There have been a lot of surreal moments in this little journey, but few as strange as today.
True, it was very strange that back when my home was foreclosed, despite my being in constant phone and mail contact with Queen of Hearts Mortgage, the Queen sent a messenger to my door with a thin slip of paper. It looked scissored from a xeroxed sheet. Maybe fifty two such slips could be made from one standard piece of copy paper. On it were the Queen of Hearts Mortgage Company's phone number and a command that I contact the Queen immediately. Curious, as I was already in contact with her, but it was curiouser that the phone number printed there was incorrect. Curiouser and curiouser, they did this not once but twice. A messenger again drove for at least an hour to reach me, handed me the thin scrap, and again the number was wrong.
That was weird, yes, but maybe it was a weirder shade of surreal to drive for six miles behind the White Knight, honking my fool horn off, trying to let him know that the moving truck he was driving had its rear roll-up door wide open. It was already clear that Queen of Hearts Mortgage, which lost its head not long afterward, was gardening with painted flowers. But I had credited the White Knight with at least the presence of mind to pull over when a following driver honked for ten minutes while flashing their headlights.
Then again, I should cut a lot of slack for the poor White Knight, who after all had spent a couple of grueling days helping with the packing of the cluttered three-bedroom house we once shared, and had slept there on the floor while I went home to our two kids. We three had already moved into the house-sitting gig where the three of us still sit, looking for another house. I'll hand it to the White Knight, he knocked himself out---well, yeah, clearly he had knocked himself silly---taking time away from his own homeless and underemployed shambles to help pack and move our former mutual shambles. He had more excuse for an absence of mind than had the comfortably overemployed Queen of Hearts.
Less clear was the reason for the lack of clarity in the Mock Turtle, a psychologist I saw for one session, and the Gryphon, her office manager who had let me see the Mock Turtle before realizing my insurance didn't cover her help.
The Mock Turtle told me that what I needed was to practice Mindfulness. She knew some books which would help. I explained that while I can still write sometimes, a little, reading was really hard for me.
Perhaps the Mock Turtle's mind was too full of her own sorrows to hear mine? She sent me off with a xeroxed copy of a complete book on Mindfulness. Also, she asked for my snail mail address so as to recommend another book, as email was to her as slippery as a lobster in a quadrille.
A few days later I got some mail from the Mock Turtle. The envelope was stuffed tight as a whiting with a sheaf of 19 sheets of paper, with a yellow sticky on top. The sticky told me the title and author of this other recommendation, plus expressions of pleasure to have met me etc. That was really all the Mock Turtle needed to send, had I been in any shape to read a book. But the top five pages of the sheaf turned out to be the first five of eleven pages on Amazon related to the book. She had printed it all out for me. I have the title and ISBN number, editorial reviews and product details, all right here at my fingertips and nearly as convenient as the internet. That's okay, I can deal with a paperful system. But what were the additional 14 sheets? Blank paper.
I was not devastated when The Gryphon discovered that based on my insurance plan I couldn't be seen by the Mock Turtle after all. I felt I could learn my mindfulness from someone whose mind was not quite so full. I accepted the kind wishes along with her gift of 20 pieces of paper and 90 cents postage, and I moved on, to see what else Wonderland might have to offer in the way of astonishing people.
At Wonderland Affordable Housing they told me that they no longer do housing. "Why are we still listed in the pamphlet you were given?" they asked in astonishment. I couldn't answer. They referred me on to Looking Glass Housing.
When I phoned them, however, Looking Glass asked, "Why did Wonderland send you to us? They know we've never done housing. But call White Rabbit Homeless Services and they will help you."
The White Rabbit did her best to help, going through all her listings. "Have you dropped in on Wonderland? Yes? Well, then, you might look into Looking Glass."
I told her again to whom I had already spoken, and reiterated my situation in brief: no home, nearly no income, two children, and myself and one of the children disabled, with no car to live in.
"Tut tut, that is a shame," the White Rabbit fussed. "Well you know, you do have somewhere to stay, for now, that's the trouble. It's much harder to get help unless you're already on the street. If you stay in a campsite for a few months, you'll probably get something."
Yes, she told me that my sick self and sick child and well child should all three pack up our nonexistent car and go camping. There are affordable housing complexes. I can see the garden, but I can't get into the garden.
Still, all of these Cheshires mean well. Their paws point Here and There at once, but those smiles, unfading and bizarrely broad, are nevertheless sincere. Consider the kind people who I contacted when I needed to find something labeled Eat Me.
When at my wits end to get groceries up the hill without a car and still find energy to cook the damn things, I phoned Hatters and Hares For the Hungry. They told me that yes, they did indeed deliver nutritious meals to the chronically ill. Was I dying? No? Ah, too bad. They could only deliver nutritious meals to people who were actually dying.
This condition, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, requires adjustment to a new reality. Today I have moved on from that particular problem with a resolution that I will not overtax my energy by expecting to shop, cook and eat all in one day. Monday is laundry, Tuesday is shopping, Wednesday is cooking and Thursday is eating. On Friday I feed the pets, on Saturday I sweep, and on Sunday I take out the garbage. All very reasonable. A mindful adjustment to my new reality.
Today however, I found myself back in Wonderland.
I have applied to the Red King for Disability Benefits. These Flamingo Benefits for Disability, from the Red King will, if awarded, exactly cancel out the Hedgehog Benefits for Poverty which I am already paid by the White Queen, so I will if approved by the Red King have a net gain of one square forward, one square back.
Today, the Red King sent me for a psychological assessment with a Ms. Dumpty.
The Red King spent over $150 on the taxicab alone, to get me there, plus whatever he pays Humpty Dumpty. The goal, it seems, was to find out if I am aware of very general reality and can follow extremely simple instructions.
The first part of the test consisted of questions like, "What floor of the building are we on?" I could not resist a glance toward the window as I answered that it was a one-storey building. Ms. Dumpty made note and asked, "Who is President?"
The second half required me to respond to such commands as, "Write a sentence," and, "Fold the paper in half and put it in your lap." I did these things.
I could probably tell you who the president was and draw two linked pentagons even if I had eaten from the wrong side of the mushroom. If this is all that is required to be found capable of gainful employment, and such trifles as my pain and exhaustion don't matter, then I'm afraid my application for Flamingo Benefits for the Disabled will be denied. Perhaps, however, other measures of my fitness will be taken into consideration. If I am left sitting on the wall for much longer, I will surely crack.
Probably the most revealing portion of today's exam was my blood pressure test, solidly grounded in the digital readout of a sphygmomanometer from this side of the looking glass. My blood pressure was something like 96 over 63. I probably need more pepper.
The nurse thought that couldn't be right so she spoke severely, beat me a bit, poured pepper everywhere, and retook my blood pressure. It was lower still: around 93 over 61. She peered at me. "Can the poor thing be alive?"
This unusually low blood pressure is quite probably related to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, as it's described in the Canadian definition. I've always had fairly low blood pressure but this seems ridiculous. Couldn't we arrange for a tilt table test? And wouldn't this make it fairly clear that what we're dealing with, though it does have the psychological impacts of any chronic and debilitating illness, is a clearly defined physical disability?
Maybe this will all make more sense to me, when I become a Queen, or a pig.