My S. O. likes to try to cheer me up when I’m spiraling down, which is sweet, and it would be great if that were the answer to my mental illness, but rather than climb into bed and try to sleep away my hell (which doesn’t work, but at least it’s warm in bed), I agreed to go out with him.
He had plans and it was fun to not know where we were going, but it turned out tickets were sold out for what he had planned. (Of course they were – I could have told him that.)
Aside from the asshole in my head, he rallied and told me we could eat out wherever I wanted. Initially I chose a place that we’ve been to once before for coffee, and aside being good coffee, offered a simple menu of pizza, calzones, salads, and pastries, but my S. O. said anywhere, and I had never been to another, fancier, restaurant in the town, so off we went.
He got the blackened swordfish, and I opted for chicken pot pie, which was good, but heavy on the cream sauce in the filling. The dessert menu included crème brûlée, an amazing dessert when done right. Alas, it was a dense custard than the better pudding quality, but I still ate it, being a long time member of the ‘clean plate club’. Sigh.
We soon wished we had saved half of what my S. O. spent and gone to the other place, but we couldn’t know until we tried, and soon after, the heaviness too much, I threw it all up.
Maybe that wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t having an episode, but I rarely eat rich foods anyway.
Perhaps a cleanse (and an exorcism) will make me well again.
It sat for months, waiting to be sold. Every time I went by I wished I could buy it, but $1500 was out of my range, even though it’s not much for a car. I finally called to see if the price was negotiable and was told the lowest they’d let it go for was $1200, but I didn’t even have that – and even if I did – the cost to get it on the road would most likely be $1000 more.
I kept imagining myself behind the wheel, trying to remember what it was like when I rode with my sister when she had one.
This VW Bug was in great shape for being nearly forty years old, and allegedly it only had one owner, the guy’s mother, who maintained it well.
Of course he’d say that, and I hoped it was true.
After looking it over, the guy let me take it for a spin. It was harder to drive than I imagined. None of the pedals had padding, and my foot keep slipping as I engaged the clutch, which went way in – so different from today’s cars. The steering wasn’t too difficult even though it wasn’t powered steering, but the fantasy I had created about how great it would be to own and drive the cute yellow Bug was bursting all over the run-down seats, a nearly rusted through floor, and lower side panel, and the flat windshield and tiny side mirrors that made me wonder how anyone ever liked driving it.
I thanked the guy for letting me take it for a ride, and told him I hoped someone would buy it, but it wouldn’t be me.
It shouldn’t have surprised me how the idea of owning and driving it surpassed the reality, as that is often the case in so many life circumstances.
Even though I don’t want to own one anymore, the VW Bug holds a tender spot in my heart, and I can always remember times I rode with my sister all those years ago – more precious for the fun and good company than the transportation.
I’m in the thick of aging on the decline side, and part of me is all: ‘oh, you just have to accept it’, and ‘this is where we’re all headed’, and ‘this is the way it’s supposed to be’, to ‘Screw you life! This is not going to happen to me!’ I think people before me just lacked the knowledge to keep themselves from aging, but we know more now, and aging is an alleged choice, not a definitive.
But, reality intervenes, as it so often rudely does, and reminds me that I am not in control of anything except dying, and I’m not really in control of that.
I think I want to age gracefully, but I’m also aggressively against that. Anyone seeking to tell me how I should act, and what I should or should not do, is acting from their insecurities, or issues, and has nothing to do with me.
If I get facial hair maybe I’ll dye my chin hairs purple. Maybe I’ll have a shaved, tattooed head – I don’t know. I am not cool with life’s progressive decline, and as I look around me, precious few are. I see celebrities and non-celebrities doing whatever they can to make themselves appear younger.
A healthy diet, with some supplements as needed, lots of water, and exercise, are the biggest age-slowing activities, along with joyful living. But, fight it or not, I am aging.
Behind my worry about age is fear. Fear of never accomplishing anything I wanted to; fear of losing relevance or status, and fear of becoming decrepit and thereby dependent on others for complete care.
The upside of aging is perspective, more compassion for elders, and seeing them not as old people, but as lived people – people with stories to tell, and hopefully, wisdom to share. Plus, I’ll eventually get senior discounts, so I suppose I have that to look forward to…
We started meeting around this time last year, and what helped as much as songwriting was the wonderful and resilient women who participated.
Sharon Brody from WBUR.org came to Robin’s recording space last summer to interview those of us who wished to, and to talk about Songbird Sings, and how we were helping heal some of our trauma through song writing, and through connecting with other survivors/”thrivers”.
In an interview with Robin, several participants, and myself, some of my song, February Day, plays after I speak, and in the background.
I seem to write best, and most often, in a group, and hope to continue song writing, as well as blogging, fiction, and non-fiction writing. Snippets of two of my older songs, Listen To Me, Rock of Gibraltar, and our collaborative song, Free Your Power, can be heard on the CD Baby site: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/robinlane.
So much work lies ahead to realize my dreams, and being a singer-songwriter leads more to lots of gigs in lots of coffee-shops, bars, and out of the way places, than to vaunted halls of music, but at least I’m trying, and that trying keeps my hope – and so far me – alive.
Two friends have died in the last month. Two people who were making the most of their lives, really enjoying all the moments they could, living with gusto and positivity.
They both left behind teen-aged children, significant others, and a wealth of friends.
I sat at one friend’s memorial while dozens recounted how kind, generous, fun, and mischievous he was, and what a loss it was to not have his presence here anymore.
It’s not about what comes after this. There is nothing we can do about what’s beyond here, if anything, except to live to the best of our capacity, and believe that if there is a creator, we are accepted.
I will soon attend the services for my other friend, more like family, really, and that is a shock not yet sunk in for he passed away last night.
Being in top health doesn’t guarantee a longer life – but it sure makes being here easier. Health adds to our ability to tend to each other and to tend to the world. Being our best helps, but being a light regardless of anything else going on matters the most.
The stories of how much people’s lives were touched by just one being is astounding to witness.
Who will eulogize me, and what will they say? Who will be around to witness my passing, to send me off – if anything exists beyond here – with a brighter soul than I had before I left?
I hope stories shared will create laughter and joy. I hope I have been kind enough to warrant a group of disparate individuals coming together to celebrate that I was here, and that I mattered.
Steve – you were fun, hilarious, kind, increased my joy immensely, and I’m sad to no longer have an ’80’s karaoke pal, and you are greatly missed by your family, and the wealth of friends and acquaintances left behind who honor your memory.
Dave – you also were fun, funny, kind, a wonderful athlete with a zest for life, and your presence will be dearly missed, especially by your wife and children, your extended family, and the hundreds of friends who’ve already been attesting to your influence, and meaning to them, and to all of us.
If we continue in any sentient form, I hope you are both at peace, surrounded by love, and by those gone before you, but you will long be remembered and celebrated here, and I’m glad I knew you.
Death is tough whenever it comes, for those remaining, but it’s especially tough around the holidays, when it seems that anything but good cheer is out-of-place. It’s also hard to lose friends and family in winter when the bleak land and low light deepens our darkness.
We will love and comfort each other, and remember their best with as joyful a heart as we can muster.
I am very thankful for all who have read my blog, have become friends – regardless of how often we make contact – I know I have your support, and I hope you know you have mine!
Many new readers have stopped by this year, and some of you have subscribed, and I appreciate that so much.
Depression sometimes absorbs so much time, so I don’t respond as often as I read your, and others’, blogs, but I appreciate the wealth of viewpoints and creativity here on WordPress, and other sites as well.
I have learned so much from so many bloggers, and I appreciate the different perspectives and topics you bring.
You never know how much a random thought, a poem, a fictional work, personal challenge posts, songs, other art, and especially humor, have helped me throughout the year, and will continue to.
Thank you all so much! Your interest means a great deal to me. Your comments are precious, and I hope you all find what you need and hope for in 2016!
It’s snow-sleeting as I write this. Winter has come to Western MA at last, but I take comfort in how long it took for the low temperatures and bad weather to get here.
My family had our Christmas gathering this past Sunday and it was an ‘off’ year. I have laryngitis so that curtailed the Christmas carols I had hoped to sing, but more than that, there wasn’t a sense of togetherness or connection. It basically sucked.
I’ve tried so long to recapture the friendship I had with my next oldest sister, but she’s as determined to keep her distance.
I’m exuberant by nature, and by design – it’s my personal lit candle in my darkness – and it has served me well socially. It’s not fake, I actually feel excited to be with family and friends in conviviality and joy.
I understand that sometimes life sucks, and sucks hard. I get that. I live that more often than I’d like – which is why I cherish the time spent with others in good cheer – especially those who know me best, who understand where I came from, and can benefit from kindness and love.
Maybe I can let others take me out of myself, and my sister isn’t good at that, or she feels like it’s pretending, but I’ve grown tired of trying to be friends.
As a friend’s bumper sticker reads: “Life’s too short to drink bad wine.”
Nat King Cole croons The Christmas Song, and I remember that it’s my sister-in-law’s favorite holiday song. Many years ago we went caroling: she, my brother (her husband), my next oldest sister, and our younger brother, as well as some family friends, and I remember our fun, our exuberance, and just us as young adults.
Eventually, our lives expanded out like the big bang – each of us in our various orbits, claiming our bit of space, our independence from one another.
What role our family trauma played, I’m unsure, but untreated trauma does not resolve of its own. It can be medicated, white-knuckled, tossed outward, or left festering inside, but it has to be handled.
There are healthy ways of dealing with trauma and not so healthy ways. So much creativity has been born from pain, and those who’ve had that outlet are sometimes healed, but not always.
I doubt my brother would want me to feel sad for him. It’s not pity he needs, and it’s not pity I’m giving. I lived with my parents too. I was there too. I was affected too.
He doesn’t want advice from his littlest sister, even though I had to deal with my trauma or die – even though I sought professional help, and practiced the tools I was given – even though I trained to help other trauma survivors – even though sometimes it’s still next to unbearable remaining alive.
The best way out is through, for me. Just let the feelings be, but visit the skills I’ve learned before I’m in crisis. I forget that. I think I’m healed – that I’m all done feeling pain – or that I’ll always cope well from now on.
Pride kicks in too – the belief that I’m knowledgeable, and therefore untouchable. The other side is despair. Why remain alive if I keep going through this, or if I can’t make life better?
I can hold my brother in my heart – as well as my whole family – and I re-affirm that he is whole and complete. He is competent, capable, and has enough humility to seek what he needs. He knows I care, he knows I’m available, and he knows I understand as perhaps few others can.
He’s made it through, all these years later, and I remember that what’s not dealt with keeps manifesting itself until it’s faced – whenever, or however, that trauma shows up.
I’ve re-connected with most of my siblings after raising my son and having my space again. My S.O. has been an understanding, caring, and deeply loving partner, and I know how rare that is, and I still want to run away now and then. My old nemeses, fear, self-hate, and depression, muscle their way in, but if I’m fortified enough, they’re easier to battle.
This time of year is filled with the ghosts of trauma past, their presence appearing unconsciously, making it seem as though now is the problem, or that I have made no emotional progress.
I cannot save my brother, or anyone who doesn’t want to be saved, but I continue to love and care anyway. The violence witnessed, and perpetrated on us, got into our psyches, but it was also programmed into our DNA before we were born, from the violence done to our parents, and on down our line, but we can use our will, we can learn self-love, and we can practice self-care, changing not only ourselves, but the DNA we pass on to our children, and that they will pass on to theirs.
Christmas is about hope in terrible circumstances. Whether it’s just a story, or has some historical truth, the message, to me, is perseverance, self-love, and love, and hope, for humanity.
Love, kindness, and care are what matters, and the carols my family and friends used to sing were, and still are, a gift of light in a dark season – for ourselves as well as others.
I wish all whatever you need, and for more joy, comfort, peace, and love – whatever you celebrate, or not!
I keep remembering what Fred Rogers, (Mr. Rogers), said about times of trouble – to look for the helpers. There are so many helpers everywhere. We should take in all the refugees we can – they are desperate to leave their homeland.
There is nothing there for them but desperation, sickness, torture, and death. They want to live.
Will they bite the hand that feeds them? Would you? Maybe someone will, but that’s a sick soul, and maybe those sick souls will find healing instead of more ways to hurt. We have many sick souls born here – children killing children, men and women shooting up schools, theaters, restaurants – all seemingly random – or told to them by terrible voices in their head.
We’re not going to rid the world of evil, but we can minimize it with goodness. It’s the only advantage in the face of evil – our way to ‘light a candle instead of cursing the darkness’.
It takes logistics, money, volunteers – or paid workers – to help house, feed, clothe, and educate refugees – so much that is beyond my abilities – but that will be good use of government. Accepting refugees will put more people to work, give more people purpose, and certainly give those tired, hungry, and poor, some hope.
I missed you more intensely this year. Remembering our trips to the library every year, you picking out books you wanted to read, or have me read to you, and me picking out scary and fun Halloween stories to read together. I miss how you’d cuddle up on my lap and play with my ear as I read to you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad you’re grown up and handling your adult life beautifully, but sometimes I feel like we’re near strangers, and I struggle knowing what to talk about now. Wanting a separate life with little contact is understandable – I remember being your age – although I can’t know your perspective as a man.
Life changed when I had you. My life was no longer solely my own, and becoming a parent changed me in ways you can’t know unless you become a parent.
The struggles we endured as you grew have not faded, but I think I handled them well. An image flashes of you at fourteen standing stock still while I hugged you, telling you I love you, and even though you were changing, I was not. You did, at least, allow me to hug you.
We got through those dark times, even if sometimes the memories still tear me up, and I wish my best memories with you were more current, but I’m reminded of our sweet and happy times together every year.
Holidays heighten my old loss with you, that necessary loss we all experience, and even though I’ve spent time reading to other people’s children at a play-group, or with the children I cared for, it isn’t the same.
The sadness only lasts a few days, and sweet memories are there too, but missing you pushes out better feelings I try to invoke, and it’s OK to feel this – especially as I have little control over its insistence.
Shame that I’m not wiser, happier, better, more emotionally balanced, presses in, and my best weapon is non-resistance.
This is depression’s scourge, my trauma brain – whatever – and minimizing my reality by suggesting I ‘choose happiness’, or other platitudes, only increases isolation.
It took all this to say I miss our connection; I miss the boy you were, even if I celebrate the man you are.
You know those moments you have: you step outside and the scent, and feel of the air, the time of day, the light’s slant, and shadows interplay, perhaps – or the trees, and several things in your surroundings at once – brings you through time?
I could have been back in 1995, San Diego, California, yesterday.
My ride dropped me off, and as I stepped out, swirls of mist rose in the morning sun steaming off the pavement and walkway ahead of me. The warm day, odd for this time of year, added to the sense of somewhere else, and the aroma of damp leaves and earth, the look of the concrete steps and iron railing – the experience’s totality – was remarkable. (Thus, I am remarking?…)
The moment was imbued with the best of my experience of that time. Heading to the Small Computer Repair course I was taking then, I passed the handsome coffee-cart guy every day, and more often than not, two or three leggy, beautiful, younger, blonde girls were flirting with him while he made their lattes or macchiatos – whatever was hippest to drink back then.
So it was surprising that he paid any attention to me at all. The times I could afford a coffee, he chatted me up rather than vice-versa; asking me questions about my classes, how it was going, or wishing me a great weekend on Fridays. I passed by him every day and he never failed to say hi, or wave if I was rushing to class that day.
I sometimes wonder if I had had more money to spend on coffee if it would have ended in a date with the cute barista, or if I was refreshing because I wasn’t the typical beauty vying for his attention, or because I didn’t fawn over him. If only he knew that it was that I didn’t consider myself in the same league, having been told directly by more than one guy I wasn’t anything special. Their jerk-factor notwithstanding, I felt I was attractive, I just wasn’t spectacular.
So much of my time in California is a blur now. I remember being there, but don’t remember day-to-day feelings, especially when depression threads its constricting tentacles around and through me, dulling my memory as well as my present.
Being granted that visceral time snippet helped me remember I am fully alive, that I have been present to myself and others, and I put that sweetness in my mental ‘cope box’, hoping I’ll know, or be able, to open it when depression barges in again.
I learned to lie when I was young. One of the first lies I was taught, was if a teacher, or anyone, asked, my bruise was from falling. Next, my older sisters taught me to steal candy from the store, and I remember my next oldest sister’s vicious pleasure while saying that if I told on them, they would tell on me. Thieving was power – the first I ever had – and feeling powerful was addictive. I was good at it, being a cute little kid that no one would suspect of criminality. I didn’t feel the shame then that I do now.
I understood that it was a dog eat dog world at six years old, and I knew which dog I wanted to be.
Thankfully, I also grew to be a kinder, more thoughtful, and aware of consequences, person, and I ended my nefarious ways – mostly…
I’ve hurt people I never wanted to hurt. Please accept my apology. Accept my apology for those who’ve hurt you and never copped to it.
There is a quote about how everything that happens is necessary for ‘your soul’s progression’, and I think that’s such total bullshit. What the hell does that person know? They just found another excuse to justify awful things happening. That quote certainly didn’t surface about welcome events.
Humanity is responsible for close to 90% of the hell in this world. Nature, or the cosmos, or the universe, or just crappy luck, is responsible for 5%, and our stupidity is responsible for the rest.
Life goes on regardless of anything that happens. I remember hearing about ‘earth changes’ when I was a kid in the commune/cult, and find it sadly funny about how none of it came to pass. We’ve been killing our planet since the industrial age, and fossil fuels, atomic energy, commercial farming, genetic modification, etc., will eventually do us in if we don’t change how we get and use energy, and where and how we get our food, but life will go on – even if it’s without humanity.
There are people and organizations addressing these issues, and they are changing life, but it might be too little too late. Then again, we love a good David & Goliath story – where the little guy prevails against all odds over the big guy – and it’s that hope that keeps us going. That, and ignorance.
My little life pales in comparison to these major problems, but my area of immediate concern is who I am, where I’m going, and what I want as my legacy. Of those who will remember me, I’d like happy remembrance. I want my eulogy to be sincere, and not merely out of respect for the dead…
Tomorrow is my birthday. Birthdays were so exciting when I was younger. Getting older was somehow an achievement, and I suppose it was, depending on how many risks were taken, or accidents met and survived the previous year.
Celebrating someone for their birthday is a wonderful time for connection, reflection, and, especially, festivity!
Time’s passage is tough the older I get because I want to keep the problems of the relatively young and not get any problems of aging. Too bad, I know. Perspective is a perk as time moves on, as well as caring less about how I’m received, but this ship of life I’m sailing leaves a wider berth the further I get from port, leaving some things smaller, although not less significant, as they recede and I travel on.
Even though I often feel that I’ve not accomplished anything, or much of what I wish I had done, I have traveled. I won a ten-day tour of Switzerland, with a side trip to Liechtenstein. I made it to Australia, where I stayed with my childhood pen-pal, and her family, and we met each other’s children (child in my case), and saw lots of Victoria, including a day in Melbourne, hiking in the Dandenong Mountain Ranges, a rain forest walk in the Yarra ranges, and a gorgeous trip down the Great Ocean Road, ending in Warrnembool, and the site of the Twelve Apostles rock formations, during our stay.
I’ve driven through or visited at least half of the United States, including Hawaii, but not Alaska. I’ve been to Canada, and Mexico, though not extensively in either country. I brought my son to Ireland for his high school graduation present, but really because I’d wanted to go my whole life and that justified the expense well enough – or at least, it did – until I just wrote that.
Pilgrimage to Haifa, Israel, was the last big journey I took, a gift that I’ve not well repaid seeing as I’m now an atheistic-leaning agnostic.
I’ve climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty, back when you could do that, and have been on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, when it was free. (It’s hard to believe that anyone would pay $57 for the dubious privilege nowadays).
Contentment with my lot is the message I try to embrace, but my adventurous spirit doesn’t understand that sentiment. There are so many more places to see, things to do, and the beautiful aspects of life on Earth that I’ll never have again.
As long as I can get through the rough patches, the pain, suffering, and challenges we all endure, and hopefully, surmount, I will add more sweet than bitter to each year that I’m graced with, have more meaningful time with those I like and love, and be glad for what’s been given.
My task is learning to deal with negative reactions. A while ago I heard ‘Mean Tweets’ on the Jimmy Kimmel show, and the horrible things people say about and to celebrities, and how those celebrities deal with that. Mostly they made fun of it, and humor is a great way to diffuse that kind of derision. Writing or speaking publicly about my life experience, and negative fall-out, is best handled by ignoring those comments, but if I want a dialogue, I need to respond, and be thoughtful about how I do that.
I have differences of opinion all the time, and do my best to be respectful, and kind – even if I feel the opposite at the time. I’ve had shared experiences with family and with friends, and we didn’t incorporate events the same way, but trying to invalidate my position with ad hominems or other aspersions only shows their lack of credibility.
Being liked and well-regarded matters to me, but speaking my truth is more important. Accepting the consequences is hard, but I’m not shutting up. They are as free to not read or listen to me, as I am to disregard their opinions.
In the 1980’s, when child sexual abuse was nationally disclosed by Oprah Winfrey, I’m sure she had backlash from family and from strangers. Then ‘false memory syndrome’ was coined by some asinine psychologist, and then applied to anyone who disclosed childhood abuse as an adult.
Sometimes traumatic events get blocked because your psyche cannot cope, and because all energy must go somewhere, that trauma ‘leaked’ or manifested in other ways, be it mental illness, or self-harming behavior. I think most people compartmentalize their trauma and get on with their lives, but triggering events happen eventually, or something brings it front & center, like a major illness, or mental break-down, forcing them to work through it, or face sometimes dire repercussions.
My goal is contentment, and serenity, and working through my issues is the only way I know to get there, regardless of how messy that might be, and if my words help anyone in similar circumstances, then it’s worth not shutting up.
No to the creaky knees, no to the aching joints. What the hell is my problem, I think. I am not that old! I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when I’m really old – do I even want to make it that far if I’m already in daily pain? Wtf?
I’m in denial. Aging is a slow progression. You don’t wake up one day ‘old’. How the fuck would that be? No, you get to hurt slowly, like a mild torture device that can be full throttle any time.
The problems begin to add up. Oh, your eyes aren’t seeing so well anymore, and you ignore it, it’s temporary. Soon, though, you begrudgingly get the dollar reading glasses, because why are you going to pay very much for this bullshit condition? – and you know you’ll lose them eventually…
Oh, you can still drop it low, my friend. The twenty year olds have nothing on you – until the day that dropping it low causes a twinge that you have a hard time getting back up from, so you sort of slide into what you hope is a cool-looking dance move, and then, oh, you’re just too hot to keep dancing. Hot flashes have descended (ascended?), and it’s only 11:30, still another hour & a half before you can go home with a modicum of youthful dignity.
The girls want to do another shot? Ha, ha. OK, sure. Let’s drink to partying forever – hell, yeah! – oops – mine spilled, ha, ha. Oh, well, that’s fine. I had a shot while y’all were dancin’, and I’m feelin’ fine! Wooo, hooo! Because, if I had had another shot, my whole day would have been ruined, and I know I’m not going to sleep much anyway, because – idk – thanks Obama?
I feel like the chaperone more and more, and I’ve probably been looked at like one for far longer than I realized. This isn’t about them, anyway. They have their own shit to contend with – their young shit, which I am honestly grateful to not be in the midst of anymore – but here I am with a new set of sucky life issues to navigate.
I don’t want to be old or get old, but the only way to prevent it is to die, and I’m not ready for that yet either.
Whatever ‘god’ worked this design out is an idiot. Hopefully he was fired and a woman was put on the job so the men can start evolving with all the hell we’ve had to endure, oh, sorry, continue to endure.
I do all the things that I can afford to not age. If it weren’t a psychosis, there wouldn’t be a thousand products on the market promising to keep or make us younger. I really don’t think they made all those anti-aging formulas just for me. Those companies know I’m broke.
Stepping out onto the front porch, I visualize Marie sitting on the old wood-slatted metal glider.
She came back East to see some family, and help her brother struggling with issues Marie had dealt with before. I had moved in with her and her husband in California when my son was a toddler, spending two years in San Diego, and when I knew I couldn’t make it out there, I came home to Massachusetts, where I’ve been ever since.
Marie spent an overnight with me up here – us falling into the easy friendship we’ve had since the fifth grade – but I also saw us with fresh eyes too. She and I went through so much together, and we’ll always be soul-sisters, but I saw our differences, and somewhat prefer my idealized version of her.
Those differences haven’t ruined our bond, but I see how much I’ve changed from the inexperienced young woman I was to who I am now. It shouldn’t have affected me so much – it’s simply that we’ve matured differently, even if our essential selves are intact – but I felt a loss – of innocence perhaps? – of youth?
Maybe her presence emphasized time’s passage, and what we can never get back, or never attain, but also, that I like who I am, that I’m comfortable with my beliefs, or lack thereof, and mostly of where life has led me. I can’t do anything about what I didn’t accomplish; I can only do the best with whatever time I have left.
Remembering the sweetest times of our visit, driving to the old farmhouse where she lived when we first met, as well as the house I lived in by the railroad tracks, both laughing and tearing up as we pondered the past.
I didn’t know that my dearest memory would be of her sitting on the porch glider that bright summer morning, the humid air sticking exposed skin to the seat, us breathing in the heady scent of honeysuckle wafting on the scant breezes, saying how nice it was at the same time, with me winning the first to tap her arm and say ‘owe me a Coke’.
This life was always a hard sell. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, pretty much ever. I got in over my head from day one, and I’ve tried to sort it out ever since.
Does it matter if I’m angry, or sad, or disillusioned? I don’t know why I came with expectations. How did that happen? Was it television? Did I believe the fantasy family shows I saw were real?
I existed in my family – I endured. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. Life was what it was. I didn’t know I had any other choice, and none was offered to me.
When my mother moved us to a commune/cult when I was ten, I thought that was the other choice. I thought my mother finally made the best decision for us – and maybe she did.
Or maybe she was another messed up person in this world who couldn’t do the right thing, and her children suffered for it, and blah, fucking, blah, right? There’s no redemption. There’s no ‘making up for it’. There’s nothing. We’re where we are.
The world says, ‘what are you going to do now?’. The world is only curious if it’s interesting or somehow commendable.
I love prevailing stories. I want people to win, to better their circumstances, to get revenge, and if they can’t get direct revenge, to come out better in the end. I want the assholes to suffer. I want them to hurt. I am so not compassionate toward those undeserving.
I saw the guy who molested his eight year old foster daughter – the girl who moved to his & his wife’s house to flee another predator. I wanted to hurt him. Several years have gone by & there is no difference in how I feel. No softening, no compassion. I want him to die. He is useless, and I have difficulty knowing he yet lives. He manages to fill his days instead of hanging himself, as he should. Maybe he doesn’t have to hang. He could shoot himself, or poison himself, or a myriad of ways to leave this world, and yet, he’s still here. I’m still here too. My molesters were never charged or payed for what they did either.
I’ve concluded that whatever ‘god’ exists does not concern itself with us. There might be some over-arching energy or force, but it cannot care about what happens here and affect it. Or, if it does, and chooses not to, I have no allegiance or fealty to such a being, force, presence.
My life is my own. I don’t commit my life to any person, place, or thing. No nouns own me.
For the past several days we’ve been inundated with much-needed, but plan wrecking, rain. An outdoor party on Saturday had to head indoors and with a new musical type: a kitchen band. Table and chairs hastily crowded into any space available to set up the music, but the revelers were intrepid & carried on – after all, there was still beer – and plenty of it!
The showers turned into a deluge and the end of the night left a muddy path from their kitchen out to our cars after slogging back and forth through the muddy side yard with equipment and other paraphernalia, and I was grateful it was someone else’s house, but felt some guilt at the mess they’d have to clean.
It was so fun to sing and make merry, and I was glad that I only had a couple of beers so I got to watch the party-goers devolve into drunks by the end of the night without the morning regret for me. I’ve been on the miserable end too much in the past several years as alcohol wooed me again.
In AA’s parlance I’m considered a ‘yet’, and I don’t take that lightly, but it’s very hard to give up when you’re at those crossroads still having choice. I’ve witnessed many good people done in by alcohol and other drugs, and I don’t want my story to end that way.
Yesterday, it was overcast again, having rained heavily the day before, and getting through the day enervated me so much it was a triumph to get supper going. Luckily my S.O. helped me rally, and while we were eating our turkey burgers and veggies, the sun rolled out from the thinning clouds like a mercy from the gods, and S.O. said we should go out & play catch. I balked inwardly, feeling full, and wanting the TV to passively entertain me, but I surprised myself and said yes.
We got outside and the air was warming and fresh as we lobbed the baseball back and forth. The few clouds left were puffy, some lazily stretched out across the western sky, outlined in various hues of pink, red, and orange, and the bugs were few for about a half-hour.
We switched to hitting and my S.O. puts me to shame with his two and three base hits, while I can barely get mine out of the infield. I haven’t played ball for many years, figuring I’d be hurt more than I’d have fun, but I was wrong. I might not throw as hard, run as fast, or hit any better than I ever did, but our time outside, having fun, and just being in the moment created more joy than I’ve had in a while.
I tend to live in fear most of the time because that’s what I learned will keep me safe, as superstitious as that is. It’s tough to break out of that when it’s wired in my brain. I make different choices when I’m able, and sometimes I conquer myself, and sometimes my PTSD wired brain does, but I’m most glad that I can appreciate beauty, that my love is intact, and that endorphins still course through my body when I play.
I’m still reconciling this part of life, feeling like I never really lived the first half – that I was just shuffled through some cosmic crowd or queue – and the line finally thinned enough for me to get up front, but I missed so much I’m craning my neck trying to see it all before it’s forever lost and the only way I could see it is to do it all again, but not only is my ticket one-way, one show only, I might not get a better perspective anyway.
This part of the ride is fine. There is plenty to see and do, even though I’ve been standing so long my legs and my back hurt, along with my neck from the aforementioned craning.
I’m remembering how, The Velveteen Rabbit, made me cry every time I read this excerpt where Rabbit asks the Skin Horse if becoming real hurts, and how it happens:
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
THE Velveteen Rabbit OR HOW TOYS BECOME REAL, by Margery Williams
Illustrations by William Nicholson DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY, INC. Garden City, New York
This generation, and all after it, shall grow, and hopefully become wise. I dreaded becoming like the Skin Horse when I was younger because I saw how elders were treated – either infantilized, ignored, or worse – and I want to stay relevant and valued.
I know it’s up to me to demand dignified treatment as I grow old, to continue to take up space, and value myself, but some days are easier than others.
I was reading lists of things to teach your children before it’s too late on my news feed.
To quote former Texas Governor, Rick Perry: ‘oops’.
I didn’t teach you about money very well. You need to pay your rent, and your bills, and your student loan, and get food, for godssake! Oh, for all that, you need to budget. Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either, yet somehow, we both lived. Yeah, I have about $8,000 in credit debt, but they’re the ones who gave me the cards! Also, my debt is down from $15,000, and if I helped you with math, you’ll know I’ve paid down nearly half!
They charge you to keep that pretend money – often a lot! – especially if your credit rating sucks, which mine did. Because I managed to pay back nearly half, I have better credit now – will they ever learn?
You really shouldn’t eat all the crap I fed you until I found out that it was crap I was feeding you. McDonald’s didn’t get rich off us, but we loved their french fries, and sadly, the proof is still in our arteries. I’m sorry!
Sugar isn’t your friend, fat isn’t either – unless it’s good fat, and then – not too much, OK?
Are you exercising? Yes, I made you go out and play – holy crap – I managed to do something right – but are you keeping your muscles and bones strong and safe?
I was a helicopter parent, or maybe a light experimental craft, because I hovered, but not to the extent I’ve read about some parents – sheesh! I can at least feel good about that while I’m wringing my hands over what I failed to teach you.
Teachable moments. I missed so many. Again, sorry. I was winging it. I did have positive reinforcement skills – telling you to use an inside voice, use your walking feet, and gave you choices – even if it was a choice between two shitty options.
Also, I didn’t swear much when I was raising you, and that was a huge accomplishment, believe me. I fucking swear all the fucking time now, and before I had you. I was trying to teach you, and myself, that swearing isn’t necessary, it’s just fun.
I wouldn’t, however, swear when talking to your boss, or anybody who might ever possibly have power over you.
People suck, and life isn’t fair. Did I tell you that enough? There are many good people too, they’re just harder to spot, and are suffering from being dumped on by all the jerks. Be nice to them.
Remember this mis-attributed Mark Twain quote:
“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
There are so many things I forgot to teach you, but thankfully, you’re smarter than me, so you’ll figure it all out before you have children – if you have children – which I recommend and I don’t recommend.
If you know that I love you, that you conquered my selfishness, that you made me a better person, that I always wish the best for you – wish for stamina to withstand all the challenges you’ll face, keeping your humor, your hope, and your humanity intact, then I’ll believe I’ve done a good enough job.
The cool breeze and shade diminished the heat of the sun as I walked down the road to Marie’s house. I watched the big maples and oaks as I walked, their leaves rippling and swaying in the wind, the sun filtering through them creating dappled patterns, moving kaleidoscope-like on the pavement. I tried leaping into spots of sun but the dance was too fast, I kept losing the game.
The rustle of chipmunks and squirrels startled me as much as I startled them, leaving me relieved to see them scampering under the leaf cover, over a log, or up a tree. When the woods got thicker, the sun spots all but disappearing from the road, I worried about hungry bears and wolves attacking me, and I’d quicken my pace, but never run. Running was cowardly, and the rule was, I’d only run if I actually saw a bear or wolf, otherwise, I just had to feel the fear, knowing that it wouldn’t be far until the trees thinned out, giving way to the fields, where I’d be back under the hot sun, hoping the breeze kept up.
Some days, when there was no breeze, I’d pretend I was lost in the desert, the shimmer of heat up from the pavement was a mirage – that wasn’t Marie’s house up ahead, really. It would disappear when I got closer, my parched lips, dry mouth, and swollen tongue would find no respite.
The game ended when I reached her driveway, and sometimes she would be outside waiting for me, and then we’d go off, away from her nosy little brothers, and play games with her Barbie and Ken doll – marrying them and then making them get divorced for various reasons. The hottest days, when she was inside, I’d revel in the cooler inside air, going over the kitchen sink, helping myself to a long drink of water – rescuing the poor desert wanderer.
My parents had divorced about two years then, and I liked being at Marie’s house where her mother and father were together, and they lived a life as normal as I wish I had.
It was many years later, when I had my child, that I realized what it must have seemed like to Marie’s parents – that no one wondered where I was, that I could stay over any time I wanted, no permissions needed. Her parents talked of wanting to adopt me that summer, a conversation I heard and related to my mother, begging her to let me live there. My mother, her pride kicking in, refused, thus sealing my fate – and I wish I had known how to ask skillfully, maybe requesting to stay at Marie’s for the summer, and not mentioning adoption…
She reminds me of my mother, slowly lifting her leg up the step, unsteady with her cane, as I hold the door open and offer my other arm to help keep her balance. She smiles warmly, her whole face lighting up, and thanks me for my kindness.
I’m not being kind, I’m being human, I think, but I smile back and tell her it’s my pleasure. I’m you in several decades, I think. Decades that will come sooner than I want, if I live that long.
She waits for her husband, a man who shuffles along with his walker, his gait slower as he pulls his unwilling body along, she, with the patience of one long used to this, keeps the door open for him after telling me not to wait.
Inside the office, she sees an acquaintance. The woman rises to hug her and tell her how sorry she is for her loss of her brother. The old woman hugs her tighter, thanks her, then cries, telling the younger woman that she’s the only one left now. The younger woman tears up and kisses the older woman’s cheek, and tears well up in my eyes too.
I wish I knew something comforting to say. ‘You’ll be reunited with your loved ones one day’, I think, but the words feel hollow and trite as I think them.
This life of sorrow weighs us down. We’re challenged to the end, and I’m not sure there’s anything after this to make it all worthwhile. I know the experience itself is valuable, but it’s ephemeral, unless we retain consciousness after we leave this world.
I’ve heard that life’s only meaning is what we bring to it, the kindness and care that we show others, and how much suffering we can alleviate while we’re here. Maybe suffering is spiritual honor, but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re in it. It just hurts. And worse, after a life of enduring, our bodies betray us by breaking down, adding insult to injury, regardless of any wisdom gained through experience and the mere passage of time.
But there is joy, and beauty, and laughter, and pain-free living too.
When I revised my about page, I thought about all the places I’ve lived, and why I kept moving. I didn’t really have wanderlust, although I did enjoy traveling when I could. I wasn’t even very restless, but I never felt satisfied or content.
In my twenties, I saw a greeting card illustrated by Mary Engelbreit that read: ‘Wherever you go, there you are’, and it was an epiphany.
I was running away from myself – only I kept coming with me. The places, faces, and jobs would change, but the one constant was me.
Once I understood that I could only change myself, life started improving. Unfortunately the process has taken many years, and lots of ‘one step forward, two steps back’, but, being drawn to proverbs, I also read an alleged Chinese proverb which goes: ‘Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still’, and that gave me hope that I wasn’t the only one muddling through life.
These days, traveling is journeying to, rather than running from – unless, of course, I’ve broken a law, and then I’ll definitely be on the run…
Cults abound. I grew up in one, and the apologists continue trying to convince more reasonable people of the cultists’ righteousness, that they have the answer(s), and you should give them all your money and worldly possessions in pursuit of oneness with their cult leader – because you can be damn sure there is a hierarchy, and they get the best of the best.
That’s why it’s a cult – or the politically correct assignment of ‘high-demand group’. I don’t understand the more pleasant moniker, I suppose it seeks to lessen shame.
There are so many incarnations (pun intended?) of cults, it’s hard to know whether you’re dealing with one.
Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups – Revised
Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused. The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.
Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a “cult scale” or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.
The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry – or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar – or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
The group is preoccupied with making money.
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
Not all of these need to be present for the cult classification, and apologists for cults will read the list, discounting what they read as ‘not entirely applying’, thereby allowing them to justify their beliefs about their group not being a cult.
It took a lot of work to de-program myself, especially when people like my mother still value their experience there.
I ended most of my relationships with ex-culters, and try to only communicate with those de-programmed, or non-apologists.
Several peers with whom I survived the cult continue reinforcing old cultisms such as believing the best, most positive, most understanding people were from their time there, when the reality is that bonds formed in childhood and young adulthood gain stature as time passes because you are known more completely than others recently met, such as co-workers, or casual friends.
The deep friendships I made outside the cult revealed how damaging that place was, because we forged lasting, trusting connections, while acquaintances, and co-workers, currently, and through the years, often increased my sense of isolation rather than connection. Had I not made those honest and abiding friendships, I too, might believe that the cultists were right, and we were a special group, designated by god.
It’s also the ultimate egomania to believe that you were, or are, ‘chosen’, or accepted into such lofty ranks, above all on earth but those who worship or live as you do.
I’m grateful to have claimed back my autonomy, my power, and my voice.
My mother is in her 80’s now. 80’s! I realized what that means at our holiday family gathering when we were opening presents, and I gave my mother her gift to open, and something was happening to her, freaking us all out. She closed her eyes, and seemed to be struggling internally, swallowing, all the while drifting away. I called out, “MOM”!, as though my voice could stop her slipping into – whatever the hell was happening. Her eyes fluttered, then half-opened in response, and I could see it was taking extraordinary energy for her to come to awareness, and then she tried to get up to use the bathroom, but she nearly passed out upon rising. I grabbed her, but my left arm is still weak and I couldn’t hold her, yelling to my sibs: “Help me! I can’t hold her.” She was in stocking feet and sliding down our wood floor when my oldest sister grabbed her, and then my next oldest sister, the nurse, took her other side and they helped her into the bathroom.
I felt like we were witnessing her dying, and it was terrifying. After what seemed like an eternity, one of my sisters came out of the bathroom saying she took her blood pressure, but couldn’t get it accurately – that it was reading so low she’d be dead – and all I could think was ‘duh, she was dying!’, but stopped myself from saying it. I wanted to call 911, or get her to a hospital, but my sisters asked me to wait and see if she worsened. After 10 minutes or so, she had recovered, becoming her chipper, aware, self within a half-hour or so, which was actually more unsettling, because – what happened?
While the drama unfolded in the bathroom, the rest of us, my son and his girlfriend – who was at our holiday gathering for the first time – my S.O., my sister’s husband, and another long-time family friend were unsure what to do. Once my mother was starting to feel better but wanted to stay in the bathroom for a while longer, my oldest sister stayed with her and we proceeded with the gift exchange, which seemed rude, but my son had to leave shortly, as did my next oldest sister, and our family friend, so we halfheartedly continued.
I feel like a total shit now, like, of course we should have waited for my mother and sister to come out of the bathroom, but we felt the danger had passed as my oldest sister was staying in there against my mother’s protests that she was fine. I was trying to weigh carrying on with making everyone wait for however long it would be. That feels like a co-dependent decision now.
But this is life. I make crappy decisions all the time, no matter how I try for perfection.
My mother is going to die, and maybe soon. Perhaps, though, she’ll accomplish her goal of reaching 103, thereby outliving her father, who died at 102 – but as John Lennon famously sung in, Beautiful Boy, and others have voiced before him: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
I don’t want to lose her from this world, though. There’s the rub. I know it’s inevitable and I have to prepare for that happening sooner rather than later – but it could also be that I pass before her. Not being assured another minute is scary, but the odds of me dying soon are lower than that of my mother’s. So, I am embracing whatever time we have left.
Good memories of connection, love, fun, great conversation and family history are what I’m focusing on now, and I hope that my son will feel the desire to know and understand where he came from, and what my young life was like sooner than I did with my folks.
I remember a gravestone that read something like, ‘Know that whenever I was taken, the end came too soon’. I still have more time with my mother, so I will honor our gift of time the best I can.