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Blog Entries posted by Capulet

  1. 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
  2. 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 
  3. Capulet
    Also posted in Share Your Story:
    Installment Two:  The Party 
    I am now fast-forwarding, (or rewinding, depending on how old I was in your minds upon completing reading of the first installment) to when I was seventeen years old as I bring to you all, installment 2 of my story.  
    This is the full, uncensored version of what was shared back in 2007. One would think that as time goes on, you’re likely to forget some details.  
    While that may be the case for some, I WISH that was true for me.  Time has gone on, but in some ways, remained stationary – frozen, almost – and I still remember the details of that night as if it were only yesterday.  And for the last nearly twenty-three years, it HAS been ‘yesterday.’  While I know a lot of work has been put into my healing efforts, the memory of the work isn’t as strong as the memory of the actual event. It’s stayed fresh, although I do have to admit that time HAS made it sting less.  
    In this newer version of my story, I’ve decided not to talk about the ‘fluff stuff;’ by this, I mean the benign, unimportant events leading up to what happened on the night of October 4th, 1996.  The pre-story of having gone to a classmate’s house, my lying to my father, telling him that I was going to be working on a school paper, my thinking this was a good way to jump-start my social status.  
    Why not talk about these things?
    Because they’re not important, now.  Originally, I perhaps felt partially to blame for what happened.  It was a classic case of, ‘well, if I hadn’t been there, this wouldn’t have happened.’  Perhaps I was waiting for someone to say to me, ‘yes, that’s exactly why this happened.  You were in a place you did not belong, and at a time that you shouldn’t have been there.’  Believe it or not, there WAS the occasional question of ‘why?’ but I have come to realize that there simply is not an answer good enough to justify what happened.  I could search for the rest of my life and I’d still never find one.
    There IS one very important detail that you should know about me, though, before I delve deeper into this part of my story.  If you’ve read through my first installment, you know that I was born deaf.  This is something I don’t like bringing attention to – unless circumstances make it that I have to.  I don’t share this with many people unless, well, I think there will be a reason they need to know.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with it.  It just plays a COLOSSAL role in who I am.  While it doesn’t define me, it also does.  And this, as much as I HATE to admit – is a HUGE contributor to what happened that night.  Whenever I think back on my trauma, it also ALWAYS comes back to this.  As a matter of fact, it plays such a role in BOTH of my traumas, although I cannot remember one of them.
    I guess the running joke on this is – even from the very beginning, I didn’t want to hear it…it being drama, bullshit, and whatever else makes me momentarily (and rarely) appreciate my lack of hearing.  My mother and father wanted me to speak, so they were quick to alienate me from the deaf community and (my mother mostly) moved Heaven and Earth to ensure that I functioned as a ‘normal’ hearing person.  And, to be ‘normal’ was always something I had to work extra hard at – with certain limitations that were beyond my control, I had to overcompensate, all under the impression that this was what was ‘wrong’ with me and that it was never something I could fix.  This was simply the hand I’d been dealt.  
    And now – back to the story.  
    To summarize, I was 17 and was at a house party.  It wasn’t a frat house – it was simply someone’s home – off campus.  I’d gone with an acquaintance from one of my classes – thinking this was what the stereotypical college kids did with friends on a Friday night. To call her a friend is inaccurate, for she never once had my best interests at heart and likely invited me to accompany her to this party so that she could delay working on the research paper we were assigned to complete together.  She probably still, to this day, thinks I’m angry with her for forcing me to find another way home at the end of the night. I’d only seen her a small handful of times afterwards – once when I finally picked up my car, which was parked near her house – and a few times in class.  I made very small talk and avoided her at all costs.  We’d never spoken of what happened; which was my choice. She was the enemy.  I wanted her out of sight and out of mind – and thankfully, I got my wish – we were fortunate to not share any more classes after that semester.
    And for a long, long time, possibly YEARS, I WAS angry with her.  I even blamed her.  It was, after all, because of her – the whole thing was her fault, simply because she was having too good a time to leave when I wanted to. For years, hers was the face that popped up into my mind when thinking back to that night.  No, it wasn’t the ONLY face, but it was still a face that shouldn’t have been as much a focus as it was.  
    HIS face is the one I see now.  The only one I see when I think back to that night.  There is no longer any blame for her.  While I still unfondly remember her face, I’ve mentally connected the image of it to a ‘type’ of person that I’ve vowed to NEVER trust again. That’s the face I see when people around me are acting recklessly, in a manner that reminds me of the behavior of those around me at that party on that night.  
    Although nearly 23 years have elapsed, I still remember.  It’s funny, isn’t it?  How we can recall with ease the moments BEFORE trauma, but draw blanks when it comes to the actual event?  I cannot bring myself to forget their oblivious, stoned, drunk-off-their-asses expressions as I followed the man who would forever change my life through smoke-infused hallways.  The obnoxious laughing, the booming music, the glazed-over looks, the tongues hanging out, the god-awful SMELL of weed.  All of these things added to my overall discomfort of the whole scene and I wanted nothing more than to go home.  
    This is where I will issue a trigger warning for those who are still reading.  I am going to be sharing some things that I’ve never written before.  If you’re not in a good frame of mind, please close this and bookmark it for another day.  I totally wish it were possible to turn this night on and off in my brain – and there are times I have succeeded in doing so.  But instead of an on/off switch, there’s a dimmer – sometimes it’s bright, sometimes it can be reduced into the background so that I can carry on as normal, whatever that means.  The very purpose of this update is for me to be able to shine a brighter light on some of those things that I’ve kicked into the shadows for as long as I can remember, in hopes that they’d not find their way back into the light.  We all know how well that works, right?
    So – trigger warning now in effect, for several details and for rape.
    The first thing I noticed about my attacker was how incredibly good-looking he was.  Sporting thick jet-black hair, broad shoulders, a dimple, a complexion hinting that he was of either Spanish or Italian descent, ‘Eddie’ was undeniably handsome.  I’d later learn that even the most physically beautiful people are truly capable of evil, of ugliness.  For the moment, though, I remember having to remind myself that I had a boyfriend that I’d been seeing for two years prior to this night.  I had my boyfriend in mind when I politely declined when Eddie, after overhearing my drunk acquaintance tell me that she was not ready to leave, offered me a ride home.  There were a couple reasons, really, for my passing on the ride home – one – I didn’t see a drink in his hand, but I didn’t know if he’d been drinking before he approached me, and two – I didn’t think any girl should be in a car with a guy who wasn’t her boyfriend.  Things might happen!  
    I suppose, in hindsight, knowing that Eddie turned out to be the predator I was unaware he was at the moment, that was likely his original plan – for something to happen.  Instead, I asked him if he could make a phone call for me – something that I’d asked several strangers to do for me in the past.  I had someone from the campus office call my father for me when I’d left the lights on and now the car wouldn’t start.  Someone to call my mother when my wallet was stolen.  And in this case, for Eddie to call one of my other friends to see if she could possibly come pick me up from this disastrous party.  He seemed slightly taken aback by my request, but agreed to make the call.  “Come with me,” he said, “I know where it will be a little bit quieter.”
    We weaved through a crowd of other partygoers, went up a flight of stairs and eventually got into a bedroom, where he locked the door behind him.  I’d gone in first, wanting to believe nothing more that this man was going to help me to get home.  I am sure there were other phones in the house – he insisted that being in one of the rooms farthest from the speakers downstairs would be best and he’d be able to hear.  There was the phone on a night table, next to the bed.   It was black, the buttons glowed.  The bed was along the east wall, there was a small adjoining half-bathroom straight ahead. Along the west wall, there was a window, a desk and a chair.  There was a small area rug and there was a pair of 20 or 30-pound barbells rested on the floor next to the bathroom door.  If this was a bedroom belonging to a teenage or college-aged boy, it was by far one of the cleanest I’d ever seen.  
    The computer sitting atop the desk was on, but had been left idle for a good while – the screen-saver was activated and there was this bouncing, morphing shape…it would first be a ball, then a square, then spiky, then something else, all the while changing colors – before returning into the original ball shape. Background was black – it was the first thing I saw when entering the room and little did I know it would become an unpleasant reminder.  I didn’t know what the definition of a trigger was, until this became my first one. It was a very popular screen-saver in the late 90’s, too, so it was every-freaking-where. At libraries, at doctor’s offices, on computer screens at electronics stores…
    Eddie went straight toward the phone.  He sat on the bed close to the night table and patted the seat next to him. I sat, but not too close.  He picked up the phone and asked me what number I wanted to call.  I gave him the first name of one friend of mine that didn’t go to school with me, but lived somewhat close to my Dad’s house.  I figured she’d likely let me crash at her house, and then perhaps she could bring me back to pick up my car in the morning, so that I wouldn’t have to tell my father the truth.  I was also admittedly trying to think of another ‘cover story’ to tell my father – I certainly didn’t want him to know I was in this predicament.  I recited her phone number from memory.  He dialed.
    “It’s busy,” he said after a few seconds with the receiver to his ear. I had no reason not to believe him – this friend of mine was one of those who’d have her phone surgically attached to her ear if it were possible.  He asked if I wanted to wait a few minutes and then try again.  All I could think of was how much I wanted to go home, versus going back out into the insanity outside these four walls, so I nodded in agreement.  He hung up the receiver.
    That’s when the questions began.  At first, they were innocent.  It was when I learned his name and his age.  Eddie, 25.  Twenty. Five. My initial thought was that this was the house of someone he knew.  He claimed that he was a friend of a friend, and he didn’t live in the area.  He was just ‘passing through’ and heard that there was a party and came down.  He asked where I was going to school and what I was majoring in.  I told him.  He told me he was in between jobs at the moment.  
    He then asked if I had a boyfriend.
    Let’s call my boyfriend Matt, for anonymity purposes.  I confirmed.  Eddie became genuinely interested in my relationship with Matt. Those questions started out innocently, as well, before becoming much less so.  He asked how long we’d been together, if Matt went to the same school as I did – and then, boom – there was the question of whether Matt and I had ‘fucked’ yet.  In those words.  I could feel my face turn beet-red.
    I cannot believe, looking back, how much SHAME that question made me feel.  Not because it was overly inappropriate for a pretty much stranger to ask me this, but because the truth was, I was a virgin.  I’d never experienced sex.  Matt was a virgin, too.  Like me, he hailed from a strictly Catholic family, and pre-marital sex being forbidden and sinful was something his parents instilled into Matt and his siblings. My family was of the same belief, but this was never something impressed on at home.  My sisters were barely 10 and 7; and my mother hadn’t had this ‘talk’ with me, yet.  Perhaps she knew, she herself hadn’t been married when she’d first had sex – maybe this was one thing she didn’t want to be hypocritical on.  
    Matt was a typical 17-year-old boy with raging hormones and we’d only gotten as far as kissing, roaming hands over the clothes and occasionally down the pants, but whenever it became dangerously close to becoming an ‘all the way’ situation, Matt would slam onto the brakes and it’d be over.  Personally, I was ready to experience it all – and to lose my virginity to him – but respected that he was not yet ready for that step.  We’d talked about marriage and how our wedding night would be absolutely amazing – but that, like many other things, was just a dream.  An illusion.   And it would never become a reality. 
    When I didn’t answer Eddie’s question, he proceeded with, “Do you like it when he fucks you?  What’s your favorite position?”  There were other questions, too, and I could feel my face flush even more with each one. I felt increasingly embarrassed, and I HATED the fact it was because here was this handsome, likely experienced twenty-five year old man asking me about sexual encounters that I didn’t have. What the hell would he think of me if I were to tell him that the closest I’d had to sex was Matt’s hand down the front of my underwear for all of 0.4 seconds before he’d put the kibosh on the whole thing?  It didn’t occur to me, not at 17, that there was more cause for alarm to be derived from that line of questioning, especially by someone that much older than I. 
    Instead of scrambling for an answer to a question I didn’t wish to entertain, I asked Eddie if he could please try my friend’s number again.  He picked up the phone again and asked me to repeat the number.  I gave it to him, but this time, watched his fingers carefully.  Back then, there was no need to dial the area code first, and I saw him dial SIX numbers, instead of the standard seven-digit telephone number. His finger did not fully press down on the number 4.  He skipped right over it and went to number 8.  I saw it with my own eyes.  My heart jumped into my throat as realization sank in – he’d been lying to me.  Playing me.  This whole time, he’d been manipulating the situation.
    If the mental danger flags weren’t waving before, they were, now. My heart sank when he hung up the receiver again, turned to me and said, “it’s still busy,” thus confirming my suspicions that I might be in trouble.  I suppose for a split second, I hoped he’d realize he didn’t fully press the number 4 and try redialing – but he did not.  He’d already hung up the phone, and was again focused on me, probably expecting I’d answer his question now that we had more ‘waiting’ time.
    My heart began racing. The panic was setting in.  If we had the option to ‘press pause’ during significant moments in our lifetimes, so that we could re-evaluate and to give more thought on how to proceed, this would have been my first pause of the night.  Maybe I’d have answered his questions – if I’d known what would alternatively happen, perhaps I’d have been better off answering and buying time by doing so.  Maybe someone would have knocked on the door.  Maybe this, maybe that…
    I’m not even sure how I managed to croak a weak, ‘thanks for trying,’ as I stood up and moved for the door.  I’d just managed to reach for the knob when it all went into motion.  First, I felt his hand firmly clasp around my arm, just above my elbow.  Then, before I could scream, I felt myself being flung.  My body quickly hurled toward the bed that we’d just been sitting on, and then bounced off.  I landed hard onto my back, hitting the back of my head on the floor.  It took a moment to process what had just happened, plus I’d had the wind knocked out of me.  
    I couldn’t move quickly enough.  By the time the stun had worn off and I’d managed to pull myself into a sitting position with my back against the side of the bed, he was standing above me with his pants and zipper open.  Still, I remained in that place in-between shock and paralysis.  I’d always been taught there was a cause and an effect to everything.  All I could think at the moment was, what I’d possibly done to make him transform from the man who was going to help me, into this angry, violent monster that I now needed help getting away from.  Was this a punishment for finding someone other than Matt attractive?  Was that considered to be cheating and this was the price I’d pay?  Was it a consequence for having lied to my father and told him I was working on a school project that night?  I MUST have done something wrong!
    Everything was seemingly in slow-motion from this point on.  One of his hands was now behind my neck, and from there, he reached up and clenched a fistful of my hair in between his fingers, pulling backwards.  His other hand was on his now-exposed penis.
    I’d never seen one up close before.  I’d FELT Matt’s, even touched it once.  I’d seen photos.  I’d seen the ‘adult section’ at the video store (when they still had them, back in the day before digital streaming was a thing!) and those video cassette jackets were NOT censored in the least bit.  Although I had very little sexual experience, I somehow knew what he wanted me to do, and again, panic took over.  I pressed my lips together as tightly as I could, trying to shake my head every time he moved himself closer.  With each time I moved, his grip onto my hair tightened.  Eventually, he roughly yanked again, forcing open my mouth when I gasped in pain.  He wasted no time and maintained his hold onto my hair as he forced his organ into my mouth.  Every time I tried to move my head in desperate attempts to evade him, he’d jerk me into position again.  I began to gag as he violated my mouth and throat, and in the process, felt my teeth eventually sink into the shaft of his penis.  
    I WISH I could say this was done on purpose, but it was completely, 100% an accident.  Regardless, he released my hair, quickly withdrew, and angrily struck me in the mouth, knocking me back onto the floor.  I immediately tasted blood in my mouth, as my lower lip was punctured on the inside by a tooth when he’d hit me.
    I hadn’t noticed the tears until that moment.  Maybe they’d started forming when I was gagging.  Maybe fear had caused them.   Maybe it was the pain – in my back, my throbbing head, my mouth, my throat.  Either way, the tears were now rolling down my face and I could no longer hold them back. It was also the moment I chose to plead with him, as hysterical as I was becoming.  
    When a normal hearing person with normal speech is upset, they sometimes become difficult to understand.  When a DEAF person with ‘different’ speech becomes hysterical, all hopes of being clear and understood are pretty much out the window.  I’m not even sure what I said, as I was in no condition to choose or plan out my words.  But I know I begged him to stop, I pleaded with him to let me go.  It’s likely I said more, but my thoughts were racing and I had no idea what matched what was coming out of my mouth at the moment, and what didn’t.  
    I stayed on the floor as I sobbed and spoke to him.  I was terrified that getting up would mean he’d hurt me more or strike me again.  He stood over me, holding himself in one hand, rubbing where I’d bitten him.  When he was satisfied that I’d not permanently damaged his penis, he smirked, got down onto his knees, and lowered himself on top of me, straddling me just above my waist.  I could not move, for his knees were pinning my arms to my sides. I continued to shake in fear, to cry, to beg, to appeal to any part of him that was kind.  I know now that there was no part of him where such kindness existed, especially when he brought his face close to mine and began to mimic my sobs. He spoke with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, to emphasize on what I probably looked (and sounded) like to him. To clearly state to me that he saw me as a special-needs person who somehow deserved to suffer simply because they were different.  There was no doubt in my mind then, that he’d taken pleasure in hurting others before me, or even after me.  Although I somehow came to this conclusion at this moment, I’d not revisit this particular thought until many years later.
    I shut down.  I stopped begging.  Just so he’d stop mocking.  He did. He kept on speaking to me, though. I didn’t catch all of it.  But I was called some very nasty names, names that fully supported my theory that he viewed me as completely helpless.  I cried silently.  Eventually, he began to lower himself, slowly releasing my arms in the process.  I waited until they were free, and then attempted to push him off of me.
    My fighting seemed to excite him even more.  In one swift movement, he lifted himself off of me and roughly flipped me over to my stomach.  In that split second while he was no longer on top of me, I attempted to crawl away, but now, he was in a position that better served to his advantage.  He shoved me forward, and I stumbled and landed face-down onto the floor.  And quickly, his lower body was between my legs, he was using his legs to hold mine apart, and the heaviness of his torso was keeping me from further being able to try to escape. 
    I couldn’t see his face at this point.  I saw only the bedroom door in front of me and called out for help.  I screamed.  My arms flailed; I used the palm of my hands to bang the floor, but these were likely camouflaged as stray musical beats and vibrations, as I could feel from underneath me, that the music was blasting loud enough to wake the dead. I kicked my legs against the floor, too, but that, too, was ineffective and went unnoticed to anyone who was not in the room with us.  
    He managed to gain control of both of my arms and momentarily held them above my head.  Then, using one hand, he continued to hold them there, by pinning my wrists to the floor. He brought his face close to mine, and using his other hand, began to roam.  He first ran it over my breasts, (more so along the sides, whatever parts were accessible with all of his weight being on top of me) and then began to hike up the skirt I was wearing.  Next, his fingers were inside of the elastic of my underwear, and I felt them being pushed to the side.  
    “No.” I remember saying it.  I did say it.  There was also a ‘please’ in there, but he ignored me.  I said it several times, each subsequent ‘no’ becoming quieter as I began to realize that I’d lost this battle.  I was trapped.  
    He replaced his probing fingers with his penis, and again, there was a sharp, searing pain.  It was like nothing I’d felt before.  A combination of burning, friction and pressure.  More of my tears rolled, but I went silent and limp. There were no more remaining ‘no’s;’ I saw no point in it, anymore.  There was no desire to fight any further – hadn’t I been fighting all along, just to try and prevent this moment?  A moment I never thought would happen to me – a moment I’d only heard about on the news or seen on television shows or movies.  It was too late, now.  He was inside of me.  His grip on my wrists eventually loosened, as soon as he’d realized that I was defeated and resigned.
    And I was.  I let my cheek rest on the cold, hard floor, feeling right away my tears transfer onto the wood below.  While he moved my body with his, I stared at the screen saver, that was still bouncing, still morphing.  I counted the beats that I could feel beneath my body.  I noted the time on the clock and saw that I’d only been in this bedroom for twenty minutes.  Twenty minutes.  That’s all it took.  I could tell that I was in a house that was cleaned regularly – with my face rested against the floor, I could smell the unmistakable scent of Pine-Sol.  This would become yet another trigger – the Pine-Sol.  
    I paid attention to everything except what was happening to me.  I stared only at the things I’d chosen to focus on, even when he brought his face close to mine and told me how much I liked it.  I’d caught that through the corner of my eye and wanted to scream back, no, I didn’t like it.  But I feared that I’d receive the worst possible response to anything I could do or say, so I held my tongue.  He’d added some other choice words in there, too.  Even when he licked my face, even when he would become more rough in hopes of soliciting a reaction or even a cry from me.  Even when the necklace he wore (it was a thick chain) hit me in the face with every thrust.  Before tonight, I’d not know what dissociation was – but sure as shit, I did it that night.  I felt my eyes glaze over as I left my body, and I encased myself within my surroundings, the music, the vibrations, the computer, the barbells on the floor, the flashing colon between the hour and minutes on the digital clock.  On ANYTHING except what was happening to my body at the moment.  For the moment, I only existed outside of the body I no longer would recognize as my own.
    I also remember thinking momentarily, what if these were the last things I’d see?  What if this was it for me?  What if he planned to kill me when he was finished?  Would I ever see my family again?  Would I ever turn 18?  I didn’t want this stupid screen-saver to be the last thing I saw, my last memory.  I remember letting my eyes slowly close as I scrambled for thoughts of good times, the smiling faces of the people I loved. It provided a measure of comfort during a time where my life was uncertain, although in a miniscule way.  
    He eventually slowed, stopped, and withdrew.  I opened my eyes only when I felt his weight shift from my body. Still, I didn’t dare move.  Moving had always gotten me into more trouble. Instead, I remained stationary on the floor, even after he’d gotten up.  I assume he took a moment to zip up his pants, because I only watched his feet.  I didn’t want to see his face again.  It was a passing thought that if we’d made eye contact, he’d speak to me.  He likely had more horrible things to say.  I didn’t want to be put in a position where I’d have to respond, so I avoided looking above his feet – which was easy, being on the floor.  They eventually moved for the door, which was perhaps six feet away from where I lay.  I saw it open, then close again.  I was now alone in this bedroom – once a symbol of hope, and now a museum of unpleasant memories.
    Everything hurt.  My head was throbbing.  My stomach was in knots and was churning.  My heart was racing.  And down there, there was burning.  I could tell I was bleeding.  I could feel it.  Still, I stayed on the floor and continued to stare at the same few things I’d stared at before.  First the computer, then the barbells, then the clock…back to the computer for a few seconds, over to the barbells….  
    Oh, God, what if he came back?  What if he wasn’t finished?  The thought that he might not be finished was enough for more tears to fall before I began to slowly shift my thoughts over to how I was going to get out of this place. More than anything, I wanted to go home. I wanted to be in my own bed.  I wanted my DAD.  I don’t know that I wanted him to know what had just happened – I was still undecided on whether he would be mad at me or he’d criticize me for lying to him.  Never once did I consider he would tell me it wasn’t my fault, because all I could think of at the moment was how much it was.  I think, more so, I wanted to see my father’s face.  I wanted to crawl into his lap like I used to when I was five, and watch a Mets game with him.  I wanted to see him cheer when one of the Mets got a hit.  I wanted to see him grumble when the relief pitcher turned out to be a bad idea.  
    I knew though, most of all, I wanted to be anywhere but here.
    I moved my arms for the first time in several moments and using them for support, picked my head and upper torso up slightly to check the door. Eddie had locked it behind him, the lock was in its vertical position, same as it had been when he was in the room with me.  Whether that was a plot to buy time so that he could make a clean getaway was only a consideration for a moment – I’d certainly been laying there long enough and was more concerned with how I was going to be leaving.  If anyone were going to help me, to rescue me, they’d have done so already.  No one even knew I was there.  I could feel that the music was still blaring downstairs. Everyone was still having the time of their lives, while mine had just been hanging by a frayed thread – or at least that’s how it felt.  
    The pain in my stomach had turned into complete nausea.  
    Remembering there was a small bathroom behind me, I hurriedly scurried toward it and made a beeline for the toilet.  I collapsed next to it, bent my neck over the side, and threw up. It was mostly liquid and whatever of my dinner (several hours earlier) wasn’t digested.
    When the contents of my stomach had been emptied and I was no longer heaving, I looked down.  My skirt was still hiked up, and there were blood smears on my legs, mostly in my inner thigh area.  My underwear was still on, as when he was finished with me, it had snapped back into place.  I could feel they were wet, likely with blood.  
    I sat there for several minutes longer.  At least, it FELT like several minutes.  In reality, it probably was not very long at all – but still. NOTHING made me feel dirtier than what was on my legs, what was in my underwear, what was probably still on the floor where I’d been lying.  
    Again, I felt my heart begin to pound.  Everything felt wrong.  I felt as if I didn’t belong.  As if I were intruding.  There was not only the mess left on me, there was also the mess I’d made in a complete stranger’s bedroom.  Completely disregarding the fact that a very serious crime had been committed here, I immediately felt the need to clean it, wipe it away.  Erase myself from having ever been in that room.  The words played over and over in my head, this is entirely my fault, I lied to my parents, I knew there was going to be drinking at this party, yet I came…I willingly walked into this room with a guy that I felt attracted to, although only momentarily.  Maybe deep down, I’d wanted this, maybe I’d considered, even if only for a few seconds, that I was ready for a sexual experience – being Matt’s girlfriend was not a bad thing, but it was indeed frustrating at times, not being able to explore what sex was.  Maybe I’d realized that, even if it were only for a very brief moment.  I was a horrible person.  That HAD to be it.
    I stood for the first time since I’d been thrown down.  My legs shook as the skirt, that had been hiked up, finally dropped back down.  I felt weak and used the sink to steady myself.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror hanging above the sink and saw that there were also blood smears on my left cheek, and around my mouth area, from the split lip.  It was no longer bleeding, but had certainly puffed up.
    That was first.
    I turned on the water and washed my face thoroughly. I washed away the blood, the tears, the snot.  His saliva. I cupped my hand underneath the faucet and rinsed my mouth out, wanting him out of there, too.  When I finally understood that no amount of rinsing could remove those feelings of shame and disgust, I stopped.  
    Almost as if some cosmic force was trying to let me know what my next step was - because I sure as shit couldn’t think straight - I felt a gush. Almost like a period gush, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t from that. Even periods, with the added cramping, did not hurt as much as I hurt at that moment.  I hiked my skirt up again, pulled my panties down and quickly sat on the toilet.  Once I was seated, I lifted my ankles out of the leg openings and picked my underwear up. I wasn’t ready to look at them, yet, so I held them in my trembling hand while I sat silently for a few minutes. I knew that to look would confirm whatever pain I was feeling.  The pain was in the same area I’d cramp in when I did have my period. Just far worse than any I’d ever had in my life.  I shook more as I became overwhelmed with my first flashback – if you could call it that, given it’d happened just minutes earlier.  
    He’d repeatedly torn into me, paying no mind to the pain he was causing me with each angry push.  Somehow that thought turned into, ‘maybe if I’d asked him to stop, he would have?’ The adult me now knows that he absolutely would not have shown me any mercy, but the 17-year-old version of me couldn’t see past that fact that she’d stopped pleading with him, thus she’d allowed him to do what he’d done.  Stopping the fight was the equivalent of giving in, and to do so was giving consent.
    I’d soon mustered enough courage to look at the garment I held in my hand.  The back and sides were clean, but as I’d suspected, there was blood in the crotch area.  There was absolutely no way that I was putting these back on.  
    There was a small trash can in a corner across from where the toilet was positioned.  I found the cardboard core of an empty roll of toilet paper, and using my finger, pushed my soiled underwear into the open space in the center.  I then plugged both ends with small pieces of tissue to keep the panties hidden, and tucked the roll back toward the bottom of the trash barrel.  
    I was sure there was also some blood in the toilet, something I’d confirm during the next stage of my clean-up.  Dirty.  I felt SO dirty.  I reached over to the sink next to me, turned the water back on and dampened wad after wad of toilet paper and cleaned myself up as best as I could before flushing my ‘sins’ away forever.  
    When I was as satisfied as I could be with my cleaning, I stood, grabbed another handful of toilet paper and wet it.  I exited the bathroom and walked over to the spot where I’d been raped. There were some droplets and smears of blood on the floor.  Not wanting to see them anymore, wanting them gone along with the evidence I’d just cleaned off of myself, I immediately took the wet wad of toilet paper to the floor, wiping furiously at each spot and smear, until I was convinced that there were no further traces of me and that nobody would ever know what happened here.
    When finished, I returned to the bathroom to flush the bloody wad of toilet paper.  I then ensured there was no remaining traces of my blood on the toilet seat, in the toilet bowl, in the trash, on the floor or the sink, before leaving the bathroom.
    I realized then that I had nothing on underneath my skirt.  Almost immediately, I felt exposed and overly vulnerable.  I needed something to wear, something to protect what was right now, the one part of my body I wanted hidden by several layers of clothing.  Inpenetrable steel would have been a lovely, although unrealistic alternative, but I needed something there before I could safely re-introduce myself to the world beyond these four walls.
    Realizing again that I was in a bedroom, I made my way over to a dresser and opened the top drawer, where I found a pair of boxer shorts.  They were faded and looked old and unlikely to be missed, so I took them and slipped into them.  I did feel badly about doing that, too – stealing was added to the mental list of things I’d done wrong that night.  I made one final trip to the bathroom where I grabbed another large wad of toilet paper, and stuffed it into the boxer shorts, between my legs, with the intention of it acting as a makeshift maxi pad.  
    I stood in the middle of the room for what seemed like an eternity.  I stared at the door, mostly.  What if he was still here?  What if he was standing right outside?  What if he was waiting for me?  Would I even see that ‘acquaintance’ of mine?  It’s awfully hard to put into words the impasse I was at during this particular moment.  I no longer wanted to be in this room, but what was out there was proving to be just as threatening and terrifying.  What if I was in fact, safer in here?
    I‘m not sure what drove me.  Perhaps it as the feeling of suffocation that was starting to set in. Maybe another part of me took over – a part of me that knew that I’d likely be standing in that room for several more hours if I didn’t move now.  I felt my fingers turn the lock, and then my hand wrap around the cool-to-the-touch silver knob.  I then was greeted with the heavy smell of pot once I’d let myself out into the hallway. There were other people in the hallway, there was a lot of smoke, there was the same loud music playing and the place was jumping.  There had been no lapse in their world – only mine.  I knew from memory that the front door was only a few feet from the bottom of the stairs and that in just moments, I’d be out of this house.  I descended the stairs in a daze, refusing to look in any direction other than straight ahead.  I think, deep down, I told myself that if I continued to look straight ahead, I would be less likely to find him, less likely to see his smirk, his amused smile.
    As soon as I stepped out the front door, I was met with a cool, relieving breeze.  I am unsure of which was more relieving – the fresh air, or finally being out of that house where the smell of pot was overwhelming.  I walked as quickly as my shaky legs would allow me to – I took step after step, knowing each carried me further away from the nightmare I’d just endured.  I will admit that I’d hoped that the further I became from that house, the less hold it would have over me.  My plan for the moment was to go home and forget about it.  All of it.  I’d not tell anybody.  Not my Dad. Not my Mom. Not Matt…especially not Matt!  Once I got to it, I’d crawl into bed and sleep.  For days, if I needed to.  Until I felt better, then I’d move on with my life as if nothing had happened.  I know that plan is laughable, but for the moment, it was pure gold. 
    But I had to get home, first.  I thought as I walked.  How the fuck was I going to get home?  My car was at that stupid bit*h’s house!

    Still, I kept walking.
    If only I could remember where she lived and what streets she took to get us to the party?  Maybe I could walk there?  But my keys were inside her house.  My purse, too.  My wallet. My book bag.  Everything.  It was either inside her house or in my car.  EVEN if I could remember where she lived and was able to get myself there by foot, I didn’t want to have to knock on her door. What if she’d gotten home already? Would I be able to refrain from punching her in the face when she answered the door?  What if her mother answered the door?  No. That wouldn’t work…
    Kept walking, still.  I could feel that there was more bleeding, but still needed to be further away.  I needed more distance to be put between myself and that horrible place.  I kept looking behind me, to make sure he wasn’t there.  What if he’d seen me leave and was following me?  I needed to be states away.  My legs couldn’t get me that far, and that quickly.  No fucking way was I going back to that house or stopping to knock on someone’s door.  That was completely out of the question.  I needed to move forward, not backwards, and to ask another stranger for help was, to me, moving backwards.  I walked for several minutes more, pondering my options.  There weren’t many.  And the burning between my legs was back and intensifying with each additional step I took. I could tell the tissues I had stuffed into the boxers were already becoming saturated.  I needed a bathroom so that I could clean myself again.
    I’d arrived at a busy street.  It was late at night, so traffic was light, but there were still cars passing by.  Across the street, there sat a small diner.  It was one of those storefront diners, you could see through the front windows that there were booths lined up along the length of the window, there was a counter.  And there was likely a bathroom, too, as any establishment that served food must also have a bathroom…
    My first thought when walking in was that they’d likely not allow me to use their bathroom if I wasn’t a paying customer.   As it was pretty late in the evening, there was only one customer there - an elderly man sitting in one of the booths farthest away from the front door, his companionship being a lone cup of coffee and a newspaper. 
    A plump, kindly-looking waitress stood behind the counter and greeted me with a smile.  I leaned against the counter, exhausted, and asked her for a glass of water (as I was of the impression that you couldn’t use the bathroom unless you were a customer, and although I didn’t have any money on me, I NEEDED the bathroom and needed to, at least, LOOK like a paying customer!) and then after a pause, if I could use the ladies’ room.  Without hesitation, she pointed in the direction of the bathroom.  It was just past where the old man was sitting, and he briefly looked up from his newspaper as I walked past him and disappeared into the rest room.
    There was more blood, and several more flushes.  I sat for a little bit longer, as my  legs were weary and sore – I’d walked as fast as they were capable of carrying me.  It hit me that I was still unsure of how I’d be getting home.  It was looking more and more like I’d have to call my father – or have someone call him FOR me.  The lady at the counter worked at the diner.  Name tag and all.  (What was it? Susan?  I want to say it was Susan…)  Could I trust her to make a call to my father?  I probably could trust a business employee but I’d have to build up the NERVE to ask, first.  I needed to think some more.
    When I’d replaced the wad of toilet paper, I stood and walked back over to the counter, where Susan was patiently waiting.  Right away, she produced a glass of water and a menu, I guess, just in case I WAS a paying customer.  In hindsight, she probably wouldn’t have cared if I was or wasn’t – she was soft, kind-looking and I believe, deep down, she knew something was wrong.  She was careful not to touch me when she handed me the water and the menu.  Perhaps it was the body language that spoke for me – back OFF.  Or was it something else?  My hands had been shaking on and off for the last hour – perhaps they were still unsteady?  Maybe my lip was swollen?  Had it begun to bleed again?  I hadn’t looked in the mirror on my way out of the bathroom…what if there was blood on my skirt?  I’d not seen any when I cleaned up at the house, but what if there was some there, now? 
    I remember gently touching my lip with a finger and running my tongue along the inside of my mouth to check.  I wrapped both of my hands around the tall glass of water, needing them to be still. The concern of there being blood on my skirt was the biggest at the moment, especially now that I was sitting down.  What if I’d bled through?
    Susan waited until I’d taken a sip of water through the straw before leaning in.  I felt myself tense up but didn’t move.  I was terrified of people right now.  Even the old man, probably harmless, sitting in the booth on the way to the bathroom. Even he scared me.  I didn’t want to be seen; I didn’t want to be smiled at. I didn’t want to exist.  Eye contact was a dangerous thought – I felt as if ONE look at my eyes would reveal everything that had happened, every shameful detail - and I wanted to NOT be in the spotlight.  I wanted to be invisible – or at least completely unseen for the time being.  Still, I knew that if it was likely I’d have to suck it up and ask for help for the second time that night, I’d better at least LOOK at her.  Slowly, I raised my eyes and met the lips of the waitress, who spoke softly, almost in a whisper.
    “There is a cab on his way here,” She said, “the driver is a relative of mine and he’s trustworthy.”
    I’m not sure how I managed, but I thanked her.  She said, ‘you’re welcome,’ and, I suspect that in addition to her good timing, she also had a touch of ESP, because she must have sensed that I needed a moment.  She left me to sit in silence and walked over to the old man with a coffee carafe.  
    My hands were getting cold from being wrapped around the glass, so I gently pushed my drink over to the side and picked up the menu.  I knew I wasn’t planning on getting anything to eat, but there was still that desire to ‘blend in.’  To look as if I belonged, as if I was ‘fine.’  To put SOMETHING into my hands.  It was either the menu or the nearby salt and pepper shakers.  I knew I wasn’t ‘fine’ or even okay, and that I wouldn’t be for a while.  Still, I held the menu in my hands, feeling them begin to tremble again.  I looked only at the calligraphic writing for another indeterminate amount of time.  I don’t even think I remembered how to read at the moment – the words stared back at me and would blur every few seconds.  My head was pounding, and I felt sick to my stomach.  Yet, the kind words of Susan the waitress, replayed in my mind.  
    A cab…on the way.  She’d called a cab.  I didn’t have to ask her to – she’d done it on her own.  She’d saved me the trouble of having to muster up enough courage to admit that I needed help.  I wanted to cry, this was one of the first things to have gone right that night!
    When I felt a breeze from the front door being opened, I looked up only briefly to see a man walk in.  He had on a Yankees hat, jeans, and a black leather jacket.  He stood at the opposite end of the counter for a moment, as one would if they were waiting to be served.  Susan, who had disappeared into the kitchen a few moments earlier, re-emerged with a tray of desserts to put out on display in one of the see-through counters that was noticeably low on muffins and cakes and other desserts that I normally would have found appetizing.  There was a brief exchange between Susan and the man, following a quick kiss hello. They spoke softly while Susan grabbed the nearby carafe and poured him a coffee ‘to go.’  He then took his coffee and left the diner.  I watched as Susan opened the dessert display case from her side of the counter and she put the tray onto one of the shelves.  
    She then began to make her way over to me. Again, I tensed up and my heart began to race.  I felt safe for the moment, but at the same time, still wary of impending danger.  I wouldn’t be completely safe until this night was over and I was in my room, in my Dad’s house, in clean pajamas, with my own pillow and blanket. 
    “My brother-in-law is here.  His car is right out front.  He will take you wherever you want to go.  All you need to do is give him an address.”
    I turned my head and looked out the diner’s front window.  The man with the Yankee hat was sitting in the drivers’ seat of a black sedan, with the name and number of a local cab company printed on the side.  The lights were on in the car as well as the headlights.  He was sipping from the coffee cup Susan had given him.  
    I wasn’t sure about this.  Susan had indeed been helpful and had taken the initiative to call the cab for me, but she’d not asked me what I wanted her to do.  Perhaps I’d not have been able to verbalize, nor would I have been too comfortable having her explain to my father that I needed a ride home and why.  Maybe the cab would have ended up being something I’d asked for.  I just hadn’t had the time to entertain the idea of getting into another stranger’s car – even if it meant that it would be bringing me to safety.  How was I to know, though?  What if this guy was a crazy, too?  
    But then again, if I didn’t get into the cab, how WAS I getting home? How much longer would it be before I would figure out what the plan was?  I was aching badly in places I didn’t even know existed, my head was continuing to pound, and my legs felt rubbery and sore.  It was an opportunity I had to take.  
    I stood, slowly, knowing that it was my best option.  I thanked Susan again and made for the front door.
    “Take care,” was what she said.  That was the last I saw of Susan, at least physically.  I’d see her several more times in memories of that night and of the difference she’d made.  I’d regret never having the nerve to go back to that diner to see if it was even still standing and of course, if she was still working there, so that I could say the words to her that I couldn’t say 23 years ago.
    I got into the back seat of Susan’s brother-in-law’s cab.  He put his coffee into the cup holder in between his seats, turned his head and asked, ‘where to, honey?’
    Where to?  
    To the house of my acquaintance to pick up my car?  I did have her address confined to memory from when I’d MapQuested it earlier.  Yes, back then, GPS’s didn’t exist, at least, I don’t think so.  So MapQuest or written directions were the way to go.  But could I actually drive my car, feeling the way I did? Or was I more likely to die in a fiery crash on the Sunrise Highway because everything was blurring on me?
    To the hospital?  The thought of painkillers was a good one.  There HAD to be something they could give me that would numb my entire body.  But, wouldn’t they have to call my parents?  I wasn’t 18 yet.  I didn’t have any insurance or even any ID on me.  They’d likely call the cops.  And then THEY would call my parents.  And then my parents would know.  And, so would Matt, eventually.  My mother never could keep her mouth shut, so naturally, that would mean the whole world would know, after what had happened was broadcast on the six o’clock news.  Then my parents would be SURELY be angry with me…
    The driver was patient.  He waited quietly for me to mentally scroll through my choices of places he could bring me, and only pulled out of the diner’s parking lot as soon as I supplied him with the instructions, “Exit 43 off the Sunrise.  I’ll direct you from there.”
    I was going home.  I’d figure out the car later.  After I’d showered, slept, and the pain had subsided.  When I was able to form a conscious thought.  When every damn part of my body wasn’t shaking or throbbing or otherwise uncomfortable.
    The ride lasted about thirty minutes – and that’s only because it was late and there was very little traffic on the road.  After he had taken the exit and I’d told him which turns to take, we arrived at my Dad’s house.  All of the lights were off.  My Dad had likely gone to sleep hours earlier.  
    I realized then that I didn’t even have my house key.  I knew though, that my father kept a spare key underneath a large rock on the side of the house – it wasn’t a decorative rock, just one of those stray rocks that nobody knew served an additional purpose than to just exist.  I knew my father kept a pouch of grocery money in one of the drawers in the kitchen – I hoped there was enough in there to give the driver.  As soon as we were in the driveway, I told him to wait while I went in to get him some money.
    “No,” he said to me. “Susan already took care of it.  You just get yourself inside, okay, honey?”
    I tried to ignore the ‘honey’ – I knew he wasn’t being fresh or inappropriate.  He was genuinely a gentleman – and had gotten me home, he hadn’t tried to engage me in conversation, he’d driven responsibly.  For all of that, I was eternally grateful.  I just didn’t like the ‘honey.’  Especially not tonight.  I shook it off, though, for I was finally home now – and nothing mattered more than that.
    “Are you sure?”
    “Go on.”
    I thanked him, (and mentally thanked Susan, again) and got out of the car. As soon as he’d driven away, I made my way over to the side of the house, where I prayed no one had moved the concealed key.  I REALLY didn’t want to knock on the door and alert my father to anything – I just wanted to quietly go inside and get OUT of these clothes…clothes that usually were comfortable and that I actually liked – now were tainted. 
    I never wanted to see that skirt again.  I wanted the boxer shorts I’d been wearing wadded up and discarded.  I wanted the smell of weed off of my shirt, out of my hair, out of my nostrils, where all of the unpleasant smells of that night continued to linger.
    I located the key despite it being dark outside, thanking God that it hadn’t been disturbed, and let myself into my father’s house.  I disabled the security system, and quietly made my way into my room, where I wasted NO time.  I grabbed clothes from my dresser drawers and made a beeline for the bathroom one door down.  
    Finally.  Fucking FINALLY.  
    I stripped as soon as I’d locked myself into the bathroom and stepped into the shower, switching on the faucet.  I don’t know how long I was standing there – it could very easily have been forty-five minutes before the water went from hot to cold.  Still, I stood there for yet another period in which time seemed endless, letting the stream of water wash away any residual traces of blood – and him- that had dried up in between my inner thighs and on my legs.  I washed myself thoroughly with a soapy, even though it burned to do so.  The bleeding had slowed significantly by now, but I still avoided looking at the blood-streaked water before it disappeared down the drain, along with any evidence that might have remained.
    I know what you’re all likely thinking at this point.  No, I thought nothing about reporting what had happened. By now, I’d decided that I was NOT going that route.  The shame was far too great, and I truly felt at this point, that the events of the last few hours had been entirely my fault.  My parents would tell me the same thing.  They’d call the cops.  The cops would ask me about him and really, what would I say?  I didn’t know anything about him, just that his name was Eddie. I didn’t know his last name or where he lived.  They’d never find him.  And I didn’t want to get into it.  I wanted to forget it.  ALL of it. I wanted it buried.  The thought of people knowing about this – TERRIFIED me. What would they think if me?  
    I suppose you could call me chicken – but my excuse stands – being seventeen and still ‘a kid’ DEFINITELY hinders sensible thinking.  
    That shower was also the first time I cried since it had happened. I know I’d cried during, but in between Eddie’s leaving me and my arrival home, it had been unsafe to cry, to show weakness and vulnerability.  Look at where it had gotten me in the first place, after all.  I’m not sure what that night taught me as far as showing emotion, but to this day, I still have trouble crying in front of others – most particularly when talking about this one event.  As I finally felt safe and alone and that the spotlight had been removed for the time being, I stood there in the shower, bawling, and at one point, sank to the floor of the tub and sobbed silently and until my tears had run out. It would be the most I’d cry about this for several years. 
    When the water had become too cold to bear, I got out, dried off, put my pajamas on and gathered all of the clothes I’d been wearing that night.  Into a plastic bag they went, until the bag was eventually discarded days later.  After ‘squaring away’ those clothes, I’d crawled into my bed, and that was where I’d spend most of the weekend.  I didn’t want to get up, or to move.  It took a little time for me to fall asleep and it was almost dawn when I’d finally succumbed to it.  My father had poked his head into my room a few hours later, and had asked why I was home – where was my car?  He hadn’t expected me home until later that day.  I told him that I’d gotten sick with a stomach flu and that my classmate had driven me home – I’d have to pick my car up when I was feeling better.  He didn’t ask any more questions – and while part of me was disappointed that my own father hadn’t even been able to pick up on the fact that something was wrong, another part of me was glad.  
    Maybe, just maybe I could keep this secret. It was, after all, mine, and mine only to hold, to carry, to hide whenever necessary.
    This installment is dedicated to the woman who just wanted to fit in.  The woman who wanted to have a good time.  The woman who wanted to try new things.  The woman who was put in a bad position by stretching the truth. The woman who found him attractive at first.  The woman who allowed herself to trust a stranger, a friend, a family member.  The woman who stopped fighting because she couldn’t anymore.  The woman who was rendered defenseless and powerless.  The woman who was too afraid to report it to the authorities. The woman who did what she needed in order to survive.
    The woman who is to blame for none of it.
    - Capulet
  4. Capulet
    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
    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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Capulet
    You all may remember that before my transition over to the ‘dark side,’ (term used in reference to the same-sex relationship I am currently in) I was married to an extremely difficult man.  Mr. His-Way-Or-The-Highway, also known as my ‘wasband,’ was always, ALWAYS stubborn as a mule, on top of being quite adept in the powers of intimidation.  No one wanted to deal with his wrath, people would feel as if they were teetering on eggshells around him.  He knew that, and of course, still knows that.  It is safe to say we are ONLY friends because we share children in common; most of the time, I don’t want to be around him either.  The only reason I spend holidays with him is because he INSISTS upon the children being with him on every major holiday and they’re not yet given any choice in the matter.  Plus, despite his shortcomings, the wasband is a VERY good cook.  It eliminates my need to cook or clean on holidays, small price to pay in my opinion.  The alternative is to spend the holiday with the Oompa Loompa and that’s an entirely different headache.  At times, she’ll come to the wasband’s as well, and usually a good time is had without my sister’s and brother-in-law’s guaranteed drama being present. 
    Anyway, my daughter has been telling me lately that she hates being at her father’s house, that he's harsh on them and makes them get up early and clean.  Of course, she's 11, she exaggerates, so I take that with a grain of salt.  Now, a huge part of her not wanting to go is that she’s forever locking horns with her father's wife.  Another contributing factor is that she is, in many ways, just like the wasband - stubborn, always has to have the last word, and doesn’t do well with being told what to do.  She doesn’t see her stepmother as an authority figure, so end result, she will fight with her Dad’s wife and giggle gleefully to herself when her Dad takes her side.  Yes, she IS a spoiled brat at times, but I do appreciate that he will keep his wife in check when he sees fit.  This is not to say that both he and I don’t put her in her place when she needs it.  However lately, he’s been cracking down on both of their attitudes (they don’t give it to me as much as they give it to his wife, and they certainly don’t do it in front of their father) and my guess is, he’s gotten to the point where he’s tired of hearing his wife complain about our kids.  Plus, he went from being able to walk to work to now having to commute 2 hours by car each way, leaving at 5am and getting home close to 7-8pm every night has turned him into even more of an unbearable pain in the ass.  His wife is the one dealing with all the housework, cooking, cleaning, laundry, kids, etc…so I can certainly understand the stress she puts up with.  
    Please don’t misunderstand - I do not envy her or sympathize with her.  When he asked me for a divorce back in 2008, it only took him a couple of weeks to “find someone online that he’d like to take on a date,” leading me to believe he’d been talking to her long before calling it quits with me.  If I were to ask him today, he’d deny it up and down and insist that his meeting her was one of those right time, right place kind of situations.  I’m a lot of things - stupid is not one of those things.  I shrugged it off back then and really didn’t see the point in caring too much about our inevitable split.  Part of me didn’t want to reconcile, anyway.  NOT if it meant being forever miserable.  
    But, ya know…if anything, his wife did me a favor.  She took him off my hands.  He is now HER problem.  And I’m in a MUCH healthier, happier relationship now.  She made her bed, now she has to live with her decision.  
    So…back to my daughter for a bit of a side story...
    Last night, my younger brat wanted to have two of her friends spend the night at my house.  She begged me from the moment she walked in from school…until I told her that there were a few things she needed to do for me before I’d allow it.  Her room had to be made spotless.  She had to sweep the stairs and hallway downstairs.  She had to clean the cat box.  She had to clear her desk of all slime-making supplies and then vacuum the carpet in her room.  She had to put her clothes away, properly, folded neatly and in the correct drawers.
    What do you know...she did it all!  She did need a nudge here and there but she did it.  Damn it.  I’d been hoping she would falter on her assigned chores and I’d have a reason NOT to allow her friends to spend the night…but when she sets her mind to something, she’ll do whatever it takes.  On a positive note, I guess this means she’ll not be able to make any silly excuses later on when she's asked to do these things again.
    So anyway, two friends met up with her at the bowling alley.  When I was done with my league play, I’d bring the girls home.  We get home and one of them says she didn’t eat lunch or dinner before coming to the bowling alley to meet up with my daughter.  Did I have any food for her?
    Okay.  The kid’s hungry.  So I nuke corn dogs for them.  Not exactly my food of choice but at 11pm, that’s all that I had the energy to make.  They inhaled those corn dogs and then disappeared downstairs.  By now, the late night headache was setting in and I retreated to my room.  I woke up with the same headache at 7am, took three Excedrin (because sometimes two does absolutely nothing) and went back to sleep.  I got up a couple hours later and went downstairs to check on the girls.  They were all awake.  I asked if they’d like breakfast.  The Corn Dog girl says yes.  So I go make them pancakes and scrambled eggs. Then I ask them both to check in with their mothers and make sure they find out from their Moms what time they need to be ready to be picked up.  Because usually, a kid’s mother wants them back eventually, right?
    No, I guess not, maybe their mothers don’t like them too much, either or they were perfectly fine with my keeping their kids for as long as their kid would like to stay at my house.  One girl’s mother wasn’t going to be getting home from work until after three.  The other one’s mother just said for her to be home whenever I could bring her home.
    Let it be known that neither mother offered to come get their kid from my house.  I do know both mothers are drivers and are capable of saying, “Hey, you’re feeding and taking care of my kid overnight, maybe I’ll make your life a little easier and come pick her up in the morning…”  No such thing was ever said.
    So, we’re eating breakfast now…Corn Dog girl eats her eggs and my daughter’s eggs too.  My two go to their Dad’s on Saturdays, mid-day.  So I told both my daughter’s friends to tell their mothers that I would be driving them both home at 4pm because my daughter's father would be coming at 4:30 to get her.  Now, MY daughter pipes in and says, “Why do I have to go back to Dad’s?  I hate going there.”
    I shrug and tell her that it’s how it always is, they’re with me Wednesday afternoons after school through Saturday evenings and with him Sat nights until they leave for school Wed morning.  It’s a split down the middle and my house and the wasband’s are literally seven minutes’ drive apart.  It works out nicely.  Of course, until recently, BOTH kids have come home and said they hate being at his house because it’s nothing short of chaotic.  
    “Did Dad ever abuse you?”  My daughter asks me.  In front of her friends.  Six wide eyes staring at me at the same time, now.  
    “No.”  I tell her.
    While it’s not the first time I have lied to my daughter, I feel that her idea of abuse is not the same as mine.  At 11 years old, she probably thinks being abusive is limited to being violent/physical.  The wasband was not that way with me, but he was certainly mentally and emotionally abusive.  He made me feel about two inches tall for most of our marriage, to the point where divorce was a blessing.  My 17-year-old certainly can make that connection and recognize his father’s words and actions as being abusive in nature but his sister cannot.  She sees him as angry and to her, anger equals violence equals spankings.  I just told her (and her nosy friends) that her Dad and I just couldn’t get along and that was why we divorced.  He’s absolutely not an easy man to live with, but he’s still her father and he still provides for her.  
    One day, I’ll tell her that there are so many different forms of abuse, and she’ll understand more in depth how her father is.  I’m still not sure how I’m going to touch the SA topic with her, but thankfully, the wasband is not in any way involved in any of my memories of SA - this is never a mental picture she will associate with her father, and for that, I’m grateful.  I do think it’s important for her to recognize any and all kinds of abusive behavior, but it just wasn’t the right time to have a heart-to-heart with two sixth graders at my kitchen table.
    Luckily, she accepted that answer, and we went about our day.  She and her friends played outside while I showered and got ready.  I then went to Wal-Mart to pick up another string of lights for the bedroom window and then told her friends that I would now be driving them home.  Of course, all three girls tell me they’re hungry, would I hit up the Burger King drive-thru on my way?  
    Sure.  Why not?  I told them to pick value menu stuff to have as a snack.  They’d had their pancakes and eggs at 11:30am, so how damn hungry could these kids be?  Especially Corn Dog girl, this kid is a string bean and the amount of food she’d eaten at my house was insane, I wasn’t sure where she was putting all of it.
    The other girl lived furthest away, so she was the first drop-off.  I’d met her mother at the bowling alley a couple weeks ago.  Her mother was also at home at the time we arrived.  I didn’t know where to park, so I pulled up to the front of the house and while I left the engine running, my daughter and Corn Dog girl both walked their friend to the door.  They disappeared into the house.  I waited, half-expecting the mother to come outside and thank me for getting her child home in one piece.  Or wave through a window.  Or come to the door in her robe and curlers and pretend she’d been busy instead of sitting on her ass all day long while someone else took care of their child.  
    No such appearance made by this girl’s mother.  My daughter and Corn Dog girl came back out, got back into the car.  Off we went to Corn Dog girl’s house next.  
    She mumbled a quick ‘thanks’ when she got out of the car…a brief expression of gratitude that I didn’t even hear until my daughter told me later on that she did indeed thank me for allowing her to spend the night at our home.  The first girl didn’t even get that far.  No mother in the bathrobe at Corn Dog girl’s house, either.  I asked my daughter if her parents had been home.  
    “Yeah, they were both home.”  
    “I see.”  I shifted the car into drive and headed home.  I then proceeded in telling my daughter that her two friends, as nice and as lovely as they both were, need a little bit of a lesson in MANNERS and so did their mothers!  I don’t expect much from 11 year olds, but I’ve always taught MY children to be grateful to anyone who shows them kindness, anyone who feeds them, lets them come to their homes.  You not only say thank-you once, you say it many times!  My daughter may be a brat, but she’s respectful.  I also told her that the next sleep-over would take place at one of THEIR houses.  Maybe my child can teach their parents a thing or two about courtesy?
    I got home around 4pm, which was pretty much on schedule, since usually the wasband comes for kids around 4:30.  I come to find out that he had called our son while I was out being my daughter’s friends’ taxi and asked that I drop the kids off to his house rather than him come get them.  Since he and his wife were not at home at the time this request was made, I said I’d do it if he’d set a place for me at dinner - J was working a double shift, my headache had intensified and I didn’t feel like cooking for just myself.  He agreed.  
    I waited a little while, strung up the lights I’d bought at Wal-Mart and then got the kids into the car and off we went to the wasband’s house. 
    We get there and let me tell you, I cannot be more grateful for what I have now as opposed to the chaos that ensues the millisecond you walk into his house.  Not only is it usually in disarray, it’s akin to walking into a zoo and all the cages, pens and enclosures are left open.
    To start with, he has four dogs that bark and jump simultaneously as soon as they realize that there is company present, three cats that don’t make much noise but will scatter in every which direction the dogs are NOT headed in,  and when our two are with him, SIX kids running around TRYING to look busy.  Then there’s of course, him and his wife.  He can usually be seen barking out orders and everyone following directions without question - because that’s how they’re all used to it being over there.  The son usually compares his father to Hitler, and I hate to say he’s certainly onto something.  When the wasband speaks, everyone listens.  When he says, ‘jump,’ we ask ‘how high?’  There is no middle road, no negotiating.  My children have had that indoctrinated in them since they were born.  I’m the gentle, more compassionate parent and he is, and always will be, the hard-assed slave-driver.
    Anyway, aside from the dogs barking, cats running away and messy house (and I mean MESSY) there was existing drama when we arrived.  I walked into the wasband’s house and the wasband was chasing the smallest dog around the house - apparently while he and his wife were at the supermarket, the dogs had some kind of a canine pow-wow in the living room and left piss and shit and a trail of Christmas lights, garlands and decorations strewn all over the floor.  Once he managed to catch the dog and rubbed his nose into its mess, he grumbled something about how he hoped I wasn’t in a hurry because dinner would be delayed for about an hour.  I told him that was fine and I sat in the den with my daughter while he and his wife prepped dinner.
    A little while later, I hear hollering coming from the kitchen.  I look at my daughter, inquiring what happened.  Apparently wasband’s wife’s son had been given the task of checking the pork chops that wasband had breaded and placed onto the smoker to further crisp-ize.  Instead of just checking that nothing was burning, his wife’s son decided to pick up a pair of tongs and turn them, subsequently causing the crispy coating to fall off.  It likely wasn’t even his fault entirely; the smoker perhaps hadn’t been sprayed with the anti-stick stuff so the coating on the pork chops had stuck to the grill.  Anyway, the wasband lost his shit.  He went ballistic on his stepson, then turned to my son and ordered him to go and do some damage control.
    My son apparently made a wise-assed comment back to his father, alluding that entrusting his stepbrother with the task of checking pork chops was not a good idea, what did he expect?  The wasband yelled at him, too, basically threatened the well-being of our son if he didn’t learn to control what came out of his mouth.  Then he loomed over him and dared him to keep talking.  My son said nothing, instead he bit his tongue until it bled and focused on the gravy he was now preparing.  He refused to speak to his father, or even to look at him, despite the wasband’s face being inches from his, and his urging him to speak, trying to bully him into saying the wrong thing.  Still,  my son maintained his composure and continued to say nothing.
    He reminded me so much of myself right then, I have to say.  There HAD been times, although granted, not that severe, when the wasband had dared ME to speak, to go ahead and disagree with what he was saying, and I’d freeze.  I’d say nothing because, well, there WAS absolutely nothing I could ever say that was acceptable to him.  He was right, I was wrong.  Just like right now, he IS right, my son was one hundred percent wrong because he’d talked back.  And even if a small part of me secretly applauded my son for speaking up to his father, I fear for him at times.  He probably WILL catch a fist from his father one of these days, and seeing as our son is just six months shy of adulthood, if it were ever to come to blows, he’d likely end up at my house permanently because he’d not have to follow orders anymore.
    I don’t want this for my children at all.  I want them to have a relationship with their father.  A HEALTHY, loving relationship with the man I chose to be their Dad.  I want them to know their father as a kind man, but even I don’t remember him being compassionate or kind or loving toward his family whenever we weren’t around strangers or he wasn’t trying to make an impression on someone or actually mislead people into thinking he were a stand-up guy.  He’s forever complaining about the kids, about how they’ve got mouths on them (gee, I wonder why?) and how I, as their mother, need to keep them in check.
    I don’t think they’re the problem.  I know that ninety percent of the time, the wasband is the problem.  He is a product of a broken home, himself.  His mother was a drug addict, his father was physically and emotionally abusive.  His parents divorced when he was a young child and he spent quite some time in foster care before he ran away from home at fifteen.  He moved in with a relative on the east coast and eventually joined the military right out of high school.  The military mindset was quickly adopted and that, as well as what he’d been taught about home life as a child, has contributed to the molding of the person he is today - you can see why he became the difficult man he remains to be now, even though he is retired from the army and his parents are not in his life.  The wasband has such denial about it all, too.  He doesn’t see these problems.  Instead, he points fingers.  The children all see it.  They make little comments to me, in private, and all I can really do about it is listen to them and in my own way, compensate for how they’re treated by the wasband by treating them with the love and respect they deserve when they’re with me.  He says I coddle them, but if you ask me, I have to, in order to preserve whatever shred of sanity they may still have in them.  
    Sadly, I’ve concluded that in the long run, he’s going to lose their affections entirely.  That’s truly unfortunate, because my kids are good people (they didn’t learn the good behavior from him…if they had turned out to be like him personality-wise, I probably would have let him have full custody!) and I’m proud to say that I’ve taught them to always be respectful to others.  Sure, they have their moments but you know, kids are kids.  They’re going to have moments when they mouth off.  No kid is completely devoid of smart-assedness but if you ask me, this is healthy.  A kid should be able to exercise sarcasm within respectful margins, of course.  There are, however, times they slip and that’s when you, as a parent, step in and using love and logic, teach them with words, examples and explanations, how to handle the day-to-day situations as they unfold in front of them.  I’ll never teach them anger, never teach them rage, and never, EVER will they be of the impression that any form of bullying is okay.  Because this is what their father is - one big, fat bully.  
    Not only do I have to teach them how to handle things in stride, I’ve got to teach my son how to be a good man.  I don’t know the first thing about being a man, obviously, but I do know that I don’t want him to be like the wasband, who is on his third wife, who tonight I think, was in tears because it had been her son who had messed up the pork chops.  She saw him lose his shit, interrogate the poor kid, rip into him for trying to be helpful (when really, that was all he’d been trying to do, help by flipping the pork chops…)  Because he was standing there screaming at and belittling her son, she eventually took his side and hollered at him, too.  I felt horrible for him, so I made sure to let him know before I left that the pork chops tasted just fine, even if the coating had fallen off.   
    Looking at her cry, though, I see that she’s trapped, like I had once felt I was, being married to him.  It also tells me that I have to teach my daughter something that I never would have learned for myself had he not initiated the divorce, and that is how to take a stand and how NOT to allow herself to be treated by anyone, be it a man, woman or a classmate.  There is NO excuse for the way her father behaves at times, but that’s just so damn tricky to explain right now, especially to an 11 year old.  I have to search for ‘loopholes’ and explain things to her in a manner where I’m not openly bashing her father, but at the same time, teaching her the difference between good and bad parenting.  And while I teach her, I have to remember that despite her reluctance to go spend time at his house, she does love him.
    As for the wasband, there’s absolutely no hope for him as far as change goes.  He is who he is because of the poor values instilled in him as a child; all we can truly hope for is that the children I share with him have learned to be more like me than they have him.  If occasional stubbornness is all they inherit from him, then I can certainly live with that.  I just hope it doesn't get to the point where their relationship becomes irreparable, because that will truly be the point of no return.  If that were to happen, then he'd have no one to blame but himself.  The only problem?  He's never to blame!
    Listen...if you’re a parent…tell your kids you love them, every day.  Even if it is done in a one-line text or a little note in their lunch bag.  Hug them, as often as you can.  Because these hugs, even if they squirm and complain about them, are still secretly loved.  Trust me on this.  Tell them they’re amazing.  Because they are.  Even if sometimes, they’re spoiled brats.  They’re still your children and they’re going to be just like you.  And you’re amazing too, aren’t you? ;)  
    In all seriousness, it has become so much more evident that children are more likely to mimic favorable behaviors if they witness it often enough.  I know I am doing my part.  It saddens me that people like my wasband, and my daughter's friends' mothers are teaching their children to be angry, bullies and just plain rude and ungrateful.  
    Sadly, we can only control the behavior we choose to show our children and others around us.  And of course, we can also control who we invite to spend an overnight at our homes, while we're at it.
    Until next time.
    - Capulet
  9. 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
  10. Capulet
    It’s been years since I got my hair did.
    I was born with a full head of hair.  Jet black hair at birth, then it lightened some to a brown that in the summer almost appeared dirty-blonde.  My hair has been colored multiple times throughout the course of my adult life.  
    I frosted it once, by adding streaks of blonde to my naturally brunette tresses.  Wore my hair down a lot at that time, so it looked pretty good.  It was also the trend; all the 90’s high school/college gals were doing it, so I followed suit.  I know, I know.  Thank goodness no one jumped off any bridges - I was naive enough as a teenager to believe that in order to fit in, you had to follow the leader and do exactly what they were doing. You had to wear whatever they were wearing, smoke whatever they were smoking, drive whatever they drove, and so on…tough trend to break, but I managed.
    Then, I went all-red.  That was a big hit.  When done right, I can get away with red hair.  Matches skin tone and eye color nicely, if I may say so.
    I went purple, accidentally.  Purple is my favorite color, let me tell you…I have tons of purple clothes, purple sneakers I hardly wear, purple walls in my bedroom, if I could paint my car purple, I would.  But hair?  I don’t think so…see, it was SUPPOSED to be the color of Lauren Holly’s hair in ‘Picket Fences.’  Unfortunately, the stylist who colored it was either color blind or simply too clueless to effectively lighten my hair before re-coloring it….either way, I rocked the purple for a few weeks before letting it fade back into my natural color.  
    Then, I stopped trying to find the best hairstyle and color for myself and started wearing my hair the same way, every day, for over fifteen years.  Those who know me, also know this look.  I pull it all back and fasten it with a messy bun in the back.  At one point, I had bangs, to better frame my face, but lately, my bangs have been pulled back, too.  It got comfortable.  J wears her hair the same way.  We’re often mistaken for siblings.  
    I’ll add that I’m still mad at some dude at the bowling alley who asked J if I was her mother.  What the holy hell, dude?  I’m only a year older than her.  NOT cool.  Next time we bowl against your team, I’m schooling your ass, JUST for that!  Hmmph.
    A haircut consisted basically of me pulling it all back into a low ponytail and handing J the scissors.  One snip and voila, it’s a few inches shorter.  But it was always long enough to continue to wear the same hairstyle.  And for years, that was good for me, because my hair is the only part of me that is THIN.  It was thick when I was younger.  I lost a great deal of it when I was pregnant with my son.  Now that I’ve had my daughter and it’s even thinner, I’m fearful of inheriting my mother’s Oompa-Loompa haircut…HER hair is so thin that it’s the only style that covers the bald spot in the back.  I lie through my teeth whenever she came from the salon…
    “Do I look any different?” (She’ll smile at me while she’s patting her hair…and those eyes tell me that I better have noticed that it was not only cut but it was also dyed…I better have the right answer or else she’ll cut me out of her will.)
    “Oh, absolutely, Mom.  It looks fantastic.  You look like you’re twenty years younger.  I hope I can rock that look one day, too.”
    LIES.  Lies, I tell you.
    So I went online the other day and asked for some feedback on Facebook.  Everyone I’ve spoken to on this topic has told me that they think I should just go for it.  Get a new ‘do.  My hair is ALWAYS pulled back, and even so, it’s very obviously thin and it shows.  
    One darling friend posted a photo of the beautiful Halle Berry.  Her hair is longer on top and one side, the back and other side are long-buzzed.  Kinda shaved but not to the point where the hair is so short, you can see the scalp.  It’s longer on top and kind of spills over to the side that is longer.  I suppose the best way to describe it is punky, but adorable at the same time.  I like the idea of hacking off all my garbage hair and starting over with new, thicker hair.  Unfortunately, my hair is too thin, too fine to even donate to Locks of Love, so the trash is where it’ll all end up once cut and swept off the floor…I further like the idea of maybe adding some streaks of red to the longer, top part.  I feel that constantly pulling back my hair, day after day, is probably a sign that having short hair is not going to make too much of a difference.  If anything, it’d be less maintenance.  
    If I take the leap and ultimately hate it, I have plenty of hats that I can wear throughout the winter.  Hopefully in the spring, it’ll be thicker and my hacking it off in the fall won’t have been a total waste. Then I’ll be googling different hairstyles and blogging about it.
    Anyway, after careful deliberation, I did whatever I normally do before making any hasty decisions and texted the Oompa Loompa earlier today when we were on the way home from our weekly shopping excursion, and shared the picture with her. 
    “I don’t know, it looks a little butch.”  She replies in the text back.  For added effect, feel free to add Doris Roberts’ classic Marie Barone voice.  Then she says, “Why don’t I get you a makeover for Christmas?  We can do some research and find another one that doesn’t look so…manly?”
    Mind you, my mother has seen me shop for my tee-shirts in the mens’ department for as long as I could remember.  She knows that getting me to wear a dress is like trying to peel the white off of rice.  She knows that I find shopping for shoes, purses, bras, anything ‘feminine’ to be about as much fun as a root canal.  She knows that I loathe parties or being invited to parties because it usually means I have to plan for those aforementioned ‘root canals.’  My dress-donning days are over, though.  Both of my sisters got married a few years ago and I was bridesmaid to both.  One dress has been donated to Goodwill and the other one narrowly escaped the burn pile, only because I’d buried it so far back in my closet and couldn’t find it when it came time to make these abominations a distant memory.  I still have the shoes, though, shoes that I never will wear again and only save so my godchild can use them when she plays dress-up.
    I’m just amazed at how much my mother, even though she’s accepted my lifestyle and has accepted J as my same-sex partner, is still a little too concerned about my image or what I wear, or that I don’t wear make-up.  Too often I’ve heard that I had to look “pretty” or dress up because someone was having a 90th birthday party next month and it wouldn’t be appropriate to wear ‘those ugly shoes’ or ‘those pants that make you look like a man’ or the same shirt you wore to Aunt Bertha’s funeral.  
    bit*h, please.  If they’re lucky enough to make it to 90, they aren’t going to give too many shits about what I’m wearing!  But you kind of see where I’m going with this…it’s always the same with her.  If I look or act like an idiot, it reflects badly on her and we can’t have that, now, can we?
    Back to the picture I showed her of Halle Berry…it is by no means masculine…at least, not to me.  It’s sleek, neat, elegant almost.  It’s gorgeous.  A given - I do not look like her in any way.  In fact, I am the complete opposite of Halle Berry.  She’s tall, I’m short.  She’s thin, I’m not. I can add to this list, but the gist of what I’m getting from my mother’s comment - the hair may look good on Halle Berry but on me, it looks ‘butchy.’  
    I almost instantly got annoyed as soon as that text came in and had to refrain from throwing my phone through the windshield.  J was driving and listening to music and at the same time, me swearing.  If only my mother knew how many times she has been the cause of my random swearing outbursts and my poor wife has had to listen to me come up with creative new ways to cuss out my mother.  Ay yi yi yi yi…  
    Eventually J asked why I cared so much about what my mother thought and why her opinion mattered so much.  
    I don’t even know the answer to that.

    See, if you ask me, she cares too much about what HER friends think.  I’m pretty sure she will tell everyone the success stories of her other two ‘normal’ daughters, before she talks about the one who was married at 21, divorced at 29, with a new partner at 30, oh, and let’s not forget that her new partner is the same sex, too.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s been wonderful around J and fully supports my decision to hop on over to the ‘dark side’ but I can’t help but suspect she doesn’t worry about the images of her other two daughters as much as she does mine.  
    I mean, one sister married an alcoholic three-year-old (says on his birth certificate that he’s thirty-something, but he often throws tantrums and acts as if he’s three) that looks like the title character of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ with this ridiculous ponytail we all envision cutting off one day, just because.  They already have one kid (who really is three) that was diagnosed with autism.  You’d think my sister would have enough sense to give up her theater days but she feels more comfortable dumping my autistic nephew into my mother’s care while she continues to pursue her dreams of someday becoming a Broadway star.  She got started with her crooning and performing when she was about four or five years old and no one has had the heart to tell her that she has about as much natural talent as a drunk banshee.  And even better - she’s currently pregnant with her second kid, another child that my mother will likely have to raise because she’s too busy running lines instead of a household.  She doesn’t cook.  She doesn’t clean.  She just sings badly.  My brother-in-law will pick up most of the slack at home, but even he’s annoyed and I’ve had to come to the conclusion that she is the main cause of his childish tantrums.  That just isn’t a stable situation at ALL.  
    Now, let’s talk about Sister number two.  This is the sister that I feel closer to, even though she’s further away in age from me than sister number one.  One, unfortunately has no filter on her mouth and often comes across as an overly critical piece of work.  This results in a lot of family tension and dirty looks from my children.  Two is more soft-spoken and knows when to hold her tongue.
    So, naturally, Sister number two is an overall better person and a more enjoyable person to be around.  She did marry a much nicer, better-looking, sweeter man.  They welcomed a daughter last month. Both are medical professionals.   They have a nice house that they paid way too much for.  About a week after the birth of their daughter, he had to return to work, so Sister number two calls up Mama, who, in turn, drops everything and rushes over there to help her care for the baby.  And this, I understand….we ALL need a little extra help when a new baby arrives.  But, man, oh, man she milks it.  Just like for years before she got married, she milked it.  She lived at home until the day she was married, even though she and her husband had an apartment already.  She spent most of her time at Mom’s house, eating Mom’s food and letting Mom take care of her laundry, pack her lunches for work, etc.  Her reasoning was, ‘Mom’s house was closer to her job,’ but I know that it’s simply because my mother enables her ‘let Mommy take care of it’ behavior.
    I wanted to go and see the little one last week and Mom texted me the day before to ask what I was bringing.  “Say what?” I ask.  Mom proceeds in telling me that Sister number two doesn’t cook, either.  Apparently, for the last month, my mother, as well as any visitors who have gone to see her has brought some kind of prepared-to-heat meal for her.  And it would be most helpful if I could throw together a lasagna or something that she could pop in the oven for dinner one night.
    “Mom,” I said, “She’s thirty years old.  She’s not the first woman on the planet to reproduce.”
    My mother made as many excuses as possible.  She’s tired, she just had a baby, her husband is working all the time, she’s overwhelmed, she’s a first-time mother, baby won’t let her do anything.…  Meanwhile I’m not buying that because well, isn’t my mother also there, every single damn day?  Can’t she hold the baby while my sister cooks her own dinner???  Then she starts with, “Your other sister brought her a pot pie the other day from Costco…because you know she doesn’t cook.”
    “Neither does this one, obviously!”
    “Out of the three, you’re the cook.  So maybe you can bring her something yummy.”
    I probably would have, because I’m nice.  But, I ended up not going to see my niece because both J and I came down with a stomach bug.  I’ve got plans to see her on Thanksgiving weekend, though.
    But I got to thinking about how much she enables those two for things that are far more serious than a dress or a haircut.  
    Look…when I had my son at 21, I took care of him.  My then-husband went to work every day and I was alone with a colicky child all day.  I shopped, did laundry for and prepared dinner for a family of five. (Husband and his two older children in addition to me and an infant = 5) I took the baby as well as his older two children to doctor appointments, took them to school, picked them up.  It wasn’t a paying job but it was a job.  I didn’t have a singing hobby on the side.  I think I called my mother to babysit only a handful of times when hubby and I would have our bowling night but as far as hobbies go, that’s about all I did with that three hours of freedom per week.  She used to complain that she didn’t see my children enough.  Now her biggest complaint is my having moved 2 hours away from her, from both sisters, and she feels even less needed by me.   They, and their children consume so much of her time and she often expresses anger at my moving so far away because I’m not there to help her help them.  Of course, she masks it all by saying she misses me.  I’m sure she does, but I think she’s just bitten off more than she could chew and spread herself too thin, simply because she is trying to uphold her idea of what the image of a perfect mother and grandmother is like.  She delights in hearing what other people have to say about her, it’s her way of making sure she’s successful.
    “What did your friend think of me?”  She’ll ask me after she’s met one of my friends.  I usually have to lie because any one of my friends already knows my mother before they meet her in person.
    “They want a mother just like you.”
    “I’m the best.”  She’ll say.
    The best enabler, maybe.  The best whiner.  The best pain in my ass.
    Meanwhile, what kind of an image have I provided for these two sisters of mine?  There’s me who is so used to dealing with things my own damn self…and then there’s these two who, because they allowed her to take over and be such a dominant figure in their married lives, have proven themselves useless and far too reliant on my mother.  And in turn, my mother meddles just enough within their lives to make herself look good in the process.  
    I’m pretty sure that in her world, there’s a lot of “Oh, would you look at that?  Look at Vee’s daughter, such a talented singer…and she’s got children at home, too!”  Or, “Look at this one, just had a baby, can you imagine how rough she has it, she juggles a newborn, long hours and prescriptions!”  Then of course when it comes to me, she’s afraid of hearing, “Oh…that one…she doesn’t have a job.  She’s home all day, she’s a bit of a hermit…and she’s just got a butch haircut.  Sssh.  I think she’s a lesbian.”
    Well…guess what?
    I don’t care.  I don’t give a shit.
    I don’t care what image my having short hair puts forth.  If it makes me look like the son she never had, then so be it.  
    I don’t care if I end up hating it because the sight of a pissed off Oompa Loompa will look funnier than me, any day.  Plus, hair grows back, so it’s not a life sentence.  
    At the end of the day, I care only what J thinks.  And she already has the image of me that she wants.  Hair isn’t something that matters to her.  Looks don’t matter to her.  (If they did, she would have chosen Halle Berry, hands-down.) 
    I already have the image of myself that I need.  I’m Vee’s daughter, but I’m also me.  I’ve worked hard to be the highly perceptive person I am today.  My sisters may be the ones with careers, but life-wise, I can safely say I’m smarter.  Aside from being the oldest, I’m sure a lot of life experiences have contributed to my being the way I am, and I’ve accepted that a long time ago.  From the time I got married too young, I’ve marched to the beat of my own drum.  I think the outcome you see in me today is truly a result of having broken away from Mama’s clutches before she could do any further damage.  
    It didn’t take too much longer than the drive home from Walmart, but I’ve decided that by the end of this week, I’ll have a new ‘do.  I’ll be sure to post whether Mama survives the heart attack she’s likely to have when I Face-Time her to show her my new haircut.  
    Maybe she’ll surprise me and say she loves it.  (I do have to keep in mind, I’ve lied to her about liking her haircuts for years.)  Maybe she can do the same for me.  I wouldn’t even care if she lied. 
    I just need her to stop trying to mold me into a person that I’m not.  
    Just like you simply can’t shape clay that’s already hardened into its permanent form.  
    Until next time,
    - Capulet
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. Capulet
    *Trigger warning - this very lengthy post discusses some of my broken up/fragmented memories and behaviors as a child.  No actual CSA details are shared, simply because I can’t remember any.  But some of these memories may be triggersome and I ask you all to please take gentle care while proceeding. 
    Today, I want to talk about something called validation.  Or the lack of, when it’s otherwise referred to as its counterpart - invalidation.  This is a term known all too well by survivors of sexual abuse and the many ugly forms it takes.
    Validation is something we seek more than we do most other things.  It’s that priceless feeling of being given air when we’ve been deprived underwater for long enough that we feel close to drowning.  It’s a form of relief that doesn’t come easily and I don’t know if I’m divulging a huge secret here - but it’s what we, as survivors, want more than anything else as we heal from the emotional turmoil that we now recognize as a permanent stain in the fabric of our lives.  
    Looking back at myself when I was a child saddens me.  Not only did I have the worst haircuts and a wicked overbite, I also had secrets that although I knew they were very real for me, they wouldn’t be considered normal if I were to be compared to my peers.  It wasn’t as easy as comparing stickers in an album or whose Barbie doll had nicer clothes or who had more charms on those 80’s plastic charm necklaces (remember those?).  My questions for them were ones that I knew even as a child that it was inappropriate to ask.  And so, I didn’t.  I said nothing, I went on thinking that I was different, I was crazy, I was the weird one. 
    You see, as an adult, I now have too many thoughts, too many contributing factors, too many suspicions preventing me from throwing up my arms and walking away from it all.  Especially since I cannot remember the possibility of certain events or occurrences that would have caused me to react in certain ways.  But even I can’t lie to myself anymore and say that there’s nothing there.  If I don’t have memories, then there’s nothing to remember, right?
    Wrong, wrong, WRONG on so many levels.
    I do not remember the circumstances nor the order of events, but I know now that something was truly off in the early years.  That’s the only explanation I can give for my subsequent behaviors as a young child.  There was something wrong with me.  Something happened, and I can’t say what the cause was for every effect, but overall, I know this…children don’t behave in an unnatural manner unless this behavior is learned or otherwise adopted as a means of self-preservation or coping.  Children do not come equipped with the knowledge or understanding or even the correct words to explain or describe their feelings.  No, that comes much later on in adulthood, and usually not before they are able to identify that what happened to them was likely a result of sexual abuse.
    And now, I’ll talk about the things and behaviors I do recall, now that I’m at least thirty years older and wiser.  I’m sure many people wonder why I dredge it up, why now, after so many years have gone by and nothing is going to be done about it?  Why not just forget it?  
    I’ll answer that, first. Partially it is because I still feel like I personally, for my own peace of mind, need to make sense of it all.  It’s part of the fine-toothed comb method of analyzing myself as an individual, identifying my past and present behaviors and trying to make sense of them so that I can finally move on, only this time with a wealth of information that will enable me to accept things that I can now recognize as facts.  Another part of me wants to be heard, to be believed, and to be validated.  I guess it all falls within the whole theme of this post. 
    One day, when I was a child, I remember being asked by an adult (unsure of what role she played…Was she a teacher?  A counselor or therapist?) why, during playtime, I made the Ken doll inappropriately touch the Skipper doll.  When asked who Ken was supposed to be, I said, “my uncle.”  I remember my mother being called.  And then, I never saw that lady again.
    I do remember soon after that, two different ladies showing up at my house with questions.  One of them pointed between her legs and asked me if I knew the name of that body part.  There was an investigation, not sure if it was official or unofficial, as no one ever took the time to explain to me why they were asking me such questions.  I do not know what went on behind-the-scenes, I was never made privy to any of that information, not back then and certainly never after it was all over.  I do recall my mother feeling the need to speak for me, though, possibly because as an individual, she is constantly trying to keep the peace, even if it means sweeping things under the rug.  I don’t know whether she fully understood the seriousness of the situation, or chose to turn a blind eye because it was something she couldn’t handle properly.  Either way, she convinced me, and quite possibly herself, that I, at the age of six, had miscommunicated the situation.  Had he only “smacked” my rear end because I didn’t behave?  To that, I answered yes.  Because my genitals/behind were in the same general area, that seemed an acceptable answer to these investigators.  Then, I remember nothing further, after I eventually told the ‘investigators’ myself, from my six-year-old mouth, that it had all been a horrible mistake.  
    I do believe that whatever had been going on prior to this, ended here.  Nothing more was done.  I maintained a relationship with my uncle. I saw him at family gatherings, I saw him at holidays.  A lot of time was spent together.  He used to take me to movies.  I remembered NOTHING from before the investigations, even though I would have been more likely to remember things back then, being only a few years away from the actual time frame where this would have occurred.  I’d remember more back then, wouldn’t I?  Certainly I couldn’t make more sense of it now that so many years have passed?  Time has repeatedly proven that theory incorrect.
    Even though I had no concrete memories of the possible causes, the ‘abnormal’ behaviors continued in the background.  And this is where it used to be embarrassing or shameful to share.  I mean, who would?  It’s private, personal stuff that would have been the exact reasons my classmates picked on me or made fun of me when I was a child and that would have been my worst nightmare.  And so, I said nothing, I held on to my secret behaviors, I hid them from every living soul.
    I, however, am now at a point in my life where I want to console, and also, validate that younger version of myself and tell her that I now understand why.  I understand why she repeatedly soiled herself, mostly during the elementary school years.  I understand why her hands wandered, mostly in the bathtub.  I understand why she craved the feeling a climax/orgasm provided, craved it enough to bring it on herself when she was as young as eight years old.  And I understand why this behavior continued all the way until she was in high school.  I understand now why I was brought to my first therapist when I was also around eight.  What I DON’T understand is why the therapy ended so abruptly a couple years after that.  I can only assume that since a resolution was never presented, that perhaps she was getting too close and it was nipped in the bud before any more ‘damage’ could be done.  I suppose that’s laughable considering how much had already been done.  
    The days, months, years that followed made me further question myself and who I was as a child.  For the most part, I knew that I was me.  But I also knew there was something very wrong with me.  Something that I didn’t have the tools to explain, and wouldn’t otherwise recognize until I was much older, much smarter and much more aware of the sick and twisted world we live in.  
    It all came to a head when my son was just under a year old.  My Grandmother’s death played a very strange role in my coming to terms with what very possibly happened to me at the hands of my uncle.  Let me explain.  When she was alive, she lived in a 2-family house, he resided in the apartment upstairs from her.  They had every meal together.  She took care of him.  He never married, he never had a family of his own.  He basically had his mother prepare every meal for him, he would come downstairs only to eat, or whenever we came over, but for the most part, he was a hermit living the better part of his days in that shit-sty he called home.  He was/is a priest, for crying out loud…a priest.  *insert the bright red flags here!*  He was never a ‘real’ priest to me.  He didn’t get paid to do what he did, he had a small chapel in his apartment upstairs.  He said mass daily, in his chapel, to a congregation of statues.  I am remembering he had the Blessed Mother, Jesus, Joseph, other saints in statue form, and more often than not, those made up the audience he preached to.  He didn’t belong to any church we could have visited him at.  If you ask me, he was entirely full of shit, he was a fake, he wasn’t a good person, and I could tell this of him without any of the past examples that still fester in the darkest corners of my mind today. But regardless, he was my uncle and a part of me loved him even if only for that reason.  His faults and shortcomings were overlooked, because a child’s affections are unconditional.  
    (And now that I think of it, this is probably where most of my issues with religion and faith come from!  But, that’s a topic for another time.)
    Anyway, Grandma fell ill when I was in my very early twenties.  It was ultimately complications from her osteoporosis that she passed away from, and devastated us all.  I was married to my (now ex) husband and we had our son, who was just under a year old.  The time came for us to go through her belongings, so I went to the house she shared with him to sort through what I might want to keep of hers.
    As soon as we walked in, it was like, a flip had been switched.  From off to ON.  The workings of the mind have always been fascinating to me, but this was by far the most intriguing self-realization that I’d ever experienced.  
    All of my Grandmother’s belongings were gone.  The room that used to be her bedroom was now empty and he had transferred those stupid statues from his chapel upstairs to downstairs, and there they all were, where my Grandma used to sleep, not even a week prior.  There was Jesus, Mary, Joseph, St. John the Apostle, other people from the Bible I didn’t know the names of nor did I ever want to know their names, having always experienced a sort of a mental block whenever it came to learning religion.  
    That wasn’t even what did it, though.  I looked at him and listened to him as he shared his plans to expand his chapel and to make the entire downstairs his own personal space.  All this when my Grandma hadn’t been dead a week, yet.
    At this moment, an overwhelming, freezing feeling came over me.  It hit me like a speeding train.  What was once dark was now bright and was staring me in the face.  Everything in me tightened, even the muscles in my brain.  It’s so difficult to explain but perhaps that was the part of my brain that held onto what I only knew and still know as only possibilities.  Either way, thoughts were coming at me from multiple directions, almost comparable to the image of a stuffed animal, tied to a post and arrows being shot at it from every available angle.  None of these arrows caused me (if we’re using the stuffed animal analogy, then that would be me) any pain, but to remove them all would have left behind multiple holes.  Holes, that I know can be patched up in time but never will this stuffed animal be the same.  No, not when now, this stuffed animal, this wounded creature, now sees these holes.
    I realized at that moment that I loathed this man.  My uncle, the priest.  The man I spent so much time with when I was a very young child.  The man who used to walk over at night and tuck me in before bedtime.  FYI, I attribute this time frame to be from when I was about three to four years old, because I remember my mother to have been single at that time.  He was the default babysitter/caretaker while she worked or was otherwise busy, which was easy, considering we lived in a tiny little studio apartment around the corner.  He’d have made comments about how he used to come tuck me in at night, and when asked about it now, I don’t remember.  I don’t remember him coming over at night AT ALL.  So what else was there that I didn’t remember?  That, along with other things, flooded my memories and I found myself having to sit down while I processed these new thoughts.
    I hated him, I hated how he looked, I hated how he SMELLED.  He has a birthmark on his hand.  I hate that birthmark, too, it makes me feel uncomfortable.  It makes me feel uneasy, sick to my stomach.  My feelings of hatred were joined by feelings of nausea and I had to keep myself from vomiting all over St. Anthony’s porcelain sandals.  I left there that afternoon and in the weeks that followed, I found myself questioning all of the behaviors I’ve talked about so far.  Was this the reason?  Was this why I was taken to therapy?  Why can’t I remember if he did anything to me to cause this overpowering feeling of hatred?  It’s not something I enjoy admitting that I feel about another human being but there’s no alternative word that fits.
    So here’s the dilemma.  At this point, I can’t remember details.  I don’t know what he did to me.  I’m fairly certain something happened but have absolutely no evidence to support it.  So I kept a distance.  I began to decline his invitations to go for lunch, to come for a visit.  It was progressive, but it was made clear to him that now that my Grandmother was no longer living, there was absolutely no reason for me to go to the house anymore.  And so, I saw very, very little of him in the few years following her death.
    Aside from the epiphany I experienced at my late Grandmother’s house, there have been very minimal “telling” moments, one of which came at a time the sonofabitch got sick, himself.  He was hospitalized, and my mother called to strong-arm me into going to see him.  Out of respect for her, and because he was her last living relative, I agreed to go and see him.  I told my husband to leave the car running and went up by myself.  I went to his room, where I found him laying in the bed alone.  He wore a gown.  He looked like the most pathetic excuse for a human being I’d ever seen in my life. 
    I sat in a chair, saying nothing.  I think I managed a weak “hello, how do you feel?”  It might have come out as one word.  “Hellohowyafeelin’?”  Either way, I was not there for him or for myself.  I was there for my mother, because I knew it would have made HER happy that I was there.
    He started sobbing.  His shoulders heaved.  He blubbered something about how sorry he was that we were enemies.  He then says in between tears that he didn’t mean it.
    I didn't know what the hell to do with that.  I told him that M had the car running because there was no parking.  I had to go.  I couldn’t sit there any longer.  And so, I got up and left.  I didn’t look back.  
    I did the next best thing that I could do for myself.  I cut him out of my life, completely this time.  I refused to visit him anymore.  I did not respond to any of his emails, his phone calls, his letters.  There was a point in time where he sought me out on Facebook and tried to initiate a conversation.  I deleted it without answering.  He may be still living on this Earth, but to me, he’s dead.
    I wasn’t and still am not ready to share with my mother my reasons for losing my shit whenever I hear that he’s going to be present at a family function such as a wedding or a funeral, these things cannot always be helped, but I’m ALWAYS requesting that he be seated as far across the room from me as possible.  She has asked why I’m so angry with him and I admittedly hide behind my Grandmother’s death and tell her that I have a hard time dealing with how he was able to move on so quickly and so disrespectfully, I didn’t like how he treated her when she was alive.  Of course, there’s a whole lot more than that, more reasons that I don’t dare share with her.  For now, that quells her and she knows now that I want nothing to do with him.  Additionally, if I can’t help the situation, (him being at the same family gathering as me) I do not allow him near my children, even though they are past the age where most damage can be done.  Still.  I don’t want him looking at me, I don’t want him looking at them, telling THEM how much they look like me.  I want none of that, as much as I want answers, I want the truth, I want validation!
    Here’s the tricky thing about validation, though.
    When you have no concrete memories, how do you  know the validation you receive is of the truth?  Just because it’s your own truth, doesn’t make it one hundred percent accurate.  And that is one of my fears.  I don’t know that I want validation for something that I question, something I have doubts about.  I need to be sure.  I need my truth to BE the truth.  I’ve asked myself that if he were to confess, would that be enough for me?  Was what he said in the hospital the closest thing I would ever get to a confession?  
    As of today, it is.  So I’m going with that.  
    In closing, I can’t help but wonder what a difference it would have made if I’d had the validation I didn’t know I needed when I was a little girl.  Validation from my mother, who instead of being the number one protector in my life, became my first invalidator.  Validation from the stupid-ass therapist I saw for two years, who obviously didn’t know how to do her job correctly.  (And I say this knowing that I don’t have the full story.  She may have said or attempted to say something that resulted in the subsequent pull from therapy.)  Either way, I have no answers there.  
    And so, I shall remain forever invalidated by my mother.  I will maintain the not-too-close, not-too-estranged relationship I have with her, because let’s face it…she’s my mother and I do love her.  She does a lot for me and for my children (perhaps out of guilt she’ll never admit to) and continues to do a lot for us today.  She did not physically harm me.  She did what she felt needed to be done at the time for my own protection, not necessarily the best course of action, but I accept it as the ONLY thing she felt she could do.  I imagine it got too overwhelming for her, so she threw up the blinders and hoped for the best.  I know that, now.  
    I can safely say that not only because of childhood, but because of other contributing factors, my trust has to be earned, and her actions have made it very difficult for me to trust her.  And so, given she did not effectively protect me as a child, I continue to refuse to share with her other things that have happened, things unrelated to my uncle and his suspected abuse.  
    Thinking back, I believe it’s a tit-for-tat kind of thing.  She had one job, one chance to do the right thing.  She didn’t, for whatever reason, or at least, she didn’t do it properly.  So, in turn, I will not share with her parts of my life that I feel are important enough for a mother to have input in.  For example, the first time I had sex.  I’ve had sex with multiple people and to this day, I tell her that I’ve only been with my ex-husband and my current partner.  It just saddens me that she is not someone I want to share with, these little things/first experiences that a daughter would ideally go to her mother for.  But I think all this mother stuff may be better reserved for a future post because there’s more that lies under the surface there; more that I need to fully comprehend in order to put it all into words.
    Anyway.  That’s my take on validation/invalidation for now.  I know a lot of other stuff seeped through, but it all goes hand-in-hand with the topic of validation. 
    I’m always, always thinking.  My eyes are wide open, as is my mind.  Please bear with me while I try and make sense of all of this.  I thank you all for listening and reading, if you’ve made it this far.  I welcome any thoughts and/or comments.  Like so many others, I’m trying to figure it all out and I know no one can do this alone.
    - Capulet
  14. Capulet
    Let it be known that we have five adopted pets that I adore with all of my heart.  All of them are currently of the feline species, but contrary to the title of this blog entry, none are named ‘Peeves.’  
    I think though, that in the future, I’ll consider calling a kitten by the name of Peeves, simply because the term ‘pet peeves’ is not only a humorous play on words, it’s my favorite way to describe those itty bitty details that annoy me to no end.  Not to say that a kitten would add to my level of annoyance.  Not at all.  I am a complete sucker for kittens.  They’re cute, they’re playful and I’m proud to say I’ve bottle-fed my share of kittens and rescued and still have a couple others.  I just think it’ll be kind of cool to refer to an actual pet as ‘Peeves.’  I like to think I’m creative that way. 
    On a serious note, let it also be known that cats are the most blunt little assholes you’ll ever come to know and love.  They don’t sugar coat anything.  They let you know when they’re pissed off.  They knock shit off of the countertops while looking you in the face at the same time.  They challenge you.  They take chances.   They turn any room in the house into their own personal playground, regardless of how many times you’ve tried to offer them alternatives.  They take turns playing ‘chase me!’ in the middle of the night when everyone else is trying to sleep.  By now we know that any random crashing or shattering of objects during the wee hours is the likely result of having five nocturnal children who have no idea the difference between a dollar-store figurine or that vase passed down by your great grandmother from Italy.  Buy them a thirty to fifty dollar scratching post only to find they prefer to scratch the side of the $1200 couch, instead.  Order them a fancy-schmancy cat toy, they’ll show you gratitude by demonstrating that they prefer the plain old cardboard box it arrived in, instead.  Cats are highly intelligent little shits that KNOW it annoys you when they do these little things, and frankly, they don’t give a damn.  You can holler all you want at a cat and in return, you get a view of their behind when they walk away from you.  They simply don’t care.  
    I think these little jerks are onto something, though.  
    One male cat we have is highly temperamental about his back paws being touched.  We can pet him anywhere and he will purr like there is no tomorrow, but when we get anywhere near the back paws, he’ll give us that look that tells us that if we proceed, we WILL require stitches.  Another cat we have is very apprehensive in general about any new people he encounters, but absolutely loathes my ex-husband.  Which, of course, we don’t blame him for.  He’s not our favorite person, either.  My ex has tried to pet him, only to be rewarded with the full-on, ears-back hiss that would make even the lion tamers at the circus think twice.  Then we have three female cats that each have their own specific quirks of their own.  One of them, a rescue, doesn’t like to be touched at ALL.  She will however allow you to pet her for no more than two seconds before she decides that she’s had enough of the likes of you and she’ll saunter off.  There’s one who will sit at the table thinking we will give her food (and she’s usually right, we end up tossing her some scraps) and there’s our oldest girl, that doesn’t care if you have had a hard day or are simply too tired to pay her any extra attention…when she wants affection from you, she will demand it by plopping herself on whatever pillow she wants, even if your head is already on it.  
    I think, basically, what I’m trying to say is - a cat will effectively let you know when it’s time to back off, and they have no fear of making you aware when something bothers them.  They don’t care if they offend you in the process.  It is after all, not about you at all. 
    I think this is something I need to teach myself.  I never want to offend anyone, especially when I know that to be bothersome is not the initial intent.  I’ve done a lot of apologizing over the years for times I’ve reacted unfavorably to something done by someone else.  I’m also of the belief that some of these little peeves are as a result of my history, leading me to the creation of this entry/post.  
    Here’s an example of one of my personal peeves…
    My lovely wifey, J, and I go bowling twice a week.  When we go bowling, it’s mostly just to get out and have fun…but at the same time, it’s a league so there is the competitive element behind it all.  However, it’s not that competitive that we can’t show decency, respect and sportsmanship.  When someone from the opposing team throws a strike, the nice, sportsman-like thing to do would be to hold your hand out for them to ‘five;’ it’s a league thing and simply a nice thing to do.  Every league I’ve been on has this unwritten rule, or a code, for lack of a better word.  Anyway, I’m fine with showing sportsmanship even if my team isn’t doing well at that time.  
    So, that being said, let’s rewind to last Friday’s bowling night.  We were getting slaughtered.  Not only was the other team bowling WAY higher than their averages, we, in turn, had forgotten that the purpose of bowling was to knock down all ten pins.  None of us were marking (getting a strike or spare = 'mark') and we were all kind of thinking to ourselves why we sucked so badly.  Anyway…I hold my hand out next time one of the guys on the opposing team throws a pocket shot.  He comes back and instead of the traditional quick hand tap, his ‘five’ seemed more like a ten or a fifteen.  His hand kind of lingered on top of mine.  Now, I know that’s not something that would normally bother someone (or is it?) but I didn’t like that at all.  Still, I’m certain the guy didn’t mean anything by it.  If anything, he was being overly friendly.  
    If I was a cat, though, I probably would have hissed and let them know with a unexpected swat that that didn’t please me.  But then that would have raised the question of my sanity above all.
    Instead, the next time he threw a strike, I decided to change things up a little.  I still held my hand out, but decided that I was going to call the shots.  A five is a five.  Not a ten or a fifteen.  Not a caress.  Not a palm reading.  Not a let’s-hold-hands-now moment.  Nope.  A five is a five.  And that’s IT.  

    So my hand is out.  He goes to tap it.  As soon as his fingers touched the palm of my hand, I pulled it back and did not afford him the opportunity to make it last any longer than the second of contact.  Done.  I am all done, sir, and so are you. 
    I am entirely comfortable with sharing little pet peeves with J.  In fact, she does this thing with cutting her nails with the little metal clipper we have in our end tables.  The noise it makes…I don’t know.  I guess while some have issues with nails on a chalkboard, the clipping of nails has the same effect on me.  No idea why.  Being avid bowlers, we aren’t long-nail type ladies, so we both trim regularly.  I’m not bothered when I cut my own; maybe because mine aren’t as thick as hers.  I don’t even hear it when I do cut my own fingernails.  But when she does hers and I’m nearby enough to hear it, I literally want to break something.  She’s gotten around to apologizing when she cuts her nails.  I’m sure it’s because she knows I’m trying to suppress the urge to walk away.  She knows I love her with every fiber of my being though, and if this is the only thing she does that annoys me, then I can live with that.  
    But this is even more important to take note of - this little peeve is something she thoroughly knows about as opposed to the days where I’d say nothing whenever something bothered me.  It should be always okay to share what bothers you.  I also feel that now, I am able to share without fear of offending her.  I know that because she has made me aware of things that I do that irk her, too.  Even if they’re not things that cause her discomfort, she can find the humor in the situation and we can laugh comfortably about it.  
    For example, my obsession with having TOTAL, PITCH BLACK darkness when it’s time to go to sleep.  
    Huh?  Okay, let me tell you about that, too.
    I’ve NO idea where this even came from.  My mother knows about this, as it’s been a thing of mine for as long as I can remember.  She refers to it as light-sensitivity.  I don’t know if that’s even a thing.  Is Count Dracula my father?  Because when it comes to light, even the littlest dot of light (like the power button to the cable box that even when the cable box is off, remains illuminated) I need to NOT see it when I’m trying to fall asleep.  I need to see nothing.  NOTHING at all.  It’s gotten to the point that sleeping somewhere else where I cannot control where any/all light may be coming from, is a nightmare.  I will go to lengths to avoid sleeping anywhere other than my own bed.  A visit to my mother’s house or even to the in-laws’ house is always dreaded, even if I have two or three weeks’ advance notice.  I’d sooner stay in a hotel, I think partially because I always feel nothing short of complete and total embarrassment having to do this nightly darkening ritual on someone else’s turf.  You can ask J about the time we went to Disneyland and I had to stand on a chair to cover the light on the smoke alarm.  It didn’t matter then because I wasn’t in someone’s home and I didn’t have to worry about them waking up to discover a well-placed sock on top of their DVD player.
    Even at home before bedtime, I’m going around the room, draping t-shirts or other items of clothing over the cable box, over the clock, over any little teeny tiny red or green dot that I can find.  This is of course, in addition to the drapes being closed, the blinds shut, any and all lights in the hallway turned off.  In the event that a hallway light is left on for whatever reason (a guest, kids still being up, etc) I will resort to blocking the light from underneath the door by laying a pair of pants across the floor at the foot of the door.  J will sit in bed and wait patiently while I do all of these things.  There are times when I’ll THINK I got them all and ten minutes after crawling into bed I’ll realize, NOPE!  There’s a little light on my cell phone flashing and I’ll get up and cover that, too.  I know she laughs at me, but that’s okay.  Is there anyone else who is like this?  I mean, I know there are some who prefer a little night light but this?  I don’t like bright lights.  I kinda feel like that cute, but skittish little Mogwai dude from Gremlins.  Bright lights!  Bright lights!  No bueno.  I prefer the soft ambient lights to those damn brights, any day.  
    Sunlight is not my friend, either.  I’m known to chain-sneeze whenever I step outside after being inside/unexposed to direct sunlight for an extended period of time.  That’s not a peeve, though, that’s a fact.  It’s called Achoo Syndrome.  And believe it or not, it’s actually a thing and it’s supposedly genetic.  My son and nephew are also sufferers of such a syndrome.  
    Mmm…I am also reminded that somewhere in Long Island, there is a nail salon that employs an Asian woman who was accidentally kicked in the face because she made the mistake of trying to massage my feet and toes during a pedicure.  I think it was one of the first times I’d ever gotten around to getting my feet done and it would also be the last for a very long while.  And fortunately for this poor woman, it was the last time I ever showed up at that particular establishment.  I did leave her an extra tip for her troubles, though. 
    I guess I don’t like my back paws touched, either.  Let’s add that to the list, while we’re at it.  I purposely avoid pedicures now, to protect other manicurists from suffering the same fate.    
    As I write this, my cats are asleep at the foot of my bed.  They’re such fascinating little creatures.  So full of personality.  So honest.  You know when they’re happy.  You know when they’re sad, scared, nervous.  You certainly know when they’re hungry or thirsty.  And you damn well know when they’re pissed off.  I admire how these cats fully grasp the concept of conveying their feelings.  I wish it was that simple for the human race.  Ever think about how much more simple life would be if we were all masters of that thing called communication?   
    How do you guys reckon a peeve is even born?  How does it develop?  How do you work through them?  (That is, assuming you don’t hiss, bite or scratch. If that’s your way, then my cats have already explained that part to me.)  
    Just a few things to ponder for tonight.  Hope everybody’s doing well.  Time for me to go cover some lights.
    - Capulet
  15. Capulet
    Can someone explain to me what the appeal is of a frozen breakfast sandwich?
    I'm not even talking Jimmy Dean.  I'm talking the Walmart brand.  Frozen.  $3.89 for a box of four sandwiches.  They're about a thousand calories each and are no bigger than a plum, plus the eggs are questionable as to whether they're real or just pretend eggs.  There's a sausage patty, also questionable as to whether they're made of mystery meat or real pork, which would surprise me.  
    My kids LOVE these things. And because getting them up in the mornings for school is a process that leaves very little time for healthy breakfasts, they'll usually grab one of these Walmart brand Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuits on their way out the door.  
    Once in a while, when I shop at Walmart (yes, if you've seen weird people at Walmart recently, you may have seen me...especially perusing the holiday clearances)...I will seek out such quickie meals for the kids, so that they have something in their bellies before school.  They will usually skip lunch (daughter more so than son, since he has half-day every day and will opt for lunch at home) simply because they don't find the school meals appetizing in any way.  I suppose I can't blame them there; MY middle-school cafeteria cook used to serve us slop that looked akin to vomit on a styrofoam tray.
    THIS morning, though, my two were arguing over who was going to eat the last "fake" breakfast sandwich.  She claims that he ate the last one on a day that there was only one left...(you do the math, two kids, four sandwiches in the box, two sandwiches per day = breakfast on Thursday and Friday mornings)...not sure how it got lopsided - perhaps because on occasion even the microwaveable breakfast didn't sound appeasing to one of them, but this particular morning, there was only one sandwich left in the freezer.  And he, before she could go looking for it, ate it.  In like, two big 17-year-old size chomps, it was gone.
    Swear to God, you would have thought he ate a filet mignon that she'd saved her allowance for months to buy....she lost her shit.  She went on for about thirty minutes before school about how much she couldn't stand her brother.  There might have been tears.  Some foot-stomping.  Some choice words screamed at his back when she thought I wasn't paying attention.  I vaguely remember shaking my head mumbling something about how the sandwich was now down my son's gullet and there was NOTHING that could be done, so I was going to walk away and drop the issue.  Along with making a mental note to buy more of those fucking sandwiches next time I went to Walmart.
    Fast-forward to last night - I was putting some groceries away and found the same thing I found that other morning.  A LONE SANDWICH.  A result of one morning when he'd come upstairs and fallen back asleep on the couch and hadn't eaten his breakfast.  (There, that's how it got lopsided...)
    So...there's a sandwich, wrapped in the clear cellophane.  I couldn't cover it with a package of chicken breasts fast enough.  She doesn't pay attention to much, nowadays.  She's 11.  But she saw that sandwich, clear as day.
    "DIBS!" She screeches.  "That's MY sandwich!  He ate the last one!"  Couldn't even tell her she was wrong about that, but I accepted that the sandwich was called for, and that I would guard that sandwich for her.
    Fast-forward to this morning.  Snow day!  No school.  Both kids came out of their rooms at just about noon - well rested and hungry.  She decided to have a can of Boyardee (another quickie meal that we really shouldn't keep buying) and when he finally came upstairs, he went straight to the freezer and lo and behold, spied the sandwich that his sister had called dibs on.  He reached in, thinking he'd struck gold.  
    It was like slo-mo.  
    Her eyes got wide.  
    MY eyes got wide.
    It was time to prevent a war.  Because if he would have gotten as far as opening that cellophane wrapper, there WOULD have been bloodshed. 
    "Yoursister'sbeensavingthat." I said to him, real quick.  
    "Whut?" The clueless teenage look we all know so well.
    "Your. sister. has. been. saving. that," I say again, holding my hand out.  "Surrender the sandwich."
    "Why can't I have it?" he wasn't seeing his sister about to scale the kitchen table and go ape-shit on him.  And just picture this, her lips saturated in Boyardee sauce, hair wild, eyes wide.  It wasn't pretty.
    "Because she's been saving it and she called dibs on it last night."
    He rolls his eyes.  Sandwich lands into my outstretched palm.  Crisis averted.  For now.
    Time to go to Walmart.  But I need the heat wave, first.  20's, I can deal with.  Negative temps are NO BUENO!  
    Hope y'all are staying warm.  
    - Capulet
  16. Capulet
    Sleep.  A very simple word, yet so complex.  Such a natural thing, we all do it.  We spend most of the beginning of our lives sleeping - and I guess, sometimes, the very end, too.  We all know how to do it - we rely on it to revitalize and to refresh.  
    I USED to know what sleep was.  I used to both love and hate it.  Now, I just plain hate it and WISH I could love it.
    I fought it when I was little.  I was the typical 'five more minutes?' kid when told to go to bed when I was in grade school.  Sometimes I would be forced to go to bed at 8:30, when MacGyver was on from 8-9.  I know, who does that?  My mother, that's who!  I'd plead with her, but when the 8:30 commercial came on, she'd clap her hands and tell me it was bedtime - she'd tape the rest.  And this was back in the day when we had to record on VHS - more often than not, it'd not even record properly and I'd have to wait for the re-run. Still, there was no arguing with Oompa - if I didn't go to bed on time and when I was told, she'd make me go to bed a half hour EARLIER the next night!
    FYI, Angus MacGyver (the Richard Dean Anderson version) was the first man I ever had a crush on.  I remember going to bed wishing he'd save me.  Maybe it was because I would be pouting over missing the second half of the episode but even on non-MacGyver nights, I'd lay there and dream up scenarios where he'd swoop in and rescue me.  From what, you ask?  I don't know.  I was maybe 9.  This was not a time I suspect anything was happening during - but perhaps subconsciously, I knew something wasn't quite right and I was in search of a hero.  And MacGyver was my favorite - mullet and all - he always saved the day.  Or night.  He was my superhero, one that didn't fly or shoot lasers out of his eyes - but still someone who, although fictional, made me feel safe.
    I was a sleepwalker in childhood, too.  I am unable to say for sure when this started but it was MOSTLY stopped before I hit my teens, although there were a couple of isolated incidents as a teenager.  This, I don't know too much about, save the 'stories' my parents would tell me - they saw me walk the hallways, they wondered if I was up for a midnight snack - I'd open and close kitchen cabinets, I'd wake up with no memory of any of it, and it was never really made a big deal of - it was normalized - and I wonder sometimes if this was done so in order to further prior coverups/explanations that this was another 'deaf' thing.   
    Another unusual sleep-related event that is probably pertinent to mention - I was (and still am) a rocker.  I rock to FALL asleep.  I rock IN my sleep.  I rock as a prerequisite to sleep - sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for several - before flopping onto my belly and finally being ready to fall asleep.  This started in very early childhood - the self-rocking prior to sleep.  'It's a security thing,' Oompa had said, 'maybe it's because you can't hear?'  (I've yet to meet another deaf rocker, so I honestly don't think this has anything to do with hearing - especially since Oompa ALSO would try to encourage me to 'stop rocking' by way of incentives and 'rewards.')  Eventually she would also give up on this; perhaps when she realized it was something that couldn't easily be helped and I'd be rocking IN my sleep and in most cases, automatically.  I do remember this being a topic of discussion between her and my T that I saw when I was a child.  This was one of my 'behaviors' that she couldn't make sense of.  One of the behaviors, I think, she felt better attributing to my hearing loss rather than to the possibility of there being something worse.
    In high school, though, I NEVER needed to be told to go to bed.  I was in bed, rocking, by 9pm and I'd STILL give Oompa a hard time when she woke me in the morning.  She worked as a schoolteacher at the time, and she'd wake me in the mornings with a rough swat, shake or a poke - she'd be getting herself ready for work and didn't have time for the gentle, loving wake-ups.  I'd get annoyed and growl, 'I'm UP,' when I, in reality, was still trying to finish the dream I was having and would drift back off as soon as she left the room.  Minutes later, she'd return and she'd be PISSED if I was still sleeping.  
    I STILL remember the time she walked past my room and I still wasn't out of bed.  This particular morning, I wasn't feeling well and was having trouble.  I was propped up by my elbows in bed, not quite asleep but still trying to wake up.  She stormed past my bedroom to get to hers (next door) and when she saw I was still half-covered up with blankets, she hurled a hairbrush at me - like one of those uber-talented knife throwers at the circus - and the thicker part of the brush hit me RIGHT in the middle of my face, which caused my nose to bleed immediately.
    Yep, that got me moving.  And no, she never apologized for that.  I do remember making a smart-ass comment about it, to the effect of, 'do you even realize what you DID to me this morning?'  I want to say there was a moment where she looked slightly remorseful but, 'if you'd gotten up when I woke you - that wouldn't have happened,' was likely what she replied.  The nosebleed went away, but the memory did not.
    (Karma bit me on the ass on this one - MY 12-year-old is VERY difficult to rouse in the mornings!  Still, I do not bring hairbrushes with me when I go wake her - instead, I stand over her until she not only is awake, but is OUT of bed, too.) 
    My mother was not an explainer or a reasoner.  She was a warner, and then a smacker - physical discipline was what she'd been taught in HER childhood - her smacks stung, but were not to the point of being abusive, but still not a means of punishment that I've ever felt the need to take part in when it comes to handling my own kids - she feared the wooden spoon - my kids currently fear the wifi password being changed without their knowledge or their devices being taken away from them.  THAT, is equally as torturous as what I feared as a kid, for no such technology had even been invented yet.  My sisters and I were raised by different men - their father is a screamer - and day after day, he would come home from work and the three of us would sit on the couch and listen to his daily fit.  He'd scream about something.  It didn't matter what it was - something my mother said, something one of us kids did, an issue with the car, an issue with the house, an unexpected bill...no matter - the man screamed for up to an hour - every single night.  I had the luxury of 'turning him off,' (removing the hearing aid was usually the best course of action) and I'd sometimes find a small amount of amusement watching him 'muted.'  There were some VERY interesting facial expressions.   Additionally, he too was a smacker, more so toward his own two kids but I got my share of swats whenever deserved - won't lie.  I had my moments.  MY father, though - was a 'if it's not an issue of needing money, let your mother deal with it' kinda man.  Lord Capulet NEVER raised his voice to me.  He smacked me - ONCE - in my entire forty years of life - and it was one single smack onto my arm.  LOL.  I'll never forget that, actually - I was a teen and mouthed off to his wife, who had been annoying me in some way - hell if I remember what the issue even was.   His palm came down onto my forearm.  Didn't hurt.  Surprised me more than anything and effectively shut me up.  THEN, I got my (90's-style) laptop taken away for a week.
    Anyway - I seem to have strayed from the topic of sleep, which is what I originally set out to discuss.  I'll get back to that, now.  Everything mentioned prior to this was all before the age of seventeen, when the idea of 'normal' sleep would forever change for me.  Aside from the rocking. That remains the case, and this may be a good place to add a shout-out to my J, who has spent almost every night for the last decade, in the same bed as me and thankfully, can sleep through my rocking, rolling, flopping, leg-swinging and kicking, and from time-to-time, talking.   I got a good one.  I know I did.  
    I know I've discussed my poor sleeping habits before - we all know by now how sexual assault can affect sleep - I am no different in that respect. Aside from now wondering if some of these habits originated for reasons I've not yet come to understand clearly, I am finding that it's a constant struggle, even so many years after my own sexual assault.  I was a mother four years later - and mid-night feedings were a piece of cake because I was usually ALREADY up. This was NEVER something that I said to myself, 'Ok, this year, I'm going to get back on track with my sleeping.  I'll go to bed early, I'll get up early, I'll eliminate morning naps, I'll do this, I'll do that.'  Nope.  Never happened.  
    You would think that sleep was something I actually ENJOYED, based on how hard it was for me to get out of bed in my early teen years.  And I want to say I DO like it.  When it comes naturally and without hours of tossing and turning and without unnecessarily dosing myself with NyQuil just for the knock-out effect.  When it didn't usually bring forth unwelcome dreams, night terrors or the jolt-awakes.  Lately, I'm not able to sleep unless I'm EXTREMELY tired - in which case, the rocking lasts for no more than three to five minutes, and then I'm out cold.  Usually, to get to this point, I'll have had to have two or three consecutive nights of restlessness and be fully ready to crash.  I've taken to, though, trying to stay awake/occupied until my eyes are literally closing on me - because if I try to force the issue and go to bed before I'm THIS tired, I will end up tossing and turning and frustrating myself for hours before sleep takes over.  Then, by the time I'm sleepy enough to actually indulge in some REM, it's time to get up to get the daughter ready for school!
    Lately, it's been recommended that I try taking Melatonin twenty minutes before attempting sleep.  Over-the-counter stuff, no prescription was required.  'It works,' I was told.  It's not NyQuil, it's not addicting.  It's safe.
    I might be getting ahead of myself since the recommendation wasn't made directly.  It was actually J who introduced me to the 'swig' before bedtime - it was never really a full dose of NyQuil, but just enough to make her (and me when I'd join her for the swig) drowsy enough to drift off to sleep.  Now J's T has her on additional meds and has recommended Melatonin - something that J is finding hard to do because by now, she's got a long-standing NyQuil dependency.  We did, however, buy two bottles of Melatonin - one containing 5mg doses and the other containing 10mg doses.  
    I started with a 5mg tablet a couple nights ago.  I went to bed around 1am  - popped the Melatonin a little after 12:30.  I did feel tired soon after - and by 1, I was tucking myself in.  Did my few minutes of obligatory rocking and was soon asleep.  
    You'd think having taken a sleep aid would mean I'd sleep for more than two or three hours - I was jolted awake a little before 4am.  I have NO idea what happened here - if I was dreaming, I don't remember it.  It was still pitch-black in our room - usually it needs only for a light to come on three rooms over and I'm awake but that was also not the case.  And then it took me almost another two hours to go back to sleep.  Not too big a deal, but still disheartening.  And it's not even that I'm wide awake; I'm still TIRED after this little sleep, but my body just doesn't want to give in too easily to that deep sleep I crave.
    I've yet to try the 10mg tablet and will do so tonight.  If THIS one yields the same result, I'll assume that my body is simply too used to its current sleep cycles and patterns.  I don't think I'm even capable of sleeping more than three hours, four MAX, at a time.  I might have spent too many years training myself to function on little sleep, and now that I'll be hopefully starting school in September, I'm likely going to have my work cut out for me - trying to undo all these years of trying to avoid real sleep!
    Suppose I'll keep y'all informed.    And no, no real point to this blog entry, other than to say that getting this under control is something I'm going to have to work at.  Something I am going to have to be patient with myself in order to do, and I DO imagine there will be countless more tossy-turny nights before the restful ones show up.  
    But this sleep thing?  This, like so many other things in my life - is a struggle I strive to understand - and something I definitely need to correct.
    Anyway - sweet dreams and good night to you all.  I'm going to give it another try.
    - Capulet
  17. 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
  18. Capulet
    Hello, all!
    There's so much to update on but this week, the words elude me.  I guess I will just write, though - and see what flows.
    To start things off, we once again are hearing the pitter-patter of little paws in the house.  J has been feeling lately that void where Dexter used to be - he was her comfort, he always seemed to KNOW when she needed a cuddle.  So we adopted Salem - he's an 8-week old, all-black kitten.  Accompanying him is the plenty of scratches and teeth marks up our arms and legs - but all in all, we're happy and he's setting into his new home nicely.  He's not Dexter - nor will he ever be - but in some ways, he's already channeling our buddy, who will officially be gone two months on Thursday.  It still seems so unreal.  It IS, however, bringing content smiles to my beautiful wife's face, smiles I have not seen in a while.  If she's happy, I'm happy - and I gotta admit, the little guy IS cute!!
    Oompa came to visit, as promised.  I mentioned a couple of blog entries ago that she wanted me to 'greet' my uncle at my nephew/niece's birthday celebration - I chose not to.  My mother wasn't happy about this and stated that when she asks me for 'favors,' it's usually for a reason.  I asked at the time WHAT possible good reason there EVER could be for me to say hello to someone that I loathe.  She couldn't supply one at the time; she was likely at my sister's house and there were roaming eyes - so she said she'd tell me when she came to visit.
    Well - that visit came and went - and the only thing I was left with was a headache that lasted for two days post-Oompa departure.  While she was here, she tasked herself with the cleaning of my kitchen - (apparently she decided that my kitchen had excess 'clutter,' something that HER kitchen is not completely devoid of, nor was it ever!) and working on a blanket that she brought with her to crochet.  When she's at home, all she does is complain how tired she is - granted, she takes on way too much and this is her own fault - but when she's here, she won't go to bed until after 11.  (Yes, you may insert the moaning and groaning here!)  
    While she was here, she wanted to watch an episode of SVU.  Now, I don't watch this frequently - if it's on and there's nothing else of interest, I'll watch it - but I honestly lost track of the show during the Stabler days.  Anyway, my mother watches it weekly and did so on Thursday night - "watch with me," she said - so I did - but only because she'd be going to bed after and THEN I'd have my peace and quiet.  
    Anyhow, this particular episode - a man was about to get married and someone stood up in the church when the minister said, "speak now or forever hold your peace."  The woman who stood claimed, in front of all of the guests, that the groom had raped her.  I won't get into details in case any of you watch SVU and haven't seen this episode - but the accuser was investigated thoroughly, and my mother's commentary throughout was, 'oh, she's lying,' or 'I don't believe her.'  
    As it turns out, the woman wasn't being 100% truthful, but she was also not lying.  It's something you'd have to see to understand the full story of - but to hear my mother repeatedly invalidate this woman's words - it just further solidified that I can never - EVER - share with her.  Not about her brother, not about the isolated SA experience that further changed me.  None of it.  Instead, I have to pretend that I am unaffected by sexual assault; I have to shield from her, from most people around me, reasons for my being the way I am.  I am just not safe to emerge from behind that shield, yet.  I wonder, though, if I ever will be.
    I'm also momentarily propelled back into childhood when my mother would tell me that I lied, I made up stories.  For her to invalidate a fictional character was telling me that she was also invalidating ME - and so, even though I wanted to scream at her, I kept my mouth shut and 'put it in my sleeve.'  In a way, I'm GLAD she said nothing about her good-for-nothing brother - at this point, the anger I feel has bottled up over having to see him recently, (being asked to say HELLO to him, too?) is invalid because I'm a liar, too, just like this woman on television, and I made up a story when I was six years old.  If Oompa is of the self-imposed mindset that I made this up as a young child and is OKAY with that belief, then there's no changing it now, nor any motivation to try changing it.
    Come to think of it, perhaps this is why, for a full day after she left, I was feeling as if I was carrying a boulder (that was my head) atop my neck.  It was like there were a marching band making its rounds through my brain.  The throbbing was AWFUL.  I am glad to say, though, that has stopped and I'm feeling MUCH better and calmer now.
    SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) is in full swing, here - got the heads' up from M that this month's group would have to do with SAAM and we'd be designing and making Take Back the Night signs in Art Group tomorrow (Tuesday).  
    During the last several days' Mets games, I've been making loom bracelets in between pitches - I now have 20 of them - to distribute among the ladies at Art Group when I go tomorrow evening.  I think they'll love them - and I'm only wishing I could have made more. I probably would have, too, had I not run out of the color I needed - but I felt that SOMETHING needed to be done to spread awareness.  I've NOT participated in the #metoo movement on Facebook, even though a part of me did want to.  I've not posted anything on social media that could be interpreted as, "I'm a survivor," and no, it's not because I'm ashamed.  I've just got eyes (Oompa's, my kids', other family members') on my social media accounts (even if it's just Facebook and a somewhat-abandoned Instagram account) that I don't want seeing this side of me that I've chosen to keep private.  With what I've mentioned of my mother above, I do know not many would blame me for doing so, but at the same time, I feel angry that I've had to hold my tongue for so long, and that my reasons for keeping silent are for self-protection - I certainly don't wish to protect the man who raped me; he SHOULD be exposed for the animal he is - especially if he's living the good life that I know he doesn't deserve.  
    I went through HUNDREDS of black, white and teal rubber bands and although after the first two or three, the rest were woven in autopilot mode, I did do some reflecting as I put them together.  I'm going on 23 years since I was SA'd.  Yet, it still lingers, it still stings, it still tarnishes thoughts that would otherwise be beautiful. Yes, time has been good to me in the sense that some of these thoughts have lessened and I'm in an overall good place with all of it - but there's still the occasional reminder of that night.  I'm not even talking about the CSA that happened prior to the rape, I'm referring back to that night in 1996 when I'd be forced down an alternative path, one that was unmapped and held nothing but uncertainty.  
    I've also decided that in synchrony with going back to school and getting my Bachelor's in Social Work, I will also be exploring other ways of getting involved within my community.  I feel that I have spent enough time silently acknowledging that I am a survivor.  It is time to embrace the fact that I am not just a survivor, but one that is ready, willing, and able to interact with other survivors - even if on a peer level first.  I think I've kept this part of my life private for FAR too long - and it's time to emerge within my community as a 'known' survivor, even if it means continuing to keep my mother in the dark.  It's easier to do this now that I don't live so close to her and I've effectively managed to keep her at arms' length.  
    I've expressed a desire to M to, when the time comes, do my internship at the Women's Center where the monthly groups are held - and have made it known that I would like to volunteer there, as well as eventually apply for a job there.  She will be letting me know when I can speak to their volunteer coordinator - in October, it will be one year since I joined them at the center for groups, and that's the amount of time you need to be affiliated with them in order to be considered for volunteering services.  
    You know what's messed up, though?  In a small way?
    I did tell Oompa my plans to volunteer at the center.  And I told her that it was in preparation for the line of work I'll be going into once I've got my degree in hand and that they offer the training class to their volunteers for free - non-volunteers needed to fund this training course out-of-pocket.   She did ask why I would be going to a place like that or getting involved with them - and to tell her that it was because I wanted to eventually WORK there and not because it was because I BELONGED there - seemed...I don't know.  Like it was the truth, but not the whole honest truth.  I don't consider myself a dishonest person but to put it that way...it feels wrong.  Does that make sense?  
    A little?  Not at all?  Is my brain just in overdrive, per usual?
    For those of you who are observing SAAM alongside me - know that I stand next to you, whether or not you're observing silently.  I support you this month, and every month. I believe you.  And I am sending you one of my handmade loom bands, even if I've got to do it mentally.  
    Anyway.  Just wanted to empty off some of this chatter that is swirling within my brain.  I do think I'll be back within the next few days with another update, especially after tomorrow's Art meeting. 
    I am hoping everyone's having a fantastic day in your parts of the world!  Spring has officially sprung here - it is LOOKING like we are done with snow and 50-60 degree weather is here for at least the next ten days.  But living where I live is anything but predictable and that's subject to change.  Hoping not, though - I'd REALLY like to break out my outdoor furniture and get the back yard 'barbecue ready!'
    Until next time.  Sending y'all lots of love and hugs.  If you don't want the hugs, kindly pass 'em onto the person behind you.  I won't be offended. 
    - Capulet
  19. Capulet
    *** This was also posted in the Aftermath section.  It was a little bit longer than the standard length of most posts there but the message I hope to convey is a powerful one and I feel that it is more than just a post.  I've copied/pasted it here because while it was meant to be a post, it's also another one of my famous 'cleanses' and certainly belongs here, too.  ***
    This is likely going to turn out to be a long post. I apologize in advance.  There's just an enormous amount of brain-clutter these days and the OCD person I am is trying to sort through some of it, organize it.  Writing is simply my way of doing so.  I also am still trying to debate whether this should be a blog entry as opposed to board pollution, but it may very well end up being both...the message is powerful regardless of where it's placed.
    I made the stupidest decision when I was 20 years old. A decision even more stupid, it sometimes seems, than those I made during my own personal mission to self-destruct.
    I will set a small timeline in order to better convey where I'm going with this.  And in doing so, I dare not touch my suspicions of there being CSA in my childhood.  I have tried to remember the details of that, but to no avail.  I'm SURE it played a part, even a minuscule one, in my 'blueprint,' but without facts, I can't say for sure what stems from this and what doesn't.  And so, I'm leaving that alone.  Until the memories that have been repressed decide to resurface, this is not something that it's currently within my power to sift through, and so it's probably best to pull it out of the equation.
    So I will declare the rape I experienced at 17 years old to be the catalyst for the behavior that would soon follow.
    Shortly after the assault, I broke up with the first boyfriend I'd ever had.  A GOOD guy.  Very sweet, very kind.  He hailed from a strictly devout Catholic family.  We'd done nothing more than kissing and some over-the-clothes stuff.  We were both virgins and we'd talked about marriage being the best time to 'give' this to each other.  We HAD talked about marriage.  We were kind of serious/kind of joking, in that teenage dream sort of way.  It gave us something to talk about when being physical wasn't an option.  But anyway - after that virginity was taken from me, I felt I had nothing left to offer him.  
    Now, I know that's not the realistic way to look at it - I WAS still a virgin - I hadn't willingly given my virginity to another person.  I hadn't given my consent.  At the time, though, my brain was not allowing for me to think clearly.  All I could think of was how HE felt about it being so sacred.  I thought about how it'd be on our wedding night, should that ever become a reality...he'd probably know that he wasn't my first.  As if and he'd be disappointed, angry, maybe?  It wasn't something I wanted him to feel, nor was it something I wanted to explain as having happened to me, either.  And, oh, God, what if he didn't BELIEVE me? 
    And so, I sent him a lengthy e-mail and told him that I didn't love him, I didn't want to be together anymore.  He pleaded, he cried, he begged, he told me he loved me and wasn't giving up that easily.  But I was unrelenting.  Mean at times.  I cut him out.  Completely.  Eventually, he stopped emailing, writing letters, sending little presents.  He was truly gone...along with the rest of whatever was good in my life - discarded.  And for a long time, I blamed only myself while I grieved what could have been.  I did love him.  I did love the thought of him being the first person I had sex with.  But that was gone now.
    Time went on...I'd say a few months crawled by.  I signed up with AOL and began to frequent chat rooms, not looking for anything other than just to connect with someone.  I couldn't do it in person; I was too awkward around other people.  I wanted to be around SOMEONE, someone neutral, someone who didn't know me, someone who didn't know the girl I was before this monster....ruined me.  So, while those who DID know me questioned these personality changes, (that I, almost too flawlessly dismissed as being 'busy' and dealing with 'college stress') I was looking for companionship with people who weren't so perceptive to these new differences.
    Really, though..there was an incredible void within, and I didn't know how to fill it.  I was indeed isolating myself from people who cared about me - I withdrew socially, I stopped talking to life-long friends and eventually, they, too, followed suit.  I'm not sure if that's a failure on my part or theirs - aren't friends supposed to pick up on these things???? - either way, it was just how the cookie crumbled.  I fell apart, academically and JUST managed to pass my classes. Not sure if it was a pity-pass by the professors who probably noticed there was something wrong.   
    Eventually, I did what I thought was the safest, most anonymous way of connecting-but-not-connecting and socialized online more than I did in reality.  These people didn't know me.  Although I WILL say that I wasn't dishonest about who I was.  I was truthful about the important details - age, where I was from, etc.  I just wasn't me anymore.  These were strangers and I found it was easier to talk to people when there were no emotions attached. I was no longer the cautious, innocent, happy young lady I vaguely remember being.  I was now '18/f in _____' and no one really wanted or cared about all the background information.  It's just the hookup they wanted, sadly, and after a while, I began to (stupidly)  arrange for some of these meetings.
    My "first" was a guy who lived a couple towns over.  He was a year older than me.  Didn't go to my college, which was a good thing, in hindsight.  But we'd talked online first for a little while and then met in person.  He, too, was hearing impaired, so there was a little MORE of a connection than I'd learn I was comfortable with at the time.  I WAS attracted to him; he was very handsome.  And he quickly became the first person I consented to.  There was a brief, sloppy, clumsy encounter on the floor in his room, all of our clothing hadn't even been removed.  As quickly as it started, it was over.  And while this meant that I TRULY wasn't a virgin anymore, I can't help but feel like that didn't count, either - during this encounter, I felt absolutely nothing.  No pain, no pleasure.  Just...nothing.  
    He WAS a looker, but I didn't love him, I felt dirty and ashamed afterwards, I'm sure a side-effect of being touched for the first time since...that guy.  I ignored that feeling, though.  If anything, I felt it was a replacement of sorts.  A subpar experience to refer back to instead of the bad one that still plagued my dreams at night.  He DID contact me a few days after I'd slept with him and said that he felt needed to be honest - he still had feelings for an old girlfriend and he was going to attempt to re-connect with her.  He just would rather we remained friends.
    I graciously accepted that.  
    I think, for me, I was only looking to feel something...I wasn't sure what.  I was still having my bad days.  Nightmares, flashbacks, things were triggering me left and right, I'd begun to self-injure.  I continued to isolate from people I already knew.  I stopped caring about the importance of the things that truly mattered.  I was now fully emerged into a downward spiral.  
    So when approached (electronically) by men (and women) wanting to meet for drinks or for dinner (which I knew meant sex and more sex) I usually obliged.  I'd go, not expecting sex...maybe perhaps I'd be pleasantly surprised and someone actually wanted something of substance.  It almost ALWAYS headed in the 'meaningless sex' direction, though.  There was one-night-stand after one-night-stand.  I began to sleep around, not because it was something I enjoyed, but because, little by little, it began to chip away at my self-worth and in order to feel something - ANYTHING, that's what I needed.  
    Physically, these experiences were unsatisfying, sometimes painful.  Sometimes they'd be courteous to ask if I was okay with having sex.  Having once said no and not been listened to, I wasn't taking that chance again.  And so I would say nothing in place of the 'no' that I SHOULD have been able to say and instead became a silent participant, even if it was just by way of pleasing THEM in ways they wanted to be pleased.  That 'I'll do whatever you want, just don't hurt me' mentality was a constant - and rather than allow myself to be harmed, the submissive side of me would emerge and I'd find myself doing whatever necessary just to get through it.
    Eventually, there were more risky hookups...hookups that I am TRULY fortunate did not end badly for me.  I allowed for a lot of things to be done TO me - without caring, without feeling, without fear.  Numbness completely took over.  I allowed for some pretty messed up things, things that PROBABLY could be described as borderline assault, but simply because I allowed these things, they were not.  I want to say this is when I was at my lowest point.  Secretly, I wondered if this would be the end - would one of them kill me when they were finished?  Was I just not cut out for this cruel, unfair world and death was about to become a consequence?  Would one of these guys do me a favor and just end it all for me?  Was this what I was actually doing?  Trying to kill myself?
    Obviously, that was not the case as today, I'm still alive.  
    Okay, so here's what this post is REALLY about.  
    I have a question for you all - a question that lately I've had to ask myself.  Mostly because in some respect, I spend a lot of time trying to justify marrying an asshole.  The temporary insanity argument just doesn't cut it as well as it used to - there's so much more behind it all.  
    So, I met the wasband in the middle of all of this, shortly before turning 20.  He was introduced to me by a mutual friend, though so from the start, it was different from previous 'hookups.'  AND - he was a cop.  I suspect that friend we shared knew that I needed some positivity in my life and while she didn't intend for us to become anything more than friends, she had hoped that he could help me straighten out my life and sort of re-route the direction I was headed in.  She did tell me about him, too, before asking if it was okay to pass along my screen name.  He was recently separated, he had two small children and he was a 'good' guy - and bonus!  He was local.
    I met him online first.  We chatted a few times before agreeing to meet for dinner.  So at this point, my brain's like, here we go - here's the next one, this'll end just like all the rest of them...
    But then, it didn't.
    We went on several dates (dinner, movies, long walks...oh and there was TALKING!  Imagine that!?)  before he ASKED me if he could kiss me before I would go home for the night.
    I'm not sure what happened to my brain then, but something clicked.  Where that 'do whatever you can to keep from getting hurt' went, I don't know.  It wasn't there then. I did want to kiss him, yes, but there was also that fear of this turning into another hookup.  For the first time, it felt significant, it felt safe.  He wasn't pushing for sex.  He was patient with me.  It felt..not 'right,' but better than anything I'd ever felt before.  So, my first thought then was to test him.  And myself.  
    I told him, "Not yet."
    He respected my boundaries and didn't ask again until our next date.  I obliged this time and we shared our first kiss then.  From there, he would ASK me before proceeding any further.  We eventually (slowly) became more intimate - and were pregnant with my son four months later.  The choice to marry was next - and I was quick to accept his marriage proposal.  I didn't think about it.  I said yes.
    But I have to admit to myself that it wasn't out of love.  Shit, I didn't have enough TIME to learn how to love.  It's such a complex feeling, one that requires TIME to develop.  
    But, now there was a baby involved, now I'd met someone who made me feel that it was okay to leave all of the self-destructive urges behind and refocus on something far, FAR more important than ways to hurt myself.  And now, I had more to look forward to, I was bringing a perfect little human being into the world and it was time to put such thoughts to rest.  The transition from being a nothing more than a booty call or one-night-stand into someone's wife and mother, was sort of forced, but in a way, I think it's what I needed - I needed to be grounded, I needed to be forced into making this choice, even if I was the one to force myself.  Otherwise, I really don't know where I'd be now.  And so, I took what felt acceptable at the moment and went with it, regardless of the absence of the head-over-heels feeling that usually is the deciding factor in getting married...and so against my better judgement, I said yes to the dress.
    I think that for a while, it felt pretty great - I was beating myself at my own game, at life.  It's because when we were just starting out, he allowed me to take control.  And looking back, this is highly unusual for him - shortly after we were married, he seemingly evolved into an entirely different person and managed to seize any relinquished control back and became the aforementioned asshole.  At first, it was usually the money and budget related, or kid-related, parenting fights.  Then he would slowly bring up (and criticize) each and every one of my past flaws - possibly due to my still having some lasting, left over, under-the-surface issues despite his 'rescue' efforts. 
    I think that once I took his last name, he'd assumed that my name wouldn't be the only thing to change.  He had expectations that being married would somehow "fix" or diminish anything bad that had happened in my life.  I'd attempt to reach out and discuss things that still bothered me.  At first, he would listen.  Then slowly, he began to become increasingly 'tired' of hearing it and eventually the words, "you need to get over this," came out of his mouth.  That was my cue to stop badgering him with such matters.  I went to others with it, instead, especially those I felt could relate on some level.  When he found out that I was sharing feelings with people other than him, he became angry with me and accused me of seeking attention and that my preference to take some of these issues elsewhere was 'emotionally cheating.'  Even though I explained to him that I no longer desired to burden him with all of this, he was still paranoid and untrusting.  He needed to see ALL of my communications - emails, texts (now that they were a thing) and instant messaging.  If he, Heaven forbid, saw that I was beginning to confide in someone else, or even become close to someone (even though it was strictly on a friends-only basis) he'd get angry all over again and sometimes insult my friends to the point where I felt ashamed even talking to people that I truly liked.  To open myself up to someone else, even if it was just to spare him the repetition, he would view as a betrayal - I have absolutely NO idea how that even is the case.  
    I soon began to suppress EVERYTHING.  I just stopped talking.  I stopped thinking.  I stopped dealing.  Whenever something popped up, I engaged in a mental game of whack-a-mole and would quickly banish it back from whence it came.  I knew there was stuff still lingering, but it just wasn't acceptable to discuss any of it anymore.  And I certainly wasn't going to resort to old ways - I was now married, I was a mother.  The beast had been 'tamed,' unsure if this is even the correct way to describe it.  Yet, by respecting his wishes, although unreasonable and suppressing, I suspect I did some further damage.  Instead of healing through the support that others would have been able to provide, I began to isolate again.  
    Although I felt I did as he wished, I'd find out that this wasn't going to change the type of person he was turning out to be.  He continued to bully and manipulate me and everyone else around him.  He continued to put me down when I needed the opposite.  Little by little, he broke me down.  He made me feel horrible about myself.  I soon began to feel that just as I sadly didn't really love him when we agreed to marry, he likely felt the same way about me.  Why else would he treat me this way?  There just wasn't any other reasonable explanation for it.  I soon felt that this was punishment for all the crap I'd done in the past - it HAD to be.
    I'd just basically gone from one prison to the next.  Getting married and having children and raising a family did NOT fix me.  It only ensured a transfer from maximum security to minimum.  I'm still so, SO affected (although not as severely) by what's happened in the past, but now I've learned better ways of coping, simply because I forced myself to.  I served 8 years in this particular mental prison, he was my 'guard' rather than a husband and he subjected me to the most confusing 8 years of my life.  I was paroled and set free only by divorce, which will be close to 10 years ago that it was finalized.    
    During the time I've been 'out,' I've worked hard to pick myself up.  I'm in a healthy relationship with an absolutely amazing woman.  When I met her, I was a complete MESS.  
    I didn't know how to communicate very well offline, with another human being.  I'd gotten SO used to keeping to myself.  To allowing others to see only what I wanted them to see.  Once we met in person, we had an interesting time trying to get to know each other on every level.  And that's where I found the love that I didn't know I was capable of feeling.  My only regret was having not met her sooner, but I'm not sure if that's how life would have played out if I had.
    I have had to re-educate myself on how to properly sort out my feelings, my thoughts.  Regardless of being in a MUCH better place now, I'm finding it to be a lifelong process....and the whack-a-mole games have restarted - only I'm now struggling with moles I've never seen before...the moles, when they used to be purely black and white are now teal, pink, purple, red, blue, polka-dotted, striped, etc.  One pops up and I'll take a swing, only to find that another has popped up in a different location before I've had time to deal with the first one. And that's when it starts to get overwhelming.  
    Guys...there's still so much SHAME, though. 
    I'm so ashamed of myself for the things I did prior to meeting the wasband.  I know that I just didn't know how to handle it and I let others handle things FOR me.  My personal growth and evolution has provided me the wisdom to understand why I (and others) did (do) these things.  I get it.  All of it.  
    It doesn't help the feeling of shame I still get from time to time when I think about the blatant disrespect I treated myself with.  I was literally ready to punch in my one-way ticket to the point of no return.  But instead, I did something that I thought would potentially be less harmful and would give my life some purpose, no matter the cost.
    Has anyone else ever done this?
    Did anyone else get married just to escape the possibility of an alternative, less favorable path?  In my case, it didn't work out but it DID deflect from a far more dangerous existence.  If so, what was the outcome for you?  
    I think more people than we realize are guilty of this.  Not particularly on the same level, but still. I think this is something that I need to be told is normal (under the circumstances) and that I'm not a terrible person for making some of the poor choices I've made.  I've already forgiven myself for past indiscretions and accept my reasons for doing so but in the process, I've felt so ALONE with it all.  I've felt judged, even though very few people even KNEW this about me.  I was and still am my worst critic.
    This turned out to be MUCH longer than intended - will also post it in my blog as it's a cross between a post and a cleanse.  Regardless, it's one that I'd TRULY appreciate some feedback on, so please don't be shy.  Hit the comments below.
    Wishing you all an endless supply of hugs, if those are your thing.  If not, then I wish you strength, healing and light.

    - Capulet
  20. Capulet
    Hi, all!  
    I'm not sure what today's blog is going to be primarily about, so we'll call it a smorgasbord.  We'll try a little bit of everything!  It's been a turbulent week (I've been using that word a lot - I feel it best describes a lot of the unexpected emotional twists I've had to endure this past week) and today is only the second day that I haven't felt as if I were on the verge of tears.  I've done a lot of thinking and have been able to put a few things into perspective, so am feeling stable enough to try and transfer some of it here.
    To start with, I have an interesting question for my survivor friends and peers.  
    Do any of you experience an unexplained physical coldness/chill during those 'turbulent' anniversary time frames?  My anniversary has already passed - it was on the 4th of this month, but I am wondering if some of the side effects are taking me a little bit longer to move past?  It is 67 degrees in my house at the moment (I've checked the thermostat multiple times!) - and I'm FREEZING.  My fingers are literally icicles. I've been 'cold' all week last week and thought it was because of the drop in overall temperatures, but....67 degrees?  I shouldn't be dressed like an eskimo and have my hood on while indoors just yet.  Aside from feeling like my bones are constructed purely out of ice cubes, I feel fine.  I do not have a temperature, I am not sniffly or have a cough.  My fiancee remains a furnace (I wouldn't want to subject her to cuddling with me right now, though) and my kids have said that they're not cold.  I do have to add that I remember feeling cold, above other things, on that night 22 years ago, but I cannot remember if I felt this same unnatural chill during last year's anniversary time - or the previous, and so on.  Is this new???  And if it is, what brought this on?
    So, I had my second group session last night.  More people showed up to this one - and one person from the first meeting was there.  They first started off with some meditation - something I don't have a whole lot of experience with.  I was having trouble with the listening part (the leader was instructing us all to take our deep breaths, try and picture a safe place, inhale, exhale, relax this, relax that) and I couldn't really participate-along with the rest of them because by the time I got the 'message' to do whatever, she was already moved onto the next thing.  It wasn't her fault - it's just a casualty that being deaf has taught me to have to accept from time to time.  So, safe to say, this part of the meeting was not effective for me.  And I'd soon learn that the meditation was something leading up to the NEXT part - although I do already have a lot of experience with journaling, she handed out plain black-and-white composition notebooks and asked us to decorate the cover to reflect and show where our 'safe place' was during the prior meditation process.  A place that I'd not 'arrived' at, nor would I be able to envision as effectively as the rest of the ladies in the room.
    Well, SHIT.  I'm already flunking at support groups!
    So, after some quick deliberation, I ended up taking a different approach on the design of my journal cover.  I'll PROBABLY not use my journal at all - this is the place where I've been able to most effectively convey my deepest thoughts.  Maybe I'll consider printing out some of my most powerful and impactful entries and pasting them into the book - perhaps there will be a future discussion where I'll be able to read from some of those entries - I'll have already thought them out and perhaps they will resonate with someone else.  Otherwise, the pages will likely remain blank.  
    To fill a page wasn't even the assignment; it was to present a decorated cover - depicting or representing my safe place.  It's safe to say I don't really have a 'place,' but there are some things that I try to remind myself of when I meditate - or rather, through my own way of meditation.  Yes, I do the deep breaths, I do inhale and exhale, but while I do this, I do not picture a particular place.  I instead mentally throw all of my cards onto the table and address each of whatever my current struggles are, with a motivating counter-thought.
    And lately, I probably could do with a little more of (my type) of meditation.  I'm going to sideline this particular thought train for a little while so that I can explain a little bit more about why I'm feeling the excess turbulence this month.  
    We already know by now that it's my anniversary month - and that this year, I'm experiencing some different side effects.  
    Another thing that's been on my mind....(and this is something I've had that internal debate on whether or not I should share it with you guys or keep it to myself)...is a recent dialogue with J that has left me very confused, very unsettled and very anxious.  
    First off, it wasn't a fight.  We don't fight.  We sometimes disagree, but neither one of us wants to fight with the other - we talk about things more often than not, but there ARE times where we 'drop' things and leave them alone because it's something that's not going to be resolved and falls into the 'just bitching' category.  Sometimes this is best, but lately, it's only succeeded in mounting our problems and issues and they are now starting to wiggle like a stack of Jenga blocks threatening to come tumbling down at any moment.
    I've mentioned before that she's become more social and has taken a liking to going out with her friends after work.  Sometimes it's once a week, sometimes it's twice.  I've also mentioned previously that I am absolutely hating this - not that she's blossomed into a social butterfly, because that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but more so that she's found things to do and ways to have fun that do not involve me but instead involve people that are seemingly taking up 'more' of her than I am.  I don't even know if I feel this way because I'm not at that same point in my own life, but either way, it has left me feeling more and more lonely than usual.  And lately, I've been more openly 'bitter' about her spending time with her friends - she'll, as a courtesy, let me know when she has made spontaneous plans after work, and I'll usually respond with a one-liner that fails to hide my disappointment.  Last week, this such one-liner was, "Ughhhhh."  PROBABLY not the best choice of words, but in the moment, it's what my fingers wanted to type.  
    Now, she KNOWS how I feel about social situations in general, and she knows about the anxiety I feel when it comes to the expansion of my own social circle.  She also knows that I quietly fume to myself whenever I'm told I won't be seeing her after work.  I have been honest about that and we both understand this is a direct result of what my ex has successfully ingrained in me.  She continues to remind me that I am no longer married to him, I am FREE now, and I need "more than just her" in my life.  This, too, is something I am struggling with - because for the last ten years that I've been divorced, it's been just her and I - there wasn't a need for me to have 'other people' to share (EVERYTHING) with.  It was a nice, comfortable, PRIVATE circle.  Either way, I've recently (probably for the last year) watched her change in multiple ways, from the person she used to be into a more evolved version of herself.  She's now made a true friend out of her boss, is becoming more and more friendly with co-workers and has taken more interest in doing things outside of our home 1-2 days a week.  As a direct result of some of these changes in her, she has now taken notice of me becoming increasingly withdrawn and snippy.  On top of all of this, she's also made the choice to return to therapy, a choice I support 100% since she's also mentioned the need to do some maintenance work on herself - something I think we ALL need from time to time.
    I'm not sure if the return-to-therapy is what prompted her to bring up on Sunday evening, that she felt that we BOTH needed to work on things within our relationship.  She made it clear that while she wasn't unhappy, she just felt that there were some things that needed changing.  
    This confused the fuck out of me, I won't lie.  The first thing that came to mind, was, "Oh, my God, I'm losing her."  
    And for the entire day on Monday, I sat in silence and solitude - ready to cry at the drop of a hat - and thought, thought some more and thought HARD.  About everything that was said on Sunday night - which confused me even more.  She had stated she wanted me to be 'okay' with her outings so that she didn't feel guilty about them.  I told her that I wasn't going to hold her back from going out with her friends, but at the same time, I couldn't be expected to be automatically okay with it, either.  It was something I needed to work at, as well as something entirely new that I needed to adapt to.  On Sunday, it got to the point where she ended up telling me that I've been saying I would figure it out for a while now (truth) and haven't done so, yet.  I responded that I was trying - "Rome wasn't built in a day!"  Another thing she mentioned was that she wanted me to be more honest with her about what I was feeling - which baffled me, because I guess, I thought I already was.  My "ughhhh" text message was an honest response.  My admission that this wasn't easy for me was another honest thought.  My snippiness and grouchiness whenever she talks about her pals, you'd think that is all based on some form of honesty.  
    How much more honesty did she want from me?  I think she sensed there was more that needed to be said, but at the moment, I was feeling lost and was drawing blanks.  Granted, emotions were running wild and I admit to having lost my shit on Sunday night during our talk, in an ugly-cry sort of way.  We both agreed to take the day on Monday to do some thinking and we'd reconvene when we were both in a better frame of mind.
    So, on Monday, after a long day of reflection, I was able to summarize a little bit more of what I was feeling and I broke it down some to J.  Not by choice - I was already semi-crying when she got home from work.  I had tried my hardest to hide from her my 'I'm holding it in' face, but when you're with someone for as long as we've been together, these things become virtually un-hideable.  She asked me what was the matter and I lost it again.
    And so, out it came.  What I'd realized in the less than 24 hours since Sunday's blind-siding conversation.  I have not changed.  She has.  She now has a more demanding job.  As is, our time spent together has diminished greatly.  She works a 40-hour week and VERY often ends up putting in a ton of OT to make it a SIXTY-hour work week.  Add to that, she's become so increasingly tired, unnecessarily stressed out, and on the days she comes home from work, all she wants to do is eat a quick dinner and go to sleep.  And as far as her friends go - it feels like they get more out of her than I do because she goes out with them AFTER an already extended day at work.  I VERY rarely even SEE her before she leaves in the morning (it's usually right after 6am) and when she's out with her friends, she comes home at 10 or 11pm and I'm LUCKY to get a five-minute conversation out of her before she's snoring.  She spends time with her boss for just about the entire duration of the work day and then there's the 'after work' activities that include this same woman, (counting two separate occasions when J went to help her move into her new apartment) so yes, maybe I do have a legitimate problem with that and maybe this is why the MENTION of this woman's name makes me envious enough to want to punch something.  MAYBE this is why when J invites me to come along, I really don't have any interest in it.  These are the people who are taking her away from me; (I know that's an unrealistic, paranoid thought, but for the moment, it was yet another honest take on it) why would I want to associate with them?  They represent the 'fun' that she's having that I am not a part of.  I am instead left feeling genuinely lonely after lately not seeing much of my one and only consistent 'person.'
    And that's just not a nice feeling at all - it's how I felt when I was married to my ex and he didn't want me to have any 'other' people - and it's not how I want to make J feel, either.  You see, I KNOW where my strengths and weaknesses are - and perhaps the biggest confusion here is - neither one of us has done anything wrong.  We remain faithful to one another - that's never been a question.  We love each other.  We just are, for the moment, at different places in our social lives and she's just more comfortable with her newfound status than I am.  And just because she has changed, does not mean I also have to if it's not what I want or am not mentally ready for.
    I honestly DO, though.  I don't want to let this go right now and then have to revisit the same problem ten, fifteen years down the road when she and her boss friend decide to take up knitting together after work days.  (Another unrealistic guess, but y'all get the point I am trying to make!)  I am absolutely TERRIFIED that if, by some twist of fate, I ever lost her, I would TRULY be a mess.  I'd force myself to physically move on but emotionally, that is going to be the challenge of my life, as I've no desire to forge this type of connection with anyone else, should she become unavailable to me.  I can honestly say I'd be FINISHED and a permanent emotional shut-down would likely be inevitable.
    We had a longer (calmer) talk after my (blatantly honest) little outburst.  
    I first have to admit that it didn't feel so good, though, guys.  I know that we're not likely to get what we need or want unless we ask for it, but I can't help but feel as if expressing these (irrational or not?) fears has made her see me in an entirely different light.  Does she now see me as an inconsiderate, ungrateful, needy bit*h?  I am not a selfish person at all and I'm admittedly the type to want to avoid confrontation at all costs, so just spitting out all of this inner poison has made me feel even more like shit!  I thought it was supposed to feel GOOD to take any kind of a stand - but nope, I'm not feeling that, just yet.
    But, despite what I'm feeling, she heard me.  And unlike my ex, she actually acknowledged what I was saying and where I was coming from.  This, too, is something that STILL floors me, even after almost a decade of being in a healthy, trusting, communicative relationship.  Maybe that's why this feels like uncharted territory - I've NEVER had that before.  If I ever were to tell my ex how I felt, he would have slammed me back with insults describing how the way I was feeling was entirely my fault and about how truly damaged I was.  My J and my ex are absolutely not the same person - not by a long shot - J is a kind, loving person while my ex was a monstrous asshole that has succeeded in reducing my self worth into an unidentifiable pulp.
    We have decided that she will work on being more present when she's at home.  Together, we'll do whatever it takes, we'll go out, we'll engage in activities that will keep her from falling asleep so soon after coming home from work.  Bowling two nights a week certainly helps!  We'll liven up our relationship by having a once-a-week dinner date night (not a bowling night), where it will just be the two of us.  We'll have a drink together.  We'll take in the occasional movie.  We'll try new things.  Last night was the first of several 'date nights' to come; we met up at a local steakhouse after my group meeting.  And it was truly nice to take that time to start to reconnect - because, as much as I hate to admit it, we DID lose something along the way.  It's never been MORE important to me to try and reclaim that connection before it drifts even further, simply because she's become too busy or I'm responding by shutting down. 
    And in the meantime, I have some work to do....more so for myself than for anyone else - but work regardless.  I will work on trying to find other things to become involved in and I will do so at my own pace.  I will put my social anxieties aside and join her on an outing with her work friends from time to time - and I will ATTEMPT to get to know some of them.  I've already spent some time with the boss lady, and all jealousies aside, she is not a terrible person.  I will keep more of an open mind when it comes to dipping my toe into these social situations.  
    We have established that relationship-wise, I trust my J completely, I am not afraid she'll fall in love with someone else.  This isn't the issue.  I've determined that I am more afraid that she'll eventually evolve even more and discover that she truly likes or wants more than what she has with the boring, laid-back, homebody that I have learned to be.  I am loyal.  I am trustworthy.  But right now, I don't feel 'fun,' nor do I have much to offer someone as far as a good time goes.  I'm stuck in a rut and I NEED to climb out of it.  
    And so, I am going to begin to work on trusting MYSELF; and in my ability to intiate a transformation of my own.  Given where I am right now and all of the damage that has already been done, it may take years.  But, I will get there.  I think I just needed to feel more united and connected with my "main" person in order to take these steps toward learning to trust and confide in and learn to relax around others. I needed to be able to feel that I'm not in the process of losing the one person who changed my life for the better.  And perhaps, that's the root of my recent snippiness - I do not respond well when I feel threatened with that idea - it also makes sense that this is why J's family/sister's words to me several months ago are STILL fucking with my brain.  This is why I cannot get past what was said to me, even if it was said in desperation or anger.  It cannot be unsaid and is possibly where all of this started.  
    Well, at least we recognize it - and I'm happy to say that we are working on us.  I know no relationship is perfect and by all means, neither is ours.  We are as good a couple as they come, but we've never had to really work at it, though.  It's just always come so naturally to us both, and I think I need that reassurance that we aren't the only ones who hit the occasional bump in that road!
    Now, back to the journal cover that I was to design.  I found some 'phrases' in the pile of magazine clippings.  Words.  These are what I use to get through things.  I think about them, I redefine them, I write them.  Aside from some not-so-nice things, I've been called a wordsmith.  And so this is what I decided to decorate my composition notebook with.  Single words and phrases that right now, ring true for me.
    "A window of opportunity has opened."
    "Comfort zone."
    "Chocolate."  (A reference to THIS blog - I could not let that go without some form of recognition as this is where I usually retreat when I have a lot of mind-clutter.)
    "Your future is yet to be written."
    There were a couple more - along with cut-out letters that I used to spell out my real first name across the top of the book.  When my turn came, I explained that I'd taken a little bit of a different approach to my journal cover decorating - and discussed that I use words and phrases in order to quell whatever my current anxieties are.  And each of those statements, at the moment, mean something to me.  
    And why did I put my (given) name?  
    Well - my name as well as my identity is another thing that I am struggling to define. I can tell anyone my name, but I honestly don't have a clue who I even am, being constantly torn between the person I really am and the person I present as, is exhausting!
    You see, here, I am Capulet.  You all know why I am here.  You all know my story.  You know my fears, the things that make me happy, the things that make me sad.  Chances are, you feel the same way.  I've been nothing but honest with everyone through my blogs, my posts, my private conversations.  It helps that being here affords us all that unspoken understanding of each other - we're automatically able to validate one another because, one way or another, we all get it.  We don't have to truly know someone to understand them when they write something that rings true with us, too.  And so, I honestly feel more connected to myself when I am Capulet and less connected to the person that my given name represents - the person that people offline see.  And partially, this is my fault, I have spent so much time shielding these offline connections from the things that aren't so easy to share or explain face-to-face.  I feel like I am someone else.  And that 'someone else' is what people usually see upon spending time with me.  And if these people do not know or understand the reasons behind why I am the moody, withdrawn, shy, anxious, unapproachable person I appear to be (especially in social settings) then it's likely harder for them to make the extra effort it requires in order to get close to me.  Additionally I can't expect them to keep trying if I'm going to constantly shut them down.  This is yet another reason I feel that I need to work on opening up to more people, (once I've established them to be trustworthy) and allow them to understand me in entirety; allow them to see me, not only as Capulet, nor as the person they think I am.  But somewhere in the middle where both 'identities' can merge.  Only then will I truly begin to comfortably live my life as an evolved, transformed woman.
    After the meeting, I was feeling a little bold and inquired about whether the Women's Center had any volunteer opportunities.  I was told they do, however they require one full year of affiliation with the center before they consider taking on someone as a volunteer.  And so I will continue to attend the group meetings and take them all for what they're worth - even though I may not in the moment be able to gain anything from them, they are thought-provoking and force me to be honest with myself.
    I should mention that I am also feeling a little anxious about tomorrow's (yes, tomorrow's!) appointment with the VR intake counselor - I will be discussing with her the possibility of going back to school as a full-time student, and then continuing onto acquiring my bachelor's.  I am trying to allow myself to feel excited and to ignore that voice within (the one that seems to always be lying and misleading me) that is telling me that my dreams are not possible; that a better version of ME is not possible.  That I will have to settle for the minimum because I am aiming too high.  I don't think that will be an acceptable answer, and I fear that if this is the one I am given, that it will emotionally derail me - again.
    I've also made an appointment with the support group leader for next Friday - I feel satisfied with having shared this much tonight, but feel that if J can seek 'outside' help and a place to safely put all of her own 'excess' baggage, then I certainly can, too.  I'm not looking for a permanent thing - just a safe place to vent to someone who is unbiased and may be able to offer me some suggestions on how to initiate some of these much-needed and long overdue changes.
    I do feel a little bit better tonight.  I had all day to myself - she again went to trivia night with her friends.  And normally, you probably could see the smoke coming out of my ears while I silently fumed over being alone (again) but I think that tonight, I needed it, I truly needed the alone time to think and to process and to refocus.  I also think that I need to continue to find a different focus for the times/days she chooses to go out - tonight, my aim was to find a way to adequately express what was going through my mind this past week and I have done that.  Moving forward, I will just have to learn to occupy myself with different things and explore alternative ways of keeping busy when she's otherwise unavailable.  
    I just wish this newfound, unfamiliar quest of mine for more purpose in life wasn't so fucking scary!  And that it came more naturally for me without my having to work so hard at it.  
    And with that, it is time to wrap up.  I am emotionally drained (and ironically this will put me to sleep quicker than a dose of NyQuil) and have been for a while.  I've dropped with exhaustion before 12:30am for the last few nights - tonight, I'm up a little bit longer because it was important to me to not interrupt the flow of thoughts.  I've got that habitual tendency to 'drop' things if I'm too tired or reserve them for another time, but this simply could NOT wait.
    In closing, I thank you all for continuing to listen to me, for not giving up on me, for getting to know me, and for supporting me.  I know I am by no means perfect and I know deep down that I definitely do contribute to my own problems, but, shit...none of this is intentional - it's just what I know and was taught that was needed as primarily a means of self-protection.  It truly does help to also know that the persona that I feel most connected to, truly has an army behind her.  So for that, thank you.  I truly appreciate you all.
    - Capulet
  21. 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
  22. Capulet
    A light blog today, just because.
    Last night, we had a laugh as a family.  It hasn’t happened in a while but, damn, it felt good!  Not saying we aren’t a family that laughs, it’s just so easy to get caught up in the more serious day-to-day routines.  Sometimes we forget to laugh, to cherish these little moments that bring us a chuckle when times become challenging.  
    As most of you know by now, we recently moved from the city and became country bumpkins this past summer.  To find a supermarket, bowling alley, restaurant, movie theater or just about any other place after five o’clock in the evening means driving down the pitch-black back roads for about fifteen to twenty minutes and bringing ourselves to the busier part of the town, where there is everything.
    Everything, except for an Applebee’s.
    For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s a popular US chain American restaurant.  They’re everywhere.  It’s J’s favorite place to get a Caesar Salad and my son’s and daughter’s favorite restaurant, overall.  I personally prefer Texas Roadhouse (which we DO have locally) but I do rather enjoy the Wonton Tacos that Applebee’s serves.  The closest Applebee’s is about 30 miles away.  So it was arranged last week that yesterday, when J got home from work, we were going to get into the car and go treat ourselves to our favorite Applebee’s meal or appetizer.  
    Let me just insert a little story-supporting factoid here - when we first moved here, J began working for Amazon.  Yes, that Amazon, the one everyone shops at online. We thought it would be pretty damn amazing, plus the 15% discount she’d get on her own Amazon purchases were a perk we would have loved to enjoy come holiday shopping time.  However, J found that the bar was set way too high and the level of training was too strenuous and strict, they not only were inadequate in their methods of teaching and left very little margin for error.  Let it be known that J is an exceptional, thorough worker and she is the type to do well in just about any job she takes on.  Amazon, though, aside from being far too physically demanding, was too fast paced and simply didn’t want to take the time to properly train their new people…let’s call them one big-ass mindfuck, because at times, she would try to maintain accuracy and her job performance was better, although slower.  They apparently rate your quality of work and her quality was not matching up to the quantity…so they basically because of that criticism, she sped things up to try and appease them and I believe the problem wasn’t in the work she was putting in, but actually the presence of technical, computer errors with her scanning device she was using.  It was entering into the system incorrectly, resulting in the “too many errors” reason they gave her when she was terminated.  She worked there for three weeks before they fired her.  Normally, she’d have argued that the termination was unfair and unjust, but at that point, after constantly feeling overworked and underappreciated by them, she’d dosed herself with a healthy amount of ‘fuckitall’ and found a different job with better hours, benefits and pay.  And a note to Amazon before I continue, in the event one of you should happen upon this post - your company SUCKS.  I will still shop on Amazon simply because you do have the best deals at times, but the way you operate is absolutely ridiculous.  You put my wife through the wringer, worked her to the point of collapse, you didn’t step up and help her make any necessary corrections when you saw she was struggling…instead, to show your appreciation for her hard work and efforts, you fired her.  Y’all ought to be ashamed of yourself and your company.
    So, anyway…back to my tale for today…on our way to Applebee’s, we passed the Amazon Warehouse.  You can see this huge, white building from the highway.  J and I both flipped off the building as we sped past it, for they are a distant, but still unpleasant memory.  
    We found the Applebee’s, went in, sat down, ordered and ate.  Everyone got their favorite meals.  The bill came to just over $100 including a tip, but everyone was happy and so it was worth it.  The kids even suggested we do this every couple of months. 
    On the way home, we were soon to pass the Amazon Warehouse again, coming from the other direction.  J was being funny and in her tour-guide voice, says, “And over to our left, we will soon see the Amazon Warehouse that fired me.  Let us all show them our middle finger in appreciation.”
    All our middle fingers went up and toward the driver’s side of the car.  
    Yes, even my 11-year-old’s little middle went up; while I’m sure I’m not in the running for any parent-of-the-year awards, I still allowed for it because I feel she’s old enough to learn to express herself if the situation presents.  Plus, she’s seen and heard f-bombs come out of my and J’s and her father’s mouths on MANY occasions.  If she can successfully watch her mouth more often than letting a word slip, then I feel she’s earned the right to use a swear word when she feels the need to.  Because to me, swearing is simply your way of not sugar-coating anything and letting someone know how she REALLY feels about something.  If you ask me, swearing is healthy, but should still be done responsibly and she should be sure not to use such language around someone who could be offended by it (an older relative, grandparents, etc) or otherwise influenced by it, for example a younger sibling.  I know that personally, I feel better if I let out a string of well-placed swears rather when I say “oh, poo.”  I normally don’t condone unwarranted displays of vulgarity, but in this case, we were sticking up (our fingers) for one of our own.  
    What we DIDN’T count on, though was the car that had pulled up next to us on the left lane.  We were in the right lane and between the Amazon Building and our car, there was now another car full of unsuspecting people who, I’m thinking, probably thought we were flipping THEM off.  And they’d rather conveniently pulled up, JUST in time to see all of our middle fingers go up at the same time.  Add to this whole funny situation, the overhead light in the car is usually on when it’s dark outside so that lip reading is made easier…which means that not only were the cars next to us able to see our raised middle fingers, anyone driving along that highway at that particular moment could also see quite clearly our little family display of expression.
    When we realized this, we all quickly put our fingers away, there were a few “oh, my GODs” and “whoopses” and then, we erupted in an uncontrollable fit of laughter.  I’m sure my and J’s faces were red with embarrassment, but as soon as the car had passed us and was already a half dozen or so car lengths’ ahead of us, we joined the kids in hysterics.  We giggled at the pure timing of it all.  At what the occupants of the other car could possibly be thinking they did to piss us off.  At what the sight of a sweet, baby-faced, frizzy haired, 11-year-old with her middle finger up must have looked like, especially with her two moms and brother’s fingers up right next to hers, all pointing in the same direction.  At least, we’d given someone else something to ponder for the evening.

    We laughed for several minutes.  We laughed until the tears rolled.  We laughed until it hurt.  
    Then we just smiled at one another, for a memory has been made and tucked away for one of those times where we feel we need to pluck them from the reserves for one of those instant-smiles, because there ARE times we scramble for one of these 'remember when?' moments.  
    And, no one got hurt or arrested, so in my book, that’s a win. 

    Live, love and laugh a whole lot.
    - Capulet
  23. Capulet
    Greetings friends, 
    Here's hoping that June is wrapping up nicely for you all!  
    It has been an absolutely insane month between trying to get the back yard finished, my son's high school graduation, the end of the school year for all students, having yet another handyman/contractor show up to install a transfer switch for our new generator (our VERY early Christmas present from Oompa) as well as a ceiling fan in our family room so that we don't melt this summer.  And I also got the ball rolling (with J's help) on making my first doctor's appointment in the state of Pennsylvania.  
    Side note: I'm TERRIBLE with doctors, guys.  TERRIBLE.  I've been sick a small handful of times since we moved here eleven months ago.  I've changed insurances two times but STILL have not gone to a single physician, primary care or otherwise.  ('otherwise' is the reason for tomorrow's 10am appointment)  I don't know if this is the norm for everyone.  Yes, I am well aware that NO one likes the doctor or going to visit but I sadly admit that in the past several years, I've gone out of my way to avoid anyone with "M.D." after their names.  Dentists, too.  While my health is slowly improving due to diet and lifestyle changes that I've initiated without a doctor's recommendation, I've got other, separate issues that I've been ignoring because they're not an emergency and I'm not experiencing any discomfort that I can't live with.
    This won't do, though - I'm smart enough to know and realize that this is by no means a permanent solution.  Over the past several months, I've had some uncomfortable and unfavorable side effects to the birth control medications I'd been taking for years, now - so it's time for a GYN exam/re-evaluation of whether or not this medication is still good for me or it's time to find something else.  This will require a physical examination, I'm sure, as well as a breast exam, a pelvic...and to top all that off, this is a NEW doctor that I've never seen before, and even better (not really) - it's a male doctor.
    Honestly, aside from not being able to live with one, I have nothing against men.  There are some fine, upstanding men in my life that I love very much.  However, from a medical perspective, I don't care if my dentist is a male. I don't even care if my PCP is a male.  I don't care if I go to the ER with a mysterious onset of symptoms, chances are you'll get whoever's able to handle your needs first.  But if someone's going to be poking around in the nether regions, it'd damn well BETTER be a female!  However, I'm not getting my way this time around.  The situation I'm having right now with irregular spotting/bleeding needs to be handled NOW (I've had enough) and the female doctor in the office is not available until August.  And so I'll suck it up and go visit the male doctor, but will INSIST upon having a female nurse present during the exam.  There usually is one, though, so this helps me not to lose my shit over this and focus more on resolving this medication issue and for future appointments, I can always switch to the female as she'll be available for the next visit.
    Anyway - let's move on.  (chorus:  "Yes, please!")
    So...recently, I've had some things come up that have made me question how I come across to others.  It's also made me question myself, in some ways.  I don't blame myself for the REASONS I am who I am, but I wonder if, along the way, I should have made more of an effort to be a different TYPE of person, overall.  A different version of me that others see.
    Yes, I know....you all have your "HUH?" faces on right about now?
    As I attempt to explain this, I don't want to get into extremes because in order to do so, I'd have to share personal background information about certain family members that I don't feel that should be put out there by me.  So I will do the best I can whilst omitting incriminating details.  
    There was a misunderstanding about three weeks ago, between myself and a few of my in-laws.  
    I WILL say that two of these in-laws (J's parents) are NOT supportive nor do they approve of my long-lived relationship with J, but it is for religious reasons - as a person, they like me, or so they say...but as J's partner/lover, they do not.  I have repeatedly felt that they hold J's decision to move away from them against me  - for I, at this point, represent to them her choice to leave her family behind in pursuit of love as well as a better life for herself.  I often wonder if this sits in the back of their head, even though J made this decision on her own...every time they see me, are they consumed with a level of hidden animosity toward me and this prevents them from truly liking me?  Whether they do like me as a person is true or not, I really don't care at this point, but let's be real - who wants to be disliked or given the feeling that they're not accepted in EVERY aspect?  I certainly don't, and I don't know if this stems from an early desire to people-please but deep down, the two-facedness of J's parents bothers me a GREAT deal and it has for years.  
    Regardless, they are her parents and I respectfully keep a distance whenever they are around or we go visit them.  I do not believe in their religion, but know that it truly makes them uncomfortable to see me slide a hand around J's waist or hold her hand, or peck her on the lips as I walk by...and so whenever in their company, I find it more effective to just sit across a room or excuse myself entirely so that they can feel comfortable visiting with their daughter without me around.  It's not as if they attempt to engage me in conversation, either - when they do, it's simply small talk.  They have made absolutely NO efforts to get to know me on a deeper level - I don't think they even know J as well as they would like to think - so I don't take it personally. I am comfortable just keeping that rift in place; although we are polite to one another and we engage in simple, meaningless chit-chat and kiss hello and goodbye, there is always going to be that unspoken understanding between her parents and I.  It's unfortunate that it has to be this way, but it's something I simply don't know how to fix nor do I know if its within my capability to do so seeing as they're not only drinking the Kool-Aid, they're also SWIMMING in it.
    Now, one of J's sisters is another story.  She has always been an ally to us, a very strong supporter of our relationship.  She's always been the OPPOSITE of their parents.  And before I came along, she was J's 'person.'  J felt comfortable going to this sister for emotional support, for advice, for whatever at all she needed.  And resultedly, they became EXTREMELY close.  She, too, misses J a great deal, and even though she's been living away from the rest of her family for nine years, will sometimes comment on how she wishes that we lived closer to all of them - I'm sure J wouldn't mind cutting the trip back home by a few hours, but for me, that'd be a HUGE no-no based on the cold shoulder I'm used to receiving from the parents.  And they currently live WITH her sister, so lately, I've felt myself detaching even MORE and allowing J to go visit them all (her parents and sister) and I'd stay home so that she would not have to hear me moan and groan about how uncomfortable I am and how much I want to go home - this usually starts about ten to fifteen minutes after we arrive.   It's not fair to J to have to feel pressured or rushed while visiting her family, and so it's just better this way - it's better for me to stay behind so that she feels less pressure, less tension when she's in their company.
    I'm not sure if this is doing us any favors in the end, though.
    Here's a short summary of what happened.  Recently, J underwent a medical procedure (no further details needed here other than that) - and there was a miscommunication between J and her family and somehow, her sister's claws came out and she lashed out at me because she felt that I wasn't handling the situation in a manner that was acceptable to her.  She said some horrible things to me through Facebook messaging and came at me with some OTHER things that were nothing less than surprising to hear, coming from someone I thought was on our side.  I'm not sure where THOSE comments came from, but basically, I'm wondering if her sister has also been two-faced all along...because yes, while a lot of things are said in anger that aren't necessarily true, there's always an element, no matter how small, of truth to it.  People don't say things that they don't truly believe in the smallest way, so now I'm left with a lot of underlying, leftover stray, random thoughts that are strengthening this rift that was put into place by her parents.  
    At the time when J's sister got nasty with me, I responded in kind.  Actually, I wasn't nasty, nor was I rude - but I WAS firm and I defended myself - I simply told her MY perspective on the whole thing and she seemingly backed off - she ended her part of the conversation with "I'm sorry, I just love my sister so much and if I can't be there, I expect YOU to be."  It was something along those lines, something indicative of her belief that I would actually allow the love of my life to be without ANYTHING that she needed as she underwent this treatment.  And so, I shot back, "I've been loving and taking care of your sister for the last ten years, almost.  I'm not stopping now."
    And it ended there...no resolution, no making nice, just a dropped conversation.  I was SEETHING, though.  I mean...what the fuck!?  Never in my life have I mistreated someone, especially someone I've been in a relationship with.  I've never cheated on a partner - having been repeatedly cheated on by the wasband, other partners in the past, I'd never dare to do that to someone I loved.  I've never been abusive nor have I raised my hand to another person, except in dreams...and many of you will remember that I have trouble doing that even in my dreams.  Sure, J and I have got our occasional moments where we bicker but it's NEVER been a full-on fight.  We are soul mates in every sense of the word...I've never done a thing to deserve what was said to me, and I truly felt blindsided - I think that's really the gist of why I felt so frazzled afterwards.   
    J had her medical procedure done, which lasted one week. During that week, I had many, MANY conversations with her.  I really didn't want to share what was said to me by her sister/family before she had the procedure done as not to add any stress to her already overflowing plate, but she knew something was bothering me before the procedure and all plans to wait on discussing it went out the window.  Honestly, it would have likely made things worse if we had saved these conversations for later.  They couldn't be delayed without mounting anxiety in the meantime...and so I shared with her the messages, to include my responses.  I was completely honest with her about everything that was said, as well as everything I was feeling.  Her sister had made a lot of comments that had led me to believe that she'd been misunderstanding J for a long time, as well - I simply couldn't understand where some of these horrible things CAME from!
    Side note - J's parents and sister were invited to the Son's graduation party to be held at our house.  Prior to this 'falling out,' they were planning to come.  After all was said and hurt feelings and shit being slung from every corner, I wasn't sure they'd still come but they did tell J that they were still attending.  Now, her parents, I knew from before, would never change.  We're still going to have those uncomfortable, awkward moments - because that's what we've established at this point.  It is what it is with them.  
    But her sister was also coming and SHE's the one I am having the most issue with at the moment.  My son's party was going to be the first time I'd seen or heard from her sister since this incident, and nothing had been resolved nor any apologies made, nor any attempts made to set things right.  I wasn't approaching her - because I feel I did my part and what she did, she did unnecessarily and it was completely uncalled for.  
    And so J had a conversation with her sister on the morning of the party.  They called to let J know that they were on the road and asked if we'd like to meet them fro breakfast.  I declined because I still had a lot of setting up to do and couldn't get away, but J got dressed and went to go meet them.  She was also tasked with speaking with her sister beforehand and letting her know that this was NOT the time for continued awkwardness or an argument - it was my Son's graduation celebration and I wasn't going to be made to feel uncomfortable or angry by anyone.  This was a day to marvel in the Son's accomplishments, enjoy the company of the people who came to share in it - there was much to be discussed but now wasn't the time nor place.
    When J's sister arrived, she came in first, ahead of J and their parents.  Without a word, she took my hand and brought me into the bedroom.  There, she apologized for what she said to me and explained that a lot of her behavior stems from her feelings of helplessness - being four hours' drive away from J was taking a toll.  When J called to let them know that she had to get the procedure done, she had been upset and as a result, her sister's protective side took over - she didn't understand the full picture and so she prematurely lashed out, thinking I wasn't upholding my end of what needed to be done.  I told her I, too, was sorry - not for what I said to defend myself, but if I'd somehow given her the impression that I was in any way abandoning J's needs or coming across as being selfish because that indeed is not the person I am.  And I also said that while I expected that sort of comment to come from their MOTHER, it was extremely hurtful to even think she'd (her sister) think that low of me after knowing me for nine and a half years.  Her sister looked me in the eyes and told me that I, too, was her sister.  She loved me, she lost her mind momentarily and her claws would have come out for me too, if there ever were a situation where I needed defending.  (And I think this is another 'issue' that needs addressing at a later time - J is a grown woman and can certainly defend herself if she felt the need to do so...and from our talks on this matter, J has never felt the need to do so with me - it looks more to be an internal issue that her sister is having...for the duty of being J's 'person' is no longer hers - perhaps she's having trouble with that and it has also caused her to lash out on me - because I didn't 'do' things the way she would have, etc...)
    J's sister ended this five-minute conversation apologizing once again and then saying that she would like for us to become closer.  She'd like for us to talk once per week, through text or through FB.  She'd like for us to truly get to know one another, beyond the hellos, goodbyes and small talk - which admittedly while I am more comfortable being affectionate toward J when her sister is around than her parents, I STILL don't feel I quite fit in there, either.  What happened has certainly driven that wedge further, but we made 'nice' for the moment, which is what I needed to happen in order to start moving forward.  
    There is still some work and reparations to be done/made as far as this relationship I have with J's sister, but it's made me think about OTHER relationships that exist in my life.  Relationships with family members, with my parents, with my sisters, with my children, with the wasband, with friends, with people I've met here.  The list goes on.  
    A little statistic for those factoid-lovers out there - on average, us humans live for 78.3 years. Most of us remember people we meet after age 5.  So, let's assume we interact with 3 new people daily in cities, 365 days in a year plus leap yeas days is 365.24. In total it will be (78.3 – 5) x 3 x 365.24 = 80,000 people we interact with in a lifetime.  Let's also assume that at least 20% of these people are ones whose names we know, who we remember beyond that first meeting.  That still comes out to be a pretty big number of people.
    It's made me think about myself a lot, too.  About the walls I put up...(I think the POTUS would be proud.)
    These walls have been up for a long, long time, I'm guessing.  I have such a hard time allowing people through...I am picturing this as I type...there's a HUGE wall, possibly two or three football fields' width, with a single door somewhere in the middle.  Some people have made me aware that they've been running into, driving into, attempting to jump over it, even trying to dig underneath it...but can't seem to get through that tiny little doorway enough to say that they TRULY know me.  And, you know...this isn't their fault - it's the way I've intended for it to be - all the while I've had the key and means to allow people in.  
    Right now, after the events that have transpired recently, the only one who is behind this wall and has one hundred percent of my heart, soul and trust, is J.
    She's inside this wall, and she's sitting next to me and we're surrounded by this enormous amount of open space.  I am imagining though that while I like that well enough, it's still a lonely place - because between the presence of this wall and the amount of time it's been up, I'm at risk of ending up alone later in life.  Because as much as I don't want to imagine this ever happening - I have to be realistic and remember that ANYTHING can happen that could result in a break-up or separation.  This is NOT to say this is something I am concerned with right now because J's and my love is a strong one, perhaps even stronger than these walls - but I have to repeatedly ask myself - hypothetically, what if someday, she wasn't there anymore?  Then what?  Where would that leave me, standing in the middle of this huge, empty space?  I know that I have been able to scale J's walls but her sister has been behind her wall before me, so if something were to happen to me resulting in my death, I know that moving forward, J would be okay - she has another rock situated there for life.  Me, though?  She's it. I love her with everything I am and if life could guarantee that she's going to be there for the rest of my life, this wouldn't even be a thought.  But it can't.  And I've been working so hard and for so long to make sure she's the only one there.  I'm not sure if this is more harmful than helpful, though.
    Not even my mother has breached this wall.  She can't figure out why, and she's expressed many times a frustration over not being able to 'reach' me but, well...that's just too bad.  She's too much of a pain in the ass to even WANT inside this wall.
    My two children are stationed at the imaginary doorway - if not sitting on top of this wall.  I only say this because while I trust my children completely, there are still things they do not know about me and that I've not been able to share with them in regards to my life and my past.  I still feel the need to shield them from these details because as their mother, my wish is to spare them some of the grisly details that may otherwise and unnecessarily upset them.  Nothing can be done about these things right now, firstly - and secondly, even though the Son is about to turn 18, he's still in many ways a child.  The daughter is just 11, she's not ready to see past the doorway just yet.  And so they are granted access to the 'inside' by default because of them being 'permanent' fixtures in my life.  Nothing short of death will eject them from my heart - and should they, one day, approach me and ask me about my past or for details, I'd be okay with sharing them - but they'd have to ask for them.
    I also feel the need to mention that with each time I've been burned by someone, a layer is added to this wall, to solidify it.  I think it's all measured in invisible 'materials,' if that makes sense.  For example, if someone were to lie to me or break my trust in a minor way that can be eventually moved past, and otherwise apologized for, I'll certainly forgive them but won't be able to help adding a 'dirt layer' in front of my wall that they'll have to spend some time cleaning up/digging to get through, but will eventually be able to find this doorway and try again. If someone were to cheat on me though?  A wall made of steel will come crashing down in front of these people and they're not guaranteed to get through this one in this same lifetime.  The wasband is currently behind THIS wall - I've forgiven him his infidelities, though - because without having burned me this way, I would not have found my true soulmate.  And so, the only reason he remains behind this steel wall and I haven't banished him into an entirely different universe reserved for those I never want to associate with again, is because of the children we share, that love him very much.  Between dirt and steel, we also have brick, glass, etc to measure the different strengths of wall required for that 20% of the 80,000 people I'll meet in my lifetime to pass.
    So, along with the idea of working with my sister-in-law in future weeks, months, years to come, I'm now wondering if I should further open this make-believe (solidified, of course) door, and see who's still trying to get in and who's given up by now.  Do these persistent people deserve a chance?  Do I need to work on making room (although I think it's a matter of FILLING space rather than making room) in my heart for others by opening up a little bit more and loosening some of these self-inflicted barriers? I've spent a fair amount of time collecting trust - I am told that I'm an easy person to trust - and I believe this because yes, this is a great deal of who I am.  I'm loyal, I'm honest, I'm faithful, I do not break others' trust; I can't live with myself if I ever did, and if that did happen, it'd likely be accidentally or otherwise unintentional.  And I always own up to my mistakes when they're made.
    I wonder though, if it is time for me to reciprocate and put some of my own trust in others?  Even if I do it a little bit at a time (which I'm working on), it's still so, so hard to do enough to allow someone complete access. I imagine that'll take a while but it's another hurdle I'm finding myself facing these days.  
    How does one even clear this type of hurdle?  I'd love to hear, so if anyone has any input, please do comment!  
    Until next time, folks.  My dinner (pizza) and date (of course, J) have arrived.  We're taking in a movie and we'll relax tonight.  I'll be back later.
    ,  and all my best,
    - Capulet
  24. 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
  25. 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
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