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My arms outstretched to catch the spray

On a plane over the Pacific Ocean, I have an unfortunate juxtaposition of two opposite emotions when I think of Arno. I am more confident and trusting in this man than ever before; more than seems reasonable or rational. I am nearly certain of a future with him, I am on the edge of ready to commit completely. If he asked me today, I would marry him. That is how self-assured and healthy I feel. I am coming back to life again, becoming the woman I knew was buried somewhere deep, deep inside. A woman who is now filled with joy, peace, faith, and eager anticipation, and hopefulness, and expectations of being finally able to enjoy the goodness and beauty of having a regular life without constant damage control. And I am scared to death.

On a given day my emotions wander all over the place, of course. I’ve been mostly on a happiness track ever since I met him. Well, actually, ever since the pain of leaving my last relationship with Mark began to fade, I was happier. My reality includes many ups and downs, and within the happy path that has gradually traveled upward (and out of the muck of my dark history) – in the way that awesome corporate earnings might climb up a chart – there are times when I have been merely pleased and times when I’ve been euphoric, and it averages into a happy medium. (forgive the pun) Today, though my emotions overall remain happy, the track plunged.

This morning I was looking for a notebook to take onto the plane with me, since for some unexplainable reason I always want to write when I am airborne. I came across a spiral-bound notebook that I recognized as one of my old journals. I flipped to the back in case there were some empty pages and I could add my Hawaii trip entries. The journal was filled to the very last line of the very last page, and in discerning this, my eyes grabbed at some of the words.

I was talking about Mark. I couldn’t discern the date because I only marked the month and day, not the year. So… not sure about what part of my Mark experience it was. We were still living in Fitchburg, possibly new in the relationship, because I was talking about trying to ignore my fear and trying to allow myself to feel love again. That’s similar to my current thoughts with Arno, so I stopped paging through, and read it.

At one point I had written that I had “a history of living with ill men, and becoming an ill woman,” and though my past self didn’t recognize this: my journal entries about Mark were a continuation of that sickness. I didn’t see it then, and my intent was to point out how Mark was different from my terrible past men.

I wrote about his selfishness, his lying to me, and his own self-deception. “Of course I can’t be mad at him,” I wrote, “because he doesn’t do it on purpose. He doesn’t even realize he’s lying. When I point it out, he doesn’t know what I’m talking about.” How can a person be so blind to the fact that she is embracing a poisonous environment?

I wrote how he didn’t take responsibility for his own positive emotions. Rather than express his pleasure first person, he asked questions so that I was forced to carry the weight of expression. “What are you doing to me?” he asked over and over in his moments of pleasure. He wouldn’t even wear his own emotions, but made me express it for both of us. I felt like I could have been a blow-up doll and he would have been equally pleased and equally present.

I kept reading in the journal, and saw right there, in black and white, how I had clearly analyzed what was wrong with our communication, but would then go on to say how he was a good man deep inside, so the only obstacle to our improved communication was my ability to perceive his intended messages differently. I made him into some kind of hero. I talked about how he ignored me, disrespected me, and I wrote that since he is such a great person, then it is my job to “re-frame” his words and behavior into something that makes more sense for a good person. “He just doesn’t realize how hurtful it is, so it really isn’t his fault,” I wrote. “I know with patience I can understand the true meaning behind the mindless, empty comments.” Or, “I know he means well, and he’s very thoughtful and caring, so I must remind myself of that more often so my feelings don’t get hurt.”

Oh my god! What in the world makes a woman as sick as that? I have always been intelligent in every single aspect of life EXCEPT for relationship dynamics, and there I am a complete idiot. Why?

I wasted six years of my life being mentally sick with him. I got so unwell I spent the last two years of our relationship going to therapists who never helped a damn thing. I took medications that made me even more miserable, but at least they stopped the panic attacks and the voices and laughter I heard that were terrifying and frequent. My last therapist even tried to tell me to get out of my relationship, but I didn’t realize it till much later. In one of our last sessions, she was saying, very gently, “Some people, when they are feeling the way you are, might consider a change. Sometimes the options they consider might include different personal relationships, perhaps a change in setting. Please don’t think I am encouraging it, I only want to suggest what other people might have in their minds.” I had no idea what she was talking about. And I didn’t ask. I just let her words slide incomprehensibly past my mind.

Alright, alright. My intent here is not to simply to portray what a bad relationship I was in. No really. My point is that I didn’t know that I was in one even when it was making me crazy. In the past I had not seen for years how ill and abusive Tara’s father was. And how self-absorbed and sick Vic was, and Kevin, and Miguel, and all the awful men I always end up with. What is frightening to me today is that I could NOT SEE what was going on. I wanted to be in love and wanted to be loved so badly that I willingly allowed myself to be blind. I saw the abuse, recognized the betrayal, and then spun it somehow into a story about my own shortcomings in not being able to forgive enough, not being sufficiently understanding, or not accommodating the obvious signs of a wounded man who needs to be loved for who he is – because, wasn’t I asking to be loved for who I was? I told myself that I was the stronger person, and therefore I needed to be the one to accommodate his weaknesses, not vice versa.

Ugh.

At one point recently, I broke down and cried when I was with Arno, and told him of my secret terror. I want to love and to trust, but I am very aware that I cannot protect myself. At least I never have. The only means of protection I know is not to fall in love. Or, if I can’t help myself, at least to hold part of my heart back and not give all of myself. Loving Arno is frightening to me because I do not know if I am seeing things clearly. Since I could never tell before, how can I know if I can tell now? Am I currently blind? Do I love him because I am lonely? The fact that I opened up enough to allow myself to express those thoughts shows how deeply I care for him. If I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t be so scared. Thus it also tells me that I am sufficiently emotionally involved to again be at that dreadful place where I cannot see what is happening in my own life.

Am I there? How is it possible to know?

But remember I said ‘a juxtaposition.’ There are emotions from opposite sides of the spectrum pulling at me: isn’t that how it always is? Fear, yes, but also hope. No, even better than hope: certainty. Assuredness. Confidence and deep unconditional trust in Arno. I am not making excuses for anything about him. I don’t need to. He’s got his own self-assuredness, patience, practicality, and joy to carry him along, so he doesn’t need to suck it out of me. He has no need to bluster and sputter about things I say that could be twisted into a far-fetched insult. He does not remind me of how I should be grateful for what he gives me. He does not tell me how I could be better, or how my behavior is superior and distasteful. Or childish and immature. He does not spend any time at all bragging about himself (unless I remember to ask), but seems intent on convincing me that I am a wonderful person. Arno lives a full, satisfying life, and has chosen to make himself available to me. He loves me unconditionally. And he already told me that if things don’t work out between us, he won’t be sorry we met, because he is already happy with the positive impact I’ve had on his life. “You have already shown me that I can live my life in a better way. You have proved that there are other people like me in the world. You physically express what I have in my mind; you ACT what I am feeling! I can’t envision my life without you in it,” he said to me.

Fear, yes. But happiness as well. And each new day as I learn more and more about him, and find that his words are in perfect resonance with the way he lives, I can trust him more. There are no incongruities, there are no shameful character traits to learn to tolerate, there is no embarrassing bravado, there are no heartbreaking nights of trying to defend myself from misinterpretations. Every new morning I wake up with a peaceful heart, and the fear evaporates a little more. One day it will be gone completely. With Arno I believe I can become whole again.

Miss T laughing with an egg

Easter Sunday, and we’re enjoying a moment of peace. A precious commodity: peace.

I was startled into an unexpected revelation the other day. Talking with my man, I commented on how I have more peace in my family, more happiness and contentment, in my own home, than I can recall ever having in my whole life. It’s remarkable to me because this is also the worst financial times I can recall since I was a child living in a two-room cabin with six people and no running water and no electricity.

In those days, I knew what it meant to be poor. As I grew through my teen years I vowed never to be poor again. I committed myself to accept any suffering but poverty. I refuse to go hungry again (ha ha, I picture Vivien Leigh as Scarlett, shaking her fist at the sky, “I will never go hungry again!”).

My partner also had difficult times as a child. To him, poverty is being cold. When money is the source of my fear, I fear hunger. When it’s the source of his fear, he fears being cold. That’s what a poor childhood and winters in New England will teach a boy.

Flash forward to 2009. Here we are, poor again. Possibly as poor as in those days, but it’s hard to tell, because in the 80s people didn’t have the option to live on credit cards. If they didn’t have money, they didn’t pay the heating bill, or buy food. If we don’t have the money, we sigh and pull out the plastic.

In the intervening years I forged ahead to rapid financial success. I was able to send money to my mother. I stopped telling my father when I got new promotions and made more money than he did. The paychecks were good, but my personal life was a disaster. It became more and more of a disaster as time went on. Turns out, though I didn’t know him at the time, my man was also doing very well financially. And his personal life was also a disaster.

Luckily both he and I have managed to do some learning, growing, maturing in those years. About the time our financial worlds began to fall apart, we were also making strides to become better partners to whomever we ended up with in the future. We’re far from where we want to be, but we are happy to be together.

I’ve been wanting money all my life. Now, when I don’t have it, I am happier with my partner than I’ve ever been. There must be a lesson in there.

Still. It must be possible to be happy with my man AND to buy groceries.

Hope tugs at me relentlessly as it has done to all humanity since Pandora’s egregious behavior. We will get through this together. At least we are together. And we’ll provide a beautiful loving home for our daughter. We will all eat enough and stay warm. Somehow.

eggs and kitty

It’s Easter Sunday and the tall young woman who used to be my baby sends sparkles of delight through the house with her childlike glee. She played with every single item in a heaping Easter basket, and went outside in the rain to find eggs. Like I did so many years ago, she’ll beg us to re-hide them for her all day long.

Now it’s after the egg-hunt. After breakfast. After calls to Daddy and Gramy. We’re content and safe and loved. And as much as we struggle, this truly is a beautiful life.

girlfriends

I was just browsing through old photos and found this one on my flickr accout. My girlie two years ago, her friend Polly from Brazil, and Sara from Boston’s inner city. I love this photo. There is a lot of joy captured here, and it spills over me whenever I look at this picture.

Mark helped me out of a panic yesterday (it’s a good thing we take turns freaking out, that way we can always be there for each other, heh). I was struck because tomorrow is February first, the day the mortgage is due. It will be the third month in a row we can’t pay.

I honestly believe we have done what we can to find Mark a job. He applies for every single thing that comes up – no joke. From water bottle delivery person, to Home Depot cashier, to secretary at Bonneville Dam. And yes, every single environmental job of any kind that is advertised, he pours his effort into, because he’s a soil scientist.

We have spread the word to friends. He’s got all his buddies at his AA meetings keeping an eye out, like the guy who hooked him up with an interview at CH2M Hill. The Uncles work for TriMet, and we’ve asked them a couple of times to bug the ears of the hiring squad. My co-worker DB and her husband who works at the US Army Corps of Engineers has also been giving us regular updates and keeping us inspired.

….there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. The team leader from CH2M Hill actually called Mark up yesterday and told him the company just can’t afford to fill the positions they had advertised, and they canceled the hiring altogether. He apologized to Mark, and said when they do start hiring again, he’s one of the top people on the list. Well. That’s something, anyway.

So when you’ve done all you can and it isn’t enough, a person is tempted to FREAK THE HECK OUT!!

But Mark reminded me that it’s only scary to think of losing the house if we are convinced we have to have the house for happiness. “So what if we have to leave this house?” he said. “Then we move into an apartment. It’s not a big deal, we’ll be fine.”

He said he has been really focusing on a morning meditation where he thinks of all the good in his life and and evening meditation where he takes note of all the good of the day he just lived. He says it’s really working. (Thanks Brian)

“I just got tired of waking up at 2 am full of fear,” he said. “And this coming from me, Mr. Negative.”

Well, I’m generally the most positive person in the house. But even upbeat people can get beat down some days, and I’m glad glad once more for my perfect family.

Me at the Pride Parade with some... nuns?

That’s me on the left in the purple. These guys were so great. We saw a couple of them waiting at a bus stop in the morning, on their way to the parade.

waiting for a TriMet bus

What a flippin’ awesome city. When they saw that I was getting my picture taken with them, they ran up and posed for Mark to get the shot off.

Made in Oregon

I’m delinquent in updating my photos from Pride ’08 in Portland. Man, what a blast. A friend of mine at work went, and she said she was bored the whole time and couldn’t wait to leave. So, maybe a pride parade isn’t the BEST way to spend a Sunday afternoon for everyone, but I can’t imagine WHY NOT!  hee hee

Please enjoy the photos. I haven’t much else to say except that it was a delight.

Our group. Larry on the right in the red shirt

in finery

sexy legs

I enjoyed especially that I got to meet Larry, another of Mark’s friends from meetings. We couldn’t help but talk about Kevin. Mark kept saying “That fucker. So selfish.” Because Kevin was at Pride ’07 with us, and he recently overdosed and killed himself. That’s part of why I needed to be there, because I needed to remember him, and I dragged Mark along because he needs help expressing his emotions. Hopefully he moved through a little bit more of his pain.

Jimi Hendrix

As an aside, we went to a memorial service last Saturday for another addict who died too early. This time, Mark’s friend was Michael’s father, and he had only met Michael a couple times. The service was beautiful, and very interesting because the family is Indian, so we were able to see a lot of tradition that we had not experienced before. Anyway, Mark again was thinking of Kevin. I was glad for another opportunity to work through his feelings. Although, Mark doesn’t like it. He says he doesn’t like remembering someone because it brings up all the pain again. Well, yeah.

package

Charlie's angel

I’m beginning to feel that if I remain this close to the AA community, I will have to continue to process loss. Loss in different ways of course, but including death, which is a blow.

Oh hey, this is not supposed to be a downer post!

This is supposed to be about these great photos!

Love and love and love to you.

This Jimi Hendrix imitator was so much fun. He’s spotted around Portland with some regularity. He gave kisses and hugs to everyone. We looked down the street and saw a lovely one prancing around in her teal pumps. Yeeow! If I was a guy with legs that smokin’, I would want to wear a short dress too.

The sign says, "Old Trannie seeks young stud"

Raising money in red dresses

Wendolene

don't care

This person is the best!! For some reason he reminds me of the characters from Wallace and Grommit. Wendolene, maybe. Ha.

Those teeth!

And then, there was a woman with the giant hat. Her shirt says, “I just realized I DON’T CARE.”

Ha ha. That’s really funny.

faithful sisters

evil rabbit

Comments from the old blog:

kiya

I am very proud of who I am. I am proud because I know that GOD is proud of me because he wakes me up each morning, and I feel that I have a will to keeping on pushing that wheel.

crystal

Yay! Thanks for sharing this, Kiya! Oh thank you for your strength and your will. Sorry for not getting all my photos up before you looked at it, though. I was drawn away by the sunshine… Ok, I’ll put the rest up now!

My daughter burst out this morning: “Hey! It’s Saturday! That means cartoons. I haven’t watched cartoons on TV since… since…. LAST Saturday!”

We clung to each other and cried all day long yesterday at funeral service for her Great Grandmother. She told me she hoped that people wouldn’t talk about only sad things at the funeral. I assured her there would be funny stuff, because I know my family… but I underestimated the grief.

In the afternoon we gathered with my Pa, his wife, his daughter-in-law, and my partner. This small  intimate lunch was where the pent-up tension released a little for my daughter and me. We joked and laughed over our food.

Well, the final result is that despite the dull ache of losing my Gramma, with my family around me and some laughs, I feel much better today.

One of my many guises

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