Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Under Construction

I have made many attempts at therapy over the years, but quit when it got too tough or the therapy started to interfere with the rest of my life. When I first went to my therapist this January I told her I was finally ready to conquer the triggers/traumas and see it through to its completion, no matter how hard.

She did not sugar coat what I would be expected to do or how trying it would be. She said I had a lot of walls to tear down, before I could build back up. It was going to be hard, emotional work but I fully committed to it because I was tired of the alternative.

The first few months went well. I have been able to open some cracks to let some light in. I have entered emotional rooms that I never thought I would be able to. All for the good. In doing so I had minor anxiety and sleep problems, and some quickly passing depression episodes. Generally though, I thought I was making great progress with few ill side effects.

But now we have started the big stuff. The very foundations of my issues. Things I hope to be able to write about, but am still too unsteady to attempt it. In response, I am having a great deal of difficulty concentrating. I have a handful of blog posts half written, with no interest in finishing them. I am forgetful and have little interest in my work. I am weepy all the time, for no particular reason. This morning at the gym, I started to cry lifting weights. I sit through meetings and tears are spilling over without reason. I am not sleeping because of recurring nightmares. I am tired. My therapist assures me that this is to be expected. I’ve got to go to those hard places to be free of them. My intellectual self understands this completely. My emotional self is quivering.

Still, I am trying to focus on good things. I spent a day in New York catching up with a friend. I continue to make myself to go to work, go to my daughters’ sports events, exercise, stay in a healthy routine. But I also know that I am not the friend/partner/parent/worker I should be. I am sporadic in returning calls or emails, letters are late, blog posts are unwritten or not published, blog comments non-existent or anemic. Please know that I genuinely sorry for this but I also believe it is just temporary.

Please be patient with me. I am under reconstruction.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Grow Old Along With Me

When I was home for Easter my (older) sister and I were comparing wrinkles. Having grown up at the beach we both suffer from the skin damage of a life time of sun worshiping. Personally I don’t mind the crinkly smile lines around my eyes but lately it seems that my cheeks are succumbing to gravity and I am starting to get jowls. Oh good god.

Yesterday my sister sent me an article about wrinkle creams and plastic surgery. (So great to have a sister : ) First it said place a mirror on the floor and look down at yourself. This is what you’ll look like in a few years. Yikes! Then it said to look at your face while laying on your back. This is how you could expect to look after a face lift. Hmmm

But then I realized how I must look when I am on top rather than on the bottom, if you get my drift. So I said to Martha that I am never taking the top again unless the lights are out.

And she said, “what difference does it make? I can’t see you without my glasses on anyway”

We have a sampler in our bedroom that says "Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be"

Maybe. But sometimes I do miss my 20 year old body.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Conversations from the Cell

I had read a meme where folks posted random texts from their cell phones. Looking at mine there were mostly boring entries - Can you pick up milk? Can you take Peachie to work? Confirmations that kids have arrived safely at their destinations. And other similar, mundane dialogue needed to run a household. And then there were the conversations with my 18 year old daughter -


Beanie: - Can you get hot chocolate out?

Me: Out of what?

Beanie: Matt’s underwear.

Me: How did you spill hot chocolate on Matt’s underwear?

Beanie: I forgot my shorts so I wore his boxers for gym.

Me: sorry I asked.

Beanie: me 2

Beanie: i hate getting my period. i wish i had a dick so i wouldn’t have to go through this.

Me: they do have operations if you want to make a switch.

Beanie: no, i would be way too fascinated with playing with myself. i’d never get anything done.

Me: sharing violation


Beanie: can you get grape jelly out?

Me: What’s it on?

Beanie: my crotch.

Me: No, I meant what kind of material?

Beanie: How would I know that?

Me: Never mind.


Beanie: I spilt juice all over my uniform

Me: now there’s a surprise

Beanie: I need it right after school

Me: come home at lunch, I’ll take care of it.


Beanie: how long do cook my lunch for? (I had packed her lasagna)

Me: try 3 minutes and see if it’d hot. I am worried you are about to go to college and still can’t figure this stuff out.

Beanie: Ha ha. i know. i worry too : )

About 20 minutes later . . .

Beanie: can you get lasagna out of my white skirt?

Me: It’s what I live for.

Beanie: i love you too mom.


I am going to miss her so much when she’s gone . . .

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Amazing Gift

I came home from work late last night and quickly checked my email. I opened the first one, from a friend, and sat there stunned. Staring back at me was a picture of Daphne and myself from a trip we had taken to Europe.

To understand the depth of my reaction you would have to know that I have no pictures of her. When her parents came to get her, they loaded up the entire contents of her apartment (that we shared) and took it all away. Including almost everything I owned. My clothes, my possessions, my memories. I was left with nothing. Not one photograph or memento to remember her, except for three Billie Holiday albums that a friend had borrowed to copy.

I have been staring at this photo for most of the night. Me and Daphne on a street in Brugges. I am not sure how my friend came to be in possession of this photo. She says she decided to share it with me when I let it be known that I was trying to deal with these issues and it was okay to talk about her.

For a long, long time my last memory of her face has been an expression of extreme pain and torment and it has haunted me ever since. Now I have a picture of a happy, whole person in the fullness of her life.

I am about to write the most grateful ‘thank you’ note of my life. But how do you adequately thank someone for giving you back that?

Baby steps, baby steps. And then one huge, twirling, amazing leap. I am bubbling over with weepy joy here today.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Therapy #6

I used to have severe back problems, the result of a car accident when I was in High School. But I was young and they didn’t really bother me until years later when I went on my first extended backpacking trip carrying far too much weight. And then I had some serious back pain.

I began to see a chiropractor who eventually had me walking upright again and relatively pain free. I always dreaded going to see him. The way he would push and pull was painful and my whole body would go tense in anticipation, which only made it worse. I would be sore for a couple of days afterward. But then, like magic, I felt great. Full range of motion, no pain. And that is what kept me going back, even though it was painful.

It is much the way I am feeling about therapy these days. I love my therapist and we have been friends for many years. But I now dread going to see her, and that makes me sad. I am tense and anxious before every session. All her pushing and pulling hurts like hell. Then I am sore for days, weepy and very fragile. But then, like magic, I feel better.

One of my goals was to be able to talk/think about Daphne without being body slammed into memories of pain and terror. We have been working on this for a couple of months and I am happy to say that I am truly getting better at it. She asks me questions that stun me, reduce me to sobbing, and that generally feel like razors going through me. Yet I can now visualize good memories for longer periods of time and smile. I have asked my friends who knew her to share some of their memories with me and this has been a great gift. Details I didn’t know, memories from someone else’s perspective, etc. have given depth and vibrance to my memories. I haven’t perfected this yet, and I still wind up triggering through the terror, but I am definitively making progress and savoring the sweetness of those memories for as long as I can hold onto them.

I know I have a lot more work to do. A lot more painful stuff to push and pull that will be more gut wrenching than this exercise. And it will hurt like hell and I will be sore afterward. But I am already feeling lighter and stronger. And that will keep me going back.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Soup Kitchen

This weekend I traveled to visit family for Easter. As is my tradition, I went to the beach to watch the sunrise, although the recent storms had washed away a significant amount of shoreline. It was rather shocking to see the changes. I attended church with my mom in the church I grew up in. Very nice since I have not been in a church for a very long time. The minister’s sermon was a very moving message about hope. This guy never fails to get me teary in some way. And then serving dinner in the church soup kitchen.

Every Sunday they serve soup and sandwiches, but on holidays they serve a full dinner. This year was ham, roasted potatoes and green beans. And two chicken dinners, specially cooked for the two Jewish gentlemen who come every week. These volunteers, including my 85 year old mother, shop, cook, set up, serve, and clean up. Every single Sunday. I am in awe of these people. And I do love the fact that these women from a Christian church go out of their way make sure the Jewish folks are provided for. This, to me, is what a church should be.

In all the years that I have done this, there have been 6 tables set up serving about 30 people. This year we set up 10 tables and then had to set up a few more. Homeless men, some elderly couples, some folks with obvious mental health issues have been the usual attendees. But this year there were families. I was totally unprepared to see children at these tables. It had a very profound impact on me and my children. The economy has certainly taken its toll. I sat and had a long conversation with a young mother of an 18 month old. Social services wants her to work, and she would like to work, but there is no system to help with childcare. And I thought about the sermon I had just heard about hope - looked around the room and wondered what hope could these people possibly have?

I left there to go to my sister’s for dinner. Hors d’oeuvres, wine, filet mignons and lobster tails. The gap between these two Easter dinners did not escape me. And I kept thinking about that Sarah Bettens lyric:

Here's one reason to be sad
Half of us have nothing and the other feels too fat

And I realize that I once had nothing. And now I am too fat.

Time to make some changes. . .

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Still I Rise - Maya Angelou

I think about this poem every Easter. It is about a slave but it works on so many different levels. Christ’s persecution and resurrection, slavery and the fight for civil rights, discrimination and continuing fight for equality. Really anyone who has been knocked down but continues to get back up. Proud. Defiant.

Twice in my life I have been seriously knocked down. Once by a group of men. Once by a church. Each time I got back up and found a new path to walk. And I am proud of that. Yes, and a little defiant also. Although I didn’t get up alone. I had many people who helped me up and kept me propped up for as long as it took for me to stand alone again. And they continue to spot me. I am forever grateful.

I would love to hear how you have risen, if you feel like sharing. . .

We are enjoying picture perfect weather in the northeast and tomorrow I will be at the beach to watch the sun rise.

Enjoy your weekend. If you are able, help someone rise.