Telling the Blues

Starting Here

You wouldn’t know it by my writings I am extraordinarily private about much of my life, especially if it is imperfect in my own eyes. I intimated I was struggling in my last somewhat personal writing, here Introversion and the Blues, still, it doesn’t tell the entire story. I find I haven’t had the words, my voice simply silenced by my internal war with depression. I could not find a way to tell the story of my own fear, melancholy and my failure to be compassionate toward myself.

The truth, while this isn’t the first time I have been laid low by depression it has been one of the worst. It was exacerbated by external influences, some over which I had control but chose to push to the limits and others over which my control was limited if not non-existent. I allowed others inside my world, wanting to believe they had my best interest at heart, even while knowing they did not. I dug my hole deeper, shook my soul harder turned myself inward, allowed myself to be hurt, time and again and ultimately doubting myself, questioning myself, my value and my worth.

There were days when the sun came up and I despaired that I had woken with the sun. There were nights, I lay down and prayed for that one last seizure that would stop my breath and heart.

Terrible, I know. Terrible to write the words. Terrible to admit that I felt this for so long. Terrible to acknowledge there are times I still feel this way some nights, some mornings.

The truth is, my blues had gripped me hard this time and initially I had not realized just how hard or for how long they have had me in their grasp. I kept thinking I am out of it, the fog is lifted I am moved beyond this thing but the truth is, I hadn’t. I keep looking for the starting point, that place in time I can put a stake in the ground, in my soul, in my psyche; when did it start where the Y in the road had appeared and I took that path that led here, to this place right now. Honestly? I don’t know. There are so many intersections over the past five years, so many points in time.

I am so grateful there are a few beloved friends and family members who saw my despair and continued to stand by me, shake me now and then, reach into my self-imposed bubble of silence and demand my participation. They did this even when I retreated further into my natural state of isolation. It would have been so easy to stand aside, let me draw my darkness closer and allow me to withdraw further knowing my introversion was simply part of my personality but that this was different. They saw me and saw this was more, this was dangerous and they sometimes kicked the shit out of me and other times just gently prodded me into the world, if even just for an hour or two.  These diehards, who dug in knowing I was closer to the edge than I would ever admit to withstood my rejections, my absolute and outright sometime lies of “I am fine, really”. They threw lifelines and drug me through and demanded I stay in the world, even when my one true desire was to give up when the world seem pitiless and I wanted nothing more than to get up and get off.

depression4

Am I beyond this funk, this fog, this blue? No, really I am not yet. But I know it has been clinging to me and I get that I have been reacting badly, letting too much of my life be taken over by this terrible. I know I have made some horrible choices because I was hurting. I know I allowed others to hurt me because I was hurting and thought they were the most I deserved. I know now I nearly broke myself because I didn’t heed the warning signs, I didn’t listen to my own heart and soul when I screamed. Thankfully, even during this time, I have made some great choices too. I have done some good things for .  myself though I nearly took myself to the brink of destruction and lost it all.

Is it over? No, not yet. I have recovery to do. I have to find those doors to walk through, those steps to take to recover what I have lost. I have to find ways to be healthy, to embrace what I know and allow others to take care of me when I need it. It is time for me to start the slow climb back, emotionally, financially, physically and elsewhere in my life so I can live with all the choices past, present and future. It is time to re-engage the world on my terms, without apology or recrimination. I have to recognize I am subject to the Blues, not let them overtake my world, destroy what I build and be proactive or one of these days I won’t have the opportunity to say no more.

For those who suffer from Depression, I get it. This is hard. It is always hard. We lose so much every single time. Do not do this alone, reach out if you can and if you can’t let others reach in grab the lifelines they throw.

If We Were Having Coffee: Tequila Would Top Mine

Yes, I know we might be having coffeeimages, tea or even the more refined Wine but honestly this past month deserves the bite of Tequila. Good, strong sipping Tequila. Nothing foofy with umbrellas and silly stuff, just a fresh from the freezer, where I keep it for times like these, sipping Tequila. .

So, if we were having Tequila with or without our coffee, we would be sitting back in my undecorated but praises be, nearly clean to my satisfaction, apartment. From 4,200 square feet to 1,000 square feet is one hell of a downsizing and I honestly didn’t think I could do it, I honestly thought I would lose my mind. Instead what I am finding is a strange peace settling over me as I maneuver through the weird minimalism that is becoming the norm for me. Even after I thought I had shrunk my needs to the bare ‘must have’ I found myself needed to shrink down even more, things I thought were absolute needs became sacrifices to storage in favor of other objects of desire. Amazing what becomes necessity when you shrink your living space.

Would you like another one? Excuse me while I top of my glass.herradura-anejo-tequila-17

You know I have told you about my year, shared with you that I have struggled on many fronts this year. The struggles have tapped me out on many levels, shredded my confidence, my hopefulness at times. Certainly my imagination along with my energy has been drained. I have had to really take out my spirit and examine closely what drives me, what is needful and what is a priority for me. I have had to make choices I never thought I would make, shed myself of what was doing me harm even when this scared the living hell out of me. I have stared into the abyss of my history and torn the curtain away to the future I thought I wanted, sometimes having to set aside people and things so I could begin to truly rebuild.

This has been a work in progress, it started a few years ago when my husband left without good-bye in December 2013. I have struggled to find my footing, to find my heart and my spirit. I have worked to find the independent me under the debris of hurt. People have taken advantage of my vulnerability, I don’t blame them, I put it out there with my need to be seen, to be loved. I put a great big sign over my head, “Here I am…Use me”.

Then after I lost even more confidence along with thousands of dollars, I finally pulled back into myself. Set my need for ‘love’ aside in favor of true healing. Small steps, sometimes backward steps, sometimes no steps at all but instead simply standing still in the space I was and taking a few deep breaths. Focusing on the right then, not trying to force healing but letting the world wash over me, rinse my hurt away in small portions. It wasn’t easy, I wanted everything and right now. There were days when I thought I would miss out on the rest of my life, nothing was working and I was emotionally atrophied; at least I felt like this was the case.

footprints

Early last year I jumped into a relationship to stem the hurt and loneliness. It was an unhealthy relationship. What I learned from it was wonderful though. I learned I would rather be alone than part of an unhealthy relationship. I would rather be alone than part of a relationship that hurts me. I would rather be lonely and alone than lonely within a relationship. I learned I can stand up for myself, I can say no. That is what I learned. It was a good lesson. I learned, I do not have to accept pain as part of being paired. I learned it is better to be uncoupled than unhappy. I also learned what I want in a partner, in a man. I learned what is important. In the ending unfortunately both of us were hurt, it was nevertheless the right thing to do, for both of us. Now I can couple without fear, I know my desires and my limitations. This was a critical step to finding myself, now I am happily settled with myself.

Can I top you off? I could use another splash. I am rambling on about myself, I hope you don’t mind.

This past month has been a challenge. You might have noticed I haven’t been around much, my plate has been full. In truth my bucket has spilled over, leaving me exhausted and exhilarated at one and the same time. I thought I would not make it through the month of May, I did though. Here is what happened and why I find myself sitting here with you sipping Tequila:

  • I moved into my new apartment and nearly finished the unpacking process
  • I finished the downsizing, though I couldn’t have done it without a few well-placed kicks in the ass along the way
  • I performed a wedding for my friend and barrier against the storms of recent years, Red
  • I attended the wedding of one of my younger sisters in Seattle and was reminded of how wonderful family can be, even in large crowds. Yes, my family is big and raucous.
  • I finally met my newest found sister and had a long breakfast with her. We are the odd ones out, part of family but found members (born outside, adopted out and unknown till adulthood).
  • I finally started the real search for my next job, though I know it might be long and harrowing I also know what I want and I am going to hold out for what makes sense
  • I started writing again in my journal and will start to write here and read again because I am giving myself permission and time
  • I stopped holding myself to impossible standards and took a deep breath without crying
  • I read my own posts from a few years ago and realized how far I have come and how some things are still true. I was amazed how far I have climbed out of the void I was in three years ago.

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What I have figured out through all of this?

I can do this. I am enough. I may be scared, it is fine, scared is normal sometimes. I may be sad, it is okay to be sad sometimes, this is normal. I may be lonely now and then, it is fine to be lonely so long as it is the loneliness of waiting not the loneliness of ‘alone’. I can do this, I am enough. I am worth it and I am enough. That is what I have learned.

CoffeeShare2

Weekend Coffee Share: It isn’t that

imagesIf we were having coffee I would have asked you to come to my house, I know odd but it might be the last time I am able to host you here and it is important to me. I would pour you a cuppa of my favorite blend, cut with chicory and strong enough to stand a spoon upright in, offer you a selection of sweet creams and sugars before we settled in. Look out the back window, my Lavender is starting to come in I am truly going to miss that view, I cut them back in January so they would come in heavy this spring.

This past month has seen too many changes, decisions and strange happenings. I am underwater most of the time simply trying to catch my breath or is it hold my breath in between sinking. Having a house on the market, dang it isn’t easy. In fact, it is hard. Add to just the normal, keeping it in ‘show’ ready condition all the time as if I don’t actually live here, is the barrage of strangers walking through my home. It is an uncomfortable feeling, at best it is uncomfortable.

I had a contract, went through inspection fairly unscathed and then the appraisal came in extraordinarily low, specifically $70,000 low. Even the buyers’ bank questioned the competency of the appraiser and they have ordered a new one at their expense. In the meantime, the house is back on the market and I am questioning my sanity. The original buyers are not happy they will have to make a new offer after the new appraisal (on Wednesday), but they are the ones that wanted their earnest money back.

Why, why am I putting myself through this? But then, I look around and realize I simply cannot sustain myself in this house any longer. I cannot maintain this house, without help. It is no longer a home and though there are many things I truly love, I cannot live here alone anymore. Is what I am planning risky? Yes, surely it is. But then, without risk there is no life. I would tell you, if I can do this and come out on the right side of it all in the end maybe I can get some of my life back.

If we were having coffee I would tell you about my current contract and how my hours have been cut from 36 to somewhere in the neighborhood of 12. How I am now looking for my next contract and it will likely force me to travel again, the very last thing I wanted to do. The mantra of ‘getting my life back’ is looking more impossible all the time. Just when I am trying for more normalcy it is looking as if it is slipping away from me.

I would tell you, I am truly tired. Bone tired and scared too. I didn’t think this would be my life at nearly sixty years old. I thought it would be something much different. I would tell you how hard it is to write at this time, though I have so much to say with words bouncing in my head and hurting me sometimes with the need let them fly, I find more solace in my journals than actual writing for consumption. My natural inclination toward isolation has been in the forefront these days and even blogging has seemed to public, too much like giving up space.

I would tell you how difficult love is, all of it. Friends and family worry about me, they don’t see me or hear from me in any of the normal ways I interact, none of the snarky social media daily posts, none of the morning texts to say I love them. I would tell you though, I am trying to sort out my space and my world in a way that makes sense to me. Trying to frame love, all of it in a way that makes sense to me. Sometimes, love is hard. Especially when you aren’t young and innocent anymore, instead you have had a full life and some disappointments and hurts, you can’t approach love with the same wide-eyed wonder. Love is hard, especially when you know yourself, when you know who you are and what you want and need from life. Finding a partner with luggage as battered as your own, who won’t judge your monsters, well that is damned near a miracle. I would tell you, love is a miracle all of its own.

After I had rambled on, likely with tears at some point because my tears seem to come easily lately I would ask you to jump in and tell me what is going on in your world. I would hope you have had a more uplifting week, maybe good news even something silly we could giggle about. I promise you, I would listen throughout.

CoffeeShare2

Alterations

This has been a year of ups, downs, exploration, joy, pain, choices, decisions and change. I have seen my share of sad, okay let me say it outright, my share of down on my knees on the floor and begging for mercy depression. I have spent far too much of my time isolating myself, allowing my introvert free reign, while the rest of my life suffered the consequences. I have spent far too much time, trying to catch up with myself, in too many ways and spent too much of the past year afraid.

 

Afraid of losing all I have fought for.

Afraid of being alone.

Afraid of being hurt.

Afraid of …. Well afraid of far too many things to list.

The funny thing about being afraid, fear absolutely paralyzes you. Fear prevents you from making choices, whether good or bad, fear stops your ability to choose.

I have known for a very long time I needed to make some life altering choices. There were things in my world weighing me down. The first and likely the largest was my house. I don’t know why I have hung onto this monstrosity for so long after my marriage ended. I have spent thirteen years here, longer than anywhere else in my adult life. I do not love it, some days I hate it. It hasn’t been a home in years, if ever. It has been a menace to my health and well-being for at least five of the thirteen years I have been here. It is far too big for one person, by about 2,000 sq. ft., well maybe not quite that much but it is far too big for just me.

So I had to make decisions, for my health mental and otherwise:

Decision #1: My house went on the market 10 days ago.

Decision #2: I am not going to buy right away. Instead I am going to put what I decide to keep in storage and rent for 6 months while I find a new home that pleases me. This will be the first time in my adult life I buy a home with just me in mind, where only my desires, my likes, my wants are taken into account. I am going to take my time.

Decision #3: I am not only going to significantly downsize my home, I am going to downsize my ‘stuff’. This includes letting go of books, CD’s, clothes and other ‘stuff’ I have carried across town, across the state, across the nation and across continents. I will keep what I love, what is meaningful, what belongs in the life I intend to create.

Decision #4: I am paying off 80% of debt (assumes a close to full price offer on house) which will allow me to make different decisions about work and contracts. Only thing that will remain will be 12509264_1549410212015766_3412091072243008118_ncar and student loans (woe is me I will pay these till I die).

So here I sit, in my very clean house. It has been shown a few times since it went on the market. There have been four open houses too. Every morning I wake up and run around like a mad woman, making certain everything is in its place, nothing is hanging out of a drawer and all the animals are in their kennels before I leave the house. Every single day, I hope the odds are with me and someone will like all the upgrades I have made and they will say, ‘Yes, this is the one I want’.

In the meantime, the contract I have been working since last May is hanging by a thread. I am still working but not enough hours. I am looking for the next one and hoping hard it comes soon. I am hoping all the stars align and the house sells, the next contract is one that I have been talking to for a couple of weeks now and will give me a great opportunity to do something really different in a new / old city for 18 months at a great rate. If not this one, well there are a couple of others that might be great also, right here in town. I am hoping all the stars align and maybe one would lead to a full time job where I could maybe, just maybe end my career without any more contracts. Wouldn’t that be better than what I have been doing for far too many years?

So, as I make life altering choices my focus shifts. Some of it hurts. Some of it is simply scary. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and think to myself, ‘what the hell, what are you doing, are you stupid or simply crazy?’ I think all of that, then I simply shrug my shoulders and think, ‘Well, it won’t be the first time you have had to start over’.

Gratitude in the Blues

Yesterday I read a post from Deb of The Monster in Your Closet, Sixty Things o’ Grateful. This post got me thinking, surely despite my rather long period of blues this year I have much to be grateful for. That my gratitude didn’t just belong in this year but truly extended. I determined I would play by the rules, if I couldn’t come up with at least fifty things to be grateful for, happy about in the allotted time I would sit back and meditate my reasoning, otherwise I would post.

What I found? I have much that I am truly grateful for, much I am consistently happy about, many small things that are a part of my life right now that are making me grow and become more me. Some things are simply a part of my world, I need to remind myself how much these things mean, how much they are of value and how very much they make me happy. Other things, well they are new and vital to my being. I recognize how much I need to tell people I love them, value them and appreciate their presence in my life. How important they are and how much they make my life better simply by being there. I don’t do this often enough.

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the Blue Frog at Tales From The Motherland. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2015. After that date, no blogs can be added.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise; I will remove it. Aside from that one caveat, there is no such thing as too much positivity. Share your happy thoughts, your gratitude; help us flood the blogosphere with both!

Without further ado, my list of fiftish things I am grateful for in 2015 and more. After I made the list and put it up I added pictures and in some cases an explanation.

  1. Finding love, repeatedly in odd and unexpected places, creating new friendships where I never expected.
  2. A contract that has kept me busy, paid the bills and where the client isn’t entirely crazy as is so often the case with my clients. I expect there is an element with contracting, we always see the worst.
  3. My sons, their wives and children. I am so fortunate to share their lives, things could have turned out so differently when their father and I divorced. But instead, my step-sons and their mother (wife-in-law) have remained a central part of my life.
  4. My latest sister and getting to know her. She appeared out of nowhere, another one of my biological father’s children. Born just after me, also put up for adoption but now we found each other and are getting to know each other, I am both grateful and happy. Makes me wonder how many more there are out there.
  5. Remaining mostly without pain all year.
  6. Letting myself enjoy my introversion without guilt, I think this is the first year since I was a teenager I have simply sunk in and allowed myself this freedom.
  7. Learning to say no without guilt.
  8. Traveling to my nieces wedding in Seattle.One Brother
  9. Seeing my brother more than once this year!
  10. Learning to sleep further in the middle of the bed, as if I own it. Three years of singledom and still I slept on ‘my side’ of the bed, finally I almost sleep in the middle.
  11. Getting rid of fat clothes as if I won’t grow back into them. It isn’t that I am dieting, it is simply I have been doing better about eating healthy and taking better care of myself.
  12. Letting my poetry be read again, without embarrassment.
  13. My friends, reconnecting.
  14. Sunrises on the lake.
  15. Rain, though usually I hate it all the lakes have refilled now.
  16. Gap insurance. Having had a bad car accident this year where my car was totaled, Gap Insurance saved me!
  17. Christmas gift bags, what a great solution. All the Christmas gifts would have been delivered unwrapped this year without Gift Bags, I simply ran out of time!
  18. Extended families and the oddities of hundreds. With somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-three siblings, their families and now third generations; yes, it extends to over one hundred. It is hard but wonderful to watch all the oddballs, geniuses and lovers make their way through this world.
  19. Victim Impact and extending my participation this year to new avenues that have forced me to face my own demons even while allowing me to let them go.
  20. Only one seizure all year.
  21. My tattoo artist James!
  22. My wife-in-law and our friendship of thirty plus years. The mother of my sons has been a member of my tribe for longer than damned near anyone else, she is friend, family and partner in raising our Sons.
  23. Coming home every night from work. After more than twenty years on the road, this is one of the greatest blessing ever.
  24. Dinner with friends during the week.
  25. Fresh flowers on the dining room table. I buy them for myself and they make me happy every single day.
  26. Peace, I finally understand how critical peace in my home is.
  27. My blogging family who have sometimes kept me sane.
  28. Long drives with no destination at all.
  29. Quiet, true and simple quiet when I want it.
  30. Books, stacked to read without interruption.
  31. Growing my hair without anyone telling me they hate it.
  32. Made beds, clean sheets.
  33. Lavender bushes filling the air from early spring to late fall with rich scents.DSC_0152
  34. Kind strangers.
  35. Naps on Saturday because I can. Because I am not traveling Saturday is now a day of rest if I wish it.
  36. Taking myself on a date.
  37. Going on a real date with someone other than myself.
  38. Hugs, just that hugs.
  39. Long hot baths without interruptions.
  40. Criminal Minds marathons.
  41. Butterfly gardens.
  42. The dog warming my feet.
  43. The cats fighting for a place on my lap.
  44. New jeans in a smaller size and feeling good about it.
  45. Having my hair brushed by my grandson.
  46. Hearing ‘I Love You’ and knowing it is true.
  47. Removing drama from my world, even when it hurts.
  48. Becoming more me, finding my center.
  49. Laughter, the big huge from the heart kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes and causes hiccups.
  50. Good deeds from the spirit, done from genuine love.
  51. Messes, because it is fine if things aren’t perfect all the time.
  52. Finishing a project, any project and knowing it is off my plate; permanently.
  53. Letting go of some of the old hurts.
  54. Sometimes, to clear the heart just a good cry is what is needed. I no longer try to hold back.
  55. Raising my arms above my head to brush my own hair! Years ago I couldn’t do this and I cut all my hair off. Now I can, I am growing it back.
  56. Letting my personal demons dance without interruption or fear.RayL
  57. Choosing life. I am grateful I no longer feel dead inside, just walking through the world with nothing to offer, nothing to give and no hope. I am hopeful.

Passing the Baton

Linda1Christmas this year was a two-day celebration of giggles, cries of surprise, gift-wrap flying and for me at least a bit of nostalgia, a sense of melancholy even. I am uncertain why it was so poignant this year, why I felt so off centered and incomplete, but this year was off for me. This year I felt slightly disconnected from those I love, from the celebrations, from well from all of it. For some reason this year, despite being in the middle of it all for two days I simply felt isolated.

I admit there have been things on my mind. There have been some additional stresses in my life lately that have been weighing heavily on me and causing me some anxiousness; usually this wouldn’t change the pleasure I take in my family, especially my children and grandchildren. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy them either, truly, I did, my grandchildren are a treat and though it is a bit overwhelming now and then, I am fortunate in the women my sons married and the extended families they brought with them. We are the true American family, extended and expanded through multiple marriages. What makes us a bit different I suspect, is we have managed to keep ex’s close and engaged, thus children continue to benefit. Yes, this sometimes makes it strange, but it works.

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But back to the strange sense of sitting above it all watching rather than participating this year. Maybe it was simply so many of the traditions I grew up with were absent and I finally noticed, finally really missed them. Perhaps, it was the rest of my family was missing; all of my siblings some of whom I haven’t seen since my father passed away five years ago, my wonderful heart mother having passed only ten months earlier. With their passing, something went out of us all I think and we set aside some of the traditions we had all made fun of but in truth had cherished. Certainly one thing we lost was our sense of family, our bond. Even while still mourning my beloved parents, I mourn that loss just as much I think.

My cousin / siblings, don’t blink your eyes so quickly I am after all from Texas we do things strangely down here. Yes, my father married his sister-in-law and no it isn’t incest (my brother asked). 65.justloveyouIt was a match of the heart, a true love match after they had both been single for many years, her after being widowed and him after divorcing my mother. They had known each other for more years than they had been married and divorced combined. We all cheered their marriage and they brought us together as adults and created a large and loving family, though perhaps a bit on the odd side sometimes. We were a loud, loving and rambunctious clan. My heart mother welcomed all of us, along with spouses, children, step-children, partners and friends to Hearts Home with open arms. But Christmas time was the best time of all.

Christmas Eve, where we all dressed up in our finery. The women in satin, velvet and lace with make-up and hair done and high-heeled shoes. The men in suits and ties, if you had to wear jeans they had to be your Sunday-go-to-Meeting best. Children were even put in nice clothing for the evening. The Christmas Eve meal of so damned much food and so many types of cookies and candies, all of them homemade with love. The most important parts of the evening, the Eggnog toast, where each of us made a toast that we spent days thinking about and some man in the family always toasted the women in the family and all the other men groaned because that was going to be their toast. The reading of the Christ Story by my heart mother and the youngest grandchild and finally the singing of the carols which always ended with Jingle Bells, always and we all had bells on ribbons which we rattled at appropriate times.

I should add here, most of my family could not sing a lick. The singing of the carols was like fingernails on a chalkboard to even the most untrained ear, but it was tradition and it was fun. We all groaned, we all whined, but we all did it and we all had fun.

Gift giving was a managed affair, of course, we spoiled slightly any children but we did not exchange gifts between adults. There was an assigned name; you bought one gift outside of your spouse or significant other. Your gift could not exceed $50. Then we had the White Elephant gift market, all children under 18 left the room and the ruthlessness of the adults came out. This was a terrible and hysterical part of the night. Draw a number, pick a gift and open it. Better hope you got a high number, or your spouse got a high number. The higher your number the better your chances of getting something you want out of the pile of gifts in the middle of the floor. During each round, each gift can only be exchanged one time, so once you open your gift look around the room at the other gifts that have been opened, want something else? Take it and give them what you have, they then look around to see what else has been opened; if they want something else (other than what you just took from them) they do the same. It is a ruthless game! There were always some really good gifts and some really stupid gifts. We had such fun.

At the end of the night, we played games. Usually board games until we were tired. Though sometimes we played billiards and sometimes cards. Adults in one part of the house and young ones in another.

My eldest playing pretty princess with his youngest cousin

My eldest playing pretty princess with his youngest cousin

Christmas day was more relaxed though we had the morning presents for the children under the tree and the big family dinner in the afternoon. It was always Christmas Eve that was special for me. It was always that night that set the tone. I loved Christmas day because we were all together, comfortable and talking, playing games and spending time. But it was Christmas Eve that held so many traditions, even before Hearts Home, even as a child some of these traditions were already part of how I thought of Christmas.

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I suppose as new generations take over the celebrations they create their own traditions. This year I think I just missed the old ones.

What is Love, My Version

Linda1How do we love? What makes our hearts sing, our skin tingle, our knees weak? What makes our hearts soar, how do we love?

For the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about the question of love, is there really different kinds of love, different types of love? I have written about love before here and here, mostly I took a rather pragmatic view, even while talking about what I wanted from love and from life. I have had some time to consider love, some time to watch love at work in my family and elsewhere in the world. I have also watched what it means when we extract love from our world, when we fail at love, when we fail to include love in our lives on a daily basis and it is heartbreaking.

Love is incredibly selfish, this is my first conclusion; yes, I said it Love is an incredibly selfish emotion. Even while we expand our heart to include others, even while we open our arms, our homes, our circle of trust it remains a selfish emotion. Let me explain what I mean by this statement. When we love, we want, not just for the other person but also for ourselves. When we love, whether it is an individual or something other, something more amorphous something intangible that simply opens our heart and defines us as human and with compassion and empathy, we still want something, some recognition of self. No matter what love is for us, it is at least in part, selfish.

This year saw many changes, blossoming of new love, maturing of loves already in progress, coming to peace with love lost and finding new family members to embrace and celebrate.

This month I was privileged to see love at work in my extended family, more than once I spent time in the presence of love and was uplifted. This made me consider what love was when we simply wish for good things, when we are simply part of a larger circle and we aren’t trying to make it about ourselves. There is something wonderful, when we are simply there and part of it. This month, my youngest son married for the second time, this time it truly was a celebration of love, a coming together of families and friends and it was joyous. I watched my son and new daughter take their vows and my heart expanded, not just to include her but to include her children, her parents, her siblings also. I realized with this marriage, my circle to love had grown and my heart simply stretched to include them all.

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Holiday time is always interesting in my world. For many the holidays can be stressful, it is no different for me and mine. Last year, of course saw my marriage fall apart and at that point, I thought I could never look at this time of year without sadness again. Indeed, last year was difficult but with the love and kindness of many people I got through it and realized just what family really is, what it means to be cocooned in warmth for no other reason than for being me. I wrote about last year here, I learned a great deal about compassion and love and it stuck.

Family gatherings mean extended family with in-laws, multiple generations and of course with us all the ‘by marriage’ and ‘step’ relationships. We are the classic blended family; marriage has expanded our families with steps, in-laws, new grandbabies and all sorts of other people to love. My oldest son married a young woman with a boisterous and loving family that exudes warmth and has taken me in, embraced me as if I was one of their own. When I was most in need of a place to land, somewhere to feel safe her family gave it to me and continue to open their homes, hearts and arms.   This Thanksgiving my oldest son and his wife hosted family Thanksgiving for the first time, great food, great wine and lots of laughter. Again, I was reminded why love lifts us up, love has no boundaries and no timelines. We can not see each other for months, yet pick up where we left off; laughter and hugs without stinting and whispered, ‘how are you?’ with an arm wrapped around shoulders letting me know I am both welcome and cared for.  I must admit, I needed that moment of quite affirmation.

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Finally, the latest addition to my personal extended family; a new half-sister. Discovered a couple months ago, she is only a couple of years younger than I am and like me had been given up for adoption. I think she is the only one of my first father’s children he was unaware of. I won’t tell the entire story here, today; suffice to say she is a delight and I am so pleased to find another sibling. I think with all my full, halves, adopted and steps this takes me to twenty-four. What an amazing and strange mix we are what a fascinating world we live in that siblings can find each other through a random DNA test.

The famdamilySo what is love? What I am discovering, it is impossible to define. Love is selfish and selfless all in a single breath. Love is the greatest expression of compassion any of us can show to another. Love is our greatest gift, it is the one thing we have that is entirely ours to give and entirely free if we choose. Love fills our silent spaces while at the same time allows our silences safely. Love lifts us up, beyond ourselves and above ourselves. Love encourages us to do better and be better than we believe is possible. Love heals us and allows us to reach out and heal others.

What is love? The Hell if I know, but I know I would be lost without it.

Imprinted for Life, Attractions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe power of attraction, what attracts us to another person is personal and fundamental. There are all sorts of ‘professional’ studies about this, do a search on Google and you will find everything from pheromone studies to Plato’s original Affinity theories. In more recent times social scientist who have proposed first the ‘Law of Attraction’ where Like attracts Like based on Plato’s theory, even more recently the Opposites Attract theory and everything in-between. Of course, lest we forget there is the ‘you will like what I told you to like’ and the ‘I will like exactly what you told me not to like’ theories, generally though these apply only to teenagers. Finally, there is that oft told and all too often snickered about mother or father fixations, better known as the Oedipus Complex.

The truth is I don’t believe any of us know what heats us up, gets our blood to boil and our panties in a twist. Not a single one of us knows what causes us to follow with our eyes down the street that man or woman we find particularly appealing;  none of us I think knows why return time and again to the neighborhood coffee shop to drool over the uncommonly beautiful barista. It is unlikely any of us could point to the place in time when our desires were set down for us, when we became fixated on a certain type and this became ‘our type’ forever and ever, amen.

We all have a type; don’t lie all of us have one. Even if you didn’t always date your type, hell even if you didn’t marry your ‘type’, you have one, I have one we all have one. That particular type of human we find we want to wrap ourselves around, that type of face that draws us, that type of body that excites us, that tone of voice that beckons us, yes even the personality that calls to our inner desires and needs. Put all of what we want into one single package and we are done, we are right there heart throbbing and knees weak. But first, we see with our eyes what somewhere in our mind we have defined as our ‘type’.

I have a type; I suspect I even know the genesis of my type. My type runs counter to social norms and has my entire life. My type has gotten me into trouble back in the 1970’s when following my personal choices wasn’t as accepted as it is interracialtoday. In retrospect, considering my relationship history I believe it is important that we understand what it is we want, that we own our desires and our choices. I think it is vital we never settle for just who wants us but for whom we want and what we want.

Do our desires change? I think they do, change is inevitable. I think as we mature our understanding of what makes us happy and what we need from relationships changes. I also think we grow less reluctant to ask for what we need. What perhaps doesn’t change is our ability to easily verbalize our needs, desires and boundaries. We are the amalgamation of all that has come before; we are our history without pretty packaging and brilliant ribbons for the unwrapping. For some of us and I certainly fall into this category, fear is a constant companion when attempting to ask for what we need or want.

I said I had a type and that I suspected I knew how mine was imprinted; I was quite young when I met Winston. Living in Germany I attended an Army base school part of the week but was not an Army Brat, this made me different from the other students and subject to bullying. I was also younger and smaller than other children in my class, another source of great amusement for my classmates and one they took great advantage of at every opportunity. I hated that school, I hated them and I hated the teachers for not protecting me. I spent a great deal of time alone during recess, book in hand finding dark corners so none of those little bastards could hurt me. Sometimes I would climb a tree, which is where Winston found me one day.

Winston was a year older, a grade ahead tall and gangly. His father was a Sargent in the Army and Winston already was a leader in his class and on the playground, much like his father. He had a brilliant smile, tight curly hair shaved close to his head and his skin was like chocolate milk. The day I met him he climbed the tree I was in and asked why I was up there alone all the time. When I told him, he frowned and climbed back down and wandered away. From that day until we moved back to the US, Winston became my protector. I ate lunch with him and his cadre of friends, if I wanted to read I did it in full sight of others and no one bothered me, ever. I was invited to birthday parties and other childhood functions. Winston never told me what he did, I guess it was a boy thing but from that day on, he became my ‘type’.images

So what is my type? Need you ask?

Tall

Milk Chocolate Skin

Strong

Take Charge

A protector

Okay, let’s just say it shall we. I like Black Men better than I like White Men. I fundamentally find Black Men more attractive. This isn’t to say I have never found a White Man attractive; it is simply that I find Black Men more attractive, physically that is my ‘Type’. Did Winston imprint me when I was eight years old? I suspect he did, I suspect his kindness in light of all the bullying had a profound effect on my psych, but it is unlikely this is the only reason.

I was raped at eleven by White Boys, they did grave harm to me. My first real boyfriend, the first person who showed me real kindness after that rape was Black at fourteen. I was a runaway, most of the horror stories from the streets during my time there was by those of my own race. By the time I got off the streets, I was imprinted with fear of men of my own race.

I say all this for a reason, I like men, I did not become Lesbian it is not something you become you either are or not Gay. On the other hand, what you find attractive, what your ‘type’ is within the context of your sexual orientation, this is an entirely different issue. Though my ‘type’ is certainly not always socially acceptable it is nonetheless mine, my choice in partners is mine alone. Were it not for the landmark 1967 anti-miscegenation case of Loving vs. State of Virginia, my choice would still be illegal. My question then, how is my ‘type’ different than sexual orientation of others and why are we still discussing their Civil / Marriage Rights. Doesn’t it make sense that all members of society should have the same rights?

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I am just curious about this mind you but your thoughts are most welcome.

Mothers, Fathers and Nations

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a young, beginning even before I was a teen I started to run away. By the time I was fourteen I was deemed a habitual delinquent by the juvenile court system. I was also considered past redemption by many. At the age of fourteen, I was removed from my parents’ custody and placed in foster care, shortly thereafter I ran for the last time. I have written some parts of my story in Broken Chains, it might explain why I was a runaway, why I was a Juvenile Delinquent.

There was a time, many years ago when many told me, including judges and my own mother they didn’t expect me to see twenty-one they certainly didn’t expect me to ‘make anything of myself’.

I say all this because I did make it to twenty-one and beyond, today I am a grown woman; I am alive with a loving though slightly dysfunctional family. With two sons, grandchildren, friends, a decent career, my own home and mostly the things I want in life when I want them. I have books to read, a good education; I have seen the world (even if I complain about travel). I have been most fortunate, surviving heartbreak and violence in my life to become ‘Victorious’.

This isn’t the story of me; this is about a mother’s heart. I thought it was important to say first where I came from, to say first someone in fact many someone’s saw my promise and gave me a chance, thus I am here.

My two sons were a gift. I did not bring them into the world but I married their father when they were barely potty trained. At the ripe ages of two and five, they were already handfuls, already opinionated and full of themselves as little human beings. Our first run in after my marriage happened the first weekend they came to stay, with Number One Son hands on hips and head twisting side to side like a cobra spitting, “I don’t have to do what you say you aren’t my mother”.

I glanced at their father sitting calming and silently on the couch behind me and realized at that moment this would be the weft of our relationship, especially with regard to his sons. Staring at these two small humans, I realized I had the opportunity to shape lives, it was frightening and my heart hit my throat. I knelt down in front of them so I could look Number One Son in the eye, “You are right, I am not your mother but in this house your father does what I say and so will you. In this house, you will not smart mouth me. You will say Yes Mam’ and No Mam’, Please and Thank You. In this house I will tear a knot in that narrow butt if you smart off to me again.”

By the end of that first weekend, both of those boys had been swatted and stood in a corner. Number One Son never was swatted again, ever; though he found a few corners to his liking over the years. Number Two Son on the other hand, he was me all over. When my mother use to say to me, ‘some day you will have a daughter and she will be just like you, then you will reap what you sow’, honestly I thought I had dodged that bullet, until Number Two Son, he was my Waterloo. During my marriage to their father, their mother and I made a pact, to raise them with love. We didn’t always agree on tactics, but we did agree on one thing we wanted these young men to survive to adulthood.

 

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It is thirty-two years later, water has passed under the bridge, I divorced their father seventeen years ago. In that divorce the best thing I got was custody of my youngest son, no one fought this; his place in my home was secured with love. At the time he was just turning seventeen, he and I had a unique relationship. While his brother was the child of my mind, he was the child of my heart and soul. His mother and I agreed the best place for him was with me. His father did not want him, walked away without a backward glance.

My two sons were by no means angels, they weren’t devils either, like so many they were simply teenagers. They weren’t complete delinquents though Number Two Son certainly worked hard at achieving this goal. Certainly if you saw them during their teen years, walking down the street you might have crossed to the other side. They had their days, with tongue piercings, eye brow piercings, tattoos and sagging pants, hair midway down backs and dyed colors not intended for humans, Goth finger nails (black and dark blue were popular) and yes experimentation with marijuana and drinking that I am aware of. My sons were no angels.

Do not get me wrong, I fought hard for Number Two Son, for his safety and his sanity. Some things you can ignore, some things you can shrug off as childish; other things you yank chains and demand change. I knew too well the path he was following and I put a leash on him, marshalled every resource I had and fought hard to save him. Number One Son, he played at being ‘Cool’, but really he just wanted to grow up and be part of the crowd. He didn’t want to rock the boat; he listened and was smart enough not to be truly stupid about the choices he made.

I tell the story about my two sons because it is important, Number One Son just turned 37 this week; Number Two Son will be getting married next month. Both have good jobs, their own homes, lovely families, brilliant futures. All it took to get them here was love, patience, belief, a few tears and sometimes a whack upside the head. All it took to get them here was giving them a chance to thrive on their own, the opportunity to grow up a support system and trust.

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Though I sometimes worried about Number Two Son reaching adulthood, I never once had to worry either of them would be gunned down in the street by a rogue cop. Every child in this nation has the right to grow up and achieve their full potential. Every parent has the right to raise their child in safety, without fearing the people who are paid to protect our neighborhoods will murder their child.

Every child has the right to walk down the street in broad daylight or at night without fear. Every child in this nation has the right to an education, to hope, to a future. Every parent in this nation has the right to believe their child can be successful in life including education, work, family and home.

Every parent has the right to believe they will outlive their child. Every parent has the right to believe they won’t bury their child due to violence, especially police and vigilante violence.  We have seen far too many mothers and fathers burying their children due to violence and especially recently due to police violence against mostly unarmed young Black Men. It is hard for me to call them men, so many of them aren’t out of their teens, so many of them haven’t yet reached their majority. So many of these young ones couldn’t even tell you what they want to be when they ‘grow up’, yet they are gunned down in the street by cops or vigilantes, or by a ‘good guy’ with a gun who ‘feared’ for his life and made up a story to justify what there is no justification for.

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How did we get to this place? The media are complicit with the police painting each shooting as justified; each young person becomes a ‘thug’ and the murderer the ‘victim’, even as brokenhearted parents bury their child. When did we become so lacking in compassion, so deficient in empathy as a nation or a people. When did we lose our heart, perhaps we never had one to start with and now it is more obvious with every loss more reported on within social media and the contrast so clear.

I realize I am blessed, along with their other mother we are both blessed. We have sons who are alive, healthy and grown to adulthood. There are far too many mothers today who can only visit their sons at gravesites, who will only see their child as a teenager in photographs because that is the age he was when he was gunned down in the street. This must end and only we can end it. Every parent has the right to see their child grow to their full potential in safety. No parent should have to bury their child due to violence.

Only we can end this. Only we can stand up and demand change.

Only we can stand up and demand a change to Police behavior across the nation through better hiring practices, training, education and penalties.

Only we can stand up and demand Stand Your Ground laws be repealed nationwide.

Only we can stand up and demand changes to gun laws, nationwide.

Only we can stand up, demand the Department of Justice do their job and investigate police violence.

Only we can stand up and demand more money for education less for incarceration.

Only we can end this violence. Only we can protect our future by protecting our children, all of them.

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Oddities and Grandma’s Wisdom

LVal_2010The world is burning and Nero fiddles from the balcony and we, the peasants are dancing in the streets to a song we barely know and have long since forgotten the steps to. Now and then though something occurs to us, something leaps out and bites us on the ankle, perhaps a memory of days past when things were simple and life didn’t break our hearts. For me, despite some folks in my family were crazy as hell and honestly didn’t have the sense the Good Lord gave a gnat, some of that time was time spent with one of my grandmothers in South Texas.

Valentines Liquor Store 6903 - 3-69-45

My Granddad’s Liquor store

I didn’t see a great deal of her, didn’t spend much time with her because my father and grandfather didn’t see eye-to-eye, this is mildly put. My grandfather was a mean son-of-a-bitch, he was a bigot and a card-carrying member of Racist-R-Us, if he didn’t have white sheets hanging in his closet I would be shocked. Because of my olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes my grandfather regularly called me a spic, papoose and even nigger; frequently asked my father why they didn’t return me where they got me since I was obviously not White and they never should have adopted me. My grandfather gave me my first drink of whiskey and my first cigarette when I was eleven years old, said he could prove I was an ‘injun’ if I got crazy with firewater. He and my father got into a fistfight on that visit, though it wasn’t just over this it was part of it.

Back to my grandmother, she was mostly a good South Texas Lady. How she ever tolerated my lying, cheating polecat of a grandfather for more than fifty years is beyond me, but she did. When I was seventeen I spent two weeks with her while she was recovering from surgery, it was the most time I had ever spent at one time. During that time she imparted her lifetime of wisdom, she made me laugh hysterically and often, she made me question her and my own sanity. All of this while we sat at the dining room table over coffee and cigarettes, my grandmother by the way smoked like a chimney until the day she died in her 80’s.

Here is the wisdom of my very Southern Grandmother and some of my thoughts about that wisdom.

    1. Never go out without lipstick.
      1. I try to remember this one, sad to say though I carry at least two tubes I rarely remember to smear it on my lips.
    2. Never go out without your hair done properly and don’t ever leave the house with curlers in your hair.
      1. Well, yeah now that I am growing my hair out my stylist has taught me how to wield a blow dryer and a brush, I am getting pretty good at it actually. Five days out of seven I do in fact actually somewhat successfully do something with my hair. Previously not so much, but I think my grandmother would be proud. There was a time I followed her rules much more closely and was a good Texas girl with the mantra of ‘the bigger the hair the closer to God’.
    3. Always wear a hat, this protects you from the sun prevents freckles and in your case dear stops you from turning so damned dark.
      1. Yeah, well thankfully we have sunscreen for this now. I own hats and wear them now and then, but this is for show not to protect me from the sun.
    4. Don’t wear pants in public, unless you are gardening they simply aren’t attractive and those jeans the girls are wearing now are terrible. Wear skirts or dresses, women should look like women.
      1. Okay, I don’t know what to say to this one, does anyone? Pants are my go to wardrobe choice most days.
    5. Always wear foundations, honey you need to wear a bra.
      1. Is there anything sexy about the foundations she was talking about and still wearing when we had this conversation?
    6. Wear high-heels, your legs look better in high-heels.
      1. This is the one I entirely agree with, wear them, collect them, even sometimes salivate over them.

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    7. Wear stockings, only floozies go out bare legged.
      1. Come on, I live in Texas where it is sometimes +105 for days at a time. Suffering for beauty is one thing but this takes things just a little too far.
    8. Do not ever get drunk in public, it is fine to have a drink at home but never get drunk in public.
      1. This is one we should all agree with. Nothing more to add.
    9. Marry where you love. Don’t let other people stop you not even your Daddy.
      1. Great advice from a woman who married “down” and was disowned by her parents for her choice in spouse, I often wonder if she ever regretted it.
    10. Be kind to others, kindness will always get you further than ugly.
      1. I have always tried to follow this.
    11. Don’t move with the crowd, they will push you over the cliff when you get to the edge.
      1. Isn’t this the damned truth.
    12. Honey, don’t compete with men they don’t appreciate a woman that can beat them at their own games and don’t need their noses rubbed in it all the time.
      1. Well, this is the truth and yet sometimes there is no choice is there?
    13. Don’t raise your voice in anger. Speak softly, force them to listen to you.
      1. It took me years to understand this one.
    14. Stop marking your body up, those tattoos are for bad girls and sailors.
      1. My grandmother hated my tattoos. I wonder if she would have changed her mind. At the time she said this too me I had two small ones on my back, now I have eighteen and many are sizable.
    15. Don’t let your past hurts color your world, live. You are young and your life is ahead of you.
      1. I try to live by this one. I knew what she was telling me at the time and we had many long talks about forgiveness and letting go at that table over those two weeks. It took me a very long time to absorb this lesson. I am grateful to her for it.

Those were the truths of my grandmother. It has been a very long time since I have thought of her or those conversations. Someone who is special to me and brings me a great deal of happiness reminded me today of these conversations, of wearing skirts instead of pants, of girdles and oddly of what it means to be feminine without losing who I am as a woman. I am grateful for the reminders and for being able to step outside of the world for a minute.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of my grandmother and her wisdom, I surely enjoyed the memory.

Because we should all have memories that bring us back around this is dedicated to someone I love.

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