Wednesday, February 22, 2012


We sit together near the wall of windows that overlooks a life-size standing terracotta Buddha at the foot of a pristine pine staircase which begins at French doors filled with light and mesmerizing prisms producing magical rainbows all over the walls and across our faces.

The stream behind the statue has rocks scattered all across the shallow surface and there's a diminutive whirlpool effect created by the random placement of rocks, and I can observe from the well-worn well-loved leather couch, clockwise and counterclockwise infinite circles and the music the stream makes casts a spell of serenity and she speaks.

'How has your week been?'  We skipped a week, so it's been two but I know the rote, let's get business out of the way, so, as she says, we can work together and have fun. So I tell her about my dad putting down my favorite top and my telling him that I wished he were as generous with his compliments as he was with his insults and his telling me to get off my high-horse, y'know, our usual schtick. I can't ask him to change behavior that's been routed through his neural pathways for the past 70 years but I can control how I respond and I'm human AND my father's daughter so I do make the occasional potshot and zinger. I've been conditioned too, it's part of my wiring as well.

 She rolls her eyes. I can't fool her. Which is good. I'd been told I'd have to find a therapist I couldn't outsmart and it'd be a bitch to find one but I found her and now we've become more than doctor/patient. We giggle and conspire like little girls and she often says, 'Oh we're not getting any work done AGAIN, Elaine' and I nearly always forget to give her my copay although I never fail to remember that she's made a big sacrifice for me by taking less than half her usual fee so we won't lose each other. I tell her that I don't want to lose her because of money and she says, 'Sweetie, you won't.'

 I believe her. I don't know why. Everyone who promises me they will stay leaves so why should I trust her, even when those who said they wouldn't leave either, did and yet I still do.

I think of a prayer I wrote down about being open and choosing to remain vulnerable after suffering and how forgiveness has so much power and she smiles and asks me what I'm thinking of at that moment.

I tell her that he's dead to me, yet....I still pray for him. He viciously injured me, yet I have so much gratitude that he took care of me when I was sick and he loves and cares for Nacho who I ache for and I know Wonton misses...still. She still recognizes his name when I mention it and she cries when I leave because she thinks I'm leaving her forever and my grandmother spends twenty minutes consoling and cajoling and she lets her great-nana be a surrogate til Mama gets home and I think, I left them. I left him and I left Nacho and my heart breaks because I love the cat more than the man and how did it get to this point?

When she and I first began to talk, I was so heartsick because it wasn't just abuse that I was dealing with, but incredible guilt that I could have done more couldn't I have, although she assured me I did so much more than 'more' and I cry so hard over Spooky Oats snatching his friendship away that she gets on her knees and wraps her arms around me and says let it out let it out and the grief is so suffocating that I can't make a sound so we rock until I hiccup and she excuses herself to get me a glass of water and I wipe my face with a tissue from one of the twenty ever present boxes of Kleenex and I think of all the people who have baptized this couch with their sorrow and how many she's consoled, and held on to and helped them in their recovery, some beginning to feel for the first time in years and sobbing in the waiting room in anticipation of the safe place with a spectrum of color and light dancing across the walls and the sound of the water burbling as if to say, 'It's okay, it's okay, it's okay to cry, baby. You're safe. You're loved. You're worth it all.'

I tell her that he did love me at first. I remember moments more and more as time passes by and the daze of fear and dread turns to clarity. He will never be blessed with my presence again. He's been banned from the garden of my love forever and angels do stand at the gates, forbidding entrance. Of this I know within my deepest heart. 

I remember the moment when we were talking in bed and he looked up at me and gasped and I whispered, 'What's wrong, Baby?' and his eyes filled with tears and he choked and said, 'You're so beautiful in the moonlight.' and how it took me by surprise and nothing ever took me by surprise and I loved those rare good good precious unforgettable surprises like, 'I'm coming to see YOU, Silly,' and 'I couldn't stay away from you no matter how much I tried', and, 'I couldn't sleep all night, thinking of you, please....' and taking my hand and asking me to trust once again. And I did and I did and I did and every time I did my heart broke yet I did it again and again because of hope and forgiveness and faith and that love that surpasses understanding.....all logic and reason goes out the window.....with the moonlight and the music that lulls and soars in my soul takes over.

I would look up from a book, or a bubbling pot, or my laptop and find him studying me with a silly smile playing across his lips, lips that I begged to kiss tenderly I remember now and wonder if the joy will ever be separate from the sorrow and undiluted and as light and effortless as a handful of feathers drifting through the air, and more precious than a pound of glittering gold. Not with him, but with another. He was not The One. He knew it himself. He always knew it even before I did. He knew he could never be enough and that I was a force he couldn't even begin to comprehend so he didn't want to try and instead withdrew, disappeared and became a ghost. All I had to talk to were mirrors and cats that would pile up on me and purr melodies almost by design as if to sooth my aching heart and overwhelming loneliness. My marriage was dead but there had been life, so I grieved long after the love was gone.

And upon finding my voice again, I lost another, with no reason, no warning and I wondered about cosmic jokes and karmic agreements made when souls were birthed, how could we know what we were agreeing to? How could we say, 'I will' or 'Never' or 'No matter what' when there is no guarantee of anything no matter the intent, no matter the consequence and I sit here with eyes filled with tears and with light and she says, 'Your eyes sparkle,  did anyone ever tell you that?' and I say, 'Yes. But oh what a price I've paid for it.' and sigh.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

She Knows About Storms

This afternoon, out with a friend, we watched from a nearby window, snow falling down steadily. It was quite 'fluffy' and fell in bunches of flakes and at times the sun broke through but it continued to snow for quite a while. We wondered aloud if it would 'stick'. We got lost in conversation for several hours as we tend to do and didn't give it another thought, until she excused herself and I asked people at the next table who'd just arrived, if it did indeed stick and they assured me it hadn't but it was quite a squall wasn't it and I had to agree. Looking back, it was really lovely. Here, and then gone.

My friend and I said our goodbyes and we hugged and 'I love you'd' at our cars and I waved as I passed her pulling into the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru hoping that she'd get her mint hot chocolate as she'd planned. She had a long drive home.

I had a short drive and passed the homes and businesses of several friends, noting the lights and signs of life in what often feels to me, a native city girl, a very remote isolated area, at least this time of year, off-season for 'summer people' and made it to the security gate and was astonished to see several inches of snow on the ground. It was less than three miles away but then again, as one of my friends reminds me, mountains and elevation can make a very big difference. The accumulation crunched in the driveway as I pulled in and I thanked the universe that I'd decided on sneakers rather than the flats I intended to wear. Nice way to destroy brand new gold linen shows that were such a good deal too.

The snow was soft and light and no problem to walk around the house and up the stairs. I saw deer tracks in it and realized that one had walked right up to the deck and always see that as a sign of my sister, and said, as I usually do, 'Hey Boo', and walked inside and stomped on the mat and said hello and goodnight to my grandmother and offered my leftovers to my dad and told him a little story about some adorable girls at the restaurant and I felt good. Really good. It had been a while.

When I'm low I reach out to my friends and sometimes it's for an ear to bend, a hug and embrace, and various and sundry opinions I can consider to help fill in blanks and sometimes, more often than not, I seek out friends who aren't doing so hot themselves and show them some love. We are all damaged, just in different degrees.

I often say, 'Your happy is my happy' and it's true. Their sadness is mine too, but I like and believe in the adage that when sharing with friends, our joy is doubled and our grief is divided.

Thinking on this, I thought about the conversation during dinner and and it reminded me of another friend, who lives in another state who I am determined to meet and although we have never met, I love with all my heart because her own is solid gold. She is sassy and spicy and sexy and reminds me of everything so good about 'southern hospitality' and generosity and, like me, she isn't perfect and doesn't pretend to be. In fact, both of us would probably qualify more as horrible warnings than shining examples, but still, we manage to sparkle.

We had planned to visit for a bit of a spell when Spooky Oats and I were planning The Road Trip and besides my heart breaking about all that, my heart broke because those friends we conspired with were disappointed too and I felt guilty that I'd let them down. One said, (always sensible)  'You know, you could come yourself....', and I knew that but I couldn't wrap my mind around an epic road trip WITHOUT Spooky Oats so the seed of that idea needed some time to take root but it did, I think mainly because my own heart is quite fertile soil.

 Ever broken, there's always room for growth and rebuilding, and with that I decided to open a road trip savings account. I would not give up on the idea, just some of the details needed adjustment and I mentioned this to my friend while we enjoyed our pasta. I chattered on about these friends I'd never met and the snow outside reminded me of something about Babygirl, and I began to tell her how Babygirl works with FEMA when the tornadoes blow through her area, even when she's grieving for those she lost in those disasters, and how she makes sure everyone even now is fed, with sometimes the most simple ingredients and her descriptions of meals make my mouth water and I want nothing more than to pick okra in her garden and eat fried porkchops in her mama's kitchen and say yes, ma'am and  no, sir and just relax and I know I could and would so Babygirl had to had to HAD TO be a priority and my friend agreed, of course. Babygirl knows about storms.

I've seen her heart break. I could hear it beat and shatter clear across several states and she's felt mine as well. She posts specific and meaningful song links on my FB wall in our secret coded language that we dance around without actually speaking and sends me love notes when she's not feeling so shy. Although I might be considered a wordsmith by some, her own words render me speechless and I'm honored by her attention and affection. She teaches me lessons about storms.

My friend sitting before me, as we then ate dessert, talked about our own trials and tribulations (which are legion) and it hit me, like a bolt of lightening and I sat up straight and said, I know why this happened. There have been so many blanks that I've felt like I've been losing my mind and despite reassurances that my reaction is normal and it will all pass, I've been stuck. Unlike the snow.

I've learned through the last ten years how to survive, only survive, (forget flourish) and that wasn't living. I wasn't nurtured, and barely got any sunlight and it was a wonder I made it through the cracks but I did and I began to rebuild after the storm, just as Babygirl does, literally, for her friends and loved ones. I've learned over and over again how to regroup and organize (often pitiably) and stand, after the snow and rain and thunder and lightening and winds died down, and nurtured and nourished and got my own sunlight, but this time was different, this lesson.

 I needed to weather it while IN the midst of the storm and part of reaching that point was first making it through the aftermath. Not just picking up pieces and rebuilding but holding on and believing in myself and that I'd make it and I WOULD flourish and none of it was in vain, not one moment. Not one tear, not one disappointment, not one bewildered sleepless night, not even all the real physical pain that turned out to be a result of real emotional pain.

 There could be no regrets because all of it led to now. I am the best me I've ever been (battered and bruised but still standing) and that person from before is a barely discernible shadow. There is enough of her to remember and relate to and to also forgive and love and tell someone else, if I'm lucky, 'I was you', 'I am you', 'I know your pain' and we could both learn from it and they could pass that on and that could be my legacy or at least part of it and what is more gratifying than something like giving hope, compassion and love--it's inside us, as if they live and breathe and lead us out of the darkness and into the light. They give us the possibility of joy because we have known suffering.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, ' I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable.'

The storm will pass. So will that one. And that one. Another one will come after, that's pretty much guaranteed, and sometimes, they come in punishing waves, like my past ten years. Sometimes they come and go, without a trace, or we find traces in the most unexpected places, that catch us by surprise, like when we're falling in love and are really really scared because we remember the last storm and are afraid to face it, or when we're sick, or feel abandoned or unwanted or unloved or when we lose absolutely everything and think there's nothing after but there is something after. There always is. The storms make us stronger, stronger than we ever imagined. And with it comes a blessing, if we take heed, like Babygirl, to help out those whose own storms hit hard. It IS a blessing because we see clearly who we were, and who we are now and we do have a future, in spite of any storm.