My Life View

Through my job with Americorps/MathCorps, I have been involved in a course call Designing your Life. It is a course taught at Stanford University using a book and workbook written by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

This assignment was to try to zero in on my own view of life. I read all of the Lifeview Tidbits, quotes from other writers, on the worksheet, and most of them spoke to me in some small way. I also had to ponder some clarifying ideas and had to slog through some self-importance, and then I got to good ol’ Kurt. I find his writing to be so engaging as it makes me feel like I am viewing a part of his life, And then he ended this paragraph with:

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different. Kurt Vonnegut

I laughed out loud. Perfect. A small bit can be gleaned from his short paragraph that illustrates that his life is integrated with his work. He works at home, and while he can get his work to his typist in other more direct routes, he chooses the one that takes him out of his house/workspace so that he encounters other people on his travels. I think he calls it “farting around” to de-emphasize the elitist connotations of being a successful author. I have always felt that he cannot help but see the absurdities that make up our lives, especially the absurdity that is our need to make ourselves important.

I would say that my awareness of the absurdities that abound in life in general is an integral part of who I am. My father was that way. Laughter was a regular sound in our house. Dad was extremely intelligent with a highly developed sense of humor. His ability to reduce so much of life to its core ridiculousness kept us all in stitches. Very often his observations were delivered in quite a deadpan manner, something I thought was purposeful when I was young. Now that I and my siblings do the same, I realize Dad’s delivery was deadpan because he was delivering a truly spur-of-the-moment life observation. He didn’t mean to be funny, but the absurdities he pointed out were. It is an ability we kids have inherited. It is nice because it makes others laugh, but it also keeps us sane, I believe. Our motto is that after we cry, we better use our skills to find the laughter, or we might as well give up!

There was/is a downside, though. When there was true adversity in our lives, we were told to suck it up and get over it. We were directed to get to the funny part before our pain was ever acknowledged, let alone dealt with. We were told to be very aware of others, to be cognizant of their needs and wants, but the same awareness was not to be applied to ourselves because that was forbidden self-involvement and selfishness. This has left us all with the feeling that we are not as important as those around us, which of course leads to problems that we (my four siblings and I) as adults are all fighting to resolve. And yes, it is a fight.

When my life and work were truly integrated before I got sick, I felt I was doing good things for the people around me; my students, colleagues, then children and a husband (ex now) always got all of my attention…until they didn’t because I crashed and disappeared for a bit which was then the cause of overwhelming feelings of guilt and failure.

My ultimate disappearing act was 10 days after the birth of my 3rd daughter at the beginning of 2000. An infection put me in a coma for a week, and I woke up unable to see, walk, talk, or use my hands. There was skin, joint, organ and nerve damage, and worst of all, cognitive brain damage. Suffice it to say that it was a serious long-haul that I slogged through with my children in tow while the useless husband dropped me on my ass because he was no longer receiving the accolades from friends and family for “saving me” from what he termed a life-threatening seizure. (He called the ambulance.) My brain re-booted 7 1/2 years later, October 2007. I was very aware of it happening as my aphasia was suddenly not so noticeable, my sense of direction returned in a flash, my memory started working better, and my sense of smell returned by making everything around me smell like I stepped in dog shit, even my cooking! (I tossed a few dinners before I realized what was going on!)

I was on disability at the beginning, but because of all the lasting damage, my university life came to a screeching halt. I was really not that upset about it, which even then seemed strange to me, but I had so much to contend with alongside caring for my 3 young daughters, that what brain power I had was thoroughly occupied. I came to see myself as having a before and after. I was a different person after my illness. There was her, and then there was me. I still feel like that.

I kicked the idiot husband out in 2011, 2 weeks before our 21st wedding anniversary. I have spent the last 10 years recovering from what I now know was an abusive marriage with a malignant narcissist. Enough with that.

The past 2 years have seen me finally get to a point I realize I have been searching for all my life: I am starting to be aware of myself and what I need. Part of this was spurred on by the pandemic (I was so undone by my fear!), and by a falling out with one daughter and having to completely care for my youngest who is severely mentally and emotionally disabled. At the end of 2019, I was a mess. I coped at first by starting to drink too much, but six months later, after an embarrassing incident in which I was injured, I cut that out of my life. I was of course talking to a therapist, but the last 2 years have seen an inordinate amount of navel-gazing, slogging through trauma, trying to figure out who I am, and trying to understand what it means to care for oneself. Yeehaw.

And what I have come to now was realized when I wrote about my work view: my life and work used to be integrated, and I want that again. I do not like this life that consists of going to work to pay the bills, and then going home too drained to do much beyond collapse and go to bed early. I do knit and read constantly which has kept me from that proverbial brink of despair, but there was and still is something missing in my life, and I am now aware that that hurts me. A lot. My creativity runs blazing hot, but I have no time or energy for it. I truly hate that. I want that life and work integration back. I know it will be different now, but I think I need it.

Do I believe in a higher power? No, I do not. I was raised Catholic by Irish American parents whose lives were ruled by the Church and Catholic school educations all the way through college. My journey to atheism happened in my 20’s. Strangely enough, the self-reliance instilled in me by my parents and my sense of what it meant to be Catholic, made that transition an easy one. I see the universe through my own brain, my own lens.

I intellectually believe in myself. Now I want to feel that in my core.

Trying to think of a non-dramatic title…

…is that dramatic?

I have been contemplating starting to write again for quite a while now. Tried to come up with a nifty title for a new blog, but everything I thought of was either already taken (as in, really not that creative) or just embarrassingly silly. Then it occurred to me that I had a perfectly good blog that has been part of my life for ~20 years, and “Taoknitter” has become a part of me (not that I can knit the Tao any better than when I chose the name. It keeps me humble.)

So…

So…

I am still alive.

I write that for my own benefit…and holy fuck if I don’t suddenly feel tears making my eyes burn!

Not sure where to start. Just like everyone I know, life over the past 1 1/2+ years has been an unexpected, brain numbing, extremely unsettling experience. And then there is the continuing disaster that is the idiot-who-shall-not-be-named that “led” this country for 4 years. I tell ya, when Covid 19 hit, I was truly undone. I was terrified, immobilized, panic-stricken, overwhelmed, shocked and, at times, hysterical and unsure why I would want to remain on this planet. I did not actively seek to exterminate myself; instead I started drinking way too much, especially when there was no job to go to anymore because of Covid. This caused me to have an accident that required me to call an ambulance…and after being told that no, I was not in danger of dying, I sent the EMTs away and crawled into my bed in embarrassment (after I called my sister K at near midnight first). I woke up the next morning, called K, and announced that THAT was the end of THAT. No more drinking. She sighed in relief, admitting that she had resolved to tell me that herself.

That was well over a year ago now, and it really was the end of that. I can now clearly see that drinking was just a way of hiding from my extreme fear and feelings of hopelessness about not only my life, but my country. Fucking existential crisis of some magnitude (and here let me point out that I KNOW I was/am not the only one). I slept a lot. I read obsessively about quantum physics and the nature of reality. When my brain was roiling from trying to understand the incomprehensible, I compulsively read hard science fiction (mostly of the apocalyptic type) that led me back to more books on quantum physics…yes, I was trying to find a way to understand and control my concepts of the world, the universe, and my reality. Did it work? Dunno. I do know that I talked K’s ear off!

I do not know what I would do without my sister K. She is my rock, my voice of reason, my champion, my confessor, my sounding board, my collaborator, my mirror, my comedy partner, my unpaid therapist, my commiserator, my bullshit monitor, my shoulder to sob & lament upon…and I can only hope I am some of that for her. She deserves a medal for diving head first down all of those rabbit-holes with me.

There were also difficult journeys to be taken with my diva daughters: one that knocked me upside the head, one that found a new path, and one of which was absolutely terrifying and that still continues but seems to be on the upswing at the moment. I learned so much. So very, very fucking much. I am not who I was which is a damn good thing, but I also seem to have found parts of myself that I lost/ gave away/ buried/ annihilated during my marriage. (Yes, dramatic. I am trying to learn to accept the innate drama that is buried in my genetic make-up.)

There has been lots and lots and lots of therapy. And continuous reading. And I will admit to self-pitying navel gazing occasionally. I really never thought much about what my life would be like when I hit 60 years-old. It was never really something I worried much about until I got here, and then I was rather stunned by how shocking and violent its arrival actually was.

So, I find myself in a place I did not expect. I am teaching again. Not in the arts at all. I shall be tutoring 4-5 grade students in math. Full-time at the intermediate school literally around the corner. Such a wonderful, sharp turn in my life. Back in undergrad, when I chose my path in the arts over the one in the sciences, I told myself I could re-visit my passions in the sciences later in life…and here I am.

And I feel more awake than I have perhaps ever been.