Thursday, March 27, 2008

Only connect

Over the Easter weekend, my mind wandered over to the bad side of the tracks. Holidays and family-oriented events tend to spook me sometimes -- I often feel as if I'm trapped in a bubble or a dream, waiting to emerge into some other reality. But my reality is...strange and sad, and often I'm plunged into despair over what I see when I look at other families and make the mistake of comparing them to my own.

What started it was taking time off while my kids were on spring break from school. I took a few days off work to spend with them, and we did some random running around town, seeing a couple of movies, trying restaurants, and ended up spending Easter Sunday taking my 83-year-old dad to visit his wife (my stepmother) in the rehab facility where she is staying while she recovers from pneumonia.

The truth is I am jealous of people with normal families. Yes, I know lots of people come from dysfunctional families and that hardly anyone has a perfect or ideal relationship with parents, siblings, whatever. But I get a pang of loss when other people talk about what they do on holidays -- going to their parents' or aunt's house, seeing cousins and siblings, and kids getting to know their extended family. Family reunions, family vacations together, etc. -- I've never had any of that, and never will.

I was adopted as a baby, and I have an older brother who was also adopted. He lives in a group home because he is schizophrenic and pretty much unable to work or care for himself. My dad is 83 and has suffered from degenerative arthritis and hip pain for about 30 years, and can't get around without a wheelchair, or a walker on his good days. My dad's family has passed away, mostly. My mother died about 15 years ago after ten years of illness, and since she was an only child, I don't have aunts or uncles or cousins on her side either. When I was visiting my dad on Easter, it occurred to me that most of the time I've spent with my immediate family since I've been an adult is when I'm taking them to the hospital, visiting them in the hospital, or picking them up from the hospital. There has never been a time in my life when I wasn't taking care of someone -- starting from the time I was 21 and started getting the phone calls from my brother who was descending into his illness, to last week when I was driving my dad back to the assisted-living facility where he lives.

This sounds suspiciously like self-pity, doesn't it?

Maybe it is. Maybe I'm whining. But these are the facts, and the truth is I wish it was all different. I wish I had a sibling who could remember the childhood we shared, who could share the present and the future with my children and his, if he'd been able to marry and have a family of his own. I wish my parents hadn't been sick for my entire adulthood -- I have visited every hospital in this city and even a few outside the city and can still remember where to park and where the information desk is, and which elevators are big enough for wheelchairs.

Is this disgusting? I ask you. I'm the healthy one -- I should be bowing down to karma with gratitude for having good health all my life and only the merest episodes of panic attacks and depression, pretty garden-variety stuff for a working mother. I DO fall to my knees to thank the universe for the beautiful healthy children I have and hope desperately that they never have to go through what I've been through.

But goddamn, I'm tired. And peevish.

A couple days before Easter I watched the movie Into the Wild with the kids, and I loved it. I could totally identify with the kid's desire to dump the baggage of modern life and roam off into the wilderness to connect with nature. When my first child was born and I was slogging through the days and nights, grey with fatigue and stained with baby puke, I used to have dreams constantly that I moved away to another city, changed my name, and got a different job. I still have those dreams.

But the peevish side of my mind perked up during the last part of the movie because the kid never contacted his parents or his sister. Inwardly I was pissed. Dude! You have actual parents, who are alive and want to buy you a car, and a normal loving sister who wants to hang out with you, and you ditch them all to go eat moose and wild roots in Alaska? And you can't even send them a fucking postcard? And the final tweak, the black cloud that sent me down that Bad Road into the Neighborhood of Envious Thoughts, was the realization that all he had to do was show up and his family would be ecstatic. Forgiven! He actually had people who were his immediate birth family who were anxious about where he was and if he was OK! Didn't he get that? Who was this snotty kid who so casually threw away what I can never have?

If you've ever seen Intervention, you know it's a series on Bravo that follows seriously self-destructive people who are going to be part of a surprise intervention by their families and friends. It's like a terrible accident you can't stop watching. I watch until I get to the part where the family pops out from behind a hotel room door to confront the addict and beg them to get help. They sit around the room, crying, reading letters to their loved one, begging them to get help and telling them how much they love and support them, and I just grit my teeth and flip off the TV because I am so fucking angry. Angry because of their selfishness, angry because of their irresponsibility, but angry mostly because I don't have ten family members in the world who would save me from stubbing my toe, let alone a serious addiction.

Like I said, the Bad Neighborhood. Go three blocks down Angry Street, and take a left on Envy. Park. Jump off bridge.

Of course, what brings me back to reality are my own children. My son kept asking why I was sad during the end of the movie, and I told him that I felt sorry for the parents. No matter how much they fucked up, they still loved their son, and it must have been torture for them not to know where he was and if he was OK. I completely identified with that. I made the kids promise me that no matter how old they were or how much they hated me, they'd always let me know they were OK. They both solemnly stuck out their pinkies for a pinky-promise.

So, I backed out of the Bad Neighborhood of my mind on Easter Sunday, picked up some toilet paper and an African violet for my stepmother, and made the kids help my feeble old dad into the car for a visit to the rehab hospital. After we left, we stopped at Taco Bell for takeout so my dad could have a bean burrito and the kids could have quesadillas. It wasn't exactly communion, but it's the best I could do.

Back now

Hello! I guess I didn't go away for that long after all. I did learn how to change my title bar -- whoopee for me. Baby steps.

I'm working on a post and will publish soon. Pretty soon I'll even learn how to post pictures!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Going away

To anyone who may still be reading this, I am going away for a bit. I will probably come back, but as a different entity. This blog allowed me to test my writing, but it's not the real me and I find myself censoring my topics in favor of keeping everything "light." The truth is, I'm not light, and I never was. I need to make more art, I need to incorporate it into my life and work, and I need to write about everything surrounding me and affecting me in my tiny world, and I'm not doing that now because of fear.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Other people are noticing


This is the actual fucking conversation OVER IN HER CUBE:

Another cow-orker: "Whatchoo eatin'?"

Barnyard yahoo: "Aw, Ah'm a muncher. I munch, I got ta be eatin' on somethin' all day. Munch, munch, munch ha ha !!! They got them sweet n' spicy snack bags, uh, Archer Farm or somethin', got 'em at Targit."

Cow-orker: "Well ya sure is LOUD about it!"

Barnyard yahoo: "HA HA HA HAAAAA, Ah know!!! Ah'm just settin' here jammin' on mah iPod and munchin'! HAAAAA!"

Me: CLANK *sound of hammer* *sound of Bucketz sloshing onto dead body* *sound of iPod being torn apart by pliers* *blessed silence*

OK, everything but the hammer. For the love a Pete. Somebody save me.

She's doing it AGAIN

The yahoo in the next cube is doing it AGAIN. Screeching in her barnyard voice with her jaw flapping down like she's got an anchor hanging off it while listening to twangy music blasting on her iPod. And now she just shoveled in a handful of pretzels MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH *slurp* as she reaches for one of her VP Bucketz o' Pop. I can hear the ice sloshing around the bucket like bergs off the Titanic as she yanks on the straw. GAHHHHHHH!!!!

What did I do to the universe? Why am I being tortured like this? Or am I just too sensitive to live?

Oh my God, if she burps or farts again I'm going to hit her with a hammer.