So, good bye Bounty, Charmin, and Kleenex. I've got a new family of paper products that are friendly to the Earth and to the people living on it.
Mom and Dad used to take brief road trips together pretty frequently after they retired. Not so much any more. I also enjoy throwing some sodas in the cooler and taking off down the road to see what there is to see. Haven't done much of that in a very long time.
Now, Mom and Dad don't drive and both are in their 80s with failing health. We looked at the calendar last week and saw that we had about 10 days with no obligations on the calendar. Mom and I discussed heading East and South to scout out thrift stores, junk shops, and antique malls. I planned for about 5 days and 4 nights. We actually made 3 days and 2 nights.
We headed out Friday sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 AM. This really bugged Dad as he is an "up at 5 hit the road before 6" kind of road tripper. I had pretty much packed the car the night before so all that remained was to get the dogs settled in.
We headed South out of Mineral Wells on 281. Being Friday, weekend yard sales had already begun and we stopped a few times. Nothing monumental. But still, it was nice to stop and look around. Note: because we were traveling with the dogs, one of us always remained in the car with the dogs and with the engine running and A/C on. Texas summers are nothing to trifle with.
When we reached highway 6, we headed East. Made a few stops in a few small towns. Stopped and had lunch in the car somewhere along the way. Gave the dogs a chance to pee.
Eventually reached Bryan, found a Motel 6 (they are pet friendly), and settled in for the night well before sunset and too tired to care about dinner.
We slept until around 8:00AM Saturday then headed toward Brenham, home of Blue Bell Ice Cream. We browsed a few nice shops there and had lunch at a family owned and operated cafe that had a great menu. We focused on finger food so we could eat in the car with the dogs. Then...
Mom and I have talked about going to Round Top for several years. Of course, this was not the right time of year for the big antique festival. But, there were still things to do. We found one really nice antique mall and we went to the Junk Gypsies shop.
Heading back up toward Austin and Interstate 35, we stopped in a few towns including Smithville (no relation). Austin was almost unrecognizable to me. I lived there once upon a time but they seem to have built an entirely new highway system through Travis county and I got turned around. As a result, it took a little longer than it should have to find the Motel 6. Or, A Motel 6 -- not the one I was looking for. Turned out we stayed in the most expensive Motel 6 in the county. Still, not overpriced. But, I would have preferred one of the others.
In the same parking lot was a Denny's. Hadn't eaten at a Denny's in years. This one was pretty good and I got take out so we could eat in our room with the dogs.
Oh. Did I mention rain. It rained buckets most of the day. You could see the edge of the storm to the South and West. But we were in pretty heavy rain much of the day.
Then, to bed before sunset. Up on Sunday around 8:00AM.
I got up thinking about where to go next. Dad announced that he wanted to go home. So, North on 35.
Being Sunday morning, there weren't too many places open. We tried a GoodWill thrift store in Waco. Something of a disappointment compared to what we have in the DFW area.
So, we had lunch at a Schlotzsky's, in the car. And put some miles behind us until we hit Interstate 20 going West.
One final stop at the GoodWill store in Weatherford. Home before 4:00PM.
Dinner -- Pizza Hut, just down the street.
Tomorrow I'll unpack the car and inventory the purchases. I did pick up a few vintage Homer Laughlin pieces that I'm very happy about. Beyond that, the trip was mostly about driving around, unable to escape the other occupants of the car.
One of the most important things I read while working on my master's degree was an article written by Jerry B. Harvey titled "The Abilene Paradox." The author describes the phenomenon as the mismanagement of agreement and uses it to explain why groups will make decisions contrary to what they believe to be the correct choice. There are multiple causes for this type of poor decision making but the one that resonates most with me is Negative Fantasies.
How often, when contemplating a choice, do we mentally tell ourselves, "If I do this, something awful will happen." How often do we think, "Taking this course of action will only make things worse." How often do we choose to do nothing rather than face these imaginary consequences?
The truth is that it happens a lot. We come to believe in our negative fantasies to such a high degree that they are actually more real to us than the problem we are facing. In a group situation, this is compounded by the threat of ostracism and ridicule. As social beings, shunning is the ultimate punishment, often worse than or leading to death.
Decision making can be extremely difficult, especially when the alternatives seem limited or when none of the choices seem attractive. A realistic assessment of the situation and the possible outcomes of each course of action is essential. But we must resist the temptation to focus solely on the personal social consequences, especially when they are negative. Focus, instead, on the actual problem to be solved knowing that, if you solve the problem with the best possible outcomes for all, then the personal social consequences will take care of themselves.
Beyond decision making, negative fantasies can alter our psychological state and send us into a downward spiral of depression, anxiety, anger, self-pity, even self-loathing that is all totally self inflicted. It is vital to break this cycle. It isn't too difficult to see how negative fantasies could result in suicide -- the saddest type of suicide -- one based on self deception.
It is not easy to break the cycle of negative fantasies. Anyone who says, "Snap out of it" fails to comprehend the actual physical changes to the neurotransmitter soup in the brain that is responsible for who we are at any given moment. When you begin dwelling on a negative fantasy, you begin to alter the soup. The more you dwell, the more you "stew." A few days or weeks of this and you've become a different, more negative, person.
But there is, as they say, power in positive thinking. Just as the negative fantasies altered the neurotransmitter soup to your detriment, positive thinking can change the soup for a better you. I'm not saying this is easy, but, when you catch yourself in a negative discourse with yourself, mentally yell, "STOP!" Then give yourself a little pep rally. List the positive things about yourself and your life. The list doesn't have to be long but I guarantee that it will get longer the more you do this.
I realize that our distant ancestors had reason to fear for their lives in everyday situations to a much greater extent than we do today. Negative fantasies served them well in decision making -- it kept them in the tribe and it kept them from getting killed. I don't think negative fantasies serve us nearly so well today. But we do have the power to stop negative fantasies in their tracks. A little cognitive behavioral therapy...
(NOTE: I am NOT a therapist of any kind. These are my experiences and observations. If you need professional help, please seek it elsewhere and best wishes.)
I strongly believe in the concepts behind these memes.
I think we should work harder for unity. So many things seek to divide us, including ourselves. Stop checking those boxes that attempt to categorize and pigeonhole us. We do NOT benefit from this. Stop attaching yourself to a group and instead attach to humanity.
I heard this in a movie: Ordinary is not Normal. Being normal is fine. Being ordinary is not so fine. Don't be like everyone else; be yourself.
You can check out my RedBubble store for these and more.
I noticed recently our two leading retailers -- the go to super stores for groceries and everything else -- are Target and Walmart. Both fine stores. But look at their logos.
Target's logo is, not surprisingly, a circle surrounded by 2 circles. A target.
Walmart's is six lines radiating from a central void. Could be a minimalist flower. Could be an asterisk.
Both logos are also used to represent an asshole.
Something to think about.
We're all familiar with the story of the wooden puppet who wanted to become a "real" boy. The theme shows up over an over again in literature. There's Asimov's Bicentennial Man later made into a wonderful movie staring Robin Williams as the robot who did eventually realize his dream of becoming human. Then, in Star Trek: The Next Generation there was Data, an android who's deepest desire was to become human. Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine went through a period of time trying to become human. Seven of Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, was a Borg trying to regain her humanity.
They all want to be something they're not. They all see being a "real" person as the ultimate. It's all about belonging and fitting in. Something some of us never achieve.
As a kid, I was always on the outside although, at times, I was blissfully unaware of this. I was different. My family was different. I had no one to instruct me in the finer points of the socially acceptable. Add being bipolar to that and you have a formula for instantly putting people off and being perpetually shunned.
Sadly, this did not improve with age. Beyond having the effect of completely eliminating any possibility of a social life, this also had huge adverse effects on my career. I worked my ass off. I was generally good at what I did, above the norm. But I was not promoted. The more personable, less technically able were promoted above me, without fail.
Now, I don't have to concern myself with co-workers. But, there's still family and the people we interact with -- retail, restaurant, and medical workers among them. They all judge. We as humans judge. We say we don't. We say we shouldn't. But, we do. It's rooted in survival.
You look at someone. You measure your observations against your experience. You decide, friend or foe, good or bad, safe or unsafe. You judge. And you do it quickly. Because, our distant ancestors had to in order to avoid being eaten.
It's these judgments that make Pinocchio want to be something other than what he is.
It's one thing if Pinocchio is on a path of true self improvement and actualization. But if he's changing just to please those who have rejected him, he's doomed to a life of disappointment and frustration.
So, if there's a Pinocchio in your life, please, stop judging and try acceptance.
If you are a Pinocchio, think about why you want to change. If it's to please others, maybe you should reconsider. If it's to make the best of yourself, best wishes and never give up.
As you can tell from the title, this post isn't so much about bipolar. It's more about MS -- Multiple Sclerosis.
MS is a progressive disease of the central nervous system that has no known cause and no known cure. MS attacks the myelin sheath of the neurons in the central nervous system (CNS). This then causes any number of problems, depending on the part of the CNS attacked. Some folks with MS have mobility problems. Some have cognitive issues. Others may go to bed with perfect eyesight only to awaken blind in one or both eyes because the MS has attacked the optic nerves. MS is not usually fatal but statistically it does shorten the life span of the individual by approximately 17%.
MS is believed to be an autoimmune disease in which T cells cross the blood brain barrier and attack the myelin. In response, the medical community has developed a variety of immunosuppressive treatments that, although they cannot cure, slow the progression of the disease. The idea is to bring that 17% figure down and make life more tolerable for the MS individual.
But, as you might imagine, these drugs have side effects. Some not such a big deal. Some life threatening.
The first MS treatment I was on 15 years ago was a weekly intramuscular injection that brought on flu like symptoms. I would inject myself at bedtime on Friday and wake up in the wee hours Saturday with fever, chills, and severe body aches. Sometimes these lasted only a few hours. Sometimes they wrecked the entire weekend.
The second treatment was easier but was a 3 times per week subcutaneous injection. I don't like needles. And the flu like symptoms were present in this one too, just not as severe.
Later there was a daily injection.
Finally, an oral medication! Yeah, no more needles!!! This one makes me feel like my head is a flame thrower, sometimes. And, it has lowered my white blood cell count to a level that concerns my neurologist. There is an often fatal brain disease that can result from this.... So, we're talking about a change in meds. But, I have to have a negative TB test before I can switch.
I am not a particularly sentimental person. I don't cry at movies with the notable exception of "Hachi: A Dog's Tale." (I'm not made of stone!) I don't oooh and aaah over baby / wedding / graduation photos; they're your kids, not mine. I don't have a box of treasured cards and letters from old lovers. I don't keep grandma's tablecloth just because it was hers; I keep things that I like for their own sake. I've only ever cried at two funerals and that was because the person delivering the eulogy was particularly adept at eliciting that response with his story-telling skills.
Actually, most of my family isn't too sentimental, at least the immediate family. There are moments, of course. And the larger family has some individuals who are down right cry babies. But, for the most part, we are not an overly demonstrative lot. We hug rather than shaking hands. But, verbally, we're reticent.
Having said that, I can remember the exact moment, if not the actual calendar date, of the first time in my adult life that my mother told me she loved me. I was 45 years old.
In some ways, I am the prodigal child. I left when I was 17 to go to college. I returned briefly when I dropped out of school. Left again when I was 20 and never looked back. Over a period of years, I gradually reduced the amount of time I spent with my family. I worked all day, worked out after work, went to school all night, slept little and stayed busy. My excuse for not being able to visit -- gotta study. I was independent and intended to stay that way. The last thing I wanted was to have my family in my business.
Then, I took a series of jobs out of town. Later, a series of jobs out of state. Oddly, whereas working out of town seemed to have put distance between us, working out of state brought on my parents' first ever visit to my home.
Oh, yeah. I have to mention. This was also the time frame in which I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and Bipolar Disorder. (2002)
That first visit, Mom and Dad drove from Texas to Nevada to help me with some things. The day they left, Mom gave me a big hug, started to cry, then said, "I love you so much."
There's a part of me that reads this and says, "Waaaa. So your Mom never told you she loved you. Did you tell her you loved her?"
Yes, that day I did. And we've exchanged hug-I-love-you maybe half a dozen times since.
But here's the funny thing. Sometime when I wasn't looking -- and let's face it, I wasn't looking for a long time -- Mom started ending phone conversations with, "I love you."
And here's the even funnier thing, she does NOT do this when she talks to me on the phone.