Saturday, October 14, 2017

Alone in the Crowd?

Back here after another couple of months, it looks like.  It's interesting to me that this entry will unintentionally carry on from the last one.  It seems like I am in a similar place, although it feels like I am in a better place.

Last Sunday, I had another agoraphobia episode at church; fortunately I hadn't been silly enough to have obligations that I signed up for, this time, so the idea that I could leave if I needed to gave me enough strength and feeling of safety to be able to stay--in the building to hear the message, at least, if not in the main sanctuary.

The main trigger was that a lovely and caring, but apparently extroverted, lady decided to sit in the seat right next to me (right up inside my personal space bubble, despite there being enough empty seats to "spread out") and started engaging me in conversation.  She said she was concerned about me because she always sees me sitting here off to the side by myself, and she worried I wasn't making friends and connections in the church, and could she join me so she could get to know me better?

I agreed, naturally, because that's what reasonable people do, even though my mind processed her request as, "You always stay over here where it's safe; why don't you ever plunge into this tortured, chaotic, indecipherable mass of writhing bodies with us?  Can I try to convince you how enjoyable and non-horrifying it is?"  And I think that would have been okay, if quaintly misguided; but then a man I didn't recognize* sat down in my "blind spot" on the other side, and I started to feel the light-headedness coming on.

I'm thinking today about the original assumption that was made:  That I must be somehow less happy, less connected, because I gravitate toward the edges, not toward the middle.  I found it surprising, because I didn't feel unhappy; to me I was in the perfect spot--not at home being truly isolated, and not in the middle of everything being overwhelmed.
It makes me think of how I love where my (formerly 'our') home is; far enough out that it feels secluded, but close enough that within a half-hour I can be at Alderwood or Bellevue, or almost to Seattle, where there is more shopping and activities than anybody could possibly stand.  I think it's perfect.  When my mom visited me, though, she found it oppressively crowded and busy here.  A friend from the city, on the other hand, might comment, "Wow, you really live out in the middle of nowhere, don't you?"
It makes me realize, my idea of "too much" is somebody else's idea of "not enough."  And it doesn't mean either of us are wrong, it means we are different and beautifully unique.

Getting back to church, you know, I can see why someone, especially someone extroverted, would imagine that.  It's true; even during the after-service "coffee communion," I tend to just find a seat away from the crowd, with lots of personal space around it.  I'm happy to engage with people if they break away from the pack to come say 'hi' to me, and I'm also content to just sit and watch the crowd, taking in its energy as it flows this way and that, in and around and through itself like a grand subconscious dance, if no-one does.  Either way, I'm happy there, in that perfect-for-me spot, connected enough, but not overwhelmed.

So, don't worry about me too much.  I don't stay on the outskirts because I'm unhappy or grieving.  I'm out here because it's right where I like to be.  It always has been.  You might think it wouldn't be enough for you.  If so, we are beautifully different, and I won't mind if you join the dance.  I might even go with you, every now and again, but only for a short time, because it's not where I belong.  And if you ever need to rest, if only for a short time, by all means, feel free to come sit with me in safety, for a while.

*I almost wrote "scary-looking man", but realized that's pretty much implied by "man I don't recognize", so I doubt that objectively he was any more threatening than anyone else.

Monday, August 28, 2017


I think I might need to just accept that I have issues with agoraphobia.  Specifically, the kind that triggers on being in a crowded space, whether or not the space in question is especially 'open' or not.  (Though I do notice, with a true "wide open space" like a parking lot, even an empty one, I compulsively check behind myself a lot.)

I write about this now, because I gave myself another panic attack this weekend.  I made a commitment (and even re-confirmed it) which set me up to not feel able to leave, in a space that got way too crowded.  I even tried to make the space feel less crowded by adding more tables and seats, but those filled up too.  So I retreated to a smaller area, which also got crowded and hectic, and then I started feeling dizzy and short of breath, and had to go outside and sit in the woods until it passed.  I did go back in and try to help a little to finish up, but after going home, I spent the rest of the day feeling too exhausted to even sit around playing video games, and barely found energy to make myself something for dinner.

If I'm honest, I've always had an aversion to crowds; I've never really been up for sporting events or fairs or that sort of thing.  (The fair always sounds like fun, but if I go, the crowd always gets to me.) Even shopping is only really enjoyable if I go when the stores aren't very busy.  And I think two is the perfect number for a social engagement; the larger the number, the more I end up staying in my shell for the most part.
It's only been this problematic with real panic attacks recently, though; I'm guessing it's because now I have grief overlaid onto it.

Last night while I was trying to work up the notion to get up out of the recliner and get ready for bed, I watched some funny dog videos on my tablet, that came up on Facebook.  It made me laugh harder than it had any right to, and somewhere in the middle of it, the giggles turned into a huge wailing sobbing fit of grief that caught me completely by surprise, and left me wondering, "Where did that come from?"  It made me feel about half crazy.

I don't know, maybe I am.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


How silly of me
to have imagined
I belonged someplace

The only place
I have ever felt
I truly belonged
was with my Joanne

but now
she is

Sunday, July 9, 2017


"Why are people so awful to each other?"

It's the question I end up asking myself, recently, when I habitually click the "Facebook" link I have bookmarked on my toolbar.  It seems especially bad recently; it feels like every time I go there, there's just nothing but negativity, although it may be that it is the same as always and I am especially sensitive recently instead.
I'm feeling pretty withdrawn right now, especially from social media, but probably also in general; I didn't go to church this morning, or go out at all today, like I had imagined I might.

My friend Jill stopped by briefly on Friday to bring me a birthday gift; she gave me a copy of the book "Earth Angels Realms" by Doreen Virtue.  It was an interesting read, and I feel like it gave me a lot to contemplate.  I don't really have enough delusions of grandeur to call myself an "Incarnated Angel," but the book's description of one does seem to fit me to a "t", from the conflict-avoidance tendencies and sometimes-unhealthy "need to be needed", right down to my relationship with food and even the tinnitus (ringing in ears).
I found it interesting enough that I have a second book by the same author on the way; I've always imagined that wisdom is where you find it, and though I don't imagine I am anything as special as all that, I figure that if she can describe me that well, there might be some advice I would find useful.

It feels like I have a lot more thinking to do about this.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Avoidance is the Best Escape

...Escape is the best Survival, Survival is the best Victory.

Monday and yesterday were definitely better days at work.  I am still exhausted and it is going to take an act of willpower to go show up for this last one, but I can do it, and I know now that it will be a good day too.
Today is the full Flower Moon but I think I am going to put off going to the columbarium until tomorrow so I can be better rested and hopefully feeling more spiritual.

Being able to compare the three days last week to the three days this one, I realize that I actually love my job most of the time, despite the sometimes-grueling hours.  Unfortunately, about 15% of the time, I have to deal with this one 'person' who is a psychic vampire (those who don't believe in the concept of a spiritual assault would probably say "narcissistic sociopath") among the hundreds of good people I work with.
I'm realizing that whether it is a "good" day at work depends almost completely on whether he's working in my office that day.
My problem is, I'm an empath and I don't know how to wall off from somebody like this. I've tried, the past few times I've been around him, but he seems to get past the shield pretty quickly. He's had a lot more experience being a psychic predator than I've had trying to defend against one.

The thought crossed my mind that it's a shame my self-defense classes don't teach how to deal with psychic assaults, what the "Pre-Attack Indicators" are for somebody who plans to eat your soul.
Then I realize, they kind of do, at least in the title mantra. I don't need a pre-attack indicator, at least not anymore; I already know what he is. If I knew someone was a mugger, or a rapist, or a serial killer, my Plan 'A' would be to stay far, far away from them. I just need to keep him away from me.

So, I've put in paid-time-off requests for every single day he would have been scheduled to work with me. As far as my spiritual health goes, it is probably the single best use of my vacation time that I've ever thought of.
In the past I've let myself think, "well if I do that, then other people will have to deal with him", but you know what, I just have to protect me, and let them decide how to protect themselves.

I don't have the luxury of being the hero if I'm the most delicious thing on the menu.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


It's been a while since I wrote in here.  I should make a point of doing it more often, I think it is good for me.

So, I made it past the one-year mark of Jo's passing.  I think I'd be lying if I said it was easy.  I probably made it look easy though, I am good at making it look like I have it all together.  And in fairness to myself, I expect I'm a lot closer to having it back together than I was at this time last year.

I keep thinking about how my church's pastor went on a sabbatical--an actual one, traveling to various places for a spiritual healing journey--during the first quarter of this year, and specifically, the effect it seemed like it had on her.  I hadn't noticed how weary and broken her energy felt, until she came back and seemed like a different person.  Her energy was brighter, her outlook was positive, she was glowing in a way I hadn't seen before.  Honestly, it took a moment or two to recognize her, the difference was so great.  It was a change that I don't believe she could have created in herself, if she had tried to do it without stepping away from her day-to-day "grind."  She had to get herself away from the millstone that was wearing her down, so she could build herself back up.

It makes me wonder if such a thing would be good for me as well.  It's been over a year since Joanne passed now, and with the exception of starting a new interest, very little has changed--everything is basically still right where she left it.  Including me.
It is going to take a lot of energy to really rise from the ashes, and it is energy I'm never going to have as long as the millstone is relentlessly grinding away.

The thing is, she's left me in the place where I could be okay stepping away from daily obligations for a few months, with what I inherited from her.  I let myself worry about what would happen with my health insurance if I spent a few months unemployed, but I expect I could figure the logistics of that out.
More importantly, I would want it to be a 'real' sabbatical, like the one my pastor took.  I would need to figure out what it is I think I would need to be revivified, and then I would need to step away from the normal grind--all of it--and put all the energy I have left into doing that, so it can all come back to me magnified.
What I wouldn't want is to get to the end of the time I had, and look back and see that all I did was waste three months messing around on Facebook and that still nothing had changed, and I used the reserves Joanne left me for no benefit.  It was probably one of the most important things she did to abstain from social media of any sort during her sabbatical.

Right now it's just one of those things that I'm letting my mind play with.  To the extent that there's a process, I'm at the point of trying to figure out what it might be that I would need.  There's no point in doing it unless I know what "it" is.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

No More Ladies

I'm lamenting, this morning, the loss of decorum in our country. I get the concept of "reclaiming" words to somehow claim their power for ourselves, but I think the execution is off, especially recently.

My wife was a strong woman, and didn't let society tell her who she could and couldn't be--she told me of getting punished by her mother, when she was told she needed to get used to doing laundry so she could be a 'good wife' someday, for replying, "I'm going to *have* a wife someday, and then she can do the laundry." She was in the first class of women to be admitted to (and to graduate from) the US Air Force Academy, and then became a pilot in the Strategic Air Command. She didn't accept not being able to do something just because she was a woman.
What made her the most beautiful person I have ever known, though, was that even with her strength, even with all the boundaries she pushed, even as her body let her down and deteriorated, she never stopped being a lady. In the Air Force, despite being around salty language all the time, she made a point to never use that language. She talked about always wearing perfume when she was in her flight suit, so she could feel ladylike even in such a masculine-looking garment. I only heard her curse once, and it was when she was coming to my defense, on the phone with the con artist that stole my house in Missouri. She had a stoic grace about her that I can only hope to live up to someday.

And she would say to me often, as she would shake her head at the latest thing on the television, that there were "no such thing as ladies anymore;" that young women seemed not to even want to be ladylike, as if retaining their dignity and decorum was a negative thing somehow. As if being a 'lady' somehow made you weak, even though she was living proof that it didn't.

I understand that people are meaning well, but I can't bring myself to call myself a "nasty woman," and pretend it's a compliment and not an insult. Nor do I want to start using the 'P-word,' even referring to pink hats, just because a public figure was crude enough to be caught using the word on a "hot mic." I even lost interest in a group at my church when it was suggested we call ourselves "Women Getting [Excrement] Done." Sorry, but I don't really want to do [excrement]--I mean, I suppose we all do it, and I expect I could change a diaper if I needed to, but it feels like an odd thing to want to announce to the world. I guess I just don't know how we can continue to "co-opt" the things we find offensive, without becoming something offensive ourselves.
I know I am nowhere near as ladylike as my Joanne was--I can definitely be a bit more free with the salty language, sometimes--but it is what I aspire to. Even if it would make me an obsolete relic of times gone by.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

On the Fence

Carrying on from yesterday's writing (which I added here just a moment ago).

I do want to make it more clear that the "Sledgehammer Guy," himself, should not be seen as doing anything noble.  He's not going to be the person who does any of the work to fix anything, all he is going to do is wreck it.  You don't thank the drunk driver who totalled your beat-up old car, even if you were fortunately not injured in the crash, and even if the replacement car you had to buy is nicer and gets better gas mileage.

Nor do the drunk driver's actions become more excusable with the assertion that "things were already broken."  Let's be honest, there's two different kinds of broken: the crack-in-the-windshield, busted-tail-light, dented-bumper kind, and the crumpled-mess-of-metal-that-makes-you-say-"Oh My God" kind.  And enduring the change from the first kind to the second kind is never a happy occasion.
Yes, things were broken already.  But we are moving from "broken" as in, chipped, cracked, flawed, and leaking; to "broken" as in, thousands of shards all over the floor, which will cut our hands as we pick them all up, and will cut our feet if we miss any, which we inevitably will.

Yesterday, I wrote about my hope for the blessing that could come from these recent events.  For every hope, though, there is a corresponding fear.  For me, now, that fear is that once things are openly and indubitably broken, instead of coming together in the middle and starting the work to rebuild things even better than they were, we are just going to have a huge fight about whose fault the brokenness is.  It will be the natural impulse, it will be what feels good at the time, and it will be an unnecessary, ridiculous, and bloody wrestling match on top of the broken shards that we will each blame the other for, and that nobody will clean up even though now everyone is being equally cut.

Sadly, I worry I see signs of this bloody wrestling match already.  The current attitude is definitely not one of working together to rebuild.  The current attitude is, "You did this to us, so now let's see how you like it."  Hopefully, this will change as cooler heads prevail, though I fear it won't.

The key will be to start resisting the emotional pull to combat extreme viewpoints with equally-and-oppositely extreme viewpoints, and to move toward moderation instead.  This will be difficult, because historically, the only group vilified more than extreme liberals or extreme conservatives are the moderates, who want to live in the space in the middle.  They "ride the fence."  They "play both sides." They're "not with us, so they're against us." They just "tell both 'sides' what they want to hear." They're "neither hot nor cold, so I will spew them from my mouth."*
Even with dogs--two dogs can bark at each other from either side of a fence all day; but have a squirrel run across the top of the fence, and suddenly the dogs are in perfect agreement that the squirrel is the Bad Guy.

But here's what I think:  That thing in the middle, that divides us?  It's not a fence.  That's the road.  The two "sides" that we have divided ourselves off into?  Those are called ditches.  Make no mistake, right now we are all off in the ditches.
And you know, honestly, it can actually be a pretty wide road.  There can be a left lane, for people who like to apply the gas more liberally, and there can be a right lane, for those who drive more conservatively, and several more lanes in between so there's room for everybody.
I do know this:  Until we stop arguing about whether the Left Ditch or the Right Ditch is the best one to be off into, and until we straighten out the massive pile-up and get ourselves back up on the road where we belong, none of us are ever going to get anywhere.

*:  For those who get the reference, this last one shows just how far back anti-moderate sentiment goes.

The Emperor's New Clothes?

{This was originally posted on my Facebook account; it got a bit longer than I expected and probably would have been better here on my blog, so I am going to archive it here as well.}

Inspired by a conversation I had today, in which I said that the next +/- 4 years are going to be a "giant exercise in 'reductio ad absurdum.'"

Have you ever had something that was broken, if you were honest about it, but it still kind of worked, and so you just put up with it and fussed with it and 'made it work,' because you didn't want to go through the hassle of having to get it fixed or find a new one?
And then once the thing finally broke the rest of the way, and you had no choice but to repair or replace it, didn't you think, "Wow, I should have done that a long time ago, it's so much easier to use one that works"?

So here's what I'm getting at. I freely admit that I've disagreed with nearly everything our new president has done so far. But there may be a blessing here, and if so, it is this: Things were broken before the election. The income gap has been out of control for years. Large swaths of our population are treated as guilty until proven innocent. Healthcare is still inaccessible for many.

But, things weren't broken enough for the majority to stop putting up with it and finally fix it.
Until now. Instead of patching yet another chip in the windshield, the first thing This Guy does is run up and put a sledgehammer through it, Macintosh-1984-commercial style. All the brokenness that already existed is now being put on unabashed, unapologetic display for the entire world to see. And it's bloody embarrassing, as a country, to know that now the world can see how bad we let it get, just because we didn't want to have to try to fix it.

My hope is that the protests and the record numbers of calls to Congress that we are seeing now are the signs that finally, the majority can't even pretend it still works anymore, and they're finally starting to demand a repair or a replacement.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


I think I'm starting to find that the road to Hell really is paved with good intentions.

At least, to the extent that the good intentions are the expectations I have about what I think I would like to get done and what I ought to be able to do, and that the Hell in question is the guilt and self-loathing that comes from falling short of that.

I'm in the midst of a week off from work right now.  I went into it thinking that this would finally be the chance to spend the whole week whipping the house into shape and getting some momentum going; I was going to get the Kitchen straightened up and finally start doing some real cooking for myself again, I was going to start going through some stuff that had piled up, catch up on the laundry, take the dog for walks all week, and it was going to make me feel accomplished and good about myself.

And then, as the week goes on, I find myself dialing back, and dialing back.  "You know, it's pretty cold outside, and I did take Bodie for a walk yesterday, so maybe I don't need to do it today."  It's Wednesday afternoon now, and I still haven't gotten the Kitchen in order, let alone gotten recipes and shopping lists together, gotten to the store, and done the "real cooking" I had in mind.  I did finally run the dishwasher, and I'm finally doing a load of laundry; it's done in the washer and I should be hopping up to go put it in the dryer, but that hasn't happened yet.  If I'm honest with myself, what I'd really like is to go to bed and take a nap this afternoon.  But, I probably won't let myself do that.

I know it's all related to grief, especially since there are certain things I do seem to have energy for.  I always seem to manage just fine at work, and to get myself there and back.  Church stuff doesn't seem as draining as things at home do, either (which instead of accepting as a positive, the Hell of self-loathing twists around into "being fake at Church").  And the new hobby I started a couple of months ago seems to energize me as well.
But in general... I don't think I really knew what tired felt like, before this year.

I know I just need to go easy on myself.  Instead of being disappointed in myself that I'm not baking bread, I ought to feel good that today I worked up the notion to do some laundry.
But it's easier to say I should go easy on myself, than it is to actually do it.  I've always had high expectations for myself.

This is different, though.  This isn't something I can fix, it's not something that gets better and goes back the way it was.  C.S. Lewis used the analogy of an amputation; I often think it's a useful one.  And if I had lost a leg, it'd be silly to be mad at myself for not being able to get right back to life as usual.
I would have to take time--probably longer than I would think it should take--to let things heal.
Then would be the slow process of learning to get about on only one leg--and you know, I bet I'd fall a few times while I was figuring it out; and I bet I wouldn't always want to hop right back up to try again, I bet sometimes instead I would just sit and feel sorry for myself for a while.
Finally at the end, once I was all used to it, and I could get around on one leg without really focusing on it that much... Even then, I bet I still wouldn't think it was the same as back when I had both legs, but at least I would finally know how to live with it.

So, yeah.  If I'm having too much trouble carrying on without the part of me that's missing, then maybe I need to imagine the wound hasn't healed enough yet, and maybe rest really is what I need.  Or, maybe I just need to accept that I'm going to be falling down a lot in the coming months or years, as I try to do things that feel like they should be easy, but aren't anymore.  Maybe I even need to give myself permission to just sit and feel sorry for myself for a while, every once and again.
One thing I do know--I am not yet anywhere near that part at the end where I am all used to it, and can just go along without focusing on it that much.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Third Eye

I think maybe I will take a moment to apologize and try to explain to my friends, if I seem uncomfortably dark at times. The thing is, I've been having some vivid and disturbing premonitions, for at least the past year. They're hard to describe, like little flashes of things. I get why people call it "the third eye" now, though... it's like actually seeing things right in front of me, except I can tell I'm not seeing them with my actual eyes, I'm seeing them with... something else.

I knew well before April that Donald J. Trump would be our next president; I know it was that far back because I remember having conversations with Joanne about it (she didn't believe me, or at least, didn't want to believe me). But I knew it, because I had seen it, in little flashes.

Later in the year (maybe around June?) I started seeing flashes of my own death by violence. It was giving me serious anxiety issues, but I made myself imagine it was just some sort of side-effect from grief--until November 8th. Election day was a very creepy string of déjà-vu moments; and to me, it validated all the 'little flashes,' the premonitions, not just the ones about the election.

Maybe that's why I got myself so drunk that night: While everyone else was struggling with, "how could this happen," I was dealing not only with, "I didn't want to be right about this, I didn't want it to be real," but also, "I can't believe this means I'm really going to get shot to death soon."

Most disturbingly, in the past few weeks there have been a few premonitions that feel like there will be a war. Buildings, unfamiliar ones, damaged or burned. Seeing-but-not-really-seeing fighter planes or bombers in the air. Soldiers, in what feels like downtown Seattle. It's all too vague and blurry so far but it feels really bad.

There are smaller ones too; today I was out with a friend and the 'third eye' started insistently and repeatedly showing me split-second "flashes" of blood splattering across my glasses. I suspect she must have been getting really irritated with me being all paranoid about her safety. Then it stopped and it felt like that wasn't going to happen after all, and I think we both had a better time after that.

Does that mean I changed or prevented something bad that could have happened? I read things that say the third eye shows you "what might be," or potential outcomes. I hope that's true. I've focused hard on self-protection stuff recently, and I feel like it may have changed the visions that are about my death too; while I still see myself being killed, it no longer feels like it will be for nothing, it feels like maybe I will be protecting people.

Oh....or actually... do I still die? I see, pulling my hand away from my own chest and seeing it covered with blood. Am I dying? Or just wounded? There are other people here; in recent premonitions, like this one, they aren't dead anymore, I feel their grief and worry, but also a sense of relief. Even seeing it, it's so hard to really, really know anything, from such a brief flash.

The funny thing is, I was never much of a Seer before. I would try to read Tarot cards and such, but never really felt like anything all that magical was happening. I thought I wanted to be able to do it; I was envious of Joanne and how she always seemed to 'just know things.' Now it feels like I suddenly have it--like my "third eye" has suddenly opened--and I'm really starting to wish I knew how to turn it back off.

Besides, why does it have to be all horrible scary stuff? Why can't it be, like, winning lottery numbers or something?