The Pathological Truth Journal

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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

I am not particularly good at anything.  I don’t count myself as smart or emotionally savvy.  I can pick things up and do them fast and dirty but when it comes to real understanding I don’t have a lot.  I’m not really great or even really good at anything.  I usually find after a few months at work that I’m really not cut out for the job but they gave it to me because on appearance it seems as though I should be able to do it.  To me, this isn’t really a problem.  It’s just part of who I am.  The problem comes when I try to tell other people that I am, on the whole, rather incompetent.  There are two reactions.

  1. “Oh, you just want attention!”
  2. “You’re too hard on yourself.”

Neither of these is true.  I’m simply very aware of my flaws and shortcomings.  This has caused me to wonder a couple of different things.

Why is this considered a bad thing? 

I realize that I am archaic.  I believe in forgiveness and mercy.  I believe we are all deeply flawed and broken.  We are not what we should be.  All of us have the same darkness, the same egotism, the same flawed nature.  So, why not admit it?  I have never understood the shame in this. I do recognize that as a citizen of the U.S.A. this culture, being very individualistic and “can do” that saying “I can’t” is considered wrong.  We believe we can do anything with our own power if we just try hard enough.  But that isn’t true.  Speaking Scripturally, that isn’t true.  The people who we’re supposed to look up to in the Bible screwed up more often then they would like us to count.  If we allow ourselves to say maybe we’re not perfect then we can really take a look at ourselves and others.  We could offer the grace to others that we would want ourselves to others.  We could look at others with fresh eyes knowing they have the same fallible nature that we have.  Personally, I think this would be great.  Imagine not needing to make constant excuses or blame others because it’s OK to say that you made a mistake and not need to worry about being fired.

So, what do I want people to say to me?

I want to vent sometimes.  I want to go to people and say “this is how I feel”.  There are so many times I feel like I’m drowning and I want to tell someone but invariably there are the two reactions.  I thought about what I would want to hear for a long time.  I think the only reason it’s bothering me so much now is because I am no longer hearing the words that I found comforting.  So, if you come across someone who also realizes their own incompetence here is what I would suggest.

  1. Life is complicated and messy. – Sometimes bad things just do happen and it’s hard to understand.
  2. We’re all just sort of winging it. – You may not realize it but we all look more put together on the outside than we often feel on the inside.  Most of the time every person is just trying to do the best they can.
  3. Just because you’re mostly incompetent doesn’t mean you aren’t worthwhile – I’ve never heard anyone say this but I would sure like to hear it sometimes.


I temped for a lawn & garden manufacturer. They are awesome people but there was something strange about the place. There were always plastic pink flamingos around. They were everywhere but that plant doesn’t make or distribute them. The flamingos were in offices and cubicles. They were made into lamps, into art, into all sorts of things (along with really cool welded sculptures). I found I really loved those flamingos. Not in some hipster ironic way but I loved them sincerely and honestly. As I was born on that wonderful holiday “National Plastic Pink Flamingo Day” I received an entire box of flamingos for fulfilling my duties. The HR manager at the time even decorated the entire office in the most amazing way ever. Again, awesome.


Well, I have no understanding of electrical engineering. But I can do random things with random stuff. So, how would you like to learn how to build your very own flamingophone? Of course you want one! Who doesn’t? Granted, I’m not finished with this project as there are a few issues I need to work out. A capped reed instrument like this requires a lot of finesse but I don’t really finesse anything. Anyway, let’s get started.

1.The reed

This is the dulcet tone of the American Flamingo:

How does one re-create such majesty? Have you ever heard a crumhorn played poorly? It’s a near perfect match and my eventual goal. The crumhorn is a capped double reed instrument with quite a unique sound. Now, before you go out to get a crumhorn reed let me warn you that I’ve only found them in the UK and with shipping the cost of one plastic reed will run about $50.00. I won’t spend that much money on anything. I experimented with quite a few reeds trying to find something perfect. It had to be easy to vibrate but also durable. Then, one night I was talking to a friend when it hit me. Bagpipes. Of course! Bagpipes! Bagpipes are also a capped double reed instrument. The plastic reeds can be found easily and they are pretty durable. But hey, if you want something else I’m not going to judge you.

2. The beak
Take the beak off your flamingo. It just snaps off. There will be a little knob thing the beak sits on:
We need to get rid of this. Once that is done clean up the hole a bit.

3. Finger holes
Obviously, you’ll want to make your flamingo sing a variety of pitches. Creating finger holes requires a detailed knowledge of physics. One must measure the thickness of the material, the bore of the cylinder and take into account what one needs to be able to play. (Chromatic? Quarter tones? Twelve tone? Just John Cage’s 4’33”?) Yeah. I didn’t feel like doing any of that so I just poked some holes to see if it worked.

4. Placing the reed
I tried various materials to stop the hole and place the reed. I originally tried cork but found it too brittle. So, go to a science supply shop and buy various sizes of rubber stoppers for beakers. Yes, they will look at you funny but you are building a flamingophone. This goes with the territory. You haven’t questioned my judgement so far. (Why you haven’t is beyond me but let’s continue.) Find one of the stoppers with hole. Shove the stopper in the hole you cut near the beak. You want it in there pretty tight. The reason to get an assortment of stoppers is that you have no idea exactly how big that hole will be. Once that is done you’ll need to place the reed in the stopper. Thankfully, plastic reeds are pretty forgiving but be as gentle as you can.

5. Other stuff
You’ll notice that there isn’t a cap yet. Well, I haven’t gotten that far. I need to reconstruct a place for the beak out of plastic. Since I have the measuring skills of a gnat I think I’m going to outsource that one. I also have some air leaking somewhere that I need to trouble shoot. So, we’ll finish this project whenever I get around to it. However, if you have followed me to this point then you at least have a glorious plastic roseate spoonbill.

This is a rough draft of a semi-true (sort of, in a way) kind of story. All of the names have been changed as I doubt they really want to associate themselves with this sort of thing.

It took months to convince me they weren’t all reptilian aliens from the fourth dimension. The corporate office was settled in the most unsociable part of Pennsylvania. Caught between the attitude of New York, the bureaucracy of Maryland and the politeness Ohio seemed to fill Pennsylvanians with some sort of secret resentment. However, those offices were filled with smiling people who worked with incredible speed and efficiency to support the making of lawn and garden tools. While the people seemed to have their own language and culture everyone I met tried their best to be inclusive. All of this was peculiar enough as smiles and reassurances generally hide an ulterior motive in the business world. Yet, most people who worked there seemed to genuinely desire that all people be happy… And also buy the tools they made to facilitate ease in gardening. The happiness, incredible abilities and inclusivity were just circumstantial evidence to their alien nature. It was the flamingos that sealed my conspiracy theory. Although I was (unfortunately) assured they didn’t make any plastic pink flamingos at the plant, there were always boxes of them around. I couldn’t go a few feet without finding one of those plastic pink lawn ornaments. There was never any satisfactory explanation for those rosy birds. However, each box seemed to say to me “no advanced alien race who desired humanity’s return to agricultural roots would bother with these silly things”. It was classic reverse psychology. Clever. Yet during my months there I never saw any of them shape shift. So, maybe there was some more reasonable explanation for everything.

Aliens or not, I was contracted to work in the Human Resources department as a temporary employee. To be honest, it was great. The people were nice and there was always something interesting going on. They even gave me a tour to see giant robot arms in action. How many office temps get to see stuff like that? Human Resources in particular always had some mystery to solve. It was like being a detective, except without people shooting at you and with more regular hours. Sure, as the person in the office who knew the least I ended up with most of the spreadsheet work or filing but even that work was exciting in its own way. I spent my days either cataloging or sifting through raw information in order to find answers or make it so others could find out whatever needed to be found. They even let me use one of the empty offices, which if nothing else, made me feel important. Sure, it also doubled as a supply closet but it was an office… And one that was sort of on a corner too. The only real complaint I had was that the room was always cold. Of course, there are only two temperature settings in any corporate building: arctic tundra or equatorial summer.

“Jess, I need to pull off that report. We have some trouble.” Willow hurried into the office wearing her worried smile.

I don’t think I ever saw Willow without some sort of smile on her face. She was the Human Resources Manager for the entire corporation. Every complaint, policy It looked like an exhausting task some days but every day she came in with a smile and did her best. She made sure everyone felt as if they were heard, if not by her then by the appropriate person in charge. If a company could have a heart, Willow would be its aorta in other words, something indispensible.

“What’s up?” I asked, mainly out of curiosity. They rarely gave me any details as to why I was working on a certain project. This wasn’t out of any hostility they were just super busy. However, this time there was an answer. It was maybe the most interesting answer I had ever heard.

“It’s the strangest thing. For the past month, every Tuesday morning, a case of flamingos goes missing. It’s there one minute and gone the next and no one has been able to find out how it’s happening. Who would even take something like that?”

“Hipsters. Lovers of kitsch… Oh! People fighting with their HOA.” Sometimes I’m a little slow when it comes to rhetorical questions.

Willow waited patiently for me to finish. “Right.” She nodded, still wearing the same tense smile. “I sent you some files of the people who work Monday night and Tuesday morning for the past three weeks. I have meetings this afternoon. Can you see who worked each of those weeks? Once you have a list you can pull their files to see if there are any disciplinary actions.”

“Do you think it could be more than one person?”

“At this point we aren’t ruling anything out.”

“I’m on it.” I gave her a thumbs up.

As I checked my email Willow returned to her job of trying to answer every employee’s question at once. With a few clicks the spreadsheet popped open. I scanned the information deciding how to get what I needed out of the nearly raw data.

If life was like a TV show this is where the montage takes over. There would be cool mood lighting and background music while everything comes together in a few minutes. Real life data mining isn’t quite like that. It’s still awesome in its own completely tedious way but everything doesn’t come together in a few minutes. Find all the data. Copy the data. Paste the data on a new sheet. Click, hide the unnecessary information. Click, sort. Click, filter, Click, sort again. Repeat those steps to input all the weeks into the same workbook. Click, click, click and name the ranges. Input the lookup formulas. Check to make sure the formula is pulling the right data. If not go back and make sure everything is pulling the same named data from the right places or just sort it again. When it looks good… Copy, paste, drag. Finally, filter and sort all the information again. Done.

Although, it doesn’t seem like that should take a long time it took me the better part of the morning to come up with the list. Out of the almost 300 employees who had worked every Monday night or Tuesday morning in question there were 76 suspects who matched all the data points. I printed the list. While it wasn’t thousands of suspects there were still a few too many people. I would need a way to narrow it down.

If Willow was part of the heart of the company then Tabitha, the Human Resources Administrator was its memory. Not that she wasn’t super nice also. She never swore and she smiled almost as often as Willow. There was a reason all the employees liked her. In fact, she was one to start calling me Jess in the office. And for whatever reason the nickname made me feel inordinately cool. In addition to all of those qualities her memory was amazing. I mean that very literally, as in, I was amazed. If Tabitha ever said something sounded familiar then it was. She was the kind of person capable of holding millions of pieces of information in her head and more importantly quickly retrieving that information. Tabitha would be the perfect person to help find the more interesting people on my list.

I removed a few jackets and made my way out of the frigid office toward Tabitha’s desk. She sat in the middle of the Human Resources office where she could see and hear everything. That way, everyone who passed by had a chance to use her almost inhumanly brilliant skills.

“Hey, Tabitha. Do you have a second?”

She looked over to me and pointed at the phone she was holding. I grimaced and whispered an apology.

“We have a spot open on Tuesday at 2:10 PM. Does that work for you? Great. We’ll see you then.” Tabitha put down the phone and turned to me. “Hi, Jess. What did you need?”

“Willow has me working on the missing flamingos. I’ve the list narrowed down to these people. Do you think you could take a look and see if any names jump out at you. Then, I could start looking through those files first.”

“Sure. Let me see.”

I handed the paper over. Tabitha scanned the names. She took a pen and wrote a few notes in the margins.

“I would start with those people and work your way down the list after that.” She suggested with a smile. “Sorry I couldn’t narrow it down any more.”

“No. This is great. That sounds like a good plan. Thank you.” I turned to go back to Antarctica then stopped as a thought formed in the back of my head. “Who actually makes the flamingos? Where do they come from?”

Tabitha thought for a moment then laughed. “I don’t actually know. I would talk to Mike about that.”

Mike was the man in charge of plastics. To me, that meant he was in charge of everything plastic. All of the wheelbarrows, plastic fences, flamingos, any twist ties that were found on the ground… Whatever it was, if it was plastic Mike was the guy in charge of it. In spite of all of the challenges of having the responsibility of all of the production for every plastic thing and the employees under him, he maintained a good (if slightly self-depreciating) sense of humor about it all. I’d only ever seen him irritated once and that was talking about what he couldn’t get done. So, dealing with him was pretty easy. There was one problem. Asking Mike anything was a nigh impossible task. Since he was in charge of every plastic thing in existence it was hard to get a hold of him. Rather than taking on another mystery, I set to work looking through the files of the suspects listed.

Contained within the files of every employee was their life story. The papers could only give a certain amount of information on what an employee did. There were disciplinary actions, promotions, basic identification and all sorts of job related material but that was just the tip of the iceberg. These files also contained every motivation behind every employee action. Why did that man ask for a raise? He has a new wife and baby at home. Why has that woman’s productivity declined recently? She recently lost her mother. The ability to look into another person’s life so intimately was more than a little creepy. Of course, unlike marketing which sells that kind of information to the highest bidder, every person I had met in any Human Resources position guarded those files securely. They were guardians and gate keepers.

Even though I wasn’t a real Human Resources employee, as a temp it was my duty to uphold their values. So, I pulled the disciplinary actions of the people who matched my data points and promptly forgot everything else. I made copies of all of the files and pulled the data onto the spreadsheet. From that central location an incomplete pattern began to emerge. There is nothing more frustrating than that fuzzy picture. It’s the kind of feeling that if there was just one more piece of the puzzle everything would fall into place. However, solving this case wasn’t my task. I was asked to compile a list and that’s what I did. I quickly sent an email with the spreadsheet over to Willow.

To be continued whenever…

For the past few months I was temping at a company.  Given all of the documents I signed at the agency regarding confidentiality I won’t mention the name.  However, if you are incredibly curious (because I think they’re a good company), I will give you some hints: it’s a US company that manufactures non-powered lawn and garden tools, has been around since 1700s and has a corporate office in central PA.  They were great people and it was a great company.  I enjoyed my time there.  All things being equal I would have preferred to stay there.  Unfortunately, all things were not equal and at this time they don’t have a space for me.  I have to admit I was disappointed.  That may mean something awful to some people but to me it means I had a preference.  That hasn’t happened in about two years.  What I did really didn’t matter all that much to me because without my husband it was all incredibly boring.  So, the point of this post is to figure out what I liked and what I want… Other than a beach house.

1. The People: A business is a business.  The people inside that business make it good, bad, indifferent or generous.  The people I met there listened to others and tried to understand different points of view.  They were generous with their knowledge (as long as it wasn’t security related, personal or proprietary information).  If you needed help understanding something people would help you.  They worked hard to balance the needs of their customers, individual employees and the health of the company as a whole, which isn’t easy.  Heck, I even saw one supervisor take time after an interview to give really good advice to an applicant he turned down so the guy could work on some areas and might be hired in the future.

2. What They Make: The place where I temped makes lawn and garden tools.  This company tries to make the best rakes, shovels, hose reels and flamingos ever.  They let me see how they were made which was really cool.  These are tools that work well with people who are into organic gardening.  And being human powered they make tools that can assist the most sustainable agriculture.  None of that is creepy.  In fact, in an era where more people would like to grow some of their own food and reconnect with nature it must be great to make something to facilitate that need.  (By the way if anyone from that company ever reads this please do a video on how tools there are made and put it on Youtube.  Your plant is so fascinating.  Explain to marketing that it’s cheap advertising in order to use their budget.)

3. A Spirit of Generosity: While I was temping there I saw them hand out a scholarship to an employee’s child. They were also in the middle of preparing for a charity event.  It’s easy to be cynical about charity from businesses.  Sure, it is marketing in one sense but it isn’t how they spoke to each other in the course of the day.  They talked about how important it was to fund the scholarships and other good works.  They talked about what they thought was the right thing to do.  They also try their hardest to translate this in how they treated each other.

4. Desire To Do What Is Right: Again, this can be seen as something cynical.  No organization wants to be sued over anything.  And again, that isn’t how they spoke about it.  In spite of the sometimes sardonic humor of the management the only real frustration I had seen there was when they felt impeded by some rule or law that prevented them from doing what would help their employees.

5. Community: Although they own plants all over the US that do various things this company seeks to be part of its community.  They made a community garden on their property.  It is involved with local charities.  That is important and often forgotten in the rush to globalize the economy.

6. Non Creepy Marketing: The people in the marketing department and the sales departments were nice people.  I’m sure they have their own quotas and brand discussions and all of that stuff.  I’m sure they have the pressure of knowing they need to get people to buy the stuff being manufactured.  What amazed me is that they didn’t come across as sales people under pressure.  They spoke like people who wanted other people to garden more.  It was decidedly refreshing in the age of track everyone and then bombard them with advertising.  Like most parts of the company it looked like it was more about building relationships rather than screaming about whatever you’ve done.  I think this is a combination of the people involved and believing in your products.

So, what am I looking for in a workplace?  I am looking for a place with good people who make good things and sell them without being creepy.  Also, the company needs to be part of the community, desire to do what is right and be generous.  Anyone know a place like that?

Before I start let me tell you of my new invention.  I am going to create a computer with a robotic arm/hand combo.  This hand will gently tap you on the shoulder when you are watching a video (or reading a column) and scroll down toward the comments.  A pop up will appear to remind you that there is nothing worthwhile in the comments section.  The hand will also slap you if you start to type.

This is obviously a joke but I have made the mistake of reading Youtube comments again.  These were not videos of any contentious subject.  I wasn’t watching about feminism or immigration or political whatever.  I watched Epic Rap Battles of History and a video where a kid bought his mom her dream car.  Heck, I could have watched kittens playing and probably found the same comments.  Anyway, the comments I found most often were some variations of “you should just kill yourself” and “I hope you die painfully”.

Can we, as the general human populace, stop saying those kinds of comments?  Can we stop the idea that if someone does or thinks something (even if we think it is dumb) that we should then wish death upon that person?  Granted, this is usually said by miserable people who are too young to know what hateful words those are.  I am also aware that these sorts of comments aren’t anything new.  Hatred has existed in the heart of humanity for a long time.  Still, it’s disturbing how many “just die” comments can be easily found.  It isn’t funny and it usually isn’t true that the world would be better off without someone.  Even after reading the comments section I still believe most people aren’t psychotic killers who want to destroy people.  (And even then, it’s not about hate but rather the safety of everyone.)

In his lifetime my husband said some dumb things to me.  He was brilliant but we’re all fallible.  (To be fair I probably said twice as many dumb things to him.)  My husband didn’t kill himself.  He did wait too long to get help.  He was too concerned with the possibility of financial burden on me to call the ambulance in time.   Then he died while I tried resuscitating him.  It wasn’t pretty and it was painful for him.  There was a part of him that honestly believed it would be better to die than to burden me and the world.  Am I better off?  No.  Is the world better off?  No.  Has any misconception he ever had disappeared from the world?  Of course not.  His death solved absolutely nothing.  It’s been over a year his family, friends and I still miss him terribly.

When anyone invites death upon another person whether in a comments section or in person they invite misery upon everyone that person touched.  Of course, it probably won’t happen and anyone saying “kill yourself” will just look like a miserable jerk.  Still, why would anyone even want that for other people?  Why make things worse for others when things can already be difficult?

More than all of this pondering we all need to realize that words have power.  I don’t mean something like the power to conjure fire and kill others.  Our words contain our will.  They are where we direct ourselves and the tiny insignificant part of the world we can control.  Words can also help and hinder our own emotional state.  If I were to show such dreadful judgement over someone who says something stupid what happens when I say something stupid?  Heck, from the time I could speak to the right now I have said a lot of dumb stuff.  Sure, I can cover it and be a hypocrite but there will linger the feeling that since I said something stupid that I am no longer worthy of life myself.  When those words become a habit, repeated to others and to myself, my emotions and will change.  That death that the stupid deserve is then my own.

Finally, let’s say we think the person who says something dumb is simply a troll.  Well, we’ve all done troll-like things sometimes.  We are all capable of simply ignoring that kind of behavior.  What I would advocate even more is forgiving the person as we would want to be forgiven in our own troll behavior.

Maybe that’s the answer.  Let’s imagine that some alternate reality version of our own person sits on the other side of that computer typing saying things that sometimes aren’t the smartest.  Let’s treat each person as we would want to be treated in a moment of stupidity.  And if it is still the case that someone would rather destroy him or her self rather than let it go maybe that person can get some insight. In any case, whatever the reason, let’s just stop saying that we want people to die.

It will probably be no surprise for me to say that I am a casual gamer.  I’m not a hardcore person  yelling at teammates when someone messes up.  This is mostly because I would be the one to mess up.  But I’m also not someone who thinks games are a complete waste of time.  At least, not the fun games with good writing and sometimes terrible puns.

I routinely play two free turn based browser RPGs.  They are: Kingdom of Loathing and Twilight Heroes.  Both of these games are very fun, not terribly frustrating and well written.  In Kingdom of Loathing I get messages from people who think I sold something for too little meat (“and here is some more”) or receive Crimbo presents from complete strangers.  Odd for a game filled with disco bandits and accordion thieves.  In Twilight Heroes they have incredibly welcoming and helpful people.  They also have a league of crazy buffers and that is kind of awesome.

Shortly before my husband died I signed up for a contest in Twilight Heroes.  I’m not great at these games so I didn’t expect to get a prize but it was a good way to learn about how things work.  Three days after the funeral the contest started.  I thought about backing out.  I was a newbie and it wasn’t like I was going to win.  I can’t do an entire run in less than a couple of weeks at my fastest.  I also didn’t feel like doing anything at all.  It hurt so much that I couldn’t think or even breathe.  To be honest, I often still feel that way.

For whatever stupid reason I started the contest and played.  I got up every day fed the rabbit, sat down beside the rabbit and played Twilight Heroes and Kingdom of Loathing and then stared at the TV without comprehension for the rest of the day.  I could concentrate for those couple of hours but not much more than that.

I can’t say I enjoyed it in the same way as before but as silly and as small a thing as a game can be it was a reason to do something each day.  (Turns only accumulate to a certain point so after a couple days you use them or lose turns.)  I can’t say I looked forward to playing but it was something to do each day that did not completely suck.

There are big reasons to keep going and there are small reasons.  The problem with a lot of the big reasons (not all but a lot of them) is that they take deep resources to make worthwhile.  It takes the commitment of your mind, heart, body and will to run a marathon or go to the important and meaningful job.  The payout is tremendous but when you’re grieving those parts of you are difficult to give.  With the small things the comforts and rewards are less but what you need to put in isn’t nearly as costly.  That’s important when you don’t have a lot of yourself to give.  It’s also very important not to make those small comforts into the big reasons for living.  When you do that then you become the kid your party screaming at someone for messing up a run and that’s not cool.

The point of this long winded rambling is this: be thankful for the people who create things that give you a small comfortable reason to wake up each day.  Thank and support the creators if you can.   Also, you should play both Kingdom of Loathing and Twilight Heroes.  They are fun games.

Pastor Mark Rossington and the staff of Epiphany Lutheran Church were kind enough to send me a copy of my husband’s memorial service.  Since we both have friends and family all over the country (and outside the country) I greatly appreciated it.  But for the longest time I couldn’t even look at the CD.  I have now uploaded the service for those who wanted to hear it.  If necessary I ask for forgiveness in my weakness and delay.

I asked Pastor Mark if the memorial service could sort of like the installation service when a pastor begins his work.  Except in this case instead of beginning it was to close his work and thank God for that time.  Pastor Mark understood my meaning and called everyone.  All of the pastors in the area were very obliging and came out to the service to each read a passage of the Bible and say a prayer.  I was obliged again when I asked if the whole of the resurrection of Lazarus could be read.  I could not have asked for a service more beautiful or fitting.

Memorial Service:
Prayers, Hymns and Readings
Committal, Prayers and Closing Hymn

I have been getting ready to move.  As I was going through things I found this letter.  Pastor Mark had a Saturday morning Bible study.  Shortly after we moved here he asked if my husband wanted to teach it.  Pastor Mark, like most of the pastors I’ve met, are not egomaniacs.  Every Saturday my husband would drop me off at work and drive down to teach.  He loved it teaching that class. The people were bright, interested, talkative and inquisitive.  He loved them and they loved him.  I was so happy for him and so proud of his service to God.  I am blessed that I had a chance to know these wonderful people.

Adding Life

Luke 12:25-26
And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?

This was part of the reading today at church.  A lot of times I feel as though I worried my husband to death.  I didn’t mean to cause him any anxiety but often I did anyway.  I was so worried about his health.  I was so worried about how to take care of him. He saw all of that.  My anxiety didn’t exist in a vacuum. My husband was my best friend.  He was with me most of the day and he saw how stressed I was.  Just like I felt like a failure for not being able to take care of him he felt the same about me.  He used to tell me over and over again to trust God who promised to take care of us.  I was still anxious as if that could hold everything together.  And with all of that worry between the two of us he still died at 45 years old.  I couldn’t change a thing.

Part of me wants to scream that this is important so of course I should be worried.  I should worry because…  Why?  I worry because almost nothing is in my control.  I worry because part of me isn’t sure if God really loves me so I hold onto fear.  I worry because I think I know better.  The reason I wanted to join a convent isn’t because I thought I was holy.  I know just how weak my faith is and I am a coward.

To put it in the most blunt terms, sometimes I desire to be a god.  That is the most arrogant and awful desire I have.  Unfortunately, it’s a thought many people have but never articulate.  It is so easy to fall prey to the desire to be a little god and control everything.  We think we know better so we refuse to trust God.  This can all manifest in terrible doubt, anger and anxiety.  This arrogance can manifest in the belief that we can control the most dangerous situation because we are just that good.  There is one major flaw with all of this.  We are all just flawed humans.  I can’t control when I will die anymore than I can will ten million dollars into my bank account.  Worrying about either won’t make a difference.

I have a dream that occurs at random intervals.  The details are always the same.  In the dream I die.  It is always dark and there is always music.  It is a perfect song that I can not describe in any terms.  I know there is light there where the song is but I can’t see it.  There is always a voice (that isn’t a voice) in the darkness.  The voice tells me that as long as I believe I am a god I will never hear that music again.  Then, I wake up.  It doesn’t matter why this dream happens (subconscious thoughts or random firings of neurons).  I am just thankful for it.

What I’m saying seems harsh to some people.  However, it is all the same reminder.  The first part is that I can not save myself and attain perfection any more than I could add to my husband’s life through the magic of anxiety.  The second part is that God does love us.  He sent Jesus to die for us so we can have eternal life.  I am redeemed through Christ’s death and through Christ I will see my husband again.  No matter what happens to this body that future is secure.

All of this doesn’t mean I won’t worry again.  It is likely that anxiety will trouble me all of my life.  I will sin again in many ways.  I will need more reminders throughout my life.  I give thanks that I can repent and receive forgiveness.    I give thanks that I will not be swallowed by that arrogance, doubt and fear.  I give thanks for God’s mercy and love.  I also give thanks for songs that remind us of this love.

I am alone now.  There is no one in my life who would know my wishes should something happen to me.  Granted, I’m in my 30s so unless something happens that is unlikely to happen for about 45 years.  Still, things do happen and this life will come to an end.  Having now been on the decision making end I know how painful it is.  Even when you know the person so well that you feel like one soul in two bodies it’s hard.  You want to finish the last jobs and responsibilities as that person would have wanted and not always in a way that makes sense to you.  Even being married we have our own hobbies and separate accounts for all sorts of things.  So, I have put together a list of things to do before you die so to ease the burden for the people responsible for wrapping up your life.  All of this feels morbid when you are writing it up but I can not tell you how hard it is for your spouse or family to think straight while grief stricken.

1. Get a will.  Even if you don’t have anything to give away this will help because there is no other way to deal with Paypal.  (Yes, I am still dealing with them.)  In all seriousness, having a will if you are not married is the easiest way to deal with everything and keep people from fighting.  If you are married most states have laws in effect which make the spouse the automatic beneficiary of everything.  Remember that probate is long and expensive and people will be hurting while going to court.

2. Plan your funeral or at least how you would like your remains dealt with and write it down.  Keep it somewhere safe but accessible.  Most people don’t care all that much about how their funeral is conducted.  That’s true for me and it was true for my husband.  However, when people love you they want to give you the funeral you would have wanted.  Even knowing that a funeral or memorial service is for the living doesn’t quite make that feeling go away.  It doesn’t need to be an elaborate plan but decide whether it’s cremation or burial, if you would like a certain denomination of church and maybe some music.  That takes a lot of the burden from your loved ones of wondering whether they made the “right” decision.

3. Write down your passwords and keep them somewhere safe.  I mean all of the passwords.  You obviously don’t want this where it can be stolen in case you are robbed but this is important.  People often don’t realize how their online accounts are tied to other financial accounts.  It is best to close everything when possible.  That way an email account can’t be hacked and used to get into the person’s Amazon account and use their Paypal account.  Even when debit cards, credit cards and bank accounts are closed there is generally an offer for an Amazon card or a Paypal “pay later” option.  The person responsible for your estate will then be responsible for that hassle.  And be sure to write in your will specifically about Paypal.  Paypal will want to see that.

4. Take pictures.  My husband hated pictures of himself.   I understood that since I feel the same way.  It’s different when you can’t see that person anymore.  I don’t have a strong visual memory anyway and I am afraid of forgetting him.  Let people take your picture.  (Just ask that they not post it anywhere.)

5. Figure out how to deal with a collection.  My husband was a collector.  He wasn’t a hoarder.  I mean he had a collection of rare items.  He told me to sell them off if something happened.  I appreciate that because now I don’t have the guilt or feel the need to hang on to every single piece.  If you do collect stuff you might want to take it a step further and leave a plan for how to deal with it.  Some things make sense to sell on Ebay but other items don’t work there or are very expensive and should go to an auction house.  Don’t expect your loved ones to know the difference between something priceless and junk.

6. Have your spouse on the bills and have a joint checking account.  Most spouses have a joint checking account but for a few years my husband and I didn’t.  It wasn’t out of animosity but it was the way things worked out.  A joint checking account means there are more funds available.  I was not named on a couple of the utilities when he died.  Again, not out of animosity but because my husband worked from home most of the time and just signed everything himself.  Most utilities are pretty easy to deal with.  People die and they have a procedure to either close the account and get one in your name or transfer responsibilities.  However, remember that this is one more thing your spouse needs to do when they are already not thinking quite straight.

7. Don’t be a dick and deal with your problems when you are alive.  If you have problems in your marriage deal with them.  Your spouse will read your journal.  Your spouse will find out if you signed up for cheating websites.  I found out a few days after my husband’s funeral that he flirted with someone online.  He had also written about it in his journal (that he felt it was wrong but still).  I ripped those pages out and burned them.  I nearly torched the whole journal.  Why?  Because I was already insecure, angry and terrified without him.  Add to that any possibility that maybe he didn’t really love me and I just went nuts.  Thankfully, this was an example with no basis for those insecurities.  Imagine if there really was something going on.  I can not begin to tell you how almost insane with grief a person can feel when losing a spouse.  If you are a liar you will be found out eventually and your spouse will be left in the deepest confusion, anger and fear.  All of your issues will be magnified and given to your spouse when you die.  Deal with your life while you are living it and get help if you need it.

8. Tell your loved ones that they are loved.  If you can write down a message for people you love.  You will not believe what a difference that makes.  This isn’t an excuse to not love people while you live.  You can’t be a complete jerk and then leave someone a note saying that you feel the opposite of your actions.  Love people while you are alive too.

9. Understand that all of this is morbid and most people don’t want to talk about it.  My husband and I joked about death sometimes.  Those jokes make me feel bad now and I hope he never believed for a moment that I was serious.  We never did talk about how either of us would want every arrangement handled even though he had heart trouble in the past.  It’s so hard to think of ourselves as mortal.  No one wants to think about losing someone or losing their own life.  But it is going to happen.  If you can afford to get an attorney that is a great option since it is legal and you don’t need to put your loved ones through the hassle.  If you can’t afford an attorney then take some time to write some stuff out and just keep it somewhere safe.  Then, after you are finished writing, go and hug the people who love you.