b a r e

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Tag: gratitude

Dead.

Finally. Fully. Completely.

My heart raced as I read the email, “I regret to inform you your father is dead.” Just a few minutes ago, I told a longtime friend that I just had to accept that you would never die. You’d cling to life with your fingernails, being around to scare us forever. And then, just like that, you expired. I was elated. I called my mom and we shouted and laughed. The world outside seemed brighter, the leaves greener, everything was sharper and in focus. I went with another friend to the coroner’s office to pick up your keys. She said you had died the morning before, around 11:30 AM. I liked to imagine you woke up early, like you always do, and lay there suffering, paralyzed, until your shriveled, black heart finally gave up hours later. I want to imagine that I gave a speech at your funeral where I told everyone the ugly truth about you. I like to plan going to your grave and pouring urine over it. But this isn’t making me feel the justified anger and superiority it used to. I don’t feel good about these thoughts. I just feel sick to my stomach, nauseated. And I didn’t just cry. I sobbed. I sat there in my car after leaving your apartment and I sobbed and my shoulders heaved and I screamed. I felt like a crazy woman. And as I sobbed I’d start smiling, and then my heart was filled with so much pain that I screamed again.

You’d love to know your trustee and full beneficiary showed up. She gave you an honored man’s burial, whereas I’d have had you cremated and flushed you, or unceremoniously dumped you in the trash (which is where I put your 30-day memorial candle, by the way). I don’t care that she gets all your crap. I cut ties with you long ago. That Will I found where you said I get “NOTHING!” I laughed. Of course. But her stories about how wonderful you were made me want to vomit. That’s what made me sick. You loved her children in the non-violent ways you never loved us. I wanted to yell at her to shut up. I wanted to tell her my stories. How you told me every night that if we ever tried to leave you’d chop off our heads and burn down the house. And then finally, during those 4 torturous hours at the mortuary, she finally let me tell her. I didn’t see her face, I was so lost in my pain.

I did a releasing meditation. The first step was to imagine the situation(s) that brought me pain. I was lost in the primal child’s experience of “please don’t hurt me” and “I’m so afraid.” Then the second step was to confront you, and boy I let you have it. Then, during the third step, I pushed you off my cloud and cut the rope and said, “I forgive you. I release you. I let go.” But it was too late. That box, those boxes, that I had shelved long ago, that I had built justified anger around, they tumbled off the shelf and it all spilled out. An ocean of pain. Every last drop. And I sobbed. I sobbed till I was wrung out, like a towel, dry and twisted.

And when I stopped, I started to be filled again, slowly at first, then so fast I was completely soaked with joy and gratitude. My life, my husband, my daughter, my friends who are my family – they love me so much. They would do anything for me. They are healthy (oh yes you are!) and positive and caring and so, so loving. And I am so lucky, so blessed, so grateful that this is my life now. So relieved and thankful of the decisions and choices I have made, not despite his torture, but because of it. This day and every day is so bright and beautiful because we can and will continue to bring in love and laughter to our lives. And we never have to live as he did or torture as he did or suffer as he did.

I can move forward now, untethered.

I leave the past behind me. And I walk forward with strength and gratitude and a new love for life.

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Liar

I’m so frustrated. A voice, clear as a bell, says in my ear, “Give up.” I’m so exhausted, when will I feel better. I see the voice’s lips, “You won’t.” That voice is a kick in my stomach. I used to believe you when you said, “What’s the point.” I saw only the shadows, which weighed on me like a wet sack of sand. But I’ve pulled back the curtains to let the light in. And behind a pane of glass I see how lucky and blessed my life is. People who love me, who would do anything for me. A roof over my head, clothes to wear, food to eat. “It could be worse!” I yell at the voice. It starts to respond, “No, it couldn’t…” then is choked. All I hear now is the wind. Sure I can’t actually feel the joy on the other side of the window. But sometimes, it opens a crack, and I can smell the warmth on the inside. I know I’ve been in there before, I have vague memories. I can almost taste it. And one day I’ll get back in again. Meanwhile I’m going to wrap myself up in my hope to try to keep warm. And though the wind is cold and strong, I’m staying right here.

Consider writing a “thank you” note to someone from outpatient who really helped you. What would you say?

I don’t remember your name. So I’ll call you V. When I first saw you I thought you were a hot mess. Your frizzy, bleached blonde hair and mismatching workout clothes were always disheveled. You sat there with a blank look on your face. I was sure you were neither educated, nor intelligent. You were just one of the people in the outpatient program that proved to me I was not like the rest of the group, of what I was sure where broken and crazy. I am not proud of this moment.

Then one day you volunteered for psychodrama, something I didn’t have the courage to do. I was surprised. You never spoke, so how could you have something to share. And as your story came tumbling out, I was overwhelmed with compassion and shame. You had a young child, close to my own child’s age. His father had passed away from an overdose just 2 months ago. You were forced to live with your judgmental mom who treated you like a child. You didn’t know how you felt. Except for anger, it was in there somewhere. Your whole world had been turned upside down. No wonder you didn’t say much, you were probably still in shock.

Listening and watching you opened my eyes. It’s that lesson I have to keep relearning. Don’t judge a book by its cover. And here I am, caught myself doing it again. This time to prove to myself I shouldn’t be in this program – which I definitely needed to be. Because you shared your story, I was able to look around the room and realize that I did belong, and that I did need help, and that I was in the right place to get that help. So, thank you, V. Thank you for being so brave. Thank you for opening up in front of a crowd of strangers. Your bravery and strength inspired me. I learned that I could and should share my stories too. Because you just never know who you’re going to help.

Dear Husband

I can’t be honest with you. I can’t tell you the depths of my emotions. I can’t fall apart completely in front of you. I can’t let you see me that way. I am so ashamed of my brokenness. I am so ashamed that I am not the strong, vibrant, dynamic girl you dated and fell in love with. I am so ashamed that I am not the wife you expected, the mother you wanted for your child, the partner you thought you had. I am weak. I am a blubbering pile of tears and snot. I have a body and a mind I can’t control sometimes. I am dependent on external chemicals to keep me mostly sane. I am dependent on sleep. I am not strong enough to give you a second child – even though I can’t stop thinking about it with both longing and dread. I can’t be trusted, at any moment I might fall apart, shattering into a million jagged shards. I am not worthy to be your wife. I don’t deserve to have you in my life. You deserve better than me. You deserve a life partner that is always strong and sane. You deserve someone you can always rely on, count on. I am a burden, another item on your to-do list, more work. You deserve to be taken care of, pampered, celebrated. You are true to yourself, beautiful inside and out, with the patience of a thousand angels. I know why you stay – you made a vow, a commitment. You want a family, and our daughter needs a stable household. Is it stable with me there? You say you need me – but for what? What do I bring? I need to know. I need to hear it. Because I am feeling so lost right now. Just a week ago I was so high. And now it’s all I can do to lift my head up. I know it’s not my fault – a change in meds leading to not sleeping. And yet if it were someone else not sleeping, it wouldn’t result in a bottoming out of everything. Another person might get cranky, but they wouldn’t lose their ability to function. I know I have positive traits – humor, intelligence. But is it enough? Do they make me worth staying with? In this time, when I am a drain on resources, here I am asking for more out of you. And I know in my heart you’ll give. Because you are someone very special. I don’t know how or why I lucked out on getting you.

“You’re glowing!”

Yesterday I was laid off. So many people keep saying they’re sorry.

Well, I’m not.

I was trapped. My job was soulless, helping the rich get richer. I used to love what I did. But that was before what I did for money absorbed all my time and energy, and left me with nothing to give my daughter, my husband and myself. Sure there were some really great people I worked for. People I admired. People whose lives I truly care about. I wanted them to succeed, and I would do what it takes to help them, even as it sapped from what little I had for the rest of my life.

I managed to get my hours dropped from 40 to 30 when I got back from maternity leave. And even that was too much. Too much time sitting in that cubicle staring at a screen. Too much time sitting in one place, damaging my back and my fingers and my wrists and my arms. And for what, a nice paycheck. Well that paycheck was just numbers that went into my bank account and right back out again.

I work to pay others to do what I don’t have the time or energy to do, because I’m working.

Well, yesterday I was set free. I packed up my almost 7 years of stuff, it wasn’t even that much, and I put it in the trunk of my car. I said my goodbyes, people confused at my happiness (I told them I was still in shock, which is true).

Almost immediately job leads flowed in. If I wanted to do my same job, I could start on Monday. 14 years of experience and some big names on my resume, make me a precious commodity. But what if I don’t want to do the same thing. What I want to do is – something that really matters. I want to work with and for people that are making a difference in this world. And this layoff is a very special gift to me – freedom, with a financial buffer. I mean, c’mon, that’s really awesome! And, I qualify for unemployment. That means I could choose to not work for a long time if I wanted to. I know that I won’t want to wait so long. That my responsibility to house finances, and my sanity, require me to become a responsible adult again.

But this is just the first day after! Give me some breathing room. Other people that are laid off are given time to go through the grief graph. Maybe I will too, maybe I won’t. But in the meantime, I want to celebrate this gift. I’ve been set free. I know I rock at what I do. I know I interview well. But for today, and for a little while, I just want to take a break. A breather. I had started the unhealthy cycle again. Rushing to work, rushing home, rushing to work again – at the expense of my sleep, my sense of calm, my sanity. I was not happy. But I could not see a way out. Not one I was willing to take a risk for. It’s hard to be motivated to leave when the pay is good and you know your job blindfolded.

So I told the Universe, “I want a part time job, doing something I love, working with people I love. Make it happen.” And, bam!

I don’t know what the future will bring. But I’m ready for my next adventure.

Do you feel you see any significant changes in your personality/thinking as a result of your illness? What? Why?

All I’ve ever wanted was to be “normal.” Up until the age of 12 – when my mom, sister and I ran away to a shelter for battered women and children – I thought everyone’s home life was like mine. I only ever left the house to go to school, never had friends over, never went to anyone’s house. I didn’t know that most people didn’t live in fear while trying to love someone who could erupt and beat you with words and belts at any moment. When my eyes were opened at 12, I was angry, I was liberated. And I was very different than anyone I knew.

I tried, really tried to fit in. But now were were in an Orthodox Jewish junior high. And I was not like these other girls who came from wealthy families and had lived an orthodox Jewish life always. We didn’t live like that at home. And I didn’t have the benefit of years of indoctrination. I felt like I didn’t belong. Half of one thing, half of another, really neither of both. Finally, I begged to go to public school. And now, I was really not like anyone else. And since I couldn’t be like the others, I reveled in being different. I went goth. Black trench coat  black hair. You don’t want to know me anyway, so I’ll make it even harder. That way if you do become my friend, I’ll know you really wanted to.

Thankfully, my college years and beyond cured me of this intentional distancing. And truly, I still never felt like I belonged. But I was okay with that. I could live with it.

Then came my husband and my pregnancy, and despite pain and discomfort and exhaustion, I was doing something normal! I had joined a club of women who had gone through what I was going through. I was accepted! I was embraced as one of them.

Then came my traumatic birth and the lowest place I had ever been. And I felt utterly alone. And even though this too has been experienced by many many many women, I didn’t know. I was lost in worthlessness, shame, and guilt. It wasn’t until the ray of light shone in, and I hauled myself out millimeter by millimeter  that I finally saw the faces of those who had gone before me. I was not alone.

Well this second episode is not related to that birth, not exactly. It has shown me that this depression and anxiety is here to stay. Not in that I’ll always feel it. But in that I will always have to fight it, watch out for it, be careful because of it.

And now I am different again. I am not “normal.” And that does make me sad, sometimes. But I have also met some truly amazing people who are fighting these demons too. And they inspire me. They are brave and caring, they are generous of heart and mind and words. They accept me, as is, with no judgment whatsoever. They are mine. I claim you. You are one of me. I am part of you. Together we form a different normal. Together we are strong. Together we know we will succeed. And we know it’s okay too if sometimes we don’t succeed. Because ultimately we are family. Different backgrounds, different families, different cultures, different religions – no matter. We are one. And just knowing that you all exist bouys me with strength and fortitude to not give up. I reach out and you are there. And I know you will always take my hand. And I know that I am safe.

It’s Thanksgiving and I am thankful for

My husband – He must be an angel. I know of no other person (and I have met thousands of people) that has the patience and calm that he does. His quiet, strong presence is like a drug to me, I instantly feel relaxed and release all tension in his arms. How did I get so lucky, I don’t know. But every single day I am grateful that he exists and that I’m lucky enough to have him in my life.

My daughter – She is fascinating and hilarious. She is creative and exuberant, and her unquenchable desire to understand the world around her amazes me. Even though I am tired all the time, and sometimes can’t fully appreciate her boundless energy, I am glad it exists. Her fearless expressiveness means we are doing something right.

My home – Even though we’re only renting this beautiful house, I’m really glad we’re there. When we were first looking for a place to rent, we saw many different properties. When we saw this one, I fell in love. It was bigger than we needed, and more expensive than the rest, but my husband saw how much I loved it, and so chose it. Every day, looking at the pieces of the house that I love, reminds me how much my husband loves me.

My car – They say you can’t live in Orange County without a car. But hundreds do, I see them at the bus stops, and I say a silent prayer of thanks that as young as I am, I have my own transportation. My car equals freedom, the ability to go where I want when I want. And I am so grateful for it each and every day. Sometimes I feel guilt, why should I have a car, but someone’s grandmother, sitting at that bus stop with lots of bags, does not. I don’t understand the distribution of things in this world. But I am grateful for what I have.

Health insurance – I have seen so many doctors over the years, I have lost count. My PPO lets me go anywhere I want without a referral, and believe me I take advantage of that. Anytime I have any medical issue, I locate a specialist. I don’t waste time (and money) anymore speaking to doctors who are generalists. They’re just going to refer me anyway. I find out who’s the best and make my appointment. Even with health insurance, my medical bills are high. But without it I could not afford any medical help. So I am so very thankful for health insurance (even as frustrating as they can be a lot of the time).

My messed-up childhood – Despite all the suffering I have experienced, despite the after-effects all the trauma continues to have in my life, without my childhood being exactly as it was, I wouldn’t be who I am. It sounds cliche, but the strength I have garnered, the insight I wield, is incredibly valuable. No one wants to suffer, I certainly don’t. But the past is the past, it’s over and unchangeable. I can’t fix it or alter it. So instead I am thankful for it. It makes me interesting. It makes for great stories. And it connects me to a real and powerful part of every human being I get to know. Because no one is exempt from suffering. Every single one of us has that hole in the center of our being. Many people ignore it, fill their days with so much stuff and things to keep from paying attention. But some of us are experts in pain. And I think when someone meets me, they can sense that I understand, and we can connect on a deeper level than the usual fluffy shallowness.

My friends – More than anything else in my life, I am so very thankful for my friends. I am the luckiest person on this planet, because I have friends that love me unconditionally, in many different facades and angsty melodrama renditions, through the ugly and the dark, and back again. They’ve dispersed all over the world – Colorado, Utah, Chicago, DC, Hawaii, Washington, NoCal, SD, Florida, France, Israel – but even as far away geographically as they are, they are right here in my heart. Some of you I have known since elementary school, some of you I have just recently met. Some I haven’t talked to in a while, yet I know, if I reached out, they would grab a hold of my hand. Just knowing that’s there, is everything. When I am sitting in my black pit of tar, when the entire world has gone gray, when I ask myself “what’s the point?” and don’t have a good answer – if I just think about how much my friends love me, as is, it is a pulsating lifeline back to the light. I may feel alone, but I’m not. I’m never alone as long as these truly amazing friends exist. I am the luckiest person on this planet, because I have the most awesome, the most compassionate, the most brilliant group of friends ever. I love you all. You are my life saver, my lighthouse, my everything.