Friday, December 27, 2019

All I ever wanted

Guiding a ship, it takes more than your skill
It's the compass inside, it's the strength of your will

I met my new therapist last week.

I had a hard time articulating why I was there, and she seemed a bit mystified too.

From which I conclude that I present as a typical, normal person. Whatever that means. No horns. No scarlet letter brand.

Or it means that I can pass as such. But I wasn’t consciously acting a part. I was trying to be honest. Authentic. Myself.

Alternatively, it means I really am doing fine.

As I’ve said, I know what clinical depression is. I’ve lived to tell. And I was really sick then. I was living on yogurt and oatmeal because that was all I could swallow. I was sleeping erratically, one hour a night or twelve. The exhaustion was profound. The panic waves were crippling.

Right now, most of the time, I feel good. I eat. I slept. I cry. I laugh.

The therapist asked what I was hoping to get out of therapy. I’ve been pondering this. A recipe for making friends and creating more than superficial relationships is probably beyond her powers of wizardry.

Something occurred to me during all this pondering. It’s not pretty but it explains some things.

I wonder if I’m somehow hard-wired to feel dissatisfied.

During much of my life, I thought I had a good idea of what was missing, what would have made me happier. Happy.

Over time it ran the gamut from being thinner, prettier, sexier, having more self confidence, a better job, more respectful kids, a cleaner home, to having a better provider for a husband, to being a stay-at-home mom.

For a long time it was having a durable romantic partnership for my life.

My marriage was problematic from before the start. When I met Jon, I was on the rebound from a major heartbreak and a series of disappointing relationships that followed it.

So when I met a man who called me when he said he would, week after week, who seemed to really like me, I was eager to ignore any and all red flags.

The biggest red flag was the extreme differences in our backgrounds. When we married I didn’t know how great the disparity was and how ill-prepared we were to surmount it.

My self esteem was so low that in the moment that Jon proposed and I accepted, I felt a flash of inadequacy, a feeling that somehow he was getting a someone unworthy of the huge thing that is a marriage, a bad deal. I pushed that sensation aside, which was probably the right thing to do.

Maybe we shouldn’t have married but it wasn’t for that reason. I am worthy of being married.

And I thought I could make it work. But I couldn’t. And I take the lion’s share of blame for that.

Whatever his failings, Jon wouldn’t have walked out, and not just because he liked it on the gravy train. He wanted to stay married, to avoid a broken home, like the one he’d grown up in. He just didn’t know how to be a partner, how to negotiate disagreements, how to fight clean, how to maintain communication and respect.

I did my part to not make it easy. And somewhere along the path we crossed a point of no return. After that, it was just a matter of going through the muddle of untangling our two lives while still bound by the children we’d made together.

It often amazes me that divorce is so common, given the immense complications involved in dividing a household and separating intertwined lives, even unhappy ones.

I didn’t reach my lowest low until a couple of years after my divorce was final, when a new relationship that seemed full of promise failed catastrophically, tipping me into a year-long dance with the canis diablo.

One of the things people told me at the time was that he wasn’t the right man and we wouldn’t have been happy together. At the time, I thought, I’d rather be unhappy with him than happy without him - knowing even then how idiotic that idea was.

It was only in retrospect, after meeting Neil 18 months later, that I realized what a favor he’d done for me, leaving me free to meet a man who was so much more right for me. And we have been happy together, for more than seventeen years now.

I have everything I need, all I ever wanted, and I’m grateful for that, every minute of every day, even those moments when I’m sad, or lonely, or full of anxiety or insecurity or melancholy.

I’m determined to overcome this, this way that I lean into what I’m missing rather than what I have.

I'm putting it out there. Every time I think I am feeling blue, I plan to call myself out on it.

No, life isn't perfect. I will always miss my parents, I will always long for my children to be closer, for that mythical home and family and friend group filled with love and acceptance and resonance and meaning.

But I will remind myself that this moment is OK, more than OK, precious and full of quiet peace and yes, magic.

Being human, it probably won't be a linear change, I will probably slip back into old habits at times, plus there are always the neurotransmitters in precarious balance to be aware of and wary of.

Still, I am going to try. I am going to lean into the light and the beauty and the abundance that is all about me, if I only remember to look.

I am the captain and I have been told
That tomorrow we land and my ship has been sold
Now losing this boat is worth scarce a mention
I think of the crew, most of all the first ensign
For all we learned the sea

Guiding a ship, it takes more than your skill
It's the compass inside, it's the strength of your will
The first ensign watched as tempests all tried me
I sang in the wind as if God were beside me
For all we learned the sea

You take the wheel one more time like I showed you
We've reached the strait once even I could not go through

I am the captain and I have been told
But I am not shaken, I am eight years old
And you are still young, but you'll understand
That the stars of the sea are the same for the land
And we came to learn the sea

(Dar Williams © BMG Rights Management)

Monday, December 16, 2019

The life I’m not living

All my cards are on the table with no ace left in the hole
I'm much too young to feel this damn old

I thought I was feeling better.

I really did.

I bumped up my anxiety med dose by half a milligram and it seemed to make just enough of a difference.

At least it dulled the edges of this thing that I have been dealing with for just about my whole life.

I felt level, a bit detached. Taking one day at a time, I felt stable. Not cured, but coping.

Then Neil left for a visit to his dad and his mom. Five days home with the cats stretched before me.

The first day I had an afternoon class, which broke up the day just enough. The second day I had an invitation to my ceramics teacher's annual sale. I went for a little while, just to have some reason to leave the house on a lovely December day, even though the price was buying a ceramic dish that I don't need or love. I stayed less than half an hour and made small talk. As I drove away, I though, well, that was awkward.

After that I went to Marshall's and stood on line for 20 minutes to buy one $3 thing, just because I wasn't ready to go home yet.

If that sounds pathetic, well, that is exactly how it felt.

That night I talked to Neil on the phone, and he said he was going to have to make the visits more frequent, maybe every month or two. His parents are hovering around the age of 90. His dad is losing his vision, his hearing, and his energy, and needs both help and companionship.

And I have empathy. Getting old is hard. It's especially hard when in Bob’s case, he still has most of his intellect but his body isn't keeping up. As my dad would have said (if he hadn't already up and died) is that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Bob's daughter lives very close by, but she works two jobs during the school year. The two younger grandkids have left the nest, one for out-of-state college, another for an out-of-state job. The oldest has mental issues, lives at home, doesn't work, and is some help but not reliable. And by the time you are 90, your friend-group is mostly pushing up daisies.

At least I can see. I can hear. I can comparatively safely drive myself places. I read and knit and do my art work. I have plenty of energy. My flesh is not weak.

But sometimes I struggle to remember why to get out of bed. I stumble from bed to sofa and coffee and iPad and eventually I wash up and get dressed.

Monday was gray and drizzly and cold and I had nowhere to be.

To be honest, I'm not sure if my malaise is actually depression, loneliness, or garden variety self pity, with a dash of shame and self-doubt thrown in.

I seem to be really stuck. I don't know how to get close to people. I haven't been able to make any real friends. This has come to weigh so heavily on me that in any social situation I monitor myself, weighing my words, wondering how I am coming across, wondering if my long history of being alone, a loner, is writ on my being, sending out warning flags.

Stay away. Keep your distance. Don't encourage her. Don't let her in.

That seat is taken.

And this is no good. This is not a way to be in the world.

I have so much of an ache, so much hollowness where my genuine self should be, so much sadness just beneath my smiling, friendly surface. I feel like a fraud, pretending to be all normal, pretending my life is full of social events and relationships and people. I have so much fear, as I engage with people, that things will end the way they always have, with civility and politeness but nothing more meaningful. Or worse, with people ghosting.

I keep digging this hole, this grave, deeper and deeper. With every failed friendship, I shovel out more dirt.

So I finally called the number on the back of my medical insurance card and said that I thought I was suffering from depression and needed some help.

They screened me, of course. They asked if I was safe, if I was at risk of hurting myself. I said, I’m safe. They asked how I was sleeping. Pretty well really. Seven or eight hours a night. How was my appetite? Um, normal. I get hungry, I eat, I try to eat a healthy diet.

I started to wonder if I was fine after all.

But they sent me a list of therapists in my area and in my plan, and asked me if I’d like to speak with someone right then, on the phone. I said sure.

So I spoke with a nice lady. I told her a little about how I felt, how needy, how much I hated feeling so dependent on Neil. I cried. A lot of things started spilling out. How I miss my parents. How I miss my kids. How hard it’s been to make friends.

She asked me if we went to church. I said, we’re not religious. She made the obvious suggestions, taking classes, volunteer work, a part time job. I said I’d been doing all of that, except for the job.

It did make me realize that the start of this bout of feeling really lost coincided with the beginning of the end of my bead business. I stopped trying to sell beads about the beginning of this year. I did several rounds if wholesale orders but that too petered out about the end of the summer.

I’ve continued to make beads sporadically and just to test the waters, I strung up some sets and did some Facebook listings. A couple of my former customers made small purchases, but after that I got only a few likes but no buyers. I’m not really surprised. A lot of people have said that bead sales have completely slumped.

It’s OK. I’ve lost my bead making mojo, at least for now, and I don’t miss the rest of the work of selling. But for a long time it provided structure in my life and an illusion of social interaction. Knitting and crocheting satisfy my need to make, to work with my hands. I have no idea what I’m going to do with all the hats and shawls and cowls in the long run, after I’ve given as many gifts as I have family members, but I’m not going to worry about it.

Maybe instead of being a crazy cat lady, I’ll wind up as a crazy fiber lady with wardrobes full of yarn and knitted goods. I’ve already toyed with the idea of doing more yarn dying and even learning to spin, but first I want to work my way through a lot more of the yarn I already have on hand.

And I’m nowhere near thinking about selling my glass and bead supplies. One thing I’m thinking about is making some simple jewelry again, maybe with the goal of doing some sort of makers market, as people are more likely to buy something ready-to-wear than loose beads.

Which reminds me, one of the ladies in my knitting group did buy three beads from me. She look them to a bead store to have them put on posts and she said the people at the store loved them and want me to make an appointment with the owner after the first of the year if I’m interested in selling. So there’s that to think about.

For now, I’ve made an appointment with a therapist, for the first time in more than 12 years. I hope it will help me work through some things. Recently, I said to Neil that I’m not living the life I want to be living, and Neil said, I’d have to figure that out for myself because he was perfectly happy with our life here. That hurt my feelings but I know there is truth in what he said.

No one can fix me or my life, except me.

This old highway's getting longer
Seems there ain't no end in sight
To sleep would be best but I just can't afford to rest
I've got to ride in Denver tomorrow night

I called the house but no one answered
For the last two weeks no one's been home
I guess she's through with me, to tell the truth I just can't see
What's kept the woman holding on this long

And the white line's getting longer and the saddle's getting cold
I'm much too young to feel this damn old
All my cards are on the table with no ace left in the hole
I'm much too young to feel this damn old

The competition's getting younger
Tougher broncs you know I can't recall
The worn out tape of Chris LeDoux, lonely women and bad booze
Seem to be the only friends I've left at all

And the white line's getting longer and the saddle's getting cold
I'm much too young to feel this damn old
All my cards are on the table with no ace left in the hole
I'm much too young to feel this damn old
Lord, I'm much too young to feel this damn old

(Garth Brooks / Randy Taylor © Universal Music Publishing Group)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Black Friday blues

I bear the brunt of your long buried pain
I don't mind helping you out but I want you to remember my name

Not to put too fine a point on it but ...

I should be shot.

Well, maybe not shot, considering my anti-gun zealotry, but horse whipped. Smacked up the side of the head. Skinned alive. Spanked.

Spoken to severely?

Black Friday sales started about a week before Black Friday. Forget about Cyber Monday, just about every online yarn site I frequent offered amazing deals, many with free shipping, starting by the beginning of Thanksgiving week.

Shall we say that I over-indulged?

Or we could say that I lost all will power, sense of proportion, touch with reality.

I placed at least seven yarn orders, including multiple ones from the same company at least twice.

To put that in context, I need no yarn. I have so much beautiful yarn already. Yet I went to Target and bought five more large plastic bins to house the upcoming onslaught.

None of the orders were huge in quantity. I’m drawn more to pricey quality yarn. My orders ranged from one skein to five or six or seven.

(But look how yummy it is. Could I really have resisted? Don't answer that.)

Primrose Yarn Homestead Sport in Soda Pop
I got four of the five
Primrose Yarn Homestead Sport in Buzz Worthy
I got all four

Of course, that’s just part of my self-indulgent little shopping spree.

By Black Friday, four packages had arrived, including one order placed on October 2.

There’s a story there. On October 2, one of my favorite yarn dyers increased their 40 percent off final sale to 70 percent off. I literally saw the amounts in my shopping cart plummet.

I also watched the items in my cart disappear, as others checked out faster than I did. I hastily filled up my cart again, checked out, made a second pass, and checked out again.

Not surprisingly, at 70 percent off, on that day the company sold more than 21,000 skeins.

I stopped looking after my second order but it turns out the sale continued for a couple more weeks, with ever-changing inventory and lots of lucky-dip mystery options.

For the record, I’m not likely to buy any mystery yarn. I'm not that person. Don't even try to surprise me.

It was implied during the sale that we were buying stock in inventory but it later was disclosed that we were buying dyed-to-order yarn, and the company way oversold its capacity to fill orders.

On Ravelry, the storm clouds gathered. People were wondering why they hadn't got shipping notices for their orders. Things became a bit lesss murky when, on October 30, it was announced that the company had been purchased by another larger yarn supplier. The buyer inherited a massive chaotic mess of unfulfilled orders and unhappy customers.

There are thousands of posts on Ravelry about the monumental clusterfuck. Many people cancelled orders but most of us were hanging in, still hoping to score our extreme yarn bargains.

I’d love to know the real back story. Did the original owner simply lose her mind and sell insane amounts of discounted yarn with the sale of the company looming? Did the buyer spot a breakdown and swoop in to save the day?

The yarn community is larger by far than the glass community, but that doesn’t mean that the bigger players don’t all know each other.

Anyway, the new owner, who ostensibly could have cut losses by cancelling the over sales, stepped up and committed to filling all the outstanding orders. Two months down the road and they’re continuing to chip away at it. Orders are going out somewhat regularly now, according to the Ravelry forums.

My smaller order, six skeins of Euro Sock, arrived with the first wave of my Black Friday scoops. No word so far on the 19 skeins in my earlier order, but I was very happy with the quality of the yarn I got, and guardedly hopeful that the rest will eventually arrive, even though it may be another month or more. Or I could get a shipping notice tomorrow.

My Mad Tosh Euro Sock. Worth the wait? I'd say so.
I’m letting it ride. The entertainment value has been worth part of the admission price.

So yeah. I have a yarn problem. I'm working on it though. Instead of looking yarn websites every day, I'm looking at my stash and pondering the possibilities.

Also, thank God, Black Friday only comes round once a year.

I did promise photos of my self-dyed yarn, so here goes.

First class. Testers and the red & orange real deal
Second class. Sock blank "autumn leaves" fade
Second class. Self striping in all the colors
I've already made a lacy shawl with my autumn leaves sock blank fade.

Just to keep life interesting, I've been making beads about once a week, whether I want to or not. It's funny, while lampwork isn't messy like ceramics, for example, there is a lot of prep and setup before I sit down at the torch. On the back end of beadmaking is cleaning the finished beads. I used to love all the little steps, now they are a means to an end.

Whereas yarn is so easy to pick up and put down, so portable, and you can easily do it in a group with others to talk to.

I still enjoy the flow of melting glass, but my interest in selling beads has evaporated, and yet, if I don't sell them, what is the point of making them? So I actually sat down and strung sets, and my goal is to try listing them on Facebook again, just to see what happens.

I don't have high hopes but if I sell a few beads now and then, it will help me offset the yarn-related deficit.

Group shot. A few sets already have been claimed. Go me.
Next up, individual photos. Gah.

I wear their face on top of my face
I am the perfect target screen
For your blindly fueled rage

I bear the brunt
Of your long buried pain
I don't mind helping you out
But I want you to remember my name

It's not all me
It's not all my fault
I may remind you
But I won't take it all on

Past riddled rage
I see the buttons I engage
With my dignity in place
I'm all too happy to assuage

It's not all me
It's not all my fault
I may remind you
But I won't take it all on

Lest I find my voice
Find the strength to stand up to you
Lest I stay my limit
And take on only what is mine to

We are a team
I'm here to help mend and re-seam
All I trigger unknowingly
A job I hold in high esteem

It's not all me
It's not all my fault
I may remind you
But I won't take it all on
I'll only take some of it

(Alanis Nadine Morissette © © Szeretlek, UNIVERSAL MUSIC MGB SONGS OBO SZERETLEK)