Defining the Problem

The diagnosis is evading the professional help

It’s noon on Father’s Day and somewhere a father is likely on his 3rd drink of the day. He is probably wondering what happened to cause the severance, though in searching through bottles doesn’t understand how he perpetuates his own problems. 

I have been treated to the first use of the bathroom this morning, breakfast, nookie, and we are trying to wrangle the kids out the door for superheroes day. Amidst fussing and griping, Kim suggests we bail on our plans and just take them to the park. My patience is thin and besides that, I’m in a horrible funk. 

So, what the funk? Being broke. Putting off work while bills pile up. Mostly, that I struggle so hard and come every holiday lately, I’m too broke to really do anything. Now, I’m thrifty and young kids are still pretty amazed by just about anything. It’s not that there’s nothing to do in a city for free. It’s that a journey to the children’s museum shouldn’t be a damn Survivor style expedition. It’s that as I watch my household diverge stealthily into chaos, I see a ubiquitous pattern and the realization that this is why we can’t do nice things. 

I want to yell at the child to stop ruining every special occasion with her attitude. I instead have to reinforce her mother’s threat because she clearly didn’t listen to it from the source. I’m already tired. I’m tired of all the bickering. It wasn’t a large amount of it, but it did get every last one of us upset. 

About the time the children have shoes on and are ready to go, Kim has to make a second coffee. I try not to look at the clock with dismay, but it’s coming up hot onto 1pm and half the day is already gone. 

Kim had asked me what I wanted to do. I didn’t have a socially acceptable answer. If I had any money for gas, I would have taken my son for a day to ourselves. I wish now that we would have. I wonder still how that request would have been received. Probably not well. 

I’m in this funk, and my mind drifts again to that drunk asshole that’s probably giving my sister or some hapless stranger a drunken ear full. In this situation, he would have been gone nearly before sunrise. Fishing, drinking, driving aimlessly, or whatever his fancy. I don’t remember him doing much as a family. I want to be alone. I get it. The family thing gets to a guy sometimes. Especially a guy that’s well enough alone. 

At some point in the day, Kim said something optimistic about next year’s father’s day. Really? I had all of $6 to blow at Goodwill when my son’s birthday came around. I was broke for Mother’s Day. I’ll be even more broke and bracing for trying to dodge another 72 hour notice, or worse, for my birthday. It’s well over halfway through June, and not a single bill has been paid aside from phone bills. Thank god for Boost and their $35 flat rate. 

Why? Why is this happening? I see things all over the place contributing to our downfall. If I pick at these things, it seems like I’m being a jerk. If I don’t, they keep tripping us up. Even things that have been addressed keep happening. 

Kim tells me she’s sick of living like this. So am I. What the funk am I supposed to do? How do we go from planning and failing to meet our needs to planning and finding success? It’s not that our plans are faulty. Simply that when push comes to shove, everybody would rather jump ship than see them through. 

I miss being the kind of broke I was as a single guy. You know the kind? The kind of broke that comes from having paid all your bills and having nothing left. I don’t know how to pick my family up to that kind of broke, and every holiday that comes around reminds me of how hopelessly broke and still on the verge of homelessness we are. 

We have been grasping for all the intervention and social help we can. It’s run out and we are still no closer to floating. What can I do? All I have left is to keep a record of all our failures and point them out, which usually comes to explosive outcomes from opposing sides of a finger.

I got nothin’. Any ideas out there? 

Adapting

It’s not for everyone

I’ve been wanting to blog all weekend, but it’s hard to figure out what to say. 

Summer is officially here, signaling the beginning of construction season. Apparently it’s in full force and Craigslist is overflowing with ads for help. I was doing a little gig for a guy who told me that workers are going for as much as $30 an hour. I laughed as I told him that I might consider going back into it for that wage, though I don’t figure myself being worth quite that much. 

Well, I dug into storage and put by proverbial tool belt back on. I’m being obstinate here and refusing to take on a j-o-b. So, I guess that makes me a contractor now? Shit, I haven’t even updated my business license and here I am getting ready to write a contract for my second project. Yeah, what the hell happened to the first? The floodgates are open, and I already feel like I’m drinking from a fire hose. 

I would be over the moon right now, if not for the state of my city. In case it’s not national news (I go out of my way to ignore it) the issue is that yesterday my city became the epicenter of FEDERALLY CONDONED RACISM. I don’t have the time or energy to dig up facts or quotes, but I just have to say that some days humanity makes me sick. 

Yesterday, some white supremacists decided to have a little get together. I hid in my sanctuary, earmuffs and saws happily muting any sound of it that might penetrate the shop. I had to deal with the leftovers on my drive home, and that was already more than enough. 

First off, I have to be grateful for the fact that we are a state. Our own state, with its own government that can have its own say even when some fuckhead is in charge of the federation. I’m grateful that the people leading my city stand on the firm ground of acceptance and inclusion while said fuckhead opens doors to criminal behavior.

I really don’t want to know how bad it was or wasn’t yesterday. This morning, my girlfriend watched in horror as some helpless soul took his life in front of the train. Someone in my city was so distraught, in such a dark place, so absolutely tortured by these events as to take their own life. I saw a squad car and ambulance while out driving today. I hope it wasn’t a repeat of the morning, but I can hardly shove the thought out of my mind. 

I’m speculating, sure. Maybe the victim had a bad breakup, was messed up on meth, or had a tag on his head. Maybe. Except that we just don’t have that many suicide incidents, and there is little if anything more stressful than knowing there is a government supported effort to eradicate people with a specific genetic order for skin color. 

I can only afford so much time to vent my grief, but I need my readers to understand that they are not alone in this fear mongering country. I need to mourn with my city for the innocent people being targeted and to send the message that no matter how bad it gets, we (the not sadistic and bloodthirsty) will always stand for each other. I’m thankful my city’s officials take that stand, and I’m thankful for my military brethren standing with us. 

Mount Neahkanie

Higher than the clouds

It’s the first fully dry week that we’ve had all year, and the highways were loaded up with beach goers Thursday at 4:10 pm on the dot. I was watching every minute and every road like a hawk for my cue to gtfo and be home in time to pick up my kiddo. 

We decided to skip the camping rush and crowded beaches in favor of a nice little hike in the woods. I have this issue with perception, and if you look up this particular trail, you might get it. I thought about tracking it with my running app, but worried the battery would die before I got the good photo ops. Anyway, I guess the disclaimer to this one is, “Your level of enjoyment may differ.”

I did not envy any campers as we hit the 101 and were socked in with thick fog. I realized I had the whole family layer up in anticipation of cool weather then rocked out with nothing but shorts and tee. My legs paid the price in blood, but the temp was perfect. 

So, it’s been a while and I forgot how the trail was on the north side. We started up through berry brambles and loose flagstone before the path improved slightly and we were flanked by the following. I’ll have to figure out all the names later!

It’s hard to see, but this shot is looking about 50 degrees uphill. 

We bushwhacked for maybe half mile uphill until the slope started to ease up and old growth dominated the scene. So, the thing about the north part of this trail is that the way is easily lost. Coming downhill, there is a clear end of the trail and a suggestive curve downhill. You look downhill and just over a mass of old tree roots, you see the trail switching back just as you’d expect. Approaching from the north, however, you don’t think to look for a switchback because the trail appears to keep going. You follow it innocently until it ends in the middle of thick fern and fallen timber. Now, an intelligent person would backtrack until they found another hiker for direction. This family gets worked up, starts in one direction, changes direction a few times, fights through as much as possible, then finds a hidden meadow well of the trail. 

Ah well, we did find our way back onto the trail and before long we could feel the sea breeze as we approached the summit. 

The Camas lily in the early day fog. 

Ooh, yes! Who isn’t excited for wild berries! 😄  oh? Nobody in Oregon? k

Now, I grew up in the mountains, so inversions aren’t the most remarkable thing to see anymore. However, as we rounded the face of the peak and the trees thinned out, we realized that we had walked above the fog. 

Minds blown! Then, just after that, we hit the wildflower jackpot. 

Well, that just about made the day for us. We hung out on the peak, snacking and taking it all in. On our way back down, the fog lifted and offered us a glimpse of the coast and birds diving in the water. 

Just a couple more native flora to wrap it up. 

It was an exhausting day for everyone, but well worth it. It was certainly the solace we needed and salt air we were craving.

In the Right Direction

…but not out of the storm

Well, perhaps not surprisingly, the consistency posting fell off the plate. However, a lot has happened in the last month that I figure I’m overdue to give an update. 

While I haven’t posted about my consistency, I have been spending more time socializing in general. My girlfriend and I are running about 12 to 15 miles every week and spending time together after each run to regroup. She found within a few weeks of starting our routine that her body now craves the exercise, too. She feels more positive about her body and her mood is stabilizing. I downloaded a run app to track our runs and was pretty stoked yesterday when our first and third miles were under 10 minutes. When we started our routine, 3 miles was a long run and she did most of it in quarter mile or smaller chunks. Between the visible toning of her muscles and running both faster and further, she feels like she has regained a bit of her younger self. There you have it: a proven anti-aging treatment 😆.

Speaking of moods, it took the system a good while to connect us to a counselor (about 4 months) but we finally had our first visit last week. I feel like after all the counseling I’ve had that I should be better at employing grounding and meditative exercises when needed. It seems I’m still learning. Kim was skeptical at first, but is grateful that we have someone now. Hopefully over the next few months, we’ll see things settle down. 

Something I wish someone would have told me earlier is this: “What you pay attention to, grows. ” I feel somewhat neglected thinking about how important this is and that I’ve only now come to have it. 

I finally took the plunge and paid into a membership at a maker space. This was nothing of a gratifying creative endeavor of fancy wood joinery. I wish it was, as it’s the perfect place for a starving artist to sink their time. This was a calculated risk that we sat on for weeks. Kim was not fully on board with the decision, I admit. However, little else seems to be showing any promise of helping us meet ends. She bailed on Lyft after their most recent round of changes. So, my car is now our only reliable income and the business…

Well, that’s the unnerving part. I sunk the better part of last week into making things. Things that have historically taken at least a week to sell. I certainly didn’t pull in the dollars I needed to, and the bills are rolling in with the all too familiar tone of “Hey, asshole. Forget to do something? Again?” The thing is, that I did make some money and along with it, the promise of more business in the future. I contacted a few brick and mortars about my work, but nothing serious has come through yet. It’s exciting and frustrating at the same time. It’s exciting because we have interest and the actual beginning of the whole thing actually making money.  It’s frustrating because I still have no immediately available income from it that I can hurl at bills. 

I appreciate the little bits of progress. Things are still challenging, but we seem to be headed in the right direction. The rest of the year will be slow and steady, and we’ll just have to see what December brings for next year. 

Smoke ’em if ya got ’em

Always something

It’s been a long time. I’ve discovered such unique, eclectic sounds to attach myself to. Like taste buds changing, I thought my ears would never want to be battered again by the wall of sound. The screaming. Vile, poisonous words shredding my vocal cords. Through the eyes of who I am now, I don’t know why I was so attached. I had almost every single album. Baby’s momma took them and the iPod they were backed up on. I scraped the bumper sticker off my truck before I sold it and thought that was the last of it. I thought I finally grew out of it. 

It was late on a Saturday night and still dismally quiet for driving. Closer played on the radio, and though I still believe it was his worst and most overplayed song, I found my lips forming the words. That was it. I had to listen to more. I just had to. 

I didn’t have anywhere to go to listen. I don’t know anyone at all that could put up with more than a minute. So, I found an empty parking lot and proceeded to thrash my eardrums via thrashing the speakers. I listened to half of The Fragile and a few select tracks from Further Down the Spiral. Finally, the cops came to inform me that I was not allowed to occupy public space at that hour of the morning. 

Joe Camel, his smug snout sticking out proudly as he happily takes both your money and health in exchange for… I still don’t know. I have been craving it. Why? I worked so hard to quit so many times. When I finally did, I did so knowing it was over. I still distinctly remember putting the last one out, so happy and fulfilled that my mind had finally reached the conclusion that cigarettes are gross. 

I scolded myself even as I wrapped my fingers around the pack to smack it into the palm of my hand. By time I was pulling the gold foil out, I just didn’t care. I just took a turn a wee bit too tight onto possibly the narrowest and busiest street in Portland, scraping the side and ending in a crinkle where there ought to be a smart, crisp contour. I’m supposed to be showing my car off on Wednesday as part of the launching of Uber EV. Now, I look like a schmuck that doesn’t take care of his things. Despite a service I could barely afford and a new set of shoes after the potholes claimed the right front tire, I am apparently not done paying out for repairs. I just didn’t care about my well being. 

I know I’m not doing myself any favors. I know I can’t bring myself to care. I know that of any vice, this is the one that Kim will be least accepting of. What I don’t know is what to do from here. What can I do? I guess I’ll go have a cigarette and maybe when I’m done I will at least not feel so miserable. 

Afraid to Sleep

Reality only happens once, it’s the echoes that kill me.

I was so tired last night, I could barely stay awake with the kids through Gnomeo and Juliet. I wanted to put the kids to bed at their usual time and get stuff done, but that just wasn’t going to happen. I was beat and the kids were still bouncing off the walls. Kim was out driving so I went to bed right after the kids. 

I indulged in my vice of choice as a little nightcap while reading through some great blogs of a new follower. Now, I’m going to air my opinion here a bit because this tends to be a focal point of arguments in those I decide to finally cut ties with. Is it because it’s the easiest thing to attack, or does it lie in politically aligned values? 

I’m thirsty. I feel it in me, like a vampire tale. A week is tolerable, but much longer than that without a drink and I start to feel real miserable. I have only a few times in my life been blackout drunk. These days, with driving being my primary income, I’m good for maybe two beers in a sitting, and only when I have the next day off. I don’t really recall the last time I could afford liquor, it’s been least a year ago. I’ve had pretty wet times in my life, however. Times where I was very good at getting and maintaining just the right amount of drunken buzz to keep me through the day without wrecking something horribly. I would easily maintain a few drinks every night for a nightcap if I indulged in brewing again. But, that’s a slippery slope back into pounding several every night, with heavier benders when I have the pleasure of sleeping in the next day. Then the anxiety attacks, damage to my health, especially my teeth, free floating hostility, bouts of explosive anger, and ultimately being a complete inebriated mess. 

My mind is very active at night. I could blame too many all night video game marathons fueled by gallons of Mt Dew. I could blame the months on end working grave shifts so many times in my life. I could blame college, cramming all night to finish a critical report only hours before the start of class. Truth is, when my head hits the pillow, I roll the dice on whether it’s going to make me feel better or worse in the morning. 

I went to the doctor, took their drugs, and lost my job after suffering from awful hangover like symptoms for a week. I went back to the doctor, took some different drugs, and got disgustingly sick. I kept going back, trying new drugs, suffering new side effects, and made no progress. I had faith in the docs. Don’t get me wrong, I think the VA Healthcare, at least in Portland, is great. But, the last thing I care to do is subject myself to a pharmaceutical roller-coaster ride. It went on for months before I finally cut it off cold turkey. I was homeless, jobless, and all around dysfunctional. Several years later while I was less than happily married and expecting a baby, I accepted my wife’s urging to go seek mental help. Another two months ensued of being so messed up I could only journal every 30 min to keep my head straight. So, phuck pharmaceuticals, basically. 

As I do every night, I settled in with my vice, and mostly fell right to sleep. I slept well for most of the night. Kim’s alarm went off and woke me in the early morning. If possible, she tries to take the morning shift. One little noise and she is wide awake, whereas I have been known to hit the snooze button until my alarm stops going off altogether. This morning, she silenced her alarm then set it for a few hours later. I woke the first time, feeling a bit refreshed, but went right back to sleep. 

I don’t know what the rush was, but I whipped my car into a parking lot. There were a few well dressed people standing in the way, conversing while one of them grabbed things from the trunk of their car. I saw a spot right near the entrance and backed in. It was a funny angle, and I almost backed right into a beautiful blue mustang. Panic struck as I stomped the brake pedal to the floor without slowing at all. I pumped it several times while seeing my car come within an inch of the other before bumping the parking curb. Embarrassed, I pulled forward and backed in straighter. The brake worked fine. 

I walked, half jogging in short bursts, across a playground. My ex wife appeared out of nowhere. “Oh, hi. You know, I never got that password from you.” I have no idea what she’s talking about, but I try to keep walking. “Excuse me! Don’t you walk away from me, I haven’t finished!” I try to keep walking, almost juking and ducking like a running back just to get past her. She is almost in hysterics, now grabbing my shirt. Then my son’s substitute teacher shows up, with that grouchy old woman scowl that can only be grown by decades of being irritable with the whole world. She berates me with simple adjectives while my ex continues to gush about all the awful things I’ve done (and more that I haven’t done) in my life.

“Disgusting!”  “Shameful!”  “I can’t believe you would be so inconsiderate!”  “Your child is JUST AWFUL!”  “Careless!”  “So closed off! You’re so horrible to estrange me and your whole family!”  “Horrible influence!”  “You don’t love anyone! You don’t even care about your own child!”  “Pathetic!”  “You only ever think of yourself!”  “I can’t trust you to look after your son’s health!”  “Abuser!”  “Bully! That’s what you are!”  “You just ride roughshod over everyone!”  “You can’t win friends by pushing people around!”  “Rotten excuse for a parent!”  “You’re going to destroy your child’s life just like your own!”  

I broke free of her grip on my shirt. I felt solid ground under my feet, but before I knew it my legs were kicking with no resistance. Their voices echoed with anger as I fell into darkness. Falling. Most people wake themselves up out of the physical panic of the sensation. I fall, and fall, and keep falling. The falling is fine, as relief comes out of the fading away of their scathing verbal lashes. Eventually, my brain registers the jarring, stinging sensation of impact. My body doesn’t feel the sting, but rather the cold and wet of the water I presumably landed in. 

Kim was gone. The first real world thought to enter my awakened mind is how gross I felt with the sweat soaked blanket and sheet sticking to me. The next thought was wondering why my muscles were so incredibly sore. My head hurt. A spot of sunlight lit the bedroom as I rubbed my teary eyes. The kids’ content voices permeated the room enough to assure me that all the terror and fear was bound within my own body. 

The world presents me the warmest welcome it can and two smiling little innocent faces light up when I emerge from the bedroom. I smile the kind of smile that is forced through pain and trauma. A hot shower removed the gross feeling and somewhat lifted the mental fog. My body still aches and my energy is still drained. I will face the day and do my best like always. When I go to bed, I will try to convince myself that I do need rest and will get it as long as I can get myself to go to sleep. 

Mostly, my nightcap helps me get there. The random thoughts firing relentlessly in my mind replaced by a soft, unconcerned ignorance. The tension in my forehead melts. I can feel that same numbing buzz that alcohol produces without the throbbing, debilitating hangover when I wake. Ideally, my brain doesn’t register anything between initially falling asleep and waking up. On the rare occasion, I might find myself floating through a blue sky of puffy cumulonimbus or crowd-surfing on a sea of colorful flowers. But mostly, when I am settling in, I just hope not to have the kind of nightmares that relive the worst of reality. I gave up hoping it could happen naturally, I refuse to ride the roller-coaster of manufactured drugs, and I learned my lesson not to give into the thirst. It is my medicine, though getting a prescription, leaving a paper trail, would only give baby’s momma fuel for her fight. 

When having a restoring rest is such a challenge, many of life’s usual difficulties become totally overwhelming. I wish I could have half the support others enjoy, because so many days I already feel myself struggling just to maintain balance. Call it what you will, it prevents my daily self-destruction and allows me the constitution to deal with problems in a calm and respectable manner. Most days, anyway. 

Losing friends

“FOR FUCK’S SAKE, WOMAN! He’ll make more goddamn friends!” I’ve had to shake the feeling of that moment off many times after it comes creeping into my mind uninvited and unannounced. 

Kiley is a motor mouth! Chat, chat, chat all the time. Her mom admits that her childhood was full of, “mind your own business!” This morning, Kiley sat at the table just staring straight into space. I ran the coffee grinder, that stupid loud machine (I’d rather crank-grind my beans), but she only blinked. 

I sidestepped near the table, tilting my head into her field of vision. Her eyes catch me there, but she doesn’t look at me. “What’s the matter, sweetie?” I ask, with no response. I decide to dig. “Hey, I’m sorry things are so rough right now. Your mom and I are in a tough spot and we’re doing the best we can, okay?” A slight nod lets me know she’s listening at least. “What’s making you the most upset? Is it your mom and me?” I worried a lot about how disruptive our recent first heated fight might have been on the kids. “Is it the moving?” She looks at me with another nod. I affirm how moving is always tough and unsettling. 

I’ve spent my whole life moving one place to another. By now, every time I pack my belongings, it feels like breaking camp. What a nice spot this was, and I just hope the next occupants don’t think the previous ones were a bunch of slobs while I pick up trash and wipe windowsills. I also find it very refreshing to purge the old papers, abandoned projects, expired medicine, and rarely used condiments that have glued themselves to their spot in the fridge door. 

I ask further, “What part of moving upsets you the most?” Not that I had to ask. She tells me she’s never going to see her friends again. I try to comfort her with the promise of technology. I tell her that when I was a kid, all I had was paper to write a letter to my friends. It isn’t very easy to pen out a letter, then drop it in the mail, knowing it’ll take a week at least to reach its destination. For two weeks, I waited patiently. After the third, I felt discouraged. Slowly after that, came the acceptance that my friends just weren’t that interested in me. Nowadays (that’s actually a word! ha) we have the world at our fingertips and even homeschool kids can turn into social butterflies. 

I try to explain that it’ll be alright, but the thought of leaving alone already has her missing the last set of friends she made. There was some inappropriate contact from a certain little boy that caused a transfer. Kiley didn’t understand why she had to leave her friends then, as much as she doesn’t understand the causes now. 

Honestly, I have many of the same feelings about my moves. However, in this digitally connected age, it’s a bit different. I moved on from marriage while I was in university. All of our friends suddenly became her friends as she filled them all with one sided opinions and outright lies about me. I was in my sophomore year and had no time for socializing. Over the following couple years, a lost friend would contact me and whatever news I shared with them would quickly come back on me via baby’s momma. The only friends I could trust were my colleagues in school. One unfortunate Father’s Day, I was handed a court summons as I dropped my son off. Preparing for that awful day derailed my studies just short of earning the paper for it. All my colleagues graduated, then got jobs, and mostly stuck together. I lost touch with them all. I like to think they still think of me, but who knows?

It’s still painful to think of all the great times I’ve had with my friends. Family commitments and my girl’s social anxiety keeps me from reconnecting. Even as we attempt to start a business together, she is repulsed by the notion of employees or having to share it with anyone. Past lovers, well, they are not to be mentioned in the least. I can concede that maintaining contact with Michelle, the girlfriend before Kim, was going to be cancerous to our relationship. But sometimes my heart genuinely aches to not have her in my life anymore. A smile slips across my face as an image of my camping trip with Zoe slides through my mind and I have to suppress it. “What was that look for?” Kim grills me. Nothing but random thoughts I try to convince her. A layer of guilt and shame grows over that feeling of elated joy. 

At the moment, though, it’s tough enough just to explain to a 6 year old girl, a very social one at that, how life just goes like that sometimes. I certainly can’t tell her how much worse it could be, I can only know that I’m doing far better by her than my father did by me.