The Wednesday that was Monday

I woke up from another dream at around 7am today, a Wednesday, but it was a fresh awake wake-up. The first I’ve had since my medication screw up almost 3 weeks ago. I stood up, and didn’t lay back down again. I sat at the computer and started my morning work routine right away. Had some fresh cold water from the fridge, took my pill and logged into Facebook with a refreshed morning feel I usually reserve for Mondays.

It was a new day.

For the past few weeks, I’ve woken up very groggy and tired and even broken my own rule about going back to sleep for another hours or so. I usually start official work time around 9am so a 7am wake time allowed me to get in a second sleep that never really works out. Still, these days I have been sleepy. Many days, like yesterday, in fact, I slept more hours than a cat.

To be truthful, I lay in bed in that state of almost sleep. A restful awake state where I can dream more interactively but I don’t actually fall asleep. This means I feel rested but still tired. I hate that mode. I don’t accomplish anything.

This has been the case for weeks. I’m on the new medication, and although it is technically considered the same, it is a generic version of my drug by a different manufacturer and it’s obvious whatever filler ingredients are used to create the time-lapse effect of my “extended release” medication, it is vastly different. Combine this with the reset effect of my prime depression medication, which I was out of for 4 days… it’s not been good.

I’ve been sad. I don’t like that mood. A general sadness that leads to thoughts about why I’m bothering with this whole life thing anyway. I don’t like those thoughts. The joy of my happiness is still fresh in my memory. The thoughts of productivity and praise are ones I remember from only last month. A near perfect life I was only starting to get restless about.

Start again.

I’ve been having bad dreams. I don’t usually refer to my dreams as nightmares in the sense others might. They’re just my version, which hit on n the highlights of my frustration and letting people down. I always have a cell phone that is either old or not working. I lose people. I can’t do math. I fail. These are my bad dreams. I’ve been having them each night since I lapsed on my Paxil. They also return after each wake-up all night so they seem to be 8 hour dreams.

When I’m awake, all I want to do is sleep. I can’t focus on work. I fall behind. I let people down. My waking life mirrors my dreams.

It cycles because unhappiness makes me unhappy.

I have been hoping it was still just medication, and I remember the Paxil takes 5 weeks to kick in and change my overall mood to one of optomisim and cheerful thoughts rather than failures. 5 weeks seems forever when you have people waiting. Clients and friends I’ve set up in a good mood and let down in a bad mood.

It’s been hard. I don’t have many people I can share this with because talking about depression to others can cause a stigma. Since one of my main therapy goals is to care-less about how people think about me, it’s extra hard. I do care. I know how I feel when others talk about their depression and mental health in public.

I did post a little bit because I needed to explain why I was spontaneously less active and productive than the previous week, but then I did my usual thing and lied. I say yes to everything and then fail to deliver.

The cycle gets me deeper into trouble and deeper into depression.

Today was different. My dream had the usual bad things. An extra weird cell phone unlike anything Id; ever seen before and fail after fail, this time combined with the fear of being a victim. People were robbing me, and taking things. I was sick in a strange way that was new to me – not my usual weird sick dream motifs.

I just said; fuck it. I’m going home to bed, and I abandoned it all. Gareth and Peter had walked out of frame and I had no idea where they were. I knew my cell phone did;t have their numbers. I decided to just go home.

I began to walk. The weather was good for it.

I didn’t fly, but I did have the amazing jumping capability that has always been more fun than flying anyway. I was jumping over other walkers, and fences to shortcut my way home, which this time was somewhere behind Main street in my home town of Georgetown. The distance was realistically doable.

As I walked and jumped, I worried less about how my two abandoned friends would react. They wouldn’t be mad. They’d be confused but not worried. Eventually, after they returned from swimming, they’d understand.

A soundtrack emerged in my head and I was singing it loudly as I bounced home.

I woke up still singing the catchy lyric, once apparently invented just for this dream.

It was a good morning.

I’ve spent the last hour online. {Part work, part browse.

Now it’s still only 8:30 and I can feel the tired mood of anti-focus and depression is arguing for a place. My meds are not quite strong enough to hold it back.

I’ll see how the rest of the day goes. I’ll do my best to stay productive but even if I fail, I know I am close.

Good times will return in time.

Maybe one more day.. maybe one more weekend.

I didn’t know how good I had it till I lost it. I guess I need that every once in a while. I was starting to take it for granted.

end of part one.

8:30am on a Wednesday.

The New Air Raid Siren for 2019

I grew up in a small town and always asked; What’s the funny thing in the center of town. I later learned it was an air raid siren. I never heard it and at some point in my youth, it vanished. It’s 2019 now and we all carry a personal device with us. In my new home town of Toronto, technology has re-invented the air raid siren and put it in my pocket, able to be triggered by local police in the event of much less tragic emergencies. This Thursday, it was used.


At 11:36pm last Thursday, I was asleep in bed. The air raid concealed in my phone went off. Loudly. I jumped up hard enough to hurt my neck. WTF was that?!?!

I looked at my phone. I can’t remember if I had to click anything or if the noise stopped, but it certainly demanded attention. An 11-year-old girl was abducted and the driver of a car identified as a Honda with a full licence plate number was apparently responsible. The alert informed me they were eastbound on the 401, which is a major highway across the city with 95% coverage by cameras I can watch online in real time full colour.

I do not want to belittle the emotional drama that a child abduction causes. It is a very real and serious thing, however I am concerned at the use of the new Amber Alert system which disrupts the attention of approximately 3 million people in and around this gigantic city.

I lay back down but had a very difficult time falling asleep because I anticipated the alarm “might” go off again alerting us all that the situation was resolved.  My head was filled with a mixture of emotions ranging from outrage to fear to conspiracy and scenarios of how this could become a regular feature of my phone and my new life. Indeed, a full hour later, the disruption was repeated, giving the all clear. Life was good and we could resume our activities. 

Amber Alerts work… so expect they may be used again. This scares me.

I excepted to wake to outrage online or at least commentary. I saw none. It went without comment anywhere I viewed for the next few days. I suspect nobody wanted to appear petty and complain about how their life had been inconvenienced in the light of the fact that a little 11-year-old girl was saved from whatever tragic future we imagined during that hour wait between sirens.

This Saturday morning, I saw the first post online praising the system. 

My reaction was filled with variety. Praising its effectiveness made me angry for different reasons. It made me frightened and it made me sad. My mind once again flooded with conspiracy theories and scenarios of ways this annoyance could be used for various alerts in the future.

I imagined waitresses still working a peak shift in a bar dropping trays with 6 beers on me because it understandably made her jump when 5 phones at a bar went off super loudly without warning.

I imagined a situation where the alert may even have been faked, so police outside a building somewhere now know there are suspects inside a building hiding behind a wall because they could hear the alarms. Imagine how useful it would be to law enforcement if they had a way to turn our phones into noise boxes.

I imagined cheating spouses being discovered in the closet at 11:30 at night.

I imagined several key lines of dialogue being missed in a theatre as phones went off in sequence for several minutes while movie patrons rushed to silence their phones.

I imagined people with heart conditions being startled enough to fall. I imagined people without heart conditions being startled enough to fall.

I imagine people being startled enough to lose attention while driving, and the roads were particularly dangerous that Thursday. I can easily imagine car accidents caused by this sudden noise nobody expected at midnight. Sober or drunk, it would be hard not to be affected by such a loud jolt.

I imagined millions of people with mental illness issues being triggered by the alert, both as a loud scary noise, and also a reminder of how evil the world can be. The alert gives us enough information to form an imaginary scenario of trauma. I imagine it was very distressing for anyone ever abducted or raped or — or just about anyone who has feelings.

I imagined insomniacs screaming bloody murder because they’d finally fallen asleep after trying for hours, and not being able to fall asleep again because of the open endedness of this tragedy.

I imagined parents of missing children feeling cheated the police didn’t do that for their kid.

I imagined thousands of people rushing the police to use their Amber alert for whatever crimes they feel are urgent to them.

I imagined the next alert to be for a lost kitten.

I imagined the story of the boy who cried wolf,  brought to the technology age in a world with less patience and shorter tempers. I am sure I’m not the only one that disabled the feature on my phone the next morning.

Now I get to imagine 2 million other people being killed by an emergency 3 weeks later as a tornado destroys their home because they turned off the Amber Alert tone. I don’t know if my phone alerts me to Tornados. I only know it;’s called the Amber alert, so I suspect it alerts me to missing children. I think my car radio might do a better job. I do know that if I am alerted to a Tornado next week, I won’t know it, because I will almost certainly still be in my home, ignoring the wolf call my phone is making, thinking it’s another child taken.

There are some things I would excuse the alert for, but alas… I’ve turned it off.

I ponder if I would have been so upset if she had been abducted at 3pm.

Most of all, I imagine myself lying awake in bed,  waiting for the expected second alarm that may or not come, but probably will come moments after I fall asleep again. I lie awake thinking all these things. Thinking how this 11 year old girl in a car on a known highway may have spoiled it for future abducted children.

I imagined the outrage like mine would flood social media. It did not. A girl was lost and found and I suppose nobody wanted to complain about such trivial disturbances in light of that.

I suspect it will continue. I am sad I most imagined it being fake, so it could be used more often for all the other things I imagined that I did not post here. My brain is faster than my fingers. In the moment the air raid siren went off beside my head while I slept, I imaged a world I did not like living in.

 

 

Lauren from Texas

Shrink Week 1

When I have no Internet, the Microsoft Mail program included with Windows 10 still does the spellcheck, so it’s a pretty good editor for blogging. Today I realized it can actually be used to send directly to the WordPress Blog. 


I used a Star Trek reference to my psychiatrist, so he did as well. I can see how some patients might imagine themselves smarter than their doctor when in fact they’re just not aware of his ways on a different level. When dealing with somebody else’s brain at source code level, stepping on a butterfly really can change everything.


I am often amused by the memories I can recall from childhood. More often than not, I’m not remembering the events, but the memory is of the story told.  I remember my parents telling all the stories of my childhood. Our memory of LIVE is a stream, like a continuous roll of film, but the stories are more like edited excerpts.

A reality show like Big Brother or Survivor will have thousands of hours of footage recorded life, but the highlight show is only an hour a week. Our memory works the same way.  

It never occurred to me till just now how important it is for a parent to tell those stories from their children’s youth. Otherwise, we just have live memories in a continuous stream with no reference points. The stories of my own childhood are all the stories my family told me and told others when I was in the room. My youth was formed by the stories more than actual memories. 

This was vital as it turns out, because I don’t remember much from my past at all, but also an important tool to understand. What you remember from your childhood may be almost entirely fictional accounts, moulded and made up from the memories of your friends and family through retold stories.


I briefly fantasize about whether my new Dr Popolopolous would like to write my book with me. 
Fantasy buzzer. Monty Python Graham Caplan Too Silly, Stop That

End of part 2. Chocolate kisses and tokes at 1230am.

I forgot my Paxil again today. Falling asleep was harder than it used to be.

altfs

How I became a Sidekick

My name is Richard, and this isn’t really my story, but it’s such a great story, it needs to be told and since I’m the only other person on Earth that know it, the task falls to me. In a way, I feel a bit like Dr Watson, who wrote all the adventures of his best friend Sherlock Holmes, except I’m not a fictional British doctor, but a real 17-year-old kid from Waterloo.

You might not have heard of me by name, because most of my story takes place in the basement of an old Castle just west of the city. Waterloo is a small City in Canada, about an hour away from Toronto.

The true hero of this journey is my best friend Paul. When I say Hero, I mean it in the real sense, but I’ll get to that. My story began on October 19th two years ago.

Paul and I did almost everything together, but recently he’d been spending less time with me and was being very secretive about why. It was starting to affect our relationship and I was considering looking elsewhere for a new buddy.

Apparently, it was affecting Paul similarly, and so on that night, he came to visit me and try to explain. That, as you’ll soon learn was no simple task.

The doorbell rang about 11pm, which was unusual for Paul. Both of us were still in school, just starting Grade 12 and living with our family. I was asleep already, and my Mom had to wake me up. I think she may have been asleep too, because she came to my door rather upset, wearing a housecoat wrapped up as if she had nothing else on underneath.

Apparently, Paul had been very insistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I got up and walked downstairs to the door. Mother hadn’t invited him in, which I suppose was a signal his visit wasn’t really welcome.

“What the fuck man? You woke up the whole house. What’s so important?”

Paul looked a little stressed, and was talking about a bit faster than usual.

He grabs me by the shoulders and looks me in the eye with a seriousness not usually associated with our friendship. “I’ve got to share something with you, and it’s got to be right now. I’m sorry it’s so late, but it’s urgent. It has to be now.”

I expect he’s going to reveal the reason he’s been avoiding me, but instead, his grasp on me turns into a push and before I know it, we’re outside the house, and the door closes behind me.

“Whoa Whoa Whoa I..have to tell my Mom if we’re going somewhere… I’m not even wearing shoes. Luck Paul, I’m still in my PJ’s”

Paul assures me it doesn’t matter and he throws my bike at me, jumps on his and starts to ride. “Follow me. It’ll all make sense in a few minutes. I promise. It’s really very important and it’s freaking me out. I need to show you something right away! I’m sorry I’m being cryptic. I’ll take care of talking to your Mom later. Time is critical”.

Time was always critical with Paul. He’d inherited a bit of that from his father, who used to always go on and on about how the easiest thing in the world was to be on time. I reluctantly got on my bike and followed.

Both Paul and I lived on the same street. It was a cul-de-sac in a new sub-division in what was farmland not too long ago. Every house was less than a decade old, except one. The old Castle we used to call The Miller Castle.

To my surprise, it was that Castle we were riding to. Paul zipped through the gate like he owned the place, but I jammed my brakes at the curb, making him return to fetch me.

“No way I’m riding up there at midnight without knowing more. What the fuck is this all about?”

Paul looked a bit shocked as I spoke and looked at his watch with true fear? “Is it midnight already? No.. No, it can’t be, right. I promise it’s worth it! It’s all going to be fine! Trust me Richard! It’ll be worth it, but we have to get there before midnight! Come on… It’s OK.”

I reluctantly got back on and peddled up the path. Paul’s expression had changed from one I thought was panic more to excitement, and although we were still moving at a crazy pace, and I still had no clue what was going on, I no longer felt like I was heading into some impending doom.

When we reached the front door of the Castle, he slowed down, took a few heavy breaths and started to explain.

“ok. Look.. I am not sure how to explain this to you, but as of now, I own this Castle. It’s mine. Oh man, I shouldn’t have started there. I’ve got so much to tell you buddy…”

Naturally, I assumed he was bullshitting me, but this wasn’t the kind of thing Paul was into. We didn’t do pranks. I was confused, and I was about to start asking questions but he continued.

“Let me explain. About a week ago, old Man Miller can to my door gasping. He looked bad… like he was gonna die or something.”

Nobody really knew old man Miller much. He was just the guy who lived in the Castle, and as far as anyone knew, he always had. It wasn’t like he as a hermit or recluse. We’d see him around town all the time, but he was quiet and kept to himself mostly.

He was mega rich and sponsored a lot of the city events but he remained pretty much a mystery. The only person I knew that had even spoken to him and had a most basic relationship with him was Paul.

“Ok Paul”, I said. “Does this have to do with why I’ve hardly seen you the past few weeks? Have you been taking care of Old Man Miller? Why couldn’t I know about this?”

Paul corrected me, saying it was more than that. A lot more.

“I’m going to open the door and let you inside now, but don’t be alarmed. There is a lot more story, but it’s so fantastical I’m intentionally taking it slow. If I just told you everything right away, your head would explode”. He pulled a weird old fashioned kind of key out of his pocket and opened the door. It was on his regular keychain next to his house keys, so it was clear to me, he’d been coming here a lot more than I knew.

He opened the door and we walked in. I didn’t pay too much attention to the interior because Paul’s strange method of storytelling had my adrenaline pumping. It looked pretty much like you’d expect an old Castle maintained by one man would look. Mostly dark and Dusty.

“Fuck Paul, you’re not going to show me Mr Miller’s dead body, are you? Fuck — you are, aren’t you? He’s dead and you’re –“

“Relax”, Paul stops me. Yes, he’s dead but that’s not important…”

“Not important? What the hell have you brought me into? Midnight? Why are we doing this now? If he’s dead, what the fuck does it matter when you show me? You know Halloween is two weeks away… Christ, are you looting Old Man Miller’s Castle at night? Am I here to help you carry some shit…”

“Shut up Rich. Time is everything… and you’re wasting it -“

“If you’d tell me–“

Then he did. He told me the story. He told me what he and Mr Miller had been doing after school for the last week. Apparently, Old Man Miller was older than we all knew and he was going to die. He knew it.

He came to Paul’s home that night, and he told Paul the story I was being told now. He had a secret and he needed to pass it on to Paul before he died.

“I’m supposed to believe this, right?” I asked, testing the trust between Paul and I. “I’m supposed to just believe what you’re telling me?”

He hushed me. “It’ll all make sense as I continue, but you have to let me get to the good part before midnight” he urged.

“Why?”

“Shut up”

As he continued, the visit from Old Man Miller seemed to be a bit unplanned, perhaps like Paul might not have been his first choice, but when you’re about to die, I suppose you make choices, and as it turns out, Paul was the only person in town Mr Miller had any real relationship with. It never occurred to me that he didn’t have friends or family. I would have thought rich people have a lot of people close to them, especially if they’re near death. I learned Old Man Miller was a lot more alone than I had imagined.

Paul explained he’d been cutting Mr. Miller’s lawn for years and had occasionally been invited inside when the payment was due, but he wouldn’t say they were friends. He was as surprised as anyone when he found him at his door.

Continuing, Paul was now speaking in a more normal relaxed voice; “Right there at the door, still standing outside, he starts recanting me his life story. When he was about my age, the previous owner of the Castle came to him one night just like this. He tells me he’s going to die soon, and has nobody to leave his secret with. He has nobody to leave anything to…”

“No fucking way,” I say, pre-guessing here the story is going. “He gave you his Castle? Fuck you. That doesn’t happen”

“Let me get to the good part”, Paul insists, and before I can interrupt again, he goes on; “Trust me, that isn’t the good part. Along with the Castle, which, yes, it’s legally mine now, along with his money…”

“wait… Hold on. How can you be so calm about that? Are you saying you’re the new Old Man MIller? Are you saying this is yours now? Fuck you. What is this really about? Come on Paul… I should be in bed sleeping. You know Mr. Fillmore said we’d be tested on that stupid frog thing tomorrow…”

Paul grabs me by the shoulders just like he had earlier, and looks into my eyes with that same seriousness, although I am slightly more sceptical this time. He looks serious but the words coming out of his mouth are ridiculous. I want to believe but he’s not making any sense. I start; “But –“

“Rich. Please. It’s almost Midnight. Please let me finish. For now, let’s just assume what I am telling you is true. After Midnight it’ll make sense, I promise. Yes. I’m rich now. I’m the sole owner of this Castle. We signed the papers with lawyers and all sorts of formal stuff this week. Yes, I’m rich now. I may never have to work again but–“

I wanted to interrupt but every time I tried, he’d give me a look, and I’d silently listen as he unfolded the story further.

“It comes with a secret, and this is why we’re here at Midnight. It’s big. It’s complex but I don’t have time to explain it all. I’ll tell you more after Midnight. It’s kind of awesome. I’m confused. I tried to tell you a few times this week but I can’t figure out how…”

“Well, you’re doing a crappy job. You’ve been a crappy friend for a while… But hey, if you really are rich, I forgive you… just spit it out. My Mom will be freaking out… Hello, I’m freaking out. What the fu–“

“ok… The Castle and money come with only one catch. It’s kind of a job I have to do. I can’t hire anybody to do it for me, and I can’t tell anybody”.

“But you told me–“

“Yeah, but old Man Miller is dead now, and I’ve been so stressed I’m bending the rules just for you because I had to. This is the kind of secret I couldn’t keep to myself.”

“So… what’s the job? Even if you are super rich now, I’m getting upset. Just tell me!”

He then reveals the Castle is old… older than anyone knows. It’s been handed down to a new owner every generation and nobody knows it’s origin story. Not even Mr Miller. It was here before the city. It might have been here before anything he tells me.

At this point, I just nod as he continues, knowing this story is going to be told at his place for some reason. I think to myself this better be fucking worth it because it’s 6 minutes to midnight and when I get home, I’m going to be in big trouble.

“There is a machine in the basement” he starts. “No, not a machine. it’s more of a gear… err… Umm.. well, whatever you call it, it’s —“

“You better not say Alien, Paul because I’m not ready for that kind of Revelation” I caution. I won’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I already don’t believe you and I’m going to be so much trouble…”

Paul reaches in his back pocket and pulls out his wallet. He hands me $400 and tells me it’s real and this might help with calming your Mom. “Now shut up. It’s not Alien… oh, I suppose it could be. That would make sense actua–“

“Fuuuuuck… TELL ME!”

“Ok”, he says. “In the basement of what is now my Castle, is a gear that controls the rotation of the Earth… kind of. I’m not sure… It’s a kind of time mac–“

“TIME MACHINE?” I scream? “What the fuck Paul? I woke up for this? Are you high?”

“Shut up!” He commands. It’s not quite a time machine. It’s a gear that controls time and I’m the new caretaker. Now you know why it was a hard story to tell. It’s impossible to believe. I always wondered how people would react with news like this. In movies, they seem to accept supernatural shit quite quickly, but that’s TV. It took me a while to be convinced and I’ve tried 4 different approaches to tell you before tonight. I finally figured out to make you believe.”

“Oh really? You figured out a way to ‘make’ me believe that a stranger you barely know comes to your door one random night, gives you the keys and deed to his Castle and fortune. You’re suddenly the new caretaker of the Earth’s clock. I can’t wait to see this. Ok Paul… make me believe.”

Paul explains he has to wait until midnight, and then he hands me this old wooden box that sort of matches the interior designs on the walls. He explains on his previous reveals he didn’t know how the box worked exactly, but if I’m holding it at midnight, it’ll make sense and I’ll believe his story. I’ll believe my best friend is the new caretaker of a secret time machine that’s been in the basement at the end of our street since before we were born.

“Ok… but if some plastic clown pops out singing; “Jack in the box” at Midnight I’m going to punch you. I swear Paul. I’ve never punched anybody before but if this is a prank, I’ll make an exception. Ok… it’s time… Make me believe your story. Go.”

Paul looks at his watch, takes a step back from me, and then suddenly grabs a huge sword from the wall to his left, and swings it into his chest. He slumps to the floor dead.

———-

At 7am, my bedside clock radio clicks on and starts playing HEY JUDE by the Beatles. I wake slowly at first but the moment I realize I’m in my bed I jolt up thinking that was the strangest dream I’d ever had. I’m confused because it didn’t seem like a dream. I’d never had a dream like that before. My best friend Paul had this strange story and then he killed himself in front of me. The most realistic disturbing nightmare I’d ever had.

The music trails off into its famous repetitive ending, looping over and as the disc jockey announces the time, weather and traffic.

“It’s 7:02 on this wonderful fall Wednesday. Today is National Hershey’s Kisses day so eat some chocolate or kiss somebody today – your choice”.

I freeze. 

That’s how I started my day yesterday. Holly shit… What is happening? As I stand in a confused state of mind, my foot kicks something on the floor and as I look down, I see the box from my dream. The box Paul gave me at midnight last night…

In my dream? I sit back down. Listening to the radio, as it repeats yesterday’s songs and — yesterday. Yes. Yesterday. Why? What?

My phone buzzes as it vibrates on the nightstand. It’s a text from Paul.

“I assume you believe me. I hope your head didn’t explode. I’m outside ready to answer your questions. Oh, and don’t talk to your Mom about last night because it’s Wednesday again and from their perspective, none of that happened. The last time I tried this I forgot to tell you that and they were sure you were on drugs”.

I texted back; “I believe… we’re fucking rich and you’ve got a time machine! Holy fuck. My brain exploded. I forgive you for your odd way of telling me. I forgive you.”

Weekend Update

It’s been a while since I’ve written and all of a sudden I decided now was a good time. I sat at my desk staring at my screen knowing I have several tasks to do. Not really too many for an average worker, but tasks with a deadline and priority are always a bit stressful for me, and July hasn’t been a great month. I decided to answer the 1800 phone number that has mysteriously been calling me 4 times a day just to see who it was. Bad choice. My morning mood has been lessened a bit by the credit department of Bell Canada.  I get my TV and Internet from them, and although I recently chopped that bill down from over $200 a month to only $125 a month, it still adds up to over $500 when you don’t pay it for a while.

Along with that thought, I have not paid rent yet this month and it’s Friday the 13th already. I have been spending more because of the hospital stay and the daily outing for my medicine IV bag swap. More in gas and more in food.

Today is the first day of the annual convention I always have mixed feelings about. In advance, it agitates me and gets me all wound up with needless anxiety but during the 3 day convention, where I man the Info Desk with friends, I always have a good time. I wish my brain could remember that and forgo the pre-show butterflies. This year, the show is in the middle of this health/finance/life depression but I imagine I’ll still be a happy face to on-comers and regulars. If I could choose an easy job I enjoy, it’d probably be info desk. The faces of others and the smiles fuel me and re-energize me, or at least they usually do. 

This year, with my IV bag sticking out of my arm and my restless sleep habits it may be an extra chore to keep my smile on, but I have faith the environment will keep me up in spirits. I certainly hope so, because my team of 3 is a team of 2 this year so I’m mathematically more important.

We shall see. I’m doing my best to believe my optimism and ignore the impending doom of a poverty lifestyle.

It has to start somewhere.

There is an old saying; if you have to start somewhere, it might as well be here. It wasn’t referring to blogging.

In my case, more sickness and poor health may be on the way, or so goes the path of my imagination at the slightest sign. On day 10 of my hospital observation/recovery, I am starting to fall back down a little, and wondering if perhaps, the other health-related issues may show up.

I guess we’ll see. I sure hope my liver and kidneys and whatever don’t fail while I’m here. While I am not entirely unhappy in this place, I don’t really want to stay longer than I need to. I don’t want to give medical staff the opportunity to see me worsen.

It’s also day 10 without drugs. Day 10 without eating Hershey’s kisses and Tootsie roll fruit chews as my main source of food.

I expected all my withdrawals at once to have a more substantial effect, as I have experienced Cold Turkey before.

I hope that doesn’t just come on Day 12, and the doctor knew it all along. That would suck indeed. I flip-flopped between living through suffering, or selecting Monty’s door #2 and choose the ultimate in Instant Gratification… Hospitals seem fairly well designed to keep any suicide tools out of my reach, but that may be because I didn’t really look too hard.

I no longer have any interest in suicide. It’s virtually off the table. The only reason I can’t tag it a 100% no, is because I am in a place where I see ultimate suffering on multiple levels and that scares the shit out of me.

I am not afraid to die. I am afraid to ALMOST die… I am afraid I will want to keep living, even if in a veritable hell. 

In Canada, as far as I know, suicide is still illegal and even in a hospital, everyone will always work to save you, even if you’re screaming LET ME DIE at the top of your still recovering lungs. I watched my father ask to die many times. It was horrible but not nearly as horrible as seeing how close I could be to that. 

I came into this hospital not really “with it” enough to know what was going on. I recovered to mental clarity on day one and have spent the next 9 days trying to breathe a little deeper, but for the most part, feeling like a healthy being told day after day after day that I had to be here another day. Recovery.

So I did what I do. I embraced my now and started being a spectator. I watched the nursing staff and the patients. The joys and sorrows and the panic and agony. I watched grown men in the middle of a happy conversation with family, suddenly gasp a second breath and transform into a screaming panic without awareness of where they were. Literally, mid-sentence from a hospital bed with a nurse to a man who thinks he’s in a war being bombed, or in another case, a very loud man asking why everyone was in his house.

I tried to imagine what that would be like if it were me. I tried to ponder whether my years of mental training in understanding my own mind would let me tackle that kind of panic better, but of course, all that training did, was help me better understand how easy it is to lose your sense of self.

Perhaps that is the “Later Jeff” I have referred to, that lives on the other side of my wall of tomorrow. The version of me I have been burdening with all the life-long troubles that I ignored and abandoned and handed off tag-team style to tomorrow. 

I understand the idea of a mental breakdown. It’s when that version of yourself is asked to step up and be accountable, finally. The amount of shit that will rain down on me when that day comes will be heavier than I can even imagine.

I talk of my current mind being skilled at joy crushing but when the time comes to be responsible for all my procrastination shit, it might just be mind crushing. Soul Crushing.

——

Our family lived through an extended period of decline when my Grandfathers mind started to fade. He hit all the landmark symptoms that are all too common today but were new to us at the time. He’d do things I never really could understand, like hide the daily newspaper in some of the weirdest places. We found copies year old as many as 10 years later as I remember.

When my father started to fluctuate his moods, even more, than previously and at the starting edge of what we learned would be a similar decline, it was doubly terrifying. My Grandfather didn’t know what was happening. He didn’t have perspective.

My father had a roadmap of misery to anticipate both filled with the fear that starts in your 50s when you begin to struggle to remember specifics, but also with the full and total awareness of how it affected his family. 

My father was a proud man and one of those subtle intellectuals that truly understood how many things worked. He was a secret inventor of solutions and he was a fixer of things. He built much of our first house and and and…

And then one day, it was clear he no longer was.  It might have been as simple as no longer being able to fix the coffee maker. Whatever it was, he detected it before we did, but it wasn’t his secret for long, mostly because he could not hold back his anger, now doubled by his newfound incompetence. That is probably not a fair word for me to use when describing dementia, but it was the word he used.

From his perspective, my father had become useless.

I wasn’t present for much of this. It was too painful on so many levels. I developed my own anger but mixed with sadness and fear. I took on a bit of a “not my problem” approach and visited two or three times a month, which was supposed to be every week at the minimum but I’d make up reasons to appear busy for as many as I could without suspicion.

From the beginning, I could see this pain crushing my mother, and I tried my best to keep down my emotions of how bad it must be. Having lived my own life without really ever having to face the bad stuff, I would just use sentences like; I know I couldn’t handle that.

Sadly, I believe I am much stronger than my mother was. we were both witnesses to how father affected each of us. We were the team that could make each other laugh after a session of tears caused by his anger and mean words.

The task of being caretaker to a man who she probably still loved, but must have not-loved as much inside her head was not one you’d look forward to under normal circumstances, but when you are given the responsibility of caretaker and that person is loud and scary and mean in new ways even harsher, you either can — or can’t.

Something snaps inside and you transform from John and Mary Goebel to Patient 1 and patient 2. It’s not unlike throwing your entire life of memories and cares and wishes and desires over that wall of tomorrow with the understanding somebody will take care of you. It might even have been a percentage voluntary.

I’m not insinuating that my mother was faking it, or that she really wanted to decline in that scary way. I’m more likely to believe something we have yet to discover is the cause, but I can’t deny that “going crazy” has been something I’ve considered as a solution to that day yet to come when I am asked to choose. Will I live on during the decline suffering mentally each day to remember? First to remember details about the story I am telling, followed by an even more frustrating struggle to remember the people I am sitting next to telling the stories too.

It’s selfish, but I will claim my fear is even greater than my father’s because my entire existence as far back as I can recall has been to not be a bother. The mantra of “don’t interrupt, don’t agitate, don’t annoy” is why I am so weak to progress in life. Asking anything of anyone is so hard for me, I don’t do it.

Asking somebody to help me finish my sentence will be hard, but asking somebody to help me do EVERYTHING is an inconceivable burden.

Is it fortuitous then, to add to this horror, the fact that I don’t actually have anyone to ask. I have no wife to put through that.

This is the point however when I think of my Mom, On her second loop of watching her life loves change and become a chore.  I’d choose crazy. I know I would. I might even break down far before it comes to that.

For the next several years, the two of them declines together but I wasn’t present. Throwing that responsibility over my procrastination wall as is my way, it was intercepted and accepted by my sister, the family elder. Julie had lived a life almost in preparation to be the family saviour. Her youth was divided between a social life, a school life, and a hospital life.

From her birth deformity to a slew of recurring visits, it wasn;’t surprising she pointed her goals to nursing and care. I believe Julie is also the strongest willed and stable minded of us 3. 

To be honest, I never really knew either of my sisters. They were 7 and 9 years older and gone by my age 10.

There was some guilt on my part, having thrown my parents over that wall, but the more you live a life without inconvenience and tragedy, the more you need to. I was conditioned to instant gratification from the start.

For me, my parents died about 10 years before my parents died. I do my best to not regret or feel too bad for that decision. When your mother doesn’t know who you are, I didn’t feel the need to continue that sadness. 

Loop 3.

I have had memory issues of my own since — I do not know. 

I’ve been obsessing over it for decades, and it has helped me in my work on understanding the brain a little better and how it stores memories vs stories. I have a full memory of the stories that have been told from my youth but am unable to remember people or emotions or things that happened. I don’t remember any order to my past. All my memories of saved as separate, recallable self-contained stories and in most cases could have happened last week, last year or when I was 30.

I’ve worked my skills as a storyteller around those limitations and have almost been successful in not talking about my bad memory because I have enough stories ready to go as to appear functional.

In truth, I suspect I saw my first red flag triggers a few years back that I may be on that same path forward, except without a spouse. 

When my mom started to decline almost simultaneously, most of the people we encountered were surprised. Dementia wasn’t usually a contagious illness and the likelihood of two people living together contracting symptoms at the same time was so rare, the extended care homes all claimed it was a first for them to receive a request for a couple.

To me, it seemed more obvious. For 30 years, at least once a week or more, we’d all eat a sausage casserole out of that same aluminium pot. I can visually describe that pot even today with enough detail you could sketch a picture. I especially remember it’s deep grooves caused by years of wear from continued stirring and washing.

It is conceivable the pot was over 60 years old, as I do remember a great many of our dishes were owned by my great grandmother. The plastic bowl and spoon I have used to eat cereal is possibly as old as plastic. I often wondered how much lead or pewter dinnerwear contributed to the madness of our ancestors. As I remember it, history is filled with people going looney later in life.

I blame that pot, but even still, I’d give anything to have another serving of that sausage casserole or the locally famous singular meal my father ever cooked; Noodles and Breadcrumbs, also from the same pot.

Believing the aluminium pot was part of the decline comforts me only in knowing they probably ate from it more than 40 years more than I did so maybe I am not destined to follow them.

My memory issues are just as equally caused from that time I slept a night in a teeny camper trailer in Florida and woke up smelling gas.  The oven had been filling the camper presumably for 9 hours or more. Brain damage is to be expected, but I never pursued it. I also thought it made a better story without confirmation but since that time I have used that as my fixed point by which I have no personal memories previous. That would have been about age 40… ish.

I’d be content with this level of insanity and memory loss if it didn’t get worse, but I’m 54 and it will. It already has.

——

It’s 10pm on a Sunday. My second Sunday in the hospital. I’ll start my new routine to sleep shortly, and they’ll come drip another litre or so of antibiotics into my arm. Then I’ll struggle and toss and turn all night, inserting some NetFlix binging in between restless cycles.

Today was a hard day at times. Fathers Day. I’m on a reasonably quiet wing on the eighth floor, but when the shouting starts, it is so coincidentally similar to my Dad’s loudness it was hard to listen to without reflooding some of that sadness back in.

I’ll be glad to rest, even in 15 segments and wake up. Tomorrow is a new day. A new week. A new mood.

Happy Monday’s Eve.

End of Part 1, June 17. 9:58pm.

I think I’ll spell check and do some slight editing. I might share this one a little more publically.

 

I wish I’d known that yesterday.

Today hit the completion of the seven days in a hospital, and although there is no pain minimum discomfort, I am leaving with some amazing wisdom that will help me in the future.

Every single day here, I had at least one open mouth wow moment of joy that caused me exclaim the following statement:

Wow. I wish id known that before.

This is a statement which can be made either with a negative or a positive connotation. There is a small level of frustration that you had to live without such new knowledge till now, but it should always be overshadowed that now you no longer do.

This mornings example that inspired me to write was the discovery that a patient pantry exists a few steps from my room that contains several comforts available to me I had previously been frustrated yo live without, most notably, ice and a fridge.

Wow. I wish id known that before today!

Many would instantly focus on the frustration of the past and perhaps even find anger that nobody had informed them. Instead of thanks, they might complain about the lost days and look for blame.

Instead, I am overjoyed that my life will be better from this moment forward. 

Yesterday I learned they have teenagers that volunteer daily, and they can assist with amazing things. Just now, between composing this paragraph and the previous, they showed up eager to go bring me my first Tim Hortons breakfast sandwich since I’ve been here.

Wow. I wish id known that before now.

I’m not angry with the nurses that didn’t tell me about either of these. I am happy my life will be better from the moment I learned this.

Each day I’ve discovered similar wonders and of course, I start to understand there are probably so many other things I have not yet learned. It excites me to see what might make me say WOW today, although I’m dropping the  “wish I’d known that yesterday” portion. Wishing about yesterday is a silly concept when you think about it in the context of my universe.

Wishing about anything that has already happened in general is less helpful than being grateful for my present or planning towards a better future.

As I type that, my present gets significantly better as my volunteer arrives with my breakfast, and I enjoy it — with ice water for the first time.

Today is significantly better than yesterday. I imagine there are patients here in this hospital on both sides of this. Those who have yet to learn these things, and those who know things I have yet to learn. Perhaps that for labelled SP46675434 leads to a Jacuzzi hot tub I can sign up to enjoy. 

That is a wish for tomorrows WOW, although a second thought mentally points out it’s probably a pretty bad idea so I’m pretty confident that wish won’t come true.

I realize that I am 54 and often go days without the I’m glad I now know that joy of learning at least one new thing a day… But others may have been having that expansive joy each and every day, at least once, or constantly.

There are people everywhere that have had wow moments I have not yet learned and I have the knowledge they have not had the pleasure of learning yet. Age is irrelevant. There are 12-year-olds that learn so much every day they know more than I ever will.

At some point, we are able to have wow moments without asking or being answered. We learn to make logical connections all around our universe just because we comprehend if this means that, then that must mean that. 

Self wow. I can have cold apple juice at 3 am tonight. 

Even more important than learning something new as often as possible are the connections of understanding they offer.

Intelligence is not about knowing more. It’s about understanding more. Each day I learn more and witness how that knowledge fits into my universe, I make connections and become a better me.

I stop wishing about the past and plan towards a better future.

 

 

 

Spring Love at the Multi Use Park

I just witnessed one of the coolest things ever. It seems the park bench I chose to sit on, in the shaded section of an urban strip park comes with a show.

The park is approximately the width of a street, and I suspect at one time it probably was, or a service lane that often exists behind a more commercial main road. You can find the continuation here. Nicely architected with green grass and lots of trees and benches that line the main walkway spaced just far enough away from each other to allow people to sit and enjoy, even if the next bench over is occupied by a drunken slob hung over from last night, which is often the case it seems in an area like this.

I see there is a tombstone for Barney near one of the park entrances.  It inspired me to sit and blog from one of the benches. I found an empty one, which at certain times can be difficult. It’s a nice spring day and I quickly discover my seat is a perfect one, across from a spring singles party for the park pigeons. I notice a potential couple appear directly in front of me, in a prime spot slightly elevated and lit by the spring sunlight almost like a spotlight might light a stage.  They walk up to the spot from an area off to the side where everyone is waiting to be next.  She is already there as he swaggers into the sun-spotlight and begins his audition for the lady.  He puffs right up, like he had throat to spare. His puffy chest catches the light and displays some very high-quality colours. A rainbow brighter than the suns reflection in an oil spill.

He was putting on a real show, unlike anything I’d personally seen before. He had moves. Still, after all this pomp and circumstance, she remained unimpressed. I suppose it just wasn’t what she was looking for. At first, they seemed to be bargaining, as if she said no, but he wanted to show off a few extra tricks. They walked away and back and away and back a few times as he chirped a last-ditch attempt. One final bow of rejection and the first contestant wanders off and flies away. I notice he doesn’t re-join the waiting list to try another mate later. I suppose the idea of being rejected by one puts a shadow on your chances. Even pigeons don’t want sloppy seconds.

As she holds her place in the sun, the next qualifier bounces over the sidewalk from the bullpen for his chance in the sun. This female pigeon and I have obviously different tastes because #2 was far less impressive to me. He hardly puffed up at all, and his dance moves were far less cheerful. Instead of rainbow colours,e he was just black. In less than half the time, she had made up her mind that #2 was the pigeon for her. Perhaps she’d had black before and couldn’t go back.

They bounce off together out of site and a new princess bride bounces across the concrete onto the mound and the rituals continue. I felt so privileged to see the first pairing because none of the bachelor’s next in line were as good. Some of them hardly tried at all, making me believe the first pairing might be something special.

Perhaps they were the community elders, and the rest are the common pigeons that all know each other from the neighbourhood. I have no idea but I have a suspicion that pigeons are locally minded. They find a statue they like and poop on it forever.

I often think about the birds and wish I could know more about bird languages. I ponder whether birds teach each other one language among birds or species of birds. One of the main reasons animals don’t progress much farther in evolution is they don’t always hang out with enough of them to form a common language. I’ve watched them.  Like many humans, they seem to sit around and chat a lot.  I’m certain they have a conversational language.  They’re probably the most chatty animals in the kingdom.

Birds hang out.  I assume they’re telling each other stories. Shared experiences about great watering places or the lady on Fifth Avenue that spreads seed out later in the day. Perhaps they tell stories about us. I imagine we can be quite comical to a bird. Our mating rituals are even stranger to witness than theirs.

Sadly, this grand showroom is also a prime spot for humans and a spontaneous game of catch starts up making noise and potential danger. One of the birds calls out, presumably saying the pigeon equivalent to shouting “CAR” when your ball hockey game is disrupted by those pesky vehicles that choose to drive on the roads you’ve designated as playing fields. If I listen closely I hear a single chirp I interpret as; “Ok Ladies and Gents; Take 5.” Bird language is far more efficient than English because the chirps are digital. 

This is a great example of multi-use urban Park, even if they never intended it to be multi-species too. I remember the dog memorial I passed as I entered, and realize it is for in fact for all.  A park like this is practically made just to allow the neighbourhood to walk their dogs… or lizards, or whatever will stay on the leash.

I never really understood the fun in playing catch. I have no memories of catch. It always seemed a pointless way to have a conversation, loudly across a park. I see even less enjoyment in a silent game of catch. I don’t get it. Even from the standpoint of exercise, you’re standing in one place using one arm. It’s some movement but not even as much exercise as walking to the park. I suppose my view may be biased by the fact I was probably horrible at it. I know I never liked playing Frisbee because it was just another sport I failed at. For me, Frisbee was more a game of throw and walk to pick it up

When the humans have had enough, they leave, but by now the sun has shifted and it no longer beams impressively on the ritual mound as it did before. Some pigeons return but just like humans, it seems it isn’t always easy to get back into an interrupted party vibe.  The mood just isn’t the same, but I suppose some pigeons have plans to get it on, so they start again but as the first new female awaits her show, a dog wanders in.

The spotter pigeon calls out; DOG although I just hear a chirp that seems pretty much identical to the one he called out for HUMAN!  They fly away.  Since this is where people walk their dogs, I suspect the spotting of the first one means dating game is over for the day. Soon this will be the dog’s time to sniff buts and choose mates.

There is nothing worse than being interrupted by a horny dog when you’re trying to impress your pigeon… I imagine.

End note: This timeless blog post was originally written May 17th, 2015. I searched for it among archived unpublished work and brought it up front today by request because it is a nice story I like to tell whenever I get the chance.