“It’s not looking too good to be me today, and tomorrow doesn’t look any better.”

Day one: wrangling this damned depression. It’s not going away.  I cannot wish it away from me any more than I can wish to sprout wings.  The idea is good, the desire is there, but the laws of reality are as immutable as gravity. So. I have taken my fish oil, krill oil, vitamins, and drunk some wonderful green tea left over from yesterday. In the past, I took pharmaceuticals and I found the side effects to be more debilitating than effective.

Next: coming to grips with the fact that I no longer have a part-time job. This is a funny one–not ha ha funny, but strange funny.  I was getting bored with it anyway, and it was taking up more time than I wanted to give to it, so I was relieved when I received word that my services were no longer needed.  My time was at last my own again.  I ordered new art supplies, cleared off my work table, and set about doing what I really want to do. Well, that table stands in judgement as we speak, waiting for me to do something. Anything.

So, there’s a big ball of unrelieved anxiety that shouldn’t even exist. And it’s about money and self-worth.

All my life, I equated my job with my worth. I’ve had wonderful, unsuitable jobs that paid well. I’ve had crappy jobs that I kept because that’s what you do. Along the way, my body has broken down, my mind has shut itself off from the hell I was in, and here we are.

I’ve set goals for this month. They are modest and attainable. One goal is to write every day, even if it’s just an exercise for a half hour or so. I will post on here every day. My next goal is to work on my art pieces every day.  I have enough of them in various stages of completion that I could always have something on the table. My art website is next. Even if I just look at it every day, I will have it in my mind.

This is my job and I am going to treat it as such, instead of an interesting hobby. This is what I love. I’m not a writer or an artist for mercenary reasons.

That voice says, Hey, why waste time doing something that may not bring you money?

Holy crap.  That’s it.  That’s the whole reason I’ve turned away from regular writing, regular craft work. It’s not considered “worthy” without money. I wonder where I got that notion? I wonder why I’ve held on to it for so long? That thought has to go.  It has to disappear.

 

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The general public is stupid. Crazy stupid. “Were you raised by goats??” stupid.

Not just “Dang, I locked my keys in the car” stupid. Not just “Crap, I put the case of beer on top of the eggs” stupid.

I mean “Let me put a starving wolverine down my pants just to watch it run up and down my leg” stupid.

Professional grade, “Let’s bypass all those pesky safety regs so the machine runs all the time until someone loses a finger, oops!” stupid.

Weaponized, “I know texting and driving is illegal and dangerous, but Imma take a bunch of downers and text for fifteen miles until I kill an entire family” stupid.

Dear reader, who among us hasn’t accidentally microwaved an egg until we realized too late that it’s not a good idea? Indeed, who among us hasn’t forgotten that jalapenos will bite mucus membranes hours after being handled?  Lastly, how many of us are completely wed to ideas that no longer serve a valid purpose or even make sense anymore?

All of us, at one time or another, have done, said, believed and supported stupid things, stupid ideas, stupid people.  Schadenfreude would not exist if no one had a frame of reference for it.  “What goes around, comes around” would not resonate had it never happened to me or to you.

So, stupidity is universal.  Just as there are degrees of intelligence, there are degrees of stupid, and I like to think there is a bell curve wherein fully fifty percent of us fall in the middle of the spectrum, on the side of car key locking, but not far enough to the right for steering a four thousand pound rolling missile with a bare foot while shooting bottle rockets out the window because it will generate tons of views on Facebook live.

Funny thing, those of us who detest those people who are more stupid, we also tend to mistrust those people who are much less stupid.  Really smart people are nerds, of course, unless they are dead, disabled, or so enlightened that they don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks anymore. At that point, they are put on a pedestal and essentially trotted out for photo ops.

So, right now, we have really stupid people in government, but not so stupid they can’t con a significant portion of the public.  Start locally, and work your way up from there.  I’ll wait.

Let’s just take an example that presented itself a couple of days ago from Fort Worth, Texas.  I won’t go into the particulars of why the cop got fired, but suffice to say, his actions were egregious.  Not so much criminally egregious, because nobody was killed, but stupid enough for the department to say, “So long, hoss. You’re out.”

Now, what caught my ear from all this wasn’t his actions, but the Union rep coming on TV and saying that the firing would cause all cops to rethink their actions and take into consideration the consequences of their behavior.  Please note, he was not endorsing the firing by any means:  he was saying in essence that holding cops accountable for their behavior would have a chilling effect on law enforcement.

Um, duh. Now, a significant portion of the public agreed with him that holding cops accountable for their stupid actions would be a very bad thing.  After all, if someone obeys the law, they won’t have to worry about it, right?

Let’s just take a peek at events of the past few years to realize this really isn’t a wholly true statement.  Let’s dig into the histories of all involved and try to figure out why things went down the way they did.

No?  You mean, I’m not allowed to look at Officer Cop’s bullying behavior of the past, but I need to look at dead suspect’s weed smoking past?  Why not?  And so it goes.  Knowledge can be used two ways, no?

Truth and facts are not mutually exclusive, as it were.  You can have facts without truth, and you can have truth without facts.  Myths and archetypes are two examples of truth without facts.  In the example of the fired cop, looking at the facts and ignoring the truth is not likely to assuage anyone’s outrage on either side of the issue.

The roots of weaponized stupid are long and deep.  It’s gonna take more than a hoe and fire to keep it beat back to a manageable level.  Education, specifically teaching self-discipline, will help.  Reinforcing consequences will help.  If we live long enough, most of us understand that certain behaviors are not worth the consequences.  Live and learn.

Likewise, if children don’t ever face consequences for behavior, they will continue to engage in behaviors that hurt or even kill others. Wisdom isn’t a gift bestowed on the lucky, believe it or not.   Wisdom is like grits; whether you like them or not, you never forget them.  Never. You can eat them. Or not.  You might complain, but if your belly is empty, those grits will satisfy and warm you.

And now, I present to you, our government.  Our wonderful, “We elected these numbnuts” government.  I’m going to tell you a secret, so lean in and listen closely to this fact, scattered, smothered and covered in truth.

Our elected officials, the ones we trust to keep the train on the track, the ones who promise the moon and stars to get elected, the ones who swear they fight for all of us?

They know the general public is stupid.  They are smart enough to know that white noise from back home is just that–white noise.  They know that all they have to do is keep the money coming in, the contacts refreshed in their phones, and photo ops with the yahoos-er, constituents and they are set for life.  Set. For. Life.

See, they don’t really give a damn about their brethren’s behavior. It’s all white noise.  No matter which side of the aisle they reside on, they don’t really care, as long as the yahoos-er, constituents are at home, outraged and donating their pittances in the forlorn hope that their voices will be heard.

The Roy Moore fiasco? Believe me when I tell you that nobody in Washington gave a rat’s ass whether or not he was elected. The GOP didn’t care whether he won or lost: their stupid rubes would support Atilla the Hun if he had an (R) behind his name.  The Dems didn’t care except that a dem win would appease their base and give them a shred of hope for at long last, decency. And in doing so, keep their coffers full.

They. Don’t. Care.

Are the Republicans concerned they will lose in mid-terms?

Nope.  Why not?

Surely they want to stay in Washington.  Well, sure they do, but they don’t have to be elected to be powerful. Rich. Set for life.

How many members of Congress come back home to the suburbs and cut their own grass?  How many retired Senators kick back on a fishing boat at a little cottage on the lake? How many just chill out and live on a tight budget like the rest of us?  I’m going to take a wild guess and say, none.

You see, they all survived the white noise and rampant stupidity long enough to get theirs in the form of lobbying jobs, chairmanships, guest professorships, and other positions that they feel they really deserve for gutting it through all the rubber chicken dinners, interminable town halls, backroom deals with this racist oilman, and that billionaire industrialist.

They are professionals at reading us, the stupid.  They are so good at running the con on us that most of us don’t even know our pockets are being picked by pros. Believe me when I say there’s not a member of Congress wringing his or her hands over the plight of their poorest and most vulnerable yahoos-er, constituents.  They may SAY they are, but nope.

So, here we are.  Fighting among ourselves, lurching from one outrage to another, wringing our hands and writing letters, calling our MoCs, all because of one nebulous thing: our belief that good will win out.

Sadly, good cannot win until stupidity is marginalized and real consequences are paid, and not just by the innocent.  Good cannot win until we understand on a visceral level that we give away our power to people we wouldn’t hire to rake leaves, much less make life-altering laws. Good cannot win until we set aside our feelings about what we don’t like and start pulling together for the common good.

In the next installment, I will tackle this contagious sense of entitlement that seems to be pervasive in society.

 

 

I never thought that my best friends would have been objects instead of people, but here we are.

I liked to smoke.  I loved to smoke.  My favorite time of the day was early morning, with cup of coffee in hand, pack of cigarettes on the table, and an hour to leisurely peruse Facebook and Twitter before my caregiving responsibilities came into play.

I cherished the twin jolts of caffeine and nicotine, and to a lesser extent, the solitude to indulge in those old friends.  Of course, at night, there was nothing better than a few beers, a lot more smokes, and hitting the hay with a pleasant buzz.

Then, the virus happened.  It started like my usual infection that happens every year at the same time:  sore throat, headache, nasty asthmatic cough.  I took my usual store meds to keep the symptoms to a dull roar and continued to do my usual, albeit with the added stress of Thanksgiving just a couple of days away.  I powered through, prepping for the big day, hacking and blowing my nose, smoking less and drinking more.  Alcohol is a disinfectant.  The logic seemed impeccable, really.

Then, my roommate started sniffling.  Started wheezing.  By Friday, she was puffing like a steam engine.  I was somewhat concerned, but not unduly so.  Although she indulged in the same habits, her smoking took a big hit.  She just couldn’t draw a deep breath.

By Saturday morning, she sounded like Darth Vader and looked like him without the helmet; grey, sickly, weak around the eyes.  Her stubbornness would not let her even touch her rescue inhaler until it was too late to do any good.  Off we go to the ER.  She spent six days in the hospital, struggling to draw a breath, taking breathing treatments and injections every two hours.  I had another day of self-recrimination and smoking, until I gave it up, too.  There was no way I could continue to smoke after what I saw her go through, even though I hadn’t planned to quit, exactly.  It just happened.

So, this Saturday, she will be two weeks smoke-free, on a strict heart-healthy diet, one drink limit, and as much walking as she can handle, which is to say, not much right now.  my drinking is down to one beer a night.  I didn’t plan that, either, but it happened.  Sunday will be two weeks smoke-free for me.

My so-called best friends ended up not being my best friends after all.  They didn’t care about my wellbeing.  They just wanted to kill me.  With friends like that, who needs enemies?  I can live without them and I have more free hours to do what I really want to do.  I thought I would be depressed, but the opposite has happened.  I feel more energetic, more positive, and I cook a whole lot more because I feel like it again.  I’ve noticed that my back no longer aches when I walk a lot.  I don’t get in a hurry to finish something so I can have a cigarette and a beer.

My roommate still has breathing treatments for the next few months, but she sounds better now breathing-wise than she has in years.

As for me, I’m still taking doctor-prescribed meds, still sniffling, still keeping a headache, and still smoke-free.  The gut-punch of wanting a cigarette happens and I let it come and go.  If I could train myself to not smoke in the car or the truck and be happy with it, I can train myself to not smoke anywhere, anytime.  I thoroughly enjoy my one beer and don’t miss the other five or six at all.

I once thought that being an adult meant doing what I want when it turns out that real maturity means doing what is necessary and liking it for the sheer joy of having the choice to make good decisions.

I had this idea that I would write some grand essay on how great life is and how good it is to write for a living but alas, it just ain’t happening. Nothing is really going right today. One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that I tend to get into a holding pattern for no real reason. I stall, hanging onto whatever was in the past, especially concerning my late, not so lamented employment. It’s past time I moved on to something else, anything else, to get the bad taste of their nefarious actions out of my mouth, but as with all sociopathic organizations, they try the gaslighting technique and I’m not having it anymore. I also started doubting myself for a few minutes. What if I really can work at a physically demanding job and I’m just being lazy? That lasted just a few minutes until the vertigo struck again, and my numb legs just played dead, while the creeping numbness in my arms caused me to rub the bulging disc in my neck. This is real. I’ve always worked through pain and discomfort. Now, though, it’s not the same. My mental energy is sapped, my emotional energy is sapped, and my physical energy, while willing to try to do things, just won’t do what I want. Ah, well. A little whine is good for the soul, one supposes. Nexr essay will be on point. It’s been percolating for a while, but I needed to get this crappety crap off my chest and then get about the business of living again.

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.