Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baring Witness

  My heart is filled with sorrow today. I am watching the devastation so far from where I live and yet so close to my heart. While I have yet to visit New Jersey, I fell in love with New York the moment I saw that beautiful place called Manhattan. I had tole myself that I would not. I was not going to be one of those tourists that wandered aimlessly, moon eyed by all that they encountered. I have never been more wrong. The beauty of it all, the food...oh goodness the food, the people, the shopping, Time Square, Broadway. I was a goner the moment I gazed upon that magical place. And so, as I stayed up much too late to watch the water pour in, carried on an unforgiving wind, I cried. I watched the water rise and the lights go out. I could do nothing. I prayed. First, under my breath and then as I became overcome by the images, out loud. I was tired and wrung out when I finally laid my head down. It was well after midnight when I tried to shut it all out and find a peace in such hard times.

  Upon waking, I was back to it. All the TVs blaring the news 24 hours a day by now. I could not stop myself. I could not turn away. It reminded me of Katrina. That horrid wicked beast. Who has swept through the Gulf Coast leaving no one untouched. And again, I felt the sense of helplessness. There was nothing I could do but to bare witness. To look at all the damage. Acknowledge the pain and the loss and mourn. I stayed that way for sometime. Overwhelmed by what my eyes beheld. Unable to think of what I could do. Wishing for powers no human possess. And so, I felt lost, hopeless, for a time. But as always happens, eventually, I turned my mind away from those things I could not do. The things I could not change. I moved on to what I could do. What we can all do. Reach out. Reach out to those in need and to give what I could. My words, my time, my money. Since it is all I have, it will have to be enough. I will do whatever I can to lift a little weight off someone else's shoulders. I cannot wish it all away. i have no mystical words that will put it all back together. Oh, how I wish that I did.

  But that is beyond me. I am also reminded of that day in September, so long ago. When again, there was nothing to do but bare witness. To take it all in. To number the lost and the broken. Sometimes that is all we can do. As calls and texts came in, different people checking in to say they were fine. That they had lost a car, a house, a neighbor, we listened.  It is a terrible feeling, when you realize how small we all are. How precious this life is and all the wonderful souls that are in it. I am still here, listening. Watching and praying. Praying for strength, for peace, for safety for miracles. I know it is not over. Long after Sandy has left, the devastation will continue. This will take years, decades to repair. And of course, so much lost cannot be mended. I am unused to sitting in the rubble, looking at so much loss and not being compelled to DO something. We must all do something.

  I do not know your circumstances dear reader. I have no idea your blessings or talents. But please, take a few moments, send up some prayers and if you can, give to the cause. You know that rainy day you have been saving for? It has arrived. With a torrent of rain and sea, it is upon us. Look in your pockets, check the couch for change. Rob the piggie banks. Look in all your hiding places. Where you tuck away a few spare dollars. Take up a fund in your neighborhood, your community, your church. Come together and give. It is the least we can do. I have lost nothing. I have more than I will every need. I live in a world of abundance. If you have a roof over your head, and food on the table, then you do too. Forego that pack of cigarettes, that latte, one mani/pedi. Whatever it takes. Let us all stand and lift those effecting by this natural disaster. I hope you are well dear reader. I hope life is treating you gently. That you are loved and that you love. That you know, you are never alone. And with that certainty of knowing that all is well in your world, you step out of it and help those who need you most. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay sailing on. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hide and Seek

There may be a trigger here.

  The seeds are planted when we are young, In those first moments of fear and a washing over of dread.
Even before we have any idea what is happening, we know it is wrong. We want it to stop and we cannot make it go away. We are small. That is the beginning. Along with that beast of anger that is given charge of us, comes something more. Something far worse. A growing sense helplessness. We are powerless and we know it. It matters not if there were threats or force. The out come is the same. The level of brutality of taking what we are too young to give is the unforgivable thing. As an adult, we may find a way to forgiveness. And grace can be bestowed. But the child who was made to feel less than, they have no say. No, they have been hidden away. Locked behind steel doors. It was not done to punish them, This self banishment. No. It was meant to protect that broken souls. The child left behind in the ashes of their innocence. We do it to keep them safe. So that we cannot be touched. Oh, our bodies, we have no say over. We learn that very quickly. No we cannot rescue all of us. So, we split the difference. We take what we can carry. What will surely not be missed and we barricade the doors. Deep in our minds we retreat. We learn to hide, never dreaming at how hard it will be to find our way out. To bring these two parts of us together again.

  We will travel down many of the wrong roads. Take journeys that are destine to fail even before we start out. We will try to substitute others. Trying to look for the other half. The one that we lost track of. And when we feel hollow, when we cannot take the loneliness in our own voice, we reach for others. We grapple with emotions and we tap down fear. We sacrifice all of us, just to not hear the echo of our own thoughts. But no one can take the place of that child. No one will suffice. I know this, all too well. My children came oh so close. I could almost see her. I could catch her shadow in my daughters eyes. I could hear her in my son's joyful laughter. But I could not reach her. I had ignored her for so long. Almost forgotten that she existed. Almost. Oh, I tried so many things to keep the pain of losing sight of her at bay. Nothing could take her place. How could they? I was looking for myself. I had lost touch with the child I had been and the woman I was meant to be. The one with dreams and goals. The one who smiled easily and trusted. Where had the gift of trusting gone off to? I had lost so much to the Bogeyman. How could I get her back. How could I learn to ferret out where I had left her. Had she wondered off? What if she had died? Alone. In the darkness of my mind.

  Would I know? Surely, I could tell? But there was no clear sign. I had worked so hard to hide her. To keep her save. I had hidden her so well, I could not discern where she might be. It took so long. To find what needed to be found. For it to be safe again. First, I had to deal with the beast. She would not be drawn out as long as the beast roamed free. So I put a muzzle on my anger. I did not ignore it. I tamed it. I used all those years of experience in controlling myself. Those years trained up in hiding emotions. Of wearing that stone mask, so smooth and cold to the touch. I used those skills to round on my temper. To snuff it out. Yes, I could start a wild blaze. I would always have matches to spare. But, you had to be careful of the backdraft. Fires can burn beyond your control. Flames can lay claim to your humanity and make you the Bogeyman. You are on notice. Use caution. It is written right on the box. Everything is flammable when you have an angry wind. It can blow through you. Leaving nothing but a husk. A lost soul. No, there will be no fires this time. We must look for other means. We will use the strength we have. You do not believe we have strength? Oh, yes it is there. The amount of effort, the sheer will it takes to get from there to here. From the hell we came out of into the light. We will use that. We have gotten so used to wielding it like a weapon, sharp and violent, against ourselves. It is what makes us stand still, quiet. Always be quiet. When the Bogeyman comes near. Shhh...yes, you feel that? That quickening of your spirit. That rigidness in your limbs. There is strength there. Untapped.

 Go and find it. You have more than you know. You do not come through the badlands without it. You could have never made it this far. So, gather it around you. Go over everything. Every hurt and pain. Mark it down. Take the sting from the barb. Let it all go. Drain it all out. Leave not a trace behind. We have no use for that here. It is a poison we have suckled on too long. Let it go. Move on past all of it. Every bad thing. They do not own you. They have taken too much. When it is safe, when the waters are calm, she will come. I know it. We will play hide and seek and I am sure to win. I know how to find her. That child that I was. I can see her in the face reflected in the mirror. In the laughter that is not forced. That tumbles out unexpectedly. She is there. There is no more need to stash her away. She no cause to fear. I can protect us. She is me and I am her and we are one in the same. Finally, we are one in the same.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Bogeyman

Please be aware that there may be triggers in this entry. 

  Halloween's fast approach has me thinking of monsters. Not the cute kind like the ones on Sesame Street.. No, I mean the real ones. The ones that walk among us with little to no notice. They have learned to assimilate. Something their victims spend a lifetime trying to master how to do. To hide the blackened brand. The mark placed upon us by these cruel creatures. It is very common for them to go unchallenged. Free to molest the minds and bodies of the unwitting. It is just as common when the monster is named, called out, that others come to their defense. Proclaiming the victim an instigator.  An attention seeker. they do not wish to have their pristine apple cart turned over. To have to look at that fruit closely and realize what they thought was good and healthy, has a rotten core. I have no idea what makes a monster a monster. Is it lack of feeling? Lack of empathy? A thrill at the thought of bringing pain to another? To be master and dictator over the victim. I do not spend much time in that arena. I have little care as to the why. My concern is the who.

  The disenfranchised. The broken. Those that walk in the shadows. As a small child, I was fearful of the Bogeyman. A shapeless, mysterious dark force, meant to do me harm. I do not know where I learned of him. It was too long ago. But, I grew up looking behind doors and searching dark corners. Waking up in my bed late at night, disturbed by some half heard noise and holding my breath. Laying in the dark. Too afraid to lift my head. Listening. Was he here? Did he see me? As all bogeymen do, mine grew more menacing as I grew older. He became more defined. He was so different than I had imagined him in the beginning. I was shocked, heartbroken when I realized my special bogeyman looked just like me father. And unlike so many times before, when I woke in a fit of night terror, I could see him and he surely could see me. I had wished so hard that that was all he could do to me.

  Many times the monsters hide behind well crafted masks. Years in the making. They take such care. Invest so much, all to make sure that they blend in. That no one will notice them. They depend on it. And so when they are called out, when some brave soul dares to speak up, they are very often not believed. Why would they say such a horrid thing? What was wrong with them? And the victim becomes the accuser. Somehow, the aggressor. And it is such an exquisite trap. So easily laid. Clearly they are troubled. This name caller. This evil act insinuator. And just as if it was scripted, they act out. They cut, or they drink, drugs or sexually provocative behavior. They are angry. They do not sleep. Heads are shook and hands wrung. What can be done? They are clearly broken. And the monsters go on. They feed unabated in an orchard of fruit. They became tenders to the crop. Waiting for their chance. Waiting to take what is not theirs. They eat freely. Hungrily. And they will not be stopped.

  They will ravage whole fields of the bounty before them. They labor over the reaping. Sacrificing everything to an appetite that cannot be satiated. Unless someone cuts them down. Unless someone looks behind that well placed mask. It is the only chance to save the saplings. Those still untouched and those that have been trampled. They must be propped up and staked with care. So that they can grow. So that they may reach up and catch the light. The warmth of the sun. The soothing drops of a rain that washes the soot from their leafs. So that they may go on. So that someday we finally stop them. These viscous creatures that loom in the shadows. Nodding and smiling. Watching the yield.  Counting their numbers and waiting. Always waiting.

  So be wary. Always be sure, your crop is well tended and if by chance a well meaning being offers to take your shift. To watch while you rested. You are tired aren't you? You do so much. If they beseech you to let them lift that load off your back. Say no. Beware the fruit picker offering their service. They are shape shifters. Teacher, coach, boyfriend, husband, father,preacher, doctor.........They come in so many varieties. So many masks. So keep watch. Light your lanterns and hold them high. Cast out the shadows and look with clear eyes. The Bogeyman is out there. He is real and he is unfed. He must be flushed out. Starved out. Pointed out. He must bare the label. It is his alone. The stigma of thief, of taker, of murder of hope. He must be caged and bound up. Locked away. With no view of the grassy hills and the orchard beyond. The Bogeyman is coming....he is real...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Filling in Holes

It is a sad thing when I come to realize that the person I thought I knew so well, is nothing at all as I had imagined. And that is exactly what had happened. I had imagined them. I filled in their details, their facts and habits. I made them better than. Shiny and bright. Witty and smart. Kind and generous. I would rush into one friendship and then another. One marriage and then one more. Thinking that I had chosen better. That I had finally got it right. We see people through a foggy lens of what we want things to be. It is a hard thing when those details that we have sketched out are all wrong. Of course, there is the other end. Those people who are assigned negative attributes in order to strengthen our own dislike of someone. I am stuck here today. in that place when I realize that what I thought was one thing was actually another. It is such a bitter pill and I hate it's stinging taste. Dry on my tongue. it is a hard thing to walk away from someone whom you looked up to, not for who they actually were, but who they actually are. It is a thing I bring from my childhood. If I know this thing, whatever it is, I must not ignore it. I must act upon it. It is probably connected to that shrunken piece of my brain. It will not let it rest. Once I know a thing is wrong I must either try to fix it or leave it behind. 

  That little paragraph there, the one you just read, left me sad for two days. Stuck in a sad spot I did not belong. And that was the key to getting unstuck. I was somewhere I did not belong. Had allowed myself to let that string slip. The one tied to my wrist. I had tried to carry too much. I had tried to stay in one spot and go forward. It could not be done. I had wanted to wait. For some to catch up. I wanted to take them with me. It was not mine to do and so I naturally failed. And that brought me low. I could not make them see. They had their own boat and their own journey to take and we had come to the point where choices must be made. To go this way or that. I thought and thought, paced and pondered. How could I go my way and yet not leave them? How could I show them my chart? If only they could see what I saw, I knew we would set off together. But is was not to be. They had their own map and were set that their way was best. And so, I have taken up anchor and set my sails. I will remember the good and acknowledge the bad. I cannot stay in the shallows too long. 

  It is a hard thing to learn that not everyone wishes to change. Some wish to stay near the hazards. Letting their boat hit up on the rocks. Damaging themselves as a trade off to venturing too far out to sea. For them the world is dark and the way long. Instead of an adventure, they see life as a struggle. To be endured, not overcome. Not all lifelines are welcomed. And not all cautions heeded. It took me time to learn this. To acknowledge that you may not see what I see. For me it is not enough to know the problem. I must then, solve it. I am not helpless. I am not small, unless I allow myself to be. I am so big I fill up my life. I will live every minute. Have purpose and direction. I will not float through things that I should be engaging in. If you too float, you know how difficult a task that is. To take your defense mechanism and lay it down. To go in without your armor, so hard won and safe. I know I will still forget sometimes. I will stray from my course and get lost in the shoals. Hopefully not for long. I must ask myself what have I done? How did I improve things today? Was I kind? Was I helpful and unselfish. It is a tall order. I sometimes forget. I get caught up in my feelings. I allow those who's opinions do not matter to effect my own thoughts. And I take back up my weapons. The ones that inflict the most harm. I throw words back at them. I point out their failings and errors. But that is not my place. It is not for me to try and correct their course. My responsibility is to myself. To be better than. Better than I was yesterday, as week ago, a month. I must grow and change and learn all the things I was not taught. 

  I must acknowledge what I lack and then try to master that skill. I must hold myself accountable. I did not come all this way, through so many storms to languish in harbor. No, I belong in the ocean. Feeling the wind and the rain. The salt and the sun. While the port maybe safe, it offers nothing of sustenance. I can take nothing from there. It is not my home. I want to do more. To be more. I will not make myself small to fit into someone else's image of what I should be. I will fill my own hollow places. With those things I treasure most. First there is love. Because love is like air. We all need it. Then, grace. Because I ask to live in it everyday and so I must allow others the same accord. Forgiveness, when need be. For myself and for others and just like Pandora's box, the last thing I carry is hope. Things will get better. Old wounds will heal. I will set out once again. I have made some changes. And more are to come. I hope you are well. That the world is treating your gently. Whether you venture out to sea or stay in port, I wish you calm waters. May your way be easy and your vision clear. 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Price

                                                                The Price

  I knew when I was very young that everything in life has a price. Something I had to pay, to sacrifice for those things that I needed. My parents instilled it in to me at an early age. There was a give and take and the price was steep. I spent most of my life believing the only way I could be loved, that I could be happy, was to barter my way through. And many people reinstated this belief system. Nothing good was free. I look back now and feel so sad for that little girl I once was. When you are a child there is very little you have to trade. And because I learnt that the only thing of value that I had was my body, I went on believing that was the way of the world. I had no self esteem and certainly no sense of value.
How could I? I did not value my body. In fact, I almost hated it. it had brought all this trouble. If I looked differently, if I was not ME, these things would not be visited upon me. It is ironic at the time we have the least control, we often blame ourselves as if we had orchestrated it all. And of course,  the people that I allowed in my life were happy to have me believe it.

  When ever I got down, when life got hard, I would reel off the many things I had caused. I started with my parents. My father's behavior, was clearly my fault. And the fact that my mother could not love me, blamed me for her own unhappiness, I took that on too. I was the most powerful five year old to ever life. When my father left my mother, well that was on me too. My first husband was unfaithful, I had driven him to it. I did not know how. But it had to be my fault. If it was my fault, I was in control. In charge of my life. I would rather see myself as at fault, then to admit the truth.That I controlled nothing. I developed OCD. I cleaned incessantly. I monitored my food intake I ran a tight ship. I gave myself no leeway. I was harsh and rigid. Cruel to myself. I had many rules for myself and could think of none for anyone else. I made excuses and overlooked. I kept forgiving and overlooking to the point I was nearly blind for not wanting to know the truth. I simple told myself, I did not need a faithful husband. I had no need of respect. I could live without affection. I gave so much of myself and asked for so little. Actually, I asked for nothing. Feeling myself unworthy. Not wanting to push my luck or to make demands. I kept writing those checks. Giving away more and more of myself. With no hopes of a return.

  I could subsist on so little. I always had. I look back on those years and I am breathless with how small I became. I kept myself so. If I was small, I could fit into a small corner of someone's life. And hope against hope that I could somehow make them love me. I did not know what loved look like. Not until I had my children. I began to realize that there should not be a bill to be paid in order to receive love. I had sold myself short. It is a hard habit to break. I still struggle with it. It is all part of that tired, old game of "If I do this, you will do that".  It was a losing game. It was rigged against me. I was bound to fail. Because, the day would come when whatever was required could not be done. When I fell behind in my payments and love would be rescinded. Our contract null and void. I would once again be alone. With nothing but me. And I knew I wasn't good enough. Not on my own. I needed someone to lean on to look to for all those things I had never had. It was a hole I was filling. A deep well, born of loneliness and despair. Of knowing I was not good enough, but never being able to puzzle out the why.

  So, it was my children that taught me that I should be loved just because. My parents should have loved me because I was their child. My husband should have loved me, because he had promised to. And most of all I should have loved me, because I was good enough. I was always good enough. it took so long to see it. And still to this day some will try and collect a toll. They will put a price on friendship or love. Taking more than they give. I refuse to pay. This is me. I am flawed. I am imperfect. I make mistakes and I too cast stones. But, I am just who I am meant to be. I grow and I change and I choice to love. I ask no sum to enter into my life. Only, that you are kind. That you are honest and that you not demand payment. My ledger books are closed. My debts have been paid and my accounts are laid bare. I give of my heart, of my time but I will not lessen myself to please another. I pray you choose the same course. You are worth far more than you know.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Art of Kindness

                                                   The Art of Kindness

  I had the most puzzling encounter this morning. I was on fb, go figure, and someone posted something that intrigued me. Now I am a naturally inquisitive person. When I see something I may not fully understand, I ask questions. Unfortunately, this morning, that was seen as a bad thing. There was a post, one of those pictures with graphs and numbers. It gave up knowledge which I did not previously have. In fact, I was skeptical that it was knowledge at all. And so, being me, I mistakenly asked the poster a question. Simply wishing to know where these facts came from. They did not jive with the world as I knew it. Things went down hill rapidly from there. My question was seen as an attack. I puzzled this and explained I merely wanted to see their point of view. They were having none of it. I had committed the ultimate sin of fb. I had dared to question someone's thoughts. Now, things went along and the more they explained the less logical their position became. That really angered them. I did not call them out. I never said they were wrong. I simply let it lay there between us. And then the personal assault came. Having nothing to do with the topic at hand, nor having anything to do with me. It was a general, if you do not see the world as I do STFU. I am not adding that, that was their exact statement. Well, sadly I unfriended them. The second time in a week I have had to let someone go because they simply can not be kind or respectful. They are unable to see that there are other valid opinions in this whole wide world.

  What both these instances have in common were that there was no tolerance, no room for other thoughts. Very sad really. I learn everyday. I am wrong everyday. On good days, I realize I am wrong and I get the opportunity to change. I truly hope that I never get so rigid that I cannot bend. There is a danger in becoming so set in our ways, so brittle that we break. And all of this to bring me to what I want to say. When given the choice, be kind. We all struggle. We all feed understanding and love. I wrote that down somewhere and it got mixed reviews. Some agreed, our journey is long and a kind word or a smile can lighten a load. But some others would have none of it. They had been hurt. They had loved and lost. Their nature abused and they wanted the world to be on notice. They were not going to put up with it. Unfortunately, they are predestine to fail. I promise you I have been there. I have been that untrusting, shut off person. Oh, I had reasons. I had a binder full (sorry couldn't help it). I had received my platinum card of victim years ago. If you think like a victim, behave like a victim, you will always be a victim.

  I tried to share this hard won fact and the message back was that they had been kind and been abused for it. Here is the remedy, remove yourself from the equation. If you do not like the way you are treated, instead of becoming indignant and arguing, leave the situation. If you argue, you feed the rats. You have nothing to gain and are destine to fail. I am not responsible for what others do in reaction to my kindness. I am responsible to be kind. That is the point. It is very easy to be nice to people who are nice to you first. There is no challenge in that at all. However, to be gracious when it is not warranted, that is an art. I try every day to practice it. To make myself grow past my knee jerk reaction to negativity. That is a goal I hope to attain. To remove myself enough from someone else's aggression is truly not an easy thing. It goes against my nature. I have fought many a battle. letting loose my dark anger on the innocent and the guilty with equal impunity. Never looking back. Raging. How wrong I was. How profoundly sad it makes me to acknowledge my own lack of control of self.

  It is not my concern if I give of my money or time to someone who may not be deserving. It is no matter if my gifts are sold off or kept. It is only my duty to give with an open heart. To be loving and uplifting. There is no great talent in finding the flaws in others. Not when there are so many to work on in ourselves. As much as I try not to, I still water rocks sometimes. I never want to give up on a person. I hold out hope that if I explain it right, if I have the right words, they will see. See that the world is not always dark. That most hurt comes from misunderstanding and is not intentional. We are all imperfect. I know that everyone is not good. I know that there are those who allow their beast off the leach. I do. And now, when I bump into one, I simply cross the street. I walk away without a second thought. I have worked too hard for my own peace of mind. I have restrained my own anger at the unfairness of this life to ever take that path again. It is a stronger thing, a mighty thing to be able to destroy your opponent and to choose not to. It does not matter that they know not a thing of my sharp tongue and slicing words. No, I do not wish to cast words. It is enough that I know. There is a great satisfaction that comes from pardoning someone who is undeserving. I feel as if I have passed a test. I am in control of my thoughts, my deeds I take full responsibility for and no one. No one. Will change me. I will not go backwards. So if you can, when you see those jagged rocks just under the surface, steer clear. Let your heart be the beacon which warns your words. Tread lightly. Go around. We do not always have to go through the chop.

  I still get caught up. I get fooled into believing someone wants help or a positive support system. When, really all they want is someone to say that their cruelty, their ungenerous spirit is fine. Someone to revel with them in their misery and to join in to their mean season. I cannot go. Not that I do not know the way. I pioneered the path. I simply will not so coddle myself. I will not be so self indulgent that I will cause another to suffer to make myself feel powerful or superior. Because it is a false reflection. There is nothing great in any of it. This is the reason that the feelings wear off so soon. It is a counterfeit emotion. it took me so long to learn this. Such a simple lesson, but so hard to take in. So one more time I say, when given the choice be kind. And when someone else churns up the surf, sail on. Simply sail on.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

So Maybe I am Not Crazy

  Okay, I meant to share this yesterday, but I got caught up in sorrow and had to just let it wash over me  before moving on. I found a study while looking for something else. Which is really how my life works. I often stumble on what I need while looking for what I want. Harvard conducted a study of adults who were sexually abused as children. There was a startling finding. Sexual abuse cause brain damage in children. They believe it is the stress of the encounters. It causes the Hippocampus to shrink. Now, the hippocampus is deep in the brain, towards the base and it is important. The effects of this damage are things like short term memory lose, need for more sleep. Easily and overly effected by stress. Becoming overly emotional in response to events. I will put a link right here:

Go read this. The more we understand, the more we learn the better we will be at overcoming and acceptance. I find this study empowering. It gives me insight into myself and helps me to better manage my responses. I do not feel quiet so crazy. In those times when I get that rush of adrenaline. That blinding anger over such tiny things. There was a time when being cut off in traffic, bumped into (specially someone I do not know touching me) would send me into a hurricane of emotion. A torrent of negative thoughts and feelings. I was on a roller coaster of over reactions and withdrawals from others. It was a torment. It is just like a phantom pain that comes and goes. Every time you go to the Doctor's it disappears. Leaving you frustrated. Unable to explain it, but knowing it will be back. Now, I have an answer. I am not unhinged. I am damaged, but I am not crazy.

  I am excited by this prospect. There is a physical answer to how I feel and cope. How I interact with the world. those traits that so many of us exhibit have a shared cause. I will not use this as an excuse. It is not a reason to behave poorly. It is not my crutch. I will address it. Acknowledge it. And work within
it's perimeters. The next time I feel that flood of anxiety and unreasonable fear or anger, I will hold back. Treat my emotions, reactions with caution. Remember that my response may not be justified. This is my goal. I cannot change the facts of things. I cannot erase the damage. However, I do not have to be a prisoner of them. I am not a victim. We can learn from this. We can help each other. We can change or life and in doing so the world. It is possible. I know it. I am doing it for myself, for those I love and those I may never meet. If I can do this, broken, flawed as I am, I know you can to. We can take this information and educate others. We can help those who have no experience with our shared past pain understand us.

  I will continue to read up on all these things. I thought I knew everything about abuse. I have experienced so much. I thought there was nothing new to learn and certainly nothing I wanted to delve into. I was hiding. Ignoring the facts. Choosing to life in denial in an attempt to lessen my pain. I did not want to dwell there in the valley. I knew all the facts and felt there was nothing more to be cleaned from reliving it all. How wrong I was. I can look back now, on all that had happened. Every betrayal and hurt and it is okay. I am at peace with it. I have found a way to both accept my past and move into the future. I am no longer stuck. All those times I had thought I was finally through it. I had come to terms as long as nothing tripped me up. I am reminded of my words written in my first entry here. The ones that said I was fine as long as my mother did not call. It has been three short months, but the distance I have traveled is years. I have shot past negative triggers and self loathing. Moved swiftly beyond blame. Oh, I am sure sadness will still come. I will draw low, but that is life my friend. We all experience these things. There will always be sorrow and regrets. But, for today, right now, I feel none of that while remembering my past.

  And hopefully, it the walls hold, the things that hurt me today, will not spill into those wounds from long ago. I wish you the same. Acknowledge your scars. Mark down the pain and then once again I say, I will always say, sail on.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Stealers of Joy

  So, to go along with yesterdays post, I thought of someone else who will try and take from you. It is the joy stealers. They look perfectly normal, but they are out to do harm. They may not even know what they do. It is such an easy disease to catch, some do not know they have it. My mother is one. If I tell her something good in my life, a nice trip or a new gift from my husband her response is always the same. "It must be nice." She has other phrases and maneuvers to try and take away any happiness you have attained. She will ply you with her woes. Troubles that are visited upon her. Yes, she too is a professional victim of the highest order. But never to go half way when she can go whole. She will also try and make me feel guilty for anything good in my life. If I have my grandson over for a visit and she calls, she will laminate as to how she never sees him, no one ever calls her. And she will be off. On a trip into poor me to the valley of pity. Now, she is only 20 minutes away. A normal person might say, "Would you like company? I would love to see him." but, no. She will go on and on, until I am sorry I even answered took her call. My phone should have a warning that flashes when her number appears. "Answer at your own peril, mood altering"

  It has taught me so much. Having this woman in my life. I know what not to do with my own brood and their chosen partners based on doing just the opposite of whatever she does. There all kinds of joy stealers. The people who are so unhappy that they can no longer share others joys. They have pitched a tent in poor me and are in for the long haul. We are not meant to stay in a valley of despair. We are not equipped to live without hope. It is the small miracles, the little joys that will get us all through the stormy seas. I myself have fallen ill with the epidemic of stealing joy. I have, when hearing a story of someone's good fortune. And then, I stop myself. I remind myself that that is their life no mine. Their goals. I do not wish to have my blessing limited to someone else's portion. I want a full measure of my own. So, I take a moment to remind myself, that my ship sails too. That calm waters will come and I take joy in their success. Because, if they can do it, if they can have it. It can be done. And if it could be  done, then I can do it. And I set my sights on a goal. Oh yes, part of finding joy is having a goal. I cannot wait on my couch for blessings to rain down on me. I must go out and make it happen. If a bad thing befalls me, I must say how am I going to turn this around. What good can I make of this. And there is always good. It might be hidden. It is usually not the first thing to stand out. But I will find it.

  We are all hunters. We either hunt for the positive or we stumble over the negative. And having an empty knapsack, we pick up that negative thing. We look it over as if it is a treasure and we carry it with us. We take it out and show it proudly to others. "Look at this horrible thing that I must endure" We become a prisoner to it. We clear off space and set it on our mantel. So others will see just how hard we have it. It is not an accomplishment. No glory comes with our many sorrows. Some would rather be pitied for what has happened to them. then loved for who they are. Joy stealers can also be dream killers. Never wanting you to get too far ahead of them. Wishing you to stay there in the mud and the shadows of that cold valley of doom. Pass on. Take nothing from them. Do not mark down their words. They are a poison to your spirit. An assassin set on destroying your soul. Take the measure
of them. Look closely, are they happy? Are they a template for you on how to achieve your dreams? If not pass on. Do not stop at the gift shop for a little reminder of your stay. Take nothing from that place. There is nothing there for you.

  Remember to hold on to the good and let go of the bad. It is a choice we all have. We choose the ingredients we add to our life. If you do not wish it to be bitter, add no hate. If you would like no tartness, do not fill it with criticism. You are the chef and the captain. It is all up to you. So I beseech you once again, when life gets hard, and it most surely will, pass on. Leave your knapsack empty if you must. It is better to carry nothing, than to carry troubles. Pass on.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Professional Victim

  I made the acquaintance of an individual some time back. We had friends in common. Now, while I would never really consider them a friend, I did look forward to their emails and messages. Their fb posts were enlightening. I did, in time, notice that they seemed to have a very specific point of view on something they felt very strongly about. They would became intense and angry at any perceived slight. As we went along they became much quicker to anger. I was puzzled. This was a very smart person. And while, if I squinted my eyes and tilted my head a certain way, I could almost see their point. Really it just seemed to be their hot button. This last week they posted something that offended them. They were livid. Indignant. And so, I made the mistake of trying to reason with them. I did not see what they did. I could not relate to their issue. In me expressing this, I was unintentionally becoming a lightening rod for their rage. Oh, the anger. The hate and foul language spilling out from this person. I was both shocked and curious. The thing about anger is, we usually pour it out on the wrong person. Rage against a false problem or slight. It is a way to relieve the tension that is felt, without actually working on ourselves. It is a trick. Their words quickly turned abusive. I tried to bring things back to center. To no avail. They were unwilling to either see things in another light or allow another point of view. If you did not see things as they did, you were ignorant, bordering on moronic and you were deserving of them unleashing their hate.

  This was jarring. It was unexpected. And it really left me sad. I suggested if they really felt that they were somehow slighted that they do something about it. Write a letter. Start a petition. Post something on this business's fb page. This was ignored. I asked if there was indeed an issue, what they were saying, then they could use it to become part of the solution. NO. The abuse doubled. I finally withdraw. Sorry that this person that I learned from, had shared niceties with had turned so cruel. And it made me think. I realized that some people do not want a solution. They simply wish to be wronged. They were being slighted. Picked on. And if anyone challenged that, well they were the enemy. In short, I had an encounter with a professional victim. This person spent their life looking for ways that they were being slighted. Everything and anything could escalate their temper and tip them into a rage. Nothing could be done to bring them back from the brink. They actually wanted to be mad.

  While I was still puzzling this, something caught my attention. I was reading a list of traits the abused show. I was doing some research and I perused literature.  And there it was, something that I had seen before. Facts that I had heard over and over in counseling and read in books. But I had not been ready to take it in then. One of the signs of an abused person was the emotional over reacting to situations. I can not tell you how this hit me. I saw not only this person I had tried to offer comfort to, but also, at times myself.

Well, I had to examine this. This was something old and yet new for me. I am no bigger mystery to anyone as much as I am to myself. I hide things from me. I am not always honest with myself. I am a sneak. A sneaky, sneaking, sneaker and I sneak. I try to hold myself accountable. I had just been on this very topic a few days ago. And I had not seen it. I do over react at times. I throw something out there and a few minutes later I am over it. Astonished that I had gotten involved or upset in the first place. This was a revelation. And as soon as I learned it. Accepted that I did indeed do this, I realized I did not have too. I could get on top of this and move forward in a more reasonable way.

  I am no one's victim. Not even my own. I have given up contact with that friend of a friend. They are unwilling to move from the pedestal of blame that they have climbed to and I have no intention of nodding my head and wringing my hands in support of a false sense of self righteous indignation. It is neither healthy nor does it move my little boat forward. It was not my fault. Those things that were done to me. Things I could not control. Someone laid the label victim on me. However it is up to me to rip off that label and live my life outside of that stigma. I am not defined by an act perpetrate on me. I am my actions, my beliefs and my words.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Buried Treasure

                                                   Buried Treasure

  So, as some of you may writing this down, I have gained almost 20 pounds...Yeah not good. So I have been thinking about this as I start to work on taking that literal weight off. I find it ironic that as I finally leave the burden of carrying all of this, that as I did it, I was putting more of load on me. I have pondered this. I have very rarely been heavy. I have only carried extra weight after giving birth to my daughter. So even as I was feeling guilty and not even enjoying the junk I was eating, I kept right on eating. I ate for almost three months straight. Things I would never normally eat. Things I don't even like. I could not figure it out. I was becoming a mystery to me. Now, this could not continue. It is both unhealthy and irrational. I have been puzzling over this. And today, as I was pushing my grocery cart with Edgar, it hit me. I had an epiphany. I was eating all the things I was never allowed as a child.

  I so vividly remember laying side by side with my younger brother and whispering to each other all the things we would eat "someday." We were never allowed junk food. And when we went to bed with no dinner, we would pass the time as we tried to sleep thinking of things other kids got to eat. Ice cream sundaes and banana splits, pastries and donuts. We tortured ourselves those nights. In a dark room that I can find so easily now. And as is my way, as soon as I had figured out what it was all really about, I could let it go. I will lose this extra me, that I have no place in my life for. Not because I am against curves. Because I do not like the way I look or feel. So, I will change. Because this is my life and I have the power. You see, I am still traveling on my journey. Still discovering new places in my mind. Examining my own motives and calling myself out.

  I have been eating only good things and I made myself go out. To leave my comfortable place right here and move. I am very sure it will come off slower than it came on. Isn't it always that way. But, I plan on being here and being my best self. I owe the child I carry with me that. She deserves that. I think very clearly when I exercise and so that is what is next. I will spend sometime on my outside as I continue remodeling on the inside. I hope you are happy with your and your renovations. If not, you as always, are not alone. We are all in our own boats and we can drift with the current or we can hoist our sales and move on. We do not have to stay anywhere we do not want to. It is a choice. I hope you know that.

   And now, I must come back around, and reexamine some things. Grace and forgiveness are not interchangeable. Two very different birds sitting in the same nest. Forgiveness comes when a affront is made right. A wrong is corrected. It is recognized, acknowledged. And then it is let go. There is a give and take. Now, some will say no. That forgiveness can be given with no remorse. That is not forgiveness, that is Grace. Grace is the ideal I aspire to. I have prayed so many times in my life, to live in Grace. I have beseeched and pleaded. I will say I was wrong. I am mistaken. Many times I see it and I must go and make an apology. Yet, just as often, I cannot. For any number of reasons, I cannot right the ship on my own. And so I take it up with my God. I use faith. That well worn stone. So small and perfectly formed. I pull it out of my pocket and rub my fingers across it's smooth surface. I would tumble it over and over as I say the words. And a peace will come over me. I lay it down. I cannot carry everything and it is not meant that I do.

  We are not beasts, but we may harbor them. We do not have to feed them. We do not have to let them run wild in our lives. They can only cause us pain. Damage everything that we create. Inflict wounds to ourselves and those whom love us most. And we can stop it. The choice is ours. We are worth so much more. We are meant to be so much more. I still have not found Grace. I will still keep looking. It is the thing I aspire to achieve. Not because my mother deserves it. She does not. She carries on in her rag tag vessel. Never mending her sails. Never plugging the wholes in her small, small boat. She bails the water out and in rushes in faster. If she will not change, she will sink. I cannot stop that. It is not mine to do. I long to be able to give Grace, that thing I treasure so completely. I am going to go searching again. I will have to puzzle it some more. Because it is who I want to be. I strive to be that being. To be so close to my faith, so true in my beliefs that I can pardon the unpardonable. I do not wish to have a relationship with my mother. That is not possible. I cannot suspend reality enough for that. There was a time when my desire for a family, my need for a mother, caused me to turn a blind eye to her. To try to forget the things that must be given their due.

  It is about me. What I want me to be. So, I will take that map and look for the X that marks the spot. And take the shovel that I lay down and find that magical chest which holds that golden peace, more valuable than anything in this life. I wish the same for you dear friend. Travel safe, the way is long and there will always be storms. However, if we lose are way, we have these markers to come back to. I am leaving them here for you and also for me. Just incase I forget these things so important and hard won. We are not alone. We are strong. We are brave and we sail on.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Place Yet Unknown

                                                  A Place Yet Unknown

  I realize we have not really been moving forward lately. I have been waiting to see if the tide would rise and send me off to the place I am trying to get to. I cannot find it on my map and it is not yet into my heart. I am having a disconnect between my head and my soul. And that is not good for me. I am trying to get to a place called GRACE. I cannot forgive my parents. They are not sorry. My mother clings to the idea that we did not have a hard childhood and I would never reach out to my father. He is not living in the world I have created for me. He simply does not exist. However, my mother will not stay disappeared. She pushes into my life as if it is her right. Watching Homer leave and coming home so low, so lost. I tried to come to some kind of terms with my own relationships. It is what started me pouring all of this out. Trying to reason with myself. I need to be clear here. I am in no way concerned with whether my mother leaves this world with a peace about me. I do not wish to appear to be cruel or mean. I simply am do not accept the responsibility to make her feel better about her choices. She needs to find that. I cannot take part in her own struggle to find truth. It is beyond me. We all must accept the course we have set for ourselves. I am a big believer in taking full accountability of my own actions or inactions.

  I do this for myself. I cannot grow, or learn, or heal if I do not assess my own life and change course when I need to. I have the power in my life. And my desire to find a place called GRACE, is for me. I do not wish to regret. I will only get one chance when that time comes and I want to get it right. My soul says sail forward. It assures me that I can do this. That we can get there from here. However, my head will not relent. I do not feel anger. That has long ago been spent. A princely sum I have given up. More than silver or gold. I gave up my time, my life. I handed over so much of me to feed the rage I allowed to grow unchecked. I gave up piece of mind and the ability to heal. I sacrificed so much, and then I said NO MORE. Not one more piece of me would I feed to that retched beast. It is not an easy thing to tame rage. Anger always wishes to be appeased. A sacrificial lamb on the alter of hate. And it is hate. Some will say no. Try and reason that is is hurt. No, hurt does not lash out. Hurt does not destroy in a reaction to it's own loss. It is clearly hate. And when I assigned the right name to my actions, the correct motive to my behavior, it became easy to start to let it go.

  I will not be drunk on bitterness. I refuse to gorge on wrath. I had given so much. Looking back it brings me sorrow. I only wish I had come to this place sooner. This shallow pool of clear water that is honesty, surrounded in peace. GRACE is a mercy not earned. A pardon undeserved. This is my hope. That someday I might reach that magical place that is so much harder to attain than simple forgiveness.
It would be easier if I never spoke to her again, my mother. It would be so much less of a struggle. You see, when she calls she is either wispy, light in her mood. Very casual. As if everything between us is settled. As if there is no place on her map called honesty. And that is a trial for me. It is the constant denial. The constant editing of my life that I can not abide. Not so long ago, she told me my father was the love of her life. That they had had a magnetic attraction. That when he entered a room there were sparks. You see that is what I can not take. I can muster up so much. I can summons a sense of peace. I can hold rage at bay. However I cannot, no matter how mush I try ignore the truth. I can not go so far into that dark land so that I would no longer see reality. She asks too much.

   So here I sit. At anchor. my little boat slowly turning in circles. I have found no solution. I will keep looking. Checking the horizon for a sign. A beacon. I can see a lighthouse. It's search light scanning over the troubles seas of my thoughts. Warning me not to come too close into the shallows. To not end up crashing on the jagged rocks of denial and lies. To not barter away my soul with either self deception or self sacrifice. No, I must move forward carefully. Her behavior is unbecoming. Unyielding in her attempts to force her fantasy world on me. We are at a stalemate. Which is very naturally, where GRACE comes in. I will sit here a while longer. Keep me company if you like. I may not be able to find my way. I may have to pull up anchor and move on to somewhere else. A safe harbor. Because a storm is coming. I know it. I can feel it in the air. I also know, I will be okay. I will come out of this unscathed. I will mourn the mother I never had as I say goodbye to the one I did. I will lay all that they gave me to rest. And be stronger, kinder. A more loving being. Now lets lay out that map one more time and see if we can make our way to our appointed destination.

Monday, October 8, 2012

An Alien World Called Normal

                                                 An Alien World Called Normal

  When I was nineteen and first in counseling, I wanted to take this beast that had been hoisted upon me and tame it by doing something of value. To find a way to help others like me. I called the sexual assault hotline and looked into volunteering. I did not make it through the first recorded call. The ones of victims reaching out. I do not remember if they were real calls or just practice. It did not matter. I could not bare witness to it. I was not ready. I had thought I was. I had so far to go. But as with everything else, it is easy to think that where you are in life is so much farther than you really were. . I broke down listening to the voices filled with pain. I could not comfort another, I was still too broken myself. I changed counselors and wavered between feeling so strong and past it all and feeling small and too torn to mend. I would try to be whole. To be normal. I did things other normal people did. I raised my children. I worked. I blended in. Until I did not. Until something woke up that beast. I would be sent back down to less than zero. Trying to claw my way back into the light. Away from those suffocating shadows.

  I would come across others like me. Nomads in that  strange land of normal. Having no rightful place in a world not ravaged by our pain. I was unable to stay there. I would build myself up. I would work so hard to put myself back together. To bandage my wounds of hurt and despair.  To not stand out. That was the goal. To foreign not broken. I felt like an alien from some far off place who had somehow found a way to a beautiful world where I did not belong. I waited to be discovered. To be deported to some distant, dark place where hope could not live. It was an irrational fear that drove me to bury my past completely. But I should have known better. I knew I could not banish it so easily. No, my past could not be laid in a plot to molder. It would have to be burnt down. I still had those matches. I set long held beliefs of blame and doubt, of judgement and fault and I started a blaze. A baptism of fire. I would not let them rise out of the ashes. No, I scattered them. I pulled down scaffolding that blinded my eyes. And I found resolve.

  As I watched Homer pass, I thought long and hard about life. I spent so many hours watching him breathe. Praying to see that thin sheet over his chest rise and fall. Even as I knew time was short and that he would leave us. And I pondered my own parents. What would I feel when I heard that one of my parents was gone. Relief. I would feel as if a burden had been lifted. But also a deep, familiar sorrow. A pain where my heart resides. I watched all the love flow in and out of  Homer's last room. The joy of memories shared. The laughter that comes with knowing you are loved. And I felt the hollowness. The gaping hole in my life, where my own happy memories should be. I came home lost.
After they laid Homer next to his beloved wife and daughter. I was mourning so much. I was trying to be strong for my Peng. My love. Yet, I went deep into my own pain. A hurt that I had carried through my life. One I had yet to acknowledge. It was another instance of thinking I was further along the path than I was. I went into myself. The thing I always did when the world got too hard. I puzzled over my history. Studied my charts. Checked my compass and the stars. Where was I? How did I fall into this pit of sorrow and how would I get out?

  I started to write. And then I sent out a message and I asked for help. Who knew how to blog? Well, I found a wonderful soul to help me set up my new home for my thoughts. And I started in earnest to mark it all down. From the beginning. I started very slowly. My thoughts trickled out. Having not been let loose in so long, my brain was rusty at expressing it's self. I found many a waypoint and I rested when I needed. I wrote when I could. Something has changed. From that woman child I had been so long ago to the grown up me I had become. Now, someone would reach out to me in pain, I understood and I was humbled by their honesty. I did not crumble into a heap of tears. No, I listened and I consoled. I knew I could not take away their pain, but I could lift them up. I could offer hope. Some who were like me, said they could not read my words. It was too much. And again, I understood. I remembered those practice tapes so long ago. Voices of the lost. The memories that they evoked and I gave a nod of my head and told them to pass by unscathed. We are all on our journey. We never know exactly where we are on our travels. I can trace the path back and know I had come far. I hope you can say the same. If you are like me, a traveler in an alien land, I wish you well and I pray that hope travels with you. Our journeys are all long. Always pack extra hope.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Game of Cards

                                                           A Game of Cards

  I really do not know how it started. Very slowly I expect. Between marriages and divorces, children and the passing of time, I barely noticed in the beginning. I simply went out less. I stayed home. I made few friends outside of work and if I wasn't selling houses, I just stayed in. My children would comment on it. A dear neighbor who became a life long friend would come and coax me out. We would get up early and hit garage sales and have lunches. I was very reluctant to venture out on my own. I had no real desire to commune with the world. When Peng came along, again i was brought out of my shell. We would wonder the country together. However, as soon as he would leave for work, I would cocoon
in the house. I did not see it as a problem. It was a preference. I would make sure I had everything I needed and I would pend days, a week alone. Except for when one of my children visited.

  At first I would work in the gardens surrounding our home. And when I needed something for the yard, fertilizer or flowers, I would wonder out. I tried to get there and back as soon as I could. It was a trial. Little by little, my world got smaller. I stopped doing the yard. My son in law did. He was a hard worker and he got everything in order and so I simply gave it over to him and went back to the couch.
I read two or three books a week. I painted and repainted the walls. I was not lonely. I had Edgar. A gift from my husband. Company while he was away. It got harder and harder for me to make myself leave the house. It was an effort. I had to talk myself into it. I was usually just fine as soon as I got out. It was the getting out that was the problem. I simply did not wish to. I would postpone errands and make do without things. Just to prolong a trip out into the world. I just could not get past the leaving. I was fine once I was able to talk myself into going out. There was just nothing out there that I wanted badly enough to go get it.

  There was a sadness to it all. A melancholy kind of flavor to the day. When I thought about it too much, I would come to the conclusion that life was passing me by. I watched it tumbled out. Hours can quickly turn into days and it is such a short step into weeks from there. I would catch snatches of the life I was missing. An article in the paper about something I would of loved to be included in. Things I wanted to see. To bare witness to, but still I did not move. I would start many days thinking I might take a drive. Go see what new books were waiting for me to discover. But chances were as good as not  that I would be going no further than upstairs and the many things I had thought to do remained undone. I worked most of my life. I had somewhere to be and a very limited amount of time for anything I might want to undertake. And in all that time, I prayed for more. More hours in the day. More days in the week and less. I prayed for less. For the burden of things that always remained to be done to be lifted. And finely, I received an answer. I was given all the time one could ask for and I let it drift by. Unused.

  I knew I was missing out on things. Probably important things. I would discuss this with myself often.
Tell myself to get out there and explore. When I listened to me, I enjoyed it immensely. Yet, it was still always a conversation with pros and cons laid out like cards on a table. I would check both hands as I played poker with myself. Which was the better draw? How could I sweeten the pot? I would throw in a mani/pedi to my grocery store jaunt. I had to bribe myself to go. To set my mind to it. As if it was a struggle and to be honest it was. Of course Edgar went too. He became well known out and about. He loved the adventure of it all.  Many times, he was the entire reason for a trip. I would map out our day. We would go to every pet store I could find. Five or six in a day. At the very end I would stop and pick up a gallon of milk, which had been the catalyst for the journey to begin with. I still stay in more than I go out and I still have to talk myself into it. And it may always be that way. Shuffling the deck to see which side of me will win the next time around.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Touchstones and Talismans

                                             Touchstone and Talismans

  Just like my own brand of faith, one where good will win out if I just hold on and my children, who are my biggest blessings in life, Edgar was a touchstone. I constructed a life out of the tattered things that I had. I gathered more. Friends, some virtual and some in real life. I created a safety net to catch me when my mood got too low. When the past came calling. To remind me that I had not been loved. That I was not wanted as a child. When other's words took their toll on my mind. I could list them all off, every word that left me wounded. Every slight that cut me deep. I did not know usually, what brought the blues. What made me look at my life and pronounce myself a failure. Sometimes, it was my mother. Calling, she was always calling. With pointed little words, reminding me that I was a disappointment to her. I had built up a strong wall, between her and I. usually, it held. But once in a blue moon her words would find their mark and I would rush off the phone. So the tears did not give themselves away in my voice. Peng and I would argue. A rare thing  and all the harder for that. A disagreement with one of my children or a friend. It could be any of these things or none of them. When I could find no reason for living in the shadows, I felt all the worse for it. I had so much, how could I not be happy? I was not sure what the problem was, and therefore I was helpless to fix it. It made me helpless and small.

  I thought of my father sometimes. Not to wonder what life had brought him or to miss him anyway. No, I worried. Even though he was now in his 70's, I had no doubt that if he got the chance he would send someone else into that dark place. I worried. There was nothing I could do. I checked the internet now and again, to see that he was checking in as a sexual offender. It was always a start when the screen popped up and I was confronted with his image. Changed so much by age, and yet still the same. My monster, like most had a very human face. No matter the cause, I could not stand those bad days. It would put me into a funk and cloud my world. So, I would call my children. Never telling them I was down, just listening to them share their lives with me. If I told Peng I was down, he would be very understanding and loving. He was very good at getting me to smile. And then there was Edgar. This loving, trusting little being who ran my home. He would insist that we play. Bringing his little toys out and trying to sneak up behind me and pounce, as much as such a little dog can pounce.

  I had special songs. I would play them so loud that it covered up my horrid singing voice as I blurted out the words. I would bake or cook. Always something with carbs involved. I would take spoon full of ice cream and hold it in my mouth and then, down diet coke. Making a ice cream float with me as the glass. It gave me the giggles. There is nothing so bad that ice cream can't help. I would go on long drives. Roll around on the grass with Edgar. I would sit on the floor and go through the boxes of pictures and cards that made up everything important in my life. I watched my children grow up in front of me. One image at a time. I would read the many cards and notes that accumulate over the length of their childhoods. Some store bought, but most crafted in class. With glitter and string and bright colored construction paper.

  I did all these things to buoy myself up. There will always be blue days. Times when there is no strength in a smile. No comfort to be found in my own being. And knowing this, I store up good things. Kind words and memories. I stalk for the winter. The one I know is coming, but can not track on any calendar. It follows it's own secret schedule. Changing the brightest sunny mood into nothing but darkness. Part of surviving, of thriving is the planning. It is a mental and spiritual grab bag to be packed with great care. Only the important things go in. Nothing sad or hurtful. Every inch must be filled with love, and hope. In whatever forms they take. If I can impart anything on you dear reader, it is this: pack a good survival kit. To not pack light, the way is long and hard and only the strongest get out with even a semblance of normalcy. It matters not if you pack or not. Refusal to acknowledge the inevitable, will not keep it at bay. It is easy, so easy...every time you make it through one storm to think, well that is it. There will be no more. I have come through the worst. You are wrong. Nothing will keep that storm from coming. The talisman make take the shape of a bounced check, a sick loved one. A fight with a friend or simply a bitter cold blowing across your mind. Expect it. Do not put out the welcome mat. Do not keep a porch light on. But, know it is coming and plan accordingly.

  Make sure you pack hope. Faith is important. Either in a god, or yourself. It matters not to anyone else. This is for you. Have faith in you. Think of all you have over come and stand up. Let the wind blow by you. Hurling anything not nailed down. Up ending your life and your mind. Stinging your face and blurring your vision. Stand firm. It will not last. It can not. Just out last it. Be strong. Let it bend you but do not break. You are not alone. We are many. And we matter.