Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 was a pretty good year...Of course, I continue to wrestle with the grief and guilt of my mistakes and most particularly my son being gone.
But I kept a list of the good things in 2012 (thanks, OCD!) and here are some of them:
being included in the anthology! working with David...articles accepted...journalling class proposal accepted...going to Kripalu...JourneyDance & dance in general.

I believe that 2013 will be a good year as well, even better, full of growth, new learning, and positive stuff!

Stick around, I'll be posting on a weekly basis here.

Thanks, much good love & Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Living in My Body

I used to joke with my kids, rubbing my belly and saying, "This was your first home!" It went along with the way I parented: attachment parenting before it was popular, co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding. (I made some epic mistakes, too, but that's another post.)

I wanted what every parent wants: more for my kids than I had. The disconnect between my brain and my body began before I can remember and I'm still trying to knit the two together, like a lopsided Tim Burton character.

Trauma will do that to a person. In addition to my early sexual distresses, my sister and mother were having their own food and body image issues. When puberty made its awkward arrival, my  role models were assuring me that thin thighs were the most valuable currency. Anorexia, bulimia, heroin addiction and sex work were my spectral sisters.

After my daughter was born, I exercised maniacally. I was keeping up my end of a deal I'd struck with my then-husband: if I lost weight, he'd quit drinking. It was also a result of nothing else to do besides parenting my daughter, as well as a manifestation of my depression. I biked ten miles every day, walked four miles daily, and lifted weights and practiced yoga. We were vegans without even realizing it as a result of a tiny food budget. I learned only that I enjoy movement, and that fruit is my favorite breakfast. It occurred to me that food might not be the enemy.

My new body annoyed the hell out of my mother.

People said surprising things to me, like, "If you get any thinner, we'll be able to see through you." I was startled by and grateful to the men in vehicles who honked and whistled.

It was a vague fear, and not the expected joy, that settled on me when I noticed my finally-thin-thighs. I felt...vulnerable and anxious. I couldn't put any cohesive thoughts together then: I only increased my exercise. Anything to expend the nervous reactive energy.

I struggled with mongamy--you can read about that here.

When my cheating escalated to a career as an escort, suddenly I had the money, time and justification for self-care. I delighted in having my nails done, my toenails attended to, and all the waxing at the refuge of the salon. The tanning bed was my sanctuary. Running five miles a day was required, because I had to look good for my WORK. My body and my appearance were something to control. My body was my tool and I operated it from the command of my brain.

The fact that I often cried when I ran remained a mystery to me.

When I left everything---ran away from my marriage and my home---I took my body with me. Then I found myself hiding in hallways at my new, "straight" job, gasping back inexplicable sobs. Suicide became my favorite fantasy, the one I fondled the most. When I reached out for help, a team of amazing therapists came to my rescue.

A lot of the healing happened in offices, sitting in chairs, talking, using my brain.

I wanted to move again. I wanted the grueling punishment of running in the dark and rain and snow. This was not recommended. I was growing uncomfortable in my softening body and disturbed to watch my muscle tone melting away.

No running. Dance.

I am clumsy and I don't like group exercise. But instead of shame, I was able to laugh when I misstepped or couldn't keep up.

I attended a workshop at Kripalu with Toni Bergins and Adam Sutton, on scholarship. I cried and I hid and I slept. I moved a little bit on a floating dance floor. I watched other people move.

I began attending Nia dance classes. I drew in my journal.

In February, I will go to Montreal and become certified as a Bellyfit instructor. Dance has landed me squarely in my body and does not allow the escape that running does. Dance has given me the fibers to begin to connect my mind to my body.

The world does not, to me, seem like a safe place. I was unable to name this constant, low-grade discomfort until I recently observed my daughter, now 22, and how easily she moves through life. For her, the world is a safe and manageable place. Her body is her own safe haven.

Baby steps.

If I want to be comfortable in the world, I need to start at my foundation. I need to feel secure in my first home, my body. I need to understand that my body is not be a tool to used for others' approval and enjoyment. It's my own.

That's a new idea for me.





Sunday, October 14, 2012

Grief


I fell off my path when I listened to my fear instead of my own heart. I was surprised by the urgent loneliness that day when I could smell the dying leaves. I wanted so badly to believe that I was finally healed, finally whole, and then there was John, touching the small of my back as we walked into the gallery. His fingertips ignited a passion I'd forgotten existed.
Every week, though, I sat in Lori's office, terrified and crying. Something wasn't right. And every week she said so kindly, "This is your own distress talking." And I wanted so much to believe her and her sparkling eyes. But then of course it happened: I met the real girlfriend in the driveway. I was stunned. This shabby, downcast girl? Over me?
Driving home, I took a deep breath. "Fuck it, never mind, whatever, doesn't matter." But I knew I was lying and I let myself cry. All night, all day, for weeks. Another rupture. Proof that I couldn't fucking get it right, no matter how calm and measured and careful I was.
And when I was lying there, raw and aching in my apartment, certain that I was and would always be fat-old-ugly-alone, David moved in for the kill. The man who sounded, when he spoke, as if he was gargling his own phlegm. His lopsided house reeked of animal urine but he showed it off proudly and his dirty children made my skin crawl. The night he wanted us to stay for dinner, I wanted to go home instead and cut my own toenails down to the bleeding quick.
But again, I was weak, stupid, and so willing to give others what they want and ignore my own voice. These dominoes have tumbled thanks to my own hand and now I live without my son in a town that is not my own. 
I think of them together--the twin mistakes of JohnandDavid--and an ulcer of wrath opens slow as an eye. But I know that the blind knot of rage is looking for me.

There is so much fury and grief and still, again, as always, it is tied to my father. Can't any fucking thing be separate from him? I just want to get over this nonsense and get on with my life. But. But. I have to give the grief its voice. It's the gag that causes these unplanned eruptions that threaten to sweep me away.
My joy and success are separate from him. I have succeeded in many ways despite him, not because of him. I must stop believing that I owe him any debt of gratitude.
My feelings, my life, are not nonsense.
I must let the grief wash through me. I'm still trying to be "cool" and "good" and move right on to forgiveness but the sorrow and rage boil underneath.
It's so much easier and more convenient to blame myself and be angry at myself. I can flay myself open as much as I like with no one to stop me. But it's misplaced. Yes, maybe he was victimized too. Yes, maybe his brain truly has blocked access to the memory of what he did--but he still did it. He made the choice that broke me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Women for Women

Yesterday I went to a women's yoga fundraiser retreat. This retreat is the brainchild of Pauline Gardner, a glowing diminutive dynamo, for the benefit of Women for Women International. I am blessed to be able to help support a sister in need and blessed to live here, in Vermont, in the United States, where I do not have to worry about war & bloodshed in my neighborhood, where my challenges are not as great as those faced by many women half a world away.

My pink yoga mat was sandwiched between between Basha, a beautiful dancing maiden from Brooklyn, and Edina, a radiant organic woman who I've been friendly with before. I was glad to have a chance to reconnect with her.

We received bindis from Basha & lit candles; together, led by dear Pauline, we did chakra yoga, we meditated,--at least the others did, I promptly fell asleep; we learned & executed the Five Tibetian Rites, We received citrine stones and Goddess cards and each of us selected a crystal bracelet. So many goodies, and a treat bag at the end, as well! Facial & foot massages. Delicious luncheon (as usual, I ate as if I'd never been fed before and never would be again, and my belly ached).

I observed with lovingkindness as one woman revealed her emergence from a challenging time: I was her, at this very event two years ago. I know how very hard it can be to speak your truth out loud to a room full of strangers. It requires a brave heart.

On the way home afterwards, I drove through a rainstorm. On the other side: a thick chunk of rainbow.

It was a good day to be alive.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

it was almost a miracle

It was almost a miracle that Cameron was not killed when he fell twenty feet down a rock face next to a water fall. His sister thought he was dead and even now will not talk to me about it. I thought it was she who screamed his name over and over.

The trip had not been wonderful. Both kids wanted to go home early and were feeling done with the camping trip by Saturday afternoon.
Ok, I said, let's just take this one hike to see the old bear cage and then we'll go home. I secretly planned to lure them into the Cascade restaurant with the promise of lobster dinner.
We couldn't find the bear cage. Erin was angry and stomped ahead of us and Cameron said he felt like the cage was on the spur the headed to the right. We followed Erin into a big field with tall yellow weeds and oily railroad ties and a chain link fence.
Let's try Cameron's way, I said, but now Erin was behind us, busy with her cell phone.
Cameron has always been an alarmingly anxious kid. Frantic. He didn't want to be lost.
We made the right hand turn and there was the empty cage where the State of Maine used to keep a bear for the entertainment of tourists. We waited there for Erin to rejoin us. And then there was the brook and it was cool and sweet and I thought I'd redeemed the trip. Both kids were smiling. We hiked up one side of the waterfall and then back down, and then crossed a falled tree where Erin squatted down behind her little brother so they'd be the same height for a photograph. Cameron's smile is wide and he is wearing dirty basketball shorts and hiking boots.
We began hiking up the other side of the waterfall: no real trail on this side but more of a wide flat swath. Erin lagged behind and I led the way. The artery was covered with dead orange pine needles and a useless thick wire rope twisted on the ground beside us.
I was looking at my own shoes when Cameron said, "Mom."
I turned around and all I could see were the tips of his fingers stretched out to me.
I dropped the piece of lichen I'd been carrying and ran back down to catch him before he hit the bottom. I must have been screaming his name. CameronCameronCameron! I was not in time to catch him. He was flat on his back on the rock, looking up at the sky. He opened his bloody mouth and said, "I just want to go home."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'll always remember the day when I left my 4-year-old daughter in the Head Start classroom in the church basement, with more children than I could count running between the brown waves of folding tables. I earned too much money, really, for her to attend, but the center Director manipulated the math. I worked at night in a home for retarded adults who hit themselves in the head and smeared feces on the walls. I didn't need her to go to Head Start, really, except that I also earned too much money to qualify for food stamps. Somehow that $10.50 an hour, which put me outside the bracket for help, never went much past covering my rent. At Head Start they would feed her two meals a day. This was what I wanted--for my daughter not to be hungry. And in theory I believed in the program.
In practice she only attended for a week or two. I coudn't find a day job. I missed spending my days with my girl. I was alarmed, too, at the rapid deterioration of her language skills. When she began speaking about herself in the third person, and even that incorrectly--"Her hungry,"--I withdrew her.
I'd breastfed my daughter and we'd rarely been apart and I had always talked to her constantly, explaining everything to her, at the laundromat, at the grocery, at the library, in the kitchen. This is detergent. We're going to have nice clean clothes. This is a can of tomatoes, we like tomatoes, don't we? This is where we get the books we like to read. This is how Mommy makes dinner. Her round eyes stayed glued on me and she recorded it all and by the time she was two we were having complete conversations.
Her recording of everything is what gave me the strength, finally, to leave her drunken father, although it happened in fits and starts.
First there was the little cadet-blue house on stilts. The oven didn't work and the toilet wobbled. There was a big dirt driveway for all three cottages and migrant workers lived in the other two. They asked me to drive them places. Next I shared a winter rental with a coworker, a college girl. When I lived there I dated a little man who resembled Captain Hook and when I got pregnant and then aborted, he said I'd broken his heart. I couldn't bear the thought of living forever in his dangerous neighborhood. Then there was the tiny apartment upstairs from the antiques store where the previous tenant had kept a pet rabbit. I crawled around on my hands and knees picking up pellets of poop. The bedroom had such a low ceiling that I couldn't stand up so we slept in the living room. I worked then in a homeless shelter and I understood that the women there had a better chance at success than I did. Finally we lived in Rachel's basement where the lack of sunlight destroyed my circadian rhythm and I gained weight because all I could do was play Disney movies for my daughter over and over. Rachel's daughter had more toys than my daughter and there was often conflict over this. I was hopeful when I responded to an advertisement about selling my eggs, imagining I how quickly I would move us out of the basement. My application was rejected due to my lack of college education.
When I found the apartment on the North Fork, I believed it was kismet. The landlady came from the same small state I did, 300 miles away. We knew the same people, who we called "kids" because that's what they were in our memories. The apartment had two bedrooms and lots of windows and carpeting and a porch. My family was upset because it was so far away from them--45 minutes--but I knew it was the place for us.
We loved it even though we had almost no furniture. We painted the bathroom purple and the kitchen red, and we fed peanuts to the squirrels on the roof. We went to the beach and lay in the sand and listened to the surf and stacked rocks and pebbles. I drove a car with no insurance or regstration back and forth to work at night, while my daughter stayed at my mom's apartment with her. I appreciated the help.
In the winter things were not as wonderful. The landlady controlled our heat and we could often see the white clouds of our breath at night and we curled together like oysters and kept the electric heater on high next to the bed. My daughter kept getting sick. But in the spring things began to seem possible again. I didn't know what was coming: that my car would break down and I wouldn't have the money to fix it, or that I would quit my job on impulse and wind up taking a part-time position in a health food store where I would steal food so we could eat. The depression that perpetually haunted me, that had waxed and waned since I was twelve, crashed over me like the glass container of organic milk that shattered when I dropped it. Precious milk spilled to waste and all I could do was walk away and go back to bed. I left the thin white rivers running all over the red kitchen floor.
It was early spring when we tried Head Start. The air smelled washed and clean and I dropped my daughter off in the morning at the brick church building where a concrete Virgin Mary stood with her hands outstretched. I drove to the town park. I brought my new paperback journal and a set of markers. I sat on the cement jetty and squinted at the glistening water and drew merry pictures in my book. The sky seemed endlessly blue that day. I believed then that we might make it, that we might be able to somehow survive and that things might get better. I was, of course, wrong.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Joni prompt

I'll always remember the day when I came back to Vermont and signed the lease for my apartment. I told my husband some lie about where I was going for the weekend. I may even have told him that I was going to see Sarah, which I later spun into a full story about renting a place from her. I imagine he's assigned a different story now to what I did then.
I arrived in my old hometown--not really my hometown, there is no such thing when you're an untethered vagrant--and even though the December weekend was cold and gray, I felt as free as a summer day.
I set up the air mattress I'd brought in the middle of the front bedroom at the top of the stairs. I left things on my new kitchen counter to claim the space: a half-eaten jar of peanuts and a paper coffee cup I'd drained. My keys on a ring. The vacant apartment felt weightless to me. No kids, no furniture, no heavy echoes.
The next day I walked around town and looked at the mountain range that the valley nestled against.  It was just as I'd remembered. Things like mountains don't change. I took a photograph of myself sitting on a marble bench on the town green. In it, the wind whipped my hair across my face.
My lover surprised me with a telephone call. I sat on the top carpeted step and told him about the epiphanies I was having and described the luxury of following curious trails of thought.
"But I don't understand why, now?" I said.
"Pet," he replied, "maybe you were too busy just trying to survive before."
After we hung up, I realized he was right. I'd been tiptoeing and holding my breath for seven years. I did not know for sure what lay ahead of me. I wasn't certain how to engineer the details of my escape or when I'd be able to move into the apartment full-time. But I knew, at least, I'd be safe and able to breathe.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

2 prompts from Joni B Cole

I want to tell you how it felt. It felt like the time Brian told me, with his eyes wide, about Matt's bachelor party. "And Zoot fucked this girl so hard with the vibrator, that she fell off the table!" There was no mistaking the glee in his voice. I didn't answer him then but the next day I crouched on our concrete stoop and drank my coffee alone.

It felt like the time Brian pressed his thick forearm across my throat. He was drunk and his eyes rolled like sluggish cue balls in their sockets. The police came. I went away with the kids to a bright hotel room. The next day he came to my office and took me to lunch in a dark bar. He tried to make light of what happened. "I didn't mean it," he said. I couldn't answer him or look at his smile. Instead I imagined tenderly pressing a razor through the thin white skin of my forearm and into the long blue stripe of my vein. I thought about how cold my body might feel as my blood drained away.

I want to tell you about my walls that are high and deep and fortified and how sometimes I fail to pay attention. Sometimes things slither in through fissures and this unravels me. Ropes of hair, strips of skin, skeins of tendons and ligaments and finally loops of intestines puddle into a slick pile.
Here's what I want to say to myself. This is what you must, but never can, believe: that you deserve better. That what Kelly said is true, you can't know if a choice is the wrong one until after you've made it. And while you may pray on your knees for hindsight-blindness, it will never happen. So don't let your mistakes define you. You're more than this.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

metaphor exercise from Chuck @ GMWC

My son says, "I'm hungry." He also says, "There's never any food in your house." He visits me at the end of the month when my food stamps are all used up. He complains that he is fat, that he doesn't feel comfortable in his skin and I say, "Well the next time you come to see me we will hike and swim and ride bikes," except the next time he visits my bike tire is flat. I don't have enough money to fix it. I save the dollars I do have for groceries.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Skunk

There is a skunk that lives in the woods behind my neighbor's house. Kids play back there and it's full of junk and once a tree fell from there right onto Sandy's car. Sandy is gone now mostly because she lost her mind and she blamed it on me along way. She took her two obnoxious dogs with her. Kristin, my boss at the house where the girls punched us and spit on us, lives next door. She feeds the skunk. She feeds it cat food. For awhile the skunk lived under the storage box that Barry drove into. He had come by to tell me that Kristin fired him and did I want to go drink. I couldn't because I was living with James by then, although he was off at work that day. So I guess I could have except I didn't want to cheat. So anyway Barry backed into the storage bin and made a big hole and guess what, Bev didn't even notice it for months.
I can smell that skunk in my apartment. The smell is so strong that it makes my lips numb. It makes me think of the skunk cabbage that grew behind one of my childhood homes. It's probably all gone by now and more homes built. And it reminds me of my second husband who was so sensitive to smells. He loved it when I cooked, which I almost never did, and he complained about the ferrets even though I cleaned their cage with bleach every day.

This work was done at The Writer's Center, White River Junction; based on a prompt provided by Joni B Cole.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The First Day


The first day I had no job...except I'm a mom, I've always got a job, but do I, when the kids don't live with me? There's always work to do--walk the dog, do the dishes, make the bed, and those endless dinners. I say I love being a traditional housewife but of course that's a lie. Left to my own devices, I eat jell-o for dinner and watch crime dramas on television, the lists of things I'd planned to accomplish suddenly much too overwhelming.
On the first day of freedom from Cornell, I had scheduled a client so I was the first person to rush away from the big send-off luncheon.
When I quit UCS because David advised it, I walked my dog and felt exhausted by the idea of cleaning his filthy house.
Even now I say I don't have a job, but living is a job. Isn't it? It's work to smile and act nice and comply with the endless social mores. Maybe that's why my favorite fantasy is to live in isolation in a remote corner of Maine or Utah with only my dogs for company.
But I do, of course, work those 16 hours a week, sometimes a few more, and I'm on call 5 nights a week in trade for my apartment. No money, but no expenses either.
In the living room of my free apartment I used to have "Flaming June" hanging over my thrift store couch. Brian and I had that over our bed. But it's not really a living room painting so I've taken it down and now it's in the too-expensive storage unit with boxes of toys my son, too old for, has forgotten about, along with holiday decorations and other things I can't bear to surrender yet.
Brian is gone now and James is his replacement, the latest in a string of husbands. I cling to the idiocy of hope. But I appreciated him last night, snoring naked next to me. I thought in the dark, what's a husband for if not to keep me company in bed? I love touching his belly when he's sleeping. We don't have much--we're mostly respectful and kind to each other--but we do have this sweet intimacy of sleep.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ah, the hope of letters...

So I'm sitting on my porch drinking coffee during probably the only cool hour expected today. I wonder if you still take yours light and sweet.
I have been hoping to see you, but I'm not convinced that's going to happen. There are things I believe I need to tell you, but maybe some things are better expressed and received in a letter.
I don't know if I've ever apologized properly to you. I know it was a long time ago & I believe you have forgiven me. (I don't imagine I was important enough to stay mad at.) I try very hard to do the right thing & be honest & maybe now that I've extended an authentic apology to you, I'll be able to forgive myself. I am so very sorry for hurting you. It's something I will always regret.
I was such a broken girl when we were together. I tried so hard to hold on to that chance at something good with you--but my psyche was so fractured that I didn't believe then that I deserved you.
You know I wanted to come see you one day--but Nick told me you had started seeing Julie.
When I realized most intensely how much I'd loved you & what I'd lost was when I had my daughter. I remember sitting with her in the rocking chair--I was 23--and all I could think was that she should have been yours.
It's taken me a long time and a lot of work to achieve some health & wholeness. I still wish I could see you--not for some epic romantic reunion, but just to...oh, I guess I don't even know. To meet again as the people we are now, and with compassion for the kids we were.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


The sexual maturation of an octopus is controlled by an optical gland (called that only because it sits upon the optic nerve); this gland "shuts off" the desire to eat once an octopus, male or female, has mated.  And yes, octopi can change gender.  A female octopus will retreat to a cave to lay thousands of eggs: the numbers vary based on species.  The momma protects her eggs and keeps a constant current moving through them, and yes, dies when the eggs hatch.  It's universal that very few of the baby octopi will survive (on average, two will live to maturation).
It's almost better to be the octopus, he said,
when she cursed her son for moving
across the country.
But he thanked her for the cookies
and he loves her from afar
while she worries
that time is running out
for completion of general tasks
like weeding the garden
and solving the Republican government.
He, the speaker, writes about the attitudes
parents squeeze into their children,
like toothpaste in reverse.
He's a gentle Philip Larkin.
He intends better. 
He doesn't change.




Saturday, June 16, 2012

No One Expects the Days to be Gods~Emerson

There are many days from my past that I love and long for, but didn't even realize then how much I loved them.  How dearly I hold on to those days when Erin was an infant.  Every day was a glorious miracle: nursing, napping, breathing the same air.
The days when I was so broke and believed I was sad and lonely, when I took Erin to the beach and slept on the rocks in the sun; the days when Cameron was a baby...I felt guilty all the time.  Those days were NOT gods.  I surely did not love them as I should have. 
For a long time, if my days were gods, they were sleeping gods. 
Oh but they awoke when I went home to Vermont.  We were tucked in safe and sound, snuggled in Manchester.  Again Ifailed to appreciate the dark silent mornings when I pulled my stool up to the counter and wore my red sweatpants and wrote.  Always the fear of lack chained me down and kept me from seeing the god-ness of my days.  No love. No money.  General failure. 
My days are gods again now, and I'm sure that later I will fear I missed them.  How does one appreciate?  By being humble and mindful.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Friday nights and Saturdays are becoming difficult for me: I'm so sad with missing my children.  On Saturdays I have been trying to not smoke, then consequently overeating, and then smoking afterwards.
The missingness just feels so vast.

Today I facilitated a journal workshop for the first time.  Armed with a copy of Kathleen Adams' Journal to the Self, which I hadn't read, and a few blank marble notebooks, I set up shop in the glass cupola house.  I expected about 6 participants. Two showed up.
The two guys (men!) did exactly what I asked.  They listened when I spoke.  And then they wrote like fiends.  It was amzing to see.
I wasn't planning on writing while facilitating but with just the 3 of us, what else could I do? I wrote, "They're doing what I ask! Oh my god! They think I know what I'm doing...Maybe I DO know what I'm doing.  Maybe I DO have something to offer...I love to write & I love words.  Why do I deny myself?  I also love to smoke.  And run.  So maybe I'm not the best most traditional Momma.  But there is so much that is good about me."
And bang, just like that, I remembered who and what I am.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Letters

I'm a champion letter-writer.  To wit: what follows is most of a letter I wrote to a man who had been cheating on me the entire time we were together, a couple of years ago.  I'm sharing it here because I am considering another letter, to a different man.


I don’t feel that it is my job to understand you--I just have some things I need to express. Although you wounded me deeply, I was hoping to speak to you face to face. Had you been here to talk to me, I would have tried to convey my compassion, empathy, & understanding. Had you been here to talk, I would have tried to engage you in a conversation about working through this, together. I have to go forward, with or without you; I told you I wouldn’t leave you and that was a true statement. If you have left me, which is what I am left to assume, then I will proceed alone. Because I love you, I want you to be happy. If you are happier without me, if your life is better without me in it, then I wish you well.
 I have to believe that your behavior on Saturday was your default defense mechanism—you were so cruel towards me. I cannot accept that that is who you really are.
Instead, I choose to believe that our connection and our intimate moments were real—the moment I first saw you, the electric jolts your fingertips sent thru me when we walked in the gallery and you said you felt it too & it made you feel good and you think that’s what true love feels like. Kissing face to face, side by side in your bed. Sleeping naked together. The things you said that I held onto: “This is a marathon, not a sprint,” and, “You’ll get that on the big jobs.”

 If you’d been here to talk, I would have considered that we could rebuild from this rubble—that there is much that is salvageable. The connection we had was real—I have to believe that. And that alone would have been worth fighting for.
But you’re not here, so this note and my box of things will be my closure. Throughout my grief over our loss, I have been praying for you. God loves you—you are a child of God as much as anyone else—you’re a man in pain, maybe, or confused—but not a villain. I will remember you as a child of God. It is my sincere hope that if you take anything from this, it’s the knowledge that real love does exist, and you are worthy of it. I hope you remember me always and know that I loved you as well as I could.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Just back from the grocery store...I've neglected my journal for a while but I plan to spend the rest of the day compensating. Lots of things to process.
Joanna's group today was amazing.  Three folks I haven't met before (Morgan, Dan & Rose) who seem SO. COOL. 
Every time I come home and say to James that I am amazed at people's response to what I write, the words that come through me...what a gift to be able to hang with an awesome group of like-minded folks andto share and talk with them.

But here is what I wrote today as a response to an invitation to do some stream of consciousness writing.  It's edited a bit; the prompt was to imagine {myself} walking somewhere and finding a gift.
In case it's not clear, the gift is the ocean. I think.

a section of a Hokusai painting
The power and consistency of crashing ocean waves: my studio home is behind me. I walk along the deserted beach, cloudless blue sky, sun shining, and enormous ocean waves crash, crawl towards the shore and then recede into the next.  The ocean is always here for me.  I retreat into the mountains and trees and snow for misunderstood aching periods of hibernation. 
Christ, is this my life now?  Hiding, safe, repeating old useless patterns?
No, says the Ocean.  Come to me.  Bring your anchor.  When you're ready to bravely expand.  When you are healed.  I am here.
I look back.  I love my studio on the shore with huge windows open to the rolling power of the ocean.  It's been a place of inspiration.  I think of the protected time in the hills on the mountain hidden in the trees overlooking the meadow.  But now it's Mexico or Maine.  Just go.  Trust.  The ocean the ocean the ocean beckons.  I stand undecided on the shore.  I cannot ever be quiet enough to hear anything.  Or I don't believe my ears.  I shuck my shorts my shoes my skin and walk calmly towards my ocean.  This is it.  Safety is loving the fear.  I swim through the waves.  I feel my mother's fingers on my four-year-old bicep.  Her fear, not mine.  I'm not smart enough to be afraid.  I prefer to just jump in and then look back with regret and guilt. 
My father gave me the ocean and then he gave me the mountains.  My mother gave me passive terror.
I swim out out out and the current pulls at me but I breathe into that fear.  Belly and heart working as one.  One big gasp and I dive down down down this must be Mexico or at least not Maine because here are starfish and seahorses and octupi.  I love them.  I am as shy and secretive as they.  My legs bind into a tail and gills neatly tear open and I inhale this beautiful cool water.  Mermaid girl. Strips of sun filter down to us.  Starfish cling to my hips and waist, tickling me, hanging on for the ride.
I want to be a new invention.  My own creation, or God's version of me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Smoking with Ghosts

The ritual of the cigarette, abandoned for twenty years, comes back easily.  Tap the unopened pack against the heel of your wrist.  Peel off the cellophane.  Select one; withdraw it from its mates.  Clamp it in your mouth.  Tilt your head to the side, spin the wheel on the lighter you found in the glove box.  Inhale. Exhaling is a deeply settling sigh of relief.

I don’t want anyone to see me engaging in this habit, so I take my dog to the empty field behind the shuttered grocery store.  I lean against my truck and smoke, while he trots from bush to hydrant to stump, reading the urine messages from his fellows.  I squint, watching him galloping gleefully through the long wild grass.  I watch him and my brain is silent.  I teeter, a meaningless figure on an accordion of time:  seventeen floods me.  I used to hang out at the edge of fields like this, at quarries, and at people’s homes.  With people who were, I guess, my friends.  I stood around useless and silent, smoking, with nothing to say.  Until I was drunk, the chasm was too vast and no words I could say would bridge it.  I didn’t speak their very foreign language.  Cans of beer would loosen my tongue and then I could pretend, and some recognizable sounds would slip out.


Chris tried to teach me the language of innocence and normalcy: he threw me a rope.  I hid my fractures from him.  With one hand, I clung to the pledge he offered; but my other hand clutched an invisible knife.  First I cut myself and then I severed the rope he’d thrown.

We explored leafy back roads in his mom’s burgundy car: we parked and talked.  We drank coffee in the mornings; we watched sunrises together before school.  We held hands.  We were sweet and tentative. He taught me to love pizza with mushrooms on it.  We hitch-hiked back and forth between each other’s houses.  Chris talked about our future.  We would have a house, after he joined the Coast Guard. 

I turned eighteen a month before Chris did and pretended I didn’t know how dangerous it was to go to a bar alone, without him.  We lived in small towns.  My older brother and coworkers from the diner where I washed dishes would be there.  What could go wrong?

When I first met him in the bar, Mark appeared thick and burly.  He was friends with my older brother.  His long hair and beard and moustache concealed most of his face, except for a full bottom lip and twinkly round eyes.  It was November.  He wore a leather jacket and chaps and boots.  He rode his motorcycle all year.  The bar was loud and cheerful against the bruised winter night and it was easy to believe the laughing, loud camaraderie was real.

Mark asked if he could buy me a beer and because I was na├»ve and newly eighteen, I didn't understand that his offer carried any particular weight.  We drank more than one beer together and he watched me throw darts and laughed when I missed the dartboard altogether. I trusted him.  When he offered me a ride home through the New England snow on his Harley Davidson, I accepted without hesitation. 

The next day he met me getting off the school bus.  I was proud to swing my leg over the back of his bike and we roared off towards his house, where he was going to make me dinner.  No one had ever made me dinner before and I felt very grown up.  When we arrived at his house and he took off the layers of jackets and his chaps, I saw that he was thin and lanky.  He saw me looking at him. 
Bandy motherfucker, ain’t I?
I just smiled.  I didn’t like to talk very much.  Other people’s stories never made sense to me: the things they say didn’t stay in the lines. If ever I pointed out the nonsense parts, they would grow impatient with my stupidity.  Really anyway I was busy worrying that I was too fat and maybe Mark wouldn’t like me and I certainly wouldn’t say that to him.  My heart hissed a distracting static: Chris-Chris-Chris.  I didn’t understand why I was there, at a stranger's strange house, or why I couldn’t feel anything.  I didn’t know where I was; if I’d walked out of the house, I would have been lost.  I felt as though I’d stepped blindly into quicksand.
I sat on a blue plaid couch alone in the living room while Mark made "dinner": chips with chili and cheese melted on top.  We drank beer from cans together and it got easier to relax and smile and not worry about my soft belly and feeling like a foreigner.
It was dark out when we went up to Mark’s room.  It was at the top of the stairs and under the eaves.   His housemates were not home.  I sat cross legged on his mattress on the floor while he squatted beside me and reached into a wardrobe and got out his pistol.  He showed it to me.  He took it apart and he put it back together.  I’d never known anyone who owned a gun before.  He said he would teach me how to use it.  He lay down beside me and kissed me.  His hand covered my breast.  He reached into the waistband of my jeans.  I said, I can’t do this.  I was thinking of Chris.
Mark said, We can’t stop now.
I didn’t say anything else.
When he drove into me, I stared up at the slanted ceiling.  Its skewed angle reminded me of the Batman television show.  The bad guys’ lairs were always cockeyed.  But no one came to rescue me, and I didn’t rescue myself.  Instead I counted dead flies trapped in the webs laced between the exposed beams.   
When I arrived home, my father called from his bed: Who is Mark?
The alarm that clamped down on my lungs was not unfamiliar. What? I stalled.
Chris was here looking for you, my father replied.
I went to bed.  There was nothing else to do then.
·        
I virtually stalked Chris for years after I broke his heart.  I believed that I never stopped loving him. I wanted to apologize correctly and undo the pain I'd inflicted.   I wished I could explain, speak the words I didn't know, that I couldn't say: that something had happened.  I couldn't control it.  {But not a crime, anyway.} I made the choice to get on that motorcycle on that ancient afternoon. And then I didn't know what to do, and it seemed that ownership of my body had transferred to Mark.  How things fell like dominoes.  There's no blame or excuse.  There's only me standing in the slippery stream of my life, delightedly poking myself with my own transgressions.
I heard that Chris married the next girl he dated, the one who’d been waiting in the wings for him.  He joined the Coast Guard.  He did everything he said he would do.
I gave birth to a baby girl when I was twenty-three. I would sit in the rocking chair, nursing her, staring out the bay window, and my heart would insist that she should have been Chris's daughter.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Great post from the Naked Anthropologist, along with videos. You can't make as much money operating sewing machines, as you can by various forms of sex work.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When you're doing it, it's not hard. You can't explain why. You live mostly in your brain anyway, separate from this body you despise, so it's easy. You smile sweetly, murmur precious things, take off your clothes, sit on the edge of drooping beds, kneel on dirty carpeting, lie on or under thin blankets. You stoke them, let them touch you and put their mouths on you. Arch your back. Let your body respond. Do the things you know you do well. Touch them in places their wives won't. Sound your admiration of their machismo. And afterwards, always remain courteous: Thank you so much for meeting with me. I hope to see you again. Discreetly collect and tuck away folded bills.
When I was 38, I crossed the finish line in my private race towards self destruction: I became a prostitute. I was also a wife and a mother.