An Effort to Feel Well as an American

Petrified_Wood

Sometimes, I listen to NPR while I work.

Eight hours of public radio on the daily is sending my political identity through loop-de-loops. I’m more feminist now than I ever have been, which other women have told me happens as you age. It takes some time to figure out just how ingrained the biases in society are. It’s unsavory to think about, and hard to accept.

Being a feminist  doesn’t make me a democrat or a liberal. I used to identify as libertarian, but I don’t know if that is true anymore.

When I hear pieces related to class on the radio, my political feels really go haywire. Journalists go on adventures into marginalized, minority neighborhoods, and do interviews with the people who live there, especially those who are trying to make changes for the better. They talk to lower class white people in rural Ohio, and ask them who they are voting for and why. And they do this with seeming heartfelt concern, passion. But, sometimes, I sense some condescension.

The people who speak on these radio shows are well educated. I don’t know for a fact that none of them have had a poor upbringing, but I get the feeling as I am listening to these programs, while they are talking about the insignificant, low class, low income, low education factory worker (ahem: ME), they are, in their own heads, speaking of an “other”. Maybe the people of color who live in those neighborhoods feel this way too, maybe they feel like, “Oh look, that’s nice, some white guy has shown up to do an interview to make himself look like a caring person, then he packs it up and goes home. That’s cute.”

I’m not saying that these journalists do not truly care about the plight of the poor. I just wish that we could speak for ourselves; that we would not be not so helpless. The community needs to stand up and speak for itself, because there are without a doubt people smart enough, in any underprivileged community, to be able to communicate with the world at large what is going on there. The journalist just visiting the underprivileged neighborhood is really just slumming. They may care, but who they care about inside of their own heads is not an “us,” it’s a “them.”

Why aren’t there more articulate lower class people speaking out for themselves? To be a journalist, you have to be educated. Being educated means more than getting student loans or grants or scholarships. It means being supported, to be a student you need community. Illness, children, and even sabotaging family members can get in the way of a person struggling to attend school. If your family members have never been to college, they cannot help you to navigate the system of financial aid, to understand what will cause you to lose that aid, or what may be pitfalls of unnecessary debt. If a poor person manages to earn a bachelor’s degree, it is worth less, and does not mean that a network is in place to assure that an individual will reach their highest potential.

You need credentials to speak, with authority, not as a guest, on the radio. I think that too many members of society walk around thinking that you need credentials just to justify your existence. What does it even mean to reach your highest potential? I don’t know a single person who would prefer living on welfare to working. Is it too much to treat members of society, who work in jobs that don’t require education, with respect?

Last week I heard some economic blowhard journalist talking, in a very snarky tone, how manufacturing jobs “are never coming back.” Oh really? Apparently this guy is a psychic. I understand why so many of our goods- and even services- are being rendered over seas: Americans want to be paid a decent wage and don’t want to be worked like a slave. It’s wonderful that our history has included a few high points, and labor laws are one of the things I think we, as Americans, can be proud of. Americans need to push it to the next level. Our society should demand that we have goods produced locally if reasonable, because it does not make sense that crap made thousands of miles away costs less than if the same crap were made down the street. I’m not talking about things that are purchased for the sake of craftsmanship, that’s different, (and should be addressed too, but that’s a separate issue) but the main concern is the bulk of the goods bought and sold in our economy. If you can have a factory continents away, employ workers and buy materials there, and somehow still save money shipping the final product all the way over here, then more than just a few people in this supply chain are getting the shaft. And those people are the workers who are used and abused in countries that don’t bother to have labor laws, as well as the Americans who don’t have it in them to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a bartender, and would just like a decent job, with decent hours, and decent pay.

Donald Trump may say that he has every intention of making that happen for us, but I don’t trust him not to get our country blown to smithereens. Hillary Clinton has some nice blurbs on her website about increasing the number of factory jobs with some kind of program… but I highly doubt that if she gets elected that she will ever actually address the issue while in office.

It’s not really up to Trump or Clinton to make these things happen for us. It’s not up to the snotty journalists on NPR. Do you know who listens to news journalists? Rich people. They even brag about how affluent their audience is! Society acts like there is some kind of sin associated with being “blue collar.” Happiness doesn’t just magically happen for rich people, or for educated people. Those folks are not “better” or dare I say it, worth more, than someone poor and uneducated! Being a good and decent person matters more- far more- than being book smart or wealthy.

 

 

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A Poem, Life on the Fritz

I came across this poem while looking through my writing. I was living in a hotel room, with my sister, just after a stay in the hospital.

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Sitting in the bathtub. Hotel bathtub motivation. Hotel bathtub meditation. Living day to day, hand to mouth, the old
cliche.

Trying for the right thing. Telling myself it’s going to be alright, no matter the outcome. Any job will do. Spending more
because we have less. Settling for less because we want more. Connecting the dots from then to now, and desperately
wanting it to make sense.

God please let us get this apartment. God please show me the way. Does it make me weak, that I don’t like making certain
decisions for myself? Being self possessed usually gets me into trouble. My choices often don’t work out the way I intend.
I learn from the mistakes, but if mistakes are my teacher, and they are bound to happen, does it really matter which
direction I let the river take me in? Paddling against it is tiring, and it stresses me out. I don’t want to drown.
Is it too much to ask, just to want to stay floating?

Certain things will not do. Certain people must stay. While we choose who to commit to, others are lost in the choice.

Wanted: Worship and Community

church_doorThis morning I went to church, making it two Sundays in a row for me. I picked a church that claimed to be welcoming, from what I could gather on the website, and that looked to be aware in doctrine. I did research. They have music groups, a book club, and are supposedly an:

“open-minded, outreach-oriented church”

according to the website. I’ve been to many churches as a “guest” many times over my life. I wasn’t afraid the first time I went, in fact, I was excited. I was a member of a church called University Bible Fellowship in my younger days, my memories of that and my other church going experiences are largely positive. I avoid churches where I know I won’t fit in, or which are the sort where you need to be born into to feel welcome.

Well, people look at me at this church like I’m an alien. The little old ladies are nice to me, but I think it’s because they feel obligated to. I’m old enough to know the difference between a genuine and a forced smile. These people are not interested in me. They called me “brave” for coming to the church by myself. Sometimes, depending on the context and tone, the use of the word “brave” is interchangeable with the word “stupid.” Is it so odd or suspicious to be looking for community? Suspicious is the best way I can describe the general attitude toward me. I really wish I had someone to go with, but should I really have to be accompanied by another to be welcomed into a congregation? I thought that Christianity welcomed and loved all of us?

I’m hesitant to keep going to this church. Part of me thinks that it will just take a little time for the people to warm up to me. Honestly though, I didn’t see very many people I could relate to there. Also, my job seemed to be a turn off. On a side note, I looked up some groups to join yesterday, and there is an awesome feminist group I would like to be a member of, but it turns out you need a degree to be considered for membership.

Is this going to be my normal, suburban life? Being judged for not having enough friends or education?  I stink of strangeness. Where am I going to find my new community?

 

The other side of the coin

Lombard Maple Street 001Looking back on my blog posts from over the past few months, I realize that I have gone through a rather rocky period. I mean, I knew this already of course, I lived it- but reading my whining, which was recorded when the wounds were fresh, colors in the strength of the emotions at the time.

I feel really good about my life at the moment, especially having reflected on my “priorities” post. I now have a home! Well, an apartment. It is the apartment that I have been dreaming of. It is spacious, clean, and (largely) free of vermin. I have room for all of my things, in fact, I can find myself some more things if I so desire. (Namely a desk. A desk of my own will be had.) It is in a lovely suburb, that is safe, but not devoid of history and culture, and not so expensive, or snotty, that I don’t fit in. There are cute places to eat nearby, as well as convenient stores, and other little places to shop. And, also somehow I have managed to find an apartment on a patch of woods, near the edge of a forest preserve and nearby not one, but two major bike paths. I have a lovely view of a little thicket outside my patio, and every day I watch various birds and furry creatures coexist. I am really very over the moon with the whole situation. I feel profoundly blessed, and I thank my lucky stars morning and night.

So, check one, home. Check two, family! I have my sister here with me. Having some family close by (that I actually get along with) has completely changed my life for the better. We are good for each other, and the relationship is functional… it’s a very heartening development.

So, home and family are check, as well as work. I started a new job, which I was resistant to, because of the normalcy of it. Working first shift for a low wage sounded like hell to me. After my options quickly narrowed, I had no choice but to accept an offer at an assembly facility where I had an in. My therapist had advised me to take a job where I would rise and rest with the sun, but I really had no intention on following through with that guidance. It turns out that I love working there, and while the pay may be shameful, I have full benefits, 401 K, vacation time, paid holidays off, 40 minute lunches, and really wonderful coworkers. It’s almost too good to be true. It’s not glamorous, but I am happy, and I have stability, as well as time to myself.

Even with all of this good news and happiness, and my mind still finds things to worry about.  My health was a big concern for awhile, but now that I’ve gone to the doctor, I feel much better about that. I found that I have gained a bunch of weight. I have a kitchen that I can easily utilize, for the first time in almost two years. I am so enthusiastic about it; I will never take it for granted again. I spend most of my time at home in the kitchen. The rest of the time, I am usually outside trying to walk off all of the delicious food. I am trying hard to appreciate all of the little luxuries I took for granted with my foray into the life of a vagabond.  I have lost most of my possessions in the many hurried, and disorganized, moves I have made over the past couple of years. I am heavier than I have been in my entire life, but when I look in the mirror, I see someone who eats well, who exercises their body, and who has clear, well cared for skin and hair. It seems like a stupid thing to mention in a blog, but I grew up never learning to care for myself. The one thing I have managed to hang on to during my many recent moves is a collection of toiletries, and it is really helping me right now. While mid 30’s is late to learn self care, I am glad that I am finally taking the time to love my physical body instead of abusing it.

Another worry would be the people I left behind in yet another lifestyle shift. This would be the third time that I have up an disappeared from my old circle, and I have a feeling that this time they are not going to be looking for me to come back. I catch myself looking back and feeling a yearning, or feeling some regret, but I have to remember that doing what is healthy for me is important. I am not responsible for the emotional health and well being of other people, and my absence should create no major catastrophe for them. I do feel sad that some people may miss me or wish that I was around. It’s so hard for me to cut ties, even though logically I understand that the choices I am making now are more healthy. I am learning to think through my emotions, I have to remind myself to not just follow my feelings blindly down a spiral until I end up doing something I will later regret.

Part of the allure that my old lifestyle held was the fact that we held ourselves to a standard outside of the societal norm. We were cool, hip, artists and freaks that didn’t need to pay bills on time or worry about things like health insurance, or retirement. Placing myself into the main stream has caused some ugly comparisons, ones that I haven’t thought of for a long time. I run into disrespect and judgement from people almost everyday, which is nothing new, however now I find myself feeling tempted to care. I have my little base to build on, but now I need to find a new group of friends.

Priorities

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“Priorities.”

“You’ve got to have priorities.”

“Get your priorities in order.”

That’s something everyone has heard (or maybe even said) before, right?

Well, have I learned a mighty valuable lesson about priorities.

Until recent, I was operating my life something like below:

  1. School (if possible)
  2. Work
  3. Libations
  4. Friends
  5. Family
  6. Home (Got rather good at couch surfing, I am ashamed to admit.)

Well, schooling, working, and therapy in the form of booze landed me in the loony bin. I wish I was kidding, but I am so very not. After a suicidal bender, I turned myself if. They diagnosed me as bipolar, and for the first time in my life, I am on “meds” for something that isn’t just going to clear up.

On the upside of the whole ordeal, I am starting to see my life more clearly. While school is still important to me, I see that some of my crazy comes from instabilities in my home and family life. The rowdy bunch of workmates that I have been using as a family crutch are a poor excuse for such, and now I can see that these people all have families of their own to lean on, I was the only one who did not. Right before I hospitalized myself, I received a call from my younger sister. She wanted to know if she could come and stay with me.

This is great. My sister and I get along like peas and carrots. I started to make arrangements for her to come and stay with me; for us to share a studio apartment. Some how my (somewhat estranged) mom catches wind of this plan and decides to ask if she can come and stay with me too.

Well, to be honest, I think my kid sister said something to her about it. Her and mom have a couple of little dogs, and I told her that we have to let mom keep the dogs… so to be I would gamble that she was just a *tiny* bit motivated by that… but I also know that she cares about our mom and was hesitant to leave her living four states away, with no family around to speak of… which is why I said let’s let mom keep the dogs… but at any rate…

At first I tell her no, like the cold, hardened, beaten up daughter that has learned this lesson one too many times already. And then something in my heart warmed a little. “It’s you’re mother for Pete’s sake,” the voice said,”what’s wrong with you? Are you heartless!?”

The little voice was pestering. And then there is the fact that several of my friends have lost their mom recently, so in comes another little voice,

“What if she dies!?”

Tick, tick, tick.

Long story short, a couple of weeks later, I’m on a Greyhound bus due south, on the way to retrieve my mother, whom I haven’t laid eyes on for over two years. I get there, we pack up, we go.

We arrive back up north, and I’ve gone out of my way to accommodate her. I know she gets… “unnerved” easily, so I rent a room at the cleanest, cheapest, extended stay that I can find. That said, it’s expensive by my standards, and I’m strapped and stressed. However, it’s nestled among lots of factories and businesses that are “now hiring” so I feel I have made a good choice. The plan was for her to start working and pitching in with short order. A couple of days in, things are going well, and she seems like she is feeling neglected. She mentions this margarita place across the way. I take us out for margaritas and dinner. Now, my mother and I are both alcoholics. This was a bad idea in hindsight. But in my defense, I really did not understand the extent of the problem.

We have a rollicking night and sleep it off the next day. The day after, I go to class, and I meet with my sweetheart after class. I let mom know I don’t plan on coming home, and I tell her that my boyfriend wants to have lunch with her the next day, as they have really not officially met. She seems fine.

The next day I ask her if she is still up for lunch, and she is not. I decide to go home and check on her before going to work. The scene was not good. I told her, please, get it together and dry out.

I come home from work, and the scene went from not good to scary. I sent her to the hospital. She dries out there, comes home, and suddenly I am the bad guy. Long story short, we get into a fight, and two days later, she leaves while I at work, because she would rather go back down south than into a recovery program.

One thing I have to say, for sure, is thank goodness for my therapist, because he has assured me that I am one, not crazy for wanting to help her, and two, not to blame for the outcome of the situation. I took her departure hard, I spiraled into a deep, nasty depression, but I’m okay now. I have learned much over these past few months, and I really can’t afford to be too upset over the whole thing.

So, here are my priorities, revised:

  1. Home (Guess what? If you don’t have a place to hang your hat, you aren’t going to get shit done. You need a base of operations.)
  2. Family (Everyone needs someone to lean on, and also, you must be choosy as to which family you share your home with.)
  3. Work (Paying bills, very important.)
  4. Friends (Social lives keep us happy and sane.)
  5. School (Surprise! It’s hard to take classes unless the rest of your life is in order.)
  6. Libations (Not really a priority, but I like to acknowledge the shift on my list.)

So, onto finding myself a home.

 

Closure

I saw you today, for what is turning out to be the last time. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I have no reason to ever want to see you again.

You suggested that you pop into my work sometime and surprise me. I was repulsed by the idea, and your feelings were hurt that I wouldn’t welcome a visit.

That ship, my friend, has sailed.

I begged too often and too long for you to come and see me at work. I suggested, too many times, outings with friends. It’s over.

It’s they, my friends and coworkers, that have had to scrape me up, every time, and flabber-ghastingly again and again, once more again, from another round of love with you. It’s likely that if they had to do it again, they would disown me. They are my rock, not you, and they do not like you. They do not approve. I do not blame them.

Why am I wasting time on someone who can’t get it together enough to put in the effort when it matters? You wait until our relationship with each other is string-like, two people talking on soup cans connected with some twine, and you decide to wait until then to say, “you matter to me?”

I saw you out of pity and it was wrong. I gave into my own sick curiosity and that was wrong. You said that the house was sad over the holidays, no one put up a tree or had a nice meal. Maybe you were trying to save my feelings, help me not feel left out… however unlikely that is. I secretly hope the truth is that everyone was sad, that everyone missed me and that they felt too sad to celebrate.

You tried to get me to explain, again, why I can’t be with you. The fact that you still don’t get it, or care enough to remember the reasons I would leave, make me blind with rage. You simply were trying to manipulate me into a loop of exhaustive talk where I would give up, and forget about how you treat me when you get too comfortable, and throw my little hands in the air and say, “why, I just don’t remember why I was mad at you,” and throw my self at you and shower you with kisses, love, affection.

Not this time. I officially am dead inside when it comes to you. I am turned off by the idea of being with you.

And while it may have been stupid to agree to see you again, I believe it is exactly what I needed. Thank you.

 

 

Reflecting on Relationships

The last time I visited my blog, I was doing so well in some senses, and not as well in other, more difficult to talk about, senses.

Friends and family are a necessity. “No man is an island,” is an old Japanese saying… I think. We need people around us to reflect off of, and to share in our experience. The people around us are, I think, a combination of what life gives us and who we choose to hang onto.

Sometimes, it can seem like people, who we either happen to be around or choose to be around, cause us problems in life. They can be bad influences. They can cost us money. They talk us into doing things we otherwise wouldn’t. They can hurt us. They can say or do things that make us feel low.

Within every ugly action, I believe, is an earnest, well meant, motivation. I find it hard to pass judgement on these imperfect people; who others claim are bad influences, or are hurtful in some kind of way. It’s not that I won’t say anything to the supposed offenders. I do. I call my loved ones out on things. When my other friends and family get bits and pieces of information, they sometimes draw conclusions. Why do you hang around with him? I think she’s really a bad influence on you. All of those people are crazy.

I recently dated someone who, by what could be seen on the surface, helped me turn my life around. He really held a mirror up to me concerning my alcoholism. Because of him, I have a much firmer handle on this issue and the effect it has on my life. This man encouraged goodness in me, and self control. I saved money, sobered up, and felt better than I had in years.

Unfortunately, said gentleman also had a mighty temper. He was very moody, and prone to snapping at me when he was very tired, which was most of the time. He had a sharp, sarcastic sense of humor which reduced me to tears, probably almost every day. If we both were drinking, we could get into fights that would border on physical violence. To his credit, he stopped drinking around me altogether and encouraged me to be very temperate.

There are other things I could say about him, but I won’t because they are just part of being human, and I have all of my human flaws too. Truthfully, we were on many levels a very bad match.

On the level that worked, the reasons and the feelings and emotions that DID work, felt so amazing. If I could really express how wonderful those parts were, I think anyone would excuse me for trying. The sex was unbelievable. There were times when he held me, and I had never felt so good or safe or warm or contented and happy in my entire life.

I still miss that part of being with him. It’s an awful feeling; the idea that one very abrasive hard to get along with person is capable of giving me all of the intimacy I have ever wanted, however I am not capable of waking up every morning to walking on egg shells and not knowing what I might get into trouble for that day. I cannot possibly be the only person who has gone through this. It would certainly explain why people in relationships with others who abuse them stay in them, much to the dismay of their friends and family.

So, that is how I ended up with a giant fissure in my contact roster. The friends that my man saw as negative influences in my life did not appreciate being called such. He didn’t mind if I saw them, it was if I went out and drank with them that bothered him. Which I only did once. I stayed out later than I said I would. That was of course my fault. The problem is, he made such an asshole out of himself over it, that he permanently earned himself a place on the “bad boyfriends” list. While it is not good for an alcoholic to go drinking, he acted as though I were spread eagle on the bar, offering myself up to any takers while giving hand jobs with both hands.

After this we split, and then gave it yet another try. This time, I willingly isolated myself, feeling as though I were becoming too committed to a job that was leading me no where. I also was drinking way too much. I was caught in a spiral of emotion driven drinking. Things were tough at work and I would try and drown my cares in vodka at the end of the night. I drunkenly quit my job and ran away.

I ran to this man, and the family he has. They took me in and loved me, and I did my best to love them. A couple of times it seemed like my drinking was an issue, but as the house was full of alcoholics, pill poppers, and pot heads, any criticisms seemed rather hypocritical. Besides, I had straightened up more than I ever had before. For awhile, our relationship was great, but as time wore on, he began isolating me. I would say that I missed my friends, but I hardly ever got to see them. We never went out with anyone. The people there liked me, but he felt uncomfortable with me getting too close to anyone, and the dynamic between myself and them became really strained. At the end, after he made it clear that it was his family and they were there to support HIM and not me, and that he was to control who I was close to and when I would see them, I staged a rather dramatic escape. Even though they all sympathized with me, they had to take his side, and I came out with no friends or family to speak of. I am lucky that I have a few die hard people on my side, because of their help, I am able to start my life, yet again.

I don’t ever want to get married. I just want to buy a condo, get a dog, and have a decent job, decent enough I can send my family money when they need it, and have enough to take a vacation once in awhile.

Through everything, I can say that I am still enrolled in classes, which the end goal of that effort is the whole “decent job” thing. I made all A’s last semester. Thank you, God, for that. I have been dying to go back to school for ages, and it’s so wonderful that is now happening for me.

So, on that, I will focus myself. The dream of a job that makes me a viable member of society. Maybe after that, everything else will fall in accordingly.