Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Anxiety, Fear, & Paranoia

Jane began having anxiety at a young age - so young that she didn't even know what anxiety was or that the way she experienced the world was different from other people.  Without words to express what she felt, she internalized a lot of pain and developed certain psychological defense mechanisms usually associated with victims of abuse.  As she got older she learned what to call her affliction and eventually how to cope with it.

It wasn't an easy road to travel, but Jane had always been more introspective than those around her seemed to be. The ability to emotionally sit in the center of conflict and see it from it's various angles grew out of a need to maintain balance amidst the turbulence of family conflict.  She loved them all and so she could see how each one was right...and also wrong, at the same time.  She learned to stay neutral and in doing so was able to offer a different perspective to those in conflict.  With this ability, she began to heal herself as well.

Anxiety is the physical response your body has to fear. I think in a "normal" person anxiety is rare or short-term and in response to things that anyone in their "right" mind would be afraid of.  But some of us have an over-exaggerated fear response because of some trauma we've experienced (and we might not even consciously remember it).  

Jane's anxiety manifested as a knot in her stomach, nausea, elevated heart rate, sweating, and sometimes a lack of focus and even short-term memory loss.  These symptoms would arise at almost any sign of conflict, whether real or imagined.  She suffered silently for years as social situations became difficult and often painful.  

It is not clear when she learned to face her fears, but she developed techniques that have allowed her to cope with these feelings.  She still feels them, but now they don't control her.  

But even with a decade of self-healing under her belt, every so often, some unexpected thing comes along and knocks her right back on her childhood ass.  So she takes a deep breath, makes sure all the doors are locked and the windows are covered, and starts from the beginning again.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nothing to Report.

Not 10 minutes after I arrived at my cousin's wedding I got the first "where are you working?" question.  This is the main reason I haven't been to a family gathering in years.  I have been employed and single, or unemployed and dating for the past 4 years and frankly, the only questions they ever seem to care about are where I am working and who I am dating.  And even when I've had one out of the two I felt lacking.

Now, I love my family and I don't mean to portray them as negative or controlling. They probably don't know me well enough to ask me about the pursuits in my life other than work and dating.  I don't fault them exactly.  But when it comes to Christmas Eve or other gatherings, I have avoided them because I have nothing to report.  I have been barely employed for the past two years and I haven't had a serious boyfriend for even longer.  And to make matters worse, my employment goals are not that of an up and coming Wall Street go-getter. I would prefer part-time work. I NEED local work. I have all but given up on a career job for the time being.

Because that is not my priority.

But there is so much back story to that statement. A simple "How are you?" can't possibly cover it.  I appreciate the attempt at non-judgment when they each ask me (and mind you, there are about 10 who ask), "are you still working at blabity blahs?" "No, but they decided to keep the guy without my level of education and field experience who was buddies with the supervisor... ".  I'm just kidding. I never actually told my family that one.  It's too real, too personal.  I come up with lame excuses about budget cuts and work limitations in southern California (which are totally true).  Except that I have made a decision to stop looking for that kind of work. This I don't go into. I don't expand on the fact that I'm changing careers. I make light-hearted comments about "looking for the next adventure" or calling myself a "Jane of all Trades".

But the truth is, I'm lost.  I'm outside of time.  I've worked myself into a career corner with cultural resource management and without a higher degree, I'm essentially done there.  But what else do I do?  I don't have real experience with sales or serving and limited experience with office work.  And I can't commute far. The last time I tried commuting to LA for a job I almost fell asleep driving home on a regular basis.

I'm willing to work.  I just want something local.  I don't understand why its so hard to find work in my own community.  I find the perfect jobs everywhere else, it seems.

I digress.  My family, of course, just wants to know whats going on, but I feel like I owe them a good story.  And the fact that I don't have one and I know that I don't have one, feels real shitty.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Science vs. Religion, part 1

Where to begin?  I am a scientist, by nature. I use logic and trial and error and my five senses to come to conclusions about the world.  However, I do not consider myself an atheist.  I'm not a Christian either.  I try to have ideas about what I don't know, not beliefs.  Atheists believe in the reality that there is no God, no spirit, no things which we cannot explain with science.  I'm somewhere near that, but as a generalist (in general), I just can't commit to that extreme either. I am open to possibility.  This doesn't mean I'm going to agree with something that is contrary to what I know to be true; it means that there are a lot of things we humans still don't know about the nature of reality and I don't claim to know the answers either.

This is important to understand because I feel very strongly that Christianity (or any fundamentalist religious group) has no business in science.  They are mutually exclusive. They are as different as the subjects of Economics and Music are in school. You're a private Christian school and you want to teach that Genesis is literal?  Fine. I disagree with it, but you have that right to teach it in your school.  But to call any of it science is ludicrous!

Science is a subject in its own right. It wasn't "created" by scientists to prove their beliefs. If anything, it is a language for scientists to express what they "discover" about the world.  It's like Math.  Humans needed a way to express the idea of quantity.  For example: I collected 10 oranges and you would like to eat 2 of them but I want 3 lemons in exchange.  A system of numbers was created to express quantity.  As culture became more complex, so did our need to express numbers and therefore we developed algebra and geometry and calculus.  We didn't just make the shit up on a whim.  Science didn't just get pulled out of some scientist's ass either.

The problem I have is two-fold.  1. Children are not getting an adequate education to go out into the world and be functioning rational adults, able to have positive discourse with anyone outside of their own worldview.  This limits their potential for growth as a human being.  This process of controlling what a child learns and has access to is a way of controlling their minds in general so that they grow up to not question anything - even when it is blatantly in conflict with their own self-interest. This happens in public school as well, but these children have access to ideas outside of what they are being taught as "true".

This leads to... 2.  Adults who have been brainwashed into thinking science is a religion and that all scientists are atheists and that anyone who questions their beliefs is an atheist.  None of which are true.  It is the very heart of science to be logical and to question everything. When you have been taught that science is based on belief, you can dismiss it easily and insert whatever hair-brained idea you have in its place.  The fact that I can't have a rational conversation with a particular segment of humanity because they are teaching their children OUT RIGHT LIES is heartbreaking.

I'm not arguing that public school is perfect or that science is the only way to experience the world.  I am arguing that science should be taught as simply "science" in whatever school it is taught.  Teach "intelligent design" on its own, if you must. Teach your class on Genesis and enjoy yourself... but they have no business in science.  And if you just refuse to teach kids about evolution as science, go ahead and call it a "theory" if that helps you sleep at night.  Just please, PLEASE teach it in a SCIENCE class.

Friday, April 5, 2013


This blog has served many purposes for me over the years, but I think it needs to evolve even further.  Therefore, I've changed the design to make it a little more "grown up" and reader friendly.  This change reflects my desire to jump into the fire of the blogosphere more seriously.

Expect some changes, as they are inevitable in life...and in this blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Six Days (rough draft)

Six days. It took six days for the tears to come; To feel anything for certain.  I was starting to wonder if I’d ever cry over my grandmother’s death. 

A single sympathy card arrived today; I don’t expect any others.  It was from the woman who had petitioned to take over legal guardianship over her decision making.  A woman named Christy who I owe an enormous debt of gratitude, even though it may have mostly been “part of the job” for her.  I still don’t think I could handle dealing with any of it right now. 

She was my father’s mother, but I never really knew my father. That made things awkward sometimes.  Her name was Judy and her first husband’s last name was Judy and that is probably the only funny thing about this story.  Her married name was Judy Judy or Judy (squared) as I joked with her many years ago after she told me this tale.  How horribly comedic and yet, somehow tragic, because she married an alcoholic and her only son became a drug addict. 

Years later, the year 2004 in fact, she was so bitter about her earlier life decisions that she made no secret of her regret for marrying this man and having this child.  I had just graduated college at the time, and even my optimism waned at this profession of honesty.  I heard my grandmother say she wished she never had my father…

Of course, to understand how conflicted I may have felt at the time, I need to back up to my mother.  She did the best she could with what options she had, of that I’m certain, and I want to be clear that I don't want to cast blame on anyone.  But when I was young, she wasn't honest about who my dad was.  Then, when I was about ten, this woman showed up in my life who claimed to be my dad’s mother, and I guess it was true because from that point on, this women who I have always called Judy, and not grandma, was to be a part of my life. 

Judy wanted to be involved but her son never did.  Later on, I learned that my mom didn’t want him around and I respected that.  Even later, I learned that he had other kids with other women.  I have a brother and a sister whom I’ve never met. Weird.

Fast forward to High School Graduation.  I took my first major trip alone by train up to Oregon to visit Judy.  It was a lot of fun. She was still very active and in reasonably good spirits and she had this great apartment overlooking a river.  I will never forget how awesome that trip was.  If you’ve ever been to Oregon, you will understand how lush and amazing it can be in the right season. 

After that, I went to college and took way too long to get a bachelor’s degree (even though nobody seemed to care how long it took).  I took another trip up to visit her after I graduated and had landed my first real job.  This time, her son had been living with her for a while and was trying to get sober and sorted out. He had lost custody of both of his other children because of drug abuse.  When I made my plans to visit, Judy made him find somewhere else to go for the week.  This is the trip where she expressed negative views on marriage and having kids and to be honest, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.  I left there feeling like I didn’t know if I wanted to keep in touch with her or not.

My dad died in July of 2011. I remember it well because it was my last week at a particularly important job.  I had met him for the first time since I was a small child in the beginning of that year.  We only spent a short time together and it was mostly conversation deflected at the guy I brought along with me, but still… I’m glad I got to.

Without him as her caretaker, Judy’s health and well being deteriorated.  She lost almost everything and ended up being moved all over the place to the point that I lost track of her for a few months.  When I found her again, she insisted on going back to Salem, Oregon.

I agreed to drive her and her cat up there and help her find a place to live.  This turned out to be one of the single hardest journeys of my life.  I have never had to take care of another person for any length of time and all of a sudden I was renting a car, driving, making hotel arrangements, getting the wheelchair in and out of the car every time she got out, loading and unloading ALL the bags (plus the cat, catbox, food, etc.), helping her get in and out of the car, helping her go to the bathroom, dealing with adult diapers and all that entails, dealing with bathing, helping her get dressed, researching what living arrangement options she had, trying to figure out what to do. Meanwhile the whole trip up the cat was unhappy and shitting in his carrier, so ya - I had to clean cat shit up before we even got to the first hotel… HARDEST FUCKING JOURNEY TO DATE.

I finally found a place that would take her and that she agreed with, and we parted ways.  I went back a couple days later to check in and things were ok.  I headed back to California and spoke with her once or twice after that.  It became clear to me that it wouldn’t be easy to contact her and I admit that I lost the motivation after a while… then someone else stepped in, in a legal capacity. 

That pretty much brings us up to date.  She was in hospice care last week.  She died on Monday, February 11, 2012.  She was married twice, had one son with her first husband and has 3 grandchildren.  Her name was Judy Hauser.