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Blog Entries posted by Capulet

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Capulet
    Have y'all been here for the 49 other blog entries?  Proud to say this is the longest running blog I've had in years.  Whether entries were added in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, I've learned a lot by writing my thoughts here.  I've gained valuable feedback and perspective from YOU, my readers, and I DEEPLY appreciate all of you!
    Seeing as this is entry number 50 (are you sick of my ramblings, yet?) I wanted to make it a good, meaningful one.  I know I've been absent for a while (as far as my blog is concerned - I've been present everywhere else!) and I apologize for this extremely delayed update.  I seem to be experiencing a little bit of writers' block - this USUALLY doesn't happen too often.  But lately, it has been happening a lot - I don't know if it's because I've spoken on just about everything - but I know as well as anyone else, life is a bottomless pit when it comes to things we're struggling with, trying to make sense of or simply need to get off our chests. I am no different - I've just gotten caught by an invisible tree branch, and am, for the time being, hanging in limbo.  The things I COULD write about are swirling around me, I imagine in bright, neon sentences.  And as I stare at the words, they resonate as pure gibberish.  
    Do I write a letter to one of my abusers?  We all know I PROBABLY have a lot of not-so-nice things to say to these people.  But no, that's not going to do tonight.  I'm not feeling this - and I'm guessing a lot of you are not, either.
    Do I talk about the kids?  Because, really, we don't know enough about their typical nonsense, do we?  I have a feeling that this wouldn't be appropriate for tonight's entry, though they're starting school on Monday and this week, their pure ridiculousness has been amplified with the acquisition of their school clothes, sneakers, supplies and other needs that have successfully drained my wallet and bank account.
    Do I talk more about my wonderful mother, whose drama has been a constant since childhood?  And do I talk about something she said to me recently that I'm STILL pissed off about?  No one wants to hear about that, I'm sure - as much as Oompa is a favorite topic around here, there's become a need for me to experience her in small doses - this does include writing about her.
    The thought dawned on me to write about the power of memories and how these memories can certainly explain some of the self-proclaimed odd behaviors we display today.  I was watching "Castle Rock" on Hulu tonight (if you've seen this series, please - no spoilers - we're only on episode 4!) and one character asked the other, "what's your first memory?"
    I remembered mine right away.  (Don't you love when TV shows inspire deep thought without intending to?  It's all squished in between dialogue and while your characters are talking about a song or a picture or a smell from their childhood, YOU find yourself doing the same thing, trying to isolate your earliest memory, just so you can 'play, too!')
    My memory has nothing to do with music or smells or even anything I heard.  It's purely visual; given my hearing impairment, everything was, even from the beginning.  Perhaps that is where I get my gift of advanced perception - I see FAR MORE than is offered at times.  We've all heard of the possibility of heightened 'other' senses where there is one lacking.  I have found this to be true for me, as well as some slightly clairvoyant tendencies that I've never really tried to explain before.
    I was in diapers, standing up in my crib.  I know we rarely retain memories from that far back, but this one is clear; it's possible I was roughly a year and a half old.  I was in my bedroom, the same room that I stayed in for as long as my father lived in that apartment.  When my parents divorced, my mother moved in with my grandmother and I spent weekends at my father's, and this bedroom was small but still "my" room until I was roughly 11 or 12 years old and he bought a house in the 'burbs.  There used to be a picture hanging over my crib.  Two, actually.  One was a clown needlepoint that my favorite aunt made for me while I was still in utero.  I still have this particular needlepoint - it rested in my son's room when HE was a baby but he's since decided that thanks to Stephen King, he's not fond of clowns and the picture has been ordered removed from his room when he was still a toddler.  I guess they're not for everyone...
    There was another larger picture hanging on that wall, too.  I want to say there was some sort of nursery rhyme.  The Jungle Book is coming to mind.  Perhaps it had something to do with that.  I AM pretty 'smart' but I don't think I was reading at this age.  I do recall that hanging picture having words and it being there for years into my childhood, though.  Now, though, it is drawing blanks.  
    So there I am, bouncing up and down from behind the bars of my crib - perhaps this was before things would taint the person I was destined to become.  This is perhaps before my life's 'script' changed.  But I was happy.  I didn't remember sadness nor fear.  My mother and father were both there.  When I was a baby, my great-grandmother used to say my father looked like Jesus.  He had long hair, a beard, and was Jewish.  I'm not sure he ever wore sandals and a robe, but my Italian great-grandmother used to remind him of his resemblance to the son of God every single time she saw him.  He was a very handsome man in his day - today he more closely resembles Jeremy Irons.  My mother, when she was young, looked a little bit like the late Brittany Murphy.  They were smiling. They came in when they saw that I was awake, and made faces at me.  They spoke to me.  I don't think I heard or understood their words, but there was no doubt - they both loved me.  They knew I was deaf before I was able to stand - so they would make sure I was always able to see them because not being able to hear them would likely scare me in my young age.  
    And that's it...there are only a few more memories from that apartment - I had one of those Sit and Spin contraptions.  Mine was blue.  It was a round thingy I sat on, with my legs crossed around a middle piece/wheel that I would turn in order to spin myself as fast as possible, until the room and everything in it was a blur. I remember the couch we had - blue also - and quite ugly, I'd add.  I remember toddling down the hallway from my room to my parents' room and sitting on my Sit and Spin while my mother sat in a rocking chair and read.   
    As I got older, I'd soon be introduced to the idea that not all memories were good ones nor would they make sense. It's possible I do not remember many of the happy times in which my parents were together because they were divorced by the time I was two.  Being a non-hearing child, it's also possible I witnessed NONE of their fights, there was NO sign that these two perfect, happy people were having problems.  And so this 'earliest' memory of standing in my crib waiting for my parents to appear is the only one I have that still makes me smile today.  And I've been called "silly" because "it's not possible to remember things from that young," but I certainly do, right down to the room being filled with sunlight, the pictures on the wall, both my Mom and Dad walking in and putting on their, "oh, MY, LOOK who's up from her nap!?" faces.  It was a truly peaceful and serene memory.
    There are OTHER memories from childhood that when I look back at, I am NOT filled with this same sense of security.  In fact, I don't think ANY further memories award me this feeling.  Perhaps this is why it stands out so forcefully when I try and pinpoint my earliest, happiest recollection.  In fact, I'm betting on it.
    Other memories, although not definitive, also play a role in why I suspect I behave in certain ways today.
    In the memories to follow,  I am older.  Definitely no longer in diapers.  I am at my grandmother's house - so, SO many memories take place here.  This was also the house my mother's brother lived in, and still lives in today.  When you stepped into the main entrance, there were 2 doors - both were always kept open.  One led toward the left and a small hallway took us to my grandmother's part of the house.  The other led straight ahead toward a flight of stairs that would take us to my uncle's apartment, upstairs.  I remember sitting on those steps, just sitting there, so that I didn't have to be around those 'boring' grown-ups in the apartment downstairs.  In fact, I didn't want to be around ANYONE.
    Now, I'm pretty sure it was around Halloween or Thanksgiving - my grandmother was big on hanging up these paper decorations she'd tape to the windows or onto the walls.  Now that I think of it, it may have been Thanksgiving/the fall because I'm now remembering two smiling Pilgrims - a boy and a girl - it was just their heads - they were smiling and perhaps it said 'Happy Thanksgiving' across the bottom.  The girl had on a bonnet...the boy had on a top hat and a smile, there were freckles scattered across his nose.  There might have been a turkey somewhere, too - Grandma had them all as well as a witch's head, a vampire's fanged smile, a pumpkin, a cornucopia, taped to these walls, her kitchen walls, her fridge, etc, in observance of the fall holidays.  After Thanksgiving, she'd replace them with Santa-themed decor - but she always kept up with them as ALL holidays were celebrated at her house.  She didn't have a large house but it was, by default, where we were every Sunday for pasta and 'gravy' or during any holidays that required family-style observance.  
    I remember some of these decorations being a point of focus.  I'd simply stare at them for several minutes at a time.  Hard to explain but it's possible the one on her fridge was the one I focused on the most.  The layout of her kitchen was an odd one indeed.  Her fridge was actually against the wall BEHIND her stove - so whenever we needed to go get something from the fridge, we would have to exit the kitchen, walk around the corner and into another small hallway to where the fridge 'lived.'   Next to the fridge was the bathroom and across was a bedroom. 
    Whenever I slept at her house, I'd be in the bedroom directly across the fridge.  The bedroom or bathroom doors NEVER closed properly - not sure if it was because she'd never gotten the hinges fixed and my uncle was about as useful as a potted plant when it came to assisting his mother with the cleaning or maintenance around the house, but I do remember the presence of the fridge being sort of (or not 'sort of' but 'definitely') ominous and unsettling because when I was laying there trying to sleep, all I'd see was those ugly white doors, the decoration (usually a Pilgrim or character head) hanging on it.  In my brain, I'd 'hear' threatening, foreboding tones (or at least my idea of what these would sound like) and I'd ATTEMPT to close the door so that I wouldn't see the fridge or that freaking Pilgrim, but my grandmother would 'peek in' and the door would be reopened several times during the course of the night.  I am not sure if this is even important to mention, but whenever I slept there, my uncle would 'tuck me in' and tell me a made up 'scary story' before bed.  The stories never scared me as much as amused me - he was NOT good at thinking up new content - most of his stories were vampire themed and all started with "Once upon a time, in Transylvania...."  I was always in the stories.  And I was always the one to drive a stake through Count Dracula's heart at the end.  My cousins were the ones who would flee in fear and I LOVED being made the heroine, even though I knew it'd never be any other way.  As MY memory currently serves, he would leave after the story and I'd begin the task of trying to sleep but there was always that feeling of uneasiness, not related to his story-telling, but more so with my surroundings and the feelings accompanying them.  It may also be worth it to mention that this was AFTER I seven years old and AFTER an investigation into my uncle had yielded nothing.  Then in the morning, after I'd slept horribly, my grandmother would make scrambled eggs and he'd come downstairs with this brand of cereal - Puffed Rice - that he ate religiously every morning.  For some reason, I remember that cereal - I'm disgusted today by it if I walk past it in the cereal aisle in the grocery store.  
    Sleepovers at my grandmother's were a regular thing as my mother would be anxious to ship us off to Granny's whenever she wanted or needed a night out.  However, we were three girls and we never were together when we slept at Grandma's.  One week, she'd take me, one week, she would take the middle sister, one week she would take the 'baby.'  They do not recall ever having any problems sleeping - but I don't think anything was ever done to them, either.  The middle sister was born when I was seven - the investigation had already been completed and I'd like to think this was when any possible CSA had already stopped on account of perhaps my uncle being spooked.  They've made no mention of him tucking them in or telling them bedtime stories -  I've also never asked.  But today, they are fine with him - it's only me who has developed a profound hatred toward him.   They, along with my mother, though, have stopped questioning me as to why.  I've given the same story for the last decade: I hated watching him allow my grandmother to live in such disgusting, unsanitary conditions.  And this is what I'll continue to tell them if asked - the rest is just too complicated to try and explain.
    Perhaps, though, this triggers the need I currently have today for all doors to be securely closed when I am in my bedroom ready to sleep.  If at some point I see a door is open, I have to physically get up and close it.  And now I have a cat who knows how to open doors that have a handle-style knob rather than the rounded sort - this is pretty much EVERY knob in the house!  In order to effectively keep him from opening our bedroom door in the middle of the night, we now have to lock him out of the rooms we don't want him letting himself into.
    Anyway, there is one other issue I have when I'm trying to sleep.  Some of you may remember the light sensitivity issue I've brought up in the past but I will remind you if you're drawing blanks.  I absolutely cannot be able to see ANY sources of light, no matter how big or small.  I need for it to be completely dark - pitch black would work best. If I do not have these conditions, I cannot sleep well.  If there is an open door, that is one of the biggest issues because I'd have light coming in from neighboring rooms.  My grandmother would sleep on the couch whenever I was there, and so the kitchen light would pour into the hallway until she'd finally shut it.  Even so, I could still see that godawful refrigerator...not sure if it's because I knew it was there regardless.
    There were two windows in that room.  She had blinds on those windows.  I would sometimes attempt to look in a different direction while trying to sleep.  Instead of looking at the fridge, I'd look toward the window but that wasn't much better, either.  There was possibly a streetlight that was located not too far from that window and these blinds were NEVER able to completely filter out the outside light, so I'd see whenever cars drove by at night, there would be bright lights every so often.  And I remember HATING that I could see the light coming in from the windows, enough to occasionally try and bury myself underneath the blankets in order to get the complete darkness I craved.  Gawd, I spent HOURS trying to fall asleep and sometimes didn't sleep at all! 
    Today, I take extreme measures to ensure that every stray light is covered, even if it means draping a sock over the cable box to cover the small, red power dot that I feel is too bright.  I will cover my phone or flip it face-down, since while it's charging, a green light is constant.  If someone is awake (usually by the time I go to bed, no one is) then I will assume a light is on in the room outside my bedroom and I will lay a towel or clothing garment down across the maybe 1" space between the bottom of the door and the floor.  
    I KNOW it sounds awfully odd - I can't figure it out, either.  It's probably one of those things that I will need to consult with small-child Capulet one of these days, should she become more forthcoming with the details that would explain these behaviors that have carried over into adulthood.  I do know that I'm not "afraid" of the light - I know it cannot harm me.  I'm not sure if the light is even what bothered me as a child or what the origin of this even IS.  Was there light once, before I was old enough to remember the reasons behind this irrational fear, and I 'saw' something that scared me?  
    I just do not like that unsettled feeling that almost always seems to reappear whenever there is "spare" light when I attempt to go to sleep and it's dark outside.  Funnily enough, if I attempt a daytime nap, although I do try and block out as much of the natural sunlight by closing the blinds and drawing the drapes, I can still see everything in the room.  Even so, I can still fall sleep or nap in a room that isn't dark (although the door still MUST be closed!) as night.  
    Grandma also had a basement that terrified me.  And as much as I was scared by the three-room layout of her basement, I still would venture downstairs when I was bored.  It was EASY to feel bored at my grandmother's house - she had some toys there but there were only so many that interested me, so I would seek out other ways to quell the boredom.  The first room was where most of her 'junk' was stored.  A lot of it was my mother's and uncle's and aunt's accumulated junk that none of them had thrown away.  The second room (let it be known there were no doors in the basement; it was all 'open' and one room simply 'fed' into the other) had a washer and dryer and one of those wooden racks that was for clothes hanging.  There was a small bathroom in the second room but I do not remember that bathroom ever being usable.  The third room was always pitch-black, the only way to see anything in there was to pull a string (that sometimes took a while to find) on an overhead light.  I was never able to reach that string, so I never ventured past that second room.  But I could still see those two holes in the wall, they were literally holes that we were able to see outside through - next to one another.  I'm not sure how those holes came to be.  The house was pretty old, though.  But the way they were positioned next to each other made them appear as "eyes," especially during the daytime hours when they'd actually be the sunlight coming in through those two small holes.  I'd call those the "eyes of the beast," and I would repeatedly peek toward the third room from either the first or second, to make sure the beast was still there.  It always was.  I'd realize I was still afraid of 'it' and would go back upstairs.  At night, though, of course, the 'beast' wouldn't be there.  
    Again, this house was never maintained - my grandmother had her skills but house-cleaning and upkeep was NEVER one of them.  Everything was rickety and dirty, we learned to 'ignore' the occasional roach we would see crawling around on the walls or floors.  One of the adults would pull off a shoe and put it out of its misery if a big deal was made, but her house was literally infested by the time she did pass away in 2002.  This was also what 'flipped the switch,' I looked at my uncle and realized that despite remembering nothing 'off' from childhood (before age six or after) I loathed him.  And from that point on, I exorcised him from my life.  I think, though, I also eliminated the possibility of ever being able to get any answers from him, but perhaps that is okay - perhaps the answers will present themselves in different ways.
    Either way, these are just a few memories that I have of childhood.  As you can see, a lot of them circulate around her house.  A lot of them have to do with my uncle, her bedroom, and being afraid in the evenings.   A LOT of time was spent in that house - a LOT.  And until she died, I was a frequent visitor.  Perhaps my reason for being able to sail through all the sleepovers, family gatherings was because it was what Grandma truly enjoyed and I loved her VERY much.  And when she died, there was simply no more reason to return to that house for a visit.  And that afternoon we'd gone there after her funeral HAD indeed been the last time I set foot in that house.  Her death somehow 'freed' me from that house - and brought forth a slew of memories, emotions, recollections that I'd learned to effectively ignore for a long time - to include my attitude toward my uncle.  THAT was the thing I noticed the most, in fact.
    That tells me something, even though it's nowhere near the 'everything' I need to know.  In time though, perhaps I will understand more. 
    Memories are THAT powerful.  And lately, I've been making note of the things I do remember.  Ways I behaved.  Every little feeling, every emotion.  There are other things I've done as a child/pre-teen that I'm still hesitant to share here.  For now, those are mine and only mine to sift through, but sadly those, too, make sense and are 'in line' with the other suspicions I have.  And these are things that bring me sadness as well as anger - sadness because they exist and anger because there's nothing I can do to change the past.
    Memories sure are complex, aren't they?  They can bring us peace, or they can bring us further turmoil.  They can make us smile, they can make us laugh, they can make us cry.  They can confuse us while at times, they provide a sense of clarity.  And sometimes while they may repress, they cannot be erased, as much as we'd love for them to be.  
    And finally...
    In honor of this being my 50th blog entry, I've an announcement (of sorts) to make.  I've decided that my life has been 'in limbo' for far too long.  I focused only on raising my children and my family for the last twenty years, give or take.  I quit school and subsequently put my professional aspirations 'on hold.'  I was only two semesters shy of my Associate's, and I was majoring in English when I became pregnant with my first child and life just didn't allow me many opportunities to go back and finish what I'd started.
    And, so, I've decided that I'm going to get the ball rolling and soon go back to school.  I am also going to change my major from English to Social Work and obtain my BSW (Bachelor's in Social Work).  I feel that to choose English as my initial major was a result of simply not knowing where my calling was.  That's traditionally what people who like to write major in - English.  At the time, it felt that was what I wanted to do with myself, since I spent so much time as a child and teenager writing.  Twenty years and SEVERAL experiences later has shifted that focus, though, and I feel that I can truly contribute more toward a job in social work than I could as a writer.  I mean, I'll still write, but I think that being able to tap into my own personal experiences in order to help others make sense of their own, will be extremely valuable in this new venue.  
    And so, I'm going for it.  I am soon going to be making a lot of changes in my life.  Rather than feel 'stuck' on where circumstances have landed me, I am going to now embrace these circumstances and use them to strengthen me in my new career choice.  When I told my mother of my plans, she made a face that resembled one she'd make if I'd shoved a dozen lemons into her mouth, and said, "don't you realize how much WORK that is?  And that you're going to have to talk to a lot of people and you're hardly going to make any money??  I thought you'd be better suited to go into something to do with computers!"  
    I told her to enjoy her lemons.  I'll not explain this to her as I don't feel it's worth the aggravation - all I said to her was that my choice was made; I was going to do what I want - after spending the last 20 years doing what everyone else wanted or expected of me, it's now time to make something of myself.  I refuse to choose a field that I won't feel accomplished in.  Computers may be something I use daily, but I do know I'm capable of far more than writing code or trying to de-bug a virus-riddled PC.  No, I'll pass on those headaches.
    But to you guys, I'll honestly say it is NOT about the money.  It is also NOT about the amount of work, because as far as I'm concerned, I've already put in a significant amount of work into understanding how the mind works from a survivor's standpoint.  I have a natural understanding of it, mostly because I spend a great deal of time trying to make sense of my own mind.  I do know that others' work differently - of course they do!  But I think that having a basic understanding of the impact of sexual abuse/assault and its long-term effects will enable me to be a better advocate.  I truly feel that this is where my true calling lies - and by helping others to heal, perhaps I will eventually be able to consider myself healed as well.  I feel it will also give me a greater sense of purpose - for being a survivor of DV as well has greatly diminished my self-value in addition to putting a limit to what I could do with myself.  It's time to build myself back up and if I can, bring others up with me.  I want to make a difference in myself using the cards I've been dealt, the memories I've collected over the years, and to be able to pull something positive out of those negatives.  Because they're there - they're hard to see right now and I've still got quite a bit of work to do on myself, but I DO recognize that those positives exist and they are simply waiting to be recognized.
    I'll be keeping everyone informed of the process, of course!  I'm excited for myself, for the first time in years!
    Here's to 50 more entries.   Hopefully they'll flow a little bit quicker than the last few have, but you betcha they'll be here.  Thank you all again for being here and for hearing everything I've had to say.  You are all dear to my heart.  
    Peace, love and light - (darkness for me, please!)
    - Capulet
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Capulet
    Hello everyone!!!
    I'll first acknowledge how long it's been since my last update...things have been - well - crazy.  Not necessarily a 'bad' kind of crazy - but perhaps the crazy that instead keeps me from being able to sit down and say that I've actually had time to process it all.  Sometimes it takes me time to even WANT to process some of it, so that delays me even more.
    The post-Oompa headache (that pounding sensation at my temples that I experience whenever my mother takes herself and her drama and goes HOME) has subsided and I'm finally able to sit in reflection.  Sometimes her visits are 'meh,' and sometimes they leave my brain feeling like the aftermath of a tornado.  Like, this past visit to our house for the holiday, for example.
    To start - my mother is 'preoccupied' these days.  Earlier last week, she found out that my youngest sister's husband has been cheating.  My mother, of course, was the first person my sister told; so now, naturally, everyone knows.  I was the first one Mom told - followed by the "please don't tell anybody."  Why?  Because my brother in law is 'embarrassed.'  He's the uncle that my kids ABSOLUTELY adore, the one son-in-law that my mother used to be able to boast about, the one daughter who had a husband that was 'a good one.'  He was the one up on the proverbial pedestal, but now that has come toppling down.  Now, Mom's illusion of the 'perfect' couple has been shattered - and you'd think my brother-in-law cheated on my mother instead of my sister.  It's all about Mom, don't you know?  It's always about her - because she has to be involved in the things that she has nothing to do with, she has to have a say in everything.  Apparently now that it's been revealed that my brother-in-law was cheating with someone at work - she's looking up potential alternative jobs for him - jobs elsewhere.  
    Yes, there's a lot wrong with that picture, if you ask me...but, this is not my business any more or less than it is hers - so...moving on.
    At any rate, she came here for Easter - although I'm sure it was begrudgingly; we all know that she wanted to be at my sister's side.  My sister had standing plans to go to her in-laws' for the holiday - (I should mention that she is being supported 100% by my brother-in-law's parents - they are absolutely FURIOUS with him for shaming their 'respectable' family - and are backing her completely - even if it means letting him shack up in his old bedroom because my sister kicked him out) - and upon finding out about her husband's infidelity, wasn't sure if she wanted to go to his family's for the holiday.  Oompa, whose plans were to be here with us, put herself on standby - if my sister decided to not go to her in-laws', then Oompa would be spending Easter with her, instead.  My sister, Oompa claims is 'needy,' (she is, she calls Oompa for EVERYTHING) and she didn't want her to be alone.
    As it turns out, my sister DID go to the in-laws'....my lying, cheating brother-in-law has a lot of reparations to make; even so, there's no guarantee they'll be able to re-establish trust.  Even I know though, that this is something they have to work out.  Just them. This is something that has to be figured out by the two of them alone, and without the influence of my mother, or of his parents.  Maybe there's a marriage counselor involved, but that's it.  This is something that NO ONE can fix, other than the main players - her and him.  That's IT.  ANY sensible person knows that!!
    Oompa, of course, doesn't understand this.  She spent a good portion of the weekend (while she was here) bitching about how shocked she was to hear about the marital problems they were having, not to mention looking up job openings for my brother-in-law ('he has to get away from that skank!!!') and calling around to inquire....she even called my sister every few hours to see how she was doing, probably hoping my sister would say she wanted her to go home and be with her.  She didn't.  So, although my mother stayed from all day Friday until early Monday morning, I could tell she really wasn't wanting to be here - she was physically present, but mentally, she was elsewhere.
    At one point, I had to say to my mother, "She'll (my sister) be fine.  She's a big girl.  There's nothing you can do."  
    OK, so...we're now all aware of Oompa's mindset...overall, she was NOT focused on visiting or enjoying time with any of us or even on the holiday.  In hindsight, it would have made more sense for her to have not come at all.  
    On Easter morning, she went to church at one of the local Catholic parishes around where we live.  I managed to sleep in.  I got up a few minutes before she came back from Easter mass.  While I was still 'waking up,' she got a call from her brother - (yes, the same piece-of-shit I've mentioned in previous blog entries, the same one she wanted me to greet at the family gathering last month!) - and when I came into the kitchen, she was in the middle of that phone call.  He had called to wish her a Happy Easter and I'd walked in during the tail end of their conversation.  When she hung up, she sighed, shook her head, and got back to preparing this (god-awful) pie she had decided to bake for our Easter dessert later on.
    "That was your uncle," she said while mixing pie ingredients, "He's not doing well."  And then, like one of those old-fashioned Italian grannies, she shook the wooden spoon she was using in the general direction of my face, and said, "Not that you care.  And God don't like ugly!"
    I blinked at her.  Honestly, I was at a loss for words.  At that moment, I'm 'hearing' the thoughts in my head.  She's not okay right now.  She's NOT calling ME ugly...she's just overwhelmed with EVERYTHING ELSE, and doesn't know what she's saying....yeah, that's it...right???  That's what's happening here?
    I guess I must have shrugged, too.  She went on, "THAT was why I wanted you to say hello to him at your nephew's birthday party.  It very quite possibly could have been your FINAL hello!"
    Okay, that's it.  I couldn't bite my tongue any further.
    "He's been dead to me for years, already."  I told her with one of my famous nonchalant shrugs.  I'd already suspected that was her reason for wanting me to say hello to him - so he could die thinking everything was peachy keen between him and the niece he'd been so estranged from for almost two decades?  That a 'hello' would somehow 'fix' this???  Hah.  Little did she know that I was fully prepared to do a happy dance whenever she would confirm to me that he'd soon be meeting his end.  It just didn't seem to be the right time to express my overwhelming joy over this man soon being reduced to nothing but a pile of shit, maggots and formaldehyde.
    "STILL."  She said, spoon still waving, "I taught you girls to have respect!"
    "Yes, you did."  I agreed, "And I have respect for those who deserve it."
    She went back to preparing her pie.  My stepfather was sitting at the kitchen table at the time of this dialogue/exchange and was mumbling.  This is his 'normal,' though.  He either mumbles or he screams.  And I'm not even sure WHAT he was mumbling about.  But all of a sudden, my mother whips her head around and (almost TOO) quickly snaps for him to 'shut up.'
    She went on to say to her husband, "You don't know what you're talking about! That's not it, it has to do with my mother and the inheritance, she's mad at him because of that....not because of...you need to shut up!  Just SHUT UP!!!!"  (And all of this was accompanied with the wide, wild eyes and facial expression that just added exclamation points to her words.)
    He mumbled again - but these words were haunting; "that's just what she tells you."
    I don't know what it was that he said (mumbled) to make her so snappy, but he's certainly right about that - what I tell her is what I've been sticking to for all of these years that I've chosen to eliminate her brother from my life.  
    Now here's where I hate my hearing loss the most - I wasn't going to ask him to repeat himself and to inquire as to what he'd said to make my mother so agitated.  By now, she'd had her outburst and he'd ceased his mumbling and I'm shit out of luck - no one else was there to 'hear' him for me - and when it was being said, ALL I could focus on was my mother's reaction.  I know that reaction all too well - it's the same one she puts on when she is trying to 'prevent' information from being given out or trying to say, 'it's time to nix this conversation' with her eyes.
    What gives, Ma?  Why are you so angry?  Why are you so anxious for your husband to 'shut up?'  What are you afraid your husband is going to 'remind' me of?? 
    Truthfully, I've not been giving too much thought to 'things' lately.  I've been trying to focus on going back to school, sticking to the 'important' things going on in my life currently - THIS is not something I want in my forefront, or anywhere near it at the moment.  My suspicions of childhood CSA is something there's no resolution to - not now.  Not until perhaps, my disgusting uncle finally DOES drop dead.  He's been expected to die before - and I've learned that unfortunately, this putrid asshole has more lives than all five of my cats combined - he's cheated death before, it'd be premature to celebrate his departure now - no, this will have to wait until that call finally DOES come.  THEN, I'll deal with whatever feelings should pop up, be they good ones or not-so-favorable ones.  Even so, I don't know HOW I'm going to approach this subject.  What I DO know, though, is she won't be involved when and if I do.
    In the meantime, and even though this is not a priority, I'm finding it increasingly disturbing that my mother, someone I am supposed to look up to, someone I'm supposed to be proud of, instead disgusts me.  Lately, I'm just appalled even more on how she STILL continues to invalidate me by demanding respect for someone who doesn't deserve it.  Oh, and now that it's even more clear she will go to great lengths to 'silence' anyone else with differing opinions on why I don't want this man in my life, more or less alive.  
    And last, but not least, she'll make ANY situation about HER - whether it's about me or one of her other daughters, she'll find a way to flip it and make it HER problem.  I hate to admit to so, but she truly has an unhealthy obsession with feeling needed, feeling wanted.  She can't just let people deal with things in the way they want or need to; she can't resist the urge to insert herself into the situation and to make herself involved.  Instead of just being there as a support, she has to make herself a PART of the problem!
    I dunno about you, but this all makes my mother a VERY difficult person to enjoy being around.  Sadly, all I can think about is how she's looking uglier by the day.
    You're right, Mom.  "God don't like ugly."
    Go say that in front of a fucking mirror, maybe it'll sink in.
    - Capulet
  7. Capulet
    Hello, everyone!  
    I am hoping this finds you all well.  
    While I am doing fine health-wise, I'm not doing so great with my sleeping.  There are some days when I think I've got it all under control and then there are other days when I revert back to what has grown to be all too familiar.  While food shopping last week, I found a bottle of NyQuil that is set to expire in three months - it was marked down to $2, so I grabbed it.  I have it sitting on my desk as a reminder to go to sleep when the clock passes 2-3am.  It sometimes hits 4 before I'll feel tired.  Ideally, I'd want to take a swig before 2, but if I'm not feeling 'tired' enough, I'll wait another hour...or two....or three?  And then, before I know it, I'm first falling asleep at 4-5am and waking up at 11.  That's, of course, on the days I DON'T have my kids here and don't have to worry about getting the daughter up for school.  Those nights, I could EASILY not sleep at all and make do with a four-hour nap when she's boarded her bus.  
    What's that, you say?  Insomnia's a thing?  Really?  Hmmm.  That's what I have, then - no doubt! 
    So, a little update for you all as I know it's been a while since my last one.  (I know.  I'm sorry.) 
    First off, I'm officially a student!!!!  *insert horns and sirens and whooping noises here!*
    Last week, I registered for fifteen credits' worth of classes at the University.  There's DEFINITELY no turning back, now.  My classes start on 8/26 and if all goes well, I'm set to graduate in 2021; with my bachelor's in hand.   Most of my credits from 20 years ago have been transferred and there are only a small handful of classes that I have to re-take, that feed into the Social Work major that my previous credits will not satisfy - so there's American Government and then there's a Statistics class that I'm TRULY not looking forward to.  My son is going to be taking that very same class, only at a different time slot (he'll literally be arriving when I'm leaving!) and it might be helpful if we could study together.  I'm HORRIBLE with numbers - this is something I've unfortunately passed down to both my children, apparently - my daughter is wrapping up seventh grade with all A's and B's but with one C in Math!  I admittedly still count on my fingers on some simple addition and subtraction problems!!!  Math is just not me, not at all.  Statistics is going to be a nightmare, but hopefully the Son and I can hold each other up through it.  LOL.  
    The Oompa came with me to register.  Being a retired teacher, anything school-related gets her giddy.  Plus, she never really had the opportunity to join me when I did this the first time around - so I allowed her to tag along on registration day, so she could feel in the slightest bit needed.  I will admit, it was good to have an extra pair of ears along with me, in case I needed them.  We met with my academic advisor, who so happens to be the chairman of the Social Work department, as well as one of my professors for one of the introduction to Social Work classes that I'll be taking.  So, it was very nice to meet him and get a feel for how he speaks.  
    We all know that any Oompa visit isn't without drama or bullshit.  A couple times, I wanted to smack my mother in the mouth.  The first comment came while we were waiting to speak with the academic advisor - we were seated outside his office.  She asked if I was going to go for my master's.  I told her that I didn't want to think that far ahead.  I wanted my bachelor's in Social Work and then I wanted to focus on getting myself work.  Here's the comment:
    "And you'll make nothing."
    It's not about the money, I told her.  We all know my reasons for pursuing this field and it's certainly not something I wanted to get into with her.  Not now, not ever.  I didn't have to, though.  She shut up for two reasons - one - the student that was visiting with the academic advisor before us was now leaving, and two, I think she sensed that I wanted to punch her in the throat and felt it was wise to shut her mouth.
    We had a meeting with the professor/academic advisor and the second comment came while we were walking across campus, making our way over to the bookstore.  
    She spoke to him, though.  "Can I ask you something, as a concerned parent?"
    Oh, here we fucking go....
    "Do you think my daughter's disability will make it harder for her to find a job in this field?  Do you think she'll run into discrimination?"
    She actually asked this to the man who was going to be my freaking professor.  If I was gonna be able to find a job or if I was just wasting my time.  She didn't word it that way, but it's even more clear, she doesn't want me to become a Social Worker.  I believe she wants me to become a teacher, or go into Education or to become an educator or mentor for the deaf, something I don't have any desire or passion for - I am not a school person - never was.  I'm only finishing school because I've finally got a desire to do something specific and I need the degree.  Personal experience doesn't count, apparently.  So, why the hell would I want to go into Education????  Why would I want to follow in my mother's footsteps???  I've been trying to run the other way for years!
    The professor probably couldn't believe the audacity and ignorance of her question either.  He somewhat blinked. "Well, we have laws in place against discrimination..." 
    You'd think my mother, the retired EDUCATOR, knew that.  She was effectively shut down, though - see, I am of the belief that she wanted him to turn around and say, 'you're absolutely right, maybe Social Work isn't in your daughter's best interests..." but when she didn't hear that, she shut up again.  And for good.  Possibly because this was where we parted ways with the professor - I told him I was looking forward to meeting him as one of his students in the Fall.  And I am.  I'm all the more determined to make his class my BEST class (it helps that it's not statistics or history related, it actually has to do with what I am majoring in!) and to show him myself that I'm not the dummy my mother basically cast me out to be.
    I thank whoever's calling the shots upstairs - (I don't like using 'God,') - that my mother, the social butterfly, had a concert to attend with one of her friends that night and she had to head out immediately following the registration.  I think, had I been subjected to more time with her, I would have unleashed on her my anger over WHY she constantly continues to draw attention to my disability - why she keeps inadvertently reminding me that it's a limitation, a reason I might not succeed at something, a reason people would discriminate against me.  I cannot understand, why she continues to allow my deafness to define me, who I am.  This is one of the things that angers me the most today, one of those things that I have struggled with for all of my life and that I STILL grapple with.  My hearing impairment has indeed contributed to a LOT my trauma. I've been slowly realizing that it ALWAYS comes back to it.  It contributes to my social issues, too, and there's SO much more to it than Oompa even realizes, but that, I'll take the blame for.  That's my fault.  I've never told her.  
    Because I'm not heartless.  She's proud.  I know she is.  I am her masterpiece.  She's proud that her early intervention is what I can honestly thank for getting me onto the right track.  It was because of that early intervention that I am able to speak, I am able to function as if there were no disability.  She did that.  She pushed, she prodded, she poked.  She was a pain in my ass for pretty much ALL of my childhood and formative years, and I DO owe her credit for that.  I don't have the heart to show her where she's fallen short.  I figure it's more important for me to know for myself where those shortcomings are, and a kindness to her to keep them to myself. 
    While I'll not be able to explain all of that to my mother in detail, I can certainly do so here.  I'm not hurting any feelings by doing so.  I'm able to speak more freely here - I've always felt that way.  
    On that note, I've begun the undertaking of telling my story.  ALL of it.  I know there are bits and pieces here and there, and some of you know some of the puzzle pieces already through my posts and blog entries.  I'm able to pull out a few smaller pieces at a time, talk on it, and then I toss it back into the box because it's not needed beyond that.  I've realized that my story is scattered, it's all over the place, and it's because I've never really taken the time to write all of it out, from start to finish, and to analyze any and all of those little traits and quirks of mine that I've learned to adopt as 'normal,' even if they are not seen as such by someone who cannot relate.  I've been tossing the pieces back into the box rather than connecting them all and showing the bigger picture.  
    So, I've been spending the last couple of weeks writing.  Not here, obviously.  It is currently being drafted via MS Word and I admit I've neglected this blog for a little while - and I apologize for that.  I hope to make up for it by posting my story here, too, when I'm finished.
    It will likely come in three installments.  I've done a lot of thinking over the last several weeks - and have come to realize that I don't just have one story.  There are three very obvious junctures in my life, all with very different, but equally damaging situations.  All three points in my life are contributors to who I am now, who I've learned to be.  These are moments that, if I devote enough time to thinking about, will provide the answers to questions that I've recently had to re-ask myself as I begin the next chapters in my life.  
    I suppose, in a way, I am restarting.  I don't know if that's even the right term for what I'm doing.  I can't say I am picking up where I left off, because I didn't leave off in a good place - I left off at a point where everything derailed and from there, my life took all of these unexpected turns and twists and I lost track of who I was and where I was going in the process.  I guess the right term will come to me later, but for now, I'm sticking with that.
    I'm determined to get these installments out before school starts on the 26th of August - and they'll be posted here as well as in a more follow-able format in Share Your Story.  I'm determined, but somewhat nervous at the same time.  Like I said, I've told my story before, but I've never really told it in entirety.  I've left out details, I've sugar coated enough to send whoever was listening into a diabetic coma.  It is the first time that I am able to tell these stories without being afraid of what others may think, of being judged, of being criticized, of being told my feelings, thoughts, and reactions weren't normal.  Yes, it is being done here, from within a community where there is no fear of these things, but it's indeed a start.  Rome was not built in a day, and my story will not reach beyond its intended audience until much later.  I just feel ready now, to begin writing it and sharing it with whomever would like to truly understand me.  I don't know that I'll have this desire later, nor if I'll have the time, so while the motivation is there, I'm taking myself to task.
    I am sure this writing I've set out to do, too, is a contributor to not being able to sleep - I'm in the middle of some pretty hard stuff and am finding myself opening the word document only to close it after adding one or two sentences here and there.  This isn't easy by a long shot.  But I'm thinking that once the hardest parts are written, then I can focus on somewhat of 'cool down' writing - focus on writing about the harder stuff in the daytime and the milder thoughts in the evenings...I'll force myself to Ny-Quil no later than 1, be in bed by 1:30....set my alarm for 8 or 9am and eliminate the naps.  It's a plan, anyway!  When school starts, I'll need to have this routine down pat as my first class will begin at 9am daily.  Perhaps subconsciously, it's why I'm trying to focus on the harder details now as opposed to when I will have less time to sift through it all and give it the attention it deserves.
    So...there's that.
    Other than the above mentioned, there really aren't many things to report as happening in my life.  The Son has been finished with classes for a while and the daughter's last day of seventh grade is tomorrow.  The next few weeks are going to be insane as during the first week in July, they both become another year older (19 and 13) and we will have family coming in for the celebrating and festivities, and of course, the anticipated drama that I'll likely be posting in my next entry.   (That is, providing my next entry isn't the first installment!)
    I hope all is well with everybody.   
    Until later,
    - Capulet
  8. Capulet
    I have been eating chicken.  A WHOLE lot of chicken.  Every. Single. Day.  Oh, and eggs.  Lots of eggs.  You'd think the eggs were being laid by the chickens I'm eating.  A typical morning for me is something like this:  Get up.  Go through the pantry.  End up skipping breakfast. (I know, it's not recommended but I do it because what else is there to eat but eggs!?)  Oh, and do you know how many points is in a wee cup of cereal and also for the milk you'll put into the bowl???  I don't think I have enough points in a day to waste them before noon!
    Sometimes I'll take a nap in the morning so that I don't have to actually put anything into my stomach until lunch time.  By then, I'm noticeably 'hangry.'  
    After going through the pantry for the second time on any given day around noon (because, really, you never know, the Food Fairy SOMETIMES puts something tempting in there while I'm napping) it's usually an egg salad sandwich that I end up making myself and eating.  
    I take teeny-tiny bites out of that sandwich; even though by now I'm hungry enough to be done with that meal in sixty seconds flat.  I savor every bite - because I'm telling myself that even though I'm still going to be hungry after my lunch, I have enough 'points' left to have a nice dinner that will satisfy. I can have some rice, I can have pasta, of course, there's almost ALWAYS something to do with chicken for dinner.
    So, this is the problem I'm running into, now.  
    Chicken, particularly white meat, is considered a "free" food.  I can stuff my face with as much lean chicken as I want, but of course, have to allow for the points used in order to prepare it.  (For example, if you sauté it in oil, you have to count the point for the oil, if you marinate it in some sort of sauce, you count the sauce's points.  But the eggs and the chicken, providing it's white meat, boneless and skinless, are both free proteins!)
    What the hell do I do when I get tired of chicken...and eggs!?  I'm not thinking eating this many eggs is in any way good for my cholesterol!  But I'm quickly approaching the point where I want to swear off both of these for a while.  There's only so many things you can do with eggs (including teaching myself to effectively make a frittata) and the chicken is rapidly becoming something I'm liking less and less.
    I want something different, SO badly.  I've told myself that I'll allow myself a red meat one night a week, as a treat.  I have a frozen steak in the freezer for sometime this week.  I'm just afraid of falling off that damn wagon that I've spent the last month trying to stay atop.  It was recently the Chinese New Year - I would have LOVED to ring in the year of the Dog with some fine Asian cuisine, but the amount of MSG used in their (SO SO tasty) dishes is not going to agree with me when the time comes to step onto (and likely cuss out) the scale on Wednesday.
    Yeah.  I'm not really expecting an answer to this little outburst; just being able to sit here and vent is sometimes helpful.  Not just about the things I can't change, because there are plenty of those!   But about these little things that I know I CAN change with a little on-screen thinking aloud.  I mean, I'm sitting here saying, "Jesus, Capulet, no one told you to go on a diet, no one wants to hear you talk about food woes!"  But at the same time, I'm asking myself...what AM I going to do about it?  If it's not food I have to complain about, it's something else.  Every single one of us has something to deal with.  Something that pisses them off on a daily basis.  Something that makes them question, something that makes them angry.  Talking about things, even if I'm not doing it verbally, helps me to put into perspective what I'm feeling and I thank you all for listening, if you've gotten this far.      THAT helps. 
    So, anyway....a little while ago, I just got back inside from hangry-shoveling...we had about two inches of snow last night.  The daughter and son have gone back to their father's house and J is not home.  So the big-ass driveway we have got a walloping with the shovel and I have to properly thank the sun for shining today, it made the job a whole lot easier.  So...at least I got some exercise in the process.  My back will probably be screaming at me in the morning, regardless.
    And, while I was getting my shoveling done, I made myself a little proposition for tonight's dinner.
    Tonight, I'm making chicken (what a surprise!!!!) but am making BBQ chicken wings.  This is not a 'free' meal as the wings have skin and bones but it's a small treat for yours truly considering the 'same ol,' is getting extremely tiresome.  My better half is on a double shift.  And so, that's my plan and my reward to myself.  Chicken wings and maybe a side salad.  Plus, they'll be baked in the oven and not fried so they won't kill the diet.
    As a parting note, if anyone would like to come and prepare unique meals for me and listen to me whine and complain, I'll repay the kindness with hugs and a lifetime's worth of gratitude.  Must know how to be creative with chicken and must be skillful at omelette-making. I also have a spare bedroom when Oompa's not here.   A full collection of Blu-rays.  What I don't have though, is junk food.  You'll have to bring your own.
    Furthermore, feel free to send me any chicken breast recipes - even if there's a lot of "no no" foods (butter, oils, etc) used, I can perhaps modify them some with their diet-friendly counterparts.  
    I'm having my water now (that's yet another thing - need to come up with more interesting things to drink.  I haven't had more than one or two soda cans in the last week and the caffeine headaches are becoming more frequent!) and relaxing before it's time to prep the wings.  
    Hope everyone's Sunday is going well.  Love to all of you beautiful people!  And thank you.  It means a great deal to know that y'all are out there.
    - Capulet 
  9. Capulet
    Hello friends,
    My sincerest apologies for my lengthy absence.  Yes, it's happened before and it's likely to happen again, but we all know that I always, always come back to my writing space - I will go through times where I do not really know what to write but as soon as I sit down, I am often hit with a little reminder of how much of a help it is to process things through blogging.  Sometimes it takes a little while for things to start to flow, sometimes I have to get up and return the following day.  This particular entry has been sitting in draft mode for a few days, already, but - finally, it's made its way to you all.
    It has been a very, very long and emotional week.  For those of you who don't know, our beloved kitty has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  He was an otherwise healthy 8-year-old boy - until one month ago, everything changed for him when he suddenly became paralyzed in his hind legs.  Nearly one month from this discovery, he is gone.  I am still absolutely heartbroken, although with each day, I am comforted a little bit more, knowing he isn't suffering nor is he in pain.  He's probably extremely happy now, having been reunited with his hind legs in the afterlife, and is purring while running, jumping, chasing other animals in the fields of Heaven.  
    We honored our boy's wishes and made the call when he let us know that he was struggling just to stay with us.  We chose to do the euthanasia at home, so that he wasn't having to experience the stress of being transported to an unfamiliar location, especially being as sick as he was.  He was surrounded by people (and his cat siblings) who loved him dearly and at 4:35pm 2/11/19, he passed peacefully in J's arms.
    There is a very noticeable emptiness in the house - our boy was 'the man of the house' and he was ALWAYS present, ALWAYS where we were.  Whenever we had guests - there he was, to 'observe' everything.  He was docile, he was patient, and he was approachable.  Although he was more J's cat than he was mine, (he preferred her presence over mine, although he would sometimes demand that I allow him to climb onto my chest while I laid down) I am taking his passing VERY hard.  I am the one who is home most of the time - and so, I was the one to provide the around-the-clock care, medicate him, clean his litter box messes, transfer him and his bed, food/water dishes and litter apparatus from room to room, keep him company, etc, for the last month.  The day following his passing was especially difficult, for it was finally hitting me - there was nothing for me to do for him, no way I can make him comfortable, he was no longer there for me to open the blinds for so that he could enjoy the natural sunlight.  Just seeing his empty bed and empty food and water dish and rolled-up litter mat would send me into fits of ugly-crying - and even as I write this - I can feel that lump in the back of my throat and the tears begging to fall.  
    I've just ordered cremation vials/pendants for J and for myself.  His ashes will be returned to us within the week by the vet that put him down and handled his cremation arrangements, and we plan to carry a piece of him with us wherever we go - when the pendants arrive, we will fill them with some of his ashes and surely as he's in our hearts, he will also be on our person, even in the smallest way.  It is one way we are made a little bit more okay with his (sudden) departure.  I am also considering a small paw print tattoo, while J, his preferred 'human,' is wanting a more elaborate likeness of his beautiful face tattooed onto her arm, so that when positioned a certain way, it will look as if he's resting atop her chest like he used to do every night.
    Moving along, though, before I really DO ugly-cry some more and have to postpone the release of this blog entry for another day.
    Survivor's Art Group was canceled this month - we had snow on the actual day it was planned for, and there weren't enough confirmed guests when it was rescheduled for a couple days later.  M, the leader,  had sent me the topic of discussion so that I could give things some thought.  Ironically, this would be a 'Helping Hands' workshop/group and since I'd expressed an interest in knowing the topics beforehand so that I could better prepare my responses - so M has helped me to do this, in a sense. There WERE more questions listed than the ones to follow,  but these were the ones that stood out and were what I felt related the most to some things I've been recently dealing with.  The rest, I omitted, but saved for a later time/train of thought.  (And let it be known and understood that my 'train schedule' is AWFULLY unstable right now!  I never know what I am going to end up pondering and when.)
    Name something your hands have helped someone else with that you are proud of. How does it feel when you think about a time when you helped someone?
    I don't think it's my actual, physical hands that actually help others.  Yes, I help physically by giving assistance or even affection when asked - but this is just what's expected of anyone - when you see someone struggling with physical baggage and your hands are free - you help them.  If they need their hand held, you offer yours.  When they ask for a hug, you open your arms.  Other than that, my hands are not my best way of helping others.
    As most of my interactions are online, it's my mind and my heart that does most of the helping.  My voice.  Even if and when it is not my physical voice, as that's not one I am very comfortable using, especially around strangers.  While I do not hear with my ears, I do with my eyes and I respond with my heart where applicable.  I am told I am empathetic, have a very calming presence, a patient and caring disposition.  Lately, I'm not so sure this is the case as each and every one of my senses is being put to the challenge.  Not in small ways, either.  And I truly do wonder if I am indeed helpful.  I believe that no matter how much we help others - ultimately they have to help themselves.  Perhaps we've helped them to reach the point where they're able to.
    I have mixed feelings about my 'help.'  Sometimes it feels good to have been there when I was needed, and sometimes it feels terrible.  Especially having to make the difficult choice to 'help' along my cat's transition into his end-of-life stages, and eventually over the Rainbow Bridge in a humane, loving manner.
    Imagine all that your hands may hold for you, or for others, either materially or energetically. Over time, this may become very heavy and you may have your hands full. Is there anything you are holding that you would like to let go of now?  Describe what you are holding and how it feels to let go of this.
    I have let go of more than one thing, lately.
    The most obvious answer is, of course, my cat's required, continuous care.  I received these questions, ironically, a couple of days before his passing.  While taking care of him, I was also relentlessly researching how to care for cats with hind-leg paralysis.  I'd even joined a Facebook group for people dealing with handicapped/disabled felines and had conversed with a few on what to expect, how can I help him? What can I do?  What toys can I buy him to boost his morale?  Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to apply too many of their suggestions, as the upper respiratory infection soon began to batter away at his reserves.  Both vets we had taken him to were quick to say that his quality of life needed to be considered.  J and I agreed that as long as he wasn't in pain and was doing all of the important things (eating, drinking, eliminating), we were going to let him call the shots - for as long as he was able.  And here I am - browsing the 'net for alternative treatments, etc that would help him to thrive and adapt to his now-new lifestyle.  My plan was - get him strong enough, then help him learn to get around on his front legs - was fully prepared to buy him 'drag pants' (to protect his lower end from rug burn/skin irritation that the dragging was likely to cause) and work with him on his balancing so that he could properly and comfortably position himself  to use the litter box.
    This quickly became an obsession.  I wanted to hear the words 'euthanasia is probably best for him,' less and less.  He wasn't showing that he was in pain....why was this coming out of the vet's mouth, rather than, 'let's try this...'?  
    I felt like I was his biggest advocate; even J had to keep me in check by pointing out to me certain things - 'look at his legs, they're rock solid and it's just a matter of time before the rest of him is affected,' 'he's not eating,' 'he's suffering, even if he's not showing us as clearly...'
    Slowly, I began to see she was right.  I was holding on too tightly, to the idea that I could fix our kitty.  I needed to - not give up - but to step back a little bit and let J decide.  I was not helping him anymore.  Not that we were hurting him, but perhaps those words we'd heard from the vet were indeed the truth - there was nothing under the sun that could be done for him.
    I have also learned that, in general, when there is nothing I can do, then I must stop trying.  It's time to let go and to let things happen as they're supposed to.  It is not healthy for me to stick on this same obsessive path to nowhere.  There are more ways than one to learn this very important lesson and I've learned it in many ways recently.  It is not easy for me to let go - not by any means, and NOT with how much of my heart and soul I invest into it in the first place.  
    Think of a time when someone else loaned you a helping hand. What did it feel like to receive help?
    Tricky, this one.  I am not a big fan of asking for help.  Ever.  My mother taught me well - when you ask for help, you had better be readily available when someone asks YOU for help.  It's a tit for tat kind of thing - to ask for help gives someone something to hold over your head.  At least, in adulthood - this is the case.
    But, I don't know if it was always this way.  You see, I don't remember ever asking for help before I was seventeen.  Sure, my parents did mostly everything for me - they cooked, they provided a roof over my head, they bought my clothes, they gave an allowance so I had 'pocket money.'  There wasn't really much I needed 'help' with.  To me, this likely wasn't 'help' - they were doing what they, as parents, do.  What I do for my own children.  I don't look at this as 'helping them,' but as obligatory nurturing, instead.  
    I asked for help twice on the night I was raped.  Once directly, to the man who would rape me instead of helping me.  And the second, indirectly; for it was not even a 'help me,' but instead, a 'can I have a glass of water and can I use your bathroom?'  
    The help came in an unexpected form and was more accepted than asked for - from a kind-hearted stranger, a diner waitress, who, without my asking her to, called me a cab.  I didn't tell her anything - nor did I say anything about what had just happened at the time of my arrival.  My understanding was - you couldn't use a business's facilities without being a customer.  And I might've been somewhat stuck on the fact that she'd done what I asked my rapist to do.  I didn't supply him with the number to a cab, but did intend for him to call a friend to let her know I needed a ride back to where my car was.
    But somehow, this woman knew that something was wrong.  She was very careful not to touch me - even though I was trying my hardest to put on the 'I'm fine,' face; obviously ineffective.  My body language was likely suggesting differently.  When I returned from the bathroom, she handed me the glass of water and a menu, (just in case, I guess) and gently told me that there was a cab on the way, and that the driver was a relative of hers.  I must have been able to mumble a 'thanks,' because she said, 'take care.'  The cab was there shortly after, although it felt like hours and I'd hardly touched the water and still being under the impression that I had to be a customer to have the right to sit at the counter, had mindlessly stared at the menu without intending to order anything.
    The driver came inside and the waitress conversed with him for a brief time before he went back into the car.  On a normal day, I'd likely be able to lip-read the entire conversation.  Not tonight, though.  I did catch, 'when you're ready, he's waiting outside.  Just let him know where you need to go.'
    It didn't occur until later...YEARS later...that she'd also given me something that my attacker hadn't that night.
    A choice.
    Medical attention was likely what I needed, but it wasn't what I had the common sense to say at the moment.  Physically, I was hurting.  Mentally, I was telling myself that I was 'fine' and that the bleeding had already slowed - it would stop eventually.  So would the searing pain in places I'd never felt pain before.  All I could think of at the moment was how angry my parents would be at me if they ever knew about what had just happened - especially since I'd gone to lengths to lie to my father to get him to allow me to go.  In hindsight, I probably didn't even HAVE to lie to him - my father isn't the type to question where I was or who I was with - his usual is, 'have fun and be careful.'  (Which, further thought processing would tell me I failed at that, too.)  And WHAT would they both say, should the police be called?  I was a minor; they'd be called.  And then my parents, in turn, would be called.
    All of these thoughts sending me into instant panic, I gave the driver my home address and he asked no questions.  He drove.  And when he arrived at my Dad's house, he let me know that the fare was already taken care of, likely by the woman at the diner or it had been an 'off duty' favor.  Either way, no explanation was provided and another 'thanks' mumbled.  
    The help was greatly appreciated, but the choice was what I was more grateful for.  She COULD have called the police, especially if she knew something was wrong.  She COULD have told her family member to take me to the hospital, likely closer to the diner than where I lived.  She COULD have done so many things differently - just as I could have, too.  She chose, though, to allow me to make the choice between going to a hospital or going home.  What I wouldn't give, today, to thank both of these kind people for giving me what I needed at the time, no questions asked.
    This still scares me when I find myself needing help, whether it's with something simple - like taking out the trash or other household chores.  Or when I'm grappling with those deep, invasive thoughts.  My first notion is to make it clear that it's something I'll eventually finish (chores) or figure out on my own (thoughts) - but I never, EVER ask for help with these things.  J will attest to this, and often scolds me for taking things on by myself.  My usual response is, 'Well, if I want it done right, I have to do it, myself!'
    But I cannot and still will not ask a stranger for help; the biggest reason for this is obvious.  Even today, I am very, VERY choosy with who I ask for help.  J is my first and (I tell myself) ONLY option.  If it's not possible, I'll approach the Son.  I refuse to ask my parents for help - although my mother will offer it verbally and although she'll not say 'and in return, I want....' I will always know it's coming and she will always hold whatever it is that she's helping with over my head.  My father seemingly offers it freely and without strings, but I've never asked him for anything.  And it is only in desperation that I accept help - and even so, I am uneasy in doing so.
    I'm just not comfortable admitting the need for help - I know, in reality it is not the case, but my own, stupid brain tells me that to do so is an admission of weakness.  I am quick to let others know that there's nothing wrong with asking for help - and I believe this.  It's just, with myself, there is a barrier, a strong, almost impenetrable one - and that annoying voice in the back of my head, 'Capulet, you must deal with it yourself.  If you can't, go to J, but you MUST try to figure out your own shit!'  
    If you could reach out with your hands and take in everything you have ever wanted for yourself, what would your hands reach for?
    Not sure there's any material thing that I could physically reach out for that I want right now - other than my cat being alive and well, which is obviously unrealistic.  Aside from a million (or two or twenty million?) bucks, there's really nothing I want for as far as the material things or the money to pay for it all.  
    No, what I want is more those things nobody can see, the things nobody can give me.  I want to be normal, but don't know how that's possible, as for me, my definition of the word was tainted VERY early on in life.  What if THIS is all normal, based on what I've already seen?  
    I'd LOVE to have been left unscathed by life's ugliness.  I'd love to not understand heartbreak, trauma and its effects, loneliness, depression.  There are times where I wish I were the perfectly-formed person - the one who has it all - but there is NO 'all' without the bad, is there?  An 'all' good just doesn't exist.  Not for me, not for anyone. 
    Air.  That's all my hands are going to reach for.  Maybe some understanding.  Maybe wisdom.  Maybe motivation.  All of those things that are unseen to the naked eye, but would make sense of everything at the same time.
    So yes, I'd most likely reach for clarity.  Not just with myself, but in everything I've ever questioned in life.  
    In closing, this is the gist of what I've been struggling with this week.  A whole lot of everything and nothing.  My search for additional purpose continues - I did have a temporary, very important one for the last month - my fur baby's care and medical needs - but now that he is gone, so is that particular purpose.  
    I am well aware that one adopts many, MANY different purposes in the course of their lives.  I know I have great purpose here, and that is not in any way diminished nor will it ever be.  I love being here, I love this site, and love ALL of you.  It just seems when one alternate purpose disappears or is cut short, it is very, very hard to see what still remains as we grieve that loss. That being said, I wish to thank everyone who has reached out and who has sent me kind messages and who has allowed me to feel what I was feeling without judgement or criticism.  There was an outpouring of support, both before and after my beloved cat's passing, and I will NOT forget this.   
    On a positive note, amidst all of last week's insanity, I've submitted one college application for this coming fall's semester - to the local university where my son is now a student.  I paid to have my transcripts sent over to them and I am now waiting for a response.  The next step will be to meet with the Dean of Transfer Admissions - and this will hopefully happen soon.
    I am trying to remain focused on moving forward with life, because this is, above all, what we must ALL do whenever we're knocked down or otherwise delayed, be it through loss, or any other significant life event.  It is important to pick ourselves up, to re-emerge, to re-focus, and to keep going.  And this is something we survivors have to learn to do - not just once or twice, but SEVERAL times as we continue on our healing paths.
    I am hoping everyone is doing well, or at least as well as they can possibly be.  I am sending my love and thoughts.  Be good to yourselves - this is not something I say easily as it's something I am also having to remember to do for myself.
    Love and light.
    - Capulet
  10. Capulet
    That's what my daughter asked me this afternoon.  
    Ahhh...it's been a crazy-ish week, so far.
    For starters, I'm starting to think God has the absolute worst form of colic.  All he does is CRY!  I mean, yeah, looking at today's world, I can certainly understand the need to bawl rather than try and analyze why we're forced to deal with the amount of stress we're destined to deal with - all in one lifetime, too.  We've not had more than two or three days in a row without rain.  
    I normally wouldn't care so much whether it rained or the sun was out - I'm not an outdoorsy type at all.  When it rains, I'm usually at home and I busy myself with housework.  When it's sunny, my vampire mode kicks in and I prefer to stay in and relax if I have no other pressing plans.  Oh, and another interesting tidbit about me - I have something called 'achoo syndrome.'  It's really a thing, look it up.  I can't step out into the sunlight without sneezing violently and scaring the living hell out of whoever's standing next to me at the time.
    However, this rain worries me.  I'm planning a graduation party for exactly thirteen days from now and my backyard has been waiting (patiently I might add...since mid-April!) for a concrete pour and the ass-clown I hired to do the job will not do it if the ground is wet.  Weather IS a factor when it comes to cement pouring but he's also delayed doing the work on days God was 'happy' (as rarely as that's been lately) and I'm trying NOT to panic at the thought that the yard simply may not be finished in time.  Ass-clown says he will be here Monday and cement should be poured by Wednesday - but honestly, I've heard all of this, before. 
    We'll see.  I'm seriously going to join God and cry if this crap isn't done by the end of next week.  The cement is only the first step - I also have to repair patches of grass that the men wrecked during their working moments, and I have to see about some decorating...this, of course, means another trip to Home Depot is in my very near future.
    So, the party-planner in me is a nervous wreck.  I'll have about 50 people in my back yard, which, right now, looks like a waterlogged dump.
    The Son's actual graduation day is the 12th.  He is in need of a pair of pants and a dress shirt and a tie.  And a shave and a haircut.  Oh, and if an attitude adjustment could be arranged, too, that would be great.  You would think he needed a root canal; he's constantly complaining that he doesn't like wearing 'dressy' attire but it clearly states on his school notice discussing graduation what the Class of 2018 is expected to wear.  Every day since that notice came home, I'll ask him, "shall we go to the Big & Tall after school today?"  And every day, his answer is, "nah, I'm tired," or "nah, I've got homework," or just plain, "nah, I don't feel like it."  We are now nine days away from graduation and he has no pants, no shirt, no tie and no shoes, he's built like John Candy but has Zach Galifianakis' haircut with a five o'clock shadow he's too lazy to tend to.  It's just ANOTHER THING we have to deal with in a short amount of time.  So not only is the cement guy delaying me in several ways, I feel the Son is trying to cut it close, too.
    So, before he left to go to the wasband's house, I informed him through clenched teeth that on Wednesday afternoon, we were going to the store after school and we would NOT be leaving until he's got a full outfit for his graduation. I got a very well rehearsed, "Absolutely, Mom.  We will do that."
    The sports fan in me is not happy right now, either.  My New York Mets have sincerely forgotten how to play the game called baseball.  My father, whom I inherited Mets fandom from, actually went online to try and get tickets to a YANKEE game.  His reasoning?  "I want to see some REAL baseball!  I feel like I'm watching a Little League team!"  (And he's not wrong about that.)  I just came from watching tonight's game...score is tied at 1-1 for seven innings or so - then the Mets (Mess) decide to put in a reliever with a high ERA (I DO understand the bullpen was getting thin, but STILL....) and the Cubs score six.  And to add injury to insult, the Mets come up empty in the bottom of the 14th.  They've now lost four or five in a row - I forget which, but watching their games is rapidly becoming a risk of wasted time.  Maybe I'll just start putting the games on during the last inning?
    The Daughter had me laughing earlier this week, though.  Do you all remember where, in a couple blog entries ago, I mentioned that I was dealing with some private issues?  Well, I'm still not quite ready to divulge all those details but it has to do with her recent behavior and a phone call was placed by the school.  The wasband was involved, of course, but we've NEVER been on the same page when it came to figuring out what was best when dealing with our children.  He simply disciplines while I prefer to talk to them and both try to understand and help THEM understand why they acted in a certain way.  I feel that's the most effective way to parent because you're actually listening to THEIR side, too and they see this - which makes them more likely to come to me for guidance or advice or whenever they run into trouble.  I'm of the belief that if you lose your shit, they'll learn very quickly that you're NOT able to be there for them in a rational, calm manner when it's needed.   And so, I listen and I discipline them AFTER I've heard the full story, I know they understand what they did was wrong and not before.  But the wasband, having come from a broken, unstable home filled with violence and drug/alcohol abuse, has never been one to listen to what the kids have to say but is quick to deal out a punishment.  It's a typical Lion Vs. Lamb situation.  The kids are terrified of going to him first, for this reason mainly.
    Anyway, long story short - the daughter has had her phone taken away for two weeks, now, as a result of her latest misbehavior.  The wasband and I had sat her down (was just us three) and we had a discussion.  Before this (pre-planned; 'meet me at the park at 5:00' sorta thing) discussion, I told the daughter that she just had to hear him out and let him say whatever he needed to say - we already knew he'd resort to his usual unreasonable, belittling ways and she wasn't likely to get a word in.  She knows now that even if she doesn't agree with him, she'd better pretend she does because there is simply NO reasoning with him when he talks.  This is exactly how I felt when I was married to him, and sadly, STILL how I feel, even after being divorced for almost ten years.  The path of least resistance is simply to nod and let him THINK he's getting a point across.  She (and her brother) has come to recognize this trait in her father and she was prepared for this meeting knowing that she and I would talk later on when it was just us two.  
    So, this is the part that made me chuckle.  The wasband has a very distinct, unmistakeable face that he puts on whenever he doesn't understand or agree with something.  His eyes get narrow, his lip curls upwards.  He'll talk slowly, making you feel like you'd BETTER respond the right way.  Yes, I'm fully aware this is all part of the abuse he's been inflicting on everyone around him for the last two decades or more, but some people, I've learned to accept, simply can't be fixed.  The Son is nearly 18 and will eventually lock horns with his father (won't be a good day, but is inevitable, I think) and the Daughter, at 12, is already forming her own conclusions in regard to her father's character versus her mother's.  Anyway, when this face comes on, he's clearly disgusted with you, he makes you feel as if YOU'RE the crazy one, and whatever you approached him about in the first place, becomes something you simply don't want to address anymore, resulting in the dropping of said topic/subject.  It certainly was a deterrent when I approached him while we were married, and asked him if I could visit a therapist once per week.  That didn't work out so well.
    Anyhow, during our meeting, he put this face on.  A face that the Daughter now refers to as the 'TrumpFace.'  We had a very amusing talk on the way home from the park, where in the car I asked her how she felt it went.  She felt she didn't get a chance to explain herself because he simply wouldn't listen to her nor did he present as approachable due to the constant putting on of the TrumpFace.  I think, though, we'll just call it Constipa-Face because to me, it does resemble our current POTUS but also looks as if the wasband is severely constipated and is in serious need of some toilet time.  
    On one hand, I'm secretly glad that the Daughter and I have this mutual understanding about her Dad, but on the other, I am somewhat saddened because I do not feel that any child should feel that a parent is not truly there or understanding them and their needs.  I guess in this respect, I'm going to be pulling double duty because Constipa-Face is incapable of change.  
    Has a nice ring to it, don't it?
    So, ahh....yes - when the Daughter came into my room and caught me in autopilot mode, just kind of going down the list of shit I have to get accomplished this week, I looked down and realized that I was slowly feeding tiny bits of beef jerky to the cat.  He was enjoying it, too...it was a tender enough brand of jerky and he was likely savoring the flavor-filled chews before swallowing his treat.  And he'd wait patiently for the next morsel, too, which I'd deliver in between my own little bites.
    I suppose I'll find out in the morning if he truly enjoyed it or it ended up irritating his stomach.  
    Hoping all's well with you guys.  Until next time.
    - Capulet
  11. Capulet
    It would appear that I have two sides.  Two faces.  There are currently two versions of me - and while it’s been suggested/confirmed that I do/have suffer(ed) from a personality disorder involving multiple other versions, these additional ‘parts’ have become silent and have grown otherwise dormant at the very least.  
    Now I am currently faced with just two opposing sides of myself that are currently attempting to form a coherent connection.  Or rather, to integrate, if that description even fits better. Furthermore, I am wondering if it's more of a one-sided effort on the part of the adult version of myself.  I'll explain this further, don't worry.  
    I've recently shared the information that I'm about to discuss in this entry...and I know in the past, I've shared other bits and pieces of what I recall about childhood, but my thought process is CONSTANT, (imagine the hamster in his wheel, it's always going and going and GOING) and I'm always searching for alternate perspectives on the same matter.  It's mostly so that I can understand on more levels, even if others have difficulty following.  I need to thoroughly investigate these things, and by writing/posting and re-reading what I've put down, this affords me the ability to both gain perspective from outside parties as well as to have it available to me to refer back to when I finally hit that brick wall that is repeatedly thrown into my path toward understanding myself as a whole.
    So, who am I? 
    When I say I am two-faced, I am not referring to the negative version of the term, which is most commonly described as being the type of person who would smile at you one moment and then stab you in the back as soon as it was turned.  
    This isn’t me.  I know that and you all, I’m hoping, know this too.  I am kind, I am caring, I am loyal and I am compassionate.  This, I know for a fact - I couldn’t intentionally hurt another person.  I have killed before but my victims are primarily of the eight-legged variety and it’s usually done by way of a shoe or rolled-up newspaper - even so, if it’s within my capacity to do so, I’d sooner scoop them up and toss the spiders outside.  But that’s pretty much the extent of the harm I could cause another living soul.  I’m more inclined to help someone else if I can - especially in situations where the pain they are enduring is a common, familiar one.
    My conflict is with myself, basically.  The much younger, child version of myself that is flat-out REFUSING to share with her older self what she knows/has been hiding for years.  
    You see, these are two equally as powerful forces, despite the age difference - the adult is stronger in the sense that she’s already gone through a fair amount of healing.  She understands the effects of sexual assault, whether it’s a constant thing or a one-time thing.  She has facts to support her memories, she has a deep, accurate understanding of the aftermath, of the emotional roller-coaster that we, as survivors, are forced to ride.  
    And then there is the child, who although she’s young and without the same level of understanding, she’s been working hard at being an impenetrable fortress of information; she’s managed to keep in place these enormous shields - and to keep them there for thirty-five years, give or take.  She’s effectively locked away and kept things from people around her, from her parents, from her teachers, from psychiatrists, from friends, and even from her adult version, the single person she could likely trust the most, but still isn’t willing provide the key to at the moment.  And for this great amount of time, she's stood her ground - doing whatever it was she needed to do in order to protect this information from whomever she felt the need to fortify it from.
    The right-now Capulet is whom you’re all familiar with.  This is who you see, who you talk to, whom some of you converse with regularly.  What you see is what you get.  Right-now Capulet was raped at the age of 17.  She can give you accurate details about that - for she remembers every single moment of that night where her world was shattered and everything came crashing down, every minute she laid on that cold, wooden floor, every second that took seemingly longer to pass than a mere second.  She can tell you how that floor smelled, what was on the computer screen, she can tell you of the rusty barbells that were also on the floor, just out of her reach, and how she’d briefly considered using one to fend off her attacker.  She can tell you how helpless, how defenseless she felt when she couldn't.  And furthermore, she can tell you how this single event has absolutely everything to do with the person she’s become, nearly 22 years later.  She is still more comfortable conversing online than she is in an in-person social setting, but is open to working on learning how to get through these hurdles in the near future.  A lot of right-now Capulet's struggles are a culmination of being hearing impaired (especially the socially awkwardness) and having been sexually assaulted as a teenager, then dealing with a number of abusive situations on top of this - it all adds up.  
    And then we’ve got the small child Capulet who, while she’s done a VERY good job of blocking out details that she knows are true, she’s had moments of weakness - evident only because the adult version has managed to obtain tiny little snippets and fragments that somehow seeped through these shields - perhaps they’re not untraversable as we originally thought they were.  Or perhaps, throughout the years, they have weakened some or have otherwise lost some of its original strength, comparable to expired medicine.  Either way, right-now Capulet is aware and further convinced of there being something of importance behind these shields.  She knows it's likely ugly and thus the reason for these shields being there in the first place.  Yet, she struggles with an insatiable need to know the truth, no matter how grisly it is and how damaging this information has the potential to be.  
    Why, though?  Aren't I doing well enough without these added bits and pieces to my already overflowing plate?
    I'll attempt to explain this before wrapping up this entry - been working on it for HOURS, already - my brain hurts.  Thinking I'll go to Dunkin' for an iced latte.  Or maybe not because it's raining and I don't desire to leave my house this morning.  Either way, I'm rewarding myself with something sweet, something sugary, once I've posted this.  I fucking deserve it, don't I?
    But anyway, here goes.  I think that these little fragments - these little memory snippets that I can't make sense of right now, are pointing to something that although I'm without evidence, I can't completely ignore, either.  Just as I couldn't overlook these signs if I saw them in someone else, particularly a child.  These snippets/fragmented pieces that I AM privy to, are strong ones.  Kind of while piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, you have to complete the outside border, first.  I would say I have a fair amount of that border in place, but nothing in the middle.  It's a whole lot of emptiness.  Each of these broken memories I possess is a a piece here, a piece in the other corner over there, a piece in the middle of the bottom...etc.  While they're different pieces in different locations, they're all a part of whatever the finished picture turns out to be.  So right-now Capulet is sitting at the table, trying to get this puzzle completed.  Small-child Capulet is not supplying the missing pieces, and although I've tried bribing her with the things I KNOW she loves, I've gotten nowhere in the acquisition of said pieces.  Instead, it's 'HELLO, brick wall!'  This kid has major skills, let me tell you.  I've been at this puzzle for a long time, now, and have gotten nowhere.
    Another thing I struggle with that is likely contributing to my desire to get to the bottom of it all - I also want to know...(no, I NEED to know) - if anything having occurred in my childhood led to what I'd later on endure as a teenager - what kind of shaping/forming/grooming took place at such a young age?  What happened to small-child Capulet that caused her to lock up and hold onto the key for a lifetime afterwards?
    And all of this is likely stuff that a therapist would get giddy over and likely see an opportunity for some major dollar signs.  “Come to my office and we'll figure it out, we'll get some answers!” I’m sure they’d say in response to this blog, should they come across it.  And I've actually just pictured the face of my old T...followed by a brief image of her clapping her hands.  She used to clap in order to get my attention as a child.  I remember not liking to look at her sometimes, and so she'd 'clap' or gently rap on the tabletop to get my attention so that she could speak to me.
    But sadly, I’m not in a comfortable enough financial situation to seek out a GOOD therapist.  I've had the same aforementioned therapist twice.  She met the small child version of me when I was approximately eight years old, as well as the adult version when I sought her out about ten years ago and I was going through a divorce.  Both times, she's failed.  I likely wouldn't have considered going to see her ten years ago, knowing she wasn't successful in breaching small child's walls, but I'd hoped that she had some memory or input that she could share with the adult version.  She either did know some things that she wasn't comfortable sharing right away and maybe wanted me to work up to remembering at a slower pace rather than just dump all of this information on my already mounting reasons for concern, (and for this reason, I agreed to continued weekly sessions) OR she truly knew nothing - either way, I had some issues stemming from the dissolution of my marriage that she WAS in a small way, helpful with.  But for these deeper, more pressing issues, she was proven ineffective and not helpful and I felt as if I was wasting money.  And so, I stopped visiting her altogether.  I still do have her email address and I've considered sharing some of my recent writings with her - just in case she does know something - but then again, maybe it's best that I not do so.  She's one of those who would ask me to come in for a session and I don't feel I should have to pay for this information.  
    And now, here I am.  With the same concerns.  Minus the marital problems - my current relationship is healthy, secure and wonderful - no complaints there.  
    As far as I’m concerned, I AM my own therapist.  Anything we’d do in a T’s office, I’m perfectly capable of doing on my own.  I talk, sometimes too much.  I write.  Also too much at times.  I think.  If it helps me, who's to say that's a bad thing?  I spend entirely too much time thinking, I believe that too, has been confirmed.  However, none of these are unhealthy ways of coping.  They're just what works for me.
    I also want it to be known that I am NOT in crisis.  All this is just stuff that until recently, I’ve kept in the furthest confines, the deepest corners of my mental health closet - and I've recently come to open up this closet and begin searching for deeper meanings to these two sides...one side who wants to know everything and the other who wants to keep things suppressed and hidden.  
    How do you get these two sides to work together?  Is there some way to reach a compromise?  What does small-child Capulet need, and from whom if not from the older, more knowledgeable version of herself??
    I'm not sure anyone knows the answer to this, either.
    And so, I'm not sure who is going to win this ongoing tug-of-war battle.  The adult will pull and pull, and ultimately grow weary and tired.  Then the small child, who's got a comparable amount of strength, will pull back, by way of solidifying these shields until SHE'S tired or otherwise feels safe.  This game may go on for several more years.  Possibly for the rest of my life.
    While it's way easy to look up cheat codes for some of the console games I play, this isn't something I can search for a shortcut on, there are no guides that I can follow, no secret twists and turns or jumps that will catapult me onto the other side of those shields.  I'm stuck on this level and I'm not seeing a way to get through it.
    And for that reason, I feel defeated.
    And now, I'm going for that coffee, even if I make a cup in the kitchen. Not feeling Dunkin'. 
    - Capulet
  12. Capulet
    I'm not sure which to believe, first. 
    The fact that I received an email from the University that I applied to transfer into this coming fall - at 12:02am in the morning.  Someone was apparently in the office VERY late, despite this coming week being Spring Break...
    .....that I've been accepted for the Fall 2019 term and will be working toward my Bachelor's of Science in Social Work.  
    I've previously made this goal of mine known - but until a few nights ago, it was simply that - just a goal.  I knew that there were going to be additional processes behind it.  There were going to be more steps to take in order to make this goal a reality and I am now another step closer - I've decided not to apply anywhere else as my first choice has accepted me.  I'll be submitting the 'hold my place' fee (an amount that's going to be somewhat painful to throw anywhere other than toward this year's heating bill) later this week and I've spoken to my VR counselor asking her for an appointment as soon as she's able.  In the meantime, I'll be shifting focus onto applying for the state grants, for financial aid, and all the other required, headache-inducing, FUN stuff that's needing to be done prior to registration for classes.
    I remember feeling this way, before.  23 years ago, when I held my first college acceptance letter in my hand.  I'm going to college.  I'm in that final stretch of road that lays between being a kid and being someone with a job, a title, a purpose.  
    Little did I know that almost immediately following my entrance into college the first time around, that path would crack and split off into multiple additional directions that I didn't anticipate ever having to take.  It was no longer a straight line for me.  In order to get to where I needed to be, there were now unexpected detours that although I would have LOVED to step over whatever obstacle obstructing my path from A to B, I felt forced into having to take the longer, more unfamiliar route.  Much can be said for changed plans and shattered aspirations but it's always worse when you don't see it coming.  And in an instant - everything that I knew about myself was now gone. Everything I wanted to do - also gone.  My dreams?  Some remained, but they were now cloudy; and this thick murkiness enveloped them all - sort of a message to the 17-year-old me that in order to see these dreams clearly again, I was going to have to wait for the fog to clear, first.
    Yeah, trauma IS that powerful.   
    My assault did not happen on campus.  It did, however, happen four weeks in - when there was still that 'I'm in college,' disbelief.  My toe had been dipped; but there was still much to get used to.  People to figure out.  Lots to discover, including who I was - something that would only become seemingly impossible as time went on.  
    See, when I started college in 1996, I didn't really have a plan.  I wanted to do something with writing.  I thought being a playwright or scriptwriter would be ideal for me, the thought of writing for the stage and screen was an exciting one.  At this point in my life, I had become very shy, very withdrawn.  Perhaps that's one of the 'deaf things' my mother likes to throw forward as a possible reason for any of my 'odd behavior.'  
    On that note, yes, there existed little thoughts that I'd learned to not spend time with.  The thoughts were present but were not considered for rethinking.  Just as soon as one would pop up at a random opportune moment, it would disappear just as quickly.  I remained oblivious (if simply not remembering counts) to the possibility of previous trauma and the aftereffects until I was seventeen.  Until trauma looked me directly in the eye, there was that thought that lingered deep within that there was something wrong with me - based on the behaviors I remember having as a child.  As these thoughts had been forced (by myself, mostly) to sit dormant in the furthest recesses of my mind, I had been plodding along, just taking it day by day.  No one brought any of it up, so in turn, I did not, either.  Any concern surrounding my odd behavior had been dismissed so long ago at this point, and I'd effectively been led to believe that it was my overactive imagination that birthed these thoughts - nothing more, nothing less. 
    Either way, I was a watcher, not a participator.  I watched people from afar, took mental notes of their personalities, they'd sometimes inspire the creation of a fictional character in one of my plays, that I'd write in a spiral notebook since this was way before I had my first computer.  Scenarios played out in my thoughts, and I'd write them down.  I'd then mentally cast my favorite actors and actresses into the roles of my characters.  I didn't consider this a life ambition nor did I think it'd get that far and that I'd be sitting next to Steven Spielberg one day, but it was a thought, it was a goal, it was a direction, even though my brain told me that it wasn't a reasonable one.  There was nothing else that spoke to me - no other career aspiration - perhaps this is because Oompa threw them all at me and said they were good ideas.  Even as a child/teenager, she was forever trying to manipulate me into making choices she wanted me to make and to 'shape' me into what she thought was best, with little consideration for what I wanted or believed.  
    "You should be a teacher," Oompa said to me, once.  "What about for a deaf school?"
    "Why not?  You're good with kids.  You're a success story and you could be an inspiration!"
    Yes, I do have a way with children - I'm the favorite aunt, I'm the one who gets on the floor and plays with the kids at family gatherings, but that's generally because I prefer the company of my nieces and nephew in place of their parents and I don't see them as often as I'd like.  However, Oompa was a teacher.  I do NOT want to follow in my mother's footsteps in ANYTHING I do.  While I do sincerely love my mother and DO owe much of my 'success' today to 'early intervention,' I harbor a very deep, hard-to-find-at-times resentment for her - there was much she could have handled differently while raising me.  While there was much she did do, there were also things she neglected - things having nothing at all to do with my hearing disability.  
    At this point, bygones are bygones, and I've put into place an impenetrable barrier when it comes to her.  It has taken YEARS, but I've managed to establish a distance between my mother and me; it has become increasingly necessary to do so as I got older and wiser.  Admittedly, moving two hours away from her has helped, too.  
    Anyway, my first time around, I chose a major in Liberal Arts/English.  I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but was hopeful that eventually a different path would present.  Little did I know that one would, but in the most unfavorable way imaginable.  While the goal I have today took over two decades to become clear, I spent most of my first three years of college in a daze.  I'd been raped shortly after the beginning of my collegiate journey and I was still trying to deal with that aftermath of that while balancing the 'basic' introductory courses.  I wasn't thinking about anything other than just getting through the current day.  I was directionless, I was unmotivated, and I was LOST.  I was doing just the minimum needed to pass the class - that was pretty much it.  There was no longer any excitement, there was no longer any visibility on the road that lay before me.  All I had left of that was the faint memory of what it looked like BEFORE - and I was proceeding in hopes of not stumbling over an obstacle that had fallen when that illusion of a perfectly mapped-out future had blown up in my face.
    It was almost a relief finding myself pregnant with the Son in the middle of my third year.  In a way, I took it as a sign - that I needed to begin to focus on things that I knew were a sure thing.  It was time to stop wandering aimlessly.  Impending motherhood was now more important to me than trying to balance schoolwork that I just wasn't of the frame of mind to be doing.  And to what end?  I had no idea where I was going - I was going to graduate in another year or so, but then what?  Life was going to again, change drastically for me in a matter of months.  It made no sense to continue on a path toward the unknown.
    And so, I dropped out in 1999, telling myself that one day, when I was able to identify a newly paved road to a destination that was doable, I'd revisit the idea of picking up where I left off.   
    I announced late last year that I was ready to consider going back to school.  The Son is now in his second semester of his freshman year in college and my daughter is in the seventh grade.  I've spent the last nearly nineteen years of my life making sure they each had everything they needed.  I put their needs, along with those of the wasband and my stepchildren, before my own.  I gave little to no thought on what my purpose was, other than to be a wife and mother.  Although I will always be Mom to my children and a wife to my committed partner of ten years, I am now ready to be something more.  I am ready to work toward a career title, and I am ready for my reach to exceed that of what I'm used to.  I'm ready for all of it.
    Again, Oompa, who was, I believe, most excited to hear my announcement, pushed the idea of my working toward becoming a teacher.  Again, I told her no.  She suggested a few other things she thought I'd be good at - some having to do with working with deaf children, since I was still considered a 'success story.'  Likely, she'd want some more bragging rights reserved for when I graduated and was now working as whatever she recommended.  After all, my successes were because of her, didn't you know?  I shot those ideas down, too.
    I've previously shared with you all my aspirations to become a Social Worker.  Oompa's soured expression was what further solidified this choice for me - she was SO sure that I would agree with her that social workers don't break the bank with their paychecks and I'd pick something that she'd initially recommended...her wisdom wasn't to be discounted, after all.  'It's hard work,' she also said.  I wasn't sure whether to be offended that she was thinking I couldn't handle it, or to say, 'yes but because of your early intervention, I'm fully capable of a little hard work.'  In hindsight, saying the latter would have shut her up immediately, but it's one of those thoughts that come to light days after the conversation had ended.  
    For the first time in years, I stood my ground and told her that I wanted to become a Social Worker - and that was my goal - period.  I did NOT want to be a teacher.  I did NOT want to be an advocate for the deaf.  I did NOT want to 'apply to a trade school so that it was easier and I could start working sooner rather than later.'  I had started distancing myself from my mother prior to the age of 17, and I never shared with her details of my trauma.  I just never felt safe doing so.   That being said, I don't expect her to understand what mainly steered me in the direction of Social Work with a focus on Sexual Assault Counseling and Advocacy - but at this point - I am past the point of attempting to explain anything to her.  Her thoughts no longer MATTER to me - and little by little, I am finding myself becoming FAR more vocal with her when I disagree. You've likely seen a recent example of this with my recent decision to lease a Jeep (my choice) over a Subaru (her recommendation)...
    So, now, here I am, with the acceptance email in front of me.  Y'all know my tendency to ramble, and I'll try to wrap up soon, I promise.   I came here to blog about something very specific I am feeling, and all that's been said before the mention of my mother, well - it's not unimportant, but it's for the most part, supporting information.
    So, without further ado...
    How do I feel about this acceptance?  You'd think I'm whoop-whooping and clapping to myself in anticipation of finally completed some of the required steps to re-commit to going back to school.  But I'm not.  I can't stop looking at this letter, and although I am happy and I am pleased with myself for taking the steps I've taken, all of my doubts are coming back to say hello.
    I feel something.  Maybe many somethings, but for sure, it's not as simple as I'd like for it to be.
    I've got jitters.  Yes, definitely.
    I don't want to say I'm excited because I'm not sure that's what it is.  There IS some excitement though - knowing I've made good on the promise to myself to re-focus on my education is something I'm proud of.  I'm so used to doing for others, and doing for myself is rare.  Another thing to take pride in is having found something that, although under circumstances that I'd love to say weren't a contributing factor,  I can truly focus on building a career in.  
    I'm nervous.  I'm starting to wonder if this is indeed best.  Not because of what I've decided what I wanted to do by now - but because I've been out of the 'school loop' for so long, now - I'm used to life being the way it is now - to take on school would bring forth VERY drastic changes.  I know I stated above that it's something I'm ready to do - but I'm finding that the more ready you are, sometimes the doubt is stronger.
    Changes are, for me, VERY uncomfortable.  I am sure I am not alone in this - change is not easy for many.  I'm not completely in the dark on what college life entails, but...I'm 40, now.  I've spend the last 19 years building a life that didn't involve me conforming to schedules, doing homework, meeting deadlines.  I'm no longer a spring chicken, and I wonder if starting over at my age is even what 's best.  
    I know - we never stop learning, it's never too late to get that degree, you can be furthering your eduction until the day you die - I know all this, I have even said this to others.  I have to admit that a part of me anticipates there being somewhat of a sadness when I show up to my first class and I'm surrounded by kids my son's age, who are fresh out of high school and are going to get to travel that straight-line road that I was unfairly denied.  
    I am going to be not only required to emerge from within my 'bubble,' my comfort zone, in order to attend classes - I'll also be meeting new people, there will be discussions I'll have to participate in, there may come a time where I'll have to speak in class.  All of these possibilities are constantly circling my brain because this is what I do remember having to do 20 years ago (my first rodeo) and I was the same social disaster back then.  Understandably, there are going to be times I will have to say to myself, "Cap - this is all a part of your overall healing journey.  To put yourself out there is to re-learn how to establish a comfortable place within society."  I have been a self-proclaimed hermit for the last several years, and this, I FULLY expect to have some issues with in the beginning, as I attempt to emerge from this mental cocoon I've become so comfortable staying hidden inside of.
    I'm terrified because I know that my goal to become a Social Worker is going to REQUIRE I become somewhat comfortable using my voice, being around others, looking others in the eye when I speak to them.  I am going to need to learn to approach others, start conversations, learn to communicate in ways that don't involve writing emails or messages.  I know that I cannot be forced by anyone other than myself to do these things.  Even to self-push isn't always recommended but it certainly IS something that I've decided I need to work on as I proceed on my own personal healing path.  In fact, going back to school can be seen as intertwining two positive steps toward a better me.  It's inspiring but also scares the ever-loving shit out of me.
    I'm also sad - because there is great irony in one of the reasons contributing to my dropping out - now becoming something that is motivating my return to school.  That cannot be missed.  
    I know that all this seems...well, silly.  At least, it does to me - I know that a lot of time has gone by since 'the first time around' and that I should be embracing these upcoming changes as I am now approaching them from an adult perspective.  I know am not the same person I was at 17.  I'm more mature now.  I won't be attending any parties.  I won't be putting myself into any potentially dangerous situations. These changes are good for me - they're healthy, they're ambitious.  They're decisions I've made without pressure from anyone else.  And deep down, I know that some of these concerns are probably unreasonable and I'll likely be just fine.  I just feel it is important to be honest with myself and with whomever reads this - honest and truthful about what has been attacking all of my recent feel-good thoughts and leaving behind ones of impending failure.  
    I think, though, that there's also another thing to add to what I'm still having trouble believing.  That the fog has cleared, and the road ahead has become more visible.  There is no longer any debris for me to navigate over, around, under, etc.  There is once again - a straight path from here to where my degree awaits.  I'd taken a serious detour - but now, there is a part of me that is back where I was when I was seventeen - standing at the beginning of the road (be it made out of yellow bricks or not) and eager to get started on the rest of my life - and then there is a part of me that is fearful of that road unexpectedly changing AGAIN.  It doesn't even have to be in the form of trauma - change is brought forth in SO many different ways and I've too often seen things not work out the way people hope they do.  I'm just so used to things not happening the way I'd expect them to - why should this be any different?
    In closing, I am asking for all of your good thoughts and well wishes as I begin this brand-new walk; there's still much to be done to put my butt into a chair by the time September rolls around.  In the meantime, I've decided that now that I've had a chance to write on them, I'll say no more on my 'unreasonable' fears and instead just focus on what I CAN do to make it all a reality.  Still, some motivation wouldn't hurt!  
    That'll be it for today, I think.  I've a date with the online FAFSA tonight and tomorrow with filling out some more paperwork for the VR counselor - slowly but surely, and despite the unwelcome self-doubts, I am getting the needed steps taken.  And here's another thing I cannot believe I'm hearing myself say - but I'm proud of myself for getting to this point.  
    Hoping you're all doing well.  Until next time, friends.  
    - Capulet
  13. 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
  14. Capulet
    ...not to my fiancee, of course!!!  
    Guys, I'm not that kind of girl.  Never have been and never will be.  I've been cheated on (likely by the wasband, and likely by other guys that I dated before I married him.  One girl I dated briefly (for a few weeks) cheated on me...with a man, no less.  Imagine that?!
    Either way, unfaithfulness and I do not get along.  I've no respect for unfaithful partners, the heartbreak they cause and the re-building of trust that is required afterwards - nope, it's not a road I ever want to go down, nor would I want to go down with anyone who was unfaithful to me.  Because really, that's a deal-breaker.  My lovely wifey and I strongly agree on this, it's a hundred percent over if either one of us were to stray.  I'm sure that a lot of why we both feel this way has to do with both of us having endured abusive relationships in the past.  
    So why the (clickbait) title?
    Last week, I was unfaithful to my diet.  I admit it.  I'm holding myself accountable to you all.  I'm writing this for a couple of reasons.  First off, I want to be able to come back to this whenever I feel the 'ah, screw its,' because a (small) setback like this one is likely to make anyone think that.  I'm still over the 20-pound mark, but now it's going to be a little bit longer to get to the 25-pound mark, which I'd been hoping for.  
    I got on the scale on Monday, my usual weigh-in day.  And yes, this is a big part of the reason I didn't update right away.
    I gained one stinking pound.  1.1 to be exact.
    After I kicked and screamed at the scale (half expecting it to scream back at me, "What the hell do you expect???  Do you know what the hell you ate this week?!") I rang Oompa to share the verdict.
    "Do you know why?" Was all she said.  My mother's had her own ups and downs, if anyone were to understand the frustrations of dieting, it's my mother.  She's been on a diet for as long as I've known her.  
    Let's see.  Monday, I want to say I ate normally, eggs for breakfast, chicken for supper.  Tuesday, we had pasta with homemade alfredo sauce (I was sure to use the cream of mushroom in a can rather than buy the store brand jarred alfredo sauce).  Wednesday, I made a pulled pork in the crock-pot and served them on rolls that weren't necessarily the healthy type.  Thursday, we had chinese take-out because the kids begged me not to make anything to do with chicken.  I guess I can't blame them - they've had enough at this point.  And so, the Son requested I make different things this past week, and I obliged.  And I also indulged.  My portion sizes weren't enormous; I can't eat as much as I used to.  However, I still ate mindlessly, without measuring, without being strict with myself, without cutting myself off when I'd eaten enough, regardless of whether I was still hungry.  On Friday, the wifey had a medical procedure done (more on that another time) and wanted a cheesesteak with fries afterwards.  I didn't eat the cheesesteak, but I ordered a chicken parm hero - when they handed me my plate, I think I might have said 'sweet Jesus' a little too loudly.  Suffice to say, I ate about 1/4 of that hero - brought the rest home where the kids devoured my leftovers.  Then on Saturday, we went to my nephew's birthday party and I ate two slices of buffalo chicken pizza.  Then I've got to consider the nights I had (fat-free but not point-free) popcorn for a snack.  I didn't track ANY of these foods - but I don't blame my weight gain on that.  I haven't been tracking via electronic app for weeks, because I was eating all of the same things and it got too easy not to write it all down.
    Here's what happened.  Like the kids, I got bored with the same ol' and I gave myself a little too much slack last week.  Lesson learned! 
    And yes, guys, I know - it's only one pound.  I do know I could have done a lot worse than that.  This brings me to the second reason I'm writing this and sharing here.  I need to convince myself, too, that it's not the end of the world.  Maybe I just didn't drink enough water and maybe retention is part of the problem.  And I know I COULD HAVE done a whole lot worse.  I was not strict with myself, but a part of me WAS careful and a part of me was doing some damage control - I think the numbers on the scale could have been a lot more grave.  So, while I'm annoyed with myself for not taking care and losing that pound rather than gaining it, I have to remember to also commend myself for having a degree of self-control and minimizing the damage.  
    And now, I must go on.
    I told Oompa I certainly did know what I did wrong.  There was just too much, so I didn't give her any details.  Not only did I go over my allotted points for each day, I was sure I surpassed my weeklies, too.  
    Interestingly enough, I won't admit these little menu details to Oompa.  I don't know why - like I said, my mother likely would understand anything I had to say about diets.  Maybe it's because for years and years, I rolled my eyes at her and made fun of her measuring cups and spoons and recipes...I can't tell you how many times she served me something that looked like cat puke....being a mediocre cook to begin with, her "diet" foods weren't appealing, either.
    God, I can't begin to explain why I hear her voice CONSTANTLY when I'm going down the food aisles at Wal-Mart.  "That there, you mix it with this here, and it's three points," etc.  Whenever I see the words on the app - I hear her voice.  "Two points."  "Zero points."  "Points, points, POINTS."  And I'm hearing impaired, explain that!?
    She's never scolded me for my dieting snafus.  The last thing she said to me before I hung up with her on Monday was, "It's all good.  Just keep going." 
    But I've got no problem with admitting it to you guys.  No one here knows me from a hole in the wall, and yet, sharing little things online has always been far more comfortable to me than sharing in person with someone who knows me.  Someone who can see me.  Tell me I'm not the only one?
    So, yeah.  I failed miserably last week, but I'm going to try to get back on track this week.  I'm going to get back into my app and starting tomorrow, pay better attention to what I eat.  I did make a lovely bean soup with white meat chicken on Monday.  Today, I had balsamic chicken with roasted potatoes and vegetables.  Tomorrow, J will be making pasta with meatballs, but I am going to measure what I eat.  And I'm going to be downing the water.  I wanted my popcorn snack while watching the baseball game tonight, but I decided against it.
    It's all I can do, really. These little things.
    Hoping to have better news for you all next week.  
    To myself...I'm sorry.  I screwed up.  I'm going to make it right.
    To the scale - screw you.  I'm coming back next week,  and I'm owning you!
    - Capulet
  15. 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
  16. Capulet
    Hello, everyone!  TWO blogs in a week????  How unusual.  Or is it?  
    Well, guess what?   I did it.  I did something I PROBABLY should have done years (and YEARS) ago, and joined a local support group.  
    Firstly, let me explain something to you all.  I'd always thought about joining a support group.  I've always fallen victim to loneliness - ALWAYS.  Being hearing impaired is only one contributor to this constant feeling of being the outsider and never quite being able to fit in, but it was further exacerbated by being told that there were limits to what I should be talking about, being made to feel that sharing was a bad thing.  (Thank you, ex-asshat...uh, husband, for that) And so, previously, when faced with whether or not I should seek out a support group, I'd always decide against it because regardless of that pesky loneliness, it didn't feel safe to take that leap, yet.
    Joining AS was, before last night, the closest I've ever been to a support group.  This was more my speed - it's a community rather than a small group, but for me, being somewhere there was an unspoken understanding among members and not having to explain myself in depth was NICE.  It was even nicer that my hearing impairment didn't keep me excluded from conversations and that I could 'speak' freely without having to use my voice or show my face.  Oh, and I was able to keep AS anonymous - it was another way of keeping my private life separate from the life that I share with people who aren't privy to my personal struggles.  I still do this, to this day - the only person who knows about my belonging to AS is my lovely J.  And, there's another thing - joining a support forum online has enabled me to THINK out my responses.  Speaking live is new to me - I am a think-before-you-speak type of girl.  Maybe that's a good thing, maybe it's not.  Maybe it's the reason I leave so much out - because online, I have time to mentally (and then physically) edit what I put out there.  Who knows?  Either way, I've always been SO much more comfortable online but now that I'm entertaining the idea of getting involved in this line of work, I'm going to have to learn to master the concept of live, in-person communication.  So an (online) search led me to join such a group.
    We had our first meeting yesterday evening; this particular group meets once a month.  
    There were only three of us, including me, and a leader.  (The group leader was the same very nice woman I emailed to inquire about the meetings in the first place.)  This group is centered around art, although you do not have to be an artist to participate. They provide the paper, paints, crayons, markers, colored pencils and paintbrushes.  You need only bring yourself and an open mind.
    So, first, there was a question written on the dry-erase board in the front of the room.  The general idea is to answer/discuss that question and then afterwards, we are to try to use art to express further what we have just discussed.
    I shit you not, I sat there with a blank piece of lined paper in front of me for what seemed like forever.  I was wishing for my keyboard and a monitor to magically appear in front of me, but only had my pencil available to write with.
    What makes my heart happy?  Safe? Proud? Scared? Strong? What does my heart need? How do I look when my heart is happy/sad/everything else?
    Those were the questions we were given at the beginning of the meeting to ponder.  I felt like I was back in school and my teacher had just given me a timed assignment - we had ten minutes to write some stuff down and I think I only managed half-assed responses, simply because of the type of thinker I am.  When called upon to respond, I simply told them that I'd share my answer to the last question - the 'how-do-I-look question.'  For some reason, this was something I felt I could best explain given the amount of time I had already wasted not knowing what to write for the other ones.  For those, I just jotted down simple, one-word answers for the time being.  I wasn't going to even share my answer to THIS question - but it just felt okay to say this much in that moment.
    I explained that I look the same when I am happy, sad, scared, proud or feeling strong.  I've spent so much time trying to mask my true feelings.  For a long time, I wasn't allowed to share when I was sad or afraid.  I learned to pretend that I was fine, or if that didn't work, supply a bullshit, sometimes nonexistent reason for looking as if I were particularly 'off.'  And so, to keep myself safe, I would adopt the same generic, expressionless face for everything.  I was honest ONLY with the person closest to me (yep, my wifey) and even so, there was still an insatiable need to downplay my true feelings.  Not because they were unimportant, because I know they WERE valid thoughts and concerns, but they were simply thoughts I didn't have enough words to back up at the time.  
    Y'all ever see this fantastic T-shirt featuring just squares, words and Darth Vader's face in every square?  Underneath each face is a word - happy, sad, cheerful, excited, frustrated, angry, proud, sleepy, confused....and there's the same exact picture of Darth Vader's face above each word.  See the attachment below. As you can see, the expression is the same, it doesn't change.  That's what came to mind when it comes to me - not to mention my kids (and J) tease me about my breathing sounding Vader-ish from time to time.  That last bit is not the point, it's just there for your entertainment as well as motivation for me to order this damn T-shirt for myself somewhere down the line.  

    Anyway, this is, for sure something I feel that I need to continue to work on.  I know that now, I am safe to express myself truthfully with the (very few) people I trust.  And lately, I've made a little bit of progress with this, too.  It's been an emotional few months, to say the least.  I have been able to even CRY in front of my fiancee - never before have I been able to speak about something to the point of tears rather than drop it and pull out my pre-determined face for whatever it is I'm supposed to be reacting to.  I'm finding that I'm expressing myself more now than I have in the last TWENTY years. 
    This brings me to what makes my heart proud - it took me a while, but I did that.  I got to where I am, DOING what I felt I needed to do and without being properly taught the right way of expression.  I self-educated - and I listened to my own heart when it came to choosing how and to whom I expressed myself honestly.  I still do feel that this blog is where I'm most honest - but perhaps, one day, I will be able to do the same thing offline.  And perhaps, people will TRULY be able to identify what I'm truly feeling because my face, I'm sure, will gradually soften as I become more comfortable removing that (heavy) mask.
    What about the rest of it, then?
    It isn't hard to tell you what makes me sad.  I just didn't really feel comfortable getting into such a long-ass list at the meeting.  But it's the same shit that makes us all sad.  I don't think there's anything that I am uniquely sad over other than how long it's taken me to reach the point I'm at and all of the wasted time and potential - while I understand it, the regrets are what gets to me in the end.  I'm not sad enough to let it eat away at me, though.  I'm going to fucking FIX that - I'm going to make up for that lost time, if it's the last thing I do.  But most of all, what makes me (and probably you, too) sad is the existence of UGLINESS in this world - people being abusive to others, not giving a damn about what their cruelty does to another person.  I'm sad that people are betrayed left and right, trust is broken every day, that fear is something so easily learned.  And of course, this particular type of sadness is going to exist for years and years to come - NONE of that shit is fair!  
    What makes my heart feel safe?  Ahh, this is a hard one.  I think this varies from person to person but they're not asking about them, they're asking about me.  I didn't write anything underneath this word at the meeting.  I was literally drawing blanks...and again, reaching for the imaginary keyboard.  Honestly, though?  Being able to trust someone and to remove them from my imaginary list of 'toxic' people and put them on the safe list is something that isn't done often or in my case, easily.  By now, I'm used to people 'disappearing' or becoming otherwise absent from my life.   And so, it's become 'safe' for me to keep most people at arms' length and cease making emotional attachments right away.  Not to say I don't like them - there are many, MANY people out there that I am fond of and think of as being good, honest  people that I'd love to one day get to know and become good friends with.  ONE DAY.  But just as soon as I say that or start to feel that is possible with someone, my safety mode kicks in and all I can think about are those who have disappointed me in the past by making promises to always be there but haven't kept them.  I'm well aware that people come and go from our lives, that's what happens; that's life.  We find ourselves being close to a person, thinking this is a 'lifer,' only to discover that three or four years later, they've gradually drifted and moved on.  Perhaps there is a pre-set time and place for people to be friends or feel close to each other...I do believe we cross paths with people who are perhaps put there for a reason by forces unknown - as fate has it, they may need us too, for that particular moment in time and for whatever reason.  I'm thinking, though, maybe very few things, if any, are forever?  The 'forever,' you have to work at.  For that, BOTH parties have to commit and want the same thing.  I've found that usually it's me who makes the effort with others.  And it's not safe for me to keep doing that  - when and if it doesn't work out the way I'd like or hope for it to, the hurt is real.  And so, it makes me feel an added layer of security to keep an emotional distance for a little bit longer whenever I am faced with becoming friends with a new person.  
    I suppose the above friendship issue is one thing that scares my heart.  In a nutshell, what truly scares me is the loss of something I find to be a sure thing, something I TRULY cannot imagine life without.  Don't get me wrong - what terrifies me the most is the idea of anything ever happening to my kids, or to J.  These three people are the ONLY three I have an emotional attachment to that NOTHING can ever change.  Okay - that's not entirely true - I know that there isn't a single relationship on this planet that comes with a lifetime guarantee - a better way of phrasing would be to say this is the ONE relationship I've had where I've been able to lay ALL my cards out onto the table and allow my partner to see things I've never shown anyone else...I've given her my entire heart; I've held back nothing.  My kids, too - my love for them is permanent, unwavering and unconditional.  They piss me off every single damn day - in one way or another.  But NEVER will they 'drift' from my heart. The thought of anything ever happening to any of these three people scares the shit out of me - it's more than the idea of losing them, I truly believe I will lose myself, too, should that happen.  
    And finally, what makes my heart happy?  What, indeed?  The three people mentioned above - the son, the daughter, and J.  Absolutely.  They all make my heart happy, despite the times they annoy or piss me off.  Them being a permanent fixture in my life makes me happy - because they are safe and safety = happiness.  It's never been the material things that have brought me joy - it's consistency.  
    So, what does my heart need now that I've identified the other ways it both keeps me going and holds me back?
    Thinking back to last night, this was probably the hardest of all the questions. Again, I am a very deep, profound thinker; when I am asked a question, the answer I present MUST make sense to me before I attempt to clearly convey it to others.  Not sure if that's an OCD thing, a Capulet thing or the way it is for everyone - I'm guessing the latter is only true for some and not for others, because this, too, is dependent on what mental problem solving methods they most frequently use.  But in order for me to answer the question of what my heart needs, I had to FIRST get through the other questions.  In a way, they serve as a map, a blueprint, sort of - a route to the answers.  I am simply incapable of arriving at one conclusion before figuring out the prerequisite answer.  It's just the way my brain works.
    Before I answer the 'need' question, though, I want to mention the 'art' part of the meeting - since talking about this will likely build up to a more effective means of responding to it.  Since we were discussing hearts, it was suggested we draw one and surround it/fill it in, with words, other pictures, colors, whatever, to try and describe what your heart feels through your drawing.  The two ladies got started right away; I guess they already had their answers.  The leader did her own picture, too - but I sat there and stared at a blank page for the first 20 minutes.  No - scratch that - it wasn't completely blank - I'd completed just the first step and had drawn a heart - just a plain, empty heart.  Nothing inside.  I suppose that wouldn't do - those who know me know that my heart is capable of so, SO much more than the emptiness that was reflected on my paper.  Yet, I truly feel restricted - I don't put as much of my heart and trust out there as I know I can.  I am not allowing as much INTO my heart, either - for the longest time, I've been content with what I have - it's enough for me, there was never a true desire to spread myself even further, to share myself with others and trust in others as I do J, who has been my 'lone' person for the last ten years.
    This has become different, now, though.  My kids, I will trust with my life - but I cannot expect them to be able to see me through those things I'm trying to survive - they are not privy to that part of my life, and that's not their fault; it's simply the way I've wanted it to be.  Should they ever approach me wanting to have a conversation about such things, I'll trust them with those details then.  But until that happens, I am content with trusting them to become good people, to stand up for what they believe in, and to not put me in a nursing home when I start to shit myself on a daily basis.   J holds my highest level of trust - there is not a single thing about me that she doesn't know.  But now, she is evolving - she doesn't have a wall fortified by a padlock over her heart - she has made new friends, she is starting to enjoy social outings with people other than me, she is growing into a stronger person.  Now, don't get me wrong - our relationship is by no means in danger.  We're good.  I just feel lately that while she's growing, I am truly stuck in that same comfort zone that I've been sitting in for the last decade and if I continue to be stuck, I will end up even more lonely in the end.  A change is necessary, and it's ME that has to change.  
    Who the fuck invented that word, anyway?  Surely not someone who is content with keeping things the same forever!  
    So, I grabbed my crayon and filled my heart with bricks and colored them red, to symbolize the wall that obstructed the way in.  It was all I could think of, really - the best interpretation of my heart in its current state.  There's much to be seen beyond that 'brick' wall, but that wall needs to first be torn down, little by little, piece by piece.  I waited until my turn came and explained to the group that I felt that there were many things my heart needed but for a long time, I've been building and fortifying walls - my goal was to start chipping away at it so that I and others could access my fullest potential as a person.  
    I have that picture on my desk right now - I said I was going to keep it and bring it home and when I felt I made a little progress in lowering some of these mental walls, I'd draw little cracks in it.  There will eventually be no more room for 'cracks' and this wall will eventually crumble and fall.  I'm going to make sure of it - this is what I hope to gain from joining a support group.
    So, I've determined that I need to be able to overcome my hesitation and fear of becoming emotionally invested in or attached to the newer people in my life.   I need to be able to make those cracks in this wall and then work on first weakening it - (not completely demolishing it because there are certain safeguards I need to keep in place) - in order to allow others the chance to show me that they are capable of being both supporters and friends.  I'm not looking for anything beyond friendship, but even that seems harder for me to find given my own personal hangups.  I need to be willing to take chances on people, I'm sure there are some who doing the same.  I need to open my heart to the possibility of expanding my very, VERY small circle so that there is a safety net in place - what happens if something DOES happen to my person?  In doing this, I will also be making my heart stronger - I can only assume at this point that to shy away from these opportunities would have the opposite effect.  So - yeah - If I get burned, I get burned.  At least I'll know deep down that I tried and it was through no fault of my own.  I will have to deal with the emotional fallout, yes, but then I will simply have to accept it and move on rather than stay stationary for the next decade.
    I NEED to explore what else makes me happy.  I trust that the already existing factors will remain in place, but if I was truly content with my life as is, I would NOT be feeling as emotional as I have been as of late.  That's a given.  It's taken me a while to figure that out but better late than never, I guess.  I also recognize that in my quest for happiness, I'll have to take risks that scare me.  Perhaps they'll make me more proud in the end, once and if I've succeeded.  Who knows.  Either way, I see how it's all connected.  It was a good question - it didn't seem like it at first - it was almost too loaded.  Lots of things make me happy, lots of things make me sad, scared, strong.  I guess it's easy to put down what's obvious without giving it an excessive amount of thought, but that's just not who I am.  
    And lastly, I need all the help I can get.  I'm not usually one to ask for it, but perhaps I should start effectively expressing to others what I need.  I'm rediscovering and re-training that little voice within that, in the past, was denied the requested help and support.  I recognize this as being the reason I stopped asking for help, I stopped reaching out, stopped offering my own support.  This accomplishes nothing, friends - nothing!
    I've already started picking away at this wall covering my heart.  I've been at it for months already, I wanna say - it's not been easy but there are some small cracks beginning to form.  So, I'm getting somewhere.  Slowly, but surely. 
    So, hey, grab a mallet.  Help me make some more cracks. Maybe we can help each other through this daunting part of the healing process?  Isn't that what the point of it all even is?  Isn't that what I needed from the start??  Maybe instead of building and fortifying walls, we should start being more openly focused with communicating (both with ourselves and with others) what our hearts need?
    Until next time.  Hoping you're all well.  
    Sending  and a just because it makes me smile.
    - Capulet
  17. Capulet
    Huh.  Whadda-ya-know?
    I'm having a little bit of difficulty with my 'assignment.'  The counselor I saw last week gave me something to ponder for the next time we were to meet (there is no appointment set, yet) and I was happy to have something to occupy my thoughts with and even more giddy when she said I could write it out!  I suspect she understands the level of effectiveness writing has on me, so she was quick to encourage some 'writing homework' on my way out.  I accepted the assignment, as usual, because I do like being made to think seriously about something, to be tested, to be given the opportunity to be honest with myself at the same time.
    I just didn't think it'd be THIS much of a challenge!
    We all know by now that I'm a writer.  I know I'm always annoyingly pushing the idea upon others if there's an opportunity.  "You should write it out," "It'll help you make sense of things if you tried to put it all down in writing."  The list goes on.  If you're among those I've incessantly pestered about the importance of utilizing the power of the written word, I do apologize for coming on so strongly about it.  But this is something I TRULY believe in.  I believe it can help...because whether you're writing for your eyes only or you're intending to eventually share the finished product, it's still the easiest way to purge some of those thoughts and ponderings that are simply too hard to verbalize.  
    You see, writing is my biggest outlet.  More than talking.  More than therapy.  More than beating the shit out of a pillow.  It's my strongest means of communication.  The majority of my communicating today is done electronically as I do not have a whole lot of in-person contact these days between the kids being either at school or at their Dad's and J working a ton of hours.  I write texts, posts, emails, PMs, blog entries, MUCH easier than I can speak these words to others.  
    But, anyway.  
    The assignment is, "Where do I see myself in three years?"
    I did graciously accept this assignment when she gave it to me, thinking, 'piece of cake,' - because this is what I do, even when there are group sessions.  I'm always anxious to be given something to write, so mentally, I'm all - 'let's have it....throw it at me.'  Lately, though, I am finding that it hasn't been as easy as it used to be, for me to dig deep.  In the group meetings, I find myself sitting and thinking while everyone around me is furiously scribbling or otherwise working on their own responses.  It seemingly has gotten deeper, and there are now layers upon layers of CRAP sitting on top of it, making it even harder for me to gain access to these thoughts.
    I don't even know where I see myself tomorrow.  Or next week.  Yes, I have previously expressed some long-term plans and these are still active plans - but are going to take a little bit of time to set into motion.  And because things happen in their own time, and sometimes unpredicted circumstances come into play and effectively throw some of your plans completely off track, I've always just taken it a day at a time.  I've always paced myself because it made the most sense...we, after all, have to learn to crawl before we can walk, and then eventually break into a run.
    So, I now have to fast-forward THREE years??? (grumble, grumble.)
    In three years, the Son will be 21.  He'll be possibly about to graduate with his 4-year degree.  He might have an idea of what he wants to do with the rest of his life - which will put him in a FAR more advanced place than I was when I was his age.  I was 21 when I birthed him, I'd dropped out of college and was completely clueless on where I was going with the credits I'd already earned.  "I'll go back," I said to myself - and it will have taken 20 years by the time I do, but better late than never, I suppose.  He has just recently introduced to me his girlfriend - a lovely young lady that he's been seeing for a few weeks, now.  Perhaps in three years, he'll still be dating her - I like her a lot and personally hope she's still around.
    The Daughter will be 15, and in High School.  I am fairly certain she will be giving me daily heart attacks.  She's been applying mascara and lip gloss daily before school and she's only 12 now and smack dab in the middle of the seventh grade.  I joke often that she must have gotten her love for cosmetics from her father, (who wears many different 'faces') because she sure as hell didn't get it from me!  I am HOPING that in three years, her attitude will have significantly improved and that her immaturely destructive behaviors will have diminished, even just a teeeeeensy bit.
    For some reason, it's so much easier to envision where I see my kids in three years than where I see myself.  See, if this were a test, I'd have flunked on that, alone.  
    Fine, I'll try and shift gears and see what develops.
    I am positive that I will still be with my lovely J.  There is no doubt in my mind that we will be still be going strong in three years.  We have had our bumps and hurdles, but that's why we're BOTH striving to fix it now before it becomes a bigger problem.  To call it a 'problem' in the first place is a bit of an exaggeration, actually - so - it's just bumps.  In three years, I'm hoping these bumps will have been bulldozed a bit and that our path moving forward is more evened out.  When the surface in front of you is flattened, it's easier to see what's ahead - whereas the bumps sometimes serve as distractions and if hit hard enough, can bounce you completely offsides.  And like hitting a speed bump at 35-40mph, it can take a minute to recover from the jolt.
    Perhaps in three years, I will have learned that it's truly okay to be social, it's okay to let loose once in a while, it's okay to have fun and to SHOW that I'm having fun.  I know I'm uptight.  VERY much so.  And that isn't helping me AT ALL.  Maybe I will also find that I LIKE this - I can't say that's the case, yet, but it's being worked on.
    Maybe having started school (and probably having also graduated with my Associate's within that same three-year period) will have made it a bit easier for me to 'upgrade' from my current hermit status.  I'm not by any means wanting to be a social butterfly who is never home anymore; I think that to remain somewhat of a homebody, to keep myself calm, centered and reserved with the exception of a social outing or game night with friends one or two times every week or two is something I can live with.  
    I am far too used to keeping myself company - to the point where I like it a little too much to entirely abandon the thought.   I would like to be at that comfortable halfway, in-between point where I am no longer feeling extremely lonely and I'm also not feeling the anxiety or stress of having to be around too many people at once.  Again, I'm reminded of the 'baby steps' concept - maybe it will take MORE than three years to dissolve some more of that irrational anxiety.  And maybe, it is what it is.
    Maybe if I've already acquired my Associate's, I'll have already undertaken my mission toward my Bachelor's in Social Work.
    And, this might be a horrible thing to say - but since it is in reference to someone that didn't necessarily treat ME well, I am trying not to feel bad about saying it.  And this, too, is something I have to work at - not being so nice to people who treat me like stepped-in shit.  I am too forgiving, I am too weak to fight.  I do not do well with confrontation.  (Adding those to my growing list of the necessary little self-improvements.)
    But maybe, just maybe my ex will no longer be here.  The Son has already expressed his opinion on the matter.  "Dad isn't well.  He probably won't live past fifty."
    This is true.  My ex is NOT healthy.  So, in three years or less, maybe I'll finally be free of his influence, free of the bullshit he's ingrained in me and taught me.  I wonder often if his presence, the fact that he is ALIVE, serves as an impenetrable barrier between myself and that complete freedom.  Because, as stated before, we are not married anymore, but his reach has still remained a powerful constant.  I find myself panicking at the thought of him being angry at me for shit that I really don't have any control over.  Or, what he'll say to me next, how he'll react to anything that could be perceived as offensive to him.  I would like to find that I am no longer obligated to nod my head every time he asks me if I think he's right.  It never mattered if I didn't, there is still that weakened, mentally battered part of me that forces myself to agree with whatever bullshit he's currently spewing if asked.  
    Maybe in three years, I'll have found the pair of brass balls that I'm still trying to grow when it comes to standing up for myself, my thoughts, my wants, my feelings.  I am comparable to a trained animal at this point; even when an animal has been removed from the care of an abusive owner, the behaviors stick with them, forever.  And sometimes, this makes them 'unadoptable.'  No, I am not looking to be adopted - simply to express the disgusting gravity of this man's presence in my life.  In three years, I would like for this hold over me to be dissolved; I want to NOT worry about what dire consequences any choices I make may have.  
    I've already made a VERY small, but significant statement toward taking a tiny step away from his unwanted influence.  I told him over last summer that I planned to go back to school.  In part, I think I wanted him to realize - I'd quit school nearly 20 years ago because HE advised it.  Yes, it was me who ultimately carried out this choice because I was tired, emotionally a wreck, and pregnant.  Still, I let him convince me to put everything on hold so that I could not only focus on the Son when he was born, but also on HIS two children that he had by the wife before me.  Going to school was no longer feasible - in his eyes, being an instant, just-add-water wife and mother was my life, now.  This took precedence over my education - especially since I 'didn't have a plan.'  He has NEVER believed in me, in what I was capable of doing.  
    I don't think he made this connection, though.  This narcissist of a man instead made the comment/suggestion that I should just bypass the back-to-school idea and apply to work at the post office because they're a government agency and they hire individuals with disabilities and that I'd likely have no problem securing work.  
    "I don't want to work at the post office." I said to him, completely shocking myself.  I said it quickly, without thinking.  And normally, we do NOT speak to the wasband without carefully planning out our words; it does NOT end well if he finds he doesn't like what's been said.  I think I surprised him, too, with my abrupt answer.  He appeared slightly taken aback.
    "Oh." Was all he said.  And then he shrugged, "Whatever."
    (What is it with that word?!  "Whatever."  It makes me want to punch him in the face every time he says it!)  I think it's because I know that it's his 'dismissive' word.  It is what he says when he is finished talking.  GOD FORBID, though, I should be the one to mumble, 'whatever.'  It would lead to a full-on, drawn-out fight and of course, the end result was always the same, he was right, I was wrong, and I owed HIM an apology.  
    Perhaps in this case, the 'whatever' was a good thing - it wasn't toward me as his wife - he REALLY didn't care.
    In three years, I'd like to NOT feel the need to apologize to him anymore.  In the meantime, I am not holding my breath for the moment he realizes how many people he's wronged and with whom HE needs to make amends.  I do not even think 'I'm sorry' is in his vocabulary.  I have accepted that I'll likely NEVER hear them from him - but in three years, maybe I won't give a shit anymore because he just won't be ABLE to fix the damages he's caused.  Whether it's within three years, or within five or ten, all of his inflicted damage, including all of the effects, will die with him.
    There are probably a bunch of other things I'd like to see happen within the next three years.  I will likely become an aunt 1-2 more times.  I will possibly get a new car as my car has pretty much been commandeered by the Son, who uses it to commute back and forth to school.  I will likely have experienced some loss - two of my cats are elderly and are on a slow decline - this, I'm NOT looking forward to, but have to always consider the balance of good and bad whenever trying to look to the future. Perhaps this is what keeps me from shattering into a million pieces when something unexpected happens.  I need to prepare myself for every possible surprise, especially the unpredictable ones.  
    I don't expect to be right about every of my 'guesses' but if I can check off even ONE positive thing as being correctly predicted, then that's, in itself, a victory.
    Love and light,
    - Capulet
  18. Capulet
    The first time I attempted to get this entry started, I got maybe two words typed out before my very demanding cat jumped up onto the desk, spilling my pencil holder of its contents as well as knocking my (thankfully covered) water bottle as well as other empty soda cans and nail polish bottles over.  I'm telling you - when this boy wants his love and affection, he stops at absolutely nothing and often resorts to destruction!
    So - here is attempt number two, now that I've banished him to the other side of my bedroom door with, "my Christmas tree BETTER still be standing in the morning, Mister!"  I then locked the door so he couldn't let himself in, (believe it or not, the little shit KNOWS how to open handled doors! He taught himself and has NO regard for privacy!) and am now sitting down to write.
    I had my second session with the Support Group Leader on Friday.  I will from now on refer to her as M, it's easier.
    Anyway - we really didn't have time to 'go over' my assignment from our last session (the one where she wanted me to share where I thought I'd be in three years) because I walked in prepared to discuss instead what I wrote about in my LAST blog entry - my recent struggles with J's re-entrance into therapy, of her starting EMDR, of being distant, overworked and overstressed, and of the rekindling of her social life.  It's what's been on my mind the most nowadays, and it felt fitting to discuss this in place of whatever the hell I might be doing in three years.  
    Previously, we briefly got around to talking about the company J keeps - particularly her boss/friend.  I've always been honest with J and told her that there's SOMETHING I can't quite put my finger on, SOMETHING about her that I don't like.  I've said it until I was blue in the face.  It is NOT a romantic attraction I'm fearful of.  No.  I trust J in every aspect, and I know that if there was any chance that she didn't want to be with me - she wouldn't be.  I have tried several times to explain to her that it is simply the fact that while she and I are actively disconnecting, I am witnessing her becoming close to someone else.  Although it's not on the same level, it still makes me feel (perhaps unnecessarily) threatened.  And although J has always invited me into the fold and tried to include me, I've always felt reluctant and as if I didn't want to be around her boss/friend, because of these irrational thoughts.
    Anyway - J's sisters dropped in on Thanksgiving night.  During the day on Friday, I was dealing with our cable mishap, so I was unable to join them for the trip to the nail salon (I swear, when it comes to mani-pedis, I'm probably the man in the relationship - I could care less what my nails look like as they're usually cut short for bowling purposes, and GOD HELP anyone who touches my FEET!) or for the breakfast they went and ate after that.   
    Being as we live four hours apart, J doesn't spend a whole lot of time with her sister.  So, whenever her sister comes for a visit, I am perfectly fine keeping a distance and allowing them the time and space to visit and reconnect.  Whenever J goes out with her sister (a heavy drinker) there is ALWAYS music and booze involved.  I am generally uncomfortable being around people who share this overtly loud and obnoxious, outgoing personality.  And that Friday night after Thanksgiving, the three sisters wanted to go to a bar for a few drinks after supper and said that I should join them.  I struggled with the invitation, but then I agreed to join them just for the food, but bowed out of the after-dinner bar plans.  
    Admittedly, there is currently more revolving around my not wanting to be around J's one sister either - it has a LOT to do with what happened prior to J's radiation treatment this past summer.  I am feeling that is not quite resolved - her sister had said she'd like to communicate once per week, she'd like to get to know me better, things like that.  She hasn't made a single effort to communicate with me - AT ALL.  And I'm all about reciprocation - I've done nothing, too.  I am stubborn, yes, but I also don't feel this is mine to fix.  SHE is the one who acted poorly.  If I said things that weren't necessarily nice or polite, it was because I was defending myself.
    Anyway, I remained civil and friendly - I politely declined the second invitation to go boozing afterwards.  Instead, I went straight home after the restaurant, thinking to myself, how long would it even take to get a couple drinks in?  A couple hours, maybe?
    They didn't get home until One. Oh. Clock. In the morning. 1:00.  1am.  An hour after midnight.
    What the fuck?
    Still, I figured, these are not family members J sees very often - she did move four hours away from her family so that she could share her life with me - so, that thought in mind, I remained calm when she came into the bedroom at 1am.  She admitted to having a little too much to drink and that after the bar, the one outgoing sister had insisted on driving out to ANOTHER bar where there was karaoke.  
    "I'm so glad I went," I was being sarcastic.  But still asked how karaoke went.  I still showed an interest, even though I wished she'd been home sooner - I felt as if I hadn't had any time with her that week, at all.  She'd worked a double on Thanksgiving, then Friday the sisters were there, etc, and as it unfolded, I couldn't be with them during the first half of that day because I was waiting for the cable techie.  She'd managed to get the day off work on Friday and Saturday, but still - with the added company, I wasn't feeling anything other than lonely at the moment.
    Anyway, she told me that the karaoke place was pretty crowded and that her sister got up there and sang and danced, she commented on how this same sister makes 'friends' wherever she goes.  She talked about how they had several drinks together and that the other sister (whom I truly DO like) was the one who had driven them all home, having only had one or two drinks all night.  And she waited until the VERY end to mention:
    "Oh and (boss/friend's name) met us at karaoke."
    See, I was fine until that mention.  I was.  I don't even think it was the fact that J was pouring alcohol into her body when she normally doesn't.  It was, though, the fact that she'd NOT told me that boss/friend would be there because she knew how I'd react.  She'd omitted that detail entirely, which felt like a betrayal, although a small one.  When asked why she didn't think to tell me this, she confirmed it.  "Because every time you hear her name, you lose your shit!"
    And yes, that's true.  I don't even know that it's jealousy - perhaps some of it is.  But at this point, I'd ALREADY explained that I was feeling disconnected from the one person I trust the most.  And that I didn't like this other friend's sudden and frequent presence.  Yet, J is not willing to change her friendship with boss/friend based upon these feelings I'm having, nor is she willing to slow down anything she's doing.  And, so, it's me who has to change.  And how the fuck I'm going to do that, remains a mystery.  
    We bickered about this on that night, making it a very emotional and late one.  I didn't sleep a wink.  She had a fair amount of alcohol in her system so that did enable her to get some sleep eventually.  But I was just unable to allow sleep to take over, there were simply TOO many thoughts swimming around in my head.  I still remained in bed, my heart raced all night long and I recognized familiar signs of anxiety that I hadn't seen in years.  This bothered me.  SO much. 
    It hit me that THIS was our first REAL argument in the decade we'd been together.  See, up until now, we've ALWAYS been on the same page with pretty much everything.  Yes, we've disagreed but it's NEVER felt like this before.  Since that night, we've talked many times about this particular 'fight' and for the time being, we've reached an understanding.  She will continue to work on herself in therapy while also enjoying her social outings after work once per week, and she will continue to maintain her friendship that she has become fond of.  At the same time, she will work on being more present at home.   She would like for ME to work on myself, too, and for me to continue sessions with M.  She wants for me to branch out and be able to make connections with people other than her.  "It's healthy," she says.  I told her that was something I needed to work being able to accept - because it was so deeply ingrained into me by my ex-husband that one simply does not form close connections to another person outside of a relationship.  You can have friends, but there's a line there - a boundary.  Only HIS idea of healthy boundaries and HER idea are two entirely different things.  
    Although she tries to remind me that I've been with HER longer than I have been with him, I can't help but be stuck on the simple fact that it only takes a split second to change someone's 'sight,' whether it's during one isolated moment in time that can be considered a trauma or something someone else has said to you that seemingly becomes tattooed onto your brain.   In the case of my ex-husband, this is what's happened - even though I TRY not to adapt to his way of thinking, I sometimes can't help when it's something that automatically kicks in!  
    She mentioned that she'd also like for me to get to know boss/friend and to perhaps become friendly with her.  Now, this is tricky considering that right now, this woman is EVERYWHERE and it's more unsettling than not.  But I did promise to try, if this is what would make her happy.  We have decided that J is going to engage boss/friend into perhaps going bowling or going to ball games, or into doing anything in a setting that I can actually FOLLOW and maybe ENJOY.  I have made it clear that I don't want anything to do with bars, with karaoke, with anything music-related and I refuse to be in a setting where people are just acting overall reckless. 
    This recent fight is also something she asked me to present to M, so on Friday's appointment, I went in fully prepared to do so.  I know I could have posted it here beforehand, but it didn't feel right.  Plus, I am generally slow to process what is happening, even those things right in front of me.  I suppose this is a place where I can gain some unbiased feedback, same as with M in session, so I am okay doing it now that I've openly discussed it with M.
    Plus, there WAS a moment in counseling that set off that little light bulb in the back of my head that has been dormant long enough for me to question whether it needed changing or that I'd be subject to being in the dark for the rest of my life.  So, these words are all the more important to write.
    I did previously explain J's rising social status to M, but our last (also our first) meeting was before the argument on the day after Thanksgiving.  By now, things had escalated, and I needed the time and space to address it.  So we talked and, somehow - (it's weird how this happens!) - something clicked.  We talked about how I didn't understand WHY I didn't like boss/friend.  She isn't a bad person, the few times I have seen her, she was actually fun to be around.  Yet, there was something else there.   Something that, when I backtracked a bit from not liking the bar/drinking/music setting.  
    Let's return, for a minute, back to October 4th, 1996.  Some of you know this date already.  It's forever etched into memory for me, as it's the night I was raped.
    For starters - I was not at all used to parties, or even attending one that didn't involve balloons, clowns or goodie-bags.  Or a Sweet Sixteen from the previous year - I'd attended three or four for high school friends.  Other than that, I wasn't a partier, and this was okay with me.  Being hearing impaired usually excluded me from many invitations, but I wasn't normally one to take offense to it.  It is what it is. 
    One of the 'first' friends I made when I started college a month before the incident, was a very outgoing type of person.  I'm not sure what exactly made us friends, since I didn't have this in common with her at all - but at the time, I had no reason to fear being social, either.  
    She was the one who invited me to this party that she heard about.  She convinced me to lie to my father and tell him that I was going to be spending the night at her house, following the completion of a school project that would likely take HOURS.  Lord Capulet, being the trusting man he was, agreed and said, 'have a good time, just be careful!'
    When we arrived, she almost immediately met up with some kids that she had gone to high school with.  And so, it quickly became a case of, 'see ya later, Cap!' and I was left alone.  Alone, surrounded by loud music and the combined smell of alcohol and weed.  It was thick, and it didn't take me very long to want to go home.  When I went in search of my friend, I found her nearly topless - her shirt was opened, she was laughing it up with a bunch of surrounding horny frat guys and it was clear to me that she was heavily intoxicated.  I approached her and told her that if she'd give me the keys (we arrived in her car) then I'd drive us home.  She guffawed in my face (what the holy hell had she been drinking!?) and told me that she was having too much fun and wasn't ready to leave.
    I don't need to get into details here as I've likely already set the stage for what happened next, but the short version of it - in attempts to leave on my own, I was raped by an older partygoer in one of the bedrooms when he'd lured me inside under the pretense that he would be making a phone call for me.  I ended up walking out of the party pretty much unnoticed, as everyone around me was drunk, passed out, stoned or otherwise oblivious.  BECAUSE of the booze, BECAUSE of the music.  BECAUSE of this very setting.
    So - I explained all of this to M.  For her, it made sense right away - that, for the past 22 years, I have been unwittingly connecting the bar setting with the party setting - that whenever someone were to ask me to go have a drink, my automatic answer, without thinking about it, is 'hell, NO.'  It doesn't matter who I'll be with, even if it's J.  Even if it's someone whom I KNOW would not leave me flat.  I don't mind the occasional drink of alcohol - I even have a favorite!  (And if you've actually read this far, you're welcome to inquire on what it is in the comments!)  I just prefer to drink at home - on MY turf, either alone with J or with my family members.  Imbibing is not something I do frequently, as I also deal with that pestering guilt of ENJOYING something that indirectly caused my trauma 22 years ago.  I was not intoxicated at the time - I was sober.  But the person I was with was drunk (and I don't even know WHERE she was when I left!) and I'm uncertain of what my attacker had in his system, as when he approached me, he did NOT have a drink or a joint in his hand.  Regardless, I automatically find myself arriving at the same place each and every time I recall this moment in my life.  She was drunk.  Had she not been drunk, this would NOT have happened!
    I didn't realize even THIS until Friday, either - but the loud, obnoxious personalities of both J's sister, as well as her boss/friend, both remind me of this particular 'friend,' (I use that term very lightly, we are not friends today) who has now made it impossible for me to look at anyone who ENJOYS heavy drinking, loud music, reckless, STUPID behavior and the bar/weed setting, etc, with anything other than loathing and disgust.  I honestly don't think it's the actual person I've grown to hate - because both J's sister and the boss/friend are (if I can remove their love of the things I hate) decent people.  If they were not, J wouldn't even like them at all nor would she associate with the boss/friend.  I know family is family and that is a connection that is not going to change but it is true for any of her friends.
    I just cannot connect with these types, especially if they are not willing to try and connect with ME, either.  And the way to do that, really isn't rocket science.  I need to feel that someone WANTS to get to know me, someone truly is interested in learning about the person I am.  I'm not getting that vibe from neither one of them.    
    I think that what it boils down to is - this is the TYPE of person that I can't bring myself to trust, the person who would choose alcohol or drugs over my well-being and peace of mind.  And not only do I not trust them, I don't find myself being able to ALLOW new people the opportunity to prove themselves trustworthy.  I simply don't leave my comfort zone long enough to do this.  I'm still, after 22 years, (or even longer!) living in fear of social settings, and not necessarily ONLY the ones where alcohol and loud music is included.  It has been said that I am 'different' whenever I am in a group of people.  I am quiet.  I focus on whatever it is we're doing (whether it's a board game or a meal) and do not engage in conversation, I laugh whenever everyone else laughs so I don't look completely oblivious, and I often pray no one has asked me a question that I just responded to with a laugh.  
    So perhaps, that's it.  This was the moment when the bulb went off in session.  Maybe this is why this woman's friendship with J is so bothersome to me - I wonder if I am also, deep down, fearing that this will eventually become something J enjoys, too.  SHE likes music, she likes drinking with friends.  She isn't into karaoke but she's in the process of evolving.  What if this is something that happens later?  (Not the karaoke specifically but rather, the more extroverted lifestyle?)  What if this a change that is yet to happen but is in the making? 
    This is NEVER going to be something I'm entirely okay with, no matter how much work I do on it.  It's not going to erase the injustice done to me by that other 'friend.'   I don't know how to fix this, either.  My speed is just different.  I am not opposed to having friends or making connections with people but I personally prefer 1:1 meetings for meals, coffee, shopping, something like that. I like the heart-to-heart talks - they are what strengthens a friendship.  I don't mind taking in a drink or two with J and perhaps one other person, but I HAVE to be within a setting that doesn't catapult these fears to the surface.  There IS one person, though, that I bowl with who is also a fan of the mixed drink.  She is, though, first a bowling friend than anything else and HAS truly made the effort to know both J and I on other levels and is becoming someone I can indeed consider developing a friendship with that is both based on trust and mutual fondness.  So, I guess this is progress. 
    I did remind J last night that I needed for us to stay close to each other through this...whatever it is we're going through.  No matter how irrational I've seemed lately, no matter how much of an asshole I appear to be at times when I feel threatened or otherwise rejected.  I joked that maybe one morning I would wake up to a world where EVERYTHING made sense.  That got a smile out of her, at least.  I suppose it WAS a funny thought to entertain, even for just a moment.  
    I'm just terrified of this type of adjustment I'm having to make, not to mention, sick and tired of being hurt, abandoned or otherwise expendable because I can't change these things about myself too easily.  I'm not sure if this means there's more from what happened 22 years ago that I've got to work on - maybe it does.  I've had some therapy, but maybe not enough.  Maybe this is the point in time when that unfinished business has become more evident and has chosen to show up - and not politely, either - the expression 'bull in a china shop' comes to mind when I try to picture the state of my brain at the moment!
    The issue of abandonment is also becoming more prominent following my birthday celebration last month.  (Not sure if this is even worth to mention - but J's sister did not attend my surprise 40th nor did she even care to follow up on it.  She was supposed to come, but claimed that her hand was hurting following an injury - yet if the party were for J, a little hand pain would certainly have been a non-issue and she'd have been the first one to arrive.  And J had also invited boss/friend to this party, too - SHE didn't come either, apparently something came up for her, too.)  And then we add to that, the staggering number of long-time friends I also had not show up or follow up either - it just all succeeded at making these thoughts even more confusing and bothersome and my heart genuinely HURTS right now over ALL of it.  
    That's it for today, I suppose.  It's taken two days to get all of this written out - and yes, this is unusual for me, too.  I'm normally able to hammer out one of these blog entries in a matter of a few hours, but this has taken me DAYS.  Even now I'm reading and re-reading and my finger is hovering over the 'DELETE' button...I'm unsure of how much I even like myself and how I am right now, so how can I expect too many others to?  The more I think about it, the more I am tempted to just click out of the tab because some of it probably seems so SILLY - but these are authentic concerns of mine and regardless of how they come across, they're things that NEED to be said.  So it's time, I guess, to hit 'SEND' and be done with it.  
    So...here goes.   
    *pressing button*
    - Capulet
  19. Capulet
    Did I mention how much of a pain in the ass my mother is?  You all might know her as Oompa at this point, but - I might change that to 'pain in the ass.'  She's always going to look like an Oompa Loompa,  but lately this new nickname for her is becoming FAR more appropriate.
    I might have indeed mentioned...but just in case I didn't...
    My. Mother. Is. A. GIANT. Pain in the ass!  I just spent most of this morning arguing with her and one of my lovely readers is likely going to have to front me some bail money because I'm about to be arrested for matricide.  Unless of course, I can 'untwist my panties,' (as she so eloquently put it) by venting here.  It seems like a much safer alternative to jail time, so - here goes.
    The son has pretty much commandeered use of my car - he uses it to get back and forth to the (local) college.  When he goes back to the wasband's on Saturday evenings, he will take the car with him (unless I need it for any other reason) and more often than not, it's with him these days more than it's with me.  That's okay - this was always my intention - let him 'take over' my car - in lieu of a hefty monthly car payment, he would pay for gas, insurance and any other upkeep/maintenance costs on that car - and I would get a new one to ensure I had a means of getting from A to B without having to rely on anyone else.  I've told him this, too - 'you NEED to find a job - if you want to have a car (and I added the usual mom-style pep talk about growing up, becoming responsible, etc) then you NEED to start learning how to budget and manage your money.'  
    As is, we are now living somewhere where 4WD is NEEDED and owning a SUV is highly recommended - and although my existing car (which will soon be the Son's) does not have 4WD and is TERRIBLE in the snow, I don't have the heart to trade it in as it was bought from money my aunt and uncle left me upon their passing.  Rather than the son spend the money (that he doesn't have) on a car that he'll have payments (that he cannot make) on, he can make do with a significantly reduced financial responsibility and use my old car to get to school/work.  It does snow a lot here, but it's NOT a CONSTANT problem - when it does snow, his classes are usually cancelled anyway.  
    I have some money saved - and am now feeling the need to be situated with a car - I'm going to be starting school in the fall, so there's a little time.  However, I've realized that the son is also dragging his feet.  He won't move unless I do.  He had PLENTY of time to find a job during his first semester (last fall) and didn't.  He isn't fully to blame for this, though - the wasband (another VERY accurate addition to my 'Top Five' Pains in the Ass) has been taking the majority of his elder son's and daughter's paychecks, 'to pay house bills with.'  Our son, aside from having an endless supply of self-admitted laziness, is a VERY perceptive and observant young man.  He sees that his older brother and sister NEVER have a penny to their names - they work and hand their paychecks over.  This has been going on for months, already, and my elder stepson, having finally reached his limit, has left the wasband's home and moved back in with his mother.  There was a HUGE blowout between him and the wasband, something I had no idea was happening until AFTER the fact - and long story short, Junior is no longer 'supporting the family,' and MY son has now been told that he now has to take over Junior's job working alongside his sister at HER job.  
    This means, now the son has a job.  Which is what I've been waiting for.  It is my intention to let the wasband know that he's going to need to afford the son a little bit of leniency with his paychecks so that he has the money he'll need in order to maintain the expense of having his own car and possibly his tuition so that he doesn't doom himself to a lifetime of debt. 
    So, how does Oompa fit into all of this?
    Well, for starters, she knows I've been saving up to buy a car.  And now, my savings is starting to dwindle - as we have lately had some hefty financial responsibilities - vet bills, vacation bills, household repairs, etc, all in the last three months.  The vacation we planned on, but the rest, we did not.  So, now, I am of the impression that leasing my next personal-use vehicle is likely my best option.  But being 'President's week,' she has began to urge me to research the sales because 'there are some excellent deals out there.'  Not a lie, but still, considering the window of opportunity is beginning to close on the Son's EVER being in a position to control his own finances, it's time to move.  To top that off, my sister's best friend's husband is a dealer at the Subaru near her and he's 'EXCELLENT' and 'can get me a good deal.'  (Though, likely only on a Subaru.)
    I've always wanted a Jeep.  I've already accepted that I'll not be able to afford the pretty purple Wrangler that sits teasingly in front of the local dealership - but saw today that a local dealership is offering NEW Jeep Cherokees, and I could lease for $169 a month.  I supplied Oompa (the pain-in-the-ass) the phone number and instead of calling THEM to find out more about this 'special,' she called the dealer she knew.  She then mentioned that he wouldn't recommend a Jeep (as no Subaru employee likely would) and that he recommended an Impreza or a Legacy and could get good deals on those cars for me.  We could go see him on Saturday because he got my brother-in-law a good deal on HIS car - he would definitely do the same for me.
    I told her that those cars mentioned were NOT SUVs.  And I had told her previously that I did not want anything other than a SUV.  WHY was she pushing cars?  Apparently, 'they have 4-wheel drive,' but, still.  These are CARS.  I told her, 'I am absolutely not wasting my time looking at cars when I already know what I want."
    "But why do you need such a big car?"  
    I could NOT believe she'd just asked me that.  I've never had a big car/SUV.  Before my Avenger, I had a Neon.  Before that, a Mitsubishi Mirage.  My SISTER, (who is smaller than me) - has a GMC Acadia - that is a VERY large SUV.  Why doesn't she ask HER why she needs such a big car?  She has two kids - who combined, are still much smaller than my 12 year old.  My 18 year old is bigger than ME.  J is bigger and taller than me.  What if I want to take my family somewhere?  We're not all going to fit in a clown car!  
    I told her I had my heart set on a Jeep.  She then proceeds to tell me that I should look them up online - they're not the most reliable, they're not the safest (Subaru is) and they've got bad reputations.  She actually went as far as to say she wouldn't 'cooperate,' should I not agree to keep an open mind and at least LOOK at cars that are 4WD.  Yes, you heard correctly - SHE will not cooperate.  Another manipulation tactic.
    I'm DONE with manipulation.  In the course of my forty years, manipulation has been a constant.  My mother and my ex being the two biggest offenders - the reason for that being they were people I depended on most.  Yes, manipulation indeed goes hand-in-hand with dependency - for if you 'upset' or 'disappoint,' you lose a means of support - whether it is a GOOD source of support is irrelevant.  What matters is, I THOUGHT these people actually were looking out for my best interests, and am sad to realize that this was never the case - it is a matter of what is more convenient for them, what THEY want.  There were almost always ulterior motives.  And I'm not even sure what my mother's motives are, here - was she trying to get my sister's friend's husband a commission?  
    I finally said, 'Look - NOTHING pisses me off MORE than someone who tries to change my mind when I've made it clear what I'm looking for.  I asked you to come along because you're good at negotiating with dealers (she is) and working out the best deals - but If you're not going to cooperate and help me find what I want to find, then I'll go without you and go buy myself a fucking Jeep!'
    That's when she said I should untwist my panties, the dealer would sell me whatever I wanted.  I told her that if this 'excellent' dealer could show me an actual SUV (like the Forester - more the type and size I'm looking for) and beat the lease price of $169 a month for a Jeep, then we'd talk and see about getting him a commission.  But that $169 a month was the right price for a car that I actually wanted - so why WOULD I settle for anything other than that?  Is she paying for the car?  No.  Is she co-signing?  No.  So what's the fucking problem???  Safety?  A Jeep would be safer than what I'm CURRENTLY driving.  They're not known to be reliable? Well, that's why I'm better off LEASING, isn't it?  Repair coverage.  And after the lease is up, I'd be put into a brand-new car.  There's not enough time for something to go wrong with it - if something does, it's covered. 
    As it stands right now, I'm going to the dealership in the morning - armed with my dwindling patience, my checkbook and my manipulation-proof vest - I know all too well how it's going to go.  She's going to try and push those 'cars' on me again - she's going to ask (again) why I need something so big...she'll get J to 'talk some sense into me,' and J is fully prepared to put her in her place - SHE likes Jeeps, too!  It's just sad that I have to be this firm with my mother - at forty years old.  That she still feels the need to control me and she CANNOT just let me make choices without trying to meddle.  She has two other daughters, younger than me, and who LIVE closer to her than I do.  Why can't she bother them!?
    In closing, I will let all of you know tomorrow of the following: 
    Whether I need bail money and where to wire it; (I'll pay you back...someday?)
    Whether I get a new SUV tomorrow or I end up planning to 'buy a fucking Jeep on my own;'
    And whether my mother is still breathing, and carrying on with her usual day-to-day annoyances...she likely will be, as no matter how angry or annoyed or irritated I can get, I could honestly never hurt a fly.
    My tolerance for bullshit is at an ALL TIME low with my mother, and with my ex, both of whom are tied for top pain-in-the-ass!  Some days, I just don't know who's worse.  When I eventually figure it out, I'll let you all know.
    Hoping the rest of you are having a less stressful weekend.
    My best to you,
    - Capulet
  20. Capulet
    Two years ago, when we moved into our new home, our realtor bought us a Keurig machine - this adorable cherry red contraption - and it's been nothing short of amazing to have - especially when there's a need for a 'quick cup.'    While I still drink coffee, it's mostly the iced variety from Dunkin' with a shot of caramel and cream - my Keurig machine has lately been going WEEKS without brewing - it's usually only used when my mother (Oompa) comes for a visit.  She'd come in and ask for a cup of coffee: 'got any decaf?'  Often I'd have to tell her that I only had regular - thus starting her new tradition of bringing me a box of decaf K-cups whenever she came to visit.  My supply of regular, though, has dwindled and I cannot open my pantry without it spitting out a box of whatever-flavored decaf.
    I'm feeling the need for coffee this morning - for starters, I'm cold.  It's barely breaking 50 degrees lately - nothing but rain, rain, and more rain.  We had a one or two day reprieve here and there, but never long enough for it to dry out a little.  So, I'm cold, I'm tired of the dreariness....and I'm just plain tired this morning because as usual, I crawl into bed at 2am (force of habit) and on this particular (rainy, of course) Tuesday morning, I am waiting for the guy who is installing a new shower to arrive.  8am, he said.  I got up at 6 when J left for work so I wouldn't sleep through the promised appointment time - it is now 9:45am and he's still not here.  
    Regardless, I needed an energy jolt this morning - so into the K-cup inventory I go and ALL that remains is decaf.  Now, when Oompa comes, I'll have to tell her to bring REGULAR K-cups because decaf ain't gonna cut it.  I'm already half asleep!
    Gonna be one of those days, yeah?  OK.  Warning heeded.
    So, I did say I would be writing a little about Mother's Day, being that I've had mixed emotions about this day for years, now.  
    Not because of my kids.  My kids are my life and I LOVE being their mother.  The son is going to be nineteen...(I can't...) in a couple months and the daughter will be turning THIRTEEN.  So, for one year, (help me Jesus!) I'm going to have TWO teenagers under the same roof at the SAME time.  Although I must say it's certainly felt like the daughter's been a moody, brooding teenager for a WHILE, already.  It'll just be official in a couple months' time and I'm definitely in for it.  Anyway - the kids and J took me to dinner last night at Red Lobster, followed by a trip to Dairy Queen for sundae desserts.  The son forwarded me a coupon for university logo apparel and the daughter bought me a card and a huge bag of watermelon flavored Sour Patch Kids...I guess she didn't get the memo that I need to get my ass back onto the Weight Watchers bandwagon, but it's the thought that counts.   
    Oompa planned her vacation to Italy for the week of Mother's Day.  Pretty sure it wasn't done intentionally - was probably a 'travel this week, get these super deals' kind of thing.  Either way, I wasn't really caring.  I'd just seen her two weeks before for Easter - and secretly was GLAD I wouldn't have to figure out a way to make her feel particularly special on Mother's Day all the while not knowing what my own kids had in store for me.  As is, I struggled with what to say to others on social media.  Mother's Day is just - I don't know.  Seeing all the Facebook posts scroll by, all these sons and daughters with pictures of their moms - the daughters who call their moms their best friend.  It's hard to take it all in, knowing that my mother is NOT my best friend - she's someone who annoys me to no end, someone who will commit an act of generosity, then turn around and ask what we'll do for her in return.  No, it's never simple with her.  She is both an easy and a difficult person to love...try to figure THAT out!
    So, Sunday, I spent a little time on my Facebook - to my sisters, I sent a Happy Mother's Day message on Facebook on each of their walls.  I sent J's sisters the same.  I sent J's born-again Christian mother (who isn't a fan of mine) a HUGE thank-you for raising the woman of my dreams (YES, I absolutely did do this, and yes, I did it to be mischievous) and the message I sent my own mother took longer than all the rest combined.  I chose my words carefully - trying to find words that were truthful but could also be interpreted in a way my mother needed them to be.  
    I thanked her for everything she's done for me and all she's taught me.  And she has.  She's done lots for me - some of it, I wonder if it was guilt-born.  She taught me a great deal...I cannot deny this.  She taught me to speak.  She taught me to treat others with kindness and respect.  These are the finer qualities...unfortunately, she also taught me about lying, about hiding, about sweeping things under the rug.  She TRIED to teach me to 'put things away,' but this was not an effective lesson - it's only taught me self-doubt, to suppress, and that if I can't remember something, it isn't true.  Logically, I know that's not the case, but to have that ingrained in you from a very young age - well - you're kinda screwed.  
    My mother taught me how NOT to be with my own kids.  So, that, I can also thank her for.  She taught me to allow my children to be who they are - without fear of being judged for it.  She taught me to listen to what my kids think of others - a child's intuition is rarely wrong.  
    Sadly I cannot explain these things to her.  My messages to her are generic, short and to the point.  I cannot even think about what I'd want to say to my mother, because I probably NEVER will say some of these things, even if opportunity knocks.  I don't think I'll ever have the relationship with her that I'd LIKE to have....that ship has sailed around the world several times over.
    Do I love her?  Of course.  But I also feel this incredible need to maintain an emotional distance.
    Not even sure what else is swimming around in my brain at the moment - I'm tired, I've not had sufficient sleep nor caffeine.  BUT, the good news is - there's another year 'til the next Mother's Day comes around.
    Maybe some things don't need to be overthought?  
    Hoping everyone is having a good week - will be back soon with another update.
    My best to you all!
    - Capulet
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. Capulet
    My deepest apologies to you all for being MIA; my being scarce were for reasons beyond my control. 
    As some of you know, I live in Eastern Pennsylvania, and we have met our match in Mother Nature.
    Last Thursday, which will be one week since chaos had began to ensue, I took the daughter for her flu shot.  You’d think spending three hours at the doctor’s office (waiting, waiting, and WAITING - this lady takes literally an hour on each patient!) would be a forewarning of the holy hell that was about to arrive, pure insanity by the name of Winter Storm Riley.
    After the doctor administered the flu shot + two other overdue immunizations, we asked her if there would be any side effects.  To this, the doctor replied, “She may run a fever.  But we’re likely to not have school tomorrow, anyway.”  
    We look out the window.  The freezing rain had begun.  
    Now, this is a doctor whose office doesn’t even have the proper in-office apparatus to run strep or flu tests, so any throat cultures or flu swabs have to be done at another location, so that DOUBLES the waiting time in most cases.  And she can’t even tell me what my kids have right then and there, I have to go to the lab, have the tests run, then go home and wait for them to call with results and a diagnosis.  In what world is this even right???? 
    On THAT, though, she was one hundred percent correct.  The cancellation call arrived at night.  The automated, monotonous message that my kids have grown to LOVE.
    “This is a call from the Blah, Blah, Blah, School District.  Schools will be closed tomorrow, March 2nd, 2018 due to inclement weather.”
    Both of them high-fived each other.  “AWESOME!”
    Yeah, those are my two scholars.  Sadly, they both inherited my hatred for school, although the son does well without trying while the daughter, more like I did, has to work a little bit harder to get the higher grade.
    Anyway, we all sleep in on Friday morning, with the exception of J, who went to work for 7am.  When she left, the snow had just been starting.  Snow started early in the morning and accumulated quickly, along with some nasty winds that blew the snow around, making it pretty hard to see past a few feet ahead of us while standing at the front door.  I managed to get ahold of the wasband via text and come to find out that his power had gone out around 11am.   
    We stayed inside the whole time; none of us were brave enough to go out and attempt to shovel; I say brave, my son will still say ‘stupid.’  Because, of course, to a lazy 17-year-old, to go out and shovel and then have your hard work erased by more fallen snow, was pointless.  When it was time for J to leave work, I coaxed him outside, though, to attempt to dig out a spot for her to pull into.  But the whole, ENTIRE time… 
    “Oh, man, Mom.”
    “Ma, look, it’s really bad.”
    “Look, Madre, the trees are swaying pretty hard…and I think the neighbor’s Sycamore just fell down.”
    “Mom, you know, we’re going to die out here.”
    I told him to cut out the dramatics, suck it up and shovel…he did.  But he did also attempt to complain several more times before realizing that they had no effect on me.  We managed to clear the “wall” plowed into the top of the driveway and we went back inside knowing we’d done the best we could.
    Let it be known that J leaves work at 3pm.  By 4:30, she still hadn’t arrived home.  She texted to say she couldn’t get through the main road that she takes to get home.  There are about three or four different ways to get home.  Each path she had attempted to take was riddled with downed trees and power lines, cars were pulled over on the side of the road because they were either stuck, or also trying to plan out alternate routes.  She said via text that she was going to get a bite to eat at Wendy’s which was open, and then she’d try a different way after she’d had something to eat.
    I sat in the ‘worry chair,’ the same recliner I sat in when I let my son take the car.  Yep, we all remember that chair! 
    Then, at about 5pm, our power went out, taking with it our heat and running water.  For those of you who don’t understand that last bit, our well pump is run on electricity, so when there’s a power outage, there’s absolutely no running water.  Toilet-flushing is not possible unless you're a survivalist and have about a dozen gallons stored somewhere in the house, reserved for such catastrophes.  And apparently, no internet, either.
    “Oh, my GOD!!!!  My internet isn’t working!”  The daughter is screeching now, likely because her bestie’s face is now frozen on her iPad’s screen.  “Mommmmmyyyy!  There’s no WIFI!”
    “Okay, we’re just going to have to wait it out, kiddo,” I’m still sitting in the worry chair.  Where the hell is my better half??  I could just envision her being stuck and getting nowhere, it’s not a pretty thought at all.
    “You see?” the son is looking out the window, “It doesn’t even look like we shoveled.”
    He was kinda right.  I couldn’t even see the path we’d shoveled for J.  And daylight was beginning to run out, and we were soon to be welcoming darkness for an unknown period of time.
    I lit some candles, using whatever little light was left in the house.  I also fired up the fireplace, as that’s operated on propane, in hopes of conserving the heat we had circulating around the upstairs portion of the house.
    The son stated he was bored out of his mind (because, really, when there’s no power, cable or internet, what is there to POSSIBLY do?) and retired to his room, stating that I should wake him up when the power comes back.  The daughter too, went to her room and said she was going to TRY to sleep.
    At about seven, J walks in, cold, pissed off and wet.  Apparently a 30-minute commute had taken her FOUR HOURS, and had she found herself unable to get home, she would have gone back to work.  Thankfully, though, she made it home before having to resort to returning to her place of employment.
    After wifey had changed into comfy dry clothes, we went to daughter’s room to get her, then we dug out board games and a camping lantern we had lurking in the garage.  We ate ice cream for dinner/food since that’s usually the first thing to go in a freezer with no power.  We ate chips.  Anything we could possibly eat, we ate.  Many laughs were shared, especially during a game of LIFE, where J was the big winner and daughter and I retired with about a hundred grand apiece.  We played another board game with the son who came upstairs around nine, in search of a snack.  Got to say, he wasn't happy to see that his nap didn't fast-forward enough time where there was no power.
    "We don't have power yet?"
    "Yes, darling, we're sitting here in the dark and cold because it's fun.  Should try it, sometime."
    We played another game called "Sliders," where we had to knock each other's pegs out of play, tally up points and be the first to reach a certain number.  Then, after a couple more hours, I turned off the fireplace, we all put on hoodies and I was in my bed before midnight!  J had work early, so she was snoring within minutes.
    Y'all know about my issue with lights - well, as my room was PITCH BLACK without a single light being on for me to cover up, I left the house phone uncovered, just in case I woke up in the middle of the night.  If, at any point, I were to open my eyes and there was a little red light on, then I'd know power had returned.  
    The little red light never appeared.  I could kick myself in the ass for thinking about that too much in place of sleeping.
    J left for work early, while it was still dark.  I got up out of bed as soon as I saw the first signs of daylight.  No power.  No running water.  House was CHILLY.
    The first thing I did was go outside and begin to shovel the mess Riley left us.  Both of my kids remained dead to the world.  I didn't mind, this time.  I needed a little ME time, I needed to think, I needed to busy myself.  I, too, was suffering internet withdrawals and missing being able to connect with others.  I was worrying about the food in my fridge, food that I knew I'd soon have to throw away because we were more than 12 hours without power and the fridge was no longer cold when opened.  After I'd been shoveling for about an hour, I woke them both up and told them that if they came out and helped, we could attempt to get out of the house and go in search of water jugs (for the toilets, which by now STUNK to high heaven), hot food and cell service.
    I think it was the 'cell service' that got them to move.  The son came outside and helped me shovel a path from my car to the end of the driveway.  In the process, I pulled a tree branch a little thicker than a baseball bat in diameter, off the roof of my car, close to the top of the back passenger door.  There is a small dent from where it landed; I suspect it flew off a nearby tree and my car was, unfortunately, in its path.  It's not major damage, so we heaved the branch into a snowbank and carried on.
    We went to town, and my son took a number of photos of the devastation.  Driving through my local town was terrifying.  Traffic lights were out in most of the areas without power.  Thankfully, the locals were as nervous as I and people were, for the most part, considerate and everyone was careful.  A lot of "go ahead" hand waves, lots of open windows, blinking headlights to warn of upcoming road obstructions, which there were TONS of.  To be on the safe side, we took the route J had used the night before to come home from work and no matter where we turned, there were downed trees, some rested atop the power lines, some lines completely down, some telephone poles only five to six feet off the ground, some debris completely blocking off a lane.  Total chaos.  It took me roughly an hour to get to a part of town that normally takes fifteen to twenty minutes to get to, but boy, did we get a look at all of Riley's aftermath in the process.  I am going to ask my son to send me some of the pictures he took with his phone; as I was behind the wheel and slowed down in many areas, he took the opportunity to photograph some of the mess.
    We found a store selling water (and they were rapidly running out, too!) and I bought ten gallon jugs.  Then, we went to Wendy's, which was packed.  Lots of folks were without power and water, so this was the eatery of choice, being easily accessible and convenient.  Took us another hour to order and eat our food.  Then, we were back in the car, charging all our phones and tablets.
    "Shall we go home and see if the power is back?"
    "Sure, Mom."
    Sadly, our power was not back.  House was getting colder and colder by the hour.  My five cats were VERY confused.  The poor things were huddled together, at least the ones who could stand each other.  
    Rather than give a play-by-play of the last five days, I'll just mention the highlights, or this nightmare will NEVER end. 
    The wasband drove an hour and a half away and bought a generator from New Jersey.  By the time evening rolled around, my two kids were relocated to his house (and it was also his time with them so I wasn't gypped any of my time) where he now had limited power and running water.  Of course, the wasband was also kind enough to invite J and I to go stay over there until OUR power came back, but we politely declined.  Many reasons, but the two main ones were simply there is NOTHING short of chaos every time we're there, and we didn't want to leave our pets alone in a cold house without any heat source overnight.  
    By the way, yes, we do need a generator, and as I told my godchild (wasband's youngest) the other day, it's going to be what I ask Santa Claus for, come next Christmas.  That, and a snowblower.  I just don't have the funds to invest in one right now.  
    J and I relocated all of our food onto the back porch.  The milk, eggs, mayo, Ranch dressing, bags of cheese, other containers with leftovers and other perishable foods, all plopped into the snow.  I filled a cooler with snow and threw other stuff in there.  Fortunately, my freezer contents were still hard as a rock, so I wasn't worrying about those, yet.  But, in the meantime, some things were salvaged.  I was also able to fire up the propane grill and make us some meals out of whatever had defrosted.  We had to eat a lot of stuff cold, but it was better than letting anything go to waste.
    J insisted we move our queen sized mattress into the living room so that we could sleep in front of the fireplace, which is what we did until last night.  You can imagine what a NIGHTMARE this was for me; the living room is VERY sunny in the morning.  Oh, and trying to sleep in a room shared with five nocturnal feline companions who will use your ass as a springboard isn't easy, either.  Needless to say, the first morning, I woke up as soon as the sun came up.  I WAS still tired so I managed to fall asleep for several minutes at a time before I got up and got ready to go back into town, because that was going to be the only way I could connect with anybody.  Still no power, no running water, no service.  J and I planned at least three trips to wasband's house to borrow a shower.  
    We ate a WHOLE lot of pizza.  We ALMOST went to dinner at an actual sit-down place but the local restaurants were ALL packed - power outages for this long has left MANY people defeated and hungry.  Rather than wait hours for a table at a nicer, popular restaurant, we settled for local pizzerias.
    Both of our diets have gone out the window, at least for now.  
    We had bowling on Monday night.  A lot of the people we bowl with live in areas nearby.  Areas without power and running water.  The alley certainly smelled like everyone's ass.  
    Power went out on Friday, 3/2 at 5pm.  It was finally restored on Tuesday night, 3/6 at 8:30pm.
    FOUR days of this crap!
    But that's not even the end of it.  We were actually at wasband's house, (eating more pizza, taking another shower) when the neighbor texted me those three BEAUTIFUL words:
    "The power's on!"
    J and I said our thank-yous to the wasband and his wife, and we flew home.  Turned on all the faucets.  "Water!  We have water!!!"  The cats are even more confused now, because J and I are running around like headless chickens.  We checked all the lights.  "YES!  They work!"  
    "You go flush the toilets upstairs, I'll get the one downstairs!"  I swear to Merlin, the house was starting to STINK because of those toilets!
    We ran into our first problem when we noticed the oil burner wasn't running and the house was beginning to .  There's a button on it that you press to get the thing going again, but for some reason, it wouldn't start.  It actually did once, but then turned off and refused to turn back on, which means - no heat or hot water.  We did have water, just would be ice-cold until we could get the boiler running.
    "Well, it looks like we're sleeping in the living room, again," says J...one more night of relying on propane, but we at least had working electricity.  Which is good because yesterday (Wednesday) we were planning to meet Winter Storm Quinn (the next one!) and there were some people, including the wasband, who still had no power.  I had been hoping and wishing all day long that ours would be back because by now, we're DEFINITELY low on propane!  He does have the generator and they are warm and comfortable for now.  I was just glad that my fridge was running now, and before we had another foot of snow dumped on us, we transferred the food from the porch back into the fridge, praying that we didn't lose power again.
    Anyway, we ran the fireplace one more night.  While the power was on, it was still SO cold in the house, particularly the lower level where there had been absolutely no heat or activity in five days.
    Yesterday morning, we went around the corner to the fire station, which we discovered was an ideal and close-by location to get cell service, and we made phone calls during the 'calm before the storm.'  Managed to get the oil burner guy over and there is good and bad news here - the good news is, he managed to get the boiler going.  The bad news - we need a new one, and SOON.  The way he described it to us was - the exhaust motor was not present and the exhaust wasn't venting properly, the unit was old, for him to fix it this time was like putting a band-aid over a stab wound - we didn't know how long this 'fix' was going to last.  And, so...we consulted with our bank accounts and we have an appointment to have a new boiler put in on Friday morning.  Even badder news - it's going to cost us almost SIX grand to replace the whole system, because the previous owner of this house put the boiler through a BEATING.  He's also the asshole who probably took the exhaust motor with him when he moved, along with the doors and floors.  I mean, WHO does that?!  I don't even need to ask if people are truly that indecent, because I know they certainly can be.
    Yesterday, we got about six to eight inches more of snow.  Power stayed on, sans one 'hiccup' where lights were out for a couple of seconds and then came back on.  Additionally, I lost internet and cable a couple times.  Figured I would update this while it was back, not knowing if I'll experience another outage in the next few hours or days to come.  I don't want to say I'm back when things are still quite unstable but I can safely say I'm 'semi' back.  I'm here when I can be, I've been conserving energy whenever I can, although I don't think that stands a chance against a downed tree.  Thankfully winds aren't as strong today, so maybe this Pennsylvania town can begin to recuperate.
    I'm hoping we can, too, I think we'll feel better once the oil burner is installed on Friday morning.
    So, that's the long-overdue update for now.
    I'll be back when I can with another!
    Love to all.
    - Capulet
  25. Capulet
    Seriously, Elsa?  
    After dumping a foot of snow and sending trees crashing down onto our power and cable lines two weeks ago, you're SERIOUSLY about to send us more of the powdery, annoying, pain-in-the-ass white shit we call 'snow?'
    Guess what???  It's SPRING.  Today is the FIRST DAY OF SPRING.  It is time for you, Mother Nature, to warm up to the idea of sunny and pleasant days.  Pun fully intended, as I'm sitting here in a hoodie and sweat pants.    
    Kids have missed enough school in a single winter up here than they ever did during snowstorms in New York City.  The NYC mayor didn't give a shit, we'd get a foot of snow the night before and school would still be open.  But now, because you're cranky, Mother Nature, there's an extra week tacked on at the end of this school year because of the shit you pulled during Winter Storm Riley.  Shit that we're JUST now getting over, just in time for you to get your second wind.
    Enough is enough!  I just went shopping too, so if you decide to render us all powerless for another several days, kindly throw a tree on the wasband's power lines instead of mine.  He has a generator.  He can deal with it.  
    Chill out!
    (And by that, you can assume I DON'T mean send us more freakin' wintery conditions!)
    - Capulet
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