to go on, it makes sense that what she thought, how she acted and treated me mattered and affected me deeply.

But then I grew up.  I became an adult.  I moved away and became independent and separate from her and yet, when I speak to her all that falls away and I’m that child who is affected by her behavior and her tone and it hurts me and I don’t know why.

Ironically, a moment ago, the song “That Ain’t Love” by REO Speedwagon came on my iPhone.  At first I didn’t particularly notice, and then the line “That ain’t love, at least it doesn’t feel like love to me” penetrated my senses and broke my concentration. I looked up the lyrics on line.  The song, of course, is about a broken romantic relationship, but reading the lyrics, all but a handful of them seemed remarkably applicable.  Take a look:

That Ain’t Love

by REO Speedwagon

You tell me what you think I’m feelin’, you know why I do what I do
Why should you listen to a word I’m sayin’, when it’s already so clear to you
You tell me ’bout my bad intentions, you doubt the very things I hold true
I can no longer live with your misconceptions, [Mother] all I can say to you, is

That ain’t love, I believe you’ve got the wrong emotion
That ain’t love, at least it doesn’t feel like love to me
As long as I say what you wanna hear
Do what you wanna do, be who you want me to be
You think that’s love, well [Mother] that ain’t love to me

We’ve got to talk it over sometime, these feelings won’t just disappear
I’m just gonna keep telling you what’s on my mind
Even if it’s not what you wanna hear
Oooh right now your world and mine are such different places
Through yours I wander lost and confused
And I feel like I’m speaking in a different language
And the only words I haven’t used, are

That ain’t love, I believe you’ve got the wrong emotion
That ain’t love, at least it doesn’t feel like love to me
As long as I say what you wanna hear
Do what you wanna do, be who you want me to be
You think that’s love, well [Mother] that ain’t love to me

I honestly thought that in writing this, maybe I could find some answers to those “why” questions.  I guess to some extent I have.  I also hoped to find an answer to how to deal with it, how to move past it.  On that front, at least, it seems I was wrong… for now.

In Which I Learn, Again, To Keep My Mouth Shut

Last night, I had my second therapy session since my prodigal return.  It’s frustrating to me that even after two and a half years of weekly sessions, I still find it awkward and uncomfortable at the beginning of these appointments.  I generally experience quite a bit of anxiety on the day of the session, leading up to my appointment as I feel some unexplained (and I’m sure unwarranted) pressure to “do it right”.

As I sat in the waiting room outside Deb’s office yesterday I began to go over the list in my head.  The one where I run through the things that are on my mind.  The things that I have been thinking a lot about.  The things that…  Well, the things that are things, not feelings.  Even after two and a half years of weekly sessions I still find it difficult to identify, and be comfortable with many of my feelings and emotions.

Yesterday, I forgot most of the day that I even had a session.  I mean I didn’t forget.  I knew I had to leave work early.  I knew I was going to the appointment.  I didn’t forget to go.  But I didn’t think about it all day.  I didn’t dwell on it.  I didn’t worry about it…  Until I was driving there.

When my time had come and she opened the door, I walked in, hurled myself upon the couch and let out a long, exasperated sigh.  I told her exactly what I just told you, that I had managed to avoid the anxiety, until this moment.  She asked me what it was about and I said that I never knew how to start things off.

“I think you just did,” she said.

I told her, “Now I’m just running through the list of things I shouldn’t say.  Including that I shouldn’t say that there’s a list of things I shouldn’t say.”

“Things you ‘shouldn’t’ say?  Why?” she asked.

“Because, it’s reporting.”

Apparently, when in therapy, reporting on your life is not “doin’ it right”.  They want to know what and how you feel.  When I don’t know the answer to that, or don’t know where to start with that, it’s easier to fill the silence with reporting on what’s been going on.  Filling the silence, also not necessarily “doin’ it right”.  The silence, though, is unbearable to me.

I know I tend to make assumptions or read into what she tells me but she has said in the past that it sounds like I’m “reporting” to her and how did I feel about… whatever I was talking about.  I guess I gathered from that, that reporting is not good.

“Well, it’s been a little while, maybe you should tell me what’s been going on,” she said.

So I started to run down the list (I didn’t get very far.)  I told her where things stand with my quest to go to college (pretty much no progress has been made) and how happy I was, when I got my high school transcript to see that it had my ACT scores on it so I didn’t have to figure out where to track them down.

And then I told her about my birthday gift from my mother and how it had gotten lost in transit and the cell phone conversation that took place on Friday.

My mother was very testy with me on the phone and was noticeably annoyed by the fact that I was apparently not giving her my undivided attention.  I suspect she was also annoyed that I did not answer the phone when she called.  She didn’t have it in her to understand and accept that I didn’t answer the phone because I was in a noisy place where she wouldn’t be able to hear me, nor I her.  She didn’t seem to understand and accept the fact that I called her back as soon as I left that noisy place but that it meant I was driving and yes, I had to split my attention between her and the road.

I flashed on a memory of my childhood.  I was having my 10th birthday and was spending the summer at my father’s house.  My mother, brother and sister and I had just moved to Oklahoma the year before and we were to spend our summers with my father, his wife and her two sons, at his house in Ohio.  We had just finished dinner and were starting to eat my birthday cake when my mother called to talk to me.

I was ten and there was cake.

I sat at the table, eating my cake and talking to my mother.  Around me the rest of the group were continuing their conversations and having a good time.  Finally Mom commented that it sure was noisy and asked what was going on.  I told her that we were having cake and somehow conveyed that I was still sitting at the table eating my piece.  She said, “What?  You couldn’t be bothered to get up from the table to talk to your mother?”

Let me reiterate people, I was ten and there was cake!

Nonetheless, I understood I had apparently done wrong and said that I would go into another room, to which she replied, “Don’t bother.  Just put your brother on the phone.”

I remember this event so clearly, and I “learned” from it that you’re supposed to give your undivided attention when you’re on the phone, especially to my mother.  Folks remember that.  If you’re ever on the phone with my mother, PAY ATTENTION!!

But here’s the thing that Deb helped me to see.  On both occasions, it was my birthday.  If ever there is a time all year long that “it’s all about me”?  It’s on your birthday.  Your birthday is the one day each year when you have every right to be selfish and make everything about yourself.  My mother called me on my birthday and when I didn’t drop everything and focus all my attention on her, I was in trouble.

I realized that this is always true.  It doesn’t matter what day it is or what the circumstances are, IT’S.  ALL.  ABOUT.  HER.

Now for the irony.

When I arrived home last night, my mysteriously disappearing birthday FedEx package was at my door.  It had a new shipping label that they had created on it.  Obviously, it turned up somewhere and they reshipped it four days late.

I called Mom to tell her the package had arrived and wouldn’t you know it.  I got her voice mail.  It’s not the first time.  She uses her cell phone exclusively and if she sets it down in another room she doesn’t always hear it ring.  No big deal.  I left my message and went on about my day.

Forty-five minutes later she called me back.  I was in the middle of preparing food for today and instinctively, I felt the need to explain the noise.  I also held off cooking dinner while I was on the phone and as a result I didn’t eat dinner until nearly 10:00 last night.

In the middle of the conversation she told me that her TV was dying.  I’m not surprised, she bought this TV in 1988, but what occurred to me after the fact was that the TV was on, while she was talking to me.  Apparently, undivided attention is not a two way street.

Toward the end of our conversation I asked her if she still watches David Letterman.  I wanted to know if she knew what the big deal was bout the joke he made about Sarah Palin’s daughter.  I wanted to know how seriously his job was in jeopardy over this.  I should have known better.

She launched into an emphatic diatribe about how hateful all the late night comics had become and how she just couldn’t stand to listen to them any more since George W. Bush was in office and they were always picking on him.  “George W Bush is a good Christian man and a great President and I just couldn’t stand to listen to them say hateful things about him.”  I bit my tongue.

Then she said, “Barack Obama is just crazy.”  She told me that in one of his books he said, ‘when it comes down to it, I’ll side with the Muslims every time.’

I couldn’t make out what she said and asked her who he said he’d side with and she replied, “The Muslims.  You know the ones who want to kill us?  He’s crazy.  Anybody that wants to shut down Guantanamo Bay and turn those guys loose on American soil, is crazy.”

Now, I don’t agree with my mother on a lot of things politically related, but I also know that one of the stupidest things you can do is get into an involved political discussion with someone you’re close to and you don’t know that they agree with you, so I keep my mouth shut about my politics.

I kept my mouth shut as she went on about how “wonderful” George W Bush is and how “terrible” Barack Obama is and then she said this:

“You may not agree with me, I don’t know, but if you’ve gone that far a field, I just don’t even want to know about it.”  (Imagine, if she doesn’t want to know about my politics, how she must feel about my sexuality!)

It was pretty clear, I think, from my lack of response that I did not agree with her, and things got crunchy and the conversation ended quickly after that.

 

I don’t know.  Maybe it just sounds like I’m ranting.  Like I’m just one more person who doesn’t get along with his mother and boo hoo, poor me. Get over it!  But it just really served to remind me of just how… incompatible (?) we are?  That doesn’t really seem like the right word; we’re not dating.

But that’s kind of what it comes down to.  How can we have a relationship if it’s all one sided?  I can’t really talk to her because it’s always about making sure that her needs are met.  Meanwhile, mine fall by the wayside, as they always have.  My whole life it’s been this way.  My needs, my feelings, they all take a back seat to hers.  I learned from a very young age not to express any thoughts, needs or feelings that conflict with hers.  And by rote, I learned to subvert my thoughts, needs and feelings to anyone and everyone particularly those in some sort of authority over me.  The worst part is I think I do it to those who do not have authority over me.  I hate to think that’s true, but it probably is.

So what is the answer?  How do you stand up for yourself and your own needs without disrespecting the needs of others?  It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard and yet, it feels like it’s nearly impossible.  In my  experience at least, being direct and assertive makes people angry and defensive.  Being passive/aggressive, well it makes people angry and defensive, and it breeds the same.  Trying to express your needs in a light hearted and joking way, gets you over-looked.

I continue to hold out hope for a better tomorrow.  I continue to desire a life wherein I have close friends and family who like each other and get along well and interact peacefully, but truthfully with each other.  I continue to hope for a life where my needs are met and I’m able to meet the needs of others and it all works out for a greater purpose.  Is this possible?  Am I hoping for something that I can never have?  What is the answer?

Birthday Weekend

I’m back at work after a four day week-end and oh the boredom and annoying-ness of it all.  I hoped somehow I’d return to this God-forsaken place refreshed and renewed.  Ready to take on the environment with a new attitude and better spirits.  Alas, new attitudes and better spirits are in short supply and I seem to have missed the boat.

Friday was my birthday and the only way you could not already know that is if you’ve never seen my blog before or if you live under a rock.  Because my birthday fell on a Friday this year I took Friday and Monday off with the foolish thought that maybe, just maybe there might be some sort of road worthy excursion to be had, but sadly, none such excursions took place.  It’s just as well, really.  By the time I finished paying all my bills and doing the necessary grocery and household items shopping this week-end, there was no money for road worthy excursions anyway.

Michelle took Friday off with me and together we went to lunch at ye old Cheesecake Factory where for the first time in I don’t know how many visits, I ventured outside of my usual choice of Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes and ordered the Four Cheese Pasta with Chicken.  Hey, it was my birthday; I’m allowed a little splurge, right?  The food was good, though I’d have preferred the large dollop of Ricotta cheese that they plopped on top to either be mixed in, or not be there at all.

After lunch we wandered across the street to the movie theater where we watched My Life in Ruins, the latest film written by and staring Nia Vardalos.  I loved My Big Fat Greek Wedding and was very impressed with her talent after that so when My Friend @NiaVardalos told me that she had a new movie coming out and that she needed me to go see it I was only too happy to comply.  Folks, this movie was great, and Nia looked amazing!  If you haven’t seen it already, run, don’t walk, to your nearest cinema and watch it.

After the movie we returned to The Cheesecake Factory to purchase our cheesecake for later.  I don’t know anyone who can actually eat a meal AND eat cheesecake while actually AT The Cheesecake Factory.  I can never decide on one preferred type of cheesecake so I end up getting two pieces, one Chocolate Moose Cheesecake, and one Godiva Chocolate.  I always tell myself that these two pieces of cheesecake will last me for days and days because I WON’T eat the entire slice in one sitting.  Then I take my cheesecake home and eat the entire thing in one sitting.  So much for good intentions.

We decided to have a drink at the bar before we left so we fought the crowd (it was after 6:00 on a Friday) and made our way to the counter were the very handsome bar tenders ignored us for about five minutes.  Finally we ordered our top shelf margaritas and sat down to enjoy our drinks and chat.  Midway through a sentence, Michelle and I both stopped and stared as we watched the cuter of the two bartenders pour a shot of Patrón tequila into a glass.

Michelle asked him what he was making and he said it was called a Patrón el Diablo (note to self; remember this drink next time you go to ye old Cheesecake Factory.)  He told us it had Patrón Silver, Pomegranate and Grapefruit juices.  I imagine there was more to it than that, but then he stopped mid sentence and walked away.  I thought he was ignoring us, but then he came back with a straw and used the old dip-the-straw-in-the-glass-and-put-your-finger-on-top-of-it-to-take-a-small-sip-worth-of-the-drink-out-of-the-glass trick and put it in a small glass so we could taste it.  It was muy yummy and you could taste the Patrón which is quite possibly the best tequila ever.

Now the story might have taken an interesting turn here…  But it didn’t.  He walked away and that was the end of that conversation.  Ah well, he most likely would’ve been more interested in Michelle than me, anyway.

When we first sat down at the bar, my cell phone rang and it was my mother.  I sent the call to voice mail because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hear her and that we weren’t going to be terribly long.  I would call her back when we left.

You see, for the first time in more than four years, my mother sent me a birthday present.  Normally, it’s a day or two before my birthday and she asks me, what do you want for your birthday that doesn’t cost more than about $30.00.  I think long and hard and can’t come up with anything (‘cause I’ve already bought myself everything I want that doesn’t cost more than $30.00) and finally come up with the same thing as the previous year.  A series of books she told me about that sounds interesting but I’ve never gotten around to buying/reading.  Then when it’s said and done, I get nothing.  This year, she told me on Thursday that she’d gotten me a present and after asking where I wanted her to send it (home or work.)  She told me that it was to arrive at my house by 10:30 AM Friday morning.  I was going to be home and I got out of bed around 8:30 so as to be ready to answer the door when the FedEx driver arrived.

Having already told me that the gift was roughly 10 x 7 x 1 I was pretty sure I knew it to be one of the books she and I had discussed repeatedly for years prior, but I was excited to get the gift nonetheless.  Around 9:30, I saw a FedEx truck go barreling down the street and I was surprised it didn’t stop but figured my package must just be on a different truck or he would be back.  When I left at noon, it still had not arrived, so I put a note on the door for the driver to leave it and I went to meet Michelle.

I called my mother back when we left The Cheesecake Factory and she told me that she’d received an automated e-mail from FedEx telling her the package had been left at my door at 9:28 AM.  She was noticeably annoyed, I can only assume first, because I didn’t call her to tell her I had gotten the package and to thank her and then because I didn’t answer the phone when she called.  Then she was testy because there was noise in the background.  Noise that amounted to Michelle telling me I was about to take the wrong entrance ramp to the highway (I wasn’t) and then the sound of my accelerating on to the highway.  She seemed unconcerned that the gift hadn’t arrived and honestly, I don’t know if she’s going to pursue it with FedEx or not.  She was so snide about it, I decided not to ask.

I dropped Michelle off at her house and then I went home.  I turned on the TV and the Wii to be a good boy and do my EA Sport Active Workout, but first I did my Wii Fit Body Test and the graphic on the screen of the Balance Board was wearing a party hat and threw confetti my way!  And then she (the balance board is a she) told me I was obese and that I’d gained weight… Bitch!

Saturday, I sat around on my obese, more weighty butt and watched TV most of the day (after having slept till 11:00.)  Fortunately, it was a rest day for the EA Sport Active.

Sunday, I got up and prepared my shopping list, took a shower and headed out to take care of my shopping.  I returned home around 4:30 and after putting away my haul, I commenced thoroughly cleaning my bathroom.  I started cleaning the kitchen as well, but when it was creeping up on 7:00 and I still had to work out and prepare and eat dinner, I decided I better call it quits for the day.  (Nice thing is I got a gold medal on my EA Sport Active journal for having additional activity, in the form of housework, for the day!)

On Monday, K and I had plans to go to lunch together.  She has been off for over a week for her son’s eighth grade graduation, her parents visit and her own birthday which is one week before mine.  I picked her up at about 11:45 and we made our way into and across San Francisco, where we went to lunch at the Beach Chalet.

She surprised me when I picked her up with a gift bag to which four very large balloons were tied.  The gift was a large coffee mug with superman on it.  Very cool!  I’ll update this post with pictures.  Let it be said, that Mischa is most unimpressed with the balloons which are currently hovering in wait in my living room.  Let it also be said that I am a dead beat friend that didn’t get K anything.   Yes, I suck.

The Beach Chalet was awesome.  I had made reservations in advance and as a result we got a nice table by a window looking out across San Francisco’s Great Highway, over Ocean Beach and right on out at the water.  When we first arrived there was a cruise ship coming in and heading for the Golden Gate Bridge (I should have taken pictures.)  The view was incredible, the food  was delicious and the desert was so decadent!  We shared the Chocolate Sand Castle.

When I returned home, I checked around, but my FedEx package still was no where to be found.  I went inside, cleaned a little more, worked out again (so glad today is a rest day), made dinner and settled in for the evening.

All in all, it was a pretty good week-end and pretty good Birthday.  I couldn’t have asked for too much more!

And sadly, now I’m back at work where it seems, I wasn’t missed at all, and wishing I was just about anywhere else.

I wonder when that cruise ship leaves port again….