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

Monday, January 26, 2015

I was listening to Chapter A Day

on Public Radio.  I have no idea what the book was/is, and the bits that I heard were/are not interesting enough to find out, but a sentence did catch my attention.

The character's words were "I wonder how many of the Past's footsteps walk in our shoes today."  At least pretty close to that.  Nice, because it is another way of thinking about how our past forms our present and, often, our future.  I also thought that it was an interesting piece of dialogue, but, really, who is least most people, adults, like closely our past and all of those experiences are a factor in how we craft our lives.  Mostly unconsciously is my best guess, but if the past has been dramatic or traumatic enough, much of what we choose now is based on our memories or wounds or pleasures of all that jazz.

Last week was spent donating the last of my stuff and cleaning the old flat, and I was down in that city for eight days.  To say that I am exhausted does not even begin to describe how I have been feeling for the past several days.  That down-to-the-bone fatigue is just like how I felt most every day in that other life, well, except that this now new life does not have the violence, brutality and fear, the insecurity of knowing that there might not be a next day for me.  I am tired, but danger is not sitting on my shoulders, wrapping its spiky tail around my neck, tighter and tighter.

So, in the spirit of all of the now new life stuff, a couple of interesting things happened.

One was hearing that brief passage on the car radio.  I think the significance of that for me is I am pretty sure that the past does not determine every decision, every choice, nearly every moment as it did.  Working my ass off to understand what happened, how it developed, and most especially, what my part in that dynamic must have been and how I ignored everything in the shadow of believing that if I could just manage to get things right, do things right and that everything would be fine, has been a real struggle.  I am guessing that most survivors of those kinds of lives and us PTSDers have a pretty decent understanding of how that process can be for someone else, even if the particulars are different.

The Past will have its way if we do not face it.  Everything that happened.  Accepting responsibility for those things for which we are responsible and breaking the chains of the inappropriate and unwarranted responsibility our abusers try to foist on us.  I think that I am making good progress in that area.  I have been aware of triggers and mostly respond in a healthy way.  I have left some people behind; that they have not understood is no much of a surprise, as that is the way of those who cannot understand.

I have found the way to forgive him.  I am still a little surprised at how easy that process was.  And, were not this next aspect a part of many women who survive abuse, I would feel shame to admit that there is still a part of my that loves him.  Not in any way that would bring him back into my life, but despite having plenty of boyfriends, including two who wanted to marry, he was the first person I ever loved, the first (and still only, how sad is that) person with whom I was intimate and we produced a wonderful daughter, one of the nicest people I know.

Another part of how our histories walk, if not in our shoes today, at least alongside us.  I guess the path is wide enough for everyone.

Another thing that happened was at church Sunday, last week.  As long as I was in town, it felt comforting to attend the church I liked.  One of the women was saying goodbye again and told me that I was so much more calm from when she met and got to know me.  Nice.  I think so, too.

Another day was spent giving furniture and all my cat furniture and toys and stuff to one of the women in one of the support groups I attended.  I took her to lunch and we were both our usual selves, except that I can see beyond her behaviors to recognize and honor the person behind the disabilities, as I hope that other people can do the same for me.  We are all crazy in our own ways.  I used to think of it as unsettled and words like that, but we all carry our own personalized versions and levels of insanity.  I really believe that to think otherwise is denial.  Just do.

I slept at least twelve hours last night.  Nice. 

My daughter and I will be going to a new Indian restaurant this week. 

I have a spare room full of boxes, mostly art stuff that I could not leave when it came to moving the last of my crap.  Lordy.

I will be sorting some of that stuff so that I can sew a dust ruffle for my bed, a couple of curtains from my lace stash and make some valentine gifts for my little friends. 

I am thinking that I might want to begin back to work or volunteering in a few more weeks, or maybe not.  We will see.   I am kind of liking having nothing regular to do.

Choosing the flat with the most stairs to climb has turned out to be a wise decision.  I am already walking so much better after this first month that I can hardly believe how well my muscles are working.  I have less asthmatic difficulties and my heart is working more reliably as well.  Even though my doctors might not agree (not ready to challenge them yet) I do feel as though my heart stuff is much improved.  I have used my cane only three days in the past month.  Nice.

Lots of things are nice.  You know, just plain, ordinary nice.  I so hope that I can end up being close to a normal, ordinary person with a normal and ordinary life. 

I have had enough drama and all the rest to last me, well, last me all my life.

And, yet, that brings something else new to awareness.  In the past, even the time right after I fled that other life, dying seemed the perfect solution.  Once I was out of there I stopped thinking about suicide, but there were still moments when hurting myself was so tempting.  The threats after I left left me fearful and agitated, but that seems to have passed now.  I no longer think about death as a solution.  Heck, I can even talk and write about it now. 

Here is that 'yet', and it is that I have a more normal attachment to life.  I am going through a period, hopefully short, of having these little bursts of concern about not living. 

I am safe now, for the first time in decades, and I like it.  Life is precious.  I want to live a long time. You know, sort of catching up and trying to make up for some of the things I missed.  It is not a bucket-list kind of thing, just wanting to be around and enjoy the peace and fun and my grandsons growing up and my daughter and I growing older. 

I want to like in this place, this village, for a very long time.  I am trying to not fall under the thrall of fearing death, so all of this new stuff is mostly confusing.  I guess I am not feeling fear, but longing, such a great and deep longing and yearning for a life without all that other life stuff.

I do not need anything to be perfect.  I do not need it to always be high noon, sun shining, birds singing, cake for breakfast and unicorn pets for everyone.

I am willing to continue to work, and work hard at whatever I do.  I am not afraid of sadness or troubles or struggles that come with normal and ordinary life. 

I think that what I want to to always remember what it cost and how hard I worked to gain this now new life and that I hope I never stop appreciating and honoring every moment that brought me here.  Even all of the stuff from that other life.  Had any of it not happened, not even the worst day, I would not be who I am, you know, the person I dreamed that I could be. 

It is a process.  One day, one step, one heartbeat at a time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


After a weird winter season, we finally have snow, accompanied by bitterly frigid temperatures.  With the wind chill factor, the temps outdoors are in the double-digits below zero.  For a couple of days it was more than minus-40F.

The snow last weekend was wet and then dry and kept blowing all over the place.  The sun came around for a few days, melted some of what was on the sidewalks and roadways and the winds froze it. 

My plan was to travel south to get rid of the rest of my stuff (even if I had to stay overnight on the sofa bed to get if finished), but the highways were chock full of crashes, including one that closed the whole system for nearly ten hours.  That one was south of where I needed to go, but the interstate system between here and there was insanely blocked and virtually unavailable.  Fortunately no one was hurt, but there are a lot of people with some pretty pricey vehicle repairs in their immediate futures.

So, I took the opportunity to try to unsnarl my retirement insurance benefits and the advantage insurance plan I set up last November.  Yesterday I was on the phone for more than four hours, most of it spent waiting on-hold.  Today was better, only two and a half hours, and I finally landed with someone who really knew what she was doing and she sorted all of it out and I am set to go and someone is your uncle.  Nice.

Frankly, one of the reasons I have stuck with this retirement insurance company is because they are unfailing courteous, respectful and will do anything to help.  I am sure that many people have this experience with their insurance providers, but it is not common amongst my fellow old babes. 

Anyway, I am so glad to have unlimited everything on my cell phone, so worrying about minutes and data resources were not a part of just hanging around, reading and occasionally glancing at the television, having tea and fruit and with no responsibility for doing anything useful around here.

I am impatient to finish at the old flat, having sorted out everything that was in the first trip up here.  The only things still in boxes are waiting for the next...and last...trip which will have all the bookcases and shelves.

I will be wasting tomorrow, except for shoveling the snow that is supposed to arrive overnight, then coming back upstairs and having hot cocoa and toast for the rest of the day.  Bliss.

I am down to one book and will be fetching a few more when I get to the library later this week.  I have missed more than a month of Saturday morning coffee with my little friends, and even if it stays bitterly cold, as long as the roads are passable, I will go meet then this week.

In the three weeks here I have lost enough weight to buy a blouse and jacket two sizes smaller than I have been wearing.  I guess my hopes for better fitness trudging up and down the stairs is beginning to pay some dividends.  I had thirty dollars/US gift thing to spend last weekend, before the snow hit the fan, and because everything is on after-the-holidays sales, I was able to buy two expensive items that I would never have ever considered, and a pair of gloves for only fifteen dollars more than the gift thing.  Nice.

I am breaking my insane desire for fizzy beverages, especially diet sodas, by drinking pitcher-filtered tap water.  The water here is supposed to be good, but it tastes ghastly, and the pitcher is helping.  To be honest, I have tried to break this habit many times.  Yes.  I have.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

below zero

It snowed overnight on Friday and I woke to lots of snow yesterday.  In this new place, I share the snow removal with the couple in the lower flat, the ones who fight all the time and on whom I nearly had to call the police that evening.  They stopped, after an hour and a half without anyone getting hurt, but it was a really violent argument.  They resumed around 2:00 a.m., but more quietly and for a much shorter period of time.  This was the worst of the several they have had since I moved here a couple of weeks ago.

I was, truth be told, afraid to even get out of bed.  In that other life, all of the arguments were one-sided.  Well, there were two sides, but mine was to stay silent, not answer any questions with more than, "Yes, you are right."  "Yes, I am wrong" even though I rarely knew what caused those preludes to further abuse.  I keep thinking that after more than two and a half years that seeing or hearing violence, or even fighting, should not be a trigger for me to withdraw.  Cower.  Try to be invisible.  None of it ever worked, only he and the disbursement of his anger and behavior would bring that to an end.  For a while.

My plan was to talk to them in the morning.  Express that I was not judging, but that my experience working at the shelter has educated me about fighting with someone, doing that fairly...should such a thing be possible...and how what I heard that night and early morning was moving in the direction of fights that ended more violently than theirs, as shared by the women with whom I worked in the shelter and in support groups.

I knew what I wanted to say.  I still do, because as I was shoveling my part of the white stuff, the woman was outside smoking and she said hello and then told me that they were leaving for a city in the north of our state and that they would not be able to clear their portion.  And, oh, maybe his brother could come and do something.  Or something.  That is a quote.

So, I dug in and shoveled all of it.  Public access areas, all the walkways, and the driveway, so that when the husband returned home from work he would be able to get through.  Clearing it quickly also meant that his tires would not compact the snow (fairly wet and heavy), which would make my shoveling more difficult.

Turns out that he was already there, and they spent the two hours I was out there, chatting with their friends (traveling companions, as it turns out) and smoking out on the porch.  I gamely finished, and went to talk to them about the constant fighting.  Well, in retrospect, I have to admit that having that conversation was not all that great an idea just before they were off to have a little vacation.  In my defense, I was not thinking clearly about that, so it is just as well that they left just as I was finishing the driveway and parking area.

So, I came upstairs and made egg salad for lunch.  I am experimenting with eggs again because they are such an inexpensive protein source and I need to add cheap protein to my diet.  Meat is too expensive, even ground beef and poultry.

Anyway, it snowed again last night.  More than on Friday.  I wanted to go to church, so I went out early to at least clear the public space and the walkways.  Half an hour, and I was done, but I was also feeling sick.  Achy in a way unfamiliar to me, with a painful stomach and I was feeling nauseous.  I finished a bit more and came upstairs just in time to vomit.  I had not eaten, so it was all bile, and I have to admit that it kind of shocked me, as I never throw up.  Like never.

I had some water and vomited again, so no church for me.  I still had to go out for groceries, so I toasted some bread, ate it and waited.  It stayed down, so I got ready and left.  I was not gone very long, and when I came home, someone had plowed the driveway.  Yay, I thought.  Might even have said it out loud. 

Then I got to the back of the house and whomever plowed did only their four parking spaces.  There are five in the back.  I get one.

And, you know, this is really and truly petty, but I had this moment of hurt feelings that my space was still full of snow.  I got over it quickly, hauled my groceries and some over-the-counter pain and nausea stuff I bought at the drugstore, changed my clothes and rested. 

I have not yet been ill again, so I am guessing that the motions of shoveling were not as recently familiar to my body as I thought.  It has been a very dry winter so far and I think that I have moved snow around only once this season.

Life just keeps on bringing surprises.  My expectations about everything are not useful.  I feel as though I should be totally healed from that other life.  Ridiculous, as I know that it will take years before some things no longer trigger me right back, smack-dab back into those experiences.  All I can do is to just keep working on all that stuff, recognize triggers when they happen, pay attention to how I am feeling and what I want to do to transform that fear into something better. 

It is just that PTSD is only relieved by time, making changes in how I respond and cope with whatever happens to thrust me back in time.  What would help is more therapy, but that is beyond my means right now.  The therapy I received in my former city was affordable, and that kind of help is simply not available in this village. 

I work so hard at this.  I am exercising more; chose this upper flat for the default exercise I get from taking the stairs.  My grandson and I walked to the library on Friday.  He and I spent the afternoon having lunch and putting together a cabinet I had for the television.  We watched a bit of children's programming, and I found out that he has grown past many of the animated things he loved only a few months ago.  It was the kind of day I crave and now that I am living here, it will be more frequent.

You know, being here, close to them and all that provides to all of us was, is, a conscious choice I made in the process of healing.  Just sitting around and chatting with that divine (and kind of scary smart) boy was bliss.  Our daughter and her family were never welcome in our marital house, especially the boys.  When I left that life, I filled nearly all of my time with jobs and volunteering and other projects that it was not easy for them to come down here.  Beyond that, the trip was really not that easy for any of us, so they rarely came down and even more rarely spent the night.  It was better that I drove up

Now I get to see them whenever any of us want.  My daughter and son-in-love are being respectful of my personal space and I had to remind them again last week that any, or all, of them are welcome to come over any time they like.  This is a time of learning for all of us, especially in regards to not using them to fill my time, you know, so I can avoid doing the personal work I need to do. 

I had decided that I was going to give myself at least six weeks to settle in up here.  Turns out that since I have so much stuff to divest, that I am going to need a few more weeks to completely parse all of it out.  I have been thinking lately that I might try to see if I can spend time doing not much of anything after that is finished, if I can find the inner resources to help me be more comfortable with my own company.  I am already reading more, although the library system up here is much smaller that what I am used to using.  Going to have to read a wider range of authors and genres.

I have to admit that between vomiting sessions today that I considered that I might be having another small heart attack, even though the symptoms are not what I had before.  I think that I am mistaken about that, but it has reminded me that I need to find a new doctor up here, and quickly.

Everything in its time, except for the doctor part.  I am often amazed how helpful it is to write things out.  This kind of divesting is both easier and more tricky than getting rid of material things.

I have been longing for snow for months and here I am, wearied by shoveling and the below-zero temperatures and wind chill levels.  Or factors, or whatever they are.