something worth living for

We’re all going to die eventually. Some of us, especially those of us with bipolar and depression, think about that in more immediate terms than “normal” people. I know I have stated here before that I didn’t want to live anymore, or that I wanted to die at age 60, or at least before I become old and feeble. I have said that I don’t want to live beyond the point where I can’t function on my own. I have felt like nothing I do matters, and that people around me would be fine if I were gone.

However, despite having said those things, sometimes I read something or see something that makes me remember that life is worth living, and that everything we do affects others in a profound way. Gabriel wrote a beautiful post about his grandpa passing, and what a great person he was and how he affected those around him.

I never had a father figure in my life, except for a short period when my adopted grandpa was alive and I was very young. I never got to see his strength, his character, his integrity. I learned about what kind of person he was from my a-mom, but I never had the chance to experience his influence in my own life. I needed someone to show me a good example, but instead there was simply a void that has never been filled.

I was deeply moved by Gabriel’s words. The way he described his relationship with his grandpa makes me realize that although I never had that kind of person in my life, nothing is stopping me from being that person for my kids and grandkids.

When the bipolar gets me down and it feels like nothing matters, I hope I can look back on this and remember that I do care about living.

come swing with me

Another mood swing has been here and gone.

I told a friend that surviving is about all I can do to get past the depressive spiral, and only time will take it away. I put on my happy face at work, and hope that no one sees behind the mask. I sleep as much as possible to quiet the endless negative thoughts in my brain.

The sun comes up again, inevitably, and so does the mood. I have survived another one. I didn’t do anything stupid, I didn’t hurt myself, I didn’t say things I would regret later.

I’m still aware that things can get out of control too quickly, and that my inherently unstable condition is always subject to change. The medicine helps, but it will never cure.

In the meantime, I will make the effort to value my own life and be mindful of things that really matter to myself and others.

ice and granite

Now for some photos, this time on the way home from Las Vegas to Hippietown through Yosemite National Park. I have had the thrill of flying over the park a couple of times, and it is just as amazing from the air as it is on the ground. I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted exploring Yosemite, but there are still great memories from the small area I did visit. I probably will never make it there again, but who knows?

Tioga Lake:

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Mount Dana:

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Tenaya Lake:

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from Olmstead Point (I think):

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All photos mine, May 2004.

not ready for the truth

My daughter Nicole was talking, as she loves to do, but one thing she said got my attention. She was talking about one of her friends who has an awful mother, the type who is always cutting you down, saying you’re not good enough, looking to criticize all the time, and not being supportive about any problems you might have. She has said multiple times that she felt sorry for this girl who is always down on herself, having no self-confidence or sense of self-worth, and that she is angry at the mother who made this girl so emotionally bruised. Nicole said, “You have no idea how that makes her feel.”

Um, yeah, I do. Just go dig through my blog archives if you doubt me.

This illustrates to me that despite her sometimes surprising maturity about emotional and personal things, she is not ready to hear the whole story about me and my problems.

I don’t think I should tell her about how I feel the same as that girl, every single day, because of people who beat down my psyche 30+ years ago. I don’t think she needs to know that every day I have unending doubts about myself, my intellect, my ability to do my job, and my ability to stay sane. She doesn’t need to know I have no confidence in my ability to do anything, I don’t value myself at all. She shouldn’t learn that I hate myself most of the time, and I avoid all contact whenever possible because I want to crawl in a hole and hide from everyone.

I don’t think she is ready to learn that she is the only person I have strong feelings of love for, and that has saved my life multiple times.

I don’t need Nicole to feel sorry for me, because I don’t think that would be healthy for either of us. For some reason she sees me as her source of stability, someone who is dependable and always there for her, someone she can talk to anytime about anything. I don’t know I came to be this heroic figure for her, but I don’t want to change that for anything. It would only hurt our relationship if she learned to see me in a new way, as a damaged, vulnerable, uncaring person.

Someday I will let her read some of the things I have written over the years, probably a sanitized version just to give her an idea of what my bipolar brain has been through. Even when she is an adult, I will still be careful about what I say or let her read.

I can never give away all my secrets. They are just too toxic for the people I care about.

who do you think you are?

Previously I wrote that while I was at B-mom’s house in Georgia, we dug through some genealogy records created by her grandma for the Mormon Church records. I also learned to spell genealogy.

I have been curious about the family history for a while now. Because I was adopted, I only had a sense of my a-mom’s family history, knowing that they came from Portugal in the late 1800’s, and that having my a-mom’s last name makes no sense considering my appearance. Now that I have known my birth family for some time now, I felt the time was right to dig into the past and see where my ancestors come from.

My family were all Mormons since the 1840s and 1850s, and as such they kept records going back as far as they knew. Those records were compiled and organized by Great-Grandma Ellen and submitted to the Mormons’ genealogy office. Now that we are in the digital age, the Church’s records are all online and accessible for free. I signed in to the website and started exploring. (I also expect missionaries to show up at my house any minute now.)

My searching confirmed what I already suspected, that like millions of other Americans, my history goes back primarily to Scotland, with a little Irish, English, Dutch, French, and Scandinavian. Basically, I am as white as possible, my ancestry being all northern European. I continued to click backwards in time on the website, and it turns out I found a lineage back to King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark in the 900s (hey, I’m royalty!). I wonder how many tens of thousands of people are also descended from the King. Frankly, scanning all the generations of people and the possible connections make my head hurt.

However, large pieces of the puzzle are missing. I know nothing about my father’s side (my teenage father who got teenage b-mom pregnant, then immediately moved far away to avoid responsibility). I also know nothing about my grandfather’s side other than a name and a birthdate (hey, I’m a quarter Canadian!). I suppose I will have to join ancestry.com to see what I can find there.

Grandpa Darren had three kids under 3 years old, including my b-mom, then mysteriously returned to Canada. B-mom thinks she found him living in the US, and she is trying to decide whether to contact him. She finds herself in the same dilemma when I first found B-mom online, wondering how to make contact and what to say, wondering if his family will accept her, and if she has any other unknown siblings.

I hope she finds her Dad (my Grandpa), for her knowledge as well as my own. Like me, she has half of her history missing and unknown. I think she will be happier for having found her other family, even if they are not accepting and friendly. I will help her search, but I won’t make any contacts; I will leave that to her decision, and I will go along with her choice.

gators, tech support, and history

I returned from Georgia safe and sound, no fault of my b-mom. She drives like she talks (non-stop, fast, and erratically), and a couple times on the freeway I was genuinely fearful for my safety. Despite her best efforts to kill us, I had a good time visiting.

The first day I got to meet her new husband, who is a real nice guy. Later we went to her AA meeting, and like 3 years ago she was showing me off to everyone, but it wasn’t as bad as before. I’m sure I had a deer-in-the-headlights look the whole evening, but I survived. One woman had no idea who I was when she asked if I was related, because she said my eyes look like b-mom’s. I don’t see it, but multiple people agreed.

The following day we ate cinnamon rolls for breakfast at 10 am, then ice cream for lunch at 1 pm, then actual food at about 3 pm. I was dying of hunger by that time (ok, not literally, but I was weak and shaky). Her mealtimes are as erratic as her ADD-beset brain. She is taking medication for the ADD, but I don’t think the dosage is high enough. Just saying.

Sunday we cleaned out her office closet and I did tech support for her computers for about half the day. Boring, right? It was okay though, we talked about stuff while we were working. In the evening we had dinner with b-aunt and b-grandma. B-gran was much more talkative this time, and we could carry on small talk without too much difficulty. B-aunt is another non-stop talker, with a personality that dominates a room (okay, a whole building).

Monday we drove through a wildlife refuge, where I got to see wild alligators – very cool. We also saw a bald eagle and roseate spoonbills (which are apparently rare in Georgia). When we came back to town, we retrieved some old papers and pictures out of a storage locker.

The most important part of the visit was all our talk about the family history. Some of those old papers included letters and history written by my great-grandma, who wrote about her life and that of her parents and grandparents. They had tough lives, real Grapes Of Wrath stories. GGM and her ancestors were involved in the Mormon Church, and she had tons of paperwork on family genealogy going back to Scotland and Ireland in the early 1800’s. I was very happy to find all these papers, and I will do some more exploring to see what I can find about my history.

I didn’t have any real mood swings this time, maybe because I took a little extra Abilify to keep me from going all mixed-mode. She didn’t get too emotional most of the time, I didn’t say anything heartless or stupid, and we all had a good time. I’m glad I took the trip.

at least i wasn’t demoted

Just a quick note, for future reference and the three of you that currently care:

I did not get that promotion at work. I wasn’t real disappointed, because I knew I had little chance of actually getting the job. I believe the deciding factors were 1) my poor interview, and 2) the other person had more experience directly related to the duties of the new job. It was nice that the manager called me and let me know personally, before waiting a few weeks for a letter from company HR. I might apply again for the next opportunity that arises, you never know, because people are always shuffling positions in the Gas Company. For the moment, I am fine with continuing on in my current job, which still has great pay, decent benefits, and job security through 2018 (due to the new union contract).

I am very fortunate to have my bipolar under control enough to allow me to work at this level. When I was unstable, I was headed on a downward spiral that would have ended in failure and bankruptcy and possibly death. I truly appreciate what I have now (thanks to chemical stability), because I realize things can turn to shit awfully quickly.

southbound

This coming Friday I will be going down to Georgia to visit my birth-mom. (The family is staying behind this time.) Of course she excited to see me, and I think she is planning all sorts of “fun” stuff for us to do together while I am there. I will also get to meet her new husband, as well as become re-acquainted with my b-aunts and b-grandma.

I don’t think I have been fair to her*, holding her at arm’s length while telling myself I am protecting my feelings. I have written here about how I don’t need or want another relationship, I already had a mother, etc. I think these are all selfish ways of dealing with my own problems with the past.

I think I am in a much better state of mind this time than in previous times I have visited her. I have gained a new level of acceptance about the past, and for better or worse, I have discarded many of the negative emotions surrounding those memories. I chose to make this trip because I think I am finally ready to be a little more accepting and open-minded. Fuck, it only took me 8 years to reach this point, maybe I am finally growing up.

Anyway, I will be spending several days in the South, surrounded by entertaining accents and country music and mossy trees. More importantly, I’ll be trying to have a good time with b-mom, and learn a little more about my family. Hopefully I won’t freak out while I am there, and I’ll be in a good mood about things when I return.

Check the “birth-mom” tag for past entries.

 

* I haven’t been fair to several people, but that is another post.

lawyers, guns, and money

I came home from work the other day to find Anne silent, pissed off, and almost in tears. My first thought is that she found this blog, and the reaction would be like it was last time. When she is in this mood I just have to wait it out, and eventually she will say what’s on her mind. I was relieved to find out it had nothing to do with me.

She got home from work and was met by a barrage of gunfire. It turns out Dan and his NRA-loving friend were firing a pistol and a rifle at the far back of our lot. They were shooting towards the bog, which now sits in public parkland. When he came back to the house, Anne told him she wasn’t happy about it, but didn’t say any more. She waited for me to get home to talk about it.

I am not against guns or responsible gun ownership (although I support laws to register every gun, just like cars). I am against Dan having guns in the house, for multiple reasons. He didn’t have the guns or ammo locked up, he didn’t tell us because he knew we would say no, he doesn’t have enough money to be blowing it on hobbies, he hasn’t taken any safety course, and we have two bipolar people in the house who should not be around guns.

Dan’s arguments were that he had magazine locks (but they weren’t locked at the moment); his friend showed him all he needed to know about shooting and safety; and he was certain that all the trees and brush in the swamp would stop any rounds. He said they checked the laws, and as long as they weren’t shooting toward a structure, or within 100 feet of a building, they were legally okay. I told him that firing without a real backstop is stupid. Not only that, but shooting into the park is illegal, and any stray rounds or ricochets could injure a hiker on the trail about 1/4 mile from their location.

The end result is that we agreed that there would be no more shooting on our property, and he had to store the guns and ammo at his friend’s house. I can’t tell him he needs to get rid of the guns (he is technically an adult), but he is living under our rules at our house. He can shoot at someone else’s house, or he can go to a firing range.

If he doesn’t like it, he can move out.

i no more brain today

Fuck I feel stupid today. I had a tough day at work, taxing my already-impaired mental capacity. I just felt like I couldn’t handle anything requiring thought. Then I thought about this stupid job offer, and how I won’t get it, then my confidence will be shot, and I will be very depressed.

I’m sure that attitude will get me promoted.

and you want to be my latex salesman?

Previously I wrote about a promotion opportunity at work, where I wasn’t sure if I wanted it at all. I took the plunge and put my resume in before I could chicken out. I found out last Friday that I was invited for an interview … in three days. Holy shit, thanks for the warning. At least I had the weekend to panic prepare.

Tuesday was the big interview. I went monochromatic, all black and gray, but I can pull it off. New shoes, $3 tie. I had the ZZ Top song “Sharp Dressed Man” running through my head the past couple days, and of course they played it on the radio on the way to work. I know my co-workers were suspicious that I had dressed up for the day, but no one said anything.

The interview was with three people I already know, which I suppose is common for internal promotions (I’ve never had one). My comfort level soon took a downward turn, however. It was one of those “STAR Method” interviews, which are difficult if you don’t rehearse ahead of time. I prepared as best I could, and there were a few questions I was ready for, but a few where I had to pull something from very deep in my ass. I wish you could just go point-by-point down the resume and expand on what I wrote previously, or if you could bring notes with you. But of course they want to see how quickly you can think and/or bullshit, which has nothing to do with the job I interviewed for.

I don’t know if I did well or not. I did what I could, and now it is out of my control. I’m supposed to find out in 2-3 weeks. The worst that can happen is that I still have a good job at the gas company. Or I could actually get the job, which may be the worst thing. I’m not sure. At least I didn’t end up on the floor in my underwear.

leaving treetown

We had two houses in Treetown. The older house belonged to A-mom’s grandparents and was built around 1900. The newer house was built by A-mom’s father in the 1930s, about 1/4 mile up the hill. When I was growing up we lived in the older house, then when the OB moved out we moved to the newer house for about 2 years. We then moved down to Goldville when I was 16.

We started renting the older house after we moved, but we never did rent out the newer house; I think A-mom wanted it to stay the same for sentimental reasons, even 10 years after her dad died. We rented to a weird Treetown extended family, who were just barely able to pay the rent (after alcohol and other drugs, of course). Sometimes we didn’t receive any rent at all, sometimes a partial payment, but A-mom figured something was better than nothing, and the house was at least being lived in.

Then A-mom died, and I became an unwitting landlord. I had no desire or ability to go up to Treetown on my few days off in between work and school, and I couldn’t depend on the renters to make any repairs. I knew I never wanted to live there again, so I decided to sell everything. The cars, the antiques, the hoarded junk, the tools, the houses, and the vacant property – everything must go.

By this time Anne and I were married, and the two of us were way over our heads trying to deal with all the stuff. The extended fish-in-law family helped me so much during this time, and I can never repay them or thank them enough. The helped me move all the crap down to Goldville, find people to buy the antiques, have huge yard sales, and get the houses ready to sell. We sold it all, and the proceeds helped me pay for college.

Some of A-mom’s friends asked me why I chose to sell the property, and told me it was a shame that I didn’t keep at least one house since A-mom wanted it to stay in the family. I told them it was a financial necessity, but in reality I’m just not sentimental about houses or stuff. I was simply trying to purge memories from my life. It did not work, and I have spent many years coming to terms with everything that happened in Treetown.

I don’t know if I will ever make it back to there, but like I said before, I probably need to go there once more just to close a chapter in life.

it’s alive!

I finally repaired my dead laptop, and I am happy to have it back. I found the exact same computer for parts for $40 on eBay. I completely disassembled both computers, replaced the motherboard, and reassembled. I had to disassemble again because I broke a little switch and had to repair it. Now everything works, and I am quite pleased with myself.

credit: www.irisvista.com

This laptop is now 5 years old, purchased after my Dell died. It lasted through the truck-driving years, traveling with me every mile of the way. It has seen me through the life of this blog. It has survived Nicole trying to watch every episode of every anime movie. It’s not fast compared to new machines, but it works for my needs. This has been a great computer for me, and I’m glad it will last a while longer.

I may not know how to re-tile a bathroom or install plumbing or fix a car, but I know how to fix computers. I wish I could earn a living in the computer business, but I’m happy to have this as just a hobby.

the cats of treetown

When I was a kid in Treetown, we had too many cats. Some of them were feral, and we never could catch them to spay or neuter them, despite Bob Barker’s daily admonition. The rest we considered “our cats”, and we took care of them as best we could. The males were neutered, but often there was not enough money to have the females spayed. The females then bred with the feral males, so we had more kittens, and the cycle continued.

We fed the cats a combination of dry food and a stew we would cook. The stew was in this dirty old pot, and we would put in meat scraps and vegetable peelings and a can of dog food, add water, and cook it for the cats and the dog. The house stank when we cooked it, but the animals loved it. It was funny to watch the dog and several cats all with their heads competing for space to eat.

We had an old cabinet with several doors. The windows had been removed, and we used it as a cat apartment. I built walkways to each of the holes so the cats could reach all the apartments. Several litters of kittens were raised in the apartment over the years.

My favorite cat was Mischief, or Mao (after his deep-throated meow), and later Chairman Mao, when I found out about the Chinese leader. He was a big brown cat who we inherited from A-mom’s friends in Treetown. After they both died, we took care of him, and he loved us in return. His brother disappeared into the woods and turned feral I suppose. I was there when Mao died; he seemed to have a seizure or a heart attack and just laid down. I was heartbroken.

chairman mao

Much later, when we moved away from Treetown, A-mom’s friend was helping us move stuff. By this time most of the cats had gone wild and moved into the forest. One of the remaining females had a litter, and they were just a week or two old when we found them in the cat apartment. I wanted to keep them, but A-mom said we were not bringing more cats to our new house in Goldville. The humane thing would have been to take the cat and her kittens to the shelter, but that’s not what happened. After working for a while, I went back to see the kittens, and I discovered a-mom’s friend drowning them in a sink of water. I was incredibly sad, but I didn’t do anything to stop her. I never saw the woman in the same way after that.

I still feel horribly guilty. I wish I would have done something to save those kittens.