When a Woman Expresses Rage and Other Inconvenient Feelings

Stream of consciousness writing is recommended by some therapists to help reduce anxiety. It does seem to help and I should do it more often but tend to forget. I’ve never posted anything written in this manner but the man of the house suggested I share this one I wrote last week after I showed it to him. I haven’t made any edits and haven’t even read through it to see if it still makes sense:

Sometimes I daydream about going to a boxing gym and beating a heavy bag with my hands and feet until I’m literally so exhausted and physically broken that I can’t lift myself off the floor.

Gyms are gross, you guys. You don’t want to end up on the floor.

Xanax can fix anxiety but it doesn’t do shit for rage. Rage doesn’t go neatly and quietly back into its little box. You have to wrestle it back in the box like a goddamned Lernaean Hydra while its heads keep multiplying.

There’s a point where I feel like my mind is breaking. If I take one more step or hear one more word, the me which currently exists will be lost forever.

It isn’t anger either. Anger is easy. Anger feels like a puff pastry that goes down smoothly with a nice chocolate stout. Anger is my oldest friend. We stay in touch and our dogs have regular play dates. We know the world is a fucked up place but we have things to do so we don’t dwell on it too much.

Rage is the unstable former college roommate who fucked your then-boyfriend in your bed and sent you the video on your birthday. It shows up at your house 10 years later unannounced and uninvited demanding money while blaming you for its gambling debts and heroin addiction.

Meanwhile, you’re left gobsmacked wondering where the fuck that all came from and how fast can you get it the hell out of your life permanently. It took you for one helluva ride. And when it finally leaves, you can’t believe how tired and relieved you are to be left alone with your low-grade anxiety disorder. This, you can survive.

On To-Do Lists and Family Dynamics…Because Shut Up

The year I turned 40, I decided to stop doing things I don’t want to do. I decided I wasn’t particularly interested in anyone’s opinion of me or my life choices. Since it no longer mattered how I was perceived, I stopped cooking. Other than occasionally boiling water or putting a frozen pizza in the oven, I would microwave whatever or have a sandwich.

When the lockdowns began in March, everyone started baking bread. I went through that phase in the 1990s so it definitely wasn’t for me. We were still trying to figure out how to sell a TV show when no one was pitching or shooting so I kept my focus where it belonged. Changing viewing habits throughout this bizarro year have caused us to reshuffle our projects so that I have a bit of downtime. While I wait for the baton pass, I’m revisiting all of those things that have been “on the list.”

My grandmother died in 2012 and I was the executrix of her estate. There was a small piece of property which had been bouncing around in my grandfather’s family since 1930 and was finally sold around 1995. This particular quarter-section of dry farmland was in a corner of Kansas few have reason to visit. Most of us in the family had a vague idea of its existence but had never seen it and there was a general air of annoyance whenever it was discussed. When my grandmother died, it never occurred to me that I would need to think of that property again.

As an only child, I am mystified by sibling relationships. I never learned the fine arts of manipulation and emotional blackmail. This has probably held me back in my career. Regardless, I never understood the weirdness in my grandfather’s family. He and his two siblings were adopted from different families so I just chalked it up to different backgrounds and really only paid attention at Thanksgiving and Christmas. When I got tired of being around the whole fam-damily, I would go outside and hang with the animals. There was a fucking LION for Christ’s sake…but that’s another story for another day.

So I’m sitting here in Mexico thinking about my storage unit in Arizona. I need to deal with the contents and stop paying for what feels like unnecessary baggage. There are family heirlooms which need to be given to cousins with children. There are documents I need to retrieve and keep with me. There is furniture to be sold or donated. There is book research I can pick up and actually finish. And there are a few outstanding questions which need to be answered. This is how I landed on 160 acres in Morton County, Kansas.

We never straightened out the mineral rights. Just thinking about this gives me a headache. There are multiple deeds back and forth between my great-grandmother and her children with weird percentages for the surface land and other splits for the mineral rights. All of these people are gone so multiple estates were involved. There was a fair share of acrimony involved. People felt entitled. Agitation from outside the family exacerbated the issues. It became one of those things that ends up being dropped because the inevitable fight isn’t worth a small monetary gain.

When I was a child, I could never understand when an adult would answer a question with, “Leave it alone; The past is in the past.” I’ve reached a point where I not only understand that answer but I FEEL that answer deep in my bones. I still don’t understand what was so special about this piece of land that was tiny compared to the rest of the acreage the family owned. If it was so important, I don’t understand why the issue wasn’t resolved while everyone was still alive. I certainly don’t understand why people have to make things so goddamned complicated.

I still struggle with choosing what deserves my mental energy. I still have a million questions and a million things I want to do. There are a lot of loose ends. It seems the ongoing exercise is accepting that some things can and probably should be left undone.

An Altogether Different Sensory Experience

I was sitting on our patio overlooking the ocean catching up on the news with a cup of coffee this morning and noticed a seagull tooling around overhead. This is part of my daily routine. The owls are just ending their shifts. All of the neighborhood dogs are barking at people walking to work. Roosters have been doing their thing since about 3:00 and will be at it most of the day. My neighbor’s singing is regularly drowned out by squeaky suspensions due to the Baja dust and washed-out roads. Hearing the difference between a two-stroke and four-stroke dirt bike on the main road followed by what was obviously a four-wheeler. Because Baja. All of this suddenly made me wonder when I last heard the sound of an airplane or helicopter. It must have been the last time we were in Cabo.

When I lived in Wichita in the mid-1990s, telephone conversations were constantly interrupted by jets taking off at McConnell AFB. My ex-husband had to live within so many minutes of the flight line so there was no escaping it. I remember walking through the parking lot at the Towne East mall and it felt like an earthquake when a B-1B was using burners to get off the ground. It seemed to set off every car alarm within a five-mile radius.

People who live near Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson have the nerve to complain about the relatively mild sounds of A-10 traffic while living in pre and post-war housing built for service members. Wait until the F-35s come to town. Have a defibrillator handy because they will stop your heart. My house in the suburbs was adjacent to the drug and people smuggling superhighway so it was all Blackhawks all the time. Those neighbors were largely military and law enforcement, young enough to be oblivious to how obnoxious a loud engine is in the middle of the night. I often contemplated the various uses for piano wire. I also considered leaving notes on teenagers’ cars letting them know YouTube has videos to solve the trunk rattle caused by their substandard subwoofer configurations. I feel like we had higher bass standards back when N2deep released Back to the Hotel in 1992. I’m more of a Too Short fan but now I’m really showing my age.

Rural Kansas has the sounds (and smells) of farming and ranching. Grain elevators unloading trucks during harvest. Crop dusters spraying fields. Trains blocking the highway next to Cargill for half an hour attaching cars with wheels screeching unmercifully. Dogs howling along with tornado sirens being tested every Wednesday at noon. The Boise foothills vibrate with rattlesnakes in the spring. I can still hear the way my heels clicked on the lobby floor of the Boise Cascade headquarters building. And the owl trapped in my barn frantically trying to escape through an open stall door.

I’ve always been intensely sensitive to sounds and my general environment, to the consternation of everyone around me. People generally think I’m making it up but hyperacusis is an actual thing. Mindful meditation is easy for me because I naturally notice individual sounds and textures wherever I happen to be. Sensory overload is a serious and recurring problem which often results in panic attacks. Crowded cities prevent me from separating and categorizing everything I’m experiencing. It happens too quickly and too constantly for my brain to process it all. Every day is like trying to have a conversation in a crowded bar with a live band. I wish I could be less observant. I apparently missed my calling as a first-rate sonar operator.

The porch is my favorite spot at our house. A nearly constant ocean breeze flows through the arches to create a perfect palm frond sound barrier between my ears and the outside world. The neighbor’s music also helps. But then the psychotic hound rakes her bear claws across the screen door demanding to be let inside. Meditation time is over.

Passive-aggressively Doing Laundry

This is the funniest thing I’ve ever been accused of in my nearly 45 years on this planet and I received permission to write about it. Living and working from home with your significant other can create unique challenges.

So I was working on the new website and I was waiting for content. I’ve written a ton about my anxiety and for funzies I also have a touch of OCD. These two conditions create an interesting work dynamic and I’ve been told on a few occasions that I’m essentially vibrating with anxiety. Like it’s literally rolling right off me and can be felt by innocent bystanders.

Basically what happens is when I’m ready to work, I mean I’m ready to get it done right fucking now. I’ve had too many experiences with fleeting motivation. I’ve learned the hard way when I feel motivated, I have to take full advantage before the feeling passes. Once it’s gone, good fucking luck getting it back.

But that anxiety over failing to do my best work is largely what makes me good at my job. Unfortunately, that anxiety also prevents me from being a good girlfriend. So when I’m about to lose my shit over being stuck in neutral, I have to get up and do something else for a minute. I’ll be right back and ready to continue.

You say passive-aggressive; I say efficient. At least your laundry is done. Now how about passive-aggressively cooking me some dinner?

A Quarantined State of Mind

I guess it must be different for people who like people. Frankly, I worry about them. We’ve all seen the memes about introverts needing to check on the extroverts in our lives because they’re not okay. I’m an only child so isolation is just kind of normal for me.

My neighbors still aren’t taking the pandemic seriously. They’re acting like it’s Sunday after church every day. On Tuesday, there was a party a couple houses down that went on for more than 12 hours with people up on the roof deck drinking and listening to the Dangerous Minds soundtrack. The music was a welcome trip back to 1995 but the Airbnbs in town are supposed to be closed, people (extremely John Candy voice). Apparently, all levels of law enforcement went around town yesterday and closed businesses that hadn’t complied with the governor’s order. But then there was a group of random people wanting to meet in the town square to discuss setting up roadblocks to keep the virus out. You just can’t make this shit up.

There are still people in the local Facebook group blaming Americans for bringing the virus to Baja. It’s interesting to experience a group of locals wanting to deport gringos who have overstayed their visas. I find it amusing when I read my American friends’ posts about deporting immigrants. I guess it really is the same all over. Like, I wonder if they realize Mexicans want the Americans out. It’s extremely funny to me for some reason. Textbook definition of irony or the Alanis Morissette bastardization? It doesn’t matter.

I left the house one day last week to take my dog to the vet; I think it was Friday. That was plenty. There’s a lot going on at home: Trees to trim, dogs to bathe, coffee to grind, flowers to water, geckos to rescue, laundry, dishes, a sock drawer to organize….

Back to the psychology of isolation, though. I hadn’t been to the beach in a few weeks but admit feeling a sudden urge to go as soon as I heard they were closing. The feeling passed but I wonder if that’s only because I can still see the ocean every time I look outside. I can only imagine how it must feel to be stuck inside a studio apartment. Our house is on a fully fenced and gated half-acre so the dogs can run around like maniacs all day if they choose. I don’t have to worry about how to make sure their needs are met without getting arrested. I can also climb the stairs to the roof deck for cardio. You may think I’m crazy for living on a washed-out dirt road in Mexico but it’s an A+ location in a pandemic.

None of us will get out of this unscathed, though. What’s happening in New York right now will happen elsewhere soon…possibly where I am. If we survive it, we will all know someone who didn’t. We thought 9/11 was the defining moment of our lives but we were wrong. This is it and there is more to come.

I Feel Like a Dog Trying to Ride a Donkey

I can write whatever you want. I just really need you to tell me what that is. Except for dialogue…I hate writing dialogue.

My brain feels like it’s too full of information and completely devoid of coherent thoughts at the same time. We currently have two to three show concepts (depending on how you look at them) trying to find a buyer. The fourth (or third?) will likely need to be tidied up and released online without a buyer. It’s compelling enough that it needs to be seen but it has been difficult to get producers to watch enough video to understand why that is.

My point is that I’m totally fried right now. The show concept that appears to have the best chance of making money is the one with the most complex subject matter. My job is to translate information that people with advanced degrees have difficulty understanding into something interesting and entertaining to the average person whose attention span is shrinking by the day.

Remember when The Big Bang Theory jokes went over your head? In the first season, there were several instances when I experienced a serious lag between Sheldon’s joke and my comprehension and gigglesnort. Apparently, there were quite a few viewers who never got the jokes so the writers dumbed it down. That kind of ruined it for me. So now I (a former overachiever turned college dropout) am tasked with metaphorically splitting atoms, convincing a producer people will care about splitting atoms, and figuring out how the hell to make the masses care about splitting atoms. Or something like that.

It’s obvious that I need to take a break but my brain doesn’t like allowing it when there’s so much work to be done. The subject matter is spinning on a constant loop too quickly for me to get a grip on any one piece of information. Just when I think I’ve got one, the slightest distraction completely ruins my train of thought. Incredibly, the barrio music being broadcast at maximum volume by my neighbors actually helps with this. It all has a sort of consistent happy melody that acts like a white noise machine heavy on the accordion. I just need the dogs to settle in for their post-breakfast nap so I can stare at the ocean and let the words come to me.

Small Fish…Even Smaller Pond

This is what was on my mind at 2:00 this morning.

I didn’t go to Journalism school. I’ve never worked in television. I did work at a newspaper once, though…in Accounting.

I’ve been helping with research and writing for a TV show concept and I’m 100% completely and hopelessly out of my depth.

Like a lot of people, I suffer from a pretty serious case of imposter syndrome. I know I’m not a complete moron but I also know that I swim in a relatively small pond. This project is out of my league in a major way and every word I write proves I don’t belong anywhere near it. I actually wonder what it takes for people to feel like they deserve their success. Surely there are people who aren’t complete narcissists who have a healthy sense of their accomplishments, right?

The concept has a shit ton of potential. I would watch it on purpose even if I didn’t know anyone involved with it. The last thing in the world I want is for the pitch to come off as an amateurish effort because one of the people drafting it is…well…a fucking amateur.

So I’m writing this in the middle of the night rather than getting the sleep I so desperately need or working on editing the show document.

So here’s the thing. I don’t know if it’s even a pitch or a treatment or birdcage liner because this isn’t my industry. I’m so old I still fight the double space at the end of each sentence. Like, I actually remember true carbon copies. It seems like an odd time to shake the Etch A Sketch but here we are. Today is another day and as soon as this is published, I’ll get back to it…whatever IT is.

When Anxiety is Chasing You

Anxiety can be triggered by something or it can be triggered by nothing. What was fine five minutes ago is now one hundred percent not fine. I can go from zero to eleven in two seconds but getting from eleven back to zero can easily take two days…or longer.

I underestimated the amount of stress and anxiety I would feel in the process of simplifying my life but Mexico is growing on me. It seems like I solve a new mystery every week and I mostly don’t get lost when wandering around the neighborhood. I’ve developed systems for dealing with household issues and have learned how to pay Mexican utilities online. It’s been like going through childhood all over again but adulting in Mexico is possible.

It is imperative that this experience be a positive one. Dwelling on every bump in the road is simply not an option so I found myself squashing it all. Back in the box. Ignore. Deny. Pretend. That it caught up to me should be a surprise to exactly no one. I wasn’t getting enough exercise. I wasn’t writing enough. I wasn’t countering the stress. I had a couple rough nights as a result. All of the nerves in my back felt like they were on fire. Every single sound grated on every exposed nerve. I only slept for a couple hours and that certainly didn’t help my outlook.

The anxiety medication I take is old school and the dosage can be modified to counter mood fluctuations without severe side effects. After the dogs insisted upon eating breakfast this morning, I allowed myself an extra half of a pill. It made me dizzy for a while but it also stopped the buzzing. After lunch, I was able to take a stroll around the very hilly neighborhood. I’m writing this next to a pool with a beautiful view of the ocean.

If you’re daydreaming about attacking a heavy bag at the gym and you aren’t sure where the rage is coming from, say so. Stop trying to hide it. People around you can tell something is wrong and they will naturally think it’s about them. It’s okay to say you don’t know why you need to be scraped off the ceiling. Take some time to regroup. If you know what you need, tell someone. Don’t let the pressure build.

People always say we have to take care of ourselves but sometimes it’s hard to know what that even means. For me, it means not procrastinating until I find myself at eleven. Organizing your mind and emotions is just like de-cluttering your home. If you do a little work every day, it won’t seem like an overwhelming obstacle. Don’t let dirty dishes pile up in your head space.

Afraid to Ask What’s Next

Here’s a recap of my Mexico drama thus far: Weeks without wifi. Weeks without trash pickup. Locked out of the house and rescued by the internet guy who knew a guy. Days without running water. Honestly, I have to carry buckets of water from the kitchen to the washer even when the water is “on” because the pressure in the line that feeds it is virtually nonexistent. So that’s my arm workout. Anyway, most of this has taken place when the boyfriend is gone so it’s been my shit to deal with…alone in a foreign country.

Then Tropical Storm Raymond happened. Fortunately, the storm wasn’t as bad here as it was in Cabo. It rained for a few days and was pretty fucking miserable being cooped up in the house with the dogs but at least we didn’t lose power and I didn’t need to leave the house for anything. Our house is on a pretty steep hill so I didn’t have to worry about flooding. If I had needed to get to the mercado, however, I probably would have done it on foot because the road was a full-blown muddy river. I made sure my LED lantern batteries were fully charged and was happy I didn’t need them.

Yesterday morning, I was participating in an all-day online Payroll and Human Resources symposium. Gotta get those continuing education credits! Everything was going just fine until the power went off at about 10:30 am. It seemed strange for this to happen on a perfectly still and sunny day but okay.

After a couple hours, I started to worry about whether the bill had been paid because it sounded like my neighbors had power. I was told when I first moved here that the bills are left taped to the gate every two months and if they aren’t paid on time, there is no mercy. They just cut your shit right off. I have received a water bill but nothing for electricity so I contacted the landlord to make sure that wasn’t the problem. So I was running my phone battery down with *maybe* 2G cell data trying to communicate with someone who wasn’t picking up what I was throwing down. Finally, he was able to confirm it had been paid in early October so that wasn’t the problem.

We have solar chargers for electronics but they need to be in the sun for a while before they are ready to start doing their jobs. I can relate. Unfortunately, I ran out of daylight before that happened. I took a drive to charge my phone and possibly avoid a psychotic break but it was essentially a failure on both counts. I let the boyfriend (who is still traveling) know I was conserving my battery and switched to airplane mode. Between my Kindle and the LED lantern, my night was set.

Imagine how thrilled I was to wake up this morning and learn the power was still off. At that point, I began worrying about the food in the fridge and freezer even though I had been careful to only access them when absolutely necessary. We stocked up before the boyfriend left on his trip and that included duck he plans to cook for Thanksgiving. I really didn’t want to deal with replacing a bunch of spoiled food. The solar chargers went up on the roof deck right at sunrise and finally began putting in some work.

There was leftover coffee from yesterday so at least I had something stale to reheat. I was reminded how much fun it is to light a gas stove with a short match. That’s something I hadn’t done in more than 30 years. I wasn’t about to try the oven but I did grab some perishables out of the fridge to minimize the waste. Cooking really isn’t my thing but being high maintenance isn’t always an option.

A guy in an orange vest came by at about 12:30 pm and worked some magic near the electric meter. After 26 hours, I can only assume the food is fine. Every device was promptly connected to its charger. The (now) on-demand webinar has resumed. I am back to my regular level of isolation and I’m afraid to ask what’s next.

Trash in Mexico

Sometimes the smallest victories are the most fulfilling. Today, I am overjoyed with my successful navigation of the garbage collection process in my neighborhood. I don’t even know who I am right now.

I have lived on my own since I was 17 years old. When I was in college, I moved every six months and had it down to a science. What I’m saying is I know how to handle things. There’s a list of providers in every location and you just start contacting them to establish services. Easy! Everyone knows this.

Unfortunately, that is not how things work in my little slice of Baja. I asked my US-based landlord for information about obtaining services (such as trash collection) and he completely ignored my inquiry. Okay. I asked a local and was told some neighborhoods have trash collection and some don’t. I was instructed to watch my neighbors and see if they put trash out by the street. If not, there’s a weekly trash collection site about a mile away that I can use for a suggested donation of 50 pesos. That seemed simple enough.

My hearing is borderline superhuman. Two Fridays ago, I woke up at around 7 am and heard what I absolutely knew was a garbage truck somewhere in the neighborhood. Sure enough, the truck came by at precisely 7:25 (too quickly for me to carry my bags through the gate) and I found myself standing on the porch taking photos of it. I thought I needed to contact the company and set up an account. Stupid American.

I spent that morning furiously Googling all things garbage-related in the area. I learned that garbage is collected by the municipality of La Paz (sort of like a county) and is included in the property taxes so I don’t need to do anything but leave my black bags by the road for pickup each Friday morning. Perfect! I set my alarm for 7 am each Friday, thinking that would give me plenty of time to move the bags outside the gate in time for collection. The alarm is a redundancy; those goddamned roosters down the way will never let me sleep so late.

Last Friday, I was ready! The boyfriend and I started moving bags out to the road and he opened the outdoor trash can to remove the final bag.

Let me talk to you for a moment about maggots. I am not a medical examiner. I have no need to have any knowledge whatsoever of the breeding habits of flies. Mexico apparently thinks otherwise. I’m not sure what kind of flies dominate the Tropic of Cancer but these are not normal flies. There is some strain of a highly evolved, freaskishly prolific fly that can lay an infinite quantity of eggs on any surface. This is a scientific fact.

What we witnessed when he opened that lid was the stuff of horror movies. There were maggots crawling everywhere. I mean *everywhere* and what was seen can never be unseen. I am so incredibly thankful he was still there to handle that issue because we were on the way to the airport and I seriously could not deal with that on my own.

In the short time we spent grossing out over maggots and loading my Jeep, the wild pack of dogs from across the street had torn into a couple of the bags we left by the road. Are you fucking kidding me right now? I needed to get him to Cabo to catch his flight. So there was trash strewn about along the road and we had to leave. The bags went back inside the gate for me to address later. I have no idea what time the truck finally showed up but it was well after 9 am. This will be relevant in a minute.

I could have taken the trash bags to the collection point the next day but I had to stay home and wait for the internet installation. So yes, those nasty-ass trash bags sat another week right inside the gate. Honestly, my anxiety over this situation has been a little intense and I am so proud of my doggos for completely ignoring them.

I kind of want to murder the neighborhood roosters but they saved my ass this morning. They were screaming at one another and when I looked at my phone, I saw it was only 6:30 so I tried to go back to sleep. My alarm was still set for 7:00 so it would be fine. Hahahaha….no. I heard the garbage truck and bolted out of bed. Ladies: Have you ever noticed how long it takes to put on a bra when you’re in a hurry? I ran to the gate and barely got the bags to the road by the time the guys arrived to collect them…at 6:55.

While I was victorious this morning, I am extremely concerned that I need to camp outside my gate like a Black Friday shopper just to accomplish what should be a very routine task. What time will the truck arrive? I have to place the bags in the proper location while avoiding the pack of wild trash-eating dogs. Should we place bets? Should I create a flow chart? How much alcohol should I consume today? I keep seeing the dad in A Christmas Story, whose turkey was eaten by the neighbor dogs when they got into the house. This is going to be a thing, isn’t it?!?

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