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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Moving On

I have difficulty with this. I get caught up in moments and pictures and feelings and people. Therapist says it has to do with dissociation. People who move forward, or "move on" in a healthy way are able to process events, feelings, and experiences, grieve when necessary, let go, and look forward to future events. My habit has been simply to cut off and leave behind when circumstances have required me to release a person or period of life.

The problem with such a habit is that I delude myself that events did not happen or a person ceases to exist. Therapist says we need memories. They help us learn. They define who we are and what we believe. They provide closure and nostalgia, both of which bring us peace. They catapult us into the next "thing" and help us feel anticipation for future events. They are a frame of reference we need in order to cope socially and emotionally.

I notice people doing that "move on" thing all the time. And if I'm honest, I don't understand it. In my muddled brain, they're losing something valuable, something that should be nourished and kept close. I have no idea what it is that constitutes the loss, nor what I think they ought to be keeping vital and fresh in their lives. I'm just talking about what my feelings communicate.

Therapist says I feel exaggerated pain in circumstances that might cause another person to feel mild discomfort. I don't possess the necessary background and coping tools most people learn in childhood. However, I'm also savvy enough to recognize that my feelings do not align with the norm, I understand that makes people feel uncomfortable, and so I mask or discard those feelings rather than honoring them and working through them.

While I understand Therapist's words, and I know they are supposed to be helpful, inside me I feel this simply confirms one more way I fail at life. That doesn't mean I'll give up, nor does it mean I'm pouting. I guess I'm just tired of trying to accommodate social norms. And sometimes I think it should be okay if I have a temper tantrum when relationships go awry, or I feel abandoned or betrayed. I try to convince myself that I don't really care if my feelings or behaviors make others uncomfortable and I fantasize that there is someone in the world who will take me as I am, not be weirded out if I love deeply, speak honestly about what I feel (even when it's completely out of whack), sometimes become insecure, wish for frequent hugs, and scream when I'm frustrated.

Conforming does not come easily to me.

And since I can't seem to resolve this issue right this moment, I'm going to say this: I don't care if you think I'm odd or maladjusted or a freak of nature. I'm pretty sure you can't play Chopin like I can.

The End.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all." ~Oscar Wilde

I have an extremely bright young piano student named Annie. She's eight years old. I've been friends with her family for many years (her father graduated high school a few years before I did and his little sister and I have been wonderful friends since junior high). Annie's parents had an unexpected emergency yesterday afternoon and called to ask if they could pick her up from her lesson a little bit late. I like Annie so I had no problem with that.

When Annie was six, she arrived at her lesson one day and proudly informed me that she was reading chapter books. I keep a number of picture books in my studio because I like them and they fill time for students, especially siblings who come together, who are waiting for a lesson, or a ride, or whatever. Annie let me know that those books were much too easy for her and she would be bringing her own reading material from that day on. I told her I thought that was a very good idea.

Yesterday, however, Annie had forgotten to bring a book and I was trying to prep dinner while waiting for my next student. It was clear that Annie was bored. Adam walked into my studio carrying a picture book. He said, "I think you'll like this book." She looked at it. I could tell she wanted to read it--but it was "for little kids." I said, "Why don't you just look through it a little while I finish up."

Annie plopped down on the love seat and opened the book. Soon I heard her giggling. I looked over at her just as she looked up at me, "I LOVE this book!" she said. I answered, "It's always been one of my favorites. I loved it when I was your age--and when I was younger." 

Annie's eyes widened and she said, "This is an OLD book."

Well, I can't argue with that. Harold and the Purple Crayon was around when my parents were kids. I said, "You know, some books are favorites for years and years."

Annie asked me, "Do you still read it?" I said, "Not for awhile, probably." She answered me, "You need to read it again. I'm going to read it again right now, and then, when I get home, I'm going to ask my mom to get this book and read it to my brother and sister."

Annie's brother and sister are eighteen and sixteen years old. I nodded and very seriously agreed that that was the best idea I'd heard in a long time. Shortly afterward, Annie's father came to claim her. She wasn't quite finished with her third read-through. I told her I'd leave the book in my studio so she could see it next time. She very reluctantly put down the book and went home. 

I knew I had a student coming and dinner to prepare--and afterward, a couple of hours of work--but I sat down in Annie's place, picked up the book and read Harold one more time. I lingered over the drawings and the clever humor, and when I was finished, I read it once again. 

I left the book on the love seat in my studio and went to the kitchen to finish dinner. Later, when I went upstairs to lock up for the night, I caught Adam sitting where I had left the book, reading as Annie and I had, hours earlier. He looked up at me, grinned, and said, "I love this book."

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a Mother who read to me.   --Strickland Gillilan

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, ...everything invites me to cherish it." ~Ninon de Lenclos

Last July, the morning after Tabitha attempted to take her life, I awoke at 4:00 a.m. This is not unusual for me. Everyone else was still sleeping. Tabitha was in the hospital. I was lonely and scared and more sad than I had ever been before.

My father had undergone some surgery two days previously. He had come home from the hospital the night before. I decided to visit him. 

I have a key to my parents' home. I walked to their house and went inside. My dad was asleep in his recliner. I sat in the rocker next to my father. I wanted to talk to him, to ask him to tell me Tabitha would be okay and that I wasn't some sort of horrible failure parent. I wanted him to tell me he loved me.

Instead I wept silently, watching him sleep.

I thought about how much I love my father; how much I enjoy working with him; how, when we're together, we can talk about anything and end up feeling lighter; how we love to laugh. I thought about the things he taught me and how sometimes he made mistakes. I thought about how grateful I am that he's my dad.

Then I wondered if anyone felt the same depth of feeling for me. I wondered if I was loved. I wondered if anyone in the world was grateful I was alive. I decided maybe there was someone, I just was too tired to think of who that might be. I wished with all my heart that whomever it was would tell me because in that moment I felt completely alone. I felt I had no value. I thought about waking my dad and asking for a hug but couldn't bring myself to interrupt his healing sleep.

Then I went home and wandered about my house, wondering what to do next.

I've not been able to write about this until now. Six months later I can finally talk of when I felt that every part of myself was being used up, when I was certain I would never smile again, when I was so exhausted that I was certain one morning I would be too tired to awake and I welcomed that moment.

I think there are others who have felt depleted as I was, who wish for hugs and comforting words and rest, who yearn to be told they're loved and needed and appreciated. Today I still have moments when I'm scared and sad. I still wonder if all my parenting efforts were pointless because I failed anyway. And sometimes I'm unsure how anyone can possibly love me.

If you are one who has felt as I have, or who currently experiences such feelings, you're not alone. I don't know you, but I pray for you every night. I ask that you, as well as I, will have continued strength, that we won't give up, that we'll think about each other and remember that everyone experiences sadness and hard times. I pray that those who visit my blog will remember to hug those they love, to spend time with the people who need them, and cherish moments of beauty and joy. 

Remember that I'm thinking about you and sending enormous wishes and prayers that your load will be lightened.

To those who have emailed me privately:  Sometimes I don't check my email account, especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed and stressed, so I didn't read what you sent until long after it was written. But I can't thank you enough for your words. I needed them then. I need them now. I wish I could hug each of you. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Getting an inch of snow is like winning ten cents in the lottery." ~Bill Watterson

With apologies to the truckers and travelers stranded in our small town because of road closures: The snowfall today is lovely; large flakes floating to the ground instead of being blown by our usual winter wind into the next community. Tomorrow when it has accumulated to the point that driving is hazardous and walking is, as well, I won't love it so much, but today I do. Instead of working as I should, I've been gazing out my window. I can't stop watching it.

I have no motivation on days like today. I want to grab an old book--one that's dog-eared with well-worn pages, a story about heroes and villains where good always triumphs and sometimes people fall in love--and sit in a warm and quiet place where no one can find me, reading until the story is finished and my body insists that I get up and move. I want to drink hot chocolate and watch old movies. I want to draw pictures and then laugh because my skills are lamentable and my drawings never look like anything at all. And sometimes, on days like today, I wish I had a cat.

I took a trip to the hospital Friday because Adam and I decided it was a good day to have flu shots. I've never had one before, but lots of people are getting sick and I don't really want to spend time on that. So I rounded up Adam and after forty-five minutes of going places where we were told they had no more vaccine, we finally found a place that still had some. Our nurse was an older lady, a veteran at giving painless shots and neither Adam nor I bled at all.

But then I had a reaction to the shot and ended up in the hospital for a day and a half, where I was poked and prodded and tested and retested and I don't think I slept more than three hours the whole time I was there. I was released Saturday night. I spent yesterday doing nothing but sleeping and resting. Seriously, the hospital crap was worse than the reaction to the shot.

So today I'm back to my regular routine (except I should be working and I'm not). Probably I won't get another flu shot in my lifetime.

I feel diminished lately. In my head there are so many things happening to me that are sad or difficult or painful. But I feel I must not speak of those things. People don't like to hear about the bad stuff and they like me better when I'm capable and happy. I am profoundly affected by the things that cause me distress. Each time I approach talking about them I hear these words going around in my brain: "You talk about yourself way too much. You assume people want to know or that they care. It would be more appropriate to keep these things to yourself, and if you must talk about them, you have a therapist whom you pay to listen. If you keep sharing the things that hurt you, pretty soon there will be no one left to talk to. Everyone you thought cared about you will disappear. They have their own loads to carry."

When I told Darrin about this a few months ago, he asked me, "Sam, what do you want?"

What do I want?

I think I'm the one who doesn't want to listen. I'm the one who wants to leave me behind. I'm the person who feels that my load is too heavy.

What do I want?

I want a day without sadness and ugliness smudging my thoughts and feelings.

I want to run--real running--outside, under the sun and sky--again.

I want to turn back time so I can protect my daughter from dangers I didn't know existed--dangers that should not have exited.

I want to be warm.

I want people to love me, knowing it's not dangerous, understanding that there's no need to worry about inappropriate reciprocation from me--that's just not who I am or how I work.

I want to be able to recover from my mistakes, to watch cartoons on Saturday morning, to eat chocolate chip cookies.

I want to excel at my occupation, to play Chopin and Scarlatti, to have new carpet.

I want to hug my kids, make love with my husband, lie on the grass next to a friend who will make cloud pictures with me as we look at the sky.

Today though, for a few minutes more, I think I'll watch the snow. One must participate in such peaceful beauty, even if it means only being a spectator.

Friday, January 25, 2013

" is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums." --Oscar Hammerstein II

A couple of weeks ago I sat behind my parents in church. I saw my mother whisper something to my father. He smiled, she giggled, and I thought how glad I am to be their daughter.

And then I cried because I no longer feel even a tiny bit of resentment toward my mother. There is great relief when one can release resentment and anger.

I will never say that my experience with abuse has made me a better person. It hasn't. Nor has it made me a stronger person. It has complicated my life with coping mechanisms which harm me as much or more than the abuse. Abuse has crippled my ability to understand nuances within relationships, to believe that I can and should receive love and kindness, to think of myself as beautiful and delightful. Every day I work to separate what was said and done to me from what is true of me. And once I find that truth, the next task is learning to believe it. If I am a person who has goodness and strength, it is not because I am a survivor of abuse. It is because I chose to become that person.

However, I have also written of the positive things I received from my mother. For a long time I wished to disregard those, to paint her as completely evil. One day I realized that if I search for truth, I must embrace all of it. And when I looked more deeply, I recognized that my mother was not evil but someone reacting to a life she was ill-equipped to manage.

I believe it's important for me to draw this conclusion. For as long as I live, I carry a part of my mother with me. I choose to love that part of me--to believe I inherited the most beautiful parts of her.

During the past few years there has been a great deal of turmoil and stress in my life. My reactions have often been to seek sympathy and support rather than draw upon my own strength. Sometimes this was appropriate because when I became depleted emotionally, I needed help. But other times it just seemed easier when I measured that route against the effort necessary to establish equilibrium myself. I'm not proud of those moments but I have to admit to deep gratitude when I realize that even then I had people in my life who were willing to spend the time necessary to lend love and uplift me.

Recognizing that, ultimately, I am responsible for choosing joy over despair does not always make me happy.  But just as I recognize bad and good within my mother, I also recognize it within my life. I've been feeling overwhelmed by the "bad" and refusing to see anything "good". I've allowed myself moments when I felt victimized by circumstances beyond my control. I've felt that I was too sad to find happiness.

Fortunately, finding happiness isn't really an option for me. If I wait long enough it eventually catches up with me. It is unavoidable.

Today I feel that happiness approaching. It's still far off. I've been running away from it for a long time and it won't overtake me right away, but I know it's coming. There are recent moments when I'm caught off-guard when I forget to be lonely and sad and overwhelmed. I find myself giggling at things no other sane person would find funny. I'm more interested in the people around me. Sometimes I find myself anticipating an upcoming event--even if it's something as mundane as dinner with my family. All of these are signs that I'm no longer avoiding the inevitable outcome and when I'm least expecting it, happiness will find me.

I believe I'll help it along a bit. It's time for me to look around more and see the Beautiful. I need to wake with a smile, grateful for another day and so glad to be Samantha. Soon I believe I'll love more, trust more, and share more of who I am and who I want to become with those who wish to be in my life.

The Happy is coming. I can feel it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"I first learned the concepts of non-violence in my marriage." ~Mahatma Gandhi

I hate folding laundry.

Actually, that's not really true. I don't mind folding it at all. But the genius who designed my house placed the washer and dryer in the basement bathroom which is a half-bathroom (tiny). What this means is that there is very little room in the bathroom for anything else and the dryer lint coats everything when the steam from the shower begins to fill the room (which, given the size of the room, takes about a nanosecond). It also means that I have to put the clean laundry on the bed in the adjacent bedroom or on a couch in my family room. This would not be a problem if I could plan when laundry was washed, but Darrin is a machine savant (meaning he has to run every machine possible whenever he is home) and puts random loads of laundry through the machines without consulting with me. Again, this would not be a problem if Darrin was also a fold-and-put-away savant--which he is not.

Consequently, there is a perpetual pile of laundry in my family room. Always. I am not a person who deals with piles in a positive way. I hate them. Darrin loves them.

I have a friend who believes couples have complimentary traits which bring them together. He also believes one part of a couple is usually prone to neatness, while the other is not. I disagree with this theory. Darrin is not messy. He just likes piles. I also blame traditional domestic roles in our society because, as much as he would protest that he's a modern man and does his share of the housework, this is a foolish imagining on his part.

There are certain things I have never seen Darrin do (and if I ask him to do these chores, he looks as if I've requested that he create his own planet and solar system and suddenly has a number of pressing tasks that must be done in the next hour):

1. Clean the toilet. I have no idea why this is so difficult for him. You put in the cleaner, scrub it around with a brush, wipe down the surfaces, and flush. And given that we all have good aim and the surfaces have nothing on them to cause squeamishness, I see no reason why this task bothers Darrin.

2. Dust. This one gets to me, as well, but not because I dislike doing it. Our current home has those lovely popcorn textured ceilings and they're old enough that they constantly shower down very fine particles. This means that fifteen minutes after dusting, it's time to do it again. That's frustrating. However, this is not Darrin's problem with dusting. When I ask for help with it, he looks uncomfortable and squirmy, then says, "I really don't know how to do that." This causes me to have a very slight seizure while I process what he's just said, and when I explain that there's nothing to it, you just have to take a cloth dampened with dust spray and wipe down the furniture, he then says, "I don't know what kind of cloth to use." The conversation, when we had been married fewer than five years, would then become lengthy. Now I just say, "You don't want to do it." And he says, "Yeah."

3. Mop. This is a chore I actually don't mind. You sweep the floor, fill a bucket (easily located in its special place) with hot, soapy water, and swish it around the floor with a mop (also easily found in its special place) giving special attention to any spots that might need it. When I explain this to Darrin, he looks very confused and says, "Where is the bucket, again?" By the time he has failed thrice, to find the mop (hanging on the hooks he, himself, put up for that tool), I understand that while Darrin might mop the floor that day, it's going to take him at least five hours to do so.

There are other chores (such as the aforementioned folding and putting away of laundry), but when I try to have a discussion about equal labor and how both of us work and how it's unfair of him to expect me to do the bulk of the housework, Darrin reminds me that when the toilet or sink is clogged, he is the one who goes digging for the culprit. He reminds me that he has done the past 1,000,000 oil changes and maintenance on our vehicles, he is the one who fixes the lawn mower (several times) every year, and that he tries to make certain that the snow is always shoveled from our walks in winter. He says he's the only one who trims the hedges (because I don't want them trimmed--I like them HUGE), and that he fixes whatever is broken in our house. And he reminds me that, while he might not volunteer for a few jobs, neither does he expect me to do them--which is true. He doesn't. But it is also true that his method of just leaving the jobs undone is not really acceptable.

Darrin says I just don't always understand how he thinks. I believe this is a catch-phrase for: I don't want to talk about this anymore and I have no plans to do things differently so may I go eat ice cream now?

I suppose there are worse things than having to do more housework than I wish, but this morning, as I sit looking at a mountain of unfolded laundry, and notice the cobwebs and accumulated dust on my shelves and electronic devices, I'm wondering how evil I would be to interrupt Darrin's sleep-in. And as I'm pondering that thought rather seriously, I'm also thinking that perhaps now would be a very good time to go to the gym. Darrin will thank me later. He's very gracious when I let him sleep.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I haven't written here for a few days because I want to write something uplifting or fun or happy. But the truth is, given my current situation, that's probably asking a little bit too much. Tonight I am too sad for sleep. I believe tomorrow will be better. Always, I believe that.

There is so much on my mind but I feel I can speak of none of it. Darrin is too close to everything and he's sorting through his own emotions. Daily I speak with Adam, trying to help him understand how to manage his anger and frustration related to Tabitha's situation. While I'm grateful he feels he can come to me, it adds to my stress because I must listen but I cannot express what I'm feeling. 

...what I'm feeling...

A couple of years ago my PTSD symptoms increased to the point that I was experiencing a severe phobia to touch. My reaction was that I would become nauseated--sometimes to the point of vomiting. It was rather horrible and there were all sorts of neurotic side-effects of the phobia which affected my relationships and how I viewed myself. Fortunately, it didn't last forever and I didn't go insane even though I thought I would.

A couple of months ago I began experiencing the opposite of the phobia. I became clingy. I constantly wanted a hand to hold or to be cuddled. I was always touching the person next to me. I became dependent to the point that only physical touch could assuage my panic and distress. This condition has not changed. I refuse, however, to be that person--the one everyone runs from because they always want to hug or they sit too close or they're always in some sort of physical contact with the person nearest them. I will not be that.

But I have to say, it makes me feel slightly monstrous. To wish so deeply for someone I love to hold me is not wrong; but I wish for it all the time. It distracts me. I visited with friends and family before Christmas and I found myself planning in advance how I would not be physically near anyone so as not to embarrass myself.  I was defiantly, obstinately certain that I would not require touch from anyone. And I worked very hard to convince myself that I don't need touch of any kind--this is simply a PTSD thing and it will pass.

After about three days of this, I found myself sitting on a bed in the guest room where I was staying, willing the intense panic attack I was experiencing to just go away. It didn't. And I was mortified when my host discovered me there, stressed out of my mind, crying and shaking, and just generally being stupid. But I didn't throw up. See--there's a silver lining to everything.

I realized last week that I'm still doing that "I don't need anyone to touch me" thing. I also realized that this state of being is as extreme as the touch phobia was. And I'm finally accepting that there's a good chance I won't ever understand how to manage the feelings I have about touch because I have never been taught what is appropriate. And my experience with touch as a teen was violent and unhealthy.

I'm trying to decide what's best. No one ever died of wishing someone would hug them. If I needed touch from a loved one and it was denied (which is completely legitimate--touch should not happen out of obligation, but because both parties wish for it), I believe I would feel hurt to the point that I would not approach anyone again.

I'm not sure what I'm saying. I only know that this problem has escalated to the point where I'm not sleeping because all I want to do is cuddle with Darrin--and that really does disturb his sleep.

This is stupid, yes?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Therapist says it would be unnatural for me not to have bad days sometimes. Today is a bad day.

Therapist says having bad days does not make me a bad person. I'm having a difficult time believing that one.

Tabitha is having a bad day in a string of bad days. The decision of whether or not to pursue any kind of action regarding my brother's molestation of Tabitha has been left to her. This is a no-win situation. If Tabitha chooses to let the matter rest, she wonders whether there are other children who have been treated as she was--whether my brother molests his own children. She wonders if she has a responsibility to take some sort of action to protect others from her uncle. And she feels unsafe still.

If she presses charges, Tabitha will deal with members of my family who are not known for being understanding or neutral. There will be a great deal of talk and probably some recruiting. She will be accused of lying. Tabitha wonders if it's worth the probable negativity. She wonders if she's strong enough to hear what will be said about her. She wonders who will love her when the dust settles.

This is not a decision a 17-year-old should have to make. And I cannot help her.

I keep thinking things will get better, and probably they already have, I'm just distracted by what is happening now. I keep thinking that someday I'll be able to laugh again, that I won't be cold all the time, that I won't feel the impulse to tell people I love to run away before whatever it is that has me trapped in sadness pulls them in, as well.

Therapist says I need to spend time with people. He says I'll feel better, less alone, more supported. I asked him, if he were experiencing what I am, if he'd be willing to seek out people and spend time with them. Therapist told me that if he had experienced what I've been through in the last 18 months, he's pretty sure he'd have been hospitalized at least once and he's not sure he would be functional anymore. I told him that's not helpful. No, he said, but it's honest. He told me I am very strong. I told him I'm so very tired of being strong.

And now I have to go to the store. We need eggs.

Friday, January 4, 2013

This afternoon I experienced my first "alone time" in three weeks. For someone like me, that's an eternity.

I've been thinking a lot. I'm tired of being beaten down. And while I'm not saying my life is more difficult than any other, I'm tired.

My brother called me tonight. I believe it's been about three years since he's spoken to me. I couldn't help feeling the irony as I gave one of my dessert recipes to the brother who molested my daughter. My life seems sick and wrong and I can't help but feel that it permeates my soul.

Is this how life is supposed to be?

I cannot remember a time in my life when I have not longed for beauty. I wanted to have it in my life and I wanted to reflect it back to every person I met. It felt as necessary to my well-being as breathing. Now I'm struggling to find it.

I would like to give up. I feel useless and unnecessary. It would be nice to stop hurting for awhile.

However, it is not in my nature to stop trying.

And so I will continue to remember moments that make me who I am...

-singing "The Wheels on the Bus" with my two-year-old nephew
-shopping for blueberries with my niece
-giggling with Tabitha
-walking in the sunshine filled air, laden with sparkling crystals--as if I live in a recently shaken snow globe
-smiling at strangers
-waiting for friends to interrupt my work so we can chat online
-beginning each morning and ending each day with family prayer
-making music
-laughing at nothing just because I want to laugh
-remembering treasured moments with people I love
-being startled by my ringtone because even though I love hearing Cookie Monster sing his song, when it comes out of nowhere and I'm alone, it's a little bit scary
-watching each sunrise and sunset and wishing I could package the moment and send it to someone who would love to share it with me
-dancing in my kitchen
-singing random songs
-watching very old movies
-smelling the roses in the floral department
-dreaming of spring
-lying in a patch of sunshine on my living room floor
-reading a very good book
-wishing for hugs from people I love
-searching for my Wonder Woman boots...

For now, this is enough.