The End of Good Times

Upon reading the title of this week’s post, one might be under the impression that the subject matter is regarding the cancellation of the hit 1970s sitcom, Good Times. The series finale of Good Times was, in itself, a good time, because everyone lived happily ever after. Like… every single character had some pretty awesome closure on their respective arcs. I don’t recall all of the details, but I remember Keith gets to go play for the Chicago Bears, so there aren’t many good times that could top that one. Continuing his arc would be pointless (until 25 years later, when television ratings started to truly rely on how badly someone once-famous spiraled out of control after achieving fame).

Also, Willona and Thelma found out they get to stay neighbors, so that was also a pretty good time that would be tough to beat. Perhaps not for James.

Alas, this isn’t about the show. It’s about something people don’t usually talk about openly: The Happiness Hangover (I would love to take credit for that term, but I only just learned it, while researching this phenomenon). Think about a time in your life, when you were having the best time, and everything was perfect in your world, and nothing stressful or worrisome was taking up rent space in your head or your heart, and things just seemed to be exactly how you would want them to be forever… but then when it ends, you feel like you’re standing at the end of a long road, and there’s no clear way to go. The happiness of the experience is still fresh and vivid, but the experience itself is over. You wish it wasn’t over, because that means you’re back to the way things actually are.

Maybe you just graduated high school, and you’ll be parting ways with your friends, and you’re finally taking that step into adulthood, bound for work or for college, and you can’t help feeling that it’s the end of something, (note: it’s the beginning. Buckle the fuck up). Or you just came back from the most relaxing and fun-filled vacation you’ve ever had, and now you have to get back to The Grind, and you find yourself bored with the things that used to be a part of your everyday machine. The feeling is the same. You want to ride the high, or keep smiling and laughing with people, or keep pushing yourself to discover who you are, or keep seeing more of the world, or whatever it is that is keeping your dopamine flowing. When it stops, we feel a chemical dump that sends our spirit crashing down, and ordinary life seems bleak.

I talk about this, because my son has recently felt this for the first time. He has never been very popular or made friends easily. Even when he did have a “circle” of friends, they were a small circle. Like, not even a circle. More like a line segment. He’s always been an avid reader, and he looks like the stereotypical “nerd,” so people don’t approach him, and he’s never had success in approaching others, so he’s content to just be alone. He always sits alone at lunch, and nobody has ever tried to sit with him. It’s a mystery to me. Besides being intelligent, funny, considerate, and clever, he’s also interested in a wide variety of things, and could hold a conversation with any person of any age. He holds doors for people, and opens my car door for me EVERY time, even when it’s not exactly helpful. The sentiment is there, because it just occurs naturally to him, to be a good person. But he’s not very outgoing, so he generally goes unnoticed.

He was in his high school musical recently, and played a major part. He was incredibly funny, delivered his lines comically, and sang his heart out! He had a great time for the months they worked their asses off, and became friends with everyone in the group, finally showing how much fun he can be to hang out with. As a Sophomore, he is experiencing a sadness over the fact that the people he hit it off with most from the musical, are Seniors. They’re all friends with each other, and they all hang out after school, and they all have clubs and activities together, and they all have classes together, and they’ll all leave everyone behind together. Now that the musical is over, those students have no inclination to socialize with my son. He hasn’t felt that feeling of being left behind before, and it’s not tasting very good the first time.

We feel a sense of sadness when the rug is ripped out from under us like that, and though the feeling eventually wears off… and even though there will always be more good times… they will also end. Life is just a chain of good times, with painful idling between the links (I’m not calling them bad times. You call them that.) If we didn’t have that “down time” we most certainly would not appreciate the moments of happiness as much, so it’s necessary to feel that crash at the end, to keep us grounded to reality. Isn’t it fucked up that we can’t go flying away with the notion that any high can last forever? Some religions see life as suffering; to live is to suffer, and we die, and then we live again to suffer until we die, and it goes on, in a cycle called Samsara. This is what I think life would be, if we didn’t have this balance. 

Let me explain.

Opponent Process Theory tells us that when we experience a strong emotion, the opposite feeling is bound to follow. So when we go to a concert, or visit loved ones, or receive praise, our brain will try to counter the dopamine release (produced by the brain, during the good time) by swinging you back into balance with some mundane shit. That’s why life can seem gloomy and rather boring, after you’ve experienced something that causes your brain to release the drugs of pleasure. In my son’s case, he experienced months of happiness, culminating in high praise from his peers and his audience. When that was over, and he was no longer performing, he felt like there was no excitement to be had. The drugs from his brain had worn off. Going to school, reading, playing video games, and other ordinary daily activities brought him back down to homeostasis, and while his “normal self” is incredibly fun to be around, he doesn’t feel the same happiness that he did when he was being accepted by his peers. It’s a simple pleasure, but it’s something that was meaningful to him, and seemingly not very meaningful to anyone on the other side of the equation. Opponent Process Theory tells him that he’s going to feel accepted and appreciated by peers, only to go back to being ignored and alone. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

So now that we know good times are a fleeting luxury, what can we do to ease the pain of the crash? Have more good times, and try to limit the time in between, just in case? I wonder how good that could be for you? Is it possible to overdose on your own transmission of dopamine? Or worse: do we just not take the chance, by limiting ourselves to how much happiness we experience? I speak from experience, when I say this: THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER. But it made me really think about it. Why has nobody ever talked about this around me before? This is the shit they need to be teaching in school, because it sucks to not know.

The other night, Sonny had a chorus concert, and it was the 4th time I’ve seen him sing in public. I still cried like a baby. I love seeing him be so involved and dedicated and versatile and confident in what he does, and his good times often reflect as good times for me, too. So when he crashes, I crash too; his attachments are to the people he does extra-curriculars with, and my attachment is to him. If I have to see him be sad or lonely, it stops being a good time for me. He is still on the high of the praise he received for his singing the other night, and it happens to coincide with the beginning of his next endeavor in theater, so there may be some minimizing of “downtime” happening there. If that’s how he manages it, I can only hope he doesn’t burn himself out. I’ve been told, “by always looking forward to the next thing, you’re wishing your life away.” I wonder if any of that’s true?

-jg

MisterRogersMamaRu

When I was younger, my siblings and I used to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I say “younger” instead of “a kid” because I watched the show well into my adulthood. Though Fred Rogers has passed, one thing I’ve never been able to get over, is the spelling of the title.

I mean, possession would be indicated by the “apostrophe before the s” at the end of any singular noun (or proper noun). So wouldn’t Mister Rogers, the singular man whose neighborhood we’re visiting, be the host of Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood? It’s not like there is more than one man named Mister Roger, and they’re both living in the neighborhood and hosting the show. That’s what the title leads me to believe, and I don’t know if I like it, because I feel like that is what that means, and I’m missing out on an entire other Mister Roger! I would like to double my fucking pleasure, please. If I’m watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, I’d better be looking at two dudes. At least.

An important thing I learned from watching Mister, is that every one of us has something that nobody else has: ourselves. I forgot to spoiler alert you about your mind being blown. He says, “there’s only one person in the whole world like you… and I like you just the way you are” which is also kind of weird, because it sounds like he’s telling me that there’s someone in the world like me. Is he telling them that he likes them just the way I am? Who is it? Are they old? Are they a baby? Are they a dog? Those are really the only three choices.

I took that idea of there only being one Me in the world, and I ran away with it. I used to do the most outrageous shit to get a reaction from people. I did dances, I wrote songs, I mastered different voices and impressions, I created characters, and on top of being my own biggest fan, I was extremely loud (voted Biggest Mouth and Class Clown in my senior class, thanks). If there is only one of me in the world, the world has long since gotten their money’s worth. I’ve forced friendship on people who didn’t really like me, because of the fact that I was so loud, but I thought I was funny, so they must have thought I was funny too. I used to talk to my friends’ parents like they were my friends, even though they probably thought I was too young to be saying some of the shit I was saying to them, but it didn’t matter because it didn’t feel wrong to me. I was just being myself. And I wasn’t sorry about it, because nobody told me to stop.

As much as I learned from Misterogers, I have to give credit where credit is due, and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race for ten years has taught me more about being myself, than Fred Rogers ever could. It taught me that I could not only be myself, but that I also shouldn’t feel bad about my lack of giving a shit what anyone thinks about it. Everyone has their darkness, and everyone has their suffering, and we all deal with it in our own way, and we all just try to do the best we can, until we die. I never heard that on PBS. And I probably could have used that wisdom in my teens, because the ’90s were brutal, and being a feminist back then was not very popular, especially in Bumblefuck, Maine. Wanna know who didn’t like me? Pretty much everyone, at some point. But I won them over with my humor and lack of shame, and then they had no choice but to hear me when I wasn’t being funny (but still loud), at least for a little while, until they could get out of earshot. And I wasn’t sorry about that, either.

The difference between what I learned from Mister Rogers, and what I learned from watching RuPaul, is how it pertains to me. I found Mister Rogers to be informative on how to be a good person, but I never felt like it was realistic to my world, because when I turned from the TV to the window, I was sadly disappointed in the disparity. People weren’t good, and they weren’t nice, and the sun wasn’t always shining, and things didn’t always work out in the end, and there wasn’t always a lesson to be learned, and nobody helped anybody that day, and everyone returned home with a frown. It wasn’t the same, so why should I try to be that nice person? RuPaul and the queens on the show are open and honest about ugly struggles, and have seen that people aren’t always kind, and the sun never shines on some people. It doesn’t set the expectation that everyone is doing good deeds and being selfless to make the world a better place, because the world is not like that. It can be made up to look pretty and sweet, but underneath, it’s really a hairy man with a dick.

I don’t love everything about myself, but that’s mostly because I hate feeling the physical pain that comes with being out of shape and almost old. The fact that I have stretch marks, cellulite, uneven boobs, body hair, a lazy eye, E.T. fingers, and hobbit feet… doesn’t bother me one bit. I will gladly take those things, because they’re just little things. I don’t apologize for being myself, even still. I realize not everyone is going to like me, but it’s important to remember that not everyone is going to be liked by me, either. They’re just doing their own thing, and trying as best as they can until they die. I’m a blip on their radar, if they want me to be.

I don’t even think my big mouth is my biggest drawback, to be honest with you. I’d say my lack of follow-through and ambition is probably the worst thing about me, besides the fact that I’m always right. Kidding about that ambition thing. I’m totally ambitious, just not in the way that everyone else is.

Don’t apologize for being yourself. No matter what it is, even if someone can rattle off 20 things they hate about you, so what? Fuck it. You’re you, you’re gonna be you when that person is a distant memory, and nobody else is going to be you, so you might as well fuckin just do that shit to the fullest. My kids have asked me for good comebacks for when people are putting them down, and I always tell them “Fuck off” works for me, because it literally does not matter what someone else thinks of you. It’s what you think of yourself, and how you want to represent your time on this planet.

“There’s only one person in the whole world like you… DON’T… fuck it up!”

-jg

I Was Almost Vinced.

Last week, I learned the meaning of the word “vincible” in more ways than one. Obviously, I looked it up in the dictionary, and wasn’t surprised to see it there. It literally means the opposite of “invincible,” which we all know, means you can’t be vinced.

I also learned the definition the hard way, by getting into a car accident. It’s worth mentioning that everyone survived, so, this isn’t that kind of invincibility (or vincibility, as it were) story, you can relax. It’s more about realizing that you’re human.

As of the day I am writing this, it has been a week since the crash, and I have experienced a metamorphic transformation of sorts, in those seven days. Nobody ever expects an accident, and when you get into one, it happens so fast, that you can easily get lost in the true events of what you’re experiencing. You ask “How did that happen?!” which is a fair question to ask, unless you were doing something risky and it just caught up with you. In that case, be your own detective.

Not only do you wonder how it happened, you can actually block out the details of what happened. One minute, you’re driving, and the very next moment, you’re spun around in a ditch on the other side of the road. If you were rear-ended, it can be extremely unclear, and you’re left with unanswered questions because the other driver probably isn’t going to want to incriminate themselves for the sake of your peace of mind. Sometimes, they’re an old couple, who you run over to check on, and they’re grouchy fuckin dicks to you. Or, it’s a redneck who wasn’t paying attention while driving way-too-fast mph on a back road in the winter, and they tell the insurance company that it was your fault. Or, sometimes it’s an extortionist who wants to make a quick buck on an insurance payout, and isn’t afraid to lay low for awhile to prove how useless injured they are. In any case, even if they’re nice, they aren’t worried about you, as much as they’re worried about themselves. But feel free to call them for an interview, if you think you’ll be able to figure some shit out. I wasn’t so lucky.

This was my second accident with my son in the car, and I’m grateful beyond all that is powerful in the universe, that he was not hurt in either one. This one was a bit less intense, but he was a champ throughout the whole thing, and has been ever since. The thing I haven’t been able to shake, is the feeling that, if we had collided one second sooner, my son could have been killed. I don’t know what I would do without him in my life, but if something happened to him because of my inability to protect him, I would struggle with being able to recover and cope. Again, I am so thankful that he is okay, and that he isn’t also caught up in this line of morbid thought that I can’t seem to get out of.

Another thing I have been struggling with, is the fear that everyone is going to come out of nowhere and hit me. I can’t check both ways enough times before pulling into the street or turning a corner. I can’t slow down enough, or allow enough space between myself and other vehicles. I know it’s normal to feel this paranoia after a crash, but I feel like it’s becoming ingrained in me. I am always a cautious and attentive driver; I never text and drive, I don’t look at my phone at all, I watch my mirrors and blind spots, and I minimize my interactions with other features in the car. I have impeccable reaction time, and have always been able to work around the poor planning and neglectful habits other drivers. I do well with rotaries, highway traffic, crazy drivers, construction, darkness, inclement weather, and distractions from my passengers. I can drive for long distances without falling asleep, and even though I’m a terrible navigator, I can follow direction. So, being in the mindset that I need to be even safer than that or we’re all going to die, is so unhealthy. Matt says the more I think about it, the more distracted I’ll be. I do know this already.

Perhaps the oddest piece of this puzzle, is that, no matter how hard I try to relive the crash, I cannot figure out where those old people came from. They weren’t there, and then they were. They were not there, and appeared in the same space as me, at the same time, and my car fell apart, while theirs was virtually untouched. Not a scratch on it. And not only that, but neither of them were hurt even a little, and they didn’t call their insurance company, or talk to mine. Didn’t even give their names. Which leads me to the conclusion that they weren’t real.

Maybe I’m just trying to compensate for my momentary lapse of perfection on the road, but I have been so confused about their existence, that I can think of no logical explanation to account for their involvement in the accident. There was nobody on that road with me, in any direction, and it was broad daylight, bright sunshine, no distractions. I didn’t just imagine this; my son is also perplexed by the fact that they literally came out of nowhere. This is some Unsolved Mysteries shit, at the highest level. Someone needs to open an X-File, not an insurance claim!

When your car becomes worthless, it’s what they call a Total Loss, which means your car has sustained more damage than it could ever be sold for again. I think mine was already at that point, prior to the accident, but if someone thinks they want to give me the Kelley price for it, then I’ll take it. It certainly helps, when you have no idea how you’re going to get around all of a sudden. If you’ve ever been one of those people who doesn’t have multiple working vehicles, ATVs, boats, snowmobiles, and motorcycles in their garage, you know the struggle. In my area, everyone has 450 trucks and cars in their yard, but you can’t borrow one for a few days, because that person needs those cars to sit there, in case all of their other vehicles somehow mysteriously stop working at one time. You figure your own shit out, but don’t forget… they’re there for you if you need anything. Just ask.

Since the accident, I have driven over 400 miles, and I may as well be walking on eggshells. The anxiety I feel over the responsibility to keep my family safe has been great. Not great, as in good. Great, as in MASSIVE. I have a brand new car, and every sound is making me obsess over whatever the worst case scenario could be. I hate that feeling. I feel like I already live my life that way, ruled by irrational fears, due to traumatizing experiences in the past. (I am aware of what PTSD is, thanks) I just want to be able to shut out those thoughts, so I can be happy and enjoy life while it’s going well.

But the dilemma is, if I relax, I might miss something or neglect to act somehow. I know I’m vincible now, and that I have to rely on more than just my instinct; I have to be mindful in every second. How can I just sit back and enjoy life, when I am responsible for so much? I don’t have the “working” job, I have the job where everyone’s well-being rests in your hands. They eat, because you shop for food, cook the meal, and feed them. They go to school and work, because you take them and pick them up. The bills are paid, because you call the company when there’s a problem, and when there isn’t, you are making sure that things remain problem-free. The laundry is done, because you took care of it between other tasks. The appointments are scheduled around each other, however plentiful they may be, because you pay attention to the packed schedule, and ask what everyone is doing, or needs. Teachers and counselors stay informed, because you keep them in the loop. Unspoken issues get attention, because you notice that something isn’t right, and you dig. It’s not a paid job, but it takes from you. You end up being the one who pays, because the worry and responsibility of being a parent at home is a lot to bear.

That is, if you love and care about your family. I don’t know, some people don’t. Some people let all of the responsibility rest on the child(ren). Some parents don’t even like to be considered a parent. They want to be the Best Friend. In my opinion, a Best Friend would offer to do my dishes once in awhile, or clean up their shit around the house. Might be why I don’t have a best friend (just kiddin, Matt!)

I’ve learned about the fragility of life, and how easy it would be to just stop living, if we don’t take the time to care and consider. Even when you think nothing is happening, even when you think you’re not in danger, even when you think you’ve taken every precaution… it’s important to realize that we are not invincible, and that we are constantly surrounded by circumstances that we don’t even notice. Circumstances that can change your life greatly (great, as in massive). Even the most cognizant of people can miss something, and everything can be taken away in that instant.

But don’t forget to relax.

-jg

p.s. nothing heavy next week, I promise! I will come back swinging, whatever that means in the writing world.

 

Is Anybody Talking About The Humidity?

Here in New England, nobody talks about the weather.

Just kidding, fucking everyone talks about it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an inch of snow, or ten feet of snow… if it’s 50 degrees in July or 110 degrees; someone is going to point out how much different it is than last year, or they’re going to talk about how next season is going to be a doozy, or how this is the worst they’ve seen in awhile, or whatever it’s doing to affect their plans. It’s the first topic of conversation for so. many. interactions. 

“Boy, it sure is hot, but this humidity…” Of course, thanks for reminding me that it’s the humidity that is making the heat worse, as I was beginning to get confused about what was happening. I was content to write it off as an invisible wet plastic bag to my entire body, but this theory seems much more likely.

Humidity isn’t just a shitty thing when it’s hot. It’s sometimes humid when it’s not  warm, which only serves to make you feel like you’re suddenly dead. Nothing is worse than cold and clammy, because there is no way to get away from it. We had that weather a few days ago, and it wasn’t pleasant, but thankfully it lasted all of 2 hours, before we were back to the blistering sweat bath. I feel like a corpse now, but one that has been left in the hot sun for a few days. (And in the humidity!)

So, it’s realer-than-real-deal-Holyfield hot. New England isn’t exactly the first place you think of, when you think about hot climates, but 90 degrees is hot, in my opinion, and when you slap the humidity on, it feels like the End Of Times. As much as I hate the heat, I’m not one of those A/C junkies who can’t go anywhere without it, and has A/C in their house, and their cooled garage, and then their car, and their parking garage, and office. I don’t have a garage, or access to a parking garage, and certainly don’t have an office, but I also don’t use A/C in my house or my car, because I’m allergic to something about it, and I don’t know what it is, but I wish it wasn’t real. Allergic to relief: that’s me.

It’s fucking hot, what the hell??! How can it be possible, that my mood is so affected by the weather?? I mean… I’m really irritable! I can’t sleep at night, I don’t want to shower, I don’t want to put on clothes, I don’t want to cook any food, I don’t want to walk around or do any fucking thing, because IT’S TOO HOT TO BE ALIVE!!! I proposed the idea to my sister, that this is nature’s eugenics; killing off the weakest people who can’t deal with how oppressive and strangulating this heat is!! It’s not just the heat, it’s all of the natural disasters that have been happening, that support my theory that Mother Nature is sick as fuck of us, and is going to make us all deathly uncomfortable, or uproot us with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and tsunamis and hurricanes and wildfires and sinkholes and blizzards and tornadoes until we just give up.

But it’s also this heat.

Some of my readers live in places that are hotter than 90 degrees, pretty much all the time, which horrifies me to think about. Even if I was waking up to a tropical paradise, 90 degrees loses its flair after about 50 seconds. My friends love it, and tell me I would totally get used to it, but I tell my friends they clearly don’t know a damn thing about me, and to let me complain, or just get out. I sound like a crybaby to them, and that’s okay. I think I sound like a crybaby to a lot of people, on account of how much complaining I do. But to be suffering in heat worse than this and still wanting to read my writing… my complaining must not be that bad after all. Man, people must really love me.

My parents are coming to visit us this weekend, from out-of-state (and I still wrote you something!). That means I have been running around like crazy, to every store in the city, and experiencing their varying levels of A/C usage. From my adventures, the Goodwill store clearly has the right idea about keeping things cool. I’m not sure why, since all of the stuff in there is musty and damp anyway. Surprisingly, the grocery store was one of the warmest places I stepped into, which was off-putting, considering I went to the auto mechanic (again) too, and even that was cooler than the grocery store. Plus, I got a pat on the back for intuitively recognizing that something wasn’t right with my car. I guess it wasn’t even noticeable to him, until he inspected what I says, and there be the solution. Do you know why I knew something wasn’t right with that bitch? Because I’m one with her. Also, because there’s always something going on with that car. But she’s still alive, though, so I guess I should be knocking on wood (or whatever your religion does). She and I are a lot alike, in that way. I told you we were one.

I just took a break from writing, because I had to paint the bathroom. I chose a brightsy-darksy-ish red color, which I was excited about at the store (when I was buying all of my other colors, for all of the other rooms that look dy-no-mite), but when I got home, I started to think this red would remind me of a menstrual period. It’s pretty much that exact color, on the wheel. My kids didn’t feel the same, although, Sonny did say it reminded him of where he should go when he was bleeding out and needed first aid. (So, same thing.)

You know who ended up needing first aid? Me. Because my brilliant ass decided to paint the bathroom, on a 90 degree day, with the bathroom being one of the many rooms in my house that does not have a functioning window. It’s an old building, and we’re right on the water table, so the building has settled a bunch. The windows don’t all open, what do you want? I’ll tell you what want: a window that opens! There’s no ventilation in there, so guess which second-floor-bathroom-without-a-window-that-opens was being painted in the apex of heat and humidity in this house? Shutup. That red bathroom will forever remind me of the anger and frustration and heat and flames I endured, just to end up with the stark reminder that you definitely need multiple-multiple coats when you paint with red, because it’s the most nightmarish color to paint with. The humidity is never going to let that damn bathroom dry.

I ran out of paint, and am nowhere near done, so I guess writing this is the real break. I remember this morning, I texted Matt and told him “It’s too hot, I don’t want to do anything today,” and he said, “Don’t.” Hahahaha. Those were good times.

I went to Goodwill today, and there was a guy there, who was seriously asking if the framed print on the bottom shelf was an original painting, or if it was a copy, and he smelled so strongly of Adidas cologne, which I recognized from my days of dating 18 year-old wannabe gangsters. I didn’t have the heart to tell the guy that there was no chance I would tell him if I recognized something as valuable, or that his stench was making me want to run back out into the humidity, so I just said, “You never know what you’ll find here.” Which was really about the situation.

You know what you will find there? A/C, which, it turns out, doesn’t bother me if it’s not directly near me. It must be something that the appliance emits, that my histamine blockers can’t effectively fight off, because I’m doomed to be miserable. Who is allergic to A/C?? I’ve literally never met another person who is.

Okay, it’s too hot, and I still have to make lamb chops, which I’ve never done before, but I’ve been successful at winging so many things, that I’m not that worried about fucking up. What I am worried about, is the kitchen getting hot, and I’m worried about eating all of the beer cheese that I made for my step-dad, and I’m worried about not sleeping tonight because it’s HOT AS FUUUUUCK. I’m sure that in reality, I’m going to crush all of this shit, and the only person who will even be judging is ME, because if I didn’t have self-torture, who would I be? I think they call that motivation, and I need all the motivation I can get right now. I’m being smothered by the humidity.

-jg

 

 

 

Please Will You Not Be My Neighbor?

Recently, Matt and I weighed out the pros and cons of moving. Again. Some of you who know me more personally are probably rolling your eyes, because you never know where the fuck to find me. My grandmother has replaced my last initial page in her address book so many times, it scrolls out. My ex has (effectively) used my roaming ways against me in court, as a means to imply I am not stable. Why he chose that for the example, I’ll never know.

In the time Matt and I have been together, the longest we have lived in one place has been less than 4 years, and it’s the place we’re currently in now, which is most likely why I want to move so immediately.

It’s always nice being able to move, because I think I might be a gypsy, somewhere deep in my heritage, and I don’t like being in the same place for long. I also don’t like things to look the same for too long. I have to move furniture around, or switch it out for something else, or re-decorate, or cut my hair, or alter my clothes, just to keep things interesting. I wouldn’t say my need for shaking things up has caused me to change my boyfriend scenery multiple times, but you won’t hear me deny that fact (read: FACT) either.

(It’s okay, Matt and I are still together, as of this post)

In this case, we are desperate for a change of scenery around our neighborhood. When I say the “neighborhood,” I am referring to exactly that: the neighbors.  If there’s a medical term for pain and suffering at the hand of your neighbors, I have it. We currently live in a side-by-side duplex, and the family on the other side of the wall is a full-time anxiety attack. There are, at any given point in time, anywhere between 5 and 10 people living there, depending on the day, and only 3 of those people are adults. They wake up early (not the adults), and run around the house, jumping up and down the stairs, screaming, hitting the walls, playing on our stairs outside, hitting baseballs around our car, ripping our roses off the vines, oh, and did I mention shouting? I can’t understand how the acoustics in their apartment are so clear and vivid, but my kids can’t hear me shouting to them up the stairs (even though I can hear every word they’re yelling saying). Everything is amplified in the wall that separates our apartments. I’m sure next door it seems like “just a crayon” dropping on the floor, but it sounds like they’re dragging a body down the stairs.

They are a church family, too, which is fine by me. Whatever you want to worship is your own thing, but my problem doesn’t stem from their theological preference. It’s the stuff that requires *me* to live the church life. Like when they’re up at first light on Sunday (weekend) morning (when you sleep), so they can all take showers before leaving for church, so they wake up everyone in the building, including those of us on the other side of the fucking property, with loud industrial fans that don’t do anything to dampen the shrieks and thumps that echo through the frame of the house. I’m saying, those kids are LOUD. They need boot camp for sure. At least.

On top of that, they’re incredibly afraid of us. Like, super scared. I don’t know why, because we’ve never been anything but kind and outwardly sweet to them, smiling way more than I normally would (or should), but there they are: whiny little quivering babies. Even if they’re having the best time outside, and the sprinkler is going, and there’s a parade, and there’s ice cream, and Spongebob is outside asking them to be his best friends… it doesn’t matter; they will still run into the house as soon as they see us coming. They scowl and frown, too, immediately, from smiles and laughter, and stare at us like they are preparing to see something unexpected. One day, I heard one of the kids tell the others that Matt was evil, which I thought was weird, given that the kid was waving around one of the roses she had just freshly murdered out of my yard. I guess killing things makes you less evil, somehow, but okay, Matt is the scary one. I used to be confused by it, and then I didn’t care, and now I think it’s funny and have even toyed with the idea of really playing up the part of the mean lady that hates all the kids. Just flex the shit out of my “acting” chops, and really make ‘em believe I don’t like ‘em. (I don’t.)

Speaking of all the kids in the entire god damn world, it isn’t just those kids next door. It’s a whole bunch of houses of kids who all want to play in MY yard. I know what you’re saying now: “Isn’t it everyone’s yard?” and you’re wrong. There is a clear line of demarcation between “their” yard, and “our” yard, and they are going to the far side of my yard, to the fence that divides our property from the other neighbors. That’s where they’re picking the roses from; nowhere near their yard. That also happens to be where they prefer to play, and have invited every kid in town to join them. They must love how shiny my beater car (that I’m stuck with, out of necessity) is, or how uninviting my glaring out the window is making the curb appeal seem. They obviously aren’t out there for me. They like the kids next door. (I don’t.)

So, we have kids from our street, and the next few streets over, all congregating on our front porch. It’s a shared porch, but as I mentioned, there is a divider down the center, which is invisible to children, I guess, because they use it as a tool to drive me to drink. It’s that weird kid shit that I don’t find fun. I didn’t like it when my kids were little, and I especially don’t like it, now that it’s a bunch of kids that I already wanted to send to boot camp. No special feelings there. I wish no harm upon them. I just don’t like them.

Perhaps it’s hardly their fault. I mean, I used to roll up in people’s houses uninvited and unannounced when I was younger, even when my friends weren’t there. I just didn’t know any boundaries, because my dad didn’t teach that kind of stuff. I stole things, I destroyed property, I spray painted a lot of things that weren’t mine. If that happened to me, or something of mine now, I would probably go directly to that parent and tell them to send their kid to boot camp. It’s probably the parents’ fault anyway, right?

Is it really too much to ask, to be able to go out on my porch and watch the sun set, without tripping over bikes and McDonald’s toys? Can I please go outside and write for a few hours in the breeze, without catching foam bullets with my teeth, or at the very least, some major 8 year-old side-eye? Can I sleep past 5:30 AM on a Sunday morning, just once? I leave everybody alone. I mean, I clearly don’t like neighbors, so I do as little as I can to attract their attention for any reason, believe me. It just so happens that every single time I go outside, they’re sitting out there. And any time I pull up into the driveway, and they’re not in the yard, they arrive within five minutes. This sounds like I’m embellishing, but that couldn’t be a bigger wish for me right now. I get no time away from the kids next door, and I BARELY want to hang out with my own! (Kidding). What makes them think I want to sit awkwardly in my witch rocking chair, while they stare me down? I’d rather they just go spinning off into the alley to play, but they don’t. They sit there scowling and it’s weird as fuck.

I don’t get down with the neighbor scene, even if they’re cool. I’ve seen some situations where all the tenants in the building leave their doors open, and they just walk in and out of each other’s places. Fuck that! That would never be my thing. Ever. The minute I saw that happening in my building, I’d be putting a guard dog outside my door. Don’t try to walk in my house without being invited, you fucking vampire. That’s against the rules. You need to be invited, just like Jesus. What makes you think you have privileges over Jesus?!

Speaking of lords, we didn’t tell our landlord we were thinking of moving, because we really really like them. They’re lenient when we need extra time on rent, they fix something as soon as we report it, they don’t come around and get nosy, they care about our kids, and they want us to be comfortable in this place. That goes a long way with me. Plus, they love us, even though I just made us sound like nightmare tenants. We’re actually very cool. Trust me. I’m also trustworthy. And cool.

Nevertheless, if I told them that it was, in fact, the neighbors who were driving us away, he might try to kick them out instead, because we’re so much cooler than they are. As much as I think they should be in boot camp, turning those brats into homeless kids would be something my conscience couldn’t handle. One of those kids is almost a little bit cute. So, I worked hard to avoid that whole conversation altogether.

It ultimately worked out, because we decided not to move. Instead, we’re fixing up the place we have, and NOT moving the hoard of shit we have accumulated over time. The rooms have been switched around, AND painted, and everything has new life. Including old Jupe.

Now if I could just convince the neighbors to send those kids to boot camp, all will be perfect.

-jg

Hey! Stop Blowing Me (off)

I know I don’t normally do this, but I need to rant for a second, or 900.

I get so tired of people blowing each other off, all the damn time. Not everyone feels this way, and I discuss that briefly further down in the post, but this specific article is about how damaging I think it is, socially. Believe it or not, there are some people who aren’t able to see things the way I see them until I’ve told them about it, at which point, they think to themselves: “Oh yeah. That’s totally true.” Broken commitments are more than just an inconvenience; they’re changing the way we interact with each other, as a society. It’s time people start saying “Oh yeah, that’s totally true” about it.

It can be annoying to be cancelled on, or it can bring anxiety to have to cancel on another person, or it can actually be ironic, sometimes, like when you’re planning something for other people to come together, and not one person can commit to it. It can leave you in a state of frustrated confusion. Sometimes it makes no sense at all, until you put yourself into the role of the person doing the blowing-off: it seems perfectly harmless at the time, because you’re just one person cancelling one plan, on one day, where a bunch of other people were invited, and they’ll all surely show up, and the person who planned it will get over it, right?

But what happens when you’re just one of the many people who are collectively blowing-off the plan, all at the same time? What happens when that event was intended to uplift and strengthen our circles in society, to expand our collective consciousness and intelligence, to gain solidarity? Everyone misses out, and the broken plans then morph into a broken society, because we aren’t allowing ourselves to listen to the experiences of others. We all follow the same plan to just not show up.

We regularly prioritize our own comfort and preference, over something that could improve our outlook on others, or possibly aid in understanding something new, all because we think we might not enjoy it or “get anything” from it, or because we just prefer to do something else that brings satisfaction. We already know we will be rewarded for watching Netflix and eating cookies, so we feel no remorse in breaking plans to do that. What happens to our society when we do this over and over and over again, to more people, on more occasions?  The answer is, we become accustomed to this as The Norm. We assimilate this behavior into our own social standards, and it no longer is seen as a damaging pattern, because “it happens to everyone.”

And I think that’s where we are. We are letting ourselves down, by allowing ourselves to shirk responsibility, by allowing ourselves to break commitments without consequence, by allowing ourselves to have such little respect for others, that we can’t honor our word that we have prioritized them into a block of time in our life. We turn these into harmless traits, because we don’t care enough to put ourselves in the shoes of the people we cancel on.

Sometimes, some of us sickos love when people cancel plans on us, and we celebrate that we don’t have to actually show up when someone was expecting us at an event, or host someone at our home. It can be relieving, especially when you have an already frustratingly busy life.

There are times, conversely, where we are upset by someone’s cancellation. When we have gone through the effort of honoring our own commitment, even if we were resistant to do so, and now we have to adjust to a new plan because our “friend” found something better to do. It gets annoying, not necessarily at first, but when it happens to you all the time.

Allow me to speak from experience.

Recently (recently can be any time within the past year), I found myself trying on some very specific “shoes.”

I have a lot of friends who are going through the fucked up shit in life, and they constantly say they don’t have any strong females in their lives to help them through it. So, I take all of these stories, and I say “I need to be the one to do something, because  I’ve already been through hell, and I found strength where it definitely didn’t exist before.” I want to pass this on to other women who need it.

I organize a clothing swap, in a central location, so more women can attend. I host it, I gather a bunch of my clothes to donate, and invite the ladies to bring their kids if they want to, I even offer to go pick up women who need a ride there. I make every effort to make them feel welcome and comfortable… and nobody responds. The responses I do get are few and far between, which- I understand, people are busy, but the responses only say “maybe” and they never actually get any more specific than that, regardless of how many times I say “I need a definite motherfucking headcount, if anyone is even showing up.” Nobody commits to it, and so sadly, I cancel it, knowing that it has nothing to do with me. Some of them cannot schedule an hour for themselves, because they are slaves to their lives, and aren’t considered people… but they can’t figure out how to get off the speeding train for an hour, so they allow it to perpetuate.

Time goes by, and the chats with women continue, and I am still hearing about how badly these women need a solid network of support, so I approach it like a Women’s Support and Empowerment group. Everyone tells me “What a great idea!” or “I will make time for this!” or “I need this so bad!” but when the invite goes out, I get a shitload of MAYBE responses, again. The ones who said they would make time for it, suddenly have other things to do. The ones who said they need this badly, don’t know if they will want to do anything at 3 PM on a Saturday. The ones who said they think it’s a great idea, are nowhere to be found.

I think: “What the fucking hell do I have to do, to get these women to get together and feel good about themselves?!” I offered to drive to their houses to make them feel better before heading to the group. I offered to hang out with their kids while they were at the group. I offered to change the time to a more feasible hour. I offered to have it be an open forum, where no hard structure was scheduled, to make ladies more comfortable. What is the problem?!

Now, I should mention that these are some very specific “shoes” because some of them had some extenuating circumstances, being in a way-fucking-less-than-ideal situation. Cancelling plans, for them, is probably not a good thing. But that was certainly not the case for all of them, and this trend of cancelling on people goes far beyond this example, with the biggest offenders doing it out of selfishness only. They have found another option to be more desirable than the commitment they have made to you, and they are unable to prioritize you above it, regardless of the fact that their word is at stake.

Yeah, I said it: Their Word. When you tell someone you’re going to be somewhere, you should do it. Even if it creates a conflict elsewhere (that you can probably realistically live with), even if it becomes difficult to be there… you hold yourself to what you have committed. The other person is going to be somewhere, at a certain time that they have set aside for you. Time in their life, which is in such short supply… they have given you some of their life. If you cancel on that, your word probably doesn’t mean shit after that.

The problem is, our society has grown accustomed to breaking commitment without remorse or consequence, revealing two very toxic types of people in your circle: those who cancel all the time and don’t care, and those who haven’t yet gotten to the point of feeling no remorse… they just don’t commit at all, to save themselves from breaking commitment in the end. I almost feel more offended by the latter type. Even when there is a 98% chance they know they aren’t going to show up, they will withhold that information, and let you go on believing that they will be give you a definite answer at any point in time, ever. You will get plenty of “maybe” or “I’ll try” responses, but never a solid yes or no. You will wait until the last minute to find out, when everyone else is canceling on the definite answer they previously gave you. So everything falls apart at once. If that part isn’t happening to you, you won’t recognize how harmful it is, and you will keep doing it to other people.

STOP IT. If you don’t think you’re going to be there, just say no! Say “I don’t think I can make it,” and if it turns out that you CAN make it, ask the host “Hey, is it okay if I stop by? Turns out I can make it after all.” It is literally that easy. I guarantee, people are going to be much less hurt about one of their invited guests being able to go to their event, than if their guests just surprise them by not showing up.

Keep your damn plans. Even if you don’t want to. Make some more plans, and stick to those. Far too often, I hear “Let’s make some plans!” when friends are having a good time that WASN’T EVEN PLANNED to begin with. It’s confusing, because when you think about it, you were having such a good time with your friend, that you offer to have a good time with them again in the future… but you don’t want to tell them when it is. How does that make sense???

Don’t plan to hang out. Just do it! Are you bored? Ask your friend to hang out and shoot the shit RIGHT NOW. If they live far away, give them a call and listen to their voice for awhile. Nothing boils my blood quite like reading the sentence “We should hang out sometime!”

Yeah, we should. What about right now? You’re working? What are you doing after that? No time for a chat? What about coffee in the morning of your next day off? Busy? Really? Every single hour of your day off, you’re busy? There’s no way – unless you’re that crazy-scheduled soccer mom, or a doctor/nurse on call – that you absolutely cannot schedule one hour out of the next 336. If that is the case, then I’m sure we’ll probably never hang out again, until I bump into you again by accident, because it doesn’t sound like you really want to hang out.

I have so many friends that say that shit to me: “We should really make plans.”

What? We should make plans? When? You’re literally making a plan right now, to make plans in the future. Please just make the plan to hang out, and stop making plans to make plans. It’s weird and confusing. Do you want to hang out? You do? Okay, well, tell me when you’re willing to fit me into your life. Every time you say the sentence “We should make plans” to me, it takes another 3 seconds of my life, not including my response and/or subsequent discussion about plans. That’s not fair. That’s a lot of my life that I’m giving you right there. The least you can do, is tell me I get 30 minutes of your life on Saturday afternoon before your better plans (yeah right, bitch) start. I mean, 30 minutes? That’s only 10 times of you telling me we should make plans. (Which you have).

I know I sound like a dick. I’m trying to. Shaming With Love is my style. All I want is for people to look at what they’re saying and doing (and for everyone to be able to eat delicious dip). If someone is trying hard, and continuously putting themselves out there for you, reciprocate that shit! Live up to your word, at the VERY least! I don’t care if you miss your fucking cats and wonder what they’re doing in your absence. If you choose to blow me off when I’m trying to give you a part of my life’s timeline, but still expect me to give you more time in the future, you’re selfish and I have no time for you. My time is short, man, I fucked up a lot of times as a young dumbass, and have practically heard the sound of years coming off the end of my life. I can’t afford to waste minutes on listening to you make yourself feel good. Stop being so greedy,  and start thinking about what kind of human you want to be while you’re here.

But don’t think too long; you still have to dedicate time to actually making plans.

-jg

Manic Depression Is A Frustrating Mess

There’s a commercial on TV right now, for a medication that targets the “misunderstood side” of Manic Depression, and that is the Manic Episode.

Now, for those who are unfamiliar with Manic Depression, that’s okay. It’s a term that is going away now, with Bi-Polar Disorder being the new moniker taking its place. It sounds a bit more immediate, in my opinion, being that you can go from a high point (in mood or behavior) to a low point within a short period of time, and I always understood Manic Depression to be more of long term thing: weeks or months of “high”, followed by weeks or months of “low” and so on. Now, they’re saying it’s both. Schizophrenia is a completely different thing, though Manic Depression and Bi-Polar Disorder can make you feel like multiple people exist within you at different times. So here we are, up to speed on our terms. I will refer to them by acronyms, from here on.

I have always identified more with the MD symptoms than the BPD symptoms. I think everyone has the capacity to change their mood during the day, based on whatever situational stimuli they have going on. BPD is an extreme version of that, and can be dangerous, depending on the person. I have not ever been that way, outside of the normal heated arguments I (again seem to) think everyone has. I don’t think I ever get overly energetic or “hyper” for lack of a better word, and the only problems I have with sleeping involve my back pain, which is an unrelated issue.

I do, however, experience periods of time where I am creative, and the execution of that creativity is gratifying, and I am motivated to do more, and create more, and clean more, and get rid of excess things, and show people the attention I think they deserve… followed by periods of time where I can do nothing but sleep, and be in a fog, and feel no motivation, and don’t enjoy anything (music, tv, movies, painting, photography, writing, time with family) with no explanation for it. These peaks and valleys are noticeable and oddly predictable, and I always try to take advantage of the peaks while they’re around, because I know I’ll be fucking useless once those valleys come around. So, that’s what I do.

I should mention, I am not currently being treated for MD or BPD. I have taken Psychology and Sociology and Mental Health and Human Development and Philosophy, and I have watched a TON of TV commercials, but I have also talked to multiple doctors about the symptoms. I choose not to medicate for it, because I don’t personally think I need it, and even though my doctors are probably paid by the pill, they agree that a prescription is not necessary. I also am not interested in unsolicited advice that I don’t want and am in no way asking for. So like the medication, don’t fuckin offer it to me.

The TV ad shows a woman making sandwiches, and she gets through a few, and starts thinking “Why don’t I make a shitload of sandwiches, while I have the Mustardayonnaise out?” So she starts making hella sandwiches, and she’s wrapping em in foil, and some sandwiches are all rushed and sloppy, and I think that’s supposed to be a metaphor for how our work suffers in quality on Manic Monday. She makes like 100 sandwiches, at least, and then the camera pans out, and she’s on a fuckin house of cards. I don’t know, I might be mixing up the two ads that are run by this pharmaceutical brand (one is the sandwich lady, and the other one is a fuckin crazy post-it note queen going to town on some shit). Anyway, the message is: “Manic episodes can leave you on shaky ground” or something like that. I think that might be the actual tagline.

When I was watching the commercial, and I saw her being a damn sandwich wizard, I was captivated! “Go, girl!” I yelled at the TV, because I was excited for her progress and her forward thinking. I was impressed by her productivity. I wanted to make a sandwich. I wanted to be her kid. But then they were all weird about it in the ad, which made me feel pretty violated, first of all. I felt like they lured me to the van with the candy, but when I got there, it was just a bunch of candy shamers. I didn’t want to feel guilty for cheering her on, and it was a sick move on their part, to make me feel that way. They started talking about the Manic episodes being “the misunderstood side” of MD.

Excuse me? I’m pretty sure the DEPRESSION is misunderstood as something people can just “snap out of” and “feel better” and “try to look at the positive things” to get through. To compare one to the other, is just ridiculous. Both elements are equally misunderstood, and this medication is only making a bad thing worse! It targets the Manic episodes solely, leaving you with nothing but an indefinite Depressive state, and a laundry list of side effects – including, but not limited to, suicidal thoughts or actions, headache, dizziness, loss of vision, or it may worsen your depression. Why would anyone want to pay for that, much less ingest it, and form an addiction they have to continually pay for, not only out of pocket, but through the insurance plan they also pay for? Are people that opposed to smoking a joint before bedtime and calling it good, that they would rather put themselves through the addiction and financial hardship of a chemical blast to the brain?!

I guess I just don’t get it. I live in a pretty liberal state, so I feel like people should always try cannabis first, before climbing on board the candy wagon. When someone takes a medication for MD or BPD, they aren’t just taking one – they’re taking co-prescriptions with it, and they’re paying for those too. And not only are they paying for them, but they don’t even think about what the “medicine” is doing to them! I don’t understand what needs to happen, for people to realize how beneficial cannabis is, and how poisonous prescription drugs can be. Every day, I read about 20+ new class-action lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, and they’re never in the newspaper or digital news or even on TV news. It’s a quiet class-action settlement that you wouldn’t otherwise know about, unless you were looking for it (or following new lawsuits all the time, like I do). You’ll never see it in the news, because there’s not enough time between prescription drug commercials. If you think your doctor isn’t being paid kick-backs by pharmaceutical companies, you’re one of the people making me laugh right now. Seriously. That level of stupidity and denial makes me laugh my ass off, because I know there is a moron walking around, and it isn’t me.

At this time, I am currently in a Manic state, but that could be because school just got out for the summer yesterday, and that means I get to go to the track at 5 AM now. It also could be that I am 35 minutes from my deadline to post this, and I am still writing. I have been awake for 7 hours, and haven’t eaten, so that’s probably not a great thing, and the coffee will make me crash soon. At least I’ll be surrounded by my kids, so they can pick up the slack.

I don’t think I could afford to take a medication that took me out of my brain, because my kids would probably fall off the face of Shaq’s flat green Earth. In my Depressive episodes, I end up reminding (torturing) myself about how much I love my kids, and how they’ll be gone soon, and making stupid choices, and I want to be there for them, and I want to hear everything they ever have to say… and then when they won’t shut up about dumb things, I scold myself for wishing they would stop talking. I bully myself into participating in a conversation about Lego superheroes or Reader’s Digest, when I’m dying inside and just want to fall asleep to see how much time passes by. I make myself do it. I use it as a reason to never forget what I have. I take the shitty things, and I turn them into silver linings. It’s not easy, and I don’t know how I even do it, but I’m sure that not everybody can do it, and that makes me feel sad too. My sister tells me the same thing about herself, and that makes me feel sad too. The misunderstood spiral goes on.

When I get Manic again, I try to think of ways to show appreciation for people, and I end up flooding my mind with ideas, and get my gears jammed, so I ultimately spend an hour just thinking, and not actually doing anything. Mostly, I just end up cooking a lot, and sometimes if I’m lucky, writing. I haven’t been in a peak for awhile, which is why my writing has been struggling. I promise to try to “snap out of it” really soon, and “just feel better” so perhaps a good upward climb on the ol’ house of cards is just what I need.

-jg