Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘love’

Trumpatized – Canada Is Not The Answer

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I have been finding snatches of time in the day to cry since the election. A friend called it being Trumpatized. A great term combining Trump and traumatized, the cause of the trauma and the condition it is triggering. My reaction, disbelief and grief and anger over the election, has to find little crevasses in the day. Last Wednesday, I cried through Kathleen’s yoga class. I am pretty sure I was not alone. I cry between sessions and in sessions with some of my clients as they tell how they have been triggered back to memories of traumatic events from their past.

Right or wrong, whether you voted for him or not, Trump has reawakened many people’s past memories, snakes of violence jerked out of hibernation., and caused people to wonder about the moral development of the country. I can’t answer these questions.

I can give you some ideas for comfort through this time –

  • Get enough sleep – not too much and not too little. Your neurotransmitter level will thank you.
  • Eat warm and easy-to-digest foods – carbohydrates are helpful, soups, stews, chilis, tea.
  • Stay away from too much caffeine – it will further agitate you.
  • Keep your alcohol level to a minimum – flashbacks and memories seep in when guards are down and alcohol lowers the brain’s guardrails.
  • Be active – it will help you keep things in balance, regulate your nervous system, and get you out of your house (where I am likely to brood …)
  • Dress warm – it will calm your body so it doesn’t feel under siege.
  • Respect other people’s property – march and protest but this is not a time to riot nor recreate Kristallnacht.
  • Cry, find places and people who can accept your response.
  • If you can’t get out of bed or still feel numb, see a therapist. It’s okay to get some help.
  • Try not to re-Trumpatize yourself with on-going news shows and articles.
  • Turn off your blue screens one hour before bedtime to give your brain a chance to settle down. This decreases the frequency of nightmares and allows for more restful sleep.

(Holiday meals are not the time to bring up your differences. Everyone has someone dear to them who voted in a way opposite to you. Don’t spoil this time.)

Here’s the kicker – you need to do something. As I see it, we have three options –

  • Do nothing – that will keep you at war with yourself – only so many ostriches tolerated in this world.
  • Work to promote your beliefs – join a group, start a group, volunteer for a group.
  • Accept the results with grace – promote coming together with as calm a presence as you can.

You can do one or some combination of the three. But do something – the first option leads to feeling impotent which leads to violence against yourself and others. (Oh, and please don’t move to Canada.)

The choice is yours.

 

The Pickle Story

picklestoryAN EXCERPT from a short story published in the anthology, Robot Hearts. (A woman performs the Heimlich Maneuver and goes out on a date with the man she saved.)

This month has been hard.  My clients are doing the usual two-week ramp up before the Christmas holidays.  They talk about their parties, hangovers, family brouhahas, and impulsive sexual escapades.  The entire month makes me want to act out with them. So I did.

My holiday escapade began when I made an awkward phone call to the man from synagogue that went something like this:

“Hello.  I’m the woman from Friday night services.”

“Oh, I didn’t think you would call.”

“Well, it was sweet of you to come out to my car and say thank you.”

“It was amazing how far the ruggelah flew.”

“Yes. The rabbi was surprised.”

I tapped my fingers. Reconnected with my eye twitch. Good bloody grief.  I cut to the chase.  “What do you think about dinner?”

“I like dinner,” he said.

“You had suggested we go to dinner.”

“Oh yes, I forgot.”

“What kind of food do you like?” I asked.

“Oh most things.  Hamburgers, meatloaf, chicken soup, ice cream.”

I had a moment – a long moment of wondering, “Is this worth it?” I decided to carry on.

“Do you know Mitch’s Tavern?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well.  I know Mitch and he can make some great chilli and sandwiches but not hamburgers.”

“I don’t like spicy food.”

“What, never mind. When are you thinking?” I said.

“What?”

“Do you have a date, a time in mind?”

“No.  Do you?”

“How about Tuesday?”

“Okay.”

“So we have the date?”

“Good.  I’ll be there,” he said.

“Good.  But what time?”

“After work.”

“Okay, let’s pull this together.  Tuesday at 7 pm at Mitch’s Tavern?”

“How will I know you?”

“I’m the one who saved your life.”

“Oh yeah.  Short, skinny, red hair, but God you were strong.”

“Looking forward to it,” I said.

I was sitting at the bar, talking with Mitch, the owner when a series of clunks echoed up the gloomy staircase.  David clomped his way over. “It’s good to see you getting out,” said Mitch and winked before strolling off.

A cute, college waitress showed us to our booth.  She smiled in first date sympathy as she handed over the menus.

“I’ll give you a few minutes to figure out your order.  What would you like to drink?”

“Knob Creek. A few ice cubes.”

David’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline.

“Budweiser.”

I smiled at him. He did not smile back.

“You’re prettier than I remembered.”

“Thanks.  It must be the lighting.”

We studied our menus like college students cramming that last little factoid before a history exam.

The waitress appeared with my bourbon, two waters, and his beer.  “Mitch said it’s on the house.  What would you like to eat?”

“A Rueben with fries,” I said.

“Ham and cheese.  Hold the pickle.  I don’t eat pickles,” he said.

“I’ll eat your pickle.  No, no wait.  I won’t eat your pickle.  Well not tonight.  Maybe later.  Another time?  NO.  Keep your pickle.  Not that there’s anything wrong with your pickle.  I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine pickle, just not a pickle for me tonight.  No, no pickle for me.  I gave them up.  All that brine has got to bad for the mucous membranes.”  I sputtered, feeling this deep pull in my belly.  A spasm, a fit, a seizure, a visceral understanding of the absurdity of the situation.  I started to laugh.  Really laugh like I hadn’t in a long time.  The waitress and I were rolling, wiping tears out of our eyes.  The table shook with us.  She had to sit down.  I offered her my bourbon.

David locked eyes with me.  His gaze suggested I had disemboweled his dog.  The waitress moved away.  The table was cocooned in a judgmental silence.

Dinner was fast.  We politely shook hands.  David walked away.  I went back to Mitch’s Tavern.  The waitress and I stayed up late drinking bourbon and trading war stories.  We decided to just walk away the next time someone chokes.

Lying face up on my bed sifting through the night’s events, I watched the first apricot rays of dawn dance across the floor.  Rod would have understood the pickle story.  He would have fed me the pickle, spending our last twenty bucks to buy bourbons for the four of us (me, him, the waitress, Mitch).  He would have made crude remarks for years about green vegetables.  The pickle fiasco would have become a little tease, a pickle tickle about the connection between sex and love and laughter, another little curlicue in our goofy love story.

 

Not A Trivial Pursuit

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I cried three weeks ago. It was the anniversary of my wedding to Rod and it has taken me three weeks to get up the courage to write about it. It’s been twenty years since he died and I thought it wouldn’t sadden me to write about it. But I was wrong. It is bittersweet.

I was terrified of getting married again. My first, starter, marriage had been a disaster on about every level. Coming out of it left me stranded in a town I disliked, with no money, in the middle of graduate school, and deeply scared of men. Most men. (My first husband has deeper issues, he told people I had died.)

Luckily Rod was not most men. He was a gentle giant who would call me on my shit and own up to his own pile of crap. We were very good at living together. So good I managed to avoid thinking too much about the future.

When the topic of marriage first came up – pretty early on he brought it up – I refused to marry him until he was twenty-five. “Your brain changes so much between now and 25. No way.” I was a tad older. Rod kept bringing up the subject. I would say, “No, no, no. You’re not twenty-five.” And I would throw him a bone – get another dog, wax the floors (really, no euphemism here), scrape paint off the old house we lived in with a heat gun at one in the morning. Our neighbors thought we were weird but … it worked for us. Our friends thought we were weird. We just smiled at them and carried on living our lives. Rod worked in a corporate setting and kept the pack of dogs we had accumulated. I finished my graduate degrees while doing some esoteric artwork on tubs, walls, and fireplaces.

 

All around us friends and colleagues were getting married. We went to the weddings, toasted them, got toasted, and went home to our lovely coupleness. I was happy.

I thought all was well until the night we were sitting at a bar drinking tequila and dark beer. We were in the middle of a highly competitive game of Trivial Pursuit when he pulled the plug.

“Do you want to get married or go to Greece?”

I downed a shot of tequila. “Greece,” I said wracking my brain for a song lyric.

“I’m twenty-five in three months and I want to get married.” He said the words slowly. The noise in the bar receded until I could hear the sounds of my ass shifting on the stool.

I knew I wasn’t ready. “Can we do both?”

I heard Rod put down his beer. “No.” His fingers drummed the varnished wood.

I looked up from worrying about my next piece on the game board. “Why not?”

“We don’t have the money for both.”

Looking into his eyes, I saw how much was riding on my answer. I had a weird realization of ‘this is it. He will leave me if I don’t ante up.’ I gulped. My brain flooded with panic. The thought, ‘I have time,’ barreled into my love for this man. My moment of truth with myself and him. Did I love this man more than my fear? That sounds so clichéd.

“Okay.” The thought of losing him was more frightening than the thought of facing my commitment fears.

 

That’s how we came to be engaged.

In my counseling office, people tell stories of their romantic lives; how they met each other, their shining moments, and the times they howl with wounds inflicted by the relationship. Coupling is never easy, and people want easy relationships. Immediately. I commiserate then I push the lesson.

I learned two important things during the night of the engagement. First off, a good relationship is full of pain from growth. Relationships are lovely in some moments and terrifying in other moments. Second, you are never really ready. But I would not have missed or changed our relationship for the world.

Friends and Shoes

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After the year of surgeries, as I refer to 2015, I am aware from toes to fingertips of the importance of friends. They shuttle you to doctors’ offices, listen to your medication-invoked ramblings, get the tissues for you after one more painful procedure, and feed you.

But I these memories are too close for me to view too closely. I need further therapy. Today I will pay homage to friendship with a goofy tale of two friends who went that extra … step for me.

Many years ago, when my heart was young or at least a tad less cynical, I danced tango. Not the stiffly beautiful ballroom tango but the achey-breakey heart Argentine tango. The dance of the bordellos or in North Carolina, the dance of late night restaurants with good wood floors where the men dressed in black to set off the bright dresses of the women in stilettos. (I wore black Mary Janes with a 3 ½ inch heel, stylish enough heels but thicker than stilettos.) And tango has drama. Hot sticky drama.

At a milonga, the name of a tango flash mob, I was celebrating my approaching birthday when up meandered an ex-lover. Handsome in a calculated and soon-my-degradation-will-show kind of way. A mean as a snake, stab and watch you almost bleed to death before calling 911, ex-lover. And he brought with him his new … friend. Now this was only a couple of months beyond our break-up. A devastating affair where I felt like I had been sucker punched after three months of total bullshit back-and-forthing on his part. She sauntered in on his arm, plopped herself onto a stool, and looked around for an audience. She put on shiny high, 4 inch high stilettos with sparkly rhinestone designs on their straps. The men gaped. A fleeting image of clubbing her with them danced through my mind.

Anyone who has been in this situation knows you have two options. Leave. Damned if I will go that route. Or carry on. My friends rallied around me. I danced my heart out or numb along with my toes as my friends checked on me every ten minutes. Tension was high. Dancers and even the restaurant staff were watching. I wasn’t going to give up. I had a stiff upper lip being British and I had friends. Solicitous and goofy-assed friends who loved me. More than I knew right then.

Somehow I made it threw the night, agreed to meet my friends for dinner the next day, and cried myself to sleep. Putting on my happy face and a drawer full of make-up to cover up the dark circles under my eyes, I drove out to meet them at the restaurant. My friends smiled at me. Mischievous, wicked smiles reminiscent of “I have done something that is mildly illegal and possibly morally ambivalent.”

We drank some champagne before the chocolate cake arrived with the one, only one, candle. And a gaily wrapped present was placed beside the dessert. I made a wish, a completely unrepeatable wish and blew out the candle. I ripped through the paper to the box below, yanked off the lid, riffled through the wadded tissue, and drew out a shoe. I held out the shoe. A used shoe. Not my size shoe. I looked at them. They smiled back before bursting into laughter. I rooted around for the other shoe. Nothing.

“Why did you give me one shoe?”

“Guess whose shoe it is?”

We fell out of seats giggling, guffawing, all the laughing verbs. Eventually, I had to get rid of the evidence by burying the shoe in the backyard next to a patch of Black-Eyed Susans. These are great friends. I’m going to love these friends forever. They had my back. I can’t imagine life with all its ups and downs, loves and disappointments, without this depth of friendship. I hope you have friends like these to help you through life’s dramas.

 

To all my friends, past, present, and future, love love love.

What We Remember

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I miss the Fish-Fucker. Twenty years after his death, I don’t think of him every day or even every month. But now and then, when my face is half-turned or my body settles into the space between breaths, the death pause, I hear his laughter and expect to see his large green eyes crinkling at me. Then guilt rushes in because I haven’t been thinking of him or even missing him. Because I have moved on. Grown away. Like the lover who was once the center of your universe but now you struggle to remember his name.

While the features of his face have become fuzzy, I remember him as Fish-Fucker. He earned that name. It was given by friends one night when life had a summertime feeling of infinity. Love was taken for granted – it was rock solid.

We had gone to our friends for the night. They had a big house with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking their dock. Our usual group of friends had gathered for a potluck and billiards. We drank and ate plenty. The kids were enjoying some Disney Princess tape on the big screen TV covering one wall of the den and we were settling in for the night. Couples had grabbed extra bedrooms. We had lain out our stuff on the beds to drift back to the den.

“Let’s go skinny-dipping,” Peg said.

“Yeah,” said her husband.

“In the pond?” I asked.

“Yeah,” they said in a chorus.

Rod had looked at me. I shrugged. “Go. I’ll stay with Denise and look after the kids.”

“Okay,” he said.

I think the skinny-dippers got naked outside on the dark porch. There was a rustle of leaves and some thuds as they must have made their way down to the pond. Denise and I heard a series of loud and not so loud splashes.

“Guess they made it in. Trevor give your sister back her Barbie,” Denise said. We played with the kids as the tape wound down to the end. Various splishes and splashes were heard from the area of the pond.

The night was dark. No moon or stars to throw light so were we surprised to hear a line of feet running across the deck, hooting and hollering, then a mass of pale bodies streaking across the long line of windows.

“Is that Daddy?” asked Trevor with his toddler lisp.

“Yep,” said Denise.

There was a clamor as doors were thrown open and naked people scattered into their rooms. Denise and I turned to look at each other.

“Kids let’s get ready for bed. First one dressed and under the covers gets a tummy tickle,” I said.

A half hour later, the kids were tucked in as the adults floated into the den, showered and smiling. Smiling pointedly at me. It was unnerving. I looked around for Rod.

“Where’s Rod?” I asked.

“Do you recall stocking that pond with bass?” asked Denise’s husband.

“Sure. We helped build the dock.”

“Well. Something out there said thank you,” said Peg.

Oh no. I walked, walked fast to our room. “Rod honey. You okay?” Muffled sounds came from the bathroom. “I can’t hear you.” Some slight whimpering came from under the bathroom door. “I’m coming in,” I said twisting the door handle.

My husband was sitting in a t-shirt, pant less on the commode. He said, “Something bit me.”

“What?”

“Something in the pond bit me,” he said with a catch in his voice.

“You’re kidding?”

“No I think it was a fish.”

“Where did the big ole fish bite you,” I said in a not very sympathetic way.

He pointed down, down there. “I can’t see it.” Rod tried to bend his 6’3” frame to look at his down there.  “Do you think I need to go to the ER?”

“Well. Let me have a look,” I said mentally squaring my shoulders. Taking a deep breath, I looked at his dinkie. Sure enough, Rod had two tiny, really teeny little bite marks.

“A vampire bass?” I asked trying to smother my giggles.

“It’s not funny,” said my husband.

“Okay dokey,” I said trying to assume a serious face.

“It was a bass,” said Rod without a hint of a smile.

“Sure, large-mouth. Uh huh,” I said.

Out in the den, I asked our friends, “Any hydrogen peroxide available. Maybe a bandage?”

Everyone fell over laughing, belly spasming, whooping laughter.

“How is the Fish-Fucker?”

“I’m sure he’ll recover nicely or his dinkie will fall off,” I said. Always the soul of practicality.

From that night on, among a few select friends, Rod was known as the Fish-Fucker. He took the name in the spirit it was given – the good-natured poke of friends. Always responding with the caveat, “It was a large-mouth bass.” I will never forget this memory.

Tonight, to avenge Rod, the Fish-Fucker, I am going to eat fish.

Weird Times

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I’m at this really weird time in my life – mid 50s where I am working as hard as possible but seeing opportunities land elsewhere. In younger people’s laps.

My friends are talking about retiring, counting down the days, and planning their last great adventure. About five years ago, I realized I would be working until I died. Through a couple of lousy turns of the luck and some bad planning on my part, I will never be able to retire. Not ever.

Being unable to see a retirement in my future has impacted most areas of my life freaking me out. How did this happen? How did I not notice? Maybe it is a combination of my friends being 5 to 10 years older and in the last of the pensioned jobs. Maybe it has to do with being single or the two major downturns, more like plummets, of the stock market. Maybe it is a realization of the probability of being single when I die. Most likely the realization became embedded with fright after last year’s string of surgeries.

My friends are settling into their last homes and having what they consider safe adventures – cruises. Paying deposits for communities that allow you to move through ever increasing levels of care. I look at my townhouse and wonder how I will get up those steps in 15 years when my knees and hips give out. But who will give a mortgage to some one nearing retirement … So I have been told to plan for my infirmity. Like a good old codger, I have. Replacing the HVAC system. Replumbing. Changing out appliances. Getting stuff out of the attic and into easily accessible storage. Definitely must upgrade my refrigerator.

My 30-year yoga practice has changed. I said good-bye to the Level 2/3 classes, taking and teaching them. In class, it seems quite pig-headed to keep attempting something apt to hurt myself to appease my ego. But on interviews for yoga teaching jobs, employers do one of two things. They assume I want the gentle and restorative classes or I get pressured into those jobs.

I’m having to hunt down new doctors – my current doctors are retiring. I understand that my new doctors will be younger than me with little empathy for aging’s undeniable march. For example, my forty-year old orthopedist said, “You will never dance again.” I will dance tango again, even Lindy. Just watch me. “Wear sneakers 24/7.” Not bloody likely. I may lower my shoes’ heels from a 4” to 3” height but I will wear the handmade leather shoes from Italy with a tight skirt and fishnets.

I am the patient doctors keep badgering to schedule a colonoscopy, a skin cancer exam, but no one asks me about birth control or safe sex anymore. Maybe they think I’m too old to still be having sex.

Then there’s the men and dating.

No, I don’t want to go antiquing – never liked it so why should I like it now?

Yes, I do want to go for a hike at a decent pace.

No, I don’t want to have dinner at 5pm and go to sleep at 8pm.

Yes, I like to nap but I have liked to nap since I was 4.

No, I don’t want a sexless relationship. Sometimes it feels as if I have aged out of the sexually active category. I could stand naked by a motel with a sign reading, “The room is already paid for” and no one would take me up on the proposition.

Then there are the well-meaning people sending me articles to settle, for a man, any man who is breathing. No thank you. I deserve love as much as someone in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

I am under pressure to go on that last great vacation. One doctor told me to do everything on my bucket list before 50 because after that I would need really, really good trip insurance. “All kinds of medical things happen.” Wow, groovy, I still plan to go to Argentina.

Maybe, quite possibly, I should replace the word ‘weird’ with ‘irritable.’ I am at this really irritable time in my life.

Celebrating the Mishaps

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I was lighting the candles for the last night of Chanukah, The Festival of Lights, when this memory plunked into my consciousness. Plunked with such Maccabean might that I dropped the candle setting a Chanukah card on fire. Unfortunately for my neighbors, the flaming card set off the smoke detector. A saner head than mine pulled the glass of wine out of my hand before I fully reenacted the family saga of celebratory mishaps.

“Hah, I am my mother’s daughter. There is a genetic memory of Yes you are repeating what your mother did and probably her mother and her mother’s mother before her …

On the remembered Friday night, Mom, beautiful and hard to forget with her bright red hair and twinkling blue eyes, was wearing a powder blue dress, probably highly flammable. It was the seventies. I wore a hair band. The family had been to IHOP for dinner (a Friday night tradition) and we were ready to pray in temple (Jewish synagogue). Mom was lighting the Sabbath candles on the Bimah (synagogue stage) when the event happened.

It had been a good night with minimal fighting among the siblings. No one was expecting what happened next. I was sitting in the last row of seats with my sister and brother. No major faux pas had occurred like the time my sister let one rip in the middle of a sermon or the time my brother fell asleep tumbling out of the row into the center aisle with a soul-shaking clunk or the time I tripped in Mom’s borrowed heels inadvertently performing the Heimlich anti-choking maneuver to hurl scrambled eggs and pancakes over the entire row. You get the idea. Mine is a long line of the etiquette challenged.

Back to my memory, Mom was standing on the Bimah about to light the last candle on the Shabbat menorah (think ornate candelabra) when her sleeve caught fire on an already flaming candle. Trying to pat it out with a certain je ne sais quoi, she knocked the candle out of her hand. The lit candle sailed end over end to pole vault over the waist high gate separating the people on the Bimah from the rabble. The flaming missile arced towards the new burgundy carpet. Not quite shag. Flammable. Near the audience (congregation).

A little curl of smoke started up towards the ceiling. Mom’s eyes got very wide. The periwinkle blue polyester of her dress smoldered. My sister nudged me in the ribs. I sat up straight. Paid attention. My little brother snorted.

The curl ate the nylon carpet in a zigzag pattern turning into a flame zipping around the Bimah. I thought, Ah, a burnt sacrifice. Mom was yelling, “Oops, please somebody do something,” in her perfect British boarding school voice used only in situations of I am in so much shit or You are in so much shit.

The President of the temple rushed down from the Bimah into the fire. He stamped and stamped. The head of the religious school came over to spit on the fire. The fire continued despite the stamping and spitting. My mother threw the ceremonial wine on the spiritual fire. Poof. The President’s tie caught on fire. By my count, two people and one carpet were on fire. One woman was out of spit. I sucked in my gut trying not to laugh too conspicuously. With a unified Oy Vey, people in the front pews hastily moved towards the back of the sanctuary.

At the point when it looked like either the fire department or a miracle was called for, the Rabbi pulled a fire extinguisher from under the podium. With a few oaths unseemly for a spiritual leader, he jumped over the gate and sprayed the fire into submission. The Rabbi turned to the congregation.

“Please be seated. Let us continue with our service on page … “ he said motioning my mother off the Bimah where she was never asked to perform another thing, read another line, or get anywhere near an open flame on synagogue grounds.

Then the sprinklers turned on.

The three of us kids sat in awe, sweat-producing awe, of yet another Young family fuck-up. We were doubled over with laughter. And a little embarrassment as the Jewish community’s wrath rained down upon us.

This year, with all its tragedies, I hope your holidays are full of laughter and light.

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