Thursday, January 26, 2006

when I was a child


When I was a child, my mother was, quite simply, out of control. Verbally, emotionally, physically. My brothers and I learned very young that no matter what we said or did, or didn't say or do, it would be our fault if mom 'lost it.' If we hadn't said/done what we did, or had said/done what she wanted us to (not that she would tell us what she wanted -- no, we were just supposed to know), then she wouldn't have had to say/do whatever she said/did to us. She also had a penchant for picking men with the same philosophy -- the it's not my fault philosophy.

Bruised body, bruised heart...that angelic face to the right didn't deserve it. And you'd never know, by looking in her eyes, that she'd already endured, by the age of six, more than many do in a lifetime. She shouldn't have had to.

Many children growing up take the accusation to heart. They truly believe that somehow, they were at fault. That if they hadn't said/done whatever, then the adult wouldn't have had to hurt them, physically or emotionally. They internalize that, and as they grow, they continue to believe they are wrong, unworthy.

I, however, reacted differently. Somehow, I instinctively knew that it was wrong, even at a very young age. That nothing I had said or done was reason enough for the abuse I was receiving, whether verbal or physical. That it was an unjust attack, that provocation was irrelevant. And that sense of injustice burned within, and kept me whole. The one thought that went through my mind the most when I was growing up was I will never ever do that to my kids when I'm a mommie. And I never did.

Flash forward 39 years, to me at 45. Yes, I'm still 45 -- for another whole 17 days!

We are who we are in large part through our life experiences. What we live shapes who we become as adults. It defines what we believe, what we value in life. So I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone that when I hear an adult tell someone, adult or child, it's not my fault, you made me do it, I get angry. That old sense of injustice fills me to overflowing. I feel so strongly about it that I would go so far as to say that if it is said to a child, or to someone with whom they have an intimate relationship, it is tantamount to emotional abuse. Yes, I've had considerable difficulty in the intervening years with respecting people who can't/won't take responsibility for their own loss of control in any given situation.

I believe that ultimately, the only thing in life that we truly have total control over is ourself. Our own reaction, our own response, our own actions, our own words. We each must own our own words. And take full responsibility for them. I myself recently wrote something that perhaps I shouldn't have. As true as it was, I recognize now that sometimes the truth need not be spoken. To know it in one's heart may be enough.

We may think we have control over other things or people in our life -- our jobs, our kids, our homes, etc -- but if you've ever experienced a sudden turn of events, you'll see that that kind of control is an illusion we allow ourselves to believe. It helps keep us sane to think we have control over things. And of course, individuals with physical or mental conditions that require medications to maintain self-control have extenuating circumstances.

But I truly only have control, permanently and unto death, over me, myself and I. That's all I can control. And that then, becomes my main responsibility in life. To control myself. I can choose not to accept that responsibility. I can choose to blame others for my loss of self-control, should I lose control. But, in doing so, I lie to myself. And I bruise the heart or body of some individual who doesn't deserve to be bruised.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

lauren


I was on the train this morning, thinking that I needed to buy a new bottle of perfume. I use it so seldom, and mine has gone bad. For some strange reason, my mind moved to a long gone memory.

I had moved out of my mother's home my senior year of high school, and lived on my own, working full time at night to cover bills. A year later, she came to me, begging me to move back in with her and share the house payment, so that she wouldn't lose the house. I agreed. At some point soon after, I acquired a new JCPenney card, and began ordering items over the phone. She became jealous of my newfound credit, and begrudged everything that came in the mail, verbally berating me as it arrived.

My last mail order was a perfume that I'd tried once and always wanted: Ralph Lauren's original signature scent. I had ordered a gift box, and as it arrived, my mother came a bit unglued. As though it were the final straw on the proverbial camel's back. So I thought to turn the tables on her. It was nearing her birthday, and so I told her I'd ordered it for her birthday, that it had been intended as a surprise. Made her feel guilty for the continual hurt.

The irony, however, is that I had (and still have) never chosen anything for her -- perfume, makeup, jewelry, clothes, anything -- that she actually like and used. Everything any of her children gave her was placed in a drawer, put away, never to be used or seen again. And so went the Lauren perfume. The 50 buck box sat on the floor of her closet for years, until it was unusable and had to be thrown away. She never even tried it. And I didn't buy another bottle for years.

So it was with my mother. Nothing ever good enough, including me. I only say this for your own good, was her favorite line. There is someone on the other site that reminds me of the young version of my mother. I only say this very hurtful thing for your own good. Perhaps that's part of why I left. I don't need my mother in the lifestyle.

But as any trained clinician knows (yes, my MSW is clinical) when person A verbally hurts person B, it isn't for person B's own good, but for person A's. Because person A instinctively recognizes that they lack something in themself, or at least feel that they do; only hurting person B brings feelings of adequacy to person A. We see that often in borderline personality disorders (yes, my mom's borderline).

I think I will buy that bottle of perfume tonight. Oh, not the designer version, of course. I actually don't even like that one anymore. Too heavy. But something. I'll buy something.

flow


I've felt it the past few months. It feels different. What is 'it'? Everything.

For an entire year, there was flow:

"Flow is a mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity." (wikipedia)

That was it. I had flow. Immersed in my exploration of the lifestyle. I was completely focused. Action and awareness merged. Time stood still, while I reveled in my explorations, my epiphanies.

But time didn't really stand still, did it? Life continued. And over the last couple of months, life has disrupted that flow. Finances, illness, verbal assaults...the river's current has been dammed.

Even my blogging no longer flows. It is different. Indescribable, but I feel it. There is an emptiness inside, that must be filled. But how? I am stalled, lost, rudderless, without flow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

sights and sounds of the city



Walked out the front door this morning to the sharp, acrid smell of skunk. Permeated the neighborhood, carried almost all the way down to the train station. Funny, I came from the evergreen state (Washington), and never had to contend with wildlife other than dodging the deer and elk on the highways out of town. But I move to New York, a mere 12 miles from the city, and wind up with skunks in the flowerbeds, raccoons in the garbage, and deer in the neighbors' back yards.

The smell of overly perfumed women and cologned men, when you are trapped on a train car with them. The fear of an asthma attack due to the selfish whims of people getting ready in the morning. The smell of the heavy smoker who sat down next to me. I had to get up and move to the door, away from the stink of old cigarettes. Dyckman crips, spray painted on the Metro North ticket machine at the university heights station. Yep, had to go to NY for this one, too.

Nick's Live Poultry, reads the sign over the hole-in-the-wall store right next to the car dealership. Vivero. Poultry must come in first thing in the morning, cause as I'm walking by just before 9, they are always hosing the poo off the sidewalk. So I get to dodge poo and ice cold water spray. You can hear the sounds of the poultry inside through the open door, it sounds like thousands. I won't describe the smell, as I haven't had breakfast yet.

Last sight of the morning -- me, tripping over a crack in the pavement, waving my arms to stay upright. I'll just have to hope I never run into any of those students again.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I get sassy

Power walking on Fordham Road. If I have to walk to work, I'm going to make it a workout. So I wear my sneakers and sweatpants, and really freakin' walk.

This morning, as I near Jerome Avenue, I hear Excuse me. Excuse me. I turn toward the sound, and see a tiny, elderly woman clinging to a lamp post. Help me, please, she said in a small voice. I cringed only slightly, and only inwardly. I couldn't, just couldn't, walk on by. Everyone else was ignoring her, I wouldn't. Would you please help me across the street, she asked. I don't walk so well. And so, I smiled, and took her hand and arm, and very slowly helped her across the street.

But it appeared my good deed wouldn't end there. How far up the road are you going, she queries, as we reach the other sidewalk. I wouldn't, couldn't lie. All the way up to the university, I responded. Would you help me get to my bus stop, please, she begged. Damn, I thought, I'll be late for work. And then I mentally kicked my own ass, because I don't punch a time clock, so it doesn't matter if I'm late, I just work later to make up the time. So, I asked her how far that was. And took her hand and arm again and proceeded down the street.

I could see she had extreme difficulty and pain when walking. It looked torturous, watching her, needing to stop every so often to rest and catch her breath. She could have benefitted from orthotic devices or shoes to help her walk straight, perhaps a walking stick of some kind. But those kinds of things cost money. And, they would be a constant reminder of the frailty of the body.

Walking with her forced me to slow down, to interact, rather than existing in my mind for the entire walk, as I normally do. And she was a lively thing. Mental faculties fully functioning, just her body failing her. She mentioned all the colleges she'd gone to. Spent one semester at my university before going somewhere else. She was at least 70, but she just graduated college in 1989. My hat's off to her for staying on target, however long it took. She said that at her commencement, Rosa Parks was the commencement speaker. I wasn't sure whether to believe her or not, but when she told me she didn't know who Ms. Parks was at first, it seemed more legit. And then she said Ms. Parks was a tiny thing, came up to my shoulder. Well, since this woman came up to my shoulder, and I'm 5'5", that would indeed make Ms. Parks a tiny thing. But I do think I read somewhere that this is true, Ms. Parks was short in physical stature. So maybe she did meet Ms. Parks, who knows.

When we arrived at her bus stop, she had to wait for her bus, so I offered to stay with her and help her get on the bus. She thanked me profusely, and shared that most people do more than just walk on by and ignore her. Many of them get attitude, and yell at her for bothering them. I try to let it go, she said, but sometimes I just get sassy. Look, I say, you will be me sometime in the future, and when you ask someone for help, I hope you remember how you treated me today. I only hope you won't be treated the same. Bless her soul for being sassy. She is an incredible woman.

All I know is that these continual encounters with life in my commute have been particularly noteworthy, and I can't complain about things too much when I see the life around me. I'm just fucking glad I'm alive, and I can still walk unaided.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

pulsing



She used to drag her mattress beside her low window and lie awake for a long while, vibrating with excitement, as a machine vibrates from speed. Life rushed in upon her through that window - or so it seemed. In reality, of course, life rushes from within, not from without. There is no work of art so big or so beautiful that is was not once all contained in some youthful body, like this one which lay on the floor in the moonlight, pulsing with ardor and anticipation.


Willa Cather
The Song of the Lark
1873 - 1947

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

hunger


She pulled up in front of the building and parallel parked. She glances out the corner of her eye, bringing the aging building into full focus…trash strewn about, the smokers stationed right outside the front door. Definitely not in the better part of downtown. She takes a deep breath, and heads for the door of the plasma center. She enters the building, signs in, and settles down for a long wait.


Someone had told her about plasma centers. For those of you who haven’t got a clue, they are clinics that pay individuals to donate white blood cells (plasma). White blood cells are replenished much more quickly than the red – one can only donate whole blood once every six weeks, but one can donate plasma twice per week. Now, plasma centers in early 1980’s were not what they are now. There was no blood screening, the clinics were frequented by alcoholics, drug addicts, and homeless people, and nearly all were men. Definitely not a fun place for a young single woman to be. But a necessary evil, if she were to gain money for food. She just couldn’t keep going without – her clothes were, quite simply, hanging on – or more precisely off – her.

The clinic did conduct an initial ‘physical’ that was basically checking heart, lungs, eyes, height and weight. She suffered through the physical with a doddering physician way past retirement age, until the point when he asked her to step on the scale. You hop on the scale and weigh yourself while I complete your chart, OK honey? She steps up to the scale, slides the counterweights, and reads off the weight: 97 pounds. No honey, that can’t be right…she has his attention now and he walks over to weigh her correctly—after all, she must be doing it wrong. That is right. Honey, you can’t donate today, you have to weight at least 110 pounds to donate. She looks at him and says nothing. Just stares, empty eyed. She’s too tired, too hungry, to argue. And she leaves empty handed. The ultimate irony – she can’t donate plasma to get money for food because she’s underweight from going without food and giving hers to her son.

An irony worthy of 'MASH humor.' Most definitely.

perhaps


“Perhaps I am just following a path that all mankind follows:
a path from ignorance to understanding,
from incomprehension to insight.”

Hostage to War
Tatjana Wassiljewa

it happened one may



The family was headed out to the local air force base for the annual air show. Bright, sunny day. Blue skies. Only the wispiest of white clouds blew across the sky.

On the highway near the base entrance, military personnel were stopping traffic and turning it away. Over a loudspeaker, someone was telling us the air show had been cancelled due to the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s. We didn’t believe it at first. After all, doomsayers had been predicting an imminent eruption for years, and nothing. But as we turned around to head back home, something caught our eyes. Way out, on the horizon, at the end of those beautiful blue skies, we saw it. A line across the sky. And past that line, the sky turned black as night.

We watched that black line get closer and closer as we drove home. But we managed to get safely home and in the house before that black line engulfed the skies over Spokane, turning day into night, much like an eclipse of the sun.

Then, slowly, the sky began to lighten somewhat, to a paler grey color, like the skies on a morning just before a winter snow. And then we saw it. Light grey powder, falling from the sky. We stood at the large picture window in the living room and watched in awe.

It was deathly quiet outside. No one out, no car sounds, animals, nothing. So quiet, we could actually hear the powder falling. Could hear it fall through the air and touch the ground. How incredible. It fell for a couple of hours. We settled in, went back to ‘normal’ household activity, and glanced out the window occasionally. We saw a few neighbors gather the courage to creep outside and put their hand in the air. The way you do when checking to see how hard it’s raining. Only they were catching the ashes in their hands. And feeling it. I got up the courage to go outside with a baby juice jar and fill it with the ash. As a memento. Sort of an ‘I was there’ thing.

Eventually, the ash stopped falling, and the sun came back out. And the world ventured forth to survey the results. The ash had the consistency of baby powder, or flour, and the same ability to resist water -- making it extremely difficult for the earth to absorb. The ash also, when disturbed, would immediately rise in the air, like a dust cloud, settling in cracks, coming in through windows and doors, getting into car engines. Getting into your lungs.

The city closed down. The mayor encouraged everyone to stay indoors, while the city planners tried to determine the health risk of breathing in the ash. And how to get rid of said ash. People who did venture forth, generally did so with surgical masks. Those with breathing problems flooded the hospitals for treatment from the effects of the ash clouds.

My son, 6 months old at the time, developed an ear infection, and I was forced to take him out to the doctor and the pharmacy. Out into empty streets, filled with ash. Along the way, we encountered numerous irate residents of neighborhoods trying to keep the ash dust clouds down. They certainly didn’t appreciate a car driving through and stirring it back up again. Fist after fist raised in anger at the back of my departing car. On one street, the neighbors blocked the street so I couldn’t pass through – blocked it physically, with their bodies. How could I drive through that? I wanted to scream at them, fuck you, my baby’s sick, and he’s more important than your fucking dust cloud. But I didn’t. I turned the corner, and found another street.

Over the years and moves, that baby juice bottle of ash that I’d preserved as a memento disappeared. Don’t know where, or how. Eventually, the earth took back most of the ash. Although for easily ten years after the eruption, if you drove on the highways after a rain, you could see the whitish grey marks on the concrete from the ash coming back up from the ground.

Monday, January 16, 2006

some other spring



Some other spring
I'll try to love
Now I still cling
To faded blossoms
Fresh from worn
Left chrushed and torn
Like the love affair I mourn

Some other spring
When twilight falls
Will the night bring
Another to me?

Not your kind
But let me find
It's not true that love is blind
Sunshine's around me
But deep in my heart it's cold as ice
Love, once you've found me
But can that story unfold twice?

Some other spring
Will my heart awake?
Stirring to sing
Love's magic music
Then forget the old duet
Love in some other spring?
Spring?

Lyrics Irene Kitchings, Arthur Herzog Jr.
Originally released 1939

Friday, January 13, 2006

perfect

Foggy grey skies

Mists hiding building tops

Masochistic

Misunderstandings

Misinterpretations

and

Melancholy

Perfect day to start a fight

Perfect day to say goodbye
Coming here is breathing fresh air.
The ocean air, as it wafts in on the breeze.
A hint of salt and fish.
Sand and sun.
Crisp and clean.

Coming here is a new sheet of paper in the journal of my life.
Smooth to the touch, unmarked.
A new beginning.
Smelling vaguely of vanilla and strawberries.
Open, bright, and warm.

Here's to new.
Here's to possibilities.
Here's to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

respite

Nodding off on the train.

Dozing at my desk.

My best efforts at keeping eyes open and mind sharp are failing miserably.

Medications.

Exhaustion.

Take your pick.

I could sleep for a week.

And still not be rested

Monday, January 02, 2006

rock bottom

Been sick for a month. I could feel the asthma coming on, and the sinusitis. I kept ignoring it. Till Tuesday, when I also fell victim to the latest flu virus as well. Couldn’t take time off work, major reports due to the feds this week. And no one else to do them. Lucky me! Luckily, the doc has Saturday office hours.

Left home today just before noon. Three-quarter mile walk to the doc’s office, where I then sat for 2 hours as she was overbooked and late. In her office at 2:30, where she spent a whole 20 minutes with me. Blood pressure slightly elevated, 160/100. Been a problem in the past, so she checks my pulse at my ankles, then runs an EKG. It’s ok, which means the blood pressure and those heart palpitations I’ve been having aren’t physical, they’re mental. As in, anxiety attacks. Too much stress. You need to rest, de-stress, relax, she said. Yeah, right. You try living my life for 5 minutes, see how much you relax.

Leave her office with four prescriptions:

Azithromycin, for the sinus infection and ear infection
Albuterol inhaler, for the constricted bronchial tubes S
ingulair, for the asthma and the allergies that bring on the asthma
Deconsal, the only thing I’ve used in the last five years that has successfully de-congested my nasal/sinus cavities so that I can breathe at night and sleep undisturbed

Half-mile walk to the walgreen’s to fill the prescriptions. Not too bad, mostly downhill. Did I mention it’s about 35 degrees outside? Waited in line to leave prescriptions. They’ll be ready at 4:30. I look at the clock. It’s 3:30. Sigh. I go next door to the mickie d’s for a bite. It’s the first thing I’ve had to eat or drink all day. At 4, I go back to walgreen’s and wait. At 4:40, my name is finally called. Umm, sorry, but this prescription – the Deconsal – is on order. We’re completely out. It’ll be in Monday, you can pick it up then. I’m so fucking tired. I just look at her. But, I can’t come back Monday, I’m walking from H-----, I say. Whoa, says the pharmacist next to her. Yeah, whoa. Fucktard. What the fuck do you think people without cars do. We fucking walk. Get over it. I’m in NO fucking mood to laugh about it right now.

Can’t I pay for it now, and have it sent to my home? No, they don’t have any kind of delivery plan. I have to go back for it. That’s the one that’ll clear out my nose. So I can actually sleep. So, basically, I can wait till next Saturday and walk there in the afternoon, which means another work week of clogged sinuses and sleepless nights. Or I can get off the train at 7:15 pm Monday night, walk the 45 minutes to the store, then walk back home. On a work night. After the 2 mile round trip walk between work and the train station. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.

I shouldn’t even be out here. Shouldn’t even have been at work this week. I can’t even put one foot in front of the other anymore. I’m just so FUCKING tired. I paid, and left. And as I walked out of the store…I actually CRIED. Just a coupla tears. But still. I’d say it was crying. And damn, the first tears I shed in forever, and they had to be in public. Fuck. No more tears after those first few, but for the first half of the three-quarter mile walk back home…now in the dark and in one spot by a cemetery,…I couldn’t hold in those little hiccup-y sobs. Couldn’t hold them in, because I have to breathe through my mouth cause my nose is clogged. If I can’t close my mouth, I can’t hold in hiccup-y sobs, now can I?!

My right heel is still hurting, sending shooting pains through my foot and up my leg. I twisted my left ankle cause there’re no fucking sidewalks anywhere and few streetlights, cause oh yeah, it’s a snooty, hoity toity town and everyone has a fucking car. We don’t need no stinkin’ sidewalks. Only losers walk around here. I got home at 5:45. Six hours, for one doctor appointment. That’s life without a car.

Limping, sobbing, shivering, sneezing, sniffing…yeah, life’s a fucking bowl of cherries. A fucking barrel of monkeys.

OK, stop the ride now, I want to get off.