Anger Manage-Me


You know how sometimes you are in your car and someone cuts you off or does something obnoxious on the road and you want to shout at them or flip them off and you don’t because it crosses your mind that they might be a little bit crazy and escalate things and do something really horrible like kill you? Well I want to tell you that your instincts are good. Some people are not in their right minds. Some people will overreact to a tiny slight and want to do awful things. Sometimes I am one of those people.

If I was doing stand-up comedy, this would be super-hilarious, and I could make you roll on the floor laughing about what goes on in my mind when someone commits a minor transgression. However, I will back up to the last post and give you a prequel to this one.

I got some serious blow-back for writing openly about something as gruesome as suicidal thoughts. Apparently some things are better left unsaid, unspoken, and certainly unblogged about. But I wanted to throw some light into the darkness of chronic pain. I keep reading statistics (which I then forget because I am still medically-induced dumb) about how many people suffer from chronic pain or chronic illness- which means there is a good chance that many of you out there reading this blog either suffer or know someone who does. Even the language is telling: people SUFFER- we don’t own an illness, we don’t attach to an illness, we suffer from pain. Get it? Okay. So I wrote that post, which was perhaps too real for some people. Perhaps it was too in-your-face and too Oh-My-Gosh. But it was very raw and very real and 100% true, so for all the crud I got about posting it, I left it up. Let people see my dirty laundry and then maybe they can have more insight into people close to them who don’t tell/won’t tell/can’t tell.

Well now I’m about to tell again. Because of the cocktail of my life, I am simmering with anger. Because of my background, I am willing to stand and fight. That’s great when there is a bully around, but not so great when the “bully” is someone who has too many items in their grocery cart (which by the way, I did a few weeks ago, not realizing I was in an express line. Nobody said anything until I got up to the cashier, and then he told me and I sincerely apologized like 5 times. But I hate when people knowingly take advantage. So yes, I am possibly a hypocrite too.) or someone who gives me an angry look or someone who does any number of relatively harmless things.

A few days ago I was standing with a group of friends on a corner. As we stood there, other friends who were out walking joined us, until our group not only monopolized the corner, but also spilled into the street. When a car came and tried to drive around the round-a-bout, the driver gave us a really disgusting look, I guess for daring to stand in her section of the road, and drove very slowly so we could be sure to see her face. And I swear to you, had she continued to drive slowly, or had she stopped or yelled anything, I probably would have kicked out her tail light. Had she gotten out of the car, it would have been game-over. As some of the husbands tried to herd the wives away from the street, I just fumed, “Who does she think she is looking at us like that? Curse word, bad word, mean word…” I was so angry I could have come apart. That lady really has no idea how lucky she is that she just kept driving.

Yesterday *h informed me that T-mobile, our new cell phone carrier (and I am calling them out by name for a reason) will charge us if we want a detailed bill sent to us. I am a paper bill person. I need to see what I’m doing, and have something to file after I’ve looked it over and paid it. Computerized transfers don’t work for me. So if we want to know how much we owe them, and then just give them money over the computer, it’s all good. But if we want a monthly bill, it will cost $1.99. So I said, okay, then I am going to start charging T-mobile for the checks I write to them. I will charge them $1.99, and we can deduct that from the bill, which I am happy to explain to them, and then we will be even. Poor *h. He got his, “I knew I shouldn’t have told you this” face on, and then he said,, “Okay, then we are going to end up owing them a bunch of money and they will put us in collections. Is that what you want?” To which I replied, “And I will sue them in small claims court for this ridiculous charge to be refunded- which, by the way you know is going to spark a class action lawsuit anyway so who cares- and it will all work out fine.” Diplomatic *h said he plans to print out our bill for me every month from the computer so we can avoid this whole mess, which I told him is quite beside the point. Charging us to bill us is so ludicrous I can’t even think of an absurd enough analogy to compare it to. And I am the queen of analogies. But I was so mad I could almost see stars.

I know that in the course of a normal day, people get mildly upset. I, however, get meteorically furious. I don’t explode, and I don’t go around wreaking the havoc that I dream about, but sometimes I feel like I am a whisper away. I see by the look on people’s faces sometimes when I’m talking, that the way I am interpreting a situation is not the way most people would deal with it. Sometimes I think I just have a more ghetto approach to life than they do, but I have been living a middle-class life for a long long time now…

I know that my anger is not the problem, but a symptom of other things, so I need to get those other things in order. I am working on it. Meanwhile, I mostly save my rants for the privacy of my own home and the ears of close friends (who all probably think I am a lunatic by now). Oh, and my long suffering blog readers, who know that underneath my crazy is a good heart, and who (mostly) don’t judge me too harshly.

The main thing is, you should know that your impulses to avoid confrontation are smart. There are crack-pots out there like me who would crack skulls if given a half-decent excuse. I am not telling you to let people walk all over you (really, though, I guess in some measure I am), but I am telling you to be careful. For me, I have a lot to learn. I told a friend on Saturday that I wish I could go to AA without being an addict so I could learn how to have grace- and she told me you can. So that’s pretty interesting, and also somewhat compelling. So many ex-addicts seem so calm to me, and so serene. That’s what I need right now. Grant me the serenity…

Breaking Badly


Imagine me, gun in mouth, finger on trigger.

I will tell you why this didn’t happen, but e first, a big thank you to everyone who has been reaching out by commenting on previous posts, sharing your support and love.

A few days ago I hit a really scary wall. I haven’t been there in a long time. I was in so much pain, and it was so intolerable, that I honestly contemplated suicide. Yes, my religion prohibits suicide. Yes, I believe God has a plan and purpose for each person in the world. Yes, I am a “true believer” (whatever that means).

But, like all honest humans, I struggle.

And a few days ago, I had such unrelenting pain that I didn’t feel like I could cope with it. It was so bad I didn’t feel like I could survive a ride to the hospital to get pain medicine, and they can’t give you strong meds in an ambulance (as far as I know.) I actually whined to my son and begged him to get me a cold washcloth for my neck, and then cried because it wasn’t cold enough. I begged him in tears to hurry and make it colder, and I frightened him with how crazy I was acting, but I was out of my mind with pain. The world was a blur.

Then I threw up on my floor and the thought crossed my mind in that one fleeting minute that I could just end it all right there. And I quickly cycled through why not to use a gun, why I should not do it when I was alone with the kids, why I should lay still for another minute- but the whole time there wasn’t really a compelling reason why I should live. And then I believe God saved me and shifted the pain to a more manageable level.

When I came to my senses, I realized had been a dangerous place to be. The first thing in my mind should have been my family. It should have been a list of things to live for. But I was overcome with wanting that hideous pain to end. I was truly lost in the agony.

Doctors always give you a pain scale to rate your pain, and 10 is like you are being tortured- so I never say 10, because I always think there is room for my pain to be worse than it is. So I have been in the hospital on a morphine drip and still said my pain was only a 9. But the other day I got to 10 and I broke.
What’s a girl to do?

Well, I’ve been looking on the internet for blogs on chronic pain and chronic illness. I am looking for tips and inspiration and camaraderie. In real life, I have had good friends offer to help me with various things, and I have said yes instead of trying to be tough and do things myself. I am reminding myself that the state I’m in now is temporary as I wean off of my medication, and as I level out, I will feel better. I put my pride aside and asked *h for a back rub, and I ask my kids for them all the time… I am trying to write about my struggles honestly on this blog, both so I won’t make them more horrible in my own mind and so I won’t downplay them when I make decisions.

I wish I was over this, but I know the only way to be through it is to go through it. So, here I am plodding with one foot in front of the other- some days slower than others, but each day making some progress.

We have a new diagnosis in the mix: central sensitization. You can look it up if you want. As with most labels, it is both exciting to have a name and demoralizing to have yet another problem. So now I have one more problem, but one more thing to try to solve and get help with.


A Snapshot Of Pain


On all fours, scrubbing the kitchen floor. Tipping over because too many things hurt too much to go anywhere besides down. Laying there thinking about how my doctor tells me, at every visit, that I need to be more physically active.

In the bathroom throwing up. Trying to lean my head against the back of the toilet tank to counter-balance the pressure that wants to explode my head apart. I know that if I can just finish throwing up I will feel better, but in order to get there I have to bear the unbearable pressure that happens every time I open my mouth. Eventually the edge of the tank feels too sharp, so I have to lay my cheek against the rim of the bowl, which is as disgusting as it is more nauseating. And it doesn’t help.

Looking into my daughter’s face as tears pour down her cheeks because I can’t go to her school’s parent night. She tries to be tough about most things, but this, inexplicably, is very important to her and *h is out of town. I am trying to find a substitute activity that will pacify her (read: bribe her to stop making me feel guilty), but it’s no use. The accumulation of disappointments is just too huge and she is too little and we are both going to get washed away by her sadness.

Deciding that I will try to be more positive and focus on what is good instead of what is wrong. I do a mental check over my body to find what doesn’t hurt. It is part of one finger on my left hand. I should laugh at how absurd that is, but I just want to go take a handful of pain pills instead. Not that I am suicidal, just that I want not to hurt so much. Luckily I care about my kids, so I don’t.

Sending a text yesterday to a friend who I invited over for a holiday meal about a month ago. The text is appropriate, but the subtext is: I am a loser. I can’t cope. I can’t follow through on my commitments. I uninvite her and her family a week before the holiday, and she understands, but for some reason instead of feeling relieved after I text her, I am in even more pain.

Laying in bed, trying to be very still- Very Very Still- because I have just gotten my system to calm down a little bit and I don’t want to lose that. This means, though, that nobody can move near me. Not talk, not whisper, not breathe. Nothing to disturb the currents of air around my bed, nothing to reorient the covers that touch any part of my body nor any part of the bedding that touches any part of my body. I can sometimes maybe talk through clenched teeth, not because I’m angry, but because I can’t move my face to talk. At some point, though, I lose the groove anyway, and pain screeches through me again- totally unprovoked.

In the bathtub. I can’t stay in, because I’m too hot and it’s making me sick. But I can’t get out because if I get chilled I will tense up and the ache will be worse than awful. My wet hair on my back feels like daggers on my skin, but twisting my arms around to pin it up feels like being tortured. I’m still at the point, though, where I’d rather do this than tolerate the humiliation of asking for help with such basic tasks. The phrase “hot mess” was invented for me right now.

On a rare trip to the store. Walking down the aisle. Feeling like the vertebrae in my neck are collapsing on each other the way the floors of the Twin Towers crushed the floors beneath them as the buildings came crashing down. Maybe my body is a victim of terror too, and maybe the way to describe me in this body is circa 9/11: trapped. Inside I’m doing what so many people did on that day. Silently screaming. And like on that day, nobody can hear me. My personal Groundhog Day seems to be this day, every day, one day, beige day, same day, different backdrop.

On a trip with my family. No, that doesn’t happen. Nor does going on dates with *h, taking my kids out just for fun, going anywhere that takes longer than 20 minutes in the car, planning anything without taking my health into consideration, or having a full 24-hour period without any health problems. Hard to live in my skin, but worse to be in my family. Substantially worse.

This is my life. I started writing this post a few days ago, but felt too sick to stay on the computer. I wrote it in bits and pieces, which is a great metaphor for my life- bits and pieces. Today is not as bad. I want to take a minute to acknowledge and appreciate the kindnesses the universe throws my way from time to time; this is how I survive. Today I can survive. Every day I can survive. Just some days are harder than others.

Is It Better To Have Lost Your Mind, Or Never To Have Had A Mind At All?


Over the years on this blog I have tried hard to walk the line between being honest about my own life while still trying to respect the privacy of my family members. Once in a while I get out of balance with that, mostly when I’m overly stressed or just plain maxed out- and I’m afraid this is going to be one of those times…

Over the past few months *h and I have been going through an especially hard time. One of the medications I am on leaves me with the emotional sensitivity of a stapler- probably a broken stapler at that- and although *h has tried to be a trooper, it’s a real struggle to be married to someone with no emotional depth. The problem is that this is the one medicine that gives me decent relief from the skull-crushing headaches that I used to have every single day. And it is the only medicine I’ve been on that has been able to help at all. Trust me, I’ve tried tons (yes, alternative treatments too). I’ve been on this medicine before and had to go off of it for this very same reason, but this time I thought I could dodge the bullet. This time I was so enamored of life without migraines that I wanted to pretend I could cheat my fate. This time I was so numbed out and dumbed down by the medication that I didn’t care quite enough to pay attention that my personal life was circling the drain.

Last night I had a wake up call.

It doesn’t really matter what happened. What matters is this: I need to go down on my medicine. I need to take a dive back into the deep end of the pain pool. Knowing how frigid the water is makes it all that more hideous to jump back in, but I really have no other choice. The fact that I need to make this choice makes me want to scream. It makes me want to tear out my hair, rip up my face, rend my garments, and run barefoot over shards of glass through a forest until I lose the demon that is chasing me and I lose myself too. It makes me want to punch out the sky, strangle the oceans, and vomit all of my internal organs until they turn to dust.

The feeling that I can never get far enough away from my own self to have any peace is one that- to risk sounding redundant- I just haven’t made peace with. To be betrayed by myself, by my biology, by my physiology, by my chemistry, by my nature- it’s almost too much. It’s almost too many. That may not be grammatically correct, but it’s much more factually accurate.

We don’t often get the chance to show how much we are willing to sacrifice for our families. Here’s my opportunity to step up walk the walk that most people only wax poetic about when they first get married. *h puts up with a tremendous amount every day to keep our family afloat and it isn’t fair for him to suffer in silence.

I guess there isn’t too much more to say after that.

Comparing Apples And Oranges


People always say things are like comparing apples and oranges, but I have never actually seen someone go ahead and really compare those two things directly to each other. So here, in the spirit of not shortchanging fruit, I present you my head-to-head tally.

I may be a bit biased, since I am a Michigan girl (apple state) living in Washington (apple state), but I have eaten my fair share of citrus fruit too over the years.

In no particular order:

Access to the fruit- Apples have to win. You just pick one up, shine it off, and bite right in. Not so with the more fussy orange. First you need something to get the skin started peeling, so unless you carry a pocket machete, or mini-cleaver, oranges are best eaten at home or pre-scored so they can be peeled. That’s just a hassle. Then you have the whole tangle of white stuff, and the membranes themselves which can be too tough to eat without doing the cow-chew. And oranges are seedy. Not that I blame a fruit for doing its best to procreate, but whereas the tidy apple keeps its private business all tucked away neatly in the core, the orange has its seeds all spread around in each of the sections- it’s like a football team sewing its wild oats. That’s just TMI from something I am about to eat. So for a low-maintainence snack that you can quickly throw in your gullet, apples are the clear winner.

Potential pitfalls- Sometimes you will get an apple that’s a bit mealy. This is especially heartbreaking when it looks like it will be nice and crunchy and then you take that first big bite and it’s like sinking your teeth into 5-hour-old oatmeal. Awful. But that’s about it. An orange, on the other hand, is like a minefield of possible failures. They can be dried out, even if they look fine (don’t you hate when inside of the individual sections the pieces are hard and white? What’s up with that?). They can be rotty and overly squishy, but not in that ripe delicious way that peaches are- just in a gross decomposing way that makes you feel like you have just eaten from the compost pile. The can be overly sour (yet not yummy tart like an apple would be under similar circumstances) or completely tasteless, and there doesn’t seem to be any reliable way to tell. Don’t get me wrong- when you get a good orange, it’s a thing of rapture. I’m not an orange-hater. On the contrary, I love oranges, which is why I’m so sad that so many of them are so yucky. Oh, and one more thing in this category- have you ever thought you swallowed a piece of orange, only to realize that because the membrane situation was so complex you only partially swallowed it and the other part was still caught somewhere in your mouth? Well I have and it has never happened to me with an apple. So guess who wins this one?

Color- Let me just put it out there that I am not artsy. When we moved into our house and it came to decorating it, I let each of the kids pick out a paint color for their rooms. Tada! That’s how fancy I am and how much I notice decoration. But the fact that apples come in such a wide variety of sizes and colors and shades and variations is kind of cool. The fact that oranges are, well, orange is just a bit boring. Even the name is kind of underwhelming. A bowl of apples on a table looks inviting, and since you can just grab one and eat it (see the first item above), it actually IS inviting. A bowl of oranges might match your decor if your kitchen is retro 1950s (or really hideous), but unless you are looking for an afternoon project, the bowl of oranges will just sit there being orange. How blah. Sorry oranges, but you’ve got no game. Gotta give the pop prop to the mad funky apple.

Price- Here’s where my Michigan roots (read: total bias) are really going to come into play. In Michigan you could get apples for 69 cents a pound. Yes! Take I-96 to Gratiot and go about 1 block North and you will find Randazzo’s, the best fruit market around, where not only do they have fabulous apples, but a wide selection and of really good quality produce and the best prices I ever found. When I moved to Seattle, I got kind of excited that since I would be so much closer to California, I would probably be able to get really good prices on fresh produce straight from Cali. Like, for example, oranges. But not so, friends. Not only can you not find a pepper in this part of the state for any reasonable price (I would tell you how much they charge here, but you may have an undesirable physical reaction…), but the California produce here is actually MORE EXPENSIVE in Washington than it was in Michigan! I have no explanation for why that is, but it’s the reality on the ground. So not only can I not get nice fresh oranges from a state that’s practically my neighbor, I am still paying way too much for them. And even though I am overpaying for apples as well (a bargain here is more like $1.69/pound, and that hurts…) they are STILL cheaper than oranges. Even though I should call this a draw just for gentlemanly reasons, I have to give this one to the team apple…

Johnny Rotten- Can we talk about that powdery mildew that grows on oranges, seemingly out of nowhere, and then spreads like the plague? The stuff that’s white and then gets greenish blue and makes the orange collapse in on itself like a supernova? That’s just wrong. An apple at least has the decency to get a bruise that you can cut out and salvage the rest of the apple. But the poor orange gets that stuff and anything in its path is just a goner.

I think you can see where this is heading. I feel like the poor orange is just getting pulverized, and that shouldn’t be the case. Oranges have lots of redeeming qualities: they make way better juice than apples (apple juice is one thing I have always found disgusting). They are fantastic in the whole Julius thing, and adorable as mandarins. They are easier to share than apples, and they don’t brown if you leave them open on the table. I’m sure there are other good qualities, and maybe some of you coastal folks can share them with me. Until then, though, I’m gonna have to call this contest in favor of the apples. So for all future discussions, let’s find something else to compare…

Why Hard Conversations Never Come At Easy Times


I wish I had an answer to this question, but I don’t. For those of you who want to stop reading now, you should definitely consider yourself to be warned. I’m not feeling especially insightful, and I don’t have any profound knowledge of human nature that you don’t. In fact, I’m probably about as perplexed about it as most of you are, at least most of the time.

This week was for sure one of those weeks. With two kids out of town in new places for school, I have spent a mathematically impossible number of hours on the phone with each of them. Any of you who have been reading this blog for any length of time know that I am a super nest-y mommy. I am the type who, in an ideal world would own land so all of my married kids could build their own homes within walking distance of mine. I would have a diningroom table (or better yet, one in the kitchen, because that’s even cozier) that seats about 50 and we could all eat our meals together. I would have enough bedrooms in my house so that grandkids could sleep over all the time, and my children’s spouses would feel like my own kids. I would homeschool everyone, not because we are glommy, but because we just enjoy being together, and life would be all good.

But, in reality things don’t always turn out how we plan, and I currently have several kids in several places. I’m excited for the opportunities they have, but I miss them like crazy, and judging by the number of phone calls we get each day, the feelings are mutual.

However, that’s not even the hardest part of the past week.

This past week, because apparently I have really bad judgment when it comes to deciding when to open up a vile can of worms, I thought I should have a conversation with my siblings about my Grandma. My Grandma is getting older, and has moved out of her house. This may or may not be permanent. As she nears her hundredth birthday (give or take a few years), some decisions are going to have to be made. And rather than wait until those decisions are right upon us and emotions are crazy, I thought I would open a dialogue with my sisters now about some things we might want to think about addressing. I tried really hard to be delicate about how I brought those things up, but there really is no good way to say certain things, and the fact that I brought it up at all kind of makes me look like a creep. Maybe.

The problem is, if the past is any guide to the future, I can kind of predict how things will play out if we don’t talk about anything now. Nobody wants to rock the boat when things are calm, so everyone has assumptions, whether they are aware of them or not. Time marches on, and since it is forbidden to speak about anything, people just assume that when ultimately something terrible happens, we will all figure out amicable solutions then. But when tensions are high because everyone is in their own grief, and awash with emotions, it isn’t the ideal time to problem-solve. Normal people act irrationally and do stupid selfish things, and feelings are irrevocably hurt. I have an aunt, uncle, and 3 cousins who I have seriously not spoken to in a decade and a half over just such a situation- and the irony is that it didn’t even involve me directly. Yet the situation I am trying to avoid just looks like it will get here sooner if I press the issue.

So perhaps the answer is that it is the hard conversation in itself that makes the time bad, and not vice versa. Maybe the ostrich is right to put its head in the sand and then the bad thing will just pass it on by. Or at least the other ostriches will never blame it for starting trouble.

It’s funny that at one point this week I told my daughter that she should treat herself the way she treats kids she babysits for. I said, “You know how sometimes you will just watch the kids melting down and you know you’ve tried everything you can do for them? You know that what they are falling apart over is so irrational that there is only one solution left? Sometimes you just look at their sweet little faces and say, ‘Okay kids- naptime!’?” My daughter was totally at this point herself. She was completely exhausted and at her wit’s end. I could tell she was past the point of making any sense, and I really felt like it was fruitless to even try to talk her through anything else until she had a chance to rest.

Yet here I was this past week- *h was away on business, two of my kids had just left home, my kids at home were a wreck that their siblings had gone away, and I thought that would be an opportune time to have one of the touchiest conversations possible with my sisters. Over email. Yeah, I didn’t even tell you that part.

So maybe I need a reset. Maybe I need a nap- or 20. Maybe I need one of those magic 8-balls that you shake up and it gives you the right advice when you are about to make a really dumb decision.

Or maybe I should just ask you guys what you think before I make any other life decisions…

Saving Myself


Over the past several weeks, events in my personal life have reached a crescendo of sorts. Something that I have had building within me for a long time- years maybe- has broken, and now the lid can’t be put back on Pandora’s box. I’ve decided to write a book.

Ironically this isn’t a book about these recent events. It isn’t even a book about the whole garden debacle. Over the years I have been approached to write about the Garden Thing, to write about The Blog, to write about this and that, but the timing has never felt right and writing about those topics more than what I’ve done here just hasn’t felt genuine. I even tried once to sit down and produce a book, but it was a dozen drafts of an utter flop, which I stopped with no true investment of myself.

This is different.

When I was about 12 I entered a writing contest with a poem that began, “When I look into the evening sky, I hope and wish and pray I’ll die.” Not very cheery stuff, because my life was kind of a wreck at the time, but I still remember what happened when I sat down to write. I hadn’t been a write-y type. But it seemed the teenage girl thing to do when your heart was breaking and you had nowhere to go with your emotions. So I grabbed a notebook and started writing. And 4 single-spaced pages later, I was in a blissed-out state of calm unlike any I had known. I still had nobody to talk to and I was still just as alone in the world, but I didn’t FEEL alone any more. I felt full. I felt in control of my destiny. I felt BETTER. That was new for me. Julie the writer was born.

Not that this means I flatter myself a Writer, by any means. This is only to say that the way that some teens get their identity as a Punk or Goth or gang-banger, I became a closet writing-fiend. I knew I could solve anything by writing about it, and even now when I am in knots over what to do, I will often write it down (often here on the blog!) so I can get more clarity.

The way some people are visual thinkers, I am a verbal thinker. I will literally write in my brain. I will compose letters to people that I never type. I will write to-do lists that never appear in ink. I write when I’m in the shower and when I’m washing dishes. I write when I’m alone and when I’m zoning out of a conversation. If I really wrote all that I wrote, the protectors of the trees would have to hunt me down and kill me.

So now that I am a person of a certain age, I have taken a certain plunge. I have gotten a used laptop, and as soon as I get a word program, I can start typing away (but since I chomp at the bit, I’ve already started writing in a notebook). I have a computer drive thing (who knows what they are called?) shaped like a chicken (of course) just waiting to store pages and pages of endless, well, pages… I have committed that this laptop will be just for me- no kids’ games, no, “Can I just do ______________ on your laptop?” I have no idea how long this project will take, since I have obviously never written a book before. I have no idea if any publishers will talk to me, or if I will self-publish, and frankly I am not even worried about that right now. Right now it is all about the drug of the writing.

Should I spoiler-alert and tell you what it’s about? I won’t- but I will tell you that it’s a novel. I will tell you that it’s unlike anything I ever thought I would undertake. And I will tell you that so far the process of writing continues to be absolutely magical for me. I hope you will all wish me the best of luck!

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