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One of the things I’ve spent years ruminating is howcome some people cope better than others.

There’s the “My parents abused me horribly because I never got that pony” group, and there’s the “Aw, he didn’t mean to break my arm, I was misbehaving and he needed to correct me.” segment,  and there’s everything in between.  Recently I’ve been considering the idea that, just like physical resilience, people have different levels of emotional resilience.  As humans we seem to understand that most people can’t take a punch like Mike Tyson can, and if he sends someone to the hospital from a punch in the nose, we’re generally horrified and want to press criminal charges.  He can punch another boxer and not cause life-threatening damage, and noone is either surprised, or horrified.

So here’s the thought I’ve been having lately. Maybe not getting the pony they desperately wanted really did damage the emotionally fragile person, and maybe the kid who suffered monstrous abuse and was able to shrug it off was just lucky to have been gifted with an emotional resilience most people don’t have?  Maybe we should just quit judging people for aspects of themselves they did not create.  We don’t blame people for being smaller than other people, why blame them for being more fragile emotionaly?

We may value them less for being physically smaller or weaker, but we generally don’t blame them. 

Yeah sorry, that’s just a fact I’m repeating there.  There’s plenty of lizardbrain in us, we just wrap those backbrain impulses in fancy rationalizations.  There’s oodles of data to back up my assertion that the more physically attractive and able you are, the more you achieve in life.

Ok.  I’m off to go hang out with people I consider slightly beneath me, so I can achieve more.

Life as a Philip K Dick novel

Back in the day, before it was popular to take day old babies out for a stoll among the diseased masses[i], I read a cute story from the mother of identical twin boys, who was taking her boys for a stroll in the park when they were just starting to talk.  They hadn’t had much interaction with people outside of the family yet.  She ran into a friend, who was there with her son of about the same age.  When they parted ways, one of her sons, clearly frightened, asked her “Where’s the other one?!”

A few years back, I was invited to a meeting at work, and I roll up scant minutes after the start time; everyone’s already seated around the conference table.  I stopped short, because one of the guys who had been working there for quite a number of years, is calmly sitting next to a clone of himself.  I was stammering and stuttering, and then had to laugh at myself, because I reacted like a two yr old who’d never seen twins before.  I recovered quickly, commenting “you two must be related,” and we went on with the meeting.

To my credit, these guys, my guess is early 30s, still look identical.  Same haircut, same clothing choices: chinos, plaid shirts, unremarkable casual leather shoes.   No obvious scars or other signs of hard living that might, over time, differentiate identical objects. The only way I could tell which one was which, was that sometimes James was really really plain old rude, looking right through me as if we’d never met, even when I nodded at him when we passed in the hallway.  If I couldn’t tell them apart, I’m betting even their mom had a hard time.

Hey come to think of it, how do they know which one they are?  What if their parents got confused when they were babies, and kept mixing them up.

I just felt a brain cell pop.

[i] Read and hear that sentence oozing with irony like a sweet gelatinous cup of flan freshly tipped onto a plate too small for it.

My Partner Kills Mice

My partner kills mice.  He sets mousetraps in our kitchen, and disposes of the bodies in the trash.

I have a deep, visceral response to killing anything that isn’t threatening the lives of others.  Dogs mauling a human being in a pack, with the clear intent of killing unless stopped – they’re a threat to innocent life and need to be put down.  (That’s a story for another day.) Dog bites a burglar, or some neighbor kid who was tormenting him?  Give the dog a pat on the head and a biscuit.   Lock the burglar up, tell the kid’s father to smack the kid upside the head, offer him some gauze and neosporin, and tell him to let that be a lesson.

Cat kills a mouse and eats it.  Cats are not vegetarians, it’s not pleasant, I feel sorry for the mouse, but…  I didn’t invent the cycle of life.  I light a little mouse size candle and say a little mouse-sized prayer.  I’m not being snarky.  I really do that.

Is that hypocritical behavior, valuing the human life more than a mouse life?  Sure.

How about this.  Bird gets in you house.  Do you trap it and kill it, or do you open a window and try to get it to fly out?  What if it shits on the carpet?  Birds poop, a lot.  I’m betting you still wouldn’t think to try and kill it.

Or this:  raccoon tears your screen door, eats all your catfood every night, leaves.  Do you set a bear trap that will snap its spine and kill it?  

I’m curious why some animals invoke hate and loathing responses while most others do not.   Raccoons are too big to kill easily and are ferocious when cornered.  Birds are pretty, and they fly, which is kind of cool.  Angels fly, right?

At any rate, I think I’m going to ask my partner to trap and release the mice tonight.  I’ll stop at the Home Depot and buy the traps on my way home from work.  Yeah, most people will think I’m insane, but I can live with being labeled insane for not being a killer.

That’s why it’s called a spiritual practice.  It takes a lifetime of struggle to get it right.  I could be wrong about this issue, but right now, it seems like the right path to take.

Motherly Love

I’m 52 years old and my parents are both gone now, died 15 months apart.  My father went first, Nov. 27, 2011, exactly one month after his 88th birthday.  He was literally bored to death, driven into a deep hole of depression and paranoia by my mother’s ever-increasing senility that started about 5 years ago, in her mid-80’s, and got progressively worse as the years went by.  I will tell you this though:  through all her failing synapses and tangled pathways, my mother was still her inimitable self, charming, funny, gracious, and critical of her children, oh, so mercilessly critical.

Without any filters, and mind you, where her children were concerned she had damned few, she could be brutally, observantly direct. 

“My, dear, are you dying your own hair?” she asked one sister.  “It looks streaky.”

“You’ve gotten FAT!” she said to my brother, not having seen him in many years and probably remembering a scrawny, underweight, 6’4” teenager with a long black ponytail.

“You don’t have much HAIR!” she remarked to me during the same visit.  No indeed, it is quite thin on top, just like her brother’s became, just like her father, just like all of the men in her family that I bear a strong resemblance to.

“What’s wrong with your hair?” she asked my brother-in-law.  He had come to visit her in the hospital, from work at a high tech fabrication plant, and the bunnysuit he’d been wearing had imparted static electricity.  Strands of his hair were sticking up in places.  “Would you like me to comb it for you?” he smiled congenially, and combed his hair, and my mother very politely thanked him.  “That’s much better” she smiled.  She had just had a stroke, which was why we had all raced in to visit, the hospital doctors had thought she was dying and we wanted to say goodbye.  She didn’t know the date, couldn’t track movement with her eyes, didn’t know what our names were, although she did know that we were her children, but that Bob, my oldest sister’s husband was “not one of mine” .

“Your stomach pooches out when you stand like that,” she said to my oldest sister, who is just this side of anorexic.  She was forced to gain weight when she acquired type I diabetes at 30.  My mother was seeing the bulge of the insulin pump and mistook it for her belly. “It’s very unattractive”.

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I Dreamed I met George Takei

This morning, I dreamed I met George Takei.  He was his famous self now, but he was young, and actually, a morph of himself and Walter Koenig, but definitely all Takei.   Thank goodness my morph kept Takei’s deep rich baritone, and not Koenig’s nasal whine.  No offense, Mr. Koenig…

Takei  was doing a book signing, and all of these people had brought old books from their childhood for him to sign, from his star trek days.  They were dog-eared, marking with pages upon pages of quotes, and he was being so patient, letting everyone point out the things he’d said, in the show and elsewhere, that held such meaning for them.

When my turn came to ask him to sign my book, I was too choked up to speak.  I managed to croak out that this was a dream I’d had since I was a miserable 12 yr old way back when (well, 1972, to be precise), to be able to meet him.  I kept getting teary, trying to explain how much misery I felt back then, a queer queer, horribly abused and neglected when I was very small, unable to trust or love, it was far to life threatening to be that vulnerable, and how much comfort the show had been, with it’s optimistic view of the future. I was in JR High, hitting puberty, convinced I was going to hell for being a boy inside this wretched body, when I found Star Trek as my personal savior.   I could not find words to explain how much solace he had provided me, through his role on Star Trek, and now, talking about his own childhood days in an internment camp in WWII, and being gay on top of all that.  He was getting teary eyed too, but he was sincere, telling me he was glad that he, and the show, had helped a miserable outcast child.

Google Chrome announced they are switching from webkit to Blink. Because web developers really need another code base to test against.

—(via meetingboy)

I Had Childhood Asthma

I had this revelation last week, googling around reading about COPD, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema.

I was neither a “lazy, out of shape, scrawny, candy-ass” 6 yr old or a “lazy shuffling wheezing fatass” 10 yr old.  Apparently, according to young doctors who look at me and think I”m exaggerating, or just flat out lying, when I describe adults reactions to my symptoms, “back in the day” as if I fell out of a really cheesy parody of a bad Dickens novel,  I have simply had untreated asthma all my life.  This would explain why I would double over, chest burning, teeth aching, gasping for air, coughing when I tried to breathe, honking, annoying seal barking whoops, when I tried playing sports, do any serious amounts of running and swimming, as a kid.  Why, “healthy as an ox” according to my mother, I “only” got 2 or 3 bad bouts of bronchitis every year.   Which did not get me out of school.  I used to get thrown out of classes at school, for… coughing.  I spent a lot of time in the nurse’s office in grade school.  The nurse would try to send me home, my mother wouldn’t have it.  If she was even around to take the call.


Amazing, Unbelievable, Verifiably true story.

As a teenager, most of my friends were Jewish, and my father was always warning me about “mixed marriages” and how you had to “think of the children.”  I always blew these warnings off as the weird rationalizations of an anti-semitic midwestern asshole. I had no particular reason to believe he was an anti-semite; true, he wasn’t comfortable around Jews, was unfamiliar with Jewish culture,  but he never expressed any particular dislike for Jews.  But seriously, how else to explain what sounded extremely bizarre in the mid 70s, to equate inter-faith marriages with inter-racial marriages?

Well, turns out, he was talking from personal experience.  I just learned a month or so ago, off-handedly, from one of my sisters, that my father told her that as a small boy back around 1929 or so, he couldn’t join the local Boy Scouts because he was the product of a “mixed marriage”… Catholic, and Church of Christ. 

No shit. 

Many years ago, I learned that Catholics were the main target of the KKK during the 20s and 30s, my father’s formative years, and Evansville IN, where he grew up, was one of their key strongholds.   Well, my sister explained that the Scouts were and still are, often sponsored through churches, and the CoC wouldn’t allow my father, who was being raised Catholic, to cross their doorstep, and the Catholic Church wouldn’t let his father in, and Scouts is all about father-son bonding, eh?  

So not only was this little 7 yr old kid part of a minority targeted by some really scary bigots, he was also isolated from his minority community.  Nice.  Even though he was a bastard in a lot of ways, I still wish I could apologize for my own assholishness to him as a teenager.  (of course, he could have actually explained to me his own experiences growing up)

Did I mention today that People Suck?  And the Boy Scouts are evil?

I’m trying not to reblog a lot of stuff, but I’m a total sea-mammal groupie, and a body art fan, and big on auto-bio-comix, so I couldn’t help passing this one along.

I’m trying not to reblog a lot of stuff, but I’m a total sea-mammal groupie, and a body art fan, and big on auto-bio-comix, so I couldn’t help passing this one along.

Good Memories

My mother is dying.  She’s been dying for a long time, but as one nephew said, it looks like this time, she’s not going to make the bus driver wait.  A few days, a few weeks, more than that, we’ll all be surprised.  She is one tough old dame, that is for sure.

The stories she told us confirm that.  When she was two or three years old, she was helping the neigbor hang up her wash (this would be 1924 or 1925, think a scene straight out of the early Little Rascals) when she fell off the stool, and went home because her arm felt funny.  She laid around all day, and finally, around dinner time, her mother asked her if she was ok.  She admitted her arm hurt, and her mother, having been a nurse, noticed it was broken.  Her father was a doctor, so he set it that evening when he finished work.

She has always been terrified of heights.  When she was in college, she and some friends went to an amusement park, where there was a rollercoaster.  My mother, not to be cowed by her fears, determined to go on that rollercoaster, even though it terrified her.  She went on, eight times in a row, to prove to herself that she was not afraid.  I was around ten when she told me this story, and I asked her if it cured her fear.  “Oh no,” she said, “I was white as a sheet, vomiting, shaking, and almost couldn’t stand up, by the end!”  The moral of course, was that although she was terrified, her own force of will was greater than her fears.

My mother has a lot to answer for in her own role as mother, but you know what?  I don’t care anymore.  I have always loved her deeply and always will.  This is not denial.  I know she was at times a terrible mother, criminally negligent such that, in this day and age, she probably would have social services at her door if she took her child to the hospital with a blackened foot, the day after it happened, to save the weekend emergency cost. I like to hope that, anyway.

It seems to be a common phenomenon, to eulogize the dead and dying as if they were saints.  That’s the mother I remember,   The one who held me in her lap after a scary dream, who made me boats out of empty milk cartons to float on the pond behind the house, who made me cornstarch play doh.  The one who could laugh at a good joke, even at her own expense.  And oh, my, could she bake!  She had a gift, that apparently she got from her mother, for making pastries, from scratch.  In her dementia, I hear she spent many pleasant afternoons enjoying her mother’s “gateaux”,  at parties with all the cousins and neighbors and her brother and sister.  A few years back, I got a long distance call from my sister M.E.  Apparently mom and I had spent a pleasant afternoon playing in the snow and drinking cocoa, and she was worried I had forgotten my winter coat and the roads were icy.  M.E. let Mom talk to me, so I could reassure her I had not forgotten my coat, and had made it home safely over the icy roads.  I was happy to indulge her.  It’s kind of fun jumping down the rabbit hole with someone with senile dementia, actually.  It’s like playing make believe all over again as if you were two years old.

What is the point in holding a grudge against a dying person?  They can’t apologize, they can’t make amends.  It seems entirely sensible that we should eulogize them in the most saintly fashion.  Someone else can record “the facts”.  I’m writing the story of my mother as I always pretended she was and knew she could be, when my father wasn’t around.