First Impressions

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Been thinking about first impressions. How casual so many of us are during first impressions. We have them every minute of every day. First impressions on the street as we walk past people. First impressions when we meet someone. First impressions as we turn a corner, hear something new, see something or taste something or do something for the first time.

It’s always there, and we slough it off.

I’m thinking of my first impression of Mr. Bitch in the theater group. Not his real name, naturally, but very apropos. My first impression of him is very low (thus the moniker ‘Mr. Bitch’). He didn’t think. Didn’t think about what came out of his mouth. Didn’t think how someone who wasn’t enamored by theatrical abilities might see/hear that. He was too in love with himself, too puffed up by his ego to think (or care). And while he was no slouch on the stage, he was also no Olivier. I mean, how much credit should one take if one is only asked to portray a slightly larger version of one’s self? Not much.

And I’m turning my first impression eyes on myself. There are some things I like about my first impression and some things I don’t like. Most of what I don’t like relate to simple economics: I don’t have unlimited funds to keep my hair picture perfect and my wardrobe looking it’s absolute best. Honestly not sure how I feel about my lack of make-up. Inside, I walk around thinking I have these HUGE under-eye puffs and deep, dark circles under my eyes. Some lights show me that way, some lights don’t. I never know what other people see. I only know that lately every time I look in the mirror I see the puffiness, the dark circles, and the wrinkles first. Do other people look at me and think ‘gee she could be so much prettier if she only put a little make up on and dressed better and did something with her hair’?  Or is that my problem, my judgment? And do I change it?

In eight to nine days (depending on how you measure it) it’s my 51st birthday. I was great with 30. Loved it. Reveled in 40. Breezed past 50. But 51! Now I’m choking. As I said to a friend this morning, suddenly this shit got real. I ain’t 20 anymore. The wrinkles don’t go away with some rehydration and facial lotion. Every day I get up and watch my face slide off my skeleton a little further. That’s what it feels like. Like everything is melting, losing it’s shape and slipping down your bones from the simple gravitational pull of the planet. It’s a hell of a thing.

One thing is certain: I may wish to look better, dress better, even wear make-up so I’m shown in the most flattering way possible, but I know the cost of that (for a woman) increases with age. At 20, you can wear cheap make-up and cheap clothes and pull it all off with a fresh-faced smile. At 50 you just look ridiculous. Amazing how much make-up ends up looking like clown face as you get older. And the good stuff! The good stuff is out of my price range. Same with clothes. I’d love to have all color coordinated, comfortable to wear, classic lines and flattering cuts clothes. Ye gods! Buying one item that would fit all that would gobble up any money I have for several months. I practically live in my sweat pants.

But. And.

There are things I can work on.

I understand how my social unease may seem like stand-offishness. Like I’m not sure I want to participate or make friends. That needs to be addressed. Tho I must confess, I seem to often find myself standing alone in a room full of people who are clustered together in small groups. That’s a very difficult place to be. It demands me assessing all the groups, looking for a quick welcoming gaze or smile from someone that may indicate I could approach and participate. Those rarely happen. When people break into small groups, it happens for a reason. They know each other, they have something to communicate to each other. Those reasons do not generally include an outsider. So I find myself standing in the middle of a crowd, gazing around with a small smile on my face to show that I am friendly and willing to talk to anyone. Sometimes I feel forced to approach a group. Then I must wait outside the circle, hoping someone will look up and catch my eye so I may speak, say hello, try to be social. That’s so awkward. I feel like an intruder. I AM an intruder. I smile, apologize for the interruption, state my praise or comment or whatever, look around and smile at everyone in the small group, nod, and if no one says anything to continue my line of conversation, move on. I don’t know how else to do it. Or what else to do. Standing there, in those small groups, hoping to be accepted – those are the most difficult performances of my life. And I feel like I tank it, every time.

It’s been so bad I’ve been thinking about social bribing. I learned about that a long time ago. Bring treats. Sugar. Preferably home-made because MY treats are out of this world. Oh, you’d be surprised how many walls that will bring down. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I believe that’s one of those sayings that got generalized to ‘man’ like ‘mankind’ rather than ‘man and womankind’. Because everybody responds to food. Well…maybe not an anorexic, but I haven’t caught any of those in the group. So I’ve been thinking about baking. What the hell; I could use the practice, Friday is the last performance, and why not bake a cake or something for everyone to share? It may not be my first impression with the group, but I can still make a good one.

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One Year Old

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Sometime this week I passed my one year anniversary on WP. Don’t know exactly when; all my notice says is ‘more than two days ago’ (brilliant. getting the date to show was just too much, eh?). It’s kind of like my birthday: worth noting, but not worth shouting about. At least not anymore.

So roughly one year ago I began this experiment of writing my thoughts out to try and help myself. And although there have been times when I’ve typed out ‘I want to die’ or something similar, on the whole I’ve been better. Better able, at least, to communicate what’s bothering me and that’s making a big difference in my life. The entire phase of arguing with my bro over petty shit because I haven’t sat down to figure out what’s bugging me is gone. The color therapy has done its work, too. Not that it prevents me from feeling depressed. It doesn’t. If I’m doomed to go down (or determined to be depressed; I haven’t quite figured that one out yet), down I go. But it helps a little. All my little helpers add up to one big Self Care Package.

The problem with self care, I’ve found, is that you have to give a damn about yourself before you can really follow through with any of it. And there’s the hitch, because when you’re down on yourself the last thing you want to do is cut yourself some slack. I’ve only been able to be semi-successful at this because of the people around me. My brother, the friends I’ve made here on line. The people who really care when they ask ‘how are you?’, the people who hang with me as I message back and forth about how shitty I feel. I credit it all to you. Because when I’m really down I can’t do it for myself. I HAVE to concentrate on how shitty my depression is making it for other people. Me, I could care less about. The people around me, I treasure, and I wouldn’t hurt any one of them for anything. Makes me work double hard to find a way out.

Thank you, if I haven’t said it. Thank you very, very much.

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The people I care about aren’t as lucky as me. Just heard from J; his disability has been denied again. Haven’t heard from a few online friends in many days, and I know it’s because they’re having a rough time of it. It’s hard to feel good when the people you care about are in a bad situation. I feel so damned HELPLESS. I don’t even have a salary to scrimp on so I can send them some money. All I want to do is rush in and save them. Fly to wherever they are, grab them and a suitcase full of clothes, and bring them here. Find a place in this tiny two bedroom to house more guests. Soothe their ills, comfort their pains, and see them smile again. The fact that I can do NONE of that eats at me.

Doing my best to keep focused on what’s in front of my face. The only hope I have of helping my friends is to make sure I’m in a place financially, physically, and mentally, to help them. Been paying off debts and saving where I can, taking walks and getting exercise, and working to stay positive. Started playing with Power Point to help me with my Dutch and developed some presentations my teacher is now using. That’s a double win; I learn by working so much with the language, and he gets a new teaching tool that he’s jazzed about. I know I look like a swot. I AM a swot. I like learning, and when I have a teacher who’s sympathetic and kind I really respond. I’ve also finally heard back from the theatre group. I’ve volunteered to work on make-up backstage, something I find fun, I’m good at, and doing it won’t hurt my RA. Looking forward to having a schedule to stick to, places to go and people to talk to.

That’s a lot to keep me focused. Keep me in the now.

The puzzle box that is the Dutch language is really beginning to unlock for me. Maybe it’s the extra work on Power Point; maybe I’ve just been seeing the same words enough that they’re beginning to stick in my brain. But I’ve noticed I’m reading subtitles faster, understanding more nuance, having that click in my brain when I say ‘aha!’ more often. I’m also watching SpongeBob Squarepants every afternoon – WITHOUT subtitles – to push me into listening more. I know it’s my weak point, and I’m determined to do better. There are a few phrases and words that, when I hear them, I just understand. I don’t have to translate it into English. The rest…seems I’m always five minutes behind, my brain tackling some phrase and figuring it out while more dialogue goes on. But hey! It’s a colorful cartoon so it keeps my interest going on that level, at least. And it’s better than Alvin and the Chipmunks. Ugh!

Frankly, the more I have to do in a day the less time I have to be mopey. I don’t think about my bad thoughts when I have a project to tackle. My head is all about the steps I need to take. I know all too well it’s all about balance. Becoming a steam roller and pushing through life is as bad an idea as becoming a bump on a log. It seems I’ll have an opportunity this summer, a little micro-encapsulated time, to try out a new balance in my life. Get involved with the theatre group, do more with the language. Put my arrows OUT while remembering to take care of myself and see what happens.

That’s not bad for my one year anniversary. To move from Ms. Grumppants to Ms. Interaction.

Hi, I’m Beeps. And I’m one year old.

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Can’t You See It?

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R-R-r-rrrrip. That’s the sound I should have heard yesterday, late morning. I didn’t, of course. When muscles tear no one can hear you scream. Wait. That’s Ridley Scott.

Humor aside, my bad shoulder (the right one, if you’ve been paying attention) is fucked again. Hurts like bloody hell. And this morning is a bit better than yesterday right after it happened. Ask me again how it feels to ALWAYS hurt yourself on a damned weekend, when your only options are to wait for Monday or go to hospital.

Someday I’m gonna take that hospital option.

So my brother did what he could for me. I’m now stocked up on paracetamol and the heaviest smoke around, Haze. No, I don’t expect to get much done today. Yes, I expect I’ll fall asleep at some point. Par for the course when your doobage is the number one pain relief AND stoner smoke in town.

I am also braless for the next I don’t know how many days. Barely managed to unhook the one I had on yesterday before I slept. I’m not even gonna TRY to get one on. Guess if I got to go out everyone will see floppy boobs. Not thrilled about that.

Floppy boobs and stoner eyes. Joy.

Got into a disagreement with my bro. One of those basic beliefs that we’re opposites on. It’s a hot issue; one we can’t discuss with any calm. As usual, there came a time when I just had to walk away. Neither one of us are going to change the other’s mind. We just argue the same lines of logic over and over. Being as close as we are, so similar minded in so many areas, having this divide between us is…aggravating. Odd. Sad. I can’t see why he can’t see he’s wrong. He probably thinks the same about me. I don’t like to touch on these subjects with him; these few things we don’t see eye to eye on. Makes me feel like I’m fighting with my only ally. And it takes a good damned while before I calm down enough to realize that (1) the scale with the negative is much lighter than the scale with the positive and (2) the issues we don’t agree on aren’t life altering. *sigh* I’d rather my energy go to something else.

Been pretty good about taking morning walks the past few days. Getting out before the real heat hits is always the best. And there’s that quality in the air you don’t get any other time of year. Yeah, I smell it. The contrast between the heat of the sun and the cold dew drying in the grass. A last minute freshness before the oppressiveness of summer moves in full time. Mornings. Always my favorite time of day. You can pack so much IN in those few hours before the rest of the world is up and conscious.

Got the treat of all treats down pat for me: chai tea. I am a chai tea HOUND. Love the stuff. Could drink it almost all day long. Did my usual thing: researched it in my books and online. Found half a dozen recipes, compared them, judged them, thought about the process involved, then modified everything into one and came up with my own mix. YUM! Oh! To sit down each and every evening with a cup of fresh, sweet chai tea! I’ve really been enjoying it. Now that I’ve mastered the technique, I’m laughing at myself. It’s very similar to Greek coffee; you let it ‘boil’ up twice. The boil is unique, though. It doesn’t just boil like you’d think. It bubbles up in a very unique way. Get it there, and you’ve got it perfect. Oh, it takes time. It’s not instantaneous. And you’ve got to watch the pot; can’t let it burn, can’t let it boil over. 15-20 minutes. Some of the best time I spend on myself.

I’ve also indulged in another game for my computer. One of those adventure games, where you find your way around a maze and solve puzzles and riddles to get to the end. I like those, though I don’t buy many because once you’ve solved them that’s kind of it. You’ve got to wait several months before playing it again. But what the hell. I buy them here and there. Considering the time spent to solve the mazes it’s still a good purchase.

*sigh* A scant two days from now and I’m back on the train headed to Amsterdam to take care of my passport renewal. Goddess willing, the red tape and intimidation will be kept to a minimum. Get in, keep your head down, get out. I’ve the promise of a museum visit afterwards; we’ll be right there on Museumplein. Keeping that in mind. I find walking into the US embassy, with marines on guard eyeing me up, to be very frightening. I’ve seen plenty of armed military on the streets since coming to Europe. It’s not like seeing armed Americans. Sorry. Completely different mindset in the soldiers. You can see it in their eyes. European soldiers look around and you can see they are there to keep the peace. They want to protect. American soldiers look around and you can see they are there to fight. They want to root out the trouble makers. While the result is similar (I’d never say it’s the SAME), the feelings each leave you with are completely opposite. I feel safe when I see a Dutch soldier on the street. I feel unsafe when I see Americans. It’s something I wish the world would wake up to.

Can’t you see it? The question of my life. Obviously not. I just don’t get WHY no one else can see it even when I put the evidence in front of their faces. Being Cassandra sucks. I suppose there are individuals out there who would have untold satisfaction at being able to say ‘I told you so’ almost every day of their lives. I hate it, and I rarely say those words. I just sit there with that look on my face. Already a thousand miles ahead of you, seeing things you can’t imagine are coming up.

House of Mirrors

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Yesterday I decided the best thing I could do would be take a walk. Right after posting I got out into the air. Pumped my lungs full of freshness. Looked up at the sky. Listened to the birds. My treat to lighten my mood wasn’t food (for once). It was fresh flowers. Wound up at the supermarket with the best flower selection and spent several minutes dithering in front of all the bouquets.

Lemme state this clearly, because J and his boyfriend were gobsmacked when we took them into the store and they saw prices for flowers. Standard price for a small bouquet (about 7 stems) is €3 or 2 for €5. That includes roses. Every week. Even on Valentine’s Day.

But not for Mother’s Day.

I managed to walk out of the store without spending a lot, but damn! Highest prices for flower bouquets all year long. Fifteen euro as a start price, and they went up from there. Other than a slight annoyance at finding a nice bunch of blooms for a more reasonable price, none of that really bothered me.

The ads for Mother’s Day did. Good Goddess! Always that perfect fantasy picture of mother with grown up daughter. Oh, honey, I’m so proud of you. Barf. I didn’t have it so I make fun of it to hide the fact that my heart aches every time I see something like that. I WANT to believe I had that relationship with my mom. With her dead, I can almost do it. Just remember the good times. Color in things with a bit more love. Fool myself. For a moment. That dream can’t last long for me. Too many hurt and bent pieces inside to sustain it over time.

Today I hear a cruel echo in my mind. Just get over it. Those words were not uttered by my mom, but by my pseudo-mom, ie, my sister. It was not a role she chose to be in. It was not a role she SHOULD have been in. But it IS what happened. I think I’ve come to accept that lately. And I think if I’m ever to get myself out of whatever knots she tied me in, I have to approach the situation as if she WAS my mother because she was, so often, just that. A surrogate mother all the times my real mother was absent due to her job (her job, her job, her almighty fucking JOB!). It’s been easier to deal with this since I’ve accepted both of them fall on the narcissist scale. The word itself – narcissist – is almost a Pavlov’s dog thing for me: say it and my ranting begins to quiet down. I remember WHY, or at least have answers that feel right and true to me.

I DO spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what it would be like to have parents that really support me. It’s an odd feeling. Kind of makes me all shivery/laughy up and down my spine. Not that heavy weight like when I think of the real thing.

And I can’t help but be aware that any problem I have is so first world. So damned inconsequential to the overall picture. AAAAAAaaaaargh! Global guilt on top of everything else. Danger! Danger! Circuits are ready to overload.

I took the Myers Briggs personality test (thanks, Kim). Came out an ENFP-T. I read the description thru, and it’s pretty damned accurate. Here’s the link: personality test. There’s one caveat to the test, tho. You’ve got to be honest. I’ve taken the test before and I’m positive I didn’t score as an ENFP-T. I’m also positive I answered some questions by indicating how I’d LIKE to respond rather than they way I’d REALLY respond (’cause that’s my thing, ya know). A few questions were no brainers for me. A few I spent several minutes thinking about. It’s always the qualifiers that trip me up: frequently, always, usually. My response range is the full rainbow. Look deep enough into my past or present and you’ll find actions across the spectrum. And at times, those extreme behaviors from me stick most in my mind, so I’ll answer yes, I do something ‘frequently’ when in fact I only do it occasionally. That doesn’t give an accurate picture of me. It gives a skewed image.

…Which makes me think. Hard. If I project a skewed image from time to time, I’m only amplifying my problems. Bouncing things from what I say I do to what I actually do. No wonder I get feedback. Piercing thoughts that wake me up at night. Too much static in my brain so I can’t think.

Think. That’s the key. My mind ran down this maze. Now it’s time to find my way out.

*sigh* Been looking for someone to point the way, but I realize I’ve been asking people who are just as lost and afraid as I am.

Everything circles one drain: loving myself. Ach! Just typing that out hurt my fingers. It’s too trite. Too compact for such a complex idea. It’s accepting myself AND turning my arrows outwards. Hearing and accepting others. Seeing the world for what it is, without my rose colored glasses, and dealing with it.

I wanna hold onto those rose colored glasses. I’ve needed them for SO long. To nurse the hurt. But maybe I can take them off now and then. Here and there. Just take a peek. I don’t have to LIVE there.

…That’s my real challenge. Not the smoking, not the extra weight, not my issues with my mother and my sister. It’s getting out of that world I built for me. Participating on the same playing field everyone else is on. I don’t particularly care for the rules, or lack of them. I don’t find it safe, and I usually don’t find it fun.

It’s bloody HARD to find your way out of a good house of mirrors. And I’m in a good one.