Pushmi-pullyu

Dr. Dolittle had a creature that made him a lot of money, a pushmi-pullyu. This creature had two heads and two front bodies. The benefit was, the animal cold both eat and talk at the same time. The drawback was, it couldn’t decide which direction it wanted to go. No matter where it went, half of it was uncomfortable walking backwards. Therefore, it spent most of its time standing in one place. But that creature, on display, was a source of some pretty good income for Dr. Dolittle.

I have felt kind of the same way most of my life. Not the Dr. Dolittle way,exploiting outlandish creatures for profit. No, I have felt more like the pushmi-pullyu, forever trapped between coming and going, and watching others profit from my efforts.

There is a battle inside me. Dramatic? Probably. True? Definitely. I want opposite things in life. I want adventure and I want stability. The adventure side of me wants to travel, write, take chances, jump off cliffs (well, maybe not THAT one), etc. The stability side of me wants a 9-5 job, paycheck every 2 weeks, and the ability to know what’s going to happen next week, next month, next year.

Now, some people do have both. They have a steady job that pays well enough so they can vacation and travel and jump off cliffs. They can pay their bills without worry and can spend their free time being adventurous. They can take chances in their work because they are secure in their profession. They enjoy their profession, and therefore have the emotional energy to pursue other passions in their downtime.

I would say not many people have both, but they do exist.

Far more people have the stability. They have a regular job with regular pay and they go to work five days a week to pay the bills. They spend their downtime “recovering” from drudgery. They go on vacation once or twice a year to escape their regular life.

Some people have the adventure. They travel, they backpack, they scuba-dive – all over the world. They don’t have 9-5 jobs, and their income is either based on the results of their adventures, or (more likely) they have some family money behind them and can afford to live without a steady paycheck.

Of course, then there are the majority of us. We don’t have “good” jobs. We struggle every month to pay the bills. Our life is a never-ending series of adventures in poverty. We take chances by playing the lottery, spend our tax returns on frivolous enjoyment, and continually make choices that keep us in the hamster wheel of the service class.  And for most of us, we stay in that wheel our entire lives. So, what does all of this have to do with a fictional creature in a children’s book?

Everything.

We all have within us a duality. A sense of conflict between doing what we think we want and doing what we think we should.  Most people go their entire life with this feeling just a slow burn of small dissatisfactions. Perhaps they act out as teenagers, but eventually settle down. Perhaps they blow-out with a mid-life crisis, but then meekly put the pieces back together.

Some people just never settle down.  They never lose the strong sense that there is something else they should be doing, some greater cause to pursue.  A very few reach great heights because of family circumstance, good choices made with good guidance, or luck. The rest of that group tends to stay in low-paying jobs because those are the jobs that don’t tie you down.

Not everyone who flips hamburgers is an adventurer at heart, but I’d bet serious money there are more would-be adventurers selling you your morning coffee than doing your taxes.

Me? I’m spectacularly good at making no money. I rise to the top of every low-level job I take, because I am driven, ambitious, conscientious, polite and service oriented.  I am the “lead”, the “shift manager”. I am the “boss”, who isn’t really, ever, the boss. The service industry loves my type of worker, and I have always increased my employer’s profits. But I’ve never made anything close to a comfortable wage for myself.

I have been termed “underemployed” because I have a vast skill set, yet little to show for it. I have no degree, but have taken classes in nearly every discipline. I have aced creative writing, trigonometry, psychology and anatomy & physiology. I have tutored students who have gone on to good jobs with good money.

I have traveled and lived in much of the US and in Europe. I have been asked to speak at conferences all over the world. I am published. I have been front-page news in my local newspaper and middle-ish news in the Wall Street Journal. I have an outlandish CV.

And yet, I work in a service industry job in a health care facility. I can’t pay my bills with the paycheck I make.  I am exhausted at the end of each shift I work, and I can barely muster the energy to write a grocery list on weekends, let alone anything else.

Why?

I know I’m not alone. I know there are many, many people like me who have tasted what it’s like to live a life of grand adventure, but who seem stuck in the mire of poverty.

I don’t have the answer, because if I did, I would act. It’s not college. I’ve tried that. I love school. But I have never been able to “nail down” a major, something I can see myself doing for “the rest of my life”. It’s not about taking chances. I’ve done that. I’ve lept off the cliff and soared for a while, before both my life and I came crashing down. Is it laziness? I don’t know. I work 50+ hours a week, on my feet. If I were lazy, would I be able to do that? Is it mental illness? I seriously ask because I think it might be a little bit of depression and anxiety that holds me back.  I think there is a lot of truth in the last one.

Which brings me to Dr. Dolittle and his pushmi-pullyu.  I want to break out and do great things, but I want to stay safe and small, too. I haven’t been able to keep going in one direction before my other half takes over and drags me back. I haven’t stood still, far from it. But I seem to end up in the same place, regardless of how far or how long I run.

The funny thing is, I’ve never liked the Dr. Dolittle books. Never. Even as a little kid with a voracious reading appetite, I just didn’t like them. And the character I hated the most?  Shocker: the pushmi-pullyu.

What does it all mean? I’m as interested in the answer as anyone else.

 

Happy New Year!!

Welcome 2014!!

As most of you know, Henning has spent the last three months in the states with me. As you also know, I was booted out of Denmark, so our situation has been complicated by not only health issues but logistical issues, as well.

I have been busy making a new life in NH, while Henning has been figuring out home hemodialysis in Denmark. We had planned on his being able to travel with the NxStage System One (the only portable home dialysis machine) but due to tons of red tape and a complete lack of urgency of his care team, time was ticking away, and away, and away.

Thanks to NxStage and HDU (courtesy of Rich Berkowitz) Henning was able to travel to the US for a conference in October. He was officially invited by HDU, and Rich gave us tons of advice and lots of pushing in the right direction. NxStage stepped up and got on board, as Henning is the first Scandinavian and only one of a handful of Europeans on home dialysis to travel to the US, and perhaps the only one to do so for  such an extended visit. This is a Very Big Deal, medically speaking.

Thanks to some sponsorship, good connections and a lot of great timing, Henning’s visit has been relatively drama-free. He did have some access issues at first. In Florida at the conference, it was getting pretty urgent as he was unable to dialyze for nearly three days. That’s a lot of days. NOT good. But due to some great support, material, emotional and physical, from NxStage staff, he was able to finally get a good cleaning and we had a great time, over all. I’ll post more about the conference now that I will have some free time to really work on my backlogged posting.

Once we were back in NH, access issues continued to be a problem. Thankfully we have great support here as well, again thanks to NxStage finding a local doctor willing to work with them and Henning. International prescription and care issues continue to be a problem with home hemo users and international travel. His doc did a scan and discovered Henning’s venus access site was about 1/4″ away from the actual fistula. Again, NOT GOOD. And… also… no great surprise. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, Henning’s care in Denmark is sub-par, and that’s the most flattering comment I can make.

Once Henning established a new access, he’s had no further access issues. In fact, dialysis has been pretty boringly unremarkable, and that’s GOOD.

We have visited some great friends, had some great dinners out, done too much shopping, and spent too much money in the three months he’s been here. We took the girls to New York City the weekend before Christmas, and that was quite an adventure! The girls had never been, and it was great seeing the city fresh from their points of view. Neither Henning nor I had been to the City during the holidays, and we did have a few cranky moments in the crush of Times Square, but otherwise we had a blast. We walked over 120 blocks, and checked off almost everything on our “If you could only spend one day in NYC what would you do” list.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving and Christmas and spent lots of time with the girls. Our oldest lives next door to us, so spending time with her, her fiance and our grandson is always fun!! Megan and Larry are getting married on New Year’s Eve, so I’m thrilled that Henning will be able to be here for that.

We are sad to see his time here end. He goes back to Denmark on January 6th. So we have just a few more days together, this time around. We are already planning the next visit sometime in the spring.

Look for more posts as we catch up after a few months of just reveling in each other’s company.

I am launching a new site, as well. I have decided that it’s time for another journey in transformation. Anyone that knows me knows I spent several years before I met Henning in Self-Discovery Mode. I have managed, with time, therapy, and lots of introspection, to “get past” a lot of major life issues. As most of you also know, I still struggle with finances and fitness. SO… I have decided to challenge myself with a long-term project I call 60 to 50.

You can read about it here: http://60to50.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/welcome-to-60-to-50/

Join me as I say goodbye to 2013 and welcome 2014 with open arms and an open heart.

Happy New Year!!

I’m not stupid, and neither are you.

Feeling Dismissed.

It happens to everyone, and it never feels good. I am not talking about some boot-camp setting where the drill sergeant yells that the session is over. I am not talking about being asked to leave the room during a meeting. I am not talking about being fired. Although being dismissed can mean any of those things, I am talking about when you feel like your view, your opinion, your experience or your contribution is under-valued.

I don’t have a grown-up job. I don’t have an advanced degree in anything. I have a few terms of Bible College (shocking, I know). I have an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts (with a concentration in English). I have a couple of additional years of creative writing classes and photography classes in my education list. I have over a decade of experience in Restaurant Management (with the highest scores on my exams and certifications).  I have nearly a decade of experience in Workflow Management (basically how to get stuff done with the least effort, in the least time, with the least amount of resources).  Until my recent marriage I was a single mom for nearly a decade.

I have won national awards for my writing. I have been published in some pretty snazzy anthologies. I tutored Psychology and Statistics at the college level while I took my creative writing classes.  I helped many students graduate college, even if I ended up not gaining my degree myself.

I wrote and implemented the Employee Manual and developed the training courses for the last company I worked for. It was my “unofficial” job to make sure we were in compliance with the ever-changing safety and labor laws.

I worked with the Math department at my local community college and helped streamline the way they taught Basic Statistics. Many students were failing, and they couldn’t keep tutors. The reason was, even though this was a basic class, and required for all students in any degree program, every teacher used different texts and teaching styles. There was no uniformity. As a Stats student, I was able to overcome this and achieve a better than perfect grade. I was a highly sought after tutor and well paid for my efforts.  At my suggestion, the Math department standardized the texts, the tests, the homework, and the way stats was taught. As a result, even the most math-impaired student could pass, and most did. I am especially proud of this last bit.

I could go on. But most people don’t see past the first two things. I don’t have a grown-up job, and I don’t have an advanced degree.

What that means is… I am often dismissed.

My husband does have an advanced degree.  My mom and my uncles have advanced degrees. Many of my friends have advanced degrees. For some reason, it can feel as if they think they are more right than I am in most things… by simple virtue of their education. It’s not easy being in a relationship with someone who’s always right, be it friend, family member, or spouse. Even when they say they see your point, it still often feels like it’s coming from a place with just a little higher view of the world. And that, to me, is infuriating.

Because I try very hard not to dismiss others. I know my IQ. I know the strengths of my intelligence. I know that no matter what room I walk into, I am likely the smartest person in it. That’s not arrogance, that’s fact. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t reached my “potential” (whatever that is supposed to mean). It doesn’t matter than I never finished my degree. It doesn’t matter that I have bottomed out on relationships. It doesn’t matter that my kids don’t have the world’s best mom. What it means is, I’m pretty damned smart. I have the tests to prove it.  What’s more important, to me, is that I remain curious about the world. I read a LOT. I study a LOT. I read journals, and articles, and I try to keep on top of what’s happening in the world. I read about medicine, science, psychology, farming, politics… whatever catches my interest. So I know I’m not only able to grasp the nuances of what is happening around me, I am also able to apply it in some way.

I am most endlessly fascinated by why people act the way they do.  And so I pay attention to people. If I dismissed someone’s opinion because I didn’t see the value in what they had to say, because I didn’t feel their education or experience gave them a right to their view, it would be my loss. They don’t need my approval, but I value their participation in our interaction. That’s not to say I don’t mess up. I do. I am rude, I am arrogant, I really piss people off. But I do try not to, and when I know I have behaved badly, I apologize. Unless you are one of my ex-husbands. You guys totally deserve it. But I digress.

So when I am dismissed, when my views are de-valued, I want to cry, “UNFAIR!” Because, honestly, the people who dismiss me the most are usually the people who, in spite of my sometimes feeling like they are talking out of their asses, I listen to. I try to see their views, even when I disagree. I’d MUCH rather have arguments than end conversations with dismissals. So when the tables are turned, it feels like a real attack to be dismissed.

I have found ways around this. I am obnoxious enough to push through most dismissals. I can usually “gently” maneuver the conversation back around to where the person actually, in spite of themselves, really listens to me… and shockingly enough… I am found to have a valid point after all.

But that doesn’t mean the hurt is gone. It feels like a betrayal to be dismissed, especially when it’s by someone whom you love, who loves you. I almost wrote “claims to love you”, but the fact is, most of the real damage to us is done by people who really do love us. But painful or not, betrayal or not, at the end of the day, I have to choose to accept dismissal or fight to be heard. For me, the fight is worth it.

I don’t like to be angry.

I don’t like to be angry.

I don’t do great with sadness, joy or excitement, either… but for some reason most of my “big” emotions end up turning into anger. Most of my little stresses and resentments also turn into anger… and of course, my anger turns into bigger anger.

I know I have anger issues. I have been to anger management, twice. I actually passed it the second time around… so I know the drill. I know how to breathe. I know how to count. I know how to be aware of my body and how I am feeling in the moment. I know that it is ok to be angry. I know that being angry doesn’t make me a bad person. I also know that just because I am angry, I don’t have to be mean. I don’t even have to act on my anger. Sometimes it is ok to just let it be. But that doesn’t mean I like anger when it comes, or that I feel confident dealing with it. I am sometimes afraid that I will snap, when anger comes quickly or unexpectedly. Sometimes I do snap, and I don’t like the consequences.

The worst part of being angry is, when I am no longer angry, I can clearly see where I mis-stepped, where I misunderstood, where I mis-spoke. But when I am angry, I often blunder.  When I get angry, I choke. I can’t communicate effectively. What I say comes out in ways I don’t intend. I am not often deliberately mean, but I can be hurtful. I work very hard to communicate, and even more so when I know I am impaired by anger. The result is often tears.

Because I so despise being angry, I often try to funnel it off into action or other emotions, to defuse it. That rarely works long-term, but it can work for a little while. What often happens, though, is that the anger rebounds later, and if I am not prepared for it, it can overwhelm me. So I do try to deal with anger as it occurs, for everyone’s sake.

Lately, though, a lot of what life has thrown at me makes me angry. At the same time, I feel like I am often ule to deal with it as it comes. The situations are such that I need to be cool, I need to be rational. As if my anger is such a small thing in the face of the circumstances. That it is, momentarily at least, inconsequential.

Henning is very sick and has gotten little support from his medical team. I have often felt that the “system” here would be happiest if he were to simply die and relieve them of the burden. That makes me very angry.

I am very angry with Danish Immigration. They do their best to discourage and dismay foreigners as a matter of course, and I am in the midst of an appeal process regarding my application for temporary residency that is maddening. Literally. That makes me very angry.

I am angry with my daughter’s guardian. My daughter’s guardian is treating her terribly, and has ganged up with her dad to make the poor girl’s life a misery. This guardian is also refusing to talk to me, even though we used to be friends (why she is the guardian in the first place). There is nothing I can do, because, read above, I am in a legal battle that requires my presence here. And I can’t bring my daughter here to me, because my own status is in question. That makes me very angry.

I am angry with Henning. I am angry that he didn’t listen to me about the Immigration issue that has led directly to our application being rejected. I am angry that he listened to bad advice on our situation, and I am angry that he still places that advice over my own assertions, despite a track record of (so far) my “rightness” far outweighing his other advisor. I am angry that he blames some of his symptoms on not being fit enough, and I am angry that he is not taking those symptoms seriously enough. I am angry that no matter how angry I get, I can’t just blow up at him, because I feel like, at the end of the day, he has more of a right to be angry than me, and even THAT makes me angry.

I read something today in The Sun that really resonated with me. A woman writes about her relationship with her husband as they both deal with a recent cancer surgery. She said they had good days, but they also had frazzled days when they feel lost and alone, and resentful. “On such days I can’t talk to him, can’t make him understand what I mean. I say one thing, he hears something else, and instead of solace or understanding, there’s resentment and anger between us.”

It is a wonderful essay, and it reminded me that everyone gets angry. We all are lost and alone in this world, and the best we can do is reach out in the midst of our anger and hope for some branch of understanding to be within reach.

For me, sometimes I can grasp it. Others, it is just out of reach.