My Life is More Interesting Than Yours

And I'm willing to fight about it

Dying is easy, comedy is hard June 8, 2012

Filed under: What is your childhood Trauma? — lizzietish81 @ 9:02 pm
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While sitting on the train this afternoon, I had a suicidal thought.  This wasn’t a plan, or a declaration, just a passing thought about slitting my wrists or something (which ew, if I was ever going to end it all it would be with an overdose of pills).  These thoughts have come and gone since I was in high school, and are symptomatic of my long history of depression.  For a long time I assumed this was just morbid thinking, but a therapist pointed out that these were in fact hall marks of deep depression and a warning sign for suicidal behavior.   When I was younger, before I started getting therapy, I believed that suicide was selfish and weak behavior.  People tried to explain to me from the point of view of someone suffering from severe depression that it wasn’t simply a way out for them, but for their loved ones.

I still call bullshit on that last one.  It is selfish to take one’s life, but that’s part of the problem with depression, something that I was ignoring.  Depression is increasingly cutting yourself off from the world, from your loved ones, because you’ve convinced yourself that they don’t love or need you, because you believe yourself to be unwanted, unloved and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, until all you have left is yourself, someone you can’t stand to be with.  The times when I have had suicidal thoughts weren’t in the throws of intense emotions, but out of fatigue, because I could feel myself growing tired of being alive, of putting up with the constant bullshit.  When asked what kept me from committing suicide I had two answers, a serious one and a pithy one.

The serious one was that I couldn’t do that to my sister.  Not that I am the only person she has, she has a lot of people, but more that she devoted so much time and effort into making me feel loved, and to feel that life was worth it that it would be unfair to her to then say fuck it and off myself.  She put a lot of emotional energy into helping me survive my mother’s down ward spiral I feel I should continue on to prove it was worth it, because it is.

The pithy answer has to do with the title of this post, which is a line from Mystery Science Theater Hour.  Specifically my answer was that I couldn’t commit suicide because I believed in reincarnation, and I really don’t want to start all from scratch again.  Going through puberty was hellacious enough, I’d rather enjoy my non hormonal years before having to do that all over again.  My morbid sense of humor has carried me through some pretty gross times in my life, and there’s so much more tragedy to laugh at.  Its not enough to live, but to enjoy living I have had to find the humor in just about everything that happens.  Its hard sometimes to find the joke, especially in a world obsessed with being appropriate, but anything can be turned into a funny story if you know how to look at it.  To do it, you have to be engaged in the world, you have to be paying attention, you have to see and hear as much as possible.

Don’t get me wrong, I had to work through a lot of issues, and taking meds was a big step, the biggest was admitting that I needed help.  Now I can take life less seriously, and enjoy it.

So when I have suicidal thoughts, I think no, that’d be too easy, there’s so much more comedy left.

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Marriage by example June 5, 2012

Filed under: What is your childhood Trauma? — lizzietish81 @ 11:31 pm

Earlier today I had a brief conversation with a coworker about the example of marriage set down by parents. Mine were an example of why not to get married, but my grandparents took it to an epic level.

I’m talking primarily of my mom’s side since by the time I was a kid my dad’s mother was dead and his father had begun a long descent into alcoholism induced brain damage. My mom’s parents were an example of middle class respectability. He was a deeply authoritarian figure, who would now a days be in constant trouble with social services. Quiet and taciturn, he took any disruption of his world to be a grave of fence. As children we feared him, and he had had time to mellow out by then. He was never “grandpa”, he was “John”, even though his name was Gerald.

He was quick to anger and often violent, and more, fiercely possessive. Once, the minister came to the house to see my grandmother, and John punched him in the face.

My grandmother was, and still, not a wilting flower. However her nature to be passive aggressive took their marriage to epic levels of non communication. One of her classic moves was to use starch on his underwear, because he was allergic to it. Once she kicked a case of beer he had left sitting by the basement door down the stairs. She didn’t know it was bottles though and for the next few months the house smelled of beer.

They both excelled at quietly living in grim silence and dark to save money. The kerosene heater blew up one winter because they were sure they could get another winter out of it. The soot remained on the once white walls for years until my dad finally painted over it.

When I was a kid, they didn’t live together, fueling my belief that they must have been divorced. She lived with her aged mother in Massachusetts while he lived in a small house that was completely self sufficient and as remote as he could get away with in Maine. In the few times I would see them together, the silence was intense.

Eventually I learned that they were in fact married still, and that the fact that he wasn’t living in nova scotia, his original home, was indicative of his desire to be with her, that he was willing to compromise…or something.

After my mom died, during a family gathering, my aunt declared that it was their fiftieth anniversary. At first there was the surprising idea that they were in fact married, and so there must have been a wedding. Then I did some math, and an even bigger shock hit me. Either my mom was really early, or they had gotten busy ahead of time.

Now, everyone has that moment when they realize that their parents, and by extension their grandparents, must have had sex. As far as my parents were concerned I had faced this realization early not by walking in on them, but because my mom was angrily demanding to know why they weren’t having sex anymore. In their own way, they were passionate, I mean they fought all the time, and I had seen them kiss. But my grandparents had displayed an utter absence of affection, or even amiability towards each other.

And yet, they had three daughters and were apparently having sex before marriage. There was some spirit of compromise in that they continued to occupy the same country. One might argue that the fact they stayed together for so long is a testament to their mutual affection. I always assumed they each refused to give the other one the satisfaction of a divorce.

But maybe that was the strength of their relationship, built on the good and solid ground of mutual animosity.

 

I had a nightmare about Hamburger Helper May 29, 2012

Filed under: What is your childhood Trauma? — lizzietish81 @ 8:56 pm
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Most people either don’t appreciate the food they eat or realize that there is food out there that tastes like something.  Micheal Polen talks about the addictive qualities of fat, sugar and salt that is in most processed foods, and the epitome of horrible foods that don’t taste like anything but is highly addictive is Hamburger Helper.   I mean its just dried pasta, powder and half a pound of hamburg (pink slime optional) mixed together in a greasy mess that is both filling and lacking in any kind of nutrition.

My mother wouldn’t eat anything that tasted or even looked like anything.  Except liver for some reason, but that’s another nightmare.  Nope, every night it was half a pound of ground beef plus whatever flavor of Helper we had.  Sometimes I would get to cook spaghetti which was also ground beef, noodles and some overly processed sauce.  Vegetables were the occasional can of string beans or lima beans, which if I never have to touch again will help me appreciate life.  The process took about half an hour.  I would scoop out the half pound of ground beef into the frying pan, break it up with the spatula and cook until there was no pink left.  Then I would drain out the grease into an old coffee tin, where it would congeal until we threw it out.  Course there was also grease splattered everywhere in the kitchen from the frying process.  Then you pour in the pasta, powder and x amount of water, simmer, stir, and when the pasta has cooked and the sauce has congealed serve it up.  Flavors ranged from cheesy to slightly less cheesy.

Since becoming an adult and being allowed to choose my own food I have discovered the wide range of flavors out there, and have been glad to never touch the stuff again.

So of course having a dream where I am being forced to cook it again is a horrible nightmare.  I can’t remember anything else about it, but really, isn’t that enough?

 

The complexity of Mom May 13, 2012

Filed under: What is your childhood Trauma? — lizzietish81 @ 4:54 pm
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Its that time of year again. Yesterday at work, my colleagues were discussing their mother’s day preparations (or lack there of in a panic).

I didn’t add to the conversation. Its not a secret that my mom is dead, or that I’m estranged from my dad and most of my family, and while I do take a sadistic joy in watching people squirm when they ask me about my family, I didn’t see the need to bring it up now and no one asked me, probably out of politeness.

I did however get something for my sister, who is also technically my god mother, I gave to the Heifer fund to provide bee hives for struggling families. I cited in the card my thanks to her for instilling in me the spirit of giving and aiding those who need help, and she was very verklempt.

This morning though, I remembered something. When I was a kid, my Aunt Ellen (my mom’s youngest sister, she was the oldest of three) got everyone these gifts, and my mom received a card saying that a donation of a sheep was given in her name. She was thrilled, I remember her showing off the card. She was less thrilled when the rest of the family (her parents and other sister) put on a snit about it.

I give a lot of credit to my sister for making me who I am, but I must also remember that mom, despite her many flaws, also believed in charity, love and understanding. She believed that that was the message of Christ, and also her duty as a human being. As such, she became a mother to many of our friends. As self involved as she was, and she was, I knew so many others with mothers who cared even less about their children. When our oldest friend heard the news that she had died, she picked up a baby blanket mom had made for her daughter and cried that her mother was gone.

She was a complex woman, with whom I had, and still have, a complex relationship with. She was abusive and angry because she couldn’t control her life and couldn’t, or wouldn’t take control of it. It was like she was waiting for someone else to come and fix it all for her. But tempering this was a compassionate spirit. And maybe she found it easier to show that to people she didn’t know, or maybe she found it harder to hide her bitterness and anger from us, in some complex way blaming us for the way her life had gone. At the same time, I think she felt guilt and self loathing for this.

Once, while she was having a particularly hard time, she looked at me and said “Lizzie, don’t end up like me”

My therapist once commented that mothers with suicidal tendencies tend to resist for the sake of their children. That my mother allowed herself to waste away may be a testament to her self involvement.

But in another respect, it set us free and showed us that life is far too short to live with regret and anger, something that took me ten years to fully understand.

There are times when I can hate her, where I can cry in anguish that she abandoned us, that she scarred us all, especially my brother, that she forced us to become adults long before we were ready.

But I have to temper that with a woman who believed in helping those in need, in accepting everyone for who they are and showing compassion.

So that’s my story. If you also have lost your mother, whether through death or distance, come in, have a drink and share with others, because you are never alone.

And if you’re interested in giving to the Heifer fund, here’s their website!

I’m tempted to get something for my grandmother, because I know it will help someone but also annoy her. She’d be too polite to say anything though.

 

M is for the Many things…. May 12, 2012

Filed under: What is your childhood Trauma? — lizzietish81 @ 1:36 pm
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Ah, mother’s day.  A day when adults scramble to get their mom some flowers and kids spray glue and glitter onto some paper to show their love.

Cynical?  Well yeah, but I haven’t had a mom in over ten years.  I do give gifts, usually charitable donations, in the name of my sister, who is also my god mother and had a hand in my upbringing.

But I think today I will reminisce about some of the crazier moments of my child hood, cause yesterday I found myself thinking of the yearly drive to New Balance, so I’ll start there.

In scenic Allston, part of the greater Boston area, is the New Balance outlet store.  A place where you can find just about any size for less than retail, so if you’re a poor family whose kids have freakishly giant feet, its the place to go.  This pilgrimage typically took place in summer, before school started, and it was always a big tadoo.   My father invariably got lost, it was hot and our POS cars were often prone to dying in the heat.

One year I remember being crammed in the back of a two door with my brother and sister while my parents fought in the front.  My parents never bickered, it was always knock down drag out fights.  At one point, my mom started freaking out, declaring that the car was going to explode!  I immediately figured that I could get out of the car easily should this become an issue.  Its all about planning people.