Don’t Waste the Day

quote-charlie-chaplin-laughter-design-milkSo today makes four freaking days in a row of blogging. I’m pretty sure I’ll forget tomorrow and the streak will be over but thanks for sticking with me this week.

I really have no idea what to share today. Let’s see… I’m feeling good and have a semi busy weekend coming up. I’ve been a little stressed out about a project that will wrap up tomorrow night. I had a mini-meltdown last night about it but my wonderful friend Andy talked me down in less than five minutes. That’s got to be a record. Andy has the patience of a saint where I’m concerned.

For those of you who don’t know, one of the things I do for fun is a regular podcast. Andy and I started out focusing on discussing lesbian fiction but our little empire has grown so much that it’s barely recognizable now. We’ve got something like five or six different venues under our umbrella and who knows where we’ll be in another three years.  

I’ve been listening to old episodes in preparation for recording our Best of 2013 episode tomorrow night. My memory isn’t what it used to be… I’m enjoying an episode now that features Andy and me trying to stump one of our very favorite people, Colette Moody, on songs from the 1970s. For those of you who don’t know who Colette is, she’s an author and one our contributors. Her podcasts, Last Call with Colette Moody, are just fantastic. She focuses primarily on politics and society and I love them. One of the things I love most about Moody is that she’s a great sport and always game for sitting down to shoot the shit. Most of the time, we have nothing planned and just let the conversation organically develop. She’s also one of the most twisted people I know. I love that about her.

I’m going to get back to listening now. I was chuckling and feeling good and felt the need to share a little bit of my happiness with you. I don’t think I actually succeeded but maybe this will inspire you to go listen to, watch, or read something funny. Let yourself laugh and feel light and be happy. Even if it’s only for a few minutes.

A Case for Crappy Books

When I’m feeling down, depressed, sad, overwhelmed, or irritated, I want to be left alone. I swear that if I could rent a hotel room and be completely alone and surrounded by silence or slow, saddish music, I’d check in for a couple of days. Just to work through it, you know?

Everyone has their own ways of dealing with depression but that’s what I find works best for me – time to wallow and be one with it. With very, very few exceptions, there is no one that will make me feel better. It’s just a process. It is comforting to know that my wife understands me and gives me the space that I need and will hold me and let me cry on her shoulder. She doesn’t push me to talk and, many times, there’s nothing for me to say. Sometimes I have no idea why I feel so incredibly sad, I just do and that embrace is the best thing she can do to help me. When the hug is over, I’m off to hide again, either literally in some empty room or figuratively with a book or movie. And because she suffers from clinical depression, she gets it.

I’ve become very close friends with another woman who deals with depression in much the same way. She doesn’t have the sads very often but when she does, she has no desire to be around or communicate with anyone. We’ve discovered over the past year or so, I’d guess, that we’re actually good with talking with each other when either of us is depressed or sad or generally feeling completely anti-social and overwhelmed. What a wonderful surprise it has been to find a kindred spirit! There are no obligations, no pressure, and no expectations with her. We support each other by just being exactly who we are – even when that is so incredibly inappropriate that we’d likely lose friends if they knew the things we said. We share details of our lives and feelings that, honestly, I doubt anyone else will ever know. Those emotions and thoughts that one is taught to be ashamed of or that should be hidden. But, between us, there is no judgement only understanding, support, and a safe place to vent – no matter the topic.

Well, my dear friend is struggling today and I want her to know that her love and friendship has changed me. I’m far from where I want to be but she has encouraged me to be stronger when dealing with others, to not feel bad about setting boundaries, and to cut myself some slack sometimes. I’m so glad we bonded over an incredibly shitty book. See, crappy books DO serve a purpose!

Have a Courageous Day

courage2So WordPress is asking me to share what’s on my mind… Hmmm. I guess the most prominent thing on my mind right now is how happy I am to have such a great little group of people who never fail to support me when I need them. I tend to be one of those people who has a hard time asking for help. Part of it is stubbornness and part is fear. Yes, fear and I have a very intimate relationship. But I’m working on replacing fear with the much more helpful, courage.

A friend had shared an image on the dreaded Facebook yesterday with a quote from Brené Brown - who I’d never heard – defining courage as:

  1. Asking for what you need
  2. Speaking your truth
  3. Owning your story
  4. Setting boundaries
  5. Reaching out for support

I have to admit that I do really well with speaking my truth and owning my story. The rest, not so much. I’ve gotten pretty good with asking for what I need with regard to my relationship with my wife. It took about 20 years but I figured out that she’s a terrible mind reader. Awful. It’s still hard at times but I force myself to tell her what I need or how I feel or if she’s doing something that is affecting me in a negative way. I’m not perfect at it but the more I do it, the more receptive she is, and the easier it gets. I wasted a lot of time and emotional energy being upset and hurt that TJ just didn’t care enough to work harder to make our relationship better. The truth was that she was mostly oblivious to my unhappiness with whatever I was unhappy about. The direct approach works best with her.

Setting boundaries is tough sometimes. I do enjoy helping people, particularly when I think I can do something better than anyone else involved. I’m not an egomaniac but I have a few things that I’m really good at and I like to share those skills with other folks. Unfortunately, I sometimes overextend myself and then wig out. I’m getting better about saying “no” but it’s hard.

That sort of ties in with the reaching out for support part. If I’ve committed to doing something, only situations of extreme over-committing or extreme stress will force me to reach out for help. And when it comes to emotional support, I generally won’t do that. Again, I’m getting better but it’s a struggle. First of all, I know myself very well and there’s not much anyone else could say to me that I don’t already have being said inside my head. I know it sometimes can help to have that validation but, usually, I know what my problem is and have to figure out how to deal with it. But there have been a few times over the past year or so when I’ve bitten the bullet and asked for support or a shoulder from trusted friends. There’s always that risk of being blown off or having my problem minimized or belittled but I’ve been lucky and that’s not happened. Thank you to my dear friends! There aren’t many of you who I look to for support but, I gotta say, you’re the best.

So there you go, WordPress, that’s what was on my mind.

Family and Friends and Stuff

school playI’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past several months about relationships. We’ve all had friendships and relationships with family members that have morphed over time, it happens and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I have very little contact with most of my family members – some by deliberate choice and some because we just don’t connect very well and/or have nothing in common and never see each other. I think if I hadn’t joined the Marines when I was 17, I’d feel much closer to quite a few of my relatives but that’s not the way life worked out. It certainly forced me to be self-reliant since there was no one I could call to bail me out of trouble or help me pay for school or gas or food. It was me and TJ making our way and I think we did a fantastic job of it. There were a few dinners of gas station hot dogs paid for on our credit cards but we made it without anyone else.

One thing that I think I did miss out on, though, was the ability to function as part of a larger family. It’s not natural for me to share personal things with my relatives. I don’t have many shared experiences with most of them, not that I can remember anyway, so we’ve not really been able to develop the level of trust that I need to be able to open up to them. And since I’m absolutely terrible at small talk, there’s really not much left. I tend to avoid gatherings unless it would be blatantly rude not to attend. Don’t get me wrong – I have some family that I love dearly and wish that we could be closer. But, in many cases, that’s based on the fond memories I have from childhood summer vacations or holiday get-togethers. In the last 25 years or more, though, most of us really don’t have much in the way of common experiences.

Another area that I think has been affected by not being around a larger family unit is my inability to express my love for people who don’t live in my house. I have absolutely no trouble at all telling Micah and TJ that I love them and treasure them and am so happy and proud to be a family with them. But, with a handful of exceptions, they are it. I was talking with my brother – who I’m the closest to – and his wife about this a couple of weeks ago and damn near started crying because I’m unable to tell my sister-in-law’s mom how much I care about her and how incredibly grateful I am that she took the time to develop a relationship with Micah that he clearly treasures. I’m so moved by the love she’s shown him and the attention she gives him but I cannot seem to say it. I’ve said thank you and that I appreciate all that she does for him and all that she shares with him but when I want to express how deeply felt my gratitude is – not just for what she’s done with my son but for always including my family as a part of hers – I freeze. I’m feeling some anxiety just typing this out because I don’t know how I’ll feel if she sees it. I have no idea what I’m so worried about but it freaks me out.

We have an incredible opportunity to be an active part of a loving, supportive family and TJ and I both can’t seem to bring ourselves to… I’m sitting here and can’t even think of a word to express it. We feel tremendous love for this large group of people and we think they know that we love them but when it comes to participating in events, we normally don’t. Maybe it’s so many years of it being just us and we feel exposed or insecure or.. I don’t know…

Several years ago, I made a conscious choice to eliminate folks who were constantly negative or shit-stirrers from my life. That’s resulted in some family members and previously close friends being cut from regular – or any – communication. I have to say that I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. Life is tough enough without having someone who has nothing positive to say yapping in your ear or trying to instigate problems. I suffer from cyclical depression and, I have to say, surrounding myself with positive, loving people has made a world of difference. So has having friends who understand and accept the fact that I can’t be close all the time. I don’t answer the phone for anyone ever and I can’t have prolonged, regular communication with folks. There are many days when I physically cannot bring myself to communicate in any way with anyone. Obviously, I have to hold down a job and interact with my wife and son so I’ve had to figure out coping mechanisms that work. But I’ve lost friends because I can’t communicate in a way that they need me to or be as regularly engaged as they need. I’ve felt bad about that but it’s just not how I’m wired. I’m very lucky to have a very small group of friends and family that get me and don’t judge me and simply accept that, sometimes, I can only give a little bit. And sometimes, I can’t give anything at all.

I’ve got no more words in my head now so I should be able to stop thinking about this so much. Thank you WordPress - and anyone who may be reading this rambling post – for being my free therapist.

The Entitlement Puppets

Mmm… Public Assistance!

The past several months have been super busy for me. I’ve ended up with a pretty steady freelance-type job that seems to be growing. It’s very nice for helping to get our bills paid off but not conducive to blogging or gaming or sleeping late. I’m having a good time though, so it’s not a bad trade-off.

Today, I want to share The Entitlement Puppets with you. I’m always begging Erin for cartoons or drawings and instead of doing the one she promised she would, she was inspired to create this lovely lobster and steak set. And put them on bendy straws.

Several years ago, I had met a young woman at a local book group who sort of latched on to me. It eventually got to be a very uncomfortable situation and I cut all contact. One of conversations we had that led to my bailing had to do with poor people. She had made a comment about the majority of people on public assistance being frauds and that she sees them regularly enjoying steak and lobster. The real oppressed people in this country, according to her, were Jewish lesbians. After I stared at my computer screen for several minutes to make sure I wasn’t misreading, I let her know that she really needed to educate herself on the sociological and political aspects of poverty and that, while I’m sure Jewish lesbians do endure oppression and prejudice, the majority of people receiving public aid don’t enjoy fine cuts of meat and expensive seafood on a regular basis.

Of course, I shared this conversation with my Social Worker BFF, Erin, and it’s become a long running joke. And now, years later, I have my very own steak and lobster to remind me of the terrible oppression experienced by my former friend, the upper-middle class, white, Jewish lesbian.