Give Me all Your Marbles

Ages ago, somewhere in the mid 1990s, I was working for a concert venue in Rhode Island, and we had a comedian on the slate for the evening. I am ashamed to say that I cannot, for the life of me, remember his name, but I do remember one particular bit that he did….I think of it at least once a day. If anyone out there knows who this comedian is, please let me know, because I’d love to give him credit for continuing to make me laugh every day.

The premise of this bit was simple.

Everyone should start the day with ten marbles. If someone catches you doing or saying something stupid, you have to give them a marble. When you are out of marbles, YOU MUST GO HOME. That’s it for the day. You are done.

I fervently believe that this is a system that should be incorporated globally.

So, that person ahead of you in traffic who has had their directional on for 5 miles and is in the center lane of a three lane road? Personally, I believe that every time they pass a turning and do not take it, and still keep their directional on, they should lose a marble. That would get them off the road pretty quick.

People who not only approve but INSTALL billboards with horrific grammar and spelling mistakes. C’mon – the letters are BIGGER THAN YOU. That’s gotta be worth at least a few marbles right there, if not a week’s worth.

People who write tax codes, for any country. That’s a lot of marbles.

The guy who came to my front door yesterday saying he was not a salesman, but that he was looking for community interest in solar panels, which he sells…..yeah. At least one marble.

Me, when I pour the hot water in my coffee cup, rather than the coffee maker….yep, that’s a marble.

The guy who thought it was a great idea to put up a sign in downtown Boston during the middle of the Big Dig that said “If Rome had been built in a day we would have hired their contractors.” Funny the first time I was stuck in construction traffic staring at it….not the subsequent gazillion times….Marbles please.

If you say “do you see what I’m saying?”. Give me a marble. You are not a cartoon, so no, I cannot see what you are saying.

The great benefit to this philosophy, is this…when you start racking up the marble count as you go through your day, and assigning a marble value to the stupid things we all do. And yes, we all do stupid things. Well, it’s just that much more difficult to get angry about it. For me, it makes me crack a grin, adjust my marble tally, and move on. It becomes a story, rather than a moment in my life when I might have been inspired to do violence.

The list of marble offenses is long, I’ve barely scratched the surface here….but it gets the juices flowing, doesn’t it?

So far, I’ve started off well by making my coffee correctly the first time around. I still have all my marbles for the day, but I haven’t left the house yet.

PTSD = Putting The Stuff Down

Ok. First. I am not being flippant about PTSD. I have been diagnosed with it, I come by it honestly. If you’ve read other posts in my blog you might figure out why, but that’s not really the point here. I just want it to be understood that I have reworded the acronym as a mantra to myself, NOT as a mandate to other sufferers of PTSD. I can only discuss my experiences, and I would never judge, belittle or mandate someone else’s process.

All I know is, I can’t make the PTSD go away, no matter how much I would like to. I have to accept the fact that, depending on the day, I may always feel the symptoms of it. I will jump at loud noises, at times I will not want to talk, at all. I will try my best to avoid what is really eating at me and sometimes that means I try to avoid people. And I will experience everything else that comes with it. Teeth grinding, night-sweats, flashbacks, mis-associating current events with past events. These are things I have had to accept. However, I do NOT accept being ruled by it, as I once was. I have to accept it but find my way to cope with it. Denying does no good (trust me, I tried that). So Put The Stuff Down works for me. Even if some days I have to say it A LOT. And while my PTSD was certainly not instigated by what I talk about here, I definitely taste the flavor in my recent experiences. I suppose it’s like a spice that you just can’t shake the taste of. And it can pop up in the most surprising times and places.

I wrote ages ago about how your dreams need to be big enough to scare you, else you are not doing yourself justice. You are selling yourself short. And now, I am living my dream. A dream that I frequently worried I did not have the patience to wait for, a dream that I thought would just go poof right before I got there….A dream that I was terrified I would wake from, and never be able to get back to.

Well, it didn’t go poof. I’m in it, now. And I constantly feel the need to pinch myself. And it’s amazing, and terrifying, and…I notice myself smiling all the time. So that’s all good, right?

But then I also wrote about that awful other hamster. The one not actually featured or allowed on my blog unless I’m casting him out. I’m not talking about Past, Present or Future hamster. They’re all ok. They’re allowed. They’ve passed their security checks. And so we’re clear, Past Hamster should not be confused with that other Hamster…who is a derivative of my PTSD. They are two different things. Your past is the tapestry of the building blocks that make you who you are. PTSD is, well, like a solvent to the mortar between those building blocks. No, the other hamster I’m talking about the is the Fear-Monger Hamster. The Lying Hamster. The False Evidence Appearing Real Hamster. As I’ve warned before, he’s insidious, and devious, and downright nasty. He can take a perfectly good day, and, if I listen to him, transmogrify it into something dark and scary. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but just so we are all on the same page, this particular hamster really annoys the crap out of me. I hate him.

But he’s clearly been nibbling away at his restraints. I think I need to send my other hamsters to martial arts classes to keep him from getting this close.

You see, my dream, that I’m living now, which is beyond anything, ANYTHING, I would have ever imagined for myself, is that I am living on the other side of the world, with an amazing man who loves me, who makes me laugh, who makes me feel safe, who makes me feel like I belong with him, in this beautiful country, here. Five years ago we met, and I thought, instantly, “wow….I really like this guy. I mean, I really, really like this guy. But, hey – I’m just out of a bizarrely awful breakup, and I should take things slowly. Make sure I heal from that.”

And I did take time. It was two years after we met before we actually started dating. And I thought I had healed. And, if I’m honest, I really did. I have healed. I almost took too much time though, at least that’s what my love tells me when we talk about how we got to know each-other and how we finally decided to give it a go. It was sheer serendipity that we didn’t both succeed in talking ourselves out of taking the chance. But that’s a story for another time.

So, that Furry Fear-Monger, he is incessant. When it’s quiet, and I let my guard down, there he is, nibbling away.

Because you see, that bizarrely awful breakup, was with someone that I had thought was pretty perfect. I’ll call him Wally. And with Wally it was all perfect. Until suddenly, it wasn’t. And I guess that’s the big difference that I need to remember.

Don’t get me wrong, my love and I, well – it’s a fairy tale for me, in so many ways that I cannot even begin to describe. But are either one of us perfect? Not a chance. I annoy him, he annoys me–at different times and for different reasons of course. But none of those things are a big deal. In reality we are simply two imperfect people who want to be with each-other. That’s the key – we WANT to be with each-other. And for all of our individual imperfections, I believe we make a perfect pair.

So where does Putting The Stuff Down come in?

It comes in during those quiet times, when that stupid Furry Fear-Monger takes advantage, and I flash back to when it went so very wrong with Wally, and sometimes, the bad Hamster can blur the lines between then and now. Just enough for me to do a double take.

You see, Wally was really good with words. He used words so well I believed him, even if something about his actions just didn’t smell quite right. I met Wally after having been significantly single for several years. And what he said, well, I thought that was what I wanted. I thought I wanted someone texting me all the time to tell me they were thinking about me. I thought I wanted someone to tell me they want me to move in and marry them. And, yes, I did want that, but I wanted someone who not only said the right things, but did the right things, and Wally wasn’t so good at doing the right things.

And then it all went instantly pear-shaped, and although his prior actions had seemed relatively benign at the time–at least without the benefit of the hindsight glasses….well, let’s just say that putting those on was a shock to the system for sure.

I could drag it all out but in the end, it all seemed perfect because Wally really wanted it to be perfect. He didn’t just want it to be perfect, he NEEDED it to be perfect. But, because it wasn’t really perfect, and the alternate routes to perfection were also not working for him, one day he found someone who really did make it perfect for him. And that someone wasn’t me. And therefore, I came home from work one day and it was time to go, within two hours. It was all over. No talking. Pack ya bags.

And you know what, I didn’t really want to talk about anything. It was like a cold glass of water got thrown in my face, and all those actions that I had noticed but, hell, ignored, justified, whatever, suddenly they were all tap dancing in front of me and I knew, it was over before it started. So I packed up my stuff and left. But, wow, no matter how much I knew that it was the best thing for me to get the hell out right then and there and never look back, it taps on my shoulder. And I find myself wondering, what did I do wrong? What if I do it again, whatever it was? THAT is from my PTSD. That has nothing to do with Wally or my love, it has to do with something completely separate. I know, when the stupid Furry Fear Monger is safely restrained, that I didn’t do anything wrong. Wally and I were a concoction, one that I think he wanted to be real for a period of time but he just couldn’t keep up the farce when it became clear to him that he wasn’t being true to himself. Whether being true to himself made him a good or bad person is irrelevant. We all go through our shit and sometimes we take people with us. Most of the time, I am good with remembering that.

Hindsight is 20/20. No doubt. But it doesn’t take away all those moments before you had the hindsight, when you really thought you were actually walking down the rosy path to…something good and just didn’t know how dead the roses were. It doesn’t take away the fear that you might just be an idiot with no sense of observation and you could really be living a life of the worst kind of groundhog day.

Well, at least not if you are me.

Way back when, I had really thought Wally was perfect. Too-good to be true perfect. Like NOTHING either one of us said was ever wrong. Ever. That takes a lot of concentration, and effort, and manipulation, and I fell for it. I mean, really? What true, honest, open relationship involves two people who always say exactly the right things? ALWAYS? You can check in with Hollywood if you like, but even I can tell you, that makes for a pretty stale script.

So, fast-forward through all of that to now. Today, my love will tell me, honestly, exactly what he thinks. And I love that about him. I may be disappointed at times when we don’t agree on something, but in the end, whatever we might disagree about we actually find a way to meet in the middle, naturally. I know from his actions, that he is genuine with me. Good or bad, pretty or ugly, it doesn’t matter. He is himself with me and is expecting me to be myself with him. I am not afraid to be upset by something because I am not afraid to tell him what I am upset about. Most of the time I am not afraid to be imperfect–as long as the Furry Fear Monger is still in his chains.

So when the Furry Fear Monger nibbles through a bit of those restraints, and gets a bit more reach into my head, I know it, because that’s when I start to find myself fearful of making a “mistake.” I find myself second guessing whether my love really wants me here or if he’s just following through on his words. And that’s when I tell myself to PTSD, or Put The Stuff Down. Because the stuff, it’s…exhausting, and…well…it’s just a complete waste of time, of my NOW, of my dreams.

YOUR PAST DOES NOT DEFINE YOU

Ok…so here’s a story I have struggled not to write.

My mother passed away December 8th, 2012. It is a day I will never forget. It is a day I thought I would find freedom, and yet it is a day that sent me back in time, sent me right back into so many things I never wanted to think about again. EVER. It is a day that re-awakened a PTSD that I hoped to be free of, a syndrome that my staff cannot begin to understand, yet I do my best to keep separate from them the shadows that can follow me if I give them the space.

You see, I am a child of abuse and divorce. Not unusual. Also not unusual, custody was given to the mother, regardless of fitness. The perception at that time (1978) was that children should be with their mother–unless some grievous act was performed…but we rarely have proof for that which will stand up in court, so I was with Her. And she was unfit. And yes, read into that what you may.

All the same, she was, by all accounts, a genius–a brilliant woman, but she was also jealous of me. Apparently I scored higher than her on an IQ test when I was 12 and it all went downhill from there. she became bitter towards me, vindictive, and poisonous…nothing I did was safe or ok.

She held me up by my throat at the age of 11 and kicked me out of the house. She believed I was trying to supplant her. Said I was an ungrateful bitch. She did it again at 16 and 17. Each time marked an occasion where I was celebrated for my own achievements. She wanted to have a daughter that excelled, but when I did it was a catastrophe. She wanted the perfect child, but not if that child took her spotlight. Each time that happened she was altered. Not necessarily on wine, but altered. But it does have alot to do with why I still refuse to drink wine today. I cannot stand the smell.

So, She passed away last December. Before she passed I was able to be there to get her settled into hospice, and to hear her version of our life. My best friend was there, and I am grateful for that, because otherwise I might have gone completely crazy. She heard my mother’s version of my life and she knew the truth and she knew not to fight, but just stood by me. My mother’s version was completely off the hook, but it was important to her to believe it, and it was important to me that she could depart this plane in peace. But oh did it break my heart to hear what she needed to believe.

My best friend? She has no idea what I owe her.

The reality is,

No Child should ever have to clean up after her mother’s binge.

No Child should ever have to learn how to pay bills at five years old.

No Child should ever be OK with not celebrating her own report card just so that her mother’s boyfriend’s children won’t feel bad.

No Child should ever have to understand that “staying with friends” really means “I have no home for you.”

No Child should ever have to raise their own parent.

No Child should ever have to be fed their breakfast from their teachers.

No Child should ever have to be given a rain coat from their school.

No Child should ever apologize for being abused by the children of their mother’s boyfriend.

No Child should ever know want, or hunger or abuse.

I say all of this, but unfortunately I know that my experience is not unique. So all I can say is that YOUR PAST DOES NOT DEFINE YOU.

YOU have all the choice in the world to change what you THINK is your destiny. And if you came from anything like I did, there have defintitely been times where you destiny seemed pretty grim.

DO NOT BELIEVE IT.

You are the strength of everything, and no one, no where, can change that unless you let them. Rise above your own expectations. I promise, you will constantly be surprised.