On Sacrifice

I don’t know if this is the best place for me to write, emotionally, right now, but it is the most honest. I’m writing from a place of self-doubt, negativity, and lot of questioning when it comes to my own self worth (not what I’m worth to others, just myself). This pops up from time to time, and up until now I’ve never really written about it. Most of the time I keep it buried within my subconscious because I feel like I have to be the strong one in a bad or upsetting situation. But there are times when something just triggers me and I end up becoming passive-aggressive. I had one of these moments this morning, and I stupidly tried to take it out on my dad, which I should’ve known is a bad idea because he’s the kind of guy with whom I’ve learned I have to pick my battles wisely. He didn’t yell at me, but talked to me in such a stern way that I knew was a gut punch and a reality check. And he was right. But at times I am stubborn as f🤬k and I wanted nothing to do with him or say with him and I just wanted to feel like I was worth something to myself, because at this point I feel like I lack that.

So, what does this have to do with sacrifice? Quite a bit, actually.

There’s something I’ve hinted at at times on this blog that I haven’t felt entirely comfortable talking about in such a public manner (as I do make this blog available for public viewing), and it has something to do with my mom. Before I get into the meat of what’s going on with her, I want to tell you a little bit about the mom I grew up with. My mom was a kind, gentle soul who I could come to for so many of life’s problems. She was also strict and a bit overprotective (especially since I was her oldest child), which I think she inherited from her father, who was a captain in the United States Coast Guard and a strict disciplinarian (although my mother was a little bit looser in her strictness compared to her father). She was vibrant and had a personality that made her seem a lot younger than she actually was. She was very close with her mother (who died of cancer in 2004) and that closeness made its way to her and I as I was growing up. She was my world, and still is.

What I’m about to reveal, only family, close friends, and some Ravelers have known. Two years ago, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was about 64 when she was diagnosed and is now 66. Her father (my grandfather) and her aunt (his sister) both died of the same disease in their 80s. In fact, my grandfather passed away four years ago this month at the age of 85. She’s in the middle stages of the disease at the moment: she can talk, but has trouble formulating complete thoughts; she can still walk and can still feed herself, but is getting more and more dependent on us to help with things like bathing and making sure she gets to the toilet when she needs to use it. My dad and I are her primary caregivers, and we’ve done it so far without need for outside assistance (although she does see her doctor twice a year, and he’s been her doctor for many years). We kind of “tag team” when it comes to her care.

I’ve ended up having to sacrifice a lot in my life as a caregiver, from the physical to the way I live my life.

These last couple of years especially have been tough on me. I can’t remember the last time I got a full night’s sleep without having to worry about her, checking on her, or having to go to the bathroom. Even when I get an aggregate eight hours or more of sleep, I often still feel tired and incredibly exhausted. There are times when I feel completely alert in an afternoon and then I end up falling asleep while sitting in a chair. There are times when I feel like just lying down in my bed and passing out into sleep. Coffee doesn’t do much to ease it; washing dishes or doing laundry keeps it at bay for a while, but I typically don’t get my energy back until 6:00 pm at the earliest.

I spend almost every waking hour with my family; the one break I get from being around my parents so constantly are the two hours I spend at the grocery store every couple of weeks. It never seems like enough. I’m always glad to see them again when I’m done, but sometimes I wish I could just get away from my family, even if it’s just a night out with a few friends. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone not related to me when my family wasn’t present.

I’m not gainfully employed because I spend almost all my time taking care of my mother, to the point where it really isn’t feasible for me to look for work right now. Because I can’t work, even part time at this point, I’m not able to drive (and I would have to get a steady job in order to pay for auto insurance). I don’t drive, so I’m not able to socialize, and I end up at home all the time, with not much more than mom, dad, dog, and my iPad for company.

At times, I feel so jealous of my brother: he’s gotten to live the life he wants, on his own terms. He was able to find steady work and drive a car, he has his own house and a wife he loves deeply and a daughter who is the apple of his eye. He’s gotten to do everything he wants to do in life, and I feel like I’m watching from the sidelines.

I feel like every dream I’ve ever had in my life has been ruined, either by my own hand (quitting band just a couple of weeks into my sixth grade year for seemingly no reason at all or giving up on going to my dream college because my parents wanted me closer to home or dropping out of the community college to ease the financial burden on my parents when their longtime employer laid them off because changing technology was making their jobs obsolete) or because of my mom’s illness. My dream of possibly becoming a mother has likely been ruined because if my hunch of my mom’s illness being genetic is correct, I realistically only have about three or four more years to have a child and see it grow to adulthood before I possibly begin to lose my own cognitive faculties. My chances of finding lasting love are practically nonexistent; lookswise, I know I’m plain and plain usually means ignored and under appreciated and socially my prospects look awful. My dreams of having a decent career seem dashed because I’m getting too old. I don’t want to be just another housewife like my grandmothers were, and I don’t want to shuffle from job to job like my mom did. I want to be able to say I got my degree, but sometimes I feel like there are so many roadblocks in my way that I keep wondering if I have to change routes to find my own path in life. I’m 31, I should be living my life right now, but instead I feel like I’ve lost myself in the needs of so many others. I can’t just “get away from it”, so many bricks would fall out of the wall without me in it.

Most people my age are expected to at least be independent, employed, and able to support themselves. My dad claims that my being unemployed doesn’t change my worth to my family, but the thing is, it hangs like a dark cloud over me and I feel like I could do so much better.

And what if I have the same gene that is causing my mother’s brain to slowly kill her? What if the prospects for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients haven’t changed 20 years from now, and I end up having my own brain start to slowly kill me? What if it happens even earlier than that? Was all this truly worth it, or will I be forgotten by almost everybody but the ones who cared for me the most? Sometimes I feel like I’m losing myself in all of this.

I apologize for all this personal melodrama, but I was feeling feelings this morning that couldn’t really be spoken to my father. I had to find a way to let them out. I don’t know how many will actually care about my corner of the planet, but I don’t really care so much about the response I get from this. All that matters is that I let those feelings go and try to figure out my next steps.

After I post this, I’m gonna try and get back to doing my daily work of trying to get the kitchen straightened out and washing those dishes that I can’t stand. I have to try and get back to some sort of normal, whatever that is.

Hotter Than Satan’s Jock Strap

You may remember from my post “Florida is a Cruel Mistress” that our air conditioner broke down in June. Well, guess what?

It broke again!!!1!!1! 😖

This time, the problem is a blown fan motor on the outdoor unit. But, I do have some good news and some bad news. The good news? My dad should be able to fix it himself. The bad news? After three different tries, he was finally able to order a replacement part…and it won’t be here until tomorrow morning. The first vendor he tried didn’t have it, the second vendor he tried had it and he ordered it a couple of days ago and then got an email saying they were out of stock. He didn’t want to wait until the part was back in stock, so he ended up checking with a third vendor to see if the part was in stock before ordering it online. Once he got that vendor to confirm it was in stock, he ordered it and told them to overnight it so that it should be here by tomorrow morning.

It seems like it’s a proven law of the Universe that air conditioners will always break down or go on the fritz when you need them the most. This is no different. You may have heard about Hurricane Florence striking the Carolinas (North and South) over the weekend. This storm has dumped tons of rain on the Carolinas…but has gone nowhere near Florida. In fact, it is responsible for the dry air that is being pumped into our state right now. And that dry air, being heated by our late summer sun…is hot. And our house has insulation, so the room temperature inside has been hitting 90 on a regular basis for the last few days. Now, I don’t believe in gods or afterlives or underworlds or anything like that…but I think the phrase, “It is hotter than Satan’s jock strap!”, would be appropriate for our situation, eh? Hot, sweaty, and gross.

Luckily, we have the window unit running in the master bedroom and we can go in and cool off at any time, although right now my dad is sleeping in there so he’ll be ready for work tonight. We’re also staying hydrated with ice water, fruit punch (really just flavored water so my mom will drink it. I have the ice water in a Yeti-style metal tumbler (it’s my dad’s, but he lets us use it) that can keep ice cold and solid for up to 24 hours and without a drop of condensation on the outside. It is awesome. And it does keep my ice water ice cold.

What else? I’m three chapters into Lord of the Flies, and on Series 1, episode 52 of my Great Tribe Re-Watch.

I’ve also put Rock Me on the Bias on hold for a little while until I can get some more yarn to finish it. In the meantime, I’m undertaking an effort to learn two-color brioche knitting: flat for now, but I’d like to learn how to knit it in the round eventually. It took me a YouTube tutorial to learn how to knit it properly (apparently my yarn overs on the “burp”/brioche purl rows were being wrapped incorrectly). If all works out, I may work it into a “Foldini” bag (a big rectangle folded and sewn into a bag shape).

I found some green and beige yarn from the since-abandoned “Forestry” and have been working with that. I posted these on Instagram, but here’s what the two sides look like.

The top one is the green bark side (where the brioche knit/”bark” stitches are done in the green yarn), and the bottom one is the beige bark side (where the brioche knit stitches are done in the beige yarn).

Here’s to hoping that we get our air conditioning back sooner rather than later!

And in case you’re wondering, here’s the video I used to help myself learn the two color brioche, from The Nervous Knitter.

Ernest Hemingway: America’s Answer to Marmite.

It took me about four months and many fits and starts, but I finally finished reading A Farewell to Arms! I’ll admit that part of the reason why it took so long for me to read it was because my nighttime routine of waking up several times a night to check on or help out my mom during my dad’s work nights messed up my sleeping patterns enough that I was often feeling incredibly tired and would end up falling asleep during the day, which would take time out of my reading. And some of it did have to do with Mr. Hemingway’s writing style as well.

What follows is my own account of my experience of reading this novel. It is not a straight-up review, as reviews tend to nitpick the text itself more or less, while I like to include my own personal insight on the overall reading experience. This is not intended to be an academic analysis, so I may change subjects without much notice.

A Farewell to Arms is only the second Ernest Hemingway novel I have ever read, and the first I have read of my own volition. I have mentioned previously that when I was a freshman in high school, my English class studied The Old Man and the Sea, which I have also said is usually a typical teenager’s first exposure to the work of Mr. Hemingway. I believe my dad has said he also remembers reading it in school as well. My experience of reading The Old Man and the Sea took place so long ago that I barely remember any of it! Thus, I consider A Farewell to Arms to be my first real exposure to Mr. Hemingway’s work. I bought it on a whim at my local bookstore, as when I went into the shop that day, I had no list of any particular books in mind and just decided to go with my gut. (My local bookstore has a pretty extensive classics section and seems to have just about every notable novel you could think of! The ones I bought back in March barely scratch the surface of what was there, and I’d love to go back and add to my collection whenever I have a significant sum of money again.)

Ernest Hemingway may very well be one of the most polarizing authors in the entire American literary pantheon. This post is subtitled “America’s Answer to Marmite” for a reason: that is because just like the British delicacy Marmite (and its Australian cousin Vegemite), unless you’ve had a longtime exposure to him, you’re either going to like Ernest Hemingway and his writing style or you’re going to detest him. There is no middle ground when it comes to Hemingway (or Marmite).

Hemingway has a reputation of being the epitome of the American vision of manliness and machismo, and his writing style, as such, is not incredibly nuanced. His reputation, as such, could make him the literary equivalent of men like Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Teddy Roosevelt, Clint Eastwood, and John Wayne. Any twists and turns that I came across while reading A Farewell to Arms came at me in a very straightforward manner. Hemingway has no time to paint the scene for you with his words: he tells you exactly what is going on as it’s going on and puts you right there with Frederic Henry as he experiences meeting and falling in love with the beautiful English nurse, Catherine Barkley. You are there with Frederic Henry as his knee is severely wounded while eating cheese in a trench with his fellow Army medics during a battle in World War I-era Italy (“I was blown up while we were eating cheese.”). You are there as he recovers in an Italian hospital and his relationship with Catherine becomes serious, and she eventually becomes pregnant with his child. You can see a pattern here. I won’t spoil the later parts of the novel for you.

In some ways, Ernest Hemingway’s writing style reminds me a lot of my own father, who I would consider to be very much of the same mold of personality of men like Hemingway and Chuck Norris and Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. (Any Hemingway readers may have just noticed I used a Hemingway trademark literary device in that last sentence, the polysyndeton: the deliberate insertion of conjunctions to break up the rhythm of a section of prose in order to make a point.) My father is also the kind of man who doesn’t like one to spin a yarn while telling a story (as I am one to normally do), he’s very much a “get to the point already!” kind of guy. Hemingway, I found, employs that same kind of attitude to his storytelling. His tone can be very blunt and succinct at times, but he also loves to insert as much detail into certain passages to try and set up the scene for you. He’s not really one for symbolism and the bigger picture because his style is so blunt. His descriptions of things are blunt. His recounting of events is blunt. His cynicism is blunt. It can come across as cavemanesque at times, but he was a minimalist by nature, from his time as a journalist into his career in writing fiction. His practice of “iceberg theory” (or theory of omission) is very much present in A Farewell to Arms, where he doesn’t tend to ponder very long about the meanings of things that have happened to Frederic Henry over the course of the novel. At times he leaves it up to the reader to fill in the blanks, and reading up on Mr. Hemingway’s life and writing style, these are techniques he would employ throughout his writing career (A Farewell to Arms was only his second novel, after The Sun Also Rises, which is Hemingway’s entry on the list of 100 novels being considered for the PBS series The Great American Read. It begins airing next Tuesday in the United States).

I can understand why a lot of female readers find him off-putting and consider him a misogynist. In A Farewell to Arms, Catherine is not really portrayed much as an independent-thinking or acting character outside of her relationship and interactions with Frederic, and he tends to treat her like a delicate object meant for adoration rather than an equal partner in the relationship, even before she becomes pregnant. A couple of teenage (?) girls that his company comes upon while his unit moves through the Italian countryside after he is kicked out of the hospital are seen as sex objects by some of Frederic’s men. This, combined with his no-frills, straight-to-the-point writing style tends not to appeal to the average female reader. The average female reader tends to rely a lot upon emotional reactivity during the reading process and also relies a lot on empathy, putting herself in a character’s shoes and trying to experience the character’s experience. Hemingway’s storytelling, by practice, tends to be the very opposite of that, which can make it difficult for the average female reader to put herself in his characters’ shoes. Thus, a female reader attempting to really read Hemingway for the first time is definitely taking on a challenge when she dives into one of his works. The most emotional part of the entire novel actually comes at the very end (again, I will not spoil it for you), and even then Frederic chooses to remain emotionally distant from what has just happened to him and resigns himself to walking back to his hotel in the rain, leaving it up to the reader to wonder what will happen to Frederic in the aftermath of what he’s just gone through.

So, did I end up liking Hemingway or disliking him? I ended up giving the book itself three stars on Goodreads (out of five), mostly because the readability of it did not flow as nicely as I would have liked and I didn’t find myself emotionally engaging with the novel…but that doesn’t mean it was terrible! For me, readability plays into emotional engagement and it left my own personal experience with it a bit lacking, but once I considered Hemingway’s writing style and put it into context with his life and his personality, I feel like I understand him a little better. Perhaps a different adventure would connect with me a little better than the foreign-to-me concepts of love and war did. I haven’t moved out of the gray area just yet, but I honestly would take the risk and read another one of his novels. Perhaps I should’ve started with The Sun Also Rises! But A Farewell to Arms wasn’t too bad for my first voluntary foray into an author as polarizing as Ernest Hemingway.

So, for those of you who’ve read Hemingway, did you feel the same way I did or did you get something completely different out of it? Have you ever come across any authors that challenged you and your reading preferences like Hemingway did for me? Have you ever gone out of the box when it comes to reading choices just out of pure curiosity? Share your experiences in the comments! I look forward to hearing your insight on Mr. Hemingway or any other author you feel like discussing!