Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blue Sunday

The more I observe my life, the more loneliness appears as a constant thread that permeates everything and every moment. Since December, I find myself spending a lot more time observing the world and people around me, where I fit and how I intersect and interact with others. I wonder if other people feel the same way I do and just go about life dealing with it in a different way or ignoring it altogether. Does everyone feel alone as I do or am I merely missing something that everyone else has figured out? Or is everyone like me, putting on the shiny "I got it all together" exterior while inside, everything is as confused and tangled as ever?

I wonder as I sit observing people, watching them laugh and interact with each other. I wonder if that is what they truly feel or is it just some sort of show for the benefit of everyone watching or involved? I step outside myself and see myself making people laugh, being witty and sarcastic, being engaged in intellectual conversations, but I know it isn't real. I don't feel those ways at all. I don't feel funny or intelligent. I feel sad, empty and alone. I put an effort into how I look before I go out, but underneath it all, I hate my body that suddenly looks old and foreign and I don't like my face with my droopy eye. I pretend I am all better and none of the other stuff matters, but it matters a lot.

I am to a point now, where I am tired of merely feeling separate from other people, I actually want to be separate. I want to go away, spend time alone, not talk to or see anyone. Not for a few days, but for weeks, months even. Time to myself time to just be and not pretend. I want the time to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling without anyone asking me if I am ok. I am tired of people asking if I am ok or telling me I just need to get through it. I want to get through it, but I don't know how. I am feeling trapped in this body, in this skin, in this life and I don't know how to change it, how to break out. I don't know where to start. I know the saying "start where you are" but I am not even sure where that is. I don't know where I am. I don't know how to talk about it, I can barely write about it and what advice is out there anyway? People say I am brave, but I'm not. I want to hide under the bed, under the covers, in the closet. I want to stand in the shower for hours while the water washes over me, but I can't and I don't.

In retrospect, learning to walk again was one of the easier things I did this year. It was easy because there was a process, a a clear step one, step two, step three way of looking at things. Now I need to make changes and I feel I can't do anything but sit and look at things feeling overwhelmed and confused.

A cousin of mine thinks I should get some kind of post-stroke therapy. Maybe he's right. I haven't really dealt with it as I could have or probably need to. I thought that when I learned how to walk and my vision returned to normal that I would feel normal, or even better than that since I had made it though something. But I feel tired and confused and alone and something of a fraud. People say I inspire them, but how can I when I can barely get myself out of bed. And if I wasn't staying with friends, I wouldn't get out of bed. What is the point, really? Yesterday I tried to ride a bike, just for a few feet, and I was terrified. It was too much to take in, and I couldn't get the bike to turn right, it would just go left and after a few feet, I would stop it and try again. But after three or four tries, I was done. I was disappointed and felt like a failure. I just went to bed to sleep it off and only get up because company was here. And I feel I have become such a whiner and complainer, I am not sure why anyone stays around anymore. I feel I have become the same type of annoying, "poor me" endlessly looping monologue I hate from others. One part of me knows this is temporary, but it just feels so permanent and I really can't see a way out right now. I feel like I need a break, a break from reality. I would love to take some time away from myself. If only I could.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Labels have never really bothered me. Growing up, I was bullied, called names and beat up on pretty much a daily basis. And that was just from my stepdad. School was a little better but not much and a big portion of my adult life has been spent in places where I stood-out, was watched, scrutinized and called many things, most of them nice, some of them not, but I grew to ignore and block out the names and labels, at least the negative ones. I didn't let them get to me and sometimes, wore them as though they were a comfortable shirt, like being the "gora" in India, a label/nickname that continues even now.

I am back in the US for an extended time and decided that as long as I am here, I should get some things sorted, such as my driver's license, looking into going back to school and getting insurance. After the stroke, I no longer live with the thought that I am invincible and nothing is going to happen to me. How I could have ever thought that in the first place is baffling, but I did and now I don't.

Yesterday, I went to sort out my insurances. I met with a person who could advise and enroll me in the appropriate insurance program. Then the questions began. At first they were easy, she asked how old I was, where I was born, if I had any children. Then she asked about income and employment and my living situation. Those three topics have bothered me for some time. I have been unemployed for close to a year, not sure if I am going to find a job with my current limitations, I have been living with friends, staying here and there, relying on the generosity of other people. My finances are arranged by a friend. I have no savings, no assets, no car, no retirment fund, no investments and no official address.

Then the words "homeless" and "poverty" were used. I know I am not homeless in the sense that I am not sleeping on the street, but in many ways I am. Ken and his family have welcomed me in with more warmth than I could have ever asked for and I know I am welcome here for as long as I need. I have never been made to feel in any way less than family. It is the same when I visit my sister in Vegas. The welcome is wonderful and I know I can stay long as I need. But there is something psychological about not having my own place, a space that is mine. Why I let the use of that word from a stranger bother me, I don't know, but it bothers me a lot, although not a much as the other label she used.

She never came out and said it, but after her assessment of my situation, she looked at her chart to see where on the poverty level I placed. Poverty. I never once thought of myself in that way. Never. But now that word is echoing through my head. It follows me everywhere. I feel like an idiot that I never realized it before. I knew I lost everything years ago. I knew I had no income. I knew I was being supported, but I never realized what that actually meant.

I spent my life working and acheiving. I wore Dolce and Gabbana suits, Prada shoes, Paul Smith ties and Tiffany and Co. cufflinks. I stayed in five-star hotels and drank champagne, ate oysters and bought art. I had an Eames chair, a Hastens bed and collectable books. Now all that is gone and replaced with the word "poverty." I have been called many things, but nothing as cold and cutting as a being labeled a poverty-stricken person. I don't know how I didn't see it, how I didn't realize it.

I am not even sure how I got to this point, to his place in life where things just ended up so completely different than they were. I wonder if I should not have gone to India. I wonder what decisions I could have made, should have made, but I know that none of that really matters. It isn't going to change the reality. I feel so embarrassed and humiliated and even more than that, I feel broken in a way I haven't felt before.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Being Me

I thought writing yesterday would help me feel better. It usually does. This time, however, it resulted in a bad night's sleep filled with dreams I can't get out of my head, the kind that seem so real, you wonder if they actually happened. I am trying to keep it all together. Now is not the time to fall apart or get depressed. I need to focus and be productive, but I am having one of those days where getting out of bed is a chore. I woke up early but then willed myself back to sleep. A few more hours of daylight thinking to avoid. I think the reality of everything is sinking in. I keep asking myself who I am and I realize I don't have the answer. I am almost forty-five and I am still trying to figure that out. I lay out the pieces of my life to examine, the places I have been, the relationships, the jobs and anything else that might give some sort of evidence as to who is actually lying in the bed staring at the ceiling almost willing some sort of answer to present itself.

I also examine the pile of broken stuff that can never be unloaded. The broken dreams, the lost relationships and all the things that seem to overpower what good I can find. I once wrote that what I hated most hearing, was people telling me that everything was going to get better. The other thing I hate is people telling me they wish they had my life. They don't. Nobody really would. Yes, there are some pretty spectacular pieces, but behind all of that, there is a whole other world that nobody sees. Even in my most honest moments, I don't let it out or confide it to anyone. I learned a long time ago to show people just enough so they think they know you and will stop asking questions.

I think about these things as my almost forty-five year old self feels like it is drowning in an ocean of uncertainty. The one thing I always cherished in my life was my independence. These days, I have none. I don't have job and haven't had one in over eight months. I want to get a job, but have no idea what I can do. Being a waiter is not an option as my balance is still not reliable enough, and when things get crazy and too much input is coming my way, I get confused and panic. I read at the speed of a six or seven year old and that means a lot of office work is out of my reach for the time being. I have been and am being supported financially and feel guilt even when it comes to buying a cola with money I didn't earn. I wonder if I will ever be able to support myself again. And then there is the fear of being alone now. If I had been alone on that night last December, I would not be here now. I still examine every headache, every odd sensation to see if it might mean something serious. I have been around people almost non-stop since the middle of May and all I really feel I want is to be alone. But the thought scares me.

I am making plans, like starting the process for a driver's license in a week, and sorting out other things. I just feel like my life is a pile of Legos at the moment and I am not sure how to build them into something interesting. In an effort to meet people, I have gotten into the whole online dating thing. Not that I am dating, it is more I am chatting with people. I have met a couple, but usually when it comes down to meeting someone, I back out, make up an excuse and then wonder what is wrong with me. I just don't know if I feel like really engaging anyone. And worse, here in the US, people always ask where you live, what you do for work and what kind of car you drive. I don't have "acceptable" answers to any of those questions. It makes me feel worse rather than better.

I am not comparing my life today with my life in the past, but rather my life today in relation to what the options for the future are and I am not sure that is any better...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22

When I left Tanzania just over two months ago, I knew what was going to happen, I had plans and some direction for my life. I was supposed to spend two months in the US visiting family and friends and putting all the drama of the stroke behind me. I wanted distance between myself and recent events and start over, a new page of a new chapter where things calm down and don't look and feel so crazy. I had a job in Brazil, a new country holding a new adventure. I spent my time in the US somewhat as planned, but also dealing with dramas I normally get to avoid. I am not sure if I like it so much, but it is what it is and I am trying to take it all in stride.

Parts of the trip have been great. Spending time with friends and family and reconnecting with people that are extremely important but who I don't really get to have real interaction with very often has been incredible and yet alien at the same time. I often feel uncomfortable being in close proximity to a lot of people. I sometimes don't know what to say and often times feel awkward and clumsy and am not really sure why. Foe the better part of twenty years, I have seen certain people only sporatically and now, suddenly, I am a part of the everyday goings on. While I have really enjoyed parts of it, it has also made me question so many things about life and myself. Even to the point where I haven't really written anything and I have barely kept in touch with anyone. I know people think I have forgotten them, but that isn't the case. I just feel a bit overwhelmed by things going on. It is a feeling I have felt for so long now, I am surprised I am not more comfortable in it. It makes it hard for me to focus and think and even harder to write a my thoughts seem to knot arond themselves and even I am not really sure what I am thinking about or want to say.

I didn't pay so much attention to it, as Brazil was always on the horizon. Since I have been here, my answer to everything difficult was Brazil. I didn't let things really bother me since I was going to leave them behind. And then, July 10, the door started closing and a few days later, I ended up writing a letter to the school explaining that I couldn't take the job. It basically boiled down to a visa situation that didn't work for the longer term and now I find myself here, in a country I never really wanted to return to, trying to figure out what happens next. I am not even sure how I feel about it and what feeling I am sure about are so conflicting and polemic.

Again, I find myself goin through things in life that nobody around me understands. There is nobody to bounce ideas off of. I don't think anyone has really understood how or why I have lived my life the way I have, and fewer that understand what is going on now. I am "home" in a place that doesn't feel like like home. Not that I am sure I even know what home would feel like anymore. I haven't really felt home for a long time.

So here I am in the US, trying to get things sorted and arranged and ready for whatever comes next. I should have my driver's license sorted in a few weeks and hopefully a job and then a place to stay that is something of my own. It is great staying with friends, but I feel the need for more independence. All this dependence upon people is taking its toll. I feel trapped and suffocated. My decisions aren't my own, they are formed by everyone helping me. I often feel like I am intruding or imposing. So many people are helping and I am so grateful, but I feel I have nothing to offer back. Honestly, it all scares me. I was in San Francisco and there were so many homeless people and I realized that there is only a thin, frayed thread separating me from them. I am so aware how close I am to being in that situation and internally, I panic. I don't tell anyone. Who would understand? I often wonder if that will happen to me, if I will end up on the streets and I wonder if I will survive it if it does. I know I have places to go, but I also know that sometimes accepting help is one of the most challenging things of all, and sometimes having all this help is making me feel helpless.

That is what has been going on, although I am not sure how much sense I made. If I haven't been in touch, it is not personal and has not really been intentional. I still struggle with letting people see the darker parts of my life and I still tend to pull back and keep it all to myself instead of putting it out there. Instead, I put on my smile, I tell some jokes and only let down the guard when I am alone. The truth is, I am terrified. I try to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I just don't. I talk as though I do, because I have to, but the truth is, I just don't see it. Not yet.