Distance

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I thought things were so much better between us but it feels like we are headed downhill once again. The distance between us has re-appeared and it makes us wary, circling one another, both waiting for the other to make the first strike.

The distance between us varies. Right now it feels like a ship off course from its intended destination. Off course because a storm is tossing it about in rough deep seas and as I look out of the window all I can see is gray skies and rolling waves the size of skyscrapers. And the smell sticks to you like wet, moldy grass. But it is the smell of fear that fills the room. Fear of sinking and fear of knowing you can never swim hard enough or fast enough to plant your feet firmly on the ground.

Sometimes I associate this distance with my GGG Grandparent immigrants. That last kiss, that last hug and that last wave knowing that all of it would be the last of everything and everybody you knew and that you would never see those who were left behind again. It feels conflicted…excited at a new chance, scared about what the unknowns were before you, and sad for all you were leaving behind. Sometimes our distance feels deeper than this sort of distance.

Often the distance between us feels like we are across from one another, standing in a sunny meadow. I reach for you and I find I am stuck in concrete and that I cannot move. Sometimes you see me and make your way towards me. Other times you turn your back and walk away.  It feels confusing and leaves a terrible taste in my mouth like dry burnt toast.

And sometimes this distance feels like we are just feet away from each other on a bridge but we both fail to take off our blindfolds so we can see that the other is right in front of us. This is even harder…so close…yet so far apart.

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The Other Side Of The Mountain

 

The other day we were driving up to the cabin. The wind was quiet and the sun bright as we climbed higher into the mountains. It brought me back to a year ago when I was making the same drive. My marriage was a mess and I was a wreck. It seemed like nothing was ever going to get better and I wondered if I was ever going to feel happiness again. Last year it was a hard drive and I made it alone.

This year the drive was different. The wolf spiders were out along the roads doing their mating dance. img_1929

The leaves were just beginning to turn with brilliant yellows and a few orange ones dotting the landscape. The birds were singing and the deer were just frolicking with one another in the backyard. We also felt lucky as we saw large embers from the fire laying on our deck knowing how easily the cabin could have gone up in flames as the embers were carried by the wind.img_1933

B and I just enjoyed our time together and wished for nothing more. It was a fantastic day.

When it was time to leave we opted to try a different way home. It was a road we had never ventured on before and we hoped to see how close the big fire of a month ago had made it to our cabin. About a mile from our place we left the pavement and headed down a dirt road. Further and further back we climbed until we could look back upon the entire valley. It was clean and clear. No sign of a fire anywhere. We climbed higher, the trees in thick clusters, more colors to their leaves. We were high on the mountain and you could feel the tightness begin to shape your lungs like the blue rubber bands you find on bunches of celery in the grocery store.

Finally, we came to another paved road. Here we found signs still mounted on the trees which read THANK YOU FIREFIGHTERS and STAY SAFE. But still no sign of the fire itself. We saw the red fire-retardant splashed on the road that had been dropped from airplanes that once buzzed through the smoke choked sky. But there was still no trace of the devastating fire that had ravaged the mountains just one month ago.

As we descended, we realized that we were on the backside of the mountain which usually takes us up to the cabin. It felt like an entirely different place. Long grasses lay flat and swirled around massive tree trunks creating a kaleidoscope of colorful designs.

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Huge boulders the remnants of dinosaur days dotted the landscape in odd places looking like they had been dropped there by some humongous creature playing chess. It was the other side of the mountain but it could have been worlds away from where we had started.

Finally, after another 10 miles we made it back around to our usual road, the one that could take us back up the mountain. As we hit that mile marker I realized that our marriage in the past twelve months and this trip to the cabin shared many commonalities. For over this past year we had the courage to take an unfamiliar road which brought us new things to see/contemplate which eventually brought us to a happiness/coziness that we find amongst the trees. We also fought the flames of divorce, and while we did get singed, we didn’t get burned. Our marriage, just like this new road, looks different from the other side of the mountain at which we started our trip.  And today, more than at any other time during this journey; I feel blessed that we were able to traverse the vast unknown and make our way safely home from the other side.

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Self-Deception

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When did I …STOP…

Seeing myself as a StRoNg

And CoNfIDeNt Woman?

Was it when…

I didn’t finish my Master’s Degree?

DoUbTfUl

Was it when I stopped working

To take care of a family…

The loneliest Job in the world?

Maybe

Was it when those unexplained absences

Occurred

On those silent nights

When you were gone?

Didn’t help

Or perhaps I never really was

StRoNg and CoNfIdEnT

Those powers lost when I

Was But a ChiLD

Struggling to UNDerStand

A World I Couldn’t

Possibly know

A world made for adults

At which I played dress-up

Taking tea laced with whiskey

Trying to act cool

And impress people

I shouldn’t have bothered with

Did they BeAt me down?

Or did I do it to myself?

I would guess the latter

Yet, I would also suspect

This is a more recent

Phenomenon

That has arrived

Tangled in those few gray hairs

I pluck at

To remove from sight

That age I should be celebrating

Instead of fighting

Like an epic battle

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Between GoOd and EviL

Lost in a dark forest

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In which most of the trees were

Felled long ago

But where shadows remain

With a poster tacked to

The BriTtLe bark of a downed tree which reads:

Lost…StRoNg & CoNfiDeNt Middle Aged Woman

With Blue eyes

A big heart

And dark circles under her eyes

If Found

Please return her to…

ME…

 I miss her

 

 

 

Parolee

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Sometimes I this “maybe divorce” makes me feel like a convicted felon out on parol. It isn’t a comfortable feeling and makes me feel jumpy in my own skin. And if the truth be told sometimes I feel as if B is the Parol Officer which sometimes makes me resentful and angry at the system that I have allowed myself to be incarcerated within.

It must be hard for real life parolees. Living in the shadow of an officer who in the blink of an eye has the power and absolute authority to send them back to prison. One false move and their life changes whether they want it to or not. You can’t help but wonder if they are constantly looking behind them and in front, unable to live in the present, due to the stress of staying vigilant like I am. Not being able to let your guard down is a terrible way to live.

Frankly, I just want to be let out on good behavior. I have served my sentence and have made major changes in myself along the way and while serving this sentence has made me be more mindful and has helped me not to yell (which has been a good thing for both me and my family) I am tired of being under watch. I just want to be free to be me again without the fear of separation hanging over my head.

 

*After I wrote this piece I told B that this was how I was feeling. With tears in his eyes he said, “I’m sorry. That must feel awful to feel you are having to live that way.How can we change this?”

 

Raw

I read a few of my writings to him

He was hurt and upset

Believed my words and thoughts were raw

He said:

“Why didn’t you let me see these

Before we went into the therapists office

Why would you save this for in there?

Why didn’t you let me see your words and let me

think about them before going in?”

I think:

It’s suppose to be a safe place

Exactly where we are suppose to take

Our deepest hurts and fears

Where we have someone to help us

Through the words and through the tears

He thinks:

Why did you ambush me?

It’s his real question

Unspoken with words

But spoken just the same

I think:

Maybe I just want to hear from your heart

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And not listen to your rehearsed

Very logical answers

Maybe I long to know

What you really FEEL not THINK

To hear words spoken from the heart

Not encased in the laughter you use

To deflect the feelings that threaten

To overwhelm you like a bad case

Of poison ivy

I am:

Guilty and sad that I hurt him

Wishing that I could say with words

The things I so easily write on paper

Perhaps they would be less complex

And easier to hear

But I am not sure that words are whats needed now

Maybe its deep feelings

Because we both want to run from them

Instead of dealing with the pain they contain

I know:

I still love him

That it hurt me deeply to hurt him

Even if that was not my intention

My intention was to be HEARD

And I wish I could take back the words

I said because I don’t want to see

Him retreat

Because of my pain

And his pain

Because really he just wants peace, love and rainbows

Happiness and joy

He claims he is a simple man

Uses it as an excuse

Not to touch those parts of him

That make him feel vulnerable and afraid

He says:

He is a simple man

But we both know better than that

 

 

 

Gone Missing

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I recently realized I have no idea who I really am. That is a hard thing to write at my age.

If you had asked me last year who I was and what I stood for I could have given you a laundry list of my good qualities, the bad ones, my likes and dislikes, my truths, my foibles, the things that I tolerated and the things that I could not. Now I have few clues. I am left holding a bag of pieces, a rope and flashing sign which reads detour ahead.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the definition of  a mid-life crisis because it seems as if I am wiping clean the slate and starting over. Only problem… the cleaner doesn’t do its job and all I am are left with is grimy streaks that just muddy things all up and make clarity a rarity.

Supporters of Sigmund Freud believed that a mid-life crisis was brought about by a fear of impending death. I will confess that thoughts of dying do not keep me awake at night but what I want written on my tombstone does.  I guess that is the writer in me wanting to make sure the final sentence of my life is THE perfect one.

Or maybe this loss of “ME” is as simple as early onset dementia. I cannot seem to remember ANYTHING anymore. In fact, I took one of those on-line memory tests and the outcome was SEE YOUR DOCTOR SOON… at least that is what I think I remember. It used to be that I remembered every telephone number in my head nut now I can’t even find the phone. Maybe who I was is now crammed into the junk drawer in the kitchen between the batteries and the eyeglass repair kit. Who knows…but I do know I cannot find myself anywhere.

When Grandma was 85 she told me that when she would walk by a mirror she would think, “Who is that old lady?” because what she saw didn’t match who she saw in her head which was a 25 year old girl. I laughed when she said it but maybe now it is my issue too. What I see doesn’t reflect back who I think I thought I was…that is before I went missing.

It is shocking to me that his has happened. I mean it took so long for me to “find” myself, a self that I was finally pretty comfortable in, only to lost myself again in the prime of my life. I had gotten used to salesgirls ignoring me, the total absence of wolf whistles and having to buy compression socks when I flew. But this…arriving home to a perfect stranger…  I wish I knew her better…it would make life a whole lot easier for all involved.

 

 

The Return

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When you walk into the house after a week away you expect to feel that your husband is delighted if not intoxicated upon your return. Instead, it felt guarded and a little cold with a hint of resignation thrown in for good measure. Not what I expected at all.

Yes, Paul attacked him that morning. Yes, the grand babies are crying. Yes, things are stressful at work. I get it. I feel weary too at times. Actually, often. Sometimes it is hard not to in this household.

Tonight after being reunited, as I lay in B’s arms, I asked “Do you ever think we will get back to where you really love me. Like it used to be?”

Might as well be putting a gun in my hand and pressing it up to his head.

Why do I even ask these types of things?

I guess I want reassurance that he can, that we can, get to a place of love that once felt as wide as the Grand Canyon but now feels somewhat like a sink hole.

But I don’t get the answer  or the reassurance I am looking for. I get a question turned around on me?

“Do you think we can?” he asks, which tells me he is feeling this disconnect too. Which saddens me and makes me feel even more insecure.

Why do I have to always ask the hard questions? But even as I ask the question I know the answer…I don’t want to have to continue to try to guess. To try and read the mind of a man who doesn’t even know how he feels much less knows how to try and share it. I ask these questions as a gauge as to how our relationship is in his mind. But the thing is…I am not even sure I want to know. Sometimes I think I would like to just keep floating down the RIVER deNILE. FOREVER.

 

IEP Services From The School District

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For years we have been fighting our local school district to get our son what he needs in order to learn. Comprehension is sometimes difficult and math often impossible. We have watched him struggle to learn things that others grasp without effort while the school district ignored our concerns. Yet, if he is taught using particular methods he is often able to do the work that is required. Unfortunately, we do not yet know some of the methods that he would benefit most from.

We first realized he was having difficulty with math in first grade. We brought it to the attention of the IEP team. Our concerns were dismissed. In second grade, “It just takes some kids longer.” In third grade, “So he won’t be at the top of his class in math. (Yeah, duh!)” We then paid for him to go to an after school program at the cost of over $400 per month to learn his multiplication tables which the district could not manage to teach him. In fourth grade, he really started slipping but it was “Well, we can’t do anything now because he isn’t failing.” The rage I felt was immense. We were trying to be proactive but the district wouldn’t take our son’s lack of being able to understand and apply concepts seriously. By fifth grade they couldn’t quite ignore it anymore but their solutions and IEP goals were meaningless. He is now in 8th grade and doing math at a 4th/5th grade level. SIGH. I can also say the pathway has been similar for reading and comprehension but not as difficult or severe. In retrospect, the things we would do differently are numerous including taking the school district to Due Process. But the end result is that we have refused to sign his IEP for more than two years and continue to work with an outdated one.This, of course, is beginning to make the district nervous for what it means for them should we instigate legal action.

One of the things we have been fighting for is a GOOD educational/cognitive/psychosocial assessment of our son as we have disagreed with the district’s findings. We feel this is the best way to discover the issues that are effecting his learning and how he needs to be taught to reach his full potential. We have had a well-known and respected doctor in mind to do this assessment who specializes in kids with multiple “things” going on and have been fighting for the district to get him seen by him. Thus far the school district has refused citing their policy (which is illegal, BTW) that IEE’s must be performed within 60 miles of our home. If you understood where we are located you would also know that these types of services are not available here.

It has been a long, hard road with often disappointing results and constant stonewalling from our school district. But after all this time we were just notified that they have agreed to this testing and with it comes a very belated victory for our child which has cost him dearly due to these very purposeful tactics and delays.

Unfortunately, no family should have to go through this. Yes, we have at times hired a lawyer to push our case but the cost is immense and we see very little action for the money spent. School districts often stonewall because most parents cannot afford legal services, they don’t understand the law and districts know that most parents get weary of fighting “the machine” and give up. It’s hard not too. When you are already struggling at home because of the way your children’s disabilities impact your home life taking on a huge school district seems impossible and the educational system counts on that. Yet, by not doing right by our children it puts a future drain on our economy because these kids get discouraged by their lack of understanding/comprehension/accomplishment and drop out of school. They then face a life-time of unemployment or underemployment and the use of social services that could have most likely been avoided had they had some measure of success in school. Prison and gang activity is also a direct measure of the failure of the educational system.

I wish I could say it has been easy but I can’t. In fact, fighting this battle against the local school district has contributed to our ‘almost divorce.’ But I do urge all parents out there to continue to fight for their children’s place in the educational system. I have to believe that eventually we will make a difference.

 

 

YOU ARE THE JUDGE, JURY AND EXECUTIONER

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This weekend I was on trial. YOU KNEW I have been having severe pain for weeks and was having it when the “incident” happened. You knew my cousin was visiting but you would not step in and control the boys when they were so out of control.  You did not step in to help but instead chose to sit in judgement me when I finally lost it. And I didn’t even yell. NOT ONCE. How dare you!

You say,” I don’t know if I can live with you because you yell too much”, so I quit.Now its, “I don’t know if I can live with you because you sound stern and mad and point your finger.” How would you like me to handle discipline in our home so our kids know that things are a serious matter? Smile sweetly and in a chirpy voice say, “Oh please, sweet boys stop what you are doing. I beg of you?” UGH.

I am NOT your mother. You are NOT my son. I am who I am. A person trying their best. Changing. Me Changing. Yet somehow it always seems as though I am the person in this relationship needing to be the one to change…what about you? Are you putting as much effort into those things I told you I would like to see you change? Let me answer that for you. NO you are not.

So let me in on a little secret. People get upset. Yeah I know you don’t like to because you want everyone to like you especially our kids. Our kids who know this is your weakness and exploit it. Our adult daughter who admits this and says it sucks for the adult but is grand for the child. Guess what, I have emotions that I show which make you uncomfortable because you don’t or won’t show yours because your mother punished you for it and you are afraid that will happen with me. No insist that it will/does so you use it as your excuse not to figure out who you are as an emotional being.  And yet you stand in judgement of me. And if I don’t do what you want, what you need, then you will leave. But surprise it might be me whose ass is hit by the door on the way out because I have to be who I am and frankly it ain’t so bad. Sure there are things that need refining. But at least I feel. At least I can say what it is I know as my truth, my faults, my goods and my bads.  I show those sides of me and no one has to spend their energy trying to guess what it is going on inside my head.

And surprise, here is one for you…often I can even understand why you feel the way you do. But just because I speak my truth in the way I do and you get flooded…that has nothing to do with me but with your relationship with your mother and I cannot deal with that because it is your issue that you do not want to have to look hard at.

And so I go to my therapist and we go to joint counseling but when are you going to go down deep and work on you? I’m trying to change for me, for us and for our family and to do so I am having to go to places I don’t want to examine but I do it because it needs to be done. When are you going to get brave and do that too? When are you going to really look at how your past is effecting our lives now and in the future?

 

I Love It When You…317 Days To Fix This

I admit it, sometimes I sound harsh. I say what is on my mind and sometimes the way it sounds doesn’t even match with what is going on in my head.

About a week ago my therapist suggested that instead of saying “I wish you would talk to me before you (insert x)” I should practice saying “I love it when you ask how I feel about (insert x) before doing (insert y). It makes me feel like our relationship is valuable to you.”

Or instead of “I wish you would open up and talk to me” I say “I love it when you open up and talk to me. It makes me feel closer to you.”

I also suspect this could be one of the best things to say when you need something a little different in the bedroom.

I wish I could say I’ve noticed a change but given it’s only been a week I cannot say I have. Yet, I am prepared to practice mindfulness and be patient for the time when “I love it when…” becomes an acknowledgement of the efforts being made followed by a sincere thank-you for trying.

I love it when you walk down this lonely road with me holding my hand tightly in yours. It makes me feel less scared of our future. – me