Batman And Other Fine Creatures

Sometimes, when we least expect it, something happens that forever changes the dynamics of your family. In our case, it appears to be Batman.

On Halloween, son #3 was outside trying to hand out candy to the local youth. Since we recently moved here we went all out to ensure we could meet local demands and based the quantity of candy needed on our old neighborhood numbers. We bought 600 pieces. This was a mistake of epic proportions.

We had ONE trick-or-treater. ONE. This, of course, means that I must personally consume the other 599 pieces within one week in order to ensure that said candy does not expire. At this point I will need to eat 300 pieces tomorrow and 299 the next day. But who is complaining? According to my calculations to burn off this amount of candy I will need to stay at the gym until the last of my still-in-the-nesters reach 18…and that is another four years. Good luck, Dad! It’s my turn to stare at the buns now!

Anyway, besides the lone costumed candy kid, there was one more creature that hit our driveway on Halloween night. As related by son #3, he decided it was time to take a look around after hearing strange noises as he sat waiting for the other 599 children to show up at our door. Imagining spooks, grim reapers, and the like out for his head; son #3 was pleasantly surprised to find this creature of the night which was immediately brought inside and cuddled.

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According to the vet he is 5 weeks old and very healthy for a wild kitten. He weighed in at 15.5 ounces and his vocal cords are very busy. Due to all of his “talking” there has been a divide in our home as one contingent wants to name his Chairman Meow while the other insists that Batman be his moniker due to the pointy ears and the fact he is nearly all black. But this isn’t the only issue facing our young feline friend.

I have always believed that you are either a cat person or a dog one. I grew up with cats but when I was old enough to have a home of my own; canines became my companion of choice. But then this cat shows up completely unannounced and uninvited. For our boxer mix this cat is a menace and because of his DNA he likes to chase and kill small rodents. It is obvious that he considers Batman is of that ilk (small rodent) and his proudest moment would to be to serve Batman up on a platter as a nice tasty dinner for his human friends. Obviously, perspective is everything.

The other hurdle we have to overcome is Paul’s previously severe allergy to cats. Thus far, it appears that the weekly allergy shots for seven years are paying off. There are no itchy red eyes, swollen faces or sneezing going on here.

So for now, like it or not, it appears that Batman is here to stay. Doors are now shut to keep dog from cat and cat from kid. Earplugs are worn to keep us from hearing Chairman Meow’s views on everything under the sun. So while this cat issue remains up in the air for now one thing no longer is. Next year I am making everyone stay indoors on Halloween.

 

 

 

Empathy and Tattoos

So yesterday I went and got my tattoo. Yes, it seems even strange to me the person who said she would never deface her body and here I am at 57 yo getting my first. I have to tell you that it felt great! A way of taking back myself and giving a gift to myself in the form of myself.. My authentic self. The tattoo is a message to myself.  It is a reminder of the way I hope to carry myself and to act throughout this process of separation and divorce. I suspect I’ll spend a lot of time in the bathroom looking in the mirror trying to instill these words into action. 

I put a lot of thought into where I wanted it placed. It is very small and very personal to me. So I put it right below my shoulder where I have to make a conscious effort to see it. Without further ado:

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 I suspect there are times I will fail mightily as I try to maintain and even grow my dignity and grace, but somehow I also suspect that in just knowing it is there, like a ghost following behind my well-worn path; it will serve me well.
I did think that this thought from Thich Nhat Hanh might be a good alternative to DIGNITY & GRACE…but it was just too long and I am just too chicken…so I leave you with his lovely words.

 

Empathy

Down To The Wire

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Since my marriage is coming to an end it is odd how everything seems magnified. Often it feels like I am looking at life through a kaleidoscope no longer filled with vibrant and colorful pieces of glass but rather with carbon…cold, dark and black, which, under the right conditions could turn into diamonds but in reality are just lumps of coal.

Everything now seems to be on a time warp…minutes moving quicker towards the end of this relationship and my family as I know it. Because of this what I seem to be consumed with what will be seen as the LASTS. The movie we just took the kids too which will be our LAST seen together as a family. The dinner we went to last Friday the number of which that will take place in the future quickly dwindling down to nothing. The countdown to Christmas which will be the LAST holiday that we spend together as an intact unit.

Last night Gracie had her Christmas Concert at school. I had saved a seat for B who was running late but reluctantly gave it up to an old lady who there to watch her granddaughter play the cello. I thought that I might as well because soon B would not be sitting beside me sharing our lives together in these soft and lovely sorts of ways. I might just as well get used to it now I reckoned. And so I sat alone, my eyes squeezed tightly shut so that the tears could not dance down my face to strains of the Nutcracker led by a slightly off-key bass cello .

I took off my wedding ring the other day for it has become too painful to look at throughout the day. For instead of the brilliant glow it once cast out into the world now it seems as if only failure shimmers bright when the light hits the stone. It sits on my dresser in a dull brassy Chairman Mao box that I bought while in Jinan at a flea market. I wanted to buy it then, not because it was beautiful, but because it represented a time where individuality and beauty were eliminated and voices of those with “strong personalities” were buried in graves deep within the earth. Personalities like mine that were considered forceful and threatening by people like the “Great Leaders” and “My Husband” who did not want truth, authenticity and questioning authority to prevail.

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Perhaps someday I will take that ring and combine it with another to create something that is truly reflective of who I am today. Something tarnished and slightly jaded but also sassy, beautiful, and oh-so unique. A ring whose light shines true within a circle of knowledge about myself that is pure and unbroken and who has once again become a woman secure in the belief that her light should be celebrated not wasted on those who do not see her true value. For I know without a doubt that someday in the near future that a new creation will be sitting on the finger of this woman, who has survived all the pressure needed to create something and someone who is ever-lasting, strong and priceless out of something that once felt just a lump of coal. I look forward to that day.

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Trying To See The Light Through The Flames

I have to admit I am still searching for the light that is missing in this box into which I have crawled. Sadness seems to be the one emotion that I still feel. I am weary of being with a man who no longer loves me. The weariness lives in the marrow of my bones sucking them dry the richness of life squeezed out of them.

This weekend I was suppose to have a girls get together at my house on the coast. Everyone bailed. There was one reason or another and with this; I realized that there was not one person I could depend on. Not my husband, not my kids, not my friends…and I vagely thought about how I had better start depending on myself alone. So I headed up to the house. Me, myself and I.

As I got closer to San Francisco the air became thicker, filled with the smoke of the fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. Some of my favorite places in the world up in flames. You could smell charred houses, burnt grapes and the bodies of those who were unaccounted for. Lives once vibrant and hopeful now trying to figure out what they will do without their homes,without their jobs and all their earthly possessions gone. Ninety six thousand displaced people all living in survival mode.

I took the back way on Hwy 1 instead of my usual route through Santa Rosa knowing that the I did not want to witness all the devastation. Nor did I want to get trapped on a highway that could become an inferno. So I drove along the blue waters of the coast, skipping all the unpleasantness except those kinds of thoughts rattling around in my head.

I arrived here in time to watch the sun set on the ocean with bats dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the nighttime sky and the waves of the ocean beating like drums as they broke against the rocky shore. I grabbed a bottle of vodka and drank to 30 years of marriage that is in the same predicament as  Thelma and Louise hitting the gas and driving off a cliff into uncertainty.

The next morning was beautiful and as I walked the cliffs I started to feel like myself again as the mist in the air washed over me, cleansing my soul. As I ambled on, the winds began to pick up and I thought about all those firefighters 50 miles away who would soon be battling them along with the intense heat of the ash as it rained down from the sky.

Soon an old lady came into view. I judged her to be about 80 and she was carrying a jet-black cane over her head. We passed one another with a smile and a nod; each continuing our own way with our own thoughts. A mile later we met again as we retraced or steps but this time I asked her “Why are you carrying your cane over your head?”

“To remind me how strong I am,” was the answer.

“Why do you need reminding of that?” I asked “you look strong enough to me that I wouldn’t want to take you on in a back alley somewhere.”

She chuckled as she began to explain that she was a fire evacuee staying with a friend. On Sunday, in the dead of night, she was awakened by the fire fighters from the station two doors down who were banging on her door.

“You have got to get out. You have got to leave now,” they ordered.

She wrapped a house coat around herself, grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt and her shoes,  went into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush. Then she picked up her purse, called the dog and left her house.

“It’s all gone now,” she tells me with not an ounce of pity in her voice.

“Why did I get my toothbrush?” she looks at me and asks the question as if I might provide an answer that would satisfy her.

“I needed my medicines but left those behind. Yet, I took time to get my toothbrush. A $1.50 toothbrush,” she says with a shake of her head and a laugh. “Crazy isn’t it!”

She tells me that her Grandmother’s china is gone along with her deceased husband’s favorite books, her wedding dress, and everything else she owned in the world. Pictures of her children on their first day of school, her collection of salt and pepper shakers, all her clothes and her piano at which she sang to start every morning.

“But I will sing again,” she assures me with a smile. “For I am strong and I am happy and I am ALIVE!!!!” she says with a great belief in herself  and sense of joy that literally takes my breath away.

“I will begin again and who knows what I will become? Opportunity is banging at my door just like those firemen did,” she says with determination and grace as she heads off down the trail.

“It’s never too late to re-create yourself,” she yells back at me with a smile.

Later that day I offer my house up to any family who might need it. I talk on the telephone to a man who skirted the police blockades just to return to his house and sift through the ashes that now contain the contents of his entire life.

“I found my son’s bronzed baby shoes,” he informs me along with a few other trinkets of a life that felt meaningful and alive to him.

“We will just have to start over,” he tells me a sob stiffelled in his throat.

And although he cannot see me I find myself nodding my head at his words. For many times in our lives we are forced to start over, not of our own choosing, but because of forces that intrude unexpectantly. We can choose to see sorrow as an opportunity or we can wallow in our own misery until the end of time ultimately robbing ourselves of our accomplishments and the ability to morph into something we might not have expected… Someone better. Someone Kinder. Someone Wiser. And Someone who depends on themselves for their own happiness and to create a satisfying life no matter what is thrown in our way.

Today I met so many amazing people…. survivors and volunteers alike. And in these meetings I came away blessed. I hope they will be too.

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P.S. Thank you to all the fire fighters, healthcare workers, inmates, sheriff departments and all the volunteers who have saved lives while risking theirs.

 

 

 

 

Living With Joy

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The last couple of weeks have been busier than usual. These days I find that I practically live in my car which is why I would love to have an old VW bus to decorate to my heart’s content as a travel around the world each year. Between school car pools, sports carpools, and the like, I put over 50,000 miles on my vehicle last year and I am going to be putting on more this coming year. Why? My new “job.”

My son, West, says I cannot call it a “job” since it is a volunteer position.

“Not the same as a real job Mom!” he exclaims.

I beg to disagree.

I have started working for an end-of-life provider. My job is to go visit people, spend time with them, read to them, do dishes…whatever makes their lives a little more comfortable. This is right up my alley.

Many years ago when I worked in a long-term ventilator care unit I spent time with the dying. I thought there was nothing more tragic than dying alone so when I knew someone was on their way out I used to spend time with them so when they crossed over they were not all by themselves. We don’t come into the world alone and I don’t think we should go out of it alone either. Just my humble opinion.

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Admittedly, I will probably not be with any of my new friends when they die. But I hope that I can make them laugh a little, help them cry a little, or tell their life stories if that is what they need to do. I am fine with it all and I am exciting for this chance to give of myself in whatever way is needed.

This week has also brought our family to its knees. My sweet niece (I’ll call her Sally) is an amazing woman married to a wonderful man (I’ll call him Joe). They have four young children. This holiday weekend Joe was seriously injured in an accident and has been designated an Asia B in regards to paralysis. This morning he is once again in surgery his second in three days. It brings home the fact that life as we know it is often fleeting and can change in an instant. It reminds me that those I love are so much more important than the everyday irritations that life brings our way. Irritations that distract us and take up time best spend on other things like the people that bring meaning to our lives.

Think of this… if you live to be 80 years old that would be a life span of 960 months or about 29,000 days long. For me, that means if I am lucky, I have a little less than 8,500 days left on this earth.  When I can see the “actual”  number of days I have left suddenly it seems like a shockingly brief period of time. And when I think back to the number of days that have been spent worrying about things that never came to pass I cringe. Life was never meant to be a struggle yet so many of us live like that is all it us.  Struggle is what Joe is facing. Everyday ordinary life is not a struggle for most people in the United States.

So today, lets all try to live our lives joyously, whole heartedly and with gladness in our souls. Let’s tell our loved ones why we are proud of them and what we love about them. And lets all try to make a difference rather it be big or small. For life is meant to be lived fully and when we practice living fully we find happiness within ourselves… Amen to that!

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It’s Been A Hell Of A Week

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Sometimes I feel like I am on a roller coaster. I pull the emergency brake and nothing happens and so I just keep going around and around and around.

Besides the usual weird school calls, the asthma attacks (come get your son, please) and the hiding of food in the most unusual places; this week Gracie is making my life hell because she doesn’t want to go to Disneyland with her school orchestra. WHAT KID ON PLANET EARTH DOESN’T WANT TO GO TO DISNEYLAND? Apparently mine. It figures I would have that anomaly in my family too.

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Then the other day….the worst. B was driving to Southern CA when he had a few chest pains but continued on because they only lasted a minute or so. Then when he was driving home from Southern CA, suddenly his hand and arm just quit working. He pulled over into a rest stop and his hand was contracted like when you have a debilitating stroke. He could not grip his phone or the steering wheel. This went on for 30 minutes or so at which point he got back into the car and headed home.

The next morning as he was heading off to work he suddenly got terribly dizzy and it felt like his eyes were crossing. He could barely stand. I got him in the car to take him to the hospital and asked did he want me to take him or call an ambulance. He wanted an ambulance which immediately told me something was VERY wrong.

By the time I arrived at the hospital blood had been drawn. He was sitting in a chair in the hall. There were no rooms at the inn. He had ataxia and the ER doctor ordered an MRI and several other tests to rule out a stroke. Luckily, everything came back normal and he was discharged five hours later (having never gotten a room due to the fullness of the hospital and ER). I took him to our physician and he made an appointment for him to see a neurologist.

During the day in the ER many things went through my head. First and foremost: I LOVE THIS MAN. Through thick and thin, sickness and health and even the past two crappy years. Seeing him laying there pale, sweaty and unable to control his body scared the crap out of me but I knew one thing…I knew I would stand by him no matter what happened because he is who I love and want to be with. The thought of losing him in this way…there are no words just feelings of immense pain like falling into a dark well.

My second thought was this: Oh shit, I hope this doesn’t scare him and he decides that he is getting near the end of his life and he has to change it. As in “I think I want a divorce.” AGAIN. Needless to say, when those negative thoughts appeared I suddenly had the urge to send his chair careening down the hall into the sharpest needle possible.

Being married for 30+ years is hard. Realizing that as a couple you will be spending more time in the ER and visiting doctors is even harder. We are nearing 60 and getting old is not like the ads on TV. We are running out of both mental and physical reserves. Things ache when we wake up and when we go to bed. Knees don’t bend and body parts start to become unrecognizable.  What the HELL…WHY DOESN’T SOMEONE SIT YOU DOWN WHEN YOU ARE YOUNG AND TELL YOU ALL OF THIS? WHY DON’T THEY WARN YOU THAT OLD AGE IS ALMOST AS BAD AS THE ALTERNATIVE? Had I known all of this I would have done things differently. I would have:

  1. Taken a thousand pictures of me in a bikini at 20. Unfortunately, I thought I was “too fat” or lacking in some area. NOW, I just realize how stupid I was to believe all the negative things I told myself about my body because, believe me, it all went downhill from there.
  2. I would have traveled even more than I have.
  3. I would have started meditating and practicing mindfulness years ago and reaped the benefits both emotionally and physically for the past three decades.
  4. Laughed more and taken everything less seriously. I thought it was the end of the world if my kids didn’t grow up to be college educated folk. Now I know that there are plenty of other things that are just as valuable and pleasing when you are traveling through life.
  5. Taken a year off before I married and had kids to roam. I would have been slightly more irresponsible, experiment more, and try new things at a much greater rate than I have. I would have tried new foods constantly and put more effort into discovering my “style” long before now.
  6. Maintained my weight vigilantly so I might have reduced the chance of having the aches and pains I have now.
  7. I would have taken every lesson known to man so I would have a much broader sense of life.
  8. I would have risked more and played it safe less.
  9. I would have had more sex.

 

So there you go. A starter list for you to improve your life NOW and in the future. Don’t wait until you are laying in a gurney somewhere. Life is meant to be lived. Do it now.

 

 

 

Springtime Hell

There is something about the TWO weeks of spring that we experience here in the middle of California. All the trees blossom at once and everyone walks around sniffing, eyes watering and holding their heads because they have massive allergy induced headaches. The amount of anti-histamine sold here in one month maximizes the pharmaceuticals profits and gives their CEO’s the 20 million dollar bonuses they have come to expect as their due compensation.

 

For two weeks the weather is a lovely 70-80 degrees. The shorts come out and there is a spike the number of new memberships at the gym as folks suddenly realize that swimsuit season will begin April 1. Of course, everyone’s posture soon becomes stooped as they realize that those 25 pounds they gained over the winter will never disappear in two weeks… if ever! This leads to an uptake in drinking in the local bars as residents try to forget about those extra 25 that are now hanging over their bar stools. Sigh. Yep, spring around here is a challenge.

But as big as a pain that is it; this time of year is really beautiful. Everything is lush and green.The kids swing with delight in the cool breezes as they try to touch the sun. The hummingbirds re-appear; their wings buzzing with delight. Bears come out of hibernation and this eagle built her nest on a power pole a few miles from my house. Best of all the photo ops are maximized as thousands upon thousands of acres of fruit and nut trees are in bloom while the cows roll happily in the fields not realizing that everything will turn brown 14 days from now as the temperatures start climbing into the 90’s.

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I love spring because my garden comes alive. My grape vine buds, my apricot tree is in bloom as are the guava and the asian pear. The lilies appear out of nowhere from the deep rich earth. Blue hydrangea buds push out and massive blooms of roses appear around the yard. Unfortunately, the pool man just rang the doorbell to remind me that I need a new motherboard for the pool system that will cost a mere $700. I nearly pass out from this most unwelcome news on my soft green grass.

Yes, I love these two weeks of spring. I appreciate it even more as I watch my relatives on the East Coast endure yet another blizzard. Shoveling vs. gardening… it’s an obvious choice.

So now I am off to get in my 10,000 steps on this glorious morning but first I down my Claritin like an alcoholic downs his first drink of the day. My eyes are watering, my head is aching and post nasal drip inflames my throat. But as I pass my neighbors all of us with a smile plastered on our face; I get a perverse sense of satisfaction that we are all experiencing the same special sort of Springtime Hell that can only be found in this lush Valley.

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I tell you that I’m leavin’,
You can’t believe it’s true!
You say….
Girl, there’s just no livin’ without you.
Don’t take your love away from me.
Don’t you leave my heart in misery.
‘Cause if you go, then I’ll be blue,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Remember when you held me tight,
And you kissed me all through the night.
Think of all that we been through,
And breakin’ up is hard to do.
They say that breakin’ up is hard to do,
Now I know, I know that it’s true.
Don’t say that this is the end.
Instead of breakin’ up I wish that
We were makin’ up again.
I beg of you don’t say goodbye,
Can’t we give our love just one more try?
Come on baby, let’s start anew,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Written by Howard Greenfield, Neil Sedaka • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

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I arrived home Friday to a man who was so sweet I wondered where he had been for the past year-and-one-half. Since I had told him that I want him to leave, of course, there has been a change….there always is for this type of thing. I guess it is to be expected. Shaking things up puts the boulders on top until time slowly sinks them back to the bottom. Some things never change.

He missed me while I was on the coast. He believes you don’t let go of something we have had this long. Or so he says. Now when the fear of losing me is closer than he had  ever dreamt. Filling the pill boxes, carpooling, doctor appointments. Is it me he wants or my numerous occupations…nurse, taxi driver, cook, house cleaner, bill payer, laundry folder…the list is almost endless and so is my need to know.

We talk. I am insistent. He is adamant we need to keep trying and he is staying. I suggest that he take my letter to his therapist to see what she says. I tell him I bet that she will say that he should take this time for himself. I also tell him that I want him to give his therapist permission to talk to mine to see if there is any middle ground there. He agrees. We talk late into the night without hurting each other. What do you know!

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The next day we go to lunch and start talking about separation. It is not a pleasant conversation with plenty of “My lawyer said this” and “My lawyer said that.” That little exchange gave us a preview of what was to come and neither of us liked it. Yet, one thing has changed. Paul is noticing that we are apart more than together and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. He wonders why we have to leave? “Can’t we just be a family again?” he asks. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it shaking the earth under his feet.

Later, we decided to look at our calendars to see what kind of leaving can be done during the month of March.

Shit! I totally forgot that I leave with Gracie on Wednesday on a cross-country trip for a diving meet. Gone until the 7th.

B leaves the 10th for a business trip to Canada and Pennsylvania. He comes back the 17th.

The following week is the Highland Games that we have both committed to.

The next week is our anniversary with a trip to the East Coast to see our son. Neither of us wants to give that up. It should be interesting. Hopefully, we can communicate like the middle-age adults we are suppose to be rather then using our usual two-year-old communcation methods…me,me,me…you,you,you. Never just us.

Now we are into April.  Two more diving meets within the first two weeks and a business trip to Colorado. In between all of this, I am trying to become a volunteer for hospice which will require training.

All of this to say…who has time to break up? Doesn’t mean we won’t. Just means that there is a lot of booked time away from each other this coming month. Yet, Paul is noticing and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it. Deeply.

I think it is just what we need. It may not be my original plan but it’s good enough for now and sometimes that is all you can ask for.

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Ch-ch-ch Changes

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We are in a restaurant discussing the fate of our marriage. The cards are on the table and the chips fall as they may. We spend the next hour talking about finances, what our lives would look like sans one another, and what this rupture would do to our innocent children.

He says: ” If we were to stay together there would be a lot of changes and I am not sure you would like them.”

“What changes might those be?” I ask.

“Well, I’ve never told you this before  but I am pro-life like they house I was raised in. I might want ours to be a pro-life household too. I would want our children to be raised this way.”

Whiplash has slapped me hard because I have shaken my head so violently trying to make this man come into focus again. You mean after 30 years of togetherness you felt like you couldn’t say something about this? WTH.

“And I want to be treated like the man of the house.”

Somewhere I hear the words obey mentioned.

I stare at this man I’ve saved and who has saved me numerous times over the past 30 years. He looks the same on the outside but obviously there is a lot changing on the inside. I’m not sure I like it. Actually, as a feminist I know I dislike it…a lot.

“What does this mean to you? Man of the house?” I ask… while I am thinking to myself…so you are finding your voice and now you want to roar. Roar out all the misunderstandings. Roar out all your “unheard” convictions. Roar out life as you imagine it should be while you figure out who you want to be. You want to be heard after feeling unheard all of your life. A hurt that started with your mother and one that you feel continued on with me.

My eyes stare back, unblinking, both locked into a battle of silent conviction.

“At the end of the day I want to know that my word is the final word.”

And in the end the only thing I can say is nothing. Because talking to this man before me is like talking to a stranger who speaks a different language, has different values, and wants different things than I do.  Things I never knew about. Things I never guessed. They are not the things that delight me. They are sharp and they sting the inside of my heart and of my head.

So I look down at my feet and stare at my crooked big toe observing how it leans to the left, as does my philosophy, and the tears start to glide silently down my face as my awareness of how deep this situation dwells in a land of which I know not; and it seeps from the very center of my pores.

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