Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

But I Was Too Busy Trying to Have my Own

Source: Arctic Fox, on Pinterest

Some of the most unpleasant people I’ve know had over-achievers as parents. I was fortunate enough not to have had that additional problem in my life, but I did have one that’s just as toxic as it is well-intentioned.

My parents had dreams for me.

I’m sure you know the kind of dreams I mean: a college degree, a house in the suburbs surrounded by a white picket fence, a two-car garage, a successful career, and 2.5 children.

Honestly, did that dream ever exist anywhere but on Leave It To Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, or even Bonanza?

And the dreams were only implied, not explicitly stated. My whole life was guided by them. In school, I didn’t even realize that there were art and music classes beyond second grade. In junior and senior high school I wasn’t allowed to take shop classes, because “those classes are for the dummies. You’re too smart for that — you’re going to COLLEGE!” (Cue the angelic trumpets.)

Last time I was in San Francisco I saw a beautiful hand-crafted wooden jewelry box that one of those dummies had made: the price tag said $2850.00 — and that was over 25 years ago.

And if my faucet leaks, I have to call another dummy who’ll charge me $75 an hour to fix it.

So who’s the real dummy now?

My Spectacular Failure at Education

After high school, it was taken as a given that I was going to go to college. I had no say in the matter. It was another of my parents’ dream for me.

At the wise old age of 18, I didn’t know if I even wanted to grow up, much less what I wanted to be if it ever happened.

In 1968, college was a place where you studied things to help you decide what you wanted to be doing for the rest of your life.

In 2019, college is a place to go to earn the credentials you need for the job you’ve already chosen.

I say — and neuroscience backs me up on this — the 18-year-old brain has developed sufficiently to be making such life-determining changes.

My education might have been more effective had I gone to a better college, but my grades, our family’s economic situation, and our physical location meant the sole criterion that went into the choice was the fact that as a Lutheran minister, my father could get a discount on my tuition and fees if I went to this particular college. A college I flunked out of at the end of my freshman year.

College, Take 2

I was simply too immature for and too uninterested in going to college. So I put off my plans for a higher education for two decades. Even then, I only went because my wife decided to pursue her degree, and I was worried about being left behind.

It went better this time. I was more motivated, and by then I had learned the fine art of academic philosophy, aka Intellectual Bullshit. I breezed through a semester of Selected Masterpieces of American Literature and got an A on it without once reading anything on the syllabus.

And I took several art classes, discovering that I could draw after all and that I was good at etching and engraving. I even sold some of my silkscreens and linoleum block prints.

But here’s the thing: after getting my AA degree and being one semester from my Bachelor of Arts, I was informed that I would not be allowed to count my 12 semester hours of computer classes towards my degree.

It seems one of the faculty review team said that computers have no bearing on liberal arts. This, after I designed and administered the first-ever study of if and how personal computers — then in their infancy — affected the process of writing.

So the University of Alaska, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I needed another 12 hours — a full semester — of math and natural science — -neither of which have any bearing on the liberal arts.

Had I taken the 12 hours and added 3 more, I would have been able to graduate with both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science.

Admittedly, the University of Alaska (Southeast) is nowhere as prestigious as its big sister in Fairbanks, but a double major is still a double major. And two degrees for the price of one….

Or three, if you count the Associate of Arts degree.

Livin’ La Vida Loca

So now it’s 2019. It’s been 51 years since I finished high school. I’m retired and living on Social Security. I’m not rich, but I get by — without complaint, thank you very much.

But since 2012, when I retired, I have finally been able to live my dreams. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned — and fulfilled — was to let my daughters dream their own dreams, and to support them in making those dreams come true.

Stay safe, my friends.

And I Still Don’t Know

Sometimes my darkest moments give me my greatest ideas. But because the Dementors have taken hold of my spirit, I can’t act on those ideas right away.

So I do the next best thing: I write myself a note with the basic theme of the idea. Later, when the sun returns and dissipates the fog of depression, I can review my notes and decide if any of them are worth exploring further.

This is One of Those Ideas

I’m 68 years old; in 5 months I’ll be 69. It will be time once more for me to write a big fat 0 (zero) after my age. The eternal Footman will be one step closer to holding my coat.

What have I got to show for my life? For what will I be remembered by future generations of my family?

Will I be remembered at all?

Will they remember that I was a loving parent who adored her children and grandchildren? That the loss of a beloved pet some 35 years ago even today haunts me?

Or will they curse my name for the accursed genetic heritage with which I have bequeathed — nay, cursed — them?

For that’s the one constant in my bloodline: chronic depression.

And Yet…

My daughters and my grandsons are my legacy, and my inspiration. I am Transgender, and so is my grandson. It is for them that I continue to live, continue to believe that without them I would have long since yielded to The Big Sleep.

Because there are statistics that tell me that children of suicides are far more likely to kill themselves.

And I will not do that to my girls.

“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.” Hamlet, Act III, Scene i.

If you’ve never felt the cold winds of Depression (with a capital D) blow over you, then you can’t understand that “[y]ou don’t have one problem or problems you are sad about, there is only sadness.” (Source)

And I’m also comforted by something I read on the internet years ago:

So nanny, nanny, boo-boo! I am Officially Exempt™ from having to grow up. And to celebrate, I might just go out and order a Happy Meal!

My baby girl is getting married today. For her and her beau, it’s a day of joy and celebration. It would be for me, too, except for the fact that I have been told I would not be welcome there.

My future son-in-law’s parents are conservative and Christian. Rather than offend their sensibilities, since I am a Trans* woman, I have been told not to come. Instead, my “normal” younger brother will be giving my daughter away.

In a way, I’m not surprised. Indeed, I should have been able to predict it—after all, she was raised in a household dominated by her grandmother, who was definitely the controlling Alpha female. Indeed, it took me years after her mother and I divorced that I was able to see that I had been in an abusive relationship.

When I was involuntarily outed—by my ex’s brother—to my family, my father and my daughters immediately stopped all contact with me. It wasn’t until nine years later that my father reached out to me. My older daughter, with whom I had been reunited years earlier, called me and said, “You need to call your daddy. He wants to talk with you.”

My father had had a stroke the previous year, and his health had steadily declined. Now he was bedridden. He and my step-mother had attended a few therapy sessions about me, and he was ready. After an hour-long telephone conversation, we ended by telling each other, “I love you.”

That was a Friday. The following Monday, my wife suggested we drive down to see my dad. We live in upstate New York, and he in Maryland. Apparently my two brothers had flown in to visit him, and had already been there a couple of weeks.
Tuesday morning we loaded the truck and headed down to Maryland. We hadn’t been on the road 30 minutes when my daughter called. “”Your daddy’s gone,” she said.

We continued our trip in silence. Rochester to Hagerstown was about an 8 hour drive, with stops for meals and refueling. It was dark when we arrived, and after a couple hours of conversation, we found a motel and checked in. The plan was for all of us to meet at the funeral home the next morning.

My younger brother was there, as were my daughters and my eldest grandson, the one who had adored my father. I finally reconnected with my younger daughter. It was a loving reconciliation.

A year or so later, I made a futile attempt to move back to Seattle. Futile, because I had forgotten that under Washington state law, between first and last months’ rents, as well as a damage deposit, it would have cost me a minimum of $2400 just to move into the cheapest apartment available.

I ended up taking the train back to Rochester, but not before my younger daughter visited me a few times. I also got the chance to spend time with my older daughter and my grandchildren.

Then, as Don Henley once sang, “I got the call today I didn’t want to hear.”

I told myself it didn’t matter, that she would change her mind. I knew I was fooling myself when she didn’t even have the courage to call me herself. Instead, she saddled her sister with that onerous duty.

And so today is the wedding. At first, when my older daughter texted me how unhappy she was that I wasn’t there, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. After a while, I got up and got dressed, ate breakfast, smoked a couple of cigarettes, and knew that today was going to be a hard day for me. All of my mental issues—my depression, anxiety disorders, dysphoria—are beating inside my brain. The wolf is howling at the door, demanding to be let in. I’ve been crying off and on for the past two hours and considering my options.

As they always do when my depression spirals out of control, my first thoughts were of self-harm. I wanted to die. But then my mantra kicked in: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” and I knew that no matter how this day goes, I will still be here tomorrow. Hell, I don’t even have any razor blades in the house!

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?—Khalil Gibran, “On Joy and Sorrow”

And so I continue. Writing this story suffices for today’s therapy. I’m going shopping with my BFF later today, and we’ve got a full agenda…to be closed out with pizza for dinner….

A little under two weeks ago, having gotten tired by (among other things) the saturation-bombing of (mostly) irrelevant garbage on my Facebook account, I decided to cancel it. This was not a decision I made lightly, and I wanted to share some of my reasons:

My experience had become a brain-sucking, mind-killing psychic vampire-like waste of time. For every one article I was interested in, there were a dozen more I had no interest in. And the ones I did want were?—?far too often?—?little more than click-bait, forcing me to wade through a ton of advertisements. Oh, sure?—?I could avoid them by using Facebook on my laptop browser with ad blocking software, but I preferred the freedom of my iPhone and iPad.

Over the years, Facebook has deteriorated from a social network to a system for spreading lies, innuendo, hatred, and vitriol. No longer is it a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences; rather it is now little more than a convenient way to launch personal attacks against both individuals as well as groups.

Each minute I spent on Facebook, I could almost feel my blood pressure climbing into the stratosphere.

For these (and a few other) reasons, I decided it was time for me to leave.

I jumped through all of the hoops I needed to in order to permanently delete my account?—?only to be informed that it would take 2 weeks for it to take effect. At first, I was angry at Facebook’s arrogant assumption that I would change my mind, but ultimately, it worked out for the better.

Family Ties Rule!

I grew up in a military family, so for the first part of my life, I was unable to put down roots. (As an aside, numerous studies have demonstrated just how harmful the military life is to families in general and to children in particular. As John Donne said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” [Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent]). It isn’t easy to develop lasting friendships when you know they’re only going to last 2 or 3 years; think of it as growing up in an atmosphere of breakups and dislocations.

As a result of the constant reassignments and relocations, I had very little opportunity to get to know my extended family. From California to Japan to New Jersey to New York to Texas and Alaska, I might have seen my cousins on less than a dozen occasions.

But then I discovered Facebook. And while it wasn’t face-to-face contact, I was able to reunite with many of my cousins and much of my extended family. I’m living in Rochester, New York as I write this, and contrary to much belief, it is nowhere near New York City, where at least two of my cousins live. In fact, Rochester is closer to Toronto than it is to NYC.

Other cousins are in California, Mississippi, and Oregon. One brother in in Texas and the other is in New Mexico. My daughters and grandchildren live in the Seattle area, as does my nephew and beloved niece and her children.

Between Facebook and Instagram, it is the only contact I have with most of them. So you see why I had to come back. And that is why Facebook, in its wisdom, made me wait 2 weeks before they deactivated my account: they wanted to be certain that I was certain. I reactivated my account 4 days before it would have been permanently deleted.

A New Approach

No longer do I log in to Facebook at all hours of the day and night; I limit myself to twice a day. I’m also leaving a number of groups that once were relevant to me, but no longer are important.

Instead, I’m spending more time on Medium, where the level of discussion is both more relevant to my interests, as well as more eloquent and literate. At least no one here sends me messages like “I lk yr post. How R U?”

Is it possible that Medium is the last bastion of genuine intellect in the world of social media?

My tea is getting cool, and so I shall close now. Thank you for taking the time to read this; I know your time is valuable, and as always I appreciate the time we have spent together.

Dark Days Ahead

Posted: 19 November, 2017 in Depression, Family, Sadness
Tags: ,

This week begins my annual decent into darkness. It generally starts around Thanksgiving and stays until after Valentine’s Day. So if I don’t post as often as I would like, that’s why.

Thanksgiving, because I’m reminded that I’m alone. My children and grandchildren are on the opposite side of the country, and while my wife and I are still married, that’s just a technicality. Her family has severed all contact with me.

December brings with it my mother’s birthday, followed a few days later by the anniversary of her death. Then comes thee gloom of Christmas spent alone, followed by New Year’s Eve spent the same way. January is usually pretty much of a blank, followed by February and the second anniversary of my father’s death.

All of which would be bearable were it not for my

  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Seasonally Affective Disorder
  • Chronic Depression
  • Gender Dysphoria

Yeah, I’m a mess. But as the song says,

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down

I still have my tea and my books. Oh, yes: and my blogs. They’re really my on-line journals, which I write in to keep my sanity.

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down

Love and hope,

Robyn Jane