I have a friend whose behavior is driving me nuts and, frankly, scaring me. My basic issue with her is that she does not seem to be learning. I have tried to warn her about consequences of her actions for years in person, on the phone, and even through email. She is not learning. She possesses no insight. Now she is not sleeping due to, in my opinion, a guilty conscience. I cannot help her.
The issue of not learning is extraordinarily complicated. The brain’s health is related to diet and sleep, in addition to a gazillion other possibilities. Learning is related to consciousness. There are different, including altered, states of consciousness. There is the whole “what gets rewarded, gets repeated” aspect. There is also the concept of addiction, which puts a grinding halt to learning and maturing as a whole. One definition of addiction that I like is that of creating a fantasy world and then trying to live there. That about sums it up.
I spent thirty years helping Barry to be straight and sober. No alcohol on the premises. Taking him to meeting when he stopped being able to drive. Celebrating sobriety anniversaries. That kind of thing.
I have spent most of my life wrapped around these issues in one form or another. It started out with reading about addiction and codependence in the late 80s and early 90s. That got me into the concept of “automatic pilot” and how similar it is to altered states of consciousness. I also got into brain wave frequencies (gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta). All of this, to some degree, is nutrition-dependent. Then there is the whole social aspect. Here is all the systems theory anyone ever needs to know: what gets rewarded, gets repeated. People do what has worked for them in the past on some level. If they are no longer getting the reward (prestige, money, high, their way), their behavior can become extinct in moments (not days, weeks, months, or years). None of this even touches the various ways people learn or the forms of ADD, Aspergers, etc.
I have spent close to thirty years reading on subjects that are not in the same section of the bookstore. Addiction. Buddhism (meditation and mindfulness). Religion of every kind. Quantum physics. The autism spectrum. Child rearing (every human should read Alice Miller). Organizational psychology.
I am to a point where I feel I should write a book. Seriously. I have connected dots that I don’t think others have.
And then my friend makes me want to tear my hair out. She is getting older but not wiser. She is aging but not maturing. And since she is not sleeping, the downward spiral has commenced. How long will it take to hit bottom? Will she, can she, learn anything from this? This is tripping all my issues. Every time I have had someone in my life that has done one of these downward spirals, I have tried to warn them. I have been ignored. Eventually, I lose the relationship entirely because I refuse to go down the road they are on. That has included my family. Their life crumbles and I get accused of being a bad whatever. I feel that when you see a train that is going to run over a loved one, there is a certain moral obligation to give fair warning. But I cannot and will not try to convince anyone of anything anymore. I have had my lifetime fill of that. Once I warn you, you are on your own. The next step is for me to get my ass off the tracks.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I am sure that it won’t be pretty.
So much has been happening lately.
I was drinking my coffee the morning of the fifth. I get a call from the career services lady of my alma mater, DU. She says there is a woman who has data entry to do through the end of April. Would I be interested? I call the woman instantly. Suddenly, I have a job through the end of the month, or at least the end of this week. I have gotten more done than she imagined I could in a short time.
This is the deal with her. She is of Chinese descent, but her citizenship is Swiss and she grew up in mid-Michigan. She resigned from a company that has something to do with crypto-currencies. She has been traveling and lecturing years all over the world and needs someone to sort receipts and enter them into spreadsheets. That would be me. Anything she cannot document with receipts, she cannot be reimbursed for by the Swiss company she resigned from. She does not get paid for anything that cannot be documented. We are talking January 2017 through March 2018. One the one hand, she is really picky and there is no way to make her happy. On the other hand, I am saving her butt. There is an old saying that applies: a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. I do the very best I can. I am in this for the good reference. But her stress level is purely self-induced. She did this to herself. Period. I have been the reliable worker from the beginning. Others help when they can, but I have done the bulk of the work myself.
I feel like I am being pulled from the future.
And I am trying to honor Barry. The memorial at the AA club is in a few weeks. I have very few pictures of him. My entire life, I have struggled with depression and not particularly wanting to live. I have been very thorough at making sure that there are almost no visual reminders of my existence. Whenever I have seen a camera, I have made every effort to get behind it, not in front of it. It worked. Almost no one has pictures of me from the past few decades of my life. So now, after years of refusing to take pictures of anything, I have few pictures of Barry to put on poster board for his memorial.
I feel like the next phase of my life is starting. I would be fine free-lancing in the occupational world. I have health insurance and a pension, thanks to Barry. Working is not urgent. But I love being useful and there will always be work out there I can do that needs to be done. But I need to honor my past with Barry, all thirty years of it. We were married for 29. I married at 21 and am now 50 and single.
It is hard letting go of the past, but the future is so much brighter than the past ever was. I miss Barry, a lot sometimes. But there are so many parts of our past I cannot imagine missing. I am slowly recovering.
Who the hell am I?
I have never been this lost.
I have been trying to get a part-time job, without much luck so far. It would be the first post-Barry employment.
But I ache for Barry. I took a nap today, which I seldom do. I had a dream with Barry. He was driving the car and I had my head on his shoulder. It felt so good. I’ve been having dreams with him. The numbness has worn off. I miss him. Not the Barry that died the God-awful, horrific, advertisement-for-euthanasia, death. No. The Barry that I married.
So I put my wedding band back on. And it feels right. I’m not married, but I didn’t get divorced, either.
Winter won’t end. The weather just continues to suck. Snow and rain. Upper 30s. Yuck. Technically, it is spring, but that doesn’t seem meaningful.
I am neither married nor single. I’m not working, but I did tutor a little today and I don’t need to work at the moment.
I am between identities. I do not want to hurry and take the first job offered. I want to do something meaningful. I may never tell strangers that I am technically single. I want to embrace the in-between-ness.
I so don’t know what I am doing, but I am enjoying being alone. I have such a deficit of alone time that I don’t know if one lifetime is enough to catch up.
It has occurred to me that, if I wanted to, I could pay off my lease and leave Michigan–this minute. No kidding. No forwarding address.
I am only looking for certain kinds of experience. I would prefer to get paid, but I am okay not getting paid at the moment. I don’t need benefits because I have insurance from the UAW/GM retirees trust. I have a pension–for the rest of my life. That means I can work part-time and be fine with a job that does not provide benefits.
I have been getting some experience with the American Cancer Society. I love volunteering there. The people are really nice. But I can tell they have issues. People are quitting right and left, and I’m not talking peons. Big wigs. Someone there is not happy. But that has created opportunities that no volunteer should probably have. I have been handling checks and inputting data into their system, for example. They have no idea how lucky they are to have me as a volunteer. I am ridiculously over-educated, require no accommodations, and am extremely honest. Not many volunteers have already run a church bookstore, I’m sure. I can help them while preparing to move to another state.
Most people would probably think I am lonely. Not yet. Small things make me cry. I will miss Barry forever. But being man-free suits me just fine.
I’ve been attracting really good things. Mostly money so far.
I got a notice from Social Security that Barry was still owed money. To collect, all I had to do was bring a certified copy of our wedding certificate. So I went to Charlotte (pronounced shar-LOT, not SHAR-lit, because I live in Michigan, not North Carolina) and got three copies for about $30. For a couple bucks in gas and the $30, I will get about $2000. Wow.
Then I got a phone call from the mortgage company. Keep in mind that we haven’t owned a house in a year-and-a-half. The call was because they tried to send us a check for overpaid taxes to the old address. All I had to do was to email them with my new address. I just got a check for over $600.
And I even got a check for over $400 from the long-term care insurance people for over $400. These are the people I had to pretty much threaten them with legal action to do any part of their job whatsoever.
All totaled, this is almost a half year of rent.
So now I am working on having a clue and getting a part-time job. I know the economy is doing well (thank you Barack Obama; Trump gets zero credit for Obama’s economic recovery) because the reason I am struggling to get a part-time job is because everyone wants full-time employees. That is one high-class problem in my book. I don’t have to work and can be picky.
Something I am doing is working.
I am getting back into the swing of things, sort of. The old swing of things is gone forever, but I am developing some new habits and getting a fair bit done.
Last night, I tutored and went to a small political gathering. I helped my student with working with tables in Excel. That went fine. She even has recommended me to someone else.
Then I went to the political gathering. It was very interesting. Democrats are organizing. The meeting was filled with people of different ages, nationalities, and income levels. This is America’s future. What a striking contrast to visiting my parents’ trailer park in Florida, where everyone is white, middle-to-upper class, and 60+. I spent time talking to a district representative who was probably in his thirties.
I am making connections. I am doing things I am good at. This is what I have been waiting for.
I came back to Michigan. My apartment is fine, but there was standing water everywhere. This was created by three factors: 1) almost two feet of snow sitting on the ground when I left, 2) more than twice the normal amount of precipitation for February in the space of a week, and 3) the ground is still frozen. Numbers one and three are perfectly normal. Snow and frozen earth in Michigan in February. I shrug my shoulders at the thought. It’s the three inches of rain in February that makes me say, “WTF?!” The Grand River flooded near Potter Park Zoo, of course. And the Red Cedar flooded on MSU’s campus big time. I’ve never seen that and I am 50. The frozen ground ensured that the water had nowhere to go and so it could do is to stand around waiting for the sun and/or wind to evaporate it away.
So I arrive home and the focus is on the weather. Hard to avoid. And it was still so warm that the larger piles of snow (from plowing the two feet) were still melting, which is the equivalent of it continuing to rain.
Eventually, the wind comes along and evaporates some of the water. Now, people can think about something, anything, else. And I want to be obsessive. I don’t want silence. I don’t want to be alone and have to function. I want to watch TV or listen to radio.
I am no longer numb from Barry’s death and functioning just feels too hard at times. I don’t know what I want. How much do I want to work? What do I want to do?
It’s weird to do some things without him. I went to get our taxes done. I actually filed jointly alone. How wrong is that? After all, we had always filed jointly and we were married all of 2017. I cried at the H&R Block. Barry and I had always gone together and he was always very compliant. We would make an outing of it and go to Barnes and Noble afterwards.
Last night, I threw out some of the queen size bedding I had still been using. That was hard, even though I have stacked the twin mattresses and the bedding had become unruly. I just didn’t want to be wrapped up in our sheets while I sleep alone. I felt the awareness that all objects contain energy and that I need to be careful what I keep around me.
I don’t know what I want. The numbness is gone and now the feelings are chasing me around without clarity.