Have You Seen my Mojo?

I’ve lost my blogging mojo. Of late my posts irrevocably suck. No, don’t try to spare my feelings, I know they do. And just as assuredly, I know that I will get my mojo back. I’ve been writing my entire life. I wrote for the school newspaper in junior high and high school. My style was decidedly dramatic. I refused to write a gossip column that said who was dating, who had broken up, or who went to whom’s birthday party. I introduced people to their classmates–because I was sure that no one knew that Jim wanted to be a hanglider, or that Karen lived with both sets of grandparents in a huge old farmhouse, or that Keith invented a butter-flavored chapstick.

I wonder if writing comes so naturally to me because I’ve always read so much? That would make sense, wouldn’t it? I’ve been absorbing words and writing styles for a very long time. I’m not sure that I have a style. I just write what I have in my head and in my heart. Sometimes I’m dramatic and sometimes I’m not, so I suppose I’m uneven, variable. I’m thinking about this because there’s a writer’s group I’m considering attending. I don’t know that it will work for me, but I’m willing to give it a shot. This is part of my therapist’s directive to socialize more. I think the painting and drawing group will suit me much better, though. It’s a fiction writing group, and the leader gives writing assignments. I will go once to check it out.

I believe that when I began writing this blog several days ago, my mojo had returned. I’m not sure where it is at this moment. I’m simply going to write and discover if I have it or not. I’m writing from PJ&L’s house. I’m staying the night with them. As much as I don’t want to lay it out there in front of goddess and everyone, I believe I must. If someone comes upon my blogs sometime, if they are to resonate, I feel I can’t hide things. My modus operandi has always been not to talk about troubles that no one can do anything about, but I can’t be the person I need to and do that. So here goes.

I’m staying at PJ&L’s because I really didn’t want to be alone. I’m not decompensating (at least I don’t think I am). I simply didn’t want to be alone in my house. My tiny little paycheck isn’t cutting it as child support is being garnished from my wages. Out of my last check CSED received $130.80 and I received $108.00. My house is without electricity or gas and while I’ve been staying there, I needed a break. I need a break from washing with cold cold water in the dark. I need a break from not being able to cook. I need a break from the grimness of it all.

I have been ferreting out every assistance agency I can and nothing as of yet. I have plenty of candles, but I’m a modern girl. I like warm water when I shower. Such is my life at the moment. It sucks, but there you go. Not everything sucks, but this does. My attorney’s brain seems to be missing in action.

I’m just taking the path of least resistance and doing what is possible to be done. I’m trying not to stress. I’m trying to add little bits and pieces of brilliance where possible so it’s not all grim. And, it’s Albuquerque. It’s been a bit chilly of late, but we will soon again have highs in the 70s and 80s. I’m not really a fan of “it could be worse.” But it could be worse. Worse would be not to have water. I’m really not a pioneer type, or a camping type, so camping out in my home isn’t the best scenario. But…what’s a girl going to do?

The bright pieces are being with my children, loving my dogs, enjoying my little job, getting to use the gym to stretch and lift weights and jump on the trampoline. These all help with my stress level. The gas has been off since March 15, and the electricity since Monday. My skin is taking a beating with MRSA (stress) and so I’m just trying to be cool. I can only do what I can do. This too shall pass.

I will get my mojo back. I will get my blogging mojo back. And eventually, I’ll get my groove back. Thank you, Stella! I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing to get all three back. And I will get my kids back. That goes without saying. And then watch out world! I will be unstoppable. These aren’t encouragements to bolster my spirit. It will be. Count on it.

I really don’t need my groove back right now, but I’m going to enjoy the journey there. I was never an exercise nut. I remember being in Las Cruces at a conference with a colleague and she suggested we go out for a walk. We went for maybe a half mile walk and she asked me, “Now don’t you feel virtuous?” She had 30 years on me so I politely said, “Yes.” But inside my head I was thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Every little bit helps, though. I became a gym bunny after separating from my children’s father. But when my all women’s gym closed down, I couldn’t find anything to replace the experience there. At that gym, I found out that I loved to exercise, and that it was one of the things that helped me quiet my head.

So I’ve been doing strengthening exercises for my knees, as I have much trouble with them. I really can’t start any kind of program without making sure that they are stabilized. I’ve been lifting weights (arms and shoulders). I’ve been stretching every muscle possible. And I’ve been jumping on the trampoline–something I haven’t done in 25 years. It feels good and it not only helps my body, it helps my head.

That’s where I am today. I would appreciate your prayers and well wishes. Please don’t worry about me, my head is in an okay place, all things considered.

Peace, T.

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Taming the Transitional Tornado

Spring makes me restless. I want to plant, I want to travel, I want to leave winter behind. The weather is not cooperating–it’s cold here. My finances are tethering me. I need to get creative. I feel like the dust devils the wind is stirring up, tiny little ineffectual tornado wannabes that can’t travel far and don’t do much damage before pfft!–they are gone! I will not dissipate. I will simply use my energy where it finds the greatest need. Day by day.

Today I hope to write myself into a better place. I’m mostly okay, but there is a shadow of something, I’m not sure what, that I need to shake off. Not quite like a fog, more like a veil of pain…physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. I’ve been having headaches on the right side of my head, and the pollens have been wreaking havoc with my sinuses. Yes, it’s been a tough week. But I am strong and getting stronger, and I will leave this behind too. I’m on the road to a better place, and doing my best to enjoy the beauty of each new day.

I suppose that I feel this way, stormy, because I am in a transition state. There is so much change going on about me and in my life. It seems everyone I know is making changes. This one is getting divorced, the other one is moving. The political scene world-wide is in upheaval. There’s so much energy bubbling and pushing and twisting and turning. Have I been disconnected from that energy? Is it always there and I have been stagnant? Oh, I know I have been stagnant. But it seemed to me everyone else was too. Perhaps I was too out of touch, focused inward on my recovery, to really feel what everyone the change in others’ lives. Change is the only constant. I’m excited and frightened at the same time. Impatient and resistant. Advancing and retreating. But whatever it is, there is nothing to do but go forward. And that is where I want to be. It is my time. my time to stand in the sun, it is my time to make great strides, it is my time to shake off the chains of the last many years. I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop this momentum.

But for the time being, I must be satisfied with what is, and what I can do, and continue to push for what I want and need, and what my children want and need.

You know, it’s really very odd. This morning I was talking with an old college friend on the phone. I found him on Facebook. He’s living in Cairo, Egypt these days. He got to be in Cairo during their overthrow of a repressive government! How exciting is that? And I had this moment of near panic. I am social. I love easily and love to be close to people. But sometimes, I feel overwhelmed. I guess it’s because I’m so intense–to add another person to my radar often overwhelms me. I know that’s just plain weird and I know it probably has to do with my OCD. When I meet someone and becomes friends with that person, I am then somehow responsible for them. Or at least, keeping track of them. I generally fail miserably at the keeping in touch, probably because I don’t know how to do casual friendships like most people do. I don’t know how to fix that. I recall my friend Roxanne had this box with dividers in it and was in the process of writing to just about everyone she knew, and she knew a lot of people. I do have my friends in orbit poster where I banish people I’m upset with the fiery sun or cold Pluto. Maybe I need a friend file box. I already said I know it’s weird. OCD. Boxes. files. Everyone I know. Hmm. I like it.

I love Facebook. I really really do. I just found another friend who worked with me at the Press. He went to the American University of Cairo and now he’s doing who knows what in Morocco. Maybe I’ll soon find out. You see, I never really lose people from my radar. I may misplace them for a while, but once they find their way to my heart, they remain there always. My Christmas/holiday card since I have joined Facebook has gone from 250 to 350! Yikes! That’s a big responsibility. Or it would be if I could ever get Christmas cards out! But I love it. I’ll just have to find a way to deal with the overwhelming part of it.

Speaking of Christmas cards, my son asked me recently why I celebrate Christmas if I’m not religious. I told him that it’s part of my familial, cultural, and societal makeup. It’s a tradition handed down to me by my family. I enjoy it. Just because I’m not religious doesn’t mean I don’t believe in Christ. I simply don’t see him as the son of God. I believe he was a great man, a great philosopher, and a revolutionary. He changed our society and his influence is still extraordinarily strong. Thankfully his is a positive influence.

I ran across this poem, Storm, and am posting it here. It’s by Tim Minchkin (I bet he changed that from Munchkin) and it’s fascinating. There’s an animated version of it at the bottom of this post, but as I couldn’t catch all the words and meaning the first time I heard it, I find the text helpful to understand its meaning. I’ll warn you there’s profanity and you may not like it, but if you can keep an open mind, it might make you think. Enjoy!

“Storm”

Inner North London, top floor flat
All white walls, white carpet, white cat,
Rice Paper partitions
Modern art and ambition
The host’s a physician,
Lovely bloke, has his own practice
His girlfriend’s an actress
An old mate from home
And they’re always great fun.
So to dinner we’ve come.


The 5th guest is an unknown,
The hosts have just thrown
Us together for a favour
because this girl’s just arrived from Australia
And has moved to North London
And she’s the sister of someone
Or has some connection.

As we make introductions
I’m struck by her beauty
She’s irrefutably fair
With dark eyes and dark hair
But as she sits
I admit I’m a little bit wary
because I notice the tip of the wing of a fairy
Tattooed on that popular area
Just above the derrière
And when she says “I’m Sagittarien”
I confess a pigeonhole starts to form
And is immediately filled with pigeon
When she says her name is Storm.

Chatter is initially bright and light hearted
But it’s not long before Storm gets started:
“You can’t know anything,
Knowledge is merely opinion”
She opines, over her Cabernet Sauvignon
Vis a vis
Some unhippily
Empirical comment by me

“Not a good start” I think
We’re only on pre-dinner drinks
And across the room, my wife
Widens her eyes
Silently begs me, Be Nice
A matrimonial warning
Not worth ignoring
So I resist the urge to ask Storm
Whether knowledge is so loose-weave
Of a morning
When deciding whether to leave
Her apartment by the front door
Or a window on the second floor.

The food is delicious and Storm,
Whilst avoiding all meat
Happily sits and eats
While the good doctor, slightly pissedly
Holds court on some anachronistic aspect of medical history
When Storm suddenly she insists
“But the human body is a mystery!
Science just falls in a hole
When it tries to explain the the nature of the soul.”

My hostess throws me a glance
She, like my wife, knows there’s a chance
That I’ll be off on one of my rants
But my lips are sealed.
I just want to enjoy my meal
And although Storm is starting to get my goat
I have no intention of rocking the boat,
Although it’s becoming a bit of a wrestle
Because — like her meteorological namesake –
Storm has no such concerns for our vessel:

“Pharmaceutical companies are the enemy
They promote drug dependency
At the cost of the natural remedies
That are all our bodies need
They are immoral and driven by greed.
Why take drugs
When herbs can solve it?
Why use chemicals
When homeopathic solvents
Can resolve it?
It’s time we all return-to-live
With natural medical alternatives.”

And try as hard as I like,
A small crack appears
In my diplomacy-dike.
“By definition”, I begin
“Alternative Medicine”, I continue
“Has either not been proved to work,
Or been proved not to work.
You know what they call “alternative medicine”
That’s been proved to work?
Medicine.”

“So you don’t believe
In ANY Natural remedies?”

“On the contrary actually:
Before we came to tea,
I took a natural remedy
Derived from the bark of a willow tree
A painkiller that’s virtually side-effect free
It’s got a weird name,
Darling, what was it again?
Masprin?
Basprin?
Asprin!
Which I paid about a buck for
Down at my local drugstore.

The debate briefly abates
As our hosts collects plates
but as they return with desserts
Storm pertly asserts,

“Shakespeare said it first:
There are more things in heaven and earth
Than exist in your philosophy…
Science is just how we’re trained to look at reality,
It can’t explain love or spirituality.
How does science explain psychics?
Auras; the afterlife; the power of prayer?”

I’m becoming aware
That I’m staring,
I’m like a rabbit suddenly trapped
In the blinding headlights of vacuous crap.
Maybe it’s the Hamlet she just misquothed
Or the eighth glass of wine I just quaffed
But my diplomacy dike groans
And the arsehole held back by its stones
Can be held back no more:

“Look , Storm, I don’t mean to bore you
But there’s no such thing as an aura!
Reading Auras is like reading minds
Or star-signs or tea-leaves or meridian lines
These people aren’t plying a skill,
They are either lying or mentally ill.
Same goes for those who claim to hear God’s demands
And Spiritual healers who think they have magic hands.

By the way,
Why is it OK
For people to pretend they can talk to the dead?
Is it not totally fucked in the head
Lying to some crying woman whose child has died
And telling her you’re in touch with the other side?
That’s just fundamentally sick
Do we need to clarify that there’s no such thing as a psychic?
What, are we fucking 2?
Do we actually think that Horton Heard a Who?
Do we still think that Santa brings us gifts?
That Michael Jackson hasn’t had facelifts?
Are we still so stunned by circus tricks
That we think that the dead would
Wanna talk to pricks
Like John Edwards?

Storm to her credit despite my derision
Keeps firing off clichés with startling precision
Like a sniper using bollocks for ammunition

“You’re so sure of your position
But you’re just closed-minded
I think you’ll find
Your faith in Science and Tests
Is just as blind
As the faith of any fundamentalist”

“Hm that’s a good point, let me think for a bit
Oh wait, my mistake, it’s absolute bullshit.
Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.
If you show me
That, say, homeopathy works,
Then I will change my mind
I’ll spin on a fucking dime
I’ll be embarrassed as hell,
But I will run through the streets yelling
It’s a miracle! Take physics and bin it!
Water has memory!
And while it’s memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is Infinite
It somehow forgets all the poo it’s had in it!

You show me that it works and how it works
And when I’ve recovered from the shock
I will take a compass and carve Fancy That on the side of my cock.”

Everyones just staring at me now,
But I’m pretty pissed and I’ve dug this far down,
So I figure, in for penny, in for a pound:

“Life is full of mysteries, yeah
But there are answers out there
And they won’t be found
By people sitting around
Looking serious
And saying isn’t life mysterious?
Let’s sit here and hope
Let’s call up the fucking Pope
Let’s go watch Oprah
Interview Deepak Chopra

If you’re going to watch tele, you should watch Scooby Doo.
That show was so cool
because every time there’s a church with a ghoul
Or a ghost in a school
They looked beneath the mask and what was inside?
The fucking janitor or the dude who runs the waterslide.
Throughout history
Every mystery
EVER solved has turned out to be
Not Magic.

Does the idea that there might be truth
Frighten you?
Does the idea that one afternoon
On Wiki-fucking-pedia might enlighten you
Frighten you?
Does the notion that there may not be a supernatural
So blow your hippy noodle
That you would rather just stand in the fog
Of your inability to Google?

Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?
If you’re so into Shakespeare
Lend me your ear:
“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet… is just fucking silly”
Or something like that.
Or what about Satchmo?!
I see trees of Green,
Red roses too,
And fine, if you wish to
Glorify Krishna and Vishnu
In a post-colonial, condescending
Bottled-up and labeled kind of way
That’s ok.
But here’s what gives me a hard-on:
I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
And unimportant…
But thanks to recent scientific advances
I get to live twice as long as my great great great great uncles and auntses.
Twice as long to live this life of mine
Twice as long to love this wife of mine
Twice as many years of friends and wine
Of sharing curries and getting shitty
With good-looking hippies
With fairies on their spines
And butterflies on their titties.

And if perchance I have offended
Think but this and all is mended:
We’d as well be 10 minutes back in time,
For all the chance you’ll change your mind.

That’s my contribution for the day. I know it’s a little disjointed, and travels all over the spectrum, thanks for hanging in there with me. A couple of days back and I couldn’t even have written anything cohesive so I didn’t try.

I am so excited for tomorrow because I have a workout planned. I found this great website that has all kinds of exercises and stretches. I know there are a lot of them, but this one’s approach is from a sports injury standpoint. So I’m going off to jump on the trampoline and use the small weights. Woot!

Gratitudes:

1.) My children, always. You’re amazing!

2.) People who have shared bits and pieces of life with me. I never, ever forget you, and I continue to love you. Yes, that means just about everyone, there are very few exceptions.

3.) To possibilities and opportunities.

4.) To cooking, my passion.

5.) Pennie and Lady, though I still haven’t found my fucking flip-flop, I still love you.

‎”And now I have to confess the unpardonable and the scandalous. I am a happy man. And I am going to tell you the secret of my happiness. It is quite simple. I love mankind. I love love. I hate hate. I try to understand and accept.” ~ Jean Cocteau, mad poet, filmmaker, artist, and boxing manager

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Skipping on Over to the Far Side, Where Life is Good

My sense of humor is beginning to return. That’s a really good thing. I never completely lost it, but it kind of lost its luster for a while. I’ve always had an offbeat sense of humor, and I believe I’m joined by many in that. The Far Side is far and above my favorite comic strip. I was devastated when Gary Larson stopped drawing it. I wonder what he’s doing now? What he did when he stopped? There are other odd comics floating around these days, like Lío, but they don’t tickle my funny bone like The Far Side does. The New York Times described Larson’s work as “Sinister, perhaps, and perfect.” What does that have to say about me finding it so funny? It doesn’t matter. We all have our light and shadow sides. I have an absolute abhorrence to people making fun of others–that’s the only kind of humor I dislike, and I believe this is a very noble trait. I’m not going to worry about my sense of humor. I don’t think it’s “broke,” so I’m not going to “fix it.”

Things are moving in my life. I’m making things happen. Unfortunately everything seems to be moving at a snail’s pace, when I am ready for the good stuff to steamroll me. It’s been a long time that I’ve been struggling, so I’m ready for a tidal wave of good. I think I must have broken a mirror or something, back in 2005. Ever since then, it’s been down hill. Not that there haven’t been good times, but rather they’ve been few and far between. But I promised myself that I would be done losing this year. And I’ve only got a short few months plus a year before I turn 50. And I am having one.big.party on my 50th birthday. So mark your calendars–June 30, 2012 lands on a Saturday! Plan on coming out to Albuquerque for the weekend and helping me celebrate!

I have to keep my eye on the good, make plans for the positive, and not get derailed by the negative. Work hard and play hard and be as positive as I can. Surround myself with people who do the same and who love and support me. Easier said than done but according to the astrological omens, it’s a good time for that:

If you were a poker player, the odds would now be far better than usual that you’d be voted one of the “50 Sexiest Poker Players in the World.” If you were a physician volunteering your services in Haiti or Sudan, there’d be an unusually high likelihood that you’d soon be the focus of a feature story on a TV news show. And even if you were just a pet groomer or life coach or yoga teacher, I bet your cachet would be rising. Why? According to my reading of the omens, you Cancerians are about to be noticed, seen for who you are, or just plain appreciated a lot more than usual.

Doesn’t that sound exquisite? It would be absolutely fanfuckingtastic if my frustrations would evaporate. But that’s not realistic. Writing letters, writing summations, writing in my journal, and writing here.  And getting exercise, that will help me exorcise my frustrations. I found another class at the Maple Street Dance Space, beginning African dance, that I think will be lovely to try…once I get a little more settled.  Well, actually, when I can afford it. I got out my sketch pad today and started drawing. Oh, does it ever feel so good. I’m so pleased. I found out about a new (to me) art project called OffCenter Community Arts and I’m so excited because they have groups! A writer’s group and a painting and drawing group! I’m so excited I can’t stand it! I can get back to my art in a supportive, non-pressured environment! Life is good!

Do you know what happened today? I was in Hastings doing a book buy back. I had just walked in, the customer service rep was with another customer, so I told her I was going to set my books on the counter and find the restroom. When I came back out, the other customer was gone, and he’d taken my books with him! The manager looked at the security tapes, and it appeared to him that the guy took my books on purpose. They called his number and left a message. If he doesn’t call back by 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, they’re going to file a police report. Isn’t that wild? What a dumbass. The store has his name, driver’s license number, address, and phone number. Life isn’t always so good!

And do you know what else happened today? This little blog of mine hit 2,000 visits. And I have a new subscriber–another woman who suffers from OCD. I’m looking forward to checking out her blog and comparing war stories. I know that people make it to my blog by mistake, but I love it when they make it to my blog and want to stay. (Aside: In order to read these gems, you’ll probably need to click on them). We can cheer each other on and support each other! Life is good!

I am soon to be completely on my own at my little job. That’s a good thing. I like the 20-somethings that I work with, but I’m not accustomed to working that closely with another person, side by side. It takes a lot of patience, and fortunately I do have a lot of patience, for the most part. I’m about as ready for that baby to be born as my co-worker is, but for different reasons. Although I must say, I’m anxious on her behalf as well, not just for my own selfish reasons. Life is good!

Speaking of pain…I’m finally good on something that occurred yesterday. People hurt each other all the time. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. I had a row with someone. Someone who basically called me a liar, because he doesn’t remember having told me something. He accused me of clocking him on Facebook. We are not friends on Facebook, and both have private pages. He refused to even consider the possibility he was wrong. I don’t particularly care about right or wrong. What hurt and bothered me was that he was really unkind and judgmental and ugly about the whole thing. I write about this because I spent quite a bit of time yesterday and today out of sorts and upset about it. And also, yeah, he can consider this a de facto communiqué. But I have come to the conclusion that it’s really in the big picture, it really doesn’t rate. He will apologize, or he won’t, and I have no control over it. If he doesn’t, he’s not the kind of person I want as a friend. If he does…well, I really don’t know. Why are we so parsimonious with love and appreciation and so generous with disapproval and thanklessness? What I do know, is that I don’t have room in my life for someone who exhibits that kind of behavior and doesn’t own up to it. I’m okay with whatever happens. Life isn’t always so good!

Now, for something truly terrible. You wouldn’t believe it. It’s so hideous, so astonishing, so atrocious…Pennie stole my flip-flop. Actually, this is a daily occurrence. But this time, I can’t find it. Honestly, I’ve looked all over for it. I had just bought a new pair because he’d chewed up those I had. He usually carries them out to the family room. I looked everywhere inside and out-of-doors and they are nowhere to be found. I looked in the alley in case he dropped it over the gate–nada. It seems to have vanished into thin air. Maddening. Life sucks!

I found out something marvelous! I can go to the gym where I work and work out any time I want to! There are weights, there’s a huge floor where the gymnasts do floor exercises, and there’s a trampoline!  I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! My daughter is excited too! Her first love was a trampoline. My son is 15 and too cool to admit he’s excited, but I think he is a little. He likes a trampoline too, now and again. Life is good!

And breaking news, Congress came to an agreement on the budget. It will be interesting and painful to see what they have cut and what remains. I have a lot of debates with friends on Facebook about politics. But everyone has been disgusted with the possibility of a shutdown. Thankfully that has been averted. I think that Congress had to know that there would be no glory if there were a shutdown, but rather the opposite.

I have no particular wisdom to offer tonight. I’m very very worn down. After I got up this morning, I went back to bed and slept another hour or two, I don’t even know. Tomorrow I’ll be back to my peppy self. I’m looking so much forward to the day. The weather is superb, and I’m relishing the opportunity to plow through some tasks, cook for my children, spend time with them, go to group meditation, and then I have a phone date with my sister. My son has become a vegetarian, so I’m scouring my vegetarian cookbooks for something he will like. My daughter loves salad with ranch dressing in a pita pocket, so I will be sure to make that. Perhaps I will make falafel sandwiches.

Since I’m lacking in any particular wisdom, I will borrow some from others.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong.  Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”  ~  George Washington Carver

“Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.”  ~  Robert Brault

“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping him up.”  ~  Jesse Jackson

“If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”  ~  Bob Hope

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  ~  Dalai Lama

“I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.”  ~  Rudyard Kipling

“If we should deal out justice only, in this world, who would escape?  No, it is better to be generous, and in the end more profitable, for it gains gratitude for us, and love.”  ~  Mark Twain

Gratitudes:

1.) My children, always. They taught me what love really is. Love you immensely.

2.) Music and friends who introduce me to new stuff. So damned cool.

3.) Family and friends who love me.

4.) My community, I’m so lucky to live in Albuquerque, and all of the community arts projects that I can participate in.

5.) My furry babies, love love love you.

Peace, T.

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News Flash! Silkies and Happiness Come to Roost When You Give Them an Inviting Habitation

There’s a fairy tale you may have heard, and the protagonists are ghosts called Silkies. It’s an Irish tale, and I wish so much it were true. As the story goes, Silkies will come and haunt your house and do your housework if you provide them with a hospitable dwelling. Yes, I know that Silkies, or rather Selchies, are seals that can shed their skins to become humans. But this tale of house-cleaning Silkies, I read in a book somewhere down the line. I must not have it right yet, the hospitable dwelling part, because they have yet to make an appearance. But I will persevere.

I’m happy to report that I have been feeling somewhat–happy–of late. And for me, well, you know how significant that is. I haven’t had more than very fleeting moments of happiness for a long, long time. I felt happy more often with Trey* as part of my life, much more so than I would have without him. The point is, I suppose, that when we parted ways, I didn’t crumble. I didn’t spiral down. I didn’t seek a replacement. I gave myself time to grieve and read and vegetate. Two months later, and I’m back to having happy moments, I’m (mostly) doing what I need to do and working on being sociable. I’m not miserable.

‎”And now I have to confess the unpardonable and the scandalous. I am a happy man. And I am going to tell you the secret of my happiness. It is quite simple. I love mankind. I love love. I hate hate. I try to understand and accept.” ~ Jean Cocteau, mad poet, filmmaker, artist, and boxing manager

I had an extraordinary experience Saturday night. I sometimes go to a group meditation. The types that go are those who believe in the metaphysical, and then there’s me. Yes, it seems I’m always on the fringe of most groups. It’s a truism that even in my own family, I’ve always felt like an outsider. I don’t think when I married I felt like I was truly part of a union. But that’s a tale for another time. It all changed when I had children, I’m happy to report. I finally created my own family. Back to the meditation experience (deduct 10 points for digressing). I very much want to believe that on some level, prayers are beneficial to the recipients. I believe action is better in every instance, but I would like to believe in the power of prayer.

I didn’t want to go to meditation Saturday night, I just thought that I should. I thought it would do me some good at the same time it was doing others good. We meditate on the world at large, New Mexicans, and ourselves in particular, asking for love, forgiveness, strength, whatever and whomever the participants add to the circle on any given night. The closer it got the more I didn’t want to go. I tried not to go. I left my house late. I got an ice cream cone on the way. I got there 20 minutes late and figured the door would be locked, but it wasn’t. I want to say that the cosmos wanted me to be there. I’m not sure what to make of it, but considering I had a cosmic experience not all that long ago, I have decided to be alert and aware.

The actual experience of meditation was, how can I say it? Uneasy. The first I don’t know how many minutes were blissful, and then my mind wandered. Some of the places it wandered, I really didn’t like. The rest was a struggle. Maybe I really needed to be there. Actually, I’m sure I really needed to be there. Even if my experience wasn’t optimal, and I’m not into the metaphysical, I believe I needed to be there. Wow. Me, needing to be a part of a group, even though I don’t exactly feel like I “belong” there. I still feel accepted and cared for. That’s pretty damned good!

I saw both of my shrinks today, the marvelous Dr. M. and the amazing Dr. K. I have to say that I believe that the lithium intervention is responsible for my current occasionally happy state. That and all of my hard work. And all of the love and support that people give me every day. Let me say that again, “All of my hard work.” I don’t want to say that my problems are all resolved, far from it. But I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel. And I have worked very very hard to get there. Oh wait. I forgot…

I guess that my thinking is, that to be happy, you have to make a home in which happiness can thrive. What I mean is, we are all chasing happiness, but sometimes, all we really need to do is give it a hospitable home. Yes, it’s very complicated, and no, I’m not oversimplifying it. I have been studying happiness, in a way, since I started writing this blog. I haven’t been chasing happiness, just sitting quietly and trying to do what I need to do and what I want to do and making my life a place where happiness can come to roost. I wasn’t doing that intentionally, but in the process of taking care of my issues, I think I’ve allowed it to come into my life. I haven’t given up all worry or striving, but I’ve come to see that I have absolutely no business trying to tackle problems that aren’t mine. I have no business caring what certain people say or think or do. I’m taking care of myself rather than others. And I’ve spent a lot of time studying what other people say about happiness. I’ve shared this particular bit of wisdom with you before, but it bears repetition:

“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator.” ~ W. Beran Wolfe

Now here’s a random thought. If anyone has any ideas on this, please let me know. The mind is an amazing organism, we’re all agreed upon that. “Experts” say that we only use 10% of our brain power at any given time. So my questions are, what would the rest of it be doing if we were using 100%? What would the function of the rest of the brain be? Why is the rest of our brain slacking? I don’t think my brain is a slacker. People with OCD have all kinds of brain activity going on at any given time. See your brain? It’s the one on the top. Mine’s the one on the bottom. See all of that red? That’s my brain spinning. Your brain is a slacker brain. If I were thinking great thoughts, I would have it made. Most of the time, I’m stuck in an obsessional thinking cycle. Seriously though, I do wonder about that now and again.

I’m going back in time–it’s very difficult to tell one’s history in a linear format, though one of my dad’s favorite expressions was, “The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line.” He generally said that when we were making something more difficult than it needed to be. Anyway, back to when I received my diagnosis–it was the fall of 2007. My house was in a state of disrepair, to put it mildly. One would believe that if one’s house were a horrendous mess, that one would have the wherewithal to clean it. But I had gotten to a point that I couldn’t. I was turning around in circles and steadily decompensating. It had been years that I couldn’t afford medication for the depression that has accompanied me my entire adult life. We were involved in the family court clinic because of my decompensation, and I had sent my children to live with their father. That same week I returned to therapy, got samples of Cymbalta from my primary care doctor, and nearly stepped out into the path of an oncoming truck intentionally. Being told I had a mental issues above and beyond depression was devastating. With depression, there’s always the possibility of not being depressed. I don’t believe that one can never have OCD, though I’ve come to believe that people can recover from many of their symptoms. At the time, though, I suppose I would much rather have thought I was just depressed, disorganized, and lazy. People often think of the mentally ill as lazy, when in actuality, they are debilitated.

When the court clinic representative told me about my diagnosis, I came to understand it. I would havegotten my house in order if I could have, and I couldn’t. Even so, I cried so many tears telling my mother, I shorted out my cell phone. The diagnoses were psychosis, a thought disorder, and histrionic personality disorder. Actually, when the dr. who conducted the tests told me, she said I had a histrionic personality and that was a good thing to have with children. I thought that was a positive thing. I guess she was trying to put a positive spin on it for me, bless her.

My primary care doctor at the time set me up with a psychiatrist, and as I didn’t yet have any insurance, she carried the charges for the visit until I did get insurance. I spoke with him for hours, and he said I definitely wasn’t psychotic, and that OCD can look like a thought disorder in testing.

It’s hard to wrap your mind around a diagnosis, and I didn’t have enough knowledge to see how I had OCD. I didn’t count, I didn’t hand wash, and that’s about all I knew about OCD. My variety happens to be mostly about obsessional thinking, so I understand how I didn’t understand. I also have Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome, but I seem to have managed to keep it within limits.

I really came to understand OCD as it pertains to me the more therapy I had and when I read chapter 12 of The Sky is Falling: Understanding and Coping with Phobias, Panic, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, by Rae Ann Dumont. The title of the chapter is Mr. More, the Man Who Couldn’t Throw Anything Away. I was blown away. With a few differences, you could insert my name and voila! You would know my situation. I’ve typed the entire chapter, hoping that it might resonate within a reader or two (and hope I don’t get in too much trouble for it!) I honestly felt so alone until I read this. I’ve italicized parts of the chapter where I underlined them when I was reading it, parts that amazed me because either I identified with Mr. More to a great extent, or because I didn’t know until I read them that my behavior was similar and didn’t understand until then why I did the some of the things I did. It’s long! But Ms. Dumont is an excellent writer and has a very dry wit.

When I was about fourteen I was drafted into helping my mother and aunt clean out the house of an elderly relative who had recently died. I’m not sure exactly how she was related; my memory of her is hazy, but I know with absolute certainty that I had never been in her house prior to the cleaning expedition.

The house was a little bungalow in sad disrepair on the outside. Inside it was stacked to the ceiling with boxes. Leading from the front door was a path about four feet wide with boxes of more or less equal size stacked on each side. The path led to the dining room, where there were more boxes. Piled on the dining-room table and chairs were more boxes. From the dining room the path split off and led to her bedroom and sewing room (both stacked with boxes). The kitchen was the only room with a semblance of normality. In spite of the boxes, the neatness and order of everything was dazzling. The boxes were stacked and aligned with precision, and every box was labeled and sub-labeled with a brief description of its contents.

In the bedroom:

SHOES–BLACK–Low heels (out of style)

SHOES–SUMMER–White & Beige (kind of worn)

In the dining room:

DOILIES–White & Cream–Large

NAPKINS–White Damask (for company only)

In the living room:

READER’S DIGEST–From 1942 to 1946

The house was a warehouse of her entire life. In awe I wandered along the paths trying to imagine what her thoughts could have been when she surveyed her accumulations. But I realized that such an understanding was way beyond my grasp when I found in the pantry a box, somewhat larger than a shoe box, that was labeled PIECES OF STRING TOO SHORT TO SAVE.

Mr. More was forty-two years old, single, and lived alone. He was a little overweight and had a slightly rumpled, disheveled appearance. He worked as an accountant for a large firm, and his constant obsessing on inconsequential matters was affecting his career. He estimated that he spent at least a third of his working day obsessing. He was able to keep up with the work by staying many hours overtime, but the tax season was approaching and his workload would double.

Mr. More obsessed about everything: “Did I remember to turn off the gas or lock the door? Should I have worn gray socks instead of black socks? The black socks look too drab, almost morbid. Will people think I’m morbid because of the black socks? If they think I’m morbid, they’ll think there’s something wrong with me. Maybe I can sneak out for lunch and buy a pair of gray socks and change them, but if I change them, where can I put the black socks? I can’t just throw them away. I can’t put them in my desk drawer; they might smell bad. What can I do with my black socks if I buy new socks? And what if someone notices that I’ve changed socks in the middle of the day…”

After a phone conversation with his boss he would think, I shouldn’t have ended the conversation by saying, ‘Have a nice day’; that’s too frivolous. He’ll think I’m a real twit for saying anything so silly. Or maybe he’ll think I’m being a smart alack. Maybe I should call him and tell him I didn’t mean it–but no, I can’t call him up and tell I don’t want him to have a nice day. Maybe I can call him and have another conversation and end it more intelligently. But what can I call him about? I can’t just call him for no reason except to end a conversation…”

On our third appointment Mr. More arrived very distressed. “Now I have a real problem,” he said. “That other stuff was just nonsense. I can’t get into my apartment, and I have to get in because I’ve got important papers in there.

“Why can’t you get into your apartment?” I asked.

For a moment he hesitated and then with exasperation said, “Because a stack fell in front of the door.” I started to ask, “What stack…?” when a picture of my relative’s house with all the boxes emerged from my long-buried memory. “Oh,” I said, “I think I understand.”

The previous morning on his way to work he had slammed the door shut (he always slammed it to be sure the lock would catch), and he heard a loud crash. When he tried to reopen the door it wouldn’t budge. He pushed and pounded without luck. He obsessed about the problem all day at work and then called his brother and arranged to meet him at his apartment door where well into the night the two of them tried to get into the apartment with no luck. During our conversation he remembered that there was a fire escape outside his kitchen window. (It’s not unusual that an otherwise obvious solution can be completely overlooked when a person is distraught.) While he was in my office he called his upstairs neighbor to arrange for Mr. More to crawl out the neighbor’s window, down the fire escape, and into his own window. Before he left we agreed that his apartment was in serious trouble and that our next appointment should be held there.

My departed relative’s apartment was neat and orderly–Mr. More’s was total chaos. The house of my memory had wide, clear paths. In Mr. More’s apartment there was no way to walk without stepping on stuff. Everywhere–all over the floor, the couch, the tables–were clothes, dirty dishes, plastic containers, empty bags, newspapers, magazines, books, and other objects of various sizes and purposes.

Mr. More had a problem throwing things away. He remembered that even when he was very little he couldn’t bring himself to throw away outgrown clothes. He saved the shells he found at the seashore and the stones he picked up at summer camp; he saved his comic books and all his school papers. His older brother drew a chalk line down the middle of the room they shared, and if any of Mr. More’s collection oozed over the line his brother would throw it out. In college he had a reputation for being a slob, but except for a few arguments with his roommate the problem never became a major issue.

The disorder got out of hand when he moved into his own apartment. Because he had a limited budget for furnishings, he picked up things he found on the street–a chest of drawers with one drawer missing, a wobbly chair, a table with a scratched top. The intention was always to fix and refinish the furniture and replace the pieces when he could afford to. Over the years he bought a water bed and an expensive couch, but the curbside collection continued to grow. He picked up appliances that didn’t work, mirrors that were broken, damaged furniture, stacks of magazines, worn clothes, and all sorts of objects of uncertain identity.

Periodically he would set aside a day for “housecleaning,” when he typically would pick up item after item, inspect it briefly, and decide that it was still good, or that he would fix it next week, and put it down again, leaving the apartment looking much the same as before the “housecleaning.” The collection grew and grew. Newspapers were saved because Mr. More worried that he might have missed an important article and felt that he should reread the paper. Worn clothes were saved because he liked them and he might wear them for painting or cleaning. Plastic containers were saved for storage. He saved grocery bags because they were still good and he could use them again. On numerous occasions his mother had attempted to help him. With his permission she took piles and piles of his things and deposited them on the curb for garbage collection, but each time after she left Mr. More started worrying about the possibility of something really important having been thrown out, until the anxiety was so great he was compelled to bring the things back in. His mother finally refused not only to help but even to visit his apartment. His collection continued to grow.

Mr. More’s social life was nonexistent. During his twenties and thirties he occasionally dated, but around the third date he would begin to obsess about his date’s reaction to his apartment. He would make such a point of not taking her to his apartment that she would become suspicious and break off the relationship. During his late thirties he maintained an affair with a woman for several years and avoided taking her to his apartment by telling her that she was married. After a couple of years of dating he told her that he was leaving his wife and moved into her small one-bedroom apartment. Soon he began collecting things he found on the street again. Eventually his woman-friend started to complain about the clutter. The clutter increased and the arguments escalated until finally the woman told him that she couldn’t live with him any longer.

Mr. More lived in fear that the superintendent of his apartment building would evict him. Once, using a passkey, the super went into the apartment to check for a water leak. He warned Mr. More to clean the apartment or face eviction. Since then every time he ran into the superintendent, Mr. More would give him five or ten dollars and say, “Everything is fine, the place is all cleaned up.” But the fear of someone coming into his apartment was always present. Except for the superintendent, I was the first person inside Mr. More’s apartment since his mother had left in disgust over ten years before.

The place smelled bad. There was nowhere to sit, hardly any space to stand, and everything was covered with the sooty, gritty dust characteristic of New york. I was beginning to reassess my commitment to in vivo therapy. “One step at a time,” I told myself. “First we have to understand what the fear is and then take one small manageable step toward it.”

The first step was to understand the dimensions of the problem. Mr. More and I stood in the middle of the mayhem, trying to establish a hierarchy for the collection. Large items, such as furniture, and articles that had personal meaning were the hardest to throw away. Objects that were interesting (a carved chair leg) or conceivably useful (plastic containers, broken appliances) were next on the list. At the very bottom of the list (therefore the most dispensable) were wrinkled paper bags. We started by wading through the mess. After about twenty minutes we had collected a stack of bags about a food high.

Our next step was to throw the bags out or to analyze why they couldn’t be thrown out. Mr. More didn’t seem to be having any trouble during the search and collect period, but as the time to throw the bags out approached I could see he was becoming agitated. I asked him how he felt.

“Not good,” he said, “hot good at all. I may have left something important in one of them. There may be an important paper or money in the bags. I really can’t throw them out until I’ve had a chance to check them.” I asked him how he felt physically. “Tense, my chest feels like it has a tight band around it, and there’s a lump in my throat and a bigger one in my stomach. I have to check the bags, I have a feeling that I left something important in one of them.”

“Shall we check them together?” I asked.

“No, you might not do it right. I have to do it myself.”

I stood and watched while he picked up each bag, opened it, put his hand in, looked inside, shook it, and put it down again. In some of the bags he found receipts for merchandise or groceries, may of which were seven and eight years old. Each of the receipts he read, smoothed out, and carefully put aside. After he finished the stack he started over.

“You’ve checked all of these, let’s throw them out now,” I said

Mr. More forcefully said, “No! I can’t throw them out until I’m sure I’ve checked them all. There might be something important in one of them.”

Two of the most distressing aspects of OCD are the questioning of one’s own reality and the need for absolute certainty. Other people are able to trust in their sense of reality (“I definitely remember locking the door”), or they can tolerate uncertainty (“I don’t really remember locking the door, but I’m pretty sure I did”). But the OCD sufferer is compelled to repeat an action over and over again. The goal in therapy is to develop trust in one’s reality and to learn to accept and live with uncertainty. At this point, however, these were still distant goals for Mr. More, so head had to repeat his checking.

When he had finished, we walked together to the garbage chute and threw the bags down. Back in his apartment I asked him how he felt.

“Great!” he said with a big smile, “I really think I can do it.”

“Sure,” I said, ‘we’ll work together and eventually we’ll be able to get this place cleaned up.”

Mr. More’s face darkened. “I meant I thought I could throw out the wrinkled bags, not everything.”

Trying hard to keep the dismay from showing on my face, I said, “Right, that’s a good place to start.” His assignment for the week was to continue to find and throw out bags; to keep a record of his thoughts; and to clear a space for us to sit down during the next appointment.

My assignment for myself was to reassess my own attitudes. Mr. More’s place was filthy. It caused me distress just to stand in it. I didn’t want to breathe the air; I certainly didn’t want to touch anything. I didn’t even have the courage to look into the bathroom or kitchen. I really didn’t want to have to go there again, but I doubted that sitting in my office and talking about how he should throw things out would be terribly effective. An important part of therapy is the acceptance and positive regard that the therapist communicates to the client. Would I be able to separate my revulsion for Mr. More’s lifestyle from Mr. More if every time I saw him I was offended by his squalid apartment? I decided to endure another session in the apartment, gently letting Mr. More know how I felt about it, and then go from there.

For the next session I prepared myself by wearing old clothes and carrying moist paper towels in a plastic bag so I could clean myself off afterward.

“I’m kind of surprised you came back,” Mr. More said. “Most people wouldn’t have.”

Mr. More had spent the entire week clearing a six-foot circle and clearing the junk off chairs. He hadn’t done the other parts of the assignment. It seems contradictory that people spend considerable time and money for professional advice and then disregard it, but there can be a myriad of complicated reasons for people not doing their homework assignments. Sometimes it is old leftover resentment from having been a school kid. Or real-life problems impinge, such as illness or an extra-heavy work schedule. Maybe the person lacks commitment and feels that it is a waste of time. Most often it is because the goal was too ambitious.

Although he didn’t throw out any additional wrinkled paper bags, he did put aside all those he found while cleaning so we could work on throwing them out together. We had another foot-high stack of bags and old receipts to deal with. I suggested that he tear the bags completely open and spread them out flat. While he did that I pulled out more bags and stacked them. When he finished with the first stack, we went to the garbage chute and threw down the bags and receipts.

On returning to the apartment, I noticed that Mr. More was getting agitated. “What are you feeling?” I asked.

“I’m feeling very tense,” he said. I’m feeling that tightness in my chest and the lumps in my stomach and throat. How do I know that you know what you’re doing? How do I know that you aren’t making me go too fast and will cause me to crack?” He clutched his chest and said, “Those receipts are gone now, I can’t get them back.”

“Why do you need to get them back?” I asked.

“They might be important,” he said. Maybe if I get the super he’ll open the door to the garbage chute in the basement.”

“Why will you need grocery receipts or receipts that are over two years old?”

“I don’t know, but I have to get them back. Maybe if I get the super he’ll open the door to the garbage chute in the basement.”

“If you get them back will that terrible feeling go away?” I asked.

“Yes. I think you’re making me go too fast. I can’t stand it. I should never have let you talk me into throwing those receipts away.”

Mr. More’s terrible feeling is an intrinsic part of an obsessive-compulsive disorder. The OC victim gets a frightening though (in Mr. More’s case, it was “What if I need those receipts?”); the thought creates the distressing physical sensations of anxiety, and the victim relieves the anxiety by performing a ritual. Sometimes the ritual is saying a litany; often it’s washing. For Mr. More it was keeping absolutely everything so he would always have whatever he might need. The most difficult part of getting over an obsessive-compulsive disorder is resisting the compelling urge to perform the ritual. Mr. More was misinterpreting the terrible feeling as an indication that something even more terrible would happen–he would “crack.” The overriding impulse is to avert that most terrible thing and get relief. But the OC trap is that every time the person employs the ritual to be free of the terrible feelings, and he reinforces the OC stranglehold. The dilemma is: allow the terrible feelings and uncertainty and eventually work free of OCD or perform the ritual and appease the feelings but intensify the OC behavior.

Mr. More was very angry with me. He felt that I had pushed him too hard and too fast and subjected him to unreasonable danger. I had to encourage him to allow the terrible feelings and help him to see that the feelings would go away without having to perform the ritual. Many OCD treatment programs expose the person to his most fearful situation or contaminant and then prevent him from washing or performing another ritual. So he may have to handle feces and not be allowed to wash his hands, or he may not be allowed to bathe for a week. This procedure really works for the people who are willing to enter the program and stay with it, but many people are averse to subjecting themselves to such a punishing treatment. The anger and stress Mr. More was experiencing could cause him to drop out of therapy. It was very important that I reinforce his ability to think rationally during periods of stress and to allow the feelings.

“Tell me about the receipts,” I said. “What were they? What could have been so important that it can make you so miserable?”

“I don’t remember what they were, I’m not sure that I saw them all. I shouldn’t have thrown them out.”

“We went over them together, remember?” I said. “We had two categories of receipts. One was grocery receipts; do you remember the other category?”

“I think it was receipts more than two years old,” he answered.

“Right! So out of those two categories, what could be so important?”

“I can’t be sure that I saw them all,” he said. “I can’t be certain that I read them right.”

“Would you have been likely to have mistaken a check or a fifty-dollar bill for a grocery receipt?” I asked.

After thinking about it carefully, he replied, “I don’t think so.”

“So what could have been so important?”

“I don’t know,” he said, “but I still have this terrible feeling.”

“What if we try to get the super to open the garbage chute in the basement so that you can retrieve the receipts? Will the feeling go away?”

“Yeah,” he said, “but I can’t do that. The super already thinks I’m a nut job, and besides, I’ll feel like a miserable failure.”

“So what you’re saying is that you’ll get short-term relief but long-term misery. The decision is yours: what will you opt for?”

Mr. More’s distress was severe. He was pacing and gasping for air. “I hate this,” he said, “why does it have to be so hard? On one hand, I know it’s irrational but on the other, I feel like I can’t control it. I feel that I have to get rid of these feelings. But getting rid of the feelings will only cause another set of bad feelings. I really feel like I’m going to crack; I can’t stand the stress.”

“I know the feelings are awful, but I haven’t known anyone to crack from them; they will go away, and it does get easier,” I said. “Let’s make a list of things that might really cause problems if you were to accidentally throw them out.”

Mr More’s list of things not to throw out contained: credit cards, driver’s license, checks, cash, contracts, and official documents.

“How realistic is it that you might have mistaken any of these items for an old receipt or a grocery receipt?” I asked.

“Realistically? Well, it’s not too likely, but it could happen,” he said.

“What would happen if you were to lose your driver’s license or credit cards or cash?” I asked.

“It would be a pin in the neck,” he said, “but most of the stuff is replaceable except for the cash, and it’s unlikely that it could have been so much money that I’d go broke because of it.”

“So what you’re saying is that even if you did mistakenly throw out something important the consequences won’t really be so dire.”

Mr. More breathed a sigh of relief. “I guess not,” he said.

By the time I had to leave, Mr. More’s bad feelings had abated. His assignment for the week was to continue to throw out the wrinkled bags and to identify and reality test his thoughts as we had just done.

When I arrived for our next appointment I noticed that the cleared circle around our chairs had shrunk to about four feet in diameter. The collection was beginning to close in on us again. However, Mr. More had done all of his homework. Wrinkled paper bags were stacked and ready to be inspected, and he had kept a record of his obsessive thoughts. Asking an obsessive person to keep a diary can be risky: Because obsessive people have a need to do everything completely and perfectly, they may end up spending most of their time working on the diary until it becomes another obsession. But Mr. More’s diary was concise, and it identified a number of anxiety-producing thoughts, which came as a bit of a surprise to me. I would have guessed that the majority of his anxiety-producing thoughts would be work related, such as: “Did I do that right? Should I recheck the figures? I should do it over again. What if I made a mistake?” However, they were all thoughts about social situations. “Did I end the conversation too abruptly? They must think I’m a jerk. I shouldn’t have worn this jacket.” I had been so diverted by the mess in his apartment that I had forgotten that his original complaint was whether or not he should have worn black socks or said “Have a nice day.” Again I was reminded that Mr. More had virtually no social life in ten years. To say that his social skills were lacking is to barely touch the surface of his problem. He didn’t have the first idea of how to interact with people on a purely social level. He didn’t know how to initiate a conversation or how to end it, or how to deal with any part in the middle. In his work he was very confident; he rarely had concerns about having made a mistake, so he almost never had obsessive thoughts about it. But office parties were totally out of the question. Business lunches were agony; even meeting someone in the hallway was difficult. He would obsess endlessly about what had been said or done.

Mr. More originally came into therapy because of his obsessive thoughts about social situations. He genuinely wanted friends and a relationship with a woman, but he knew that the condition of his apartment and his uncontrollable collecting would be a turnoff for most people. He earnestly wanted to work on both problems. It was his suggestion to spend the first twenty minutes of a session examining his social problems and the remaining forty minutes on the collection.

We started with modest social assignments, such as initiating a conversation while waiting for the elevator. We wrote out scripts: “Hey, what do you think about those Mets?” “Do you think the weather will stay around for the weekend?”

His personal appearance was a major subject of his obsessions, so he planned to buy a book on dressing for success. I delicately pointed out that even “success clothes” have to be cleaned and pressed in order to be effective. His clothes were strewn all over his apartment, and he usually looked like he’d slept in them. That led nicely to an assignment to pull out all the clothes he could find and take them to the laundry or cleaner’s, make space in a closet to store them properly, and return to the work of cleaning up the apartment.

The work progressed. When Mr. More felt comfortable with elevator conversations he graduated to water-cooler conversations. After we disposed of most of the bags (both wrinkled and “good”) and some of the receipts, we started on plastic containers. He kept ten; pretty ones went to the thrift shop, the others to a recycling center. When his clothes came back from the cleaner’s and he cleared out a closet for them, we lost our chairs and clean circle for a couple of weeks, but the annoyance of having nowhere to sit and talk motivated him to establish a neat area again.

Just getting to the magazines in Mr. More’s apartment took weeks. Each time we started on a new project, he suffered with the old terrible feelings and desperately wanted to retrieve whatever it was we had just thrown out. His assignments were to prepare things to throw out, but he wouldn’t throw anything out unless I was with him. He still needed me to help reality test and to allow the feelings. Often he would get angry with me and accuse me of putting too much pressure on him and making him go too fast, even though I always let him decide on the assignments and gave him the option of retrieving the stuff if he wanted to.

At a snail’s pace things were being removed from the apartment. Mr. More had begun to wear mostly clean, pressed clothes. Not only did he initiate conversations, he invited people to lunch on a couple of occasions. Mr. More was clearly getting better.

At the very start of therapy I always ask the person to establish short- and long-term goals, but OC people often have a hard time with planning because they are so overwhelmed with day-to-day difficulties. Mr. More had originally been unable to set any realistic goals. I felt the time had come for us to sit down together and reassess what we wanted to accomplish and what we needed to do in order to accomplish it. Mr. More had been enjoying small social success recently. His immediate short-term goal was to start dating again. The long-term goal was to get married and have a family. He found that his obsessing at work had diminished considerably. Although he didn’t expect to ever be completely free of obsessing, he felt that he could reduce it even more. The techniques of identifying and categorizing the cognitive distortions, as detailed on page 256, and reality testing had worked well for him, but sometimes he found that saying the same thing over and over again had a comforting quality. We agreed that if it was a positive statement (“I like this jacket. It’s clean, pressed, and it fits well. I’m glad I wore it”), he could repeat twice. Negative statements (“I shouldn’t have worn this jacket. It looks jerky and sloppy”) must be converted to positive statements or worked through on a Thought/Consequence chart.

After a year of work successfully getting rid of old receipts, newspapers, magazines, etc., we still weren’t able to conquer broken toasters. Mr. More and I were reading different scripts. My script sad that each time he accomplished a task things would get easier and easier, until finally the task would present no problem at all and he would simply do it. His script said that one thing had nothing to do with anything else and that each task was as difficult as the last. The lack of visible improvement was disheartening for both of us, but it was important to focus on his accomplishments during the year. The original complaint of spending excessive time obsessing at work was no longer an issue; a secondary problem of lack of social contacts was vastly improved. I had to wonder why it was harder to throw out broken toasters than to risk rejection or humiliation in social interaction. After struggling with the problem in my mind and finding no reasonable solution, I asked Mr. More if he had any insight into it. “It’s not that one is any harder than the other,” he said. “They both seem impossible at the time, but it’s a whole lot more satisfying to be successful socially. Once I throw out the toasters I still have a pile of junk to deal with and it doesn’t seem like I’ve accomplished much for all that suffering.” I should have been able to figure that out. People won’t subject themselves to anguish unless the payoff is substantial. After considerable discussion, we decided to concentrate for the time being on further developing Mr. More’s social skills. Much to my relief, the appointments would take place in my office.

Mr. More’s progress in social matters was already more impressive than I realized. We had been so mired down in trying to deal with the apartment mess that he had neglected to note his accomplishments at work. He had been promoted to a position that would require input at meetings and presentations; he had established two good male friendships; he regularly went out to lunch with other people; he had gone to an office party and enjoyed it; and he was wooing a coworker. The final items was, no doubt, why he had wanted to switch the focus of our work. Mr. More’s concept of romantic technique had been inspired by movies and television. Although he was acutely aware of the fact that he could never pass for Tom Cruise, he did have some very basic misconceptions about the “mating game.” The most troubling of his misconceptions was that if he asked a woman for a date, he would then be committed to go to bed with her; marry her; have a child with her; buy a house; and start commuting to work. So he was extremely reluctant to ask a woman for a date unless he was absolutely sure she was the perfect woman and he was prepared to spend the rest of his life with her.

The object of Mr. More’s attention was a woman in her twenties, recently divorced, and newly employed at his firm. His fear was that he would invite her out and find himself committed to the “whole marriage thing” (as he described it), only to be shocked to discover that she was not the perfect woman for him. We broke the problem down to manageable steps. The first step was to invite the woman out to lunch. That proved to be abruptly devastating–the woman made it clear she already had a boyfriend. A rude fact of life that Mr. More had not taken into consideration was that people may come into his orbit with an agenda that does not include him. For several months our work dealt with his depression and obsessive thoughts of being worthless and hopeless. Then we decided to go back to his apartment and work on the problems of throwing stuff out.

Returning to his apartment a year and a half later was “deja vu all over again.” Maybe my tolerance had lowered, but it seemed to me even worse than it had originally appeared. There was no cleared area where we could sit; paper bags, newspapers, and magazines had reappeared; and it was filthy. A strange thing happened–I lost my temper. “This place is disgusting,” I yelled at him. “Why are you wasting your money with me? You’re not doing anything. I’m not going to sit in this mess while you jerk around with paper bags for another year.”

I have a friend who said that she wished she could live her life on tape. Then every time she made a mistake she could erase that section and re-tape it. Two seconds after I yelled at Mr. More, I truly wished I could retype it. He was shocked; I was shocked. For a while neither of us knew what to do. Finally I suggested that we go to the corner coffee shop and talk about it. He said he thought I was the one person who could understand his problem and accept him; he felt abandoned and betrayed by me. I apologized for my outburst and told him how awful I felt about it and tried to make clear that I accepted his problem and himself as a person while at the same time I found his living style totally unacceptable. It was unfair of me; I was changing the rules. Originally I had been willing to work in his apartment, but then all of the sudden I wasn’t. That session was spent in the coffee shop with him telling me how angry and disappointed he was and that he couldn’t continue our therapy.

A year went by, during which I often thought of Mr. More and wondered how he was doing, before I received a phone call from him. He was seriously dating a woman and wanted to know if I would be willing to work with him in his apartment again. The conditions he set were that I would have to promise not to yell at him, and he would promise to maintain a clean bathroom and clear area for us to sit. I was glad to hear from him again. I felt I had handled the situation badly and left it uncomfortably unfinished. I accepted his conditions and agreed to work with him again.

Mr. More’s current long-term goal was to invite his woman friend to his apartment for dinner. We started, as before, reality testing the importance of wrinkled paper bags, “good” paper bags, old newspapers, magazines. This time the progress was significantly faster. Within two months we were preparing to throw out broken appliances, and a slight improvement in the condition of the apartment was visible. Gradually and carefully he started to throw things out between appointments, and I would arrive to find the piles of rubble reduced and the clear area increased. The kitchen got cleaned; old, dirty dishes were thrown out and replaced by new ones. The floor became visible, scratched tables and broken chairs were thrown out, and new ones took their place. Finally we were able to sit on his couch while we worked on the thoughts, identifying them and reality testing.

This may sound like a miraculous recovery. But in fact Mr. More and I worked together for two years on his problem. During the year that I had not seen him he continued to do the basic work of cause and effecting and reality testing, but he was doing it in the social sphere, which was his original complaint. During those years he learned that the terrible feelings do go away and that the worst never really happens. But most of all, he learned that he could succeed. Once he’d had the experience of success in his social sphere, he had the confidence to seriously attack the collecting problem.

Three and a half years after I had braved my way into the muck and mire, Mr. More invited his fiancée to his apartment for dinner.

(For more information on our work together, see pages 255-62.)

Gratitudes:

1.) My children, always.

2.) All of my doctors who have helped me throughout this process, former and current, and especially the marvelous Dr. M.

3.) Authors of books, I’ve benefitted so much from reading.

4.) My friends and relatives who have been there for me, and especially my cousin Kathy.

5.) Lady and Pennie, for their love and warmth.

Peace, T.

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Screw Disney…This Counter-Culture Mom Likes Mike!

Today the universe is sending winged messengers bearing exigent communiqués and missives–it will not be ignored. It’s message is strong and urgent. It seems to be demanding, in an impassioned and loving manner, “Love yourself.” Or in Shakespeare’s parlance, “To thine own self be true.” The universe speaks in flowery form, to be sure.

I am neither religious nor particularly spiritual–my spirituality comes from truly recognizing what is beautiful in the world and cherishing it. But even I can appreciate it when the universe sends couriers to beat upon the door of my consciousness.

Believe it or not, I’m still having difficulties. It’s not that I don’t expect to be melancholy at times. It takes time to mend after concluding a relationship. No, my challenge consists of pouring love into myself–in the form of spending time with friends who will hug me and encourage me and dry my tears, and in being loving and nurturing towards myself.

So today the universe knocked on my door three times–more like beat the door down. The first time, I was at work at my lovely little job that I adore more with each passing day. Yesterday I learned that over the weekend, the owners’ two-month-old-baby had been hospitalized with RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection and bronchiolitis. That didn’t surprise me, because the baby usually comes to the gym with his mother while his father coaches team practice, and his cough sounded unnatural to me, in terms of everyday coughs. Erina* and I had even talked about RSV when I saw them last. Needless to say they spent a difficult weekend with the baby at the hospital, when their older child also became ill. Now they have a sick two-year-old and the baby is home on oxygen.

I recall from early days with my children how terrifying it is to have a child and how tired you get from being up at night with them. It’s hard to get a healthy meal together under these circumstances. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it yesterday, but my mind clicked into gear today, and after I finished the morning duties, I set up a dinner rotation and made calls. By the time I left work, I had volunteers scheduled to bring dinner to the family for the next ten days. It occurred to me later that I’m still in my probationary/training period there, and this could be construed as sucking up. Pfft. So be it. It’s part of my belief system to help people in need–period. The kids on team at the gym practice three, four, and sometimes five days each week, and their parents are very active in the foundation that takes care of the myriad of details related to having kids in competition. If it were me, I’d want to help. So all I really did was give them a vehicle by which to do so.

I came home and made a big pot of tortilla soup as part of my contribution for tomorrow’s dinner, also making enough for myself to last for several days. When we help others, we help ourselves also–not only are we allowed to be of service, which is an honor, but we get to feel good about ourselves in doing so. And then there is something about switching gears and in turn nurturing yourself that feels so right when you are careworn. Giving to yourself nutritionally, particularly with soup, is so amazingly loving and…well…generous. I don’t feel that way when I make other foods. I guess to me, soup is that beautiful-mother-love-care-and-devotion-that-you-want-when-you’re-ill food. Of course, I’m not ill, but spiritually and emotionally, I’m a bit ragged around the edges. And it’s up to me to love myself back to health.

My second cosmic reminder to appreciate my own unique inner light came from…you guessed it! My horoscope! Rob Brezny is always there to prod me in the right direction should I stray.

Nobel Prizes are awarded to geniuses in a variety of fields for work they’ve done to elevate science and culture. But have you heard of Ig Nobel Prizes? The Annals of Improbable Research hands them out to eccentrics whose work it deems useless but amusing. For instance, one recipient was honored for investigating how impotency drugs help hamsters recover quickly from jet lag. Another award went to engineers who developed a remote-control helicopter to collect whale snot. In 2000, physicist Andre Geim won an Ig Nobel Prize for using magnetism to levitate a frog. Unlike all of his fellow honorees, however, Geim later won a Nobel Prize for his research on a remarkable substance called graphene. I think you’ll soon have a resemblance to him, Cancerian. Some of your efforts will be odd and others spectacular; some will be dismissed or derided and others will be loved and lauded.

It’s a little difficult being different, sometimes. The 1950’s was a time of conformity. Men (and some women) had just returned from WWII and were taking back the jobs that women held while they were gone, and traditional roles were reaffirmed. Television was homogenizing the American public by providing young and old with a shared experience reflecting accepted social patterns. McCarthyism made it dangerous to be different–it wasn’t just a suborning of political claims–it was also a social and cultural phenomenon. In the 1960’s, the rebellion against this constricting conformity took root, but Americans in the 1950’s were fairly entrenched in it. My parents didn’t become hippies in the 60’s–I grew up with 50’s parents. I don’t really have much of a feeling for this, but I believe, as a child, my parents had a strong expectation that I would conform.

Loving someone who is different can be scary too. Often we want our loved ones–children, friends, and  lovers– to be somewhat like us because we believe we may understand them better that way, and be better understood. When we have common interests, we count on them to carry us through when appreciation is taking a beating.

My son describes me as “counter-culture” and I believe I understand myself this way also. There is nowhere this is as readily apparent as on Facebook. I am a Midwesterner, but I am not Republican–I am a bleeding heart liberal. I am not Christian, I regard the Bible as creation mythology. I don’t watch television–ever–and I get my news from NPR. So I guess counter-culture is a pretty good label, if I have to have one. But when I see myself, I see a person, a human being first. My heart beats just like any other person’s. I laugh, cry, feel, love, think, and do all of the regular things most people do.

That is not to say I’m not pretty zany sometimes. Not everyone appreciates that, but not everyone has to. I do get strange looks sometimes when I tell people that while my children haven’t been to Disney World, they have been to the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival. You probably know all of the Disney princesses, but what do you know about Mike?

Back during WWII, Farmer Olson of Fruita, Colorado, was going out to the chicken coop to pick a young rooster for Sunday dinner. His mother-in-law had a fondness for the neck, so when he chose Mike and put him on the chopping block, he thought to make the cut leaving as much of the neck as possible. Poor Mike lost his head. Then he got up. Dazed and confused, and tried to peck at the ground. Having no head, it was downright impossible. So Farmer Olson begin feeding him by putting corn down his gullet and giving him water with an eyedropper. Mike survived his beheading and went on to make Farmer Olson a fortune. He was shown at county fairs across the country garnering a quarter for each peek and even had a $10,000 life insurance policy. Every year in Fruita they remember Mike’s extraordinary will to live (he lived for 18 months without a head) by commemorating his life with a festival. There are lots of activities like a marshmallow peep eating contest and  run like a chicken with your head cut off 1K and 5K races. Now doesn’t that sound like a lot more fun than Disneyland?

I appreciate “different.” I love all the forms that “different” takes. I love it that not everyone is like me. And I love my friends who are “different.” I love the richness they bring to my life. And I hope that they appreciate the same in me. Which brings me to my third reminder to love myself as I am, which came in the form of a Facebook posting from a former publishing colleague. Please devote the ten minutes it takes to watch this video, you’ll find it worth it. Then share it with someone who might be feeling a little lonely, a little down, or a little different. Its aim is the GLBT community, but its message of hope, “It gets better,” is for everyone.

Gratitudes:

1.) My children, it is my hope that you have an intense love affair with yourselves.

2.) My friend P., who makes being different an art form.

3.) Those of my relatives who may not necessarily understand me, but who love me anyway.

4.) Pennie and Lady who don’t give a crap if I’m different or not.

5.) Mike, the Headless Chicken.

http://www.miketheheadlesschicken.org/schedule.php

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State of the Union, Isle of Tam, March 2011

It’s that time of the month. No, not that time of the month. Appraisal time. Time to see how I did or did not measure up these past 28 days. I have a tendency to be harsh with myself in my head. Raven voices tell me I never do enough, I never do anything well enough. Therefore, before I even begin this accounting, I’ll remind myself of Max Ehrmann’s words so I can try to be objective. And though I’m sure all of you know the Desiderata, it never fails to calm me and give me hope.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

So very beautiful, isn’t it? I think that what the Serenity Prayer does for people with addictions the Desiderata does for me.

I feel, as always, that I have not accomplished all that I needed. I know I have not. My duties, at the present time, are to be the best and most loving mother I know how to be, work as many hours as my employer will give me and work as well as I can to ensure I continue having that employment, attend daily to my mental health, attend daily to my physical health,  keep my house presentable for prospective buyers, tend to my animals, be the best daughter and friend/relative I can, and be the best citizen of the planet as lies within my capabilities.

This past month has not been easy–I lost a relationship that was important to me. But while it has been painful, I have not fallen completely apart.

I went to my job when I was expected to be there, and I gave every ounce of passion I have to that job. I gave both sides of my brain to it as well, and guarded myself so that my illness didn’t interfere with my productivity or work relationships–I didn’t insist on perfection, and I didn’t stir waters with my coworkers. I kept my own counsel about situations and processes and people I haven’t cottoned to, waiting to see over a period of time “what is” rather than “what seems to be.”

My mental health toolkit contains therapy, journaling, blogging, EFT, being social, taking my medications, eating healthfully, and exercising. Major fail.

I took my medications every day, but not at a consistent time. It’s very difficult for me to maintain a schedule unless there are routines enforced by someone or something outside of myself. Even so, I was more irregular than normal. I was also all over the place with bedtimes and didn’t eat healthfully. I did start exercising and went to a ballet class. Unfortunately, I don’t have the proper attire at the moment and I can’t really afford it or to go regularly at this point in time, which makes me really crestfallen. But it did feel good to go and move and to be part of a group. I’ll keep looking for something that I can do.

I blogged but I didn’t journal much. To my credit, however, though writing the blog actually wasn’t easy for me this month, I posted 13 times. Writing My Big Fat Summer Vacation and the Summer of Familial Love took me days and it was as if I were eating spinach from the can–trying to force it down, or rather in this case, trying to force it out. Writing about Darren was like that also. I guess those were places I did not want to journey to again. But it’s done, and hopefully my cousin Kathy will tell me if I remained true to the course of events. I felt myself wanting to shirk some responsibility while I was writing–which made me work at remaining present and try very hard to be true in accounting for my part in how the events unfolded.

I attended my doctor appointments and even made the quarterly PHP Consumer Advisory Board Meeting. What a snooze. But hey, it looks good on the résumé, and they feed you lunch.

I was barely social, unless you count Facebook, and I while I love it dearly for the people there, social needs to mean, for me, making phone calls and seeing people face to face. Fail, fail, fail. The news I did get from loved ones was difficult. My mother has been ill for three weeks and my parents are putting their house on the market next month. My nephew in Japan is close to the nuclear power plant that is in meltdown.

I tended to my animals and was the best mother I could be and was the best citizen I could be. I participated in the world and made my voice heard.

I had a lot of down time this month. I spent a lot of time reading. That is the method I use to escape pain and things that need doing. On the one hand, I want to be compassionate with myself. I really was in a world of hurt. On the other hand, I can never have those hours back.

This month, I would like to do less escaping and more living. I would like to be more consistent about living and reaching my goals. And wouldn’t you know, my horoscope has something to say about that.

“In the absence of clearly defined goals,” said Cancerian writer Robert Heinlein, “we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” If this description is even a partial match for the life you’re living, now is an excellent time to address the problem. You have far more power than usual to identify and define worthy goals — both the short-term and long-term variety. If you take advantage of this opportunity, you will find a better use for the energy that’s currently locked up in your enslavement to daily trivia.

I could use some help with the short-term goal process. I’m a little lost right now, and spinning in circles. For me, with OCD, it’s so much better to act than to think. Anyone who has any constructive input is welcome to call me, just remember that another trait of OCD is that one is easily overwhelmed, which is why we think instead of act. Small, manageable goals that can be accomplished and problem-solving is helpful. I get stuck in the process when I can’t put everything in place because I’m missing what I need for a step. It throws me for a loop. Thanks!

I promised myself I would get to bed by midnight tonight, and it’s shortly after.

Gratitudes:

1.) My children, always.

2.) My nephew, Jason, who I’m trying to bring into the family fold. (He said I’m the only Davidsson* that isn’t off her rocker and sliding into insanity…let’s break it to him gently, shall we?)

3.) My mommy, who has been sick these past three weeks.

4.) Friends and family.

5.) Pennie and Lady.

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My Big Fat Summer Vacation and the Summer of Familial “Love”

As a child, I probably had some of the best summer vacations ever. We didn’t go to Disney World or Paris. We didn’t go to see Broadway shows in New York or go on walkabout in Australia. We did better than that–we had family reunions (the fun kind). My father had seven brothers and sisters, and every other year, we practically took over this little resort in Branson, Missouri.

We would stay a week and have a blast! We got to reconnect with our cousins (I have twenty-something first cousins alone). Our aunts and uncles loved on us and fed us all kinds of goodies including tons of homemade cookies. They probably wouldn’t admit it, but I believe the aunts were always trying to out-do each other in an unspoken but very competitive best cookie and dessert campaign. All the better for the rest of us, my dears! We went boating, water skiing, and we swam practically all day every day–diving off the boat into the lake or jumping into the pool. The worst thing that could happen was to get sunburned so badly you couldn’t swim! We went go-carting and to a huge game arcade and we hit baseballs in cages with mechanical pitchers and played miniature golf. The days were, at least for youngsters, long-stretching adventures set to the scents of Coppertone, chlorine, and chocolate.

Our reunion site moved over time, and we went to some other resorts–there was a place in Kentucky I remember fondly. We rode horses on the trails there, which of course made it a favorite in the annals of my best reunions. But those other places never evoke feelings and memories in me the way Branson does.

My father was very close to his family in many ways, and he actually still is close with those remaining. Our large extended family still gets together, though these days, due to how aged my aunts, my one remaining uncle, and my father are, we get together closer to home. I actually haven’t been to one of these reunions. I did get to Iowa last summer, and my plan was to go to the reunion, but events beyond my control kept me from it.

My summer vacation…those words evoke different images for all of us. For me, a vacation isn’t a vacation unless it involves large bodies of water, rides on horseback on sun-dappled trails, not having to make your bed, foreign languages or at least unfamiliar accents, and lots of bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches on toast with locally grown tomatoes and creamy horseradish. Of course I haven’t had any sort of “real” vacation in a very long time. But that is what I see in my mind’s eye when daydreaming.

My big fat summer vacation and the summer of familial “love”–let me lay out for you what made it more like the familial equivalent of a terrorist attack. Where to begin? I guess at the very beginning.

MCF was planning on spending three weeks in India, and he wanted to send my children to Iowa to be with their grandparents (it’s currently outside of our visitation “agreement” for me to spend that much time with them). He was planning to send them to Iowa to coincide with my family’s reunion. Having been accustomed to being beaten down by MCF’s Gucci wearing barracuda lawyer (for two years I attempted to represent myself in court because I couldn’t afford an attorney), it never occurred to me to do anything about joining them until about three weeks before they were to leave. I now have a wonderful attorney who is representing me pro bono, so I called him up and asked, “What are the chances?” We had a hearing coming up for some other matter a couple of days before they were to leave on their trek at which we could introduce the subject, and so my lawyer more or less said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” The judge allowed me attend with my children, but there was a whole lot of confusion around the matter of actual dates. I left thinking that I could spend their entire holiday with them. MCF thought that I could spend only the actual reunion dates with them. There were no dates on the court order. So…MCF didn’t send my children at all, which put my entire family into a tailspin (he was found in “technical” contempt for that episode just a few weeks back). I was on the train headed there when I found out they weren’t coming. I got into Moline and my cousin Kathy picked me up there. I arrived at my parents’ house on a Friday.

Now it seems I need to go back even further. On June 9, 2010 my probation ended for the matter I mentioned in a previous post. I was on probation with a deferred sentence and I am to pay restitution to the state of Iowa. On June 9, the county court reviewed files for people finishing probation, and when they found I had not yet finished paying restitution, they found me in “possible” violation of my probation. This is what they do to all offenders, I was not singled out. If I’d been in the state of Iowa, I would have worked out a deal through my probation officer before it came to this to continue my probation until I’d finished paying restitution. But states don’t communicate well over these matters and, all things being equal, there I was with a warrant for my arrest in the state of Iowa.

I found this out around the end of June (my picture being posted in the local Iowa newspaper–I love small towns). I immediately called the Public Defender’s office. The Public Defender’s office contacted the County Attorney’s office to try to work something out where the warrant would be dropped. I told the P.D. that I might be coming home in a few weeks, and could he please help me resolve the problem before my arrival date. As the it drew closer toward my possible departure date, I kept in contact with the Public Defender (read: I hounded them). The last week before I was to travel, however, the entire legal staff was attending a training session, so no movement was made that week, nor did I receive any return calls. I was pretty sure if I were there, though, we could work things out fairly easily.

So, I appeared in Iowa, devastated about my children. Apparently, my brother and sister had pressured my dad not to allow me to visit him and my mother. My brother told my father he wouldn’t allow his son to be at my parent’s house if I were there. So at first my father said “no” to me coming (“Umm, gee, Dad, I’m on the train”). Of course I argued with him (who, me?) and then later, he turned it around and said, “Of course you’re welcome.” Whew. Great way to start a stay.

Hang in there, I’m getting to the good part now! Saturday afternoon, we were sitting at the table, we being my father,  mother, sister and I, and my brother walks in (he has a house down the hill from my parent’s home). Now, I hadn’t spoken to my brother in quite some time. I had previously told him I wasn’t going to speak to him, and that he could fuck off until he could communicate like an adult (real mature of me, I know). You see, his modus operandi had been to call me saying all of this insulting stuff and then to hang up before I could respond, and then not answer the phone. Or he would do the same by text.

So sitting there Saturday night, my brother asks me if I don’t have something to tell my parents. I tell him I don’t know what he’s talking about…because I really don’t know what he’s talking about. I finally find out he’s alluding to the fact that I had a warrant out for my arrest. I told him what I’d already told my parents. It’s not like they didn’t know. They saw my picture in the paper, after all, and called me. They knew everything about me being in contact with the Public Defender’s office. So to cut to the chase, my brother called the police and gave them my name, informed them that I had a warrant out for my arrest, and offered my parent’s address. I of course then sat and waited for a couple of hours for them to come pick me up. My poor mother was absolutely horrified, saying she would never forgive him. My father and sister sat and said nothing. My brother said he was doing it to protect my parents. Right.

Two sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house. I accompanied them outside. In that they didn’t handcuff me in front of my family, they were very gracious, and to this day, I am very grateful to them. Actually, they were very very kind throughout. We reached the county jail where the jailer booked me.  My father paid a bond of $500.00 (for which he can ask my brother to repay him, as far as I’m concerned), and we returned home. When we drove up, my brother “welcomed” me home and announced to my father that he would never speak to him again. He kept that promise for approximately three or four months, refusing to help my father mow the lawn or anything else he was accustomed to doing in the past. Methinks his claim to have been protecting our parents bullshit, for lack of a better word. If he really cared about my parents, he wouldn’t have stopped speaking to them. He did it to hurt me. Period. I found out later, he’d been talking with MCF a while before the whole unseemly debacle.

To be honest, what happened with my brother didn’t have nearly the effect that being deprived of seeing my children had. My brother’s behavior shocked me more than it hurt me, because I don’t and never have spent my time pondering how to hurt another living being. I manage to hurt people enough without planning through lack of thought and selfishness–I don’t need to add to the misery consciously. And I generally believe that in the long run, a person harms himself much more than he does the person he wrongs. For the people who hurt me, I usually hope for a visit from the Karma Fairy.

As if there hadn’t been quite enough drama with my brother, there was more with my brother-in-law. It wasn’t anything nearly as severe, but it’s affects were much more painful and far more reaching. We were at the table, again (just the image of sitting there makes me ill these days), and I’d just been to my mother’s doctor because, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to survive having my heart broken (children) once again. Also, I had left Albuquerque in such a hurry that I didn’t pick up any of my medications, so I needed scripts for those, and he also gave me some additional medications to see me through that particular emotionally turbulent period.

The argument with my brother-in-law started because I’d asked a family friend for advice. I told her I believed my mother wasn’t getting the care she needed, and she wasn’t. She was highly depressed and sleeping about sixteen hours a day. My father and my sister don’t believe in depression. They think she should  either snap out of it or bloody well lay there all day. I suggested to this friend that perhaps my mother needed some outside intervention. I believed, and I still do, that while my father and my sister both care and have her best interests at heart, neither are temperamentally suited to caring for my mother. Well, this (possibly) well-meaning friend called my sister. And my sister had a cow and decided I needed to be warned to back off. And the asshat she’s married to called me “bitch” several times. I couldn’t really tell you much more of what was said other than he asked me why I wasn’t at the reunion since that’s what I’d come for (d’oh, maybe because I didn’t feel like going without my children?). And I also remember that my mother stood up for me, but my father didn’t. Let that sink in for just a moment, if you will.

That he would let that aggressive asshole yell at and call his daughter names in his home while she was there with his blessing was simply more than I was and still am prepared to stand for. Plus when I returned home my father said I was the cause of all of the familial strife. So these days we have superficial conversations–I don’t care to risk anything deeper. My father is entitled to his low opinion of me. I learned that he’s apparently always had it. I always thought it was my mother’s expectations I couldn’t reach, but now I understand they were his. I’ll clearly never stay in his house again, and I’m okay with that. After last summer, it no longer holds any meaning for me anyway.

It’s my nature, being the empathic person that I am, to understand. I know that my father and mother are dependent on my sister and her husband as my sister is their caretaker. My father feels indebted and grateful to them for their help, as he should.  My father told me that he can’t afford to offend them. That is his choice to make, not mine. It’s one thing, however, to try not to offend, and completely another to allow a man to perpetrate that kind of violent behavior on a family member. I’ve come to the conclusion that it sucks getting old, and I simply have to be as graceful and benevolent as I can afford to be and still take care of myself. I certainly know what it’s like to be dependent upon other people–it’s no picnic in the park.

I’m not a silver lining-seeker, but enough time has passed that I’m able to be philosophical about it. Clearly the next time I have a vacation, anywhere I go and whatever I do will beat last summer’s trip. I have a new low to which to compare every future vacation! And I no longer have to feel even the slightest bit guilty about not talking to my sister or brother. Sometimes, when I look at pictures of us when we were young, and all of the above are actually my family photographs, I feel sad for what we’ve become to each other. But I’m okay with that also. It makes me appreciate all of the people who really do love me and who have stood by me all the more.

So here’s to those people, and you know who you are because you’re reading this!

Gratitudes:

1.) My children (who are not reading this) I hope you will have the emotional tools to be able to deal with family better than I have been able (up to this point)!

2.) My cousins, Kathy in particular! In India cousins are called sister-cousins and brother-cousins because that’s how close they are.

3.) My friends, who are more like family than my nuclear family of origin!

4.) Pete, thanks for the treat yesterday! The talk and the pedicure and manicure!

5.) Lady and Pennie, my lovely furry companions.

Peace, T.

My father, my sister, me, and my grandmother

 

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Faith, Fairness, and the Mysterious Mating Habits of Humans

Sunday evening was a lovely time when I was young. We had our main meal at noon after church–usually pot roast, roasted potatoes, a rich onion gravy, and some type of vegetables. Come evening we had family time. We watched movies on television, had a lot of fried egg sandwiches and popcorn in front of the tv, and played board games.

That was when I was really little. When I was older and we lived in Iowa, my father would often leave Sunday evening so he could have an early start at whatever store he was visiting on Monday morning. Once we moved, it seemed like fun didn’t come naturally anymore.

I have been thinking this past week about life lessons my parents taught me while growing up, and one lesson in particular. I’ve told you previously that in my household we father-worshipped. I don’t mean that sacrilegiously. I just mean that my father was the king of the manner, which was probably the case in most 60’s and 70’s households, and we all hailed the king and his fragile ego. These days–now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, when I think about lessons I was taught growing up, I stop to think about who taught them to me. In the past I always assumed all of the “good” lessons came from my father’s example. I know now I’ve done my mother a huge disservice.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about the lesson of being fair. I always thought that it was my father who taught me to be fair. But looking at it more intently and less superficially, I now realize that was my mother’s lesson. My mother bit back a lot of what she might have wanted to say. My father probably did that more, to be honest, at least to us kids. But I realize that my mother didn’t carry grudges and make judgments the way my father apparently has.

My mother is pretty upfront and honest about wanting our love. Needing it even. I didn’t like that when I was a teenager. But now that I have my own children, I have come to realize that mothers and children need each other equally. And it is a real act of love and fortitude to allow our children to do what they need to do to become themselves. Especially when it costs us so much. I have always known that as a parent, we are given a gift when we are entrusted with children. We are given their guardianship for a number of amazing years and we then relinquish them to fly on their own. There may be days when this might not seem to come soon enough (the teenage years). If we are lucky, our children don’t have the need to stray far, or if they do, they eventually come back to us. Some children stray and stay away their entire lives.

I’ve realized my mom never stopped needing me. My father probably hasn’t stopped either, but he’s okay with the fact that we don’t speak much. My mother loves me and has taught me the meaning of forgiveness. My father loves me, and doesn’t understand forgiveness. He has a long list of wrongdoings he has kept etched in the corners of his mind that I have perpetrated on him. Some are fact, some are fantasy. Maybe it’s a female trait, but my mother seems to erase the slate and doesn’t invent wrongdoings. What I mean is, she doesn’t look back and interpret my actions in a new light, given new information, or attribute misdeeds or fabricate “evidence” of my unworthiness. I always thought that my parents didn’t have faith in us. I suppose that was because my mother was more vocal about her displeasure, and she had “mother guilt” refined to an exact science.

Believe me, it’s not that she didn’t cut like a finely honed knife. She just didn’t pretend to be anything but what she was which was angry. My dad saved us from a lot of her fireworks. But in the end, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. I guess I’d rather face someone authentically angry than find out years later he’d been disappointed in and pissed off at me and seeing everything I did through the veil of his ignorance. But this is all in hindsight, so who knows? What I do know is that my mother is quick to defend someone when another is accusing her unfairly of wrongdoing. Not the case with my dad.

The reason I’ve been thinking about all of this is because of Trey*. After something happens, you try to make sense of it in your mind, and sort of tie it all up with a bow, wrap your mind around the events. And so after much thought, to be honest, I can feel hurt around what he did, but I can’t fault him. Well, I can in the details, but not in the content. You see, Trey is doing what he’s doing, which is not being in a relationship with me, because he is going through a process. He feels he can’t be in a relationship right now because of things going on in his life. And as much as I can’t stand it, and think that we could help each other through it, I can’t judge it. I have to have faith that he knows what he’s doing and that he knows what’s best for himself.

I don’t know if y’all are familiar with Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s The Invitation? My friend Kathleen gave me her book some time ago. I’ve aspired to understand and live by some of the principles, though they were initially very foreign to me. It really is amazing, and I hope you will find it so as well.

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

copyright © 1999 by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.

If I hold with the tenets of this philosophy about relationships, then I have to believe that Trey believes that in order to be true to himself, he has to be willing to disappoint me. I don’t have to like it, but I do have to accept it. I have to accept that with the challenges he has, he needs his all of his faculties to manage, and I can not judge. It’s never my job to judge. He may not have deported himself in this situation in a way that was fair or caring, he made many comments that were insensitive, but I don’t think he sees that at this point because lacks the necessary distance. And really, does it really matter? What has been said can’t be unsaid, and all there is left is to live with it. I don’t have the willingness or the desire to hold grudges.

What I do have, is the desire to live. I have the desire to grow and love and dance under the moon. I have the desire to dream and work to fulfill those dreams. Alone or accompanied–I will not wait to live.

“No matter where you are right now, contentment is possible. And if you decide to try it, it will open up your eyes to thousands of blessings that are hiding right under your nose.” ~ Lori Smith

I recall some time ago my therapist, the devoted Dr. M., told me, “You are not searching for a normal or ordinary relationship. You are looking for something real and vibrant and alive.” And that is true. Goddess, spirits, gods, and Keebler Elves willing, I will have that some day. I had it for a while with Trey, so it’s understandable that I am hurting so now. But my relationship with him gave me a great deal of pleasure, and I’ll try to be grateful for what we had. And it’s given me some practice for whatever it is that comes next.

And as far as my parents go, well, I have to believe they were doing the best they could with what they had at the time. I do know that they did and do love me. And now, they are elderly and have the problems that elderly people have. My father has COPD and heart problems, my mother probably has COPD and she has some artery blockage. They are old and tired, and they wish things were better. I wish they were better too.

Gratitudes:

1.) My children, may they fly high and remember who loves them most.

2.) Trey.

3.) Mom and Dad, I love you guys too.

4.) My friends and cousins for all of their support and love.

5.) Pennie and Lady, the best canines a person could ask for.

Peace, T.

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My Private Tsunami

I’m thinking about careers in which being argumentative is a plus. There are always the day show host slots–bringing people on to television and having them duke out their problems physically or verbally. There’s always the legal profession, of course. Lawyers make their living being argumentative (and slimy and unethical and and and). There’s the military! Now if ever there were a place to be argumentative, that would be it!

I’m just naturally argumentative these days. I spent the first 40 years of my life pleasing others, and it’s not that I don’t want to please anyone any more. I’m simply not interested in it for the sake of being…nice.  I’m just not willing to pay the high price tag often associated with people pleasing–which is–being true to myself. I spent such a long time keeping everything in that I’m not willing to be silent when “calling bullshit” is what is true. I realize that everyone has their own perspective about nearly everything, and that mine isn’t better than another person’s or more true. It’s just more true to me. I’m not accepting other people’s version of me, nor my actions, over my own because I’m pretty damned honest with myself these days. I don’t try to start fights, but I don’t shy away from them if someone else starts them. I’m not an “angry bitch” but I’m no longer as uncomfortable with anger as I once was (used to avoid it like the plague).

Let me tell you, I am spitting angry today. And I really just realized it. It has to do with a conversation I had the other night, and it probably would be best that I write about it in my journal. I try to keep private stuff between me and concerned individuals private, and only write about people problems here in the broadest sense possible. Unless, of course, those problems have to do with MCF. I’m not so good-natured that I won’t call that asshole an asshole. And I’m really burning to do some self-righteous venting at this particular moment in time. But for now, I’ll refrain. It’s that dignity thing I mentioned earlier. Fuck having moral standards. They may be incongruous moral standards, but they are mine. Fuck me!

What’s probably true is that, at this moment, if I weren’t angry, I’d be crying. And I’m having a hard time with that. I’m having a hard time giving myself permission to cry. For all my clever speeches about giving myself time to grieve, I’m impatient with myself. I’m trying to work some compassion for myself into the day.  I haven’t had a bubble bath, I haven’t had a pedicure, and I haven’t allowed myself any tears with friends. I’m doing exactly the opposite of what I’d advise a friend in my circumstances, and I’m supposed to be my own best friend. No, I’ve been the opposite–impatient, grudging, and stonyhearted. It is so time to change, and I mean right this second.

I haven’t been drawing when my soul is calling out for paper and colored pencils. I haven’t made my environment soothing when I so need the world’s beauty. I haven’t cared for my body lovingly when I desperately need nourishing and pampering. No wonder I’m irascible these days. It’s like being to the self what it would be like for the world to refuse aid to Japan. Mercy. Just another reminder of the cost of self-isolation. Okay, enough. “Uncle.”

I’m going to let the rest of your carry the burden for a little while. I can’t make things right in Michigan, Wisconsin, Haiti, Japan, or even New Mexico. And taking a night off from being concerned about everyone else to be concerned about and take care of myself probably won’t have much of an impact on the world anyway. My father always told my mother (condescendingly I might add) when she was worried, to “put it on her worry list.” Will y’all take on my worry for tonight? I could really use a break. Thank you.

“Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds.” ~ William Shakespeare

Gratitudes:

1.) My children, always.

2.) Pedicures.

3.) Friends.

4.) Dogs.

5.) Books and flowers, pencils and paper.

Peace, T.

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Shades of Blue and Grey

I was waiting today at the offices at PHS, and there were only ancient magazines to read. I can’t stand all the celebrity hype, so there was no way I was going to read two-year-old People magazines. I picked up something about women’s health from 2008. I didn’t think there would be much relevant and indeed, the first article I saw touted the benefits of vitamin D–theories that have now been debunked. But I did find a bit of useful information. One such item was a recipe for a sugar scrub–the sort you’d get in a spa. The other was an article called Joy from Sadness.

It’s beginning to sink in now. Trey* and I have both changed our relationship status on Facebook to “single.” I don’t like the decision that I made, but it seemed there was nothing else to be done except to make that decision. Unfortunately, when one is in a relationship, she is only half that equation, and it takes two to cha-cha.

So the article. It begins, “Live long enough and you’ll eventually hear the well-intentioned but thoughtless comment, ‘Well, you’ll just have to get over it and get on with it.’ We say these things when people have experienced loss, tragedy or even just a bad day.” Isn’t that the truth? I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me to look on the bright side or to be grateful when I just wasn’t there yet. In mediation, we’re taught to meet people where they are. Too few of us do that these days. We want to rush people on to a happy place. It’s good to want our friends in a better place, but have you ever wondered why we’re so uncomfortable with others’ pain?

This article says something that I’ve long believed–“Experts are advocating grace for the grieving–time to wade through sadness for those who have experienced any kind of loss, especially as rushing people to joy may actually rob them of real happiness in the long run.” What I didn’t know is that those who can examine what might have been and be mindfully present to their negative feelings are more likely to mature through that loss and obtain a different kind of happiness. Laura King, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Missouri in Columbia, writes that her seven-year study proves that women who stop to think about their losses are more likely to both mature and to achieve a more durable sense of happiness. King discovered that the key to lasting happiness is focusing on the goals that are still available, even in changed circumstances.

“People change after traumatic events; it’s unrealistic to think that you can go right back to the way you were,” she says. “It’s best to try to make meaning out of what has happened and start a new life tied to what you have learned from the change.”

I saw that and thought perhaps I could apply it to my situation, over time. I guess perhaps the first step in doing so would be to say what Trey meant to me. Only by ascertaining a loved one’s value in your life can you begin to assess the hole their departure creates. I really hate showing my vulnerability. It’s so much easier to be angry than it is to be hurt. But once the anger abates all you’re left with is the hurt.

The odd part is, I really don’t know what happened. For four months, he was the most loving, caring, open individual you can imagine. He was interested in my life. He was never afraid to say how he felt about me. We had a couple of rows, but I couldn’t even tell you what they were about. He made sure he told me every day that he loved me. We spent hours on the phone. We have very similar world views so it was always fun to talk to him about everything. I was more open with him than I’ve been with anyone in my life, including my therapist, to some extent. We  laughed a lot. He sent me text messages that said things like, “You’ll never lose me,” and “Awwww, don’t cry baby, please!!! I just love you so much & want to be with you so badly!! But we just have to be patient, I guess. The wait will be worth it!. I love you!” There was little we disagreed about, but when we did we agreed to disagree. He came to see me and we had a really great time.

I’m absolutely head over heels in love with Tracy and in so many ways, he’s raised the bar for anyone who might come after him. Thoughtful, kind, loving, caring, he has a lot of integrity, substance, and compassion. He’s gorgeous and sexy and has beautiful skin and kind eyes. There are superficial things about him that I love, like he can put a sentence together properly and he’s a good speller, he’s very helpful when it comes to crossword puzzles. He’s like me in that we never meet a stranger, we can chat up anyone.

I’ve dated a lot of assholes in my time. Seriously. Trey is the first guy in years and years and years that I was proud to introduce to my friends (pathetic of me, I know). I had hoped to build a life with him. I could see living every day ordinary life with him without it feeling ordinary. He’s the first man in a long time that I actually wanted to sleep with, and I don’t mean the euphemism. I’m generally uncomfortable falling asleep with men in my bed. They toss and turn or steal the blankets or take up all the room. I really thought we could be happy together and build a life of which we could be proud.

He left here after visiting me and things were never the same again. He became someone I didn’t know–not opposite of what he was but absent. It was like everything that was no longer existed. Conversations became painful because I was missing the person he had been. I can only guess at what happened, and I don’t think that’s a valuable use of my time.

I ended it twice, we reconciled twice, and finally this weekend I just couldn’t take anymore. I didn’t want to take anymore. Time to lick my wounds of the past month and allow myself to see the world in shades of blue and grey. The weather has been cooperating with me on that front–it’s been overcast for days and it even sprinkled a bit today.

I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to learn from this. There’s a whole contingent of people out there that believe that things happen for a reason. I’m not one of them. I don’t believe there’s a mystical force in the world that ordains things must happen a certain way, and it’s up to us to divine the meaning. I believe things happen. Good things, mediocre things, crappy things. One takes whatever lessons one can from them and applies them to one’s life. Period.

I’ll be thinking in the coming weeks of what lessons there are to be learned from this experience. And grieving. And thinking about what has changed in my life and what hasn’t. Continuing to work towards my goals and using the time previously spent with Trey differently. And undoubtedly shedding many many tears. I hope that someday I have my happy ending. I’d hoped to have it with Trey. That’s the way of the world, sometimes. It doesn’t always give us what we want.

Gratitudes:

1.) For my children, always. May they be lucky in love (when they get to date at age 30).

2.) For Dr. M. who undoubtedly will hear a lot about this ongoing process.

3.) For Lady and Pennie, who will spend a lot of time at my side consoling me.

4.) For chick flicks, because you can bawl when you watch them and nobody finds it particularly odd.

5.) For the broken-hearted everywhere.

“Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning.”

Peace, T.

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