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Thursday, August 01, 2019

The Relentless Bully Returns

Depression is a bully that lives inside your head.  I've struggled with depression my whole life.  For as long as I could remember it having a name, it has taken up residence in my brain.  It has gone on holiday at times and as a result it has given me a vacation from its hold over me. But it always returns.

I suppose the difference is that I'm a pretty high-functioning sufferer.  I CAN get out of bed.  There was a time I couldn't, but I do it pretty regularly now.  I CAN motivate myself to work, because as a high-functioning sufferer, I also have a very high, almost over-active sense of responsibility.  I CAN sit with "friends" and smile, and laugh and pretend nothing is wrong because high-functioning sufferers are very good actors. They also feel they aren't deserving of attention and allow those in their circle to claim attention for themselves.

One thing that I've come to realize over time is that once the ball begins rolling, it gathers momentum.  Small things become larger, situations that have simple explanations become mind-bogglingly baffling.  And the ball becomes larger and larger until it cannot be controlled.  I'm heading that way.  And I'm scared.  Right now, where I am, I feel I have no friends, no one to talk to, and as the disease is wont to do, it tells me constantly that no one cares.  Except my dog.

Funny thing is, I'm constantly worried about other people.  I constantly reach out to make sure people are ok. But the voices in my head tell me that those same people care nothing about me.  I'm a blip.  A red shirt on Star Trek. An inconsequential seat-holder.  Lately, I feel like I've been dealt some really difficult blows.  A revelation of a long-held belief by someone else has leveled me.  The passing of a friend's loved one has intensified my brain's testimony of my lack of self-worth.  The perceived lack of attention by those I hold dear who, if I made it known my heart hurts, would then begin the dissertation of why my feelings are silly, unworthy, or how I need to move on and then stand on their soapbox of philosophical rightness to tell me how that's done.  When really, just an ear and a hug would do.  An injury that has kept me from doing something I have desired forever is exacerbating an already difficult situation.

Yet, through all of this, I still function.  I still get out of bed.  I still check on people.  I still reach out. I still smile.  I still do things to make other people feel important and worthy and loved. And still, I'm dying inside.

Depression is a bully that lives inside your head and lies to you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Principle and Conviction

Today, I asked the Mindhive to share their definition of principles and convictions. I inquired as to what they had given up because of strongly held beliefs. It became an issue that my mind woke up to and hasn't been able to shake because of a comment on the place of faces on a page I used to frequent. "Used to" being the operative word. That page, along with quite a few others, are part of those things I've eschewed not just for my mental sanity, but for my emotional well-being as well. Toxicity is not a principle or conviction, but it's definitely something I'm willing to give up surrounding myself with.

 Which brings me back to the subject of most of my recent blog posts; sacrifice. I've learned over the past few years of either relinquishing things that give me a sense of calmness, serenity, or downright joy for the sake of health or humanity, that if the subject comes up whilst you are in the company of people who still participate in the aforementioned activities, eyes begin to roll. After giving up two things that I have dearly loved (smoking and eating meat) for years now, I've seen an evolution of behaviors. Not just in myself, but in friends and acquaintances.

 I've learned that I AM stronger than I ever thought I could be when it comes to myself. I've always been a strong wife, a strong mother, strong friend. I've always been able to be present when it comes to my loved ones. If I can move heaven or earth to help, I will do that which must be done. Many times at the cost of my own health or safety, both physically and emotionally. But, I have learned in a short few years that I CAN stand strong in principles I've held strong beliefs in, but never seemed to have the conviction to make happen. I can, and have achieved that goal.

I've learned that I'm more willing to sacrifice for OTHERS than I am for myself.  I can and will give up my own happiness in order to save lives. I can and will give up my own joy in order to bring joy to someone else.  I can and will stand in the fray to fight for the rights of people I care about.  But buy your own tater tots and martinis. These are mine.  Unless you're starving. Have the tots. Hands off the Cosmo.

 As proud as I am of these past successes, I've also learned that it has a bit of a snowball effect. I don't know if it's the times we're living in, or if it's just a level of late maturation. I do credit the current political climate and the horrific administration now in power in this country with opening my eyes in a big way. Everything that is being torn down and the uproar over that, and yet, I don't see a lot of change where, in my opinion, it counts. It's easier now for me to see more clearly that:

1. You can't complain if you're not willing to change.
2. Hypocrisy takes many forms and I've been very guilty of it in ways that make me ashamed.
3. It hurts WAY more when you know you've been complicit in the participation of causing harm and it's taken you your whole life to see it.
4. The more you've given up, the easier it is to continue to give up that which you know in your heart isn't right.

I've given up 3 major things in my life in my 50s. One of those things I wish I had never started. The second thing, I wish I'd given up sooner. The third thing is one of baby steps. I've given up a portion of it because I cannot take an oath to a cause when I don't think they're really adhering to their own stated principles, but I remain loyal to the mission statement. Baby steps.

 Now, Charlie and I stand on the precipice of giving up something we dearly love; cruising. Having discovered the extent of their atrocities and their criminal activity to cover it up, we can't in good conscience continue to participate or be complicit. We all know that money talks, and though Charlie's and my hard-earned vacation dollars are a drop in the bucket to them, at this point, it's the only way we know of to let them know we're no longer on board, pun intended. We're sad beyond the face value of this. It means we will not see friends that we've made over our decades of cruising. It means that we will more than likely not see the places we would likely have seen for a lot less money. It means that the one vacation value that we've always treasured is no longer a joy we will have. 

Therein also lies a measure of hypocrisy that I have had to face. In my heart of hearts, the ocean girl in me knew, even though I claimed to do my due diligence by being one of the first to sign up for their "Behind The Fun" tour many years ago, where they showed us their recycling and water treatment plants and lied to us about their commitment to be environmentally responsible, I knew. I have spent my life in, on, near, and surrounded by Mama Ocean. I have claimed to love her, to revere her, to respect her. But I loved to cruise and I didn't want to sacrifice the one thing that Charlie and I have enjoyed beyond measure. And way down deep, I always knew and I turned my face away from the truth. I buried my head in the sand. This whole environmental travesty has blown up in my face and I can no longer ignore the devastation I've been a party to.

This is no different to me than the explosion of truth that blew up in my face and caused me to give up eating meat. The years I turned my eyes away from the horrific slaughter of innocents because "that's what they're here for" could no longer be denied. The guilt is overwhelming at times. This is one of those times. I'm good at guilt. I'm even better at punishing myself. But now, I see that I'm stronger than I thought I was. I've sacrificed. I'll survive. My one fervent wish is that in the process of "survival", some good will come of the change, however small it may be.

 "It is a long way from the said to the done." - Sicilian Proverb

Friday, May 10, 2019

Non Sui Ipsius

Mission Statement of The American Legion Auxiliary:

In the spirit of Service Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad.

For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.

Pua's Personal Statement

Paragraph one is the reason I serve. Paragraph two is the one I struggle with, beginning with the first two words. I'm right there with ..."we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth." But I have to be honest, I have not seen a whole lot of good citizenship, peace, and security at the American Legion lately. I have not seen a whole lot of "Service Not Self". What I HAVE seen are personalities, egos, bullies, bullying, and general SELF-aggrandizing, SELF-motivation, and SELFishness. All under that banner of "For God and Country", which again, I struggle with. Don't get me wrong, the "patriotism" overflows in that cubbyhole of "America-ness" and "Truthy-ism". That's to be expected. But the mention of deities slays me every damn time. Further, the behavior of some people who make that pledge...well, that's one of many reasons Charlie and I very easily walked away from organized religion and everything that goes with it decades ago.

The God I once knew would have nothing to do with any of the nonsense going on there. Moreover, I honestly doubt that anyone that truly is trying to honor their omniscient, omnipotent benefactor-creator would behave the way they do if they really believed they were motivated by a pledge that includes "For God and Country" without some sense of guilt, hypocrisy, or irony.

I have to re-evaluate my level of participation. A resignation may be in the works.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Frank Zappa Was Right

I made a promise to myself to stay out of the political commenting fray of Facebook a little over 2 weeks ago.  While I have felt better and my blood pressure has stabilized, that doesn't mean it hasn't been difficult. I am a creature of habit and passion. As time (and the current state of national and international affairs) has become the "enemy", I find my inner soul clinging to the Dylan Thomas poem; "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night". However, when it comes time to rage against the dying of the light, I'm literally screaming silently into the ether. Okay, sometimes not so silently.

You see, the social media branch of the place of faces has this little feature that lets you know when friends of yours have commented on some page that you are not necessarily familiar with.  And if you're very new to curbing your opinion, it allows you to click your way into that unfamiliar page, see what your friend posted, and see what others have posted.  DAMMIT! So, while I have been a very good girl about not posting political stuff on my own page, I have not been so successful with curtailing the Nosey Nellie inside me and letting that recently repressed social activist wave her flag. I suppose that's a form of cheating. But I hate cheaters, and even though we've learned in a very big way that cheaters DO prosper, I don't want to be associated with hypocrites or cheaters. So that needs to stop.

I can't do anything about other people posting things that I disagree with other than just scroll by. You say; "But Pua, you CAN unfriend them." Yes, that is true. I can and have done that. The problem with that however, is that sometimes those people are of the same opinion as you in most things, they just don't always check their facts. There was a time that I would, behind the scenes, gently and hopefully diplomatically remind them that the source or content of their meme or their shared post wasn't entirely fully factual, or up to date.  In my mind, that's no different than screaming about uranium sales, birth certificates, or Libyan cities on the Mediterranean Sea coast. If we stoop to that ploy and refuse to evolve, we're no different than they are. So there I sit; silently scrolling by, leaving no reactive "like," "love," "wow," "sad," or "angry" emoji, even if I know that politically we agree.

Which leads me to those friends/acquaintances who I love and care about with whom, politically and socially, I am unequally yoked. My simple solution has been to "snooze" them for 30 days. I have often wondered, while I'm snoozing them, if they've already blocked or unfriended me and I'm giving them way more grace than they have afforded me. Then I wonder why I care. Weird the way that plays out sometimes. I've laughed out loud at myself and thought; "Pua, you are some piece of work." I am, if nothing else, a living embodiment of dichotomous thinking. And so it goes.

I have recently done something I consider very, very brave. I have confirmed the friend requests of people who have been "waiting in the wings" that I KNOW for a fact are on the opposite political, cultural, social, and economic plane than myself. To be very clear, and very fair, it does not mean I don't like or admire these people. It's just that I know that politically, we don't agree. We have common goals and missions with regard to volunteerism, but I'm sure, had they seen some of my posts, they would have never requested being a FB friend. That's not conjecture. That's fact.

With having decided these weeks ago to stop posting political memes or getting into commentary, and having replaced those posts with "happy" shit (GAG - another thing that makes my skin crawl a bit...I don't care who you are, NO ONE is happy every single day), I figured it was "safe".  I'm calling it, for lack of a better term, a "distraction". It will serve a two-fold purpose; a) it will hopefully make me think twice before I have a knee jerk reaction to some uninformed untruth someone posts, and b) it will hopefully help me to concentrate more on action. It's one thing to be a keyboard warrior. It's another thing to put your money where your mouth is. I want to concentrate more on doing.

I have come to the conclusion that the face place and the birdie site are never going to change the minds of people. Minds have been and are already where they are destined to be. Those sites just anger the masses into a froth (I know because I've been frothy) and ruffle feathers (I know because I've had fluffy feathers). I have seen the miraculous changing of minds over intimate fireside chats with beers, blunts, and doses of  human kindness where the voice of the biblical hero entices; "Come, let us reason". Nothing is going to change because I post or comment on something I find abhorrently wrong or inhumane. I will in future, as my very wise and very mature children have modeled for me, STFU about it, and let others do what they will. After all, they're doing it better than me.  I'm going back to blogging (have you noticed?) If you really look at it, the most comments or reactions have come when I've posted about Kili or the kids. Which is why I don't have a personal InstaGram page...Kili does.  I'm going to keep it that way, because in the big picture, Zappa was right.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Vial of Life

MAY 9, 2019 UPDATE: Last night, at our Executive Board Meeting, our ALA291 Treasurer, Karen Karanickolas, who has been instrumental in helping me push this program forward by facilitating procurement of the Vial of Life stickers, handed me a box of stickers she received this week. We were both quite giddy with excitement because this means we can begin making the Vial of Life packets at the post for anyone that would like one. I will be making an announcement at our next General Meeting on May 15th about scheduling a packet making night at the post. We just need to get our Community First Responders on board.

Last month, as many of you know, I went up to Washington State for 2 weeks to hang out with my dear friend Hap ("my mother from another brother"). She lives with my "brother from another mother" Wes (or vice-versa).  It gave Wes a little time to thaw out from a long winter, visit with his son, and have some time with friends.  While I was there, I noticed a red sticker with a white cross on Hap's front door, and also the same sticker on her fridge. I asked her about it and she explained the whole Vial of Life program her community (Anacortes, Washington) has adopted, with the blessing of their city's first response units.  Since it's adoption and implementation in their city, countless lives have been saved.

Upon my return home, I couldn't stop thinking about the Vial of Life program. I STILL can't stop thinking about it. It's weighing so heavily on my heart that I can't sleep. I'm the Community Services Chair of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 291, and I thought that this could be a wonderful Community Services Outreach Project for our Auxiliary. So I did some research.  According to World Population Review, in 2017-2018 the population of Costa Mesa is 113,825. Of that, 90,012 are adults, 11,821 of whom are seniors (over age 65).  The American Community Survey informs us that there are 42,476 households in Costa Mesa.  I can only imagine, with those numbers, how many lives could be saved in a resident emergency situation if our own wonderful first response units had the assistance of this kind of information at their disposal when they arrive on scene. They see a sticker in the window of the home, and know they have medical information about the homeowner in the fridge/freezer that could be the difference between life and death.

That said, I took my information and presented it to my Auxiliary at our General Meeting last week, and received overwhelming support and a green light to go ahead with this as a Community Service project. My heart absolutely SWELLED with pride! Our unit is under the jurisdiction of the Newport Harbor American Legion Post 291, and so because I live in Costa Mesa, but our post is in neighboring Newport Beach,  I will be presenting this very same program  to the mayors of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa in the hope they might consider adopting it in their communities as a whole.

The best part about the Vial of Life program is that it is ABSOLUTELY FREE.  Anyone can go to VialofLife.com and download the medical form, the stickers, and get all the information necessary to make their own Vial of Life.  The problem is, the most vulnerable demographic of folks who would benefit sometimes do not have computers, have access to computers, or even have a desire to mess with any technology.  That's why our Auxiliary will be making up Vial of Life kits FREE OF CHARGE and distributing them to anyone who would like to have one.

The catch is that the program can only be successful if our first responders are aware of its existence. If they are called to a home with a sticker on the door notifying them that the person is a Vial of Life participant, but they aren't aware of the program and don't know there is a precious cache of information about their patient in the fridge/freezer, then the program is of no service to that person.

I really believe in my soul that this program could save countless lives. In Hap's town, residents can actually pick up a pre-assembled Vial of Life kit at their library, hospital, police station and fire department. I would LOVE to see this happen in our community as well, and it's become a personal mission to make that come to fruition.

If you're reading this, I'm going to assume you're a friend or family member, because that's really the only ones who read my blog. That also means that you're probably someone that I love, adore, or care about.  So please, as a favor to me, go to Vialoflife.com and make yourself a FREE Vial of Life life-saving packet. That would mean the world to me.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Meet Me in St. Louis

Stonehenge 2007
Bath 2007

Graduation Day 2008

Mexico 2012
Hi Mom! 1989
Dad Smooches 1990

Tomorrow, at o'dark thirty, my "baby" is off on another work adventure. This time to St. Louis. Just as when the girls begin new journeys in life, and no matter how old they are, I'm proud as heck, but I can't deny the twinge in my heart. 

The longing for a day when all they lived for was a cuddle, the whimsical joy of a story told, and the safety of them being in your protective embrace replaced with a morsel of worry. That's a given. It will never change.

I send him off, yet again, into a world that may not envelop him in a warm hug. But, also into another opportunity at growth, change, and success (monetary gain notwithstanding).

Proud mom? To be sure. Three times over. That doesn't mean that saying goodbye isn't hard. It is. Every single time. So instead I'll say; A hui ho, Grommet. Remember to call your mother every now and then. She loves you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

How You Love

I haven't blogged lately because for some weird reason, my blog seems to have changed into some weird thing I don't know how to fix.  So I've just posted on FB.  But, this post needs some space, and I need to be able to use all my digits and not just the index finger on my right hand. So, however it comes out here is what it is.

I have been struggling with something very personal for quite a long time now. I keep it to me, and I share it with my best friend, my life partner, my protector, my kids' father, the one I know has my back no matter what. My children know and support me. I do believe, in small things they do and say, that this thing that has become very important to me, is also important to them. I like to think, that like their dad, they are proud of me as well.

Very recently, in the last week in fact, something quite significant happened that was probably a defining factor in changes that will transpire in my life's walk. I shared a bit, in a very surface-y kind of way. But today, I shared in graphic detail with Charlie. Only because he genuinely asked me about something I said. He cared. He cared about what I cared about. It had an impact on a conversation we had about a milestone in our lives...an anniversary dinner.

As we talked, and I shared, I had one of those moments of clarity that sometimes escapes those of us who have been in relationships that surpass the days of passion. Decades go by and you are well past the child-bearing, and child-rearing days that are mindless expectations of the children of the "Greatest Generation".  You've gone beyond those "Hot August Nights" in the backseat of some muscle car, thinking your parents are none the wiser, and you've survived nappies, and vomit, and teenage discipline. You know you've graduated from a nuclear "pod" to that "twoness" that started this whole crazy ride, and lo and behold...you still fucking adore each other. So, when something life-changing happens to one of you, it happens to BOTH of you. At least, it should.

I guess this is just my tribute to my husband. On the eve of this yearly thing that we celebrate during this week in January, I'm just a bit overwhelmed by his gift to me tonight. He just sat and listened to me talk about things that have been weighing on my heart. He didn't judge me, he didn't try to sway me in any way. He just listened, and in his listening, I fell into that deep, safe, love that I fell into on that Wednesday night in January 39 years ago. I remembered that feeling of complete comfort that an insecure 19 year old girl felt when this funny, self-effacing, sweet, kind 23 year old guy held her hand and walked along the beach with her all those years ago.

Changes and growth don't stop. Love shouldn't either. I have been the fortunate beneficiary of an affection that has stood the test of time. These are the things I need to remember on those days when complaining rolls off my lips just a little too easily.