Giving

For as long as I can remember
I have enriched my life by sampling the contributions of others
I did so through school and for leisure
but always with an educational, professional
or inspirational goal in mind.
I always expected that the day would come
when I too would be sharing what I know with others.
It doesn’t seem right that anyone should be
a giver only or a taker only
It’s the sharing that makes life interesting.
I have many regrets
but this one weighs particularly heavily on me today
because it is clearer than ever,
that I will never get to give.
Sure, there are always things one can give
especially when you have a family that depends on you
but I am talking about giving what you want to give
and not what you are expected to give.
I am talking about giving with joy and passion
and not just out of duty.
That’s the kind of giving I don’t get to give
and it saddens me deeply.

Three Activities

A description of my life can be broken down into 3 activities

1. Activities aimed at caring for my house and family
2. Activities that aimed keeping me entertained
3. Activities aimed at changing my life

1. Activities aimed at caring for my house and family

I spend between 1 and 2 hours on these activities which is clearly not enough
but better than it used to be.
I clean my kitchen. I do dishes, laundry, floors.
I also clean my bathroom
but I do very little overall maintenance of my house outside of those things.
For many years not, I also got up in the morning to prepare the kids for school.
I’m getting a little break from that right now.
I don’t cook but I do make breakfast for Yanni
and help with the big brunches on the weekends.
I have just about no social life.
I see a friend a handful of time in one year
but I do have pen friends I write to regularly.
My husband and I rarely go out together.
We do so mainly to celebrate anniversaries or at Christmas.

2. Activities that aimed keeping me entertained

This takes the form of reading, watching documentary films and writing.
Most of what I read about or watch is non fiction
much of it is educational.
I’m interested in history, anthropology, biology ,medicine, law, crime and of course venom.
I don’t have any crafty sort of hobbies.
I don’t sew, knit, paint or anything like that.
I don’t participate in any sports.
Walking the dog in warm weather is the only exercise I get.
But entertaining myself is what I spend the most time on.
Sounds like I’m lucky, right?
Not really because it feels more and more pointless.

3. Activities aimed at changing my life

There are two things I work on in respect to changing my life.
One of them has to do with finding work and the other has to do with finding friends.

Finding work has been a major preoccupation for most of my life.
Sometimes my job search is realistic, sometimes it isn’t
Most of the jobs that interest me are jobs I am not qualified for
and that search unleashes a lot of anger towards myself
for having given up on my studies too soon.
The jobs I am qualified for , I have zero interest in
and being qualified for them doesn’t mean I am able to perform them.
I suck at non specialized work
because of my ADD and because of my emotional problem.
Also because I hate them.
That never helps.
Oh and finding a job is complicated by the fact that I worry about leaving my dog at home
and I feel terribly guilty about it.
Which is way I can’t wait for my husband to retire.
I don’t mind leaving the dog with my husband because the dog loves my husband
and my husband takes good care of him.

Finding friends is an on again , off again obsession
complicated by the fact that the people I most want to be friends with
have no interest in me or need for me.
And the people who in that past have manifested in interest in me
are more often then not people I have no interest in.
I also tend to attract domineering types which is not good for me.
I have tried joining groups and so far , that has not worked for me
for the same reasons stated above.
Another factor complicates my efforts to get a social life.
I can’t afford to go out and I am not mobile.
I can’t afford to spend $30 on a lunch date plus $20 on transportation
just so I can go hang out with a girl friend.
I just can’t spare it.
Oh and , my reluctance to leave the do alone also affects my efforts to have a social life.
I can only go out when my husband is home.
If at least , I could have some sort of meaningful interaction with my family members, that would help. But it isn’t the case.

Every day , I have to make decisions i
n terms of how time I will devote to each one of these activities.
The temptation of course, is to spend all day entertaining myself
and escaping my pain and frustrated needs that way.
But I start with a sprint to clean my house.
My next move is more ambiguous.
As time goes by,
I realize that if I am to have any chance at all
of making real changes in my life
I have to devote as much time as possible to my job search.
But more often then not, my impulse is to escape.
That’s because I don’t really believe that I have a shot at it.
And I am afraid to entertain hope.

There was a patient on Grey’s Anatomy
who said that the worst enemy of a dying person is not death,
it’s hope.
It really hit a chord with me.
Hope can be dangerous.
The second I dare to hope that I can have a better life
a more fulfilling life, a more meaningful life
I am setting myself up for a huge disappointment
which in terms leads to deep depression.
Yet, I can’t give up completely.
I just can’t….
So once in a while ,
I kick myself in the *** so hard
I can almost taste my toes.
And I go through the moves,
send the job application,
follow up on another,
meet with an employment counselled
etc etc
all the while preparing for the next fall into the abyss

It’s the same with my need to develop a social life.
Once in a while, manage to muster the courage
to contact someone in the hopes that it will lead to something.
But that fall is probably even scarier
because I am being rejected based on who I am
-or rather, who I am not-
rather than being rejected for a lack of specific work related skills.

Solutions

The Dailai Lama is quoted as saying

“If your problem has no solution, there is no use worrying about it.
If your problem has a solution, there is no use worrying about it”.

So clever. But sometimes there is a solution that is not completely impossible but which lies so far outside your reach, that you torture yourself trying to get at it. Like a carrot dangling just a millimeter away from where your fingers can reach. And you think that maybe if you contort yourself enough, you might reach it. That’s when “worrying” might have a purpose, although it’s probably not the right term. It’s more of a puzzling / mental straining kind of thing. That is how I live. And that is where I live. In that little space between near remote possibility and near impossibility.

For example, how to you go from being a molecular biologist working with venomous animals in a University at the end of planet to something more realistic for a 51 year old Canadian mother of 5 with a mild case of agoraphobia? There lies the challenge.
Finding that Plan B (or C or D)

Not Quite Good Enough Parent

I felt like I had made humongous strides of maturity in the past decade.
Despite my challenges, I did think of myself as wiser.
I even credit myself for overcoming many of the symptoms of my personality disorder
But ever since Eve , my middle daughter came back to live with us
I feel I have regressed to a more emotional infantile place.
Her criticism and hostility bring me to tears
and make me feel like I don’t want to live anymore.
I know it’s crazy.
She’s just a selfish teen and I have four other children
but she has exploited me extensively over the past year.
Not only has she not apologized but she torments me continuously
regarding my mothering skills
I will be honest
I will never get the mother of the year award.
I don’t cook or bake, I don’t sew or knit, I barely clean and tidy up
I have little to give them in terms of material goods
(though they never lacked anything important)
I don’t carpool because I don’t drive.
I am terrible at discipline
But I have always been emotionally supportive
and accessible to my kids.
I suppose you could say I have been their best friend
and not their mother.
But isn’t worth something in the balance?

We are not going to change our kids
We need to accept them as they are
But why is it so hard for them to accept US as WE are?
Why is it so difficult for them to focus on the nice things we do for them
or the aspects of our personalities that they enjoy
rather than always seek the negative and condemn us for it?
Eve even said that the few things I did for her that were nice didn’t mater,
they were not important.
Yet everything she didn’t get from me is of ultimate important.
Meanwhile, I have been treating her the exact opposite way.
I have accepted her flaws, even downplayed them
and I have celebrated anything positive she did
no matter how small.

I wonder also why it is
that the minute I blunder
no matter how small the blunder
and no matter how rare,
it becomes the only thing that matters
It doesn’t matter that I did a million good things
over the 17 years that I have been her mom.
Everything I did for her is erased.
All that remains is the that screw up.
The one thing I said “no” to.
The one comment that could have been more sensitive.
It’s like what they say about Hollywood
that you are only as good as the last thing you did.

Disconnected

You would think that a person with such a large nuclear family
could not possibly feel alone and disconnected.
Add to that mother, sister, brothers and a few friends
it’s ludicrous to affirm that I am indeed alone and disconnected
and desperately so.

I don’t feel that I have anything to offer my family
nothing that I would respond to their true needs
And they have nothing to offer me either,
I wish them well as I’m sure all but one do,
and if anything were to happen to any one of us
I’m sure it would be devastating
But it is not the same thing
as saying that we truly enjoy each other’s company,
that we grow in each other’s company,
and that we become better people for being in each other’s lives.

My mom, although she was very loving
did not equip me for the real world
just as I have not equipped my children for the real world
She was not able to teach me survival skills
or perhaps I was not listening.
But she is exactly what I never want to be
and any comparison with her makes me feel very uneasy.
I am guessing that this is how my children feel about me.
Some of them hint at it once in a while,
some are more vocal
and one makes sure I know she has no appreciation or respect for me.

After 30 years of relationship
I should probably feel a sense of accomplishment
that I am still married to the same man.
But a shared history isn’t enough to feel connected
especially when that history is horrendous
and I am greatly to blame for it.
You would think it would endear him to me
that he stuck by me despite ruining his life
but it doesn’t.
I hate him for hating me.

Professionally speaking,
I have no connection at all
either to a specific job or a field of work
I can’t even get or keep a non specialized job
not that I even want to anyway.
Money has appeal in that it could potentially provide me with an escape
but with all the debts and needs we have,
an escape would be impossible.
Plus, I can never really escape me
which is who I most want to escape.

University was the time of my life where I felt the most connected
but it wouldn’t be that way today.
I am too old to go back to school
and can’t afford to anyway.
But even if I could, I would be more than two times the age of other students
and perhaps even some of the professors.
Plus, it would be near impossible to learn
in the kind of environment that I am in right now.
In order to devote myself to something like this
I would practically have to live alone on campus.
Although I am mostly useless to my family
I know this would not be tolerated

I look at our beta is his fish
I often have to make sure he’s still alive
It’s hard to tell since he’s often lying to one side at the bottom of bowl.
Perhaps he is the only thing on this earth I truly feel connected to
if only in the sense that I identify with it.

As time goes by, perceived solutions are fewer and fewer
They are also less and less satisfying
Every avenue I consider makes me wonder
“what would be the point”?

Dumb Life

Am I suffering from depression or chronic boredom?
Everything that I do feels utterly pointless.
I am just one more animal fighting for its survival
and the survival of its young.
But I contributed nothing to my world
other than spreading my defective genes
and hence making sure that they get passed on.

Most people seem satisfied
with a roof, a family and a hobby.
It was never enough for me.
To me, that is the most mundane life one can have.
I needed to rise above this
but because I am so dysfunctional
I sabotaged any possibility of doing so.

Just like some people are famous for being famous.
I live only to be alive
Nevertheless, I can’t escape adversity.

If I am doomed to a dumb life
let me sail through the boredom and the meaninglessness
with the least possible conflict
Don’t make me fight for it.
Don’t make me justify
my dumb life.

Existential Angst

For years, I have been trying to narrow down what it is that makes me feel so miserable.
A psychiatrist who listened to me describe it
told me that it was called an existential crisis
and that there was no treatment for that.
Having lived with it for over 30 years
I wouldn’t call it a crisis anymore.
I would perhaps call it ” Chronic Existential Anxiety”

If I had to sum it up in as few words as I can , it would sound something like this.

I need a symbiotic relationship with my mentors

I really don’t intend to dismiss any of my family and friends when I say this.
I feel grateful to have them in my life.
But this is different
It is on the same level as religion.

Religious people, no matter how blessed they feel
about having family and friends that they love and who love them back,
do need to feel a sense of purpose , a sense of connection of a different sort.
They might find it in church or when they pray privately.
They might find it through some other kind of spiritual activity
but they need it.
Not everybody does of course —
(My husband certainly doesn’t)
but for those who do, it’s impossible to ignore.

Since I am not a religious or a spiritual person
(nor do I plan or want to be)
I have to find this somewhere else.

But in my case, there needs to be symbiology
rather than an hierarchical type of relationship .
I would like to be both leader and follower.
I want some sort of relationship with my mentors
that also validate my own assets and importance

Unknowingly at the time,
this is likely what prompted me to pursue a higher education.
It’s often misread as a form of intellectual snobbishness
but it’s not so.
I enjoy being inspired as much as I enjoy inspiring.
I enjoy learning as much as I enjoy teaching.
But I cannot find those kinds of relationships in my present environment
because the people who surround me do not have that type of curiosity, let alone expetise.
And that causes me to feel disconnected and alone
no matter how many people surround me.
Because it’s a different kind of disconnected and alone.

Of course I enjoy sharing intimate time with my family
and I feel so lucky when I have the privilege
of spending some time with a friend.
I value those moments very much.
But I have this gaping hole
that can not be filled , it seems, by anything else.

Going back to that short phrase

I need a symbiotic relationship with my mentors

Again, It’s strikes me (and perhaps you as odd) as odd
given that most people seek symbiotic relationships within their families and among their friends
but I cannot more find a way to fulfill this particular need among family and friends
than a person can replace a religious icon leader/adviser with a family member or friend.

My awe inspiring leaders come in many forms but for the most part
I have never met them and will never meet them
because I simply don’t live in those intellectual / artistic circles.

Reading Dr. Richard Dawkin’s auto bibliography yesterday
I was floored by the long list of people he rubs elbows with
not only scientists, but philosophers , writers and other intellectuals and artists.

I remember also descriptions of Christopher Hitchen’s dinners
which included some of the most fascinating people on this planet

I would be blissful just to work with them
let alone dine with them

I need these people in my life
not just in the form of print in my book
or pixels on my screen.
I need a true connection with them.

I know. I know.
It’s ludicrous.
Who am I to think that any of these people
could ever have any interest in me or use for me.
I am an ant and they are geants.
But my plan was to become one of them
in order to earn my place among them.

Few people get to live the life they planned on.
Most people don’t even come close.
We are all told that we need a Plan B and perhaps a C
I am on D and E
and even those are not panning out.
Meanwhile, I have a hole in my “soul” the size of Pluto
and nothing seems to fill it up.

Moreover
As I age, and become less appetizing physically
I feel like I couldn’t even interest them on THAT level.
We all seek people that we have physical chemistry with
as well as psychological or intellectual.
And as I age, I feel like even my most rudimentary assets
in my quest to interest people in me are taken away from me.
Not that I would want those relationship I seek to be based on physical attraction
but I sometimes hope that a physical attraction could bring people closer
so that I an then interest them in other aspects of me.

I remember in my younger years
when I read voraciously
that every minute I spent reading
any new concept I absorbed
was an investment in my professional future.
And that made it so exciting.

Later on
when I had the kids and it no longer seemed likely
that I would have a career
I would read to entertain myself.
I knew that I would probably never make use of what I was learning professionally
but I hoped it would at least make me an interesting conversationalist.
(assuming that people interested in those sorts of conversations would present themselves).
I would never me an expert at any of the topics a studies
but I could ask interesting questions and hold my on on some level.

Now when I read , it’s about escape.
A good book will let me forget my real life for 15 to 25 hours.
But when I put the book down,
It’s like an emotional hangover.
I ache to live in that book , among these authors.
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris,
Micheal Shermer, Peter Singer, Bryan Fry
and so many others
who are my mentors, my leaders, — so close , so close
and yet so far.

Parenting

The very same conditions that can be credited for proper intellectual and emotional growth can also be credited for mischief and truancy.

A child that has no time to get into trouble also doesn’t have much time for self reflection. So it is always a risk we are taking when we create conditions in which children have a lot of time to themselves. Some use it well but many don’t. The temptations are enormous because young children are by nature greedy and self-centered. They haven’t develop a deep consciousness of others or empathy yet, and therefore do not worry about the consequence of their actions on others.

A child who never has a moment to himself because he is put to intensive work or study at a young age may be less likely to get into trouble but he is also less likely to form a healthy sense of self and a profound understanding of his world and its mechanics. He is also less likely to develop empathy which is necessary for deep connections with others.

The key is achieving the right balance and perhaps adapting that balance to the individual child. Some children appear to need more “framing’ and direction. Others are fiercely independent at a young age and need more space to grow.

Even as infants, children already have a personality or at the very least , a temperament. You dangle a new object in front of a baby who is just a few months old or present him with a new face. Some will smile and reach for it. Some will get agitated and even start to cry.

I have a pretty good understanding of human development….on an intellectual level, but applying this knowledge to my own children is a whole other ball game.

Neophyte / Sycophant

I learned 2 new words a few months ago.
There is this e-friend site which caters to scientists
I tried to get on it until I realized it was strictly a dating website
but before I moved on, something caught my attention
It was a letter written to the moderator to complain
that the website was attracting undesirables
namely neophytes and sycophants
I had to look both words up
and realized that this letter might have been written
to get rid of people like me.

I am definitely a neophyte because I am a science undergrad and not a scientist. An amatueur and not a professional
( I am an amateur at just about everything I care about actually)
But I felt that a bachelor’s degree in social science might be acceptable for the purposes of this group..
Some people actually go on to scientific careers after completing a bachelor’s degree after all.
Granted, at my age, this is unlikely to happen
but just the same ….

The “Sycophant” bit hurt more.
Is that what I am?
Am I trying to raise my sense of importance
by seeking the company of people who are more educated than I am? Am I a scientist groupie?
Perhaps I am.
I know people who are not educated at all and I am very fond of them
I even admire several of them
But there is something about people who have invested several years in study
that really excites me.
Is that wrong?
For one, they tend to write better, longer letters.
They are better at expression opinions or debating a subject.
They are well read and often well traveled.

The last thing I want is to discuss is knitting, couponing or how to remove stains.
So I seek out people who have other things to talk about
and although interesting people come in many forms
education level is often a short cut to finding such people.
Is that wrong?

If you once trained to be an athlete
but didn’t make it
would it not be natural to seek out people who work in athletics

If you were a music student but did not make it as musician
wouldn’t it be natural to enjoy the company of musicians.

It’s like travelling to a foreign country and bumping into someone who is from your own.
It’s exciting.
How can that be wrong?

Just because I am a mother doesn’t mean all I want to talk about is babies and parenting.
There is more to me than this.

I can’t get those words out of my head for some reason
The worse insults are the ones that ring true I guess