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Saturday, November 29, 2008

All I want for Christmas is...

DJ: I've been Christmas shopping.

Me: Yay! I love Christmas shopping!

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

Me: Why?

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

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

DJ: Mom, that's not fair.

Me: I really, truly don't.

DJ: Mom!

Me: A date with your dad?

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

Me: A date with you?

DJ: We do that all the time.

Me: I love new running shoes.

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

Me: Blue eyes?

DJ: Mom! I'm being serious!

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

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

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

DJ: Are you going to tell me or not?

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

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

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

DJ: You're impossible, Mom.

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

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

Yesterday I ate. 

Last night I slept.

This morning I awoke with a new lease on life. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have lots of questions and no answers. 

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Difference a Day Makes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today at church...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

So I did. 

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

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

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

Therapist believes I am "restructuring". 

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

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

This sucks!

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

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

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

Any takers?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dear Very Nice University Student Man,

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you love and happiness in all your endeavors,



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh! This is so confusing and frustrating.

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

Today's Schedule

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

Good night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November's Story: Learning to Fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Please, talk to me."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I've always loved to write. It isn't a passion and I don't ever delude myself that I'm  a Writer. But it's fun, I enjoy it, and often it's therapeutic. Most of what I start creatively, however, I have never finished. As long as the stories or poems remain unfinished works I feel connected to them. Last month, however, I decided I would finish some of my story and poetry starts (for the record--essays are not something I have difficulty following to the end--those almost always get finished, which is why my blog posts often read like essays--and now you have another bit of useless Samantha trivia). 

If I take the time to finish them, I'm also going to publish them. I have a creative writing blog where I spend lots of time--but the finished products are going right here. 

You've been warned.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Today I am ranting

I woke up aggravated this morning...and tearful, which only makes everything more aggravating.

I went to dinner with an old friend last week. We talked--well, she talked. Finally, she asked me to tell her about my current life. I told her about the normal, performances, kids...then she asked about my frequent trips to Utah that Darrin had mentioned to her. So I though about making something up, because sometimes I do see clients, or attend workshops, or perform, or teach. But then I decided to just tell the truth. So I did. I told her I was seeing a therapist because I was raped when I was eleven by a cousin who lived with us at the time. She asked a couple of questions which revealed that my parents weren't told until three years ago, and that things were going fairly well. Then suddenly, the dinner was over. She paid for her meal, got up and said good-bye.

I know it's shocking and upsetting to learn things like this. I understand it's not "nice" dinner conversation. But this is something that affects me every day of my life. I would like it to be otherwise. It's not. I don't know if it ever will be. I don't talk about it constantly. Ask Ambrosia--I stay with her when I'm in Utah. Rape of Samantha is not a popular topic in my repertoire of conversation. However, it's important to me to let people know, at least, people who are close to me--those who consider themselves my friends. 

A friend asked me this weekend why it matters. Why do I have to tell people. I could have had a lovely dinner with an old friend, gotten a hug good-bye, and she would have left feeling that our time together was something to treasure. Instead, she left feeling uncomfortable and distanced from me. I told him it matters. That's all. I let clients leave me feeling warm and fuzzy. I don't allow students to feel discomfort about me.  But if you love or care about me, this will matter to you, as well. In the past eight months flashbacks have been triggered by a multitude of random things. My life has become structured around avoiding the things that might bring a flashback, and only going into those situations when I have to (like seeing the doctor or dentist). And it sucks. 

Someone I love to spend time with invited me to go to a concert with him recently. I declined. Because the noise, and the crowds, and the fact that I would be attending right after a therapy session pretty much guaranteed that I would have a fairly intense flashback and all the lovely accompanying after-effects. And the truth is--I love spending time with him--I love him! And I hate the fact that my stupid past reaches out and bites me in the rear a million years later.

Why do I have to tell people? Because it still hurts! Because it's never going away! Because if you love me, you'll care about this, you won't worry that it's uncomfortable or shocking. You might even let me know that you don't think I'm a freak because I can't do something as normal as going to a concert with a friend. You might tell me I'm okay and we're still friends even if I've experienced treatment most people don't think about. And then, probably, I won't talk about it much anymore, because you'll understand why I take the stairs instead of the elevator, why the texture of meat in my mouth sometimes makes me nauseated, why I avoid some movies, why I'm afraid to go some places alone, why I just feel sad every once in awhile, why I get stressed when people approach me from behind or touch me when I'm not expecting it. 

But it might be too much to ask. I've always thought it was, but some people told me it wasn't--and I believed them. 

I'm a pretty nice person, actually. And sometimes it just feels like this STUFF is undeserved and too big for me to deal with. 

Okay. Finished complaining. Time to go run.


...of uncertainty.

...of nationwide nastiness and excuses and hurt.

...of impassioned pleas broadcast on television which manage to slam and demean the marriage I have worked most of my life for--while insisting that others have the right to make their own marriages sacred. Saying, in reference to marriages such as mine, "How many marriages have there been like that--and how on earth do they increase the sanctity of marriage?" Because if marriage is for all people, surely I may choose what that means for me? As you plead for marriage to be universally granted to everyone, can you not do so while honoring that which I have so carefully protected and maintained and in which I have found joy? By all means, speak out for the things you feel deeply about--but do so without harming those who have done you no harm.

...of believing I'm strong enough to make it through the latest emotional hurtle in my life.

...of endless rehearsals--even though I love them.

...of therapy.

...of knowing I still have a long way to go.

Maybe I'll go take a nap.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Experiments that are just bad ideas...

Me (speaking this morning at a gathering with my children): Okay. Your dad's upstairs snaking out your toilet which has been plugged now for two weeks. I don't care if you think you'll be in trouble. YOU HAVE TO TELL ME WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT!!!

DJ: Mom, the only thing I put in that toilet is poop, pee, and toilet paper.

Tabitha: I don't use that toilet. I only use yours.

Adam: Did Dad find anything when he was fishing around in the toilet?

Me: You didn't answer the question.

Adam: No, I didn't put anything into the toilet. Did he?

Me: Yes. So far he's found a nickel and a dime.

Adam: Oh.

Me: Adam?

Adam: Yes?

Me: That was a very suspicious sounding "Oh."

Adam: Well, I might be the one who caused the problem.

Me: Might be?

Adam: Well, I wondered, if I eat a lot of dimes and quarters and nickels and pennies, if they'll pass through me like you said they would. But I never saw any in the toilet, so I just guessed you were wrong.

Me: Adam, how many did you eat?

Adam: I had three dollars and sixty-five cents. I had five quarters and the rest was in dimes, nickles, and pennies.

Long pause.

Me: Adam, new rule (and I can't believe I'm making this rule): From this point forward, if it's not a food product (which includes medicines) or a doctor's order, you don't ingest it.

Adam: I'm sorry. I didn't think it might clog the toilet.

Me: Go apologize to your dad. And you might think about kissing his feet. 

Adam: Yeah. I guess I didn't think far enough ahead on this one.

Me: I don't even know what to say.


Adam: Uhhh...Mom? Dad might find things other than money in the toilet.

Me: Adam! did you put more things into the toilet?

Adam: Not directly, no.

Me: Explain!

Adam: Well, I also ate other things.

Me: Things?

Adam: Yeah. I don't remember exactly what...

Darrin (yelling from the bathroom): The ball from the inside of a mouse! A wing nut!! Adam!!! What were you thinking!?

Adam: Wow, I had no idea those things had come out of me.

Darring (still yelling): A ROCK!!! ADAM!!!

Adam: I think that's pretty much all of it.

Me: Why are you still alive? I will never understand.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Looking at things

This time last year I felt trapped. I had made some discoveries about my relationship with my mother that left me frustrated and unhappy. I spent months trying to move forward, but emotionally I was vacillating between self-pity and wishing for things I could not have. And when the things one wishes for are core human needs, knowing they can't be filled is agonizing. It was not a pleasant time for me.

Eventually, I moved on and found ways to live with deficits--as I always have. Acknowledging the deficits exist simply increases the pain for awhile, then one realizes that this is nothing new, it's always been a part of life and pain is an inconvenience that colors most experiences. It would have been nice to figure out a way to fill those needs, but I haven't figured out how, so I suppose I'm no better or worse off than before. It seems to have been a time-consuming, aggravating exercise, the sole purpose of which was to teach me that no matter how magic I think I am, there are some things I can't change, some people who will not care about me as I might wish, and some aches that continue even after grieving and acceptance have taken place. So, I learned.

There are two types of learning, in my experience. Type one can be instructional, observational, or experiential. This type of learning is usually age-appropriate and leaves us feeling energized and empowered. We're excited to share our knowledge--or at least locate someone who will allow us to talk endlessly about it. We are usually inspired by such learning to investigate further, to experiment and gain more knowledge. It's this type of learning that I seek out constantly. It's why I research anything and everything, and also why I'm a source of odd trivia at any given moment.

Learning type two can also be instructional, observational, or experiential, but this type of learning is not usually sought out. Often it is thrust upon us without prerequisite information, or before we are mature enough to deal with the subject matter or consequences. The result of such learning can leave us frustrated or even scarred, as it often is accompanied by violent behaviors or pain. But this is also the type of learning we experience as we come to accept our own fallibility, and the necessary impact of outside forces on our lives. People respond differently to this type of learning. Some retreat, try to heal, look for sources of comfort and support. Others talk about it incessantly in a semi-anonymous blog...

I suppose I'm reflecting on this because one year later, I'm anything but stagnant. Each day seems to pull me in a different direction--and I don't know how to choose anymore. There seems to be no "good" choice. If I choose what feels safe and comfortable, I lose something joyful and precious. If I choose to continue in my current path, I feel exhausted and frustrated--and somehow, lonely.

Option One: safe and comfortable. This allows me to return to a place of familiarity where Darrin is my rock and my salvation. 
1. I'm very certain my flashbacks and nightmares would dwindle, and probably cease altogether. 
2. PTSD symptoms would undoubtedly become imperceptible, as I would not be placing myself in any situations which might aggravate such symptoms.
3. I would become very productive at work.
4. I would not be lonely.
5. All feelings would once again become predictable and manageable.

1. I would, of necessity, become too busy for outside distractions (i.e. other people in my life).
2. Darrin would once again feel the stress of my dependence on him.
3. Personal growth would be limited to intellectual and spiritual areas. Social growth would happen only in the controlled environment of professional interactions, and possibly at necessary.
4. I would not be lonely (no--not a typo).
5. I would, of necessity, diminish all close relationships outside of my husband and children. This effectively nullifies any progress I made in the learning to connect with people over the past three years. 

Option two: exhausted and frustrated. Choosing this means I continue with my current goals to find peace, healing, and connection with others in the real world.
1. Darrin wants this. And he usually wants the things that are best for both of us.
2. I might someday learn how to manage, even overcome problems associated with PTSD.
3. I might someday learn how to relax and enjoy close, non-contractual relationships.
4. I would be lonely (no this is not a typo).
5. I would experience spontaneity and joy.

1. I'm tired.
2. This makes me cry-- a lot.
3. I am really, really discouraged.
4. I am almost always lonely.
5. I can't do this by myself.

Probably this should be a no-brainer. I know what the healthy choice is. I also know there's a lot going on behind the scenes that keeps getting in the way. Darrin's health is not good. He finally saw a doctor--which is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, he has so many things going wrong, that treating one malady can exacerbate the problems caused by another. He's currently being treated for "just two things at a time." Right now the high cholesterol and thyroid problems seem to be the most pressing. So he's on low dose meds for both of those (can't use regular doses as one treatment seems to negate the other), and we're hoping his body will respond to one or both so that we can move on to the next thing. He's also scheduled for a sleep study, for which I'm grateful. There have been times when he has stopped breathing at night for what seems an eternity. I panic and shake him awake. I know I'm probably worrying over nothing, but I can't help it. 

Also, Darrin will be gone for the month of January. I talked with Leslie last night who said, "I don't think I could do that!" It was good for me to hear someone else express what I was feeling. I'm a little stressed about being a single mom for that period of time, and not having Darrin's steady presence each night. The timing of his absence isn't good for either of us.

Off the subject and completely irrelevant: I seem to be developing a phobia toward chatting online. If the subject about which I chat becomes emotional or is something I feel deeply, I start imagining all sorts of ways the person I'm conversing with will twist my words, or judge me, or misunderstand. This initial feeling balloons into a fear I can't seem to manage and  I leave the conversation hoping I'll never see or hear from my fellow converser again. I can't even imagine, at that point, feeling love or friendship for the hapless person sharing my personal chat. It's obnoxious. And frustrating, because it's been through the chat venue that I've been able to figure out many of the things that have been therapeutic or healing--and this is not a good time to start limiting my chats, given the decision I discussed above (okay--maybe not so irrelevant). This does not make me happy.

Some of you who read my blog chatted with me, left comments, or emailed about a recent previous post which I have now deleted. 
Jay--thank you for the things you said in your email. I appreciate your taking time to let me know your thoughts and to offer support and advice. I hope you'll continue to do so. 
A.J. -- thanks for your comment, and for the hug. :)
Jared--thanks for your words of encouragement. You and Katrina are wonderful.
Ginsberg--You remind me of the things that are important. 
Ambrosia--in twenty years, I think we will be. And I'm excited to see you next week!
AtP--I don't think you read the post, but your email came at about that time. Thank you for loving me, and for taking time to say it.
Jason--I really needed to hear what you said Sunday night. And I feel the same way. 
Tolkien Boy--Thanks for being my email outlet and for letting me try to continue figuring things out there since I can't chat about them anymore. It's not a trend I'll continue, mostly because it embarrasses me that I talk so much about myself in an email, but I appreciate the temporary fix. 

Speaking of Tolkien Boy, he made me laugh last night when he said he sees a visible resemblance between me and the comic book rendition of Wonder Woman. And while my legs might rival hers (years of running), I don't think I could manage the bustier without a couple of spots of surgery. Oh..he probably wasn't looking at the body...silly me...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thinking About Love and Inappropriate Laughter

If I had to describe myself in one sentence, it would be this: I love to laugh.

I always have. My mother described me as "giggly and wiggly." That hasn't changed in a million years. My children have replaced my parents as the ones reminding me to sit still in church, and I can't get through a visit to the movie theater without Darrin's hand ending up on my knee--not because it's irresistibly sexy, but because he's trying to remind me that I can wiggle when the movie is over.

I'm known for laughing at pretty much anything--even when I'm miserable. For many years it was my stress reliever as I was unable to tap into that crying thing most women do with ease. Unfortunately, I also laugh in some less than appropriate moments. I remember a rather uncomfortable YW lesson. The leader was telling a story which was supposed to make us all want to be grateful for the blessings of being sealed as families. The storyline, as I recall went something like this:
1. Mother of three young children contracts cancer.
2. Mother spends four months in useless chemotherapy and is finally told nothing more can be done,
3. Mother, Father, and children have a picnic on the hospital lawn. It's a lovely time, during which Mother is so happy for the temple blessings...and she knows it doesn't matter that she's dying because she will be with her family forever...

At which point I started laughing...a lot...and this conversation took place:

Unhappy YW Leader: Um, Sam? Which part of the story do you find so funny?

Me: Not funny--ridiculous. Seriously, if I was dying, I'd be at an amusement park with my family, riding every roller coaster I could find. Or maybe I'd go skydiving, or on a cruise to Hawaii. I definitely wouldn't be sitting on the lawn outside a stupid hospital, talking about how it's okay to die because we're a "forever family." It's not okay. It's never okay. If you're going to die, do something fun with the kids--you might not get another chance.

Unhappy YW Leader: Sam, some people believe being a forever family is more important that having exciting times together.

Me: Then they're stupid. If someone I loved was dying, we'd spend every moment of the rest of their life doing things together. And it wouldn't have to be thrill-seeking stuff. We could read books together, listen to music, talk about things, maybe just sit and hold onto each other. But we sure as heck wouldn't talk how it was okay to die because when we all die we'll be together again.

Unhappy YW Leader: Sam, I don't think you understand the point of the story.

Me: What is it?

Unhappy YW Leader: When we're sealed as a family, those ties go beyond death. We get to enjoy each other forever.

Me: I'm not sure I want to be with my family forever. Maybe my dad and my little brothers and sisters, but not my mom, for sure. I can't think of anything more like Hell.

Unhappy YW Leader: I know you don't get along with your mom right now, but things change as we get older. We learn how to love each other in better ways.

Me: Is that the point of the story?

Unhappy YW Leader: The point of the story is that we don't have to be afraid to die when we have our temple sealings in place.

Me: I'm not afraid to die anyway.

Unhappy YW Leader: Well, that's because you were born in the covenant.

Me: No, that's because I'm just not afraid to die.

Unhappy YW Leader: That's easy to say if you know you're not going to.

Me: Have you ever thought about dying? Have you ever stood at the top of a cliff, knowing you could jump and end everything that hurts in your life.

Unhappy YW Leader: Sam, I don't think you should say things like that in class.

Me: Nope. Probably not. Carry on then--the family sits on the grass with dying mom--everyone's happy because even though she's dying, in about 80 years they'll all be dead with her...

Unhappy YW Leader: Maybe we'll talk about something else.

I can't say that was my finest moment. But I often wonder, if the leader had been a bit more savvy, if she'd figured out that she was talking about death with a 13-year-old who was considering it often, if she'd understood that my laughing was a cry for help--the only one at my disposal--how my life might have been different. I often wonder if the bishop had understood 12-year-old Samantha when she said she was not morally clean, if he had truly understood how filthy the acts that had been forced upon her had been, if he had gone to the proper authorities and reported the abuses a young girl had told him about--how my life might have been different.

But--it's not different. And so, I am left with my delightfully warped sense of humor. I've learned to curb my tongue, to not point out the dreadfully misplaced sentiment when I see it used to force young girls to feel...something...anything...but it still bothers me. And honestly, if a loved one of mine were dying, we wouldn't be pondering the eternities. We'd be living every moment of the life left to them in the fullest. And my hope, in the end, would be that the person I loved would have no doubt that I loved them with all my soul...and that will last through this life...and the next...and into whatever comes after that.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

And now that the votes are in...

Friend: Do any of these rumors that the Church tells people in California to support their anti-gay marriage referendum bother you at all?

me: Nope.

The church as a whole, including its leaders, have been
ignorant about homosexuality for many, many years. I don't expect it to change overnight. Quite honestly, I find it interesting that they need reasons to support their Prop 8 campaign. When the Word of Wisdom was introduced they gave no reason why it should be adhered to--just said that it was a health code. Years later, the revelation has been shown to have merit, but the people who initially covenanted to follow it had no knowledge of that. So--I suppose I just wish we would stop searching for reasons, especially because many of those touted as truths are insulting, at best, and completely false, at worst.

Friend: You mean stop searching for reasons for supporting Proposition 8?

me: Yes. They've stated the church's position. They've cited the proclamation on the family. That's enough.

Friend: Yeah. So do you support it?

me: There are some things I don't tell anyone. They're between God and me. I never reveal who I support in a political campaign, what my stance is on women's rights, nor do I talk much about my investigative lesbian days, conversion to the gospel, or decision to marry a man. This falls right in that category. :)

Friend: Sounds good. That probably saves you a lot of headaches.

me: I realized one time that if I talk about things that are deeply felt by me, I'm usually placed in a defensive position. Even if the person I'm conversing with agrees with me, I still feel vulnerable because people are known to change their minds on a whim, and tomorrow they may disagree with me. And most of my decisions, once made, have no need for defense. They belong to me. I never try to make people agree with me, and I'm dreadfully upset if people try to coerce me into agreeing with them. I suppose, once I'm sure of what I believe, I feel no need to discuss it with anyone.

This sort of goes against the gospel practice of bearing testimony in order to strengthen one's own and to help build others, but there it is.

Friend: No, not necessarily. You can make statements without discussing the why.

me: Well, I appreciate your understanding.

Friend: And for the record, between you and me, I support ERA, retroactively and I think opposing gay marriage right now is stupid. But that has more to do with the way I think the role of a government should be and the way the Church should interact with a government. Maybe I'm going to hell for that, but if so then that's probably where I want to go anyway.

And I know saying all this kind of undercuts everything you just said, but there you have it. I am who I am and I guess I'm different than you on that issue.

me: What I say for myself is only for me. I'm happy to hear other people's opinions and thoughts on the subject.

Friend: Thanks. Promise not to rat me out to my bishop?

me: Even if it was bishop rattable, I wouldn't. That's your call. :)

Someone told me once that the fact I rarely discuss politics and "hot" issues surprised him. He said I'm a pretty opinionated person, and it's not like me to stay silent about things that are important to me. I told him he did not know me well at all.

I am happy to discuss anything--as long as it has no personal relevance to me. I'll talk about economics, finances, music, history, art, literature, families, sex, nature and the weather. But come too close to something lodged in my heart and you'll find us talking about something else so quickly you won't even know how it happened.

I remember a million years ago, when I was young. I had the opportunity to debate both sides of the abortion rights issue in a competition. My fellow competitors all had the same assignment. As I was preparing for my match, my coach pulled me aside. "Sam," he said, "you can win this without even trying. You're one of the best debaters I've ever heard. But if you allow your personal feelings to influence even one of your statements, you'll lose. I've watched your opponent. He finds a weakness very quickly, and he works on that until his opponent loses control. That's how he wins. It's unfair, and it's not how we'd like the debate competitions to be won--but that's the person you're up against." 

So--I decided turn-about was fair play. I watched my opponent as he spoke. I listened to his vocal inflections. I watched his hands. I counted his blinks. Within five minutes it was clear that not only was he pro-life, he was very uncomfortable having to debate the pro-choice side of the issue. I revised my notes, inserted some light personal digs meant to incite anger and began my assault. I won--but the fight was personal and unfair. He was cowed before I finished my opening remarks, and by the time we traded sides, he was unable to maintain his composure. The hand he offered me at the end of the debate shook with anger and frustration. I felt no triumph. I knew I had beaten him at his own game, but I hadn't used the skills I'd been working on. I simply wore him down. It was the last official debate in which I participated. I walked off the podium, went to my coach and told him I wouldn't be debating again. 

This was my first lesson in the power of words. My opponent was a stranger to me. Within 15 minutes I had made him hate me. We had no personal interaction, no mutual acquaintances. But the feelings he felt for me were pure and lasting. I had fought dirty, and regardless of his own transgressions in that area, he felt it. More than that, I hated myself.

As I have searched for truth during my life I have avoided those who will believe simply because they are told to do so. I ignore "faith-inducing" or "fear-mongering" stories--in fact, stories of any kind are analyzed, diagrammed, and charted. I refuse to feel anything based on another's experience. I will experience things first-hand, and I will compile my own experiences, and I expect others to do the same. This does not mean I don't wish to listen--far from it. I love hearing the thoughts and feelings of others, as long as there is no response expectation. Those shared thoughts and feelings are important to me, but they probably won't become a pillar upon which I base philosophies of life. Those I must find on my own.

I have not said anything during the recent political frenzy. I never will. I am unaffiliated with any political party--I will never join one. I will listen to and respect your opinions. I do not expect reciprocation, indeed, none is needed for I will rarely share my own, and if I do offer an opinion I probably don't care if anyone agrees with me or not. 

I'm watching people I love lodge themselves on one side or another of political debates, church, and personal issues. I'm watching friends and families become divided. I'm hearing people I love demeaning other people I love. I listen to those who are absolutely certain they have all the answers. I see hatred spring up in the name of protecting love on both sides of an emotional issue. And, as always, I will continue to watch silently, because in the end, when both sides are exhausted and bitter, I want to be sane and strong.

I am the ultimate fence-sitter. The gay woman who married a man. The tax preparer who will not cheat a government she believes is flawed and corrupt. The member of the LDS church who refuses to cry repentance unto every people. The religious zealot who teaches established principles, then challenges her students not to accept them--but to search and pray and determine for themselves if they are true. The Mormon Mom who did not raise her sons to serve missions, but to be questioning, authentic, self-reliant adults--the mom who will support a missionary son, but is perfectly fine with the beautiful young men in her home, regardless of missionary service. The LDS Sister who has lunch with lesbian friends, not because she wants to show them the light, but simply because she enjoys their company. The congregation member who seethes with anger as the awkward speaker laughs about how many years he's managed to avoid talking in church, and wills him to PLEASE! just say one thing about our Savior, Jesus Christ, before his time is up. The church member who believes men and women are called of God--but they're still just men and women. They make plenty of mistakes and not everything they say or do is God inspired. The person who will always state unequivocally that the church is not perfect and those who believe it is are irresponsible and foolish.

I have often wished that I might find my niche, my social circle, a place where I belong. In truth, there is no place for one like me. Niches and social circles consist of like-thinking individuals who enjoy sharing their thoughts. AtP has said more than once that I am the exception to every rule, which is not true, of course. What he means is that I will always belong alone, for I agree with no one, and I am always uncomfortable in mob mentality of any kind. 

I suppose then, that I have found my niche, my social circle, my place of belonging. It's sort of pathetic that it's a group of one--which technically is not a group at all--but still, I have my moments. Sometimes I'm very good company.

Monday, November 3, 2008

At a loss for words

I've been blogging every day for nearly three years now. Occasionally I've taken breaks for a few days, usually no more than two or three. Sometimes I've talked about doing so prior to the breaks, sometimes I've said nothing. 

I'm talking about this because, quite frankly, it's all I have to say right now. I've tried to talk about the things going on inside me with various friends and loved ones. Each time I try, I know I just can't. The words aren't right, somehow.

There are things in life that can seem beyond words or sharing. I'm fairly eloquent--I didn't think this could happen to me. But it's happening. Imagine that. I've been trying to talk to Darrin about it. He keeps reducing what I'm saying to, "Well, I don't think this is all that unusual. I think lots of people feel the same way sometimes. I don't think it's anything to worry about." 

No. Nothing to worry about. Life continues at its own pace and I retreat into silence because, after all, it's not unusual, everyone feels the same way. 

Except, three years ago I found the courage to talk. I still listen--I still would rather hear about you than talk about me. But no matter how scary it was, I began telling people who I really am. And I'm not sure I'm ready to stop talking for the rest of my life.

So last night I said this to my husband:
"I've been trying to tell you about the things that are happening inside me. I'm going to try again. I don't want you to compare me to other people. I don't want you to tell me how normal I am. I'm not looking for solace and I don't need you to propose a thousand different solutions. I need you to hear what I'm saying because it's important and it will effect you."
And then I told him once again. And he listened. And he finally heard. And now, he's trying to hide it, but I think he's more concerned that I want him to be--which was not what I was going for when I asked him to listen. He worries too much. 

So--I'm not going to talk about it right now. I'm not going to talk about anything for a little while. I need to figure out what I'm going to do, if indeed, there is anything to do. In the past couple of days I've tried to chat with or call some of my close friends about this. If that was weird, I'm sorry. I guess I was doing all I could think of to keep communicating even though I have no way to talk about this. Sort of stupid--but we do what we can.

Truly, I've come a long way in three years. I've done some really amazing, scary things. I've learned more, grieved more, and accepted more than I wanted to, and in the process I've discovered things about myself that I didn't know. Who can regret that?

No doubt, I'll be back. I'm just taking some time to figure everything out, and in the process, I think I'll find the words I need to start talking again.