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Saturday, December 29, 2012

"Our choices in life are made according to our sense of our own worth." Kaylan Pickford

Tabitha gave me a new bathrobe for Christmas. She's been telling me for years that my former one was "so big you can swim in it, Mom, and not soft enough for someone like you." I'm not sure what the last part means, but she's right--my former robe was one I stole from Darrin years ago when he left for the summer to work in New York. It smelled like him and made me miss him less. I've been balking at replacement because:
1. I rarely wear my bathrobe.
2. I like the association with Darrin.
3. I didn't feel a need for a new one.

However, my new robe is soft and very warm, and since it was made for someone my size I don't have to keep tightening the belt to keep it from falling off. The old bathrobe was made of heavy terry cloth. The sleeves were cavernous and I could wrap the robe around me twice. Most annoying was the tag at the back of the neck which chafed. I would fold down the neckline so the tag faced outward to avoid the rough tag, which made the robe even more ungainly.

When Tabitha would say, "Mom, you need a new bathrobe," I would remind her that I have a bathrobe, and I was unhappy with spending fifty dollars for something I wear about 15 minutes daily. Her reply was that I could shop around, find one on sale, spend less, and find something more comfortable that wasn't enormous on me and was less ugly. I'd mumble something about replacing the robe when it wore out. She'd counter with the fact that something as hideous and huge as my bathrobe would never wear out. She's probably right.  And when I finally wore the new robe for the first time I felt completely silly for waiting so long to find something that fit and felt better.

I have a number of uncomfortable habits and coping devices I've been holding onto for many years. I keep them around because change requires investment of time and sometimes money--and I don't know if the result will be any better than what I currently have. For a time, those habits brought me comfort when I had no other options. In my head, I hear Tabitha saying, "Mom, you need new ways to deal with things--some that will fit better and feel better in the long run."

And she's right. It's time for me to make some changes. My fear is that when I do, I'll end up more stressed and less able to cope with life, and ultimately more lonely and sad. But the truth is that the end result will probably be more like this lovely new bathrobe--softer, more comfortable, warmer, and tailored to fit who I really am.

I realized as I discarded the old robe that it's incredibly heavy. I would wear it only briefly because of the discomfort it gave me, and it ceased reminding me of Darrin long ago--which is good because Darrin is here with me now and I don't really need a reminder of him. There is nothing I miss about that old raggedy thing I've clung to for so many years.

Once again, I feel silly.

So I will begin with just one change for the better. I made a list of habits and disorders that need work when I last visited with Therapist, and we came up with some healthy strategies to loosen their hold on me a little at a time. When I got home I felt overwhelmed with trying to stick to the list we made, so I'm releasing the list and choosing one thing only. When I'm able to successfully do that one thing, I'll add the next item and I'll keep doing this until I've made it successfully to the end of our list because I'm tired of wearing the old, heavy, worn-out habits. It's time for something new--something better. And Tabitha would remind me, as so many other loved ones have, that I'm worth the cost because I'm someone wonderful.

And now I will shed this lovely new bathrobe so I can go to the gym and work up a sweat. Lounging time is over.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"...comfort was allowed to come to them...rare, welcome, unsought; a gift like joy." ~Ursula LeGuin

I am spending limited time online for the next little while. I'll be working online, of course, and checking email periodically. And I can't allow Scrabble games to lapse. :)

I am overwhelmed. I spent a very lovely Christmas yesterday with my family. It should have been idyllic. Instead, for me, it was a bit nightmarish. I spent the day fighting panic attacks, unexpected bouts of tears, and trying to manage pain. As a result, I put myself to bed for "naps" throughout the day. I wasn't actually sleeping, but trying to gather myself so that I could go back and be with my family. It was frustrating. My daughter is here for the first time in four months and I'm falling apart because I'm not managing any part of my life successfully.

Except for this one, I've closed all my blogs for a short time. It's not helpful right now to write about the things that are troubling me. It's not helpful to do anything, actually. I just want to get through the holiday, allow Tabitha to enjoy her time at home, and move on.

My father is fatalistic. He takes no position on whether or not my brother abused my daughter. Instead he says he loves them both. He's supportive of Tabitha and concerned that she receive help and healing. He is, as I am, waiting to see what my brother's reaction will be when DFS contacts him in a week. Above all, my father wants to wait as long as possible (forever, would be his choice) before my mother is told. He believes that with her now non-existent social boundaries, coupled with the emotional stress the information will bring, she will talk about the situation on Facebook, with strangers, nonstop in her home, in email and chat messages--in short, there will be no privacy for either Tabitha or my brother.

I have talked about the situation with a few trusted people, some of whom have access to Tabitha when we visit her. I have spoken to no family members other than my father. This does not include my sons. Adam is having a terrible time dealing with the information. He has always looked up to my brother and people have sometimes told Adam he is like his uncle. For the record--he is not. Regardless, I'm watching my sweet son struggle with a great deal of stress. He adores his sister, but he wants to disbelieve her which makes him feel disloyal. I wish I knew how to help him.

In the meantime, I'm not sleeping again even with medication. I received a cryptic message from my cousin, Jeff, in response to my "Merry Christmas" text. It made no sense and contained the words, "I'm so very sorry. Good-bye."

I texted back a question, "What does that mean? I'm not sure what you're telling me." Then I ignored it. He sent no reply.

I can't play games with him. If he needs help, I'm here. But communication such as his last one causes me a great deal of stress and I don't have energy to decode or guess what he needs. It's all I can do to figure out what I need.

Today I will finish work. Adam and Tabitha (and maybe even Darrin) will join me for an hour at the gym. Then I am going to clean up the Christmas joy spread all over my living room and kitchen, make something fun to eat with Tabitha, read some of the new book I received for Christmas, and work my tail off to get out of this funk I'm in.

It's really difficult, and I'll be honest: All I really want to do is lay in my bed and cry because I don't know how to manage all the scary, awful, things in my head. I won't--but I want to.

In the meantime, if you're someone who reads this blog, regularly or occasionally, send me good thoughts. I'll get through this, of course, because that's what I do, but I can use all the help sent my way. And feel free to let me know if I can do the same for you. I don't have a great deal to give, but I'd love to send a smile and a prayer your way.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in..." --Abraham Lincoln

Tabitha is home for about a week. I'm so glad. I cannot imagine spending Christmas without her. Today she'll help me go through her clothing to give away the things she has outgrown or no longer wishes to wear. We'll decorate the tree and make dinner. And we'll play games with Darrin and Adam and DJ. All this will happen to the tune of carols we've listened to year after year.

In just over two weeks I will become a guinea pig as my doctor tries to decide if my tendon and leg can be salvaged and mended. I'm anxious to get on with it. I want an answer. I'll participate in an experimental study and I'm very hopeful that by May I'll be running again.

Darrin and I are planning mega travel in June. If all goes well, we'll be seeing family and friends and we've even reserved a romantic night in San Francisco for just the two of us. This was our Christmas gift from Adam and DJ. I love my sons.

I passed my IRS exam yesterday. It was two hours of boring questions about tax preparation, deductions, investments, IRA and other retirement plan distributions, and ethics. I've been studying for about four weeks--which is the amount of time that's passed since I decided maybe I wouldn't retire my tax preparer shingle. I'll admit, I was worried I wouldn't pass. I've had difficulty concentrating, and watching my performance at my last job decline to the point that my contract was not renewed was not good for my self-confidence. But I'm doing better, and clearly I know what I'm doing in the tax prep industry. This is a good thing.

Tabitha gave us an unexpected early Christmas gift a couple of days ago. She admitted that she was a victim of sexual molestation. She believes it happened between the ages of 6-8 years. This information explains so many things pertaining to her behavior over the past decade. It also contributes to her anxiety disorder and helps explain why the bullying at school affected her so drastically. We're grateful that she'll be able to work on a core issue and perhaps heal from many of the other things that have been bothering her.

The down side: the perpetrator named is my brother.

Some day, I would like to spend a day resting--really resting. And I would love to have a whole day when my guts can relax and I can smile with my whole being.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

This post will be ambiguous, maybe. If it seems that way, it's probably because the things I'm discussing are still a bit unclear to me, or I haven't yet made up my mind how I feel about them. So this might be a post to be skipped--it's not really fun and the purpose is to help me understand some things, to resolve some feelings, and to lay some parts of my life to rest.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, life turns you upside down. Lately it seems that just when I've righted myself, Life tips me over again. Perhaps the solution is to stay overturned. Then when Life drops the bomb on you, you end up right side up because you were previously upside down. Not sure how all that would work, but I would really like to stop getting hit when I least expect it.

Sometimes a person shares sweetly vulnerable, intense feelings with another trusted individual--not because they wish for the logical conclusion of that sharing (which could be love, life experiences, or other intimacies)--but because there is in that moment, no other place to share those insistent emotions begging for a safe place. And when the time is appropriate (or the appropriate person makes an appearance), those feelings are transferred. It constitutes a gain and a loss simultaneously. The person who gains continues, unaware that the transfer has occurred. The person who experiences loss, if they truly love the other, walks away from the experience, not painlessly, but with a greater appreciation of the trust granted to them, the beauty of being momentarily important to another, and honoring--perhaps even cherishing--the experience as they allow the evolution, or possibly dissolution, of the former relationship.

Sometimes there are no words to describe a heartache.

Sometimes life defies explanation.

Sometimes there is no room for even one more emotion.

Sometimes you cry, not because you feel pain or joy, but because in one brilliant, breathtaking moment you suddenly understand a concept you've been working at for a very long time. And the answer doesn't bring peace or catharsis; it doesn't answer questions or help all the different pieces fall into place--but instead, with intense clarity, you understand all the nuances and layers of truth that have been nagging your brain, sometimes for many years.

Sometimes sleep is elusive.

Sometimes you wish you hadn't eaten a brownie at 11:30 p.m.

Sometimes your feet are warm but your shoulders are still cold.

Sometimes you push forward even when you wish to run away. You allow relationships to continue even when they lose emotional intimacy or vibrancy. You push to the end of a run when you want to collapse on the ground. You eat because it's an important thing to do (and you hope it will help you get warm). You get better because that is the only acceptable option.

Sometimes mint ganache tastes exactly right.

Sometimes you have to use the bathroom before the blog post is finished--so you stop writing and publish it right now.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Yesterday a few people tried to talk with me about the outrageously tragic shooting in a Connecticut elementary school. My responses, in general, consisted of three word or fewer. This is not because I'm not touched by the event, nor because I'm callous. What it means is that for someone with my background, discussing the tragedy before I've had time to process it privately translates into panic attacks and horrible distress.

Some might say those are appropriate responses given the level of loss. Some might say that I need to allow myself those feelings because to shy away from them is unhealthy. Some might say that if I talk through what I'm feeling with someone safe, I'll be able to process everything more quickly and with fewer residual results.

I say: You do not know what you are talking about. You are not me. You do not have my experiences, my years of therapy, my knowledge of self. And regardless of your training and background, you still are not me.

I have had one day to think on what has happened. I haven't yet delved into the investigative reports and when I choose to, I don't know how deeply I will do so. I have not yet wept for the loss of life and grieving parents, families, and friends. I will wait until I know I can cry without being overwhelmed. And some day I will talk about this outside my blog--but not today.

You see, for someone like me, an event such as this has the effect of convincing me that people are inherently harmful; that no matter how we strive to protect ourselves and those we love, there is someone who wants to cause harm--even, in this case, death. And when I go to this place it affects the level of trust I have in others, it transforms all my relationships into platforms of fear, and I find myself fighting the impulse to cut off all communication and just hide.

I know--extreme and unreasonable. Welcome to my world.

So yesterday I chose to read the Facebook responses of grieving and angry friends. I chose to briefly scan the news reports. And then I chose to let everything lie. After all, one needs to be able to sleep at night or processing all of this can become impossible.

Today I am accepting that something horrible happened to innocent children and the people who wanted to protect them. I'm not just talking about those who were present at the shooting, but people everywhere who would keep children safe, but who could not help those who were killed yesterday. And in that acceptance I want to make the following statements:

1. There are moments which make life seem ugly and monstrous--when we realize that one person can spread violence and evil within a matter of minutes. But there are also moments within those moments when we watch people reach out to one another because grieving alone feels ugly and monstrous, as well.

2. I love Mr. Rogers's mother who told him, "Look for the helpers." All of us will need helpers to make our way through this tragedy. Those who have suffered devastating losses will need help most of all. They'll need monetary help to provide for the days when they must leave work to go home and cry, or to provide therapeutic intervention for themselves and their loved ones. Or maybe they're already stretched beyond their ability to cope, financially, and don't have the means to provide for their loved ones' burials. Regardless, my hope is that those who can, will share with those in need by donating to reputable sources. And for those who cannot, I hope they will share prayers, hugs, time...any appropriate resource with the victims and with those who mourn with them.

3. Today I will have hope. Hope is often an elusive entity in my life, but I want to believe that, regardless of how it seems that incidents similar to the one that occurred yesterday are escalating, this is an isolated, unusual thing and that the majority of humankind is caring and supportive of one another. I wish to remember that in this world of uncertainty, I am safe because I have many in my life who love me. I choose to have hope that while we never, ever forget those who have been lost to the senseless violence chosen by a few, we will also continue to believe that life is good and beautiful and worth living every single day. And for those who died yesterday, I have hope that they are no longer hurting and afraid--that in whatever place they are now found, they are embraced and comforted and filled with love and peace.

And to every person touched by yesterday's tragedy--I wish you the same.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

'Tis the Season

I am drowning in rehearsals. This is a good thing. I have a huge concert Saturday evening and another on Sunday afternoon, at which point I believe my performances are finished until January. Maybe. Usually there are spur of the moment Christmas things that crop up between now and next month, but they're small and don't take a great deal of rehearsal time. And I like them.

Our Christmas tree and home remain undecorated. We decided to wait until Tabitha comes home to do this. It's not that decorating is her thing, its just that we want her here when we do it--sort of difficult to explain our motivation, but given my spare time level, I'm glad to put it off.

My new job is interesting and I like it, but available work is unpredictable and sporadic. I'm giving the job a couple of weeks, but I'm not able to get more time in I'll be looking for something else.

Yesterday at the gym I encountered a middle-aged man (older, even, than I am) running stairs. He was wearing obnoxiously bright patterned running shorts (which is fine, I don't really care what people wear), and no shirt. This is the first time I've encountered a shirtless person at the gym and I'm left feeling very strongly that people need to wear shirts. Please, please, please, wear shirts. I don't want to see your abundant, sweaty chest hair and bouncing pecs--ever--and all the other parts that wobble on your torso really, really want to be covered. I know this.

Yes. I know I'm being unreasonable. I don't care. I want that man to put his shirt on.

I would like to say I'm not traumatized by this, but I usually go to the gym between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. It is now 10:30 and I've not yet left. I'm ridiculous.

Maybe I'll nix my workout today and play Scrabble instead.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"All that we are arises with our thoughts." ~ Buddha

I've been sitting at my desk most of the morning staring at laundry I need to fold and thinking of my kitchen floor. It really wants me to clean it. But the sun is streaming through my window and I can hear winter birds on the other side, and I want to just play Scrabble.

I have a new job.

Also, I need to order carpet for my living and family rooms. I don't have any idea how to shop for carpet.

Two weeks ago I cut the tip off my thumb. It was very odd because while it didn't hurt at all, it bled forever. At one point I had five bandaids on it because the nurse at the emergency room told me not to take off the initial bandage but to layer on top of it until the bleeding stopped--which it finally did. Later that same night I noticed my small toe was wet. When I looked down I saw enormous amounts of blood coming from it. Somehow I managed to take off the tip of that toe, as well (note: "tip" does not include bone or sinew, just a lot of skin from the top of the digit). Weird.

I finished reading Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. I can't remember when a book has delighted me quite so much. I'm unsure why I love it but I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story told in a unique way. I'm still smiling about it.

This year, because of the loss of jobs and hospital bills and other such nonsense, I've been scrambling for Christmas gift ideas. I'm thinking of giving kisses beneath the mistletoe and calling it good. So if you're on my gift list and that does not appeal to you, avoid me when you see me because I'm not kidding about this.

DJ made me cookies yesterday. is possible that those were the only things I ate. But I drank milk with them so probably that's okay--except I'm lactose intolerant, so maybe not.

Darrin and my father went into the mountains to chop down Christmas trees this morning. I'm fairly certain, given the states of their health, they will both die of heart attacks while searching for the perfect tree. Hopefully, I'm wrong, but I'm still waiting to hear from them. They were supposed to call about an hour ago to let me know they were still alive. I'm pretending they're just not in a place where they have phone service. It's more likely, however, that they're talking so much that they forgot.

Today I am singing Christmas carols as loudly as possible. If you have a favorite, let me know--I'll sing it for you. Adam told me my rendition of "Santa, Baby" is slutty, which is, in my mind, an appropriate interpretation of the song so I consider that a very high compliment. Never mind the fact that I forgot the words in the middle and just danced around my kitchen until the music got to a point where I could join in with lyrics. Adam also said he believes that if I ban "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" because I think it's tasteless and misogynistic, I should do the same for "Santa, Baby," for similar reasons. My answer was to sing "Santa, Baby" one more time. Adam has put on his headphones and is refusing to talk with me for at least five minutes.

The title/quote of this post has nothing to do with the content. I put it there because when I first read it I thought it said, "All that we anuses with our thoughts." And while I know that makes no sense, it still made me laugh--for about five minutes--because that's just how sophisticated my sense of humor is today. Also, it reminded me that my first experience speaking with Tolkien Boy happened because I similarly misread something he had written (he wrote "ennui", I read "eunuch"--it could happen to anyone), and he had a chat box on the sidebar of his blog where I shared my optical typo, not knowing he was there at the time, and he responded to my gleeful revelation with his belief that being a eunuch would not appeal to him. He took all the wind from my sails because I was planning to hit-and-run, but then felt it would be rude not to talk to him. So we had our fateful conversation and then never spoke again for almost three months, at which point we began an online conversation that has lasted nearly seven years.

Next week is filled with rehearsals and performances. The following week will be filled with baking and more Christmas carols. The next week I retrieve Tabitha from the managed care facility and we get to have her home for Christmas and New Year's Eve and Day.

December is a good month.