Childhood Trauma

The Call

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About six weeks ago I received “THE CALL.” It was a call that immediately increased my distrust of B and our life together. It was a call that put some ice into my marriage.  It was a call that increased my anxiety and set me down a path of self-doubt. It is a call that I was still ruminating about all these weeks later but have recently decided to drop, like a stone in water, and I don’t let those ripples effect me as much these days.

THE CALL came from my ex-brother-in-law who was divorced from B’s sister (M) twenty years ago. M is who my husband shares all his confidences/doubts about our marriage with. She has been divorced three times and in multiple relationships all of which she has left while in an affair. Yes, that is who B is turning to for advice. This man and M share a child and the last time I talked with him was one his daughter showed up on our doorstep higher than a kite on meth. So needless to say, I was quite surprised to hear from him.

Now to tell you the truth I am not sure if he had been drinking but I suspect he had been. That is his MO but on this particular night I couldn’t say. He called to tell me that he heard that B and I were breaking up and that we shouldn’t do it. That we had something special. That we needed to stay together for our children and ourselves. That we should not give up.

Of course my first thought was is this something he just learned and I am unaware of or is this from sometime back, say, January when B came home form China and said he wanted to separate? Just another confusing thing for me to try to figure out and digest. Another thing which makes me unsure of this relationship. Another thing that made me feel distrustful and angry.

My second thought was why is his sister, whom I don’t talk to since I saved her daughter from her meth addition, going around blabbing our business?

A few days later after discussing this with B, was, have you talked to your sister about keeping our business confidential? He said NO.

Now six weeks later I find out from M’s daughter that she had been asked to come out here  had I decided to leave B back in February when I hired a lawyer.

On the one hand I think well that’s B for you. Planning ahead, Getting his ducks in a row. On the other hand I just keep feeling like little bombs keep blowing up around me:

  1. B coming home in January stating he wanted to separate.
  2. The whole hiding his phone from me incident
  3. The phone call from the ex BIL
  4. And ….

And so I went back to feeling vulnerable, confused and angry. But happily I will say this…I am not longer anxiety ridden. I have finally made it to an attitude of WHATEVER HAPPENS HAPPENS and with it a calming sense of peace prevails, that, while occasionally punctuated by his crap, remains something that I hold on to and fills my soul with sanity.

It is a good place to be and I am thankful for all the hard work I have done to get me to this place after the past two years. It hasn’t been easy but I know that whatever happens I am strong, determined, confident and I can handle whatever is thrown at me. And that, my friends, a pretty great place to be!

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

The War Of Words

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Recently, I have been thinking back to the days when the boys were young. Those were the days and many of them I would never like to repeat. They were stressful with meltdowns and words that took a cruel aim to the heart.

“I hate you” “I wish you were not my mom” “You’re a whiney little jerk” “Mom, he called me a butt.” Those kinds of things. Normal, yes, but the frequency at our house was 100 times what was normal. It was exhausting.

I remember at one point trying to get the boys to think before they said something. Hard to do when you are seven and in the heat of the moment. Hard for me to do now at 55+ and if I am honest; I have never been a model for saying quiet well-thought-out words.

During these early days of chaotic boyhood, a friend once  told me what she asked her kids when the War of Words was going on. I thought it was genius and wished I had done more of it as they grew up. She would ask her kids:

Is what you said kind?

Is what you said helpful?

Is what you said loving?

Often times just by asking these questions I found I could bring a temporary respite to all the chaos. It was a blessing. It taught my kids that words have meaning and repercussions too.

Recently, I was thinking back to those times and I decided that those questions of yesteryear were valuable not just for kids but for me too and I have been trying to be mindful before I speak by asking myself these questions before spouting off. I have also added two other questions to ask myself before responding to others:

Is what I am about to say true?

What is my motivation (honest) for saying what is on my mind?

Admittedly, it is hard for me to remember to ask myself these questions before talking. Often, I fall far short of where I would like to be. But usually, if I just pause before speaking, I can do a quick inventory in my head of the answers to these questions and decide whether my response is:

True

Honest

Loving

Kind

Helpful

 

If what I am about to say is not any of the above; I am trying to learn to shut my mouth and keep it that way. As a person who has shot from the hip most of her life this is a real learning experience for me. A challenge akin to climbing Mt. Everest. It is not easy. It takes a little bit of awareness and planning. But every time I succeed in being mindful I know I am getting to be one step closer to the person I want to be which gives me hope that maybe one day before I die I will master this ability to speak mindfully and to shut my mouth when needed. But somehow I suspect that it might take my deathbed to figure it all out if even then. Yet, I keep trying because I know for the sanity of all involved that when I am kind, loving, honest, helpful, and true I give the best of myself to those who deserve only the best of me.

Amen (so be it)

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Eat Chocolate Cake

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The school called today

Andre didn’t turn in his homework

He said he burned his book

I don’t think so but…

I eat chocolate cake while I contemplate the situation.

The other school called about Paul

The teacher tells me there is a group issue

Paul is missing assignments

I will check and let you know….but first

I eat chocolate cake before digging around in his room

I go to the school to discuss the situation

I let all involved know

That Andre will be staying after school in the tutoring room

Everyday until all the assignments are done

He clings and claws at me

He baby talks and pouts

I escape and walk around campus

And eat that emergency piece…

Of chocolate cake

That I tucked in my purse

Really this is getting too much to manage

Maybe I should turn to booze

And give up the chocolate cake

We get home

Paul is upset because I insist that he does his chore

That he did not do before he went to school

Man, that chocolate cake looks good…tastes better than it looks

Two boys with autism

One deep dark chocolate cake

Almost gone…

Autism makes you fat!

Words

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We are walking along the cliffs. The wind is blowing. Huge waves are crashing against massive boulders in anticipation of the storm that is blowing in. B huddles deeper into his coat as the air picks up my words and delivers them to the man beside me.

“Everyday, you can choose to love or you can choose not to,” I say to B. “And so I choose to love you today and I will choose to love you forever.”

“That’s nice,” he says flashing that smile I have known and loved for so many years. The smile that I suddenly want to slap right off of his face.

THAT’S NICE?????!!!! REALLY….AFTER OVER 30 YEARS TOGETHER IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT? DON’T YOU KNOW YET THAT…

I am a woman who needs words. I write for a living for God’s sake! I love hearing double vowels, romantic words, and certain letters rolling off the tongue like the sound of an L, which can be so incredibly sexy when you are at the right place in time with the right person. I like hearing sharp bursts of words from children who have found dragons and mermaids and have to tell you all about the experience in 2.3 seconds or less so you see them before they vanish in thin air. I like words that are carefully chosen like a mother who measures cough syrup for her child in order to get the correct dose thus ensuring no harm. I like playful words like tumble and words with double meanings. I like words that are said with a laugh oozing up out of the throat, desperate words that are said while waiting for hot sex, and the words you whisper to a baby as their heads slump onto your chest their eyes fuzzy with Mr Sandman’s visit and almost nearly closed.

I LOVE WORDS!

So what is a woman to do when she is married to a man who doesn’t? Can she be happy without an “I love you too, honey” coming back at her? Can she feel understood and cherished when the words she needs to hear do not come out of his mouth? I’ve lived without them for so long why do I desire them now? Is this what a “maybe divorce” does to you? It makes you word crazy?

I realize to many this isn’t a problem at all. There are much more serious things in the world. B doesn’t beat me. He goes to work everyday. He doesn’t abuse me. He is great in bed…isn’t that enough? I mean…. REALLY…ISN’T THAT GOOD ENOUGH?

How many times I have heard my girlfriends tell me they wished they had a husband like mine….so kind and sweet….and he even does housework!

Why can’t that be enough?

I know many women whose lovers have said all the right words and meant none of them. Better to have no words than lies? Better to endure omissions rather than half-truths? I have no clue… but I do know that often B doesn’t respond with reassuring words and after these past two years of hell I find I want them. I might even need them.

All I know is that without words life is dull…like living in a black and white movie. It’s like eating salad everyday for dinner and skipping the dessert. Life without meaningful words looks like a bare bulb dangling in a stark white room. Its like a warm beer when it is 103 degrees outside and feels like that pit you get in your stomach when a cop pulls you over for speeding.

I want words. I want endearments, I want to know what you are feeling. I am tired of missed opportunities or the absence of words that leave me confused and hanging. Because without the proper words it feels as if storm clouds have entered my head and the disappointment is whipping up the winds that blow through my mind and turning what could have been a gentle spring shower into a raging hurricane. So button your coat and sink even further into it because a storm is coming. And I think it is me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stilettos

“Mom,” says Gracie. “I have an orchestra competition and I need black shoes with heels.”

Heels? I think. She can’t be old enough for heels, can she? There is no way. Just yesterday I was rocking her to sleep, picking out her clothes and teaching her to ride a bike. Heels? I am not ready for this! Heels means makeup, makeup means proms, and proms mean BOYS. Crap…not boys! Not yet! Not EVER!

An hour later we are headed for the store doing the joint mother/daughter thing to pick out her first pair of heels. As I drive a feel a pull in my gut warning me that I should just turn around and go home.

” I like these,” she says as she holds up a pair of 5-inch stilettos that any good hooker would covet.

OH HELL NO! explodes like white lightning throughout my feeble brain. My mother’s words of “No daughter of mine…” come flooding back to me and trip over my tongue on the way out of my mouth.

I feel compelled right here and now, in the middle of the shoe department, to the have “the talk” about what is appropriate and what is not at her age. As I drone on she grimaces, “oh moms” and rolls her eyes more times than I care to count but I think my point has been well taken until she whines…

“I’m not a little girl”

“You’re not twenty-five either nor do you have a job and you don’t earn your own money to buy the things that you want.”

“Of course I don’t have a job,” she shoots back. “I am only 12! But if I did I would be buying those shoes!” her hands gently caressing the soft black velvet.

I take this as a cue to hold up a pair of ballet flats figuring if I show her THESE, knowing she likes THOSE, perhaps we can find a compromise somewhere in this warehouse of shoes.

Gracie holds up a different pair with four-inch heels that climb up her legs like a vine on a tree.

“How about these?” she says with a smile that looks more like a dare.

“How about not.”

And so it goes until she shows me the 10th pair with heels that shoot you up towards the sky.

“Honey,” I ask. “Why is it that you are drawn to shoes with such high heels?”

“Come on mom, think about it. I am the shortest one in my class and on the diving team. No one sees me. Just once I want to look up at someone instead of them looking down on me.”

Finally, I get it. Her need for height is a need for being seen. For being like everyone else, in a world where Asians are often not seen nor heard. For being “looked at” instead of being invisible.

I give her a squeeze and suggest we find something that will give her lift but not up to the clouds. We finally settle on a two-inch inch wedge that gives her a little extra notice but not in that over-the-top teenage way.

As we drive home we talk about girl things. Things I once understood but don’t quite get now. Things I have forgotten as the years have rolled by. Big feelings that once threatened to overtake me when I was her age.

“Mom,” Gracie says. “I have a confession. I didn’t really want those big heels. I just wanted to see what you would let me get away with.”

“Really? Why would you do that?”

“Geez mom, I’m almost a teen. I have to start pushing the boundaries someday you know.”

I laugh and I know that she does, but I hope she will wait just a little bit longer before the boundaries are pushed all the way to Siberia. For the truth is it isn’t the boundaries that worry me it is the fact that she is my baby and there is a small part of me, in a world that moves too fast, that wants her to remain that way forever.

Conflict

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When I was younger I enjoyed conflict. It meant that I was letting things be known and getting things done. These days I just want peace. Gone are the days of spending two hours trying to convince B that I am “right.” Gone is the time spent crafting a great argument. I would much rather spend time meditating and sitting quietly than fighting.

Yet, there is something to be said about the positive effects of conflict. During conflict we are often forced to grow, to dig deep within ourselves to find the answers that are needed, and do a bit more in an effort to resolve the issues that are at the root of the problem. Oftentimes, conflict brings us some much needed insight about ourselves and our loved ones that can then be used to find solutions that best fit our mutual needs. Usually conflict forces us to do a bit more thinking, to take action, and encourages us to analyze patterns that are dug up when our nest is disturbed.

Conflict is hard, especially when we as a species, tend to want to chase rainbows and live our lives surrounded by sunny skies. Many of us avoid conflict like the plague. But conflict if managed with mutual respect and sharply attuned listening skills can unearth gems that can change our lives or our thought patterns. So while I am not encouraging anyone to go out and start a fight with their loved one; I am saying that the next time you are in conflict with your loved one try to look for the treasures that conflict can bring. You may find exactly what your relationship needs in order to take that next step by digging deep and listening carefully and in doing so; you might just find the peace that you have been searching for.

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Pitter Patter of Little Feet

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Today after a wonderful day in the Florida Keys I arrived back at the hotel and saw my sweet grand babies. My daughter, Noele, drove 10 hours with a three-year-old and an almost two-year-old in the back of her car. She endured much crying, fighting, and a MAJOR puking incident just so she could see us again. Somehow, with all the mistakes we made as parents she turned out just right despite our good intentions. How that happened I will never know.

From the time she was a tween this mother/daughter team could always find something to argue about. Things like… which side of the toast is the correct side to butter, whether being a strict vegan was taking things to the extreme, and if boys were allowed to be in her room. Much to my dismay while I knew I loved her deeply, I didn’t like her  much and our relationship didn’t match the Brady Bunch ideal swimming around in my head.  I would see mothers (Carol) and daughters (Marcia) walking the malls together and it would pull at my heart. Seeing teens and their mothers enjoying a movie together hurt like hell. And those mothers who ran the Booster Club with their kids helping along side them…I knew it was never going to happen.

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B hunkered down. As a man who avoids conflict at all costs, having two of the women he loved most in the world living in a war zone with him serving as a NATO soldier trying to broker a peace deal was not an easy task. He never could understand all the slammed doors and word grenades being flung from one side of the house to the other and he visibly cringed when skirmishes erupted.

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When Noele was fifteen I never envisioned that we would have any sort of relationship until she kicked my casket into the ground. In fact, my biggest hope was that she would graduate early so she could move out of the house sooner and after a year away as an international exchange student, she returned home more stubborn and determined to ignore anything thing we had to say. And who could blame her? She tasted freedom for a year and wanted even more. The parental role I once relished became a nightmare and a battle of wills ensued in which both of us suffered heavy losses. Recovery seemed remote.

But then it happened. One day she grew up and into her own woman. It took a while and a first child for that to happen. The birth of my granddaughter brought several miracles along with her. No longer at odds with each other our commonalities soon surfaced and within those we found mutual respect and a deep well filled with love that was once bone dry.

These days we live at opposite ends of the country. We SKYPE almost daily so we can share tidbits of our daily lives and so that her kids “know” their Grammy and Papa. Noele willingly comes and takes care of her own children plus her brothers and sister so B and I can travel to far-flung places. I can’t imagine someone I would rather invest in a friendship with than my daughter. She values family, is generous with her time and is a good all-around person who has made me proud.

Tomorrow I will wake up with little ones running into my arms again. Squishy hugs and wet kisses will fill my day. We will squirm together, laugh together, and make real- life memories together. And its all because of her…my daughter…a once formidable foe who is now one of my best friends.