Sunday, October 28, 2007

Recognizing Old Patterns Preparing For New Behavior.

Just about the time I fancy myself truly delivered from the insanity of my past, I discover my old patterns are still alive and well. I turn around to gaze on a huge thing still planted in my heart which is actively growing, alive and DYSFUNCTIONAL! Darn, I think of my heart like a garden. How have I managed to "not see" an attitude tree so lush and large?

My family was into hysterics as a way of manipulating others to obtain "their way". We had dramatic scenes worthy of the Academy Awards. Since I was on the receiving end of a lot of this stuff I really learned how to "roll over and lie real good". I also learned how to play the part of my victor. (oops!)

I had a problem on a bus. I got dropped off at the wrong stop and really scared myself good wondering on mountain roads with cars a bit too close to me and my walker for my comfort. I raged and wrote an "official complaint". I then sank into a dark kind of depression I know only too well as my "tantrum state". I got good and stuck. Friends have been wonderful. The really good part of my funk is finding out that my friends are really willing to lavish their time and attention on me when I'm not happy. It really does comfort my troubled soul. I just couldn't seem to recover.

After some sleep and letting myself read a few stories of serial killers, I have come back to center. I was following my cousin's way of dealing with "surprise". Get emotionally over wrought and "make them deal with it". Oh, that doesn't work! It wears me out, messes up my self image and tends to really tick other people off. (Sounds like a way to make friends and influence people huh)?

I am a tense mess when riding the bus up here in the Berkeley Hills. I really need visual help. If the driver forgets, or makes an error, I feel like I have a right to emotionally come unglued. No, I need to rationally plan out the "what if's". If I'm dropped off at the wrong stop I need to do what I did the last time it happened. Stop a passing car, get information and walk back to where I should have been in the first place. However, now that I am aware of how the traffic flows, I need to be careful and aware of approaching cars and venture out between approaching cars. This takes more time, but is totally doable and safe.

If the driver misses my stop and I have to ride back to where I started, I need to call my boss and CALMLY explain that I will be a half hour late, as there was a mix up on the bus. No rage, no tears or theatrics. I got depressed because I have been laboring under the illusion that my "disabilities" give me a right to "expect" perfect performance from those around me. It is their job to watch out for me! (humm, sounds a bit like a three-year-old)?

My parents believed that my "condition of blindness" gave me a "get out of jail free" card. I felt the world owed me everything for years. One day it dawned on me that, perhaps the world was simply "unaware" of their job. When I began to inform my fellow beings of their "duty" My bellow beings abandoned me in droves. (oops)!

I have a right to request assistance and most of the time, happily, that assistance is graciously given. But, when a bus driver is worried about his dying child, or wife and "forgets", I do not have the right to use my power to "punish" the driver. I forget things also. I need to prepare for life's surprises and handle them with a bit of grace and maturity. I rejoice in realizing I have the ability, stability and self-control to actually change my old ways. I have made other changes, this is one more step towards acting like I'm fifty-four and not three years old.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pastor's Appreciation Month: Uplifting One Another

I turned away from aspiring to be a pastor of a church when I saw that ninety-nine per cent of that job is counseling people. I am a good teacher, but I am sorely lacking in the traits of a good counselor. Not being raised in a church the concept of "Pastor appreciation Month" struck me as odd.

Wait a minute, the guy is the chief honcho, the big kahuna. He's the leader! What gives? Isn't leadership its own reward? (A question only an non-manager, naive person could ask). I found out that most Christian pastors carry a full or part-time job outside of their church duties to make ends meet. Most churches are too small to support a full-time pastor. People assume a Pastor is made of harder stuff then the rest of us. A sixty to eighty hour week would kill us, mere mortals, but "he's a Pastor"

Entire ministries have sprung up attempting to help the children of these beleaguered souls. Many Pasors used to believe that "if they took care of God's business, God would take care of their families." I was shocked to hear a grief stricken child of a pastor weep as an adult, for the "father I never had". Many of these kids drift into hardcore drug and alcohol abuse. There's a problem here.

I can only speak for what I've seen within The Church of God in Christ denomination. The people really attempt to give the Pastor and his wife (or (vise versa) a week of rest and relaxation or recreation. At my church people are nervous and want everything run just so. Money is given, visitors from other churches come and speeches are made. I find this time of year to be better then Christmas, as what is done is done from the heart. We may not always agree with the man, but we are all united on our love for our Pastor.

I saw the blog of a good friend. He was weary of fighting the good fight of being a Christian in a decidedly non-Christian culture. I really relate to just getting tired of the small foxes which never stop gnawing at your vine. Bad language, declining, or absent moral values and trying to bring peace into places where everyone (except you) wants to fight!

I suggest we try to find something encouraging to share with everyone we meet. As Pastor always says: "You never know what someone may be going through".

PhillyMac: You inspire me to keep on keeping on. You have a very full plate and rarely complain about the long hours of work and family responsibilities. All done on a precious few hours of sleep. You really care about Jesus and His people. Makes me want to stir up some goodness around my neighborhood of believers. What really amazes me, however, is when I've asked for help, or even just whined into your email box - you always make time for me. I am a better person for having you floating around in my Cyber Space.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Recovery: Having To Overcome Transit Fears

I have a month long cat-sitting job way up in the Berkeley hills. Beautiful area and awful old style mountain roads. Two weeks ago my bus dropped me a full block away from my stop - not bothering to tell me of this, I had to chase down a motorist and attempt to locate myself. Once I knew where I was I began a long walk to my job. This road stinks.

Why all rich areas seem to be like this, I'll never know. They didn't waste money on their roads or sidewalks, that's for darn sure! There are two narrow lanes for two-way traffic. Actually, cars coming at one another have to negotiate. One must pull over so the other car can creep into the other car's lane to get by. There are very few sidewalks. The road shoulder has been converted into neighborhood paring. I hate the roads here.

Now you have a feel for what my stroll through twenty to thirty mile-an-hour traffic was like. I attempted to dart in and out between the parked cars, but they are bumper to bumper. So, when a car is coming at me, I flatten myself against a parked car and pray I don't get picked off like other road kill. One car passed so close to me, I could perceive where the door handle was on the door of the car. It didn't hit me, but it was pretty close to contacting my body.

I finally got to my temporary home and felt very strange. I fought wanting to cry. I soon went to bed and slept the sleep of the depressed. I woke up wondering if my life was really worth the money I'm getting paid to tend to Maggie the cat. It would be difficult to bail out on this job, even if I seriously wanted to do so. My employer is over in Turkey. I can reach them, but you can't get a live-in person at reasonable rates quickly. So, I returned to just being depressed.

On Monday I had to take the bus down to Sweet Maria and John's to clean their home. No problem. I know my way around that sidewalk lined area. But I see out the window of the bus that I'm all the way to the little shops near downtown. Way past where I need to be. I just lost it.

I got on my cell phone and when Maria answered the phone I more-or-less yelled at her that I was on the bus, they'd missed my stop and I didn't know where the #$% I was, or when I'd actually arrive at work. Needless to say, poor Maria was a bit taken aback. I hung up and planned how to talk to the bus driver in a way that would not tempt him to call the police.

I was so angry and scared, I was actually shaking. The driver got off the bus and readied himself for my tirade. I acknowledged my anger, but kept my language clean and respectful. I explained about what had happened the day before and how I obviously was still a bit freaked out by the whole thing. Since I was being respectful and reasonable, the driver responded in kind. He apologized and explained the problem from his vantage point.

There are two bus runs, the #65 and the #67. They go more or less the same places, but on different main streets. The street I wanted had a twin on the other line. Did I want the Street, or the Lane? (Oh #$%%&*()*&!), I messed up too. We parted as mature adults and I headed for the #67 that turns into a #65. The two runs hop-scotch each other, it is an amusing way to confuse riders and drivers alike.

When I finally got to sweet Maria, she had left me a message that she had been willing to pick me up from downtown. Now, that is like offering to drop down to Manhattan during rush hour. I was very moved. That was a very kind gesture. Maria did drive me back up the hill. I feel badly when she does this, as any travel causes her additional foot pain. But I gratefully accepted. I could avoid the bus scare one more day.

I'd totally bailed out on a job the week before. I called the lady of the house and told her that I had almost been run over on Sunday and I literally was afraid to leave my location. She gave me the time off and I prayed I'd recover. I knew I was really scared, as just opening the front door caused me a wave of nausea.

I also decided to call my Pastor and request prayer. When I am afraid to leave a house to avoid something, I'm not handling things very well. We prayed on the phone, and my church prayed when they got together Friday evening.

I had to return to Maria on Tuesday and she again drove me back up the hill. I knew that this coming Thursday (today) I'd have to face the music and get back to my normal transiting life.

I went to my mailbox, my cell service office, my house cleaning gig and to get groceries. I did not feel good at all, but I forced myself to proceed anyway. I actually didn't eat or drink much this morning. Thankfully, the ride up the hill was uneventful. I now take more time to tell the drivers in more detail why I am making my "call this stop request," I force them to talk with me. I will not just speak at a driver who doesn't respond and assume I've been heard.

Once back on the hill, I put groceries away and had a lovely, if less then healthy dinner. Strong coffee, smoked oysters and Godiva capachino ice cream with chocolate hearts. I was amazed that the Grocery Outlet store would carry Godiva ice cream. It is expensive and wonderful. So, I've faced the monster. It still feels tense, but I'm no longer feeling like I can't wonder outside, even to get the mail.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Social Commentary: Community Rights Verses Individual Rights.

Walking down a street in downtown Oakland I am suddenly assaulted with the unmistakable odor of sun baked urine wafting my way. I am offended at the brutality of homelessness, panhandlers and litter on the streets. "Homelessness is not a law enforcement issue, but a mental health issue," No, according to a New York City court you have a RIGHT to live on the street draped in rags conditioned with your vomit, urine and feces! Let's hear it for Human Rights!

"I can't help being gay, its in my genes". Okay, but does that mean I have to watch you have sex on the street when I'm forced to be in the area for some other reason?

"We need money". True, but I resent as a person with multiple disabilities, having to run a gauntlet in public places. Is it fair that while I'm trying to carry a walker down a flight of stairs, packs of smelly, rude and tactless people try to shake me down for the change I won't willingly share?

I've heard that there are two sides to our RIGHTS. Along with each individual's RIGHT, comes an equal RESPONSIBILITY to the group surrounding us.

Technically, there is nothing wrong with my free speech proclamation of "Fire, run for your lives!" shouted in a crowded theater. Thankfully, our courts have come down on the side of common sense. That act is illegal.

As a Christian, I have the right to leap up on a bus bench and start screaming out a sermon in downtown Oakland. I've seen many different religious and other proponents of all sorts of things engage in this behavior, unhindered. As I pass by, on my way somewhere, I get to "drop in" on their presentation. There is no real problem with this. I find it irritating, but as long as I'm not detained from continuing down the street, who cares?

However, while waiting for a bus, I don't appreciate being man-handled by over-eager proponents of anything. I can't leave and this is to their "selling" advantage. Man, I hate it! Since I am religious, I've found a good way to confuse my religious attackers. Ask them to tell you how they found their faith. I enjoy watching the confusion. It makes my "no thank you" delivered later less confrontational. But, am I not an adult capable of seeking out whatever you think my soul needs?

Churches by the hundreds are listed in the phone book. I've found more then one organization using this less obnoxious method. Oh, I forgot, sellers of whatever assume I'm too stupid to know what is good for me. Geez, now it makes more sense.

Not only do I have Rights, as an individual, I have responsibilities to the community in which I live. In my apartment building I may have a right to play a radio, or my electronic keyboard. But I don't have the right to play these things loud enough for my neighbors to hear my radio through my closed door and theirs. My responsibility to my fellow apartment dwellers is to live in such a way as to not disturb their peace with my noise. I play instruments and several entertainment devices without causing any problems. My secret: headphones!

I post this rant because of an issue brought up on another blog. The Folsom Street Fair in SF. A small gathering of some 400,000 folks coming together to practice public sex and various forms of debauchery in a South of Market (Street) neighborhood. Because our popular media is pro-gay-rights, this curious exhibition was ignored. The gay press and some religious organizations were the only evidence of this event. Yeah, you have a right to be whatever you want to be, but do I have to be forced to "watch"?

Worst thing that ever happened to our community was when the gays decided it was time to leave their closets. Popping onto our radar by proclaiming the right to copulate in the street. Yes, I know most gays (supposedly) don't do that, but ever attend the Gay Freedom Day Parade. My goodness! (I was on my way to an Opera one year and got a real education).

Yeah, I'm old-fashioned and some would even claim fascist, but I'm so tired of being forced into being more "open minded", or "tolerant". Toleration is like what we did with Russia during the Cold War. They had a right to exist and if they left us alone, we left them alone. Our tolerance by no means implied our consent to, or agreement with their morality. This is how I feel about adultery, homosexuality, bestiality and other "sins". I know it goes on, but don't ask me to bless you for it when you force me to take a stand. I care for the person and hate to see the hell they will stir up in their lives via sin, but I refuse to bless the behavior.

This has been a rant I've held inside for years. I'm sure comments will flood in telling me, six ways from Sunday, why I'm wrong. Have at it.

I want to scream: Bring back common standards of public decency!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Social Trends: Being Polite When Complaining.

I'm an impassioned consumer. I love or hate hard. When something which used to works gets broken through an update, I go nuts. I have had a love and hate relationship with Adobe Corporation ever since 2003 when I got my first Internet-capable computer. I discovered ebooks. With my fluky vision print on a computer screen is so much easier to read then print on a real piece of paper. On the computer I reverse the appearance of the screen. Letters are white on a black background. It is pure heaven.

I then discovered I could buy ebooks. Heaven help me! I discovered several estores and I began to build a respectable elibrary. Adobe was my virgin experience. Adobe Reader 5. It was flawless. I then had to update to the next version. I'm on a Macintosh, it didn't go so well. I kept the older version and limped along. So it goes. I raged and more seasoned computer friends told me I was over reacting. (growl, snarl, moan).

This last update from Adobe Reader 7 to Adobe Reader 8 and the NEW Digital Editions was particularly traumatic. Adobe now deals with all my beloved ebooks on the Internet via a whole new system: Digital Editions. When I first looked into this I discovered there was no Macintosh version, but Adobe Reader 7 still worked. So, it goes.

I then had to buy a new computer as my eMac's logic board bit the dust. I had several kinks to work out with the iMac. One of the programs which got deleted accidentally was Adobe Reader 7. But there were Macintosh versions, so I updated. I knew it was probably a mistake, but I did it anyway.

Digital Editions saw all my encrypted ebooks, but had a note next to them: "missing" or "can't be read on this machine". I stared in shock at around $100 of "gone" ebooks.

I dutifully went through the websites and customer forums, which all decried the new program as being a total loss. One customer was so angry he threatened to delete his $3,000 worth of ebooks and take legal action. Oooh, sign me up!

I then saw a lonely humble post from an Adobe employee with an EMAIL address requesting more detailed information, as he was part of the team trying to solve the problems! I was so angry and sad, I hardly knew how to begin my Adobe rant.

I settled on being factual (no exaggerating or threatening), mature (no course language) and polite (no assuming the recipient was incompetent). I really attempted to rise to the above standards. I did my ranting to a friend, who, once again (gently) told me I was over reacting.

To my utter amazement, several days later, I got an email back from the Adobe employee. After asking a few more questions, he proceeded to launch into a new paragraph thanking me for being polite! Wow! That's a grim commentary about how we must be treating people we don't know via email!

I had solved my Digital Editions problem by running that program while my internet browser was open. I then imported all my "missing" ebooks via re-downloading them from the stores where I'd purchased them and all was well. I replied to the Adobe Developer, letting him know that I was now back in business. Another shock, I took the time to let him know something was working as it was supposed to.

Recently our local bus company messed up badly by not letting me know they'd overshot my street. I had several personal safety issues over this situation. The road I had to walk on has a shoulder (used by locals for parking) and at least a half of a lane of room in each direction for 35 MPH traffic. I got to play bumper car with real cars. I also had to flag down a stranger to discover where in the world I was in relation to where I wanted to be.

I tried my new mature tact. I have a feeling I will not only be heard, but responded to by a stranger stupefied by politeness. I bet this is just another example of catching more flies with honey, verses vinegar! Amazing.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Recovery: Being Reminded of Past Trauma.

I have been fighting very bad depression and anxiety issues for the past few weeks. I had to pack some cooking items for my month-long cat-sitting job. I prefer to use my rice cooker and my already purchased brown rice. I have been fighting buying the special suitcase for this specialized job. I waited until the last moment to actually buy a suitcase.

I finally actually bought a very nice suitcase on rollers. It worked fine, though I have to get a longer portable handle for the suitcase so I can attach it to a belt around my waist. I need to have my hands free to deal with my walker.

I literally had problems sleeping last night. I couldn't figure out what was bothering me. I just knew something was not right. I didn't experience any relief from finishing my work on the website. This morning I stumbled upon what has been making me unhappy for the past few weeks.

After packing my suitcase this morning, I remembered the last time I had to pack kitchen items. Our building had been condemned. I came home on a Wednesday night to the grim news that I had three full days to get out before the tenants would be "forcibly removed".

I remember the frantic call to one of my employers, hurridly arranging emergency money for temporary housing. I physically moved all my stuff alone, six blocks to a hotel I couldn't afford. Then I had to move all over again to my current residence. It was an awful two weeks.

I looked around at my house and realized that this packing did not mean I had to "move". A wave of joy and relief flooded my body. I wanted to cry out thanks to God. All the tension I've been carrying started to leave. I finally found the memories that were disturbing my peace.

I guess I still have trouble dealing with some of the "crisis" moves I've made in my life. I have felt terrible ever since I made the decision to use my own cooking items on the cat-ssitting job. I finally got some restful sleep and all is well with the world.

Hopefully this may help someone else wondering through a swamp of feelings with no "reason". Sorry this isn't entertaining, but I want to continue documenting my recovery, confusion and all.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sound Editing and How I Learn.

I have just finished editing the last ten minute segment of a forty minute sermon. I love to observe how we learn and the strange things "jobs" cause us to think and do. I have listened to this entire bit of material at least three times. But after being buried in the problems of editing sound, I can tell you nothing about what I've edited. I can, however, show you where I took out excess clapping, coughing, pausing and other useless noises from this sermon.

How can I listen to something and not get the content? Simple, when I'm taking notes about the sermon, I dutifully notate everything I hear the speaker say. I will be posting a cleaned-up version of these notes on the website later. Once that is done it is time to clean up the sound. Oh, my, every sermon speaker is different. I have to remember, I'm learning this job as I complete parts of it. In a year, I'll probably be able to go back to these early sermons and REALLY edit them correctly. But I can't wait a year before posting to the church's website. So, when I've done all I know how to do, up she goes!

I now understand how someone can work on something and not remember what the content was about. This problem used to baffle me. I couldn't figure out how someone could post something to their OWN blog and within hours, not remember that they'd even made a post. Now, I see. A busy brain having to clear out recent short term memory. I stand corrected.,

One bit of info. I do recall from this sermon is how God appears in being more interested in purging us of our run away pride, then getting a job perfectly done. I know this because my run away pride screams that I need to do more to the sermon before posting! What if I've made a mistake? Yikes! Hello never-willing-to-die pride. I thought I'd gotten control over you.

Pride absolutely messes up anything you attempt to do for God, or anyone else. When you are too sure of yourself, you can't be taught anymore and that is the beginning of the destruction that pride causes in a life.

I can't believe how tired a bit of editing makes me feel. My little brain has been busy, experimenting (I LOVE "undo"), re-doing and deleting. Thankfully, the actual posting will go rather quickly and I can start on another sermon tomorrow - instead of waiting a month! Maybe some of that "pause" was pride too? Yeah, I bet it was.

Recovery: Fear Revisited.

I am now well into what I always thought of as a "normal life". I have part-time work of several kinds, an interesting social life and an active mental and educational environment. I was shocked to see how quickly, overwhelmingly and stubbornly an old habit totally stopped me in my tracks.

I am my church's webmaster. I basically handle it all. We have recently added audio broadcasting for our sermons. I haven't set it up as something one can subscribe to, as I'm not sure we are professional enough for that move, yet. I ran into a technical snag and just completely shut down mentally.

I have made arrangements to do some of my audio editing work in Berkeley, while cat-sitting. Their computer is slower then mine, but after chopping sermons into ten-minute chunks, it works fine. I felt scared inside, but tried to continue. It occurred to me that there may be a difference in sound quality between the two computers. At this possibility, I just shut down and went away mentally.

It took me over a month to thaw out enough to realize what had happened to me. I tried all the normal tricks to get around my fear. Absolutely nothing worked. I then attempted to see if my pastor was interested in another member who appeared to know more about web mastering then I. He turned me down flat. He believed in ME. Man, I just was in hiding and was refusing to come out.

About a week ago, I decided that even if there was a difference in sound quality between the two machines, I could do the work anyway and correct any errors I may find when I get home. Poof! I felt myself return to normal. I at least was willing to TRY to continue as a webmaster.

Due to my family's way of using any information I'd give them against me, I learned a sure-fire defense. Literally know nothing. My cousin would scream at me about something I did, or didn't do. I truly had no memory, no thought. I just was stupid. I could survive her accusations of my stupidity a lot better, then having her savagely tear up another part of my person hood.

As an example. I was a huge fan of the program The FBI, as well as of the real organization as a young teen. I dutifully went to the library to read up on the real FBI. I was shocked and saddened to discover that the real governmental agency was riddled with controversy, conflicts and down right incompetence. It really made me sad.

When my cousin found out about this by talking with me, she never failed to laugh at how nieve I was. From this painful incident, I learned to keep the real me far away from any one's knowledge. I couldn't afford to know things even for me, as I didn't have the ability to deny my cousin information when she demanded it from me.

I know in my life now, that I have several friends who would and have given of themselves to help me with my dilemma. It is a blessing to have so many smart, friendly and amusing people in my world. But, I had run into an emotional freeze producing a mental blank wall.

As I force myself to continue to edit sermons, I realize that I'm still teaching myself the ins and outs of sound editing. Sometimes, I don't like the way part of a sermon sounds, but am unable, or unaware of how to fix it. I'm learning to put it on the web anyway. It is better to do something instead of nothing. Something can be fixed. Nothing is a cop out.

I don't have a final answer on this one. I hope I am willing to not freeze up again. When I feel the fear starting, I need to talk to God AND keep working! This freezing behavior did not serve me well as a student in college either. It is hard to learn something totally new, when one feels they must be perfect at the task, the FIRST time they attempt it. Ah, I guess all this immature stuff doesn't just magically change into maturity, huh? DRAT!