Sunday, February 9, 2014

How to Lose a Life

Yes, I know I said I would go back to being an irresponsible, sarcastic goober after I wrote Conversations with Myself, but I find that I must have one more serious discussion. This week I have no doubt used all of the days I might have had off over the weekends for NaBloPoMo. Who knows, maybe this month won't even count, and I'm okay with that.
Two days after I had a long talk with the young lady that inspired the above post, I got a frantic call from her grandmother (who she lives with) around 9pm. This girl wanted to take her own life. This wasn't screaming, raging, attention-getting teenage behavior; this girl was calm and quiet and had actually asked her grandmother to call me. She knew she needed help and she was scared. She also called her mother who lives nearby.
On my way there I made a fast call to my friend who helps with suicide prevention and got advise from him and he helped to calm me down. He assured me her calling for help was a positive thing. She was fighting against dying. She wanted to live and she knew she could trust me. I was relieved and quickly made it to her house.
She answered the door when I got there and I immediately dropped my purse and cane and held her in my arms. She welled over with tears and buried her face in my chest as I stroked her hair and kissed her head. I told her over and over that I love her and that I would help her. Everything would be okay. Then a scrawny woman in pajamas, sporting a mullet and a fever blister the size of a dime walked by us and looked at us with contempt. She was smoking a strong cigarette in this house where no one smokes. She kept sticking a tissue up alternating nostrils. The young lady sighed and said “That's my mom. She came in and just sighed when she walked by me. It surprised me when you hugged me”. I tried to reserve judgment despite what I'd heard about this woman and I continued to hold (I'm going to start calling this young lady Jane) – I continued to hold Jane.
Her mother walked by a second time and shuffled into the entryway we were standing in and sniffed and looked at no one in particular and said “I dunno why she's doin' this... Actin' this way”. I felt my face flush and I said more sternly than I meant to “Because sometimes sixteen year olds have real problems and they need help!” It makes me angry now to recall it. She shuffled back out of the room and lit another cigarette. Just a note: Jane has asthma, but her mother “Just has to smoke. She can't help it”. Alrighty then.
We got Jane to the hospital. Her mother only wanted to take her to the local one – which misdiagnosed my stroke, left my lying in my own vomit another time and nearly killed me on a third visit. Most people won't go there even if they have lost a major body part. I insisted we take her to the one in the next town and her mother tried to say she didn't have gas, she didn't know if her car would make it, etc... I finally told her to get into my car, she could ride with me. I told her she couldn't smoke in it though. Suddenly her car was able to make it just fine. Jane and her grandmother rode with me. The mother rode with one of her two boyfriends.
When they called Jane back they would only let her choose one of us to go. She chose me, which was an honor, but frankly awkward as hell. I stayed back there with her and listened to her tell the doctor everything. This baby was cutting herself, had planned on just swallowing all of her medicine including a whole bottle of sleep medicine. She cried and the hurt in her pervaded the room. The doctor was so kind and understanding. He wasn't judgmental in the least and promised to help her. He said they would send her to a place for a few days to get help and Jane agreed to this. I held her as she cried and unloaded more of her life on me. I knew a good deal of it anyway, but it helped her to talk about it.
Her mother came back just as the doctor was finishing his consult and the doctor kindly told her mother that Jane had been cutting herself since third grade and the last time was two weeks ago on the insides of her thighs. Her mother got so angry. She looked at Jane and said “Why didn't you tell me you was doin' that shit? I swear doctor, I didn't know she was doin' none of it”. Jane grimaced at her mother and said “Mom, it's not something I'd show you. It's not like I'd stand around and go, 'look what I did last night'”. When the doctor left he told the mother she would have to stay and sign some papers. It would be a while as they had to contact the on-call psyche doctor.
Her mother waited until the doctor left and then right in front of me said “I can't BELIEVE you told them that stuff, Jane. What the hell? I wanna go home. Now I'm gonna have to stay here even longer. If you hadn't told them all that crap we could go home now. You didn't need to tell them all that cutting stuff. Good God, Jane!” I thanked providence that I was on the other side of the hospital bed. Jane looked at her mother and laughed and said clearly keeping secrets had done wonders for her so far. That woman walked in and out of that room all night long and griped about wanting to leave. At 2am, she said she'd had it, she was going. The doctor told her she couldn't she'd have to sign admission papers. That's when I heard that mother say she didn't want Jane. She wished she could just get rid of her. I was shocked into silence. When I found my voice all I could do was look at her and quietly say “well, you almost got what you wanted tonight”.
The mother did end up and leave. She wouldn't go with Jane to admit her to the new hospital which is just over an hour away. I stayed with her until that morning when they finally took her, followed the ambulance down and saw that she was settled in. On the way back I called the grandmother and informed her that the mom HAD to go down and sign, I was coming to get her. The grandmother called me twice during that ride saying the mom wouldn't go, but I told her she would go, or I'd pick her up and put her in the trunk and take her. I got there and the mother said her car wouldn't make it. I said I knew, which was why I was there. To come get her. At this point I'd already picked up my mom on the way back because I was too exhausted to drive. Finally, since she couldn't smoke, the mother ended up getting in her own car and driving the hour anyway. I was so angry. Why was I even there? It didn't matter at that point. I had her follow me back to the hospital that was an hour away, she signed some stuff, and then I had her follow me back home. I was close to collapse at this point and now that Jane was safe, I just wanted to sleep. Special thanks to my mom for doing those last two trips.
Folks, I've just never seen a mother so cold and cruel. A woman who is more worried about herself than her child. She kept saying “I guess I'm going to have to cancel my doctor appointment tomorrow so's I can sleep all day”. Well, actually, no. You don't have to. As it turned out, I had an appointment too. I made it. I had to drive an hour back to the city and back the next day to bring Jane's things to her. I went to a friend's home where I got a hug, breakfast and a nap and I paced their living room and ranted, then I had to leave again. Yesterday we went to see her to take her a plastic plug for her nose-ring hole. That mom didn't bother to go.

If you can't handle kids, if you are so cold that you don't have a particle of love to give a child and you are more enamored of your pet chinchilla than you are of your own kid, don't have that kid. Okay, just don't. Give it up for adoption, or (this will get me hate mail), just have an abortion. After all, we do have that right. Don't wait to let that kid get into this world, purposefully mess it's head up so bad it wants to die anyway, and tell it you don't want it. Don't hurt someone that way. You have just set someone loose in the world that has no role model of love, kindness, empathy or compassion. You have perpetuated yourself. To that mother: I hope you sleep well at night, knowing that a woman who has known your daughter for two years has the honor of being called her mommy. She calls you by your first name, much like one calls a dog.

Monday, February 3, 2014

My New Year Cometh

I have started my new year off in February. I know this breaks some cosmic rule that all resolutions must begin January first; mine simply couldn't. Also, it makes me look better. Those of you that are already backsliding in your vows to be better, healthier, more productive people can look at me in February and think “Wow, she's really sticking with it”!
I have spent the last few days signing up for NaBloPoMo, getting my finances in order, resolving to finish my book, figuring out an exercise plan and I went to the grocery store last night and stocked up on several days worth of organic produce swearing to myself that “if it doesn't grow, I'm not eating it”. I am trying to avoid processed foods and I have the best intentions in the world right now. I am already aware that there will come a certain time each month when I will want to consume tater tots and suck Hershey's syrup straight from the bottle, I have a plan for that.
There are a few exceptions to my rules on nutrition. Diet Coke is the first exception to all the rules. I am trying to limit my intake to two cans of Diet Coke per day, but I will never kid myself into thinking I can just set it aside. I don't drink coffee because for me it tastes like something people have washed socks in. I love iced tea, but there is never any left first thing in the morning. I don't know why this is, but it is an inevitable fact that I can go to bed with a pitcher of sweet iced tea waiting for me in the fridge and by the time I get to it in the morning, it is sitting empty – still in the fridge, mind you – and I have to make a fresh pot before I can wake up. This is disastrous as making tea involves using the stove and and some level of awareness. I cannot do this without caffeine. There is no caffeine. You see the problem. So, Diet Coke stays.
I also must eat processed chocolate squares. These come in the form of Ghirardelli 72% dark chocolate squares. Technically I am within the bounds of things that grow. After all, chocolate does come from a bean, I just like my bean to be mixed with sugar and have been handled by Swiss chocolatiers before I get hold of it.
As I said, I have a plan for each month that mother nature lets me know I am not pregnant. I will devour everything in sight. No. Bad plan. I have found that salted, toasted pumpkin seeds can almost satisfy me like a potato chip. They are quite salty enough and they crunch very well. If I'm desperate for grease I suppose I can dip them in olive oil before I eat them. Maybe not. I always crave Sonic tater tots during this time. Oh dear buds of greasy, potato-ey goodness, fried golden and served warm and comforting. I have a plan for these too. They simply don't count. That's right; for one week per month, these are a free food. They have no calories and they are counted as good for me. That's the plan.
I am already working to make this blog post show up sometime before midnight tonight, and so far I'm halfway there. I a little concerned about my computer's willingness to participate in this though. My internet thingy, you know the little symbol of lines in the bottom right corner of your screen that stays lit up to tell you it is connected to the internet? Well, that thingy continues to flip flop between being lit up and being unlit with a big red X through it. Last night when I was online my screen would get all choppy and parts of it would turn black, a bit like when you are trying to watch satellite TV in a bad thunderstorm. I'm not sure what is going on with this, and since I am one of those bizarre people who kill electronics, I dare not go check on the internet box thing. Not that I would have a clue what to check anyway, but I would feel more productive if I could go “take a look”.
So even though my new years resolutions are beginning in February, I feel pretty good about them. I feel a sort of conquering attitude emanating from me and can see success in my future. I already see myself thirty-five pounds thinner with glowing healthy skin and a national best-selling novel moving off of shelves faster than they can print them. I also see Johnny Depp and Shemar Moore wrestling naked in the mud over who gets to marry me. No one ever accused me of having perfect vision.
Until tomorrow!

Don't forget that Ancient Egyptian tombs are decorated with pictures of watermelons.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Conversations with Myself

Today's post isn't funny.  It's kind of icky.  A teenager who doesn't belong to me personally, nevertheless trusts me and she needs my help.  I spent today talking to her family.  Tomorrow I will go talk to her and hang out for a while.  Knowing a kid loves you and trusts you is a huge deal.  I've been thinking about what I should have told myself.  That prompted today's post.

Conversations with Myself

If I could visit my 15 year old self, this is what I'd say:
“Baby, quit trying to fit in with those girls. It doesn't matter if you try to buy Guess Jeans and K-Swiss shoes and try to wear Sunflowers perfume that frankly, chokes you and gives you a headache, no one cares. You aren't ever going to be one of the pretty, popular girls because there's so much inside of you. You couldn't be that flighty and insincere if you tried. Your personality makes you different. You have artwork and poetry and English compositions inside your ridiculously smart head that won't let you be like the other kids. You are going to make good grades, even when they make fun of you for it. I know some people don't like you because you are poor. You eat free lunches at school and borrow money from friends so you can get vending machine food and look like you fit in. You also look different. You have weird long legs and knobby knees and small breasts and the whites of your eyes are blue. People always notice your eyes. Then you have to explain the bone disease. They make fun of you because they don't understand it.
All of that is okay though. One day you'll be beautiful. You'll appreciate those legs, I promise. One day, the people who make fun of you won't matter. They won't matter because you won't remember who they are. You'll remember a general feeling of discomfort when you think of the school you attend, but you won't remember a single thing anyone ever said to you. When the scary, huge mean girl threatens you and in self defense all you can think to do is bark at her like a rabid dog? You won't even remember that until your best friend tells you the story twenty years later and she and you both laugh until you cry.
Honey, put those cigarettes down. I know they help sometimes. Yes, god, they still smell good, but eventually you are going to want to stop smoking because your clothes stink and you have to stand out in the freezing cold in winter to smoke and your kids will plead with you to stop. When you finally make up your mind to stop, you are going to have to take prescription pills to help you. These pills will give you three months of the most horrifying nightmares you will ever have. It won't matter that you've had to smoke butt ends out of your ashtray or that you had to look in the couch to get the rest of your cigarette money or even that people will bitch about it when you do smoke. You will not want to take those pills, I promise. Just stop smoking now.
God, you've made some cool friends. They don't care that you're poor. They are too. As long as there is money for weed and cigarettes, life is good, huh? I know you'll only ever smoke weed, it won't lead to anything worse for you. Your friends give it to you for free and you never spend a dime on it. Those cool friends are all grown up now. They've all been married and divorced over and over. One still decorates in skulls and rock band posters. He's almost 40. He hasn't been sober since October of his senior year in high school. The other one, that was so cute is now fat and bald and missing a good portion of his black teeth. He was supposed to die a while back from liver failure. He was yellow. He made it through it, according to what I hear. He had one wife who ran off with the guy who decorates with skulls. He was the golden boy. Now he's just broke and stoned. One guy may or may not have a few kids with a couple of people. He's paying for some, but he isn't sure if their his or not. He's too stoned to care. He will always be a manager of some pizza place or another. In the town we grew up in. He never leaves. His ex-wife might have had a child by the skull guy. She is now on a most wanted list. He is going to be 40 also. They are all still listening to Pink Floyd and drinking too much and they've all drifted apart. Even from me. I never hear directly from any of them. They're on Facebook. We just have nothing in common now.
Wait! Don't let that guy have your virginity. Really? Him? He weighs 300 pounds. He grows up to deliver donuts. He never goes to college and his wife will send you a weird Facebook message one day about how you messed up his entire life. You'll date him when you're fifteen years old and he's eighteen. For six months. During those six months he will display jealousy, a lack of trust in you, a need for constant drama in one form or another, and what you just knew was love was simply excitement over having sex. You'll realize six months from now you don't love him. Why did you sleep with him? Because two of your girlfriends had already lost their virginity and out of a set of four of you, you didn't want to be the last. You will come in third place in the virginity races with a fat redneck who grows up to deliver donuts. Congratulations. Later, when you are sixteen and you get raped, he'll tell you you probably deserved it. Please don't let that boy have you. You have got to set some standards and not settle for whatever shows up. I'll show you how if you'll let me.”

This is what I'd tell my 17 year old self:
“Don't try to grow up yet. Let yourself be a kid just for a while longer. I know it's fucked up at home. Your mom turned into a stranger when she met your stepdad. You were promised that you could stay in Alcoa, but they yanked you up and slapped you down in Oak Ridge. It wasn't a big deal to them and if they knew you hyperventilated in your car, they'd make fun of you for being a dramatic teenager. They don't understand that having people around you that you don't have to explain your blue eyes to, or a new set of people to impress, or figuring out which people will rape you and which won't really is a crisis in the seventeen years you've been on the planet. You'll try to find solace in drinking and smoking weed. It'll be okay, I promise you that. You'll live through that and it helps you keep the panic at bay most days. Just come over here and hug me though, because I'm going to lose you to sex. You're going to sleep with everyone and everybody. You'll do this because you were raped at 15 and had you not cooperated, you are pretty sure you would have been at 16 in the middle of Atlanta Georgia. You want to keep the monsters away and prove to yourself that sex is good. You are going to go on a rampage. Please don't do this. There are other ways to heal. We will never to this day have one emotional feeling during sex. You will associate it with feeling good, but it will never mean anything to you if you do this. You can't hear me, can you?
Your head is still chock full of brains and you make every honor roll and all straight A's. You are generally high when you do this. I don't know what I could have done if I'd put effort into myself. Your heartbreaks and worries are tossed aside when you talk about them because your parents can tell you what real problems are. If you don't talk about your problems, you are a slut and being rebellious. If you do talk about them, you are blowing things out of proportion, or shouldn't be doing what you are doing anyway. You can't win when it comes to looking for help. Don't worry about that, you grow up to take everyone seriously, even small children. Kids adore you because you don't treat them like kids. You know how real their problems are, and you accept it. You're getting some great life skills.

You are finally standing up for yourself. The last time your mother hit you was in Alcoa. You made damn sure that the last time was the last time. It stopped that day. Now you are taking your new found power a little far, but it's certain no one pushes you around anymore. Hang on to that, you'll need it for a while. Please take care of yourself. You are going to have a baby soon. She will be the brightest star in your life and the best thing you ever accomplish. You will be a great mother, and it's because of the path you've been on. This is hard right now, but you are going to turn out just fine. You don't know true love now. You won't know it at twenty. You might think you've found it at 34, I'll have to let you know. I love you. I'll hold your hand through all of this. Trust me, I won't let us down.”