Tag Archives: spoons

One Sided

Ten years ago I joined a club.

You don’t have to say anything about it. It is something I have (mostly) come to terms with. I only bring it up to give a little context.

I have a father out there in Meat World somewhere. I differentiate for a reason, and no, I Don’t Want to Talk About It. We have met twice ever. Once I stayed with him, my former step-mother and two half brothers for a few weeks. Over the twenty years since then we have had few enough phone conversations, emails, and letters that I can count them on my fingers. I don’t need all of them. At least one hand’s worth are those initiated by me. Every now and again he would pop up in my life and make some n00bish attempt at contact with me. It never lasted.

Somewhere along the line I decided that I am worth more than a one-sided relationship. I don’t have the spoons or the emotional strength to give to something that is that unstable. I recently wrote him, laying out the terms I required of him if he wished to have any more contact with me or my family, and that if they were acceptable that he would write to me right away.

I wrote that letter a year and a half ago before we moved from Hawai’i.

I probably don’t have to say that I didn’t receive a reply.

It pained me for a while, until I realized why I made that decision.

I bring him up to make a point.

Because I need to focus my spoons on relationships that give as much as they take. I need to make sure that the relationships that I am working at putting my valuable spoons into are giving back to me. I deserve to be valued as much as I value. I deserve to know that the person whom I am spending my precious spoons on gives a fuck that those spoons have value and that a gesture like a phone call, email, mailed letter or card are not just something that I do offhandedly. Those gestures take time and physical resources on my part.

And I deserve to be a part of a relationship where the other party recognizes that, and can be arsed to give a little of that back.

Sure, I am not always the best at correspondence, but email, Facebook, and a few other electronic mediums have given me back a bit of that. I have managed to make contact with people that I love and care about, I have managed to forge new friendships, rekindle old ones, and build bonds that I need. And those people, who care anything about me have shown me that they can do the same. Those who don’t use these mediums call or write, and I feel appreciated or loved. I feel as if my spoons matter. I have even managed to connect with a sister that I didn’t know until recently, and it has meant something that I can’t describe. That is saying something for someone who works as a freelance writer, and who talks as a nervous habit.

I have made the conscious decision to conserve my spoons by moving past relationships that are one sided, and trying to recognize when I need to leave ones that I have grown out of, even if the other parties don’t recognize it, or won’t say so to me. By choosing not to spend my life resource on something that isn’t symbiotic, so to speak. I need to know that I am appreciated, and that my time and energy is acknowledged. I need the people who claim to care about me to acknowledge that my resources are limited, and that my energy is precious to me and my family. That a phone call, letter, card, email, or other means of my reaching out isn’t just a fun thing, but a tap on my limitations.

To some it might sound selfish.

But maybe, just maybe, it is time that I include a little selfishness just for me so that I can save those resources for the people that can be arsed to say “I acknowledge and appreciate you”.

We all deserve that.


By 23 December, 2009.    introspective, life changes  ,  

Why can’t disorder be beautiful?

The mess in my apartment never goes away. We get this room clean, and that room clean, and the other, but rarely all at the same time. Even when we push to get everything in order, there is always something neglected — usually my mess in the second bedroom where I keep all my art supplies, strewn about, which I always promise to myself to organize but never get around to doing.

I’ll organize this, and organize that, and it will help me keep my life together for a time — organizing my closet or my deskspace or the living room — but as soon as a stressful time comes, and they come with regularity, the organization goes out the window — I throw my clothes on the floor and never pick them up, food kept on my desk with nail polish and sewing thread and sticky notes — it’s always the concept of, do what is necessary now and put everything in place later, when you’ve returned to “normal” energy state and can handle it.

But life seems to move at a faster pace than my body can keep up with. Maybe could keep up if I had a normal amount of energy, then I’d have the space and drive to get that make-up work done regularly, if I still weren’t able to just maintain everything as I went along (that being the idealized perfect state to which we aspire, right?). Maybe if I had the energy that I have when I’m at my best — but all the time — things would be great. And when I’m at my best energy level, I feel like I could continue things like that, if only I did this and changed that and kept things this way. And I try those things as they come to me, I am constantly reorganizing my entire life, never stop fine-tuning, trying to make things more efficient. But it’s never enough, I just don’t have enough in me to keep up with it all.

So maybe we get the junk off the floor and vacuum and swiffer everything, and tidy up around the edges of things, but there’s still that mess within those edges, still always something just sitting in a jumbled pile that I’m supposed to get to later. No matter how well I am — and even with an able-bodied husband doing more than his share of the work — we never get it all.

I have trouble thinking when I can see clutter. What it is about it, I don’t know, surely some gender considerations there, my insecurity about my disability always looming, and my personal idiosyncracies. But when there is visual clutter, my brain locks up and it is so much harder to process very basic things. And if only it were as easy as getting up and taking care of the clutter, then the energy I would be using on thought processing goes to the physical labor of cleaning, and I’m back to blank square one anyway, and a day later the clutter is back again.

And that’s the cycle I find myself in.

One day, a couple months ago, I sat in this chair trying to comprehend what I was reading, with a mess on the floor in my peripheral vision, and I spun around and thought to myself, why can’t this be beautiful?

This mess, this disorder, everything that comes with a life well-lived? The clothing on the floor, the half-filled mug of tea, the unmade bed, the shoes in the entryway, papers scattered about? Why do I feel like it weighs me down? Why can’t it be like the wrinkles and mottled skin and greying hair acquired with age: a reminder of everything you’ve done to earn them, a window into the life you’ve lived to get them?

Why can’t it be an indicator of richness? Why can’t it be something positive?

That one moment, I felt it deep inside. And it hasn’t come back. I just can’t look around and not feel weighed down by everything being so disordered, feel it reflects poorly on me, look at it and see nothing more than “something I should be doing but can’t do.” Something that is my responsibility, but I haven’t the capability. That is what pulls at me when I look at my mess, my beautiful mess. All I can see is everything I can’t do, while simultaneously feeling, in the back of my head, that I can do it but choose not to and that I am just of poor character, lazy, unmotivated, irresponsible, inconsiderate, slothful and selfish…

Maybe my physical mess, then, is a manifestation of my mental mess.

I just want to know. Why can’t I be beautiful too? If this is all I can do? Why do I feel lesser than the middle class folks who have these lovely tidy homes, not perfect and still full of personality, but tidy? They get to be beautiful, they get to be responsible and considerate. Why can’t I be too, if this is all I can do?

What will it take for me to look at that mess again, and see something grand? Will I ever see it again?

Second Shift for the Sick

(Originally posted November 2008 at three rivers fog.)

I had always meant to expand upon this topic, but never found the right words for it, succinct and meaningful. But, well, that’s not exactly my style either.

My job situation is still shitty, and I’m currently part-timing at a retail pharmacy as a cashier. (Sample day: Mid-20s white guy “discretely” [read:blatantly] takes a picture of me on his cell phone as I am kneeling down assembling a battery display; someone shits in the toilet paper aisle [seriously! a person! took the time to unbutton their pants and all!]; I set alarm off while fetching pushcart from back room.) “The injustices of retail,” I said to my coworker, as I nursed the scratch on my finger from pushing that toothpick in a little too hard.

But honestly, I still do, and always have, appreciated working with the public. It’s the kind of thing that reeks a little too much of bullshit to say in an interview (“Really! I love when people show visible surprise at the revelation that I can do third-grade math!”) but, well, it’s true. I like people. I am, fundamentally, the kind of person who likes spending time with people (though my severe social anxiety always masked it). I’m not a butterfly by any means — good God, I can’t stand parties, pubs, or the mall at Christmastime, and I always need time to recharge after any extended social time — but I do enjoy interacting with a variety of different people, and there are days I go home smiling because of it.

Today I met a man named Robert. He stopped by to ask how long a sale price on a can of Folgers was supposed to last, and we ended up chatting for a good ten or fifteen minutes — the line piled up behind me, but I didn’t give a damn. Robert was in a wheelchair, for whatever reason, and was there to pick up his medication, whatever it was. He got his “paycheck” on the third of every month, and only the third (read “paycheck,” there, as Social Security disability check) but right now he was fighting with Verizon, who apparently shorted him half a hundred dollars worth of minutes on his phone, and he was going back-and-forth with them to get the situation righted, and anyway he wouldn’t be able to come back for his coffee til then. I was nodding and exclaiming the whole time as he was describing how much fighting he had to do — to get his transportation to the doctor, to work, to the grocery store; to get his medicine filled correctly and on time; to keep his welfare benefits flowing smoothly (there is apparently a very common mistake that gets made on his account every couple months, and he then has to make a dozen calls here and there to get things patched up, and then a few weeks later some new worker makes the same mistake again, and…) etc. etc. etc.

God did I identify, and I didn’t have to deal with the half of what he did. The fatigue and the worry and the energy and the stress and the wasted time — and when I related as much to him (having by this point unfolded my stool and sat down over the counter) he laughed it off — “Oh hell, I’m used to it by now — doesn’t bother me.”

I hope I never get to that point. No one should ever have to get to that fucking point. No one should ever have to spend half their waking hours, no fucking exaggeration, correcting other people’s mistakes just to keep the basic necessities of life covered — and then getting attitude from those same people for being a pain in the ass to deal with.

This is a serious time sink for the ill and disabled. It is time that could be spend — you know, maybe working? bootstraps and all — could be spent writing, could be spent playing board games, or taking a bath, or spending time with loved ones, or going out to eat — or any number of other things that are totally productive, constructive, positive things to do — which, to varying effect, do make contribution to wider society.

And it’s a lot of time. This is why I call it the second shift: much like the second shift of professional women, who arrive home from work to do the domestic work their husbands do not do: this is a disproportionately larger share of time spent fighting, always fighting, pushing determinedly (or tiredly) through near-constant resistance.

Resistance — truly the best word for it — it is as though “normal,” “healthy” folk are able to move throughout the world uninhibited, like pushing your hand into thin air — but sick people, disabled people must move through a world which is set up to prohibit their full participation — like pushing your hand into a thick heavy bog.

That is privilege. The ability to swim through your sea with nary a care, completely obliviously unaware of the freedom of movement you are so fortunate to have, while the rest of us have sand bags tied to our limbs, anchors roped round our waists, our feet set in cement blocks… and to look back at us and ask, “What’s taking you so long?”

It’s exhausting. I cannot convey in words how exhausting the fight is. Always on the defensive, always saddled with the knowledge that your basic needs require a struggle, while everyone else’s basic needs are pretty much a given so long as they put in at least a half-assed drop of effort. It’s not even just time spent, it’s energy.

Look at it this way. How do you build muscle? You subject your muscles to resistance, just enough to create thousands of tiny little tears in your tissue, which your body then, with rest and nutrition, repairs — which leaves you stronger.

But this does not mean that all resistance therefore makes you stronger. Because the more you pile on, the more tiny little tears you make. And the less time you have to rest, to eat and drink well, to tend to your bodily health, the less of those tiny little tears get repaired. And you find yourself, now, with millions of tiny little tears, and not enough time or fortitude to repair even only the thousands you had before this overload.

Which means you don’t get stronger. You get weaker.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” What unadulterated bullshit. And it has the bonus effect of implying that those who do not feel stronger after a difficult incident, those who feel fatigued and despondent, those who see themselves as in a worse place than they were when they started — it implies that those people are choosing their fate. It implies that those people get something out of their misery.

Say, all you sick people out there: does any of this sound familiar?

Robert and I wrapped up our chat — turns out he lived in Anaheim for awhile, and also attended Cal State Fullerton; what a small world! — and I moved on to the next customer, affecting the smile and the sing-song customer service voice. Hi! Do you have your [Pharmacy Name] card with you today?

But it was nice, if only for a moment, to connect with someone. To, prompted by the unspoken invitation of a new friend, reach down into myself, and connect with the real person deep inside.

Maybe our struggles make us stronger; maybe they make us weaker. It doesn’t matter. We work with the tools we are given, and we still make something whole and beautiful, something worthy, something satisfying. Why do we have to come out of every fight bigger and “better”? Why can’t we be broken and hurt? Why can’t we cry, why can’t we curse, why can’t we be angry and disappointed and let down sometimes?

Right — because we wouldn’t want to make the rest of you face up to the damage you do to our lives. We wouldn’t want to “burden” you, wouldn’t want you to have to do anything to maybe reduce a little bit the fighting we have to do to live our lives. We wouldn’t want to make you have to think about how your actions and attitudes affect other people — wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.

When we are allowed to be angry, to be sad, to be bitter and disappointed, we are allowed to be human. When we are denied these emotions, we are denied our humanity. We are denied the full range of human experience.

It is fundamentally unfair — to weigh a person down disproportionately — to pile more and more shit atop their back — and then to grow indignant when that person lets out a sigh under the pressure — much less looks straight at you and lets rest the responsibility where it belongs. But this is how we treat each other — immigrants, queer folk, the disabled, those of color, the poor and disadvantaged — because we are fundamentally uncomfortable owning up to our own power.

Life would be so much better if we realized how much power we all have over each other — and how much power everyone else has over us — our interdependency. It is the concept out of which disability grows. And life would be so much better if we could look at this fact and see, not






Stop and think: invisible access for invisible disabilities

[This post was originally posted at Hoyden About Town on May 4, 2007.]

This is my first personal post about being sick. A “coming-out”, to some of my online friends. And a whole lot of elaboration, for those who know I’m sick, but don’t know the details. It’s taken me ages to write, and I haven’t re-drafted it: here are my musings, in the raw.

Becoming Sick

I have moderately severe chronic fatigue syndrome, or something that looks very much like it. I first got sick two and a half years ago, quite suddenly. After a few months of feeling just a bit off, not bouncing back with my self-prescribed generic good-food-and-fun-and-exercise cure for tiredness, I suddenly crashed. Over the course of about two weeks, I crashed hard. I became unable to work, and daily living was full of what suddenly seemed to be insurmountable obstacles. I dropped things, felt off balance, walked into things, had large-muscle twitches, thermoregulation problems, I was suddenly blanketed in pain. My short-term memory came and went and I couldn’t concentrate on more than one thing at once, a huge change in cognitive function for me. Most noticeably, activity didn’t pick me up like it always had in the past. Before, if I felt a little off I could go for a bike ride or a swim or a choir rehearsal or a night out dancing, and feel invigorated by it. After, I’d walk a couple of blocks then flump down absolutely exhausted. This was the first time I’d ever felt like this, and it didn’t make any sense!Read more: Stop and think: invisible access for invisible disabilities