Not Strong

1343863240_3320_fearIt is all I can do not to stay in bed all day every day. That seems to be the safest and most secure place in the entire world, my bed. I do not want to get up, for anything but a fresh cup of coffee and now and then some instant soup. Once a week I strip the sheets, replacing them with clean linens. I have a king sized bed, covered in pillows. I sleep on one small part, the furthest away from the door. It takes me less than two minutes to make the bed in the morning because I barely move in my sleep, barely wrinkle the bed covers.

It is all I can do not to stay in my bed all day every day.

I am on the brink of throwing my hands in the air and giving in, giving up. Just saying fuck it all, why bother.

It has been seventy-six days since my husband, the one I called Dearly Beloved walked away from our marriage without a backward glance or a good-bye. It may be more but that is how long it has been for me.

It has been fifty-eight days since I have had an income. I will admit this is my choice, but who knew it would be so difficult to find another contract. Who knew, certainly not me or I might have chosen differently. I might have chosen to continue to be miserable, bullied and treated disrespectfully for the privilege of a paycheck.

At my age, perhaps that is the best I can hope for, the market certainly seems to be telling me I have no real value and my experience is not worth a damn.

It is all I can do not to stay in bed all day, every day. Some days, I give in and I do.

I am becoming what I do not want to be, what I fight hard not to be, what I never wanted to be.




A recluse.

I am unable to find my way out of this fog. Every ‘no’ feels like a nail pounded into my body sending me deeper into hiding, into my self imposed and designed hermitage. My fear is overwhelming, some days I wander through my home and wonder, when will I lose it? When will I lose everything I have worked for my entire life? While I was busy taking care of everyone else, making certain everyone had what they thought they needed, what they wanted and then throwing it back in my face as not enough; now, when will I lose what is left?

I can’t breathe.

I am so tired of people telling me I am strong. Yes, I get it I am strong enough to have survived all the world has thrown at me. I have picked myself up and slogged through the quagmire. I have done that, often I have done it without help from any damned person who was supposed to be there for me. I did it without getting hardhearted and mean-spirited, for the most part. At least I think this is true. I have to be honest though, the next person who tells me I am strong, I will get through this I am liable to throw them to the ground and kick them till they take it back.

Does anyone understand I am not strong? I am what the world made me, but I am not strong. I am just me, weak, tired, afraid and alone. I could win an Oscar for the front I put up, making certain everyone around me sees what they expect to see and gets what they need. I have only one question…….

When is it my turn? When will someone step up to take care of me?

Okay, that was two. After all these years though, aren’t they fair?

I can’t breathe and I am afraid.


DP821347First Mother – biological mother gave birth to me and gave me up for adoption at birth. Still living, my friend.

Second Mother – adopted me at three days old, raised me maybe even raised me to the best of her ability. Mostly estranged for thirty years.

Third Mother – father’s second wife, my aunt, heart mother, mentor and guide, passed four years ago.


This past week I sat vigil as my second mother let go of this life, with me by her bedside were those who had known her for decades. Women, who had been her friends, her pseudo daughters and who loved her, who knew her, as I did not. They saw a different woman than the one I knew. These women, they also saw me in a different light, knew me only through her and did not welcome my presence. But present I was, not because I wanted to be there but because I needed to be there for my brother and maybe even for myself.

It was strange to hear their stories of this woman who I knew mostly from my childhood. I did not recognize her. There were times I wanted to scream, “You didn’t know.”

I sat vigil. As she lay in that hospital bed, never waking. As I sat, after everyone else left for the night I watched, I remembered and I wondered. I wondered how she could have been so different, shown such a different my.operaface to them and even to my brother than to me. I remembered the tumultuous years of my early teens before I ran away. I remembered the hurt, the hurtful words of childhood. I remembered the loneliness. As I remembered, I kept going back to wondering how she could have been so very different as a mother to me, than she was a friend to these women or even a mother to my brother who hadn’t yet arrived.

Two of the women who were closest to her had known her since they were young teens; their mother had been her friend, when she passed my mother stepped in as a pseudo Aunt. She has known them for thirty-five years. She has spent holidays, vacations, birthdays with them. She has celebrated weddings sitting in the seat of honor, births of children; she has mourned losses, consoled them through divorces and other of lives ups and downs. In their eyes they were losing a ‘second mother’, they are losing a lifeline. The older of the two let me know I had treated her unkindly, that she did not deserve my selfish disregard. Both shared her judgment but she was the only one to voice it, albeit kindly.

This was one of the times my teeth nearly cracked from not saying what was in my heart and on my tongue. As her words flowed, it was all I could do not to respond with venom. I chose not to respond, not to defend, not to try to change hearts and minds. Honestly? Who cares, my own brother who knows at least part of the truth insists I am wrong for not reconciling with my mother.

As I sat vigil, I try to see it from the viewpoint of others. I try to understand their perspective and see things through their eyes. It is nearly impossible for me to reconcile the two ends of the spectrum. Perhaps it is because I have always had such a simple standard;


My second mother passed from this world on Monday morning. My brother hadn’t arrived. Once again, I had to deliver the news a parent was dead. He is angry with me I think, I do not feel this death the way he feels it. I do not feel untethered by her passing as I did by the death of our shared father and my beloved heart mother. I fear only with the passing of this mother I will lose him, my beloved baby brother.


For the past ten years, when this mother needed something I have been the one to provide it. Whenever and whatever my brother asked of me, I stepped forward and gave; whether it was to move her from her apartment to assisted living, pay for care, talk to providers; I did what he asked of me. I didn’t do it because I believed I owed it, I did it for love of my brother. Now, I think our last connection is broken, because he doesn’t understand me or my hurt I might lose him, this sense of impending loss breaks me.

So I sat vigil. Then I delivered the news of her passing, I held him as he wept at the airport. Then I watched as my brother pulled himself together to act as executor of her estate. We talked and I agreed the women who had been her friends and her companions should be gifted with any of her personal items, I asked only for two things;

  1. Two pen and ink architectural drawings that match a set I already have.
  2. Family pictures from when we were children.

Clearly, others had been more closely aligned and more dearly loved. I will never agree with my brother or them that it was my filial duty to forget, forgive or reconcile our estrangement. At every opportunity, even in adulthood where she might have reached over the chasm, she made a clear choice I was not important and this is what I reconciled to, her choice.

But I sat vigil. She was not alone, she did not pass without human touch and there was not a lack of compassion, not for her or for those who loved her. My second mother was nearly ninety-four; she lived a full and rich life on her terms. I am not untethered in her passing but wonder if I am losing more than the last vestige of my childhood.

The story of my second family is told in Broken Chains:

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Not Enough

Hurricane Dean NOAA

Hurricane Dean NOAA

The power of ‘No’ can be compared to a Category 5 Hurricane, blows in off warm waters leaving devastation as its calling card. Even when the word is unspoken, it echoes, bouncing through heart, soul and perhaps worse, mind brutalizing with self-doubt and ‘what if’. Self-flagellation is a terrible trap; one I think might be all too easy to fall into especially when combined with ‘No’. This is not an issue of self-pity, not at all an issue of the glass being half empty or even depression creeping in and shaking me harder than normal. Though I suspect all these things are present and accounted for in my current state of mind; no, this is simply an acknowledgment of ‘No’ and ‘What if’ being part of the echo chamber.

Truly, I don’t know why the past week has been so hard. No, that is a lie and if nothing else I shouldn’t lie to myself, I know why.

It is hard because when I look in the mirror I see me, I am not overly impressed and it hurts.

It is hard because I am frightened, it isn’t a feeling I do well.

It is hard because the sound of no, even when silent is battering what small bit of ego I have remaining.

It is hard because the sound of my own voice is the only one I hear most days.

It is hard because despite my best intentions I feel myself slipping between the cracks.

It is hard because it isn’t fair, I feel childish when I say that which simply pisses me off.

It is hard because I am full of regrets, I am afraid that is what it will be forever and ever. Amen.

My husband left me; he says it is my fault. Okay I accept that, the fault lies with me. I was not enough, I did not do enough or I changed too much, or I wanted too much or something simply wasn’t right and I didn’t add up. My pragmatic self, the part of me that wants to move forward quietly says, ‘accept, allow this to flow over and past you. It doesn’t define you.’

The reality?

I am right now, right this minute defined by the pain I am feeling by the loss. I am right now, right this minute defined by the echo chamber of, ‘Not enough’.

I am not working right now. For twenty-two years, I have built a career in a field that was hard on women. I have worked my proverbial ass off. I have fought for every good reference, I have been demeaned all too often, I have been called names, I have been ignored and passed over for promotions I earned, I have earned less than my male counterparts. I have watched my industry be outsourced and in-sourced. I have been bullied more than once, with no consequence to the bully. Now, when I should be reaping the benefits of my hard work, my great references, my long hours; now I am hearing, ‘No’, more than any other word in the dictionary. Now when I want to stop travel, stop consulting, stop fighting for contracts. Now when I can make my life easier with less people to support, now ‘No’ seems to be the biggest word in the English language.


We don’t think you can make the transition.

You have too much experience.

We don’t think you will be happy taking the cut in pay.

Of course, the code is you are too old. I am only fifty-six years old; I still have many years left to go. I am still a viable human being with an active brain and much to offer. Why can’t someone, anyone just be honest? We don’t want to hire you, you don’t fit the profile of what we want sitting in our offices. You are too fat, too old, whatever it is. Just stop beating around the bush just say it.

Instead, along with ‘Not Enough’, ‘No’ screams in the echo chamber, dances through telling me I am not worthy of recognition or of value on any scale I used to measure myself against. My fear beats against my chest wall, battering me, demanding the answer to the question, ‘what if everything you did was for nothing, what if all the long days, long weeks, long hours; what if it was for nothing?’

Now, today I find myself trying to make reservations to return to Seattle for what is likely the final bedside vigil of my nemesis, my second mother. I do this not because I owe her this final courtesy, I do this because, hell because I have compassion for both her and my baby brother who I love despite his lack of understanding of why this isn’t my place. I do this because no one should pass from this earth alone. I do this because I hope someday someone will do it for me. I do this because I do not want my brother’s heart to break thinking she was alone. Yet in doing it I weep tears of frustration and yes even some fury, because he doesn’t understand why he asks much of me. He will never understand why I say to him, it isn’t my place.

So my heart cracks. My eyes leak. My fury, it seems also to be present and accounted for and the echo chamber that is my mind continues to whisper, ‘Not Enough’ and ‘No’ and even ‘What if’.


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