Packing for the Apocalypse

It’s Sunday night, and I’m parked in front of the t.v. watching the last episode of The Walking Dead from the previous season. The new season will premiere in less than half an hour. I will admit to not having watched the series from the very beginning, but I have been a fan for the past several seasons. Sunday nights when there’s a new episode are always fun on social media. There’s quite a bit of posting on Facebook during the commercials, by myself and a few of my co-workers, to include our parish priest who surprisingly is a big fan. So here I sit, waiting for the fun to begin. And while I wait, I am reminded of three things that I usually always ponder during “Dead” season.

One: For some reason, it is always fascinating to me to discover how many actors on shows and movies that I love that are actually British, but playing characters that have American accents. So far, I have counted three people on The Walking Dead that are British: Rick, Morgan, and Maggie. I can’t remember, but I think Ezekiel might be too. I watch the Talking Dead afterwards if for no other reason than to hear the cast member of the week talk so I can determine if they are British.

Two: It must not be fun to be Andrew Lincoln while he’s in character playing Rick. Granted, Rick is a badass, and he is the character we all root for, but he is soaking wet in every episode! He is super sweaty and dirty every week! I have very thick hair and when it’s the summer and I’ve taken a shower, it takes a while for my hair to air dry. If I happen to start sweating during that time that my hair is still wet, I feel very gross. It becomes impossible to tell if my hair is wet from my shower or sweat, and the fact that it takes even longer to dry just makes me feel even more icky.

Three: What exactly would I pack in the bag that I took with me everywhere while searching out a safe location during the apocalypse, zombie or otherwise? Assuming that my basic needs are going to be taken care of with the contents of some other travel pack, in other words, I won’t have to carry food and water in my bag, what would I want to keep with me at all times? I know that I choose to fill my L.L. Bean bookbag because they are indestructible and can withstand anything (except cat urine–especially the kind that comes from a not-yet-neutered boy cat, ask me how I know). They’re so good that I ordered another one after my ginger boy laid waste to the one I had since high school.

So far I have concluded that I would pack a journal and some pens–documenting my experiences and thoughts along the way. I would pack my favorite Rosary–the one given to me by my grandmother that she purchased in Rome when Saint John Paul the 2nd was Pope. It was blessed by him and I treasure it. A small collection of photographs would be in there as well, but I truly don’t know what else I would include. I suppose it would depend on where I would be spending my post-apocalyptic time and what kind of climate I would experience. Perhaps a special hand-knit?

And with that, it’s 9:00–time for a new episode.

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Unsung no more

One of my coworkers today had another chapter to add to the captivating drama of battling her ex-husband for custody of their children. She has shared much of this story with me over the past several years. It truly is a very frustrating experience for her, to say the least. Today, her ex took it the next level by bringing it to our school and trying to get our principal involved. She related this to me after school, around the copy machine, as we were both winding down the day. Her concern was about our principal seeing this drama first hand and how she would feel knowing that this is happening. It was then that I reminded my friend of the conference she and I went to with our principal at a convention center a couple hours away. After a day of seminars, the three of us had gone out to dinner and then sat around the deck of the hotel  pool with drinks from the bar. We spent about two hours out there and we talked about so many different things. We shared personal things about ourselves–from my battle with mental illness to not being able to have children. It was not a one-sided conversation either. I reminded my friend that our principal shared some personal things about her family as well.

My friend took solace in knowing that we are two people that our principal has put her trust into. She knows who we are…who we really are, and yet she treats us just as professionally as she did before finding out these things about us.

I left soon after and while I drove home, I thought back to that poolside conversation and what my principal had shared with us about her sister. From what I can recall, her sister has a severe case of schizophrenia. She told us that on her very worst days, her sister’s husband has to take complete care of her, to the point of having to tend to her hygiene needs during the days of her monthly cycle.

Remembering this account from my principal made me think back to my own husband. He and I have only been married for four years. But we have been together for 17. We met just as I was beginning the descent into bipolar hell. And hell it truly was. I think the end of the battle for my mental stability finally came with my last ECT treatment in 2002. I’ve been much better for quite a long time now. Looking back on that time, my husband and I sometimes recount how bad it was. He’ll say that he often wondered what he had gotten into back then. And as hard as it was for me to experience the anguish I went through, I know that it was just as hard for him.

Driving home today, I felt tears welling up thinking about how much my husband did for me throughout my struggle. He may have had doubts then about sticking by someone he hadn’t known for very long and I don’t know what compelled him to actually stay, but to say that I am thankful that he did is an understatement. He never left my side. My every high and more importantly, every low, saw him right there helping me get back to the stability of the middle.

Now that my history of mental health is longer than my history of unchecked mental illness, I have to remind myself not to get frustrated when he asks me questions about my medicine whenever I’m upset. Or when he doesn’t relent in trying to understand and help when I cry. He knows me and he knows what I’ve been through…what we’ve been through. He loves me enough to know that he doesn’t want me reverting back to how I was before. It is because of him that I am so happy to just simply be home. Because I know that home is where he is. Where he is next to me on the couch or next to me in bed. Simply being around him makes me happy.

I don’t know that I have ever really thanked him for those years of never letting go of my hand when I held onto it the tightest. He is my husband, he is my hero, and as a hero, his heroic deeds are unsung no more.

Unfinished

Last year, a friend posted the link to a writing contest on Facebook. It was for a literary journal and they were looking for non-fiction essays. With dreams of winning the top prize, I knocked out the story of my mental health journey and entered the contest. I did that all in a matter of two or three days, without editing. I didn’t win. I’ve already got something started for the contest again this year–I know to take it slow this time.

I had quickly become a fan of this journal and began to follow them on Facebook myself. Over the summer they started a reader column in which they give a word, and then the readers submit their response to that word. The first one was ‘small’. Man was my entry good! But it wasn’t accepted. I recently tried again with the most recent word ‘unfinished’. I haven’t gotten a response yet, but I felt it important to include my entry here because while I have been so focused on issues related to my mother lately, my fitness journey continues to be present in my mind. I can’t give up on that.

Here is what I have to say about it:

“As a work in progress standing, reflected in a mirror, I know that the image I see has not changed from the day before. It will not change tomorrow. I see imperfection where my husband sees beauty. I must remind myself each day that I’m not so concerned about the outside façade, but the health of what’s most important on the inside. I take too many medications at my young age for my physical health. An unintentional laziness makes the refills necessary. I created a new healthy lifestyle once before and every day I hate that I haven’t done it again. Vivid dreams at night of running and a desire to become a mother without the worry of complications drove me to train for and successfully complete a 5K. The incredible feeling of pride in myself for being able to run the entire distance and cross the finish line will never diminish in my memory, and yet, it is difficult to recapture the motivation to begin again. That initial spark may never come back. The second time around will require something different. And whatever it takes to get started again, I know that going to bed every night with regret in my heart for a day filled with wasted opportunities is not the answer. The answer lies in the mirror. It is necessary to see myself each morning as a person in transition, a person who is capable, a person who is simply unfinished.”

Wish me luck–both in getting my piece accepted into their next publication and for getting back on track with my physical health.

As Night Progresses…

….the melancholy increases. Watching the end of La La Land for the first time makes me teary. It’s going to be another one of those nights apparently. A therapy appointment today didn’t leave me as wrecked as my husband and I expected. The texts from my mother afterwards, however, did. This is a new sensation, being angry at my mother. It’s an intense anger. It’s almost safe to say that this feeling is on a different level than all the years I spent loathing my father. But as my therapist pointed out today, I eventually forgave my father and was able to find a peace in knowing that he was never going to be a part of my life again. I am capable of doing that again where my mother is concerned.

My mother asked in a text if this was about the past or the present. How do I answer that? It’s everything! I simply told her that it’s complicated and it’s both. I declined her offer to talk about it later. I want to rage at her and scream and cry and fight, and she insists that they can handle it and it’s better out than in, but what happens when I’m done? Nothing will change. She’ll think I got it out of my system and we can all move on now.

It took many years to recover from my father’s betrayal. I hope it doesn’t take as long with my mother. Tender-hearted people need their mothers. All people need their mothers. A young girl injured in Las Vegas last week said all she wanted was her mother when she woke up at the hospital. My sister is right, home isn’t a place, home is hearing your mother’s voice. And yet, I’m ignoring her phone calls and deleting her voice mails before listening to them. I’m only capable of handling texts at the moment. That’s after a week of having both parents blocked on my phone. My father is still blocked. I don’t need him interfering and trying to convince me to talk to my mother. I haven’t reached my terms yet. I don’t know what those terms are. I want peace…both in my mind and heart. They’re not in agreement right now. And when they do agree, I’ll know the time is right. Advice that came from my mother when I was an angst-ridden teenager.

 

Forgiveness Came Too Soon

Another night sees me up late filled with inspiration to do so many things. My body is tired, it’s the school year, I’m always tired. While I’d like to say that I’m staying up in order to be productive with my thoughts, I’m honestly just waiting for the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. Besides Ryan Gosling hosting, I am madly in love with Kate McKinnon. While I wait through the late news, I know that there is much that I want to say tonight. It’s a mystery as to why I’m so inspired every night when I’m too tired to do anything about it. I wake up without a shred of the same inspiration that nearly keeps me up some nights. Exercising and eating right and making myself healthy again are in my thoughts on a nightly basis. Do better tomorrow! Wake up and make the most of your second chance! Just do it! It just doesn’t work on me anymore.

But what really doesn’t work for me, is the forgiveness I gave my father so soon after he rejoined my life after being absent for 16 years. Whisking my mother away on a charter bus to be his assistant while he drives groups of school kids and senior citizens around the United States seemed like an awesome adventure for them. They are happy together now, they divorced in 2000 and married my now former step-parents. Forgetting the meaning of wedding vows, they divorced their spouses and got an apartment together. Forgiveness came so easy for my mother, he’s a changed man, he’s truly sorry for what he did to us. Sixteen years of hating him and feeling bitterness when he came up in a conversation, she forgave him. I did too. They came to visit for several days last summer. It felt nice having my parents together again. It was like we just went straight from my high school graduation to the present. Old times. Same dad jokes and everything.

Then my anxiety began to take over in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ve never been able to say what I’m thinking. My husband can say something off color and in the past, I would simply stew about it and get upset slowly rather than call him out for his comment. Lately, the same type of comment will bring me to tears in an instant. It wasn’t a hard decision to start seeing a therapist. Mental health medication can’t solve every problem. Learning to cope with what medicine doesn’t fix was of interest to me. Several sessions of counseling later and I am at a loss for what to feel now. I can’t handle talking to my mother now. There are frequent texts of pictures and exciting things that they are seeing on their travels. And here I sit, feeling hurt about the distant past and growing up with these two people who were hands-off in their parenting. Who were absolutely ill-equipped to treat their daughter with respect. Who now wish to put that past behind them and be happy now, in the moment.

And still I sit, knowing that I’m not as fine with it as I had resigned myself to be. I forgave him too soon and I never thought I would need to forgive my mother, but I do. But not now. The pain has returned, the hurt is fresh again, and texting when I feel better, as my mother said, is not going to be next week. I hope she’s ready, because I’m not. The journey that I thought I had finished has started again. Wish me luck, therapy isn’t easy, triggers have already emerged, but I have to see it through. And I will.