ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING!

Let’s start with this link: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/humanrightscampaign and see “Lady Gaga” article.

Lots of comments flowed, but what really pushed my “gotta reply to this” button was this:

RA said: “Some solid martial arts training will do more to stop bullying than singing Kum Bay yah around the campfire……I like and respect lady gaga, think she’s a great singer, and she gives bullied kids hope. But Hope will not save you from a beating. Knowing your martial arts will.”

My reply:

“But what about the bullied kids who did try to fight back and got in more trouble than the bullies? Stop the source and you don’t have to do anything. Stop the bullying and martial arts becomes another class you take for the spiritual and physical lessons it teaches. And martial arts won’t help if the bullying is ONLINE–which has caused suicides by those who were being bullied. It’s good to be able to protect yourself, but how do you do it against a crowd, when you’re outnumbered? Get a stick? Get a gun? Follow your own logic to the inevitable conclusion: Violence begets escalating violence. Remember Columbine, where the bulllied kids fought back with ultimate force against the bullies…and did NOT kill anyone who had been nice to them even just once. ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING!!!”

I want my last sentence to be the new battle cry for everyone who has every been bullied: ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING!

I have known and still know way too many people who were (or ARE being) bullied.  I was also bullied.  It is unfortunately human nature to pick on those that we perceive as weaker than ourselves–when we doubt our own strength.  I don’t just mean physical strength, of course.  I also mean mental or emotional strength.  When someone doubts themselves, doubts their own abilities, doubts their very own worth as a being, it opens up a path to belittling those who seem unable.  Unable to fight back, unable to respond with a witty comeback, unable to demonstrate what is your concept of worth and to demand the respect it deserves.

It’s so easy to say that bullies are just weak people who make themselves feel stronger by bullying others.  That is part of it.  Bullies are also people who belittle, deride and sneer at others who are different.  They are not just weak, they are fearful.  Did you know that a silent but fearful dog is more likely to bite you than one that is barking?  That fear of the unknown begins with the fear of not knowing self.  And I mean truly, truly knowing who you are.  We are not the labels we use to describe ourselves.  We are not “jock” or “nerd”.  We are not “faggot” or “straight”.  We are spiritual beings, having a human experience!  We are so much more than any label, any description of external behavior, appearance or “what others say/think about us”.

Labels only limit who we are.  Descriptions chain us into a mold that we probably don’t even fit.  But until we know who we are, in the depths of our own souls, we buy into those labels and descriptions, trying to find out which one is us.  And the answer is: none of them.  Labels are so transitory, so ephemeral that we really shouldn’t stake our entire being on any one of them.  Example: a child begins life as someone’s son or daughter.  The first label they get is “our baby”.  Well, that only lasts until the kid is running around…and only gets used later on as a nostalgic reminder of days gone by.  They grow up, becoming “a toddler”, “a preschooler”, “a Kindergartner” and so on, ad infinitum and nauseum…label after label, each one left behind as “no longer true” when the new one is applied.

Even the label “bully” is a transitory description.  I know, it may last longer than one would hope, but it generally is not true of someone’s entire life.  If it is, I feel so sorry for that person I could weep.  When you have the fear of being perceived as weak (generally in a physical sense, such as in sports, but in any aspect of life) and you do not have the knowledge of just exactly who you are, it can lead to the (emotional) attachment to any group that allows you to have a sense of self.  When that group consists of others who also are fearful and weak, because you know that “Birds of a feather flock together, And so will pigs and swine; Rats and mice will have their choice, And so will I have mine.”–then bullying someone outside of that cohesive unit easily becomes a bonding behavior within the group.

Group bullies usually occur IRL (In Real Life): on the playground, in the workplace, and at any structured group activities (team sports for example).  The bullying feeds on itself as there is an audience, an approving and encouraging audience, cheering on the bullying behavior.  No one roots for the person/s being bullied…they are, in the classical sense, the underdog, the victim, the scapegoat–the one who gets hurt so I don’t.  Hard to fight back when you’re one against a crowd, even if that crowd holds people you might call friend.  Don’t forget the “mob mentality” aspect of it and group bullies count on that.

Then there are the bullies who hide behind a computer screen, who believe that the anonymity of the Internet allows them to behave in a way that truthfully, many of them would not dare to do to your face.  Remember the idea that someone who bullies is weak?  What better way to be big and strong, at least in your own eyes, than to be Supreme Grand High Amazing Ultimate Potenate of the Universe on the Interwebs?  To make smart (read: snarky) remarks on random people’s websites, to unwittingly express your own personal fears about your sexuality on sites that advocate LGBT rights by bashing or profanity, using inflammatory words and generally trying to wreak havoc, and to attack anyone whose personal life is perhaps a little more public than it should be.  Doesn’t matter what they wrote, it’s not your right to make their lives a living hell by attacking them with words in a way that you wouldn’t dare to attack them physically face to face, IRL.  It’s also disgusting to seek out the web life of someone you know, a classmate or coworker, and once again, hiding in cyberspace to attack them in a way that they can’t stand up to you because they may not know that “Death2Faggots” who always posts on their site is actually the person who sits next to them in class or at the office, every day.

No wonder that Internet bullying can lead to suicide.  How can you fight someone when you don’t even know who it is?  When it just might be someone you actually know in your daily life outside the ether?  Someone you see every day, who smiles in your face and then plunges the knife of foul language and foul thoughts into your back from the safety of the World Wide Web.  Imagine the despair that is caused, weep for those who could not go on, could not stand the attacks…

Our culture has developed the term and the concept for “zero tolerance” for illegal drug use, alcohol use and sexual harrassment.  We need to develop the term and the concept of zero tolerance for bullying.  It should never be allowed or glossed over.  And as with sexual harrassment where the victim defines the behavior that is offensive, being bullying is determined by the one being on the receiving end, not by the one doing the bullying.  There is no category, topic or lifestyle that is an acceptable target for bullying behavior.  No one deserves it, no one should have to “toughen up”, or “just take it”, or “man up”–common phrases told to countless victims, meant to make them show how…ahem…manly they were, since a lot of bullying is generally done through a perception of them being weak.  Funny how that works…those who are weak, having to prove their strength by…the humiliation of others.

It’s a nice thought to say, stand up to the bullies, to fight back…but as I said in my comment, violence begets escalating violence.  A harsh profanity about one’s sexuality leads to a punch in the face which leads to a group beating when the bully comes back with his friends.  Which leads to a group of the bullied banding together and going for a massive, pre-emptive unable-to-be-retaliated-against attack involving weapons from which there is no chance for any negotiated peace because at least one side of the conflict will be dead.  The infamous “kids who shot everyone up” at Columbine had been bullied, harrassed and humiliated.  Nothing had been done to deal with the situation, those who were doing the bullying were not stopped until finally, in their despair, they chose a path that lead to death all around.  Their own death was preferrable to having to continue to live being bullied.  And by killing those who had been tormenting them, they at least removed that portion of the population known as BULLIES.

Think there would have been a different story from that school if the administration had had the ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING policy?  And instead of that, the school’s response was to ban trench coats.

I am telling you:

ZERO

TOLERANCE

NONE AT ALL

FOR BULLYING

Get the word out on the streets, my friends. Pass this thought onto anyone you know who has been bullied.  Share it with your fellow teachers, ask your school administrations to enact it.  Make it a cornerstone in your own organization’s policies.  Sing it out at LGBT rallies, tell it to your children.  Live it in your own life.

Make the bullying stop.

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What Happened Today

Today was a wonderful day.  I didn’t do anything spectacular or earth-shattering, but I did do something that was, well, in a word, wonderful.  I spent the day with my daughter.  And it was worth the spending…we had a glorious brunch together at Black Bear Bistro in Warrenton.  (Shameless plug for it: www.blackbearbistro and it is amazing!  Farm to fork, fresh! In the category of “nommy” it is the NOMMIEST.)  I had bagel and cream cheese with gravelox (smoked salmon), and the incidental garnish was fresh (and sweet) pineapple and fresh blueberries.  We shared a smoked crab and cheese dip on crunchy hot bread.  She had a club hoagie and the husband had something they call the “Concordia”–imagine a Monte Cristo (essentially a French Toast sandwich) but instead of turkey, ham and swiss, it’s filled with chopped roast beef and ground beef (all free range, grass fed beef) in a marinara sauce.  First bite, it’s like oh Sloppy Joe but wait a minute, no it’s not.  Words fail me to describe it; it must be experienced.  We also tried the multigrain waffle–still light and fluffy while filled with whole grain goodness.

We then came home and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and almost more importantly, getting more things sorted and moved around.  We moved in last November and while it’s not *quite* as bad as when we first started, it still looks like more shit than this bag was meant to hold.  In our defense, we did go from a 3 bedroom down to a 1 bedroom–and well, we’ve been sick lately.  So it was a great blessing to have her move boxes and take out trash and sort stuff to open up some more real estate.  We really do have wall to wall carpeting and we are gradually reclaiming it.

She is seriously contemplating moving back to VA and after the fabulous brunch, particularly thinking about living in Warrenton.  I think the food had something do with it, although she did indicate that the charm of Old Town Warrenton attracted her.  It would be totally awesome to have her (and by association, our granddaughter) living closer than MD.  I am very happy that my daughter and I are friends.  Related by circumstances and family by chance but definitely friends by choice.  And I’ve missed having her around because she’s fun, intelligent, good to talk to, and generally pleasant to be with.  She’s also doing a wonderful job raising her daughter and I’d like to think that I had some little part of that…although I saw how she disciplined her dog and I wasn’t worried about her parenting skills.  (So get miffed, but really?  Training a dog and raising a child have a GREAT deal in common.  If you can do one well, you can do the other one pretty well, too.  Although the cops do get unhappy if you crate your children to go out for the day, no matter how much food or water you leave with them.)

It is no small matter of pride to see how well she is doing in the world.  She holds a job, cares for her child, is a responsible human being…it doesn’t matter that she has had to change course midstream, so to speak…first with the discovery of being asthmatic which prevented a Navy career path and then the normal changes a child brings to anyone’s life, the stuff you can’t prepare for but have to handle.  And while she was always the child who had to do it the hardest possible way, she has persevered each time.  Stubborness runs deep in our family and she is blessed with more than her fair share.  🙂  Hemingway referred to it as “grace under pressure” and she does indeed maintain her grace even in the face of the most trying times.  I suppose as her mother I could say that life has not been fair to her, but both of my children know that you don’t say that “f” word in front of me.  Life is NOT fair.  And she doesn’t expect it to be.  In that way, she’s miles ahead of most people who expect some sort of parity in their experience.

It was a deeply satisfying day, to reconnect with her even as I missed seeing my granddaughter who stayed home with her father–specifically so that we could have our own mother-daughter time.  No drama, no earth-shattering topic of conversation, just the gentle pleasure of small talk, the kind that fills the chinks of our souls, the small bites of normal living that bind us together in a more profound way than the greatest crisis faced or roaring emotional storm weathered can ever hope to do.  A normal day, a gentle day, nothing to write home about…but something to write about and share with you to remind you that our lives are made of such normal and gentle days, the small talk and trivial chatter of “this’n’that” and they are, after all, worth noting.  Consider today so noted.  Thank you, my darling daughter.  Thank you, most benevolent Universe for giving us this day.

The Unwanted Houseguest

I don’t remember when
You crept into my life
You’ve been with me for years

A sometime visitor
Hardly more than an acquaintance
For most of my life

So why lately have you felt
This need to monopolize my time?

You demand my attention
I am getting to know you far better
Than I had hoped to or wanted

You fill my life
With your meaningless prattle

This being more involved with you
Has meant the loss
Of being with others I prefer far more

You are vicious and cold, unrepentantly needy
And terribly greedy of all of me (and my time)

No longer content with the infrequent visit
You have moved into my home
And taken over the space as if it was yours all along

I must cater to you
For fear of seeing the monster you are

I make excuses for you to the others in my life
Try to explain that I am still their friend,
Their mother, their neighbor…his wife

If you were on Facebook,
I’d “unlike” and “unfriend” you

I appreciate the lesson
You’re trying to teach
But you’re still a most dreadful companion

For your name is Pain
And I would live without you

How Should I Spend a Gift of Time?

It’s week 5 (could be week 6, I’ve lost count) of being home and feeling dreadful.  I don’t mean to sound like a whiner, but frankly, this constant pain is getting to be a drag.  The new fibromyalgia medicine seems to be helping with the rest of it–my general mood is better–but even with all the pain meds I’m on, I hurt.

It’s getting to be truly annoying, to feel good emotionally and mentally, want to do things and then (re-)discover that my physical self has gone on vacation to the 9 circles of Hell.  I’ve got nothing to do because nothing is what I can do.  I am very thankful that I can go to the bathroom by myself and fix food (although even that has to be carefully thought through and done in little steps).  Just taking a shower wipes out my ability to do anything more than dry off and sit down again.

The one thing that I have lots of is time.  Endless amounts of time.  I’ve watched the first 6 of the Harry Potter movies and spent an inordinate amount of time playing useless flash-based games on Facebook.  If I was getting paid for killing gloom creatures, solving hidden picture puzzles and domating the world, I’d be rich at this point.  I also have scads of time to think, to ponder, and to meditate upon my current situation.

Thank the gods for friends.  SC came over on Monday and has graciously volunteered to come back on Friday.  Need I tell you that I am counting the hours until then?  We had a lovely day, chatting and sharing the time together.  And we also shared Lester the duck, for whom my piscaterian (Spelling?  A vegetarian who also eats fish and seafood)…had one of her rare “meat lapses”.  We are going to have shrimp on Friday and I know how I want it cooked.  I’m also thinking we can put a pot of rice on to cook earlier in the day so that we can have the GABA rice Paul and I love.  (Google: GABA rice; read it and you’ll want to have it as your main type of rice as well as we do.)

But I don’t expect other people to entertain me while I am out of work–and more than that, I don’t expect them to put up with me.  I am not exactly in the best of moods these days.  I try to not let the pain overwhelm my interactions with other people–and sometimes, it’s not the pain that gets me, it’s the sudden and dramatic drop in energy.  I go from be a social butterfly (so to speak) to being a weepy, pathetic child, who wants nothing more than to crawl into bed with her Puppy and snuggle up to him as she falls asleep.  As I have mentioned before, I resent this very much.

So here I am, with lots of time.  What is the purpose of this time for me?  Why have I been given this time, and what am I supposed to do with it?  Given the physical limitations, what mental or spiritual work should I be doing, instead of spending hours online?  I have begun taking naps.  One of the side effects of the fibro medicine is a severe attack of the sleepies, and rather than fight it, I give in and sleep for a couple of hours.  The dreams are interesting and I only remember them first thing as I wake up…they fade through the day and vanish in the next nap.

I am finding opportunities to minister that would not have occurred if I was at work.  Ministry is really my main job, even though I don’t get paid for it.  I am healer and those who are ill or in pain–but more usually in the mind or soul than physically ill–tend to seek me out.  I ask the questions they need to hear, whether I hear the answers or not.  I offer what I can from my life experiences and try to help them find where they are supposed to be.  There is no more sacred duty than this and being housebound means that I really do focus on the specific task without the distraction of “normal” daily living.

This gift of time also allows me to contemplate my house.  Still looks like 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag–but it’s improved from the original 20 pounds of shit…  We are starting to get the furniture into the arrangement we’ve got in mind for how it’s all supposed to fit in here.  I’ve been moved from one side of the room to the other and now I can see my beloved on his computer instead of trying to talk over a wall of furniture to the back of his head.  In my head, I’m sorting out the things I want to get rid of and once I can move around again, will have a more solid plan of action for that sorting which will hopefully let me get rid of more things.

Like the other gifts the Universe has given me, I am overwhelmed with the abundance…I can only hope that I will use the gift and use the time to the best possible effect.  And I want to learn the lesson that I am being given, both with the time and with the pain.

The Zen of Fibromyalgia

I have fibromyalgia.  As near as I can tell, I have had it most of my life, since about high school.  It was an occasional visitor through the years, mimicking arthritis or a headache or the general “blahs”.  I would not have been diagnosed with it as fibro back then.  But now that I have the actual, “doctor says it is so” diganosis, it has become my constant companion.  And it’s not a very pleasant or polite companion.  Sort of like having a drunk uncle or a demented grandparent that you are responsible for, who constantly embarasses you in front of your friends and coworkers…and yet you can’t send them away to live somewhere else.

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed through a list of symptoms and testing pressure points on your body.  The list has 18 specific items and if you have 11 of them, you are deemed to have the disease.  I have all 18.  Well, okay, since my red snows have stopped, I no longer get menstrual cramps.  So I have 17 out of 18.  The most common sign is pain.  Pain without apparent cause, pain that exists without a visible trigger such as an accident or walking into the edge of a piece of furniture.

Pain has been a lifelong burden for me.  I spent time and money prior to my diagnosis trying to alleviate the pain without success.  I thank the gods that my primary care physician believes in pain management and has given me three prescriptions for different types of pain relief.  One of them is a narcotic and everyone is concerned that I will become addicted to them.  I keep telling them that I am NOT addicted to the pill; I am addicted to no pain.  Frankly, at this point in time, even this is not stopping the pain.  It takes the edge off and keeps me from having screaming levels of pain, but there are still aches and twinges.

I don’t know if it is my age, the fact that we lived for a year in an apartment that had black mold (and I am highly allergic and very susceptible (like a canary in a coal mine, says my husband) which means it affects me badly), or just coincidence, but the fibro has not just flared, but reared its head up and has taken over my life.  I am out of work more often than I am at work; I have almost no social life and in fact, haven’t gone out of the house for more than a meal or a doctor’s appointment in about a month.

I am angry with my fibro.  I resent that it has robbed me of my normal routine and any meaningful activities.  It irks me that just lifting my drinking glass (weight: 24 ounces of liquid and whatever the cup itself weighs) hurts my hands, wrists and arms.  I despise that fact that I walk like a very old lady, shuffling and feeling pain in every step.  I can’t crochet or knit more than a row or two before I have to rest due to pain.  I can’t do the puzzles I enjoy because between the pain and all the pain pills (and the new fibro med that I am getting acclimated to), I am so fuzzy brained as to be…stupid.  I cry at the least thing without any real cause for the tears.

I am not a good invalid.  I do not lounge gracefully on my chaise.  I do not ask for a refill of water demurely and with a sad but gentle smile.  I do not bear the indignity of incapcitating illness (like that alliteration?) with anything approaching Hemingway’s “grace under pressure”.  I am angry.

And yet…I realize that there is a deep and necessary lesson to be learned from this.  I have endless time to meditate and to think.  (Since I do Zen, where meditation is to clear the mind of all thought and exist only in the moment, meditation and thought are two different things.)  Physical limitations open doors to spiritual and mental expansion.  Even feeling fuzzy headed as far as logic and puzzle-solving still gives me the opportunity to think in a sort of free association, going down a river sort of way.

I can take the energy of my anger and channel it into an exploration of the mind and soul.  “Be still and know that thou are god” is an attainable task for me, since I do a lot of sitting still.  I can question my anger, dissect and analyze it so that I can let it go and move on to other things.  I can open myself to the gift of other people’s generosity.  I am blessed with friends who will take care of my chores because I cannot–and I am learning how to let go of being the one who does them.  I have such a sense of responsibility, it’s very hard to sit still and let someone else do what I think I should be doing.  It’s also nearly impossible to keep my mouth shut and let them do it their way, instead of bossing them and insisting on having it done MY way.  (Side note: the search for clean kitchen items is a fun romp through the cupboards, looking for whatever it is I need.)

Having limited energy means really prioritizing tasks because there is no extra to waste on “squirrels”–our way of saying something that catches your attention like a squirrel gets a dog or cat’s attention…even if they can’t get outside to catch it–an unnecessary, unimportant task of any sort.  You’d be surprised at what can be left alone and doesn’t need all the energy we usually pour into it.  Limited energy is like limited funds…you spend it much more wisely than if you had endless amounts.

I am discovering that the fibromyalgia is actually a gift.  It has given me time (lots of it!): time to think, time to look at my life and time to learn lessons I need that could not be absorbed any other way.  The pain itself has sharpened my awareness of my body; it’s taught me how to identify and quantify  the pain and to appreciate the relief from pain that my pills, the chiropractor and massage therapy give me.  I am grateful for the diagnosis because now years of symptoms have a name and was not me just being lazy or malingering.  The addition of a cane to my daily  attire serves as a real test of other people’s courtesy and help–which comes often and from such a variety of types of people that my hope in the human race is refreshed.  Having to ride through the stores in a handicap cart is an interesting study of people’s attitudes towards the handicapped.  Fortunately, most people are pleasant and compassionate, offering help without having to be asked.  And my lesson in that is accepting this kindness…having done nothing in particular to deserve it.

So far, I would say that I have learned this: that a debilitating, chronic disease can either destroy your soul or uplift it, depending on how you choose to deal with it.  Being in constant pain makes it easy to be nasty, demanding, rude, and just plain not nice to be around.  But you don’t have to give in to that.  I’m not saying that you have to be some kind of saint, smiling through the pain…but it’s easier to deal with the pain when you’re not one–because people are more willing to help you when you are kind, which helps you feel better, so you can be more pleasant, so more help will be given…a cycle of kindness all around.  Seems like a much better way to live than the cycle of pain, your nastiness and other’s avoidance of the nasty sick person.

And the gift of time is priceless…so use it wisely.  I am trying to!

The Case of the Disappearing Queen (Part 1 AND 2)

Part 1 (written in November 2011)

No, I did not fall off the face of the earth.  I did, however, fall into love.  I had finally reached a point in my life where I fully accepted the idea that I hadn’t been dating, there was no one on the horizon and I was okay being alone the rest of my life.  Once the gods stopped rolling on the floor and laughing themselves sick, they set in motion the path I am walking now…they arranged for me to meet The Man.  The one your mother told you about, the Prince Charming in every fairy tale.  He DOES exist.  He may not ride a white horse, he may not be a dead ringer for Brad Pitt, you might not even recognize him as a Prince Charming.  But if he’s YOUR prince, you know.  “Balls to bone” as the Oracle in “The Matrix” said.  You *just* know.  And so it was for me.

We met on Sunday and within the week, I was living with him and within 2 weeks, we were planning the handfasting.  And within 4 weeks, we didn’t remember that there had been any life before “us”.  Well, we did but work schedules and the limited time they afforded for us to actually be together without having to be together in bed asleep…meant that our social lives suffered.  Friends thought they were being abandoned and in a sense, they were.  We needed time to get to know each other…we “speed dated” through the information exchange period that most people take a year to go though in the first couple of months.

We also added some interesting twists to forging this new relation.  Paul re-connected with his first (and most fondly remembered) girl friend, who was going through some troubles of her own.  We were able to help her but in the course of that help, we had to work past our own fears and bad old conceptions of relationships that just weren’t applicable in this life we were making together.  She thought that she had found him 6 weeks too late (because he had met me) and I thought he’d wave good-bye to me as he went back to her, the one with the common history and “do you remember when” stories that I did not have.

He and I left our separate apartments to join households early in the fall…the move was harder than expected and looking back, I realize now that it was a signal that we were headed for some rough times.  I have always said that if you’re doing the right thing, it all comes easy, with a definite flow.  This move was the first in several major training sessions for the lessons we were to learn in the following months.

I began to be ill…tired and fatigued all the time, lots of general dull body aches.  By November, it got bad enough that I went to the doctor and walked out with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  Finally having a name for something that had been going on, in various levels of occurrence, for the past 25 years was a relief.  I wasn’t insane, lazy or needed to do more sit-ups.  I have a real disease, with a real set of symptoms that respond to a variety of treatments.  But that didn’t help with the reality of the situation: I had just enough energy to go to work and go home.  Yes, we ate out, but almost always just the two of us and only because it was easier to let someone else cook than to use up that little store of energy trying to fix a meal.

I get my personal energy from inside of me and I was running on fumes, so to speak.  Being in a crowd was always tiring and now it was down right unbearable.  I had to prioritize where the little bits of energy I could muster would be used and for a while, work and helping our friend seemed the only two places I could afford to share it out.  I have no regrets about that time for getting someone out of a bad situation is always rewarding of itself and I am very grateful for the lessons I learned, but I would have liked to have been able to stay in touch better with my own crowd that I had been with for a long time…

It was Paul’s turn next, with a gout attack so severe it kept him out of work for 6 weeks during February and March.  I actually stayed home the first week to care for him and was glad I had been a nurse’s aide because I knew what to do and how to deal with a bedridden patient.  The recovery took so long…another nudge that we weren’t really where we were supposed to be, but in the training ground for something else.

Liz had Kristin in May and Paul and I were both thrilled.  A couple of weeks after the birth, I drove up to Baltimore each day for a week to spend time with them but drove home each night because I couldn’t bear to be separated from him.  Our joke now is that we are “one mind, two bodies”.  We have fit together and melded into that, something I had wished and wanted for a long time.  “Be careful what you wish for” is a true hallmark of our life.

Summer came and went; we got to see William and Maria when they came up to visit for a couple of weeks right before my birthday.  About 3 weeks after they went back to Georgia is when the proverbial shit hit the fan.  We had a flood in the back bedroom closet (that had been our master bedroom and I had moved us out of it only about 6 weeks before)…and it was filled with black mold.  When the maintenance guys opened up the drywall to replace what had gotten wet, the wall was filled with black mold.  It doesn’t grow that fast…so it had been there for a while, probably the entire time we had lived there.

Both of us are allergic to it–but with my asthma, I am definitely a “canary in a coal mine”, the early warning alert…which would explain why I was so ill for so long.  There was no way we’d have known it; the apartment complex is very careful to paint over (or put new drywall and molding over) any signs of it.  I suspect that if there was a single governing body for mold inspection in PWC, the entire complex would be condemned and taken down.  Paul’s parents live there too, and have had 5 such floods in 9 years.  His father has been having more and more lung problems since they’ve lived there (his mother may also be iller than if she had not lived in this moldy environment, but she’s a real stoic and it takes arterial bleeding or bones sticking out before she admits that she’s not feeling well.).  And yes they plan on moving out as soon as they can–which we have already done.  It was, to be blunt, KILLING me.  Slowly and one part at a time, but I believe that if we had not moved, I would have continued to be sicker and sicker until it ended up if not actually killing me, making me ill enough for hospitalization.

I am currently out of work on my second month of short term disability.  There is improvement in only one week of clean country air…but it took me a year to be this ill, I am not going to be cured overnight.  I seem to be gaining back some of the energy, but I have much less endurance than I used to and when the energy is used up, it crashes me down quickly.  I have had to go back on asthma meds after not using any for about 6-7 years.  I had forgotten what a bitch it is…sort of gotten used to breathing and this not being able to breathe is…annoying.

I have also completed two sleep studies and the result of that is I will have a CPAP…and I want it.  I got the first really good night of sleep during the study with the mask and I want my own now!  I don’t see the doctor about the results for another 10 days and frankly, I don’t want to go that long without it.  The difference was instantly noticeable; Paul saw it at once and has suggested I see if I can get the script for the machine before talking to the doctor about the results.

We both agree that we are continuing to do things at an accelerated pace: first, the speed dating and now a year in our lives with the major issues that most people work out over 10, 20 even 30 years of marriage.  We’ve had the sickness, poorer and bad times part of the vows and now we’re looking forward to the healthy, wealthy good times.

I cannot say enough about Paul and how much I love him–and more amazing to me is the fact that he loves me just as much.  He is so very good to me, so thoughtful and kind…he genuinely wants to make me happy, is concerned that I am happy, can’t believe I stay with him.  Odd how I have exactly the same mindset about him.

I know some of you probably thought I was choosing him over my friends…and in some ways, yes I have.  He is my husband AND my friend.  Our lives are blended so well that I don’t know where he ends and I begin or I end and he begins.  But my absence from the usual round of social events was more due to poor health/money issues/work than because I was avoiding “that old gang of mine” or just didn’t have time for them now.

I have recently been made aware that some things are being said as if I was the one saying them…and if you have heard anything about me and what I might talk about that you don’t know for yourself to be true, all I can say is, ask me.  I’ll tell you what’s been going on this past year if this doesn’t suffice.  I haven’t had the time and never had the inclination to be other than who I am.  I know that things change, people change and circumstances change; it seems a shame that some of my former friends (I say former because the people I am referring to have never tried to contact me in this past year to see how I am doing or just ask straight out, why the hell aren’t you doing stuff with us any more?) were apparently not happy for me to find love nor willing to allow me time that did not include them to learn and adjust to this new life.  And lest anyone think I gave it all up for Paul, he has not spent any more time with his group of friends this past year than I have…we have both had very limited social contact with the people we knew “before” we were together.  It’s not that we cut them out purposefully, tried to remove them from our lives…read the whole note above to remind yourself why we weren’t seeing them.  Some from both sides have contacted us, asked what was going on, how we were doing…and we look forward to socializing with them more as our health improves and we get back on a more even keel.  Others never bothered…and so they are not up to date on what’s going on.  Again, any doubts, just ask me.

I look forward to having dinner with all of our friends, whether out in a restaurant or cooking for the crowd at my house  — although, probably not ALL of our friends at once since we are in a one bedroom apartment now.  We left the moldy apartment in Manassas for the clean air and open spaces of Bealeton.  Yes, I used to live out here…and Paul was willing to move out here, sight unseen, just because I had spoken so highly of the area.  While I’m very happy to be out here, this move is also taking a lot out of me and I’m grateful we have a couple weeks’ of overlap between the apartments so that I can do a little, rest, do some more, rest and so on.  Once we get the boxes unpacked and I can get my kitchen in order, we’ll start inviting people out…

It’s been a long, dark year where survival was only possible because we clung to each other.  We have been through the fire and come out stronger in our relationship, losing the dross of old fears and learned behaviors from prior relationships to be truly one mind, two bodies.  We can see the path opening up ahead of us, storm over and clear sailing (at least for a while, I hope!).  And we’ll be glad to see all of you on a much more regular basis!

Part 2, written 3 months later:

It’s apparent that a return to health will be a slow, slow road.  The first bits of improvement have given way to feeling just as bad as before–I think the meds are no longer working as I need.  I suspect that they helped at first because almost anything would have…but I need something else.  Fortunately I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow to discuss a new plan of attack.

We’ve slowly begun to get the house in order.  Going from a 3 bedroom to a 1 bedroom means 15 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag.  So we’re mucking out the stables, so to speak.  Limited space certainly sets different filters for what stays and what goes and I think we’re being pretty good about actually getting rid of things we do not need or use.  We’ve also finally come up with a floor plan that will let us have the living space arranged for our needs as well as still leaving room for entertaining.  Now if we could just really implement it.

Unfortunately, setting it up involves moving furniture and neither of us is up to that.  Thank goodness for the willing assistance of friends–and I am learning how to accept that help.  It’s very hard for me to sit back and tell someone else, “do this” or “move that”…I can’t do it, but feel like I should.  This particular lesson is being driven home with a 50 pound sledge.  Could I do it?  Sure.  Push myself hard, get things done…and then spend 3-4 days in bed recuperating.  That’s just stupid.  My beloved has pointed out to me that I need to stop when I first begin to tire, rather than waiting until all energy is spent.  THAT is very hard to do, since I have years of pushing and doing as a habit to break.  (I figure I have actually had fibromyalgia since I was in high school…sigh)

On the up side, I got to spend almost 2 months with my daughter-in-law and the new grandson (see my previous post).  We had a really nice Christmas with his parents, his sister, d-i-l and grandFroggy and one of Paul’s coworkers and her daughters.  We took some vacation time (I took one week, Paul took 2; I have actually been out of work since the vacation and am working on my THIRD week out…sigh) and while it wasn’t exactly a vacation on the beach, it was nice to not have to go to work and have a break from the daily grind.  It was also very nice to spend a serious chunk of time together.  Oh and we got our eyes checked and now I wear contacts for distance and put on reading glasses for close up.  Hadn’t realized I needed a change of prescription but it sure is nice to see things clearly now!

While we didn’t get as much done in the house as we had hoped, progress is being made.  I can tell that it is because I can see more of the carpet, HAHA.  The kitchen is in better shape and I hope to be able to sort of putter around in there to get it more towards finished.  We want to switch sides of our bed, which involves moving night stands and switching clothing location in our closet…probably do that in stages.  Such domesticity…we lead a very quiet life.

I am really struggling with the limitations of my health.  When you reach the point that taking a shower or getting dressed hurts, something needs to be done.  Even opening the pills bottles hurts…dammit.  Not quite sure what lesson I am supposed to be learning from complete inability to do very much at one go, but if I promise to learn it, can we back off on the intensity of the lesson?  And I’m not trying to whine or complain, just stating the facts of my current state of being.  I have great hope that the doctor will give me something that will treat this adequately because frankly, I would prefer not to spend the rest of my life taking narcotic painkillers…but I will if that’s how it goes.  It does create a lot of resentment in me: I had to be careful about holding Froggy, and how much, when all I wanted to do was to hold him and hold him…  I would like to complete simple chores, like laundry, dishes or making dinner without one chore being my major accomplishment for the day.  Did I just say that I want to do housework?  I have lost my mind, apparently.

Maybe that’s the reason for the physical limitations.  It definitely frees up my mind for thought, of a deep and ponderous nature.  Guess I will contemplate my navel for a while…but I’ll let you know what the doctor says.

Namaste!

Namaste!

Welcome to Knotty Kitteh Saves the World!

I have started this blog as a venue to share my thoughts, past and present (and hopefully future ones as well)…I will add pages that contain my prior writings, which are a variety of essays on a spectrum of topics.  No need to repeat them here, because you will be able to just go look at them.  I may refer to them as I create new blog entries so it just makes sense to have them easily accessible.

I hope you find my writing readable and thought-provoking.  Please share with your friends and family if you find that they start ideas of your own.  Be polite when you comment, be respectful of other’s input as well.

Let us walk together on this journey we call life, to discover what it holds for us and to grow into the person we are to be.

Namaste!