Monday, January 9, 2017

Me Time

I felt like I needed a break from the Song of Fire and Ice series, so I browsed the psychology section and happened upon Shahida Arabi's Becoming the Narcissist's Nightmare, an eye-opening collection of personal stories, scientific research and detailed descriptions of a type of toxic personality. The book jumped out at me because of my mom. I knew early in life that she was cruel. I just didn't know the degree of her cruelty. I don't think I really understood its depth until very recently. I had no idea that it was even possible to be the kind of person described in the book. I mean, I knew that narcissists were completely self-centered, but I didn't know that they could also have a complete lack of empathy. How could someone, who isn't a sociopath, completely lack empathy? How can a human being understand empathy well enough to imitate it without actually feeling anything? That is what confuses me. I can't. I can't manipulate people without having some kind of remorse - I even think back to interactions in the past and wonder if I said or did something hurtful that could've been avoided. You mean to tell me that every time my mom made me feel bad for something, it was a calculated strategy to provoke the desired response? I yelled at the recording a few times. Shock. Disbelief. Then, I got really quiet as I listened to hauntingly exact descriptions of manipulations my mom used on me my whole life. Now, I'm not even angry. I spent 40 years wasting such draining levels of emotional anguish and frustration on someone who never had any interest in me beyond what I could do for her. I threw away so much to be here right now, my entire life. I just didn't know. I feel used, but I know that she doesn't see herself as an exploiter. She thinks that she's just making her way in the world as best she can, just like anyone else. I believe that she even thinks that other people are the same as her! That's sad. I can't change her mind. I can't change her at all. Forty years is more than enough time to dedicate to that. Everything I do from here is only for me. I can do some of this to make me feel better, but I feel like I have done enough to move on with a clear conscience. There is a lot left to do in the transition to getting mom into a senior care facility, but at least I no longer need to feel like I am abandoning her. I understand that my life and happiness never held any value to her. She would leave me in financial, emotional and psychological ruin with no remorse. She would even criticize me for being too weak to endure it. This is my parent. This is the woman who raised me. I don't know how I managed to live through that. I must have someone watching over me.

As I listened to more of the book, (I spend a lot of time in the car, so I often buy audio books to entertain me when I'm not with a passenger) another person popped up as a strong toxic force in my life - my boss. Sure, I only work one day a week at his business, but, after realizing that this toxicity may be the reason why I can't stand to be around him and feel uneasy just thinking about him, that one day seems even heavier a burden. It's no secret that I have been ready to give up that one day a week for quite some time. In fact, I've told him and everyone else working there that I'm ready to leave. I'm not sure why he's not looking for my replacement... or maybe I am. If he is a narcissist, he needs to tell me when I can leave, not vice versa. Well, that doesn't work for me.

I am a crazy, beautiful wreck. It's kind of a mess. I want to wander this world with my heart open and connect with strangers. I want to be kind. I want to be helpful. Unfortunately, that makes me a target for those who see others as disposable resources. It's difficult to tell the difference between the real and the imitation sometimes. I spent my entire life being deceived. Wow. Just wow.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Turn the page

I began 2017 with an awful virus that is still plaguing me. This is not at all surprising when I consider that I began 2016 almost exactly the same way. I didn't cry this time. I just took it like a grown-up, and I continue to do so.

A few days before I came down with the illness, I had a couple of passengers receive the same message from the universe on the same day. "Be thankful for what you have." They both said the same exact words. They were so different from each other, but they were both tuned in to the same wavelength. I knew then that the message was also meant for me to hear. It was the day before Christmas. I had no money for presents. I knew that mom and I wouldn't have an actual Christmas (no tree, no gifts, no one to celebrate with), and I felt like maybe I had it all wrong from the beginning. Maybe none of this shit is important. Maybe it doesn't really matter whether we exist or not. Maybe this is all for nothing. Who will even know we were here? What is the point? Then, I received the message. Be thankful for what you have.

I have an extremely comfortable bed. Sure, my bedroom ceiling leaks in two places when the rain is really strong, but it stays warm. I have a comfortable car. It smells like burnt oil after driving more than ten miles because I'm 9000 miles past the scheduled maintenance. The front passenger side tire has a slow leak, but it's still nice for a short ride and it helps me get mom to and from dialysis just fine.

I have to drive at least two long days each week (of the three I have available) to keep the few luxuries we have. I'll need to drive many many more hours to make enough money to do the scheduled maintenance on the car. I mean, once I've recovered from this awful virus I can taste that into consideration. I'm still not making enough to pay my school loan, credit cards or taxes. I'm not sure which of those is going to screw me first, but it's all on the horizon. I don't sleep at night. I mostly just worry about shit. When I do sleep, I dream about it. Then I try to work more hours, and I get sick. It's a vicious cycle slowly and surely killing me. I'm aging very quickly inside. In all my obsessing, I still haven't come up with any solutions or relief.

What I have come up with, during the last four days that I've been too sick to work, is the undeniable importance of my wellbeing. I have been neglecting my needs so badly that it's a wonder how I've managed to function this way for so long without going completely psycho. I have accepted that I'm in this position because of my own choices. I wanted to make sure that my mom is properly cared for. I wanted to be here for her because it made me feel better and less guilty for being happy (wow, that's so cracked). I am not doing this simply to be a martyr; I wanted to show her that my heart, the same generous heart that she constantly criticized me for all my life, is my greatest asset. The thing she tried so hard to destroy is what saved her ass in the end, and that makes me feel pretty invincible. Whatever comes of this debacle, I can handle it. This is the most difficult and challenging thing I have ever lived through. If I can do this, I can fucking rock anything.

It's not to say that I haven't struggled. My word, have I struggled! Like I said, I can't even get a good night's sleep! Man, this life is not for the faint of heart. I never really thought of myself as super strong, and I have plenty of slip-ups that I beat myself up for, but I'm still a badass. I forgot that for a while. I pitied myself. I saw myself as unworthy and useless. I wanted to have it just be over, all of it. I wanted to just turn it off like a light switch. Click. Done. I wanted to off myself and leave a one-word suicide note: "mulligan". I amused myself with that thought so many times. It's just so perfect. It still makes me laugh. Sometimes I think the only reason I didn't do it is because it was so damn funny. You can't kill yourself and laugh at the same time. It's impossible.

I lost everything that gave me purpose and security. I got fat. I spend most of my time taking care of the person who made my life Hell. I really don't know what to do from here, but I'm gonna start with taking care of me. I'm gonna set aside time to do sun salutations and sit in meditation. I'm gonna go see a movie. I'm gonna dance. If I'm lucky, I'll stumble upon some solutions along the way.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Making do with what I have

I've made my peace with the fact that I cannot afford my favorite hobbies and amusement right now. I'm still bitter about being out of school and scrambling to pay bills, but I realize that those issues aren't going to be resolved anytime soon. 

I've begun taking mom to the gym. There are senior fitness classes she can attend twice a week and the possibility of a third coming soon to our local gym. This was our first week, so she's feeling more tired and weak than usual. I told her that it's too be expected until she gets back into the habit of exercising regularly. When I first started caring for her in March, I made her walk the grocery store with me for exercise, but once I started working part time that wasn't manageable anymore. I considered the time that it takes to get her to and from the gym, and it seems like this new schedule is better for both of us. Sure, I'd like to use the time to earn money instead, but mom's mental acuity suffers when she's left alone so much. Taking her to the gym gives her the opportunity to socialize with other seniors and gives me the motivation to get back into the gym. My hope is that, once she feels comfortable attending the senior classes without me attending her, I can do my own more challenging workout. It will take a few weeks at least, and that should give me enough time to figure out how I want to spend my time in the gym. 

Today we attended the aqua zumba class. I found it to be a good enough workout for my current level of fitness and perhaps a bit advanced for mom, but she will work her way up to following along with the instructor. At the end of the class, we are rewarded with a soak in the jacuzzi. I kinda expected to have a few hours of rideshare today, but there was no time. Getting her in and out of the pool takes a lot of additional steps in both preparation and cleanup. Since I am now working a both at the San Leandro farmers market Wednesday evenings, I can no longer drive on Wednesdays at all. I already miss the money. The struggle is too real, but I suppose that I still feel pretty good about the change.


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.

Monday, August 15, 2016

At Rest

One of the reasons why I love to travel is the feeling of being a visitor. When I'm a visitor, it's acceptable to feel like I don't fit in. I am not embarrassed by getting lost or mispronouncing a name. I expect to be treated like an outsider. With the recent racism renaissance, perhaps not initiated by but definitely given momentum by Trump's hate campaign, I feel like an outsider in my own country. The pain is often unbearable. I ran from it as long as I could. Now, I'm broke and tired.

One of my passengers asked my opinion of Kaepernick's protests. Of course, he was white. I told him, just as I tell anyone,  that the man is an adult. He has the right to do what he is doing. I don't have to like it or dislike it. He is bringing energy and attention to a very important issue. The ignorant statements surfacing en masse are not surprising. Those are what make me angry. The time for change is upon us. Instead of resisting and opposing it, which is a waste since it's inevitable, help shape it. There is room for everyone to have their fears heard and addressed. If people only listened to each other. I mean REALLY listened, like they do with someone they love and want to help. If we only did that, this would be a much better world for all.

Meanwhile, at home, Mom asked when the white host was going to be back on the funny videos show. Apparently, she thought Alfonso was a temp. Yup, it's even in my own house. It's weird to be the black child of a racist Asian parent. She doesn't like to look at dark-skinned people on TV. It's been forty-two years of this shit. I don't even try anymore. What's the damn point? 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Settling

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.