put this in your pipe, sherlock

normally, i don’t use my blahg as a personal journal, but today isn’t normal, so i thought i’d be different.  if anyone happening to read this recognizes the weird symptoms i experienced today, please talk to me.  before i lose it altogether.    

maybe it’s just the time of year (it’s halloween).  something in the air.  mold and fungus, or that certain je ne sais quoi.  maybe i’ve been around demented zombies too long, and it finally infected my brain.

i was outside repotting plants to bring in before the frost.  nothing unusual, except for the fact that i’ve been making myself go outside and do outdoorsy stuff for three days now.  trying to reclaim an old habit.          

suddenly, it was like i was in a waking parallel dream-world, and every mundane thing that was happening, had been going on in that other reality.  i’m not talking about deja vu.  and i don’t think i was reliving dreams.  it was more like i was awake and dreaming.  it felt a little like when you’re stoned or drunk, but i wasn’t.  it wasn’t just the chemical/neurological euphoria of working outdoors.  it was trippy, disorienting, and disconcerting.  it felt like i was losing my mind.  i had to go retreat back into my room to regroup.

so just for laughs, i thought i’d record it, in case it’s just the precursor of something more serious.  so if i go off the deep end once and for all, you can replay my last semi-coherent thoughts and try to solve the mystery, like sherlock holmes.  maybe i should say some famous last words, just in case.

um.  wow.  did you ever try to come up with the last words you might ever say?  think about that.  what if you say something really stupid, and then you don’t die?  or what if it’s really schmaltzy and embarrassing?  or just plain mundane and boring.  i think i need to give this some thought, before i officially go insane.  stay tuned to my next episode.  if i make it there.  if not, just hold that thought.     

hindsight for the future

here is yet another helpful list arising from the very depths of the Vortex Of Evil, or more specifically, from all the deadtime generated therein. this one is brought to you by Oldsters Disincorporated ©™. it is offered in hopes that you can take away something from what i’m learning the hard way from oversights of the previous generation. assuming you make it conscious to the end of the list.

1. look into simplifying your lifestyle, and reduce possessions accordingly. sell or donate overflow now, not when it becomes too overwhelming. you can’t take it with you, and maybe someone else can use it in the meantime. and here’s a surprise: many of your treasures are so common that there’s no demand for them.

2. set up an organized file system, and systematically sort, file, and eliminate as necessary on a regular basis. make sure all essential documents and items are easily located.

3. make sure all legal docs (will, living will, poa, etc.) are in order and updated, and that the family understands your intentions before the fact.

4. don’t assume your assets will cover all contingencies. medical and eldercare expenses will quickly drain the best-laid savings plans. consider all possibilities and plan realistically, with the help of a financial advisor if necessary.

5. do not take it for granted that your children will just drop everything and move in with you to take care of you, if you choose to stay in your old home. refit/ modify as necessary for accessibility, and consider all pros and cons of maintaining your status quo. assume circumstances will change drastically, and prepare for alternate strategies.

6. keep in mind that at some point you may not be driving or accessing services on your own, so consider your future location and lifestyle accordingly. either relocate to an area that provides public services and accessibility, or revise your lifestyle to be able to survive and maintain yourself for longer periods.

yes, this is the sort of thinking that goes on in my head ad infinitum, here in the Vortex. basically, i’m trying to imagine a life in the 21st century not involving the meltdown that items 1-6 only begin to address. i vaguely remember a time when i did not think like this 24/7. it was a year and a half ago.

it’s a little like apocalyptic scifi, only without all the good bits. just the tedious zombies and dementia epidemic.

tricks of the trade

some good friends called me on the occasion of one of their birthdays, and it got me to thinking. (yes, it takes an effort, or intervention, to get the old cogs meshing again…) this is just a ramble, no cohesive commentary intended. inevitably, it will turn into a rant, but not necessarily a bad thing.

i don’t have much real interaction with live higher life forms, here in the VOE. partly it’s my fault, because i purposely burned my bridges when i got out of this place decades ago, and therefore don’t know or care to know anyone in this creepy town. there’s nowhere i want to go around here, and no friends with whom to do it. my main interactions are with old zombies and medical/business transactions related to same. not even as many of those, since my father died.

caregiver manuals all warn of casualties of the trade, one of which is getting so hung up in the preoccupation of caregiving that you relinquish outside human ties. it’s easy to do, especially for someone who is a loner in the first place. in addition, by definition, a caregiver tends to travel in circles where other tired, distracted caregivers are wrapped up in their own oldster burdens, not a very lively crowd. i avoided the whole caregiver support group thing when i got into this; not really excited about spending what little downtime i have listening to my counterparts whining and bitching, or alternately gushing about the rewards of changing oldster diapers. much more productive to drink a beer in my room.

i stopped watching what little tv i used to, and started reading books like an addict. my escape preference is hard scifi and fantasy, which tells you something. i live in the nyc metro area, and yet never get up the nerve to navigate the complex mass transit system that could instantly connect me to any diversion you can imagine. the thought of being solitary and lost in nyc overrides any urge to go there. friends and relatives who jump on planes to anywhere every five minutes, encourage me to visit. that’s easier said than done, when you take care of an oldster. it takes a lot of planning, preparing your stand-in relief, and time-constraints. it’s much like leaving your toddler in someone else’s care for a week, only add in dozens of drugs that must be administered very carefully and properly. (ok, i also have a thing about flying in recent years, but i’ve almost come full circle to where the change of scenery would be worth the risk and hassle.)

so i live in what amounts to a ghost house; no one talks to each other or interacts, for the most part. it’s our old family dynamic, what’s left of it. we barricade ourselves in our separate worlds, only coming out for minimum daily required tasks. mom just skulks about dementedly; my brother conducts business and does his thing, mostly elsewhere; and i do my ‘job’ and hole up in my batcave. (yes, there are bats hanging in it. like a belfry! appropriately, i was watching the movie ‘batman’ when my friends called. somehow i can relate to that dark, demented story.) i don’t receive or make many phone calls, other than to transact business. most of my connecting is online, and minimal. i actually forget sometimes how to talk to people, as in a jobsite, or a friendly conversation. the impersonal, nonpressure online format lends itself more to the disengaged exile i’ve become.

i think the major disruption that brought me kicking and screaming full circle to the VOE has changed me in many ways. hey, i’m the person who has a hard time adapting! anyone at my old job could attest to that. i’ve had to do some major adapting just to give up everything, become a zombie-manager, and lose what little future i might have had. i’ve had to relinquish any illusion of having any control over circumstances and events. i’ve had to accept being back in the last place on earth i want to be, only with me as the parent, calling the shots for my parents, one-time absolute dictators reduced to helpless, mindless dependents. not to mention, one died on my watch. i’ve had to learn to manage, supervise, and navigate complex bureaucratic labyrinths. i have to visualize an uncertain post-VOE existence with all familiar landmarks removed.

ironically, as i’ve lost what few people-skills i had, i’ve learned a new trick: with virtually no friends (or more precisely, only some virtual ‘friends’), i’ve turned anyone i meet in the course of transacting business into my ‘network’. in other words, the working class hispanics and indians who wait on me at stores, the jamaican and african health aides i’ve dealt with in my caregiver capacity, the polish cleaning ladies who ‘came’ with the house, and so on, are all a support network of sorts, for lack of any other. people i used to ignore, or take for granted, took on a new significance for me. i’ve gotten to know and respect all these hard-working people, learned some of their languages, and empathize with their plights. it has opened my eyes to what was there all along, just under my radar, but not relevant or significant to me.

my upbringing tried to blind me to humans ‘beneath’ our class; they were necessary evils existing for our convenience, but not to be considered equals or friends. but since i’ve experienced life in which you’re one paycheck or crisis away from ruin, i’ve come to recognize and admire the immense labor and sacrifice of these individuals to make life better for people like my parents and myself. in fact, i’ve been in that class myself, so i have more in common with my counterparts in service industries. now that i’m technically unemployed, or underemployed as the case may be, living under someone else’s roof for the duration of my temp job, about to lose my health insurance extension, and potentially homeless in the future, i guess i can relate.

my posts always seem to degenerate into what amounts to a self-pity rant. my intention was the opposite: the realization that i still have actual friends out there, who somehow see me as someone with some remaining value, caused me to re-examine myself to see if any of their claims were valid or just an illusion i had somehow projected. i don’t see myself as anyone to admire, so i feel like a fraud or impostor when described as some kind of role model. like, they got the wrong person! i think they were trying to get me to write down something experiential they could apply to their own lives. as i tried to say in a previous rant, many things are just learned for oneself, the hard way, and can’t be taught. still, just realizing someone out there still thinks i’m not hopeless, gave me pause to consider what this interval in my life may have signified.

if nothing else, the exercise of writing, trying to articulate a surreal and isolating experience, while reminded of normal life being lived outside mine, helps me to keep some perspective and retain some dwindling communication skills. so, thanks, you know who you are.

in solidarity against hate crimes

people aren’t born hating gays; they have to get it from someone, somewhere. whether it’s parents, peers, the education system, religion, whatever: these influences are accessories to the crimes of hate, torture, and murder.

i think back to the vicious treatment by peers and teachers of anyone different in junior high and high school, decades ago, in an upscale, ‘respectable’ town and school system. you didn’t even have to be gay to be persecuted, ridiculed, and excluded. even back then, suicidal tendencies were not so unusual. when i remember the cruelty and damage done to many of us back then, and then flash forward to now, i see that this trend has only proliferated and become more intense and targeted.

you can’t even stereotype or single out a demographic segment of society committing these current atrocities. it ranges from gang members to elite college students, and everything in between. it’s pervasive throughout our society and system. it’s almost like somewhere in the collective psyche, another level of self-restraint has been torn down and a lower bar is tolerated. it’s even encouraged by the indifference and prejudice of those who are in role model positions.

parents hand down their own bigoted views by attitude and behavior. peers reinforce infantile intolerance through pressure to conform and bullying. schools drill compliance and docility and groupthink into masses of kids. churches model hatred and violence in the name of love and peace. politicians issue contradictory, hypocritical messages to win votes. and online forums inadvertently send out harmful memetic messages in ripples. the kids who commit hate crimes are just the final stage of the process that our system propagates.

i don’t care if you’re not gay, religiously anti-gay, or indifferent: nothing justifies or condones spewing hatred or encouraging brutality in the name of g-d or personal preference. you are an accessory to injustice if you influence others to commit hate crimes or human rights abuses. don’t imagine that history can’t or won’t repeat itself. as moral and progressive as some of us like to think we are, recent events reveal the potential for regressing to savage behavior.

i don’t claim to be an idealist. i’m under no illusions about human nature. but some things are just wrong, by any standard. if we say nothing, it’s like accepting this as the new normal. if enough people see the red flags, perhaps a future tragic beating or death can be averted.

wishful rethinking

looking back over my previous posts, it’s just as well whoever it may concern doesn’t get around to reading them. even with disclaimers, caveats, don’t panics, etc., it all sounds presumptuous. thinking over what led to those fantasy scenarios, my intentions were good. bottom line is, i want to be part of the solution for the part of my family that remains. and not just inadequately or reluctantly, as in the past or present. i want to play a proactive role of facilitator. i guess the presumptuous part comes in when i insert myself into their picture. it’s their future, and if i have any place in it, that is their call. so what was it i was thinking?

i guess i don’t know where i live or belong anymore. i had to leave behind a life of decades in one state, in the process losing most of what little i could call my own, hole up indefinitely in this state of corruption (NJ), and have no idea where i’m supposed to go after this. or if i will be able to afford to survive, wherever it is. so, yes, feeling a bit adrift, disengaged, and disoriented. i’m not sure that any amount of organized planning could have prepared me for this state of affairs. between the whole oldster dilemma, the financial crash, and me being the only logical recruit, it was pretty much a done deal. so much for well-laid plans, even if there had been any in place.

meanwhile, the rest of my family is growing up and positioning themselves to implement an intentional, sustainable lifestyle somewhere in the world. i may not understand all the positions they adhere to, but i applaud their nonconventional convictions and goals. the philosophical foundation may differ from ones i held to at different times in my life, but i recognize and support the passionate desire to create a good life on one’s own terms. so as mother and advocate, i try to imagine scenarios in which i can facilitate their worthy goals. if i could be part of their accomplishment, i will have done something worthwhile.

so, to sum up, i was thinking both as a backer/supporter, and as someone cut adrift with no rudder. so i put two and two together, and came up with an imaginary place for myself in the bigger picture. i’ve never had ambitions of my own. someone always called the shots and barked the orders, and i complied, or got severely invalidated. my goal became narrowed to finding some sense of peace and self-reliance, or at least not being a passive victim of other people’s irrational, arbitrary agendas. and here i am, futureless, trying to imagine some place for myself in other people’s futures. but i’d rather die than be needy or expect anyone to do for me what my parents expected of me automatically. just so that’s clear.

if i’ve learned one thing from this whole VOE experience, it’s that remaining adaptable and flexible over a lifetime is essential to survival. you can’t take anything for granted, you can’t take anything with you, and you must keep reinventing yourself. stuff happens, and you reshuffle and regroup. you can’t expect anyone to save you, but you can try to make life easier for others going forward. if they turn around and let you ride their current, it’s a privilege, not an entitlement. hopefully it’s never too late to earn their grudging respect. but better yet is mutual respect, with no strings attached.