Grief is Like A Website

I went to Washington DC last week. I met a girl who does a show called “Good Grief.” She started recording her podcast after he died and she found out he had a second family with two additional children of which she was one. Woa. I also got to meet Darwyn Dave who does the show Dealing With My Grief. Darwyn's Dad was murdered. Damn. Like straight up murdered. So I listened to these shows on the way home. This lead to some strange thinking, and emotions bubbling through.

Emotional Triggers

I focus on the weirdest things lately. My brother got pretty sick a little while ago and he had a weird situation where he was sweating under a bunch of blankets because he was freezing. He had lost a lot of color, and looked bad. It was spooky even though I knew he would pull through. The bottom line is we are out of Grandparents, we have a few Aunts to play, one Uncle who is 94, and then we become the next generation in line. You know and I know that it's going to get here sooner or later. There is nothing we can do about that.

Maybe it's because my brother and I were estranged for years, and now we're not, that the thought of us being apart can cause my eyes to leak.

And when I start to grieve, I feel like I have a buy one get one free. That I have leftovers that have been sitting in the pantry waiting to be consumed.

My Mom died in 1989. That's a while ago. My finals at college were the next week and yet I still had to take them. I cried. I wept. Then it was back to school. I was now running a house as my Dad was still a long distance truck driver, and my sister….. while she has never been diagnosed I think she has assburgers.  She doesn't like any change in her routine. I remember trying to get her to write things on a shopping list. She would say, “but that's not how Mom did it.” I would have to answer, “I know, but Mom's not here.” It was a strange relationship because I was the little brother taking care of my older sister. When my Dad got home on the weekends, I would fill him in on the bills, house, and get to my homework.

I remember my last semester. I took more credit hours than I have ever taken because if I didn't graduate I was going to lose my mind. It was graduate or die trying. My GPA took a hit, but I got the piece of paper and moved on.

Being That Guy

My Mom died when I was 24. Looking back, I was a baby. I thought I was an adult, but I was pretty young. It deeply affected me. I became a workaholic. I still am. I've never wanted that to be my calling card. Hello, I'm Dave Jackson and my Mom died when I was 24. Yet, it is part of my history. It left a scar. It shaped me. I just don't want it to be my definition.

I Asked God For a Kid and He Said No

I spent myself into bankruptcy trying to have a kid. It didn't happen and instead, my wife became an alcoholic and cheated on me. Pity party for one, again…

The last episode of Good Grief, Sam has her Dad (the man who raised her ) explain what it means to be a Dad. He explained how it changes you. It transforms you. It makes you complete. It was like a bad horror flick where the person rips out your hear and holds it in front of you.

Again, I don't want to be that guy. When I got to meet my friend's nine-month-old son it was awesome. He is the sweetest kid. This doesn't bother me. I don't ache to have my own, but I do have a major fear of missing out. If having children makes you complete, then I'm not. Am I broken? I dunno. I like me. I think I'm ok… confused..

Playing Ball With My Dad

My Dad was not a bad Dad. He just wasn't around. He was on the road four to five days a week and would come home and sleep and then repeat. My brother bought me my first baseball glove. My brother was pushing the bike that I learned to ride. My Dad did take me fishing once. But it was that ball thing. Aren't you supposed to go in the backyard and toss the ball, any ball around? It never happened. Now here is the stupid part. We played ping pong on a regular basis. It was fun. We laughed, and battle hard. I'm not sure why this doesn't count for me. I guess cause you don't see it on TV or in the movies…

I was at the park walking through the woods. The woods opened into an opening with a baseball field. There it was. A boy about age seven or eight pitching the ball to his Dad playing catcher. My heart just jumped out of my chest. It was like looking into a store window of something you will never be able to buy. I wanted to run out on the field and go, “DUDE, do you know how LUCKY you are?!” Then I got mad. Like any child who doesn't get what they want. Why did everyone get to play catch but me? Pity party for one.

When I was young, some of my oldest memories are sitting on my Granpa's living room floor. My Dad would argue with him Mom about something stupid, and eventually, my Grandpa and my Dad would go outside. I'm assuming they talked. They had a father and son moment, some sort of discussion. I'm assuming this is why we came over. My Dad wanted to hang with his Dad. This again pisses me off. My father and I had chit chat. We talked about my weather. For most of my life, my father was confused about what I did for a living. I was a corporate trainer teaching people software and he still thought I was fixing copiers. Actually, he thought I was fixing printers. He'd open a Best Buy advertisement and go, “David here's your stuff.” I got tired of correcting him.

I remember after my first divorce, I thought I would try to play catch up with my Dad. We weren't close, and the only way to fix that was to spend some time together. I asked my Dad if he wanted to go to an Indians game. I was going to buy some tickets, and he could get to see the new stadium the team had built. He turned me down. He said you can see things better on TV. To this, I can't argue. It's true. But it wasn't about the game, it was about spending time with your son. I would go over to his house and watch a game with him, and we would exchange chit-chat. This can often open the door of anger. Like why did you not want that? I had more “Mentoring talks” with my oldest stepson about women, school, life in the eight years I was in his life than my Dad and I had in the 50 years I knew him.

When he died I mourned what I lost, but I mainly mourned those things that never were and never would be. I mourned a blown opportunity. It was classic cats and the cradle. He was busy, then I was busy. Then his mind left before I could pick his brain.

Closing the Hallway Doors

As I go through life, I feel I'm OK. My life could be so much worse. I have a job I love, a cool apartment and the freedom to do pretty much whatever I want whenever I want. But there are times when I'm left alone with my thoughts, or I'm listening to a podcast about grief that I hear the drips of grief. I hear a door stressing against the pressure of what is behind it. I turn the knob and a river of tears covers me. I'm not surprised but still shocked. What is up with this? I struggle, I push hard, and finally, the door closes. I take a few more steps and sometimes the weirdest thing will set off another door. It glows orange from the anger behind it. When I crack the door, the heat blows back my hair like opening an oven preheated to 400 degrees. I feel it engulfing my body, but I don't want it. I push and push with all I have and eventually, it closes.

What Happened to Time Heals All Wounds?

It's been decades. What is up with this? I read about Grief, and I hear how some people can't move on. I've moved on. I work, I eat, I laugh. I accept that this is the new normal. This is as good as it is probably going to get. My Dad burned two things into my brain:

  1. The world doesn't revolve around David Jackson
  2. The world is not fair (which is somewhat of a rerun).

So when I didn't want to do something, I did it anyway. When I wanted something, and couldn't have it. I had to suck it up. I remember on the few occasions when my Dad had to spank me it was always the most conflicting of actions. He put me on his legs, smacked my butt and then I would cry. This would last for about 10 seconds, and my Dad would then tell me to go get a warm washcloth and bring it to him. Not wanting to get spanked again, I would do that. He would then take the cloth, put on the back of my neck, shoosh me and tell me it was going to be OK. It worked, and I calmed down, and in many cases that's all my parents needed me to do.

But When Is This Grieving Thing Over?

I thought time heals all wounds. Well, I guess if you count that I can function a win, I guess it's true. When you read about the seven steps it always sounded like when you got done with the last step you would be back to normal.

As I don't want to be “That Guy” I looked into this and found an article that seemed to make sense. Here is a paragraph

The misguided notion that grief is a process that allows a final working through of a loss is likely the fault of my own profession–mental health professionals who have promoted this notion in their work with grieving individuals. Clinical data makes it clear that any significant loss, later and repeatedly, brings up longing and sadness. Is it because these people have not achieved closure by traversing prescribed stages of mourning or because they have not “worked through the loss” as some therapists boldly claim? No. It's because you never get over loss. As time passes, the intensity of feelings about the loss will lessen, you might also find ways to sooth or distract yourself, or you can partially bury grief-related feelings by creating new memories. But you're not going to get over it because that's impossible: you cannot erase emotional memory. Besides, it's not about achieving closure. Instead, you have to figure out what you are going to do when your emotional memories are later triggered.  (Full Article)

This is good and bad. It's good that I no longer feel like I'm broken because I still miss my parents. It's bad because grief is like a website design. It's never done. You always need to tweak it. It might be fine for years, but something will come along and you will need to tear it all down and rebuild it. A website is never really done, and apparently, you cannot erase the emotional memory.

 

White People Training

I was born and raised in Akron Ohio, and my elementary school had one African-American student (Melody Hardy) and she sat right next to me. What I'm worried about is it seems if a white person says something that is insensitive, they are INSTANTLY labeled a RACIST.

If a person is like me, we aren't racist – we are untrained. We've had zero practice dealing with different cultures and races. If a white person says something that sounds racist, it may be that they are missing some key ingredients in their education of what it's like to be a person of color.

The problem is if we are all waiting with our “guns” locked and loaded, then everyone (especially white folks) don't start any conversations. The ability to grow, and understand other cultures is limited if we don't open up the door to understanding different perspectives.

As someone who constantly hears about “White privilege,” it sounds like all I need is to be white and have a penis and I will never have anything to worry about. It didn't work for my Dad when we went on welfare and we got to enjoy the awesome taste of government cheese. This doesn't mean I had it worse than you, I'm just saying not all white males got a free ride.

Some of the best conversations you can have are when you quit trying to convince someone to think you like you do, and instead just provide your side of the story and let people make their own decisions. This requires you to listen, and I don't think we are open to hearing another side of the story because you might actually change your opinion.

Just be careful labeling all white people as racists.

Tackleface

I haven't been to a McDonald's in quite some time, and apparently, we've come a long way from the days of the paper hat and smock. Maybe it's just me flashing back to the days when I had to have my hair above my collar to keep my job.Maybe it's because I'm the only person on the planet who doesn't have a single tattoo, but some of the people who serve my food at the drive through are startling.

I drive up to the window to hand them my ATM card and they turn around and HOLY CRAP!

It looks like the dove face fist into a tackle box. I don't care that you have enough hardware in your face to pick up a shortwave radio stat, but when you're not ready for it, it can be quite a surprise.

Tonight I went to a Books a Million (BAM) and was surprised to see they had installed a Library in the coffee shop. There were at leat 10 people who are not “Skimming” a book to see if they should buy it, but starting at page 1 and going straight through. I swear one guy was in there the last time I was in this location. At some point, shouldn't you just buy the book and take it home? Why would you when you can buy a water and an oatmeal raisin cookie and come back tomorrow and finish up the book. One person even fell asleep in his chair.

It is one of the few places on earth that doesn't have 50 TV's on the wall.

If You’re Happy and You Know It

Today I talk about a negative voice in my head that just always seems to be there. Always.

Lately something has not felt normal. Something was weird. Something didn't feel right.

It turns out the thing that wasn't wrong, was there wasn't something wrong.

I'm not dreading going home

I'm not under lots of stress.

I like my job.

I'm not super stressed about money

I'm pretty sure, that it may be a while before I get in another argument.

I feel respected.

What is this feeling?

Holy cow, I'm happy. I forgot what this has felt like. Much like a dog who has been beat too much, I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop – and it's not.

You can feel bad about yourself when you compare yourself to others.

The American life is to have a spouse, a house and kids. Well I have no spouse, probably not going to have a house, and the kids boat has sailed. If I think about this too much, I can feel like I've missed something. Yet, I have a great life. I'm sitting in air conditioning, employed, I'm down 30 lbs.

Life is good, quit being an A-hole and enjoy it!

What You Focus On Should Impact You In a Positive Way

I almost bought a magazine filled with Shi-tzu dogs that in the end would leave me feeling sad missing my old dog. At first seeing their pictures of the dogs/puppies it made me smile. However, if I bought that magazine, I know I would eventually lead to me missing my dog. So I passed on the magazine. Instead I'm going to focus on the things in front of me that bring me joy (like air conditioning)

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Brian and Linda: Marriage Advice from the Divorced Guy

Last weekend I was driving to the place where I ride my bike. It beautiful. I get out there, relax, and enjoy nature.

This week I was driving and I passed signs for Brian and Linda's wedding, and then the reception. I thought of how happy Brian and Linda must be on this day. It was an awesome day to sweat 20 lbs off in a tux. I thought of how I felt on my wedding days. Yes, there have been two. With this in mind, you can learn from people who succeed at something, or you can also learn from people who fail at something so I feel I have some good advice from a divorced guy.

Pick Your Battles, and Your Battle Times

Your spouse is not perfect. This you need to learn right up front. Your life will not be perfect. How you handle the reality of that is HUGE part of how your marriage will go. This doesn't mean you become a welcome mat for your spouse to walk over, but you do need to set realistic expectations. With this in mind, let some things roll off your back. Wait a day or two to see if it is still bugging you. If it is, then start thinking about how to bring it up, and more importantly when to bring it up.

There is that whole “Don't go to bed mad at each other” and it's next to impossible if you bring up stuff AS YOU ARE GOING TO BED. For me, when my head hit the pillow I had two things on my mind, and if we weren't doing the first thing, I wanted to sleep. This is NOT the best time to bring up serious subjects. Your spouse is exhausted and wants to sleep. I know, let's dump some serious discussion on them, and see how they make decisions when their brain checked out hours ago.

In the morning before work is a crappy way to start the day. As soon as you get home from work is awful because you want to relax. How about after dinner. Another tip I would add is give a warning shot. Maybe some time during the day send a “I need to talk to you tonight” text to let them know. While a “we need to talk” used to mean you are breaking up, now that you're married that option is off the table. Don't panic.

Reinforce Your Commitment

Let's face it, there will be times when things are said or done, and you are royally cheesed off. This happens. Remember, it's not going to be perfect. So if you are going to bed angry, try to remind your spouse that while you don't like them at the moment, you do love them. I know that's weird. Buy can you love a child who just spilled chocolate on the carpet? Sure. Well then, remember that you can be upset with someone and still love them.

State that, “You know that really hurt me, and I'm upset. I want you to know that I still love you, and I'm sure we can work through this.” Why I feel this is important is when you get into a bad situation, it may feel like everything you do is not good enough, that all you do is wrong, and that your relationship is doomed. A reminder that you are a team, and you will work through your problems might be a key to having a dialogue vs an argument.

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

If you need to point out something that needs work, the “bad news” might go down better if you add something positive to it first. “I love that you are such a (hard worker, good mom, etc) and I can see that when you (whatever they did) and I deeply appreciate it. Here is a way that take that great action and maximize the impact would be to ____.

Don't Be A Buthead

Be careful saying something nice up front if it is followed by “But…” as everything before the word But gets erased when you use it. This is really hard to do. I the love the way you do this, and that BUT when you…. that doesn't work.

Know Your Schools of Thought on Marriage

There are two schools of marriage (for me).

  1. Two complete people who choose to be together.
  2. Two incomplete people who choose to be together to complete each other (the Jerry McQuire Marriage).

People Can Change But It's Never Easy

By the time you get married, you are who you are for the most part. People can change, that is true. It's a bit like steering a giant cruise boat. Sure it can turn, but it takes time, and it is slow. If you are marrying someone and thinking later that annoying thing they do will change, you might want to reconsider. For one, if they do change it may be something that comes naturally, and consequently, it takes effort to not do something that is just like a reflex. So if you marry someone who drinks, and think later you can talk them into giving it up, you may be not so presently surprised. If you want someone to give up something they truly enjoy, it may happen along with this thing we call resentment.

Have Something In Common

You are going to be spending a lot time with this person, it would be nice if you could do things together that you BOTH enjoy.

Be The Person Your Spouse Wants to Hang Out With

You never get any time together. You finally do, don't spend that time telling your spouse they you never spend any time together. Instead tell them how much you miss them, and how great it is to spend time together. Give them something to miss. Nobody likes a no it all. Nobody wants to be around a person who is always complaining. Be someone your spouse wants to hang out with.

Women – Sex Makes You Stupid

Don't sleep with someone. I know that women are independent and strong, but thanks to movies, romance novels, etc when you have sex with a man you become blind to their faults (in most cases). Typically, it is harder for women to have sex with a man without having emotional ties.

Date Night

We are busy, so come up with dedicated times to spend together. There are no exceptions. This shows your dedication. If you do need to use a Date Night for a non-date night activity, be sure to appreciate the other person for letting you go off the plan, and make it up to them. To the person who is “giving permission” do it with a smile, and you will be the coolest person on the planet. A person people (your spouse) will want to hang out with.

If Needed, Schedule Sex

You're busy, I'm busy, you're tired, I'm tired. Sex is important to everyone in the marriage. I know it would be great if violins started to play and “it just happened” but it doesn't. Here again, it's not going to be perfect. But if you put it on the calendar, all expectations are on the calendar, everyone knows what is expected. Sure it's not as romantic, but are you going to tell me that when it's done you're going to say, “well that was awful.” There is no bad pizza; there is no bad horrible sex.”

The High Road is Covered in Goose Poop

It's been 5 months since I've documented my life. I'm trying to do this without throwing people under the bus, pointing fingers, cause in the end – it doesn't matter. I am now divorced. Pointing fingers will not change that, so I take the high road and wish the best for my (oh, good God – now SECOND) ex-wife.

So I'm living alone. Me and a cat. Bernie. I've never been a cat person, but Bernie is OK. There are times when its nice to just have another heartbeat under the roof.

I'm not looking for as pitty party. It is what it is. I feel we did what we could. We spend thousands on counseling. We knew what to do, but thanks to our childhoods, our experiences, we are wired the way we are, and we couldn't change. As a teacher, I find this fact hard to believe. I believe in constant improvement. In the end, I guess a leopard can't change it's spots, and a Zebra can't change it's stripes. At that pint you either accept what you have (even if it's not exactly what you want) or you move on.

geese2

Things I've Learned So Far

Geese are pretty, but the crap on everything. It's one thing thing to have a robin poop on your car. Its a whole other story when its a goose.

Toilet paper rolls last for MONTHS when there are no women in the house.

It's easier to change the littler box daily for a few minutes, then to do it once a week.

I am developing an unhealthy fear of the unknown. I'm worried I will blow my 50's worrying about my 70's.

Play the Cards You're Dealt

The choices I've made my life have got me to where I am. I can't change the past. I can only do the best with what is left.

50 and Falling Apart

I remember my Toyata Corolla. It was the first car I had with power windows and air conditioning. A little old lady (seriously) owned it before I did and I drove the crap out of my car. I remember when the windshield washer fluid pump went out. Then I got a crack in the windshield. These were all little things, but things were starting to wear out. The last straw was the door handle came off in my hand. Shortly after that, the engine started having serious issues. I took care of that car and it had a ton of miles on it when it rolled into the dealer. Looking back, most of the cars I have owned gave a warning shot. We do what we can, but there comes a point when it makes no sense to invest into a car that is going nowhere.

I turned 50 in February which means right now I'm closer to 51 than I am 50. In the past month I blew out three of my only pair of jeans. I'm at 223 today as I record this. The most I've ever weighed in 226. The biggest reason I gain weight is from time to time I just don't care. I'll worry about it tomorrow. If you look at the your calendar, someday is not on it.

I remember at 25 wanted to loser weight. Then 30. I did lose 20 lbs when I got divorced. But the weight I lost has now found me and it brought friends. So when I turned 50 I thought, “I need to lose weight.” The problem is the older you get the harder it gets. This is depressing. It really is.

I started taking blood pressure pills. There is a chink in the armor. I use to go up stairs two at a time. No lacing up my shoes in the morning is an Olympic event. Good God how did this happen? Oh that's right, 80% of my food comes through the drive through window. I got a call the other day that its been a year since my last eye exam. That exam lead to me getting glasses. Those glasses that are now not strong enough at times. Those glasses that are bi-focals. That was weird. Bi-focals are for old people.

One my best friends growing up is fighting Lukemia. It's like we are getting old. I'm starting to look more and more like my Dad and my Aunt is starting to look like my Grandma. It's weird, and I'm not a huge fan, and yet we have no control.

I heard an ad on the radio for this place call Slimgenics who gaurentee if you follow their program you will lose weight. I know its a scam. Well not really. I can design a plan that I would gaurentee to work. I just don't follow it. But I went in to sign up. I figured, “What the heck.” I got to hear the pitch, etc. They took my blood pressure. Then they took it again. Then they told me to take deep breaths and took it again.

You know how your blood pressure medicine ran out a while ago, and you were going to “Get around to getting a refill.” Then you called it in and the pharmacy never called you back. Remember that? Then you did it again, and again, each time being ignored. It's because the doctor needed to see me. Nobody called, and as it turns out its been over a year since I had my blood pressure medicine.

The folks at slimgenics won't take me into their program.

So I got no jeans. No blood pressure medicine, and no time to fix it. Actually I'm going to the doctor this coming week. Don't mess around with your blood pressure.

I'm 50 and I'm falling apart.