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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Protection

I had an interesting therapy session on Monday. As often happens, I don't recall with clarity much of what we discussed. When I am talking about things which upset me, I often check out mentally--usually, unfortunately, while Therapist is imparting great pearls of wisdom. I try without success during the subsequent weeks to recall what he's said. Aggravating.

I believe my entire conversation with him consisted of three sentences:
1. "This makes me so MAD!!"
2. "This makes me so MAD!!"
3. "This makes me so MAD!!"

Although there might have been an occasional screaming of "THIS SUCKS!!!!!"

Yeah. I was eloquent. And even though Therapist was in awe of my command of the English language, and had to pause occasionally to look up the more difficult words in a dictionary, somehow I still managed to figure something out during the session. Probably I figured it out because Therapist said it, but I took it and decided I learned it all on my own, but that's beside the point.

I have been protecting people forever. Usually from things from which they had no need to be protected, but it's what I do anyway. I've been trying to figure out when it began and I think it actually started when I was very young. I remember saying and doing things to purposely direct my mother's anger away from my siblings and toward me. It wasn't altruistic--it was self-preservation. It hurt more to watch a small person being abused by a larger person, one who should be loving and protecting the small person, than it did to endure the abuse personally. 

That impulse has never served me well. In fact, it's a stupid impulse and one for which I will probably pay as long as I live. I still do it. I can't stand it when someone innocent is hurt by another person--especially when the person inflicting the hurt believes there is a rational, excusable reason for hurting another. I usually say something which gets me in trouble. And the person I perceive as the "victim" is angry with me, as well. As I said, a stupid impulse.

I have spent my life protecting people I love from me. I still do it. Even in this blog, where I am supposed to be able to express anything I wish, I protect those who read from knowing the things I believe will somehow harm them--which is why I had to create my stupid super secret blog. The thoughts/memories/feelings still needed expression, but in my mind, if I allowed others to know them I would be inflicting abuse on people who read my words.

I protect Darrin from feeling anger about my past experiences. I say I don't tell him everything because I can't deal with his feelings when I'm dealing with my own, and there is a modicum of truth to that. But mostly, I just don't want him to feel negative emotions to anything connected to me. I don't want him to see me weak, victimized, scared, sad. I don't want to acknowledge that he, of all people, completely understands that I am human and he loves me in any circumstance. I want to be strong and capable and beautiful in his eyes. It's all very silly because he, more than anyone, sees me at my worst, knows my weaknesses, and comforts me when I'm wretched. He will watch me grow old and lose each vestige of youthful beauty. He will buy me a recliner when I can no longer run, place his matching one beside it and hold my hand as we watch "The Price is Right." I have no idea why I'm trying to protect him from me.

For a long time I believed that if I shared with anyone the truth of what was done to me as a child, they would stop loving me. They would feel sorry for me, certainly, and then they would go away because it was too much--too horrible--I was used up and they had no more need for me. I was wrong, of course, but I think I might be excused for lacking faith in human nature. My experiences haven't always built faith, obviously. But even beyond that feeling was the belief that if I told anyone, somehow they would be hurt by what I said. That by giving them such knowledge I would be responsible for harming them. I would rather be abandoned by someone I love than bear the guilt of hurting them. 

When I actually said the words to someone, it was a person newly met--one I had never met in person. I spoke the words in a "hypothetical" setting. A "so if I tell you this, are you going to say you still want to be my friend?" type of conversation. And even though he said he did, I completely expected to be added to his "blocked friends" list before nightfall. In truth, I ended up calling him within an hour of telling him, simply to thank him for letting me say the words. I wanted to hear his voice. And I wanted to make sure I hadn't somehow damaged him with my story. 

Naturally, in time, I allowed others to know, which was largely a positive experience. But part of me still believes that I must not share certain things about myself with others. Especially the things that hurt me regularly. For the past eight months my flashbacks have become irregular and unpredictable. I've learned how to let them happen without showing any outward sign. I wait until I'm alone, then I allow the stress buildup to manifest itself. I usually have body tremors and physical pain. I hear myself whimper and feel aggravated that I'm weak. I cry--not because I'm sad or hurting, but simply as an after-effect of too much emotional overload. It feels similar to the random crying I experienced when I was pregnant--linked to nothing in particular, not accompanied by any feelings, simply a stress outlet. Depending on what I experience during the flashback, I'm usually finished with the after effects within an hour.

Therapist said I'm not going to be able to learn to manage the flashbacks if I continue to do this in isolation. He said I need to involve other people. I'm certain he gave me reasons for this, because I always ask him to explain himself--especially if I disagree with him. But every part of me rebelled against his premise and I wasn't listening to the explanation. I was dealing with the revulsion I felt at the thought of sharing this part of me with another person. So probably there's a completely logical reason to do so, but I missed it.

I am Samantha. I like to win. I am very strong. I'm bright and talented. I make people smile. It is not natural for me to tell others when I feel sad, angry, or lonely. It is rare for me to be with anyone else when I am weak or vulnerable. 

As a result of the stress I felt Monday, I had three rather intense flashbacks. When the last one was finished, my body required me to brush my teeth with such dedication that I missed saying good-bye to a friend at the airport--which still makes me so angry I want to scream.

Okay. I'm still not ready to talk about this. 

But I will just say, even though being with someone made me want to throw up, I wasn't alone in the aftermath. I let someone stay with me. Because Therapist said I can't do it alone, and at this point, I'll do just about anything to learn how to predict and manage the flashbacks. They're painful and exhausting. 

But sometime very soon I have to remember why Therapist said it was important to let others help me. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

I'll admit I've hit a wall. I've "discovered" something which alternately makes me weep with frustration and seethe with anger. I've felt immobile and mute for nearly a month now.

Today was extremely busy. I traded phone calls with visits, shopping, and very late Christmas mailings. In one of the many conversations, someone told me I made him feel joy when we talk. I don't know if that's unique to him, but there are few things I would like more than to bring joy to the people I love--and even to perfect strangers.

I don't know how to resolve the current "problem" that haunts me. I don't know how to stop feeling bitter, even hateful. But it's nice to know that in the midst of hurting over this, I'm still able to bring joy to the life of at least one friend.

Darrin held me last night as I chatted well past one o'clock a.m. I keep wondering when he'll say he's had enough--that I'm too much trouble with all my baggage and emotional crap and stupid past experiences. He doesn't say it, though. He just holds me and tells me he loves me.

The truth is that I'm very angry at God right now. I'm not sure why I've chosen that target, but I think it has something to do with the fact that he allows me to tell him how angry I am, but he doesn't go away. When I rage and cry, I feel his love piercing through me, letting me know it's okay for me to feel these things--that probably I should have felt them long ago when I was too young to understand why people who should have shown me love, protection, and respect, were hurting me repeatedly.

I wonder how long this will last.

Tonight, though, I realized that I celebrate Christmas each year because it brings me hope. I hope my Savior will love me when I feel unworthy of love. I hope he will guide me when I can no longer see my own path. I hope he will teach me to care for my brothers and sisters. And in the end, when I have done all that I can to resolve my hurts and transgressions, I hope he will heal me and make me whole.

Perhaps I am naive to place my hope in a person I cannot see or touch. Perhaps I am superstitious to believe in a miraculous conception and birth. Perhaps I am foolish to base my life decisions around that which I believe he would have me do.

But I've tried to walk alone. It's miserable. I much prefer the company of the one who loves me unconditionally. And tonight, I'm very happy to celebrate hope.

Gender Issues

DJ (sitting next to me at the computer--very grumpy): I am the WORST wrapper in the whole world!
Me: I don't think so. Have you ever heard me rap? I'm pretty awful at it.

Long pause....

Me: You're supposed to laugh. I made a funny.
DJ: I know. I'm ignoring it.
Me: Why?
DJ: It ticks me off that my presents are ugly!
Me: The paper is just going to be ripped off. Really, this is not a problem.
DJ: I just want to be able to make pretty-looking presents!!
Me: Huh. I've never really cared about that.

Long pause again...

Me: Are you sure you're a guy?
DJ: Are you sure you're a girl?


AtP

I just have to say one thing about him:

He always makes time for me. 

With other people, I sometimes feel I'm an afterthought, or that they'd like to see me if it fits in with everything else going on in their busy lives. AtP makes me feel that a visit from me is special--no matter how often it happens, even if we do nothing but drive around in my car and listen to me talk crazy.

Sometimes I really want to see people I love but I feel I have to chase them down, that my appearance is an inconvenience--this has been the case with some of my family members and I've experienced it occasionally with friends. Not often, of course, because I'm not likely to repeat a visit when I feel unwelcome. 

I've never experienced this with AtP. He's even arranged his work schedule around the times when I'm visiting. He's come with me to therapy sessions and waited for me in the waiting room. He's chauffeured me wherever I needed to go following those sessions since I'm usually too upset and distracted to drive. 

I guess, for a defective friend, I think he's pretty amazing. 

And AtP, if you happen to read this, I love you.

That's all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Just a brief notice

A couple of very sweet people have sent emails, and some other friends have left sympathetic comments relating to my last few personal posts. I appreciate your love and concern. I have, however, entered a new phase of existence that is ugly and nasty--and I'm finding myself reacting to it by being ugly and nasty to people who are dear to me. Therefore, until further notice, I will not be posting anything of a personal nature here until said phase goes away. 

And I hope it goes away very, very soon. I'm tired of it already.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I do not hate cats

but this makes me laugh:




Bitterness

I've avoided it for a very long time. But no matter how I run from it, I can see the blackness dogging my heels. It comes only as close as I allow.

I'm afraid if I look at it I'll be consumed; the beautiful parts of Samantha will become bruised and broken, and finally evaporate. I'm afraid the bitterness is the largest part of who I really am, always there regardless of how I ignore it.

This acrimony colors my sense of humor, grants me self-disparagement, and currently binds my tongue. I know what I want. I want to rage and scream--but not just that--I want someone to hear my ranting; I want to direct most of it at whomever listens. I want to kick and cry and beat someone's chest with my fists. And when I am finished I want that same person to hold me, forgive me, tell me everything will be all right. And the irony is, I am no respecter of persons. I simply want someone human to see the monster devouring me, allow me to express, and stay.

All my life I have refused to allow myself to admit I felt this. I thought, in time, the resentment would dissipate and eventually disappear. It didn't.

And now...what?

I told a young friend last week that a physician cannot care for a wound at which he or she is afraid to look. I challenged him to look--not to qualify in any way--simply to look at the things he has been avoiding. And I, in my hypocrisy, cannot seem to take my own challenge. As I try to look, my nights are consumed with terrible memories and dreams. I cannot sleep. My days pause for a flashback from which I spend hours recovering. My subconscious punishes me as I allow myself to feel the rancor I can no longer ignore.

...'Tis the season to be jolly...God help me...

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Best Laid Plans (and I'm going to use this title, even though I'm not a man, nor a mouse--don't argue with me!)

I really hate it when I schedule things and something upsets the plan. Admittedly, this is because I load my schedule with so many things that even one glitch can mess everything up for days. But it still aggravates me. However, as my life rarely goes according to my schedule, I've become adept at improvising. But I don't like it. Even when the improvisation emerges as a better plan than the original, I'm out of sorts because I like my life to be structured and predictable--and it never is.

In October I made a plan for therapy. I was going to meet with Therapist in October, November, and December. In those meetings we were going to track my amazing progress as I learned to manage every symptom of PTSD--the end result being that by January my symptoms would be negligible and I would be on the road to having a real life again.

In October, Darrin threw a wrench into my plan--wretched man! He informed me that his training for the next six months would all be done at once, meaning he would be gone for an entire month, and this would happen in February. 

I am not an unreasonable person. Those who work with me would call me patient and tenacious to the point of aggravation. I'm logical in most every part of my life. However, when Darrin dropped his bombshell, I lost all those lovely qualities and regressed chronologically to the ripe old age of thirteen.

me: You're not going in February.
Darrin: I don't really have a choice. I have to go when I'm scheduled.
me: No. Not February. That's our anniversary. You can't be gone then.

Now, while Darrin and I definitely celebrate the day we were married, it's not a huge celebration. We go out together, occasionally exchange small gifts (usually some sort of really wonderful chocolate), sometimes we see a movie. Once or twice we've gone away for the night which has been my favorite celebration because I get Darrin all to myself for more than just a few hours. The reality, though, is that we rarely celebrate on the exact day unless it falls on a weekend. We schedule our time together on the Friday or Saturday nearest the anniversary date. So... we very easily could have spent time together in honor of our anniversary before Darrin left or after he returned. I was simply being obstinate. And I continued to be so.

me: I'm serious. Not February. Either you call your boss and talk to her about changing the month, or I will.

Darrin said nothing. He looked at me very carefully and left the kitchen. I finished making dinner, feeling alternately angry and foolish. Then next day Darrin let me know he had been reassigned to leave in January. That's next month. I thanked him. Then the panic set in.

My plans for becoming a PTSD supermanager did not come to fruition. My November therapy visit dealt with the new issue of me becoming an utter idiot in nearly every aspect of my life because of obvious control issues. My feelings were uncomfortable and overwhelming. And I hated pretty much every person alive.

Therapist had several theories as to why my life was falling apart. I'm sure he was probably correct, but I was in no mood to look at any of them. I was seeing a side of myself I despise, and it was manifesting itself more and more often. 

In the meantime, my ability to express what is happening inside of me has taken a prolonged vacation. I've tried to tell Darrin with dismal success. I tried to talk about it with Jason--failure again, but I have to say, I'm not the most expressive between midnight and one in the morning, and I have a feeling that Jason's cognition went to bed at 10:30 that night, so probably all he heard from me was gibberish. I tried to tell Sully and AtP. Their concern for me has increased exponentially since that day--not because of what I expressed, but because they're both certain I've lost my mind. I tried to tell Tolkien Boy last night. I realized that nothing I was saying was exactly what I meant and every word I said made me feel more like a freak. I'm beginning to understand on a very personal level why silence is golden.

And my beautiful schedule is gone, gone, gone. My plan was to see Therapist this month, then spend the next three months working on all the delightful assignments we concocted together in order to become the best PTSD micromanager EVER!!! I'm just praying I can talk during my next session, that Therapist will work some magic to help me pull myself together, and that I actually can float through the next three months without becoming bald from the stress. And it would be really nice to be able to talk about the mess inside me someday. 

When my kids were toddlers and preschoolers, we had a chart on our fridge. It had small pictures of faces expressing different emotions. I think there were fifteen different faces. When they couldn't find the words to say how they felt, my kids would go to the fridge, find the face that looked the closest to how they felt, and point it out to me. Naturally, I had all the faces labeled with the corresponding emotion so I could look at the picture and understand what was going on inside their little bodies. I think I need one of those charts for me. I'll carry it in my pocket and when someone asks me why I can't talk, I'll just pull it out and point. And they'll say, "Ah, I see, you feel sad today. Would you like a hug?"

I know. Probably this is not as enormous as it feels...as I'm making it. Blowing things out of proportion isn't really my style, but I seem to be doing many things that are out of character lately.

I need to go run. Speaking of running and superheroes (which I wasn't, but I am now), have you ever noticed that no one really knows what Batman wears on his feet? He just has amorphous black somethings there. But Wonder Woman has to run in those ridiculous high heeled boots. I've been known to run in high heels when I have to, but I much prefer the proper athletic shoes. So Mr. Fob (just in case you stop by), if I ever do fit into my superhero bustier, I'll probably not wear the boots. But I'll put red, white, and blue glitter on my running shoes. I'm sure you'll still recognize me.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The World Has Gone Crazy

It all started with Lydia. She announced at our last lunch date that she's decided to date men. I've known her for more than fifteen years. In that time I believe I've seen her in five "committed" relationships, and she's also fallen in love with a straight girl whom she attempted to help "switch teams." It didn't work, obviously, or Lydia would now be in committed relationship number six.

I stared at her. "Okay."

"No really. I've started already." Lydia seemed very smug.

"Why?" I asked. 

"I want to have sex again," she answered. "And I've heard that most guys want to have sex. I figure, eventually, if I date enough of them, I'll find the one who wants to take me to bed."

"Are you listening to yourself? This is nuts!"

"No. It makes perfect sense. I want to have sex. I don't want a relationship. I don't fall in love with men--I fall in love with women, so having sex with a man is the right solution."

"Lydia, I'm not even going to begin to tell you how unhealthy this is. Just be careful."

"Good." Lydia leaned toward me, "Now, Straight Girl Who is Married, tell me what I'm supposed to do when the date is over and we're sitting in my driveway. Am I supposed to ask him in?"

"What would you do if he was a woman?"

"Kiss her."

"I'd suggest you try that first."

I'm a little uncomfortable in the "Straight Girl Who is Married" role. But, really, it's best if that's how Lydia sees me, especially since she's acting like a cat in heat. Altogether, this was a pretty disconcerting conversation. I'm not happy that Lydia's decided to be promiscuous with both genders. This puts her at risk for a number of physical things, but also will wreak havoc on her emotional health. However, she's older than I am, so I rarely say more than my characteristic, "Be careful."

The enormity of her asking me for advice is enough--but watching her go from trying to "convert" her latest straight girl, to running after men, has left me more than a little confused. 

As of now, I'm sort of avoiding her. I think that's the best plan until I can get my bearings. Besides, hearing about Lydia's sex life ("I fall in love with women, but I want to have sex with men") is a little beyond my comprehension.

And honestly, it shouldn't be...right? Who better to talk to her than me, since I'm sort of living her dream (not really, but sort of)? But I still say the world has gone crazy and it's all her fault

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tolkien Boy

My first conversation with Tolkien Boy took place because I misread something he posted on his blog. I thought my misunderstanding rather hilarious, brought it to his attention in a chatbox embedded on his blog, and went on my merry way believing he and I would never interact in real time again. 

But I was blessedly wrong.

My own personal superhero, The Great -L-, coerced me into talking with Tolkien Boy the day after my birthday a couple of years ago, and I believe there have been few days since when I haven't had the honor of hailing, or being hailed by him online, on the phone, or in person. 

Tolkien Boy, because of his willingness to be present often in my life, and to hear me say ugly things, has had some dubious privileges in our friendship that few others have "enjoyed." He is probably the first person I told the nasty truth about my cousin's treatment of me. In a few of our first conversations I allowed him to ask questions about my relationship with Darrin--and I actually answered them--not something I usually do. He was a necessary partner when I worked on learning how to direct my dreams away from the chronic nightmares I often have, and with his help I was able to manage that part of my life better. And he has had the singular experience of eating lunch with the man who raped me. 

I remember a time (although I'm not sure when it happened, exactly), when I began to feel that TB was becoming far too important to me, that he knew too much about me, and those two things were unacceptable. So, as was my custom, I spoke to him and suggested that perhaps it was time to stop being friends. I've done this before with grand success. I thank the person for the ways they've helped me, tell them I appreciate their friendship, then let them know I'm really busy, and honestly, I feel we need a break from each other... Without exception, the response has been one of general agreement--the person to whom I'm speaking is busy, too. They understand the need for space and time. And I always get the feeling they're glad I'm addressing this, because they really do want to get away from me. 

Tolkien Boy, however, was not amenable to my request. In fact, I believe he was rather insulted that I would assume I could just say when and where we would stop being friends. Some of the things he said made me recognize how ludicrous my request was, how arrogant my assumption--and by the time our conversation was over, I thought maybe this was a real friendship, not just an association to be briefly enjoyed and then terminated. He had me believing I wanted to be friends with him forever. That's NEVER happened before.

I understand that in writing this I'm admitting my defectiveness as a friend. This is no secret. In fact, AtP and I created a Facebook Group called "Defective Friends." To our immense surprise, it has not been a popular group. Only one other person has joined (thanks Uncle Arthur), and I believe he did so because he felt sorry for us. Surprisingly, AtP and I are the only people in the entire Facebook universe who are defective friends. However, I believe in freely admitting the weaknesses of life on my blog...and this is certainly one of my greatest. But I digress...

Since that fateful conversation with Tolkien Boy, I've been trying to figure out how to be a better friend, not just with him, but with many others. I don't think I've made a conscious effort to ditch even one friendship simply because I felt too exposed and afraid. As is often the case, something he said made a lasting impression on me. I believe it went something like this:

me (unbelieving): You want me to stay?
TB: Yes.

Up to that point, I'm pretty sure, other than Darrin, no one's ever told me that. Since that time, multiple people have let me know I have a place in their lives, but the truth is, I wouldn't have believed them if TB hadn't insisted I consider the possibility that friendship should be lasting and beautiful. Because I am who I am, I had actually mapped out the general time frame when people I loved (like Sully and a few others) would grow tired of me and leave, unless I beat them to the punch and suggested it first. 

Does this sound crazy to anyone but me? You have to admit, I've come a very long way, even if the progress has been fairly sporadic and slow.

Where is all this leading (because I always have a point, it just takes me ages to reach it)?

Well, because of his amazing tenacity, endless patience, and determined reminders that not only does he love me, but someday I must learn to love myself, I have invited Tolkien Boy to attend my next counseling session with me. So--he'll get to meet Therapist and see me at my worst as I talk about crap that bugs me, and feel sorry for myself, and rage at life, and argue with the person who is right 99.9% of the time. I'm not sure why TB actually wants this privilege, but I think it's because I've made Therapist into quite an icon, and TB needs to see for himself that Therapist is, indeed, a simple human being (but he's not--I swear to you, if I didn't already have my own personal superhero, and if Therapist wore tights and a cape, I might let him have the honor).

So, we were sort of talking about the upcoming therapy visit this afternoon and without warning, the conversation took an unexpected turn and I found myself saying perhaps the most peculiar thing I've ever said.

Tolkien Boy:  When's your appointment?

me: 11:00

Tolkien Boy: Okay. I think Ginsberg’s leaving early.

me: That's what he told me. So--after he leaves I will snatch you away and take you to a mental health utopia.   And no doubt you will find Therapist charming, elderly, and sort of cute, which is good since everything we talk about will probably be a rerun of Tolkien Boy/Sam conversations.

Tolkien Boy: Elderly?

me: He's my age.

Tolkien Boy: Oh, yes. Doddering.

me: We compare walkers and discuss which company manufactures the best canes. Occasionally we swap dentures--just for fun.

Tolkien Boy: Please don't do that when I'm around.

me: What??  I look stunning in Therapist's teeth.

And there it is. I'm not sure I'll ever top that one. Probably, I don't want to. But that is the beauty of talking with Tolkien Boy. Wherever the conversation takes you, there you are. And unless he tells me I'm wrong, I expect to be going places with him, conversationally and otherwise, for a very long time.



Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sully

I haven't talked a lot about Sully in the past year. Part of that is to allow him privacy as he learns and grows. Part of it is because I've been a little obsessed with myself. It happens to the best of us. 

Sully left for school last year. I still saw him almost monthly because every time I went to see Therapist, I also scheduled time with Sully. Then he came home for the summer and it wasn't unusual for me to call him (or vice versa) so we could take a walk, talk, or make dinner together. 

Sully decided to attend the university here this year. I saw him in September and then life made us both busier than expected, and I haven't really seen him since then. And I've missed him.

I called Sully last night to remind him of Messiah. He played cello with us for four years, so it seemed necessary for him to be there, even if he was sitting in the audience. I hadn't spoken with him for a couple of months. It felt good to talk to him again. And it was wonderful to see him, as well.

I realized during the performance that this was day three of not eating. Not good. Somehow, when I'm with Sully, I always manage to eat. Probably because we make the meal together and it seems easier to eat something I've made with friends. So after the concert I said, "Do you have big plans tonight? I'd like to invite you to come home with us if you have time." He said, "Actually, I have made plans. I'm supposed to spend time tonight with my beautiful friend, Samantha." And naturally, I'm a sucker for flattery, and I was laughing before he finished the sentence. 

I took us all home. Adam and DJ changed clothes (they sang in the choir), and Tabitha put on pajamas. Sully and I ditched them while they changed and went to the store to buy food to make dinner. And we talked. And talked. And talked. (Seriously, if they gave prizes for people who never run out of things to say to each other, I think Sully and I would win. If we ran out of real stuff to talk about, I think we'd just make things up. However, that being said, I have several friends and family members with whom I feel I could never want to stop talking, so--maybe not.)

Then we went home and made this:

Toast a lot of slivered almonds. Slice an apple (honeycrisp) and a pear (anjou) very thinly and soak the slices in balsamic vinegar (the good stuff). Caramelize a thinly sliced onion. Take the edible part out of a pomegranate. Mend two sheets of puff pastry together on a cookie sheet. In the middle third layer onions, apples/pears, almonds, and pomegranate seeds. Dot the top with a pound of brie cheese, cubed (if it's very soft, spoon it on in small bits). Cut the outer thirds in horizontal strips about 1.5 inches in width, and lace across the top after folding in the end portions. Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. 

(Thanks to Ambrosia for altering the original recipe with me until we made it taste better. We're a great team!)

Then Sully, DJ, Tabitha, Adam and I sat on the living room floor (after attempting clap-push-ups, which I cannot do, but DJ, Sully, and Adam can--and Tabitha comes very close), and talked and laughed until 11:45, at which time I said it was time to take Sully home.

When we got to his house, we talked a bit more. I told Sully some of what had been happening to me. I'm not sure why--probably because I don't want him to think I've been absent because I'm trying to avoid him. I told him how upsetting it was for me to talk about this kind of thing. I don't like looking weak or vulnerable. I told him I don't like telling people I'm sad. It makes me feel I'm asking for something from them--but I don't know what--and I don't want to need things from people, or be a burden in their lives. 

Sully reminded me of a time three years ago when he was in need. He reminded me of the many times he apologized to me for taking my time, and for being a burden. Then he reminded me of what I said. I told him then that he was not a burden, but a joy. 

I've been thinking about that. There were many times when we spent hours together talking about the things that made him sad. I had told him he could talk to me about anything--so he did. Sometimes, when he left I was tired, but not tired of him. The things we were discussing were sometimes overwhelming, but I always wanted to have him come talk with me. I wanted him in my life because I was telling the truth when I said he brought me joy.

Sully asked me if there was any way I could believe that others felt joy being with me, just as I had felt when I was with him. I don't know how to believe that. I've never really allowed myself to be the one who needed to talk. And if I did, I've always tried to "repay" somehow. 

I've never believed that someone could love being with me in the way I love being with other people. It has nothing to do with their capacity to love or enjoy people, but rather, my perception of how I fit in the lives of others. I've always seen myself as the temporarily useful, but easily forgettable friend. Sully said, "I think about you a lot." I'm not a fascinating person, so I wonder why he would do that. He said, "I've missed you." We've known each other a long time. I suppose I just assumed the boredom factor would set in and I don't really feel like a "missable" person. 

But underneath everything I'm feeling, under all the messages that don't make sense to me, I think I believe Sully loves me. And I want to believe that when we're together, even when we talk about things that might be frustrating, or gut wrenching, or sad, he still feels the same soul-to-soul joy that I feel when I'm with people I love. I want to believe that I bring joy to the lives of others. 

AtP, Tolkien Boy, Jason, Sully...and many others have been sending me the message for more than two years now that I'm not a burden, that talking with me--being with me--is a good thing. I'm trying to hear what they're saying. I want to believe them. 

I talked to Tolkien Boy about this today (although I'm not sure he understood me because I was not coherent and I kept stuttering--lack of sleep mixed with discussing a stressful topic), and he said I need to write on a piece of paper what Sully told me and put it where I can see it. I'm not ready for that yet, but I'm writing it here. And someday, I think I will believe it. 

A long time ago, when Sully was 16, I knew in my heart that I would be involved in his life. The Spirit told me I must talk to him. He was in distress, and I could help. I said no. I didn't want to. I knew it would open doors I had long since closed. I didn't want to become involved with a cutter, given my own background. I had no training. I didn't want him to know I was gay (and I knew that would be something I would tell him). So I kept saying no. And the Spirit continued to prod me. And one day, when I had said out loud, "Stop bugging me. I'm not going to do it," I realized that I loved Sully. As I thought about that, I was overwhelmed by a love that was not my own. And I knew that our Heavenly Father loved Sully more than I could comprehend. And He was watching a beloved son in pain. He knew I could help and He was asking me to do so. 

For the first time in many years I cried. I was afraid. I didn't want to love him. I didn't want to help him. But I did love Sully, and finally I said, "Okay. I'll do it." And at that moment the thought came to me that not only would I help Sully, but he would help me, as well. It was a rather ludicrous thought. I was a bit scornful of it.

And now, as I think of last night's conversation, I'm remembering all the times that Sully has helped me--probably more than I've been of help to him. And I'm grateful. Because as much as it pains me to say it, I need him. More than that, I love him. And after four long, wonderful years, Sully still brings me joy.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Sometimes following directions is just stupid.

When I was visiting the special place for people like me at the hospital eighteen months ago, one of the things I was required to do before I could go home was sit through therapy and videos (not fun ones) and take psych tests and do jigsaw puzzles. Actually, the doing puzzles part was my own requirement because I had to do something to fill the time and that was the only thing I was allowed to do. The first night I wasn't even allowed to have a phone or something to write with. Darrin brought me some books, but I was watched the entire time I read them. So...puzzles seemed to be a better choice. 

I mention this visit because during one of the eternal therapy sessions I was required to make a "survival kit", which was basically a list of things I should do when I begin to feel overwhelmed to the point that self-harm of any kind seemed a logical step. I need to say, that since my release, those impulses have been virtually non-existent, and I've gone through some fairly overwhelming times. But this is number 3 on my list:

If I begin to feel deeply sad (or angry, or frustrated...just fill in the blank with whatever delightful emotion seems to fit), I need to tell someone--more than one person if possible. 

I asked the psychiatrist why. She said sometimes just saying what we feel to another person helps the emotion seem less daunting. She also explained that then I have some accountability. I'm probably not going to do anything unhealthy if I know other people are aware of what I'm feeling. 

This theory has been seconded by my first counselor, my interim counselor (who met with me between my times with Therapist), and Therapist. So--given that I've been told to do this by four mental health professionals, you'd think I would have tried it earlier. But I haven't.

When I'm feeling sad, the last thing I want to do is tell someone. I'll run till I drop. I'll work nonstop. I'll run some more. But I don't want to talk about it. At all.

But the past few weeks have been rough. And two days ago I found myself feeling deep sadness, more intensely than I can ever remember experiencing. So, I pulled out my "survival kit" and remembered that everyone I've counseled with highly recommended number 3. So I chose three people and told them I was sad.

Notice--not one, THREE.

And I have to say--it doesn't help at all. It's a stupid, stupid, stupid thing to do. I don't feel less sad. I just feel embarrassed that I confided in anyone in the first place. So...embarrassed AND sad. That is not better.

I'm crossing it off my list. It is much better to just be sad and wait till it passes, than to be mortified that I actually told someone and sad at the same time. 

Stupid number three.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I feel like I should award some sort of prize...

...because tonight I had my first visitor using the Google Chrome browser...

Yay!!

This made me giggle:

17 Fabulous Prequels To Broadway Musicals
by Lydon, Toon, Norman, & Rutledge

1. Kate, We Haven’t Been Introduced
2. Bar Mitzvah of La Mancha
3. Sand And Primer Your Wagon
4. A Chorus Dot
5. Fiddler Borrows A Ladder
6. Little Business Plan of Horrors
7. A Star's Mom Allows A Handsome Stranger To Buy Her A Drink
8. Indian Territory!
9. The Guy Who Is A Little Intense But Keeps To Himself And Isn’t Really Bothering Anyone Of The Opera
10. Annie There’s A Waiting Period
11. Kittens
12. Brand New Acquaintance Joey
13. Handshake Of The Spider Woman
14. Jesus Christ Waiter
15. Starlight Right-of-Way Allocation And Environmental Impact Study
16. Vocal Warm-ups On A Cloudy Day
17. West Side Backstory

Thank you, Mr. Murphy

As long as I'm talking about my bad day, I'll just say, it continues along its gloomy vein. We're having a blizzard. Our roads are icy. DJ just slid into a parked car. 

No one is hurt, but the poor guy has never been in a car accident before. He called me in tears, not knowing what to do.

On the up side--things can only get so bad before they start getting better, right? It's just the natural way of things.

It's Snowing

Sometimes people just have bad days. I've been having a series of them.

I don't like admitting when my day is rotten. It makes me feel that somehow, I haven't worked hard enough to make it better. I don't like talking about it. 

On top of all this, I recognize that other people have days that don't feel great, and I love it when something I say or do helps them feel happier. I don't mind other people talking to me when their days (lives) are difficult. It's okay for them to have hard times--but not for me. For whatever stupid reason, I'm not allowed to feel discouraged.

I'm at odds with my kids already today--and it's only 8:00. I'm angry at Darrin because he's gone all week and I get to be a single parent with too many jobs, not enough sleep, some emotional ineptitude, and probable insanity. 

Actually, I'm really upset with Darrin today because he'll leave again in January and be gone the entire month. He's usually gone about a week of every month, which I hate--but it's his job. And then I get very angry with me because I'm afraid I need him too much, miss him too much--that I'm not independent enough. But seriously, what married-with-children couple can function well when one of the parents is missing at least 25% of the time?

And I'm worried. I haven't said much about this because, really, there's nothing to say. Darrin finally went to a doctor. He has so many things wrong with him--little things, probably. His blood pressure and cholesterol are too high, thyroid is so low as to be almost non-functioning, he has sleep apnea (sleep study a week from Friday--that will probably help)...that's just the beginning. The medication used to treat one symptom exacerbates the other symptoms. So there's no quick fix. Darrin has a father who had his first heart attack at age 40 and a mother who had quintuple bypass surgery at age 60. Double whammy.

The good news is that Darrin's been taking low doses of medications for his cholesterol and thyroid for about three weeks now. Before he left he told me he thinks something is working because he's "not falling asleep at the wheel as often." WHAT????? Did I mention that Darrin's job has him traveling every day, sometimes distances of 200 miles or more?

So, I'm worried. Well, maybe a little beyond worried. And unless something works soon, Darrin's health will continue to deteriorate. I used to make jokes about what I would do if I became a widow at a young age (young = not yet 60). They're not funny anymore.

I told DJ all I want for Christmas is a flip-top contact lens case, but I want more...I want to know Darrin's going to be okay...and I want to stop feeling frustrated with my kids, because it's not really their fault, it's mine...and I want to have a good day. Probably that's beyond my budget right now.

Sigh.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Learning Curve

Posted on December 1st, 2008 in Northern Lights

I hesitated to post this because I want to be certain everyone who visits sees this post. I’ve been reading Brother Gladstone’s blog for awhile now. I follow a few blogs which have authors who are HIV positive. Some are LDS, some are not. In each blog I’ve found something pertinent to my current journey, and because of that I am grateful for those who have the courage to share their lives with others. And so, before I begin my current tirade, I remind each reader to take a moment to remember those who are living with HIV and AIDS throughout the world, and do what you can to help ease their lives–even if it’s something as simple as offering a prayer in their behalf.

Now, on with the tirade…

In a month I will mark my third year of continuous therapy. When I began, I planned that I would need approximately three months. I’m infamous for overestimating my ability to be omnipotent. For those unfamiliar with my story, I began therapy because in November 2005, my cousin’s wife committed suicide. I was overwhelmed with feelings I could not manage–grief, anger, and frustration mixed with elation, triumph, and vindictiveness. These feelings came about because the husband of the deceased, my cousin, was also the person who spent a summer raping me when I was not quite twelve. The death of his wife caused me to, finally, confess what had happened to my father (who, in turn, spent some time in counseling), and to allow him to seek help for me. Notice the wording of the last part of that sentence. I was too stressed to seek help on my own. My father found a counselor for me, and I received a phone call from her the next week, at which point I scheduled my first appointment.

My first counselor was not a good fit for me, but still, I learned from her. We met for about four months before I realized I needed someone new. But in that time, I began talking–something I had not done before. And that “talking” has not stopped for three years. And though I still wish I’d been able to learn what I needed to learn in three months, I also understand that there has been a valuable lesson which I continue to learn repeatedly. Perhaps one day, I’ll finally get it.

Counselor 1 got the “nice” story of what happened to me. In a nutshell, I told her that I had been a sexually abused–just a little. It was all I could manage at that point in time. Full disclosure was too scary and too horrible for me to allow the words to pass from me. So I can’t blame her for what happened next. No doubt she had my best interests at heart, for she is a lovely person. We talked each week for about two months. I say “we” because after the initial meeting, she mostly talked about herself. I would add just enough to reassure her that everything was going swimmingly, and I did all the homework assigned…to a degree. But she was satisfied with my progress enough to say one day, “It looks to me as though you’ve done all the difficult work. Now you just need to hand everything to the Savior and allow the Atonement to work for you, to finish healing you.” I left that session, went home and thought, What a good idea. I wonder how I do that. I pondered for days. I prayed, and studied, and prayed some more. Each week we talked about letting the Savior do his job. Each week I left feeling that I must not have enough faith, I must be a failure, I must not know what everyone else knew.

Tension began to arise between us. I stopped talking. She began focusing on my eating disorder. Eventually I went to my father and said, “Dad, I know you think a lot of Counselor 1. And I appreciate all you’ve done for me. But I think I need to go elsewhere.” He asked a few questions, then arranged for me to see a different counselor (New counselor = Therapist, who I will love forever, for those who follow my blog). As a side-note, my father has insisted on paying for all my therapy. He has been in agony that the person who raped me was invited by him to stay in our home. He asked me, as he has no other way to help, to allow him to help in this way. Therapist, who has also counseled my father, told me it’s good for me to accept this help from my father–so I have, reluctantly. But Therapist is always right–it has been good for both my father and for me.

As I began a new journey with Therapist, a number of things began to happen. Within six months I had met two people who have been key in helping me heal, and Therapist presented new ideas to me. Not only that, he allowed me to have my own ideas, to conduct my own research, to guide my own journey. And as this happened, I began to see the hand of God in ways I had not recognized before. One day I experienced the “Ahah!!” moment that changed my life forever. I was speaking with Jason (author of Gay, Mormon, and Married) and our conversation went something like this:

Jason (speaking of some subject I can no longer remember):  I would imagine that would be upsetting for you, as you listen from the perspective of one who has been raped.

me: Ummm, I wasn’t raped.

Jason: Ummm…yes, you were.

me: No, I wasn’t. I’m not a rape victim.

Jason: Sorry, Sam, but what you’ve described happening to you–that’s called rape.

me: No. Rape happens to other people, not to me.

Jason: You need to say it.

me: I wasn’t raped.

Jason: You were.

Me: I don’t want to say it. I don’t want to be someone who was raped.

Jason: And raped more than once.

Me: No.

Jason: I’m going to keep talking to you until you can say it.

And so the conversation continued until, finally, I allowed myself to say the words. Then I think I cried for days.  But I learned something in that conversation and in subsequent ones which has been invaluable as I worked toward learning to apply the Atonement in my life: I wasn’t ready. When Counselor 1 suggested I had only one step left, nothing could have been further from the truth. In order for me to apply the Atonement, I had to understand exactly what I was using it for. I had to be able to accept the truth of what had happened to me. And more than that, I had to pass through all the emotions and anger I had suppressed for many years–most of it directed at God, Himself.

As I admitted the truth, as I spoke the words that horrified me, I realized that more than anything, I had wanted someone to save me. To understand that my Heavenly Father had allowed me to be harmed in such a way, made me feel deep feelings of anger and hatred toward Him. I didn’t care if there was a lesson to be learned. It didn’t matter that sometimes the innocent are harmed as a testimony against the guilty. To be left with the memories, the nightmares, the flashbacks, made me livid. Add to that the stories I seemed to hear daily, of people who received Heavenly help with their budgets, finding a family pet, being warned not to invest in a certain stock, or being nudged to deliver a casserole or loaf of bread to a sister or brother who just needed to be loved…I began to wonder if God only helps those with small needs, but my aching body, bleeding on the cold floor of the bathroom, wrapped only in a towel as I was too shocked and horrified to do anything but shake, was too much for Him…

And I continued to learn. I asked constantly why He had let this happen to me. I don’t believe He wasn’t answering me–I just had to wait until I was ready to hear what He was saying. Eventually, when the anger subsided, I began to recognize that my life was not special. Each person has trials and problems that bring them to their knees. Some, like me, experience those things when still children, and often throughout the rest of their lives. Others might not feel the testing until late in life–but no one leaves without walking through some test of faith.

As I allowed myself to work through the feelings, there were days of depression and overwhelming sadness. In those moments, someone tangible and loving was always sent to my aid. As I tried desperately to rise above anger and resentment, I felt constantly the sweet love my Heavenly Father had for me–and I knew it was okay for me to feel angry at him–it was part of learning to grieve. And one day I found a blog where a woman told the story of how she was lying in bed as a young girl, and her father paused in her doorway. This was a man who had molested his daughters (there were three) almost from birth. But the narrator of this story had escaped his attacks. As he paused, she spoke of feeling the Spirit protecting her, and in that moment, her father left her alone. Three months previous to this day, had I read this story it would have triggered an onslaught of anger and self-pity that would have left me confused and frustrated for weeks. On this occasion, I felt incredible joy. I wept and offered a prayer to my Heavenly Father, thanking Him for sparing this young girl. Knowing that she didn’t have to feel the things I had felt brought overwhelming gratitude–and suddenly I understood.

For me, applying the Atonement was not a matter of kneeling down and simply asking. It was a process. I had to go through each step, learn each lesson, and move beyond each obstacle. Being healed could not happen, for me, in a word. It was necessary for me to work a bit, grow a bit, and recognize my fallibility. But as I attempted this task, I was never left alone–not for one moment. Help came from unexpected and unlikely sources. I learned to cry (not something I’m always grateful for). And I learned how to listen to the answers my Father had been giving me for many years.

When unthinking people tell me that I should be grateful for the experiences in my life–because of the growth and learning I have gained–I look them in the eye and I tell them that I will never be thankful that I went through such horrific treatment as a preteen. It should not have happened. It should never happen. And I refuse to honor that act in any way. However, I am grateful that I was granted the strength to endure that which should not have happened. I am grateful that I was able to find my way through the sadness and fear. I am grateful for a Father who loved me then and who loves me now.

I was asked recently, if I ever received my answer as to why I was not “saved” from the trauma I experienced. I believe I have. My answer is my own and it came in the form of a dream. I was in the Pre-earth life, surrounded by people who have been key during the past three years, in helping me work through all that has daunted me. I was sitting next to my Heavenly Father and I could feel His love mixed with deep concern. His arm was around me and He said, “You don’t have to accept this task. I think it’s the way that you will learn the best, but you don’t have to do it. You can say no.” But because I am who I am–I just don’t know how to take the easy way out–I said, “I’ll do it.” He told me it would be a frightening and horrible experience. And He wept as he told me how I would be hurt. Then He said again, “You don’t have to do this.” I looked up at the Father I loved with all my heart and I said, “I’ll be all right. You’ll make sure I am. You’ll send the people I need. And if I get lost, they’ll help me find my way back. I can do this.”

The cynic in me believes that perhaps this was my subconscious finding ways to assuage the pain I’ve been feeling. Perhaps is was me indulging in my inner romantic. Perhaps my poor brain just had to have an answer now. I don’t know, nor do I care. In my dream I knew my Father loves me. And for now, it is enough.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

All I want for Christmas is...

DJ: I've been Christmas shopping.

Me: Yay! I love Christmas shopping!

DJ: I need you to tell me what you want.

Me: Why?

DJ: Because I have everyone else finished and you never say what you want.

Me: That's because I don't want anything.

DJ: Mom, that's not fair.

Me: I really, truly don't.

DJ: Mom!

Me: A date with your dad?

DJ: You know I can't give you that.

Me: A date with you?

DJ: We do that all the time.

Me: I love new running shoes.

DJ: Which you don't allow anyone to buy for you and I'm not doing a gift card because you never use them. They just sit on your dresser until Tabitha steals them.

Me: Blue eyes?

DJ: Mom! I'm being serious!

Me: Me, too. I'd love blue eyes. Everyone I know and love has them. I'm stuck with stupid brown ones.

DJ: Uh...Tabitha, Adam, and Dad don't have blue eyes.

Me: Oh. That's right. I forgot. But yours are blue.

DJ: Are you going to tell me or not?

Me: Well, all I really want is a flip top contact lens case. I can't find them in the stores anymore and I want to scream at the screw on ones.

DJ (sighing): You're not going to tell me, are you?

Me: I just did. I really, truly want a flip top contact lens case...or roses.

DJ: You're impossible, Mom.

Me: Just don't get me ice cream--I hate ice cream.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I do not love the Thanksgiving feast. I never have. 

And sometimes, as the confusion inside me continues, it's difficult to remember that I'm deeply grateful for my life.

But today I am grateful for Darrin, who loves me when no one else can. I'm relieved that he doesn't get upset when I wake him at night, shaking and crying with nightmare aftermath. I'm blessed when he holds me until I can sleep again and reminds me I'm safe. And I wonder why he loves being with me after all these millions of years. Perhaps he always will?

I am thankful for my kids who complicate my life daily, but who allow me time and space when I need it. I'm thankful for the kisses DJ gives me when he leaves for school or work, and the abundant hugs from Adam and Tabitha. And I'm so grateful that each of them is healthy and happy, and even now, as teens, they want to spend time with me. Perhaps they always will?

I'm blessed by friends, many of whom have taken time to learn about me and choose to love me anyway. I'm amazed at the joy brought by a simple conversation with one of them, and even greater joy when we are together. I'm surprised and delighted when they make time for me, knowing their own lives are busy and complicated. In the transitory world we live in, I am hoping that, perhaps, they aways will?

I am energized by sunshine, fresh air, a strong, healthy body, things that make me laugh. I am enchanted by words, music, scents, smiles. My lifeblood flows from sunrise to sunset, both of which make me wish to dance with joy or, alternately, subside into reverence as I watch the colors shift and blend. I am grateful to be able to run in the beauties that surround me and wondering if I'll continue to have that ability in the years to come. Perhaps I always will?

I live today not because of the things I have mentioned above. Each of them holds a place of importance in my life. But the truth is, I could not love them as I do without learning to love my Savior. In that journey, which is still continuing, I have found the strength to face horrifying truths and live in peace with them. He has brought comfort when I thought there was none. I am stronger as I share His yoke. My heart has been healed through loving touches received from friends and family. My Savior's love heals my soul. He has been doing so for many years. Daily He walks with me, even when I'm not sure I want Him. Perhaps He always will?

My life is beautiful. I believe it always has been. I believe it always will be, because I do not walk alone. Perhaps I never will.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

But who from thy self-chain shall set thee free?

Yesterday I ate. 

Last night I slept.

This morning I awoke with a new lease on life. 

I watched the sun rise, then I got dressed and ran. It's beautiful here today.

Then I went to the eye doctor (first check in eight years). Yes, I'm a wuss when I go there, as well. It has something to do with people being very close to, and touching, my face. But I love Darrin, because he had the day off, and even though I'm certain he had things he would rather do, he went with me. And I have a new doctor, and she's very nice, which makes everything a little easier. 

So, now I'm wearing sunglasses while I write this. I was dilated five hours ago and the pupils seem to like that position. I'm beginning to wonder if they'll ever contract again. 

Someone told me yesterday that they believed I would be good at anything I tried. Obviously, he doesn't read my blog. 

I'm very aware of the things I'm not good at. I'm not good at eating. I'm not good at resting. I'm not good at managing PTSD. I'm not good at friendships, or love relationships. I'm not good at having a positive attitude when I'm very tired.

But--I'm very good at surviving. And I'm good at smiling while I survive. I'm good at loving people with every ounce of my being. I'm good at playing with my kids. I'm good at seeing beauty in unlikely places. I'm good at talking to God--yelling at God--whining at God...not so good at listening to God.

And I continue to change inside, every day. It scares me and I don't want it.

In the midst of change, there are some things I don't want to lose. How do I keep them? 

I have lots of questions and no answers. 

But today I didn't wake up tired. And I saw a gorgeous sunrise. And I ran beneath a blue sky. 


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Difference a Day Makes

I had lunch with Lydia today. She's aware of some stress in my life that I haven't discussed here. She told me she's concerned I might have another breakdown. I laughed. A breakdown takes more energy than I have. I might go catatonic for a few days. That's as good as it gets. I'm not dramatic enough to have a nervous breakdown. Besides, I'm too busy.

Today I ran five miles, accompanied musicians, attended a very long rehearsal, and met with some business associates who are trying to negotiate a contract with me. Then I had lunch with Lydia, came home and cleaned my house, and gave a recital tonight. That sounds like a productive day.

And so--I'm reminding myself, as instructed, that I'm making progress. I think I am. I just don't have time to do anything else. And besides, it's what I do.

But in the meantime, while I'm making all this progress, I'm not sure what it is.

PTSD has similarities to manic depression in that it waxes and wanes. Sometimes the symptoms are overwhelming. And when they finally subside, it feels wonderful. It has similarities to depression and social anxiety disorder as it causes those who enjoy it to feel stress about social interaction and to wish for solitude. But the truth is, PTSD is all about relationships. It's about how one feels as he or she allows others to be a part of their lives. It's about wanting to trust, but not knowing how, wishing for closeness (and sometimes even allowing it) but being to afraid to let it last. It's about feeling that no matter the amount of trying, one can never measure up, be worthy of another person's affection or friendship. It has nothing to do with reality. And it seems to be able to destroy any relationship even when both parties wish it to continue.

Thus far, I've been able to avoid that. But the effort of controlling some of the impulses, of insisting I interact when I'd rather avoid, is causing me to be more exhausted than I've ever been before. I need some sort of emotional vitamin supplement, or some sort of energizer so that I can keep trying.

Writing this feels completely lame. I feel exactly the same as when people learn about my eating disorder and say, "Well, that's easy enough. Just eat," only this time I assume they'll say, "Well, that's easy enough. Just be friends (or in love, or a parent, or a human being...)." But it's not easy--not for me. And the kicker is, I really don't want to fail. But I also don't know how to succeed.

Maybe it's not about succeeding, though. Maybe it's simply about survival--my own and that of my relationships.

I'm done thinking about this tonight. It's too hard. And I'm too tired.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today at church...

My bishop asked to talk with me. He wanted to check up--make sure I was okay. I asked him to release me from my current calling. With Darrin gone so much, Mom's weekday evening calling is more than our family can handle. More than that--it's more than I can handle. There's just too much going on inside me right now, too much that I don't understand.

My therapy homework this month is simple: Remind myself when it feels otherwise, that I am still moving forward, making progress. And I can remind myself with ease--but believing it is another thing altogether.

I talked with my bishop for about 20 minutes. I've never told him exactly what has happened to me in my past. I've alluded to it, skirted the issue, nice-ified it. I'm too tired to do that anymore, and I'm getting used to the deer-in-the-headlights look. It still makes me feel like a freak, but I understand they're just reacting to the shock--and recognizing that someone you know has been raped is shocking. 

I confessed that I'm so tired I don't know what to do anymore. But I also admitted I'd probably keep trying things till I find what works. That makes me feel even more frustrated and exhausted. 

Ambrosia mentioned I looked tired yesterday morning. I realized when she said it the the weeks of emotional fatigue are starting to tell on me. But I don't know how to rest. I'm a morning person. I'm excited to get up, to see the sun, to start my day. Except...not anymore. I wake up and hope I figure something out. I watch the sun rise, and I run...and I come home and feel tired.

My bishop thanked me for not giving up. I don't know what that means, nor do I understand why he thanks me. I don't bother him very often. This is the first time I've talked with him in more than a year. He insisted I should be grateful for the things I've learned as I've struggled through all this. I said I wasn't. 

A member of our Stake Presidency was in our ward. He wanted to talk to me, too. He asked some pointed questions--I gave straight answers--another church-leader-deer-in-the-headlights. He wondered if I'd be willing to talk to the bishops at a training meeting, to help them understand how they can best serve members of their wards who are survivors of rape and sexual abuse. I said maybe. He suggested that I should be willing to help others in my situation. I said I wasn't .

I tried to tell him how much those who have experiences such as mine, don't really need someone with whom they can compare stories. We need whole people, who haven't been abused as we have, to accept us , to talk with us, to take the things that scare us and make them less frightening. We need people who can accept that there might be times when we act in unusual ways because our reality has nuances other people cannot understand. We need people who will stand by us when we are too afraid to be touched, and who will hold us when we desperately need to know we're human.

But...

It's not easy to find people like that. It has nothing to do with willingness or caring. It has to do with time and proximity. Chances are good that what we need will never happen. So we will find ways to cope. Some will turn to healthy ways, some will not. Some will follow in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf--filling their pockets with metaphorical stones and walking into a river, never to return.

I've never told anyone this prior to today. When I stood at the top of a sheer cliff and thought about dying, I didn't believe in God. I didn't care about him. If he was real, he watched as my body was violated. He left me alone to clean up and to shake in horror and despair wrapped in a towel on the bathroom floor. He never helped me. But as I stood at the top of the cliff, looking down, I felt him. That presence I hated with every part of me. And I knew he loved me--I knew he cared about what had happened to me. I knew it hurt him, somehow. And I also knew, if I chose to jump, it would have been okay. He understood how much I was hurting. He understood I felt I had no one. He understood that living was hurting more than I could cope with. I know what the leaders of the church have said about suicide. I know it is considered a selfish act. I also believe with all my heart, that had I chosen to end my life that day, I would not have been condemned for making that choice. Others may disagree with me. That is their prerogative. I am basing my belief on the things I felt that day. And somehow, even though I was very angry with him still, knowing God loved me enough to say it was okay to die, gave me the courage to continue to live. 

So I did. 

I think it was the right choice. My life has been blessed daily. But there are times, like now, when I'm so tired. And I don't know what to do with this life I chose to keep living.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What I'm thinking about before I opt for another half hour of sleep over my morning run:

I would like to say that I went to therapy yesterday and emerged "all better." Of course, I didn't, but sometimes I'm unreasonable like that. 

Therapist believes I am "restructuring". 

Normally, I attend a therapy session, think about what was said for a day, draw conclusions and decide how next to proceed. I had too much in my head yesterday.

"Restructuring" definition:
1. Deciding which parts of my life are necessary and which are extraneous.
2. Understanding priorities.
3. Establishing new boundaries.
4. Using previous progress as a springboard for further growth.

Translation:
This sucks!

I'm not trying to be negative. I am not an innately negative person. But too much is going on at once, and much of it feels unmanageable or unwanted. And the plan I had in place in September/October has been back-burnered because I'm too tired to execute it. All my energy is spent trying to figure out what's happening with this "restructuring" crap. But at least Therapist gave me a name for it so I don't sound like a highly functioning mentally handicapped person as I try to describe what's happening to me anymore.

That doesn't help me feel more balanced, nor do I feel at peace with the whole process. But Therapist assures me I'm not backsliding. Good to know

I realized something in our session yesterday. For the first time in three years, I no longer want to do this all by myself. Meaning: I'm so tired I want to quit. I never quit. I'm not sure I know how. So maybe it's not that. Maybe I mean: I'm so tired I want someone to do this for me for awhile. I'm not really sure what "this" is. But I'm very sure, whatever it is, I want someone to do it for me. I don't remember ever being this tired before.

Any takers?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dear Very Nice University Student Man,

Please notice my abundant wrinkles, obviously dyed hair, false teeth, and cane. This should be a clue to you that I am old enough to be your great-grandmother.

No, I'd rather not give you my phone number so we can study together. I'm certain we do not have some of the same classes. Yes, I know you've seen me on campus a lot--you follow me every morning. I work here. 

It's wonderful that you're a grad student. Enjoy your time as such. I finished my graduate work during the mesozoic era. 

Actually, you're very nice. I would like you if I was:
a) unmarried.
b) twenty.
c) into guys.

As I am none of the above, let's just chalk this one up to an uncomfortable moment, and I suggest you concentrate on the next geriatric female you encounter. 

Wishing you love and happiness in all your endeavors,

Samantha

Perceptions

Tomorrow I see my One True Love...and I'm expecting Therapist to perform miracles...or at least laugh with me as I express things pathetic and profound.

Before I leave on my counseling trips, Darrin and I sit down and talk about the things I'll be discussing with Therapist. I do this to:
1. get his opinion about the things I've been thinking and feeling.
2. find out if my view of reality is on par with his.
3. ask if he has any concerns he'd like me to discuss with Therapist.
4. make sure he knows where I'm at emotionally, and that he feels "in the loop."
5. take advantage of him, because I love spending time and talking with him and I'll use any means possible to grab alone time with Darrin.

I've been experiencing some stress in the past three weeks as I've decided to be emotionally honest with myself. There are parts of me which I studiously avoid acknowledging--but no more. One of the most painful things for me to look at is the ways I've been emotionally dependent on Darrin. I don't like the thought that I might have allowed a relationship I love to be even the least bit unhealthy. However, there are some things which cannot get better unless one sees them as they are.

I suppose the potential for emotional dependency in any of my relationships has always been present. I am the poster child for one who is likely to form those ties:
1. Raped at an early age.
2. No physical affection received as a child or teen (touch deprivation).
3. Few authentic friendships, no friendships in which I was emotionally honest, no relationships where I could discuss the trauma in my life.
4. Perception that love is "earned" by good behavior, grades, or performance, and that it will be withdrawn in the event of bad behavior or failure to excel.
5. Belief that abandonment is inevitable.
6. Lack of core self-worth.

Regardless of natural talent or intelligence, I am subject to the perspectives formed based on my life experiences. Jason and I were discussing this and we both agreed, it was probably impossible for me to have any close relationships without forming some degree of emotional dependency. I didn't have the skills necessary to avoid that and move the relationships onto more healthy ground.

And so, I've finally been acknowledging the parts of my marriage with Darrin which exhibit those dependent tendencies. As I look at them it's difficult for me to not feel that it reflects badly on me--that somehow I failed in allowing those tendencies to develop in the first place. It's not easy to remember that there are some things which happen in spite of me and I don't control every aspect of my life.

My point in looking at my emotional reality is to learn how to proceed from this point forward, not to berate myself or mire myself in self-pity. But it's very difficult and creates intense conflict within me. I want to talk about it, but feel threatened and weak when I do. I feel that not being completely strong and independent diminishes me, somehow. I forget that, for me, it takes large amounts of strength and courage to trust others, to accept love, to allow touch. In other words, being completely independent and not allowing others to be a part of my life actually shows weakness on my part--not strength. It's a paradox I'm still trying to understand.

So finally, after a million years, I talked openly and honestly with Darrin about the things I have felt and a few occasions when I acted on those feelings. I asked him to forgive me for the times when I allowed my feelings of dependency to lapse into desires to control or coerce, and for the few times when I acted on those feelings.

The interesting thing: Darrin says he's never felt manipulated or abused. He said he's watched me grow more confident with who I am inside in the past three years--he says I'm learning to know the person he's always known, and finding ways to love her as he does. While he has understood my feelings of needing him, he says I've never seemed "needy". Basically, while I've had the feelings, somehow I've managed to keep them in check. There have been rare occasions when I've overreacted or seemed irrational, but those have always coincided with times of illness or high stress in our lives, so they seemed to be a logical reaction.

I'm fascinated that something which has affected me so profoundly has been virtually invisible to Darrin. But when I look at the ways I've "fooled" people for my entire life, I suppose this fits perfectly.

Again, as I say these things it is so difficult not to lapse into believing there are things I "should" have done to prevent the dependent feelings, or allow myself to feel that I'm less of a person for having those feelings in the first place. It makes me feel weak, flawed, imperfect...just as I am.

I know I'm not expressing this well. I'm not sure I'm capable of such expression. But as I look at my current relationship with Darrin, the urge to try to force him to fill all my needs is very strong. I don't want it. It feels like an impulse rather than a choice. There are times when resisting the impulse seems counterproductive and exhausting. I need to learn how to manage these feelings.

Ugh! This is so confusing and frustrating.

As I said, I'm hoping Therapist will perform a miracle...I'm guessing though, that he'll probably say I have to figure this out for myself. There are times when I sincerely do not like my One True Love.

Today's Schedule

5:30 a.m. - Darrin gets in the shower. Samantha rolls over and tries to score a half hour of sleep without the snoring serenade.
5:45 a.m. - Darrin kicks Adam out of bed to get ready for school. Sam pretends to sleep.
6:00 a.m. - Tabitha says she's awake, but she's lying.
6:15 a.m. - Sam gets up, calls DJ for family prayer and tells Tabitha to choose an option for hair-styling that doesn't require one hour of mirror time.
6:25 a.m. - Sam goes to work in her p.j.'s (home office), Darrin takes Adam to seminary, DJ goes back to bed, Tabitha wanders back to her room to think about getting ready for school.
6:30 a.m. - Sam goes for a run--it's 39 degrees on November 19th. That doesn't happen very often. At some point between 6:30 and 7:30 Darrin goes to work and drops Tabitha at school.
7:45 a.m. - Sam comes back home, showers and gets ready for the day. She works until 9:30 a.m. DJ leaves for school at 9:00.
9:30 a.m. - Sam rehearses.
10:30 a.m. - Sam comes home, and works for 30 minutes.
11:00 a.m. - Sam picks up friend and they go to the rec center to work out.
11:10 a.m. - Sam lifts weights for forty-five minutes.
11:55 a.m. - Sam works out on the stair-climber for 20 minutes.
12:15 p.m. - Sam rides a stationary bike for 20 minutes.
12:35 p.m. - Sam walks the track for 20 minutes.
12:55 p.m. - Sam goes home.
1:05 p.m. - Sam writes a choir arrangement of "Good Christian Men, Rejoice" for a director.
1:30 p.m. - Sam makes beef stew for dinner and goes back to work.
3:00 p.m. - Sam teaches piano lessons till 5:00 p.m.
6:00 p.m. - Sam, Tabitha, DJ, and Adam eat dinner. Darrin joins them at 6:30.
6:45 p.m. - Sam takes Tabitha and Adam to youth activities. DJ goes to his YA activity, Darrin goes to do bishopy stuff.
7:00 p.m. - Sam works.
8:45 p.m. - Sam picks up kids from youth activity, and puts them to bed.
9:30 p.m. - Darrin and DJ come home.
10:30 p.m. - Sam decides to stop working and call Tolkien Boy on the phone because he said she could in the next five minutes.
10:45 p.m. - Darrin goes to bed. DJ goes to his room.
12:15 a.m. - Sam realizes how long she's been droning into the phone and says good night to Tolkien Boy.
12:20 a.m. - Sam plays online word games with strangers because she's not sleepy, and because her body thinks maybe she worked out too long today--it aches a little.
12:30 a.m. - Sam writes this blog post.
12:40 a.m. - Sam goes to bed.

Good night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November's Story: Learning to Fly


Lianna sat in the soft mud lining the lake shore. She gazed solemnly at the placid surface, then sprang forward, peering at her reflection in the still water. Dark curls tumbled over her shoulders, disturbing the surface. She returned to her comfortable sitting position. The reflection had shown brilliant blue eyes,  abundant black lashes, clear radiant skin, and even white teeth between soft pink lips. Her nose was small, slightly tilted at the end. A beauty, they had called her. She was beautiful. 

Clasping her fingers together, Lianna wondered what it meant. When had it happened? She thoughtfully fingered the tiny dimple in her chin, then allowed her iridescent wings to lift her to the leafy branch of a tree above her. She sat quietly, once again staring at her reflection as the sun sank on the horizon, gilding the water-mirror. As night fell, she glided quietly to her nook in the cottonwood tree, filled a raspberry with nectar and drank deeply, then nibbled at the sweet-sour berry cup. Sighing, Lianna set the remainder of the berry on her kitchen shelf, and wandered to her bed made of soft ferns and dried mosses. She snuggled beneath a freshly cut rose petal and allowed herself to sleep.

Her dreams were dark, violent. Thick figures stumped toward her, harsh voices speaking ugly words. Cruelly, they bent her wings, lashed at her tiny legs, beat on her arms and back. Lianna ran, weeping, gasping. In agony, Lianna sat up suddenly, tearing the rose petal. These were not dreams, but memories. Lianna softly stroked her own cheek, damp with spent tears, then pulled the crumpled petal over her once again and slept dreamlessly till morning.

Sunlight dappling the wall behind her slowly teased Lianna's eyes open. She stood and walked to the opening in her nook to watch the sunrise, stretching as soft colors shifted across the sky. She glanced at last night's supper, now shriveled on the shelf, carefully lifted the fragile berry and flew out over her lake. She dropped it on the surface and hovered over the circular, spreading ripples, listlessly thinking about breakfast. Deciding she wasn't hungry, Lianna lit on a broad leaf floating on the lake. Hugging her knees to her chest, she allowed her thoughts to dart rapidly about. She tried to connect them, to sort them. It was impossible.

Lianna's childhood memories brought terror. She could not remember parents. There were faceless figures who provided shelter and food, but also physical pain. Vividly, Lianna remembered working until she was too exhausted to move, yet still the work continued. She paused to rest, only to feel a foot kick her forward. As her wings had begun to develop, they were twisted, torn. She was not allowed to fly. She had no place to go, so she stayed with the Group.

One morning Lianna was sent to fetch food. It was the first time she had been allowed outside the caves. Other creatures were about, searching for their own repasts. Lianna noticed a child. Each of his hands was held by a parent, both of whom seemed to have their entire attention focused on their small offspring. As the child made nonsense noises, the parents chortled and laughed, petting his hair, stopping to cuddle him. Lianna watched, fascinated. The child found a square of soft moss and plopped himself down, running his fingers through the green thickness. His parents settled nearby, sending him loving glances, allowing their fingers to intertwine as they watched their babe play for a moment before scooping him up and flitting off. 

Slowly, Lianna gathered the fibrous breakfast reeds as she had been instructed. Trudging back to the Group, she distributed the food to the loud gobbling creatures. As she fed the last one, he swatted at her, clipping her shoulder and sending her reeling into a nearby rock wall. Stumbling to her feet, Lianna moved carefully away from him and began her work for the day. But the image of the child and his parents would not leave her mind, and Lianna found herself fantasizing that one day she could be touched and treasured as the child had been. 

There was one in the Group who was older, feebler, gentler than the rest. Lianna fed him each evening, made certain his bedding was new, and sometimes stayed to talk with him. He was unkind, complaining, but he never struck her. That night, as she prepared his meal, Lianna asked the Old One about the child. She asked why he was valued, wondered about the way his parents cherished him. The Old One huffed into his many black chins and told her it was the nonsense of the Aelotae. They indulged their offspring, spoiled them. The offspring were not taught to serve as she had been taught. They amounted to nothing and died before they were grown. It was why there were so few Aelotae left. Lianna watched him thoughtfully as he grumbled and slurped his food, then she carefully covered his black scales with freshly cut thistle down and left him sleeping. 

It soon became Lianna's job to provide breakfast each morning. She arose earlier than necessary, hoping to encounter the Aelotae and their child, but each day the forest was empty and quiet. Still, time did not dim her memory of the moments spent watching them, and the desire to be cuddled and held as the child had been grew daily. Meanwhile, the Old One became steadily more feeble. Others in the Group wanted nothing to do with him as his needs increased, and it fell to Lianna to care for him. Her days became a blur of gathering breakfast and serving the Old One. 

As his health failed, the Old One often became disoriented. Lianna sat with him, soothing with her words until he slept. Out of sight of the others, Lianna's wings began to heal. She found, one day, that she could hover easily, and occasionally when she was out of sight of the Group, she would fly to fields where the breakfast reeds were more plentiful and and gathered with ease. Lianna was very careful to walk at all times when she could be seen by one in the Group, and kept her wings folded carefully away while serving their breakfast. As her wings became stronger, Lianna found herself sleeping better at night. As she could travel greater distances in the time allotted for breakfast gathering, Lianna sought out foods that appealed to her more than the tasteless reeds favored by the Group. She ate colorful berries, drank dew from leaves, and crunched seeds and nuts in the autumn. Each day she grew stronger, faster. And silently she continued to serve the Group as a plan to leave them began to form in her head.

One night Lianna sat with the Old One. She asked him what was beyond the Group. She asked why they lived in the caves. She asked where she came from. The Old One was near death. He had long since lost all sense of reality, and often rolled out stories of his youthful exploits. As Lianna asked her questions, the Old One seemed to understand, suddenly where he was and who was with him. He peered closely at Lianna. Then he told her she was with the Group because he had found her in the river, abandoned and unwanted. She was scrawny, ugly. He had brought her back to the group, fed her, taught her to serve, then passed her to the others. "No one wants you," he said. "No one ever will." "Why?" Lianna demanded, uncaring that he could harm her even in his nerveless state. "Look at you," the Old One scoffed, "You're hideous, worthless. You have nothing to offer anyone. And inside you are rotten. Even now, you take advantage of the Old One as you disrespect him with your ceaseless chatter. Cover me! Now! I will sleep."

Silently, Lianna arranged the thistle down on the Old One and waited until he slept. She walked slowly to her rocky chamber, dank and cold. The words of the Old One echoed in her head...worthless...hideous...rotten...She supposed she had always known those things. They were said to her repeatedly throughout the day. But having them confirmed by the Old One caused her to flinch inside. She had always felt that the Old One held a bit of sentiment for her. For many months his needs had been her primary focal point and she had spent her days tending to his comforts, keeping him company as his companions left him in solitude. The Old One was, after all, the only one of the Group who did not mistreat her constantly. To hear the demeaning words coming from him had hurt terribly. Lianna curled up on a flat, cold rock, trying to ease the pain radiating through her chest. Finally, unable to endure her agony, Lianna flew upward. She knew she would eventually hit the ceiling of the cavern. It didn't matter. A physical pain, any physical pain would be better than that which she felt flowing inside her. The ascent continued. Surprised to find the ceiling so far above, Lianna looked up. Stars glittered in a black expanse. Somehow, she had found a shaft that led outside. 

Lianna paused but a second before gathering herself and flying with all the speed she could muster. Velvet blackness rendered her invisible as she sped through the night, stopping only when fatigue and thirst forced her to notice a wooded lake glittering in the rising sun. Exhausted, Liane lit on the muddy shore, drank of the clear water, then flew to a nearby tree. The warm bark felt smooth and appealing. Lianna walked along a branch to the place where it joined the trunk to find a hollowed nook filled with dried leaves from years passed. She burrowed into the moldering leaf bits and fell asleep.

From that moment, Lianna had enjoyed days filled with freedom and flying. She ate as she chose, built her nook into a pleasant home, and found warm bedding--sweet scented rose petals in the spring, soft green moss when the roses lost their bloom and became hips filled with delicious seeds. Lianna found her new life satisfying and beautiful. Still, her nights vacillated between troubling nightmares of abuse and darkness, and beautiful dreams of being touched and held, dreams that left her feeling breathless and sad as she yearned for them to become reality. 

Occasionally, Lianna flew to the place where she had seen the child, then expanded her search in ever widening circles. One day, she encountered many beings the Old One had called Aelotae. Startled at the number of them, Lianna hid in a bush, watching through thick green leaves. Lianna was entranced as the tiny groups milled about. She stared as they touched one another gently, then started in surprise as two of the lovely creatures pressed close together, arms wrapped tightly about each other, then moved slowly away, flying in opposite directions, hands fluttering as they turned for one last look before departing. Lianna felt her chest swell as she longed to talk to them--to learn about them, to join them. She took a step toward the nearest group, only to hear the Old One's voice echoing in her head, ""No one wants you...no one ever will...you're hideous, worthless...you have nothing to offer anyone...inside you are rotten..." Quietly, Lianna scuttled back into her bush, carefully remaining invisible.

Daily, Lianna watched over the community of Aelotae. She learned their language. She found new, delightful foods through mimicking their eating habits. At night she watched as they danced in the moonlight, and listened to their music. Lianna had never heard such singing. Each evening she would practice the songs and repeat the dances she had seen. Often she would join them, unnoticed behind the thick leaves masking her hiding place. It was heavenly. Lianna had never known such happiness.

One evening, as she sat cross-legged, swaying in her hiding place, a child crept beneath the concealing leaves. Lianna continued to listen, oblivious to her tiny audience. She started as a touch pulled her from her reverie. The child was crawling into her lap. Alarmed, Lianna carefully placed him on the ground and scooted him toward the edge of the leaf barrier. He turned back to her, smiling engagingly. Frightened, Lianna became aware of the child's parents calling for him. Once again she placed him near the edge of the bush and flew from her hiding place to the comfort of her home in the tree nook. Shaking at the encounter, she climbed into bed, quivering until sleep claimed her. 

Dreams of being enfolded by loving arms disturbed Lianna's sleep. Each successive dream brought comfort followed by intense longing. Morning found her exhausted and tearful. Lianna wrapped herself in the now ragged rose petal and determined to stay in bed that day. For three days she hid in her home by the lake. Finally, on the fourth day, loneliness forced her from the nook. Lianna flew to the community of Aelotae and concealed herself in her usual bush. All day she watched, lulled by a sense of peace as she observed the group. Ats nightfall, they began the evening dance. Smiling, Lianna watched through the leaves. Absorbed in the music and rhythm, she did not notice the two Aelotae, until she heard one say, "We wondered if you'd come back again."

Tiny branches bit her skin as Lianna shrank back in terror. The Aelotae came slowly closer, led by the child who had found her a few nights before. She scrambled around them, desperate to escape. Finally locating an opening in the bush, Lianna flew upward. As she flew, their voices echoed in her head, "Who is she?" "I don't know, love, but isn't she a beauty?" Lianna could not understand how those words could be said about her. 

Lianna remained in solitude at the lake. Repeatedly, she looked at her reflection in the glassy waters, allowing the words of the Old One to meld with those of the adult Aelotae. It made no sense. One morning, Lianna decided. Slowly she flew to the Aelotae village. Carefully, she landed in full view of its inhabitants. Quietly, she stood, allowing them to look at her. One Aelota approached her. He reached a hand toward her. Lianna flinched away, cowering and shaking. She became vaguely aware of a voice speaking to her quietly. An Aelota with tight blond curls and dark brown eyes was speaking to her. "Don't be afraid. It's going to be okay. We'll take care of you." The Aelota was extending a tiny hand. Lianna stood perfectly still. Gentle fingers curled into Lianna's palm. The touch burned and soothed simultaneously. Lianna's eyes widened and she gasped as unidentifiable feelings flooded her chest. The Aelota's words washed over her, and Lianna found herself following the bobbing yellow curls down a well-worn forest path. Glancing downward, Lianna found the young Aelota who had discovered her in her hiding place, skipping delightedly next to her. He reached up to her, and Lianna allowed her other hand to be taken by the tiny child.

The Aelotae found a place for Lianna in a lovely straight tree. She joined them as they prepared meals and ate together, worked beside them as they did daily chores, danced with them, this time openly, at night. Occasionally, she flew to her lake home, to think about the new joy in her life, but always she returned to the Aelotae, knowing she would be cuddled and cared for. As time passed, however, Lianna's contentment grew strained. She felt guilt, allowing the perfect creatures to touch her, to spend time with her. She knew she did not belong with them, nonetheless, she could not resist their company whenever it was offered. As the feelings of guilt increased, Lianna began to spend more time in her tree by the lake. She would fly to the village, help with the daily work, then fly swiftly back home. Her heart ached to stay, but she could not allow herself to be with the people she had grown to love. Within a month, Lianna had stopped visiting the Aelotae altogether. She sat, brooding in her tree, longing for the village, willing herself to stay home. 

With each passing day, Lianna's listlessness increased. She had no appetite, no wish to fly, no reason to move from her bed. Each morning she rose, bathed in the lake, attempted a half-hearted breakfast, then returned to her bed, staring at the smooth wooden ceiling. Her nights were filled now with real memories of hands held, loving caresses and short, sweet embraces which left her aching with longing and sadness. Often she dreamed one of the Aelotae would discover her home, only to discover as well, that she was of no worth. As the darkness inside her was discovered she would find herself discarded, unwanted, alone. She would wake from the dream exhausted and sweating, wanting nothing more than to be held and comforted, aware of the impossibility of such a luxury.

One morning, just before dawn, the dream came with such intensity that Lianna cried out in pain. She opened her eyes to look at her familiar home, only to find an intruder watching her. Lianna cowered away from the silhouette near her bed, clutching a well-worn rose petal to her chin. As grey light filtered into her nook, she recognized the outline of her uninvited guest. It was a young Aelota, Benjamin, one who had spent much time with her, teaching the history of their people. They had often flown to places of beauty as he taught her the names of flowers and trees. They had discovered butterflies emerging from their chrysalises, watched the bees gathering pollen, and listened as crickets announced the setting sun. He had been her mentor, explaining customs, introducing her to friends, teaching her to touch in ways that healed. Silently, Lianna regarded him.

"Why did you leave?" Lianna did not answer. The explanation was too difficult, too horrible. She continued to watch him, warring feelings of wanting him to leave while desperately needing him to stay churning her stomach. 

"I've missed you." Still Lianna remained quiet, wondering if one could die from all the feelings exploding inside her.

"Please, talk to me."

An eternity passed. Then, as though creatures in their own right, words sprang from Lianna's mouth. Humiliated, she confessed her unworthiness. The words of the Old One rang in her own voice and she wept as she allowed him to know all that made it necessary for her to be away from those she loved with all her heart. When the words were spent, Lianna's breath gasped from her as she apologized repeatedly for spending time with the Aelotae, with Benjamin, with the forest creatures, and promised she would not do so again. The nook grew thick with silence as her words finally ceased.

Lianna waited for Benjamin to leave. When no movement came from him, she glanced upward. Dawning sunlight illuminated teardrops on his cheeks. Confused, Lianna shrank back on her bed. 

"Who told you those things?" Benjamin's voice sounded unnatural, cramped and quiet.

"The Old One." Lianna replied mechanically, resigned to the fact that she would once again be left lonely when Benjamin fully understood the depth of her sin.

"Come here." Benjamin held out his hand to her. Lianna remained motionless. "Please. Come here," he repeated.

Remembering the jarring blows of her childhood, Lianna stayed where she was. Benjamin beckoned to her again. Understanding that there would be painful consequences for her insolent behavior Lianna turned to face him. Slowly he reached a hand toward her slender neck. Fearfully, Lianna flinched away from him, then moved back, stealing herself to receive his punishment. Benjamin's hand gently stroked downward, pausing on her chest, then with a sudden movement, it thrust inside her breast. Lianna gasped. There was no pain, no agony. As his hand fluttered inside of her, incredible joy radiated outward from that point. Slowly, Benjamin withdrew his hand, holding something in the cupped palm.

"What is that?" Light, intensely bright and filled with color, sparkled in Benjamin's hand. "It's beautiful!" Lianna couldn't stop looking at the rippling hues.

"This is you." Benjamin's voice sounded soothing. "This is what you are inside. Not dark. Not hideous. Not ugly."

Silently, Lianna continued to stare at the colors shifting, sparkling in his palm. Very gently, Benjamin reached inside her once more, and released the beauty he had drawn out. As his hand reappeared, a tiny piece of shimmering light clung to his index finger. Benjamin touched the finger to his own chest. Immediately the light darted from the finger and disappeared inside him. Benjamin gasped softly, then whispered, "Now--that which is in you, is also in me. You are in my heart."

"How did you do that?" Lianna's blue eyes were wide, wondering.

"Silly," Benjamin grinned at her. "I simply showed you what everyone else could already see." He softly flicked the tip of her nose with his finger, kissed her on the cheek, and flew from the room.

Lianna looked carefully about her nook. Slowly she stood and smoothed the rose petal on her bed. Then she walked to the the doorway. A gentle morning breeze stirred her dark curls as she glided lightly into the warm, sunlit sky. "Everyone," Benjamin had said. Lianna smiled. They would be waiting for her.