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My Best Friend, Anxiety, and Cuthulu

My best friend Jennie is half crazy.  I only say half crazy because no one can figure out what the other half is yet.  If I were forced to put my finger on it I’d have to say paranoid, but last week the National Association for the Advancement of Paranoid Schizophrenics sent me a cease and desist letter.  Evidently Jennie is too extreme for them.  They threatened a defamation lawsuit if I kept referring to her as paranoid.  But only after the Invasion was over.  And only if we weren’t all replaced by doppelgangers hatched from green seedpods.

Which some thought maybe Jennie was.

No one was able to reach a consensus, though.   One group put out the opinion that Jennie was being manipulated by broadcasts from alien satellites.  Another claimed the satellites belonged to the CIA.

The rest felt like groups one and two were the aliens.

ALIEN INVASION 1

Apparently the organization still believed she was giving them a bad name.  They couldn’t make up their minds because no one could pinpoint exactly whose mind needed to be made up when someone was already doing it for them.

Groups one and two thought maybe it was group three.

Group three said it was the CIA.

The rest said that they were the CIA.

Whatever the case, I knew exactly who it was because one of the organization’s members tried to cover their tracks by employing a clever bit of misdirection.  The letter came attached with a bomb, but it was postmarked as the Ted Kasczynski Institute for Better Living.  I was suspicious when I noticed that the package was shipped wearing a tinfoil hat.

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I think that these people might be onto something, though.  Really, I do.  Jennie has good reason to be a bit off kilter.  She graduated from med school almost 15 years ago and works for the DOD as a medical provider.  I live with her now because she is going through a bit of a rough patch.

And by a rough patch I mean when she comes home she has to be kept from going outside because there’s a busy intersection in front of her subdivision and she likes to stand at the corner prophesying the coming of Cuthulu.

Problem is, when she gets that way she thinks my van is Cuthulu.

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That’s why I park it around back.  I’m afraid I’ll come home one day to find out she’s raised an unholy demi-god into my Dodge Caravan from the Outer Realms.  It’s going to totally suck to see a wholesome family vehicle rampaging across the mortal realm demolishing cities with wave after wave of legions of undead Ford Edsels running over small puppies and old ladies, or something like that.

Jennie regularly tells me that if I make her mad, she’s going to slit my throat with a scalpel.  Maybe she’s not paranoid, but rather a tad bit homicidal.

All joking aside, Jennie was abused physically and emotionally by her mother.  She fled home following high school, where she worked her way into med school.  Several years into her marriage, her husband realized that the one thing he was missing in his life was a punching bag.

Eventually he realized that’s what Jennie was there for.

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Matters went from worse to Jerry Springer when he had an affair with Jennie’s own mother.  Two years later my best friend’s older brother killed himself after falling into a severe bi-polar spiral exacerbated by a fatal addiction to the designer drug marketed as “bath salts.”

THEN… while she was going through this excursion into hell, she was assaulted by a man who was supposed to be a good friend.

You really would be hard pressed to make a story like this up.  I heard even Jerry Springer turned her story down because he couldn’t believe it.

Or maybe that’s what the CIA mind controllers wanted him to think….

I honestly cannot imagine what it must be like to wake up every night in to feel wave after wave of an unnamable dread sweeping over me. That’s just one of the leftovers from her past that Jennie has to deal with now.  I’ve sat beside her couch and held her hand as she attempted to soothe herself by rocking back and forth, as if each metronome-like sway could somehow move traumatic past events away one millimeter at a time.

Anxiety levels

More, I’ve stood beside my best friend and watched—literally watched—her fall asleep standing up because five days of catching sleep in brief snatches does very rude things to the body.  A week ago Jennie fell asleep at the dinner table with her hands in ranch dipping sauce.

My ranch dipping sauce.

If it had been my girlfriend, I’d have done something slightly naughty to get the sauce off of her fingers, but Jennie’s not my girlfriend.  Plus, she really does know how to use a scalpel.

I hate seeing what fear and incessant anxiety attacks do to my friend.  Currently she resists seeing a therapist.  I think that is one of the worst decisions she can make, and all I can do is watch.  No amount of talking is doing any good at the moment.  For now it’s extremely painful to watch moments of irrational panic take an amazing, vibrant, and professional woman to her knees.  If you suffer from anxiety attacks, there is help.  The first step is to know the nature of the beast that you are facing.  Please realize that you are not alone.  Get help.  There are people out there waiting with techniques that can alleviate the symptoms you are facing.  YOU have to do something about it, though.  YOU.  Please don’t wait.  That’s what Jennie does, and it scares me a lot. I suspect that when she falls off of her wall, it’s going to take a lot of the king’s horses and men to put her back together.  Age, experience, and wisdom tell me that I, alone, am not enough.

Please get help!

 

Ass Kicking: Carrie Style

     My girlfriend and I nearly broke up.  I think you can tell by my past entries that I am incredibly in love with her.  Why this nearly happened is still a mystery to me.  Girls can be so confusing sometimes.  My past may have been a bit checkered, but I swear to you that I was making good progress: My meth lab was bringing in plenty of money; I stayed away from all public schools as a condition of my probation; and police never found any of my prints on the car I left burning by the bridge on Carolina Beach Road following that little “job” I did for the Gambinos last week.

     You’d think a girl would give a guy a break.  After all, men truly are works in progress.

     Seriously, what she really said was that my mood swings were getting to be too much.  Being the stand-up guy that I am, I realized that I needed to do something different, so I tried a mood merry-go-round instead.  Carrie temporarily pulled the plug on things before I had a chance to get to the Ferris wheel.  I hear from my bi-polar friends that the highs and lows are a real bitch, so maybe it’s a good thing I never got that far.

     I think Carrie would have pulled her hair out if I had.  And I like Carrie with hair.  She’s really, really cute.

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    I have to say nothing forces you to confront your worst emotional issues like having your ass thrown out of the house.  That’s what Carrie did to me.  I would have been fine, too, if that was the only thing she threw out, but my girl’s pretty thorough when she sets her mind to something, so the rest of me went with it.

     Except the cat. 

     She stayed and I had to forage in dumpsters until an animal control officer caught me and nearly had me neutered.  I was pretty comfortable at the animal shelter until a yipping Chihuahua got into my business and I realized I was going to have to do some pretty bizarre things to survive in a place like that.  I’m not about to sniff another animal’s touch-me-nots.

     That’s what’s called a paraphilia, and I don’t have one of those.  Depression, maybe.  Mood spectrum disorder, possibly.  But animal fetish?

     Hell no.

     Plus there was an unusually large dog that kept giving me the come-hither eye, and I don’t ever want to be a St. Bernard’s bitch.

     Where I actually ended up temporarily was a homeless shelter.  Carrie told me the time apart would give me plenty of time to reflect on my attitude.  And really, I did. 

     I discovered I had an attitude against being homeless.

     In about 0.8 seconds I figured out that the homeless life isn’t for me.  The shelters don’t come equipped with amenities I’m accustomed to.  For one their moscato d’Asti tasted an awful lot like punch and the sleeping accommodations included a bunkmate and wino named Zeek.  He snored.  And smelled.  At home my sleeping accommodation was Carrie.  I was able to put my arm around her.  Zeek looked like he was too bristly to spoon with, and Carrie never smelled.

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     Things got to the point where I decided I had to leave the homeless shelter and go find a large box somewhere to sleep in.  That little decision nearly landed me in jail.  I’m pretty tall and need a box with lots of legroom.  I finally found one and some guy started carting the thing off.  We had words.

     How was I supposed to know he was delivering a refrigerator?

     I am happy to report that I’m no longer homeless.  What I am is something in between.  Carrie had a good reason to experience a meltdown.  Unfortunately that was what it took to get me to wake up.  Part of the problem with depression and mood spectrum disorders is that when you’re in the middle of one you don’t notice it.  It’s like driving a car in an earthquake.  You just think the road’s a bit rough—only earthquakes are caused by tectonic faults slipping and quakes in relationships result from behavior.  And when you’re the one causing the ground to move, people tend to react negatively.

     I’ve done a lot of work to extinguish the behaviors that nearly caused a disastrous rift to form between Carrie and me, but a lot more remains to be done.  I am trying to heal old wounds within my family and to atone for my poor showing with Carrie’s.  When two people love one another and are committed to making a relationship work, anything is possible.  But work is the operative word.  And that’s what I’m doing—working my way one step at a time, moment-by-moment, back home to those I love.  Carrie has the light on for me, and I know that one cold night I will finally see it, gleaming in the darkness like a beacon of love welcoming me back.

     Sweetie, I’m on my way.

     Thank you so much, Carrie.

     I love you.

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Dean Koontz, Marry Poppins, and My Strange Fear

My life is strange.  Not strange like in a Dean Koontz book where a man and a woman team up to fight some bizarre techno-creature that’s about to hit civilization like a Japanese monster.  Usually when that happens in his books it’s because post-modernist progressives have run amok in government or are engaged in some well-financed secret scheme to bring their darkest utopian designs to fruition.

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No.  My life’s not strange like that.

Not at all.

Though I wish it was.

His heroic characters are usually exemplars of human decency.  There are times in my life when I haven’t been.  They constantly choose to do the right thing in a modern world in perpetual moral disarray—one seducing us to do what is easy over what is right or good, to flee from responsibility for instant gratification.

I went for the gratification.

In Koontz’s books the characters have endearingly memorable quirks and engage in a constant back and forth barrage of witty banter.  Best of all, more often than not, there are golden retrievers in his books.

I don’t have a golden retriever.  The closet thing I have is a cat, and much as I hate to say it, when some creature slithers out of the darkness into the house to eat me, my cat’s going to show it where the silverware is kept.

That’s why I’m thinking about switching to plastic forks and knives, or maybe even economizing and just doing sporks. The other day when a neighbor unexpectedly rang the doorbell at midnight because he needed a set of jumper cables, the cat shot off into  bedroom closet faster than Adam Lambert came out of the closet.

By the way, thanks a lot Patches, you’re a real stand up pet you stupid fur ball.

Thankfully there are no manmade monstrosities stalking me either.  If there were, I might beat my cat into the bedroom closet and call the SWAT team, or in the least, Terminix to take care of the threat.

Or maybe not.

I used to sell pest control and it can be pretty damn expensive.  Especially if the guy from Terminix tries to get me to buy protection against things I don’t really need, like termites.

I’ll get an aardvark for that.

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I really do whish I could be more like one of Koontz’s characters.  Like Odd Thomas.  He’s an awesome guy.  Think Peter Parker played by Toby McGuire, but even snarkier.  By the way, if you haven’t read the series about him, stop what you’re doing, even if it’s driving.  You shouldn’t be reading this behind the wheel, anyway.  Go as quickly as you can to Barnes and Noble or Amazon and buy the books.

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Oddie is not your typical hero.  He’s an out of work fry cook who finds himself in the wrong place at the right time to do some really good deeds.  He’s average.  An Everyman responding to extraordinary events with ordinary decency, which means that all too often, he is an out of the ordinary guy.

And that’s a sad commentary on the world we live in.

The one thing my life does have in common with a Dean Koontz novel is the romantic and amazingly wonderful way it unfolded this year.  After torpedoing my first marriage and causing an immense amount of pain to a number of people, I never believed I could have been fortunate enough to meet my future wife, Carrie.  Nor did I believe that I would know . . . just know after only 48 hours that I was destined to marry her.

Yet here I am.  Totally in love and living with someone who I am dead certain I am not good enough for.  It’s a miracle that she loves me.  But here’s the problem.  You’d think I would be extremely happy that I have blundered into finding a girl like that in my life.  I actually am.  Honest to God.  But how many people find someone who has a smile that can shine bright enough to cause retinal injury, is incredibly patient, gentle, smart, and always warmly encouraging.

Considering my life, that amounts to a freaking miracle.

I’ve never met anyone like her before.  And that’s when I began to realize either God made a mistake, or Carrie is some on some kind of special mission.  I’d say she’s like a real life Marry Poppins, but I don’t think Marry Poppins would ever have had sex with me and Carrie is willing to do things I’m not totally sure I’m comfortable discussing in public.

Thing is, when you realize that you have a truly genuine girl in your life, the kind of person the universe only spins out rarely, It dawns on you that you don’t deserve what you’ve got.  Then you start expecting that once things are going really well, the umbrella pops out.

I’m honestly afraid Carrie’s going to float away one day.  The secret, I guess, is not to be too good.  Mary Poppins always stayed around until everyone became better than they were before she arrived.  Maybe I’ll take up a vice, like running a drug ring or lighting paper bags filled with dog doo-doo on preachers’ front porches . . . or something like that.

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And look at what happened to all the truly amazing people that have walked this earth.  Socrates?  He became the first person to join the Hemlock Society.  Gandhi?  He got shot before he ever had a chance to put on any weight.  And Dean Koontz’s own Odd Thomas lost his girlfriend to a shooting spree by a very bad bunch of people.

Maybe I’m weird, but I was reflecting the other day how strange it was to find the girl of my dreams and suddenly start going into conniptions over it.  I do hope to the core of my being that God grants undeserved graces without cruelly pulling them away just as you start trying to live up to them.  Until I know for sure, I’m going to try to be a much better person than I was before I met Carrie, but I think I’ll go throw her umbrellas away, just in case.

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Depression, Succubi, Adultery, and the Damn Travel Channel

Depression is a lot like an all day sleep-and-bingeathon, only there aren’t any cool accolades if you eat more than a human reasonably ought to.  I watch TV sometimes. There’s a show called Man Versus Food on Travel Channel where the show’s host, Adam Richman, goes around the US in search of restaurants with customer challenges that would send any sane man crying home to his mama.  I’m serious.  Try doing something like eating a ten-pound burger in less then five minutes.  The rare select few whose intestines don’t explode get some kind of reward, like a T-shirt and their name on a plaque.

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I don’t know why they do that.  I’ve seen the fat that drips off of cooking hamburger meat, and if you’re crazy enough to eat a ten-pound burger then the plaque comes post-attached to your arteries.  Following that, if your intestines have the fortitude to withstand the culinary punishment, it’s your heart that explodes instead.

I’ve always thought they should forego the T-shirts in lieu of toe-tags for this very reason.  Whichever part of your body bursts first, the tags make for easy identification.

How unfair is all of this?  After all, when I get depressed, I eat a lot.  Adam Richman eats more than I do and he doesn’t look a bit depressed.  In fact, he looks positively bubbling with gaiety.  Maybe it’s because he sleeps a lot, instead.   That’s the damned thing about depression.  When you sleep all day, you tend to wake up hungry.  Then, once you’ve eaten until the capillaries in your eyes all pop, you get sleepy again because of the carb crash and have to call someone to come over and help you back to your bed because you’ve eaten yourself blind.

My grandmother used to tell me if I masturbated I’d go blind, but that wasn’t true, though I did walk in on my roommate doing that once in college and seriously contemplated putting my eyes out.  I guess grandma had it half right.

I went to the Golden Corral steak buffet and tried to eat the image out of my head.  It didn’t work.  I just gained three pounds.  And when I found that out, I went for some serious comfort food then.

Oh.

And I started knocking on the door before I went into my dorm room.

Because of depression I ruined a wonderful job once.  For one brief golden year I taught English at a college.  The job was a dream-come-true.  Then Rebecca, the girl of my dreams, dumped me for a man who makes a quarter of a million dollars.  I was already in a bad place because I had left my wife for Becky and my conscience kept telling me I had to mask the pain by eating at establishments with names like Fat Daddy’s or Gut Busters.  Otherwise I knew I was going to have to face what I did.  Facing up to your own treachery and betrayal never, ever tastes good.

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To make matters worse, Becky was suicidal.  That’s enough to drive anyone into a depressed state.  Especially when you’re taking phone calls four and five times a night to talk someone off of a potential ledge.

Not only that but she suffered from a mood disorder that drove me to the edge of my own personal cliff.  I’m sure she suffered from several other disorders, actually.  Unfortunately being a life-sucking, gold-digging succubus hasn’t been entered into the DSM-V yet.  There’s no medicine for that.  Instead of pills I found out the hard way that they were handing out well-paid computer engineers instead.  When that happened I hoped Becky would get an STD.

She got a BMW instead.

The worst thing about all of this is that Adam Richman never seems to gain a freaking ounce.  It would be different if he were as round as a basketball and half the size of Jupiter.

Luckily I’m six foot four.  I don’t look like Jupiter, but most of the weight is in my stomach.  I look like Saturn instead.  After all, that’s pretty fitting because Saturn was considered the Roman god of generation and noting generates like binge eating and sleeping all the time.

Unless you’re Adam Richman.  But I bet with all the money he’s not too depressed about anything unless he get salmonella after eating a ten mile sausage dog.

Seriously, depression not only takes the life out of you, but it takes you out of life.  That’s the real mischief of depression.  Instead of doing my job I went home and curled up into a fetal position until the next day.  Working with my students was what got me through each day.  But in the end I sabotaged that.  The main thing I want anyone reading this to take away is that if you find yourself in the same place I did, GET HELP.

And not the kind that comes from buffet bars or hiding in your bed and praying for your life to go away.  If I do my blog correctly tonight there should be a link to the signs and symptoms of this sometimes debilitating disorder.

As for the life-sucking succubus, dump his or her ass and fork over the fee for eHarmony.  I found two amazing girls there.  One is a physician and she’s my best friend.  The other I’m going to marry.

Grab a stake, not a steak.  Use a crucifix if you think it will help.  Get the toxic partner out of your life.  Leave the vampires to Stephanie Meyers. That voice telling you that you won’t find anyone else is a liar.

You can.

You will.

The Price of Adultery: Part 1

My ex-wife Julie and I met one night at college as we each walked alone along separate paths.  I was lonely, and she told me later that she had been drawn out onto a lonely walk because of another guy.  She liked him, but her feelings had gone unrequited.  That night she walked to let go of the idea of him and reconcile herself to the fact that something she had hoped for would never be.

By that time of my life I have discovered that I was already in a lifelong battle with depression.  As I passed groves of mountain evergreens lining the walking paths that skirted the campus, I remember the faint emotional sirens singing insidiously to me the same song that seems to tug at people with depression.

I felt like I was not “good enough” to be a part of the company of other students I admired.  My life was always the life of the outsider standing in the cold night looking into a window spilling out warmth, light, and laughter of people within . . . groups of people, the voice within me chided, that I could never possibly belong to.

I always watched from the other side of that window, pretending to smile, hoping that the grin on my face showed those inside that I too was one of them, one of the blessed elect, and that except for my solitary errand, I would doubtless be elsewhere enjoying the same mirth and happiness they reveled in.

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But I knew inside that I was really one of H.G. Wells’ Morlocks, a collegiate J. Alfred Prufrock not fit to share a smile or a laugh with a pretty girl or a close friend.  I knew in truth that it was time for me to go, always time for me to go.  Only the ghost of me remained.  If all I left in others was the believable pretense of a smile and the veneer of acceptability, then I felt like I broke even.

That night we both secretly carried our own baggage of disappointments and letdowns.  We met and walked together, and at some point I held her hand.  Neither of us suspected how far things would go, or how far things would fall.  I sensed from the beginning that we weren’t the best fit, but two months later I discovered I had MS and Julie was the one person there for me.  6 months after that she was pregnant and 10 months after that we were married.

Julie was a wonderful girl.  Gentle.  Sweet.  Thoughtful.  Considerate.  Unsure of herself and full of her own self-doubts.  And why shouldn’t she have been?  When Ju was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, choking her.  The resulting brief reduction of blood flow to her brain left her with a number of learning disabilities.

Growing up, she attended a prestigious and expensive private Catholic school, and it was hell for her.  All of the kids came from families with money and they possessed the kind of self-confident arrogance that sometimes accompanies children born among the Eloi, or the elect.

Julie attended special ed. classes to help her learn to work with her learning disabilities.  But you can imagine what it looks like to snooty school kids when one of their classmates has to leave regular class in order to attend “special” classes taught by the same teachers who were also working with mentally retarded children.

Julie knew that almost everyone looked askance at her as far as perceived academics went.  The boys liked her because she was thin and cute and more jock than preppy diva.  Julie has always been extraordinarily modest.  Any nascent arrogance got beaten out of her by a father that walked out on her when she was young.  And then there were the cruel remarks children made behind her back because she obviously wasn’t like them.  More, Julie never knew how pretty she was when she was younger.  The girls did, though, and they had their ways of making her feel ostracized . . . like a Morlock.

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Our marriage was full of trouble from the beginning.  I was always impatient with Julie.  Despite her learning disabilities, Ju was bright and just as capable as any other girl.  She just took longer to process and sift through things she read and heard.  I was book smart and grasped literary and philosophical things easily—the kind of guy who never opened a book and hardly went to class but still pulled a B effortlessly.

Julie worked and fought for every academic accomplishment she earned.  I had little respect for her at times because I constantly had to stop in mid-conversation and explain things to her I found self-evident.  She frequently became passive-aggressive and defensive whenever issues arose.  On top of that she suffered from what was at times a severe social anxiety.

Despite all of this, Julie loved me wholeheartedly and with the kind of devotion many people would shave years off of their lives to experience from another.  For all her love and fidelity, I returned her affection with an affair that left her shattered and devastated.

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Julie spent most of her life unsure of herself and afraid to live, to step out and take a chance.  Most of the time she got by with just existing.  This took its toll on me over the years.  That’s about the only thing I can offer up as an explanation as to why I cheated on her.  For a long time I clung to it as a life raft, excusing me from the deep and damning waters of my betrayal.

One day I finally let go of the raft and allowed myself to sink into the depths of that pitiless and self-recriminating sea.  Not a day goes by now when I do not in some way or another pay for the emotional toll I exacted on her.  I know that we weren’t good for each other.  Intellectually we had very different needs.  But this knowledge doesn’t do a bit of good to buoy up so my head remains above water.  It’s all I can do to hold on and tread.  Guilt is such a thinner thing than water that when we let go of the defenses we cling to in order to keep it at bay, we sink.  And down below, where the water is deepest, the guilt exerts a pressure that is unbearable.

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Julie has the kind of tenacity and spirit that will allow her to remain afloat in even the worst storms.  I am not so strong or resilient.  But rarely are the souls of the damned made of such durable stuff.  She sails in better and safer waters.  I live at the bottom of a sea floor littered with the wrecks of torpedoed relationships, walking and stumbling blindly among other lost souls in the dark, hoping for a redemption that remains ever elusive and forbidden.

A Regret

I’ve been thinking about taking up fishing lately.  The last time I went fishing was with my grandfather.  I was never into it because I was a teenager and teenagers are rude.  A kid of the 80s, my biggest concerns were whether to get the Run DMC album or go for the latest Michael Jackson release.  It says a lot about my age that Michael Jackson was still cool when I was in middle and high school.

One of my biggest regrets is that I took my grandfather’s fishing trips as little more than necessary inconveniences.  While he fished I stayed in his car and listened to the radio.

Now my grandfather is dead and I miss him more than ever.

Since I’ve gotten older, my fishing trips have consisted of whatever is on sale at the Harris Teeter seafood section.  I ‘ve made way too many bad mistakes in my life, and I think fishing has become a way for me to dig back into the past and maybe find some of the innocence I possessed as a child . . . at least before I grew too old and too cool to be burdened by Papaw’s fishing-tales of life in the Appalachians when he was a boy.

And now here I am.  So far from grace and youth that everything I took for granted is dirt and dust.  I cannot bring my grandfather back, no matter how well I manage to cast my line into the water.  It just won’t reach that far.

Nothing this side of the grave ever will.

Living here in Wilmington, North Carolina, something in the salty ocean air has grabbed ahold of me.  I live four miles from the water’s edge.  And that salt . . . that clean, refreshing salt makes me feel pleasantly unsettled.  Salt has always been a key alchemical element, and there is alchemy and magic in the crash of the Atlantic’s waters on the nearby shore.  I can hear its mysterious voice beckoning—a sub-vocal beckoning to something paradoxically inchoate yet antediluvian.

A need to find some kind of communion linking me to a past that I once shrugged my shoulders to and now mourn because it is beyond my grasp.

I watched the sun rise over the sea this morning.  Its first touch on the horizon fired the low clouds on the horizon a brilliant bright red, where dawn gave birth to the earth that is newborn every morning.  Behind me the moon was at its full and setting as clouds passing in front of it broke and were haloed in its silvery sheen.  Both were at opposite poles, and rarely have I had a chance to see something so beautiful and poignant.

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I will look forward to getting out onto the pier, but I know it will be a lonely pilgrimage.  Maybe I will catch a bit of those moments I let slip through my fingers so long ago.  Yet time only allows us a finite amount of moments with those we love.  I grieve over the loss of mine.

On being the chick in this relationship

The girl I love and I are in the perfect relationship so far.  She’s a teacher and I’m a complainer.  She’s also a bit sadistic, which plays into her hands very well, because she loves making me complain so much.  The other day she nearly crossed a line.

Carrie told me I was the chick in this relationship.

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I swear to God I nearly took my apron off and threw it at her, but the oven timer went off and I had to take the muffins out to let them cool.  So I just stomped my foot on the floor and was passive-aggressive the rest of the day.

That night she kept pushing me to talk, but I had my avocado facemask on and damn if talking doesn’t interfere with its ability to exfoliate properly.  I mean, Jeeeezus Christ, you’d think that when a guy has a bubble bath running and candles lit a girl would get the hint that I’ve gone into “me time.”

But she never does.

We’re just not into the same things, you see.

She likes Nascar.

I like poetry.

She likes the Celtics.

I like Celtic jewelry.  Especially those crosses with the intricate vine filigree and knot-work wrought all across the things.

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And she doesn’t get how disturbing it can be to a guy to claim he’s the chick in the relationship.

Can you believe that shit?

Just to think, I wanted to make her one of my famous French toast casseroles.  Ha!  And to make matters worse, she told me that I needed to change my wardrobe for her.  This was after she said something about getting my hair done so I could look nice for our next date.  It took me forever and a day to find the proper stylist to give me just the right look.  Does she even have one iota of what a guy goes through to look good for his girl?

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I think not!
First he has to find the right color combination for his dating ensemble.  I’ve been loosing weight and want something slimming . . . which of course means something dark.  And then a guy has to find shoes that don’t lift too much and interfere with his stride, especially if he’s babysitting for her.

Chasing a four-year-old can be murder on the feet.  So can shopping for candles and hair conditioner.

Oh hell.

I just read what I wrote.

Maybe I am the chick in this relationship after all.

But damn it, I’ve got an apron that says “Men do it in the kitchen, too!” so that’s got to count for something.

Anyway, I’ve got to go for now.  I’ve got a mud mask mix on the stove and think it’d starting to dry out.

Hmmmm….

I wonder if I should put a bit of chamomile in it.  They say it works wonders on crow’s feet.

When the lady of the house is sick

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Carrie, my fiancé, is sick.  I don’t mean sick like a girl named Ali I once dated in college.  That was an interesting experience, because she was a binge kleptomaniac. I found that out one day when we were exploring the beautiful country roads surrounding Western Carolina University.  She suddenly screeched, “Stop!  Stop the car!”

I hit the breaks so hard they actually hit back.

To my surprise, she bolted out of the car and dashed across the lawn next to us.  Before I had time to wonder what she was up to, my girlfriend grabbed an old wagon containing several potted plants and sprinted back to where I waited, staring dumbfounded.

When she got back in the car, she breathlessly told me to punch it.  I was rather reluctant to do that because the VW I drove at the time wasn’t very fond of sudden movements.  I think it suffered from some kind of stress induced seizures because the poor thing made all kinds of wheezy, pistony, ratchety noises whenever I needed it to speed up.

And that was before I pressed down on the accelerator.

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To get the thing moving I usually had to put a paper bag over its exhaust and tell it to breathe slowly.  As Ali screamed about getting the hell out of there, I was trying to reassure my car that everything was going to be okay, but I suddenly realized that it wasn’t.

A big, bearded guy with a florid face and a countenance that indicated he ate college students for fun stepped out on the porch.  I could tell he was angry by the way he carried his shotgun.

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That was when I put the paper bag over my own mouth and started breathing slowly.  I was about ready to carry my girlfriend and my car to get out of there when it dawned on me that the combined weight of the two of them was going to be too much to carry.  Instead, I wised up and realized that the smarter course of action was to carry the VW and leave Ali to fend for herself.  I was sure the things she stole were enough to weigh her down so that my VW and I could make it beyond buckshot range.

Luckily, my car was the only one that had in real sense.  It turns out that it was feeling its oats that day, because with a wheeze, a cough, and a backfire, we were off at a dangerously reckless twenty-five miles per hour.

Sadly, the whole thing was too much for the poor thing, though.  When we made it back to campus, it refused to budge once I got it parked.  My car must have suffered what passes for a vehicular psychotic break after that.  I know because the VW thought it was an athlete instead of an automobile.  That was the only thing I could think because my mechanic told me it had thrown a rod.

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Last night I woke up to my fiancé hacking, wheezing, and backfiring.  In a waking moment of sleep induced confusion I thought I was in my old VW once more.  As soon as I was fully awake, I realized that Carrie sounded worse.  I took her to the doctor’s office where she was diagnosed with bronchitis and a sinus infection.  I would say that’s kind of like adding insult to injury, only it’s a lot worse.  When you throw a sinus infection on top of bronchitis, every time you cough, you feel like your head’s going to explode.

For a while there I was afraid Carrie was going to throw a rod, but what she did was actually worse.  She made me take care of the kids.

And those damn things have to be washed and fed!

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When I tried sharing one of my hard apple ciders with the four-year-old, Carrie nearly threw a hissy fit.  How was supposed to know hard cider was no acceptable substitute for applesauce?  Jesus Christ.  And when the eight-year-old got ahold of axel grease in the garage, let me tell you, oven degreaser DOES NOT work well on preadolescents.  That shit works best when you can heat it up in the oven, and if I’d have tried putting the eight-year-old in there I’ve got a feeling I never would have heard the end of it.

I did learn one important lesson.  If one day you run out of clothes washing detergent, never, EVER substitute it with a cup of dishwashing soap.

There were enough bubbles in the hallway to throw a women’s bikini wrestling contest.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

What did happen was that Carrie caught the girls using the hallway floor as a slip-n-slide while I watched and laughed.  When I told her to look on the bright side, that she didn’t have to worry about mopping, my lovely, sweet angel kicked the girls and me out of the house.  I’m still looking for the water hose.  Maybe if I knock the suds off of the kids she’ll let me back in.

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Look guys, seriously . . . if your wife, girlfriend, or fiance is sick, make sure you take some time to clean the house and take care of the kids if she has any.  Most likely she doesn’t ask a lot of you in that department.  Relationships honestly are about give and take, and I know of too many girls who have men in their lives that don’t do anything when they are sick.  The moral of all of this is that people make relationships harder than they need to be.  When I dated Ali (yes, she was a real person), she didn’t have enough sense to realize that compulsively stealing other people’s things could be a serious impediment to a relationship.  When I was married the first time around, I didn’t do enough to help my ex-wife.  So not only did I screw her over by cheating on her, I made her life needlessly difficult by not stepping up to the plate and giving her a hand when she was down.

Again, we make things too hard sometimes.

And Carrie, as soon as I’m done with my blog, I promise I’ll do the dishes and clean the kitchen counters.  The laundry is already in the washer.

I love you sweetie

Starting a new fitness routine

This month I decided the money I was spending on Cheetos could be better spent in more productive areas.  I like to eat so a lot of my money went to Frito-Lay.

A friend of mine told me he could help me invest my money.  He never seemed to leave his parents’ basement, and whenever I came over and he said he was “working,” the work always seemed to be done with a laptop in his boxers and a t-shirt.

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Turns out it didn’t work out so well.  I found that out at a drive-through the other day after my friend’s ponzi scheme fell apart and he had to get a real job.  Taco Bell doesn’t pay what he claimed his “Nigerian business model” earned him, so now he has less money than I do.  I hear that with all the people mad at him, he might soon be trading his Taco Bell job for one in a country where they still make burritos but don’t have an extradition treaty with the US.

Okay.

Maybe I’m kidding about all of that, but I did have a friend once who had a Fonzi scheme.  Every Halloween he dressed up like Henry Winkler and got so drunk on hard cider that he thought I was Chachi.  Those were what he called the “happy days” before Alcoholics Anonymous and a bitter divorce brought him back to reality.  Now his life is about as exciting as Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham’s.

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What I really did with my money did not involve a Nigerian business scheme.  You can’t make something from nothing.  Well, not unless you’re a super dense point of quantum singularity, and I’d never want to be one of those.  For one, they’re not only infinitely dense, but they’re also infinitely hot.  I weigh enough already to know that density stopped equating to fun after I reached 40 pounds over my ideal weight.  Then it was all about comfort eating.

Stupid Cheetos.

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Weight also becomes problematic once you pass age 35.  Especially after a few broken bones have gone arthritic.  The only time I’ve heard of physical super density helping someone was when a criminal was once shot by the police numerous times and survived because his body fat prevented the bullets from hitting any organs.  He was only slightly lighter than a beluga whale.  He’s now in prison and beluga whales live in places I’d never want to live.  I don’t like to get too hot, but it’s way too cold in the parts of the ocean where belugas live, and everyone knows sweaters stop making you warm and start making you miserable once they’re soaked.

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That’s why I’ll never invest in a beluga sweater fashion line.

I’d never want to be a point of singularity for another reason.  Once one goes off, clean-up is a nightmare.  The last time that happened was 13.82 billion years ago and that’s when the universe was created.

Both the Spitzer and Hubble telescopes have revealed just how dusty the universe is.  And gassy.  There is an enormous line of gas reaching all the way from the Magellanic Clouds to our galaxy.  When NASA estimated the amount of gas in the Magellanic stream, scientists said it was only slightly less than the amount of gas put out by my father during taco nights when I was a boy.

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That’s only counting three galaxies.  When singularities go off they’re a lot like octomom, but worse.  The big bang gave birth to lots of galaxies.

Like maybe 10 or 12 or something like that.

Seriously, I honestly do like to eat, and have perhaps put away more then I ought to have from time to time.  Now I need to lose a good 80 pounds.  There might actually be a Nigerian scheme for that, but I’m pretty sure it might involve a tapeworm or some other tropical parasite.

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I don’t like tapeworms.  They may help you lose weight.  But that’s not all.  They look a lot like something from a Ridley Scott movie.  His movies can sometimes be disturbing, but at least the aliens in them are all made of latex.  I don’t know what a tapeworm is made of, but I assume that 9 out of 10 special affects artists don’t recommend using them on any movie set ever made.  Not because they’re not made of latex—which they aren’t—but because they are a lot like real-life Ridley Scott aliens.  And while I’ve never heard of one jumping out of someone’s chest, I’ve seen a picture of one hanging out of some dude’s nose.

I think he was probably Nigerian.  Or maybe that’s Nevadan.  I get the two confused sometimes.  Nevada is way out west, and if you travel west long enough you might end up in Nigeria provided you take a few southerly detours.

As I was saying though, I decided to do something useful with my money and hired a personal trainer.  She’s really awesome.  I think she must have been an S & M madam in another life because ever since I met her there hasn’t been a part of my body that hasn’t hurt.  When I first met her she told me she enjoyed helping people get fit, and every damn time I lift my arms I throw one, so she’s hit the mark with me.

Her name is Alissa.  I think the name’s actually an ancient Persian word for agony.

Other people at the Wilmington Athletic Center told me she was tough, but I didn’t believe them until I arrived at the gym and passed two guys crying as they left the building.  When I asked the lady at the front desk what was going on, she told me they were the two clients Alissa worked with before my appointment.  I said they must have been really out of shape.  That’s when the receptionist told me they actually worked at the nearby marine base.

In special forces.

I knew I was in trouble when I mentioned it to Alissa and she called the guys pansies.

We’ve started in the water first.  I thought we were going to go to the pool, but Alissa grabbed her kayak at took me out to the Cape Fear.  She climbed in her boat and told me to start swimming.  I thought this was unorthodox.  But unorthodox people are often the most effective at what they do.  My Uncle Ben discovered a new way to perform finger amputations.  He still doesn’t talk about what happened at the saw mill, but the doctors were really impressed.

Once we got downriver a bit I heard splashing along the side of the bank.  When I asked her what they came from, she said, “Oh, that’s probably just the alligators.”

I exclaimed, “What the hell do you have me swimming in a river with alligators for?”

She said, “Incentive.”

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I have to admit it worked, though.

When we first talked I told Alissa I didn’t think I’d be able to swim 20 yards and she got 800 meters out of me in record time.

Next week she told me we’ll start with some easy weight lifting.  As I got in my car I think I heard her tell me to meet her at the rock quarry Monday morning.  And to bring chains.

Oh Geez.

Honestly, Alissa really is worth the money I’m spending.  Getting in shape isn’t for sissies, but having a trainer makes the job 10 times easier.  I’d recommend her to anyone.  Just remember that when you hear the alligators slithering into the water, Alissa’s a pro, and it all comes from a place of love.  Besides, I should look on the bright side.

It could involve tapeworms.

Natural Disasters–mental and otherwise

I’m a bit of a statistical oddity.  I guess some people just are.  I heard of a guy who won a lottery not just once, but twice.  My luck never runs in that kind of directions, though.  I won a lottery of a different kind altogether.  You see, in 1995 I found out that I had hit a statistical health marker that most Americans manage to miss.

My last year of college I was struck by Multiple Sclerosis.

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The term multiple sclerosis comes from Latin meaning “it sucks to be you.”  That’s what sclerosis means.  Multiple is merely an adjective meaning “over and over again.”  If you’ve got this disease, you know it frequently pops up whether you want it to or not.  Sort of like the annoying friends who come over unannounced when you are in the middle of something incredibly important.  The moment you’ve gotten the house all alone and you’ve finally convinced a hot chick that you were house sitting for your parents and not that you still lived with them, for example.

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No, I don’t live at home with mom and dad.

But I do live in my body and this disease does, too.

And unlike annoying friends who have a knack for showing up at the wrong moment, MS never leaves.  It just takes a vacation and when it’s rested up can come back even worse than before.

I did know a couple of guys in college once who came to my dorm room just as I was about to make out with a really cute sorority babe.  They were so into Dungeons and Dragons that they could have led Tiamat through a Soviet Gulag blindfolded without ever having to roll two D 10s.  When the two of them walked in, they were actually debating whether dark elves were acceptable crossover characters in a Star Trek roll playing game.

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And they wouldn’t shut up.

Thanks to Dan and Eric I never got to third base with Cindy McArthur.  They did find out that their natural armor class didn’t protect them from being kicked the hell out of my room, though.

And the following Friday I found out when Dan’s dark elf appeared on the bridge of my starship that my helmsman wasn’t all that immune to a chain lightning strike.  I had to create a new character.  I also found out that weekend that Cindy thought I was a bit geeky and decided to go out with a Pike instead of me.

I was pretty lucky in the end because the Pike ended up admitting he contracted Herpes from Cindy.

Statistics.

The fact that I was diagnosed with a neurological illness that produced hard plaques in the brain and spinal cord (the sclerosis) was a random roll of the dice.  A statistical oddity.

I’m an oddity in one other thing that doesn’t happen to most people, even once in their lives.  I have survived not one but two encounters with tornadoes.

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Have you ever noticed that Hollywood makes forces of nature seem like loads of titillating fun?  Think about all the glitzy characters picked in leading roles for movies like Volcano, Dante’s Peak, Twister, The day After Tomorrow, and 2012.  I have it on first hand experience that there’s absolutely NOTHING glitzy about a tornado.  There’s just a lot if running, screaming, and praying you don’t get lifted with the roof of your house into someone’s else’s yard three neighborhoods over.

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And not a single one of the people with me looked like Tommy Lee Jones or John Cusack.  Nor was there a cool heroine babe like Linda Hamilton or Helen Hunt to impress as I stood my ground against Nature and showed the green goddess who was in charge.

Actually, she was.

And it turns out that Nature didn’t really like the farm I lived on or several nearby sub developments.  I also think Nature had a taste for mainline Protestants, because when the tornadoes were finished vacuuming everything that wasn’t tied down, a Baptist church had been blown away.

Both tornadoes were rated as F3s.

I like the rating systems we use for natural catastrophes.  Tornadoes get the Fujita scale.  Hurricanes get categories and earthquakes get Richter scales.

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I think we should have a personal rating scale for other types of natural disasters in our lives.

Like neurological diseases.  My MS has remained relatively mild for 20 years.  For the most part, what I would classify as an F1 in what I call the Personal Fujita Scale of Social and Life Disturbance (or just PFS for short).  It has hit me a couple of times at higher levels.  Like the morning I woke up and couldn’t talk.  That little joyride lasted about a week.  But since MS can render even the best people para or quadriplegics, I give a week without speech a low F2 on my PFS system.  Last month my uncle died of ALS, which is always fatal, so it automatically gets an F5.

I’m all for using the rating system in other areas, too . . . hence the part I added about social disturbances.

I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve had bad experiences with family and loved ones suffering with mental illnesses.  Borderline Personality Disorder seems to be the one I’ve heard about the most.  I’ve written about the girl who broke my heart.  I give her an F3.  I’ve also heard others who’ve been through far worse than me.  One friend is married to a lady from India who dumped his pain and heart medications down the food disposal and then went on a rampage destroying his computer and calling his little daughters “whores.”

She gets an F4.

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I like my rating system.  It helps me make sense of my own depression.  Most of the time if I’m on my medication I hover around a nice, level F0.  But if I miss enough doses my mood turns dark and I can be so passive-aggressive that when someone pisses me off I spontaneously lie down and take a nap.

No.

I only wish the passive part worked that way.

When I cut my wrist and ended up in the nuthatch for a week, I’d say that was a solid F4 event.  But that’s only happened once.  And for the record, the nuthatch wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been full of actual nuts.

I love Brazil nuts.

If that had been the case, then maybe cutting my wrist would have been mitigated by lots of crunchy, hard-shelled goodness.

I’ve always thought Hollywood totally missed the mark on mental illness just as much as it’s missed the mark on natural disaster movies.  On TV, Monk is OCD, and being OCD never made anyone I’ve known look quirky in a cute kind of way.  And not a single one of them has solved a murder.

Everyone I know with OCD says it sucks.

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I saw a show once about a schizophrenic professor who heard voices and talked to people.  The voices and visions helped him foil criminals as well.  In real-life, my ex-wife’s uncle dated a girl who was schizophrenic.  When her illness was at its worse, life for her was a nightmare.  She became the criminal.  And actually, she had a lot more wrong with her than schizophrenia.  One day she arrived at a friend’s house upset over an argument with someone.  She had a gun.

Her friend locked his door and called the police.

If her life had been a movie, the gun would have actually been for a homicidal psychopath hiding in her friend’s pantry, ready to kill him for stocking the kitchen with the boxed macaroni instead of the kind that comes with cheese in the squeeze packs.

Instead, what they found was a 24-year-old lady, a mother of two, who refused to put her gun down.

The police had no way of knowing that they were dealing with someone in the middle of a psychotic break, more than likely drug induced, or that if they had given her enough time, the episode might have passed.

They shot her.

Her name was Anne, and she died on the way to the hospital.

I really do wish for once that Hollywood would pay attention to my PFS scale and get mental illness right.  After all, the hobgoblins of the mind are little mini-natural disasters in their own right.

And the people suffering through mental illnesses deserve better.

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