Do You Want to Check that Bag?

So, I have one of the coolest things I own in my office and I look at it everyday.   It’s an old steamer trunk (a real one…not a knock-off from Hobby Lobby) that I got a couple of years ago.  The guy that sold it to me for just a few bucks said it was ugly and he just wanted it out of his garage.  (By the way, every time I say ‘bucks’, I can hear Michael Scott telling Pam it’s not ladylike). I thought I could paint it really funky and it’d be a neat piece in my basement.  Then I started doing some research on it, and come to find out, it’s an oldie that was most likely used by immigrants coming to America in the early 20th century like my grandpa and his family did.  How cool is that?

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The manifest from my family’s voyage.  My son and I also looked it up on Ellis Island when we visited NYC.

We started moving my son and his girlfriend into their apartment yesterday (luckily, it was from a basement with stairs to a top floor apartment with stairs…just sayin’) and if I never see a cardboard box again, I’ll be thrilled.  Another by the way:  there was a dolly in the U-Haul that we had to park a ways away since the apartment house sets back behind a big grassy area.  Being someone who likes to make work easier, I asked why we weren’t using it.  My boy said, “Ma, we don’t need it”  while he was mopping sweat from his brow and panting like a dog.  Anyhoot, when he was carrying a load, I got the damn dolly out, chucked the heaviest item on it, and scooted it up to the stairs, saving more than half the work.  You may insert an eye roll here.

So, this morning I was sitting at my laptop doing some very important things (scrolling through Facebook while watching Rocketman for the 100th time) and started thinking about baggage.  That’s a word we hear so much, isn’t it?  How everyone has ‘baggage’ from past relationships, their childhood, their high school years, what have you.  When I look at my trunk, I always wonder what baggage was in it.  Baby clothes for an infant that was going to be born in America?  Old quilts from relatives the immigrants won’t see anymore?  Books in their native language so they will never have to stop reading?  Food especially canned for the trip so they’ll have something to eat while seeking work?

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I guess I’ve been pondering this a bit more these past couple of weeks because I’ve reconnected with a high school buddy and we’ve been talking pretty much non-stop.  And here’s the thing, I know that no matter what, my baggage, and his baggage, is going to play a role into whether or not this goes anyplace at all.

How do you learn to trust someone again after so many others have betrayed you?  I trusted my psychologist with my life.  Literally.  And he used that trust, manipulated it into something cruel, and made me feel a horrible sense of shame and guilt even though I was another one of his victims.  Hubby 3 was not only my spouse, but I can honestly say he was the best friend I’ve ever had.  Every single day he would tell me how happy he was and how much he loved me.  And then he walked out on me Christmas day after our 10th anniversary.  J was the one person I trusted every single secret I’ve ever had with.  I opened up to him more than anyone else, and he took so many of my words and confessions and then used them against me.  He threatened so many things, one of them being my job.

So tell me.  How do you come back from that?  Yes, I understand that no one should pay the price for someone elses’ mistakes, but let me know how that works.   Seriously.  Because once you’ve been ‘burned’, the scars are so deep and the baggage packed so well, that just ‘getting rid of it’ is something hard to do.  OK…I’ll just do what some self-helpers  recommend:  jot all of this stuff down, tear up the paper, and then flush it down the crapper.  Wow.  Works like a charm.  All of those decades of being hurt and used are miraculously gone  Yea!

Hmmmm.  No.  Everyone talks about how hard it is to rebuild trust in a person that’s wronged you.  But, our ‘baggage’ makes it hard to actually trust anyone.  I don’t care how many times someone says, “Kristi, you can trust me.”  Okey-dokey.  Haven’t heard those words before.  Haven’t been to that shitty rodeo.  Face it, no one is going to say:  “Look, I’m going to be really nice to you for a while and get you believing that this is going to be great.  And then I’m going to fuck you over, use you, tear you down after building you up, make you believe you deserve no better, and then when I’m done toying with you, I’ll find someone else that I may actually be good too…you know…for fun.”

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Wouldn’t it be nice if people came with warning labels?  “WARNING!  Good looking guy, out for a hook up, likes to sweet talk until he gets in your knickers, but cooks great.”  Well hells bells (my grandpa used to love saying that…I just had to use it at least once in a post), at least I know what I’m in for.  And for piss sakes, let’s not even imagine what my label would look like…let’s just assume it would have a lot of skulls and crossbones on it.

OK, so besides trust, what else is in my trunk (steamer…not booty)?  Respect is a biggie.  I hate how that word is used so easily.  “Hey…that guy didn’t give me my fries…he disrespected me.”  Welllllll…maybe if you hadn’t screamed into the mike at the drive through while calling him a douche bag when the audio was still on, you would have gotten your freaking fries.  As my ma says :  “Think, man!”

Respect is more than that to me; actually it’s more than that period.  True respect is believing a person to be of value because of qualities they have…because of who they are and what they’ve done that’s admirable.  I think a problem I have (among a myriad of many) is ‘giving’ respect to people that actually haven’t earned it yet.  Just assuming this person is admirable because of this and this and this.  “Oh…you’re a CEO!  You must be a great person and I have such respect for you!”  (Actually, they are a blithering imbecile, but they got one terrific office).

I learned very early on in my teaching career that you can’t expect attention and control in a classroom without earning respect first.  I learned you can’t expect your child to respect you unless you have shown them you deserve it.  “But, Kristi…our kids should respect us no matter what!”  OK, kiddies…respect your parents who are drug dealers and beat you at night when you need fed.  Just sayin.  See what I mean?  Once, an elementary teacher told me she was so tired at screaming at her class all day.  Huh?  When I looked gobsmacked, she said, “Damn, with college kids you must do that a lot.”  Nope.  Never.  I’ve never screamed at my son, never at my rambunctious elementary/jr high/high school students, and never in my college classroom.  If I can’t talk in my normal tone of voice and be listened too, I have a lot of work to do in terms of earning respect.

What about kindness?  First 6 months:  “Hey, sweetie…anything you want.”  “Love you baby, I’m behind you all the way.”  “Hon…of course you can have your wonderful, kind, loving family over for the holidays…your family is my family.”  Then, let’s fast forward a couple of years:  “Kristi, what the hell are you doing spending so much money on that?”  “Kristi, if you think I’m going to spend another holiday with your God forsaken family, you’re nuttier than I thought.”  (Actually, I probably am).  Kindness for some is almost like a bait and switch:  turn it on in the beginning so you ooze honey, and then pull it away until it’s gone.  Blech.

And love?  “Hey baby…I love you more than anything!  You took care of my dying mom, helped me raise my daughter through adolescence, and pretty much provided for my every whim with no questions asked.  Oh, I’m leaving tomorrow.”  Or, “Kristi, you weren’t my first, but you’re going to be my last (bloggers note:I think this came from Pinterest), and you’ve done more for me than anyone else in my life.  Oh, by the way, I’m going to cheat on you this weekend…just wanted you to have a heads up.”  So gee, I wonder why hearing ‘I love you’ is hard for me to accept.

I guess it comes down to this:  I know I have baggage…a lot of it.  A steamer trunk full.  And I know that no matter what I do to unpack it and get it put away elsewhere, there will still be some left at the bottom.  But I also know that everyone has a trunk.  How can we not?  Unless we’ve lived like Pollyanna, it’s gonna happen.  So, someone is going to have to work a bit more hard in gaining my trust.  Earning my respect.  Helping me realize their kindness is genuine. Opening my heart.  Actually though, that may be what I’ve always done wrong in the past…given these things away too quickly before realizing the true value of them first.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

“And you Still Listen to the Same Shit you did Back then…High School Never Ends” ~ Bowling for Soup

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So, I’m a Pinterest fanatic and can literally waste an hour looking up just one bead pattern that leads to another that leads to another and so on.  Anyhoot, I get a lot of self-help stuff show up on my feed and I was thinking about all of these this morning.  It’s like I scan them and will just ‘believe’ the info, but actually, so much of what they advise isn’t necessarily good.  For some reason, I went ahead and saved the above from LifeHackers because I did think it had a lot of merit.  Then, I read it again.  And again.  And I have to say, I think some of it is bullshit.  (P.S.  I was trying to find a good title about advice…but I love this song and it ties into education which ties into advice, so…).

Anyways, physical appearance is 1%?  Sure it would be ideal if hard work was rewarded more, however, studies make it strikingly clear that ‘pretty’ people are much more likely to get call backs on interviews and are hired, earn raises, get promotions, appear as being more trustworthy, and are perceived as just being ‘better’ at the job.  I remember showing a video to my classes years ago and it was an undercover deal where the producers prettied up an attractive woman, and then un-prettied an average woman with blotches, darker circles under her eyes, etc.  Anyhoot, they both went to a job interview with a hidden camera:  each resume had the exact same years of schooling and exact same type of work experience.  The guy hiring told the un-pretty gal that he wasn’t sure if the position was still open and it paid $10 an hour.  THEN, the purty girl walked in:  he offered her the job on the spot, told her she was the most qualified candidate he’d seen, and told her the starting wage was $15.  As much as I hate to say it, grasshoppers, looks actually matter a hell of a lot in our society.

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I see so many pretty quote pics that say this:  Time heals all wounds.  I disagree.  Time helps with wounds, but they scar.  They leave a mark.  My grandparents died in the early 80’s and I can honestly say I think about them everyday.  At times, I can recall happy memories that bring me to tears.  BUT there’s nothing wrong with that.  I want that ‘scar’ because that’s how people live on…in our hearts and our memories.

Following the rules?  Yeah, it’s nice to be a rebel.  It’s nice to go outside of the little boxes society puts us in based on gender, age, race, social class, etc.  Of course we want to break out of them and march to the beat of our own drummer.  However, there are consequences.  Kids that do this?  Often bullied for being different.  Adults who do this?  Are often marginalized and don’t do well at work:  they need to go along to get along…the ‘corporate culture’ and ‘group think’ thing.

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Hubby’s hero!

Think about this:  Hubby 3 was an Outlaw biker club member and he and his buddies talked about how good it felt to be different from other guys.  Hello!  Y’all have the same long hair, same bandana, same vest, same patches, same t-shirts, same jeans (yummy), same chaps (yummier), same boots, and same type of bike (only Harleys, baby!).  So, they aren’t different.  They are the same in their different box.  See?  Even rebels rebel in a restricted way.

And for fuck sakes, listen to your parents, relatives and friends!  There are a LOT of mistakes I wouldn’t have made if I had listened to my ma.  “But Kristi, those taught you lessons.”  Maybe so, but the pain wasn’t worth the lesson.  Look at it this way:  I know touching a red hot stove hurts so I tell my son to not touch.  If he DOESN’T listen, guess what?  We’re in for an ER visit.  Look, we see things out of our own perspective.  Period.  We all need different perspectives in life.  My son has been in love a few times before, and I haven’t always been crazy about the gal he was with.  I would tell him (very nicely, and I always treat his women well) that there were some things I saw he might want to be aware of.  He would shrug me off;  he would still be in the honeymoon stage when everything is adorable.  Then, reality hit and the adorable became the nerve wracking.  Just sayin’.

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Never work for money?  All righty!  My passion is art of which I’m below mediocre at best (my real passion is teaching, but I’m making a point here, folks).  So, if I do art all day, and sell 1 piece a week, it will take me a month to buy a bag of groceries at ALDI.  Work for money, try to do something you like, and make sure you cultivate your passions at home.  Look peeps, you need money to survive.  Period.

Complaining?  Of course it wastes time, but it’s also a very human thing to do.  Actually, complaining can help rid you of stress.  I used to complain to my hubbies (not at the same time for piss sakes) about stuff on the job or family (not you ma…hush up, T), and it got it ‘out’ and lessened how much it bothered me.  And, you can’t always fix what you complain about.  Right?  I complain about the rain, and guess what?  It’s still coming down.

So my sweet grasshoppers, if I’m going to bitch about common advice, do I have any of my own?  Uh, yeah, of course I do.  Hello!  I teach and am a mother…I have a shit-load of advice.

First, be kind.  Kindness gets you so so far.  I know people I’ve taught with who treat the cleaning, maintenance or cafeteria people as less than.  Nope.  I’m very nice to them (to actually everyone) and guess what?  My office is always clean, my stuff always fixed, and my meal always has extra fries.  Need I say more?  (And these are the coated fries that are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside…mmmmmmmm).

Second, be accepting of the differences in people.  Celebrate them.  Listen to other opinions and take in what they’re saying.  Understand people have different perspectives that are built from their own life experiences.  Learn from these differences.  Be accepting of all humans since we all have equal value:  race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.  It doesn’t matter ‘what’ you are…it matters that you are, and this applies to everyone.

Third, be non-judgmental.  Hey, I’ve done some shitty things in my life that I could be judged harshly for.  And so have you.  But, there’s no way of knowing the back-story.  The reasons.  The ‘whys’.  ‘Nuff said.

Fourth, be loving.  Smile at people, and who gives a crap if they smile back.  Give hugs to people who desperately need them…listen to people who badly need to be heard.  Give more of yourself than you take.  Say I love you.  Say I’ll miss you.  Say you’re important to me.  You have no idea what these little, loving gestures can do for someone.  Let me tell you:

Years ago, I taught part-time at our local university while teaching full-time at my college.  There was a young gal in one of my classes who was extremely quiet and I could tell she was having a rough time.  Everyday after class, I’d seek her out and walk with her across campus to her dorm and my car.  I’d do most of the chatting (shocker there, huh?) but she would talk some too.  On our last walk together of the semester, she handed me a letter when we got to where we would part.  I read it when I got home and in it, she told me how she had been so depressed since moving to campus and she had contemplated suicide numerous times with a plan in place.  She said that me talking to her helped her so much, like she had finally been ‘seen’, deemed important, and she felt like she really did have something valuable to say.  Grasshoppers, I had no idea that was all going on with her, and also had no idea how much our walks meant to her.  I was gobsmacked, and that was the day I realized you truly have no idea how big of an impact a loving gesture can have for someone.  And actually, for you too.

Lastly, be true to you.  Be as genuine as you can.  Look grasshoppers, it took me 50 fucking years to get rid of the stifling masks I wore all my life so people would think I was always happy, always ‘perfect’.  The masks are what forced me to always say YES and then conform to whatever someone wanted me to be.  Life is too short to live it falsely.  To be fake.  ‘Coming out’ as mentally ill freed me in so many ways.  It’s lifted off those masks and I can breathe.  It took me 50 years to breathe.  I know it might be hard to show yourself…be yourself.  And I get that.  I really do.  But please, don’t do what I did.  I finally started living as myself just 3 years ago.  How I wish I could have done that so much earlier in my life.

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Look, you can take this advice or you can tell me to shove it (it might hurt my feelings, but c’est la vie), but always be mindful of not just following the pretty quotes and sayings that we’re bombarded with willy-nilly.  Just because there’s a picture of a sunset behind the quote written in beautiful calligraphy doesn’t mean it’s valid.  Or right for everyone.  Or right for you.  Be picky about what you listen too.  Actually, be picky about everything that pertains to you.  You know why?  Cause, my sweet peeps, you deserve it.

Kristi xoxo

Don’t Stop Believin’ ~ Journey

So, never in a million years (well, let’s not start out too dramatically…let’s say 50) did I think I would base a post on a Lifetime movie, but here goes:  I joined the Lifetime Movie Club the other day; it’s a pandemic and I’m desperate for entertainment outside of watching Edward lick himself.  So anyhoot, I watched a doozie today about a couple of contractors, one who is trying to off this gal (shocker) and the other one that ‘acts’ crazy but is really the good guy.  To make a long story short, the good guy never ever gave up on this woman he was trying to save, even when she was bad to him and told him to go away.  He just stayed true to what he felt was right.

Hmmmmm.  It got me thinking about giving up on people; when you should…when you shouldn’t.

J texted me again today, and I can tell he is in so much pain.  He’s angry, hateful, acting belligerent, all of which I know is covering up the pain he has inside himself.  No, he would never admit this.  No, he won’t allow himself to try to confront it because I don’t think he would know how to handle the feelings he’d be flooded with.  And no, he won’t seek out help because he needs this shield against a world he doesn’t want to be a part of anymore.

I have re-connected with an old friend from high school and we are really having some great talks, so I chatted with them about this today, and they said, “Just block him.”  Of course, I could do that.  Easily.  But I’m not going to and I’ll tell you why.  (Ma, if you are getting pissed at me, turn off the computer…the little button on the left.  The one that says ‘power’.  No…not that one.  The other…oh…for fuck sakes, just shut the lid and turn on the TV).

It all goes back to giving up on people.  Yes, he gave up on me.  And yes, how it happened was wrong.  And no, I didn’t do anything to deserve that sort of treatment (this is progress, peeps).  However, after 3 years, half of them living together, I know him very well.  I know his family and they are horrible to him (and to me, but I digress).  They gave him absolutely nothing in his life but the bare minimum to survive and that was it.  And yes, that included ‘love’ too.  It’s truly beyond my realm of comprehension, as a mom, how you can’t show love to your own child.  I just don’t get it.

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I could give up on J.  I could turn my back.  Walk away.  Cut myself off.  And that means I would be like everyone else in his life.  I’m not though, and I think this tenacity comes from a couple of things.

First, my ma has never done that to me.  I put her through hell and back a couple of summers ago, and she bore the burden and stayed by my side as long as I needed her too.  She still does.  I have dumped shit on her I should have taken out on myself, and she looks at me and tells me she loves me.  In other words, she has never given up on me.  Not when I was at the lowest place in my life…when I was telling her I wanted to die…when I was cutting myself and she had to see the bloody bandages…never.  And I wouldn’t be here if she had.

Second, what is in us as humans that we walk away so easily when people need us the most?  How many times have I said to someone “GO AWAY” when all I really wanted was for them to come closer?  When I was younger, I’d yell “I HATE YOU” to other kids who didn’t want to play with me (gee…I wonder why), and actually, all I wanted was to feel included.

When I was in the midst of that fucking breakdown, so many people gave up on me…backed away…ignored me.  People I had known for decades at school turned their backs on me.  When I would cry in my office over lunch, no one would ever ask me how I was.  People whispered about me (I know this because I heard them at times), would turn away when I’d walk by, would pretend they didn’t know me.  How can I even describe how much that hurt?  My nephew was dead, I was finalizing a divorce, J was treating me bad, I had cervical surgery, my mentor died, a student was giving me trouble, etc.  I needed people more than ever.  I needed just one person at work to say:  “Look, I know you’re hurting, what can I do?”  If just one wouldn’t have ‘given up on me’, I wonder how much faster I would have healed?

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Photo by Arnie Chou on Pexels.com

So, how can I do that to J?  He’s reaching out for a reason.  Not because he wants me back, but because he doesn’t know any other way to connect with someone who understands.  How can I turn my back on him when he’s at, what I believe, to be the lowest point in his life?  How can I let him down…give up on him…like everyone else has?

Look, those of us with mental illnesses know we are going to have good times in our lives, and we are going to go through hell at times in our lives.  Walking with someone in the sunshine is nothing.  But helping them through the storm is.  By not giving up on J, I’m paying forward all the times people haven’t given up on me.  And that’s a debt I’m happy to be responsible for.

Kristi xoxo

He’s Not Heavy. He’s My Son.

So, my son has been living with me for about a year and half (or if you ask him, it’s been forever) in order to save up money and invest it in the equipment needed for his professional photography business.  Now that he’s on track, he’s going to be moving out this week for his own place, and I’m feeling such mixed emotions about it.

O was always my little buddy and we did so much together when he was a kid.  I had summers off, and we always swam, fished, rode bikes, played basketball, and went to the library, children’s museum, and zoo.

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O always had his buddy Barney with him.

During the school year, I was always room mom, and since I taught at the college level and could pretty much make my own schedule, I always was able to get him off to school in the morning and be there when he got home.  It was a perfect set-up.  As room mom, I was known far and wide (in a small school) as the “Goodie Bag Queen”, a title that had no sash, but a lot of respect to those under 4 foot tall.

When O was in Kindergarten, I subbed one day and O couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.  While the other kids were calling me “Mrs. Palmer”, O would say “MOM” very LOUDLY just so everyone would know he was the teacher’s pet!  Years later, when I volunteered as ‘lunch lady’, the most God awful job one can have for the Jr. High crowd, I came in the first day and my precious son said this:  “Look everyone…it’s the friendly neighborhood volun-turd.”  So, I responded:  “Look everyone…it’s the kid that won’t get any Christmas presents this year.”  ‘Nuff said.

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O in Kindergarten…My little Harry Potter!

During the summer when O was going to be a 5th grader, he had worked his way up by having short sleepovers at a local Christian camp, and was ready to spend 5 days there…overnight!  I was a nervous wreck, but his dad most lovingly said, “Get over it.  We’ve paid the fee.”  Quite comforting.  Anyhoot, we arrived, got him settled in,  and after a sobbing goodbye (on my part), drove away.

The next morning, as I was in the process of painting his room to surprise him when he got home in 5 days, the phone rang and it was O, telling me he threw up and needed to come home.  I threw down the paintbrushes, grabbed a bucket, and was on my way…speeding the entire 20 miles along country roads.  He was quite subdued when I picked him up and held the bucket, but didn’t make a peep.  We got home and I plopped him in my bed since his room was torn up.  About an hour later, he came plodding out and said, “Mom?  I LIED TO YOU!”  I asked him what he lied about, and he said, “I wasn’t sick and didn’t throw up…I just wanted to be home with you!”  I told him I was glad he lied in this case, because that was all I wanted too.

Fast forward to when he turned 18.  (Actually, most of his adolescence is a blur…a defense mechanism that serves me well).  One morning before I left for classes, he told me a buddy of his had an apartment and needed a roommate.  I told him I would think about it and we’d have a nice long chat that evening.  When I got home at 1:00 (a mere 4 hours later), he was packed up, guys were carrying boxes out of my house, and O said he took the offer.  Great chat.

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O in High School before a Prom.

After a variety of jobs, O started working for Verizon and when he was 21, told me he had taken a transfer position in Fort Worth…about 780 miles from home.  I was gobsmacked.  How could I be that far away from him?  What if he got sick?  Hurt?  In an accident?  (I’m a very optimistic person).  But, we got him moved down there and I stayed with him for a couple of weeks to help get his apartment fixed up.  When it was time for me to fly home, O drove me to the airport, but dropped me off at the QUICK drop off where they rush you while yelling the entire time.  He hugged me and said he would call me that night, and I trudged into the airport.  I was at the TSA desk where you show your ID and boarding pass and this adorable Texan gal said, in the greatest southern drawl ever:  “Did y’all have a good time in Texas??”  I started bawling.  Wailing might actually be a better word.  She said, “OH MY!” and proceeded to help me through the line as if I was an invalid on my last leg.

And then he was back 3 years later.

Believe me, it has not been all sunshine and rainbows living in the same house together.  It was hard on him to have to move back to a place where he felt like a kid again, and not the independent self he was used to being, and it was hard on me not to turn him back into my ‘kid’.  Plus, he’s messy…I’m tidy.  He’s quiet…I’m loud.  He’s calm…I’m emotional.  He’s a procrastinator…I’m a doer.  We’ve had a couple of arguments, but really, this time has gone quite well, despite the fact that the one trait we do have in common is stubbornness.

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O and I in Texas…I’m getting ready to leave him for the first time there…hence, my VERY forced smile.

I’m excited for him to be on his own again because I know that’s what he wants.  I’m also  so proud of him for building a business in a couple of years that’s already sustaining itself.  His work is amazing.  Plus, he’s only going to be 2 miles away, and I run by his apartment complex almost daily.  He’s still going to be around a lot since my garage is storing his vintage car and Harley, plus, his darkroom will probably stay in my basement.  He knows this is always going to be his home and he’ll never be without a key.

But, I’m going to miss him.  In so many ways, he’s my crutch.  The person I can talk to about everyday things.  The noise in the house.  The shoes on the floor.  He’s the one that can see my moods and ask me how I’m doing.  He’s the one I get a hug from  The one who made me not wake up alone on Christmas.  The one who’d watch a movie with me when his girlfriend worked late.  The one who made me amazing dinners and ‘plated’ them so beautifully.  The one who made me laugh again after J left me.  The one that understood how broken my heart was and encouraged me to do things.

I’m not afraid to be alone in the sense of not being able to take of myself.  Nope.  I’ve been working non-stop since I was 16 and everything I have, I bought myself.  I’ve always done everything around the house anyway, and have lots of interests to keep me ‘busy’.  But I think that’s what bothers me the most…the word busy.  It’s like kids’ worksheets in elementary school.  When I was teaching 5th grade, I once had a parent tell me I should give homework.  When I asked her why, she said, “Because that’s just what teachers do.”  I told her I didn’t believe in busy work for the sake of busy work.  After all, once you learn 2 + 2 = 4, you really don’t need to write it out another 100 times (plus, if you forget, for fuck sakes use your fingers). But, if the student actually needed more help on something with additional work, then that was another thing.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  (Hmmm…)

I don’t want the rest of my life to be ‘busy work’.  I don’t want to just fill up my days so I can go to bed and have another day to face again.  I don’t want to look out my window in the afternoon and say ‘What now?’  Instead, I want someone to go down this new path with me.  To be my confidant.  My partner.  My sounding board.  My comfort.  And I want to do the same for them.  I’m one of these people who need to be needed…if that makes any sense.

Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself…but hey, I’m a sensitive, feeling bipolar (had to throw that in there, in case you forgot or something) so what do you expect?  I know I’ll be fine.  I know Eddie and Dottie and I will have good days and not so good days.  I know I’ll continue loving my teaching, spending time with O, ma, and sis, doing my art, reading my books, working in my yard, running and all, but I guess I just want to add someone to the mix to enjoy it all with me.

Kristi xoxo

P.S. If you feel so inclined, feel free to hit the follow button and show me some love! 😉 xoxo

“Old Age is No Place for Sissies.” ~ Bette Davis

So, last night I started laughing as I was getting ready for bed.  Not because of how horrible I looked with my hair plastered down on my head and no make-up on my face, but because of what I was putting myself through.  And I do this every night.

I counted how many anti-aging products I have in my bathroom cabinet, and it’s 16.  Sixteen!  I literally have creams, lotions, oils, serums, and ‘cold plasma’ goop (which I really don’t want to know what it’s ingredients are) that I spread over my skin in hopes they will actually do what I am told they will by such enticing ads.  Sometimes, I feel like a mad (well…yeah…I’m bipolar after all) scientist with my pots, bottles, and jars, mixing my concoctions and rubbing them on different parts of my face.

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The real ‘miracle’ is that the company made money off of me so easily.

I have eye goop that I spread around my…you guessed it…eyes in hopes they will look 30 instead of 53 (I still look 53 after all of the smears).  I have cream for around my mouth to make any small wrinkles “disappear’ while making sure my lips look pouty and moisturized.  I have oils, (that I mix myself in little bottles and smell so good but are hell on my pillowcases) for my cheeks since they’re so dry, as well as overall lotions I plaster on top of all this mess.  The layers on my face could be studied like geologists study rocks…just start digging and you’ll eventually be able to uncover my actual birthdate.

Then, there’s my bod.  I have…wait for it…6 lotions and creams for it, plus ‘butter’ that makes me feel like a greasy french fry.  I actually tried to make my own body butter this winter.  It was a disaster.  I cooked the ingredients in my favorite sauce pan, and it was hellish trying to get the greasy concoction completely washed out.  I, of course, did it wrong (big surprise there), so the butter was grainy.  I spread it on my arms and legs anyway and it was a sandy, smelly mess with the goop dripping off in globs, since the minute it was on my warm bod, it became liquified again.  When I walked out in my shorts and tee, my son looked at me, turned around, and left.  He was practicing what I always taught him:  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

After all of this schmearing, I sleep in a contraption that could possibly be used in a 50 Shades of Grey type scenario (note to self, remember this) since it’s got buckles and straps which I wear in order to not get the chest wrinkles common to women my age.  It’s going in the back of my closet today.  I’m tired of feeling like a trussed up turkey.

So, I’m plopping in bed all lotioned, creamed, oiled, and bound up.  Gee…I wonder why I’m sleeping alone. (You may insert an eye roll here).

Why in the fuck do women go to such measures to try to stay young looking?  I’m the FIRST person to say how women need to accept themselves for who they are (I actually did a Tedx Talk on it), to be proud of their bodies, to love themselves for their accomplishments, to understand that beauty is so much more than what is reflected back in the mirror.  And believe you me, I try!  However, when you are bombarded with gorgeous young women in the media, while ads for older women are all about staying young, you begin to figure out that young equals better in our society.  Why??  I don’t get it.

Confession:  during the summer of the breakdown I had, I did something I regret terribly.  It was just a few weeks before everything went to hell:  I had a face lift.  Yep.  I did.  J had mentioned something his mom said about my age, and I became extremely self-conscious about it (actually, I still am:  old habits, or in this case messages, are hard to break).  I went to a plastic surgeon, something I never thought in a million years I’d do, and was talked into it.  That’s not what I went in for, but the doc made it sound like the answer to all my woes.  So, I had a 90 minute surgery where the doc literally cut my face from ear to ear, pulled down the skin (you can gag…I’ll wait), stitched up my facial muscles, and then put in 22 staples AND 22 stitches to re-attach my skin.

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And my reward?  Paying this guy $5000 for the pleasure of sleeping upright in my ma’s chair for a week straight, not being able to talk (for some reason, ma wasn’t too upset by this…hmmm) not being able to open my mouth to eat which required ma to pour soup down my gullet, not being able to shower well since I couldn’t get my face wet, having so many bruises I looked like Rocky after being pummeled by Apollo Creed, and being in a lot of pain.  It hurt like hell.

But, I figured all of this was worth it if J liked the results (remember, he’s significantly younger than I am).  Well…that was a fiasco in itself.  I had the surgery while he was on maneuvers with the National Guard and was told by him that he wouldn’t be able to text or call me during this time.  I was mostly healed when he got home and…wait for it…he broke up with me to be with his ex girlfriend.  By the way, he texted and called her during the entire month he was gone.  Sigh.

I can’t tell you how much I regret that fucking surgery.  Not because I felt coerced into it, but because I HATE that I did something so drastic to look younger again.  For piss sakes, I’m 53.  53!!  I’ve done a lot in that time.  I’ve put my body through hell.  I’m a hard worker; I’ve always taken care of my yard, the house maintenance, painting, digging, planting, etc. and my hands show it.  I’ve had a baby (quite large I might add) who I adore with all my heart.  I’ve taught for 25 years.  I’ve been through 3 divorces (another eye roll).  I’ve earned these wrinkles…and God knows I deserve them.

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Me…wrinkles and all.  🙂

I’m trying so hard to be ‘real’ in my life now.  No masks.  No lies when I’m asked how I am.  No pretty stories to sugarcoat having this…say it with me…fucking bastard of a mental illness.  I’m living genuinely…authentically…and it’s about time.  50 years of hiding who I am was exhausting.  No wonder I have wrinkles.

As my magic potions run out, I’m not going to replace them.  I’m going to take care of me like I should, but I’m done trying to turn back the clock.  If I want people to accept my inside, I need to learn to accept my outside.  Yes, we live in a youth oriented culture.  Yes, people lose their value as they age.  Yes, women are held up to the standards of perfection.  But let me tell you something:  I’m still valuable and I’ll always be a million miles away from perfect no matter what I do.  But I’m me.  Finally me.  And it feels really good.

Kristi xoxo

“Pull the Lever, Kronk!” (Yzma)

So, my all time favorite movie is the “Emperor’s New Groove” and I would very much like to marry Kronk someday soon.  It’s my go to when I’m getting ready for school, and I’m proud to say I can recite the entire script.  (Don’t tell me…I know you’re jealous).

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Anyhoot, I was thinking about this today because Kronk, when he’s in some moral predicament, has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, and he’s forced to figure out which one to choose.  (By the way, he always chooses the angel!)  Actually, this is a great illustration of Freud’s 3 parts of the personality:  the id (the devil), the ego (Kronk himself), and the superego (the angel).

I’ve also had a lot more time to read now that I’m teaching completely online, and one book that fascinates me is “The Lucifer Effect” by Philip Zimbardo (the book is excellent and I recommend you take a look-see).  After much study, he has determined that all people, given the correct circumstance, can cross the ‘line’ to being bad or evil.  Dr. Zimbardo believes that so-called line isn’t solid but permeable and we all have the capacity to be Mr. Hyde.  He looks at the nature of good and evil and it’s scary to think how truly evil we have the capacity to be.

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So, can I be bad?  Can I cross that line?  Of course, but it would take a lot to make me do it and I often feel guilty sometimes for NOT crossing that line when I think I should have.  Let me explain.

Even though I WANTED to maim him, I learned very early on to be good to R, ma’s abusive 2nd husband.  I had to be.  I lived with him for 4 years and had to see him often for the next 24,  and if I got him angry because I wasn’t on his side with an issue, he’d take it out on ma.  I didn’t care that I had to push down anything and everything I wanted to say or emote…protecting her was worth it.  But, to be honest with you, part of me wishes I would have done something ‘evil’ to him so my ma wouldn’t have had to live like she did for so long.  That’s something I ruminate on.  I don’t know exactly what I’m talking about but, I feel like I didn’t do enough in that situation.  Does that make sense?

When it came to that psychologist who sexually abused me, I had horrible thoughts as to what I could do to him after the abuse ended.  I envisioned myself slashing the tires on his precious (very expensive) car and taking a baseball bat to the windows.  I picked up the phone more times than I can count so I could call his wife and set her straight about what she was married too (actually, I think she already knew), and I wanted to get in his precious ‘deans office’ and destroy it.  Once again, I did nothing since I would have been arrested, and the real culprit seen as the so-called victim.  BUT, would it have made enough of an impression that he wouldn’t have risked hurting anyone else?  I don’t know.

And then I had my son.  I figured the first time I held him, I would be awash in love.  And I was!  Yet, I was also flooded with a fierce protectiveness I have never felt before.  Like a ‘tiger mom’, I felt these instincts rise up in me and knew I would safeguard him no matter what.  And I know I still would.  There is absolutely no question in my mind that I would kill (not just harm) someone who was directly threatening my sons life.  I think all parents can relate to that.  Just ask a parent if they’d take a bullet for their kid.  They won’t even  have to think about it: the answer is yes.

What other bad things do I think I have the capacity to do?  I think so much of that depends on the actual situation.  We really don’t know what we’re capable of until faced with it.  One of my all time favorite books is: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King.  In it, a 9 year old girl (who you fall in love with after the first few paragraphs) gets lost after leaving a path on the Appalachian trail she, her mom, and her brother are hiking.  The story is about how she handles being alone in this vast wilderness.  Anyhoot, a line in the book says that there’s a time when you can go from living to surviving.

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I think that’s such an interesting sentence.  I’ve never had to just survive by any means possible.  I’ve never been hungry.  Homeless.  In a war.  People will say things like “I’d never be able to hurt anyone.”  Really?  What if your kid was hungry and starving…you wouldn’t fight until the end for the last of the food?  What if your enemy was holding a gun in front of you…you wouldn’t shoot first?  What if you were sleeping on the street out of necessity and someone started attacking you?  You’d let it happen?  Hmmmmm.

It’s almost going back to the age old question of whether we are born inherently good or bad.  I do know this:  we have to teach kids to share…teach them to apologize and show remorse…teach them not to hit, etc.  Maybe we all have bad in us that’s suppressed most of the time, but is still accessible to us in the right circumstance.  And, maybe a specific situation could push a person over that line to evil, where they stay.  Maybe I’ll find myself in such a situation where I cross over much more easily than I ever imagined, and for no good reason other than I could.  I just hope to never find that out.  

Kristi xoxo

“Great Gobs of Goose Shit” (Clay – City Slickers)

So, I love to go back and watch older movies and one of my favorites is “City Slickers.”  If you’re not familiar with it (because of being much younger than me…sigh…) it’s about 3 guys who take a trip to a ranch where they learn to round and drive cattle while working through the various issues in their lives.

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City Slickers – 1991

Anyhoot, in one scene (my fave), the men share what their all time worse day was and all time best day was.  It’s always made me think about what I would have chosen, and I finally have an answer…at least up to this point in my life.  After all, our best and worst days can change, can’t they?

Of course my all time best day was the day my son was born…that’s a given.  My all time worse day was when my nephew died on the USS McCain.  Both of those are above and beyond anything else, so I’m going to talk about 2 other times in my life.

Let’s start with worse day(s)…so we can finish on the positive (that’ll be a switch…huh?).  When my son was a sophomore in high school, he started having stomach problems.  His dad has always had them, and O was tested for IBS, Crohns disease, food allergies, etc.  Those tests all came up negative, and then we started thinking that maybe it was psychosomatic.  The divorce from his dad was still pretty fresh and because O is very much the type of guy to push feelings down, this seemed to be a possibility.  That was pretty much ruled out too.  Finally, the specialist told his dad and I that he needed to biopsy lymph nodes in his abdominal area (they seemed to be swollen) because there was a possibility that O could have Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.

The minute I heard those words, my world completely shifted.  It’s hard to explain, but before even knowing whether he had it or not, all of a sudden I realized that something horrible could befall my son without me being able to just fix it with a smooch or band-aid.

O was admitted to the hospital and had his biopsy, then spent the night for observation.  After the biopsy was done, I asked the doctor this:  “Would you be worried if this was your son?”  He said:  “Yes.”  OOOKKKAAAYYY…thanks for the reassurance, doc.  O told me and his dad that he would be fine spending the night alone…he was 15 after all!  I went home, which is just a couple tenths of a mile from the hospital…I can see it from my back windows, but couldn’t sleep.  I went back to his room and slept in a chair just so I could be with him.  The next day, we got him showered and he came home.  Then, the waiting game started.  His doc said it would be about 72 hours before we knew anything conclusively.

I gotta tell you, this started the longest 72 hours of my life.  My ma and I weren’t talking:  I couldn’t take her husband anymore and she wouldn’t be around me without him because she knew what the consequence of leaving him out would be.  So, it was pretty much just me, my hubby, and his dad.  Even though hubby tried to comfort us, he still wasn’t as invested as O’s dad, and so he and I talked a lot during this time.  It was our son, and we were the only ones who could really relate.

Obviously, O was aware of what was happening and tried to be brave, until that first night at home when he called me into his room and asked me to read some of his old books to him like I used to when he was a little guy.  I got a few of his faves out, and in a choked voice started reading.  It was so hard to do, but I wanted to reign in anything I was feeling and do what he needed me to do.  We trudged through every day, trying not to think the worse, and even though hubby kept telling me to be positive, your mind can’t help seeing the darkness.

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My awesome son!

Finally, we got the call that O was OK.  He didn’t have leukemia.  He was battling some kind of bacterial infection in his stomach that made his lymph nodes swell.  I can’t even begin to express the relief I felt.  I truly couldn’t see myself living in a world without him, and to think of such a talented, sensitive, genuine boy to not have his whole life ahead of him was too much to bear.  Going through something like this with your kid makes you realize the gift they are.  How they are so much a part of you that you can’t really see them any other way but connected to you.  How they are so inextricably tied to your heart that they have become the biggest piece of it.  No matter how much I knew I was blessed with O before this, I’ve never forgotten how incredibly lucky I am to have O in my life.  Truly.

Now, my best day?  Easy.  Y’all know I had a breakdown around 2 and a half years ago, and I hit rock bottom.  We don’t need to yack about all that contributed to this, but it was a combination of so many things that I simply couldn’t handle my life anymore.  I have to admit something horrible though:  prior to this, I really didn’t think ‘nervous breakdowns’ happened.  I thought that was a histrionic term for “I can’t handle things anymore so I’m labeling it as such.” What a stupid asshole I was.

The break was a few weeks coming as situations kept piling up.  And then POW;  I found myself broken with absolutely no ability to care for myself.  I would cry for hours at a stretch and was incapable of eating, showering, dressing, or doing anything in terms of self-care.  Just getting out of bed was a major feat, and the cry of my dogs needing to pee is the only reason why I had too.  I couldn’t think straight at all…it’s like my mind got so jumbled up nothing made sense.  I’d hear my doctor, my counselor and my mom talking, but I was in a dark tunnel where their ‘words’ registered, but not their ‘meaning.’  I was living alone and getting through an hour by myself was hell.  This is when I started cutting, badly, and also when I attempted suicide.  I truly didn’t want to live (which is so hard to recall now) and I kept sobbing to my mom that all I wanted was to be with Grandma and Grandpa in heaven.  And I meant it.  It wasn’t a metaphor, it was a truth.

The tunnel I found myself in was dark as hell, and I was petrified to even try to crawl out because that meant facing some of the demons that were challenging me.  But I had too.  It was slow going…two steps forward…one step back.  It took weeks, but I managed, with the help of those around me, to do it.  Like the breakdown, it was a process.  But light started shining again.

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I have this on my bedroom mirror to remind myself every morning that there’s always reason for me to smile.

This pic of me and Edward is so important for a couple of reasons.  First, my son was visiting me from Texas where he was living at the time, and took this pic.  He knew what was going on with me to a degree, but until he was here, he didn’t realize how bad I was.  This particular afternoon, since I was getting better, he talked me into taking Ed to the dog park.  He snapped this pic of me smiling.  The first smile I had smiled in a couple of months.  Having my son with me gave me so much more motivation to keep pulling myself out, because I could see the pain I was causing him.  I realized I couldn’t hurt myself…couldn’t kill myself…because it would kill him.  He made me remember that I was needed.  Wanted.  Loved.  And that day in the park was my best day:  I smiled.  I knew I was going to be OK.  I knew I was going to fight this.  I knew I had people here on earth I needed to be with.  I knew there was an end to this pain.

Isn’t it something how our own worst times can lead to our best days?  And how the worst times in our kids/loved ones lives can give us the understanding just how precious life is?  Just how much we need to enjoy each and every day we’re given?

In the movie, as 2 of the men are talking about their worst days and their best days, they use the same day for both.  I guess I could too.  Both of these times for me were horrific.  O’s the worse…my son is everything to me.  But I guess in retrospect, they were my best times too.  Each made me realize how blessed I am.  How lucky I am.

It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it?  I hope I never do.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

Good Bi-brations.

So, if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

Well…wait.  I guess you can laugh at comedians.  Funny movies.  The People of Wal-Mart website.  OK…so when I think about it, there are actually a lot of people you can laugh at, but anyhoot, let’s stick with us.

The other day, I was yacking with ma (go figure) and I told her I had a GREAT run that day…so good, that I was dancing along a bit while running.  The following conversation then took place:

“You were…ummmm…dancing?  While running?”
“Yes, ma.”
“How were you ‘dancing?'”
“Well, for example, when YMCA was playing I did the arm stuff.”
“Well…OK!  (BIG pause)  So…ummmm…did anyone see you?  Like…you know…people?”
“Ma!  I have fucking bipolar!  I can get away with it!”

We started laughing so hard and she agreed with me!  I realized then with all the crap that goes with having this mental illness, sometimes you have to just laugh about it.  It’s survival.

Sis and I love to eat lunch out together, and here’s a common conversation:

“OH NO (said in a very dramatic voice)!  T, I know it’s my turn to pay, but dammit…I forgot my card and don’t have any cash on me!”
“Again?  You forgot it again?'”
“Uh, yeah.  You know, T, I do have bipolar.”
“Kristi, I’m well aware of that.  However, I’m a LPN who has worked on the psychiatric floor of a large hospital and I don’t remember ever hearing about how forgetting your debit card is a symptom of ‘bipolar’.'”
“Oh.  Well.  It’s like a ‘new’ symptom.  You know.  A rarer one.  That I happen to have.”
“Sigh.”

See what I mean?

So, confession time: I’m in love with Simon Cowell.  Let me say it again because it just sounds so damn yummy:  I’m in love with Simon Cowell.  As such, I’m always watching X-Factor and American Idol videos on YouTube.  There is nothing more I want than to be belting out a song on that HUGE stage on X-Factor and have the audience give me a standing ovation.

“Son (O), I wanna try out for X-Factor.”
“Why?”
“Uh, duh.  Because I want to be a star.  You know, I gave up that dream when you were born, but maybe now it’s time.”
“Ma.  You have no talent.  You can’t sing.  You can’t dance.  At all.  And from what dad says, you couldn’t when I was born either.”
“So O, what are you trying to say?  You know, I’ve been feeling pretty depressed lately.  ‘Cause of my bipolar and all.”
“OH.  Well.  SSSUUURRREEE…you’d be great on it!”

Or…

“Dammit, O, the yard needs mowed.”
“Uh huh.”
“Really BAD.”
“Uh huh.”
“Wanna mow for me?”
“Ma, I’m working on some stuff and I thought you loved yard work.”
“Son…I’m feeling depressed and don’t think mowing is a good idea for me right now (isn’t that the biggest load of bullshit you ever heard?)”
“OH. I’ll go do it then.”
🙂  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Please don’t give me a lecture on using bipolar this way.  Look grasshoppers, sometimes you use what you have and this is my way!   If I was beautiful, I’d use my wiley ways to do the same.  Get it?

Now, when I’m manic, I can’t do enough artsy fartsy stuff.  And I get in moods in terms of what I want to make.  I’ve gone through Zentangling, acrylic pour painting, crocheting, sewing, beading, water coloring, book folding and decoupaging.  And when I do it, I do it!  For a while, there was literally NOTHING I wouldn’t decoupage.

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A quilt I entered in a show!  P.S.  I didn’t win anything for it.

Some things turned out really well and I loved them (until I came down, that is).  And others sucked ass.  Big time.  When I went through my crocheting stage, EVERYTHING in my house that was the size of a breadbox or smaller was covered in some sort of crocheted “wrapping”.  I have a picture of me with a crocheted ‘purse’ and it’s horrendous.  Too bad I can’t find it to show you.  But you know me…my bipolar makes it hard to get my old pics out.  Just sayin’.

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Edward helping me bead in my studio!

I have so many beaded bracelets that I’ll never be able to wear them all (a slight exaggeration) and my son says the number of quilts we have could be lined up to go around our entire neighborhood block.  My paintings cover my walls and when I get out my brushes, NOTHING is safe.  And PLEASE don’t say I should open my own Etsy.  Been there…done that.  My profit?  Zip.  Zero.  Nada.  ‘Nuff said.

Now we all know how creativity is linked closely with bipolar:  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, , and Vincent Van Gogh just to name a few.  Not that I’m comparing myself to these people…just sayin’.  But my mania really does let me explore my creative side and I let go.  I’m not concerned with the process or the result or being afraid something isn’t going to turn out.  I just do it and even if the end product is ass ugly, it was fun!

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I love this ooooops painting that turned out so cool!

Another great thing is that when I’m manic, my confidence and charm explode!  I was up for a full-time tenure track position at my college in 2000 and was passed over as a candidate the first time around.  When the search committee couldn’t agree on anyone, I was considered the second time interviews were set up!  I was teaching as an adjunct already and was doing the work they wanted, so this was something I really really really really desired!  So, I was in the President’s Office for my final interview with about 7 other muckety mucks and knew this was my only chance to nail it:

“Kristi, tell us what your biggest weakness is.  Your biggest negative.”
“I don’t have any.  Next question?” (Remember, I said this in a very charming way.)

My colleague tells me that’s what set me apart from the others.  My confidence!
 
When my son was a little guy, I was never too embarrassed to really play with him: get dirty, be on the playground equipment, take him cool places, try fun things with him.  Who gave a fuck what the other moms were thinking?  We had a ball!

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My son and I still have so much fun together!

When I set what others might think of as unrealistic goals, I meet ’em.  Like registering for a marathon after not being able to run an 8th of a mile.  I had 6 months and I did it!  My mania and energy got me there!

In the classroom, my mania can sometimes be a bit hard to reign in, but it’s really fun for my students!  We learn a lot (I can give a hell of a lecture in an hour), but we also laugh and that makes it a comfortable environment that all my students respond too.  There’s nothing I like better (except maybe…you know…ahem…sex) than hearing my students say “I love this class!” while walking out the door.  Makes me smile every time.

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I love being in front of an audience.  

I’m not scared to speak in public at all.  I’ve been graduation speaker 3x and LOVE giving my speeches in front of the 1000 people there.  When I’m manic, I have the LOOK AT ME syndrome going on…I want to be the center of attention!

I can get excited over the littlest things. Sometimes I have a feeling people think I’m ‘faking’ a reaction to something, but I’m not!   I can actually get REALLY excited over seeing a deer on a hike or going to a stage musical or finding a turtle on a path.  Things like that make my day!  And Christmas?  I LOVE to give and open presents and everything I receive excites the crap out of me!

Now, I don’t want to brag on this one, but let’s get it out there:  people with bipolar tend to have higher IQs, particularly in verbal areas.  I love to learn.  LOVE IT!  I read anything and everything I can get my hands on, and theorizing is actually fun to me.  That’s why I think I love teaching psychology and sociology so much…you can never ever learn it all!  (I also think that’s a big reason I chose to teach:  I can use my ‘verbal’ abilities to yap all fucking day).

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And of course there’s also the fact that we’re sensitive, empathic, and in tune with other people’s feelings.  This makes us good listeners…good people to talk too since we can relate to others so much.  We’re the huggers.  The comforters.  The ones who people will seek out because they know we truly care about what they’re saying.  I’ve literally struck up conversations with people in Wal-Mart (much to my ma’s and O’s chagrin) and after 5 minutes, I’m hugging them while they spill their life story out in the make-up aisle.

You know having bipolar sucks, and whatever mental illness or mental health issue you are battling sucks too.  But I’ll tell you what:  you’re going to have days that go on forever and you’ll wonder what the fuck you’re doing here; and you’ll have good days that make you understand what you were put on this earth for.  And trust me, grasshoppers: if we can’t laugh about it…maybe until we cry about it… then we are going to let these mental illness bastards win.

Kristi xoxo

99, 44, 100% Pure Love. (Eddie Rabbit)

So, my ma and I were yacking yesterday, and we got on the topic of men.  I was telling her how I was still missing my ex and how I didn’t know what I did to my 2 date wonder to make him run so fast.  She said: “How do you know it was something you did?”  Hmmm.

As my logical brain (not huge, just sayin’) tried to process this information, my emotional brain automatically blamed myself for the end of not only those, but all my relationships.  Now here me out:  3 divorces (shutty the mouthy), an ex partner (who I thought was my soulmate), and some fizzly dates that probably never should have happened.  And, my sweet grasshoppers, who was the common denominator in all of those?  Go ahead and shout it out, I can take it:  ME. Blech.

It’s been 6 months since ex and I broke up.  Wait.  Wrong choice of words.  It’s been 6 months since ex broke up with me.  And yes, he wasn’t the best to me during our 3 years together.  Y’all have heard that before.  Along with having had a really bad childhood, he has BPD and PTSD and I cut him a lot of slack because of all this.  The cheating, frequent abandonment, lying, gaslighting, rages, and you get the point.  I overlooked these or minimized them because of feeling sorry for him; because of how I was wanting so bad to make his life better than it had been.  Because I wanted to fix him.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Is that what we women do?  I know there are so many women out there that don’t feel this way, but I think those of us who are overly sensitive and/or strong empaths do.  It’s kind of what’s inside of us.  How can I say how ‘sensitive’ and ’empathic’ I am if I don’t show this to the men in my life?  To ex?  He served 3 grueling tours in the Middle East.  Didn’t he deserve to fuck up?  He has mental health issues with documented damage in his brain because of an explosion he was in during his time in Iraq.  Didn’t he deserve forgiveness from me for doing the things he did?  God knows I’ve made a LOT of mistakes because of issues with the mania or depression I’m cycling through.  Don’t I want the same treatment?

Well, maybe there’s a difference.  First, he was consciously aware of every single thing he was doing because he spent so much time covering it up, lying about it, or making me feel I was nuts for thinking anything was amiss.  If you are able to have that much insight into your actions, are they still the product of a mental illness you can’t necessarily control?  Hmmm.  That’s really one of the hallmarks of BPD, isn’t it?  The instability of the person in every area of their lives.  And with me, I know my impulsiveness has especially caused me to do and say things completely and totally wrong.  That’s part of bipolar.

So what gives?  I feel so much remorse after I’m in a better place, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself a fraction of what I’ve done.  I also take full responsibility.  I always blame myself, bipolar be damned.

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Is there another explanation for why I stayed then?  I think because of my drawers.  NO!  Not my knickers…but my brain compartments.  Like a lot of people, I’m very good at putting things in boxes.  You put the abuse, infidelity, horrible words in a drawer and try to forget about them, while allowing the drawer of good times to be open.  Remembered.  Looked at.

Ma asked me if I would ever go back to ex.  I truly, with all my heart, wanted to say no.  But to be brutally honest, I don’t know.  Not long ago, I really wanted another chance at our relationship and responded as such after he texted me.  He shot that down.  For him, it’s dead.  For me, some embers are still burning.

After J ‘broke’ up with me, I dated a lawyer for a couple of months.  Educated.  Suave.  Fun.  And I thought, OK…this could work.  And then, after a truly small issue that HE brought up, he got so mean with me (verbally…on the phone) that I couldn’t believe his venom.  But in retrospect, I know where it came from.  He and his ex have fought over their daughter for more than 10 years now.  They have been back and forth to court scores of times for such ridiculous things (and it’s the poor girl that’s in the middle of this mine field).  He talked about his ex-wife in such scathing, hateful, and cruel ways that it was always easy to see that anger about her in him.  I just hadn’t realized the anger was now a permanent part of him.

Then I had 2 dates with another boob.  We met for drinks one Saturday, and the conversation was good and he even hugged me goodbye.  When he did this, I ‘thought’ I felt a hand on my ass, but figured it was probably my imagination.  The next date was at his house.  When I got there, he hugged me and when I left, he hugged me, with his hand on my (guess!) ass both times.  OK, dude.  You are almost 60 years old, and it’s obvious (from other things he said…and let me tell you, that second date ended VERY early) you want a hook up.   Class act.

Then, my friend of 20 years that I asked out not long ago confounded me too.  I had so much fun on our couple dates together…I really did!  We had been such good friends and I thought building a relationship on that foundation would make for a great thing.  Obviously, it didn’t (shocker, huh?).  I  could see us together, and I was really surprised at how his rejection of me hurt so bad.

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Here’s what I’ve noticed that pisses me off.  In my life (and many other people have seconded this to me from their own experiences), men seem to have the upper hand in relationships.  In terms of me, why is it that when they wanted it to end, it ended?  Just because J (ex) was wanting to break up, why did we?  Why did HE get to make that decision?  I went to his apartment a couple of times to talk, and he literally would not let me in.  So, I looked desperate, needy.  But, if he came over here?  I would have the courtesy to listen to what he’d say, and others might see him making that step as being so humbling for him.  Men are pursuers, women are stalkers.  Men are ‘ready for an emotional attachment’, women are needy.  ‘Nuff said.

My friend decided he didn’t want a romantic relationship right now (better get off that dating site then, buddy), but I did.  Once again, his decision prevailed.  Ma asked me if I had talked to him about things, and I said no, not after that last text.  Why?  Because I would look too desperate.  Right?

But maybe this isn’t about gender (now don’t send me crappy messages about not liking men: for fuck sakes, I’ve married 3 of them and gave birth to one), but about those of us who are overly emotional vs. those who aren’t.  The over-emotionals  don’t handle rejection well.  We expect that others will treat us like we treat them, and understand relationships aren’t (or shouldn’t be) disposable.  We grasp the insight that relationships take work, time and effort.  Why is this so rare?  Shouldn’t this be the ‘rule’ instead of the exception to the ‘rule’?  Shouldn’t both people be part of the break-up like they were for the initial start?  Why can’t both sides have input without judgement?

If one more person tells me it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I never have a partner again (thanks for the optimism, peeps) I’m literally going to punch them in the face.  OK, not literally.  And not even a tap.  BUT, they will get one of my shitty looks…that’s for sure.

Look, I know it wouldn’t be the end of the fucking world.  I’m a bit smarter than that.  But I like having a partner.  Actually, I love it.  There are so many people that don’t admit that anymore.  Maybe they think it makes them look weak.  Or needy.  Or pathetic.  I’m not any of those.  How does wanting someone to love and have them love me back weak?  Needy?  Pathetic?  Isn’t that what life is all about?  Building those intimate connections that make us feel loved, secure, and content, with the knowledge that someone out there is crazy about us.  There’s even a phrase called “Poverty of Attachments”; according to this, I’m definitely poor.

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Maybe I am just asking for too much.  Maybe I will be alone.  But, maybe a guy will come into my life wanting me.  Not wanting what he can get from me, or take from me, or do to me.  But just wanting me.  With all that comes along with me being me.  Is my soulmate out there?  Does that even exist?  I don’t know the answer to that.  But I do know I’ll keep giving 100% in any relationship I’m in and work my ass off in it.  Maybe that’s good…maybe that’s bad.  But to be honest with you,  that’s all I know to do.

Kristi xoxo

 

Definitely Underwear. From K-Mart. (The Rainman)

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately and what all can we change in ourselves, if anything.  There is a lot of change we control: we change our underwear, our taste in clothes, our skin with tattoos, our body with piercings, our brand of deodorant, our hair style or color or both, and the list goes on and on!  (P.S.  If you don’t change your underwear, we need to have a natter.)

But, can we change who we are?  Parts of our personality?  Our ‘core’ to where the changes are actually set, and the old ones washed away?  Hmmmm.  Here’s what I think:  change is a possibility, but not a likelihood for a lot of things.

I believe our personalities are developed during early childhood and are very much influenced by our parents and early experiences.  Yes, we are born with a temperament and have hereditary traits which can impact this development, but I am convinced that nurture outweighs nature by a significant amount.

I also have to think about the impact of mental illness.  Can we change parts of us, or do our mental illnesses dominate so much of who we are it’s just not possible.  Take my impulsivity (I mean actually take it away from me and toss it in a bin).  I hate it because it makes me blurt things out without thinking or do things without taking into consideration the consequences.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Money is a good example!  I see something…I get it!  Then later, I worry about the spending and feel guilty.  So, how do I change this?  This impulsiveness is much much worse during manic cycles, and I often feel so ‘high’ I can’t see anything else but the minute I’m living in.  Last summer, I painted my big, wooden, expensive bed a God-awful color and glued glass stones from the Dollar Tree all over it.  After I came down, I thought: What the fuck did I do??

I would really love love love to change how sensitive I am.  How I react to things so strongly, when others can simply brush them off.  Hearing a criticism is devastating to me.  I might have 20 students give me perfect reviews, while another writes a scathing one.  I cry over that one and can’t see the positives.  Mouthing off to someone makes me feel so bad, I ruminate over it for days and apologize to them again and again.  Relationships are the same way:  when I love, I love way too hard and am so sensitive to my partners moods, comments, and behavior.  As a result of this, I am very good at taking personal blame for things…even when logically I know I shouldn’t.

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From scientificamerican.com

Now, the question is this:  can I change my sensitivity?  Is this a genetic trait that’s pre-wired in me?  Or, is this a result of my bipolar (which also is centered in my brain)?  And if so, is change possible?  Can I just turn off that switch in my brain labeled “Kristi’s Emotion” and be done with this piece of me that causes so many of my tears to be shed?

And let’s say I find that switch and turn the damn thing off.  Is it REALLY off?  Will it come back in times of stress?  Is the ‘shut off’ permanent, or can it be flicked on again easily?

What else do I want to change in me?  I think it would be my ineptness (thank the lord for the online thesaurus I use) in forming friendships.  I can’t do it.  I’ve said it before: I’ve always been different from other people.  I felt it in Kindergarten…truly.  I’d see the girls playing with the kitchen set and I’d go join in, but I felt like an outsider.  Like I was looking through a window at what everyone else was doing and then would try to imitate their behavior.  I’d be invited to slumber parties throughout elementary and Jr. High and all of the girls would have their besties there.  I never had one.  It would be just me; so to be noticed, I created this HUGE personality!  I’d be the loud one who would do any dare.  The funny one.  The weird one.

I had a couple of good friends in High School, but I wasn’t their bestie.  As an adult, I can honestly say I had 1 really good friend for about 7 years.  We did so much together but her bestie lived about 60 miles away, and when she would visit my friend, I was put aside.  Ouch.

So how can I change this?  Am I truly different inside, but could change it with enough work?  Is this feeling of being different a part of my bipolar and anorexia?  Obviously, both of these make me very different!  Or is this difference just something I feel, but isn’t true in the eyes of others?  If I take off the mask I see in the mirror, would it change my awkwardness?

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Photo by Nadine Wuchenauer on Pexels.com

But I also wonder this:  do we really need to worry about if or how we can change, or instead just learn to live with who we are?  Be happy in our own skin?  Accept our challenges?

I feel like we live in a society where being different is bad.  Right?  It’s almost like there’s an expectation to look a certain way, emote a certain way, act a certain way.  And anything that deviates from that is ‘WRONG’.  But, what if those of us that are different are the ones that are RIGHT?  What a kick in the ass that would be!  What if I’m just brave enough to show my sensitivity?  Isn’t it a good thing to be sensitive (maybe not to the degree I am, but still…)?  And my impulsiveness?  That’s helped me accomplish a lot of things in my life I might never have done. And being different from the other girls and people in my life as an adult might mean I’m not a sheep following the herd.  Maybe I’m the sheep that’s taking my own path through the meadow and sees flowers the others have trampled on.

So, maybe instead of asking about whether we can fundamentally change, we should be asking:  how do I celebrate these things in me and just try to have a bit more control over them.  Doesn’t that make more sense?  Wouldn’t it be great if all of us with mental illnesses could look in the mirror and say ‘Hey, I am what I am.’  Use our differences to educate others?  Let people see we accept ourselves, illnesses and all? Isn’t that a HUGE step in them accepting us too?

I’m 53 fucking years old.  I don’t think I’m going to be able to radically change this Kristi that I am.  However, I think I could change the way I accept this Kristi who’s been with me on my journey in this life…through the good and the bad.  When I think about it, she’s taken care of me pretty well.  Maybe I’ll take her shopping for new fancy underwear today; I think she deserves it.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

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