Two years later…

Two years ago feels like yesterday. That is how clearly I remember Mother’s Day of 2012. I had only been out of the hospital for a few days and didn’t know where were my life was headed. I full on resisted the idea of divorce or moving out but didn’t yet accept that I had no choice in the matter.

The decision had been made.
I had not been consulted.
Our marriage and life as I knew it was over.

I didn’t realize it at the time but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was set free on May 5, 2012. Freedom from the expectation and oppression that had become my life.

While most would say I “survived” that night, I know the truth.
I died.
Then I decided to live… and that is what I have been doing ever since.

Living… for me that started with allowing myself to feel. I needed to feel the pain that I had been bottling up my whole life. Even though I thought all those tears belonged to the loss of my marriage (the idealized version I had created and protected with all my being), they didn’t. By feeling, I mean crying. Expressing emotion through the leaking of fluid from my tear ducts. Toss in body wracking sobs and you get the idea.’

Releasing the pain.

You see, I was raised to hold it all inside.
Not to show emotion.

My selective memory recalls that one of my mother’s favorite songs was Don’t Cry Out Loud, the Melissa Manchester version (1977). I don’t believe that Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager (the writers) intended for a 15 year old girl who felt, unloved, unworthy and unwanted to take them to heart, hold them tight and wrap those words around herself like a protective cape.

As I read over the lyrics, hearing the music in my head, I realize that once again my selective memory held on to just a few of the lines. The ones that served my misguided, but well intended efforts to protect myself.

“Don’t cry out loud
Just keep it inside, learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud…”

I had learned early on that showing emotion equated to weakness. At least in my family. So, I sought out relationships wherein my partners didn’t feel comfortable with the outward display of emotions… extreme emotions that is.

A smile when happy: Fine.
A stray tear when sad: Acceptable.
Apologizing for all that went wrong: Preferable.

I can’t blame them. I chose them. It suited who I was or who I thought I should be. Strong. Immovable. Capable. Non-emotional.

I wasn’t an angel by any means.
Nor an automaton.
Early on I would get angry.
Very angry and I would yell.
Throw things.

It was the only outlet I would allow myself. The only one I felt comfortable with. The only one that was modeled for me growing up. Then I realized how each and every time I allowed myself to give in to that base level of anger I just felt worse. I would mentally whip and demoralize myself until I felt so small I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. So I stopped.

I didn’t have that release anymore so I began writing.
Then painting.

That helped a bit but it wasn’t a cure. I took a lot of the anger out on myself. The anger became my enemy and it scared me. I didn’t want to feel it. When I did try and release emotion–appropriately–it wasn’t received well. Which in turn gave me the message I had learned in childhood.

“Don’t cry out loud
Just keep it inside, learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud…”

So, on May 5, 2012, when my (ex) husband said he no longer wanted to be married to me I did what I was trained to do. I didn’t cry out loud. I kept it inside. I hide my feelings. And then I took a lethal overdose.

If not for that small part of me that wanted to survive, I would not be here right now.
If not for the paramedics that intubated me and pumped air back into my lungs, I would not be here right now.
If not for the doctors and nurses in the ER that spent 45 minutes bringing me back to life, I would not be here right now.

A part of me did die that day.
The part that felt worthless, unloved and unworthy.

Two years ago… feels like a lifetime because it was. A different lifetime.
Now I embrace the tears.
The laughter.
The joy.
The love.

I am not perfect.
Far from it.
I have been on an incredible journey and it is far from over.

I clearly remember Mother’s day of 2012.
The sadness.
The pain.
The loss.

I am glad that I remember.
I embrace the memory.
Because it makes today that much sweeter.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Red Tulip

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Third time’s a Charm… I hope.

Prisoner

I never thought I would be here again…

I remember reading an article when I was in my 30’s about an actress in her 50’s with an eating disorder and I recall thinking, “No way will that ever be me!”

Well, guess what?

It is…  Me.

It’s not like I planned it nor did I completely block reality. It’s just that it happened…

Sounds like an excuse doesn’t it? It feels like an excuse to me but it really isn’t. My eating disorder (anorexia nervosa if you must know) has been my long time friend, companion and coping skill for most of my life. I don’t know when “she” showed up but she did and I needed her. The weird thing is that while I can “acknowledge” her existence, I can also be in denial that she is completely totally taking over my life right now.

Fuck!!!!!

“She”… yes, I identify it as her. She is a part of me therefore feminine.  She has been with me, part of me really since I was about 14 years old when I subconsciously realized that it was easier to not eat and avoid the dangers of meal time with my family. You know what I mean; I either ate to fast, to slow, not enough, too much, etc. If it was really bad then someone was tossed across the room or food thrown in the garbage… not that the food was edible.

Gosh, it’s been so long since I’ve actively had to deal with this issue. That’s not to say she hasn’t reared her well meaning head over the years but I’ve only been in serious ill health twice in my life. Both times I was hospitalized and it was scary. The second time I ended up in ICU with an NG tube and IV’s in order to keep me alive. One would think that would be a reality check and solid proof of this thing called anorexia but unfortunately, not.

Now, here I am all these years later forced to make a decision once again. But this time it is different. This time I have recognized that I am getting into the danger zone and am trying desperately to keep my canoe out of “denial”

I feel so ashamed.

Embarrassed.

I feel like when you no better, you do better (thank you Oprah and Maya Angelo) and I KNOW BETTER!

Don’t I?

It’s been a rough two years. Being diagnosed with two different cancers, going through a painful and unexpected divorce, new job with huge responsibilities… most professionals wouldn’t ask, “Why?’ they would ask, “Why not?”

Even though I knew my body was changing and my eating had started to decrease I still didn’t want to see it. Because seeing and acknowledging means dealing with it, right?

I felt like I was taking the right steps to avoid the situation I find myself in today such as seeing a nutritionist twice a week and a therapist once a week  however, it didn’t seem to make much difference. I found myself in the ER twice for  issues that were directly related to my lack of nutrition. My blood work was scary… Potassium so low that I could have had a heart attack.

That should do it, right? Nope.

It took the reaction of one of my doctors that hadn’t seen me in three months to make me take pause. It was my three month check up for the anal cancer (haven’t had a positive outcome until that point) and L.S. was in the room waiting for me. She had already reviewed my records which included my blood work and seriously checked out my physical appearence.

She came over to me, sat down and straight up said, “What is going on with you?” she went on to say how thin I looked and how bad my labs were. She was no nonsense and told me I needed help.

Her reaction made me think. I knew that she had no reason to lie to me nor did she have any investment in keeping me fat. I had to listen. It was upsetting to me and it hit me hard. Later that evening she emailed me a few names and numbers of people that specialized in eating disorders.

So… I called.

And now tomorrow I am going into their partial hospitalization program.

Fuck…. I am terrified.

Why am I terrified?

I am so scared it is going to work and I will end up obese and so scared that it won’t and I will be here again in the future.

I have to trust… myself.

I have to trust those around me that love and care about me and would not steer me wrong.

This is so new to me… trust… giving up control…

So, readers… what I ask from you is your prayers. Please pray that what is best for me is what will happen.

I am shrinking physically and emotionally… I need help…

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Another day, another rescue…

Another day, another rescue….

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Seasons Change

Fall Painting

This time of year brings to mind all of the changes and challenges of months past. Working hard to stay in my lane, resisting the urge to stray into others.

As the light of day grows shorter and the leaves on the trees change color, I realize the seasons are not the only things changing right now.

I have changed.

I am no longer the wife whose husband suddenly decided to end their marriage. Gone is the girl curled up on the bed sobbing and wondering what it was she did wrong. Ceasing to exist is the voice in my head encouraging me to take matters into my own hands in order to end the pain of his rejection.

I have shed the tears of the lost.

I have mourned the death of what I thought my future would be.

I have cast aside the demons that have plagued me these past years.

I no longer crave the comfort of an old love.

 

The seasons have changed and so have I.

 

I am stronger than I ever have been.

I am capable of living my life on my own.

I am who I am without the need to pretend to be someone else.

I am the person I was always meant to be.

Today as the autumn winds whipped through the trees, tearing leaves from the branches, tossing them without thought or concern for their safety, trusting in the age old process of letting go of the old in order to make way for the new, I thought of my journey and how similar it is to the changing of the seasons.

My winter began on May 5, 2012. I was in shock and frozen in place, standing in the middle of a lake with nothing but a thin layer of ice bearing the weight of my pain. Afraid to move for fear of disrupting the fragile peace I had created between the self that wanted to live and the one that wanted to die. As I took a baby step forward I heard the ice begin to crack and before I knew it all was dark. Quiet. The pain gone. I was gone.

The thaw began three days later when the warm spring air carried the voice of my daughters across the frozen lake where they landed gently upon my heart, urging me to reach for the branch they were holding out and I, with all of the strength I could muster, grabbed it and did not let go until they pulled me back to life.

It was an unpredictable spring; some days the rain was but a drizzle and others a torrential downpour that I thought would never end. Family and friends brought with them sunshine and love. Without which I would not have noticed the buds on the trees or the tulips poking their colorful heads out of the soil.

I often felt the hands of Winter trying to pull me back into the icy water of death. However, Spring won out and moved into Summer where I enjoyed moments of life surrounded by the beauty of nature and love of family. Each day I moved forward was a victory.

As the seasons changed so did I.

Beginning the New Year by traveling across the world to immerse myself in Zimbabwean culture, rescuing and caring for animals, making lifelong friends proved to be the healing tonic I had been searching for. It was such an incredible experience I did not want to leave. I had to settle for leaving pieces of my heart and soul along with the promise to return.

Arriving home I realized Winter had not left after all. I did my best to hold on to what I had gained in Africa. I spent a lot of time with my herd and the healing continued. Once again Spring turned to Summer and life moved forward.

It’s been 18 months since that day in May. I have fought my way through two Winters and have been blessed with as many Springs and Summers.

Then there is Fall…

I love this time of year and today especially; beautiful shades of autumn flying through the air only to land in a pile on the ground, begging to be kicked, scooped up and tossed into the sky like so much confetti. Which I did with childlike abandon while my herd formed a circle of love and acceptance around me.

I am an autumn baby. I am blessed with a visceral connection to this season of dramatic colorful change and the beauty that comes with it. I feel peace, love and light today. I feel nostalgic about certain events and years gone by.

Most of all I feel gratitude. I am grateful to each and every one of you that have walked this path with me. Through tears and laughter, you were there for me. You are still here for me. And I for you.

The seasons will continue to change and so will I.

 

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Conversations with Matthew

Daddy and Mattie 3

Matthew is my nine year old grandson.

In his brief time on earth he has experienced things most adults wish to avoid.

He is an old soul.

Being a grandparent to Matthew is the only thing in life that has ever lived up to the hype. We love each other from the moon and back ten times over.

If you ask him who loves him best he will say, “Gramma”.

I am his soft place to fall.

Some of our best conversations happen while driving.

“Gramma, how do they know if you are having a girl or a boy?”

“Well, there a few ways but usually people find out via ultra sound…” I proceed to tell him how an ultra sound works, hoping I am right because he takes everything I say as gospel.

I talk about sound waves bouncing off the baby and amniocentesis for women who are older.

“I’m confused,” he says. “don’t you only get a few eggs?

“Yes. Women are born with a certain amount of eggs but men have a lot of sperm and those sperm have to swim really fast for it to work.”

“I’m confused… how does the water break?”

“Well, it breaks in different ways.” I respond “You know how when your stomach hurts and you have to go to the bathroom?”

“Yes…”

“Okay, so imagine that times a thousand!”

I go on to explain how the contractions help to break the bag of water. I take the time to explain it in medical terms. I read some where that it is best to honest and use the appropriate terminology when speaking to children.

“But Gramma, I’m confused… does the baby come out with the water?”

As you can see, Matthew’s favorite line is, “I’m confused…” I have to admit, it works.

“The short answer is yes but it’s a bit more complicated than that.”

We went on to talk about cervix and dilation and much to my surprise it’s a concept he seemed to grasp. We moved on to ovaries and hysterectomies (his mother had just had one a few months prior).

“Gramma, do you believe in God?”

I take a deep breath here as the conversation becomes more philosophical.

“I believe in a power greater than myself and I choose to call that power, “God”.

“Do you believe in God?” I ask

“Yes.” his answer is simple and sure. I wonder where and when he decided there was a God.

“Gramma, how old is my “other” dad?”

I inhale deeply, exhale slowly. This is tricky territory and not the first time we’ve been here. “Your dad died when he was 24, a month before his 25th birthday.”

“But how old would he be now?”

“If your dad was alive he would be turning 31 on November 5th.”

“So, he’s 31?”

“… yes, sweetie. I guess he would be 31 this year.”

“The last time I saw my dad he died.” he says as a matter of fact.

“I know sweetie.”

“Do you remember your dad?”

“Kinda… not really.”

‘Gramma, did you love my dad?”

Wow… this is a huge question without an easy answer. For a moment I feel trapped, not sure what the “right” answer is.

“I loved the way your dad loved you, sweetie.” deep breath. “And your dad loved you more than any thing in the world.”

It’s the truth. His dad did love him more than he loved himself. Unfortunately, his demons got in the way thus the sudden demise of one so young.

I am careful not to put his “other dad” on a pedestal but at the same time I want Matthew to know how much he was loved by the man no longer in his life.

Abruptly the conversation changes.

“Gramma, if two men get married that makes them gay, right”

This is not our first conversation about gay and lesbian relationships.

“Nope, you can be gay and not get married.”

“But it’s their decision to kiss another boy, right?”

“No, not quite. You decide what shoes you put on every day, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, being gay or lesbian is not about a decision. It’s about how you are born. Some people are born wanting to kiss boys and others that want to kiss girls. It’s not a choice. It’s how God made them.”

“The choice comes in when you choose to act on those desires but that goes for everyone whether they are gay, lesbian or heterosexual.” Yes, I speak to him in these adult terms. That is how he will learn the truth.

“I kissed a girl…” he tosses out this fact like we are in the 9th inning of the seventh game of the world series and the score is tied.

I take a moment and then ask my nine year old, fourth grade grandson, “Really? Who have you kissed?”

“”I’ve kissed you and mom and auntie…” huge sigh of relief because one never knows.

“That’s good. That’s different.” I say with relief.

“Gramma, I love you.”

“I love you, Matthew.”

Shortly thereafter we arrive at our destination and he is once again a nine year old boy ready to play transformers with Eli and Ryan.

I am grateful that Matthew trusts me to tell him the truth however painful or difficult it can be it at times.

I look forward to our conversations in the car. I am often surprised by the depth of this boy and the insightful questions he asks.

I love him more than I could have ever imagined.

He loves me more than I could have ever hoped.

Conversations with Matthew… Never a dull moment.

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When people show you who they are believe them

IMG_0145

 

I was watching Oprah one day many years ago when I first heard her share the very wise words of her dear friend and mentor Maya Angelo: When people show you who they are, believe them.

It can not be any clearer or simpler than that and I have tried to live by that premise.

Here’s the challenge… what do you when they change?

You believe them.

What if they are flip floppers?

Believe them.

Believing when people show us who they truly are whether it be positive or negative is the only way to navigate your own course and not be distracted by the pretty shiny things someone might be trying to use to steer you off your course and on to their own.

It’s not easy. I’m a girl. I like pretty shiny things and can be easily distracted.

However, what I know for sure is who I am. I trust my instinct about people and am often right.

And when I am wrong, I own it.

Good or bad.

When people show you who they are… Believe them. It just might save you some time and heartache.

 

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Last Night I Forgot I was Divorced

We love each other

I didn’t sleep well last night.

I woke often and carefully tugged at the covers to gain a bit more for myself but didn’t want to disturb my husband sleeping soundly next to me.

I cuddled up against him, trying to absorb some of his body heat to chase away the early morning chill that hung in the air. As I rolled over I could feel the pressure of his legs leaning into mine as he sidled up next to me.

Even as I enjoyed the closeness I felt as if something was wrong. Like we had gone to bed before resolving an argument or that I was forgetting something important.

This feeling lasted throughout the night and infiltrated my dreams.

I didn’t sleep well last night but for some reason I didn’t want to wake up.

Didn’t want to open my eyes.

… and then I did.

Brain foggy with sleep I rolled over and saw one of my cats sound asleep cuddled up next to me, hogging the covers.

It was only then that I remembered.

I’m not married anymore.

I haven’t slept or cuddled with that man, any man, for a very long time.

I don’t know how it happened but last night I forgot I was divorced and mistook the cuddling of my a cat for the warmth and love of a husband.

Oh well, it could have been worse.

At least I had the cat.

 

 

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