Life as I Know It

Life as I know it is my present state of being. I am unemployed, financially broke and experienced major changes to my lifestyle in order to deal with the have-nots of the wants vs. the needs. Although the finances bring conflict and uncertainty, life as I know it has also brought time.

Time has enabled me to pursue my hobbies which cultivate and encourage my well-being.  The hobbies expand as I explore new ideas but for now, the following are my areas of concentration: writing, piano, knitting, journaling, volunteering, and going to museums.

When life revolves around the nine to five work grind, my hobbies suffer because time is spent commuting, working, preparing lunches and dinners and living. Hobbies are regulated to an hour before going to bed and weekends after running errands and cleaning.

Work is to make money, hobbies are to flourish and nourish the artist within.  My unemployment has allowed the hobbies to consume my days and lullaby me to sleep at night knowing that I will return to them the next day.

My hobbies do not pay the rent or cover the monthly utilities. Work, when I had it, did. I send out resumes on a daily basis but the enthusiasm for finding my dream job has long evaporated. I have had those dream jobs and barely survived the physical and emotional tolls inflicted on my soul.

The truth is, even though I know eventually an interview will give way to steady employment, the thought of losing the time spent with my hobbies is depressing.  My hobbies are not moneymaking prospects for if they were, then the joy of empowerment and vindication would evaporate. The hobbies would transcend from a place of calm and comfort to the realm of capitalism, greed and survival. No. My hobbies will remain hobbies.

In the meantime, the search for employment continues reluctantly. The return to the “office” is dreaded for multi-tasking paper pushing duties numbs the brain. The “team playing” co-workers are a charade because teams (and salaries) do not function cohesively but rather as individuals competing for raises, ruthless in their office gossip and “passing the buck” on workload and responsibility.  

Fluorescent lighting used in most offices does not help to calm this dysfunctional environment. The ghastly stark green tinged tones are reminiscent of the lighting in science labs where rats run through complicated mazes in search of a cheese reward.

At the office, while fluorescent lighting beams on them, workers run through mazes of cloth-covered cubicles. These workers do not seek the cheese. They seek answers from the human resource rep whose email citing corporate changes in bonus’ and reduce salaries has led to workplace pandemonium!  Chaos has spread! Who will lead them back to the nine to five grind?

The answer- “Who Moved My Cheese?”, piped over the office intercom by way of “Books on Tape”.  It may be the only way to pacify the office rat race workers but not the lab rats, they’re happy with the cheese.

With all this drama taking place seven hours a day, possibly five or more days a week,  in just about any office setting, non-profit or academia,  it’s not surprising that by the end of a workday, workers are exhausted, anxious and frustrated with depleted mojos.  Moreover, to think they are up the next morning ready to repeat the same drama-different day routine.  

I will continue to send out resumes and pray for a job to pay the bills. I will also continue to bask in the extra time I have with my hobbies and not allow them to end up in the drawer of forgotten items when a job breaks through.

Is it okay?

I AM ANGRY…is it okay?

I am angry at my unemployment, my lack of finances, at the discriminating practices of thirty -something hiring managers in the position of deciding my fate. I am angry at having to live in one room of a clutter-infested apartment. I am angry with my county, my country, at the Republicans, at the President and the lack of health insurance and my unexpected weight gain.

 I am angry with dog walkers who do not clean up after their pooches and I am angry with people who abuse animals. I am angry with mom for reminding me I ate one too many chips from the super size bag she bought.

I am angry at the liquor store that sells my favourite wine and I am angry at my inability to stop drinking after two glasses. I am angry my dogs demand to be walked in 20-degree coldness with sleet coming down and black ice on the ground.

I am angry at my hair for refusing to grow and ridiculing me every morning after it had a night of partying and wild abandonment while I was asleep, passed out and snoring. I am angry with last years’ boots that refuse to die even though the traction has long eroded and because  of “waste not want not” I cannot discard them as I would a broken television set or a broken heart…

I AM GRATEFUL…is it ok?

I am grateful for my dogs because they make me laugh on a daily basis. I am grateful for “The Best Christmas Present Ever”, and for the fifteen inches of snow that makes the world seem like a beautiful place even though it eventually  turns yellow and dirty and the truth is exposed.

 I am grateful for the house I have known for forty something years and the comfort and protection it gives on bleak and stormy days. I am grateful for the food on the table, which gives me the ability to exercise and the excuse to eat more. I am grateful for belonging to a church that supports my spiritual growth and reminds me by way of divine intervention not to curse out the parishioner who just insulted me…

I am grateful my mom made it through the surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from her colon. I am grateful she tolerated her chemo treatments while making fun of her port and losing some hair. I am grateful she is here to nag me about eating too many chips.

Dog Speak

Tobias and Pi Patel are two mini Schnauzers who are my dogs. They are seven years old, salt and pepper and have distinct personalities.  Pi (no, not named for pizza pie or the mathematical Pi but after a fictional character from a great book,) is “Fabio” in disguise. He is vain, loud, obnoxious, bullyish and cannot stand competition.  Tobias, (Toby) is a rodent hunter, always on duty patrolling for mice, squirrels or birds, sweet, caring and loves to be loved.  Both thrive on one word commands such as: Sit, Stay, Come, Down, Off, Up, Speak,  Biscuit,  Paw,  Be,  Left,  Bed,  Get,  No,  Drop, and Take. If you attempt to use a full sentence you will get the head cocked to the side, ears pointed straight up, eyes bulging, which, translates to, “This is America! Speak one word please!”  

Our communication is simple-they bark, I speak and we do not understand a word or bark the other is saying. What we do understand are the intonations and sounds behind the language. My one-word commands can be soft and high-pitched or stern and grumpy. If I say, “sit” using the latter, their butts will touch the floor in less than two seconds. If I ‘m soft, they will look at me with bulging eyes, smiling (yes, dogs do smile) and display “feign deafness”.

Their bark or “dog speak” does not contain syllables, complex English sentence structure or accented punctuation but rather tonality. Pitch makes up the tones and can distinguish if a bark signifies playtime, contentment or threatened and guarded. Toby and Pi‘s bark usually falls within these two categories and does not include mewing, snorting, burping etc.-that’s another subject to write about! 

Their high pitch bark is present at greetings, playtime in the park or asking for another Bisquick (yes, the pancake). Deep pitched barks usually accompanied by guttural growls signifies someone coming in the main door and most especially someone coming in the main door who they don’t like which means everyone.

Can Toby and Pi comprehend my commands?  Yes. And that depends on intonation. Comprehension is conducive to intonation. If the tone normally used for the command is askew there will be interference in the dog’s perception and reactions which will likely result in “feign deafness syndrome”.  

Can Toby and Pi Patel understand English? No. If I say the word “sit” in Spanish using the tone associated with it, their butts will hit the floor in the same two seconds. “Sit” would also work, with the correct intonation in Japanese, German or just about any language, although the East African language of Sandawe with its clicks may pose a problem.  

Dog speak is dog speak. I speak. Toby and Pi speak. We are communicating on a continual basis whether we understand the language or not. Creating a bond between animal and caregiver is dependent upon communication whether verbal or non-verbal.  Without it, our relationships would be sterile and void of emotion.

The Best Christmas Present Ever-edited by Mykl

This last Christmas, I received the best Christmas present ever. It was not a coveted Amazon gift card nor fuzzy mittens. It was not designer soaps that end up banished inside the dresser drawer, never to see daylight again. And it was not chocolate. This best Christmas present ever came from an immediate family member and was given to me right before dinner.

My best Christmas present ever was actually a full-blown verbal assault. The wounds inflicted by this person were emotional, therefore invisible. It would have been horrible to spend Christmas seething and putting imaginary band aids on these invisible wounds, so I left the scene of verbal carnage. Once I got back home, I realized there was nothing to eat in the fridge. My empty fridge, on Christmas day, was just imaginary peroxide poured on the invisible wounds. My customary Christmas ham and Chardonnay wine was replaced by Japanese takeout food and two servings of hot sake. During my solitary dinner, I realized it did not feel like Christmas anymore.

How, you might ask, does this event fit into the realm as the best Christmas present ever? During a phone call to a close friend, I described the emotional slaughter.

“My Christmas was ruined,” I babbled. Then I tried to calmly explain what had happened. While I rattled on, he listened silently. 

“Don’t you realize you got the best Christmas present ever,” he responded, in his most polite and enthusiastic voice.

“How is that,” I ask.

“You don’t have to attend a dinner again. You are finally free. Don’t you see it?”

Up until he said that, I did not see it. His words made it perfectly clear. There will be no more ‘putting up with,’ no more criticisms, no more smirkiness, no more laziness and no more drunkenness. There will be no more nasty little snide remarks. But most importantly, the narcissistic personality disorders of not one, but two family members, are gone.

“Your mother got the chance to see it. All those years of telling her about their treatment towards you, always with her ambivalent responses, has now paid off. She got to see and hear it,” my friend said.

Suddenly I realized that emancipation had finally arrived.

There are two sides to every story, as my mom often reminds me, and yes, this writing, is  my side. I do not foresee any interviews taking place with the other participants of the best Christmas present ever. Not now, not at any time in the future and not anywhere on the horizon, that I can see.

“Is it OK to eliminate this episode, in its entirety,” I asked myself. I believe so. What will it accomplish and why rehash old wounds. There will be no clarification or justification coming, none offered. Besides, this is my version of the best Christmas present ever.

What makes this somewhat surreal is the fact that I was verbally attacked by a thirty-something (I’m somewhat older) that felt the urge to suggest my need of meds to control some perceived psychosis they imply I suffer from.

I see this family member, maybe three or four times a year. We seldom talk on the phone. There is little FaceBook communication. (Does clicking on the “like” button count?) Never-the-less, this family member believes they have the authority to prescribe what I need to be taking to be in control of whatever psychosis they imagine I have. This is only a part of what was unleashed but it is the part that bothers me the most.

Our family season of dinners starts with the traditional Thanksgiving. This leads into Christmas and culminates with Easter. Dinners from earlier years were always at my mom’s apartment. She would park herself in the kitchen, preparing culinary delights with a West Indian/Spanish flair. She would be working in that kitchen from morning until long after the other siblings had gone home. She spent all her time cooking, serving, pouring, carving and doing whatever was necessary for a large family dinner. She worked at cleaning all the dishes, the pots and pans, the serving platters and ended the day putting the apartment back in order and completely cleaned.

Fragmentation within the family arose and began to grow. Over the years, dinners and gifts became sparse, in quantity and quality.

Those family dinners became a battleground, a family form of conflict. They were filled with critical and hurtful words. Angry and derogatory words. Judgemental and sarcastic words. My communication was ignored by them talking over it. The constant use of words such as idiot, fool, stupid, and many others, were used to describe me. Constantly being baited and goaded, over and over, year in and year out, eventually caused reactions of the most unfavorable kind. Attending these dinners eventually turned me into a reactionist. These family dinners were a form of sadistic torture. Continuing to attend these events, to please a certain family member, makes me a masochist. I always silently hoped that maybe this time, maybe this one dinner, will turn out differently.

Absolving myself of toxic family members, removing myself from family dinners is indeed the best Christmas present ever. Because it validates my existence, my integrity, my sense that I am a person that deserves respect. That validation, that sense of self-respect is the best Christmas present ever.

Good Morning

“Good Morning”, a greeting of two words, holds the potential to influence whether a day will begin on an upbeat wave or in dourness.  These words are easy to say with little strain on the vocal chords but often neglected at the start of each day.

Did you utter, “Good Morning”, first thing, upon awakening to your children, parents, lover, roommate or spouse today?  Did your dog or cat hear these words with an affectionate pat? If you live alone, did you bother to say it to yourself while brushing your teeth?

Then again, did you wake up and immediately rehashed the arguments from the night before or greeted a family member with comments on bad breath, sleeping habits, ill-fitting pajamas or did you kick your dog or cat out of the your way en route to the bathroom?  The following might occur if your negative greeting was the start of another’s’ day:

The recipient of the rehashed argument, emotionally reacting, may get into a fit of road rage on the drive to work and face serious consequences.

The family member subjected to criticism of bad breath or whatnot may be a teacher at a public school- imagine the damage he/she inflicted on a student’s self-esteem who did not do their homework correctly?

The dog or cat kicked out of your way to the bathroom may be in a corner whimpering from an injury you caused.

Imagine if “Good Morning” greeted the recipient of the rehashed argument instead of harsh words and unresolved hurts. A pleasant drive listening to great tunes might have ensued replacing the possible road rage incident. This may also have led to a pleasant “Good Morning” greeting at co-workers once arriving at work. In turn, “Good Morning” would have a way of twinkling down and paying it forward as co-workers in turn may pass along the greeting, setting the tone of another’s workday.

“Good Morning” to the family member who is a teacher might absolve the student and possibly garner special attention during study time for help with homework. The dog or cat instead of sustaining an injury could be sleeping on its favourite chair awaiting your return home.

I live alone with two dogs (Tobias and Pi Patel) and make it a point to start the day, no matter how bad I have slept or who wronged me the day before with “Good Morning”. In fact, we have a morning routine that starts with doggie yoga, stretching, petting and singing. What a wonderful way to begin each day and it carries forward unto the morning walk with the dogs, where neighbours are greeted with those two words and into my morning jog where “Good Morning” springs forth to pedestrians and other joggers along the park path. Of course, not all greetings are reciprocated. When it is, I am acknowledged, what a feeling -I exist on the face of this earth! Moreover, when it is not I still feel good for saying it and recognizing another’s existence and placement.