Duality

January 2, 2017

I’m not super sure where to start. I’m not even sure I want to start at all. It’s been a while, I don’t know how long, and my creative juices have not only stopped flowing, I’m not sure there’s a body of creativity left. When I imagine my own well of creativity, I see a dry, cracked, dip in a hard, unforgiving ground. Nothing left of the water that may once have settled there, that may once have freely flowed along the channel, nourishing all it encountered. Now, just a dry, dusty space. Perhaps even a bit of rhyme along the edges, as if was once cool and clear had become stagnant, salty and toxic.

I have given myself to a cause that has not given back. I have spent my time and money, my heart and soul, my body and spirit, my health, my essential essence, on something that now feels as if it was never going to work.  And I feel like there is a part of me jeering from the sidelines at what’s left of my optimism. It’s not an attractive duality.

On one hand, I am alive. I have a better job than I did five years ago. My children are mostly grown and are mostly happy and healthy.  I have a better car than I did five years ago. On the other hand, I have more expenses as a result of the last five years. I don’t feel, financially, that I have gained any ground. I actually feel more stressed and more pressed that I did then. But that’s not the biggest issue.

Five years ago I was consumed with optimism for the future. Five years ago I had a plan, I had specific goals. Five years ago, I had no idea what my plan was going to cost me. Beware, you dreamers, you may get what you want, but you might not like the price you will pay.

So here I am, in my precarious space, looking back and wondering if I can even dare to look ahead.

I don’t have it in me to replicate the steps I took five years ago. I will never again risk everything for a dream. My grandfather would say, “never say never”. And perhaps I will find the courage to risk again. But right now, I just want safety. I want to wake up and know how bills will be paid, to know I am safe from eviction, to know I can keep my car for another month. I want to know where grocery money will come from for the month. I want peace.  And right now, I have none of those things.

I got exactly what I wanted, five years ago. I traveled. I started over. I gave literally everything to a relationship I wanted above all else. I got my wish. But what now? We still don’t live together. We still have no real plan for how to be a couple in real time, in real life. I just don’t know what my life means right now.

I have been on the brink of despair a lot this past year. I have semi-seriously contemplated ending my life in favor of the unknown. I value my life too much to actually end it, though. I wouldn’t put that kind of burden on my kids, either. But yeah, it’s been a rough patch. And I don’t know exactly how to get out of my emotional or financial predicament.

I feel like a complete failure.

But… perhaps because I have always had a spark of optimism regardless of how bleak things seem, I have started a course in dreaming and planning for the future. Crazy, right? I am at the lowest point in my life since those dark days when I was 17, and here I am meditating and free writing about creating a “best life”. Duality. It’s my thing, I guess.

So here’s to 2017. Whatever comes, I’m here. I’m not ready. I’m probably as far from ready as I have ever been. But… just bring it. We’ll see what shakes out.

Happy New Year!!

Welcome 2014!!

As most of you know, Henning has spent the last three months in the states with me. As you also know, I was booted out of Denmark, so our situation has been complicated by not only health issues but logistical issues, as well.

I have been busy making a new life in NH, while Henning has been figuring out home hemodialysis in Denmark. We had planned on his being able to travel with the NxStage System One (the only portable home dialysis machine) but due to tons of red tape and a complete lack of urgency of his care team, time was ticking away, and away, and away.

Thanks to NxStage and HDU (courtesy of Rich Berkowitz) Henning was able to travel to the US for a conference in October. He was officially invited by HDU, and Rich gave us tons of advice and lots of pushing in the right direction. NxStage stepped up and got on board, as Henning is the first Scandinavian and only one of a handful of Europeans on home dialysis to travel to the US, and perhaps the only one to do so for  such an extended visit. This is a Very Big Deal, medically speaking.

Thanks to some sponsorship, good connections and a lot of great timing, Henning’s visit has been relatively drama-free. He did have some access issues at first. In Florida at the conference, it was getting pretty urgent as he was unable to dialyze for nearly three days. That’s a lot of days. NOT good. But due to some great support, material, emotional and physical, from NxStage staff, he was able to finally get a good cleaning and we had a great time, over all. I’ll post more about the conference now that I will have some free time to really work on my backlogged posting.

Once we were back in NH, access issues continued to be a problem. Thankfully we have great support here as well, again thanks to NxStage finding a local doctor willing to work with them and Henning. International prescription and care issues continue to be a problem with home hemo users and international travel. His doc did a scan and discovered Henning’s venus access site was about 1/4″ away from the actual fistula. Again, NOT GOOD. And… also… no great surprise. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, Henning’s care in Denmark is sub-par, and that’s the most flattering comment I can make.

Once Henning established a new access, he’s had no further access issues. In fact, dialysis has been pretty boringly unremarkable, and that’s GOOD.

We have visited some great friends, had some great dinners out, done too much shopping, and spent too much money in the three months he’s been here. We took the girls to New York City the weekend before Christmas, and that was quite an adventure! The girls had never been, and it was great seeing the city fresh from their points of view. Neither Henning nor I had been to the City during the holidays, and we did have a few cranky moments in the crush of Times Square, but otherwise we had a blast. We walked over 120 blocks, and checked off almost everything on our “If you could only spend one day in NYC what would you do” list.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving and Christmas and spent lots of time with the girls. Our oldest lives next door to us, so spending time with her, her fiance and our grandson is always fun!! Megan and Larry are getting married on New Year’s Eve, so I’m thrilled that Henning will be able to be here for that.

We are sad to see his time here end. He goes back to Denmark on January 6th. So we have just a few more days together, this time around. We are already planning the next visit sometime in the spring.

Look for more posts as we catch up after a few months of just reveling in each other’s company.

I am launching a new site, as well. I have decided that it’s time for another journey in transformation. Anyone that knows me knows I spent several years before I met Henning in Self-Discovery Mode. I have managed, with time, therapy, and lots of introspection, to “get past” a lot of major life issues. As most of you also know, I still struggle with finances and fitness. SO… I have decided to challenge myself with a long-term project I call 60 to 50.

You can read about it here: http://60to50.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/welcome-to-60-to-50/

Join me as I say goodbye to 2013 and welcome 2014 with open arms and an open heart.

Happy New Year!!

I’m not stupid, and neither are you.

Feeling Dismissed.

It happens to everyone, and it never feels good. I am not talking about some boot-camp setting where the drill sergeant yells that the session is over. I am not talking about being asked to leave the room during a meeting. I am not talking about being fired. Although being dismissed can mean any of those things, I am talking about when you feel like your view, your opinion, your experience or your contribution is under-valued.

I don’t have a grown-up job. I don’t have an advanced degree in anything. I have a few terms of Bible College (shocking, I know). I have an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts (with a concentration in English). I have a couple of additional years of creative writing classes and photography classes in my education list. I have over a decade of experience in Restaurant Management (with the highest scores on my exams and certifications).  I have nearly a decade of experience in Workflow Management (basically how to get stuff done with the least effort, in the least time, with the least amount of resources).  Until my recent marriage I was a single mom for nearly a decade.

I have won national awards for my writing. I have been published in some pretty snazzy anthologies. I tutored Psychology and Statistics at the college level while I took my creative writing classes.  I helped many students graduate college, even if I ended up not gaining my degree myself.

I wrote and implemented the Employee Manual and developed the training courses for the last company I worked for. It was my “unofficial” job to make sure we were in compliance with the ever-changing safety and labor laws.

I worked with the Math department at my local community college and helped streamline the way they taught Basic Statistics. Many students were failing, and they couldn’t keep tutors. The reason was, even though this was a basic class, and required for all students in any degree program, every teacher used different texts and teaching styles. There was no uniformity. As a Stats student, I was able to overcome this and achieve a better than perfect grade. I was a highly sought after tutor and well paid for my efforts.  At my suggestion, the Math department standardized the texts, the tests, the homework, and the way stats was taught. As a result, even the most math-impaired student could pass, and most did. I am especially proud of this last bit.

I could go on. But most people don’t see past the first two things. I don’t have a grown-up job, and I don’t have an advanced degree.

What that means is… I am often dismissed.

My husband does have an advanced degree.  My mom and my uncles have advanced degrees. Many of my friends have advanced degrees. For some reason, it can feel as if they think they are more right than I am in most things… by simple virtue of their education. It’s not easy being in a relationship with someone who’s always right, be it friend, family member, or spouse. Even when they say they see your point, it still often feels like it’s coming from a place with just a little higher view of the world. And that, to me, is infuriating.

Because I try very hard not to dismiss others. I know my IQ. I know the strengths of my intelligence. I know that no matter what room I walk into, I am likely the smartest person in it. That’s not arrogance, that’s fact. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t reached my “potential” (whatever that is supposed to mean). It doesn’t matter than I never finished my degree. It doesn’t matter that I have bottomed out on relationships. It doesn’t matter that my kids don’t have the world’s best mom. What it means is, I’m pretty damned smart. I have the tests to prove it.  What’s more important, to me, is that I remain curious about the world. I read a LOT. I study a LOT. I read journals, and articles, and I try to keep on top of what’s happening in the world. I read about medicine, science, psychology, farming, politics… whatever catches my interest. So I know I’m not only able to grasp the nuances of what is happening around me, I am also able to apply it in some way.

I am most endlessly fascinated by why people act the way they do.  And so I pay attention to people. If I dismissed someone’s opinion because I didn’t see the value in what they had to say, because I didn’t feel their education or experience gave them a right to their view, it would be my loss. They don’t need my approval, but I value their participation in our interaction. That’s not to say I don’t mess up. I do. I am rude, I am arrogant, I really piss people off. But I do try not to, and when I know I have behaved badly, I apologize. Unless you are one of my ex-husbands. You guys totally deserve it. But I digress.

So when I am dismissed, when my views are de-valued, I want to cry, “UNFAIR!” Because, honestly, the people who dismiss me the most are usually the people who, in spite of my sometimes feeling like they are talking out of their asses, I listen to. I try to see their views, even when I disagree. I’d MUCH rather have arguments than end conversations with dismissals. So when the tables are turned, it feels like a real attack to be dismissed.

I have found ways around this. I am obnoxious enough to push through most dismissals. I can usually “gently” maneuver the conversation back around to where the person actually, in spite of themselves, really listens to me… and shockingly enough… I am found to have a valid point after all.

But that doesn’t mean the hurt is gone. It feels like a betrayal to be dismissed, especially when it’s by someone whom you love, who loves you. I almost wrote “claims to love you”, but the fact is, most of the real damage to us is done by people who really do love us. But painful or not, betrayal or not, at the end of the day, I have to choose to accept dismissal or fight to be heard. For me, the fight is worth it.

I’m Not Pregnant

Most people who know me would be astonished. Not that I’m not, but that it would even need to be said. I’m in my mid-forties, my husband is a little further down the line than that (although don’t say nearing fifty, he hasn’t quite reached that level of acceptance).  We are at a hugely vulnerable time in our lives and in our marriage. His health is precarious, at best. We are facing a forced separation and which continent we are going to inhabit, or even if we can inhabit one together at all, is anyone’s guess. So the fact that I have reached the age of irregular cycles adds a layer of interest to an already MORE than interesting time in our lives.

I really didn’t think I was. I’ve been late before. But I also have three grown/nearly grown daughters. So I know what it feels like to be late, and to wonder, “What if?” It was an interesting several weeks. I didn’t take a test. I didn’t feel like I was pregnant, and I do know what that feels like. I don’t have any bad habits, and I eat pretty healthy. Nothing in my life, or lifestyle would change with the knowledge that I was not alone in my body. At least not yet. So even if I WAS, I didn’t think I needed to KNOW. Not right away. I figured Mother Nature would give me a clue, sooner or later, and she did.

But what about those weeks? What about the stuff in my head while I wondered? It wasn’t a constant thing, by any means. Last year, I went several months where nothing happened. After two negative pregnancy tests and a follow-up with my doc to make sure nothing was wrong, I made some peace with the fact that my body is changing. Things are simply less predictable now than they used to be.

Still, it is interesting what a lifetime of programming can do to a fertile imagination. I wondered, what would I do? I had some great conversations with my husband regarding the, “What if?” question. It was great to know we were both on the same page. We would have been terrified. And thrilled. And terrified.

So now that I know for sure, I am relieved. But I also mourn the second chance I won’t get. I know. I’m selfish. I have three amazing, beautiful, intelligent daughters. My girls are a blessing that any mother would be grateful for. I have friends who are trying desperately to have even one child, and I have three. How DARE I feel sad that I can’t have even more? But there it is. I do mourn, nonetheless.

I know a few women in my age bracket have “second” families with new husbands. I think, if you’re healthy and can afford it, go for it. I never saw myself in that scenario, but last year’s scare, and this year’s… whatever it was, has made me think about it. And while I know how difficult it would be, I would embrace the chance to raise a child with this amazing man it took me a lifetime to find. And so I do mourn that loss.

My husband would have made a brilliant father. Plus, he has the most amazing blue eyes. It’s a shame that no child of mine will look at me with those eyes. No baby of mine will call him Daddy.

But then I come back to myself: this life I have chosen; the man I love who loves me more than I ever could have imagined; the family I have, oddly scattered as we may be. And I am so grateful. I have a life and a love beyond any dream I ever had. I am fulfilled, satisfied beyond the wildest imaginings of my youth.

And yet, even so… what if?

The Girl from Stuebenville…

I don’t know her. I know nothing about her. I know nothing about her life, her school, her friends, her enemies, her family, her faith, or her dreams. I don’t know her, but then again, I do.

Twenty-six years ago, I WAS her. I was 17, in and out of my first sexual relationship with a boy who was likely mentally ill and a sometime drug user. I was a severely abused kid with issues of my own. I was an under-acheiver with a B average. I wasn’t in the popular crowd, but I wasn’t an outcast. I got invited to parties, but I didn’t throw the parties. I had colleges offering me scholarships based on my entrance test scores, but I was having trouble with authority at school. I had two jobs, but I was partying with co-workers from both and sometimes skipping work to party. I was applying to colleges,  and taking care of my three younger siblings because our mother was a drunk and a drug user and severely mentally ill. I was excited about my future, and felt guilty about leaving the little kids who depended on me.  I was on the edge of gaining, or losing, it all.

On Senior Class Toga Day, I skipped school to go to a party. Most of my memories of that day are what people have told me, and some pictures that made it past the photo-booth tech (no digital pics or videos back then). I remember being anxious about missing school, excited to be at a party, nervous about my mom finding out, and happy to just let go of all the stress for a while.

I drank. I didn’t have any moderation in those days. I didn’t really understand that if you drink until you FEEL drunk, you are going to be VERY drunk. You are probably gonna pass out. And soon. I was dressed provocatively. I had on a tube top, shorts and boots, under my white-sheet toga. I liked to make out when I drank. I still do. I love the buzz of that first drink and it makes me happy and I like to kiss people when I feel that way. Many of my friends agree with me on this, still. There are pictures of me sitting in a chair, making out with  some guy, and other guys lined up behind him. I have no way to know if this was my idea, or theirs. It might have been either.

I do have some memories, though:

I remember laying in a bed with several guys in the bed with me. Were they just playing around, jumping on the bed? Or was it more? I don’t know.

I remember waking up to one guy specifically having sex with me. When I started crying and told him it hurt, he started crying, too. He told me he was sorry. He thought I was a virgin and that’s why it hurt. I let him think that.

I remember this same guy throwing a wet wash rag at me, telling me to clean myself up.

I remember getting sick in the bathroom, with no idea how I got there.

I remember my one friend at the party, sitting next to me on the side of the bed later, telling me over and over how sorry he was. He had locked the door, but they had gotten the key.

I remember something about the cops. I don’t know if they were called by neighbors, my mom, or what… but there were cops, and it was dark.

That’s it. I wish that were the end of the story.

The next day, my mother made me clean up, get dressed up as nicely and as “innocently” (her word) as I could. I wore a white dress with a blue stripe.  I used to love that dress. She drove me to the house where the party had been held. It turned out to be the guy I remember having sex with’s grandparent’s house. She made me apologize for having sex in their bed. She made me offer to do work around the place as punishment. I don’t remember all of it, I was still pretty hung-over from the day before. But the result was, I ended up doing office work for the kid’s dad. Afterward, the dad would come into the Pizza Hut where I worked, and flirt with me. It was gross, but I felt like I deserved it.

The boys from the party called me a slut at school. I didn’t say anything about it. I thought they were right. I started skipping school. I forged my mother’s signature on notes, and by the time it was discovered, I had 70 unexcused absences. I almost didn’t graduate. I ended up begging for them to allow me to graduate, and based on my previous record, I was allowed to do so.

I dumped the boyfriend for good. I just couldn’t continue that relationship. We had only had sex a few times, and after the party I just couldn’t do it any more. He kept pressuring me and I finally agreed to do it again, but in the middle I freaked out, threw him off me, and that was it. I just couldn’t see him after that. He killed himself a few months later. His parents blamed me.

I found out I was pregnant a few weeks after the party. I didn’t know if it was from the party, or if it was the ex-boyfriend. I didn’t care. As odd as it may sound, I wanted that baby. I felt like something good might come of all of it, after all. I made plans to go to my grandparents. I knew they loved me and would support me, no matter what. It may not have been a great plan, but it was the best I could come up with.

I miscarried on Thanksgiving Day.

I stopped my college search, I stopped doing homework, I stopped doing just about anything but drink and work and take care of my siblings.

I finally decided to kill myself. I secreted away, over a period of weeks, a decent stash of pain killers and sleeping meds from my mom’s prodigious stash. I had a bottle of vodka. I made a date with myself, and for the first time in months, I felt good.

That night, this guy at my other job asked me out. I told him I had plans, but he was cute, and insistent, and promised not to keep me out too late. I figured, what the heck. It was my first date with the guy who became my first husband. He turned out to not be a great guy, but he did save my life that night, so…

I married him a few weeks later, and after graduation followed him as he joined the military.

My life did not straighten out after that. I still drank, heavily. I still made huge, life-changing mistakes. But slowly, over decades, I managed to come to a place where I liked myself.

I hope it doesn’t take that long for the girl from Stuebenville. I hope that by reporting the rape, and seeing those boys go to jail, she feels in some measure empowered. I hope she doesn’t take to heart all the negative comments about how she deserved it. I hope she has a loving supportive family who shelters her from the worst of it, and makes her feel safe, if not from herself, at least from the outside.

I know there are two sides to every story. I can only imagine what the guys on the other side of mine would say, if they knew I was talking about this now. I don’t honestly care about the other side.  I had to forgive them in order to move forward. But that doesn’t mean I forget that I didn’t give consent.

Regardless of how someone is dressed, regardless of how much they drink, if there is no consent, the result is rape.

I can imagine what the girl from Stuebenville is feeling these day. I wish I couldn’t.