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Monday, August 30, 2010

Probably I just ate something that disagreed with me.

I am out of sorts today. I'm supposed to be running, but my constant sunshine has taken a break this morning and I'm not excited about being rained on right now. The weekend's unplanned trip to care for a recently deceased client's estate is part of my job, but for whatever reason, I wasn't prepared to add that to my getting-back-into-the-school-groove schedule. The trip went fine, the settlement was uncomplicated, I'm home and rested, but I still feel like my life is upside-down right now.

I missed Darrin's birthday which could be part of my disequilibrium. Traditionally, we don't get each other large gifts, but we do set aside time to just be together. I'm the type of person who could receive something very expensive, but it would have little worth beside an hour of one-on-one time. There is nothing that means more to me than having someone I love all to myself for a moment.

There seem to be major changes taking place inside of me, as well. It's a mixing together of sorts. I can't really describe it. For four years I worked on allowing vulnerability in my life. I put myself in situations I deemed "unsafe", meaning I allowed emotional closeness in a variety of relationships as I had not allowed in the past, and I tried to get to a point where those relationships no longer felt threatening or frightening--and it was difficult. A couple of those relationships were jeopardized or ended but not by me, which in itself is a triumph, I think. Now, finally, I'm learning how to navigate relationships without panicking and it feels like my "self" is saying, "Okay, you can do this. There's no need to keep allowing such vulnerability on a large scale," and boundaries are snapping into place.

I think this is a good thing, overall. Everyone needs to define their boundaries. But because it feels beyond my control, I'm feeling a bit of helplessness, as well. On top of that, my willingness to talk of myself with other people is fading. I'm still doing it because I think it's important. One of the reasons I was unable to feel connected with people for so many years was because I listened to them constantly but never shared any part of me in the process. The relationships were completely unbalanced and when I felt used up emotionally, I left. Those relationships also cemented in my head the belief instilled by my parents as a child: Nothing I have to say, nothing that is important to me, no part of me has any worth to another person. I have believed this for a very long time.

Poor Darrin was the first person I believed really wanted to know about me--and as soon as I trusted him I began talking and I couldn't stop. I told him everything that was on my mind, but I also wanted to know about him. It was the first time in my memory when I was able to have a conversation in which I felt my words, beliefs, and thoughts were valued.

I'd like to say this state has always been present throughout my marriage, but it hasn't. When I'm having difficulty managing memories, emotions, or PTSD, I stop talking. Sometimes it takes weeks (and occasionally months) until I feel safe enough to share again. Initially, Darrin thought something was wrong in our relationship and tried to prod me into talking about what was going on inside me--a very bad move. It just makes me cranky. When I explained that sometimes I just need space to think and sort things out, and I'll be back when I'm finished, he was generous enough to recognize this was not about him, and to grant me that time and space. Occasionally Darrin can see that I need to talk but am having difficulty. In those moments he tells me he loves me, he holds me, he says when I feel ready to tell him he'd love to hear what I'm thinking about. This creates an atmosphere of trust and security which allows me to talk with him sooner than might otherwise happen.

I'm thinking about this because the all too familiar reticence is back. I find myself beginning to talk about something of importance to me and the thoughts which used to haunt me constantly, emerge once again. I become aware I'm wasting someone else's time. I know the things of which I wish to speak are important only to me. I'm certain I'll be rebuffed openly or my words are being silently ignored or rejected--and this is acceptable because I should not be speaking in the first place.


My head reminds me that when people do not share their thoughts and ideas with me, I feel closed off from them. I remember how much I love hearing from my friends and family members. I think about how I cannot connect emotionally with people who listen beautifully but do not allow reciprocity. And I tell myself that if I cannot share myself verbally, those with whom I speak will feel I do not trust them. There is almost a selfishness in listening but not speaking.

It would be nice if my heart could hear and understand what my head is telling it. This is not happening, however. Heart is completely ignoring Head. I'm still trying, though. Last night I talked with a friend about something that happened this weekend which has been messing me up inside, somewhat. I even initiated the conversation by sending an email asking him to talk to me when he came online. But when he said hello, I fought an internal war for a minute or two before I was able to discard the thoughts of "this is stupid--no one cares about this except you and your therapist--and him only because you pay him to care" and "you haven't talked with this person for awhile--maybe you can get over yourself long enough to hear what's going on in his life first" and "this is a trivial thing to get worked up about and really doesn't deserve conversation".

However, I did talk with him. I'd like to say I felt really glad I had done so, but the above thoughts turned into "it was nice of him to humor you" and "I wonder how long people will tolerate my pathetic self-centeredness" and "I wish I could learn to stop talking about me all the time". I think, however, that what might be going on is that I'm processing words said to me as a child and weighing them against reactions from people who currently care about me. Because I'm sifting through old responses and words or implications received when I tried to speak as a child, it's inevitable that many feelings from the past are intruding into my present and I'm not navigating them successfully right now. So this might be temporary, but right now it feels as though it's here to stay--and it feels awful.

I look at myself: On Saturday I sat with the heirs of a millionaire client. For years I have prepared multiple business and personal tax forms and returns for our client. I had a wonderful relationship with her and her spouse. I gave sound investment advice, in tandem with my father, to them and in the aftermath of a recession and unstable economy, they lost very little and regained in the past year, all that was lost and more. Because we worked together successfully, those heirs were receiving a great deal of property and money, most of which they would receive with little tax consequences because of steps we took before their parents' deaths.

Our estate settlement meeting was friendly and warm. The heirs thanked us for the work we did with their parents and with them, personally. This was the first time I had met them--I had worked only with their parents. On parting, each of them shook my hand, told me it was a pleasure to meet me, and one of the lovely daughters hugged me.

The person at that meeting is not some Samantha-projection. She is me. I don't put on a show or give a sales pitch when I do business. I give information, I laugh when something funny happens or is said, I answer questions, I enjoy the people I'm with. If you meet me on the street weeks later, you'll meet the same person who attended our business meeting. So if people respond to me in business and personal situations, that means either the people I'm with are putting on some kind of weird show of liking and affection (and why would they do that??) or my view of myself is skewed and needs to be adjusted.

Except--I don't believe it's my view of myself. I believe this is me, finally allowing myself to hear old words--hurtful words--and to access old memories of emotions and experiences, and decide if they are valid in reference to who I am, who I was, and who I will become. Perhaps I must go through this right now because I have people in place who will remind me that those words were said by someone who gave birth to me, but never took the time to know me, words said in irrational anger triggered not by me, but by something inside that person and aimed in my direction.

Or maybe it's just time. I've waited many years to confront this particular demon. I know I need to do it. I'm very afraid of doing it alone, however, and I'm not sure I'll be able to ask for help when I need it most. I'm hoping the defiant little girl who repeatedly rejected demeaning words and who stubbornly lived through abuse and subsequent rape will come to my rescue. For the first time since I began this quest, I'm recognizing her strength and beauty, and I'm remembering her innocent way of reaching out to people around her, cuddling without self-consciousness or guilt beside any adult person who would allow her to sit nearby, talking and giggling with abandon until years of abuse silenced her. I'm remembering she moved with incredible energy, spinning in circles until losing her balance and laughing as the room continued to spin while she sat still. She danced. She sang. She took risks and could never learn enough in one day. She hated naps and loved to run.

I am that little girl--she is me--and I need her.

The sun is out. I think I will go run.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday is a Special Day

Getting lost on a very long drive makes it longer.

Going to bed at 2:00 a.m. does not guarantee sleep, especially if one has been drinking caffeine in order to continue driving longer than necessary to rectify hours spent getting lost.

Going to a funeral after only three hours of sleep is a bad idea.

It takes more time to get ready for a funeral if one has only had three hours of sleep.

I don't like being away from Darrin on his birthday.

My nieces and nephew are fun even on only three hours of sleep.

Taking part in an estate settlement on only three hours of sleep is difficult but not impossible and somehow I even ended up sounding intelligent when I explained to my clients what the lawyer was saying. Apparently, I can speak "law" and am adept at turning it into English even when sleepy.

I know I'll be okay when I drive home tomorrow because my niece asked The Big Guy to help me drive home safely and not get lost again.

I'm tired. I think I'll sleep.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I've been asked a few lately by some who read my blog. I haven't answered any of them.

I rarely answer questions unless I find them annoying, stupid, obvious, or pedantic. Then, of course, I take great delight in speaking my mind, tongue in cheek, and giggling a bit. It's not really answering a question, but rather, taking the opportunity to soapbox a bit in my own corner of the internet.

However, I realized yesterday that it's been more than four years since I began blogging, I've written too many posts for anyone to take time to read, and many have been removed so even if one reads all my archives (that's a bad idea, I promise), there will be large gaps because I took away posts in emotional irrationality, or because I felt some posts revealed too much personal information about someone else and I felt the need to protect that person, or because the posts were just too stupid to be around.

Therefore, I will address one of the questions I've been asked recently, because I believe it's important, if only to me. I'm not going to write the question, only the answer, because that's what I want to do today, and I'm feeling a bit testy about life anyway, so this is as good as it gets:

From my first memory until I left my home at 17, I do not remember a time when my mother was not abusing me physically or emotionally. I understand that many people would never return to their homes or they would limit contact with the abusive parent. That has not been my choice. Instead, I spent some time away from home for about four years. In that time I believe I received four letters from my mother and about six phone calls. I returned home briefly for two months, and again for a weekend when my sister left for her mission. I visited occasionally--only overnight--during the first three years, then moved far away from my family for the next year.

During that separation, I thought about what I wished to do with my relationship with my mother. I also researched her past, visited with her siblings and parents, and contacted some of her high school and college friends to find out more about her from a perspective other than my own. I researched and studied different options available to me as an abuse survivor and  learned ways to deal with abusive people. Finally, Darrin (whom I had married at some point during those four years) and I decided to move near my parents and attend school. There were many reasons for this decision, but one of those was because I had decided to try to develop a new relationship with my mother--one based on friendship rather than kinship--which might allow me to grow past the harm she had done.

We have now lived in that same city for a very long time. I had three children, finished my Master's degree, and started a couple of successful businesses. We live three blocks from my parents and I see them frequently. I have been honest with my mother, but not unkind. We've spoken of my childhood. She has asked forgiveness and admitted her guilt and agony over the things she has done. I have admitted that there were times when I was also unkind and my behavior was not acceptable during my childhood and youth. There has been some forgiveness, but on my part, I'm still working through that. There are after-effects which haunt me still. It's difficult to freely forgive when one is dealing with behavioral disorders brought about as tools for survival in response to abuse. Difficult, but not impossible. In time, I believe I'll be able to let everything go--at least, that is my hope.

In summary, I have learned to love my mother. She is one of my good friends. I don't necessarily trust her, but I think that's understandable. I'm happy to have her in my life, and as a side note: She has been a wonderful grandmother to my children. The times she has treated them in ways I have not approved are rare, and she has consciously tried to consistently show love and kindness, rather than demean or cause pain. I appreciate that. It's difficult to change behaviors. She continues each day trying to improve her methods of dealing with stress and trying to rid herself of habits which destroy people she loves. Our relationship may never be that which I had hoped, but I cannot deny that my mother has done and continues to do all that she can to make amends for past sins. I respect her for that. She has a good heart and I care for her deeply.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"How are you today?" "I'm well, thank you."

Warning: As usual, I'll be talking about whatever is on my mind. It could be graphic, or it might not be. I haven't decided yet.

Today I went to the dentist. Normally this involves flashbacks before, during, and after the experience. Years ago, I didn't know what they were nor why they came and I understand little of what I experienced in the flashbacks, I only knew I was terrified of the dentist. When I was finally able to figure out what was happening, I stopped going to the dentist. It seemed the best solution. For years I didn't go.

This is partly due to a well-meaning but rather stupid dentist who was determined to cure me of my phobia. His method of choice was to give me a hand mirror and force me to watch the procedure. Naturally, my brain interpreted his insistence in making me see what he was doing to me as another attack to be stored in my arsenal of flashback memories, albeit a benign one. I'd much rather watch blood spurting from my tooth when the drill gets too close to the pulp, than experience childhood rape in that same orifice which involves incredible pain (my mouth has never been physically large--in fact my children's mouths were larger than mine by the time they were seven or eight years old), remembered tastes and odors which leave me nauseated, sounds I never wish to hear again (which did not come from me), and gagging. Yes, the tooth drilling nonsense is definitely preferable.

Today I did not run my car through the garage door while experiencing a flashback as I tried to back out of my driveway, nor did I have to ask for a break while the dentist touched the skin inside my mouth (so I could vomit), nor did I cry all the way home and sit in my driveway for half an hour until I could be composed enough to walk to my front door. I had no flashbacks today.

This should be a victory, and probably it is. Still, I feel miserable. No flashbacks, but rather unmanageable other PTSD symptoms which left me exhausted and very sad. It's difficult to combat the certainty that I am invisible and worthless, and if I could be seen, which I can't, everyone would notice I am filthy and wish they had not taken time to notice me as they rushed away to wash themselves of whatever contaminant I had spread to them. This is not a literal interpretation of what I feel or experience, but it is the best way I can explain what happens to me inside--this is what I feel about myself, about my interaction with others, in those moments.

Lately I've been very good about contacting someone when I notice the cycle happening. Sometimes I'll just chat with them, but if the symptoms aren't subsiding I might ask whomever I'm with to help me negate them. I might ask them to remind me I'm loved and I'm okay. I can't express how difficult it is for me to ask during those moments. It feels wrong of me, I feel I'm using the person I'm with--abusing them--in the same way I was abused. But Therapist said I need to do it anyway and assured me I'm not asking for a great deal. It still feels unacceptable to me.

Today Darrin was unavailable. There were people online I could talk with, but it was too difficult. I didn't know what to say. A couple of them caught me and asked the traditional "How are you?" and I replied with the universally bland, "I'm well, thank you." I wasn't well--but I wasn't able to say, "I feel awful right now. I don't believe it's right for me to talk with you. I'm afraid of you and everyone in the world. I think I might throw up...but on the bright side--I've had no flashbacks today."

What I found out today is that flashbacks are horrible, but they seem to gather all the feelings together into one burst of nastiness, and then there is relief and catharsis as I work through the aftermath. I hate it--but I also craved it today. Probably this makes me seem a bit monstrous--I'm craving the reliving of a rape experience which my body feels in every way, which breaks my heart and leaves me helpless, which I hate and fear. I can't explain it, really. Somehow, just having the flashback and getting over it seemed preferable to the PTSD symptoms which were dragging me into despair.

Part of all this is that I've only had a couple of days in the last three weeks when PTSD symptoms were strongly felt, and those were unwelcome and nasty, but manageable. When one has had that kind of relief for such a duration, it almost seems more overwhelming when the symptoms return with a vengeance. I wasn't prepared to deal with them. However, I finally did. There was nothing heroic or formulaic in my method. I simply waited for them to subside, which happened about 15 minutes ago.

So--I made it through by myself. Therapist would be disappointed in me, but I'm not. There will be times, many times, when I will be the only one available to help me through difficulties in the future. Part of me is glad to know I can do it on my own--part of me is wondering why I would ever wish to--part of me is mad at Therapist for being so insistent that I stop relying completely on myself in these times, although I understand why he's made a point of telling me I need to talk to another person when I'm experiencing this. I have PTSD, and even though I'm getting stronger and feeling better, it's still a disorder which can leave me feeling deeply sad (as it did today) or even suicidal. It works on my judgment, self-respect and self-worth, and skews my reality. Therapist's advice is a precaution to keep me safe when I'm vulnerable.

Except, I'm okay.

I'm still sad, and I'm still sorting out the lies from the truth. It could take a few days--this was an intensely overwhelming episode. But I've been sad before. And I've had to confront destructive thoughts and behaviors. This is nothing new.

I think I'll go to bed. I'm very tired.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So this is what it feels like.

I called Therapist today in a panic.

I've been noticing a change inside of me. It started about three months ago. I was a little alarmed when I noticed it, but then it went away and everything was normal again. But over the past six weeks the change has taken root, grown, and today it feels like a normal part of me.

It's difficult to explain, but I'll reference the millions of posts I've written about relationships. I've always known I feel differently about people than others do. When I meet someone I care deeply about, I'm thrown into a vortex of whirling emotions--insecurity, because I'm fairly certain I shouldn't love anyone; guilt, because I'm pretty sure if that person knew me well, he/she would be insulted that I care enough to desire friendship or love from them; delight, because it feels incredibly joyful to love someone with one's entire soul; sadness, because I know, in time, the person will outgrow me; and helplessness, because I understand there is nothing I can do to change the normal cycle of friendships.

Naturally, all this makes me a bit angry and more than a bit frustrated. Most of my friends have talked with me about it. They assure me that they have no plans to abandon our friendship, but life does happen and they must live it, and, let's be honest, friends are nice. The end. They aren't family. They aren't employment. They aren't romance. They're just nice to have around.

I have felt differently. Those people I have allowed close to me (a very rare thing) are not "just friends". They somehow become a large part of my life, and I feel a great deal of animosity when they refer to our "friendship"--because I know what that means. It means all this love and time and joy is a temporary investment, and a cheap one, at that. It's one which can be lost and forgotten for years on end, then dusted off and remembered occasionally. It's one that is easily replaced by another friend who will be replaced by another, and another, and another... In my mind, it is the embodiment of how I have always viewed my role in the lives of other people: someone who brings laughter and humor, but while diverting, is quickly forgotten and rarely a topic of conversation or a fleeting memory. I know I shouldn't want it, but I have always wished for more, something lasting and beautiful and meaningful.

Therapist has been telling me for four years that I have that with my spouse. He's correct, of course, but I suppose I'm greedy, for I wished that I might have deep friendships, nonsexual relationships, which were maintained and desired by both parties. It's not that I want to take anything from my relationship with Darrin, it's just that I missed that part of nurturing when I was growing up. The human intimacy one has with a parent, sibling, or best friend. I could never have those things because I was too afraid, too hurt, and I had no idea how to develop those relationships because one learns how in the home, as a child--except, I didn't. I wanted, even as an adult, to have what I saw others receiving, and I felt guilty for desiring it.

The first time I experienced REAL nonsexual touch, intimate closeness which had no sexual overtones either from me or the person I was with, happened four years ago. And for the first time in my memory, every part of me relaxed--I knew I was safe. The person touching me wanted nothing from me. It felt miraculous, impossible, and amazing. I had never, ever, felt that before.

I suppose, partly because of that experience, and partly because I was learning to connect with people, build relationships based on who I really was and not on who I assumed the other person wanted me to be, I felt a consuming need to cling to every person who entered my life, which in turn made me feel guilty. So I tried to sort everything out here, in my blog, as well as in conversations with Therapist, Darrin, and those friends who were close to me. I ended up solving nothing.

And so, now I find myself here. For about six weeks I've felt my anxiety about my friendships easing. I've found myself accepting the fact that in time, most of those people will move out of my life for many different reasons and that doesn't mean they no longer care about me, just that the need for my presence and company has waned. And I'm not panicking, or feeling sick, or wanting to scream because I can't change things. I'm just feeling like this is part of life--not my favorite part, for sure--but still, it happens and no one seems to die or anything like that because it happens.

I was surprised, I suppose, because I didn't expect I would ever be able to calmly accept what used to make me feel incredibly sad. Which is why I called Therapist. I needed to see what he would tell me.

Therapist said this means my emotions are swinging back into a normal range, and I should expect my levels of anxiety to calm down along with this. Also, I'm learning how to navigate normal relationships and all this is a good thing. I'm not running from people, or trying to force them to go away. I'm not being clingy or needy. I'm just allowing everything to run its course. Oh, and he's proud of me.

My heart wonders how it can be good to lose a desire which used to feel normal, and beautiful, and and integral part of who I am. My head reminds my heart that this same desire also brought with it enormous amounts of insecurity and fear. Heart reminds Head that the closeness and care I received in my relationships are not things I wish to lose. Head reminds Heart that it takes two...sigh...

Therapist says I'll find a new way to relate to my friends, one that's comfortable for us both. He says he believes this emotional shift will help me feel more free to express myself and to not feel tied to people...except I don't believe I've ever felt I couldn't express myself and feeling ties of love has not been a burden at all.

But maybe, with time, I'll stop feeling sad about what feels like losing an essential part of me and I'll figure out how everyone else manages this part of their lives. And maybe someday I'll feel happy about finally getting what I wanted--understanding and acceptance of how friendships work--just like everyone else.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Today's List

1. I enabled full site feeds for my posts so no one has to visit my blog to finish reading anymore. They'll come in entirety to any subscribed blog reader. Don't ask me why I waited to do this, nor why I chose to make the change now because I have no answer.

2. I keep going to bed early and not sleeping. Sigh...I have nothing to say about that except I hate it so tonight I'm up blogging instead. Then I'll try sleeping again.

3. Today was beautiful in every way, in spite of the fact that it was incredibly busy and I didn't want to work at all.

4. Yesterday my car broke. Today Darrin fixed it. I love that.

5. I've decided to eat Greek yogurt mixed with chopped walnuts every day for the rest of my life.

6. Today three people told me I smell must!  :-)

7. I need a tooth filled. I lost a filling about a year ago and today it reminded me that it's going to become a root canal if I don't do something about it. I thought about trying the thing where I'm supposed to feel the pain, then thought better of it. I'll bet it really does hurt. Now, if I can just get to the dentist without having a flashback or panic attack, my life will be complete.

8. I missed people today. This makes me feel grumpy and aggravated. It also makes me want to call those people on the phone and yell at them for being too lovable and too far away. I don't do that--yet. I'm thinking about starting the habit, though.

9. I think I would like to have dimples. Most everyone I know has them. I'm feeling deprived and wondering if there's a way to cultivate them. I'm guessing there's not.

10. I was told today that I need to read more trashy novels and fewer books and short stories written by dead people. So I picked one up at the library, just to see if that person was correct. She was not. While I most definitely enjoy reading some books written by alive people, I do not love trashy novels, especially trashy romance novels which can be read in 90 minutes and involve unprotected sex, unexpected pregnancy, lush bosoms and throbbing members. I also find it confusing when the protagonists switch teams and have sex with lots of people of both genders, often at the same time. Also, I have no idea what the plot was. This is not because I'm not a comprehensive reader, but rather, because the author was so absorbed in writing naked scenes, she forgot to add a story line. It's difficult to follow something that does not exist.

11. And now I'm going to bed and I am not going to dream about that trashy novel stuff because I'll end up retching in the bathroom instead of sleeping restfully.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Time for bed

When I was pregnant, I used to get severe cramps in my calves and feet. I could feel them coming. I knew if I stretched out those muscles, they were less likely to cramp up--so I did. I stretched, and massaged, and sometimes, just for good measure, I'd soak my legs and feet in a warm bath before bed because the cramps were worse at night. And then, just as I was falling asleep, I would very slowly tense the muscles up...just to see if they'd cramp...which, of course, they did...which sent me into spasms of painful giggles and gasps...and I had to hop around the room trying to work out the knots in my feet and legs...

Darrin would shake his head in wonder because he knew I was tensing on purpose. He couldn't understand why I would do that to myself--but I just had to know. I had to know if there was a cramp lurking inside me. I had to check to see if the tendency to grip and knot was still in my muscles. I couldn't help it--I was compelled somehow, even though I knew what the outcome would be. I blame pregnancy because everyone knows that state of being makes women insane--and men, too, if they spend much time with pregnant women.

However, I also have to admit to being compulsive, a little bit, naturally. Sometimes, even when I know the outcome will be less than optimal, I still try the waters, just to find out. Tonight, however, I am turning the tide.

In the past when this particularly obnoxious PTSD symptom has hit (I'm speaking of the feeling of loneliness which does not want to go away and makes me feel miserable), I've stayed up long into the wee hours of morning, just to see if it will go away. It never does. It only becomes more painful and intense and morphs into a myriad of other symptoms which are all unmanageable because I'm sleepy and exhausted.

But tonight, I think I'll go to bed. I've become adept, once again, at lucid dreaming, so should the symptom inspire nasty dreams, I know what to do to change that. And I've not had a flashback for three weeks now (hoping this will become an entire month), so I'm feeling much stronger overall. Besides, I know the symptom is not going to go away, and everyone in my house is asleep, and now is a very bad time for me to be alone, thinking, obsessing...

I know my limits and tonight is not the time for me to be checking to see if there's an emotional Charlie horse waiting to bind my guts.

Good night.  :-)

Why are men so aggravating?

My kids are back in school. They seem to have forgotten that the only reason I gave them life was so I'd have friends at home to play with. Children are so unreliable.

Darrin and I talked last night. I told him that as long as he refused to see a doctor, take medication, change his eating habits, or exercise, his death was a real possibility and we needed to make some plans for that event. His response was to point out that his triglycerides were lower than they'd been in years, which is true. However, the high threshold of acceptable is 149 mg/dL. His reading is 384 mg/dL. That's more than double the acceptable high. Add to that the fact that his liver function is not good, his thyroid stimulation hormone is much too high, his glucose levels aren't healthy, and he has sleep apnea--Darrin is a heart attack waiting to happen.

Darrin is concerned about expense--and that's valid. We don't have insurance and the cost of doctors, prescriptions, CPAP machine, and other things would eat up half my monthly salary. I looked into private health insurance recently. The premium for Darrin rivals his actual health care costs AND we would have to pay for a deductible and co-insurance on top of that. In short, the insurance costs more than no insurance, except if Darrin ever did have a major medical disaster (which he probably will), then the insurance would be worth it.

Darrin said he didn't want to talk about it. I said I didn't care.

We tossed ideas around. The obvious solution is for Darrin to lose forty pounds and start moderate exercise. It sounds easy. But the conglomeration of health problems he's hosting is slowing his metabolic rate, making him feel tired all the time, which also seems to trigger the need to eat constantly. I don't understand this. I can go days without wanting to eat, and exercise is something I need. But these things are real setbacks for Darrin and I don't know how to help him. I prepare healthy meals with lots of fruits and vegetables and very little fat, and he goes to the store to buy and consume a pound of French bread, or stashes chips in his car, or runs out for fast food on his lunch break. He says he craves carbs and fat. My research backs this up. The thyroid and sleep problems really do trigger his desire for carbs, especially high fat/high salt ones.

In the end, we agreed to nothing and Darrin fell asleep. I honestly do not know how to solve this problem and I desperately don't want to be a widow at my age...well, at any age, really.


Okay--going to run. I think today looks like it will be sunny and beautiful.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Poco a poco

There was a time not long ago, when I was teaching a couple of classes at the university, early-morning seminary, Young Women, and twelve piano students...and I thrived on it. My poor seminary girls heard from me six days a week. I looked forward to the lesson prep, delivery, recitals, grading--everything.

When I was visiting TB, I attended a couple of the classes he was teaching, and the bug bit me again--hard.

Tonight I went to our seminary kick-off fireside and felt the need to teach in that venue again.

But I'm listening to Therapist. He says I need to be more moderate, more practical. Most people don't teach as rabidly as I've done in the past. So I've taken his advice, limited my studio to ten students, turned down teaching contracts at the university, and I won't be teaching seminary. About two months ago I was called to teach in YW again, which is enjoyable and low-stress. I know this is best. A month ago I was barely functioning and I'm still recovering from eighteen months of incredible stress, but I miss teaching. A lot.

At my last visit, Therapist kept saying to take time, build in rest, stop trying to conquer Rome in a day, accept small progress and go slowly for awhile. Then he said, "Sam, I'll be honest, I don't think I would make it through the things you've been through in the past year and a half. I think I'd be residing in a hospital somewhere, trying to figure out which end was up. You're very strong, but you rely on yourself too much, still. Let people, especially your husband and kids, help more. When friends offer a listening ear, take it. Do more things for yourself--take slow walks, call someone you love, read a book, cry sometimes. You're not better yet, even if you feel better."

The funny thing is, if he had said that to me three months ago (and he probably did, I just chose not to listen), I would have had a panic attack just thinking about how to schedule those things into my life. And I would have decided he was crazy--I don't need to do anything like that. Today I keep thinking about things I've done in the past few weeks which have made my heart feel happy:
1. Went running with Jason and Ambrosia (not at the same time). Usually when I visit people I don't invite them to run with me. I like to run for a long time and at my own pace. Fewer than six miles feels like I didn't do anything. But a knee injury sustained in a spectacular fall a couple of months ago has slowed me down considerably. I think Jason and I made it only four miles before my knee stopped enjoying the run and became problematic, and I only ran about three miles with Ambrosia. But there was something about being with other people which brought a new dimension to my run. And Jason and I spent the four mile walk back to his home talking, spending time together. That's not something I do very often.

2. Allowed myself time to do nothing, and invited TB to join me. And he did. We just sat together. Sometimes we talked and laughed, I found that I could touch the skin on his arm and hand without the normal "I'm going to be sick" reaction. And I didn't care that I wasn't entertaining or funny or delightful. It was just nice to be with someone who would allow me to not do anything, and not feel guilty about that. And since that time, my phobia to touch has receded. It's still there. I prefer not to touch skin, shake hands, or sit so closely my arm might brush another person, but I can let those things happen without feeling like I might scream or throw up. It's not pleasant--but neither is it unpleasant.

3. Looked around. I never stopped doing this, after all, it's a part of who I am. But I had stopped seeing with the depth and clarity which I was used to. Those things are back again. If you're with me now, you may have to stop while I watch a bug walk in the dirt, or gaze at a sunset, or exclaim because I smell dill growing in someone's garden, or drink in the beautiful the clouds and the blue sky--because those things are all worth noticing. And if you're in my phone directory, I may send you really awful pictures of the things I see, because if I'm alone, I want to share them. But the funny thing is, now when I see these things, I feel a need to laugh and cry at the same time. It's a little confusing. I'm not sure why I feel this way.

4. Felt hungry. Three times this week I've felt this. It's an odd feeling and it aches a bit. I don't remember feeling really hungry before. Therapist said in order to recognize pain, I need to allow myself to feel it for at least a minute or two, identifying in my mind what is causing the pain and understanding that hurting will not kill me. I've not been successful at that yet, but hunger is a type of pain, I think, and I've been able to feel it and understand it. Interestingly, it doesn't inspire me to eat--quite the opposite. I'm unable to eat until I've been able to suppress the hunger pangs and made them go away, but I think this is temporary. Someday I think I'll be able to feel hunger and then eat just like everyone else.

Poco a poco...little by little...I'm not good at waiting or being patient or letting things go, but I'm doing it anyway.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Things I noticed today...and other days...

1. I don't like sourdough bread. No matter how much Darrin tries to make me like it--I don't. I'll eat it occasionally, because that seems to make him happy, but it's unpleasant even when covered in Nutella.

2. I love salads. Today I made one with spinach, peaches, plums, mangoes, and blueberries and topped it with seasoned tilapia and lemon/chive/poppyseed dressing. I thought it was plenty for dinner, but Darrin said he was still hungry after eating three platefuls--hence, the purchase of the sourdough bread. He ate nearly the whole loaf. That is a lot of bread.

3. I think bumblebees are beautiful. I watched one buzzing about the morning glory which threatens each year to choke out our gooseberry bushes. The white trumpet blooms bobbed downward as the large bee (nearly three inches long and at least an inch wide) landed inside each one. Its bass buzzing was loud enough to be heard in my house. I quietly watched that golden, fuzzy bee for a very long time.

4. Sometimes ice cream is okay if it's a chocolate ice cream bar covered in chocolate and made by Haagen-Dazs.

5. I hate it when school starts. I'm missing my kids all ready. We did not have enough time to play this year. We're planning a family getaway on Labor Day weekend. It will be the first time in my memory that I've allowed any kind of celebration-type thingy to happen on my birthday. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

6. My crab apples are starting to turn. I think the tree looks almost as lovely with bright red apples all over it as it does when it's in bloom.

7. Tonight I had to run to the store for dishwasher detergent just as the sky turned to that glorious, velvety, glowing, deep blue which is my favorite color. I was standing in the parking lot waiting for the glow to fade and the sky to turn black, when I noticed a young man, late-twenties-ish, sort-of-tipsy-ish, at my elbow. He was holding a pizza box from Little Caesar's and offered me a slice, then asked if he could watch the sky with me, or maybe, just watch me watch the sky. I laughed. He said he liked my laugh. I said no, thank you, to the pizza, and told him I look much different--much older--in the light. He said that was okay, he did, too. I thanked him for the lovely compliment and pizza offer, told him not to drive home, then went into the store and bought detergent.

8. Tabitha and I spent too long at the grocery store today looking at dozens of roses...and smelling them. Today I like the orange ones tipped with red, and she likes the cream ones tipped with pink. We both decided we prefer no yellow or pink ones, but red is always lovely. Darrin says next time we should fix dinner before we go to the store. Then he and the boys can eat while Tabitha and I enjoy the flowers. I suggested he could buy some, then we could all eat and look at roses at the same time. He said he liked my idea better, which is just one reason I love my husband.

9. I love running. I know I've said it a million times. I can't help it. It makes me feel joyful. And if you ever see me running down a hill (without falling, of course), you'll see me grinning and if you're close enough, you'll hear me laugh.

10. When in Seattle, I saw the Happy Tolkien Boy Dance not just once, but three times! Sometimes, when I'm doing the Happy Samantha Dance, I'm really glad no one's around to see, but it still makes me smile.

Final note: I see Dead Bloggers. Not that the people are dead, just the blogs. And I don't really know how to handle this because birthday tributes seem inappropriate, somehow. So I missed blogging about AtP on his birthday, because he's not AtP anymore, and Mr. Fob's blog is dead, so I won't be able to blog about him on his birthday, and today is Tolkien Boy's birthday, but I can't say anything about that because his blog is dead, too...Seriously, this is a problem. Where can a person find a blog-dead therapist when needed?

Friday, August 20, 2010

What an odd day.

Today was difficult--which offered me lots to think about.

For the first time since my return from Seattle I experienced a day filled PTSD symptoms in nearly all their varieties. Just as I'd have one managed, another would be triggered. Darrin had a doctor appointment early this morning and called to let me know the financial expense, which turned out to be much less than I had expected. Normally this would be cause for at least a tiny happy dance. Instead, I found myself upset that the doctor was a dermatologist!

Darrin's most recent blood tests revealed a higher total cholesterol count than he has ever had, and his thyroid and liver problems are becoming more serious. And this time his blood sugar and blood pressure numbers were much too he'll see a dermatologist for his acne, but flatly refuses to take prescribed medications for his vital organs. I keep saying it--and I know I shouldn't--at least his skin will be clear when he lies in his coffin...sigh...

Needless to say this put me in a very bad humor which stayed with me most of the day. When Tolkien Boy said hello I tried to make small talk because it's been awhile since we've visited. Finally I gave up and told him I'm sort of a waste of time today. We chatted a bit more, then had some silence, and then he had to go. It's probably best that we didn't talk long, but he said something that triggered a whole series of symptoms unexpectedly. He said, "...we haven't really been able to talk like we usually do for the past couple of days...that can be nerve-wracking..."

I'm uncertain if the last part of that sentence is meant to be linked to the first, or if it has reference to one of the other tangents we were simultaneously discussing. Such confusion often happens to me in any conversation with TB. We have difficulty talking of only one thing at a time. And I didn't have opportunity to clarify his meaning before he had to go, but instead, drowned in the subsequent thought stream which went something like this:
1. It should not be nerve-wracking for me to go without conversing with a friend for a couple of days.
2. If it is stressful for me when that happens, something is wrong with my attachment to that person.
3. I really do feel better when I have opportunity to chat with people I love when I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
4. Probably that's inappropriate and I should figure out how to cope with my symptoms without relying on other people.
5. Am I becoming too dependent in my relationships?
6. Ack! What is wrong with me? Why can't I just deal with this?
7. If I don't learn how to deal with this, I will be perceived as needy and soul-sucking.
8. I can't think about this right now.
9. I have to think about this and solve the problem right now!
10. I have no idea what the problem is--therefore, cannot solve it--therefore, I have no idea how to proceed--therefore, I am stumped.

Still, it was nice to be able to say hello to TB, and later I got to say a brief hello to AtP, as well, which made me happy.

Tabitha reminded me when she left for work that I had made a date with my sister-in-law to go to the farmer's market--which I desperately wished to cancel. But both Adam and Tabitha wanted to go, so I called my SIL and left a message to see if she wanted to go with us. She did.

It became the turning point of my day (too bad it had to happen at 6:00 p.m.). We wandered our poor excuse for a farmer's market, bought fresh beets, peaches, and roasted serrano peppers. Then we went home and made stuffed peppers with my signature mole sauce (AtP, where were you? We needed your expert pepper filling skills), ripe canteloupe, and I made freshly squeezed lemonade with lemon balm and mint. It was wonderful.

DJ and Adam left for a guys night out. Tabitha reunited with my SIL for some girl time and shopping, and Darrin took me on a date.

We saw Eat, Pray, Love. It hasn't gotten rave reviews, and I understand why, but it was exactly what I needed to see tonight. There were topics discussed which have reference to my interpersonal relationships fears, and tiny details which spoke to me. I was intensely touched by scenes in which good friends held hands, or embraced without restraint or self-consciousness. The scenery was breathtaking. I adored the footage of Italy's landmark ruins. But more than that, just hearing some of the words, taking them out of context, understanding them as only one with my experiences can--this was important and the timing was exactly right.

I won't recommend the movie--I love what I took away from it too much to worry about whether or not another person cares in the same way I do. I won't say it's one of the best movies ever made--that has nothing to do with what I saw in it. I won't say the performances were noteworthy or award-winning--mostly because I just don't care about that. I found some things I needed tonight. I heard words which have been said to me before by people I love, repeated out of context by complete strangers in a fictitious setting--and they made sense. I walked out of the theater believing...I'm not sure what I was believing, but sometimes belief, in and of itself, is a healing state of mind.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"You should stand up for your right to feel your pain." ~Jim Morrison

Today I feel displaced, somehow, as though I belong somewhere else. I've lived here more than half my life and for all but one year of my marriage. I know the best places to run, to eat out, to find solitude, to meet friends. I feel safe here, but I have never felt that I was home.

Therapist believes I might always feel this way. He says it's typical of those who live with hyper-awareness--they are always ready to move, run, hide, if necessary. They never quite relax. I think I'm understanding what he means. There are moments, usually when I'm with someone I trust, when for just a moment I feel I can stop anticipating what might go wrong, what might hurt, or what might cause me stress. Occasionally, in those moments, I even sleep, which isn't the nicest thing to do socially, but there are times when I'm too tired to care. Even in my home--in the place I've lived for years--I still lock myself in, and I never answer the door if it's not someone I know. I suppose these would be considered common sense and appropriate safety precautions if I lived in a place with a high crime rate. I don't.

Therapist says there are some things about me that will change, partly because I work for and desire that, and partly because change comes about naturally, but there might be some parts of my life which will be forever affected by the things I experienced in my childhood and teenage years. He says as long as I'm not bothered by those things, probably it's okay if I have unusual quirks or habits designed to keep me safe even where there is no threat of danger.

I'm okay with that, I guess. I can live with a certain amount of hyper-vigilance. Therapist has agreed to work with me on small things I'd like to change as long as I continue to get adequate rest and take breaks from work, and as long as I have valid reasons for working on those things. So--this week we began.

I chose to work on learning to acknowledge pain. I know I feel it--it just doesn't register as pain. I've been known, more than once, to reach into the oven without potholders to remove a tray of cookies or some other baked good. My response is to place the pan on top of the stove, then remark, "Well, that wasn't smart," and continue with whatever I'm doing. I still receive the burns and blisters--they just don't hurt. Darrin has seen me cut myself countless times while preparing dinner. He doesn't understand why I don't flinch, I just quickly wash and bandage the cut so I'm not bleeding on our food, and carry on. Nor does he understand that the cut doesn't feel painful.

I showed Therapist some road rash on my arm from my most recent encounter with the pavement while running last Saturday. The scrape is about three inches wide and six inches long, it bleeds and seeps frequently, and right now it's developed a thick scab which wants to peel off each time I shower. Underneath the scab is angry red skin. It should hurt--a lot. It doesn't.

I told Therapist I think it's dangerous for me to not recognize pain. I could harm myself and not get necessary help. He agreed. So we talked of ways I can try to remain in the moment when I hurt myself. Not that I'm planning to get hurt just to try it out, but I'm fairly certain it won't be long before I have the opportunity. Most of the people I know say, "Ouch!" at least once a day. I'm guessing, if I pay attention, I'll find a few times throughout the day when and "ouch" is appropriate.

I know. This seems sort of silly. Most people would love to not have to experience pain. But pain serves a purpose. It lets us know when our physical bodies are in some sort of danger and allows us to learn to avoid circumstances which hurt us. I need to know how to do that before the pain becomes so extreme I can no longer suppress or ignore it. Dealing with small pain might help me avoid a root canal, for example, or stop cutting my finger before it needs stitches (yes, I've had problems with both these things--I know--sort of disgusting). Let's face it, as uncomfortable as pain is, it's normal and necessary and I need to feel and acknowledge it when it begins.

The last thing Therapist told me about this was that it will take time--perhaps a year or two. And I might find success for awhile, only to relapse when stress increases. There is something inside of me that tells me pain is unnecessary and time consuming and I don't have any extra time for it, hence, the edict that in order for us to work on this, I need adequate rest and sleep. I'm not good at waiting, nor at relapsing, nor at tiny increments of progress. But I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I think I can do it.

There is a connection between this physical work and an emotional payoff. I believe when I can feel physical pain in the moment, when I don't separate myself or suppress it, I'll be modeling a process I can use when I find myself running, emotionally, from people I care about. This need to place space between another person and myself happens when I feel I love more than I should, or begin to feel trust, or when I'm certain the deep bonds I'm forming are one-sided and unwanted by the other party. Rather than discussing my fears, I retreat behind humor or silence. At least, that's my perception.

Therapist disagrees with me. He believes I'm very good at talking about the emotional parts of my relationships which make me feel stressed or uncomfortable. And I do talk about them, but only because if I don't, my anxiety increases to the point that I can't interact within that relationship anymore. Therapist has been monitoring a couple of my friendships. He believes the level of emotional honesty within those relationships (on my part), while not perfect, still surpasses that experienced in most friendships.

I don't know if I agree with Therapist. His perception is definitely not mine. But I do believe if I can find parallels between management of my physical and emotional self, this whole process will be much easier. I'd like to do something a little easier for awhile.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"To live is to be slowly born." ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I have spent the past four years doing things I'm glad I did--but which I never wish to do again.

Speaking about my past was the first step, and it took nearly nine months before I was able to state my experiences clearly and with proper terminology. It was horribly painful. I don't want to go through that process again.

Stepping outside of the cocoon of safety I had spun for myself took great effort. I had to detach myself from Darrin, and allow emotional vulnerability with people whom I had not known long. I had to trust that they would not hurt me in any way (which is always stupid, but still important). I had to believe that those whom I trusted loved me and had my best interests at heart. I can't describe the stress this created, and I spent nearly three years forcing myself to stay in friendships when I wished to run. The wishing to run part did not come because the friendships were unhealthy or not delightful. It happened because I was afraid. I stayed anyway, and it was agonizing and difficult (not just for me--for all involved--and I'm sorry). I don't want to experience that growth and understanding thing again.

Meeting with the man who raped me as an adolescent was an important step. I thought about it for a long time before I actually planned and carried out my desire to see him again and kill the imaginary monster my brain had created in his image. It was a delightful surprise when more than one person offered to accompany me on my quest, although I didn't really want anyone to see him. In the end, I was grateful I hadn't gone alone. As I have very little memory of what happened in the hours following that meeting, it's good that there was someone to be with me and make sure I didn't do anything embarrassing or against the law. And meeting with that man made me feel in control of my life again. It also helped me understand he's just an old man who's had a difficult, rather unhappy life. I don't feel sorry for him. I'm no longer afraid, either. But the meeting itself made me sick to my stomach in a way I've not experienced since--and I don't ever want to experience it again.

Accepting the truths I have hidden from myself was next to impossible. With all my heart I wanted to be someone who had never been harmed in the ways I had been. And I did my best to become that other person--several times. Integrating those parts with the child/adolescent/young lady who has been hurting for many, many years was painful in ways I cannot describe. I experienced depression, uncontrollable anger, physical pain, eating disorder recurrence, suicidal thoughts and desires, and erratic behavior. I lost my identity and at one point was certain I had lost my soul. People who care about me continued to remind me that I am Sam...Sam, I am...and to help me find my footing once again. I still wish I was not hurt in the ways I experienced. I would love to imagine my mother cherished me and nurtured me in place of the actual abuse and neglect. I do not ever want to be a rape survivor--but I am. There are too many parts of my life I don't like to remember--but they happened to me. They do not define or describe me. Integration was unpleasant. It still makes me nauseated to think of the requirements necessary to become whole, but it is finished. And while I'm grateful for the end result, I never, ever want to do it again.

And so I look at that end result:
1. I have PTSD. This means sometimes I might not be at my best when I'm with friends and family. People might not always understand my demeanor or reactions. Sometimes I'll wish to stay home where it's quiet rather than be out among throngs of people. If I trust you, I might ask you to remain with me while I work through the aftermath of a flashback or nightmare. Sometimes, if we're chatting online, I might have to leave before the conversation is over because I'm not always able to read between the lines, or I might feel suddenly afraid of you, or I might feel spontaneously sad or overwhelmed. But I don't believe I will always be this way. Some days will be better than others--and one day I might not have to tell anyone I have PTSD, because the symptoms will be manageable and slight or not even there at all.

2. I have an anxiety disorder. Therapist believes I've had it all my life. Occasionally it becomes unmanageable, usually when I'm overworked, overtired, or life is overwhelming. It rarely affects anyone but me. It's uncomfortable and sometimes scary. Once in awhile it manifests itself in the form of sleepwalking or night terrors. During the day, one might see my hands shaking, or I have difficulty sitting still. But mostly, I think no one notices it at all. This is not something I would choose to have, but it's manageable for the most part, and has very little impact on me or those I love.

3. I have learned that sometimes people don't leave. They don't let you down, betray you, or harm you in unspeakable ways. This has taken me four years to accept, and some days I still have to remind myself of it. Interestingly, on those days someone inevitably calls me or finds me online for a chat or sends me an email. And in coming to this knowledge, learning to trust, and accepting that I often give--just as I receive, I have recognized that I no longer agonize about being harmed by people who are closest to me. And if, for whatever reason, life got busy and took them away, it would hurt for awhile and I would miss them, and then I would wait until such time as we could reunite. I don't want this to happen. I know that it does. I know if it does, it will be okay. I will be okay.

4. I have experienced things no one should have to. This doesn't make me brave or strong or different, really, from anyone else--just more unfortunate than those who haven't experienced similar things. I choose not to see the experiences as "lessons" or "ways to help others" or "trials needed for growth" or any other inane platitude put forth by those who need to find a silver lining in any nasty situation. Instead, I choose to see them as they are--absolutely unacceptable forms of human interaction. I don't believe I'm a better person because of them. I believe I would still be who I am if I had been nurtured and loved and never raped or abused--I just wouldn't have as many disorders and phobias, especially to touch. I have chosen to rise above the actions which harmed me and I have worked myself to exhaustion to achieve relief from the affects of those actions. I have chosen to find joy in each day. I have chosen to live without fear. I have chosen to love with abandon. This did not come about because I was harmed, it happened because I wished for it, worked for it, and would settle for nothing less, and I will continue to choose this. It is my doing, my work, my payoff--and I refuse to give credence to acts that should never have happened by connecting them to the person I have become. In essence, the work I have done has uncovered the person who was shrouded in the blackness of fear resulting from those acts. I have emerged from the shroud. It has no claim to the person I am.

I am no longer exhausted by life. I am no longer consumed by fear. It's time to take all that I am--difficulties and strengths equally--time be live...

Sometimes it's okay to be happy.

Tabitha frequently wants to watch feel-good, everything ends happily, family-friendly, trite, poorly written, stupid movies. And I let her. Not only that, I watch them with her. And they're horrible.

But here's the thing--movies filled with violence, sexual content, foul language, and poor role models are the norm, and they rival what Tabitha sees and hears daily at school. And I'm okay if she wants to retreat sometimes and feel safe in fantasy for a couple of hours.

Adam whines that the movies are dumb; Darrin groans that he hates a particular actor or actress; DJ snorts at Tabitha's taste in movies...and then they all join her in the family room to watch the movie. Interestingly, when it's over, no one raves about how good the movie was, nor do they want to watch it twice. But they also don't make fun or become upset because the movie wasn't funny, or exciting, or titillating, or erotic enough. They just say something about it being an okay movie. I think they get tired of all the violence, sex, and language, too, sometimes.

Recently, I had the opportunity to choose a movie to watch with a friend. He had a few collections of comedy series--which I like and think are funny. He had a few movies which I had seen, and some I had not. But I chose to watch Nanny McPhee. He didn't sneer at my choice or laugh at me, but sat beside me and told me why he loves the movie, too. And I enjoyed watching the movie again with someone I love, without worrying that I might encounter scenes which could be uncomfortable or distasteful (although, in that particular company, those things wouldn't really have bothered me). This was important because at the time I was struggling to control PTSD and all it's lovely accompaniments, and I am often triggered by things I see or hear.

I suppose many people, myself included, have a tiny bit of Tabitha in them--a need to be safe even when doing something as simple as watching a movie, or perhaps a need to believe, just for a couple of hours, that life has happily-ever-after endings occasionally, and it's okay to enjoy and feel good about that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dear Brozy,

I just want you to know that when you left me in alone in your house today, I planned to get lots and lots of work done. But then your Cleaning Fairy came. I don't like her at all.

I told her several times that you don't like it when people do your dishes for you, but she is rude and does not listen. I'm certain she put the clean dishes in the wrong spots and loaded the dishwasher all wrong. I mentioned that you would rather do this yourself and she put her tongue out at me and continued to disregard all I said, even when I suggested that I would be much more appreciative of her efforts and she could come clean at my house. And she said she doesn't want to come to my house anyway!

She didn't even clean right. She left a pile of used cleaning cloths by your trash cans and she didn't put all the clean dishes away, but left them in random stacks around your kitchen. And I'm hoping you won't blame me for this because, after all, my magic is no match for hers, and fairies rarely listen to me--ever.

Also, please don't be mad about this because I want to come back and visit you again. It's lovely to have a nice bed and someone who doesn't mind if I make myself at home and cook dinner without ever inquiring as to what you might like to eat, but just assume you'll like whatever I decide sounds good.

And I cleaned my hair out of the tub and off the sink in the bathroom, just in case that will earn me brownie points.


P.S. The dogs were stupid and didn't even bark at the Cleaning Fairy once. Pfft...some watchdogs...

Friday, August 13, 2010

The sky is blue and the sun is shining.

I am sitting at work, looking out the window and thinking, This is not what I'm supposed to be doing.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a career-minded person. Simply because I'm a workaholic does not mean I excel at anything work-related. I don't care if I become the best musician in the world. I'm not ambitious when it comes to being a financial advisor. If I've prepared your taxes and you decide you need to go to someone new, my response will be to make certain you have all the information from past years so the transition will be seamless and stressless. I don't want an amazing office or salary or minions.

I want to go outside and play. Admit it--you want to be out there playing with me, too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Better--but not ALL better

I've been feeling on top of life for the first time in a couple of years. It's been wonderful.

But yesterday something happened which reminded me how fragile my illusion of strength is. In moments I had tumbled back into helplessness and feelings which are unlike me. I need to remember that seven days cannot correct the hazards of eighteen months, nor will those days supply me with the emotional and physical rest I need every day. Fortunately, I'm blessed with a number of loved ones who can admit mistakes, who will allow me to do the same, and who will meet me halfway when we have unfortunate interactions.

Still, I need to remember I'm in the process of recuperating. It will take time for me to build up strength again, for I've been very tired, and I don't have weeks of uninterrupted rest to rebuild. I have to keep working and living--no time to check out of life.

That would be nice, wouldn't it? To have a place where one could just rest and regroup until such time as life seemed manageable again? I vote for that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"I am you; you are ME. You are the waves; I am the ocean. Know this and be free, be divine." ~Sri Sathya Sai Baba

I have no idea what that quote means, nor why I'm thinking of it tonight. I remember reading it the first time and thinking, "That is completely messed up."

But sometimes, just for a moment, when I'm with someone I care for deeply, I get lost in who they are. I can't explain, because I'm not really sure what happens, but in that moment I know the person beyond what they look like, the sound of their voice is lost as it vibrates in my head, and as I inhale there is a scent beyond smell which tells me more about my loved one than words can express. And suddenly, I understand trust, and safety, and devotion in a way unlike any other.

It fleetingly breaks my heart as I recognize just for a moment how very much I love that person, and then the moment bleeds into another, splaying into ungainly reality, and is lost.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Before I go to bed...

I am waking up.

At least, that's what it feels like. For more than a year I have been burdened beyond my ability to cope. Today, the burden feels weirdly light.

I no longer feel that if one more stressful thing happens I will lose my mind. The methods I have been trying (without success) to use to manage PTSD symptoms clicked into place today for the first time in 18 months. They worked.

My life is no less complicated. I'm still working too many hours, but...

Let's face it, rest is important. I'm not very good at it, but even a little bit is helpful. And many of the things I did while in Seattle--while still very stressful--were laying groundwork to help me with my PTSD management when I got home.

When I arrived in Seattle, I said to Tolkien Boy, "I don't know how to breathe this air." It had too much moisture and more oxygen than my lungs were used to. Both are very good things--but I am used to breathing the thin, dry air of my 8000-feet-above-sea-level home.

That's sort of how I feel about not being stressed--I'm not sure how to react to it. However, after a day or two of oxygen saturated air, my lungs adapted and soon it felt natural to breathe it. I think, maybe, in a few days I'll figure out how to enjoy having less stress and panic.

There are certain times in one's life when one experiences remarkable change. It's a bit indescribable and probably cannot be understood by those not sharing the experience. This is what happened to me last week. I can try to explain, but even those who were present will probably not understand. I just know that today my guts don't feel clenched, I'm not frustrated with pent-up energy, and my thoughts are clear and logical. It's been a very long time since I've felt this. I'd like it to last a little while.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Things that happened in Seattle which make me smile

1. There is a twenty minute walk (at least) from the airport terminal to the light rail. And the train doesn't always leave on time which can make it difficult to stick to one's itinerary and to make adjustments when you don't know which bus you're trying to meet at the end of the line. However, if helpful people send you to the wrong bus stop, other helpful people will send you back to the right one.

2. A homeless man sitting nearby asked me if I knew when the train would get to Seattle. Since we were all ready in Seattle, and the train hadn't yet begun to move, I just said I wasn't from around these parts and I had no idea. A few minutes later, he took out a blue, disposable razor and began to shave his neck. When the ticket guys came to check our fares, the homeless man was ejected from the train, but I noticed that one of the ticket guys gave him ten dollars and told him to go get something to eat. Homeless Man pocketed the money, then took out his razor to shave his neck one more time as he watched the train leave.

3. While riding on a bus, Tolkien Boy and I were conversing about strangers being in his apartment, as his landlord was showing it while we were gone (TB is looking for a new place to live).

TB: I don't think I like people I don't know being in my apartment.
me: Why? What can they do? Your landlord is with them, they're just looking at the rooms.
TB: They might look in my closets.
me: Of course they'll look in the closets. What's wrong with that?
TB: They'll see my stuff.
me: What stuff? What don't you want them to see?
TB: I don't know. They'll see my comic books.
me: So? They don't know you. What's wrong with them seeing your comic books?
TB: I don't want strangers looking at my comic books.

About this time I noticed a man who was obviously eavesdropping on our conversation. He was laughing visibly each time TB or I spoke, and finally burst out, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! But it's like being trapped in a Seinfeld episode!"

Neither Tolkien Boy nor I are great Seinfeld fans. This was not good news. We looked at each other wordlessly, which only caused Bus Man to laugh more. Darrin tells me our reaction was Seinfeldian in the extreme, which was not our intention. Bus Man continued to laugh at us for another few blocks while we discussed the merits of going to the zoo, at which point he informed us that the zoo sucks. Ginsberg, who was with us, Tolkien Boy, and I decided to go to the sucky zoo anyway, which did not suck at all, but was rather lovely, contrary to Bus Man's opinion.

4. Jason and Leslie's two-year-old loves berries. A lot. I've never seen a child eat them like she does. Berries were something my kids had to be introduced to more than once because the texture, seeds, and tartness seemed to be a little daunting to them--and my children were adventurous eaters. However, the toddler I was with in Seattle ate more berries than I could and when I made a cream dessert to go with them, she ended up with that smeared all over her face...and all over her hands...and the table...She was beautiful.

5. I got to ride in a van beside Jason and Leslie's four-year-old who listens carefully to the lyrics of songs broadcast on the radio, and interprets them literally, and asks questions about them until the answer she receives makes sense to her. I tried to field her first questions about a song we were listening to: "Why does she want to climb inside the window?" and "Why won't she go in the door?" and "What's hold the hand of Death?", but then I decided her parents were much better equipped to answer those questions and it was better for me to just be tickled that they were introducing her to Melissa Etheridge at such an early age.

6. I read a bedtime story to Jason and Leslie's four-year-old...and I also read one to Tolkien Boy. There is nothing more to say about this.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thoughts about PTSD

Since returning home I've noticed very little disruption in my life from PTSD symptoms. They're there--I'm very aware of them--but they seem to lurk near the edges of my mind rather than surging forward to engulf me. Were I to speak with them, I believe I would say something like this:

I see you. I know you're there. But the truth is, I'm busy right now and I don't have time to allow you to distract me. And honestly, you're not doing anything new or remarkable. We both understand how easy it is for me to become overwhelmed, but I'm feeling stronger today than I've felt for over a year now. Also, no matter what you tell me about myself, there is evidence which negates those messages which I've stored in my memory and I intend to shield myself from you with those moments. I expect these memories will deflect any power you have over me for at least a couple of months, at which point I may need to refurbish my arsenal--but until that time, please make yourself comfortable in the background. I plan to keep you there indefinitely.

During my stay in the psyche ward a few years ago, I was diagnosed with PTSD and told I would probably never be free of it, and that I could expect to remain in therapy the rest of my life. The therapy visits, eventually, would become nothing more than annual mental health checks, but it would be a good idea to never go a year without seeing my counselor. I had a conversation with Therapist about this last month:

me: I have one more question before I leave. I was told, when I was in the hospital, that I will never be free of PTSD and I'll need to continue therapy visits for the rest of my life. Do you believe that?
Therapist: No.
me: Why?
Therapist: A number of reasons, actually. I'm assuming the doctors and psychologists who gave you that prognosis were not members of the church, right?
me: One was. The rest were not. It was actually the church member who told me that.
Therapist: Well, I'm not trying to undermine his findings, but I've known you longer--he only saw you for three days--and I've watched how you work. You don't give up and you continue to look for solutions even when there seem to be none. And I've seen your connection with the Lord. I believe, when you've done all the personal work you feel you need to do, when you've learned everything you can, when you're ready to be helped, you'll figure out how to allow the Atonement to finish what you've started. I honestly believe the words you said to me three years ago.
me: I don't remember what I said.
Therapist: You told me you refused to live with PTSD all your life. 
me: Well, that was just a temper tantrum mixed with a whole lot of denial.
Therapist: Possibly. But more importantly, I think you believe it, as well. I don't think you had any idea how painful full-blown PTSD could become, I don't think you understood how exhausted you'd be, and I don't think you knew you'd lose hope occasionally and feel helpless. But I've watched you regroup each time and try new approaches and someday--very soon, I believe--you're going to find what you need to be rid of this. I don't know exactly how that translates. It could mean you just learn to live with it but don't really notice it, or it might mean it goes away completely. But I don't believe you'll need to be in therapy the rest of your life. You understand when you need it, and you know where to find me, so if the time comes that you need support, you'll be able to have it, but it won't be mandatory. You will choose it.
me: Does that mean I don't need to come see you for awhile after I go to Seattle?
Therapist: No. 
me: Why not?
Therapist: I want to see you as soon as you feel able to talk to me when you come back, but no later that two weeks after you get home.
me: Again, why?
Therapist: I have a feeling this week-long "vacation" will not be as restful as I'd like it to be, but I also think you're going to spend your break from work processing a whole bunch of emotional and psychological "stuff". I just think it will be a good idea for us to touch bases when you come home, if for no other reason than to update me as to how you're feeling.
me: Okay.
Therapist: What? No arguments?
me: I'm too tired to argue. Besides, you're probably right.
Therapist: Wow. You are tired. I think this vacation will be a very good thing for you.
me: I hope you're right. Right now it's still giving me panic attacks.
Therapist: Sam, I don't think they'll last. Just trust me--you need this time off. 

And because Therapist knows everything, he was right, of course, about needing the time off, and using the time to process emotional things. I'm hoping he's right in his predictions about PTSD in my future. I think he might be. For the first time in about a year I don't dread the symptoms, I feel able to cope with them, and even manage them. I'm gearing up for the moments when self-worth is questioned and I begin to feel I am too filthy to be touched or cuddled. And I wasn't kidding when I said I have saved up incredible moments to be used as ammunition against the symptoms which undermine my sense of who I am.

I will remember that Jason and Leslie allowed me to spend time with their kids, and stayed up late talking with me, and let me cook dinner for them. And Jason and I went running and I found a four-leaf clover which had incredible powers which I will not go into--but it was fortunate that we had it with us during our run. They made time for me and I believe they did that because they care about me and, as I wanted to spend time with them, they also wanted to spend as much in-person time with me as they could before I left.

I will remember that I had a "date" with a straight guy--a sweet friend who didn't act offended that I fell asleep during a movie and who didn't seem put out that our day together was marred by my inability to control flashbacks, which absolutely must have put a damper on what should have been a lovely time. It's possible he was just being polite, but I prefer to believe he cares about me, so it's all right if I'm under the weather occasionally.

I will remember that TB never seems concerned if I touch him and often holds me close. He's not worried that the proximity to me will contaminate him, and sometimes seems to go out of his way to make certain I receive healthy touch, especially when I'm overwhelmed by PTSD symptoms or flashbacks. It's possible that he hates touching me, but that makes no sense at all. I prefer to believe that we've been friends long enough that we like sitting together and giving hugs and sometimes, even if he doesn't like the fact that I'm feeling pain after a flashback, I believe he's glad he can be present to help me through it because that's what you do when you care about someone.

I will remember that Tabitha couldn't stop hugging me when I got home because she missed me so much, that Adam has cornered me for too many hours just to talk, because he loves to talk with me, and that Darrin missed me--everything about me--he missed hugging me, kissing me, laughing with me and talking with me, even arguing with me--and he missed making love with me and was very glad I missed all those things, too.

I will remember that AtP texted me and sent me chats to let me know he missed our daily contact with each other, and that a number of other friends sent me well-wishes before I left because they knew I was nervous about leaving work and my family.

And so, PTSD, the bottom line is that there are many people who care about me, who will help me through whatever you can dish out, and I am not alone. And not only do they tell me how they feel--they show me. You, I can doubt. You send me nothing but nastiness and pain. But I refuse to doubt my loved ones. There may be times when they aren't available--because they have lives, too. But whenever possible, they've gone out of their way to let me know I'm important to them, to lend support, and to show love. You're not real. They are.

Dear People who are visiting from the Scooby-Doo Link,

This is not a site about the cartoon. It is a site where I spill my guts about my life and probably is very scary. Somehow my site became linked on the Scooby-Doo page at Video Surf. My apologies to those who have followed the link back here.


Saturday, August 7, 2010


I'm finding myself dwelling on the past week--processing, perhaps--and I need to note a few things here, just for clarity:


I did not sleep well. I had hoped I might be able to relax enough to sleep long into the morning, especially since most nights I was up very late. However, as is my norm, I continued to wake at daybreak. I did find, though, that I could sleep on the bus, during movies, through the majority of my church meetings, on plane rides, and sometimes I would catnap after I awoke in the mornings. Fatigue seems to do that to me. My kids have a belief that I can sleep anywhere, under any circumstances. They could be right. I don't believe I'll ever stop being ridiculed by them because I slept through the tornado which swept through our town a couple of years ago.

Relief from nightmares and flashbacks.

This did not happen. In fact, it was as bad as ever. I know the reason for this and it was based on a set of unfortunate circumstances, but I still hoped I had done enough groundwork to at least keep the flashbacks at bay during the day. It was not so. There was one rather crippling day of cascading flashbacks. By the time afternoon set in, my body was pain-wracked and felt as though it belonged to someone else. I was angry, but too tired to express it. I wanted to be present, to visit with friends, to enjoy my time with them. Instead I was being distracted nearly every 30-45 minutes with painful, stupid flashbacks which left me feeling exhausted and disoriented. I'm always certain when this takes place, that I look like a freak and act like I'm crazy. Not that there's anything I can do about it, but it's disconcerting to be trapped in memories from a long time ago and have an audience present.

Still, there seemed to be an impetus behind the rapidity and quantity of flashbacks. I can only compare it to the stomach flu--when you can't seem to stop vomiting, but you know eventually it will all be over and you'll get better. I've never felt that before in conjunction with flashbacks. They've just seemed like nasty, random occurrences, unpredictable and purposeless. The next day, when I finally had my sanity back, I understood what I needed to do to help alleviate the onslaught of flashbacks, and I did it. Part of it was personal work, part involved another person. I've not experienced a flashback since Wednesday.

Work abstinence.

This was not easy. In fact, when I was in distress on that awful flashback day, it was all I could think about--I NEEDED to work. However, that was not a possibility. We were on the bus, or at the zoo, or walking up and down hills... By the time we were near a place where I could set up my computer and work, I was no longer capable of it, mentally or emotionally, perhaps even physically. I'm uncertain whether my escape to work when I'm having difficulty managing PTSD symptoms of any kind, is a blessing or a curse. I certainly don't want to endure another day like the one mentioned above, nor do I wish to use work to avoid processing necessary emotional crap. 

Still, I was amazed to find myself relieved that I only had two workdays left in the week when I returned home. I was ready to work--and ready to rest after finishing my hours last night. That's new. So maybe my week of not working was helpful? I just don't know.


I've never spent this much consecutive alone-time with friends. Ever. In 2006, I took the first solo journey of my life. I drove to my grandmother's house and spent a couple of nights with her, then to visit my sister-in-law briefly (not overnight). I spent an evening with TB's family, then slept in a hotel room alone for the first time in my life, then TB and I had lunch with my rapist cousin the next day. The remainder of that day is a blur; I remember very little of it. Tolkien Boy must have driven me back to my hotel, eventually, because I know I spent one more night there before driving to see ATP for a couple of days, at which point I went home. An interesting trip, to say the least.

Four years later, I was flying to Seattle for a week with friends--something I have never done before. There was no family obligation, no creepy rapist lunch, no need to block memories...just time with friends. Also, I have never spent more than two nights with friends before. My head says to stay longer than that is not a visit, but an imposition and I must never impose. Therapist told me this belief stems from my certainty that I am a disposable distraction--people like me around for a little while, but are quite happy to see me leave. He said, probably there are people who love me who would be glad to have me stay longer than one or two days and I should think about testing that theory out while I was in Seattle. So I did. Sort of.

I stayed with TB three nights. Then I stayed with Jason and family two nights. Then I stayed one more night with Tolkien Boy. That's four nights with one friend. Granted, they weren't consecutive, and there was another friend with us for much of the time--although I'm not sure that's notable, but it sort of feels important. Perhaps because I wasn't the sole recipient of TB's hospitality? I'm not sure.

I tried to talk about this weird phenomenon with TB when I returned that last night, but I was really tired and I have a feeling it didn't come out the way I had planned. I believe I said something like, "I want to stay--but I don't want to." My memory says he responded with something about my needing to go home to my husband and kids, which was not what I was talking about at all, and I tried to further explain, but I think I said, instead, "Well, I wouldn't stay anyway, even if I could." Again, not what I was trying to express. Complete conversation fail on my part.

The next morning I couldn't decide if the conversation actually took place or I dreamed the whole thing (yes, this is common when I'm sleep deprived). I tried to ask TB about it, but again, couldn't seem to dredge up the right questions. He seemed bored with the whole thing, and not forthcoming with any details of that which was discussed the night before, and I was still tired--perhaps he was, as well--so I dropped it. It's not unusual for me to begin a conversation with Tolkien Boy and have it end up far from where I intended it to go, but I don't believe I've ever had one with him where my meaning was expressed so badly or misconstrued by him--but I don't know that for sure because I really can't remember exactly what was said, and TB didn't tell me anything more about it the next day, although I do remember him saying we had a very nice conversation (and I don't believe we did).

Anyway, the fact of the matter is, I did stay with a friend longer than two days. And the result of this is that I'm feeling all sorts of insecurity over my regrettable imposition. I do not know how to feel otherwise and Therapist is unhelpful. I did, however, recount my beliefs about being a disposable distraction to TB on the last day I was with him, and I remember him saying I am not disposable. This was after four days of robbing him of his bed, so maybe it's stay four nights with a friend. Maybe.

That's enough. I don't want to think about this anymore.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pinafore does not rhyme with metaphor, it just shares the same phonetic word ending.

Jason once told me I am one of the most self-aware people he knows.

Self-awareness indicates an awareness of oneself as an individual or of one's own being and actions and thoughts, and at the time I thought it funny he should remark upon that because I certainly did not feel self-aware in the least. I was trying to figure out just how I had been affected by dissociation and what the results would be of integration. My memories were cognitive rather than emotional, and at times seemed like stories of another person which touched me not at all. I was experiencing feelings I had not acknowledged before, learning how to cry, and wondering how people fit into my life. I had no idea who I really was.

Today I am whole, I suppose. It has been more than two years since I began the integration process, more than one year since it was finished. There are still moments when I ache for the simplicity of being able to release myself from the person who has endured my past, to become someone new, to define myself in terms of my present only. Last week I told Tolkien Boy I still don't want to be the little girl who was raped; the one who grew up being told by her mother she was worthless, offensive, unwanted; the one who learned to disregard physical pain because she had become accustomed to daily beatings and sometimes nightly ones, as well; the young woman who battled anorexia; the grown woman who has learned to love that same mother, to forgive past offenses, but must still acknowledge the long-term damage she lives with daily. There are still many days when being Samantha overwhelms me.

During my stay with Tolkien Boy last week, he commented that people are always telling me I'm beautiful, but in his opinion, I have weird feet--they are not beautiful. My toes, apparently, are too short for beauty. It made me giggle for a number of reasons:

1. People are not always telling me I'm beautiful. This is completely a figment of Tolkien Boy's imagination. The closest thing we have encountered to TB's delusion happened a few days ago at a Seattle bus stop, when a drunk, homeless man asked TB how I became so pretty. It's a bit difficult to use this incident as credible evidence supporting TB's claim.
2. My feet are ridiculously small, even for someone of my short stature. I've known this all my life.
3. I had a feeling this conversation was coming, as TB had commented a few day previously that the nails on my small toes were very tiny. I pointed out that they covered the available surface area admirably. It's difficult to be a large toenail if the toe part is not very big.
4. I think feet, in and of themselves, are unattractive and have never been inordinately fond of how they look.
5. Beneath TB's words there seemed to lie a concern that I might, somehow, become caught up in all those comments people send my way which tell me I'm beautiful. Fortunately, my feet (not beautiful) would somehow temper my tendency to become conceited.

Given the fact that the first part of point five DOES NOT HAPPEN, I'm unlikely to become conceited in the first place, which just makes remarking on my not beautiful feet seem a bit unnecessary. Coming from anyone but Tolkien Boy, I might take exception to it, but because we pretty much say whatever is on our minds in a given moment, I suppose I have to allow the comment without feeling rancor.

However, as we talked and laughed about my feet, I realized that TB's mistaken impression of my physical persona is very much an accurate metaphor for my real self. As much as I try to bring beauty into my life, as I recognize it, crave it, talk of it, at the bottom of what makes ME are the misshapen stubs upon which I stand--the parts of me I cannot change or grow or make beautiful in any way. They are fixed in their size and forever unattractive. No matter how pink or sparkly I paint the nails, I am simply decorating the dross.

That being said, those small feet of mine have run countless miles, allowing me to expel pent up emotion and anxiety. They rarely ache or cause me pain, and they wear cute shoes exceedingly well. They're well-muscled and support my body as I walk and run. They've never been injured or broken. And one time, one rare but treasured time, someone very special to me who has long slipped into my past, touched those feet of mine, stroked and caressed them, declared them lovely--and I allowed it. In spite of touch phobias, and fear of people and commitment, and all the other nasty remnants carried by those who experience rape and abuse...I let someone I loved touch the skin of my feet, and it was okay.

It gives me a small sense of hope that one day someone will see that ugly, misshapen part of me--the things that have happened which I cannot change--and that person will still wish to touch that part of me and perhaps find among the nastiness and horror, one tiny part which can be declared lovely.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I have reached the ripe old age, emotionally, of ten.

I decided this today while discussing with a long-suffering friend, for the millionth time, my inability to comprehend and become comfortable with the acceptable and inevitable progression of friendship. I refer, of course, to the cycle in which two people meet, recognize that they're compatible, become excited about shared time and conversations, and then allow that excitement to wane as they meet new people and encounter more important things in life which lead them to REAL items of importance (romantic relationships, careers, children, etc.), which eventually means that the aforementioned friendship becomes an afterthought, a memory lovingly dusted off every decade as the two meet, reminisce, catch up, and leave one another so that they can attend to real life. My problem in accepting this cycle, I believe, is that I completely buy into the rituals, concepts, and certainties of ten-year-olds, including the following:

1. Spitting into one's palm and pressing it into the equally spitty palm of one's friend creates a magical bond which allows telepathic communication.
2. Blood brother/sisterhood is real and the ritual negates any life-threatening, blood-borne diseases feared by informed adults.
3. People actually grow up and build houses beside each other simply because they're best friends. Their significant others also join in the best-friendship, as do any children born into either union, and the best friends grow old together and tour Europe in their old age after they get tired of going on joint vacations to Hawaii.
4. Dinners should be shared with friends. Always.
5. Slumber parties are not just for children. Adult slumber parties usually involve separate rooms just to avoid awkwardness, but sometimes the participants stay up late and talk about sex before they go to bed, because that's what grown-ups do. They're sort of obsessed with sex.
6. When best friends get sick, they take care of each other.
7. When best friends are sad, they bring each other cookies and tell funny jokes. Sometimes this doesn't help them stop being sad, but it's always better to have someone nearby, whom you can hug, when you're sad.
8. When friends get mad at each other they talk about it. They say, "I'm mad at you." This allows the other person an opportunity to apologize and make amends, if possible. They don't try to make other people mad at their friend, nor do they stop talking to the person they're mad at. The only time this is not true is when the friend steals another friend's chocolate and eats it without asking, which would never happen because friends don't do that.
9. People who are friends never get tired of each other. Ever.
10. Long-term friendships are built on camaraderie, similar sense of humor, inside jokes, shared sorrows, genuine interest, honesty, and willingness to work on building relationships. And they don't take time-outs for 5 years, then regroup and try to pick up where they left off. They accommodate social and personal changes and they work to strengthen those involved whenever possible.

This would all be fine and dandy except for one inescapable fact: People don't stay 10 years old forever. Therefore, I am left with my childish certainties about friendship, while all the adults around me wonder why I keep spitting into my palm before I shake hands. I try to explain the benefits of my emotionally immature beliefs and they shake their heads, understanding, as I do not, the folly of such convictions in our ever-changing world.

I know they're right. I understand that I cannot expect my friendship to ever be as important as real, grown-up relationships which might lead to such things as romantic partnerships and marriage because, let's face it, true friendship can't hold a candle to regular sex. Really. I get this.

But even as I understand reality, I'm stuck in my ten-year-old certainty that nothing is as fascinating as watching butterflies or blooming wildflowers together, and there is incomparable joy in running in the rain, or turning cartwheels, or skipping rocks, or hunting nonexistent treasure, or believing in magic...and in the end, some part of all those grown-up, mature, distant friends will miss me just a little, even if they don't really know me anymore.