Attempt the climb

My tomatoes have been out of control this year. Five were planted while I was quarantining away from home. By the time I returned they were too big to cage. That was the exact opposite of my hopes last year, when we somehow ended up with soil that had an entire army of volunteer tomato plants seeded into it. I endured many days of back pain trying to wrangle those plants into submission but ended up with rotten tomatoes and powdery mildew all over the place. Rotting tomatoes are gross. I understand why they’ve become a metaphor for bad shit. I promised myself after that mess that I was going to have the BEST tomato plants this year.

Remind me not to do that again.

I spent a large portion of the past 2 days chopping my 6 ft+ tomato hedge into something that might produce some more fruit before I remove the plants entirely. A lot of that was while cussing up a storm under my breath. It seems I lost a third of it to mildew, a third to broken vines, leaving the final third to redeem the summer.

Grow, you bastards. Grow.

Is this what’s happening to society right now? On a much larger scale, of course. Politics is causing cultural mildew, the medical system is overburdened, branches of our society are broken by unequal treatment by both medical and political systems. Maybe it isn’t equal thirds, but you get what I mean.

The rest of us, who have stayed healthy & managed to survive the political shit show might be able to produce some good fruit in the final quarter of the year. Maybe?

I could write an entire essay on personal care based on the metaphor of gardening tomatoes. I started to, actually, but I began to develop a narrative that almost convinced me that I had real answers. HA!

I have no clue. On a good day, I get through it because it’s the same as yesterday, so I know I can just repeat that and get the same results. Sure, it’s boring, but it’s getting the practice of surviving in. I, for one, have made great strides in making my coffee before the dogs can’t wait any longer to go out to potty. Sometimes we barely make it, or I spill coffee on myself. Sometimes I get out there & barely settled with my coffee before I have to run in the opposite direction so that I can go potty. It’s a complicated dance with many nuances I couldn’t possibly impart here. But I’m getting pretty good at it.

Today, once I got settled, a couple of the younger neighborhood children started to have extended loud, high pitched melt downs. The other kids were bickering loudly. Eventually I could hear an adult trying to calm the chaos, which just made it more crazy. That was when the same house decided to turn up the music. So then it was crying children, yelling children, yelling adults & bad pop music. I was about to lose my mind entirely, but through some blessed act of a merciful god, it stopped.

Those parents must have good whiskey stashed somewhere to sip after a long day with the kids. Or maybe I should gift them with some. Would it be weird to receive an anonymous whiskey gift basket? Would I drink it? If it were sealed, I mean.

What could possibly go wrong?

That’s our ironic tag line for 2020.

Waves

Today my pain got rather intense. I am having a lot of difficulty with my left arm due to arthritis, bad posture, age, bone spurs in my neck, tendinitis in my wrist, elbow stuff … basically all of the normal stuff for a person in their mid 40’s plus the inflammation of a chronic disease.

I pulled out my big ice pack that’s the size of a thin pillow, wrapped it around my arm, lay my head down on top, then wept. In that moment I knew I had finally cracked. I gave up. It was too much.

I have been trying an increased dose of gabapentin. 100mg in the morning & another mid day. It leaves me feeling immensely heavy. I already take 600mg every evening, & that was hard to adjust to in the beginning as well. Eventually the drowsiness & despondency became acceptable. Piling onto that during a time that is already sad seems like it could be a bad decision.

I know that I have more options available to me than being in pain or over-medicated. But for the life of me I do not know what those options are.

I have been spending my days in a garden house that my friend built me in my backyard. The walls are windows. It will serve as an official greenhouse after the pandemic, if I don’t decide to make this my full-time abode. It’s quite lovely. I have a garden that needs tending, but is beautiful to look at nonetheless. My tomato plants are over 6 ft tall. I have honeysuckle, jasmine, lavender, rhododendron, salvia & hydrangea. Kale and chard stick their leaves out proudly. The peppers are producing happily. The walls walls onions look promising. It is a good garden.

It is also profoundly lonely, which is somewhat ironic because I am absolutely surrounded by people. There is an apartment building whose second story’s view is my yard. We’ve put up a privacy panel, but still. They’re right there, & their parking lot shares a fence with my yard. The family on my west side has a gaggle of children, all of whom sound under ten. In particular there’s a girl who can’t be more than 5. She has perfected a high pitched scream that makes my skin crawl. I told myself last year that she would surely outgrow the need to spend her days screaming spontaneously. I apparently do not know much about child development.

The same family likes to crank a latin radio station. I enjoy it for the most part, but I would be a damn liar if I pretended it doesn’t get to me after a couple of hours. Don’t get me wrong; mixing traditional music with modern techno leads to some catchy tunes. As it turns out, the tuba lends itself nicely the the drop in dubstep. Accordion compliments the dancehall jams. One song even sampled a rooster’s crow. It was amusing, if nothing else.

To my east, a guy & his father. The son is roughly in my age group. He & my roommate have struck up a friendship. But both he & his father seem to be the type of cis men who do not address women in conversation voluntarily. My old habits creep in as I quietly wait on the sidelines of afternoon chats to have a turn to speak – which is inevitably to offer them vegetables. But I don’t mind. I prefer healthy boundaries, & I’m exceedingly reticent to give any of my neighbors license to engage with me. I don’t enjoy feeling obligated.

It usually makes me feel instantly violated, as well, when the father pops his head over the fence to chat with my roommate, or when he barks back at the dogs. My god, I hate that. I finally got him to stop by enlisting my roommate to talk to the son. I don’t normally care to go the roundabout way to communicate, but I know where I stand in the gender dynamic with them. I knew my roommates’ words would hold more weight. It worked.

I sit in the middle of all of this, with my oasis of a garden, quite lonesome in my fancy she-shack. Loneliness feels all the more profound & painful when you are not alone. Should anyone of them try to solicit conversation though, & my bubble of privacy completely bursts. This is agony for me. The same kid who locked me in the closet as a kid also violated my privacy in the bathroom constantly. His head would pop up in the window as I tried to go pee, & he would laugh his ass off. I think I eventually started blocking his view by pulling the shower curtain closed, but let me tell you – that kid was an utter asshole. I will never, ever forgive how his specter haunts me to this day. I loathe him with everything in me. No amount of therapy will remove that. Don’t think I haven’t tried. My bank account would be a different thing entirely if it did.

I am alone in a crowd, both yearning for company & ready to strike anyone who invades my space with the ferocity of the angriest of adders. To this, I also see no solution. I am having a covid safe friend over soon. I hope to god that it helps. I honestly don’t feel like this is safe for my mental health. To be clear, I am in therapy, I have a safety plan, I am doing all of the anti-suicide vigilant things. But it is a battle. An active, ugly, weepy, snot nosed battle.

When the pain is intense, I lose ground in that battle. But I ride the wave. I look at it as it’s own creature that needs to be birthed. If I need to rest my head on an ice pack and cry, I do that. They say the erase can be cathartic. I can only keep trying.

I feel so irrevocably stuck. But perhaps that’s good, as it seems to be the kick in the ass I needed to start writing again, eh?

Ah, life can be so cruel.

Life in a vice grip

I am having a really hard time.

For the past 2 days the panic attacks have been a constant dull drone stalking the edges of my awareness. My heart pounds, breathe becomes difficult as my chest tightens. I feel like I can’t get fresh air.

It is not fun.

Any moment the air becomes still, the existential dread tightens around me, a python grip that my hard earned dialectical behavior therapy skills do little to lessen. I trained for this. I know what the professionals say will help. Hell, I have enjoyed the benefits of the skills plenty of times myself. But these times are unprecedented.

A local appliance store often puts clever sayings on a pop up sandwich board outside of their store. It has become a highlight of one of the only outings I make anymore; my biweekly trip to Walmart to pick up groceries. My favorite so far has been, “I miss precedented times.” Indeed, little sandwich board. I miss them too.

The fact that I feel a sense of compatriotism with an appliance store sign does little to boost my self esteem. This is a problem. I spend the majority of my time alone. I need to like myself. The prospect of spending months on end with a person I hate is … less than desirable.

I suspect that this is a dilemma that many people are butting their heads against, approximately 6 months in to the COVID outbreak. I have been under fairly strict quarantine since the end of March. The amount of time spent ruminating endlessly has left me relating more to rats in cages than my fellow man.

At first I saw this as a challenge that I could easily conquer. Time at home? Pffft. My car has been more or less out of commission for a year, & one could make a convincing argument that I suffer from a touch of agoraphobia. Staying home is usually my objective. I am a pro at this, I tell you.

I have always been a secret social butterfly, though. Well, semi secret. I have so many wonderful friends that I love. Talented, funny, compassionate people. We, like you & I right now, dear reader, socialize fluidly online all the time. This is 2020. Online socializing is de rigueur.

But I want so desperately now to be encircled by a dozen of them, laughing, hugging, sharing snacks & stories. Touching someone’s shoulder as I lean into a fit of giggles then reach mistakenly for a beverage that isn’t mine. Precedented times that feel so far away as to become unprecedented in this new normal.

I hate it. My misguided confidence has completely withered under a virus, political unrest & wildfires. After quarantine due to Covid seemed to be something I could handle, conversations with loved ones developed their own brand of restrictions as we all had more time to think about politics. This lead to enough heartache as to make such conversations prohibited. My world seemed smaller.

I watched as many friends had the same experience. It’s one of the sardonic joys of these times, watching humanity go through these psychological convulsions as we try to find any comfortable position within this cage. After commiserating for a month or two started sounding like an echo chamber, I think we just stopped talking about it. More & more it feels that these things simply are the way they are. You can only talk about your drunk uncle who suddenly spammed his Facebook wall with racist memes so many times before you’ve cracked all the jokes you can to keep yourself sane. The world is showing its ugly underbelly. With nothing to distract us, eventually silence feels like the only response.

It is what it is. It is to be expected. Now there are fewer who can speak freely with civility. The world is smaller still.

The historic wind & heat event turned a barely tenable situation into a living hellscape. Quarantine fatigue became a tortured panic. Not only can I not see my friends, go into the store, speak my mind, or have any random fun in my life at all, the air itself was literally dangerous to breathe.

I used to be, shall we say, “tormented” by some kids when I was young. There was always a boy who was bigger than me who would muscle me into a position in which I was helpless. I am a portly adult, but I was a tiny child. Because of this I found myself in a number of situations that I could not get out of. I was locked in a closet until I complied with the wishes of the boy who molested me. At other times I was stuck upside down in a sleeping bag. I do not remember who put me there or why I could not get out. I remember trying to control my breath. I remember telling myself that by not reacting I could somehow get myself out of it. I was able to reframe the closet & the sleeping bag into involuntary endurance tests, which is pretty impressive for a kid under the age of ten. There were never any adults around. Not knowing how to get out of these situations, as well as the countless times I was physically restrained, my young mind just made it work. We are miraculously adaptable creatures, we humans.

I imagine this is what lead to my claustrophobia as an adult. I suppose that this shrinking, suffocating, terrifying world I find myself in now is much like that sleeping bag, much like that closet. But my adult mind is not as malleable. The coping mechanisms I have been trained in, the DBT, are not the armor my young mind conjured. It’s as if it got used up.

I do not have a bottomless well of endurance, which truly sucks at the moment. Feeling endlessly boxed in, I cry out for that younger me to teach me how to stop thrashing against this quarantine; how to breathe calmly while the world burns. But she doesn’t know how to solve this problem for me any more than anyone else in the world does right now.

Perhaps I make her my totem. I survived that, so in some small way these feelings are precedented. They are bigger – global – but I can only do what I can do when the world is what it is.

We can agree this is unprecedented, but we can’t agree on who the boogeyman is or which monsters exactly are causing this endurance run of trauma.

So.

The panic attacks have come like wolves. I sit outside & imagine that the air that is now not as dangerous is also cool & clean, even as the sun & moon turn red in the sky.

I CAN breathe.

I AM breathing.

I am alive. I am not in immediate danger. I am what that little girl has become, & I WILL find a way.

This morning one of my dogs woke me up by pawing the coil of the door stop. If you’ve never had the pleasure – of hearing the coil of the doorstop sprung, not being waken by one of my dogs, although both are similar joys – you’re missing a … treat. It’s like starting your day with a Loony Tunes soundtrack. By the time that I am standing in my backyard, watching my chihuahua high-step through the morning frost and clutching my thin robe to still my shivers, I can hear Daffy Duck screeching his manic “OOooOOOh OOOoooOOOh OOOOH!” As he runs circles in my head.

This happened at 7a.m. This morning.

If anyone knows how to turn off the auto-cap in WordPress for an iPad, let me know. It’s annoying.

This morning i decided that the dogs would go back to bed, and that I would start my day with a little bit of quiet writing. I’ll be 44 this month. Time to start waking with the dawn and doing something introspective and creative with the first four hours of my day. I have wanted to be that person for a long time. That person is my grandparents, and my dad. My dad has had the ability to wake before dawn for as long as I can remember, and it’s quite foreign to me. My mother isn’t an early riser, but she isn’t usually more than a couple hours behind my father. I admire how their natural sleeping patterns have assumedly morphed into complimentary patterns. They each get time to sleep alone, and they get the benefits of sleeping with their loved one too. Way to go, mom and dad.

Somehow they spawned my siblings and I, all three of us were born happy to sleep as late as we are able on any given day. It makes me wonder if perhaps my parents are secret nappers. It couldn’t be that they simply need less sleep than their succeeding generation. Then again, my brother has two young children now, and my sister is surely busy with something, so maybe they’re early risers as well, now. Perhaps I, the eldest of the three, am the lone sleep junky of the family these days.

My head hurts. I’ve been having one hell of a time with Cymbalta. I was on a specific brand before I moved. The holidays and moving lead to me refilling my prescription a bit later than I normally would, and starting up with a new pharmacy added another week or so to the process. I loathe breaking in new pharmacies.

 

Random memory

A while back, I had an epic battle in my mind with the president of my neighborhood’s H.O.A. (which actually stands for Herd Of Assholes) – and I mean EPIC. I ripped her a new one so big that you couldn’t tell whether she was wiping her butt or blowing her nose anymore.

Beginnings

I struggle with where to begin my story. Every day.

I ponder for a good couple hours while I have my morning coffee, take my a.m. pills, shower, drive to the doctor’s office, eat dinner, watch Blacklist, play Tetris, take my p.m. pills, read myself to sleep,etc. You name it, I’m wondering where to start. I’m wondering where to start so much that I can’t, and that is how you find yourself with a really stupid case of writer’s block.

You’d think someone with so many places to start wouldn’t have a problem. I’d expect to have some sort of typing diarrhea; not verbal constipation.

Then I start to consider the physical and philosophical properties of time. When one begins to truly delve into the definition of a beginning, a true start to a tale to be told, you get the urge to find out When, and your When can be defined by a number of things. It can be defined by a What. What was most traumatic? That’s not a great place to start if you want to be kind to your reader. I’m not overly enamoured with coddling my audience, but I’d rather not inspire my reader to get up and leave within the first five minutes of my story. And believe me, I have that ability. Don’t let my gently dissheveled and frumpy demeanor trick you into thinking my life is full of mild moments of clarity, no. I’ve got more gross and horrifyingly uncomfortable stories to relate than you, or I, for that matter, could possibly stomach.

Last Thanksgiving I was banned from telling stories at the dinner table while people were eating.

“Pshshshsht. Amateurs,” I thought. Then I looked around me at my family, the people who, during the past 42 years, either heard these stories during a meal enough times to be true authorities on which of my stories are nauseating and which are not, or were witness to and participated in the clean up. I also saw my new-ish sweetheart sitting beside me, who had been doing an absolutely stunning job of charming my parents, making friends with my little sister and actually making my mother laugh.

“Really?” I whined. “But I always tell these stories. You guys think they’re funny.”

The people at the family restaurant seated around us who were enjoying their Thanksgiving dinners probably wondered what table game we had brought with us. Or was it charades?

“Really.” My Mom chuckled. If cleaning up my bodily fluids earned you a merit badge, my Mom would be the equivalent of an Eagle Scout, or whatever the highest rank of Boy Scouts equates to for motherhood. I can’t really argue her on this point. Although, in my defense, she tells the same stories at times. So this really was probably her fault.

“But it IS funny …”

“Heidi.”

I slumped into my booth seat and played with my mashed potatoes. I had already convinced my parents to have Thanksgiving at a truck stop diner (shut up, the food is fine if you’re hard up for a traditional turkey dinner at the last minute in Portland), and despite some deep and understandable initial misgivings, my sweetheart had fully particitpated thus far in the day’s festivities.

“Are you really grossed out by it? I mean, you were THERE.”

“It’s not that we don’t like your stories,” my mom started.

“OH MY GOD. HOW LONG HAVE YOU FELT THIS WAY??”

She and my father shared a glance, and my sweetheart may have interjected that we could just hear the stories later, at home, or maybe much, much later – as in never, or at least after everyone had cleared their plate.

“I don’t mind,” my sister offered, as she continued to eat. She’s 14 years younger than me, which means I was the Built In Babysitter. Her nonchalant attitude was clearly a sign that I raised her right. It also told me that my parents and sweetheart had suddenly acquired sticks up their butts.

“Alright.” I conceded, strictly to show that I COULD in fact be civilized, and was, furthermore, full of the holiday spirit. I was going to spirit the SHIT out of this holiday.

But I was not going to eat the sweet potatoes, because they tasted like dessert, and I don’t want my dinner to taste like dessert. I want my pie to taste like dessert, and getting rid of my sweet potatoes got me that much closer to pie. I gave them to my sister as a reward for taking my side. She was stoked. I ordered pumpkin pie, with a side of mild holiday resentment. Too gross for dinner. Whatever.

Several minutes of somewhat comfortable silence followed. I swear, my family is secretly Lutheran. We do have Scandinavian roots. They really should have acknowledged at that point that I carry the conversation at meal times, and thanked me.

I can’t say that Thanksgiving dinner was ruined, though, because I come from good people. My sweetheart was also solid, we’re still best friends. And I have a super sharp eye for a clean plate.

“OK, everyone done? Let me tell you the story of The Biggest Snot Balloon Ever.”

Hope

I have been wide-frickin-awake since 6:30am. I got a few hours sleep; aside from insomnia, my hips are raging sore from bursitis. Not only could I NOT sleep, I could not find a comfortable position to lay in.

I can’t do it today. Just can’t. I can’t rely on my brain to be … functional. I can’t live in this body comfortably. That’s not to say I want to die. In fact, I think this uncomfortableness may be a driving force keeping me alive.

I long for those mornings when I wake up easily. I open my eyes and there’s a gentle morning light in the air. I have, somehow, reconfigured the pillows in my sleep to the perfect nest around my body, and it feels GLORIOUS. Nothing hurts, no nagging aches, and for half a second I feel like I could bounce through the next week like Tigger.

Today in more Eeyore stuffed with Tigger and Rabbit.Rabbit is such a worry-wart, and crabby.

The pain isn’t always raging, and it isn’t always pain that knocks me down. It’s the endless hours of not being able to find a comfortable position to just BE, and not be thinking about body parts that need rearranging. It’s incessant. There isn’t a moment in which my mind isn’t simultaneously checking in with various body parts to see how they feel. My brain is like a mother of 3 year old octoplets with Tourette’s – exhausted, drained, incoherent, delirious. Frustrated. Angry. Then add some more pain on top of that on a bad day.

Today I did not wake up in my perfect nest of pillows.

But I might tomorrow.

Envy is a Four Letter Word

I was sitting in a coffee shop once, back home. There were two homeless men seated near me, doing what a lot people do at coffee shops on a weekday afternoon – sharing stories. As people often do, they got louder and more adamant as they compared their tales. The sun bounced off of the honey colored wood floor and my hand gripped my unbleached porcelain mug as I tried not to look like I was listening.

They were vagrants on principle. They had chosen this lifestyle. One of them rode trains, and traveled according to the weather. The other caught rides from friends. Sometimes they had to sleep outside, on the floor or in cars instead of on couches or beds. They had to move a lot. They’d been in city after city, state to state; never knowing what would happen next. All understandably uncomfortable predicaments.

Unbeknownst to them, while they were sharing their Jack Kerouac yarns, I was staring at my cup of coffee and my mind was screaming. When they left I was in tears.

Savor your freedom. YOU HAVE A CHOICE. I DON’T. I would do ANYTHING to just have the option of trading places with you.

At 23 or 24, I was ready to enlighten a pair of middle aged men on the value of free agency and the blessing of adventure. This wasn’t about the politics of choosing to be house-free. This was about waking up in the morning and knowing that you can do anything.

At the time, I was working at a cell phone company. After the initial shit storm of my diagnosis cleared a little, that was the first thing I had had to do. I was too old to be on my parent’s policy. I knew jack about insurance policies, and I was ramen-for-dinner-every-night poor. I had no other option.

It was an entry level job. It had nothing to do with my interests. It didn’t matter. My doctors and medications kept me walking, and the job enabled me to see them. I was chained. That’s the way it’s been ever since, for the past 17 years now.

It wasn’t until I had overheard that conversation between the two philosophical vagrants in that coffee shop that I realized how bound I was to my employment. Yes, I had bills, food and rent to pay for like everyone else. But unlike most people in the U.S., being unemployed meant losing the ability to use my body at all. I know this for a fact. It happened.

I cannot explain the terror. It is a visceral feeling, down to my guts. Losing my medical care triggers instincts in me on an animal level. No health care for me means that I will be without meds, and thus , and thus unable to walk, roll over in bed, wipe my own ass, or chew my own food. Then there’s the excruciating pain, and the emotional humiliation.

I had to go off meds for a while during a med swap. My right knee was swollen to the size of a football. It would not bend, and trying to walk on it would have damaged the joint further. The wheelchair that I had was set up for someone with a cast on their leg – the right leg rest sticking straight out.  I spent most of my days in a recliner. My mom would puree my food and spoon feed it to me, or give me a straw to use. I still remember drinking her pureed spaghetti and how grateful I was to taste something other than creamed oatmeal.

When I had to use the bathroom, both of my parents would put me in the wheelchair, and then muscle me onto the toilet. When I was done, one of them would have to come in and wipe me, then get me back in the chair. This would be bad enough in a family that was comfortable with nudity, but we aren’t. Picture the stereotypical conservative Norwegian family a la Garrison Keillor.

At the time I didn’t have the mental capacity to consider things beyond the pain I was in. God bless my parents. Now that I have some distance from it (although there could never really be enough), I feel the deepest gratitude for the patience, love and the respect they showed me. And as a show of mutual respect for them, we do not speak of having to help me go to the bathroom. Ever.

This is why I turn into a rabid badger at the mere hint of unemployment. There are two roads in my life – having insurance, or having someone else wipe my ass. Being the existentially obsessed creature that I am, the very idea of having those two things as my only options in life is horrific.

So life is hard while hopping the rails to ride to Montana this summer? You ungrateful son of a bitch. That sounds like a dream come true to me.

Truly, I would love to be a “traveller” and roam where and when I may. Hopping a train and sleeping under the stars? SIGN ME UP. Only having to worry about food and shelter would be SUCH a relief. If I could sleep through a cold night under a tree and wake up to hike over a mountain the next day, I’d be in heaven.

Instead, I was stuck. My life literally depended on my job, and my job was filing. I can make anything (except having my ass wiped for me) fun, which is a huge blessing. I can also compartmentalize and suppress emotions like a mo’fo. So that is what I did. I took my dreams of actually doing something with my freshly minted Theater degree and carefully stowed them in the deepest, darkest places of my mind. That wasn’t important any more. Survival was important. I had to keep this job, and I had to go to school again to get a useful degree.

I opted for Digital Media, and I went for free at the local Community College. It worked out on two fronts: I gained useful skills and it kept me from stabbing myself in the face from boredom. I needed the intellectual stimulation almost as much as I needed the insurance. And I learned the most valuable skill that I’ve ever made in my life.

I learned to make do.

If that’s the best I could physically and mentally do at the time, I learned to be fucking proud of that. If I wasn’t proud, I was in despair. My new dream was to maintain the status quo, and dig my grip ever deeper into the safety of employment.

People now are sometimes surprised to hear that I have done quite a bit of stage acting. They are intrigued that I’ve directed plays, been a stage manager and run light boards. Given, it was community theater and college, but we put on some damn fine shows. I also have bragging rights to my animation skills, graphic design, basic knowledge of sound and video  and other media related computer skills. Then they kind of get that look. It’s similar to the “You don’t look sick” look, but is slightly more … confused. “Why didn’t you do anything with your education?” it says.

To that look I say, for the same reason I haven’t hooped a train to Montana. Certain ventures in life, like career advancement in particular, involve taking risks, and my health would not afford me that. I did what I could in between arthritis flares and other complications. Unfortunately the times in between were never long or profitable enough for me to quit my job, pay COBRA rates for insurance, move to the city and then work as an intern at a theater or production company until I got a placement in a position with benefits. I did not have the money. I did not have the physical capability.

So I made do, and I was proud of that. But man was I ever envious of those two hobos.

Safe Words

I make up new curses when my pain gets too overwhelming. “Son of a biscuit”, “fuckdoodle”, “shit sticks”, and “bastard son of a fuck” work well. If it’s really, really bad I’ll groan and maybe yell a little, just to get the energy out. Kind of like a berzerker readying himself for battle. You have to wind up your will to fight some how, and the primal groan of pain – in all honesty – helps. I don’t know or care why. I suppose it’s some instinctual neural programming our species has developed for some benefit. Some command to bring forth or stop something.

Like “Red Light, Green Light”. We didn’t play that when I was a kid. The more common game – if that’s what you could call it – was to put someone in a headlock or bend their fingers backward until they cried “Uncle!” We were a more hands-on generation.

But the concept is the same. It takes different forms as we age; from “Red Light” as toddlers and “Mercy!” as adolescents, it morphs into “Unicorn Banana Rainbows” as sexually adventurous adults, and “she signed a DNR” when we are close to death.

This isn’t fun anymore. Make it stop.

In between “Red Light” and the DNR, there are many days that make you wish for either one.

SHIT STICKS!! This is the best I can do. I’ve crossed my finish line for the day, I’ve won my very short race. Don’t ask anything else from me.

Those are the days when just showing up is a victory. It’s not that I need a pat on the back for existing – although I am very partial to high fives. I just need for life to not ask anything more of me until I have the stamina to do it. Sometimes I don’t even need that. I just need patience. Maybe a quiet place to sit or lie down for a moment.

When you’re really really tired for no reason at all, and you’re just trying to make it through the day, it’s like carrying two year old triplets who are having the biggest tantrums of their short lives. You can’t hear anything over the screaming pain. You don’t see much past the beet red faces and wailing mouths. All you can feel is the hot swollen limbs clinging to your body and the wetness of angry, sad tears.

Shhhhhhh! Shhhhhhh! For the love of FUCK, please shhhhhh! ASS LLAMAS.

Not that I would actually say fuck to my actual child. I mean, it slips out from time to time, but I wouldn’t say it TO my child. At least I hope I wouldn’t.

These invisible babies, though? Oh yes. I’m cursing them as I sit at my desk and my hips are grinding in their sockets. I’m screaming right back at them as my elbow swells and starts to feel like a rock. I am focused. I am cussing at these invisible triplets, and I don’t have time or energy to explain it to you.

Can’t you see these invisible triplets screaming at me? What’s WRONG with you? FUCK BANDITS!!

Right. They’re invisible. To you.

But like that desperate mother in the grocery store, I’m probably going to snap at you if you ask the wrong question at the wrong time. I’m too tired and too sore to think about manners or be … informative. It’s going to come out loaded with all of my frustration from the situation, and we’re both going to regret it.

Instead, I think we should be able to cry “Uncle!”, “Red Light!”, “Sparkly NERFERTERS!!”  or “Abracadabra!!” And when we’re in the middle of a conversation, grocery shopping or walking down the street of a busy city, you’ll know that I don’t actually have Tourette’s, but that I am simply at my limit and cannot deal with any further external stimulation.

It will save me the effort, and you won’t have to listen to me whine. Really, it’s a win-win. And it’s probably more socially appropriate than “bastard son of a fuck”, but not nearly as fun.