Betrayal

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Betrayal never feels good. It doesn’t matter where it comes from or who does it, the results are pretty much always the same: a sense of devastation that can profoundly shatter the sense of self so deeply that the results can last a lifetime. There is nobody who hasn’t been betrayed on some level at some point in their lives, but some people seem to bounce back whereas others just crumble and shatter. Repeated betrayals are obviously harder to tolerate than a one-time deal, and people who start out strong and intact are in a better position to weather this storm than those who start out with a more emotionally precarious foundation.

So why do some people betray and others seem destined to be taken advantage of? A few years ago, I read the ultra-famous book by Byron Katie. What I remember of her premise (other than that I DETESTED her book) is that everything that happens to you is really your fault and to your benefit. Really she is not that cold about it, and she tries to be very loving about everything she says, but- and again I am saying what I remember through the filter of me really not liking her book, so I may be somewhat off here- is that whenever you are having a thought that, “So-and-so did X”, you should turn that around and say instead, “I did X”. So, for example, instead of holding the idea that, “John hurt my feelings.” You should try out, “I hurt my feelings,” and see where that takes you. Perhaps you did things that contributed to your own hurt. Perhaps you drew a toxic person into your life or stayed in a bad relationship or didn’t speak up for yourself when you should have. What I can get on board with is the idea that in some cases you have some responsibility for parts of your own situation. What I couldn’t get to, though, was her insistence that you are always completely responsible for what happens to you and it seemed to me that it let everyone else off the hook for their bad behavior. Truthfully sometimes people mess you over. And it is bad. It is really bad.

Betrayal seems to me unique in the world of travesties in the way it strips its victims of their dignity. It is the one component of any crime that grinds its victims into the dust and doesn’t let them stand back up. People can be hit or stolen from or cursed into oblivion, but once betrayal enters the picture everything changes. Once a person feels they have been betrayed they become attached to such a sense of shame; they become their victimhood in a searing flash of pain. The filth of betrayal is the stain that is the most difficult to soak off. It is the stink that stings your eyes and taints every other thing you try to smell, no matter how pleasant it should be. It ruins perfectly good interactions and steals happiness from endless futures. Betrayal burns like no other acid.

So what is the antidote to betrayal? There isn’t one.

Isn’t that cheery? Time blunts the sharpness of betrayal, and distance helps. As with most things, truth is a great healer, and the more truth heaped on the head of a betrayal, the better and easier it will be to keep it buried. Perspective is always good, and anything you can learn from the experience will be of benefit to you, however hard won the knowledge. I think the best thing to do will be to leave you with a song. It’s an oldie but a goodie. Enjoy:

Score One For Homeschoolers

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One of my daughters has just completed a year abroad program post high school. When she first applied to this school, they had never had a homeschooled student apply before, and they were quite hesitant to accept her. They were somewhat cagey with us at first about what their objections might be to accepting her into the program, but after much persistence on our part, we finally got them to be open with us about their concerns. Not surprisingly, they had many of the same stereotypes as other people do regarding homeschooled kids, ranging from poor socialization to inability to integrate into a traditional academic setting, to not knowing how to “fit in” with more mainstream kids. We were able to get lots of personal references who spoke very highly of our daughter, and who assured them that in each of the areas of concern that our daughter was certainly able to function well, and that they would be making a big mistake not to accept her. In the end, they agreed to accept her conditionally, and off she went.

A few days ago was the end-of-the-year banquet at the school, and each of the administrators spoke about one of the students. The head of the school chose to speak about our daughter, and he started out by saying, “If I could be sure that every homeschooled student would turn out like _____________ Bass, then I would pull all of my kids out of school tomorrow!” Then he went on to enumerate her many great qualities and her long list of accomplishments over this past year. Obviously we are thrilled that she has done so well (truthfully, we knew she would!), and we have a tremendous amount of pride as parents that the people in charge of this program were able to see her for the fine person she is, rather than the image of who they assumed she might be.

What I am also very pleased about, though, is that I feel like our daughter has done a tremendous service for all homeschoolers. As the number of homeschoolers grows in our community, more and more of them will be entering similar programs, and then going on to apply to college (This is something she did also, and she faced similar challenges. Luckily, she has been admitted to her first choice, and I’m sure she will be similarly successful there. But it’s always like reinventing the wheel when you need to get a homeschooled child into a mainstream program…We are now facing the same issue with my next son…). One might think that by now homeschooling would be a common enough practice that most institutions would have some protocols in place for dealing with integrating them, but the stereotypes persist, and it is simply not the case that their paths are smooth. So any time a homeschooler can go somewhere and make a positive impact and be successful, that will leave an impression behind and make it that much easier for the next homeschooled kid who comes along.

So, I am super proud of my daughter for what she has accomplished for herself, and I am super proud of her for the trail she has blazed for others who will come after her. She will be home soon, and all of us can’t wait to have her back again- it can’t come soon enough!

Where Am I?

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This is a question that has been plaguing me for the last few months (if I am honest and reflective, it has been longer), but even more acutely for the last few weeks. At a friend’s house a few days ago a woman was talking about her farm, where she has sheep that she uses for educational programs, as well as other animals. As she spoke, I sat quietly, and the hosts remarked that it was very unlike me not to have any comments. Indeed it was.

My feeling in that moment was that I was so far away from myself (if I was still in high school, or perhaps feeling more literal, I would have written that as “my Self”) that I just felt distant and kind of dead inside.

A friend recently wrote a blog post about the joy of being known for who you truly are, and I didn’t even open it to read it for weeks after she posted it. The pain I am experiencing right now from living a life that is so not reflective of who I am- in so many ways and on so many levels- is so acute that I couldn’t even bear to read her words.

But my problem goes deeper that my estrangement from myself. The chasm between me and Me has grown so profound that I don’t even know how to reconnect with who I am meant to be any more. I don’t know where to look to find myself, or how to light a spark that will take hold of me and shake off the cobwebs. I am not sure how to reverse the spell that has come over me, so I sit in this torpor and just kind of pass the time like a condemned man waiting to expire.

I have been unable to write, unable to blog, and over the course of the last few days, I haven’t even been able to figure out how to continue this post, or how to pull it together enough to finish it. So I’m just gonna post it as it is and see what you guys have to say about it. Maybe you will be able to offer me a road map out of this place…

My Life In Motion:

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This is how I feel every time I call Amazon customer service, or frankly, any time I have to to deal with almost any technology:

(For the record, I would be the monk seated on the right…)

How Homeopathy Is Helping Me Even Though I Don’t Believe In It

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Last year I met with a woman from our community who does homeopathy. At that time she took a complete health history from me, and asked me tons of questions about many aspects of my life to determine what would be the best homeopathic remedy for me. Although I didn’t really believe homeopathy would work (for me or in general), I figured that it definitely wouldn’t harm me in any way, and this way at least I could say I tried it. So I agreed to do the whole shebang (no coffee and no mint, both of which can antidote the remedy), and I suspended my disbelief to see if maybe it could help me in spite of myself.

I tried it 100% and it 100% didn’t help.

After about six or seven months I stopped taking the remedy, even though the woman who I initially consulted with told me that since I had been sick for so long it could take a long time before I saw any improvement. But to not see any change at all just seemed to me like a waste of time; coming from the paradigm of Western medicine where if you take a pill it either works or it doesn’t, I will admit that it’s hard for me to do something for the long hall if I don’t see any overt signs of progress. I could theoretically be experiencing colossal internal changes, but if I don’t see any manifestations of that change I just have trouble sticking with stuff. It may be childish or it may make me very show-me-the-money, but either way, that’s the reality, so I stopped.

A few weeks ago that same woman asked if we could talk again about homeopathy. I was very honest with her about why I stopped last time, and she wondered if, since so much time had passed, perhaps I needed a new remedy. This time, interestingly enough, I was experiencing a perplexing symptom which made me actually want to try homeopathy. This new symptom was about six weeks old, was unlike anything I had experienced before, and was unrelated to any change in medication. I was troubled enough by it that I had resolved that if it continued to get worse I was going to call my neurologist to check for a brain tumor, so it seemed pretty fortuitous that this woman wanted to try homeopathy. If it worked great; if it didn’t work, I could always go for an MRI. Just like before, my feeling was that it certainly couldn’t hurt.

She did the work-up and thought maybe I did need a different remedy, but wanted to talk to her teacher to double-check a few things. What came back was that I needed the original remedy, but in a different potency. So, I will tell you that once again, I believed 100% that it would not work, but at least I could say I tried it.

And within 24 hours I will tell you that I was proven 100% wrong.

The symptom that I had been struggling with for over six weeks shifted so suddenly and so unexpectedly that I was shocked and surprised. I wondered if maybe it was a coincidence or perhaps just a temporary respite. But 48 hours later I was still doing better and it was as if a fog had lifted and a glacier had moved in my life. I still wasn’t totally prepared to commit to the premise that homeopathy was responsible for the changes I was seeing, but it was mighty suspicious timing for it to have been anything else. And no other explanation really made any sense.

If I take a pain pill or an antibiotic, I don’t need to believe in it for it to work. I always put homeopathy in the category of voodoo medicine, where the strength of your belief will determine the strength of your healing experience. If you are super suggestable, you can fall prey to things like mind-reading tricks and gypsy hexes, but if you are scientific, you would never succumb to a “medicine” that has been diluted a gazillion times into a sugar pill (for those of you who don’t know, this is exactly what a homeopathic remedy is- I’m not making fun…). Well, guess what? The homeopathy is working on me, even though I don’t believe at all…

I could chalk it up to ‘You learn something new every day…

Or maybe you have a better explanation???

The 8th Deadly Sin: Women Judging Other Women

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On Friday night a family of 7 children burned up in a fire in their house in Brooklyn.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/nyregion/7-children-die-in-brooklyn-fire.html?_r=0

The father of the children was out of town at the time.

The mother and one of the older children survived the fire and are in critical condition in local hospitals.

When I first heard this story on the radio (having much less detail about it than I now know after reading the story I linked to above), I knew only that 7 children had died and the mother was alive because she jumped out of an upstairs window. This was my first thought:

“What kind of a mother saves her own life and lets her children die?”

Yes, that is a sick thought.

Yes, I am ashamed that I had that thought.

It’s not like I sat down and concentrated and came up with a coherent analysis of the situation and this was my conclusion. This was the first uncensored thought that came unbidden into my head. I was angry at the mother for letting her children burn up while she made it to safety, and I was equally angry at myself later on for jumping to any decisions when I knew nothing about anything.

This was my first assessment of the scene in my mind:

The house is on fire. Children are screaming from every corner, “Mommy help us! It’s so dark! There is fire everywhere! Mommy help!” And Mommy is furiously trying to make it to her own window, which she yanks up and jumps out of, into the fresh air below…

Then I woke up a bit, and re-assessed. This was my more charitable assessment:

The house is on fire. The children are asleep. They are breathing in smoke and some of them go unconscious without even waking up. The mother wakes up choking and her first instinct is to crawl to a window to open it. She doesn’t have time to think through what is going on, as she opens the window to let air in. As the flames leap around her, her survival instincts take over and hurl her outside, before she even rationally considers that her babies are still in the house. By then it is too late to go back inside, and she is overwrought…

Why I am posting about this, and why I am talking about a topic which is so awful?

First I want to ask a different question. Why do we think it is normal to expect women to martyr themselves for their children, and more globally, for those around them? This is an extreme case where I took it very far mentally when I wondered and judged, “What kind of mother would let her kids die…”, but we see permutations of this all the time that we don’t see in corresponding sectors. I don’t hear people ask what kind of doctor would let his patient die of heart disease, or what kind of sergeant would let his soldiers die or even what kind of a man would let his kids die. But here I was thinking it made perfect sense to expect a woman to immolate herself- how noble she would have been had she burned to death saving her children!- becasue a mother has to be self-sacrificing until the end. And maybe even past that.

But it’s not only in motherhood that we expect women to sacrifice. We wonder why women who choose not to have kids are so selfish. I don’t know of men who choose to remain childless being asked versions of, “How could you do that? Don’t you feel so unfulfilled? Aren’t you afraid you will regret it later?” Translation: ‘How could you be so selfish as to keep your life only for yourself?’ These women could be surgeons, professors, inventors, or other major contributors to society, but unless they are in some way involved in sacrificing themselves for the good of others, i.e. being a nun, being Mother Theresa (in fact, a nun), doing excessive non-profit work (because if you are highly paid it is not self-sacrificing enough so it doesn’t count), or being other sorts of caregivers/caretakers, they will be somewhat scorned. And to scorn, we must first judge.

It’s noteworthy that in the Brooklyn story I gave only passing thought to where the father even was. In my own family I know for sure that *h would absolutely be actively saving kids should an emergency ever arise. But I also know that I would hold myself most responsible for whatever the outcome would be. I guess that’s the double-edged sword of womanhood…

I watched a TED-talk a while back (you would think they give me kick-backs for promoting them, but they don’t) where a woman started out by saying she was watching her one year-old niece look in a mirror. She was smiling at herself and kissing the mirror and this woman wondered as she watched- at what point do we stop thinking it’s okay to love ourselves? She spoke about body image, and how it’s such a problem for today’s women and girls, and the showed a youtube video of an adolescent girl who put up a short clip to ask people if they thought she was pretty. Apparently this is common nowadays (when I told this to my kids, all except the youngest had heard of it, and the oldest few had even seen such clips), and angsty teens can post videos asking for “impartial” people in cyberspace to validate them. Some of you can guess where this is going, I’m sure- but some people posted kind things. The rest, though, posted horrid HORRID things, like U R ugly. Kill yourself. You should die U R so hideous. And this is where today’s kids are trying to get feedback on how they look and what kind of people they are.

But the fact that we are raising a generation of people who are so shaky that they would do something like that- post videos online, when cyber-bullying is at an all-time high and kids have even committed suicide because of what has been said to them and about them online- that is profoundly sad. The solution isn’t more fluffy feel-good everybody-gets-a-medal nonsense, either. The fake self-esteem shoveled around in schools today clearly isn’t working, as evidenced by the fact that more kids are depressed and medicated (or self-medicating) than ever before in history.

I think one of the first steps is in noticing our own beliefs and holding them up to the light of day. When we are afraid to look honestly at what we think and why, then we don’t change our minds, we just keep more secrets. Sometimes that can take us to very uncomfortable places, like when I realized that I really did expect a mother to die for her children. I had to ask myself if I could justify the premise that once a woman becomes a mother, her life is worth less than that of her children. And if, even if I might make that choice for myself, if that is the correct standard to apply to other people (because sometimes our personal standards can and should be applied to others, but sometimes not at all…).

Many times I will have a visceral reaction to something I see or hear, and often that initial reaction IS the correct one. But I think I can be a better version of myself if I keep myself in check by always holding up what I think to principles of honesty and integrity.

For now I will simply wish comfort to the Sassoon family, their extended family, their neighbors, and their community. May they only know sweetness in all their days ahead.

Doin’ Life

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Every so often I check the database of inmates in Michigan prisons to confirm that some of my friends are still where I last left them. Is that an odd thing to read?

From my early teens into my 20s many of the people I knew were either in and out of jail or prison, or were sent away for lengthy sentences. It was kind of just a fact of life, and although for some of these people it upset me a lot to not have them around, for some of them I knew that the rest of society was a lot better off with them behind bars. It is a strange quirk of my schema of the world that I am simultaneously a law-and-order right winger and also someone who since the age of 7 wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer and still agrees in theory with certain principles of the ACLU. I stand behind the police and the military, but believe that many criminals get a raw deal in the justice system. It’s a narrow bridge I walk, but like with most issues, I make my decisions on a case-by-case basis.

In any case, over the years I have felt a certain sense of peace that although I lost touch with these particular people, at least I knew where they are. I guess it’s like putting your grandma’s wedding dress in a box in the attic, or keeping your great-aunt’s crystal goblets in storage somewhere. You have no intention of using those items, but you are happy that they exist in the world and you could theoretically access them if you wanted to. That’s a kind of cruddy way to boil it down when I’m talking about human beings, but it’s the ugly truth of how I felt, so I’m saying it like it is.

But as of 2014 five of my nearest and dearest have been discharged from the system. Two of them had been sentenced in the 80’s for murder and were serving life sentences. It’s not like these are people you can look up on Facebook (which I don’t have in any case). Even if guys in that sort of crowd did things like go on Facebook (uh, let’s call that one doubtful…), these people went into prison when there was no such thing as widespread internet. Cell phones were giant bricks that you only saw on TV shows of rich people (I imagine this was the case; I didn’t watch such TV shows, but I think I remember it from an Eddie Murphy movie…). I knew literally two people in the 80’s who owned their own computers (one of whom was my father, a computer science nerd with degrees in both math and physics. He worked for IBM. Get my drift on that one???). In school we had a “computing” class where we learned typing, but on a computer keyboard instead of a typewriter, and practiced for weeks and weeks to write the following program:

10 print “Julie”
20 goto 10

To be fair, we also figured out how to add color to the above program, and to add spaces so when it printed our names across the computer screen it would make columns or angles. We wrote our names with our friends’ names, our names with the names of boys we liked, bad words, etc etc etc. And this was endlessly entertaining to us, because computers were so new and exciting. So the odds of a guy who went into prison in the 80’s jumping into technology as a first order of business are pretty slim. More likely he is running the streets somewhere trying to figure out how to trade in his Fila gym shoes and his sweet Adidas track suit for whatever styling folks are sporting in 2015 and trying to be simultaneously enough of an OG (original gangster) to get street cred while not looking like such an OG that he seems like an old fogie.

Also, these guys don’t keep addresses. They stay in their grannies’ basements and on the couches of friends and in the beds of random baby mammas. So once they are not in The System, they tend to vaporize. They don’t get found unless they want to be found or they want to find you. Clearly these are not men who will be hopping on planes to visit me in Washington, nor will they be taking buses cross-country to show up and say hey for no special reason.

What I never would have anticipated, though, was that it actually upset me that they are out and about. I am happy for them in the way that one gets happy for a friend when something nice happens. Those who are too institutional-minded to live outside of the prison walls will go back in, but maybe a few of them will have a second (or fifth or seventh or twentieth…) chance. But I feel kind of unglued. It’s like a part of my own past has been erased and a part of my own story has ceased to exist. I know this is irrational (a quality I abhor)and yet I feel how I feel.

I suppose it’s also hypocritical of me to think it’s perfectly fine for my life to go on as per normal but expect their lives to remain frozen in time. I certainly don’t have this expectation of my friends who haven’t been locked up; they have husbands or wives and children and/or pets, and I’ve never had a problem taking that all in stride. But somewhere along the line my prison pals have ceased to be real to me and started to be cardboard cutouts of themselves.

It’s not like when other people do this. I know how that tape rolls. Insert criminal script, press play: Inmate shuffling along in jumpsuit, exercising in yard, seated in court, usually sporting tattoos (preferably gang-affiliated, if you have a very good imagination). But these were multi-faceted human beings to me. I laughed with them at movies and cried with them when relatives died and ate with them and walked the streets with them when we were mutually too broke to do anything else. We had long talks about police injustice before it was en vogue and debated what the best things were to study and why certain people were the way they were and who were the most likely people in our crowd to get killed first (we turned out to be wrong on all of our guesses). We were puzzled and frustrated and angsty and angry, just like the good suburban teenagers were- it’s just that the content of our angst was a bit different from theirs. And when I woke up and went to school they woke up and went to steal cars and rob people. Yet I loved those guys.

By the time I was in 10th grade I had seen more ugliness than I wanted to, which made me feel very sophisticated and very sick about the state of the world. I realized I could do more to help my friends by getting good grades than by running the streets with them, and by my senior year I knew how to do legal research. By college I was writing appellate briefs for a criminal defense attorney, and was still hopeful that with the right people in their corner most criminals could be reformed. Also by then, several of my friends were doing life sentences for murder, several of my friends had been murdered, and my first real boyfriend had been in jail more times than I had been on the honor roll (that was a lot).

By the time I moved to Israel I lost track of who had broken my heart more- my friends or the justice system that kept them locked up instead of helping them. As an adult, I am still conflicted about the best ways to keep society safe from criminals while still being civilized about the treatment of those same people. I not only don’t claim to have all the answers, I don’t even claim to know the right questions to ask. All I know for sure is that I plan to continue to stay curious.

I think that will be my life sentence…

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me TED

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March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and in the truest spirit of people-pleasing goodie two-shoes-ness, my brain is in full semi-shut down mode. I have been trying overly hard lately to embark on a quiet campaign of self-improvement, consisting largely of watching gobs and gobs of lectures, history channel shows on Netflix, and TED talks in every spare minute. I have stacks of library books on my couch, on my bed, on my filing cabinet, and on any flat surface I can temporary co-opt for the purpose, and I can report to you part of the way through this experiment a success rate of approximately 0%.

In one of the books I was reading (please don’t ask me which one it was) there was some research on people with damage to the basal ganglia and how this impacted abilities to form new memories and I thought, “AHA! This is me! This is why I have the brain capacity of a rotting grapefruit!” But then as I read more about the implications of this type of brain damage I realized this wasn’t me at all and I wasn’t so neat and tidy. I regularly come across things that inspire me and consciously commit myself to learning what I am learning, only to be just as dumb afterward as I was before.

This isn’t just the scattering of age, and it isn’t the inevitable decline that happens to all of us. This comes and goes based on my head pain and neck pain and other neurological symptoms. Sometimes I can be “on” and have coherent discussions, and sometimes I am the rat in the maze who can’t figure out who moved the cheese. Or even if the cheese ever existed.

But this new wave of brain dysfunction is even more harsh because I am so deliberately trying to rebuild my sleeping cells. I am trying to wake up and pay attention to things that at other times are easy for me. When I hear the ads on the radio promoting brain injury awareness I hear the voices of people with static injuries and I am reminded of all of us whose damage is more invisible and more fickle. I become very aware of all the times I seem okay and even more aware of all the times I don’t.

It’s so important to me to be smart and to have that as part of me identity but a brain injury shows me just how little control over I have over this brain which is me. We think of mind control and of working to shape out thoughts and beliefs and behaviours, but at the end of the day we are a collection of cells and of chemical soup and we are at the mercy of it all..

The terrain of my mind is like constantly shifting sand on a beach, but without the predictability of even the tides to guide me in making decisions about when might be good times to count on being more or less functional. I will have months of low tides broken by hours of high tides interspersed with days of stagnant waters, which don’t run deep. Not only is it exhausting, it is demoralizing as well.

Lately I have been trying to get to the neurologist. The trick with that is, I need to feel well enough to go, yet off enough to be motivated to spend hours traveling back and forth to this doctor. He is worth it, but it takes a lot out of me and I need to be pretty convinced a visit is warranted before I will set one up. But invariably I will feel so poorly by the time I need to get there that it is almost impossible for me to make it to his office. Clearly I haven’t perfected this system yet…

After many moons of looking outward for my life to get saved and become better, I have started to look at what is within my power. That in essence means: What can I reach from my bed, and how can I react to what is around me? And a big component has been TED talks. I have felt in the groove again, even going so far as to watch an MIT course last night on copyright law (Yes! I love this stuff!). But after I have had my fill of Aha and Wow and OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh moments, when I am trying to recreate the lectures in my mind, I will realize I am having trouble accessing that same information. And that is so hard for me.

If I understood hashtags, I would write #braininjuryawareness.
Or maybe #braininjuryselfawareness.

The most insightful question I could ask myself now would be, “Is it better to have watched a TED talk and lost it from my mind, or never to have watched at all?” Unfortunately, given the current state of my cognitive functioning, I don’t think I am able to answer it.

#March.

Turning Down The Volume On My OCD

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I don’t have diagnosed OCD. I don’t want to diminish those who do. But I have serious OCD tendencies, and I think my father does have undiagnosed OCD, which he was not at all reticent about making us the victims of (having fits if items on the coffee table were not perfectly perpendicular to the edges, making us re-vacuum, sometimes multiple times, if the lines on the carpet were not prominent enough after we finished cleaning a room, waking me up in the middle of the night to do dishes, etc.). In some aspects of my life, I feel like tending toward OCD serves me quite well. I am extremely organized and efficient. I can often just look at something and figure out the best way to get it done (much to the frustration of *h, who has to puzzle over things while I fume that he is taking too long and I already solved the problem… poor *h- I really do test his patience a lot…)

But the flip side to this is that the greater my anxiety, the more my need to organize and clean. So I can be stressed out about X, and I will need to organize my pantry. I can be nervous about Y and I will have to clean the kitchen. And if I am already stressed out and I see things around me in chaos, woe to the person who caused that chaos, because I can be downright ornery.

Add to that my brain damage (March is brain injury awareness month, by the way), which gives me visual processing problems, and I can be very easily overloaded by clutter in my surroundings. In fact, I have instituted a new policy in my house that for every new thing that comes in, two things have to go out. I spent this morning going through my sons’ closets and posting their outgrown clothing on a community bulletin board so that other people can hopefully benefit from things that are driving me into brain decompensation. Very win-win.

What’s not so win-win is that my anxiety about being prepared in case of emergency also trips off my anxiety about having too much stuff. So I swing between accumulating things I think we need (extra food, solar-powered flashlights, etc.), and then feeling suffocated by possessions and trying to cull what we own so I can not feel like a hoarder. There are things we need, like extra blankets, but I am in a bit of a quandary over how many blankets are good to have. After going without heat for many months, I can certainly see the value in having a store of warm bedding, but back then we had power so we could use space heaters when things became intolerable; obviously if the power was down for some reason that wouldn’t be the case. However we are in a relatively temperate climate, so it’s not exactly sub-zero. But what if our friends or neighbors needed blankets? Sure we are not a warehouse for everyone else. And it does feel cold without heat. And on and on and on. This is the rat race of my mind, and I do this for every object that we have.

In watching hoarding shows, I see this is how classic hoarders think. Every single thing has potential use or value and therefore nothing can be parted with. So their houses are like trash dumps. Don’t get me wrong. I take out trash without fail. I take out recycling like it is my mission in life. I even routinely donate items we can no longer use, like clothing my youngest has grown out of, or miscellaneous household goods.

But when it comes to things I think would be of use in a grid-down (*h hates that I am “paranoid”) or other emergencies- catastrophic or otherwise- I have a real problem deciding exactly what and how much of what I should keep. A big part of this is my anxiety talking and not my rational self. I think it blurs the lines between my common sense and my nervousness. So I imagine that a person with a clearer head would just calculate how many people are in their family and figure out how many blankets to keep. They would decide how many cans of corn it would take to keep their family happy for a reasonable length of time and keep that many in stock. But for all of my research abilities and all of my organizational skills I can’t seem to get out of my own way enough to not have extra provisions. I do force myself to be altruistic from time to time and share things- like when Amazon accidentally sent us extra giant-size boxes of cereal and I gave some to a family in need in our community. But for the most part I would rather get rid of our couch (I am actually not joking, much to the chagrin of *h) than of my food stores.

I don’t think this would bother me so much if I felt like I was being more systematic about it. If I had a goal for preparedness and then I could meet that goal and say, “enough”, then I would have peace of mind. But as things are now the more unglued I feel the more I have an urge to stock up. The more I have queasiness in the pit of my stomach, the more I am checking into solar-powered lanterns or do-it-yourself medical supplies that I can stuff into secret locations around my house where they don’t clutter my line-of-sight but they will hopefully calm my pounding heart. Yet there is always something around the corner that makes me re-quease or re-pound and then it’s back to the think-tank of my mind about what supplies to lay in for the disaster that will hopefully never come.

And so. I am a bit stuck. I am 100% convinced that it is smarter than smart to be prepared. Food is useful because as long as we rotate it we can eat what’s there and put the newest things to store. So it’s not like I am throwing away money. The blankets are ones we have owned for ages and the things like toiletries are items that don’t spoil (i.e. toilet paper). What I am more troubled by right now is that, as someone who tries to be self-aware, I am aware that I am not being wholly rational and I hate that. I hate feeling like a slave to my anxiety, but I would hate having my family caught short because in my fervor to purge belongings I got rid of some crucial supplies. In summary, I don’t know what to do.

As per usual at times like these, I turn to all of you. I have been as honest as I can in putting forth a full and complete picture for you. What do you think about all of this? What, if anything, do you think I should change?

Is there a better way to be prepared but not stressed out?

Cutting Edge Medicine

5 Comments

As I sit here typing, it is unclear whether or not my son’s surgery has failed and he will have to go back for yet another surgery. The last few days have been another blur of uncertainty, another whir of calls to doctors with ambiguous predictions and dubious things to try at home to see if the complications he is experiencing can resolve themselves or not. Just when I thought I had no more energy to cling to the carnival ride that has become our lives, it has taken yet another hairpin turn.

Today I took my son out of the house for the first time, because he was getting cabin fever. I told him he was underestimating how much energy an excursion would take, but he staggered around a store like a drunken champ. He was giddy with happiness to be out and about, and it was me who returned home with shaking legs and a spinning head, faint with exhaustion. He fell into bed while I got his medications together and put up a pot of soup. Technically the outing was a success, but truthfully it was a disaster. Or maybe the reverse is true. I have no stamina and no reserves of energy to draw from for these types of activities. We weren’t able to find what we went out to get, but it didn’t matter because my son was glad to be among the living again. As for me, I consider it a valuable lesson learned…

As far as his medical status, I am trying very hard to keep a positive perspective. As a person of religious faith, I know that everything happens for a reason. But I know that as an intellectual principal, and I tend to believe it with my mind. My problem is that I don’t always feel it in my heart. So I have moments where I am almost incapacitated by worry. Even though I can know things like, “If God takes you to it, God will get you through it”, sometimes I still feel panicky. I know other people who are the opposite. Their hearts overflow with love for their fellow man, or desire to serve their Creator, but when it comes to intellectual principles, they come up short. Sometimes I envy them, because I think their faith is more pure than mine. I imagine them having an easier time, and feeling more connected spiritually. Meanwhile, I struggle with trying to walk the talk of my religion when I face tests like the one I am going through now. It isn’t easy stuff. But if it was, I guess it wouldn’t be a test.

I feel like an ocean lives inside me right now, with the waves and the undercurrents all battling for limited space, and all sloshing around my guts just mixing everything into a giant slush. I am unglued by very mundane things like putting away clean dishes, but I am more unglued by the idea of seeming unglued so I am managing to hold it together. I am proactively aggravated that some of the people reading this blog will be thinking, “Here she goes again, sharing too much personal information. What a hot mess…” And I angry at myself for caring what other people think. So I am leaving those sentences in, and those people can judge me or give me a break.

I am upset at the cosmic injustice of not being able to protect my child from everything he is going through, and very relieved that it isn’t worse, and that it isn’t multiple children, and that it hasn’t been way worse before now, and that so many other things are not wrong on top of this. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

And not to let fear wipe that away.

That is the main thing.

Always the main thing.

Always.

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