Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bucket List

A bucket list is a list of things you wish to do before you die.

I compiled one yesterday for my brother to read. Here it is;

1. Going to Ireland and staying for a little while.
2. Owning a really tiny little dog, that I can carry around with me.
3. Visiting major art museums in NYC, Washington D.C., London, Paris and Rome.
4. Hand knitting a blanket.
5. Ballroom dancing with my husband.
6. Swimming naked.
7. Eating totally vegetarian for a year.
8. Writing a book, or several.
9. Writing a song and singing it with back up instrumentals.
10. Reading all of Shakespeare's plays (with a critical guide to literature so I understand everything).

I told my husband yesterday about the list, and what makes number one. He was intrigued, because going to Ireland is something he would like very much to do. So we made a strategy. This Saturday is the first time the company has authorized over-time work in about a year. He worked about three hours. When he gets a statement from his company of how much he was paid in over-time, we will take half that amount and put it into a savings account titled "Ireland". Half the amount will go into the household budget, but half will go towards making our dream a reality. We don't even know how much we would need to go to Ireland. I would want to buy a handmade sweater and Irish jewelry. But mostly, we would want to see the land. There is an art museum in Dublin that of course I would wish to visit. But what I really imagine doesn't include a lot of driving around. I want to find a beautiful spot and stick to it. Walk around a lot, on a trail, by some cliffs. Stay at a Bed and Breakfast. Visit the ruins of a monastery or castle. Do some drawings. Maybe draw my husband's face. Really take the time to artistically study his face. My husband said that knowing that his overtime pay is going toward a trip to Ireland would encourage him to work more. Right now there is not that much overtime work available, so this is an account that would probably grow very slowly. We would have years to plan and research the trip.

I can remember, about 15 years ago, watching television and an add came on for a Cruise line trip. It was an all inclusive package; they provided the air fare to where the boat was initially docked and then as the boat sailed all your meals and entertainment were already paid for too. I watched this add and then I thought - "I am too sick and poor to ever go on this type of vacation."

I was living on disability at the time, and I suffered from symptoms of my illness every day. So much then seemed beyond my ability to ever possess. I had given up on ever getting married because in my experience no man would want the financial burden of a wife who didn't work. The men I dated were living on the edge of poverty and we needed, as a couple, my disability checks. When I marry, because I became sick at such a young age without a history of much work, my disability checks are tiny. I am given much more money by the government, and have far superior health insurance, if I am single. I dated nice men, but they were no fools. They weren't for the sake of love, going to change their style of living, and do with less, just to get married. As my grandmother used to say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free". I would have sex and live with these men, even pay them rent, with my disability check. I had always experienced modern romance, where each partner is responsible financially wholly for themselves.

So I didn't expect a boyfriend to pay for a Cruise boat for me to go on. But I think, besides the money, what got me angry at the advertisement and all the fun it represented to a normal person, was that I was so sick that I knew I couldn't handle an airplane ride, or the stress of traveling through uncharted social territory. The vacation advertised was supposed to be relaxing, but all I saw, were situations that would cause me to get sick and my symptoms to worsen. Back then I could become catatonic, curled up in a little ball not moving in bed after such an emotional, but common, experience such as making love. Yes, once my boyfriend called my mother in a panic because he didn't know what to do with me, I was frozen and uncommunicative after sex. At this time I was also in and out of the hospital, becoming suicidal when stress overwhelmed me. I complain about being fragile now, back then I was more fragile. It was hard to watch an advertisement on television for something that was beyond my ability to handle, but which I knew, the majority of the non-disabled population could handle.

Other advertisements that got me down were for new cars. I was dependent on whatever car my father bought for me. Just having a car, and being sick on disability, I knew, was a luxury. Living in a city, and having contact with really poor mentally ill people, who lived in crime infested apartments, opened my eyes to the luck I experienced by having some little support by my family. The older I grew the less my family wished to support me, as hopes of me making a complete recovery faded, but I did get some financial support from these boyfriends and husbands that I acquired, and that let my family off the hook. Another form of luck I had was that I was white and semi-intelligent and could take advantage of the forms of charity that the city provided. I got food from a food pantry. I went pawing through charity donated clothing or visited the Salvation Army. I used the bus and walked. And good apartments were available to me because I was white and wore nice clothing - when I was interviewed by apartment managers or roommates I made a good impression. Always I said I had disability but I would say that I received assistance from my family, and when they looked at me, they believed me.

I was terrified that one day my family would cut off assistance for my car. They would either not wish to pay for mechanical repairs or they would not wish to pay for insurance. Being dependent on others good will is hard, and unfortunately, I did not enjoy as good a relationship with my family when I was sick as I do now having recovered partially. Now I can hold my tongue and be nice, back then, I said whatever I pleased and often disappointed my family by being too sick to socialize with them. I was absent from many holiday gatherings. I couldn't handle the stress of my youth, my youth being so near to me, and all the fighting I did with my parents when I was young. Perhaps as well I was also an angry person, angry at being sick and powerless over my own mind. My illness made me into a smaller person. It still does. But luckily I have a husband who does not mind me being small, and who takes care of me when I am small.

I think that I could be at my wits end, and survive, while I am visiting Ireland. Because I have a helpmate. He can drive the car when I cannot. He can give me courage to deal with strangers because he can easily socialize when I am paralyzed with fear. We can get a room that is available to me in the middle of the day to rest in. My husband's overtime work will pay for our trip. He takes care of me.

Sometimes after a day of too much activity I lie in bed, awake, and can neither read nor watch television. I just lie very still and let my husband rub my back. There is no conversation. He reads his book, and the back rubbing is rather routine and mechanical. But still, that touch, when I am in mental turmoil, feels good.

Last night we went out and ate pizza. In the booth ahead of us was a young couple with two young children. The baby was quiet in her father's arms. But her brother, while he was being put into a booster seat, got an ouchie somewhere on his body. He had not gone willingly into the booster seat. The mother took him up in her arms and began rubbing his back. I watched him forget to cry. He actually was so comforted by the physical attention that he forgot to cry. Someone who loved him, who he trusted, just by human contact, made the pain go away.

And I thought, "I am on so many nights just like that little boy".

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