Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sunrise, Sunset

I think I'm gonna start processing the paperwork for mom to go to the dementia facility. She's more confused every day, and the amount of work required to care for her is getting to be too much for me. I thought that I would have some assistance by now, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. She's just uncooperative. She won't let anyone else help her.

I need to go back to work. The financial burden is too great for me to even wrap my head around it right now. It'll take me at least a year to dig myself out of the hole I created living without income for so long. And all the bills... It's overwhelming. 

The house will go to the bank, so I'll need a cheap place to live, if it exists.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


I'm working part time now. I run a both at the farmers market for a local bakery on Sundays. I drive Uber and Lyft at least a few hours on mom's dialysis days and around six hours on other days. The arrangement allows me to be home to prepare breakfast and dinner every day. With the dementia, mom isn't capable of using the stove safely. I've seen her set dish towels and pot holders on fire trying to make hot cereal, so I set everything up so she only needs to microwave her lunch or put sandwich bread in the toaster. 

In facing two big challenges right now. The first is paying bills, of course. I'm trying my best to piece together enough income to cover a fairly minimal existence. Most of my earnings go to food, gas and tolls. A Mercedes isn't the ideal rideshare vehicle. I have my first student loan payment next month, I'm 800 miles from the next scheduled maintenance on my vehicle and I gotta make tax payment arrangements in October. 

If mom would just do the few things that are required of her, I could find a way to make this work. However, she is not only trying to bend the rules at home. She has been intimidating the dialysis attendant to disconnect her from the machine before her treatment is completed. She doesn't think that I know what I'm talking about when I tell her that there are serious consequences to this behavior. I need to prepare myself for the doctors to step in and place an order for her to be institutionalized. I'm starting to accept that it is unavoidable. She is the kind of person who cannot be trusted to make her own decisions. That probably should've been obvious by now.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

When worlds collide

A friend that I'd been missing recently got back in touch. She revealed to me that she's a medium. She knew all her life that something was different about the way she perceived the world, but it wasn't until a recent traumatic event that she understood just how different she was. I asked some questions. I never really doubted for a moment that she had good reason to believe what she said, but I was still holding on to some skepticism. Then she started saying things that I wrote here, and I am almost certain that she never read them. She talked about my family members, whom she never met, like she knew them. She repeated word for word things the clairvoyant in Phoenix said when I wandered into the oddities shop near my apartment. It was surreal, like a dream.

I found it really interesting when she described the way she receives extrasensory perceptions. I was completely on board until she began acting out of character. It frightened me at first, then I felt curiosity, then I was concerned for her wellbeing and safety.

Between that conversation (which ended mysteriously and abruptly) and its continuation the following day, the strength of our friendship grew in leaps and bounds. 

I have met a few people in my life who are different or special in ways that carry a stigma in our society. I tend to befriend them because I admire the courage it takes to explore and live their alternative lifestyles, but it also scares me. As the child of a Baptist and a Catholic, I was raised to see these alternatives as evil and dark. Now that I have seen so much darkness and evil within organized religion, I am more open-minded. It's each individual's choice to be evil or good, regardless of what kind of spirituality they practice (or lack thereof).

With this particular friend, I believe that she has a gift. But a gift can also be a burden. I feel like I need to step up and make myself more available to her just in case she needs someone she trusts to hold space for her, with her. Examining this feeling brings back memories of other friends that I believe may have needed something similar from me when I wasn't yet capable of giving it. I'm wondering if some of those old connections still exist and if I can nurture them now that I better understand how.

Above all, I'm beginning to think that I've been pursuing the wrong things. I wanted a piece of paper with my name on it to show people. I wanted nice stuff. Now, I just want to know more and to be awed by how much is out there (and in here). I want to feel more. I want to ask more questions that lead to more questions. I want to taste the freedom that comes with having no idea where a path is leading, but being absolutely certain that I need to follow it.

I was so sure that there was no "other" for me. I had given up hope that anything wondrous would happen in my life. I guess I should reconsider.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Between you and your God

Mom often comes and sits in my bedroom. I think she just wants company, so I don't drive her away (except that one time she wouldn't stop talking shit about the rest of the family). I don't engage her because I know that only leads to her baiting me into an argument. I sometimes hush her when she tries to talk over the TV. She has attempted countless times to have a conversation. I don't care. We are not friends. I am her caregiver out of kindness and my own feelings of obligation. I feel bad for her because she has no one else, but I also am aware that she has driven everyone else away. I know that she always blames the other person when they abandon her. Maybe that's why I feel such obligation, but that's irrelevant. This isn't about me. She needs help. I give help. She needs companionship. She doesn't do what is necessary to have it. I cannot control that. I cannot control her. I do often try to explain another person's perspective in hopes that she'll allow me to mediate, but it's just a waste of time. 

The other day, while I prepared breakfast, she made her usual comments about the morning news. She said she wished that someone would shoot Trump. In the next breath, she said she prays that I will hit the lottery. I wanted to tell her to stop - stop praying for me with the stink of murderous thoughts on you. I'm not sure how she can believe that God would (if he was in the business of granting wishes like a genie) grant both a wish to end another person's life and a wish for financial gain. I wanted to repeat what she said back to her so she could hear how crazy she sounds, but I've done that before without the desired effect so I did not bother. I just remained silent. She continued with her running commentary on everyone else's life, and I just let her. It would be disrespectful for me to say what I am thinking, and it would only incense her. What's the point?

When she's being nice, I automatically reinforce my defenses. She has an agenda for everything she does. If she is trying to make me relax, it's because she is planning an attack. I am not fooled by these tactics anymore. Forty-two years have finally taught me everything I need to know about her. She feels malice towards any object of her affection. She is angered by love. Expressions of love are taken as signs of weaknesses to be exploited. She is so different from me. I don't know how I grew up to be kind and compassionate under the rule of someone so manipulative. Then again, I always looked elsewhere for guidance. With her there is only criticism and cruelty. I tried so hard to hide everything that I am from her. Now she depends on the qualities she fought so ferociously to diminish in me. I'm certain that the same God she prays to finds that irony amusing as much as I am certain that she doesn't even see it.

Is this living?

I finished Notes From the Underground, and it got me thinking, particularly at the end. It doesn't take much these days. Many things I encounter regularly have revealed life lessons, even cartoon reruns I've watched dozens of times.

I once comforted myself with a belief common in Buddhist teachings, considering each trivial task as a labor of love. The tasks themselves weren't important. I focused on my frame of mind. That hasn't been working very well lately. In fact, the very thought itself has been met with an army of opposing thoughts in my own mind. I once fought against the bitterness, assuming that it would make me hard and callous if I allowed myself to feel it. These days I often succumb to it completely, but the outcome is not as I expected. I am not inflexible or unsympathetic. Although I am not as talkative and it seems like I appear outwardly less approachable (judging by the way others treat me), I feel more. I hear more. I understand better. Something inside me is opening. I am quicker to shut people and things out, exterior influences that I believe are toxic, but everything else is allowed to wash over me. I submerge myself in listening, watching, paying attention, and I allow ideas to echo inside my mind to see if and how they take hold.

At the end of the book, the narrator talked about the assumptions we make about how to live our lives. He talked about the excuses we make up to validate the fears that hold us back from truly living and fully experiencing life. This spoke to me. I am filled with fear. The things that I feared most have already happened, and yet I am still controlled by fear. I thought that losing my job, my path to the goals I'd set for myself, my tentative foothold in the capitalist economy and the illusion of financial security would ruin me so absolutely that I would cease to exist, but here I am. Some days I feel like a great weight presses down on me from the removal of those crutches, but other days it feels like the weight was actually lifted when those things were lost. Illusions, every one of them. Certainly one is liberated by the removal of Illusions, right? Then there is this other, this nameless burden, this weighted tether holding me and causing me illogical despair. I said before that it is empathy, but it is so much more than that. I walk among them now, an ocean of mindless apes slowly marching to the grave. All of my life I believed in magic, luck, spirits, divine intervention disguised as coincidence. I took crazy risks because I believed that I had an invisible safety net. Now I only fantasize about it, accepting that it is nothing more than an imaginary friend I created to distract myself from the truth. Now I ask myself, which is living? Was I living when I believed in the the magical and wondrous or am I living now?

I'm not depressed anymore. I am grateful for it. I am grateful for many things. At the same time, I have no hopes, just wishes. No plans or goals, only dreams. So what am I afraid of?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Passing Ships

The years I spent hanging out at the boy club are a blur. When women became less rare there, couples often came looking for a third. That was annoying. I danced with anyone, so I met a lot of couples. Once I met an escort. He was handsome, charismatic and a very good dancer. I thought he was gay. My closest friend thought the same, and he pursued the guy with enthusiasm. 

One night during a trip to the "car bar" (I started keeping a cooler in the trunk for those hours between last and first call), handsome escort guy asked me to tell my friend to leave him alone. I was surprised. I was even more surprised a few weeks later in the car bar when he asked me to run away with him and start a new life somewhere else. I declined. 

I avoided the club the following weekend, and he called me at home. In front of my boyfriend, while we were lying in bed, I tried to be both kind and unyielding. The few seconds separating the end of that call and the beginning of the argument that followed were pregnant with insecurities that the boyfriend and I were trying desperately to keep from coming between us. It was the beginning of the end for that relationship. Fast forward through a handful of embarrassing drunken impromptu appearances in front of my friends, family and coworkers and I found myself single again. 

I've thought many times since then that perhaps I should have gone with the handsome escort, but I did not love him. It would have been wrong to encourage him to believe otherwise.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Masquerade Ball

I cannot sufficiently express in words how it feels. As a child, I watched a lot of television. I saw myself in characters that bore little or no physical resemblance to myself or anyone in my family. I related to them strictly based on their personalities and how they reacted to life's adventures. I was a big fan of adult-themed sitcoms. For some odd reason, M.A.S.H. was my favorite. Hawkeye was my favorite character on the show because, although he had normal emotions, he didn't let the things that happened to or around him diminish his ability to find humor and amusement. There was always conflict, stress and danger, but the characters on that show still managed to work together as a team. I had other shows I enjoyed like Star Trek, Married with Children, Roseanne, Laverne and Shirley, Night Court and so many more. I never got into the black shoes : Cosby, A Different World, 227, etc. because I didn't know people like them growing up. My family is a mix of two races, and my Filipino mother didn't approve of me spending time with my black friends' families. When I was with my father, I was frequently surrounded by old military vets. Even now, I prefer the company of military vets to civilians.

This concept of belonging to a team appealed to me and still does. A team is certainly stronger than one individual, and the combination of weaknesses and strengths gives the team an adaptability one person could never attain alone. I had this idea in my mind as I matured that I would find my team, and on a few occasions I believed that I had. I never belonged to a team that consisted of a single nationality. I hadn't even considered it. 

As I get older and see more of the world, I find my race to be a bigger restriction than I could have ever imagined. I am judged before I've had a chance to open my mouth by people who have never met me before, and it's difficult to understand how one could possibly justify their prejudice. Many of those who took the time to get to know me well enough to mention it admit that they've never really known any black people before me. I don't mind them saying that. I know that I am part of a minority. I also know that black people are often portrayed negatively in the media. I don't blame people who haven't had the opportunity to discover otherwise for believing what they see. I do, however, blame those who accept what they're fed by the media as unquestionable truth. There cannot possibly be just one type of person in any nationality. People are complex. We are not all clones of one master copy. It is unfair for someone to be judged by the physical characteristics given to them at conception. Then, to assume that every person of a certain race shares the same mind is just plain stupid. 

I personally feel most comfortable surrounded by a diverse group. I have a fair understanding of most of my friends' cultures, and I enjoy the way they mesh to make life rich and interesting. I tend to keep the ones who share certain personality characteristics. They do not have any desire to cause a scene. They will not yell and fight in the middle of the street. They don't take things personally. They won't put their intimate business on display. If they have a dispute, they'll handle it semi-privately or just let it lie until it's no longer an issue. They don't lower themselves to petty scrapes, but they simply work harder to rise above them. They believe that there is no better revenge than to overcome an obstacle placed before you by a disliked rival. They are a well-balanced combination of intelligence, curiosity, empathy, logic and perseverance. We talk about everything from philosophy to toilet humor. No topic is sacred. Yeah, that last bit is usually the limiting factor. I've missed opportunities to be closer to people who were brilliant because they were too refined for crass conversation. Oh well. I don't want friendship with censorship.

I have tried to come to terms with prejudice and find a way to tolerate it, but I cannot. It's maddening. Bigots won't listen to reason, and we can't keep them from procreating. My anger is wasted on them, I know. So what am I to do instead?