“It’s like a sauna in here.”

Robot hand holding disintigrating clock

I’m missing my brother, Steve.  He didn’t wake up after his fourth open-heart surgery in Rochester, MN.  It still hurts to think about the time surrounding his passing.  The year following was the saddest so far.  After that, I was able to function externally without weeping.  It’s been over a decade since, but it still feels like I left my life for that year.  I was a shadow and grief was my only sound.

The following year my mom died from colon cancer.  Two years after that, my little sister, Heather, passed unexpectedly.  Then my dad died several months later.  It was a rough five years, I’m sure.  Right now, I can only pinpoint the moment when my brain decided protective measures were necessary to maintain equilibrium.  I call it the Numbness Effect.

The moment is a mental audio file, now.  It’s the sound of a surgeon telling me he can’t cure my mom’s cancer.  I also remember my mom waking up and asking for me like she had a nightmare.  It was just before Thanksgiving, and my heart fell out of my chest and plummeted to the center of the earth.  Then all the things that were poking at me suddenly ceased.  The tag in my shirt, the bright lighting, the odors, and all the sounds.

I felt lots of things but wasn’t able to identify them.  It was as if they were too far away for me to see them with my crappy vision.  But mostly I felt numb and empty.  The place where my heart used to reside kept threatening to become a vacuum bent on sucking me up into nothingness.  I honed my automatic-pilot abilities to a micron-thin edge.  It was much like my final year of military service, only the university edition.

I’d make an excellent human robot.  Unfortunately, there’s no joy in it.  I won’t do life without it.  I enjoy making a little bit go a long way, but there has to be some.  I think this is a consequence of reading voraciously and observing more than participating.  And overthinking, but I haven’t discovered a non-invasive means of turning off my thoughts while maintaining the ability to turn them on again.  (I learned the hard gross way NEVER to perform self-surgery.)

We ordered in Chinese food for dinner.  The delivery was by someone I went to school with until junior high.  He was a combination of Owen Meany (from A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving) and Chucky from Child’s Play.  I was utterly fascinated by him: his voice, his cauliflower ear, and his coke-bottle glasses that were always filthy.  He seems to be a neat adult, unsurprisingly.  He remembered me.  We talked about Steve for a bit.  They were friends until he passed.  It was nice to see him.  I wish I didn’t tell him I thought of him recently, though.  I suspect it made it weird.  (I sucked at hiding the fact I was fascinated by someone in elementary school.  Pshhh.  I probably still do.)  😂  I’m off to color with M.

chuckyfinger

What does the little man inside say?

The Depression Monster is riding my back. It’s at minor annoyance level.  I’m a bit surprised by my suspicions of why I’m feeling low.  I think it’s because I’m studying Stevie Nicks, and I’ve come to a rough point in her past.  I’m at the overwhelming betrayal:  She was told she had to stop using cocaine or she’d die. Clearly, she stopped.  When she was recovering from addiction to cocaine, she was prescribed Klonopin.  It led to a worse addiction.  That’s a pretty big mind fuck.  I’m experiencing it retroactively, but apparently, my empathy didn’t get the memo.

I paused the documentary at that point to process what I’ve learned so far.  Fame is ugly.  It’s not new information, but watching Fleetwood Mac lose their innocence was hard.  I now know Rumours was created from pain.  They were all experiencing raw grief.  The successful album says a lot about their professionalism and abilities.  Most people don’t want anything badly enough to endure such circumstances.  They were about to make it big, but I don’t think they knew it.  They certainly earned it.

It bugs me something so sought after is basically a trap.  A trap for drug addiction, and a new type of loneliness exclusive to famous people.  It triggers my protective nature.  Fuck the universe for tempting so many people to strive for fame before revealing it’s true nature.  People don’t like to be fucked with, especially not after pouring everything they have into reaching for excellence.  Fuck.  Also, the men interviewed in this documentary are pissing me off.  They’re music producers from the late 70’s, which is probably enough explanation.

They’re accidentally doing a fairly good job of conveying how things went down, but you have to read between the lines.  They’re inarticulate and behave like frenemies at best, ex-lovers at worst.  Nobody is watching this documentary to hear about how butt-hurt the producers are decades after the fact.  Besides, Gen X women know misogyny speak fluently.  When men describe a woman as a bitch, diva, full of herself, bossy, and/or demanding, we are aware it actually means she was a formidable leader.  It says she didn’t submit to male dominance.  It means she’s someone worthy of our attention.

I’m noticing similarities between Stevie Nicks and Carrie Fisher.  They’re both survivors and storytellers.  They’re understandable to me.  I’ve probably stated this many times, but understanding is the path to love.  When you understand someone, you can’t help but love them.  Loving those who don’t know I even exist is surprisingly delightful.  It’s a safe secret.  I’m not very good at being a fan of famous people.  I rarely go to concerts because the other fans scare the shit out of me.  I’m pretty sure a lot of famous people have been traumatized by their fans.  We should rename fame.  It should be called Public Pain.  (I’m a huge fan of stating what’s meant.)

I can’t recall ever meeting anyone famous.  It’s a perk of living in South Dakota.  We’ve all rehearsed how we plan to act should it ever occur, but even my rehearsals haven’t gone well.  My imagination is kind of an asshole.  I’m barely able to manage it, (mostly because it amuses me too much to try very hard.)  The only famous person I’m confident I could meet (without regretting my behavior ever after) would be Michelle Obama.  I know exactly how that would go down.  She’d smile and offer to shake my hand, and I’d immediately start bawling.  I wouldn’t be ashamed because I know so many who would react exactly the same way.  (She’s probably used to it.)

I know I’m rambling on and on, but I can’t help myself.  I haven’t spoken to anyone but my cat in a few days.  (It was deliberate, but I’m an inch away from too weird, to begin with.)  So here we are.  I still have a profound sense the end of my life is impending.  It’s been over six months, but the feeling hasn’t waivered.  I hate to admit it, but I’m enjoying the planning process.  (I think it’s just that I like planning in general.)  I’m at a point now where I recognize I need to write a short story about my childhood nightmares.  It’ll be a cleansing.  I’ve always been reluctant to write it because it’s a horror story and it’s not reality.

I would suck as an author.  I have the discipline and imagination.  I don’t have the thingamajig required to convince anyone a fantasy is real.  The things I love most about novels are things I’m only capable of recognizing, not reproducing.  I’m pretty sure identifying them is more fun, though.  I don’t do the foreshadowing dance anymore, but I still get a burst of joy every time I recognize it on a first read.  That’s a lot of mileage considering I was in primary school when I learned of it.  But as a writer, I don’t foreshadow, I announce in advance.  Sigh.  Sophistication is a bitch.

Why give me comprehension without the skill?  That’s fucking mean.  But I’m not complaining, just rambling.  I’ve managed to put off this short story for most of my life.  I guess it’s time to purge it.  I’m extremely curious about what comes after life if anything.  I’m mostly sure the answer is nothing.  The thing I like most about that possibility is its nature; there can be no regrets.  The itsy bitsy chance someone imagined it right, or even close, is still enough to get lost in for a while.  It bothers me a bit that I’m not grieving, though.  Does it mean I’m ready?  We’ll see.  I’m off to beat my drums.

 

 

 

 

I sent 16 of my own men to the latrines that night!

My therapy session on Tuesday left me feeling reflective.  We talked about my family members who have died.  I shared with her why I cried for a year after my brother died, and told her about him.  I think she really understood why I loved him so much.  I had never done that before.  Even thinking about it now has me smiling.  It was incredibly healing.  He visited my dreams last night, but I don’t remember the circumstances.  Just that I was glad to see him, and was aware it was a dream.  He’s never far from my thoughts.

I’ve also shared with her aspects of my relationship with my Mom that have previously been private.  I feel like my Mom is with me 24/7.  Not a physical presence, but a lifelong acknowledgement.  For my entire life, I’ve been in an ongoing internal conversation with my Mom.  It’s so seamless, it’s like breathing.  Even before I could speak, I thought my thoughts to her, and accepted her words as her answer.  It wasn’t always logical, sometimes was hilarious, but was most often effective.  When I left to serve in the Army, I continued.  I had a good idea by then what my Mom would say in many situations.  When we talked on the phone, I would report the incidents in which I used her “voice” to guide me through a tough situation.

It probably hasn’t been helpful when I talk to other people, though.  I struggle with conversations.  It’s a sophisticated dance between controlling my anxiety, and comprehending/staying present well enough to remain on topic in real time.  In my eyes, I come off to others as having a low intellect, and an intermittent ability to connect with others.  I know that in actuality, I have a high intellect, and suck at conversations.  I do far better when I can type versus speaking aloud.  But texting is ideal.  I text back as soon as I notice.  This could be immediately, or a few days.  The time it takes to respond means nothing negative.  I have 2 phones. I only give out the number for 1 of them.  The other is an extension of my brain.  I don’t even know the number for that phone.

Therapy is exhausting, but that’s not really a con.  I’ve been sleeping regularly.  Every single night I sleep now.  For between 4 and 6 hours.  I haven’t done that since I was in the Army.  It’s a combination of a new sleeping med, having the mountain on my back excised, being drained from therapy, and not being afraid to go to sleep.  The fact that I can run outside now is probably contributing as well.  I like the awake me better.  I despise feeling sluggish.  It’s a panic trigger, which becomes a twisted level of hell, Dante style, when I don’t sleep.  Fuck that.  So I’m pleased with how it’s going.

I just found out that Prince is dead.  I’m going for a run.

Disability Day of Mourning

Today is Disability Day of Mourning.  There were lots of posts on Twitter.  There was a list of disabled people who were murdered by family members by date, name, and cause of death.  I skimmed the list to see if the little girl who lived across the street was on it.  She wasn’t.  Her name was Rachel, and she was 9.  Her mom took her into their basement and shot her, then herself with a shotgun.  Rachel was Autistic.  My sister, Heather, was her babysitter.  Naturally, the whole neighborhood was shocked.  Murder is not an acceptable way to cope with disability.  There are no excuses.  Nobody has the right to steal someone’s life.  Especially not that of a child.

Even when I was serving in the Army, I firmly believed that killing someone is wrong.  I didn’t claim conscientious objector status, because it wasn’t an issue for me.  There was only one incident in which a weapon was fired intending to hit me.  That weapon was practically a relic, and it’s shooter was only 15.  Of course I didn’t return fire.  I told on him, and he got smacked by his grandfather.  I got an Article 15, but it was just company grade, and not my first.  That Iraqi boy’s life was totally worth 14 days of extra duty and restriction.  Other than that, I was what is commonly referred to as a “chairborne ranger”.  I spent the majority of my military career in various schools.  I enjoyed it.  My motivation came from finding out that in the event of chemical or biological warfare, the first person required to remove their protective mask and gear was the person least mission essential.

I didn’t want to be that person, so I made sure I had crucial skills.  I eventually became the NBC NCO (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Noncommissioned officer).  That alone pretty much guaranteed it wouldn’t be me.  The often denied chemical and biological agents used in Desert Stormy by Saddam Hussein caused a lot of people to get sick, and some passed it on to family members.  It’s only recently been acknowledged by the VA.  They tried to pull a Vietnam/Agent Orange again.  Fuckers.  It takes 10-20 years for the VA to overcome denial.  Unfortunately for Vietnam veterans, it’s apparently a recurring condition, as they’re dumping programs for them left and right of late.  Fuckers.

I don’t regret my service, though.  I learned some crucial lessons.  I learned that maintaining American freedom is not the reason we’ve participated in wars since WWII.  That’s just the lie that gets suckers like me to volunteer.  It works well when you couple it with the bullshit they teach in public schools.  I was 17 when I shipped out for basic training.  I was a young, naive 17-year-old with an extremely sheltered childhood and undiagnosed Autism.  I bought into the whole “protecting my country’s freedoms” line.  This is an embarrassing admission in hindsight, but I joined the Army because I wanted to be a soldier so I could help prevent war.  My high school debate training left me thinking that I was good at stating my case, and convincing others to adopt my views.  Shut up.

So it was an eye opening experience, but one I needed.  I literally grew up in the Army.  It was so painful to accept the fact that America isn’t the best country ever.  That we have a bloody, horrific past, just like pretty much all other nations.  That as a nation, America is a teenager who hasn’t yet figured out where she fits in on the world stage, and has shitty boundaries.  I’m sure plenty of other people had this figured out by age 17, but I didn’t.  It was like finding out there’s no such thing as Santa Claus all over again.  I remember watching CNN, and being floored by the fact that they were lying their asses off.  I had assumed if it was on the news, it was true.  Shut up.  So yeah, I had to grow up.

I also learned how to embrace and love hard, demanding physical labor.  The feeling of being completely exhausted, and barely able to walk after a hard day of work is so good.  I learned that my capabilities are far greater than I ever imagined.  I learned how to cope with incredible fear.  I shake, cry, hyperventilate, and emit strange moaning sounds when I’m extremely afraid, and I can still function despite it.  The first time I experienced this was when we had to throw 2 live (REAL) grenades over a wall in basic training.  We stood inside a bunker with a thick plexiglass window to observe those who went before us.  Every time, we’d duck for cover when the shrapnel flew at us and embedded in the plexiglass.  It was loud, it smelled badly, and I was terrified.  I was in the middle of the line, and when it was my turn and I was handed 2 live grenades to put in my LBE pouches, my legs were like Jello.

I walked so carefully and slowly, trying to make sure I didn’t trip.  It was a short distance to where my Drill SGT waited by the wall.  We were told to throw them like a shotput, not a baseball.  All we had to do was pull the pin, and project the grenade over the top of a wall that was probably around 10′ high.  It was a very simple process.  However, our Drill SGTS told us the horror stories of the Private who threw the pin and kept the grenade.  When I finally made it to the designated spot, I pulled out the first one, pulled it’s pin, and threw it as hard as I could.  It probably went about 2 feet beyond the wall.  Then my Drill SGT grabbed me and shoved me down against the wall, and lay over me.  This was standard procedure.  I got back up, and started crying.  I asked if it was okay if I just threw the one.  It was not okay.  So I threw the other one pretty much exactly like the first one, bawling my head off the whole time.

Another important lesson I learned in the Army was how to let go.  How to let go of people, stuff, and places.  I had friends who got orders to move to other countries.  I literally lost everything I owned when moving back to America from Germany.  I lived in Texas, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.  I went on field problems in 29 Palms, California, and Yuma in AZ.  I went to basic in South Carolina.  Suffice to say, I’ll never be a hoarder.  I don’t allow myself to get overly attached to objects.  There are other important things I learned from my Army experience, but these are the ones that remain helpful.  There.  I’ve managed to refocus in order to prevent my grief over the murders of so many innocent disabled people from crushing me.