Conversation With Paul

I had a conversation with my 17 yo son, Paul, this morning. It broke my heart. He told me that Andre and Gracie where so different since I have been gone. More isolated than usual, sadder… with no spark… but that when we were together for the diving competition last week that the spark returned…all because they were with me and because we were a family again.

He went on to tell me that I was what kept our family balanced and alive. That I was what kept the life in the family. That while I was there they always knew that I had their backs. That they can talk to me but not to their dad. That the love that was felt in our family was because of me and if they knew of love it was because of me and without me there something vital and important is missing from their lives. And that because they knew I am coming to be with them that there is life in the house again.

I cannot think of more beautiful words than what Paul said to me nor could I think of a bigger compliment to pay to a mother. In fact, the tears have arrived once more as I put his words to screen because the decision to leave my children behind to get away from the gaslighter was the hardest decision I ever made. It was so difficult that I stayed for two years after learning all the sorrid details, having $50,000 of our money go to Mistress Vietnam, and being emotionally abused while cheater decided who he wanted in his life…and then I was lied to even more. Five years of wasted time with B but obviously not with my children. Because of those five years with me they developed those qualities that they needed to be strong now, be able to love now and to have faith/hope that things will get better for them. They saw me try and give it my all and now they can do the same for themselves.

So thank you, son. Your Momma needed to hear your loving words. I can hardly wait to spend a week with all of you!

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What Do I Want To Reflect?

One of the nice things (if you can call ANYTHING about divorce nice) is that I get to start over, While moving is usually exciting to me this time I find everything seems muted, Colors, sound, views…all different than before. Almost like seeing everything in black and white instead of in beautiful vibrant color.

One of the things I am starting over on is my home. What do I want it to reflect when someone steps inside? How does it identify who and what I believe? After 32 years of marriage who am I ALONE? What do I want people to glean about me when they enter my domain? And so I have been working on this the past week and would like to show you a few of the results….starting with the kitchen.

I paired an antique french table with these modern chairs. I think it says a lot about who I amIMG_3893

Next is the formal living room. Since I left my beautiful baby grand piano back in Texas I find the room has doubled in size! I have a corner to fill but other than that it is done.

First I went on Craig’s list and found this old desk which I brought home and painted. I paired it with a chair from Ross Dress For Less which cost under $50.

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Remember the Persian Rugs that I bought and that B hated well I think this one looks really good with the sofa. I found the modern chair to pair with my art deco cabinet as a floor sample and swept it up for under $175. Yes, I bought that beautiful velvet Green sofa off of Wayfair and I LOVE it. So tired of the former all brown “Family”  look.

 

I have had this large scroll painting since I went to China the last time but had no where to hang it. With that big boring blank wall hogging up the space I decided the Giant Tibetan Mastiff and his girl really needed a home there. I love this picture because it reminds me so much of Tibet…the kids with smudges of dirt all over their faces no matter where you went.

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Finally, I had this other picture from Ethiopia and have never done anything with it. The dimensions were such that it could not be framed so I solved that problem by filling the landing wall with it.

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I hope through these pictures you get a glimpse of who I am.

Today, I also got off my ass and went for a three mile walk. Here are a few pictures of what I saw:

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Funny The Things We “Think” When We Leave

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I arrived back in California early in the morning. I had nothing at my home. No beds, no chairs, no spoons…no nothing… except lots of memories and heartache. This is the house where I first separated from B and the place I would leave in order to “rekindle” my hopes and dreams about our marriage. And it hurts to know that soon I will return as single person after 32 years of togetherness tricked into believing in a carefully crafted mirage. But I digress…

The only thing that was open at 12:30 a.m.  was a Walmart in a town about an hour away from my house.  I stopped. If you have ever been to a Walmart at that time of the day it is depressing. The buzz of the automatic floor cleaners greeted me while nary a person could be found. Silence permeated a place that usually roars during the hours of 8 a.m.- 10 p.m. It reminded me of the hours that teens spend locked away in their rooms avoiding their parents.

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I wandered through the aisles in a daze…on a autopilot…aware…but not really…of what I was doing. It was as if I was looking through glass…seeing the light shining through but what was behind the glass was GONE. There was nothing to look back on and no future to look towards. Just a vast empty place…the place where my heart once beat rapidly whenever I saw B. A place of comfort and security. A place that no longer existed except inside my head.

Soon I came to the aisle loaded with dishes, cups, and silverware of every shape and color. I picked up one of each thing to put in my cart and then, just as quickly, put them back onto the shelf. I just couldn’t commit to anything permanent. The bowl in my left hand seemed too weighty, too purposeful. Even though this is what I needed…TO BE GONE…it didn’t seem real and I wasn’t even sure that I wanted it to be true yet. It felt like a commitment to being forever single and baking lots of bread that I cold never consume all by myself.

“Maybe living back in my fantasy of how it once was is better than how it is now,” I thought as I fought back tears.

So I headed over to the paper goods with a mission. It’s a place full of throwaways…things to dispose of…items not to be kept forever… just like my marriage. It felt comfortable but sad. Cheap plastic cutlery, paper plates, and red DiXIE SOLO cups stared me down. I picked them up, the weight of them almost bringing me to my knees. I went to the self-check out (a very lonely place at 1 a.m.) and scanned each item checking my cart for any items left behind. All I saw was my heart, lifeless and barely pulsating….  according to B it wasn’t worth much… so I left it there at checkout #8 quivering on the conveyor belt. After bagging my necessities, I headed out the door with my twin-sized blow up mattress. It sat high in my cart advertising my new single status like a Vegas neon sign to the homeless man and his dog sitting at the cart return.

Two days later I felt stronger and headed down the mountain to Goodwill. There I found some 1980’s juice glasses, a variety of mis-matched silverware, and a nice set of four matching bowls. This I could do. It made my departure a little more real but not so real as to overwhelm me. This GONE thing was becoming more doable. Yet, I am homesick…missing my children and feeling guilty for “Abandoning” them…when I really haven’t.

Three days later I was feeling even stronger and more sure of my decision then ever. I was contemplating buying a matching set of dishes at a store a step up from Goodwill. The fact that a complete set of dishes is now a thought although not yet a reality is encouraging. For picking out a set of dishes signifies permanence to me and I have not felt quite ready to admit defeat. But each day I am stepping out and dipping my big toe a little deeper into my new life. It is a re-birth and it takes time. And this time around I want to craft a life for myself that is purposeful and meaningful in all areas of my existence…emotional, physical and spiritual. And while Goodwill is a good place to start this adventure… I know I do not want to begin with the left-overs of others. This time I will choose exactly what I need and want to nurture myself and my new beginning. I deserve to give this time to myself and I will. For I am worth it.

 

Ying/Yang… Life Flows

Good and bad. Joy and sorrow. It often seems as if one goes with the other. One minute you are at the pinnacle looking down into life’s pleasant valley and the next minute you find yourself on a frantic ride down the slopes of hell into the snowy abyss.

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That sums up my life this past week.

The joys: A new grandson was born this week. I was suppose to be there but he made his debut a little early so I am here now, in the south, getting my grandma fill. You forget how little but mighty newborns are. All it takes is one little squeak and the world comes running to their beck and call. Oh, the power they wield is immense. Of course,  when you are that small there are the people who are content to just hold you all day long as they stare into your soft innocent face and say silent prayers for your safety as you begin your life journey. So my, Grandson, as I have held you today, these are the thoughts that have been running through my mind as I contemplate all that I hope for you.

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May your life be not too easy that you never know the satisfaction of a job well done but never too hard that you are weary. May you be honest with others but mostly with yourself because it causes the least amount of pain in life when you can do your life’s work from a place of clarity about who you are and what you want. I hope that you explore and find great adventures in the little things. Yet, I hope that you are not afraid to take those big chances in life that bring the vast emotional rewards that promote faith in yourself  coupling themselves with an “I CAN DO IT”  attitude. Further, I hope you realize that even if everything doesn’t turn out the way you planned that you quickly come to the conclusion that it is not the end of the world.

My Dear One: please go outside and spend time admiring the handiwork of Mother Nature instead of sitting indoors playing with electronics. The beauty you see will still your soul. Try your best. Be a good friend, Promote good. Look for opportunities to help others which, in the end, will only end up helping your self. Take time out everyday for giving thanks and expressing gratitude. Don’t yell. Take time to meditate or pray…whichever trips your trigger. Be gentle with yourself and others. Cut yourself some slack when need be but don’t give yourself so much rope that you hang yourself with it. Try your best. Smile, then, smile some more.  Belly laugh often and so hard that you almost wet your pants…but not quite. (now that is a fine line to walk) Treat women well and with respect…opening the door for them is a lost art but practice it anyway. Listen instead of talking and then think before you speak…if you can manage to do these two things you will go far indeed. Finally, know that your parents and your grandparents are there for you and that we will always be your biggest fans. And if you are ever in trouble…don’t be afraid to call. For our love for you is steady and can weather whatever storms come your way. We are your rocks and your mooring as you sail down your chosen path. We will always be there for you.

On sorrow: Last week I told B that I was concerned that we were backsliding on the promises we made about spending quality time together and honoring our relationship by going out on date nights together.  I suggested that if he truly felt our relationship was important he would do something about it because it was time he stepped up and showed me that…. ME or that WE as a couple…. are of the utmost importance to him and I was tired of doing all of the care taking of this union.  And so, on Thursday, he informed me that he had made dinner reservations to be followed by tickets to the ballet and asked if I would like to go on a date with him. My heart leaped with joy…he had listened but more importantly he had acted.

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The big night arrived and I got all dressed up. Frankly, this almost 60 yo body was rockin’ it.  As we were driving downtown, I received all call from my real estate agent. When I saw her number I was giddy.

“Finally,” I thought, “I had an offer.”

My excitement was short-lived. Instead, she was calling to inform me that the inside of my house had been flooded when the sump pump failed. All of the carpet would need to be removed, along with the cabinets and built-in bookcases. And god only knows what else would be needed to be done. As difficult as it was to digest this news I decided to try to put on a happy face for our date. After all, the damage was already done and there was nothing I could do from 1,800 miles away.

At this point I am unsure if my insurance will cover the damage which may cost upward of $50,000 to fix. Needless to say, this has been difficult to contemplate as I look at having to sink my retirement money into fixing a home that I had no plans of keeping.  And then of course, I begin to doubt my decisions…”If I hadn’t gone to Texas I would have been there and none of this would have happened.”

You know, the kind of thoughts that get you no where really fast and are totally counterproductive.

Yet, through all this disappointment and despair, a sense of unexpected healing has occurred. It happened the day after I received the bad news. If you have been reading this blog you know that this house is mine as a result of the ALMOST DIVORCE and as I result I, alone, am responsible for its upkeep and expenses. Frankly, the possible enormity of the costs of repair could wipe me out. And yet…as I sat quietly with my thoughts churning, my husband.. the former.cheater B… reached out to me and said, “if you need money to fix the house you can use the money in in rental account or I can give you mine. After all, its only money.”

And with those words, I finally felt my heart shift and move towards his. Finally, it felt as if he had my back. Finally, it felt as if he was in it for the long haul and as if he wanted to do what he could to make things right.

Tears filled my eyes as I told him, “No, it is my responsibility but your offer means the world to me.”

And it does. Because the offer he made was more than economic. It was from the heart. A heart that he had closed off from mine when he started the affair and kept it closed for five long years in order to justify it. And now, it felt as if he was finally opening it up again to me. It felt like finding that one small perfect present under the Christmas tree that you didn’t know was there…. and even better….it has your name on it. And inside you find a promise ring wrapped up in all the hopes and dreams that you share for the future. A symbol of the all possibility of good to come. Perhaps, even the start of true forgiveness which as seemed so elusive this time around.

Yes, this year Christmas has come early for me. It may not be a perfect one but it is damn close. Because, in all honesty, it isn’t the tons of tinsel and glitter that make the holidays bright. It is really all about your attitude and how you CHOOSE to perceive things. And this holiday season I choose to be grateful for the abundance that I have been blessed with and not to worry about those things over which I have no control. For a sense of peace has descended upon me and it feels damn good.

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Coming Home

Make no mistake about it. We are the lucky ones. With so many families displaced by the Camp Fire (over 45,000 people, and over 13,000 homes burned to the ground) I am lucky that the only thing we have to worry about is a slight stench of smoke which has permeated our home.

We have lived out of boxes for two weeks and I feel incredibly lucky to have had those boxes with us at so many points during this crisis. So many people did not even have time to grab their valuables much less simple things like toothbrushes and a change of clothes. They literally ran with the clothes on their back into the thick black smoke to get away from the flames that were whipping from tree to tree above them.

Today, I started unpacking the car. What I realized was that everything I had packed had deep meaning for me and most were old family things belonging to relatives I had and had not met during my lifetime.

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I saved that 1893 stamp, worthless to anyone but me. It is the one that was taped together by my grandfather and I down in his basement after an epic failure at removing it from an envelope destroyed its purity. Along with it,  came my fifth GGrandmother’s lace sleeping cap and the christening dress that was my 4th GGrandmother’s wedding dress repurposed.

I took my kids adoption records and their citizenship papers, my third great grandmothers carnival glass salt and pepper shakers, and the pot we bought at the souk in Morocco; the one where we almost lost our daughter, probably never to be seen again.

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I took as much artwork as I could fit into the car. Pieces that we have collected during our travels like the deity from Argentina, part of the collection of Japanese woodblock prints and the breastplate we bought from the potter in my husband’s town of origin in Ireland on our 25th Anniversary holiday.

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I took old photographs, the Civil War Sugar bowl belonging to my 3rd maternal grandmother and my GG grandmothers white calling card bowl. The Buddha rode shotgun guarding the collection of celadon pottery that I bought while in my children’s country of origin.

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Everything I took had deep personal meanings and connections to the past. Everything had historical/familiar significance to me and to those who came before my time. And while these items are only “things” and I can’t take them with me when I die; they bring meaning to my life now and I am grateful to have them.

I am glad to be back home. In a home lucky enough to remain untouched by a fire that killed so many. I can’t imagine having nothing left of my life but ashes and soot. I can’t even wrap my head around how that must feel. But this I know…it isn’t the collection of things that we have that are the most meaningful, it is the collection of people, our tribe, that we call our own that bring us our greatest joy.

Now go and give someone you love a hug. Then look around you and think about what you would take if you had to flee. It only takes a minute to determine what is of value to you and unfortunately sometimes a minute is all you have. So be prepared.

The Good That We Can Learn From The Bad

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Believe it or not sometimes I am beginning to see light shining on the path I have been forced down due to my husband’s infidelity. I am beginning to see a little clearer how I contributed to this debacle. NO, it does not mean that he was just in doing what he did. It just means that sometimes we unwittingly do things that help shift the tide of events to a road that was never meant to be traveled. For it is often NEVER just one persons fault when a relationship unravels. Let me explain.

Before B’s affair came to light I had not been enjoying my life for quite a long time. Sometimes autism took its toll. Sometimes my own negative thinking. Sometimes it was just situations involving me in things I shouldn’t have let myself get involved in in the first place. Other times is was a very low level depression and large amounts of stress that contributed to my thinking that life had somehow become a struggle. And while I recognized that life was never meant to be a struggle somehow it was turning into that very thing it was not meant to be. Often I felt I had lost control of my own life.

Recently, I have come to see that this pain of my husband’s betrayal  has brought good things to my life. When I came close to divorcing I was distraught and depressed. If I thought life had been a struggle before, now it felt like a 1000 pound weight had been added to the backpack that I carry on my life’s journey. All my self doubts rose like a tsunami and smashed my ego into smithereens like wooden boats thrown against giant breaker walls. I was a mess.

Yet, slowly I have come to see many positives that have come my way after this experience, one of which I would like to share with you. You see, in almost losing myself and my life as I knew it all of a sudden I realized what a good life I had. For the most part I have loved it and when taken as a whole it had made me happy and has brought me much more joy than sorrow. I had just forgotten the good parts and was concentrating on the bad. Trying to fix things that were not mine to fix or living for the future and not in the present which created suffering and unhappiness; discontent and anger.

And so, in almost losing everything, I have gained a new and positive perspective on my life…and when I got that back I realized that my remaining years are meant to savored, grabbed, and spent looking for the first buds on a tree. So now I stop and listen and look, recognizing and appreciating the pure joy I hear in the laughter around me, all the while enjoying brilliant sunsets that are best viewed when still and contemplative. For life was never meant to be a struggle and I am trying not to make it so.

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A Little Art Therapy

About a month ago my very bossy therapist (LMAO)  encouraged me to start painting. She wanted to see what emotions would emerge on paper, the colors I used, and the feelings I could name for what I drew.

“HOLD ON THERE, ” I thought. “I can’t even draw stick figures.” And so, like most things my therapist suggests, I resisted. I mean, writing comes easily but drawing….NEVER. And if I was going to invest in something; I wanted to do something I would excel at. The truth was if I couldn’t be Rembrandt I wanted no part of it. Yet, since my therapist is Miss All-Knowing, I decided to take her cue and give it a try.

Frankly, I was surprised what emerged from my hand onto the paper. The first pictures screamed in rage but as I drew I found that anger lessening with each picture. Those pictures that I was unable to express the images I felt … I found them, copied them, and then added to them to make them my own. They are rough, scary, beautiful…all of what my heart and soul has experienced during the past three  traumatic years.

And here is the funny thing. When I first started drawing I found I could not leave the words out of the pictures. Since I write professionally, I guess it should come as no surprise that words gave me comfort and a sense of familiarity that was hard to walk away from. But Miss All-Knowing insisted that I take the words out so I could no longer hide behind those words. What a struggle that turned out to be!

As much as I hate to admit it, doing all this artwork is producing a change in myself. I feel more at peace and my anger/pain has diminished.  Although I will never be a great artist there are several things that I have learned about the similarities between art and life in these few short weeks as I have explored this unused side of me and what I have discovered is this:

  1. The fewer words you use; the less explaining you have to do.
  2. Getting “stuck” in life or in art curtails the creative process. Just keep on forging ahead even though nothing fruitful appears to be emerging..
  3. Art, like life, is meant to be fun. Don’t take it all so seriously.
  4. Chances are, the more you try to fix, something the bigger mess you will end up with.
  5. Almost nothing turns out the way you expected when you first started your masterpiece.
  6. If you go with the flow and just let the colors end up where they are supposed to you will cut down considerably on your stress.
  7. Life, like paint, is meant to be free flowing, not stagnant.
  8. Leave your painting/emotions alone and come back to them later. Often you will see things in a different light later on.
  9. Less is often better in painting and in life.
  10. Trying to control all aspects of your life and your creation will often result in untold and needless suffering.
  11. Do anything enough and you will get better at it whether it be artwork or improved communication.
  12. Shut up and let your actions/work speak for themselves.
  13. Trying too hard is just as detrimental as not trying hard enough.
  14. In life as in art; have no expectations about the results.

Funny thing. While I am still not crazy about drawing and the like I have developed enough of an interest that I have found the need to learn a few of the “how to’s” of painting..  And so this weekend I attended my first water color class. While I am unsure whether this turn of events is due to the curiosity factor or my foolish need for “perfection” I am unsure; but either way I find I am enriching myself and growing beyond the artificial borders that I once set for myself… and what more could you ask of yourself?

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I’m Depressed

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I’m depressed. There. I said it. I’m depressed.

Frankly, it worries me as I have never allowed myself to go there. With so many people depending on me and a sister who spent time in a mental hospital; I have never before let myself plumb the depths of the despair I am feeling. However, now I am trying to give myself permission. Permission to explore what is on the other side of two years of marriage chaos and confusion. Permission to grieve for dreams that have been pushed aside by reality and for children who struggle due to the challenges of autism. Permission to just feel what I need to feel, even if it hurts. And permission to feel those deep rooted emotions and to not intellectualize my feelings as all the intellectualizing I do just makes me hurt worse.

I will confess this intense feeling of sadness scares me to my core. Not because I am afraid to feel those lows but because when you have had a family member who has experienced hospitalization due to her mental health issues and you have spent years dealing with hers…well, I just don’t want to put my family into that vat of pain and helplessness you can’t help but feel when surrounded with all of that. Yet, my therapist said to me that I have the skill set to survive if not thrive while looking at those things that make me uncomfortable and sad. And after reading Thomas Moore’s The Dark Night Of The Soul I know that there is plenty to be gained by going there for a brief respite. But still, I hesitate, my feet in cement for fear of going in too far or deep. For fear of becoming like my sister. Of letting people down.  Of not “performing” the requirements that are expected in this one act play that I am living.

I know I need to take a look at what is coming up from the depths of my soul. I know that I need to allow myself to feel these intense feelings. I suspect that it is similar to drilling for oil while trying to contain the amount that surfaces at one time. And its also acknowledging  that what comes up will have to be refined in different ways depending on how it will be used. And I acknowledge that any spills that occur will give me new skills to better contain the overflow the next time.

If I had my way I would stay in bed for a week and pull the covers over my head. I would play every sad song I have ever heard and have a Bailey’s on the rocks sitting on my bed stand sipping it over several hours. Oh hell, maybe I would guzzle it instead. That is what I wanted to do today. BUT…I had to make breakfast and lunch for everyone, take them to school, take a kid to the doctor and another to get her allergy shots. I had to wait for the dryer repairman, do the dishes, and mop the floor. I had to pay bills, get the oil changed and attend a meeting. Tomorrow it is more of the same.

So, here I sit, one toe half in and half out of this deep sadness. This depression. Perhaps if I am brave enough I will step on in and let it take me where I need to go.  To places I have never visited but probably should. Only afterwards will I understand that there are things to be gained from examining things below the surface. And who knows…I may just strike the motherlode while I am exploring with the sheets making the perfect tent in which to hide away from the world.

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Exchange-A 10 Minute Poem Challenge

Sometimes I wonder

What it will be like

For you to be away

Knowing that you are

Never coming back

Except for that special necktie

You wore at your father’s funeral

Which lies at the back of our old closet

Not being thought of until now

When you want something

From home

And nothing from me

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Will I miss you?

Wishing you were coming back for me

Instead of that old tie

Or will I feel free?

Without the encumbrance of your expectations

Which I never seem to be able to live up to

Anyways

Will I miss laying my head on your chest

In bed as we exchanged nighttime pleasantries

Before that last kiss when we turned away

From one another

Each heading off to our private dreamlands

Yours which features new lovers

With better everythings

Than I will ever again have

And mine in which I follow my heart

To a vast and empty wasteland

Where nothing grows ever again

Because of the poison that you have spread

All over me

Wishing I was

Younger

Thinner

Prettier

Quieter

Move Loving

Less Loving

A Better Mom

Funnier

Less Demanding

A Better Housekeeper

Instead of just accepting me

For who I am

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Someday soon I suspect

I will know the answer to these questions

And will, most likely, not like what I discover

Because I know I will miss you

Terribly

Hurtfully

Absurdly

Uncomfortably

And will have to endure

All this sadness and pain

Until I find Alice

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Who will lead me through

That oddly shaped door

Drinking the Kool-aid

In order to grow enough

To reach that handle

And turn the knob

That will bring me home to myself

To that place that I want to be

Safe and secure

Within myself and with myself

Appreciating all that I am

Which you could never do

And when I finally arrive

I will give myself a hug

Like you do

When meeting an old friend

And I will no longer

Be missing you

Because I will have found myself

Once again

I may be alone

But I’ll never again be lonely

Because now I am my own

Best Friend

Not beaten down

Not dismissed

 

But treasured for all that I have

And all that I am

Left to give to myself

And the world

All the gifts I possess

Which you returned to Macy’s

In exchange for fireworks

And a pink negligee

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