Identify what is most important )0( Eliminate everything else
The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. Dr. Paul Farmer
The suffering of others is not alleviated when no one knows about it.
There is no one right way to live. Daniel Quinn Ishmael
The only thing that you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right sort of people.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


No organizing, just errands. 

First stop was to pay what I hope is the final dollars that I will have to pay my attorney.  She is amazing, but like a spouse with expensive hobbies, I simply cannot afford her.  The receptionist and I have become friendly, and she thanked me for the note I sent that included her in my thanks for everything that everyone there has done for me during the past eighteen months. 

Yeah, eighteen months.  So much for a speedy divorce.  She shared some of her first marriage with me, and it just was such a huge trigger to hear about how terrible that marriage was.  Every time I think that I am fine, that none of this stuff can knock me to my knees, it does.  She has been married to a great man for the past thirty-five years, but she shared that she still has nightmares and the rare moment when something causes her to remember that earlier time.

The worst is over, and unless...until...he sends someone after me again, I am pretty much done with anything involving him.  I think that he is such a coward that the chances of him showing up with anyone is remote.  Still, it is clear that recovery and healing are securely in my future, the only aspect that is secure.  What a mess.

Then I went to the library where I learned that the book I cannot find will cost $44.00 to replace if I never can find it.  Good to know, I guess.

Next, on the way to the pharmacy I heard a commercial on the radio for condoms.  I do not ever remember hearing a commercial for condoms before, but the best part was when the person said that they are dribble tested.  That made me crack up.  On my way back to the prescription counter at the pharmacy, I passed through the aisle where the condoms were hanging displayed, and stopped to see if they would actually put that claim on the package.  Well.  The safety claim is that they are triple tested.  Lordy.

Bank next, which is in a grocery store.  By this time I was exhausted, so even though the food there is the most expensive in town...except for the health food store - if you buy food there you cannot afford anything else...I decided that, after being greeted by the amazing fruit and vegetables as I walked in the door, that I would shop there and then go straight home.  I passed on a lot of items because I can buy them so much more less expensively at Aldi and the dollar stores, but I do have some great fruit and meat. 

I rarely eat pork, but thick chops were on sale and I am going to brine them tomorrow, so I bought two of them.  I can hardly wait.  I rarely eat food of this nice quality, so through the weekend there will be some super duper eating happening here.  I also bought hot sausage to make soup with the kale and potatoes that need to be used this week. 

My garden is doing well.  There are lots of ripe tomatoes on the bush with no name.  I think they might be an old style cherry tomato, as they are golf ball in size and have thick skins.  Very old style.  The Krims are getting big, but it has been very cool here for weeks and weeks.  It needs to be hot, hot, hot again for them to really grow and ripen, especially this close to the lake.  Lots of bell peppers getting bigger every day, teeny tomato bush doing well, and the zucchinis are glorious.  I already have enough to keep giving some away each week.  I can hardly wait until I get sick of them so that I can eat the blossoms.

CoolCat is, well, I do not know what he is.  He had an extensive and expensive check up last week and is fine, but he is behaving weirdly.  I know that he is old-ish, but today he did not even wake up when I arrived home.  I am hoping that he is simply slowing down and will still be here for a very long time.  He is the most wonderful cat I have ever had the privilege to know.  I will do whatever is best for him, whatever that may take, whenever it may happen, but it cannot be soon.  It just cannot.

Oh, well, time to make sure that his water and food dishes are full to the top.  Then some brushing and more playing with the rubber snake.  Then, he gets to snore and fart next to me in bed whilst I try to read. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I am so easily and willingly choosing shame as a default for just about any difficult or uncomfortable thing that happens.  I gather my courage to do something new, take a risk of some minor nature and on the rare occasions when nothing bad happens, I am so relieved that no negative consequences follow.

Risk taking, as a part of accepting responsibility for my mental illness, was one of the foundation skills on which I focused at the training earlier this month.  Taking risks is hard for most people, but that is only a guess because I am not a member of that population.  I think, most days, that I would like to be a member there, but that just ain't gonna happen.  My mental illness sometimes isolates me in ways beyond my control.  It is not that I am more comfortable in the company of other ill people, it is my awareness of how differently I might react to all of the normal aspects of interactions, all that perilous face-to-face stuff.  Landmines and grenades litter my landscape

But, back to shame.  Criticism knocks the beans out of me every time.  I recover more quickly these days, but...but...but, no matter how much work I do in this area, no matter how benignly it is expressed, no matter how clearly I can see that taking the risk in the first place was a supremely stupid idea, I feel the sting of having failed in what I wanted to do, having failed in my intent.  And, I shame spiral.

I started using shame spiraling to describe this process decades ago and only learned that it is an actual and valid term.  I know, because I Google-d it yesterday.  Good thing, as I took a risk yesterday and was rewarded with a chastisement for it this morning.  It is not as though what I tried was bad in any way; it was not.  And, it is not as though I know the person all that well, which I do not.  I do not even care that she felt the need to slap me down a bit.  I most especially do not care that she chose to do it in a slightly snarky way, you know, that subtle sarcastic, 'oh, I'm only mentioning this to help you' way. 

All right, I do care.  I care a lot.  And, I accept the entire responsibility for feeling this way.  I took the risk, knowing that it was risky, knowing that I would most likely have someone who thought what I shared (it is a free on-line product, if that matters) was stupid. 

More importantly, I took that risk with full knowledge and acceptance of the hazards of doing so, as an exercise in facing my fears about being dismissed or criticised.   Yay, me.

My plan for today is to use my relatively quick recovery and the energy it produced to tackle more of the unpacking.  I chose to add in some organizing yesterday and now have several boxes/bins of art stuff to which I can keep adding.  It finally dawned on me that I was duplicating the effort by just shelving stuff without parsing it out somehow.  The process is inelegant, but it is working, and I have a more than excellent chance of being able to find things when I need them.

I am slowly learning that shame is a completely appropriate feeling and response when it is earned by doing or saying something truly stupidalicious.  Some day I hope to ratchet that down to simple embarrassment.

Shame is not appropriate when I use it to reinforce my feelings of inadequacy or to limit what I am willing to do.  Or try.  Or risk.

Large image wise, this is an equally large forward movement.  An actual leap into the healing and recovery stratosphere.  Yay, me.

On a less comfortable note, CoolCat has been vomiting more.  He checks out just fine, physically, but I fear that he is still caught in the thrall of our experiences from the other life.  His food issues are increasing; anytime his food bowl is not filled to the brim, he panics.  All of his bodily functions are in working order, and I am glad for that, but the emotional vomiting is very distressing to me.  I feel sorry for him and how he is suffering, but I am feeling sorry for myself as well.  I do not have extra sheets to put on the bed when he spews in the middle of the night, or even when he manages to upchuck on the floor and I do not notice it until I get up in the morning and find myself flying ass over teakettle.

Petty, yes.  Unloving, absolutely.  CoolCat is only 14 years old, but that other life, how he was neglected by my ex after I fled has informed who both of us are today.  I am going out today to buy a bunch of those cheap, flannel-backed tablecloths.  I will put them over the bed and furniture whenever I leave.  Just in case he is not long for this life, I will be spending more time with him, just hanging out, playing and grooming him.  The grooming benefits both of us and there is never a time or moment when he will not become fully engaged in the brush and comb and me. 

I think I might go and do just that right now.  The tablecloths can wait until tomorrow.

Monday, July 29, 2013


I do not test well.  I am smart, at least as smart as the proverbial cookie, and I love to learn.  I can remember a stunning amount of just about everything.  Even at the library, one of the staff will ask me to provide a word or quote or factoid of some kind. 

I love learning.  It keeps my brain all juiced up.  I like that.  Crappy body, but great mind.  Even as I age, my memory and faculties are better than most of my friends, and that is not just hubris talking.

So, anyway, this weekend was the scheduled time to take the examination for certification for the training I took earlier this month to become a Peer Specialist.  It is a pretty cool thing, something that I already do in a more casual way and a set of skills that interest me more than I can express.  Seriously, I can be rendered speechless on occasion. 

The schedule for the exam to be available was from last Thursday morning until tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. 

I thought I was prepared. 

I was not.

That thing was a killer.  There was one question about the twelve building blocks of recovery for which I drew a complete and utter blank.  I wrote that as the beginning of my answer and then just went ahead and started thinking and typing, sitting back, thinking, typing.  The testing people suggested that because computers can be weird, that it might be a good idea to copy and save our answers to the test, and I did that.  I was so bummed and had the beginnings of a decent headache when I finished, so I have not gone back to read what I wrote for that question.  I just pulled recovery mumbo-dumbo-jumble out of my ass and tried to choose aspects of my own recovery for that. 

Truth is, I had to do that more than a few times.  Another truth is that I wrote too much for some of the questions and the chances are excellent that I totally fucked up.  In my heart I believe that I did a credible job, that I will easily meet the 70 % minimum correct answer level, but I have this sinking, terrible, total shipwreck feeling that I will be retaking the exam sometime next year.  Just writing this is making my head throb all over again.

That exam was so freaking hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Arrrrrrgh!  I am still so distressed by the whole experience that I cannot sleep and 3:00 a.m. is too late to take any antihistamines in an attempt to get any decent rest tonight.  This morning now.

I was so rattled that I went around the place, looking for cash so that I could order in some comfort Chinese food or a dozen pizzas for dinner.  I had enough money for some of that, minus most of the pizzas, but it was too difficult to decide what I wanted, place an order and wait for delivery.  So, I had popcorn.  It was really, really delicious.  Were I not stunningly salted to the top of my aching head, I would make some more; it was that good. 

After I decided to pop dinner, my next thought was to try to contact one of the people with whom I took the training and for whom I have developed a fondness.  I did not, even though restraint is not one of my strengths, but I avoided delivery dinner and I figured I could find a way to not bother him; he probably does not even remember me anyway, I though.

So, full of fluffy kernels, lips a little raw from the salt, I settled down to play games on my computer.  When, what to my surprise and delight, that guy messaged me and share a bit about his experience with the exam.  Or, is it just a test?  Who care.  Seriously.

Anyway, I messaged back, but it must have been a type-and-run, because he never answered back.  But, he is not safe from me, as I am dedicated to not suffer alone with this testing/examining/calculated to make crazy people even crazier day.  I swear by all I hold holy, that I will not suffer alone.   Oh.  Wait.  I forgot that I am struggling with all that holy jazz.  Well, I swear by something.  I do.  Swear.

Now to bed, perchance to read myself into oblivion.  Or, at least a short nap before I have to finish all that organizing tomorrow.

Friday, July 26, 2013


I hate to keep revisiting this whole damn issue of loss.  What I have gained, this new life, hell, my life.  CoolCat and I have a decent place to live, enough food, no extras but we really do not need anything other than what is now here.

I mostly play games on a social media site and chat or annoy some of my friends, one of whom lives in a state near to me.  It is her birthday next week.  I still have time to send a card to her, maybe one of the bracelets or something.  Thinking about what I would choose or make for her was really pleasant.  You know, like the sort of thing someone normal, someone with a normal life would do.  I like this thing about being normal.  I am still not sure that I will ever understand what normal for me is, probably just like everyone else. 

Normal is an obfuscation used to confuse and control and frustrate the proletariat so that they will be sufficiently occupied and unable to notice all the crap spewing from the self-proclaimed elite, which used to be just rich folk and is now mostly politicians, most of whom are stupidly rich anyway. 

Shit.  Where the heck did that come from?  Whatever, there is no normal (except for the spewed stuff) beyond whatever each of us decides for ourselves.  My normal is not the normal for anyone else.  Oh, sure, we plebs do our best to connect with one another. Yeah, doing our best.

I think that I am doing a fairly good job at discovering what my life and what normal can be for me.  And, a part of that today was noticing the birthday of my friend.  Thinking about what to send to her.

Then, I did something stupid.  Under the notation of her birthday there was a place to pull up more events.  One was for another friend who play semi-pro football and after a few more birthday listings there were two in a row for a nephew and a niece.  They are from my ex's family, his sisters' children.

I cannot believe that they have not removed me from their list of contacts, as other people on that side of the family have.  My best guess is that they have forgotten that we hold this weird, electronic connection.  Most of the time I forget it.  I just miss them so much.  I would give away another ten looms, more than a million easels or kilns or any of the things that helped me to survive for all those years, if it would bring those people back into my life.

That will never happen.  My ex is their brother, uncle and great-uncle.  His is family, their real family.  I am not.  I am the person who left without any notice, who disappeared, who eventually divorced him.

They are not privy to any of the details, much less the truth.  Well, except for one of his sisters and her husband.  I asked them for help six months before I left.  I tried so hard to find resources to help us, but the only people to whom I reached out were the two of them.  Even though they did not have the entire saga of those decades, I did share that I was afraid for my life and I begged them for help is getting my ex into therapy or treatment or something, anything to help us, for certain, but mostly because I knew that I would die if nothing was done.

Those last months, always I guess, whenever I tried to bring up finding some help for our marriage, he refused.  When our daughter was struggling in school I was able to convince him to attend the counseling sessions that she and I had.  He went once, raged about it, claiming that it was an attempt to discredit him and destroy him.  Things were worse for a while.  I never asked him for anything again.

I understand that the family is important for them, mostly because he has had very little to do with them for most of his life.  It was only after we married that he ever saw them.  It was not often, but I could occasionally coax him into going to a holiday or something.  So, I really do understand that, finally, he was involved with them.  It took me leaving and everyone being unable to find me that brought him back into their lives.  So, that is a good thing.

Maybe it seems selfish to still long to have them in my life.  It cannot happen.  They cannot be disloyal.  They know only what he has told them, something I do not know, although I have my suspicions, having learned over the years what he told other people about me, lies to cover what was happening, lies over which he sometimes tripped, revealing them to me.  Apologizing.  Going on to more, perhaps better, lies.

I cannot entirely fault him for lying.  I did it as well.  I lied by never telling anyone what was happening.  I lied every time I made excuses for the times he refused to be a part of the lives of his sisters and their families.  I was a damn fine at lying, so fine that no one suspected a thing.  Even now I have never spoken to any of them.  The only contact we have had was in court at the final hearing, where more lies were told about me.  Lies to which my attorney wanted me to respond.  I could not, did not.  And, as we all left the courtroom, that sister and my ex threatened my life.  I did not hear what they said, but my attorney, his attorney and two of my friends who refused to stay away that day heard everything.  One of them still brings it up once in a while, so shaken was she by the experience.  It pains me, but I let her talk it out each time; she was assertive enough to come that day, something for which I will always be grateful and will never be able to repay.

Whilst we, my attorney, those friend, and myself, were in a conference waiting, my ex's attorney came in and told us that they had lied in court and that he would have to file a letter with the court stating that.  When I received the divorce documents, a copy of that letter was part of the paperwork.

Even though I never asked for anything, let him take everything except for what he did not want, I think that that letter might be the final thing that finished off my relationship with all of them.  I will never stop missing them.  I rarely think about my ex unless that is triggered by remembering something concerning his sister and all the rest of them.  He comes into my mind by default.

After I read of those two birthdays I went and splashed cool water on my face and washed my hands and looked at myself in the mirror.  All I could see in my eyes was all of that loss.  I have not properly grieved many things, many aspects of that other life, and losing family is one more burden, one more sadness.

It is interesting that this is happening today.  It comes following my work with Sister, my spiritual counselor, followed by a conversation with my therapist about my impatience in the progress of crafting this new life, which was then followed by the support group, where we discussed how we would help or advise a theoretical new group member who was not able to forgive anyone for anything.

Yes, I had a busy day yesterday, and every thing that happened built on the previous things.  I struggle with the all the time.  I have forgiven my ex for everything that happened.  Even though I do not know any of the3 details over there, I have forgiven the members of his family who loved me as much as I loved them.  Or, maybe I have forgiven myself for effectively abandoning them without any word from me.  It is complicated.  I have even begun to forgive myself for being such a successful liar.  I have come so far and still have so much more work to do. 

Even though I cannot send cards to my nephew and niece, or call them or send them bracelets, I am going to be brave and remember them on their birthdays.  I am not willing to forget them.  They will always be my family.  Always.

life is delicious

Especially when you come home from a long day of having your head and intellect challenged.  Oh, the heart gets its share as well.

The best, yummy part of yesterday was harvesting...should such a thing be possible in a 1-foot-square garden...some young zucchinis and six tomatoes.  I finished the last four this morning for lunch.

The tomatoes are from the mystery plant that I bought on sale.  It came with lots of little, green tomatoes on it and I began to worry about how they were not getting much bigger as the weeks and tender loving care went on.  They were already larger than cherry tomatoes when I bought the plant, but too small to be regular tomatoes.  When picked yesterday, they were nicely red, but still really small.  Golf ball sized, or maybe marginally bigger. 

They were so small that I was able to balance one on the top of my back flat neighbor's door knob.  Their skin is thick, so that must mean that tons and tons of vitamins and minerals and other good stuff are safely tucked under there.  The taste was very nice.  But, for flavour, I am waiting for the Krims, in my opinion one of the most wonderfully delicious tomatoes.

There are lots of greenies on the cherry tomato plant and lots of bell peppers growing.  As usual, the parsley is glorious.

Spiritual counseling was fine.  I do not know where this is going, or has the potential to go, but it is very helpful to have a place and person where I can talk all of this out.  Sister has some excellent insights about what I am feeling and have experienced over the past few years.  I can hardly believe that this began, the actual day, nearly eighteen months ago.  I have been settle here for nearly a year.  Amazing.

Anyway, I was able to figure out and articulate some of the things I do not want. 

I do not want to be born again. 
I do not want to be part of a church that is wildly patriarchal.
I do not want to be part again of a church where women do not have the opportunity to have a more active and proactive and leadership role in their church community.
I do not want to be a member of a church that is not invested in both philosophy and practice in the larger community, or does not have outreach and neighborhood/city projects.

So, that is a beginning. 

And, whilst I am attracted to the Baptist church I have attended, I think that the general beliefs held and practiced there are what I like, but it is a more physical-focal church practice than might be comfortable for me.  I like being there, but, well, I am just not sure.  I think that something more meditative might be a better fit.

There are six churches, a synagog and a Masonic center within walking distance of my home, not that I will be actually walking to any of them.  I can hear the bells from some of them, and I mention the Masonic place only because it is so beautiful.   It is my plan to visit one or two in the next few weeks. 

When I visit my daughter and am there on Sunday mornings, I attend services with them.  I like it a lot.  It is some kind of non-denominational church, but I know many of the songs, and it is easy to settle into the rhythms of those that are new to me; besides, they have songbooks.  One of the times I attended that church, after the service I was choosing something yummy from the baked goods that they offer for their casual meeting time; if they have an official name for it, but it is nice to meet those people.  A woman approached me, as many members do, and I thought she was going to give me the regular "Nice to meet you.  Are you thinking of joining our church?"  Instead, she told me that she liked my singing and invited me to join the choir.  I mention this not because I have a good voice, which I do not, it is plain, like my appearance.  I share it only because it is a lovely example of how accepting and welcoming and non-pushy or evangelical the church members are.

As for the rest of this journey, I really do not know if I will be able to find a decent fit in town here.  Now that have begun serious examination of where I am in my spiritual life, I am having the random thought that I might already be close to where I need to be.  But, I will never know unless I get out there and meet people and respectfully observe and share their practices.

In the meantime, I will continue to weed and water my garden, consider where my life might want to go and take my certification test this weekend.  Maybe roll over for a nap.  CoolCat would like that.  Maybe put up some more shelving and do more organizing and divesting.  Maybe sit on the porch and watch the tomatoes not grow.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

faith revisitation

Tomorrow morning is my second visit with the spiritual adviser.  My spiritual adviser, I guess.

Right now I am sitting at my desk, trying to catch up on work stuff and through the open window, as I begin to write about this, I can hear the bells of one of the nearby churches.  Within walking distance, which for me is not much more than six blocks, are five churches and one synagogue.

With all of this wealth surrounding me, I would have thought that visiting at least a few of them might be helpful in regaining some sense of faith or divinity.  But, when the thought comes to do that, those Sunday mornings when I am up, ready for the day and have no excuses for not doing what I believe would be, if not immediately helpful to this particular process, a nice way to spend the morning, amongst the company of other people who have some connection to the greater-than-self, I stay home. 

But, even though the attraction to attend, the pull to be among other like-minded people is strong, I stay home.

It is worth remarking that since our first visit, my attention is being drawn to all kinds of spiritual reports.  Some on the news, but nearly of of them in fiction that I am reading.  In one book, the catalyst character, a small child is saved by a nun, who does so in opposition and a tiny bit of obfuscation with her fellow sisters.  In another, the main character in a long serious of books is motivated by all things spiritual, including residing with monks as part of his journey.  I have always noticed this aspect of the novels, and I am guessing that being proactive about this in my own life is making that resonate for me a bit more strongly.

Those are more positive in nature, but I am also reading things that do not make sense to me.  One character, in an entirely different book, states that we are never alone, that God is always holding us in His awareness, and that even when we are suffering greatly, that He suffers along with us.  That it is our lack of patience, understanding and acceptance that increases our suffering and distress.  That even if our suffering never abates, that we should find comfort in simply knowing that we are not alone.


There were a couple more things that caught my attention, that were similar to that.  I think that this is where I am now diverging from what seemed like a natural part of my life, that belief and the feelings that I was always connected to something greater than myself.  I have always believed that it was impossible to look at the face of another person, look into their eyes and not be able to believe that there was a creator.

I still believe in a creator, but my personal connection to anything else is gone.  There is not a hole where those beliefs used to be, just, oh, an awareness that they are gone.

I know when this began.  It was when I was living in the shelter.  Living there was the beginning of every good part of my new life.  I truly cannot express how essential that experience was in the next step in saving my life.  I am still involved there.  But, listening to so many of the women share that their strength was with God and that only He was the catalyst for their breaking free from their abusers or whatever circumstances led them to be homeless.

If you believe, good things will happen.
If you pray and trust, God will take care of you and all your needs.
Live in the Lord and everything will be fine.
All you have to do is accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and all things will be possible.
Trust in God and everything will work out.
If God can do this for me, He can do it for you; all you need to have is faith.
We do not have to know what God's plans are for us, all we have to do is believe.
Even if your prayers are not answered, you can rest in his grace because he always knows what is happening to you.
God can deliver you from everything.

I do not have any problem with any of those statements or beliefs.  Each one is useful to someone, lots of someones.  There is nothing dangerous or damaging in any of them.  I mean, if your life works out better, then they can be a comforting and supporting part of that recover.  If things do not get better, or even get worse, one's belief in any of them could be helpful in simple getting through, surviving.

Really, they cannot fail, if you have faith in them.  I suppose that they are equally helpful to those who do not hold strong or strict beliefs.  So much of life, especially the crappy parts, can seem random if one is not paying attention, which is the level of awareness of practically everyone.  I know this because I am a member of the practically everyone community.

Even if one is paying attention, they still can be helpful, supportive, comforting and hold some bit of resonance.  One of the many beliefs I still hold is that nothing is wasted.  Not any experience, thought, practice or event, no effort or heart or struggle is wasted.  Everything is valuable.

I believe in the inherent goodness of people.  I am not so sure that I believe that some people can be evil in and of themselves, but it is my firm belief that even ordinary, well-meaning folk can do evil things, and that really crappy people can do lots of really crappy evil stuff.

I believe in a kind and loving Universe, which should seem to naturally translate or move into belief in a God of some kind, but for me it does not.  My Universe is more scientific in nature, and whilst good people and good deeds, behaviors and practices can properly exist in a scientific theory, having a God fits nicely, but it is not essential.

So, off I go to meet with Sister tomorrow morning.  I am open, eager even to talk to her and learn whatever she has to teach me or share with me.  I want this.  I need it.  I am not yet desperate for it, but I see the potential for getting to that state.

Then, therapy, followed by group and the laundry really, really needs to be done, and some health stuff needs purchasing and my Internet provider bill needs paying, and if I am not exhausted I will do a bit of grocery shopping and come home to collapse.  If I am exhausted, I can already hear the siren call of the drive-through or other fast food options being a viable option.  I totally have faith in that. 


CoolCat has been acting weird.  He used to insist on pre-sleep cuddling.  Now he approaches, looks at me and then, after a long period of seeming indecision, settles down close, but not next to me.  I can only think that he might have been sleeping close to me one night and I must have rolled over on him.  If that happened, I do not remember it, and it might be totally off track, but I cannot think of any reason for this change.

He has also been much more vocal.  He was a talker from kittenhood, but the past month or it appears that he is training for the next Senate filibuster. This has been going on for months, and I sort of attributed it to a combination of nearly crushing him and the higher summer temperatures.  I will never know because whilst his English is excellent, I have never been able to master most of Cat.

I also occasionally do bodily assessments to see if he is experiencing any pain.  He does have a bit of arthritis that we manage...should that even be possible...with supplements, but it could be getting worse.  This is important to do, especially for an geriatric cat, because cats are stunningly stoic.  I remember cats coming to our shelter with serious wounds and broken bones, even with major breaks where a bone end would protrude from the skin.  It is a survival behavior.  And, purring cannot be an accurate assessment of well-being, as cats often purr when severely injured.

He has no body issues, nothing that would indicate pain.  I gingerly manipulated his joints without any response, not even purring. :)  He does not have any tender areas.  He continues to jump up, in decreasing height, on our very high bed, his scratching thing and furniture, without any hesitation or apparent discomfort.  He loves to be brushed and combed, particularly with the stripping comb.  So, I have no idea what is going on.  I guess that as long as his checkups are good and he continues to have food and water pass through his system with regularity, he continues to elicit play and petting, his sleep continues to be normal, that I should just relax.

I most likely will not stop watching for signs of distress, but I should probably stop contorting him every time he starts speechifying.

In the process of organizing and divesting all of my old crap, the stuff that was in storage, I came across a familiar, red container.  I think it is some kind of Rubbermaid (my clear favorite of reusable containers) bowl and brought it out for CoolCat to see.

I held it up and called his name.  He looked at me and the container and in a moment perked his little ears as he recognized it.  He came running, well, more like waddling, another story, mewing all the while, just like he does when he catches a glimpse of my necklace and want it for playing.

Yes, catmint, the big, red catmint bowl.  Oh, cool.  I opened the lid, grabbed a big pinch of the fragrant leaves (even I love the smell of catmint, so sweet) and crumbled it on the floor.

That is the way he likes it.

He will tolerate the compressed pellets in a soft toy, but his favorite form is as he had it today.

Every once in a while he would look up at me.  Once in a while I would stroke his neck.  It took a while.  He does not rush the experience like Lilith or Ricky did, nor does he feel the need to grind the crumbles mint into his coat like Tucker preferred.

He just ate it, gave a quick rub of his cheek in the remaining flakes, leaving most of it still on the floor, wandered over to where I was watching him with such pleasure of my own, and then jumped up on his favorite chair and has been dozing for the past couple of hours.

It has been a year and a half since he has seen that bowl, or had any of the stuff inside.  I have been making little, tied packages of the catmint pellets...a supremely wonderful product by the way, which you can buy on-line at my favorite pet supply store. 

Eighteen months, and it took only a heartbeat for CoolCat to remember it and what it contained.  Only another heartbeat for him to enjoy that little pile of ecstasy.

And, as I was sitting and watching him enjoy his catmint, I was struck, like a real poke in the pokey-parts, how powerful memory is.  All it takes is a scent or a sound or a word and we are back in the moment.  Provoked into the past.  Watching him sent me back to that other life, in a pleasant memory of CoolCat and our other cats and how much fun they were, the companionship and stimulation to be involved they gave me.

And, I thought, well, this is a good memory, one worth holding.  Surely there must have been other times when things were not so bad, and the truth is that there are plenty, more than I could share.  My next thought, in My Spiral of Remembering, is that my perceptions are skewed, that all of the bad stuff was not as bad as I make it, that I misunderstood and misinterpreted and all that old, familiar jazz.

And, then I remember that most of those pleasant and practically happy memories were sandwiched in between the bad stuff.  The true bad stuff.  And, once again, memory has taken me from a pleasant moment to other pleasant memories to self-doubt and shame at not being what someone else wanted me to be, even though that was never possible, to be what someone else wanted.

This is sad.  It is a process and it is clear that I am not close to having this spiraling process becoming just another memory.  I am not yet adjacent, in the neighborhood of that Universe.  I trek in this reality, doing my best and hoping to not make any of those mistakes again, ever again.

My memories seems essential to finding balance in my new life.  That they eventually will stop being only a source of shame and fear and move further into that part of my life where I can use them to learn about the things that I no longer want as part of me or my life.  You know, using them as illustrations, examples and lessons for what I do not want, allowing better, more appropriate beliefs and practices to take their places.

I have no idea who first postulated the thoughts of how essential it is to know where one has been in order to see where one is going, or at least wants to go.

I cannot undo my past.  When pressed on occasion to declare if I ever wanted or considered the differences in my life that would benefit from being able to go back and change things, do things differently, or simply not do some things at all, I did not have to think about it; I know that I would not.  Which is probably a healthy way to feel, as it is impossible to return to any time in one's history and change anything.  All I have is today, not even tomorrow, to craft the life I want. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013


So, anyway, some folk obsess about how they look, you know, wanting every hair in place, face scrubbed and smelling like a spa dream come true.  Not vanity, but a way to be well-groomed.  I am that way; well-groomed, that is. 

Whilst most people are careful about their appearance because, well, it is just a nice thing to do for work and generally being out in the world.  I do it because I am ugly.  I have never made anyone run screaming, nor have I scarred children or caused senior citizens to faint, but I am not attractive by any stretch of the imagination, anyone's imagination. 

So, it is in my best interest, being out in the world quite often, to take care with my grooming.  Clean and shiny hair that is tamed just enough to reduce my crazy old babe mostly-grey locks.  I wear makeup whenever I leave the house.  My clothing is not new, but it is clean and I take excellent care of what I have; my youngest garment is more than ten years old.  I really could use some new big girl panties, but that is anther story.  Most of my bras self-destructed a few weeks ago, like it was a simultaneous death wish or some sorority hazing.  I have three new bras and I cannot express how deliriously happy they make me.  Seriously.

But, I am not anywhere near cute or anything in that direction.  There have been plenty of people in my life who made sure that I never forgot what I look like, but, you know, I get to see myself at least twice a day when I wash up and brush my teeth.  Seriously, you are not telling me anything new, and whether you mean it or not (and you most likely do mean it), it hurts to be reminded.  Only meanies would do that, so you must be one of them.

I know what I look like and the truth is that I have always, like absolutely always, wanted to look better.  I wanted to be cute or lovely or adorable or something.  I wanted to be beautiful.  But, I am not.

I tell myself that all of my beauty is on the inside, where it counts.  Still...

That changed today.  I clicked on the avatar that an on-line friend has on FB.  Truth is that we would be real, dyed-in-the-alpaca-wool friends if she did not live in another hemisphere.  I feel that way and hope that she does as well.

This is what she wrote:

I was always too thin and very plain BUT my family loved me, my children adore me, (insert name of choice) calls me beautiful, my grandies call me the best nana ever...I finally count as something.

First of all, whist she is a skinny old thing (yes, she knows her age) she really is not plain.  Her features are more than pleasant, heck, I agree with her spouse, she is beautiful, especially her eyes.  The wisdom that you can see there just blows me away.  As pretty as she is, she is even more beautiful inside, you know, where it counts.

She is.  

I am writing about this because I do not actually dwell on my appearance, or the fact that I am fat.  I just get all well-groomed and get on with my day as best I can.  If I bought into the concept of self-esteem...which I do not..., I might say that I have low self-esteem, but I do not.  

This goes back to the part about being unattractive.  It is one thing to be that, it is an entirely different thing to be reminded of it.  You know, the whole meanie thing.

I am taking so long to get to this, the part where I had a moment.  

I am not ugly.  I am plain.  Like, really plain, and that is great.  The thing is that whether or not you are truly ugly, it does not do you any good to be reminded of it.  And, I can let go of all of that because of what my friend wrote.  I am plain and it is a nice thing.  I knew it as soon as I read her posting.  And, more importantly, there are other people who have embraced their plainness.  Although, not my friend because she is lovely. 

She is.

More...if she thinks herself to be plain, and she clearly is not, then maybe this change in how I think of myself can bring another change and there may be a time when I can look in that mirror when I am brushing my teeth or scrubbing my face and think, gee, if you had eyebrows you would be really cute.

If I had self-esteem, it would be significantly higher than it was an hour ago.

It would.

I love you, S.

I do.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Well, I have a meeting in the morning about the training stuff from last week.  I think that they, the Center, are going to ask me to start a group.  They have been mentioning it since I first applied for the training, and I cannot imagine what else could be on the agenda.  They cannot offer me a job, already having a specialist on staff. 

I meet with my therapist, the person who told me about the certification and encouraged me to apply.  On the strength of her confidence in me I did that, as well as writing an essay to apply for a scholarship.  I was accepted on both counts, and, really, I am still having moments of pause, wondering how all of this happened and how really and truly lucky I am to have been accepted into this program.

Now, the hard work begins.  National and state certification testing.  I have never done well on tests.  Give me a job or a project and I do just fine.  Tests, not so much.  

Lordy.  This is a new kind of stress, a great stress, one I embrace, but stress nevertheless.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


It is dark here and the temperatures are still in the 80s and no breezes from the lake.  I cannot imagine what that is about.  One of the things that this weather means is that doing anything physical is proving to be difficult, and all of that stuff received little attention today.

I have our little air conditioner on and CoolCat surely do appreciate the slightly drier air, but it is still too hot to even open any windows.  Ceiling fans are on.  Hot air is moving.  We have our own, safe home and a little discomfort is worth the opportunity to life here, in this exact place.

I have a big bag of bits and bobs and some stuff that is damaged or just plain useless.  That is going out in the garbage tonight.  One small space cleared.  Cool, although I have to be more ruthless about tossing or donating this stuff.  I also have to be more aggressive about getting this done, because it is my true intention to haul whatever is left unpacked out to the curb on Friday night.

I have had some more thoughts about the discovery and dealing with this stuff.  It is another step in the death of my old life.


Back to say that although the temperature inside is 83F, it is even warmer outside.  As I got the dishes going, I held my wrists under the flow of cold water and tried to remember what it was like when I was younger.  No air conditioning, no fans, nothing.  Even tap water was tepid during the summer.  Great for laundry, but not so much for quenching a middle-of-the-night thirst.  We managed, so I guess CoolCat and I can do the same.  Yeah.

This reminds me of the washing machine.  It was a lumbering, old, square wringer washer.  Between that and the mangle ironing machine, it is amazing that my mother and I survived to see the more modern age of household appliances with any of our fingers intact.  Those machines are still made, and whilst they do use much less water, they are insanely expensive, both used and new.

I have many pleasant memories of being in the basement, alone, running the washer, running the clothes through the wringer and hauling them outside to hang to dry.  The mangle was a beast and so hot during the summer, but in colder weather it was nice to sit down there and spray stuff with starch and feed all of the linens and clothes between the roller and the heating pad.  Lots of nice memories amongst the not so nice.  Yeah.

Monday, July 15, 2013


I have too much.

I thought that I had sold most of my art stuff at the rummage sale at the old house last year.  I was wrong.

I have finally decided to unpack, in support of staying here, even with the uncertainty about where I will find a job.  Should I move, I thought, at least things will be organized; and coming across stuff for which I had no immediate use it could go to the women's shelter for their art programs or to the charity shop that helped me so much last summer.

Bless my friends, the ones who went into the old house when I could not, boxed up art stuff and took it to the storage unit place.  They were just looking out for me, but in the boxes today and am finding things that were supposed to be sold or donated last year.  You know, it was difficult enough to let all of the crap go last year, and now I will be doing it again.

I am hoping for an easier process of divestment, but I have to admit that seeing some of those supplies and materials is making all parts of me tingle, as well as triggering too many unpleasant memories.  I have made doing this my goal for the week.  By the end of the week there will be boxes and bags ready to drop off to the shelter and shop.  I have just put in an hour and a half and I am exhausted.  Partly because of the insane heat today, near 100F and probably higher with the heat index, whatever that is. 

The toll of this stuff and all of the connections to that other life are, gosh, so many feeling are flooding back.  I know that I miss parts of that life.  There are moments when I cannot deny the loving feelings I still hold for my former husband.  Habits are hard to break, and developing new habits that do not pull be backwards are even harder.  I still have moments when I think that it must not have been as bad as I remember, that he really did not do those things, that I was mistaken, I just misunderstood, and then I spiral back into how everything would have been fine if only I had been able to do things right, be the right person with the right habits and had been less concerned with my own needs and more invested in what he wanted.

And, I stay there for a while.  All of those feelings come right back, and along with them are all the things that were said to me. 

I was never good enough. 
I never did anything right.
I was ugly and useless.
No one could love me someone as disgusting as me.
I could never do anything worthwhile, nothing that anyone else would think important.
I was stupid and no matter how many books I read, no matter how many workshops I took, nothing that I tried to improve myself could, would ever work because I was incapable of improving.
I was a waste, a drain on his resources and I really was all of the names he called me.
I was stupid and ugly and useless.

When this happens, it lasts shorter and shorter times.  I get over it more quickly.  Unfortunately, the process of doing that is the next step in which I then remember that my other life was terrible in ways I am still unable to express.  I take responsibility for my part in the dysfunction of my marriage and all of the poor, stupid and foolish mistakes and choices I made.  I have forgiven him for everything that happened.  It seems impossible, but I have.  I think that forgiving has made it possible to move on, try my best to craft this new and amazing life and maybe someday fully forgive myself. 

I never used to have goals.  That whole concept seemed pointless in a life that did not allow for doing what I needed to do to achieve goals of any kind.  I suppose that wanting to survive and doing what I could to make that happen is a sort of goal, although I never thought of it that way.  And, now, I have the actual, real, true goal of getting rid of the rest of the art stuff.  I found a package of pastels that I might keep, and some coloured Sharpies.  I found some genealogy paperwork that he had done and had left behind at the house because it was about my family.  When I found that my first thought was that he must have cared about me if he would do that in addition to the research he did for his family.  I mean, that could be possible.  It is entirely possible that there were times when he did care about me, maybe even love me a little bit.

I wish I could remember some of those times.  I think they would go a long way in helping me find the good times during all of those long decades.  I remember times when there was pleasure in doing things with our daughter; I just cannot remember enough of them that include him.  I have so many memories of times when I loved him, I wonder where the memories of being loved in return might come back to me. 

Get rid of all of that stuff. 
It either fits on the shelving I bought, or it goes.  By Saturday.
Anything left, examined or sorted or not, goes out on the curb by Saturday evening.
Get over my feelings of loss and attachment to stuff.
Think about how my issues with abundance are stopping me from moving forward.
Keep reminding myself that stuff is just stuff, that I that this stuff was already gone, and that keeping any of it is a burden that I am no longer willing to carry.

Stuff.  Lordy.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Self and that in which other people hold us.  Yeah, baby, that is what I'm talkin' 'bout.

I could work on this for a million zillion years and still allow myself to be knocked back on my ass when someone deliberately slights me.

I am not referring to those things that humans do and how another human may or may not perceive what just happened in that  brief interaction.  We all go around in our little self-absorbed fogs, brains concentrating on lots of stuff whilst attending to whomever is with us.  I do it all the time; so does everyone else, being human and all.

I met an old friend for lunch today, and was reminded why it was too painful for me to hang around with her.  The thing that kept happening back then, oh, six years ago, happened again today.  Then it was a planned hospital visit for which she offered transportation because of the general anesthesia for the procedure.  On the way home she mentioned that doing that for me reduced the time she could spend with her then-partner, something that I knew nothing about and every time she said it again I felt badly.  I had messed up a day she could have spent with the most important person in her life, and with whom she was having problems.  Sounds just like every other relationship, so no big deal there, but it would have been better for all of us if she had just told me and I had made other arrangements.  They eventually broke up and they have not seen each other for a year or so.

Today at lunch, near the time we were sort of finishing up, she received a text message from that person, her former partner, asking to get together.  My friend said that this person had been texting her all day, wanting to meet and she really did not want to.  My friend suggested that maybe the two of us should just go to the bookstore, and we did that.  After an hour, she told me that she was going to meet her former partner.

Again, no big deal, except that I think she was with me today only to fill the time until the two of them could meet.  Or, that she could have time to make a decision either way.  And, it really was not a problem, because I was just glad to see her again and catch up on our lives.

It triggered all those old feelings about being used to fill time for someone until something better came along.  And, I wonder why this bothers me so much, at least enough to have to come home and write about it.

I am a nice person.  I should be good enough to be someone's friend, you know, just her friend, without all the freaking drama.  I cannot understand why I am feeling so sad and rejected and unworthy about this, but I am and it totally sucks.

So, anyway, I drive home, call the older woman who needs me tomorrow and decide to finally put my name and flat number on my mailbox.  All three of the mailboxes here are identical, and the numbering system is ambiguous.  I bought some of those letter and number stickers at the hardware store months ago.  It is a nice and warm day, perfect for stickering something.

Whilst I was out there, my upstairs neighbor and her daughter came home, parking on the street in front of the house.  I watched her get out of the car, and waved to her.  She looked away and entered her flat.

So, why does this bother me?  Do I have some sick and perverted need to be liked by everyone?  Are my insecurities so great, so disabling, so inappropriate that I need...not want or even crave, but need...constant reassurance from other people?  Even freaking neighbors?

It is a mystery why I care.  It is a mystery how much this bothers me.  It is a darn shame that these kinds of things send me off, thinking that my expectations for interaction with other people have to be positive, have to have some element of friendship.

In my other life, none of this bothered me overmuch.  Sure, it is nice to be liked, to have friends and neighbors with whom you can be friendly, but it is not the end of the world, anyone's world, when that does not happen.  The Universe does not revolve around me and my pathetic need for acceptance.  My work and other friends, and most especially my family should be enough.  They are.  And, yet, I go around like I am, well, not exactly waiting for it to happen, but awfully able to notice this sort of thing, when it is most likely that I am really not on anyone's radar or in their mind, and that my perception of these encounters, though rare and random, is so negative.

I have never much liked the term self esteem.  I have always thought that the concept was valid, but that self worth, acceptance, comfort and pleasure from relationships and casual interactions is dependent only on me, and that it should not have anything to do with other people.  Oh, I guess that is the concept, although it seems that it should be separate from anything that other people say or do.  You know?

I am not stupid about this.  I know that this hyper-sensitivity is part of the PTSD.  I know that time and continuing personal work on my crap, as well as decent therapeutic resources will help in recovering from that other life.  It is that I am feeling impatience about the progress I am making.  I do not want magic, or some kind of quick-fix, or even for the process to be easy and painless.  Mostly.

I just wish that I could avoid these perceptions and feelings.  It is not any fun, not at all.  I am thinking about it today, as much as possible, both to help myself and to internalize the experiences and feelings as much as possible so that I will have access to those feelings when I work with others, those who are recovering, too.

Just to be clear, I know that my friend is like that, and it is about her own issues.  It is not about me.  My upstairs neighbor was probably still engaged in conversation with her daughter, probably did not even see me.  I know, right there in my head that none of this is about me.  Unfortunately, my default response is always that I must have done something wrong and that the other person is upset about whatever it is that I have done wrong.  I have a feeling that I may never stop doing this, the whole blaming myself over nothing and the resulting shame spiral.  At least I can recognize that that is happening and I can sort of wallow in the fear and sadness and despair and then move on.  But, those moments are just terrible.

No randomness, hey?  Nothing is wasted or without purpose.  If only it did not hurt whilst in the moment.  Or, maybe the pain is part of what makes the learning stick, makes it something that I can have to help me the next time I am feeling vulnerable and helpless.  Man, this being responsible for myself is hard work.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


I am still much exhausted from this week's training.  The last day ended early, I ran a few errands on the way home

I digress to say thanks, dear friend for stopping by with your sweet and charming dog and leaving a memento to facilitate remembering your visit.  The fleas said to say "Hi!"

So, one of the errands was to stop by the vet clinic and buy nearly a hundred dollars of specialized flea treatment, the one that will not cause CoolCat to go into cardiac arrest, or get beriberi, or have a psychic break, or some damn thing.  All I can say is that I am so glad that I did not stop to get the couple of things the house needs, or do any grocery shopping.  My little guy comes first, and it pleases me very much that, in the midst of living with some important economies, I did not hesitate to put him first.  I will not have money to de-flea the house for some time, but at least the nasty buggers will stay off of him.

So,anyway, I came home, stripped (sorry about the mind image...shudder), turned on the air conditioning unit, made a quick detour into the shower to cool off, had a quick dinner, went to bed early and slept until 10:30 this morning.

I feel great, but still mentally packed-to-the-gills.  The training was amazing.  The presenters even more so.  I made so many wonderful friends, especially S, E, R, E and too many to mention without leaving someone out.

I will be processing this for days and when I can, I will put down here every part that I can.  It is the only way that I will ever remember.

I will share, however, that the most immediate benefit from this week is that I have learned some important things about setting and communicating and respecting boundaries that need to be established with some of the people in my life.  An insurmountable problem has been rendered surmountable.  Doable in a way that preserves me and, if I am lucky, some of the relationships that I would like to keep.

Another aspect that I need to write about is that finishing this training has left me feeling stronger and will significantly less fear.  Mostly about my personal safety.  I will not be living foolishly, but staying safe is a much more manageable part of how I will be spending my time.  I want a decent, reasonably safe life, not so focused on that other person and those things he is still capable of doing, but I also do not want to be carefree and dead. 

That would just be a darn shame after coming through all of this.  Sounds like a good compromise.  It also sounds like I will have to actually use my Y membership.  Rats.  Should have known there was a catch.

So, off to turn the AC back on, look for something edible, aside from the cookies I forgot I hid in the upper cabinet, and maybe put in a DVD and hope to say awake until bedtime.

Life is freaking good.  I mean, who could have ever, possibly known that this was where my life was leading me.  I keep thinking that and saying it aloud.  Seriously.  How could I have ever, ever imagined this.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Every day this week (well, not so many, it is only Wednesday), as I get close to my home, I have seen a young woman.  She is standing next to a stroller in which there is a small child...or a big baby...hard to tell as I drive past.

She is standing in the exact same place every single time.  Twice she was looking up and today she was smiling, blowing kisses and waving. 

And, I knew why she was there.  On the upper floors of that building, actually a whole bunch of buildings, is where prisoners are housed.  It is the downtown jail.  A temporary place whilst your trial is going on and I think they hold people for other reasons which I cannot remember right now and I am too tired to look up.

But, that woman was patient and so willing to be there so that at the right moment, she would be able to wave and blow kisses and love to whomever managed to be at that window.

I have no idea who she is, although I am pretty sure that she does not live on my street.  I noticed her the past two days, but when she was there today I could not help but wonder what her story might be.

I would like to think that she is a young wife, and that her equally young husband is incarcerated because something that he did long before they met and he fell head over heels in love with her, has finally caught up with him.

It was a stupid crime in a long line of stupid criminal mistakes that he has made since he was barely into his teens.  It is not a factor of running with the wrong crowd, but more that he believed that being an outlaw was cool.  It gave him status in the neighborhood because he was daring and he had lots of money to flash around. 

Then, at some point he came to his senses, ended his association with those people, got a job and tried to live a decent life.  He even tried to make amends to his victims, doing it anonymously.  He told himself that doing it that way was better than not doing anything at all.  And, because he did not have a record, he was able to get a decent entry level job, where he did excellent work, another part of trying to make amends.  He received a couple of promotions and raises and was doing well.

The reason for his turnaround can be credited to his grandmother.  But, that is another story.

He had been clean, sober and law-abiding for almost a year when they met.  She knew nothing about his past and he made sure that she did not find out.  Well, not until six weeks ago when the police came to their apartment with a warrant for his arrest. 

He may have left that old crowd behind, tried to forget their activities had been his as well. but they had not forgotten him.  And, when they were caught during a long string of home invasions their own homes and those of their relatives were searched.  Many stolen items were found and they faced a whole shitload of charges.  In the process, they implicated him in many of the robberies.

So, there he is.  On the upper floor of the downtown jail.

And, there she and their child are.  On the sidewalk below.  Waiting and watching and hoping for that moment when they see daddy.  They smile and wave and blow kisses and love.  It is just a moment.  It has to be enough.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, July 8, 2013


Up at dawn.
Hour and a half drive.  Each way.  Through jam-packed rush hour traffic.  And, rain.
Grueling curriculum.  I can easily see how they are cramming all of this into a single week.  Grueling, I tell you.
Gosh, four more days of this?
Nice people, for a room full of crazy folk.
Each person's experiences, the journey they have taken to recovery just takes my breath away.
I am the least qualified person in the room.
Even more grateful that I made it past the waiting list; also confused about how I made it into this august group.
Interesting to watch how each person's disability forms their behavior.
More interesting to see how the behavior of other members of the training reflect back to me those aspects of my life that need lots of work.
Tons of coffee.
Nice selection of expensive teas, and I am taking full advantage of that.
Healthy snack, lots of fresh fruit and granola-type bars.
Excellent presenters and leaders.
I am already in love with five of the people.

Four more days.

But, I did get part of the laundry done on the way back into town, and I have food for lunches and a frozen dinner for dinner.  Which, unless I go and heat it up right now, will not be eaten, will have to be tossed, and I have to get to bed because we begin an hour earlier tomorrow.

And, my newly short hair looks really stupid because I have absolutely no idea what to do with it aside from plastering it down with hair goo.

CoolCat missed me, though, so that is nice, the being missed part.  Probably not so much fun for him.  Should I get a job out of this, he is going to have to get used to me being gone during the entire day more frequently.

Friday, July 5, 2013


I have been struggling with a loss of faith for most of this year.  I was regularly involved in our church for a long time.  Then, I cobbled together my favorite aspects of all of the religions I investigated during my twenties.  Seems like a lifetime ago, and I guess it is. 

Whatever happened, I held on to those practices and beliefs, that were not connected to any one spiritual practice or faith community.  But, now all of that is gone.  Just gone.

I still believe in a kind and loving Universe.  I still believe in the inherent goodness of people, that despite how things might go awry, few people set out to be terrible people.  I still believe in lots of things, and am recently welcoming hope back into my life.  Of course, having the whole divorce mess nearly over is helping that dramatically.

I have been thinking and writing about this empty space in my life for a long time; more intensively and focused in the past six months.  I have been reading.  Nothing seems to inspire me.  I know that because it bothers me, this empty space, that I am most likely on a path to regaining my faith in a larger-than-self.  It would be nice to find a church, a faith community, that is a good fit for me.

This morning I began talks with a woman who offers spiritual counseling.  It went well and I think that it is a good beginning.  I will be seeing her again in two weeks.  This should be very interesting.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Fourth of July is celebrated as Independence Day, when, well, all that stuff happened.  So, being the associative person that I am, I reflect on my own independence, because that is the sort of self-absorbed person that I am.  But, not really.  For the most part, most of my navel-gazing is over.  I still like introspection, but I seem to need it less and less.

When I moved last year, I landed in a location that is pretty much smack-dab in the middle of my city's (gosh, I still like claiming this city so much) July 4th parade route.  It was one of the selling points made by my landlord when I looked at this flat.

Parades, lots of people, bands, lots of people, thanks, but despite my desire to embrace and enjoy parades, I just cannot.  One of the other people who lives here in this house has company for a few weeks and the other person is having a big party.  I know this because she posted an open invitation to anyone who reads Facebook.  In fairness, she shared the party part with me weeks ago and that is cool.  As long as I do not have to participate she can do whatever she likes.

And, I like her.  Very much, as well as her sons, her family and friends.  She is a good neighbor and this old house is the perfect place to have a big party and celebrate.  She invited me for breakfast and lunch and dinner and beverages and a water balloon fight and everything.  I wish, half-heartedly, that I still enjoyed big gatherings.  It would be nice to spend the day celebrating something, and I will.  The Fourth is a big deal here, in all of its contexts. 

Parking on the parade route was restricted as of midnight and it was weird to see an empty street before I went to bed last night.  I slept late this morning, waking only when the ice cream truck passed by the first time.  Brilliant that.  Only uber local, as in actual residents, vehicle traffic is blocked, but they give access to the ice cream truck.  Every time it passed the house it was an old-timey, nearly iconic representation of summer days and simple pleasures.  Sweet.

The street is packed with people who claimed viewing spots sometime during the night.  Our side of the street is in shade because of the tall, old, Victorian houses here.  My neighbor, the one who is partying all day, claimed the driveway portion with a camping canopy and there has been a steady stream of people moving along the sidewalks.  I still am not fond of parades or crowds of people, but I have to admit that the whole thing is beginning to grow on me.  Maybe, if I am still here next year I will make it out to the porch.

I am celebrating, though.  Breakfast of hot dogs on these really cool ciabatta buns I found at the market.  Chicken curry for dinner and I will toast the spirit of the day with a nice martini.  I might go out to watch the fireworks tonight; I might not.  I have talked to CoolCat about the noise, which will only increase when the parade begins.  Since I do not attend to parades, I do not know much beyond people sitting along the route and cool stuff moving past them.  The talking to my cat is ordinary, with only the two of us living here.  But, he is already mildly alarmed by the sounds from outside and is lounging close to me.

Funny thing that, CoolCat and me.  I keep hearkening back to this, keep thinking and repeating this, but I really never thought that I could have a life anywhere close to what I now have.  It truly is independence in a manner that I could not have imagined.  So, I guess I am introspective and centered on my own circumstances this morning.  Just sort of acknowledging and honoring it.  Managing yesterday's situation is part of the good feelings I am having today. 

Oh, here comes the ice cream truck again...have to go look!  It is right across the street and all kinds of people are lining up for cold treats.  A man with a tall, like really tall cart is walking in the other direction.  It has all kinds of shiny stuff on it and is topped with tons of balloons, stars and mylar and Dora the Explora'.  Alrighty, this is cool.
Now that the whole divorce mess is officially over, I am able to reflect on how I hope that my ex is feeling the same ways that I do.  I hope that he is happy and free of everything.  I think that the process of writing this morning is helping me in a new way.  Sure, looking back at the past and seeing how far all of us have come, although I am guessing about everyone except for me.  I was so naïve, so unprepared for everything that has happened.  Now I am smarter, stronger, moving on to some pretty exciting new possible ventures.  I was thinking the other day that I might be ready to dip back into painting. 

All things honored, I think that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

taste of things to come

There is a woman who is a member of one of the support groups to which I belong.  The therapist in that group has encouraged me to do more peer counseling.  I am gradually doing so, taking my time, spending most of my time simply listening and pulling the resources I have assembled into some decent sort of arrangement.  I need more documentation and materials from those places, as well as more efficient filing system.  I am currently using three-ring binders, a Rolodex and some computer files.  It works well, but I need to develop a more portable system.

I am also developing a employment opportunities system that I can e-mail to the several services and facilities that want that information more readily and easily available to people who have scant experience or no experience using computers.  The days of job searching in the local newspaper classifieds is over.  Same thing for cold-calling on companies, stores and offices, introducing yourself and asking if they were hiring.  Some people are still making cold-calls, but companies are not all that fond of the practice, which is why they take applications only via their own web sites and hiring services. 

I do not want to become sidetracked on employment stuff, because I could write about that forever.  The details are not all that important, but something happened with one of the women from that particular group today.

She has been texting messages to me for several days, following several telephone calls last week.  The reason she is comfortable doing this is because the original therapist in charge of group, the one who created it for her clients who needed an additional place to discuss their issues and as a place for some of them to develop social contacts, asked at her second-to-last session with us if anyone wanted to share telephone numbers with anyone else.  Her intent was sublime.  She thought that if any of the women was having difficulty with something or simply needed to talk to another person who had similar experiences and could relate, then the best place to create such a support system was within the group.

Trust grows in that environment.  Women who were unable to speak or trust anyone have really grown and bloomed as a result of this particular group.  I know that happens in the right kind of support group environment, for any personal issue, whether it be mental illness or substance abuse or domestic abuse or veterans issues, the list goes on.  If there is a need, there are careful and informed people who will do whatever it takes to make a safe place available.

The first problem with this group is that several women wanted me to be their partner in this project, and I shared my telephone number with four women. 

The second problem is that if you are in a quasi-professional/helping position in a group, you begin to transcend the more simple (not that anything is that simple) position of being a group member.  I really do not mind this happening.  Doing this work and being comfortable with other people depending on me to help them and be a nice guy about it is why, well, it is why I do this work. 

I believe that everything in my life has been leading, guiding me to do this work.  Simple as that.  I would be ungrateful for all the good that I have in my life if I did not honor this process.  I believe in what I am doing. 

It is why I am beginning my certification training next week.  It is why I work in so many places where people need employment help and social support.  And, even though it is my hope that if I complete the training and qualify for the certification, that I will be able to find a part-time job, one that actually brings a paycheck along with the work, all of this work is so important to me that I will be continuing to volunteer a couple of days each week. 

So, anyway, two of those women have been relying on me for a bunch of small things and, honestly, it is fine.  Today that changed, when the woman I mentioned called me after the calls last week and the texting this week.  She wanted me to come and pick her up from the place she is living because she is fighting with another person there.  Ambiguous, but this is now how I have to do this.

I was already meeting another friend for lunch, so I invited her along.  The story is so long and involved, but for more than three hours after I picked her up, she made statements about what she needs and that this other person wants me to provide them for her.  I listened, was sympathetic and did not make any offers in response to how she was presenting what she needed.

After the first few comments from her, I had a revelation.  Not exactly thunderstruck, but a whole bunch of lights went blazing over my head.  Classic cartoon light bulbs.  And, I was able to be professional and see how she was using our relationship in an attempt to manipulate me the way she has been sharing that she does with other people.  Heady stuff.

Interesting aspects are that she kept it up for the entire two-hour lunch (slow eaters and fast talkers, the only defense we have for taking so long), and then when I left the table at the restaurant to use the restroom, she made the same attempts directly to my friend.  I know this because my friend called me later and told me what had happened. 

And, I know that both of us managed this uncomfortable afternoon well because my errands included returning library books and stopping at the help center to drop off more eyeglasses.  When there I asked to chat with my therapist and shared what had happened.  It felt a little weird, but it was nice to be reassured that my instincts were spot on today.

I feel so sad about her circumstances.   Allowing her to live with me for a while, driving her to another state or giving her money or buying things for her is not going to help either of us, but most especially not her.  That I had the opportunity to reinforce this process right before next week's training is pretty amazing.  These interactions have been happening between me and my clients from the beginning, four years ago. 

I have some slip-ups, as in giving money and things like that, but I have gradually learned to rein in those impulses, declining when it is in everyone's best interest to not do or give something.  I made one terrible mistake earlier this year when I returned a telephone call to a client using my cell phone instead of the reference desk phone.  It is fortunate that that did not become a problem issue, although I and the librarian were concerned for a while.  A misstep that I will not repeat.

And, that is what today was about.  I disappointed a person who wanted all kinds of personal resources from me.  I paid attention to what was happening and made all the right decisions about how to handle the situation.  This kind of circumstance is going to happen more regularly from now on.  My best guess is that a core skill is learning how to help people without hurting them big-picture-wise.  This is not original with me, but helping someone when you can is almost always a great thing, but rescuing someone is not good or healthy for either party, the rescuer or the rescued.  The line between those two, helping and rescuing is so small that it can be difficult to know where one ends and the other begins.

I want to help.  Simple as that.  I do not want to become enmeshed in other people's lives.  This work is not about me, it is solely about the other person.  I am already good about listening, helping and referring, about caring about other people; now I need the skills to make sure that I build the knowledge and wisdom to do it for the best result. 

This has been a most interesting day, and it would not have been nearly as successful were it not for the help and guidance of a truly great therapist. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


It looks like I am keeping mine.  My best guess is that the difficulty I was having with them lies solidly in my lap.  Or, mind and attitude and lack of heart.  Not to mention the stress.  I had a nice, mostly, time with each of them. 

I never deluded myself about how stressed I was, but hindsight is allowing me to see where I was.  I am not going to criticize who I was then, how I behaved, not my uncertainty about everything. 

It is just that it is interesting to have that extra perspective.

My friend who recently had a scare about cancer and I had lunch today, in celebration of the excellent and healthy results of her biopsy.  Yay.  I mean, who does not like happy news, and heaven forbid that I should celebrate with anything else but a meal.  Great lunch, lots of sushi and I get to go back to that restaurant tomorrow with another friend.

I am glad that I have taken this time off from work.  Last week was weird, but this week is better.  I have been thinking about how I might restructure my work load and optimize the time I spend with clients.  All of the ideas I have are either unworkable or just plain dumb.  Just saying.

Oh, I got a haircut today, from the same stylist who fixed the worst haircut in the Universe for me last year.  I asked for short and I got it.  My hair has never been so short.  It is short.  Like really short.   No one is going to believe how short it is.  To be honest, I think that it makes me look at least fifteen minutes younger.  Honest.  It really does.  O.K., maybe ten.

Tomorrow is one more lunch with one more friend.  This one will be a breeze, a snap, a nice time.  She is the kind of friend that I aspire to be. 

I am one, lucky old babe.

Monday, July 1, 2013



The second friend was nice today. 
I was nice today. 
We are still friends.
She invited me to her daughter's wedding. 
I am going. 
I afford to give a nice gift. 

Nice, because I did not want to stop seeing her.  I like her and I am hoping that feeling like she was belittling me all the time was some over-reaction on my part.  I am very happy to accept the responsibility for the rocky condition of our relationship.  And, I am more happy to still want to see her and that she still wants to spend time with me.  Just plain nice.

I met one of the handymen who helped me last year and was finally able to give him a decent tip.  He assessed all of that other person's mess and gave me a fair price.  However, when they started to clear everything out, the true nature of the mess was revealed.

It was like peeling the layers off of  the worst onion in the Universe.  Seriously.  Clearing that house out was a sobering glimpse of what hell must be like.  Seriously.

I knew immediately that the estimate he gave me would not cover the actual costs of the work.  I did not have any extra money, having used the last of my cash to order a half-dozen large pizzas for them and an extra hundred dollars to use as a tip for the five men.  As the afternoon went on, I became increasingly ashamed of the whole damn thing.  The crew was great, even when three of them had to return the next day to finish.  I vowed that I would someday give them more than the measly tip. 

Every time I would get a few dollars ahead I put it into the bank, slowing building a decent thank you for all of that insanely hard work.  But, it really was so slow, and I wondered if I would live long enough to do this.  Then, last Friday, everything about the whole freak show of my divorce was finally over.  I did not yet have any of the money, but I knew for sure that it was coming. 

And, you know, I hate to keep dwelling on this, but for some reason I am bothered by parts of it.  I have to let this go and just be glad I received more than the nothing I expected.  It so pathetic, this feeling like a baby.  I hate it.  This is the strongest emotion I have had during the entire process, and it over nothing.  Just nothing.  Whatever.

So, I still do not actually have any of it, but it is coming, and I called the handyman last night and arranged to meet him today.  I got up, troweled on makeup, brushed my teeth and went to the bank and withdrew five hundred dollars so that each of the five men will get what they deserve.

I can hardly express how great this feels.  To be honest, they probably should have received more, and I might do that at some time, but for now I need to avoid going all unfrugal and begin to spend, spend and spend.  I am taking a friend, the one who had a biopsy last week, out for lunch tomorrow to celebrate that she does not have cancer.  Two super great things in one day.

Life is nice.