Category: Conversations from the Road – Blog
Uber Tales – Frequently Asked Questions, Edition
I’m going to list some of my most frequently asked questions (FAQ) here but if you have any questions for me that are not listed here, just let me know in the comments.
How long have I been driving for Uber?
- Five years as of this year.
Do I like it?
- Yes. (If I didn’t I don’t think I would have stayed with it as long as I have because of the freedom I have with this job).
- Current record holder is three hours (would have been three and a half if I hadn’t taken a couple of alternate routes around some high-traffic areas)
- Current record is still $100 though if anyone wants to break that record they’re more than welcome to.
Any really strange or outrageous passengers?
- Nothing totally bizarre or anyone I couldn’t handle.
How much time do I spend at the airport?
- Enough to where I sometimes call it my home-away-from-home.
Are you from San Antonio?
- Born and raised, and I’m old enough to remember when things were built, or something else.
When do you drive?
- Anytime I want to though my bank account pretty much dictates when I work and for how long.
Has anyone ever puked in your car?
- No, which I am forever grateful for. I’ve reduced that risk greatly by not 2 a.m. bar let-outs though I do get the occasional day-drunks.
Have I been like a bartender-therapist to people in the car?
- Yes. I don’t mind because sometimes people just need to talk and I’m more than happy to listen.
How many ‘morning after’s’ (formerly known as the ‘walk of shame’) have I done?
- Lots. And occasionally I get the story. And I call them ‘morning after’s’ because I had a family in the car one night (mom, dad, two young girls) and the mom was up front with me asking me questions. She was about to say ‘walk of shame’ but I stopped her with ‘morning after’ then angled my head towards her daughters in the backseat. I didn’t feel right saying ‘walk of shame’ in front of young kids and I think I also kept the mom from having to explain that term to her daughters.
- I was offered pot in lieu of a tip twice in one week. First time was when I dropped this guy off and he said he didn’t have any cash on him for a tip so I told him he could tip me through the app. Then he offered me something to eat or drink (I politely declined) then he went, “Can I offer you a bag of weed?” I went, “Uh what?” because I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly. He said yes rather enthusiastically but I declined and got out of there. Second time was a couple of days later when I was driving this lady home and she said she didn’t have cash for a tip so I told her she could tip in the app. Then she asked me if I wanted a joint but I declined smoothly by saying, “No, thank you, ma’am. I don’t smoke.”
- I’ve been asked out several times (declined firmly but politely) though I got a rather indecent proposal from this guy one night. He was drunk and hitting on me then he offered me money for an indecent time and I went, “Excuse me?” in a tone of voice that made it very clear he crossed a line. He apologized all over himself and I let him flop around like a fish on a hook for a minute or so before I told him, “Apology accepted.” He tipped me well so I let it slide.
If you would like to ask me something that wasn’t addressed here, please ask in the comments here and I’ll do my best to answer it. Thanks!
Personal Safety In Modern Times
My father used to say to me, “Nine times out of ten you can think your way out of a situation or react accordingly. There may be one time where you can but hope and pray that doesn’t happen.”
Bad things can happen anywhere, at any time, and to anyone. And I am NOT blaming anyone for being a victim and if you’ve done that, go to Hell. But here are a few things I’d like to share with you that might keep you out of trouble:
Be aware of your surroundings and your situation all the time. When you’re out and about, note where everyone and everything is at. Try not to get distracted by your phone or anything else. Crime can happen anywhere at any time, even in broad daylight on a crowded afternoon. Be aware and if you feel like something isn’t right or seems off, get out of there. I’ve done this a few times and though nothing has happened, I wasn’t going to take chances. I think people have the gift of intuition and that’s it worth developing. Or as my father would say, always listen to your gut.
As an Uber driver, I’ve been asked if I’ve ever had a situation where I didn’t feel safe. The answer is no. But I will tell you I have been in areas of the city that looked rough and are known to be rough. In these places I like to say I don’t stick around for autographs- I just pick up or drop off my rider and move on. I’ve been out in the boonies miles from civilization all on my own and yes, I’ve seen a fair number of horror movies so I know not to stop driving for anything.
In the car I keep a can of Lysol in the cup holder beside me. Perfectly innocuous object, and practical in our germ-filled world. But that perfectly normal object can be used as a weapon if needed. First, it makes a good can of mace to spray in someone’s face. I guarantee if you give someone a full shot of Lysol in their face they’re not going anywhere. Also, it comes in a big metal can that could put a dent in someone’s head if you hit them hard enough with it or bust their nose depending on your aim.
I saw a video recently showing what to do if someone grabs you from behind in your car. Lean your seat back to where they’re pinned down then grab your Lysol and your phone, spray Lysol in your attacker’s face before you hit the pavement and find a good hiding place to call the cops. Most attackers aren’t going to expect you to fight back so use that brief moment of surprise to hurt them enough to get away.
Another thing I do as a driver when I’m picking someone up is having my car in a position to drive off, not facing a dead-end, cul-de-sac, or a wall if I can help it. If asked, I would say it’s just convenience and getting the ride going without having to turn around but in reality, it’s also a safety pre-caution. Because think of it like this: if someone, or a group of people are coming up behind you and you think they’re up to no good, you can hit the gas and get away.
If someone does come at you with a gun or a knife, cooperate with them. Do whatever it takes to keep them from pulling the trigger or coming at you. Things like money and cards can be replaced- you can’t. While you’re staying calm, try to commit every detail about the miscreant to memory, like any scars or tattoos, what they’re wearing, what they’re saying to you, what type of weapon they’re using. These details are important to the police and you might give the cops the one thing they need to nab these miscreants and throw them in the clink. Also, if you are a victim of crime there are resources available to help you through the police department and victims’ advocate groups.
If you watch the tv news, you might think the streets are being overrun by criminals. They’re not. Yes, there are areas with higher rates of crime but the people that live in these areas aren’t all criminals. The vast majority of people in this world are good people so don’t let the bad ones ruin things for you as my father would say.
Just stay alert, be cautious, and always think and focus on keeping your shit together.
Breaking Radio Silence – Yet Another Realization
As you’ll read in ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, the first part of the book is a series of realizations as I call them. These realizations are thoughts that helped me see things in ways I needed to in addition to lifting weights of shame and guilt I had no business carrying around in the first place. But to my surprise, it seems I still have realizations coming to me.
My newest realization came from a memory that surfaced when I was dropping off some passengers about a week ago at a hotel across from a restaurant that was the scene of a memory that surfaced as I looked right at the site (the restaurant where my memory happened was razed to the ground and a new restaurant is being built on the site). I’m not going into any detail about what happened but the conclusion I came to as I worked through the emotions of that memory was this:
My purpose in life is NOT to help someone pull their head out of their ass, nor is that the purpose of anyone else in life. If someone has their head jammed up their ass, it’s their responsibility to pull it out.
For the vast majority of my life, I felt one of my biggest reasons for existing was to manage people’s moods around me. I felt like I had to do everything in my power not to piss people off, or burden them with my bullshit, and worse, not let my control slip to where I came off as an opinionated selfish, know-it-all bitch. That was quite a burden I placed on myself though a lot of that was placed on me by being a middle-child because most middle children become ‘managers’ pretty early on in life. It’s like the expectation of middle children is that we’re the responsible ones who won’t cause trouble for anyone. For me, I felt like I couldn’t be ‘normal’, that I couldn’t be goofy, or do stupid shit, or worse, get into a bit of trouble. I had to deal with people coming to me wringing their hands telling me I shouldn’t do this or that because I was too damn fragile or some bullshit like that.
I know I’m not fragile, and anyone who comes at me wringing their hands and telling me not to do something is wrong. And if someone is in a shitty mood and unwilling to work through it, or put it aside for a while until they can work on it later, I don’t need to walk on eggshells around them. And I sure as hell don’t need to feel like shit about myself if I’m not in a shitty mood when someone else is.
Because I have spent so damn much of my life trying to contain my moods both good and bad. Yes, I’ve held back good moods because I’ve been in too many situations where that made me stand out like a bloody wounded thumb. I felt like I had to try and manage someone out of their shitty mood and now I realize that’s not my damn responsibility. One of the biggest things I’ve been working on for the last few years is trying my best to work through my feelings and personal shit. I have not always succeeded but NO ONE does this perfectly. And I will NOT let anyone make me feel like I have to do anything perfectly when perfection is only something that happens for a brief moment in time.
On that day I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, everyone with me was mired in their own shit and unwilling to put it aside for me. For the longest time, I thought I was wrong to think they should have put their personal shit aside for me and that I wasn’t good enough for anyone to do that for me. Or at least I used to think that but now I don’t. If someone doesn’t want to be around me all they have to do is find their tits or balls and come right out and tell me. Trust me, I won’t make any fuss over it. I’ll just say okay and walk away and be alone. I can be on my own just fine and be happy in the process. But here’s a revelation for you: I like being around people. I actually like talking with people and being in social situations. I just don’t like it when people are projecting their shit onto me and other people and expecting me and other people to just suck it up and deal with it.
And if I had said anything about being miserable on that day years ago, it wouldn’t have gone well. The situation would have blown up in my face and I would been raged at or guilt-tripped into thinking my timing sucked. In my experience, when people get called out on their shit they dig in. I don’t regret staying silent back then but now… I’ll stand by my realization: I’m not responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass. And if someone doesn’t want to be around me, all they have to do is say so. And if anyone reading this has dug in instead of listening to someone calling them out on their shit, ask yourself why.
Another Trip Around the Sun
Today begins my forty-eighth trip around the sun (it’s my birthday). As I make more trips around the sun and have more prior trips to look back on, I do get philosophical and write about it but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll write and post on it when I want to (in tribute to the late great Lesley Gore who only cried at her party- no tears for me).
As I write this, I’m listening to The Rolling Stones album ‘Exile on Main Street’ which is celebrating its’ fiftieth anniversary this year. I watched a preview of the documentary about the making of that album and Mick Jagger said they felt like exiles when they made that record (they had left England after getting cleaned out by the tax man and a bad management deal they’d been in). They de-camped to the South of France and set up in the basement of Keith Richards’ villa and recorded eighteen tracks of ragged brilliance. But as Martin Fry of the band ABC said, “People took so many drugs they didn’t remember playing on the record.”
Since I’ve never taken drugs, I do remember more than I’d like to at times. But in the past eight years, I’ve taken a hard look back and although it’s been painful as hell at times, it’s also been liberating without the monster hangovers I’m sure The Rolling Stones went through back in the day. I am exile like they were though not de-camped in a villa in the South of France. I don’t know if anything I ever publish someday will be anywhere near the ragged brilliance of The Rolling Stones album I’m listening to but I’m trying.
A year is a long time when you think about but having a lot of years before this one is a lot of time to think about, too. One thing I’ve learned about looking back is not to think of regrets, of missed opportunities, or kicking the crap out of yourself for not doing things better. My late father used to say regrets were useless because you can’t go back in time and change things. I think the best thing you can do is try and learn from it. I also think you can let go of the past and not live your life to it, too. The most important thing is not to kick the crap out of yourself for not doing things better or in a different way. As my father also used to say, you do the best you can with what you’re given to work with.
The last line in the previous paragraph is one that has been very hard for me to work through because when I started looking back at my life a few years ago, one of the hardest things I had to deal with was thinking I should have done things differently simply because I thought people wouldn’t approve or some bullshit like that. Why would I want anyone’s approval if I handled something in a way they didn’t ‘agree’ with? They weren’t there so as far I’m concerned now, they don’t get a say in the assessment.
To quote from the song ‘Sweet Virginia’ by The Rolling Stones: “You’ve got to scrape that shit right off your shoes.” I think that’s the stage I’m at in my life because I know I’m a mess and far from perfect, but no one else is either. Besides, perfection can be boring.
But I do look back on some aspects of the past, like the 1970’s for example. Because back then before technology creeped in and corrupted so many people so badly, people just set out to do what they wanted to do and didn’t give a shit what ‘people’ might think. It wasn’t about seeking perfection but about finding some bit of truth, light, and love. I think this is what I’m looking for and working towards to. As I said to a passenger a few days ago when I was telling them about my dream of living in a house-on-wheels: “The road is calling me.”
Today I’ll go on the road later and make some money and put at least a dollar aside towards that house-on-wheels (and I’ll start putting dollars towards other things, too). I’ll keep writing because when I write and post I get action on this blog and have been gaining at least one to two followers a week. I’ve got plans for more and now I don’t feel the fear that someone will say something to me about those plans or how I do things. People can say whatever they want to me, but I know I can choose how to respond to them.
I went through so many years thinking I was a failure of a person because I wasn’t perfect in every way that I could have been or was supposed to be. I used to wonder why I couldn’t be that way but then I realized I am who I am supposed to be. Also, no one is perfect even if they shoot their mouths off and say they are.
So as I start my next trip around the sun, I’m going to build on what I do know: I’m alright. Sloppy, messy, mouthy (at least on paper here) while trying to be kind to others and take things as they come. Be kind to yourself because that’s where it all begins. And enjoy these trips around the sun because no one knows how many you’ll get.
Dirty Thoughts and Stories – Taking Pride In My Writing (no matter what it is, even the ‘dirty’ kind)
In the early 2000’s, I sold a story to ‘Playgirl’ magazine (got paid $25) though I didn’t get a byline and I didn’t tell anyone. I wish my mom had been alive to tell because I think she would have gotten a kick out of it, and I wish I had told my dad because he would have been supportive (though if I’d left him a copy of the magazine to read, I would have asked him not to read it until I was a few zip-codes away from him). But the biggest reason I kept silent about that back then wasn’t potential embarrassment. It was ‘offending’ someone’s fragile ego they would have masked as pearl-clutching bullshit.
All my life I’ve downplayed my accomplishments or achievements because someone would inevitably come at me downplaying what I’d done or worse, shitting all over me but they’d try to hide that by telling me I was being too proud of myself. For too damn many years, I believed their bullshit but now I’m rejecting with a resounding ‘fuck you’ to anyone who ever decides to come at me and try to shit all over anything I do.
As I look back on my life, this downplaying bullshit came at me in two ways, the first being the ‘well-meaning’ one. My father used to say the road to Hell was paved with good intentions and boy was he right. The ‘well-meaning’ and ‘good intentioned’ ways were that if I kept at what I was doing and got too proud I would be so devastated if and when I fell that I would never recover, and no one wanted to see me fall on my ass and fail.
I have fallen on my ass so damn many times I’d be a multi-millionaire if I had a dollar for every time that’s happened. Yet every single time, I got up and kept going. Of course, I’m sure some asshole would say that was pride that got me off my ass instead of sitting on the ground bawling my brains out. You really want to know why I never sat on the ground bawling my brains out: because I NEVER expected anyone to pick me up and dry my tears if I had cried in front of anyone (which I tried really hard not to do). And no one ever did. In fact, I got told more than once not to even think about losing my shit on the ground or the shit-storm would really come down on me.
One of the most hurtful things I have ever been told is that I have a shit-ton of pride stuck up my ass when that was, and still is the farthest thing from the truth. Now I realize that was just a weapon of a weak-willed asshole who had no real confidence in themselves despite acting like they did. In plain English, people loved to project their dumb-ass shit onto me and I thought I had to take it. Because of that, I kept so much to myself and worst of all, I held myself back from really pursuing anything.
I’m glad I have rejected that bullshit and that no one has had the tits or the balls to come at me now because if someone did, I don’t think the end result would be very pretty. In fact, I think if someone tried I’d fire a warning shot by going, “You really want to go there with that shit?” And if anyone reading this has deliberately shit all over someone’s achievement simply because you think you know better than they do, or you don’t like it, or whatever bullshit you’re selling yourself: shut up and ask yourself why you feel like you have to shoot your ignorant mouth off and keep asking until you find all the answers you can. And if you don’t like those answers, tough shit, they’re yours to deal with.
My questions and answers have been hard to deal with but I’m glad I’ve dealt with them. And if I do sell something, publish something, get a good review, or hit a best-seller some list someday, I’m not going to give a single shit if someone doesn’t like it or if I’m going to ‘offend’ someone’s fragile ego. My purpose in life is not to walk on eggshells around people who don’t like what I do or just because I’m pursuing something they think I don’t have the ability to succeed or fail at. Writing like I do, even if I write ‘dirty’ stories and publish them, is not wrong or immoral (or any bullshit like that) because we still live in a free country, and I think this country will stay free despite the hard attack coming from right-wing fascist sources.
To anyone reading this who wants to write or create, or just do something you want to do and not just to please someone’s bullshit-fragile ego, DO IT! Take pride in your work and achievements, and if you do fall on your ass get right back up and keep going. Someone won’t like you for who you are or what you do but you can’t live your life trying to appease those bastards. And in reality, they only have power over you if you give it to them so don’t give anyone power they have done nothing to deserve.
And speaking of that story of long ago, I wrote a new version of it and am working on editing and revising it but I should have it ready in the next day or so.
Uber Tales – Where Things Are, San Antonio-Local Edition
In five years of being an Uber driver in San Antonio, I’ve probably been over every inch of this city (and county). As I tell a lot of my passengers, most people really don’t go too far outside their own little ‘pod’ as I call it. They go to work, school, and shopping. They may venture out to go somewhere different on occasion (though more often than not they’ll call an Uber, which is good for me). But in my job on the road, in addition to never taking the same route every day I also get to find out where a lot of places are, and I can tell people when some of these places were built and what they used to be (or might have been if I’m not entirely certain of a place’s origin story).
I was talking with a passenger just this past week and he told me this story of how his buddy forgot where he’d left his car one night after partying. I told him it sounded like the movie ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’. He didn’t know about that movie but I told him it was ridiculously funny (so stupid but so funny because it didn’t take itself seriously- I highly recommend it if you don’t want to expend any brainpower when watching a movie). I then told my passenger how I knew where all the impound lots were in the city because think about it: if your car has been impounded you’re going to need a ride to the impound lot. One is close to downtown and I tell people it just looks like crap during the day (it’s in an industrial area with a good amount of rust and dirt and pot-holed cratered streets) though I told him if you go down there after dark to watch your back. Then there was an impound lot on the northeast side off I-35 that looked like something out of a horror movie at five-thirty in the morning (I was taking a lady there whose car got towed from her apartment complex- she thought her neighbor ratted her out). I told her I wasn’t leaving her until she confirmed someone in the office to help her and to come out and give me a thumbs-up if so (which she did). Then there was the lot on the far west side off Highway 151 where UTSA (University of San Antonio) took their cars (and I haven’t been over there in a long time so I guess between the pandemic and improved parking these kids have learned not to park in ‘no parking’ areas).
Then there is Sugar’s. It’s a strip club right off Loop 410 not too far from the airport. On the front of the building there is a big shark (he’s white so I assume he’s a great white shark like Jaws). Now I can’t find anything online to figure out the story behind that shark but one passenger I had (a native San Antonian like me) thought that place started out as a seafood restaurant. Which sort of makes sense though I hoped they didn’t serve shark-fin soup. I wonder what they tell their patrons if they ask about the shark.
I’ve been asked by several passengers over the years why our airport in San Antonio is smack-dab in the middle of the city. I tell them the city came to the airport because when the airport was first built back in the late 1950’s there wasn’t a lot out there. The highway in front of the airport, Loop 410 was just being built and nearby North Star Mall was finished around the same time as the airport and looked a lot different (except for the giant cowboy boots out in front of the mall). I tell people I remember when our little airport had just one terminal and that before 9/11 you could go inside and have an ice-cream and watch the planes take off and land (though I will say the people watching coming and going from the security checkpoint was much more interesting). When I first started this gig the big parking garages in front of the terminals were just being finished up. And since I started this job, our waiting lot has changed four times (we share our waiting lot with the lot the cabbies had to themselves before we came along- they’re cool with us and we’re cool with them).
A few months ago, I had my first drop-off at the Bexar County Jail. All I had was the address so I didn’t know exactly where we were going until we pulled up and I read the lettering on the building. My passenger then asked where he was supposed to go and I found the Visitor’s Entrance for him (since he didn’t know where to go I think he might have been there to bail someone out, but I didn’t ask because in my line of work I don’t ask a lot of questions). Then my next ride after I dropped him was about two blocks away at the Bexar County Sheriff’s office. Again, I didn’t ask questions but I can say I know where the jail, Sherriff’s office, and I even know where the Parole/Probation office is (picked up a guy there one morning- he apologized for the pickup location but I told him people deserved a second chance, especially if they were complying with their parole/probation like he was).
So as you can see in my line of work, I can tell you where a lot of places are. And if you’re with me, I can guarantee you I won’t ask a lot of questions, especially about why you’re going to where you’re going. But if my passengers have questions for me about where they’re going (or coming from), I’m more than happy to answer them as best as I can. I’ll explain local jokes (such as Fred’s Fish Fry- little squat boxes that look like fronts for drug dealing though according to a SA Current news story no drug busts have ever been done there), why we call the Alamodome the White Elephant, and I might tell you what parts of town not to stick around for autographs, especially after dark.
Stand or Fall – The Battle Has Never Ended
Recently I began watching the HBOMax series ‘Minx’ about the founding of a women’s magazine in the 1970’s a la ‘Playgirl’ and in the first episode the founder of the magazine, Joyce, goes through articles she’s written over the years prior to the magazine launch about such things as equal pay for women, access to birth control, and abortion. And all I could think was this:
How the hell did we make it out of the 1970’s?
I asked that question because I felt like I was watching something from this year but dressed up in polyester and bell-bottom pants. I was just flabbergasted that these issues are just as potent and under attack now as they were back then, if not more so now with the addition of social media disinformation from Russian troll farms. Because so much bullshit and lies on social media, where most right-wing conservatives get their information comes from Russian troll farms hellbent on destroying this country by turning it into a religious theocracy that Vladimir Putin can walk right into.
Good thing the Ukrainian Army is kicking the shit out of the Russian Army at the moment and that the leaked Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has ignited a shit-storm that seems to have every conservative judge and US Senator shitting their collective pants and clutching their pearls so tightly I’m surprised their necklaces haven’t shattered into pearl-dust. But to think we’re hearing the same bullshit about abortion and reproductive rights, and continued attacks on LGBTQ people is tiring at times. For me, I’m pissed off about history repeating itself yet again.
Over the years I’ve heard that people tend to get conservative as they get older and I’ve wondered why. I can see now it’s a combination of cynicism and giving in to the feeling that you were entitled to something better but didn’t get it and it’s someone else’s fault now. That’s bullshit because no one is entitled to anything simply because they exist or for any other reason. Things don’t always work out and shit will always happen no matter what you do or don’t do. That doesn’t give anyone the excuse to shit all over other people, bully them into silence or suicide, or dictate what a person, or a woman can do from the cradle to the grave.
Part of me always wants to people to go fuck themselves when it takes having shit rain down on them to have any real compassion or empathy for anyone other than themselves. Instead, I just simply sit back and go alright, now you know and hopefully you’ll become a better human being because of your experiences. But if that’s the case for anyone reading this, then understand that other people who have been through shit and didn’t shit on others in the process may not trust you so easily or welcome you with open arms. When people have been insensitive, or worse cruel I find it hard to trust them because as my mother used to say: if they’ve done it once what makes you think they won’t do it again? Her rationale was that if someone has done something bad they’ve proven they have the ability to rationalize that decision and can do it again if they choose to. She used to say people like that very rarely, if ever, change. I believe people can change for the better but it takes time to heal from the damage they cause.
If you identify as conservative and feel like I’m backing you against a wall, that’s not my intent. I know the feeling of being backed against a wall but my feeling came from a fear that I would be hurt if I spoke out against people inflicting pain and suffering on others, and against injustice and oppression. Because if you’re conservative I want you to ask yourself this question: if you feel you have to suffer something yourself in order to understand another person’s suffering of the same thing, ask yourself why, and keep asking until you find all the answers you can.
I’m beginning to think it’s not that people genuinely don’t know what’s going on and how it can hurt so many people, I believe they’re looking away, and trying to walk away from it. I don’t believe people are pushed away but choose to walk away and look away instead. I tell myself now not to look away from things that are painful, and that I didn’t walk away in the past from pain so I know I can handle it now. My father used to tell me you never truly know what you can deal with until you’re forced to deal with it, or you choose to walk away from it as I’ll say here now.
Battles will always be fought, and lost, and won. But to quote a line from the movie ‘Casablanca’: “Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win.”
Breaking Radio Silence – Writing About the Dead
For most of my life, a big thing in my life was being told not to speak ill of the dead. When I was a kid I thought that was because if you talked smack about dead people they’d come back and haunt you. As an adult, I realize that if the dead have a problem with how I talk about them now, they know where I’m at.
I wonder if that belief in not talking ill of the dead is because the dead can’t defend themselves. I don’t buy that argument because I wasn’t aware every discussion about the dead was supposed to be a group debate session. Now I realize this argument is just to shut people up in talking about things they have every right to talk about.
I’m going to hang myself out here with an opinion that might not be very popular: the dead don’t need their legacy preserved without honesty. A lot of people keep things to themselves because they don’t want to hurt people’s perceptions of their long-gone loved ones. I will respect anyone’s decision whether or not to talk about someone who’s dead but I don’t feel you have to venerate the dead for the rest of eternity either.
As I begin to write my book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, I will be talking about the dead and some of what I write might not be ‘nice’. When it comes to my parents they would be the first people to tell you they weren’t perfect. They never claimed to be and even after they’d gotten pissed off and raged hard, they were able to apologize when they’d been wrong and said and done things they shouldn’t have. NO ONE IS PERFECT (I put that in all-caps here to make a point) so I don’t see any need to treat people as perfect just because they’re dead and gone.
My mother has been gone for twenty years so I’ve had twenty years to live without her. I’ve had to learn to live with memories and memory is a tricky thing because you want to remember good things but you also get the bad stuff with that. My father once said he chose to remember the good because the bad was always there. And he was right on the mark with that so that’s why I will talk about the bad stuff, the painful stuff, the stuff that’s taken me years to put into words. And if this makes someone uncomfortable, that’s on them and not me.
Many years ago, I heard people say that I was too comfortable with death. No, I wasn’t ‘comfortable’ at all. I just had to learn how to talk about it because I was watching it slowly advance on my mother first, then my father. And in death there’s a fair amount of paperwork involved so there’s that to deal with and if talking about that makes people uncomfortable then that’s on them.
Not long after my mother got her cancer diagnosis, my parents asked me to sit and talk with them about what to do when my mom died. I got up and walked out of the room. The thought of death slammed into me I couldn’t think or speak at that moment, but I eventually bucked up and started having those conversations with my mother and father. There was no comfort in those talks at all. They were just about working out the details that were going to need to be taken care of. And again, if anyone has a problem with that now, I’ll say to them like I should have said back then: go fuck yourself. My parents trusted me to take care of things for them because they knew how good I was at keeping my shit together and that I’d found the guts to face those damn details and get things done the way they wanted to. I’m not talking about this with pride, but I will not talk about it with shame or guilt either.
I know it might be hard for people to understand grief and pain when they haven’t experienced it themselves. It’s not an experience I wish on anyone though I know most people will have to go through it at some point in their lifetimes. If you haven’t gone through it, don’t judge people who have. If you have to, just walk out of the room until you can deal with it. My parents didn’t hold that walk-out against me in any way. They told me they’d understood why I had done that and knew that I would come and talk to them when I was ready. I talked to them because I knew that’s what they wanted me to do, and that they believed in me to shoulder the responsibility they were giving me.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in the process of working this book project here is feeling shame and guilt for things that I didn’t do wrong. I took on too much bullshit and insecurity from people I never should have. Every single person deals with things in their own way and anyone who insists on conformity in dealing with shit is an asshole. For in the end, there really isn’t any control over things. You just deal with them as they come and work through the fallout in the years after.
Conversations With My Mother Through Time
“You are not required to carry the pain of your mother.” ~unknown
I saw this online a few days ago and the explanation is that you don’t have to carry the pain of your mother as she projected it onto you. This is about people who project their crap onto others without dealing with it. My mother did her best not to do that and I’m forever grateful for that. But if I could have taken away any of her pain and carried with me for the rest of my life, I would have done so without a second’s hesitation.
It will be twenty years ago this October since my mother died and not a day has gone by since that I haven’t thought of her in some way. Recently, I have begun to feel like I’m having a conversation with my mom as I begin to write my book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ and other things I’m writing, too. I feel like she would understand better than anyone why I’m writing and what it means to me. And I like to think she’d have a bit of fun with me looking back on the good times we had together.
My mom was raised in an extremely conservative old-school Catholic home with a violent alcoholic father and a religious fanatic mother. I think my grandmother clung so tightly to religion to deal with being married and dependent on an alcoholic but it wasn’t the right way to raise children. My mother grew up thinking she was ugly and stupid and was going to Hell no matter what she did or didn’t do. My mother wasn’t ugly, and she wasn’t stupid, and she definitely wasn’t going to Hell because my mom did the right thing more often than not. Sometimes she paid one hell of a price for her decisions, but she knew how to persevere and survive.
My mother used to talk about the possibility of not living to a ripe old age. Looking back, I wonder if she had some type of premonition that she wasn’t going to make it, especially after her breast cancer diagnosis. If so, that was a hell of a burden to live with and one I suspect she did. It’s hell to think about, and much more difficult than anyone can imagine, to talk about being a given a glimpse of a future cut short.
In fact, one morning not long after my mom got her cancer diagnosis I was sitting outside on the back patio while she fussed with her plants. She asked me why I was outside with her when I could be doing anything else. I said this in reply, “Do I have to tell you exactly why I’m out here?” And she said no and let it drop. Because if she asked for an answer it would have been this, “I think you and I know you’re living on borrowed time and I want to make the most of the time I have with you.” That is a decision I have never, ever regretted despite the painful memories I carry because of it.
Previously I talked about my mother’s ‘rebellion’ back in the 1980’s and how she brought me along for the ride. It was then that we began to really talk to each other about anything we could. But what that time did was lay a foundation for the last seven years of her life when I could give her a space to talk freely. Because when she was first diagnosed with cancer so many people told her to be strong and think positive and she’d be cured. That is complete and total fucking bullshit. It’s hard as hell to fight when you’re exhausted all the damn time and to be positive when Death is staring you in the face. I realized this early-on so when we were alone, I made it totally clear to her she could let it rip and bitch and complain all she wanted to. It was a pain I willingly took on as best as I could though she I don’t think she thought of it that way.
I know if she had lived my life would have taken a very different path. I might not have been the silent and broken-down person afraid of her own shadow but I also might have had a lot of other shit to deal with. I might have gotten into something that would eventually have gone to Hell like a shitty marriage for example. Instead, I persevered through my silence like she did but have broken my silence in my own way as she did, too. Grief never ends. It ebbs and flows, and sometimes it goes off inside you like a ‘grief bomb’ as my father called it. For me, grief over the years has given me an ability to see things in new and different ways and be able to put those things into words. This is where the conversation with my mother has come from and when I write about my mother, I feel like I’m talking to her again. Her responses are memories, thoughts, and feelings I’ll never forget. And because of that, my conversation with my mom will never end.