Thank you to the Story Circle Network for accepting my story: Hoping to Be Missed.
I am excited to report that I won first place in the Reflections Personal Essay Contest 2018.
To read the story and find out more about the Story Circle Network, click here.
Jilted by a philandering husband and defrauded out of my share of the assets, I made a convincing victim.
“You are righteously angry,” a friend counselled.
Perhaps so, but something niggled at me.
“A man does not stray unless there is a reason,” someone said, and I felt as if she looked right through me, could see the flaws at my core. My mother’s repeated warnings came back to me: “No one will ever love you.”
What is wrong with me? my broken heart wailed.
Urgency drove me to find answers. I never wanted to go through this again. I had to know why my life had turned out this way.
I read. I read Daphne Rose Kingma’s Coming Apart, and Susan Anderson’s The Journey from Abandonment to Healing, and The Mastery of Love by don Miguel Ruiz: all offering glimpses of insight and understanding – something I could hold on to. So many books passed through my hands and desperate to learn more, I turned to a galley copy of a book I’d received as a bookstore owner. A commercial piece, now released, but that I’d never bothered with in the past, having stashed it beside many other soon-to-be published editions.
It was Relationship Rescue by Dr. Phil McGraw.
“Too Late for this, really,” I told myself but I decided to give it a chance.
Dr. Phil wrote the words I had suspected all along: good relationships begin with the self. His advice made sense, and more than that, I felt like I was finally onto something. I attacked the book as if reading a how-to manual, highlighter in hand and pencil at the ready.
Relationship Rescue delves into the different “bad spirits” that we bring to our relationships, and as I read along, I began to recognize bits of myself in the “scorekeeper”, the “fault-finder”, and the control freak, but when I reached the eighth category and began to read, I felt as if I’d been punched in the stomach and wanted to throw up. I was the “bottomless pit”.
I told myself that I didn’t need anything so that I wouldn’t be a burden. What I was actually doing was sabotaging my partner’s chances of ever meeting my needs. “He should know without me telling him,” was another one of those false beliefs that I measured by husband against.
The spirit I brought to my marriage was ugly. I had so many expectations about what I wanted and didn’t want based on my parents failures that any partner was destined to fail.
With understanding comes change. It would not be easy, and I am still a work in progress, but Relationship Rescue gave me solid understanding so that I can be accountable and achieve a healthier relationship.
My challenge this week is to write about (or submit images of) a book that made you sit up and pay attention. What book(s) made a difference in your life?
A look back to two years ago. Sometimes we need the perspective of the rear-view image to put the present in better focus. How far we have come. (Photo from our earlier, healthier days.)
Preoccupation with my own woes blinded me to my husband’s suffering, which culminated in a heart attack on Saturday night. We are shell-shocked.
“That’s what happens to caregivers,” a callous nurse commented. Am I supposed to feel guilty?
Unable to either drive myself, or push my own wheelchair, I am reliant on the goodwill of others to get me to the hospital, although even then, my body’s limits scream: Halt!
I trust that my husband is in good hands, and getting the help he needs. Meanwhile, I am home, alone, processing a gamut of emotions and what if’s.
This is not his first heart attack. The first was silent, and according to the specialists, all but fatal. It caused sufficient damage to have us all on edge. Thank God I saw the signs and called 9-1-1 this time around. The hospital said they will not release him until either medications…
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An edited version of “The Spirit of Horses” has been posted on One Woman’s Day blog, a project of the Story Circle Network.
Thank you to Linda Hoye for accepting this piece.
Poetry, the words penned on this blog, have emerged as a gift from the darkness of a debilitating disease.
Three years ago, I was a special education teacher, loving my career, volunteering with the junior girls’ basketball team, and making plans with my husband for our next trip. I had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2010, but a change in diet and weekly trips for acupuncture seemed to keep that at bay. True, I could no longer participate in the acting group I’d so loved, or play tennis quite as actively as before, but that was compensated for by the arrival of grandchildren in our lives.
Then, in the middle of summer, 2013, I came down with pneumonia, and although my lungs seemed to clear with the prescribed medication, I continued to have breathing problems, accelerated heart rate, and bouts of severe dizziness. I saw specialist after specialist, all with differing opinions, and then, thankfully, my respiratory doctor diagnosed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
“Myalgic Encephalomyelitis” is the formal term, my family doctor explained, although most recently she told me it’s been renamed Central Sensitivity Syndrome in an attempt to explain the varying complex symptoms.
By May of the next year, I could no longer drive without falling asleep at the wheel; had lost my ability to do math; was losing recognition of words; and could not climb a flight of stairs. Sitting and standing became incredibly taxing, and at my very worst, I could not tolerate food – ugly sores would break out in my mouth and face, and my stomach would swell painfully.
Social interaction was exhausting, and watching television overly stimulating. I spent hours on end lying in a darkened room in silence. Scents were enough to send my nervous system into overload, and sudden noises made me startle like a baby. I could not concentrate enough to read .
Words were my saviour. Ideas floated around in my consciousness, forming images that I would cling to until I was able to find the words to release them. Poems, like shining beacons of hope, emerged, and I felt brief interludes of accomplishment, as if my life still mattered, as if I still had purpose.
This past year, there has been improvement. I am able to be out of bed longer, and with the help of a homemaker, can even prepare a few meals, and best of all, get out of the house to visit with friends, or have a meal out.
I came across this Ted Talk this morning, posted on Facebook, in which the speaker reveals her journey with ME. An articulate speaker, Jen Brea has become an active voice in the crusade to bring this disease to the forefront of medical awareness.
I invite you to watch Jen Brea.
At the age of four, I moved with my family into a new house that my father had built, on the outskirts of town. The day of our move my mother disappeared, and left to my own devices, I defied my father’s rules about staying out of certain parts of the house and discovered secret places, the beginning of my awareness that all was not as it seemed. When my mother returned, she was carrying a new baby sister, and all was seemingly well, until one day she too discovered that the walls had secrets.
Four Voices tells the story of growing up in a family where secrets defined us; and examines the relationship between a daddy’s girl and her father, split between two worlds. All names have been changed for this story. Part I, starts at the end of seventeen-year-old Betty-Ann’s home life, and can be read here.
I have attempted to write this story for most of my life, however; I was always missing an essential piece – my father’s perspective. Now, armed with new understanding, I offer you a tale of tragic misunderstanding and hope for healing.
Feedback is deeply appreciated.
I’d go back to school, continue post graduate work, rally the troops to get me there, scrounge
the fees, find someone to carry the books (I no longer have the strength) – undoubtedly miss a few sessions, get behind, feel frustration building, consult with the energetic youthful instructor, become brain locked when I cannot interpret the email address she writes down for me, confront the fact that transcribing the required reading assignment in nearly impossible (which means the work will likely never get completed in the allotted time period), and drop out.
I’d look after your young children, give you a break, but my hand is not steady and if I drop a cup it will break and what if it shatters where the children are playing – barefooted because I couldn’t rally the wherewithal to get them dressed without that much needed tea – and now the shards are a real threat, and the children are laughing and bouncing around, not heeding my warnings, thinking it’s all a joke, and I have lost control, needing to clean it up and manage the children, which I cannot do because multi-tasking is no longer within my realm of possibilities.
I’d visit my sister, the schizophrenic, who lives in a group home, and try to be supportive, but my mind is still reeling over the children, and other accumulating failures, and I know I’ve let everyone down, and quite frankly, her current state of neurosis seems so much less troublesome than mine, and I have nothing to say that would aide her other than I know what it feels like to be fucked up and exist outside the ‘norm’, and right now I just want to crawl back into my cell of isolation and breathe again – so have a good life.
I’d get a scooter, try to go for a ride on my own – be independent – but I’d likely choose the back roads to avoid the traffic and, not having accounted for inclement weather, would find the pace too fast and be forced into some small town where (with my luck) they’d be having their Christmas parade and I would be caught between crowds lining the street and marching bands and in a moment of panic would duck into the nearest opening – a family restaurant from which people are constantly coming and going and where I’d realize that I just need to get home – and try to exit just as someone (equally as pressed) is trying to enter, and having lost all vestiges of my normally polite self, I would refuse to back up, choosing instead to rage at the poor unsuspecting woman, who only needed a quick place to pee.
So, when you next ask me what I do with myself all day – and aren’t I bored – be assured that I am not lacking in suitable stimulation, do not need to take on added responsibility to give myself a sense of purpose, am incapable of volunteering with any degree of compassion, and have accepted my current state of dependency as the most appropriate given coping capabilities. I am, at present, unable to navigate life with any degree of normalcy, am content to struggle with my own limitations, putter at a speed below tortoise, bear the silence of solitude, and stay home. I am not broken, in need of rescue, or lost. I simply am.
Every good teacher knows that sarcasm is never a good idea when it comes to building relationships with students. The same is no doubt true for all interpersonal connections, yet I cannot seem to avoid it at times. Take, for instance, the issue of an unkept kitchen.
Please understand that I am no longer capable of cooking and cleaning to the extent that I used to be, and therefore, rely heavily on my husband, so I have no right to complain. That didn’t stop my frustration from pouring forth when, for the umpteenth time, I found the sink full of dirty dishes, the counters covered in crumbs and grease, and the stove top still bearing the pans from my husband’s last culinary foray. I, who subscribes to the clean as you go theory, do not like to start my day (or any part of the day where I need to prepare food) with a dirty kitchen. For the most part, I dig in and clean up his mess before starting anything new, in this case, to make a cup of tea.
Today, for some reason, it felt overwhelming. Maybe it was the debris floating in the slimy, cold water in the sink, or the sticky collection of spoons and knives clotting on the counter – whatever it was, I wanted to nag. Badly.
Nagging, however, is not my m.o.
It suddenly hit me that my husband, the planner, the corporate problem-solver, the go-to man to get a job done (other than housework) is actually a closet scientist, and that what appears to be a disaster is actually an experimental breeding ground for his scientific study. Arming myself with this sarcasm, I left the mess and retreated to the bedroom, waiting for him to come home.
I must have drifted off, for when I awoke it was to the sound of a loud pop and a cry of alarm.
“I just blew up an egg in the microwave!” he called from the kitchen. “It was an experiment that went awfully wrong.”
Turns out there is truth in humour, even sarcasm.
Politicians are a breed of characters that I fail to understand – they have to be willing, on one hand, to ward off nonstop critical attack, and on the other, to subject themselves to constant pandering for favour. If they are not driven by ideals, or even if they are, they will undoubtedly fall prey to persuasion by one power or another. I am cynical to say the least, and disillusioned by the process for many reasons which I won’t discuss here. In fact, politics is not usually a topic about which I am inclined to write.
Until my husband received an envelope in the mail bearing this quotation in place of the return address:
“Violent jihadism is not just a danger somewhere else. It seeks to harm us here in Canada…. through horrific acts. It is an act of war, and our government’s new legislation fully understands that difference.”
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper
January 30, 2015
“What is this?”
“The Conservative Party is looking for funding.” Thor shrugged dismissively.
“Did you read this? This is blatant fear-mongering!”
He took the envelope from me and perused it. “Yes, it is,” he replied dismissively as if to say: And you’re surprised how?
I am more than surprised; I am gobsmacked! The government’s tactic for raising money is to send out a war-tinged message? Forgive me, but I always thought I lived in a peace based society, not a shoot-first-ask-questions-later regime. This approach to fundraising is recklessly irresponsible on many levels, and as I am writing this while my mind and emotions are reeling, I fear I will not do them all justice.
First of all, there are a number of issues that plague Canadians today which deserve government attention: justice for the missing (Aboriginal) women, under-serviced and impoverished communities, human trafficking, unemployment, aging population, threats to education, and so on, and so on. Terrorism is one among many problems that need addressing.
Secondly, as I alluded to earlier, when did we become a warring country? Historically, we have proven ourselves to be worthy allies and participants in war when called for, but I was raised to believe that peaceful resolution and humanitarian involvement was the Canadian way. Has this changed? Is the government hoping to sway opinion and spur war? What possible positive motive can underlie the delivery of such a message? Is this creating precedent for a new influx of money into our military resources?
Terrorism is not a new problem, by any means, and certainly a threat, but I do not think it is an issue that has been thoroughly examined and responsibly considered. We just do not understands its mechanics. Evidently, it is the product of hate and fanatical obsessions, and if viewed from that perspective, is not just the property of jihadism – it lurks beneath every so-called civilization. Just yesterday, a young man sat amongst a group of parishioners in communal worship before turning his weapons on them. This was an act of terrorism.
My eldest sister always told me I was naive, and perhaps I am, but I thought that we as a society were smarter than tactics like these. Receiving this letter has just furthered my disappointment with a system that is severely flawed.
So, what might the Conservatives have offered instead? How about something that demonstrates virtue, instead of appealing to our dark sides? What about a message that reminds us how great our country is, and how important it is for us to continue to pursue avenues that support and build on our valued legacy? Appeal to my sense of pride and my interest might be peaked, but threaten my intelligence and I am only incensed.
Having just read this to Thor, who is no longer affiliated with the Party, he asked if I read the letter enclosed. I had not. As expected, it includes more of the same propaganda, and a “Pledge of Commitment” asking a signed personal agreement, along with the requested $200 to help the Conservatives win the war on terrorism (my words).
Rant over, my conclusion is very clear – the mission has been successful. I am now very afraid – not of ISIS and their “real threat to Canada” (quoted from the Pledge of Commitment). I cannot even think about them at the moment. No, this newly blossomed terror is for a menace much closer to home – the CPC (The Conservative Party of Canada). If I doubted them before, I really fear them now!