Tuesday, June 14, 2016

100 Things Divorce Taught Me - Six, Six, Six

42.  I missed the ribs.  So I learned how to make them myself.  And I excel at it, she said feministly.
43.  Being single means not finding the last elusive EKG lead until days after the surgery.
44.  Occasionally, not having someone to whine to sort of sucks.
45.  One learns not to whine so much.  Hopefully.
46.  The creativity thing is improving.  For instance, I'm back to blogging.  You might have noticed?  I am doing more art.  Not a lot more, but some.  And tonight I plan to put the finishing touches on a new video.  I haven't done one of those since my photo assistant/best buddy died two years ago.  I'm excited to have gotten back on that horse.  I painted a mural/cartoon on one of the doors going into my house.  Next project is to finally repaint my "The Jacksons, Est. 1999" sign with something about "Bistro Raquel" so I can rehang it on the patio.
47.  Car repairs are now the bane of my existence.  There is no greater suckage than trying to arrange to get the vehicle in the shop and myself to work in another town/another county all at the same time.  Once that is accomplished, I've got to get the oil changed on my motorcycle.  Again I'm reminded of how must worse this would be if I was also trying to wrangle children at the same time.  Single parents are strong, strong people.
48.  I read an article today about how "Managing Your Feelings Is Not My Job".
  • "One of the almost unconscious (and completely unpaid) jobs that women are doing all the damn time is managing their own behavior in order to manage men’s emotions.  We do it so much that we’re often not even aware that we’re doing it.  While the Jungian projection is that women are “too emotional” and “let their emotions run away with them,” the fact is that, of course, it’s most men who really can’t manage their own emotions."   
Holy hell.  I have done that for much longer than I'd care to admit.  Or even think about.  I excel at this, too.  And I'm slowly but surely getting really pissed off about it.  Nevermore, she said ravenously.  (And please don't feel the need to point out to me that not all men have trouble managing their emotions.  I am well aware of that and I will assume you are an idiot if you try to mansplain this to me, she said judgingly.)
49.  If I ever do date again, it will be because I met someone who is an emotional grown up.  And maybe they will even be smarter than me, she said challengingly.
50.  I cracked myself up when I realized that, as per number 42, I considered learning to cook something to be a feminist triumph.  In my case, it's valid, she said reverse role reversally.
51.  Now that I have the whole bed to myself, I awake each morning to find myself virtually cocooned in a seriously decadent number of pillows.  Not prissy little decorator pillows, but substantial, softly-cased, and seriously smushed sleeping pillows.  A few years back we splurged on a memory foam mattresses.  It's too dang hot, but I can't give it up - it's way too comfortable.  Between the mattress and now all the pillows, I really hate getting out of bed in the mornings.  Having to exert some sort of muscle power in order to hold my body in whatever upright position I'm aiming for seems like far too much to expect from someone who just spent eight hours in a trough of libertinely luxurious, cottony, bliss, she said hedonistically.
                         51a.  I like adverbs, she said grammatically.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Holy, Holy, Hostile

"All human beings are holy, for we all carry a scrap of divinity in us – our souls." - The Rt. Rev. Scott Mayer

Kim kept her appointment today.  She always keeps her appointments.  She is rigorously prompt. 

And Kim is angry.  

She's not just angry, she lives in her own seething firestorm of fury.  You'd never know it to look at her.  On the surface she is calm and controlled to the point of being creepy.

Kim wears her thick black hair pulled into a severe knot at the back of her head.  Her heavy bangs are tightly curled into one long tube that lies in a perfectly straight line across her forehead.  The heavy layer of gel that holds every single hair tightly in its assigned place gleams wetly in the fluorescent light.  

She doesn't wear make-up, preferring instead a mask of bland cleanliness.  Her clothes are simple, clean and rigorously tucked, tied, and ironed.  Everything about her is tightly, viciously controlled.  But if you watch for just a bit you will see deep, oozing fissures all around the edges of her control.  

Kim's internal culture of rage runs on imagination.  She plays out scenarios and conversations in her head, over and over and over, before they ever actually happen; imagining the worst and letting those thoughts fuel her anger and hostility.  She reacts to people based on what she has convinced herself they will do rather than on what they actually do.  Kim attacks people based on what she imagines, not what is happening in reality.  Naturally, the people she interacts with respond to her unprovoked umbrage with anger and violence of their own, which reinforces Kim's imaginings and everything swirls and boils and feeds on itself.  

It must be exhausting to live inside Kim's head.  Or with her in her house.  

Kim knows this is wrong.  She can talk about it with me and admit she is at fault.  But she will not apologize to the people she wrongs.  It's almost physically impossible for her to say the words.  Instead, after she hurts the people she cares about, she will try to do something nice for them - cook her husband's favorite meal, draw his bath, etc.  (I had no idea people still 'drew a bath'.  Kim draws baths.)  She tries to be nice, until someone says or does something that triggers the alarm in her head again and she lashes out over past or imagined injustices. 

Today we talked about how her cesspool of rage is going to kill her and everything she cares about.  It has been killing things around her for years - her childhood, her children's self-respect, her previous marriages.  

We agreed that no one can break through her walls from the outside.  She is a master mental brick mason and her walls are impregnable.  Even if she could find a knight on a white horse, there is no magic strong enough to get him through to her, even if he and the horse he rode in on managed to survive the fields of thorns that surround the ramparts.  

Instead, Kim is going to have to chink away at those barricades from the inside.  Tiny chip by tiny chip, day after day, year after year.

Today she agreed to make a small chip in the wall - the tiniest of gestures.  Kim owns a pad of post it notes.  She's going to go home, write "I'm sorry I yelled at you this morning" on a note and leave it where her husband can find it.  She's agreed to make this gesture with no expectations.  She's agreed that all the crappy reactions she's already planning for him to have will not force her into any sort of reaction.  She will just leave the note, and not say anything about it. 

Or, so she says.  We'll see. 

Kim has lots and lots of problems.  But there are scraps...

For instance, she likes to read.  Kim reads poetry. 

She keeps a written record of many of the poems she comes across.  Her notebook currently consists of 379 separate poems with one common theme.  Each and every one of them has the word bitch in it.  Three hundred and seventy-nine bitch poems.

Kim's texting signature is "boss bitch".  She has a devil tattoo on her ankle that also says "boss bitch".   The tattoo seems a little incongruous with her severe schoolmarm vibe, but I'm certainly not going to judge.  Mainly because if I did, I've no doubt that she would cut out my heart and nail it to the floor without a single regret or a second thought.  Kim may be small, but she brings new intensity to the word 'fierce'. 

Most of Kim's "scraps" are anything but divine, but here and there you can see a bit of light trying to shine through the cracks.  The light is almost completely swallowed by the darkness, but it's still there - just pinpricks of it - if you look closely.

Kim has never apologized to anyone for anything.  Not ever.

I don't think she will follow through with the apology note.  I think the voices of experience and imagination playing in her head will convince her it is futile.  She isn't really ready to change.  But I'm still hopeful.  Hopeful that one day she will recognize her own holiness and heal enough stop hurting others, or isolate herself enough that her anger can't reach them.

If nothing else, she can at least admit that she's nuts.  And that's no small step. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

100 Things Divorce Taught Me: a fifth

32. Being single is expensive.  I'm paying other people to do things for me that might have been spousally accomplished in the past.  Or I'm paying people to do things for me because I can't be in two places at once.  I can't claim head of household on my tax return because I'm single and had the temerity not to breed.  And single people are taxed at a higher rate. Grocery buying is cheaper now, but I eat out more. 
33.  I am rediscovering the ability to accomplish some tasks that I'd been leaving to others for years.  Mostly I'm enjoying it.  And when I don't enjoy it, I can hire some to do it for me.  See #32.
 34.  I now know that it takes exactly one gallon of water to flush my toilet.  
35.  ...and how to read the water meter.
36.  I already knew how to use that long tool thing to turn the water on and off.  
37.  I can now hot wire my sprinkler system control box, thus negating the expense of putting in a new box.   
38.  My lawn-mower miraculously healed itself.  Just in the nick of time before my next door neighbor beat me about the head and shoulders with his weed-eater.  He tries to be civil, but he's deeply annoyed by me.  I am highly entertained by that and now that I'm single, it's harder for him to be as rotten as he'd like to be.  He used to complain by telling me to "tell your husband...".  Now he's hoist by the petard of his own misogyny because he can't quite bring himself to complain directly to me regarding the grass clippings that floated onto his lawn, causing him to have to re-rake.  That would involve a level of male-female interaction that makes him distinctly uncomfortable.  Score for me. 
39.  I feel certain I could've learned how to rebuild the carburetor on said lawn-mower by watching YouTube videos.  But I'm really sort of tired of having to do that.  Glad I didn't have to do it with the mower. 
40.  Empty photo frames are a bit of a challenge.  In my house I have lots of different frames of different styles that were previously filled with pictures of, or including, the ex, as he was both handy and generally cooperative as a model.  I've put all the pictures away.  Interestingly, the only sadness I've found in that was a bit of pique because some of the photos were good shots that I was pretty proud of.  Now I'm refilling the frames with other people. Or trying to, anyway.  I find that I need to take more pictures of people who interest me.
41.  Silence is my muse. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Catholics Never Let Me Try the Port

Once upon a time I was a Mystery Worshiper. 

Did you ever run across one of those?  I auditioned and got approved for the gig through the Ship of Fools website.  It was a lot of fun, but I quit because I was just using it as an excuse for snarking.  I'm not saying snarking is bad.  After all, sarcasm is my spiritual gift.  But when that's all you're doing, you're not really being fair.

God knows I don't need that kind of karma.  So, I quit.

Today I was sort of back at it again, just for grins.  There was no mystery to it this time, but I attended another church in another town and it made a great excuse to have lunch with the kid. 

For those of you keeping score at home, the kid is doing well in nursing school, working at a hospital part-time and making a mint teaching pitching lessons and clinics on the side.  She is so busy, just listening to her makes me tired.  Things are not perfect, but she's tapped into an extraordinary level of self-sufficiency which leaves me a bit breathless.  And proud.  Mostly proud.

Before all that though, there was church.  It was enjoyable to see a different group doing the same things differently.  This was only the forth Episcopal church I've ever visited.  (When I was Mystery Worshiping, I confined my choices to places I knew I'd hate.  Didn't ever go to an Episcopal service.)

Y'all know about my addiction to Gothic arches and such.  Unfortunately, this building was more New Mexico than New England, but it had it's charms.  The audio speakers attached to the ceiling reminded me of every West Texas Baptist church I've ever been in.  There readings were faintly dramatic and there was that one completely unexpected soprano in the choir. 

Lord, they had a lot of people in white robes.  Wonder if they get a discount for buying in bulk?

There were lots of robe-wearers to help serve communion.  One of my oddly favorite things about the Episcopal Eucharist has been the communion wafer.  It's weird, I know, but I find them cool. This church used bread instead of wafers. 

Damn, it was good bread.  Brown and sweet and super moist.

The progressive Baptist churches I've attended in the past have used similar bread, probably as a reaction to the Jeezus Chiclets we grew up on.  You know what I mean - those tiny, half-inch squares of crunchy dough that you get along with the thimble of Welch's Grape Juice.  It was like we believed that there was only so much Jesus to go around, and you only got a tiny piece of him so we wouldn't run out.  Because we knew that story about the loaves and the fishes and the five thousand but none of us really believed it.  We believed the basic story, but not that part about how no one went away hungry.  Everyone got a little bit, sure, but a little bit would have to do ya.  Right?

Anyway, the bread was good, but I like the wafers best.  Besides, we've already discussed (Haven't we?  Maybe we haven't.) that I am a huge fan of port and I'd really like to be last in line to finish that stuff off, or at least go back around and go through the line a second time.  With bread that good, it would be that much more of a temptation.

Gimme wafers. 

And of course, you can't get through a service without Passing the Peace. 

Earlier in the week, Lois posted a link to an article about this and asked my opinion, as someone who has long lamented the practice.

My opinion?  I still don't like it.  I'm an introvert and anything touchy-feely makes me itch.  I'd just as soon not do it, thankyouverymuch.  However, I do admit that I like official peace-passing much better than the less structured meet-n-greet.  In the Episcopal church I only have to touch your hand and say one word.  I can do that.  I don't love it, but I can do it.

This church is larger than the tiny one I attend.  All that peace passing takes a while, even when everyone is only saying one word, three at most.  I did my bit with the folks around me then just sort of stood back and watched the people travel back and forth through the aisle, greeting their fellows.

The priest made her way through the crowd pretty quickly, offering peace to each person in turn.  I'd said my one word to all but the nice woman sitting next to me.  She'd introduced herself and asked what I did for a living. 

I told her I was an adult probation officer, forgetting my pact with Mindy that this question is always best answered with "I'm a florist."  The woman seemed surprised and interested and was questioning me further about law enforcement when the priest reached her side.  The priest offered her one word of peace, then stepped towards me, grasping my hand warmly.  She leaned in just a bit and said,

"You left your pot in my car."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

So What Do I Want to Do With the Rest of My Life?

Recently I have been thinking about the future, which is a depressingly conventional response to my slightly unconventional circumstances.  I'm eligible for retirement in three years.  There is a run-off election being held next month that will have a lot to do with whether or not I retire at my first eligibility.

If I did quit, what would I want to do?  Hell, I'll only be 48.  I could start a whole new career.  But honestly, I have no idea what I want to do.  And days like today make the decision even harder.  Because I have the best damn job.

I met with Jose this afternoon.  Jose is chronically depressed but not chronically sober.  For the moment he's stable.  He works graveyard shift at a convenience store and is attending Junior College.  He wanted to go into nursing, but his felony conviction makes that pretty much impossible, so he's decided to study psychology.

Jose is fairly typical of my caseload.  He's a young(ish), poor, Hispanic male who lives with his long-term girlfriend.  He became a father at a young age.  He's under-employed and works for minimum wage.  And he's in trouble for drinking.  I'd drink if I was him.

Jose's drinking led to someone losing their life.  Now he doesn't drink.  (Crossing my fingers that this holds true.)

Unlike most of the people I deal with, Jose has a high school diploma and has decided he needs to further his education.  For the last year he's been taking classes and we've talked about the benefits of this choice as well as how this may effect his already tenuous family relationships.  It's tough to keep a marriage together when one of you arbitrarily adds full-time student status to an already stressful situation. That's certainly proving true in Jose's case.  In the midst of all this tension, they had another baby.

[Condoms, people!  C'mon, it is not that hard!  (heh.)  Condoms, every stinkin' time, dammit.  Why, why, why must you procreate?!  Never, never, never fail to use birth control!]

All of which brings me to Winston Churchill.

Jose is reading a book on the British Prime Minister for a history class.  He's actually reading it - the whole thing.  And liking it. It's taken him two months to get it done, but he has become a fan of Churchill and seems to be thrilled with his ability to read, comprehend and enjoy an actual book.

Although I've not read the book, I at least know enough minutia about the man to carry on a decent conversation.  It did occur to me that perhaps the hard drinking Churchill was not the best role model for Jose, but he beats the shit out of Hulk Hogan or Donald Trump.  We spent most of our meeting discussing the book and what Jose has learned from it.  Jose agreed with me that Churchill must have been an absolute bear to live with.  His drinking habits and irascibility would have been a potent combination.

As our discussion wound down and Jose started to leave, I mentioned the famous Churchill anecdote about the stuffy society maven who berated Churchill for being drunk at her dinner party.  Jose had read the story and knew what I was referencing.  (Churchill told her he might indeed be drunk, but he'd be sober by morning and she'd still be ugly.)  We shared a polite laugh and Jose seemed to realize that he was engaging in actual college-student-type conversation. 

Admittedly I was somewhat dismayed over the fact that I'd remembered the drunk story rather than the "never give up" bit or something else which would have been much more appropriate for our situation.  Oh, well.

Jose left considerably less morose than he'd arrived and even appeared to be proud of himself.  And rightfully so.  I was proud of him, too.

After Jose, I had an appointment with Isabella.  She came rushing in, apologizing in her two-pack-a-day-phone-sex-voice for wearing shorts, but she'd been busy unloading a trailer full of bulls and she'd barely been able to make it to the appointment on time.

Isabella is a new case and so we started in on the state's newest prescribed bit of paperwork, a somewhat over-valued interview questionnaire.  We didn't even get through the first page.  The conversation took an unexpected turn when we discussed the motivation behind her methamphetamine use.

She's an introvert.

Isabella had never heard that term before.  All she knew was that her five seriously extroverted sisters and parents have always told her there was something really wrong with her.  One way she tried to fix herself was getting amped up on meth.

I explained the terms - the difference between extroverts and introverts.  We discussed how the extrovert draws energy from those around them, and the introvert replenishes energy by spending time alone.

She likes to read.  Check.
She likes living in the country all by herself.  Check.
She talks to the bulls when she needs to talk to someone.  Check.
She doesn't like having kids around.  Check.
She'd rather do the work herself, rather than having to supervise someone else.  Check.
She enjoys her family, but dreads the thought of all of them being in her house at once.  Check.
She's recently divorced.  Her husband left unexpectedly, when she didn't even realize there was anything wrong with the marriage.  Check.

Do you ever just sit in amazement contemplating how the universe throws the exact right person at you, who, at the exact right time, would benefit from your own exact experience?

I don't normally talk about myself with my people.  Not about my personal life or living arrangements.  It's not that it's a secret, it's just a professional choice.  We all live in the same small town.  They all know where I live, what I drive and what I like on my breakfast burritos.  They see me at ball games and in the convenience store.  But I try not to give them information about myself during our conversations.

Today was a little different.  I had the best time extolling the virtues of introversion for Isabella  Using my own experiences, I went through a laundry list of things she probably likes and dislikes, guessing correctly most of the time.  I told her how to enjoy dining out alone.  I talked about my awareness that as much as I love being alone, I need to make an effort at more human interaction and ways I am working on that.  Most of all, I told her she's not broken.  She's just different.

She ate it up.  And then volunteered to come to the drug/alcohol group therapy meeting.  That's like volunteering for foreign missions at the end of the revival service.  Which makes me the traveling evangelist.  Only without the traveling.  Or evangelicalism.  (Or the friggin' love offering!)

It made for a great afternoon and I'm really glad I've got at least three years before I have to decide what I should do with the rest of my life.  I want to leave while I still love this work.  I want to go somewhere else and be something else before I burn out, or age out, or get too complacent.  But this is the best damn job and I can't imagine what else could even come close.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Network Path Invalid

I hate and despise the fact that I hate and despise the new copy machine.  I never wanted to become THAT person who can't embrace the new technology for love of the old.  But, damn.  I miss that old machine and its limited capacity for both performance and screw up. 

Just now I tried to scan a document.  I have to scan to a flash drive because the almost brand new copier doesn't 'network' with Windows 10 and has decided my computer doesn't actually exist. 

No matter what I did, it would not scan.  It just sat there, all smug and shit.  I ranted.  I raved.  There might have even been a trash can that got kicked. 

Words were said, many of them comprised of four letters.  Some were longer and more descriptive of both the machine and its dubious parentage. 

Finally, before reaching the Thing Throwing Stage, I gripped the edges of the adjustable touch screen display and tilted it so that the overhead light wasn't glaring on it.  My eyes are evidently aging and I need a little extra help to see stuff sometimes.  I flipped through the various menus looking for something - anything - that might explain why the scanner simply would. not. scan. 

I set and reset the settings.  I jammed and unjamed the pages into the document feeder.  Buttons were punched with grim determination and perhaps slightly more than the necessary force. 

And then I saw the small print.  At the very, very bottom of the display screen.

"Please insert USB device."

And I looked down at my clenched fist. 

And registered the small red flash drive that I still held in my hand. 

And sighed.

I hate that smart-ass machine.