leaving the land of blinking yellow left arrows

Anyone who has visited North Carolina was probably initially surprised by the left turn yield arrow. You are sitting at a red light waiting in the left turn lane, watching the red arrow, then a yellow blinking left arrow appears on the signal. You are wondering what to do when someone behind you beeps their horn, impatiently waiting for you to complete your left turn through a gap in oncoming traffic. I’ve never seen these anywhere but in North Carolina, but apparently their use is growing elsewhere.

All this is relevant because my son Dan spent his last days as a North Carolinian this week. This past week I drove down to Raleigh, rented a trailer, helped him load the stuff from his apartment (third floor walk-up – too many stairs!), and drove the trailer back to Ohio. He is staying at our house until he finds a place with one or two friends of his (hopefully soon), and he starts his new job on Monday.

Dan moved down to Raleigh nearly two years ago with a job but quickly had to find something else. He started working for a fast food chain and quickly became one of their go-to shift leaders; they were talking about training him to be a trainer for other new shift leaders. However he was at the same time becoming disillusioned with the demands of the job – time requirements, low pay, poor scheduling – and decided he didn’t believe in the corporate philosophy anymore. Over the last couple of months he made the decision to leave, but he had reached another decision point if he would stay in NC.

He was working a lot of odd hours on a typical fast-food schedule; despite being a shift leader he wasn’t being paid very much; he was barely meeting his expenses, and sometime not doing so, and therefore was starting to run up a balance on his credit card; he hardly ever got to see his friends in town, and when he did he couldn’t afford to do things with them. He had hopes of saving up enough money to move out of his then-current living situation and find a place of his own, and possibly even afford a small house someday, but he could see that would not be possible in Raleigh, one of the more expensive cities in the South. He doesn’t have a college degree and doesn’t really want to have tens of thousands of dollars of student loans to pay off, and I can’t say I blame him.

In short I believe he was running out of money, he decided to leave his job, and saw no real future for himself if he continued to stay in NC. He just wasn’t happy there anymore, and he decided to make a change. He told us his plan to return to Ohio on a pre-Christmas trip to visit, explaining his decision, and I think it makes sense for him. He still has his friends here, he is starting a good-paying job with benefits, and he will be able to save some money living here. He still plans on visiting his friends in NC at least once a year when the comic convention comes to town, and will still keep in touch with everyone online.

I hope he doesn’t see his time away as a failure or as wasted time; I don’t think it was. He gained independence, he grew as a person, and he figured things out on his own. I’m glad he is back just because I worried that something would go wrong and it would be a whole day’s drive to go help him; now he will be just a short drive across town. He can visit just for dinner if he chooses, or stay home and be independent when he chooses.

good tidings

Happy holidays and hopefully good mental health to whoever stops by here. That sounds like Dr. Frasier Crane, doesn’t it? Eh, whatever.

I used to love Christmas, then I hated it, then I loved it again, and now we have a mutual understanding. At the moment I’m tired of the music and the commercialism, although I’m being a little hypocritical. I bought stuff for Black Friday just like everyone else. Mrs. Fish love-love-loves Christmas and decorations and lights and music and the Cheesy Christmas Movies™ that run 24/7 on the Hallmark Channel.

Besides, what’s a good atheist to do for Christmas? It would be weird if I observed Jewish or Islamic traditions, so I shouldn’t observe Christian traditions either. How do I celebrate a secular Christmas – or is that an oxymoron? Are Christmas and Christianity inseparable? Should I give up and force the family to buy a Festivus pole? I haven’t given this a lot of thought … maybe next year.

I started joining a group of humanists and atheists for monthly coffee talks to socialize and discuss current events and liberal issues. I guess it is going well, although sometimes I feel like I’m not smart or witty or well-read enough to keep up with them. I know that’s just my insecurities talking. I fit in pretty well, although when the topic of humanism comes up I realize I haven’t thought much about atheism or humanism as a philosophy. I don’t believe in any religion, but what do I believe in, and how should I live my life as a result? What gives my life meaning? Questions for future study, I guess.

My mental health is doing okay. I’ve been a little stressed at work, but nothing like I was earlier this year, and I have not had the same level of depression after adding the bupropion. I don’t really have a seasonal component to my bipolar, so I don’t think that is affecting me.

Nicole is not doing well. Her doctor had her go back to the partial day program again, but then kicked her out because she kept missing days due to “needing a mental health day”. I don’t agree with that decision by the doctor, but I don’t really have any input there. Mrs. Fish has been struggling with anxiety and depression and won’t admit it, but maybe – finally – might be entertaining the possibility of seeing someone about it. She is too stubborn to take cold medicine, but I think an occasional benzo would do her a lot of good.

Finally: I was telling a family member that even though bipolar can be managed, it is still trying to kill you, and the best outcome is to die of something else before the bipolar kills you. They were a little shocked by that statement. Was I being overly dramatic? I truly feel that way, because if I were to stop managing my bipolar, I have no doubt I would become very unstable very quickly. That path doesn’t end peacefully.

unboxed

Amidst the dwindling stacks of boxes and the slow organization of things, life is approaching normalcy here at New Fish Manor in northeastern Ohio. Internet is up, we are eating prepared food on actual plates, the cats are getting adjusted, and most of the furniture is in its place.

Unlike the previous moving day where we did everything with extended family, this time we hired movers and a truck for the big stuff and the majority of the boxes. It went pretty smoothly, nothing seems to be broken, and the cost was fair compared to having everyone being injured for a week afterward.

The garage is not empty yet, and I have a storage locker full of boxes and containers that needs to be emptied. There will be another garage sale in the future, I’m sure.

This is a weird old house. I will have to describe it in more detail at some point. But the lawn is luxurious. A thick green carpet of Kentucky Bluegrass and Bentgrass keep the weeds and clumps at bay. It mows like a dream. The previous owner must have put down weed and feed chemical, because it grows like crazy and there is not a dandelion in sight. I need to step up my lawn game.

My anxiety levels have come way down since the move is behind us. I kept myself from going manic, I got enough sleep, and I didn’t need the Ativan. Small victories. I worry so much about all the little things that could go wrong, and I forget to think about everything that goes right because of good planning, good decisions, and a little luck.

split level

There is often a split in my personality, the person I am in public, and the person I am in my private space which includes this blog. This post has nothing to do with this concept.

We have been renting since we sold our house last year, but we purchased a split-level house in the suburbs. We just signed papers today, and we will be moving in about two weeks. That means I will be very busy doing all the big and little chores that go into moving our residence. Real life must take precedence for now, and I will not be blogging for a while. For all 2.3 readers here, don’t worry, I’ll be back eventually.

Just to give you an idea what we bought into: it has a blue tub, sink, and toilet in the main bathroom. Blue.

beast of burden

I’ll never be your beast of burden
My back is broad but it’s a hurting

I’ve walked for miles my feet are hurting
— Rolling Stones

Our house, in the middle of our street

Our house it has a crowd
There’s always something happening
And it’s usually quite loud
— Madness


We moved on to the next chapter in life. Our house is sold; we left it with little sentimentality (except for Nicole, who cried a couple of times). I don’t really worry about stuff like houses and cars and household junk, although photos and music are important to me. Besides, home is where the cats are, and they adjusted very quickly, even the blind cat.

The move went fine, even though it was tiring and painful. We schlepped everything into the moving van, then schlepped everything upstairs at the rental house. The goat family helped us for most of the day. Anne’s dad helped us also; at 74 he is strongest of all of us. Among the crew we had bad knees, bad backs, gall stones, ADHD, and bipolar. Maybe that should be the tagline for a moving company: Two Bipolar Men And A Truck, We move your emotional baggage.

The process of selling was very stressful for me, and I expected an emotional letdown afterward. That doesn’t seem to have happened, just a big sigh and a feeling of relief that it is all over and the money is in the bank account. Life has pretty much become a new normal, with new scenery. I still have my problems with anxiety and bipolar depression, but otherwise things are okay.

Now I need a car upgrade.

hectic

There has been a lot going on at the homestead recently. We talked to a realtor to prepare for listing our house for sale; we started a massive clean-up program in preparation for showing the house; I had a psychiatrist appointment; we had a yard sale that failed miserably; and my mother is coming to visit this weekend.

Short recap for those who don’t know: I was given for adoption at birth and raised by a single woman, a part-time-functional alcoholic with mental health problems; she died when I was 21, leaving me without a family; after searching off and on for several years I made contact with my birth-mom in 2007; due to my issues our relationship did not start well; and in recent years we have become closer to what an adult mother-son relationship might look like, if I knew how to do that. She wants to be “Mom”, and I’m a little distant, even 10 years later. I don’t feel good about that, I’m just wired that way.

Anyway, b-mom is coming to visit us in Ohio for the first time since the 2007 visit. I have been to Georgia twice, and she stayed with us last year in NC for a few days. I have stuff planned to do together, and we going to the farm to visit the goat family in-laws (who are working hard at their farming). B-mom was/is an alcoholic (maybe 27 years sober?), so I will take her to visit the locations where AA got started. We might visit Amish country, we might do a ball game, we might do other stuff, but hopefully she has a good time. I’m good at being a travel agent, even if I’m not that good at relationships. Let’s fill the time with activity to avoid relating on a personal level.

ultraviolet

The vacation was overall pretty good. Nicole started to freak out a little by the 2nd night, as I thought she would. She was getting anxious sharing a small space with us, and she wanted a hotel room of her own (which of course could not happen financially). We solved the problem by changing hotels and finding a two-room suite for slightly higher price than what we had reserved. She was able to have her own space, and her anxiety calmed down a lot. We went to the beach, we saw museums and the aquarium, we visited with Dan a few times, and Nicole got to go to the anime convention. I wrote “PLEH” on the sand in honor of Joey.

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The ugly part of the trip started on the beach. I slathered up with sunscreen on the exposed parts of my upper half, then changed from pants to shorts, and forgot to put sunscreen on my legs. I got a severe sunburn in about 2 hours due to simple stupidity on my part. Being so fair skinned you would think I could remember, but it just slipped my mind. The pain really kicked in on the 2nd day, the liquid-filled oozing blisters appeared on the 3rd day, and the remainder of the trip was spent doing first aid on myself. I still have sore spots that have not healed, but now mostly just dry, damaged skin. I don’t know how long it will take to heal, and I may have increased my chances for cancer. I would post pictures, but I don’t think you want to see that.

Next time we visit, whenever that may be, we will rent a house on the beach or stay in a beachfront hotel. It wasn’t as much fun driving back and forth from the city as it would be if we were right there, having the freedom to go outside whenever you want.

southbound

We will be headed down to North Carolina again tomorrow. The plan is to spend a few days at the beach, a few days visiting with our son Dan, and drive home next Sunday.

I don’t know if everything will go according to plan.

Nicole has been a little unstable the past week, not dangerously so, but just enough that all of us have noticed it. My prediction is that the first few days at the beach will go fine, but when we get to Raleigh she will start being first agitated, then depressed, then in tears. She will be out of her comfort zone, she will miss her cats, and not even the anime convention will make her want to stay. She will be further upset because (I also predict) that Dan will not have much time to hang out with her because he will prefer to hang out with his friends at the anime convention. I bet that we end up going home one or two days early, and everyone will be stressed out.

It is tough to plan anything due to Nicole’s illness. She sleeps at random times, she changes her mind about going places, and she resists keeping appointments with doctors. She won’t wake up when she needs to, but she gets mildly angry when she misses out on something. She chooses to not go out for dinner, but she insists we bring home food for her. It gets frustrating and stressful for Mrs. Fish and I to arrange our lives around her mental state.

Unfortunately, we are staying in a hotel near the beach instead of like last year when we rented a house on the beach. I don’t think it will be quite as enjoyable or relaxing this time, but a little beach time is better than no beach time at all.