Saturday, December 31, 2011

WALKING THE GANGPLANK WITH MARTHA

Occasionally we meet people who can give their friendship without some kind of price tag attached. I was fortunate to have found several friends at an early age who not only loved unconditionally, but also withheld making judgment calls as well. My first memories of having friends date back before I went to school. My neighborhood was filled with families who had children of all ages. In my minuscule world that encompassed 4 or 5 houses, Linda was among my first friends. She was a soft-spoken, friendly child who later became the hot vixen all redheads seem to become. Our time together was always an adventure as we went from playing with dolls and hopscotch to skipping school and lusting after boys to becoming reunited after missing all those years in the middle where people become adults and have families.

I’ve always tended to gravitate towards the edge and tested any boundaries that stood in my way. It’s where I felt most comfortable. Maybe it was the suspense, the thrill, the uncertainty of the outcome that made teetering on the edge so appealing to me. Whatever it was, that certain something was a definite factor in what kept a smile on our faces in those days of our adolescent angst. When I think of what a bad influence I was on so many of my friends, I now feel a little regret, but I won't lie...I also smile as I remember the progression of things and the fun involved. Back in those days among many other things, we became quite familiar with 5 finger discounts. As we built our collection of free make-up, jewelry, records, clothes and whatever else struck our fancy at the time (all things we really didn't "need"), it was the thrill of seeing how outrageous we could be that kept us going back for more. Why we were never caught is beyond me, but I suppose it was more dumb luck than skill that keep us on the right side of the law.

By the time we were teenagers, my attic was transformed into a place to wile away the hours skipping school, while we waited for my mother to go to work at 2:30 each afternoon. Anything in my house that wasn't being used seemed to always found its way to the top floor making the attic a true cornucopia of treasures. As our collection of discarded paint cans grew, the whole spectrum of colors was represented. We had purple that was used to paint one of the bathrooms and blue from the other. I snagged what was left from when my mother had painted on an old sea captain's trunk a most delightful shade of tangerine. Buttercup yellow from the kitchen and lime green from my bedroom were among the many colors we collected. As we collected our decorating materials, we decided that what needed to be done was some original artwork to adorn our sanctuary. Jackson Pollock's "drips" had nothing over the hand prints we put all over the walls and large-planked wooden floors. My only regret is that I never took any pictures of it. Years later after my house was sold and the new owners discovered my magical hideaway in attic, they made several inquiries to my cousin who lived next door about the artwork in the attic. What a surprise it must have been for them stepping into what appeared to be a colorful insane asylum (if they only knew how true that was).

Many, many years later my eyes twinkle as I think about last summer when I was "home". Somehow it seems fitting that the person who blossomed into a ravishing redheaded vixen is the saucy tart who insisted on giving me a blue streak in my hair that "would wash right out". Ha! All I can say is "thank you, Linda" for reminding me that growing old may be inevitable, but growing up especially when in the company of old, dear friends is quite optional and never preferred.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

STEPPED OUT

When Adi told me she had composed a song and had done so "with me in mind", I couldn't wait to hear it. Needless to say, I was blown away by it when I heard it and have listened to it at least a hundred times by now. Undiscovered talent like hers always amazes me. She has a few other songs in the Music Room at MSWorld.org a website specifically created to "discover creative and inspirational works by people living with Multiple Sclerosis." I took the liberty of setting her song to a few images. I hope my first attempt at doing something like that doesn't detract from the beauty of the song.

Thank you, Adi. You helped make my Christmas one I'll always remember.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A NEW DAY


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas-

Gradually I have come to realize I really do have the ability to differentiate between those things I can change and those that are better left in the hands of fate. With age and experience come wisdom...sometimes! Perhaps my antiquated philosophy that everything happens the way it was meant to happen is flawed...or perhaps it's perfect! As I have surrendered myself in the last decade to the belief that my life is no more than an enigmatic demise, I awoke this morning feeling that perhaps it's really been an elusive rebirth instead. Is Mildred really a butterfly awaiting to fly? A crack has appeared allowing a sliver of light to shine through the emotional and physical pain. The path I was afraid to walk upon before has started to knead at me with a perverse appeal and an unfamiliar, yet welcomed anticipation. I long to feel the freedom I once called mine and I am willing to do whatever it takes to find that freedom again. I can and will explore until I find what I've lost in this lifeless abyss in which I have existed for far too long.

I thank the powers that be whatever they are for setting me straight and allowing me a honest and much needed peak at myself. Yesterday as I sat watching an accident victim struggle to regain her independence through the means of a grueling physical therapy session, I realized the last several years have robbed me of certain aspects of myself or I guess I should finally admit I willingly gave myself to those things that would only bring me more pain and keep me trapped. It was easier to surrender, to submit, to give up. No robbery or rape occurred! No violation of spirit happened! I was not a victim, but a willing participant of having my zest for life sucked slowly from me through some gigantic straw. What replaced it was a quiet hunger to slowly destroy myself through isolation. I saw death and it quietly beckoned to me.

Oh, the sweet temptation of playing the final note of the song and knowing that there will be no more music! No, not now! Not today because the song still lingers and the tune, a melody I have heard somewhere before feels as though it isn’t quite finished. I, the composer search for the perfect note to complete the harmony and go in peace many, many years from now. Yes, good people of cyberspace, Mildred Ratched may make no sense, but today she does…she speaks of death and music and then sensually dances out from the shadows in which she exists into a new beginning. I will not go down without a fight! I will live in the sunshine again! It's a new dawn. It's a new day.

,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

BEYOND A SIMPLE OUCH!

After reading about Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide in 2005, I started wondering how many people who suffer from chronic pain eventually decide to end their life. I have to admit my views on that subject matter scare me, but nonetheless I revisit them quite often. For some people, acknowledging pain is a sign of weakness and talking about pain may be perceived by some as participating in pity party or as a grand stand ploy to elicit sympathy from people. In reality, talking about it helps the chronic pain sufferer stay connected to other people and the world around them, but sometimes there is a very fine line between staying connected and dwelling on the pain which amplifies it tenfold. I tend to think this is why so many chronic pain sufferers gravitate towards becoming hermits.

Anyone suffering from chronic physical pain goes through arduous periods of adjustment as their pain becomes more intense at times. We each have our own ways of coping and at times, those coping mechanisms may be pushed past their limits. What many people fail to understand is that pain and the ailments/conditions that cause the pain have a very debilitating effect on both the mind and body. The chronic pain sufferer is forced into accepting unwanted limitations and what's often thought of as restrictions brought on by the normal aging process are actually things expedited and amplified by chronic pain.

10 important things I've learned about chronic pain in the past 10 years:

1. Chronic pain is unlike acute pain which comes on suddenly as a warning signal that something has gone wrong inside the body and goes away when the cause is treated.
2. Chronic pain is caused by long-term conditions like arthritis or progressive illnesses like cancer.
3. Chronic pain can last for months or it may last an entire lifetime.
4. Chronic pain takes a psychological as well as a physical toll on a person. It can lead to anxiety, anger and insomnia.
5. Chronic pain sufferers may find it difficult or impossible to work and hard to do the things they once enjoyed.
6. Chronic pain can change a person’s relationships with family and friends and alter their own self-image and diminish their self-worth.
7. A person experiencing chronic pain becomes easily depressed, withdrawn, and exhausted.
8. No diagnostic tests can convey to your doctor what you are feeling. Even when pain is intense, many people struggle to the find words to accurately describe it.
9. Chronic pain is treatable, but it never completely goes away.
10.Chronic pain changes every aspect of a person's life.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR

Many years ago when I was in search of Mr. Right, I initially sifted through the online personal ads with great hope and fervor. As my optimism waned, I realized that perhaps my perfect match isn't tall, dark and handsome afterall, but someone who is witty, slightly twisted and ready for anything. The following is the final personal ad I wrote and posted online. The response to it was overwhelming and ranged from many serious-minded gentlemen concerned about me having a self-esteem problem to the slapstick funny responses from men thinking my ad was written by their ex-wives. Without a doubt it was a great source of amusement even though I didn’t find Mr. Right. What I did discover were a bunch of people searching for everything from a friend with benefits to a sugar momma to an actual soulmate.

I’m short, fat, ugly and the fashion police are always trying to bust me. I never smile and I’m a total bitch from hell with a terminal case of PMS. I’m demanding, cynical and judgmental. I’m always right and I have to have the last word… ALWAYS!!! My goal in life is to spread misery and discontent where ever and to whomever I can. Physical contact with me could result in serious frostbite and tissue damage. I have nasty habits and should never be allowed to go out in public or to mate!!! I should be avoided at all costs and only approached with extreme caution under dire circumstances.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A TIME TO PAY IT FORWARD

It probably comes as no surprise that my house is not adorned by the tons of usual Christmas paraphernalia that most people seem to need to celebrate the holiday season properly. No, I don't decorate a Christmas tree. The exterior of my home isn't ablaze from a gawdy display of Christmas lights. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care in other people's homes, but not in mine. I'm sure most people must think I'm as horrible as Scrooge and the Grinch all rolled up into one massive anti-Christmas campaign. But those who really know me, know that still waters run deep.

For me, the season is not a lavish affair. I keep it simple. I try to pay it forward by giving money to the less fortunate and by doing small acts of kindness whenever I can. I don't go into debt from overspending, but I do manage to make sure all my loved ones are remembered in some special way.

Over the years as my need to participate in the commercial hullabaloo surrounding Christmas has dwindled, I've devoted much thought to the holiday season and what makes it so depressing and unbearable for so many people. As children, this season breeds an unbridled anticipation of Santa Claus and wonderful gifts. Then as the years roll by, that anticipation for many people somehow morphs into the dread of overspending and into bittersweet memories of all the things they no longer have and of loved ones who no longer are with them. What may start out as a little self-pity often times turns into depression on steroids.

For people celebrating the holidays totally alone or without a significant other, the holiday season always seems geared towards celebrating it with that special someone and with a loving family oozing with holiday spirit. Each time I used to see the commercial that asked, "What would you do for love this Christmas?", it made me want to vomit. Some bright, young advertising hotshot envisioned two people being separated at Christmas with impossible obstacles to overcome. Somehow and of course quite miraculously, they find their way to each other just in time and of course, bearing an armful of great gifts for one another. Does that ever happen in real life? If not, it should, but better yet it should happen all year long!

I applaud anyone who generously give of themselves, but necessarily through monetary means at Christmas. I applaud those who see a need to keep the romance and passion alive in a relationship because the person they love is still worth that kind of effort. I applaud those fortunate families who manage to celebrate Christmas together each year not from obligation or duty, but because they love one another. If you really want to get into the spirit of the season and adhere to the philosophy that "it’s better to give than to receive", then do something that might really make a difference in someone’s life.

If you know someone who is alone or doesn’t appear overflowing with a festive spirit, take the time to be that person's friend. Sometimes all it takes is a kind word or some small deed to make a person believe they too are worthy of love and happiness during the holidays. Extend an invitation, give an anonymous gift or just act like you sincerely understand and care about someone in need. Alienating that "grinch" is the worst thing that can happen to that person. They may appear to want to be left alone, but underneath that gruff exterior lies a person needing a visit from a real Santa Claus. It's really quite simple! Give yourself the best Christmas gift you can ever receive by paying it forward this Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DEAR SANTA

I’ve been fairly horrible this year, but not as bad as I have been in years past. In lieu of my ever improving behavior I thought I’d give you my Christmas list in hopes you’ll find something special just for me this year.

1. World peace (Okay, I know I always include this one, but you can’t blame me for hoping.)

2. A new 8-Ball (It seems mine isn't working properly. It keeps giving me all the wrong answers and everyone else the right ones.)

3. The drive to finally finish writing my book or bring a creative co-author to help me finish it. (Santa, how are your writing skills? You're free 364 days a year!)

4. Could whatever you bring me be made in America and not in China? (I'm not a racist, I'm just concerned about the U.S. economy)

5. Most of all I'd like Santa to have the night off...Happy Holidays, Santa! (Kick back and enjoy! You deserve it, big guy. I think we all receive enough and it's our turn to give!)

Always naughty, but nice,

Mildred Ratched

Sunday, December 11, 2011

COUNTING MY BLESSINGS

I'm sure all of you who visit here have noticed over the last month or so I seem to have been blessed with someone who feels the need to attack me and my subject matter. I have to admit I really don't understand this person's need to go where he's obviously unwelcome, to judge me so harshly and unfairly and to write such cruel, antagonistic things. Usually I'm quick to stand up for myself, but right now I honestly don't feel the need to defend myself or to try to set the record straight because his accusations are so bizarre that they don't merit a rebuttal on my part. I do, however want to thank the people who came to my defense and who continue to give me their unconditional compassion and support.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

WHEN THE COLD WIND BLOWS

Dragging myself out of bed each day seems to be getting more difficult. If it weren't for my dogs needing to go out first thing in the morning, I probably wouldn't even roll out of bed at all. Then on top of what seems to be an inevitable decline, this damn slow moving cold front is killing me. Is anyone else out there physically affected by the weather? It seems like every spot in my body that already hurts is amplified by ten. Yes, I've been to the doctor (many times) and yes, I was referred to a pain specialist who told me that because I have so many areas of pain throughout my body, he's very limited in what he can do to help me. His main concern at the moment is the neuropathy in my lower legs and feet.

Each time I go to a doctor and I'm told something I'm not prepared to hear, it immediately transports me into a surreal setting where I emotionally shutdown. I did exactly that when I was told I have liver disease. How the hell did that happen? With all the alcoholism that runs rampant in my family, I, the person who doesn't drink, am the lucky recipient of liver disease. Isn't that special? Now, I'm told that I'm at a high risk for falls. Wait a minute! I'm 50 something and I'm at a high risk for falls??? That can't be right! Okay, so I'm a trooper. I will snap back and deal with all of this, but the next day after learning that my neuropathy has gotten a lot worse, I get the results of my last blood tests in the mail with a note from my doctor attached. He wanted me to contact him regarding how I want to handle this new problem. Is being put out to pasture an option? How about one last grand brouhaha in the style in which I am accustomed? Is laying on a beach and soaking up the rays in some tropical location while being brought fruity concoctions to drink by some buff cabana boy an option?

My previous lab results revealed my A1C had gone down. Although my number still wasn't quite where it needed to be, it was a definite step in the right direction. It made me feel as if I had really accomplished something. Now, as I sat reading my most current results all I could do is shake my head. My A1C has risen higher than it's ever been. My mind started to scramble and I felt immediately overwhelmed. Many things started running through my head, but the one thought that has stuck with me is regarding the role my liver plays in my diabetes. Since I have a diseased liver and glucose is secreted into the bloodstream via the liver, could it be possible that my dysfunctional liver is the culprit of my higher numbers? I suppose I'll run my theory by my doctor when I see him again in a couple of weeks and hopefully, he won't give me the "I know you sit around eating bags of cookies and swilling Coke all day" look. Hopefully, he can suggest a replacement medication for the one my insurance refuses to cover because it's too expensive. Perhaps going from 3 diabetic drugs down to 2 daily caused the drastic increase in my A1C. And perhaps my insurance company is trying to kill me so they won't have to pay anymore claims! Honestly, sometimes I feel like I'm part of some sick, sadist Catch 22 with no way out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

THE FROG WHO SNUBBED ME

The problem of unrequited love is an ageless and timeless one and unfortunately, one that has no easy or painless solution. No matter how we look at the situation, when we love and that love goes unnoticed and unreciprocated it has a negative effect upon us. We question our self-worth and ask why that person doesn’t love us in return. The answer may be as simple as the lack of chemistry or as complicated as the other person’s inability to experience true intimacy. I think each of us needs to ask ourselves why we internalize rejection when it comes our way. Why do we always allow it to be our fault? Why do we blame ourselves and feel as if we aren’t good enough?

I think people need to adopt the attitude that the object of our unrequited affection is no more than an imbecile and thus, incapable of seeing past their own nose. I say we start believing that we were too good for them and thus, that person is not really worthy of our love and affection. I say that fate knew what it was doing and whatever wasn’t meant to be was just a huge red flag that destiny has sent our way saying "Hey, I’m doing you a favor here!!! Get over it and go find someone who can and will make you happy!" You see, instead of allowing these turmultuous episodes chip away at our self-worth and self-esteem, I say we start using them as a way to stroke our own ego and to love ourselves.

Unrequited love appears to have the "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" quality to it. And isn’t it always told to us that we want most those things that we can’t have? Those highly coveted things always have a mystical, unobtainable quality to them that elevate them above the ordinary drama of everyday life and in a category all to themselves. Sometimes the pedestal we put that special someone on gets so lofty and out of reach that having a relationship with that person becomes something that is no longer humanly possible. The iconic part of this whole rejection process is that in the majority of cases that pedestal is undeserved and sitting high atop it on a gilded throne is not a prince or princess, but an all too common, insensitive, selfish, slimy pond-swimming frog.

Monday, December 05, 2011

SILENT FIGHT

Everywhere I look I see angry or depressed faces. It seems that over the years the child-like joy that accompanies Christmas gradually turns into frustration and despair. I think everyone knows Murphy's Laws are always on steroids during the month of December. We learn to expect the unexpected as our major appliances and cars have nervous breakdowns during the holiday season or some other major unforeseen expense rears its ugly head. Then add the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to an already crappy mood and what do you have? A grinch in training, of course!

Does growing up and seeing Christmas no longer through the eyes of a child, but through the eyes of a frustrated shopper with limited funds turn the spirit of the season into dread? Does past memories of perhaps a death in the family or a break up taint the holiday season forever? Outwardly, we decorate and act festive, but what do we really feel on the inside? Is Christmas just a well disguised glittery nightmare or a merchant’s dream come true? Where does the true spirit of Christmas reside? In the church? In the home? In the heart? And when it’s found or if it's found, why doesn't it last all year long?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

MY HERO

"Wimpy Daughter" aka Christina was given an assignment to write a paper about her hero for one of her college classes 7 years ago. The following is the paper she wrote:

By definition a hero is somebody who is admired and looked up to for outstanding qualities or achievements, somebody who commits acts of remarkable bravery or who has shown great courage, strength of character or another admirable quality. I find all these traits in my hero. "Try to picture a person who stands apart from the crowd who sees things not in black or white, but in varying shades of gray. Try to picture a person who closes their eyes and hears the beat of a different drummer, then marches proudly and eagerly away to do their own thing regardless of the consequences or popular opinion. Try to picture a person who is not a polished gem, but a diamond in the rough...someone who believes true beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and that the best things in life are free." (an excerpt from blogsite, Abnormally Normal People written by Mildred Ratched) When I picture this person, I see my mother and she is my hero.

Ever since I was little, I always knew my mother was different. It was not until I grew up that I later could appreciate the “difference” in her versus the stereotypical normal mother everyone else seemed to have. My mother raised us to be leaders not followers, to chart our own destiny and to be no one’s fool. This was daunting to a young child whose only desire was to fit in and have what everyone else had, a normal mom. My mother always taught my two brothers and me that the mind was a wonderful thing and we should use it. As far back as I can remember, probably to when I was three, I was told, “you are a smart person, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Now I realize that all mothers will tell their children that, but most would not have done what she did. She let us use those brains instead of thinking for us. She told us that God gave us a brain and to use it, if we made a mistake or got into trouble we were to use our brain and figure out a solution. We had to, she was not going to suffer our foolishness and molly coddle any of us. Does this make her different? At the time I certainly thought so. When all my friends bragged about their parents giving them the answers to homework problems, kids picking on us at school or about how so and so parents was screaming at someone about their child’s actions my mother sat back and said to us, “You figure it out.” How I hated that, I wanted normal so bad and I didn’t have it, but it taught us to use those brains and boy did we figure it out.

Normalcy was not ever in abundance with my mother. Living in an area where racial slurs were the norm, my mother taught us to respect everyone equally as a human being regardless of skin color. She taught us to look beneath the surface of a person’s outer skin and find the true essence of who that person really was. I never knew what racial discrimination was until I became an adult and heard it. It was shocking to realize that the person making those remarks was so narrow minded. I guess witnessing such narrow mindedness opened my eyes to the fact that once again my mother defied what was normal and instead of seeing things in the standard black and white, she saw those gray areas. I never realized as I was growing up that she taught us from those gray matters more than from the black and white. As a young child I was allowed to watch what I wanted to on television. Most parents shudder to think what a child would choose, not my mother; she just sat back and allowed us to make those choices on our own. Instead of choosing stupidly we chose wisely and by doing so were taught a valuable lesson, the reward system. If you show that I can trust you, I will extend your freedom, but if you mess up you lose that freedom. I can honestly say our freedom wasn’t yanked away very often.

My mother will never be a polished gem; she will always be a diamond in the rough. Like an uncut diamond she has many flaws that I once saw as imperfections and now badges of courage, lack of selfishness and a kindness that is so overwhelmingly generous. I was taught it is better to give than to receive and always thought, "you’ve got to be kidding, right? You can’t really believe that bull!" But time and time again, we learned through her actions she meant just that. Her kindness and generosity to family as well as strangers will linger forever in my mind. What I saw as a weakness in character, thinking she was being taken advantage of, was an error on my part. You can only be taken advantage of if you let someone do so and she never allowed that. She showed strength in choosing to help those in need instead of doing the easier thing and ignoring them. She did without when others needed because she felt they needed more than she did. She didn’t just talk to us about these things, we saw her doing them time and time again. My mother taught us about the beauty found in the art of giving, the courage to love when you wanted to hate, to be strong when you wanted to be weak and to have the strength to go on when you feel that you are failing.

My mother has not lived an easy life. The choices she has made are choices she has to bear, but bear them she does. Sometimes in frustration, in wishing she had done different, sometimes with laughter as she recalls a happy moment, but however she does it, she always bears them with honesty. She explains, not lectures, about her mistakes she has made along the way, in hopes that we will not have to go through the same things. I don’t look at them as mistakes though, because without the things she has witnessed and gone through herself, she would not be the person she is today and that person is my hero.
















Wimpy Daughter and Mildred Ratched (1996)