2018 in One Word, Sorta

I went back to my FB post of Jan 1 of this year (see bottom), where I focused on the One Word idea. I don’t like resolutions — they seem so negative to me and never last — so focusing on growing and creating just ONE thing in my life — that I could do.
My word was DISCIPLINE. I thought I could become more disciplined, and maybe find the motivation to move forward and do the things I want to do.
But as always, things didn’t quite work out as I’d planned.

Instead of truly being positively focused, my word “discipline” ended up turning into a negative of sorts. Discipline, in my mind, was to help me get on track toward making the “Right decisions” regarding exercise and diet. Needless to say, I lack serious discipline (and motivation). I just never keep to a plan, so trying to become “disciplined” toward it was a pipe dream. I was never going to start exercising daily or even regularly, or eating really healthily. Maybe if I’d chosen a different word, or approached it differently, I’d have gone down the right path. I don’t want to lose weight — I merely want to be healthy and strong and I know my cholestrol and blood pressure would appreciate such things.

But I did become more disciplined in other ways, and I can’t discount them. I maintained the boundaries I set regarding how I would allow others to treat me, and that is something I’ve always had difficulties managing. I’m a big softie, letting people get away with things that I should stop but don’t. My temper is a slow burn…but once it’s lit, it burns hot. So when I finally put my foot down and said, “Enough!” it really was enough. Toxic relationships were ended; I left a job that just wasn’t worth staying in any longer (was I fired? Did quit? Still not really sure but who cares. I’m done.)

I became more disciplined with how I spent my money, and that is a BIG deal for me. I’m poor, with little discretionary income. After my bills are paid I used to spend too much on filling my cabinets with food, as if I was going to starve. But I’d go overboard with it — every month, wasting food that wouldn’t get eaten. I’m only one person, I don’t need that much food in my house! So I’ve gotten better at budgeting my food, and then had a little left over at the end of the month for little “luxuries” — a digital movie, for instance. I’ve built a small library of Marvel and Star Wars films, buying them when they go on sale — movies I truly enjoy and will watch over and over again. Nothing big, but it’s a small expenditure that makes me smile.

I’m still trying to decide what my One Word for 2019 will be. I will be tightening my belt, financially, since I gave up that little job (but there may be a better one on the horizon crosses fingers) so I have some thought to put into it. What do I want to bring into my life that I don’t already have? There’s 45 minutes left to 2018.

Not a lot of time left…but then…I don’t really run on the Gregorian calendar. Ha.

**** the FB post itself:

Happy New Year. So now it’s 2018 and what do you do now? I don’t like making resolutions, because to me it’s like waiting until one day to make a change when you can just go ahead and make that change when it occurs to you to do it, you know? A big giant list of things to try and achieve always seemed to insurmountable to me. Plus, most resolutions lists seem to be made of negative things to stop doing or to be rid of: lose weight, get rid of debt, work out more (get fit/lose weight), etc. And they never last (at least for me, it never did.)

But Irene wrote yesterday about the One Word idea. Just one word that you focus on. One word that you want MORE of, that you want to grow and create within your life. I like that. That’s something I’ve done in smaller doses but for a whole year to focus on? It’ll be a challenge. (And I like a challenge….)

So my word: DISCIPLINE. Hoo boy do I need some. And it’ll help me in other areas once I achieve having some discipline.

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I Miss My Racist Friend

Is that weird? He drove me nuts in the first place, even if you take away what he said to fully break up the friendship. Let me begin at the beginning.

We’ll call him Frank (after the wrong name another friend calls him). He’s my neighbor and I met him after he took in a chihuahua that had been terrorizing the neighborhood. I noticed that shortly after that, he took in another dog, a female. (I don’t poke my nose into other people’s business, EXCEPT when it pertains to animals since I do dog rescue.) I immediately thought, “Oh hell no, no babies…those dogs need to be fixed.” So I introduced myself and got to know him and the dogs, and asked if he wanted to get them fixed since I had contacts that could help do it at a lower fee.

After some time, I realized that he didn’t have electricity or water, and was living in his house (which he owns) that really ought to be condemned like a squatter. But, since he owns it and doesn’t cause any problems the city overlooks it, I guess. The rescue community raised funds to buy a propane heater that used my grill’s tank; he filled jugs of water from my hose; we got food together for him and the dogs; I gave him my camp stove to use so he would no longer have to eat cold food.

Over time, we became friendly and he’d come over to watch TV. I finally got him to apply for food stamps and go back to the VA for his health care. When he qualified for Social Security, we used my laptop to apply. I trusted him enough to have him as my dog sitter — he stayed in my home while I was away — what could he do? If anything went missing, I knew where he lived.

And while his views sometimes grated on me, it was mostly because he was ignorant — just an old Alabama redneck with little education. But he listened to me more often than not. He supported me (and watched my dogs) when I went to the Women’s March on Washington after Trump’s election. We didn’t always agree but it was a respectful disagreement and he’d listen to me even though I was an educated Yankee — one of “those people”. One of those “elites”. HAHAHAHAHA. Elites. Yes, I’m a college graduate and a Yankee but elite? I live in a low-income area of Alabama (he’s my neighbor, remember), am on disability so live under the poverty line. This hasn’t always been my life, but I’ve always been struggling financially even when I was working. I’m a liberal — more moderate than most — and he’s not as conservative as many down here on the Deep RED South. We were able to have discussions, and sometimes he’d even listen to my point of view and learn from me. I’d listen to his and …. well, I’d listen and learn how people can think the way they do.

See, living down here has been an education in and of itself. When you are a white latina, you pass. When you’re of Jewish ancestry (I’m ethnically Jewish, semi-culturally Jewish but definitely not raised religiously Jewish), you pass. When you’re pagan…you pass. When you’re LGBTQ and cis, you pass. And that passing means I wasn’t the recipient of a lot of racism, but got to hear a lot of it because I passed. I was “safe”. Yeah…. no. No, I’m not.

That white latina thing got you hung up, didn’t it? Allow me to explain. I’m Brasilian. Look at Giselle Bündchen, Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio (supermodels), Morena Baccarin: White. Sofia and Alice Braga, Rodrigo Santoro? Definitely more Latinx. Pele, Ronaldinho, Lazaro Ramos (actor): black. Brasilians are just like Americans — we’re a mix. Brasil is the largest country in S. America, was colonised just like the US was, with slaves imported and the native population either decimmated or assimilated. The colonizers were first Portuguese, but later waves were other Europeans — many being Germans (my family), some escaping World Wars I and II. I’m not going into the Nazis that ran to S. America to hide — that’s not my niche. I’m just explaining how so many South American Latinx can be as white as snow and still identify as Latinx. Especially those of us born to people from countries with higher populations of those European immigrants like Argentina, Brasil and….Uruguay. Chile falls in there as well. My point is, a lot of people don’t realize that I am a child of a Brasilian mother who was VERY MUCH a Latina, who raised me the same way and I identify as such. Brasilians, like Americans are mutts.

Frank started to help his family out by watching their dog when his sister’s husband fell ill and was in and out of the hospital. I’m not sure why he was so involved when his family didn’t lift a finger to help him. They left him in that crumbling house, hungry and cold…but I don’t know their side of the story only his and I’ve since come to realize that Frank tells stories. Anyway, for a few months, Frank hasn’t really come around since he’s been busy with his family. I’d see him from time to time and we’d chat but he definitely wasn’t hanging out as often as he used to. He wasn’t even around during the death of my beloved chihuahua Pix, a dog he also adored. I *kind of* missed him, mostly just realized the quiet? But my dogs missed their “Uncle Frank”. And I think hanging around his family changed Frank. That, and one of the other neighbors allowed him to tap into the electricity in the unused house next door, so he had TV. He had an industrial cable running next door to power a lamp, one of my ACs, a TV and a small fridge.

Frank had TV and was also hanging at his sister’s house with cable, therefore he was watching a lot of Fox News. So one day, I was walking my newly adopted senior chihuahua and saw Frank speaking to our other neighbor Ron. Pix used to love to visit Ron, my special little hospice chihuahua going over to sit with senior citizen Ron, who also had bad eyesight and a stroke and she’d snuggle into him. Ron wasn’t a great guy but Pix loved everyone. So I decided to bring Cocoa over and let her meet him, even though Cocoa is most definitely not the same type of dog. Just meet the neighbors, you know?

We go over, and Cocoa is sniffing around and Frank first calls her “cuckoo”. OK, no, you know her name. Cocoa is easy to remember. “Why are you being rude? Her name is Cocoa, like the chocolate.” “Hey cuckoo, c’mere cuckoo…” So, I realize Frank is in a mood. Forget him. I turn my attention to Ron. (This is right when the first wave of the “migrant caravan” was headed to the border in Mexico.) Frank tells me that his food stamps were cut by a large amount. I say, “We expected that, didn’t we? When you got your social security, we knew it they’d be cut.” He says, “Yeah but not as much as they did. It was Trump’s farm bill. The caravan, it’s the caravan.”

I did a double take from my dog to him and back again.

“The caravan? What does the caravan have to do with the farm bill and your food stamps?” I ask.
“You’re a Hillary person, and I’m a Trump person so you’re not going to get it,” he waves at me.
“I don’t understand, what has Hillary to do with anything?”
“The caravan is coming to take our stuff, all of it. They’re going to invade our neighborhoods and take our jobs. And the farm bill is going to pay for them to be able to live here. YOU want to live with all of THEM here?

*blinkblink* “First off Frank. Look around. Most of our neighbors are already from Guatemala, Honduras or Mexico.” (This is true. The dog that caused us to meet? Escaped from his Honduran next door neighbors that I have to keep rescuing neglected and abused animals from.) “Secondly, take WHAT from YOU? Your should-be condemned house? The nothing you have that came from ME? Your LATINA neighbor? Oh…that’s right. You forgot that, didn’t you? Because I’m white. I’m a first generation American and daughter to an IMMIGRANT dammit.”

He continues in the same vein and I just decide that I’ve had it. I take my dog, who he’s also insulted by refusing to call her by the right name and leave. I’m FURIOUS. I go back to my little duplex apartment across the street and try to decide what I’m going to do. I’ve gone out of my way for this man for three years. He wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for me, and now he’s just insulted ME, my mother, and everything I believe in — probably because he’s in a bad mood for some reason and has been taking in too much Fox News at his sister’s house. But he showed his true colors and I won’t let that in my home. I’ve dropped all the Trump believers and supporters from my life, and he’s insulted me TO MY FACE and also insulted my Family. Not to mention all the people that live next door and around him.

I take a few hours to cool off and speak to my duplex neighbor, a black woman. I’d needed to mess with my WiFi router anyway, and she uses my WiFi (we have an agreement, she parasites off my cable internet/I use her garbage can) so I told her what happened. She was just as mad, or maybe mad FOR me. So I tell her I’m going to change the WiFi password and NOT tell Frank (yep, he also used it with his free government phone). Racists don’t need to use my internet. I’ve done enough. I’ve HAD ENOUGH.

The next day, a text: “Is the internet fixed yet?” Then a phone call. Frank wants his Candy Crush or whatever. Then that evening, he knocks on the door. I go outside to talk to him. He asks if I fixed the internet yet. Yes, I tell him, I had. “I have my long sleeves on, can I come in and see the doggies and talk to you and get the password?”

“No. You can’t.”
“So I can’t use your internet anymore?”
“I’d rather you didn’t since I had to fix my router problems from all the viruses you keep getting (a lie to soften the blow that’s coming because dammit I just can’t stop being nice).”
“Oh. I’ll stop using those sites.”
“Look, Frank. Here’s the deal. You insulted me. You insulted my mother with your racist rant about the caravan, which was completely wrong, by the way. You really hurt me .” He backs off my porch. “I didn’t mean to insult you.” and scurries off across the street.

I haven’t seen him since. I mean, I’ve SEEN him — sitting on his porch with his dogs. Talking with Ron. Getting in and out of cars from family or other friends that take him to the store or an appointment. Doing the things for him that I used to do. (Which, to tell the truth, I don’t miss. I hope they’re letting him shower because I DO NOT MISS him sitting in my house unshowered, stinking of cigarettes. I offered my shower every time he was here.)

But my dogs miss their Uncle Frank. His dogs miss their Auntie Jax and tell me so every time they see me, because they are tied out front (not for long, they’re not outside dogs.) I kinda miss my friend, although…was he my friend or was he just some guy that took advantage of my kindness and compassion? He watched my dogs for me when I went out of town, gratis. Sure, he ate me out of house and home while he was here and got to watch my TV and Netflix and stuff and didn’t rob me blind. I trusted him to help me when I needed it. He had a key to my home. And then he showed me his true self and it hurt.

And yesterday, I took my little foster dog for a walk and saw him. He came out of his home when his sister drove up. She didn’t come out of her truck until I was well away from his house and he didn’t come down the walk. What, am I something to be afraid of? I even waved. Every other neighborhood “friend-feud” he’s had has resolved itself in days. It’s been since before Halloween. He missed Thanksgiving with me and now Christmas (I’ve always fed him, at least he got leftovers and a special birthday meal.)

I feel so odd. I miss my racist neighbor-friend. And when Game of Thrones comes back on in April, I’ll miss having him over to watch it, especially since he got so into it that he binged the entire series in the two weeks I was gone and he watched my dogs for me. And he borrowed an entire Drizzt DO’urden series of books and learned to love the Forgotten Realms, and started to love Valdemar as well. I’m willing to forgive if he’s willing to learn from his mistake but it seems that he’s not. And that makes me really sad, especially now that I hear Bandit barking outside. 😦

Turn the Page

When I was a kid I used to think that the world was a book being read by a God, (or maybe He was writing it) and when the day ended, He’d turned the page. I was raised Methodist so at the time, God was “He”. Now I’m pagan so God is “They, She, He, Them, the great unknowable IT” but for this post’s sake, if I refer to God, I’ll just use “He” because I’m referring back to that idea I had as a child. 

It’s a quaint idea, and sometimes I think nostalgically about it. How God would be writing His book of the world, all the things He had going on. All the lives, all the activity, all the dreams of all the people. It had to be a big book, I’d imagine.  So many characters! (This was me around….10? 12? I don’t remember what age exactly but it’s obviously an age where I was having more existential thoughts, before I was questioning whether God was a male God and my place in the Church but I was apparently looking at the world with eyes that wondered about how things really worked in the greater scheme of things. By 14, I was confirmed in the church and definitely not feeling it.  By 16 I was most definitely NOT Christian and considered myself agnostic but not really because I was tapped by *something* I’d come to recognize as a pagan Goddess a few years later. Save that for later posts.) 

I do remember lying in bed at night, thinking about how God would be writing his book and at midnight, as a new day would begin, he would “turn the page” for a new day to begin. A brand new page, white and clean, waiting to be filled with all the things that would happen. Some stories would continue, some would end. Maybe an entire chapter was over (like a war would be ending that day, time for a new chapter.) I’m not sure how I remedied everything for everyone around the world in my mind but I know I wasn’t just thinking of this as MY life — I considered this as a Big Book of Life for everyone, even if they didn’t worship this particular God  — it was an all-inclusive thing, not part of religion. It was the Book of Life, the Book of the World.  

I remembered this the other day, these simple quiet thoughts of a child who still considered the world (and God in His many forms) a pretty nice place. Even though this child grew up during the Cold War, did nuclear bomb drills and lived with the knowledge that a great part of her family was killed simply for existing (one side European Jews exterminated; the other side Jews exterminated during the Russian pogroms. We won’t talk about the Romanov relations because that’s a story for another blog post.) I was, and still am in many ways, a peaceful child , who looked upon the world with compassion and wonder.

And now 40 years later my world is repeating so many of the same things that I was told about – there are numbers on the arms of immigrants in camps — in America, not in Germany. Our political “leaders” are speaking in terms recalling another Cold War if not an actual World War in so many ways. The child I once was recalls that simple way of looking at each day and wonders…

… when will this particular chapter end so a much nicer one can begin. And can the author please stop repeating themselves?

Turn the Page.

Validation

It doesn’t always happen when you see your doctor, being validated. I’m not talking about your parking ticket here, I’m talking about being validated as a person, not just a diagnosis or a problem.  Even in the mental health arena, people don’t often feel as though they’re being truly listened to, especially in the American mental health system. It’s so broken, we’re seen just like every other doctor sees their patients — one after the other in a hurried fashion. There’s little time spent with you, so only the the basics are covered when you’re in for a medication consult with your psych MD. They’re not there to TALK to you…they’re there to prescribe your meds and make sure you’re stable and send you on your way. They talk to you just long enough to make sure the meds are working and whatever therapy you’re receiving from the talk therapists is helping and on track and that’s it. 

But my doctor listens. Or he listened to me. He stopped the usual banter we have, and listened. Granted, I had my journal with me, a bulleted list of points I needed to go over with him so he knew I meant business. And I’m also a suicide survivor, so when I say I’m in trouble…I’m in trouble. My ongoing depression hasn’t resolved, no matter what I’ve done – and I’m doing all the things. I’m doing all the healthy things, or at least trying to, as best as I can considering how heavy the elephant is that’s sitting on top of me. 

So I’m very grateful that my doctor took the time to listen to me, and validate my feelings. And not just throw some more medication at me, although we made some changes there. We determined that in one particular instance, I’m NOT crazy — or at least a specific kind of crazy — and that was a validation in and of itself. It feels like the elephant lost some weight – the depression remains of course, but a worry that was dumped in my lap isn’t mine to worry about anymore. That load can go, thank you. 

Feels good. Kind of. A step toward good. That’s good enough. 

Write Here!

I really am just going to start writing here. REALLY. (Part of this is due to The Bloggess’ post, part of it is me.) I don’t know why I don’t do it, preferring to just post snippets on Facebook instead of truly writing out what’s going on in a format that might actually, I don’t know….help? Especially since I write not for anyone else but for ME.  And maybe that’s why I don’t do it — because seeing my words out on a page, putting them down and pressing “publish” means they’re *out there* .

My mother always told me, “Never put into writing what you don’t mind seeing published in the New York Times,” and so I’ve always had this bit of a block against actually blogging or journaling my real feelings. I’ll talk endlessly about what’s going on AROUND me. If you read back through the few posts on this blog, or my public Facebook posts, you’ll see a pattern of “so this happened” and thoughts on the political climate and what I think about what’s going on in the world. But rarely do I talk about ME. I rarely share with the outside world (or, in the case of even friends-locked posts on Facebook) what’s going on inside my head. That kind of information gets tightly filtered, if shared at all. I play it so close to the vest that NO ONE knew how bad things were with me before my suicide attempt. I just don’t talk about it. 

I understand what my mother was getting at, especially in this digital age (though, this was WAY before it. She died in 1989. Maybe I’ll get into that. It’s part of my crazy.) Writing things down and sending it means it can be printed for all to see. You don’t put your private stuff out there to be used against you. I’m pretty sure this was just part of her paranoia, her own bipolar mania — or whatever damage HER mother did to her — and she passed it on to me. So now I have this odd “block” about writing in a blog because hitting send sends it out into the ether makes it permanent. The internet is permanent. It’s not even anonymous — as much as people think they’re hiding behind their screen names. I don’t ever use my full real name online but I’m sure if anyone wanted to figure out who I was, they could. 

But now, I’m past where anyone could use it against me. What could they do? I’m already disabled and on disability. I already live under the poverty line and struggle to get by. I’ve already had a person in authority over me use my words against me, use my mental illness against because I TALKED ABOUT IT.  And I’m OVER IT. 

I made my entire suicide experience and aftermath public on my Facebook page, in the hopes that if someone happened upon it, it might help that ONE person with their decision. And every time I open up and speak freely about what’s happening with me, more people say things like “me too” and “thank you, I needed to hear this” than “shut up” or “you’re crazy, stay away from me.” And writing it out helps me too. It helps to see it out and if I hit that “publish” button…maybe it’ll help someone else. Or not. Because I’m pretty sure no one reads this. And that’s OK. Because blogging again is going to exercise my brain and muscles that need to be worked. 

The fog needs to be lifted and it’s probably going to take some manual labor to lift it. Ain’t gonna be some wind coming by to blow it away. So here I am. I’m gonna blog again. Often. I’m even going to set some Alexa notification or alarm thingie to poke me to do it because I really am SO GOOD at making promises to myself and breaking them. It’s what I’m best at.