My Painful Scar

I hurt. Really bad. At some point, a given pain is so excruciating and unrelenting that your mind just disassociates from the body. I laid in bed and held my stomach with one hand and my heart with the other. 

“You are well. You are healthy and strong. You are not going to die. Your everything is not over or lost. Be at peace. Sleep is what will heal, do not let your body take it from you.” I tell myself. 

The thoughts come rushing in. Those awful, unsettling words. The evil, hateful, berating words like vomit. The smell alone, like a gag reflex, issues an urge to spill my mental lunch. (It was a tasty little TED talk)

“Be still. Be well. Now is not the time for thoughts. Now is the time to be centered, breathe.” I take a deep, controlled breath. My heart lights up, beats on my ribs, and squeezes battery acid into my guts.

The thoughts come back. And the smell. Like a trickle of water over a dam wall, I feel it in the front of my brain. “You know what, bitch!?” are the words of my father and a hundred drunkards dripping on my tongue. Don’t worry though, I’ve spent my whole life building and reinforcing that dam. 

“Breathe. You are well. You are a great human being because you can feel. You are great because you bring so much to your endeavors. You are valuable. Your words are valuable. Your actions are valuable. Your feelings. They are part of being human, and they are valuable.”

Our counselor poked that scar a couple weeks ago, and I didn’t even know what she poked or why it hurt. It hurts now. 

I was in the 5th grade. I don’t have many memories of that period of my life, so I have to do some math here… I would have been 9, making my sister about 2. I was playing cards with my dad. I suppose she felt left out, so she did what a toddler might be expected to do: kicked me in the back. Continously. I know I told her to stop. Over and over. I imagine I yelled it at her, but I don’t recall. My dad didn’t intervene. The kicking continued. I uncrossed my legs and squished her against the sofa with my back. I didn’t even see it coming. Do you know what a drunken layman’s fist does to a 9 year old boy? Well, nothing that left a permanent mark, though at the time I was sure my arm was broken. It’s what his fist told me in that flight. “You are not valuable enough to deserve not being physically attacked.”

I will let myself vent this hatred though: I hate that “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” has suddenly become a trendy way of implying someone simply ought to know what their audience wants to hear. 

Moreover, I hate that it’s used as a gateway to render all context invalid any time the audience is offended, and the words are picked up, balled together with their emotions, then hurled back at the speaker.

I am pressed for words. “You have to use your words. You must speak.” I am not a novice in vocabulary, but I don’t know what words to use to express how I feel. Sometimes (more often than is helpful) I don’t even know for myself what I’m experiencing. But I must speak, because that is what is demanded of me. I breathe. I think. I carefully, cautiously, pick words to assemble the best sentences I can. I draft it in my mind, check the tone, edit out any absolutes, ensure my audience is not being unwittingly included, and do my best to make sure it is completely objective so as to not sound like I’m treating my subjective views as any kind of fact. Finally, I release the anticipated final draft, and I think it just might be NYT best seller material. 

What I said, the context, gets thrown at my feet. How I said it gets thrown in the cauldron, with a boiling hot stew of emotion, before being thrown in my face. If I speak, I get doled out another round. If I remain silent, the cauldron boils over. The words don’t hurt that bad, and I can deal with the third degree burns. What really hurts is that scar. It’s been torn open again by the reinforcement of, “You are not valuable enough to express your thoughts.”

The burning feeling has gone down. I know I may not sleep well, but the least I can do is rest my body, hold my oozing wound, and keep telling myself that I am valuable.

Collecting Thoughts

Conquering the Chaos

“I just feel like my mind is racing through thoughts and I’m not in the driver’s seat.” my girlfriend tells me.

“My mind is like lightning. One brilliant flash and it’s gone.” I tell her. 

She worries about her craziness and I try to comfort her in saying we are all a little crazy in some way. I suppose the trick is to figure out what flavor of crazy you are and try to learn from others how to live with it. 

It is in thinking about the furious pace of thoughts that led me to realize something else has been missing entirely from my life. Furthermore, it closely coincides with the point in time that my finances first turned south. In the Corps, we were issued a small notebook, olive green of course, that we kept tucked into a pocket or in the small of the back. We called it a smack book for motivational purposes. These days, I manage to keep myself together in a clipboard and spiral notebook or two. 

In a time of my life when I was single, I felt I was operating at max capacity all the time. Physically and mentally, I pushed myself to my limits. I had much more space than I needed, so an extra bedroom became my office. What I really wanted was a full sized whiteboard, but I didn’t have a way to really accommodate one. Instead, I bought a can of whiteboard paint, and painted each closet door top to bottom. 

Oh, the memories of that ‘whiteboard’! Many, many drunken attempts at deriving fluid dynamics equations or balancing chemical reactions. Tutoring. Strategizing. Motivating. Budgeting. Dreaming. All of that and more happened on those doors. It captured those fleeting, golden ideas. It reminded me of problems I have already addressed and no longer need to store in my already overloaded brain. It reminded me of my priorities and plans as I went through the week. It was an anchor for my very actively wandering mind and helped immeasurably with my productivity. 

It is high time we get a giant whiteboard again, I say. Once again, I have no idea where to accommodate one, but it is needed. We already found we can barely function without the whiteboard calendar, so I don’t know fully why I wouldn’t have gone for at least another small one. 

I am not a big fan of the paint though. It is a two part resin and doesn’t actually apply like paint. I believe a foam brush is the only way to get the coat even enough to effectively write and erase, but I wouldn’t mess with it unless you consider yourself handy. 

It’s something to start with. 😁

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.