Friday, June 28, 2013

I Promise

h/t  poetlandia 

Sharing because this is so, so important.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Speaking Too Soon

Obviously I tempted the fates when I rejoiced in a whole week without a loved one in the hospital.  Last night Peachie woke us up around 1 am to say she was having back pain.   She had recently returned from a beach vacation where she had been jet skiing so my first  thought was that she had wrenched her back.  But when I pulled myself out of bed and saw her doubled over in pain, I recognized it.  Kidney stones.  I have had four and I know that look of OMG this effin’ hurts!  So off to the emergency we went.

Fortunately it wasn't very crowded and they quickly escorted us to a cubby (they really don’t have rooms in the emergency room) to be examined.   I froze.  I felt it coming.   I didn't realize that I have not been in an emergency room since I was there after the assault.  I have absolutely no memory of it, I only know from being told I was there.   But walking down that hall I felt the wave of terror coming.  Martha must have see too because she very calming looked me in the eye and said “Go take a walk.  Then come back.  Your daughter needs you.”  

I went back into the fresh air and started doing all my anxiety parlor tricks.  And I kept thinking  “I am over this now.  I will not go back to fear.  I have a core of iron (thank you e for that image I often use).   I am stronger than my past and any trigger.”  

And it passed.

I walked back into the ER - no I strutted back into the ER.   I sat and held my daughter’s hand until they gave her some happy drugs.   And six hours later we heard the happy news that it was not a kidney stone but a wicked kidney infection.  A heavy dose of antibiotics and home we came.

I have been sitting for awhile thinking.  I spoke too soon on loved ones in the hospital.   (Maybe next week will be a medical free week).   But I also recently wrote about reaching a new plateau in my healing recovery.  I wrote it hoping against hope that it was true.  And now, now I am truly beginning to believe it.   Can PTSD be cured?  I really don’t know.  But I am beginning to feel confident that it can be successfully managed?   Yes.  Yes I am.

And now I am going to bed, happy with these victories, and hoping that I wake up to at least two SCOTUS decisions to celebrate.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Full of Grace

1.  One full week without someone I love being in a hospital.

2.  Walking around the neighborhood Peachie, we were invited to join in a hopscotch game.   What great memories that invoked!   Note to self:  need a lot of balance work.

3.  Saturday night with my butt in a float, drifting around a mountain lake, under the super moon.   Well, it was one day short of super, but oh, what a delightful sight in a fabulous setting!

4.  Introducing Martha's grand niece to the pleasures of the pool.  Babies and water - it doesn't get much better!

5.  Playing hookie from work for a couple of hours to see a matinee of Monsters University with Martha and the girls.  We try to always see the Disney/Pixar films together, a tradition I hope will continue into grand-parenthood.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Answering questions - Changes in happiness

I would like to hear about what things make you happy and are they the same things pre- and post- assault.

I’ve thought about this question for a while now.  I was having trouble organizing my thoughts around it because of the word “happy.”   “What things make you happy”(external)  is different than “being happy” (internal).   So I will try to tackle it from both perspectives.

I believe I have always been a “happy” person.  Although, as you know, I have been unhappy at times about some aspects of my relationships or work,  I have always loved and been loved, had nurturing relationships and things to look forward to.  I have always found satisfaction in my work and in volunteering.  I  have always had creative outlets.  I have always been optimistic about my future, and been very connected with community and nature.  And healthy enough to do the things I most enjoy  (except for this recent blip which made me very frustrated, but not unhappy).   I have always been content and grateful for all that I have.

I don’t think any of that was really different pre- and post- assault.  Obviously I went through a long period of numbness and mourning and grief and an even longer period of trying to make sense of it all.   Yet even through those years of extreme sadness, I probably would still have considered myself a happy person, if that makes sense.    A happy person  just going through a very, very rough time.

Things that I enjoy that make me happy  - sharing meals and conversation with friends, being out in the woods or at the beach, gardening, sunshine, woodworking - those have not really changed either.   I have always been a person who enjoys simple things, connecting with and learning about people, public service and contemplative down time.

I think there are two things that changed the most.

One was the ability to allow myself to feel joy.   I can remember having so much exuberance about life.  I was that person doing cart wheels in the sand and dancing in the rain.  And just generally loving life in a big way.  After the assault, that seemed to shut down and I became very introverted and frightened.   Not unhappy really.  Just feeling much more reserved and confused about life.  After a time I could enjoy friends and activities but it was never really the same.   Until recently.  Now I feel like joy is making a comeback.  Although I'm pretty sure my cart wheeling days are over.

The other is that  the scale of my life became much smaller.  For example, I used to be very politically active - on a large scale.   I was very involved in state and national politics, spoke at rallies, had meetings with movers and shakers, etc.   I was a very public figure in that world.   Today, I still work in a political environment but I generally focus on local issues, only do things behind the scenes, usually on a one-to-one basis.  I never, ever want attention on me, or to be in the spotlight and will go to great lengths to avoid it.

I used to go camping with large groups.  Now I will only go backpacking with one or two select friends and avoid campgrounds all together.  Same with any socializing - while I was always on the shy side, I enjoyed going to things like beach parties and political rallies and such.  Post assault,  it is still a struggle to feel comfortable with a group of people or any strangers.   I suppose the big change was that my world had always been a safe place.  And then it was not.   It is a constant challenge for me to put myself out there - but I do try because I really enjoy people -  well, safe people - in smaller, safer places.

Another big thing that changed is my need for privacy.  Or at least my need to control what parts of my life become public.   I never really recognized this until recently when a friend talked about my issues to someone else.   It uncovered all these very confusing feelings of my soul, my being in someone else’s hands, which triggered something pretty ugly in me.    I'm trying to work on that in therapy now.

So generally, I'd say the biggest change was my need to have control over my life and my environment in order to feel safe.  And this has played out in making my world much more private and protected than it had been.

But the good part  is that although my stage got smaller, my relationships to people and to life became much deeper and richer.   First, because my life has become so concentrated on my little sphere of family and friends, my work, and my hobbies, it has allowed me the time to nurture those relationships without the distractions of the larger world.   (Not that things in my life are always perfect.  They're not. )    And also because I know how fast and horribly things can be taken away,  I have become immensely appreciative of life. right. now.   And that, in turn, has probably made me happier than I've ever been.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Answering questions - Dealing with Anxiety

I would love to know more about how you deal with that morning anxiety and other anxiety that comes thru the day?

This is a hard one to easily answer because my strategies have changed over time.    Generally speaking, I encounter two types of anxiety - one from internal triggers and another from external.

Morning is still my greatest challenge when it comes to internal anxiety.    I used to have frequent nightmares and flashbacks.  Even after all these years, images of the violence play for me almost every night in that weird state between wake and sleep and again in the morning before I am fully awake.   Through a lot of therapy, especially immersion therapy,  the emotional impact of these images has decreased significantly, so morning has become easier for me.     Other things that have worked for me to help undo that inner turmoil:

Physical exertion.   It was not uncommon for me to wake before dawn and hit the treadmill or bike I have in the basement.  Hard.   I have found exercise to be the fastest and easiest way to dissolve anxiety that has slowly built up in my body.

I struggled a lot when I got sick and had a string of surgeries that eliminated being able to do any exercise. I had to rely on mental tricks, which were not as effective.  One of the things I do is to say the alphabet in my head - slowly and concentrating on each letter.  And because it’s easy to drift because the alphabet is so familiar, I have learned to say it backwards, every other letter, every third letter, only round letters, etc.  I have a bunch of these games - reciting prime numbers (I was a math geek)  doing math equations in my head, etc.   It’s just an easy way to disrupt the triggering thoughts but doesn't really help the lingering physical impact of anxiety.  My therapist always tried to get me to do breathing exercises, which would help for a short time but they tended to make me lightheaded, which made me more anxious.

Other things that help that tense physical build-up are sex and laughing.   Actually, I should have put laughing even before exercise.   Laughing. Hard. Out loud.  It works better than anything and fortunately, I have plenty of stimulus in my life to make me laugh.   And if I need help, I think about Ed Wynn signing “I love to Laugh” in Mary Poppins.  Works every time.

For external anxiety - triggers that happen around me, like knowing I will be in a claustrophobic situation or suddenly encountering a group of strange men, I rely on a lot of those same mental tricks listed above.  Another trick I use is concentrating on one object, like my thumb.  I probably know the geography of my thumb better than any other human being.    I do also have anxiety meds for when I know I will be in hard (for me)  situations, but I try not to take them. Sometimes, just knowing they are available is enough.

Now I am finding, more and more, that I can build up immunity to anxiety.  Going into the woods for a few days will give me a couple of weeks of calm mornings.  Doing some yoga and mediation before bed or before anxious situations, will also help.   As I become more and more aware of my spiritual self, and build those skills, I am finding that the mental and physical anxiety is diminishing.    And perhaps that is the key.   Awareness.  Staying in the Present.  Gratitude.  Focus.  All those things you read about when you read about how to deal with PTSD,  but I never really connected it with the spirituality that I am just beginning to really feel.

I am inclined to think that healing journeys are just as unique as the individual traumas.    I have been at this for decades and I am only now feeling like I am getting a handle on it.  What works for me may not work for you.  I guess my only advice is to keep trying different strategies until something clicks for you.  And then practice it as hard as you can.   I've had so many failures I lost count.  But as my therapist always used to say - “keep failing forward.”

You’ll get there.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Full of Grace

1.  That Peachie's best friend came through her surgery with the hope of a long, but successful recovery.

2.  That Peachie, going nuts with worry, went to the ICU shortly after the surgery, said she was C's girlfriend, and was let in.   They thought she was C's girlfriend as in "partner."  And this in a Catholic hospital!   That is still making me laugh.

3.  That we got Martha's boat in the water with a minimum amount of cursing.  And it started up on the first try.   Miracles - they do happen.

4. That this is my Sunday mornings cathedral.

5.  That today, 20 years ago, Peachie was born and has been a joyous and loving light in my life ever since.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Answering questions - My faith journey

I started reading your blog back when you were leaving your church.  I wonder if you have ever considered returning to church and/or where you are on your faith journey.

At the time I was kicked out of my church, I was already detached from most of the “Christian” aspects of church.  I no longer recited the creeds, I no longer believed in Christ as savior, or god incarnate, or the resurrection.   What I loved about church was the sacred space where I found it so easy to connect with that loving energy I perceive to be “god.”    Someone once explained their sense of sacred in a church as being able to feel all those prayers that had soaked into the walls and woodwork.   I feel that.

And going to church was a good spiritual discipline -  having a weekly routine to exercise that connection.   I also enjoyed some of the people there, having easy volunteer opportunities, and hearing the stories about the life of Christ, who I still think was a pretty cool and radical thinker.  And not a bad role model to set the bar for.

I did, for a while, shop around for another church but I realized early in that process that as much as I liked the sacred space of a church, I was never again going to be able to call myself a “Christian” and really didn’t like the institutional aspects of religion.  So I began to figure out how I could still make that spiritual connection without the aid of a place or routine. Or someone else’s prompts.

I have likened this move away from an institutional church, for me,  as similar to moving out of my parents house.  I lived very happily within the walls of my childhood home, protected and sheltered, learned valuable life lessons . . .but always within my parents rules and boundaries.  Once I left and lived on my own, I was exposed to other traditions and vocabularies and cultures and I grew as an individual.   In much the same way, I have moved out of the controlled, confining environment of a church and I am looking for ways to expand my spiritual life.

That is where I am on my journey now.   I know the places where I easily feel that connection - particularly out in the woods, under the stars.  Volunteer work.  Working in my garden.  Laughing with a friend.   I know that the easiest way for me to feel that connection is to become very aware - of my center, and particularly of nature.

What I am striving for is being able to see and feel god (love) in everything and every one.  I am enjoying exploring new traditions and options to take me in that direction - including the very earthy, native American kind of spirituality, and some of the eastern practices.   I will always rely on Judaic traditions for forgiveness.  And I will still use those things I learned in the christian church - particularly gratitude and prayer - that help me keep centered.  

So I guess that's my journey - a blend of different faiths and traditions - but a very strong belief that love is everywhere and is the answer to everything.   I just need to stay connected to it.

Easier said than done.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Short Answers

Do you get along with your in-laws?

Martha's parents both died when she was very young so I don’t have in-laws.  She does, however, have a niece who she grew up with who is like a sister.  I have a great relationship with her, and her husband, her in-laws, her children, and now I also get to babysit her grandchildren.

Martha tells me that her father was a very bigoted man and would not have accepted our relationship.  But she also believes her mother’s ghost lived in her house, watching over her, until I moved in.  The ghost was then able to leave knowing that Martha was now well taken care of, so I guess I’m okay with her mom.   I think I could have won her father over.

Bonus points:  living with an orphan makes the holidays much easier.

Do you still have a relationship with Daphne’s mother?

As much as I don’t like the woman, I continue to try to leave that door open.  We are now joined together by a scholarship fund we created in Daphne’s memory, so that requires some communication.   I usually invite her to join me for lunch on those anniversaries when I go to visit Daphne’s grave.   Those lunches have been strained.    In the beginning I think we both just wanted information.  Now I think we both tolerate/need each other because we are the only living link each of us has to Daphne.  She still occasionally sends me an email asking about some aspect of Daphne’s life that she missed.   I try to filter out my negative feelings and tell her what she wants to know because I really can’t imagine the hell she must live in.    And in some sick way I have yet to unravel, I welcome her belligerence as a sort of just punishment because I have yet to forgive myself for what happened.

What is your favorite color?

Blue.  Particularly midnight blue.  And I love that cobalt blue of depression glass.

Your three worst and three best things right this moment

Worst, right now -

1. Peachie’s best friend - a girl I’ve known since she was 2 ½ and consider another daughter - is having major, scary surgery today.  And the worst is that she will be in the ICU for 3 days so I can’t even see her.  I am chewing my fingers off.

2.  A person I thought was a friend - turns out she isn't/wasn't much of a friend.  Always a very hard lesson for me.

3.  Today my sister and I start the process to take my brother to court over my mother’s estate.  The ugly is about to get uglier.  But at least an attorney will handle it.

Best, right now -

1.  I am totally savoring this window of improved physical, mental and spiritual health.

2.  I am sipping a cup of English tea while watching and listening to a torrential downpour.    And feeling so blessed to have a home, filled with love, where I always feel safe.

3.  My cats are head butting me for attention, my dog sitting here wagging her tail, Martha and my daughters are still snug in their beds, sleeping the sleep of angels.   My family (and extended family of friends)  - absolutely the best thing in my life.

What is you idea of a perfect dinner.

Dining outdoors, seaside,  with the smell of salt in the air, with someone I care about - good conversation, laughing a lot - white table linens, fresh flowers on the table - water with lemon, caesar salad (dressing on the side), grilled swordfish, grilled asparagus and tomatoes, warm rolls with herb butter.  My companion would order a glass of white wine which I would have a few small sips from.    Dessert is always so hard to narrow down but perhaps a good chocolate mousse or creme brulee.  And then an after dinner stroll where I would order a home made ice cream cone, probably some kind of mocha flavor.    Perfect.

And now on to the questions with long winded answers . . .

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Full of Grace

1.  I thought the questions submitted would allow you to get to know me better.  Instead I am finding, in trying to formulate answers, that I am getting to know more about myself.   It may be a while before I can answer all of them - some of them require much thought.   But I am very grateful for this opportunity to explore and learn more about myself.

2.  My new bamboo, silk and wool mattress.

Martha can do whatever she wants with the rest of the house but I am very particular about our bed and bedding.  

3.  That my brother-in-law just successfully came through a very delicate and scary surgery.  

4. That while visiting my BIL in New York City  I also got to see the AIDS in New York: The First Five Years  exhibit.  So powerful.  I do hope this exhibit travels.  Everyone should see it.

5.  And finally this . . .

. . . which gave me a big time smile.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The More Things Change . . .

Thirty years ago a fell in love with a woman whose skin was a different color than mine.  I lost one friendship because of it.  She lost almost all her friends of color.   When we were together people would stare.  Some people cursed at us.   We both endured a lot of homophobic and racial slurs - both behind our backs and to our faces.  Eventually we suffered the most horrific attack, both homophobic and racially motivated.   And in the aftermath, the words that still ring in my ears - "well, what did you expect?"

Well, certainly not that.

At the time we lived in a liberal, progressive state but in a very republican, conservative, Catholic, working class area of that state.  Admittedly there were not a lot of inter-racial couples around.  And certainly no inter-racial, openly gay couples.

Her family had already disowned her because of her sexuality.  My parents, who were both born and raised in a very diverse New York City, were very accepting. (In fact, at the time, my mother was having more issues with my sister marrying a Jewish man.  She had no problem with the Jewish part, but was very upset that her grandchildren would not be baptized.   She eventually got over it.)

It’s hard to imagine that kind of racial intolerance today.  Or maybe it's just where I live now.   In fact, walking around  I think that inter racial couples are the norm.   Thirty years have changed a lot.

Or maybe not.  I was absolutely stunned by the vitriol comments about the Cheerios commercial.   Really?  In this day and age?

And kudos to Cheerios for standing up to it.

I had begun to think that the intolerance was perhaps regional - that the more conservative areas of the country led the backlash.   But, you may not have heard, there has been a wave of horrendous gay bashing in New York City.  New York City?  Where queer folk are everywhere and every nation and religion is well represented?  Where a white, straight, christian person is now the minority?

Or perhaps that is the problem.  The ruling class has become fearful of the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.   And fear can lead to horrible and violent reactions.

So I don't know.  Thirty years ago you would not see a person of color on television - unless, of course, it was in a role of servitude.   Certainly there were no gay folks represented.   Today, we are represented, although still often in negative stereotypical roles.  Marriage equality seems to be spreading.  Certainly more queer folk are comfortable being out.   It has been a long time since I've sat with any kid afraid to tell their parents they are gay, and even longer since I've heard about a parent dis-owning their child, although I'm sure it still happens.  That is all good stuff.  Certainly getting to know people - not their labels - has broken down  a  lot of  walls of fear.

But just as I start patting society on the back for finally moving in the right direction - the Cheerio backlash happens.  Or another trans-gendered person is found beaten to death.  Or yet another gay man murdered.  Or a Muslim woman shamed.  Or another lesbian raped.   And not for anything they've done but only because of the label someone has placed on them.   Then I really begin to wonder . . .

Things have changed.

But, for some people, they have also stayed the same.

What did they expect?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Q & A

On one hand, I use this blog to get things out of my head.  I have a few blog posts formulating - a few things I want/need to put on paper - for my own processing work.

On the other hand,  I am still thinking about the psychic who told me I should be a teacher.  And I am wondering if I am even talking about the things that my small group of loyal readers might want to know or discuss.

So, taking a page from Maria at Just Eat Your Cupcake, I am asking if there is something you, dear readers, want me to write about?   Do you have any questions you want answered, or topics you would like to discuss?  If so,  just put something in the comments or send me an email.   I would be very interested in going where ever you want to go.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Full of Grace

1.  That the pathology on some suspicion moles I had removed came back clear, as did my latest oncology blood work. *sigh of relief*

2.  The fragrance of a soft spring rain.

3.  Having the happy pleasure of meeting and sharing a meal with the amazing and soulful Em of  Poetlandia

4.  The tranquility of washing dishes by hand. 

5.  This headline -  Lesbian Lovers, Next Role for Cate Blanchett

     Oh, be still my heart.