Mother

Oh she has reared her crazy head again. I could probably fill a book with some of the stories about her. God knows she kept some therapists in business for a long time. I am trying to think of my personal favorites of her. There was the time when I came home for a visit with two of my college roommates. Now I will admit that I was drifting in a really bad and deceptive way. I was close to dropping out of college but I was doing a decent job of hiding it from my parents. I just remember she took Maria aside and told her that I was never going to amount to anything.

Another classy Peg move was when I was back in college and sharing the apartment with them in Chicago. I had been doing much better. I had turned my life around. I was a solid student who worked hard. And, then I cracked. I ended up in crisis therapy with some heavy medication. Her reaction when I told her what was going on was to ask me how was I going to drink with the medication. I said I wasn’t going to drink. How did she respond? She arrived that Friday evening with a bag full of mini Vodka bottles. She put them on my desk as a gift. Classic sabotage. I was in such bad shape that I was calling my crisis therapist at least one night a week and seeing her four times a week. For months.

Or, we could take the time when I was moving from New Jersey to Portland. Everyone knew it was a very emotional move for me because of the break-up with Mary. During my move, I stopped in Elmhurst for a night to see family and friends. The next day as I hit the Wisconsin border, she left me a voice mail message telling me that I was dead to her. She called Leslie and told her the same thing. What did we do that was so horrible? We told her to chill out with some misinformation she was saying about my nephew who had just returned from Iraq.  She tried to reincarnate us several months later. I think it was almost a year before I talked to her again.

It happened again. She has now killed me off twice. As much as I tell myself that my mother will never change and that I can only change my reaction to her, I still feel like the kid who desperately wanted a mother who cared about me. I wanted the mother who baked cookies, asked me about my day, provided comfort, and knew me. Instead I ended up with a fucking selfish, crazy woman who has the emotional maturity of a thirteen year old.

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Mood Disorder

I have never been diagnosed with a mood disorder but this week certainly makes me feel like I could easily develop one. I dealt with so many conflicting emotions this week that it is amazing that I didn’t sleep even more this weekend. I guess I’ll start with work. I am starting to really like my job. I am trying to create a work environment that is conducive to experimentation, improved communication, respect, fun, and challenges. We hosted an annual event that was very successful. What made me feel so good about it was that we did it our way and not the way of the previous director. I gave two people complete independence in working on the schedule, the speaker, and surrounding arrangements. We hit a rough spot about a month ago with the primary donor and the previous director. It was the only time I intervened in the planning by handling the previous director. I was so proud of our staff who put together a great event. The speaker was engaging. We pulled in the largest crowd on the day when two other major campus events were happening at the same time. We drew a wide audience across the campus and community. We also had two successful dinners with the speaker and different sets of donors. The second night was one of the best nights of my professional career. We had two couples who have played a major role in this community and some of its more interesting events. They told stories about some of their relatives who helped develop certain industries or neighborhoods. Everyone was relaxed and enjoyed the good food, wine, and company.

I compare that with other days of the week when I had to handle a certain employee who presents one of the most difficult managerial challenges of my career. It is really hard to contain my frustration with her since she does not seem to recognize the severity of the situation. It also puts me in a difficult position of wondering what I am not catching that could have implications on our budget as we near the end of our fiscal close.

In another area of conflicting emotions, I made major progress in getting over someone. Almost all of my friends would cheer my success if they could even bear the sound of her name coming up in conversation. At least I know I am being healthy so that is what matters. On the other hand, I had Mary unleash some nasty accusations against me last night that came out of nowhere and really stung. I called her on it.  She has been doing this type of thing with more frequency. I am not sure what is happening, especially since I talked to her earlier in the day and she was fine. As is typical, she emailed me today with an apology. Well, I am tired being her punching bag when she is acting fucking weird or drinking too much. 

Finally, my energy has been horrible this week. I took Friday off so I could sleep after a very busy week with evening events. I think I slept around 12 hours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights with at least two sets of three hour naps during the day. I would use my awake moments to catch up on some work stuff, read a days worth of newspapers, a magazine, or clean a room. But, I would have to take another nap before I could move on to something else. I cancelled next weekend’s trip to Indianapolis because I can’t see myself making the drive. I am very disappointed, especially since I really wanted to see my Godparents. 

Old Man

 

Not only is this on my top 100 list but it is also in the top ten of my all-time favorite songs.

I thought of this and other Neil Young songs over the weekend. I visited my best friend in Chicago. I decided to drive rather than a quick flight. I guess I wanted the flexibility of driving but I was also in the mood for a long drive. Granted I did not feel the same way on Sunday when I had to make the drive very tired and slightly hungover after a late night. I went through my top 100 playlist and some Neil Young CD’s.

I have not been on I-80 and I-88 since I moved from Eugene to New Jersey.  Nine years ago. It is a stretch of highway that is very familiar to me. We made annual trips to Omaha to visit our close family friends. My sister went to the University of Iowa so I visited her on a somewhat regular basis during her four years in Iowa City. I drove I-80 as far west as Des Moines when I lived in Kansas and Missouri. It was comforting to drive it again with its familiar sights. There are stretches that have changed, especially in Des Moines and around Iowa City.

I thought about my dad a lot during the two days of driving. We used to play the alphabet game on long drives. You know – the game where you have to find words on signs as you move through the alphabet. We were both competitive so it added a little bit of tension on who would find the words with the rare letters like X. I think that is when the game would start to die because it was a hard letter to get. I don’t remember us listening to a lot of music on the radio. I think it was usually quiet because my Mom would read. My dad usually did most of the driving but my Mom would also take over for stretches. It was usually before she would drink her martinis that she brought for the road. She usually waited for a rest area before she pulled out her jar of gin. Amy used to drive me nuts on the drives to Omaha because she insisted on reading out loud. While I enjoy Roald Dahl’s stories, I can easily recall my irritation with her reading his stories on our drives. To this day I do not like people reading out loud so audiobooks are something that I avoid.

There are some bittersweet memories of some of those drives, including some that are connected to other songs or deserve their own post like when I left Kansas or when we had to break one trip into two days because I was so sick. My earliest memory as a child took place on I-80 near Newton, Iowa. I was very young — two or three – when our car broke down and caught fire east of Newton. A truck driver took my dad and Leslie to the next exit so they could call our family friends in Omaha. Don drove to Newton as we purchased a new car, a very large blue station wagon. As I stopped in Newton on my return to Omaha, I couldn’t help but remember the gas station where we spent time waiting for Don. Newton is full of other memories, including my move to New Jersey, but also freaking out on my mom when I was so sick from mono. While I took a nap in a parking lot, I could even remember walking Elston on the road behind one of the hotels.

One of the more memorable drives was my move to Lawrence for my first year at the University of Kansas. My parents were in one car while Leslie and I were in another. Zack, one of my nephews, was also with us but he slept on the floor in the backseat for the entire ten hour drive. We were east of Des Moines when all traffic stopped because of road construction. It was a very hot and humid August day. My seasonal allergies were out of control so I could barely breathe. I was drugged up on antihistamines. Leslie’s car started overheating so we had to turn the heat on full blast as we were already roasting. It also started raining so we were getting wet with the windows rolled down for relief from the heater. At one point, we started laughing hysterically since we were both on the verge of nervous breakdowns. After we made it past Des Moines we pulled over at a gas station and bought liquor. I drank Purple Passion, the drink made from Everclear. I don’t even remember the rest of the drive because I was so buzzed and high from the allergy meds. On one of my other moves, a solo drive in a U-Haul from Kansas City to my hometown, I was frustrated with the company’s policy of limiting the truck’s speed.

Another drive was a trip I made with a friend, Mike, to Lawrence. After I left KU, I moved home for six months. I visited Lawrence several times that fall because I missed my friend, Maria. I planned one weekend trip without my parent’s knowledge that I was taking their car 700 miles. My sister, Leslie, helped me plan an elaborate lie for where I was going that weekend with their car. I had a crush on this guy, Mike, who was interested in attending KU so I asked if he wanted to go with me. On the drive to Lawrence, we almost hit a deer, a car, and probably a few more mishaps. We also stopped in Altoona, Iowa, so he could see one of his aunts. The drive back was brutal. The night before we left, I was pulled over in Lawrence and given a field sobriety test. I talked my way out of a DUI. We made the drive on two hours of sleep. I was incredibly hungover. I fell asleep behind the wheel as we hit road construction around Des Moines. Fortunately, I woke up just as I was veering into the path of a semi. The last three hours of that drive were also torture because during a call to my sister I found out that my parents were suspicious of our weekend. I was sure that I would get busted either by the mileage or the leftover smell of Mike’s cigarettes. When I got home, my parents sat me down and asked for details on my weekend. I continued with the elaborate lie that Leslie and I had worked up. Apparently, they were worried because they thought Leslie had eloped and I had gone with her. Hardly.

Another memorable drive was with Nicole after our first weekend trip together. We went to St. Louis and Kansas City for a long weekend. On I-80 we had sex as she drove 65 m.p.h. I am sure we gave some truckers a thrill that day.

But, the more powerful memories are those drives with my dad to Iowa City without my mom or sister. He would take or pick me up when I would visit Amy for a week in the summer or when I participated in a journalism camp. On one of those trips, we went to Cedar Rapids (or Waterloo) to visit an old friend of his Aunt Hattie, a beloved relative who died shortly after I was born. I think what I appreciated the most about my dad on those trips is that there wasn’t any forced conversations. We both liked looking out the windows and thinking whatever we were thinking. I can’t read in the car because of motion sickness so I’ve always been someone who prefers the driving. If I’m not driving, I just space out and look at the landscape.

There is just something I love about long drives – the landscape, including the state of Iowa, stopping in small towns, time away from other diversions, and space to think. It was also nice to think about my family in some of our happier moments, such as a weekend gathering with our Omaha friends at one of the hotels in the Amana Colonies. It was weird returning to Omaha as my home instead of as a place where I visited family friends.

 

One week over

Looking back, I can definitely say this was a spectacularly bad week. Highs and lows but way more lows.

Considering my own issues, I know that I am lucky. I have a solid income, excellent health insurance, and could easily have a better support system if I just opened up more. I have a great job. I have shelter.

Late Friday night, I found out a long time friend of mine is dealing with one of the worst things imaginable. Her young son unexpectedly died while she was home with him. Honestly, I have no idea what you say to someone in that situation other than to express sympathy.  Fortunately, she has a very strong community of friends and family who will help her and her husband. But, it makes any of my issues seem so minor. A mutual friend who is a minister posted a sermon this morning that has offered some of us comfort even for most of us who are not very religious.

The combination of that news, my health, and stress of the week led me to draw my shades closed yesterday. I either slept or listened to music. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t get showered and dressed. I couldn’t move off the couch. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I responded to a few emails. If I really communicated with anyone it was with the people who were struggling with the news of our friend and her family.

I am a little better today. At least I have showered. I have started catching up on newspapers from the week. I am thinking ahead to this week and an important presentation I have to give on Monday evening. I am working on different playlists that aren’t so bleak. I am going to try and eat something today since losing 10 pounds in one week isn’t so great. I’m not ready to leave my apartment so I’ll save that one for tomorrow.

Quote

i am aware that…

i am aware that i am falling flat
and you will hurt me
and i deserve it
it’s late
you are not awake
and it’s nothing
i want you so bad it’s devouring me
i think i love you
but you’ll never find out

I think I love you by Waxahatchee

Rough Week

By Tuesday night, I realized that I hadn’t consumed a full meal since lunch on Sunday. I didn’t think it was related to the radiation. I ate so much crap for over a week as I sat in bars and watched basketball. The only decent meal was almost a week ago when I had a steak dinner. I thought I was just sick of food. I also lose my appetite when I am under a lot of stress.

I didn’t eat anything more than a few triscuits on Wednesday. This morning, I threw up my breakfast. I couldn’t eat all day. The thought of food makes me sick except for one thing. If I could have anything in the world right now, I would want one plate of my dad’s fettuccine. It wasn’t a special recipe. He grabbed it off the box of fettuccine from the store. I think it was the old creamette brand based on my memory of a green box. He started making it when I was in the fifth or sixth grade. I remember bringing my friend, Lisa, home with me after a basketball game and my dad made us his fettuccine. On fettuccine nights, I would eye the amount everyone was taking because I preferred the leftovers. Greedy. As years went on, my dad continuing making it. He developed a habit of playing Puccini. He would walk around the kitchen saying that he was making fettuccine while listening to Puccini. He would say it in the goofiest voice. He usually made it on nights when my mom was out with friends because she didn’t like it. Maybe that is why we always seemed in good moods on fettuccine nights?

My last memory of eating his fettuccine was in our apartment on Roscoe Street in Chicago. It was before he was diagnosed with cancer but he was definitely sick. My mom stayed home that weekend. He came in by himself for the weekend. We were going to hear one of his favorite musicians, Bryan Bowers, in Evanston. My dad had not seen him perform live in ages. We had a special bond over his music because my dad always played one of his songs on his banjo while I sang along. We ate dinner and then went to the concert. Shortly after the performance started, my dad had to get up because he didn’t feel well. We left halfway through the performance. We had to pull over several times because he was sick. He continued to get sick once we returned to the apartment. It was scary. He had always been the healthy one. He couldn’t shake this cough. He was always a skinny guy who kept losing weight. I knew that night that something was seriously wrong with my dad. I was terrified.

My parents rented this apartment while I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at DePaul. I had the bedroom. They slept on a large futon in the living room when they would come in every weekend. It worked for us. I offered my dad my bed. He said he would feel more comfortable in the living room. Leo, our dog, woke me up that night. I tried to ignore him. He kept waking me up and walking back and forth between the living room and my bedroom. I finally got up because I had this feeling that Leo wanted me to check on my dad. I will never forget feeling complete panic that I would find my dad had passed away in the night. I gently shook him. He responded in a very annoyed voice by asking why I was waking him up. I don’t remember my response. He was too sick to drive home that Sunday. He waited another day.

I think he was officially diagnosed with lung cancer within a month of that weekend. Three months to a year with no promise that he would see summer when we were already in mid to late February. He never made his fettuccine again because it made him nauseous thinking of that weekend. Eventually he lost his appetite for other things he enjoyed. He made it a year.

I came home tonight and it was the only thing I wanted to eat. I have tried over the years to duplicate his recipe but it never comes out the same. Apparently, my sisters have also tried without any success. In my list of regrets, I wish I had paid more attention to his preparations of fettuccine and his bread making.

I opened the refrigerator. Nothing looked good. I went to sleep for two hours. I woke up without any appetite because of the nausea. I need this week to end.

Quiet

After two weeks of either being on the road or having guests, I am alone in my apartment. It is far too quiet. It doesn’t help that I start radiation tomorrow. I probably feel more alone at this particular moment than I have ever felt before.

While I took horrible care of myself over the last two weeks, I think it helped to have lots of distractions. The last weeks were filled with a lot of highs and lows. The first week was bad. I wish I had skipped the conference. It was filled with so much of the drama that exhausts me. I had one person trying to get me really mad at another person. It only accomplished making me feel worse about myself and probably did make me question some things I shouldn’t. It put me in a dark, negative mood for most of the time. Another person let me know that someone else in my life is emotionally abusive, which is advice I welcome even though it is hard to hear. I was around other people that criticized two people in my life. I gave a bad presentation. I had a wonderful moment of pure jealousy. On the other hand, I spent quite a bit of time with a friend I’ve had for many years. She was the opposite of some of the unhealthy people who were around me. Fortunately I get to see her in May at another conference. I’ve already warned that I need her emotional support at that time. I also had a night with a group of people who have slowly become good friends that I see at conferences. We saw a great musician surrounded by lots of random people that we all knew from various circles. I drank way too much and slept too little.

Portland was interesting. I didn’t get homesick like I expected. In fact, I was surprised at my lack of an emotional response to being back. The only time I choked up is when I took a walk in my former neighborhood.  After Elston died, I never walked around our block again. I decided to do that one morning when I was early meeting friends. Drama followed me to Portland where more things were said to make me mad at people. Some of it succeeded. There was a lot of alcohol and unhealthy food. I guess that happens when I decide to spend four days watching basketball in bars. Things just seemed off while I was there. I slept every chance I could get. Bonnie went away for part of the weekend I was there so it gave me alone time. The best time of the entire trip was the last night when a group of us went out for BBQ. I was able to see a friend who is pregnant and due in June. There was something about seeing her and her husband that left me feeling good about things. Otherwise, I just felt that people were knocking me down or making me realize how lucky I am to have left when I did.

This last week was completely different since I worked and had guests. My guests came from Portland so we didn’t have much of a lag time between visits. I went to work two days, spent one vacation day working from home, and another vacation day actually enjoying things. While the unhealthy drinking and bad food continued, I managed to get more sleep. I also laughed a lot. I desperately needed it after the previous week and all of its negativity. They also helped me with some minor things around the apartment. I have a really hard time asking people for help but this felt natural.

I am really stressed about this week. I have no idea what to expect from the radiation or when I will feel its full effect. I also have a tough work schedule of meetings and events. I decided a few things over the weekend. I am cutting out alcohol for awhile. I came back from dropping them off at the airport and emptied the two bottles of booze we had only partially consumed. I can’t do it anymore. I am also going to drop communication with some of the people who upset me so much. I’m tired of wasting energy on how they make me feel about myself and others. I don’t want to keep taking all of these backward steps when I am working so hard on moving on.

I also need to think about asking for some help. I’m not sure I can handle this health stuff on my own. I’m really worried how I will feel by the end of next week or the weekend. I can’t do everything.

 

Random Memories

Last night at dinner with a friend, we started talking about weird things our mothers would cook for us. I brought up my introduction to caviar. My parents hosted a party (or my sister’s first wedding reception at our house?) with a lot of caviar. My mom took the leftovers and added it to potato salad. Classic Midwestern blending of foods. I prefer to remember a dinner with three of my closest friends at Tru, a Chicago restaurant, when we ordered the caviar staircase.

I participated in an all-day faculty development session on flipped classrooms. It was a great day with all of the speakers mentioning that libraries and librarians, including specifics on my workplace, play an integral role in curriculum development, infrastructure supporting instruction, and as a resource rich environment. One of the speakers reminded me a lot of my dad. I was lucky to take my dad for two college classes – Introduction to Rhet and Comp and Intro to Philosophy. I really miss my dad’s voice. I have some cassette tapes of him talking or VHS tapes of different family events. I need to find and convert them to digital format. Soon.

In a sign that I might be a little emotional right now, I ruined a perfectly nice breakfast with a friend by falling apart.  What prompted this rare public expression of emotion?  Your Song by Elton John came over the sound system.

 

Oh the denial

As is typical for me, I went into denial mode about my health. I rarely tell anyone what is going on with me, especially Mary. If I tell her the latest, she will call everyday asking for an update. Nicole will want to host fundraisers. My mom will want to move in and push me over the edge. I decided to see my original doctor at Mayo. I think I told 4-5 people, mostly after the fact. Another push for me to go back on the medication. A slight issue with my liver.

Returning from a recent trip, I was hit with a high fever and some additional tests. The lesion on my liver had grown quite a bit. Radiation. I postponed it so I could make this planned trip to a conference and Portland to see friends. Someone I trusted with the news told one person who told quite a few people. Meanwhile, I was telling another close friend about the Mayo trip when we were interrupted. Later, I finished the update via text messages. She was furious with me for sharing the news that way. Because I try to downplay it so much, I forgot that it does upset other people so I should share news in a more thoughtful way.

As I kept pushing myself this week, I started to hit a wall earlier each day. I had to end early on Thursday, Friday, and yesterday. It is taking every ounce of positive thinking to get me through this day’s travel. What is making me more tired is thinking of the next few weeks. I have two solid days of meetings. A friend arriving tomorrow night. Another friend arriving on Friday morning. Both leave on Sunday. Since they both know everything, I feel comfortable letting them know when I need a nap.

Next week starts the radiation in the midst of a very hectic week. I start off with four treatments and then we regroup. My only experience with radiation is when my dad had radiation treatment for the cancer that had spread to his brain. He was miserable. After a week of not protecting my health, not following doctor’s instructions, and not avoiding stress, I am officially freaking out. Denial is so much easier. I could also use some good news because this stuff is really bringing me down. I want to put up the surrender flag.

Pressure

In December, I contributed to an editorial about a presentation we saw at a recent conference. It generated a lot of controversy with people attacking us on Twitter and blogs for stating our disagreement with the presenter. Not only was I disappointed with the lack of reading comprehension and thoughtlessness of my fellow professionals, I felt pressured to say that I understood emotional abuse. In other words, do not assume that I do not understand what it feels like, so be careful with your analogies. I mentioned that I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship. One of my co-authors is an ex of mine. She immediately wrote and said it made her feel bad. Well, she was not the ex I referenced in my response to critics.

I know why she thought I was referring to her. One of my former therapists said she was emotionally abusive to me. I disagreed at the time because I knew she was struggling with major emotional issues as she was trying to break away from a very emotional abusive ex. Complicated, huh? I made the mistake of telling her what the therapist said so it has stayed with her for years. We are now very close friends. We talk at least once a week, email once a day, and text on a frequent basis.

This week has been hard to keep up with communication since I was at a conference and am now seeing friends in Portland. I have sent some quick responses to text messages but that is it. Last night, I was 10 hours into hanging out with friends when I saw her calling. I did not feel like taking the call since another friend had just joined us. The next thing I know, she sends a barrage of very angry text messages. I am mean for ignoring her. I am rude for going into a communication blackout. I am putting my friends above her. I just responded that I wasn’t going to engage in a text message war. I put my phone away.

I called her this morning to basically tell her that what she did last night was not cool. She sounded very cold. I made my comment. She threw out some mean statements and then profusely apologized. She admitted she went a little crazy.

I have a hard time identifying unhealthy relationships until it is too late. Earlier this week, I shared with a friend the history of a current friendship that has caused a lot of confusion for me. At the end of my long, long telling of the story, he told me that she was emotionally abusive to me. He said the same thing that other people have told me. While some have said the same words, others have just said she is really fucked up. A few days later, I think my friends are right. This time, I am going to pay more attention to what others say because I clearly have developed a pattern of emotionally unhealthy relationships.