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Blog Entries posted by Capulet

  1. Capulet
    Wow. I know I haven't been here in a while.   I wish I could say that my OCD over posting my three installments in order, without a random blog in between that would 'interrupt the flow' was my sole reason for this blog-hiatus (or a 'bl-iatus') but I'd be lying through my fingers.
    I just haven't been feeling it.  This summer has been a rough one - and I've only shared with a select few, the details that have kept me somewhat absent from my blog.  While I've remained a constant presence here on the site, I HAVE been distracted and my work here has helped provide alternative focuses when they were needed.  Those details will not be shared here, as they are still very personal and raise some hurt feelings that I've not entirely been able to bury, yet.  I am chalking this up to being yet another hurdle that has been thrown into my path, and we know all too well that sometimes due process takes longer than we'd like.  Patience is key - in healing from hurts both old and new.  I know and understand this, and safe to say, my patience has been put to the challenge during the last couple of months.
    I did post three very 'heavy' installments to my story recently.  Thank you to those of you who have read and commented on those installments.  I've been at somewhat of a loss for words when it comes to returning responses on some of it, but that, along with many other things, ARE on my to-do list.  On one hand, I can't believe that I actually wrote out some of the things I did - and on the other, I'm emotionally drained and I think that for a while, simply reading the kind, supportive comments posted by others, has been hugely helpful.  In some ways, I'm still processing a lot of things, (particularly from installment three) and there is indeed a cacophony of words swirling around but the right ones aren't coming to me, yet - whether I need them to add to the installment, or to respond to others, or to make sense of them, myself.  My uncle's passing hasn't really brought up any new feelings, thoughts, concerns, etc - and honestly, I did fully expect it to.  Other stressors, I think, are defnitely contributing to this block (can't think of a better word), but for now, this is okay with me.  I think that again, my patience with myself is going to be put to the test as I continuously remind myself that there is a time and place for things to be dealt or coped with.  Sometimes, it's simply not up to me when these things happen.
    I am better, now, though, than I was before.  Things have improved and I've re-familiarized myself with a level of optimism that I didn't have two months ago.  So, that's something.   I'm hopeful that things will continue to improve as now I've restarted therapy after a decade and am working on me, in hopes of coming out of it all with a significantly healthier outlook.  I've not yet delved too far into my trauma history, but I'm pretty sure that's going to eventually become a focus as we proceed with weekly appointments.
    So, let's move along, now.   While I cannot promise that I won't become scarce again, I'd still like to make an effort to catch you all up on a couple things that have been going on in recent weeks.
    I started school this past Monday!  Right out of the gate, two professors emailed to let me know that they were delayed with family issues, one would not be there until Friday and the other won't be showing up until 9/9, but we should still attend because there would be a substitute there to teach in interim.  The first professor, as promised, has returned and we're underway.  My Diversity class, though, although the substitute is a very well-educated man, has been VERY hard to follow on account of his accent - it's Indian, I want to say, and I find myself often 'drifting.'  Thankfully the discussions are power-point supplemented so I'm able to just take notes and not worry too much about missed verbal content.  I really like the two introduction to Social Work classes I'm taking - one in particular taught by a practicing social worker who has an office and sees clients when she's not teaching classes!  The other professor has almost every letter of the alphabet after HIS name....BSW, MSW, LCS, Ph.D among others that I'm sure means he's highly qualified to teach a bunch of entry-level social work majors.  He was the giver of my first assignment, due in two days - a response paper detailing why I chose the social work field and what strengths I bring to the chosen area of practice.  Had to describe two practices that I'd be interested in focusing in and I debated on whether to explain that my reasons were somewhat personal but figured this would validate the 'strengths' question.  There was a third question that needed answering and it had to do with the basic guidelines of social work - code of ethics, etc.  Why are they in place?  I know, it seems to go without saying but I'm pleased to say that little by little, I'm learning more about the processes involved and I'm absolutely fascinated.  I turned in that assignment a couple of nights ago in hopes of my first 'A,' but know that as I've been out of the 'school loop' for 20 years, I'm likely to be rusty in a few areas. 
    I must also add that It's pretty neat seeing the Son on a daily basis.  We'll likely drive in together a couple days per week - he has classes within the same department (the Criminal Justice and Social Work programs/buildings are within close proximity) so I will see my firstborn during hallway passings.  The Daughter started 8th grade on Monday, too, and so far, so good.  I'm sure that as the school year unravels, we'll be hearing about excitement and possibly drama on all three fronts.  For now, though, I'm grateful for a successful first week.  11 more to go until winter break!
    So, in the interests of maintaining a successful balance with today's blog, I have a question for you all.
    WHY does shit happen on the weekends????  I mean, I know shit happens.  Life has a way of showing us this, ALL the time. But seriously, it's WAY easier when shit decides to happen during the week.  Preferably Monday through Thursday.  Because, then, if the shit that happens is urgent shit, we can at least have Friday to make any and all necessary calls to try and rectify said shit.  
    Still with me?
    So, Friday NIGHT - the daughter comes into my computer room and announces that we've got no running water.  She was trying to refill her water bottle and 'nothing was coming out.'
    Let it be known that we have well water and it's via pump that it comes into the house.  Pump runs on electric.  If there's a power outage, we're also not going to have running water until either we're hooked up to a generator or the power is restored.  When we moved into our house 2 years ago, the pump quit within a month of us living there.  Woke up one morning and none of the faucets were willing to produce any water.  It was a $2000 fix; guys come and install a new pump.  Underground pumps are SUPPOSED to last for 8-10 years and it's only been 2.  Our last major power outage was in March of 2018, so that had been the last time, also, without running water.
    So, I went to bed on Friday night thinking, maybe it's not the pump, maybe it's an electrical issue, maybe it's a short, maybe it's something to do with the pressure tank, maybe it's this, maybe it's that, maybe it's something simple, and I'm losing precious sleep for no good reason...
    It's the fucking pump, isn't it?  That's what my brain kept going back to.  But it made no sense to wake my sleeping wife to alert her to the problem - who were we going to call at 2am?  (Yes, as it wasn't a school night, I decided that staying awake past 1:30am was going to be an accepted challenge...happy to announce that slowly but surely, sleep is becoming harder to avoid on nights before having to get up for morning class!) 
    But I slept like the shit mentioned above on Friday night, because my brain, very used to dealing with shit on a regular basis, was not allowing for sleep to take over.  Instead of just resigning to the fact that there was nothing that could be done about this shit at least until the morning, I was now laying there in worry over how I was gonna catch up on the dishes and laundry that had accumulated during this first week of school...  
    Trying to self-declare that it was ANY other issue than the pump, J and I spent a good portion of yesterday trying to get ahold of the gentlemen (or at least, the company) who installed the well pump in 2017.  Let us now refer back to the statement of shit only seeming to happen on weekends, and now point out that it's not only a weekend - it's a HOLIDAY weekend, so any shit that decides to happen on Labor Day weekend, you can be SURE is going to be extra nasty to try and deal with.  
    First, we were told that their technician was already out taking care of another emergency call - he'd call us back when he was finished.  Three hours later, the same technician calls and says he's not actually 'the plumber' and that he'd reach out to their plumber and we'd hear back from HIM.  'Momentarily,' he said.  When 'momentarily' never came, we called back and were told that we'd likely have to wait until Tuesday to speak with someone in their plumbing department.  They proceeded in telling us that the warranty on the pump they'd installed two years ago was likely expired.  Meanwhile, no one was calling back, we had no running water and we're both getting annoyed because we STILL don't know what the problem is.  
    At this point, the shit was becoming BULLSHIT.
    J called another company, and got a very nice man on the phone.  Apparently new water pumps SHOULD come with a five-year warranty.  So, now, we know the first company was probably jerking us around and didn't intend to come help us. They probably KNEW that this pump was SUPPOSED to be under warranty, and didn't wish to honor that warranty - or to send any of their guys out on a weekend.  We didn't want to have to wait until Tuesday to even get the issue looked at, so we decided to have this other company come out (at a higher weekend rate), and at least diagnose the problem.  If it was a simple fix, we wouldn't have to worry about warranties, about dealing with the first company.
    But, alas - it IS the fucking pump.
    The guy showed up and took a look at the breakers, at the water heater, the electrical wiring.  All of our fears were confirmed when he shook his head and said, "Yep.  It's the pump."
    GREAT.  (You may envision me swearing at this point because it's entirely accurate.  I'll refrain from typing it all up, here.)
    So we pay him the weekend rate (double, I'm thinking) for coming out and checking things out.  He left saying that should we go with his company, the money we paid for the initial visit would be applied toward the total price of the job of replacing our pump.  Incentive and motivation indeed.  But now, this leaves us with another dilemma.  Do we want to wait until Tuesday to get ahold of the proper person at the company who first installed our pump in 2017 and see if the warranty could be honored - especially after they already indicated that it was 'expired'?  Or did we want to go with these new guys who would be willing to come install a new pump first thing the next morning, and apply the three hundred bucks and change we'd just paid, toward the new pump they'd have to put in?
    Deciding that neither we, or our five cats, could stand being without water for the next three days, we decided to go with the first-thing-tomorrow-morning option and we're going to task the Oompa with dealing with the company who installed our first pump.  They acted VERY unprofessionally when we needed their help and they're NOT going to be without responsibility.  Even though the newer company referred to the death of THAT pump as simply being 'Mother Nature pressing the FU button,' and confirmed it was nothing we did nor was it caused by the workmanship of the previous company.  Likely during one of our summer t-storms, there had been a power surge, and the pump had shorted.  "It happens," he said, "but we do offer that five-year warranty!"  
    Oompa, despite her many faults that we've come to recognize, has many talents.  Dealing with difficult people is indeed one of them.  She's a woman who makes shit happen and gets shit done.  So, dealing with 2017's water pump company is going to be a mission that J and I will GLADLY pass onto her. 
    Tomorrow morning arrived and has become tonight.  The laundry that's been piling up on the bathroom floor has been relocated into the machine, that will remain unplugged until water flow is restored into the House of Capulet.  I've already had to disappoint a certain orange feline of majestic size several times this morning in letting him know that his daily indulgence of drinking from the kitchen tap was unavailable.  He's been giving me those sad amber-colored eyes ALL day - translation: "HUMAN.  I want my water.  WHY are you not turning on the tap!?"  I apparently do not speak 'cat,' so I've given him extra doses of kisses and for now, he's been catching up on his sleep.  Being pure royalty is such hard work, after all!  He's been satisfied, though, with the pouring of a bottle of spring water into the bowl he shares with his sibling cats.  
    The guys have been here since 11am and two trips 'back to the office because they forgot something' have been made.  It is now nearly six in the evening and we've STILL not showered.  There is enough grease in my hair to fry up a batch of chicken cutlets.  I feel absolutely disgusting.  MY HOUSE feels filthy!  As there are only a couple hours remaining of daylight, I'm hoping the job will be completed soon enough and that the shower we both desperately need is on the horizon!
    Anyway - will be back later next week with another update.  I have missed utilizing this space to talk about everything and nothing - and sharing with you all those things that aren't posted about in the forums.  And I know that lately, I COULD have opted to put these things into a coherent blog entry, but - timing is everything!  Perhaps as more clarity is gained, I will slowly be able to speak on some of the other things. Much in my life is beginning to change, and while some people 'pwn' these changes - I seem to take a longer time than necessary to adapt.  
    I've still missed everyone and I'm here to stay.  Even if my water pump isn't.    (And hopefully this new one will last longer!). I'm also hopeful that you've all had a good summer!  
    Sending you all love and light! (and let there be water!)
    - Capulet
  2. Capulet
    This is also posted in Share Your Story.  The three installments are now posted in order there, and the board is now open to responses, but you may respond either here, or there, if you wish!  As always, please heed the trigger warnings above - and thank you in advance for reading!  Normal blogs will resume very soon, as my OCD self wanted these installments to be in order, without 'interruptions.'  And so, without further ado:
    Installment Three: After
    It might make the most sense to say that this third installment began when I opened my eyes on the morning of October 5th in 1996.  I’d gone to bed only hours earlier, but still hadn’t slept long.  I still felt sore, my head still ached, and my eyes burned whenever I blinked.  I needed the bathroom again but remember not wanting to get out of bed just yet.  I was in my room, but scanning through all of my familiar surroundings and belongings only made me uneasy and made everything seem ominous.  
    I didn’t know who I was, anymore.  Everything that I knew – wasn’t the same.  
    That realization sat with me all through the rest of the weekend, the rest of the month, the rest of the year of 1996.  After the week of school that the ‘stomach bug’ caused me to miss, I’d gone back and auto-piloted my way through the rest of the semester.  I went to class, sat quietly through lectures.  If there was a break in between classes, I would get a meal at the cafeteria and find a quiet place to sit.  That was a challenge, but I’d managed.  Then, when it was time to go home, I went home and usually retreated into my room, only coming out to eat, drink or to use the shower or bathroom. My father, not a very emotionally present man, didn’t question anything, which I was glad for.  My mother was a little more involved, but I’d managed to pull the wool over her eyes, too – something MUCH easier to do when there is minimal contact.
    I made my best (also minimal) efforts to stay afloat, and by the time 1997 had rolled around, I’d managed to finish my first semester of school with a solid 2.7 GPA.  I don’t know if there was pity on the professor’s end, but I probably deserved to flunk at least half of my classes.  Everything was half-assed.  I did not participate in the in-class discussion, I really couldn’t focus too much on any of the reading without glazing over and eventually throwing the book aside. My papers were shorter than they should have been.  Yet, I’m grateful for the C’s and D’s – they simply meant to me that I wouldn’t have to sit through these classes AGAIN!  That was just one of many lucky breaks, though.
    I’d known that moving into my Dad’s house for college would make it very difficult to maintain my now long-distance relationship, but now, there was even more reason to avoid seeing Matt. The shame was too great; I couldn’t help but think of my ‘non-virginity’ whenever I’d see a photo of Matt and I together.  His words would repeat in my mind, “we’ll do it on our wedding night, it will be SO special!”  First, I wondered if I could hide it, could I just pretend that I still was a virgin? How even would Matt be able to tell? It wasn’t something that would come out in flashing lights…as soon as we’d done it.  
    Everything in my brain, though, told me he would know, and images of him looking at me with disgust – took over.  So, my responses to Matt’s emails (daily!) began to falter and shorten.  Eventually, he began to ask when he could come see me, and my excuses that I was busy with classes only worked for a little while. He missed me, he said, and wanted to see me.  He’d seen me for Christmas the month before, when I’d gone back to Mom’s for the holiday break – there were a couple of brief visits with Matt during my trips home, but I’d definitely been distant, and to avoid kissing him, I’d told him I was either sick, or I’d make sure we were only around a bunch of other people (his family, my family) so that there was NO opportunity for ‘alone time.’  I am sure Matt wondered what the reason was for my being distant, but he’d never pushed, either.  In hindsight, I’m not even sure I would have wanted him to.  There was some hand-holding, though, which was probably nice for him but uncomfortable for me, especially because of all the remaining guilt I was feeling.  I felt unworthy of Matt’s love and affection – holding this HUGE secret.  I knew that I needed to break up with him, and just didn’t have the heart to do it.  I think, though, it was my hope that HE would be the one to walk away from me. 
    He wasn’t budging, though.  Despite my telling Matt not to make the 2.5-hour drive to my father’s house, he still decided to surprise me with a visit.  My Dad was out when he showed up, holding flowers.  When I’d gotten through with yelling at him for not telling me he was coming, I agreed to go for a drive with him.
    THAT’s when he pushed. We were eventually parked outside a restaurant and he’d been telling me about his own classes, his friends, his band that they were trying to form.  I’d listened, done a lot of nodding, ‘hmm-hmm’s’ and had thrown in a few automated responses of ‘that’s nice.’
    “Okay…what’s wrong?” He finally said.
    I PROBABLY could have broken down and told my boyfriend what had happened just a few short months earlier, but at that very moment, I literally SAW the walls rise up.  It wasn’t safe.  It was dangerous.  Matt, who had NEVER raised his voice to me, NEVER touched me in any way that was not gentle, NEVER had gotten angry with me – Matt, the saint – now scared the hell out of me.  It made NO sense, whatsoever, to want to run away from him, but I did.  I think I remember vaguely, my hand clasping the car door handle when he began to say he’d noticed a change in me.  I don’t even remember the half of it, even though the words and memories swirled….
    I was caught completely off guard when Matt’s lips covered mine – it was one of those unexpected last-ditch effort at romance, I think – kinda like in one of those old films when the man grabs the woman and plants one on her in the heat of the moment. While I might have appreciated the sneak-attack kiss months earlier when Matt was the one who was keeping a distance, it didn’t sit well with me at the moment, and I shoved him away almost as quickly as the kiss had come on.  He backed off, stunned, and just stared at me.
    And that’s when I told an incredulous Matt, without making eye contact, that I just didn’t love him anymore and that we needed to break up.  Through the corner of my eye, though, I could see his heart break into a million pieces.  He stared at me for at least a minute, which seemed more like several, before he began to plead.  He asked me to look at him, which I couldn’t.  He asked what he’d done – I couldn’t think of a single thing that he’d done wrong, but at the same time, I couldn’t explain that this wasn’t about him at all.  
    I provided one-word answers, mostly, and let him bawl, I let him take my hand, thinking momentarily that maybe, just maybe, this could be fixed?  Maybe the truth wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it would be – but still couldn’t get past the notion that it STILL might be seen as a betrayal.  I’d already said what was hard enough to build up to saying, and there was no turning back, now.  I finally asked him to take me back to my Dad’s house, and he put the car in gear and drove.  He declined to come in when we got back to the house, and instead sped off – likely heading back home.  
    I went inside, sat down, and cried, tears of relief, tears of shame, tears of self-hatred for having done what I’d done.  Matt hadn’t deserved any of that.  And here, I’d done a horrible thing and had sent him home upset – I HAD told him to let me know when he got home but was sure he’d be too angry to.  I understood that, too, and was surprised to actually receive an email later on that evening – an email that I left unanswered because there had been more pleading, more ‘talk to me’s’ and more questions I couldn’t answer truthfully.  I responded a few days later, with ‘glad you made it home safely, will talk to you soon.’ I gave him no hopes of us reconciling. Matt was too good for me, he deserved so much better than me.
    Eventually, he stopped emailing, and our breakup sank in – and the next time I’d see Matt was by running into him at Party City years later, where he and his fiancée were picking up their wedding invitations.  I had my son in tow as I walked in, needing to buy paper products for a party his pre-kindergarten class was having.  We’d locked eyes after not seeing each other for nearly a decade, and we’d exchanged a very, VERY awkward ‘oh, hi!’ before walking away from each other.  No conversation.  Perhaps it would have been different if we were both alone.  
    There was a sigh of relief, I must say, for it was nice to see that Matt had found love again. At this point, I was married too, but my original plan (as well as Matt’s, as we were supposed to have married each other!) had been unfairly foiled.  I still resented myself for not having been able to salvage what Matt and I had, but knowing that he’d found someone that he was soon to marry was relieving.  At least he was happy. 
    But was I happy?
    At the time, no. Probably not.  I had a husband, three children (the youngest of the three being ours) that I was raising, a part-time job and a whole lot of baggage that LOVED to resurface from time to time.  It was day-to-day, there were smiles whenever one of the kids did something wonderful, or during the occasional times my husband would smile…but genuine happiness?  That remained a foreign concept.
    I suppose I should talk about the ‘BH’ (before husband) time period, though, before I delve into the rest of the issues that hold significance.  It just seemed to make more sense to discuss Matt, first, as he was my first failed relationship, and the first example of what unreasonable decisions that the after-effects of trauma can drive a person to make.  
    Although Matt’s and my breakup was my decision, it was a choice I’d made without fully considering what it all meant for me.  Matt had been my anchor; the guy I’d been saving myself for.  My not being able to tell him the truth (about how it had been TAKEN from me and that I’d not given it willingly) was a weak moment, built on fear – and moments like this are built up on even further as time goes on. One weak moment triggers the next. I don’t have any other explanation for the shameful subsequent behaviors that I’m going to be sharing next.  
    Before I get into that, it should be noted that I felt, in a way, freed of my promise to Matt. There was nothing left to save, nothing holding me back, anymore, to the idea that Matt was my one and only.  I wasn’t a virgin, anymore, and I’d had sex. The adult version of me can certainly say that virginity was MUCH more than physical; but the eighteen-year-old version of myself wasn’t able to form that conclusion.  So, now that I was no longer ‘pure,’ a new perception of myself was born; a self-image that although inaccurate, proved to be the driving force behind the poor choices I’d make next.
    The men (I guess I can call them all ‘men’ as they, as well as I, were all over the age of 18 and considered ‘adults’) started out being close to my age, if not a year or two older than me.  It was 1997, now, and it was around the time when AOL (America Online) was the hottest new thing.  The internet, the world wide web, dial-up connecting with that familiar high-pitched screech at the end - was all brand-new, very exciting, and ALL people talked about.  
    I was introduced to chat rooms rather quickly, mostly because I had a clunky desktop computer that my father had given to me for school use, and for some reason, the internet (by 'internet,' I mean primarily the world wide web 'searches') never worked properly for me.  I got to exploring one evening and discovered that there were so many OTHER benefits to AOL than simply the ‘You’ve Got Mail!’ announcement upon log-in, and surfing the information superhighway – I don’t think I even knew how to do this until later.  For the most part, my online visits were used for the purpose of sending emails back and forth, and for browsing the chat rooms that were themed.  There was a teen chat, location-based chats, and, I was shocked to see, a Rape Survivors chat.  
    When it came to the latter chat, I kept a distance for a while.  I’d go in but for the most part, I’d just sit and observe.  These were the days when instant messaging was insanely popular, and there were many, many conversations with men who were, sadly, visiting the chat room for the wrong reasons.  I did very much want to share my story, to talk, to speak with someone who could relate, but AOL’s chat rooms were NOT monitored, and the members were WAY out of control.  Questions were rude, and very few people actually spoke IN the chat room. Instead, everyone was pinging each other privately, asking for sordid details and hoping to ‘hook up.’   Each room held about 28 people at a time, and of the 28, perhaps a small handful were actually survivors.  The rest, I believe now, were voyeurs or simply people who were curious or got their jollies from hearing of others’ pain or horror stories.  
    As an adult, I know and understand now that people like this exist – but being an 18-year-old who wanted so much to talk, to make connections, to be listened to – it didn’t matter who a person was or what their curiosities were based upon. They were there, they were listening, and responding to me.  See, offline, I had nobody to talk to.  My parents remained oblivious, the very few friends I had in my classes only really knew the ‘me’ I was post-rape – so they really didn’t notice any ‘changes’ in me.  In a way, it was nice to not have to explain what had become different.  At that point in time, moving forward was important, and leaving things in the past, where they would be forgotten.  (Yes, we can laugh at that thought – it wasn’t until much later that I’d realize that this kind of thing wasn’t able to be forgotten!)
    Now, I’m not saying everyone was like that.  I’ve met and still am in contact with some very genuine people – people I’ve known for that long.  Those were the lasting friendships.  But while there are lasting friendships, there were other lasting impressions made, although not favorable ones.  
    My first consensual encounter was with another deaf guy.  It wasn’t even a good experience – it was more memorable simply because it was the first time I’d said ‘yes.’  And I remember thinking when it was over – wait, THIS was what all the hype was about???? Not only was it a little physically painful (whether it was due to body memories, or simply inexperience) but it was also over in seconds.  And that night, I said to myself, ‘I’m not a virgin anymore.’  
    I guess there was more expectation of losing virginity than what I was seeing, though.  Pre-trauma, I’d heard sex was supposed to bring pleasure. It was supposed to be special.  It was supposed to be something people LIKED to do, something that kept people going for more.  It was what my friends, (at least, the very few friends I had at the time) talked about doing with their boyfriends.  All I had to show (or tell) for it was a ten-second experience that left me overall unimpressed and unsatisfied.  It’d not occurred to me that this was something I had to build up to, something I had to be comfortable with in order for it to work – not now and not at this time.  Instead, I became increasingly convinced that there was something wrong with me, and it had to be fixed. 
    I continued to sign into AOL and to enter chat rooms.  It was more so for the connections and wasn’t really for the purpose of finding in-person companionship, but I still got asked on dates by men in the location-based chat rooms.  One was a boyfriend for about a month, before he decided that there was someone else he wanted to date.  In hindsight, I recall seeing that as a rejection because I likely wasn’t an exciting date.  Yes, there was sex, but there was also that inability of mine to invest emotionally. I wasn’t finding pleasure there, either. I guess there was MORE expected of me than sex, especially with someone who was a potential boyfriend, and relationship-wise, I just wasn’t measuring up to HIS expectation.  Our breakup was quick, he was distant for a while and eventually sent me an email saying he wanted to remain friends.  There was a lax ‘okay, that’s fine,’ response, and I never saw him again.  I did eventually (MANY years later) Facebook-search him and saw he’d settled down with a girl who LOOKED as if she were more into him than I ever was. There was love in her eyes, there was joy.  There had been NONE of that in mine when we’d dated.  Oh, how could I blame him for turning elsewhere?
    Honestly, maybe that was the problem.  Emotionally, my heart perhaps still belonged to Matt – or it possibly just didn’t belong to anyone.  It makes sense to assume it was just being kept to myself, it was chained up, and to solidify it, there was a brick wall in front of it.  I’m sure this was another after-effect of the rape – but it wasn’t something I was working on at the moment, either.  Not with therapy, not with counseling, nothing beyond browsing the self-help section at the bookstore because I’d heard ‘The Courage To Heal’ workbook was worth buying.  I had a block in place when it came to interacting with others about my trauma and my reasons behind this particular wall – because I simply didn’t want to, I didn’t want to have to un-barricade my heart and make it privy to being broken again. 
    And so, I chose to just not care, moving forward.  I made horrible choices.  I didn’t care about my personal safety.  I met man after man online, and I’d end up meeting and sleeping with most of them.  They weren’t in it for the emotional connection. They just wanted sex.  And being that I was avoiding emotional attachments at the time, I usually obliged – even if one seemed to want a date first – we’d almost always end up in bed, in a hotel room, in the back seat of a car, and it was the same thing, every time.  They’d initiate sexual activity, and I’d allow it to go as far as they wished. I didn’t care if they used condoms, I didn’t ask them to.  Most times, they did, but sometimes they didn’t.  I didn’t stop to consider STDs, pregnancy, none of those things mattered. I wanted to feel SOMETHING, even if it was occasional pain.  It was all a part of my self-destructive plan.  I felt numb during the actual sexual activity – there was a bit of shame after the fact, but it wasn’t enough to make me cease behaviors.  It instead fed into my desire to feel something…ANYTHING…even if it wasn’t favorable.
    Over time, my depression got deeper and my behaviors became more risky.  I drank heavily, with the goal of being too drunk to feel anything afterwards, should things become physical.  It was now an expectation, for all of these random men (and women) were the opposite of Matt and always were ready to go.  Perhaps I wasn’t admitting it to myself, but I would secretly hope one of these several partners of mine would finish the job that my rapist seemed to have started.  The job of just ending my life.  In a way, they were, I was just dying slower than I wanted to.  The guy who was into bondage…would he just kill me when he was done? The older, fifty-something car salesman – would he take his enjoyment of rough sex a little further and finish with snapping my neck?  The sex itself wasn’t painful most of the time – and even if something were being done that I didn’t especially enjoy, I still kept my mouth shut and allowed them to finish, to satisfy themselves.  There were a couple of ‘generous’ partners who wanted to reciprocate, and I’d end up faking it because it wasn’t happening for me, and I was honestly ready for it to be finished.  Truthfully, when they were done, I’d be too disappointed that I was still alive and feeling no satisfaction.  Just more numbness, more shame, more self-disgust.  And these feelings were what drove me down a very dark path consisting of self-injury and more recklessness.
    I wasn’t in a safe place with all of these thoughts – and it scared me to realize that I’d be disappointed time after time again when none of these men wanted to kill me – they were GETTING what they wanted, which was an easy lay.  I was getting absolutely nothing.  Yet, the behavior continued – I’d meet people, we’d hook up, and 95% of the time, there would be a sexual encounter.  Not all of them were the same, but I’m fairly positive that some were questionable as far as consent was involved, but because I wasn’t the one to initiate, I was also the one who never actually said ‘no,’ either.  When things didn’t feel right, I still allowed them to happen.  There was almost ALWAYS that memory of what had happened the last time I DID say ‘no.’ 
    It wouldn’t be until MUCH later in life that I’d understand that being silent doesn’t equal consent.  At this time, though, I viewed my actually being there, in whatever situation it was, and willingly – as consent.  It didn’t matter if it started out comfortable and finished with my feeling the need to hurt myself in some way in the near future – I was there, and I’d let it all happen.  It was very, VERY rarely that any of my partners would stop and ask me if I was okay – most all of them were simply too caught up in the moment.  
    This was behavior I was used to when the wasband (if you’re a follower of my blogs, you know that this is how I refer to my ex-husband) entered my life for the first time.  He was 29, I was 20.  He was introduced to me by a mutual friend who knew a little bit of my depression – she realized that he and I lived 20 minutes away from each other and thought that since he was a police officer, he would be a good resource and someone who could find me ‘help.’  
    We talked online for several weeks before agreeing to meet.  He’d been told of my self-injury tendencies (by our mutual friend) and he did know a little bit more about my past by the time we’d planned to meet at a small corner diner near where he worked.  The plan was to have dinner and get to know each other.  I remember the first time seeing him – he was pudgy, had a rounded, boyish face, he had hair on his head – although thinning.  He was in the middle of a separation with his wife. He had a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, that I wouldn’t meet until a bit later.  
    I’m not even sure what it was about him when we first met.  He wasn’t without flaws, but then again – neither was I.  He was a heavy smoker, something that I KNEW my father would despise.  By this point in my life, I’d tried occasional cigarette smoking and never really liked it enough to form a habit.  He listened.  He talked to me.  He didn’t judge anything.  He would notice the scratches, bruises, burns on my arms, and ask about them.  In a way, it’s a good thing that our mutual friend had supplied him with some background information – I don’t think I could ever FULLY explain to a non-survivor the reasons behind these self-inflicted injuries.  He seemed to understand, though, and eventually disclosed that he, too, was a survivor – not of sexual abuse, but of neglect and physical abuse at the hands of his parents.  His mother was a drug user.  His father was both into drugs and alcohol, and the wasband had left home at the tender age of 15 – he’d moved in with a grandparent and then straight after High School, he’d joined the army.  
    He was someone with a tough façade, but, for a while, (likely for as long as we were still in the ‘dating stages,’) his interior was smooshy.  He held my hand when we went for walks, he was gentle, he was kind. He didn’t judge me for any of the marks I’d made on myself.  And I think this is what made some of those walls begin to lower – but he was the very first man (since Matt) who held my hands in his and asked my permission to kiss me.  I granted him permission, and from that point on, he asked for permission to proceed any further.  We didn’t sleep together right away – it wasn’t until we’d been seeing one another for at least a month.  This was new to me.  While I was ‘getting to know’ the wasband, I had stopped entering chat rooms.  I would just talk to him, day in and day out – while he was at work and I was in school, I’d write him letters to give him when I saw him, even if it was going to be later that same day.  He became someone I looked forward to seeing, connecting with, sharing with.  Kissing. I was starting to enjoy it.  I was feeling something.  Physically, also, there was a connection that I’d not felt before – not even with Matt, because I’d simply not gotten that far with Matt. While I’d gotten that far (and sometimes further, if that’s even possible) with complete strangers, this was all new to me – this was with someone who seemingly WANTED for me to feel safe with him.  He took things slowly, he took his time, he was patient when I needed to stop.  
    It’s possible that what I was feeling wasn’t accurate, though.  Because I was now dating the wasband, I was no longer ‘hooking up’ with anybody else.  I wasn’t putting myself into risky situations any longer.  I was now with ONE guy, who seemingly cared about me, about how I felt. There was no longer a need to find these things elsewhere – it felt NICE to gain this sense of security that I’d never felt before.  
    Then he proposed – we were out for coffee – at a coffee shop that no longer exists today. He presented me with a ring – and asked me to be his wife.  I accepted immediately.  I’m not sure if it was love, though, that prompted me to say yes – perhaps it was the idea of prolonged security – a safer path to be on than the one I PROBABLY would end up back on if this didn’t work out.  And it wasn’t a bad alternative path, not at this point.  Here was a guy who seemed to genuinely care about me – a guy who was considerate, a guy who had his own faults that I knew I could accept….he was, after all, accepting of mine.  It meant I would become a step-mother.  I’d met his children at this point and had such love for them, for spending time with him and the two of them.  
    Despite my mother’s hissy fit when she learned of my plans to move in with him, I left home at 20. She’d never liked the wasband.  At least, not in the beginning.  “He’s been married before,” she’d say, “why did he break up with his first wife?  What went wrong?”  (I’d not be able to truthfully answer this until MUCH later, but these were questions my mother had thrown at me, since the day I came home with the announcement that we’d gotten engaged.)  I told her that I loved him and was moving on with my plans to live with and marry him. 
    Shortly after moving in with him into his apartment and going to school from a new ‘home,’ things began to change.  The changes were slow and gradual, though – in ways that were too minuscule to really make a big deal out of, and I was not seeing the waving red flags.  First, it was the small things – he’d take notice of the fact that I didn’t really know how to make coffee.  Or how to do laundry.  My parents had always done those things, I’d never been on my own.  He’d already been married once, had experienced married life once – he’d had a partner in which to run a household, parent children with – things I had absolutely NO experience in.  I seriously lacked in life skills – but what I DID have, though, was credit.  His debt piled up on MY credit cards, from the very beginning.  There was always the promise that he’d pay this bill when he got paid, that one next month, etc.  I didn’t think much of it, because really, they were for US.  For things we needed. Food, stuff for the apartment, clothes, gas, etc.  I paid no attention to the charges – as long as there was a ring on my finger, whatever was mine was his, too.  His responsibilities were now also mine – and I thought nothing of putting things onto my credit cards.  This, in hindsight, was another HUGE mistake, as it made me file bankruptcy before I was 25.
    There was one day he’d asked me to wash one of his shirts for work – and I’d had to admit that I didn’t know how.  Not one of my finer moments, no, but the look on his face then, DID make me feel about two inches tall.  But then we’d both gone down to the laundry room and he’d shown me how to operate the machines – how much change to use, how much detergent, the works.  But, now, this became MY job.  I did ALL of the laundry, from that point on.  I was to ensure he had clean shirts for work – if he didn’t have one, it was my fault.  There were times he’d say he loved me, but it still felt as if we were worlds apart – he’d experienced so much more in the course of his nearly 30 years – he’d seen combat and I’d only seen the inside of a classroom.  He’d been married before, had children – I’d just left my parents’ house.  There were no deal-breakers at this point but it was clear he wanted me to step up, to step in where his first wife had failed to do so.  He wanted me to grow up, wanted me to skip ahead, catch up, be where he was in life.  He didn’t say so using exact words, but there were little actions of his – little looks, little comments.  Including one day, when I’d just gotten out of the shower, “I’d like to have a child with you, soon.” 
    Make no mistake about this – our son was NOT unwanted.  He was perhaps rushed, but never unwanted.  I was still in school, with two years or so to go – and when the wasband had mentioned having a baby, there WAS a part of me that felt that although I DID want my own child one day, if I didn’t agree to it now, it would become something else that he would view as further resistance toward the life he wanted me to share with him.  We were already engaged to be married – there was already commitment, there was job security on his part, there was no real reason not to agree to having a child with him – at least not one good enough to present to him.  It would make him happy, after all.  He’d said he would let me think about it, and there were a few more sexual encounters in between my ‘nod.’  
    See, it hadn’t been discussed beyond that day in the bathroom, I’d not thought about what having a child at 21 would mean for me – I thought nothing other than how happy it would make him.  I didn’t think I’d be entirely unhappy with having my own child, either.  I’d worry about being a mother – I was already becoming a stepmother, but being a mother to my own biological child was a terrifying thought.  It was a thought, though, that I was sure plenty of other women shared, at least, until they had their first baby.  There were also thoughts of what any baby the wasband and I made together would look like…and that was admittedly nice.  Girl or boy? Maybe they’d have his blond hair? Maybe they’d have my freckles.  He already had an adorable little girl who looked just like him – and son….would our child look like his or her siblings?? 
    So, that night in October, he’d paused during an intimate moment – a sign that he was ready to finish - and I knew.  He was again, asking permission.  I didn’t want to spend too much more time over-thinking, over-analyzing, so I gave the nod.  When we were finished, he kissed me, and said, “you’re pregnant.”
    I don’t remember saying anything.  I do remember thinking, though – HOW?  Was it really this easy?  I didn’t know too much about my ovulation cycle at all – I’d also had a LOT of sex – although mostly protected, there was ALWAYS that possibility that it hadn’t worked. Maybe this, too, would take a little time?  I did already know from hearing others talk, that sometimes it took a while…maybe this, too, would take several tries?
    But, sure enough, I WAS pregnant.   Whether it was that night, or the within the few times afterwards, I conceived VERY quickly. The wasband, to this day, jokes that our son was a ‘one shot, one kill’ deal.  At the time I’m writing this, he’s fathered five, in total.  Perhaps there are others from his military era – but there are currently five biological children that we know of.  My mother, several years later, would joke that the wasband could get a piece of furniture pregnant.  And if furniture could reproduce – that would be true.  
    Our son was born in 2000 and instantly became the love of my life.  Any doubts I’d had before – gone.  The Son, however, was NOT an easy baby and challenged me in every single way – he was colicky, he had a lactose intolerance, he had to be in my arms CONSTANTLY, which was never an issue for me as much as it was for the wasband – I loved holding my child.  This perfect little extension of the wasband and me.  He had soft golden hair, beautiful brown eyes, rosy cheeks, tiny little lips and ears that stuck out in an adorable Yoda-like way.  He was most peaceful whenever sleeping, and I could stare at this image of perfection for hours on end.  Sleep was already hard for me, but now even harder, as the Son VERY rarely slept when he was not in my arms.  MANY nights were spent in our living room recliner – for any time a transfer from the arms to the crib was attempted, he’d wake up and scream for the next amount of time it took to get him back to sleep.
    I was sleep deprived fairly soon – and there was absolutely NO help from the wasband during the day – he worked within walking distance from the house, but rarely came home for lunch.  My days were spent tending to not just our son, but also to his daughter and son from wife #1.  They needed picking up and dropping off from school.  The stepdaughter was sick EVERY other week – it was like clockwork and continued until she was eleven and had her tonsils removed.  But she needed to frequently be picked up and brought to the pediatrician, with both boys usually in tow.  Their mother usually wasn’t able to take them to the doctor, which, to this day, STILL irritates me – it was enough that my husband was expecting me to take care of his children in his absence, but you’d think that the real mother of these kids would step up whenever needed – especially since I now had an infant.  I made the mistake of complaining to the wasband ONCE when the stepdaughter needed to be brought to the doctor in the middle of the day and the baby was napping – it was actually more of a vent than anything, but something to the tune of, ‘why can’t her mother take her?’  
    I was now ‘lazy.’ I’m sure he had more reasons built up to call me lazy.  Time went on and raising three children who had NO concept of tidiness, the housework piled up. The laundry was delayed.  Dinner was NEVER ready when he got home.  We were now married – we’d tied the knot when the Son was nine months old.  I was a horrible wife when it came to keeping everything running smoothly.  I was in my very early 20s, and EXHAUSTED.  I was ending up doing emergency loads of laundry in the middle of the night, with the Son, who still wasn’t sleeping like a normal child, in the Snuggli thingy that you wear on your torso.  
    You know what they say about exhaustion bringing forth additional stressors, and I was no different. I began to see my husband in a different way than I had a year earlier.  Especially when the nightmares, the restless nights, the stray memories started up, again – likely around my traumaversary-time.  He was very rarely kind to me anymore – whether that was because now he viewed me as lazy or it was because he was stressed out, too – either way, he was not the man he used to be.  He was more critical than he was pleasant, he would joke around (and not about the typical things worthy of joking around – his jokes were hurtful, mean and of the bullying sort) and when his jokes weren’t taken well, he’d shoot me the look of disgust – why couldn’t I take a joke? I had no sense of humor, I guess, and was constantly made to feel badly about it.   
    My depression sank in again.  I gained weight, and this was yet another thing that he would chastise me for.  I began to spend more time online again – not for the same purpose of my previous online encounters, of course, but more so for friendship, for conversation where I didn’t have to be judged for whatever I might be feeling.  For the kindness that I was no longer receiving at home.  For connection, for there was none of that, either.  For commonality, for I now felt alone in a house FILLED with people.  I was an army of one, the ONLY one who knew what I was dealing with, and the only one who cared, too.  Although I was not entirely verbal about these things, a LOT of time was spent within the confines of my own mind, while I tried to balance everything else.
    The wasband was NOT pleased with my being online, though.  He’d read over my shoulder, question me about whomever I was speaking with. I’d made the mistake of telling him that one of the people I was speaking with was also a rape survivor and that we were talking about things that had helped her deal/cope.  
    You WOULD have thought I’d told him I was having an illicit affair.  He said some pretty hurtful, disgusting things, and pretty much accused me of everything in the book.
    “Why are you trying to make other people feel sorry for you?” 
    “Your sharing stuff of such a personal nature can be viewed as an emotional affair.”
    “Nobody wants to hear about these things.”
    “These personal things need to stay private.  It’s not anyone else’s business.”
    And my favorite:
    “You’re supposed to talk to ME about these things.  Not strangers.”
    Okay.  Fair enough, on the last one.  Yes, perhaps he was the one I needed to go to for support, but he wasn’t providing it.  Maybe, though, NOW he would ‘step up’ and into a more actively supportive role? Now that I was seeking it elsewhere?
    You see, I never shut him out.  I WOULD tell him about how I was feeling.  I HAD.  I’d told him a few things while we were still in our dating stages, and he’d been supportive and kind. The problem here, I think, is that he felt this ‘support’ he had given was a one-time thing.  It was not something that should continue beyond the initial giving of support.  I should now be over this.  I should NOT be letting this consume me, anymore.  I should be focused on being his wife, being a mother, our home.  To him, it was frustrating that I couldn’t do this easily, and to me, it felt as if I was truly broken because of my inability to ‘move on.’  
    At one point, I suggested going to a therapist, and he’d made this face – one that my daughter, to this day, calls ‘the Trump face.’  Eyes narrow, lip curled upwards.  Even better when he’d say, ‘Therapy??’ and refer to it in a tone that was nothing short of belittling – of both me and of the idea of my taking my issues to a therapist.  It was enough to make me decide against it entirely; and further paved the way toward option number three – which was to completely withdraw and self-isolate.  I stopped reaching out for support, whether it was online or it was offline.  I still maintained ‘platonic’ friendships (people from my bowling league, online friendships) but made sure to keep walls up - it seemed to make him the happiest when I did that.  He’d ask how I was doing, and my response, if not ‘fine,’ would be met with the ‘you don’t need therapy, do you?’  
    I became increasingly miserable, but tried to focus on remaining as engaged with his and my children’s lives as possible.  I carried on this way, for years.  I ignored whatever uncomfortable triggers might have arose along the way – during everyday life, during the night when the nightmares would revisit, during every October that would come and go, during sex with him, which while it wasn’t forceful, it WAS almost ALWAYS initiated by him, emotionless, and devoid of feeling. He had his ‘bedroom routines,’ that I cared nothing for, but like with anything else I didn’t particularly agree with, it became yet another thing for me to remain silent about – even if it was just for the sake of avoiding an unnecessary argument.  He was a man that needed consistency in the bedroom – and while I could honestly go for weeks without sex, this NEVER would have flown for him.  I never refused him, though I would feel HORRIBLE afterwards – dirty, disgusting, tainted.  It didn’t seem to be the right way to feel after sex with your spouse – but like anything else, I ignored these feelings, too.
    I chose to keep my mouth shut and shoved ANY negative feelings down almost as quickly as they’d surface, because I felt that if he saw me struggling with any of it, there would be MORE looks of disgust, MORE criticism, MORE comments on why I’d not moved on.  MORE reason for him to not see me as the perfect wife he’d THOUGHT I’d be on the night he proposed.  There was just NO sparkle in his eyes, anymore.  In me, there was only emptiness and a yearning for more, for something that seemed impossible to find.  And I’d doomed myself to all of it, I’d chosen to adopt his mindset, even if I didn’t necessarily feel there was anything ‘right’ about it.
    We had our daughter in 2006.  I’d have liked to have her sooner, but after how difficult a baby the son was, the wasband had always said he didn’t want any more children.  (Yes, laughable now, that he’s got six – five of his own and one belonging to his current wife!)  I’m not sure if he’d sensed my overall unhappiness and that was what changed his mind, but he did eventually ask if we should try again.  Thinking this would make a difference; even the smallest bit of a difference, I agreed to it.  I DID want more of my own children.  Where there was a VERY noticeable void with HIM, there was never one when it came to my son.  He had unconditional love, he cared nothing about what I might be struggling with, he’d just climb into my lap and I’d instantly feel comforted.  I loved NO ONE as much as I loved him.  And the idea of having someone else to love, to nurture, was certainly appealing.  I DID want a little girl, and knew that whe opportunity likely wouldn’t present again if I’d passed on it now.
    It took three months of trying before we conceived the daughter.  There were times where he was overly loving and sad to say, it’s likely because I was pregnant.  He was more gentle with his words and his touch.  He did some stuff around the house, mostly when I’d hit my third trimester. He’d barked at the rest of the kids to clean up their rooms, their toys off the floor so that ‘your mother doesn’t step on them and hurt herself or the baby.’  I knew this change in him was likely temporary – and that what had happened after the son was born, would likely happen again after I’d had the daughter. 
    I was right.
    The daughter was not as difficult as the son was.  She was not colicky, she was fine with being put down into a swing or a rocker, she was content with being placed in front of the television while I went about normal chores.  But, now, I had FOUR children and a husband who worked from seven in the morning until five in the evening – and his expectation that I’d have to (flawlessly) hold down the fort, remained the same.  With three out of four being school-aged, there was ALWAYS the chance one would have to be picked up, one would be home sick and have to be taken to the doctor’s office, one would forget a science project was due until the NIGHT before…there was absolutely NO help from him when he got home.  He’d have his dinner and retreat into the living room and sit in his recliner for the rest of the night.  He’d complain (from his chair) that the house was untidy, there were dishes in the sink, dinner wasn’t ready, laundry was piled up, kids’ rooms were a shambles, the floor hadn’t been swept, vacuumed, etc.  There was that occasional ‘what did you even DO around here, all day long?’ 
    I’d shoot back, ‘taking care of a baby is a full-time job!’  He’d scoff and rattle off a list of things he’d gotten accomplished before noon – and top it off with, ‘I bust my ass all day long, so when I come home, I want to not have to handle anything at home.’
    Yes, he actually thinks that’s how a household is run.  That duties are separate.  The man goes to work and the woman does everything at home.  So, because he works most of the day, (and let’s not forget, he gets MOST of his heavy work done before noon!) anything having to do with the house and with the kids, is on me.  Where’s the partnership, here?  Are we forgetting that two of these kids aren’t even biologically mine?  And don’t get me wrong – I NEVER treated his elder son and daughter any differently than I treated my own.  I even LOVED them as if they were my own.  Whenever I told anyone about my kids, I never said I had two children – I said had four.  There was just ALWAYS a shred of existing resentment, toward him and toward their mother – for not stepping in when things were noticeably overwhelming. Knowing that I was not only taking care of what was REQUIRED for me to take care of, but also going above and beyond that to make sure HIS elder two children had stability and security in their lives, even if it meant compromising my own happiness.
    What did I want? A thank-you?
    No.  That’s not what I wanted.  A little recognition would have been nice, though.  I did it all without a complaint.  These kids shouldn’t have to suffer because their mother was stupid and and their father preferred for ME to be the more attentive parent. I wouldn’t have minded it so much, either, if he would have just occasionally said, “I appreciate all you do for my kids, for me.”  Those words NEVER came.  Instead, the criticism came.  The put-downs, the consistent mention of where I would fall short.  He also NEVER had my back in any of it – he would undermine me – CONSTANTLY – and in front of the kids, too.  If I complained that one didn’t clean their room properly, his response would be, ‘that’s where you have to step in and supervise.’  These kids could do NOTHING wrong – it was always MY fault if they didn’t do what they needed to do.  Even his eldest, who at the time was 12-13 years old – whenever I complained to him that she wasn’t doing what was asked of her, his response was, I’m too hard on her, I’m not willing to help her.  At 13, my mother was NOT helping me clean my room, or perform simple chores.  I was doing that, myself, and when asked.   My mother did do me an injustice by not making me do my own laundry – but that wasn’t even what he was complaining about.  And this was just plain bullshit – I was to drop everything else I had to deal with during the course of a day, and help a pre-teen clean her room?  I didn’t make the mess.  I shouldn’t have to assist anyone over the age of six in the cleaning and tidying of their bedroom.  But I did – and this push was now coming from the man who stated that I had absolutely no life skills?  What favors was he now doing his children?  His children, who, currently and in present day, now have absolutely no life skills???  (and YES, this includes my two, who, over time, have become lazy slobs!)
    Rather than things improving with the arrival of our daughter, they seemingly became worse. He’d come home in a cranky mood, EVERY day.  There was less frequently a smiling moment.  We were both miserable, despite sharing four children, having a (very small and cramped) home and our physical health intact.  We rarely spoke to one another, and when he DID speak to me, it was not usually gently.
    I began to ‘rebel,’ in very small ways.  I waited until he left for work in the mornings, and I’d boot up the computer. Again, I felt the need for connection, for friendship, to feel less alone.  While I didn’t care too much about what he wanted, as far as reaching out ‘beyond the home,’ I was still careful to NOT allow him to see what I was doing online.  My internet browser history was promply deleted as soon as his car pulled into the driveway.  Anyone I spoke to through messengers, was informed that my husband could not ‘see’ us speaking, so if it was later in the day, they knew to let me make the first contact.  There was absolutely NOTHING inappropriate about my conversations – I was never unfaithful to the wasband.  I, however, knew that It would make him angry to learn that I’d 1) started talking about my past trauma again, meaning I wasn’t 'over it,' yet, and 2) it was with people that ‘had no business knowing about my personal life.’  In hindsight, I do wonder if a small part of him feared being pegged as the one who was unreasonable and irrational – but I suppose that’s something I’ll never know the answer to. I knew there was absolutely nothing that I should be ashamed of, but there was always that fear of being MADE to feel as if I were doing him an injustice by spending my time the way I wanted to spend it.  I didn’t want him questioning my conversations or online activity – so I made sure to hide it all.  It was simply the path of least resistance.  While I didn’t fear any physical blowback, should he ever discover how I was spending my days, it was the emotional response that scared me more. My husband NEVER struck me in anger – let that be known.  He, however, had a way of battering someone with his words and his often unreasonably strong opinions. 
    Regardless of my ‘rebellion,’ I still tended to my baby/toddler.  I balanced the cleaning and childcare and dubbed the half-hour before his arrival home the ‘crunch time’ and would scurry through the house, making it look as if I HAD done some cleaning.  It was SIMPLY just a matter of there being clothes on the floor, or stuff on the table that needed to be put away, or a quick sweep of the kitchen floor. I began to put in as much effort as he’d previously said I was.  Why not, right?  I might as well REALLY be the fat, lazy wife he’d always said I was.
    It was, in fact, a spring day in 2007 when I found After Silence.  I’d been conversing with someone else, a fellow survivor that I’d told the wasband that was a parent of a child with a hearing and speech impairment (because THAT commonality was okay to have) and it was she who provided me the link to AS – saying, ‘try this place.’
    I registered an account with AS and began to look around.  The interactions between the members, the staff – it all was so wonderful to see.  I quickly felt compelled to become a part of all of it.  And so, every day, in between feedings, diaper changes, housework and errands, I was browsing AS and making the connections I’d been denied for so many years. As time went on, I felt MUCH less alone and I cared less and less about what he’d think about the whole thing.  I carried on with my ‘plan’ and he was none the wiser.  I made friends here, and looked forward to spending time on the site.  It was a Godsend to me – a home away from home.
    I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when he, after a while, came home from work and asked me while I was preparing dinner – ‘what do we have in common other than the kids?’
    For the life of me, I couldn’t answer.  I thought about it for a full minute, though.  We didn’t like the same TV shows.  We didn’t share views.  Well, we WOULD – mine would be ‘stupid,’ while his was right.  Every time.  We didn’t see eye to eye on ANYTHING.  He might’ve thought we did because whenever there was a heated debate, he’d turn to me and ask, ‘am I wrong?’ and for the sake of avoiding an argument, I’d shake my head in silence.  Even if yes, he was wrong.  Even if none of it made sense.  Even if it meant that something I believed to be right would be dismissed.  There was NOTHING in common in the bedroom.  He liked things I despised.  He was hard, I was too sensitive.  When I’d come to the conclusion that the only thing we likely both equally enjoyed were certain foods.  
    “I don’t know,” I finally told him.  
    “I was thinking, maybe we should get a divorce,” he said.  I don’t know whether he expected to hear that we REALLY had nothing in common or he’d expected me to surprise him with my answer.  
    “Okay,” I shrugged. Perhaps I’d answered too quickly and surprised us both.  Either way, it was an out…and one I needed to take.  An opportunity.  I’d been imprisoned within this loveless marriage for FAR too long, and I was NOT seeing any ways that this would change.  Not anytime soon.  He’d never change.  He’d remain this horrible bully that I’d grown to despise, despite being married to him. 
    He nodded and retreated into the living room and I sobbed silently as I continued to prepare dinner.  Not because I was upset over this marriage ending – but because this, like everything else – was on HIS terms.  Although it was best, and I knew it – I still wouldn’t have left him first.  I was loyal, to the end.  I cried for my children, who loved us both equally…especially the son, whom I knew would take this news especially hard.
    And he did.  Days later, we sat him down and explained to him that Mommy and Daddy were getting a divorce.  We were, however, both still going to remain a constant in his life and that he’d be spending an equal amount of time with us both, and that we’d still be ‘together but separate.’ The wasband did most of the talking – I was unable to do much other than nod in agreement.  This was all just so surreal.  He had become a different man.  At first, I suspected he knew he’d been the one to turn my life upside down, and he was the one who was going to be walking away.  So when I told him, yet, again, that I wanted to go see a therapist, he surprisingly agreed.  ‘Go ahead,’ he said, ‘I think it’s a good idea.’
    Two weeks went by. Now that we had a ‘plan,’ he said very little about my therapy, my online activity, or even about the housework not being done.  I questioned that, honestly, especially for the first few weeks following his request to get divorced.  It all made sense when he casually mentioned that there was a woman that he’d like to begin to get to know.  He’d met her online, playing poker.  She lived an hour or so away from us, and was a single mother, having just gone through her own divorce.  THREE weeks after he’d told me he wanted a divorce, he was wanting my blessing to go see someone else?  He did add, ‘If you’re not okay with it, I won’t.’
    We hadn’t even gotten OUR paperwork started.  I wasn’t okay with it, no, but I wasn’t going to hold him back, either.  Especially if it meant he would be around less.  And even more especially if he’d been seeing this woman for a little while already.  That’s what my gut instinct was telling me – THIS was why he asked me for a divorce.  He’d already proven he couldn’t be alone, couldn’t do his own laundry, couldn’t do his own cooking or cleaning.  So he’d waited until he had his third wife (she’d eventually become his third wife) lined up before asking me to grant him the divorce.  He was going to make sure HE was all set.  Of course, if I were to ask him today, he’d deny that.  He’d deny ALL of it.  
    Upon my ‘do what you want,’ he began to see her, and spend a lot of time with her.  I did put my foot down, though, and made it clear to him that this woman would NOT be meeting my kids – not anytime soon.  He agreed, although reluctantly.  He would come home after work, spend a few hours with the kids, and then sometimes drive an hour away to where she lived – sometimes he’d spend the night there and go to work from there in the morning.  He’d made plans to move out, but eventually realized that he couldn’t afford first, last and security.  So he approached me again, and asked if he could stay at home a little bit longer, until he was able to come up with a little extra money for an apartment.  As is, he was only ‘home’ a few nights a week.  I told him that was fine, but he’d have to sleep on the couch.
    You’d have thought I told him he had to bathe in his own shit.  
    “I work every day. You’re going to kick me out of my bed and make me sleep on the couch?  I’m the one who should be more comfortable.”
    I looked at him. There he was, again, looking down at me, with that narrow-eyed look of disgust.  I was, once again, completely wrong.  What I’d said to him was appalling.  So, like always, I’d backed down.
    “Fine,” I told him, “You can sleep in the same bed.  But we are NOT having sex.”
    “Why not?”  He smirked.  “We’re still married, after all.”
    I just looked at him for a minute before walking away with no response.  
    For a while, he adhered to my wishes.  He’d come home from seeing her, or on nights he wasn’t seeing her, and he’d go to bed on his own, usually after me.  I was even more exhausted those days, more so than when I was when I was a teen.  I was spending more time on AS, too, for he now no longer asked any questions about what I was doing with my free time.  He no longer cared – as long as he was free to do with himself what he wanted.  I’d secured a staff position by then, on AS, as a chat room moderator. It was where I spent most days and nights – it was where I felt happiest, most wanted, most needed, most valuable.  I was still cautious, especially on the nights that he did come home.  I didn’t want him to know much anything about AS, so whenever he was around, I kept my distance from the site.
    There was that one night when he’d came home late from being out with her.  I was already three-quarters of the way asleep.  Nearly down for the count, but not enough that I didn’t feel him get into bed as he normally did.  Moments later, he was on top of me, and was having sex with me.  I didn’t protest, I didn’t say no.  I, for the moment, felt that the best course of action was to do nothing.  A sense of familiarity sank in.  This was the father of my children, we were still legally married, even though he was no longer ‘with’ me.  Maybe I WAS being ridiculous, after all.  Even though none of this felt right, it felt a little too familiar to be considered wrong. He was not rough, nor did he move to reciprocate – when he was finished, he simply rolled over and went to sleep. 
    The following morning, he had a smile on his face.  I want to say this was likely a weekend – for the kids were home, and I remember being in the kitchen.
    “You know – I can still see us doing what.  Ten years from now.  Even if we’re with other people.”
    Again, there were no words.  I simply stared at him.  I’m not sure if I was expecting him to say he’d made a mistake, that he no longer wanted his other woman, he wanted me – he didn’t want a separation, that he wanted us to go to counseling, to fix this, fix whatever had gone wrong in our marriage. At that point, I’m not sure if I’d have agreed to it, but it was, at least, something to hope for, even in the slightest bit, the morning after sex – something different than what I was getting from him now.  But no, here he was, basically saying he wanted his cake, and he wanted to eat it, too.  He was now cheating on his mistress – with his wife.  Imagine that? When I’d finally managed to ask him what she’d think of it, his response was, ‘she won’t know...she’d kill me if she did know.  You won’t tell her, right?’
    I sat on that for a couple weeks.  He’d not tried again to have sex with me – I think I feigned a period in order to keep him at bay for a few days, but then there was a time where opportunity simply didn’t present, or I’d kept my distance.  He was now in the process of LOOKING for an apartment – but likely wasn’t going to find one that would allow for his specific needs – he was a heavy smoker, he wanted his dog with him, his credit was shit, he needed extra space for when the kids came to visit.  Although I wanted him gone, so that I could move on with my own life, I still felt that I owed it to the kids to ensure that their father wasn’t homeless.  If I were paying anything toward the house, the bills, I certainly had more leverage in order to eject him – but I didn’t have a penny to my name.  I had absolutely nothing.
    There was one additional time when he was in the shower, and called me in.  Thinking he needed a towel or toilet paper, I poked my head in asking what he needed.  He whipped open the curtain and asked me to join him.  
    Saying no seemed to take too long.  I remember staring at him, thinking to myself – what is wrong with him?  Doesn’t he SEE that this is wrong?  Doesn’t he see what this is doing to me?  CLEARLY, I’m not into it and I’d said nothing to allude to wanting any of it to continue.  But – the words did escape my lips – somehow.
    “No.  I can’t.”
    With that, I left him in the bathroom and locked the door from the inside behind me so that I couldn’t get back in, should he call me again.  I then went and tended to the kids – half proud of myself for having done what I did, and half terrified.  Was he going to yell at me, was he going to verbally harass me for having told him no?  In the eight years we’d been married, I NEVER told him ‘no.’  Never.  Whatever he wanted, I agreed to.  Whatever he asked, I did without question.  Whatever he believed, even if it seemed a bit unreasonable, I said I believed, too – even if I didn’t.  I didn’t want him angry with me, I didn’t want there to be an argument, I didn’t want him to continue to tell me how lazy or stupid or fat or otherwise undesirable I was.  
    Imagine my surprise when he came out, fully dressed, and pulled me aside.  He leaned in and said, “thanks for keeping me honest.”
    Another silent nod on my part.  I’m glad to say he never again approached me for sex.  While this was a good thing, it was also VERY damaging – and I’ll explain why.
    You see – it was the one time that I had the nerve to say no to him.  A time where it WOULD have been easier, although equally as damaging, to give in and do whatever it was that he was asking.  And now he was okay with my response?  He wasn’t going to treat this like any of the other arguments we’d had in the past, and resort to nastiness and belittlement?  Were all of the past issues I’d had with him – now my fault?  Had I said no to him in the beginning, would I still be in this position?  Would a ‘no’ any other time have been listened to, as this one was?  What about that other night?  Would he have stopped if I said ‘no’ to him?  Was ALL of this entirely my doing??  
    The mind is a relentless, vicious machine when it wants to be – and for a while, I allowed it to continue to run, to allow myself to self-blame, rather than shut it down. He was still living at home, I didn’t feel safe enough to ‘shut down’ this machine, yet.  And so, I carried on as I normally would, while he began to spend less and less time at home.
    Around this time, was when J entered my life.  You all know J from my previous posts, my blogs.  She’s my better half, my best friend, my lover, the one I trust the most, the one who is my everything.  And at the time of this posting, she is my partner of ten years.  I had met her here on AS – and we were friends first and foremost.  After talking with her daily for a while, I realized how much we had in common.  There was much more to our friendship, and we were both beginning to slowly realize it.  I’d never been with someone who had similar trauma in her past.  There was a connection here that I’d never felt before.  I found myself talking about things I’d never discussed before – and felt safe doing so.  This, too, was new.  I felt understood, I felt validated.  I did worry about what the wasband would say when I found myself becoming attracted to her – but surprisingly, he said nothing negative…unless you count, ‘you were always a lesbian,’ negative.  He instead smiled, and said, ‘it is what it is.’  Granted, it was probably because he now had his new woman, and was glad to see me considering ‘moving on.’  And, so, I did.  
    I suppose there’s more to the story relating to my marriage and after it ended, but I’ve now reached the point where fast-forwarding is a little bit easier.  Perhaps installment three will be due a re-do in a few years from now (or 12?) but, for now, there SEEMS to be further processing to do.  I thought I'd be finished at the end of this installment, but as I sit here day after day, I'm realizing that it's not as easy to reflect upon these things, and my writing is not as 'flowy' as the previous two installments.  I am getting stuck more often than I want to, and I'm feeling more need to put it away.  In the beginning, I was putting this away for days.  Now, I've realized that I've put it away for weeks - and if I don't finish it now, it'll likely be forgotten for another decade.
    To summarize what I've been up to lately:
    I’ve restarted therapy, after several years, as there are now things that have come up more recently for me – things I know I’ve not had the time or even the desire to deal with.  At least, properly.  I know that I’ve recognized that I am a victim of not only CSA and of rape – but also of domestic violence.  I’d always thought of DV as the beatings, the punching, the broken bones, the visits to the hospital…this is not what was happening to me.  My ex’s abuse of me was not physical – it was emotional.  It was verbal. It was mental.  Before returning to AS after a lengthy hiatus, I didn’t even KNOW what gaslighting was.  I do now, because that was, also, what happened.  This realization has floored me - because I'd been so blind to it.  All of it.
    I've come to realize that I'm not completely free of his grasp; of his influence. There IS still difficulty saying ‘no' to him.  There is still that fear of letting others in – because that was once not allowed, or acceptable.  I am not, by any means, where I want to be.  Not yet.  In some ways, not all of the puppet strings have successfully been severed and I'd be lying if I said I was 'healed' from this.
    Safe to say, though, that this is a healing process that I've restarted and have been diligently working on, especially recently.
    I'm starting school one week from today - after taking a 20-year-long vacation...a break that HE encouraged me to prolong.  I can't entirely blame this on him as I did agree to have our son and the desire to go back never really presented itself - but even after I'd married him and born him children, he'd made sure I was too busy to focus on anything other than him, the house, the kids.  I never came first.  It NEVER mattered what I wanted - THIS was my purpose in life.  I was secondary to everyone else, and I believed that this is how it should be. 
    I don't believe it, anymore, though.  Going back to school is just one of the first steps toward my getting to where I want and need to be.  I think it is safe to say that I am where I am now because of the events of the previous installments, and that recognizing this has been yet another step in the right direction.  I don't know where I'll be in three years, and I know that question has been asked...but I CAN say that I am a little closer to answering that than I was a year ago.
    So, perhaps, this is why I should end on the note that I’m still healing, and why I must admit that I still have quite a bit of work to do.  But for now – I want this to be where installment three ends – and hopefully there won’t be a fourth installment to write, but instead a more confident ending could be added to this one.
    Let's just say, for argument's sake, that my next installment is simply yet to be lived and experienced.  And it'll all be shared via blogs!
    In closing, I'd like to thank you all for reading each of these installments.  I've unlocked this board to responses, and do hope to hear from anyone that can relate, that understands, that can validate who I am, and the reasons for being who I am.  
    I am sending my love to each and every one of you - I've so much appreciation for those who choose to walk this path alongside me.  There is indeed strength in numbers.  I believe this, 100%. 

    - Capulet
  3. Capulet
    Also posted in Share Your Story:
    Installment Two:  The Party 
    I am now fast-forwarding, (or rewinding, depending on how old I was in your minds upon completing reading of the first installment) to when I was seventeen years old as I bring to you all, installment 2 of my story.  
    This is the full, uncensored version of what was shared back in 2007. One would think that as time goes on, you’re likely to forget some details.  
    While that may be the case for some, I WISH that was true for me.  Time has gone on, but in some ways, remained stationary – frozen, almost – and I still remember the details of that night as if it were only yesterday.  And for the last nearly twenty-three years, it HAS been ‘yesterday.’  While I know a lot of work has been put into my healing efforts, the memory of the work isn’t as strong as the memory of the actual event. It’s stayed fresh, although I do have to admit that time HAS made it sting less.  
    In this newer version of my story, I’ve decided not to talk about the ‘fluff stuff;’ by this, I mean the benign, unimportant events leading up to what happened on the night of October 4th, 1996.  The pre-story of having gone to a classmate’s house, my lying to my father, telling him that I was going to be working on a school paper, my thinking this was a good way to jump-start my social status.  
    Why not talk about these things?
    Because they’re not important, now.  Originally, I perhaps felt partially to blame for what happened.  It was a classic case of, ‘well, if I hadn’t been there, this wouldn’t have happened.’  Perhaps I was waiting for someone to say to me, ‘yes, that’s exactly why this happened.  You were in a place you did not belong, and at a time that you shouldn’t have been there.’  Believe it or not, there WAS the occasional question of ‘why?’ but I have come to realize that there simply is not an answer good enough to justify what happened.  I could search for the rest of my life and I’d still never find one.
    There IS one very important detail that you should know about me, though, before I delve deeper into this part of my story.  If you’ve read through my first installment, you know that I was born deaf.  This is something I don’t like bringing attention to – unless circumstances make it that I have to.  I don’t share this with many people unless, well, I think there will be a reason they need to know.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with it.  It just plays a COLOSSAL role in who I am.  While it doesn’t define me, it also does.  And this, as much as I HATE to admit – is a HUGE contributor to what happened that night.  Whenever I think back on my trauma, it also ALWAYS comes back to this.  As a matter of fact, it plays such a role in BOTH of my traumas, although I cannot remember one of them.
    I guess the running joke on this is – even from the very beginning, I didn’t want to hear it…it being drama, bullshit, and whatever else makes me momentarily (and rarely) appreciate my lack of hearing.  My mother and father wanted me to speak, so they were quick to alienate me from the deaf community and (my mother mostly) moved Heaven and Earth to ensure that I functioned as a ‘normal’ hearing person.  And, to be ‘normal’ was always something I had to work extra hard at – with certain limitations that were beyond my control, I had to overcompensate, all under the impression that this was what was ‘wrong’ with me and that it was never something I could fix.  This was simply the hand I’d been dealt.  
    And now – back to the story.  
    To summarize, I was 17 and was at a house party.  It wasn’t a frat house – it was simply someone’s home – off campus.  I’d gone with an acquaintance from one of my classes – thinking this was what the stereotypical college kids did with friends on a Friday night. To call her a friend is inaccurate, for she never once had my best interests at heart and likely invited me to accompany her to this party so that she could delay working on the research paper we were assigned to complete together.  She probably still, to this day, thinks I’m angry with her for forcing me to find another way home at the end of the night. I’d only seen her a small handful of times afterwards – once when I finally picked up my car, which was parked near her house – and a few times in class.  I made very small talk and avoided her at all costs.  We’d never spoken of what happened; which was my choice. She was the enemy.  I wanted her out of sight and out of mind – and thankfully, I got my wish – we were fortunate to not share any more classes after that semester.
    And for a long, long time, possibly YEARS, I WAS angry with her.  I even blamed her.  It was, after all, because of her – the whole thing was her fault, simply because she was having too good a time to leave when I wanted to. For years, hers was the face that popped up into my mind when thinking back to that night.  No, it wasn’t the ONLY face, but it was still a face that shouldn’t have been as much a focus as it was.  
    HIS face is the one I see now.  The only one I see when I think back to that night.  There is no longer any blame for her.  While I still unfondly remember her face, I’ve mentally connected the image of it to a ‘type’ of person that I’ve vowed to NEVER trust again. That’s the face I see when people around me are acting recklessly, in a manner that reminds me of the behavior of those around me at that party on that night.  
    Although nearly 23 years have elapsed, I still remember.  It’s funny, isn’t it?  How we can recall with ease the moments BEFORE trauma, but draw blanks when it comes to the actual event?  I cannot bring myself to forget their oblivious, stoned, drunk-off-their-asses expressions as I followed the man who would forever change my life through smoke-infused hallways.  The obnoxious laughing, the booming music, the glazed-over looks, the tongues hanging out, the god-awful SMELL of weed.  All of these things added to my overall discomfort of the whole scene and I wanted nothing more than to go home.  
    This is where I will issue a trigger warning for those who are still reading.  I am going to be sharing some things that I’ve never written before.  If you’re not in a good frame of mind, please close this and bookmark it for another day.  I totally wish it were possible to turn this night on and off in my brain – and there are times I have succeeded in doing so.  But instead of an on/off switch, there’s a dimmer – sometimes it’s bright, sometimes it can be reduced into the background so that I can carry on as normal, whatever that means.  The very purpose of this update is for me to be able to shine a brighter light on some of those things that I’ve kicked into the shadows for as long as I can remember, in hopes that they’d not find their way back into the light.  We all know how well that works, right?
    So – trigger warning now in effect, for several details and for rape.
    The first thing I noticed about my attacker was how incredibly good-looking he was.  Sporting thick jet-black hair, broad shoulders, a dimple, a complexion hinting that he was of either Spanish or Italian descent, ‘Eddie’ was undeniably handsome.  I’d later learn that even the most physically beautiful people are truly capable of evil, of ugliness.  For the moment, though, I remember having to remind myself that I had a boyfriend that I’d been seeing for two years prior to this night.  I had my boyfriend in mind when I politely declined when Eddie, after overhearing my drunk acquaintance tell me that she was not ready to leave, offered me a ride home.  There were a couple reasons, really, for my passing on the ride home – one – I didn’t see a drink in his hand, but I didn’t know if he’d been drinking before he approached me, and two – I didn’t think any girl should be in a car with a guy who wasn’t her boyfriend.  Things might happen!  
    I suppose, in hindsight, knowing that Eddie turned out to be the predator I was unaware he was at the moment, that was likely his original plan – for something to happen.  Instead, I asked him if he could make a phone call for me – something that I’d asked several strangers to do for me in the past.  I had someone from the campus office call my father for me when I’d left the lights on and now the car wouldn’t start.  Someone to call my mother when my wallet was stolen.  And in this case, for Eddie to call one of my other friends to see if she could possibly come pick me up from this disastrous party.  He seemed slightly taken aback by my request, but agreed to make the call.  “Come with me,” he said, “I know where it will be a little bit quieter.”
    We weaved through a crowd of other partygoers, went up a flight of stairs and eventually got into a bedroom, where he locked the door behind him.  I’d gone in first, wanting to believe nothing more that this man was going to help me to get home.  I am sure there were other phones in the house – he insisted that being in one of the rooms farthest from the speakers downstairs would be best and he’d be able to hear.  There was the phone on a night table, next to the bed.   It was black, the buttons glowed.  The bed was along the east wall, there was a small adjoining half-bathroom straight ahead. Along the west wall, there was a window, a desk and a chair.  There was a small area rug and there was a pair of 20 or 30-pound barbells rested on the floor next to the bathroom door.  If this was a bedroom belonging to a teenage or college-aged boy, it was by far one of the cleanest I’d ever seen.  
    The computer sitting atop the desk was on, but had been left idle for a good while – the screen-saver was activated and there was this bouncing, morphing shape…it would first be a ball, then a square, then spiky, then something else, all the while changing colors – before returning into the original ball shape. Background was black – it was the first thing I saw when entering the room and little did I know it would become an unpleasant reminder.  I didn’t know what the definition of a trigger was, until this became my first one. It was a very popular screen-saver in the late 90’s, too, so it was every-freaking-where. At libraries, at doctor’s offices, on computer screens at electronics stores…
    Eddie went straight toward the phone.  He sat on the bed close to the night table and patted the seat next to him. I sat, but not too close.  He picked up the phone and asked me what number I wanted to call.  I gave him the first name of one friend of mine that didn’t go to school with me, but lived somewhat close to my Dad’s house.  I figured she’d likely let me crash at her house, and then perhaps she could bring me back to pick up my car in the morning, so that I wouldn’t have to tell my father the truth.  I was also admittedly trying to think of another ‘cover story’ to tell my father – I certainly didn’t want him to know I was in this predicament.  I recited her phone number from memory.  He dialed.
    “It’s busy,” he said after a few seconds with the receiver to his ear. I had no reason not to believe him – this friend of mine was one of those who’d have her phone surgically attached to her ear if it were possible.  He asked if I wanted to wait a few minutes and then try again.  All I could think of was how much I wanted to go home, versus going back out into the insanity outside these four walls, so I nodded in agreement.  He hung up the receiver.
    That’s when the questions began.  At first, they were innocent.  It was when I learned his name and his age.  Eddie, 25.  Twenty. Five. My initial thought was that this was the house of someone he knew.  He claimed that he was a friend of a friend, and he didn’t live in the area.  He was just ‘passing through’ and heard that there was a party and came down.  He asked where I was going to school and what I was majoring in.  I told him.  He told me he was in between jobs at the moment.  
    He then asked if I had a boyfriend.
    Let’s call my boyfriend Matt, for anonymity purposes.  I confirmed.  Eddie became genuinely interested in my relationship with Matt. Those questions started out innocently, as well, before becoming much less so.  He asked how long we’d been together, if Matt went to the same school as I did – and then, boom – there was the question of whether Matt and I had ‘fucked’ yet.  In those words.  I could feel my face turn beet-red.
    I cannot believe, looking back, how much SHAME that question made me feel.  Not because it was overly inappropriate for a pretty much stranger to ask me this, but because the truth was, I was a virgin.  I’d never experienced sex.  Matt was a virgin, too.  Like me, he hailed from a strictly Catholic family, and pre-marital sex being forbidden and sinful was something his parents instilled into Matt and his siblings. My family was of the same belief, but this was never something impressed on at home.  My sisters were barely 10 and 7; and my mother hadn’t had this ‘talk’ with me, yet.  Perhaps she knew, she herself hadn’t been married when she’d first had sex – maybe this was one thing she didn’t want to be hypocritical on.  
    Matt was a typical 17-year-old boy with raging hormones and we’d only gotten as far as kissing, roaming hands over the clothes and occasionally down the pants, but whenever it became dangerously close to becoming an ‘all the way’ situation, Matt would slam onto the brakes and it’d be over.  Personally, I was ready to experience it all – and to lose my virginity to him – but respected that he was not yet ready for that step.  We’d talked about marriage and how our wedding night would be absolutely amazing – but that, like many other things, was just a dream.  An illusion.   And it would never become a reality. 
    When I didn’t answer Eddie’s question, he proceeded with, “Do you like it when he fucks you?  What’s your favorite position?”  There were other questions, too, and I could feel my face flush even more with each one. I felt increasingly embarrassed, and I HATED the fact it was because here was this handsome, likely experienced twenty-five year old man asking me about sexual encounters that I didn’t have. What the hell would he think of me if I were to tell him that the closest I’d had to sex was Matt’s hand down the front of my underwear for all of 0.4 seconds before he’d put the kibosh on the whole thing?  It didn’t occur to me, not at 17, that there was more cause for alarm to be derived from that line of questioning, especially by someone that much older than I. 
    Instead of scrambling for an answer to a question I didn’t wish to entertain, I asked Eddie if he could please try my friend’s number again.  He picked up the phone again and asked me to repeat the number.  I gave it to him, but this time, watched his fingers carefully.  Back then, there was no need to dial the area code first, and I saw him dial SIX numbers, instead of the standard seven-digit telephone number. His finger did not fully press down on the number 4.  He skipped right over it and went to number 8.  I saw it with my own eyes.  My heart jumped into my throat as realization sank in – he’d been lying to me.  Playing me.  This whole time, he’d been manipulating the situation.
    If the mental danger flags weren’t waving before, they were, now. My heart sank when he hung up the receiver again, turned to me and said, “it’s still busy,” thus confirming my suspicions that I might be in trouble.  I suppose for a split second, I hoped he’d realize he didn’t fully press the number 4 and try redialing – but he did not.  He’d already hung up the phone, and was again focused on me, probably expecting I’d answer his question now that we had more ‘waiting’ time.
    My heart began racing. The panic was setting in.  If we had the option to ‘press pause’ during significant moments in our lifetimes, so that we could re-evaluate and to give more thought on how to proceed, this would have been my first pause of the night.  Maybe I’d have answered his questions – if I’d known what would alternatively happen, perhaps I’d have been better off answering and buying time by doing so.  Maybe someone would have knocked on the door.  Maybe this, maybe that…
    I’m not even sure how I managed to croak a weak, ‘thanks for trying,’ as I stood up and moved for the door.  I’d just managed to reach for the knob when it all went into motion.  First, I felt his hand firmly clasp around my arm, just above my elbow.  Then, before I could scream, I felt myself being flung.  My body quickly hurled toward the bed that we’d just been sitting on, and then bounced off.  I landed hard onto my back, hitting the back of my head on the floor.  It took a moment to process what had just happened, plus I’d had the wind knocked out of me.  
    I couldn’t move quickly enough.  By the time the stun had worn off and I’d managed to pull myself into a sitting position with my back against the side of the bed, he was standing above me with his pants and zipper open.  Still, I remained in that place in-between shock and paralysis.  I’d always been taught there was a cause and an effect to everything.  All I could think at the moment was, what I’d possibly done to make him transform from the man who was going to help me, into this angry, violent monster that I now needed help getting away from.  Was this a punishment for finding someone other than Matt attractive?  Was that considered to be cheating and this was the price I’d pay?  Was it a consequence for having lied to my father and told him I was working on a school project that night?  I MUST have done something wrong!
    Everything was seemingly in slow-motion from this point on.  One of his hands was now behind my neck, and from there, he reached up and clenched a fistful of my hair in between his fingers, pulling backwards.  His other hand was on his now-exposed penis.
    I’d never seen one up close before.  I’d FELT Matt’s, even touched it once.  I’d seen photos.  I’d seen the ‘adult section’ at the video store (when they still had them, back in the day before digital streaming was a thing!) and those video cassette jackets were NOT censored in the least bit.  Although I had very little sexual experience, I somehow knew what he wanted me to do, and again, panic took over.  I pressed my lips together as tightly as I could, trying to shake my head every time he moved himself closer.  With each time I moved, his grip onto my hair tightened.  Eventually, he roughly yanked again, forcing open my mouth when I gasped in pain.  He wasted no time and maintained his hold onto my hair as he forced his organ into my mouth.  Every time I tried to move my head in desperate attempts to evade him, he’d jerk me into position again.  I began to gag as he violated my mouth and throat, and in the process, felt my teeth eventually sink into the shaft of his penis.  
    I WISH I could say this was done on purpose, but it was completely, 100% an accident.  Regardless, he released my hair, quickly withdrew, and angrily struck me in the mouth, knocking me back onto the floor.  I immediately tasted blood in my mouth, as my lower lip was punctured on the inside by a tooth when he’d hit me.
    I hadn’t noticed the tears until that moment.  Maybe they’d started forming when I was gagging.  Maybe fear had caused them.   Maybe it was the pain – in my back, my throbbing head, my mouth, my throat.  Either way, the tears were now rolling down my face and I could no longer hold them back. It was also the moment I chose to plead with him, as hysterical as I was becoming.  
    When a normal hearing person with normal speech is upset, they sometimes become difficult to understand.  When a DEAF person with ‘different’ speech becomes hysterical, all hopes of being clear and understood are pretty much out the window.  I’m not even sure what I said, as I was in no condition to choose or plan out my words.  But I know I begged him to stop, I pleaded with him to let me go.  It’s likely I said more, but my thoughts were racing and I had no idea what matched what was coming out of my mouth at the moment, and what didn’t.  
    I stayed on the floor as I sobbed and spoke to him.  I was terrified that getting up would mean he’d hurt me more or strike me again.  He stood over me, holding himself in one hand, rubbing where I’d bitten him.  When he was satisfied that I’d not permanently damaged his penis, he smirked, got down onto his knees, and lowered himself on top of me, straddling me just above my waist.  I could not move, for his knees were pinning my arms to my sides. I continued to shake in fear, to cry, to beg, to appeal to any part of him that was kind.  I know now that there was no part of him where such kindness existed, especially when he brought his face close to mine and began to mimic my sobs. He spoke with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, to emphasize on what I probably looked (and sounded) like to him. To clearly state to me that he saw me as a special-needs person who somehow deserved to suffer simply because they were different.  There was no doubt in my mind then, that he’d taken pleasure in hurting others before me, or even after me.  Although I somehow came to this conclusion at this moment, I’d not revisit this particular thought until many years later.
    I shut down.  I stopped begging.  Just so he’d stop mocking.  He did. He kept on speaking to me, though. I didn’t catch all of it.  But I was called some very nasty names, names that fully supported my theory that he viewed me as completely helpless.  I cried silently.  Eventually, he began to lower himself, slowly releasing my arms in the process.  I waited until they were free, and then attempted to push him off of me.
    My fighting seemed to excite him even more.  In one swift movement, he lifted himself off of me and roughly flipped me over to my stomach.  In that split second while he was no longer on top of me, I attempted to crawl away, but now, he was in a position that better served to his advantage.  He shoved me forward, and I stumbled and landed face-down onto the floor.  And quickly, his lower body was between my legs, he was using his legs to hold mine apart, and the heaviness of his torso was keeping me from further being able to try to escape. 
    I couldn’t see his face at this point.  I saw only the bedroom door in front of me and called out for help.  I screamed.  My arms flailed; I used the palm of my hands to bang the floor, but these were likely camouflaged as stray musical beats and vibrations, as I could feel from underneath me, that the music was blasting loud enough to wake the dead. I kicked my legs against the floor, too, but that, too, was ineffective and went unnoticed to anyone who was not in the room with us.  
    He managed to gain control of both of my arms and momentarily held them above my head.  Then, using one hand, he continued to hold them there, by pinning my wrists to the floor. He brought his face close to mine, and using his other hand, began to roam.  He first ran it over my breasts, (more so along the sides, whatever parts were accessible with all of his weight being on top of me) and then began to hike up the skirt I was wearing.  Next, his fingers were inside of the elastic of my underwear, and I felt them being pushed to the side.  
    “No.” I remember saying it.  I did say it.  There was also a ‘please’ in there, but he ignored me.  I said it several times, each subsequent ‘no’ becoming quieter as I began to realize that I’d lost this battle.  I was trapped.  
    He replaced his probing fingers with his penis, and again, there was a sharp, searing pain.  It was like nothing I’d felt before.  A combination of burning, friction and pressure.  More of my tears rolled, but I went silent and limp. There were no more remaining ‘no’s;’ I saw no point in it, anymore.  There was no desire to fight any further – hadn’t I been fighting all along, just to try and prevent this moment?  A moment I never thought would happen to me – a moment I’d only heard about on the news or seen on television shows or movies.  It was too late, now.  He was inside of me.  His grip on my wrists eventually loosened, as soon as he’d realized that I was defeated and resigned.
    And I was.  I let my cheek rest on the cold, hard floor, feeling right away my tears transfer onto the wood below.  While he moved my body with his, I stared at the screen saver, that was still bouncing, still morphing.  I counted the beats that I could feel beneath my body.  I noted the time on the clock and saw that I’d only been in this bedroom for twenty minutes.  Twenty minutes.  That’s all it took.  I could tell that I was in a house that was cleaned regularly – with my face rested against the floor, I could smell the unmistakable scent of Pine-Sol.  This would become yet another trigger – the Pine-Sol.  
    I paid attention to everything except what was happening to me.  I stared only at the things I’d chosen to focus on, even when he brought his face close to mine and told me how much I liked it.  I’d caught that through the corner of my eye and wanted to scream back, no, I didn’t like it.  But I feared that I’d receive the worst possible response to anything I could do or say, so I held my tongue.  He’d added some other choice words in there, too.  Even when he licked my face, even when he would become more rough in hopes of soliciting a reaction or even a cry from me.  Even when the necklace he wore (it was a thick chain) hit me in the face with every thrust.  Before tonight, I’d not know what dissociation was – but sure as shit, I did it that night.  I felt my eyes glaze over as I left my body, and I encased myself within my surroundings, the music, the vibrations, the computer, the barbells on the floor, the flashing colon between the hour and minutes on the digital clock.  On ANYTHING except what was happening to my body at the moment.  For the moment, I only existed outside of the body I no longer would recognize as my own.
    I also remember thinking momentarily, what if these were the last things I’d see?  What if this was it for me?  What if he planned to kill me when he was finished?  Would I ever see my family again?  Would I ever turn 18?  I didn’t want this stupid screen-saver to be the last thing I saw, my last memory.  I remember letting my eyes slowly close as I scrambled for thoughts of good times, the smiling faces of the people I loved. It provided a measure of comfort during a time where my life was uncertain, although in a miniscule way.  
    He eventually slowed, stopped, and withdrew.  I opened my eyes only when I felt his weight shift from my body. Still, I didn’t dare move.  Moving had always gotten me into more trouble. Instead, I remained stationary on the floor, even after he’d gotten up.  I assume he took a moment to zip up his pants, because I only watched his feet.  I didn’t want to see his face again.  It was a passing thought that if we’d made eye contact, he’d speak to me.  He likely had more horrible things to say.  I didn’t want to be put in a position where I’d have to respond, so I avoided looking above his feet – which was easy, being on the floor.  They eventually moved for the door, which was perhaps six feet away from where I lay.  I saw it open, then close again.  I was now alone in this bedroom – once a symbol of hope, and now a museum of unpleasant memories.
    Everything hurt.  My head was throbbing.  My stomach was in knots and was churning.  My heart was racing.  And down there, there was burning.  I could tell I was bleeding.  I could feel it.  Still, I stayed on the floor and continued to stare at the same few things I’d stared at before.  First the computer, then the barbells, then the clock…back to the computer for a few seconds, over to the barbells….  
    Oh, God, what if he came back?  What if he wasn’t finished?  The thought that he might not be finished was enough for more tears to fall before I began to slowly shift my thoughts over to how I was going to get out of this place. More than anything, I wanted to go home. I wanted to be in my own bed.  I wanted my DAD.  I don’t know that I wanted him to know what had just happened – I was still undecided on whether he would be mad at me or he’d criticize me for lying to him.  Never once did I consider he would tell me it wasn’t my fault, because all I could think of at the moment was how much it was.  I think, more so, I wanted to see my father’s face.  I wanted to crawl into his lap like I used to when I was five, and watch a Mets game with him.  I wanted to see him cheer when one of the Mets got a hit.  I wanted to see him grumble when the relief pitcher turned out to be a bad idea.  
    I knew though, most of all, I wanted to be anywhere but here.
    I moved my arms for the first time in several moments and using them for support, picked my head and upper torso up slightly to check the door. Eddie had locked it behind him, the lock was in its vertical position, same as it had been when he was in the room with me.  Whether that was a plot to buy time so that he could make a clean getaway was only a consideration for a moment – I’d certainly been laying there long enough and was more concerned with how I was going to be leaving.  If anyone were going to help me, to rescue me, they’d have done so already.  No one even knew I was there.  I could feel that the music was still blaring downstairs. Everyone was still having the time of their lives, while mine had just been hanging by a frayed thread – or at least that’s how it felt.  
    The pain in my stomach had turned into complete nausea.  
    Remembering there was a small bathroom behind me, I hurriedly scurried toward it and made a beeline for the toilet.  I collapsed next to it, bent my neck over the side, and threw up. It was mostly liquid and whatever of my dinner (several hours earlier) wasn’t digested.
    When the contents of my stomach had been emptied and I was no longer heaving, I looked down.  My skirt was still hiked up, and there were blood smears on my legs, mostly in my inner thigh area.  My underwear was still on, as when he was finished with me, it had snapped back into place.  I could feel they were wet, likely with blood.  
    I sat there for several minutes longer.  At least, it FELT like several minutes.  In reality, it probably was not very long at all – but still. NOTHING made me feel dirtier than what was on my legs, what was in my underwear, what was probably still on the floor where I’d been lying.  
    Again, I felt my heart begin to pound.  Everything felt wrong.  I felt as if I didn’t belong.  As if I were intruding.  There was not only the mess left on me, there was also the mess I’d made in a complete stranger’s bedroom.  Completely disregarding the fact that a very serious crime had been committed here, I immediately felt the need to clean it, wipe it away.  Erase myself from having ever been in that room.  The words played over and over in my head, this is entirely my fault, I lied to my parents, I knew there was going to be drinking at this party, yet I came…I willingly walked into this room with a guy that I felt attracted to, although only momentarily.  Maybe deep down, I’d wanted this, maybe I’d considered, even if only for a few seconds, that I was ready for a sexual experience – being Matt’s girlfriend was not a bad thing, but it was indeed frustrating at times, not being able to explore what sex was.  Maybe I’d realized that, even if it were only for a very brief moment.  I was a horrible person.  That HAD to be it.
    I stood for the first time since I’d been thrown down.  My legs shook as the skirt, that had been hiked up, finally dropped back down.  I felt weak and used the sink to steady myself.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror hanging above the sink and saw that there were also blood smears on my left cheek, and around my mouth area, from the split lip.  It was no longer bleeding, but had certainly puffed up.
    That was first.
    I turned on the water and washed my face thoroughly. I washed away the blood, the tears, the snot.  His saliva. I cupped my hand underneath the faucet and rinsed my mouth out, wanting him out of there, too.  When I finally understood that no amount of rinsing could remove those feelings of shame and disgust, I stopped.  
    Almost as if some cosmic force was trying to let me know what my next step was - because I sure as shit couldn’t think straight - I felt a gush. Almost like a period gush, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t from that. Even periods, with the added cramping, did not hurt as much as I hurt at that moment.  I hiked my skirt up again, pulled my panties down and quickly sat on the toilet.  Once I was seated, I lifted my ankles out of the leg openings and picked my underwear up. I wasn’t ready to look at them, yet, so I held them in my trembling hand while I sat silently for a few minutes. I knew that to look would confirm whatever pain I was feeling.  The pain was in the same area I’d cramp in when I did have my period. Just far worse than any I’d ever had in my life.  I shook more as I became overwhelmed with my first flashback – if you could call it that, given it’d happened just minutes earlier.  
    He’d repeatedly torn into me, paying no mind to the pain he was causing me with each angry push.  Somehow that thought turned into, ‘maybe if I’d asked him to stop, he would have?’ The adult me now knows that he absolutely would not have shown me any mercy, but the 17-year-old version of me couldn’t see past that fact that she’d stopped pleading with him, thus she’d allowed him to do what he’d done.  Stopping the fight was the equivalent of giving in, and to do so was giving consent.
    I’d soon mustered enough courage to look at the garment I held in my hand.  The back and sides were clean, but as I’d suspected, there was blood in the crotch area.  There was absolutely no way that I was putting these back on.  
    There was a small trash can in a corner across from where the toilet was positioned.  I found the cardboard core of an empty roll of toilet paper, and using my finger, pushed my soiled underwear into the open space in the center.  I then plugged both ends with small pieces of tissue to keep the panties hidden, and tucked the roll back toward the bottom of the trash barrel.  
    I was sure there was also some blood in the toilet, something I’d confirm during the next stage of my clean-up.  Dirty.  I felt SO dirty.  I reached over to the sink next to me, turned the water back on and dampened wad after wad of toilet paper and cleaned myself up as best as I could before flushing my ‘sins’ away forever.  
    When I was as satisfied as I could be with my cleaning, I stood, grabbed another handful of toilet paper and wet it.  I exited the bathroom and walked over to the spot where I’d been raped. There were some droplets and smears of blood on the floor.  Not wanting to see them anymore, wanting them gone along with the evidence I’d just cleaned off of myself, I immediately took the wet wad of toilet paper to the floor, wiping furiously at each spot and smear, until I was convinced that there were no further traces of me and that nobody would ever know what happened here.
    When finished, I returned to the bathroom to flush the bloody wad of toilet paper.  I then ensured there was no remaining traces of my blood on the toilet seat, in the toilet bowl, in the trash, on the floor or the sink, before leaving the bathroom.
    I realized then that I had nothing on underneath my skirt.  Almost immediately, I felt exposed and overly vulnerable.  I needed something to wear, something to protect what was right now, the one part of my body I wanted hidden by several layers of clothing.  Inpenetrable steel would have been a lovely, although unrealistic alternative, but I needed something there before I could safely re-introduce myself to the world beyond these four walls.
    Realizing again that I was in a bedroom, I made my way over to a dresser and opened the top drawer, where I found a pair of boxer shorts.  They were faded and looked old and unlikely to be missed, so I took them and slipped into them.  I did feel badly about doing that, too – stealing was added to the mental list of things I’d done wrong that night.  I made one final trip to the bathroom where I grabbed another large wad of toilet paper, and stuffed it into the boxer shorts, between my legs, with the intention of it acting as a makeshift maxi pad.  
    I stood in the middle of the room for what seemed like an eternity.  I stared at the door, mostly.  What if he was still here?  What if he was standing right outside?  What if he was waiting for me?  Would I even see that ‘acquaintance’ of mine?  It’s awfully hard to put into words the impasse I was at during this particular moment.  I no longer wanted to be in this room, but what was out there was proving to be just as threatening and terrifying.  What if I was in fact, safer in here?
    I‘m not sure what drove me.  Perhaps it as the feeling of suffocation that was starting to set in. Maybe another part of me took over – a part of me that knew that I’d likely be standing in that room for several more hours if I didn’t move now.  I felt my fingers turn the lock, and then my hand wrap around the cool-to-the-touch silver knob.  I then was greeted with the heavy smell of pot once I’d let myself out into the hallway. There were other people in the hallway, there was a lot of smoke, there was the same loud music playing and the place was jumping.  There had been no lapse in their world – only mine.  I knew from memory that the front door was only a few feet from the bottom of the stairs and that in just moments, I’d be out of this house.  I descended the stairs in a daze, refusing to look in any direction other than straight ahead.  I think, deep down, I told myself that if I continued to look straight ahead, I would be less likely to find him, less likely to see his smirk, his amused smile.
    As soon as I stepped out the front door, I was met with a cool, relieving breeze.  I am unsure of which was more relieving – the fresh air, or finally being out of that house where the smell of pot was overwhelming.  I walked as quickly as my shaky legs would allow me to – I took step after step, knowing each carried me further away from the nightmare I’d just endured.  I will admit that I’d hoped that the further I became from that house, the less hold it would have over me.  My plan for the moment was to go home and forget about it.  All of it.  I’d not tell anybody.  Not my Dad. Not my Mom. Not Matt…especially not Matt!  Once I got to it, I’d crawl into bed and sleep.  For days, if I needed to.  Until I felt better, then I’d move on with my life as if nothing had happened.  I know that plan is laughable, but for the moment, it was pure gold. 
    But I had to get home, first.  I thought as I walked.  How the fuck was I going to get home?  My car was at that stupid bit*h’s house!

    Still, I kept walking.
    If only I could remember where she lived and what streets she took to get us to the party?  Maybe I could walk there?  But my keys were inside her house.  My purse, too.  My wallet. My book bag.  Everything.  It was either inside her house or in my car.  EVEN if I could remember where she lived and was able to get myself there by foot, I didn’t want to have to knock on her door. What if she’d gotten home already? Would I be able to refrain from punching her in the face when she answered the door?  What if her mother answered the door?  No. That wouldn’t work…
    Kept walking, still.  I could feel that there was more bleeding, but still needed to be further away.  I needed more distance to be put between myself and that horrible place.  I kept looking behind me, to make sure he wasn’t there.  What if he’d seen me leave and was following me?  I needed to be states away.  My legs couldn’t get me that far, and that quickly.  No fucking way was I going back to that house or stopping to knock on someone’s door.  That was completely out of the question.  I needed to move forward, not backwards, and to ask another stranger for help was, to me, moving backwards.  I walked for several minutes more, pondering my options.  There weren’t many.  And the burning between my legs was back and intensifying with each additional step I took. I could tell the tissues I had stuffed into the boxers were already becoming saturated.  I needed a bathroom so that I could clean myself again.
    I’d arrived at a busy street.  It was late at night, so traffic was light, but there were still cars passing by.  Across the street, there sat a small diner.  It was one of those storefront diners, you could see through the front windows that there were booths lined up along the length of the window, there was a counter.  And there was likely a bathroom, too, as any establishment that served food must also have a bathroom…
    My first thought when walking in was that they’d likely not allow me to use their bathroom if I wasn’t a paying customer.   As it was pretty late in the evening, there was only one customer there - an elderly man sitting in one of the booths farthest away from the front door, his companionship being a lone cup of coffee and a newspaper. 
    A plump, kindly-looking waitress stood behind the counter and greeted me with a smile.  I leaned against the counter, exhausted, and asked her for a glass of water (as I was of the impression that you couldn’t use the bathroom unless you were a customer, and although I didn’t have any money on me, I NEEDED the bathroom and needed to, at least, LOOK like a paying customer!) and then after a pause, if I could use the ladies’ room.  Without hesitation, she pointed in the direction of the bathroom.  It was just past where the old man was sitting, and he briefly looked up from his newspaper as I walked past him and disappeared into the rest room.
    There was more blood, and several more flushes.  I sat for a little bit longer, as my  legs were weary and sore – I’d walked as fast as they were capable of carrying me.  It hit me that I was still unsure of how I’d be getting home.  It was looking more and more like I’d have to call my father – or have someone call him FOR me.  The lady at the counter worked at the diner.  Name tag and all.  (What was it? Susan?  I want to say it was Susan…)  Could I trust her to make a call to my father?  I probably could trust a business employee but I’d have to build up the NERVE to ask, first.  I needed to think some more.
    When I’d replaced the wad of toilet paper, I stood and walked back over to the counter, where Susan was patiently waiting.  Right away, she produced a glass of water and a menu, I guess, just in case I WAS a paying customer.  In hindsight, she probably wouldn’t have cared if I was or wasn’t – she was soft, kind-looking and I believe, deep down, she knew something was wrong.  She was careful not to touch me when she handed me the water and the menu.  Perhaps it was the body language that spoke for me – back OFF.  Or was it something else?  My hands had been shaking on and off for the last hour – perhaps they were still unsteady?  Maybe my lip was swollen?  Had it begun to bleed again?  I hadn’t looked in the mirror on my way out of the bathroom…what if there was blood on my skirt?  I’d not seen any when I cleaned up at the house, but what if there was some there, now? 
    I remember gently touching my lip with a finger and running my tongue along the inside of my mouth to check.  I wrapped both of my hands around the tall glass of water, needing them to be still. The concern of there being blood on my skirt was the biggest at the moment, especially now that I was sitting down.  What if I’d bled through?
    Susan waited until I’d taken a sip of water through the straw before leaning in.  I felt myself tense up but didn’t move.  I was terrified of people right now.  Even the old man, probably harmless, sitting in the booth on the way to the bathroom. Even he scared me.  I didn’t want to be seen; I didn’t want to be smiled at. I didn’t want to exist.  Eye contact was a dangerous thought – I felt as if ONE look at my eyes would reveal everything that had happened, every shameful detail - and I wanted to NOT be in the spotlight.  I wanted to be invisible – or at least completely unseen for the time being.  Still, I knew that if it was likely I’d have to suck it up and ask for help for the second time that night, I’d better at least LOOK at her.  Slowly, I raised my eyes and met the lips of the waitress, who spoke softly, almost in a whisper.
    “There is a cab on his way here,” She said, “the driver is a relative of mine and he’s trustworthy.”
    I’m not sure how I managed, but I thanked her.  She said, ‘you’re welcome,’ and, I suspect that in addition to her good timing, she also had a touch of ESP, because she must have sensed that I needed a moment.  She left me to sit in silence and walked over to the old man with a coffee carafe.  
    My hands were getting cold from being wrapped around the glass, so I gently pushed my drink over to the side and picked up the menu.  I knew I wasn’t planning on getting anything to eat, but there was still that desire to ‘blend in.’  To look as if I belonged, as if I was ‘fine.’  To put SOMETHING into my hands.  It was either the menu or the nearby salt and pepper shakers.  I knew I wasn’t ‘fine’ or even okay, and that I wouldn’t be for a while.  Still, I held the menu in my hands, feeling them begin to tremble again.  I looked only at the calligraphic writing for another indeterminate amount of time.  I don’t even think I remembered how to read at the moment – the words stared back at me and would blur every few seconds.  My head was pounding, and I felt sick to my stomach.  Yet, the kind words of Susan the waitress, replayed in my mind.  
    A cab…on the way.  She’d called a cab.  I didn’t have to ask her to – she’d done it on her own.  She’d saved me the trouble of having to muster up enough courage to admit that I needed help.  I wanted to cry, this was one of the first things to have gone right that night!
    When I felt a breeze from the front door being opened, I looked up only briefly to see a man walk in.  He had on a Yankees hat, jeans, and a black leather jacket.  He stood at the opposite end of the counter for a moment, as one would if they were waiting to be served.  Susan, who had disappeared into the kitchen a few moments earlier, re-emerged with a tray of desserts to put out on display in one of the see-through counters that was noticeably low on muffins and cakes and other desserts that I normally would have found appetizing.  There was a brief exchange between Susan and the man, following a quick kiss hello. They spoke softly while Susan grabbed the nearby carafe and poured him a coffee ‘to go.’  He then took his coffee and left the diner.  I watched as Susan opened the dessert display case from her side of the counter and she put the tray onto one of the shelves.  
    She then began to make her way over to me. Again, I tensed up and my heart began to race.  I felt safe for the moment, but at the same time, still wary of impending danger.  I wouldn’t be completely safe until this night was over and I was in my room, in my Dad’s house, in clean pajamas, with my own pillow and blanket. 
    “My brother-in-law is here.  His car is right out front.  He will take you wherever you want to go.  All you need to do is give him an address.”
    I turned my head and looked out the diner’s front window.  The man with the Yankee hat was sitting in the drivers’ seat of a black sedan, with the name and number of a local cab company printed on the side.  The lights were on in the car as well as the headlights.  He was sipping from the coffee cup Susan had given him.  
    I wasn’t sure about this.  Susan had indeed been helpful and had taken the initiative to call the cab for me, but she’d not asked me what I wanted her to do.  Perhaps I’d not have been able to verbalize, nor would I have been too comfortable having her explain to my father that I needed a ride home and why.  Maybe the cab would have ended up being something I’d asked for.  I just hadn’t had the time to entertain the idea of getting into another stranger’s car – even if it meant that it would be bringing me to safety.  How was I to know, though?  What if this guy was a crazy, too?  
    But then again, if I didn’t get into the cab, how WAS I getting home? How much longer would it be before I would figure out what the plan was?  I was aching badly in places I didn’t even know existed, my head was continuing to pound, and my legs felt rubbery and sore.  It was an opportunity I had to take.  
    I stood, slowly, knowing that it was my best option.  I thanked Susan again and made for the front door.
    “Take care,” was what she said.  That was the last I saw of Susan, at least physically.  I’d see her several more times in memories of that night and of the difference she’d made.  I’d regret never having the nerve to go back to that diner to see if it was even still standing and of course, if she was still working there, so that I could say the words to her that I couldn’t say 23 years ago.
    I got into the back seat of Susan’s brother-in-law’s cab.  He put his coffee into the cup holder in between his seats, turned his head and asked, ‘where to, honey?’
    Where to?  
    To the house of my acquaintance to pick up my car?  I did have her address confined to memory from when I’d MapQuested it earlier.  Yes, back then, GPS’s didn’t exist, at least, I don’t think so.  So MapQuest or written directions were the way to go.  But could I actually drive my car, feeling the way I did? Or was I more likely to die in a fiery crash on the Sunrise Highway because everything was blurring on me?
    To the hospital?  The thought of painkillers was a good one.  There HAD to be something they could give me that would numb my entire body.  But, wouldn’t they have to call my parents?  I wasn’t 18 yet.  I didn’t have any insurance or even any ID on me.  They’d likely call the cops.  And then THEY would call my parents.  And then my parents would know.  And, so would Matt, eventually.  My mother never could keep her mouth shut, so naturally, that would mean the whole world would know, after what had happened was broadcast on the six o’clock news.  Then my parents would be SURELY be angry with me…
    The driver was patient.  He waited quietly for me to mentally scroll through my choices of places he could bring me, and only pulled out of the diner’s parking lot as soon as I supplied him with the instructions, “Exit 43 off the Sunrise.  I’ll direct you from there.”
    I was going home.  I’d figure out the car later.  After I’d showered, slept, and the pain had subsided.  When I was able to form a conscious thought.  When every damn part of my body wasn’t shaking or throbbing or otherwise uncomfortable.
    The ride lasted about thirty minutes – and that’s only because it was late and there was very little traffic on the road.  After he had taken the exit and I’d told him which turns to take, we arrived at my Dad’s house.  All of the lights were off.  My Dad had likely gone to sleep hours earlier.  
    I realized then that I didn’t even have my house key.  I knew though, that my father kept a spare key underneath a large rock on the side of the house – it wasn’t a decorative rock, just one of those stray rocks that nobody knew served an additional purpose than to just exist.  I knew my father kept a pouch of grocery money in one of the drawers in the kitchen – I hoped there was enough in there to give the driver.  As soon as we were in the driveway, I told him to wait while I went in to get him some money.
    “No,” he said to me. “Susan already took care of it.  You just get yourself inside, okay, honey?”
    I tried to ignore the ‘honey’ – I knew he wasn’t being fresh or inappropriate.  He was genuinely a gentleman – and had gotten me home, he hadn’t tried to engage me in conversation, he’d driven responsibly.  For all of that, I was eternally grateful.  I just didn’t like the ‘honey.’  Especially not tonight.  I shook it off, though, for I was finally home now – and nothing mattered more than that.
    “Are you sure?”
    “Go on.”
    I thanked him, (and mentally thanked Susan, again) and got out of the car. As soon as he’d driven away, I made my way over to the side of the house, where I prayed no one had moved the concealed key.  I REALLY didn’t want to knock on the door and alert my father to anything – I just wanted to quietly go inside and get OUT of these clothes…clothes that usually were comfortable and that I actually liked – now were tainted. 
    I never wanted to see that skirt again.  I wanted the boxer shorts I’d been wearing wadded up and discarded.  I wanted the smell of weed off of my shirt, out of my hair, out of my nostrils, where all of the unpleasant smells of that night continued to linger.
    I located the key despite it being dark outside, thanking God that it hadn’t been disturbed, and let myself into my father’s house.  I disabled the security system, and quietly made my way into my room, where I wasted NO time.  I grabbed clothes from my dresser drawers and made a beeline for the bathroom one door down.  
    Finally.  Fucking FINALLY.  
    I stripped as soon as I’d locked myself into the bathroom and stepped into the shower, switching on the faucet.  I don’t know how long I was standing there – it could very easily have been forty-five minutes before the water went from hot to cold.  Still, I stood there for yet another period in which time seemed endless, letting the stream of water wash away any residual traces of blood – and him- that had dried up in between my inner thighs and on my legs.  I washed myself thoroughly with a soapy, even though it burned to do so.  The bleeding had slowed significantly by now, but I still avoided looking at the blood-streaked water before it disappeared down the drain, along with any evidence that might have remained.
    I know what you’re all likely thinking at this point.  No, I thought nothing about reporting what had happened. By now, I’d decided that I was NOT going that route.  The shame was far too great, and I truly felt at this point, that the events of the last few hours had been entirely my fault.  My parents would tell me the same thing.  They’d call the cops.  The cops would ask me about him and really, what would I say?  I didn’t know anything about him, just that his name was Eddie. I didn’t know his last name or where he lived.  They’d never find him.  And I didn’t want to get into it.  I wanted to forget it.  ALL of it. I wanted it buried.  The thought of people knowing about this – TERRIFIED me. What would they think if me?  
    I suppose you could call me chicken – but my excuse stands – being seventeen and still ‘a kid’ DEFINITELY hinders sensible thinking.  
    That shower was also the first time I cried since it had happened. I know I’d cried during, but in between Eddie’s leaving me and my arrival home, it had been unsafe to cry, to show weakness and vulnerability.  Look at where it had gotten me in the first place, after all.  I’m not sure what that night taught me as far as showing emotion, but to this day, I still have trouble crying in front of others – most particularly when talking about this one event.  As I finally felt safe and alone and that the spotlight had been removed for the time being, I stood there in the shower, bawling, and at one point, sank to the floor of the tub and sobbed silently and until my tears had run out. It would be the most I’d cry about this for several years. 
    When the water had become too cold to bear, I got out, dried off, put my pajamas on and gathered all of the clothes I’d been wearing that night.  Into a plastic bag they went, until the bag was eventually discarded days later.  After ‘squaring away’ those clothes, I’d crawled into my bed, and that was where I’d spend most of the weekend.  I didn’t want to get up, or to move.  It took a little time for me to fall asleep and it was almost dawn when I’d finally succumbed to it.  My father had poked his head into my room a few hours later, and had asked why I was home – where was my car?  He hadn’t expected me home until later that day.  I told him that I’d gotten sick with a stomach flu and that my classmate had driven me home – I’d have to pick my car up when I was feeling better.  He didn’t ask any more questions – and while part of me was disappointed that my own father hadn’t even been able to pick up on the fact that something was wrong, another part of me was glad.  
    Maybe, just maybe I could keep this secret. It was, after all, mine, and mine only to hold, to carry, to hide whenever necessary.
    This installment is dedicated to the woman who just wanted to fit in.  The woman who wanted to have a good time.  The woman who wanted to try new things.  The woman who was put in a bad position by stretching the truth. The woman who found him attractive at first.  The woman who allowed herself to trust a stranger, a friend, a family member.  The woman who stopped fighting because she couldn’t anymore.  The woman who was rendered defenseless and powerless.  The woman who was too afraid to report it to the authorities. The woman who did what she needed in order to survive.
    The woman who is to blame for none of it.
    - Capulet
  4. Capulet
    Greetings to all from my neck of the woods, where I seem to have disappeared for a little while.  I've not been completely gone - just keeping myself scarce for no particular reason other than not really having much to report.
    In my last blog entry, I mentioned that bathroom renovations were underway.  Those renovations have since been completed.  It took a few more days to return my sleep cycle from WAY abnormal back to simply screwed up.  If you're me, there's never going to be a normal.  I'm even more convinced of this, as lately I'm able to fall asleep, but not able to STAY asleep for more than three hours at a time.  Example...I get myself nice and tired, crash at 2 or 2:30 in the morning, fall asleep until 4am...then it takes me two more hours to fall back asleep.
      I don't know what gives.  I really don't.  Brain is silent, I'm DEFINITELY tired - the deep sleep just refuses to take over.  They say you sleep less when you get older - I HOPE that's not true as I'm already functional with four to five hours per night - at this rate, I'll be pulling all nighters and chugging the coffee to stay awake in the mornings!  (Yes, I bought more caffeinated K-cups!)
    I recently undertook another project.  The re-organizing and deep-clean of my daughter's room.  After two years of her destroying her room piece by piece (when it comes to such thing, my soon-to-be-13-year-old has some serious talent) she's decided that she's outgrown her twin-sized bed and has asked for a full-size upgrade.  I obliged, but told her that if she was going to be pulling out the twin-size bed, she was also going to be pulling up the carpet that she's gotten slime stains on.  She's proven time and time again that her room cannot be where she stores her art supplies, even though that's where they always end up when my back is turned.  
    Anyway, I waited until she was in school before starting her room.   There's NO other way to avoid the, 'Ma, I was saving this,' or the 'I didn't want to throw that away!!!' Three or four trash bags went out - bags that were filled with more than the 'candy wrappers' and 'water bottles' that she had littered all over her floor, what I told her was in those trash bags.  I managed to get rid of things I'd not seen her touch in years - since we MOVED.  What's the sense in keeping it all?  Some was donated, some just plain trashed.  Got rid of clothes too that were six or seven sizes too small.
    Oompa's the one who bought her the bed frame and mattress, but I was left in charge of not only prepping her room for the new bed, but also of picking up the mattress from town.  At first, I thought it would be easy but when is anything that simple?  Apparently the Jeep I wanted (and still love, by the way) has one of those pesky antennas on top - meaning I couldn't put the mattress on the roof of my Compass.  So, a U-Haul was rented for Friday morning and both J and the son were on board to help me transport a full-size mattress from the store to home - then we would transport her old twin-sized bed with an accompanying built in shelf and dresser over to the wasband's for her little sister to use.  
    Friday morning, we got up early, finished up the rest of her room (swept the floor, stored boxes underneath the bed frame (ordered from Amazon and assembled the day before) and were about to head out.  The Son was, as usual, taking his time, so I knocked on his door and said, "we'll be waiting outside, meet us out there and lock the door on your way out!"
    He shouted something back.  "Okay!" I'm guessing he said.
    I waited another couple minutes and realized there was a bag of garbage that was still sitting in the hallway outside the daughter's room.  I grabbed the bag and went to trash it.  Went to go back into the house and walked right into the Son, who NEVER LISTENS TO ME.  Except for today.  He chose to listen to me today, and had already locked the door on his way out.  My pocketbook and my keys and my receipt from the Mattress store were ALL in the house.
    We checked the front door in the event that the son hadn't locked it.  He had.  Nice and tight.  We checked J's car for HER key - it wasn't there - it was also in the house, tucked away in her work bag.  As a last resort, I jogged across the street to the neighbor's house - she takes care of our animals whenever we're away and has one of our spare keys - and she wasn't home.  
    "What, now?"  
    J started trying other doors.  Kitchen sliders?  Locked.  Side entrance?  Locked also. I'm starting to panic because we have a 12:00 appointment to go pick up the U-Haul, and four hours to get everything brought to wherever it needed to be - and return the U-Haul.  And everything I needed was locked inside the house!
    I walked along the side of the house and tried the windows.  The ONLY one that was unlocked and willing to budge was the bathroom window.  
    She came over.  I showed her that glimmer of hope - the open bathroom window.  Next, I tried to maneuver myself into a sitting position so that I could easily slide into the bathroom window.  To explain, I have a bi-level.  When you open my front door, there are stairs leading up and stairs leading down.  So the window was located pretty much close to the ground from the outside - to go in would mean a drop down into the room from above.  It had rained the night before, and I wasn't wanting to soak myself on the wet mulch.  Plus, I'm 40 years old now, no longer a spring chicken.  Trying to limbo myself into the bathroom window wasn't working - not from this angle.  I'd more likely break my back trying to bend in ways I'm no longer able to.  Not to mention there wasn't a whole lot of room - picture below will show that trying to go in feet-first would probably have ended very badly, given my busty frame...
    "Okay.  I'm going in headfirst."  My brilliant idea for the day.  
    So - in I go, slowly.  Used my hands to 'walk' myself down, (pushed toilet seat down first) and then little by little, shimmied my way down until I was literally hanging onto the outside ledge using my feet.  At this point, J decided to take a photo - promising that this would bring forth years of amusement whenever talked about in the future.  And I'm sure it will...
    Dropped down into the bathroom, using my arms to catch myself.  By now, the drop wasn't a large one, and the toilet broke the fall up, some.  I'm in.  And I'm alive.  Go, me!
    Damn, though, I think I pulled about six different muscles trying to break back into my own house.  This very same photo was posted onto social media with the caption, "how's YOUR day going?'  Oompa's response was, "what happened?"  I explained the situation to her and the first thing she said was, "I hope you didn't break anything in your new bathroom!"  
    No, Ma.  Maybe just a little bit of myself, but thank you for the concern.

    Got to the U-Haul with minutes to spare - got everything else we needed to do - done.  Aside from this little lock-out snafu, the day was a good one.  I have a few bruises and was sore in places I didn't know existed yesterday, but end result - the daughter's room is looking clean and organized.  Now the challenge remains - getting her to KEEP it that way!
    So, in closing, I would like to thank my son for, on Thursday night, taking a shit in the downstairs bathroom - a shit that smelled SO badly, that I cracked the window to air out the room.  Had that shit not been taken, I would probably STILL be trying to figure out how to break into my own house.  Furthermore, I'm grateful for my own absentmindedness - normally I would have remembered to close and lock that bathroom window once the stench had died down.  Perhaps there IS a silver lining to my increased ability to not sleep?????
    Hoping you're all well and that you're all smiling.
    - Capulet
  5. Capulet
    Also posted in Share Your Story:
    Installment One: The Formative Years
    I was born on a snowy winter morning in 1978.  Originally, I wasn’t planning to reveal my age – but felt there was some importance in divulging the time frame.  I DO believe that there is FAR more awareness now than there was back then.  Maybe, just maybe things would have turned out differently.  Maybe it would have set off an entirely different chain of events. Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this, now. As life is full of too many maybes and not enough definites, I’ve decided to chuck the what-ifs into the (digital) trash where they belong, because regardless of what the maybes are, they’ll never be proven and we cannot dwell on them.
    My mother was a schoolteacher.  She’d been teaching kindergarten up until shortly before giving birth and my father worked in insurance.  They married young.  I’d learn years later that I was not their first child – before they married, my mother, at seventeen, had become pregnant with my brother – that pregnancy was terminated, likely for a number of reasons but two main ones stand out – one – they were young and not yet engaged – and two – although my mother claimed she was ambiguous and would have birthed my brother, my father was of the mindset that they weren’t ready to have a child, yet.  So, they’d made the decision to terminate, and didn’t have me until eight years later and after they’d already been married for seven of them.  
    When I was six months old, my parents noticed that I was not responding to loud noises or to my name being called.  I think an investigation was sparked when my father set off the smoke/fire alarm, alerting all tenants of the apartment building we lived in, (I must say that his cooking has not improved) and I slept through it all. There was enough concern that they brought me to have my hearing tested.  The audiologist took out a cowbell and stood directly behind me and rang it.  My parents could hear it.  The people in the office next door likely heard it, too. Hell, the people outside probably could have heard it. 
    I, however, did not.  I remained stationary in my seat and unfazed.
    “Your daughter is deaf.”
    The diagnosis rattled my parents to their core. They thankfully didn’t waste time seeking out second or third opinions – they’d likely have gotten the same responses.  They liked this particular audiologist, too, and felt comfortable with her and her advice to get me fitted with hearing aids as quickly as possible.  
    “What happened?”  They did ask her.
    I am the only one in my family history to have a hearing impairment, so they knew this was not genetic.  After discussing any and all possibilities, the one theory that seemed most likely was my mother’s (while being pregnant) having come into contact with a student of hers that had come down with the measles.  Another way that ‘back then’ was different from today – there wasn’t so much stress on the importance of vaccinations and kids were showing up to school with brewing illnesses and sharing them with their friends, or in my mother’s case, with their pregnant teachers.  So, the reason that’s been put down in all of my medical charts is, ‘birth defect.’  
    It was also explained to my parents that I’d likely never speak, having never been able to ‘hear’ proper speech.  It’s been suggested, although never confirmed, that I was born with a severe hearing loss and it had rapidly declined into a profound loss by the time of diagnosis.  It was recommended that I be taught sign language as a primary language – which would have meant that both my parents, who combined, didn’t know a single word in sign language, would have to first learn it themselves in order to teach ME to communicate.
    The sign-language route wasn’t an option that my mother was willing to accept as a primary plan.  It quickly became a secondary, back-up plan as she decided to quit her teaching job and to focus on taking care of her special-needs child. I’m unsure if it was due to her strong background and focus in education, or if it was a personal mission of hers that she undertook at this point, but early intervention was her mindset and quickly became her obsession.  If speech training could not be implemented into my day-to-day life, then they’d revert back to Plan B.
    EVERYTHING was a lesson.  A learning experience.  I am partially glad that I have no memory of this, either.  The way my mother tells it, every waking moment was spent teaching me. Every time she spoke to me, she’d place my tiny hand onto her throat so that I could feel the vibrations of her voice. She’d also say the names of things she’d pick up, and make sure I was looking at her when she did, so that I could see how they looked on her lips, and put the image together with the words. Cup.  Ball.  Book. Toy.  The list goes on.  And the colors….this is red, that’s blue…etc.  There were flash cards, too…she’d cut out photos from magazines and make these herself.  She would eventually be able to say a word and have me point to the picture.  

    She didn’t do all of this, herself, though. She also took several trips into the city, sometimes as often as three times per week, where trained professionals would also work with me on speech and language development.  Being at home was just a constant continuation of all of the work they did there.  In addition to being my mother, she became my first and most important teacher.  
    My father wasn’t as involved with all of this.  I’m not sure if this was where they started having problems or disagreements, but they were divorced before I had any memory of him living with us or being a constant within my very early childhood. 
    My mother was given sole custody.  My father didn’t fight her.  While I know he loved me very much, he was clearly happy with having her do most of the parenting and he’d take me on weekends and holidays.  I was 2 when their divorce was final; Mom and I moved out of the apartment that my parents shared.  My Dad would remain in the same place for the next decade.  As she needed time to get onto her feet, she moved in with my grandmother for a little while.  My grandmother owned a house that had been in the family since HER mother bought when SHE was a child.  It was a brick, two-story place that had been converted into a two-family home when my mother was still a kid.  Now it was the very early 80’s and my mother’s brother and his ‘friend’ (a male roommate/his best friend/possible lover?) lived in the upstairs apartment while my mother and I lived in the downstairs apartment with my grandmother. This was only meant to be a temporary arrangement, as my mother, following her divorce from my father, had returned back to work.  As soon as my mother began to gain a steady income, (along with my father’s child support) we moved out of my grandmother’s house and into a small basement apartment just a few blocks away.  My mother, until she eventually re-married, made sure to stay close to my grandmother – and also my uncle.  
    You see, she needed help with getting me to my appointments into the city for continued speech therapy.  I was not yet in school, so my uncle, who was not working at the time, was tasked with taking me back and forth via city subway.  There was a train station literally behind my grandmother’s house and it was one train from there to the city, where my uncle would bring me for my appointments while my mother worked.  On days I didn’t have appointments, he was my babysitter – and would watch me at my grandmother’s house until my mother got home.
    A pause here, to tell you a little bit about him.
    He was (I suppose I shouldn’t say ‘was’ as he’s still alive – but my grandmother is not) my grandmother’s eldest. My mother also had an older sister, who at the time was married with a couple kids, lived elsewhere (although not too far) and had her own issues at the time – so was unavailable to help out. My uncle had joined the seminary years before I was born.  I’m unsure if doing so had to do with his sexual orientation – or guilt and confusion relating to it.  Either way, he became a Roman Catholic priest – and still lived with his ‘friend,’ a man I knew for my entire life and adopted as a second uncle.  From when I was born, he was there.  I’d never known my uncle to be without his ‘friend.’  To this day, they are still living in that apartment, even though I think now, he’s moved downstairs and is occupying the space that used to be my grandmother’s.  But, anyway – I rarely saw him in anything other than the black pants, black shirt, priest collar.  He never confirmed that my second uncle was anything more than just his friend, and no one wanted to ask.  We all just went along with it, not wanting to know what went on behind closed doors.  None of that was our business.  My uncle was the equivalent of the ‘housewife’ while my ‘bonus’ uncle worked a regular nine-to-five – so unless it was a weekend or Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s or a holiday or family gathering, I rarely saw him.  
    While we lived within walking distance from my grandmother’s house, my uncle would walk over in the evenings to ‘say goodnight,’ and usually that consisted of him telling me a bedtime story and tucking me in.  Usually it was the same corny story.  He would put me in as the main character – he would also insert my cousins, (my aunt’s kids) but always make me the heroine.  There was no doubt that I was his ‘favorite’ and he made sure to tell me often.
    I spent a LOT of time with him when I was between the ages three to five. When I started elementary school, the trips into the city had lessened from three times a week down to two, and they’d likely be after-school appointments.  He would still take me to those, as my mother’s work schedule often consisted of after-school tutoring, to earn a little extra.  
    All that being said, let it be known that I have no memories of ANY of this.  I only remember all of the above as that’s how it was told to me.
    By the time I turned six, my mother had just re-married.  My new stepfather was a decent guy and a hard worker. My first sister was ‘baking,’ my mother had become pregnant shortly after her wedding.  My father had also remarried within months of my mother.  I now had two ‘bonus’ parents aside from my biological parents – I still lived with my mother, though, and we’d moved into an apartment further away from my grandmother’s house – meaning my uncle could no longer walk the distance to ‘tuck me in’ at night anymore.  
    I’m not sure how this came to be – it might have been suggested that I was struggling socially in school, but my mother eventually decided to put me into ‘play therapy.’  It was church sponsored and free – but being six, I didn’t care about the ‘therapy’ aspect of it all.  All I cared about was the fact they had a Barbie Dream House in one of their playrooms, and I LOVED the idea of being able to go play with it for an hour. There were a WHOLE lot of toys to pick from…blocks, puppets, stuffed animals…but that Dream House was all that I’d go for.  They had a range of Barbies that I could play with, too, which only made it all better. I remember a Dream House of my own being added to my Christmas list, but it never did show up under the tree. Damn that Santa Claus!
    That’s where my memories start.  I remember nothing before going to play therapy.  I, however, remember THIS particular afternoon at play therapy where I clenched a Ken doll in one hand and a Skipper doll in the other. This is where it gets fuzzy.  I don’t remember what the dolls were actually doing.  Perhaps I’m not allowed to remember.  I DO, however, remember the lady waving her hand to get my attention, and then when I looked at her, asking me who the Ken doll was.  What was his name?
    I could have said, ‘Ken.’  Even back then, I’m sure I was a smart-ass.  I did know that was the name of Barbie’s boyfriend.  But I didn’t.  In this representation, he wasn’t Ken.  Instead, I named my uncle.
    The lady told me I could play for a little while longer.  She would be right back.  I didn’t care that she left me alone in the playroom.  Thinking back, I’m sure she was going to speak to my mother and properly ‘reporting’ what had just been said.  At the time, though, nothing registered.  I was oblivious and uncaring, as long as I had a few more minutes with the Dream House, I was golden…
    I never saw that woman or that playroom again.  I think I was more disappointed that I never saw the Dream House again, either.
    Shortly after my last play therapy session, two women showed up at our apartment.  They sat on either side of me on the couch.  My mother was there, too, standing across from where we sat.  I remember her telling the women that I was deaf and I needed for her there to interpret, in case I didn’t understand them. I remember vaguely one woman beginning to speak slowly.  She started out with some simple questions.  What was my name?  How old was I?  What was my favorite color?  What was my favorite toy?  When she was sure that I could understand her without my mother’s help, she put down the clipboard she had in her lap, and slightly opened her legs.
    “Do you know what this is?”  She patted her own crotch.  It was quick, a pat-pat when the word ‘this’ was said.
    I remember looking at this lady as if she were bat-shit crazy. Of course I knew what THAT was.  I had one too.  I knew the name, but I called it a ‘private part.’  
    I remember there being a brief dialogue between my mother and these two women.  My mother was someone that there was NEVER any issue lip-reading.  The person I had NO choice but to understand.  She was suggesting to the women that she’d spoken to her brother and he’d disciplined me because I was being ‘fresh.’  He’d admitted to swatting my bottom. Additionally, maybe that was why I was confused, and THAT’s what he’d touched, instead of where Ken had touched Skipper.  I assume that is why they asked me what (pat-pat) ‘this’ was.  ‘This’ and my bottom are not in the same place.  In hindsight, even at six, I knew the difference between that was in the front and what was in the back.  
    Why would I deny this, though?  My mother was the one person I knew I needed to obey.  Whatever she said was the truth.  One of the not-so-good things about her being my first-ever ‘teacher’ – I took every single thing she said seriously and as being the truth.  She was right about everything.  Whatever she knew, I was supposed to also know.  And like most students try to do with their teachers – I was eager to supply the right answer and to make her proud.  I wanted to please her, I wanted to be right and not wrong.
    So, when the women turned to me and asked if that was what happened, and that my uncle had spanked my bottom, I nodded.  Yes.  If Mom said that’s what happened, then that’s what happened.  I DID remember him doing that, after all.  Not details, but I DID remember being warned by my mother not to give my uncle a hard time on the subway. I was six, of COURSE I was going to get out of line a few times.  The subway had poles in the aisles and I’d love spinning around them…he’d probably complained about that and said I’d misbehaved.  I’d probably been swatted a couple times because I didn’t listen.  It wasn’t something done regularly.
    I suddenly felt very afraid.  Of what, I don’t know.  Maybe it was of these strange women and them being here and asking weird questions. They’d seemed friendly when they arrived.  Now, they were just intimidating, and I wanted them to leave.  I’m not sure how much longer we were talking but to an anxious six-year-old, time drags and it’s hard not to get restless.  
    “I made it up.”  
    Yes.  I said it.  I said it so they would leave.  Sure enough, shortly after, they gathered their papers and clipboards and left. My mother let them out and said nothing more of this.  Ever.  Not a single word.  You’d think something this serious would be followed up on.  It would be something that I’d need facts on. Something that would be too hard to ignore, but it’s something my mother had too little difficulty ‘forgetting about.’  
    I do think, though, my uncle was spooked, and if there was indeed something going on, it stopped here.  I did always remember that meeting with those women and telling them I’d lied and that I’d entirely made up what Ken had done to Skipper was always in the back of my head, bottled and stored in a place that would remain undisturbed for the next a decade and a half.  It perhaps stayed in the back of my mother’s mind, too, but unlike me, she’d never get around to re-opening this bottle.  
    I’m not sure if the behaviors began before or after this meeting with those two women.  I remember nothing from ‘before’ I started to believe that I was a liar, for having made up something so terrible about my uncle.  And now, looking back at the behaviors I remember so clearly, I was having to believe that there really was something wrong with me, too.  
    I remember beginning to take my own baths at the age of seven.  My sister had been born shortly before I turned seven, and my mother was now often busy with an infant.  So, every night, I would go into the bathroom with my bucket of bath toys and take a bath on my own.  
    This next part is one of the hardest things for me to admit – but I will do so anyway, as I’ve promised not to hold back, not to kick certain details over to the side because they’re too shameful or embarrassing.  It’s important.  It’s another huge, significant, blinking question mark when it comes to the whys behind it.  Another black void that I truly cannot shine a light on, to see what started it.  
    But – at age seven is when the masturbation started.  Water was how I did it, mostly with the shower head/spray. I don’t know if this means of masturbation was ‘discovered’ by accident or it was a previously introduced method, but it regardless became a routine.  At the beginning of ‘bath time,’ I would turn on the shower head and let the water hit me ‘there’ until I couldn’t anymore.  I had no idea what an orgasm was, but there was a point I needed to get to – a point  where I could no longer spray in that spot, because it was throbbing too much.  While a child knows nothing about masturbation – certainly not the proper term for it - she somehow knew that it was how to arrive at that ‘feeling’ at the end. 
    To experience that feeling soon became a bath time obsession for me. While it was something I had grown used to doing, and I am ashamed to admit I enjoyed, too – I also knew, deep down, that it was wrong.  There was something about it that didn’t feel right – and I ignored that nagging feeling. Instead, I hid this from not only my mother, but from everyone else in the household.   It was my secret, something I never told anybody about.  A few years in, my mother did eventually realize what I was doing when she walked into the bathroom and caught me in the process. She’d confirmed my fears – it was wrong, it was a sin and it was disgusting.  And because I’d become so intent on doing it, I felt even more so that this meant that I was not normal, I was a bad person, I was a disgusting, vile human being.  It was something she would tell me that I needed to confess to our parish priest (we were Catholic…I only say ‘were’ because I no longer follow the Catholic) before receiving Communion at Sunday mass.  So, every week, I’d shamefully admit to the priest (the face-to-face confessional was how I had to do it) that I touched myself.  I’d grow increasingly ashamed of it, and of myself, as I got older.
    An addendum to the whole ‘confessing my sins’ bit – I wasn’t thinking to add this as I was almost finished writing this installment when remembering this part.  As my mother insisted on my going to confession before church, and her brother was a priest, she would sometimes have HIM listen to my confessions.  There was a room in his apartment that he’d made a mini-chapel out of – he had an altar, his statues, the communion dish, the wine goblet, the incense thingy…there was a single pew where we would once in a while hear him say mass.  Or it was where I’d sit next to him and avoid eye contact while I told him the same things I’d tell our parish priest.  He would absolve me of my sins every time, and then give me my three Hail Marys or two Our Fathers to recite as penance.  I never really thought about how messed up this was – not until much later. I can’t help but wonder, looking back, what HE was thinking when hearing me say these things?
    Another behavior that also began when I was very young was soiling myself. This, I cannot explain the reasoning behind.  I would literally ‘hold it’ even if I needed to go to the bathroom – and usually would have soiled underwear at the end of the day. I’d taken to hiding them when I took them off, fearful that I’d be yelled at.  My mother would indeed yell, but usually it would be when she either realized that there weren’t too many pairs of my underwear in the laundry or when she’d find however many pairs that I’d hidden when she ‘cleaned’ a certain place in my room.  She also knew about my soiling – she’d shame me for that, too, telling me I smelled, and that nobody would want to be near me.  Perhaps, deep down, I knew that.  Either way, this, along with the masturbation, was likely one of the several reasons I met my first therapist when I was eight years old.
    Dr. M had her office in the basement level of a brownstone in downtown Brooklyn.  She was a Jewish lady with an 80’s perm, glasses, and a fondness for saying ‘what do YOU think?’ whenever I asked her a question.  Her office had a playroom, too, but alas, no Barbie Dream House. She did have wooden building blocks, plenty of paper, crayons and other crafting supplies.  Most of the time, we’d converse while I drew pictures or built something out of the blocks.  I don’t recall what we talked about, but I do remember wanting to know more about her. How old was she?  What was HER favorite thing to eat?  It would piss me off to no end when she would smile and ask what I thought.  I’d tell her, “I dunno.  That’s why I’m asking you.”
    I saw her for once per week, for one year.  It became something I looked forward to – it was hard, at eight, to view Dr. M as a therapist or to wonder why I was seeing her.  Mom would later say it was because I was having trouble at school and that I was imaginative.  Hmm. Imaginative.  Meaning, I guess, I was a liar, and that was just a nicer word for it.  I think she also threw in “well, your being deaf was making it hard for you to make friends at school.”  That doesn’t quite top the ‘imaginative’ reference, but it was also true that school SUCKED for me.  Kids were cruel, I kept to myself mostly, and shied away from as much social activity as possible.  Not that seeing Dr. M improved on that – school was a nightmare all through middle school – being deaf was simply what was wrong with me now, and what would be wrong with me for the rest of my life.  While the other stuff that was wrong with me was a secret, this wasn’t one I could keep.  There was constantly attention being drawn to my disability, and my classmates, not being mature enough to be able to see past it, would be merciless and consistent with their bullying.  
    To me, Dr. M was a kindly lady who talked to me, who drew with me, who let me tell her stories.  Perhaps those were imaginative, too?  I honestly have to wonder if any of my ‘stories’ raised any red flags, because suddenly, one Saturday morning, I was prepared to go for my therapy session and my mother informed me that I’d not be seeing Dr. M anymore.  “It’s too expensive,” my mother said.  In hindsight, I cannot imagine that being the case, as my father, who has always been comfortable with money, was funding all of this.  That’s basically his role in all of it.  My mother would tell him what she needed – money, take me to this appointment, pick me up, drop me off.  Dad never questioned anything or the cost of anything – he just did it.  She said to jump, he’d ask how high.  
    There was never any closure with Dr. M.  My mother stuck to the story that her services were too expensive.  I remember being disappointed – sad, almost, that I would no longer see my ‘friend,’ Dr. M, but almost as quickly as it became a routine, it became a thing of the past.   
    Life went on after the discontinuation of therapy.  My mother and stepfather eventually had another baby. Another sister.  My father and his wife remained childless; Dad always insisting that his one daughter was enough for him.  I was with Mom most of the time and spent every other weekend with my father. Family gatherings continued to be held, most of the time at my grandmother’s house.  We did all of the holidays – Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, birthdays.  My grandmother was a non-driver – as my uncle too, never got his driver’s license, either. So, we always went to her house, as to simplify things for my grandmother and uncle – and us, as if we wanted them elsewhere, someone would have to pick them up and then drive them back home.  My grandmother, up until she became sick, would insist on our visits on Sunday. Without fail, we went there on Sundays for dinner – even if it wasn’t a holiday.  She wanted her family together – it was what she loved more than anything. This, I’m realizing, was something she passed down to my mother – I am finding that this family closeness is what my mother wants, as well, but it is, unfortunately for her, not how it unfolded.
    Still, life went on as if what had happened when I was six – had never happened.  My uncle was no longer my babysitter, but he remained a constant.  He was present at all the holidays and birthday celebrations. He would, on occasion, take me to movies during visits to my grandmother’s house.  He didn’t seem to begrudge me for what I do remember having gone down with the dolls, and like my mother, he said nothing about it and carried on as if it was nonexistent.  I will never know what was said between brother and sister – and what the plan was between the two of them – perhaps because keeping the family together was of paramount importance to my grandmother, it was decided that nothing would become of any of that – especially if I wasn’t remembering it…or at least, giving off signs of remembering.

    After all, as I entered adolescence, the abnormal behaviors (the bath stuff, the soiling) ceased and stopped.  My mother had gotten her wish – I’d ‘forgotten’ about it.  It no longer existed and it had effectively been swept under the rug.  I carried on as ‘normal’ a relationship with my uncle as possible and ignored those little things that I would randomly remember for no particular reason.  He has a birthmark on the knuckle side of his right hand – situated between his thumb and forefinger.  His favorite breakfast cereal is Puffed Rice.  Whenever I’d pass the Puffed Rice in the supermarket, I’d think to myself how much I hated it.  He would call me ‘baby girl’ (his nickname for me) and I realized as the years went on, how much I hated that, too.  Still, I said nothing, and would shift my thinking whenever any of these things came up.
    Several years went by without a mention of anything.  Still, I remembered, but mentally, leaned more toward the theory that because I couldn’t remember any actual details, then I probably was confused and DID lie.  I did, however, see less and less of my uncle, as my grandmother eventually became much older and too weak to host the weekly Sunday dinners.  
    I know that this particular installment is really only supposed to discuss what I remember of my childhood and my young adulthood doesn’t really fall into this category.  I however, need to fast-forward for a moment, to when I was twenty-two years old.  This took place after I’d been raped at seventeen – after I’d moved out of my mother’s house, after I’d already given birth to my son and married his father.  After a series of poorly-made choices that I’ll get into detail on in installment three.  It was after life had succeeded in deepening the cracks that were likely made in childhood.  
    My grandmother, sadly, had succumbed to osteoporosis and other health issues, and died in her sleep at home.  A day or two following her funeral, my mother and I stopped by her house to sort through some of her things to see what could be kept, what could be donated, what could be thrown away.
    The minute I walked into her house, I was hit by a feeling of dread. Of unfamiliarity.  My uncle let us in, and we saw that he’d already began to ‘move on.’  He (or the ‘bonus uncle’) had transferred all of his religious statues from his chapel upstairs and there they stood, wrapped in protective plastic, in the bedroom that used to be my grandmother’s.  He told us of his plans to relocate his chapel downstairs, as well as take over my grandmother’s part of the house for himself – as his knees were declining and it was becoming increasingly difficult to climb up the flight of stairs every day.  He was already beginning to fix the cracks in the floors by replacing the rotted wood squares with new ones. 
    It was like a flip was switched.  For the first time, I became angry.  
    Grandma wasn’t alive anymore.  I no longer had to pretend.  I looked again at my uncle and realized how much I fucking hated him.  I hated the sight of him.  The smell of him.  I hated the ‘baby girl’ every time he saw me, I hated seeing that ugly fucking birthmark on his hand every time he reached out to hug me.  And he didn’t look like my uncle anymore.  Not the uncle I’d been telling myself for all of these years, was probably innocent and that I was a lying piece of shit for having put him through that investigation that nothing ever came out of.  No.  Now, a look at his face made me want to insta-puke.  All over his Jesus statues and new floors.  Floors he could have had installed while my grandmother was still living and might’ve had the opportunity to enjoy them!  Her body wasn’t even fucking COLD yet, and you’re redecorating!?
    I’d also, by now, experienced a sexual assault five years earlier – so I am thinking that, combined with the passing of my grandmother, was what made possible the swift, rude uncovering of those bottled-up suspicions that had been collecting dust in the back of my mind.  It became harder to believe myself when that tiny six-year-old voice said, “I made it up.”  Nothing made sense anymore.  I had more questions now than I had answers.
    Guess what I realized on that afternoon, other than the fact that I hated my uncle?
    I didn’t make this up.  Something happened.  Something so horrible, that my brain will not allow me to remember it.  A six-year-old kid doesn’t pull this shit out of thin air. Where the hell would she get it from? This started somewhere!
    I have seen my uncle only a handful of times since my grandmother’s passing in 2002.  I cut him out.  Completely. I wanted nothing to do with him.  I wanted my KIDS to have nothing to do with him.  I refused to attend any family gathering where he would be present.  I no longer invited him to ours.  I had to suck it up at the weddings of both of my sisters – he was there, and I’d had to be polite as not to arouse curiousity. I’d say hello and goodbye and avoid any interaction beyond that.  There was a time during my mission to remove him from my life when he’d been hospitalized with an infection, and my mother, thinking he was going to die then, insisted I go see him – the hospital was, after all, just down the street from where I was living at the time.  I’d told my husband to leave the car running and took the elevator up.  As soon as he saw me, he broke down into tears and blubbered, ‘I didn’t mean for us to be enemies.’  Not knowing what the hell to do with that, I left minutes later, saying that there was no parking and they were waiting for me to come back down. That was as good enough to a confession I was going to get out of him, and I left the hospital that day further convinced that cutting him out was the absolute best choice I could ever make. THAT was what convinced me whenever there was question, whenever there was that moment of doubt.
    My mother, who, for many years, had seen me ‘carry on’ as if everything were normal, eventually began to ask me why I was so angry with him, why I no longer called him ‘uncle.’  Why I snapped at whomever dared mention his name or sing his praises.  Why whenever someone said ‘he’s a priest!’ my face would scrunch as if I’d bitten into a lemon.  I would never be able to say anything more than that initial feeling I’d gotten when walking into my grandmother’s house and seeing that he’d gutted it and been so quick to ‘remove’ her from it.  He’d treated his mother like shit, he’d likely been anxious for her to die, so that he could redo her house and conform it to his selfish needs.  Additionally, I added that he’d cheated my mother out of her inheritance – something I’d find out not too long after.  Yes, she would have more reason to be angry with him over that, but it ‘fit’ and it was something more to add to my list of what to be angry with him for…but whether it was enough to hate him was probably unlikely.  
    I also realized that I was becoming increasingly angry with my mother.  This, though, was tricky and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly guilty each time I looked at my mother and felt periodic bouts of anger, mixed in with bits of hatred and disgust.  To this day, I cannot hug her with my heart – only my arms. I believe this is only because the physical affection was obligatory – a greeting, a farewell, a special occasion – all those things that require hugs and shows of affection – those were easy, mostly because there was usually more than just one person to greet/say goodbye to/congratulate on whatever.  I find it sad though, that I cannot hug my mother to show her love.  I cannot go to her for comfort.  I cannot trust her.  But I do love her, in my own distant, detached way.
    My mother was the one who supposedly loved me the most, the one who molded me into this greatly improved version of what they told her I would be.  She’s been there whenever I needed her to be. She helped us financially in the past, and she continues to, if she sees us struggling.  She genuinely (and probably) does more for me than she does my sisters.  While I’ll always appreciate what she’s done, I’m stuck on what she didn’t do.  What she refused to see.   For that reason alone, I’d chosen to not tell her about the things that would happen afterwards.  My thinking on it – if she failed to help me when I needed it as a child, then she certainly would fail to help me at an older age.  She had her chance to help me deal and cope with the aftereffects of abuse, whether it was child abuse or abuse I’d suffer in adulthood, but she failed.  I’m unable to find it within myself to give her another chance.  Especially now, in adulthood, where she continues to inadvertently insult me by repeatedly throwing her brother into my face.  Especially now, that his health has severely declined and he’s actively experiencing end-stage congestive heart failure on top of not being able to walk or do much for himself without assistance – and she’s made efforts to get me to mend fences, even if by way of a greeting or a brief conversation with him before his (long overdue) death.  Her efforts have failed, and will continue to fail, for he’s been dead to me for years, already.  He ‘died’ on that afternoon in his house when that bottle of memories that I’d tucked away for years, was suddenly knocked off its shelf and had shattered.  
    The idea of him had died.  My connection to him – dead and severed.  Unfortunately, his physical body has not yet died, despite a heart attack, a quadruple bypass, diabetes, obesity, knee and hip replacements, arthritis, that infectious disease he’d been in for when I’d visited him, and countless bouts of pneumonia and other respiratory issues.  I swear, this disgusting, vile, rancid, sorry excuse of a person has more lives than my five cats combined!  
    Anyway – I’ve seemingly gone off course.  This installment was supposed to deal with just childhood and what I remember of it.  It just seemed pertinent to discuss a little bit of my more recent attempts to reduce contact, especially since some of you have seen me bit*h and complain and moan about my mother and about having to be at the same family gathering as my uncle as recently as a few months ago.  
    In closing, I think that it is safe to say there were many victories within my childhood.  I succeeded where kids like me who didn’t have the extensive training did not.  I was always ‘ahead’ in language, vocabulary. I thrived in the ‘hearing’ community, when it was told to my parents that the likelihood of that happening was very slim.  I’d be more likely to graduate high school with a fourth-grade reading and vocabulary level – but that didn’t happen.  I’d learned to function within a hearing community, and I wasn’t that .  Granted, my mother had gleaned most of the praise for my accomplishments – having done all of the required foundation work. Perhaps that’s another mother-issue to analyze in another piece of writing – it won’t be done in this one.
    As there were successes, there were also several failures.  Most of them, though, were not my own.  Those two ladies who came to our apartment?  They failed to persist, to follow up, to see through my mother’s version of events.  They believed my mother when she said that I likely misunderstood.  I was easily confused, and probably didn’t understand the difference between bad touching and a spank on my ass.  So, they let this go.  Dr. M?  She failed, too.  Maybe she had been getting close to uncovering what had really happened.  Maybe not.  Either way, she’d later tell me (more on that in a future installment) that there had been no resolution, as my mother yanked me from therapy at nine years old.  My father – although he is someone I think my mother constantly lied to and therefore the person I truly believe was the most clueless of all of them, also failed by not assuming a more active role.  Him, though, I’ve forgiven and don’t begrudge. My mother is a powerful force – and a master manipulator.  She knows how to cover things up, how to lie, how to sway a child’s thinking.  How to self-protect.  Next to her brother, who also quite obviously failed me, she was the one who failed me the most, and in the worst possible way.  
    And for years – I failed myself, too.  Even unintentionally, I did so by denying, by burying, by ignoring things, by keeping silent.  By lying about what I thought, even if they were lies by omission.  By allowing someone else to speak for me, to tell a story that didn’t feel accurate.  To always agree, because I was a liar and it didn’t matter what I said – it was wrong. By also giving in and accepting the idea that there was something wrong with me and that was the reason for all those ‘abnormal’ behaviors.  
    Well…no more.
    It’s time to make this right.  Make those things I thought were lies, a truth.  Although I cannot correct what others have or haven’t done, it is time to turn my own failures into a victory - even if I do it here, first -  behind the safety net that I know will remain intact and where I know I'll be met with the love, support and validation that I truly need.  I do not know if I will ever be able to tell this story outside of this forum or to confront those responsible, but to be able to do it here at this time, is a freeing start.  
    - Capulet
  6. Capulet
    I had a dream last night.
    Wasn't too bad a dream. Unless you consider a glimpse at the pathetic being that I called Uncle for 40 years.  It was also a short dream.
    It took place at a holiday gathering.  I want to say it was Christmas - only because that's the first thing that comes to mind.  My mother (Oompa) was there.  My Dad, my step-parentals.  My kids.  The wasband's crew was not there, though.  My sisters and their spouses (yes, even the one who might not be her spouse much longer) and my nephew and two nieces.   
    And also in attendance was the Most Reverend McNasty and his 'partner.'  It might've been a holiday that warranted dressing nicely, but he looked as he did at my nephew's and niece's party where I saw him last.  Like a bum.  His hair has gotten longer; he'd always had a crew cut. He's put on weight.  He's unshaven, looks dirty and disheveled.  I'm SURE that had I been within six feet of him, I'd also discover that he smelled badly, too - a combination of rotten farts and sweat.  His 'partner' has to hold his hands and 'lead' him around.  He cannot walk on his own or without help.  He's looking and smelling like the shit he always has looked like.
    Anyway, this image of him somehow presented itself last night in my sleep.  Or it was possibly closer to morning.  Either way, I remember waking up to it being daylight.  I just laid in bed and processed for a little while before getting up.  USUALLY, I have trouble remembering the cryptic messages hidden within dreams as the day goes on.  Laying down for a good twenty minutes, just thinking, was the only way to ensure that 18 hours later, I'd be able to write about it.
    But - in the dream - dinner was being served.  A grand spread, it was - as it usually is on the holidays.  There was pasta, meat, fish, vegetables, salad - wine, container of ice, napkins all folded, fancy-like.  We never did the napkin-folding, so that was one strange thing about it.  And the food, you know, if Oompa prepared it, was never that great-looking, either.  Everyone was gathering around and getting comfortable in their chairs, passing trays of food around to those sitting next to us.  Of course, I chose to sit at the far end of the table, farthest away as I could from my uncle.
    We must have inhaled our food because only moments later (funny how dreams 'skip,' isn't it?) McNasty's partner pulled me aside as we were getting ready to clear the table - and said, "It might be a good time to make peace with your uncle."
    "I don't want to talk about it.  And besides, this isn't the time or place," I replied. 
    I woke up before he could respond.  Immediately, I was relieved to discover this was all a dream and the Most Reverend McNasty was NOT in the same room as I. There was just me, my pillow, my blankets and a couple of oblivious cats.
    I sometimes dream about people when they're about to die.  Or will soon be dead.  I'm thinking this is either the case - or Oompa truly got to me last weekend, with all her talk about how ugly and/or disrespectful I was being.  I dreamt about my Nana days before she passed.  My grandmother, I dreamt of the night BEFORE she died.  Sadly, I've not gotten any text from Oompa today in regards to my uncle's failing, circling-the-drain condition - but perhaps this text will come soon.  One can hope, anyway.  
    I am of the belief that dreams contain messages and little explanations within - if you can make sense of them.  
    By now, we're all familiar with what Oompa said to me this weekend - that I'd disappointed her by refusing to say 'hello' to him at the last family gathering - and that this was likely the last time I'd see him alive.  I do think that the 'holiday' setting within the dream was representative of my not being 'ready' to interact with him - regardless of whether it may possibly be the last time.  "Not a good time or place," was what I'd said - and in the dream, I was at a holiday celebration - that right there is NEVER a good place or time to bring up such ugliness.  "Not the time or place" is something my mother always said, too, usually when she was dismissing a topic she didn't want to get into - dismissal usually accompanied by 'put it in your sleeve, worry about this later.'
    I also think it means I've been 'masking' my hatred for this man for far too long.  I mean, look at this dream - in it, I'm surrounded by my entire family and no one has any clue of the REAL reasons behind my hating my uncle.  They're ALL of the impression that I'm being unreasonable in choosing to not associate with him. I'm STILL lying to all of them and telling them the same story I've been telling them for years - he treated Grandma badly, he cheated my mother out if her inheritance...ANYTHING but the truth.  Everyone was enjoying themselves and all I could think about was how uncomfortable I was, even being in the same room as him.
    When I last saw him, he looked weak, pathetic.  He's unable to 'do' for himself anymore.  So his partner did for him, just as he 'assisted him' with walking and getting around at the party. In the dream, it was his partner who asked me to make peace with him - in reality, it was Oompa - makes me wonder if he's actually revealed to my mother that it was one of his dying wishes for the niece who hated him to forgive him.
    Sorry, nope.  That's NOT a wish I can grant, nor do I think there will EVER be a time or place where I can forgive him.  For fuck's sake, I'm still trying to figure out the answers!  I also know that I'm not going to have any regrets for not saying a final hello or goodbye to him while I still can.  As far as I'm concerned, he's already dead.
    So, that was the dream.  It was filled with hidden clues - I'm sure there are more that I missed, but for now, I'm needing to purge it from my brain and to forget it for a little while.  Seems this is what I do to ensure that when I AM ready to give it more thought, it will be here for me to reflect upon.
    I also struggle with the thought of him dying, sometimes.  Not with the idea of him FINALLY being gone - because really, that would be great and would instantly make the world a much better place.  But...where's his next stop???  Naturally, we'd think it was Hell, right?  But, see - he's a 'man of the cloth,' a Roman Catholic priest.  I sure hope this doesn't give him a free pass or qualify him for a seat in the 'waiting room' to Heaven - the place the Catholics refer to as Purgatory.  The Catholic Church (that I was raised following the teachings of) holds that "all who die in God's grace and friendship but still imperfectly purified" undergo this process (which the Church calls 'Purgatory') "so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven."  (That last little snippet was from Wikipedia.)  In Purgatory, there is an amount of repentance and suffering, after which his soul will ascend into Heaven.  
    It's been a long, LONG time since I gave too much thought to the existence of these three places  we could likely go upon our deaths - to Heaven, to Hell or to Purgatory first and then to Heaven.  Ah, I don't even know if there's PROOF.  No one's ever come back and given a review.  And please understand that I am not speaking ill of the Catholic religion - I just never bought into it and having possibly been subjected to CSA by a priest has made religion a VERY hard pill to swallow.  I therefore consider myself to be an agnostic - it's just safer that way.
    I DO know that this is a man who is the farthest from holy as can be.  And here he is - about to be judged (if that's true, too) and he'll not pay for any of the horrible things he's done while he was living - will he EVER be held accountable, even if in the afterlife?  Or will his 'years of service' afford him a ticket to paradise, even if his misdeeds and injustices land him in Purgatory first?
    I shudder to think.  
    Guess that's all for tonight - I'm getting a serious case of eye-burn and need to shut them for a few hours.
    Am hopeful that this morning's (OMG - 3:50am????) dreams are filled with daisies and rainbows and unicorns.  I could use a dose of cute to offset the ugly!
    Hoping also that everyone is doing well this week.  I'll be back soon.
    - Capulet
  7. Capulet
    * This is also posted in Share Your Story.  
    My story first appeared within the forums back in 2007.  I’d just joined After Silence, and my trauma had occurred eleven years prior to that.  Now, coming up on 23 years since I was raped, it has occurred to me that while my story remains the same, my perspective on it has greatly evolved.  Much can be said for the passage of time – to include the coming to light of details that perhaps were overlooked or otherwise censored the first time I’d chosen to write about what is undeniably the worst time in my life.  
    To explain, 2007’s post was written by an entirely different version of me. A me that still blamed herself, a me that was fearful of being told that I ‘should be over this already.’  A me that was on her way to becoming free of a loveless marriage, where the person who should have been my biggest support was also the person I was most afraid of.  A me, who remained within a mental prison with little hope of ever being paroled.  
    Regardless, this story was told once before, but to best try to describe the way it was written in 2007 – it’s like watching a movie on mute.  You know it’s there, you’ve got the gist of what happened, but there’s still SO much there that was missed or omitted simply because I was either not ready to elaborate on details or because I thought to do so would be risky.  I can honestly say most of the risk was attributed to my then-husband finding out that I’d put that much of my ‘dirty laundry’ online – and the smaller percentage was in being subsequently blamed for my own part in what had happened.  Of course, I know now that the latter was a product of my own under-developed thinking…
    So, what’s happened since I last told my story?
    I got divorced.  His idea, believe it or not – I guess I was unable to measure up to what he perceived to be the perfect wife.  I was fat, I was lazy, I was horrible in bed.  It was just easier for him to chalk it all up to depression and bail out of the relationship rather than try to fix it.  In all honesty, it was beyond fixable and in hindsight, I’m GLAD he asked for the divorce. I know I wouldn’t have been the first one to walk away.  If this were the case for him, I’d still be in a VERY bad situation.
    I finally went to therapy.  I made my first appointment one week after he asked me for the divorce. He no longer cared to be ‘my person,’ and actually encouraged me to go.  I’d realize later it’s because he was already seeing someone new and thought perhaps therapy would help carry me through the hurdles and transitions that lay ahead and would lessen his own personal obligation to me.
    I grieved my marriage of 8 years – not because I loved him.  I did, but it was a somewhat forced affection for the man who presented as a ‘safer’ choice.  When I met him, I was on a very dangerous, self-destructive journey, and I think to marry him was a choice I needed to make in order to force a direction that didn’t lead to my complete downfall.  I grieved the familiarity more than I did anything else – I sobbed over the loss of not just a marriage, but also of the idea that stability existed for me. 
    I eventually found love – the head-over-heels kind that I thought was the case the first time around.  I found this with my best friend – another survivor.  It is never a nice thing to hear – a loved one having been through their own trauma, but in our case, it made it all the easier to comfort one another and hold each other up when needed. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary this past winter.  
    Through therapy, self-reflection and in realizing the true definition of a healthy relationship, I’ve come to realize that I am not a survivor of just rape and potentially of child sexual abuse – I’m also a survivor of the more ‘silent’ type of domestic violence – although my husband never raised a hand to me in anger, there was mental, emotional and verbal abuse and there was behavior that could be defined as gaslighting.  It took many years, but I am finally understanding there is more to my story that originally put forth, things I’ve never said, and that I’m now needing to add to the previously presented version, if only for the sake of being accurate on where I stand now and why.
    So basically, after further thought on how to re-introduce my story, or at least, an updated, uncensored version of it, I’ve decided that it needs to be written in three installments.  
    To explain, there are three very significant junctures within my life that I have realized are all connected and contribute to the woman you know today.  The first installment will discuss - in depth - my childhood.  It’s hard for me, in hindsight, to pinpoint exactly when I was first abused.  Unlike the trauma I experienced in 1996, (this will be the second installment) I have zero memory of the point in my childhood where something went terribly wrong.  I have written bits and pieces of what I do remember; in blog entries and in postings, but I will attempt to elaborate on things a little more clearly in this first installment.  I am sure this will be the shortest one.  For now, anyway.  Perhaps at some point, there will be an addendum to it, should things ever come to light.  I’ve shared with very few people what I suspect happened based on behaviors of mine that, as an adult, I recognize as being problematic.  I have been holding onto some very broken, fragmented memories and tiny little snippets that cannot prove anything, as well as the belief that if I couldn’t remember, then it likely didn’t exist.  Now, years later, while those childhood incidents have never been confirmed, I cannot deny there was something VERY wrong and that they were not handled the way they should have been.  Although my mother, who was not my suspected abuser, is a key player in this particular time period, several people failed me.  Several.  
    My second installment will likely be the hardest of the three – for I feel that whenever I’ve recalled the events of October 4th, 1996, I’ve taken care to omit a lot of the grisly details as a means of sugar-coating and perhaps protecting both myself and whomever was listening.  We all have our own personal reasons for doing so, and I’m no different.  
    A friend recently confided in me that she felt ‘crazy’ for having the desire to get into all of the ‘nitty-gritty’ details – who on earth would even want to read that?  It’s not crazy, though – it makes perfect sense to me.  You see, we as survivors do not just remember the condensed version of our story that we might prefer to share with others for the time being – most of us remember the details more than anything else.  We remember the things that were said to us that we’d never repeat. We remember what was done, we remember what we were thinking during the moment.  We remember the fear, the pain, the shame.  These are things we don’t really talk about – especially the shame bits. Too often, it’s because of shame that we try to avoid these details, some of which are very important to take the time to try to understand how they’ve affected us in the long term.
    The third and final installment deals with life after 1996. See, I truly thought my story ended there, as that was a more obvious trauma, but I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  Trauma does not always have an exclamation point – it sometimes is silent. This third installment will discuss those very things that were not quite as obvious to me – things I’ve only recently learned to recognize and give a name to.  Things I’ve had to admit to myself as being yet another truth that I’d been denying existed for ages.  Things I’ve had to reluctantly accept, even if it meant adding another form of abuse that I’ve experienced to a list that already seemed long.  Along with this story comes that sad realization that there are still many side effects of the eight years that I was married that I still struggle with today - and that domestic violence is the main culprit.
    Friends - trauma leaves marks.  No two marks are the same, but regardless, they are lasting and they’re impossible to erase, ignore or scrub away.  So, rather than try to conceal these marks any further, I’ve decided to highlight them and to attempt to explain why they’re there – to myself, most of all, as I’ve realized that it’s mostly me who’s been in denial for all of these years and it’s time to transition into acceptance.
    I will be posting the installments here, and in the Share Your Story forum when I’m finished typing them up.  It hasn’t been easy to hold myself to task and to write all of this out – especially while juggling life as I know it…family, house, kids, pets, school stuff - and I imagine some of it will be hard for you to read, too – especially those of you who have taken the time to get to know me.  I imagine that now, you’ll REALLY know me.  And surprisingly, while that scared the life out of me at one point, I’m now okay with that.
    I welcome any thoughts, feedback, well wishes and kind words via comments or PMs.  Although I am not very good at asking for it, I will admit that I am needing periodic doses of encouragement as well as the reassurance that I am being heard as I struggle to reflect, analyze and interpret not only one voice, but three different ones as they each tell their stories.
    In closing, I wish to thank in advance, those of you who read beyond this introduction.  I am hopeful that this not only serves as a reminder that while trauma affects us all in different ways, we are all actually very similar in the respect that we’re not alone in how we think, how we learned to stay silent in the first place, and most importantly, how we ALL deserve to heal.
    All my love,
    - Capulet
  8. Capulet
    Hello, everyone!  
    I am hoping this finds you all well.  
    While I am doing fine health-wise, I'm not doing so great with my sleeping.  There are some days when I think I've got it all under control and then there are other days when I revert back to what has grown to be all too familiar.  While food shopping last week, I found a bottle of NyQuil that is set to expire in three months - it was marked down to $2, so I grabbed it.  I have it sitting on my desk as a reminder to go to sleep when the clock passes 2-3am.  It sometimes hits 4 before I'll feel tired.  Ideally, I'd want to take a swig before 2, but if I'm not feeling 'tired' enough, I'll wait another hour...or two....or three?  And then, before I know it, I'm first falling asleep at 4-5am and waking up at 11.  That's, of course, on the days I DON'T have my kids here and don't have to worry about getting the daughter up for school.  Those nights, I could EASILY not sleep at all and make do with a four-hour nap when she's boarded her bus.  
    What's that, you say?  Insomnia's a thing?  Really?  Hmmm.  That's what I have, then - no doubt! 
    So, a little update for you all as I know it's been a while since my last one.  (I know.  I'm sorry.) 
    First off, I'm officially a student!!!!  *insert horns and sirens and whooping noises here!*
    Last week, I registered for fifteen credits' worth of classes at the University.  There's DEFINITELY no turning back, now.  My classes start on 8/26 and if all goes well, I'm set to graduate in 2021; with my bachelor's in hand.   Most of my credits from 20 years ago have been transferred and there are only a small handful of classes that I have to re-take, that feed into the Social Work major that my previous credits will not satisfy - so there's American Government and then there's a Statistics class that I'm TRULY not looking forward to.  My son is going to be taking that very same class, only at a different time slot (he'll literally be arriving when I'm leaving!) and it might be helpful if we could study together.  I'm HORRIBLE with numbers - this is something I've unfortunately passed down to both my children, apparently - my daughter is wrapping up seventh grade with all A's and B's but with one C in Math!  I admittedly still count on my fingers on some simple addition and subtraction problems!!!  Math is just not me, not at all.  Statistics is going to be a nightmare, but hopefully the Son and I can hold each other up through it.  LOL.  
    The Oompa came with me to register.  Being a retired teacher, anything school-related gets her giddy.  Plus, she never really had the opportunity to join me when I did this the first time around - so I allowed her to tag along on registration day, so she could feel in the slightest bit needed.  I will admit, it was good to have an extra pair of ears along with me, in case I needed them.  We met with my academic advisor, who so happens to be the chairman of the Social Work department, as well as one of my professors for one of the introduction to Social Work classes that I'll be taking.  So, it was very nice to meet him and get a feel for how he speaks.  
    We all know that any Oompa visit isn't without drama or bullshit.  A couple times, I wanted to smack my mother in the mouth.  The first comment came while we were waiting to speak with the academic advisor - we were seated outside his office.  She asked if I was going to go for my master's.  I told her that I didn't want to think that far ahead.  I wanted my bachelor's in Social Work and then I wanted to focus on getting myself work.  Here's the comment:
    "And you'll make nothing."
    It's not about the money, I told her.  We all know my reasons for pursuing this field and it's certainly not something I wanted to get into with her.  Not now, not ever.  I didn't have to, though.  She shut up for two reasons - one - the student that was visiting with the academic advisor before us was now leaving, and two, I think she sensed that I wanted to punch her in the throat and felt it was wise to shut her mouth.
    We had a meeting with the professor/academic advisor and the second comment came while we were walking across campus, making our way over to the bookstore.  
    She spoke to him, though.  "Can I ask you something, as a concerned parent?"
    Oh, here we fucking go....
    "Do you think my daughter's disability will make it harder for her to find a job in this field?  Do you think she'll run into discrimination?"
    She actually asked this to the man who was going to be my freaking professor.  If I was gonna be able to find a job or if I was just wasting my time.  She didn't word it that way, but it's even more clear, she doesn't want me to become a Social Worker.  I believe she wants me to become a teacher, or go into Education or to become an educator or mentor for the deaf, something I don't have any desire or passion for - I am not a school person - never was.  I'm only finishing school because I've finally got a desire to do something specific and I need the degree.  Personal experience doesn't count, apparently.  So, why the hell would I want to go into Education????  Why would I want to follow in my mother's footsteps???  I've been trying to run the other way for years!
    The professor probably couldn't believe the audacity and ignorance of her question either.  He somewhat blinked. "Well, we have laws in place against discrimination..." 
    You'd think my mother, the retired EDUCATOR, knew that.  She was effectively shut down, though - see, I am of the belief that she wanted him to turn around and say, 'you're absolutely right, maybe Social Work isn't in your daughter's best interests..." but when she didn't hear that, she shut up again.  And for good.  Possibly because this was where we parted ways with the professor - I told him I was looking forward to meeting him as one of his students in the Fall.  And I am.  I'm all the more determined to make his class my BEST class (it helps that it's not statistics or history related, it actually has to do with what I am majoring in!) and to show him myself that I'm not the dummy my mother basically cast me out to be.
    I thank whoever's calling the shots upstairs - (I don't like using 'God,') - that my mother, the social butterfly, had a concert to attend with one of her friends that night and she had to head out immediately following the registration.  I think, had I been subjected to more time with her, I would have unleashed on her my anger over WHY she constantly continues to draw attention to my disability - why she keeps inadvertently reminding me that it's a limitation, a reason I might not succeed at something, a reason people would discriminate against me.  I cannot understand, why she continues to allow my deafness to define me, who I am.  This is one of the things that angers me the most today, one of those things that I have struggled with for all of my life and that I STILL grapple with.  My hearing impairment has indeed contributed to a LOT my trauma. I've been slowly realizing that it ALWAYS comes back to it.  It contributes to my social issues, too, and there's SO much more to it than Oompa even realizes, but that, I'll take the blame for.  That's my fault.  I've never told her.  
    Because I'm not heartless.  She's proud.  I know she is.  I am her masterpiece.  She's proud that her early intervention is what I can honestly thank for getting me onto the right track.  It was because of that early intervention that I am able to speak, I am able to function as if there were no disability.  She did that.  She pushed, she prodded, she poked.  She was a pain in my ass for pretty much ALL of my childhood and formative years, and I DO owe her credit for that.  I don't have the heart to show her where she's fallen short.  I figure it's more important for me to know for myself where those shortcomings are, and a kindness to her to keep them to myself. 
    While I'll not be able to explain all of that to my mother in detail, I can certainly do so here.  I'm not hurting any feelings by doing so.  I'm able to speak more freely here - I've always felt that way.  
    On that note, I've begun the undertaking of telling my story.  ALL of it.  I know there are bits and pieces here and there, and some of you know some of the puzzle pieces already through my posts and blog entries.  I'm able to pull out a few smaller pieces at a time, talk on it, and then I toss it back into the box because it's not needed beyond that.  I've realized that my story is scattered, it's all over the place, and it's because I've never really taken the time to write all of it out, from start to finish, and to analyze any and all of those little traits and quirks of mine that I've learned to adopt as 'normal,' even if they are not seen as such by someone who cannot relate.  I've been tossing the pieces back into the box rather than connecting them all and showing the bigger picture.  
    So, I've been spending the last couple of weeks writing.  Not here, obviously.  It is currently being drafted via MS Word and I admit I've neglected this blog for a little while - and I apologize for that.  I hope to make up for it by posting my story here, too, when I'm finished.
    It will likely come in three installments.  I've done a lot of thinking over the last several weeks - and have come to realize that I don't just have one story.  There are three very obvious junctures in my life, all with very different, but equally damaging situations.  All three points in my life are contributors to who I am now, who I've learned to be.  These are moments that, if I devote enough time to thinking about, will provide the answers to questions that I've recently had to re-ask myself as I begin the next chapters in my life.  
    I suppose, in a way, I am restarting.  I don't know if that's even the right term for what I'm doing.  I can't say I am picking up where I left off, because I didn't leave off in a good place - I left off at a point where everything derailed and from there, my life took all of these unexpected turns and twists and I lost track of who I was and where I was going in the process.  I guess the right term will come to me later, but for now, I'm sticking with that.
    I'm determined to get these installments out before school starts on the 26th of August - and they'll be posted here as well as in a more follow-able format in Share Your Story.  I'm determined, but somewhat nervous at the same time.  Like I said, I've told my story before, but I've never really told it in entirety.  I've left out details, I've sugar coated enough to send whoever was listening into a diabetic coma.  It is the first time that I am able to tell these stories without being afraid of what others may think, of being judged, of being criticized, of being told my feelings, thoughts, and reactions weren't normal.  Yes, it is being done here, from within a community where there is no fear of these things, but it's indeed a start.  Rome was not built in a day, and my story will not reach beyond its intended audience until much later.  I just feel ready now, to begin writing it and sharing it with whomever would like to truly understand me.  I don't know that I'll have this desire later, nor if I'll have the time, so while the motivation is there, I'm taking myself to task.
    I am sure this writing I've set out to do, too, is a contributor to not being able to sleep - I'm in the middle of some pretty hard stuff and am finding myself opening the word document only to close it after adding one or two sentences here and there.  This isn't easy by a long shot.  But I'm thinking that once the hardest parts are written, then I can focus on somewhat of 'cool down' writing - focus on writing about the harder stuff in the daytime and the milder thoughts in the evenings...I'll force myself to Ny-Quil no later than 1, be in bed by 1:30....set my alarm for 8 or 9am and eliminate the naps.  It's a plan, anyway!  When school starts, I'll need to have this routine down pat as my first class will begin at 9am daily.  Perhaps subconsciously, it's why I'm trying to focus on the harder details now as opposed to when I will have less time to sift through it all and give it the attention it deserves.
    So...there's that.
    Other than the above mentioned, there really aren't many things to report as happening in my life.  The Son has been finished with classes for a while and the daughter's last day of seventh grade is tomorrow.  The next few weeks are going to be insane as during the first week in July, they both become another year older (19 and 13) and we will have family coming in for the celebrating and festivities, and of course, the anticipated drama that I'll likely be posting in my next entry.   (That is, providing my next entry isn't the first installment!)
    I hope all is well with everybody.   
    Until later,
    - Capulet
  9. Capulet
    Two years ago, when we moved into our new home, our realtor bought us a Keurig machine - this adorable cherry red contraption - and it's been nothing short of amazing to have - especially when there's a need for a 'quick cup.'    While I still drink coffee, it's mostly the iced variety from Dunkin' with a shot of caramel and cream - my Keurig machine has lately been going WEEKS without brewing - it's usually only used when my mother (Oompa) comes for a visit.  She'd come in and ask for a cup of coffee: 'got any decaf?'  Often I'd have to tell her that I only had regular - thus starting her new tradition of bringing me a box of decaf K-cups whenever she came to visit.  My supply of regular, though, has dwindled and I cannot open my pantry without it spitting out a box of whatever-flavored decaf.
    I'm feeling the need for coffee this morning - for starters, I'm cold.  It's barely breaking 50 degrees lately - nothing but rain, rain, and more rain.  We had a one or two day reprieve here and there, but never long enough for it to dry out a little.  So, I'm cold, I'm tired of the dreariness....and I'm just plain tired this morning because as usual, I crawl into bed at 2am (force of habit) and on this particular (rainy, of course) Tuesday morning, I am waiting for the guy who is installing a new shower to arrive.  8am, he said.  I got up at 6 when J left for work so I wouldn't sleep through the promised appointment time - it is now 9:45am and he's still not here.  
    Regardless, I needed an energy jolt this morning - so into the K-cup inventory I go and ALL that remains is decaf.  Now, when Oompa comes, I'll have to tell her to bring REGULAR K-cups because decaf ain't gonna cut it.  I'm already half asleep!
    Gonna be one of those days, yeah?  OK.  Warning heeded.
    So, I did say I would be writing a little about Mother's Day, being that I've had mixed emotions about this day for years, now.  
    Not because of my kids.  My kids are my life and I LOVE being their mother.  The son is going to be nineteen...(I can't...) in a couple months and the daughter will be turning THIRTEEN.  So, for one year, (help me Jesus!) I'm going to have TWO teenagers under the same roof at the SAME time.  Although I must say it's certainly felt like the daughter's been a moody, brooding teenager for a WHILE, already.  It'll just be official in a couple months' time and I'm definitely in for it.  Anyway - the kids and J took me to dinner last night at Red Lobster, followed by a trip to Dairy Queen for sundae desserts.  The son forwarded me a coupon for university logo apparel and the daughter bought me a card and a huge bag of watermelon flavored Sour Patch Kids...I guess she didn't get the memo that I need to get my ass back onto the Weight Watchers bandwagon, but it's the thought that counts.   
    Oompa planned her vacation to Italy for the week of Mother's Day.  Pretty sure it wasn't done intentionally - was probably a 'travel this week, get these super deals' kind of thing.  Either way, I wasn't really caring.  I'd just seen her two weeks before for Easter - and secretly was GLAD I wouldn't have to figure out a way to make her feel particularly special on Mother's Day all the while not knowing what my own kids had in store for me.  As is, I struggled with what to say to others on social media.  Mother's Day is just - I don't know.  Seeing all the Facebook posts scroll by, all these sons and daughters with pictures of their moms - the daughters who call their moms their best friend.  It's hard to take it all in, knowing that my mother is NOT my best friend - she's someone who annoys me to no end, someone who will commit an act of generosity, then turn around and ask what we'll do for her in return.  No, it's never simple with her.  She is both an easy and a difficult person to love...try to figure THAT out!
    So, Sunday, I spent a little time on my Facebook - to my sisters, I sent a Happy Mother's Day message on Facebook on each of their walls.  I sent J's sisters the same.  I sent J's born-again Christian mother (who isn't a fan of mine) a HUGE thank-you for raising the woman of my dreams (YES, I absolutely did do this, and yes, I did it to be mischievous) and the message I sent my own mother took longer than all the rest combined.  I chose my words carefully - trying to find words that were truthful but could also be interpreted in a way my mother needed them to be.  
    I thanked her for everything she's done for me and all she's taught me.  And she has.  She's done lots for me - some of it, I wonder if it was guilt-born.  She taught me a great deal...I cannot deny this.  She taught me to speak.  She taught me to treat others with kindness and respect.  These are the finer qualities...unfortunately, she also taught me about lying, about hiding, about sweeping things under the rug.  She TRIED to teach me to 'put things away,' but this was not an effective lesson - it's only taught me self-doubt, to suppress, and that if I can't remember something, it isn't true.  Logically, I know that's not the case, but to have that ingrained in you from a very young age - well - you're kinda screwed.  
    My mother taught me how NOT to be with my own kids.  So, that, I can also thank her for.  She taught me to allow my children to be who they are - without fear of being judged for it.  She taught me to listen to what my kids think of others - a child's intuition is rarely wrong.  
    Sadly I cannot explain these things to her.  My messages to her are generic, short and to the point.  I cannot even think about what I'd want to say to my mother, because I probably NEVER will say some of these things, even if opportunity knocks.  I don't think I'll ever have the relationship with her that I'd LIKE to have....that ship has sailed around the world several times over.
    Do I love her?  Of course.  But I also feel this incredible need to maintain an emotional distance.
    Not even sure what else is swimming around in my brain at the moment - I'm tired, I've not had sufficient sleep nor caffeine.  BUT, the good news is - there's another year 'til the next Mother's Day comes around.
    Maybe some things don't need to be overthought?  
    Hoping everyone is having a good week - will be back soon with another update.
    My best to you all!
    - Capulet
  10. Capulet
    Greetings, everyone!!
    Hoping you're all having a good weekend - we had a 'backwards' couple days.  To explain, we had our taco dinner on May 4th ('May the fourth be with you') and on Cinco De Mayo today, (May 5th) I am invoking the force (fourth) and we're having chicken for dinner.  If no one cares, I guess I won't either.  I'll just note both 'May days' have been duly observed, one way or another.   Additionally, the state of Pennsylvania is drenched - it's done NOTHING but RAIN most of this week.
    So, I had a counseling appointment on Friday with M.  We were also planning to discuss with the volunteer coordinator at the Women's Center some opportunities for me, since volunteering is a pathway into the 69-hour class they offer, as well as interning with them and eventually being able to apply for work there.  M has spent the last six months getting to know me via group meetings and individual counseling sessions and is aware of my 'plan.'  It was, in fact, her idea to discuss the next steps with the volunteer coordinator - whom, while she wasn't present in our meeting, has instructed M on what to suggest.
    Basically, in order to volunteer at this particular center, apparently, you cannot be receiving services affiliated with the Center.  This means, no counseling, no attending the support groups, no receipt of ANY 'help' whatsoever, for one year.  This is what they consider a 'transition period' - which makes sense - in order to be providing assistance to others, we must show them that we are in a proper frame of mind and we are not needing their assistance, ourselves.  
    Of course, I may attend their community events, the public come-one, come-all ones - and M will likely see me at those events - along with the other staff members at the center - they will see that I am still present, and still keeping up with the Center's activities, and there is still interest in becoming one of their volunteers.  M has also told me that I'm welcome to reach out to her if I ever needed a session or wanted to attend a group.  I was still allowed to do this and am still entitled to services - but then, that would 'reset' my year.  
    It was also explained to me that it is during senior year that I'll be expected to do interning/field work - and to cease counseling now will give me my entire junior year to prepare for that - my senior year would start in 2020 if I'm on track - and by then, my required year away from the Center will be up and I'll hopefully already be volunteering for a few months.  I can also hope to have that class taken that they offer, if it's a prerequisite to volunteering.  
    I explained to her that my reason for joining their groups in the first place was not because I was/am in crisis - because I am not at a point where this has been consuming me.  I joined the group first - I was simply seeking connection, to become acquainted with others that I could relate to.  I am still new to where I now live - I don't have too many familiar folks around me and I am having trouble emerging from within this self-protective bubble I've formed around myself for the last couple of decades.  The only reason I started counseling was because I needed a place to vent some of the frustrations that I was having with some of the changes related to my out-of-state move, my relationship, my decision to go back to school.  Change was/is never comfortable for me - and while I wasn't in crisis, I needed a place to put all of it.  My counseling sessions with M were never meant to be long-term, and I accept that our sessions have to come to a close.  I've gained some insight and perspective from it all - and we parted ways saying I've come a long way and I've 'graduated.'  
    And thus begun my 'transition' process.
    On the drive home, it hit me - I now have even LESS connections.  At least - not in person.  I know that here, in this space, there is NO shortage of connections.  And I will continue to make them here.  There is great importance in having these connections available to you - be they online or in person.
    In person, though, I have just ONE connection - at least one that is 100% safe - the one I have with my fiancee, who knows absolutely everything there is to know about me and about my past.  She's the one who understands me the most - as she's a survivor, too.  Yes, this made such a connection MUCH easier to form in the beginning - and all additional connections on top of this main one has been an incredible bonus.  Ten years later, we're still going strong and while I'm not looking for intimate connection with anyone else, I'm feeling that, emotionally, this is a time of evolution for us both - while we still love each other very much and have a strong understanding of one another's issues - we are BOTH making changes in our lives.  I've decided to pick up where I left off 20 years ago with my return to school and she's been spending the last six months in therapy working on coping with suppressed trauma that happened over 12+ years ago.  The EMDR has understandably taken a toll on her and she has been throwing herself into work and social activities to keep both mentally and physically busy - and I've felt very distant, very lonely - and that was my reason for researching and finding the support group in the first place.  
    And now, that's gone.  It's going to have to be, if I want to keep putting all of my eggs in this one particular basket.  The basket, representing this particular Center, where I very much like the environment, the staff, the atmosphere.  It is exactly where I want to be two or three years from now - working with M as a co-worker, being able to work with those who truly ARE in crisis and need that assurance that someone's listening, someone cares.  I want to be giving back.
    I do have upcoming opportunities to 'put myself out there,' this fall.  I'll be starting school at the end of August.  There is a huge difference though - and I think this is what I'm realizing...
    You see, I made a statement when I joined the Center's support group.  I let them know that I was a survivor of sexual assault, of domestic violence, and possibly of CSA.  I didn't have to say these words - my being there, being present and my participation in the meetings, was all that was needed.  These other ladies were getting to know me, already knowing this information.  The HARD stuff was already out there - without my having to put any words to it.  It's a nice thought, and for the moment, it was a comfortable one - not having to explain myself, not having to explain why I'd 'tune out' during discussions or even describing why the simplest of thoughts were harder for me to explain or even to convey to someone else.  I think this is what made it easier to sit through these meetings, knowing that I wasn't obligated to explain these things - they already knew and understood.
    What statement am I making when I walk into my first class at the end of August?  There's no pre-existing knowledge of who I am as a person and how I've gotten here.  There's no instruction manual.  There's nothing.  One GIANT unknown.  I am going to HAVE to work at making these connections from scratch.  These people are not having statements made, other than I'm a 40-yr-old who's decided to continue her education after 20 years.  And for me, I know nothing about the people I'm going to be sharing a room with two or three days per week - I'm not going to know whether I can relate to them on some level unless otherwise revealed.  
    I KNOW that this isn't something that EVERYONE has to know about me.  I've managed to keep it from my family for my entire life.  But even so, there's a very difficult-to-explain craving for that connection to exist, even if just as a starting point.  I do currently have a small handful of friends - the lady I bowl with being one absolutely terrific character - then there's my neighbor, a 60-something, who has always been very kind to us and who takes care of our animals whenever we are away for a couple days.  These two DEFINITELY have friend potential but they, sadly, do not know me the way J does.  There still remains in place a barrier - I only allow them to know things that are 'general,' things that are 'safe.'  There are things I'd never say around them.  Important, telling information, that would explain me in ways that I've never been able to allow...because, gee - what if they don't get it?  (Yes, I know I can't live my life like this - I need to afford others the chance to let ME know whether or not they can relate to any of it, rather than either yank the chance away or maintaining the we-can-be-friends-but-I'm-not-letting-you-get-too-close mindset!)
    This is yet another part - another step - of my own personal evolution - and perhaps the Center has unintentionally given me more 'preparation' work than I bargained for.  It isn't just this transition that I've got to get used to - I've been somewhat ready to take on a different role for a while, now.  It is more so the realization that there won't always BE this pre-existing knowledge when dealing with new people and forming new connections and relationships.  I've always known this, but have been plodding along, regardless.  Plus - I'm studying to be a social worker - I've got to understand the 'outside' world just as much as I understand the 'inside.'  If that makes any sense at all...and skills there, I don't have just yet.
    This next 365 days is the time to open up my mind to further personal growth, isn't it?  Especially in the area of forging safe, healthy friendships and connections.  Going to the groups, to counseling was just one way to get started, to prepare myself for the REAL tests that lie ahead - the ones that will start when I become a full-time student.
    This is going to be a hell of a self-imposed challenge that I've a year to rise to. 
    It took a few days to process all of this - being a rainy weekend has helped - spent time reflecting on my 'final' counseling session, on what is expected of me - even if it's more so a self-expectation than anything.  In between reflection, I've managed to get some spring cleaning done - lots of things getting thrown onto eBay, (who would have thought there was value in a broken XBOX that had been collecting dust for years?!) and the daughter's room, I've discovered, has a floor.  Mind blowing.
    Anyway - wanted to put out there an update on the brain traffic for this past week - hoping next week to see a reduction in clutter but as Mother's Day is rapidly approaching, I do sense another jam coming on.  Thankfully, Oompa will be out of the country, (she's going to Italy) but her absence never seems to stop the gears from turning, the constant stream of thinking that usually goes along with any reminder that I have a mother.  I'll likely be back in a few days to decompress.
    Hoping everyone had a good weekend.  As always, my good thoughts are with you all.
    - Capulet
  11. Capulet
    Hello everyone!!!
    I'll first acknowledge how long it's been since my last update...things have been - well - crazy.  Not necessarily a 'bad' kind of crazy - but perhaps the crazy that instead keeps me from being able to sit down and say that I've actually had time to process it all.  Sometimes it takes me time to even WANT to process some of it, so that delays me even more.
    The post-Oompa headache (that pounding sensation at my temples that I experience whenever my mother takes herself and her drama and goes HOME) has subsided and I'm finally able to sit in reflection.  Sometimes her visits are 'meh,' and sometimes they leave my brain feeling like the aftermath of a tornado.  Like, this past visit to our house for the holiday, for example.
    To start - my mother is 'preoccupied' these days.  Earlier last week, she found out that my youngest sister's husband has been cheating.  My mother, of course, was the first person my sister told; so now, naturally, everyone knows.  I was the first one Mom told - followed by the "please don't tell anybody."  Why?  Because my brother in law is 'embarrassed.'  He's the uncle that my kids ABSOLUTELY adore, the one son-in-law that my mother used to be able to boast about, the one daughter who had a husband that was 'a good one.'  He was the one up on the proverbial pedestal, but now that has come toppling down.  Now, Mom's illusion of the 'perfect' couple has been shattered - and you'd think my brother-in-law cheated on my mother instead of my sister.  It's all about Mom, don't you know?  It's always about her - because she has to be involved in the things that she has nothing to do with, she has to have a say in everything.  Apparently now that it's been revealed that my brother-in-law was cheating with someone at work - she's looking up potential alternative jobs for him - jobs elsewhere.  
    Yes, there's a lot wrong with that picture, if you ask me...but, this is not my business any more or less than it is hers - so...moving on.
    At any rate, she came here for Easter - although I'm sure it was begrudgingly; we all know that she wanted to be at my sister's side.  My sister had standing plans to go to her in-laws' for the holiday - (I should mention that she is being supported 100% by my brother-in-law's parents - they are absolutely FURIOUS with him for shaming their 'respectable' family - and are backing her completely - even if it means letting him shack up in his old bedroom because my sister kicked him out) - and upon finding out about her husband's infidelity, wasn't sure if she wanted to go to his family's for the holiday.  Oompa, whose plans were to be here with us, put herself on standby - if my sister decided to not go to her in-laws', then Oompa would be spending Easter with her, instead.  My sister, Oompa claims is 'needy,' (she is, she calls Oompa for EVERYTHING) and she didn't want her to be alone.
    As it turns out, my sister DID go to the in-laws'....my lying, cheating brother-in-law has a lot of reparations to make; even so, there's no guarantee they'll be able to re-establish trust.  Even I know though, that this is something they have to work out.  Just them. This is something that has to be figured out by the two of them alone, and without the influence of my mother, or of his parents.  Maybe there's a marriage counselor involved, but that's it.  This is something that NO ONE can fix, other than the main players - her and him.  That's IT.  ANY sensible person knows that!!
    Oompa, of course, doesn't understand this.  She spent a good portion of the weekend (while she was here) bitching about how shocked she was to hear about the marital problems they were having, not to mention looking up job openings for my brother-in-law ('he has to get away from that skank!!!') and calling around to inquire....she even called my sister every few hours to see how she was doing, probably hoping my sister would say she wanted her to go home and be with her.  She didn't.  So, although my mother stayed from all day Friday until early Monday morning, I could tell she really wasn't wanting to be here - she was physically present, but mentally, she was elsewhere.
    At one point, I had to say to my mother, "She'll (my sister) be fine.  She's a big girl.  There's nothing you can do."  
    OK, so...we're now all aware of Oompa's mindset...overall, she was NOT focused on visiting or enjoying time with any of us or even on the holiday.  In hindsight, it would have made more sense for her to have not come at all.  
    On Easter morning, she went to church at one of the local Catholic parishes around where we live.  I managed to sleep in.  I got up a few minutes before she came back from Easter mass.  While I was still 'waking up,' she got a call from her brother - (yes, the same piece-of-shit I've mentioned in previous blog entries, the same one she wanted me to greet at the family gathering last month!) - and when I came into the kitchen, she was in the middle of that phone call.  He had called to wish her a Happy Easter and I'd walked in during the tail end of their conversation.  When she hung up, she sighed, shook her head, and got back to preparing this (god-awful) pie she had decided to bake for our Easter dessert later on.
    "That was your uncle," she said while mixing pie ingredients, "He's not doing well."  And then, like one of those old-fashioned Italian grannies, she shook the wooden spoon she was using in the general direction of my face, and said, "Not that you care.  And God don't like ugly!"
    I blinked at her.  Honestly, I was at a loss for words.  At that moment, I'm 'hearing' the thoughts in my head.  She's not okay right now.  She's NOT calling ME ugly...she's just overwhelmed with EVERYTHING ELSE, and doesn't know what she's saying....yeah, that's it...right???  That's what's happening here?
    I guess I must have shrugged, too.  She went on, "THAT was why I wanted you to say hello to him at your nephew's birthday party.  It very quite possibly could have been your FINAL hello!"
    Okay, that's it.  I couldn't bite my tongue any further.
    "He's been dead to me for years, already."  I told her with one of my famous nonchalant shrugs.  I'd already suspected that was her reason for wanting me to say hello to him - so he could die thinking everything was peachy keen between him and the niece he'd been so estranged from for almost two decades?  That a 'hello' would somehow 'fix' this???  Hah.  Little did she know that I was fully prepared to do a happy dance whenever she would confirm to me that he'd soon be meeting his end.  It just didn't seem to be the right time to express my overwhelming joy over this man soon being reduced to nothing but a pile of shit, maggots and formaldehyde.
    "STILL."  She said, spoon still waving, "I taught you girls to have respect!"
    "Yes, you did."  I agreed, "And I have respect for those who deserve it."
    She went back to preparing her pie.  My stepfather was sitting at the kitchen table at the time of this dialogue/exchange and was mumbling.  This is his 'normal,' though.  He either mumbles or he screams.  And I'm not even sure WHAT he was mumbling about.  But all of a sudden, my mother whips her head around and (almost TOO) quickly snaps for him to 'shut up.'
    She went on to say to her husband, "You don't know what you're talking about! That's not it, it has to do with my mother and the inheritance, she's mad at him because of that....not because of...you need to shut up!  Just SHUT UP!!!!"  (And all of this was accompanied with the wide, wild eyes and facial expression that just added exclamation points to her words.)
    He mumbled again - but these words were haunting; "that's just what she tells you."
    I don't know what it was that he said (mumbled) to make her so snappy, but he's certainly right about that - what I tell her is what I've been sticking to for all of these years that I've chosen to eliminate her brother from my life.  
    Now here's where I hate my hearing loss the most - I wasn't going to ask him to repeat himself and to inquire as to what he'd said to make my mother so agitated.  By now, she'd had her outburst and he'd ceased his mumbling and I'm shit out of luck - no one else was there to 'hear' him for me - and when it was being said, ALL I could focus on was my mother's reaction.  I know that reaction all too well - it's the same one she puts on when she is trying to 'prevent' information from being given out or trying to say, 'it's time to nix this conversation' with her eyes.
    What gives, Ma?  Why are you so angry?  Why are you so anxious for your husband to 'shut up?'  What are you afraid your husband is going to 'remind' me of?? 
    Truthfully, I've not been giving too much thought to 'things' lately.  I've been trying to focus on going back to school, sticking to the 'important' things going on in my life currently - THIS is not something I want in my forefront, or anywhere near it at the moment.  My suspicions of childhood CSA is something there's no resolution to - not now.  Not until perhaps, my disgusting uncle finally DOES drop dead.  He's been expected to die before - and I've learned that unfortunately, this putrid asshole has more lives than all five of my cats combined - he's cheated death before, it'd be premature to celebrate his departure now - no, this will have to wait until that call finally DOES come.  THEN, I'll deal with whatever feelings should pop up, be they good ones or not-so-favorable ones.  Even so, I don't know HOW I'm going to approach this subject.  What I DO know, though, is she won't be involved when and if I do.
    In the meantime, and even though this is not a priority, I'm finding it increasingly disturbing that my mother, someone I am supposed to look up to, someone I'm supposed to be proud of, instead disgusts me.  Lately, I'm just appalled even more on how she STILL continues to invalidate me by demanding respect for someone who doesn't deserve it.  Oh, and now that it's even more clear she will go to great lengths to 'silence' anyone else with differing opinions on why I don't want this man in my life, more or less alive.  
    And last, but not least, she'll make ANY situation about HER - whether it's about me or one of her other daughters, she'll find a way to flip it and make it HER problem.  I hate to admit to so, but she truly has an unhealthy obsession with feeling needed, feeling wanted.  She can't just let people deal with things in the way they want or need to; she can't resist the urge to insert herself into the situation and to make herself involved.  Instead of just being there as a support, she has to make herself a PART of the problem!
    I dunno about you, but this all makes my mother a VERY difficult person to enjoy being around.  Sadly, all I can think about is how she's looking uglier by the day.
    You're right, Mom.  "God don't like ugly."
    Go say that in front of a fucking mirror, maybe it'll sink in.
    - Capulet
  12. Capulet
    Hello, all!
    There's so much to update on but this week, the words elude me.  I guess I will just write, though - and see what flows.
    To start things off, we once again are hearing the pitter-patter of little paws in the house.  J has been feeling lately that void where Dexter used to be - he was her comfort, he always seemed to KNOW when she needed a cuddle.  So we adopted Salem - he's an 8-week old, all-black kitten.  Accompanying him is the plenty of scratches and teeth marks up our arms and legs - but all in all, we're happy and he's setting into his new home nicely.  He's not Dexter - nor will he ever be - but in some ways, he's already channeling our buddy, who will officially be gone two months on Thursday.  It still seems so unreal.  It IS, however, bringing content smiles to my beautiful wife's face, smiles I have not seen in a while.  If she's happy, I'm happy - and I gotta admit, the little guy IS cute!!
    Oompa came to visit, as promised.  I mentioned a couple of blog entries ago that she wanted me to 'greet' my uncle at my nephew/niece's birthday celebration - I chose not to.  My mother wasn't happy about this and stated that when she asks me for 'favors,' it's usually for a reason.  I asked at the time WHAT possible good reason there EVER could be for me to say hello to someone that I loathe.  She couldn't supply one at the time; she was likely at my sister's house and there were roaming eyes - so she said she'd tell me when she came to visit.
    Well - that visit came and went - and the only thing I was left with was a headache that lasted for two days post-Oompa departure.  While she was here, she tasked herself with the cleaning of my kitchen - (apparently she decided that my kitchen had excess 'clutter,' something that HER kitchen is not completely devoid of, nor was it ever!) and working on a blanket that she brought with her to crochet.  When she's at home, all she does is complain how tired she is - granted, she takes on way too much and this is her own fault - but when she's here, she won't go to bed until after 11.  (Yes, you may insert the moaning and groaning here!)  
    While she was here, she wanted to watch an episode of SVU.  Now, I don't watch this frequently - if it's on and there's nothing else of interest, I'll watch it - but I honestly lost track of the show during the Stabler days.  Anyway, my mother watches it weekly and did so on Thursday night - "watch with me," she said - so I did - but only because she'd be going to bed after and THEN I'd have my peace and quiet.  
    Anyhow, this particular episode - a man was about to get married and someone stood up in the church when the minister said, "speak now or forever hold your peace."  The woman who stood claimed, in front of all of the guests, that the groom had raped her.  I won't get into details in case any of you watch SVU and haven't seen this episode - but the accuser was investigated thoroughly, and my mother's commentary throughout was, 'oh, she's lying,' or 'I don't believe her.'  
    As it turns out, the woman wasn't being 100% truthful, but she was also not lying.  It's something you'd have to see to understand the full story of - but to hear my mother repeatedly invalidate this woman's words - it just further solidified that I can never - EVER - share with her.  Not about her brother, not about the isolated SA experience that further changed me.  None of it.  Instead, I have to pretend that I am unaffected by sexual assault; I have to shield from her, from most people around me, reasons for my being the way I am.  I am just not safe to emerge from behind that shield, yet.  I wonder, though, if I ever will be.
    I'm also momentarily propelled back into childhood when my mother would tell me that I lied, I made up stories.  For her to invalidate a fictional character was telling me that she was also invalidating ME - and so, even though I wanted to scream at her, I kept my mouth shut and 'put it in my sleeve.'  In a way, I'm GLAD she said nothing about her good-for-nothing brother - at this point, the anger I feel has bottled up over having to see him recently, (being asked to say HELLO to him, too?) is invalid because I'm a liar, too, just like this woman on television, and I made up a story when I was six years old.  If Oompa is of the self-imposed mindset that I made this up as a young child and is OKAY with that belief, then there's no changing it now, nor any motivation to try changing it.
    Come to think of it, perhaps this is why, for a full day after she left, I was feeling as if I was carrying a boulder (that was my head) atop my neck.  It was like there were a marching band making its rounds through my brain.  The throbbing was AWFUL.  I am glad to say, though, that has stopped and I'm feeling MUCH better and calmer now.
    SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) is in full swing, here - got the heads' up from M that this month's group would have to do with SAAM and we'd be designing and making Take Back the Night signs in Art Group tomorrow (Tuesday).  
    During the last several days' Mets games, I've been making loom bracelets in between pitches - I now have 20 of them - to distribute among the ladies at Art Group when I go tomorrow evening.  I think they'll love them - and I'm only wishing I could have made more. I probably would have, too, had I not run out of the color I needed - but I felt that SOMETHING needed to be done to spread awareness.  I've NOT participated in the #metoo movement on Facebook, even though a part of me did want to.  I've not posted anything on social media that could be interpreted as, "I'm a survivor," and no, it's not because I'm ashamed.  I've just got eyes (Oompa's, my kids', other family members') on my social media accounts (even if it's just Facebook and a somewhat-abandoned Instagram account) that I don't want seeing this side of me that I've chosen to keep private.  With what I've mentioned of my mother above, I do know not many would blame me for doing so, but at the same time, I feel angry that I've had to hold my tongue for so long, and that my reasons for keeping silent are for self-protection - I certainly don't wish to protect the man who raped me; he SHOULD be exposed for the animal he is - especially if he's living the good life that I know he doesn't deserve.  
    I went through HUNDREDS of black, white and teal rubber bands and although after the first two or three, the rest were woven in autopilot mode, I did do some reflecting as I put them together.  I'm going on 23 years since I was SA'd.  Yet, it still lingers, it still stings, it still tarnishes thoughts that would otherwise be beautiful. Yes, time has been good to me in the sense that some of these thoughts have lessened and I'm in an overall good place with all of it - but there's still the occasional reminder of that night.  I'm not even talking about the CSA that happened prior to the rape, I'm referring back to that night in 1996 when I'd be forced down an alternative path, one that was unmapped and held nothing but uncertainty.  
    I've also decided that in synchrony with going back to school and getting my Bachelor's in Social Work, I will also be exploring other ways of getting involved within my community.  I feel that I have spent enough time silently acknowledging that I am a survivor.  It is time to embrace the fact that I am not just a survivor, but one that is ready, willing, and able to interact with other survivors - even if on a peer level first.  I think I've kept this part of my life private for FAR too long - and it's time to emerge within my community as a 'known' survivor, even if it means continuing to keep my mother in the dark.  It's easier to do this now that I don't live so close to her and I've effectively managed to keep her at arms' length.  
    I've expressed a desire to M to, when the time comes, do my internship at the Women's Center where the monthly groups are held - and have made it known that I would like to volunteer there, as well as eventually apply for a job there.  She will be letting me know when I can speak to their volunteer coordinator - in October, it will be one year since I joined them at the center for groups, and that's the amount of time you need to be affiliated with them in order to be considered for volunteering services.  
    You know what's messed up, though?  In a small way?
    I did tell Oompa my plans to volunteer at the center.  And I told her that it was in preparation for the line of work I'll be going into once I've got my degree in hand and that they offer the training class to their volunteers for free - non-volunteers needed to fund this training course out-of-pocket.   She did ask why I would be going to a place like that or getting involved with them - and to tell her that it was because I wanted to eventually WORK there and not because it was because I BELONGED there - seemed...I don't know.  Like it was the truth, but not the whole honest truth.  I don't consider myself a dishonest person but to put it that way...it feels wrong.  Does that make sense?  
    A little?  Not at all?  Is my brain just in overdrive, per usual?
    For those of you who are observing SAAM alongside me - know that I stand next to you, whether or not you're observing silently.  I support you this month, and every month. I believe you.  And I am sending you one of my handmade loom bands, even if I've got to do it mentally.  
    Anyway.  Just wanted to empty off some of this chatter that is swirling within my brain.  I do think I'll be back within the next few days with another update, especially after tomorrow's Art meeting. 
    I am hoping everyone's having a fantastic day in your parts of the world!  Spring has officially sprung here - it is LOOKING like we are done with snow and 50-60 degree weather is here for at least the next ten days.  But living where I live is anything but predictable and that's subject to change.  Hoping not, though - I'd REALLY like to break out my outdoor furniture and get the back yard 'barbecue ready!'
    Until next time.  Sending y'all lots of love and hugs.  If you don't want the hugs, kindly pass 'em onto the person behind you.  I won't be offended. 
    - Capulet
  13. Capulet
    For the last few weeks, we have had a broken front door lock; and my son's key was refusing to come out of the door.  Home Depot wanted $130 for a new lock/set that looked the most like the one we have now.
    $130 that we just didn't want to have to spend right now.  I now have past-due vet bills, a car payment, increased insurance payments, this just wasn't on my to-do list.
    So, we left the son's key in the door (it was LITERALLY stuck and wasn't even turning, so it was impossible for anyone else to pull the key out and let themselves into my house) and started using the top deadbolt lock until we could invest in a new one.  In that time, we've had several people (to include two of our neighbors, the cable guy, the mailman, and the UPS delivery man) point out that our key was still in the door.  
    "We know," I'd tell them all, then would fidget with the lock to see if by some miracle, the key was removable, yet.  The movie, "Sword in the Stone" comes to mind.  It was confirmed that not even King Arthur himself could turn this piddly little key, and I've been delaying having to shell out the $130 for about a month, now.
    Yesterday, I was inspired to, once and for all, get out the tool box and see what I could do.  There had to be SOMETHING going on inside the lock, some reason the key wouldn't turn.  The sun was out and I wouldn't be freezing if I stood in the doorway and did some investigating.  In between shooing the cats from the wide-open door, I managed to take the whole thing apart.  The key remained in the lock and despite all the jiggling and button pressing and tinkering, it was LOOKING like I needed to invest that $130.  I needed to now put it all back together, or there would literally be a hole in the front door that the neighbors, cable guy, postman, UPS man would ALL be able to see through.  
    The first time I put it back together, I found that I couldn't even turn the KNOB now. 
    Screwdriver got thrown.  Slew of obscenities flew out of my mouth.
    Picked up phone to text J to see if she'd pick up a lock set on her way home from work - but decided against hitting 'send.'  I was going to try this again - I REALLY didn't want to spend $130!!!
    Picked screwdriver up, and in the process, scared the cat who had gone over to investigate it. 
    Took apart the knob and handle again, did some more tinkering, and apparently, all of my swearing must have helped, because not only was the knob turning now, but, out came the key, too.
    I screwed in for the second time the knob and handle.  Confirmed that the inside knob was now turnable post-screwing and the button on the handle was press-able.  I wasn't brave enough to try the freed key yet because I wasn't confident enough in my hardware skills to say it wouldn't get stuck again.  Nevertheless, I texted the wife to let her know that I didn't know exactly how, but that I'd fixed the door and saved us a trip to Home Depot.  Not that there was one planned, but it was likely having to be planned soon!
    Small update on this, since this was yesterday's excitement - I did end up trying the key when I returned it to the Son - I locked myself outside and used the key to let myself back in.  He's now put it back onto his keyring and I'm patting myself on the back.  
    $130 is a lot of fucking money to save, isn't it?  Yeah, I thought so.
    So, it's confirmed.  Gone (for now) are the days of having to explain to houseguests that the key being left in the door was NOT a result of absentmindedness and that it was because the lock, somehow, was stuck.  
    Please don't ask me how I fixed it.  I couldn't tell you.  
    So, this opens the door (no pun intended, or maybe it IS?) to conversing about something that I've come to realize over the last few weeks.
    People have been trying to fix ME for years.  
    My mother was first.  I came out 'defective' and with two bad ears.  They told her I'd NEVER speak (big surprise, I'm sure, to those who know me now - I'm not an overly loud person but if I'm comfortable with someone, I do NOT shut up!) and she made it her personal mission to 'correct' the doctors and audiologists.  She made it a priority to raise me as she would a hearing child.  Sign language was out of the question.  I had no deaf friends.  I don't know if this caused more damage, socially (it likely did) but it was almost definitely a result of her trying to 'fix' me.   Yes, when she realized she had a deaf child, she did rise to the occasion and did whatever she could to to make sure that I thrived, regardless of how.  It's HARD to say whether she had my best interests in mind, or it was more so in her own to have as 'normal' as possible a child.
    My parents also tried to 'fix' me by taking me to therapy as a child - I will never know their real reasons for introducing therapy into an 8-year-old child's life but have very deep suspicions it is for the behaviors that I was demonstrating - behaviors indicative of being exposed to CSA.  This is something my mother was never willing to see, even though the signs were all there.  As far as she was concerned, I was not behaving normally, and it needed to be fixed.  Oddly enough, she decided that there was enough 'fixing' done after a year and I was unexplainably yanked from therapy.  The behaviors continued well into my teen years, so I don't know - while I don't want to say the effort was wasted, I don't see that there was any resolution, either.
    As some of you know, I became recklessly promiscuous following the rape in 1996.  There was partner after partner - both men and women.  Some knew more than others as far as my history - and some insisted that I just needed to be "taught" how to enjoy sex.  "Just let me try this," they'd say while I laid there, TRYING not to flip out, "you will like it, trust me."  There was ultimately NO 'fix' here, but they sure as hell tried!
    My ex-husband tried to 'fix' me by pointing out EVERYTHING I did wrong.  It didn't matter if it wasn't illegal-kind of wrong - if it was not up to his standards, it was wrong.  Yes, he used manipulation more often than he did not, and he was SO talented at getting me to actually BELIEVE him.  I believed him enough at one point to completely transition into the mindset that if things weren't done HIS way, then they were automatically incorrect. And so, even though his 'right way' of doing things didn't necessarily match mine, I went out of my way to ensure HE was happy. 
    Reflecting on all of this - I think I always thought I was broken - even as a young child.  Here was everyone telling me what I needed to do, what was best for me, what would work, what wouldn't.  Rather than take the reins myself (when I was old enough to), I placed my trust into the wrong people and listened to them instead of listening to myself.  Instead of chalking things up to opinion, I'd say, "sure, I'll try this.  Sure, I'll do that.  Whatever you think will fix the problem, I'll do."  I suppose trusting myself to make better choices was always an issue, perhaps even more so after enduring trauma, but that's just another factor to consider as I try to get to the bottom of this.
    If I wasn't broken before, this definitely is what did it.  All of the 'fixing' others have tried to do, only succeeded in breaking me further.
    I know there's only one person that can truly fix me.  Right - me, myself, and I.  That's it.  It just became SO easy to let others guide me - they'd been doing it so long and I never had the confidence (or motivation) to speak up for myself.  Having this newfound confidence scares me now as I'm not used to fixing anything other than unruly doorknobs or a tech issue here and there.  I'm now recognizing the difference between what needs to be fixed and what was never broken and am wondering just how much was even necessary!
    Has this made it harder for me to fix myself?  Maybe THIS is why I'm feeling particularly stuck nowadays, why these 'grown-up' decisions are seeming so hard?  No one suggested going back to school, starting up with counseling, participating in a local Survivors Art/support group.  These were all things I took on, by myself, as a first step toward fixing my own way of thinking.  
    The only fixing I'm going to do for the rest of tonight is that of dinner.  London Broil on the barbecue - sun's still out and it's a good grilling day. 
    Back next time.  Hoping you're all having a good day!
    Peace, love and hugs,
    - Capulet
  14. Capulet
    As promised, the update on yesterday's family gathering - dual birthday party for my nephew (5) and my niece (1).  I meant to update earlier but a status update seemed more appropriate - admittedly, I was a ball of nerves, and my mother wasn't helping matters any.  There was much to say, much swirling around in my already-busy brain, but I figured, lemme get through the day, first - let me recuperate (with or without Lucy's 5-cent therapy) and THEN I'd write on this.
    To backtrack, my sister decided to invite my mother's brother to a birthday celebration for her kids - he is a person who, just hearing his name, sets me off into a fit.  We all know that she tried to get my father to chauffeur him home from the birthday party - as he would have to pass through the town the Uncle lived in on his way home.  I was put in a very uncomfortable position when this originally came up and had no choice but to drop it at the time of discussion.  It was either that, or open up a can of worms that I wasn't ready to open.  
    I agonized over this upcoming party for two months.  Over seeing him, over what would happen after seeing him, over the what-if-I-lose-my-shit-publicly question.  In that two months, I've had enough 'other things' happen that this just seemed - STUPID - to think about.  It wasn't an easy couple months - we lost a pet, we've hit some financial hard times, and we've had to refocus on the positive things in order to make the time go by faster.  The only problem with that - this party crept up quicker than I thought it would.
    After my sister texted me to ask me to show up an hour early to help 'set up' for the party, I texted Oompa to ask if I'd be walking into any surprises.  She'd mentioned briefly (or she might have mentioned more but whenever she says ANYTHING about her brother, I develop amnesia and out comes the usual response: 'oh, okay...') that he was back in the hospital sometime last month.  I will gladly admit to you all that I HOPED this meant he wouldn't still be coming, being unhealthy and all that.  Regardless, she responded to my text with, "what do you mean?"
    I asked her flat-out then, "is L going to be there?"
    She confirmed yes, he was still going to be in attendance.  And then followed up with, "do me a favor and please just say hello to him.  Then you can ignore him for the rest of the afternoon.  And have the kids say hello, too."
    I didn't like this AT ALL, but said I'd wave.  I didn't say though, that he'd see me wave.  And I told her I was NOT going to ask my kids to say hello to him.  He was nobody to them - (and not for nothing, the daughter barely says hello to people she DOES know!) - and it didn't matter to me whether or not they chose to say hello - it was up to them.
    She probably didn't like that at all, but said nothing more.  We arrived at the party early enough to help my sister set things up.  When he showed up, J made sure I was clear across the room. And my J had been asking me for weeks already - why am I even going to this thing?  That kitchen confrontation between me and my parents should have resulted in a firm 'if he's going to be there, I will not be going.'  And, to a point, she's right.  If this was anything BUT a birthday party for my autistic nephew who would likely have been disappointed if I didn't go - I probably would have made that statement.  So I said I'd go for him, for my nephew, whom I have no intention of ever disappointing - and that I'd do everything in my power to avoid my uncle and focus on the kids instead.
    Which I did manage to do yesterday.  I didn't say hello, I didn't make eye contact, I didn't wave, and when I saw him being 'led' around (he can't walk without assistance), I simply walked into the opposite direction.  (HUGE shout-out to my cousin who unknowingly rescued me from his path by asking me if I wanted to get a cup of coffee from the dessert table!  Well-timed, and well-played, cousin!)  
    There were times when I'd glance at him - at how pathetic he was.  He looks disheveled, dirty, unshaven.  Don't get me wrong, he was ALWAYS disgusting looking - more so to me than to anyone else, perhaps, but even more so now that I am grappling with whether he is responsible for the things I understand on a very deep level but cannot remember.  Everything I find disgusting about him is amplified, a hundred-fold.  Even the daughter wrinkled her nose at the sight of him - and the son was heard (even if only by J) calling him 'the molester' and questioning why he'd been invited.  I responded to them both to simply ignore him if they wished - that was what I was doing.  My guess is - they'd been told by the wasband that he was an unsavory sort and simply didn't care to ask their father to elaborate.  They kept their distance, though - which was relieving.
    I waited until he'd left the building before using the bathroom, which was inconveniently located behind where he was sitting.  Holding my bladder for a couple of hours, to me, was WELL worth it!
    After the party, we went to get some food at Applebee's.  Oompa texted me when we were waiting to get our check.
    "Did you say hello to your uncle?"
    I stared at my phone for about five minutes.  No, I hadn't.  I had made sure to avoid contact, simply because I didn't want to see him.  I knew that a 'hello' would have turned into a conversation.  Rather than risk saying something I didn't feel was best said at a kiddy party, I had decided against even the wave.  I didn't want him even LOOKING at me, which I'm sure couldn't be avoided.  For a few minutes, I considered telling my mother that I had waved but didn't think he saw me...but why lie?  She'd only ask if he saw me wave.  And we'd end right back up at square one.
    "No, I didn't," I decided that the truth was better, and texted back.
    She came back with, "Yet, you said you would say hello for my sake."
    The idea of telling her I waved but he didn't see me, once again paraded through my mind. Instead, I said, "I didn't want to end up having a conversation with him.  I have nothing to say to him."
    "I didn't ask you to have a conversation with him," she said, "I just asked that you say hello.  You know that when I ask you for something, there's usually a reason."
    "Oh, yeah?" I shot back, "What was the reason, then?"
    She said she couldn't discuss it then.  She likely had my sister's nose peering over her shoulder - or she was on the phone with him, and he was probably bitching about that niece (and her kids) who didn't even acknowledge he existed.  
    Either way, I very honestly don't give a shit.  There is absolutely NO reason whatsoever that would make my saying hello to a pedophile, a good one.  I AM sure I'll hear about it when she comes to visit in a couple weeks - J and I have already discussed what possible reasons there could be - maybe his recent hospital visit has revealed that he's finally going to be dead soon?   
    * Side note - I just had a nice mental image of him bending over, looking into the hole that will become his final resting place - and me walking by, kick-shoving him into that hole and continuing on my merry way....yeah, just thought I'd leave that there.   It is one thing that made me smile yesterday amidst all the mixed-in bouts of anxiety.  But it certainly conveys how much I've been looking forward to hearing that he's another step closer to the eternal fires of Hell.
    Anyway - when that 'reason' (Oompa's reason, that is, whether or not it matches the one I'm fantasizing about) is revealed - I'll be sure to let you all know as I'm sure you're all as curious as I am.  For now, though, I can only assume that he's not doing well, health-wise, and my mother is trying to eliminate any 'guilt' on my part for not having been cordial toward him when I saw him last.  This just further confirms that Oompa is completely clueless.  And ANY thoughts of someday telling her MY reasons for hating this man are now further away from ever being made a reality.  There is just NO way that I can trust her with it - all I'll be left with is even MORE invalidation....and really, who wants that?  Show of hands?
    Yeah, I didn't think so.
    In the meantime, I'd like to thank each and every one of you who rode in my pocket yesterday.  I felt you all there, and love you all.  
    This'll be a short-ish entry tonight; I'll be back later this week with an update on the 'other' stuff.  There's lots to share, but for now, I wanted to just clear this off of my mind.  As always, comments and thoughts (and guesses on the 'reasons') welcome - we could probably get our bets in before Oompa's visit during the first week in April and it might be fun to see who's right!?  
    Either way - I am sending you all love and hugs and plenty of well wishes.  Hoping your weekend went well!
    Until next time.
    - Capulet
  15. Capulet
    I'm not sure which to believe, first. 
    The fact that I received an email from the University that I applied to transfer into this coming fall - at 12:02am in the morning.  Someone was apparently in the office VERY late, despite this coming week being Spring Break...
    .....that I've been accepted for the Fall 2019 term and will be working toward my Bachelor's of Science in Social Work.  
    I've previously made this goal of mine known - but until a few nights ago, it was simply that - just a goal.  I knew that there were going to be additional processes behind it.  There were going to be more steps to take in order to make this goal a reality and I am now another step closer - I've decided not to apply anywhere else as my first choice has accepted me.  I'll be submitting the 'hold my place' fee (an amount that's going to be somewhat painful to throw anywhere other than toward this year's heating bill) later this week and I've spoken to my VR counselor asking her for an appointment as soon as she's able.  In the meantime, I'll be shifting focus onto applying for the state grants, for financial aid, and all the other required, headache-inducing, FUN stuff that's needing to be done prior to registration for classes.
    I remember feeling this way, before.  23 years ago, when I held my first college acceptance letter in my hand.  I'm going to college.  I'm in that final stretch of road that lays between being a kid and being someone with a job, a title, a purpose.  
    Little did I know that almost immediately following my entrance into college the first time around, that path would crack and split off into multiple additional directions that I didn't anticipate ever having to take.  It was no longer a straight line for me.  In order to get to where I needed to be, there were now unexpected detours that although I would have LOVED to step over whatever obstacle obstructing my path from A to B, I felt forced into having to take the longer, more unfamiliar route.  Much can be said for changed plans and shattered aspirations but it's always worse when you don't see it coming.  And in an instant - everything that I knew about myself was now gone. Everything I wanted to do - also gone.  My dreams?  Some remained, but they were now cloudy; and this thick murkiness enveloped them all - sort of a message to the 17-year-old me that in order to see these dreams clearly again, I was going to have to wait for the fog to clear, first.
    Yeah, trauma IS that powerful.   
    My assault did not happen on campus.  It did, however, happen four weeks in - when there was still that 'I'm in college,' disbelief.  My toe had been dipped; but there was still much to get used to.  People to figure out.  Lots to discover, including who I was - something that would only become seemingly impossible as time went on.  
    See, when I started college in 1996, I didn't really have a plan.  I wanted to do something with writing.  I thought being a playwright or scriptwriter would be ideal for me, the thought of writing for the stage and screen was an exciting one.  At this point in my life, I had become very shy, very withdrawn.  Perhaps that's one of the 'deaf things' my mother likes to throw forward as a possible reason for any of my 'odd behavior.'  
    On that note, yes, there existed little thoughts that I'd learned to not spend time with.  The thoughts were present but were not considered for rethinking.  Just as soon as one would pop up at a random opportune moment, it would disappear just as quickly.  I remained oblivious (if simply not remembering counts) to the possibility of previous trauma and the aftereffects until I was seventeen.  Until trauma looked me directly in the eye, there was that thought that lingered deep within that there was something wrong with me - based on the behaviors I remember having as a child.  As these thoughts had been forced (by myself, mostly) to sit dormant in the furthest recesses of my mind, I had been plodding along, just taking it day by day.  No one brought any of it up, so in turn, I did not, either.  Any concern surrounding my odd behavior had been dismissed so long ago at this point, and I'd effectively been led to believe that it was my overactive imagination that birthed these thoughts - nothing more, nothing less. 
    Either way, I was a watcher, not a participator.  I watched people from afar, took mental notes of their personalities, they'd sometimes inspire the creation of a fictional character in one of my plays, that I'd write in a spiral notebook since this was way before I had my first computer.  Scenarios played out in my thoughts, and I'd write them down.  I'd then mentally cast my favorite actors and actresses into the roles of my characters.  I didn't consider this a life ambition nor did I think it'd get that far and that I'd be sitting next to Steven Spielberg one day, but it was a thought, it was a goal, it was a direction, even though my brain told me that it wasn't a reasonable one.  There was nothing else that spoke to me - no other career aspiration - perhaps this is because Oompa threw them all at me and said they were good ideas.  Even as a child/teenager, she was forever trying to manipulate me into making choices she wanted me to make and to 'shape' me into what she thought was best, with little consideration for what I wanted or believed.  
    "You should be a teacher," Oompa said to me, once.  "What about for a deaf school?"
    "Why not?  You're good with kids.  You're a success story and you could be an inspiration!"
    Yes, I do have a way with children - I'm the favorite aunt, I'm the one who gets on the floor and plays with the kids at family gatherings, but that's generally because I prefer the company of my nieces and nephew in place of their parents and I don't see them as often as I'd like.  However, Oompa was a teacher.  I do NOT want to follow in my mother's footsteps in ANYTHING I do.  While I do sincerely love my mother and DO owe much of my 'success' today to 'early intervention,' I harbor a very deep, hard-to-find-at-times resentment for her - there was much she could have handled differently while raising me.  While there was much she did do, there were also things she neglected - things having nothing at all to do with my hearing disability.  
    At this point, bygones are bygones, and I've put into place an impenetrable barrier when it comes to her.  It has taken YEARS, but I've managed to establish a distance between my mother and me; it has become increasingly necessary to do so as I got older and wiser.  Admittedly, moving two hours away from her has helped, too.  
    Anyway, my first time around, I chose a major in Liberal Arts/English.  I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but was hopeful that eventually a different path would present.  Little did I know that one would, but in the most unfavorable way imaginable.  While the goal I have today took over two decades to become clear, I spent most of my first three years of college in a daze.  I'd been raped shortly after the beginning of my collegiate journey and I was still trying to deal with that aftermath of that while balancing the 'basic' introductory courses.  I wasn't thinking about anything other than just getting through the current day.  I was directionless, I was unmotivated, and I was LOST.  I was doing just the minimum needed to pass the class - that was pretty much it.  There was no longer any excitement, there was no longer any visibility on the road that lay before me.  All I had left of that was the faint memory of what it looked like BEFORE - and I was proceeding in hopes of not stumbling over an obstacle that had fallen when that illusion of a perfectly mapped-out future had blown up in my face.
    It was almost a relief finding myself pregnant with the Son in the middle of my third year.  In a way, I took it as a sign - that I needed to begin to focus on things that I knew were a sure thing.  It was time to stop wandering aimlessly.  Impending motherhood was now more important to me than trying to balance schoolwork that I just wasn't of the frame of mind to be doing.  And to what end?  I had no idea where I was going - I was going to graduate in another year or so, but then what?  Life was going to again, change drastically for me in a matter of months.  It made no sense to continue on a path toward the unknown.
    And so, I dropped out in 1999, telling myself that one day, when I was able to identify a newly paved road to a destination that was doable, I'd revisit the idea of picking up where I left off.   
    I announced late last year that I was ready to consider going back to school.  The Son is now in his second semester of his freshman year in college and my daughter is in the seventh grade.  I've spent the last nearly nineteen years of my life making sure they each had everything they needed.  I put their needs, along with those of the wasband and my stepchildren, before my own.  I gave little to no thought on what my purpose was, other than to be a wife and mother.  Although I will always be Mom to my children and a wife to my committed partner of ten years, I am now ready to be something more.  I am ready to work toward a career title, and I am ready for my reach to exceed that of what I'm used to.  I'm ready for all of it.
    Again, Oompa, who was, I believe, most excited to hear my announcement, pushed the idea of my working toward becoming a teacher.  Again, I told her no.  She suggested a few other things she thought I'd be good at - some having to do with working with deaf children, since I was still considered a 'success story.'  Likely, she'd want some more bragging rights reserved for when I graduated and was now working as whatever she recommended.  After all, my successes were because of her, didn't you know?  I shot those ideas down, too.
    I've previously shared with you all my aspirations to become a Social Worker.  Oompa's soured expression was what further solidified this choice for me - she was SO sure that I would agree with her that social workers don't break the bank with their paychecks and I'd pick something that she'd initially recommended...her wisdom wasn't to be discounted, after all.  'It's hard work,' she also said.  I wasn't sure whether to be offended that she was thinking I couldn't handle it, or to say, 'yes but because of your early intervention, I'm fully capable of a little hard work.'  In hindsight, saying the latter would have shut her up immediately, but it's one of those thoughts that come to light days after the conversation had ended.  
    For the first time in years, I stood my ground and told her that I wanted to become a Social Worker - and that was my goal - period.  I did NOT want to be a teacher.  I did NOT want to be an advocate for the deaf.  I did NOT want to 'apply to a trade school so that it was easier and I could start working sooner rather than later.'  I had started distancing myself from my mother prior to the age of 17, and I never shared with her details of my trauma.  I just never felt safe doing so.   That being said, I don't expect her to understand what mainly steered me in the direction of Social Work with a focus on Sexual Assault Counseling and Advocacy - but at this point - I am past the point of attempting to explain anything to her.  Her thoughts no longer MATTER to me - and little by little, I am finding myself becoming FAR more vocal with her when I disagree. You've likely seen a recent example of this with my recent decision to lease a Jeep (my choice) over a Subaru (her recommendation)...
    So, now, here I am, with the acceptance email in front of me.  Y'all know my tendency to ramble, and I'll try to wrap up soon, I promise.   I came here to blog about something very specific I am feeling, and all that's been said before the mention of my mother, well - it's not unimportant, but it's for the most part, supporting information.
    So, without further ado...
    How do I feel about this acceptance?  You'd think I'm whoop-whooping and clapping to myself in anticipation of finally completed some of the required steps to re-commit to going back to school.  But I'm not.  I can't stop looking at this letter, and although I am happy and I am pleased with myself for taking the steps I've taken, all of my doubts are coming back to say hello.
    I feel something.  Maybe many somethings, but for sure, it's not as simple as I'd like for it to be.
    I've got jitters.  Yes, definitely.
    I don't want to say I'm excited because I'm not sure that's what it is.  There IS some excitement though - knowing I've made good on the promise to myself to re-focus on my education is something I'm proud of.  I'm so used to doing for others, and doing for myself is rare.  Another thing to take pride in is having found something that, although under circumstances that I'd love to say weren't a contributing factor,  I can truly focus on building a career in.  
    I'm nervous.  I'm starting to wonder if this is indeed best.  Not because of what I've decided what I wanted to do by now - but because I've been out of the 'school loop' for so long, now - I'm used to life being the way it is now - to take on school would bring forth VERY drastic changes.  I know I stated above that it's something I'm ready to do - but I'm finding that the more ready you are, sometimes the doubt is stronger.
    Changes are, for me, VERY uncomfortable.  I am sure I am not alone in this - change is not easy for many.  I'm not completely in the dark on what college life entails, but...I'm 40, now.  I've spend the last 19 years building a life that didn't involve me conforming to schedules, doing homework, meeting deadlines.  I'm no longer a spring chicken, and I wonder if starting over at my age is even what 's best.  
    I know - we never stop learning, it's never too late to get that degree, you can be furthering your eduction until the day you die - I know all this, I have even said this to others.  I have to admit that a part of me anticipates there being somewhat of a sadness when I show up to my first class and I'm surrounded by kids my son's age, who are fresh out of high school and are going to get to travel that straight-line road that I was unfairly denied.  
    I am going to be not only required to emerge from within my 'bubble,' my comfort zone, in order to attend classes - I'll also be meeting new people, there will be discussions I'll have to participate in, there may come a time where I'll have to speak in class.  All of these possibilities are constantly circling my brain because this is what I do remember having to do 20 years ago (my first rodeo) and I was the same social disaster back then.  Understandably, there are going to be times I will have to say to myself, "Cap - this is all a part of your overall healing journey.  To put yourself out there is to re-learn how to establish a comfortable place within society."  I have been a self-proclaimed hermit for the last several years, and this, I FULLY expect to have some issues with in the beginning, as I attempt to emerge from this mental cocoon I've become so comfortable staying hidden inside of.
    I'm terrified because I know that my goal to become a Social Worker is going to REQUIRE I become somewhat comfortable using my voice, being around others, looking others in the eye when I speak to them.  I am going to need to learn to approach others, start conversations, learn to communicate in ways that don't involve writing emails or messages.  I know that I cannot be forced by anyone other than myself to do these things.  Even to self-push isn't always recommended but it certainly IS something that I've decided I need to work on as I proceed on my own personal healing path.  In fact, going back to school can be seen as intertwining two positive steps toward a better me.  It's inspiring but also scares the ever-loving shit out of me.
    I'm also sad - because there is great irony in one of the reasons contributing to my dropping out - now becoming something that is motivating my return to school.  That cannot be missed.  
    I know that all this seems...well, silly.  At least, it does to me - I know that a lot of time has gone by since 'the first time around' and that I should be embracing these upcoming changes as I am now approaching them from an adult perspective.  I know am not the same person I was at 17.  I'm more mature now.  I won't be attending any parties.  I won't be putting myself into any potentially dangerous situations. These changes are good for me - they're healthy, they're ambitious.  They're decisions I've made without pressure from anyone else.  And deep down, I know that some of these concerns are probably unreasonable and I'll likely be just fine.  I just feel it is important to be honest with myself and with whomever reads this - honest and truthful about what has been attacking all of my recent feel-good thoughts and leaving behind ones of impending failure.  
    I think, though, that there's also another thing to add to what I'm still having trouble believing.  That the fog has cleared, and the road ahead has become more visible.  There is no longer any debris for me to navigate over, around, under, etc.  There is once again - a straight path from here to where my degree awaits.  I'd taken a serious detour - but now, there is a part of me that is back where I was when I was seventeen - standing at the beginning of the road (be it made out of yellow bricks or not) and eager to get started on the rest of my life - and then there is a part of me that is fearful of that road unexpectedly changing AGAIN.  It doesn't even have to be in the form of trauma - change is brought forth in SO many different ways and I've too often seen things not work out the way people hope they do.  I'm just so used to things not happening the way I'd expect them to - why should this be any different?
    In closing, I am asking for all of your good thoughts and well wishes as I begin this brand-new walk; there's still much to be done to put my butt into a chair by the time September rolls around.  In the meantime, I've decided that now that I've had a chance to write on them, I'll say no more on my 'unreasonable' fears and instead just focus on what I CAN do to make it all a reality.  Still, some motivation wouldn't hurt!  
    That'll be it for today, I think.  I've a date with the online FAFSA tonight and tomorrow with filling out some more paperwork for the VR counselor - slowly but surely, and despite the unwelcome self-doubts, I am getting the needed steps taken.  And here's another thing I cannot believe I'm hearing myself say - but I'm proud of myself for getting to this point.  
    Hoping you're all doing well.  Until next time, friends.  
    - Capulet
  16. Capulet
    Hello, all!  
    In the interests of keeping up with this blog, I'm back for the second time this week.  I guess we have my overly chatty brain to thank for the increased nocturnal blog activity but if no one's complaining, I'm not, either.  On the sleep front, things have improved, although I might have just jinxed myself by speaking of my weekend success - it wasn't even Melatonin that caused me to crash the last couple nights - it was pure exhaustion!  But I've gone to bed around 2am the last couple nights - and would awaken around - get this - 9!!!  SEVEN hours of sleep!  I do not remember any dreams, any jolts, any tossing and turning. I'm sure the restlessness will start up again next week, though - it always seems to find me.  
    So - a question to start you off with.  
    Have any of you ever been told you were too close to a situation to see the potential for it to become unhealthy or toxic?
    This is indeed something that I've had happen throughout the last several years of my life.  Others will tell me they've seen certain behaviors of someone I am/was close to - and my natural response is always to defend.  I'm constantly looking for the good in people - I've seen plenty of bad and honestly, I'd like to consider that moving forward, there's more favorable qualities in others than there are undesirable ones.  In reality, we all have difficult people in our lives.  Family members for some, friends or co-workers for others.  Sometimes this label even extends to acquaintances.  Point is - we all encounter others we may perhaps identify as difficult - I'll eat my hat if you can tell me you don't know a single person who makes it HARD for you to communicate with, to have patience with, someone who plucks your every nerve, someone who is a threat to your emotional, mental, or physical (in some cases) well-being.
    It's been brought to my attention that this has happened MANY times in my life.  As a kid, I craved friendship - I didn't have many, because I was the 'different' one.  I was quiet, I kept to myself, I was shy.  I wasn't unfriendly; I just wasn't the one to initiate conversation.  And, so, whenever someone else did, I trusted easily.  I often overcompensated and emotionally gave more than I was receiving - and friendships quickly became one-sided.  Not because of anything I did, but possibly because whatever someone needed from me - they got and had moved on.  It's not a pattern I'm proud to say I have gotten sucked into, more than once.
    And then, people warned me about the wasband. "He's abusive."  "He's controlling you."  I didn't listen.  I stayed put for eight years - and for the entire time, defended him to everyone, as a faithful wife should - but deep down, knew that when any wife starts to question her own words, it becomes evident that she is simply too close, too biased.  She's missing a lot.  I missed a lot.  I'm strong enough now to admit this, but for a long time, I was ashamed - I felt STUPID for not having seen this before.  With him or with anyone else.
    Have you ever gone to a movie and realized that the theater was overcrowded and you'd be doomed to sit in the front row, the only place where seats were available?  This results in that larger-than-life screen and you know that you're SURELY not going to be comfortable with your head tilted back as far as possible for the next two hours or so. You're also finding that no matter how much you try to follow it all, you're still too close to see the FULL picture, even if it's right in front of your face.  You're still going to miss what's happening on the other end of the screen, because all you CAN see is whatever cinematically unfolds in front of you - never mind what's happening in the background, that sleight-of-hand move by another character, facial expressions, a wink here or there.  For me, I miss a lot of audio clues in movies, too, and the captions do help somewhat...but this really isn't about the movies.  
    Surely, someone who has gotten to know my love for the use of analogies can tell that there is one about to come.
    Now, say you decide to go see the same movie again - you get to the theater early, this time, and score seats closer to the back.  Now, you can see the ENTIRE screen.  You have successfully distanced yourself and can now see things more clearly.  Your perception is heightened.  You're seeing what's in the background, you're seeing how EVERYTHING comes into play.  Your eyes, along with your brain, now show you things that you might have known were there all along, but also further clarifies it all for you.  Slowly, you start to realize those little things you missed the first time around.  Important clues are revealed - and in some cases, there is the slow realization that maybe, just maybe, there is some truth to the original statement. 
    "You were too close to see what was wrong..."
    What am I getting from this epiphany-slash-analogy?  Well - for starters, I can choose to stay where I am in that front row and to remain oblivious to those 'extra' missed things that may or may not be important - or I can choose to back up and re-evaluate when I'm told that I'm missing things.  And it isn't always something I have to be told.  No.  Sometimes things (on their own) just don't sound right - and I get this nagging feeling deep down inside that something's off, something's wrong.  
    And, who wants that?  As survivors, we already have enough uncertainty in our lives - why would we possibly need or want any more!?  Seriously - the simplest traits like honesty are even more vital to us, because we've had more than our fair share of our trust being broken.  So, naturally, we prefer to sit with the rose-colored glasses on, even when we've the smallest inkling that it's not quite right.  To have to deal with the reality that it's not copacetic, is sometimes even worse.
    I'll admit that I don't ever want to have to adjust perspectives, but it's also safe to say that sometimes it's 100% necessary to do so.  It's an effective means of self-protection - and I've found that lately, I've had to resort to such measures.  In the past, I've ignored when something wasn't adding up - I questioned nothing, and it's gotten me burned in the end.  
    So - my advice to myself - since there is ALWAYS potential of getting burned again - is to make sure I listen to myself, to that little voice that tells me when I need to move away from the situation so that I can get a better look at it.  I owe it to myself to do so, and to start following my instincts.
    On that note, Tuesday is movie/date night - we WILL be arriving at the theater at least five to ten minutes before the previews start - when we went to see 'Venom,' we arrived just as the last preview was ending - and it was the front row for us both.  NOT fun!  And that was an ACTION movie - not easy when you're up close and personal.  No cricky neck needed but a cricky neck we received as penalty for not arriving early. 
    Anyhow - I sincerely hope everyone's had a great weekend and is having a wonderful night.  Mine will shortly be coming to an end and I'll be shooting for a third night of uninterrupted sleep - wish me luck.  
    Until next time,
    - Capulet
  17. Capulet
    Sleep.  A very simple word, yet so complex.  Such a natural thing, we all do it.  We spend most of the beginning of our lives sleeping - and I guess, sometimes, the very end, too.  We all know how to do it - we rely on it to revitalize and to refresh.  
    I USED to know what sleep was.  I used to both love and hate it.  Now, I just plain hate it and WISH I could love it.
    I fought it when I was little.  I was the typical 'five more minutes?' kid when told to go to bed when I was in grade school.  Sometimes I would be forced to go to bed at 8:30, when MacGyver was on from 8-9.  I know, who does that?  My mother, that's who!  I'd plead with her, but when the 8:30 commercial came on, she'd clap her hands and tell me it was bedtime - she'd tape the rest.  And this was back in the day when we had to record on VHS - more often than not, it'd not even record properly and I'd have to wait for the re-run. Still, there was no arguing with Oompa - if I didn't go to bed on time and when I was told, she'd make me go to bed a half hour EARLIER the next night!
    FYI, Angus MacGyver (the Richard Dean Anderson version) was the first man I ever had a crush on.  I remember going to bed wishing he'd save me.  Maybe it was because I would be pouting over missing the second half of the episode but even on non-MacGyver nights, I'd lay there and dream up scenarios where he'd swoop in and rescue me.  From what, you ask?  I don't know.  I was maybe 9.  This was not a time I suspect anything was happening during - but perhaps subconsciously, I knew something wasn't quite right and I was in search of a hero.  And MacGyver was my favorite - mullet and all - he always saved the day.  Or night.  He was my superhero, one that didn't fly or shoot lasers out of his eyes - but still someone who, although fictional, made me feel safe.
    I was a sleepwalker in childhood, too.  I am unable to say for sure when this started but it was MOSTLY stopped before I hit my teens, although there were a couple of isolated incidents as a teenager.  This, I don't know too much about, save the 'stories' my parents would tell me - they saw me walk the hallways, they wondered if I was up for a midnight snack - I'd open and close kitchen cabinets, I'd wake up with no memory of any of it, and it was never really made a big deal of - it was normalized - and I wonder sometimes if this was done so in order to further prior coverups/explanations that this was another 'deaf' thing.   
    Another unusual sleep-related event that is probably pertinent to mention - I was (and still am) a rocker.  I rock to FALL asleep.  I rock IN my sleep.  I rock as a prerequisite to sleep - sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for several - before flopping onto my belly and finally being ready to fall asleep.  This started in very early childhood - the self-rocking prior to sleep.  'It's a security thing,' Oompa had said, 'maybe it's because you can't hear?'  (I've yet to meet another deaf rocker, so I honestly don't think this has anything to do with hearing - especially since Oompa ALSO would try to encourage me to 'stop rocking' by way of incentives and 'rewards.')  Eventually she would also give up on this; perhaps when she realized it was something that couldn't easily be helped and I'd be rocking IN my sleep and in most cases, automatically.  I do remember this being a topic of discussion between her and my T that I saw when I was a child.  This was one of my 'behaviors' that she couldn't make sense of.  One of the behaviors, I think, she felt better attributing to my hearing loss rather than to the possibility of there being something worse.
    In high school, though, I NEVER needed to be told to go to bed.  I was in bed, rocking, by 9pm and I'd STILL give Oompa a hard time when she woke me in the morning.  She worked as a schoolteacher at the time, and she'd wake me in the mornings with a rough swat, shake or a poke - she'd be getting herself ready for work and didn't have time for the gentle, loving wake-ups.  I'd get annoyed and growl, 'I'm UP,' when I, in reality, was still trying to finish the dream I was having and would drift back off as soon as she left the room.  Minutes later, she'd return and she'd be PISSED if I was still sleeping.  
    I STILL remember the time she walked past my room and I still wasn't out of bed.  This particular morning, I wasn't feeling well and was having trouble.  I was propped up by my elbows in bed, not quite asleep but still trying to wake up.  She stormed past my bedroom to get to hers (next door) and when she saw I was still half-covered up with blankets, she hurled a hairbrush at me - like one of those uber-talented knife throwers at the circus - and the thicker part of the brush hit me RIGHT in the middle of my face, which caused my nose to bleed immediately.
    Yep, that got me moving.  And no, she never apologized for that.  I do remember making a smart-ass comment about it, to the effect of, 'do you even realize what you DID to me this morning?'  I want to say there was a moment where she looked slightly remorseful but, 'if you'd gotten up when I woke you - that wouldn't have happened,' was likely what she replied.  The nosebleed went away, but the memory did not.
    (Karma bit me on the ass on this one - MY 12-year-old is VERY difficult to rouse in the mornings!  Still, I do not bring hairbrushes with me when I go wake her - instead, I stand over her until she not only is awake, but is OUT of bed, too.) 
    My mother was not an explainer or a reasoner.  She was a warner, and then a smacker - physical discipline was what she'd been taught in HER childhood - her smacks stung, but were not to the point of being abusive, but still not a means of punishment that I've ever felt the need to take part in when it comes to handling my own kids - she feared the wooden spoon - my kids currently fear the wifi password being changed without their knowledge or their devices being taken away from them.  THAT, is equally as torturous as what I feared as a kid, for no such technology had even been invented yet.  My sisters and I were raised by different men - their father is a screamer - and day after day, he would come home from work and the three of us would sit on the couch and listen to his daily fit.  He'd scream about something.  It didn't matter what it was - something my mother said, something one of us kids did, an issue with the car, an issue with the house, an unexpected bill...no matter - the man screamed for up to an hour - every single night.  I had the luxury of 'turning him off,' (removing the hearing aid was usually the best course of action) and I'd sometimes find a small amount of amusement watching him 'muted.'  There were some VERY interesting facial expressions.   Additionally, he too was a smacker, more so toward his own two kids but I got my share of swats whenever deserved - won't lie.  I had my moments.  MY father, though - was a 'if it's not an issue of needing money, let your mother deal with it' kinda man.  Lord Capulet NEVER raised his voice to me.  He smacked me - ONCE - in my entire forty years of life - and it was one single smack onto my arm.  LOL.  I'll never forget that, actually - I was a teen and mouthed off to his wife, who had been annoying me in some way - hell if I remember what the issue even was.   His palm came down onto my forearm.  Didn't hurt.  Surprised me more than anything and effectively shut me up.  THEN, I got my (90's-style) laptop taken away for a week.
    Anyway - I seem to have strayed from the topic of sleep, which is what I originally set out to discuss.  I'll get back to that, now.  Everything mentioned prior to this was all before the age of seventeen, when the idea of 'normal' sleep would forever change for me.  Aside from the rocking. That remains the case, and this may be a good place to add a shout-out to my J, who has spent almost every night for the last decade, in the same bed as me and thankfully, can sleep through my rocking, rolling, flopping, leg-swinging and kicking, and from time-to-time, talking.   I got a good one.  I know I did.  
    I know I've discussed my poor sleeping habits before - we all know by now how sexual assault can affect sleep - I am no different in that respect. Aside from now wondering if some of these habits originated for reasons I've not yet come to understand clearly, I am finding that it's a constant struggle, even so many years after my own sexual assault.  I was a mother four years later - and mid-night feedings were a piece of cake because I was usually ALREADY up. This was NEVER something that I said to myself, 'Ok, this year, I'm going to get back on track with my sleeping.  I'll go to bed early, I'll get up early, I'll eliminate morning naps, I'll do this, I'll do that.'  Nope.  Never happened.  
    You would think that sleep was something I actually ENJOYED, based on how hard it was for me to get out of bed in my early teen years.  And I want to say I DO like it.  When it comes naturally and without hours of tossing and turning and without unnecessarily dosing myself with NyQuil just for the knock-out effect.  When it didn't usually bring forth unwelcome dreams, night terrors or the jolt-awakes.  Lately, I'm not able to sleep unless I'm EXTREMELY tired - in which case, the rocking lasts for no more than three to five minutes, and then I'm out cold.  Usually, to get to this point, I'll have had to have two or three consecutive nights of restlessness and be fully ready to crash.  I've taken to, though, trying to stay awake/occupied until my eyes are literally closing on me - because if I try to force the issue and go to bed before I'm THIS tired, I will end up tossing and turning and frustrating myself for hours before sleep takes over.  Then, by the time I'm sleepy enough to actually indulge in some REM, it's time to get up to get the daughter ready for school!
    Lately, it's been recommended that I try taking Melatonin twenty minutes before attempting sleep.  Over-the-counter stuff, no prescription was required.  'It works,' I was told.  It's not NyQuil, it's not addicting.  It's safe.
    I might be getting ahead of myself since the recommendation wasn't made directly.  It was actually J who introduced me to the 'swig' before bedtime - it was never really a full dose of NyQuil, but just enough to make her (and me when I'd join her for the swig) drowsy enough to drift off to sleep.  Now J's T has her on additional meds and has recommended Melatonin - something that J is finding hard to do because by now, she's got a long-standing NyQuil dependency.  We did, however, buy two bottles of Melatonin - one containing 5mg doses and the other containing 10mg doses.  
    I started with a 5mg tablet a couple nights ago.  I went to bed around 1am  - popped the Melatonin a little after 12:30.  I did feel tired soon after - and by 1, I was tucking myself in.  Did my few minutes of obligatory rocking and was soon asleep.  
    You'd think having taken a sleep aid would mean I'd sleep for more than two or three hours - I was jolted awake a little before 4am.  I have NO idea what happened here - if I was dreaming, I don't remember it.  It was still pitch-black in our room - usually it needs only for a light to come on three rooms over and I'm awake but that was also not the case.  And then it took me almost another two hours to go back to sleep.  Not too big a deal, but still disheartening.  And it's not even that I'm wide awake; I'm still TIRED after this little sleep, but my body just doesn't want to give in too easily to that deep sleep I crave.
    I've yet to try the 10mg tablet and will do so tonight.  If THIS one yields the same result, I'll assume that my body is simply too used to its current sleep cycles and patterns.  I don't think I'm even capable of sleeping more than three hours, four MAX, at a time.  I might have spent too many years training myself to function on little sleep, and now that I'll be hopefully starting school in September, I'm likely going to have my work cut out for me - trying to undo all these years of trying to avoid real sleep!
    Suppose I'll keep y'all informed.    And no, no real point to this blog entry, other than to say that getting this under control is something I'm going to have to work at.  Something I am going to have to be patient with myself in order to do, and I DO imagine there will be countless more tossy-turny nights before the restful ones show up.  
    But this sleep thing?  This, like so many other things in my life - is a struggle I strive to understand - and something I definitely need to correct.
    Anyway - sweet dreams and good night to you all.  I'm going to give it another try.
    - Capulet
  18. Capulet
    Did I mention how much of a pain in the ass my mother is?  You all might know her as Oompa at this point, but - I might change that to 'pain in the ass.'  She's always going to look like an Oompa Loompa,  but lately this new nickname for her is becoming FAR more appropriate.
    I might have indeed mentioned...but just in case I didn't...
    My. Mother. Is. A. GIANT. Pain in the ass!  I just spent most of this morning arguing with her and one of my lovely readers is likely going to have to front me some bail money because I'm about to be arrested for matricide.  Unless of course, I can 'untwist my panties,' (as she so eloquently put it) by venting here.  It seems like a much safer alternative to jail time, so - here goes.
    The son has pretty much commandeered use of my car - he uses it to get back and forth to the (local) college.  When he goes back to the wasband's on Saturday evenings, he will take the car with him (unless I need it for any other reason) and more often than not, it's with him these days more than it's with me.  That's okay - this was always my intention - let him 'take over' my car - in lieu of a hefty monthly car payment, he would pay for gas, insurance and any other upkeep/maintenance costs on that car - and I would get a new one to ensure I had a means of getting from A to B without having to rely on anyone else.  I've told him this, too - 'you NEED to find a job - if you want to have a car (and I added the usual mom-style pep talk about growing up, becoming responsible, etc) then you NEED to start learning how to budget and manage your money.'  
    As is, we are now living somewhere where 4WD is NEEDED and owning a SUV is highly recommended - and although my existing car (which will soon be the Son's) does not have 4WD and is TERRIBLE in the snow, I don't have the heart to trade it in as it was bought from money my aunt and uncle left me upon their passing.  Rather than the son spend the money (that he doesn't have) on a car that he'll have payments (that he cannot make) on, he can make do with a significantly reduced financial responsibility and use my old car to get to school/work.  It does snow a lot here, but it's NOT a CONSTANT problem - when it does snow, his classes are usually cancelled anyway.  
    I have some money saved - and am now feeling the need to be situated with a car - I'm going to be starting school in the fall, so there's a little time.  However, I've realized that the son is also dragging his feet.  He won't move unless I do.  He had PLENTY of time to find a job during his first semester (last fall) and didn't.  He isn't fully to blame for this, though - the wasband (another VERY accurate addition to my 'Top Five' Pains in the Ass) has been taking the majority of his elder son's and daughter's paychecks, 'to pay house bills with.'  Our son, aside from having an endless supply of self-admitted laziness, is a VERY perceptive and observant young man.  He sees that his older brother and sister NEVER have a penny to their names - they work and hand their paychecks over.  This has been going on for months, already, and my elder stepson, having finally reached his limit, has left the wasband's home and moved back in with his mother.  There was a HUGE blowout between him and the wasband, something I had no idea was happening until AFTER the fact - and long story short, Junior is no longer 'supporting the family,' and MY son has now been told that he now has to take over Junior's job working alongside his sister at HER job.  
    This means, now the son has a job.  Which is what I've been waiting for.  It is my intention to let the wasband know that he's going to need to afford the son a little bit of leniency with his paychecks so that he has the money he'll need in order to maintain the expense of having his own car and possibly his tuition so that he doesn't doom himself to a lifetime of debt. 
    So, how does Oompa fit into all of this?
    Well, for starters, she knows I've been saving up to buy a car.  And now, my savings is starting to dwindle - as we have lately had some hefty financial responsibilities - vet bills, vacation bills, household repairs, etc, all in the last three months.  The vacation we planned on, but the rest, we did not.  So, now, I am of the impression that leasing my next personal-use vehicle is likely my best option.  But being 'President's week,' she has began to urge me to research the sales because 'there are some excellent deals out there.'  Not a lie, but still, considering the window of opportunity is beginning to close on the Son's EVER being in a position to control his own finances, it's time to move.  To top that off, my sister's best friend's husband is a dealer at the Subaru near her and he's 'EXCELLENT' and 'can get me a good deal.'  (Though, likely only on a Subaru.)
    I've always wanted a Jeep.  I've already accepted that I'll not be able to afford the pretty purple Wrangler that sits teasingly in front of the local dealership - but saw today that a local dealership is offering NEW Jeep Cherokees, and I could lease for $169 a month.  I supplied Oompa (the pain-in-the-ass) the phone number and instead of calling THEM to find out more about this 'special,' she called the dealer she knew.  She then mentioned that he wouldn't recommend a Jeep (as no Subaru employee likely would) and that he recommended an Impreza or a Legacy and could get good deals on those cars for me.  We could go see him on Saturday because he got my brother-in-law a good deal on HIS car - he would definitely do the same for me.
    I told her that those cars mentioned were NOT SUVs.  And I had told her previously that I did not want anything other than a SUV.  WHY was she pushing cars?  Apparently, 'they have 4-wheel drive,' but, still.  These are CARS.  I told her, 'I am absolutely not wasting my time looking at cars when I already know what I want."
    "But why do you need such a big car?"  
    I could NOT believe she'd just asked me that.  I've never had a big car/SUV.  Before my Avenger, I had a Neon.  Before that, a Mitsubishi Mirage.  My SISTER, (who is smaller than me) - has a GMC Acadia - that is a VERY large SUV.  Why doesn't she ask HER why she needs such a big car?  She has two kids - who combined, are still much smaller than my 12 year old.  My 18 year old is bigger than ME.  J is bigger and taller than me.  What if I want to take my family somewhere?  We're not all going to fit in a clown car!  
    I told her I had my heart set on a Jeep.  She then proceeds to tell me that I should look them up online - they're not the most reliable, they're not the safest (Subaru is) and they've got bad reputations.  She actually went as far as to say she wouldn't 'cooperate,' should I not agree to keep an open mind and at least LOOK at cars that are 4WD.  Yes, you heard correctly - SHE will not cooperate.  Another manipulation tactic.
    I'm DONE with manipulation.  In the course of my forty years, manipulation has been a constant.  My mother and my ex being the two biggest offenders - the reason for that being they were people I depended on most.  Yes, manipulation indeed goes hand-in-hand with dependency - for if you 'upset' or 'disappoint,' you lose a means of support - whether it is a GOOD source of support is irrelevant.  What matters is, I THOUGHT these people actually were looking out for my best interests, and am sad to realize that this was never the case - it is a matter of what is more convenient for them, what THEY want.  There were almost always ulterior motives.  And I'm not even sure what my mother's motives are, here - was she trying to get my sister's friend's husband a commission?  
    I finally said, 'Look - NOTHING pisses me off MORE than someone who tries to change my mind when I've made it clear what I'm looking for.  I asked you to come along because you're good at negotiating with dealers (she is) and working out the best deals - but If you're not going to cooperate and help me find what I want to find, then I'll go without you and go buy myself a fucking Jeep!'
    That's when she said I should untwist my panties, the dealer would sell me whatever I wanted.  I told her that if this 'excellent' dealer could show me an actual SUV (like the Forester - more the type and size I'm looking for) and beat the lease price of $169 a month for a Jeep, then we'd talk and see about getting him a commission.  But that $169 a month was the right price for a car that I actually wanted - so why WOULD I settle for anything other than that?  Is she paying for the car?  No.  Is she co-signing?  No.  So what's the fucking problem???  Safety?  A Jeep would be safer than what I'm CURRENTLY driving.  They're not known to be reliable? Well, that's why I'm better off LEASING, isn't it?  Repair coverage.  And after the lease is up, I'd be put into a brand-new car.  There's not enough time for something to go wrong with it - if something does, it's covered. 
    As it stands right now, I'm going to the dealership in the morning - armed with my dwindling patience, my checkbook and my manipulation-proof vest - I know all too well how it's going to go.  She's going to try and push those 'cars' on me again - she's going to ask (again) why I need something so big...she'll get J to 'talk some sense into me,' and J is fully prepared to put her in her place - SHE likes Jeeps, too!  It's just sad that I have to be this firm with my mother - at forty years old.  That she still feels the need to control me and she CANNOT just let me make choices without trying to meddle.  She has two other daughters, younger than me, and who LIVE closer to her than I do.  Why can't she bother them!?
    In closing, I will let all of you know tomorrow of the following: 
    Whether I need bail money and where to wire it; (I'll pay you back...someday?)
    Whether I get a new SUV tomorrow or I end up planning to 'buy a fucking Jeep on my own;'
    And whether my mother is still breathing, and carrying on with her usual day-to-day annoyances...she likely will be, as no matter how angry or annoyed or irritated I can get, I could honestly never hurt a fly.
    My tolerance for bullshit is at an ALL TIME low with my mother, and with my ex, both of whom are tied for top pain-in-the-ass!  Some days, I just don't know who's worse.  When I eventually figure it out, I'll let you all know.
    Hoping the rest of you are having a less stressful weekend.
    My best to you,
    - Capulet
  19. Capulet
    Okay - so, Saturday was a LONG, exhausting day.  
    To backtrack - I met Oompa at the Subaru dealership as promised, to meet with the salesman she's been praising for the last week.  He knew I was coming and had wasted no time - he had a new Forester brought out for me to test drive within five minutes of my arrival.  
    I got in, adjusted all the mirrors and seats and took off.  Drove a couple miles down the street, turned around, and drove back.  I didn't like the overall 'feel' of the Forester, although it WAS a nice looking SUV.  I did indeed give it a honest try, which is what I said I would do.  Went back into the dealership and gave the keys back and asked what else Subaru had that fit the criteria.
    Drove a Crosstrek next.  It's a hybrid sorta - between a car and SUV, tires are bigger than those of a normal car - actually about the same size as the tires on a SUV.  I did like the Crosstrek a bit more than the Forester - but anyone who's seen Hotel Transylvania, (the first one) knows - it's important to 'zing.'  According to the movie, you only 'zing' once, when it comes to lovers, but I'm thinking the same applies to cars when we are prepared to empty our bank accounts and buy a new one.  Where there's no 'zing,' I wasn't going to force myself to search for it just to appease Oompa or her favorite car dealer, or anyone else.
    I then asked the dealer if he could show me some Jeeps.  He proceeded to tell me that the Jeep dealership was across the street (it literally was) and that he would have to refer me to his co-worker/colleague/friend.  My mother, who was standing there - turned to the dealer and said, "would you please explain to my daughter that Subarus are safer than Jeeps??"  (I did expect her to try and get someone to talk 'sense' into me - only, I thought it'd be J!) 
    I quickly held my hand up to the dealer and said, "No need."  Then, I turned to my mother, whose mouth was open.  "Ma....stop.  Just stop."
    She asked where the ladies' room was - likely because she was caught off guard.  The dealer pointed out the way.  I told him, honestly, between the Forester and the Crosstrek, I liked the Crosstrek better - but I still wanted to test drive a Jeep - and to see if economically, this was an option for me.  I was NOT going to eliminate that option before fully researching it. 
    He understood.  He made a quick call to his buddy at the Jeep dealership, and across the street we went.  
    Oompa, of course, the whole way - 'but I thought you said you liked the Crosstrek??'  'The guy did say the Crosstrek would be cheaper to lease than the Forester.'  'The Crosstrek is considered a SUV, you know...' (I did show her what a Legacy and what an Impreza looked like, as they were in the showroom.)
    I told her I still needed to a) test drive a Jeep (I'd never driven one before) and b) see what my options were on the car I actually had in mind - if it was not doable, then I'd consider the Crosstrek as a last resort choice.  But I was NOT going to be pushed into making decisions without having ALL of the information - not just the information she wanted me to have.
    Of course, she had to also ask the Jeep dealer about the reputation of Jeeps.  I had to laugh to myself - did she really think a Jeep dealer was going to tell her anything negative about Jeeps???  He looked at her and said, "My daughter drives one.  I have nothing bad to say about the safety of Jeeps."
    That shut her up momentarily, likely because she was secretly hoping that when they came back with the numbers, I'd realize that financially, I would be better off with the last-resort Crosstrek.  I let the dealer know what I was looking for - how much I wanted to pay monthly, how much I was looking to put down, etc.  He said he'd heard from the Subaru guy across the street, and was prepared to give us VIP treatment - same deals, same family and friend discounts as I'd be entitled to if I chose to go with a Subaru.  He then did some checking with their inventory and handed me a set of keys to a 2019 Compass; according to him, this would be the cheapest Jeep option to lease.  I took the keys and J with me for the third test-drive that day.  
    Well - third time was the charm.  I got the zing.  I don't know if it's because my heart was already set on a Jeep.  I'm SURE that if I'd gotten in and realized that I wasn't liking it as much as I thought I would, I would have been the first to admit to Oompa that while the Jeep was nice to look at, driving one just wasn't what I'd thought.  AND I'd have said that perhaps the Crosstrek was a better option.  If not the Crosstrek, I'd have perhaps waited a little bit longer before I decided on a car - because although the Crosstrek wasn't terrible, it wasn't quite what I felt I wanted.  It wasn't ME.
    However - I loved the feel of the Jeep, I loved both the interior and exterior look.  It's comfortable, it's smooth.  Not too big, not too small.  I'm not crazy about the color (white) but I loved the actual vehicle.  
    And this was my car.  Before I even got back into the lot with it, I'd decided.
    I returned to the dealer and asked him to go ahead and run me the numbers.  Oompa, of course, starts with, "But what about the Crosstrek?  Don't you want to go back to Subaru and compare prices to see which one is cheaper?"  Told her no, that even if the Crosstrek was cheaper, I LIKED the Jeep better.  The dealer did chime in that it would only likely be a difference of no more than 15-20 bucks - the amount to put down would be likely similar.  That wasn't enough for me to abandon the idea of a car I actually wanted - to save twenty bucks per month.  No.  I have about three unused cable boxes in the house - getting rid of THOSE would save me twenty bucks a month.
    "All right," Oompa sighed.  "Fine, if that's what you want..."
    So she sat there and shrugged her shoulders and I'm THINKING, pouted over the fact that I'd made this decision without much regard to her opinion - I negotiated, discussed, filled out, dotted i's, crossed t's, signed LOADS of paperwork and a check.  I now have a three-year lease, am completely covered bumper to bumper for the entire 36 months, and have a monthly payment of $210.  The down payment, yes, was a little more than I expected to pay, but included all the fees - registration, plates, all the other 'fun' stuff.  All that remains is to get an inspection sticker in the state of PA once the plates arrive in the mail.  A little bit more than I wanted to pay, but still doable.  The very Compass I test-drove was the one that they immediately had washed, prepped and detailed for me within the hour and the very one that I drove home in.  My Jeep, (and I know that it's not MINE in the sense that it's leased and not owned, but it was still something I paid for, I took charge on, and I did by myself!) is sitting in my driveway, and I am finding myself going to the window to admire it every so often, but I guess this is to be expected when you've NEVER before in your life, had a new car.  
    As I'm risking this blog entry being completely about nothing pertaining to healing - I'll add something I HAVE noticed before signing off for the evening.  And it IS related to my recent decision - so if the Jee- uhh, shoe fits... ;)
    I am finding that I am changing.  Slowly, but surely.  Not sure if turning 40 is what it took, but either way...
    I know that, as humans, we're constantly changing - this is a given.  I am discovering though, that lately, I am not allowing others to manipulate me into making decisions/choices that I don't want to make.  Previously, I would value the opinion of others above my own - whether I liked it or not, if someone told me that whatever it was I thought was a bad idea, then it was a bad idea and I'd modify what I wanted to suit whatever THEY thought was the better option.  I wasn't firm enough to defend my own beliefs/ideas and more often than not, I'd be steamrolled.
    Now, though?  I'm through with agreeing to things others want me to agree to because they think it's better for them.  My mother and my ex - as mentioned previously, are the two biggest culprits - but I am seeing myself becoming more vocal when needed - and recognize that this is easier to do the more I break away from them.  I've not seen my ex in WEEKS, my mother I see once per month, and this is a change from seeing him once a week for kid-swapping and her several times a week when I lived closer.  
    They both have less control over me, and although I've not lived with my mother since I was 19 and have been divorced from the ex for a full decade, I still can't say I'm completely dependent on only myself.  I do have my beautiful fiancee that I depend on for love, faithfulness, emotional support, all of those required mutual and financial decisions that a marriage/partnership calls for, but there's ALWAYS seemingly a voice in the back of my head - it is usually Oompa's or the wasband's, but definitely interchangeable when it comes to these two.  At one point, I cared so much about their opinion because to disagree with them would lead to resistance and all sorts of twisting of facts, and manipulation.  They were always right, I'm always wrong - this is how it always was.  But lately - I am finding that voice is becoming less loud - and no deaf jokes, please.    
    At least, now, if I'm wrong, I am going to figure it out on my own.  
    Off for now.  Hoping all of you are doing well.
    - Capulet
  20. Capulet
    Hello friends,
    My sincerest apologies for my lengthy absence.  Yes, it's happened before and it's likely to happen again, but we all know that I always, always come back to my writing space - I will go through times where I do not really know what to write but as soon as I sit down, I am often hit with a little reminder of how much of a help it is to process things through blogging.  Sometimes it takes a little while for things to start to flow, sometimes I have to get up and return the following day.  This particular entry has been sitting in draft mode for a few days, already, but - finally, it's made its way to you all.
    It has been a very, very long and emotional week.  For those of you who don't know, our beloved kitty has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  He was an otherwise healthy 8-year-old boy - until one month ago, everything changed for him when he suddenly became paralyzed in his hind legs.  Nearly one month from this discovery, he is gone.  I am still absolutely heartbroken, although with each day, I am comforted a little bit more, knowing he isn't suffering nor is he in pain.  He's probably extremely happy now, having been reunited with his hind legs in the afterlife, and is purring while running, jumping, chasing other animals in the fields of Heaven.  
    We honored our boy's wishes and made the call when he let us know that he was struggling just to stay with us.  We chose to do the euthanasia at home, so that he wasn't having to experience the stress of being transported to an unfamiliar location, especially being as sick as he was.  He was surrounded by people (and his cat siblings) who loved him dearly and at 4:35pm 2/11/19, he passed peacefully in J's arms.
    There is a very noticeable emptiness in the house - our boy was 'the man of the house' and he was ALWAYS present, ALWAYS where we were.  Whenever we had guests - there he was, to 'observe' everything.  He was docile, he was patient, and he was approachable.  Although he was more J's cat than he was mine, (he preferred her presence over mine, although he would sometimes demand that I allow him to climb onto my chest while I laid down) I am taking his passing VERY hard.  I am the one who is home most of the time - and so, I was the one to provide the around-the-clock care, medicate him, clean his litter box messes, transfer him and his bed, food/water dishes and litter apparatus from room to room, keep him company, etc, for the last month.  The day following his passing was especially difficult, for it was finally hitting me - there was nothing for me to do for him, no way I can make him comfortable, he was no longer there for me to open the blinds for so that he could enjoy the natural sunlight.  Just seeing his empty bed and empty food and water dish and rolled-up litter mat would send me into fits of ugly-crying - and even as I write this - I can feel that lump in the back of my throat and the tears begging to fall.  
    I've just ordered cremation vials/pendants for J and for myself.  His ashes will be returned to us within the week by the vet that put him down and handled his cremation arrangements, and we plan to carry a piece of him with us wherever we go - when the pendants arrive, we will fill them with some of his ashes and surely as he's in our hearts, he will also be on our person, even in the smallest way.  It is one way we are made a little bit more okay with his (sudden) departure.  I am also considering a small paw print tattoo, while J, his preferred 'human,' is wanting a more elaborate likeness of his beautiful face tattooed onto her arm, so that when positioned a certain way, it will look as if he's resting atop her chest like he used to do every night.
    Moving along, though, before I really DO ugly-cry some more and have to postpone the release of this blog entry for another day.
    Survivor's Art Group was canceled this month - we had snow on the actual day it was planned for, and there weren't enough confirmed guests when it was rescheduled for a couple days later.  M, the leader,  had sent me the topic of discussion so that I could give things some thought.  Ironically, this would be a 'Helping Hands' workshop/group and since I'd expressed an interest in knowing the topics beforehand so that I could better prepare my responses - so M has helped me to do this, in a sense. There WERE more questions listed than the ones to follow,  but these were the ones that stood out and were what I felt related the most to some things I've been recently dealing with.  The rest, I omitted, but saved for a later time/train of thought.  (And let it be known and understood that my 'train schedule' is AWFULLY unstable right now!  I never know what I am going to end up pondering and when.)
    Name something your hands have helped someone else with that you are proud of. How does it feel when you think about a time when you helped someone?
    I don't think it's my actual, physical hands that actually help others.  Yes, I help physically by giving assistance or even affection when asked - but this is just what's expected of anyone - when you see someone struggling with physical baggage and your hands are free - you help them.  If they need their hand held, you offer yours.  When they ask for a hug, you open your arms.  Other than that, my hands are not my best way of helping others.
    As most of my interactions are online, it's my mind and my heart that does most of the helping.  My voice.  Even if and when it is not my physical voice, as that's not one I am very comfortable using, especially around strangers.  While I do not hear with my ears, I do with my eyes and I respond with my heart where applicable.  I am told I am empathetic, have a very calming presence, a patient and caring disposition.  Lately, I'm not so sure this is the case as each and every one of my senses is being put to the challenge.  Not in small ways, either.  And I truly do wonder if I am indeed helpful.  I believe that no matter how much we help others - ultimately they have to help themselves.  Perhaps we've helped them to reach the point where they're able to.
    I have mixed feelings about my 'help.'  Sometimes it feels good to have been there when I was needed, and sometimes it feels terrible.  Especially having to make the difficult choice to 'help' along my cat's transition into his end-of-life stages, and eventually over the Rainbow Bridge in a humane, loving manner.
    Imagine all that your hands may hold for you, or for others, either materially or energetically. Over time, this may become very heavy and you may have your hands full. Is there anything you are holding that you would like to let go of now?  Describe what you are holding and how it feels to let go of this.
    I have let go of more than one thing, lately.
    The most obvious answer is, of course, my cat's required, continuous care.  I received these questions, ironically, a couple of days before his passing.  While taking care of him, I was also relentlessly researching how to care for cats with hind-leg paralysis.  I'd even joined a Facebook group for people dealing with handicapped/disabled felines and had conversed with a few on what to expect, how can I help him? What can I do?  What toys can I buy him to boost his morale?  Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to apply too many of their suggestions, as the upper respiratory infection soon began to batter away at his reserves.  Both vets we had taken him to were quick to say that his quality of life needed to be considered.  J and I agreed that as long as he wasn't in pain and was doing all of the important things (eating, drinking, eliminating), we were going to let him call the shots - for as long as he was able.  And here I am - browsing the 'net for alternative treatments, etc that would help him to thrive and adapt to his now-new lifestyle.  My plan was - get him strong enough, then help him learn to get around on his front legs - was fully prepared to buy him 'drag pants' (to protect his lower end from rug burn/skin irritation that the dragging was likely to cause) and work with him on his balancing so that he could properly and comfortably position himself  to use the litter box.
    This quickly became an obsession.  I wanted to hear the words 'euthanasia is probably best for him,' less and less.  He wasn't showing that he was in pain....why was this coming out of the vet's mouth, rather than, 'let's try this...'?  
    I felt like I was his biggest advocate; even J had to keep me in check by pointing out to me certain things - 'look at his legs, they're rock solid and it's just a matter of time before the rest of him is affected,' 'he's not eating,' 'he's suffering, even if he's not showing us as clearly...'
    Slowly, I began to see she was right.  I was holding on too tightly, to the idea that I could fix our kitty.  I needed to - not give up - but to step back a little bit and let J decide.  I was not helping him anymore.  Not that we were hurting him, but perhaps those words we'd heard from the vet were indeed the truth - there was nothing under the sun that could be done for him.
    I have also learned that, in general, when there is nothing I can do, then I must stop trying.  It's time to let go and to let things happen as they're supposed to.  It is not healthy for me to stick on this same obsessive path to nowhere.  There are more ways than one to learn this very important lesson and I've learned it in many ways recently.  It is not easy for me to let go - not by any means, and NOT with how much of my heart and soul I invest into it in the first place.  
    Think of a time when someone else loaned you a helping hand. What did it feel like to receive help?
    Tricky, this one.  I am not a big fan of asking for help.  Ever.  My mother taught me well - when you ask for help, you had better be readily available when someone asks YOU for help.  It's a tit for tat kind of thing - to ask for help gives someone something to hold over your head.  At least, in adulthood - this is the case.
    But, I don't know if it was always this way.  You see, I don't remember ever asking for help before I was seventeen.  Sure, my parents did mostly everything for me - they cooked, they provided a roof over my head, they bought my clothes, they gave an allowance so I had 'pocket money.'  There wasn't really much I needed 'help' with.  To me, this likely wasn't 'help' - they were doing what they, as parents, do.  What I do for my own children.  I don't look at this as 'helping them,' but as obligatory nurturing, instead.  
    I asked for help twice on the night I was raped.  Once directly, to the man who would rape me instead of helping me.  And the second, indirectly; for it was not even a 'help me,' but instead, a 'can I have a glass of water and can I use your bathroom?'  
    The help came in an unexpected form and was more accepted than asked for - from a kind-hearted stranger, a diner waitress, who, without my asking her to, called me a cab.  I didn't tell her anything - nor did I say anything about what had just happened at the time of my arrival.  My understanding was - you couldn't use a business's facilities without being a customer.  And I might've been somewhat stuck on the fact that she'd done what I asked my rapist to do.  I didn't supply him with the number to a cab, but did intend for him to call a friend to let her know I needed a ride back to where my car was.
    But somehow, this woman knew that something was wrong.  She was very careful not to touch me - even though I was trying my hardest to put on the 'I'm fine,' face; obviously ineffective.  My body language was likely suggesting differently.  When I returned from the bathroom, she handed me the glass of water and a menu, (just in case, I guess) and gently told me that there was a cab on the way, and that the driver was a relative of hers.  I must have been able to mumble a 'thanks,' because she said, 'take care.'  The cab was there shortly after, although it felt like hours and I'd hardly touched the water and still being under the impression that I had to be a customer to have the right to sit at the counter, had mindlessly stared at the menu without intending to order anything.
    The driver came inside and the waitress conversed with him for a brief time before he went back into the car.  On a normal day, I'd likely be able to lip-read the entire conversation.  Not tonight, though.  I did catch, 'when you're ready, he's waiting outside.  Just let him know where you need to go.'
    It didn't occur until later...YEARS later...that she'd also given me something that my attacker hadn't that night.
    A choice.
    Medical attention was likely what I needed, but it wasn't what I had the common sense to say at the moment.  Physically, I was hurting.  Mentally, I was telling myself that I was 'fine' and that the bleeding had already slowed - it would stop eventually.  So would the searing pain in places I'd never felt pain before.  All I could think of at the moment was how angry my parents would be at me if they ever knew about what had just happened - especially since I'd gone to lengths to lie to my father to get him to allow me to go.  In hindsight, I probably didn't even HAVE to lie to him - my father isn't the type to question where I was or who I was with - his usual is, 'have fun and be careful.'  (Which, further thought processing would tell me I failed at that, too.)  And WHAT would they both say, should the police be called?  I was a minor; they'd be called.  And then my parents, in turn, would be called.
    All of these thoughts sending me into instant panic, I gave the driver my home address and he asked no questions.  He drove.  And when he arrived at my Dad's house, he let me know that the fare was already taken care of, likely by the woman at the diner or it had been an 'off duty' favor.  Either way, no explanation was provided and another 'thanks' mumbled.  
    The help was greatly appreciated, but the choice was what I was more grateful for.  She COULD have called the police, especially if she knew something was wrong.  She COULD have told her family member to take me to the hospital, likely closer to the diner than where I lived.  She COULD have done so many things differently - just as I could have, too.  She chose, though, to allow me to make the choice between going to a hospital or going home.  What I wouldn't give, today, to thank both of these kind people for giving me what I needed at the time, no questions asked.
    This still scares me when I find myself needing help, whether it's with something simple - like taking out the trash or other household chores.  Or when I'm grappling with those deep, invasive thoughts.  My first notion is to make it clear that it's something I'll eventually finish (chores) or figure out on my own (thoughts) - but I never, EVER ask for help with these things.  J will attest to this, and often scolds me for taking things on by myself.  My usual response is, 'Well, if I want it done right, I have to do it, myself!'
    But I cannot and still will not ask a stranger for help; the biggest reason for this is obvious.  Even today, I am very, VERY choosy with who I ask for help.  J is my first and (I tell myself) ONLY option.  If it's not possible, I'll approach the Son.  I refuse to ask my parents for help - although my mother will offer it verbally and although she'll not say 'and in return, I want....' I will always know it's coming and she will always hold whatever it is that she's helping with over my head.  My father seemingly offers it freely and without strings, but I've never asked him for anything.  And it is only in desperation that I accept help - and even so, I am uneasy in doing so.
    I'm just not comfortable admitting the need for help - I know, in reality it is not the case, but my own, stupid brain tells me that to do so is an admission of weakness.  I am quick to let others know that there's nothing wrong with asking for help - and I believe this.  It's just, with myself, there is a barrier, a strong, almost impenetrable one - and that annoying voice in the back of my head, 'Capulet, you must deal with it yourself.  If you can't, go to J, but you MUST try to figure out your own shit!'  
    If you could reach out with your hands and take in everything you have ever wanted for yourself, what would your hands reach for?
    Not sure there's any material thing that I could physically reach out for that I want right now - other than my cat being alive and well, which is obviously unrealistic.  Aside from a million (or two or twenty million?) bucks, there's really nothing I want for as far as the material things or the money to pay for it all.  
    No, what I want is more those things nobody can see, the things nobody can give me.  I want to be normal, but don't know how that's possible, as for me, my definition of the word was tainted VERY early on in life.  What if THIS is all normal, based on what I've already seen?  
    I'd LOVE to have been left unscathed by life's ugliness.  I'd love to not understand heartbreak, trauma and its effects, loneliness, depression.  There are times where I wish I were the perfectly-formed person - the one who has it all - but there is NO 'all' without the bad, is there?  An 'all' good just doesn't exist.  Not for me, not for anyone. 
    Air.  That's all my hands are going to reach for.  Maybe some understanding.  Maybe wisdom.  Maybe motivation.  All of those things that are unseen to the naked eye, but would make sense of everything at the same time.
    So yes, I'd most likely reach for clarity.  Not just with myself, but in everything I've ever questioned in life.  
    In closing, this is the gist of what I've been struggling with this week.  A whole lot of everything and nothing.  My search for additional purpose continues - I did have a temporary, very important one for the last month - my fur baby's care and medical needs - but now that he is gone, so is that particular purpose.  
    I am well aware that one adopts many, MANY different purposes in the course of their lives.  I know I have great purpose here, and that is not in any way diminished nor will it ever be.  I love being here, I love this site, and love ALL of you.  It just seems when one alternate purpose disappears or is cut short, it is very, very hard to see what still remains as we grieve that loss. That being said, I wish to thank everyone who has reached out and who has sent me kind messages and who has allowed me to feel what I was feeling without judgement or criticism.  There was an outpouring of support, both before and after my beloved cat's passing, and I will NOT forget this.   
    On a positive note, amidst all of last week's insanity, I've submitted one college application for this coming fall's semester - to the local university where my son is now a student.  I paid to have my transcripts sent over to them and I am now waiting for a response.  The next step will be to meet with the Dean of Transfer Admissions - and this will hopefully happen soon.
    I am trying to remain focused on moving forward with life, because this is, above all, what we must ALL do whenever we're knocked down or otherwise delayed, be it through loss, or any other significant life event.  It is important to pick ourselves up, to re-emerge, to re-focus, and to keep going.  And this is something we survivors have to learn to do - not just once or twice, but SEVERAL times as we continue on our healing paths.
    I am hoping everyone is doing well, or at least as well as they can possibly be.  I am sending my love and thoughts.  Be good to yourselves - this is not something I say easily as it's something I am also having to remember to do for myself.
    Love and light.
    - Capulet
  21. Capulet
    I surprised myself last night.
    J and I had a much-needed date night.  We were at dinner and we were conversing about some OT hours she wanted to pick up.  I casually mentioned that Oompa was fully expecting ME to pay her a visit this month, as she was here last month.  She had casually mentioned, "oh, and the 10th is a good day for me!"  The 10th is THIS weekend.  
    No, thank you.  I'm still somewhat infuriated with my mother for the bullshit she pulled in regards to my niece and nephew's birthday party and the inviting of her brother and the trying to rope my father into her plans to get him there.  It was LAME and so WRONG of her - I just don't understand how she can be 'respectful of my feelings' sometimes (there was once a time when she had to answer a call from him when she was with me, and told me, 'don't worry, I won't tell him I'm with you'), then completely disregard them another time?  She is PUSHING me, to see how much she can get away with - and then she's going to attempt to manipulate me on top of all of that by saying I shouldn't let that be the reason I don't come to my nephew's and niece's birthday celebration.  "You wouldn't do that to them, would you?"  
    I do not want her to have any control over anything I do - she doesn't, but she certainly tries.  Manipulation is her game - it's what she resorts to when she doesn't see any other way around it.  So because she wants me to come on the 10th, I am NOT going on the 10th!  I'm TIRED of bending for her!
    Instead, I want to be pissed at her for a little bit longer.  I'm not ready to drop this.  She's likely noticed the side order of ice I've been giving her whenever she texts - she'll say how much she misses me, and my answer is always an underused, sometimes (purposely) misspelled 'me too/to.'  But, do I really?  No, I do not.  I do NOT think she understands how angry this latest shenanigan of hers has made me.  And until last night, I couldn't blame her too much, because I'd dropped it like a hot potato on the night she conversed with my father about it.  The physical conversation ended abruptly when I expressed unhappiness over the whole thing, but the mental conversing is STILL ongoing.  Despite additional stressors, this continues to be on my mind, and my mind refuses to shut up.  Perhaps this means I need to NOT shut up, I need to start becoming more vocal.
    As my niece will be turning 1 on the 20th of this month, I decided that I would be the one to say when I was coming to her neck of the woods (she lives about 15 minutes further away from my sister) and first texted my sister to tell her that I wanted to see my niece for her actual birthday - the dual party for her and her brother is taking place at the end of March.  I asked my sister if the 23rd was okay with her.  She said yes.  THEN I texted Oompa to let her know I was going to come see my niece closer to her actual birthday, we would do lunch at my sister's house.  She could come see me there.  I didn't say this bit,  but I'd rather come see the nieces and nephew than my mother.  THEM, I'll make a monthly trip for - because THEY are innocent in all of this - and there is SO much love in my heart for those beautiful children who call me Auntie.
    "You ARE still coming for their party at the end of March, right?"  Was the first thing Oompa asked.
    "Yes," I texted her back, "I'm NOT happy about the surprise guest you sprung on me, but I'm coming for the kids."
    She then said, "Well, we don't even know if he's going to feel up to coming."  (Again, he's this miserably unhealthy S.O.B. - bad knees, bad heart, diabetes, high blood pressure, probably a bunch of other maladies or things wrong with him, not including mentally - so yeah, by all means, let's invite an unhealthy, unstable man to a kiddy party!  What a wonderful idea!)  
    "NOT the point," I told her, "He shouldn't have been invited, and Dad shouldn't have been asked to go pick him up."
    She then tried to say something along the lines of, 'well, I'LL pick him up, I just needed your father to drop him back off...."
    I told her it was a 'waste of time.'  
    And it is.  A waste of her time, my father's time, MY time.  Because I really, REALLY would have liked to have gone to my nephew's and niece's birthday party without the added stress of having to make sure he wasn't staring at them or at my daughter with those disgusting eyes of his - because I just might have to kill him.  
    Oompa didn't respond to that text, nor did she say anything more after that.  I wonder if my assertiveness offended her - because this is not something she's used to - she's NOT used to being told off, nor of control being taken from her.  And believe me - being told she was wrong or that something she did was wrong IS akin to ripping the control from her hands.  Because now, things aren't going so well for her, are they?  Now she has to figure out how to make this right.  
    And...guess what?
    I don't care.  I don't feel bad, I don't feel as if I'm out of line, or I'm wrong about this.  I spoke up.  I stood my ground.  I let her know I was angry.  This is extremely unordinary of me - I am usually the type to shrug things off, an 'it is what it is' type of girl.  Anger is hard for me to express; one of those learned behaviors I'd mastered - suppression - always seems to kick in whenever I am made angry.  Well - I am proud to say that this is something I am more actively trying to change - when I'm angry, I need to make others aware of it, even if it isn't convenient for them. It may take me some time to do so, but - it's progress.
    THIS was a win - regardless of whether this piece-of-shit shows up - I still made my anger known.  I was not afraid of 'not being nice' and I expressed anger and disappointment.  I've yet to yell at my sister for inviting him - but I'm not entirely sure my mother didn't have a hand in this.  This entire situation SMELLS of my mother - and my sister could have been manipulated into inviting him, herself.  She, like my father, could very well have been a pawn in my mother's game/attempt to involve her brother - she claims the invitation was my sister's idea,  but I'm not so sure she didn't PLANT the idea in the first place.
    Anyway,  Small victory.  In this battlefield we call life, there are so many little wars we have to endure - whether we are at war with ourselves or with others - and these sweet victories add up.  Slowly.   Sometimes they're hard to notice, but they're there.
    Will keep you all posted on this.  For now, eyes are closing on me.  Hoping everyone is doing well this week.
    All my best. 
    - Capulet
  22. Capulet
    The mind is a VERY, VERY tricky thing.
    This will be a short-ish entry as I'd like to share something that happened last night.    (Or it might be a medium-length entry, as you know I'm VERY susceptible to rambling!  We'll just have to see how it all flows!)  This should NOT trigger - it's not that kind of 'happened.'  But JUST in case - I will issue a SMALL trigger warning for a recovered memory, sorta - the memory itself isn't triggering, but you know - I'm thinking this has happened to some of you before and although it's not triggering, it's a little bit unsettling.
    So - here's the thing.
    Last night, after the kids had gone back to their father's, J and I went to the store to pick up some food and snacks and desserts.  Her Patriots are in the Super Bowl - AGAIN - so naturally, I am happy for her if her team wins - they'd earned it at this point - but...secretly, I'm rooting for the Rams.   Yes, I'm a little salty that my Giants/Jets (hometown teams) and Eagles (local team) didn't make it this year, but it seems that those damned Patriots are in it EVERY year!  So, like MANY, I'm rooting for anybody BUT the Patriots!
    Anyway - my love decided she wanted to have a party and since her work friends (including boss lady) got her into playing Fantasy Football and they'd been following the NFL since the start of this previous season - she wanted to invite them to our place for the game/food/drinks.  (I balanced the guest list out a little by inviting MY bowling friend and her husband - I'm NOT entirely comfortable about meeting some of J's other friends, but I did promise to get to know them in more 'comfortable' settings!)  So...counting us, we will have eight people here tonight.  We needed alcohol - as MOST of the people coming tonight are heavy drinkers (boss lady, especially) and we needed a bunch of snacks, food, etc.  
    OK, so we're coming home...our local town is a small-town type - there's a Main Street, with little shops, some fast-food joints, tailors, a bank, a diner, a Dunkin' Donuts, pizzeria, ice cream parlor.  There is also a very small cinema house - I want to say they feature OLD movies, and they charge maybe $1.00 to get in - but these movies are mostly ones that we can buy from the bargain bin at Wal-Mart in most cases.  We do have a regular Cinemark (for the new releases and the recent big-screen movies) at the mall, so fear not, there IS somewhere we can go to see something new.   
    So, on our way home from the store, we pass all these little shops, and the movie house - it's one of those old-style ones where there's an awning over the box office, almost - with the name of the movie on the side....I have NO idea what these are called, so I'm putting a photo as an example:

    Note - This is NOT my local small-town theater - ours is much more plain.  We don't have the fancy lighting shown up top, just the sides are similar - this is where they let us know what's playing and usually, we'll pass by there and I'll smile - last week they showed "Marmaduke,' and during the holiday time, they showed 'Home Alone.'  
    So - last night's 'feature' was missed, as I got caught on the phrase, "Stan and Ollie are here!"  The letters on the side spelled this out - perhaps the name of the movie was on the other side - or perhaps it was under the phrase advertising the return of Stan and Ollie, whoever these two were.  I didn't bother to look, though.  My brain was ALREADY racing.  Stan and Ollie.  Stan.  Ollie.  
    Stan and Ollie.  I don't know who they are.  Indeed not as Stan and Ollie.  If you were to ask me, "who are Stan and Ollie?" I'd likely have shrugged because yes, while I'd heard of the duo before, I wasn't sure who they were.  They were just another duo, one of the unknown ones that you'd heard but didn't have faces for.  And there are SO many famous duos - there's Thelma and Louise.  Ozzie and Harriet.  Punch and Judy.  Simon and Garfunkel.  Siskel and Ebert.  But almost immediately after reading the names in THIS duo, I had a mental image of Laurel and Hardy.  Just like that, there they were, in black-and-white, as I'd last seen them.  Laurel with his top-hat and Hardy with the bowl cut hair and badly-maintained toothbrush mustache.
    When I was a small child, my uncle (yes - the one I HATE!) used to watch March of the Wooden Soldiers.  On repeat, it seemed.  He had a copy of the VHS tape, and whenever I saw him or he was babysitting, he would ask if I wanted to watch Laurel and Hardy with him - and although I didn't necessarily find this particular movie entertaining, I would still agree to watch March of the Wooden Soldiers.  I was likely four or five - and I was not introduced to closed-captioned television until I was at least 8.  So this movie, to me, was completely visual.  Perhaps as it was one of the duo's 'silent movies,' it was something my uncle felt I could 'follow.'  I honestly would have done better with Tom and Jerry (another duo!) but March of the Wooden Soldiers, it was.  
    Laurel was the skinny one, Hardy was the stocky one.  Both were equally stupid.  They didn't do a lot of talking in the movie; it was mostly gestures, actions - mostly resulting in either Laurel or Hardy falling into water, getting a pie in the face or injured in an otherwise comical way.  Perhaps that's why I was able to derive a minimal amount of enjoyment of this movie - it wasn't because I understood the plot behind it.  I am sure there was one - and my uncle was able to 'explain' who some of the other players were.  I'd later find out that most of their movies were 'silent' films - makes more sense I'd understand them.
    But - to me - Laurel and Hardy were JUST 'Laurel and Hardy.'  A friend confirmed for me last night that their names were indeed Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy - so this tells me that I've remembered something - something purely out-of-the-blue, as I don't ever remember ever knowing that Laurel and Hardy had first names - or that they were their real names - I'd always thought they were fictional characters - they've always been recognizable to me as just Laurel and Hardy, those stupid, bumbling idiots from those stupid movies my stupid uncle used to watch and burst out in uncontrollable laughter, every single time one of them made a stupid move - says a lot for his own intelligence, I suppose.  (On another note, I am guessing that this is why I find MOST comedy 'stupid.'   That's yet ANOTHER realization I've come to in recent years - I can be made to laugh by a movie, but then there's 'stupid' comedy - I have found that kind of film is more likely to annoy me than make me double over in hysterics!) 
    This 'recovery' is even more bothersome because I've so closely associated Laurel and Hardy with my uncle.  I'd been doing so well at pretending he didn't exist - being I've no concrete memories of what possibly happened while I was often under his care as a child.  It was just so much easier to do this.  No memory = didn't happen.  I could live with this - as long as I kept him out of sight, too.  There WAS always the possibility of things coming back to the surface, but I'd always thought it would be upon his (delayed) death.  I'd also successfully blocked out anything having to do with Laurel and Hardy, just as I'd blocked out MOST things from that time frame.  It IS possible I knew or heard "Stan and Ollie" back then, but I've absolutely no memory of it.  And then, thirty-five years later, I see Stan and Ollie in bolded text, and BOOM, there's Laurel and Hardy, front row and center of my brain's auditorium!  HOW does that happen???  
    Is this what happens in the beginning?  Is it like a storm, perhaps?  As they all start off small, bearable and mild...then, before you know it, the elements become fierce, unrelenting, and you eventually find yourself flooded.  
    I'm GUESSING it's now started to 'drizzle' up in my brain because of my very recent struggles/trigger with having to possibly see my uncle at my nephew's and niece's birthday party.  We've also had additional stressors since my mother dropped this bomb on me (bomb discussed in my last entry) and as I deal with things that are more important (my sick cat), I've chosen to put this into the back of my mind, knowing I have a month and a half before this event is to take place.  That's ample time, right?  I just refuse to give this piece-of-shit ANY importance or any thought - he will NOT destroy me - I said that, of course, after deciding that my nephew and niece are FAR more important to me than he is - and I'd go to their party regardless - even if I had to carry a flask of vodka with me.  I've also some hope that he will eventually say he can't go for whatever reason, or he'll develop a nasty cold or he'll....oh, I don't know....die?  Or my father will be on MY side, and refuse to have any part of chauffeuring him there and back.  This is not likely, as my father, bless his heart - is clueless.
    Either way, it would seem that this has been sitting in the background for three weeks and is now starting to rot.  It smells AWFUL.  I cannot explain last night's experience otherwise.  
    I welcome any thoughts on this - especially those who have recovered memory from seemingly nowhere.
    My break from cleaning is over.  Back to the grind.
    Let's go, Rams!
    - Capulet
  23. Capulet
    Well, would ya look at that...TWO blog entries in two weeks - a good start to my promise to do some more writing/mental uploading!
    This entry can mostly be attributed to Oompa's prompt and not-a-moment-too-soon departure on Thursday morning - she and my stepfather were here for two nights.  My father (to many: 'Lord Capulet') and his wife were ALSO in town, and since Monday, I've spend every day with one or both of my parents and their spouses - 'the steps.'  Yesterday afternoon was the first time we were ALL together, and I sat at the kitchen table with my four parents, having a cup of coffee while everyone conversed about what restaurants were close by, who had a coupon for what, which establishments offered senior discounts...
    As for me, I didn't care.  I've BEEN trying to get back on the diet wagon - so I was slowly trying to get used to the fact that it would likely NOT happen tonight.  Not with the restaurant names being thrown around.  My brain would adjust to the idea of one restaurant, but then they'd yell out the name of a different one.  Finally, I reclined, sipped my coffee, and let them figure it out for themselves.
    "What about Olive Garden?  I have a $5 off of $30!"
    "Wait, wait!  Texas Roadhouse?  $4 off two adult entrees!!"
    "Longhorns?  Don't they have a fifty-five and up menu for seniors?"
    "I don't have a coupon for (insert less-famous local eatery here), do we want to call them and see if they're offering any early-bird specials?"
    I managed to get through an ENTIRE cup of coffee while they threw ideas at each other.  And I'm not usually a quick coffee drinker, usually there's a small amount left in the mug when I finally dump it into the sink.  My answer was the same whenever asked - 'Sure.  Whatever you guys want.'
    I'm not sure who suggested what, but they decided on Texas Roadhouse, so we clipped the coupon and my father's wife tucked it carefully into her purse - then the next 'discussion' began.  Now, it was 'what time are we leaving????'
    I had no idea what time we would be leaving but I knew it was, at the very least, time for a second cup of coffee.  
    I'm not sure if I even knew what time everyone agreed on leaving my house - at this point, I was no longer really paying attention.  But somehow, I caught glimpses of what my mother was NOW talking about.  She started talking about the invitation on the table for my nephew and niece's dual birthday party.  My nephew will be five and my niece will be turning one.  My sister, in an effort to kill two birds with one stone, planned a party for both kids on a Saturday in between their month-apart birthdays.  She talked a little bit about how my youngest niece 'got the short end of the stick' because both my nephew and my OTHER sister's kid had both had 'big' parties for their first birthdays.  So again, I stared into my coffee while once in a while looking up and pretending to be interested in their conversation.  Only, next time I did 'check in,' she was in the middle of asking my father for a favor.  I didn't get all of it, but I saw, '...pick him up...' and 'on your way home, if you could drop him off...'
    Wait, what?  I snapped back into reality.
    I interrupted and asked her what she was talking about.  I think she'd assumed by now that I was comfortably situated in la-la land and that she'd be able to discuss this without my input.  She was wrong, though, and she kind of paused, took a deep breath, and said:
    "Well, you know...your sister invited your uncles to the kids' birthday party in March."  She might've seen the smoke beginning to shoot out of my ears, I'm sure of it, because she trailed off with, "...and she wants Uncle B to do the balloons for the kids and and they have no way of getting there...so, I thought your father could maybe give them a ride..."
    "Are you fucking kidding me?"  I cut her off.  I didn't care that I was surrounded by the four people who raised me and although Oompa has heard me swear a number of times, Lord Capulet is not used to seeing me angry.  Maybe it's because around him, I'm rarely angry.  My father doesn't push nor test my limits like my mother does.  Well - consider them currently pushed to the maximum, because I was LIVID now.  
    * Here is some background information, to clear up any confusion at this point - by 'my uncles,' I am referring to my mother's brother (Uncle L) and his very long time partner (Uncle B). Their relationship is as strange as it can be - they've not outwardly admitted to being gay, even after living together (in separate bedrooms) for over forty years.  Uncle L is a 'priest;' (the air quotations are being used VERY loosely here) - however, he's ALWAYS been a phony and I've some VERY strong suspicions of his being guilty of a lot of wrongdoing during my childhood days.  Uncle B, I believe, is his asexual domestic partner and for as long as I could remember, has had a talent for making balloon animals. Of the two,  he's the more harmless, more likable, but unfortunately remains faithful to my uncle.  It makes it VERY difficult to consider him family, but he is the one I will say a polite 'hello' to while I'd walk past and avoid the uncle whose blood I share like the plague.
    I asked Oompa to tell me again, HOW this fucking idiot got invited to a kids' party.  She repeated herself.  Uncle B's been asked to make the animal balloons.  Yep.  Got that.  Uncle L would come along with him.  He IS after all, blood, and wanted to see the kids for their birthday.  I rolled my eyes.  
    "He's just an old man, we'll put him on the opposite end of the room..."  My mother, by now is trying to calm me down because I'm starting to lose my shit.  Dad and the steps - both quiet. 
    I went off on her.  "You mean to tell me (my sister) can't hire a fucking clown that can make balloon animals that already lives in New Jersey that has his own means of transportation, isn't over seventy years old and isn't required to lug along his pet piece-of-shit wherever he goes?"
    "Stoppp..." my mother's WELL aware of how pissed off I am - I'm SURE she, by now was regretful of having brought this up in my company and was silently kicking herself.  But I am realizing that it's even more fucked up that she would deny me this information and sooner allow me to walk into my nephew's and niece's birthday party to find THAT fucking douche-bag sitting there.  Staring at me - because that's what he does, given the opportunity.  His eyes are unsettling, piercing, and whenever I see him, he's looking.  RIGHT at me.  
    "I'm not coming," I finally said, "I'll send a present for each of them, but if he's there, I won't be."
    My father and his wife gave each other a look.  My mother just sighed and asked if I'd really do that to my nephew and niece.  My niece, at a year old, would be fine if Auntie Cap wasn't there, but I KNOW my nephew would be looking for me.  Well, SHIT.  No, I'd probably not disappoint him, if you're going to put it that way.  My nephew is totes my little buddy - despite his parents, who are as fake as they come.  NO, I would not do that to him, but I CANNOT be expected to be as I normally am, with HIM there.  
    "Wait..." My father's wife finally said breaking the silence that had come over the kitchen table, "What is going on, here?"
    Ahhhh, that's right.  I'd not told anyone about my suspicions.  I'd given Oompa alternate reason for not liking Uncle L, reasons that seemingly don't fit a meltdown of this caliber.  I've decided she's never going to get all of the reasons - I can't trust her.  Just when I think I can TRY, she goes and pulls bullshit like this!
    Obviously, my mother had never shared with my father my hatred for Uncle L, either.  I felt...cornered.  No, this wasn't a good thing - this wasn't a good TIME.  No way in hell was I getting into something I wasn't prepared for.  
    INITIATE SHUT-DOWN SEQUENCE, I could hear my brain saying, in that robot voice.  Over and over.  Don't think.  Don't scramble for words.  Just get OUT of this!  And so, I did.  I was only able to say that I wanted nothing to do with him - he was a horrible person and I didn't want to be around him.  
    My Dad and stepmother were even more confused - when asked why, Oompa proceeded in telling the story I'd been giving her for the last decade and a half.  It did help that there was actually credence to these things - and surely, they're reason to dislike him but I'm sure my mother KNOWS there is more beneath the surface - and she's likely playing me at my own game - only sharing what I've been willing to share with her.  Perhaps she's hoping someone else knows more and she can get more details out of them.  The only one to know the entire reason is J...and although Oompa HAS tried to question J a couple of times over the years, my lovely wifey has claimed she knows nothing and is faithfully guarding that information.  I hold the control that way - and I know that my secrets are safer that way, too. 
    So, I sat back, fuming, while my father and stepmother listened, and my mother rattled off the reasons for my not liking my uncle.
    Here's why I don't like my uncle and why the thought of seeing him sends me into a panic, a rage.  According to Oompa, of course, and now, according to Lord Capulet and his wife:
    He'd allowed my grandmother to live her final days in FILTH - she lived downstairs from him.  There were cracks in her floors, roaches crawling up the walls, a nasty odor in the air.  He'd originally fought my mother on letting her live her last days at home - he wanted to put her in a nursing home because 'he couldn't take care of her.'  My mother did EVERYTHING she could to tend to my grandmother - at the time, she worked at a public school and she'd first go to my grandmother's house every day for a few hours before coming home.  She arranged for an in-home aide to tend to, feed, assist my grandmother while my uncle did what he does best - nothing.
    When she died - he wasted NO time in 'removing' her from the house, so that he (and Uncle B) could make renovations to the entire downstairs apartment she lived in - and transform it into a church.  He had a chapel upstairs but had been making plans to redo her living room into a congregation room.  This man HAS no congregation - he says mass daily, or so he claimed years ago - now that he's slowly becoming senile.  
    He (possibly with the help of his 'partner,') cheated my mother out of her inheritance.  My grandmother was NOT the sharpest tool in the shed and was someone who was very easily manipulated.  Somehow, Uncle B convinced my grandmother (when she first became ill) to sell HIM her half of the house - she owned half, and Uncle L already owned the other half.  Uncle B bought the remaining half - for 20 grand, so now, the house was entirely theirs.  A brick house in Brooklyn goes for WAY more than that - yes, the house was a DUMP - but it was still my mother's childhood home and she'd NOT been given the opportunity to purchase the house if she wanted to.  They'd gone behind her back.   A little work could have been put into it - some renovations, perhaps - and it would have put the value MUCH higher than what Uncle B paid.  Regardless, my ailing grandmother took the money and put it away - she willed that 20K to be split among her three children upon her death - my mother, Uncle L and their sister, who predeceased them all.  When she finally did pass, 'half' of THAT money now belonged to Uncle L - leaving my mother with a measly 10K - and her brother with the house and all of her earthly possessions that could be sold/distributed, etc.  My mother used 'her inheritance' to pay for the funeral, leaving her with very little money and maybe a few trinkets, including my grandmother's wedding ring that she'd wanted my Mom to have, (that she'd had to fight my uncle for - there was a time he claimed he couldn't find it - she cleverly told him that since it was willed to her, she'd hold him responsible for the monetary value of the ring - he had a change of heart very shortly afterwards and told her that miraculously he 'found' it) - or he'd have pawned them for even more money to pad his own pockets.
    (Admittedly, my father looked shocked at this point - BOTH he and his wife did.)
    Sadly, this is only enough to label him as simply an unsavory, dishonest person - but sometimes I wonder if this is enough to explain why I'd say I don't want anything to do with him - I don't even mind his partner, Uncle B, too much.  EVEN if he'd been dishonest with my grandmother and DID purposely cheat my mother out of what she was entitled to, I don't hate him.  I just don't want Uncle L near me or my kids, I don't think he should be around my nephew and nieces - I might've said too that I didn't understand how the asshole had more lives than all five of my cats combined, death had evaded him more times than I could count.  One doesn't wish death upon a miserly old man - especially one who is seemingly already paying the hefty price of his past greed - he relies on Uncle B entirely, needs 24/7 care, his knees are shot.  He cannot walk, he doesn't go anywhere.  He sits at home, day in and day out - and according to my mother, has forgotten names of some of his nieces and nephews - he's called my sister my name, or he's questioned my mother in reference to my sisters, "the one in the middle," or "the niece of mine who's in the medical field."  My mother has said he's 'slowly' losing his mind, but if you ask me, he's never had full possession of his mind!  I didn't know what pissed me off more - the whole invitation thing, or that she was asking my father to shuttle his disgusting ass to and from a party that I'm not looking forward to going to, anymore - or that she was making excuses for a piece of shit who doesn't deserve them!
    And my stupid, fucking sister!  We've HAD conversations about our uncle before.  Granted, not THE conversation - but she is WELL aware of how I feel about him.  Yet she invites him to a kiddie party!?  Where Uncle B, when he's not playing with fucking balloons, is going to be running around with a goddamned camera and taking pictures so that Uncle L can have them.  As if the creep doesn't stare enough!  I remember when my sister (this same one) got married - seeing him was unavoidable - he was at the wedding - the church part - and he had to walk past me to walk out.  Uncle B was behind him and as soon as he was next to me, he whips out the camera - "Let's take a picture!!!!"  Not a good place to cause a scene - my sister's special day...so I put on the fakest smile I could manage and held my breath.  My daughter was standing a few feet away and I might've made up an elaborate story about how I didn't want her to mistake the holy water for a drinking fountain and walked away as soon as he'd snapped a photo.
    My father didn't confirm whether he would pick up Uncle B and the douche-pig and drop them back home on the day in question - but at least he's got some things to think about, now.  Unfortunately, since I was in no position to fully explain my outburst, I feel that I have lost this battle and this, like my sister's wedding, will turn into another one of those 'can't be helped' situations - even though it COULD have been - if only my family had my back.  It further proves that they do not, and that when it suits them, they'll not think twice about making me uncomfortable.  I'll wonder if it is partially my fault, I've not exactly been straight-up with them about my suspicions - instead, I've allowed them to believe a different set of reasons for my hatred toward him.  It's something I will regret having done - but at the same time, I can't imagine ever being ready to share the truth with any of them.  How can I, though? I can't trust ANY of them!
    Anyway...it's taken me two days to get all of this out.  Normally, a blog entry takes about a day, with me getting up in between writing sessions, with interruptions being frequent, with having to constantly put my writing on hold because of things that come up in 'real life.'
    However, reality has made itself known in ways that very few people know about right now - and I've been HIGHLY emotional.  I will likely get to all of those details in a future entry, though - for it's taken me THIS long to finish THIS particular thought - THIS was put on hold by the 'other thing,' and now the other thing needs some further internalizing before I can discuss it fully and with some of my emotions still intact and without losing my mind.  The short of it, though - we are losing one of our fur babies.  It was a very unexpected development starting with the loss of function in both of his hind legs.  He's been diagnosed with 'saddle thrombus.'  Nothing can be done for him - and as he's seemingly not in pain, we have decided to let him live out his remaining days at home for as long as he's not struggling.  The moment he does show that he is starting to suffer, though, we'll be taking the hours-long drive to the vet that is only 20 minutes away.  As of right now, though, he cannot walk and has to be carried wherever he'd like to be, has to have his food and litter pan near him (within drag-distance) and has to be watched closely for any changes.
    J and I are devastated, we have spent the last couple of days crying off and on - and all of this bullshit with my mother and my uncle - seems so, very unimportant right now.  I second-guessed posting this entry, too - it seems SILLY to bit*h about a party guest who might not even remember my name - when there are far more important things to be concerned with - especially when it concerns a loved one who DESERVES more 'time' than he's been given.  
    More later.  Want to release this entry before it becomes THREE days!  I will be back with another update as soon as I can string together coherent thoughts on the rest of it without bursting into tears.  The tear dam has already broken - it usually takes a LOT for me to be able to cry - and the last couple days have shown me that I, as much as I'd love to, cannot control the flow of tears.
    Hoping all of you are well.
    - Capulet
  24. Capulet
    Well, it seems I've started a new trend of updating 2x a month rather than weekly, but my promise to you all is that I'll TRY to blog more frequently. I have truly missed my for-the-hell-of-it writing and do resolve to get back into the routine of doing so regularly.  It's important to me to keep the mental wheels turning, even if they tend to slow down from time to time.  
    I've just not had much to update you all on - other than I've had a one-week reprieve from the wintery joy that is home - and J and I have just returned from one week in Central Florida for our 10-year anniversary celebration.  We visited Disney World, Universal Studios, Downtown Disney Springs.  We had an absolutely wonderful time - (word to the wise, though - do NOT visit Disney World on a weekend!  And if you're interested in Universal - SPLURGE on the Express Pass to bypass the long lines, it is TRULY worth it!) - and now we are back home, trying to re-acquaint ourselves with our normal routines.  J's gone back to work and all our laundry has been caught up on - and all our cats have been reassured that we will not be leaving them for another five years - seems to be how we roll - big anniversary trip every five years.  Not sure, though, that when we're both 45, we'll have the stamina for Disney World.  Maybe we'll take on Australia or overseas!  I've always wanted to see London, Ireland, maybe even Italy!
    We've five years to figure that out, though.  Our trip was nice, though - and it was much-needed.  Now our bank accounts and wallets are in need of some severe replenishment!  
    In the meantime, I've missed two consecutive meetings/months of the Survivors' Art Group.  The last one was smack-dab in the middle of our vacation - and the one before that - one of the kids wasn't feeling well.  I have, however, seen M before leaving for vacation and she did supply me with a worksheet and accompanying color-in sheet of paper depicting a blank head atop some shoulders, that they'd completed as a group during the last meeting - the first one I'd missed.  
    "Self-portraits," she said, "Feel free to complete this on your own if you're inclined!"
    The worksheet page had listed questions.  But the first one was immediately an indicator of how tricky this assignment would be.  HOW do these people complete this in one hour???  At this point, I've had this paper for over three weeks!  This should be an assignment we have a MONTH to complete; likely it can be proposed that at the end of one group meeting, a preview of next time's discussion could be provided and we could bring these worksheets to the next meeting for discussion?  At any rate, it's a thought for me to bring up to M on our upcoming session on Friday.  But, anyway...moving along.
    What would a self-portrait of me look like?  There were other questions, too, (but I'm too lazy to go fetch the paper from the visor of J's car - it's 12 degrees outside and we've had some rain) - but that's just the thing with these questions/exercises...not just this one, but usually ALL of the meetings are accompanied by questions that make you tap into the deepest parts of your mind for answers to.  They're thought-provoking and they make me sit and think for what seems like hours, before I answer one and move onto the next!
    I am PRETTY sure they're not asking for me to try and draw the profile picture I have of myself on Facebook, although that is probably what most people see - especially those who haven't taken the time to learn (read the book) the story behind the picture (face).  What they likely want drawn/written in that circle no bigger than a baseball, is FAR more complicated than just adding eyes, a nose and a mouth.  I think I'd need an entire wall - for who I am is not summable by just a few words.  And when you ask a WRITER who they are, you can fully expect an explanation of each trait.  Y'see, writers are explainers.  We're big on supporting what we write - if I write about my hatred of broccoli, (not the case, just an example!) I am going to explain WHY I hate broccoli.  We try to get the point across, and if we can, we can add a humorous spin on things or if the situation calls for it, we can be a hundred percent serious.  And like anyone else, it IS easier to talk about things that don't pertain to us, especially those dark, painful things that in order for them to be understood, they take a HELL of a lot of explaining!  
    Ironically, most of who you are resides and originates in the brain - and that's not even visible!!!!  We only see what's on the outside, what a person allows for us to see.  I suppose that sums up my existence these days - for only a VERY small handful HAVE been allowed to navigate the endless corridors of what is my brain.  (Do you like what you see in there?  I haven't kept up with the decorating, but I do try to spruce up the place every now and then with NEW content...wink, wink.)
    Well, crap.  I don't know what to put into this tiny little circle!!!!  Eyes, nose, mouth will take up most of the space - that's a given.  No room for interpretation on anything I draw, either - as I am by no means an artist!  Surely there are some key words that describe me to a T, that require little to no explanation.  
    For starters: I KNOW I am loyal, faithful and honest.  Although loyalty, faithfulness and honesty CAN be explained in depth, I don't think that my reasons for outwardly possessing these traits need to be discussed here - for the reasons that these are most important to me are likely the same for so many others.  We've been burned too many times, we've been hurt in immeasurable ways, we've been abandoned, we've had our trust ripped from us, torn to shreds, stomped on, chewed up and spit out - the list of ways of the breaking of trust goes on and on - and we've been hurled into the discard bin more times than we can count.  For these reasons alone, I'd sooner die before doing this to someone else.  To me, this is the creed to live by - there's NO alternative way to be.  I am NOT the people who have hurt me - these people are NOT in this portrait with me - not in the spotlight, nor in the background, even if blurry, like in one of those old Poloroids!
    And here's what we DON'T see in the pictures....
    I am also described as/struggling with: abused, afraid, angry, an aunt, authentic, anxious, balanced, battered, broken, brave, bullied, consistent, cranky on occasion, a daughter, defeated, depression, determined, distrustful, domestic violence, don't like confrontation, eager to please, easily manipulated, eating-disordered, edgy, emotionally shut-down at times, exhausted, fear-driven, fidgety, fierce, a fighter, fragmented, a friend, giving, a hard worker, heartbroken, isolated, insecure, kind-hearted, loving, a mother, nervous, obsessive-compulsive, paranoia, a partner, PTSD, rape, reliable, respectful, responsible, sadness, secretive, self-blame, self-hate, shy, a sister, sleep-deprived, socially awkward, submissive, supportive, a survivor, tense, timid, tired, walls, weary, a wife, worrisome, a writer...
    My portrait contains ALL of these words and phrases, (and possibly even more that I've not even thought of yet!) even if they are not things I'm currently dealing with and have come and go throughout my life - these traits and tendencies still exist and some were put there by those whom in the course of my 40 years, have taught me to possess the ones that might not be necessarily healthy, even if they are lying dormant at the moment. They are there because of my disgusting uncle, my rapist, & my ex-husband, primarily, and I have learned how hard it is for folks to see PAST some of these unfavorable qualities that are NOT my fault (but still MY responsibility to 'fix') - and see ME for the person I've always tried to be, regardless of what I've been taught.  As you can see, there ARE some qualities that are admirable - and I'm proud to be able to admit that these fit me, too - for it's also easy to see how they COULD have been omitted from the list entirely!  
    Yet, I still cling to and have never lost sight of those three key words - loyal, faithful, honest.  When you have all of these OTHER traits swimming beneath the surface, it is VERY hard to maintain and stay true to those preferred traits (and others, of course) that hold the most importance.  I've managed to do, though, by some miracle - so for the most part...
    I am VICTORIOUS.  And I will continue to be.  I will push myself to overcome those traits that can be viewed as faults, and I will succeed in (slowly) removing those undesirable characteristics OFF of this list - for I no longer want to be described as anything other than the good person I BELIEVE myself to be.
    TRY fitting all of that into a baseball-sized circle!!!!  
    I suppose I'll get to those other questions that were on that worksheet later on, or I'll just see what the next group session brings - it's seemingly an endless cycle of thinking that we've, as survivors, been doomed to, isn't it?  Either way, I'm grateful for the opportunity to speak openly on these topics, even if it's just to myself within the confines of a blog.  Maybe it resonates with others, maybe it doesn't.  It helps me greatly, though, to be able to process all of it here - it helps to see where I am and how far I've travelled to get here.  
    Until next time!
    - Capulet
  25. Capulet
    Have I REALLY been gone since December 4th?  
    Yes, friends - this is VERY much unlike me.  Those of you who know me - know that when my mind is cluttered and my brain is busy - I write.  It's how I make sense of things.  To say that my mind has been clear lately would be a lie - there's SO much clutter up there - it's starting to look like Grandma's attic! (Although MY grandmother, may she rest in peace, did not have an attic - she had a basement that scared the shit out of me for most of my childhood!)  
    My brain has been running a mile-a-minute, but I've been effective at compartmentalizing - at least until the holidays have passed us.  Rather than say, "okay, I'm going to think on this tonight and see what comes out - it'll be a good thing to blog about because I'm SURE there are others who feel this same exact way," the last few weeks have been more of a "maybe later," or a "perhaps after Christmas" or just plain, "not now."
    Things with J are....fine.  I don't want to say there's been improvement because with the looming holidays, stresses have indeed mounted and any left-over issues we have been having were not to be confused with the typical stress the holidays are notorious for bringing forth.  It's easy for past stresses to escalate, when new ones are introduced.  So rather than let this happen - I chose to just go through the motions of the holidays - and make the most of it, even though I was not feeling it this year.  If you've been following this blog for a while, you know by now the result of LAST year's (2017's) Christmas - I didn't want a repeat of that, when it comes to my mother and my sisters, and that entire part of my family.  
    This year's wasn't as dramatic - but it was still sorely lacking.  
    It hasn't been terrible.  Don't get me wrong.  It just hasn't been spectacular.  Maybe I've set the bar too high - maybe I'm just expecting too much at this point?  It IS, after all, what I thought Christmas was supposed to be.  Filled with love, with enjoyment, with fulfillment - instead, it's become purely obligation...my obligation to others, to make sure they have everything THEY want and need.  Over the last several years, I have bent for everyone else - to the point where MOST have now began to take me and all of my efforts for granted.  There is very little reciprocation - if not for my mother, my father, and J - there'd be NOTHING for me under the tree.  And while I'm not a material girl at ALL, it's hard to ignore that - when I have been attempting to MOVE heaven and earth to make EVERYONE ELSE happy - never mind my own happiness and sense of holiday cheer.  
    Since the divorce, the wasband has been unrelenting on where the kids spend the holidays.  They MUST be with him.  ALL of his kids.  They've got to be seated at HIS table - for Christmas, New Year's, for Thanksgiving, for Easter, for St. Patrick's Day, for Halloween, for Father's Day, (that one, I understand!) for July 4th, for Passover, for heaven's sake - and he's not even Jewish!  Early on, years ago, I had asked if I can bring the kids with me to someone else's house for the holiday (or if we could alternate?) and it's been met with an "absolutely not."  
    This, of course, means, that, if I want to spend any of the holidays with my children, that I, too, have to be at his house, celebrating within the chaos of HIS home, with HIS wife, all HIS kids.  Mind you, I don't mind any of his kids - I raised all of them, if you think about it, to include his and his wife's youngest.  I am, of course, free to choose whether I want to be there for the holiday, or if I want to go celebrate with someone else.  But my children would not be allowed to come with me.  If, God forbid, I chose to spend a holiday with someone else, then he's the type to turn around and poison my children's minds against me - "your mother would rather be with so-and-so than you...."  
    Yes, friends - his abuse goes ON - even though we are no longer married, even though we no longer live together.  His manipulation continues - and WILL NOT cease until he is six-feet-under.  This IS painfully hard to accept - but I'm out of energy.  There comes a point in time where you no longer have the desire to change things that simply cannot be changed.  
    So, I've sacrificed my ideas of what I'd like for Christmas to be, for the last decade.  It's supposed to be give and take - this, I know and this, I've been taught in childhood.  My parents aren't eligible for POTY (parents-of-the-year) but they DID teach me to have good manners, and consideration for others.  They DID teach me the true meaning of the holiday - that it was to spread joy, kindness and happiness.  Instead, I've learned to DREAD not only Christmas but every holiday, too!  No, it's not fair - I know this, you all know this - anyone with a shred of human decency and a sense of compromise knows this - but it is what it is.  He's not budging.  And because he won't budge or so much as meet me halfway, I have to celebrate holidays with my family on days that aren't the actual holiday - adding MORE stress to my already full plate.  And it is NOT easy to get the kids to come with me to 'family gatherings' that don't include their father - he's done enough moaning, groaning and bitching and complaining to them over the years - and if he's not invited, they're quick to refer to the 'WWDD' (What would Dad do?) way of thinking.  And if Dad wouldn't want to go, neither would they.  So, that's ANOTHER battle - I guess it's a good thing that my birthday is conveniently located five days post-Christmas - I can very well play the 'it's my birthday, I want my kids with me' card.  This usually works. 
    This year, I INSISTED upon doing Christmas Eve at my house.  Oompa, after some resistance (she wouldn't be Oompa without her slew of complaints!) promised to come for Christmas Eve, and then to sleep over and leave early Christmas morning so that she could spend Christmas Day with her other two daughters and the rest of her grandchildren.  
    Both my sisters were invited also - along with their spouses and all of their kids.  Youngest sister had previous arrangements with her husband's family - so she politely declined.  Okay.  I understood that and didn't begrudge her at all.  
    Middle sister came up with every excuse in the book before saying no, too.  What were her excuses?  Let's see...her husband is working for the first half of the day.  Oh, and he's allergic to cats! (he's not had any problem with the cats when he's come to my house in the past - my cats don't want to be around the likes of HIM, either!)  Or my youngest niece is bad in the car - a 2 hour drive would be 'too much.'  Yet, there are PLENTY of Facebook posts documenting their MANY family outings - some locations MORE than 2 hours away from where they live.  So, yeah.  Long story, short - she doesn't want to come.  
    So the stage was set, at this point.  Oompa would be there, I'd be doing a Christmas Eve/birthday celebration for J at my house.  She'd see her elder grandchildren Christmas Eve and her littler grandchildren Christmas Day.  I'd be spending Christmas Day at the wasband's, of course.  So now this meant that I wouldn't be seeing my nephew or nieces unless I went to THEM for my birthday - which doubled as an opportunity to give them their Christmas gifts, thus extending the holiday aggravation by a few days - I'd just like for them to be over and done when they're over and done!  
    Most of my shopping was done online - alone, and without much input other than the Son's sending me a link to an eBay auction for two books he'd been wanting to read.  "It's a good deal, Ma....you can get it for me for Christmas!"  I didn't think twice.  I bought the books.  Both of my kids are at the point where it's HARD to shop for them - they're getting quality over quantity, a couple expensive things and a few smaller things as 'fillers.'  They are the only ones I really splurge on.  I DID get for the wasband and his wife, and I did get for the REST of his children - I ensured NO one was left out - because although two are adults, one is not even his child, (it's his wife's son) I didn't have the heart to exclude anyone - there was something under that tree for EVERYONE who would be around my dinner table for Christmas Eve.  No questions asked.  Did they bring me anything?  No.  They did not.  They, just as always, took me for granted - they came, ate all my food, made a mess in my house, and left with full stomachs and a trunk full of gifts they'd received - my mother got nothing from them, I got nothing from them.  All we received was a sheepish "didn't realize we were exchanging!"  I could hear my brain going, then...Maybe not, you ass, but common sense dictates you go to someone's house for the holiday - you BRING something!  Even a freakin' dessert platter or pastries or whatever - it doesn't have to be wrapped!  Because the ONLY reason I want YOUR rude, ungrateful, obnoxious ass in my house is because it means I can have my children home too!
    I'm NOT going to have an easy Christmas next year, that's for sure - Oompa is flirting with the idea of taking BACK the torch she's passed down to me - and she wants to do Christmas Eve at HER house - which is far smaller than mine.  She'll, of course, invite the wasband and all the kids - but knowing him, he won't budge - he wants ME to do it - apparently I 'do a good job' keeping the family together.  Completely oblivious to the very sad fact that I don't feel as if I've a choice in the matter anymore.  Top this off with J wanting to spend next Christmas with HER family in Massachusetts - she did tell me this BEFORE this year's festivities - but knowing that she won't be here and there is likely going to be MORE bending on my part to keep everyone appeased.  
    How much more bending am I capable of, before I finally SNAP?
    I feel this is enough of my bitching - at least, for this year.  I DO sincerely hope that YOUR Christmas/holidays went smoothly and with a minimal of drama/stress.  It seems to be unavoidable to some - as some families don't understand the concept of 'simple.'  Still, I do hope that everyone's had at least one smile this past Christmas - at least one gift, be it something wrapped with a pretty bow or simply the gift of kindness, friendship or a phone call...whatever it was that made us feel loved.  We are ALL deserving of that joy, even if it was a small amount.  I did have some of this; and for that, I'm grateful.
    I am now headed over to the wasband's to watch the ball drop with my children - J will be working an overnight shift tonight and will drop me off there on her way - then I'll just drive my car back home, as the son has it sitting at his father's house for absolutely no reason at all.
    The next few days, the first three days of 2019 will be filled with NO celebrations, NO festivities, no NOTHING.  On the 4th, we are headed to Disney World and Universal Studios, where we will be celebrating out 10 year anniversary - of the decade we've spent together, 2018 has been the most 'bumpy' year.  And yes, I admit, this past year has unnerved me to my core - but I am going to resolve to continue to better myself as a person, as a wife, a mother, and a friend.  And to shed off the pounds I've re-gained whilst stress-eating all of the Christmas cookies!
    Happy New Year, everybody.  Will be toasting to my AS family tonight at midnight!
    - Capulet