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Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's Just Another New Year's Eve

I'm not sorry to say goodbye to 2011. And I don't really care if that labels me as having a bad attitude. It's been a very difficult year physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally. I'm a bit offended at my body. Being injured to the point of needed surgery in the same year as deciding it no longer needs an appendix seems excessive. And when my body isn't functioning normally, everything else seems to go a little crazy.

So I'm looking forward to 2012. I intend to celebrate the heck out of this day as I usher in the new year and hasten the old one away. I started by going to the gym, riding the bike for 30 minutes, then walking in the "Lazy River" for another 20 minutes. When I came home, I put a batch of bread into my bread maker. I don't really care if that seems celebratory to anyone except me, and I don't really eat a lot of bread...well...I don't really eat a lot of anything, really...but still, I love the smell of it baking and that smell can make a whole lot of stress disappear.

I folded all the laundry and vacuumed my house from top to bottom (hearing in the back of my head my elder sister's nurse-voice as it reminded me I'm only four weeks post-op, and two weeks off crutches, and I need to take it easy still--I told the voice to shut up), swept the kitchen and cleaned my bathroom.

I followed this up with playing turns in my 32 games of Scrabble. I'm uncertain how I came to be playing that many games, but they were there waiting for me so I took my turns. Then I looked in on Kingdom of Loathing. I'm a lamentable player at best, but I love the game's sense of humor and occasionally I play a trick on my KOL friend, Morcai. I thought about doing that today, but I don't remember how, and I currently lack his cleverness when it comes to follow-up, but someday...he should watch his back...

It's horribly ugly outside. The wind continues to blow from all directions and tiny blizzards pop in occasionally to remind us it can always be worse. When I went to the gym this morning, the sun was shining. Not anymore. One could not ask for a more gloomy, stormy day. I've been drowning out the wind by practicing Prokofiev's Toccata in D Minor. Darrin is home now, though, and he is not a fan of the Toccata.

I believe I will call one of the friends who asked us to celebrate with them tonight and ask what we can bring--and tonight I will actually go. I'm not excited about this, but Darrin is and part of my celebration is that we'll do something Darrin wants to do.

For now, I believe I'll get back to playing on Facebook for a minute, and then I'm going to read something while my bread bakes, and my only resolution for 2012 is that this is going to be a better year than 2011. And it's going to be. I promise.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I will be released from my calling in the Young Women's organization on Sunday. The bishopric member who called to notify me is an older man whom I deeply respect. He thanked me for my service, then added, "I'm going to miss you. I've loved hearing you teach--learned so much. Our young women have been very blessed to have you as a teacher, and so have I." That was unexpected.

I called my stake president after I ended the phone call. I'd spoken with him in September, letting him know I had done an interview with FAIR on the topic of same-gender attraction. I told him then that I was concerned about the reaction of some of the stake members, should they listen to the interview. They would have no difficulty identifying me. Stake President said he didn't care--in fact, he would welcome the opportunity to discuss the topic with anyone who was uncomfortable with me (homosexual woman) teaching the youth of our church.

I thought about this a lot after the interview aired. I realized that while my stake president was willing to take on the members who might find me objectionable, I was not emotionally strong enough to do so, myself. I've struggled with self-esteem in the past year, especially in my closest relationships. I've questioned my worth, my place in life, and wondered if there was really any need or desire for me--or if I was a convenient distraction who happened to work online and was therefore readily available to others. While I don't object to that, I do like to understand how I'm perceived by others, regardless of what that might say about me.

The result of the wondering was that I found myself more insecure in relationships, less likely to bond with people, and avoiding interactions that might be meaningful to me but not to the person I was with. I recognized that I've become emotionally drained and very tired, and that almost none of my perceptions regarding my relationships and the feelings of others toward me are accurate.

The thought of having to go on the defensive about a topic which, in my mind, has nothing to do with anyone except me, and having to "prove" that I was not any kind of threat to our young women, especially after spending the majority of my life teaching and serving them, was not something I felt I could manage. I waited a few weeks, spoke with a couple of people, talked with Darrin, and then went to the Bishop to ask for a release.

My stake president was unhappy with me. He started with his, "If anyone says anything about you, I'll gladly tell them to stick it up their stupid butts." I proposed that was probably not a fitting remark from a stake president. He let me know he was completely disinterested in propriety and I needed to be working with the youth. I said (using his first name because I'm fairly disinterested in propriety, as well, and besides, we went to high school together and have been friends for most of our lives), "K, this is not a battle I can fight right now."

The phone was quiet for a few seconds, then he said, "You're not doing very well, are you, Sam?"

I'm doing better, actually, than I've been for about a year. But no, I'm still not at my best. I said, "I've had a few things that have been difficult to deal with recently, yes." His tone changed immediately. He thanked me for letting him know about the release and told me he was available if I need to talk about anything.

I don't. I've talked enough.

Darrin reminded me tonight that I have problems with Vitamin D deficiency this time of year because I'm out in the sunlight less--and with my inability to run, it would be a good idea to start supplementing again. He also suggested I visit with Therapist in the next few weeks rather than waiting the five months I had hoped for. Darrin believes it would be a good idea to take some time to discuss much of what I've been processing in reference to my cousins, and there are a few other things that have cropped up unexpectedly that I might need help with. I'll probably take his advice.

I'm feeling well, actually. But again, as Darrin pointed out, it might be a good change to visit with Therapist and implement the advice he gives when I'm not feeling anxiety. I might experience a greater amount of relief and learn to manage things more successfully in a moment when I feel relaxed and calm. This is something I need to lend serious consideration.

I spent many months in the past couple of years, analyzing and brooding over the relationships in my life. I made breakthroughs and experienced setbacks and wondered if I would ever figure anything out. Eventually, I did. I found that the reason I struggle with relationships of all types is because I don't really believe expressions of love and appreciation aimed at me. I try to believe. I do all sorts of mental gymnastics to make myself understand the words and trust the person speaking.

The problem, as I finally came to understand it, is that while I believe people love me, I believe they appreciate the things I do, I believe they enjoy spending time with and getting to know me, I simultaneously have no understanding of how that can last beyond a moment. I simply cannot conceive of anyone wanting me to remain in their lives, nor can I fathom a place being reserved for me in someone's heart. I have always felt that if something were to happen to me, Darrin would simply find someone else, my children would grieve and move on, and no one else would find my absence remarkable.

I asked Tolkien Boy to work on this with me (not exactly like that--instead I asked lots of uncomfortable questions and he graciously agreed to answer them). He responded clearly and compassionately. I have read and reread what he wrote to me. There is a part of me which rejoices at the answers he has given, and another part that utterly rejects them. It has nothing to do with trust or belief--the social condition outlined by him in which he feels things for or about me, simply does not compute in my head. I cannot make sense of it. I am overwhelmed and confused as I try to apply what I'm reading to myself. My brain sends me a continuous message that none of this can possibly be connected with Samantha--she is an irrelevant part of the equation and must be factored out.

Yet every answer is about me in some way. If I'm factored out, the answers become irrelevant and everything written is nullified. I need to discuss this with Therapist. Soon.

In the meantime, I watch the changes taking place in all my relationships and wonder how to manage the confusion and stress caused by those changes. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe that's part of what makes vital relationships work.

At least I understand now what I do not understand. I know. That makes no sense to anyone except me.

Tomorrow I'll start that Vitamin D thing, and I'll walk in the pool and do my therapy exercises, and I'll play with my kids and do my work. Probably I'll practice for a couple of hours and when no one is around, I'm going to sing. Right now, however, I'm going to bed. I keep having odd dreams involving people in my life doing things completely out of character and also things that are very inappropriate. This is better than nightmares, I think. It makes me giggle in my sleep.

P.S. Eva--thank you for your email. Sometimes I forget that people read what I write here. And actually--that quote you sent me was exactly what I needed to hear tonight. I had forgotten those things. Thank you for reminding me.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I have heard a story retold at Christmas which I wish to record here. At times the protagonist is female, other times, male. For my purpose, gender is irrelevant. The story is about a young student and a beloved teacher. The student wishes to present to the teacher a wonderful gift and so is absent for a couple of days. Returning, the student presents the teacher with a perfectly formed, beautiful shell. The teacher is delighted with the gift, but upon learning where the student found it, expresses dismay at the great length the student traveled to obtain the gift, to which the student replies, "The long journey is part of the gift."

This story is a Christian allegory referencing that our lives are a symbolic gift to the Lord--that the journey to present to him something perfect and beautiful must be long and sometimes arduous, but in the end He accepts not just the result, but all the twists, turns, disappointments, challenges, successes, and growth encountered as we become who we are. In general, I shy away from such allegories, finding them trite, overused, and obvious. I also despise stories designed to elicit an particular emotional response in the guise of spiritual revelation or communication.

A man whom I have always admired retold this story in church today. He is older, in his late 80s, a recent survivor of leukemia. In the many years during which we have been friends, he has said things which have spoken to my heart as I recognize both the truth of his words and the application in my life. Today was no exception.

The journey of my life is not one I wish to repeat. There are many moments I would wish away. People have acted toward me in ways I would like to forget, and I have had my share of acting in shameful ways when I wish I had chosen otherwise. I own experiences I would like to delete; I have said words I would take back; made choices which hurt people I love. In addition, I have endured hurt innocently, been damaged by the violent and senseless acts of others, and lived in the aftermath of those experiences. As I think of this, I wonder how my life can ever be considered a gift. There is so much overwhelming sadness, tragedy, disappointment. I still suffer from childhood deficits in love and nurturing, from abuse, from being forced to grow old before I was twelve. Who would accept such a gift? Perhaps it would be best to discard it and move on...

Today as my elderly friend spoke, I realized my journey is not over, and that part on which I am focused was a tiny moment in the lifespan that will be mine. I have taken those moments and I have moved forward. For many years I refused to own them, to even acknowledge them. Today, regardless of the the pain it costs, I call them mine. While I do not believe they have made me a better person, they have definitely shaped my views, my beliefs, my choices. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's not.

I have processed a great deal of anger and bitterness for the past three months--things I believed I had laid to rest. The result of this was an increased phobia to touch, a loss of logical thought process, and emotional separation from people I love. But during that time, I learned to ask difficult questions, I found out which people I can rely on and trust, and when I felt completely lost I found out that I never quite give up--even when I desperately wish to.

I received communication from people I love during those months. Some of those people are close and current and interact with me daily. Others are people I've not heard from in years, but somehow encountered them again. Those communications let me know I have importance, there have been moments when my life has touched or influenced another, when I have shared strength, lent courage, or given love.

The parts of my journey which have left me drained of strength, filled me with fear, and damaged my soul will always be a part of the gift I offer to the Savior. As much as I would like to, I cannot make them disappear. But when weighed against the person I have become and the person I will become, the person I am determined to become, those parts seem important but incidental. They were boulders which have continually impeded my progress, but which have never stopped me.

There are days when I ask to be reminded that I'll be okay, that I'm loved and needed, and that I'm very strong. This, too, is a measure of the person I'm becoming as I ask for and accept help from others. My deepest fears remain intact; my insecurities rage constantly; my self-doubt never wavers--but through all this I continue my quest to find peace.

Perhaps the real beauty lies in the word "journey." It symbolizes forward movement toward a destination or goal. Sometimes my journey is nomadic--I have no idea where I'm going, I just know I need to continue. I cannot stop in one place for very long. Other times I know exactly where I'm going and move purposefully toward that goal. But as long as my journey continues, as long as I'm not stopping permanently, I'm making progress, I'm learning new things, I'm becoming Samantha.

And one thing I learned a long time ago is that I am loved and wanted by the One who created me.

Tonight I am grateful for the opportunity to live. I'm grateful for the capacity to love and learn and grow and become. I'm endlessly thankful for a Savior who heals my heart and encourages me to find out who I am. And I believe, in the end, when presented with my journey--with all its flaws and misery and ungainly messiness--He will choose, instead, to remember I never stopped trying, that I loved when I could have chosen to hate, that I built when I wished to destroy, that I sought help from those I loved when I was discouraged, and that I learned to see and love Samantha as only He can see me.

That was the purpose of Jesus Christ. Not to be lauded for miracles or revered because he had great power--but to show us the strength of love and the joy of being. His life provided a way for us to be healed from all that hurts us. During his lifetime He treated those who were despised and condemned with gentleness and dignity; He had deep, meaningful relationships with the men and women who spent time with him; He knew and cherished the worth of a soul.

I suppose it doesn't really matter if one believes in Christ or not--those basic concepts of humanity espoused by him would improve the quality of any person's life if they choose to follow them. I have never regretted treating people with kindness and respect regardless of the response to that treatment--but I do believe in him, and tonight I celebrate Christ's birth and his life. Mostly, though, I celebrate the fact that through Him I am alive today and I have become more than I ever believed possible.

Once more, as always, I dedicate my journey to my Savior. No matter the twists and turns, I am always grateful for his presence at my side.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm not sure why I want to write here again, but I do.

Physically, I have always been incredibly blessed. I get a cold/virus/flu/whatever every two or three years. Usually it's very mild, lasting only 2-3 days. Occasionally I get something that knocks me off my feet and keeps me down for a week or longer. That has happened twice in my life:

1. I was teaching 44 private students (six days weekly), running a bookkeeping/tax prep business, and trying to raise three small children while Darrin was traveling most days and weekends from 2 p.m. till after midnight. It was grueling. And given my exposure to the variety of germs from students, I contracted something which impeded my ability to inhale, gave me an incredibly sore throat, kept me from sleeping at night, and made me miserable; naturally, my doctor said, "Virus--get some rest. It will go away." A month later it was still hanging around. Two months later there was no change and I was exhausted. Three months later, in the same condition, I went to the doctor again. I sat on his exam table and listened to him tell me it was a virus--then I interrupted him: "I don't care if it's a virus. I don't care if there is nothing you can do for me. I don't care if you don't like prescribing antibiotics that aren't helpful. I've had this crap for three months. I haven't taken antibiotics for more than four years. I'm not getting better. At this point, I believe we should try the placebo effect. I'm not leaving without a prescription for something." So the doctor prescribed an antibiotic and a decongestant. I was better in a week. No doubt, the virus just ran its course.

2. Being quite busy, I did not get a shot for the H1N1 virus when I should have. One of the schools in which I accompany the choir ended up with 60% of the student body contracting the virus. Two of those students were also part of my piano studio. I, of course, ended up with H1N1. I seriously considered dying as a possibility. It was awful. Because I have asthma, my chances of that dying thing were greatly augmented. Because I'm ridiculously healthy, I survived--but it took many months before I could breathe normally once again, which interfered with my running. It was during this time that I took that miserable fall which messed up my hip. I blame H1N1.

Prior to my surgery, the doctor's assistant was going through a list of questions with me: Do you have high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol...those types of things. I said no to every question. When asked which medications I take regularly, I said, "None." The nurse checked my blood work report, my medical history, and said, "You might be the healthiest person I know." This was repeated to me by several other medical workers as I was prepped for surgery, as they took care of me post-surgery, and in all my follow-ups with doctors, nurses, and physical therapists.

It's true. I'm the healthiest person I know, too. No allergies. I don't have problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, bone density, diabetes. My asthma is managed with an inhaler which I use as needed. I've needed it about five times in the past 10 years. Sometimes I forget completely that I have asthma at all. My cardiovascular fitness is amazing...

My surgery was painless. I took no pain medication and I had very little swelling. The only times I had discomfort were when they missed the first IV placement prior to surgery (and when they flushed the IV), and when my stitches were removed (I heal quickly, so the skin was already trying to grow over the sutures). Yesterday, 15 days post-op, I was cleared to walk in water and ride a stationary bicycle daily for 20 minutes at a time. The scope sites look like three small pink stars on my thigh. They get smaller each day.

In the midst of this, it feels that my emotional healing is taking forever. I suppose one can't have everything, though.

I've had a number of very difficult days in the past couple of years. I believe this is, in part, because I've not been able to run as I'm used to, I've had physical injury and pain, and I've had a number of outside events which have caused me stress.

I spoke with my physical therapist about this yesterday. I told her of the PTSD symptoms I find most daunting:
1. Inability to connect with people.
2. Inability to interpret body language, implied meanings, and humor.
3. Confusion about my role in the lives of people I love.
4. Lack of self-worth.
5. Depression.
6. Phobias that exhibit themselves in elevators, crowds, and any type of touch.

Her response, "I wish you had told me. I've been touching you for months with deep tissue massage and muscle manipulation. I've probably talked about things that have triggered memories or phobias. If I had known, I would have been more careful."

But I don't want "careful."

I want to be treated like everyone else. It's why, when I ask for help in an email or chat box or phone conversation, I always say, "This is something I'd appreciate, but I completely understand if you can't do it. And it's okay. I'll figure something else out and we can just pretend I didn't ask." And then I do my best to honor that statement.

Sometimes I can't. I try, though. Sometimes the answers I seek can only come through particular people. So I might, occasionally, ask again. It sucks. I hate asking for help. I hate even more, asking twice. I go through this cycle:
I asked for help--I'm an idiot to do so in the first place--no one has the time or inclination to help and that's completely valid; why would they want to help me in the first place?--but I'm unable to work through this on my own and it's hurting beyond my ability to ignore it--I need help--I hate this, but I'll ask again--but it's stupid because if they couldn't help the first time, they won't be able to help now--but I don't know what else to do--

Wow. The ridiculousness of that cycle is enough to keep me from asking for help again usually for more than a year. And maybe that's all part of why I take such a long time to heal, emotionally.

Emotional healing requires people. It requires challenging persistent beliefs which keep us trapped and isolated. It requires positive feedback and responses. It requires a model of trust and love which can be emulated by me.

Quite honestly, there are times when I believe the emotional healing I need is not possible--which doesn't mean I won't keep trying. This is something I want more than anything else. I want to reach a point where Samantha feels entitled to love and support; a point where I can love with abandon and know that love is returned because I'm me--not because of anything I do or say. I want to become able to shake hands with warmth and enjoyment. I want to stop feeling that I'm irrelevant, used up, unimportant--because I'm none of those things. I have a voice--it's quiet, but filled with intensity, conviction, and honesty. I contribute in many ways. Most are small and unremarkable and will probably be quickly forgotten; but perhaps they'll have a lasting effect in the future. I believe I bring happiness to a number of people and sometimes I provide a place of rest and relief. That's important. I am important.

I can say those things, and there are days when I believe them, but not every day. I think, however, that this is part of the human condition. Everyone has days when they feel less that the sum of their great worth. Everyone has times when asking for help is difficult and when dealing with lack of response feels personal. Everyone has moments when life feels impossible and frustrating and sad and lonely.

I know this. I've encountered many who just needed a smile or a hug or a moment to talk. So perhaps, while the depth of what I feel is more extreme than most, I'm just experiencing life.

This is my life. Right now it's difficult, but it isn't always this way.

Today is incredibly sunny and windless. The sky is a million shades of blue and in the moments when I'm not working, I'm making a list of books I want to read, music I wish to play, and people I would love to see.

And just so you know: my pansies are still blooming. They're orange this year.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

No Apologies

For a long time now I've felt that what I had to say, what I feel about life, my philosophy about people and love and beliefs, were all irrelevant. I visit sites where lively arguments take place about homosexuality and religion and who is right or wrong and things that happen that shouldn't (primarily mentioned in that category: mixed-orientation marriage). I listen as people talk scathingly about things I believe or hold sacred. I say nothing, knowing people do not understand why I choose that which I do, believing those things are not really important in the larger landscape and pertain only to me.

Years ago that bothered me. It doesn't anymore.

There are many things going on in my life right now that cause me anguish. Things beyond my ability to manage at present that hurt not only me, but also people I love. For a few weeks I believed I would be crippled by them--that everything I've fought for and all the healing I've been blessed with were for nothing. I've spoken with Therapist and a number of other people recently and while nothing has changed, necessarily, I'm willing to keep trying awhile longer. Giving up--giving in--acceptance--all these have their place in certain aspects of our lives. I had decided this was one of those times; perhaps, though, I was wrong. I'm willing to wait a few more weeks before I decide.

In the midst of all this, a new development has taken place. Months ago I was approached about being interviewed for an online blog. I thought about it for awhile. Feeling as I do, that my life, opinions, and voice are irrelevant, I hesitated. Eventually, though, I decided it would do no harm to answer questions in that arena, and so I did.

The podcast was posted earlier this week. My belief was (and still is) that a few people would listen. Some would be bored, others would find it mildly interesting, a few comments would be made, and the event would be forgotten. What I did not expect was that AtP would text me, wondering why I had not told him about the interview. I didn't expect that he would listen to it (the topic was religious, something that causes AtP aggravation and stress), nor that it would be something he would appreciate.

AtP was not excluded from the information. I mentioned the interview to no one. Again--it seemed such a tiny thing. But in discussing it with him, I was reminded once more of who I am--and I am grateful for the person I have become, I am convinced that what I believe is right for me, and I appreciate my personal convictions. So tonight, in my closed blog, I am listing a few of the things that make me Samantha. It no longer matters if those things are irrelevant to the rest of the world, or if I am a lone, quiet voice in the midst of all the shouting. It doesn't matter if no one ever believes as I do, or if I am always uniquely wrong. This is who I am:

I believe one of the most sacred rights all people share is the right to choose what we believe. I will never tell you I am right and you are wrong, and I will defend with all my strength your right to disagree with me. I am grateful for differing opinions. I learn from them, or am strengthened by them. I am always glad when people think for themselves, ask questions, and search for answers.

I understand that my life and beliefs do not make sense to many people. I know some would tell me to make different choices and counsel me that I would be happier and less anxious if I would follow the natural inclinations of my body and attractions. I also understand those who advise me in this way do so because they care about me and are not trying to undermine anything I have built into my life or belief system. I respect their right to tell me their thoughts, and I am grateful they are mindful of me.

I believe there is a time when resentment, hurt, shame, anger, and pain must be felt, explored, and expressed in some way. I also believe that at some point those things must be allowed to dissipate. They might never leave, but they must not be allowed to govern our lives and interfere with out ability to find peace, joy, and satisfaction each day. There is a necessity for forgiveness--not necessarily to ease the lives of those who have caused us harm (although there is value in that), but because we cannot thrive until we have reached a point of resolution and acceptance. We do not have to accept that everything we have experienced is all right, but rather that WE are going to be all right, that we look forward to abundance in our future lives, and that we understand the past will continue to touch us (which might cause occasional pain), but will not rule us. Life is meant to be filled with joy, passion, and wonder.

I believe in loving people. I believe in looking for and finding the beautiful things often missed by others. I believe in remembering what foods people like/dislike, their favorite colors, music they enjoy, favorite authors or stories, where they like to spend their free time. I believe in spending quiet time with people--not saying anything--just feeling who they are. And I believe in laughing, always. Shared laughter is best, but it's not unheard of to find me giggling at something hilarious I've just seen or thought or said to myself. I laugh often--mostly because really, life is pretty funny.

And if you want to know more--if you wish to know how I answer certain questions--or even if you're the tiniest bit curious about what my voice sounds like, you can find me right here:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 2, 2011

I know this blog is finished, but today is an enormously special day for me and I need to celebrate it here.

One year.

One entire year of no flashbacks.

This means I've not had to experience the following for 365 days:

1. Disorientation and embarrassment when with friends because I have no idea what we were discussing or the conversation has continued without me and I didn't hear what was said.

2. Stumbling while walking because my knees buckle during flashbacks and a few times I've lost consciousness.

3. Canceling doctor or dentist appointments because I couldn't face the thought of going through the experience brought to me by the flashback one more time.

4. Fatigue--emotional and physical.

5. Reliving ugly, violent memories.

6. Feeling like I was some sort of freak because at any time I could be attacked and raped in my head.

7. Phantom bleeding--horribly embarrassing when I was not prepared and completely unexplainable.

8. Random feelings of intense fear and vulnerability.

9. Always being hyper aware, ready to mask my reactions and shelve them until such time as I could appropriately react (which usually meant large-scale tremors, crying, loneliness, and misery).

I understand that this seems silly--after all, everything took place in my head. But it felt completely real and I often spent long moments reminding myself I was safe after a flashback took place.

During this last year I've had plenty of opportunities for flashbacks to occur. The usual triggers haven't disappeared, but for whatever reason, I've not had to endure even one.

I call it a blessing--a huge blessing--and I'm grateful beyond words.

So today--all day--I'm celebrating quietly. And I'm recording this here, in the same place where I've mourned the interruptions and inconvenience and horror of flashbacks, because I've treasured every single flashback-free day this year.

I'd like another year free of flashbacks, but even if it doesn't happen again, it happened once.

An entire year without flashbacks.

How beautiful is that?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thank you, and good night.

I spent some time last night reading my blog, including many of the posts I've put into draft status after publishing. The truth is, until the last couple of years my blog was kind of fun. I posted snippets of life, talked about fun or funny things that have happened to me, included posts about my short, it was a fairly well-rounded look at my life and I was able to talk with many people, both regulars and those passing through, about serious and light-hearted events.

For quite awhile now, however, this blog has simply become a place to record my feelings when I'm overwhelmed or sad--a PTSD journal, I suppose. I don't like that and I'm guessing few people want to read it, either. Public blogs are meant to be read.

About eight months ago I put my blog feeds on partial so that anyone interested in seeing what I was saying would have to visit me and thereby be recorded in my stats. There are still quite a few visitors, but only a few say anything in comments or when we chat, which leads me to believe that this blog has lost most of its value both for me, and for anyone visiting. And I'm also beginning to feel that I don't wish to air my weaknesses and stupidity for silent strangers. I am no longer the anonymous exhibitionist.

I am very glad to have found this outlet when I first began therapy. And as I have stated before, I will forever be indebted to Ward Cleaver--another blogger who taught me the ropes and helped me understand how fellow bloggers can offer empathy, advice, and friendship even when they have never met. He disappeared after five short months of daily contact--and after nearly five years, I still miss him.

To those of you who have taken time to respond to my words in the past--I thank you. To those who have continued to respond and encourage me even now--I love you. You've helped more than you know. I've had days when one comment helped me manage a great deal of stress, simply because it felt like someone cared.

I suppose I'll continue to grow used to my life with it's embroidery of PTSD and other stress disorders left over from rape and abuse. I'll keep seeking ways to manage those. I'll keep trying to be the best parent, spouse, friend, and human being that I can be. And one day, if I learn how to be at peace with all that, I may visit here just to shout it out into the blogosphere. No one will be left to hear me, but I'll do it anyway.

If you visited me even once, I thank you. Picture me wiggling my nose and zapping to each of you long warm  days filled with flowers, blue skies, tall glasses of lemonade, and the company of the people you love--because that's what I'm wishing for you right now.

And if you find me online--I'd love to play a game of Scrabble with you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

No title again

I've been thinking a lot lately--reflecting on whether or not five years of therapy have done me any good. The obvious answer is yes, but the less obvious answer is that the question is moot because I had no choice--I would not be here writing this if I had not sought help.

There is such security in living in a world of one's own creation--being a person without pain or sadness in one's past. It's easy to interact with people, knowing they have no desire to become close, to learn about who I am, and understanding they just need a place to talk. Life is well-ordered, serene, and logical. The times when I recognized that I was alone were rare. And I will be completely honest: sometimes I miss my former life rather passionately.

I believe under normal circumstances I would have been able to complete all the therapeutic tasks I set for myself without the complications I now experience. I'm fairly strong and resourceful. I'm think, though, most people would not be able to cope with the stresses I've experienced and continued therapy without developing similar insecurities and having difficulty managing stress. Therapist suggested I make a list of the less than joyful things I've experienced since I began therapy in 2006:
1. Unfortunate choice of first therapist which led me to not disclose much of what needed to be discussed. Therapy sessions ultimately became a place where I felt threatened and unsafe.
2. Acceptance of Samantha who was molested and raped (not just-a-little-bit-sexually-abused) more than once as a young girl and abused by her mother.
3. Hospitalization to help with suicidal thoughts and desires, during which time I was diagnosed with PTSD.
4. Recognition of some dissociation and subsequent integration.
5. Attempts to connect socially with people other than Darrin which, while delightful and beautiful were also frightening and stressful.
6. Lunch with my rapist.
7. Conversations with my mother, during which I learned of her desire to remain disconnected from me--ultimately letting me know of her need to have a friendship with me, but nothing closer.
8. My friend's six-year-old son was killed in a tragic accident.
9. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
10. I became pregnant and miscarried after 15 weeks.
11. Darrin lost his job.
12. My father was hospitalized with a devastating illness which became complicated and nearly killed him.
13. My mother suffered a stroke, leading doctors to discover multiple places in her brain which have become "dead spots", notably located in the places responsible for memory and logical/realistic thinking.
14. I became addicted to pain killers after developing a pinched nerve in my back--and went through serious withdrawal while weaning myself from them.
15. I became a workaholic which, previous to this time, I believed was a myth or an exaggerated term for someone very dedicated to working.

There's more--but that's long enough.

When I last talked with Therapist about this, I pointed out that my life is mostly filled with good things. He agreed, then said that most people don't experience the number of negative things I've listed within two or three years. I said I've been able to stop having flashbacks in spite of the setbacks. He said he has no idea how. I don't know either.

Therapist asked me what causes me the most stress in my life now. I said, "People."

Even now, after years of trying, I'm not sure I'm cut out to have relationships. DJ stopped by today. I miss him terribly--but I want him to enjoy being on his own and not worry about me or what's happening in our home. So I try not to spend lots of time with him. DJ told Adam later that sometimes he feels like I'm glad he moved out which was not the message I wanted to send. I'm very bad at this...whatever it is.

My siblings have accused me of becoming distant, businesslike. Lila alone, continues to communicate with me--commenting on my Facebook, sending emails and calling me on the phone. My siblings and parents are together this week. I have work commitments and couldn't join them, but I'm not sure I would if I could. It's stressful and I'm tired.

I can't quite figure out if the stress I'm feeling now is related to PTSD or if it's something different. For awhile now I've felt unable to talk about what I'm feeling to real people--only here on this blog can I say that I'm feeling overwhelmed and panic attacks are common and intense. There was a time when I would try to call people or find them online or in person. Now I just feel like I'm imposing if I even think about doing such a thing. This is my problem--no one else's.

I did try to talk with a few people in the past couple of weeks. I ended up listening instead. They have real difficulties--not imagined ones such as mine--real reasons to panic or cry--not some insane disorder which crops up when my life is slightly out of kilter. Needless to say, there wasn't really any relief to be found in those conversations.

I feel a bit lost at this point. We've had lots of clouds and rain lately. Perhaps when the sun comes out again, I'll feel better.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Life is full of beauty. Notice it." ~Ashley Smith

Today at the gym there was a young man in his gym shorts and t-shirt...and cowboy boots. There was also a very old lady (I'm guessing 80s) who smiled the entire time she was lifting weights. It was a little bit creepy and sort of nice, too. A nice young man asked if I'd like him to spot me. That was a little weird. When I said, "No, but thank you," the very cute young lady next to me said (after Young Man's departure), "You know that's gym code for 'I'd like to get to know you a little better,' right?" I replied, "No, I didn't know that, but if that's the case, then 'No, but thank you,' is code for 'I'm married and far too busy to get to know anyone right now.'" She laughed.

These things are not common gym occurrences. In fact, I'm usually at the gym during the Exclusive Geriatric Hour, which is kind of fun, actually. Today there were quite a few younger participants in their 20s and 30s. I think I like the EGH better. No one really looks at anyone else during that time and even if they're looking, odds are their vision is poor enough that they don't really know what they're seeing.

PTSD is back. It no longer frustrates me or causes anger. I suppose I've decided to work through it, finally. However, sometimes I'm not as good at it as others. Today was awful. There are days when the panic becomes so intense that I throw up, even if I've not eaten. This was one of those days. I haven't figured out how to derail that process yet. Still, I suppose stress vomiting and shaking (I'm sure I look like I'm having a seizure) most of the day is better than flashbacks, which continue to be absent.

I think the most difficult part of days like these is the intense feeling that everything stable, every person I count on, everything I believe, is disappearing. I don't know how to combat that.

A friend asked me to lunch today. She's on the verge of a nervous breakdown, crying constantly, and feeling depressed. She said it calms her to be with me. That's sort of crazy--call the PTSD-laden friend to help you calm down? I didn't tell her what was happening inside of me, so maybe that's not even applicable. She did notice I didn't really eat, though, so I chose something innocuous looking and pretended to enjoy it, knowing full well it was not going to stay with me. Still, it's nice to know that even when I'm feeling impossibly impaired, I can help a friend through a crisis. I'm guessing it was just having a break and someone to talk to that helped calm her, but today I really need to feel like I had something to do with it, so I'm claiming credit.

I talked with Lydia today about the classes she wants me to teach at the University. We talked about what it would take for me to get my PhD. She's not sure it's necessary. I can be a lecturer without it. While I understand this (and also how fortunate I am that she hires me to teach), I know that my job there is not as secure as it would be if I had the credentials to back it up. I have three degrees, but only one is postgraduate. She said, "Sam, you're one of the most intelligent, engaging people I know. That's why I selected you to teach these classes. They're the ones I usually reserve for myself to teach--because I care about them. But you care just as much as I do, you teach more thoroughly and with a wider perspective. I trust you to teach them because you stay current, you research, and you connect with the students in ways that I can't--ways I don't want to because it takes time and right now I'm feeling too busy. I know you only have a Masters degree. It doesn't matter. Oh, and by the way, I've always felt that way about you, even when you were my student. It's one of the reasons we're friends now."

But to me, it does matter. Lydia also said she thinks if I get my PhD, I'll go elsewhere. I haven't really thought about that. I'm pretty happy right here and I'm not young enough to try to build any sort of reputation that would land me another position. It was nice, though, to hear her say those things, and very unexpected.

Also, my broken arm has completely healed. And I haven't mentioned it before because:
1. I'm embarrasses that it even happened, and I was completely responsible for the break because I forgot to remember to feel pain, the front door was stuck, I was panicking so I sort of injured myself trying to get out and that's all I want to say about the process of breaking my arm.

2. I had a brace (yay! no cast) but I couldn't wear it because I had too many performances lined up and it's impossible to play in an arm brace and I didn't want any more people telling me I was stupid and my arm would never heal--which it did. The doctor says it probably took twice as long as necessary, and was more painful that it would have been if I'd worn the brace. Then he said that probably means nothing to me since I don't really feel pain. Then he said I need to get some help because I could really injure myself and I wouldn't understand the magnitude of the injury and I got a big long lecture on the purpose of pain which I already knew.

3. I'm still not sure how the heck I was able to break my arm--and neither is my doctor--because my bone density is ridiculous. He just rolled his eyes at me and said, "You must have hit that door pretty hard." What I didn't tell him is that I broke the door, too.

So--nicely mended arm now (it was only a hairline fracture, not serious at all), and I'm trying once again to feel pain. It's not very successful yet, but I have high hopes that it will be soon. And I didn't tell the doctor at all about the knee injury I sustained last year when I had my spectacular, head-over-heels fall, followed by four more ugly spills in the subsequent weeks. I was going to if the knee wasn't better by March. But it seemed to be getting better at that point and as of the first of May, it feels completely normal. I'm all better, finally. Yay!

So--goals to talk to Therapist about when I see him in about a month:
1. Strategies to learn to feel pain--better ones that those I've been using.
2. Ideas of how to deal with being a workaholic because it's getting worse. Last week, Darrin arranged for me to have all of Saturday to myself. I ended up at my office and worked there for six hours. Then I came home and worked two more. And it's not because I didn't want to take time off, it's because when I realized I wouldn't be working that day, I had a huge panic attack and the only way I could think of to alleviate it was to go to work. So--I need help.
3. Discuss ways to better manage my eating disorder. I know all that stuff all ready, but I'm hoping Therapist can figure out why I'm failing in this particular area of my life right now--because I can't understand why I keep reverting to that lovely coping device.
4. Help me learn how to take the adult self-esteem I've developed and apply it to the integrated parts of me that are still feeling worthless. Also, help me learn to stop being afraid of people because I hate that part of me.

And that's enough. I'm not adding anything else to the list. I only have about four or five weeks to prepare for my visit, so I need to keep my list short.

Also, yesterday there were bright yellow canaries migrating through our town. They settled for a brief time in my tree, which is just barely showing leaf buds. It was filled with flashes of yellow and noisy with birdsong. I watched it for a long time.

And now I must go to sleep. It's been a very long day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wind, wind, go away...I want to run outside...without fighting you...or freezing...

If I step out my front door the air is filled with birdsong--not just a wash of sound, but distinctive, lovely notes from all the varieties of birds migrating through our small town. They pause in my yard to eat dried crab apples and rose hips still clinging to bare branches. They fascinate me.

This happens every year; the birds and the butterflies migrate in the spring and fall (and so do the wasps--which I do not love). I've seen it repeatedly but it never grows old, just as watching my flower/herb garden springing to life never seems mundane. It's a renewal of sorts, I suppose, a reminder that change is constant but some things repeat habitual patterns, and even while there is "change" within the sameness, I can count on birds visiting and plants growing each year.

There is change looming inside of me. I don't know what it means. Always, when this happens, I feel it--I'm afraid of it. I find this phenomenon affecting nearly every aspect of my life in some way. I work harder while I yearn for rest. I cycle through odd dreams (last night I dreamed of making thick steaks in a new type of microwave--I dislike steaks so very much). I find myself running more often and for longer durations--or wishing I could when I'm busy with something else. My diet deteriorates--I find myself wanting to eat only cookies--or nothing at all. I become impatient with people; they feel alternately intrusive and needy--and they are neither. I am suddenly hypercritical about odd things--like whether or not my socks match perfectly, or making sure the quilt on my bed is straight, or freaking out if a closet, cupboard, or drawer is left ajar. I don't like this state of being.

No one enjoys my company when I am like this, and I include myself in the group that dislikes being with me. I drive myself crazy.

I'm trying to stay grounded--but I'm not sure how. Everything is in flux right now. Adam and Tabitha are finishing the school year and looking for summer jobs. Adam is starting new classes at the university--applying to become a licensed EMT, trying desperately to grow up as fast as possible. I keep reminding him that it's okay to be a kid--he doesn't have to graduate early--sometimes it's okay to take life in its proscribed course. He's not listening.

Tabitha is finally in a better place, emotionally. She's learning to manage the mood dips and occasional depression. She's learning that what happens to her does not define her and she feels better about herself each day. She's been a performer since her first recital at the age of three years. That all came to an end a couple of years ago when her anxiety disorder got the best of her. This year marked a return for her--she performed a violin solo at festival, finished and performed a killer piano solo, and participated in the orchestra concerts. Her room is clean for the first time in many, many years (and she has kept it clean for more than three months--a huge record), and she's become more interested in helping me cook, doing her own laundry, and cleaning the house with me (or even doing cleaning on her own). She's healthier, happier, and very settled.

Darrin has been employed for nearly six months now. He enjoys his job. It has hours he doesn't love--he starts teaching at 7:00 a.m., which means he has to arrive at the school between 5:45 and 6:00, which means he gets up around 4:30 a.m.. Darrin is not a morning person. However, I have yet to hear him complain about the early hours. He does whine about wanting to get to bed earlier--then he putters around, preparing his clothes for the next day, playing on Facebook, watching stupid television--until 10:30 p.m., at which point he gets crabby because he didn't go to bed. But in general, he's happy. There is a great financial "catch-up" going on in our home right now (a year without a job takes a serious toll), but I'm hoping in 2012 that will ease a bit.

My performance schedule is easing. Between mid-June and mid-August I don't anticipate any rehearsals or performances. I'm looking forward to it. I have two more major concerts (one is tonight and the other is next Monday) and then most of my rehearsals and performances will be quite small and fairly effortless. I'm teaching the summer music institute at the university in a couple of weeks, which will entail a week of auditions, judging, rehearsing, teaching classes (four hours daily) and private lessons, and a major performance at the end of the session. Usually I team teach this. I was supposed to do it with Lydia this year, but her health has not been good (pneumonia recurrences for the past three months), so I may end up teaching most of it alone--which I can certainly do, it's just a great deal of work.

So--all in all, there is much that is positive in my life right now. I have no reason to feel cranky and displaced. But I feel it. I don't know why.

Darrin believes part of the "problem" is that I've not seen friends, people who have been key in my support as I've worked through past issues, for five months and I've spent a great deal less time online or talking on the phone with them. Darrin, himself, has been largely unavailable to me as he went back to work and has been adjusting to different schedules and a new job. He believes I haven't talked with anyone, really, about the emotional growth, setbacks, and frustrations I've been experiencing during that time--which is sort of true. If I encountered emotional "stuff" which involved another person I usually talked about it with them. Darrin says this doesn't count. I've been talking with Therapist nearly every month (sometimes every week) about how to manage PTSD, failures and successes within that realm, family (extended) stresses, and other small difficulties for more than five years now. Suddenly, that has stopped. Darrin says I don't discuss it with him, either. Conclusion (according to Darrin): I'm not talking anymore.

I don't know if I agree. Darrin insists he's right. He was present for a phone call I had with a friend a couple of weeks ago. He said I didn't say anything. I talked about the weather, what was happening with my jobs, and I listened and asked questions a lot. And that's true--I haven't really talked about myself a lot lately. But I'm not convinced that I need to--nor am I convinced that there exists a receptive audience listening out of interest or concern, rather than just because we're friends and that's what friends do. Darrin asked if I listen just because I feel friendship-obligated. I said he knew me better than that. I'm incapable of listening for that reason. I think it's stupid. He said probably I'm shortchanging people again.

Sigh...I don't really want to think about this. I like to believe I don't ever need to talk to people at all. I do it because I want to--and I try to talk about things I think will interest us both. Darrin says I'm avoiding things that are important.

Tabitha sat down with me a couple of weeks ago and asked me to please schedule a physical and a mammogram and a dental checkup. She said she would go with me to all of those so I wouldn't have to go by myself. I laughed. She didn't. So I committed to make those appointments in July or early August (when my schedule is much less crazy). I'm not thrilled. I know I need to do this. It's stupid to mess with my health and I don't want to go through breast cancer like my mother did a couple of years ago. But I still don't want to. And Tabitha is NOT going with me. Sometimes it's okay not to see your mom terrified out of her mind.

Also, speaking of Tabitha, my daughter emailed our landlord (who lives in Australia) and asked for an exception to the "no pets" clause in our lease agreement. She stated that she's done copious research, created an environment, and located the sugar glider of her choice, and would he please allow her to purchase and keep the animal in her room. He said yes--but she has to catch the bugs herself. Tabitha will have no problem with that--she's my daughter, after all.

So we now have a pet. It has only escaped from the cage twice, and Tabitha and DJ are the only bite recipients thus far. Darrin and Tabitha have an ongoing cage-building/remodeling project, which they are enjoying immensely and one into which I got roped last night because they were taking way too long (it was 11:00--someone gets up at 4:30 a.m.), so I helped finish one side and cleaned up their mess so they could go to bed. I suggested the next major habitat overhaul wait for the weekend.

One more thing--Blogger did some maintenance recently and some of my comments were lost (Blueyedane--yours was one of them) so if you thought you commented and you don't see it now, please blame Blogger. It wasn't me.  :-)

And now I am going to go run. It's time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Okay--here's the thing--

Lately...people...sort of...really...bug me...

A lot.

I recognize that by saying this here I'll chase off any chance readers and never become blogfamous--because really, that was my goal in the beginning: Say millions of incredibly personal words, reveal things I wouldn't even admit to myself, and make it so whenever I meet people they think: "Oh, yeah, she's that freak from blogland who talks about everything real people hide from." Yup. Goal achieved.

However, since I really don't have a blogging goal--I just do it--I shall continue my tirade because THIS IS MY BLOG!!!

It's not like anyone's doing anything to aggravate me. And it's not like I'm being ignored, because if anyone inquired as to how I'm doing right now, I'd probably dodge the question anyway. I feel cranky and whiny.

And it's not like I've been mistreated or insulted. I'm just not comfortable around people right now.

Unfortunately, I'm one of them. I aggravate myself.

I think part of the problem is that I'm also feeling like crying more than usual--for no reason, of course. And I'm not going to do it. Crying for no reason is stupid unless you're pregnant or under ten years old.

I also think I'm having tremendous difficulty communicating my needs and/or feelings lately. And I've had more than one conversation where I've felt like I only exist so people can unload on me (which I usually don't mind a bit) and no one is hearing what I'm saying and it would be really nice to have a shoulder to cry on for no reason (even though I'm not going to do that). So I resort to humor. I'm hilarious. I say all sorts of witty and delightful things, but inside I feel like sludge.

So I will blame the weather and the time of year and hormones and tulips and daffodils and cute bunnies and graduating seniors and pop music and computer viruses and stupid television shows and brown carpet--because otherwise I have to take responsibility for this myself and quite frankly, I don't want to.

Still, it would be nice to stop feeling like a crankypants and actually enjoy people for awhile.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why I shall never become vain:

Twelve-year-old student: So, Mrs. Stevens, do you have kids?
me: Yes; I have three.
Twelve-year-old student: How old are they?
me: Old. My oldest son has graduated from high school.
Twelve-year-old student:  Really? You don't look old enough to have a son that old.
me: How old do you think I am?
Twelve-year-old student: I thought you were about the same age as my mom.
me: How old is your mom?
Twelve-year-old student: She's 49. 
me: Nope. I'm not the same age as your mom. a sixth grader I look like I'm turning 50 this year, and I've not even been able to enjoy my forties yet. Time to go shopping for orthopedic shoes and price check false teeth...

Monday, May 9, 2011


DJ started it when he brought me these for Mother's Day:

We decided to cook them on Saturday because Sunday is my only day off and I didn't plan to cook anything then, and DJ wanted us to make dinner together. For the shellfish haters (that would be Darrin--and Adam's not crazy about shellfish either) we made this:

We rounded out the dinner with caprese salad, rice, honeydew and strawberries.

Later that day, Adam brought me these:

And Darrin and Tabitha brought me these:

And on Mother's Day, not to be outdone, amid the blues and yellows already blooming, my pansies produced this:  :-)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dear Mom,

For a long time I have hated Mother's Day. It's unfair of me to hate it. It's a good tradition. Mothers are sort of essential in the human race perpetuation and some women are incredibly good mothers. You were not.

For a long time I have blamed you for many problems in my life. Some of those problems were perpetuated by you. Some of the issues I deal with daily are the result of the way you interacted with me when I lived in your home.

For a long time I have been sad because I know who I was, but you did not. You rarely saw the little girl who was bright and loving and beautiful and funny and precocious in many ways. I wish you had known her.

For a long time I have been angry because I did not deserve the treatment I received from you much of the time. I deserved to be hugged and kissed and cuddled frequently. I deserved to be respected and disciplined--not demeaned and beaten up. I deserved to be recognized as a child and treated in age appropriate ways. I deserved to be loved.

You've told me of ways I made you uncomfortable from the day I was born. As an infant I did not sleep like other babies. You would feed me, expecting that I would return to sleep--instead I lay in your arms, three days old, watching you with eyes so dark you could not discern the pupils. It made you uncomfortable. I didn't look like your child. I didn't act like a normal infant. I think, maybe, you were afraid of me.

I gave you no rest as a toddler. At three years old, I learned to read before my older sister and I wanted to learn constantly. You bought me activity books with dot-to-dots and mazes. They lasted one day and I wanted more. You took me to the library and filled my life with books. You tried to give me things to fill my mind and stop my wheedling, but you had a new baby and another child--and you were very, very sad.

I was always busy, moving, twirling in circles, climbing trees (or anything else in sight), running. I brought rocks, and bugs, and dandelions into the house. I was not always respectful, or obedient, or truthful. I didn't like the cat--it scratched me--I put it down the laundry chute. I was not an easy child to raise.

Today I am no longer angry. When I grew up, I decided to learn all I could about you, to try to understand why you acted as you did toward me. The first thing I learned was that you suffered from terrible, untreated chronic depression throughout your entire life. I think that would be devastating. I learned you were abused by your own father but that experience is such that you cannot address or even acknowledge it. I wish it could have been different. You did not deserve that.

I see in you still, the little girl who wished to dance and play music and write poetry and giggle and play with friends--but who stilled those delightful desires to please a parent who could not be pleased. Sometimes, you and I laugh together. Sometimes we talk and you share with me the things you have written. Sometimes you sing with me. I am no longer angry.

I am sometimes still sad, because I wish that you had received treatment for your depression so that you and I could have had a better relationship when I was a child. I wish that you had not felt detached and overwhelmed and angry all the time. You have expressed horror at some of the things you did during those times and begged my forgiveness. You have it. You're my mom. Life is not perfect. We're working to heal together. But sometimes I'm still a little sad.

I'm learning to place blame where it belongs. You are responsible for much of what I deal with today--but not all. And responsibility is simply a place to understand why--not a place to punish or retaliate. I did not deserve the mistreatment I received, but responding to that with vengeance simply perpetuates the mistreatment. Responding with love, with information, with kindness, stops the incorrect actions and allows us both to make the most of the time we now share. And I become more than I would otherwise be--and so do you. 

Today I honor you on Mother's Day. You have given me many unspeakable gifts. You fostered my love of reading and encouraged me always to write. You recognized my talents and made certain, in spite of the fact that we rarely had enough money, that I had the best music teachers you could find. You noticed my love of beauty and helped me recreate it in many ways. You gave me opportunities to speak and perform and teach. You made certain I had all I needed to excel intellectually. You told me I would attend and graduate from a university--it was an expectation, not a choice. You provided me with spiritual guidance, moral guidelines, and ideals which could shape me into a person of integrity and beauty. And even though you didn't say it, and I never felt it, I believe you cared for me deeply. I know you do now. 

Through you I have learned that people make mistakes--some of those mistakes are devastating to innocent people. I have learned that forgiveness can be given, changes made, and future relationships salvaged. I have learned that it's okay for me to feel angry and sad and frustrated, but still understand how very much I love you and how important you are in my life. I have learned to accept your boundaries even when I wished for more, because I respect your right to choose what is best for you. I have learned to see you as a whole person with flaws and abilities and beauty. 

I cannot have what I would have chosen in my childhood, but I will accept what you and I have built together now. 

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dear Spring,

I love you. Thank you for making outside warm enough for me to go running there, and for holding off the wind until I got home today. You make the most beautiful blue skies and I'm loving the tiny wildflowers all over the prairie right now. I waited for you a very long time--and you were definitely worth the wait.

See you tomorrow!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Today's phone call

Gas Man: Hi. We need to come change out your meter.

me: Yes. You arranged to do that last month.

Gas Man: Oh! So it's been done? The paper work says it still needs to be changed.

me: No. You didn't show up.

Gas Man: Well, sorry about that. So it still needs to be changed out?

me: Yes, you made another appointment to do it on Tuesday this week.

Gas Man: So it WAS changed.

me: No. You didn't show up.

Gas Man: Ooohh...that's twice, sorry. How about we come take care of that today?

me: I don't think so. I'm having a recital in my home tonight.

Gas Man: What time?

me: Why? Did you want to come listen?

Gas Man: Uhh...not really...we just want to get in to turn off your gas so we can change the meter.

me: How long will it take?

Gas Man: Well, that depends. Sometimes it takes longer than others.

me: Well, I'm leaving in thirty minutes to go to a rehearsal. I'll be home around 2:00, and then I'll be moving furniture to make room for my guests. You're sure you don't want to come?

Gas Man: Yeah--maybe we should come a different day?

me: I think that would be best, yes.

Gas Man: How about tomorrow?

me: Fine. I should be home around 1:00 and I'll be there the rest of the afternoon.

Gas Man: Great! I'll put you down for tomorrow.

me: Don't stand me up again.

Gas Man: Huh?

me: I said, "Don't stand me up again."

Gas Man: Oh, hehehe, yeah, sorry about that. Third time's the charm, you know.

me: Well, you should know that if the first time was "the charm", rather than the third, your customer service and consumer satisfaction ratings would go way up. Perhaps you should try it.

Gas Man: Yeah, really, really sorry about that.

me: Me, too. How about, if by some amazingly remote chance you have to cancel tomorrow, you call and let me know so I don't wait for you all afternoon.

Gas Man: I'll do that.

me: Thanks! See you tomorrow.

Gas Man: Unless I decide to come to  your recital tonight.

me: Don't push it. Besides, I might take a page from your book and not show up.

(long pause)

Gas Man: How many times am I gonna need to apologize for that?

me: Well, the third time's the charm--and you've definitely apologized three times, so I suppose I'll have to let it go and accept your offer to take 10% off my gas bill.

Gas Man:'am...we can't really do that...

me (laughing): I think it's justifiable. However, as long as you don't stand me up tomorrow, I won't ask for another discount.

Gas Man: Okay.

me: Bye!

Gas Man: Bye.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Apparently I have the type of face that appeals to Junior High boys. A couple of years ago this almost brought Adam to blows with his friends and left our relationship strained and uncomfortable. He doesn't care anymore and I'm the only one left uncomfortable when, during a lag at a regional festival (I was accompanying choirs), one young man said to his friend, "Dude! I think I took piano lessons from her!" (someone needs to let Jr. High boys know that their whispers are not inaudible).

The young man and his friend walked up to me and the friend said, " you teach piano lessons?" I said yes, at which point the young man began grinning and the two rushed off laughing--thinking, I guess, that piano teachers are deaf, because the friend said, "Yep! You took lessons from her! Dude! Your piano teacher is hot!" to which the young man answered, "I know!"

Sigh...Jr. High boys are attracted to Jr. High girls...have you seen the kids in Jr. High? In our family we referred to it as the chrysalis stage. To be blunt, they're bodies are squatty or gangly, their faces suffer from acne and often look like they can't decide if they're children or adults, they're odd looking to say the least...

The only conclusion I can draw from these experiences is that my looks resemble the odd mishmash of a Jr. High student.

Still...if you're a guy between the ages of 12 and 14...I'm pretty hot...

Monday, May 2, 2011

"If a clod be washed away by the sea..."

I want to be very careful in what I say here. I do not wish my words to be misconstrued nor taken out of context. I also feel a great need to express some of what I feel about the events revealed to our country last night.

Osama Bin Laden is dead. He was a leader of people who wished death upon those who share citizenship with me in our country. Ours is not the only nation on which the death sentence was pronounced.

We suffered an unexpectedly savage attack during which unsuspecting men, women, and children were killed and for a moment, our nation was brought to its knees. Other attacks in different countries followed. There is no question that the terrorism inspired by Osama was cowardly and evil.

But Osama was simply the leader. He did not carry out the plans nor the attacks. He was the head of an organization--and no doubt, not the only one capable of taking charge and inspiring such devotion that those who followed him were willing to suffer certain death, that they might cause the deaths of many "enemies." I will not be surprised to see another take Osama's place--perhaps one more extreme, more unscrupulous, more dangerous.

That being said, in my mind Osama's death serves an important purpose. For many U.S. citizens, the country no longer seems impotent. There is a feeling that we can protect and defend ourselves from an unseen enemy. The victim mentality can be released.

I do not celebrate Osama's death. Part of me feels relief that a 10-year quest is over. Part feels gratitude that his invisibility no longer protects him and allows him to plan and assign followers to carry out senseless acts of terror. But another part feels shame that any citizen of our country feels exultant over the death of one man--for that is what he was. One can make whatever judgments one chooses about the kind of man he was--but he was still just a man. I watch the celebration and wonder what, exactly, are we celebrating?

I cannot speak to whether or not the death of Osama was necessary. It was the choice our country made--to hunt him and kill or capture him--and I am a citizen of this country and share the responsibility of that choice. I neither defend nor justify it. I simply claim it.

Still, we in the U.S. are no better than those of any other country, and there is a feeling of superiority in the mass rejoicing. As a country we are blessed with greater wealth and material possessions than those in many other nations--this does not make us better, just more indulgent. We have access to more education, higher paying jobs, comfortable homes and abundant food--this does not make us better, just incredibly blessed and probably equally ungrateful for those blessed circumstances. We are superior to no one--and yet there is a feeling that we were competing in some horribly twisted game, and with Osama's death we've somehow become the "winners."

We haven't. Terrorism is alive and well. No doubt we'll see more of it--and very soon.

Some are questioning whether or not Osama "deserves" the quiet burial allowed him. I say, yes. And to do anything but allow the dignity of laying him to rest in the manner of his beliefs would simply justify those who believe we are nothing but a nation of self-indulgent people who regard with importance only their own lives. The man is dead. He will feel no further punishment, but anything done to defile or disgrace his remains will serve only to inflame those who have followed Osama's leadership.

And so on this day of triumph, part of me weeps that such a day is necessary--that it is viewed as right and proper and normal, leaving me recognizing that "Each man's death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind." All mankind. Even the ones who wish me dead simply because I was born in the U.S.A.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Just because I'm amazing like that.

Yesterday as I was leaving a rehearsal, I looked up and noticed a number of hawks soaring above the lot where I had parked my car. I continued to watch them as I approached my parking spot--looping and diving and twirling in the air. They're beautiful.

And then, in broad daylight, I saw an explosion of stars.

I'm thinking I need to sue the person who placed a parking meter right where I would run into it while watching hawks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


No. I'm not. Darrin is.

There are different types of sick people:
Sick Person One: This person feels awful, goes to bed, asks not to be disturbed and no one really knows they're around. They take care of themselves and get better. If a doctor needs to be called, they do it. If they need help, they request it politely and return to bed. They try to be cheerful and will sometimes smile even when they feel miserable. Often, the degree of illness is misunderstood by those nearby because the sick person doesn't project that they don't feel well.

Sick Person Two: This person is a whiner. They like company--but only because they want to be coddled and comforted. They need to be waited on and will ask for things in a submissive, aggravating, wheedle that makes everyone around them want to run away. This is the the sick person who is often asked, "Don't you think you'd be more comfortable in your nice, warm bed, in your quiet, peaceful bedroom--WITH THE DOOR CLOSED????"

Sick Person Three: This is the person who is palpably able to broadcast how they feel. When they're angry, the room seems to change color. When they're happy, it's contagious. When they're sad, the whole world seems to weep. This person is undemanding, but their very presence, when they're sick, seems to aggravate everyone in the room. They don't ask for things--but the not asking seems to be a demand in and of itself. They don't DO anything except lie quietly and hack loudly. But simply being with this person when they're ill, will suck the life out of every person in the room.

Darrin is sick person number three. And he has been sick for four days now.

Four days.

Add to this the fact that nights are no better than days. I don't sleep because he's broadcasting how miserable he is even when he's unconscious.

I work at home. Normally this is a peaceful place. I enjoy it.

Currently I take the kids to seminary in the morning, then I return home and sit in my driveway contemplating whether or not I have the stamina to face the cesspool of misery in my house all because a tiny virus has entered my husband's body and turned him into a joy-sucking black hole.

If' you've met me, you'll know that it's almost impossible to depress me. Most of the time I'm energetic and more giggly than I should be. I smile. A lot. "...smiling's my favorite!"

However, if I do not get out of my house today, I'm not sure I'll remember how to smile anymore. I adore my husband--but I cannot be around him when he's sick. He effectively makes me believe that the apocalypse is just around the corner, that life is filled with phlegm and mucous, and that tomorrow will be worse than today.

So I'm leaving. I'm going for a run, taking a shower, packing my computer and going to my dad's office to work the rest of today.

But just so you know:
1. I bought him soup and grape juice and pain killer and throat lozenges.
2. I'll make sure he's still breathing when I leave.
3. I'll kiss him good-bye and check in on him every couple of hours.

See--I really do love him. I just have to go somewhere and find myself again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sorta Creepy

Today was a music festival (one down--two to go). I had to travel about an hour to reach it and I left a little before seven o'clock this morning. Following the festival I searched for a ladies room, found it full of young ladies between the ages of 14 and 18 and opted to stop at a rest area rather than brave the sea of incessantly talking feminine teens.

So I did.

I stopped at the rest area, locked my car, and began to walk inside. I found myself accompanied by a man who looked as though he'd been living at the rest area for a few days. He was very happy I stopped. Apparently, I'm great company for homeless men.

I indicated my need to go to the restroom. He continued chatting and escorted me to the door--and proceeded to follow me inside. I saw him enter, turned around, brushed past him and headed back to my car.  I ran to it, got inside and locked the doors just in time to see him exit the ladies room, look at the door, point at the sign and begin to laugh.

I drove to the first McDonald's I could find and relieved myself there.

Then I threw up.

Clearly I am still haunted by being molested in the restroom. It happened a million years ago. It didn't happen today. Probably the very friendly man didn't even plan to harm me.

Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified.

And I've made a new rule: Scary, homeless-looking men, regardless of friendliness, should not follow me into the bathroom. Ever.

I know that's a lot to ask, but I think it's reasonable to want people--all people--to not be creepy scary.

The end.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Questions of the Heart

A little more than a week ago a one-man play was performed. Mr. Fob got to see it. I did not.

The play was of interest to me because the actor, Ben Abbott, who conceived it is straight, but the play is about homosexual men and women who have current or previous membership in the LDS church. The purpose was simply to represent the variety of individuals in this subgroup, not to talk about right or wrong or to make any sort of statement. From the reviews I've read, and from speaking with people who were present during the performances, I believe Ben achieved what he set out to do. I haven't spoken with Ben since the play, but I probably will in the next little while.

I contacted Ben when I heard about his project because I believed I knew a number of people who could help him. I have ties to SSA people who are currently active in the church, some who have left but feel no antagonism toward the church, and some who are adamantly opposed to it--and to religion, in general. I was intensely interested in the success of this venture because it's something I've wished for in any genre, something I wished I, myself, could do--but I recognized that because of who I am, I would be unable to achieve my goal. I am not detached enough, nor (as much as I would like to think I am) am I unbiased. This undertaking needed someone who could look at the topic, meet and interview new people, and write with clarity undisturbed by a shared past of any kind. Ben could do this.

However, in contacting Ben, I did not intend to add myself to the mix. I simply wished to help him find people whose stories would be of value to him. I did allow an interview, during which I told Ben that my story is more about recovering and learning to thrive after rape and abuse, and homosexuality is only a facet of who I am. I consider that part of my life unremarkable. Yes, I feel sexual attraction to women. Yes, my preferred mate would not be hairy, her voice would be higher, and there would definitely be breasts and no penis. However, I chose long ago to marry, instead, a person I felt I could not live without. He added to my life a depth of joy and delight I had never before found. He is definitely not feminine.

Consequently, I don't really have much to say about being homosexual. It's part of who I am. I recognize the moments when I feel drawn to someone romantically, but quite honestly, I think I would feel those feelings even if I were married to the woman of my dreams. One does not stop feeling attracted to people simply because she has fallen in love. Those feelings are continuous and are sometimes directed toward people other than our mates. It happens. We deal with it. Often, because we reject the new feelings and repeatedly return to the person we chose to spend our lives with, the bonds to our spouses become stronger and mutual trust increases.

Mr. Fob sent this email following his attendance at Ben's production:

My dear friends,

It was so great to see you all this weekend. What a coincidence that the four of us would not only be in Berkeley on the same weekend, but that we would all be there within the same body! 

Ben Abbott did a fabulous job of portraying you all. He didn't attempt to recreate your voices or mannerisms--since he doesn't know you, he just made up voices and mannerisms to distinguish each of the characters--but the essence of each of you was there in your words. It was a little surreal, actually, to see an overly effeminate man telling Tolkien Boy's stories about the Remedial Basketball League in his erudite diction; an overly masculine man in a baseball cap telling Jason's stories about losing the limp wrist and experimenting sexually (but in a PG-rated Mormon way) with his then-girlfriend, delivered via Jason's ADD-influenced going-three-ways-at-once storytelling style; and the same six-foot-plus man portraying a prim and proper woman with her head held high, boldly declaring Samantha's I-am-who-I-am-and-I-don't-care-what-you-think philosophy with a precise vocabulary that could only be Sam's. (Not to mention the eerily accurate portrayal of me, slouched back in the couch and fiddling with my wedding ring while struggling to find the right words to tell my story.) Even though Ben didn't necessarily get the superficial details right (because that wasn't his purpose), he definitely got to the core of who each of you is and I really felt like I was in the company of my friends. When the play ended (too soon), I was sad to see my friends leave. Above all, he did a great job of humanizing each of us, as well as the five other people he portrayed.

Take a look at the attached program and see if you can figure out which pseudonym belongs to you (it's not difficult), then admire the cool graphic design of the poster. And here's hoping that next time Ben puts on the show, you can be there in body as well as in spirit. 


--Mr. Fob

I didn't attach the program here, and I haven't responded to the email because I have mixed feelings about being included in the final product. I know that's weird--I interviewed, I gave permission, quite frankly, I'm not hiding any of my story because it's right here and in a now dead but still public blog. I told my story simply because I was tired of being silent, and thought of that story being of interest to anyone is a foreign one. I don't champion causes, or fight for rights, or become politically involved in anything. I have no agenda. My role is to be the faded wallpaper behind those who have something controversial or interesting to say. 

This is related, I suppose, to the feeling I have that when I am not present, I am never thought of. When I leave someone, I cease to exist for that person until they happen onto my green chat dot, or my blog post shows up in their reader, or I happen to email or call them. Then they say, "Oh! Yes! That's Sam. Sometimes she's around and we talk."

Now that the waterworks inside me have been released, I cry about pretty much everything, so naturally I've been crying about this particular nonsense since Mr. Fob sent his email. And it's stupid because I don't know why I'm crying. I don't know what to feel. I'm very confused about who I am and how I fit in the lives of other people. This inclusion in Ben's play compounded those feelings.

I see myself as an escapee, I suppose. I had horrific experiences--but I got away. And I learned to survive by running (literally and figuratively). And people became alluring but scary entities. I needed them, but I could not trust them--not even the ones I fell in love with, which is saying a lot because I fall in love with people all the time. And now there are people in my life who care about me, who tell me they think of me sometimes, who wish to spend time with me occasionally...and I don't know how to process this. 

For a long time I blamed this emotional disarray on PTSD. I know now that it's not even connected. This is all me. I don't know how to be anything but incidental. I understand being left behind. I understand being forgotten. I understand being hurt and abused. Those things make complete sense to me. These understandings are not conscious, but lurk quietly, gently reminding me of my "role" in human interaction, which is to be delightful and warm and then go away and not bother people.

But that's not how it's supposed to be, maybe. Possibly people think about me in the same way I think of them? And now I'm weeping again because my guts are all confused. I think I have emotional brain damage.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I have interesting phone calls.

Today the phone rang and I had this conversation:

me: Hello?
Phone Person: Hi. Um...I'm your mailman, (gives name which I can't remember).
me: Okay?
Phone Person: Yeah. I know you have a son who works for our credit union, and I know this is weird, but his boss is my neighbor and her dogs are out and her front door is wide open. I'm trying to catch the dogs (mastiffs), but does your son have any way to contact his boss and let her know what's happening?
me: I don't know, I'll ask him.

So I called DJ, and DJ called his boss and said, "Hi. My parents' mailman is your neighbor and he called them to see if I could contact you to let you know your front door is open and the dogs are out."

Then he drove out to her house to see if he could help, and they caught the dogs and everyone lived happily ever after.

I'm guessing this isn't something that happens a lot in larger communities.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

When the Moon Shines Over the Cow Shed...

Currently, clarity of expression is not my forte. This is a normal occurrence during the months of April-June. I'm feeling stressed to get taxes finished for my clients (and myself), I'm usually accompanying numerous soloists and music groups for festivals and competitions, as well as for juries, recitals, and concerts, and I usually have a recital of my own in May. Often I adjudicate for festivals and/or present workshops, as well. I get caught up in work and tucking in a bazillion practices and rehearsals and ultimately lose the power of speech. I'm not sure why this happens, but I think my brain says, "Hey! Enough! I can't juggle everything! Don't you dare add one more thing or I'm not speaking to you anymore!" Naturally, I don't listen--I never do--one more thing is added and my brain goes on communication hiatus. Fortunately it's a forgiving body part. We're usually back on speaking terms by July.

Earlier this week I witnessed an accident involving a car and a prairie dog. I don't think the car knows about it yet, and it made me giggle (please--do not judge--everyone knows the line between tragedy and comedy is so fine as to be nearly nonexistent). It happened this way:

Two young prairie dogs were out playing near the side of the road even though their mother had told them millions of times not to do so. Mother was busy with the other twenty-two siblings and can be forgiven for not noticing the errant two who were disregarding her repeated warnings. One delinquent prairie dog said to the the other, "We run pretty fast. I'll bet we can get to the other side of the road before those fast wheelie things come back." The other DPD said, "Well, of course we can, don't be ridiculous," and immediately propelled himself onto the pavement. The DPD sibling, not to be outdone, ran to catch up and nearly did so--just in time to see the first DPD pop 18 inches into the air after being flattened by one of those fast wheelie things. The still-alive DPD stopped short, paused for a nanosecond, then turned and ran back to the roadside thinking, "Hmmm...maybe we're not as fast as we thought we were."

Alternate ending 1: The still-alive DPD stopped short, paused for a nanosecond, then turned and ran back to the roadside thinking, "One down, twenty-two to go!"

Alternate ending 2: The still-alive DPD stopped short, paused for a nanosecond, then turned and ran back to the roadside thinking, "I'm going to need my superhero cape for this."

See...this is simply a case of live (or not) and learn.

My garden is a riot of bright yellow dandelions interspersed with gorgeous deep purple pansies. Darrin keeps threatening to kill it. I've put up signs that say, "Please do not kill the pretty yellow noxious weeds." He doesn't think it's funny. Neither do his allergies, which means I shall have to concede so Darrin can breathe again. But I think if I ever have to get married again (because Darrin will die of allergy), I'm marrying someone who can enjoy dandelions without getting stuffed up and looking like a martyr all day. Also, I want new-and-improved-spouse to be able to go running with me and not snore loudly at night and not have high cholesterol and blood pressure, poor liver and kidney function, and thyroid problems. I don't think this is too much to ask. I don't have those things, I don't snore, and I don't have allergies.

Sigh...I suppose a better solution would be to get rid of the dandelions and keep the Darrin. He's a lot more fun and actually smells better (dandelions do not smell nice).

Adam keeps trying to sleep in the entry way of our house, which sort of grosses me out because this is not an area that gets mopped often enough. The first time I found him there I thought it was odd, but Adam is growing and sleeps all the time now, so I figured maybe he was going outside but decided he was too tired and took a nap instead. But last night he went to sleep there again and this time he brought his alarm clock. Obviously this was a planned adventure. I'm going to have to talk to him to find out why he's acting like a weirdo when he has a perfectly good bed in his room (and floor, if that's what he prefers). I am seriously considering selling the boy.

And now I must go play with the ledger of one of my clients--such fun!!

Oh! And ten points to anyone who can tell me where the title of this post comes from.