Whoa…. that was serious


So, Saturday was my birthday — well, the be accurate it was the anniversary of my birthday.  We haven’t been “out” lately, so when I saw that the Gainesville Community Playhouse was putting on a production of Next to Normal I thought, “Wouldn’t that be nice way to have a treat for my birthday?”

Next to Normal setLittle did I know — that is one serious production!  We went, we cried, we tried to decipher the oh-too-rapid lyrics of the rock production and we ‘enjoyed’ ourselves if you can say that you enjoyed watching a provocative play about mental illness.  I was glad we went, but I can’t say I enjoyed it.  It’s not a great experience for an empath;  there are a lot of raw emotions and serious content — and yet it’s a great experience.  I should have totally confused you by now.

I don’t know.  Mental illness isn’t something that crosses my mind very often.  I don’t think anyone in our immediate circle of associates/family are afflicted in anything like this sort of way.  And I’ll be honest in saying that I do not understand “illness” that isn’t caused by germs/virus.  I have always had a hard time with the new categories of disease that are discovered relating to behavior.

I guess I’m such a strong-minded person that I don’t understand other ways of being.

Then again I could be as, or more mentally ill, as other diseases and I’m just too stubborn to go talk to anyone about it.

In the 80’s I was working for a company that was having serious technical issues with their product. The things were failing right and left.  The engineers denied there was a problem but even they ‘admitted’ that the design resulted in a product that was “dimensionally active.” Of course that’s another way of saying that the product vibrated itself to pieces.

At the time I was involved with warranty repairs and I was not having any fun telling customers why their $15,000 machine needed $10,000 worth of repairs for no good reason that they could see.  Frankly, I had to agree with them, but I wasn’t given the choice about what I was supposed to believe.  Or how I was to sell the company line.

My solution was not to go see a shrink.  I have very little faith in shrinks;  the ones I know are as (or more) dysfunctional than their patients.  And no one I knew (at the time) ever got better — they just saw their shrink forever.  (But then I was in my 20’s and a lot of things seemed to last ‘forever’ including the manufacturing faults that weren’t getting any better.

I know it was probably a very childish solution but Peg and I talked about it and we came up with our own solution.  Once or twice a month we’d made an “appointment” for counseling.  Which is to say that one of us would call one of the nicer restaurants in town — usually the English Room (in the Pfister Hotel) where Frank Bonfiglio was the Maitre d’ and we’d plan an evening out.

We weren’t going out to ‘eat.’  There was a meal — an awesome meal — but we were really renting a table.  I paid more for tips usually than I did for the meal because we would stay for 2 or 3 hours.  And we would talk.  We talked about everything wrong at work.  We talked about everything right at home.  We made plans for the future and we reminisced. Peg was my shrink.  I unburdened myself with someone I could trust and I felt good about it.  I wasn’t breaking any confidence with her by blabbing our problems to some stranger.  I never expected any so-called breakthroughs but we got them — many of them and quite frequently — because we were honestly confronting what was going on and how we felt about what was going on.

I wish everyone had someone like that to talk with.

It was a bad enough experience I’ll never forget the label
It was a bad enough experience I’ll never forget the label

To this day I remember some of the meals.  I remember the time we bought two bottles of Pouilley Fuissé and I got drunk and threw up in the bathroom.  That was only one of two times in my life that I got drunk and the feeling upset me enough that I only did it one more time. And have no intent of ever repeating. I remember Royce the wine steward,  and Frank coming over with the ornate press to process a duck presentation table side.  I remember 7 course meals and ridiculously delicious plates that spoiled me for normal dining and resulted in learning to cook more things better.  But most of all I felt closer to my wife, I felt I could cope with the stress at work (until I chose to leave — comes a time when lying isn’t worth it) — but at least I left feeling in control of my own destiny, not feeling victimized.

I wish I could understand mental illness better; it’s real problem.  I guess I say to myself that we all have aspects of life that we are better at and some at which we’re no good at all.  I chalk understanding mental illness as one of those.  Peg has a cousin who in her early 20’s had some issues.  She has struggled with them her entire life and my heart goes out to her.  But I have absolutely no way of knowing how to cope with that.  We’ve only seen her a few times over the last 40 years.  I suppose that makes me a bad person in some way — I don’t think much about it, as I said — I have no idea how to think about that.  I can’t deny that it’s real but I don’t understand it.  I guess I get hung up on understanding things.  It’s how I cope with the world.  If I don’t understand, does it not exist?  I’m not sure I can answer that.

Anyway… the play was provocative.  I’ll admit that it had me wondering if there was something I could be ‘doing’ in this life to be making more of a difference in the lives of others.  I have no quick answer to that.  And I’m not 20 years old anymore.  I have seen enough to know that businesses and such don’t always want help or volunteers our age.  But that doesn’t mean that I feel helpless, or should I say, unable to help.

Blaze Pizza

The other part of our day was a visit to a new resto.  It turns out this chain (yes, I admit — we went to a chain food store!!!!!) exists in Milwaukee but I’d never heard of it.  Blaze Pizza is a place that sells one size pizza, with any toppings and however many you want for one price.  blaze pizza

blaze pizzaThe unique feature is that they bake your pizza in about 180 seconds.  Yes, that’s right — in three minutes you have your pie (give or take a few seconds depending on the employee and how hyper they are at the moment!  I have to say for a thin crust pizza it was pretty decent.  The crust could have been a little crisper, but it was tasty and just about the right size for a nice lunch.

Saturday turned out to be a nice day.  In spite of the unexpected rain.  Yes, more rain.  We’re back in the 50’s & 60’s for the daytime temps for the next week and in the 30’s (high and low) for overnights for the same period.  It’s warmer than Milwaukee, I’ll say that for Florida.  And we are having fun each day.  It’s not what we expected but we laugh each day and have excellent excuses to snuggle at night.  Not a bad way to spend your retirement, I think.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you again tomorrow.

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12 Comments

  1. This has definitely been a cooler and wetter winter in Florida than normal, Peter. I do have to say that it hasn’t prevented us from having fun, and it appears the same holds true for you and Peg. Your writings appear to me to have more positive undertones than the ones from Palmdale.

    One thing to remember is that Ocala’s version of Florida is far different than anything below I-4. The landscape and weather is unique…in both a positive and negative way…depending on what you are looking for. We love the hills and horse farms where you are. 🙂

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    1. You’re right — we are having fun. I think we do every where we go and because I tend to live without filters there are few topics I’m not going to talk about — including how I feel at any given moment & how I’m reacting to whatever is going on.
      I do think that my perspective on many things has changed since my health scare. As a result I’m not sure how easy it would be to compare apples and apples about our feelings about TX & FL.
      Well, maybe not “changed” as much as morphed — seeing as 4 years into RV’ing we are still learning new things about the lifestyle, and refining our own preferences based on experience. I know I definitely have different ideas about RV’ing AND locations than I did 4 years ago when we started this.
      Palmdale was our first stay in ANY RV park for longer than 2 weeks. We had done Shamrock RV park in Oregon while awaiting our solar install but that was the only non-governmental agency campground we had done prior to arriving at Palmdale. There were a lot of things we were sort of unprepared for, and not exactly sure we wanted much to do with. At Palmdale I found myself chafing at a social environment I didn’t know whether I wanted to be part of — and then there was the combination of weather and bad roads in the park that make daily life squishy. Together they gave life to the idea that there is no such thing as UTOPIA!
      The absence of UTOPIA is a real important reality for me. I can have a great time, visiting lots of interesting places and still recognize that this (or that) is not a place I want to live ‘forever.’ Heck, I may not even want to VISIT longer than I have already done!
      I LIKED S.Texas a lot until last April when the combination of heat, humidity and health concerns caused a surge in discomfort. (I should have sought medical help and while no one ever diagnosed it, after talking with my regular doctor in September it’s pretty likely I had a serious case of pneumonia. She – the doc – slapped my wrist and I’m much more likely to see medical care sooner as a result). In S. Tex we felt closer to most things: shopping, groceries, restos, the whole nine yards — except medical care. (and Apple computer repair.) The Medicare supplemental that we had at the time was a HMO version and we changed from that this year so we no longer face the issues of distance to HMO doctors. That issue is really unrelated to FL vs TX debate.
      There are things about Florida that continue to befuddle us. I think that is clear by the way I write about FL. If you look at a population density map of Florida, here in Marion County we are about as far into the population centers of Florida as we really want to be. (https://ppazucha.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/florida-pop-total.jpg)
      Yes, if we move south of I-4 the world changes. But that change is not all that appealing to us. Yes — it’s warmer and more conducive to some of the things we like to do. But the congestion is (for us) a huge deterrent. Our trips over to Orlando, Tampa, and Tarpon Springs reminded us of that. All things considered we like this area — near Ocala — as much as anything we have seen. Perhaps if we found a park that was more convenient to services we would feel different? Sure.
      For Peg and I — we function better in these temps than we do in high heat. It would be nice not to be warmer but we aren’t chomping at the bit about it not being warm. It would be nice not to be seeing 30º on the outdoor thermometer like we did today but we’re still a lot warmer here than in Milwaukee.
      When we arrived here we agreed that we would try to get several maintenance issues taken care of. So, there is a part of our ‘Reaction to Florida’ that is a function of waiting on service outlets. Who likes waiting for anything. Who likes it when the people you are waiting for are non-communicative. I’m still used to Northern ways of doing things; a different pace, a different ethos and style. I chomp at the bit here. That said, I want to get the door fixed when the parts finally show up, and we can only wait on Carefree of Colorado to ship our toppers — we can’t make them ourselves, and we opted NOT to have the dealer fabricate them out of vinyl. So, our daily routine is a function of what can we safely do today? Do we need to wait on someone; await a call — considering that Verizon is not always great a ringing calls through to our phones — sometimes they just go straight to voicemail and I’m terrible about checking voicemail. I just never think to do it.
      I’m glad we came to FL. We would never have the experience of spending a winter here without actually… spending a winter here. There will always be average years, and always be atypical years. WE have all lived long enough to know that.
      Will we return to FL for another winter? I haven’t the foggiest idea. We want to try AZ/NM next year. Will we love the desert? I dunno. Could we get crazy and volunteer for something in S. Texas between now and next winter and end up there? Sure, that’s a possibility. There’s a gig down there that I’d like to do and it’s a Winter gig — so we’ll have to see what happens.
      Then again, when we go back to MKE will the doctor tell us that something else needs doing, or that we need surgery for that dilated aorta? Sure — that’s a possibility too. And I’ll probably write with the same lack of filter about that as I do about this winter. Does that mean I’m unhappy about what’s happening? Not in the least. We find ways to enjoy each day. The Unscripted part of our life is as much that every day we get up and make new choices for THAT DAY as it is about not making long range plans.
      But in the end… it’s all down to Peg and I. If we live a day we aren’t happy with — that’s on us. We have the power to make lemonade out of anything, and if we don’t then shame on us.
      BTW — Peg is finally talking about maybe being open to bikes. 🙂

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  2. I certainly enjoyed reading your post today, Peter. My own sister has serious mental illness issues and has had them for two decades that we know for sure, and probably longer in retrospect. I have lots of “horror” stories I could share, as she has (and likely still does) abuse drugs and alcohol along with her bipolar disorder. It really has been a nightmare for her and so many of us. I’m just grateful that I learned some important principles in the rooms of Al-Anon and in my faith groups along the way because I’m not sure I would have made it through in one piece. Her saga continues to this day, unfortunately. About ten years ago, my two best friends locally and I started meeting for a two-three hour dinner out together each month, and even though one now has to commute back and forth to Utah where her husband now works full-time, we still meet for our monthly dinner. We do this for pretty much the same reasons you mentioned, and it is a lot cheaper and more fun than visits to a shrink! We have helped each other through many difficult situations, for sure. I highly recommend this therapy, even when it is necessary to forego some other things to make it happen. Nice post today. Good stuff. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My condolences on dealing with family illness. It’s never easy to see a loved one struggle — no matter what the problem.
      I realize that not to have had such experiences in my own life has made us rare — not necessarily in a way that is good experientially. But definitely easier.
      I would be the first person in the world to admit the value of talking through your problems — but I think that has to be with someone you trust completely — and I can’t say I’m in a big hurry to trust that part of me to a so-called professional. It’s one thing to trust a body part to someone who has a proven ability to treat specific illnesses or accidents — but achieving that same ability in someone else’s mind — I’m not so trusting I guess.
      I did always feel that it was important for us to pay for our time at the resto. Those waiters didn’t come to work to be my shrink. There were nights I tipped way more than the food & drink bill if we were there for that long of a time. But it was money well spent. AND… it brought the two of us closer and closer. The both of us sharing in kind has been good for the marriage.

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  3. A good therapist has the ability to listen deeply and to feedback to you what you are saying in a way that helps you process it. I have had good and bad therapists. The good ones helped me figure out what sense I made of my family’s nonsense so I could reevaluate my responses. Peg sounds like a good therapist.

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  4. A little belated, but Happy Birthday! Another adventure on your belt…or another different observation about life.

    Don’t know what your plans are for this weekend but I was thinking of checking out Micanopy for my photo project. Since Sunday is Valentine’s Day, i wasn’t sure if you had special plans or not and figured Saturday might be better. Either day works for me. Let me know if you’re around as I’d be happy to swing by and see you home. Don’t know if Rick will be with me, right now it’s 50/50 he will be busy.

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    1. We’re open! Saturday might be better. I don’t know if we have a stranger stopping by some time over the weekend (long story behind that — I’ll just leave it at that) and I think that could be more likely to be SUN. So, Sat might be better but could probably do either. I don’t know how long this person might take but surely not more than 1/2 an hour.

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  5. Dealing with mental illness was always hard for me. And I was a nurse! As your partner, your wife is the best help you could have. When my husband became depressed a number of years ago, I missed the signals. He kept it from me until after he saw his doctor. Then he shared his feelings and we talked like you and Peg.
    One of my patients lived with his mother who was a hoarder. I used to think hoarders were harmless, but after her actions that thought vanished out of my head. She always met me at the door and I followed through the piled-high-and-deep living room and hallway to the dining room. It was piled high with boxes and bags like the living room and hall, but there was access to a two-seater sofa, chair and TV. The aide was in the kitchen stirring a pot most of the times I visited. The light was allowed on while I visited. On that visit, my patient needed his diabetic supplies which had arrived in the mail the day before and were sitting on the hall floor just outside the door. I picked it up since his mother wasn’t around. He said, “You shouldn’t have done that.” His mother returned and was obviously upset that I had taken her stuff. I finished the visit and left. The next visit she refused to let me in, but he hollered that he needed to see me. She had already closed the door, but opened it a crack after he yelled. I went in thinking it odd that she wasn’t there to guide me. She was sitting in the chair opposite my spot on the couch. I sat and opened up my computer. I had taken his vital signs when she pulled out a pair of long-handled pruning shears from beside her chair. She held them up and lovingly wiped the blades with a paper towel the whole time I talked to her son.
    Never in my life had I felt terror like what she caused. All she had to do was lean forward and I was a goner. I prayed, reviewed his teaching data, made some notes on my paper tablet, and skipped trying to feed everything into the computer. I went to the office and told my supervisor what happened, adding that I refused to go back. Turns out I didn’t need to. He ended up in a coma, dying a few days later, and she committed suicide.

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    1. Yeah— I sometimes feel completely unequipped to understand such things… I was glad for the exposure but it’s just not in my experience. I’m afraid there are a lot of scary things out there. The human animal is a strange and wonderful creation.

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