It’s Always Something #005

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

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You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

The negativity spiral. Some people think of it more linear, like a dark road you walk down, each step another ugly, degrading, demoralizing thought. The world is very cyclic by nature, so where it may seem we walk a straight path into darkness, there is indeed an ultimate point which we seem to be circling.

Anyway, I had a nightmare last Friday. Seems to be going around, judging by my feed. Mister had school, so I couldn’t just hide in bed like I really wanted. I got up, made my coffee, and joined the family at the table. Kim made breakfast and it looked good, but one challenging remark from the peanut gallery derailed my effort to convince myself to be hungry. So, without comment, I took my coffee and retreated to the bedroom. 

I felt like I actually had the fight that I just dreamt I had. There was nothing otherwise to complain about, I just felt beat up. After returning home from the school delivery, I got sucked into it. 

Kim asked me what was wrong. I told her I just felt shitty. She asked if it was her, or something she did. No, I just felt like crap. After more questioning, I told her I had a nightmare. I didn’t want to feed the negativity by adding details. I wanted to sit in silence and get my head right. 

She continued to pry. She explained that my being upset was upsetting her and wanted to know what was wrong. I tried my best to quarantine myself that morning, so being told that I failed to do so reinforced my negativity. She continued to ask what was wrong. 

The spiral. It ruined most of the day for us.

Ugh! Come the hell on, now! Of course, some thing is wrong! There are so many things wrong in my life right now, I can’t shake a hundred dollar bill at them all. If someone repeatedly asks for what’s wrong, I have an endless well of things to complain about. If you look for something to be a problem, you are going to find it. The only real problem is getting sucked into the negativity. 

Honestly…

There’s hardly a problem we have right now that can’t be completely solved with a liberal application of Go The Fuck To Work! 

If you stop and think negatively, there is always some damn thing. 

It’s Always Something #001

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

Welcome to my new regularly occurring series! I’ve thought of starting this for a while, because we are approaching the threshold in our state of affairs that are no longer worthy of complaint. Having worked in emergency services as well as surviving 10 months in a war zone, I am aware of the mental health threat that intensely bad situations pose. 

Now, there’s a tool I have to admit that I’ve buried out of the shame I feel for using as I can never tell who it might offend. It’s the skill of cynically extracting a usually dark aspect of a traumatic event in order to cause the unexpected reaction of laughing. That is making light of, or taking the piss of for my international audience, an extraordinarily bad event. 

Admittedly, half of shit that goes down isn’t, in itself, the end of the world. However, add the dimension of time to the discussion, and we now have to consider things cumulatively and look at patterns through concepts like percentages and frequency. I know that’s starting to sound mathematical and shit, so rather than dwell on the theory or discuss why this is post number 001, let’s just dive in head first! 

It’s still early in the day today, so I’ll just recap yesterday. I have a ventilation job waiting on me. It got warm last week, so the awesome folks called on me to see when it was going to get done. So, despite the late start to the day (5:30pm though the building was unoccupied literally all weekend) I finally got there to get some work done. Upon scoping out the scene, I come to realize that about $20 in parts are still needed and also that I was suddenly in need of a tool that I have been putting off the purchase of. I knew it was needed, but thought the other carpenter’s very nice tool would still be available for me to use. Whelp, at some point he wrapped up the last of his work and rolled out entirely. Oh, and I don’t even have the money to pay my phone bill, so 😝

I squeezed out doing what I could to get ready, but without half the things necessary it was only so much. Another hour+ commuting for so little return. 
You know it’s always some damn thing! 

Oh, She’s Just Wild and That’s Okay

But what if it isn’t?

I took Kiley to school this morning. On most accounts, it was a typical morning. It took about 15 min of hounding for her to get dressed. It’s pouring rain and in the 50’s but that doesn’t stop her from putting on a light, airy dress. Last week, it was getting a bit cool. This week, it is cool and wet, the kind of cold that gets right to your bones and sticks there, haunting you while you try to recover your enthalpy sheltered indoors. As a parental figure, I couldn’t let her keep dressing for summer. After another 20 min of bickering that tempted a full scale meltdown, I dug in her clothes to find something suitable to wear. Another 15 minutes of hounding her to eat her one packet of oatmeal and we were finally out the door with 10 minutes left to get to school. 

Today was different because instead of driving through the drop off lane and letting her hop out, I parked the truck and walked her to her classroom. This is our routine now, because we are having quite some difficulty with her academic success. I won’t go into details, except to say that the school must be convinced that we don’t do anything for the child. I walked Kiley to her classroom and introduced myself to the teacher, a quiet, kind old man. I told him that I will be ensuring she comes to class and that breakfast isn’t a classroom issue. That nice man started nodding and saying “oh, it’s okay, it’s okay” before I could finish explaining why I was there. 

Through all of the headache with Kiley, I have to say that we have certainly taken up folks’ kind, supposedly helpful suggestions of showering her with more love and praise. Every single time, the same results: exponentially decaying behavior. Within days, she will be ruling the land with an iron scream. Look, I get that we can’t be suppressing children’s ability to let their emotions out, that we should acknowledge them and give them room for expression. However, here’s where it breaks down: Kiley is asked to do something, she does not feel like complying, she makes excuses, then if asked again decides to have a display of emotions. The consequences of this behavior is anything from having a nice, comfy seat on a beanbag doing nothing to playing on an iPad while the office ladies dote on her. 

STOP! It’s not fucking okay! She gets positive results from negative and disruptive behavior, what the hell makes anyone think that she is ever going to benefit from education, or even see it through, if she is given a more pleasant option than doing her work any time she feels? Oh, we get told that if she gives lip when asked to do something, just take her by the hand and -cheerfully- take her to where she needs to be. Then, there we are wrestling her kicking, thrashing, possessed body into time out while she screams all manner of dramatic domestic abuse phrases. Yeah, just take her nicely by the hand, huh? Then, surely the lying and stealing (ahem, taking then maybe asking, to be exact) are okay, too? What’s the punishment for that? Oh, offer her more stuff because obviously the reason she’s stealing is pure desperation, not because she receives positive reinforcement for doing the wrong thing. 

Look, one of our state’s most iconic natural areas just got torched because some hooligans had a seriously bad attitude toward authority. The parents are in the spotlight, but in the innumerable interactions those kids have had with the incredible amount of relationships through their lives, the village, as it were, how the hell did they come to the conclusion that what they did was going to end well in any case? At the very least, they were going to get a nice little fine from the state. In today’s world where everyone has high resolution video recording in their pocket or hand, if someone sees you do something like that, you are as good as caught before you finish the act. 

I don’t know what makes people just fall over themselves for certain individuals. My dad had that charm. He could talk a sane person into jumping off a tall cliff, I swear. He talked, and no matter how bad the bullshit smelled, people would eat it up and ask for more. Baby’s momma still has that charm. I walk through a custom tailored circle of hell every time I show my face at my son’s school. These people get to waltz all over society with their attitude. If I ever had the nerve to cook up half the lies these clever crooks concoct (man, the Dr Seuss really rubs off) I’d have my ass handed to me. No, something special protects these individuals from social backlash. I don’t get it, but I sure suffer the consequences. 

It has really only been recently that we have recovered control of our household on a day to day basis. Chaos, complaining, ultimatums, negotiations, and ultimately utter exhaustion used to be our norm. It doesn’t work like that. It might seem to work, but we can’t really all just play their games and insist that it’s better for them in the end. 

Well, maybe I made a bigger thing out of it than it needed to be. The point remains though, there’s everything wrong with disrupting class, taking without permission (aka stealing ), and simply refusing to do work. It’s not okay, stop telling me it’s okay, and for the love of humanity stop telling her it’s okay. We are doing everything we can to sort this behavior out (I say this as crying breaks out in the background) but for most of the time she is in school, she gets it her way all day. How can we be effective as parents if what we enforce at home is being undermined at school? 

Has anyone else experienced this or a similar frustration with school? We have considered home school, but honestly that’s a pretty tall order. I hope it really is a phase, but I somehow feel like this is pretty much getting to be a part of her personality. 

The Way Things Should Be

Because I think they should be

It has taken time and several concerted efforts, but our family dynamics are improving. There is less chaos, fewer meltdowns, and more talking. Oh, and the kids are back in school! I felt for a while the day would never come. It’s some semblance of routine, anyway. 

On another delightful note, I woke up yesterday morning and upon whipping the blanket off, was greeted with a snappy chill. Oh, man! I can’t wait to not have that fan in the window all night again. The cool weather is right around the corner, and that combined with back to school means one thing: germ season. Kiley stepped outside in her dress and started shivering immediately, and like a bad PTSD trigger, the image of her sneezing all over herself and opening doors flashed through my brain. I returned home from dropping her off and besieged the place with soap and bleach. I had other things to do, but I couldn’t let it go any longer. 

We have managed to get the kids to keep their toys more picked up. The living room got organized and things are much tidier overall. I clean like crazy because it improves the quality of life for everyone. Regardless what living space you occupy, even if it’s a tent or your car, your quality of life will be far better if it’s kept clean. In my mind, that’s the way it should be. 

Unfortunately, I have to exist in reality for a majority of my life. In reality, a house is very difficult to keep up with, especially with kids. Nothing is the way it should be, pretty much any time, ever. It doesn’t matter that I have been groomed to 5S the hell out of things or scrub a room to white glove perfection. I live in the real world with real cohabitants. 

I also have real bills that I have to share in paying. It doesn’t matter if I can balance a budget. I cannot be in two places at once to make two incomes at the same time. Hell, earning the one income is taking its toll on me. I should be able to pay all my bills every month. In my mind, that should be entirely possible. I should be able to afford a vehicle, not necessarily brand new nor high end. Just a vehicle to safely get me and the kids around. 

These things that should be, they bother me because these things are not. It’s not just my expectations of myself, is it? My debtors expect to be paid, the government expects to be paid, baby’s momma expects to be paid. Really, the downward spiral of it all, the eternal source of stress, is that all these people expect results. Hours of my time, abuse to my knees, back, hands and otherwise, nights spent on a ladder instead of bed, hours and fuel spent in traffic, all condensed down to a green sheet of printed fabric. 

I should be free to let my mind explore the world, the most succulent and delectable morsels of knowledge oft overlooked. Instead, I’m bound to expectations. I shouldn’t be bound to a life of poverty after working so hard to escape it. However, to be otherwise should not require I be bound to a life of corporate servitude, resorting to stealing my life back in a lunch break here or concocted excuse there as neither my weekends nor holidays are left sacred. 

These things that should be. I struggle to accept the reality that things are not the way they should be. I can accept the reality of the past, or at least I’m working on it. What bothers me is the reality of my future as there has so far been no indication of it being vastly better than the recent past. 

How do I ‘let it go’? How do I build ‘mental flexibility’? What can I do to make tomorrow at least marginally better than today aside from giving the home a field day cleaning? 

More Doing

In trying to shake this funk, I have come to realize that I no longer have a space in the house to claim as my own. There is a desk with a computer, but said computer is about to give up the ghost as well. I don’t really get quiet time to sit and do anything productive, either. 

Still, I have to make something. It’s just what keeps me able to wake up day to day. I shouldn’t imply that my family doesn’t do that for me, but I really lose the wind in my sail being little more than a babysitter day in and day out. I have to do stuff, keep my hands and my brain busy. 

I’m wishing I had a shop space again, as power bumps screw with the machine and usually makes it freeze. I also have just barely enough room to walk around the thing. Nonetheless, I finally got what I was after. 

I’ll take any kind of success I can get right now! 

Finally, back to making sawdust! 

That’s really all I have wanted out of life for a while. To stop this thing from being something I’m working on doing, and to finally say it’s what I do

Joe Gotta Go

I quit once, so I can do it again. It’s not really an addiction if I don’t let it control me. [Paraphrased from the low budget flick Coffee and Cigarettes ]

I have quit a lot of times. Haven’t most smokers? I slipped into it again. What is it, really? I admit that it came back to me when I was driving. I would go to the airport queue for my lunch period, see a few folks enjoying their nicotine and before I knew it…

In retrospect, I can see that I only wanted the company. Every other driver seemed to sit in their car and zone out into their phone the whole time. I just wanted some small talk and maybe to hear someone else bitch about their misery. I picked up a pack and enjoyed my social time. For a few weeks, that was my routine. 

Then I quit driving to work on shop projects. For the last few months, I have been trying to quit again. I have a week that’s not so stressful and I just don’t give in to cravings. Then I have a week that stresses me out and I say the hell with fighting that battle. Some weeks are okay, but most weeks this summer have just shortened my life span and grayed my hair. 

The counselor believes that most, if not all, of the intense bickering in our house is the result of my energy. Accordingly, I have been instructed to go for a run when I feel stressed. These moments of stress don’t follow a nice schedule though, and rarely in those moments do I ever have energy to run. I fell back onto construction as I can’t afford shop space right now, and have been on hiatus for anything active since. When the house starts going into nuclear meltdown, I take my loud, abrasive self outside. Since my body hurts, the only thing I care to do is cover the pain with tobacco. The crazy thing is that my body doesn’t even like it at all. One cig and I feel instantly shitty. 

So, it’s been a lot of just feeling shitty. I shared with my girl how I don’t really enjoy my smoke breaks but rather just feel like I’m being punished for shit I didn’t start. Little Kiley acts out, I go outside, and I reckon that in her mind she won the fight. She may have had a time out, but she made me go away. I was banished at her will, all it took was attitude and screaming. 

It sure wasn’t easy, but we had to flip the script. Kiley was informed of the new plan to punish her, and as anyone could predict, she just had to give it a try. This time, we decided that 3 strikes earns her a grounding in her room. One whole day, 24 hours, where she has her bed, stuffed animals, toys, but absolutely nobody to interact with. It was as close to a prison sentence as one could inflict on a child. 

Well, this turned out to be a great solution. Kiley is far more reserved in her outbursts and her tone of voice is less irritable on the whole. The listening skills need work, as do many other skills, but the nuclear meltdowns seem to be contained.

As such, it is time to take my own mental health seriously.

 I’m giving myself this one last lung dart, then I’m on the pesticide free diet. It’s time I get back to the pursuit of the 6 minute mile. I need to give myself that much with everything that’s going on.

I hope to get back in the shop and building things, but getting life on track is the primary focus right now. I need to get out from under the steam roller in any way I possibly can. 

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.