my_lost_mind: (hiding)
 Perception is a port on the river of Denial.  There's a tavern there called Maya that I know well.
One too many of the barmaid's special cocktails and next thing I know, I'm on the casino boat playing blackjack with the boy with old man eyes who is drunk, and muttering to himself.
He's a lot like me when I get in one of my moods.
The cards always seem to favor the boy, but I continue to play and continue to lose. When my chips have run out, I retreat to the deck for a smoke.
An older woman approaches me and says
"I'll tell you your future if you give me one of your cigarettes"
I'm a cynic, but I recognize crazy when I see it.    I hand her a smoke from the crumpled pack in my purse.
She lights it from a lighter that looks as old as she is, and draws a long thoughtful drag.
Why does she look familiar to me?
"You need to get off the river or it will be your undoing.  Stay out of that bar, and stop gambling with the boys.  They will always beat you.  Perception is your safest best."
She nodded, smiled with a grin of crooked stained teeth and wandered back toward the casino.
The old woman had a point.
I've been riding this river for too long, and have spent my too many years of my life gambling against opponents I thought I could somehow outsmart.
Perception has many rooming houses with lovely picture windows overlooking the river or the tavern, but some face the east which has no view to speak of.   It's been said that the east facing rooms are the most desirable because they don't draw the roomer back to life drifting on the river.
Most dreamers choose the rooms that face the river or tavern views because it's easier to face Denial or Maya than it is to face a less glamorous Perception.
To tell the truth, I'm rather fond of Maya even though I know it always leads me to Denial.
I've met some interesting travelers, and together we've floated up and down the blue river being tossed against the rocks a few times, been thrown off a few boats, and have weathered some intense storms.
However, I think it's time that I give one of those austere Perception rooms a try.   I hear that on a clear night you can see the lights from the distant town of New Perspective.

Feel the Fear

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 08:00 pm
my_lost_mind: (hiding)
If you've been reading any of my crap on this blog you'll have figured out that I'm a fairly weird lady.
I've been thinking quite a bit about the shit that I'm afraid of, and shit that I'm afraid to admit that I'm afraid of.
Some things that I'm not scared to admit that I'm afraid of include:
My house burning down
Financial ruin / job loss (yeah, that's a pretty logical one)
Driving in unfamiliar cities without a GPS (I have no internal compass.  None whatsoever)
Driving in a snowstorm  (almost ran into a jacknifed truck during a bad storm many years ago)
Angry people  (I still shrink when someone is angry around me, this one has been hard to deal with)
Dying alone and nobody notices I've gone "missing" (never aspired to be one of those corpses that gets discovered only after the neighbors complain about a mystery stench)
Dying ... and nobody knows to go attend to my pets
Hurting people I love and not realizing it
Losing my hearing  (can't imagine life without music, without hearing the birds sing, the sound of a distant train, etc.)
Losing mobility (ALS took my stepmom's life)
Losing my memory (I've seen what effect this has had on my father)
Some things that I used to be afraid of, but have managed to deal with over the last 20 years or so...
Being naked around friends and/or lovers (I used to be really hung up about the way I look sans clothing)
My mother  (she's still a nightmare, but at least I can stand up to her now)
Not having children  (it just sorta happened, and I had no choice but to get over it)
Moving household.  (I've moved so much over the last 20 years that it got easier to deal with the terror from each move)
Losing my pets (losing a beloved pet dog to a heart attack a few years ago forced me to gain some perspective)
Going to movies by myself  (I used to think it was somehow a bad reflection on me)
Dining alone in a restaurant (business and personal travel fixed this, either deal or go hungry)
Talking to "strangers" (see below)
"No strings attached" sexual encounters  (probably drove a few guys nuts with my neuroses over this)
Walking alone at night (it wasn't until I got a dog that I started to deal with this.. see below)
Some things that I am embarrassed to admit that I'm still afraid of...
Other people's grief / grieving  (I never know what to say. Not being religious, offering "spiritual" sentiments always seemed hollow to me)
Talking too much in a social setting
Talking too much in a professional setting (I'm getting better and knowing when to STFU, but I still fear  sounding like a moron because I don't always know when to shut my trap)
Big parties where I only know a few people
Revealing too much of myself to people I've just met (I am terrible about "nervous" talking, so even though I've been able to manage striking up casual conversations with people I've just met, I still feel anxious)
One-sided relationships of any kind  (I could write a novel on these)
Showing weakness and/or vulnerability (I hate it... still working on this)
Casual dating (the whole process of meeting new people, drinks, dinner and small talk... sheer terror)
Being physically assaulted  (a pretty typical fear for most women, but this really goes hand in hand with being vulnerable. I always hated being petite, and never quite developed the solid set of eyes in the back of my head).
and last.. but not least..
A gnawing fear of the "unknowns" in life.  I've been battling this particular monster since my childhood.  This gnawing fear that some person, some event, will kick my feet out from under me, and I land flat on my back gasping for breath.
It's not a fear of adventure, or change perse, but that it's a change that I have no control over.
It's a fear that someone I thought was a friend, is not.
A fear that someone I love will leave, or be taken from me.
A fear that I will have to accept something that is painful and sad with a brave face and polite smile and carry on when I'm really falling apart inside.
An old childhood friend of mine has faced the death of her husband and son only a few years apart.  I can't imagine the kind of grief she must be going through.  I cannot imagine loving someone so much, to think your world is upright and sane only to wake up the next day and find that this whole lovely reality has been turned upside down and inside out.
She has no choice but to carry on, she's got a young daughter who needs her to be strong.
Another friend lost his beloved wife of only a few years after she lost her battle with breast cancer.  I knew the both of them quite well.  She was always so full of life, and full of love for those she called "family" or "friend".  His grief is immense. She was spouse, friend, mother to her children (and stepmom to his son).    I felt guilty being 1000 miles away when she passed, unable to attend her memorial service.
However, I'm not sure if I would have been able to process her loss any better than I was able to process losing other friends to the randomness of death over the past few years.
I fucking hate rude surprises.
Getting laid off from a job a month after buying a condo.
Finding out that I had been taken advantage of in a bad mortgage deal.
Getting told by men I really liked being with  (after sleeping with them a couple times)  "I like having sex with you, but I don't want a relationship with you.   I don't want to date you."
Hell, one guy told me (as he was dumping me) that he didn't like me, and hated my dog  - entirely out of the blue - never saw it coming.
Having my suddenly dog die (more or less en route to the emergency vet) ...the day before Thanksgiving (2 years ago).
Falling down a set of stairs, breaking my ankle and becoming dependent upon my pathetic excuse for a (then) boyfriend who had a tenuous grip on reality and turbulent relationship with alcohol.
Shit like that.  Rude surprises like that just knock the wind out of me.
I have always gone through life with this strange Polyanna tendency to look at life as a glass half full, that people are always what they appear on the surface, and that I'm some sort of badass warrior princess who can handle anything that life throws me.
The truth is, when these obnoxious things happen in my life I turn the pain inward.  I ruminate, blame myself, drink too much, think too much after drinking too much, eat too much, then think too much again until I'm a gelatinous pile of goo huddled on the sofa vowing to never care about anyone or anything ever again.
Several years of therapy and too many years writing about this stuff hasn't helped much.  If anything it's made me think I'm more of a badass than I really am.    I'm not a superhero.   I'm human.  I'm supposed to be sad, fall apart, feel awful when bad things happen.
The problem is that I've typically surrounded myself with emotionally or physically (or both) unavailable people.  I've always felt guilty leaning on friends in times of crisis.
This is old childhood conditioning at it's worst.   I never had a sense that there was anyone I could lean on growing up, so I learned how to "tough it out" and deal with whatever came at me, by myself.   While self reliance is a wonderful thing, being self-contained at the expense of getting close to people isn't quite so wonderful.
So that's it really.
I'm afraid of the random awful things in life because it feels like just one more thing I'll have to deal with by myself.
I'm afraid of getting close to people because I fear they will not be there for me when I really need them.
When I do form new friendships, new relationships, it's a daunting and frequently scary thing because I have to take the risk that these folks might too, let me down someday.
There is some psychological school of thought that one must learn to "feel" their fear and then do whatever it is they're afraid of anyway.  
I guess I'll have to chew on that for a while.
I do need to get a grip on this stuff or I'm going to end up one bitter, frustrated old lady who will die alone and get partially eaten by her cats before the neighbors call the cops.
However... I think I'll always be afraid of spiders.... and driving in snowstorms.
my_lost_mind: (Default)
One of my greatest strengths, as well as my greatest flaws, is that I prefer to see the world with a lovely gauzy pink veil cast over it. Any color will do actually, except maybe black.

Of course I know that when things get really bad for me, a friend, or family member this means I just flat out shut down and refuse to accept that things are Really That Bad.

The funny thing about this is that I'm not particularly religious, I just hold on to some strange inner belief that no matter what happens, as long as I wake up on the right side of the grass, I know that it's going to be "okay".

I'm not entirely sure where this attitude comes from, to be honest. Neither of my parents were or are particularly optimistic, but they were (and are) very good at denial.

Take for example my first husband. He was a mentally unbalanced control freak with anger management issues. No, really. He was. He's the kind of guy who would get into some disagreement with me while we were riding together in the car, pull over at some store on the side of the road, and make me get out of the car. He used to put his fist through hollow walls (I once watched him punch a hole in a hollow door). The man was one angry fellow. This anger showed up fairly early in the relationship, but I stuck it out anyway thinking somehow he would magically transform into a kind hearted, emotionally stable prince who would just "be there" for me when I needed him.

I wanted to believe that he was a good person, or at least someone who wasn't quite so screwed up. Of course this lead to me sticking around in an otherwise psychologically abusive situation for far longer than I should have.

I've always had a problem with recognizing when people were being jerks to me, not wanting to believe it - wanting to believe that "they can change.. if only...". If only the sky turned purple, and the grass blue, and the world looked like some far out funky Peter Max painting with groovy people wearing flowers in their hair. Yeah right, pass the magic herb over this way, I'm sitting over here on a giant orange mushroom.

With all this inability to see the faults in others, I have to say that this optimism has saved me from wanting to opt for the big dirt nap more than a few times.

More than a decade ago, I suffered my first bout of very real, very serious depression. Within about 6 months of time I lost my job, my grandmother, was in the middle of a nightmarish situation with my then-housemates, and a former boyfriend (that I still had not managed to get over) announced the birth of his first child. One at a time, these types of life issues would have been easier to weather. Getting them all in one big flaming ball was pretty hard to manage.

Still, some little chunk of meat inside my skull fired off enough electrons (along with the help of some modern chemistry) to convince me that if I were to die today, I might miss out on something else that was infinitely better than what I was going through right now.

This same dynamic kicked in when some years later, I went through a bad breakup and financial ruin within a small stretch of time. Even though I felt like a big wad of melted gravel-infused bubble gum on the bottom of the Universe's shoe, I figured dying wasn't an option because there are folks who are not given the option to stick around another day.

Somehow I just manage to keep breathing, which keeps my brain operative, which keeps the body doing it's usual thing.

So what?

Alright, so here's where it gets stupid.

I've always managed to get myself into trouble by looking forward to things happening in my life that never seem to materialize.

I spent the better part of my childhood and teenage years daydreaming about growing up to have some mythical life with a husband, children (with 2 cats in the used to be so hard...), staying at home writing books, tending a garden, and being some hippie earth mother type. I remember being 14 years old, thinking about John Lennon and how old "40" seemed to be. I wondered what my life would be like at 40, and started to think about all the living that John Lennon would never get to do... (okay, cut me a break, I have ADD). The point is that nothing seemed to be able to shake that fantasy loose from my brain - that I would have this storybook life of perfect bliss someday.

Never mind that my parents hated each other, my home life was far from idyllic, so where the heck did I get all these vague notions of what a perfect life would be for me at 30, 40, etc. Maybe it was too much pop music, but any other life path for me would have seemed unbelievable at the time.

It wasn't until I reached my mid-to-late thirties that I realized life really is what happens while you're busy making other plans, and that old fantasy started to fall apart like some city from a post-apocalyptic movie. Before I knew it, I was staring at the wreckage of my beliefs that I would have a happy marriage, kids, the house in the suburbs, etc. and was trying to come to terms with the reality of being in a bad relationship with someone I didn't want to marry, approaching the point of being "too old" to have biological children, and still climbing out of a pit of financial ruin. My career was getting better, but it certainly wasn't the life of a prolific enigmatic author. This feeling sucked, but losing this dream shook up that pink glittery snowglobe in my head that always wanted to believe that all dreams come true.

Here's another brief tale of weirdness from my recent past. About 7 or 8 years ago I had a crush on a guy that I only saw a few times a year. Every time I saw him, I wondered if I could ever strike up some sort of longer conversation that would lead to us (at least) going out for a drink, coffee, etc. I knew that he was single, and lived a few hours away, but that didn't matter. He had an adorable smile, was bright, a little reserved, but also had a very calm manner, pleasant voice, and great sense of humor.

I attended a regional convention related to the hobby that we shared, and he and I sat next to each other at dinner one night (with a group of other hobbyists). We talked a bit, I learned about his financial (and other) troubles, and I felt a little sad for him. He seemed fairly defeated. Despite talking for that brief time (and some well meaning friends trying to convince him to call me "someday"), nothing more materialized. Shortly after that convention, I took up with another guy who I was far less into and my crush fantasy was tucked into a metaphorical box in my mind.

My life got stupid, complicated, and crazy over the next several years. A few years ago I attended a club meeting for that old hobby I was into, and learned that my old crush had passed away in 2009. Just like that. I had not thought about that guy in years, but somehow the news of his passing made that old daydream feel uncomfortable. I felt an overwhelming sadness. More Reality beating the living shit out of Fantasy. Dreams die. People die. Everything dies.

But I don't wanna live in Realityville.. It hurts.

The last year or so of my life I've been cultivating a sense of pragmatism when it comes to my daydreams. I've cultivated crushes on men I have no chance in ever meeting in real life so I can keep my fantasies in check. In other words, I can sit and watch Top Gear and daydream about James May, going for a ride in the English countryside in one of his amazing cars and stopping off at some lively pub for a few pints, and so on. This is a fantasy that falls squarely into the "not bloody likely" category. I can wrap my head around the fact that there is no pining for this person, wondering what they're up to, wondering if they think about me. None of that.

When it comes to thinking about men that I actually know and/or have seen and would like to know better, I have learned to temper my enthusiasm. I've learned that no matter how much I might want to get to know someone better, hope that they call, wonder if they are thinking of me, etc. boarding that particular train of thought is like being blindfolded in a large transit center, spun around a few times and pointed at some random door. You might end up going somewhere interesting but you're also just as likely to end up completely lost, stuck just outside of Clusterfuck City, in the absolute worst part of town (with no return train until morning).

Mind you, this is still a raging battle in my head.

This daydreaming habit is very old, and I do tend to cling to it when I'm feeling bored or lonely. The key in winning this battle seems to be avoiding those choices that lead me to be "bored", and to find activities that make me feel less socially isolated.

I'm never going to knock this out completely, and I am okay with that. Being a dreamer is what I am, and despite my crunchy cynical outer shell, I still have that old romantic heart beating within. I'm just trying very hard not to paint anyone's face into that perpetually unfinished painting tucked away in the dusty corners of my mind.

March 2013

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