An Actual List of Real Mental Illness Symptoms

Jun 18 2017

I went to the doctor today.

I almost convinced myself not to go.

Again.

It’s the cycle of mental illness… Is something wrong?… Am I OK?… I’m not OK… I’m FINE… Everyone has ups and downs… This is normal… This is not even a little normal… and on and on and on.

I convinced myself to go to the doctor last night, after I spent the day with a tension headache from clenching my jaw. And clenching my back. And my shoulders and neck. Also, my legs. My heart hadn’t stopped hammering since noon — fight or flight adrenaline I was trying to turn into “freeze,” promising myself if I just stayed very still, took deep breaths, and practiced mindfulness, it would go away. I silently repeated “please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me” every time someone walked in the room, but my internal monologue and external rigor mortis failed to dissuade them. They talked and talked and talked and talked. After all, a mommy and a wife who sits on the couch playing HayDay all day like it’s her job looks like one who can be interrupted.

I didn’t look like I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t look like I was trying to crawl out of my skin. I didn’t look like someone who should be taken to the hospital, just to check — just to be sure it wasn’t something Life Threatening — the way we take our kids to the emergency room in the middle of the night in case it’s appendicitis, even though we know it’s probably gas. When they’re in pain and it doesn’t stop, we take them anyway. Sometimes I wish I treated myself as kindly as I do my kids.

I stood in the bathroom last night, counters covered in scattered makeup, old bottles of lotion, someone’s $2 bill from Christmas, a sticky goo I choose to believe is toothpaste, and kids’ permission slips we failed to sign on time. I stood in the bathroom, and I held onto the counter, and I forced myself to say to Greg, “I’m not well. I’m going to the doctor tomorrow.”

It was a Herculean effort to say the words. Not because I was embarrassed or ashamed. Not because I wanted to hide it, either. It was, physically and literally, a feat of sheer will to move the words from my head, down to my mouth, and out of it. I know that sounds crazy. But it’s like being drunk; I may be able to form cogent words in my head, but there’s no conduit to push them out my mouth. I have the Thought, but then I have to figuratively get it dressed, brush its hair, find its damn shoes which are never by the front door where they’re supposed to be, dig through its purse for the car keys, drive it to the mental hardware store, decide what type of conduit will connect the Thought to my mouth, buy that pipe which is too big to fit in the car, take it home with it hanging out the trunk, unload it, and build the connection with whatever poor supplies I have on hand before I can force that Thought — “I’m not well” — from my lips.

“I’m not well,” I said to Greg. “I’m going to the doctor tomorrow.”

“K,” he said, but he looked at me quizzically, head tilted, eyebrow raised. “Soooooo,” he said, “what kind of not well? Liiiike, physically?”

“Mentally,” I said.

And then Greg began the Usual Litany because he’s kind and he loves me. “Let me know what you need.” “I’m here for you.” “What can I do?” “How can I help?” “Do you need me to have the kids?” “I can cancel my trip tomorrow.” And, of course, because we are us, “OH! SHOOT! Did you sign that permission slip yet?” And “Crap; I think the water bill is late.” And “But, really, what do you need?” A barrage of words. Machine gun, rapid fire style.

There were no more Thoughts, though. I’d built the conduit for the one I had. It was used, and Thought Conduits when I’m sick are only good once. So I had to say, “I can’t talk anymore right now,” which looked pissy and ungrateful and guarded and unkind, but was the real truth. I was unable. I’d already used All My Words. There weren’t any more available. Just none.

I was up until 2am last night, shaking, unable to sleep, even with the sleep aid I’m prescribed. I’ve had weeks now of failing to sleep, unless I sleep outside, which calms me and allows me to sleep by midnight which is a miracle. Unfortunately, the rain here in Oregon doesn’t always cooperate with my outdoor arrangement, so I’ve been back to shaking ’til the wee hours of the morning, sometimes until the sun comes up.

Still, by the time I pulled myself from bed this morning, I wasn’t sure it was all that bad. I thought, Maybe I don’t need to go to the doctor quite yet. And, Maybe I’m just being dramatic. And, Insomnia is temporary; I’ll sleep again eventually if I just give it time. Thus began the usual game — the one I’ve played daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute, for weeks now — Which Me Do I Trust? The me in the night who promised myself I’d quit delaying to seek medical attention? Or the me in the daytime who assures myself the dark always exaggerates how bad it is? I decided this time to trust the night. Sometimes things are clearer in the dark.

The doctor couldn’t see me ’til this afternoon, so I spent the morning making a list of symptoms. I wanted to have Words when it was time. Even I could tell, when the list was done, I should’ve made the appointment long, long ago. I’m sharing it with you now, even though some of it feels Very Yucky. Maybe it will help someone else. Maybe it won’t. Either way, I choose no shame, yuckiness and all.

Here it is, a List of Real, Actual Symptoms of Mental Illness. You know, this time. Since depression symptoms always change.

  1. I have no margin right now. Zero. All human interaction makes me tense. I don’t feel worried or anxious, but I react as though every conversation may harm me. My breathing gets faster. My palms sweat. Heat runs in waves down my arms. My heart races. It doesn’t matter who the human is or what they need or how much I love them. All interaction causes my body to react in panic.
  2. Anyone walking into the room makes me tense.
  3. Phone rings? Tense, even though I know I don’t have to answer it.
  4. Greg answering the phone = tense.
  5. Greg laughing at TV shows and looking to me to see if I’m laughing too – not in the way one does when one is worried, simply wanting to share a laugh – makes me tense.
  6. Bedtime makes me tense. I shake. I’m jittery. It’s like I’m hopped up on caffeine all the time.
  7. I haven’t fallen asleep before 2am in a month. When I’m well, I fall sleep between 10:30-11:30pm. And the needle is moving further. Many nights lately it’s as late as 4am, 5am. Dawn is around 4:30 this time of year. I know from experience now.
  8. I want to spend all day in bed, but I don’t want my kids to have that as their childhood memory of their mom, so I force myself out of it at 10am, 11am, and we laugh at our family jokes about how much mom likes to sleep in. I like to sleep in; that part is true. But I’m lying to them when I pretend I like it every day.
  9. I pull out my hair, and I pick at my skin. I do it in places that aren’t noticeable the way an abuser tries to hit his victims so the bruises won’t show. I pick at the back of my head. The skin on my back. I’m scarred there, actually, from years of tearing my skin apart. I’m not embarrassed to wear a swimsuit because I’m overweight. I’m embarrassed to wear a swimsuit because my back is covered in the scars and scabs I created. I try to avoid pulling out my eyebrows, but I found a bald spot in one last week.
  10. I’m impatient with my family which I mostly don’t let them see because I don’t want them to suffer, but it’s been leaking out lately because it turns out there’s only so much you can shove deep down inside before it hits the saturation point and there’s no place left to shovel the emotional shit. It’s not rage like it was last time. I’m not explosively angry. Just irritated and annoyed at things I’m usually good at letting go. And still, not how I want to be.
  11. Despite #10, I keep nearly all of this secret. I look normal. I go to the grocery store. I have people over to my house. I host events. I wear make-up. I shower. I answer the “how are you questions” the usual way. Good. Fine. Busy. Eh – you know. Or, if I’m being terribly honest, I say I’m drowning a little, but, you know, that’s normal, and then I shrug, like, what’s a girl to do? This is not out of an intent to deceive anybody, including myself. This is simply because I lack both words and any emotional energy to deal with myself, much less other people’s questions about how I am, how we are, or what they can do to help.
  12. Shirts that touch my forearms bother me.
  13. I keep forgetting words. Easy ones like “laundry” and “couch.”
  14. I am constantly jittery. I can’t sit still or relax under any circumstances.
  15. I have eaten every Cheeto in the State of Oregon.

Yep. Somehow with those as my symptoms, I convinced myself I didn’t need to go to the doctor. <— THIS, friends. This is part of mental illness. The utter inability to assess and to know when I need help.

I walked into the doctor’s office this afternoon, list in hand. I told him I needed him to help me figure out if it’s time for a medication change. He had me fill out an assessment of his own:

Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following:

  1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things? Nearly every day.
  2. Feeling down, depressed or hopeless? Nearly every day.
  3. Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much? HA! EVERY DAY.
  4. Feeling tired or having little energy? Nearly every day.
  5. Poor appetite or overeating? Overeating. Sure enough. See note re: No Cheeto Is Safe From Me.
  6. Feeling bad about yourself — that you are a failure or are letting your family down? Meh. Some. Not all the time, though. I mostly forgive myself for being human and for being sick. But I’m highly motivated to fix this so I don’t let my family down.
  7. Trouble concentrating on things such as reading or watching TV? Yep. Nearly every day.
  8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the opposite — being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual? Yes. I’m either inert on the couch or cleaning like a fiend. ME. CLEANING LIKE A FIEND. CLEARLY I NEED HELP, MAN.
  9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way? Nope. Other than the usual fantasies about being hospitalized so I can lay in bed all day and eat green Jello, I’m good on this one.

So. I’m giving myself mad props for making it to the doctor before the “Better Off Dead” lie asserted itself, but it turns out doctors don’t give you a clean bill of mental health when “I don’t want to off myself yet” is the best you can offer. In fact, it only took the doctor 10 minutes to call in a psychologist for back-up. Or because our local health system has better, multipronged protocols in place now for treating mental health. But probably for back-up.

I have additional meds and follow-up physical and psychological appointments next week. And probably more weeks after that because turning the mental health ship takes a while, and sometimes the med adjustment doesn’t work on the first go. In other words, here we go again. At least I’m at the Seeking Help part of the Deteriorate-Seek Help-Upswing-Health cycle. That’ll do for now.

My teeth chattered all the way home from the doctor’s office, another fun symptom of the adrenaline surge. I walked in the front door, and Greg asked how it went.

“Fine,” I said. “Good, I think.”

Maybe I’ll have more words later.

Until then, waving and waving and waving in the dark, friends,

 

 

P.S. None of this was today. All of it was last week now. Maybe two weeks by the time I manage to publish this. I’ve been writing this post since then, though, and it’s too hard to change it to reflect an accurate timeline. Add this to the list of Real Symptoms — everything takes an Eternity. I mean, FOREVER. Things that usually take me an hour take a day. Right now, I’m assigning myself Just One Thing every day, and I’m marking each one in the Hot Damn, I’m A Raging Success column on my internal score card.

P.P.S. I wish I didn’t have an internal score card. But I do. At this point, I’m just trying to learn to be more gentle about what I put on it.

P.P.P.S. I’ve missed you. More soon, I hope. <3

My Outdoor Bedroom: Thoughts on Living Weird. Happy and Weird.

May 26 2017

I used to think I didn’t like the outside. I’m not a long-haul backpacker like my most outdoorsy Oregonian friends. I don’t enjoy endurance hikes, forced-march style. I don’t even go on leisurely grandma walks around the block. But once I was able to tackle outside on my terms — biking in the sunshine, kayaking because I get to sit on my ass in the water, and hiking where hiking means sauntering through the woods and meandering up mountains rather than tight timelines and a race to the top — I was IN. All the way in. Mud in my toes, scrambling over boulders, bugs in my bed, IN.

I started sleeping outside this week, but not in a sleeping bag on a hard pad on the ground. Nope; I started sleeping outside, but in a real bed with sheets, soft pillows, and a ragged, faded plaid down comforter I bought for my first apartment 26 years ago.

{Psst… Greg and I made out on that comforter a lot.}

It’s pretty close to heaven on earth, and it’s 100% Outside My Way.

Greg only grumbled a little when I pestered him for days and days to pull the old iron bedframe from the storage loft, and I went ahead and ignored his eye-rolling while I stole the nightstands back from our Goodwill pile. I mean, I don’t want to brag too much, but I’m really good at ignoring eye-rolling now. Also, sighing. Also-also, the slow shaking of Greg’s head side to side in weary disappointment. I can ignore it ALL.

See, Greg is of the opinion that one bedroom inside a house with things like Protection from Inclement Weather and Temperature Control — Not Very Many Giant Fuzzy Spiders and Zero Raccoons with Razor Blade Teeth and Beady Little Demon Eyes Peering from the Blackberry Bushes — is plenty of bedrooom for me. Greg thinks I don’t need a second, outdoor bedroom. Greg thinks, if I’m going to invest time in a house project, maybe I should finish painting the hallway — or the other 47 things I’ve started — instead of creating a redundant living space in the backyard.

Poor Greg. Bless his heart. And we can pray for him. <– This is our Greg Liturgy. Amen.

As for me, I’m certain this is the Best Idea Ever.

I’ve been fighting Depression again lately. It’s been a rough couple of months. I think. Maybe a rough couple of years? I don’t know. That’s one of the symptoms of mental illness, really; the Not Knowing. The trying to decide if this is Normal or Unhealthy. Is this a Phase or Do I Need Help? So I’ve been fighting Depression again lately; I just don’t know what “lately” really means. I’m bobbing up and down in Ocean of the Unknown. Getting hit by waves of Anger and Hurt and Worry and Blah. Finding myself underwater. Pushing again to the surface. Suspecting this is just part of what it means to be human in all its complexity. Suspecting this is just circumstantial and easily explained. Suspecting none of that’s right at all.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Mental health is a giant jigsaw puzzle, after all, except we only have some of the pieces. The rest we have to go on a scavenger hunt to find with murky clues. We never find them all. And so I manage my mental illness a lot of ways. Partly through medication which saved my life. Partly through pursuing Joy these days instead of the Approval of Others which has made this life richer and fuller and weirder than ever.

So I keep doing Weird Shit that makes me happy instead of Normal Shit in its tightly controlled box of Acceptable Behavior. These days, I’m spending my time building fairy houses out of wall holes. And making my bed outside.

 

I feel like I just keep leveling up on Weird. Things that make No Sense to others, I’m pursuing anyway, and I’m finding Joy there. It turns out making my bed where the dirt gets in is a piece of the puzzle — the piece that looks like watching the stars before I fall asleep and hearing the wind in the cherry trees and waving at you, always waving, in the dark.

With love, friends, from this little piece of earth,

 

 

 

 

P.S. I want you to know, so I get credit, I ironed the stained bed skirt before stacking the mattresses, which was wasted effort entirely since it’s all covered now by the wrinkled comforter. I suppose I could have ironed the comforter, as well, but I’d already ironed one whole thing and felt there was no need to go to ironing extremes. Besides, now the ironed bed skirt is symbolic of all the work we do that never sees the light of day. And it’s also symbolic of my guiding principle which is that Half Assed Is Good Enough. After all, mathematical integers prove that anything more than zero is in an infinite percentage more than nothing; since I ironed something, that is infinitely more than ironing nothing. INFINITELY MORE. And infinity is a LOT, you guys. A TON.

P.P.S. This is my view right now.

 

P.P.P.S. Good night.

The Definitive Answer to the Public, Private or Home School Question

May 22 2017

WE HAVE FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT. The answer regarding which is BEST — public school, private school or homeschool. After having our children in a cumulative 54 YEARS of school (five kids is a lot of kids, guys), we know the definitive answer, which is YES.

Question: Which is best — public, private or homeschool?
Answer: Yes. All of the above. Depending on the child, the year, the circumstances, the environments, the family, and the outside challenges, yes; each of them is the VERY BEST option.

Please understand; no one is more disappointed by this answer than I am. I was raised, after all, to believe in SYSTEMS. There are Good Systems and Bad Systems. My main job was to revere and adhere to the good ones like Evangelical Christianity, Public School, Republicanism, and Making My Bed Every Day.

Clearly, I failed.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now, we’ve had our kids mostly in Public School over the years. We’re big fans of public schools. We’ve always voted for school bond measures and support tax increases that benefit public schools, even during the years we had kids in private school, because school bonds and paying for public education benefit all of us. In fact, we’re dismayed by reports this week that the federal government plans to gut public school funding and are wholeheartedly against Betsy DeVos’ plan which will undermine them horribly. Because blech.

So we’ve mostly had kids in Public School… and one kid in Private. But at least I didn’t do anything TOO radical like homeschool, you know? I had boundaries. LIMITS.

I mean, I wasn’t opposed to homeschooling in principle. I understand people can homeschool effectively. Especially if those people have things like a background in education and, well, patience.

I, on the other hand, LOVE sending my kids to school-school where school = Anywhere But My House.

I am the parent who NEVER CRIED on the first days of preschool.

I am the parent who ONLY LAMENTED PRESCHOOL DAYS WEREN’T LONGER.

I especially love school-school for the teachers. The TEACHERS, friends — real, not make-believe, who dedicate their WHOLE LIVES to educating our kids, preparing them for a future the teachers often don’t get to see. Yes; teachers are real but also MAGICAL. Teacher-fairies, if you will. And teacher-fairies put up with a LOT. Ever-changing rules, administrations, and markers for student success. They put up with PARENTS. They work weeknights and weekends and spend money from their own pockets to subsidize what kids don’t receive from the school budget. They receive lower rates of pay than jobs that require the same amount of education. And most of them are GOOD AT IT. Like, really great. Showing up day after day as a holy calling.

I, on the other hand, am not a teacher. Not by education. Not by calling. Not by talent. There are no teacher-fairies in this house. Which is why I decided to never, ever, EVER pull my kids from school-school and homeschool them.

^^^That’s what I said for YEARS.^^^

And I was RIGHT.

Except I just pulled my kid from school and I’m homeschooling him.

In retrospect, I’ve identified how this happened and will disclose it so you can avoid the same mistake: When our kids started school 100,000 years ago, we made a commitment to evaluate on an ongoing basis what each child needs from her or his education. <– That’s our problem, right there. Treating kids like individuals who may have different needs at different times.

And this kid? He needs to be home for a while.

We tried to get around it. We tried to delay and avoid going to HOMESCHOOL EXTREMES. But he asked on repeat that we reconsider. He wants freedom to fly through a higher math curriculum. He wants a break from the anxiety of attempting scholastic perfection. He wants to conduct computer and science experiments and to build a fort in the backyard. He wants more time to read for pleasure. It became more and more challenging to look this kid in the eye — this kid who adores learning, and is motivated, and already performs in the 99th percentile in his grade in every subject — and give him a reasonable answer as to why he couldn’t try. HE WORE US DOWN is what I’m saying.

So even though he had a teacher-fairy who was working her fairy magic…

And even though his twin brother is still going to the school-school…

And even though the school year is almost over…

And even though he has a mother who is not a teacher-fairy AT ALL…

Here we go. Homeschool is upon us.

It’s been just over a week now.

On morning one, I woke up with tiny thoughts of dread, like “WHAT HAVE I DONE?” And, “I CANNOT DO THIS.” And, “THERE IS A REASON TEACHERS ARE TEACHERS. It’s because they have an AFFINITY FOR TEACHING, and TALENT, and EDUCATION TO BACK THOSE UP. On the other hand, Beth, YOU ARE A FOOL AND A PRETENDER and YOU ARE GOING TO RUIN YOUR CHILD.”

And then Cai, the 4th grader, walked into my room and said, “OK, Mom, I have the schedule all figured out. I’ll be reading a time travel series for Free Reading time, and working on dividing fractions as a refresher for math in preparation for the more extensive curriculum you’ve ordered, but then I need you to take me to the library so I can study 19th Century French Architecture. Unless we already have a curriculum on 19th Century French Architecture somewhere around the house? No? Then definitely the library, Mom.”

And I thought, like I often do with parenting, “Hm. OK, then. Maybe I won’t screw this up quite so bad if I just get out of his way.”

So that’s the new plan. We’re homeschooling — the Thing I Said I’d Never Do. And maybe I can get far enough out of my kid’s way so he can fly.

So far, he’s studying exponents, chemistry via bread baking, touch typing, magnets, hard drives, and, of course, 19th Century French Architecture.

He’s happier than I’ve seen him for months. More confident. More engaged. More interested in learning.

And that — definitively — is the RIGHT school choice. At least for that kid. For now.

With love, friends,

I KNOW THE ANSWER

May 6 2017

Is it mental illness? Or just my personality? I asked you yesterday, and today I’m happy to report I KNOW THE ANSWER, at least as far as the toast is concerned.

I know the answer, friends, because Greg, bless his sweet heart, made me a video.

This video, which you should listen to, as I did, with the volume ALL THE WAY UP:

Yes.

Yes, I definitely know the answer now, and the answer is this:

I AM A TOAST TORTURE VICTIM.

And Greg is so good at Toast Torture that I have a form of Stockholm Syndrome.

I have developed a deep psychological alliance — an ABIDING LOVE — for the very man who butters his toast in this manner. He video tapes it. He sends it to me at midnight. He sends me instant messages and texts until I watch it with the scritch scritch scritching turned to HIGHEST VOLUME. And, even as I cringe, friends, I also laugh and laugh and laugh, so complete is his brainwashing of me.

But it is NOT mental illness that drives me to want to love/murder this man.

It is NOT a personality flaw.

It is the fact, becoming ever clearer, that I AM A TOAST TORTURE VICTIM
and RAGE IS THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES SENSE.

The End

Love,

Is It Mental Illness? Or Is It Just My Personality?

May 5 2017

There’s a fun game I like to play. It’s called “Is It Mental Illness? Or Is It Just My Personality?”

I thought we might play together today, instead of keeping this delightful game selfishly to myself.

Ready? Here we go.

Lately, I’ve been pissy. <– That, right there, is a true truth.

Lately, I’ve been pissy, and mostly at Greg because a) he’s the luckiest, b) he’s in the closest proximity, and c) he thinks I’m the type of animal who eats from a trough, which he continues to insist he doesn’t think at all, but I believe I’ve made my case.

Now, about my pissiness, my family would say, “So? How is this any different than normal?” But that’s just because my family is mean and full of terrible people. Yes, technically I’m mouthy, and technically I’m mouthy with great frequency, especially where mouthy = opinionated and verbally demonstrative. After all, the Bible says whatever you do, do to the best of your ability, so I’m obligated by Christian duty to use my mouthiness to its full potential. Yes? Yes. That’s theologically clear. But I do try, honest, to use my mouthiness for good as much as possible; words of love, words of joy, words of kindness, words of peace. I’ve even learned, in recent years, to be OK with my volume — which is LOUD — and to own, more and more, the Power of Voice. The Power of Vulnerability. The Power of Using My Words — of Knowing Things and Not Knowing Things out loud and in public — as if it’s OK to be both human and divine, made of magic and mess, grace and grime intermingled.

However, the truth is, I sometimes… occasionally… move past the Magical Mouthiness and the Messy Mouthiness and into a sort of Prolonged Pissiness produced by Inexplicable Rage, which is, well, less than ideal.

And then I bottle my rage, seal it, and bury it deep, deep inside, where it cannot harm me or others. Except when it leaks. Which it does all the time because rage is corrosive and does quick work on both the bottle and the seal. That’s when the rage bubbles to the surface and breaks in adorable little pissy pops. *pop* *pop* *pop* … mini-rage bubbles bursting beautifully. Iridescent, shimmery, and suffocating the wildlife, just like an oil sheen on the ocean. Just as persistent. Just spreading everywhere, you know? Impossible to clean.

Now, my friend Heidi, who ruins everything, is trying to teach me how to be mindful; how to accept my feelings as they come; how to judge them as neither good nor bad; how to recognize and acknowledge them — Hey, look! I see you’re here to visit, Rage… or… JOY! I’m so happy you’re hanging out today! — before deciding what to do with them, or before, say, jumping Rage in the back alley, wrestling it to the ground with a switchblade in its kidney, shoving it in that bottle, lowering it into an unfathomably deep grave, covering it with dirt, and whistling while I walk away, pretending not to be bruised. So, sure, sure; Heidi’s way may be better, more healthy, and less brutal in both the short and long term, but my way is FASTER, friends. I think we can all agree.

Unfortunately, as we have discussed previously, inexplicable rage can be depression in disguise. UGH. And blerg. And boooooo. The trick, then, is to figure out what is a normal, human amount of pissiness to experience, and when have I plunged over the cliff into the eternal, turbulent sea of unmitigated fury? A sea where I sit my sexy siren self upon the jagged rocks with my hair whipping in the storm-driven wind, hungry for blood, and sing the song that lures my loved ones to their deaths? So. You can see where this gets complicated.

Usually, when I’m trying to decide whether my pissiness is a symptom of my mental illness or just, you know, my awesome personality, I use the Toast Test.

See, Greg has a very specific way of buttering his toast. First he takes the teeniest, tiniest bit of butter — a modicum of butter — an particle of butter — on the very tip of his knife and spreads it on a speck of toast. Then he studies it. The layout. The structure. He does a mathematical analysis of the next spot to put butter. Writes algorithms. Considers the best foundation for laying the next fleck. He conducts a study. He publishes his results in a peer reviewed engineering journal. He builds computer models. And then he takes another teeny, tiny bit of butter and applies it to a new granule of toast. Then he repeats. And repeats. And repeats ad infinitum, scritch, scritch, scritching that butter onto the toast. It takes days to butter toast. Weeks. Veritable years, I tell you. Whereas I do nothing annoying ever. The way I butter my toast is a model of grace and efficiency.

Logical Beth believes people should be free to butter their toast however they like. Reasonable Beth believes this is an inalienable human right. Rational Beth believes we needn’t come to marital or household consensus on the Correct Way to Butter Toast, nor do we need to Belittle Those Who Do It Wrong, even if they do it really, really, really wrong. Sensible Beth believes we Live and Let Live and We Love Each Other, Always, Anyway, even if we have different Toast Convictions, and, in this way, we shall not smother each other with a pillow.

Pissy Beth believes none of these things. Not a single one. And Ragey Beth feels the scritch, scritch, scritching inside her skull.

The Toast Test, see? When murder-by-pillow feels like a super reasonable alternative to witnessing the buttering of toast, it’s time to up my meds, friends. Or past time. You know… WAY past time.

Unfortunately, Greg hasn’t had a hankering for toast in, like, FOREVER, so I’ve been pissy but I have NO WAY TO KNOW whether this is a flare-up of the mental illness or just my darling personality.

I suppose I could simply ask Greg to make himself some toast, but I think he might do it quickly and with suspicion, so it kind of ruins the test.

In conclusion, there have to be ways OTHER than toast buttering to play this game. WHAT ARE THEY? Is it mental illness? Or is it just my personality? I’m on a need to know over here…

Delightfully yours,

I’ve Decided to Collect College Kids. Also, We Should Probably Pray for Greg.

Apr 30 2017

We’ve mostly been with Abby since arriving in Hawaii. Not a ton of time on our own. We’re helping her hunt for next year’s apartment. Doing the grocery shopping. Gasping over the cost of bread one minute (FIVE DOLLARS, you guys, and that’s for a cheap loaf) and piling All the College Kids in our car to force feed them pancakes at IHOP the next. It’s like feeding puppies, y’all; they’re just so wiggly and enthusiastic and grateful, and they look at you with those eyes, like, “You fed me, and now I’m yours forever,” and suddenly you’re all, “MORE PANCAKES FOR EVERYONE. EVERY KIND OF PANCAKE. ANOTHER ROUND ON ME,” and, “Can I KEEP them, Greg? Pleeeeease? I will do ALL the work. You won’t have to do ANYTHING. I will walk them EVERY DAY, and I will feed them and water them, and I will never ask you for anything ever again in my whole life if you just give me All the College Kids.”

I have searched, lo these many years, and I have finally found my calling; feeding college students. I was born for this. This is my sacred duty. This is my calling from the Lord. This is how I shall fulfill my destiny.

Greg says I can’t keep them, though. He says they don’t belong to me. He says we already have five kids and that five kids is enough kids.

I’m not sure about his logic. I think there’s a flaw in there. I’m pretty sure collecting College Kids isn’t the same as collecting Kid Kids since College Kids are technically grown-ups. Also, they’re way cheaper than Kid Kids because College Kids only cost you pancakes. Greg says they don’t only cost pancakes; he says they also cost tuition and fees and apartments in Hawaii. I say that’s practically the same as just pancakes; we can call it pancakes and sundries, and we’ll be fine. Surely, we can fit pancakes and sundries into our budget. How hard can it be?

Greg says I’m the one with flawed logic and that I need to work on my budgeting skills. Since I recognize an expensive loaf of bread when I see one, though, I’m not sure what he’s talking about.

Then he called me a cow, which was mean and temporarily put my Collect All the College Kids plans on hold.

Greg feels like it’s important at this point to note for the record that he did not call me a cow, but I was there so I would know.

See, we took one night to ourselves while we’re here. One night while Abby was studying with the rest of my Future Children to walk the beach in Waikiki. We found a little patio restaurant at sunset looking at Diamond Head. We took this picture and posted it on Facebook.

He ordered the pulled pork sandwich. I ordered the fish tacos. We eavesdropped on our neighbors’ conversations while I had a pretty drink, the color of the purple clouds in the azure sky.

Greg leaned over and took my hand. He looked into my eyes and said, “I really like that trough they served your tacos in.”

That trough, he said.

That… trough.

 

“Greg, did you just say I’m eating out of a trough?”

Greg looked afraid.

“NO,” he said. “I definitely did not say that.”

“Did you, Gregory, or did you not just say that this is my taco trough?”

“I DIDN’T,” he said. “I SWEAR.”

“DID you,” I asked, head tilted curiously to the side, eyes turning as black and alien as the approaching night sky, eager to swallow the human before me, “therefore liken me to a trough-like creature? Say, a horse? Or a cow?”

“NO!” he said.

And now, days later, he continues to deny it.

Whenever I want to mess with him, I just whisper, “trough.” He winces, and I giggle. I haven’t told him yet how many College Kids he has to let me keep for me to let the Trough Comment go; I’m holding that part in reserve for negotiations to be held at a later date.

In conclusion, let’s pray for Greg, friends. Although he must have committed some sort of heinous crime in a previous life to have to go through this one with me, he really is a dear and doesn’t quite deserve the eye tick I’m giving him.

Dear Jesus,
Please help Greg survive his trip to Hawaii.
And also his life with Beth. 

In your precious name,
Amen

 

 

 

P.S. Greg loves travelling with me. My family calls him Poor Greg. I don’t know why. He’s the luckiest.

MiniPost: Just a Little Fairy Dust

Apr 28 2017

I made it across the Pacific Ocean without dying in a fiery crash. A miracle, every time. Greg insists it’s the physics of aerodynamics, and I believe him, but only mostly. You know; like, I believe him, but only with my head and with logic. Not with my heart. You’ll never convince me there isn’t also fairy dust involved in air travel. Or a whole host off angels rolling their eyes as they hoist yet another tin can full of reckless humans on their backs and take them where they’re bid, grumbling all the while at the Lord Most High, “Oh, my GOD. If you would just LET THEM ALL TUMBLE INTO THE SEA FOR ONE DAY ONLY, they wouldn’t pull stupid crap like this EVER AGAIN.” But no. Nope. God keeps letting us do what’s crazy.

I made it. All the way here to Hawaii where my kid is finishing up her first year of college. We dropped her off 8 months ago, taught her how to use the bus, and bought Every Single Thing at Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond. I spent 300% of my budget, I told her she didn’t have to stay, and that college was overrated, and that I was pretty sure she ought to give up on her dreams and move back home with her mommy FOREVER, because who doesn’t want that?? She said no, and told me I was going to be OK. She said I’d be fine, and I could do this, and I knew she was right, but I cried on the way home, anyway.

Now here we are, only a few months later. Hardly any time at all, but this time this is Her Place, and now, for the first time, I’m the visitor in a world she’s created for herself. She took me to her favorite beach and let me play Twinsies in the water with her, where we take pics of our stunning dance prowess and have people try to guess who’s who. She took me to her favorite restaurant with her friends — the one that’s open ’til 2am with the vegan peanut butter shakes and the cartoons playing from a projector onto the concrete wall. And, in the grand tradition of college students everywhere, she let me buy her groceries, but then she said thank you, because she knows now that food costs money, and money has to be earned, and that, while we’re glad to give it, it’s still a gift worth acknowledgement and gratitude.

Eight months is all.

A blink, really, and she’s grown.

Which we knew would happen, but only mostly. In our heads and with logic, you know? Because it’s part of the physics of becoming.

So of course she’s grown. It’s inevitable. But you’ll also never convince me there isn’t fairy dust involved in helping her fly.

Sending love, friends,