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You may notice that I am posting this to, not my LiveJournal as is my wont, but to a Dreamdwidth account with the same username. I am doing this because of suspicions that the Russian-owned LiveJournal may no longer be able to trusted with the security of one's information, and Dreamwidth offers the easiest way to port one's blog archive to another, more secure platform which has the convenience of basically the same interface.

Even though it's seeming increasingly like the wiser move to do so, I have not deleted my LiveJournal. The idea of no longer having it is a weirdly emotional one for me. Even though ultimately just keeping my entries is the important part, which Dreamwidth fortunately allows me to do with relative ease, I find myself surprisingly sad at the idea of getting rid of my old blog. Journaling and having a platform to express my thoughts where interested parties can read it has been important to me. Again, I guess I can do that from anywhere, but looking now I see that I've had that LiveJournal since 2001. And I used it pretty damn consistently from 2007 on-- a whole decade now. There's a lot of hopes, dreams, memories, experiences, and thoughts poured into it in that time.

And I liked the service, damn it. Yeah, Dreamwidth is not that different. But I don't like any of the themes and my journal looks so ugly now. The whole thing feels like it's an older, less maintained version of LJ. All my internal links in the entries just go back to it, so if I wanted to direct them here instead, I'd have to fix them all manually. And even though most people I know didn't bother with their LJs anymore, I liked that I was already linked up with all my friends and I'd see their posts if they made them. I know that this is not the end of the world and I'll get over it-- I should just be grateful I'm not losing all my content --but this whole business makes me sad in a way I can't quite articulate.

So, yeah. Here I am now, I guess. If you're on Dreamwidth, please give me your username so I can attempt to rebuild my network of follows. But I won't be deleting my LJ today, or even tomorrow. I think I need some time to mourn before I actually get rid of it. Making this my primary posting platform is a tough enough step for now.
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Today is a heartbreaking day. The meaning has been stated by much smarter people than me, but I am stern in my resolve to resist and not give up hope that we can right this grave injustice.

One thought that gives me hope is the conviction that I do believe this blast of reactionary conservatism is an extinction burst. It is VERY common, including when dealing with the behavior of an abuser, that when efforts are made to push back against and stamp out the bad behavior, the perpetrator doubles down and explodes with a final effort to try and overcome the resistance before flaming out. The way of life where white supremacy was taken for granted is going away, as is the ability to remain ignorant and insular against the wider world. The people who don't want to grow and evolve into the modern world are lashing out against all the changes. But the world IS changing and no one can stop it. The fact that Clinton won the popular vote and the evidence that millennial voters were overwhelmingly more liberal confirms to me that viewpoint is dying, and is just privileged by the outdated relics of the system. We ARE moving toward a more progressive world, even with this enormous travesty occurring. So, if we can survive, I believe we will truly move past it as a society.

The only problem is surviving. And that's what frightens me. I'm afraid we won't survive. Individuals who are not privileged under this regime are certainly at risk, but I'm talking ALL of us, not just as a nation, but as a species. If we have a nuclear war or an environmental apocalypse, we won't get the chance to see what happens after. And I'm afraid those are real possibilities. God help us. I truly do believe this is the death knell of this particular form of atavism. But the earth has to hold out for us to get there.
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This past week, Bernie accepted a job with the patent office in Alexandria, VA. It's a pretty good position, with a good salary and great benefits, as well as a lot of flexibility and room for advancement. It'll be so great for him to really get his life going, which job searching has kind of put on hold since he graduated. It's not exactly what he wants to do long term, but it's a good move for now and I'm really proud of him.

But while it's definitely a good thing, I'm still a little sad because it means that Bernie and I are going to be separated for at least another year. I was started to get hopeful that he might be able to move back into the area by the point my lease was up and we'd be able to get a place together.

It's not the end of the world. Our relationship has been uniformly strong through all the last few years apart and I'm not worried about that part. As we also discussed, if something else he applied for (he's more interested in lab work or something a little more directly doing science) happens to get back to him with a perfect offer in New England, there wouldn't be much barrier to him taking it. And a year isn't that bad, especially if he's starting to make money, build his resume, and start really putting together his own life.

So this is definitely good news and a step in the right direction. It's just not perfect news, but then again, that's life. I'm grateful for the improvement.
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I am going home for Thanksgiving this year. That's a bit of a change of plans, as my family has come to my house for the past few years, but I guess the price of not having to clean is having to travel. It's a bit complicated, involving trains and handing off my car to my brother, but I'll be there for a few days. I haven't been doing so well mental-health-wise lately, so honestly the whole idea makes me tired, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to rest and relax at least for a little while I'm home.

I've been turning over the idea of a new writing project recently, in the effort of breaking out of my comfort zone and giving myself something to encourage me on the subject of my creative work. I've started to feel kind of low about it, and I think I have to try something new. Maybe the next week with no lessons to plan or rehearsals to hold and minimal essays to grade, I'll have a little time to work on it. We'll see.
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I've never been so ashamed in my life-- of being American, and especially of being white. I have never been one to endorse the view that the average person is stupid or bad, but with this force of white supremacy swaying the course of the election, I am finding myself reevaluating that belief.

I am so sad. I didn't sleep a wink last night and I've spent the time since then sick to my stomach. I'm in a relatively privileged position, apart from being a woman and my difficulty in getting health insurance I can afford. But I'm terrified of what nonwhite, LGBT, immigrant, disabled, and other marginalized people will suffer. Not to mention the threats to the environment and the possibility of nuclear war, which particularly terrify me.

All I can say is I will keep fighting. History is full of examples of this kind of backlash to progress, of stupid fucking humans visiting violence against their own best interests. But there has still been forward movement. There is still the possibility that we can improve and grow. And laying down arms now will only guarantee that the tyrants and monsters of the world will win.

I don't know how yet. I'm still reeling in shock. But I am going to find some way keep fighting.
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I plowed through an epic amount of work today. It was pretty grueling, but at least I can go into this weekend without stressing out about getting things done. I'm experimenting this semester with setting designated "work times" that I will always stick to. I utilize scheduling a fair bit, but I tend to schedule things whenever is convenient rather than sticking to "hours on" and "hours off." I'm trying it for a while to see if it helps me focus and not feeling like I constantly should be doing more work.

I am still pretty depressed, but I'm trying to push on through it. Today I went back to eating paleo and am fighting to not lapse back into being a sugar vacuum. I think I will at least physically feel a little better. As I've mentioned, the biggest issue is I'm not INTERESTED in anything I could be doing. I don't feel excited or get any pleasure from stuff I theoretically should want to pursue. I guess that's classic depression. But I don't know what to do about it, and it's become a real problem as I end up not working on anything because nothing seems worth it.

I've had a bee in my bonnet for ages now about doing little audio or video recordings of my thoughts. Maybe like journal entries, or maybe something more codified. I've been listening to podcasts a bit more lately and I guess it's given me the bug. I know every asshole thinks they can do a podcast, and I don't know if I any of the unique things I have to say would be at all interesting for people to listen to. So I keep stopping myself because it doesn't seem worth it. But the idea's been nagging at me, and it would be better than wasting my time not working on anything, so maybe I should just do it and not care if it's any good or if anybody cares about it.

Just gray

Sep. 14th, 2016 09:16 pm
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Ten thousand things I could be doing. Projects to work on, arts to experiment with, things to make, things to watch, stories to read. But I have no interest in any of them.

I have a hard time getting mentally into anything I don't already have some spontaneously developed interest in. That's tough for me to find at the best of times. Right now? Nothing. Practically nothing.

Bah.
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After creeping in slowly the last week or so, I think I'm now solidly in the grasp of yet another depressive wave. It's probably purely the vagaries of my screwed-up brain, but it makes me focus on all the things about my life that I'm angry and unhappy about. It puts me in such a negative mindset, and it makes everything I'm doing, or should be doing, seem totally pointless, which saps my energy and motivation to do it.

I've been incredibly unproductive with even the decent amount of spare time I've had lately, and I'm pissed about that since it's likely to be the last spare time I have for a very long while. Way to waste it, idiot. And this low-energy state is definitely not the place I want to be in with my new semester starting. I'm going to be drowning in work with three classes and two plays to put on, so it is NOT a good time to want to spend it lying in a heap.

Bah. There's nothing to be done. No amount of self-care or anything ever really has any power to shake me out of these things. I just have to wait it out. But in the meantime, I need to not let everything go off the rails while I'm hating everything and being pissed at the world.

The fog

Jun. 14th, 2016 07:13 pm
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I keep trying to write about something else, but there really isn't anything on my mind but how consistently down I've felt lately. I feel like an ass whining about it, given the terrible things going on in the world right now and the people who have much bigger problems than me-- I've been doing my best to listen rather than speak about that --but it's just overcoming me lately. It's been worse, I guess, but it's been so consistent. In the past several weeks I've had a number of breakdowns, but mostly I just feel so listless and generally unhappy. I'm not enjoying much of anything. Normally I am a very energetic, productive person, but right I can't seem to get anything done. Not chores, not the work that matters to me. Everything feels pointless, like it doesn't come to anything, so why even bother? I feel like I spend a lot of time and effort doing things I don't really care about, and when I kill myself getting the things I do care about done, they don't really come to anything, and I don't enjoy them as much as I hope I would.

I don't know what to do about it. Bernie thinks I should try to see somebody, but honestly I don't think it would make much difference. My experiences attempting that previously were... inoffensive, I supposed, but didn't really make a difference. On top of that, I have state insurance, which nobody takes, and I can't afford it out of pocket. I already know all the tricks to cope in the meantime, which get me through the day but don't take care of the problem. So there isn't really answer.

I guess I'm just whining. This is how it goes. But I'm so exhausted with feeling exhausted, and sad about feeling so sad.

Useless

Jun. 7th, 2016 02:51 pm
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Been pretty much completely useless for the last several weeks. I know I didn't rest the way I wanted to, but my profound inability to focus on ANYTHING productive is ridiculous. I can't let this keep going. I'm getting really behind both in stuff I need and want to do, and it makes me so angry at myself.

Had a couple bad spells of depression pop up too. It comes and it goes, as it probably will for the rest of my life. But it makes everything I do feel particularly pointless. And when I'm already struggling to be productive, that makes me even more useless than before. Right now I'm having a hard time even figuring out what to focus my energy on, what would be the best use of my creative energy and effort, but that uncertainty is making me do NOTHING out of fear of wasting time doing the WRONG THING. Useless.

Resolving here to get my ass in gear. On SOMETHING, even if it's not the best use of my time or energy. I've got the Bare Bones staged reading of Base Instruments this Friday evening, which is great. I'm glad to get that play out there, and it's something to get myself going. It's a good play, the best Mrs. Hawking play so far, and maybe it'll energize me to do more work.
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Remember my resolution to go back to writing in my journal on the regular? Yeah, that didn't happen.

Unfortunately, neither did my using my three weeks off as a break. I didn't have work, no, but [livejournal.com profile] inwaterwrit got married and I was her maid of honor, so the first week was taken up with helping her. That was a ton of fun, but then Bernie had his graduation ceremony. And then, because I never visit him in Baltimore, I agreed to go back to Maryland with him to attend Balticon. We worked tech for it, which was also fun and got us in for free, and Bernie even helped me do a bit of networking that might lead to something good for me. But now I'm at home for the weekend, to be there to help out my dad with some landscaping chores. Again, all that stuff is good, but it meant I didn't do much resting, and didn't get much of the catching up done that I'd been meaning to. Since I'm going back to work on Monday, I guess there goes that.

Honestly, I haven't been doing that well lately. I've been pretty consistently exhausted for the last several months, and I'd been hoping my between-trimester break would help me get myself back. But that didn't happen, and I'm a little afraid it's not going to. It's contributed to a vague depression for a while now that I'm not sure how to lift. I'm hoping that since even when I go back to work it won't be nearly as intense will mean I actually do eventually recover. But I haven't felt like myself in a while.
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Nostalgia seems to be a big thing lately, at least if society perceives you to be a nerd. The media lately is all about making money by reviving so-called “nostalgia properties,” making rebooted versions of things you supposedly will see now because you liked them as a kid.

Generally I’m not really that susceptible to nostalgia. Not because I’m any more sophisticated than anyone else, but because of how my memory works. As in, my memory kind of DOESN’T work, at least not in that particular way. I retain very few experiential memories of anything longer than a few months ago. Sure, I more or less remember what happened in my life, but only as facts, or at best as narratives— I have the story, in words, of what happened to me. Of sense memories, of what it felt like to actually be present in those memories, such as images in my head or sensations or sounds or smells, I have practically none. And correspondingly, with that level of remove from my own memories, I have very few emotional connections to those experiences. At least, not the kind of emotional connections that nostalgia plays on.

I tend not to hold onto my past because of this, which is a two-edged sword. The upside is I move on from difficult times pretty quickly and easily. I don’t have many emotional scars. Old shames, embarrassments, disappointments, and pains just kind of fade. But the downside is most of the positive feelings of my past don’t really endure either. They don’t make much in the way of lasting marks. I have a few, of course, but not many. My mother is the most major one. I hope to God I never forget the experience of my mother. I still have what it was like to look at her and be around her and how she loved me and the sound of her voice.

But recently a weird nostalgic feeling has crept over me a lot, for some things that once meant the whole world to me but in recent years I haven’t thought much of. And I’m not exactly sure why. Moreover, it’s been making me very sad to think of, and I don’t know why. I might talk more about this later. But it reminds me of when Don Draper explained on Mad Men that the word nostalgia comes from the Greek, meaning “the pain from an old wound.” I guess this was an old wound to me. But you’d think having moved on from it would mean it wouldn’t hurt anymore. I guess I’d figured it healed.
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It’s times like these, when I have so, so many things on my plate that I miss Bernie being around the most. He’s always very supportive of me, which he has no difficulty doing from far away, and I’ve relied on that as I’ve been getting through this shockingly intense schedule. But the one thing I could really right now use is an extra pair of hands, the little extra help that you can expect from sharing your life with a partner, and that I’m sorely missing.

I feel kind of bad confessing that’s the part of Bernie being gone I find most difficult. It sounds as if the most important value I place in him is what use I can make of him. But I swear it isn’t that. It’s that it’s the only part of our relationship that we cannot have from a distance.

I do surprisingly well being on my own for long periods. Bernie and I talk for hours every day, and he’s so good at making me feel loved and supported from that alone, so the emotional closeness is there. I don’t really experience the phenomenon of becoming touch-starved. Whatever the state of things are in that regard, I just kind of get used to it and that becomes okay. So even though it’s been over a year at this point, it hasn’t been that bad.

But the one thing that isn’t the same is that we can’t help each other out in any material way. Just little things— like, if you’re going to be cooking for yourself anyway, it isn’t much extra work to make enough for two people, and then the other person is saved some work. That somebody can run an errand for you in the course of their day, or be the one to turn over the laundry, or help you carry all the bags you need for your day to the car. Those aren’t huge things, but when you’re this busy any little bit of relief makes a difference. And on top of that, it makes me think of all the things I may not suffer too much from the absence of but that I still did enjoy about partnered life. I try not to dwell on it, but it makes me a little bit melancholy.

Driven

Oct. 8th, 2015 10:20 am
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In the study skills class I'm teaching, the current chapter is one about choices and taking action. The idea it wants to communicate, basically, is even when you're in a bad situation that's totally not your fault, you should still make the effort to make positive choices to put into action for yourself, because even if you can't fix things completely, it will allow you the maximum amount of control and improvement over your life.

I think this is a good mindset to have. I try to live my own life that way. Still, it's a tough subject for me to teach, mostly because I want to emphasize personal agency without slipping into victim-blaming-- like, "There's no point in ever getting upset at unjust things that happen to you, because effective people always have the ability to take control of every situation," or anything extreme like that. But also because a big component of that is positive thinking. And for the last ten years or longer, I have struggled with that.

Bernie thinks it's at least partially because of my depression. He thinks it warps my perspective, making me prone to assuming the worst, and taking any downturn as a sign that my efforts will be for nothing. I think that's probably part of it, but I also think there's more to it. I am morbidly impatient-- I tend to assume that if my efforts don't pay off immediately, they're not going to. I also tend to want to prefer preparing for the worst rather than hoping for the best, in an effort to not have negative consequences come out of nowhere and wreck me. Whatever the reason, I am extremely inclined to those cognitive distortions that have to do with negative expectations, outlooks, and interpretation-- black and white thinking, filtering, overgeneralization, catastrophizing.

My one saving grace in this is that, no matter how negative my MINDSET gets, I am very good at not letting myself stop trying. One of the things about myself I have always been most proud of is my drive. It's something that friends often mention when they want to compliment me. When I want things, I am very good about not forgetting that the only way to guarantee you'll never get it is if you quit trying. So, despite my impatience and occasionally morbid pessimism, I am known for pushing and working and never giving up.

I have made a lot of things happen in recent time. I decided I wanted to do a new exercise and diet routine, so I did-- I've been doing it for almost five weeks now. I knew I had to change up how my life ran if I was going to succeed at my new jobs, so I made those changes. I've got projects I'm adding on on top of that, which I will be talking more about shortly. It's going to demand a lot of me. It may make me tired and stressed out, which pushes my attitude toward the negative. But I want these things to be, and the only way they will happen is if I make them happen. So I'm grateful I know I have the drive to push through, not only the amount of work and effort, but any possible roadblocks my mindset might put in the way.

Wish me luck!
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My granddad’s funeral was held at Our Lady of Lourdes, the Catholic church of Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, the small coal-mine-adjacent town where my dad grew up. But it was also the place where my parents were married, almost forty years before. I was there before, most recently when my grandmother passed and I attended her service, but that was before we lost my mom.

My dad pointed to the insignia of the cross within the circle in the tile before the altar, where they stood during the ceremony. Where they promised for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Strange to think that here we were, forty years later. Without her. To think of her then, so young and beautiful and full of hope, was too much for me. I cried.

I felt weird about it. A little guilty. I probably should have been thinking more about Granddad. But everything I knew about him just made me happy for him instead of sad— he had ninety-two happy, healthy years, surrounded by the love of family and friends and not even much in the way of sickness until the very, very end. Thank Jesus he lived such a life! I didn’t want to think people believed I was so sad for his sake when it was really because of my mother.

My dad hugged me. “It’s okay, Phoeb.” “Forgive me, but it’s not Granddad.” “I know.” He took my hand. He knew, because he was thinking of her too.

My cousin Meryl had been given a family wedding album from Granddad’s house. She originally thought it was her mom and dad’s, but was confused when she opened it. “What is Mom wearing?” I asked, without looking, “Does it look like a furry hood?” “Yes!” she answered. I laughed. “That’s my parents’ wedding.” Apparently my mother decided that her bridesmaids would wear cranberry dresses with fur-trimmed hoods, because winter of 1975, I guess. I can think of no other explanation.

There’s some wonderful pictures in there. The church still all done up for Christmas, because they were married two days after. My dad at twenty-three, with shaggy hair, an enormous mustache, in a champagne suit and cowboy boots. My dad’s wonderful aunt, also named Joann, with hair all the way up to Jesus. Dad’s little Italian grandmother, Mama Nonni, almost as wide as she was tall, guarding their money purse like a pitbull. All four of my grandparents in truly hideous seventies finery, all pleats and pastels and big permed hair. Dad says there was a lot of family on both sides, but he mostly remembers how quickly all of his family fell in love with her, took her in and made her theirs, because they could see right away how good she was.

I couldn’t stop thinking about her.
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I had a rough time emotionally this past weekend. I went into one of the most intense depressions I've had in a very long time. The initial bad feeling was triggered by something specific, but spiraled from there mostly due to getitng myself stuck in a particular negative mindset. This is typical of me-- while I have diagnosed depression, it starts due to something situational, and then the brain chemical shift and I end up dwelling there.

I dug myself out of it by the end of Sunday. I'm very good at doing the things I need to do in order to keep myself on track, if not necessarily feeling good. I got out of the house and did something different. I bought myself a couple of dresses off the sale rack at Forever 21, because what's the point of working this hard on staying thin if you can't make cheap fashion look good? I went for a run and used my anger at the world to push myself as hard as I could, and I ran a mile in five minutes and forty-five seconds, the fastest time I've ever hit. I saw Magic Mike XXL, and through the combination of enjoying the hot stripper boys and humorously livetweeting the experience, managed to shake myself out of things.

I probably shouldn't have spent the money, and it annoys me that it took doing things that required spending money to make myself feel better. I'm annoyed that I still get that depressed, particularly when triggered by small things that spiral. I'm glad I am capable of finding ways to dig myself out of the pit, but I hate that sometimes I do all the stuff I'm supposed to do to take care of yourself and I end up in the pit anyway.

Bernie has started doing research on my behalf, and he's discovered some things that are worrying to both of us. I probably should look into dealing with this stuff in a more permanent way. But given the nature of my issues, and the things I've already tried to no success, I'm not sure exactly what might help.
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I have talked about my mother’s death here before. But today, on the one-year anniversary of her passing, I want to talk about the night she died. I don’t have much point to make. This is a very disjointed, stream-of-consciousness entry. But I’m ready to talk about it, and I want to have a record of what it was like.

Casey, Sarah, and I drove down together. We came home into a very clean house—partially, I think, for all the people who would be coming in, and partially as way for my dad to feel in control. He’s a strong man— believe me when I say almost impossibly so —but he channels stress into things like that. He had food waiting for us. And he took us upstairs to see Mom.

They had put a hospital bed next to the big bed in their bedroom. That was good, she hadn’t wanted to die in the hospital. She wasn’t conscious; she was on a sort of liquid morphine that basically knocked her out. They put her on oxygen, but it wasn’t doing much good, and she kept gasping, trying to breathe. She couldn’t, really, but her body would try to anyway.

Dad was so in tune with her condition, with everything he’d done to take care of her. He’d called the previous day and said it would happen very soon. And we went home the next day, because he was right.

He asked if we remembered the part in Harry Potter with the thestrals, which are only visible to you after you’ve seen someone die. “I think we’re going to see thestrals soon.” He’s not usually one to talk in literary references, so that one struck me.

A hospice nurse came and spoke to us. We were kind of normal and together, which I think surprised them a little. But we don’t act out in front of strangers. I was proud, though, when the nurse took a moment to tell my dad how impressed they all were with how my dad took care of her. She actually said she’d never seen anything like it. He is strong, and he loves her.

It was very surreal. How normal it was, while Mom was right there dying. Mostly it was waiting. We’d sit with her for a while, holding her hand, talking to her. My dad and my brother had a lot to say. How much they loved her, but how it was okay for her to go, that she didn’t need to hurt anymore. Neither of them have ever been afraid of or uncomfortable with their emotions, but their frankness and their verbosity impressed me. This process made my brother a lot softer. And my dad, well, he’s perceived by some to be a hard, intense man. But he loved my mother utterly. Reordered his whole life to be there for her in her illness. And damn certain he was going to tell her everything as she died.

Dad told us stories of how they met, when they were young. How they were friends for years before they ever dated. How after graduation they traveled cross country to Yellowstone National Park in a van with three other friends and a German Shepherd. How they were camping in the park, smoked some weed, and went swimming at the same time there happened to be an earthquake, but because they were high, they weren’t sure if they imagined it or not. How my mom said to my dad, “If you grow up a bit, you might be worth keeping.” It made me smile to hear all that. Funny to think of my straight laced parents being cooler and more adventurous than me.

I just cried a little, quietly. Weirdly, I found I didn’t know what to say, and felt too embarrassed to try. Words are supposed to be my thing, and I didn’t have any for my dying mother.

It’s okay. She knew how I felt, and she couldn’t hear anything anyway. But it was weird.

So we sat with her, listening to her try to breathe. Then we’d get hungry, or have something to do, so we’d wander off and do it. Dad had a little camera set up in the room, so we could watch her from the kitchen. In case it happened, we could rush up and be there.

She looked like a scary troll. I feel awful about thinking that, but she did. Not like my mother at all. Her hair was gone, her face and body were bloated and stressed. She had tubes coming out of her all over. Horrifying. The picture of death.

We took a picture of her. Not sure why. I guess because it was real, it happened, and there’s no pretending that it didn’t. I have it and Casey has it, but my dad asked us not to show it to anyone. It’s private. It’s the last picture of my mother on this earth.

Casey’s girlfriend Sarah was with us. My family is private, intensely so, so it was a question as to whether or not she would come for this part of things. Bernie was working, so in deference to both of those things I had chosen not to bug him until there was actually a funeral. Dad probably would have been okay if Bernie came. Though in fairness he hasn’t known Bernie as long. Casey and Sarah had been together for like six years then, and he wanted her there, and Dad was fine with that.

Sarah was so good. The whole time I couldn’t imagine how awkward everything had to be for her. Being in the middle of other people’s uncomfortable, private, tragic moment. But she was perfect, being present and quietly, lovingly supporting my brother. I have so much respect for how she conducted herself in what had to be a deeply difficult situation. I already liked Sarah, but that was when she became family.

It was late when it happened. When the life finally slipped out of her. Her breath, already choppy, became more and more infrequent. She twitched for a while. Then she was still.

I posted on Livejournal when it happened. And Twitter, I think. That’s probably kind of sick that I even thought of it. But I wanted to mark the moment.

Dad called the hospice. They would send the right people. So we waited, there in the bedroom with the remains of Mom. I had been laying on my parents’ bed, right beside her hospital bed. I stayed there, staring at her as she went cold. Her skin became so gray, that weird troll that replaced my mother.

Nobody came for a long time. Everyone curled up someplace and slept. I don’t know where everyone ended up. I think Casey was on the floor. I slept there beside her. It didn’t seem strange. She was either a sack of dead disease, or she was my mother. I’m not afraid of either.

The hospice nurse came. I dragged myself up, sat in a chair and was polite. Same as I was with the nurse the previous day, be nice to the stranger, have good manners, even if you just lost the most important person. She asked for all mom’s medications and destroyed them. She was decent and said nice things, but I don't really remember what they were.

Two men in suits came from the funeral home. My dad remarked how weird it seemed to come ready to move a body dressed in a suit, but I guess it was supposed to be gesture of respect. They were very careful gathering her up, zipping her into the body bag. I watched them do it, which likely made them take extra pains, but honestly I didn’t care. In that gray shell there was more remaining of the cancer that killed her than there was of my mother. What did I care what happened to a dead sack of tumors, when the person who bore me, raised me, loved me, made me who I am, was already gone forever?

I went to my own room and slept. The next day, I stripped the hospital bed, washed the clothes, made up the guest bed. They were the only sheets we had that fit it. Bernie and I slept that night on the sheets my mother died on.

I mention all this because it feels like it should have been weird or creepy. But none of it was. At least not to me. I just love her, and miss her, and I still don’t quite believe she’s gone.
breakinglight11: (CT photoshoot 1)
Spoilers ahead for Mad Men season 7. Sorry.

Betty Draper died of cancer. And I don’t know how to react.

Lung cancer, of course. It was on Mother’s Day. I wasn’t especially bothered, even though it was the first Mother’s Day without my mom. I don’t miss her any more on some arbitrary day than I miss her any other time. But on Mad Men, the one that aired last night, Betty Draper got diagnosed with cancer and got ready to die. And… I don’t know what.

I don’t know why it should strike me so. Betty and my mother were very, very little alike. Betty was cold, childish, and petty from an abusive home, while Mom was warm, selfless, and strong. Betty was everything my mother was trying to escape by leaving the tiny town she grew up in and distancing herself from her own mother, who was loving but still kind of self-absorbed and small-minded. But still. But still. It’s all tied up, somehow, my mother and Betty and the women of Mad Men. A similar culture shaped her. Taught her to smoke. For everything she did to move past it, it still infected her with the constant fear that people would judge her for not being perfect. Just like Betty.

I remember how thrown I was seasons ago when Betty gained all that weight and the possibility of her having cancer then was raised. It tweaked me because of how Mom’s cancer put sixty pounds on her. Two shockingly beautiful blonde women completely physically changed by the specter of sickness. It’s stupid, but it always seemed like people as beautiful as they were had some sort of armor. To see that armor taken away showed just how vulnerable they were. So vulnerable that eventually they died. Sally’s mother and mine.

I don’t know. Sally is my mother, not Betty. My grandmother was closer to Betty-- and she died of cancer too. But now Sally has become me. I become my mother.
breakinglight11: (CT photoshoot 1)
The sky is blue, and that’s beautiful.

Everyone thinks so. I mean, look at it. Even people for whom blue may not be their favorite color, they can definitely see how pretty it is. Even if it weren’t obvious to me, everybody around me tends to think so.

If you have eyes in your head, you can see it. By any standard, it’s blue.

I really like how that blue looks; honestly, sometimes it seems like the bluer it is, the more I like it. So I’m actually rather invested in the sky being blue. I work hard to avoid allowing things like pollution and smog to ruin that blue. So the fact that it’s blue gives me a lot of joy, and I put a considerable effort into keeping it that way.

But because I like that blue so much—as I said, sometimes it seems like the bluer, the better — it’s on my mind a lot. The comparative blueness. The quality of it. “God, it’s so blue today! Gorgeous!” “Well, it could be a little bluer, but it’s still pretty blue, and it’s still nice the way it is.” But sometimes it’s not so much about appreciating it as worrying over the possibility that someday, it might turn green. “Make sure you don’t let the sky turn green,” so that I put in the effort to keep the smog levels down. “Ugh, keep polluting like this, and the sky’s going to turn green for sure.”

The sky is blue, not green. The very idea is absurd, and I’m not crazy. I can look at it and see that.

But sometimes— and how often can vary, depending on a lot of things —the little voice in my head actually tells me, “The sky is green.”

The funny thing is? Most of the time, it is not hard to ignore. I mean, yeah, it’s silly that there’s a part of me that thinks that, but it’s OBVIOUSLY, VERIFIABLY WRONG. It doesn’t bother me that much because it’s not difficult at all to just go about my life, free of distress, ignoring the plainly irrational thought without allowing it to change my behavior in any way.

I am proud to say that I’ve never allowed that idea to affect my actual behavior. Maybe I’ve occasionally made a bad choice on an isolated occasion, but it’s never become a pattern and it’s never hurt me. I will confess, though, that sometimes the voice gets loud, and sometimes it gets vehement. Most of the time it’s just an occasional moment of “The sky is green,” but in very bad moments, weak moments, it becomes, “Phoebe. The sky is so fucking green I don’t know how you stand it. Shut down the factory, close off the smokestacks. NEVER OPEN THEM AGAIN.”

I’ll admit, the yelling has on certain occasions become so bad I started to believe it. But still, always, I have never acted on it. I have always been able to understand intellectually that I’m being crazy, even if it doesn’t feel true in the moment.

I suppose there’s still the temptation to go to absurd lengths to maintain that blue. But I’ve never given into it— I am too busy, too healthy, too grounded, thank God. But right now, the sky stays blue pretty easily these days. That may not always be the case.

I know it can’t stay blue forever; even if I don't smog the hell out of it, eventually the sun’s going to set, and all that gorgeous color’s going to go away and change into something else. I don’t like thinking about that. The color of the sky is probably way too important to me. Especially since its change is almost inevitable, no matter what I do, and I shouldn’t put myself in a position to hate the new color and be miserable. People put way too much stock in blue, I know. Other colors can be beautiful, and the world would be a better place if we didn’t care so much about beauty at all. But I’ve internalized it. Blue is most beautiful to me. I want the sky to be blue forever.

When the sun sets— if the sky really does turn green— I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Today is my twenty-eighth birthday.
breakinglight11: (CT photoshoot 1)
I have an odd relationship to the show Mad Men. I've watched it several times through, and I really admire it on many levels. Currently it's my best reference for the writing of subtext, something I'm really bad at and need to learn to improve. And the costuming is masterful; analysis of it really teaches you how to do it. But I wouldn't exactly say I like it. I get weary of how consequences for people's negative actions tend to not have all that much of an impact because of the need to keep the show going, and nobody ever grows or changes, which I find wearying.

My mom watched the show before I did. She found it fascinating as a depiction of a time period she remembered very differently. She was born in 1953, so she was a child in the '60s, and her family was working class in a small industrial town, "where people didn't have as much, and they weren't as miserable." She said she found it fascinating to see those people who lived the life that most of the people in her world aspired to-- especially when it didn't seem to make them any happier.

I connect it to her not only because she introduced it to me, but also because of the character of Sally Draper. Personality- and circumstance-wise, they were almost nothing alike. Sally was a privileged girl with a rough, rebellious relationship with her divorced parents, while my mother was nice and well-behaved, "ethnic" for her town, without much money, in a family that was loving and close. But I can't help but think of her when I watch that beautiful little blonde girl, born only a year later than Mom was, experiencing a number of the same cultural influences. Nobody pays any attention to Sally's potential; my mom was always regretful that she was never encouraged to be anything but a teacher or a nurse, when she was smart enough to do anything. And then, of course, there's the smoking.

I still find that part of Mad Men hard to watch. Not just the fact that everybody's smoking all the time, but the culture around smoking. It's ubiquitous, expected, almost enforced. That's the culture that taught my mom the habit. She didn't start as young as Sally-- who I think was around twelve --but not that long later, in high school. My granddad didn't even do it and took a hard line against it. But things still ended up how they ended up. So it's a little hard for me. To watch the culture shape that little blonde girl in the way it shaped another little blonde girl into something that ended up killing her.

That's kind of over-the-top and maudlin. I still watch the show; I've watched it like three times through. But I think about it.

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