Back in the Saddle

Photo on 4-29-15 at 8.09 AM #2

I just launched into my fourth pomodoro of writing for today. (pomodoro technique is a time management technique recommended to me by my Chicago doppelganger, “The Other Jeff Key.”) I’m letting all writing count toward the completion of my daily goal of four hours of writing to include morning pages, the blog, and any writing I might door in my recovery work. If I can get a solid pattern going, I’ll return to work on the scripts. Lately, I’m just simply trying to get to the gym each day and work a four-hour workday with the writing. Of course in the entertainment business, there’s still the business part and I’ll soon have to go back to the marketing and production part of all that. I also am determined to put a recent grant to good use and get the foundation cranking again. God knows the need is great out there. But for now, I just need to get into a healthy cycle of producing work again. I’m very close to having four completed scripts so that’s pretty good. I can also use those scripts to benefit the foundation.

It’s been a rough few days and I apologize for the super-short blogs on a couple of those days. Honestly it was just the best I could do. The depression reappeared with a vengeance and at times it was all I could do to keep my head above water. I think it peaked yesterday so hopefully I’m moving into a period of relative light for a while. I could use it.

Mom’s about to go back into the hospital and it’s pretty much my responsibility to take care of her so I have to be back on my A game. Last week for her brought a fall (the second in as many weeks), an ambulance ride to the hospital after that fall, a colonoscopy to try to find the source of a suspected internal bleed, heart surgery to replace the faulty wires on her pacemaker/defibrillator, and, because of what was discovered in the initial colonoscopy, an endoscopic ultrasound to find out if the large lesion is cancer. That couldn’t be determined so they are removing the offending area on Tuesday. It will then be sent for a biopsy and we’ll find out if it’s cancer. I pray to God it’s not but if it is, we’re probably looking at a more aggressive surgery, chemo and radiation. There are a lot of “worst case scenarios” that the doctor mentioned but I’m not even going to mention them here and instead think positive, hope and pray for the best. Needless to say, if she’s looking at chemo and radiation, I won’t be moving back to LA in June. But let’s just all hope that this procedure on Tuesday gets all of whatever it is and that whatever it is is not any more cancer.

I had hoped for a long time that all these health challenges would inspire in Mom some renewed desire to take care of herself. It hasn’t and it’s no longer healthy for me to hope for such a thing. She is a grown woman and gets to make these decisions for herself. She worked for thirty years and is retired and I guess she can do what she wants. The bad part is that what she does actually does impact others’ lives–especially mine. Two weeks ago, when I broke my hand… well, yeah, I guess I can tell you the rest of that story now:

One big contributor to Mom’s downward spiral is that she gets hold up here in this house like it’s a tomb, staying up all night and sleeping all day, blinds closed. She just sits on the couch with the TV on and her iPad in her lap looking at all the negative shit people post on Facebook. It’s so bad for her. Chad, Krystle, and I have tried to do everything we can think of to get her interested in activities outside of this little dog-trail she’s cut between the bed and the couch. Our friends Ralph and Peggy Wallace have offered to do things with her as have Wanda and George Harland and others. She just seems to have no interest. There is no limit however to the amount of time and energy she will allow from me. I think she would be absolutely okay with my sitting on the couch holding her hand all day. But I have to make a living and some little bit of physical boundaries give me at least the illusion that there are some healthy emotional ones as well.

The one thing that does seem to give her joy is her grandchildren. That’s why we’re trying to find her an apartment in Auburn she can move to after she recovers from surgery. Going out to see their sporting events is life-affirming for her and I know that she can actually be a help to Chad and Krystle from time to time watching the little ones. When humans lose their purpose in life, don’t feel useful in some way, they start to die. I’ve actually experienced a bit of that myself– not that I haven’t been useful but that I wasn’t doing what I was sent here to do. Anyway, for once this isn’t about me. So weekend before last I was trying to get her down to see the kids. She had been to get her hair fixed (oh yeah, that’s another thing she will do) but it hadn’t left her wiped out. “I’m just too tired to go.” My heart sank. Another weekend of her and me here at Bates Motel. “Look Mom, you don’t have to do anything but sit in the passenger seat! I’ll drive the car up to the back door and help you in.” I really wanted to get her down to Auburn. She conceded and I told her to just please sit on the couch while I packed a little bag for her. I went to the bathroom to throw my things in a shave kit and I heard this huge crash. I went into the kitchen and there she was lying in the floor, covered in Dreamland sauce with the dogs licking the remnants off the floor. I had gotten us ribs for dinner and she had taken it upon herself to gather up all the plates and shit and try to carry it all to the kitchen– after I had begged her to just sit and wait on me to get us ready to go. She was also wearing three-inch cork platform shoes when I’ve asked her to opt for safe and comfortable ones instead. By the way, my mom has agreed not to read my blogs so please don’t reference any of this to her.

As I said before, she’s a grown woman. She gets to make as many stupid decisions as she wants. But behaviors have consequences and sometimes those consequences affect other people. Where my mother is concerned lately, most of her behaviors have consequences for me. So there she was, covered in rib sauce being licked by the dogs like some biblical martyr. You better believe that was the look she was going for too. That’s when my fist connected with the refrigerator– about five times in rapid succession. I know it wasn’t the healthiest choice but trust me there were a lot more unhealthy ones I avoided. I looked down and my fifth metacarpal was sticking up like it was about to break through the skin just below the knuckle. I know how my hand is suppposed to look so I set it with my left before any swelling started. The swelling did come pretty quickly and within five minutes it was the size of a baseball. The doctor congratulated me on the good job I did setting it. I would have made a good doctor I think.

Mother did not make me break my hand. I cannot blame my stupid choice on her or her stupid choices. I know that part of me is just scared of losing her– or of losing my mind in the process of trying to find a way to be a good son and not disappearing completely into someone else like I’ve done so many times in my life.

It’s not a situation where I can just say, “Goodbye and good luck.” We are simply too enmeshed for that. My mother’s wellbeing has been my responsibility since shortly after my wellbeing first became hers. Dad couldn’t or wouldn’t so I showed up to take up the slack. Fifty years later, I’m still here. When she was first diagnosed with CML (chronic myeloid leukemia) ten years ago, there were a lot of pronouncements about lifestyle changes. She even asked for my input and since I’ve done a lot of personal research around health and fitness, I was able to offer wisdom and experience. But old habits die hard and patterns of unhealthy living are part of the culture around here. She was soon back to living as if she didn’t have cancer. I told her then that her attention to her health (or lack of it) was going to have some very profound long-term effects on her prognosis. I am currently being proved right. Chad and I have tried everything from gentle codling to “tough love” with no results. I don’t want to be too tough on the old girl, she did after all, work her ass off for us for all those years and I understand that she’s not doing any of this out of open contempt. She’s dealing with invisible barriers just like me. For me to say to her, “Just start exercising and eating right.” Well, for her it’s just not that easy. I think fear keeps her from it. That sounds crazy but I think fear keeps many us from doing what’s best for us. It’s certainly what has stood in the way of my making a living in the field where I have God-given talents and demanding what the market will bear for my time and talent.

Mom died on the plane on the flight home from my wedding to Adam in 2007. My brother said, “See? You killed out mother. You married a man and killed our mother.” He was joking. Sort of. They defibrillated her at 35,000 feet and made and emergency landing in Memphis where she flat-lined again. They brought her back around again and that’s when they installed the pacemaker defibrillator. Adam and I were “married” in August, 2007. I guess Mom and I both died a little that year, haha. (dramatic) The quotation marks are because the government didn’t legally recognize our union. That’s why he was able to walk with everything and leave me broke and keep none of the promises he made around his MD and my contribution to it.

Do you know how offensive it is to me that nine people in black dresses get to sit up there in that marble temple in Washington DC and debate whether I deserve equal protection under the law? It’s enough to make me not want to be here anymore.

VOICE: Oh relax, gurl. Drama down. Maybe they’ll rule in your favor and you can go get a real man to marry.

ME AGAIN: So right now, as I said, I’m just trying to stay sane (as if I ever was) take care of my mom, continue in my newfound recovery program addressing compulsive underearning with tools very similar to what I used to arrest my alcoholism all those years ago, and get to the gym. The gym is an important part of my mental health too. If I’m able to churn out another hour and a half of writing today and then make it to the gym. I will have succeeded for the first time in a long time in meeting my writing and fitness goals for the day. That would please me very much. I could use a happy about now.

Nice to be back in the saddle, so to speak.

See y’all tomorrow.