Straight Arrow Hits Bottom

This post is spinoff of  Nostalgia.  I mention a straight arrow guy who now is in the marijuana business in Colorado, where pot is legal.

I called him Juan, not his real name.  When I first met him, I felt as if he was a male version of myself.  We were both a bit socially awkward and shy.  Of course back then in my college student days I would never labeled myself as socially awkward.  Our parents expected us to travel a narrow path.  No room for errors.  Juan had much to compete against.

Juan was the youngest of five.  There was maybe 15 years between Juan and his older siblings. They’d graduated college. One was a dentist, another a doctor.  So starting college, he knew he’d better aim high.  In addition to getting a degree, he was in ROTC while in college, and after graduating became an officer in the military.

People can hit bottom at any time in their lives.  Just like many of my friends, Juan successfully transitioned from college life to adult life.  While my friends seemed to be having the time of their lives I was spinning my wheels, struggling to stay afloat.  I’d dropped out of college, was officially diagnosed with depression.  My parents would disown me for this or that.  It seems surreal now to think about it.  I would crawl myself out of the black hole and rebuild my life.

As I saw my friends, Juan, and my sister successfully navigate their lives, it didn’t occur to me that they would have their own versions of hitting bottom later.  I knew I wasn’t the only person to hit a speedbump in their young adult lives.

Hitting bottom….people often think of alcoholism when they hear that term.  My sister and other people I knew would blow up their lives in that way in their thirties and forties.

I never would have expected Juan to hit bottom.  He would have been the last person on the list of one thousand to mess up his life. Juan and I went on a few dates.  There was a spark there but it was never there at the same time.  Plus we were socially awkward and new in the world of dating.  Except for the fact that he was Presbyterian and not Catholic, he was as close to the perfect boy to my parents as I could possibly get.

Juan married a beautiful, smart woman.  I didn’t think much about him until years later.  I’d heard that he blew up his life, gotten kicked out of the military and was divorced.  Later I heard he was in the marijuana industry and remarried.  I saw some pics of him with his wife online.  He looks happy and appears to have rebuilt his life again.  It is a different path from where he started, I’m sure.

He’d be the last person I’d expect to be involved with marijuana, who knew.  Marijuana is not for me, in that regard I am a nerdy straight arrow.  If it works for him though, great.

As I’ve written about before, my sister has battled alcoholism for a long time.  What makes some people struggle at the bottom, and others rebuild their lives .  I wish I knew the answer.pexels-photo-726478.jpeg

Puzzle Pieces

IMG_0936It is mid February.  It is still cold but the sunlight stays just a little bit longer each day.  I can feel the darkness of winter losing its grip on Mother Nature.  I bundle up and head outside into the sunshine.  Of course the sunshine always deceives you when you are indoors that it warmer until you open the door.  Once I am outside I feel the sun penetrating right through me to bust through the ancient cobwebs in my brain.

That inner urge to hibernate through the cold months is starting to leave.  There is a hopefulness, a joie de vivre, that I have not felt for a while.

There is a question, a missing puzzle piece calling my name.  I’m not sure what it is but I must find it.

The quest for the missing puzzle piece comes to me in a dream.  I am walking up a path in the forest.  Something beckons me to keep climbing.  Something elusive like a delicate butterfly or a mighty hawk.  I’m not sure what the answer will be but I know I must continue climbing up the path to find it.  I hope it is joyful, like a waterfall or a patch of delicate wildflowers.

I try to translate the dream into something more tangible.  I’m not quite there, but I know I must keep searching.bamboo-damyang-sunshine-54601.jpeg

Nostalgia

Nostalgia strikes me once in a blue moon.  The last time it happened I saw that an old friend’s mom had passed away.  Thinking about my friend brings a cascade of memories, a yearning for the good old days.

In my mind I think my memories are securely packed away.  Until I can remember how the pizza parlor was decorated, how we would argue about what sort of pizza we would order.  Our friend who would always have some rationale for not paying her share of the bill.  Always wanting a strawberry sundae later.

Going to basketball and football games to socialize, not to watch or even attempt to understand what was going on, well sometimes.  If it wasn’t pizza after it was enchiladas or cheese fries.  Lots of chit chat.  Going out perhaps to see a glimpse of the mysterious public school boys, tired of the boys at our Catholic school.  They ignored us and we ignored them.

Heartbreak.  Talk about the future.  Lots of gossip.  Our group sometimes changing but you and I are always a constant.  Missing those days of long phone conversations.  Phone conversations tethered to the cord of an old fashioned phone.  My house never had a completely private place to converse.

Baking Christmas cookies, trying new recipes.   Going shopping together.  Riding our bikes to get McDonalds.  Many miles walked down tree lined streets in older neighborhoods.

Later on, pairing off.  Moving.  An occasional misadventure.  You marrying first and settling into family life.

Old friend, I wish you were closer.  We would do the things we did before, only the slightly grown up version.

We’d chat about people we knew.  The straightest of arrows who now lives in Colorado and is somehow involved in the marijuana business.  Classmates that have left this world. Classmates that are already grandparents(EEK!).  Classmates living on other continents.

After my trip down memory lane though, coming home to my husband, snuggling up on the couch together and watching TV, this is so much more than any trip to the past.

Forgotten Americans

I read a post recently talking about  The Forgotten American .  I wasn’t sure that I fully understood what was being conveyed.  The author, Dina Honour talks about pundits wearing glasses spouting off about a certain brand of forgotten American .  I’m not sure how glasses play into anything, but they must.  Maybe because I’ve had my head under a rock lately.  To me though “forgotten Americans” is just another political talking point like “deplorables” and “guns and religion”.  Most politicians, especially Trump, are out of touch with how any of us might struggle.

There are many forgotten Americans.  Homeless vets who have never received enough mental health care.  Poor elderly.  Children of the poor travelling through our educational system.  All of the above from every state, color, religion and sexual orientation.  I’m sure it wouldn’t take you long to think of someone who has been forgotten.

I live in the midwest.  You might call it flyover country, or perhaps more flatteringly “the heartland”.  I’ve lived in a few different cities, all in the midwest.  My hometown doesn’t really conform to some glorious stereotype of the heartland.  You can find a little bit of everything in my hometown from gang activity to cultural events.  The place I was born, not the place I consider my hometown, had ties to the mafia.

The place I live now is university town.  Some of our residents would describe it as a progressive mecca where Republicans not need even attempt to run for local office.  We are all crunchy environmental types.  Except when you dig a little deeper you see there is a lot of under the surface classism and racism which our school board likes to ignore.  I’ve written before about my observations regarding the school system here.

I’ve spent twenty plus years as nurse.  I’ve had one child graduate through the public school system and have one more soon to do so.  Both my kids attended a minority-majority elementary school.  The poor elderly are still in the same boat as they were twenty years ago.  The kids from disadvantaged backgrounds in our school systems, well not much has changed for them through several presidential administrations.  Our school district has many strong points….acknowledging the families from disadvantaged backgrounds isn’t one of them.  While forgotten Americans could include many groups the young and the elderly are present no matter what part of America you live in.

As someone who takes antidepressants I wonder what I will do if I can no longer afford them.  Sure our insurance pays some of the cost, but not all.  If I received Medicaid would I get to stay on the medications that work best for me, or would I be placed on something else that is cheaper.  The poor with mental health issues..one more group of forgotten Americans.

Most days, coming home from work, I’ll see a couple of homeless men, begging at a street corner hoping a passing car will help them out.  Most of us don’t care who they are or what their story is, we’d just prefer to forget about them while we sit in our warm cars while they endure the cold.

I’m a cynic.  I don’t see that much has changed for the less fortunate whether it was Clinton in power twenty years ago or Trump now.  The midwest is known for pig production..surprisingly neither Clinton or Trump were raised here.

Burden

In my internet travels I came across a couple women sharing just how incredibly burdensome it was to take care of their husbands with depression.

I just know what I read but something seemed off about their words.  They painted their husbands as a standalone source of dysfunction in the house.  But if you poked a little bit further you could see there were other problems.  One of the women was a recovered alcoholic.  Both put too much of the family’s dirty laundry out there.

I’ve been down that journey with my parents and even my sister in my younger years.  This was before my sister started drinking and was still the oh so perfect child.  But as I deduced later I just represented one portion of our family’s dysfunction which manifested itself in depression in my early twenties. During that period I was the one who needed to fix herself, not anyone else.  My family didn’t like me fixed though because I began to speak up and assert myself more often.

I wondered if I am burdensome to my family.  I try to be the best parent I can be, but I’ve had failures. This month was terrible workwise, but I generally miss very few days of work.  I shower, do the laundry, make home cooked meals try to attend to all that is needed of a wife and mother.  I cracked wide open this month, but then went back to trudging through everyday life, with the new challenge of attempting to help my aging mother.

I have no doubt that having a depressed spouse can be challenging.  Describing your depressed spouse as a burden helps no one though

Tears

I’ve been overwhelmed by life in general, but particularly how to care for my aging mom.  I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I seem to be failing, and it is just all out there for the world to see.  I cracked wide open today and could not hide it.  Tears.  Weariness. Failure.  Someone told me, we don’t see you as you see yourself.  Were they being honest?  The suspicious side of me says that they just said it so we could all move past the awkwardness of a woman falling apart complete with her red, puffy tearstained face. Maybe I needed to crack.  It takes a whole lot of energy to keep it all in.  Maybe hitting bottom leaves me at a place where I can rebuild what is broken. My younger self tells my older self that I should be past falling apart.  If these words were on paper they would be tearstained with an irregularity to my handwriting that would suggest a sort of desperation.  Life is spinning around me at a pace too fast for me to keep up with.  I could use a nap of several days or even a week but I don’t have the time to hide under the covers and escape the cruel world.

Bubble

I was ill recently.  I spent a lot of time sleeping when I wasn’t coughing.  Between being borderline hypoxic and dehydrated I felt as though my mind was playing tricks on me with the strangest of dreams.  When I finally felt better and emerged from the bubble of illness, reality was even stranger.  The orange man, Trump, was talking about shitholes.  People were encouraging Oprah to run for president. I thought America had decided TV stars with no political experience weren’t allowed to run for office.  Oh America, how fickle, strange and sometimes ugly you are.

Big Hair and Bright Pink Lipstick

Waiting, in a daze.

She hears a song.

Wistful about times gone by.

a moody eyelinered man sings about love, and love lost on a mix tape now discarded.

Music beams her back.

Permed hair, lots of hairspray.

Bright pink lipstick.

A skirt that swirls just a bit, tanned legs

Dancing, feeling weightless, no pain.

Her eyes are closed, feeling happy and tranquil.

Lost in memories of friends and good times.

Then, “ma’am, MA’AM, its your turn”.

Nothing like being called ma’am

to jolt one back to harsh reality.