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Blog Entries posted by Capulet

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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!)
  10. 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
  11. 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 
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. Capulet
    Hi, all!
    I REALLY should be studying for final exams right now.  I do have three this week that I'm NOT toooooo worried about, content-wise.  I know the material, I'm confident I'll be fine with these three.  There will be two next week that this coming weekend will be devoted to studying for.  Although I'm likely fine, the over-achieving side of me is thinking, 'I am NOT finished until I turn in my last final exam...'
    I came home from school today (we had a snow day yesterday) with intentions to open up a book and start cramming as much information as possible into my brain - but said brain has other things swimming around.
    It's nothing major.  I've just managed to do again what I do best: disappoint my mother.
    Many of you already know that two years ago, I moved 2 hours away from where she lives.  Yes, 'that's all.'  If you let my mother describe it, you'd think I moved from the East Coast to the West Coast.  STATES away.  A plane ticket rather than a car drive shorter than the time it'd take for me to attend 2 classes.  That's all, indeed.  I am still close enough that she can hop into the car and come visit, ANYTIME she wants.  She has a bedroom in my house, for pete's sake.  I'm also close enough that I could drive to either her house or my sisters' houses - and I do, whenever one of their kids has a birthday or there's a baptism.  It's not enough, though, for the Oompa.  She will CONSTANTLY complain that she doesn't see us, but that's not entirely our fault.  Her days are spent babysitting for one of my sister's kids, or she's traveling to some foreign country.  When she does make it here, she has to 'hurry back' because someone back home needs her.  Her visits are rushed, and when In one breath, she'll say 'well you moved 2 hours away, so that's hard!' and other times, she'll say, 'you're only 2 hours away, why don't you come visit your Mama?'  Sometimes I wish I HAD moved to Colorado, if not for the pure gorgeousness of the state, then for the elimination of how EASY it really is to visit with one another, and additionally, how EASY it is for my sisters to do the same fucking thing.  Since I've lived here, they've BOTH been to my house, a total of two times - for a housewarming, and for the Son's graduation.  That's it.  It's been me who's made the (same) trip to go to them/their events every other time.  Me who makes the extra effort.  Me, who bends like a pipe cleaner.
    And yes - a side note here - part of the reason for my move was because my ex was first to move - when we divorced, we made the mutual agreement that we would never move the kids more than a 20-30 minutes' drive from their other parent.  And let me be clear on one other thing: we BOTH agreed we wanted to be FAR away from the city.  City life had been all I'd known.  The wasband, as a child, had a taste of country living and preferred it, so it was both of our decision to move to the same town in Pennsylvania.  We'd share custody of our children, we'd both have new homes, we'd all be starting a new chapter.  I think that's one source of excitement for me; I'd always been a New Yorker, and the idea of being in an entirely new place was highly appealing.  I also admit, there being a distance from where the Oompa lives was an added benefit.  
    For me, though.  For her, though - it's always been a problem.  It's a problem especially during the holidays, when she STILL has old traditions on the brain, and STILL wants all three of her daughters and all of her grandchildren present on Christmas Eve.  When we ALL lived in New York, she would host, and everyone would gather at her house.  Now, her house is 'smaller.'  Our families have grown, now.  Both of my sisters are now married, with children, and a set of in-laws, each.  They (Oompa, and my two sisters and their families) live all within a 20 minute radius of each other - and I'm (along with the wasband, who because of our 'other' agreement, to spend holidays together with our children) 2 hours away.  As stated before, it's not terrible, but Oompa does make it out to be more complicated.  
    Christmas Eve is also J's birthday.  My wifey, up until a couple years ago, has been a good sport enough to join us all at Oompa's gatherings.  This year, she'll be spending her birthday and Christmas with her family in Massachusetts. 
    The wheels started turning in Oompa's head, as soon as she heard that.  It might have been in February or March of this year; J announced that she was going to be spending her birthday and Christmas with her parents and sisters and nieces and nephews in New England.  I suppose she wanted to give us all time to get used to the idea...
    First, she said she wanted to host Christmas Eve at her house.  We all told her that her two-bedroom, one-story house in a retirement community was too small for 18 people to sit comfortably.  Even her house before this one was too small.  She must have heard the same from my sisters, because recently, her story changed.
    "Your sister wants to host Christmas Eve at her house."
    My sister's house is a bit bigger, and more accommodating.  I did say, though, (and it might have been at the same time as J's announcement that she'd be spending Christmas with her family) that I wanted to stick to my new tradition of Christmas Eve at my house - it was simply easier for me to take care of my immediate family - the Oompa was, of course, invited as well as my sisters and their families.  This will be my third Christmas in my new home - they've not yet made it out for a single one.  The first year, the middle sister was pregnant....the drive would be too much for her.  "So, let her husband drive," I said.  "Oh, but he's allergic to cats...and you have five of them."  It was dropped, with 'maybe next year.'  
    And then the second year, there was the excuse that "the baby isn't good in the car..."  along with, "what if it snows....we'd be stuck there, and they have plans for Christmas Day....nobody wants to risk getting stuck TWO HOURS AWAY (her favorite line) on Christmas..."
    I've given up on them coming for any holiday.  How could I expect that, when they've combined, visited me four times in two and a half years?  My mother, though - did come last year for Christmas Eve, and made it home on Christmas morning in LESS than 2 hours.  She's seen for herself that her coming here for Christmas Eve is NOT as complicated as she makes it out to be - she could be with the other two and all of the younger grandbabies on Christmas Day...everyone's happy, right?
    No.  I guess not.  Because the Oompa is NEVER happy!
    I reminded her that I was planning to do Christmas Eve at my house, and that to deviate from that plan would cause stress between me and the wasband - as our agreement was that we spend holidays with our children.  Christmas Eve at my house, Thanksgiving and Christmas at his house.  Whenever there's Easter, he does that at his house, too, but that's not even really considered a 'holiday' to me - it's just another excuse to eat food that I haven't cooked!  She asked (even though she knows the answer) why he couldn't consider letting me take the kids to see MY family on Christmas Eve, he'd still have them on Christmas Day.  I told her that never did and never would fly with him - and yes, we all know he's an asshole, but I think that if the tables were turned, I'd expect the same courtesy of him, and I'd not want him to take my children anywhere that I wouldn't be on the holidays. 
    "Let me talk to him," she said, "he'll listen to me!"
    I'd laughed and told her to see for herself.  This was back in October.  
    Last night, she sends me a text, asking if he'd spoken to me over Thanksgiving about Christmas Eve.  I told her he hadn't, as expected.  She said he'd told her that he'd consider letting me go with FOUR of his kids (our two, plus his youngest, and his stepson) to my sister's.  I told her that 1) he'd likely only said that because he didn't want to hear anything more about it,  2) it wouldn't happen, and 3) where would HE and his WIFE be, if I was taking their kids?  She then proceeds in telling me that she hadn't run inviting him and his wife through my sister, yet.  My sister was already having 15 people there - her in-laws and an uncle, the Oompa and my stepfather, and the middle sister and her family were going to be there.  
    Let me just add, NO invite has been extended to me personally - it's only been done through Oompa's constant need to micromanage other people's lives and holiday gatherings so that it suits her own needs and desires.
    My phone number has not changed in twelve years.  My sisters have every fucking social media account known to (wo)man and yet, they don't know how to text me an invitation themselves.  They KNOW there's a standing invitation to a holiday gathering in my home every year, and they've not accepted a single one.  Perhaps they understand, better than our mother, that there will just have to be other arrangements made.
    I told Oompa to forget it - because 1) my kids are NOT going to want to be spending the holiday anywhere other than with BOTH of their parents, and 2) IF I were to go through with this, I'd NEVER hear the end of it from the wasband, and he'd be RIGHT, because this is fucked up on many levels, and 3) I wasn't going to add another seven or eight plates to my sister's table if the wasband and his wife weren't included in this invitation.  If I know my sister, she'd have a shit fit, being a stickler for plans....and besides, why the fuck would you want seven or eight additional people in your house that you didn't invite, yourself???
    "Can't you consider coming alone?" Was the next thing my mother says.
    "No," I told her.  "I'm not coming alone."
    Immediately, I felt bad.  I know, I shouldn't have.  But I did.  Because this is my mother, and while I want to spend Christmas with my children, I'm knowing and understanding that deep down, she wants the same.  She wants all of her kids and grandchildren around her.  But, you see, she has that option.  She could come spend the day before Christmas here, then the day of Christmas with my sisters.  They could ALL come on Christmas Eve.  They can't even say they've tried that because year after year, they've made excuse after excuse on why they can't come....too pregnant, what if it snows, hubby allergic to cats, baby not good in the car, drive is too long...it LOOKS like it is going to snow six days from now, so we shouldn't take any chances...
    Oompa then suggests alternating.  I do Christmas Eve one year, then sister #1 does it the year after, and then sister #3 does it the year after that...  
    Look, I don't mind letting someone else host.  I just won't be there, if my ENTIRE family is not invited.  And as much as I can't stand the wasband - being the mother of two of his children, and godmother to his youngest daughter, makes him my family by default.  The kids can love him enough for me - at this point, I love him for one reason only, and that is for giving me my children.  Love is possibly too strong a word for him - let's just say I tolerate him at most, for the kids' sake. 
    Anyway, I tell her that alternating is not going to solve the issue of where the kids are going to be.  You'd think that in the ten years I'm divorced, she'd catch on.  The kids spend holidays with him and I.  Everyone there is welcome to join us - but they've never done that, so we've stopped extending invitations - and for the last several years, the Oompa has been rotating.  One year here, one year there, etc.  And I've been having to make a trip into Jersey, for additional holiday gatherings.  Another Thanksgiving, another Christmas.  Even my surprise 40th birthday last year, took place in my mother's neighborhood!  Because god forbid any of them come here for that - I'm the one who moved two hours away, after all!
    (My mother's whiny-ass voice): TWO HOURS AWAYYYYY.
    Yeah. But anyway, there is now a 'December birthdays and holidays gathering' in the planning stages.  Of course, it'll be held in the Garden State, and of COURSE it will require for me (and the wasband and his crew) to travel 2 hours - and it'd be because nobody over there wants to make the effort to come HERE for the REAL holidays.  Because my mother must be appeased, and she must have 'her holiday visit,' never mind if it's an inconvenience to those of us who would like nothing more than to be finished with the holidays by the time 12/26 rolls around.  
    At this point, though - I don't care, anymore.  I really don't.  I feel as if I've been bending for years, doing what others (no - although most of the holiday stress has my mother's name on it, NOT everything does!) want and whatever I might want is usually disregarded....and partially, that's my fault.  I would bend...to dodge conflict, to make someone else happy, to avoid arguments, or just so that I didn't have to hear anything more on it.  I'm aware that I've done myself no favors by bending.  
    Ever open a canned beverage?  You know that tab that you bend forward, first, to pop open the can?  You can then bend the tab back and forth until the tab finally falls off.  Doesn't take too many back and forth before that little piece of tin simply snaps.
    I feel like that tab now.  No more slack, no more strength to keep on bending.  My tab has been stubborn and has held on for as long as it possibly could, and if it bends anymore, it's simply going to detach.  And then, it will have nothing more to do with the can!  
    I just do NOT want to get to the point where I want much less, if not nothing, to do with them all anymore - and it's getting VERY close to that point with my family members.
    Thank y'alls for listening to this impromptu vent.  Maybe now I can get a little more cramming done.  I'll be back with a non-school related blog soon (yes, there MIGHT be an announcement of end-semester grades, but that's all I'll do! I promise!  You'll all have a reprieve of school-related blogs until February!) and perhaps having less on the brain will help me to be able to touch on topics more pressing than government terms, nightmare papers, all nighters and final exams!  
    Sending you all my love and well-wishes...and sincerely hoping you guys are a little bit more optimistic about the holidays than I am. For now, I'm still 'bah-humbugging,' but perhaps this will change soon.  
    Hugs, and good night!
    - Capu-scrooge
  16. Capulet
    Hi, everyone.
    It feels like the last couple of months has gone by in a blur.  I'm starting to realize the true meaning of the statement, 'too much time on your hands.'  When I had it, (it being time) my mind wouldn't shut up.  I had so much more to say.  I looked at things sooooo differently.  I'd have TIME to sift through whatever was swimming around in there - now, all that's in there is numbers, formulas, political definitions, social work case studies (hypothetical ones), papers that would be coming due, and the neverending, bottomless threat of that thing called 'exams.'  Never mind those things I USED to think about, those things that warranted deep reflection - it feels like there's no room for it, right now, and I'm not sure I like that.  I'm not sure if after the last three weeks of school is over, I'll have a six-week reprieve from all those things I HAVE to think about and I'll be free to let my mind focus on whatever it is that I've been neglecting, to include this blog - but I'm hoping so.
    Right now, I'm trying to think of what else is new since my last update, which was...a while ago?  I know I've fallen off the blog grid lately, and do apologize to all of those who actually read and enjoy these!   I'm looking forward to my six weeks' break from school - after my last final, school is out until January 21st, when the spring semester starts.  Spring semester will run from Jan 21 - May 5th - and I'm HOPING there will be a couple of snow days that will mean the cancellation of an 8am class that I had no choice but to take - if I wanted fifteen credits, I needed to dip into my major-related electives as the classes that were required were either full or required me to attend evening/night classes.  Definitely wasn't doing that.  I'll be spending as much of that six weeks relaxing and sleeping - two words that have not been in my vocabulary since August.  
    It's been getting down to the 20's at night.  We've had no significant snowfall here, yet.  Next week, though, may yield different results as the second or third week in November is usually when we see accumulations of more than a mere dusting.  The dusting came along a couple nights ago - but even so, there wasn't much to see, and thankfully, clean off our cars.  It's quite evident - winter has arrived, or at the very least, it's making itself comfortable as it'll be here to stay for the next three to four months.  
    Fall was short - or maybe it just feels that way because I've been too busy with classes to take note of it being a shitty time of year for me.  It was hard not to see the prettiness of it - the daily commute to and from school was, I MUST say, nice, regardless of what the Fall season represents for me.  I just had fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the afternoon when I'd take in all the scenery and TRY to appreciate the genuine, innocent beauty of nature - but for the most part, this year's traumaversary was just - nothing.  I feel like I've had NO time and no thoughts to give to it.  There was still the presence of that looming feeling of dread.  That hasn't wavered at all.  There was a period of time where I was snappy and cranky - but having two exams during my traumaversary week - (one being a midterm) - was the excuse supplied to those who were on the receiving end.  In a way, being back to school has been helpful in keeping my mind from being able to focus on the usual things it does during early October, but I do wonder if this was, in fact, harmful.  
    Might it have been harmful to not really have the opportunity to slow down and reflect and allow the usual traumaversary process to occur?  It's been 23 years, now.  And for each traumaversary, it's been the same.  For the first few years that followed my rape, there was crying and panicking, there was nightmares, flashbacks, there was self-injury, there was depression.  Over time, this has all changed.  The self-injury is no longer an option for me.  Depression comes in bouts - but it's not at the point where it keeps me from functioning on a day to day basis.  I can't say the same for fifteen or twenty years ago, when it was a constant.  I still have that odd dream here and there, I still jolt awake at times, but that is seemingly the gist of it, now.  While I know that I am safe now, that unsettled feeling that arrives every year has not changed.  For the past few years, I've been of the attitude that I'd see what this year's 'bad time' threw at me, and deal with whatever it was.  It's kind of like a batter-up situation in baseball....the pitcher will throw life's little curveballs, and I'll hit them all with whatever I've got.  My turn will eventually end and I'll get another chance at next year's at-bat.
    If I'm thrown a trigger?  Fine...I'd tackle it by identifying it, and then trying to put into words why I was triggered.  To give a trigger meaning and to understand it will give it less strength.  If I'm thrown a nightmare?  Okay.  I'll get out of bed, get a drink of water, and either turn on the computer or go back to bed.  If I'm to face a series of restless nights for no particular reason at all?  Sure, bring it on. It's not like I sleep that much, anyway!
    This year's at-bat, though, has felt like an intentional walk.  There's been nothing thrown, nothing to hit, nothing to tackle, nothing to face.  I wonder, though, if that was me.  Has numbness taken over?  I do feel different, and I don't know how to explain it.  
    I WILL say though, that I'm glad that Fall is in its way out.  The trees are now mostly bare, waiting for the snow to transform the back roads most commonly travelled by into a wintery wonderland.  THAT, too, despite it being a pain in the ass, is pretty.  
    I lied to my T a few weeks ago.  She texted to confirm an appointment, (which ironically was within a week of the date of my traumaversary) and I wasn't feeling that I had anything to say to her, either.  I told her I had a 'terrible cold.'  She said to let her know when I was feeling better and wanted to reschedule.  I told her I would....but my 'cold' hasn't gone away.  In my last blog, I mentioned that she wanted to delve into some of the deeper issues - and I'd tried to contain my excitement.  Don't get me wrong, she's a very nice lady - I just don't feel any differently whenever I walk out of her office.  Honestly, I can't remember having any successful relationship with any therapist, to include the one I had when I was a child and saw again as an adult.  Granted, my last T wasn't a specialist in trauma-related issues, and very quite possibly failed me as a child (which I really didn't fully see until I stopped seeing her for the second time as an adult) and while this would have been a good time and place to discuss 23 years ago with my current T (who DOES have experience with trauma, being certified in EMDR and all), I just didn't want to.  I've had about six sessions with her in total - and we haven't really talked about ANYTHING trauma-related - while she does know from my initial session that I am a survivor of rape and CSA and DV, it's mostly just surface stuff that we talk about in our sessions; my lack of interest/comfort level within social settings, gatherings, etc.  Relationship stuff.  It's never gone beyond that.  I guess my feeling right now is, if it's not broken, don't try to fix it.    
    (Note, by no means am I endorsing the discontinuation of therapy - for some, I know it's a lifeline.  I've just never been able to form a truly successful connection/relationship with a therapist that I felt was able to challenge me.)  
    Another thought to what might be a reason for not being able to feel too much right now starts with the passing of my (potentially very first abuser) uncle on 7/2.  When I went to the wake, it was for my mother's sake - not his.  I remember what I was doing when the text came in.  I was mowing the grass outside, preparing the exterior of the house for my son's birthday barbecue, which would be held a few days after.  Of course, this meant my mother wouldn't be attending, as she now had to bury her brother.  While I told the Oompa that my reason for attending his wake was out of support for her, I had my own reasons for doing so.  I wanted to SEE him dead, that child that still lives within me needed to see for herself that he'd never be able to LOOK at another child again, he'd never be able to lay a disgusting hand (which I did want to see, just to make sure it was dead along with the rest of him) on anyone.  
    One thing, though, that I need to say, first, a tidbit of background information.
    Without getting into specifics, my wife and I hit a bump over the summer.  In hindsight, it was, thankfully, something that was fixable, as it has nothing to do with abuse, infidelity or unfaithfulness, which are our 'dealbreakers' - it was more a matter of us not being on the same page and failing to connect with one another, emotionally, physically, mentally.  She experienced a mental breakdown (she was at the time, undergoing therapy sessions and working on her own trauma, something she'd been delaying for years) and decided to take off for a few days.  We've attended therapy sessions together, and since then, have been able to reconnect on all levels, and I'm feeling overall a lot better about it.  My relationship is much more safe now than it was over the summer.  
    That being said, at the time of my uncle's passing, she chose not to come with me to the wake and chose that DAY (also the day of my son's birthday) to take off.  As she is one of the very few people who knows and understands why I disliked this man, this hurt me very deeply.  
    It didn't even matter that when I arrived at the funeral parlor, my uncle's partner stopped me from going up to the coffin, and proceeded to tell me that it was among my uncle's final wishes that I not be there or pay him a final visit.  I did see him from a distance, though.  Looking as pathetic as he's always looked.  I could not see his hands, I couldn't even spit in his face if I wanted to.  Not that I would have, but the temptation to set him on fire and expedite his journey to Hell was VERY great.  He likely knew that, and made sure that it was known that I was to be kept away. 
    But, my wife, being one of the only people who truly could understand my need for closure in this situation, was not there for me, when I had told her many years in advance, that I would need her that day, to keep me grounded, keep me calm, to know and recognize anything that might come up for me during my final encounter with him.  When this day finally arrived, she wasn't there for me to talk to her about things with.  I couldn't even tell her, until she'd come back home a week later, that I was stopped from approaching his coffin and told that I wasn't welcome.  The only reason I was able to attend was likely because the Oompa would have expected all three of her dutiful daughters to be present, regardless of whatever issue they may have had with him.  She'd not told me that he'd specifically requested for me to not be there.  She allowed me to waste my time, and for this, I'm angry with her, too.  (This'll likely come up ten years from now - a slight exaggeration, yes, but also meant to say it won't happen anytime soon.)
    But, see....
    I wasn't safe to allow whatever might have come up - to come up.  My safety net wasn't there.  To deal with this, I allowed the numbness to consume  me.  I felt nothing, being told that I wasn't to approach his body.  I felt nothing, seeing him from six feet away.  I felt no sadness, no anger, no fear, no anxiety.  I felt nothing at all.  Not even relief, which I'd hoped I'd feel.  
    Although my wife has come back home and we have spent a fair amount of time getting back on track, this has stayed with me.  I have had to push this hurt aside, and I've had to forgive her.  I've had to accept that her breakdown is the primary reason behind the choices she'd made, to shut me out and to shut out everyone around her.  When someone you love does that - it's certainly not easy to stick around, but it's what I've chosen to do.  I've defended her furiously to those who have come to me with anything negative, I've shut them all down, and although my heart still hurts, I have remained 100% focused on her happiness and contentment and on whatever it takes to strengthen our relationship.  That's me doing my part.  I'm glad to see that she is making and has made some life changes as well, and mutual communication has been reestablished.  I know that in time, the hurt will lessen, and I'll be able to look back at all of this and recognize it as one of those bumps that I'm sure EVERY long-term relationship experiences at some point.  
    I was perhaps still in that 'it's not a good time for me to fall apart' mindset when it came time for my traumaversary to make its yearly appearance.  Although my wife and I were already doing much better when this year's October 4th came and went, that numbness from the summer has retained its hold.  The day came and went, and I felt nothing.  It does help that I've also had school to contend with, too - I've NEVER been this busy in my life.  Even raising kids has been a piece of cake compared to having to write a five-page paper on Politics!  
    Maybe next year's at-bat will be different.  This year, though? I'm not thinking anything is going to develop.
    I'm not even sure how much sense I'm making at the moment, but, ah - I tried to put it out there in the fashion I'm most used to.   I also wanted to try and explain why I've not been myself lately - or in recent weeks, less like myself than you may be used to seeing.  You're all likely used to my extremely lengthy novellas talking about my feelings - and I promise, I'm trying to find my way back to tapping into those.  I've admittedly been staying focused on others more than I have myself, and while that's not normally recommended, it's sometimes necessary, at least for a little while.  The only way out of this funk is known only to oneself, and I'm likely having to wait until I'm feeling emotionally safe enough for that numbness to dissipate.  When that happens, I'm sure it won't be pleasant, but I know I have somewhere to put it all, if needed, whether it's here or in therapy.  I've not given up on either option.  
    I'm still around, though, friends - I've not disappeared and I don't plan on going anywhere.  I just feel as if while there may be a lot to say and I've got more to talk about than I want to admit, nothing's flowing.  There is a block in place, and I'm not sure what will remove it and when.  I'm good when it comes to talking about what others may be going through, but when it comes to myself and my feelings, I've managed to keep most of it locked away for a little while.
    I am, though, practicing some self care on this fine Wednesday afternoon, though, and do think that in choosing to write a little bit about what's gone on in recent months, it's helped me to understand and process and explain some of why I'm feeling so emotionally constipated right now.  I am hoping I've successfully conveyed it to you all, as well. I have been feeling like I owed you all a little bit of a rundown, as you've all always been kind to me.  I'm always so overwhelmed by the support of the friends I've made here.  You know who you all are.  I'm SURE there have been a lot of 'WTF?' moments, and for those, I do apologize.  
    Maybe when the semester finally ends, this will change, because then there will be a six-week period of time where I'll not have to focus on my GPA. I've got those lovely holidays to look forward to, and if you've followed this blog, you're already well aware of the family drama and bullshit that usually goes hand-in-hand with the upcoming holidays.  🙄
    Anyway, as I'm starting to feel the growly stomach and lunch is calling, I'll stop writing for now.  
    Before I go, I'm wanting to say that I'm sincerely hoping you're all doing well!  For those of you who are struggling - I hear you.  I may not have been posting too much lately, but I still hear you and I hope you will all be reassured that I still care very deeply for all of you.  It is hard to remind others about the concept of self-care, especially when you, yourself, realize that you must do the same, but I do strongly encourage you all to not lose sight of those little things you can do to make yourself feel a little bit better, your day a little brighter, your life a little more positive.  Look every day for that that one small thing that makes you smile, and make it happen. ❤️ 
    I already do feel a little better having done something I've always enjoyed - and that is to sit here and write to you all.  I also did something I've never done - not once this semester - and I've taken the day off today.  I skipped my classes this morning, because I wanted to.  Now I'm trying to ignore the voices telling me that I'll regret having missed today's Government lecture -  but at least I'll eat something while doing that.
    Later on, I'll be going to get a coffee.  Tomorrow, I'll find something else.  
    The little things do add up!   
    Until the next update - which will hopefully be soon, I'm sending an endless supply of hugs!

    - Capulet
  17. Capulet
    Today's been somewhat productive.  
    I probably should be getting ready to wind down and attempt to sleep but instead, my fingertips are tingling; if nothing else, it's a signal that my brain will simply not allow me to sleep until I've said my piece.
    I'll start with this backstory...
    Lately, my fiancee's relationship with her boss has shifted more toward a developing friendship than strictly professionalism.  This woman is J's direct supervisor, but J is also her 'right hand,' she is in a position that is 'above' the other staff members but usually is their go-to person in the event that the supervisor is not available.  Resultedly, J has been working very hard lately - taking more naps after work and is seemingly more physically drained.  There is one other staff member that is in an equivalent position (the left hand?) but he has dropped the ball SEVERAL times - and J's had to pick up a lot of his slack. The supervisor will call J at random times of the day to vent about this, and about work and all the stupid things that the staff does, etc...and she'll also talk about happenings outside of work - specifically about issues she's having at home with her husband and her child...she already communicates with J several times a day about work-related issues - it's probably a natural reaction to call her whenever something personal comes up and she needs a friend.  J is just that type of person.  You can talk to her about anything.  In that sense, she and I are very similar people - perhaps it's one of the main reasons our relationship has been able to flourish and has become stronger than ever.  I absolutely love this about my fiancee.
    Two weeks ago, J's supervisor came here for dinner and drinks and it was my first time meeting her.  I do like her very much, she's very down-to-earth and an overall fun person to be around.  We had dinner and we downed Strawberry Daiquiris like there was no tomorrow.  Additionally, she will be attending a barbecue I am having this weekend - she's J's friend, though - I do not feel, nor do I expect to feel as if I'm 'within this circle.' 
    She recently told J that she's experiencing a large amount of stress at home in addition to at work.  And that she'd like to go for drinks after work one night.  Then, she asked J: "Would Cap mind if you took off with me for a few days and we just stuffed our faces and drank and just forgot about everything having to do with work or life for a little while?"
    J MUST have seen the raised eyebrow when she repeated the question to me.
    "It's not going to happen, don't worry about it."  She said nothing more of it for the rest of the evening. 
    So I pretended it had never been said.  But it DID bother me.  Yes, I DO think Cap would mind.
    Here's the thing....and this was the epiphany that decided to hit me like a fuck-ton of bricks while we were having our weekly cheat dinner at Olive Garden.   The scale was a little bit bi-polar this morning and I'm starting to think it's been malfunctioning for the last three weeks....but yeah, beside the point.  
    Do y'all remember the asshole I was married to?
    Yeah, him.
    Well, while married to his royal highness, I was NOT allowed to have friends.  
    Okay...that isn't coming out the way I need for it to.  He never actually made the statement, "I forbid you to have friends."  No.  His actions spoke louder than his words, even when his words hurt.  
    He casually claimed that he wouldn't mind if I had friends, but he was a firm believer of keeping my friends at a 'healthy distance.'  He made it abundantly clear to me that HE was my friend.  HE was my spouse.  HE was my lover.  HE was the one I went to whenever I had a problem.  And I tried that for a while, I called him my best friend (barf) and I repeatedly tried to convince him that he was it for me, but I don't think it worked very well.  God forbid I wanted to go to a movie with a friend - I'd first have to build up the courage to ASK him to stay with the kids while I went to unwind for a little bit.  There was ALWAYS an argument, but he'd begrudgingly let me go.  And while I was gone, he'd sit, bounce his leg, stew, chain-smoke three packs of cigarettes, go through my emails, check my browsing history, look for ANY signs of my conversing about personal matters with anyone other than him...why?  I wish I knew!  I'd NEVER stepped out on him, I was loyal and faithful to him.  I took care of his children, his house, did his laundry, his ironing, his errands, cooked his meals...and all I wanted to do was go to a movie or to have lunch or dinner with a friend without being made to feel as if I were committing a mortal sin and that the world would come crashing down if I'd actually enjoyed myself.  Eventually it became a matter of 'not being worth it' and I withdrew from everyone.
    He was my person, but I think it's because he FORCED the situation and himself to be my person.  I had NO choice in the matter.  He didn't have any friends, either (I don't think I wonder why, anymore) and so when you have two friendless people under the same roof, one who doesn't particularly have anything to say unless it's mean, derogatory, vulgar or a request for sex, it's a surefire recipe for disaster.  
    When he became seemingly uninterested in hearing what I had to say anymore, I began to withdraw...I know I've said this before.  This seemed to make him unusually pleased - because if I wasn't talking to HIM about the matters that still bothered me, I wasn't talking to ANYONE.  And if it wasn't being talked about, it no longer existed.  At least, in his warped brain, that was the case.
    The only time this changed was when he was done with me and had already moved onto someone else.
    "You should go hang out with your friends," he would say.  "Or if you want to go out with a guy, that's good, too...I'll stay with the kids and spend time with them, you just go have a good time."
    There was no more 'attention' to what I did online, nor was he behind my shoulder anymore when I had IM conversations.  He just didn't give a shit anymore, because now, he had someone else.  In fact, that was probably WHY he wanted me to do the same.  To justify his own actions, like the coward he truly was.
    So...tonight...J brought up her supervisor again.  It was actually because I sat in the car for 45 minutes before we even got into the restaurant.  The supervisor called J as soon as we pulled into the parking lot.  So I played a few (several) rounds of Candy Crush while they had a lengthy conversation about the problematic staff member they both hated.
    J did apologize for the delay and we went into the restaurant to eat.  She rambled a little bit more about work.  
    Somehow the topic of going out after work came up again.  J expressed that while she didn't feel she needed my permission or green-light to go and be with her friends (right now it's just her boss/friend) and have a good time with them, she felt badly leaving me at home (especially since I'd likely already BEEN home for the day already) and that by going out, she was disappointing me.  She also recently attended another co-worker's housewarming party (with the boss) and had a GREAT time.  She commented on how my face sort of 'dropped' when she mentioned that she'd had plans with her friends.  She asked me if I ever felt angry with her for doing so.  
    I put my fork down.  I honestly didn't know how to answer that.  Because I HAD periodically felt SOMETHING.  It wasn't anger.  But it was significant and VERY hard to explain.
    Have I become my ex-husband???? I am NOT the paranoid, untrusting son-of-a-bit*h that is my ex - I trust J COMPLETELY.  But has his twisted way of thinking somehow become an unreasonable truth, even in a small way?  Was I convinced that I needed to be the only person in her life?  I knew I wasn't - she has her sister, she now has her boss, who has become her friend.  She has me.  Her circle is small, yet it seems huge in comparison to mine.
    To tell her that it didn't bother me at all would be a lie.  And I'm a HORRIBLE liar.  And so I spoke slowly...chose my words as I went along.  
    I told her that I wasn't mad.  Because THAT was the truth.  If there was any anger, it was toward my ex.  Because he's the one who has caused me to feel this way.  It's COMPLETELY his doing.  And now his bullshit was seeping through into my current relationship - a place where such bullshit has NO business being!  I wanted her to enjoy life.  I wanted her to have friends.  I already knew that I wasn't her ONLY person - I don't feel that's the way it should be either - but it was ingrained onto me by my ex - when you're with someone, that's who you spend all your time with.  When you're married, you live ONE life, there's no room to forge additional relationships that may or may not derive from the marriage.  I know this is a hundred percent wrong.  It didn't feel right being on the receiving end of that line of bullshit - and I NEVER wanted J to feel that way - even though purely unintentionally.
    I finally (slowly) told her that if anything, I was slightly envious - because she HAD nearby friends who would call and ask her to go get a drink or to hang out.  I've just gotten SO fucking used to withdrawing from social opportunities, and now people didn't know how to approach me.  Either that, or they knew not to bother trying.  
    While I know I'm not her only, she's my only.  She's the ONLY one I feel comfortable drinking with, talking about the 'deep stuff' with.  And now she's got other people to enjoy those things with.  People who don't necessarily want to include me in their plans.  And almost automatically, that feels like a rejection.  Not particularly by them because really, they've got no reason to invite along someone they don't know.  
    * Side note - I've been working on this, though, on opening myself up to more social situations.  I've told J of the little plans I've got to expand my circle, to somehow break down some of these massive walls that I've build around myself.  I have no secrets from her and she was seemingly excited to hear that I would soon be going back to school, I'd soon be searching for other ways to spend my (too much) free time, and to get involved in SOMETHING that would distract from the loneliness that I've by now accepted as a way of life.  Loneliness that I've learned to like, in a way that is even more difficult to explain, so I'll not try right now.
    "You should," she said when I told her more about things I wanted to do in the near future, "It'll be good for you to get to know people, make some friends.  Go out, have lunch, a drink, enjoy yourself.  And it's okay to do that with someone other than me."
    THAT's when it hit me.  The epiphany, along with the side of parmesan-encrusted zucchini I'd just taken a bite out of and swallowed prematurely.
    And I just blurted out what I said next.  I don't think it was even thought out completely.  It just seemed to be there, waiting to be purged.  
    And out it came:
    "You know, that's the same thing my ex said when he was finished with me and he didn't care about me anymore.  He encouraged me to go out, make friends, have a good time with someone other than him...and now here you are, telling me to do the same thing.  It's what happened just before I lost him completely.  Right before I ended up with no one at all.  And I can't help but be afraid of that happening again."
    Although a moment of blunt honesty, it also felt like a moment of weakness. After saying that, I felt tears well up in my eyes.  I was NOT going to be childish, I was NOT going to cry!  Not in the middle of a fucking restaurant!!!! NO!
    I think it hit her at the same time, too.
    ".........ohhhh."  She nodded.  Her face was silently saying, "Got it."  Then she said she understood....and that it now made sense.  My faces, my reactions to whenever a friend calls her and invites her out, my unintentional interpretation of why SHE was now telling me that it was okay to go out with friends and let loose once in a while - everything.
    I managed to swallow the lump in my throat and told her that it wasn't her fault that I was this way.  It was HIS.  And this was something I now had to add to my list of things I needed to fix....that list of all the shit that's wrong in my life, whether it was taught to me or it was something other circumstances have forced me to learn.  
    She let me compose myself and while she did first assure me that she understood and that this wasn't what she was doing.  She firmly believed that we humans NEEDED more than one person in life.  We NEEDED a more expanded circle.  THAT was the healthy way.  
    And I think I was surprised too...mainly it's the realization of this - I've been divorced for nine years, already.  I've had nine years to 'unlearn' his bullshit teachings.  Yet, my brain is still fucking wrecked by him.  I STILL feel like it's not okay to become emotionally close to other people, even though it really IS.  I still feel like I'm doing something wrong whenever I have a conversation that resembles anything close to enjoyable.  I still see his fat, fucking face in the back of my head, I still hear him telling me that to emotionally invest in other relationships was the equivalent of cheating.  Even something as innocent as a heart-to-heart and a movie was something that would send us to divorce court.  And now it's becoming an evident problem within my current relationship to the point where she feels like she's upsetting ME by wanting 'more.'  
    And I do NOT like this about myself, AT all.  Yet, I can't easily snap out of this funk I seem to automatically enter whenever my significant other wants to go out with friends.
    For a long time, I was fine with J's and my 'arrangement.'  In our old hometown, she knew the same people I knew.  And so whenever I was invited somewhere, so was she.  We were truly a unit.  She'd go to work and when she got home, we'd go to dinner, we'd go bowling, whatever.  We were and still very much are joined at the hip and VERY rarely separated.  It's also worth a mention - she was working in a different job then, and her co-workers were not as much 'friend material' as her current ones.  
    But now, things are changing.  We've moved to an entirely different place.  We BOTH don't really know anyone other than the local bowling crew - the only exception being J's co-workers...she knows and is friends with some of them now.  I do have some acquaintances, maybe even one or two who have the potential of being true friends to us both, given the opportunity.  But when we moved, I've left behind everything and everyone I ever considered to be a friend...I'm feeling as if I'm back at square one and that feeling of being withdrawn is sometimes amplified.
    J is evolving.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, either - she is not the same person she was when we met.  We met here, in fact, if you're just tuning into my blogs and didn't know that - well - now you do.  I'm trying not to panic, as the appearance of a friend in my fiancee's life does not necessarily signal the end of our relationship.  I suppose it just means she's reached the point where she is comfortable being in social settings, while I'm still trying to find my footing.  I just hope that I am able to find it soon - before the misteachings of my ex turn me into the person I don't want to be.   
    This is just an overly annoying, yet significant ingrained fear that I have to learn how to effectively quell. 
    Okay - I think that's about all I've got on the brain tonight.  
    More next time.  Until then, I'm hoping you're all doing well.  
    Peace, love, & light,
    - Capulet
  18. Capulet
    Hi, everyone!!
    Hoping you're all doing well.  I know my updates are getting more rare, and for that, I do apologize.   I'm really trying to get back into my writing habits, but it seems I've been experiencing some cloudiness.  More on that as we continue.
    I'm hanging in there, though, as best as I can.  
    School is in full swing, now.  We're now in our third week.  I've just received this morning the date of my first midterm...yep, you read correctly - we're ALREADY getting ready for midterms!  Of course, there's no shortage of actual schoolwork to do before then - four papers to do, (one for American Government, three for Social Work, one of them being an interview of another social work professional in the field of my choosing) and there will also be a midterm for at least two or three out of the five classes - the rest of my grades depend on class participation/work/online quizzes, all of which I'm working on - whether I'm volunteering answers in class or throwing out a thought here and there.  
    Summer is beginning to pack her bags and to dish out those final warmer days before she disappears until next June.  The mornings are becoming chilly - and midday highs are lingering around 70.  It's still warm, but there is still that all-too-familiar feeling that is TRYING to remind me that the Fall is right around the corner.  We're not yet seeing the emerging fall colors, but this will be soon.  I used to be able to avoid it all, for the most part, but I can't anymore.  For the first time in 20 years, I do not have the choice to stay home and just keep the blinds closed.  I can't 'tune out' the season changes like I used to be able to, now that I'm out and about every day.  Last year, I made it a point to drive to the store while it was still daylight - and just take in the natural beauty of the mountains.  All while telling myself, this wasn't where I was hurt - this was a whole different scene - a much, MUCH nicer one.  I was able to gain somewhat of a new appreciation of the prettiness of it all.  I remember writing/saying something to the extent of, "I got this, Fall isn't going to own me, anymore."  While I'm not ready to completely disregard that statement, it just feels a little bit different this year, and I'd be willing to bet all of my chips on it being because of the restarting of school.
    23 years ago - I FAILED almost all of my midterms.  I'd been raped a couple of weeks before they were given.  I was completely unprepared, and any attempts to cram were unsuccessful because there just wasn't any room in my brain for lecture recollections or memorized textbook definitions.  What WAS there, was prevalent and I'd thrown in the academic towel before the semester actually was halfway over with.  The one midterm I might have passed, I passed by the skin of my teeth.  
    Something interesting I've noticed about myself, though...
    First, though, let it be known that I'm NOT a school person.  I'm not a scholarly type.  I VERY HONESTLY believe I have some sort of a learning disability, or at the very least, undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder.  This has ALWAYS been the case, even pre-rape, even in high school in the early to mid-90's.  The Oompa, a schoolteacher, used to confine me to my room when I had a test coming up (where she thought I'd be the least distracted) to study.  I'd sit on my bed, and TRY to read whatever was in the textbook in front of me.  Key word here - TRY.  It never would happen, though, for I'd get LOST in the text, and find my eyes drifting to the poster of Luke Perry on my wall (RIP, Luke) or to stuffed animals, or to ANYTHING other than the study material that I just couldn't deal with.  Hours would go by, she'd come in and try to 'quiz' me - and then she'd toss the book back at me when I came up empty and told that I had another hour to miraculously learn weeks worth of material.  She'd also say that if I scored any less than an 80% on the test, I'd be grounded...in reality, though, she really had nothing to 'take' from me other than TV.  "You're not watching insert-TV-show-here tonight!" 
    But anyway - school was ALWAYS a nightmare, and I've always had it in my head that I was going to fail because I couldn't focus...what the hell WAS focus, anyway??  I just had zero ability to do it.  My mind would wander, my brain would throw up the fences and information wasn't being retained...it was being rejected and bouncing back out almost as quickly as it'd be pushed in.
    Now, I'm STILL not a school person.  I've not really opened my books, yet, because I know how it was in the past, how I'll start reading and VERY quickly forget what it was I've just read.  I've browsed with my highlighter on some of my textbook pages, but I've not yet done the deeper, in-depth reading.  I've only gone to the textbooks when I needed a definition of something - or a quick explanation of what something was and it wasn't available on the internet (another something I couldn't do in 1996 - the internet DID exist but access wasn't as easy as it is, now!) or the professor was wanting specific definitions as put by the required course textbooks.  One textbook had exercises, so there was need to actually open that one - but for the most part, I've been focusing on what I can do without subjecting myself to reading that won't stick in.  
    For example - those four papers that I have to do - I've found that starting word documents for each paper has helped, even if I'm for now just writing the paper topic at the top and throwing notes and a potential outline in there for when the time comes to put it all together.  They are due October 7th, 24th, November 7th and December 5th.  Obviously, I'll focus on the October papers, first, but I'm finding myself being more obsessed with getting things started, WAY before they'll come due....just to make myself feel that I can breathe a little when the due dates grow closer.
    This is a huge difference in me from when I was in high school.  I don't know if being older has anything at all to do with it.  I know ADD though, is not curable.  I STILL can't sit and read through a book - especially not a textbook with big, fancy words.  I know myself, though.  When the time comes to prepare for midterms, I'm going to be obsessing on whether the papers are at least being worked on.  I'm ALSO going to worry about whether I've screwed myself because I've not put in the reading beforehand, and spent too much time trying to get ahead on other things.  So...it's a catch-22 anyway, isn't it? 
    Let it be known that the Son doesn't have this problem.  He can avoid opening books (I don't even know why he buys them) and he still pulls a 3.8 GPA.  (Yes, because of this, he's been called a jerk...but he's MY jerk, and I love him and am SO proud of him.)
    Anyway.  Moving along.
    I'm definitely in the school and homework groove I SHOULD have been in, all those years ago.  'Better late than never,' right?  I've had such an outpouring of support from those of you who know how hard it's been to restart this old engine that sputtered all these years ago...and as always, it's appreciated, it's loved and it's needed.  A continuance of that encouragement is needed, also, as there's nine weeks remaining in the semester.
    In other news... 
    The wifey and I went to Philly last weekend and took in a baseball game at Citizens Bank Park.  It was nice to just be able to relax, enjoy one another's company, and reconnect.  Even better, her Red Sox beat the Phillies, and knocked them down a couple of notches.  My Mets are still in the wild card race.  Which is, of course, the only scenario where I'd root for the Red Sox.  
    Last week, the daughter, while horsing around with her brother, broke her pinkie finger on her right hand.  I suppose trying to swat him was a bad idea.  Although the daughter agrees, she's not entirely upset with the orthopedic's instructions that she skip gym for two weeks.  
    Bowling two times a week has started up, again.  Back to my Monday and Friday night leagues, and thoroughly enjoying being back in that groove.  I have missed doing that over the summer.  Between my uncle/first abuser dying, and a couple of other personal issues (having nothing to do with the uncle dying) coming up, I spent a good portion of this summer doing some self-reflection, ultimately leading me back into T.
    T is...well...T.  
    On that note, I had an appointment this afternoon after class.  Went in and sat down, with no idea what to talk about.  I've heard of people growing attached, reliant on their therapists, and I'm just not feeling this with her.  She's nice and all - always starts out with, 'how are you doing?' Today, we talked about school, and how I'm adjusting.  How's my anxiety, things like that.  I told her everything's fine.  I mentioned NONE of what I mentioned above.  Silly, no? I think the word I'm looking for is, 'predictable.'  I've just never had a T challenge me or my thinking.  
    But...she asked how things were going on the home front.  Better, I had to admit.  Now that I have more to fill my days with, more to occupy myself with, I don't really sit and stew when she goes out with her friends.  We've determined that I'm just not a social butterfly (which anyone who knows me at this point, ALREADY knows) and that's okay.  It's just how I am.  Then, she took out her pen and notepad and said that next time, we were going to start working on some of my deeper issues, including the ones from whence the social awkwardness potentially emerged.  I tried to contain my excitement when I mumbled, "sounds good."
    Other than that, there really isn't much happening in my world.  I am SURE the next few weeks will bring forth a slew of additional thoughts.  Although I've been keeping busy, there's still that familiar little voice, that says, 'you better not forget that I'm still here!'  Right now, it's a whisper, a little reminder that no matter how much I would like to, how much I try, I cannot deny its existence.  I am hoping that I can keep the volume down by taking the time to somehow acknowledge this year's traumaversary, even if I exercise self-care and self-indulgence (extra caramel iced coffee) on the actual date.  I know it'll never be fully muted, though, and that the only way to keep it from becoming 'loud' again is to let these thoughts be and deal with them as they pop up.  On one hand, being back at school is helpful because it keeps my mind busy.  On the other, it's a reminder of where I was and what I was doing 23 years ago when my trauma happened.  
    Guess we'll see how that all goes!
    Hoping all is well with everyone.  I've stayed up WAY past my bedtime tonight - but seemingly my body doesn't want to ALLOW for me to sleep for a longer period of time than the 4-5 hours I'm normally accustomed to.  I'm sure I'll be paying for it tomorrow (today) but, I'll deal with that tomorrow (today).  Maybe a cap-nap will be in order (typo was added on purpose) tomorrow.  
     Talk soon,
        - Capulet
  19. Capulet
    Wow. I know I haven't been here in a while.   I wish I could say that my OCD over posting my three installments in order, without a random blog in between that would 'interrupt the flow' was my sole reason for this blog-hiatus (or a 'bl-iatus') but I'd be lying through my fingers.
    I just haven't been feeling it.  This summer has been a rough one - and I've only shared with a select few, the details that have kept me somewhat absent from my blog.  While I've remained a constant presence here on the site, I HAVE been distracted and my work here has helped provide alternative focuses when they were needed.  Those details will not be shared here, as they are still very personal and raise some hurt feelings that I've not entirely been able to bury, yet.  I am chalking this up to being yet another hurdle that has been thrown into my path, and we know all too well that sometimes due process takes longer than we'd like.  Patience is key - in healing from hurts both old and new.  I know and understand this, and safe to say, my patience has been put to the challenge during the last couple of months.
    I did post three very 'heavy' installments to my story recently.  Thank you to those of you who have read and commented on those installments.  I've been at somewhat of a loss for words when it comes to returning responses on some of it, but that, along with many other things, ARE on my to-do list.  On one hand, I can't believe that I actually wrote out some of the things I did - and on the other, I'm emotionally drained and I think that for a while, simply reading the kind, supportive comments posted by others, has been hugely helpful.  In some ways, I'm still processing a lot of things, (particularly from installment three) and there is indeed a cacophony of words swirling around but the right ones aren't coming to me, yet - whether I need them to add to the installment, or to respond to others, or to make sense of them, myself.  My uncle's passing hasn't really brought up any new feelings, thoughts, concerns, etc - and honestly, I did fully expect it to.  Other stressors, I think, are defnitely contributing to this block (can't think of a better word), but for now, this is okay with me.  I think that again, my patience with myself is going to be put to the test as I continuously remind myself that there is a time and place for things to be dealt or coped with.  Sometimes, it's simply not up to me when these things happen.
    I am better, now, though, than I was before.  Things have improved and I've re-familiarized myself with a level of optimism that I didn't have two months ago.  So, that's something.   I'm hopeful that things will continue to improve as now I've restarted therapy after a decade and am working on me, in hopes of coming out of it all with a significantly healthier outlook.  I've not yet delved too far into my trauma history, but I'm pretty sure that's going to eventually become a focus as we proceed with weekly appointments.
    So, let's move along, now.   While I cannot promise that I won't become scarce again, I'd still like to make an effort to catch you all up on a couple things that have been going on in recent weeks.
    I started school this past Monday!  Right out of the gate, two professors emailed to let me know that they were delayed with family issues, one would not be there until Friday and the other won't be showing up until 9/9, but we should still attend because there would be a substitute there to teach in interim.  The first professor, as promised, has returned and we're underway.  My Diversity class, though, although the substitute is a very well-educated man, has been VERY hard to follow on account of his accent - it's Indian, I want to say, and I find myself often 'drifting.'  Thankfully the discussions are power-point supplemented so I'm able to just take notes and not worry too much about missed verbal content.  I really like the two introduction to Social Work classes I'm taking - one in particular taught by a practicing social worker who has an office and sees clients when she's not teaching classes!  The other professor has almost every letter of the alphabet after HIS name....BSW, MSW, LCS, Ph.D among others that I'm sure means he's highly qualified to teach a bunch of entry-level social work majors.  He was the giver of my first assignment, due in two days - a response paper detailing why I chose the social work field and what strengths I bring to the chosen area of practice.  Had to describe two practices that I'd be interested in focusing in and I debated on whether to explain that my reasons were somewhat personal but figured this would validate the 'strengths' question.  There was a third question that needed answering and it had to do with the basic guidelines of social work - code of ethics, etc.  Why are they in place?  I know, it seems to go without saying but I'm pleased to say that little by little, I'm learning more about the processes involved and I'm absolutely fascinated.  I turned in that assignment a couple of nights ago in hopes of my first 'A,' but know that as I've been out of the 'school loop' for 20 years, I'm likely to be rusty in a few areas. 
    I must also add that It's pretty neat seeing the Son on a daily basis.  We'll likely drive in together a couple days per week - he has classes within the same department (the Criminal Justice and Social Work programs/buildings are within close proximity) so I will see my firstborn during hallway passings.  The Daughter started 8th grade on Monday, too, and so far, so good.  I'm sure that as the school year unravels, we'll be hearing about excitement and possibly drama on all three fronts.  For now, though, I'm grateful for a successful first week.  11 more to go until winter break!
    So, in the interests of maintaining a successful balance with today's blog, I have a question for you all.
    WHY does shit happen on the weekends????  I mean, I know shit happens.  Life has a way of showing us this, ALL the time. But seriously, it's WAY easier when shit decides to happen during the week.  Preferably Monday through Thursday.  Because, then, if the shit that happens is urgent shit, we can at least have Friday to make any and all necessary calls to try and rectify said shit.  
    Still with me?
    So, Friday NIGHT - the daughter comes into my computer room and announces that we've got no running water.  She was trying to refill her water bottle and 'nothing was coming out.'
    Let it be known that we have well water and it's via pump that it comes into the house.  Pump runs on electric.  If there's a power outage, we're also not going to have running water until either we're hooked up to a generator or the power is restored.  When we moved into our house 2 years ago, the pump quit within a month of us living there.  Woke up one morning and none of the faucets were willing to produce any water.  It was a $2000 fix; guys come and install a new pump.  Underground pumps are SUPPOSED to last for 8-10 years and it's only been 2.  Our last major power outage was in March of 2018, so that had been the last time, also, without running water.
    So, I went to bed on Friday night thinking, maybe it's not the pump, maybe it's an electrical issue, maybe it's a short, maybe it's something to do with the pressure tank, maybe it's this, maybe it's that, maybe it's something simple, and I'm losing precious sleep for no good reason...
    It's the fucking pump, isn't it?  That's what my brain kept going back to.  But it made no sense to wake my sleeping wife to alert her to the problem - who were we going to call at 2am?  (Yes, as it wasn't a school night, I decided that staying awake past 1:30am was going to be an accepted challenge...happy to announce that slowly but surely, sleep is becoming harder to avoid on nights before having to get up for morning class!) 
    But I slept like the shit mentioned above on Friday night, because my brain, very used to dealing with shit on a regular basis, was not allowing for sleep to take over.  Instead of just resigning to the fact that there was nothing that could be done about this shit at least until the morning, I was now laying there in worry over how I was gonna catch up on the dishes and laundry that had accumulated during this first week of school...  
    Trying to self-declare that it was ANY other issue than the pump, J and I spent a good portion of yesterday trying to get ahold of the gentlemen (or at least, the company) who installed the well pump in 2017.  Let us now refer back to the statement of shit only seeming to happen on weekends, and now point out that it's not only a weekend - it's a HOLIDAY weekend, so any shit that decides to happen on Labor Day weekend, you can be SURE is going to be extra nasty to try and deal with.  
    First, we were told that their technician was already out taking care of another emergency call - he'd call us back when he was finished.  Three hours later, the same technician calls and says he's not actually 'the plumber' and that he'd reach out to their plumber and we'd hear back from HIM.  'Momentarily,' he said.  When 'momentarily' never came, we called back and were told that we'd likely have to wait until Tuesday to speak with someone in their plumbing department.  They proceeded in telling us that the warranty on the pump they'd installed two years ago was likely expired.  Meanwhile, no one was calling back, we had no running water and we're both getting annoyed because we STILL don't know what the problem is.  
    At this point, the shit was becoming BULLSHIT.
    J called another company, and got a very nice man on the phone.  Apparently new water pumps SHOULD come with a five-year warranty.  So, now, we know the first company was probably jerking us around and didn't intend to come help us. They probably KNEW that this pump was SUPPOSED to be under warranty, and didn't wish to honor that warranty - or to send any of their guys out on a weekend.  We didn't want to have to wait until Tuesday to even get the issue looked at, so we decided to have this other company come out (at a higher weekend rate), and at least diagnose the problem.  If it was a simple fix, we wouldn't have to worry about warranties, about dealing with the first company.
    But, alas - it IS the fucking pump.
    The guy showed up and took a look at the breakers, at the water heater, the electrical wiring.  All of our fears were confirmed when he shook his head and said, "Yep.  It's the pump."
    GREAT.  (You may envision me swearing at this point because it's entirely accurate.  I'll refrain from typing it all up, here.)
    So we pay him the weekend rate (double, I'm thinking) for coming out and checking things out.  He left saying that should we go with his company, the money we paid for the initial visit would be applied toward the total price of the job of replacing our pump.  Incentive and motivation indeed.  But now, this leaves us with another dilemma.  Do we want to wait until Tuesday to get ahold of the proper person at the company who first installed our pump in 2017 and see if the warranty could be honored - especially after they already indicated that it was 'expired'?  Or did we want to go with these new guys who would be willing to come install a new pump first thing the next morning, and apply the three hundred bucks and change we'd just paid, toward the new pump they'd have to put in?
    Deciding that neither we, or our five cats, could stand being without water for the next three days, we decided to go with the first-thing-tomorrow-morning option and we're going to task the Oompa with dealing with the company who installed our first pump.  They acted VERY unprofessionally when we needed their help and they're NOT going to be without responsibility.  Even though the newer company referred to the death of THAT pump as simply being 'Mother Nature pressing the FU button,' and confirmed it was nothing we did nor was it caused by the workmanship of the previous company.  Likely during one of our summer t-storms, there had been a power surge, and the pump had shorted.  "It happens," he said, "but we do offer that five-year warranty!"  
    Oompa, despite her many faults that we've come to recognize, has many talents.  Dealing with difficult people is indeed one of them.  She's a woman who makes shit happen and gets shit done.  So, dealing with 2017's water pump company is going to be a mission that J and I will GLADLY pass onto her. 
    Tomorrow morning arrived and has become tonight.  The laundry that's been piling up on the bathroom floor has been relocated into the machine, that will remain unplugged until water flow is restored into the House of Capulet.  I've already had to disappoint a certain orange feline of majestic size several times this morning in letting him know that his daily indulgence of drinking from the kitchen tap was unavailable.  He's been giving me those sad amber-colored eyes ALL day - translation: "HUMAN.  I want my water.  WHY are you not turning on the tap!?"  I apparently do not speak 'cat,' so I've given him extra doses of kisses and for now, he's been catching up on his sleep.  Being pure royalty is such hard work, after all!  He's been satisfied, though, with the pouring of a bottle of spring water into the bowl he shares with his sibling cats.  
    The guys have been here since 11am and two trips 'back to the office because they forgot something' have been made.  It is now nearly six in the evening and we've STILL not showered.  There is enough grease in my hair to fry up a batch of chicken cutlets.  I feel absolutely disgusting.  MY HOUSE feels filthy!  As there are only a couple hours remaining of daylight, I'm hoping the job will be completed soon enough and that the shower we both desperately need is on the horizon!
    Anyway - will be back later next week with another update.  I have missed utilizing this space to talk about everything and nothing - and sharing with you all those things that aren't posted about in the forums.  And I know that lately, I COULD have opted to put these things into a coherent blog entry, but - timing is everything!  Perhaps as more clarity is gained, I will slowly be able to speak on some of the other things. Much in my life is beginning to change, and while some people 'pwn' these changes - I seem to take a longer time than necessary to adapt.  
    I've still missed everyone and I'm here to stay.  Even if my water pump isn't.    (And hopefully this new one will last longer!). I'm also hopeful that you've all had a good summer!  
    Sending you all love and light! (and let there be water!)
    - Capulet
  20. Capulet
    This is also posted in Share Your Story.  The three installments are now posted in order there, and the board is now open to responses, but you may respond either here, or there, if you wish!  As always, please heed the trigger warnings above - and thank you in advance for reading!  Normal blogs will resume very soon, as my OCD self wanted these installments to be in order, without 'interruptions.'  And so, without further ado:
    Installment Three: After
    It might make the most sense to say that this third installment began when I opened my eyes on the morning of October 5th in 1996.  I’d gone to bed only hours earlier, but still hadn’t slept long.  I still felt sore, my head still ached, and my eyes burned whenever I blinked.  I needed the bathroom again but remember not wanting to get out of bed just yet.  I was in my room, but scanning through all of my familiar surroundings and belongings only made me uneasy and made everything seem ominous.  
    I didn’t know who I was, anymore.  Everything that I knew – wasn’t the same.  
    That realization sat with me all through the rest of the weekend, the rest of the month, the rest of the year of 1996.  After the week of school that the ‘stomach bug’ caused me to miss, I’d gone back and auto-piloted my way through the rest of the semester.  I went to class, sat quietly through lectures.  If there was a break in between classes, I would get a meal at the cafeteria and find a quiet place to sit.  That was a challenge, but I’d managed.  Then, when it was time to go home, I went home and usually retreated into my room, only coming out to eat, drink or to use the shower or bathroom. My father, not a very emotionally present man, didn’t question anything, which I was glad for.  My mother was a little more involved, but I’d managed to pull the wool over her eyes, too – something MUCH easier to do when there is minimal contact.
    I made my best (also minimal) efforts to stay afloat, and by the time 1997 had rolled around, I’d managed to finish my first semester of school with a solid 2.7 GPA.  I don’t know if there was pity on the professor’s end, but I probably deserved to flunk at least half of my classes.  Everything was half-assed.  I did not participate in the in-class discussion, I really couldn’t focus too much on any of the reading without glazing over and eventually throwing the book aside. My papers were shorter than they should have been.  Yet, I’m grateful for the C’s and D’s – they simply meant to me that I wouldn’t have to sit through these classes AGAIN!  That was just one of many lucky breaks, though.
    I’d known that moving into my Dad’s house for college would make it very difficult to maintain my now long-distance relationship, but now, there was even more reason to avoid seeing Matt. The shame was too great; I couldn’t help but think of my ‘non-virginity’ whenever I’d see a photo of Matt and I together.  His words would repeat in my mind, “we’ll do it on our wedding night, it will be SO special!”  First, I wondered if I could hide it, could I just pretend that I still was a virgin? How even would Matt be able to tell? It wasn’t something that would come out in flashing lights…as soon as we’d done it.  
    Everything in my brain, though, told me he would know, and images of him looking at me with disgust – took over.  So, my responses to Matt’s emails (daily!) began to falter and shorten.  Eventually, he began to ask when he could come see me, and my excuses that I was busy with classes only worked for a little while. He missed me, he said, and wanted to see me.  He’d seen me for Christmas the month before, when I’d gone back to Mom’s for the holiday break – there were a couple of brief visits with Matt during my trips home, but I’d definitely been distant, and to avoid kissing him, I’d told him I was either sick, or I’d make sure we were only around a bunch of other people (his family, my family) so that there was NO opportunity for ‘alone time.’  I am sure Matt wondered what the reason was for my being distant, but he’d never pushed, either.  In hindsight, I’m not even sure I would have wanted him to.  There was some hand-holding, though, which was probably nice for him but uncomfortable for me, especially because of all the remaining guilt I was feeling.  I felt unworthy of Matt’s love and affection – holding this HUGE secret.  I knew that I needed to break up with him, and just didn’t have the heart to do it.  I think, though, it was my hope that HE would be the one to walk away from me. 
    He wasn’t budging, though.  Despite my telling Matt not to make the 2.5-hour drive to my father’s house, he still decided to surprise me with a visit.  My Dad was out when he showed up, holding flowers.  When I’d gotten through with yelling at him for not telling me he was coming, I agreed to go for a drive with him.
    THAT’s when he pushed. We were eventually parked outside a restaurant and he’d been telling me about his own classes, his friends, his band that they were trying to form.  I’d listened, done a lot of nodding, ‘hmm-hmm’s’ and had thrown in a few automated responses of ‘that’s nice.’
    “Okay…what’s wrong?” He finally said.
    I PROBABLY could have broken down and told my boyfriend what had happened just a few short months earlier, but at that very moment, I literally SAW the walls rise up.  It wasn’t safe.  It was dangerous.  Matt, who had NEVER raised his voice to me, NEVER touched me in any way that was not gentle, NEVER had gotten angry with me – Matt, the saint – now scared the hell out of me.  It made NO sense, whatsoever, to want to run away from him, but I did.  I think I remember vaguely, my hand clasping the car door handle when he began to say he’d noticed a change in me.  I don’t even remember the half of it, even though the words and memories swirled….
    I was caught completely off guard when Matt’s lips covered mine – it was one of those unexpected last-ditch effort at romance, I think – kinda like in one of those old films when the man grabs the woman and plants one on her in the heat of the moment. While I might have appreciated the sneak-attack kiss months earlier when Matt was the one who was keeping a distance, it didn’t sit well with me at the moment, and I shoved him away almost as quickly as the kiss had come on.  He backed off, stunned, and just stared at me.
    And that’s when I told an incredulous Matt, without making eye contact, that I just didn’t love him anymore and that we needed to break up.  Through the corner of my eye, though, I could see his heart break into a million pieces.  He stared at me for at least a minute, which seemed more like several, before he began to plead.  He asked me to look at him, which I couldn’t.  He asked what he’d done – I couldn’t think of a single thing that he’d done wrong, but at the same time, I couldn’t explain that this wasn’t about him at all.  
    I provided one-word answers, mostly, and let him bawl, I let him take my hand, thinking momentarily that maybe, just maybe, this could be fixed?  Maybe the truth wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it would be – but still couldn’t get past the notion that it STILL might be seen as a betrayal.  I’d already said what was hard enough to build up to saying, and there was no turning back, now.  I finally asked him to take me back to my Dad’s house, and he put the car in gear and drove.  He declined to come in when we got back to the house, and instead sped off – likely heading back home.  
    I went inside, sat down, and cried, tears of relief, tears of shame, tears of self-hatred for having done what I’d done.  Matt hadn’t deserved any of that.  And here, I’d done a horrible thing and had sent him home upset – I HAD told him to let me know when he got home but was sure he’d be too angry to.  I understood that, too, and was surprised to actually receive an email later on that evening – an email that I left unanswered because there had been more pleading, more ‘talk to me’s’ and more questions I couldn’t answer truthfully.  I responded a few days later, with ‘glad you made it home safely, will talk to you soon.’ I gave him no hopes of us reconciling. Matt was too good for me, he deserved so much better than me.
    Eventually, he stopped emailing, and our breakup sank in – and the next time I’d see Matt was by running into him at Party City years later, where he and his fiancée were picking up their wedding invitations.  I had my son in tow as I walked in, needing to buy paper products for a party his pre-kindergarten class was having.  We’d locked eyes after not seeing each other for nearly a decade, and we’d exchanged a very, VERY awkward ‘oh, hi!’ before walking away from each other.  No conversation.  Perhaps it would have been different if we were both alone.  
    There was a sigh of relief, I must say, for it was nice to see that Matt had found love again. At this point, I was married too, but my original plan (as well as Matt’s, as we were supposed to have married each other!) had been unfairly foiled.  I still resented myself for not having been able to salvage what Matt and I had, but knowing that he’d found someone that he was soon to marry was relieving.  At least he was happy. 
    But was I happy?
    At the time, no. Probably not.  I had a husband, three children (the youngest of the three being ours) that I was raising, a part-time job and a whole lot of baggage that LOVED to resurface from time to time.  It was day-to-day, there were smiles whenever one of the kids did something wonderful, or during the occasional times my husband would smile…but genuine happiness?  That remained a foreign concept.
    I suppose I should talk about the ‘BH’ (before husband) time period, though, before I delve into the rest of the issues that hold significance.  It just seemed to make more sense to discuss Matt, first, as he was my first failed relationship, and the first example of what unreasonable decisions that the after-effects of trauma can drive a person to make.  
    Although Matt’s and my breakup was my decision, it was a choice I’d made without fully considering what it all meant for me.  Matt had been my anchor; the guy I’d been saving myself for.  My not being able to tell him the truth (about how it had been TAKEN from me and that I’d not given it willingly) was a weak moment, built on fear – and moments like this are built up on even further as time goes on. One weak moment triggers the next. I don’t have any other explanation for the shameful subsequent behaviors that I’m going to be sharing next.  
    Before I get into that, it should be noted that I felt, in a way, freed of my promise to Matt. There was nothing left to save, nothing holding me back, anymore, to the idea that Matt was my one and only.  I wasn’t a virgin, anymore, and I’d had sex. The adult version of me can certainly say that virginity was MUCH more than physical; but the eighteen-year-old version of myself wasn’t able to form that conclusion.  So, now that I was no longer ‘pure,’ a new perception of myself was born; a self-image that although inaccurate, proved to be the driving force behind the poor choices I’d make next.
    The men (I guess I can call them all ‘men’ as they, as well as I, were all over the age of 18 and considered ‘adults’) started out being close to my age, if not a year or two older than me.  It was 1997, now, and it was around the time when AOL (America Online) was the hottest new thing.  The internet, the world wide web, dial-up connecting with that familiar high-pitched screech at the end - was all brand-new, very exciting, and ALL people talked about.  
    I was introduced to chat rooms rather quickly, mostly because I had a clunky desktop computer that my father had given to me for school use, and for some reason, the internet (by 'internet,' I mean primarily the world wide web 'searches') never worked properly for me.  I got to exploring one evening and discovered that there were so many OTHER benefits to AOL than simply the ‘You’ve Got Mail!’ announcement upon log-in, and surfing the information superhighway – I don’t think I even knew how to do this until later.  For the most part, my online visits were used for the purpose of sending emails back and forth, and for browsing the chat rooms that were themed.  There was a teen chat, location-based chats, and, I was shocked to see, a Rape Survivors chat.  
    When it came to the latter chat, I kept a distance for a while.  I’d go in but for the most part, I’d just sit and observe.  These were the days when instant messaging was insanely popular, and there were many, many conversations with men who were, sadly, visiting the chat room for the wrong reasons.  I did very much want to share my story, to talk, to speak with someone who could relate, but AOL’s chat rooms were NOT monitored, and the members were WAY out of control.  Questions were rude, and very few people actually spoke IN the chat room. Instead, everyone was pinging each other privately, asking for sordid details and hoping to ‘hook up.’   Each room held about 28 people at a time, and of the 28, perhaps a small handful were actually survivors.  The rest, I believe now, were voyeurs or simply people who were curious or got their jollies from hearing of others’ pain or horror stories.  
    As an adult, I know and understand now that people like this exist – but being an 18-year-old who wanted so much to talk, to make connections, to be listened to – it didn’t matter who a person was or what their curiosities were based upon. They were there, they were listening, and responding to me.  See, offline, I had nobody to talk to.  My parents remained oblivious, the very few friends I had in my classes only really knew the ‘me’ I was post-rape – so they really didn’t notice any ‘changes’ in me.  In a way, it was nice to not have to explain what had become different.  At that point in time, moving forward was important, and leaving things in the past, where they would be forgotten.  (Yes, we can laugh at that thought – it wasn’t until much later that I’d realize that this kind of thing wasn’t able to be forgotten!)
    Now, I’m not saying everyone was like that.  I’ve met and still am in contact with some very genuine people – people I’ve known for that long.  Those were the lasting friendships.  But while there are lasting friendships, there were other lasting impressions made, although not favorable ones.  
    My first consensual encounter was with another deaf guy.  It wasn’t even a good experience – it was more memorable simply because it was the first time I’d said ‘yes.’  And I remember thinking when it was over – wait, THIS was what all the hype was about???? Not only was it a little physically painful (whether it was due to body memories, or simply inexperience) but it was also over in seconds.  And that night, I said to myself, ‘I’m not a virgin anymore.’  
    I guess there was more expectation of losing virginity than what I was seeing, though.  Pre-trauma, I’d heard sex was supposed to bring pleasure. It was supposed to be special.  It was supposed to be something people LIKED to do, something that kept people going for more.  It was what my friends, (at least, the very few friends I had at the time) talked about doing with their boyfriends.  All I had to show (or tell) for it was a ten-second experience that left me overall unimpressed and unsatisfied.  It’d not occurred to me that this was something I had to build up to, something I had to be comfortable with in order for it to work – not now and not at this time.  Instead, I became increasingly convinced that there was something wrong with me, and it had to be fixed. 
    I continued to sign into AOL and to enter chat rooms.  It was more so for the connections and wasn’t really for the purpose of finding in-person companionship, but I still got asked on dates by men in the location-based chat rooms.  One was a boyfriend for about a month, before he decided that there was someone else he wanted to date.  In hindsight, I recall seeing that as a rejection because I likely wasn’t an exciting date.  Yes, there was sex, but there was also that inability of mine to invest emotionally. I wasn’t finding pleasure there, either. I guess there was MORE expected of me than sex, especially with someone who was a potential boyfriend, and relationship-wise, I just wasn’t measuring up to HIS expectation.  Our breakup was quick, he was distant for a while and eventually sent me an email saying he wanted to remain friends.  There was a lax ‘okay, that’s fine,’ response, and I never saw him again.  I did eventually (MANY years later) Facebook-search him and saw he’d settled down with a girl who LOOKED as if she were more into him than I ever was. There was love in her eyes, there was joy.  There had been NONE of that in mine when we’d dated.  Oh, how could I blame him for turning elsewhere?
    Honestly, maybe that was the problem.  Emotionally, my heart perhaps still belonged to Matt – or it possibly just didn’t belong to anyone.  It makes sense to assume it was just being kept to myself, it was chained up, and to solidify it, there was a brick wall in front of it.  I’m sure this was another after-effect of the rape – but it wasn’t something I was working on at the moment, either.  Not with therapy, not with counseling, nothing beyond browsing the self-help section at the bookstore because I’d heard ‘The Courage To Heal’ workbook was worth buying.  I had a block in place when it came to interacting with others about my trauma and my reasons behind this particular wall – because I simply didn’t want to, I didn’t want to have to un-barricade my heart and make it privy to being broken again. 
    And so, I chose to just not care, moving forward.  I made horrible choices.  I didn’t care about my personal safety.  I met man after man online, and I’d end up meeting and sleeping with most of them.  They weren’t in it for the emotional connection. They just wanted sex.  And being that I was avoiding emotional attachments at the time, I usually obliged – even if one seemed to want a date first – we’d almost always end up in bed, in a hotel room, in the back seat of a car, and it was the same thing, every time.  They’d initiate sexual activity, and I’d allow it to go as far as they wished. I didn’t care if they used condoms, I didn’t ask them to.  Most times, they did, but sometimes they didn’t.  I didn’t stop to consider STDs, pregnancy, none of those things mattered. I wanted to feel SOMETHING, even if it was occasional pain.  It was all a part of my self-destructive plan.  I felt numb during the actual sexual activity – there was a bit of shame after the fact, but it wasn’t enough to make me cease behaviors.  It instead fed into my desire to feel something…ANYTHING…even if it wasn’t favorable.
    Over time, my depression got deeper and my behaviors became more risky.  I drank heavily, with the goal of being too drunk to feel anything afterwards, should things become physical.  It was now an expectation, for all of these random men (and women) were the opposite of Matt and always were ready to go.  Perhaps I wasn’t admitting it to myself, but I would secretly hope one of these several partners of mine would finish the job that my rapist seemed to have started.  The job of just ending my life.  In a way, they were, I was just dying slower than I wanted to.  The guy who was into bondage…would he just kill me when he was done? The older, fifty-something car salesman – would he take his enjoyment of rough sex a little further and finish with snapping my neck?  The sex itself wasn’t painful most of the time – and even if something were being done that I didn’t especially enjoy, I still kept my mouth shut and allowed them to finish, to satisfy themselves.  There were a couple of ‘generous’ partners who wanted to reciprocate, and I’d end up faking it because it wasn’t happening for me, and I was honestly ready for it to be finished.  Truthfully, when they were done, I’d be too disappointed that I was still alive and feeling no satisfaction.  Just more numbness, more shame, more self-disgust.  And these feelings were what drove me down a very dark path consisting of self-injury and more recklessness.
    I wasn’t in a safe place with all of these thoughts – and it scared me to realize that I’d be disappointed time after time again when none of these men wanted to kill me – they were GETTING what they wanted, which was an easy lay.  I was getting absolutely nothing.  Yet, the behavior continued – I’d meet people, we’d hook up, and 95% of the time, there would be a sexual encounter.  Not all of them were the same, but I’m fairly positive that some were questionable as far as consent was involved, but because I wasn’t the one to initiate, I was also the one who never actually said ‘no,’ either.  When things didn’t feel right, I still allowed them to happen.  There was almost ALWAYS that memory of what had happened the last time I DID say ‘no.’ 
    It wouldn’t be until MUCH later in life that I’d understand that being silent doesn’t equal consent.  At this time, though, I viewed my actually being there, in whatever situation it was, and willingly – as consent.  It didn’t matter if it started out comfortable and finished with my feeling the need to hurt myself in some way in the near future – I was there, and I’d let it all happen.  It was very, VERY rarely that any of my partners would stop and ask me if I was okay – most all of them were simply too caught up in the moment.  
    This was behavior I was used to when the wasband (if you’re a follower of my blogs, you know that this is how I refer to my ex-husband) entered my life for the first time.  He was 29, I was 20.  He was introduced to me by a mutual friend who knew a little bit of my depression – she realized that he and I lived 20 minutes away from each other and thought that since he was a police officer, he would be a good resource and someone who could find me ‘help.’  
    We talked online for several weeks before agreeing to meet.  He’d been told of my self-injury tendencies (by our mutual friend) and he did know a little bit more about my past by the time we’d planned to meet at a small corner diner near where he worked.  The plan was to have dinner and get to know each other.  I remember the first time seeing him – he was pudgy, had a rounded, boyish face, he had hair on his head – although thinning.  He was in the middle of a separation with his wife. He had a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, that I wouldn’t meet until a bit later.  
    I’m not even sure what it was about him when we first met.  He wasn’t without flaws, but then again – neither was I.  He was a heavy smoker, something that I KNEW my father would despise.  By this point in my life, I’d tried occasional cigarette smoking and never really liked it enough to form a habit.  He listened.  He talked to me.  He didn’t judge anything.  He would notice the scratches, bruises, burns on my arms, and ask about them.  In a way, it’s a good thing that our mutual friend had supplied him with some background information – I don’t think I could ever FULLY explain to a non-survivor the reasons behind these self-inflicted injuries.  He seemed to understand, though, and eventually disclosed that he, too, was a survivor – not of sexual abuse, but of neglect and physical abuse at the hands of his parents.  His mother was a drug user.  His father was both into drugs and alcohol, and the wasband had left home at the tender age of 15 – he’d moved in with a grandparent and then straight after High School, he’d joined the army.  
    He was someone with a tough façade, but, for a while, (likely for as long as we were still in the ‘dating stages,’) his interior was smooshy.  He held my hand when we went for walks, he was gentle, he was kind. He didn’t judge me for any of the marks I’d made on myself.  And I think this is what made some of those walls begin to lower – but he was the very first man (since Matt) who held my hands in his and asked my permission to kiss me.  I granted him permission, and from that point on, he asked for permission to proceed any further.  We didn’t sleep together right away – it wasn’t until we’d been seeing one another for at least a month.  This was new to me.  While I was ‘getting to know’ the wasband, I had stopped entering chat rooms.  I would just talk to him, day in and day out – while he was at work and I was in school, I’d write him letters to give him when I saw him, even if it was going to be later that same day.  He became someone I looked forward to seeing, connecting with, sharing with.  Kissing. I was starting to enjoy it.  I was feeling something.  Physically, also, there was a connection that I’d not felt before – not even with Matt, because I’d simply not gotten that far with Matt. While I’d gotten that far (and sometimes further, if that’s even possible) with complete strangers, this was all new to me – this was with someone who seemingly WANTED for me to feel safe with him.  He took things slowly, he took his time, he was patient when I needed to stop.  
    It’s possible that what I was feeling wasn’t accurate, though.  Because I was now dating the wasband, I was no longer ‘hooking up’ with anybody else.  I wasn’t putting myself into risky situations any longer.  I was now with ONE guy, who seemingly cared about me, about how I felt. There was no longer a need to find these things elsewhere – it felt NICE to gain this sense of security that I’d never felt before.  
    Then he proposed – we were out for coffee – at a coffee shop that no longer exists today. He presented me with a ring – and asked me to be his wife.  I accepted immediately.  I’m not sure if it was love, though, that prompted me to say yes – perhaps it was the idea of prolonged security – a safer path to be on than the one I PROBABLY would end up back on if this didn’t work out.  And it wasn’t a bad alternative path, not at this point.  Here was a guy who seemed to genuinely care about me – a guy who was considerate, a guy who had his own faults that I knew I could accept….he was, after all, accepting of mine.  It meant I would become a step-mother.  I’d met his children at this point and had such love for them, for spending time with him and the two of them.  
    Despite my mother’s hissy fit when she learned of my plans to move in with him, I left home at 20. She’d never liked the wasband.  At least, not in the beginning.  “He’s been married before,” she’d say, “why did he break up with his first wife?  What went wrong?”  (I’d not be able to truthfully answer this until MUCH later, but these were questions my mother had thrown at me, since the day I came home with the announcement that we’d gotten engaged.)  I told her that I loved him and was moving on with my plans to live with and marry him. 
    Shortly after moving in with him into his apartment and going to school from a new ‘home,’ things began to change.  The changes were slow and gradual, though – in ways that were too minuscule to really make a big deal out of, and I was not seeing the waving red flags.  First, it was the small things – he’d take notice of the fact that I didn’t really know how to make coffee.  Or how to do laundry.  My parents had always done those things, I’d never been on my own.  He’d already been married once, had experienced married life once – he’d had a partner in which to run a household, parent children with – things I had absolutely NO experience in.  I seriously lacked in life skills – but what I DID have, though, was credit.  His debt piled up on MY credit cards, from the very beginning.  There was always the promise that he’d pay this bill when he got paid, that one next month, etc.  I didn’t think much of it, because really, they were for US.  For things we needed. Food, stuff for the apartment, clothes, gas, etc.  I paid no attention to the charges – as long as there was a ring on my finger, whatever was mine was his, too.  His responsibilities were now also mine – and I thought nothing of putting things onto my credit cards.  This, in hindsight, was another HUGE mistake, as it made me file bankruptcy before I was 25.
    There was one day he’d asked me to wash one of his shirts for work – and I’d had to admit that I didn’t know how.  Not one of my finer moments, no, but the look on his face then, DID make me feel about two inches tall.  But then we’d both gone down to the laundry room and he’d shown me how to operate the machines – how much change to use, how much detergent, the works.  But, now, this became MY job.  I did ALL of the laundry, from that point on.  I was to ensure he had clean shirts for work – if he didn’t have one, it was my fault.  There were times he’d say he loved me, but it still felt as if we were worlds apart – he’d experienced so much more in the course of his nearly 30 years – he’d seen combat and I’d only seen the inside of a classroom.  He’d been married before, had children – I’d just left my parents’ house.  There were no deal-breakers at this point but it was clear he wanted me to step up, to step in where his first wife had failed to do so.  He wanted me to grow up, wanted me to skip ahead, catch up, be where he was in life.  He didn’t say so using exact words, but there were little actions of his – little looks, little comments.  Including one day, when I’d just gotten out of the shower, “I’d like to have a child with you, soon.” 
    Make no mistake about this – our son was NOT unwanted.  He was perhaps rushed, but never unwanted.  I was still in school, with two years or so to go – and when the wasband had mentioned having a baby, there WAS a part of me that felt that although I DID want my own child one day, if I didn’t agree to it now, it would become something else that he would view as further resistance toward the life he wanted me to share with him.  We were already engaged to be married – there was already commitment, there was job security on his part, there was no real reason not to agree to having a child with him – at least not one good enough to present to him.  It would make him happy, after all.  He’d said he would let me think about it, and there were a few more sexual encounters in between my ‘nod.’  
    See, it hadn’t been discussed beyond that day in the bathroom, I’d not thought about what having a child at 21 would mean for me – I thought nothing other than how happy it would make him.  I didn’t think I’d be entirely unhappy with having my own child, either.  I’d worry about being a mother – I was already becoming a stepmother, but being a mother to my own biological child was a terrifying thought.  It was a thought, though, that I was sure plenty of other women shared, at least, until they had their first baby.  There were also thoughts of what any baby the wasband and I made together would look like…and that was admittedly nice.  Girl or boy? Maybe they’d have his blond hair? Maybe they’d have my freckles.  He already had an adorable little girl who looked just like him – and son….would our child look like his or her siblings?? 
    So, that night in October, he’d paused during an intimate moment – a sign that he was ready to finish - and I knew.  He was again, asking permission.  I didn’t want to spend too much more time over-thinking, over-analyzing, so I gave the nod.  When we were finished, he kissed me, and said, “you’re pregnant.”
    I don’t remember saying anything.  I do remember thinking, though – HOW?  Was it really this easy?  I didn’t know too much about my ovulation cycle at all – I’d also had a LOT of sex – although mostly protected, there was ALWAYS that possibility that it hadn’t worked. Maybe this, too, would take a little time?  I did already know from hearing others talk, that sometimes it took a while…maybe this, too, would take several tries?
    But, sure enough, I WAS pregnant.   Whether it was that night, or the within the few times afterwards, I conceived VERY quickly. The wasband, to this day, jokes that our son was a ‘one shot, one kill’ deal.  At the time I’m writing this, he’s fathered five, in total.  Perhaps there are others from his military era – but there are currently five biological children that we know of.  My mother, several years later, would joke that the wasband could get a piece of furniture pregnant.  And if furniture could reproduce – that would be true.  
    Our son was born in 2000 and instantly became the love of my life.  Any doubts I’d had before – gone.  The Son, however, was NOT an easy baby and challenged me in every single way – he was colicky, he had a lactose intolerance, he had to be in my arms CONSTANTLY, which was never an issue for me as much as it was for the wasband – I loved holding my child.  This perfect little extension of the wasband and me.  He had soft golden hair, beautiful brown eyes, rosy cheeks, tiny little lips and ears that stuck out in an adorable Yoda-like way.  He was most peaceful whenever sleeping, and I could stare at this image of perfection for hours on end.  Sleep was already hard for me, but now even harder, as the Son VERY rarely slept when he was not in my arms.  MANY nights were spent in our living room recliner – for any time a transfer from the arms to the crib was attempted, he’d wake up and scream for the next amount of time it took to get him back to sleep.
    I was sleep deprived fairly soon – and there was absolutely NO help from the wasband during the day – he worked within walking distance from the house, but rarely came home for lunch.  My days were spent tending to not just our son, but also to his daughter and son from wife #1.  They needed picking up and dropping off from school.  The stepdaughter was sick EVERY other week – it was like clockwork and continued until she was eleven and had her tonsils removed.  But she needed to frequently be picked up and brought to the pediatrician, with both boys usually in tow.  Their mother usually wasn’t able to take them to the doctor, which, to this day, STILL irritates me – it was enough that my husband was expecting me to take care of his children in his absence, but you’d think that the real mother of these kids would step up whenever needed – especially since I now had an infant.  I made the mistake of complaining to the wasband ONCE when the stepdaughter needed to be brought to the doctor in the middle of the day and the baby was napping – it was actually more of a vent than anything, but something to the tune of, ‘why can’t her mother take her?’  
    I was now ‘lazy.’ I’m sure he had more reasons built up to call me lazy.  Time went on and raising three children who had NO concept of tidiness, the housework piled up. The laundry was delayed.  Dinner was NEVER ready when he got home.  We were now married – we’d tied the knot when the Son was nine months old.  I was a horrible wife when it came to keeping everything running smoothly.  I was in my very early 20s, and EXHAUSTED.  I was ending up doing emergency loads of laundry in the middle of the night, with the Son, who still wasn’t sleeping like a normal child, in the Snuggli thingy that you wear on your torso.  
    You know what they say about exhaustion bringing forth additional stressors, and I was no different. I began to see my husband in a different way than I had a year earlier.  Especially when the nightmares, the restless nights, the stray memories started up, again – likely around my traumaversary-time.  He was very rarely kind to me anymore – whether that was because now he viewed me as lazy or it was because he was stressed out, too – either way, he was not the man he used to be.  He was more critical than he was pleasant, he would joke around (and not about the typical things worthy of joking around – his jokes were hurtful, mean and of the bullying sort) and when his jokes weren’t taken well, he’d shoot me the look of disgust – why couldn’t I take a joke? I had no sense of humor, I guess, and was constantly made to feel badly about it.   
    My depression sank in again.  I gained weight, and this was yet another thing that he would chastise me for.  I began to spend more time online again – not for the same purpose of my previous online encounters, of course, but more so for friendship, for conversation where I didn’t have to be judged for whatever I might be feeling.  For the kindness that I was no longer receiving at home.  For connection, for there was none of that, either.  For commonality, for I now felt alone in a house FILLED with people.  I was an army of one, the ONLY one who knew what I was dealing with, and the only one who cared, too.  Although I was not entirely verbal about these things, a LOT of time was spent within the confines of my own mind, while I tried to balance everything else.
    The wasband was NOT pleased with my being online, though.  He’d read over my shoulder, question me about whomever I was speaking with. I’d made the mistake of telling him that one of the people I was speaking with was also a rape survivor and that we were talking about things that had helped her deal/cope.  
    You WOULD have thought I’d told him I was having an illicit affair.  He said some pretty hurtful, disgusting things, and pretty much accused me of everything in the book.
    “Why are you trying to make other people feel sorry for you?” 
    “Your sharing stuff of such a personal nature can be viewed as an emotional affair.”
    “Nobody wants to hear about these things.”
    “These personal things need to stay private.  It’s not anyone else’s business.”
    And my favorite:
    “You’re supposed to talk to ME about these things.  Not strangers.”
    Okay.  Fair enough, on the last one.  Yes, perhaps he was the one I needed to go to for support, but he wasn’t providing it.  Maybe, though, NOW he would ‘step up’ and into a more actively supportive role? Now that I was seeking it elsewhere?
    You see, I never shut him out.  I WOULD tell him about how I was feeling.  I HAD.  I’d told him a few things while we were still in our dating stages, and he’d been supportive and kind. The problem here, I think, is that he felt this ‘support’ he had given was a one-time thing.  It was not something that should continue beyond the initial giving of support.  I should now be over this.  I should NOT be letting this consume me, anymore.  I should be focused on being his wife, being a mother, our home.  To him, it was frustrating that I couldn’t do this easily, and to me, it felt as if I was truly broken because of my inability to ‘move on.’  
    At one point, I suggested going to a therapist, and he’d made this face – one that my daughter, to this day, calls ‘the Trump face.’  Eyes narrow, lip curled upwards.  Even better when he’d say, ‘Therapy??’ and refer to it in a tone that was nothing short of belittling – of both me and of the idea of my taking my issues to a therapist.  It was enough to make me decide against it entirely; and further paved the way toward option number three – which was to completely withdraw and self-isolate.  I stopped reaching out for support, whether it was online or it was offline.  I still maintained ‘platonic’ friendships (people from my bowling league, online friendships) but made sure to keep walls up - it seemed to make him the happiest when I did that.  He’d ask how I was doing, and my response, if not ‘fine,’ would be met with the ‘you don’t need therapy, do you?’  
    I became increasingly miserable, but tried to focus on remaining as engaged with his and my children’s lives as possible.  I carried on this way, for years.  I ignored whatever uncomfortable triggers might have arose along the way – during everyday life, during the night when the nightmares would revisit, during every October that would come and go, during sex with him, which while it wasn’t forceful, it WAS almost ALWAYS initiated by him, emotionless, and devoid of feeling. He had his ‘bedroom routines,’ that I cared nothing for, but like with anything else I didn’t particularly agree with, it became yet another thing for me to remain silent about – even if it was just for the sake of avoiding an unnecessary argument.  He was a man that needed consistency in the bedroom – and while I could honestly go for weeks without sex, this NEVER would have flown for him.  I never refused him, though I would feel HORRIBLE afterwards – dirty, disgusting, tainted.  It didn’t seem to be the right way to feel after sex with your spouse – but like anything else, I ignored these feelings, too.
    I chose to keep my mouth shut and shoved ANY negative feelings down almost as quickly as they’d surface, because I felt that if he saw me struggling with any of it, there would be MORE looks of disgust, MORE criticism, MORE comments on why I’d not moved on.  MORE reason for him to not see me as the perfect wife he’d THOUGHT I’d be on the night he proposed.  There was just NO sparkle in his eyes, anymore.  In me, there was only emptiness and a yearning for more, for something that seemed impossible to find.  And I’d doomed myself to all of it, I’d chosen to adopt his mindset, even if I didn’t necessarily feel there was anything ‘right’ about it.
    We had our daughter in 2006.  I’d have liked to have her sooner, but after how difficult a baby the son was, the wasband had always said he didn’t want any more children.  (Yes, laughable now, that he’s got six – five of his own and one belonging to his current wife!)  I’m not sure if he’d sensed my overall unhappiness and that was what changed his mind, but he did eventually ask if we should try again.  Thinking this would make a difference; even the smallest bit of a difference, I agreed to it.  I DID want more of my own children.  Where there was a VERY noticeable void with HIM, there was never one when it came to my son.  He had unconditional love, he cared nothing about what I might be struggling with, he’d just climb into my lap and I’d instantly feel comforted.  I loved NO ONE as much as I loved him.  And the idea of having someone else to love, to nurture, was certainly appealing.  I DID want a little girl, and knew that whe opportunity likely wouldn’t present again if I’d passed on it now.
    It took three months of trying before we conceived the daughter.  There were times where he was overly loving and sad to say, it’s likely because I was pregnant.  He was more gentle with his words and his touch.  He did some stuff around the house, mostly when I’d hit my third trimester. He’d barked at the rest of the kids to clean up their rooms, their toys off the floor so that ‘your mother doesn’t step on them and hurt herself or the baby.’  I knew this change in him was likely temporary – and that what had happened after the son was born, would likely happen again after I’d had the daughter. 
    I was right.
    The daughter was not as difficult as the son was.  She was not colicky, she was fine with being put down into a swing or a rocker, she was content with being placed in front of the television while I went about normal chores.  But, now, I had FOUR children and a husband who worked from seven in the morning until five in the evening – and his expectation that I’d have to (flawlessly) hold down the fort, remained the same.  With three out of four being school-aged, there was ALWAYS the chance one would have to be picked up, one would be home sick and have to be taken to the doctor’s office, one would forget a science project was due until the NIGHT before…there was absolutely NO help from him when he got home.  He’d have his dinner and retreat into the living room and sit in his recliner for the rest of the night.  He’d complain (from his chair) that the house was untidy, there were dishes in the sink, dinner wasn’t ready, laundry was piled up, kids’ rooms were a shambles, the floor hadn’t been swept, vacuumed, etc.  There was that occasional ‘what did you even DO around here, all day long?’ 
    I’d shoot back, ‘taking care of a baby is a full-time job!’  He’d scoff and rattle off a list of things he’d gotten accomplished before noon – and top it off with, ‘I bust my ass all day long, so when I come home, I want to not have to handle anything at home.’
    Yes, he actually thinks that’s how a household is run.  That duties are separate.  The man goes to work and the woman does everything at home.  So, because he works most of the day, (and let’s not forget, he gets MOST of his heavy work done before noon!) anything having to do with the house and with the kids, is on me.  Where’s the partnership, here?  Are we forgetting that two of these kids aren’t even biologically mine?  And don’t get me wrong – I NEVER treated his elder son and daughter any differently than I treated my own.  I even LOVED them as if they were my own.  Whenever I told anyone about my kids, I never said I had two children – I said had four.  There was just ALWAYS a shred of existing resentment, toward him and toward their mother – for not stepping in when things were noticeably overwhelming. Knowing that I was not only taking care of what was REQUIRED for me to take care of, but also going above and beyond that to make sure HIS elder two children had stability and security in their lives, even if it meant compromising my own happiness.
    What did I want? A thank-you?
    No.  That’s not what I wanted.  A little recognition would have been nice, though.  I did it all without a complaint.  These kids shouldn’t have to suffer because their mother was stupid and and their father preferred for ME to be the more attentive parent. I wouldn’t have minded it so much, either, if he would have just occasionally said, “I appreciate all you do for my kids, for me.”  Those words NEVER came.  Instead, the criticism came.  The put-downs, the consistent mention of where I would fall short.  He also NEVER had my back in any of it – he would undermine me – CONSTANTLY – and in front of the kids, too.  If I complained that one didn’t clean their room properly, his response would be, ‘that’s where you have to step in and supervise.’  These kids could do NOTHING wrong – it was always MY fault if they didn’t do what they needed to do.  Even his eldest, who at the time was 12-13 years old – whenever I complained to him that she wasn’t doing what was asked of her, his response was, I’m too hard on her, I’m not willing to help her.  At 13, my mother was NOT helping me clean my room, or perform simple chores.  I was doing that, myself, and when asked.   My mother did do me an injustice by not making me do my own laundry – but that wasn’t even what he was complaining about.  And this was just plain bullshit – I was to drop everything else I had to deal with during the course of a day, and help a pre-teen clean her room?  I didn’t make the mess.  I shouldn’t have to assist anyone over the age of six in the cleaning and tidying of their bedroom.  But I did – and this push was now coming from the man who stated that I had absolutely no life skills?  What favors was he now doing his children?  His children, who, currently and in present day, now have absolutely no life skills???  (and YES, this includes my two, who, over time, have become lazy slobs!)
    Rather than things improving with the arrival of our daughter, they seemingly became worse. He’d come home in a cranky mood, EVERY day.  There was less frequently a smiling moment.  We were both miserable, despite sharing four children, having a (very small and cramped) home and our physical health intact.  We rarely spoke to one another, and when he DID speak to me, it was not usually gently.
    I began to ‘rebel,’ in very small ways.  I waited until he left for work in the mornings, and I’d boot up the computer. Again, I felt the need for connection, for friendship, to feel less alone.  While I didn’t care too much about what he wanted, as far as reaching out ‘beyond the home,’ I was still careful to NOT allow him to see what I was doing online.  My internet browser history was promply deleted as soon as his car pulled into the driveway.  Anyone I spoke to through messengers, was informed that my husband could not ‘see’ us speaking, so if it was later in the day, they knew to let me make the first contact.  There was absolutely NOTHING inappropriate about my conversations – I was never unfaithful to the wasband.  I, however, knew that It would make him angry to learn that I’d 1) started talking about my past trauma again, meaning I wasn’t 'over it,' yet, and 2) it was with people that ‘had no business knowing about my personal life.’  In hindsight, I do wonder if a small part of him feared being pegged as the one who was unreasonable and irrational – but I suppose that’s something I’ll never know the answer to. I knew there was absolutely nothing that I should be ashamed of, but there was always that fear of being MADE to feel as if I were doing him an injustice by spending my time the way I wanted to spend it.  I didn’t want him questioning my conversations or online activity – so I made sure to hide it all.  It was simply the path of least resistance.  While I didn’t fear any physical blowback, should he ever discover how I was spending my days, it was the emotional response that scared me more. My husband NEVER struck me in anger – let that be known.  He, however, had a way of battering someone with his words and his often unreasonably strong opinions. 
    Regardless of my ‘rebellion,’ I still tended to my baby/toddler.  I balanced the cleaning and childcare and dubbed the half-hour before his arrival home the ‘crunch time’ and would scurry through the house, making it look as if I HAD done some cleaning.  It was SIMPLY just a matter of there being clothes on the floor, or stuff on the table that needed to be put away, or a quick sweep of the kitchen floor. I began to put in as much effort as he’d previously said I was.  Why not, right?  I might as well REALLY be the fat, lazy wife he’d always said I was.
    It was, in fact, a spring day in 2007 when I found After Silence.  I’d been conversing with someone else, a fellow survivor that I’d told the wasband that was a parent of a child with a hearing and speech impairment (because THAT commonality was okay to have) and it was she who provided me the link to AS – saying, ‘try this place.’
    I registered an account with AS and began to look around.  The interactions between the members, the staff – it all was so wonderful to see.  I quickly felt compelled to become a part of all of it.  And so, every day, in between feedings, diaper changes, housework and errands, I was browsing AS and making the connections I’d been denied for so many years. As time went on, I felt MUCH less alone and I cared less and less about what he’d think about the whole thing.  I carried on with my ‘plan’ and he was none the wiser.  I made friends here, and looked forward to spending time on the site.  It was a Godsend to me – a home away from home.
    I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when he, after a while, came home from work and asked me while I was preparing dinner – ‘what do we have in common other than the kids?’
    For the life of me, I couldn’t answer.  I thought about it for a full minute, though.  We didn’t like the same TV shows.  We didn’t share views.  Well, we WOULD – mine would be ‘stupid,’ while his was right.  Every time.  We didn’t see eye to eye on ANYTHING.  He might’ve thought we did because whenever there was a heated debate, he’d turn to me and ask, ‘am I wrong?’ and for the sake of avoiding an argument, I’d shake my head in silence.  Even if yes, he was wrong.  Even if none of it made sense.  Even if it meant that something I believed to be right would be dismissed.  There was NOTHING in common in the bedroom.  He liked things I despised.  He was hard, I was too sensitive.  When I’d come to the conclusion that the only thing we likely both equally enjoyed were certain foods.  
    “I don’t know,” I finally told him.  
    “I was thinking, maybe we should get a divorce,” he said.  I don’t know whether he expected to hear that we REALLY had nothing in common or he’d expected me to surprise him with my answer.  
    “Okay,” I shrugged. Perhaps I’d answered too quickly and surprised us both.  Either way, it was an out…and one I needed to take.  An opportunity.  I’d been imprisoned within this loveless marriage for FAR too long, and I was NOT seeing any ways that this would change.  Not anytime soon.  He’d never change.  He’d remain this horrible bully that I’d grown to despise, despite being married to him. 
    He nodded and retreated into the living room and I sobbed silently as I continued to prepare dinner.  Not because I was upset over this marriage ending – but because this, like everything else – was on HIS terms.  Although it was best, and I knew it – I still wouldn’t have left him first.  I was loyal, to the end.  I cried for my children, who loved us both equally…especially the son, whom I knew would take this news especially hard.
    And he did.  Days later, we sat him down and explained to him that Mommy and Daddy were getting a divorce.  We were, however, both still going to remain a constant in his life and that he’d be spending an equal amount of time with us both, and that we’d still be ‘together but separate.’ The wasband did most of the talking – I was unable to do much other than nod in agreement.  This was all just so surreal.  He had become a different man.  At first, I suspected he knew he’d been the one to turn my life upside down, and he was the one who was going to be walking away.  So when I told him, yet, again, that I wanted to go see a therapist, he surprisingly agreed.  ‘Go ahead,’ he said, ‘I think it’s a good idea.’
    Two weeks went by. Now that we had a ‘plan,’ he said very little about my therapy, my online activity, or even about the housework not being done.  I questioned that, honestly, especially for the first few weeks following his request to get divorced.  It all made sense when he casually mentioned that there was a woman that he’d like to begin to get to know.  He’d met her online, playing poker.  She lived an hour or so away from us, and was a single mother, having just gone through her own divorce.  THREE weeks after he’d told me he wanted a divorce, he was wanting my blessing to go see someone else?  He did add, ‘If you’re not okay with it, I won’t.’
    We hadn’t even gotten OUR paperwork started.  I wasn’t okay with it, no, but I wasn’t going to hold him back, either.  Especially if it meant he would be around less.  And even more especially if he’d been seeing this woman for a little while already.  That’s what my gut instinct was telling me – THIS was why he asked me for a divorce.  He’d already proven he couldn’t be alone, couldn’t do his own laundry, couldn’t do his own cooking or cleaning.  So he’d waited until he had his third wife (she’d eventually become his third wife) lined up before asking me to grant him the divorce.  He was going to make sure HE was all set.  Of course, if I were to ask him today, he’d deny that.  He’d deny ALL of it.  
    Upon my ‘do what you want,’ he began to see her, and spend a lot of time with her.  I did put my foot down, though, and made it clear to him that this woman would NOT be meeting my kids – not anytime soon.  He agreed, although reluctantly.  He would come home after work, spend a few hours with the kids, and then sometimes drive an hour away to where she lived – sometimes he’d spend the night there and go to work from there in the morning.  He’d made plans to move out, but eventually realized that he couldn’t afford first, last and security.  So he approached me again, and asked if he could stay at home a little bit longer, until he was able to come up with a little extra money for an apartment.  As is, he was only ‘home’ a few nights a week.  I told him that was fine, but he’d have to sleep on the couch.
    You’d have thought I told him he had to bathe in his own shit.  
    “I work every day. You’re going to kick me out of my bed and make me sleep on the couch?  I’m the one who should be more comfortable.”
    I looked at him. There he was, again, looking down at me, with that narrow-eyed look of disgust.  I was, once again, completely wrong.  What I’d said to him was appalling.  So, like always, I’d backed down.
    “Fine,” I told him, “You can sleep in the same bed.  But we are NOT having sex.”
    “Why not?”  He smirked.  “We’re still married, after all.”
    I just looked at him for a minute before walking away with no response.  
    For a while, he adhered to my wishes.  He’d come home from seeing her, or on nights he wasn’t seeing her, and he’d go to bed on his own, usually after me.  I was even more exhausted those days, more so than when I was when I was a teen.  I was spending more time on AS, too, for he now no longer asked any questions about what I was doing with my free time.  He no longer cared – as long as he was free to do with himself what he wanted.  I’d secured a staff position by then, on AS, as a chat room moderator. It was where I spent most days and nights – it was where I felt happiest, most wanted, most needed, most valuable.  I was still cautious, especially on the nights that he did come home.  I didn’t want him to know much anything about AS, so whenever he was around, I kept my distance from the site.
    There was that one night when he’d came home late from being out with her.  I was already three-quarters of the way asleep.  Nearly down for the count, but not enough that I didn’t feel him get into bed as he normally did.  Moments later, he was on top of me, and was having sex with me.  I didn’t protest, I didn’t say no.  I, for the moment, felt that the best course of action was to do nothing.  A sense of familiarity sank in.  This was the father of my children, we were still legally married, even though he was no longer ‘with’ me.  Maybe I WAS being ridiculous, after all.  Even though none of this felt right, it felt a little too familiar to be considered wrong. He was not rough, nor did he move to reciprocate – when he was finished, he simply rolled over and went to sleep. 
    The following morning, he had a smile on his face.  I want to say this was likely a weekend – for the kids were home, and I remember being in the kitchen.
    “You know – I can still see us doing what.  Ten years from now.  Even if we’re with other people.”
    Again, there were no words.  I simply stared at him.  I’m not sure if I was expecting him to say he’d made a mistake, that he no longer wanted his other woman, he wanted me – he didn’t want a separation, that he wanted us to go to counseling, to fix this, fix whatever had gone wrong in our marriage. At that point, I’m not sure if I’d have agreed to it, but it was, at least, something to hope for, even in the slightest bit, the morning after sex – something different than what I was getting from him now.  But no, here he was, basically saying he wanted his cake, and he wanted to eat it, too.  He was now cheating on his mistress – with his wife.  Imagine that? When I’d finally managed to ask him what she’d think of it, his response was, ‘she won’t know...she’d kill me if she did know.  You won’t tell her, right?’
    I sat on that for a couple weeks.  He’d not tried again to have sex with me – I think I feigned a period in order to keep him at bay for a few days, but then there was a time where opportunity simply didn’t present, or I’d kept my distance.  He was now in the process of LOOKING for an apartment – but likely wasn’t going to find one that would allow for his specific needs – he was a heavy smoker, he wanted his dog with him, his credit was shit, he needed extra space for when the kids came to visit.  Although I wanted him gone, so that I could move on with my own life, I still felt that I owed it to the kids to ensure that their father wasn’t homeless.  If I were paying anything toward the house, the bills, I certainly had more leverage in order to eject him – but I didn’t have a penny to my name.  I had absolutely nothing.
    There was one additional time when he was in the shower, and called me in.  Thinking he needed a towel or toilet paper, I poked my head in asking what he needed.  He whipped open the curtain and asked me to join him.  
    Saying no seemed to take too long.  I remember staring at him, thinking to myself – what is wrong with him?  Doesn’t he SEE that this is wrong?  Doesn’t he see what this is doing to me?  CLEARLY, I’m not into it and I’d said nothing to allude to wanting any of it to continue.  But – the words did escape my lips – somehow.
    “No.  I can’t.”
    With that, I left him in the bathroom and locked the door from the inside behind me so that I couldn’t get back in, should he call me again.  I then went and tended to the kids – half proud of myself for having done what I did, and half terrified.  Was he going to yell at me, was he going to verbally harass me for having told him no?  In the eight years we’d been married, I NEVER told him ‘no.’  Never.  Whatever he wanted, I agreed to.  Whatever he asked, I did without question.  Whatever he believed, even if it seemed a bit unreasonable, I said I believed, too – even if I didn’t.  I didn’t want him angry with me, I didn’t want there to be an argument, I didn’t want him to continue to tell me how lazy or stupid or fat or otherwise undesirable I was.  
    Imagine my surprise when he came out, fully dressed, and pulled me aside.  He leaned in and said, “thanks for keeping me honest.”
    Another silent nod on my part.  I’m glad to say he never again approached me for sex.  While this was a good thing, it was also VERY damaging – and I’ll explain why.
    You see – it was the one time that I had the nerve to say no to him.  A time where it WOULD have been easier, although equally as damaging, to give in and do whatever it was that he was asking.  And now he was okay with my response?  He wasn’t going to treat this like any of the other arguments we’d had in the past, and resort to nastiness and belittlement?  Were all of the past issues I’d had with him – now my fault?  Had I said no to him in the beginning, would I still be in this position?  Would a ‘no’ any other time have been listened to, as this one was?  What about that other night?  Would he have stopped if I said ‘no’ to him?  Was ALL of this entirely my doing??  
    The mind is a relentless, vicious machine when it wants to be – and for a while, I allowed it to continue to run, to allow myself to self-blame, rather than shut it down. He was still living at home, I didn’t feel safe enough to ‘shut down’ this machine, yet.  And so, I carried on as I normally would, while he began to spend less and less time at home.
    Around this time, was when J entered my life.  You all know J from my previous posts, my blogs.  She’s my better half, my best friend, my lover, the one I trust the most, the one who is my everything.  And at the time of this posting, she is my partner of ten years.  I had met her here on AS – and we were friends first and foremost.  After talking with her daily for a while, I realized how much we had in common.  There was much more to our friendship, and we were both beginning to slowly realize it.  I’d never been with someone who had similar trauma in her past.  There was a connection here that I’d never felt before.  I found myself talking about things I’d never discussed before – and felt safe doing so.  This, too, was new.  I felt understood, I felt validated.  I did worry about what the wasband would say when I found myself becoming attracted to her – but surprisingly, he said nothing negative…unless you count, ‘you were always a lesbian,’ negative.  He instead smiled, and said, ‘it is what it is.’  Granted, it was probably because he now had his new woman, and was glad to see me considering ‘moving on.’  And, so, I did.  
    I suppose there’s more to the story relating to my marriage and after it ended, but I’ve now reached the point where fast-forwarding is a little bit easier.  Perhaps installment three will be due a re-do in a few years from now (or 12?) but, for now, there SEEMS to be further processing to do.  I thought I'd be finished at the end of this installment, but as I sit here day after day, I'm realizing that it's not as easy to reflect upon these things, and my writing is not as 'flowy' as the previous two installments.  I am getting stuck more often than I want to, and I'm feeling more need to put it away.  In the beginning, I was putting this away for days.  Now, I've realized that I've put it away for weeks - and if I don't finish it now, it'll likely be forgotten for another decade.
    To summarize what I've been up to lately:
    I’ve restarted therapy, after several years, as there are now things that have come up more recently for me – things I know I’ve not had the time or even the desire to deal with.  At least, properly.  I know that I’ve recognized that I am a victim of not only CSA and of rape – but also of domestic violence.  I’d always thought of DV as the beatings, the punching, the broken bones, the visits to the hospital…this is not what was happening to me.  My ex’s abuse of me was not physical – it was emotional.  It was verbal. It was mental.  Before returning to AS after a lengthy hiatus, I didn’t even KNOW what gaslighting was.  I do now, because that was, also, what happened.  This realization has floored me - because I'd been so blind to it.  All of it.
    I've come to realize that I'm not completely free of his grasp; of his influence. There IS still difficulty saying ‘no' to him.  There is still that fear of letting others in – because that was once not allowed, or acceptable.  I am not, by any means, where I want to be.  Not yet.  In some ways, not all of the puppet strings have successfully been severed and I'd be lying if I said I was 'healed' from this.
    Safe to say, though, that this is a healing process that I've restarted and have been diligently working on, especially recently.
    I'm starting school one week from today - after taking a 20-year-long vacation...a break that HE encouraged me to prolong.  I can't entirely blame this on him as I did agree to have our son and the desire to go back never really presented itself - but even after I'd married him and born him children, he'd made sure I was too busy to focus on anything other than him, the house, the kids.  I never came first.  It NEVER mattered what I wanted - THIS was my purpose in life.  I was secondary to everyone else, and I believed that this is how it should be. 
    I don't believe it, anymore, though.  Going back to school is just one of the first steps toward my getting to where I want and need to be.  I think it is safe to say that I am where I am now because of the events of the previous installments, and that recognizing this has been yet another step in the right direction.  I don't know where I'll be in three years, and I know that question has been asked...but I CAN say that I am a little closer to answering that than I was a year ago.
    So, perhaps, this is why I should end on the note that I’m still healing, and why I must admit that I still have quite a bit of work to do.  But for now – I want this to be where installment three ends – and hopefully there won’t be a fourth installment to write, but instead a more confident ending could be added to this one.
    Let's just say, for argument's sake, that my next installment is simply yet to be lived and experienced.  And it'll all be shared via blogs!
    In closing, I'd like to thank you all for reading each of these installments.  I've unlocked this board to responses, and do hope to hear from anyone that can relate, that understands, that can validate who I am, and the reasons for being who I am.  
    I am sending my love to each and every one of you - I've so much appreciation for those who choose to walk this path alongside me.  There is indeed strength in numbers.  I believe this, 100%. 

    - Capulet
  21. 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
  22. Capulet
    Greetings to all from my neck of the woods, where I seem to have disappeared for a little while.  I've not been completely gone - just keeping myself scarce for no particular reason other than not really having much to report.
    In my last blog entry, I mentioned that bathroom renovations were underway.  Those renovations have since been completed.  It took a few more days to return my sleep cycle from WAY abnormal back to simply screwed up.  If you're me, there's never going to be a normal.  I'm even more convinced of this, as lately I'm able to fall asleep, but not able to STAY asleep for more than three hours at a time.  Example...I get myself nice and tired, crash at 2 or 2:30 in the morning, fall asleep until 4am...then it takes me two more hours to fall back asleep.
      I don't know what gives.  I really don't.  Brain is silent, I'm DEFINITELY tired - the deep sleep just refuses to take over.  They say you sleep less when you get older - I HOPE that's not true as I'm already functional with four to five hours per night - at this rate, I'll be pulling all nighters and chugging the coffee to stay awake in the mornings!  (Yes, I bought more caffeinated K-cups!)
    I recently undertook another project.  The re-organizing and deep-clean of my daughter's room.  After two years of her destroying her room piece by piece (when it comes to such thing, my soon-to-be-13-year-old has some serious talent) she's decided that she's outgrown her twin-sized bed and has asked for a full-size upgrade.  I obliged, but told her that if she was going to be pulling out the twin-size bed, she was also going to be pulling up the carpet that she's gotten slime stains on.  She's proven time and time again that her room cannot be where she stores her art supplies, even though that's where they always end up when my back is turned.  
    Anyway, I waited until she was in school before starting her room.   There's NO other way to avoid the, 'Ma, I was saving this,' or the 'I didn't want to throw that away!!!' Three or four trash bags went out - bags that were filled with more than the 'candy wrappers' and 'water bottles' that she had littered all over her floor, what I told her was in those trash bags.  I managed to get rid of things I'd not seen her touch in years - since we MOVED.  What's the sense in keeping it all?  Some was donated, some just plain trashed.  Got rid of clothes too that were six or seven sizes too small.
    Oompa's the one who bought her the bed frame and mattress, but I was left in charge of not only prepping her room for the new bed, but also of picking up the mattress from town.  At first, I thought it would be easy but when is anything that simple?  Apparently the Jeep I wanted (and still love, by the way) has one of those pesky antennas on top - meaning I couldn't put the mattress on the roof of my Compass.  So, a U-Haul was rented for Friday morning and both J and the son were on board to help me transport a full-size mattress from the store to home - then we would transport her old twin-sized bed with an accompanying built in shelf and dresser over to the wasband's for her little sister to use.  
    Friday morning, we got up early, finished up the rest of her room (swept the floor, stored boxes underneath the bed frame (ordered from Amazon and assembled the day before) and were about to head out.  The Son was, as usual, taking his time, so I knocked on his door and said, "we'll be waiting outside, meet us out there and lock the door on your way out!"
    He shouted something back.  "Okay!" I'm guessing he said.
    I waited another couple minutes and realized there was a bag of garbage that was still sitting in the hallway outside the daughter's room.  I grabbed the bag and went to trash it.  Went to go back into the house and walked right into the Son, who NEVER LISTENS TO ME.  Except for today.  He chose to listen to me today, and had already locked the door on his way out.  My pocketbook and my keys and my receipt from the Mattress store were ALL in the house.
    We checked the front door in the event that the son hadn't locked it.  He had.  Nice and tight.  We checked J's car for HER key - it wasn't there - it was also in the house, tucked away in her work bag.  As a last resort, I jogged across the street to the neighbor's house - she takes care of our animals whenever we're away and has one of our spare keys - and she wasn't home.  
    "What, now?"  
    J started trying other doors.  Kitchen sliders?  Locked.  Side entrance?  Locked also. I'm starting to panic because we have a 12:00 appointment to go pick up the U-Haul, and four hours to get everything brought to wherever it needed to be - and return the U-Haul.  And everything I needed was locked inside the house!
    I walked along the side of the house and tried the windows.  The ONLY one that was unlocked and willing to budge was the bathroom window.  
    She came over.  I showed her that glimmer of hope - the open bathroom window.  Next, I tried to maneuver myself into a sitting position so that I could easily slide into the bathroom window.  To explain, I have a bi-level.  When you open my front door, there are stairs leading up and stairs leading down.  So the window was located pretty much close to the ground from the outside - to go in would mean a drop down into the room from above.  It had rained the night before, and I wasn't wanting to soak myself on the wet mulch.  Plus, I'm 40 years old now, no longer a spring chicken.  Trying to limbo myself into the bathroom window wasn't working - not from this angle.  I'd more likely break my back trying to bend in ways I'm no longer able to.  Not to mention there wasn't a whole lot of room - picture below will show that trying to go in feet-first would probably have ended very badly, given my busty frame...
    "Okay.  I'm going in headfirst."  My brilliant idea for the day.  
    So - in I go, slowly.  Used my hands to 'walk' myself down, (pushed toilet seat down first) and then little by little, shimmied my way down until I was literally hanging onto the outside ledge using my feet.  At this point, J decided to take a photo - promising that this would bring forth years of amusement whenever talked about in the future.  And I'm sure it will...
    Dropped down into the bathroom, using my arms to catch myself.  By now, the drop wasn't a large one, and the toilet broke the fall up, some.  I'm in.  And I'm alive.  Go, me!
    Damn, though, I think I pulled about six different muscles trying to break back into my own house.  This very same photo was posted onto social media with the caption, "how's YOUR day going?'  Oompa's response was, "what happened?"  I explained the situation to her and the first thing she said was, "I hope you didn't break anything in your new bathroom!"  
    No, Ma.  Maybe just a little bit of myself, but thank you for the concern.

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

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

    After all, as I entered adolescence, the abnormal behaviors (the bath stuff, the soiling) ceased and stopped.  My mother had gotten her wish – I’d ‘forgotten’ about it.  It no longer existed and it had effectively been swept under the rug.  I carried on as ‘normal’ a relationship with my uncle as possible and ignored those little things that I would randomly remember for no particular reason.  He has a birthmark on the knuckle side of his right hand – situated between his thumb and forefinger.  His favorite breakfast cereal is Puffed Rice.  Whenever I’d pass the Puffed Rice in the supermarket, I’d think to myself how much I hated it.  He would call me ‘baby girl’ (his nickname for me) and I realized as the years went on, how much I hated that, too.  Still, I said nothing, and would shift my thinking whenever any of these things came up.
    Several years went by without a mention of anything.  Still, I remembered, but mentally, leaned more toward the theory that because I couldn’t remember any actual details, then I probably was confused and DID lie.  I did, however, see less and less of my uncle, as my grandmother eventually became much older and too weak to host the weekly Sunday dinners.  
    I know that this particular installment is really only supposed to discuss what I remember of my childhood and my young adulthood doesn’t really fall into this category.  I however, need to fast-forward for a moment, to when I was twenty-two years old.  This took place after I’d been raped at seventeen – after I’d moved out of my mother’s house, after I’d already given birth to my son and married his father.  After a series of poorly-made choices that I’ll get into detail on in installment three.  It was after life had succeeded in deepening the cracks that were likely made in childhood.  
    My grandmother, sadly, had succumbed to osteoporosis and other health issues, and died in her sleep at home.  A day or two following her funeral, my mother and I stopped by her house to sort through some of her things to see what could be kept, what could be donated, what could be thrown away.
    The minute I walked into her house, I was hit by a feeling of dread. Of unfamiliarity.  My uncle let us in, and we saw that he’d already began to ‘move on.’  He (or the ‘bonus uncle’) had transferred all of his religious statues from his chapel upstairs and there they stood, wrapped in protective plastic, in the bedroom that used to be my grandmother’s.  He told us of his plans to relocate his chapel downstairs, as well as take over my grandmother’s part of the house for himself – as his knees were declining and it was becoming increasingly difficult to climb up the flight of stairs every day.  He was already beginning to fix the cracks in the floors by replacing the rotted wood squares with new ones. 
    It was like a flip was switched.  For the first time, I became angry.  
    Grandma wasn’t alive anymore.  I no longer had to pretend.  I looked again at my uncle and realized how much I fucking hated him.  I hated the sight of him.  The smell of him.  I hated the ‘baby girl’ every time he saw me, I hated seeing that ugly fucking birthmark on his hand every time he reached out to hug me.  And he didn’t look like my uncle anymore.  Not the uncle I’d been telling myself for all of these years, was probably innocent and that I was a lying piece of shit for having put him through that investigation that nothing ever came out of.  No.  Now, a look at his face made me want to insta-puke.  All over his Jesus statues and new floors.  Floors he could have had installed while my grandmother was still living and might’ve had the opportunity to enjoy them!  Her body wasn’t even fucking COLD yet, and you’re redecorating!?
    I’d also, by now, experienced a sexual assault five years earlier – so I am thinking that, combined with the passing of my grandmother, was what made possible the swift, rude uncovering of those bottled-up suspicions that had been collecting dust in the back of my mind.  It became harder to believe myself when that tiny six-year-old voice said, “I made it up.”  Nothing made sense anymore.  I had more questions now than I had answers.
    Guess what I realized on that afternoon, other than the fact that I hated my uncle?
    I didn’t make this up.  Something happened.  Something so horrible, that my brain will not allow me to remember it.  A six-year-old kid doesn’t pull this shit out of thin air. Where the hell would she get it from? This started somewhere!
    I have seen my uncle only a handful of times since my grandmother’s passing in 2002.  I cut him out.  Completely. I wanted nothing to do with him.  I wanted my KIDS to have nothing to do with him.  I refused to attend any family gathering where he would be present.  I no longer invited him to ours.  I had to suck it up at the weddings of both of my sisters – he was there, and I’d had to be polite as not to arouse curiousity. I’d say hello and goodbye and avoid any interaction beyond that.  There was a time during my mission to remove him from my life when he’d been hospitalized with an infection, and my mother, thinking he was going to die then, insisted I go see him – the hospital was, after all, just down the street from where I was living at the time.  I’d told my husband to leave the car running and took the elevator up.  As soon as he saw me, he broke down into tears and blubbered, ‘I didn’t mean for us to be enemies.’  Not knowing what the hell to do with that, I left minutes later, saying that there was no parking and they were waiting for me to come back down. That was as good enough to a confession I was going to get out of him, and I left the hospital that day further convinced that cutting him out was the absolute best choice I could ever make. THAT was what convinced me whenever there was question, whenever there was that moment of doubt.
    My mother, who, for many years, had seen me ‘carry on’ as if everything were normal, eventually began to ask me why I was so angry with him, why I no longer called him ‘uncle.’  Why I snapped at whomever dared mention his name or sing his praises.  Why whenever someone said ‘he’s a priest!’ my face would scrunch as if I’d bitten into a lemon.  I would never be able to say anything more than that initial feeling I’d gotten when walking into my grandmother’s house and seeing that he’d gutted it and been so quick to ‘remove’ her from it.  He’d treated his mother like shit, he’d likely been anxious for her to die, so that he could redo her house and conform it to his selfish needs.  Additionally, I added that he’d cheated my mother out of her inheritance – something I’d find out not too long after.  Yes, she would have more reason to be angry with him over that, but it ‘fit’ and it was something more to add to my list of what to be angry with him for…but whether it was enough to hate him was probably unlikely.  
    I also realized that I was becoming increasingly angry with my mother.  This, though, was tricky and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly guilty each time I looked at my mother and felt periodic bouts of anger, mixed in with bits of hatred and disgust.  To this day, I cannot hug her with my heart – only my arms. I believe this is only because the physical affection was obligatory – a greeting, a farewell, a special occasion – all those things that require hugs and shows of affection – those were easy, mostly because there was usually more than just one person to greet/say goodbye to/congratulate on whatever.  I find it sad though, that I cannot hug my mother to show her love.  I cannot go to her for comfort.  I cannot trust her.  But I do love her, in my own distant, detached way.
    My mother was the one who supposedly loved me the most, the one who molded me into this greatly improved version of what they told her I would be.  She’s been there whenever I needed her to be. She helped us financially in the past, and she continues to, if she sees us struggling.  She genuinely (and probably) does more for me than she does my sisters.  While I’ll always appreciate what she’s done, I’m stuck on what she didn’t do.  What she refused to see.   For that reason alone, I’d chosen to not tell her about the things that would happen afterwards.  My thinking on it – if she failed to help me when I needed it as a child, then she certainly would fail to help me at an older age.  She had her chance to help me deal and cope with the aftereffects of abuse, whether it was child abuse or abuse I’d suffer in adulthood, but she failed.  I’m unable to find it within myself to give her another chance.  Especially now, in adulthood, where she continues to inadvertently insult me by repeatedly throwing her brother into my face.  Especially now, that his health has severely declined and he’s actively experiencing end-stage congestive heart failure on top of not being able to walk or do much for himself without assistance – and she’s made efforts to get me to mend fences, even if by way of a greeting or a brief conversation with him before his (long overdue) death.  Her efforts have failed, and will continue to fail, for he’s been dead to me for years, already.  He ‘died’ on that afternoon in his house when that bottle of memories that I’d tucked away for years, was suddenly knocked off its shelf and had shattered.  
    The idea of him had died.  My connection to him – dead and severed.  Unfortunately, his physical body has not yet died, despite a heart attack, a quadruple bypass, diabetes, obesity, knee and hip replacements, arthritis, that infectious disease he’d been in for when I’d visited him, and countless bouts of pneumonia and other respiratory issues.  I swear, this disgusting, vile, rancid, sorry excuse of a person has more lives than my five cats combined!  
    Anyway – I’ve seemingly gone off course.  This installment was supposed to deal with just childhood and what I remember of it.  It just seemed pertinent to discuss a little bit of my more recent attempts to reduce contact, especially since some of you have seen me bit*h and complain and moan about my mother and about having to be at the same family gathering as my uncle as recently as a few months ago.  
    In closing, I think that it is safe to say there were many victories within my childhood.  I succeeded where kids like me who didn’t have the extensive training did not.  I was always ‘ahead’ in language, vocabulary. I thrived in the ‘hearing’ community, when it was told to my parents that the likelihood of that happening was very slim.  I’d be more likely to graduate high school with a fourth-grade reading and vocabulary level – but that didn’t happen.  I’d learned to function within a hearing community, and I wasn’t that .  Granted, my mother had gleaned most of the praise for my accomplishments – having done all of the required foundation work. Perhaps that’s another mother-issue to analyze in another piece of writing – it won’t be done in this one.
    As there were successes, there were also several failures.  Most of them, though, were not my own.  Those two ladies who came to our apartment?  They failed to persist, to follow up, to see through my mother’s version of events.  They believed my mother when she said that I likely misunderstood.  I was easily confused, and probably didn’t understand the difference between bad touching and a spank on my ass.  So, they let this go.  Dr. M?  She failed, too.  Maybe she had been getting close to uncovering what had really happened.  Maybe not.  Either way, she’d later tell me (more on that in a future installment) that there had been no resolution, as my mother yanked me from therapy at nine years old.  My father – although he is someone I think my mother constantly lied to and therefore the person I truly believe was the most clueless of all of them, also failed by not assuming a more active role.  Him, though, I’ve forgiven and don’t begrudge. My mother is a powerful force – and a master manipulator.  She knows how to cover things up, how to lie, how to sway a child’s thinking.  How to self-protect.  Next to her brother, who also quite obviously failed me, she was the one who failed me the most, and in the worst possible way.  
    And for years – I failed myself, too.  Even unintentionally, I did so by denying, by burying, by ignoring things, by keeping silent.  By lying about what I thought, even if they were lies by omission.  By allowing someone else to speak for me, to tell a story that didn’t feel accurate.  To always agree, because I was a liar and it didn’t matter what I said – it was wrong. By also giving in and accepting the idea that there was something wrong with me and that was the reason for all those ‘abnormal’ behaviors.  
    Well…no more.
    It’s time to make this right.  Make those things I thought were lies, a truth.  Although I cannot correct what others have or haven’t done, it is time to turn my own failures into a victory - even if I do it here, first -  behind the safety net that I know will remain intact and where I know I'll be met with the love, support and validation that I truly need.  I do not know if I will ever be able to tell this story outside of this forum or to confront those responsible, but to be able to do it here at this time, is a freeing start.  
    - Capulet
  24. Capulet
    I had a dream last night.
    Wasn't too bad a dream. Unless you consider a glimpse at the pathetic being that I called Uncle for 40 years.  It was also a short dream.
    It took place at a holiday gathering.  I want to say it was Christmas - only because that's the first thing that comes to mind.  My mother (Oompa) was there.  My Dad, my step-parentals.  My kids.  The wasband's crew was not there, though.  My sisters and their spouses (yes, even the one who might not be her spouse much longer) and my nephew and two nieces.   
    And also in attendance was the Most Reverend McNasty and his 'partner.'  It might've been a holiday that warranted dressing nicely, but he looked as he did at my nephew's and niece's party where I saw him last.  Like a bum.  His hair has gotten longer; he'd always had a crew cut. He's put on weight.  He's unshaven, looks dirty and disheveled.  I'm SURE that had I been within six feet of him, I'd also discover that he smelled badly, too - a combination of rotten farts and sweat.  His 'partner' has to hold his hands and 'lead' him around.  He cannot walk on his own or without help.  He's looking and smelling like the shit he always has looked like.
    Anyway, this image of him somehow presented itself last night in my sleep.  Or it was possibly closer to morning.  Either way, I remember waking up to it being daylight.  I just laid in bed and processed for a little while before getting up.  USUALLY, I have trouble remembering the cryptic messages hidden within dreams as the day goes on.  Laying down for a good twenty minutes, just thinking, was the only way to ensure that 18 hours later, I'd be able to write about it.
    But - in the dream - dinner was being served.  A grand spread, it was - as it usually is on the holidays.  There was pasta, meat, fish, vegetables, salad - wine, container of ice, napkins all folded, fancy-like.  We never did the napkin-folding, so that was one strange thing about it.  And the food, you know, if Oompa prepared it, was never that great-looking, either.  Everyone was gathering around and getting comfortable in their chairs, passing trays of food around to those sitting next to us.  Of course, I chose to sit at the far end of the table, farthest away as I could from my uncle.
    We must have inhaled our food because only moments later (funny how dreams 'skip,' isn't it?) McNasty's partner pulled me aside as we were getting ready to clear the table - and said, "It might be a good time to make peace with your uncle."
    "I don't want to talk about it.  And besides, this isn't the time or place," I replied. 
    I woke up before he could respond.  Immediately, I was relieved to discover this was all a dream and the Most Reverend McNasty was NOT in the same room as I. There was just me, my pillow, my blankets and a couple of oblivious cats.
    I sometimes dream about people when they're about to die.  Or will soon be dead.  I'm thinking this is either the case - or Oompa truly got to me last weekend, with all her talk about how ugly and/or disrespectful I was being.  I dreamt about my Nana days before she passed.  My grandmother, I dreamt of the night BEFORE she died.  Sadly, I've not gotten any text from Oompa today in regards to my uncle's failing, circling-the-drain condition - but perhaps this text will come soon.  One can hope, anyway.  
    I am of the belief that dreams contain messages and little explanations within - if you can make sense of them.  
    By now, we're all familiar with what Oompa said to me this weekend - that I'd disappointed her by refusing to say 'hello' to him at the last family gathering - and that this was likely the last time I'd see him alive.  I do think that the 'holiday' setting within the dream was representative of my not being 'ready' to interact with him - regardless of whether it may possibly be the last time.  "Not a good time or place," was what I'd said - and in the dream, I was at a holiday celebration - that right there is NEVER a good place or time to bring up such ugliness.  "Not the time or place" is something my mother always said, too, usually when she was dismissing a topic she didn't want to get into - dismissal usually accompanied by 'put it in your sleeve, worry about this later.'
    I also think it means I've been 'masking' my hatred for this man for far too long.  I mean, look at this dream - in it, I'm surrounded by my entire family and no one has any clue of the REAL reasons behind my hating my uncle.  They're ALL of the impression that I'm being unreasonable in choosing to not associate with him. I'm STILL lying to all of them and telling them the same story I've been telling them for years - he treated Grandma badly, he cheated my mother out if her inheritance...ANYTHING but the truth.  Everyone was enjoying themselves and all I could think about was how uncomfortable I was, even being in the same room as him.
    When I last saw him, he looked weak, pathetic.  He's unable to 'do' for himself anymore.  So his partner did for him, just as he 'assisted him' with walking and getting around at the party. In the dream, it was his partner who asked me to make peace with him - in reality, it was Oompa - makes me wonder if he's actually revealed to my mother that it was one of his dying wishes for the niece who hated him to forgive him.
    Sorry, nope.  That's NOT a wish I can grant, nor do I think there will EVER be a time or place where I can forgive him.  For fuck's sake, I'm still trying to figure out the answers!  I also know that I'm not going to have any regrets for not saying a final hello or goodbye to him while I still can.  As far as I'm concerned, he's already dead.
    So, that was the dream.  It was filled with hidden clues - I'm sure there are more that I missed, but for now, I'm needing to purge it from my brain and to forget it for a little while.  Seems this is what I do to ensure that when I AM ready to give it more thought, it will be here for me to reflect upon.
    I also struggle with the thought of him dying, sometimes.  Not with the idea of him FINALLY being gone - because really, that would be great and would instantly make the world a much better place.  But...where's his next stop???  Naturally, we'd think it was Hell, right?  But, see - he's a 'man of the cloth,' a Roman Catholic priest.  I sure hope this doesn't give him a free pass or qualify him for a seat in the 'waiting room' to Heaven - the place the Catholics refer to as Purgatory.  The Catholic Church (that I was raised following the teachings of) holds that "all who die in God's grace and friendship but still imperfectly purified" undergo this process (which the Church calls 'Purgatory') "so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven."  (That last little snippet was from Wikipedia.)  In Purgatory, there is an amount of repentance and suffering, after which his soul will ascend into Heaven.  
    It's been a long, LONG time since I gave too much thought to the existence of these three places  we could likely go upon our deaths - to Heaven, to Hell or to Purgatory first and then to Heaven.  Ah, I don't even know if there's PROOF.  No one's ever come back and given a review.  And please understand that I am not speaking ill of the Catholic religion - I just never bought into it and having possibly been subjected to CSA by a priest has made religion a VERY hard pill to swallow.  I therefore consider myself to be an agnostic - it's just safer that way.
    I DO know that this is a man who is the farthest from holy as can be.  And here he is - about to be judged (if that's true, too) and he'll not pay for any of the horrible things he's done while he was living - will he EVER be held accountable, even if in the afterlife?  Or will his 'years of service' afford him a ticket to paradise, even if his misdeeds and injustices land him in Purgatory first?
    I shudder to think.  
    Guess that's all for tonight - I'm getting a serious case of eye-burn and need to shut them for a few hours.
    Am hopeful that this morning's (OMG - 3:50am????) dreams are filled with daisies and rainbows and unicorns.  I could use a dose of cute to offset the ugly!
    Hoping also that everyone is doing well this week.  I'll be back soon.
    - Capulet
  25. Capulet
    * This is also posted in Share Your Story.  
    My story first appeared within the forums back in 2007.  I’d just joined After Silence, and my trauma had occurred eleven years prior to that.  Now, coming up on 23 years since I was raped, it has occurred to me that while my story remains the same, my perspective on it has greatly evolved.  Much can be said for the passage of time – to include the coming to light of details that perhaps were overlooked or otherwise censored the first time I’d chosen to write about what is undeniably the worst time in my life.  
    To explain, 2007’s post was written by an entirely different version of me. A me that still blamed herself, a me that was fearful of being told that I ‘should be over this already.’  A me that was on her way to becoming free of a loveless marriage, where the person who should have been my biggest support was also the person I was most afraid of.  A me, who remained within a mental prison with little hope of ever being paroled.  
    Regardless, this story was told once before, but to best try to describe the way it was written in 2007 – it’s like watching a movie on mute.  You know it’s there, you’ve got the gist of what happened, but there’s still SO much there that was missed or omitted simply because I was either not ready to elaborate on details or because I thought to do so would be risky.  I can honestly say most of the risk was attributed to my then-husband finding out that I’d put that much of my ‘dirty laundry’ online – and the smaller percentage was in being subsequently blamed for my own part in what had happened.  Of course, I know now that the latter was a product of my own under-developed thinking…
    So, what’s happened since I last told my story?
    I got divorced.  His idea, believe it or not – I guess I was unable to measure up to what he perceived to be the perfect wife.  I was fat, I was lazy, I was horrible in bed.  It was just easier for him to chalk it all up to depression and bail out of the relationship rather than try to fix it.  In all honesty, it was beyond fixable and in hindsight, I’m GLAD he asked for the divorce. I know I wouldn’t have been the first one to walk away.  If this were the case for him, I’d still be in a VERY bad situation.
    I finally went to therapy.  I made my first appointment one week after he asked me for the divorce. He no longer cared to be ‘my person,’ and actually encouraged me to go.  I’d realize later it’s because he was already seeing someone new and thought perhaps therapy would help carry me through the hurdles and transitions that lay ahead and would lessen his own personal obligation to me.
    I grieved my marriage of 8 years – not because I loved him.  I did, but it was a somewhat forced affection for the man who presented as a ‘safer’ choice.  When I met him, I was on a very dangerous, self-destructive journey, and I think to marry him was a choice I needed to make in order to force a direction that didn’t lead to my complete downfall.  I grieved the familiarity more than I did anything else – I sobbed over the loss of not just a marriage, but also of the idea that stability existed for me. 
    I eventually found love – the head-over-heels kind that I thought was the case the first time around.  I found this with my best friend – another survivor.  It is never a nice thing to hear – a loved one having been through their own trauma, but in our case, it made it all the easier to comfort one another and hold each other up when needed. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary this past winter.  
    Through therapy, self-reflection and in realizing the true definition of a healthy relationship, I’ve come to realize that I am not a survivor of just rape and potentially of child sexual abuse – I’m also a survivor of the more ‘silent’ type of domestic violence – although my husband never raised a hand to me in anger, there was mental, emotional and verbal abuse and there was behavior that could be defined as gaslighting.  It took many years, but I am finally understanding there is more to my story that originally put forth, things I’ve never said, and that I’m now needing to add to the previously presented version, if only for the sake of being accurate on where I stand now and why.
    So basically, after further thought on how to re-introduce my story, or at least, an updated, uncensored version of it, I’ve decided that it needs to be written in three installments.  
    To explain, there are three very significant junctures within my life that I have realized are all connected and contribute to the woman you know today.  The first installment will discuss - in depth - my childhood.  It’s hard for me, in hindsight, to pinpoint exactly when I was first abused.  Unlike the trauma I experienced in 1996, (this will be the second installment) I have zero memory of the point in my childhood where something went terribly wrong.  I have written bits and pieces of what I do remember; in blog entries and in postings, but I will attempt to elaborate on things a little more clearly in this first installment.  I am sure this will be the shortest one.  For now, anyway.  Perhaps at some point, there will be an addendum to it, should things ever come to light.  I’ve shared with very few people what I suspect happened based on behaviors of mine that, as an adult, I recognize as being problematic.  I have been holding onto some very broken, fragmented memories and tiny little snippets that cannot prove anything, as well as the belief that if I couldn’t remember, then it likely didn’t exist.  Now, years later, while those childhood incidents have never been confirmed, I cannot deny there was something VERY wrong and that they were not handled the way they should have been.  Although my mother, who was not my suspected abuser, is a key player in this particular time period, several people failed me.  Several.  
    My second installment will likely be the hardest of the three – for I feel that whenever I’ve recalled the events of October 4th, 1996, I’ve taken care to omit a lot of the grisly details as a means of sugar-coating and perhaps protecting both myself and whomever was listening.  We all have our own personal reasons for doing so, and I’m no different.  
    A friend recently confided in me that she felt ‘crazy’ for having the desire to get into all of the ‘nitty-gritty’ details – who on earth would even want to read that?  It’s not crazy, though – it makes perfect sense to me.  You see, we as survivors do not just remember the condensed version of our story that we might prefer to share with others for the time being – most of us remember the details more than anything else.  We remember the things that were said to us that we’d never repeat. We remember what was done, we remember what we were thinking during the moment.  We remember the fear, the pain, the shame.  These are things we don’t really talk about – especially the shame bits. Too often, it’s because of shame that we try to avoid these details, some of which are very important to take the time to try to understand how they’ve affected us in the long term.
    The third and final installment deals with life after 1996. See, I truly thought my story ended there, as that was a more obvious trauma, but I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  Trauma does not always have an exclamation point – it sometimes is silent. This third installment will discuss those very things that were not quite as obvious to me – things I’ve only recently learned to recognize and give a name to.  Things I’ve had to admit to myself as being yet another truth that I’d been denying existed for ages.  Things I’ve had to reluctantly accept, even if it meant adding another form of abuse that I’ve experienced to a list that already seemed long.  Along with this story comes that sad realization that there are still many side effects of the eight years that I was married that I still struggle with today - and that domestic violence is the main culprit.
    Friends - trauma leaves marks.  No two marks are the same, but regardless, they are lasting and they’re impossible to erase, ignore or scrub away.  So, rather than try to conceal these marks any further, I’ve decided to highlight them and to attempt to explain why they’re there – to myself, most of all, as I’ve realized that it’s mostly me who’s been in denial for all of these years and it’s time to transition into acceptance.
    I will be posting the installments here, and in the Share Your Story forum when I’m finished typing them up.  It hasn’t been easy to hold myself to task and to write all of this out – especially while juggling life as I know it…family, house, kids, pets, school stuff - and I imagine some of it will be hard for you to read, too – especially those of you who have taken the time to get to know me.  I imagine that now, you’ll REALLY know me.  And surprisingly, while that scared the life out of me at one point, I’m now okay with that.
    I welcome any thoughts, feedback, well wishes and kind words via comments or PMs.  Although I am not very good at asking for it, I will admit that I am needing periodic doses of encouragement as well as the reassurance that I am being heard as I struggle to reflect, analyze and interpret not only one voice, but three different ones as they each tell their stories.
    In closing, I wish to thank in advance, those of you who read beyond this introduction.  I am hopeful that this not only serves as a reminder that while trauma affects us all in different ways, we are all actually very similar in the respect that we’re not alone in how we think, how we learned to stay silent in the first place, and most importantly, how we ALL deserve to heal.
    All my love,
    - Capulet
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