Orphan Stray Kittens, an acrylic painting by TaraFly

The Lost Ones - an acrylic painting of two stray kittens.

I’ve always had a morbid fascination with people who commit crimes because ‘the voices’ commanded them to do it.

What do these voices sound like? Is it your own voice… a loved one, friend, or complete stranger? Are they audible or suggestive? Do they echo inside your head, as if coming from headphones… or enter the room like disembodied specters?

I seriously want to know.

A few years ago, I briefly attended some sessions with a psychologist… and during the initial consultation, she asked me a series of ominous mental-health questions, such as “Have you had any thoughts of homicide or genocide?” and “Do you hear voices?”

I asked, “How would I know if I heard voices?” That unnerved her, I think. 😉
But she calmly replied, “Oh, you would know.”

It was eventually determined that I “suffered” from minor bouts of depression and anxiety, so minor in fact that I simply decided to deal with them (and save money on prescription drugs). They are lovingly referred to as my “mood swings”.

But there are no voices in my head, except my own.

Having never experienced a severe mental illness personally, I have a difficult time understanding and sympathizing with its victims.
I actually had to refrain from typing ‘victims’ in sarcastic quotes, because whatever we may think of them, they truly are victims of their own minds.

I’m sure many of you reading this have probably felt a similar sense of prejudice.
Raise your hand if you harshly judged Andrea Yates for drowning her own five children in their bathtub?
Oh, yeah…. my hand is waaaaay up there.

So she didn’t take her medication and was subjected to “voices” from somewhere, demanding that she murder her babies. If it were me, I would tell the voices to go jump in the tub and drown themselves instead.

After watching Shutter Island last weekend (my explanation for these ramblings…), I’ve been dwelling on the mental state of criminals, and how reality is an abstract form that differs from one person to the next.

I begin to realize that from where I stand, everything appears crystal clear.
Naturally, the voices people are hearing are malicious and wrong, I tell myself. Why presume this?
Because my conscience tells me so!

Ah, but what if the conscience and the Voice are one and the same?

That inner light of morality, which warns us of indiscretions with twangs of guilt and fear, is merely a by-product of our upbringing and environment … or as religious people would argue, it’s the “voice of the Holy Spirit”, warning us against sin. And everyone understands right from wrong…

But what if that same conscience could lead people astray, and convince them to do horrible things?

Perhaps this voice boomed down from Heaven like a divine Commandment. What spiritual person would dare reject the apparent Voice of God? By the way, it wouldn’t be the first time He’s demanded the sacrifice of our children (see: Genesis Chapt.22)
Maybe the Voice was testing Yates’ faith?

When we judge someone, we’re simply holding them accountable to our own moral code.
I’m guilty (a million times over) of making absolute statements: “I would never consider….”

Those presumptions are wrong, however, because although I would not commit murder in my current state of mind, there is no guarantee that if I were sharing her experiences as my own that my response would be any different.

You simply cannot know why an individual chooses one path over another, without swapping brains with them Frankenstein-style.

Scientists say that we live by a unique roadmap which was shaped long before we were actually born.

What your mother ate for lunch each day during her pregnancy, any drugs she might have taken, and even her emotional state (and stress levels) contributed to your physical and mental development as a fetus.
After birth, your immediate environment continued to impact you… the hospital staff, your first home, your siblings, teachers, neighbors, television, church, and if you listen to health fanatics on my Facebook wall – even those Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Pop-Tarts that are loaded with HFC and brain-altering chemical additives.

Life may be full of choices, the options are quite limitless… but depending on how and where you are raised, your personal view of the world has been conditioned to be quite narrow and absolute. Although, being “narrow-minded” in this particular case isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Some would never consider having an abortion, or foregoing college, or voting Republican, or cheating on their spouse, or eating tofu…

So how could they possibly understand or sympathize with their neighbor down the street who is struggling with a messy divorce or pregnant 13-year-old daughter?

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt belittled and misunderstood?
Perhaps on the phone with a bank clerk or creditor?
…Or in the check-out line when your card is declined?
…. When the officer pulls you over, and you’ve left your wallet in the other pair of pants?

Have you accidentally bumped into someone with your shopping cart?
…Or your perfect child suddenly throws tantrum in the store over a box of cookies?
… And your sincerest apologies fall on deaf ears?
And the faces of everyone around you are scowling with disapproval or blatant disgust?

You worthless and sorry excuse for a human being.

You should be ashamed.

You shouldn’t be a parent.

Hold onto that memory… and think about how it really feels to be judged by others.
When your best explanations turn into ashes in your mouth, unable to convince people of your innocence.

They don’t understand your situation.

They aren’t hearing your voices.

My original acrylic painting "1950 Housewife Cat"

The Housewife who can "Do It All" unfortunately doesn't exist.

I’m awake at 12:40AM. I’ve been awake for 21 hours now. Jake is still awake as well, and I’m feeding him on my lap as I type one-handed, with two fingers.  The room is dark, and every so often my hand strays off track on the keyboard and my words start to look juhe yhis… so I slowly back-space over them and begin again.

We’ve had a trying day. This blasted blizzard destined to engulf us has caused tension and stress to build in our community – just listen to some of the angry comments made by frazzled customers wanting their milk and eggs (to the frazzled associate who can’t stock the shelves fast enough to meet demand).
It makes me want to call a Time Out on everyone, reminding people to show some respect and understanding for one another.

The commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself” is especially appropriate for this Valentine Season. I do wish, however, that a synonym of “love” would be “acceptance”… for when we truly love someone, we accept them as they are.
“Appreciation” is listed, though, and that is another excellent mode of feeling that tends to get taken for granted.

This Valentine’s Day, I join the thousands of stay-at-home parents who simply want to be appreciated for our contributions.  Forget the chocolate and flowers.
We may not commute to our jobs every morning, and receive a monetary paycheck to show for our efforts… but we still have a demanding workload which unfortunately doesn’t end at 5:00PM.

I can safely assume that quite a few eyes are rolling.  I once worked a full-time job outside the home, and listened to my co-workers’ tales of stay-at-home spouses who “sat around watching trash TV, eating cereal in their pajamas at 3:00PM” and who apparently never did a lick of housework.  Of course, I believed the stories… and I thought, “Wow, it must be nice to stay home and have all your needs provided for. Relaxing, yet incredibly boring.” 

When we made the decision last spring for me to stay home, I was under the impression my days would be filled with hours of creative freedom while the kids played peacefully or watched cartoons. hehe
I seriously did not understand the responsibilities of stay-at-home parents and how stressful their days actually are.   Once I accepted the position, I became solely in charge of all laundry, dish-washing, child-sitting, litter-box cleaning, vacuuming, mealtimes, you name it.  When the kids are up all night with fevers or bad dreams, I stay up with them… and sure, he would have helped… if he hadn’t slept soundly through their tearful sobs.  
And why should I wake a grouchy ogre, who will only complain about needing “a good night’s sleep” because he “has to work in the morning”?  Apparently we stay-at-home parents should be able to function fully on 2 hours of un-interrupted sleep.  Cause, you know, we don’t work… we sit around watching Spongebob and soaps.

When they destroy their room, I clean it  up… over and over again.  I rebuild the couch each time it’s torn apart to make mountains for climbing.  I put screaming children to sleep at nap-time,
referee their fights, discipline them, and read them stories.
There is bath-time, diaper changes, taking out the garbage, sweeping the floor, making beds, folding clothes, re-folding clothes after the kids dug everything out of their dresser…. the time I get to spend online is due to my being trapped in the living room, unable to walk away until I trust they won’t strangle each other, climb the bookshelves, or throw objects at the flat-screen TV (which I’ve been told to guard with my body, and life, if necessary).

When Dearest walks in the door, and plops on the couch to watch TV and relax… chores are still looming, kids are still hungry, he adds his favorite pants to the growing laundry pile and expects them to be immediately washed.
When do I get to relax?  I don’t… unless I mutiny and refuse to do it anymore.  I tried that once.  I took “a day off work”, and Nobody volunteered to take my place. Imagine that. 😉
  I called in sick, and the laundry sat there. And the dishes piled up… and the kids smeared chocolate ice-cream all over themselves.  When my fever subsided and I ventured out to inspect the situation, it was utter chaos… waiting for me to resume my duties.

I’m not complaining to gain sympathy, and I have no regrets in my decision to become my family’s caretaker.  Without overtime pay, holidays and weekends off, and sick leave.  A little appreciation would be nice, though. And some acceptance… 
    I’m not going to be on top of my game every day, and that’s okay.  We need to practice patience and understanding with everyone around us. 
If your store runs out of bread, thank the associate for their hard work and then grab some flour and yeast to bake your own.  If your favorite pants don’t get washed for a couple days, or God forbid, you don’t have a clean shirt to wear… Take the initiative and throw a load into the washer.
Let’s show some love, and I guarantee that the thanks you receive will be sincere and you will be appreciated in return.