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Blog Entries posted by Capulet

  1. Capulet

    I know I am good at writing about my feelings.  That’s always been the case with me.  Talking about them – not so much, but writing about them always enables me to explore them further in depth. Lately, I’ve had a lot on my mind and plate.  It shows at home the most, where I am constantly snapping - my daughter and I have been like snapping turtles lately, but we have gotten better at communicating as politely as possible whenever one of us is getting on the other's nerves.  It shows at work - I'm not sleeping very well at night, so I'm dragging ass and daydreaming when I really should be paying attention to other things.  It's comparable to what we may recognize as dissociation but 'present' dissociation, if that makes sense.  I can't even remember when I was ever this tired - likely when I was working 10-hour days (which will resume in about a month's time).  It also shows here - I've been trying to spend the same amount of time here as I always have, but lately, I've found myself taking a few steps back because my mood isn't the best.  It's nothing at all to do with the community or the beautiful people who help to make it the absolute best one in the world - it's more me, being in a funk and being overall irritable and not wanting it to spill over. 
    I’ve been avoiding talking about some things but am arriving at a point where I need to start being a bit more transparent with my family, friends, co-workers, my AS family and even with myself.  Just to give an idea, I did not even tell my own mother about what was going on until last week....and this has been happening for months.  This is typical of me, anyway - wait until the last minute. 😉 
    Before I start, let me tell you all not to worry.  This is not a life-threatening situation or even a very dangerous one, but has been a lot to have to take in.  I didn't know how to explain any of it without giving the back story, so here is the product of several nights' worth of writing.
    *** I will issue a trigger warning for some mild language, some references to trauma, but there are no graphic trauma details.  
    So, many of you know already that I am deaf.  (A humorous thing to keep in mind as I type this is my tendency to misspell ‘deaf’ and accidentally type ‘dead.’  I assure you all that I am very much alive, and to disregard any typos that may be scattered in random spots throughout this entry.  Autocorrect sometimes likes to switch words here and there, so there’s that.)
    My ears, however, ARE dead.  They have been since birth, and I’ve never really ‘heard’ the way that an individual with ‘normal’ hearing would be able to hear.  Up until I was 21 years old, I functioned with the help of hearing aids – childhood was interesting with those old-school aids that came in the form of electronic boxes that we’d plug a cord into, on the other end, there would be earmolds that I’d have to have made every few months – because they would eventually harden and as my ears grew, the molds would shrink and emit an annoying whistling feedback sound.  It was extremely common for my mother to say, ‘you’re whistling.’  This would mean I would have to turn the volume down, or turn the hearing aid off, especially if I was in a setting where the whistling would disturb others, such as in school or at church.  When I was about six or seven, I transitioned to the BTE’s (behind the ear) and those, too, required molds, they were just modified hardware and the molds attached to a tube, which attached to the actual hearing aid.  No more wires – but still headaches with the whistling and having to have new molds made three times a year, on average.  Whenever I had new molds made, this would take care of the feedback issue for a little while.  Trips into Manhattan were frequent, and take up a great portion of my childhood memories.  I don’t really remember much other than having to deal with deafness-related issues.  I got used to it, though, it is what it is, right?  What I was hearing wasn’t ‘real hearing.’  It was just sound tones, and it was often muffled.  I’m not sure how to explain it, so I’ll stop trying for the moment.
    Fast-forward to sometime in 2000 or 2001, a little while after my son was born.  We were likely at a maintenance (earwax removal) doctor appointment, where the doctor who had been cleaning my ears out since I was a baby, pulled up a chair and said, ‘you know – there’s something out there called the cochlear implant.  I think you would be a marvelous candidate for it.’  He told me, my mother and my husband (at the time) about this device that they’d implant into my auditory canals, and it would enhance my quality of ‘hearing.’  I guess we’ll call it ‘fake hearing’ because to me, that makes the most sense.  I’m not hearing things the same way that others hear.  I can identify sounds if I can attribute it to something (car horn honking, doorbell, phones ringing) but I first have to make the association so that I know what the sound is.  I cannot make heads or tails of speech, unless I’m reading lips.  Music to me, is just noise.  He said he would be the one to perform the surgery, and he knew my ears like he knew the back of his hand.  It would be his honor to do it.
    I didn’t want it.  I guess I can say that my initial ‘no freaking way’ was based on the fact that it involved surgery, and it wasn’t something I wanted to do…why fix it?  It wasn’t broken.  It was annoying, yes, but I was functional, I was able to communicate.  Getting the cochlear implant wasn’t going to mean I was miraculously going to hear – I’d still be deaf.  It was (this was back in 2001) just a new, innovative way of hearing.  There is an incision made behind the ear, and electrodes are put in.  This is the implant – it’s not a replacement cochlear – (contrary to how it sounds – maybe they should look into this?) – it is simply electronically sending the sound into the brain via these electrodes.  It is not classified as a major surgery, but to me, it is.  ANYTHING requiring me to be put under via general anesthesia is ‘major.’  It was a lot of information to process and I didn’t want to hear it at the time.  I don’t know if it was also the fact that this was something that was going to require a lot of change.  Or if it was because I’d dealt with a heavy trauma four or five years before…anything to do with my deafness is a nasty little reminder of the fact that it contributed to my trauma(s).  (That’s a different story for a different day, though.)
    Still, the pressure came at me from all directions.  My son, who was still a baby, was used as a ‘motivator,’ in the sense they would all ask me, ‘don’t you want to hear his first words? Don’t you want to be able to hear him if/when he cries?’  Still, I said no.  My hearing aids worked fine – I did hear him cry.  I was able to speak and verbally communicate whatever it was I needed or whatever I thought HE needed. I knew I was going to be able to function as I had been.
    The decision was put on hold until I had opened the door for a delivery one afternoon.  I didn’t know that my son, just over a year old, had followed me to the door and when I closed it, I’d accidentally caught his finger in the screen door.  He screamed and wailed and I felt like shit, but his finger was ok…by some miracle, I’d not broken it – it was just bruised and had a little cut from the metal from the screen door.  But ultimately, that was the accident (and the guilt I felt) that made me throw my arms up in the air and say, ‘fine, I’ll do it.’  I went through in my head what a terrible mother I was, for not knowing he was right behind me – would this new ‘device’ fix this?  Would this prevent future accidents?  I know now, realistically, that means nothing, for plenty of Moms out there (with normal hearing, to boot) have closed screen doors on little fingers or toes.  Still, it was an ambiguous decision, and not one I made for myself.  I made it for my son.  I feel it was manipulated, it was coerced.  Not by him, of course, but by my mother and my ex.  I did say yes, but I felt at this point, that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t hear the end of it and I’d be branded a terrible parent.  So, now, I didn’t care if I did it, or I didn’t do it.  I didn’t care about the ‘remarkable benefits’ to it.  I knew it wasn’t a cure for deafness.  All of those ‘remarkable benefits’ were just promises that the doctor wasn’t going to be able to base on personal experience, just science.  We all know science doesn’t work the same for everyone.  Most of all, I just didn’t want to hear about it anymore.  I hated it because it was ALL people wanted me to do. I hated the idea of it, I hated the look of it (because, really, who wants to walk around with a unattractive headpiece attached via magnet???) and I guess most of all, I hated being deaf enough to need it.  It was a constant reminder of my being deaf, I guess.  And, I guess – my deafness is a trauma trigger, and I’m always going to have a bit of self-hate for that, even though it’s beyond my control.  
    The pre-op testing took place next.  There was a lot to do.  Hearing tests to determine which ear the implant would go into.  It was decided that my right ear was a better home for it, due to the fact that the right ear had more residual hearing than my left ear.  There were vaccines, there were head CTs, blood work, etc.  Then, of course, there was the surgery, which took place in 2002.  Following surgery was a night in the hospital (insurance wanted me to stay overnight) and then two weeks’ recovery.  During that two weeks, I was not to wear hearing aids (even if I wanted to, only my left hearing aid would have worked and my right ear, post-op, would have rendered hearing aids ineffective since residual hearing is essentially destroyed during surgery) while the incision healed.  I guess it was a quiet two weeks.  The third week was ‘activation week,’ which required another trip into Manhattan to turn it on.
    I can’t even describe how awful it sounded in the beginning.  It was definitely a ‘new’ way of hearing.  I wanted to rip everything out of my head.  They performed what is called a ‘mapping’ and adjusted the processor to tolerable levels and told me I would need regular mappings for a little while, at least until I was fully used to it.  They would adjust every few weeks to start with.  It was explained to me that the brain now has to get used to processing sound – and, so, it was going to be a little dissonant and mysterious in the beginning.  It took a few weeks, but then I began to secretly appreciate these remarkable benefits the doctor had talked about.  Things began to sound crisp.  The level of ‘fake hearing’ had been significantly enhanced.  It’s actually comical….I was questioning everything.  The hiss of a soda bottle opening for the first time.  The rumble of cars driving past.  Horns honking, phones ringing, water running, little things like that.  I’d ask what it was and would be told, ‘oh, that’s just the air conditioner…’ It WAS amazing at how much I’d been missing.  I tucked the magnetic piece underneath my hair so it wasn’t so noticeable – to this day, I do this because I simply don’t like it being visible beyond the external BTE processor that I have to wear in addition to the internal device.  The magnet is attached to the processor by short 3-inch cord.  The cord blends in with my hair, and the magnet, I tuck under.  I secretly felt glad that I had made the decision to get the implant...of course, I'd never admit to it because deep down, I will always remember the pressure that came at me from multiple directions.  I didn't want to give any of them the satisfaction of being right - that this WAS a life-changer.  It WAS better than hearing aids.  The quality of sound WAS improved.
    All was going relatively well until 2004.  Just under two years after the implant.  That’s when the shitstorm hit.
    It was a normal day.  I’d just come home from picking my son (then four) up from pre-school.  I was cleaning up around the house while the kids (my stepdaughter, stepson and my son) did their own thing.  We were waiting for my husband to come home.  That morning had been normal too, aside from waking up with a sore throat.  I dismissed it – wasn’t my first sore throat.  I didn’t think much of it and just carried on with my day.  I did a lot of that back in the day - I focused on everyone else before I paid any attention to myself.
    I suddenly became violently ill that evening.  In hindsight, I’m glad it happened at that time of day because had it happened earlier, I might be sitting here.  It all happened so fast.  My stomach was turning, the nausea was overwhelming.  I had the worst headache of my life, I was vomiting.  I remember thinking that I needed to at least get dinner started, I tried to push myself, but couldn’t.  I think I would have died that night if my stepson hadn’t innocently mentioned to my husband that I was ‘asleep on the floor in the bathroom.’  My husband had called home to ask if he needed to pick up anything from the store, and had gotten my six-year-old special needs stepson.  He’d probably asked him to find me (the kids were very used to relaying messages from their Dad at this point) and when Junior told him that, my husband bypassed the store and flew home.  He knew something was wrong, and he was right.  
    When he got home, I’d managed to make it to the couch, and was laying down.  The kids were all there, oblivious, scared, anxious.  My husband looked at me and proceeded to make two phone calls.  One to my mother and one to 911 for an ambulance.  By then, my eyes were involuntarily darting from side to side, my vision was blurred, the headache was so bad.  My mother arrived at the house and stayed with the kids while my husband followed the ambulance.  They took me in immediately and my husband communicated with them and told them that I had the cochlear implant.  This, I’m also glad he did – they apparently had a protocol for cochlear implant patients and made sure not to do an MRI.  Instead, they did a spinal tap (which was also painful and uncomfortable) and told me that I needed to lay flat on my back for five hours and not move.  This, they wrote down on a piece of paper and made me tell them I understood.  They then put me into a room by myself, and only came in wearing masks.  It would be hours between 'pop-ins' and I would ask them what was wrong with me, what was happening.  They would speak to me from behind masks, which was stupid as all hell, coming from medical professionals.  You’d think they know that a lip-reader is not also equipped with x-ray vision. They finally left me in there for a long time.  They dimmed the lights, thinking it would help the headache and I'd fall asleep, but that wasn't happening.  I was in a considerable amount of pain.  I couldn't sleep.  My mind raced.  I moaned and groaned and counted the ceiling tiles until I couldn’t stand it anymore.  Determined for answers, I began to holler.  Fuss.  Anything that would get someone’s attention.  I eventually screamed (from a lying-down position) that I needed to know what the hell was going on.  The nurse finally came in, wearing a mask.  I asked her to please tell me what was going on.  She put up a finger (I don’t know if the light bulb went off here, but either way, she finally understood that I wasn’t hearing anything) and signaled she’d be right back.  She returned with a piece of paper and showed me what she’d written on it.
    “You have meningitis.”
    I shut up.  The nurse wrote some more onto the paper and showed it to me.
    “Very contagious.  Sorry, we need the masks for our protection.  We started the antibiotics right after the spinal tap and will move you to your room soon.  Please try to rest and continue to lay still.”
    Meningitis?  The word played over and over in my head.  I’d heard of it.  I’d heard it was sometimes the reason someone went deaf in childhood.  But I didn't know much else about it.  
    How the hell had I gotten meningitis? I’d known there was a risk involved among cochlear implant recipients, and I’d gotten vaccinated prior to surgery….so why was I dealing with this, now?  Did it not work?  Was I immune to the vaccine?  They array of thoughts going through my head during that time was overwhelming and I just told myself to focus on getting better so that I could go home to my family.  That, I guess, is where my brush-off skills were improved.  I didn't think about it, so I didn't have to talk about it.  I'd done this before - for different reasons, of course, but this probably worked the same way.
    I spent a total of five days in the hospital.  They sent me home with a PICC line that served as a way to administer antibiotics for the next two weeks.  During this time, it was theorized that the meningitis was contracted because of the usage of a spacer during the cochlear implant surgery.  This was basically a small piece of hardware inserted to further secure the electrodes into the cochlear.  This created a pocket – and the strep throat that started the infection that conveniently found that pocket.  From there, it had quickly escalated into meningitis.  Another hour or two left untreated would have probably ended me.  My stepson, nearly 27 now – is probably the reason I survived.  
    It took me several weeks to finally read up on the illness and its long-term effects.  There was so much that I didn't know about meningitis in general, including the long-term effects on meningitis survivors beyond the most commonly known about - hearing loss.  Meningitis survivors also report personality changes, emotional changes that are sometimes day-to-day, memory and concentration struggles, reduced IQ, loneliness, feelings of isolation, headaches.  I can say I have experienced most, if not all of these.  Some of these, I STILL experience.  Hell, I was already isolated BEFORE getting sick.  Returning to reality after this ordeal was not easy.  There was depression, there was more of a tendency to withdraw, to retract.  It took a long while to feel like myself.  Some fact sites referencing meningitis also classify it as a traumatic experience.  Reading about all of this only made me angrier, so I eventually stopped. 
    Shortly after recovery from meningitis, the surgeon who implanted me called and said he wanted to remove the spacer and re-implant me with a new device.  I was not keen on having a second surgery, especially not so soon after the first one.  The surgeon also said that the second surgery was considered corrective, so it wouldn’t cost me anything.  I didn’t want to have to deal with meningitis again, and as long as that spacer was housed in my auditory canals, the risk remained.  Again, I threw up my arms.  Sure, why not?  Let's go back in and fucking fix the mess you all convinced me to make of my life.  
    The second surgery was done in February of 2004.  It went smoothly.  I spent another night in the hospital.  The activation wasn’t as bad this time around that I’d become accustomed to ‘the bionic ear.’  The recovery required the same silent two weeks.  At the time, I was not working.  I was just home with the kids, and had my mother fifteen to twenty minutes away to help with the kids while I recovered.  This was nineteen years ago.  
    Now, we fast forward to the present day.  By now, I'd divorced my husband, but not before having a little girl in 2006.  I met my wife in 2009 and we were joined in marriage last year.  We had moved out of the state in 2017, I'd gone back to school in 2019, gotten my BSW degree, got a job.  I did all of the things I really, in hindsight, should have done a lot sooner.  Won't dwell on this now, for it changes nothing - just mentioning it to give an idea of how different life is now vs. how it was when I was a young housewife and mother.  But anyway - it is a given that I am in a different place now than I was twenty years ago.  Many transitions have been made, and things have happened to bring me back to the same mental place I was years ago...a place that I had worked hard to climb out of.
    For the last several months, I have been experiencing some serious battery drainage.  I’m eligible for a hardware replacement (outside processor/equipment) every five years.  I’ve had three processor upgrades since 2004.  The last upgrade was last year, in 2022.  Everything was working fine.  A cochlear implant battery is supposed to last 10-15 hours on a full charge.  I noticed back in April/May that the battery was lasting less than half of that amount of hours.  I was finding that I’d have to carry one or two spare batteries with me to work, because it would be drained before I finished with my first client.  I thought it was an issue with the batteries themselves, and when they continued to rapidly drain, I opened up the two spare batteries I had (I’m eligible for two additional batteries per year and had these two still in the plastic wrappers they came in) and charged them up.  When I discovered that these brand-new batteries also only lasted me barely two and a half hours, I contacted my new audiologist and let her know that something was amiss with everything. 
    She said it could be a potential problem with the hardware, and that she would send a new pre-programmed one to me.  All I had to do was pop a battery in, change the wiring and put it on.
    OK – easy enough.
    The replacement processor came the day after.  I put a fresh battery in, put it on and crossed my fingers.  Sadly, the warning beeps (when it’s low) came on after two hours.  Additionally, the sound was cutting in and out, and eventually, nothing was coming through the processor they’d sent.  Exasperated, I returned it to the box it arrived in, and went back to the processor I’d been using.  After a day or two, the sound began to cut in and out on the processor I’d been using – which was frustrating, because until I’d tried the replacement one, this was not happening.  Additionally, battery drainage was still a huge problem.  I emailed the audiologist back and let her know.  I did apologize for blowing up her email on a weekend.  I also told her that I didn’t care that it would take me two hours to travel to where they were – I would move mountains to get this shit working again.  I told her how frustrating it was, and how I couldn’t function with sound cutting in and out – especially in the profession I’m in.  I work with children – so being able to hear them and understand them and their teachers is important.  She got me an appointment for last Friday, and told me to bring all of my equipment, both new and old, and she’d run diagnostics on everything. 
    I went to see her this past Friday.  The daughter accompanied me – (she’s seventeen so I have had this implant for her entire life) and we traveled the two hours there and met with the audiologist.  She hooked my hardware up to her equipment, pulled up my map program onto her computer and started to talk.  She turned the computer screen so I could see what was happening while she spoke.  When sound was going through…the arrows would dance up and down.  When it cut out, all would drop to the bottom of the screen at the same time.  She saw exactly what I was hearing.  It was intermittent, and at this point, happening very often, and mostly whenever I changed batteries, which by now is six, seven times a day.
    She finally turned the screen back around and gently spoke.  
    “Okay.  I think we have what we need to diagnose a potential internal failure.”
    “You think it’s the inside piece?” I asked.  My daughter became VERY interested at this point.  She sat up straight and paid attention.  
    The audiologist said that all the evidence was there.  The battery drainage regardless of battery age.  The intermittency.  Even the headaches I’ve been having.  The inconsistency of delivery of sound.  She tested all of my external hardware and found no problems with any of it.  This left the internal piece, which being 20 years old, always had the very slight possibility of malfunctioning.
    “I do have some good news, though,” She said.  “I see you were last implanted in 2004.  Your current implant is under warranty for twenty years, so you’re still covered for revision surgery.  In February of next year, that warranty expires.”
    “So that’s your recommendation?”  At this point, I’m trying to see the silver lining in all this – I really am.  Not having to pay out of pocket for this surgery definitely was a good thing.  But...fuck.  Surgery.  It's a scary word, a hard word to chew on.
    “It would be completely covered,” she said, again.  “But yes, it IS my recommendation.  For now, though, I am going to tweak your map settings, though, to a manual frequency.  This will help the intermittency.  It will enable the processor to not work as hard – sound qauality might be a little different, but you’ll still have sound awareness.  It will not stop the device from ultimately failing but it will help hold you over until we can get the surgery scheduled.”
    So, basically, a band-aid technique has been applied.  There is no cutting in and out of sound – it’s constant.  The batteries are STILL draining at a rapid rate.  I am having to bring three to four batteries with me to work every day – my pockets are full of keys and batteries.  When I get home, I have to charge up the dead ones – out of the five batteries I’m cycling through, this sometimes means that I’m without any while three of them charge, as the charging port only holds three.  I am concerned about having to return to full-time (10 hours a day) at the end of this month (school starts on August 28) and having to constantly change batteries or even bring my charger into the classroom with me.  I expressed to her that the need for this to be fixed was emergent.  
    The audiologist then said she would be contacting their surgeon immediately (my surgeon has since retired) and that she’d be reaching out soon to do a telehealth visit to discuss next steps.
    So, this is where I’m at right now.  The audiologist had given me a reassuring pat on the hand and said, ‘third time’s the charm.’  Then she proceeded to tell me that there have been many advancements to the cochlear implant since 2004.  She promises that the updated model is MRI-compatible (meaning I can have an MRI if needed and it won’t kill me) and that the sound quality may also be improved.  The newer models are also made to last longer, so this would likely be my last implant.  
    The Oompa had asked to be present via FaceTime, and asked the audiologist if a hearing aid could be loaned to me while I recovered, for the other ear.  The audiologist explained to my mother that the last hearing test I’d had yielded 0% residual hearing in my left (non-implanted) ear.  I’m sure she said more but I was unable to process it all at the time. 
    I’m STILL trying to process it all.  A lot to think about, even though I know the decision to have the surgery is a necessary one.  The timing sucks. Not that timing is ever good...
    After all is said and done, it’ll be three times I’ll have had this surgery.  Two times too many.  I’m, by now, the worst person in the world to advocate for cochlear implants.  My mother, bless her heart, because it’s truly a good heart and she means well – will always tell me that I should convince other deaf people to get the cochlear implant because look at how differently and how much better I’m hearing with it.  Alas, I’m still likely to turn around and say, ‘run as far away from it as you fucking can, and embrace your deafness!’ than I am to say, ‘it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.’  While it has significantly improved my functionality in a world where the majority of individuals have working ears, it will always, ALWAYS be a sour subject.  Because of my trauma history, because of the meningitis, because this, like many other times in my life, represents pressure, loss of control, and me doing what other people want me to do, regardless of what I felt.  I can’t look at another person with a cochlear implant without hating it, or hating my own even more, despite its obvious benefits.  And then hating myself for my own bitterness.  I mean, how much sense does that even make?
    There’s that two, three maximum weeks’ recovery time.  I’ll have to wipe out my paid time off, whatever I have banked will have to be used.  I’m supposed to return to my full time status/10 hour workdays on the 28th of this month.  Right now, my work schedule is light.  I can schedule pre-op stuff around my work schedule.  But now I have to wait for the surgeon to first schedule a telehealth appointment to discuss the ‘next steps.’  After a day’s worth of email tag with her nurse this week, I have an appointment scheduled for a head CT on Monday – because apparently, the next step wasn’t the telehealth call – it was the imaging she wanted BEFORE she’d schedule the telehealth call.  Oh, and it gets better – she wants a disc of the images sent to her office.  Her nurse mentioned casually that she’s on vacation this coming week…meaning she won’t get to see anything until the following Monday, the earliest when she returns.  Meanwhile, time is going by and I feel like everything is moving way too slowly.  I’m currently walking around with four batteries in my pockets (left pocket is charged, right pocket is dead) praying that I get home before they’re all out of juice.  This will be much easier to do in the summer because NO WAY is this going to be possible during my full-time hours.  
    Where there’s surgery, there’s going to be bloodwork, and even worse - needles.  I can barely wrap my head around having to deal with the surgery and recovery, and am having to accept that in order to put in the anesthesia, they will have to put in an IV prior to surgery.  I am going to speak to the surgeon beforehand about seeing if I could possibly be sedated before they put in the IV…don’t know how possible that is going to be but it's going to be nothing short of hellish if they can’t.  I CANNOT do blood draws from the inner elbow calmly.  It is possible to get an IV in me, but I literally am panicking from start to finish, and it would just be easier on us all if they sedated me before trying to poke around for defiant veins.
    Prior to the FIRST implant in 2002, they told me my left ear had some residual hearing left.  It was also a candidate for implantation – they just wanted to do the better one, which was the right side.  I never even considered dual implants (some people do have two, and do both sides) and I never really wanted to go through the fuss of wearing a hearing aid in the left ear but knowing it was an option was oddly comforting.  But to hear the audiologist say that the hearing in that ear was completely gone….makes me wonder - did the meningitis, which is known to cause permanent hearing loss, destroy that ear, too?  My last ‘in the booth’ hearing test was a year ago and they based that statement on those findings.
    So…this is what has been going on in my world lately.  All this, along with the surfacing of pre-existing feelings of self-inadequacy and hatred that I’d managed to keep at bay for years.  This news of a failing implant has made some of these feelings re-emerge, because again – my being deaf has caused a problem.  
    I find myself occasionally feeling angry at my mother for no good reason other than for having two other daughters who don't have a stinking thing wrong with their hearing.  They're perfect.  I was just the one she had to fix because I came out with something not working.  She thinks she knows everything about my hearing and what I'm going through when she, in fact, doesn't have a clue.  I'm angry at my ex for all of the pressure and manipulation he took part in.  I'm angry at the original surgeon, at whoever even thought to invent these things.  I also hate to admit it, but there's this ridiculous, unfounded anger (that I will also admit that I know deep down is misdirected) toward other deaf individuals - because they seem to possess a level of acceptance, (even happiness) with their hearing loss than I ever could imagine having.  I can count the number of deaf friends I have on a single hand.  This is because I never fit in with them in a peer sense.  I could not sign, I couldn't maintain an advanced conversation with them, and I ALWAYS was the odd (wo)man out whenever there was a group of us.  In the sense that we had zero function of our ears, I certainly could relate but because I was brought up and conditioned to be functional in a hearing world, I had zero appreciation for deaf culture.  There IS a culture.   You see - they have a certain contentedness with it.  Some love it.  Some don't even wear hearing aids. Some are 100% against the idea of a cochlear implant, so I'm sure that has changed many deaf people's view of me.  Most have accepted their hearing loss with grace, and don't see it as a disability, or even something that is broken - they see it, rather, as a culture. They have their language, they don't need anything else.  They're perfectly happy as they are, and embrace many things I cannot.  Perhaps there's a bit of envy there, too.
    And then, there's me.  I don't even FEEL like I'm deaf at times.  I don't even tell people when meeting them for the first time unless they ask.  I have gotten better with explaining myself online but that's easier to do than it is for me to tell someone that they have to make sure I can read their lips in order to converse with me.  I also loathe doing that.  My mannerisms and my speech have a lot of people fooled as is, so it's not even really a conversation I have with people.  But lately, all the sound cutting out and the batteries dying at random moments and my asking people to repeat themselves several times has been a cruel reminder of the fact that I am deaf.  
    I will never fit in either category - deaf or hearing.  I will always be stuck in the middle, somewhere.  I will always feel that deafness, or anything having to do with my lack of hearing, is what also made me vulnerable to trauma, whether it's sexual trauma or medical trauma.  It's all connected, and it ALWAYS comes back to that.  And so, I'm currently trying to combat these nonsensical bouts of anger by internalizing and throwing myself in front of a baseball game (which has grown increasingly annoying because the Mets are pitiful this year) or a video game.  I've been distancing myself from people, at home, at work, online.  I'm sure it's all a phase that will pass upon recovery of my latest surgery.  I'm HOPING it will.  I don't like myself when I'm like this, and even though I know it's understandable and that past trauma factors into it, I know that it's also senseless to remain angry about something I can't change.  
    Anyway.  It's late, and I kind of want to post this before I decide to delete it all.  Like with other blogs, I sometimes have thoughts after posting, but I suppose I can always type in an addendum later if something pops up.  I just needed to do a mental upload, maybe free up some headspace.   
    If you've made it this far, thank you.  I know that this mess was a lot to read. ❤️  I will keep everyone updated as best as I can and let you all know what the timeline is.
    In closing, I'll also say that I do know that this hasn't defeated me. It took me a while to come to the understanding that the sexual trauma was human-inflicted, and what happened to me could have (and definitely has) happened to someone with two perfectly good ears.  Simply put, a predator will find a way to hurt someone.  They've done it before, they'll do it again. The choice to harm someone else was one they made.  I know that this 'vulnerability' of mine has shown up at every turn, and I know that I will once again arrive at that place where I can say those bolded sentences and believe them.  Right now, it just feels like the figurative 'tray' I've been carrying all of this on for the past few decades, arranged all neat and tidy, has just been smacked upwards from the bottom and everything is now in the wrong place and thoughts are in mid-air, jumbled, out of order, on the floor, stuck to the walls, and thus not sitting well.  
    It will all get better, I know this, too.  
    It just sucks right now.
    - Cap
  2. Capulet

    To anyone who needs to hear this…. ❤️
    When we come face to face with trauma,
    Knowing what to do doesn’t exist.
    There are no answers as to why.
    There is no instruction manual or guidance.
    Some of us didn’t tell anyone.
    Some of us did.
    Some of us didn’t have a choice.
    Some were brave right from the start.
    Some of us took a while to get there.
    For some, trauma is new.
    For others, it is old but feels new.
    For some, danger still exists.
    But we all dealt with it in the best we knew how to.  
    Some said it was the wrong way.  
    Some said we made it worse.
    Some said our choices were poor.
    Some say that we could have done more.
    Sometimes the self-blame felt too strong.
    Sometimes we felt weak.
    Some of us hurt ourselves.
    Some of us lashed out at others in anger.
    Some of us embraced offers of support.
    Some of us prefer to be alone.
    But we all coped in the best way we knew how to.
    Healing is non-linear.
    There are plenty of drops, twists, and turns.
    Often, it’s one step forward, two steps back.
    Some choose therapy. 
    Others may not.
    Some choose to begin healing right away.
    Some wait for the time to be right.
    Some wait until they feel safe.
    Either way, we all tackle this journey in the best way we know how to.
    Protecting ourselves is never easy.
    Some choose to reach out during times of struggle.
    Some choose to isolate.
    Some survivors can cry freely.
    Others feel that to cry is to show weakness.
    Some trust with their whole hearts.
    Others keep a distance because that feels safer.
    Either way, we all protect ourselves in the best way we know how.
    Moving forward, we all have to remember…
    That there’s no right or wrong way to have gotten here.
    There’s no better or worse way we could have arrived at this point in time. 
    We’re here.  That’s #1.  We made it here.  This is important.  This matters.  The tale of how we got here doesn’t matter - the fact that we are living and breathing and reading this with or without tears in our eyes is what does matter.  Our own personal strength got us this far.  Be proud, friends - be very proud that you’re here.  
    We all got here the best way we knew how. ❤️ And I’m proud of you all.

    While ‘the best way we know how’ is simply that - there are always ways of opening our minds to other methods of growth and improvement.  There is always room to develop and to hone on our coping skills.  

    Let us all be willing learn from one another.  Let us all remember that our unique perspectives can be valuable to others who are trying to arrive to the point in which we currently stand.  We all deserve to grow and to heal.  And we all will.  Of this, I am sure.
    Let’s support each other in the best way we know how - because that’s how we roll. 
  3. Capulet
    I'm both proud and disgusted with myself this afternoon.
    My daughter, who is a couple months shy of seventeen, texted me this morning, letting me know that she ended her relationship with her boyfriend of over a year.  They got together at the very beginning of December, 2021, so it's been a while. A while of this young man coming to my house after school every day, walking in and out as he pleased, eating my food, drinking my sodas, coming along with us whenever we tried to do a 'family' thing - (the daughter and I have had many a quarrel over his tag-along status over the last year) and he never, EVER paid for himself when we let him come out to eat with us.  I do feel that he treated him well.  He would mumble a 'thank you' to us every so often, but never once did he offer to pay his own way - or to at least leave the tip.  We never asked him, or said anything about it.  We included him regardless, for if we didn't, she wouldn't want to hang around with us.  
    My daughter admitted to losing her virginity to him last year.  No, I'm not at all happy about it, but I'm glad she trusted me enough to tell me.  I read her the riot act when I found out but then after much reflection, I suppose there is nothing much I could have done about it - if I were to lay down the law and forbid her from seeing him, she'd have rebelled and found a way.  It would have put a major strain on the relationship I have with her, and I didn't want that.  I want her to always be able to come to me and to talk to me.  And, so, I bit my tongue until it bled and put her on birth control.  It was also due to her irregular periods, so it's fair to say that was a dual purpose decision.
    ....and let's not forget the shit I did when I was just a little bit older than she is.  Things I'll never, ever, EVER share with her.  I'm too ashamed.  At least this was with a boy she thought she loved, and loved her.  I have absolutely no excuse for my poor behavior back in the late 90's. 
    Anyway - her text this morning came in around 9:30.  She'd broken up with him before school started.  She said how sad she was (and how sad he was, too), that it was a mutual decision, and it was the healthiest option.  I asked what happened - and her response was, 'he's been mean to me lately, and every time I try to talk to him about it, he tells me I'm the problem.'  I didn't even have to tell her that this was gaslighting - that was her next sentence.  So, here I am, completely dumbfounded - prepared to have to talk to her about what a smart thing it was she did by cutting him loose - but here she was, explaining that she'd done it because she deserved better and that she needed to take the time to focus on herself and to work on herself.  
    She then went on to say that they'd been having problems for a while but the last straw was when he'd told her she needed to lose weight and that she didn't have his 'ideal body type.'
    My blood was boiling as I heard this.  My daughter is by no means skinny.  She's had the same body type for the entire time the two of them were dating.  Why is it a problem now?  I didn't ask that question, though....I tucked this into the back of my brain for a time where she is less devastated.  My response to her was that she'd done the right thing by ending it before they both invested more time into a relationship that was failing.  That if things were this bad now, they'd only stand to get worse later.  I was glad to see that she'd identified the red flags that were beginning to wave, and she'd sent him on his way.  It hit me later that she likely meant she was going to include weight loss in her 'working on herself' mission - so I am going to remind her that she needs to do it correctly.  She said she knew, but right now felt so sad, unable to eat and sleep.  Which, of course, I understand. 
    I told her that a broken heart definitely messes with the appetite but she needed to make sure she took care of herself while she took the time to grieve the end of her relationship.  It is my understanding that she still loves him and wants to be friends - even if that's not possible in the moment.  They both need time and space to heal from this failed relationship, and we left off with her saying that he's a narcissist and she knows she did the right thing.  My son (who NEVER liked the now ex-boyfriend - hated him with a passion, in fact) went to pick her up from school and was an AMAZING big brother to her, today.  He took her to the gym and had a talk with her.  She mentioned that he was being very, very nice to her, which I was glad to hear, considering he's probably screaming for joy on the inside.  I sent him a text a little while ago letting him know how much I appreciated him. 
    I've had time to think about this conversation with her now that I'm home from work.  I'm disgusted in myself for being unable to see these red flags back in the day, when I was seeing her Dad.  Maybe I did see them - but chose not to pay attention to them.  Whatever the reason, I chose to instead marry him and endure years of emotional, verbal and psychological abuse.  I know that a lot of my behavior was a trauma response and she, thankfully, has not experienced trauma.  Still, though.  In hindsight, I did everything wrong.  I gave more chances than was deserved.  I apologized for things that I really didn't need to apologize for.  I tried to people-please - not just my ex, but everyone around me.  I didn't put myself first.  I still struggle with doing that.  I didn't love and respect myself.  I never said, 'I deserve better.'  And, sweet Jesus, I wish I'd had the sense to recognize narcissism when I was her age.  That's so, VERY valuable.
    So, I guess that's why I'm disgusted.  Why am I proud?
    I suppose it's mainly because I did something right with my daughter.  I somehow raised her to be stronger than I was.  I certainly was not this smart when I was her age.  I didn't even know the definition of 'gaslighting' until a few years ago, and she described it to a T.  We never really talked about red flags within a relationship...she learned to recognize them on her own.  Maybe it has to do with her Dad - he's not nice to his wives at all.  She recognizes that, at least, and she knows exactly what she doesn't want in a relationship. The way she talked about her 'ex' today reminded me a lot of how her Dad was with me, and is with his current wife, who is pretty much fed up with him, too. 
    I just know she's going to be okay.  This kid is amazing.  I should say I'm proud of her more than I am of myself, because honestly, she didn't get this from me.  She didn't get it from her father, either.  We've never had this conversation before, so she is pretty much self-taught.  She is not going to allow any boy to keep her down - even if he knocks her down in the first place.  Although she is devastated right now and has been sobbing for hours, she'll get up and then, she will heal.  Of this, I'm sure.  
    Right now, though, I know she is not okay, and we are dealing with a broken heart.
    Send help.  And lots and lots of coffee.
    - Cap
  4. Capulet

    Hi, AS Family!
    I miss journaling.  I really do.  I’m first of all, thankful that there is some downtime at work where I can do some writing.  Today is such a day and I’ve had a few somethings to ponder, lately.
    I often read posts that leave me nodding my head in agreement or in silent understanding.  Or, of course, feeling as if I could have written these words, myself.  While it’s kinda daunting at times, it’s also one of the many benefits of group healing. How validating it is, to be told that I am not the only one with these thoughts - that one or two or more of these are running through your heads, too.  
    Below is a compilation of random thoughts that I realize may be commonplace for other survivors.  It’s taking me a long time to admit to some of these statements, too - mainly because it’s hard not to see them as normal given the circumstances, and when I am thinking them, they feel like flaws.  They’re a reason to hate myself, they’re reminders and realizations, they’re not always easy things to acknowledge.  I find myself becoming defensive if any of these are challenged, so I thought it might be worth exploring.
    Some of these may not make sense - but some might ring true for you, too.  Please feel free to comment on any of these and share your thoughts - if you’d like to do so privately, that’s perfectly fine. I welcome PMs and kind words - know I will return them as well.  I am unsure if this will trigger, but just in case, I'd like to put a **TW** here.
    So - this is what I've come up with to start...
    I am in a good place.  This doesn't mean that I'm healed.  It doesn't mean that I'm fine.  I mean, I have, for the most part, made peace with everything.  I have more days where I am okay than days where I'm not.  I am 26 years post-rape - later this year will make it 27.  I, too, struggle periodically with the fact that there are some days where I don't want to face the world, I don't want to get out of bed, I don't want to go to work, I want to be left alone, I want to not have the background I have.  I don't want to be me.  Sometimes I feel angry with myself for feeling this way, too.  It causes me to feel ungrateful for the good things I know I have in life.  
      Some aspects of my trauma are MINE.  I hold back some of it, purposely.  It’s not because I don’t remember, like I say, sometimes in order to avoid talking about it.  (Yes, I do that, too, from time to time!)  The truth is, there still remains a measure of shame and self-blame.  Realistically, I know that what happened to me is not my fault, but I guess I still feel the need to withhold some of it - what if someone else thinks I’m disgusting?  What if someone thinks it really was my fault because of my reckless behavior as a teen/young adult?  What am I going to do if I disclose to the wrong person? How much would that invalidation derail all of the progress I’ve made thus far? 
      The eyes are the window to the soul, yes?  Or so they say?  It’s hard for me to make eye contact.  I do, briefly, but I am almost always needing to look away…because I’m not sure I want anyone to see what’s behind these windows.  Very, very few people have seen through them.  Even if someone doesn’t know me well enough or know there is some very deep trauma in my history, I worry that all will be revealed if I let someone look into my eyes long enough.  They are automatically going to know what I might not want them to know.  I know that is not a realistic thought, but my brain doesn't seem to know that.  My windows are weathered, yet still transparent enough to see inside.  And so, the ‘curtains’ are drawn whenever there is anxiety, or uncertainty - or a little bit of both.
      I feel like what happened has made it impossible to be the person I was supposed to be.  It’s also made it impossible to not be the person I am now.  This is a very simple, yet true statement for me.
      I feel like I am living a double life.  Offline, I go by another name.  A name that I feel like does not fit me.  This, I can’t really explain - but I will try.  A name is an identifier and when you know someone’s name, you think you know a little about that someone, their life, their likes and dislikes, etc.  People have their own idea of the person you are.  I have been living with trauma for more than half of my life and very few people know the full extent of it.  I feel as if don’t really fit in or belong.  The trauma is like a discordant note that plays in my head - constantly.  It’s always going to be there.  I will never be able to say that I am completely pain-free.  Trauma is like a wound that keeps reopening - over and over again.  It bleeds whenever things start to look hopeful or I experience joy or happiness.  It’s a wound that will forever need tending to, and will need care and attention.  There is too much that I understand about myself that my peers do not.  If they do, I wouldn’t know about it because I am extremely careful with that information.  Here, though, I am Cappy.  It’s so much easier for me to put all the cards on the table.  There is no judgement, there is no confusion - I know who I am.  I feel less alone hanging out online while I’m home by myself - than I do surrounded by people.  I am a survivor, just like all of you.  We share wounds, we understand how they got there.  I belong here.   I feel safer here than I do in a roomful of family members.  That’s confusing to me, but then again, maybe not.  They will always have a different perspective on life than I do.   They will always be oblivious to the truth - and that's how I've kept it for all of these years.
      My writing is my safe place.  Even safer than therapy.  Paper, notebooks, journals - none of these things can challenge me.  None of these things can tell me I'm going about it the wrong way.  Journals and blogs don't ask questions, either.  I guess there are some therapeutic benefits to writing - primarily the fact that it forces me to process in ways I didn't know were possible.  I am not opposed to going to therapy again someday; I am just having difficulty finding someone that I connect well with.  I am sure I have not seen the last of therapy, though...there's more work to do.  Until then, though....this is how I'm most comfortable.  Writing, reading, re-reading, re-writing where needed.  Processing once, twice, as many times as I need to.  Because heaven knows it doesn't get any easier to verbalize all of this.  
        Forgiveness.  I don't know if I'll ever be ready for that.  I can't shake that feeling that forgiveness is equivalent to saying, 'it's okay, I'm okay with what happened, I'm okay with what you did.'  NOTHING that has been done to me is okay, nor will It ever be.  Nothing justifies how I was treated.  I don't like to harbor feelings of hate, but hell, in lieu of forgiveness, I'll make an exception.   There is a small, dark, special place for my perpetrators, all of your perpetrators, and all of what they represent in my heart, where only hate lives, along with the hope that they all rot in hell for what they've done.
      I’m afraid (maybe 'nervous' is a better word) to talk too much about the abuse that happened when I was a child between the ages of 3 and 6.  While I have accepted that something did happen, I don’t remember enough details.  I just remember saying something, behaving in a certain manner and therapy.  I had the most amazing therapist between the ages of eight and nine, and I miss her.  But what if I’m wrong? What if my behavior (the soiling myself, the masturbation, the hiding things, the lying) was because I really was an over-imaginative child?  If I can’t remember it, is it possible it didn’t happen?  Does that even happen, do kids have these behaviors for no reason?  How do you heal from something with more holes than Swiss cheese??
      Dissociation is pure fog.  For me, it happens more frequently during the Fall months.  I feel sluggish, cloudy and momentarily disconnected from who I am.  Life goes on all around me.  Dogs bark, tree branches sway, flames dance, babies cry, horns honk.  I don't know if being hearing impaired makes it more natural for me, but I have the ability to tune out everything around me.  I know it's also not the same dissociation you hear about more often, the floating-outside-your-body feeling or losing time.  This is more of a disconnect from anything and everything.  You're aware of things happening around you - you just remain checked out during all of it.   Everything is blurred.  This, too, is difficult to explain because we all have different ways of dissociating and different ways to stay present. I seem to be comfortable in autopilot mode, where I slip in and out of my dissociative state over a period of time.  It often feels as if I have no choice but to allow it, as long as I'm in a safe place.  We dissociate for self-protection.  If I'm feeling the need to disconnect, I'm not sure it's preventable.    
      Emotion following intimacy.  This one is difficult.  Anybody else feel the need to cry following intimacy with a partner?  This isn't me now, but it was me years ago, when I was married to my ex-husband.  I cannot explain it, but that brief moment of pleasure brought forth such overwhelming feelings of guilt and self-disgust.  It didn't matter that this was the man I married...or that this was the father my childen, or that this was someone who knew about my history....none of that mattered.  Following any relations (that I 'reacted' to, I'll add), I would become overcome with guilt.  How dare I enjoy something that once was used to hurt me?  How dare my body accept that Would this ever feel okay?  How could I explain this to him when I didn't really understand it, myself?  Simple - I didn't.  I would roll over and close my eyes, until sleep consumed me.  I ignored the feelings of self-disgust and filthiness.  I didn't dare let my husband see me cry silently.  What would he think of me, then?  He already viewed me as broken, damaged, easy to manipulate - why add more reasons for him to belittle me?
      Darkness is my friend.  I know, for many, the dark is scary, creepy, and those things we cannot see pose a threat.  Not for me, though.  For me, darkness is safe.  I never did get a handle on why I'm sensitive to lights and prefer to be in the shadows.  Maybe, for me, what wasn't visible was also unable to hurt me. Maybe what wasn't able to be seen didn't exist, either.  Either way, the darkness was calming and soothing.  Alternatively, I also can't be seen in the dark.  It's been this way since I was a child.  I'm still exactly the same as an adult, and my wife is a saint and allows me the darkness - she will even help me cover stray bits of light.  In hindsight, little streaks of light would scare me, make me anxious and I'd go to lengths to cover them, or block the light with clothes or with toys or as an adult, electrical tape.  Whatever worked.  When I was a kid, there was an ominous feeling, if I was able to see lights....headlights of passing cars, moonlight, lights on the VCR.  The smallest amount of light would be magnified, and I would find myself hiding underneath the covers if I was ever spending the night anyplace other than home, where I had my very own setup and my room was kept pitch-black, just as I liked it.  
      Love.  Ahhh, what a scary, scary word.  While I am sure in my heart of hearts that I have experienced love on many different levels, I still struggle with expressing it and letting my loved ones know that I love them, too. For me, it goes hand-in-hand with trust.  There are only a small group of people that possess both my love and trust.  I have no issues saying ‘love ya!’ to someone or ‘love you all’ when addressing my AS family and group of friends.  And do not get me wrong - it’s not a lie.  I sincerely do love and cherish every single one of the folks I have been fortunate to connect with.  But….for some weird reason, writing out ‘I love you’ or even saying it to someone else is….much heavier.  It’s much harder.  And when I do it, though rarely, I feel as if I am also admitting vulnerability to that person.  They know now that they are in a position where they can hurt me.  People I have said it to in the past have turned around and done so….it was also something said TO me by at least two of my abusers.  I don’t know if ANY of this makes sense, but I am trying.  I guess the word had been used in numerous mindfuck opportunities, and now I am weird with how I use it.  I do feel bad because as a survivor, I also understand greatly how much one wants to feel loved and cared for and accepted.  I do, too. I mean, who wouldn’t!?  It’s a beautiful, pure feeling.  It’s comparable to a blanket being taken out of the dryer as soon as it’s done and wrapped around someone’s shoulders.   It’s warm, it’s pleasant and it’s toasty, it’s safe.  And it’s needed - very much so.  And so I have been finding little ways to let others who are dear to me know that my love for them exists.  In the meantime, I do have hope that someday, it will be easier to express with those three little words rather than to search for ways to not use them.
      I think I saved the most difficult for last.  I should add that the headache I'd already had got significantly worse when I managed to finish this next part.

    It took me years to be able to speak the words.  You know - THOSE words.  For a long time, I would say, ‘Something happened.  Something really bad.’ That turned into ‘I might have been sexually assaulted.’  It took me ages to finally say the words, ‘I was raped.’  I can feel my cheeks burn even now, typing them.  Why the hell does it seem like such a vulgar word???  Why does it feel like I’m slapping myself in the face when I say those three words?  The dread associated with the word ‘rape’ is never going to go away - because putting ‘I was’ in front of it makes it disgustingly real and makes me feel gross.  It is a highly impactful word that makes my heart race, my head pound, my blood boil.  So many different emotions are attached to this word.  Fear. Anger. Sadness. Despair. Panic.  When I hear it, everything ‘jumps.’  Time pauses.  My head goes silent, then screams.  It momentarily feels like something only I can understand, even though I know that’s not true and so many others get it, too.  I hate that the word is so real, so ugly, so loud.  I hate that it means too much to me to be able to use it casually.  I despise that whenever I hear it or have to use it in order to call it for what it is, I’m automatically looking for ways to minimize the stun effect it has on me, and I’m wanting to go back to a milder, safer ‘sexual assault’ categorization.  And it just sucks that no matter how much I try, I can’t do it.  It’s like I have a personal grudge with the word, but still have to acknowledge that it is a permanent part of me, now. I guess this 'list' is a work in progress.  I may add to this later, because as we all have come to understand, the thoughts are never-ending.  What changes is how we approach each of these thoughts and how we choose to address them.  On the last one involving the word ‘rape,’ I found that forcing myself not to cast the thought aside has enabled me to come to a better understanding of what else I might need to work on as I proceed with my healing journey.  I guess that applies to all of these, but that one, I reacted to.  I had a pounding headache, my stomach was in knots, I was hot, sweating.  My insides shuddered.  I felt small fragments of what I felt the night it happened.  It didn’t trigger details, it triggered emotions.  It took a few hours and a good night’s sleep in order to feel human enough to go to work this morning.
    So...on these - you, too?  Or no, just me?
    Sending everyone hugs and positivity and wishes for calm, serene thought processes. Continue to be kind to yourself when these pop up.  Talk through them.  Write them out if you prefer.  Practice self-care.  Hug a friend or a fur-baby.  It does help! 
    Thank you if you've read everything! 
    - Cap
  5. Capulet

    Hey, AS family!
    How're you all doing?
    I'd like to first preface this journal entry by making clear that I am in NO WAY blaming any of you for the traumatic experiences you've endured at the hands of others.  THEY are the ones responsible - not you.  THEY chose to harm you - therefore, THEY are one hundred percent at fault.  This journal entry is one of my rare emotion-dumps that may or may not make sense, given the hour.  It will make sense later, though, I promise.  We have a snow day tomorrow (today), so I am up late - so apologies in advance for anything resembling a ramble.  
    I've had a light-bulb moment and wanted to share it here.  This is a thought I've probably had many times in the past, but I have found myself thinking about it recently. It is one of those nagging, brain-poking thoughts that probably won't go away unless I write some things out - and so, here I am.  
    Tossing a ***trigger warning*** here for some small details re: abuse/trauma.
    For as long as I can remember, I have always been a people-pleaser.  
    It started with Mom in childhood.  I wanted her to be happy with me, I wanted her to be proud of me.  For the most part, she was - but there were times I knew she was disappointed in me for something I couldn't (or wouldn't) do.  Maybe she was also disappointed in herself for having a deaf baby.  Or perhaps she knew she messed up in some ways, but either way, she was someone I went out of my way to appease.  Most of you know already that my people-pleasing skills likely started to develop as early as six years old - I wanted my mother to not be angry with me, and so I told the CPS workers that I'd made up the story about my uncle molesting me.  She was more than happy to back up that story and tell me and the CPS workers politely that I was a liar (I believe the words she used were, 'my daughter has a very active imagination') and that my uncle - her brother - would never do such a thing. 
    I spent years with this memory.  I still grapple with it.  WHY do I still remember this, those CPS ladies?  Six. Years. Old.  I just turned 44 not too long ago, so this is almost four decades ago.  Yet, I can still remember that day CLEARLY.  I remember the look on my mother's face, the CPS worker 'patting' herself between the legs, asking me if I knew what 'that part' was.  And I remember the lie....the whispered, 'I made it up.'
    Even though I was civil with him and saw him at family gatherings, I accepted the notion that I'd made up stories when I was six.  I was the liar, I was the one who was disgusting.  I shoved down feelings of disgust, doubt, and confusion - to please her, to please my grandmother (with whom he lived with until she passed away in the early 2000s) and to please the rest of the family. 
    It's amazing just how much of what is ingrained in us as children sticks with us in adulthood.  Or even young adulthood, isn't it?
    At fifteen, I was molested by an older man/teacher in a car.  It did not progress beyond groping.  I consented, but I was fifteen, he was twenty-five.  It was a very messy situation, and although I knew it was 'bad,' I still participated, thinking that this man liked me and I wanted him to continue to like me.  (This is something I haven't talked much about, because I couldn't categorize this as trauma.  Now, I'm not so sure.)
    Fast forward to three years post-rape, in 1999-2000.  I was 19-20, now.  Still a people-pleaser.  
    I allowed men and women to use and abuse me.  Like with my uncle, I knew that something was off...but I ignored it.  I ignored the fact that a couple two times my age, invited me into their bed. The wife made it a personal mission of hers, to 'fix' me.  We'd started out as friends and I'd trusted her with the details of my 1996 rape, and did tell her that I thought something happened when I was a child, too.  She believed that - for she would tell me exactly how I'd react during intimate moments involving just her and I.  She'd ask where I went - for she'd said she caught me 'checking out.'  I remember her words, too.  'You're like a robot.'
    I permitted these men and women to exceed boundaries I left unstated.  I allowed them to call all the shots, for I felt that if I didn't, I would be discarded, not loved, not wanted anymore.  And because of this, it took me a very, VERY long time to accept that I've probably experienced more trauma than even I'm aware of.  More than I've processed, more than I've worked on in therapy or on my own.  Just....more.  And that's become hard to digest.  I've kinda taken a step (or two) back from discussing my trauma; when you're not even sure what all is there, it just makes sense to disconnect from some of the question marks.
    I showed up whenever asked to be somewhere, even if my dysfunctional brain told me that it was unsafe and risky.  I think part of me didn't care whether I lived or died - I can say now with certainty that I'm glad to be alive - but back then, I was fueled by reckless behavior.  It meant that if I was being reckless, I didn't have to be careful, I didn't have to prevent something from happening that had already happened.  I guess my behavior did open the door to more trauma, though, because though I had multiple partners between the years of 1997 and 1999, I cannot remember them all and do feel that many of them crossed lines and did not pay attention to 'other' signs.  I do not remember giving my consent every time - in fact, many times, I would be either too inebriated or too dissociated to provide a response.  
    Another big one - my ex-husband.  He was someone I definitely wanted to please.  In hindsight, I know that he was an abusive man - all the signs were there and still are there - his current wife is miserable.  He made it a point to tell me how many women he'd bedded when he was in the army, how many women he'd been with, overall....how he can pretty much seduce ANY woman.  Yup...this is the stuff he used to say to his wife, who had just born him a son at 21.  Because he wanted a child with me - he begged me for this baby.  I was, at the time, in school and asking that we use protection and he would ask every time if we could go without.  I knew what that meant.  I became afraid that if I kept telling him no or that I wasn't ready, he'd move on.  And so, I husband-pleased and agreed.  I was pregnant weeks later.  (I don't regret my son, either, let me also be clear on that.)
    It didn't stop there.  Whenever he wanted sex, I'd please him - even if I wasn't in the mood.  Even if I'd cry myself to sleep after.  He would make outrageous demands.  Wanting his clothes washed for early in the morning but not telling me until after midnight the night before.  Wanting me to not have friends, wanting me to tell him what I was doing every minute of the day, tell him what I talked about with my 'online friends.'  Even if I had to make stuff up in order to protect information shared with me in confidence, I appeased him.  Even when I didn't agree with what he would say, I would nod whenever he asked me if he was right.  Of course he was right...I'd not dare say otherwise, because then he'd be angry with me - and he'd not want me, anymore.  
    So...this people-pleasing thing....I've deduced that it's common among survivors, friends.  VERY common.  I think those of us who are hell-bent on pleasing others often push our own feelings aside and we willingly walk into unsafe situations to avoid conflict.  We know these situations are dangerous and risky but we yearn for approval, for acceptance, for LOVE.  And so, bad decisions be damned, we proceed to behave recklessly and sometimes we are re-traumatized in the process.    Does that even sound accurate?  Because like I said, this is not a victim-blaming piece of writing.  It's not me pointing my finger at you and saying that your trauma happened because you were eager to please - nope, not at all.  It's just something I've been thinking about a lot, lately, especially when it comes to myself.  Did MY people-pleasing open (or widen) the door to more trauma?  I guess I'm asking for a friend.  Or all my friends.  I want to say I'm not alone in this thinking.  I guess I'm also wanting to pinpoint - when exactly did I become this person?  Why?  How do I find an acceptable middle-road so that I'm still capable of making others happy, but I'm also keeping myself safe in the process?
    I'm a social worker.  By default, I'm a thinker.  I guess you could say I'm an over-thinker at times but my job does require for me to pick apart every thought, to spend an indeterminate amount of time on processing through them, and to weigh consequences.  
    Aside from work-related issues, I have had to set personal boundaries.  I don't think there's been anything harder I've had to do - except maybe saying good-bye to a fur-baby.  Nothing's harder than that.  But boundaries are a very, VERY close second, especially when you are a people-pleaser.  We, after all, have to set them with people we love, people we trust, people we never could think would steer us wrong. We have to set them with people we are to become romantically involved with.   
    I disappointed my mother three years ago, when she asked me to say hello to my uncle at a family gathering I'd have the displeasure of running into him at.  I told her I didn't want to talk to him.  She insisted that 'hello' was all that was needed.  We all know that it doesn't stop at 'hello.' 
    I avoided him the whole time.  My wife shielded me as much as possible.  Whenever he walked into my general direction, I would zip over to the other end of the room.  I avoided eye contact.  I could feel him looking at me, though, and in my opinion, being roped into a conversation with him would have put me over the edge.  It wasn't the time or place, and even though I knew it was important to my mother, I couldn't do it.  
    She called me, fuming, at the end of the night.  Said that I promised to say hello and I hadn't followed through with it.   I told her that first off, I hadn't promised, and secondly, I couldn't bring myself to do it.  Her response was, 'I wanted you to say hello because that might have been the last time you saw him alive.'
    Sure enough, he died a few months later of heart failure.  I didn't shed a single tear.  I laughed.  Yes, I'm a terrible person, but in my defense, this validates everything I suspected of him in childhood.  It's either that or I'm a heartless bitch.    Either way, I went to the funeral out of respect for my mother and also because I needed to see him laying dead in the casket.  I needed closure.  He took with him to the grave the truth - I am left with speculation and suspicion, although strong.  My mother did ask again (a number of times) why I didn't like him.  
    I think that was my first boundary.  I told her that I didn't like him because he'd cheated her out of her inheritance.  He did.  I said nothing about childhood.  I guess, the way I see it - she had her chance to know the truth and to find the truth.  But...forty years later?  Nope, it's pointless to dredge any of that up, now.  It will cause upset, it will bring up questions that I really am not willing to answer, and an added consequence would be further strain on an already tense relationship.  She's pushed, but I've stayed firm.  I'm NOT moving from this position.
    There have been other boundaries set forth - and some of them, I still struggle with, because - yeah - people-pleaser.  I want people to feel that they can rely on me.  That I'll do whatever I can do to help.  But, I know that boundaries are necessary.  For my mental health, for my emotional well-being and for my personal safety, it is absolutely necessary to think about the long-term consequences of whatever it is that someone is asking of me.  In fact, it's necessary for us all.
    I urge my fellow people-pleasers to do the same.  Look - people are going to try to take advantage of you and of your kindness, your loyalty, your support.  It's happened before in all of our lifetimes, and it will probably happen again - we all have people in our lives that make us question our boundaries and our limits.  My advice is to please make sure you are not compromising your own moral compass, make sure you're not being coerced into doing something you don't want to do.  Believe me, you are still going to be loved and supported if you say no, or you decline.  If the person you're trying to please decides to walk away, then maybe, just maybe, they're not worth your time or the gift of YOU.  So, there ya have it - there's nothing wrong with declining or deciding not to please them. PLEASE take the time to think things through and to think about how each of your decisions is going to impact you (or others) in the long run.  We can still aim to people-please, but we all have to protect ourselves in the process.  
    I can't stress that enough - as a social worker or as a friend to you all.  
    I'll keep working on this, for me.  I know I've made strides - I guess it's the past that keeps tapping me on the shoulder and saying, 'hey, remember when...'  Yes, I remember.  Most of it, if not all.  I can't take back my behavior as a teen/young adult, but I certainly can control my decisions now.  I vow to trust my gut, listen to my heart, and to make informed choices, though I know that, as we all are, I am human and may slip from time to time.  
    As always, thoughts welcome in the comments. ❤️  
    NOW, I might be able to get some sleep....much love to you all and many thanks for reading.  For those of you experiencing snow/frigid temps, please be safe and stay warm.  I'll be back later on.  
    - Cap
  6. Capulet

    Today marks 26 years since my rape.  It's surreal that this much time has gone by while sometimes, it feels as if it were only yesterday.

    Thank you to those of you who reached out with hugs and words of support and encouragement today - as well as the days leading up to today. I loathe 10/4 with every fiber of my being but knowing you're all thinking of me does help.

    I just want you all to know that I am doing all right. The last few weeks have been cloudy, and I expect I will remain in a somewhat foggy state until mid-month, but at least the 'day' will be over, soon. I apologize for not being as present on AS as I usually am - there really is no excuse beyond working a LOT more than I'm used to, and the fogginess. Some might say that's reason enough, but AS has always been a place where I felt I belonged, a safe, comfortable haven. I suppose it still is. This year, though, I have felt more disconnected than usual and I really don't like it. I will say, though, that I'm committed to keeping in contact with my AS family, even if that contact has been slow/diminished lately. In the coming weeks, I'm going to work on being more present - both physically and mentally.  

    The gods smiled upon me this morning by sending rain - an element befitting of the day.  I have a client who walks to school daily and therefore doesn't show up on rainy mornings. I was up early and ready to go but once I received word that I would not be 'working' this morning, I went and got myself a hot caramel latte - without a care in the world about the calorie content - went with real milk and cream, and got a glazed donut, too! I drove back home in silence and mentally planned out the rest of the day - since my original plan to immerse myself in work was a washout.

    I have a second client that I visit daily. I will go see him for 4pm. Before that - I'm going to have a nice filling lunch and focus on getting some wedding stuff done. (For those of you who do not know, I am getting married on 11/5!) My impending marriage to my beautiful fiancee is just one way that I hope to 'reframe' the fall season. It's also another thing keeping me (and my thoughts) busy this year - I suppose it's another factor that is elevating my stress levels, too...LOL.  Tonight, I'm going to snuggle up with a blanket and the dogs (it's cold outside!) and watch baseball, and have a big bowl of popcorn while I do it.  I can think of no better way to spend the evening hours.  I will also be spending time here later tonight - it just seems right.

    I'm grateful for my life, the people in it, and for what I have ahead of me - the past will not win. HE will not win. The future is bright and exciting, and I'm looking forward to what lies ahead. This will be the dominant thought for today - not the event that has tarnished this date for the last 26 years.  As far as that goes, I feel that I've given far too much of my energy to grieving what I'd lost that day - and not enough to seeing what I've gained since.  As the years have gone by, it becomes clearer that while a traumatic event does 'ruin' things for the moment, it simply puts you on an entirely different trajectory - we often have to look a little bit harder for the good things that the new path brings forth.  I am no different, and it certainly has taken a very long time to sift through the negative enough to see the positive, but they're definitely there.  Had this traumatic event not occurred, I would not know the woman I am soon to marry.  I would not know all of your beautiful hearts.  I would not have the privilege of being here to support you all as you have supported me.  There's more, but I'll leave you all with those main thoughts, as it's one that will help me get through today.

    Anyway - thank you all for your thoughts, your positive vibes today, and every day. Thank you for being sources of light during times where my batteries were too low to shine through the fog.
    I love you all.

    - Cap
  7. Capulet
    Just checking in with y'all to clarify that my daughter is miserable and it's all my fault.  At least, that's what I'm getting from her latest tirade.
    It's my fault that my daughter has a cold.
    It's my fault that she has her period right now.
    It's my fault that she's large-chested and complains that her back hurts because of it.
    It's my fault that she's a GIRL, and that she exists!
    EVERYTHING is my fault.
    I probably should backtrack, right? 😉 
    I've been sick since last Friday.  Last Thursday, I had part one of two dental procedures, appointments were a week away.  It went okay - but involved numbing.  I went home and could not feel half of my face for several hours afterwards.  (There IS a funny story about that - a friend texted me shortly after I arrived home, as we text daily...she'd forgotten that I had a dental appointment earlier that morning and was ready to tell me to call 911 when I told her I couldn't feel the entire right side of my face - she thought I'd had a stroke.)  After a laugh and a reassurance, and several hours later, I felt closer to normal.  Until Friday night.  I felt my throat becoming scratchy and overall uncomfortable. I went to bed, hoping it was just something that would be gone the next day.
    Sadly, I woke up stuffy and sniffly on Saturday morning.  Kept my distance from the son, daughter and the wife-to-be.  Spent most of the day isolated in my woman-cave downstairs...I have my computer, a TV, a space heater (it got cold again, damnit) and a couch, complete with blankets.  I have my ambient lighting (a little light-up wax melt lamp that the kids got me for my birthday a couple years ago) and it's overall pretty comfortable down there.  
    I wasn't comfortable at all over the weekend, though.  I was cranky, miserable, and just kept myself busy catching up on my network shows and watching baseball.  It was a slow weekend, anyhow.  Kids went back to their Dad's on Saturday.  Sunday was a repeat of Saturday...more sniffling, sneezing, nose honking and doses of DayQuil and NyQuil...
    On Monday, the daughter texted me from school. 
    "I'm mad at you, Mom."
    Okay.....I know my kid can be a little bit extreme sometimes, so I texted back, "What'd I do, now?"
    "I got my period and it's all over my underwear!  Why'd you have to give me YOUR periods?"  (Gross and a bit of TMI, but she sends me a picture of her underwear.)  Then, "I feel gross.  Can you pick me up?"
    I still felt cruddy, but into the car I went, with her period paraphernalia (bag of pads, her pantyliners, her Midol that she insists doesn't 'do a damn thing' and her salty snacks) and I drove to her school and signed her out.  As soon as we get into the car, she says, sarcastically:
    "Oh, and thank you, you got me sick, too."
    I look at her and offer a sheepish apology.  Honestly, I hadn't had much contact with her since feeling sick, but she was clearly looking for a scapegoat.  Let it be known that when my child is menstruating, she is a literal demon.  Although I've accepted that, I was still surprised at how much she was carrying on.
    "Sorry," I mumbled.  I put the car in drive and headed into the direction of her Dad's house, "Wasn't intentional."
    She went on, "And it's your fault that my periods are so bad.  You cursed me.  It's your fault that I have these big boobs that hurt my back!  And why couldn't you have given me your ASS instead of these boobs?  My ass is flat!!!"
    (It is.  She got her father's ass.)
    "You wanna blame me for being a woman too, while you're at it?" I asked her.
    "Yes, I do."
    "All right, then....have at it."
    So, she blamed me for that, too.  I did a lot of nodding and let her vent.  I mean, kiddo - I'm a woman too, I have been dealing with periods for 30 years already, I've got boobs I wish I didn't have, and I certainly didn't want to be sick - but it is what it is.  I know also that when the little demon is in this kind of a mood, there's no winning.  There's a lot of nodding, and a lot of 'uh huh.'  We drove the rest of the way to her Dad's house, where she got out of the car (she did say goodbye, 'love you,' and 'thanks for picking me up' before she left) and went on to continue being a demonic hellion at HIS house.  
    She called on Wednesday morning, saying she was still sick, hadn't gone to school, and that her cold had gotten worse.  I had my part two dental appointment, so picked her up from her Dad's after my appointment (with the other half of my face swollen) to bring her back home.  She wanted to see her boyfriend when he got home from school, but I at first, said no, and then when she persisted, insisted she let his mother know the she wasn't well - and surprise, surprise - when his mother told him he couldn't come over, she threw more blame at me.  Not that I expected any less...
    "So, because you got me sick, I can't see my boyfriend after school.  And I really, REALLY wanted to see him!"
    Now, let me be clear on this boyfriend of hers - he's a good kid and I do like him.  I think, though, she's got a little bit of an obsession - and it's mutual.  I mean - is this even normal?  He's texting her before I even clear the driveway whenever I pick her up from his house.  He's here on Wednesdays and Fridays, and I pick her up from his house on Thursdays.  When they're not physically together, they FaceTime until they go to bed, which most nights, isn't until after two or three in the morning.  He sees MUCH more of her lately than I do.  More than any of us do. 
    "Oh, well." I said, shrugging.  
    So there ya have it.  I'm to blame for all that's wrong in her life, right now.  
    And, yeah, if it's just boys, periods, boobs, and colds, then I guess I can deal with that. 😉 
    By the way....all of those of you who also have teenage daughters - I feel ya.  I'm with ya.  I don't know how the hell the Oompa had three and how J's mother had FIVE.  I cannot even deal with the woes of ONE.  I don't even remember being this bad or giving the Oompa this much of an issue.  I guess considering my daughter's talent for theatrics and drama, I'm doing pretty well maintaining my straight face when she has her monthly meltdowns....
    Anyhow - in other (less amusing) news...
    I am just now starting to feel human again.  I can breathe through my nose again, which is wooooonderful. 😉 My mouth is sore, still, but I am healing nicely.  MAYBE I will wake up tomorrow feeling refreshed and this weekend will be a much better one than last weekend.
    Baseball starts next week, so I'm excited about that!  
    My Friday night bowling league is going well - the Monday league is the opposite.  I guess we lose on Mondays so we can win on Fridays....only a few weeks remain in the season for Fridays....then Mondays will commence sometime in May.  The elusive 300 has not yet shown up, but I'm not giving up.
    I'm also not giving up on the job at the Women's Resources.  They are hiring for a third-shift position.  I've emailed them and let them know I'm interested in interviewing.  I'm hoping that even if I start with shitty hours, that it's a foot in the door, at least - and the next time a daytime position opens up, perhaps they'll consider me before they fill it externally.  Of course, waiting is what I'm used to doing and what I shall continue to do.  I'll keep y'all posted!
    We are having a plumbing issue in the downstairs bathroom.  Water is backing up into the tub - it currently smells like a landfill and we're expecting the plumber between 8 and 9am tomorrow morning (THIS morning) - hopefully he shows up as promised.  I will also keep you all posted on that.
    As the alarm will be going off in less than six hours, I should say goodnight, now, and as always, thank you all for reading and for following.  My life isn't by any means fascinating, but documenting the normal day-to-day stuff helps keep it interesting at the very least. 😉  I know that not everything I write has to be trauma-related...it took a while to get my (busy) brain to adapt to that idea, too.  (WHAT!?  I'm on a site devoted to healing sexual trauma and I'm writing about my kid needing a possible exorcism?)  Everything written in these pages, though, is life-related - and sometimes, that's a good enough way to unclog, some.  If I can make people smile in the process, then it's a win-win.  
    Allrighty - sending everyone my best.  TGIF - have a great weekend, friends. ❤️ 
    Love and light,
    - Cap
  8. Capulet

    Hi, all! 
    I just wanted to pass by with a quick (maybe?) update, for I know that I have been extremely neglectful to my blog lately.  I've been around on the site, though - that is unchanging.  Even so, I don't like feeling so disconnected from my blog.  It's always been a place I would come to write things out and process - a place to share things I've had on my mind, a place to gain feedback and support.  I confess that lately, I've not known what to say about anything, so in turn, I've not done much writing.  That feels odd to me, to say the least - for in my childhood and teenage years, ALL I did was write.  
    I remember my post just before this one - I posted on my 25-year traumaversary.  I thought I'd have a lot more to say than I did - and I remember thinking about how short my last post was after posting...and feeling unnerved because of that.  When I write, things flow.  The words pour out of me.  And last time I posted - this wasn't happening.  I also remember a thought passing through my mind - what if I've said everything there is to say?  What if by now, I've felt everything there is to feel?  What if I've experienced all that I'm supposed to experience?  (I know that last statement re: experiencing things is not realistic, but for the moment, there was just nothing - my mind went blank!)  I know now that was numbness at its finest.
    At any rate, you all are due an update.  
    I'll start with work - which has been about the same - I still only have part-time hours and was dealing with a bit of disappointment last week when an interview for a job at our local Women's Center that I really wanted fell through at the last minute - and not once, but twice.  The first time, the interviewer had a personal crisis to deal with and the second time, the interview was put on hold because, according to the interviewer, there had been a staff departure and the company was in the middle of re-assessing their current needs and determining what positions they needed to hire for.  They told me they would have a better idea of what was needed in a week or two, and as it's been a good ten days, I sent a follow-up email yesterday morning.
    So, I guess, now I wait.  Until then, I deal with my current job and with having minimal hours.  The pay is decent but the 10 hours per week really aren't helping me to get ahead financially.  For those who do not know, I work as a Behavioral Health Technician and I visit my child client daily in his home for a couple hours per day.  He comes off the school bus and has to work with me for two hours before he's free for the evening.  We work on improving his social skills, his communication skills and his personal hygiene skills.  He is on the spectrum and is a great kid - just very distracted (he'd rather play on his phone than board games with me) and there is a lack of hands-on involvement from his mom, who refuses to take his phone away from him - so that makes my job a little bit more challenging.  Even so, I have a good relationship with him - I have found that if I am firmer with him, he will usually listen.  I suppose that's something I'm still working on - firmness - and it'll probably come in handy if the other job becomes available.  This job is not what I want to do long-term, but even I have to admit, it's given me a lot of perspective on human behavior and what causes people to behave in the ways they do.  It's definitely a way to gain experience and to prepare for what comes next.
    I've been telling myself that this is just temporary - the job I REALLY want is out there and I just need to get in for an interview....ya know....and the last couple weeks have left me feeling defeated because of unforeseen circumstances on their part.  It is becoming harder to go to work every day and to not be frustrated with how things are going on the work front right now.  There is another part of me right now, though, that is grateful for the job I DO have - when I know there are many who are struggling with finding employment amid a pandemic that just won't quit.   
    Moving onto a personal note - J and I are planning our wedding.  We are tying the knot on 11/5/22 - after 13 years of being together.  (I know, EVERYONE is saying, 'it's about damn time!')  We have chosen the venue - it'll be at a golf club/reception hall about 45 minutes from home.  We have chosen our bridal parties, sent out the save-the-dates, we have put down deposits on the deejay, the photographers and officiant.  We have begun to order supplies to make the centerpieces, and we've begun to research favors, choose the music (my sister-in-law and J are going to be responsible for that because when it comes to music, I am completely oblivious), talk about whose or what last name we're going to use and to make list after list....the food, the flowers, the guests, the honeymoon plans, the dresses (J has found hers but I am dragging ass on going for mine!), all the details....SO much goes into planning a wedding....SO much.  Everything has to be paid for up to two weeks prior to the wedding, and all this work crap with the lack of hours has me worrying about how we're going to pull it off.  My parents are helping with the price of the venue, but we are taking care of everything else.  So, while there's stress there - I don't think it's any different than the stress anyone goes through to plan a wedding. 
    So, that has been keeping me busy lately - though not too busy.  Much to the Oompa's (for those of you who don't know, that's my nickname for my mother, who in height and hairstyle resembles one of Wonka's Oompa Loompas) disappointment, I am VERY laid back with planning.  She's been trying to get me to give her ideas for the bachelorette party (huh!?) and to get me to make an appointment to go dress hunting with my sisters, who are still making ME drive the distance to go meet THEM at David's Bridal in Jersey.  J's sisters are all planning to order their dresses online - mine are the pains in the ass who want to go try on dresses (that might not even be a perfect color match) rather than order the dress that matches the swatches we ordered. 
    I was considering going back to school for my masters' but I think this is going to be put on hold for another year.  I am hoping that by the time next fall rolls around, I will have a full time job - whether it's my current job or a different one - and there's going to be a LOT going on with wedding planning and the actual event - even my former professor has said that it's a lot to undertake when there's that much going on.  Of course, the Oompa isn't too pleased with that decision, either, but I've told her that I'm not crazy and I'm not willing to bite off more than I can chew.  
    I'm not sure she believes me but for now, she's going to have to. 😄 
    And now here's a quick story to close out the blog entry for tonight....
    I also injured myself (or a better way to put it is - my DOG injured me!) last weekend.  You see, my dog has anxiety issues.  Severe ones.  I do not know where they originated but I have a feeling he was abandoned as a puppy.  We adopted him when he was three and a half months old from a shelter in Jersey - he was (still is) adorable and we fell in love with him instantly.  Anyways, his anxiety is through the roof sometimes.  He shakes whenever he hears gunshots or fireworks or loud noises of any kind.  He shakes whenever someone is in the house (a repairman or serviceman, etc) and he shakes whenever he knows one (or both) of us is leaving for work or to run errands.  He knows our every move and although we do try to tell him beforehand 'we'll be back, we love you' and we hug and kiss him before slipping out the door, he still barks and cries until we pull out of the driveway.  He sits faithfully by the window until we arrive home.
    So, on Saturday night last week, I had plans to go to meet our potential photographers.  Five minutes before I was to leave the house, I took him out to go potty.  He knew that I was going to be leaving shortly after.  He kept waiting by the car door - pretty sure he wanted to come with me, but Panera Bread is not exactly animal-friendly - LOL.  So after he did his business, I tried to get him to go back inside but he bolted in the opposite direction.  Because I was standing on icy stairs and not expecting his running, he pulled me and I went down HARD.  
    It took me a few moments to get up.  I hurt, SO bad.  I had no time to check out my injuries until after the meeting - minutes after I was sprawled out over my front steps, I was driving myself to Panera because I didn't want to be late.  I'm just glad I didn't hit my head - y'all might remember that I gave myself a concussion over a year ago when I passed out in the bathroom and hit my head on the sink on the way down.  No head injury this time around but my arm is bruised up.  My rear end (or at least, half of it) is bright purple.  It is a lovely color, I must say, but I prefer for clothing or sneakers to be that shade of purple.  It has been difficult to lay on my left side (both my bruises are on the left side of my body) and to sit without my left butt cheek hanging off the chair....but every day is a little bit easier.  
    So - that's basically it.  I'm tired, I'm stressed out, I'm cranky, and for the moment, I hurt....but I'm surviving.  
    The dog is fine, by the way.  He got yelled at but I forgave him quickly.  He's too cute to be angry at for very long.  
    OK - I hope everyone is doing well!  Moving forward, I'm going to try to stay connected and to ease myself back into writing.  I know I've said this before so I'll only promise to try because I truly have missed blogging.  And all of you. ❤️ 
    Sending everyone love and hugs!!
    - Cap 
  9. Capulet

    So...today is twenty-five years.  A quarter of a century.  Which one sounds better?  Or worse?  Especially when something that happened twenty-five years ago is still fresh in one’s mind?  
    Three years ago, I wrote a letter to my rapist and posted it as a blog entry.  I found myself reading it again the other day.  Why?  I don’t know.  Nothing’s changed.  I still stand by all of what I managed to say to him, knowing that he’d never read the letter.  I guess it’s different when you know that all of your anger and frustration is safe to release because there’s no consequences attached.  He will never know I am speaking to him and he will never be able to respond. I couldn’t find him if I tried – I know and have accepted that he’s either a) in prison because someone stronger than me has put him there, b) dead because someone even stronger has put a bullet between his eyes, or c) living the American dream – has a nice house, fancy car, wife and kids, high-paying job, and spends no time thinking about the pain he’s caused people.
    Every year, I cannot help but wonder.  Which is it?  Where is he now, 25 years/a quarter of a century later?
    I almost always, ALWAYS gravitate towards ‘c.’  The answer I hate the most.  The answer that is the most unfair.  I’m still disgusted, angry and completely repulsed by the damage a single person can cause in such a small amount of time.  I also, every day, see that this pain is widespread – for people like him unfortunately still exist.  They multiply, they breed.  It’s like a fucking episode of The Walking Dead, sometimes.  No matter where you turn – there’s danger looming.  No one is safe, no one is immune.  Being a member of this site for over 14 years has shown me that.  It has also shown me that although I am a warrior (ironically my college mascot, too – the Warrior) that I still feel like every day is a battle.  Some days are easy, some days are hard, some leave me feeling wounded, some victorious.  
    Link to my letter to him, below – please be advised that I did not hold back – there was a lot to say three years ago.  Much of what I said there still applies, so - trigger warning for anger, for swearing and for some details:
    This battle is always tougher in the fall - AKA ‘trigger season.’  I’ve NEVER been able to get through the last twenty-four autumns without contending with the familiar underlying feeling of pure and utter dread.  And I spent some time thinking about this last week and have come to the realization that it’s not even the changing of the seasons that triggers my feelings of anxiousness and overall unrest.  It’s the impending arrival of Fall; because when the leaves started to change 25 years ago, I was still reeling from what had happened, and there was no joy involved in experiencing the summer-to-fall transition.  No desire to stop, look around and take in the (and this is hard to even admit) the beauty of the foliage.  I isolated myself in the days and weeks that followed the rape.  That hasn’t changed, either.  I still tend to withdraw during the fall months.  I teeter the (very) fine line between wanting company and wanting to be alone, which usually ends up being my choice.  Being a helping professional will always have me believing that to clam up and shut others out isn’t ideal, but yet, there’s still great appeal in kicking aside those things whenever the Fall comes around.  
    Time has made it easier in some respects.  The hurt isn’t as severe.  The nightmares have lessened (even though I did have a disturbing dream about a week ago).  The flashbacks are few and far between.  What doesn’t get any easier, though, is the feeling in the pit of your stomach – that something is off, something is wrong, something is going to happen.  And it shows up, every single year.  And then it begins to lift as we creep closer to the winter season.  A friend mentioned the word ‘fog,’ which fits quite well when trying to describe my mental state these days.  I’m holding it together as best as I can and trying to stay focused on work, on home, on my wife and kids, on life.  My head, though, feels as if it’s enshrouded in fog.  I can see the things next to me clearly, but what’s ahead feels uncertain.  The fog brings forth a swirl of questions.  Am I EVER going to be able to enjoy the Fall, including the natural beauty of it all?  Am I going to wake one October 4th with a smile on my face and without a concern in the world?  
    I thought I’d have a lot more to say today than I do.  I guess I also thought I’d have additional reflections on the 25th traumaversary.  Sometimes the words just flow and I can write page after page of feelings, thoughts and frustrations.  That’s just not happening this year.  I don’t think it happened last year, either – it seemed that the isolation was never-ending because of the pandemic.  The feeling of dread was there, but it was extended, almost, for months longer, because the WORLD was shut down.  We were all unsettled, we all had no choice but to isolate, to allow for space and distance.  
    But - I guess, like other things, the words can't be forced.  When they're there, they'll let me know.  And then, I'll share them.
    I'll come back to this, later. ❤️
    - Cap
  10. 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
  11. Capulet
    Well, folks…
    It’s been a minute?  Or two?  Or…like…six months?  
    I have returned to this blog many times over the last six months with an itch to write.  To vent, to yell, scream and cry on paper/screen.  But, then, I’d close it out following an exasperated, ‘never mind.’  This is typical me, though.  I tend to let things build up and then to sit down and write about it all will feel like a more daunting task because by then, there’s a lot that’s piled up and I’m more likely to be saying, ‘oh, yeah, and there was also THAT time….’  I suppose the moral of that story is to NOT stop talking, to keep reaching out and to keep addressing what's on your plate before there's too much shit on it and you don't know what to focus on first.  
    I’m actually taking my own advice and working on this shit-storm of a blog entry in a word document first – for I’ve learned that things don’t always auto-save.  And so, this will probably be a long entry.  Might want to make sure your coffee/tea/caffeinated beverage is close by!
    We’ll start with January.  
    COVID struck on Christmas Day, 2020.  J spoke to her parents to wish them a Merry Christmas and her mom looked HORRIBLE.  She was wheezing, she was feverish, she was having trouble breathing.  ‘Just the flu,’ she said, ‘I’ll be fine.’  All of the sisters (J has four sisters) urged her to go to the ER and she said, ‘if I don’t feel better after taking a nap, I will.’ 
    This would be the last time J physically heard her mom’s voice.  By day’s end, she was admitted into the hospital with a positive COVID test.  J’s Dad also tested positive, but my mother-in-law had some serious pre-existing conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, previous stroke, COPD, emphysema, all of that on top of a terrible immune system) so they were understandably much more concerned with her.  On the 26th, she texted J and her sisters and told them that they were going to intubate her and ‘hopefully it won’t be for very long.’  Sadly, she remained intubated until she passed away on January 15th. During that 20ish days, she’d been put into a medically induced coma so that her body could heal, she suffered a brain bleed and was transferred from one hospital to another via airlift.  After they’d run some tests, they would discover she’d also had a massive stroke.  On the 14th, my father-in-law called all of his daughters and said, ‘it’s time to come.’  
    J drove to her sister’s house, where the doctors arranged for a Zoom call between the medical team and the family.  They basically said that the stroke had been quite severe, and that if by some miracle, she were to come out of this – (also not likely, for her lungs were SHREDDED), that she’d likely not know who anyone was, or how to take care of herself anymore.  She’d not be able to walk, she’d need to be in a nursing home.  The family made the decision then to say goodbye and drove to Boston together.  They were allowed up two at a time and were able to spend fifteen minutes with her.  My father-in-law went up last, and the call came as soon as he’d come back down. 
    My mother-in-law was gone in less than a minute.  The machine was the ONLY thing keeping her alive at this point.  As soon as they turned the machines off – that was it.   
    J spent a few more days in Massachusetts at her sister’s house.  We would touch base daily over FaceTime, and more often than not, she’d be either high or drunk – which I definitely don’t like because of my previous experiences with people who were high and drunk - but also understood.  She’d just lost her mom – y’all know how much I butt heads with the Oompa but I don’t think I’d handle it well if the tables were turned.  And so, I bit my tongue, and actually suggested she take an edible when she was feeling overly depressed.  Lesser of two evils, right?  We don’t have a lot of hard alcohol in the house, either.  
    In the meantime, I was just about to start my final semester.  A paper-heavy semester.  Let me see if I can remember – there was a ten-page assignment right off the bat.  There was to be three exams between February and May; each requiring ten to twelve typed pages.  There was a field paper that needed to be turned in at the end of the semester (this one a ‘free writing’ sort of thing as it was a personal assessment of our field experiences), there were 30 journal entries needed to be submitted, and then there was the ‘monster paper’ – my Capstone paper totaled out to be 63 pages.  There were also seminars for four hours every Thursday night via Zoom, and there were countless meetings we’d have to attend in order to accrue the ‘field hours’ we needed (340) before the end of the semester.  I’m sure that I’m missing a couple of additional assignments that were sprung on us, but think I’ve effectively shown just HOW MUCH writing there was to be done last semester.  The short answer - A LOT.  To top it off, I was working with student clients at the University's Gender and Sexuality Center five days a week.  There was ALWAYS something going on.
    Perhaps that’s why I had no motivation to revisit my blog.  Either way, there was a lot on my mind with school and with a grieving wife at the same time.  
    I’ll talk about my father-in-law, now, since he’s #1 on my shit list at the moment. 
    Literally the day after my mother-in-law’s passing – he said to all of his daughters: ‘when your mother was alive, my job was to take care of her.  Now that she’s gone, my job has changed – now my new job is to make sure you all walk right with God.’  
    A little background on my in-laws.  They are extremely religious born-again Christians.  There is one sister who went to church with them and has become very involved with the church.  This sister is single and bitter in every sense of the word.  There are two sisters who are married with children.  There is one who is married without children.  And then there’s J – who is unmarried and has been living in sin (with another woman, yours truly) for the last twelve years.  Our relationship has never been one that my in-laws condoned, though they were never in a position to contest it, for J is a grown ass woman who would have put them in their place.  Mom would make comments every now and then – and J (or one of her sisters) would shut her down.  So, she started making comments privately to her husband, and now my father-in-law has made it his personal mission to get J onto the ‘right path.’  He ordered all of his daughters to ‘buy a bible’ and told them all that he would be calling them two nights a week to make sure they’re all reading.  We all know that he’s fine with his other married daughters, for they’re all married to men – and that his golden child is the sister who is devout, as he is.  We all know that he fully intends to see that J, the only lesbian daughter of his, will ‘straighten out.’  
    Now, those of you who know me – know that while I have issues with religion, (my uncle, a PRIEST, sexually abused me from ages 3-6, my mother swept everything under the rug despite the very obvious signs of child abuse – and even better, actually made me confess my sins to my uncle so that I could receive communion during Sunday mass) I do NOT judge others for their religious beliefs.  What people choose to believe is entirely their business.  What’s NOT okay is forcing onto others YOUR ‘set of rules,’ so to speak.  It is NOT okay to condemn someone for feeling differently – hell, if you do, you agree to disagree and move the fuck on, it’s no one’s place to say what’s right and what’s wrong – and certainly it’s not my father-in-law’s place.  
    He’s persisted, though.  He’s called twice a week and EVERY time, will ask if J’s done her reading.  She lied a few times and told him yes, while she doesn’t even own a bible.  He began to say things that are disturbing, to say the least – including that she’ll not see her mother again (in the afterlife) and that she’ll be ‘left behind’ if she continues on the path she’s on.  And I’m clear on this – other than her sexual orientation, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with the path she’s on.  She’s a good woman.  She’s kind, she’s loving, she’s compassionate.  She works hard, she loves hard.  And I’m crazy about her – as are my kids.  We have TWELVE years of history.  But because she’s in a relationship with a woman – she’s not ‘right with God.’

    So, if we’re to translate her Dad’s words - this means….if she stays with me, she’ll be left behind. This is what I’m getting from it.  Unless she’s willing to leave behind our 12-year relationship, she’ll not see her mother again. 
    I’m so enraged at him.  Is THIS what the fuck you tell your daughter, when she’s JUST lost her mother not even six months ago????  Before she’s had a chance to GRIEVE this massive loss?  Where the fuck is the compassion your so-called church supposedly encourages?
    I’m angry, overall.  Very angry.  At him, for being this way and adding to her already-mounting stress.  At her mom for not being able to give J the reassurance that she’s loved and accepted and who had left this earth (if she’s to believe her Dad’s revelation that her Mom never could accept our relationship) feeling this way?  
    I also can’t help but feel responsible.  I know, realistically, that this isn’t my fault and that I’m not to blame for the way all of this shit’s gone down.  I’m not at fault for loving my best friend and wanting to marry her (which is happening, by the way – whether he likes it or not) and wanting a life with her.  But then there’s also that pestering thought that if I wasn’t in the picture, J wouldn’t be going through all of this right now.  I know that’s not a thought that is helpful, but for now, it feels true and I hate that her Dad has made me feel this way.  
    After twelve years of keeping my distance around them, I know now that they’ve always considered me to be representative of what’s ‘derailed’ her.  They ARE that selfish and closed minded.  They may have liked me as a person, but they definitely did not embrace me as one their daughters’ to-be spouses.  And deep down, I knew that and was always respectful.  Whenever we’d go visit them, I’d purposely keep a distance from J.  I would not kiss her in front of them.  I would not hold her hand whenever they were in the same room.  I would not show affection when they were present.  I knew it chafed them, and so I went out of my fucking way to make sure they were comfortable whenever we were visiting.  Now, granted, I’m not an overly affectionate person unless I truly love someone and am comfortable with them – in those cases, I’m a hugger – but they made me feel weird showing affection to the person I love the most.  And that’s not fucking okay.  It’s not.       
    I watched as J began to crumble under all of this pressure.  It was a slow process – a five-month long process.  The edibles made a regular appearance.  She wouldn’t want to get out of bed sometimes.  She’d come home with her eyes puffy and red, having cried on her way home.  She threw herself into work.  Her depression worsened.  She went back to therapy.  The anxiety got worse, every time her father called.
    She made another trip to MA after we went to the services in the beginning of February.  She went alone, for she intended to go to lunch/dinner with her Dad and to try to talk a little bit about how all of this was making her feel.  We all (me, her bestie, her sister) encouraged her – tell him how you feel, it’s gotta be said, he can’t be this pushy, it’s not going to help…
    Long story short, it didn’t go well.  At all.  They did make it to the restaurant, where J ended up in tears over some of the shit he said.  He acknowledged that she’d been through abuse when she was a child, (and this, you can imagine, pissed her off because if he knew – why didn’t he say anything or intervene?) and that this is what he believed was responsible for her ‘wrong choices.’  He didn’t care that she was upset, in tears or unable to speak.  And as if that wasn’t enough – he then took them to a secluded location and forced her to ‘pray’ with him (consisting of her ‘repeating after him’ her promises to dedicate her life to Jesus Christ) before he would let her get out of the car.  She was shaken, overwhelmed, and this, if you ask me, is what broke her.  On her way home, she FaceTimed me and told me she needed to take a break from her father for a while.  And sure as shit, she sent him a text that night letting him know that she didn’t want to talk to him and that she would call him when she was ready. 
    He stopped calling, which is good.  There was a little bit of a reprieve from all the bible thumping. 
    In the meantime, I finished up school.  Graduation was on a cloudy and cold day in May, but it still was a lovely event.  I’ve finally done it….met my goal of finishing up school.  I’m now officially a social worker with a degree – and while I should be beaming with pride, right now, I’m just going through the motions.  It hasn’t been easy contending with school during all of this, during a time when my better half is struggling so much.  And of course, feeling like I’m contributing to her pain by just existing.  (A thought I’m trying like hell to chuck into extinction, for if it wasn’t me, it’d be some other lady – you just CAN’T ‘fix’ or ‘undo’ gay!)  
    Oh, and this isn’t even OVER, yet.
    Her sister (the one who is closest to him/the church) called in the middle of May and said they were planning a surprise 70th birthday party for their Dad.  They are all aware at this point, that J is not really on speaking terms with him, yet they kept calling and saying things like, ‘you should come, he’s still your Dad, it’s his birthday, we’ll all be there for you, it’ll all be fine…’  And J, being the type of person she is, knew she’d feel like shit if she didn’t go.  And so, she decided to call him prior to his surprise party that she was planning to attend, that she couldn’t and wouldn’t deal with the force-feeding of their religion anymore.  She knew she’d be seeing him soon and as they hadn’t talked in a couple months by now, she didn’t want for it to be awkward.  Her intention was to call him and reopen communication/smooth the waters so that when she saw him, it would feel a little more comfortable. 
    That didn’t go well, either.  He still persisted and told her that everything she was doing was wrong and that he never could come to accept our relationship.  She took that to mean, basically, that he never would be able to accept her.  If being forced to pray and recite words she didn’t mean didn’t break her, this conversation certainly did.
    She decided after hanging up that she could not and would not be attending her father’s party.  She cried herself to sleep and said she wasn’t sure how to deal with losing him, too.  
    She called me the day after (A Thursday) – asking me to meet her at the hospital.  
    I frantically asked what happened, thinking the worst.  Accident?  WHAT hospital?? WHY??
    ‘Nothing,’ she said, ‘but if one more thing does, I’m going to completely lose my shit.  I’m signing myself inpatient.  I HAVE to do this and I HAVE to disconnect from everything and everyone for a while.’
    I dropped everything, got into the car and drove an hour to the hospital where she was.  Went through the intake with her.  It was the scariest thing in the world, to be handed her phone, her personal belongings, her keys, even her earrings, to take home.  She’d be transferred to a psychiatric facility on Friday morning, and she’d have her assessment on Monday.  She would be able to wear her own clothes, but as a precaution, all of the drawstrings would have to be cut.  She’d be allowed slip-on shoes, but nothing with laces.  
    This was really happening.  She’d had a mental breakdown, and this man (I refuse to call him my father-in-law anymore) being celebrated on that Saturday, was responsible for putting her there.  
    On my way back to the hospital on Thursday night (I’d driven an hour home to pick up clothes for her to wear at the other facility, then an hour back to the hospital, then an hour back home) I released a string of swears, probably met my cussing quota for 2021.  FUCK! FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!  SON OF A bit*h!
    Drove TWO hours on Saturday morning to the new facility (further away than the first hospital) and wasn’t able to see her – for some reason, she needed her meds dropped off – so another four hours in the car on Saturday (the daughter and dog took a ride with me) just to plop a bag down at the front desk.  More swearing ensued on the way there and on the way home.  The daughter, thankfully had her earpods in and the dog – well, he got an earful but at any rate, was just happy to be with us for the ride.  Of course, now there was a plan to make that ride a second time to pick her up and bring her home when it was time. 
    While she was in the hospital, I threw myself into job training.  (That’s right – I didn’t mention this, yet – before she’d gone inpatient, I’d had an interview and was told that as soon as I finished a 40-hour online training to be a Registered Behavior Technician I’d be hired!)  I was done with training by the time she was to be released and was told to report to training on the following Monday, which was last Monday.  I’m officially employed, now – but as with graduation, the excitement, the anticipation – all of that?  It’s been a ‘mehhhh’ for me.  
    A couple weeks ago, when she was on the inside, I will admit that I felt so disconnected from everything and everyone.  The few friends I’d shared this information with were absolutely amazing and supportive and I love ‘em all.  They listened to me, they offered a shoulder, they encouraged me to vent if needed, and to get out of the house every so often.  They’re the ones who know damn well that if I don’t have a reason, I stay home and isolate.  They know who they are and how thankful I am to them. ❤️
    It also bothers me that aside from one sister relaying messages of what J needed and one other sister checking in with me on the day she went inpatient, NOT ONE other person in her family even bothered to see how I was doing with it all or if I needed anything.  I didn’t.  What I needed was sitting in a mental hospital, but it’s the principle.  It WOULD have been nice to hear from the sisters.  Would have been nice to hear that they wished her well.  And over the last few months, I’ve felt increasingly awkward with the ‘bonus’ family I’ve had for twelve years.  I’m not sure how to get past these feelings right now, either, because honestly, I don’t know if they’re blaming me (even if only partially/silently) for being the forbidden fruit/cause of the friction between J and their father.
    Anyway.  I just couldn’t really talk about all of this. I didn’t know how to put into words what I felt.  I didn’t know how to vent it all, because there was anger, yes.  But there was also sadness, frustration, and downright exhaustion.  All I wanted to do was whatever was needed for work.  I slept like shit.  I woke up every morning wanting to text J but would be reminded by the phone sitting on her nightstand that I couldn’t.  I felt WAY off, physically, mentally and emotionally.  But because the one who’s supposed to hold ME up was not there, I plowed through it all, just so that I could stay functional.  I withdrew into the shadows, and just did my thing.  Got up in the mornings, took the dog for a walk. Sat in front of the computer for hours, completing the training.  Did my job here at AS – because that’s a major part of my daily routine and I wasn’t about to change that.  Forced myself to take care of myself and get up and eat (cooking for just one is just lame!) and lazed in front of the television.  The kids were with their Dad for the majority of the time so I just kept to myself.  Safe to say I had a little bit of depression of my own, but I think that it was more of an unsettled feeling than depression.  The love of my life is hurting so badly and I can’t help her.  That intrusive feeling of responsibility, too, has been nagging.  That doesn’t make me feel very good at all.  
    She was discharged after a week and went back to work yesterday.  She’s looking better, she’s feeling better.  I was a little reluctant for her return to work, given what just happened, but she has been working on a plan of her own – to map out her day the night before, and to not bite off more than she can chew with work.  No extra shifts, no swooping in to another’s rescue.  She’s going to take it slow as ‘75% of her problems right now are family-related’ and to be sitting at home with nothing to do would likely give her more time to dwell on that other stuff.  She’s also come to the realization that her family right now is just not ‘safe.’  She maintains contact with one sister (the one whom she called from the hospital daily with updates) and is finding it odd that NONE of the others (or even her Dad, who has been made aware of her hospitalization) have reached out to see how she was once discharged.  She was home for an entire week and not one person - other than this one sister – picked up the phone to call.  Surely, she wouldn’t answer the call from Dad if there WAS one – but as for the rest of them?  Shame on you! They are, in my eyes, TOXIC as all hell, and all a part of the problem.  None of them will ever read this, but mark my words – she’s noticed who has reached out and who hasn’t.  And right now, I don’t give a fuck whether you want to talk to me or ask me how I am, but she’s YOUR sister.  Y’all ought to be fucking ashamed of yourselves for not reaching out to her when you know damed well that she sat in a psychiatric hospital for a week because of the father you ALL share.
    I started my new job last week, literally the minute she came home.  They didn’t waste any time and weren’t kidding when they said that the position was contingent on the 40-hour training.  AS SOON as I sent in the certificate of completion – the call came in to report to the office on Monday last week.  There have been trainings on how to complete the appropriate paperwork, there have been HIPAA trainings, and other fun ‘feet wetting’ trainings.  I am now waiting for a permanent client, but in the meantime, working on learning the ropes through trainings and shadowing.  Tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, I take on a temporary assignment – so this’ll help me to gain some groundbreaking experience before the permanent client comes along.
    Allrighty.  I think that sums up the gist of the last six months.  I don’t mean to be away from my blogs for too long.  It’s really not in my character to be.  I’m used to being able to sit down and to write, but there’s been way too much head traffic lately.  Thankfully, that traffic has eased up a little and I am able to navigate through most of it and decide what I can share for the moment.  I WILL try to be more attentive to these self-care needs of mine but know better than to make promises when it comes to my blogging. 😉  
    All I can promise is to try to do these little mental dumps every now and then - and hope nobody minds.  LOL.  
    Hoping all of my friends here are doing well and are hanging in there.  Know that I love you, regardless of your religious beliefs, of your gender, your race, your sexual orientation.  I DO NOT CARE how you identify - what matters is being a good person and I know that here, I am surrounded by good people who will support and do not judge.  For that, I am appreciative and eternally grateful.  It is also the reason I am finally feeling a little more comfortable sharing what's been going on in my world over the last six months.  I feel safe here, and I thank all of you for contributing to that feeling of security.  It's been hard to feel that way offline, lately.
    Much love,
    - Cap 
  12. Capulet
    Another blog entry?  So soon?    Even for me, this is odd...
     Though it's a bit untraditional of me to post two days in a row, I'm hearing my brain say, 'just run with it, Cappy.  Just write.'
    So, I guess, I will.  Maybe this is the way to make peace with what I've been feeling and what's needed for me to altogether snap out of it.  Perhaps in order to put this year's 'traumaversary period' to rest, I am needing to understand what exactly happened this year.  I can't deny that it felt DIFFERENT this year.  I don't even have the words readily available to thoroughly explain it, but I'm going to try.  Maybe it will help me, maybe it will help you - either way, it's needing to be written out.
    All right, so, I did some thinking last night.  It occurred in waves, actually.  I was reflecting on past traumaversaries and trying to figure out why this year's was so hard for me.  I talked about feeling as if I was here but not mentally present, I discussed feelings of extreme disconnect from EVERYTHING that is (or even isn't) important to me.  Things that would normally excite me?  Nothing.  Things that would piss me off?  I didn't give a shit.  Everything I did was on autopilot and my shields were up.  If it was going to upset me, I didn't want to hear it.  If it was going to cause my mind to go into a direction I wanted to avoid, I'd do just that - I'd avoid it and it'd deflect off the imaginary shields.  
    I was, to put it simply - just existing.  
    I know I haven't been my normal self and have been trying to figure out why.  None of this was making sense.  My last trauma was 24 years ago.  While I know that trauma doesn't disappear and it stays with you for life, this was an inconsistent traumaversary and felt 'out of order.'  See, I remember my FIRST traumaversary following the rape in 1996.  The same feelings of disconnect and overall 'off-ness' was there, but those were also accompanied by nightmares, flashbacks, memories that would reduce me into a panicky mess.  My ten-year traumaversary wasn't as extreme.  The flashbacks were significantly lessened by then.  Even the feelings of disconnect were there, but they were not this strong.  And this one I just had?  It felt as if the feelings of disconnect and isolation were dominant over any and everything else, and were I daresay, worse than I felt ten years ago. I honestly don't remember having this much trouble in a LONG time.
    I guess to explain - it isn't the memories, really, that I'm struggling with right now.  I have not had a flashback (not an extreme one, rather...there are occasional moments where I'll have to pause for a second to regain control of my thoughts, but there have not been flashbacks that have overwhelmed me) in a long time.  By no means am I 'over it,' let me make that clear - I'm not.  The memories still exist, and I live with them every day.  I live a life that I have no choice to live, for where I am today, I would NOT be if not for that event.  It is a permanent part of me, now, and while it doesn't define me, it's still a stain in the fabric that is me.  A stain that I'll spend the rest of my life trying to scrub until it's less noticeable, lighter, 'blended in.'  At this point, I've been walking around with this stain for twenty-four years, and have done pretty well in keeping it hidden and less noticeable by others.  There are some I am comfortable showing this part of me to, and others I am not.  I have somehow managed to maintain control over who I share my true self with and whom I'm better off keeping in the dark.
    But anyway - I seem to have gone off on a tangent.  What was I saying...oh, yes.  It's not the memories.  While they still exist, they are, for the most part, manageable with a reminder to myself that I am safe now.  
    So, what's different this year?  Why is it taking me this much time to 'bounce back?'
    That's what I have been trying to figure out for days, now.  Why do I feel like this, now?  Do I have to look beyond the traumaversary period?  What's going on BEFORE the beginning of the fall?
    It hit me then.  It's the fucking pandemic.  It's the clusterfuck that is 2020.
    I had the virus, you know?  I didn't share with too many people when I had it.  I carried on with whatever was going on in my life then.  School, home, family.  It was in the beginning of April and my fiancee was hospitalized the morning she received a positive test.  I didn't have a test administered, but the symptoms were there and I'd been in close contact with my fiancee - which made me guilty by association.  My senses of taste and smell went away for nearly a week.  I did not run any fevers, but I had the chills, I had the fatigue, I had the chest tightness and I had the god-awful COVID headache that is damned-near impossible to put into words.  It felt as if my head were replaced by a boulder and the headache radiated from the temples all the way down to the back of my neck.  
    There was no motivation to do anything.  I would wake up in the morning and it would be HARD to get up out of bed.  Still, I pushed myself and I forced myself to get up, take a shower, eat a small meal and to complete whatever schoolwork needing to be done - we were still in the middle of our Spring semester, and although I probably could have gotten an extension on a few things, I didn't want to give myself any reason to slack off.  As is, my J spent six days in the hospital, on oxygen, and while running high fevers, too.  She got hit far worse than I did, and it didn't feel right to complain.  I took care of myself, for the most part, and of my son who was quarantined with me and had even fewer symptoms than I did.  
    I guess this is a combination of my own thinking of having to deal with my problems, myself - but also because there was nothing anyone could do for any of us beyond making store runs for us or bringing us meals.  
    The virus went away, J and I and the Son made a full recovery.  Our symptoms passed.  But the pandemic did not.  Things got worse.  Numbers went up.  Businesses were shut down.  Schools were closed for the remainder of the year.  League bowling was cancelled.   MLB was postponed several months.  We couldn't go out without seeing people walking around with surgical masks covering their faces.  This was before all the hand-made masks and scarves were out - really early on when we all thought it'd be over within a few weeks.  It was nothing short of what you'd see in a Twilight Zone episode. Those who were saying 'this will pass and be over soon,' were now saying, 'oh, shit, this is serious!'  
    This affected me in a different way, though, than I imagine it affected most.  Many of you know already about my hearing impairment and that I rely on reading lips.  I do know some signing on an intermediate level, but that doesn't really help when it comes to going to grocery stores or to order food.  Usually, the person taking care of me or who helps me is not somoene who is 'in the know' on how to communicate with a deaf person.  Since not being allowed into stores without a face covering is now a 'new normal,' it is safe to deduce that these feelings of isolation started way back in April. 
    And they've not gotten better.  We have been forced, all over the world, to adapt to these social changes and to accept them as 'new rules.'  The masks are understandably for protection - mine and others' - I get that.  But I am now having to deal with a HUGE communication barrier whenever I go out. This has resulted in my not even wanting to leave the house anymore.  If it's necessary for me to go out, I will - but for the most part....I want nothing to do with what's 'out there.'  I've felt myself retreating back into the self-isolation patterns I'd gotten used to, and then had to force myself to emerge from.
    Aha!!!!!  Aha!!!  Ding, ding, ding!!!  💡
    It makes sense.  I've been feeling this isolation and disconnection for MONTHS before my early October traumaversary.  This was not a sudden onset, but a gradual one, and to have my traumaversary roll up at a time when I was already feeling so off-put by the world around me seems to have magnified it all.  This has to be it!
    See, I've never really been a social person.  Y'all know that already.  I do not like crowded settings, I don't like being around too many people.  I purposely kept myself distanced from large groups and continue to do so.  It's just my nature at this point.  And last Fall, I certainly agonized (as many of you likely remember from previous blog entries) about having to step into situations involving large groups of people when I made the decision to go back to school.   There was anxiety for many reasons, really, but this stepping out of my comfort zone was one of them.  Point is, it took me several weeks to become used to this.  To get past that mental hurdle of putting myself back out there.  
    And....guess what?
    I was actually starting to like it.  I will not say that I leapt into it enthusiastically - because I didn't.  I took baby steps.  I got into the car every morning, drove to campus, went to my classes and went home.  If I had a break in between classes, I sat myself at a little table in the student center - and I sat alone.  I opened up my laptop and caught up on some work, all while I watched the students around me interact.  Never did I feel as if I 'belonged' in the past, and I certainly didn't now, being 20 years older than the majority of them.  I was out there, but I still kept to myself and did what was normal and comfortable.  I guess just being out there is all that really mattered and counted.   
    I also had a choice of how much of myself I put out there, of who I wanted to communicate with, who I could see myself becoming friendly with.  And while I made out well with a new friend by the end of the fall semester, the arrival of the pandemic this past spring has definitely, without a doubt, set me back to where I started - further back, if that's possible.  Now, there are restrictions and very little choice.  I have to resort to a lot of guesswork and nodding when needing to ask for help at a store, pick up a prescription, order through drive-thru windows...(that last one isn't new but it still sucks) and medical appointments.  I hate to ask anyone to lower their masks when they speak to me - because then I'm asking them to put themselves at risk.  And so, this is hard.  Very hard.  It's depleted desire to be 'out there' down to none.  I think this all became a reality when I walked into a Dunkin' Donuts with the intention of buying an iced coffee and I'd forgotten my mask in the car.  The girl behind the counter pointed to a sign that said, 'no mask, no service.'  
    My mask was in the car...hanging from the rearview.  I could have just gone to get it and returned to the counter, but instead, I just left.  Fuck it.
    I have absolutely no motivation to even TRY to go out there and perform normal activities and duties. Simple things.  Go shopping.  Pick up curbside food.  Visit family.  (And that last one, I don't know how to explain...maybe the hesitation has to do with my delightful mother being her usual lovely self?)  None of it interests me, and it's taking everything in me to not come down with a cold and cancel my trip to New Jersey this weekend to see my niece for her birthday and meet my brand-new niece born a month ago.  I know it sounds like an overall nice trip - and there's a teeny-tiny baby involved - I just feel that the traumaversary as well as the months of being in isolation has done a significant amount of messing with my head, my mood and my overall emotional state.  
    I am realizing at this point that I don't like how I'm sounding right now and am trying to refrain from deleting this whole entry that I've been working on for pretty much all day.  I know that I'm not the only one dealing with this.  That's impossible.  Others are struggling, too.  In different ways than I am, yes, but still struggling to cope with the changes they've had to get used to in the last several months.  People have died.  People have lost loved ones to the virus.  My fiancee almost died.  I battled it for two weeks and made a full, uncomplicated recovery.  And here I am - complaining.  This just doesn't feel right....
    I apologize in advance if all of the above is taken in an offensive manner - please know that none of it is intentional.  I'm clearly having difficulty finding the right words to effectively explain what's been swimming around in my brain waves lately.  It is not meant for me to appear as if I'm making this about me because I'm well aware that this is about all of us.  It truly is my hope to explain why all of this has caused existing feelings to snowball when the season shifted from Summer to Fall....I'm just hoping that's how it's taken by those of you who have read up to this point.  I know I could have posted all of this in the Pandemic Discussion board but this space felt to be a more appropriate home for all of this.
    I guess just don't like myself very much these days.  I think that's what it boils down to.  I want the old me back. I want the me who laughed more often, who celebrated the little victories, who actually enjoyed spending time with my family (especially my nieces and nephew).  The cautious me who had a choice as to how much or how little of myself I chose to share.  The me who looked forward to finishing school and achieving goals, the me who embraced order and consistency and the me who had a plan for everything.  The me who was able to more easily break away from the activities done in isolation.  Lately, I've only wanted to burrow myself deeper into this darkness, but I know that's not a healthy nor a preferred move.  I just don't like not knowing how this is going to affect me (and, of course, others) next week.  Next month.  Next year.  How fucking long is this going to last???  
    I want...no, I NEED to snap out of this state and to reconnect.  And I know that a huge part of this world's returning to normalcy is for people to exercise caution and to....continue to wear masks and to practice social distancing. I know I need to be patient and to suck it up, because for the greater good, this is a necessary evil that is far larger than me.  I just hope there IS an upcoming end to all of this insanity and ugliness and uncertainty.  I know we all do.
    The good news is - I already do feel a little bit of the trauma-related heaviness beginning to lift.  The traumaversary day is long gone, and I'm thinking this is why I'm able to come up with all of this tonight.  There were just too many variables in front of me and this was not allowing for me to do the mental troubleshooting that I normally do.
    I thank you all for reading if you've made it this far. I know this blog entry was longer than yesterday's.  I guess I got rid of a lot of brain traffic but there's still some leftover congestion that perhaps sleep and a good cry will help to clear up.  
    My love to you all.
    - Cap
  13. Capulet
    ***Please skip this if you're generally uncomfortable with talk of periods, bleeding, medical procedures involving the female reproductive system.  I'm trying to make this mild and non-triggering but you just never know.  So proceed with caution!***
    Okay, guys, I'm nervous.  
    Ain't gonna lie, I'm seriously trying to swallow the lump in the back of my throat, with my new doctor's name on it.  If the roles were reversed, I'd probably be the one saying, "it'll be all right, it's gonna be uncomfortable for a few minutes, but then it'll be over with...your health is more important than being nervous or scared for a little while..."  But when it comes to applying these pearls of wisdom to myself, it's an entirely different ball game.
    I don't want to get into extreme detail about my female woes; some of these details are just plain disgusting, so in summary - when I have a regular period, it's not pretty.  Not that monthly menses ever is, but mine are absolutely ridiculous.  And since having my children, they seemingly became worse.  And so when my daughter was young, I consulted with a local 'vagician' (we may thank my darling daughter for this alternate, creative term for a gynecologist - it's seemingly stuck and I now refer to these doctors as 'vagicians' only) and she put me on birth control.  Obviously, my reasons for being on BC is NOT to prevent pregnancy, as for the last ten years, I've had relations with only a female and I'm not worried about conceiving.  My reasons for starting the pill was to regulate/control monthly periods.  And for the last several years (I want to say five or six years) the pill I was taking daily was working BEAUTIFULLY.  I wasn't HAVING a period.  I'd take this DELIGHTFUL little white pill every day and I spent more on the prescription than I did on Tampax.  And my GOD, it was the best, BEST thing, EVER... 
    But I ran into a birth-control snafu last year.  Almost exactly a year ago, in fact, right smack in the middle of my move from New York to Pennsylvania.  In the midst of the move, I forgot to take a pill.  It might have happened twice.  This wouldn't be the first time I've forgotten to take a pill, but it was the most unforgiving, indeed.  I tried to get back on track, but since messing up once or twice, I began to experience spotting.  This wasn't the once a week kind of spotting - this was more like every single fucking DAY kind of spotting.  It increased with activity, too.  Then, when I thought it had stopped, it would start again within a day or two.  I couldn't catch a break...this went on for literally months.  And to top it off, I wasn't near my regular vagician anymore.  And my insurance was no longer the same, and we were in the process of changing everything over....and I didn't have a CLUE where to go in my new surroundings.  I kept telling myself - it'll correct itself...just give it time...
    When it continued, I stopped taking the pills, thinking that maybe my body needed a 'reset.'  I had enough for the next six months, and so I threw away the "pill wheel" I was working on at the moment and planned to start again at the start of my next period two months ahead - I'd allow my body to have a normal (abnormal) cycle, then I'd start taking the BC the following month.  Hopefully I'd get things 'fixed.'
    My spotting stopped.  EVERYTHING stopped.  
    I got a regular period a month later and was reminded once again, WHY I became so reliant on these BC pills.  Still, knowing that I'd go back to my pill-taking regimen that I knew would eventually control it, I endured it.  I loathed every minute of it, I envisioned throwing my uterus, my cervix, my fallopian tubes, everything involved in the female reproductive system, out the window - what the hell did I need 'em for, anyway????  I'm almost 40, I'm DONE with baby making.  I don't need my eggs anymore. I could sell them.  I'd donate them if I could.  But I certainly don't need one released every month anymore, there's NO way they're going to ever be fertilized.  So I grumpily went through that time of month, every single day swearing up and down every time I went to the bathroom to remove and replace a saturated tampon.  The first couple days of a period (while not on BC) are usually crampy in general - days 2-4 are the heaviest and then it will taper off on the fourth or fifth day.  Usually.  
    The following month came along.  I started the pills again on day one.  Of course, I had another ridiculous period but this was to be expected.  It lasted the usual 4-5 days.  And now because my body had to become re-acquainted with these pills, the spotting was back.  But upon looking up the side effects of this medication, I knew to expect that, especially for the first few weeks.
    But then the weeks became months.  I'd been waiting patiently for my body to 'take' to the pills again, I hadn't forgotten to take any, I'd been taking them every morning.  Yet, the spotting never stopped.  And, again, with increased physical activity, came increased spotting.  Again, I felt that I couldn't catch a break.  My uterus hated me and I didn't know why.  My J had been saying for weeks already, "I think it's time to get checked out." I'd been saying, "yeah, it'll correct itself, that's what it says online!"  But deep down, I knew it probably wouldn't, it would have already if it was ever going to.
    So, this prompted my visit to the vagician two Mondays ago.  J made me the appointment and although I didn't want to go, I begrudgingly went.  Although I understand that at this point, something had to give.  Prior to visiting this new doctor, I once again stopped taking the pills and discarded whatever was left in that month's supply - since I knew that stopping was likely the only way to stop the spotting.  And it did.  Leads me to believe that the pills simply aren't working for me anymore.  Or something else is going on with me that is causing these pills to be obsolete.
    The doctor gave me my (two years' overdue) pap, did the breast exam...we then discussed the pills I'd been taking and he suggested the depo shot - once every three months...won't have to remember to take any pills, I will just have to remember to go in every three months for a new shot.  Which I'll gladly do if it helps manage the monthly discomfort.  
    "I'd also like to send you for bloodwork."  He said, "Just to make sure your hormone levels are okay and if the shot is indeed the best option for you."
    "Sure."  (Now I'm NOT good at bloodwork in general - that's another blog for another day - but in short, needles being anywhere in my inner elbow makes me panic, my BP to spike and overall, I lose my shit...I instead direct the phlebotomist to the back of my hand where my level of anxiety over bloodwork is usually lessened - and if they can, they'll oblige.)
    "And I'd also like to schedule a mammogram..."  I knew this was coming.  Bring on the 40's, bring on the obligatory booby-squishies every year.  This isn't as invasive as having paps, though, on a scale of 1-10, ten being the most uncomfortable, I'd put annual mammos at number four and paps at a nine.  
    "Yep."  I've got a cousin who DIED at age 41 due to breast cancer.  So this is something I KNOW I'm not going to fuck around with.  So the mammogram appointment wasn't as concerning as what he'd want next.
    "Okay, and then I'd like a trans-vaginal ultrasound...to check for fibroids."
    Hooooold the phone...what?? I must have looked at him funny because he further explained that in order to confirm that the depo shots were the best form of BC, he had to run some tests and make sure that my abnormal periods (when I had them) were not being caused by any other condition.  I guess that made sense.
    I left the office.  Went straight to the lab, got my blood drawn from the back of my hand, as requested.  Check!!!  
    Then the radiology building was across the way - dropped in over there, made appointments for the ultrasound and the mammogram for later on that week.  Check!  
    I went home feeling, gee, I accomplished a lot in one day - it was a nice feeling.  For a little while.  I then spent the next few days dreading the ultrasound and wanting it over with.  The ultrasound and mammogram were scheduled as back-to-back appointments and so they too would be dealt with in one combined visit.  I agonized over the ultrasound more, naturally, mostly because of the location of this particular test, as well as it being an internal exam to boot.
    Surprisingly, when the day came for the mammogram and ultrasound, I would discover that although the ultrasound is indeed a bit invasive, it was NOT as uncomfortable as the pap I'd had in the doctor's office.  The technician was a female.  She gave me a sheet to cover myself with and treated me with professionalism, respect and considering the nature of the test she was about to perform, her demeanor was overall calming.  I needed this.  I'd put the Ultrasound at a six or seven, based on this.
    Went home proud of myself for having done everything asked of me at this point.  All done!!!!!  And I'd managed to deal with it all, process it all, as well as bring myself to these appointments without having to be dragged - may not seem as big an accomplishment to most, but for me, it's big.  I've been told I need to follow up with my primary care doctor because my BP was found to be 'elevated' (gee, I wonder why) and I'm also due for a regular wellness check with a new doctor - one that I do have as appointed by insurance company, but also one I've not met yet.  
    Later, though.  This isn't a priority right now.  It SHOULD be, yes, but it's not.  A dentist visit is also on the horizon - and the same situation applies - I don't have one of those, either!  I'm pretty sure I'm going to get scolded for the shape my teeth are in and the fact that I've not had a cleaning in five years.  I don't do very well with the dentist, either but I'm guessing this is common among survivors and non-survivors alone.  It's something I'll work on, eventually, I guess....but the best way for me to deal with these medical things is one at a time.  Piece by piece.  Little by little.
    And apparently, the vagician is not finished with me, yet.  
    He called on the same day I had my ultrasound...several hours later, in fact.  J spoke to him on the phone, there was a lot of 'okay, so when can she come in for that?' as well as other things that ultimately meant to me that we weren't as finished as I thought I was.  J hung up and then told me that he had called to say that the results didn't show any existing conditions (which is a good thing) but he still would like to determine why I have abnormal periods and rule out endometriosis as well as a couple other things that I really didn't care enough to ask for clarification on.  I'm stuck on what he said first - he now wants to do a biopsy/DNC before I get my next period as a final test prior to prescribing the depo shot, which would need to be administered on the day my next menses begins.  I'd likely feel some period-like cramps and some discomfort for a few days after the procedure, but he'd be able to run some further tests...
    ...a biopsy.  I don't even like THAT word.  A sample..??  Fine.  A specimen?  Ehhh, that's fine too.  A BIOPSY???  Are you TRYING to give me a heart attack or is that a natural reaction to the word for everyone else too??
    "Oh, hell, no," was the first thing I said when J finished relaying the message to me.
    J's saying she'll go with me and hold my hand through this but even so...what?  Why can't you just go by what you're seeing in the bloodwork, the ultrasound and just give me the stupid shots????  I know what a DNC is and I don't want that shit, I don't want to relinquish a piece of my uterine lining, my cervix, I want it all to stay where it is and where the good Lord intended for it all to be.  I did the bloodwork they asked for...that came back fine.  I did the mammogram, which although uncomfortable, I knew was necessary.  And then I did the trans-vaginal ultrasound which came back showing nothing concerning.  Why can't we leave me alone, now????   
    So while I went to the first appointment on my own and to the lab on my own and finally to the mammogram and ultrasound on my own, this is increasingly becoming an appointment I have to be dragged to.  And J is willing to do that, for she's more worried about this shit than I am.  The appointment is currently set for next Tuesday, but we realized that J has to work on next Tuesday and likely wouldn't be able to make sure I show up at the doctor's office to have this procedure done.  She knows as well as I do that I'm more likely to say, 'screw it...I'm not coming."  And so she asked me last night for the doctor's phone number - she would reschedule for three days later - for Friday next week, since that's her day off.  And she'd go with me and we'd go to lunch afterwards.  It all sounds great but I'm stuck on what the procedure entails, I can't see past that right now.
    So after I moaned and groaned about all of the above for a half-an-hour last night, J eventually said: "Sometimes we just have to put on our big-girl panties and go do what we need to do..."
    Me, in the middle of my meltdown:   "But how am I gonna put them on if he keeps asking me to take them OFF?"
    I got the "only you" head shake, followed by the much-needed laugh.
    Yeah, only me.
    For now, I'm trying not to agonize over this.  I seriously would like for one appointment to STAY one appointment.  None of this, 'let's get some labs' or 'let's check this out' or 'let's take a look at that' shit.  If it's not broken, don't fix it.  That's always been my motto, and deep down, I DO know that things break for unseen reasons and they have to be 'investigated.'
    Never said I liked it, though.  
    And if this is all a preview of what life after 40 looks like, I've got some adjustments to make when it comes to stepping out of my comfort zone when it comes to medical stuff.
    Still nervous.  Still more scared than I'll ever be able to verbally admit to anyone.  But I'm also working on being honest with myself with what I'm feeling, as well as with others who ask me what's going through my mind at any given time, rather than shrug it off and say 'nothing.'  And writing these things down is the most effective means of doing that...so thank you in advance if you've made it this far.
    In closing, I hope that my American friends have a safe, happy 4th of July!!!  I'll be using the holiday as a distraction from the events that will likely take place next week - it's all I can do right now.  
    - Capulet
  14. Capulet
    ...you realize that you ARE Raymond from that TV show, "Everybody Loves Raymond."
    In short, the show's about an average guy.  Married, a few kids, a nice house.  And a mother who's a pushy, nosy, meddling, annoying pain-in-the-ass busybody.  Said character was perfectly played by the late Doris Roberts.  We all knew Marie Barone.  And we all LOVED Marie Barone because - well - let's admit it.  She made us laugh.  She was that mother we were all glad we didn't have.  Some of us might have wanted some of Marie's attentiveness but have to agree - it was over-the-top and for someone (like, oh, let's see.....me?) who likes their personal space, cringe-worthy.  
    I was unloading a bag the Oompa gave me when I went into Jersey to see my family last weekend.  She had given me a shopping bag with 'things she picked up for me' and this bag remained in the trunk of my car until last night.  
    (Why this bag remained in the trunk for a full week will be explained shortly.)
    There were a few things she'd told me she was sending over.  A bag clip, a pair of pants that didn't fit her anymore that I could probably squeeze into (it's going into the donation bin on account of pure ugliness) and a box that she probably didn't have time to wrap. I open it up and unravel a coffee mug.
    Remembering that she gave me a coffee mug back in July when she came to visit for the kids' birthdays.  I went into the cabinet where I'd put the other one.  I set up both mugs side-by-side and took a picture:

    Okay.  She's trying to tell me something, and clearly, it's not that I don't drink enough coffee. Whether I do or don't is debatable these days, but I'm PRETTY sure this isn't her message.  I stared at these cups for a good while and thought to myself, this ain't normal.  Even for Italian moms, this CAN'T be viewed as an acceptable means of trying to communicate with your child.  I mean, I'm a mother too; but I'd NEVER give my kid one of these.  Maybe as a joke, I'd give the yellow one to the daughter as a reminder that I'm here to listen to her.  But this is not the Oompa's intent.  No, she is clearly trying to guilt and manipulate me into being closer to her.  As stated in previous blogs, this isn't something I want.  I love my mother dearly, but I do NOT see myself sharing anything of a personal nature with her.  I never was able to, and don't think I ever will be.  Small doses is my speed.  Unfortunately it is not hers.  Because she lives two hours away, she has HAD to deal with the small doses, but now this has motivated her gift-giving - and quite honestly all I can offer her is an eye-roll in thanks.  I refuse to feed into this.
    Okay, so - I promised an explanation on why it took me so long to unpack these things from the car....
    I had a bad week.  I spent yesterday evening/night in the hospital.  
    Before I continue - let me assure you all - I'm okay.  Aside from a few bruises and pokes and needle marks, I'm fine. 
    I was hit with a bout of food poisoning over something I ingested on Monday night - I'm not sure what PART of my dinner was bad, but it had me up at 5am on Tuesday morning.  It was my third trip to the toilet when it happened.  I was sitting and all of a sudden was hit with a hot flash, dizziness and sweats.  I remember feeling overwhelmingly nauseous.  Then - nothing.  
    I was on the floor.  My face was against the cool tile.  I slowly got up and realized what had happened.  This had happened before so I knew...I'd passed out.  This has happened a few times in my lifetime, though the incidents were never close enough together that they were to be considered a problem.
    I got back to bed and crawled in.  J's alarm was set to go off in fifteen minutes from that moment, and I realized that I'd been passed out for the last four to five minutes.  I laid silently until J got up.  When she moved to turn off her alarm, I told her to turn on the light, and then told her what happened. 
    We found a bump on the side of my head, close to the top.  And though there was nothing visible, yet, there was some tenderness in my chin and lower jaw.  J asked if I wanted to go to the doctor.  Stubborn me says, 'no.  I'm okay, I just want to go back to bed.'  I promised her I'd text when I got up.  I did.  And for MOST of Tuesday, I was okay.  I ate some eggs, and I had some toast, I did my classwork, attended all of my meetings.  All was as okay as could be. 
    Until nighttime.  
    I'd had a headache all day.  Possibly from having hit my head earlier that morning but I'd taken Tylenol a few times and it'd helped.  Was preparing to have dinner when the nausea peaked and I'd JUST made it to the bathroom.  EVERYTHING I had eaten in the last 24+ hours had come up.  This will sound gross but this is how I knew that it was Monday night's dinner that was the problem...
    "Are you sure you don't want to go to the doctor, dear?"  J was asking again, "You could have a concussion."  
    "Nope," I told her, "I'm good.  I feel better now that all of that is out of my system."
    Wednesday...a little bit better.  Another day of feeling dazed, foggy and overall crappy.  Still had a rumbly tummy.  Made myself dinner, regardless.  I was hungry and on empty.  It wasn't too heavy, though, it was crockpot chicken.  Went to bed still feeling rumbly.  Woke up at 4am this time, needed several trips to the bathroom before trying some Immodium.  Not sure if it was the sheer nastiness of the Immodium or anything else, but I'd barely made it back to the bed before feeling a LOT like I had before passing out on Tuesday.  Hot.  Sweaty.  Dizzy.  J was awake this time.  I told her I was feeling hot and sweaty again and that I was going to puke.  
    She moved fast but not quite fast enough.  Although she got the bathroom trash can over to me quickly, I still managed to soil the blankets with puke.
    "Okay.  You're going to the doctor later this evening when I get home from work," said the wifey, and the one who...cleaned it all up.  "No ifs, ands or buts!"
    I didn't have the energy to argue, and deep down, I knew she was right.  I was now showing delayed signs of a concussion.  They were all there.  The lethargy, the restlessness, the headaches, feeling hazy, foggy, nausea, vomiting.  I nodded.  Yes.  Might be time to cast aside my overall dislike of doctors and hospitals and anything medical-related and go.  I'd fought it from the start, but I couldn't fight it, anymore.  I agreed to be ready to go when she got home from work.  By now, the son had 'slipped' during a call from his grandfather (the Oompa's husband/my stepfather) and had told the Oompa that I was asleep because I wasn't feeling well.  
    Yes, the son is very lucky I didn't kill him.  I didn't have the strength to get angry at him, either, but I DID tell him I'd wished he'd not told her that because she had sent me texts saying, 'are you sure it's not COVID?' and 'shouldn't you go get checked to make sure, so that J could have some peace of mind???'  Already, the drama was starting.  I told her it was food poisoning, and that I was fine - all a doctor was going to tell me was that it was going to have to run its course.  I prayed that the Son hadn't told her about my passing out....so far, it looks unlikely.  
    Thank GOD, too, because I had said to the wife from the very beginning: "We do not speak of this to the Oompa."
    "What, that you passed out?"
    "That is correct.  We don't say a word about that."  (My kids were also told that the Oompa was to hear nothing further of it.)
    I stuck by this even when we were there and they'd started me on an IV (which in itself caused me to go into a full-on panic - needles are NOT my thing) in preparation for a CAT scan.  J leaned in and asked,  "Are you sure you don't want me to call your mother and let her know what's going on?"
    "Okay, okay."
    I just can't deal with the drama.  I can't.  I don't want to hear it, I don't want to hear HER, I don't want the fuss.  My reasoning is - we do not call the Oompa unless it's one million percent necessary.  We do not give the Oompa any reason to think that we need her to meddle or to micromanage any situation.  I know that she has this immeasurable desire to feel as if she's needed but her 'helping' approach is...too much.  If you give her too much, she will seize control and run with it.  I'm not up for that, right now.  I told the wife that if the tests came back showing any problems, THEN she could call the Oompa.  Not before.
    She agreed.
    So - everything came back fine.  My levels - fine.  They did labs, they did the CAT scan, they hooked me up to IV fluids for several hours.  They set me up with the football game while I waited on results.  
    "So, what the hell happened?"  I asked the discharging nurse.  
    He said, "we'll probably never know for sure but I'm thinking it was vasovagal syncope."
    Here it is as defined by Google (and because I'd never heard of it before, I couldn't possibly explain it any better):
    Vasovagal syncope (vay-zoh-VAY-gul SING-kuh-pee) occurs when you faint because your body overreacts to certain triggers, such as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress. It may also be called neurocardiogenic syncope. The vasovagal syncope trigger causes your heart rate and blood pressure to drop suddenly.  
    According to the nurse, triggers include dehydration and 'pushing' when going to the bathroom, so at least this was a partial explanation for the passing out.  
    I don't know if I believe this diagnosis completely - telling me my body is overreacting?  What's that supposed to mean?  I'M overreacting?  I don't currently have diarrhea anymore - so, why do I STILL feel like I am going to pass out every time I stand, walk around?  The sweating?  It was still happening earlier today.  I dunno if it's because I've only just now started to eat more food and am rehydrating, but ugh.  I'm just not sure they found ANYTHING to explain what happened.  Not one nurse or doctor checked my eyes, my head, or my chin where there's clearly bruises visible, now.  From what I understand, a CT scan does not show a concussion.  I just feel that yes, they checked the important things, but there were things seemingly more of a focus that they didn't check...and then when they didn't see any reason to keep me there, they discharged me.  And, so, on the concussion, I don't have a definite answer - only suspicion.  They did give me anti-nausea pills that I'm instructed to take 30 minutes prior to eating - as explained, these would block the nausea signal from the brain to the stomach, and I'll be able to keep food down.  They told me to take it easy and slow, which isn't too much a challenge for me when I'm feeling normal.
    I just took my papers and prescriptions and thanked them and was glad to go home.  After being there for several hours and getting the "you're good, everything's fine," I didn't want to sit there any longer.  I wanted that godawful IV out of my arm and I wanted to take one of two percocets they gave me and crash.....and that's exactly what I did.  I slept HARD last night.  
    But....I'm okay.  I've been home a little less than 24 hours at this point and actually feel a LOT better.  I've got some food in me, and I've got a lot more energy than I've had all last week.  Thinking tomorrow is going to be a 'catch up' day and I will be focusing on the schoolwork I've missed and on upcoming assignments.
    As this has been a late night for me, I'm thinking tomorrow I'll need some serious caffeine.
    Anyone up for a cup of coffee?  I promise, I've got different mugs.  These are going all the way in the back of the cabinet!  😄 
    - Capulet
  15. Capulet
    I'm on a roll, it seems, with these blogs.  I simply have too much time to think these days.  It seems it's all I do.  When something baffles me - this is my drawing board.  I'm reminded of the evidence room whiteboard with scribbled notes and pictures and the strings connecting one to the other....that is an accurate assessment of my brain right now.  There's all this information, all these images.  I know there's more to it, and so I'm constantly and obsessively going over it.  Over, and over again.
    First off, I wanna thank those who provided me with the requested hugs and who checked in on me last night when I was having a moment while trying to release my last blog.  I really didn't feel 'right' talking about (or rather, complaining about) things that really can't be helped.  I know nobody has it easy right now, and my 'inner voice' was telling me that I have no room to complain.  I debated whether or not to post and whether to delete the whole damn thing, but a friend wisely reminded me that I'd likely be pissed off with myself if I deleted.  And so, I posted - but felt terrible for it.  I can't explain fully the reasons behind my guilt over complaining but sure as shit, this is a project for a different whiteboard.  This one is full enough.
    So, I've been trying to find more of a connection between how things are now and how things were in 1996.  This morning, I woke up and scared the shit out of my sleeping dog as I said it out loud.  Maybe, just maybe, a little too loudly.
    "I've fucking got it!  It's the communication barrier!"
    That's the connection.  I knew it had something to do with the ongoing pandemic, I just had a feeling, though, that it was something a little more specific than the feelings of isolation and disconnect.  And this is it.  
    In 1996, it was my inability to communicate by means of making a telephone call (a cab, a friend, etc) that ultimately led to my rape.  Texting wasn't invented, yet.  There was absolutely NO way for me to 'call out' or to ask for someone to come pick me up and bring me home.  There would be no lips or words for me to read.  I was truly trapped.  It was this communication barrier that left me no choice but to ask for help - and doing so resulted in trauma.
    And now, here in 2020 - I'm feeling this communication barrier again.  Of course, technologically wise, we are in a much more advanced place, but this does not change the fact that I still can't see lips whenever I'm out and about, at a store, at an appointment, ordering food.  I am forced into have to ask for help more than I'm comfortable with (for example, if I need to speak to someone and read their lips, I'm HAVING to explain that I'm hearing impaired and that i need for them to either lower masks or write things down) and I HATE this...because of 1996, I absolutely fucking hate this.  
    Mind. Blowing.  🤯
    I would say I'm gonna puke, but I've had nothing to eat, yet.  Still, my stomach's in knots.  Did I really just figure this out?? 
    - Cap
  16. Capulet
    These three little words are certainly ones to live by - especially if you're me.
    Starting at the end of last month, these have been words I'd wake up to.  Was I ready for another day of feeling disconnected from everyone including myself?  Another day of contending with that unwelcome feeling of impending doom?  Another day of cloudiness, and feeling as if I'm surrounded by a fog?  Another 24 hours of reminders that fall is in full swing, now?  
    I'd tell myself as I pull myself out of bed every morning - 'I'll just proceed with caution.'  What this means to me is, I'm gonna wing it, just as I've been doing for the past few weeks.  When I have to go outside, I'm going to inhale and exhale, I'm not going to look at the 'pretty leaves,' I'm gonna do whatever I need to do in order to get through each day that I wake up feeling like I'm stuck in that limbo place between awake and asleep.  Forgetfulness is a BIG thing these days, and while I'm usually good at remembering things, this has been one such casualty of this year's transition into the Fall season.  I don't want to say this is dissociation because I've done plenty of that in the past.  This is different.  It's more like I'm on autopilot and am going through all the motions - I just don't feel very 'present' these days even though I'm wide awake.  This is SUCH a hard feeling to explain, but I'm thinking most of you get the gist. ❤️ 
    If you ask my mother, I'm a a terrible daughter.  The Oompa had a (minor) surgery scheduled the morning after my traumaversary.  I'd known this for at least two weeks prior to the date, and even though this was ALL the Oompa would talk about...I still forgot.  My sister's text on the evening of her surgery came as a surprise: "Mom's out of surgery and doing well."  I broke down into a combination of swearing and crying.  I forgot.  I completely, totally, fucking FORGOT.  I KNEW she was going to come at me with the 'why didn't you call me to wish me luck on Sunday (my traumaversary, and the night before her surgery)?'  
    Sure enough - when I'd pulled myself together, I called her to see how she was feeling.  She didn't waste any time.  Proceed with caution, I thought to myself as she yelled at me and basically made me feel like dog shit on the bottom of someone's shoe for not being attentive to her needs and for calling her the night before she had her surgery, or even the morning OF her surgery to wish her luck.  She couldn't even BEGIN to understand what was on my mind on Sunday, and why none of it had anything to do with her having a stone removed endoscopically.  I certainly didn't expect her to understand, either, so I told her that I had no excuse for it and that I was sorry.  Of course, I DID have a reason to not be focused on a minor surgery, but as it was not a reason I'm going to disclose to her, I quietly accepted the responsibility and the accompanying bitching-out.
    "I want you closer!" she also said.  And she wasn't really talking about the two hour's drive from my house to hers - she was talking about....being emotionally and mentally closer to her.  More attentive toward her and toward my sisters and my nieces and nephew.  
    The kids, I don't mind at all - they are loved deeply and I'm proud to be their auntie, but I don't want that kind of a relationship with her.  It just doesn't feel possible.  Many of you already know of my issues with my mother, but I won't get into all of that, here.  I just do not feel emotionally capable, at this time, of being close to her.  Because I'm too nice, I didn't have the heart to tell her that there's no desire to, either - not right now, anyway.  My sisters aren't too bad, but I've NEVER been close to them - even before I lived two hours away.  I'd lived fifteen minutes away from them at one point and would still, only see them for holidays and birthdays.  The same as now.  We're all fine with this arrangement, by the way - it's just the Oompa who has an illusion of the three of her daughters existing in harmony and being each other's best friend.  That's simply not happening.  And so I proceeded with caution, and let her know that of COURSE, if the surgery were more-than-minor, I'd have been there and I'd have shared in the 'burden of taking care of her.'  
    Meanwhile, here I am, not having someone taking care of me.  And that's mainly because that's how I've always wanted it and, strangely - needed for it to be.  I'll take care of myself.  This is often mistaken as me 'pushing others away' but it's simply me doing what I'm used to doing, what I've trained myself to do for the last twenty-four years.  That drives my mother absolutely insane, too.  She wants to feel needed, she wants to have something to hold over others' heads.  'I do for you, so you must do for me.'  Maybe that's partially why I adapted to the 'fuck it, I'll do it, myself' mindset.  Of course, we also already know that I have issues with asking for help...with anything at all, even the simple, superficial tasks like dishes or laundry.
    I know that to some, I've been an inadequate support system lately.  I know I'm not mentally available.  I've done my best to let those close to me know that I'm needing patience and time to let all of this run its course.  I thank those who have reached out, who have checked in and who have reminded me that they are there to talk if I've needed it.  I apologize for being a shitty friend lately - and I hope you'll believe me when I say I'm not trying to be.  I'm just needing to be my own friend right now, and I'm seemingly failing at that, too.
    I haven't been out of the house more than three times in the last three weeks.  All three times, it's been to go league bowling.  I've not gone grocery shopping, I've not gone to get myself a gelati from Rita's before they close for the winter season, I've only ventured outside based on necessity.  As many are aware now, we got our puppy a couple months ago.  Though he's adorable and he's loved by us all, he was the wife's idea.  He's not 100% potty trained, so as I'm the only one home during the day, I'm also the one who has to bring him outside every two hours or so to do his business.  And because he likes to take his time, I threw myself into, 'well, as long as I'm waiting for the dog, let me pull the weeds over here....'  This turned into 'Project Winterize the Back Yard,' and also something ELSE I could throw myself into doing, if it meant I didn't have to sit and think about anything or try to explain the feelings of being disconnected from everything.  I don't count this as leaving the house, either, as I'd do a little bit of pulling every day while I was also waiting for the dog to finish up whatever he's doing, and once he's finished, both of our asses are back inside.
    I've thrown myself into schoolwork.  I had a midterm last week, this week, and there's another one next week.  I spend 90% o the time I'm sitting in my chair, also doing something having to do with school.  This, too, keeps my mind from drifting into never-never-land and from falling deeper into a pit of 'where the fuck am I?'
    My traumaversary was a week ago, and I'm JUST now starting to feel the fog lifting, some.  The sun is peeking in through the clouds.  I'm not there, yet, and am still 'proceeding with caution.'  
    Even now, there's more I want to say but there are very few words.  Just getting this small amount (if you compare my previous blogs to this, it seems MUCH shorter) out has been an accomplishment.
    Safe to say today's a win!
    - Cap
  17. Capulet
    Hi, everyone!  #51 in the works.   And it's been less than a week since my last blog entry, so hey, progress already!
    I'd like to paint a mental picture for you all - may seem a little strange and somewhat comical if I'm successful, but please do bear with me for there is (almost) always a method to my madness as far as thoughts go.
    First off, I am picturing the New York State Marathon.  I am a native New Yorker and have seen this event both in person as well as on TV.  If you've seen this event televised, that may help formulate a 'starter' vision.  The marathon in New York City takes place usually the first weekend in November - usually on a Sunday morning.  Upwards of 50,000 runners gather in Staten Island and run through all five boroughs, a total of 26 miles, before finishing in Central Park in Manhattan.  Although fall is well underway by now, the ambitious runners are usually dressed in either spandex pants made out of bathing suit material or those too-short shorts resembling the speedos my father had NO business wearing whenever we'd go to the beach when I was a kid, and sleeveless tank tops.  These runners would get warm regardless, some would even overheat, so I definitely understand the need for 'light' clothing.  Some runners stop for water breaks along the way; there are 'stations' set up for runners to rest and recharge and re-hydrate.  There MAY be some people running the marathon competitively - it's perhaps a dream of every runner to be the first to burst through the finish line tape, but finishing the entire 26 miles, even if it takes all day, is the true achievement.  Some run the marathon because they CAN.  Some spend months or years training before attempting this feat.  Either way, it's a journey - a test of resilience, strength and endurance.  
    I like to think of our healing journey as being our own personal marathon.  Although we're not doing much, physically, it certainly DOES test our mental and emotional boundaries.  And it matters not where we are in our journey; what matters is we are all on that same crowded (and bumpy) road that leads to where we want to be, and we're all 'traveling' at the speed in which we're most comfortable.  While the NYC Marathon has a pre-set distance, our own finish lines take different amounts of time to reach, and for some, the mere existence of a finish line is questionable.  All we can truly count on is making it through one checkpoint at a time, as quickly or slowly as necessary.  
    And like in the 'real' marathons, you've got your different types of runners, just as we have come to realize that there are different types of healers, too.  
    Note - the following descriptions are only set forth only as examples and for reason of differentiating between different types of individuals and providing mental images.  I do not claim to be an expert on marathon wardrobes or the actual reasoning behind it.  So, without further ado:
    Runner A: I think the runners who choose to wear the skimpy, short speedos are the most confident.  Let's face it...I'm guessing that if they're gonna wear THAT, then they certainly are NOT going to let themselves feel ashamed of what others see.  They're comfortable with the image they're presenting, regardless of what they're feeling on the inside.  They're collected, focused.  There's absolutely nothing getting in their way.  These are the ones who throw themselves into healing 100% - but this is, of course, not without risks.  Moving too fast makes it too easy to burn out sooner.  Some can prevent it, some can't and are forced to slow down.  Either way, these are the ones with only the finish line in sight - and their determination can be what makes them succeed as well as what can potentially derail them before they arrive.
    Runner B: If they're wearing the spandex skin-tight pants, they're still confident, but they're also cautious.  They don't plan on running as fast, they're going to slow down often enough to analyze what hurdles are ahead rather than run right into them.  They're going to make sure they CAN clear any roadblocks before they do.  They'll push themselves to the point of impending burnout, but will also know when it's time to sideline themselves for a little while and revitalize before proceeding.  Sometimes this particular runner will feel that temporary burst of speed just before their next 'break;' but they'll be quick to recognize their limitations.
    And finally, Runner C:  The third type of runner is more like a walker or occasional jogger.  They will be dressed in sweat pants and a sweat shirt.  Why?  Because these are the overly cautious ones - it's November and it's COLD.  And they don't want to take the chance of becoming too cold or otherwise uncomfortable to finish the race.  They know they're not going to be proceeding fast enough to work up a sweat, and so they plan on the slowest and safest approach - wearing the sweats with perhaps lighter clothes underneath for when they're ready to shed layers and pick up the pace.  These are the ones who make frequent stops, too, in order to regroup.  Quitting is NOT in their agenda - no.  Their plan is simple - they are going to finish that race, but they're going to take their sweet-ass time in doing so.
    Now, make no mistake - there's NOTHING wrong with being runner A, B or C.  There are probably in-betweeners out there, too.  In fact, there are probably D's, E's, F's, and enough types to assign every letter of the alphabet to - it's that wide a variety. 
    But one thing is for certain.  We HAVE to keep running.  And we, as survivors, know that this is true - although we often wish that there were shortcuts or simply an easy out.  Unlike the 'real' marathoners, we didn't sign up for THIS - this is something we've unfortunately been forced into by circumstance.  I think that when we do stop and rest, we're going to encounter a myriad of other survivors.  Some are going to be running past us, trying to get to THEIR next checkpoint, some are going to also be resting while they figure out what their next hurdles are.   And in the process, we will observe each other's progress, we will share tactics, we will pick each other up when we fall, we will encourage each other to proceed.  I find that we are truly learning about ourselves in the process of learning about others.  And it doesn't matter if you're an expert runner or you're this is your first rodeo - we don't even really need to know the other people we encounter - just having that common understanding of the course ahead is vital to completing it.  
    All that being said, my finish line still is a ways off.  But I have discovered that for me - there's indeed a pattern that is most consistent with Runner B, with some in-between qualities of Runners B & C.  
    You see - I'm realizing that I personally require a 'regrouping' every ten years.  I've had experiences (or otherwise life-changing epiphanies) at 19, 29 and  now at 39.  I'm hoping that before 49 comes along, I'll have figured out my shit or at least have made it through the tape.
    Now, this is not because I had a choice in the matter.  It's simply how the hurdles presented themselves within my own personal race.  There are SO many different reasons for our getting off-track and I think it's of high importance to be able to identify when and WHY we do.  I don't think it's completely avoidable, either, I believe we all travel off-course a few times during our journey.  We're human, it's only normal for us to trip or stumble over whatever hurdle is thrown at us that we can't avoid.  
    For example - I experienced my first (this too is questionable, since I'm convinced more and more every day that there are repressed memories that I've not come to understand completely yet) trauma at the age of 17.  This will be the point in which I was handed my 'marathon clothes' and my 'number,' let's say it's 17 - symbolic of when I started the whole process.  I am actually not able to picture myself in any of the above mentioned outfits - cotton basketball shorts and a tee-shirt and a bra that actually KEEPS my girls tucked away is more my thing than spandex anything.   
    Then I started running.  I took several risky paths...stupid paths.  I did this because I was searching for nonexistent shortcuts.  I wanted OUT of this race.  I mean, what the hell!?  There HAD to be easier ways of getting through it than THIS!  I mean, I was huffing and puffing right out of the gate - the mere thought of there being SO much more to go was exhausting!
    Then, at age 19-20, I met the wasband.  Not sure if he represents a checkpoint or my first sideline - either way, he was NOT wanting me to take part in this race.  No, instead of running, he preferred that I remain at home with the children, that I focus completely on being a wife and a mother and I leave the past where it belonged - in the past.  And so that made me slow down and stand off to the side in wait for the next nine to ten years.  He never actually told me that I wasn't allowed to proceed on my healing path - instead, using words and very nasty facial expressions, he made me feel as if it were a weakness, a drug addiction, a FLAW.  It was something to be ashamed of wanting or needing to address.  It was something that tainted me - and it was also something I wasn't supposed to allow others to see.  And that kind of mental conditioning can be VERY difficult to erase.  And so I dutifully placated him - I suppressed, I buried, I continued to push the inflatable ball underneath the dark waters, regardless of how many times it'd bob back up above the surface and back into my line of sight.  I focused mostly on being a mother to my children and ensuring his meals were hot when he got home and that his work clothes were washed, dried and ready for him to slip into in the mornings.  
    I never lost sight of the race, though - I knew it was still going on in front of me and would be there forever.  I simply sat on the sideline and watched others pass me by, feeling almost envious that they had the freedom to search out THEIR next checkpoints.  Hope of finding my own 'next step' began to dwindle until that fateful day when he came home and told me that he thought it was best that we separated.  I was 29 then.
    At this point, not only did I have the stuff I'd 'put away' for the ten years just to keep him content and allow him to hold onto the illusion of a happy family - I now had more to sift through because being mentally and emotionally abused by him for the entire time we were married had only succeeded in flinging me further off course.  Now, it felt as if I were back at the starting line, destined for an entirely different path than the one I'd initially been prepared to take.  Because now, I wasn't dealing with just one trauma anymore - I now had his parting gift to me - the unwanted effects and burdens of domestic mental and emotional wreckage.  
    Our divorce was neat, amicable and quick and with a minimum of arguing - mostly because by now, all I cared about was being rid of him and his nonsense; I was just like, 'where do I sign?'  He was quick to move onto courting wife #3 while I was anxious to tie up my sneakers and proceed on the forbidden journey - because now, I was in control - the dominant role of being the 'obedient wife' had finally been taken off the table and replaced by a new goal.  
    And, so, that's exactly what I did - I took off from that brand-new starting point and for the next ten years, was able to balance healing and a budding romance (with another runner, imagine that!) and although along the way, there were some brief stops and pauses, I have finally come to terms with the sexual assault I endured at 17.  I no longer blame myself for that and have placed blame solely where it belongs - on my assailant.   I've done a lot of work toward self-forgiveness (not for what happened, but rather for how I saw fit to handle it by making poor choices) and strides toward reaching my next checkpoint. In the meantime, I've found the happiness that I was never before able to recognize because now, I am with a partner who truly understands the race and rather than telling me to sit it out, she's always encouraged healing and promoted the nurturing of my emotional needs.  
    Now, at 39, this is where I sit....not sidelined, but simply pausing at one of those rejuvenation kiosks off to the side - regrouping, re-evaluating myself and the course that lies ahead, which is now clearer and more tailored to suit my own personal needs and desires for the future me that awaits near the finish line.  Now, I can't say for sure there IS one in sight right now - but this likely the steepest part of the race and it's on an incline - for dealing with matters of the body is, for me, easier than dealing with those of the mind; my latest task.  It is now time to deal with strengthening my emotional reserves and building those back up.  Now I am to turn another winding corner and begin working on breaking down the person my ex-husband taught me to be and rebuilding into the person I choose to be.  
    I don't know about you, but my seemingly cluttered brain could not handle the task of processing two different (although related) situations at the same time.  I'm not sure if my organizing/categorizing and dealing with stuff one-by-one and only as soon as it was safe to do so was self-taught as a means of survival and self-preservation but I am thinking it has everything to do with it.  
    Either way, I know this - I've gotta keep moving.  I know that it's okay to stop or to pause when I'm tired, weary, emotionally drained.  This mandatory marathon isn't going anywhere; it will forever be there to test me in every way.  If it ends up being determined that there is more ground for me to cover, it will simply extend my journey - but now that I've figured out how to temporarily disconnect in order to gather my bearings when faced with something new, I will not allow for it to impede my view of where I need to end up.  I think, for me, the finish line, even though I can't see it clearly yet, has stopped appearing to be so unreachable with the passage of time.  Before, it was as if with each sprint forward, the line would extend backwards by the same distance.  I had been running aimlessly, without any idea of what my own personal checkered flag looked like; without an inkling of what would represent progress.  Progress, which is only made when you actually advance toward this end point.   The end of the race doesn't seem so imaginary anymore - I know it does exist.  Not just for me, but for everyone - and with each of our small victories, we are closer to it.  
    Perhaps the next ten years will clarify it even more.  I know I've still got quite a bit of distance to make up for, having sidelined myself for as long as I did, as well as additional obstacles to clear - but that's okay.  I'm still going to finish this damn race, even if it takes me the rest of my life!  
    Onwards, and until next time!
    - Capulet
  18. Capulet
    I was walking the dog in the front yard yesterday afternoon.  
    The Daughter, who's been attending school remotely 3x per week (the other two days, she is IN the actual brick-and-mortar school) came out and said she was finished with her last class (it was about 2:45pm) and in a sing-songy voice, she says, "it's the weeeeeeeeekend!"
    I suppose it is.  TGIF? At the time I started writing this, it was still Friday.
    She then tilted her head towards the heavens, and smiled.  "I can smell it."
    I looked at the dog.  Had he taken a shit and she'd stepped in it?  
    Negative.  No dog shit.  
    I sniffed.  Maybe a neighbor was barbecuing?  Maybe someone had a fire pit going?  The smell of burning wood IS one that I like - but nope.  I smelled nothing.  Nothing at all.  If not for me smelling the dog's ACTUAL poop that morning, I'd have started sniffing everything that was possible to sniff - just to make sure that I wasn't sick - during the wifey's and my COVID experience in April, we'd both lost our sense of smell for nearly a week.  When I was certain I'd smelled SOMETHING recently (perhaps the dog shit from that morning?) I turned to my daughter.
    "OK, what do you smell?" I finally asked her.
    "Fall!"  She said, "I smell it.  It's coming.  It's in the air!"
    I gave a short nod.  "Oh."
    Y'all know I hate the fall.  My daughter, unfortunately, does not.  And why not?  She's a teenager, she hates everything else!  She hates school, she hates homework, she hates certain people on certain days of the week.  Why couldn't she hate the Fall, too?  All the colors changing, the cooler nights, the hoodie weather, the being-able-to-be-outside-without-underboob-sweat?  If I'm being honest, these are actually nice things, the scenery is breathtaking, the hoodies are for SURE my go-to when there's that not-too-cold chill in the air - they get me through the  'regular' winters (to this day, I don't own a winter coat) and it's the season for pumpkin-spiced everything.  Nothing screams "FALL" louder than the arrival of such a delightful flavor.  And damn it, I DO like the pumpkin spice - it's just not available until...well, now.  
    And, damn it, this kid got my brain wheels turning.  AS SOON AS SHE SAID THAT.  And it wasn't the nice things I was thinking about, either.  
    I handed her the dog's leash and told her to see if she could get him to poop.  Rationally, I already know that we are transitioning out of summer and into what comes next.  The same thing that 'came next' for the last twenty-four years.  That almost-automatic foreboding feeling, though - was starting to sink in.  I'd be lying if I said it started right then at that moment - but, no.  I'd already noticed the shorter and cooler evenings, the frosty breaths while the dog goes out for the last time before bed.  We are still green as far as leaves go, but the signs are all there.  Halloween candy has appeared on the store shelves.  The 'limited edition' scents are being released - Apple Cinnamon, Pumpkin this, Pumpkin that, Apple-Pumpkin, Roasted Marshmallow, you name it, Bath and Body Works probably has a sickening amount of it in overstock.
    I can't explain this feeling, though.  I know, though, that I don't have to.  You all get it.  I'm not by any means 'cured.'  I still remember my trauma (at least, the 1996 one) as if it were only yesterday.  While the nightmares and flashbacks very rarely occur anymore, there is still somewhat of a cloud that rolls in around this time of year, and just....stays in place for a few weeks.  I'm more on edge, I'm easily annoyed and irritated, I'm snappy.  My sleeping habits go from weird to weirder. I spend a good amount of time internalizing and playing the avoidance game - having a ton of schoolwork does admittedly help keep me focused on ANYTHING BUT my thoughts.  
    Not sure if all of that is good or bad, but like all else, it'll have to run its course.   
    Tonight's journal entry will be a short one and was intended to be one, also.  I just wanted to share the 'ugh' feeling that is settling in for a visit.  I certainly hope this year's 'fall season' is a brief one and I can get to complaining about the snow...
    Wishing everyone a good rest of the weekend!
    - Cap
  19. Capulet
    Hello, all.
    Did you all enjoy NOT hearing about my schoolwork?  I hope so, because I HAVE enjoyed not bitching about certain classes and papers that I really didn't want to write.  Of course, these were for the 'required' classes not pertaining to my social work major and it would only be natural for me to complain about those.  I will say though, that when I return to campus in a couple weeks, I'll be TRYING to refrain from giving my (former) Government professor a glare for giving me the only B grade of my last semester - it was a damned B-PLUS, he couldn't have let me have the A-minus????  Hmmmph.  
    I promise, although this blog has SOME (really, just a little bit) to do with what I'll be taking in my spring semester, it's going to be more focused on a bigger problem I'm noticing and realizing that we have in today's world.  Perhaps this is the main reason for me not being able to, for the life of me, come up with a good title for this blog entry.  It's just...something has been on my mind for the last couple of days, and it's really messing with my ability to come up with something more inviting to put down as a title.  What I'm about to discuss has left me mentally speechless in some ways.  I'll try to make as much sense as possible, though, so, bear with me, please.
    My Intro to Child Welfare class's (the one 8am class that I have this semester) syllabus was released over the weekend.  Now, you'd think that since I still have just under two weeks' vacation remaining, I'd only glance at it and get an idea of what textbooks I'll need, or that I'd MAYBE get a head start on some of the reading, but no.  I've already read through the instructions for the two papers that I'll be expected to write, and it's already been (jokingly, but sadly, also accurately) suggested that I might be FINISHED with these papers before the class even starts on the 21st.  (Go ahead and chuckle. I did.)  
    Anyway, my Child Welfare professor has already released all of the supplemental readings needed - the articles that we won't be finding in our textbooks and that we'll be discussing in class.  I opened up the document and started reading.  It was a compilation of child abuse cases that, sad to say, did not yield a happy ending for the dozen or so children written about.  The articles are nothing short of heartbreaking, and his intent, I want to say, is to demonstrate that there are cases that do indeed fall through the cracks, and that there are certainly flaws in the child welfare system, and there have been, for a very, VERY long time.  There have been WAY too many losses, and WAY too many children have fallen victim to it.  The system is in dire need of rectifying, but this is truly a process and requires for a LOT of corrections along the way, re-writing of policies and all of that fun stuff I'm still only beginning to learn about.
    One story in particular, I remember very clearly from 1987 - I was eight, at the time.  The story of little Lisa Steinberg, a six-year-old forever-angel who was beaten into a coma by her (illegally!) adoptive father, Joel Steinberg, who was at the time, a defense attorney.  In a rage, he beat Lisa to a bloodied pulp, to include dealing a traumatic blow to her head, and left her bleeding and bruised and alone before going to some kind of social event. Steinberg's common law wife, Hedda Nussbaum, found Lisa unresponsive, but alive, the NEXT FUCKING MORNING, and called 911.  Nussbaum claimed she was also abused regularly by Joel, and that her crime was neglecting to report the abuse of Lisa, who, after this particular beating, was in a coma for three days before being taken off life support.  Fifteen minutes after being disconnected, Lisa gained her wings, and the only consolation to the millions who would grieve a child they'd never met, was that her suffering had ended.  
    This was one of the nation's WORST cases of child abuse.  It was a MAJOR news story that I remember watching, seeing the headlines and even crying for Lisa, who was only a couple years younger than me.  Just a little girl, just like me.  And her father had killed her.  I was able to identify the piece-of-shit's face without seeing his name - as soon as I read about what he'd done, his face was permanently etched into memory.  I remember being more appreciative of MY father, who had NEVER raised a hand to me in anger.  I remember thinking, this never happened to me - I wasn't abused.  LISA was abused.  Child abuse meant beatings, it meant being forced to eat their own feces, it meant being locked in closets, it meant being tied to radiators, it meant starvation.  It meant one or both of the child's parents had harmed them terribly, and had put them either in the hospital or in coffins.  This wasn't something I'd experienced, so I felt, for lack of a better explanation, unable to fully empathize with Lisa and what she might have gone through at the hands of her adoptive parents.  There was always a sadness in me, though, from when I first heard her tragic story - perhaps I understood her pain in a different way, but at the time, I couldn't make any connections. 
    (I'm gonna come back to this....because now there's another thought forming....just wanna finish up on this, first...)
    A lot of time has gone by.  Eventually little Lisa's story had faded, but I'd never forgotten about this little girl - ever.  And when I opened this article and saw Joel Steinberg's monstrous face, along with his wife's negligent bit*h-face, (I'm sorry, she's just as guilty as he, if you ask me - she testified against her husband, I think, mainly so she could avoid severe punishment for her negligence!) it all came flooding back. I probed deeper, and did more reading (on my own) on this case - to refresh my memory.  In doing so, I learned that Steinberg was released from prison in the early 2000's and is now a free man, living in New York City.  What the fuck?????  HOW does a monster like this survive a stint in prison after murdering a little girl??  HOW has he not been knifed down in the middle of Times Square?  HOW?  I know this was a lifetime ago.  People forget, people probably WANTED to forget, and as soon as he was put away, (for 29 years?  Does that even seem fair?) they considered justice for Lisa served.  Life went on, more and different horror stories have emerged, and that face I'd memorized - became DIFFERENT faces.  I also have to consider that the Lisa Steinberg case is probably one that most of my classmates don't remember, as it occurred long before any of them were born.  I remember it, though, and I remember Lisa.  It is my hope, though, that when my classmates hear her story for the first time, that they, too, recognize just HOW flawed the child welfare system is - just HOW unnecessary it was for these beautiful children to die, and that we're just going to have to do better, to keep MORE children from being hurt or worse.
    And now the other thought...I did tell you I'd get to it....
    When I was still young, (maybe 10ish?) I remember the Oompa watching One Life to Live.  I may be wrong on the name, but I knew that it was a cheesy soap that, I think, is still being aired today, despite said cheesiness.  For some reason, I was home from school - and was sitting in the living room with my mother while she watched her soap.
    There was a rape - on the show.  I remember the man pinning the woman to the bed, and the woman fighting him.  The man also struck her a couple of times.  I asked my mother what was happening, and she said, 'he raped her.'  
    "What does that mean?" I asked her.
    "It means the man forced the woman to have sex with him."
    "Oh," I said.  I probably went back to whatever I was doing, but do recall that graphic scene on television bothering me.  Not to the point where it was triggering anything, but it is something I STILL remember.  Perhaps it is because I'd have an experience a few years later and I'd mentally come back to it, but, who knows?
    That was the day that I learned what rape was, by my mother's definition.  Granted, I don't think a child my age would have been able to handle elaboration on what ELSE rape was, but for the moment, I knew what it looked like.  I was able to recognize my own sexual assault at 17 as a rape - based on my mother's definition.  The man who did this to me - forced me to have sex with him.  It wasn't verbatim with what happened on the soap opera, but it involved force and it involved violence.  My own situation - there was no question about.  My perpetrator hit me, pinned me and I fought for as long as I was able to.  He had sex with me, and I didn't want it or ask for it or give my permission.  That was rape.  There was no question in my mind about that.
    Following so far...?
    Ok, good.  Moving on.  
    I now had my definitions of what child abuse and what rape were, without expanded understanding of the more serious, the more silent/unseen and potentially, the more deadly forms of both abuses.  It's the same with Domestic Violence.  I'd always thought that it meant one spouse was physically abusing the other - and gave no second thought to the gaslighting, the mental, the verbal and the emotional abuse my own husband was dishing out - that, I thought was because I was a miserable wife, I was too damaged to be what he wanted me to be.  I wasn't even considering that one isolated incident during the end-stages of our marriage, when divorce was already in progress, when he'd had sex with me AFTER my telling him that our physical relationship was over.  In my mind, it was more helpful to consider it a 'last hurrah,' and that we WERE still legally married at the time, so....what's one more time with the father of my children?  This wasn't rape - it didn't happen like it did in the soap opera, it didn't happen like it did when I was 17.  This didn't count.
    But....guess what?
    Yes, it does.  It counts.  
    And even though I was never beaten by my parents, there was still child abuse...there was abuse by someone else, and potentially my mother's relationship with denial, that left no visible marks.  There was abuse of my mind, also leaving no marks visible to the naked eye.  At least, nothing ever was confirmed, on account of my having no memory of anything that could be submitted as evidence that it was truly CSA that happened to me.  The CSA, I felt existed solely because of my behaviors as a child - a child who wasn't exposed to sex or sexual activity at a young age likely would NOT have behaved in the same way.  There is plenty written about my story in previous blog entries, so if you'd like elaboration on this or on the rest of it, feel free to look for the blog entry titled "Installment One: The Formative Years.'  
    Even though there were no beatings from my husband, there was still domestic violence.  I was still afraid of him, but not because of what he would physically do - more so what he'd say, how he'd manage to make me feel two inches tall using just his words.  I'm no longer married to him and no longer live with him, but he STILL holds an element of power and control over me, where he needs only make one statement, and over and over again, the things I want to and have said, are reduced to mere whispers that no one can hear over his higher-than-thou opinion.  He's always right, I'm always wrong, even though we're not having to make joint decisions on things having nothing to do with the kids we share.
    Friends - we as a society, are in trouble.  If 'trouble' isn't the best word, then at the very least, we have a very serious problem.  I told myself a long time ago, (okay, it was perhaps not that long ago, as my own realizations manifested and sunk in only a few short years ago) that I wouldn't lie to myself anymore, and that I was going to do the best I could in encouraging others to not discount, dismiss or make light of any of their experiences, because - they all count.  ANYTHING that has made us feel badly about ourselves - counts.   
    We MUST take a few minutes to re-define what all is involved in this trifecta of abuses.  Every day, there are survivors questioning themselves and their experiences, even invalidating themselves when it's, in all honesty, not fair to themselves to be doing so. Perhaps you've also been told what something was - your definitions were obtained without elaboration on what ELSE it could pass for, and you've had to take someone's word for what child abuse, sexual abuse, or domestic violence truly was.  It leaves WAY too much room for misinterpretation and self-doubt and that is, I believe, what makes it MORE tragic.
    Maybe our abusers, themselves, forced a definition onto us from an early age?  (For example, CSA doesn't always physically hurt - sometimes it doesn't go beyond fondling and inappropriate touch, and this child might have been told 'if I'm not hurting you, how can this be bad?,' or 'this is how I show you love.')  
    See what a clusterfuck that can cause in one's mind???  And furthermore, what damage it can continue to do, should we allow ourselves to believe the definitions that others want us to believe?
    Rape isn't always violent.  Sometimes it's silent, sometimes the word 'no' is NOT even uttered.  Sometimes it's done as a result of coercion, so that one doesn't have to deal with confrontation or with making their assailant angry or hurt their feelings.  Oftentimes, rape is committed because we simply don't fight it....and for whatever reason we choose not to fight, we MUST know that there was a deep, meaningful, VALID reason for it and that it doesn't, in any way, make it okay!  If it wasn't wanted, if it wasn't one THOUSAND percent agreed to with an emphatic 'YES,' then it was wrong.  And, this is a new one for me - but even within a marriage, mutual consent should always be given.  If crystal clear, conscious, SOBER consent was not given, we should ALL be allowed to consider that it was the wrong thing.  PLEASE remember all of this.  PLEASE expand your definitions, friends, because your feelings DO MATTER.  
    CSA doesn't always hurt.  Child abuse goes beyond beatings or starvings.  We can't always see child abuse, whether we've experienced it ourselves and suffered no physical pain - or we know someone else who has experienced it.  The system continues to fail SO many beautiful, innocent, PERFECT children.  Consider the ways the system has failed YOU - because it has.  It's failed me, too.  I'm sorry to all of my friends who were failed as children - this, I understand all too well.  Tell yourselves that it doesn't necessarily have to hurt, and that this was NOT love, even though someone you trusted may have told you otherwise.  That's a truth you deserve to know, too, and a truth you're ALLOWED to recognize and adopt as your own.
    And how about that wife whose husband tells her (you may place me in this category) that if she's not having the shit beat out of her on a regular basis, then she has no reason to complain?  She has everything she needs - a roof over her head, a spouse that provides, what's she got to complain about?  When in reality, she has a lot indeed to be upset about, that initial definition of domestic violence, that definition that doesn't quite apply, is blocking any and all rational thought beyond what you've already defined.  If this is you, and you're also that person dealing with a verbally abusive spouse, please know that you're in JUST as much danger as you would be if your spouse is throwing punches - and you don't deserve that shit!  You DON'T, no matter how much they may make you feel that you do.  
    I'm also realizing as I embark further onto this journey into the helping profession that there is so much anger within me - that this line of work I've chosen is either going to make or break me.  On one hand, I'm not going to be able to become too emotionally invested in any one child's (or survivor's of rape, domestic violence, etc) case - but on the other, I'm going to see and hear a whole lot that pisses me off and I'm going to be finding myself increasingly disgusted with our broken system and frustrated that I'm just one piddly cog within the whole of it.  And because I have experience with pretty much every form of abuse under the sun, I'm going to have a deeper understanding of why things are second-guessed, why there are suspected 'gray areas' (and I'm not saying they're there - I'd rather say they DON'T exist because to say there is one, allows for more room for self-doubt) and why certain things are a constant, continuous struggle and why healing seems so complicated at times.
    I know this Child Welfare class, once in full swing, is going to take a toll on my emotional state, mainly because I'm going to be reading about actual cases of abused children and in learning more about the variety of ways they were failed where they could have been HELPED, where they could have been SAVED, I'm going to hurt.  Over and over, I'm going to find myself either crying for them or wanting their abusers to pay a bigger price for their crimes.  If these pieces of shit are not on death row, scheduled to be executed, then they're not paying and they'll NEVER truly pay for the innocent life they've destroyed, but that's just my opinion.  NO ONE who hurts a child, or abuses another person in ANY WAY, deserves a mere slap on the wrist or to be walking free...but that is not my jurisdiction nor my choice to make.  This, like many other things, is out of my hands.
    My primary focus will be on helping those who HAVE suffered abuse at the hands of another - be it physical, mental, verbal, emotional, medical, elder, or sexual - and capitalizing on how I can help them to heal from these wounds.  It's my goal to show them that none of these marks, be they visible ones or otherwise, are their fault and that there is NO justifying abuse of any kind.  There's NO excuse for any of it.  My mission is to keep reminding others of that.  Every day for the rest of my life, if need be.  One man, woman, child, day, email, phone call, blog post at a time, in hopes that those cogs that surround me that are still grinding and stuck, will eventually begin to turn again, and that this system that is so fucking miserably broken will start to work as it should.   
    I'm sorry this blog entry was a bit on the deeper side, tonight - I just didn't expect to be re-acquainted with Lisa, and those children with stories like Lisa's, so soon.  Or maybe I did.  I AM going into social work, after all - did I really think this was going to be easy?  I guess I just need to brace myself because I am starting to see a whole lot of ugly that could have been prevented and need to be prepared to have these horror stories repeatedly thrown in my face.  Shit's getting real, and I'm hoping I made the right choice.  I can tell that this is just one of many future rants I may make on broken systems and perpetrators who deserve to die.
    In closing, a little advice for those of you who have been reading up until this point...(thank you, by the way!)
    Don't doubt yourself. If it feels wrong, it was wrong.  Don't minimize, or allow anyone else to tell you that what you've experienced was 'no big deal,' 'small,' or 'insignificant,' because that's NOT true.  Take a minute (or a few) to self-validate, to re-define, to tell yourself (repeatedly if needed) that your trauma was 100 percent real and that you deserve to be believed.  You deserve for your voice to be heard, no matter your age.  
    I know I said I was starting my 2020 eat-healthier plan this week, but that's going out the window; at least, for tonight.  I barely touched my dinner earlier, and now that I've purged all of the thoughts of the last couple of nights onto this page, I'm wanting to comfort-eat - and so, I shall.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to sleep tonight - it's been a battle with the tossy-turnies all week.  While I'm tired, I'm still not sleeping as well as I should be.  At this rate, going back to school could be easier to adapt to - or harder.  We'll see. 
    On that note, I'm wishing you all a good day/evening - depending on what part of the globe you're tuning in from.  My love and hugs to you all!
    - Capulet
  20. Capulet
    Hi friends!!
    I know it's been a while....I sincerely apologize for not taking the time (and there's been plenty of it) to fill everyone in on the happenings of my life.   It seems that any accompanying promise to try to be better at updating my blog is one that's become harder to keep, so I'll simply not promise - I will, however, try to re-embrace writing as a means of release.  Those of you who have gotten to know me over some time also know that writing is my biggest means of processing and working through whatever is needed, and I know that to not write means I've gone numb again.  Maybe though, the numbness is needed.
    I'm totally experiencing a writing drought.  I don't know what to say.  The words aren't coming to me.  I'm just sitting here, though, in hopes that once I start to write, that things will sort of dribble out.
    I also know that this will be my 100th blog entry.  I wanted my 100th entry to be something amazing.  I remember spending days working on my 50th, but that might've been a time when I had more to share, the thoughts flowed easier.  It is safe to say that since I last posted on March 26th, the stress has mounted and my life has become one that simply doesn't feel like my own.  
    In the beginning of April, both J and I developed COVID-19.  Because of the differences in our immune systems, my fiancee spent six days in the hospital and I recovered at home.  She had an extremely rough time with the virus.  As my symptoms were mild in comparison, I could not even begin to imagine how she felt.  I spoke a little bit about this experience to only my family, one of my closest school friends and a few of my AS friends, but for the most part, kept to myself.  I suppose this is typical of me, for I do not like to draw extra attention to myself or my problems.  I know we aren't dealing with anything to do with my trauma, (and truthfully, COVID is certainly a trauma all in itself) but still my ex's words replay in my brain: 'everyone has problems, nobody wants to hear about yours.'  Thankfully, at the point in time I'm in right now, these words weren't 'as loud' and I WAS able to allow for myself to share bits and pieces of the whole COVID ordeal with people I trusted.  They were good to me, too, and honestly, they've helped more than they know.  I AM glad I ignored my ex's voice; at least I'm in a place where this is somewhat easier to do.
    At the time of writing this, the pandemic is still ongoing.  It feels kind of 'old.'  The 'new normals' have left me feeling extremely disconnected and frustrated.  Most of you know by now that I was born with a hearing loss, one that has left me completely deaf in both ears (and the 'deaf/dead' typo almost just happened here, too, but I suppose it would be accurate - my ears ARE dead!) and I'm reliant on lip-reading others in order for in-person communication to occur.  The essential businesses are open, and we do have the freedom to go to the stores if we need something.  In the beginning, they only allowed for us to buy basics.  Food, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, medicine, etc.  Now, we're told we can go into stores and shop for other things, but masks are required.  I am unable to complete simple, easy tasks that I was able to before the pandemic began.  I cannot order food from either a take-out window or a drive-through - unless I have someone in the car with me to 'interpret' what the store/restaurant employee might be saying behind THEIR masks.  If I have a question at the grocery store ("excuse me, where do you keep your.....") I will usually bypass asking a masked employee.  I'll hunt the whatever it is down, myself.  Or, I just won't buy it.  Currently, I LOATHE the idea of having to go to the store - and so I don't.  I've not gone anywhere unless it was absolutely necessary.  
    See, pre-pandemic, I was never one to want to exercise social skills.  My idea of socializing was bowling league night twice per week, occasionally accompanying my fiancee to one of her friends' gatherings, or going to school.  OCCASIONALLY there was a meet up/study session/hallway conversation or classroom discussion with the one school friend that I've become friendly with, but even that's not something that is possible until this country is once again healthy.  But now that I've restarted school, I'd gotten used to getting out, to TRYING to develop better social skills, and now this happens and I'm feeling isolated again and even MORE disconnected than I was to begin with!
    There IS a silver lining, I suppose.  I'm going to go out on a limb and talk about school for a minute, though I'm sure that's not what ANYONE really wants to hear.  I'll keep it brief, though.  I still managed to finish my Spring 2020 semester with a 4.0, (and I didn't tell any of my instructors that I was sick and miserable, either) I realized that if I hope to graduate next Spring, I'll be needing to REALLY load up the courses during my senior year.  I would have been looking at a 15/18 credit load in the Fall and Spring.  Three of these classes were going to either bore me to tears or chance wrecking my GPA, being Biology (Anatomy), Research Methods and Macroeconomics.  These would have required sixteen weeks' worth of (snooze-worthy)  lectures, exams, labs, papers, headaches....three or more hours per week, for the duration of the semester.  So, naturally, I jumped on these when they became 'available' to take online over the summer.  One week after the Spring semester ended officially, I was taking Bio and Research Methods, and by mid-June, they were completed.  Now I am taking the Macroeconomics course for the next three weeks.  By the time the Fall semester begins, I'll have these nine credits out of the way and I'm now looking at a 12/12 credit Fall/Spring courseload; Spring being primarily internship/fieldwork.  I do know I would have failed miserably at the biology, for I've officially been out of that class for a month and I don't remember a damn thing!  Regardless, thanks to open-book exams, I managed to pull a B+ in Biology and an A- in the Research class.  
    Allright - no more school talk.  I WILL say though, on that front, things seem to be going well.  Hopefully, things will continue to go well, for now the upcoming Fall semester has been shifted to remote instruction.  
    Moving along, I cannot even begin to explain into detail the shit storm that I have been weathering for the last month.  And the clincher?  It hasn't even BEEN a full month!
    From previous blogs, you all know my mother, whom I affectionately (or not) refer to as Oompa.  It is a shortened version of Oompa Loompa, and my mother, a 4'9" italian lady, is a perfect likeness of Wonka's little minions - ESPECIALLY with the haircut.  Personality wise, she's also been compared to Marie Barone; many certainly know who she is, especially those TV watchers.  
    Anyway, before the kids' birthdays, I hadn't seen Oompa for four months.  I saw her last on March 8th.  Of course, as this is before we all experienced the lockdowns and the quarantines - she'd been chomping at the bit to get everyone together.  Around Father's Day is when they started to re-open things, and she planned to come out to visit for the kids' birthdays, and also because she was last here in the end of February and it certainly was her turn to come visit us. 
    We have a yearly plan for the kids' birthdays, which are back-to-back.  My ex will usually do our daughter's and I'll host the son's.  Our houses are within five miles of each other, so it's easiest for the out-of-towners to come for a couple consecutive days of barbecues, cakes and celebrations.  Usually the Oompa will stay at my house, and my father (we'll call him Lord Capulet) and his wife will come but usually stay at a hotel as they like to have their own space and to make a 'vacation' out of it.  Needless to say, this year, Lord Capulet was not leaving the safety of his home, and opted to send the kids Amazon gift cards.  My mother decided that since she'd not seen any of us for four months, that she would come for the kids' birthdays and stay for a few days.  'It'll be nice,' she said.  Laughable in hindsight...
    I couldn't even tell you ALL of what went down between the 3rd and the 7th - I'd be too pissed off to get through this entry this afternoon.  I WILL say that my mother has changed a LOT.  We always knew the Oompa to be extreme, but she was downright impossible this time around.  By the time she left, she'd managed to piss me off, my ex off, the kids off, and no one wanted her around.  Even my stepfather, the poor soul she'd been stuck in the house with for the last four months was left shaking his head and mumbling under his breath, 'she's different.  Treats me like shit.'  And I can't even argue with him, on that.  She DOES treat him like shit.  
    She finally went home on the 7th - I couldn't be rid of her soon, enough.  She left early in the morning and as soon as she pulled out of the driveway, J and I mimicked the stepdad and shook OUR heads.  WHAT the fuck was that?  She was complaining about my ex's neighbors (the couple that lived next door showed up to the daughter's barbecue with some food) not wearing masks - but at the same time, she'd been out earlier in the week with my sister - visiting a public BEACH.  She tried to downplay it by saying, 'well, I don't know where the neighbors have been!'   I responded in kind, and said, 'but you know where all those beachgoers had been?  How's this any different?  This is a private, backyard gathering of less than 20 people, and you've been out in public....'  No matter what I said or what ANYONE said, she was finding something to nit-pick on, to complain about.  It was absolutely unreal and I was at the point where I felt embarrassed by her.  Before leaving, she was sobbing and saying that she couldn't deal with being in isolation with 'the old man' - and this was an opportunity for her to NOT have to be isolated.  She's getting older, so her complaining instincts certainly have kicked in, (she hasn't yet hit 70) but still - COVID seems to have changed her as a person...and NOT for the better.  If you thought I couldn't stand her before, I certainly cannot stand her, NOW.  
    And as horrible as she was when she was here, here she also was, planning a small gathering for my youngest sister (which took place this past Friday) that was to resemble a 'sprinkle' since a full-on baby shower couldn't be planned at the time.  I'd be seeing her again less than two weeks from the time she'd left, and I honestly wasn't looking forward to seeing her again.  Not after the five miserable days she'd spent here, making my life a living hell.
    She went home.  But the shit storm still went on.
    I went to do some dishes on the night she'd left and realized we had no running water.  'Great,' I say, 'it's the well pump again...JUST what we need.'
    Not only was it the well pump, but it was also the WELL.  At risk of pissing myself off, I'll summarize and there will be some details left out here, too.  I'll start by saying that the plumbers who replaced the pump last year were here for five consecutive days, and I STILL do not have indoor plumbing right now.  It took nearly five grand (mostly LABOR) for them to come to the conclusion that our well has dried.  They had to replace the pump first, then we had water for a little while before it went out again.  Guy comes back out to discover that the filter was completely clogged with sediment.  Changes the filter, water comes back on for the hour he's there, then as soon as he leaves, water turns off again.  We call again on Monday (day after) and different guy shows up, filter's clogged up again.  MORE sediment and dirt basically.  NOT the way it's supposed to be.  Then this was a problem, then that was a problem.  They pull the pump out again, the head guy finally shows up and says, 'okay, you're out of water.'  We ask what's next, and they say 'we'll try hydrofracking.'  This essentially is the dropping of an air bomb down the well in hopes of it opening up 'veins' so that water flow into the well isn't obstructed.  If that doesn't work, we're going to have to dig an entirely new well.  And even better - the 'rig' is on another job that might take 2 weeks to complete before they'll be able to come and do the hydrofracking procedure.  He did promise he'd try to pull the rig sooner, but we've not heard anything since Friday.  In the meantime, if I want to shower, I have to go to either my neighbor's house or my ex's, and I have to fill up gallon jugs every day so that we have water to flush whenever someone uses the toilet.  
    J and I have been looking at houses on Zillow, but even to move away from this house seems like an overly emotional decision.  One that we likely shouldn't be making right now, especially having been here in this house for only three years.  It's been three years we've lived in this house, and we've replaced three well pumps, we've had two leaks in my son's room (his room is below the master bathroom, so we think it's the pipes/master shower that's leaking) and we've also had to replace the boiler following the blizzard of 2018 that knocked our power out for five days.  The back deck was looked at by the guy we called about my son's ceiling, and he confirmed the wood on the deck was beginning to rot, and that it was just a matter of time before it was disconnected completely from the house.  The tile in the kitchen isn't properly adhered, and we've gotten comments from many people who have come to 'fix' something - 'oh, that wasn't done properly...'  Yeah, no shit.  The person we bought this house from didn't live here.  He bought cheap and flipped it.  He only fixed things to make things look pretty, but completely disregarded the more pressing problems that became mine as soon as we closed on the house.  
    As mentioned above, the gathering for my sister was this past Friday.  I'd been kind of hinting to Oompa that there was simply too much going on right now.  No running water.  I'm agitated, moody, and frustrated.  I wasn't in the mood for socializing. I'm also still annoyed with her because of how she behaved when she was here - I'd been keeping my distance during the time between when she left here and when I'd see her again, but because Oompa owns my house, we've had no choice but to let her be involved with the whole process of getting the water back on - also she was the one who would be talking money with the head guy.  Anyway, as soon as she heard that the rig was two weeks out, she started with, "you should come stay with me for a few weeks...maybe Friday, you can stay for the weekend."
    Oh, FUCK, NO.  Hell, no.  Immediately, I added that to the list of abso-fucken-lutely not's.
    How the hell do you tell your mother that you don't miss her?  Like, AT ALL?  And after how she was acting when she was here for five days - did she REALLY think I wanted to go stay at her house?  I'd rather be in my waterless house!  I told her multiple times - no, I'm only coming on Friday for my sister - then I'm going home.  She, of course, complained there, too.  "Why? Why won't you let me comfort you?  Maybe when we are feeling this way, we need to stick with our families and not run away from them?"  
    I had to bite my tongue in order to refrain from saying something truly mean and hurtful, so I said again that I just wasn't in a good place and wasn't comfortable leaving my house the way it was, and truthfully one of my cats wasn't doing well.  (More about that later.)  I kind of was hoping that she'd turn around and tell me not to come to the 'sprinkle,' because, well, that's what I WOULD have done if the tables were turned.  Her gathering was for seven people.  Six if I didn't go.  And it was just a luncheon sort of thing, to take place at at restaurant that offered outdoor dining.  It'd be a two-hour drive each way, just to go to lunch, and I TRULY was not looking forward to going at all.  Every time I spoke to her, she'd make SOME kind of a reference to 'Friday.'  "Does H (the daughter)  want to come with you for the ride?  I know she's with you on Fridays!"  Or there was, "I'm getting rid of a computer chair - does R (the son) want it? I'll give it to you on Friday!"  She wasn't budging, AT ALL.  I was going to be seeing her on Friday, whether I fucking wanted to or not.   
    So, on Friday, I got up early.  She texted before I even left the house.  Asked if I had left yet.  I told her I was about to.  She asked about the cat.  I told her in a last ditch effort for her to free me of the obligation to show up, that the cat was not going to last much longer.  She didn't.  She instead said, "when I pass away, I'll look over them for you."  Yes, she really, REALLY said that.  I wanted to scream at her at this point, but instead, I told her I'd see her soon, put my phone into my pocket.  Loaded the daughter and her devices into the car and headed out.
    About halfway there, I got pulled over.  The daughter was giggling in the car, because I might have unleashed a string of obscenities (knowing me, I did) as soon as I saw the flashing lights behind me.  The (masked) officer told me that I apparently was speeding, even though if you ask me, I was going 'with traffic.'  I will be honest and say I don't know how fast I was going, because I was truly, at this point, in autopilot mode.  I was thinking about how much I smelled, how much I wanted a shower, how sad I was about the cat seemingly being in her end-of-life transition, would the son actually feed her and take care of her like I'd asked him to?  I was thinking about how pissed off I was to be making this drive, going to a luncheon that I truly didn't feel like going to, and because once again, my mother was making EVERYTHING about herself.  All of these thoughts were swirling, and I TRULY wasn't paying attention to my speedometer.  All I could manage was, 'I'm sorry.'  He took my paperwork and walked back to his patrol car, and the daughter immediately starts texting...my guess, every single one of her friends, on every single one of her social media platforms.  She's got FB, she's got Instagram, she's got Snapchat, Tik Tok and Twitter.  "OMG, MY MOM GOT PULLED OVER...."  At least she was amused.  I on the other hand, was not.  
    After being let off with a warning to 'slow down,' (the cop was actually nice to me) I showed up to my other sister's (the non-pregnant one) house with a backpack of clothes.  Took a shower there.  Spent a few minutes with my niece and nephew (and this was truly the highlight of the day) and then we all went to the luncheon.  We came back to my sister's, I loaded up my car with the computer chair Oompa had promised to send the son, and then it took me almost THREE and a half hours (including having to turn around because I'd forgotten my backpack at my sister's and Friday night traffic) to get home.  
    And if all of that wasn't enough - the cat who wasn't doing well - passed away yesterday morning.  She was fifteen years old and sick.  She had hypothyroidism, and her rapid-decline started earlier this week.  She followed in her mama's footsteps, pretty much to the letter...stopped eating, stopped drinking, stopped using the litter pan, started isolating herself in strange spots.  Eventually she had no energy to stand or walk and whenever she tried, there was an agonized meow.  This was hard to watch - especially having seen all of these same things with my Moxie earlier this year, and a part of me is truly glad she did not suffer long.  I do think, though, as she had an OBSESSION with running water, that not having any for almost two weeks now has contributed to her mental deterioration as well.  I did provide her with cold water in a bowl, but it's as if she'd completely lost any/all of her will to fight, and she wouldn't drink it.  She is now resting peacefully next to her mother (Moxie) in the yard.  
    Also in my yard is about 450-500 feet of well pump/wires, laid out and waiting to be dealt with.  Because those are there, I cannot really mow the grass in the back.  Not a big loss, but I also will not be mowing as long as I cannot run inside and shower immediately after cutting the grass.  
    It was 91 today, it'll be 97 tomorrow - a sweat-buckets kind of day.  I'll be starting week two of my class and for the most part, will be staying inside. 
    I still don't know when the 'rig' will be showing up and my faith in that it'll be here before two weeks is dwindling.  The hydro-whatever the hell it is,  is not a guaranteed solution - it's simply something that they're going to try.  If it doesn't work, we'll be needing a new well.  And that's likely to be double the cost, and God knows how MUCH longer I will be out of water while they dig!
    This also happened on the Wednesday after the Oompa left, but the son came upstairs and said, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news," and proceeded to show us his ceiling.  His room is directly underneath my master bathroom, and there's a 'bubble' there, directly above his bed.  So, apparently, there's a leak somewhere.  We had a leak there last year, but it's since been patched up.  We called the guy who fixed it last year, only to have him show up last Monday and tell us that he couldn't fix the leak until we had running water, so that he could see where the leak was coming FROM.  
    You REALLY can't make this shit up.  I've lived in my house for three years - and in three years, we've had three broken well pumps (now we know WHY the pumps were breaking - there isn't enough WATER for it to pump!), a broken boiler, two leaks in the son's ceiling, a broken refrigerator, a dishwasher that doesn't actually CLEAN the dishes (possibly because the water pressure was NEVER good to begin with), two power outages lasting 5 days long, we've lost three cats - two to old age, one to....a fluke?  The daughter is convinced that our house is cursed and that we should move back to New York. That's not happening, though.  I WILL say, though, it's VERY, VERY hard to love my house, right now, or even to look at it as 'home.'  Rather, this house is a relentless money pit that doesn't like any of us.
    So...that's what all is up and has been going on.  I'll be fine - I'm just exhausted, frustrated, and emotionally drained.  But as I'm used to just sucking it up and going on, that's what I'll do, now too.  It just feels like - when it rains, it pours.  When it pours, the damned roof springs a leak.  (Not exactly what's going on, here, but you get the idea.)
    Anyway, thank you all for listening to me ramble.  I do hope all of you are doing well and are having an easier time conforming to the new normals and social distancing rules.  We are still in the middle of some very uncertain times and it's my hope that everyone this reaches is doing the best they can do, given the circumstances we're all having to live with.  A special, specific shout-out to those dear friends of mine who continue to check up on me and send words of kindness and motivation - it's very needed right now. 
    Love y'all.
    ❤️, , 
    - Cap
    (update: 8/8/20 - we've got water!  We've had it for a week, already, but the way my luck's been going, I didn't want to make any premature announcements!)
  21. Capulet
    The motivation for this entry has come from several different directions.  There is much I've seen, heard, and felt in the past week.  I debated whether this should be a motivational post or a blog entry, but it's possible it'll be both.  I'm undecided for the moment, so figured I'd at least write it out, first.
    Most of us envision healing as a non-linear path we take on foot; a muddied, beaten, track that is not without obstacles and hinderances along the way.  'One foot in front of the other,' we hear all the time.  I know.  I SAY it all the time.  It's something we all have to keep in mind when we embark upon that journey that is healing.
    Sometimes, though, (more than sometimes, if I'm being honest) we'll reach an impasse.  It becomes evident that next step that one must take is gonna hurt.  If not painful, it'll at the very least, be uncomfortable.  
    Now, we can choose to do one of a few things at this point.  
    We can pretend it's not there and plod on - it'll hurt and it'll sting and it'll SUCK.  Eventually, you're going to wear yourself down, and potentially feel worse than you have to.  This'll take an enormous toll on you in every which way - physically, emotionally, mentally.  
    We can sit idle and hope the obstacle goes away on its own.  We have time, right?  Anything could happen.  It's like sitting in highway traffic on Rt. 80 during the holiday season.  You simply wait until the road ahead is cleared of whatever's in the way, and only then will we proceed.  We can only begin to imagine what the problem might be with this option, as there are no guarantees on a time frame that we may be able to resume the process.
    We can kick that little obstacle a little bit further ahead, only to be faced with it again later.  We can and we will and we have done that.  Delaying the inevitable is still going to slow the process down, but sometimes it's what's needed in order to keep ourselves focused on what we CAN do while that underlying problem still remains intact.
    Those things that hinder our progress aren't always obvious.  We know they're there, but we only understand being 'stuck.'  There's something there, something in the goddamn way, and until it's identified, understood and removed, we're gonna be in that uncomfortable limbo position.  It will literally be that pebble in our shoe that makes moving on less appealing.  
    I know this is hardly the same, but a small, yet amusing example:
    Some of you may not know this about me, but I don't give a shit if it's 100 degrees outside - I have a very, VERY specific sleep pattern.  I have TWO comforters, and in order to sleep, I must bury myself underneath both comforters, from my earlobes to my toes.  I NEED to do the leg-out, covers-off, covers-back-on deal an indeterminate amount of times every night.  Rationally, I know I'm going to be hot and sticky - but it's how I'm most comfortable, wrapped up like a burrito when I'm trying to fall asleep.  I don't see this changing any, either, so I'll dare not try and modify my blanket set-up any.
    So, I've been wearing this amazingly comfortable, WAY-too-big pair of sweatpants to lounge around and then to sleep in.  They're roomy, they're SO warm and I'm usually upset when I have to take them off because I can't wear them in public, at risk of tripping over the bottoms and face-planting at inconvenient moments.  Anyway, these sweats + my two comforters + our heat usually running = sweat pouring off my body several times during the night, and being unable to fall and STAY asleep.  I couldn't figure this out for the life of me - WHY I couldn't sleep...what's changed?  Sure, I'm on a soon-ending hiatus from school, so I'm not yet in walking zombie mode...but I've been going to bed VERY late, too.  I've been TRYING to get back into get-up-early mode, but failing miserably.  I'm going to be paying the price on Tuesday morning, but it's likely going to have to happen.  But what else has changed....remains the question.
    It's the damn pants, isn't it?  I was sleeping FINE before the pants were discovered in an old bin of winter clothes!  Damn the pants.  But I LOVE the pants!
    I finally whipped the covers off, got up, and took them off this morning after only sleeping an hour and a half and replaced them with thinner-than-paper flannel bottoms - they're flannel, but they're still extremely thin in comparison to my favorite loungers...and I was able to sleep for the next four hours.  I'll also test the pants theory later tonight when it's bedtime - if I'm wearing them, (and I probably will be) I will take them off and replace them with shorts or these skimpy flannels and see if it makes any difference in my ability to fall and stay asleep!
    Like I said, I know this is not a very good comparison to some of those other issues that many of us struggle with on a regular basis, but it IS somewhat of a demonstration of how to first, identify the problem, and then to get rid of it so that you can improve another aspect of your life.  In my case, it'd be improving on sleep, which, I imagine, will set off a chain reaction and ultimately improve my overall mood and energy levels!  
    These pebbles can be anything, too.  They can be a toxic person, whether living or dead, whose voice you hear constantly, telling you that you're unworthy of happiness.  They can be a thought or an idea.  They can be a feeling.  In my case, they can be those cackling, annoying skeletons that have been following me for over 20 years, clattering their bones as a persistent reminder that they still exist, and while life has gone on, they'll not entirely disappear.  They aren't the bad kind of skeletons, either - I've done nothing terrible, so no worries.  No, these are the guys who laugh whenever I say that I've got everything under control and that I've done all the healing I'm supposed to do.  That's when the bag of bones is rattled, as to say, "we're here when you're ready!"
    I'm just as guilty as the rest of you on this, guys - I've been sort of hopping between #2 and #3 on the list of options mentioned above - I've done an enormous amount of healing, but there's definitely a pebble in my shoe.  Or one of those round, spiky things that fall from trees....what the hell are those called, anyway?  (Ahhhh....Sweet Gum Balls - I just Googled.)  There's clearly an impasse, and while some of these pebbles (one looking a whole lot like the wasband's bald 'Mr. Clean' head) are beyond my control, there are indeed things that are manageable in the meantime, if only I'd just sit down, pull off my shoe, remove the pain-in-the-ass pebble, investigate it, and eventually be able to chuck it after I've determined that it's not going to be something I allow to impede my progress, anymore. The shoe goes back on and the journey resumes.
    It would seem that there's a whole lot that I haven't worked on, but we knew that, already.  I've just got to decide on an option (#2?  #3?) and stick with it.  And it feels almost....I dunno....hypocritical to be a social worker who hasn't finished working on herself, first.  I guess #3 seems to be the more appealing option, if I promise myself (and those fucking skeletons) that I'll pay attention to the other things, too.  I know I owe it to myself and to whomever I come into contact with, to own those pebbles and to contribute to the growing collection of 'chucked' stones that no longer stand in the way of our personal growth.
    So, I'm interested in hearing what some of your pebbles might represent....and how you're going about the process of getting rid of them.  What's holding you back from taking that next step?  Can it be kicked ahead?  Is it worth pausing over?  Can it be something you carry along with you at risk of overwhelming yourselves?
    Something to think about, anyway.  I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to hit up the comments.   I'm also going to post excerpts from this blog in Healing Tips & Inspiration, so feel free to participate there, if you're more a board person than a blog person!  
    We got this, guys.  Let's get rid of some damn rocks!
    Sending all of you healing hugs and only the best of vibes.  I'll be back next week, with resumed (although I'll try not to let it overtake) school-related blogs.  I'm sure I'm going to have a lot of pebble accumulation in my new sneakers before I know it - because clearly, majoring in social work is something that is definitely going to open my eyes to a lot of shit.  But, maybe it'll force me to confront some of those grinning skulls.  Once and for all.
    Until next time - sending love!
    - Capulet
  22. Capulet
    Hello from me in isolation - how's everyone doing?  It's the first time I'm blogging whilst in quarantine - you'd think I have all the time in the world, but even I'm having trouble getting used to a routine that I have no choice but to conform to for the time being.
    We are amid some very hard times, friends.  Very uncertain and very unsettling times.  I've taken several steps back from Facebook and only check my feed once or twice a day - all of the COVID-19 jokes are starting to become annoying.  I know humor is a popular and effective means of coping - I've used it on MANY occasions when I'd rather not cry.  But I've seen enough.  I don't watch the news....something said today won't be the same, tomorrow.  Everything is changing, and NOTHING is consistent.  We are on a lockdown, only allowed to leave our homes if the need arises for 'essentials.'  Even so, one must not dally about; it's right back home, after you've gotten whatever you need.  Local law enforcement has started to impose a $2000 fine for anyone caught out after a certain time of day - and they're not either coming home from or going to work.
    Now, those of you who know me well know that I am by NO means a social butterfly.  I'll go out of my way to avoid large group settings, I'll sit by myself in the cafeteria or student center (when I'm actually able to go to classes) and I'd rather watch movies at home on a Saturday night.  I'm not into clubbing, partying, or drinking....my 'scene' is slow-paced, and yes, I've been told it's boring.  But, it's still my preference, as I believe that when I was created, I was meant to later become the poster child of an introvert.  There's no other explanation for it.  
    Now, my mother is the complete opposite.  She's sixty-six years old and puts my ass to shame.  Seriously - you cannot have a ten-minute conversation with her without her phone going off at least a half-dozen times - and that's if she answers long enough to say, "I'll call you back!"  Granted, half the time, it's one of my sisters enlisting her babysitting services, but the rest of the calls are from her 'groups,' - that is, her various types of gatherings....the group of ladies that she goes into the city with every month to see a new Broadway show, the DIFFERENT group of equally as annoying female senior citizens that live in her retirement community that she has luncheons with every few weeks, or there's another group of women that all grew up on the same Brooklyn street fifty to sixty years ago that she insists upon reconnecting regularly with, and if they 'hit it off further,' planning vacations with.  I don't think my mother knows the name of ANY of my current friends, and the fact that I can identify hers by phone number is scary.
    So, you can imagine how she's coping with having to stay indoors.  With my stepfather, too.  Now, don't get me wrong.  He's not a bad guy.  He's kind, he's compassionate, and he's very giving.  He's been a part of my life since I was five - and he's someone I'm honored to call my second father.  He just does. not. stop. talking.
    My mother's terrible to him.  She'll tell him to shut up, and she'll dismiss him - the guy just likes to talk, he likes to converse, he likes being social.  She does too - just not with her husband. 
    Anyway, she's decided to take on the project of dismantling family photo albums this week.  She's on lockdown, too...she COULD go to the store for grocery replenishment if she wanted to, but she is also convinced that because she's older and has diabetes and other underlying health issues that she's going to contract the Coronavirus before she makes it out of her own driveway.  We've all told her that she needs to not feed into the panic, mostly media-caused, and to just keep a safe distance and keep her hands clean - but she chooses to keep herself shielded completely by staying behind locked doors and has tasked my brother-in-law with bringing her weekly groceries and toilet paper, if any can be located.  
    So, here we have a VERY bored Italian lady going through photos of us girls from when we were small.  A couple of times, she'd mistaken me for my youngest sister - and told my sister to ask her husband what he thought of a picture of me with my stepfather, thinking that it was actually my sister with HER father.  My sister, who works at a hospital, comes back with, "Um....Ma, that's not me."  She sends a photo of herself holding an infant me - with the date '1979' on the bottom of the polaroid.  "Who am I holding, here?' she asks.  I tell her that if we are to take the date written on the bottom as a clue, then that baby would be me.  She sent pictures of us wearing easter dresses and bonnets and Halloween costumes and vacation photos, pics of us with the family dog, until my middle sister got snippy and said, "Ma, it's 11:00pm....let's resume the picture sharing tomorrow."
    And tomorrow - at this point, yesterday, arrived.  I was working on some classwork and she chimes in with a photo of me on an amusement park ride - it was the Swing ride - don't know what it's called - but it's the ride where you sit in a swing (among other swings) and like a carousel, it spins you around.  This was a pretty good picture, though, and you could only see my silhouette - the ride was in motion and I was swinging across a sunset.
    "VERY nice shot," I told her, "too bad that moment will never be relived!"  I simply meant that my rump won't fit into that size swing anymore, but she seemingly was inspired to ask an entirely different question.
    "Maybe not that same experience, but what would you do over if you could?"
    It took me a few minutes to actually process her question.  My mother doesn't talk like that.  Granted, by now, she'd been talking a little cray-cray for a few days, already, but this was just WEIRD.
    "It doesn't do any good to dwell on the what-if's," I told her.  Sure, there's plenty of shit I wish I could do-over.  Choices I'd love to un-make.  We all have them.  I just wasn't sharing those details with my mother; I'd made the decision not to many years ago.  I wasn't about to start now.
    "There has to be something."
    I scrambled for a bit, then said, "I guess I'd change who I married," and then added, "But I don't regret what came out of that marriage."
    "Of course, not," she says, and then says, "My one regret was not forcing you to go to your first choice college."
    More weirdness.  And to hear that her one regret is that she was unable to FORCE me to do something that I obviously didn't want to do - well, yeah, you can imagine how well this was sitting with me.  I knew already how manipulative my mother was and is - I just hadn't realized that she'd been criticizing and judging my choices for all of these years.  And that THIS, of all things, was something she was regretting at that very moment. It was just seeming so...unusual.   
    "What are you talking about, Ma?"
    "They offered you a scholarship and you turned them down because you didn't want to dorm.  And I listened to you - I let you go to the community college, instead.  Your life could have and would have unfolded differently had you gone to the private university."
    "I didn't want to go to the other college," I insisted.  And I didn't.  Yes, it did have to do with the dorming.  I'd never been away from home and the idea of being far from family was unsettling - especially since back then, I STILL was not a social butterfly and being surrounded by people I didn't know was NOT a feeling that I was looking forward to.  This was pre-rape, so my reasons for self-isolation were more deafness-related than trauma-related.  And, ya know - she MAY be right - my life perhaps WOULD have unfolded had I not gone to the community college, but I stand by what I told her in the beginning of this conversation - it does NO GOOD to dwell on what could have been!
    "I could have made you go," texts back my mother.  Wow.  Such confidence!
    "No," I said, "I was just as stubborn back then as I am now.  You weren't going to win that battle."  (And I was getting pretty fucking pissed off at this point...I was THISCLOSE to texting one of my sisters and asking where the fuck her sanity had gone.)  I texted again, "Not going to that college is not one of my regrets."
    "Okay," she says, quite obviously disappointed that I wasn't feeding into this idea any further.  "I'm glad."
    "Isn't it what the Catholics believe, Ma?" I said, "that we're all born with a pre-destined script and that he has a plan for us all? And that before he sends us to Earth, we've also got an expiration date that only he knows, stamped across our ass?  Whatever happens to us in life is all for a reason?"
    "Yes, it is!"  She says.  She probably was excited to hear me make a religious reference.  I wasn't about to engage into a debate on this because y'all know that while I believe in there being a God, I'm really not one to put much stock into the Catholic teachings.  I believe in karma.  Treat people well, with respect and kindness - and don't murder anyone regardless of how frustrated with them you may be - you should be fine if you keep these basic, common sense rules on how to be a decent human being in mind.  
    Anyway - I told her I had a good life.  And I do.  I truly believe that while I've had some horrible shit happen to me that I'm never going to forget, I've experienced joy, I've got what I need, and I am, for the most part, healthy.  I think that there's truth to the idea that every single human being experiences some form of trauma within their lifetimes - trauma on multiple levels and scopes, and that some are more difficult to recover from than others - but still - we're all going to face struggles and trials and experience fear and despair - that's a given, no matter what.  I'm also inclined to believe that trudging through the bad times is what teaches us to embrace and appreciate the good times more.
    Didn't mean to get philosophical, but perhaps this is what isolation does to me.  Hopefully having extra time to think and process (and write) is a harmless means of coping and that my sanity (or loss of) is not in danger of mirroring my mother's.  I don't know how long this lockdown is going to last, but I'm hoping that for the time being, I've seen the last of her deep questions.
    Anyway, it's late - I'm seemingly back to turning in after at least 2:30 in the morning, given the shift in schedule and not having to wake up early for 8am classes.  I know - this isn't ideal at my age - or anyone's age, for that matter.  My body just refuses to try out that thing called 'uninterrupted sleep.'  I've heard of it, but it doesn't seem to apply to me.  Last night, I was in bed at three, didn't fall asleep until after four-thirty, then was up at seven - took me another hour and change just to FALL back asleep - (I wasn't getting outta bed, even though my body was urging me to...I won this battle, too) and finally, I threw the covers off a little bit after 11....  
    That being said, I'm ready to see how long tonight takes.  
    Be well, friends - keep washing your hands and adhering to social distancing recommendations.  I know it's hard and it sucks, but the longer people ignore the warnings and delay the containing of this bullshit virus, the longer it's going to be until we can all resume normalcy...I know that's preferred any day.  Hang in there and stay safe.
    Sending those of you who want 'em virtual huggles.
    - Capulet 
  23. Capulet
    It's been a rough, ROUGH few weeks.  I'm not really wanting to rehash on things and put too many details here, but I did want to let everyone know that things have been stressful and difficult as of late.  I'm still around, though, no worries!!!  It seems that no matter what's happening in my life, this remains my safe space, the place where I feel most comfortable, and where I 'escape.'  
    I know I've been extremely neglectful to my blog, my and to my kitchen sink, among other things.  I've managed to autopilot through, though, and am starting to see some semblance of normalcy; it's been a while since there has been 'sunshine,' both literally and figuratively speaking.  Some of my closest friends here already know a little bit about what's been going on in my life, and they have been absolutely amazing.  My heartfelt thanks to those of you who were never without a kind word and those who have checked in or sent pick-me-ups my way.  I'm a very fortunate woman, to know you and to call you friends!
    So, when it rains, it pours...there's a hell of a lot of truth to that statement.  And when it's pouring out and things keep coming at you like those balls being whipped at you in the batting cages - you learn to compartmentalize and to recognize what you can handle now and what you should tuck away for later.
    Now that the storm has passed (somewhat) and the weather is becoming nicer and more bearable, I'm taking a peek at what's been in the back pocket of my brain for a few weeks.  There's not TOO much in there due to my trying to tackle everything else that was coming at me at once - some things couldn't be put away.
    As many of you know, I'm finishing up my junior year at the University (been back for a year, after taking a hiatus!) and I'm just a few classes shy of my bachelor's in Social Work.  I'm taking a Child Welfare class and it's taught by an excellent professor.  The guy is knowledgeable, he engages, he's not boring, he keeps our attention - and that's not easy to do at 8 o'clock in the morning.  Anyway, in preparation for our midterm, he was kind enough to reveal what one of the essay questions would be.
    "Identify the four types of child abuse and describe the indicators and signs that point to each."
    I mean, some of this - it's a no-brainer.  You have your physical abuse cases (seeing burns, bruises, welts and spiral fractures on a child's body and the child's account most often not being consistent with the story the marks tell), there's neglect, which is marked by the child's appearace at times - the child who rummages through trash because they're hungry and are in search of food, the child who is unkempt or inappropriately dressed (flip-flops in December?) is likely not getting what he or she needs at home.  Emotional and mental abuse struck a chord for me for obvious reasons - although I was older when experiencing this type of abuse at the hands (and mouth) of my husband, it would be easy for me to spot signs of emotional distress in a child.  The emotionally abused child will often verbally put themselves down, chastise themselves, minimize their self-worth, all reflective of what they perhaps hear from adults they trust.
    I paid the most attention to the fourth 'type' of abuse - sexual abuse.  I've not said much in class during these discussions - I'd chosen to just sit, listen, observe.  I was fearful of what I'd hear were indicators of this - because for a long time, I've been holding onto the belief that I was sexually abused as a child.  I'd LOVE to not believe it, but based on what I do know of myself and my behaviors as a kid, I can't discount any of it.  I wondered to myself - what signs was everyone else missing?  What was ignored?  Was I that good at hiding secrets, that even as a child, I showed no indication that something was wrong?  
    The professor did talk about physical signs - those signs aren't always accurate, though - some can be confused for physical abuse (not that sexual abuse isn't physical, because it is - but a flinching child or a child afraid of an adult could truthfully point to either) and some can be attributed to one of the other types as well - and as children don't normally show up to school with their private areas exposed, sexual abuse is by far one of the most overlooked of abuse types.
    There is one indicator, though, and according to the esteemed professor - it is the number one sign that a child has been sexually abused.
    Anyone care to venture a guess as to what that sign is?
    Okay, I'll tell you.  I didn't get it right away, either, for the record.  I guess I never really sat down to think about it because I never had to - but in preparation for getting my degree, I've had to take a good, hard look at a lot of things.  I wasn't planning to pursue working with children, and I think I'm understanding now why there might be some (unconscious) hesitation there.  It all makes more sense, now.
    Without further ado - the number one sign is - 'a child who has an advanced knowledge of or is demonstrating sexual behavior at an age where they would not normally have it or do so.'
    I wanted to shake my professor's hand at the end of class and say, "I can't tell you what for, but thank you!!!!"
    He validated me and he doesn't even know it.  Although I still have no memory to support my suspicions, he made them a little more true.  I'm still not sure what to do with this - perhaps it's going back into that pocket from which it arrived, especially now that I know and understand that these signs weren't missed...they were ignored.  My mother saw them when she witnessed (and scolded me for) behaviors that she told me were 'inappropriate' and dirty.  I was seven.  Or eight.  How the hell else would I have known the things I was doing if something hadn't happened?  A kid doesn't learn these things without some sort of exposure.  A social worker saw the signs, too, when the 'dolls' did sexual things to each other.  She asked questions, there was an investigative process but nothing came of that, either.
    I dunno, guys.  
    I kinda hoped that there was some truth to me being a 'dirty' child.  Or that I was just crazy and imaginative enough to make things up.  Even being a kid that had something wrong with her was an easier concept to grasp, because it would mean I wasn't a bad kid...and that the REASON I did these things was because I was crazy, or just...smart enough to 'discover' certain sexual behaviors on my own...  
    Anyone I've spoken to about these things is most likely a survivor themselves.  "Something did happen," they all say, "you didn't make this up..."  Don't get me wrong - I do believe it - but there was always that tiny sliver of hope that I was wrong and that there was a misunderstanding or misinterpretation somewhere.
    To hear this information from a non-survivor (as far as I know) and a professional....a teacher TELLING future social workers what to look at when trying to identify child sexual abuse...this has made it....different, somehow. 
    Surprisingly, I'm not triggered.  I'm almost relieved, in a sense.  It's a very hard feeling to explain, but perhaps I will be able to at a later time.  I wanna say I'm angry, but it is not yet at the point where I'm feeling enraged.  It's still a feeling of fizzing disgust - and mostly at certain people who were in my life, saw these very obvious signs, and did nothing.  I've already, in my mind, held those 'players' accountable - even if I've not said anything to them (and with good personal reasons for not doing so) or shared with them what I DO remember.  My suspected abuser is dead, now.    Perhaps this can be looked at as an act of divine intervention - as I'll never get any confirmation from a pedophile who was buried last summer - maybe this was something I needed to hear in order to make peace with it, even in a small way.
    I will say though, I'm glad social work professionals today are smarter and more thorough than the ones that existed back in the 80s.  It's RIDICULOUS how much was missed, or even ignored back then.  
    I've just received word that my spring break has been extended another week due to the University's taking precaution over the mass hysteria caused by the COVID-19 outbreak - they are still having faculty come in but delaying students' return until March 23rd.  Staff will be exploring the possibilty of continuing classes remotely if the need arises.  So, the week that I mentally missed, (I still went to classes even though my head wasn't with it, but that was strictly for attendance purposes) I now have back and will utilize it in order to catch up as best as I can. I'll be spending some time with my word processor, research engines, and $25 bottles of hand sanitizer.  So - back to the grind on the two papers that were due when we returned from spring break.  No extensions have been granted on those as of yet, so I'm back to working on those under the assumption that they're still due on the established due dates.  
    I did want to post something here, though, as it's been a while since I let my words flow.  It ALWAYS does make me feel a little better when I've done so - and as expected, I'm feeling calm and more able to focus on the things that are still sitting in front of me.  
    I'm hoping everyone is doing well and is staying safe and germ-free!!!    My thoughts are always with you!
    Peace, love and hugs,
    - Capulet
  24. Capulet
    So, let's assume that Ny-Quil and Melatonin have teamed up with one very important mission in mind - 'twas the night before Spring semester started, and someone (let's call her, 'Cap') needed to undo six weeks' worth of habitual going-to-bed-at-3am-every-night damage.  And let's also assume that EVEN this late at night, it takes Cap roughly an hour to FALL asleep and then STAY asleep for more than three or four hours at a time.  It has also been pre-determined that neither member of Team Sleep Aid could get the job done by themselves...
    Melatonin (Mel) went in first, at exactly midnight - and when she found herself overwhelmed by those brain cells (carrying pitchforks, I'm sure) that refused to shut up and allow her to work her calming, soothing magic, her buddy Ny-Quil, (whom she calls 'Quill') followed, thirty minutes later, in hopes of combatting the army of 'Stay-Awakes' that have taken up residence in Cap's brain.  (How dare they, they don't pay rent!)
    So, are you wondering yet if the duo got the job done?
    No, they didn't.  It would seem that their very worthy adversary (Nerves) won last night. Only two to three hours total of sleep was achieved by Cap, who tossed and turned for several hours as Mel and Quill's efforts were pitiful against the very dominant Nerves, before finally succumbing into a very light slumber, and who was wide awake before the sun dared peek through the blinds and before the alarm clock had the audacity to go off and ruin the rest of the day.  (Those of you who have ever had a bed-shaker alarm clock know exactly what I mean.  If you don't, take my word for it.)
    Nerves, who had made the mistake of reading a policies class syllabus before bed.  Nerves, who could only begin to wonder what she'd be walking into as she now has new routines to become used to.  Nerves, who, while she isn't the praying type, hoped there wouldn't be any communication barriers of any kind, that all three sets of instructor lips were easy to read and that there would be no handlebar moustaches.  Nerves, who has also reserved a fair amount of herself for tomorrow morning's Astronomy class - (what if she can't find the Planetarium, despite her son's very wise advice to search for the dome atop the Science building and align herself under it??) the one class she's deathly afraid of becoming the American Government equivalent when it comes to interest.  That Nerves. 
    The same Nerves that kicked both Mel's and Quill's asses last night - is now ready to fight, again.  I will say, though, that as today's 'first day' went well, that Nerves is significantly weakened and the Stay-Awakes are becoming tired.  In fact, THEY might be sleeping!
    Tonight, Mel is on the bench, taking a break.  We don't need to come at 'em as strongly, I don't think.  Quill is suited up, and ready to go in. 
    Round two, here we go.....check back tomorrow for the results!
    (Yes, go ahead, laugh.  I AM trying to be funny!  I know we've had a few serious entries as of late, so hopefully this one will make you smile a little bit.)
    Good night, all.
    - Cap
  25. Capulet
    Whether we're talking about hindsight or vision, it seemed right to title this blog with something that's coming for us all. 
    I'm SO ready for 2019 to be over.  How 'bout you?
    While there have been some redeeming moments that it'd be unfair to acknowledge, this year has been overall shitty.  There has been more sadness than happiness, more frustration than there have been genuine smiles, and more tears than....well, you get the picture.  I've gained weight, I'm experiencing pain and discomfort in two areas of my body that I'm having to get checked out by a doctor before school starts back up, and both my heart and soul have taken a beating many times over during 2019.  Physically, my ticker is still pumping but it's been through the wringer.  While things have improved, I have emotionally taken significant damage and this tear may take longer to repair.  I haven't been 'myself,' lately, but have been trying to come back to who I was - and as a bonus, be BETTER than who I was last year.  Steps have been taken and the path is paved; I've just got to keep going. In order to do so, I need to slam the door on 2019 and step into 2020 with a renewed outlook.  I need to set my goals and stick to them, I need to not lose sight of what I want (and we ALL know how easy it is to do that) and I need to take care of myself.  That's one major problem I had this year - I let myself go, physically, emotionally, mentally.  I don't know how I managed to keep it together, but...SHIT, it wasn't easy!  I know what I need to work on, and I know how to do it....now I've just gotta commit to it!
    The stage was kind of already set for the holidays to be, by default, crappy.  My mother was starting her shit after Halloween was over with, on who was going where for Christmas Eve, my fiancee planned (last year) to be out of town for Christmas this year, and I was already dreading the idea of being alone this year.  And again, there were a few rare moments where there was joy, but for the most part, each day leading up to Christmas has left me wanting to isolate - and I did.  I didn't want to be near anyone, didn't want to talk, I didn't want my 'bah-humbug's' to affect those who actually enjoy the 'happiest time of the year.'  (Whoever coined Christmas to be this - is deluded, I tell you - because 'happiest' doesn't quite fit!)  Even after Christmas was over - it didn't feel like it was 'over.'  The sourness and bitterness lingered on - and it might, until I effectively dismantle the tree, take down my garlands that I effortlessly threw across the mantle, pull down the lights from the one window I hung them in, and throw everything up into the attic until next year's Black Friday.  I actually wanted to do all of this on the 26th, but as my mother decided to come visit for my birthday yesterday, I left them up so that she could enjoy the Christmas decor before I ripped it all down and tossed it all, along with the rest of 2019.
    I've literally had NO time to myself for the last week.  For the beginning part, I did - I spent much of it alone.  In a daze, kinda just...existing.  "Is it over, yet?" played over and over in my head, while just going through the motions and not really investing in all of the festivities.  It was more of like, a chore, than anything else.  My wife spent Christmas with her family out-of-state, and I chose to stay behind so that I could be there with my kids.  I was having guests on Christmas Eve, so I cleaned.  I cooked.  None of it was for me.  It was all for my kids and my ex - because when he's happy, the kids are cooperative and generally, everything goes smoother.  I know I spoke about our holiday arrangements in an earlier blog and it's the same, year after year...I sacrifice a LOT during the holidays so that my kids can have both their parents present.  It is VERY rarely what I want it to be, and this year was no different - it was just MUCH harder, with my better half not even being present.
    Having everyone over for Christmas Eve was similar to setting a kitchen timer and counting down the minutes before everything was over with.  I threw myself into an end-year pause; because I really didn't want to feel.  I just watched everyone else enjoy, I fake-smiled my way through it.  Inside, though, there was a huge, significant void.  I was hurting, and I was sobbing, but I'd be damned if I let anyone see that.  I just told myself that once it was over, I could just 'flush' it all and hope for the best next year.
    The holidays just weren't something I wanted to deal with this year, but alas, there's simply no choice where that's concerned - they show up every year, whether you're ready or not.  I do hope, someday, some of that holiday spirit will return and I don't have to feel the need to scowl at the little Christmas displays at the store, despite the sheer prettiness of it all.  It is just genuinely HARD to care, when those around you don't seem to care, either.  If it wasn't for me, there would be no tree up in my house.  There would be no presents under the tree.  There would be NO decorations, no lights in the windows.  I've always been the one to haul down all the decor on the day after Thanksgiving, and to 'Christmasize,' and the kids would all laugh at my OCD while placing the lights and trying to ensure all the little multi-colored bulbs were facing the right direction, and none would really even offer to help with the decorating or the preparing....I used to think that maybe it was because they all had things to do to keep them occupied - school, work, etc - and I was the one who was always home, so who better to do it all?  They all knew that I had it handled, and that I could be relied on to do it all.
    But now, this year, I'm in school, too.  I bust my ass every day to make sure I turn in my best work, my best efforts.  I pulled a 3.8 last semester, so that puts me 15 credits closer to my bachelor's, which is one good thing having happened in 2019.  The next year and a half will be a continuation of my education, and at some point, I may start working.  What's going to happen, then?  Who's gonna bring Christmas to my house, because this year, if nothing else, has been a real eye-opener on who it all falls on, who's the glue, who's the one who pulls it all off when it comes to the shopping, the wrapping, the stoking of holiday spirit, when there simply is none IN me to begin with.  And, in the end, there's thank-you's, there's 'you did a great job,' and 'you cooked a delicious meal,' but there's still that lingering feeling that I'm truly the only one who gives a shit.  My one and only love was not here with me.  Neither one of my kids asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  Of course, I would have told them, 'nothing at all,' because I don't ever want my children worrying about what material item they could give me - I'd know the thought was there and the sentiment alone would have been satisfying, but they didn't even ASK.  Instead, there's lists of what they WANT on my desk, in my text messages....new XBOX controller, new sneakers, LED lights for their room, cosmetics, money, gift cards to whatever-the-fuck-it is, and that stings, too.  Yet, I took their lists, threw everything on my credit cards, and pulled it off - because as always, others' happiness is more important than my own.
    Maybe I need to not give too much of a shit, anymore...something's got to give.  As of right now, I've not said anything to my family about how much I didn't enjoy this year's Christmas, and I probably won't....because it's over with, it's done.  What's the point?  It will just make J feel guilty for not being here (but she wasn't here for a lot of the rest of this year's struggles, so it's probably best she spent Christmas with her family) and it will cause guilt in my children, something I never want to do.  
    And so, I shall flush this emotional turd, and look forward to the brand new year, where MUCH will be changed up.  Fewer fucks will be given (and not just pertaining to the holidays), and I'll bet things will be happier and will go a whole lot smoother.
    Originally, I wasn't going to blog, today, but, really, what kind of a blogger am I if I don't put out an end-year reflection of sorts?  I know that my writing was yet another thing that I kind of 'slacked' on, but I'm hoping to get some of that, back, too.
    And now, to you all, my AS family:
    If you're struggling, I wish for you, lots of comfort.
    When times are dark, I wish you light.
    If you're in pain, I wish for you, relief.
    If you're feeling lost, I wish for you, clarity.
    For each moment of sadness, I wish for you a million small moments that make you smile.
    If you're lonely, I wish for you, friendship and companionship.
    If you're all of the above, I wish for 2020 to show you all that good things are possible, and that all of the work we do on ourselves, will pay off.  I also send you strength, positivity and all of my love.
    Happy New Year,
     - Capulet
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