Maryland Blue Crabs

I’m a rural Maryland transplant living in South Carolina. I recently went home for a visit. It’s Spring there, and it was in the upper 50s for the first couple of days before it climbed to the lower 70s. Everything is blooming and the farmers are ramping up for the new season. Tractors and Amish buggies share the roads with overly tall pickup trucks and vintage muscle cars. My tiny little tourist town ends at the State Park with cliffs overhanging the river and has a population of around 3000. On the weekends the Pennsylvania Navy lines up to crawl the only road through it to get to their respective yacht clubs. This is life on the Chesapeake Bay in my hillbilly corner of Maryland where I grew up.
You can’t grow up in Maryland without being weaned on steamed blue crabs, crab cakes, crab bisque and crab imperial. Especially the steamed crabs. The current regime scared off the migrant workers that so much of America’s food industry relies on, so last summer they couldn’t find anyone to pick crabs and it drove prices up. It’s still early this year but it looks like the problem will be recurring. Combine that with a lower than normal harvest thanks to the state of our waters and crab prices are sky high. Granted, I’ve been out of Maryland for 9 years, but you used to be able to get a dozen #1s for $15. Right now it’s $50.
Still, steamed crabs at the picnic table are a rite of Spring and a staple of summer that will not be denied. It’s common to wash these down with beer, (not to mention that they are frequently cooked with the same,) but I personally loathe the stuff so it’s water for me.
The day I got there my brother got a half bushel and we sat out at the park to eat. I was still sore and tired and irritable from the long drive, but the crabs were great. My brother is engaged to a woman with three children. She has the same name as me, which is weird, but whatever. So the kids have dubbed me “A.J.” for Aunt Julie. There is an 11 year old girl and two boys, 14 and 16. The eldest was off doing teenager stuff so it was me, my brother, his gf and the two youngest around the picnic table at the local park. It was a nice day and we sat looking out over the river while we ate. The girl is at an age where she is annoyed by her older brother’s interest in girls, and still child enough to want to be clingy and annoying. The 14 year old thinks he is King Pimp Daddy and some sort of sex god. Maybe he is to the 14 year old girls. He certainly goes through enough of them. He’s the bad boy type and in trouble at school, where his older brother is sensitive and quiet.
Julie was laughing about a message I sent her when I watched Aquaman. I mean, have you seen Aquaman? Holy. shit. I told her I had posted a meme with a photo of Jason Momoa as Aquaman with something about how it wasn’t the only thing getting wet tonight. She and I were cackling and lusting over that beautiful man. I turned to my little brother. His head was down and his ears were beet red. His crab required his undivided attention. Then I remembered there were children there. The girl was smirking and looking mildly disgusted. The boy had his head down too, but he was snickering under his breath and peeking up at me. That just got me to laughing even more. It was great. It was family… something I frequently miss. Times like that are rare, and they always make me wish I had kids to embarass. It’s the feeling of belonging that I want. I have that with my brother.
As much as I love my hometown, I’ve never fit in there. It’s the environment I love. Unfortunately, having intellectual, obscure, and dark interests alienates me from a large portion of the population. While I was there I saw a man in his twenties walking around in a jacket that was entirely printed with a Confederate flag. Many of the locals still fly it, especially the racists. Showing intelligence is seen as putting on airs and is call to be cut down. I learned in elementary school not to use my full vocabulary, and even so, I still get called out on it on a regular basis. People have assumed I’m a snob because I read a lot, I’m quiet, I’m curious, I don’t find crude humor humorous. I’m strange to them and that’s ok. I’ve come to terms with it long ago, but it does leave me lonely.
Steamed blue crabs at the picnic table with family levels all that out. I can explain to my brother the symbolism he missed in Hannibal and make crude comments about men equally and be accepted. Back at my room later that night, I gave the kids a stack of comic books I had already read. The boys honed in on a Vampirella comic, of course. They were sharing it and talking to each other in low voices while the girl loudly announced how disgusting they were. As they were about to leave, I saw she had snatched the Vampirella one and wanted me to take it back. She got tapped on the back of the head by her eldest brother for her trouble while the younger one snatched it back. They all gave their “AJ” a hug before leaving and we made plans for the next day. My brother texted me when they got home that he was glad I was up and that they had fun. I agreed and went to sleep smiling over the day. 

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Relationships

Relationships take two and they need to be tended. Some people think that any effort they put towards the relationship is done to establish it, but once established they’re finished. That does not work. It is like any other precious thing. You cannot starve it and expect it to thrive.
Some of my relationships are starving, but I cannot feed them myself. Relationships take effort from both parties. If I ask, repeatedly, for a relationship to be tended but it is refused, repeatedly, what am I supposed to do? My therapist says I should make new relationships, but that’s much easier said than done. I let very few people get close to me, so when I have let someone get close I am very loathe to give up on it. I try to save it long past the point most people would give up. My unwillingness to abandon relationships makes the other person value it less, I think. They take it for granted and assume I’ll always be there. But there does eventually come a point where I say enough is enough.
I don’t have parents, or any sort of normal relationship with my extended relatives. In fact, most of them on one side are actually enemies. I have my brother and my elderly grandmother. I have an uncle and a cousin I talk to. So I think I try to make family out of my other relationships. My friend T was closer to me than anyone in the world, but she betrayed me and it is broken beyond repair. The lack of that every day, lifelong relationship with someone I trusted completely has left a very large void in my life. I don’t think it will ever be filled. More than that, it shook my foundations, if that makes sense. I thought nothing would ever come between us. I believed she was family, and even after she did what she did, I still thought of her that way for years. It took a very long time for me to let it go. Now I no longer have that faith in other relationships, because if the person closest in the world to me could leave, then anyone could. That knowledge is in the back of my mind in my interactions with others and it makes me a little cautious.
My “adopted daughter” hasn’t been responding to texts. She has always been notoriously bad about keeping in touch. Her brother is the same way. It may be millenials as a whole, I don’t know. She hates the phone, so fine, text is good. But then she doesn’t respond to texts either, and I have to go find her on tumblr to get hold of her and it’s irritating. I do not want to feel like I have to guilt her to respond. She tells me she misses me and can’t wait to see me, etc, but then when I’m coming up she again doesn’t respond. So I wrote again and asked her wtf? She said she was in pain and hadn’t been using her phone. Well that’s all well and good but I messaged her five times on five different days and sent two emails with no response. I also haven’t messaged her for two months. I pointed all this out and told her how long I’d be up. She didn’t respond and I’m not going to chase her.

This is just depressing me more. I”m done for now.

Queen of the Nursing Home

My 93 year old grandmother is in the Alzheimer’s ward at the nursing home. She doesn’t have it, but when they first admitted her she was hallucinating from her medication so they thought she did. Now she’s comfortable and refuses to be moved to the regular ward. She knows the people and patterns of her environment and rules the ward with an iron fist and strident voice.
I walk in to visit her and find her wearing big, red, heart-shaped sunglasses with little rhinestones around the edges. One of the employees gave them to her for Valentine’s Day and now she wants to have them with her when he comes back in. Another employee called her  “Miss Hollywood” so she’s tickled with her new moniker. She wears Tea Rose perfume and one of the nurses paints her fingernails. Her skin is as thin as tissue paper and her cornflower blue eyes are hazed over but she is still just as beautiful as always to me.
The residents gather in the lunch room for activities or just to socialize so that’s where she reigns from her wheelchair. She is from a mostly extinct generation. She lived through the Great Depression in rural Kentucky, through wars and social upheaval, from the hills of Appalachia to the Chesapeake Bay shore of Maryland. At 93, she has found a new purpose in keeping the residents of the nursing home in line. No matter how many times you tell her, she doesn’t really understand that the people there can’t control their actions. She believes they are just acting up. So when a tiny woman pushes her chair around to snatch at other people’s cups of punch, or when a gentleman walks around with his hands down his pants, my grandmother tells them to quit acting the fool. A tall, young looking man walks around in his own world, but when I come to visit, he makes a beeline for me, and my grandmother yells “Shoo! Get away from her!” while waving her arms at him. Several of the residents seem fascinated with me. They are probably fascinated with all visitors, but you can’t tell my grandmother that. I am polite, and answer them if they speak to me, but my grandmother keeps a close eye on it, ready to intervene on my behalf. A woman tries to grab my hair, so I have to do some artistic ducking, and another man comes up to tell me he loves me.
“What did he say?” my grandmother demands. “He said hi, grandma,” I tell her to keep the peace.
I sit with her through the bible study they have weekly with a group of Jehovah Witnesses that come to the nursing home. A resident is laughing loudly and my grandmother responds just as loudly that they need to be quiet because she can’t hear the pastor. She points out the one nurse she doesn’t like and asks where she got that outfit. My grandmother is an ancient Mean Girl to some, but others she talks to gently, and reminds them of what is currently happening. I haven’t cracked the code of who gets which treatment but I suspect her favors are bestowed whimsically.
She wraps the silverware for meals every day, and is convinced it won’t be done correctly if she doesn’t oversee it herself. She gives me a pair of gloves and puts me to work. I ask her about different things, and usually question her on things she’s told me about her past. This is supposed to help keep her sharp. Long ago, she told me about a snake handling church in Kentucky she went to. I wrote a poem about it, and now I ask her about the experience. She no longer remembers going to the church, or telling me about it. I move on to another subject.
The residents are gathered in a circle of wheelchairs in the center of the room for an activity. The aide has a beach ball, and wants them to bat it about the circle. This exercise is supposed to be a fun way to get them to move their extremities. Things don’t go as the aide had hoped. The lady next to me is whacking the hell out of it and yelling that she got the son of a bitch. She punches it into the face of another woman who is near catatonic. The gentleman on the other side of my grandmother catches the ball and feints with it back and forth before tossing it to another woman, who lets it bounce off her head. The aide decides this is too violent and gives them pool noodles to hit the ball with instead of their hands. This rapidly devolves into a game of kickball before the aide gives up and brings it to an end. My grandmother is not impressed. I’m amused.
It takes me fifteen minutes to say goodbye when it’s time to go. After my mother died, this woman was the most important to me growing up. My father tried to keep her out of our lives but she persisted. I saw her as an angelic savior, the one person who loved me unconditionally, and she’s been the one constant in my life. I make sure she’s comfortable and doesn’t need anything before promising to be back to see her again soon. I bend over her wheelchair to hug her, gently, remembering when I was small and would slam into her to hug her with all my little girl strength. I  miss her before I get out to the car and every time I leave her, I fear it will be the last. She is so very old, but I don’t think I will ever be ready to let her go.

 

Approval

I tossed and turned last night and then slept too much today. Saw my brother and visited our grandmother. She just turned 93. Every time I see her I’m afraid it will be the last.
Approval has been on my mind. It’s a pretty basic human need. Everyone needs approval and gains validation through it. There are a lot of different kinds of approval in many areas of life.  At work you get it through completing a project, whether it’s verbal approval, a bonus, or just people using what you have created. A thing you created being useful is satisfying. In your personal life you get it through words, through touch, through sharing accomplishments. If you do something, you want your loved ones to acknowledge it and for them to see your value. If you take time to look extra nice for your significant other, you want your significant other to notice. We see ourselves reflected in others’ responses. You want others to recognize how witty or clever you are because it’s a sign of approval when they laugh at your quips or admire your cunning.
This need for approval is common to everyone, but it’s heightened in submissives. I am not going to ruminate on the origin of this need, or get into pop-psy Jungian speculations.  It’s enough that it’s there. Submissives give control to their Dom and trust him with it. What they get in return is approval. It’s why being told “good girl” is so satisfying and why so many women are into the whole Daddy thing. It may be tied with your sexuality but it’s not of it, if you see what I mean. When your Dom expresses his disappointment and withholds that approval, it leaves the submissive bereft and wanting to regain approval, but if that approval never comes, motivation disappears.
As I get older, I find I care less and less about the approval or opinions of people not important to me. That’s something I wish I could have done when I was a teenager. But the need for approval, or acknowledgement even, of those I do care about, is one that I don’t think ever goes away for anyone. Even if you don’t consciously recognize it as such, approval from others helps us to gage the world and helps us to see ourselves more clearly.
This little mini-essay ties in with some family issues I have that are percolating in my subconscious, but that’s for another night.

Wednesday

I had therapy today and of course the topic was my manic episode. Apparently while bi-polar depression most commonly appears in early adulthood, it can show up at any age. I am still hoping for an isolated incident but I’m told that 90% of people who have an episode will have repeat episodes. However, apparently they aren’t all that common. He said that if you had four episodes a year it was considered rapid cycling. So that’s not bad, especially when my impression was that you’re on a constant rollercoaster of emotions. But again, I’m hoping it’s an isolated incident. If it does occur again I’ll at least know what it is.

The thing is, I felt great while I was like that. I knew something was wrong and that I was not myself but I was on a high and I couldn’t really be bothered to care that something was wrong. I knew I should have been zombified from the lack of sleep but I wasn’t, and that was a good thing. I liked having the energy. I was more creative and I was in less pain. However, the longer it went on the more I was degrading. I could see that, I just didn’t particularly care. It was getting harder to restrain my impulses and my thoughts were all over the place, skittering away from me any time I tried to pin something down. My inhibitions were down. Then there was the physical toll with it driving my blood pressure so high.

If it is bi-polar I should expect a major depressive episode next. That’s the not so fun part. I was going to quit the meds now that I’m level and so I didn’t take it last night. The Doctor thinks I need to take it at least through my upcoming trip. I am about to go home for a visit. My grandmother just turned 93(!!) and Mother’s Day is coming up. My brother wants us to go visit her together. I dread the trip up there and back. It’s a long way and it kicks my ass every time. Once I’m there it’s always nice to be home among the trees and river. It’s Spring and the bloodroot, fritillary, mayapple and other early flowers will be blooming, or so I hope. I may have missed them, especially the bloodroot, but we’ll see. I wish I could mash up the environment of my home town and the people of where I live now. My hometown is gorgeous, with all four seasons, forests, rivers, wildlife and rural charm. Unfortunately it is populated by hillbilly rednecks. Don’t get me wrong.. hillbillies are good people. But they tend to be close minded and I have never fit in there. Where I live now is absolute horrid weather, at least for me, and it’s crowded, but the people here are nicer. Go figure.

My first stalker

When I was fifteen I got my first job washing dishes at a yacht club. I got about 30 hours a week and they took advantage of me. I moved to another restaurant, also washing dishes, along with various other kitchen duties, but working with much nicer people. When I was sixteen, I got a job full time, working 4-12 after school. The job was at a convenience store/deli in town. After school I would take the bus to the trailer park behind the mall. From there I’d cut through the mall, then across the highway and past the gas station and bank to the store. To get home I hitch-hiked. This was my routine five days a week. I should probably note now that I have always been too naive for my own good. I know better, but I tend to want to believe what people tell me, even though I have no reason to.

The mall is an outdoor affair, with individual stores crowded around in a circle of parking lot where seagulls wait for dropped french fries. I used to buy an order of fries and hold them up through my car window, one by one, as the seagulls came and took them from my fingers. It was exhilarating and a little bit frightening when the entire flock would surround my car, or when one would nip my hand. Anyway, walking through this mall on my way to work was part of my routine at sixteen, and it was noticed. I have no idea how long the guy watched me before I noticed him, but I eventually became aware of a middle aged guy in an SUV that would do slow drive-bys as he stared at me, then circle around and come back for another look. In my teenage eloquence I dubbed him Creepy. Creepy graduated to stopping and talking to me. I was brought up to be polite, and when an adult asks you something you answer. So when he first started talking to me I answered, politely, and excused myself for work to get out of the conversation. His next step was to offer me a ride to work. I refused, of course. After I crossed the highway, there was a bank I walked by before getting to my job. Creepy began popping out from behind the bank like some fucked up, horny jack-in-the-box. I began to get concerned.

One day on my way to work, he did his stalker rounds and tried to talk to me like he had many times before. I had quit stopping at this point and would just keep walking while he would try to chat me up. But this day the pervert tried to grab my arm to pull me into his stalker-mobile while ordering me into his vehicle. Luckily, he was not subtle and I was on alert. I pulled away from him and ran through the mall. This was probably about 3:30 in the afternoon when I went through the mall, btw, but apparently no one was paying attention to the creepy dude trying to pull a girl into his SUV. I figured he would show up at the bank again, and sure enough he did. But I was young, wary and quick, and did not give him the chance to try it again. I remember fearing that he would be waiting when I got off work, but he never was. My guess is that he was married and creeping on me while the wife was away.

So, Creepy had upped the ante. Why didn’t I tell an adult, you ask. I didn’t tell adults shit. The last time I had trusted an adult was when I had just turned eleven and tried to talk to my guidance counselor about my mother’s death. She called my father, which of course was the correct, responsible thing to do, and absolutely the worst thing for me. So that was the end of trusting adults. Plus, I was working to save money to get out of my house asap, and they did not know I was hitch-hiking to do so. Adult intervention was out, but this dude was becoming a real problem. I had asked him to leave me alone, I had refused all offers from him, and he was just getting bolder. I talked to a guy friend of mine from school about it. He and several other guys I was friends with decided they were going to handle it. The next day they had me walk to work like normal, but they walked with me. Like clockwork, Creepy came cruising by slowly, and seeing my company he drove off. My guy pals ran off to watch from an alley between stores as Creepy circled around and came back for his second pass. Seeing me alone, Creepy stopped his truck to try to talk to (or grab) me. My guys came running out threatening to kick his ass up behind his ears for him and Creepy drove off in a snit. I had told them about his jack-in-the-box impersonation at the bank, so they went there next. A couple of them were riding bicycles, so honestly, I’m not sure how threatening they were, but there were five or six of them ranging from 14-16. Creepy was waiting behind the bank, and started to drive over to me when my guys pounced. Rocks were thrown and threats were made. Accusations of pedophilia flew thick. And I loved it. Creepy drove off and my friends escorted me to work for a long time after that. This was my first stalker. If it hadn’t been for my friends it may have ended badly.

Hitch-hiking put me in a lot of dangerous situations, more dangerous than some pervert trying to pull me into his creeper-mobile. But the bright spark of fear when he tried to pull me into his truck stayed with me. The belonging I felt when my friends defended me stayed with me too. They were ready to battle for me and it meant everything to me. We lived in a twilight world unseen by adults and we watched out for each other. I would have, and did, go to bat for my friends the way they did for me. We were fearless and immortal and I miss having those kinds of friends. I don’t know if you can get them as an adult.

After

I took the damn meds. The Dr said the meds had a short half-life, I just didn’t expect them to work quite so quickly. It’s only been a couple of days so far but the euphoria is mostly gone, which royally sucks. The first night I got about 4.5 hours of sleep, the most I’ve gotten since this started, and about four hours last night. I’m still shaky as hell and the sex drive is still working overtime, but I’m thinking clearer. I’m sure sleep helped. Most nights I only got 2-3 hours of sleep, and there were a few nights where I didn’t get any sleep at all.
I didn’t know what to expect, with this being new to me, but I was afraid I’d crash all at once and I knew that would be rough. I guess the meds are supposed to prevent that. After I get leveled out and get some sleep I’m done with these meds. If it’s an anomaly or doesn’t occur again for years, then I won’t worry about it. If I’m wrong then I’ll reconsider. My hope is that it was stress induced.
I liked feeling like that. I felt good, I had more energy than I knew what to do with, I felt like I could pursue multiple trains of thought at once and I felt more creative. I was elated and bouncy. I felt like I was walking a knife’s edge and that one turn of the foot could send me over into the crocodile pit. Instead of concerning me though, it was exhilarating. Of course it is not sustainable. The longer it went on, the more I was degrading and the more my judgement was becoming impaired. The center could not hold; or, entropy is a bitch.

It’s storming here and I left this post for a while. When I came back to finish, I had this written:

I am very glad it takes me off thing thing or sure,

Um.. what? I don’t even know where I was going with that or what that even is. I’m off to bed. There was an especially loud crack of thunder and now two of my cats are hiding under the bed so I suppose I must go protect the kitties. 🙂