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An old Chippewa legend speaks of a little duck called Shingebiss who is strong enough and determined enough to defy the most bitter of winters. While we are not there yet, it is coming, and these little duck heads serve as a reminder to stay strong and do what must be done. And they’re pretty cute, especially accompanied by their wise owl friends. If I had unlimited room (and funds), I would collect vintage salt and pepper shakers.
Cripple Creek, Colorado.
Quote of the day: “Almost all the time, you tell yourself you’re loving somebody when you’re just using them.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Commiserating with Kelsea about our hatred of mornings
That I woke up today
Snatches of poetry
I spend some time alone these days, and that’s a good thing. I think everyone should spend some time alone.
Alone being a positive is so different from where I was one year ago, eighteen months ago. Back then, in those dark days, I was lonely and heartbroken. Being alone reminded me of how I’d been rejected, dumped, forsaken, cast aside. And now I know that I was lied to as well, lied to for a long time. I was delusional about my present and my future. Those days were horrible, and I forced myself to make huge changes, to restart my life, although I felt like a zombie.
Now, all is different. It is as if I am living under a new sun. A new love is a huge part of this, but there are other parts as well. A willingness to look closer at the choices I made, to let go of the things that were holding me back like silken tethers. A good therapist. A way of looking at the world through eyes of gratefulness and beauty, noticing the small moments in life that make me smile and feel joy and peace.
Alone time now is a mishmash of a blessing. When I am not with MKL, I miss him. But missing him can make being with him that much sweeter. And being alone with myself, my words, my thoughts, my cat, my house, ensures that I remain the me that he fell in love with – and that I fell in love with as I prepared myself to meet him.
I do not think that I will “end up” alone. In fact, my increased faith in myself, the power of the love of the universe have convinced me that none of us end up alone, even if we pass through periods of this life by ourselves. Alone now is not a bad thing. Lonely is a little different, but both are states that can change with strength, desire, and intention.
Disclaimer: I feel this way right now. Right now, I am not in the throes of my depression. When I am again in its vile, lying, loathsome clutches, remind me that I said this. During those bouts, hope and faith are both elusive and seeming illusions.
I went searching for a synonym for alone the other day, and do you know what I found? There are barely two or three synonyms for alone that do not imply a state of sadness, emotional/spiritual poverty, depression, or abandonment. I thought that was fascinating.
Most of these synonyms flowed along the lines of isolated, lonesome, discarded, cut off, friendless. You get the picture, I’m sure. But like a miniature lighthouse, one synonym stood out as a beacon: free.
What a wonderful concept to associate with being alone. Free to choose the company of others. Unburdened by baggage. That is how I feel now.
Beautifully together, and beautifully alone.
I originally wrote the post below about Dottie Sandusky on November 10, 2011, and it stirred up a small hornet’s nest of controversy – people saying that I was defending Dottie Sandusky, that I was being unfair to the victims, that I was a narrow-minded ass and an idiot. Well, as I maintained during those debates, we are all entitled to our opinion, and I stand by that belief.
As the Jerry Sandusky trial is wrapping up, and Dottie Sandusky has testified in defense of her husband, the feelings I had when I originally wrote this post have risen to the surface of my consciousness again. On a rational and clinical level, I understand the titanic depths of denial thought patterns in a situation like this. However, having followed the testimony of the victims, I have a somewhat increased sense of disappointment, outrage, and childlike bewilderment about this kind of denial. Not only does it minimize the victims’ experiences, it feels like a desperate act of self-preservation on the part of a woman who sees her world crumbling and will do anything to try to save it, regardless of the cost. Wouldn’t we all? I don’t know. It depends on our individual strength of character and moral courage.
As a childhood victim of a molester, I saw the denial that my parents experienced. Were they culpable? My child’s mind thought so – because I expressed in every way I could that I did not want to be around my molester – every way except telling them what was going on. I was too embarrassed, too ashamed, and too confused. Which sounds a lot like what Sandusky’s victims said about themselves and which is now enabling a clever defense attorney to call their testimony into question, in a large part because those feelings made them hold back the truth for so long.
I know what I think is right in this case, and perhaps it is colored by my own experience. But so be it. It takes true courage to admit to being a victim and not spend your life living as one.
November 10, 2011: Thinking of Dottie Sandusky
I don’t follow sports. I don’t have any connections at Penn State. I don’t even know how I became aware in the last several days of the atrocious acts that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky committed on who knows how many young boys over the past 20 years. My heart aches for the victims. I know a little about how they feel. I remember being a victim myself.
But in all this publicity, the perpetrator hasn’t spoken. He’s free on a reasonable amount of bail. What’s he doing? Spending a lot of time with lawyers, obviously, and supporters, certainly. Note that I did not make the totally inappropriate remark about athletic supporters – oh wait, I just did. He can’t be strolling around Happy Valley with his head held high. Can he? Or can he truly be secluding himself in his home, with his wife of heaven knows how many years? Can he really? Which brings us to the point of my post.
As my heart aches for Sandusky’s young victims, it aches for his wife. What must this woman be feeling? Shame, anger, disbelief, rage, humiliation, shock, nausea, betrayal, bewilderment, devastation are just a few of the emotions that come to mind. What do you do when suddenly you discover that the man you married and loved and helped all these years is a person you don’t even know? And someone you would consider a monster if you did not know them?
It must be impossible for her to believe it, despite the evidence. And I know that, at this point, she is looking at every moment of their life together and wondering. Did she really know and just turn a blind eye? Did she miss all the signs? Does this fact make x,y, and z make sense now? How could she have been so gullible? Such a fool?
These are the things she is thinking privately. She may not voice these kinds of thoughts to anyone. And barely even to herself. To friends and family, I imagine she is still displaying the stong, supportive wife-face she has worn for years. The face that says, “I don’t believe a word of this, and I am standing by my man.” She has perhaps raged at her husband – or perhaps not. She’s not of an era when women did that, for any cause.
People have asked, “How could she have not known? It had to have been obvious, or at least suspicious.” But no, it is entirely possible that she did not know, did not see, did not believe. Sociopaths – which is what child molesters are – are extremely charming and excellent at the art of deception. And when you love someone and have built your life around them, you are predisposed to believe what they tell you. When you know someone as a man who has looked after kids in various capacities for years – and raised the ones you adopted together – then the trips, the phone calls, the bedtime companionship in the basement room, seem like pure fatherly activities. And pedophiles can – and do – raise families without victimizing their own children – sometimes.
The one thing I know is that this woman is a victim in a whole different way. And for that, my heart goes out to her.
So, my new-old house purchase is moving along. I had word last week that the bank accepted my offer, but their acceptance was only good for 21 days. Which means I have to secure the loan and close by the 28th. So I’ve been cranking out documents for my mortgage broker (who says I am “golden”), and visiting the new-old homestead with a handyman who”s done a lot of work for the family over the years, trying to figure out just how far in over my head I’m getting.
The good news is, he said that the place is in pretty good shape for being over 100 years old. The furnace is pretty new. Though I did have to climb down and crawl under the house to see it (creepy). The stuff I need to have fixed is pretty easy to fix. In fact, he said if I changed my mind, that he’d buy the house for his daughter, which I think is a pretty good recommendation. Its only downside is that it’s on a fairly busy street, but it’s set quite far back, which is good. And it adds about 15 minutes to my commute – not so convenient to the bus as the Cottage. Oh, and there may be a small kick-dog next door that will need silencing. I can’t tell yet.
I’m definitely having cold feet. The down-payment will take half my savings. What if I want to leave? What if I want to move to warmer climates? What if…things change again and some of those wonderful dreams leap back to life? As I was whining about this to Kelsea this morning, she pretty much reamed me a new one. I won’t report what she said, but she had a good point.
So, I’m moving forward no matter how full of trepidation, fear, second guesses and longings for love that I have. What else can I do? And this way, when the time is right to move to the Caribbean, I’ll have my house to come home to for hurricane season.
Today, I found my kitchen table. The flea market will hold it for me until the house is mine. It’s beautiful – retro silver enamel, like the kind I had growing up (except the one from my childhood was red). Kelsea’s friend Will’s mother gave me an antique rolltop desk that she paid $1000 for about 20 years ago. She’ll hold onto it until I’m ready. My boss gave me a dresser that Pat’s holding for me.
I wandered around Home Depot tonight. I didn’t buy anything. I picked up some paint cards for the bathroom and the BLUE room. I looked at carpets. I talked for a long time about tile with this really excellent Home Depot woman. I gazed at light fixtures. I realized that scary as it all is, this can be MY house, with the things that I’ve always wanted (within financial limitations.) There’s something very satisfying about that idea. I felt like a little kid in a candy store.
At the Cottage, my hot water heater has been on the fritz for the last few days. I’ve been calling my landlord and he’s been trying to fix it. But it occurs to me, when MY hot water heater goes out, I”M going to have to try to fix it. I’M going to have to rent a sander and refinish the floors. I’M going to have to paint all the rooms and remove the little bit of leftover wallpaper. And I don’t know how to do any of these things. So, I guess it’s time to learn.
I guess it’s time to learn a lot of things.
Last night, my nieces and Kelsea and I went to the climbing gym. Why is this a big deal for me? Well, several reasons.
1. It was something I’ve never done before.
2. I’m afraid of heights.
3. I was afraid I couldn’t do it and would embarrass myself.
4. I was afraid of falling.
Go ahead, call me a ‘Fraidy Cat. I don’t care. You know why?
Because I went. I did it. And it was awesome.
The place we went is called The Spot, an indoor climbing club tucked away at the back of a semi-industrial office park at the end of a dead-end street in Boulder. It’s not a ropes/rappelling club. It’s all free climbing. Every wall of this gigantic space is covered with floor-to-ceiling rock formations with footholds and handholds in various shapes and patterns affixed to them. There are a couple of gigantic freestanding rock formations in the center of the room with the same holds. There’s a climbing treadmill. And there’s a tightrope about three feet off the ground.
All these men and women in amazing shape are climbing all over the place, sometimes even inverted. They looked like insects crawling up and along the walls. The floor is covered with padded mats, and there are some larger, squishier mats that you can move from place to place. A little girl of about five was scrambling around like a monkey and walking the tightrope like a pro.
I started on the easy routes – and I didn’t necessarily stick to the routes. For me, the goal was to get up the wall and down the wall. Without falling off the wall. Except my niece told me I had to fall off the wall. Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. I had to fall off the wall. She said if I fell off the wall intentionally, then I wouldn’t be so scared of falling off the wall. And when I fell off the wall accidentally, I would know how to fall, and how to roll, so I didn’t get hurt. That was the hardest part of the evening for me. Letting go of a perfectly good wall six feet in the air and falling backwards. I mean, who DOES that? Oh, yeah – me.
I looked down over my shoulder at my niece, who was encouraging me to jump, and I said “No. I can’t.” “Yes you can!” she said, ‘You can do it.” I thought to myself, “I can do anything.” And I let go. And fell. I bent my knees. I hit the floor. I rolled. And I was fine. I got up and I was so proud of myself. And then I climbed back up the wall and did it again.
It was so much fun. It’s a wonderful feeling to challenge yourself like that. I really liked traversing – moving sideways across the rock face as opposed to going up. It’s more for stamina than for skill. I didn’t make it all the way across the big wall, but I did pretty well.
Today I am pleasantly sore. I can really see how people get so buff doing this. Since Kelsea loves it, we are going to go together more often. I have to admit, it’s hard to see her hanging twelve feet in the air; I’m scared she’s going to fall and break her neck. But I have to trust her and her own strength – and my strength.
And learn to let go.
Today is the one month anniversary of my divorce. God, it feels so strange to say that. The words “I’m divorced” float around in my head like a detached cell, drifting, twisting, odd.
I am still going through a lot of the same emotions that I have been all along: sadness that I couldn’t just stick with it, wishfulness that he would have tried harder, anger at him for his lying, drinking, subtle abuse, and total unwillingness to accept his responsibilities to me, wistfulness for dreams we had that are now dead, longing for things we never got to do, missing my dogs, my cats, and my old home, guilt for making him feel so bad, for abandoning him when he was content enough (or so he thought), shame that I failed, responsibility for everything except world hunger… you know, the usual.
I will say that some of these feelings have lessened. Thankfully. I will own up to feeling more clear-headed than I have in a year. Still not razor-sharp, but at least my mind has returned to its customary sieve-mode, as opposed to last year’s total fugue state.
There are still details to be taken care of. I still need to sign over more money to him. I still have to pay child support every month, and the mortgage every other month, since we are both keeping the house he’s living in. But he’s paying the other bills now. Most of them are out of my name. I still have to transfer titles to two of the cars to him. And we still have to get along.
He said to me the other night, when he was slightly in his cups, that he felt I was being short with him. Snippy. That he was over the anger and was trying to approach our new relationship from a good place. I told him that I still had a lot of emotions around it, and that while I wasn’t angry, I just wasn’t where he was in the process. He told me that didn’t make sense, and that unless I could help him stay in this ‘good place’ that he’s been able to make himself go to, he’d go to a not-so-nice place. I started to try to argue, to say that his feelings belong to him and don’t have to be dependent on mine, but I gave up before I even started. The reason that I wanted to get divorced was staring me right in the face.
I am perfectly entitled to all my feelings. I am being perfectly civil to him. On past occasions, when I have inquired into some of his actions, I’ve been rebuked with “We’re not married anymore so I don’t have to tell you anything.” He told me the other night that I didn’t seem to care about what was happening with him; I chose not to remind him of the scoldings I’ve received for asking in the past.
What it comes down to, is that I have to roll with the punches. He’s as inconsistent as he’s ever been, due to his drinking, I believe. You’d think I’d be used to it after all these years, but I’m not. And now, I don’t have to take it to the extent I used to, but for Kelsea’s sake, I do have to keep the peace.
It’s odd to still love someone, even after you start to see all the pain they’ve caused you, all the damage and injustice you’ve experienced at their hands, whether they were conscious of it or not. It’s almost as if love grows into something cellular, and the death of love is like cancer, only you can’t cut it out. It’s a fading flower on a vine, blooming, withering, dying, falling, and with hope, being replaced by fresh blooms the next spring.
Half of my parental unit was a loving worrier – my father. Perhaps because of his vision difficulties, or perhaps because of the era in which he was raised – and because of some of the challenges of his childhood – he was (it seemed to me) highly overprotective. At the same time, my parents never imposed a curfew, and we had some basic rules to follow when we were teenagers – call if you’re not going to be home when you say you will be, and if you are in trouble, we will come and get you. I never had to use the second, but I did use the first. As far as ‘no curfew’ goes, they raised us to be independent thinkers, have good judgement – and pay the price when our judgement wasn’t so good. They knew our friends and were always open to what we had to say. In short, they trusted us – so curfew wasn’t necessary. But I know from my mother that my father never slept a wink until I came through the door, whether it was 10:00 pm or 6:00 am.
I was a ‘Daddy’s Girl’, and while my father’s overprotectiveness grated on my willful, independent and wandering nature like sandpaper on raw wound, I adopted some of that worrier mentality as a child. Looking back, it’s kind of funny, but at the time, it was always desperately serious.
One behavior that I have long remembered was brought home to me again by E-Bro at the beach this summer. When we were travelling somewhere by car, particularly to Buxton at the end of the Outer Banks, it seemed we would always arrive after dark. In those days (yes, the wheel had been invented), the Outer Banks, and especially that section, and most especially in March when we went down, was only visited by fishermen and local islanders. The drive down the long, dark stretch of Highway 12 seemed endless. In my mind, we were driving into the unknown. So when all the cars we saw were coming from the opposite direction – and ours was the only car going our way – I was absolutely, unequivocably convinced that some disaster had happened at our destination, and everyone was running away from it, but we were driving into it – into certain doom.
One of my nephews exhibited a similar behavior on the family’s trip down to the beach this year. E-Bro is a good dad and so I know that he did not behave in the fashion that an older brother behaves when a younger sister works herself into near-hysterics over an imagined fate worse than death. In other words, I’m sure he didn’t go on and on about how a monster had probably risen from the sea, eaten the entire end of the island, and was now just laying in wait, pitch-black, slathering maw open to receive our innocent Valiant.
I was known, at least by my father, for asking what he would call “non-questions.” When I was in worry-mode, I could come up with some pretty absurd things to be concerned about, and knowing him to be a fellow worrier, I would turn to him for answers. He was generally quite patient about it, but I could push him to his limit, when he would refuse to answer or discuss my fears because they were so inventive that they became “non-questions”. We’re talking about things like “If there’s a hurricane, could the ocean come and swallow our house?” (We lived about 350 miles inland.) Or, when we’d have torrential rains, was there any way that the trickle of a creek that ran through a ditch across the street, behind the houses, at the bottom of the hill, would overflow and flood our house? Preoccupation with floods, I see – interesting considering my portentous water dreams, but more on that in another entry. If it was a natural disaster, I worried about it. If my Mother was late coming home from school after dark, I was sure she’d never come home (I well remember my fearful nighttime vigils at the dining room window on rainy nights.) When my brother fell down the front steps, I was sure he was going to die. And when my father would leave the house after losing his rare but terrible temper, I was sure he was gone forever. As is normal for a child, my biggest concerns were losing my home and my family. From a psychological perspective, I find this interesting, because there was never any instability in the family, no hint of divorce or moving. Is worrying genetic or just a part of growing up? And how does it tie in to my now so-strong sense of not having a home?
I did grow out of it (mostly). I have done many fearless – dare I say stupid? – things in my life, and when I feel like I’m not being brave enough, I have learned that a shake-up is needed – a confrontation of whatever fears may be lying just below the surface. But that pattern of being fearful about loss is still there, buried inside me.
In our early years, when Pat wouldn’t call or come home, that old fear behavior - that he was dead, gone forever, had had an accident, was having an affair – came slamming back. Unfortunately, they were sometimes justified. Well, not the dead or gone forever ones. I would cry myself to sleep for an hour, then wake up and cry some more. When our cat, Mammal, wouldn’t come home when I called her, I would worry myself half to death – Pat and I had some doozys of fights about that.
When loss really hit though, when I lost Daddy, Tug, Mammal, Mother, J.T., the Captain, there was no fear. Only the usual stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The anticipation of the loss, while not worse than the loss itself, had a completely different quality.
As I’ve gotten older, I find I worry about almost nothing. One of the things that being a chronic worrier as a child taught me is that worrying doesn’t do any good at all. I don’t follow my father’s “one chance in a million” thinking, but I do sometimes channel his “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” mentality. That one shows a little logic. It may have done me a disservice, pushed me towards too much of a “throw caution to the winds” way of thinking. I don’t always lock my windows at night unless reminded.
I still find that when someone I love most dearly is in a bad physical or mental place, I want to stay right by their side, as if my presence is a strong enough talisman to ward off disaster. It does seem to help, if Kelsea has a high fever, like she did last spring, or if Kathy is overwhelmed and in tears. And it’s tough when I can’t be there. When the Captain was dying, I wasn’t there. When my Mother was dying, I was. My presence made a difference to my Mother and to me, but that presence, or lack thereof, made no difference whatsoever in their dying. They both died. End of page.
I haven’t heard from Pat since he left, but I’m not worried. What does that say about me, about our relationship? Maybe that we haven’t received any of the promised e-mails from him says more about him than my lack of worry says about me. It does mean that I don’t love him in the cry-myself-to-sleep way I used to. That’s fitting, since we divorcing.
Wanting to be there to support someone is not the same thing as worrying about them. Worry implies that you don’t think they have the strength to manage something themselves. Worry implies powerlessness on both your parts. My friends and loved ones are strong people. When times are tough, I want to bolster them, be there for them as a sounding board, a drinking buddy, a shoulder to cry on, a pillar to rest against. It’s almost the energetic opposite of worry, as it implies strength and power. Interesting how worry has transformed itself since my childhood.
I suppose I am transforming myself as well.
Slightly edited. To Russ’ credit, he never told me that I “cannot” do as I said in my last bullet. He told me I “will not”. He has indeed been my champion in exiting this relationship. I wish he would remain so in my life. I have nothing to offer him but my love.
You cannot always see the end when you are in the middle. Transformations are painful and take time. You do not get to determine the amount of time it takes. I will come out of this dark place a free, strong woman. On this blog, I may resurrect the “Transitioning” page, as I sense there will be an upcoming spill of pain.
Here’s what I do not know:
What my future holds now
Whether I will have a job in the next two months
If I will ever have a partner (that one brings tears welling)
So let’s look at what I do know:
I am getting divorced.
I am going to have to pay child support.
I am going to take a financial loss.
I do not want to be doing what I am doing.
I want to live and work somewhere warm.
I will not let anyone tell me what I cannot do anymore.
I need to open doors for myself. In the writing, in the traveling, in healing – not only healing myself, but healing others. I sense that I have gifts that I have not acknowledged. I have never been in a still enough place to acknowledge them. But I am shifting there now. I feel as if I am learning a different language. Or learning to walk.
So what can I control?
Getting divorced. I chose that. There has not been a single person who cares for me who has not supported that choice, except my brother, but that’s a different story.
Having to pay child support. A fact of divorce. It will not be a lot. I am going to negotiate Pat’s wanting me to pay for half the mortgage into the child support allotment.
Taking a loss. Yep, another fact of divorce. Wrong, but a fact. I am meeting with my financial guy to determine how to minimize the loss and penalties that I will incur. Perhaps if I can split certain investments somehow, I can make this work out with a minimum of loss.
Not doing what I want to be doing. Well, this is a fact, but it ties to two of those things I don’t have control over. So, what can I do? Let’s see. I am attracted by the concept of “Do what you love and the money will follow”. And I am determined to follow the thinking that great rewards require great risks. I do not want to go out and buy the latest version of “What Color Is Your Parachute?” I think most parachutes these days are sold with holes in them anyway. I have a powerful soul, a good heart and a lot creativity. And some wisdom, believe it or not. The pull to healing of some kind has always been in me. I will ruminate on that, cow-like, and see how it manifests. And I will write. I have written since I was a child. I just need to focus. This time alone can be used to focus. I can compromise my writing style for publication to whatever extent I need to. I just need a plan. I know how to make one of those. I will put up my photo gallery to sell and my images – if I put my energy into, I can make things happen. The Photographer’s Market will go on the shelf this week, along with the Writer’s Market.
Living and working somewhere warm. Several things follow from this. To do this, I have to be somewhere warm. To be somewhere warm, I cannot have Kelsea all the time. But working doing what I love – writing, photography, and – yes, put it out there – healing – can be done from wherever I rest my head. And it is warm here in the summer. I can make it work. A first step, after this settlement is settled, is to find some land on an island. I have been waiting for a partner to do that. But that’s not realistic now. Now is a good time to buy land. Once I own it, I will at least have a place to pitch a tent. I’ll figure out the rest as I go. And if I have to clear the whole thing myself with a machete, I will. I’ve always wanted to be good with a machete. I should add it to the life list.
Not letting anyone tell me what I cannot do anymore. As a child and an adolescent, my parents (bless them) limited my footsteps: “You’re too young to walk to the store by yourself.” “You can’t go too far away for college.” Done with that. As a wife, I have allowed Pat to limit my own views of my capabilities: “You can’t do that.” “You can’t take care of yourself.” “You’re no good at x, y, z…” Done with that. And even now, in my breaking away, Russ is telling me what I will not do: “You will not break free of this co-dependent relationship.” “We will not have the life we have dreamed of.” Done with that. I can and I will. I was always a willful child, and now that I have recognized myself again, I am going to be a willful adult.