A Moment of Clarity

fingerprint

The room, the last office along the beige corridor, cornered to the right. Its windows, showered light that enveloped the walls. She sat in front of the windows facing me, while I faced the windows. The desk bore no personality, or ownership. Just semi-empty drawers occasioned by pencils, napkins, and salt and pepper pouches from a lunch long past.

I couldn’t feel my body. Still in dismay from their lies to get me there, my stoic body stared with wide eyes open. She asked questions, and I replied with calculated quips that at first strategized the best right answer to get me out of there, but then gave in. Leaving was not an option.

My mind raced with what had just happened.

Cringing from the betrayal, I craved satisfaction that would not come for quite some time. I needed sedation by the doctor’s remedy to numb the uncomfortable pain of transitioning. Sitting there, motionless, I wondered how my life came to this instance of reckoning: the end of a long road of running. It took endless seconds to realize this confrontation, between nurse and patient, marked an opportunity.

My addiction started long before the first drug.

Memories go as far back as when my little sister was born. Dad, taking charge of his three little girls, seemed overwhelmed, yet elated with welcoming his fourth. Each small hand holding the other sister’s hand waved to the hospital window above us. A shadow of our mother waved back, and we all felt special.

Having a little sister meant I had someone smaller than me to play with. I quickly learned that the specialness of being the “baby” passed to her. Now, relegated to the third out or four, I represented the child in-between: no longer the one cuddled and cooed over, or given full attention. All that hubbub came to its end, and a different self awareness awoke, unfolding to a darker, saddened worldview.

Little sister and I were a twosome pod in a family that grouped into twos. With six, this kind of compartmentalization seemed natural and effortless. As besties who looked to each other for companionship and compassions, I loved the idea of loving her and being loved by her. We pretended all the time: to be wealthy, talented, scholarly, and fashion forward.  But dreams don’t often manifest in real-world self actualization. Although a twosome, I always believed myself alone: distant and outside the group.

My daily growing up stared into the abyss of my parent’s 1960’s TV. No books. No conversations at dinner. Little time for connecting. My inner dialogue tethered to the TV sound track, which brainwashed my imagination.  Overtime, when I took to exploring deeper meanings from within, and mindful thought found spoken words, these meanderings met criticisms, or ridicules, from older sisters and their friends, who mocked and beat down any lingering confidence.

Craving a connection to hope, which I couldn’t imagine for myself, I believed that anything better existed beyond my reach at home. My sole purpose in finding a means to the end only led me down darker alleys with g-o-d centered smack as the elixir to open imagined doorways at dead ends.

I wandered off, looking for like minded fiends, yet craved fixing the damaged spirit. Some days happened without issue, but one day, I stayed away longer than usual. The return home only convinced me to leave for good. Moving to New York City, in the fall of 1976, marked the beginning of a ten year run. The beige room with the chair facing the windows marked the end of the marathon.

The nurse locked the doors behind me. She put the key in her drawer. She expected me to learn to live a new way of thinking. Although given this moment and many others to confess, leaving was not an option until I believed in a life without regret.

Reflection on Downtime

Photo on 7-20-14 at 1.09 PMNot sure how the times pan out as we roll along this republican joy ride; however I am sure of my feelings of depression, which sit in the very back row of my room, veiling forward over each conscious notion of hope.

To get thru the bleak flash that sneaks in during the day, I focus on putting one foot in front of the other, and not worrying in that very moment what is beyond where my feet stand.

The pall that hovers affects the way I interpret my life’s daily reflection. Today, questioning writing dirty tricks. Wondering why I ended up standing in this limbo spot; contemplating whether there is another spot I should be in: or should the conversation be something else which I cannot see or have been excluded from.

Am I a casualty of clearing the swamp of UN-notables? Should I be content with my mediocrity, and see my creative as just another self-indulgent grandiose hobby? The fear of fear plays tenacious tricks that never seem to let the thinking remain in any place of contentment. Stay on the move, traveling forward  thru the delusion to safe ground, is consciously to conscious.

I have to re-affirm that the next mountain is right around the corner, bordered by the sea of opportunity. I enjoyed sailing on the masthead with my spade flag, and want to continue the ride across unexplored oceans and byways.

Upon giving name to this angst, I realize my guttural voice – that which the stars aligned from inception – always there – was preserved by my years of neglect and brewing, and re-imagined and re-born by recovery from the debauchery. I try not to be afraid of myself, or worry about acceptance. But I worry anyway. In the end, my intellectualism understands that me is me; you are you; and they are the others. Yet only one sits in the chair and types.

Dear DA

Truth

The battle long ago, some twenty-six years in the making, came to an abrupt end when the door slammed behind me. Into the padded room, I stirred with my worst self. Delusional of clarity, being, and thinking, I laid curled in a ball on the floor with frightened conflicted tears wildly rage-full; while at the same time filled with a strange sense of relief.

In my memory’s glimpse, that moment represented all of my youthful self annihilation coming head to head with any glimmer of potential for a future. Straitjacketed by my bottomless self-centeredness, anesthetics removed, the chemical hangover lived larger than that other self understood. The long road laid before me. Choices.

The nurse came in and took me to another room with sunlight. She smoothed my crying spirit of angst and disbelief at being in this place. At this crossroad, self-centered blindness continued to shield my ability to see a future of any real possibilities beyond this captivity. My thoughts possessed only strategies to change the course on my appointed condition. However, as time slipped by, forced into seeing what I created, acceptance became the key to my freedom.

There was never a loss of a god. The edge of streets and late night harbors shadowed the very being of me and my spirituality. I didn’t know who I had become, and could not see any possibilities to change that broken girl. My life reeled inside my head like a cinema feature out of synch. Yet a presence always surrounded me. Something intangible. Like an invisible cloak protecting me from the demon, until one day, that safety disappeared. The end game was in sight, and that finale became the only possible end available to me.

Looking back at growing up without an intellectual voice to mentor me, subjected to Reagan suburban expectations, dis-ease motivated my search for something darker. I pushed to the edge of moving in faster beats, and shadowy tonal scales of percussive rhythms, and moved to New York City in quest of kindred spirits. Our street theater soundtracked by an alternative mix of 70’s back room tunes fed our revolutionary spirit against the tyranny-of-the-corporate-majority destruction of alternative arts. We launched MTV images of anxiety, dressed in dark uniforms, and danced in skank clubs that reeked of alcohol and dry goods. Life seemed fearless as we masked the apprehension and delusion.

My geographic to San Francisco tightly nailed the coffin shut. It was only a matter of time, and the resolve, set in stone, tempered a careful stride as I tried to get money from the ATM. The memory of standing that last balmy day of January as the sun set, scrambling for $20, etched the reckoning. This withdrawal led to the last crystal memory of a journey doomed toward oblivion. By Sunday, I followed the money trail back to New York, thinking I had it all under control. Nothing was as it should be, and in my room, back on The Crossway, the mirror lied, and I thought no one could tell. By Wednesday, the door slammed, and the future was born.

This present memory-tunnel post reminds where I came from, however not as something stoically held on to. This recall of the ‘flatlining of my life’ expects that I find gratitude in each day for another opportunity to practice flexibility, open-mindedness and generosity of spirit. The ball and chain of youthful resentment, anger and fear stopped me from being whole. So the memory of this embryonic critical moment reinforces the point-of-view that a future can exist where my talents may live to their fullest potential only if I get out of my own way.

So.
We show up for the road less traveled.
We remain on the path.
We seek to recover despite the surrounding chaos and pain of accepting truth.

a state of being whole and undivided.

Integrity

I don’t profess to being the most solid individual in the world, but I strive to have some sense of integrity about my dealings with colleagues. However, patience spreads thin when I see blatant injustices for the sake of power positioning. My whole temporal being becomes unhinged, and clear sight quickly impairs. Rash behaviors take hold, and no sooner than the feeling of fear hitting at the very core of my being emerges, I have blurted out something controversial. The gasp from my colleagues in the room stifles any clear sensibility on my part.

In an instant, I feverishly begin to tread water, attempting to control what clearly reveals a wrong on my part. Fast, the loss of control overcomes me. I earnestly attempt to right the wrong, but humans have little patience: they see what they want to see. Each word or phrase that attempts to set the wrong right creates further uncomfortable moments, while at the same time providing food for destruction from those who would love to tear me down.

The intrigue of people to view crashes has always amazed me. I often get sucked into rubbernecking at accidents. It’s as if witnessing the destruction somehow absolves me from destructive defects. The goal of any participant in our dog-eat-dog competitive world depends on finding the flaws in “competitors,” which would provide opportunities of “growth. Players, ingrained to cast slings and arrows against the misfortunate, slither throughout the work environment. Compassion would be considered a sign of weakness – a player loosing ground. So to expect empathy in any given work situation would be delusional. Public high schools, transformed by the corporate impulse, are not exempt from this callousness.

After being exposed to office intrigue about who rattled whose cage, my instinct to leave this job loomed large. My life passed before me, and the idea that the rest of my work days would be subject to petty power struggles in public school buildings became depressing. Principles over personalities seems a hopeless, far away concept, since over the past seven years Principals have abused workplace ethics to feel a sense of power in their powerless position of imposing a uniform pedagogy over a variety of disciplines.

A wise woman once told me that the course of experience will lead one to see ‘how it works, and how it doesn’t work.’ Living then becomes the choosing of which path I decide to stroll down. Such a viewpoint requires that I remain teachable at any given turn, and open-minded to a new way of living as the years change the world I built around me. All that I know, and all that I assumed would be, become questionable as I begin another cycle of deciding what I want to become when I grow up.

My aged world begins the third stage of a great ride  – assuming that Saturn’s return designates each stage – I get to choose the kind of person I would like to become, not only by example, but for personal sanity. Reinvention, which can begin at any point, requires a powerful intuitive imagination that connects to a steadfast commitment of a rational idea (this rationality remains the tricky part of negotiating between the dichotomy of a concerted philosophical discourse and intoxicating small talk).

The passionate belief of “anything is possible if you imagine it” commits to the genuine idea that I still possess the opportunity to reinvent and create my life anew. Many detractors of change reject my thinking in their attempt to protect safe cultural norms and deny their own stagnation. As an architect of reinvention, I must consistently refresh my faithfulness to teachability. To innovate means to set in motion and organize the day-to-day necessities of creating a “something” with disciplined patience and practice. Faith breeds change, and safeguards the construction process. The daily, and equally disciplined, practice of conscious contact insures the reverence to the gift of being not only in the process of change, but in the moment of being in and of itself. Humility helps me to keep me at bay the fearful force of those persons, afraid of losing ground, who set out to tear such innovation down.

One’s truth questioning voice must remain steadfast in the things constructed. True intentions, subject to truth tests and exposed to the light of day, lead to a state of perfection. Yet these acts of expression must also be measured by a level of fair-mindedness, compassion and empathy. As a result, integrity develops as a continuing process of becoming. A life of dignity then remains my choice to stay in the process of change.

In an Instant

In an instant the world you know can change. So many writings discuss events where the world of the protagonist changes through one dramatic event. The before life, shows a world of independent thinking, freedom, choice and hope. The event – symbolic or not – rocks the foundation of that world. The after-life represents all the fears one may have worked hard to avoid. The challenge then becomes the process of acceptance. My mother’s car accident changed her life, while accentuating the assets and liabilities already in play in my life.

Mom totaled her car.  She came around a bend going faster than expected and caught air. In flight, the car spun around and came down in a wooded area off the road hitting trees in the back of the car and all along the left side. The front left part of the engine was smashed in, as well a the back-side.

.Mom

For most young persons, this type of accident would be a coming of age story where the young hero walks away without a scratch. Youth heals, and the tale would perhaps be the campfire storytelling of a vivid lead up to the climatic clash with a ferocious tree! For Mom, this accident represented a life changed – where the world she knew would no longer exist.

Mom will no longer drive. Mom will no longer be able to live in the house she has lived in for almost 50 years. Mom will no longer be able to act on her intellectual impulse. She will only feel constant pain. The arthritis will only increase, and Mom will never be able to pick up anything heavier than her purse. In essence, her ability to care for herself, by herself, cannot be.  Dependency overtakes and overwhelms.

My sister called about two hours after the accident had occurred, when the doctors were running the tests. I then quickly tied loose ends together, and got into hospital mode. I had practice with this type of emergency because Mom, hospitalized last year during the Sandy Hurricane, broke her pelvis. After securing care for Max, my son, I made a sandwich, at the suggestion of a friend, to make sure I ate gluten-free before becoming wrapped into the hospital’s drama. On my way, I stopped for gas. I got there approximately two hours after the phone call, and felt a pang of guilt that it wasn’t fast enough.

Mom went to the same hospital, and so the steps to her room triggered memories of fear. Yet when I approached her room, the feelings swelled inside me in a new way, as if approaching a passage way into another dimension. Whereas the previous stay, tamed by the lack of severity, this stay would signal the beginning of an end. I walked into the room where she laid, swollen and drugged, and almost fainted.

I looked for water to calm my nerves and to find my breadth. My thoughts were racing and no single one penetrated a phrase that signaled what I was feeling. I tried to find my balance as I quickly searched for a cup of water at the nurses station. My nephew followed me from the urging of his “nurse” wife. He asked if I was alright. This familiar fainting feeling resembled the morning I almost passed out of the subway from a vasovagel response from iron depletion. My nutrients escaped from my brain. I was about to hit the floor when the water touched my lips, and I was somehow brought back to face my fear of death.

Mom cracked jokes in-between saying how stupid she felt. She vacillated between highs and lows like riding a roller coaster. Her thoughts, like slippery hands trying to hang onto a greased pole, were in one moment coherent and in the next mumblings. Her slurred speech clearly showed that she was not truly present to the events unfolding.

So as the evening turned to night, and night to early morning, I slipped away while she slept. Driving the 40 minute journey back to the city, my emotional exhaustion really could not grasp the changes. Intellectually, I understood, but emotionally I refused to feel.

The doctor scheduled Mom’s surgery on the third day in the hospital. The swelling throughout her injuries needed to subside. The shattered upper left arm beneath her broken collar-bone needed plates and pins. No one seemed concerned about her arthritis ridden back and leg pains which plagued her over the last six months, which ‘miraculously’ disappeared with the multitude of percosets she ate every 3 hours.  Like a shadow thought that sits in the back of the brain never showing itself but shrouding all thoughts, I knew the worst pain was yet to come.

I never spoke about these feelings in the presence of my mother. When I tried to broach the subject with my sister, she, in her own way to survive her feelings, pushed back to keep this in the present. In meetings with friends I shared my concern, but little in the way of feedback played out. There was no more than a nod or “sorry to hear about your mother” response. My private feelings sat heavy, wearing me out as each day passed.

The surgery went well, and during the doctor’s follow-up meeting the next morning, she cracked jokes to a very patient doctor, while I tried to deflect her humor to the seriousness of the meeting. Mom’s coping mechanism against heavy feelings plays out with making funny faces and cracking jokes. She’s perfected this skill of deflection. Feelings are not her forte, and she always believed that people would naturally work through them. But this  life and death situation depends on a healthy attitude about life, and to bring forward, at one’s base of thinking, acceptance. Mom’s challenge would yet unfold. Her new life would take away freedoms she had not yet fully processed.

About a week after the surgery Mom transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. My oldest sister, Mom’s medical proxy, daily tended to Mom’s medical and spiritual needs. I was able to visit around my work schedule at least one day during the week and on weekends. Daily, my sister and I would phone convo to go over strategy plans to bring Mom to a more positive view of recovery. Sis had a tough road, and she handled each day with grace and ease. The tasks were all to familiar since Sis had walked her significant other through the process of dying two years before.

When I could make my way to the hospital around my work schedule, I kept company with Mom. We watched old movies that we had each seen a hundred times, and gossiped about the actors. In fact, whoever showed up was basically watching old movies with Mom. But when She and I watched movies, it was like it had always been since I was a child – passing time as a way of finding a common ground.

My sister and I scheduled family to make sure that each evening there was always someone visiting. Our intent to help Mom feel positive about her healing process worked as long as a live body kept her company. During the downtimes, she became despondent. Each morning into afternoon, Mom vacillated between acceptance and fear. My sister got the brunt of this up and down, and would call to fill me in. We were both afraid that she would in an instant, give up.

Lying on her back, day after day, with now only the occasional painkiller, the arthritis slowly reappeared. Her physical therapist provided the exercises to heal the arm, yet no doctor could cure that merging dull pain that had previously gone through a series of epidurals prior to the accident. Dull gave way to sharp episodes, which eventually become a single stream of unending discomfort.

Where the hospital provided a safe haven to heal, Mom yearned for self-sufficiency. Her wishful thinking laid out a picture that she could return to her house, and live her life. Yet  we knew the truth; that the world she had come to accept, would be no more. She was officially dependent.

The process for each of her daughters has been to realign each’s commitment to my mother in her last years. It would need showing up; sitting patiently watching her move uncomfortably through the pain; watching movies, cooking meals, running errands or just biding some time between conversations that avoided acknowledgment of such care. Sacrificing our selfish interests would hopefully give relief to her fear that she would be alone.

Mom’s pride always starts the conversation when we ask how she’s doing. It gets in the way of asking for help. If we show up, help is there. Yet a decorum is needed to dance around her exhortations of “I can take care of myself!”

We exclaim, “No, really Mom, I had no plans for the weekend, and I thought just to come out to spend time with you.” Estelle demands, “You can come as long as you aren’t taking care of me – I’m fine!”

So although a ruse progresses, I willingly do all that I can to experience all that there is. By giving my time, I give my gift of love. But returning home with such frequency does have some on the job hazards. Each time I enter her house (my childhood home) memories come in and out.  Downstairs I relive my Ken and Barbie days, watching TV, and growing up in my imagination. As I go into the darker closets, growing pains bring memories of shame and frustration. Although prone to obsess and regret, I busy myself, and play a recovery tape that tells me to accept myself for just as i am in that moment; not who I was worlds past. Just for today, I am present for this closure.

Undiagnosed

So after searching the net for memoirs of persons with celiac disease, I found only a few articles, and one book, by sufferers that were half my age. Wondering where the women who diagnosed late in life were, I rationalized they had busy lives managing kids, or working long hours managing a career than to spend time writing.

The articles I did come across were light and focused on informing people about the disease – one book focused on the humor of new eating patterns. No one seemed to express the suffering that misdiagnosis can have on a person’s development.

My resentments against doctors reach all the way back to high school. The signs of a problem showed during adolescence, but since no one saw the cause as something other than give them iron for the anemia, they stopped there and did not link all the afflictions as a single whole –  the doctor’s looked no further when confronted with disparities.

The brain is a delicate muscle. Imagine a brain that doesn’t get enough water – a brain without the nutrients of food – the stress of growing up with a brain that makes thoughts come out sideways. Welcome to my world of a life of physical problems that could never be diagnosed. Auto-immune diseases have genetic dispositions. That means children, mis-diagnosed and growing up adjusting to the dis ease of their bodies trying to cope, never develop to their fullest potential.

I used to blame my parents for my fate in life. Now I blame the doctors.

When I was young, the feelings of being outside of the family circle certainly was part of my life process. Being third birth order of four girls in five years reinforced the feelings of inadequacies. My self-image – the physical comparisons to my early Barbie dolls, and the efforts of my mother to have perfect beautiful girls, which was not normal – clearly indicated that my distended stomach and anemia were greater problems that wasn’t my thyroid.

Doctors told my mother and father my condition was normal – just feed her more spinach! As the symptoms took more voracious turns, the variety of doctors defaulted to genetics – or an anomaly that would pass. They were right about the genetics, but the diseases only multiplied and did not desist. I had undiagnosed celiac disease, and by the time I hit high school, the mental and physical damages were done. Losing my hair should have been a clear indicator.

The doctors escaped culpability by reasoning their diagnoses were right. Eventually, this discomfort had to be quelled, and self medication seemed the logical course of action. I often wonder how many have followed this same course.

The Patio Argument

Growing up in suburban New Jersey in the sixties and early seventies, my sisters and I looked up to Mom for an answer to everything. She was a power greater that inculcated the manners and mores of middle class society to me and my three sisters. A vibrant woman – she squired the socialite scene of Smoke Rise, and made a cutting figure on the dance floor. However, our “patio argument,” in the fall of my thirteenth year, changed my rose-colored Mom view; I challenged her like an equal to my adolescent self.

Throughout my youth, I clearly felt loved by my father. Born two days after his 32nd birthday, our connection, although never really intimate, thrived on an intuitive understanding of each other’s mentality. We were destined to be connected, and our minds saw the world in similar ways. Although later we would create a bi-polar relationship because of our divergent political views, during my childhood his love never wavered. Dad saw in me a ‘special something’ that set me apart from my sisters. His belief in my assets despite my liabilities highlighted my mother’s shallow understanding of my potential.

During my ‘adolescence,’ Mom always seemed burdened by me. As I neared that age where girls are supposed to act like ‘young ladies,” my overweight, awkward presence frustrated her well-groomed coiffed world. Any attempts to seek attention through a budding intellectualism fell on deaf ears. She saw my logical schemas as odd commentary – strange world views to her devout patriarchal maternalism colored by her late night movie mentality. Each time I asserted my true self, Mom glared with skeptical eyes that expressed a silent dig, “That’s not the way girl’s should act!” Blind, or dismissive, to my yearning for attention, Mom’s love and acceptance became near impossible to get.

This patio argument became a defining moment where our two worlds came face to face for the first and last time. Mom had been cleaning with Clorox, and was in her usual Capri pants and white t-shirt. Her firmly held hands-on-hips framed her petite figure, while her short dark brown hair matched the deep black pools of her struggling eyes. Mom extorted that my loose “other side of the trax” friends were not what she expected of me, and she didn’t like the direction my life was going. She yelled every which way to rein me in. For each assertion she made, I retorted with some logical reasoning that rapidly broke down her illogical arguments about propriety.

I always wanted my mother’s mindfulness, and hoped that any conflicts we encountered would, by the laws of nature, lead to a more meaningful mother-daughter intimacy. My 13-year-old perspective thought our battling interplay was the natural order of things. I imagined, within this argument, she would stop in awe of my sophist talents, instantly embracing my mind and spirit. But seeing me for me, and spending quality time doing things for me, was not her way. There were too many children; to many responsibilities; and too many cocktail parties to see straight. So the only means of keeping order to her world was through discipline – everyone falling into line – wearing the right dress, speaking when spoken to and never challenging social norms or authority. I became the one who never matched her expectations.

I turned my mother’s judgements inward, and they came back to the surface with angry assaults on her intelligence. For all that she did not see in me, I did not see the values in her. We raged, cried fearful tears, and slew insults. Our clash of titans argument clearly showed we were in different worlds that would never find a common ground. Her failed attempts to silence my voice eventually stopped when Dad intervened.

He took my arm and led me into the kitchen. Dad patiently listened to my frantic tirades that tore my mother’s integrity and intelligence to bits. Every now and then he would nod. It seemed he had no words to quell me – he only wanted to know what happened. Eventually I claimed the death knell statement, “How could you stay married to her?” My Dad said nothing and looked down. His silence became vindication of my right views.

The next day, we all moved through our separate worlds keeping a careful distance from each other. Over time, as winter turned to spring, my path moved further away from my parent’s frivolous, materialist world, and closer to edgier pursuits. Having already taken the leap of intoxicating nights, I readied toward a world that could not talk back, criticize or rein me in. Yearning for a more creative, intellectual, and comfortable place, the first ‘maryjane’ sent me on my way.