“Ni le bien qu’on m’a fait, Ni le mal tout ça m’est bien égal”

“Rien de Rien”

I really don’t. For those unfamiliar with Edith Piaf and/or French, basic translation of today’s soundtrack is no regrets, and for me it is always sung by a chanson whose life and voice are equally moving. It is one of my three favorite songs, and one I request be played if anyone insists on ever having a memorial service for me, assuming this dandelion ever dies.

I owe much of my finally moving  forward again to a young and gifted artist who put a paintbrush in my hand freeing with music, color and movement the pain for which I could not find words.

I blogged yesterday, and then I painted yesterday and then I went to a barbecue with my SCA family who had Veggie dogs and grilled veggie kabob. (Plant based consideration in itself by a host leaves me verklempt, so add in chocolate porter and the kindness was transforming). I ended my perfect birthday week in the way I had begun it, with a group of lovely people who expect no more of me than just being unpredictable, imperfect me.

I made choices of who and what my soul needed, it all came together, admittedly there was not time to include everyone I love in my birthday celebration, and there are a few exceptional bits of human light and friendship where I am consistently unable to attain even temporary orbit these days. Life gets busy sometimes.

Those I chose to spend time with were ones I know see “me”, all of me without idealization, or its flip side of  fear and blame. I gifted myself with those whose presence is always the best present. That’s what I gave myself for my birthday this year.  An entire week of being just me

And it was just what I needed.

Yesterday I blogged, I painted, I partied with friends.

And then I came home and cried, and cried, and cried.

And today I woke with a headache but  some of the blanket of grief lifted

I wanted to paint more, but I am out of paint, and I think I need some other brushes, so here I am listening to Edith Piaf Radio on Google because life is good, and I can.

I am still really struggling with words, but that’s okay…rien de rien

“There comes a time, a time in everyone’s life”

Even the music in my head is jumbled. By the time I am done with this entry maybe a song will stick, maybe I will have a title. Maybe some day soon I will write a poem again, I will truly feel happiness again, maybe I will actually find a way to start these tears and cry until I stop.

It has been 5 months since the last post, not easy months but not bad ones either.  I go to work. I eat. I sleep. I move through life maybe a bit more hermit like than this time last year but maintaining an appearance of normal.

The losses of important friends have been monthly. People continue to surprise me with their incredible ability to be beautiful. While other times people surprise me with their narcissism and meanness. I am the sidekick in an incredible mashup of a Nicholas Sparks and Stanley Kubrick movie.

I wake up most mornings feeling peace, joy and gratitude. I can sometimes make it through a whole morning without thinking about the rape. Maybe lunch or the music on the way home will make me think I need to call one of my friends…and then I realize that cell phone reception will never reach that far.

Do others guess that everything looks like its like it’s filmed through a Vaseline wash? They see my smile, hear my words, exchange news, even hug. Are they aware of the thick woven wool scrim interjected between us?

Nothing touching me. Grief is the perfect isolation tank.

I need a mental equivalent of Clyndamycin to free myself of his memory, all the bad memories, all the betrayals.

And I need emotional morphine to live with all these happy memories of those I have said good-bye to this year.

But I am still getting up.

And getting on.

Cause that’s what I do

and sometimes I just play along, why don’t you come too.

if it’s a friend you need, let it be me.

“Moving Right Along in Search of Good Times and Good News

With good friends you can’t lose, this could become a habit!”

Got up this morning full of gratitude and immediately put on my exercise gear and went for a walk and trot, not a long one, I don’t yet know my new neighborhood well. Just 2.34 Km, but I met my goal of 30 minutes. If you look at the map, I pretty much just went down to the end of the block and back.

I slept like a rock last night, not even waking to pee; which is a VERY deep sleep for a Silver Siren. I weighed myself just to see and I lost 2 pounds. Bladders like that only come from years of nursing, retail, or parenthood. The rest of you would probably only lose a pound as your little bladder is not overstretched. Upside, holds a lot: downside, leaks easily and prone to infection from retention.

But everything has its pros and cons, even road trips with best friends who can’t lose. (Moving right along…..)

If you have watched the original Muppet Movie, you are familiar with today’s internal soundtrack, a perky, funny song about getting lost on the road to your destiny.

(If you haven’t watched it, why not and when do you want to come over; only movie I re-watch as much as Wizard of Oz. Speaking of which, Cathy, Ann if either of you are reading this, text me about a movie day again. I think we all could use a visit to the Wizard or that other Rainbow and Cathy your grand smalls are welcome to join us.)

Meanwhile back at the point, and yes, this is how my mind and often my conversations meander. Friendship with me is not for the faint of heart.

So even with the best of friends and intentions we can head West and end up North, “Send someone to fetch us we’re in Saskatchewan”

Before I plan a morning run route I get familiar with my neighborhood, learn where the dead ends are, which areas are well-lit or poorly lit. Is there evidence that the trail areas are used to “hang out” AEB (as evidenced by, now you know some nursing lingo) cigarette butts and empty cups, do I see other walkers/runners at sunrise or dusk.? I love to walk and run outdoors, I am not a fan of gyms and will often not exercise rather than go to a gym, so I know how to make myself as safe as possible.

The same goes for my hiking. I prep my bag with adequate water and a few high energy snacks, I take my compass and recently changed to Verizon as my cell phone carrier so I could keep my GPS signal even in remote areas, I check weather reports. Personal safety is important to me so I plan and pay attention.

When I hike, I always leave an itinerary, check in at the ranger station if applicable and review guide books where available. Trail maps and memoirs or previous hikers are equally important for planning the longer hikes.

I do all these things because if I do, I get to relax and have fun AND I get to live to hike again. I now know how to read weather signs, and what bugs, plants and predators are waiting in the areas I hike, what they look like and how they sound and how best to respond if encountered.

Experience has taught me how to safely plan my outdoor fun.

Unfortunately I have been less careful about my relationship journey.  These next few posts are my memoir style guide-book to how I ended up lost and also how I am finding my way back to me.

Step One. Pay attention to what you see and hear and watch for consistency.

I am a trusting person, because I try extremely hard to be a trustworthy person. In fact I can be annoyingly observant and honest. So when I see the behavioral equivalent of a homeless campsite or cigarette butt hangout on my walk with somebody, I say “Hey, look at this, I don’t think this is a safe place for me to be alone.”

The problem is, I am more trusting of external input in relationships than I am of my instincts. If they respond with, “don’t be silly that’s nothing to worry about, I am cleaning that up now.” Or worse yet because I am an instinctual nurturer, “Wow, thanks. I never looked at it that way before, thank you. Can you help me clean it up” Instead of leaving, I am hooked.

So to put this is in less allegorical terms, my new rule number one is watch for signs of honesty and trust my gut.

For example: He tells everyone he is 5’8″ and he is shorter than you and you know you are 5’5″, and he clearly believes his lie (I mean I joke about being 39 but don’t expect you to believe it), avoid this man.

He tells the same well-practiced stories but is consistently unable or unwilling to answer direct questions about himself, his history, his beliefs, his life in general. If it feels like he is hiding things, guess what, he is. Avoid this man.

The stories he tells always cast himself in heroic light, he is defensive about anything that in any way pokes fun at himself and yet enjoys laughing at others. Avoid this man.

In other words, Narcissists are extremely good at deception. The person they deceive the most is themselves, and they do believe their lies, they also know how to read others and explain hitting all their victims buttons, so it is harder to spot as lying.

A sure key you are dating a dangerous narcissist is that all problems are someone else’s responsibility or fault. He doesn’t get angry, of course, because that would be a fault, but he will jokingly despise and hate lots and lots of things. Clearly his tastes and his opinions are the ones that matter, when he does give an opinion, those who disagree are just not as “special” as him.

In the beginning you (I) will be on a pedestal and immune from that blame, and all the right words will let me (you) know how special you are (of course you are, you are with him) but as the relationship progresses and you (I) become a bigger part of his life, that acerbic wit and occasionally glimpsed and unacknowledged rage will be directed at you.

So avoid this man.

Consider a relationship trail with a man or woman like this closed for snakes.

Time to get ready for work after a nice shower and Tara Meditation. My new essential oil is Forgive! (because I AM truly angry that I was raped) and I will clear my Karma, because I acknowledge I have no one else to blame for my choices, but I can learn to choose differently.

 

 

(Just Like) Starting Over

So much to say, so much to share that all the words and thoughts run into each other and tumble pell-mell into a mental smoothie,  which I reread, and decide to delete.  So my first commitment to reader and self, is I will not delete this post.  But warning, there are triggers in this for those who have been abused.

“It is time to spread our wings and fly..Just like starting over..” was the soundtrack for my hike yesterday. (Hey NPR had a whole show on how this is a real thing, not that I needed proof it was real, but who doesn’t love validation.)  John Lennon was talking about a woman and rekindling the relationship, my heart was singing to Father Sky and Mother Earth, the best friends, family and lover that I have ever embraced, neglected or ignored.

No prose, poem or picture could convey the world I walked in the last two days. The two hiking spots are only 20 minutes apart but different altitude zones and could be on different planets.

The first was aspen, pine and lake view, heavily travelled, partially paved and hardly hiking. The crows were plentiful, gophers, chipmunks, cacti and unfortunately trash were pretty much everywhere. I strolled through nature’s mall smiling and greeting visitors from literally all over the world on their way back to Phoenix from the Grand Canyon. Took a dozen group pics at least with phones, pads and cameras. No language barrier exists when you smile and pantomime, and gratitude and laughter have no nationality.

The second hike was around the cone of a volcanic eruption, higher elevation meant constant wind, scrub pines and few cacti, birds or visible mammals. Instead it was the spirits posing as upended roots and laughing rock faces from which the insects, lizards and the tiniest snake I have ever seen peeked out to see who was intruding on their spring festivities.  No pavement here and one very steep incline. A forest fire was frighteningly visible downwind from the crest.

I have not given up planning for and dreaming of doing first the Arizona Trail and then the full Appalachian Trail.

I am definitely NOT thinking about romance. Everything is always so perfect until it isn’t, and the most recent surface charmer gave me clues he was a dishonest, narcissistic abuser but he would claim such good intentions and play my kind heart like a well-practiced piano, and I would forgive him.

I was foolish and paid a high price for this education.

“No, never!” means the same regardless of how far a relationship has advanced.  He claims it was an accident, he was carried away in the moment, he loves to tell the story emphasizing the fact I have PTSD from my time in the military.

He should know, Early in our relationship I shared my most horrific adult memory, a trust I had to that point only shown to my therapist, I was the first woman in my field and an officer and local spiritual leader assaulted me and I was told that if I pursued and action my military career and future would be over. It was more than 30 years ago, and the story I realize too common even now that things are beginning to change.

So imagine my shock and devastation when his arms held my arms down and he ignored my protests and did to me what I had said would never happen again.

I was in shock. I had just officially moved in with him, I had no place to go, I was the common denominator, it must somehow be my fault, he was crying and saying he was sorry, I couldn’t think. I couldn’t feel. Because if I let go the numb even a tiny bit, the pain would destroy me.

I was ashamed. What was wrong with me?! How could I be here again?

This was December. Merry Christmas.

The interesting thing about narcissists is they are very believable because they believe their own lies, Whether it’s the 5’5″ man saying he is 5’8″ or the same guy telling you and the world that he is just doing his best and that he loves and cherishes me and I am just broken. And like my father he is the kindest, smoothest, most generous and charming man in the world until he isn’t, then after the damage is done he is all tears and apologies and please help me be better.

Except that is not my job.

And it is the greater cruelty to even ask me to help you be okay with raping me. Because that is what you did is called. Straight up honesty, and somewhere under the darkness and shame we both know it.

So it is embarrassing to say, it took me until I was hiking this weekend to absorb the frog in the boiling pan way I ended up in the same place, the same relationship space, where I am literally taking care of a cruel, conscienceless child man and calling it love.

I don’t wish him any ill. Whatever seed of Karma was maturing between us has flowered and I pray that he will gain honest self-awareness and finally pursue happiness instead of fleeting pleasure at the expense of all others. I pray for him what I pray for all of us: self-awareness; compassion and the self-love that comes from placing others first; physical, mental, and spiritual health; abundance.

There are details to clean up of money and possessions, the worldly detritus of broken commitment, but I am done and out and healing. Finally.

Not that I don’t find myself missing the way he made me feel like I was the world, or the safety of saying I was part of a couple in a world that values a woman more in a relationship, and trying to find an excuse or perspective that would let me go back there again.

Because that is how it works.

Ask any abuser or previously abused person.

But now that it is here, in black and white, I won’t go back.

And maybe one other strong, independent, smart woman like me will forgive herself for ending up falling for and staying too long with  a narcissist and find the strength to leave.

 

Om Mani Padme Hum

As close as coffee is to my waking body, Quan Yin, or Avalokiteśvara, is to my waking spirit. I have a long history with her. As a child I had a friend who would “fly in” from various parts of the world to play with and comfort me. I was chided, punished, and thoroughly teased and humiliated for my “lying” and occasionally humored for my imagination, but I refused to deny my “imaginary ” friend.

Once I was looking through a large encyclopedia like book with a librarian, I was in fourth grade, that is the one detail that is clear, because the teacher who had sent me to the library to “be rid of my nonsense” was Mrs. Coons. I am certain I was being forced to look up and verify some piece of argumentative or informative trivia I had spouted to the class. This was a favorite punishment of mine, I really didn’t care if I was humiliated for being wrong or ignored for having been right, I got to spend an hour in the research section of the library learning and reading.

Going back to that day I have no recollection of what book we were using or what we were looking for actually, but the book was one that required adult supervision, being rife with full color illustrations of nude paintings and sculpture that had newsprint blanks paper-clipped to the page to save our poor impressionable minds from seeing the same parts we all had or saw on others in our living quarters of poverty.  What I do remember is that as my guide through this pitfall packed tome turned one of the newsprint covered pages, I saw her, my friend, perfectly depicted in a watercolor. I was old enough by then to know better but I blurted out, “I know her, that’s my friend!”

“Impossible,” the frustration and disdain in her voice wasn’t even colored with concern, as she slammed the book shut, “she is some mythological creature from Vietnamese culture.” In hindsight her choice of geographical placement was certainly colored by the war America’s sons were fighting. In that outburst, I declared myself a liar and possibly a budding communist and heretic and lost one of my few allies in that school, but I couldn’t help myself, I did know her.

If she had said “Tibet,” or “China,” or “Korea,” I might have found the  name of my friend more quickly, but it would be the 1970’s before I would learn that her name was many but in the form I knew her she was  Kuan Yin and was the Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Mahayana Buddhism has been calling me for years, I have read sporadically, meditated, attended events and listened to talks from the other branches of buddhism but certain Dharma is not to be learned without a teacher.  For 2016 I have found a center to study, meditate and learn from those who practice. My best description is that spiritually I can play the instrument of compassion be ear, but I cannot yet read the music.

I am the bard of old who can tell a thousand stories but has not mastered the art of the alphabet so the stories fluctuate with the telling, and he longs to write them down so they can go out and benefit the world.

It was a difficult decision but I had reassurance from the universe that I had made the right decision. I am a great believer in signs and when I first drove up to the Kadampa Clear Light Center a cat (a species not known for welcoming behavior towards me) jumped through my open car door window and settled warm in my lap, and a crow lit on the center roof and cawed at me, in Phoenix, where crows are rare. So yeah, think this is the right place for me to be and I look forward to sharing my adventure this year.

Please feel free to comment with questions, ideas and thoughts on my musings from your own path. Buddhism like the pure light of most spirit paths is the circle that takes in the good. All paths remain of equal validity to me, nor can I trod one that asks other than full respect for all living things.

Listening to “Songs of Kuan Yin” a collection I picked up in 2008 from my much missed record store in Tempe, reading “Transform Your Life” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and “Bodhisattva of Compassion” by John Blofeld.

Feel free to donate as well. I am working slightly less than full-time right now and moving once again means added costs so welcome but not desperate and note on your donation if you want it to be used for medical bills, living expenses, ongoing Random Acts of Kindness, or still gonna make it happen when health allows hike through of the Appalachian Trail.

Mostly, thanks friends for reading, I appreciate truly being seen and heard most of all.

Namaste.

 

I’m around the corner from anything that’s real; across the road from hope

One step closer to knowing.

My second Sunday in a year-long commitment to attending meditations for World Peace at Clear Light Buddhist center, 50 to go before I change my direction again or recommit to this path for another year. And so much of what I have learned in my life is coalescing and today I can truly bless those who have helped me by directly or indirectly, intentionally or through neglect, hated, harmed or abandoned me.

I have been hiding safe, for a while, a small ship on the shore, hoping to make my story someone else’s tale, wanting an easier way out of the river than riding the whitewater to its end.  I was foolish to try being anything else than the adventuring, authentic me, so I have slipped back into the torrent and I am letting the currents carry me this time instead of fighting the floods of change

Today, I am truly grateful today for all the teachers of my life, for my truly public education, the people talking next to, over, around, without and about me in schoolrooms, libraries, churches, synagogues, temples, auditoriums, subway stations, department stores, television screens, corner pubs, restaurants, public parks and private museums; from you I have learned the language of illusion.

I am grateful for all the girls who talked behind my back and the ones who ridiculed me to my face, to the girls who pretended to be my friend to use my homework, or my comb, or just my presence for the day. I am grateful for the boys who called me ugly and the ones who thought me sexy and catcalled and leered, and especially the ones who dated me once, then pretended I didn’t exist. You were some of my best teachers. You taught me to persevere, that all things will pass in time and that every table turns, then turns again.  Just like the solution in one of my favorite Geek movies, you taught me the only way to win the popularity game, was to not play.

I am grateful for my body, for the cut knees and bruised shins, my calloused, clumsy hands that shimmied up trees, my too big feet that pelted all pell mell as I dreamed I was the wind,  and after every fall,  got back up and ran again. The same body that now scarred and age-stiffened sits almost still and breathes, only breathes.

Learning the language of reality.

I am grateful for all I am and all I have.

Today I own every scar, every bill, every illness, every bad choice, you are me as much as the blue eyes, the awards and praise.

And I embrace all of us in clear, pure light.

namaste.

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine…

I am reading collected Archie comics while listening to Mumford and Sons and realize their album is just too perfect as a lead into today’s blog. Maybe not the composers intended meaning, but look carefully at the lyrics of half the songs on “Sigh No More”, and hey, totally the soundtrack to discuss some radical Zombie literature longing to bite into your imagination. Forget watching Walking Dead reruns, crack open a book and let your brain do the devouring of these unexpected zombies.

First up is the collected “Afterlife with Archie,” replete with all the classic Archie comic’s tropes and conflicts while incorporating a new closeted lesbian couple, the out but not yet completely accepted gay Kevin, a little V.C. Andrews style brotherly love, comments on class conflict and lots of great action, this is artistic and storyline perfection brought to us Eisner winning artist Fransesco Francavilla and Harvey award winner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Volume one crushes it, volumes 2 and 3 are also available.

My second favorite is a little harder but not impossible to find out of print 2005 Holiday book by Christopher Moore, “The Stupidest Angel.” The humorous and heartwarming tale of terror, like Archie’s apocalypse, begins with a misbegotten act of kindness for a little boy by the same Angel that brought us Moore’s masterpiece “Lamb.” I know, I know, Christmas is dead, it’s January, resurrect it for a moment just for this novel and you won’t regret it.

My third undead recommendation is also the third in the entertaining alternate history, steam punk style Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest. “Dreadnought”, is my favorite book in the series and stands well on its own. Part mystery, we travel with Mercy, a civil war nurse with ties to both sides of the conflict.  If you are a completest start with the Seattle-based “Boneshaker” and just know the story gets better and better. Atypical zombie origins and an impeccable storytelling make these books hard to put down, so maybe you will want to snag the Audible recordings, masterfully narrated by Wil Wheaton and keep the story going on your commute.

My fourth and final book feast is a series you have seen orbiting the science fiction circuit in 2015 due to its recent adaptation by the SyFy channel. “Leviathan” is the fist novel in the Expanse series. Like the Clockwork Century novels, the zombies of James S. A. Corey’s universe are just one cog in an intricate machine of terror, mystery, betrayals and unexpected heroism.

Try any or all of these cold, creepy corpse crawlers this January.  Snuggled up in your bed or favorite chair with a steaming cocoa, a tempting toddy, or a spot of hot, sweet tea, let the dark month of January crowd and scratch outside your windows, after all, they are just stories and you are still safe.

Aren’t you?