Someone to Watch Over Me…

It wasn’t a typical love story then and I suppose it’s not so much now either, at least not the kind we think about in this season of Valentine wishes and dreams.

broken flower 3jpgYou have to be this young to believe that you are this much in charge of life; that destiny has already been completely met.  To know that the only education you need to make your dreams come true is your own thoughts and a chat with your friends –  to be so heartbreakingly unaware of the precariousness  that will haunt even the babies to come.

She was a naive, pretty, eighteen year old small town girl who had no idea that so many of her dreams were going to turn into a lifetime of regrets.  She picked out her dream man, 20 years old, so very handsome and tall, and who held out to her a bouquet of the loveliest promises.

Not long after meeting, she became pregnant and it probably wasn’t much longer after that, that the first flower from that fragile bouquet fell.   The images her thoughts weaved for her future were simple, but meant everything – little home wrapped in the white picket fence of love, and lovely family dinners, family picnics and parties, and Christmas trees loaded with gifts.

She had intended so many occasions of wonderful for herself, and for me.  We were supposed to be that family that she envied in the movies, the love stories that she placed herself into in her favorite books, and in those images in Norman Rockwell paintings that confirmed how life was supposed to be. Sweet dreams sweet intentions.

They were slapped away brutally.  Literally.  He wasn’t ready for that dream.  Not at that time, not completely, maybe never.   He was more drawn to the calls of a wild party.  He had many more bottles to hoist up, and while he ‘owned’ her, he was nowhere near finished with his explorations of women.   Her resistance to ‘his way’ led to her learning that promises were only his dreams in the moment and they were nowhere near as real as those first black eyes.

I don’t know when I first heard or saw him hit her; I can remember that only from about age four.  I know that when it happened, I became very still as my heartbeat filled my ears.  I must have learned by then to make myself invisible.  The only way she could make herself invisible was to run away.   Some might say she didn’t learn how to do that right soon enough.

She did leave, many times, but somehow he would find her.  Us.  Sometimes her friends would tell him where we were; sometimes even her own brothers would sell her out during drunken party conversation or under threat.  Sometimes the loneliness and fear conquered her and she would call him herself.  She finally left for good when I was thirteen.

She didn’t leave her dreams though.  Not all of them anyway.  She still thought she could find that one good man. That’s how life was supposed to be.  Wasn’t that ever reinforced on every song on the radio, TV shows and magazine headlines?  So that’s what she pursued, even while the rest of her life was floating in a jumbled mess around her.

She had her share of boyfriends for some years, but no one could last for long.   They either owned their share of chaos and/or they couldn’t bear to deal with hers.  It would take years for the stars to align for her.  Maybe it was all the prayers she cried through to be delivered from that loneliness and to fill the need for someone to watch over her, because he came for her, finally.

It was not the typical script for a ‘let me rescue you’ love story.  He was just as messed up as she was, but somehow, eventually, this one wanted to get it together, with her, at the same time that she had reached her breaking point.

Somehow, armed only with whatever bit of guidance that was to come their way, they pushed through all the debris of their lives and rebuilt everything.  They did as best as they could, which turned out to be very well.  Their turned-around lives are far richer, and have lasted three times longer, so far, than their early trek over those fiery, alcohol-fueled coals.

Now she prays, hard and often, that her lessons of recovery from hell have been seen by her children, and their children, who learned all too well the modeled example of her youth.

Dreams do come true, but not from behind the wall of recriminations, isolated introspection, and avoidance.  The answers could be easy, but it’s still  work to carve out the road to them.  This can’t be any harder than it is to stay in pretension that all is well, to stay in hell.

I will pray that her prayers are answered for her. Again.

RL

Roads that Twist Love

Have you ever come across someone who could break your heart, no matter how far away from them you could get?

Sister MirrorI had a best friend like that; no matter how often we did or didn’t speak, she could somehow open a wound just by existing.  I know that sounds odd, but all those years ago, when we once were so close, the bitterness of her wounds began to run too deep and widely.

It’s been years since I was last within her grasp, but even now I never know who I will run across or when something will let me know that her reach may be interminable; infinite maybe.  Probably.

Her ways back then were so needy.  She needed to be the biggest, the best, the most regarded, and the only.  She jealously guarded her needs.  She would place herself squarely in front of whoever was to be her latest trophy for career advancement, for recognition, for friends, for love.

I know where those wounds began, I know what they’re from, but what I don’t know is why they became stuck within her, why they screeched a halt to her ability to see with light.  I’m not even certain when that started, but one thing for sure, the child within flat-lined any more emotional development.

She needed special, which was measured according to what was special to someone else.  Coveting, I think that’s what that’s called, except she needed to covet up close and personal.  It really didn’t matter what the source of the glitter that caught her eye: someone else’s community recognition, someone else’s parental praise, someone else’s loves.  Nothing was off limits, as even I would eventually learn.

There were signs when things started heading south for her.  Accusations began to overtake any conversations, then retributions were meted out generously. Punishment of choice -malicious slander and brutal betrayal. Soon anyone near was indicted and we would all get turns at being the source of her poisoned well. Hell hath no fury like un-eased fears.

After a while, despair was not about living off the guilt of who did her wrong; within a few years of committing 6 of the 7 deadly sins, it was completely about how her own guilt was smothering her. The only way to keep ahead of that is to hit, numb, and run.

There was one moment when she realized the source of her pain was really found in a mirror, but it was only a brief dawning.  Besides, time is stopped for the inner child. They believe they have forever to tilt at windmills and they never really see how much the world has kept turning without them.

Someone told me recently how much he had loved her so many years ago.  I know how that felt, when we knew her. I live with the loss of that long ago love too. I don’t hate her – anymore, but I did learn that it’s not necessary for the both of us to drink the poison.

I also now know the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.  When we weren’t serving the purpose of total agreement with her, we got to experience her ‘or else’, and we were cast out without second thought. Some of us kept walking. I’d learn that a certain level of indifference was life-saving. Leaving the well to save oneself is not casting a stone upon another.

I don’t think of her every day anymore and I don’t feel that hurt either. Once in a while, I may fleetingly think about that someone I used to know.  I don’t try to understand any of it either. The most I will do now, is simply wish love and good health for her, and to continue in my own journey to move on in the same.

RL

Thank you to some people who inspired me to finally work out years of rumination.  Although I’m pretty sure they don’t know exactly what they said, I hope they’ll see some reflection of the thoughts they shared: Roberta Boulette, Christy, Melanie, and Rachel – Sisters to me, one and all – thanks.

Bad Medicine

There was a time I needed to feel safe.
So, I would just be the Italian, Eurasion or Greek.
It was better to be whatever I wasn’t
because anything was better than pain.

I didn’t have my grandmother’s arms to hold me
while she told me where we came from.
I didn’t have my grandmother’s words to tell me who
We are.

Her children went outward and got lost in the White Sea
with only glimpses of shining glory, such short moments,
but mostly they got knocked around and then down,
till the medicine could numb them, and set them free.

Some moved from drowning the sorrows, and doing what we were told,
but I learned the voices in my head weren’t the ones in my heart.
My grandmother’s voice now comes through; she’s been whispering the stories.
that the hurt of the years stood in the way of, for so long.

She’s been telling me to stand up,  to remember and learn who we are.
She’s saying use your voice to teach.
Use your voice to reach the hearts of the other lost.
Let them know they’re not alone, show them lies are not real.

Learn for them; then show them the ways through that White Sea.

It’s OK to not be only safe.

Staying hidden is another bad medicine.

Eagle on perch

RL

Photo credit: Jim Wong Photography

“Alcohol saved my life”, said Recovering Alcoholic Craig Ferguson

craig_ferguson112 soul grabbing minutes of why I love Craig Ferguson, or one of the reasons I love him. I have linked to those 12 minutes at the bottom of this post. It’s part of his story of his return to sanity minus the alcohol. Despite that, at one point in this fantastic monologue about working toward redemption, he says, “Alcohol saved my life”.

I grew up with alcoholism permeating many aspects of my life, but I was lucky to escape becoming personally enslaved by it. Not that I escaped the repercussions of those around me that did.  I grew up hating what it did to various family members, but I didn’t blame the alcohol itself. I was aware that there were far more people able to take a drink without the devastating results, and so what I didn’t understand was why my family couldn’t.

I would come to a greater understanding of that when I, and fortunately, some of my family members, turned to help to deal with this still somewhat mysterious puzzle.  I’ve had the privilege of attending several various group functions where I listened to all kinds of personal journeys from here to hell and back. They are always heartbreaking, but then inspiring, and in the end, uplifting.

I was very taken with another of these stories which is the one Craig Ferguson told on his own TV show, The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson back in 2007.  I didn’t see it then, but I was introduced to it recently via blogger, Vodka & Vows.  It’s pure Craig – brutally honest, warmly compassionate, and funny as hell.

Every story we hear is a path to understanding one another.  I hope you’ll find this one interesting and enlightening while enjoying the entertainment of his delivery. It includes a message that serves anybody really, about how we all need to really see each other and maybe look for a little more compassion within ourselves when it comes to judgment.

So, take a short break, grab a coffee, and watch this video titled, “Craig Ferguson Speaks From The Heart”.  Take it back to the start if the video begins midway.

Update:  I’ve been warned that some areas are unable to open the link below.  If that is the case for you, go onto youtube.com and do a search for “Craig Ferguson Speaks From The Heart”.  You may also have to make sure to manually place the button to the start of the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZVWIELHQQY#t=354

RL

Margaret’s Baby

Sometimes old memories float up in need of
a little light…
A soul’s whisper to let it go.

curtains city skylineI was 14 years old.  My mother and I were living in an apartment on the 14th floor of a basic downtown high-rise.  We were there because that’s where she was when I ran away from the last foster home I’d intended to live in.

I threatened to run away and never be found again if they made me go back to that home.  The Department of Social Services, and my unprepared mother, gave in.

My mother had been struggling with escape from an abusive marriage, alcoholism, and no way to fully support her daughters.  That’s how we ended up in foster care just after Christmas that year.

We were six girls, ages two to twelve years.  I was twelve.  They were my sisters, and because I was the oldest, they were also my beloved babies. There was no doubt that we were a fiercely bonded ‘band of sisters’ having already traversed a very rocky start together.

I was quite used to taking care of them, and the house as required, which it seemed was almost always.  So, the demand to relinquish responsibility to the social workers who came to take us away or to the people who were to foster us was incomprehensible.  It was shocking and infuriating and frustrating.

Many nights I’d lie awake planning our escape from that foster home and formulating the many ways I’d find our mom. I usually ended up crying myself to sleep immersed in the despondency of realizing how powerless I really was.

We were all together in that initial home, except the youngest who was instead taken to live with our father – another story for another time.  I was eventually to move to two other homes within a year and a half. Only one sister was allowed to go with me; they gave me one day to choose between the four faces that pleaded to be taken.  Despite everything that we’d already lived through to that point, it was then that I learned that a soul could feel fractured.

In short time, and with little choice, we adapted and carried on as kids are so able. Then two years later, suddenly we were all being taken to visit with our mom at her own new home. The visit went by as quickly as I’d dreaded. When it was time to say goodbye to her, it felt like the beginning of all the bad goodbyes again. I could not return to that pain; the next weekend I bolted for home, for her, for good.

So there I was, on the 14th floor in a small, sparse apartment, a temporary only child, but finally with my own mom.  Life definitely took another turn in my day-to-day. I spent less time with my friends and more with my mother’s.

She had a friend on the 7th floor.  Phyllis was one of those larger than life characters; a hard-drinking party girl, a queen bee who had great pride in being a full-time ‘player’.  She seemed to take my mother under her wing.  She was a louder than life distraction for a young woman bogged down with desperate problems.

Phyllis held court to an allotment of very proud and loud butch lesbians.  They called themselves the girbols (girl boys, hard g).  One of them was Margaret. She was pretty, a large woman, and very quiet. Though she liked to hang out with the crowd and indulged in the same drink and smoke, she alone remained quiet.

I came home from school one day, at the start of spring break, and went down to the gang. There was a brand new baby girl cuddled up in Margaret’s arms.  I hadn’t even realized that she had been pregnant. The baby was so tiny and delicate, and wrapped in a pink blanket.

Spring Break began on a weekend and as on all weekends, it was time to get the girbol party started. I was immediately designated the girl baby’s guardian. I took baby, and all of her required possessions, up to my apartment.

The ‘weekend’ turned into nearly two weeks, during which I had full custody of baby night and day. It’s awesome, as in really awe-inspiring, how easily you fall in love with a child, even as a young girl, and you immediately wish to be everything it takes to nurture them to perfection.

She needed me for everything and I reveled in that.  At night, I would wrap her next to me and listen to her breath and smell the top of her head until I drifted off in true peace. Every minute with her was another moment of reclaimed love. I was once again protector, friend, sister, mother.  For awhile I was me again.

Spring break was over and I’d already missed two days of school, I had to go back.  That morning, I reluctantly took her down to the 7th floor, gave her back to Margaret and left for school.  When I came home, I dropped off my school things and grabbed one of her blankets to collect her. I sniffed her baby smell all the way to Phyllis’s apartment.

When I walked in, I saw Margaret sitting by the window, staring out with the curtains blowing around her. The girbol group was strangely quiet. I asked for the baby and no one said anything.  I went to Margaret and asked. “Where’s the baby”?  She wouldn’t answer, and then I saw her tears.  I was instantly alarmed.

“Where’s the baby Margaret”?  I was ready to cry, but not sure why.

“They took her”, she said softly.

“Who took her”?

“Social Services.  I phoned them today and they came to take her away”.

I know I asked her why, maybe a few times, but I don’t recall an answer.  I doubt she gave one.

I turned from Margaret and I looked at everyone else.  No one would look back at me; they kept their eyes on the floor or each other.  I turned to Margaret again and watched her silently cry for a while.  I walked to the door and quietly closed it behind me.

It was the last day I saw Margaret, or our baby.  I went to sleep that night holding that baby blanket. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.  Somehow, I knew in my heart then, that no matter how much I dreamed, I was never going to get my family, my  ‘band of sisters’, back in the same way again.

And, we didn’t, not ever in the same way again.

RL

Cocoon – A Repost of Blogger Dennis Cardiff

Aside

I decided to send out a fellow blogger’s post this week. It is  by Dennis Cardiff  who writes regularly about his daily visits with the homeless in his city on his blog “Gotta Find A Home”. This post is from his poetic site. It’s a short beautiful poem about transformation. Although you will know he is speaking about his daily visits, I couldn’t help thinking that it speaks to a great deal of us from many paths. I hope you enjoy it.

 Reblogged from Dennis Cardiff:

Click to visit the original post

Over the past years
we’ve sat together
sharing a blanket
on the sidewalk.
You wrapped
in your cocoon.

I’ve observed,
as your spirit
(once battered
and cowering in fear)
emerged brave
and purposeful.

Gradually,
layer after layer,
your past fell away,
until now
your true beauty
shines forth.

I’ve grown with you,
learned from you,
opened my heart,
cried with you,
been comforted.

I celebrate with you
your transformation,
and (in friendship)
proudly accompany you
in your reincarnation
as a butterfly.

butterfly blue