I heard from someone on facebook the other day that referenced my high school years and expressed admiration for my confidence as an out lesbian at that time. I was grateful for the interaction and quite taken aback that my abject misery during those years went hidden from everyone. At 17, I felt like one big blob of hurt and anger and depression and hopelessness. I’ve done my best to forget those heartbreaking years. When I start remembering even a little bit of that time, anger starts flowing into the mental cracks and colors everything a lovely shade of black. I go back to practicing self-care as quickly as possible and eventually, the anger subsides. Perhaps the anger is a defense against a whole shitload of other emotions that lie underneath. Perhaps all the pain is stuffed in a mental garbage disposal that can only be cleaned out by turning it on and churning that shit right down the drain. And perhaps . . . Perhaps all those rotten things can be used as compost for growth. One day soon, I will look in there and start the process of turning all of it into a useful tool. Today, it’s enough to know that I control the process and random blasts from the past are more than welcome. Indeed, my gratitude for the woman who contacted me is immense. She helps me tease out good memories from the detritus, whether she knows it or not. Thank you, southern lady.
You know, it’s not just the daily rage from hearing and seeing our dear leader making more north korean pronouncements; it’s also the petty flareup from a dick head parking in a handicapped spot and then trying to clap back at my side eye. It’s also a professed friend who never engages even while wanting engagement . . . on my side only, apparently. That pisses me off to no end, right there. Then there’s the existential rage of helplessness at situations beyond my control and my ensuing neurotic rage at my lack of self control. At this point, it becomes necessary to pop another blood pressure pill and practice some dilettantish form of meditation, but I keep coming back to it, like a tongue exploring a sore tooth. I just can’t help it sometimes. Fireball to the rescue. I take comfort in the fact that I can feel strong emotions, knowing that they will pass, as they always do. Tomorrow, I will wake up in my usual sunny mood unless I dream again of trying to cook a burger on a grill that is dirty and cold and I can’t figure out how to turn it on. That turned my nap into a restless and angry unconsciousness. That just won’t do at all. So, another day will come and another opportunity to create will come along, and that will soothe my rage again.
Five ways to tell the difference:
- Laziness is passive. It’s like wearing concrete shoes in an overheated room. Nothing wants to move, even if you tried.
- Rumination is active. It’s inward attention. You don’t notice the concrete shoes or the beckoning warmth. You are focused on what’s percolating inside, whether it’s a cool recipe, an idea for a poem, a mental sketch of what your next art piece might resemble.
- Laziness will spend a ton of energy looking for something interesting on TV to avoid rumination. It will also check Facebook 952 times to see what that person you don’t even want to look at is up to in order to avoid the thoughts of WHY you don’t even want to look at that person’s likes.
- Rumination forgets to check Facebook for an hour at a time, or just glances to see if anyone has become a patron yet. Rumination is germination, really. Thoughts become real and active.
- Laziness and rumination are two sides of the same coin. Chances are, one will turn into the other eventually. Laziness is exhausting. So is active thinking. The flow between the two can be smooth or bumpy, but the flow will come. It will translate into action when it’s time, and not one minute before.
I’m always baffled by so-called Christians being among the most hateful people in the world. I don’t pretend to accept them or their short-sighted behaviors and in fact, will actively work to stay as disengaged as possible. After years of seeing this behavior and hearing the rhetoric, I’ve tended to view professed Christians with a jaundiced eye.
Today, I saw love in action. True love guided by the tenets of faith and translated into real works. Two people took the time to take care of us with groceries, with kind words, with some monetary gifts, with their faith in action. That they are angels is beyond doubt; that they are fully human with human foibles is also beyond doubt. I think that those of us who look at people of faith with misgivings tend to paint humans with a broad brush and fail to notice that all of us are subject to the perceptions that may not be as based in reality as we might wish them to be.
For someone to accept me for who I am, flaws and all means that I also need to accept them. It doesn’t mean that I need to understand their motivations or their innermost thoughts or even how they go about their day-day-day lives. It means that by whatever measure I look for in myself I should be about the business of using that same measure for others, regardless of belief or nonbelief. Those angels may lose their wings in an hour; that’s not my problem. That those angels showed up with their wings in full glory at a time when I was feeling desperate means the world to me, and for that, I can acknowledge their divinity and humanity in all the glory that is shown to me.
Is the inevitable question when we leave a store larger than a 7-11. It’s not dementia, it’s traumatic brain injury. This isn’t dementia talking, this is traumatic brain injury. It could be the result of stroke, motorcycle wreck, or an IED blowing apart a Humvee in Afghanistan. It’s misunderstood, taken too lightly, and exacts a toll on survivor and caregiver alike.
TBI survivors can be perceived as bitter, angry, stubborn, moody sons-of-bitches that just want to make everyone around them miserable. To this day, my sister cannot be in the same room as Mother, a stroke survivor, so she does the next best thing and pays Mom’s cable bill. Guilt alleviation by cash register. It’s often easier to write off the emotional storms as mere personality traits than it is to dig for the underlying causes. Sometimes, it’s not just pure meanness that TBI survivors exhibit: The vast dark spaces in their brains where old memories flit by and new ones refuse to form are enough to drive anyone batshit crazy.
Picture it. One day, you wake up and you intend to drive to work, but when you get in the car, you don’t know where to put the key, and in fact, you don’t know where you are going until you find your list with directions on how to get to work. Or you look in the refrigerator and don’t recognize any of the bottles, cans or food containers. Sure, you know what work is, and you know food is stored in the big cold box, but you can’t draw out what to do with any of it. Hundreds of everyday mundane actions can spell panic to a TBI survivor.
I am learning how to ask questions appropriately, how to approach situations delicately, and how to step in the do the necessary things without infringing on the survivors’ clinging to a sense of self when all is the unknown, even in their brains.