Category Archives: PTSD

Sleeping With the Enemy…Revisited.

I can’t watch this movie.  I just can’t.

And yet, I do.  And I am.  Right now…as I am typing this post.

It was a long time ago, a world far away that I was a victim of domestic violence.  Yes, I know you are not supposed to say “victim”.  It’ s not empowering enough for most feminists.  It makes you sound weak, pitiful.  Yet, when you are going through it, you ARE a victim.  You can pretty up the words all you like, make them sound less pathetic, but the point is…you are still a victim until the moment…you’re not.  That’s when you can change your moniker from “victim” to “survivor”.

Or, the moment they place you six feet under and you become what your headstone says you were.

When we talk about women who died at the hands of their lovers, we don’t call them survivors.  They didn’t.  They were victims.  They succumb.  I will always consider myself a “victim” of domestic violence in some aspects, despite the fact that I survived, because of movies like “Sleeping with the Enemy”.  Because the scent of “Polo” still makes me significantly ill.  Because being in my home alone, I am still plagued by the inability to sleep peacefully.  Because I still feel my breath catch in my throat when I hear a certain type of gruff male voice.  Because certain songs can still make me break down and cry (I’m looking at you, November Rain).   I can’t wear red lipstick.  It reminds me of bloody mouths and bleeding noses, broken teeth and cracked jaws.

It reminds me of 33 broken bones in just under 3 years.

Yet, when I watch the part of “Sleeping with the Enemy” where Laura “dies”, (This is not a spoiler and that aside, the movie is 23 years old.  If you haven’t seen it by now, well…not my problem) I realize that the funeral scene could have just as well been mine.  The irony of all this is that the release of this movie came the same year as MY release from this relationship that has scarred me for life.  Maybe it’s not irony.  Perhaps coincidence.  I never get those two right and neither does Alanis Morrissette, so I don’t feel too badly.  The ironic part really is who I first saw the movie with.

Yes.  My abuser.  The love of my (then) life and the enemy I slept with.

We saw SWTE in a movie theater in Suffolk County, Long Island, shortly after its release date in February, 1991.  We had a good day that day.  No fighting, no arguing, no yelling, no throwing things.  It was what I would come to call a “safe day”.  I never put a time limit on those days.  The morning could start one way, the afternoon could end another way and the evening could bring us back to the “safe day” status once again.  I lived moment to moment with him.  I counted every breath with him.  Measured.  Careful.  Always concerned about not changing my facial expressions too often.  Never looking left, never looking right.  Straight ahead, always.  That night at the movie was no different.  As I watched Patrick Bergin beat Julia Roberts, I kept the hand to popcorn to mouth ratio well timed.  Counting my breaths…in 2…3…4 out 2…3…4…

I wouldn’t dare give him the clue that inside, I was terrified, watching my life play out on the big screen in front of me.

I felt like everyone in the audience was staring at me.  I felt that familiar hand squeeze from him.  He was putting me in check. His way of saying, “Keep it together, CP. Don’t you dare betray our dirty little secret.” I sat up a little straighter in my seat.  I crossed my legs casually. I leaned my head on his shoulder.  [LOOK AUDIENCE WE ARE A VERY HAPPY LOVING COUPLE THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN OUR HOUSE YOU BELIEVE US RIGHT]  My body was giving me away.  My breath was giving me away.  My silent count in my head was not working.  I inhaled deeply, the scent of the popcorn nauseating me.  I dared to glance sideways, to see how he would react to this man on the screen beating this beautiful, gentle woman.

He kept eating popcorn as though it didn’t matter at all.  And I suppose, to him, it didn’t.

When we left the theater, I couldn’t gauge his mood.  His affect, as always, a blank canvas.  Over two years into this bloodbath of a relationship and I still could not read him.  We drove home in silence when suddenly he says, “I’ll never understand how a man could hit a woman like that.”  If I wasn’t so exceptionally trained in controlling my facial expressions, I would have given away the “are you fucking kidding me” that filled my mouth, but never left my lips.

“Mmm hmmm,” I said.

“Well, I mean, he basically hit her for no reason.  You know what I mean.”

“Uh huh.”

“You know that when I lose my temper, it’s because you provoked me.”

“Yes, I know,” I replied.

“But I love you.  I always love you.”

I smiled.  He was staring at my side profile looking for that smile.  The smile that says, it’s okay, this thing you are doing to me.  I’m fine with it.  He reached over, squeezed my knee, patted my thigh before stroking it, firmer, higher.  Oh, okay. Right.  Sex.  Got it.  The way you right the wrong.  The way you remind me you are still in control of this thing.  The way you pretend that I’m okay with all of this.  Sure.  We’ll have sex after we get home.  It was his version of the “reboot” button for us.  Anything that happens prior gets erased, thrown in the recycle bin and permanently deleted.  But, it also means I will have at least 5 hours of peace and quiet once you fall asleep…to shower you off my skin.  To brush my mouth clean of your kiss.  To throw up.  To cry.  To take my makeup off and assess the damage from earlier in the day.

And it was also during those moments of sweet repose for you that I would plan my getaways.

Watching the movie “Sleeping with the Enemy” alongside him, I knew my nights of plotting and planning would be forever destroyed.  There would be no more squirreling away of funds.  No more leaving clothes in hiding places.  No more hiding the spare key to the car in the back of the toilet.  He would now be forever aware that women definitely do plot to escape their abusers.  Even though he didn’t see himself in that light, I knew the lesson wasn’t lost on him.

I spent that night in terror.

When he wakes, will he start the scavenger hunt in our home?  Will he find the coins in the kosher salt container (It had that pull up lip that you could slide change and dollars into easily.  Plus, it was made of cardboard, so it wouldn’t rattle like say, a coffee can.  Yes, these were the things you had to think about) or the key in the bathroom?  Would he realize that in our car, where the spare tire used to be, there were spare clothes instead?  Would he look in the bottom of my daughters toy box and find copies of our birth certificates, medical records, anything I would need on the fly for when we fled?  I debated whether to start finding new place for all these things.  No.  No, I won’t.  I will leave everything the way it is.  To start moving things or getting rid of them means I no longer had a safety net.  I needed that safety net.

It’s all I had.

When this movie came on my television screen, just now, 23 years later, I watched only the beginning.  I only paid attention to the fear, not the inevitable victory.  I don’t need to watch that part…her transition from victim to survivor.  I don’t need to watch Julia Roberts get paid millions for a role I lived.  Julia lived happily ever after. (Now, that’s a spoiler, Folks. Sorry.)  But sadly, just like in the movies, sometimes real life comes with alternate endings. This is not the reality for many women and it certainly wasn’t mine.  My story of morphing from “victim” to “survivor” would include hospitals, three months in a bed, a brain now laden with epilepsy, physical and emotional therapy and the inability to remain in safely in New York state.

Still, my outcome is better than those who died at the hands of their abusers.  Now, all these years later, I have a different reality.  I don’t sleep with an enemy, but my best friend.  I am safe in my home.  I am safe in this life I have made for myself 1300 miles away.  And, despite knowing this, I still can’t watch this movie til the end.  I still can’t listen to those songs.  I still get queasy from the scent of Polo cologne.  But, I am alive.  Divinely alive.  Happily alive.

Phrase it any way you’d like, but I will always be a victim who survived.

I can live with that.

2014: A Brand New Year.

If you noticed, I did not blog throughout the entire year of 2013.

Mainly because, 2013 was a pretty horrible year for me personally, professionally and every other way, shape and form.

While there were some definite bright spots, like renewing my vows (twice!) in both Las Vegas and in Mexico,or spending my granddaughter’s 5th birthday in Disney, there were far more dark patches; times that I really didn’t think that I would make it through the remainder of the year without some serious professional intervention.

My personal health was poor throughout this year, and it made matters so much worse.  Anything you go through in your life seems far more trying when your health is not where it should be.  My stellar marriage was put through some incredibly trying times.  Relationships with family members worsened and in some cases, deteriorated altogether.  I feel like I spent most of 2013 in tears.  In short, things were hard.

And on the precipice of this brand new year, they are still…well, hard.

My best course of therapy has always been to turn to my writing.  It’s saved me through some of the most torrid times of my life.  Just to be able to achieve that sweet release of putting thoughts to “paper” has always managed to help me put things into perspective.  But, this year, the strength to even turn to my blog did not come.  A year long case of writers block caused by being in the throes of some of the deepest, darkest depression I have ever experienced.

People do not understand how seemingly happy people can be “depressed”.  If you sorted through my facebook photos from this past year, you would see dozens of “happy” photos of me, smiling brightly for the camera.  But, what you do not see are the seconds before the photo and the hours afterward.  Smiling on command is easy and that is what the camera captures.  But if we had the ability to see what takes place the second before or the seconds after the photo is taken, you would see the smile fall away just as quickly as it appeared.  Again, not saying there were not moments of genuine happiness, but in 2013, they were few and far between.

I think, if I were to be honest, I spent most of 2013 curled up in a fetal position in my bed.  Too exhausted to face the day, too tired to cry.  And when you are just too tired to even cry, that’s when depression is at its worst.  I find a good, hard cry to be cathartic.  It cleanses the soul, erases some of the negativity by releasing the pain and makes room for new, perhaps better emotions to seep into the soul.  But when you just cannot cry, when the pain of life is so overwhelming that you cannot even produce tears…when the thought of crying exhausts you, there is a problem.  Usually a problem that is much bigger than you are.

In 2013, the problem was not only bigger than I was, it hovered over me like a large, black winged bird, casting a shadow upon me.  I went many days without showering.  I would stay in bed for days straight, scarcely exiting my room.  I would stare into the television set, enthralled with nothing; just an empty vessel waiting to be filled with something, anything.  I can’t tell you much about what I did in 2013.  I rely heavily on my Facebook timeline to remind me, but there’s a problem with that.  The problem being, I fooled myself with many statuses on there in order to fool the rest of the world.  I couldn’t have the world knowing how I was struggling with my depression.  The world, my friends en masse, they expect me to be funny, charming, irreverent.  Somehow, I managed to keep up that persona, or rather, facade, on my statuses.  But with every “LMAO” I posted, I assure you, there was very little laughing being done, let alone laughter that would remove my ass from my body.  I would type statuses, replies, comments with the same blank look on my face that I reserved for the television set.  I would appear interested and engaged when in reality, I could not care less about most of what I was writing.

Trying to keep up appearances became exhausting, hurling me into a far darker place than I had previously been, until in mid August, just before my birthday, I melted down altogether.  I wanted out.  Out of my family, out of my friendships, out of my marriage, out of my house, out of my bed, out of my job, out of my life.  Ideally, I just wanted to be left alone to rot.  For anyone who has ever experienced depression, you know that loneliness is the devil at work.

But, this is not where I am heading in 2014.  I am not over the depression.  Not by a long shot.  It’s plagued me all my life and I doubt sincerely, that it will take leave any time soon.  However, I am actively involved in making sure that I don’t spend 2014 with the blankets pulled up over my head.  I am in the process of healing the pain that encompasses me.  I have rid myself of the toxic people in my life who won’t allow me to breathe normally.  For those I cannot rid myself of, I have opted to ration my time carefully, wholly in consideration of my mental health.  You can have 15 minutes of me a week, nothing more.  The pain I experience physically, I am finally putting myself under the knife to heal.

Basically, I am not giving away another year of my precious life to this monster that is seeking to consume me.  I know it will be challenging, but it’s important that I remember 2013 as the year that almost did me in.  I am not a victim.  I will never be a victim.   I don’t want pity, not even empathy.  I just want another opportunity to ensure that I won’t be a statistic. I don’t want to fall prey to my long standing depression.  I don’t want to wallow in those deep waters any longer.  I have plenty to be grateful for.  I have healthy, happy, beautiful children and grandchildren.  I have a husband who truly loves me and wants me to get better and is willing to support me on that journey.  I have friends who are compassionate and caring.  I have a talent that not only earns me a living, but heals me in the process.

There is so much for me to live for and in that instance, I am richer than most.

My excuses have worn thin.  The time for denying my reality has come to a close.  I am not going to be a living dead girl for another year.  I have to be an active participant in making sure that I do not die.  Not a physical death, but rather, an emotional one…which I find to be worse.  A physical death. It’s easy.  Anyone can do that.  Suicide is never an option.  Not for me at least.  It’s too easy to make the choice to check out.  As the great Annie Lennox once opined, “dying is easy, it’s living that scares me to death”.  Living is harder, but the rewards of doing so are far greater.  With every sunrise comes the ability to change the course of your life.

I am not saying that it will come easy, nor am I saying I will be successful at it.  I am positive I will have days where pulling myself from my bed will be a hardship for me.  I am sure that there are days I will fail miserably.  But, I am also positive that, if I push myself, I will be able to rise to the challenge.   Mistakes quickly become regrets, but I will not punish myself for those.  I have been hard enough on myself…harder than any of you could ever be on me.

So, on this, the eve of my surgery, I am making myself the promise to try a little harder.

I give so much of myself to everyone in my life.  Why am I so reticent to do for myself what I do for others?  Am I undeserving?  Am I not valuable enough?  Not worthy?  Of course not.

Here’s my fresh new perspective on the matter:

Inside all of us, there is a child.  We all have that inner child.   It’s the one who laughs at inappropriate times.  The one who looks over at a set of swings while you are in high heels and an evening gown and decides that running over to the playground would be a blast.  The child who starts a food fight in the middle of Denny’s at one o’clock in the morning over pancakes.  The same one who secretly watches old 80’s cartoons on Saturday mornings, cross legged on the floor in pajamas.  But, it’s also the same one who cries when they are hurt.  It’s the same child who desperately needs a hug when they are inconsolable.  It’s that same child who begs for forgiveness when they have done wrong.

And I am the mother of this inner child.  She is me.  I am her.  It is my duty, obligation, desire to take care of her as surely as I would take care of my own children.  I would do anything for my children.  I would die for them.  I would give my last breath for them.  So, why not that inner child?  Why not give my last breath to fight for that little girl within me who is suffering and struggling?  Why not nurture her and love her the way she deserves?  Why would I leave her alone, abandoned, needing and desperately wanting?

She needs me as surely as I need her.

So, for 2014, I promise to be a better mother.  Not only to my children I have given birth to, but to the little girl inside of me.  It is my job to heal her and in turn, heal myself.  I will hold her when she needs to be held.  I will kiss her tears away when she cries.  I will wake her with a gentle hug at the start of her day and lay her down, bundled in warmth and affection when it is time for sleep.  I will rouse her from the nightmares that plague her and remind her, I am here.  Shhhh…I am here.  Nothing is going to happen to you, sweet girl…because I am here.  I will give her daily affirmations of how beautiful she is, how smart she is.  I will feed not just her belly, but her soul.  I will set her free to play, but keep an ever watchful eye on her, keeping her safe from harm, from all the dangers lurking in this world.  I will protect her from the bullies on the playground of life.  I will not abandon her when she needs me most.  I will be the mother to her that I never had in my own life.  

She will be loved.

All I can ask is that she forgive me the first 40+ years that I did not realize I had left her alone.

She is me.  I am her.  And in this knowledge, I am comforted, for I know she is a forgiving soul and will allow me back into her life.

Only this time, I will do things the right way.  And she will flourish.  She will grow.

And someday, under my guidance and with my unrequited love, she will heal.

She deserves that.  We both do.

Brotherly love.

My brother and I were never particularly close. 

Close in age, certainly.  We are less than three years apart.  In the photo above, that is me on the left.  My brother is the chubby baby in the Giants onesie on the right.  We are two years and nine months apart, yet you can never imagine two people so different.

My brother and I were brought up in a very abusive household.  Our parents, well-meaning as they might have been, were a non stop source of stress and strife in our little lives.  They fought constantly, every single waking moment of the day and night.  She was a shrew, my mother.  Nagged to the point where you could no longer stand the sound of her voice.  (It still makes me cower a bit when she raises her voice.)  My father, the man I have come to call “the sperm donor”, was a self-absorbed, egotistical hippie type who never quite grew up enough to understand that you no longer get to be a “free spirit” once you make the commitment to having a wife and children.  Sure, you can be an individual, but you do not get to live your life as one.  There are three other people in the picture.  Three other people who matter, who count on you and who you need to give thought to before doing the selfish things that stop you from being a part of that family unit.

My father, in something so cliche it embarrasses me to mention, left my mother for his secretary (cringe) back in 1973 when I was merely 7 years old.  Not that this was his first affair, mind you. This was merely the one that “stuck” and the one that finally took this man out of his home and into hers.  There was a part of me that was so grateful when he left.  For years, I had endured listening to their fights that would end up with punches thrown, furniture being flipped over, disgusting and vulgar things said right over my head and the endless tears that my mother would cry each and every time he walked out that door and away from “this bullshit”.  I came to feel that I was a part of the “bullshit” he needed to walk away from and, as every child does, began to blame myself for my father leaving.  This was further confirmed when my mother, in moments of distress and uncertainty of her future would say thing like, “he never wanted any kids to begin with.”

Great.  Like I ASKED to be born into this?

For years, I resented my father.  Years. Hated him with a fervor and a passion that no little girl should ever have to know.  When I got stuck having to go to his house on the weekends, I was moody, irritable, out of sorts, angry.  I felt deep venom for my mother for leaving me with this man who obviously did not want my brother and I there and truly made us, or at least me, feel like we were cramping his bachelor lifestyle.  He had a girlfriend (the secretary) named Yvonne.  She was a red head. Tall. Thin. Gorgeous.  And their lifestyle consisted of walking around nude all the time.  It’s just what they did.  And while that’s fine monday through friday, it is probably something that should have been curtailed when your 9 year old daughter and your 6 year old son would come to visit.  They smoked weed.  A LOT of weed.  We were never really “watched” or cared for.  It would make me feel so uncomfortable being in that environment.  I don’t think it effected my brother the same way it did me.  He sort of found it all funny…that he got to see “boobies” at Dad’s house.  But for me, a young girl on the precipice of my pre-teen years, it made me feel out of sorts.  I used to sit in the loft of his apartment and just get lost in books.  Reading for hours on end til my mother and whatever random flavor of the week she was dating at that time would come and pick us up from his place on the west side of Manhattan. 

As I got older, savvier, I learned how to take the train back from Riverside Drive in Manhattan up to Queens Boulevard in Queens.  I would run away from his apartment, letting myself into my mothers apartment with my key.  (Those of you who were “latchkey” kids would understand why a 10 year old would have her own key to the apartment.)  Most of the time, my mother would not be there.  She’d be out, somewhere, with whomever she was dating.  Sometimes, she would be there with her boyfriend and I would get stuck back on a train, heading back towards Manhattan after listening to my mother screech at my father at the top of her lungs about how the HELL he could not even notice his daughter had disappeared. 

Simple.  He was too stoned most of the time to even notice whether I was alive or not. 

“I thought she was upstairs, reading,” he would stammer, trying to stifle his laughter. 

“You’re an asshole, piece of shit,” she would continue.  Blah blah blah.

This was my world.  The world of the broken home. The world of having two sets parents who were so self-absorbed and involved in their own worlds that they never really saw the magnitude of what they were doing to their children. 

Truth be told, I think the divorce took a much deeper toll on me than it did on my brother.  My brother stayed in touch with “bio dad” long after I made the decision at 11 years old to never see him again.  I hated him, all he stood for and his selfish ways.  The last time I saw my father as a child, it was at my 11th grade graduation.  He showed up, after the ceremony of course, with some flowers.  I took a single photo with him and that is the only memory that I have of him that stands out in my head.  I saw him again, when I turned 19, in a chance meeting at a Florida mall while I was on Spring Break with some girlfriends.  We talked.  Ironed out a few things.  Said some things that needed to be said, but by this time, he was older…the age I am now, actually, and it seemed like life had beaten him up so badly, I couldn’t muster up all the venom and rage that 9 year old me wanted to throw upon him.

A mere 6 months after that chance meeting, my father was dead.  Killed by a heart attack caused by cocaine usage.  He was driving on the I-4 interstate when the heart attack occurred. He jumped the median and slammed into a Pepsi tractor trailer going in the opposite direction. 

In my utter distress, in my lack of being able to wrap my head around this…I made a joke out of it.  A morbid joke.  Something to the extent of “this time, Pepsi actually beat out Coke.”  No one appreciated the joke.  I was called “insensitive”, but I had experienced such a disconnect between me and this man that all I could rely upon was a macabre sense of humor to get me through.

Fast forward to now.  Right now.

My brother is having an affair.  He told me about it.  He didn’t need to.  I knew it was going on.  I could tell.  All the tell tale signs were there.  “My wife doesn’t understand me,” he would say.  He sought my advice and was appalled when I told him to go the hell home and work things out with your wife.  He thought I would have taken his side, told him to go…be happy!  Do your thing!  Live your life!  But as I looked at him, all I could see was my father.  He looks so much like him.  He sounds so much like him.  And in that, he represented everything I ever hated about my own selfish father. 

Recently, his wife found out about his affair.  She called me, crying, asking if he could come down here to stay with me for a few days.  He wanted to “clear his head” before making a decision about whether he would be staying with her or leaving her and her three beautiful children for this girl who “understands him”.  Of course, I told her.  Let him come down here.  Let him be with me and my family.  Let him see what a loving family unit is supposed to look like.  Let me talk sense into him.

He came…and it was the worst three days of my life in a very long time.

I have never seen such selfish, self absorbed behavior since my fathers existence on this planet.  He spent the entire weekend texting this girlfriend of his.  He ignored me when I tried to talk to him.  He ignored my kids, my grandkids who he has scarcely seen since they have been born.  All he wanted to do was go out and party.  “What is there to do in this town,” he carried on.  “What’s good?  Where are the clubs at?  Who’s coming out partying with me tonight?” 

And all I saw was my father…and the rage slowly boiled in my blood.

“I thought we were going to have some family time,” I said.

“Yeah.  Yeah, of course.  We’ll have family time.  But it’s the weekend.  So, let’s get this party going!  Where’s the Hard Rock?  Let’s go gambling!  I got a grand burning a hole in my pocket.  Let’s do this.”

Not the faintest hint of moral dilemma in his eyes.  No thought to his grieving wife back at home.  No thought to his three children, ages 9 through 13, who are suffering right now, listening to mommy cry at night as they go to bed.  The three of them acutely aware of what their father did…but having to suffer the consequence of his insanely selfish actions.  There was a lot of arguing between my brother and I. I would try to talk to him, try to get his face out of his phone and off the texting that was going on between him and this random girl (who, incidentally, DOES know my sister in law and apparently, does not care about sleeping with her husband).  I tried to keep my brother focused. 

“Go to the mall with your nephew,” I told him.  “He’s missed you.  Go spend time with him.”

My son reported back to me that Uncle spent his entire time at the mall walking alongside him with his face buried in the phone.  We went out for dinner.  Same thing.  Out for breakfast with family. Same thing.  Went to go visit my husbands family.  Same thing.  Face buried in that phone…no consideration to any one else.

And I finally exploded.

My brother declared he had to “get the fuck outta here”.  Apparently, the whore that he had taken up with was giving him ultimatums about coming home.  He was pacing the floors, gotta go gotta go gotta go gotta go.  Change my ticket change my ticket change my ticket now now now now now now.  It was around then that I released the wrath of 9 year old me all over him.  Everything that 9 year old me ever wanted to say to that stupid, selfish, piece of shit father of mine came flying out of my mouth.  Only now, it was 45 year old me, screaming it at my baby brother…who looks like the man, acts like the man.  We fought ferociously to the point where he was punching the dashboard of my car, jumping out of it in the middle of the highway and me, considering throwing my truck in reverse to run him over and leave him to join the same fate as his father…dying under the wheels of a truck.  All of a sudden, that wild rush came through me…and the fury was too huge to fight.  I couldn’t contain it any longer and in that instant, I wanted him to die…and I wanted ME to the be the one who put him in that box.  I wanted him to suffer for the things he did to me, but it wasn’t him. It was my father. I wanted him to suffer for the things I knew he was about to put my beautiful niece through.  She is now the same 9 year old little desperate girl that I was at the time, and I knew what lay before her.  I walked this road before…and I felt so justified in just removing my brother from this world to spare her all the pain.  Let her father die while she still loves him and still wants him in her life.  Let him just die that way…before she grows up hating him, blaming him for every failed relationship in her life.  Never trusting men ever again because she couldn’t trust the one who gave her life.  I just wanted to hear his body under the tires of my truck as I rolled over him again and again and again.

Fast forward once more.

I am at home.  He is gone, back on an airplane New York bound, on the way to ruin the innocent lives of my precious niece and my two nephews.  On the way home to destroy whatever little is left of my sister in laws self esteem.  He is going home to break everyone’s hearts.  My parents.  Her parents.  All the children involved.  And the last thing he said to me…”This isn’t about YOU, this is about ME!  It’s always been about ME!”

Yes.  Yes, “Dad”.  It was always about you.  And because it was always about you…hearts died in the process.

I turned on the song “Helpless” by Neil Young.  It is off the album “Everyone Knows This is Nowhere” and was one of my fathers favorite songs.  I put my head down and I cried.  I cried long and hard from a place so deep within me that I knew I was no longer an adult woman, but that little girl whose father destroyed her self esteem, her sense of security, her trust and faith and most of all, destroyed her life.  I wept so hard for this broken doll inside of me.  The pain was palpable.  I could feel her within me, so angry for never getting a chance to tell the real man who ruined my life what I really thought of him.  Angry, that now my relationship with my brother, my one link to that time in my life is now irretrievably broken. I cried for loss.  I cried from abandonment.  I cried for the realization that I was left to my own devices by my daddy when I was only 9 years old, the same age my niece is right now.  And wept harder still…because I know now, as a 45 year old woman, that I can never, ever get those moments back, nor can I save my niece from becoming a 45 year old woman who is going to inevitably look back with the same pain, grief and anger.

It’s been two days since my brother left town.

He sent me a text message.  “Left my sneakers there.  Can you ship them to me?”

No apology.  No “I’m sorry” for hurting you.  No sense of responsibility for the devastation he left in his wake.  No regret.  Just concern for his sneakers.

He is, after all, his father’s son.

And I sit here, my heart still torn wide open, trying to wrestle with the fact that I have all these open wounds that I thought were long gone, but realize now they were just scabbed up, waiting to be torn wide open to bleed, to fester, to become infected.  It is a painful realization to find out that what you thought you were so far past in your life, you never really resolved after all.  You just buried it deep down, burned it in a box and scattered the ashes somewhere.

Eventually, the winds of time blow them back at you.  You suffocate in their thickness as they choke you and blind you. You shake your head to clear your thoughts, to gain some sense of vision and clarity.  Then suddenly, you realize.   The game remains the same…only the players have changed. 

And like a lost little child on a subway heading to Queens at 2am…you brave it alone.

Home is only a few more stops away. 

Focus 52: Shadows

I love make up.

I am a girly girl who lives and dies for the sparkle, the shimmer, the gloss, the gleam, the bling, the shiny and all things that are wonderfully and magically feminine.

Lately, I haven’t been feeling so girly.

Since my hysterectomy, it has been hard for me to jump back on the “Sparkle Wagon” as I call it and make myself fabulous.  It’s been a real struggle. A chore for me.  Even showering is a process.  Bending over to shave my legs is a true production as I can feel the incisions in my abdomen tugging hard to the point where they feel like they are going to snap.  Showering usually exhausts me to the point where I don’t feel like going out any longer.

The other day, in the mail, one of my dear friends, a fellow blogger who shares my love of all things make up, sent me a pallet of eye shadows, cheek tints and a nude lip gloss.  Just something to brighten my day and make me feel “gorg” (as she put it) after all the shit I have been through as of late.  Well, I played with those eye shadows in a gazillion different color combinations on my arm til it looked like one big long bruise.

You know, when a bruise is healing?  All those crazy colors; purples, yellows, greens, blues, blacks.

And when I realized that, I scrubbed my arm clean.  It brought me back to a time in my life where I had to rely on cover up, thick, copious amounts of cover up, to cover up bruises that were given to me by someone who claimed they loved me.  As I was washing off my arm, still staring at these glorious eye shadows, I wondered why…why would I be thinking about something so terrible out of nowhere when just five minutes earlier, I was in girly girl heaven?

Then, I realized.  20 years.  This November will be 20 years since someone tried to end my existence on this planet.  20 years since someone beat me into a coma with a baseball bat in front of my 4 year old daughter.  20 years since doctors told my parents that I may not come back from this and if I do, I will probably have severe brain damage for the rest of my life.  The “anniversary”, if you will, of one of the worst moments of my entire life.  I suppose it had been brewing just under the surface in me for awhile.  The night before receiving this wonderful present from my friend, I had had a very restless sleep.  At one point, my husband had to wake me, because not only had my sleep been fitful, but apparently at one point, I ended up flailing about, punching him violently and screaming for whomever I was dreaming about to “leave me alone, leave me alone…stop!”  My husband shook me awake.  “It’s me, baby…it’s me,” he said as he slowly brought me out of my tortured slumber and back into reality.  I stared at him for a minute, still confused and somewhat dazed.

“It’s me,” he said again, softly.

“Okay,” I nodded, understanding that he was reassuring me that I was safe.  “Okay.”

I curled back up on his chest and went back to sleep.

It’s peculiar to me that even 20 years later, the silliest of things can trigger me.  A certain scent.  The sound of a man’s voice when it is particularly gruff and laden heavily with a thick, italian accent.  There are specific sounds that make me jittery, like the sounds of footsteps on a wooden floor, especially if that wood floor creaks.  There are certain actors I can’t watch on TV or in the movies who remind me of my abuser and even if the movie is supposedly “sooooooooooo good,” I will still avoid it like the plague.

The day after I got my friends gift, I went back into my bathroom, and played in front of my mirror again, combining golds with peacock blues and and lush, rich purple shadows.  And it became fun again.  The joy was restored because those other shadows, the kind that hover over you and wake you from restful slumber…the kind that haunt your thoughts and dreams, the kinds that are long, tall and ominous?  They eventually go away.  And they are replaced by 16 pots of beautiful eye shadows sent with love from a gret friend.  A silly soap opera palette called “The Balm and the Beautiful”…with names like “The Other Woman”, “The Drama Queen” and my personal favorite, “The Perfect Man.”

However, I think I will steer clear of the one called “The Coma Patient” for a little while.

Hits a little too close to home.  😉