After The Affair

I was talking with my therapist today. It was exhausting. Almost 60 years of life to look at…some of it not pretty but a lot of it brilliantly played and enjoyed.

After the three years of B’s affair and the “almost” demise of my marriage it has been difficult at times to believe that B has changed and that our life together is stronger too.  The doubts that plague me have swirled fast and furious especially in the first six months after the storm.  The calm surety I have been searching for has been more elusive and more difficult to trust when I see it. Sometimes it appears to me that my life is only an illusion and I am always checking to make sure what I see is real. That process is exhausting and life-robbing. It is not life affirming nor is it increasing my sense of stability.

As I come upon 11 months of “knowing” about the affair I do feel hope and real joy again. The anguish and pain are slowly diminishing. Parts of me have been re-born and parts re-shaped into a better part of my whole. I have grown, explored and examined parts of my life that I saved until “LATER.” Yet, conveniently, LATER never came… until the affair… when I was forced to pick up the pieces and try to rebuild myself and my marriage. And now, believe it or not, at times I am even thankful for B’s affair because it has allowed both of us to evolve and create something different within ourselves and within our relationship. We are rebuilding on something that resembles bedrock and our foundation is no longer sinking in quicksand.

Another tidbit. For years I have not dreamed. Not once. EVER. But in the last month I have had three vivid dreams about B and “the other woman.” All involved water. In the last one, right before I woke up, an image of a goddess came to me and she held her hand out and said, ” Stop looking, It will come to you if needed.” The imagine was vivid, profound and unlike anything I have ever expeirenced before.

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My therapist tells me this is a good thing. That my psyche is clearing things out and washing them away.

I have also been busy creating my therapist provoked artwork. A recent picture is of a bird’s nest filled with various objects along with the words: LEARN, REST and FAITH interwoven into it. She says these are important words for me to concentrate on.

“What is faith?” she asks.

ANSWER

“It is the essence of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Can you see the wind? No? But you can see or hear the evidence of it in the sound of the wind chime or the rustling of the leaves. So REST in the hope that you have for your marriage and have FAITH in the evidence that you are seeing that things are changing for the better. Believe your goddess who is telling you to stop looking for trouble. and to believe that you can LEARN from your past, REST in the comfort of now, and have  FAITH in your future.

AND THEN SHE SAYS

“What if you get the stability you have been searching for your entire life? Will you see it and embrace it or will you run from it?”

GOOD QUESTION…AND FOR NOW…I DON’T HAVE AN ANSWER.

I would like to think that I have matured suffienctly to embrace all that has come and will come my way. Yet, at other times, I am just not sure. Sometimes I still want to just slide down the rabbit hole into another time and place.

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Yet, no matter what I choose I know that I am strong enough and wise enough to handle it because I have lived through the worst year of my life and not just survived but thrived!

 

The Importance of Taking Action

Sometimes showing up just the way you are in the moment is freeing. Other times it is difficult and scary. But ultimately if we want to experience life in a different manner and see ourselves in a different way; we have to do things differently… which means we have to be willing to take action.

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It is easy to show up, accept yourself, and get on with life when you are feeling: curious, happy, and have no expectations of how something you are engaged in will turn out.  When we try something new IF we allow our minds to stay open and curious, we often find there is a full-range of possibilities available to us; especially if we just accept ourselves and strive for being immersed in the momentary experience instead of seeking perfection our first time out of the box.

Let’s face it…it is harder to show up just the way we are when we are feeling: anxious, have ruminating negative thoughts, are sad, worried, afraid, ashamed and angry. But sometimes we must do it anyway.

When our lives have fallen apart one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is take simple action. It may be as easy as trying something that we have always wanted to do… like… going to a new restaurant and experiencing a new food. It may involve learning something new by taking a class of some sort or even attending a lecture on a topic that we have always been interested in. Or it may involve going to one of those social mixers that sends our guts into spasm just thinking about it or making that phone call we have been putting off for weeks

In order to stretch ourselves it helps to remember that we don’t have to be fearless… experiencing uncertainty is just a normal part of life. For if we allow ourselves to consider that every time we take a chance to reveal ourselves further, there is less to be hidden and fearful of in the future; then taking action provides a much needed sense of purpose to our lives. When we give up hiding parts of ourselves in the shadows, it gives us the opportunity to show up as our true and wondrous selves. And it is indeed a glorious day when we finally realize that even if we fail to catch the fly-ball, sing off-key, or spill the paint, there is nothing inherently bad with whatever happens even if it involves perceived “failure.”  Just showing up and putting ourselves out there will give us  the useful information  that we need (I like this…I don’t like that) to take us further down the path that we want to end up on.

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So today…Take Action! Take A Chance! Today just might just be the day that changes the rest your life!

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And…The First Fire-Related Lawsuit Is Filed. Compassion Is Needed.

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Tonight six more individuals were added to the list one never wants to be on…deceased. Dead due to a fast burning out of control wildfire. This brings the number killed to 48 with hundreds still missing. It is a sad day for our state but especially for the towns of Paradise and Concow where most of the victims resided.

Paradise is not a compact city. There were many folks living down miles and miles of long country roads. People spread out far and wide surrounded by tinder dry forests. As I read over the list of the missing I couldn’t help but notice that about 90% of them were over 70 years-old. Grandparents who couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t drive, or maybe even hear any warnings that might have come their way.

Tonight it was also announced that the very first lawsuit was filed in court with the fire still raging and fault not yet determined by fire investigators.  The defendant in the lawsuit is PG&E, the local electrical utility. Right before the fire became an inferno, the utility emailed an individual requesting access to their property as the PG&E’s transmission wire was sparking. This is most likely just the beginning of a long list of suits that will surely follow.

While I realize that many will want to see someone held responsible for the deadliest fire in California history; I am hoping people will not turn on those who did their best during a chaotic situation…the first responders. Having lived through several emergencies, I can only believe that everyone did their best to save lives while a fire was swallowing up land the size of 8 football fields every minute. With hot embers flying through the air driven by radically changing winds which were being pushed faster than a person can drive, it seems to me that to try to point fingers is a game in futility and one that degrades our collective humanity. Yes, looking back we always find things that could have been done better and faster but when calamity strikes we all do what we can and  we do what we can to the best of our ability and with the knowledge we have at the time.

Unfortunately, we all have noble ideas of how we THINK we would react in certain situations, often playing those scenarios out in our minds at different points in our lives. But life isn’t that simple. We often find in an emergency that our previously good ideas no longer work. Trees fall, lines are long, folks stay behind for one last thing, we fail to heed the warnings soon enough or we don’t have enough gas in our car.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there will many people who will go to their graves second guessing themselves for failing to act in ways that were impossible to implement when there are so many lives to save in a cataclysmic event. It is truly one of those moments that you can never totally prepare for. The notions and ideas that survivors had about themselves and how they would react in life changing events can often snare them. Then the “if only’s” may begin to slowly eat away at them until they are but shells of their former selves.

I hope this does not happen. I hope people will look at one another and not point fingers but will show compassion and understanding. Perhaps one of the greatest things folks can do for themselves and others in this type of situation  is to stop, breathe, and say:

“I know you are suffering. That is why I am here for you.”

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The “end” of an emergency is really just the “beginning” of a new normal. It isn’t easy. Anger appears out of nowhere and despair can rob us of moments we formally enjoyed. Yet, compassion and forgiveness (a blame free environment) can go a long way towards bringing a community back together and re-building it in such a way that it creates a long-lasting atmosphere of vibrancy, restoration, and love. May everyone impacted by this fire remember that blame creates suffering which only causes further suffering for ourselves. And may those involved look for the best in each and every person and not assume the worst; so that seeds of compassion planted now will flourish in the future creating Paradise once again in this amazing mountain town.

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View of the area around my home

 

 

Coconuts

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One of the things I love about my volunteer position at a local hospice is that I get to spend time with “The Older Generation.” I love to hear their stories, the places they have been, and the tales of wisdom that they have learned about what makes for a good life. Most often I laugh hard on the days when I am spending time with these wonderful and whitty folk. Their joy at the simple things in life, as they are rounding the bend on theirs, makes me mindful of the beauty of letting things go back to basics in all areas of our lives.

Today, I was talking to one of my favorites. She is an older woman born on an island in the Pacific Ocean and loves to talk about her early life which was idyllic until the Japanese invaded during WWII. It was then that she learned about the difficulties in life. Starvation, slow torture, and bayonets. She watched as people were killed on the streets of her hometown; her friends and relatives not spared by the brutality that one human being can inflict on another. But what she really could not wrap her brain around is that the enemy were people just like her and those she loved. People that would no more hurt their own neighbor back home yet were inclined to resort to heinous acts during heinous times.

One of this lady’s most memorable war-time events occurred when she was just 13 years old. On that day, the Japanese arrived in town and began raping the women and killing men. The townspeople were unarmed and had no way to fight the invaders. They were totally at the mercy of their captors.

As the Japanese entered the town my “friend” and her two sisters were instructed by their father to flee towards the mountains. As they ran they heard voices behind them and realized that they were being pursued. Unfortunately, one of the sisters was separated from the other two girls who managed to climb up into the arms of a coconut tree. There they hid in the palm fronds for two days and watched as the enemy searched for them with instructions to kill if they were found. They also heard their sister’s painful cries as she was being victimized. It is, my friend assures me, a sound that one never forgets even all these years later. “I still has dreams,” she whispers and wakes up screaming and in a stinky sweat.

Here in the United States we do not know much about the sufferings of war. We are rarely put into a position where we genuinely fear for our lives and most of us if faced with that would probably shit ourselves due to panic and fright. We don’t know about eating tulip bulbs as the Dutch did during the war nor do most of us know how to forage for food in the woods. Most of us have never really had to worry about our neighbors turning as in as spies or leaving our homes with only the clothes on our backs.

That’s why when I hear the saber rattlers urge our countrymen to war I become concerned. Our country is not prepared for war. We are a country of wimps who watch from the sidelines but most often do not play in the actual game. Let everyone else send their kids just don’t send mine. This is especially true for the rich whose children get deferments while the politicians who help to obtain them line their pockets with Daddy’s money.

War is a dirty business and everyone, everywhere, is changed by it. And usually, this trnsformation is not for the better. So before we go talking about bombing North Korea we need to ask ourselves who is going to benefit from this situation? Is it going to be Joe Schmo or is it going to be companies like Halliburton? What resources do we lose when we attack another country and what do we gain? Who are the winners and losers and what is the cost going to be both economically and spiritually. Usually, if we do the math, we realize that as individuals and community we all lose wether it be our lives, our humanity, or both.

How many more people in history will have to hide in basements while bombs drop around them and how many more will have to cower in a coconut tree just to survive? Isn’t it time, that we as a species grow up and learn that war leads to nothing worth having and little worth saving? Isn’t it time that we work with each other instead of against?

I don’t know about you but I long for peace. Peace for this world, for my children, and peace of mind for me. Yes, I want rainbows and unicorns. I want bunnies and bubbles. I want children to feel secure and for everyone just to get along. And while I don’t know much, the one thing I am sure of is that war will not provide peace. It will not feed the starving and it will not make our children feel safe. It’s time we give peace a chance…again…and this time we need to mean it.

 

 

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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Childhood Trauma

Feelings And Fish

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I am not sure this will make sense but I am sure going to try.

Today was THERAPIST DAY. It was a doozie. She always makes me think and dig deep to find my own truths.  This is what she said to me that made me have an “A-hah!” moment. It was something I “knew” yet something that was not yet crystal clear to me.

You would think that at middle age I would have “gotten” this before or at least been observing it under the lens of magnification before, but suddenly today it became very clear. Like turning the dial on the microscope and finally being able to focus in tightly and clearly on the subject, which in this case just happens to be me.

After telling her about how I felt sharing my feelings in my relationship was important and anything less was somehow dishonest, she said, “No one else is expected to honor your feelings except you. They are yours alone. Stop expecting that B will honor what are yours to carry.”

Really! I thought that was what marriage was suppose to be about. Honoring the relationship, honoring one another in that relationship. Apparently not when it comes to your own feelings. No expectations here because all you will be is disappointed. Yeah, I know, the Buddha says the same thing.

“Stop worrying about the stuff up there, what B is doing, what B is thinking” she said looking upwards. “Go deeper and dig to find your own truths. Think of it this way. You know when you walk in one of those aquarium  tunnels and the sharks and fish are swimming above you?  Sure, you could worry about all the murky stuff floating/moving above you, the weight of all those millions of gallons of water, the sharks breaking free and swallowing you whole. But seriously, if you have your feet planted firmly on the floor examining your own truths (these tunnels are safe) and not worrying about the sharks swimming above you, you will finally relax and enjoy what it is you are seeing.  And you will soon see the truth. Your truths. The truths that you are meant to discover. Eventually you will just enjoy watching the fish and will discover that you can ignore the poop that is floating above you. In fact, by ignoring the other (fish poop, worries about tunnel caving in, etc.) then you can really get into it and experience all the wonder of the relationship around you. ”

Now, somehow I am suppose to transfer this bit of fish lore to my life and my relationship with B. I am not exactly sure how, but said therapist assures me that as B is left to look at himself, instead of me trying to get him to see all that is floating around in the water with us; everything will soon become much clearer to me…and to him too. This doesn’t mean everything will turn out the way I would like but at least with clarity comes a sense of truth and knowing what you are doing is the right thing for you… and this woman needs a boat load of that.

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An Eye For An Eye

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Ever since I saw this story in 2009, I cannot help but think about it and the ramifications. The story is here:http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/02/19/acid.attack.victim/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

The story is about a young woman named Ameneh who lives in Iran. She was unfortunate enough to have a young man sit next to her in college. He purposely brushed up against her and she was outraged. It was then that he began a two year pursuit of her. He harassed her and threatened her and even asked her to marry him. She however refused his advances.
One day after work she was approaching the bus stop when she heard someone behind her as she turned around she saw him and the next thing she felt was intense pain. He had thrown acid on her face. It immediately burned her entire face, her eyes, her arms and hands. Her mother kept the clothes she was wearing which shriveled and burned too. She was left permanently scarred and blind.

She has asked her government to blind her attacker with acid in the Islamic law tradition of “an eye for an eye” known as qisas. My understanding of qisas is that when used the punishment cannot not exceed that done by the perpetrator. Recently the courts in Iran have denied her attackers appeal and he could at any time be blinded. It is my understanding that he would have acid dropped into his eyes not sprayed on him in keeping with what qisas demands. She says her request is not one of vengeance but so that he can never do the same to another person and basically to show men that they cannot get away with this type of behavior. Human rights activists are outraged. I for one have been sitting on the fence quietly digesting the facts of this case and trying to come to some conclusion, none of which appear very satisfactory to me.

In researching this issue I was stunned to find out that in Bangladesh alone there have been over 2,600 acid attacks since 1999 against woman and young girls. According to IRIN, The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs most of these were a result of land disputes, refusals of love declarations/proposals or problems with dowries. According to human rights groups these sorts of attacks are common in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq and India. Often times women who take their cases to the courts find that they are met with disdain in which they are told that if they had only agreed to what the man had wanted they never would have had this problem.

In many countries women who have failed to dress modestly, meaning that their legs or heads may not have been covered or improperly so according to an arbitrary set of standards; have also been victims of acid attack.

Especially chilling is the story of the 11 girls and 4 teachers attending the Mirwais School for Girls in Afghanistan. On November 14, 2008 three men on motorcycles sprayed them with acid. The act was meant to intimidate the girls of the valley to remain uneducated and to stay away from school. In an incredible show of bravery almost all have returned to school refusing to be intimidated.

In 2002, parliament enacted two laws against acid violence: Under the Acid Control Act of 2002, the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale, and use of acid can result in a prison term of 3-10 years. Those who possess chemicals and equipment for the unlicensed production of acid can get the same prison term.

One doctor sounded an optimistic note: “Since then, acid violence has been showing a rapid decline,” said Shamanta Lal Sen of the burns and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).

According to ASF, 221 and 192 people were subjected to acid violence in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2000 and 2001 their number was 234 and 349 respectively.

Combating the crime of acid throwing is not easy as it appears to be a fairly common occurance in some countries. And little is done to the perpetrators except for them being ordered to make a minimal financial payment as a form of restitution. Two thousand dollars hardly begins to compensate for the intense medical care required when skin is melted and burned to the bone. Further, in a country in which beauty means so much and disability renders one invisable and obsolete, permenant disfigurement is tantamount to sentencing one to death because eventually there will be no one or no system to take care of the victim. First the victim is victimized by the attacker, then often by the courts and finally shunned by society as a whole. And the offender knows all of this and delights in it.

If it is true that prison terms have reduced the number of acid attacks then perhaps it is possible that even tougher mandatory sentences would help to decrease the number of incidences. But then again,perhaps, if Ameneh Bahrami is right, the blinding of her perpetrator may have more of an effect on stopping acid attacks than any laws presently on the books. Furthermore,if she does nothing and he attacks again her refusal to take action will make her accountable to the next victim for their injury.Lest we try to forget the man who is to be blinded is not an innocent man being used to advance a cause but he is the man who knowingly plotted and planned to disfigure and rob an innocent young woman of the life she knew and loved. He succeeded.

According to a story in the Washington Post… More than two weeks ago, Movahedi was led into court by two policemen. He showed no remorse when the court ruled on the case. When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said. “The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

Ameneh Bahrami has the right to ask for an eye for an eye and has sound reasons for doing so. First and foremost her attacker STILL doesn’t believe he has done anything bad as quoted in the article by the Washington Post.

Preventing harm to others is Bahrami’s goal and it is a noble one in a country where there is no justice for women. May her goal of eliminating acid attacks be the outcome of her quest and may women everywhere never have to fear such a barbaric act being perpetrated on them or their loved ones.

As John Stuart Mill has expressed, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”