End of Summer Update

This whole going back to school thing has been an interesting ride. I got As in my first two classes back, my Intersession Computer Concepts & Applications class, and English 100 over the regular Summer session. Now, Fall has started and I’m taking Intro to Library Services & English 203. My first library science class! A higher English class! So fun.

It’s hard to stay focused in a literature class that meets from 5:30-9:45pm, but my professor has kept it pretty interesting so far. I’m really looking forward to finishing Frankenstein and moving on to some other books! It’s short, but I am having trouble focusing on it. I think the paper will be pretty interesting, though, once I get through it. We have 15 weeks left of class and in that time we will write five papers.

I apologize for not updating my blog more regularly, but life happens, it seems!

Last week I was in a car accident and my 2001 Honda Accord was totaled. My daughter Molly was in the car with me. We were in San Diego on the 805 South just North of Adams Avenue, where the 8 connector is, just after the bridge over Mission Valley. Anyway, we were stopped in heavy traffic at 4:45pm and a young woman in an SUV didn’t even slow down before plowing into us. Everyone is okay, but it was pretty scary and now I am searching for a car with my insurance check, which isn’t really enough to buy a car outright that is any newer than my Accord was.  *sigh*

I’m looking at a 2015 Kia Soul that may work out, unless I chicken out and opt for a $3500 car instead. I’m just so very tired of buying other people’s problems. Let me create my own problems, damnit! I do worry about staying stable for 6 years to pay off a car loan, and it is a lot of money. But if things go awry, I suppose I could always sell it, like I did with my Mini Cooper. I miss that car, and driving the Kia kind of reminds me of it, the smallness, boxiness, 6-speed manual transmission. I really liked it.

Molly started second grade last week as well, since everything happens at the same time. She has a new teacher, Mrs. Newberry, and she really seems to dig her class so far. I’m a little disappointed that after having no homework last year, she will once again have a weekly packet to turn in. Maybe we can do our homework together. 🙂

I had to go to the campus bookstore the other day and I took Molly with me. She said she thought it was funny that an adult liked school. But I do like school. It was fun showing her the bookstore and where the Humanities building is.

This week we’ve been experiencing a heat wave and I am totally over it. 100+ today and yesterday and everything feels like hot. But I will take this heat wave over the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey that have inundated Houston, affecting many people I know. It has been inspiring seeing so many people coming together to help, but it hurts my heart to see so many of my friends going through such hard times.

One day at a time.

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Going Back to School…

A lot is changing in my life, and it feels like it is happening very quickly. I didn’t expect it, as usual, and now I am left reeling with both excitement and fear. It all started with an innocent post on Twitter. It was one of my million-a-day inane posts that most people don’t read, and I don’t blame them. I don’t care if anyone responds, it is my space. My relaxation space. But I digress.

I posted on Twitter that my laptop was dying, as it had started getting flickering lines across the screen and taken to randomly rebooting. Plus, it was still running Windows Vista, which Firefox (and everything else) was dropping. It was a wonderful, albeit slow and cantankerous, little laptop for me for a few years. It was gifted to me from a friend who was getting a new one, so sweet! I didn’t want to let it go, so I had mostly been ignoring the flickering lines and random rebooting, but it was getting pretty bad.

I had zero expectations when I posted, I was just venting. Out of nowhere, a Twitter friend (that I didn’t even know all that well!) offered to buy me a new laptop on the spot. For good karma, he told me. I figured he was kidding, but we chit chatted about it and I gave him my address after some deliberation and a promise that he wouldn’t show up on my doorstep.

He didn’t, but about a week and a half later, a new laptop did. The box was addressed to my Twitter name, which made me chuckle. So now I have a new laptop. Most people I’ve told this story have thought it was quite odd, and I think may worry for my safety. I believe completely that he just wanted to do something nice and saw something he could do, and did it. These random acts of kindness make the world a better place.

I had been daydreaming about going back to college for a bit, but I kept waffling on what precisely I wanted to do, and I refused to go back without a plan. Plus, there’s no way my old laptop would have gotten me through online classes and writing papers and things. But now, now I was to have a new one. Now I *could* go back to school and keep up. It also happens that I follow a few librarians here and there. So I started asking questions, and thinking about things. I’m still not 100% positive, but I  am pretty sure that I’d at least like to TRY working in a library and seeing what is involved.

It just so happens that Palomar College, which is right by where I live, is one of only 8 schools in California that offers an Associate degree in Library Science. What?! They also seem to have a good English department, which is what I initially thought my AA would be. Now I’m not sure. Perhaps I could fulfill the requirements for the library certificate and still get an AA in English, and transfer to CSUSM for a BA in English. If the whole library thing is still appealing, I could get an online Master’s degree in Library Science.

These are the types of daydreams I have been having for weeks. I know myself, and once something gets its hooks in my brain, I have to research it until I’ve exhausted all the options.

But first things first. The other night I finally did it, I stayed up late and applied for college, filled out my FAFSA, and ordered my transcripts to be sent to Palomar. Now I just need to be officially accepted, see a counselor there, and register for a summer class. I believe I will take just one class over the summer to get started. We will see.

I have been writing very little and playing guitar a lot. My guitar class I took through Mira Costa only meets twice more, then my Thursday nights will be my own again for a bit. I will miss the class. My teacher’s intermediate class is already full, which is probably for the best since it seems I will be busy studying this summer.

Things that are very small seem very scary. Setting up an appointment with a counselor. Deciding which math class to take (I placed higher in math than I expected, so I have some options..) I don’t think I will try to tackle math first, though. It gives me huge anxiety and I know I will need a tutor and a lot of time to focus on it. Ugh.

But, I feel hopeful and excited in a way I haven’t felt in a few years. I still enjoy doing massage, but there is always this black cloud looming and it says, “WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU INJURE YOURSELF? DO YOU STILL WANT TO BE DOING THIS IN YOUR 60s? How will you retire?” This voice I usually can ignore, but it has gotten louder over time. The answer is, I really don’t want to still be doing massage in 15 years. I love it, I will always do it a little, but I don’t want to rely on it solely anymore.

It has been so nice and peaceful, having such a low-stress job. Every shift is like a moving meditation. It has allowed me to clear my mind in ways I didn’t think was possible. But now I feel thirsty for something more, something new that I can wrap my brain around. And I want to hone my writing, have some feedback and peer review. I want to be educated. So I am going back to college.

Wish me luck.

 

Surgery and Closure

I had surgery at Sharp Grossmont Hospital to fix my deviated septum. It was the same doc that did my ear surgery last summer, Dr. Jeremiah Moles, and he did a great job on both surgeries. I am not in any pain, but a little uncomfortable from the splints in my nose. They get taken out on Tuesday, so I am looking forward to that.

I’m so grateful that I was able to have this surgery done. It’s been 3.5 years since I was attacked in Hayward and punched by a powerful man in a baseball cap. He broke my nose, and not much has been the same since. When the initial injury occurred, I had fierce black eyes for two weeks. This time, minimal bruising and no black eyes!

Everything seems so uncertain these days. Will I have health insurance much longer? I don’t know. What will happen? I don’t know. These questions lead to fear and catastrophizing, which I don’t want to feed into right now.

My nose seems to be healing up nicely, my surgery was on Thursday morning and now it’s Saturday afternoon. I just have to be good and keep resting, which is difficult for me. Neil has been supportive and it’s been nice being able to rest without having to worry about Molly too much. I go back to work on the 25th, so until then I am just going to try and take it easy.

 

This and That

It’s been a month since I wrote anything significant. I’ve been tinkering a bit with my next major blog post, and my sci-fi story for the second anthology, but not much. I have been so wrapped up in the holidays and my daughter and family and work that I’ve barely had time to do anything at all. But it has been good. I have been living in the moment and taking things as they come, and my therapist and psych both think I am doing well.

I had my med check the other day, and my psych asked me to think about starting to reduce my antidepressant a bit. Having Bipolar I makes using an antidepressant at such a high dosage kind of risky, since I could swing into mania at pretty much any time. But I also take a mood stabilizer, which has been doing its job. She is hesitant to reduce it as well, since that could put me into a tailspin back into my depression. We decided to leave it where it is, and I go back in four months. If everything is still going great, maybe we will reduce my antidepressant some then.

In my downtime, instead of writing I have been practicing guitar. It is going really well. I play with Mr. W once or twice a week, and practice on my own to Youtube videos the rest of the time. I’ve started building up calluses on my fingertips, and it feels great. There is a series of adult guitar lessons starting at a studio by where I work, but unfortunately it is at the same time as my Saturday shift. Ah well. I would like to take some official lessons to make sure I’m not developing bad habits, but I have been having a great time learning from Mr. W in the meantime.

I also got to see all of the first season of Westworld, which is great and makes me want to talk about it with other people who have seen it. I have NOT gotten to see Rogue One yet, but I am hoping to get to see it with Mr. W next week. Over the winter break, my daughter and I saw both Moana and Sing, which were both great movies. We so rarely get to go to the movie theater, it is always a treat.

Anyway, I am tired of seeing my heroes die and mostly can’t wait for 2016 to be over. I will be processing the deaths of many people and institutions for awhile yet. I can only hope that 2017 will be a year of catalyst, and that people will  be inspired to create art and take action. I am still heartbroken over the election results, but am starting to feel stronger again and ready to move forward into the next year.

NaBloPoMo Wrap-Up: #NaBloPoMo Day 30

I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of my stories with you this month. It has been wonderful and invigorating making sure that I write every single day. I hope to remain so focused over the next year and finish up some lingering projects, as well as complete some new ones.

It proved logistically difficult to write every day, but I managed, mostly by dragging my ancient laptop with me everywhere I went, and also utilizing the work computer when it was slow. Sometimes I had to write with a movie on and my 6-year-old interrupting me every few minutes. I don’t mind. She is so good about letting me write while she entertains herself, I try not to make her do it very often.

What I’ve realized is that even when I feel like I have told all of my stories, there are always more. Writing is like reaching down into a deep well, and the more I reveal, the more I remember. My memory is pretty terrible, or amazing. There is no in-between. What I remember, I remember completely and in vivid detail. But so many things are gone, lost to the haze of time. I constantly have to be reminded of things that I have experienced and said. Writing helps with that, and helps to ground and stabilize me.

Congrats to everyone that survived this challenge, it was rough! There were a few days I definitely did not think I was going to make it through. I have mad respect for anyone that puts so much effort into writing, pouring out their souls. It is an amazing thing and a tool for shared experience that is unmatched. Being able to tell our stories makes us strong, and helps others to be strong as well.

I can’t believe I really did it – put up 30 posts this month. I have a few more personal stories to share in the coming weeks, but after that I hope to focus on putting together a book of these stories, and others. Thank you so much for going on this journey with me.

A Moment on the Streets: #NaBloPoMo Day 29

Three years ago, I went through a “hell of an ordeal” according to my court-ordered psychiatrist. I’ve been working on compiling a list of all the experiences I had during my mania and psychosis, and I hope to post it soon, but it isn’t ready yet. I did want to share this moment from my list, since it shows some of the random kindness I was shown.

At one point, I got off a bus in San Francisco. I can’t remember what I was doing before I got on the bus, just that I had a sign from the universe (I saw signs everywhere) that said I should get off here. I did, holding all of my bags, and just lost it. I sat down on the corner of the street, my bags all around me, and started bawling. I was ugly-crying, in public, and people were just kind of stepping over and around me like I was completely invisible.

I didn’t know what to do, where to go. Then all of a sudden, this slight blonde girl totally saw me.

She knelt down and asked me if I was okay, and gave me a hug. She was SO sweet. She was really thin, and seemed like maybe she was on drug,s or perhaps was recently clean. I couldn’t tell. She told me that she could help me, but I had to go with her and this guy. He had one arm and seemed very angry. I didn’t really want to go with him, but I sorta trusted her (and had nothing better to do) so I decided to hang with them for awhile.

I helped them run their errands at the bicycle shop and the grocery store, then it was time to go. They lived way out, past the end of the BART line. But I was starting to get scared.

The one-armed guy was acting really weird, and he kept disrespecting her. She kept telling me not to mind him, he was just drunk. Having no concern for my own safety, I kept asking her if she was okay. She reassured me that she was, but when we walked past the Ducati dealership, he ran inside and shook one of the motorcycles and ran out again. The salesmen started yelling at him, and he started yelling back. He was wasted. It really freaked me out, so after we turned a corner and they went into one last store, I crept around the corner and ditched them. I never ran into them again.

I felt really bad for leaving her with him. There she was trying to help me, and she probably could have used some help herself. I was in no position to help anyone.

It’s so weird, as I go through these experiences and try to arrange them in a chronological way, I have so much trouble. I have such vivid memories of my time on the streets of San Francisco, San Mateo, Oakland. I remember things people said to me, entire conversations. But I can’t remember what happened which day, unless I literally write out every single thing. So I’ve been trying to do that. It’s proven to be a bigger undertaking than I expected.

When you’re out there on the streets, really looking like you belong there, people’s eyes slide right over you. You are no longer a member of society, so you no longer exist. I walked around on crowded sidewalks for over a week, looking lost, talking to myself, crying, yelling, and people just pretended like nothing was happening at all.

One thing happened repeatedly, and that was that random women and homeless people and buskers reached out to ask if I was okay. I never really asked outright for help, but I talked to them. When I still had money, I was handing it out. People that would have been in a position to actually help me, like, people with phones, or cars, never did.

A few times I did approach people with cell phones and asked to use them. Some people said no, but a few people said yes. Sadly, since I had smashed and buried my phone, I didn’t have any telephone numbers. So I would dumbly hold the phone, sometimes calling my estranged husband’s phone since his was the only number I could remember, then hanging up.

But I got genuine smiles from the people waiting outside the shelters. Families on the streets of Oakland gave me hugs. The guy selling hot dogs out in front of Candlestick Park gave me food, and the old black sax player played a few songs while I sang along. There is camaraderie among those with nothing, a kind of solidarity. Against the tough streets of the Bay Area, I had countless positive experiences during my breakdown.

There really are helpers everywhere. Although it took me getting arrested to get the help I really needed, I am still grateful for all the help I did get from random people. The worst part was feeling lonely, alone, helpless. At least when I was talking to people, they were seeing me, and I felt human.

My Missing Person information was out there, but it was not enough to get me found. People go missing every single day, and some of them never turn up. It really does help when people share those Missing Person pictures and signs. I interacted with the police three times before I got in trouble with them, and none of them recognized me as a missing person. It is a terrifying thought.

I am so much better now. I have been on my medications and stable for over three years. I am so lucky. Things could have gone much, much worse for me. If I learned anything from my adventure, it was that no matter where you are, if you reach out for help SOMEone will help you. Be open to that help coming from unexpected places, and next time you see someone on the streets, try giving them a smile. I wasn’t panhandling so people never really gave me money, but I got lots of smiles and they kept me going. Your smile can be the one thing that keeps someone alive, and that is no understatement.

You matter. You can help.

 

 

Snippets of Grief: #NaBloPoMo Day 28

I’ve been thinking about grief today, about my mentors and friends, idols, that I lost this past year. A friend of mine lost her boyfriend a few weeks ago, the love of her life, and seeing her openly grieve has refreshed for me these feelings of loss and brought up so many memories.

Grief is a universal experience. We all grieve, mourn, feel loss. Grief is such a tricky thing. Years go by and I think I am over someone’s death, rarely think about them anymore, then BAM. It returns. I am grateful I was holding my grandpa’s hand when he died. He was my father figure in life. I miss him so much, and I’ve had 15 years.I will never get used to not being able to call him to check in, and I still have his house telephone number memorized.

I used to have a post up on here about my former boyfriend Tony and how he was murdered. It was deleted when I nuked my whole blog three years ago. Sometimes I think I might re-write it, but so far I haven’t undertaken that task. Whenever I hear bagpipes I think about him, and other odd little moments, like when I am strumming my guitar. Tony played guitar, too, but he was more of an electric guitar kinda guy.

It’s odd, the things that stick with you. I remember the phone call telling me that Tony was dead. I was so confused, I kept thinking he was talking about this other Tony we knew. It didn’t feel real at all. Then I remember being at his funeral, all by myself, crying my eyes out. I remember how his mother had brought these little Scottish flag pins for everyone to take home, and how fake the pictures of Tony that were strewn about looked. I often wonder about his mother, and hope she is well. I cannot imagine losing my daughter. Actually, my mind takes me to these morbid places often where she dies, and it is usually my fault. Thankfully my meds keep most of these thoughts at bay, but they still surface.

It’s been too long since I’ve been back to Houston. The last time I was there, I stopped by my friend Leigh’s ghost bike. She was tragically killed on her bicycle by two (!) fire trucks. Leigh and I were in theatre production together, and though we had grown apart, I miss her so. We were roommates on a trip to New York City that we all took one year with our dance teacher Ms. Roberts.

I think about my friend Phil, who took his own life over Christmas a few years ago. A few months later, his ex-girlfriend and my friend, Cara, killed herself, too. Her death affected so many people I know, and still does. Now my friend Michelle organizes art shows in Cara’s memory. But Cara is gone, and I will never see her sarcastic smile again in life.

My freshman year of high school, I had just moved back to Houston and one of the few people that I had talked to was a boy named Travis, who had blue and green hair. I liked him immediately. He had already heard of me due to my purple hair dye/Barney incident. It was only a few months into the school year when he was playing with a gun with some of our friends. It went off, and he was killed instantly. I’m not sure why I was in class that day and they weren’t, because I normally skipped school when most others did, but I am grateful that I was not there. I remember the grief counselors coming to our school for a few days to talk to everyone that knew Travis. I thought they were lame, so I didn’t go.

Everyone handles grief differently. Grief is slippery, sticky, tricky. There is no one way to grieve. When I was singing with the women’s chorus, one of my friends Alissa ended her own life. At the time I thought people were being fake over her death, and now I only see how shocked and hurt everyone was, and how guilty they felt. We all felt guilty. If we had talked to her more, included her more, would she be alive? These thoughts are not productive.

Suicide happens. People succumb to their illnesses, or grow weary of the pain. I can understand how the endless quiet is preferable to daily torment. When the pain gets to be too great, people will do anything to stop it.

My mother is very ill, and in California they recently signed into law the assisted suicide stuff. She has spoken to me frankly about killing herself if the pain gets worse, or having a doctor help her. Thankfully she is no longer in that head space, and has been doing much better the last few months.

Living is challenging. Making money to live is challenging. Living without love is challenging. So many people live lives of perpetual loneliness and pain. If we all responded to situations with kindness and heart, we could really change people’s lives. Mr. Rogers always said to look for the helpers in the face of tragedy, and I do this routinely. There are always more helpers than villains.

We are inundated with media that profits from death. Tragedies happen every day, and they seem to get the majority of the media attention. I haven’t been able to watch the news since I had my daughter. The stories are so sad and gruesome, they take me into very bad mental places and keep me depressed. But for every tragedy, there is a spiderweb effect of kindness that becomes active. People volunteer, send money, do their best to comfort or give opportunities to the survivors.

I think sometimes it takes a tragedy to find out how much people really love you. It is sad, and I think we should all know how much we are loved in the absence of tragedy. But people get busy, distracted, don’t communicate well. Years go by and friendships don’t dry up exactly, but they become forgotten and wither. Life is so short, so precious. Pick up your phone and text your friends. Email them. Maybe not call them if they’re introverted like me and can’t handle talking on the phone. But you know what I mean.

I’d give just about anything for one more day with my grandfather. I know he knew how much I loved him. I am secure in that. But I will never stop missing him. He was so big and strong, charming and charismatic, full of life and vigor.. until he wasn’t. He became frail so fast. By the time he got pneumonia and congestive heart failure, he had been dragging an oxygen tank around him for over a year. His diabetes was acting up, and all at once, he started to shrink. The same thing happened to my grandmother when she became frail. I miss her so much, too. My grandmother was such a classy lady, and so sweet. My grandfather would have done anything to protect her, and did.

I hope someday to have the kind of love my grandparents had. But I am content having my daughter and my friends. I am guilty of not contacting my friends for long periods of time as I drift in and out of depression. I hope to do better, and always have the best intentions. So know that I love you. I will fight for my life every day for my daughter. She is the reason I am still here, her, and all of you. Thank you for being in my life, and for reading.