I’m alive

Surgery went well. I’m home and started on my 7-10 day recovery. I’m very, very sleepy right now, so I’m going to go rest. I’m lucky that I’m married to a nurse. I’ve no idea how I’d of changed that dressing a few minutes ago without screwing it up and getting blood all over.

On another note.

I realize that most of the posts I have made here have been of the rant nature. I guess I could use introspection to think that maybe I’ve been kind of negative lately. Maybe I’ll explore that later. This morning am feeling pretty good, and I don’t want to drag myself down.

I’ve actually managed to get adequate sleep the last couple of nights. I think part of that is actually being home, sleeping in my own bed, and actually being able to spend some time with my wife. It seems that the doctors and therapists may be right; getting enough sleep can actually lead to some relief of depression. Who would’ve thought?

My wife is just finished up her first full week working in the pediatric ICU. I know I’ve made mention of her before, but I can’t express how deeply proud I am to be with such an intelligent, caring and beautiful person. She is by far, one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. There are no words for how much I truly admire her. She’s at work right now as I write this, and I have a lot to do today. She will be my thoughts though.

I’ll only be working for days this week, having surgery on Friday, then spending the following week recovering. I suppose I should be more nervous, but I’m not. The only thing that I’m really not looking forward to is the intense pain in the back of my throat and having to live off of popsicles for the better part of a week. Oh well, maybe a lose a few pounds in the process. 🙂

Sports?

It seems that everywhere I go in this country, and especially where I live, that sports is more than a mild obsession, usually centered around football. I’ve gone to live sporting events and the energy of the crowd is admittedly, infectious. Aside from that, I just don’t see the draw. This is one of those things that I’m not sure if I’m really off about. I guess that I would be since I’m clearly in the minority. I see clients and they immediately want to take the conversation that direction, almost as a greeting. That’s usually followed by a somewhat slightly opened jaw stare when I say that I don’t follow sports.

The part that I have trouble wrapping my head around is the emotional investment. The financial bit also puzzles me, but likely in the same way that the cost of my camera gear baffles others given that I don’t shoot for a living.

I write this as there’s a basketball game blasting in the background where I’m at. I’m glad that I’ll be moving along soon. The volume is deafening.

Sorry that it seems like my posts are mostly negative of late. That’s not my intent. It’s just been kind of a rough few days.

Insomnia, migraines and in-flight sickness: A great way to start a week!

So here it is, midnight in a hotel just outside of Pittsburgh and for the third night in a row, I can’t sleep. It’s not that annoying roll over, sleep for a little bit and wake up a lot type of insomnia, but the type where your eyes have long since become irritable and burn.

Laying here in the dark staring into nothing, it’s odd the places your mind wanders to. As a guy, the whole thinking about se thing every 7 seconds is a myth. I’m thinking it’s more accurate to say every few minutes, likely because a good romp would in fact help me sleep. No, self-service doesn’t have the same effect if that’s what you’re thinking. In between those thoughts come the other thoughts, like wondering which series on netflix would be worth binge-watching until I maybe fall asleep. Probably something I’ve seen before so I don’t get sucked into the series thereby dooming any chance of sleep.

Other thoughts include wondering of there’s a way to tame my increasing amount of gray hairs which seem to be at the front of my hairline with an entirely defiantly different texture than the rest of my hair. Then I wonder how my wife is going to handle her new job. Her patient for her second day was a 7 month old baby with a trache and vent for assisted breathing, 11 separate IV drop machines going into a central line and some horrible illness I can’t pronounce, but the name sounds horrible enough for the actual condition. She had to run another IV for the baby today, and all I could think about was when she was in nursing school and she had taken some supplies from some place she was doing clinicals in to practice on me because I’m a good husband and a good sport. This practice session didn’t go well, as she got the catheter in, but didn’t get the rest of the process done in enough time for my arm to start spurting blood everywhere. I just gave a look thinking that this look was usually the one meant in jest as it was a completely inauthentic look that almost always makes her laugh, then looked down at my arm as she looked like she felt guilty and was pressing gauze on the fresh wound trying to get it to stop bleeding. It seems like just yesterday and I still chuckle when I think back to that. It was years ago, but still seems like just yesterday.

Anyway.. I’ve felt horribly depressed the last couple of days. I think this was partly by my own doing. I had missed a dose of medication 4 nights ago and had felt “odd” the next day. Physically odd, I mean. Lamictal isn’t one of those medications that you can just take a missed dose if it’s many hours later and still take the next dose at the regular time. There’s risks with that, so in my case, with the time that had passed, I just missed the dose.

Adding to that was the rather large hassle of getting here in the first place. I was on my way to the airport about 2 1/2 hours early for my flight Monday afternoon because I had reached a good stopping point at work and traffic to that particular airport sucks later in the day. I received an automated call from United telling me that my flight had been canceled, but there was no “… press 1 or stay on the line to speak to a customer service representative” message at the end of the recording. It just hung up. I get to the airport about 20 minutes before our corporate travel team ends their day, but decide to roll the dice and go to the check-in desk to see if they can do anything. Luckily there was a flight just about to leave if I booked ass through the airport, willing to shove over nuns and old ladies that might be standing on those moving walkways whist running at a pace that’s unhealthy for someone with the combination of a gut worthy of a man who owns his own keg cooler and the cardiac stamina one would expect of someone who sits around in hotel rooms at night rather than using the available exercise facilities. You know, because running hurts.

I get to the gate a few minutes before they close it for boarding, then once we are on the tarmac the pilot comes over the PA and says “Expect a rough takeoff, landing and a choppy flight because of wind and weather. Please keep seat belts on at all times during the flight.” Great.. I’m not someone that’s nervous about flying, but other people usually are, and there’s a family who clearly doesn’t believe in birth control with their small tribe of children seated in the rows in front of me, most of which appear to be under the age of 10. As expected, the takeoff had 4 of them crying from fear, then the choppy ride to the cruising altitude had 2 more crying. The flight attendant comes down and is handing out soda/pop to everyone and hands the kids some of those bags of mini pretzels which chills them out. I drink my Coke and get that tell-tale taste in the back of my mouth and the nausea that is the precursor to my migraines. I reach into my backpack and get out my nasal spray migraine medication. For anyone reading this that gets migraines that come with extreme nausea, this is good. One less thing for your stomach to churn about with. Anyway, this was a rapid onset one.

I start to feel really ill and incredibly hot. I don’t know about other people, but when I feel like that, it’s usually when I’m on the edge of puking. I don’t usually puke from migraines as I’m able to hold it in, but no, not on a plane that’s about to descend through turbulence with the captain reminding everyone over the PA that it’s very windy, so we can anticipate a potentially hard landing. About three minutes before touchdown I realize I’m not going to be able to avoid this one, so I grab one of those vomit bags that are in the back of every seat. I’ve never used one of these, nor have I witnessed one being used. They are like a thick version of a paper sandwich bag with an extra margin at the top for a stiff bread tie that extends a little past the sides so you can fold the lip down, then fold over the wire area to keep the bag relatively closed.

I don’t just vomit a little, and it’s not one of those quiet burp-played-backward sounds.. No, it’s one of those really loud retching sounds that you usually hear from freshmen at college being away from their parents the first time after their first kegger. It’s not over in one pass, either. No, I do this through the entire landing, even as we’re taxying to the gate, much to the horror of those around me. Luckily, not one of those kids was a sympathetic puker, but they wouldn’t stop staring. One of the nearby passengers asked if I was ok and I just said “bad migraine” and everyone around me seemed to let out a sigh of relief. Luckily I’m not someone who gets embarrassed in public, even when I daw a lot of attention. I used to be incredibly self-conscious, but that left when I simply stopped giving a shit about what people thought about me. Side note: a carbonated beverage right before a migraine seems to help the projectile quality of vomiting. Side note 2: those bags hold up incredibly well. I wait for others to exit the plane so that I’m the last passenger out. I’m not quite sure what the protocol is with used vomit bags, and in spite of the beautiful line work illustrations showing the rather obvious steps of proper punk-in-a-bag technique, no further instructions are given. So, I wait for the flight attendant to come up the aisle. When I held up the bag she took it from my hand and gave me a look that my ex wife used to give me leading up to, and especially during the divorce. Like I fucking planned on puking to ruin her day or something.

The migraine wasn’t going away anytime soon, so I took the second dose of the medication and ate some airport food. It was still there through the many delays for my connecting flight to Pittsburgh. I finally was checked into the hotel at around 1:00 a.m. A couple of hours of sleep later, the insomnia started in. So, here I sit in a lonely hotel room, wide awake, now hungry and waiting to see my first client at 9:00 downtown. The clients today both asked if I was ok, mentioning in a rather politically correct way that I looked like hell. At least the migraine is gone.

The search for home

I grew up in an extremely abusive home. I’d get into details, but it would serve no purpose other than to give context. The short version is that there was physical abuse, rather severe in my earlier years, constant verbal and emotional abuse, and when that didn’t seem enough, there was neglect. Malnutrition level of neglect, not for lack of food, but as a method of control. I was 6’1″ and weighed 140lb. That last part lasted consistently for 3 years.

We lived on farm land which hadn’t been actually farmed for a number of years. The fields had overgrown with grass, weeds and saplings when I was little. There were also about 18 acres of woods, which I’d go hide in when things got real bad at home. When I was a teenager I started staying out as much as possible. I was perpetually forbidden to go anywhere, but if you’re going to suffer the same level of punishment for some other failure or imaginary slight, you say ‘screw it, I’m out of here’ as often as possible. The few friends I had in school were also in abusive situations at home, so staying at their places couple expose you to some level of the same type of situation. Basically, the only downtime was in the woods.

It was made very clear that I was a mistake and that I wasn’t welcome rather frequently. My stepfather would suggest rather frequently that everyone would be better off if I were dead. Home, never felt like home at all.

I left home when I was 17. I had started working under the table at a local roofing company and found a lady who was at the time renting out rooms in her house for $150/month and was willing to let me stay there. I didn’t tell her any of the situation at home, but I didn’t need to, either. If you’ve been abused for any amount of time, you can see it in others rather easily. It’s unspoken. If they haven’t started to repeat the cycle themselves, they know the rules of how to treat each other – the things not to say, provided they have any sense of empathy after such a thing. Anyway, we saw it on each other and never spoke of it other than a passing mention without any details. I was living there, but still felt very much like an outsider. There was the guy whom had just gotten out of prison in the other room that was rented out that had a rather extensive knife and porn collection. We didn’t talk.

When I was able, I got my own apartment, got married to the girl I had dated all through high school and had a home, at least in the technical definition of what a home was. Still, I felt pretty out of place. The PTSD has really set in by that point as well. Who would have figured – I didn’t know how to not live in constant conflict. Calm actually freaked me the hell out. I didn’t create drama, but rather became very anxious all the time and paranoid, just waiting for something to happen. I saw potential everywhere for everything to come apart at the seems. It’s exhausting living like that. It was exhausting for my new wife, too. She demanded to know exactly how long it would be before I’d be ok – specifically, how many therapy sessions and how much medication it would take. We’d be divorced almost two years to the day of when we got married.

After the divorce I moved around a lot. Usually as each lease came up at each apartment, I’d move to another community. Not being the most social person, it was usually chosen based on location and cost. I always wanted to be near woods and water, if possible. In a lot of ways, I felt like a nomad. I guess I was in some sense. Either way, I never had that feeling of getting home from work or somewhere and feeling like the place I walked into was mine, if that makes any sense. It’s not about ownership, but rather about belonging; hell, maybe even deserving of having a home. Likely the latter, but I’ve not reflected on that possibility much.

So what is home, anyway? Aside from the technical definition, what is the feeling of home? Is it a sense of belonging? Is it a feeling of having your own space? Is it a sense of safety? Is it all of those things? When I was in my early 20’s I moved out to Seattle for a year. It felt like home – a lot of forest and water around.. Stunning landscapes.. Mountains. Loved it. The job there fell through, so I was back in the midwest and not too happy about it. A few years later, I moved to Boston and spent up until late 2013 there. I got remarried and I finally felt at home again, at least for the most part.

Each place I’ve lived have had some combination of the criteria for what constitutes home for me. Seattle had shelter, safety and my preferred surroundings. It didn’t have security, though. The company I worked for made it difficult to pay bills since you received your pay sometimes weeks late, and even then, you had to hold your breath until it cleared. It was never for as much as you were owed, either. So, with nobody around that I and my girlfriend at the time knew that could help if things fell apart completely, we were both on edge at all times and fought about money. Boston had pretty much everything, but things happened and we relocated back to my ‘home’ here in the midwest. I felt so out of place when moving here. I was around family and old friends and felt so like I didn’t belong. I still feel that with most.

My definition of home has changed, though. I’ve always been looking for something I couldn’t put my finger on, but I knew was missing. Then it hit me – I wasn’t looking for a specific place, or even the needs beyond shelter and relative safety in the place where I lived, it was a sense of safety. A sense of being welcome and wanted, which to some degree can be taken as being codependent, which it very well may be, but it’s not severe. I don’t need someone else to dictate how I feel. Psychologists will say that others can’t make you feel anything. As philosophically correct as that is, have someone berate and beat you regularly and see if you don’t feel something as result of someone else after awhile.

So, now, I’m starting to feel that sense of ‘home.’ Given where I live though, I am getting the nightmares back about things that happened as well as things that a psychoanalyst would likely have a heyday with interpreting. I have the sense of ‘home’ in my waking hours, at least. My nightmares pretty much all center around being helpless to protect myself, or my wife, or both. They’ve been so visceral lately.. They’ve not been that bad in over 15 years. I’ve always taken some comfort in renting because I could always just say ‘fuck it’ and move elsewhere, but now we’re looking at setting roots here.

So, now I feel like I’m actually ‘home,’ by my own definition, and I think it’s scaring the bejesus out of me.

Catching up

It’s been hard to reconnect with people that I used to be close with since moving back a little over a year ago. A lot can change in 9 years. Friends have gotten married, had children, found God, lost faith, had miscarriages, lost jobs, lost careers, started new businesses, started new jobs, gone to school, quit school, finished degrees.. I’ve certainly changed in a lot of ways since then, too.

Tonight my old roommate from almost 15 years ago stopped by. It was really good to see him. We were really good friends back then, but we’d lost touch for a number of years. It was great to hear what all he’s been up to, and that his younger brother is now married and has a child, as well as his older sister having recently been married and having a child as well. We spent a lot of time talking about anything from love to movies to politics and everything in between. There aren’t many people that I can say are on the same wavelength as me, but it’s great to talk with someone who is. 🙂

It’s strange how some people can for whatever reason disappear from our lives, then in the blink of an eye, it’s like they’ve never been gone. Looking at the place I was emotionally back then, though.. He was a good friend through some of the darkest days of my life. He even put up with me going through opiate withdrawal from a back injury while we were living together. I can only hope that with us now being reconnected that I can be a friend who’s equally good to him.

Getting older is a strange experience. It seems like since around 20, it’s all been a blur. I still feel like I’m in my early 20’s, but my body is aging anyway. Not to sound like I’m an old man or anything, but I do have many gray hairs that I didn’t once have. And ear hair. I’m not sure when ear hair started, but if it continues to grow at this rate, I’ll be giving Yoda a run for his money. Should I be feeling older in my own head? At what point does one start to feel like a responsible adult? I mean, yeah, I do all of the responsible adult stuff every day, but I don’t feel older. I’m not in denial or anything. I’m not trying to avoid harsh realities, either. I just don’t feel like I’d assume one would feel in their late 30’s. I’m thinking my old roommate is in the same boat. Maybe it’s the not having kids thing for both of us. Who knows… It was great to have some company for a few hours, though.

2015

Ah, the new year. Looking in and around WordPress, I see a lot of people use the new year is a time for reflection and to set goals for themselves for positive change in their lives. I can appreciate that. I tend to reflect far more often, probably because I have a lot of time to think well on traveling. That being said, I think that it would be funny, if someone’s New Year’s resolutions were to become grossly obese, and spiral into the pit of despair with substance abuse. You know, “this year, I think I’m going to really try to drink more.”

I only have one. I had 54.25 hours of vacation time left for 2014. With the company that I work for, if you have vacation time left at the end of the year, it just goes away. You don’t even get the option to cash it out. So, my resolution is to actually use my vacation time this year. I think my position gives you three weeks, plus about a week of personal days, then about 2 1/2 weeks of sick days. With all of the travel it’s pretty easy for people to get burned out with the job, not to mention, it’s pretty difficult to actually accomplish things where you need to actually be home for if you have to work all the time. The illness kind of come with the territory, and even though I had plenty left, I did get pretty sick on a couple of occasions from whatever I picked up in another city. People really need to not bring their plague to work with them.. I’ve been in customer sites or of almost felt the need to run out to CVS and get a facemask, latex gloves and hand sanitizer. We can always reschedule my training, for whatever reason, people feel the need to show up if I am coming in from out of town for it. There’s always plenty for me to do in every city that I go into that is work-related. If all else, I can visit existing customers to see how they are doing and to provide any additional tips and/or revisit some training areas that they could use a refresher on. Anyway, for the few people that actually read this blog, I hope you have a great year ahead. Sure, everybody faces crap throughout the year, but I hope were all able to appreciate the few gems that pop up here and there.