Probation Officers, Survival and etc.

I can’t seem to find a Daily Prompt that I like, and I can’t think of a topic to fill an entire post, so let’s just do some stream-of-consciousness stuff around a few topics and see what happens. I got up early on a Sunday to write in this damn blog, so I’m gonna come up with something.

I saw my PO (probation officer) on Friday, and I’ve got to start paying $25 more a month in restitution. I owe over $30k in restitution for the crime I committed, which is probably more than I’ll ever be able to pay. That extra $25 a month is going to hurt. We already barely make ends meet at the end of a month, so we’re going to have to tighten our belts a little and squeeze by. It won’t be fun, but we can do it.

Financially, we’re in a bit of a mess. We owe $75k in student loans that we’re in default on and will probably never pay, then there’s the $35k in restitution. To put it in perspective, we live on $735 a month. If I get my disability, we’ll probably bring in more than double that $735, but our rent will go up, our food stamps will go down, and I’ll have to pay $150 a month in restitution instead of $75. So even me getting my disability won’t be a real game-changer for us. I worry a lot about money and about what Trump budget cuts might do to the programs we rely on to help us get by.

In other news, my PO actually drug tested me for the first time in like a year. I was clean, of course. I’d so like to smoke some pot that it’s not funny, but my paranoia would kick in. If I actually smoked some herb, I’d convince myself that I’d get drug tested again and turn up positive. So far I’ve done everything right on probation, and I don’t want to change that. I’ve got a year and a half left and I just want it to go by as smoothly and hassle-free as possible. I can smoke pot when I’m done with probation.

The PO also wants me to be getting in more “social” activities. I’m a homebody and a loner by nature, and their little computer programs tell them that loners are more likely to reoffend, so they always want you to be doing something “pro-social”. So I told the PO I would look into starting to go to the local chess club. That seemed to satisfy him and it’s something I’ve been thinking about doing anyway. I haven’t played serious chess in a long time, and I’m not averse to the idea of picking it up again. I haven’t looked into where the chess club is or when it meets, but there’s a big university right up the road from me, so I’m sure they have a chess club. Chess seems to have taken a nosedive since I played, but there’s gotta be a few nerds out there who still play.

You always hear criminals complaining about their POs, but I have no real complaints about mine. He’s very by-the-book, but he’s always been pleasant to me. To hear most felons tell it, POs are always trying to get you locked back up, but in my opinion that’s just because the average criminal is too stupid to stay clean and do what they’re supposed to do to stay out of prison. On the prison unit I was on, three separate guys got out and came back during the time I was there. It’s always drugs. They just can’t stay clean. Now, they’re probably addicted to something heavier than pot, and I know addiction is a disease and yadda yadda ya, but damn! Going back to prison for shooting up some heroin or snorting some meth or whatever, that’s a hardcore addict there. I’m glad I don’t have that problem.

One problem I do have is that I’m wanting alcohol in the evening nearly every day lately. I think it’s just because I’m so bored, but it’s still not a good habit to get into. I’m not an alcoholic, and I don’t want to become one. Plus, we can’t afford to be buying booze every day. It takes a lot to get me drunk, so it gets expensive quick even though I drink the cheapest stuff I can find. Well, not the ABSOLUTE cheapest–that stuff is undrinkable–but close enough.

Changing topics, I made a first effort at disaster prepping the other day. We picked up a dozen cans of Spaghettios at the store, and I’m keeping them in our storage closet. We have a few gallons of drinking water, but didn’t have anything to eat. Everything in our apartment is electric, so if the power goes out we have no way to cook anything. Spaghettios, at least, you can eat right out of the can. I’m going to add some peanut butter and trail mix and other things to the disaster kit. I’m not a doomsday prepper, basically because I don’t have the money to afford it, but I do want us to be ready if there’s a big earthquake or an ice storm or something and the power goes out for a while. I need to make a list of stuff we need. We’ve got a couple flashlights, but we don’t have extra batteries, etc., stuff like that. We’re in a bad way if the shit really hits the fan, and I’d be sitting on a bunker with ten years’ worth of food if I could be, but that’s not my fate unless I hit the lottery that I never play. If society collapses entirely, through nuclear war or meteor strike or what have you, we’re probably not going to make it. But maybe that’s for the best–I’m not sure I want to survive some things, like a nuclear war. The world is dog-eat-dog enough as it is, and though I love post-apocalyptic fiction, I’m not sure I actually want to live it. But the least I can do is get us ready for an earthquake–we’re overdue for the Big One to happen. I worry about the structural integrity of our building if it’s a really big quake–our building was built in the 1960s–but I just have to take it on faith that the building holds up to the quake. I guess if it doesn’t, all other survival prep is moot anyway. There’s no way you can get ready for every eventuality–not without spending a small fortune.

I don’t really see the world ending in a nuclear war, although it’s certainly possible, particularly with the orange gorilla in charge. I see it more as a series of die-offs as various things fail. Everything from financial collapse to energy shortages to climate change and disruptions in the food supply is fair game to happen. I just hope it doesn’t happen in my (or my wife’s) lifetime. I triggered myself the other day by reading The Automatic Earth and realizing just how unprepared I am. What’s worse, there’s no real way I can GET prepared. I just don’t have the money. It’s something I just have to try to avoid thinking about, because I’ll just worry myself for no good reason. If the shit hits the fan, we’re in trouble. But the world hasn’t ended yet, and maybe it can keep wobbling around the sun for another 30 years before things really start to go to hell. Here’s hoping.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading. =)

 

 

Know Your Enemy

OK, this isn’t a Daily Post prompt…my wife suggested I listen to one of my favorite songs and come up with a blog post based on that.

So, my blog post is based on Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy”.

Do you know the enemy? Do you know your enemy?

Who IS your enemy? Is it the cop trying to contain a protest? Or is it the billionaire lobbyist forcing that cop out onto the streets to contain you?

Sometimes I fear we’ve become so inundated with the teachings of Gandhi, John Lennon and Martin Luther King that we no longer know how to construct a violent protest.

Don’t get me wrong: non-violence has shown its worth in dealing with civilized oppressors like the United Kingdom of the 1940s or the United States of the 1960s. But is it enough to overcome the Trumps of the world? What if Mahatma Gandhi had been facing not the British Empire but Nazi Germany during his protests?

I know people like to quote him: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”

The first problem with this is that there’s no evidence that Gandhi ever said it. Check Snopes. This attribution actually started with Donald Trump!

The second problem is: how does this quote fit in a world in which they don’t just laugh at you, they claim you are being paid by George Soros to protest? In other words, how does your protest work in a world in which it isn’t taken seriously?

To use another quote from Green Day: “Another protestor has crossed the line, to find the money’s on the other side”?

What do you do when it’s not an INDIVIDUAL you’re protesting, but it’s the entire SYSTEM which that individual represents? How do you protest the SYSTEM?

Will signs and marching do it? I don’t think so. These people only understand one thing, and that is power. “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” That’s from Frederick Douglass, and is a real quote. It finishes by saying, “It never did and it never will.”

So, since Trump was inaugurated, we’ve had the Women’s March on Washington, the Scientist’s March on Washington, and others. What effect have these marches had? I would argue they have done nothing other than make the marchers feel good about themselves for “doing something” about the Trump administration.

I freely admit I have not been a part of any of these marches, but you tell me: What’s different because of these marches? How has the Trump administration or their lackeys in Congress taken note of these marches? What’s different? What good have these marches accomplished?

I would argue that they have accomplished nothing. What we really need is a million people with pitchforks and torches along the National Mall. People ready to be arrested, people ready to do whatever is necessary to take back our government. Now, that! That would get something accomplished. It would scare the shit out of the cops, that’s for sure. With luck, it might scare the shit out of the people actually in power. Don’t think a million is enough? I agree with you. What about ten million? I’m in Oregon, so I can’t exactly make a trip to DC, but I could sure do the state Capitol in Salem, if I thought that marching and holding a sign was going to make a difference. If it’s a new Battle in Seattle that’s about to happen, I’m down.

I’m not arguing for anyone to hurt cops, or to destroy property, but at some point we have to get past the point of just having a march for a march’s sake. The enemy no longer takes us seriously, and they don’t care if we’re marching. We have to make them care again.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. =)

Notorious (Daily Prompt)

Today’s Daily Prompt (for us slackers who can’t think of anything better to write about) is: Notorious.

I am notorious to a degree. I committed a crime in 2012 that made national headlines, and if you Google my name, you can see my mugshot and all sorts of articles about me. It was my 15 minutes of fame, but in a bad way. And no, I’m not going to tell you my crime or who I am!

I’ve done my time. I did 15 months in prison for my crime, and I’m still on Federal probation for another 18 months. But why did I commit the crime in the first place?

I was manic, so there’s that. I had been depressed in the summer of 2011 and went to my family doctor, who put me on Zoloft. After that, I slowly lost my mind over the course of several months. I had delusions and became paranoid, particularly about cops and the government. I thought all the cameras at busy intersections were watching me. I felt continually that I was being observed. I didn’t realize how crazy I was until they caught me and put me in prison. I attempted suicide when the FBI was breaking down my door, then again after I was first in prison. Everybody thought I was faking being mentally ill, so I didn’t receive any treatment until my lawyer saw my state and demanded that I be taken to a hospital. By the time I got there, my kidneys and lungs were failing. I was in ICU for five days and very nearly died. Thank God for my lawyer, who I won’t name but who I love and respect greatly.

So my mania and a really loosened grasp on reality contributed greatly to my crime. I was paranoid about the government, and my crime targeted the government. I had further plans, but luckily I got caught before I could do any real damage. The FBI busted me outside my dentist’s office. I pulled up, got out of my car, and there was a dude with the sunglasses and the mustache and an FBI badge, saying, “put your hands on the hood of the car.” I knew right then and there that it was all over and I was going to prison.

I think our culture and media do a very poor job of showing us what prison is actually like. You think you’re going to get raped in the showers every day, but it’s not like that at all. The place where I went to prison, there were more Dungeons & Dragons players than anything else. The idea of being raped or even threatened is a joke. All prison is, is boredom and bad food. I’ve looked at posts about my crime, and people in the comments actually seem to be rooting for me to get raped in prison. Talk about sickos. I’m lucky in that I went to Federal prison, not some state joint. The Feds are pretty strict about rape and living conditions and whatnot. That’s part of the reason I hate to see Jeff Sessions as our new AG–I imagine he’s going to make prison conditions worse instead of better. He’s going to do all he can to keep the private-prison racket going. I was in a private prison for 29 days, and while you still don’t have to worry about getting raped, the food is awful and there’s like 72 guys in a barracks-style dorm. The private prison I went to was called CCA, and they are awful. The food was wretched. I mean, you expect prison food to be bad, but this was beyond the pale. Sometimes they gave us beans & rice for breakfast. Now, most of my dorm was Hispanic illegals waiting to get shipped back to Mexico, so maybe they liked the rice & beans, what do I know? Maybe it’s comfort food for them. Myself, I wanted a PB&J or two. Fat chance of that happening though.

So, I’m mildly notorious. Not Bonnie and Clyde notorious, or Billy The Kid notorious, but notorious nonetheless. After they arrested me, when I was fully manic and having hallucinations, I once thought I saw a sign on the wall saying, “To Hell” with an arrow. The US Marshals were having to carry me, but once I saw that sign, I thought they were carrying me to hell. I freaked right the fuck out, and they had to set me down on the floor. Three years later, when I checked in to begin doing my real prison time, I gave the US Marshal my name and told him he’d probably heard of me. “I’ve heard the stories,” is what he said. Lol. After I went to the hospital and got straightened out (by being put on the right psych meds), I heard one of the US Marshals telling the rest of them, “You won’t believe it. He’s completely down to earth.”

And I WAS down to earth, because after I attempted suicide twice, once at home and once in prison, and they finally put me in the hospital, the doctors there put me on an anti-psychotic. They started with Haldol and then moved me to Zyprexa, which I take faithfully to this very day. See, the guard thought I was faking, so nobody lifted a finger to help me. It was only when my lawyer insisted I go to the hospital that things got straightened out.

The moral of this story is this: If you or a loved one ever get arrested and you’re bipolar, watch out because the guards won’t lift a finger to help you. You need a lawyer or some family on the outside to insist that you go to a hospital. They tried to play around with my psych meds while I was in prison. It wasn’t working, and I had my wife and my mother call and complain. That actually worked. Now, I don’t know how well it would work in a state pen, especially a red state pen, but it worked for me. One time they took my off my Zyprexa and I just couldn’t sleep at all. I had songs going through my head all night long. I had my wife and my mother call and bitch at the prison psychiatrist, and lo and behold, my Zyprexa came back! I think the minute I saw that little pill in my evening meds was my happiest moment in my 15 months in prison. I still take Zyprexa to this day. It causes weight gain and gives me Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

So, I’m notorious. When they write my obituary, there will probably be some reference to my crime (btw, RIP Chris Cornell), but I’m OK with that. I had my 15 minutes of fame, and I don’t care to have any more. Unless it’s for doing something good. Who knows what can happen? Maybe I’ll run for City Council or something. I don’t really think I know enough people to do that, but I’m alive, I’m kicking, and the world is full of strange possibilities.

That’s enough for now. Thanks for reading. =)

 

Precipice (Daily Prompt)

Today’s daily prompt is Precipice, and oh brother, are we on one.

It feels like things are wheeling out of control. Every day is a new Trump scandal. Now we have a special counsel, former FBI head Robert Mueller, to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia and his attempts to obstruct justice. Everybody should note that Mueller is a special COUNSEL, NOT a special PROSECUTOR. He serves at Trump’s pleasure, and Trump could conceivably fire Mueller just like he fired Comey. Nixon fired a bunch of people on his way down, so don’t be surprised if Trump axes more people as he gets more and more freaked out. In my opinion, we have not only grounds for impeachment, but may have grounds for actual treason, which last I checked still has the death penalty as the listed punishment. Trump may–oh the irony–do time in prison before this is all over.

So what happens after we impeach Trump? Well, assuming he’s clean of wrongdoing, we get Mike Pence as President. While not the comic-book villain Trump has become, Pence is every bit as bad. Well, maybe not every bit–at least we could probably trust Pence with the nuclear codes–but when it comes to pushing a conservative agenda, Pence would probably be much better than Trump at actually getting things done. Of course, by this point the whole administration will be so galactically unpopular that they may not be able to get anything done anyway. The GOP’s Congressional delegation is a bunch of rats who are figuring out that the ship is sinking. They will eventually come flying out of their holes to scramble to a lifeboat, and that will be the end of the Trump/Pence administration for all intents and purposes.

What if Pence is dirty too? Then, God save us, we get Paul Ryan as President. So it just doesn’t really get any better. Again, the GOP may have lost so much credibility by that point that Ryan is practically a lame duck by the time he gets the Oval Office. But either Pence or Ryan could conceivably stop the Republican bleeding and get them back with their shit in one sock. We have to stay vigilant, and keep working through groups like Indivisible to resist the GOP agenda at every turn.

But, back to the prompt of Precipice, it feels to me like the country is on another precipice, and that is this: what is holding our economy up these days? Manufacturing only employs like 8.5% of the population. I feel like we’re the town where everybody makes money by doing their neighbor’s laundry. We’ve got trillions of dollars floating around out there somewhere, but who does it belong to? The large corporations and billionaires. And the next time we have an economic shock (because the banks are still up to the same tricks that got them in hot water in 2008), all that money is going to get sucked right out of the system.

In America today we seem to have two classes of people: those who order Starbucks, and those who serve Starbucks. It seems to me that the latter class vastly outnumbers the former, and quite frankly, that’s not going to work, economically speaking. The whole system is built on Americans being good consumers, but when you have no money to spend, you cannot consume. More and more of America is having to divert its money to paying off student debt or credit cards or whatever else it may be, and less and less of America has any money left at the end of the month to consume much of anything. The iPhone 23 will be great, no doubt, but by then who will be able to afford it? For instance, I look around at the small town I live in, and what do I see? I see a Walmart, a Safeway, a bunch of fast-food joints and convenience stores, and a couple bank branches. How much consuming do you think the people working at these places can really do? Where’s the money? All these jobs are minimum wage or maybe a little more. There’s a mill a few miles out of town that may have a few skilled laborers, but that’s about it. I look at the price of houses in my town and all I can think is “where are the people who can afford this?” Hell, aside from subsidized housing like I live in, I don’t know how people afford rent around here.

I feel like we are on the precipice of another financial/economic disaster, where the bubbles all burst at once and we are left looking at each other wondering where all the Monopoly money went. The stock market has been booming since Trump took over, but what happens when he goes down and his agenda goes down with him? Who’s going to be the FDR that pulls us out of the Great Recession of 2018? Who? Mike Pence? Don’t make me laugh.

The fact is that America is running on fumes, and it’s just a matter of time before everything unravels. And when I say unravels, I mean Great Depression levels of unraveling (or worse). There is a great blog out there called The Automatic Earth that does a better job of explaining where we are and what’s going on than I ever could, and gives advice on how to survive the coming collapse. I’m not in a position where I can take advantage of most of their advice, but if you are, you should check out their site and educate yourself. The link above takes you to a page of TAE primers that will show you what’s going on and what you can do about it. It’s very sobering and not for the faint of heart. I don’t claim to understand all of it, but what I do understand scares the crap out of me. Inside me is a closet survivalist who wishes he was in a bunker on the side of a mountain with some guns and ten years’ worth of non-perishable food, but that’s not the fate I’m meant to have. When the collapse comes, I will be right there in the middle of the rubble, trying to claw my way out.

Well, that’s enough cheerfulness for one day. Thanks for reading. =)

Sixteen Tons (Daily Prompt)

Today’s prompt is called Sixteen Tons and it’s about work. More specifically, it’s: how do you feel about your job?

That’s an easy one for me. I don’t have a job right now, and I hope to never have a job again. I’ve worked my entire adult life until the last five years, and I hated every minute of it. My anxiety and depression go through the roof when I have to go to work somewhere. It wasn’t so bad when I was younger and had simple jobs like bagging groceries or delivering pizzas, but as I got older, and especially after I became an ICU nurse, my anxiety about going to work just got worse and worse.

You know what I hate the most about working for a living? Clocking in. I walk up to that clock, and all I can think is “Man, I’m gonna be hitting this clock every day for the rest of my life.” It’s so fucking depressing. And the worst thing of all is that, even as a nurse, I couldn’t get us anywhere. We weren’t going to own a nice home on my nursing wages. We weren’t putting by a ton of money for savings, or going on nice vacations. I was working like a dog and we were just getting by. Now, we had a nice apartment, and we paid a grand a month for it, true, but any houses in our price range were ones we didn’t want to buy. So I always used to think I was working for nothing, really, since we weren’t getting ahead.

With the benefit of hindsight, though, I can see this wasn’t true. When I was working I was keeping food on the table and a nice roof over my wife’s head. Now that I CAN’T work because of my disability, I have to depend on the government to do that for me. The fact that I don’t trust the government, especially Trump’s government, to deliver in that realm, only adds to my anxiety and depression about our situation. So it’s almost as bad now as it was when I was working. I’m still worrying, I’m just worrying about different things.

Might I go back to work someday? Possibly, once I’m off probation. I may re-apply for my nursing license, but there’s no guarantee I’ll get it back. And I may just never be able to handle doing that again because my bipolar has gotten so much worse over the last few years. So has my back, and you know what they call a nurse with a bad back? Unemployed, lol.

Nursing is the only thing I could see myself doing again–it’s the only thing I’m qualified for that’s worth doing, paycheck-wise–and I’d need a nursing job that was easy on my back. Maybe I could work on a psych unit. I’d be able to relate to my patients since I have my own psych issues. Other than that, the only thing I could see myself doing is telecommuting from home. I just can’t do a normal full-time job, I can’t handle the stress. But not working at all has stresses of its own, as I have learned.

So basically, I hate working but I also hate being poor and dependent on the government for everything I need to live. It’s a moot point for right now because I can’t get my nursing license back until I’m off probation, and that’s 18 months away. Right now I’m focused on getting my Social Security Disability (SSD) due to my bipolar depression, anxiety, and back issues. Once I get a final determination from Social Security and I’m off probation, we’ll see about going back into nursing. I don’t WANT to do it, but I feel like I may HAVE to. We shall see. I need to lose a lot of weight, too, that I gained due to my psych meds. If I don’t do that, my back will never get to the point that it can tolerate working. Right now I can sit in a chair for about an hour, maybe a little more, before I have to flop on the couch or lay down in bed. I can only stand and walk around for about half an hour at a time. Jobs that require a lot of standing and walking are right out, and that includes an awful lot of nursing jobs. So I don’t really know where I go from here. Getting SSD will give my wife and I some breathing room so we’re not one car repair away from complete destitution, but it’s not going to get us rich. But at this point in my life, it’s no longer about being rich, it’s about getting by.

There’s an idea floating around out there called Universal Basic Income. Basically, everybody in society gets a check each month, enough for them to live on. People who want more than the minimum are welcome to work, and the basic income phases out for those who make more money working. Some of our more progressive European brethren see this as a viable option in the face of continued automation of jobs. As robots take over more and more jobs, what do the people do for a living? Well, they get the “basic” income. I don’t know if this would ever work in the United States, given our collective hatred of the poor, but it’s an interesting idea. Of course, for this to work, you have to tax the rich and the corporations, so we’d basically need to overhaul the government beforehand. It’s nothing I’ll probably ever see in my lifetime, but maybe the Millennials can make it work.

Eh, that’s enough for now. Thanks for reading. =)

 

 

 

Qualm (Daily Prompt)

OK, I’m doing such a rip-roaring great job of thinking about things to write about that I’m going to do a post using the Daily Post’s prompt of the day, which is: Qualm. So here goes nothing.

I immediately think not of personal qualms I may have, but qualms we have as a society. For a country as diverse as America, we seem to have a great number of qualms about people who don’t look like us. I find this odd. I would expect that countries like Denmark and Norway would have greater qualms, for instance, about accepting Syrian refugees than we do, because aside from refugees the people in those countries all look the same.  I mean, they have a very homogeneous population, you’d expect there to be some friction when you add a new ethnic group to the mix, right?

But here in the US, where we have millions of Muslims and millions more other people who came here as refugees from somewhere else–like the Pilgrims, for instance–we have this big problem accepting any Syrian refugees. Not only that, we don’t want any Mexican refugees either. We have made this clear by electing a President who is promising not to take in any refugees, and indeed to kick out the ones we have who aren’t citizens yet. These things are cheered on by his rabid base, which is overwhelmingly white Aryan types.

Speaking of Aryan types, if you’re still a Trump supporter at this point, after everything he’s done, then at this juncture I have qualms with you. I think you most likely are racist, sexist, and not too bright. In other words, you’re a perfect fit for the GOP to run for Congress next time. Go for it, Billy Bob!

But back to the qualms. So you have these really overwhelmingly white countries who are taking in great numbers of refugees with little problem, but here in the US, it’s a big huge hairy deal.. Why? The obvious answer is that the US is more racist than other countries. Or rather I should say we have a larger population of racists than other countries, and they’re more vocal about being racists. Did you see the group of torch-wielding white people who came out to defend a Robert E. Lee statue in Virginia? If that’s not the next best thing to the Klan, I don’t know what is. I get defending the statue–for better or worse, Southern whites have their own cultural heritage that places great value on Confederate icons–but what’s with the torches? It’s obviously an attempt to intimidate people and stifle opposition. And, as such, it cannot be allowed to work. These types of people are being emboldened by Trump and the systemic racism coming from the White House (and Congress) these days. The sad thing is, even if Trump gets himself impeached, which seems more likely with each passing day, these people will remain emboldened. Trump has like a 40% approval rating at this point, which in one sense is abysmal, but in another sense is remarkable. 40% of Americans think this clown is doing a great job. I don’t know if they’re the most uneducated 40%, the most racist 40%, or what, but the sad fact is that there’s a lot of them. Having to drag 40% of the population along on every single issue is going to be very difficult. It’s depressing to think about.

OK, so that’s the blog post on qualms. Thanks for reading. =)

 

My Father

My dad never taught me much, in the traditional sense. We didn’t have father-son chats where life lessons were imparted. Hell, we hardly had any chats at all. He never talked about himself, his life, his parents, his childhood, anything. I know he was something like 16th out of 17 children, and his older sisters practically raised him. He was a child of the Depression, and it left a huge mark on him and his worldview.

My dad was both the hardest working and hardest worrying man I ever knew. He usually worked six days a week, and I’ll be damned if I can remember him ever bitching about it. His primary worry was that he would lose his job (usually through getting laid off). He was a carpenter and a machinist by trade, and during Reagan’s recession of 1981-82, he DID get laid off. We had to move from Indiana to live with my mom’s parents in Mississippi. He took this very hard (we both did–that move fucked me up too), and he was never quite the same after that. He and my mom slowly drifted apart, and they divorced when I was 14 or 15. I lived with my mom after that, and I think my dad saw that as me choosing sides. He never trusted me after that, and I think he thought I saw him primarily as a source of money. Well, I WAS a teenager–both parents were sources of money at times.

I had a strained adult relationship with my dad. We lived with him for a couple years to take care of him after he was diagnosed with heart failure. He didn’t need that much taking care of, really, but it was during this time that I went to nursing school. It was a difficult time, especially for my wife, because my dad was a hard man to please and a hard man to love. He wanted everything done his way. By the time I graduated nursing school we couldn’t handle it anymore, and we moved out into our own place. My dad went to live with my half-sister. At the time he died I hadn’t spoken to him in over a year, which breaks my heart a little. A lot actually. I think my dad died thinking I didn’t love him. That bothers me every day. It will probably bother me until the day I die.

My dad never complained about working. He never begged out of a game of catch with a bad back or bad knees or just being tired after being on his feet all day. He wasn’t a talkative man, but he treated my mother well and kept food on my plate and a roof over my head as best he could. I regret now that I didn’t see the value in that the way I should have, the way I do today.

I didn’t get my dad’s working man’s gene, but I did inherit the worrywart gene. I recognize now why my dad was always afraid of losing his job–because it meant that we’d be on the street (without some family charity, at least). Now that I have lost my own ability to bring in an income, I worry about the same thing. If not for federally subsidized housing and my wife’s SSI check, we’d be on the street too. And that is a terrifying thought. Luckily I didn’t inherit my dad’s fear of death. I’m not sure what his religious/spiritual beliefs were–he never talked about them–but I think they included a heaven-or-hell dichotomy that he feared. He apparently died in his sleep, which is good, but he was failing fast at the end and he knew it was coming. I wish I didn’t know that much. He kept asking about me up until the end, and my half-sister kept telling him I didn’t want to talk to him. That hurts, bad. I wish she had called me during the final days, but I don’t blame her. I had made myself pretty clear that I didn’t want contact.

My dad could imagine the worst of any scenario. I worked for Walmart in college, and after I’d had the job awhile, I asked my dad to co-sign on a new car for me. He didn’t want to do it, but he didn’t have a good reason, and he ended up saying, “Well, Walmart could burn down and then you’d be out of a job.” Well, yeah. I could get hit by a meteorite too. I think the truth is that he didn’t trust me to make the payments. He finally co-signed, and I never missed a single payment for the next 5 years. Three weeks after I had the damn thing paid off I flipped it over on a wet road while delivering pizzas and totaled it, but by God I never missed a payment.

I thought his worries were absurd at the time–of course Walmart wasn’t gonna burn down, for Christ’s sake–but now that I’m an adult in my 40s, I find some of my worries aren’t much less absurd, but that doesn’t help me worry any less. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this anywhere in this blog, but I’m on Federal probation for another year and a half. I worry that Jeff Sessions, little weasel that he is, is going to find some way to make my probation harder. Luckily I think most anything they can do to me has to go through a judge first, but some of these judges are crazy too. Who knows what might happen? I tend to worry the most about low-probability, high-impact events. What if they find some reason to send me back to prison? What if, what if, what if.

All of which is by way of saying that I understand my father better now than I ever did while he was alive. I’m sorry, Daddy. I wish I had figured it out sooner. I’m glad you don’t have to worry anymore, wherever you are. I love you. And I always did.

Thanks for reading. =)

 

Changing My Mind

Ever since the other day when I got that traffic ticket and decided to sell off all my Funko Pops, I’ve been depressed and down. I already sold off a couple of my more expensive Pops to pay for “traffic school” to get out from under the ticket. But tonight, after realizing why I was depressed and talking things over with my wife, I’ve decided not to sell off any more of my Pops.

It’s a silly thing, really, collecting. Mostly you just buy stuff and it sits there and collects dust. Every now and then you look at it or maybe rearrange it a little, but it doesn’t really qualify as a hobby because there’s so little of a time investment. But for whatever reason, my Pop collection is very important to me. I think it’s a little island of normalcy in this world of mine that’s been turned upside down in so many ways. I get excited when I have a new Pop coming in the mail. It doesn’t take but five minutes to open it, put it in a protector, and put it in its place in the collection, but those are five nice minutes. It’s a ray of sunshine into my usually dark and dreary world.

So anyway, the rest of the Pops stay. By the by, I get money for Pops by taking online surveys. Talk about a fucking grind of a way to make a little bit of money. But that survey money does build up, 50 cents or a dollar at a time, and eventually you have enough money to buy something. So we aren’t “wasting” money on Pops, it’s money I would never have had if I didn’t have a strong motivation to earn it in the first place. Theoretically I could earn that money and put it into savings, but that’s too boring to sustain my motivation. If ever we get in a REAL crunch, I can sell my Pops then, assuming they haven’t turned into Beanie Babies and lost all their value.

I’m still a little down over the Pops that I did sell, but I know that eventually I’ll be able to get them back again. Overall I feel much better. I’m doing a stupid thing by letting my emotions overrule my brain, and I recognize that. But sometimes in life you have to go with what your heart tells you, and my heart just wasn’t into selling off all my Pops. I have so many that it feels like I just got them, and I have some Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Pops that I haven’t even gotten a chance to display at Christmastime. Hopefully we’ll still be solvent come Christmastime and not broke or homeless. Yes, I’m an atheist who celebrates Christmas. So shoot me.

My worries about homelessness continue unabated. I got triggered hard-core by the House passing TrumpCare, and I’ve been reading too much political stuff in my Facebook feed. Gotta stay away from that. It’s partly good because I get to see what Bernie’s up to, but on the other hand not a day goes by that I don’t see something in my feed that depresses me as we slide ever closer to the edge of the abyss. But I don’t want to delve too far into politics today. Why ruin a good mood?

It’s funny how so often it’s the little things that can sustain us in hard times. My Pop collection is small, and in the grand scheme of things I should have no problem giving it up. It’s a luxury in a poor man’s world that doesn’t have room for luxuries. But giving it up was just gnawing away at my soul. It might have been the smart thing to do, selling them, but it just felt so wrong that I just can’t do it. Hopefully I won’t come to regret this decision, but for tonight I’m happy I changed my mind.

Thanks for reading. =)

Politics etc.

Well, my wife’s gone today to visit a friend, and I’m left to my own devices as to how to pass the day. I slept as long as I could. It’s pretty boring without my wife here. I need more hobbies.

So anyway, let’s make a blog post. The political news has become impossible to ignore. TrumpCare is all over my Facebook feed. It’s everywhere you look. How they can get away with screwing 24 million people out of their healthcare is beyond me. Maybe they won’t get away with it, and a lot of them will be voted out of office in 2018. I’m really hoping the Democrats can take back control of one chamber of Congress in 2018. But it does seem that the Democrats have their heads stuck in the sand. Bernie’s trying to lead them kicking and screaming in the right direction, but I think most of them are just too beholden to the corporate money. What we have right now are two parties controlled by corporations and billionaires, it’s just a matter of which corporations and billionaires. The Republicans are just a bit more open about being controlled, whereas the Democrats try to pretend that they’re the servants of the people. Other than Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, and a few others, this is total bullshit. They let the insurance companies and Big Pharma write the Affordable Care Act, and as a result, it’s become a mess. We should have had universal coverage back in 2010, the Democrats had the House, 60 Senators and the President, there’s no excuse why it didn’t pass other than some of the Democrats are on the take from the insurance companies and Big Pharma. And Wall Street owns them all.

Sigh. On to something else. The political situation is too depressing and triggering for me to focus on it for long. I still can’t believe Trump won, but in another way, I can. Hillary Clinton was an extremely flawed candidate, disliked by most people (including me; I voted for Jill Stein). She was definitely the “lesser of two evils”. Now, she was a great bit the LESSER of two evils, but if you give people a false choice, what do you expect to happen? Trump grabbed the change mantle, the same one Obama ran with in 2008, and he won with it. Every election from here until we fix our corruption problem is going to be a “change” election, and whoever represents change the best will probably win. That’s good, because Bernie Sanders can grab that change mantle in 2020 and beat Trump. I hope.

Actually, I fear that Trump will refuse to leave office, that he’ll claim a rigged election or something and try to stay in power even if he loses in 2020. We’ll see what happens. We’re having all these protests and marches, but I don’t think they are doing any good. What we need is a million people on the Mall with pitchforks and Molotov cocktails. Maybe then some shit would get accomplished. It’s high time the American people put their foot down and said no to all this bullshit. But when you’ve got 45% of the population supporting someone like Trump, how the hell do you get anything accomplished? The people are so divided, red states and blue states are practically at war. Hell, I’m interested in the idea of the West Coast states seceding and joining Canada. I just don’t know how we fix this. We may need another Civil War or something similar. We need a Constitutional amendment or maybe even a totally new Constitution to say that corporations are not people and cannot exercise free speech in the form of money to politicians. We also need limits on all these billionaire donors. But how do we get there? We need states to call for a convention, then the convention to pass the right kind of document, then 3/4 of states to ratify it. I don’t see how we can get 3/4 of the states to agree on anything.

Is nonviolent protest always the way to go? It worked for Gandhi and the Civil Rights movement, but they were facing civilized opposition. How far would nonviolent protest have gotten against someone like Hitler or Stalin? I don’t know the answer here. If you’re not nonviolent, who are you violent toward? The cops are just doing their jobs. The problem is the SYSTEM, and how do you break a SYSTEM? Maybe Molotov cocktails wouldn’t do that much good after all. The problem isn’t the Congress, or K Street, or corporations, it’s all of them. It’s everything. How do we fix this? I’ve beaten my head against this problem from every angle, and I just don’t see a solution. I think things have to get BAD–bread riot type of bad–before people will wake up enough to start fighting back en masse. Do we really have to become a third-world country before we can fix things? Hell, we’re nearly there now–it seems like we’re 28th in everything. But can we do better? As proud as I am of Bernie and the fight he’s bringing, I fear that come 2020 he’s gonna get screwed by the Establishment again. They’ll nominate Clinton again or some shill like Cory Booker, and Bernie will be left out in the cold yet again, and Trump will get re-elected. This is my nightmare.

So how am I, as a bipolar person, dealing with all this? I’d say I’m just not thinking about it, but that would be a lie. I can’t HELP but think about it. My wife and I get so much from the Federal government–SSI, cheap housing, Medicaid, food stamps, heating assistance in the winter–that I can’t help but worry. If ANY of those things go away, it’s going to put us in an untenable situation–like, a “we’re going to be homeless” situation. We’re in a very vulnerable position, where we’re dependent on the government for everything. The only way out of this is to get a good job.

Before my meltdown in 2011-12, I was a registered nurse. I’m still on probation for the crime I committed in 2012, and I can’t get my nursing license back until I’m off of probation at the earliest. That means November, 2018. I have to hope I can lose enough weight and get healthy enough mentally to take a nursing job come November 2018. But I don’t know if I’ll make it. My back is so bad, I can’t see myself nursing on a regular floor where you have to flip people over in bed and clean up crap. I could see myself nursing on a psych unit, but that’s about it. And there aren’t that many of those jobs. Maybe I could get a job at an insurance company denying people’s claims, but I can’t think of a more soul-sucking job than that. But I don’t know what else to do. Even if I get my disability, our rent goes up and our food stamps go down and we’re still barely making ends meet. That’s assuming they don’t take my disability for Federal restitution (I owe the Feds about $35k for restitution), which is a big assumption. I fear the Trump budget and what it may do to our housing situation. Right now we have Federally subsidized rent, but what if that goes away? We can’t pay $600 a month in rent. We only have $735 a month in income.

I think I’ve beat my head against this enough for one day. Thanks for reading. =)

Blah

I’m feeling pretty down and blah today. A lot of it is the healthcare vote that happened yesterday–one step further towards the abyss–but I don’t know if that’s all of it.

I had therapy yesterday and did EMDR for the first time. The image I selected to work on was one of me in bed, alone and crying because my wife had died. It’s a very disturbing image and one that bothers me a lot. By the end of the EMDR it seemed as though the image was less powerful, so I guess it was a success, but this morning I’m thinking about death. I know death is a part of life, and I don’t fear it, per se, but I do fear my wife dying and leaving me alone in the world, or me dying and leaving her alone in the world. We’re so close, it just doesn’t seem right that our bond should be broken in that way.

I believe that eventually, if we can get our shit together, mankind will become immortal. They’ll develop medical technologies to reverse or stop the aging process, and people will only die in accidents and the like. If we can keep the world spinning long enough for the scientists to figure it out, we may beat death. But unfortunately, my wife and I won’t live to see it happen, so it doesn’t do us much good.

I feel like we are at a tipping point as a species. We have so many ways to destroy ourselves, through nuclear war or climate change or a pandemic, but if we can manage not to do that, we are heading toward a new Golden Age that will be brought about by science. The stuff they’re doing these days is miraculous. But will we as a species live to see it to fruition? That’s the question. Given our current state of affairs, especially here in the U.S., I’m not particularly hopeful. It’s hard to move ahead when 45% of the population has to be dragged kicking and screaming towards any kind of positive change. But I don’t know how we can change it. Nobody looks at facts and changes their mind anymore–they bend the facts to support their own opinion. So how can we get our people working together towards a better future? I don’t know the answer to that question. The problems we face today seem insoluble with our current political system. We need something new, but what that would be or what it looks like, I don’t know.

I feel like I’m just rambling today, so I’m going to cut this a little short. Thanks for reading. =)