My Own Worst Enemy

Same Song. Different Day

The Migraine that Ate Cleveland

I know that you’ve heard this lament before, but some days, it really is better not to get out of bed. I’m on the second day of a killer migraine, and it looks as if there will be no Obama rally for me tonight. My only solace is that we did make it to the Richmond rally last week; otherwise, I would be pulling myself into two sweaters, and double-dosing on the meds to go there, probably paying for it big time later tonight.

My Migraine (Balrog Image by Frank de Shacher)

This is one of those sound/light/smell sensitive, full-throttle migraines. I’m typing this with all of the lights off in my bedroom, after taking my meds about an hour ago. Not sure how long I’m going to last in this position, though. The wonderful thing about my huge screen is that it’s not only big, but I can also adjust the contrast ratio automatically, so right now I have it set lower than usual, which is also helpful.

Migraines are gnarly beasts. I can go weeks and weeks without a peep from these insidious monsters, and then without warning, they pounce. Granted, they are much better than they used to be, and I have no doubt that their (almost typed there for their, egads) lessening frequency is due in large part to my no longer having a full-time job. Overhead office lighting has long been a trigger for me, so I have always had lamps in my offices, and when I have been fortunate enough to have window offices, I have usually just worked with ambient light. It used to drive some of my bosses and co-workers crazy. They would make comments about not thinking that anyone was in my office and such. Whatever. It kept me from being in pain, which kept me in the office. You would have thought that they would have been happy . . .

But Words Live On Forever

But, I don’t have to worry about that any more. Do I? But of course, I still do. I still carry around with me all of the slings and arrows from years of negative comments from the workplace because in spite of my outward insistence on being such a hard-nosed, world-weary, seen-it-all, done-it-all, cynic, I am the exact opposite inside. Every harsh word, every criticism I took to heart, and it wounded me so, even when I tried so hard to be a bitch on the outside. You do realize, of course, that those of us who are so very certain and self-assured on the outside are the most insecure on the inside? At least, I have always found that to be the case for myself and my fellow blowhards.

I can remember harsh words from years ago. It’s not that I want to hold onto them. It’s that they are embedded in my psyche, echoing every time I make an error, mocking me. I am truly my own worst enemy. Years of friends and psychotherapy trying to patch my insecure ego have helped but not fixed the problem, which for me, began a lifetime ago.

I am an only child you see. Many people think that it would be wonderful to be an only, but trust me, in so many ways, it is not. While you benefit in material ways, the loneliness can be overpowering. I compensated by immersing myself in books and by being creative, but this did not prepare me to deal with other children, so by the time I went to school, I was not prepared to defend myself. The first time I was teased, I took it to heart and cried. Bad mistake. I had shown my weakness. It took months and months before I overcame, and by then, there was always the stigma of otherness about me.

And then, when we came back from England, I was enrolled in Little Creek School. I had a right proper British accent, a Filipino last name, and olive skin. Again, I was a gazelle waiting to be pounced on by the herd. It took a long time to learn the rules of this tribe and to toughen up, but again, I never quite fit in. My way of fitting in was always to stand out just enough to call attention to myself: surrender but with victory. And so, I always got A’s, got awards, joined clubs. Teachers loved me, and the cool kids hated me. It was great, but it sucked.

By the time I was 16, I was getting migraines. By the time I graduated when I was 17, I was already having symptoms of IBS. When I started working full-time at the newspaper when I was a freshman in college, my IBS was full blown. This is the price you pay when you are an overachiever and you internalize. This was the cycle that I started that continued throughout my entire work career: I volunteered for special events, extra shifts. I was in the newsroom before I was 20.  I was working full time, going to school full time, and already looking at life through jaded eyes. People commented that everything came easily to me. If only they knew how very untrue this was.

I worked for everything that I have achieved. I have my father to thank for instilling that work ethic in me. I know that I’ve written about my father numerous times, but truly, as far as working goes, he was amazing. Actually, both of my parents used to tell me something pretty progressive for the time: Never be dependent on anyone for your livelihood. Since neither of them had gone to college, they were going to make damned sure that I did, and I did. Changed majors several times, but I made it.

That Word

My, how I digressed. How did I end up talking so much about school? My point was actually about fitting in and the n-word. When we came back from England, a kid at school called me the n-word (I hate using that term, n-word, but I hate the word more). Truthfully, I had never heard the word before, so I went home and asked my mother what the word meant. She was outraged. She made me stand outside on the porch with her as the kids walked home from school and point out the child who had called me that. I did. She, as we like to call it in the South, lit into him like there was no tomorrow. As it turns out, this boy and I become really good friends and actually dated for a while. Neither one of us remembered the name-calling, but my mother did. She chalked it up to childhood stupidity. Personally, I’m glad that it’s one incident that I actually don’t remember other than through my mother’s retelling.

The point is, words hurt, and can even leave scars. Some people never let on that the words you are using are penetrating. Corey, who has felt my wrath at home before, has asked me why I never stood up for myself more at work. It’s a valid question. I think that it’s because I fight passionately with those with whom I have passion, him, for instance. Only one of my former bosses, who is no longer at my most recent job, actually saw my raw emotions, and that’s because I actually felt close enough to him to be honest enough with him to fight with him. Others with whom I do not feel enough respect, I do not engage. I know, I know. That’s my arrogance showing. Can’t help it.

As someone once said to me, “Life is too short to spend with people you do not like.” I really did not appreciate that quote until I got older and wiser. I have rambled on and on about much and nothing at all, but in the rambling, I have quieted my soul and now can rest.

More later. Peace.

Such Stuff as Dreams are Made of

I had one of those dreams last night that I really didn’t want to end. It was about my father, or rather, it had my father in it in a prominent role. From what I can remember, it started with my dad and I in line at the commissary (for you non-military people, that’s where you buy groceries on a military base). Everything had already been rung up by the cashier when I remembered that I was holding a bunch of bananas. I told my dad that I would pay for the bananas separately as he was already writing a check. In my dream, I watch him write out the check very carefully, and I know why I am doing this. I always loved my father’s penmanship; it was very beautiful, carefully formed and readable. He hands the cashier the check, and I hand her one dollar for the bananas, and we leave the store. Then, on the drive home, we pass my mother who is driving the opposite way, and she rolls down the window and tells us that she is going to the diner with someone to have lunch. I can tell that my father is upset that she is going to the diner without him. We keep driving, and he tells me that he and my mother used to go to the diner together all of the time.

That’s about all that I can remember of the dream. Nothing particularly spectacular, other than the fact that I am spending time alone with my father, something we rarely did once I grew up. Now that he is gone, we do it a lot in my dreams. We go to a lot of places together in my dreams. We have lots of conversations, one-on-one conversations. I don’t suppose I need to mention that we didn’t do that a lot either once I got older. My father wasn’t big on conversations. He was a quiet man, at least at home, unless he was angry, and then he was loud, full of ire, sometimes uncontrollable ire. My temper is very much like my father’s at times—uncontrollable. It is not something of which I am proud. It is as if some switch goes off, and I can no longer contain the words tumbling out of my mouth, and I hate every second that this scathing venomous attack lasts. I have gotten much better at controlling this switch, but it still happens, but it takes a lot more to set it off.

But with my father, you just didn’t know how long his fuse was. I think that’s the way it is with people who hold so much inside for so long. You know that sooner or later it has to come out, but you just have no idea what is going to set it off. So spilling kool-ade might set it off, when in fact, it’s really something from three months ago that has been simmering. And then he would (to use a good old southern word) holler like crazy. So there would be hollering in the house, but it was almost always between my mom and dad.

When I was a child, I only remember two times that my father really got angry with me. I mean good and angry with me. My mother usually handled the discipline. But there were two times that my father stepped in. That was as a child. But as I got older, as a teenager, I remember my father saying something to me one time when I was acting like an ass over something that really caught me short. My dad was sitting in his usual chair in the dining room, and he looked up at me with so much pain in his eyes, and he said, “when was the last time you actually said hello to me when you walked into the house?” It stopped me dead in my tracks. In my self-absorbed 16-year-old self, I suppose it never even occurred to me that my father would want to hear hello from me, one simple word. Talk about making a person feel horrible, he hadn’t even said it in anger, just in resignation, a tired man who had realized where he stood in the hierarchy of his daughter’s priorities. God, if I could take back that moment.

But as to conversations, my father wasn’t big on sitting down and having heartfelt conversations. He would have brief conversations, usually consisting of two to three questions: “You doing okay?” “You like your job?” and maybe one or two more. If it went further, it was more of a 20 questions kind of probing on my part or on his. Not nosiness, just a comfortable questions and answer period. I think that we communicated like this mostly because he knew that I understood how taxing his communication was with my mother and I realized that if wanted me to know something, he would tell me, and that was somewhat of a relief for him. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to denigrate my mother. You just have to understand her modus operandi for communication. It can be relentless and includes many assumptions, and unfortunately, I sometimes fall into that pattern if I am not careful. So often when my dad and I were together once I was older, it was in companionable silence or with a few questions here and there so that once my mother got me on the phone, she couldn’t interrogate me as to what my father and I had spoken about.

So when I have these dreams in which I am spending time with my dad at the grocery store or in the car or just talking, I relish them, cherish them because I know, deep in my heart that they are my father’s gift to me. That somehow, somewhere, my father knows that there are days on which I would give anything, everything to be able to pick up the telephone and hear his voice, but that will never ever happen again. And so I must settle for what dreams may come.