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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Waiting for Spring

My Gawd I cannot wait for Spring! I hate the freaking winter time. Its too cold, and I don't like cold. I want to go outside and play and I have been stuck in the house for months. It might not be so bad, but I discovered a new hobby last summer and I was just getting started figuring out what I was doing when it got too cold outside and I couldn't play anymore.

My new hobby is dyeing and embellishing fabric. Due to the layout and contents of our home, this is an outdoor hobby for me. It works out well since both the dyes and my body require temperatures over 72 degrees in order to function correctly. Outside I don't have to worry about the residues or the mess, the grass might have red and purple spots for a day or two, but it always washes away. The paintstiks and dye sticks I started playing with are also outdoors – or at least out of the house projects. They stink. I usually play with them in my sewing room, but it has to be warm enough to have the window and door open. I haven't even gotten to “set” the pieces I painted last Fall yet as they definitely have to be done outside since heat setting really releases the fumes!

The fact that my flower beds are all completely overgrown with crab grass hasn't escaped my notice either. I know I will have Spring bulbs coming up pretty soon, if they can fight their way through the tangles. I'd love to go out there and start cleaning it out, but it will be another month or more before I can brave the elements long enough to get anything done. I guess I could put on my insulated coveralls and my gloves and go out there and get started, but I won't, I am too wimpy.

Spring has always been my favorite time of year and I have always gotten restless the last month or two of winter. Whether you choose to call it “Spring Fever” or “Seasonal Affective Disorder, or whatever name you want to put on it, the end of winter tends to drive me crazy. I hate feeling confined, and even though I really don't like to go anywhere very often anyway, the cold really keeps me from doing a lot of things.

I don't have an internal temperature control, at least not a functioning one. I have always been sensitive to temperature extremes. As a teenager I suffered heat exhaustion several times and as an adult I was hospitalized with a severe heat stroke, Since then I have learned I have to regulate my body temperature from the outside, or pay the consequences. So in the winter I am sitting in the house with three layers of clothes on, taking a hot bath two or three times a day just to be able to feel my feet. And in the summer when it hits 90 degrees and up? Well that's actually easier now that I discovered the ultimate “poor man's air-conditioning”, drenching a t-shirt in water, wringing it out and putting in on is freaking awesome for keeping cool when it is hot! I know, I am weird, but a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do. Now if I could just find something that worked equally well for keeping me warm! Oh well, for now I will just keep plugging along at all my winter chores while I dream of warmer days and greener hands.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It is MY Life, and I Choose to be Happy

I was reading a blog this morning from “Single Dad Laughing” that posed the question “Whose Life is it Anyway?” -

It really got me to thinking. His story of how he changed his life against the better judgment of those around him really resonates with me, especially since in a way, my own story is has many similarities. I have to admit that I have not actually read the entire post yet, I got too excited and had to stop reading to start writing. The basic premiss of the post is that most people spend so much of their energies trying to live the life that other people think they should have, that they end up making themselves miserable because they are not living the life they really want to be living.

Social pressures to conform come at us from every direction every day of our lives. Whether from family and friends or from complete strangers on tv and now the internet, everyone has an opinion of how we should think, how we should feel, what we should believe, how we should behave. And my gawd if you dare to think for yourself and make your own decisions about how you want to live your life that don't fit into their narrow world views, well that is just NOT acceptable!

Here I was thinking I was somehow different. That my family held the monopoly on trying to direct and control other peoples lives. Silly me, the whole freaking world is that way! I guess I probably did know that all along, but I never really thought it all the way through before. I have been so completely ostracized from a world that I don't fit into that sometimes I lose sight of the fact that most everyone else probably feels exactly the same way.

We are surrounded by unrealistic expectations from the moment we are born, and the well meaning intentions of those who love us will always keep us from becoming our true authentic selves if we allow them to. Parents want to “protect” their children. That is our job. Unfortunately it really easy to protect them way too much for way too long. When the people who love you are “protecting” you from living the life you want, they really believe it is in your best interest. They don't want you to be hurt if you fail, but in the process they are actually hurting you more than any failure ever could.

Everyone wants to be happy. At least they want to think they do. The problem is that we are made to believe that the only way to be happy is to follow the “in crowd”, to live your life the way those around you live theirs, to follow the status quo. Unfortunately that is a one way ticket to depression and misery. There is no happiness to be found chasing other peoples dreams. There is no happiness to be found in denying your own dreams for the sake of other peoples opinions or beliefs. Happiness comes from being true to yourself and your own dreams, no matter what any one else thinks about them.

I find it funny to ask other parents what they would like their children to be when they grow up. I always get answers like “a doctor”, “a lawyer”, or some thing along those lines. My answer to that question, what do I want my kids to be when they grow up? Happy. Healthy would be nice too, but mostly I just want them to be happy. I know what it is like to live without happiness, I don't wish that on anyone (well, maybe a couple of people). I don't care if they are rich or poor, atheist or christian or Buddhist, whether they are gay or straight, fat or skinny, tall or short, none of that matters in the grand scheme of things. The only thing that really matters is happiness, because without happiness nothing else really matters.

For me, happiness came when I decided that this was MY life and I am going to live it the way I want to live it and I do not care what anyone else thinks about it anymore! When I decided that I came first in my life, and that what I wanted and who I wanted to be was far more important than what other people thought I should want, that was when the door out of depression finally opened and the light came flooding in. And the more I stand up for my right to live my own life my own way, the happier I become. Even though many of the people I love walked out of my life because they refused to accept the life I chose, and it saddens me to lose them, by walking away they finally gave me the freedom to be happy without feeling guilty for not being who they think I should be. I no longer have to pretend to be someone I hate, I no longer have to hide who I am in a corner, I can be me, ... finally, fully the me I want to be. That makes me very happy.

My dearly departed mentor in life views, George Carlin, once said something to the effect of “Life gets a lot easier when you learn not to give a crap.” I think that may be true, at least it is true for me. I certainly hope there are families out there who love each other and support each other whether they all think exactly the same way or not, but I didn't get one of those families and I cannot change that fact. I can either choose to pretend to think like them and be a part of their lives while being miserable in my own life, or I can have the life I want and be happy and have my existence ignored by the rest of the family. I have learned I just can't afford to give a crap anymore about what other people think. I have to be true to who I am if I am to be happy. So it is MY LIFE DAMNIT! And once I took ownership of it, regardless of what other people thought, wanted or believed, I found that I am finally happy that it is mine.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How "Mother" Met "Father"

When I finally left my ex-husband and moved out on my own with my three kids, one my best friends was always trying to get me to “go out and meet new guys”. I kept telling her that my Mr. Right was out there somewhere, and when he was ready he would come find me, I didn't need to go looking for him. I never did figure out why she thought it was so important for me to find a new guy. I certainly wasn't interested at the time, I has just gotten free from the last one, what the Hell did I want with another one? I'd like to think that she was just so damn happy in her marriage that she wanted me to finally experience that same happiness, and since I really don't have any evidence to the contrary we'll go with that theory for now.

When the kids and I first moved out we lived in an apartment, it was nice enough, but seriously off the beaten path. There was a little bar about a mile from the apartment which I did frequent on Friday nights when I had the motivation to walk that far, but I never met anyone there. I always sat in a corner by myself drawing in my sketch book and mostly ignoring the other people on the room. I did date a little bit, I put an ad on one of the dating sites and I met a few guys that way, and I dated a couple of old friends that I happened to run into again, but the was never anything serious.

I really didn't want to get married again. EVER. I had no interest in handing my new found control of my life over to another man. It was just NOT going to happen.

After the first sixth months in the apartment we moved back in closer to everything. I found a house to rent just a few blocks from my ex-husband's house and while I hated being that close to him, it was far more convenient and no more upstairs neighbors! So we moved again.

A couple of months later, after we had settled in I was talking with my dear friend again and she was back on her idea that I needed to go out more and meet new men. I told her yet again that when the right guy was ready he would come find me and that I would just wait for him at my house. She laughed at me and said I was being ridiculous. I smiled and told her that I knew I was being ridiculous, but that I was also right.

It was less than a week later when I got the first reply to my “personal ad” that I had received in months. I read his profile and he sounded like someone I might want to meet. So I messaged him back. We started talking online, then on the phone. It turned out he worked a couple of blocks from my house. After a couple of weeks on the phone he asked me out to lunch. I walked down the street to his office and wrote down the license plate number and make and model of his car and then went home to call my friend. I told her that I was right, that he had found me, at home just like I said he would and that I was going to go meet him. I gave her all of his information, his name, phone numbers, license plate number, where he worked, everything I knew about him. I told her if I did not call her back after my date that she would have his information to give to the police. He really just seemed too perfect for me and I wanted to make sure it wasn't a trap.

So I met him that day for lunch and we had a wonderful time. And the rest, as they say, is history. He really was that perfect for me, and he even convinced me to marry him eventually. I have to say, I am very glad he did, and I am very glad that I was right all along.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Wonderful Husband, the A**hole

“The man I am married to now is an opinionated asshole who will never fail to let you know if you have done or said something stupid “ - I wrote this in a blog post the other day and I didn't elaborate on it enough for all of you to understand just what I actually meant by that statement. I think my husband is the most wonderful, loving, caring, giving, good-hearted man I have ever had the great fortune to know. I love him with every fiber of my heart and soul. But he is an asshole. He knows it, he even will admit to it on occasion, but he is NOT an asshole just for the sake of being a jerk. He is an asshole with a purpose.

My husband always tells it like he sees it. People do NOT like this, but he really doesn't care anymore. If you are acting like an idiot, he will tell you. Out loud, … to your face, … in public, … whether he has ever met you before or not. And he will not stop telling you why whatever you did or said was stupid until you either agree with him that it was stupid or you leave. It does not matter who you are, where you are, or what is going on at the time, if someone behaves rudely, stupidly, or otherwise inappropriately in front of him they will be given a lecture they will not soon forget. Never mind that some people might think that HE is the one being rude by drawing attention to the issue and calling them out on it, but again, he just doesn't care. For whatever reason, he has decided that it is his job in life to educate the ignorant, whether they like it or not, and there is no stopping him once he gets going.

Sometimes its funny to watch, sometimes it embarrasses me, but NEVER is it done with malice of intent. His heart is always absolutely in the right place, but other people tend not to be able to appreciate that fact at the time. He is really easy to get along with, just don't tell him the sky is green when he knows it is blue, and you will get along famously with him. But try to argue with him when you are in the wrong to start with, and he will not back down … ever. Well, except to me, but that is a different story.

If he is shown to be wrong, he will be the first to admit it and correct himself, but that doesn't happen very often as he won't usually argue about what he doesn't know about. He stands up for what he believes in and never fails to do what he thinks is the right thing to do. He may not always follow the social conventions of “polite behavior”, but somebody else always starts it. He never goes out looking for a confrontation, other people just have a way of doing stupid things that set him off. Yes, he can be difficult to live with at times, but then again so can I. That was my point the other day, that nobody is perfect. We all have our own faults, or own failings, our own idiosyncrasies, that is what makes us the unique and perfectly wonderful people that we are. I happen to love my “asshole” more than I ever knew was possible before I met him. And as much as he may occasionally embarrass me or piss me off, I am damn proud of him and very grateful to be married to him every single minute of every day.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Buying a Home Again

My husband and I are trying to find a way to buy a house. We have rented the same house for almost five years, and we have a great relationship with our landlords, but they are getting older and are wanting to get rid of all of their rental properties so they don't have to take care of them anymore.  The rental market in this area is non-existent.  The local paper generally has a total of 4 or 5 houses for rent, all of them for far more rent than we pay now for far less space. My husband is 53 years old, and his health is failing, we have two small children left at home and we are doing the best we can to make a life for ourselves that is stable so that we can live without the constant fear of having our home sold out from under our feet, but it just seems to be getting harder every day.

We don't qualify for a bank loan or any type of “conventional” financing because we are self-employed and we have no credit cards. We bought a car a couple of years ago on a $10,000 loan from one of the local credit union, but we paid it off in 14 months and apparently this is a bad thing. There are no real “negatives” on our credit reports, but apparently the positives we do have either don't count or are not considered positives by the powers that decide these things.

So we are looking for some “creative financing”. Unfortunately this is unfamiliar territory for my husband. He has spent his whole life in the field of accounting and business management, when he bought his first house he had no trouble getting the bank to give him the loan. He had a steady work history and a handful of credit cards in good standing, he was golden. Six years ago we sold that house at a small profit, right before the housing market collapsed, and we used that money to move closer to my parents and start our own businesses. And while our income has remained steady and reliable for over five years, we cannot “prove” that it will continue so the bank doesn't want to talk to us as we gave up and closed all of our credit cards so we would be debt free. Even though we have lived in the same house for 5 years paying $900 a month in rent, we can't get a home loan with payments that would be 1/3 less.

I bought my first “home” when I was 22 years old and had no real income whatsoever. There certainly was no home loan involved. In the Spring of 1990 my ex-husband and I bought 5 acres of virgin land in the middle of nowhere for $4,000. It was an owner contract with $1,500 down and then $45 a month for the next 5 years, or something like that. We called it “the farm”. We moved out there in April in a 10 x 14 foot wall tent. And we lived in that until we found an old mobile home with the first 10 feet of the wall missing on one side and we drug it out there six months later. We patched the wall, and fixed all the other stuff that was wrong, and we lived out there for three years. No running water, no electricity (except when the generator was running), no phone, no television, and 10 miles to the nearest dinky little town that was only open during the day time, 30+ miles to the nearest 24 hour store. And then, it must have been around 1996, we sold “the farm” for $7,000 cash and put that down on an owner contract house in the city (which unfortunately my ex still owns).

So now we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We can't just buy land and go live on it, we have to have electricity and high-speed internet access to run our businesses, and meeting city building codes is a whole different ball game than what you can get away with in the middle of nowhere.

We are looking for an owner contract home again, but finding one these days seems to be almost impossible since the banks own most of the homes. So we are searching for a private party loan, and trying to raise the money to just purchase a home out-right. We are not trying for that much really, we have found lots of houses that fit our needs for under $65,000. Now that is a lot of money, no question about it, but for buying a house that is pretty darn good in most places in the US that is not in a high crime area.

So if anyone out there has $60,000 that they would like to get an 8% to 10% interest rate on over the next 10 or 15 years, please contact me.  The loan can be secured by the property we purchase with it, and any other details can be negotiated as necessary.  If you don't have the money to loan, please visit one of our websites and buy something. We have lots of really cool, American-made products at great prices, something for everyone if you look around long enough. There are links right up there on the right to our main websites, and you can find the rest of my listings on the info page of Mother is NOT Pleased on Facebook. If only 2,000 people bought just $25 worth of stuff each in the next 30 days we wouldn't even need to borrow anything. Then of course there is always the “donate to Mother” button on the right if you want to support our efforts but don't really want to buy anything. I do NOT like to ask for handouts, but at this point I will take all the help I can get.

I am going to keep working on this until I find a solution. There has to be a way for a decent hard working family to still own a home in this country without selling their souls to the banks. I really believe that if the little people of this country get together we can all work our way out of the mess that the rich and the politicians have made of our country and our economy. The little people are the job creators, the opportunity creators, and if we work together helping each other towards a better future I really think we can break free of their greed and corruption and get our hope back. Also, if we succeed in doing this we will donate some of our energies into helping others do the same.

What we really are looking to do is find a run down old house turn it into the home we need. We have all the tools and the know-how, all we need now is the opportunity. I really hope there is someone out there reading this who is able to loan us the money, it would take a lot of the stress off my husband, but I am not giving up if there isn't. I know we can do this, and we are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen, and I hope that all of you can at least send us positive energies in our search if that is all you are able to do. Wish us luck, we need all of that we can get!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Maybe a Lack of Involvement Explains a Lack of Influence

I still don't know what it is about me that makes me think so differently from the people who raised me, the ones who should have had the biggest influence on my belief system. From the time I was a little kid I always thought there was something kinda wrong with what they were telling me was right. It didn't make any sense to me. There were so many contradictions, so much superficial bullshit, and so many out-right lies, that I could never wrap my head around all of it. And if I dared to ask for qualification or further information on what they were telling me, well hell, there was just something seriously wrong with that.

It seems as if at some point in life each of them said to themselves, “this is how I see the world right at this minute and nothing is ever going to change that view no matter what.” And anyone who's view is somehow different, well, they are either wrong, or just stupid.

I'll give you an example, during my first year of college I took a geology class, I had always had a strong interest in rocks and how the earth worked, and I just loved the class! The teacher was easy on the eyes, and a lot of fun to be around besides being inspiring and an all around great guy, so that helped a lot, but I really like geology. I find the processes and their results fascinating and beautiful and one day I was trying to share my new found understanding of Plate Tectonics with my father. Bad idea! My gawd he went ballistic about how he didn't want to even hear about such nonsense and that was the end of that.

Unfortunately, that was not an isolated incident. And its not just my father. Everyone in my family is that way. Don't bother them with facts or science that contradicts their world views. I didn't even realize at the time that he would have a problem with the whole concept of Plate Tectonics, he was never religious to my knowledge, he didn't go to church or read the bible. I knew he believed in God, but I didn't realize he believed in ignorance.

It was strange how they always told me how smart I was, and then told me that education was not really important for me since I was a girl. In second grade they had my IQ tested, at the request of my teacher. My parents initially fought against it, but eventually relented. When my score came back at 2 points below the genius level (that is what they told me anyway, my later scores were a little higher), they never let me forget it. Not the fact that I was pretty damn smart, but that my score was “2 points below genius”. Then my mother would lament about how I wasted my smarts by not applying myself. WTF is that!?! I mean seriously now, how is anybody supposed to process all those contradictions and not end up messed up in the head?! And that was just the tip of the iceberg, the contradictions were constant, and constantly confusing.

The worst part of it is I have wasted so much of my life trying to defend these people. I have actually gotten up and walked out on psychiatrists in the past who dared to even hint that my psychological issues had anything to do with my parents. They were above reproach in my eyes. I have always said they did the best they could with what the had to work with, and I would still like to hope that is true. They tried to be good parents, I really believe they did. They just were not equipped to handle raising a child like me, and they had no interest in learning. I guess that is the biggest difference between me and the rest of my family, they see learning new things as a bad thing, sometimes a necessary evil, but something that should be avoided at all costs. I see life as an adventure in learning, I look forward to learning everything I can about everything I can learn about. I suppose it should come as no surprise that those two conflicting points of view would result in a few conflicts over the years.

I always thought that because my parents provided me with a safe, stable home, where there was no violence, no physical or sexual abuse, no neglect or substance abuse, that meant that they were good parents and obviously whatever the hell was wrong with me was entirely of my own making. And they were “good parents” as good as anybody else, better than a lot of people. But they never really understood me, and they still don't want to. They have no interest in who I really I am. They have never had any real interest in my children, which really pisses me off. They don't like kids. I don't think they ever have, but I know they don't now because they have told me so repeatedly. My oldest son in an adult, actually he kinda always has been, but he is the only one they have ever had any interest in, and even that interest is severely limited.

I know my dad is behind most of it. He never liked kids when I was one, and I knew that. When he was at home he was sitting in his recliner in front of the television reading a book, pretty much all through my entire childhood. He rarely spoke to me, so when he did it left a huge impression. He was cold and distant, and just uninvolved in most of my life. I always had the impression he was scared of me.

My mother tried to be more involved in my life, but after raising the three boys (my youngest brother is 8 years older than I am) I think she was just burnt out. I was an accident, a failure of birth control. My mother used to love to tell me that the only thing they “planned” about me was that I was a girl. She had been trying for a girl with all of the boys and didn't get one, so they gave up and decided not to have any more kids. Then eight years later a tiny whole in a diaphragm resulted in me. I think she really tried to be a good mom to me, she didn't have the energy or desire to learn how.

So, in a lot of respects I was kind of left on my own to raise myself. I never had a curfew, unless I needed a ride home. They went to bed at 11:00 pm on the weekends, 10:00 pm on weeknights, whether I was at home or not. They never knew most of my friends, or their parents, had no real interest in knowing any of them. They only went to school functions that they felt were mandatory, like parent-teacher conferences, but never came to my sporting events or choir concerts or anything like that. Hell they couldn't even be bothered to drive 150 miles to be at my college graduation!

They seldom knew where I was as a teenager, Hell I moved out of the house for 3 months when I was 15 and they had no idea where I was (but I called my mother every week to let her know I was okay). They had no interest in what I was doing, and they pretty much just ignored anything that I did that didn't meet with their approval. I was in charge of my own education, they seldom helped with homework other than providing me with a dictionary and encyclopedias from the 1950's and an regular trip to the library every other week. Most of the time they were both absentee parents, even though they lived in the same house with me.

So I guess maybe it isn't so surprising that I turned out so differently than all of them. Even though we lived in the same house, we never really lived in the same world. Their level of influence on my belief system parallels their level of involvement in my life.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Learning My Worth

I have always been a multifaceted person with a wide variety of interests. And while I can become obsessively interested in one subject to the exclusion of all else, my attention span usually isn't long enough for that to be too big of a problem. My biggest problem is that there will never be enough hours in my lifetime to learn all that I would like to know. One of my Professors in college once remarked that he had never had another student who took as wide a variety of classes as I did, but that he somehow knew that someday I would put them all together and do something really interesting with them in my life. That's kind of what I am hoping “Mother” and this blog will do, is allow me to bring my vast collection of knowledge and understanding out into the world so that someone can benefit from it

My college transcripts do probably resemble that of a person with a multiple personality disorder, but that's just me. My two main focuses of interest were geology and psychology, but I took every single class they would let me into. From Sociology to Physics, from English to Mathematics, from Environmental Science to Forestry and from Women's Studies to Business, I took classes from pretty much every department on campus, and I did well in all of them because I was having so much damn fun learning. I made friends with nearly all of my instructors, and those who were extremely unfriendly to everyone, ended up at least respecting me by the end of the term.

I think that may have been the biggest high that I got from college now that I really think about it. The respect and commendations I received from my college instructors were probably among the most important gifts I have ever received in my life. Here were real, respectable, intelligent, highly thought of people and they were telling ME that I was smart and worthwhile and even enjoyable! I don't know if I can even begin to express what an impact that had on my psyche. I had never experienced anything remotely like that. The acceptance and encouragement they gave me, both academically and personally, completely altered my world view from one of complete darkness and despair, to one of hope and happiness.

They saved my life as much as they changed it. I don't know if any of them really understand what a difference they made, but I know I would not be where I am today if it had not been for their influences at that time, and I don't even want to contemplate where I would be if it had not been for all of them. And it really was the collective acceptance and encouragement that made the biggest difference I think. I keep trying to decide which individual teacher had the biggest impact, and while some do stand out, and there probably is one in particular who truly did the most for me, it was the across the board acceptance from virtually all of them that really helped alter my view of myself.

I was lucky, I went to a small Community College, I think the biggest class I was ever in had maybe 50 students the first day of class, maybe 42 by the end of the first week. Most of the teachers had two or three classes a day, so they had more time to devote to individual students than teachers elsewhere might have had. And I really think that most of them really wanted to teach, to help other people learn. They certainly weren't in it for the money, most of them made 30 grand a year if they were lucky. Some of them were busier than others, but I never remember a time when I asked a teacher for a moment of their time and had them turn me away or even make me feel as if I was imposing.

It really was life altering. Here I was, this timid little doormat who had always been belittled and put down whenever I tried to express my thoughts to someone, and these “important” people were suddenly treating me like a valuable member of society. I was still the same crazy hippie I had always been, but suddenly it was not only acceptable, it was celebrated! It took a while, but I finally started to see myself though their eyes instead of the eyes of my “loved ones” I understood that there was absolutely nothing wrong with who I was or what I wanted from my life.

I mentioned before I think that I have wanted to be a writer for a very long time. I quit writing for a very long time, and put that dream away as childish fantasy that would forever be beyond my reach. But my entire college “career” was really devoted to that dream, even though I couldn't have acknowledged it at the time, I can see it now. Every class I took strengthened and expanded my knowledge base for a future of writing. I never saw the point of a degree in creative writing, I know they exist, but it always seemed kind of silly to me. My first creative writing teacher in High School taught me to write from what you know. Well, it seems to me that if I want to write I need to know stuff. That was far more important to me than the technicalities of writing, or someone else's opinion of what makes “good” writing. I know it probably would have been helpful if I had learned the correct usage of a comma, as I do know that I use them incorrectly, but I like commas and I will continue to use them when I thin I want to, even if it does not always fit with convention.

So today, with the help of the internet, a small but growing (hopefully) reader base (that is you!), and a wonderfully supportive husband who indulges me in every possible way, I hope I am beginning to find a way to live up to the expectations of that professor so many years ago. I hope I can find my voice and my audience and that someday I can actually make a living with my words. But whether I do or I don't ever make a dime, it is so nice to finally feel worthy of being heard.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy "Anniversary" to ME!

Today is February 14th. This is a very special day to me. No, not because of Valentines Day, that's just another holiday, no big deal in the grand scheme of things. No, today is special because today marks the 11 year anniversary of the finalization of my divorce! Probably the single happiest day of my entire life occurred 11 years ago today. Some people might think the birth days of their children were the happiest days of their lives, and they were extremely happy days for me as well, but nothing will ever top the day of MY birth.

No, I wasn't actually born on Valentines day, but MY life started that day. When the judge signed off on those final papers he gave me far more than a divorce from a worthless, soul-sucking parasite, he gave me the right to control my own destiny for the first time in my life. That's how I saw it anyway. Before the divorce my life was a disaster, I had always allowed other people's thoughts and opinions limit me in every conceivable way. Even when I knew they were wrong I would set myself up for failure just to prove them right. I lived in a constant state of chronic, severe, self-imposed depression for 2 decades, and it ended that day.

When I was married to my ex-husband (and even for years before that) I had one constant recurring dream (i.e. nightmare) that I would have all the time, sometimes as much as 2 or 3 times a week, it was a dream where I was driving a car, I was the only one driving, but I was always sitting in the passenger seat! I haven't had that dream once in the last eleven years! It was as if by signing those papers that judge gave me my drivers license for my own life. He gave me permission to move into the drivers seat for what was really the very first time in my life, and I will never go back to being in the passengers seat ever again.

Its funny, my Father yelled at me one time, a couple of years ago, telling me that I needed to quit repeating what my husband says and learn to think for myself, or some such nonsense. I literally laughed out loud. First of all the LAST thing my father wants me to ever do is “think for myself”, he wants me to just agree with every thing HE says. Second, I married this husband BECAUSE he not only “lets me think for myself”, but actually encourages me to do so! If I say the same thing he would say it is because I agree with him, not because he thinks it. I would have to say I have probably changed my husband's views on the world far more than he has changed mine, but my parents don't want to hear any of that. They only want to hear their shallow little narrow world views parroted back to them, and I just can't do it anymore.

When that judge signed those beautiful papers so many years ago I took control of my life and finally began living my life MY way. And since that day I have done just that. No matter who tells me what I “can” or “cannot” do, I just keep living the way I want. So far it has worked out fairly well over all. I have lost a lot of people from my life, some of whom I miss dearly, but I have found myself and I am not willing to surrender myself to anyone ever again.

The man I am married to now is an opinionated asshole who will never fail to let you know if you have done or said something stupid, and being married to him definitely puts some “limitations” on my “control” over my own life, but he is the sweetest, most devoted husband I could ever imagine and he loves me for who I really am and not just who he wants me to be. He allows me the freedom to be myself, even when he doesn't like it. He supports me in whatever I choose to do, and while he may express his frustration with anything that takes time away from whatever it is he wants me to do, he will go out of his way to make sure I have everything I want, need or desire to do whatever it is that I want to do. He has his flaws and his failings, just like me, just like everyone else. But he values me. I think that is the biggest gift he gives me. When that judge signed those papers so many years ago I made a promise to myself that from that day forward I would always remember to value myself, I would not place myself beneath another person ever again. I came first. Not my kids, not my family, not a husband, ME. That might sound selfish at first glance, but its really not. I learned the hard way that if I put everyone else first I was run ragged and miserable, and I made everyone around me miserable. When I put myself first I was much happier and much more able to give my kids what they needed, even if they didn't always like the idea that I could have my own life. So when I actually met a man who values me as much as I do, well that is something worth hanging on to, whatever the baggage that comes with it.

My life has changed 180 degrees in the last 11 years. The difference between who I am today and who I was then might not seem like much to the outside observer, and some people might even think that my life today is worse than it was back then, but for me the difference is everything. The difference is happiness. I found my bliss, and it was inside of me. I had hidden it away for so long in the attempt to please everyone else, that I had almost forgotten it existed. When I took control of my life I found myself, and the depression that had plagued me for so long was left behind with the marriage from Hell. The days of pain may have only just begun on that day, but the ability to feel joy again more than compensated. I can honestly say from experience that no matter what the costs, loving yourself for who you are is the greatest gift you can ever give yourself. And if you can find someone else who can love you for you, hold on for dear life cause they are truly few and far between.

Identifying the Source to Enable Ownership of the Outcome

I think part of the reason I have such a deep seated anger towards my relatives, my parents, my brothers, and even to a lesser degree my aunts and uncles, is that not one of them has ever really supported me in anything that was important to me. They might give superficial acknowledgment if I did something they approved of, but that was the best I could hope for. Even then, there would always be little barbs thrown in to ensure that I understood I was never going to measure up to whatever the Hell it was they expected of me.

Its just rather infuriating that they tell you all your life that you can never expect much out of life because you are a girl and you should just learn to sit quietly, find a man with lots of money to marry, and then take what ever the hell kind of treatment he wants to give you in order to make sure he never leaves you. And then they treat you like there is something wrong with YOU when you aren't interested in doing that. I mean for goodness sakes this is the 21st century, and they are all mad at me for not conforming to their dark ages mentality. I do feel very fortunate that I did not grow up in a culture where “honor killings” are tolerated or I fear I would not have made it this far. I am exaggerating for effect, but sometimes I really do feel that way.

Most people find it hard to believe but I was twenty years old before I learned that people can disagree on things, and even argue about them and still Love each other. I had no experience with such a concept before. I have never seen my parents disagree about anything, EVER. If mom didn't agree with dad she never ever said a word about it. And disagreements between my dad and my brothers usually ended either with someone leaving home, or at the very least, me cowering in a corner trying to process a conflict which I had no frame of reference for.

I suppose this is why I have such an aversion to conflict to this day. It just isn't normal to my experience. I realize now that this was not a healthy way to grow up, but the lack of conflict is something a lot of people might think of as a great thing. I know people who grew up in homes filled with conflict, and they have their own scars and horror stories to tell. I guess that is the point, as usual, we all have our own family dysfunctions and we all have to learn to cope with them the best we can. I certainly wouldn't trade my passive-aggressively controlling family for one that physically expressed its disapproval, I don't think I would have done well with that at all. I know how lucky I am that my family dysfunctions were not worse, but that does not make them okay.

To this day, every time I have a disagreement with my husband my first instantaneous thought is always that the marriage is over, and I am going to have to find a new life. My rational mind knows this is ridiculous, we will eventually stop arguing and our life will go on pretty much as it did before. But my emotional mind tells me that any conflict equals failure. If there is a conflict in the marriage, no matter how small, that means I have failed. My husband had a different childhood, where conflict ran rampant, he cannot comprehend why I react the way I do. Being the wonderful husband that he is he does his very best not to argue with me unless absolutely necessary, and even then, he will always apologize to me afterward, even when he was totally right! That is something else my family has never done, apologize for hurting each other. In my entire life I have received one apology from my father, and that is one more than my mother ever got from him. And I didn't even actually get it from him, he made her call and apologize for him!

I don't blame my parents for the issues I have today. I am not trying to make them out to be bad or evil people, because the really aren't. They may be misguided, but they never meant any harm, to me or anyone else. But even the best of parents can fuck-up their kids. No matter how hard we try, or how much effort we put forth, people are only human, and we will always fuck shit up. There is no way around it. Acknowledging how your parents failings affected your life is not an attempt to blame them for your failings, but an avenue to explore in the adventure of building your own future. When I can acknowledge and understand where my issues stem from, it makes learning to deal with them positively a little more possible. By denying their role in messing up my head, I was denying myself the ability to repair the damage. I realized that by holding them accountable for their influences in my childhood it allowed me to take responsibility for my reactions to those influences. And by taking responsibility I enabled myself to take action, to change the things that need changing and to better adapt to those things which cannot be changed.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Love and Art

As I was writing the piece about my obsessive-compulsive behaviors I got to thinking about something else, something I often do. I was thinking about the fact that my Mother always thought it was very important for children to have hobbies. She told me over and over again the she thought that hobbies were the key to keeping kids off drugs and out of trouble. But then, at the same time, she has always referred to my hobbies, my art, as “time wasters”. Talk about confusing. I mean seriously, WTF is that shit? There was somehow something redeeming about her little crocheted doilies, but there was nothing positive to be said about anything I created, unless I could find a way to make money from it. Not that she ever made any money from her doilies, but that was different somehow.

Most of the people who were supposed to love me and support me in my life have all considered my art “bad” or otherwise “unacceptable” or “inferior” in some way or another. Now I can see how some times my obsessiveness with my art does take away from other people and what they think I should be doing for them, but my art is not “bad', or a “waste of time” or “unacceptable”, its ART! And whether I ever make a fortune from it or not does not matter, whether anyone else “approves” of it or not does not matter, it is mine, it is who I am, it is what is important to me. You don't have to like it, that's fine, but if you actually Love me, then you should at the very least pretend to support it.

I think that is probably what I love the most about my husband, while he does occasionally bitch and moan (and rightfully so) about the level of obsessiveness I reach with my art, he supports my efforts 100%. He may not always show the level of enthusiasm that I might hope for, but he is always willing to help in any way that I ask. I have known a few people in my life who actually did support me in the things that were important to me, but very few of them ever supported me like he does. He has spent thousands of dollars and probably thousands of hours of his time in support of my art, not because he really enjoys it, but because I do. To me that is the greatest act of Love, and it really should be standard behavior for those we love.

My relatives only supported my interests when they mirrored or somehow advanced their interests, that is not love. If someone says they love you and then proceeds to tell you that what is important to you is a waste of time or is somehow far less important than everything they have ever thought of doing, that is not love. If someone takes what they know you feel strongly about and tells you that it is “bad”, or somehow “evil” and "wrong" because it conflicts with their precious view of the world, that is not love. We shouldn't belittle and bully the people we love into being what we want them to be, we should nurture and support them in the process of becoming themselves, that is Love. My husband, driving 6 hours, each way, on bad roads through the desert, paying $100 a night on a nice hotel room, just to let me walk around in 90 degree plus weather to look at quilts for a couple of hours at an outdoor quilt show that I just happened to hear about, that is Love.

Art really is about love and acceptance if you stop to think about it. Its an expression of an individual's views on the world, in one way or another. I understand that my art has often brought discomfort to some people, I have often focused on optical illusions and rather abstract images that allow for others to use their minds to see what they want to see. And when what they see is disturbing they decide that there must be something wrong with me. It took me a long time to figure out that the problem wasn't me, or my art, it was in them, and there was nothing I could do about it. In their narrow little world views they could not see the value, they could not see the beauty in what I created. They preferred to deny themselves joy and beauty than to see beyond themselves and what they believed was acceptable. That is sad, for them. It does not have to have any effect on me whatsoever though, unless I let it, and I choose not to let it effect me anymore.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Battle with Obessesive-Compulsive Behavior

For years now I have experienced what I refer to as obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I would never use the term OCD, because I know there are people out there with serious issues, and so far my issues have never been serious. I do get involved in things to the point of obsession though, all the time. I have learned though, to focus my obsessiveness into things that are either productive, or at least, not too destructive. At least most of the time.

In my early twenties I began seeing signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior in my everyday actions. I have always been pretty self aware, I have studied psychology both in and out of school for decades, and usually I am the first to recognize when my thought processes are headed in the wrong direction. Now whether I took steps to fix those thought processes or not when I saw them is a whole different story, but in this case I did try. And I still do. That's the thing, living with any “mental illness” is about being vigilant in some respects, and learning the difference between vigilance and obsessiveness is pretty important.

I am an obsessive-compulsive shopper, but only when I have money to spend. Through the years I have come to understand that credit cards are not good for me, so I do not have any. I set a very strict budget when I go shopping now, which is pretty easy when you don't ever have very much money. I am also an obsessive-compulsive artist, and most of the time my compulsive shopping relates to my obsession with a new art medium. In some cases I have made this work to my advantage, in other cases it could be seen as a disadvantage.

Over most of my adult life I have had an obsession with buying fabrics, especially after I started quilting, but even before that. It wasn't really a problem until after I met my wonderful husband, because I never had enough money to accumulate a large enough stash for it to become a problem. But since my life has change so drastically after meeting him, my little obsession can get out of hand. I actually had to start quilting because I couldn't think of enough other things to do with all of the fabrics that I could not stop myself from buying.

Now , I am currently in the process of selling off my fabric stash, for the second time. My interests have changed, and while I still Love every piece of fabric that I bought, I only want to use my own fabrics in my art, ones that I dye and embellish myself (Hell if I had the time and the room I would probably want to weave it myself too!), I would rather have the money back than store the material that takes up so much damn space. But that's the thing, with the fabric, for the most part, I can pretty much make my money back. I never pay full price for fabric (or much of anything else for that matter). I always buy on clearance, or really good sales, and last year, the price of fabric went up. So I can take the fabric I paid $2 a yard for 2 or 3 years ago and sell it for $5 a yard today and everyone is happy. Of course between fees and expenses the profit margin is actually much smaller than that, but at the very least I have usually broken even, and it has been a better investment plan than a lot of those who had their money in Wall Street, so it works for me. There is no way in Hell I would have been able to just “save” that money all this time, unfortunately I am just not capable of “saving” money. So I buy things that I can re-sell later, and hopefully make back some of that money so I can spend it again. I have learned to use my obsessive-compulsive shopping habits for me, instead of letting them control me.

I actually go through spurts of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. They usually last for a week or two, and then I get distracted by the next one. I try to make sure that I focus some of them on things that Need to be done. Like Spring cleaning, or doing work for one of the businesses. I will never do those things as often as I “should”, so when I do them, I do them obsessively, until I either finish them, or I just have to do something else. I am very fortunate that my husband loves me enough to understand and accept how my “dysfunctional” brain works, even if he doesn't always like it. And I am trying to learn to not neglect the rest of my life when I start obsessing on something. There is more to life than the singular focus of my attention at any given moment, and some of it should not be ignored for extended periods of time. I still have a long way to go, but I think I am finally heading in the right direction in learning to make my “dysfunctions” function for me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Finding My Voice

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about all the things that I have done and not done in my life, and all the things I still want to do in what is left of my life. I guess you could call it a “mid-life reflection”. There is no crisis, for once. For the first time in my life I actually feel at peace with myself, and the life I chose for myself. And I have a renewed determination to move forward with the things that are important to me.

This blog is important to me. For the first time in my life I feel free to share my story, the whole story, not some censored, sugar-coated, try-not-to-offend-anyone story, but MY REAL story. Well, I still censor myself a little bit, just not in the same way. I still have censor myself for the obvious legal reasons, but I don't feel the need to worry about offending my relatives anymore. Some of you might be surprised that I have felt the need to censor myself so strongly for the sake of my “family” that it has rendered me virtually mute. After all, family are supposed to be the people you are safe to be yourself with, the people who will love you, and accept you no matter what happens. Not my family.

I learned very early that pretty much everything I thought, felt, or believed was just plain wrong in their eyes. And I was told quite clearly that if I did not agree with the family status quo I should learn to keep my mouth shut, or suffer the consequences. They wouldn't debate the issue with me or even explain why they believed the way they did, nope. They would be happy to insult and belittle me, but never actually talk with me.

I never even really understood until recently just how much they have silenced me. I have wanted to write a blog for years. I have even started once or twice. But I found it so difficult to express myself while trying to censor everything to protect the sensitivities of the people most closely related to me. There is so much about who I am and what I have done in my life that they just don't want to know about. When I leave all that stuff out, there isn't much left of me to talk about.

I started writing when I was around 11 or 12. I still have a couple of boxes of stuff I wrote as a young girl making her way to becoming a woman. Most of it is pretty bad. But hey I was 12, what do you expect? And if you have ever read books marketed at 12 year old girls, well, my stuff probably wasn't that bad after all. I wanted to grow up to be a professional writer. It was really the only thing I ever wanted to do besides be a Mother and a homemaker. I wrote for hours everyday, from the time I was 11 until I was 19, and at least a few hours a week from 19-23. But I learned that what you write down, even if you never meant for anyone else to ever read it, can and will be used against you in the future. And where I thought my family had cornered the market on silencing me, my ex-husband found a whole new avenue of exploitation. It took getting to a time and place in my life where I just don't give a fuck anymore before I could start writing again. And I have finally reached that point!

So the shackles are off, and I am coming out of the corner where I spent my life hiding who I am. I am throwing it all out there, a little at a time, in hopes of finally finding my voice, in hopes in inspiring others to find their voices, or at least a little peace with themselves. I have stayed silent too long, protecting the guilty and allowing them to continue to silence me is no longer an option. I finally learned that I am not alone, there are people out there who do understand, and even occasionally agree with, my crazy way of looking at the world. I am not a bad person, or any less of a person, just because I don't agree with someone else and their view of the world. It just means I have a different point of view. If you don't like my point of view, that's fine, but don't tell me I am not allowed to have it, or that I am “wrong” to believe what I believe. Especially if you have nothing to show that your belief is “right” other than because you say it is right.

I hope other people benefit a little bit from this blog as well. In telling my stories I hope to shine a light for others to find their way out of the corners they have hidden in. To show them that it is okay to be flawed. It is okay to be different. It is okay to be whoever you are, to believe whatever you believe, and as long as you take responsibility for your life you can make it be whatever you want it to be. 

I own my flaws and failings. I know that I fight against “mental illness” everyday, but I think everyone does really. Our society today is so fucked up how could anyone possibly not be a little messed up in the head? To expect people to fit into tight little molds of what is acceptable to be, is to condemn them to forever falling short, how is anyone supposed to process that? So my brain doesn't work like everyone elses brain, oh well, nobody's does. Everybody is different. And everybody is going to have differences from everyone else. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Our differences are what make life interesting and more fun! The problem lies in those who think that being different is bad. Don't let their problem run your life! You can choose to accept that there is nothing wrong with being different, and make your differences work for you. You don't have to accept their version of what is acceptable. Make your own version, and own it. When you really take ownership of your own world view, you can choose to make it work for you instead of allowing others to use it against you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Do over?

I often wonder, if life had a "do over" button, would I use it?  I am the first one to admit I have done a LOT of stupid shit through the years.  I made bad choices, fucked shit up, and have generally wasted most of my life.  But if I had the chance to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, would I really change it?  I have given this a lot more thought than it probably warrants, since it is impossible to ever go back and change anything anyway, but I find the entire thought process involved very intriguing.  So would I change anything if I had the chance?  Probably not.

So, Why the Hell not? you ask.  If you could do over your life and eliminate all the mistakes and pain from your life, why would you choose not to do so?  Because who I am as a person is largely a result of all of those mistakes and all that pain.  The biggest "mistakes" of my life I knew were going to be "mistakes" before I ever made them, so I doubt I would do it any differently anyway.  Probably the biggest mistake of my life was marrying my ex-husband.  I knew the moment I met him that he would destroy my life if I ever became involved with him.  Considering I was at the height of my self-destructive phase, I decided to go all in, and I married him.  He did his level best to live up to his end of the bargain.  And in the end he cost me more than I ever could have imagined.  But I learned more about myself and my capabilities than I ever would have learned any other way.  So, no, I would not change much.

I have done a lot of things in my past that I am not particularly proud of, but I learned something from most of them.  I have tried never to make the same mistake twice, not sure I have always succeeded, but I have tried.  But the end result of all of those mistakes is the crazy hippie lady I like to see myself as today, and I kinda like her.  If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn't really want to be anyone else.  Every moment of pain and suffering I endured, every dumb ass choice I made, got me to who I am today.  My Grandma told me 20 some years ago that I had already lived more in my then 22 years, than most people did in a life time.  Her words stuck with me because I knew they were even more true than she realized. 

If you follow along long enough to learn my back story, you will eventually learn that is anything but typical.  While I have never really been the "adventurous" type, I have lived a rather interesting life.  And my mistakes were usually what made it the most interesting.  And while there are a few specific things I might wish I had never done, I believe that even "undoing" those things might have ripple effects that could lead me to being someone other than who I am now, and that is not a chance I would want to take. 

So we live, and we learn.  We grow, we change, we fuck up, that's life.  I wouldn't really want a "do over" for my life.  I have had a lot of pain, but I have had an awful lot of joy, and happiness, and just plain fun.  I like the person my life has led me to become, I think I am an interesting person and I as I said, I really do enjoy my own company.  If I had lived a different life I am not so sure I would have ever found the happiness I have now, so I will keep my mistakes.  I own them.  They made me who I am today, and while I can't quite say I am happy about all the mistakes I have made, I am fairly satisfied with the cumulative results.