Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm Not Lazy

Had a short spat with my husband yesterday. The name calling and yelling rose in pitch, I called him a swear word, he controlled himself and did not swear back. It was an old issue, one we have fought over before.

I object, strenuously, to being called lazy.

I have no problem with my husband calling himself lazy. But do not include me in that statement. I do not want my husband saying that "we" are lazy people.

The first time we fought over this issue my husband's daughter called on a Saturday evening, and over the phone, asked her Dad what he was doing. My husband said that he and I were both being lazy. Hadn't left the house all day. Hadn't gotten any exercise, were still wearing our pajamas. We had been working on the computers all day. He said that for both of us, it was a lazy day.

I remember that that day I had worked on my computer and wrote. I probably wrote for my book. Book writing is intense, tiring, and usually difficult to start. I was exhausted by what I wrote. And I was suffering from symptoms of my illness. I had to take things slow, not because I was lazy, but because my mind was malfunctioning. I was, at the time that my husband said over the phone that we were lazy people, suffering from my mental illness. And there is, as far as I am concerned, a big difference between being lazy and suffering from schizophrenic symptoms. That day, when my husband called me lazy, I felt that I had been valiant in accomplishing something creative, and was riding the effects of being riddled with mental pain afterwords.

Often, about half of my day, my activities are difficult to do. In order to accomplish things I must push myself. I believe that with the schizoaffective illness I have symptoms of amotivation - the scientific term for lack of motivation. In order to do something the act is often initially accomplished by a feeling of anxiety. I often force myself to move. I force myself to think. I force myself to make a phone call. I force myself to do anything that involves getting out of bed or using my brain. The alternative is just to lie in bed and read a book or watch a movie. Sometimes, when I'm really sick, I just want to lie in bed and close my eyes. Not to sleep, but to rest. No music, no books, no television, no physical movement, I lie under the covers frozen in place. It can be boring. But when I am sick I am often up to doing nothing else.

The problem with my husband telling his daughter that I was a lazy person is that once, she made comments to the effect that judged her life as more significant, and worthy, then my life. She summed up the activities we both do during the day and said that based on how much each of us got done, she deserved to be on my husband's health insurance policy more than I deserved to be on his health insurance policy. At the time she was busy, going to school full time and working at a grocery store. No doubt about it, she was not a lazy person. What was I doing? At the time I think I was working on oil paintings. My creative period is short, about three hours in the morning. Usually after I create, either painting or writing, there is a time of suffering where my brain is very weak and I am capable of little. In other words I spend time paying a penalty for thinking too strenuously. Most sundry activities are strenuous - painting, writing, walking to the library, cleaning, going grocery shopping, etc. Normal activities are strenuous, simply living and being active is strenuous.

Knowing that my step-daughter has shown contempt for my lifestyle, and contempt for the value of my life itself, I did not want my husband characterizing me to her as being lazy. I do not characterize myself as lazy. I am, within the confines of my illness, very driven.

There are very few schizoaffective people who have the creative output that I have or are capable of the level of quality that goes into every creative project I do. I do not feel like I am dancing or floating through life. I feel like I am walking into a stiff wind that is blowing against me. I slog. I am in a swamp wading through mud, muck and mire. I am sometimes in the dirty, befouled, trenches of a battlefield. And sometimes I've been shot. Oh no, I am not lazy.

My husband apparently feels some slight embarrassment over the amount of time he commits to his creative projects, like his comic book making. I think he calls himself lazy out of guilt and self-abuse. He is astonished at how selfish he can be with his time and get away with it. He can literally do nothing other than work on his computer for eight to twelve hours on the weekend. There are no children demanding his attention. Housework does not get done. Chores do not get done. Conversations do not happen. Friendships are not practiced. He is solitary. His hair is unwashed and oily. He does not eat. He does not move from his one chair.

One of the ways that my marriage is a success is that I let him have this time to himself to do his solitary pursuits. He wakes at 4:30 am, I wake at 11 or 12 noon. See how he has the house, and the time, all to himself just by the differences in our schedules? And after I wake, it is my time to practice my creative pursuits. So he is left alone, to do what he wants, for even longer. Basically he does not want to be bothered until 3pm. This is when he feels burnt out. Then he is open to some different type of activity, like walking the dog or doing a household chore or taking a shower.

Yesterday my husband was talking to our dog when he called us lazy. It was 3pm in the afternoon. I had woke, spent some time on the internet, and then wrote for several hours. I had been productive. After I finished my writing I suggested we walk down town and look at a thrift store and an antique store. I felt like I was pushing myself to do something physical and get dressed, get moving. I had not, since waking, spent a moment not using my brain. This was when he turned to the dog and said, "Aren't mommy and daddy lazy?"

The dog does not care whether or not my husband calls me lazy. The dog was, in fact, mighty distressed when mommy and daddy started shouting at one another. She ran and hid under the bed.

Part of my husband's argument, and his belief that no apology was needed, is that "normal" people talk to one another this way. He was making "normal"conversation. I had to suck it up and just accept that "normal" people prattle on and say things that make no sense, but that are accepted by other "normal" people. Apparently he comes by the information of how "normal" people act by his vastly superior experience of having a full-time, job - at which he learns this "normal" pattern of discourse. I, who stay at home, can't understand "normal" interactions between people who don't have a mental illness. I, who have a mental illness, am being too sensitive. One of the hallmarks of the difference between "normal" people and the mentally ill is how sensitive the mentally ill person is to meaning, and how insensitive and inauthentic the "normal" person is when it comes to the way they talk. As far as I can tell, at work, "normal" people lie and exaggerate all the time. No one really takes each other seriously. I am trying, at home, to hold him to too high a standard of behavior.

I think, because of all the noise I made, my husband will not soon be calling me lazy. But because my husband really feels that "lazy" is an innocent, innocuous word, and because he does harbor guilt and self recrimination against his lifestyle on the weekends, I will hear the word "lazy" again. My only hope is that when he uses the word, he calls himself lazy, and leaves me out of it.

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