Small Matters

Hi Folks! This is a post that I wrote when my blog was in its infancy stage- 4 months in. Per request, my soul sister, Emily asked that I re-post it. That’s the necklace she made in the photo! She is a talented metal worker and silver smith AND she is making the bands for my wedding in June! So fabulous to see how life has changed for the better. Enjoy the story!

Building A Life Of Hope

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. ~ Scott Adams

Last week’s severe storm in my region had me thinking about the importance of small things in our daily lives. I was lucky to have been spared the worst of the disaster having lost power for just three days and not sustaining any property damage short of fallen branches.  I missed my morning coffee that I brew in the pre-dawn hours and sip while getting ready for my day. Luckily, I live close enough to a Starbucks which opens at 5 am. What a treat! I drove there in the early morning darkness in my jammies and hoodie and savored each sip. I missed drying my hair but I was getting my haircut on day two anyway. My hairdresser does such a great job that my hair…

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Sideways Stories in Life

Credit: sachakalis.deviantart.com

Did you ever feel both present and nonpresent? Did you ever notice the rapid passage of time and more so, the rapid changes all around you? Do you ever feel sucked into a vortex where your life as you knew it no longer exists? Do you feel that your world is spinning out of control because of one powerful person’s decision that you cannot change? Do you feel that when you’ve already experienced the worst another rogue wave in the tide of life knocks you down?

It is August 1st. The last August in this house for me. Having been away for most of the summer, I have a different perspective on my hometown of 25 years. Some of it is physical. Newer and bigger houses are being built next door and across the way along my tiny and narrow road.  The selling price is beyond belief and the socioeconomic divide just got wider. We miss our old neighbors; the ones you could borrow sugar from or the ones who brought you homemade chicken soup when you had the flu. The ones whose kids you watched over when they were all so young. The age of McMansions has finally cast its net on our side of town.

All change is hard. Neighbors eventually leave. New families move in, taking advantage of the good schools and prime location. Who can blame them? But we already miss our quiet and the working class feel of our spot. What this means for us in the shorter and longer run will soon reveal itself.

The sons continue on. Moving forward in their jobs with possible newer prospects on the horizon. What this means for  them in the shorter and longer run will soon reveal itself.

The responsibilities of my job will be changing at the end of the month. What this means for me and for future job prospects elsewhere will soon reveal itself.

All of what we are experiencing is the natural flow of life. We try not to fight it. We stay positive. Old anxieties creep in, of course. But Heaven knows we have had it so much worse (and this is not bad at all, it is all good, good, good). That helps keep everything in perspective and gives me the energy and wisdom to be there for others.

It is my turn to pay it forward. To give back to others when others gave back to me all those years ago. Good and loving friends are experiencing tough upheavals and wrenching turmoil in their lives presently. I can identify with their pain. I am witness to how it changes both their inner and outer selves, as at one time that was me. Their children were my children.

I wish I had a magic wand. Saying it will get better seems trite and untrue.  Better how? They wonder and worry and grow weary by the moment. It is hard to be present when your past feels like a lie and your future appears bleak. You not only feel like life has gone sideways; you feel sideswiped.

When yet another problem arrived at my doorstep, my father would tell me that it was just another rock in the road that I needed to move. Sometimes those stones were pebbles and sometimes they were boulders. Looking back (and yes  forward, there will be more!), I have come to understand that those obstacles became the foundation for my new life. They didn’t break me. I fashioned them in the form of hope and an inner strength that I never knew existed.

My friends far and wide and those near and dear, you are in my heart and mind as I write this meditation. Stay strong. Be well. Look up for inspiration. The Universe has a message just for you.

 

The Summer I’d Like to Forget

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#FWF Free Write Friday: Are You Up For This?

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I’ve been debating with myself as to whether it is even worth writing about a decade old story. I have alluded to it in poetry ( Hidden Hunger ,Witness ) but never in memoir.

It is difficult to admit that there was a time that my family went hungry.  The details of how we arrived at our sorry state are way too complicated and frankly, too boring. Here are the highlights:

  • Husband gets fired-not laid off- from six figure job.
  • Husband decides to start own business causing significant decrease in income.
  • Wife works part-time while in a year-long clinical graduate program.
  • Wife told that her job must now carry the benefits, cutting her measly salary in half.
  • Wife told that since her job does not pay in summer, she must get full-time work and the children can stay home alone all day without mom and dad.
  • Wife is not able to get full-time job but finds work that keeps her away from home for just a few hours.
  • Wife’s tiny wages go to food.
  • Wife eats less to save food for kids.
  • Husband squanders all savings  and other finances while secretly making major purchases.
  • Wife tells no one about situation even though her parents live just eight miles away and her brother thirteen.

I spent the summer of 2004 in a state of shock, or as a friend said “survival mode”.  I knew things would get better in the fall when my job resumed to a nearly full -time position. But the 12 weeks of empty bellies seemed endless. A wall of resistance and repudiation was put up by my husband. In his eyes it was my fault for not getting full-time work. Not his fault for getting fired and pursuing something that barely brought a paycheck in to pay bills.

I felt stuck. As summer turned into fall, a latent anger was born. I took it out on everyone but him at first but then it boiled over when I found out about another major purchase he had made. I went into therapy where I began to unravel the pieces of my situation as well as my marriage and more importantly, myself.

We never went hungry after that summer. I refused to have my sons experience that dull, hollow feeling that comes from not having enough to eat ever again. Their father never accepted responsibility for his decisions and instead continued to lay the blame on me. But for the  next summer and for all subsequent summers, I secured positions where I could make money and have my children productively occupied and supervised.

Life trucked on, the marriage ended, battles were waged and the three of us (as many of you know by now) have a wonderful, wonderful life. He lost us but we gained ourselves. I still worry about food and going hungry. I cannot have the refrigerator or cabinets or the pantry ever be empty. It triggers that feeling again.

The boys and I did talk about that time a few years ago. I apologized to them for what happened but they both said I did the best I could. They had come to understand the circumstances that caused the situation in the first place. It was just one of many moral violations committed by their father.

I eventually confessed to my family, who were at first angry that I did not come to them for help. I was too ashamed and I knew I would suffer the consequences of revealing the secret. It didn’t seem worth it at the time.

And do I have shame today? No, I let that go a long time ago. Although I was not conscious of it at the time, I was being abused. The blaming, the passive aggressive behavior, the snide remarks began in earnest that summer. They increased over time until I finally realized what was happening.

When one is in the midst of negativity and abusive behavior, it is nearly impossible to see a way out. One only wants the abuse to stop-not for the abuser to leave. Strange dichotomy but oh so true. Lucky for me, he left. But he still abused from afar in various ways. I only got stronger and my children got wiser.

We know how to feed our bellies and our souls. Loaves and fishes abound. Abundance is present. And we are very grateful.

Never let yourself be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

~Robert Frost

 

This was THE most challenging free write for me.  I really went back and forth as to whether I could write about it. Frankly, I didn’t want to. But sometimes you just have to put your muscle into it. It was NOT cathartic. It just had to be written and done with once and for all.

The Circle of Life

Credit: jonsama.deviantart.com

“For within your flesh, deep within the center of your being, is the undaunted, waiting, longing, all-knowing. Is the ready, able, perfect. Within you, waiting its turn to emerge, piece by piece, with the dawn of every former test of trial and blackness, is the next unfolding, the great unfurling of wings, the re-forged backbone of a true Child of Light.”
Jennifer DeLucy

November has never been a favorite month of mine.  The trees stand black and bare against the steel-gray skies. The wind is brisk and nippy; a coming sign of the season that brings increasing darkness and even despair.

Certainly, I was in the midst of despair five years ago as I engaging in the last breaths of my divorce process-awaiting and preparing for a possible trial date among other dire scenarios.  Knowing I was in absolutely no control of my future, wondering if my relationship with my youngest would ever be as close as it once was, watching myself disappear as I got thinner and thinner by the day. And when it was finally and officially over, I had no chance to come up for air. Within 24 hours of my marriage’s death knell, I received the news that my beloved mother was diagnosed with stage 4b pancreatic cancer.

My world was full of blackness. I was very glad that my marriage was over, no doubt about it.  But the process had taken a serious toll on my soul even before it had gotten underway.  I was definitely an empty vessel in desperate need of refueling. My mother’s prognosis was grim and that news just knocked me out.

For a while, November became-symbolically at least-just a month for me to get through. A year hence, I became seriously ill with the swine flu followed by pneumonia. My mother had succumb to her illness the previous February and my former husband was engaging in a series of violations of our agreement that had led to many court appearances. I was spent.

It would easy to think that my life was a black hole-that each month and each season was November. Not so! Positive shifts, rebirths and renewals were happening simultaneously even during the darkest hours. As I was preparing to legally end my marriage, I discovered a yoga studio. The owners were recalling just last Monday how I was “a mess” when I first walked through their doors. Today  I am more whole because of them. It was also in November that my now fiance’ graced my doorway and my life with his love and unconditional support. And when I was seriously ill, my youngest was also. He rebounded quickly so he became my caretaker and fulfilled his role beautifully.

So the only thing I dread about the seasonal shift is the lack of light and the endless raking. (Well, right now maybe the possibility of having to get a new boiler!) I have learned that moving forward through all of life’s challenges and struggles is the only path to rebirth. I have learned to embrace the dark times, nurture them as a means for renewal. To hold them for a bit and then simply let them go. Their ashes are the seeds for a new life.

Magnificent Beauty

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I am dedicating this week’s post to Jasmine and the women of Amirah- a non-profit organization located in the Boston area that provides a wide range of services for survivors of commercial exploitation* (amirahboston.org). Jasmine spoke at author Anne LaMott’s book event (Stitches) on Thursday, November 7th. Her story of degradation and triumph was moving and inspiring. Jasmine: You are Beautiful!

Live Long Enough and You Will Find

Beautiful Treasures on this Earth

People You Meet, Come to Know

Who Share Their Stories

Filled with Grief, Heartache,

Struggle and Strain

Addiction and Abuse

Sickness and Death

 

They’ve walked in Darkness

Alone, left out, Hanging by a thread

Made to feel Powerless and Worthless

An Object for others to use and throw away

Then one day they hear a Whisper

The sound of their Own Voice

They gather Strength and Taste their Freedom

They see their Worth and the Beauty Within

Their Voice becomes a Roar- a Cry for Others

As they walk the Path of Healing

To the Light of Wholeness and Joy

A fully realized Human

Touched by Grace

*The Stats on Human Trafficking Around the World:

20.9 million adults and children in forced labor

8.7 million number of these exploited by private agents for labor and commercial sex purposes

2.2 million forced to work by the State or rebel military groups

$32 billion total year profits, in U.S. dollars, generated by the human trafficking industry

$14.8 billion The 2012 Video Game Industry in the United States

98% percent of victims of sex trafficking are women and girls

Here in the U.S.:

100,00-300,000 number of prostituted children in the U.S.

98.8: Percent suspected or confirmed child victims of domestic sex trafficking taken in by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NMCE) nationwide from 2004-2010 who were classified as endangered runaways.

(Thank you to Amirah for providing these statistics through the International Labor Organization , the Polaris Project, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, U.S. Department of State(Trafficking in Persons Report) and http://vgsales.wiki.com/wiki/Video_game_industry)

Slaying the Dragon

credit: www.levycreative.com

For those of you who have been reading my posts the lately, you may have noticed a theme or two.  Current and past real life situations have informed those pieces. If you don’t know it already, I was once verbally and emotionally abused during my first marriage. When I finally realized that it was happening and stood up for myself one time too many, he wanted out. It was the best gift he ever gave me. Truly, there is nothing more powerful than one’s independence and freedom.

Today I live my life on my own terms.  I have confidence in my career. I cultivate healthy relationships. Love has found me again. I am a whole and happy woman. As I ready myself for the next phase in my life, I am also purging and grieving some things from my past. Writing is at once a great unburdening and a form of standing up to the fight-a means to work through any residual pain. Ultimately, I hope I can help others gain the strength to leave their situations and heal themselves.

Last spring during a home renovation, I came across a series of journals buried deep in a desk drawer. I was giving the over-sized roll top away to a woman who really needed it. I was forced to clean it  out once and for all. So there they sat. Three journals from way back when. Some had poetry. Another contained lists of information that were important at the time. Still another had examples of the verbal abuse that was being hurled at me. I  put them on my bedroom bookcase to sit once again. As I was putting them away, a lone piece of paper fell out of one of them. Hotel stationary. Three words: “I Love You” and the initials of my now fiance’.

I couldn’t figure how that missive had landed in journals filled with negativity and pain.  No matter. I saw it as a symbol of how love exists in the midst of chaos and grief. The man I love came into my life quietly. He loved me and supported me through years of challenges with my children and with my former spouse. His love is a burning fire AND a simmering heat.

The road out from abuse is filled with potholes and boulders and other hazards. But the struggle to be whole and happy always makes you stronger.

So the Hebrew people were freed from their enemy by the hand of a woman.

They danced in the streets and the women were crowned with olive wreaths.

(from Judith 1-15 verses 14 & 15)

Tainted*

credit: psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com

Slimed by your words

Blemished by your presence

Soiled by your twisted truth

Diseased by your self-deception

Stigmatized by your need to cast blame

Infected by your manipulation and devaluation

 

You are a parasite that fed off me

Attempting to eat away at my strength

Sapping away at my emotional energy

Draining me

Sucking me dry

Wearing me out

 

My spirit was once corrupted but never broken

I have found another path

It led me to a healthful place

Where I could mend

Reenergize

Feed my spirit

Heal from your wounds

Be free from your disparagement

Today I walk hand in hand

With loving others

On a path of utter truth and righteousness

 Feeling, tasting, touching, smelling, hearing

And being present in a world

Cleansed by holy and faithful words

Of love and peace

*(Author’s note: I found this poem earlier tonight while looking for other material for a story that has been bouncing in my head. It was originally written on March 19, 2008. I have changed a few things-like verb tenses- leaving most of the piece in tact. It was nice to see that I had a poet in me back then and most importantly, to know that I was indeed a strong woman!)