Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Weekend


One of the things I have learned in my life and tried to be constantly aware of, is the impact I can have on other people. It amazes me that sometimes something so random and ordinary for one person can be an unforgettable, life-changing moment for someone else. Such a thing happened to me when I was eleven or so, and the details, which I am sure have been all but forgotten by everyone else, are seared in my memory. On the surface, it was nothing major, nothing monumental, but it changed me in a way I still don’t truly understand.

I have written a little about spending a major portion of my childhood with my mom’s violently abusive second husband, Rich. My days were spent living in constant fear of being hit, kicked, slapped or punched. For years, I had bruises and cuts and welts on my arms and back and legs. I refused to wear shorts, refused to change clothes for gym class. I was constantly being told I was nobody and that I would never be anyone. I was told I was ugly, stupid and should never have been born. I was made to feel and believe I was not worthy of anything in this life. And not only did I quickly start to believe all the negative things I was told, but something inside me knew to never tell anyone about what was happening at home. I don’t know how I knew I was to keep it to myself, I just knew it was my issue to deal with and I felt so completely alone. I would hide it in public, hide it from everyone and while I was always told I was so cute and sweet, inside I felt shame, rot and decay, the very feelings that would lead me to almost end my life at fourteen. As an adult, I would be diagnosed with and worked through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to things that happened, a lot of which I don’t even remember.

When I was younger, my mom’s best friend was a woman we always called Aunt Lori and she was the kind of person that just radiated joy and who would actually look at you when talking to you. I always loved being around her and in her house, there was just such a feeling of, well, something I didn’t feel anywhere else. Aunt Lori and her husband had just one child, two years younger than me, and they would spend their weekends having great adventures waterskiing or riding ATVs out in desert. They had a life I knew I would never be a part of. And then, for some reason, they invited to go with them for a weekend away. I had never been in an RV before and thought I would explode from excitement as we drove out to Salton Sea with the three-wheelers in tow. They were just doing their normal thing, but I was escaping and it was heaven.

We got there and spent the weekend in the sun, climbing on rocks, looking for coyotes and just having an amazing time. I couldn’t remember the last time I had fun without the knowledge of the drama and violence that was sure to follow. Most of all, I felt safe. Maybe it wasn’t that I felt safe, I knew that I was safe. I felt seen. I knew I was not “cool” like they were. I could not drive my own three-wheeler like their son could, but I was never once made to feel anything but welcome and accepted. I had never felt accepted before, certainly not just for being me. I didn’t have to do anything for it. I could have stayed out there forever, but the weekend drew to a close and it was soon time to head back. 

When we got back to their house, Rich came to pick me up and the reality of my life came smashing back. I got in his car and left without saying goodbye or thank-you. Lori called my mom to make sure I got home ok as suddenly I had just gone missing from her house and I was told by Rich and my mom how ungrateful and selfish I was, how I didn’t deserve to do nice things. I felt so guilty about it for the longest time. I didn’t mean to leave like that, I just didn’t want Rich contaminating that perfect weekend that was and is still one of the best memories I have of my childhood.

Over the years, I lost touch with Aunt Lori. I just wanted as much distance between my adult and child selves as possible, both literally and figuratively. There were too many painful memories for me and when I would go back to California to visit, there were areas, whole cities, I would avoid. Just the thought of driving past them on the freeway would make my heart race and my palms sweat. But I never forgot that weekend, or the fact I never said thank you. I was worried Aunt Lori was upset at me and felt like I took that trip for granted. So many times in my head, I rehearsed what I would say if I ever say her again.

Over thirty years later, we got back in touch and I was able to explain. She had pretty much forgotten all that, but more importantly, she was just was warm and kind and happy and accepting as I remembered. Those things came across in our increasingly longer and personal mails on Facebook and then in person when we met face-to-face just a couple of months ago.

I am telling this because it was one of those times when someone was just going through their life and they were kind to a little boy for no special reason, not knowing the impact it would have on his life. Statistics say that I should be an addict, abusive, in jail or perhaps even dead, but that weekend, a tiny seed was planted. One that hinted that maybe, just maybe, I was more than what I was experiencing in my life, more than what I was being told on a daily basis and that just maybe, there was another life out there waiting for me. It would be years before that seed grew, but it was there and that has made all the difference in the world. Aunt Lori is not the only one, I have been fortunate enough to have and still have many people like that in my life, but she was one of the first.

When I am with my nephews or niece, I hope I make them feel as I did that weekend. I hope they look back and realize that I not only see them for who they really are, I accept and love them unconditionally and completely. I never want them, for even a moment, to think they are less than perfectly worthy and enough, just as they are. I try to remember that all my actions and words, no matter how insignificant I think they might be, can change the course of someone’s life. It made me smile when one of my nephews told me that when he is an uncle, he wants to be just like me. Is there a more awesome or humbling compliment? 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Move - Part Two


It seems I might have given off the wrong impression when I wrote about my move and being intimidated. Several people kindly and lovingly responded offering help, making sure I was ok, and so on. The fact is, I am not at all down, depressed or upset about it. Quite the opposite. I LOVE being in my own place. I wrote that because it strikes me odd that while I love it, I am strangely intimidated by it.

In the past couple of years, many things have intimidated me. Learning to walk again was a big one. I can’t explain that one and hope nobody reading this ever understands what it is like to have to relearn something you have done all your life and yet never given a single thought to. Learning to ride a bike was another. As was getting behind the wheel of a car and getting my license back. That was terrifying. Walking was one thing. In a car, I could kill someone. Hiking on Table Mountain in South Africa and then through Bryce, the Grand Canyon and Zion were all super scary for me. Climbing up the rocks in Valley of Fire with the fear I would not be able to get down was just something I had to do. I had to know.

Roller-skating was also very intimidating. I have been roller-skating longer than I can remember, but it was wiped away with the walking and the balance. Last July, David took me to a roller rink. We got there early and ended up sitting outside talking for about an hour. We were chatting about this and that, but inside I was trying to get up the nerve to put on a pair of skates. didn’t know if I would stand up in them, I just wanted to try them on. I got them on my feet and then immediately I was torn equally between wanting to take them off and run – well, walk fast as I hadn’t yet learned to run – out of the rink and wanting to make it around the rink just one time. I ended up spending most of the night on skates and I fell just once in quite a spectacular, arms flying all over the place style.

Not everything has always gone great. On my first boat ride to Bongoyo Island after the stroke, I stepped out of the boat, lost my footing and went under. There was the second or two of panic and embarrassment followed by lots of laughter and a bit of teasing. I have found that once that worst fear happens, I know it is all going to be ok.

So this move is just one more thing in a list of things that I have found overwhelming. What I find so strange with the feelings about the move, is that for so many things, they are just things I did and never thought about. You learn to walk once and that’s it. Something most of us never remember and a process we usually never need to repeat. Moving is something I have done. And done. And done. I am sure I have moved close to a hundred times. I have moved five times just in the last year and a half. Three times in Istanbul, Five in India and so on. If I know how to do anything, it’s move. Yet somehow this move is different.

Maybe it’s because of what this move signifies. It is the end of an era for me. The end of wondering if I was ever going to make it back and have my own life and independence again. Wondering if I would ever feel normal. If I would ever have the courage to live alone again. It means I am, for the most part, finished with my recovery. Yeah, there are little things here and there, but the big pieces are done now. And I’m here, in my own apartment.

Just typing those words makes me want to cry because they make me happy. And because of the stroke, I got to spend time living with Ken and his family and got to have them as a part of my daily life instead of just seeing them on visits here and there. I have known his children Haley and Zach since they were mere bumps in Charise’s belly and I got to experience just what amazing young adults and people they are and are going to be. I got to know my sister again and have discovered that of all the adventures I have had in my life, being an uncle is without a doubt my favorite. My niece is one of the most beautiful people I know both inside and out and my nephews are just magical and inspriring.

So yes, I am intimidated and a little overwhelmed, but at the same time, I am happily swimming in those emotions just knowing that I am here and I made it.  

Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Haunting


One thing I like about my apartment is that I have a nice view of the city. I can see the entire strip area. It is a little interrupted, but for the most part, just great! So yesterday evening as the sun was going down and the lights of Las Vegas were coming up, I was sitting in my living room on the floor as I have no furniture. I had been working on a website all day and decided to relax with a beer. A friend came over to see the place and as we were chatting, I glanced at my front door. That is when I saw the face in my door looking back. I know I have an over-active imagination and so I asked my friend if he noticed anything odd at my front door. He immediately mentioned the face. And it was looking toward the fireplace, or the wall that separates my bedroom from the living room. I took a photo of it as I wanted to see if it was just my eyes or if it would be picked up by camera – a little something I learned watching Ghost Hunters at Ken and Charise’s. Thanks guys, loving it right about now!

Over the past couple of weeks, it has become something of a regular thing to have a morning coffee and chat with my friend John. A few days ago, he decided to do the Starbucks run and brought over some coffee. He goes into my room and lies on the bed, as that is the only furniture I have save for a folding table holding the computer. Space is my furniture at the moment. A few minutes later he asks me is someone died in this room. I thought it was an odd question, but I asked him why and he pointed out the tiny red splatter marks on the ceiling. I can see them now as I type this.

And in addition to all of this, I have heard sounds like someone is in my house. And the other day, I know I left the sliding door to the balcony open, as I almost always have it open unless I am sleeping and when I went back in, it was closed. Maybe I forgot I closed it, but I only remembered walking in, opening it, and I remember opening it as the lock had just been fixed and I had to unlock it to open it and then I went into my room to change and when I went back to step outside and get some fresh air, it was closed.

You can imagine how my imagination has been shifted into overdrive.  Was this a CSI location? A primary crime scene? Something from Criminal Minds? Do I go to the office and ask them if there was anything in my apartment? I did do a Google search and found someone had been shot and killed in this community a few years ago. But this is Vegas and that can be said for almost anywhere.

I think it’s kind of cool to have the face in the door. It adds a little something to the place. I am kind of curious if it will go away. Do I go all Sixth Sense and try communicating? See if she – and there seems to be agreement it is a she – has unfinished business? Do I try to get her to pass into the light or at least through the door? In all seriousness, I am not at all freaked out, I actually find it really cool in a Scooby mystery kind of way.

I guess I need to log into Netflix and catch up on Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Activity. And I know there are clues here somewhere!

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Move


It’s so quiet.

After over two years of living with other people, I have my own place. It is a huge deal for me to be on my own. I haven’t been on my own at all since December 2011. There has always been someone around, someone coming home, someone in the next room. Now, it is just me. Nobody is coming through the door.

I have mixed feelings about it. Yes, it is great to be able to just have alone time. At the same time, I have so much time on my own. To think. It scares me in some ways. I am worried about falling back into the depression I fought my way out of. I am scared of things going wrong and losing it all again and being back where I was a few years ago. I am scared of having another stroke and being alone.

I’ve spent so much of my life doing the very things that scare me. Being scared of something was reason enough to do it and it almost always turned out that the fear was ultimately nothing but smoke without any fire at all. This time, I am more than scared. It’s something I have been wanting for so long, but have been terrified at the same time. My last blog, I wrote about surrendering things, putting my energy where it can make a difference. Now, I find myself thinking and worrying again.

Last night I couldn’t sleep. Scenario after scenario going through my head. I feel tired and restless and nervous. I know getting my own place was the right thing to do, the right thing for me, and at the same time it is all just so overwhelming. Even deciding what to put in which drawer seems daunting right now. It might sound silly, but I feel nervous about making those wrong choices. I have four closets and have moved my shoes in and out of each one, not sure if I have made the right choice. I change shelves, I move the soap from the left side to the right, unsure of where it should belong. I have no glasses or plates and when I go to the store to look at some, I am scared of getting the wrong ones. I borrowed silverware and that was easy. The choice wasn't mine, I couldn't make a mistake. And logically, I know none of it matters at all. It makes no difference to anything and yet it feels like it means everything. 

I think the silence is getting to me a bit as well. I am used to being interrupted by my niece, one of my nephews, or someone coming in to talk to me or to just be near. Sometimes the interruptions were annoying, but I loves that there was always someone there. Now they are around the corner and it feels so far away.  I feel removed from everything and everyone for some reason. I know it isn’t the case, it just feels like that. I thought of getting a roommate, but I know, I really know that this is something I need to do, need to work through and need to get past. 

It seems so ridiculous that this move is having this effect. I never once felt intimidated moving. The Netherlands, India, Turkey, Tanzania were all very easy things to do so why is moving a half mile away from where I have been feel so intense? I have trouble sleeping, my head fills with thoughts when I lie down, thoughts I don't remember in the morning, I just remember them being there. 

I can only believe this is temporary and that, like so many other things, it will pass.