Journal: Calgon Take Me Away . . . Please

Does anyone else remember the old Calgon commercial? A visibly stressed out woman standing in the foreground plaintively naming her stressors as, one by one they appear in the four quadrants of the background:

“The traffic!”
“The boss!”
“The baby!”
“The dog!
“That DOES it! Calgon, take me away!”

Yeah, that’s about how I feel right now and how I’ve been feeling for a very long time. However, each new day feels like the stressors increase exponentially and there isn’t enough bath powder or bath oil to soak it all away.

Keith finally quit his job as an OTR truck driver. He’s been home a week now. He needed to leave the job, for a lot of reasons, but having him home full-time, with the full-force of what I believe is Borderline Personality Disorder in high gear has been less than pretty.

Luna wants little to nothing to do with me now that daddy is home, which is completely understandable. However, her attitude and behavior toward me is becoming a bit rude and more than a little hurtful, physically and emotionally. Of course I realize she’s only four and it isn’t her job (or anyone else’s) to make me feel okay or loved. I do my best to respond appropriately, and I’m handling it better than I was capable of a year ago, but that doesn’t do a damn thing to help me process my feelings.

Between his easily triggered ire and her disregard of my existence, I’m not feeling the happy, happy, joy, joy of familial love and togetherness.

Add into the mix the fact that my 20 year old daughter and her boyfriend moved back in almost two months ago and we were still adjusting to that change, I was already feeling stretched thin, emotionally. Now that Keith is home and there are five of us in a two bedroom apartment, with one bathroom, opposing schedules, completely different lifestyles, and each of us having emotional disturbances and personality issues, I’m trying not to drown in the emotional and psychological undertow and conflicting currents.

If this were an ocean and I was a surfer, I think I’d be gaining world renown and recognition for being “Queen of the Waves.” (Clicking on this link will give insight into one of the reasons I feel like I’m losing my mind and sense of self.) As it is, I’m alternating between suppressing seething bitch mode, spineless invertebrate mode, and taking care of business mode. Throughout it all, I’m carrying on a silent, internal, seemingly one-sided conversation with God – praying for help, strength, forgiveness, and sanity.

I’m spearheading the housing paperwork to try to get our rent adjusted down to accommodate the fact that Keith and I are without an income source – hopefully a temporary circumstance. However, because we have to add LaLa and her SpiritLove to the household, they have paperwork they still haven’t followed through on doing. We’re a week away from the beginning of the month and failing to get this paperwork submitted will have negative repercussions with housing management. It’s beyond frustrating.

Since Keith is no longer working, he has to navigate the unemployment system and the job search process – both of which are complex processes navigating lots of policies, procedures, and systems. Because some health concerns factored into him leaving his job: increasing hearing loss, recurring symptoms consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms, and pain in his shoulder and lower back, he’s also having to navigate the VA Medical systems. We fully expect to have his unemployment claim denied, initially, we’re trying to get things in place to have supporting medical documentation for using to help justify him leaving his job. He also needs to refile a disability claim with the VA to try to get the hearing loss at least partially rated as a service-related disability.

Handling the various forms, both on paper and online, tailoring resumes and cover letters, and navigating the online application systems of the employers is challenging and complicated for me as one who has been a front office worker and assistant housing manager. It’s overwhelming for Keith who came up in the world during a time you could get a job on the merit of your experience and skill, never mind having to use the exact words and language for automated scanners to screen out applications and resumes. This automated, digital, impersonal world where you have to point, click, and match verbiage is just one more trigger. So, I am taking that on to support his job search efforts.

In the meantime, a Change Report has to be filed to see if our SNAP (food stamp) benefits can be increased for Keith, Luna, and myself. LaLa and her boyfriend also have not followed through on getting their own food benefits, *sigh.* We also need to complete paperwork to apply for public assistance as a stopgap measure to try to prepare for the possibility of the UI claim being denied and him not finding a local job in the next week (there are several job referrals from the employment department to be followed up on).

The icing on the cake is that Keith’s mom asked us if we would move in with her in order for her to hold onto a house she doesn’t even want, because his slightly younger brother has no place to go and limited prospects, because of life choices and their consequences.

Here’s the thing about that: Keith turns 49 next month, so little brother is around 47. Little bro has memorized Keith’s license number and SSN (their SSNs are only one digit apart) and knows Keith’s DOB. So there have been times when he was pulled over for a traffic violation and passed himself off as Keith, got the ticket, and made an appearance, pleading “No Contest,” which went on Keith’s driving record. We never would have known if he had paid the fine. The brotherly contempt and resentment runs deep between these two.

Yet, we are being offered the chance to live in his childhood home, where memories of his dad are strongest, giving Luna the chance to really spend time with grandma, live in a house with a yard and her own room. Keith wants this in many ways. He’s just certain that his brother is taking advantage of mom and since she told us she’d rather let the house go and move back East to live with her middle daughter, we want that for her.

For me, the logistics of moving there at this time are nightmarish: it’s 15 – 20 miles away from Luna’s Head Start program. If we report the move, she gets booted from the program with no hope of getting into one in the area where grandma lives, at this late date. So, I would be commuting her via public transit from an outlying area with less frequent service, where the weather is colder and wetter, during the three seasons of cold and wet with a child who is so sensitive to the cold she wears pants and long sleeves in 80 degree temperatures. The alternative is she misses out on the much needed structure, education, and supportive services she needs and that we can’t afford. Thereby removing one of the social safety nets for our family we’ve been blessed to have, which is helping me to heal and grow on a personal level.

All of that being said, as overwhelming as things are right now, there are things to be appreciative of and thankful for. Being able to recognize opportunities for growth and practicing my faith and trust in the midst of all these these circumstances and with all these people I love and care about, but have zero control over, recognizing that I’m not in charge of or responsible for making it all work out, is the biggest blessing for me. Knowing that I’m not alone in experiencing trials and troubles and just taking the time to lay it all out and set the worries and fears aside, helps. Breathing and doing what is in my power to do and releasing the self-imposed pressure of expecting myself to be Atlas bearing the weight of the world on my shoulders, helps.

I don’t like not knowing how it’s all going to work itself out. But I know it will, one way or another. I just have to hold onto things like love, faith, hope, grace, forgiveness, and mercy. Writing out all of this and getting it out of my head, moving it out of the way of my heart, makes room for empathy, compassion, and the ability to see outside of myself and see what others are experiencing to offer what has been given to me in these ways is such a change from where I was and who I used to be just a year ago. I am thankful and blessed.

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