The Art of Happiness and Reflection and Mother

Sometimes I am not sure what makes our brains do what they do, though given that science is not either I suppose getting it at all puts me a step ahead. I am adjusting to this happiness thing. Its an omnipresent pleasant sensation that has no real sensory equal. I like it a great deal, and am often just sitting in the moment and feeling that purr deep in the space between mind and body. I am also reflecting a lot on my past. It is not painful, and if it feels so I stop. It is different than when my brain screams to understand something but is more a cataloging of how I achieved my joy.

When I can I do this by looking at pictures. I am not posting them here because mostly I do not want to look at them again. I look back and see a twisted body, heart, and mind. I see in the pictures my pain, and remember just how I got into that tight spot. Then I put them away and look at the reality. My body is not better off but it is stable again. My competent doctor, I will always revel in having a competent doctor, has helped in such astounding ways. The simple gesture of trying medicines in a different family that I am not allergic to unlocked a door for me. Its such a simple concept and it does mean malpractice on all fronts. It was never a lack of medication options but a lack of damns given.

I find my mind is not quieter despite being happy. It babbles on and on, noticing everything and pushing on to seek and discover about itself, about the world. I am so different every day than who i was before, and I cannot help but embrace that. A year ago I would have never admitted to anyone that I do not read DC comics anymore. I am still the biggest bat fan… except that I am also not unaware of the serious issues with in he DC Universe. Batman, my childhood hero, beats on people like me. The different of mind. Batman uses his money, whiteness, and power to get away with what could be literal murder in many cases.

I suppose I lost my hero in my reflections, but it is also a case of not needing him to be a hero. I still drown myself in Bat things for the pleasure of it, without the hidden hook of needing a hero. I no longer want a real Batman to swoop into my personal gotham and wreak havoc for the villains. I did that for myself. I no longer need rescuing and my world is no longer so dark that the slighest thing will bump me over into no return. It is not a world without sun, except that I still never open my curtains. It just isn’t the same.

Mother’s Day is coming, and this year it is not an agony for me either. It was not last year but that was the first time. Cutting my mother out of my life made this weekend less painful. There are some slight twinges in that I am not there for my siblings but I do not think they need me to be so much so. They are adults now and able to choose to be free of Mother’s clutches. I am taking quiet time, not to reflect but simply because I do not want to hear all the cacaphony of both joyous and obligatory Mother Stuff. I feel left out that I do not get to celebrate with my mother this way.

I am a motherless child. I am a fatherless child. I am a child of the world. Raised by the village. Given strength by the village. I know in that aspect I am not left out but a conglomeration of the best of every woman I know became mother, same with every man I know becoming father in some aspects. It all is simple and direct yet I still am reflecting. Instead of taking part in the shouting from the rooftops or hiding from the idea of what Mother used to be I am going to just reflect.

I am going to reflect on the women who I know who are amazing mothers. Some are also amazing fathers. I am going to reflect on how they changed me for the better. The idea of a good parent is still one I sometimes struggle with. The concept of loving arms gently wrapped around me is no longer a terrifying nightmare because it is unheard of to my mind, it is just an option I am less familiar with. I think of all those mothers and I will reflect on the gifts of seeing them for what they are. The best mothers are guides, and I know many people who are guides.

In achieving my own omnipresent joy I can see the strands of time and people in my life and I can see that while my own parents never parented, I was saved from being so like them by countless good mothers. The strangers who could not ignore the abuse and said something. The people who clothed us, fed us, and sometimes just offered a space where the sensory depravity of the world did not drown us. My opportunities were rare, but each one was a glimmer in the night sky. Not a signal like the Bat signal I hoped for but something much more durable. Stars, twinkling into the darkness I thought an oblivion. House lights in windows showing me there was civilization beyond what I thought was the entire world.

The world is so much larger than I knew. There is so much joy to explore. There is so much joy I was given and so much I want to share.

I know that not every person who reads this will understand why someone who knew both biological parents could be orphaned at birth in the mental sense. The idea that all parents are good is their default. TO that person I say, you are more than lucky and perhaps you will be someone’s star.

So I will reflect now, in my sea and perhaps the world will only be brighter for a reflection of a light brightens it. I am the sea of stars, each one illuminating a choice, a chance, a path that lead me to being not just who I am today but a person who could survive without hate. I understand the village now, and it is in my freedoms to know that I am there, and maybe I will be someone else’s star.

Well Practiced Survival and the Art of Happiness (Potential PTSD Trigger Warning)

I hit a speed bump tonight. My brain splatted as I hit the mental pavement and I am sitting here stuck. The speed bump? Happiness. I am happy so it makes me sad. I keep thinking about why that is and I suspect it has something to do with the tenets of survival. I have well practiced fear, anger, sorrow but I have almost no experience with happiness. Happy was the fleeting moment that escaped so quickly and I held on to for years. I can name my happiest moments and its a very limited number. 1. Comic book convention last June, 2. Sprite and the first time I had a flashback and she was there, 3. Gothmas with M, 4. My first time being published.

That last one I had to struggle to pull through the mists of time and survival. I was thinking too about the domestic violence cycle and how cut off people are. I grew up without friends. Even now my friendships are limited. Some of that is the autism factor, I just struggle there but a lot of it is because I trust very few people. How can I trust you? You might be out to get me. I am working on this alone but I do not want to. I never wanted to do it all alone. I never wanted to have to figure out how to beat domestic violence by myself. It should not be about clawing my way up ever. Yet it has been.

I have been trying to find a therapist for five years. Since I escaped my exhusband. I thought I might not make it. Maybe I should settle for one of the quacks who try to lure me in with promises of touching me while praying but I do not think so. I don’t think my wanting to mock this person for being what I perceive as a predator on the vulnerable with their unproven techniques and faith healing is going to be a valuable moment in time. I still survived him alone. It was not even over then. It is just over. Does that make me now really a survivor?

Yes and No. I was a survivor all along but in a way not being afraid has opened up all of these memories and painful things. Its over so now I can process. I am thinking on things from when I was five, that I never considered before. My brain is just now allowing itself to sort through nearly thirty years of stuff. Not all of it is bad. Not all of it is abuse. Not all of it matters. Yet it is there burbling around. If I think of my friends instead of them I end up with my first day in Kindergarten at the age of four, walking in and being called weird before I said a word.

I think on the isolation that goes with abuse and I want to try new things to see if its actually my way or if it is a side effect. I grew up surviving and being too out cast and bullied for friends. Am I so alone now because I just never learned how or is it because I am afraid of my own friends? I don’t know. I do not feel fear when Ithink of each individual. I feel happy. Yet I worry.

I talked a lotof this out with a couple of my friends. I have had friends for seven years now, but it still amazes me when I can say that. One suggested a support group. I looked some time ago, I believe last year, but figured maybe I should. She went to bed and I began to google. I found many local support groups. Tons for folks with cancer, tons for things I do not understand such as video games, and yet for all of the domestic violence groups listed with the local news papers, online in google, and even with the various agencies that help you get out if you are not disabled the only groups are for the ABUSERS. Oh there was one for single parents. Not a one for women. There is one for soldiers with PTSD but I am not a soldier. There is one for everyone but me. I still wrote some down and may call but I already feel that is an intrusion. I do not fit by not having a child, by being a woman, by not being with my abuser now.

I am not at a point where I can just remedy this by going “Okay we meet here, come on ladies and lets survive more.” That is not what I can do right now. I did it before for another need. When I first was disabled I helped with creating a chronic disease support group. Then retreated from it because I was not ready. I will not make that mistake again. So I am left hanging between faith healers and the disabling abusers getting help and my own independence. It cannot just be a side effect of abuse or I would not have survived being alone but I am wondering why I am supposed to do this part by myself too.

I do not want to. I want the experience of people who do not get frightened by happiness. Or people who do but can tell me what the difference between estatic, joy and elation is. My brain cannot stop pressing on the happiness to see what is wrong with it. There is no room in my head for joy. I want to change that but I am lost out at sea without a compass or the north star. There are no maps. It is just silence and placid and gentle waves. I do not know how to be gentle. I do not know how to let go of the anger. I am still angry at my abusers but it is smaller every day. They are dead. I out lived them and can focus on doing more than just clawing through every day.

I am also very tired. I do not want to spend the rest of my life fighting alone to figure out if its okay to smile all the time. My face is sore. Its not the usual sore of the jaw dislocations Its my mouth. From smiling. I keep doing so for no reason. I keep laughing more and more. This is not just a side effect of the surviving either. This happiness started growing long before my exhusband died.  The sensations when I stop thinking or just feel are not the same. It is no longer a hard sandpaper or stabbing pain. It is not a pain at all. Nor is it really emptiness. It is soft and quiet there. The passions are still burning in me but they do not scream to be heard over my sorrow. It is simply quiet, and I have never had that either.

I never expected the thing that would make me cave in on asking for help with my PTSD and other struggles would be happiness. I suspected someday I might have a challenge bigger than I could face alone. This is not even true. It is just that I know I do not have to do it by myself and I do not want to.

I am a ship at sea, no port to call home. The current pulls me, so I go to roam. I am a ship at sea, the waves a song to me. Far from even the open road. The winds rise and my ship sails on, to new lands will I go? Tomorrow I may find land ahoy but tonight I am just adrift in the sea.

Bad Romance

I woke up from my nap today literally singing Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. I had been dreaming strange things, but nothing frightening or bad. My brain is still processing the death of my exhusband and this song came out just as I was having my awakening after surviving the horrors he put me through. For the last few years it has been a comfort to me in ways, because I do not live down to the lyrics. The catchy tune was there to be a stress reliever when I needed it. It was my anthem to not return to the abuse, to not trust his platitudes through my door, and that the fears that I felt were valid. It was the musical reminder that I had survived.

I have been thinking today about all that I have survived. I cannot list it because my hand, recently injured but healing, won’t last that long and while my health has never recovered from his abuses and never will my mind has. Without knowing he was dead I had begun to push myself, because I decided to live. I went to the mall we used to frequent. It was his favorite place and I needed things. Instead of just getting what I needed and bolting I went through the entire mall and had fun with it with my carer. I even went into the bookstore. We made a day of challenging my PTSD while rewarding the impulse. I found things I would have bought online for four times as much, which for me is a reward. Apparently frugality is all I need? Frugality and dolls.

In those struggles and the darkest moments when I couldn’t even go out my own front door, I found my willingness to live. I was never willing to let him imprison me in this home because of fear. It wasn’t about him winning, but it was about being alive. I felt free of him before I knew he died and the freedom feels all the sweeter because I overcame those emotional things that I could. I will never sleep with my door unchained or unlocked, but I will go out more. Being afraid is exhausting.

I may date again, I may not. All I know is that the end of that last Bad Romance merits a playing of the song one more time. I am trying to remember why I fell for him and I can. That easy charm, saying the things I needed to hear on an emotional level and even the cats liking him. I wonder where that man went, but even him I do not mourn. I find myself mourning for his children. Not because of their father dying but because of the pain I know is in their lives. In the end though, it is a party at my house. Ra ra ra!

Homelessless

I just got the call, and between texting people and emailing people, I am announcing here… I am not going to be homeless. I am not. Going. To. Be. Homeless.

The rosebush is my rosebush, the tree is my tree, the door with 17 locks (15 of which are being removed) and a chain? Mine.

I have a home. I am going to really make that wishlist now, only, one will be a list of wants, including the superfluous, the other of needs. I will actually use this as a shopping list offline, because most of what I want can be had for less than the internet demands. I can dream again. There is room for frivolity, which is a basic need in a way.

The need to dream, imagine, create, and not struggle and not feel pain. Frivolity in small doses can be the most beautiful thing you ever experience. Anything can be frivolous and my favorite flavor of frivolity? the joy of children with ridiculously complex but durable toys and my cats with their own desires.

I will post here if I have any trouble with the state keeping it’s word. They said they would help me with the deposit and first month’s rent, and so help them… they had best keep their word. If they do not, I will have to go to the media. That promise is the only reason I held out any hope for this.

Sprite is overly affectionate because I am unable to stop crying, tears of joy and relief. The instant I heard the place was mine I felt like my chest had exploded from the sudden drop off in my personal terror. I am still afraid but, now my fear is limited to the current and present dangers that moving will also diminish.

I may never be completely safe, but, I believe I can sleep at night again. Plus, no one vacuums at 6 am where I am going to live.

Friendship

In the last few days I have been assessing my friendships. I do this periodically and for the first time in years I have not felt the need to discard a relationship. This sounds cold, I discard people who I no longer desire in my life. It might be an action that hurts feelings yet, that is usually the impetus for cutting someone out. What makes me assess my relationships? Need. I have needs that if my friends cannot meet causes issues.

I see myself as passionate, some will always find me abrasive. I am capable of great anger, but few people even acknowledge this. I am supposed to be quiet, docile. I fail at this. Docility is death in my world. My world is not often the world others can percieve either. If someone expects comfort from me, they may not always get it.

Assessment comes from altercation. This is human nature. My dearest of friends are years long relationships that I foster and tend. Some of my friends barely qualify by the standards of most. I do not see them for years, or only in the text of the internet. This does not mean that they are not friends. To me friendship means communion, sharing ideas, and often healthy debates.

Last night I cussed at someone for the first time, he and I disagreed. He desired comfort. He needed it. He also should know by now (and admits this) that I am not a nurtering type in the traditional way. I do offer comfort, but my comfort isn’t being held to my bosom. It is instead at times a reprimand, other times a reminder, or information that they need to comprehend a deed. My friend has made some wonderful changes in his life based on these comforts.

This conversation lead to the topic of Motherhood. The most underpaid, under appreciated and undervalued position in the world. My views on that are changing. I did not value motherhood at all when I woke. I did not see the truth about it, which I do now. Mothers are not always those who give birth. They are those who teach you, who shape you, and who truly nurture you.

I should have been aware of this before, noting that my own biological mother gets a two word title, to remind others that she is not a mother in my own eyes. She is unaware of this. I am afraid to tell her, because she will likely hurt herself. I have mothered her too often for me to comprehend the value of true motherhood. I am working on it now, struggling to appreciate the true mothers.

I had a teacher in school who went over the line of Teacher into Mother. When I ditched school, I went to her house, ate her food and played with her cats. I had her permission to do this. She saw a need, in a child who was so bored in class that she rarely paid attention, often beat on the other students or worked to hurt their feelings. She helped me grow past my torment so that I could help others. She is not why I tried my own hand at teaching. She is why I survived middle school. My teacher was also disabled. She told the story at the beginning of every year and if any transfer students came in.

She had not taken the medication a doctor told her she needed. She had strep throat and ignored it, and as a result the infection damaged her kidneys. She had a transplant and the side effects of the medications left her weak. She often used a wheelchair because her aging body was just not good enough. She also was known as a cruel teacher, harsh and strict.

She is not the only teacher I had who was known as either the crazy cat lady, a cruel person, or as the meanest teacher alive. Three spring to mind, all of them women. They had standards. That was it. Their classes are those I recall in first Elementary School, then Middle School, and finally High School, where I cared what I did. They are the classes where I actually did the work.

They also shaped my expectations of friendship. None of them told me I was bad for not being able to connect with people my own age. I can do that now, but, when I was young my brain was trapped between too many medications meant to control me, survivng other abuses, and dealing with a body that failed me. I also had to deal with being told nothing was wrong with me, except of course being crazy. No one wants to be friends with the crazy kid, the fat kid, the girl who doesn’t run because it dislocates her hips. No one wants to be friends with someone who is different.

I am still different. I cannot be normal. Normal is a misnomer for boring. None of my friends are normal. They are all shapes and sizes, and all are the most beautiful people I know. If I consider you my friend, it is a rare title. This does not mean I will not associate with people who are not friends, but it does not mean I actually respect those people.

I spent years mastering control of my emotions, hiding who I am. Now, I am mastering being myself. If you cannot handle the truth of my soul, you cannot be my friend. I am a treasure.I am not a burden. Are you my friend? I hope so. None of the friends I have right now have ever failed to measure up to my expectations. It is not always true that people with high standards are lonely. I am fulfilled, happy, and I truly appreciate my friendships.

Why You Can Never Thank Your Caregiver Enough…

Once upon a time, in a land not so far from here, when my legs worked without pain and I could dance I did not need any help in the world. I was blissfully unaware of how much harder things could be. Now, when I am hungry I have to debate if I should risk trying to microwave that bag of popped corn, or if I should hit the buzzer (obtained via Freecycle) and ask Ye Olde Caregiver to feed me. Usually it is the latter. The apartment is not accessible and that means hauling myself out of bed and to the kitchen. By the time popped corn is ready, I am out cold.

Yesterday he wasn’t here and being that I have yet to really buy groceries in the new apartment, I had to fend for myself. It has been six months since that was the case, and at first I was stumped. I couldn’t cook, standing and cooking is too dangerous and the chairs make me burn my arms up, which leads down the road of scars and infection.  In my fridge there were a total of three options. Beans, a rare blend with cheese and some secret but gluten free sauce courtesy of Del Taco, eggs, and a lot of drinks. So I piled the beans on a paper plate, put it in the microwave and had myself a feast.

That got me thinking, and first I asked permission before writing about him on the blog, that my caregiver takes a lot of crap, just by default. When we go out he fends for me, when I cannot reach something or if I am so low on energy that I do not see the predators coming. he is a shoulder to cry on when my pain meds fail to make it all better. He fights for me, he cooks for me, he moves me around the world, and he even helps me get in and out of the shower.

Without him, I would likely be trapped in an abusive environment. Someday I will list all of the abuses I have dealt with, but, this is a joy. Yes he is a paid caregiver, yet he works four times as much as he gets paid for. Not only does the state refuse to offer overtime, but, I cannot seem to get an extension on his hours. He deserves to get paid, as he does duties not listed by most. He even cleans out the dreaded litterbox.

Some people might wonder why a woman with such a dark past would want a male caregiver. I initially was resistant but he is the right man for the job. Not only can I trust him but my personality detecting cats both adore him as well. I have never felt endangered by him, and that is not true of anyone else in my life. If you have a caregiver or a service animal, how much do they do for you that goes unseen?

Sometimes when I am napping and kick the covers off, he tucks me back in without waking me. He feeds my cats, he even helps them get dressed when my hands are too swollen to work the velcro. He finds my missing pills when the faeries hide them (or I lose them). He does anything I ask of him, including running around town picking up furniture via freecycle. Today he has picked up a couch, a bookshelf, and a desk. I now have actual furniture, which he will dust. Yesterday he moved a TV into my room, cleaned up cat barf, and did laundry. Plus his daily chores which include three meals a day, two meals for the cats, and anything else I can dream up.

He even invents things for me. He is a technological wiz, and he enjoys making things. His hobbies include making games, that’s right, video games and woodworking. I have yet to run into anything he cannot fix or improve. He is one of the dearest people I know.

So thank you to all caregivers. Without you the world would be a dreadful place full of hunger, pain, and without the light you bring. May you never be taken for granted.

Toasting the Masters…

Today I found my Toastmaster’s group. First try too! That part was utterly unexpected. Usually it takes a few trips around the group sets to find where I belong. Not today. I am still planning to go to the Albuquerque Toastmaster’s meeting tonight, but only to reconnect with oldfriends and really, only if I have the energy. I am kind of beat. The good kind of exhaustion come from energy well spent.

First, we had to find the place, and via Rand Mcnally’s better than Mapquest map maker (you can get turn by turn maps!) we had success. Walking in, there was a lovely security guard. She not only opened the doors for me but cheerfully gave me instructions on how to find the group and didn’t hesitate to allow Sprite the Service Cat into the building. The meeting was on the second floor of the building, and we entered it… the most awesome elevator I have ever seen. It was awesome despite my fear of heights. The back half was clear so you could see exactly where you are. If you fall you can see you are falling! The ride was smooth, and it was roomy.

Backing out I took note of the hall of doors and entered the first room, after seeing the Toastmaster’s TVC banner. I had a second to breathe and then the greetings started. Every person there had such genuine kindness and they were all excited at the prospect of meeting someone new. I transfered from the Scooter into one of the rolling chairs, because they looked really comfortable. They were sweeeeet. I volunteered myself to work if they needed anyone, and it turned out they did.

Today was their Club Level contests for the Annual International and Table Topics speech competitions. I was secondary timer, one of the required and more relaxing jobs. I had little to do but relax and enjoy myself. I did have bouts of nostalgia with the memories of Toastmasters Once Was, but, the toastmasters group I was in snapped me back fast, with their own brand of awesomeness. First and foremost the concept of a service cat was greeted with , “She’s adorable, and what a neat idea. You’ll have to give a speech about that sometime.” My brain almost broke with the acceptance.

It turns out that there is at least one, but I think two, service animal users. They often have a dog there, though the dog doesn’t react well to cats, so there is some coordinating to be done. I introduced myself, and went ahead and mentioned that Toastmasters is going to help me achieve my goal of Miss Wheelchair USA. This was met with excitement. I forgot most of the TM Groups names, but, they are so wonderful, I am going to join.

The speeches were all top bar, as a contest requires. One of the speeches was about the Superhero Inside, and almost made me squee out of habit at the words Batman, Superman, and of course Wonder Woman. This speech had appeal for any age group, and was so well delivered. I laughed, internally I cried just a little, and I laughed again. This speech will go far. The sec9nd place speech was just as fabulous, and it was about the discovery of Service Animals. The speaker talked about the joy and sorrow in sharing your life with an animal and encouraged the audience to get a pet of their own. The third speech was also good, though, it needed more polish and talked about the challenges of industrial labour. Each speech taught something, and each speech had a unique element. It was a hard contest for the judges. I got to count their sheets with the other Timer (Head Timer) and the Head Judge.

I came full circle. I left Toastmasters long ago (Six year!) just after the first round of contests, and I am returning just as it begins. I only felt welcome, even when Sprite spooked a member. She went under the table and rubbed against her legs, the poor woman (in a really snazzy outfit) was startled but again, so very gracious. I did not feel anything but that warmth of belonging.

I am going to start my speaking path over, as I am relearning about delivery from a wheelchair. it will be a challenge, but, how can I live without the joy of Toastmasters? Especially when the people are not discriminatory but accepting, the space is beyond ADA compliant, and, they will support my dreams? Just before I left a suggestion was made about having a Service Animal and Companion Pet gathering, that is a great idea with planning, though it must be done carefully to prevent fights.

I came away feeling energized, and only  grew tired when my wheelchair broke, though that is a post for another time.

Links:

Toastmasters International: Find a club near you, find information, or even renew your membership!

Toasmasters District 23: My home District

Toastmasters at TVC: My Group

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