Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Full of Grace

1.  Waking up.  Both literally and figuratively.

2.  Watching Peachie score the winning goal in an overtime win against my Alma mater.

3.  After 5 hours of sitting in the freezing cold, on metal bleachers, going to a restaurant and being seated next to a roaring fire.  

4.  Six hours in the car with Martha and still finding so much to talk, and laugh, and argue about.  It never ceases to amaze me.

5.  Moments of pure love.

Thursday, October 24, 2013



Do you have secrets?

I once asked someone their opinion about whether I should tell my daughters about my rape and the events surrounding it.   Her response was “you are only as sick as the secrets you keep.”

That wounded me deeply because at the time I was working so hard in therapy to work through the trauma.  I was not keeping it a secret.  It was just always something I could not give voice to, and I still struggle saying it.  But not being able to talk about something is different that purposely hiding it, I think.  And being able to speak about it has been the whole point of therapy - holding in traumatic memories is not good for one’s mental or physical health.  

You are only as sick as the secrets you keep.  

Still, I think I agree with this sentiment.  In my life I can only think of two things that I kept secret and each one has eaten away at me.

One, that I now confess, is that when I was very young I once pulled the legs off of a daddy long-legged spider, leaving it with one leg.  Terrible, I know.  The image of it trying to hobble away still haunts.  Nothing I can do about it at this point, but now I never kill spiders, or any bugs for that matter. I believe in the bug relocation program.  But every time I relocate a spider, I think about that daddy long-leg.  Very disturbing. Some secrets you just can’t shake.

Second, when I was in High School I said something incredibly mean and nasty to a friend.   It ended the friendship, of course.   That also haunted me terribly and for years afterward I tried to locate her so I could apologize.   Then, just a few years ago, by brother-in-law mentioned that he had met her - she was working in a hotel in the south.  And so I wrote her a long and heartfelt apology which she graciously accepted.   I felt released from decades of self-imposed misery.  

You are only as sick as the secrets you keep.  

The other side of the equation is the secrets I keep for other people.  I am never comfortable with this.  Both my daughters came to me when they wanted birth control.  “Don’t tell mommy, please.”  And I didn't, although I still don’t know if that was the right decision.   Fortunately we are past it being as issue.

I once saw a friend’s husband (also a friend) with another woman and didn't know what to do with the information.  I agonized for quite some time.  Fortunately the wife learned about his dalliances another way and I was off the hook.  

Martha’s nephew’s wife recently came to me and confessed she was having an affair.  It was not a secret I wanted to hold and I told her so.   She did then confess to her husband.   It’s a mess.

A few years ago, the same person who told me “you are only as sick as the secrets you keep” told me a few of her secrets.  I didn't realize at the time that they were actually things that could be quite damaging to her and to her husband (even though she did actually write that it would be damaging if anyone knew. That part went right over my head.)  I thought it was just a friend sharing personal stuff and I am known to be discreet and nonjudgmental.  But a few days ago a different friend came into knowledge of these facts and totally wigged out.  She was rather accusatory and wondered why/how I could of kept this information to myself, when other people could be getting hurt. I feel caught between the moral obligation of disclosure and keeping a confidence.  But the disclosure is potentially career ending information which may, or may not, be relevant.

Secrets.  Is it ever good to have a secret?  Is confession truly good for the soul?   Is it wrong to keep someone else’s secrets?  Especially if it could be hurtful to someone else?   Either way it seems that keeping secrets, your own or someone else’s,  has a cost.

This is what is keeping me awake lately.   

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Full of Grace

Life has been extremely loud around me lately. A lot of drama in Martha’s family so someone is always at my house crying. We are in the local political season which makes for chaos at work. Friend’s lives are in upheaval. My sister emails or calls me 15 times a day over the upcoming court case against my brother. A close colleague is going through a difficult divorce - a lot of yelling and cursing. Beaner was home for fall break, along with quite a few friends, so my house was overly energetic. And we babysat a bit with a teething baby. Oy. Too much noise!

But I have learned how important it is for me to keep things in balance, so to counteract the maelstrom, I found ways this week for some quiet time.

1. Seeing a stunningly gorgeous production of The Sleeping Beauty.
The music, the dance . . . so good for my soul. And of course the heroine slept a lot which I found very inspiring : )

2. Lying quietly outside on the ground with my dog . . . lazily watching the leaves fall. (Except for the occasional enemy leaf that had to be attacked) Better than meditation.

3. Taking a gentle bike ride here.

4. Taking an afternoon stroll here.

5. Building a fire in the backyard fire pit and staring at the stars.

I would love to run away into the woods for a few days, but even that has become impossible (which is really unfortunate because the weather has been absolutely perfect)  So I am really grateful that I have so much beauty all around me that I can enjoy, if only with little stolen slices of time.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Full of Grace

1.  A ‘couldn't have been better’ weekend with my girls last week - high school football, apple picking, apple sauce making, pumpkin carving, costume making  - all topped off by an amazing roast beef and yorkshire pudding and apple pie meal.  A perfect homecoming weekend.

2.  That in all the federal government craziness, I don’t have to call my Senators and Congressman to beg them to do the right thing.  I call to thank them for always doing the right thing.

3.  Evening walks with the dog and smelling the wood fires going in the neighborhood.

4.  A beautiful autumn day at the lake.

5.  Infinite possibilities for happiness.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Some Things Change

Last night Martha and I went out to dinner.  When the waiter arrived he asked if it was a special occasion.

After a pause, Martha responded that we were celebrating our 24th anniversary - something I would have never said outside our immediate family or circle of queer friends.   I froze - my fear of a negative response to gayness runs very, very deep.    But without hesitation the waiter wished us a happy anniversary.

Later, when dessert arrived, there was a lit candle in it.   He apologized saying they had a birthday song but no anniversary song to sing, and again wished us well.

Then the manager arrived with two complimentary glasses of champagne and also congratulated us.

Wow, have things changed!

So this is how the other 90% has always lived.   Nice . . .

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Full of Grace - 24

Today marks 24 years since Martha and I made a commitment to each other.  We never promised forever.   But we did promise to help each other on our journeys.  And we have.   So today I am exceedingly grateful that Martha is in my life.    She has made my journey remarkably loving and fun and warm.  Here’s 24 ways, in no particular order.

1. She makes me laugh.  A lot.

2. Her kiss still makes me swoon.

3. She is a really great mother.

4. She gives her heart and soul into helping at-risk kids.

5. In restaurants or movies, she always lets me pick the seat.

6. She makes the best apple (and blueberry)  pie.   And will make them whenever I ask.

7. She likes to clean (so I don’t have to)

8. She doesn't have a jealous bone in her body.

9. She never questions my need for the wilderness

10. Or solitude

11. She helps me make it through the night.

12. She handles all the yelling at cable and phone companies.  And is damn good at it.

13. She has done way too much hospital sitting the last few years and (almost) never complains about it.

14. I can go wherever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want, and all she says is “come home to me safe.”

15. She will go with me to every Cate Blanchett film and is patiently amused with my obsession.

16. She has a Mickey Mouse grin that makes me smile whenever I see it.  

17. She will politely eat any of my failed attempts at cooking and never complain.

18. My mother loved her from the start.

19. She loves to decorate for holidays.

20. She is such a little kid at heart.

21. She will go to the ballet and symphony with me, even though it bores her.

22. She makes love to me - heart, body and soul.

23. She still kisses and tucks me in at night.

24. She makes our house a home.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Life in General

Someone pointed out to me that I have written very little recently, except for tidbits in my Full of Grace posts, about my life, my kids, my work, Martha, therapy, life in general.   So here it is - My Life in General - for anyone interested in the minutia of my life.

I am still sitting with sadness, although I have been too busy to pay much attention.  Much of this busyness is due to helping my secretary travel back and forth to visit her ill daughter and now helping with the final funeral arrangements for this weekend.  This is a very dysfunctional family with absolutely no money.   So I have been doing a lot of fundraising and ride giving and hand holding. Today I have to pick up some meat and fruit platters and some balloons, and then I am done.   I hate to sound uncaring but this process has exhausted me.    Everyone has great ideas but they offer very little in execution.

The good news is that both my daughters (and one boyfriend) are coming home this weekend for apple picking, pumpkin carving and costume making.   Martha is making a big roast beef dinner and apple pie.  Peachie is going to be the Little Mermaid for Halloween and her boyfriend has grudgingly agreed to be Prince Eric.  Beanie is going as a beer can (of course)  Funny that my girls on in college and I am still making their costumes.  But I love this mom stuff.  It is the best tonic I could ask for.

My work has gotten busy again with the upturn in the economy.  But I like to be busy. Lots of new projects coming in I can sink my teeth (and red pen) into.  And lots of time outside looking at sites. I continue to look forward to each day and each challenge.  Still, I am now seriously considering retiring. Perhaps in the spring.  

Martha and I are about to celebrate 24 years together.  Well, I say celebrate but I really mean we will pass that mark on the calendar.  My non-romantic partner will probably forget especially without the hint she always got when my mother would send an anniversary card.   Not to complain though - we are still very happy together - even though we drive each other nuts on a daily basis.

Martha continues to work with special needs kids, which she loves.  And the basketball league that she runs has just started up and will take most of her free time thru February. It makes her very happy and keeps her out of my hair.

Beanie is now a senior in college (what?) and is currently applying to grad schools.  She wants to be a forensic psychologist, whatever that is.   There are only 7 schools in the country that have the mix of studies she wants.  My guess is that she will end up either in Boston or Florida, even though the top ranked school for her program is 8 miles down the street.  She continues to live life out loud, but always makes me very proud with her volunteer work for Ronald McDonald House and St. Judes. Oh, and she has a new boyfriend.  I don’t think I wrote about it here, but last year she went through a tough time with an emotionally abusive boyfriend which then turned physical. It was a mess but she seems happy now.

Peachie is a junior studying athletic training and nutrition.  We all hate her and her perfect lean body, 6 pack abs and her “oh, I’ll just have a salad”  attitude.   We think she was adopted.    We love her boyfriend who cooks and makes balloon animals for her.   She also volunteers for the Special Olympics and the Wounded Warrior project and is thinking about working with people who need prosthetics.   She would be good at that.

I continue to go to therapy but not as frequently.  I have stayed with a therapist who does not specialize in trauma, but I think her more broad based approach has been good for me.  I also occasionally go to a group therapy session for folks with PTSD, something I always thought I’d hate and therefore rejected.   But listening to people who have PTSD from different kinds of trauma - World Trade center, military service, childhood sexual abuse - has also given me a better understanding of how the disease works and can be controlled.  I have my moments but generally feel stronger than ever.

Health wise, I am feeling good. Tired, very tired. But that is more a product of this last 6 weeks of crazy than any health issue.   In fact, I have taken today off from work just to laze around and prepare for the wake and then the onslaught of children this weekend. I am having some issues with bone loss and joint pain from the estrogen killing meds I am taking but that is my only complaint.  I am still weighing the cost and benefits of these meds.

I have not gotten out into the woods nearly as much as I’d like, mostly because the joint pain has precluded any serious hiking.   I think my backpacking days are going to have to morph into something a little more gentle, or aided, or something.  Days hikes from a centralized camp perhaps. One of my favorite places in the mountains has a lake and I often see people come in by seaplane. That could be my answer - fly in and then just camp under the stars.    I need to be out in the wilderness to keep my spiritual side in balance.   I don’t know, I’ll figure it out.

Other than that I continue to do my volunteer stuff which gives me great pleasure,  do a little gardening and woodworking to keep my head sane, I am being drawn back into some political stuff because, wow, things have really gotten crazy out there, and generally try to enjoy whatever each day brings.     

My life, in a nutshell.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Because cancer sucks

Because cancer sucks, I was asked to spread some awareness about mesothelioma -  a completely preventable cancer (caused only by asbestos exposure), because knowing more about the disease and it's risk factors truly does make a difference.

Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma cancer. Inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers may cause an inflammation of internal tissue and disrupt organ function which leads to the development of mesothelioma. Asbestos products were used extensively throughout the 20th century in a wide variety of applications. Asbestos companies continued to produce these products even after they were known to be hazardous and harmful to workers and their families. Many of these products were responsible for asbestos exposure sustained by both the individuals who manufactured the products as well as those who used them at commercial, industrial and military jobsites. Renovation and construction both at home and in schools and other public facilities also posed high risk areas for asbestos exposure.

And I always thought that asbestos had already been banned. I was wrong. Read and heed. And share if you can.

For more information go to www.mesothelioma.com

And also remember that this is breast cancer awareness month.   I lost my boobs, but early detection saved my life.   Please check yours.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Full of Grace - Sitting with Sadness

"Love your sadness. It gives you a chance to be still with the most tender place of your being. Love gives your sadness the energy it needs to move through you, so you can move on. By loving your sadness, you are respecting your truth. And freedom always follows truth." ~ Danielle Laporte

Last Saturday was the anniversary of the gang rape* and assault suffered by myself and my then lover, Daphne.   Over the years I have gotten through this day in various ways ranging from total and utter despair,  to triggering in a fetal position for days, to listening to Billie Holiday albums all day and feeling sorry for myself,  to finally learning where Daph was buried and being able to visit her.   

This year my secretary's daughter (42 years old with 9 children)  was at the end game of her year long battle with cancer.  (can I tell you how sick I am of cancer?) Unfortunately she has been at a hospital in Philadelphia, about 4 1/2 hours away. So this year, instead of taking the train to visit Daphne’s grave site, I first drove my secretary to Philadelphia and then I doubled back to New York City.  

It was a gorgeous day and I sat at the gravestone marking those traumatic hours with her.  Sad.  A few tears.  A little anxiety if I let my memories go too far.  Then I remembered how much anxiety and triggering I used to experience and remembered to be thankful for Lauren, my therapist who got me through this journey.  She died unexpectedly a couple of years ago, and so I added her to my sadness.  Then, because I really wanted to feel all of my sadness, I thought of my mom, and friends Toni (killed by a drunk driver) and Yodi who just died of cancer.  

I sat, for hours, reliving that day of violence and horror, thinking about the impact its had on my life, remembering sweet memories of Daphne and all the loved people in my life who have passed,  how much I miss them all, and just allowing sadness to wash over me.   

As I silently sat my secretary texted me that her daughter had finally passed and she thanked me for getting to see her daughter before she died.   And then I broke.    For all the sadness I was feeling, I just couldn't even imagine watching one of my daughters go through all that illness.   How do you watch a child die?  I have no idea.   I began to sob. For her. For me. For all our losses.

I somehow managed to drive myself back home, listening to sad songs and allowing myself to wallow in this feeling.   I am still in this place today, which is okay.  I have no other place I need to be right now.  No one I need to be strong for.  

Over these years I have come to grips with the trauma, the violence, the guilt.  But not the sadness. So I continue to sit with it now and again.  It is not depression.  I do not wish to “move on.”   I do not want to distract myself from it.  I just want to give it the attention it obviously wants and needs and let it teach me.

I also know that the depth of my sadness corresponds to the height of happiness I have experienced in my life. And with that, here is what I am immensely grateful for this week:

1.  That my children are healthy.   There is nothing that tops this.

2.  That I feel such a great loss because these people in my life were so very incredible.   I was so blessed to know them and learn from them and be loved by them.

3.  That there were no camera phones back in the day.  I know that sounds odd but I honestly can’t imagine what Daphne and I went through being recorded and put out on the internet, something so many women have to endure.  Every time I read of such an incident I am so viscerally sick.   It does not surprise me at all that so many of these women commit suicide.  

4.  That Martha allows me my sadness without question and does not try to cheer me up or talk me out if it.   But I know she’s there and she is my rock.

*5.  For those who have known me for a while or read this blog through my therapy years know what an accomplishment it is for me to even be able to say those words.   It has been long and difficult the journey for me and I am very grateful to be able to look back and say “I did not let them win.”