Category: Personal Journal

Grief and the Hero Complex

I am so tired. I actually took the afternoon off work to stare blankly at the computer with occasional crying. Okay, more like occasional not crying.

It has been damn near impossible to keep my head up. And I mean physically. Every muscle in my body feels completely over-taxed. I sleep and I sleep but it never seems to be enough. That’s why I hardly update the blog anymore. I barely have enough energy to go to work and I didn’t even have that today.

I don’t know what the hell kind of stages of grief these are, but after my mom’s death, I felt relief. I wrote about it. Now I feel a strange child of despair and sadness. All of the emptiness of someone dying with none of the darkly sweet missing them. Just nothing. No hope. No apprehension. As much as she was never around, never a mom in any real sense of the word; this is a new level of loss. A kind of anti-grief that swallows every other emotion in its unending blackness.

Because we were estranged and because I did so much work on my feelings about her while she was alive, I got trapped in the idea that her dying wasn’t something I would have to go through like a normal person, and it’s not. It’s more complicated than that.

I have had one mission since I was born: to save her. That’s why I’m here. That’s why she made me. My infant failure to do this job is why she gave me away. She thought that a baby would change her. I didn’t. But that didn’t stop me from growing up with the sick assumption that I was the solution to all her mistakes.

I truly thought there was some combination of things I could say or do. Something I would own, some person I could become, that would break the curse and rescue the princess. Magical thinking has saved me and damned me in equal measure. Childish hope, wishing on stars, and a complete and utter disregard for reality got me through all of what I would consider my highest achievements.

Most of us are witches. The children of addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill. We grow up watching our parents distort reality every day. We have an in-born ability to work against logic. To become an illusion. Anything we have to do to bend the light around our parents. To make a foundation out of nothing at all.

In addition to the grief I feel about my mother, I’m still processing the grief I feel for my business that closed in September. I’ve owned four businesses and closed three of them. This was the only one I didn’t want to close. Despite this, it’s one of the things I am most proud of myself for. I used a lot of magical thinking to keep that place running for as long as it did. I tied it to my heart and I willed it into being. I breathed it instead of air and I catapulted myself higher than I’ve ever gone before. Higher than an abandoned punching bag like myself was ever meant to go. It felt amazing.

I never fantasized about my future kids meeting my mother. I couldn’t, it was to painful. But I imagined my future kids in my business. I clearly saw every milestone on our climb to the top. Over and over. I had to do this or it wouldn’t have made it ten days, much less four years. But it crumbled anyway. And right after I failed my business, I failed this too.

I had one job, it was to save my mother. On December 9, 2016 I failed. My reason for being died. And now I am here, no purpose. No surrogate purpose even.

It’s not like I haven’t been to therapy. It’s not like I don’t know that it’s impossible (not just unhealthy, but impossible) to ask a daughter to save her mother. I get that my low self-worth is a result of childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse. I find myself deeply amused by the irony that it’s lead me to overachieve in an effort to prove myself valuable to the very people who caused this situation. People who are fundamentally incapable of seeing value in anything, least of all me.

And yet, I am subject to this insufferable human ailment. Grief like black tar boiling cold in the pit of my stomach. Pushing up my throat out of my mouth, covering me completely in an invisible barrier that cuts me off and drags me down.

Just as I was starting to internalize the realization that chronic overworking and trophy-hunting will not make me feel worthwhile, I found that I no longer had the motivation to keep my struggling business alive. This is not a coincidence.

However, it is a coincidence that my mother, the origin of all this shit, also died three short months later. Here I am, starting the long journey of working backward 31 years into the belly of the beast, deconstructing the illusion that I can save the world with sheer willpower and a complete lack of self-care when suddenly, the world dies. Because that’s the truth, isn’t it?

I’m smart enough to know that I can’t break the curse and I can’t save the princess. Even if I were to die for the princess (I would have), that wouldn’t be enough. But I’m also devious enough to pretend that I know these things when, in reality I made the world my princess. Because if I can’t save her, I’ll save everything I possibly can.

I am motivated by a desperate need to fight for something and against something else. I go into battle every day because I must atone for the one I left to die. It took all these years, but the thing I’ve been punishing myself for has finally come to pass. And what do I have to show for myself? A failed business and the half-baked realization that everything I’ve ever done, I’ve done for a woman who is now dead and never cared or was affected by my actions except for when they fueled her own resentments.

In times past, I have come out of this realization with a new purpose. Years go by, and I once again awaken to the reality that the new purpose is just me trying to save my mother a different way. When do I get to save myself? How many layers do I have to peel off before I get to the one where I matter more than she does?

You told me I would feel relieved when you died.

You were right, I do.

Mom,

You were abusive. And I loved you very much.

There is no shame in either statement. Both are true.

I’m glad that life, which you found so painful, is over for you. You used to tell me how much you wanted to die. I’m glad that you have what you wanted. And I’m so sorry that you felt that way.

Your joy was always brief but intense. And you never seemed to be able to remember it when it was gone. Nonetheless, you taught me how to appreciate the world. To see the beauty in ordinary things. Every time I look at the moon I think of you. You used to call me and tell me to look at it when it was especially pretty. 

I remember being on the phone with you, looking at the moon, knowing we couldn’t talk. Knowing that this was a temporary thing, wishing it weren’t, wondering why I answered. I’m glad we had that quiet moment. I’m equally glad I stood my ground when, later on you pushed and shamed and demanded something I could not give you. 

If my skin was worth anything, you would have cut it off me in a second without a thought. There was a time that I would have asked you to. Thanks to you, I thought it was okay to let people insult me, hit me, threaten my life. I thought that’s what good daughters did. 

You never believed anybody who told you they loved you, me included. You told me you loved me a lot, and I think you thought you did, but you treated me like you hated me most of the time.

I’m relieved that you are free from pain. I’m relieved because I finally know where you are and what you’re doing. I’m relieved because maybe I can stop trying to prove myself to you. 

You had an amazing smile. I wish I had more memories of it. 

You Will Never Be Cured

We have this narrative that all you have to do to be a Good Human is figure out how to keep your house clean, capitalize on your education, utilize your left and right brain, forgive assholes, know the state capitals, “experiment” but not so it’s weird, have well behaved dogs, good smelling hair, sweaters that don’t pill, a calm and soothing voice but also a commanding manly voice, one pair of comfortable designer shoes, a watch your mom didn’t give you, healthy teeth, and a tattoo you got on a whim but still looks really cool 15 years later.

That’s totally a lie.

I recently had an experience where I made a joke about my anxiety and got 25 different suggestions on what I should do to fix me. Which is great. It means that you guys love me enough to tell me this stuff, but I also saw a pattern in the comments and I have something to say about it.

There’s nothing wrong with me.

And there’s nothing wrong with you either. We are functioning at peak performance for this moment. If we want something else, we can do something else, and then different things will happen. Different than what’s happening now, different than we expected, even.

There’s no magical switch that will turn you from who you are into someone worthwhile because you are already worth everything you will ever be worth. You were born worthy, you will die worthy regardless of any external factors.

If you decided to become a master carpenter or a physicist or get really good at coping with your depression or if you do nothing, help no one, and die alone, you are worth the same. It’s only a matter of preference and comfort.

Stop stressing out over being a good enough human. Stop thinking that the solution to your “problem” is over the next hill. A bullet journal will not cure you because there is nothing to cure you from.

There is no right way to be a person. There is only the way you choose.

Dog Questions

Why is it that we have to spell every other word that has anything to do with food or exercise in this house, but the dog still doesn’t understand that you can not be under a blanket you’re currently sitting on top of. 

Why is it the dog knows enough to indicate which thing she wants on a long list of things (walk, dinner, blankie, ups, outside etc.), but not enough to go to the thing she wants as a short cut. Or even look at it. She stares at me until I name the thing and then does a little ‘yes, that’s the thing’ dance.

Why does the dog hate men carrying things? Man alone = okay, whatever. Man + shelf = bark bark bark death death death oh my fucking god death I said.

Oh Hi Monday. Didn’t See You There.

  • If you click on the Erotica Reviews link in the menu, it now leads to a completely different website, www.baconandlettuce.com. This is because, after more than a year of not writing any reviews at all, I’ve decided to start back again and to double down on them being their own thing and hopefully upping the SEO game by having the site’s keywords all about doin’ it.
  • I started watching Season 11 of Supernatural. I’m in the middle of episode 12 right now. Sam’s total and complete lack of deviousness is going to kill those boys one day… again.
  • Final inspection on our house is today. So that’s not equal parts terrifying and amazing like a unicorn dick or anything.
  • I have decided that I am voting for Measure 97, an extremely poorly written piece of tax law that promises to cripple big business in Oregon. Proponents say that the issues will be fixed in the legislature, but there’s no way that’s happening because assuming they were at all competent (they’re not) any “fix” the legislature would make would drastically drop funding, which they would never do even if we were all dying of starvation. So why vote for it? Because fuck big business and their cock-sucking lap dogs is why. I’m about 0.05% joking right now. The city’s big idea this election cycle was to give developers a cool $265 million so they can build roughly 13 apartments for poor people. Eat dicks, the rich!

Stop Telling People to Call Their Parents.

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I found this on a blog post called “How Not to Be a Garbage Human” and there’s no way I’m linking to that trash. Also it was a promoted post and I can’t find it again.

There’s also a podcast I used to listen to where the host told people to call their mom at the end of he show, but that’s recently changed to “call your person” so it sounds like other people wrote the email I was to tired to write, so thanks guys.

It’s fucking mean to tell people to call their parents. And not just people like me who have an estranged relationship with one or more of them. Parents also die, get Alzheimers, sink into depression and on and on.

Basically, its a garbage human move to assume everybody is like you and has access to parents.

Just 1:38am Things

  • I’m listening to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s audiobook In My Own Words and true to title, they actually do have recordings of speeches she’s given. Which would be great except that she is a far far better writer than than she is a speaker, and at least one of the recordings is 16 straight minutes of murmuring and coughing punctuated by an early 2000s iPhone ringing over and over while Ruth may or may not be talking somewhere in the distant background. It’s as if it was recorded on the cell phone of the woman sitting next to the ass with the iPhone he can’t turn the fuck off. Otherwise it’s good. 
  • I started watching Smallville after I was thoughtlessly coerced into taking three vaccines at the same time a couple weeks ago and literally could not move one arm for an entire day in addition to being totally feverish and gross. I have nothing to say about it really (except the standard please stop making women into property, or plot door stoppers and the not so standard ‘holy shit, for 2002 this is crazy feminist omg’)
  • While I was all vaccine sick I had a fever and when it broke I dreamt/hallucinated that I turned into a million tiny cubes of Turkey and I was delicious and instead of being horrified (I don’t even like turkey that much) I was elated and it was wonderful. 

Fall 

“I, Spartacus Jones, challenge you, Ebinezer McScruffins to a duel. You have spread your filthmusk upon my tree for the last time, you son of an acorn fucker.”

“Jones, you have proven yourself to be nothing but a virulent rabies infected rat, you have no right to this tree or even this leafy golden branch. Prepare yourself for furry death!!”

“I am about to murder you, fiend!”

“Wrong again, beast, it is I who will murder you!”

“Mommy! Mommy the squirrels are squeaking!”

“Yes baby, isn’t it adorable.”

If You Don’t Work You Don’t Eat: On Being Compulsive In The Face Of Abundance

wpid-wp-1476039086224.jpgI’ve been going through a hard time lately. Kind of because my business closed, but not really. The real reason is something I started to realize years ago, but like all deeply ingrained and compulsive coping mechanisms, it’s never just one realization that does the trick.

I think I might be a workaholic. I know, how silly. Every person between the ages of 20 and 35 right now is a workaholic. Every woman in business, every person of color, transgender person, everybody who grew up in poverty, immigrated here from somewhere else, or grew up with alcoholic parents. We all know the reality of what it means to be completely abandoned by a system we’re still expected to work for every day like we were never thrown out with the trash, or like we wouldn’t be thrown out now if circumstances changed. The truth is, outside of a few select white children and straight dudes, human life has no inherent value.

If you don’t work; you don’t eat. We’ve all heard that before. When the shit hits the fan, you have to buckle down. You get another job, you sell some stuff, you do what it takes and that’s just another part of making it through. The thing about having no economic safety net is that if you don’t have money for food, you don’t get food. If you don’t have money for rent, you don’t have anywhere to sleep. So you do what has to be done. You get up every day and you say yes to everything and no to nothing, and you don’t need safety standards because OSHA doesn’t pay the electric bill, and you don’t need work/life balance because without work there is no life.

And the same companies and industries that will hire someone to work full time without paying them enough to live full time devour a worker like this. A person without boundaries, who regularly chooses the job over their own health and safety. We are the band-aids this broken system relies on to keep itself together. We shine bright and we get promoted and given the big projects, because the company knows that we will be complicit in our own exploitation. Because we will be. Try to put a workaholic at a normal company and it gets real uncomfortable.

Which is where I am right now. I have nothing feeding my workaholic tendencies and it’s ugly. At the same time, I honestly wonder if there even is such a thing as a workaholic. Because that is some pre-recession white bullshit if I ever heard it.

People of color don’t get to be workaholics. Women don’t get to be workaholics. The workaholic was invented in the 1950s when, for the briefest of time certain subsets of middle class white dudes lived in an economic paradise built on union labor on the one hand the racist and sexist exclusion of non-whites and women on the other, and therefore experienced the phenomenon of abundance above and beyond anything they had ever been prepared for as middle class people. In this random accident, some of the white dudes missed dinner even though they didn’t have to, and thus the workaholic was born.

But that’s exactly the kind of shit a workaholic would say. I’ve been around addicts enough to know that crack has the uncanny ability to make everybody who smokes it suddenly realize that addiction is a racist conspiracy theory cooked up by the government to keep us in our place.

What I do know is this:

  • When I can’t use constant work to distract me from myself, old coping mechanisms like anorexia and self harm are right there, ready to be the solution they were before I had work.
     
  • I am no longer happy with the way I feel about my work, something that used to be the only thing that made me happy.
     
  • Even though I’m unhappy with it, I still obsess over it, making sure that work is constantly the focus, wherever I am. There’s no relief.
     
  • I really do fear that my life will fall apart if I were to stop working or making things, even briefly.
     
  • I feel calm when I’m horribly ill because I finally have a reasonable justification for not working. Which is actually progress, I used to think that even illness wasn’t justification enough.
     
  • I frequently think that it’s better this way because working and making things is the only thing I’m good at anyway.
     
  • I (not so) secretly believe that food and sleep are allowed to me on the condition that I have accomplished something. And I have trouble seeing what’s wrong with that.
     
  • I cling to the belief that compulsive working is somehow the only positive outcome from the neglect I experienced in childhood, and if I were to stop this now, it would be nothing but tragedy all the way down.
     
  • I am unable to justify my existence without work.
     
  • As a union woman, and a fierce defender of workers’ rights, I honestly believe that I am an exception to the labor laws and standards I would literally die to protect.
     

But the recession…

But my childhood…

Surely this compulsive working is just good sense after everything I’ve been through. But of course it isn’t.

I know better than most that the coping mechanisms you come up with in a crisis can’t be your coping mechanisms for good. Indiana Jones survived a nuclear blast in a refrigerator one time in a movie. That doesn’t mean we should all saddle up the Kenmore and bring on nuclear winter. Stuffed in a fridge is no way to live long-term. You do what you have to in order to survive so that you can do better later. Not to relive the same trauma over and over again until it finally kills you years after the fact and without even trying.

A Note on Bathroom Etiquette

One thing I really appreciate about the Pacific Northwest is how we all go around acting really sorry to have bothered anybody we happen to cross paths with who isn’t obviously happy to see us.

Which is why the incident I have just been involved in is basically the most appalling thing ever. Someone knocked on the door while I was in the bathroom… twice. I know. I’m going to need some serious therapy to get over this horrible abuse of the acoustic qualities of the Powell’s Hawthorne bathroom door.

Here’s the thing. Unlike Powell’s downtown, my local Powell’s only has two bathrooms. One for book customers and one for cafe customers. Since I was there to buy books, I decided to do the decent thing and wait outside the frequently occupied book bathroom. I of course waited patiently and quietly because the lock was engaged, and I knew that because the little red “in use” flag was in the little window in the lock which had been put there for exactly this purpose. The person currently defiling that public toilet and I would have had absolutely no reason to ever even hear one another’s voices. Except for the fact that the person in the bathroom was talking to themselves. Loudly. And for a very long time.

And because I have lived in Portland exactly long enough that I will never again have the gall to ask another grown person why they are talking to themselves in a bathroom I want to use, I went to the cafe bathroom. Which also has the little “available” and “in use” flags on its lock. This is important.

Because less than 30 seconds into my already stressful (illegal use of cafe bathroom) experience, someone knocked on the door. Which is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY. There is a tiny flag for exactly this circumstance. When you go up to a bathroom door with a tiny “in use” flag, you know that THE BATHROOM IS IN USE YOU GOD DAMNED CRETIN. Only a firefighter should ever knock on a door with such a sign on it, and only when things are actually, totally, completely on fire.

The “in use” sign is there for both of us. So you don’t have to waste your time knocking on things millions of gross other people have touched, and so I don’t have to muster the fucking emotional fortitude to say “someone’s in here” as pleasantly and firmly as possible while rubbing desperately at my own asshole with the worst most horrible toilet paper on the market.

And this is very important. Under no circumstances whatsoever (except for aforementioned billows of flesh-searing flame) should anyone EVER knock a second time. DID YOU THINK I HAD ESCAPED THROUGH THE WINDOW YOU HORRIBLE TWAT?

I understand that the person on the other side of the door may have been in distress, but it’s not like I was just waiting for them to keep knocking on the door like some kind of sick public shame game. Short of letting them piss between my open legs like that one time on The L Word, I had nothing for them. Except for a second “someone is in here” identical to the first to indicate to this obviously dense individual that NOTHING HAD CHANGED in the 30 seconds between this knock and the last one.

And don’t even try to say it could have been two different people. No two people in Portland are that horrible.