Simply Grateful

Today I am grateful for all the things I over look, take for granted, grateful for the ground underneath me staying still and solid, for the sky above me remaining calm, that I am in good health and so is my cat, Velvet. Even though I have zoned out today, letting time skip in a blur, I am letting tomorrow come as I would unfold a new and unexpected gift — because everyday I’m alive, even if I’m sore or lonely or sad, is a day to celebrate! Even if I have no place to go tomorrow, I plan to dance out the door and face any little adventure available to me with great knowing gladness.

This is the conclusion I come to most usually despite the nights I weep over the friends and family who have died, or left, and sometimes in their absence I have to pinch myself to remember to refresh the experiences of joy that they brought into my life. It’s far too easy to beat myself up over the losses. I’m not sure why my body and mind misbehaves like that when I’m most tired, weakest, vulnerable… most usually when I can’t sleep, or haven’t slept, and the days and nights of insomnia blend into a kind of non-existence. There are times when living the Solitary Life can cage me into a shadowy, hidden place, when my introversion doesn’t serve any purpose but prolong depression.

Last week, as part of an independent living community volunteer service, a peer counselor invited me to a house run by people like her. It was a way for me to get out of my shell again, and I have to tell you, I did panic a little! All of the panic immediately faded when I recognized women from downtown. It’s a relief to know I’m not the only woman in town dealing with menopause, grieving, and depression, etc., and the plus side is none of them were the judgmental type. All of them were used to dealing with the same things I deal with, some of them trained nurses and “travel buddies” who assist people like me with communicating with other people. What a relief to discover resources around and about where I live! The only con is we have limited volunteers. But it could be worse. A neighboring city isn’t as open-minded as mine, treating such “club houses” for the mentally ill community as troublesome. *makes frowny face* Whatever.

I once wrote about there needs to be a shrine on every block, or in every neighborhood, well, I want to revise that and say there needs to be places of refuge in every city for people who have emotional and mental distress. In these places we should be able to let ourselves cry, volunteer our time there to be shoulders to cry on, and provide ears to listen to other peoples’ concerns and problems. There should be kitchens and stoves for free that we can stock for anyone who needs a break, or who ever wants to brew a hot beverage or warm up a hot dish for people who need a little home style comfort.

Because not all of us have that kind of social interaction with others. I got through months without it. When I don’t see people so often in that ordinary way, I get all kinds of homesick. I miss my mother. I miss her home cooking. I’ll never get her kind of care ever again. There are no substitutes for her. Just as there are no substitutes for anyone else. Each loved one I’ve lost is a gem!

And I used to shine so brightly when I had more of those gems in my crown.

But as I write that, I cannot ignore the brilliant new gems in my life whom I should polish on a more regular basis instead of neglect while I fall into my darkness. I don’t want anyone to feel like I don’t listen to them more than I do voices who put me down in the past.

However, it’s a slow process to turn off the repetitive memories and words of those whom I could not reach a resolution with.

I will not talk about any one relationship, but there are three people I wish would have talked to me in person, face to face, in order to erase all the assumptions that ultimately severed us. But, then again, to even request contact would mean to them, I’m assuming, that I’m not able to let go, that I’m still unhealthy and manipulative, and whatever. I’m “meh” at this point. I just want my passion back. I don’t know how to get it back. I only know how to go on living… and dancing.

When I get moments of release, I eat them up! Early this morning at 4am, I had this incredible surge of energy and started to just dance, dance, DANCE. My cat, Velvet, chased after me, so I grabbed a ribbon and lashed it around me so we could dance together. Moments turned into an hour. As I got my wiggle out, it was good to just let my cares go, to work myself into exhaustion, and drop into my pillows again, anxious for the evening.

Because I slept all day, and now that night has come, the woods and cool, wet night air is heavy with that wet bark smell, I feel all cares are gone. That there is hope for my passion to creep back. Velvet is a doll, she tilts her head up, prances around me, anxious for me to get off the computer so I can go to being her giant cat toy again. She hasn’t taken the place of Mr. Snuggles, but she does the same thing he used to do: remind me to unplug from all the bad memories and PLAY!

And so I plan, just like I wrote at the end in the first paragraph, even if I have no place to go tomorrow, I plan to dance out the door and face any little adventure available to me with great knowing gladness.

I’m Not Laughing, But I Will Smile for Robin

When I heard about his death, I knew it wasn’t a joke. Yet, like the song, it seemed like he “started a joke that sent the whole world crying…” Oh, Robin, sweet Mr. Williams, I wish that one smile of my own could have kept you alive. But no matter now that I’m not laughing, I will smile for you.

There is always hope. Eighty percent of us who seek treatment for our depression don’t kill ourselves, yet the strongest risk factor of depression is suicide. Yet we can’t ignore that fifteen percent of the clinically depressed end their lives. Many of those also suffer from substance abuse problems. I’m not writing this as if this were some book report. Feel I need to provide some bright facts. *grumbles*

I know too many people who have died at their own hands. The first death I ever witnessed was a suicide. He promised me and other friends that he’d be everyone’s worst nightmare.

And promptly aimed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

In
front
of
me
.

He was only 17 years old, and since the age of 14 he battled addiction. He wouldn’t be the first person I knew who committed suicide, but he was the first and most violent.

Robin Williams disappeared just as violently as that boy I used to know. Those blue eyes of his sparkled with tears as much as laughter. Robin always reminded me of the kind of guy that’s the life of the party, but parties end, and he, like so many who suffer from depression, I can see turned to drink to keep that feeling of euphoria flowing… self medication they call it. I think all addicts are mentally ill.

I’m no addict, yet I can understand the despair that drags someone to the bottom of existence. I suffer from manic depression. In fact it is something that keeps me from writing, but sometimes it really gets me obsessively writing! I have not updated my blog since I was critiqued harshly for writing too many posts that were my purest expressions of grief. I felt obligated to be of great cheer to write, yet as William S. Burroughs wrote, “A writer lives the sad truth like anyone else. The only difference is, he files a report on it” and that is very much like me. Like many, many other people.

We’re all lonely and sad together on this one planet, aren’t we?

Oh, I’m not unhappy all the time. At other times I’m a pure joy jumping with glee and I can barely contain it! Over the last few years I’ve written a lot about my emotional pain, the scars of my personal grieving process over the loss of my mother and friends I boldly display whether or not anyone is reading, and not all poetry I produce is about one person or that thing that made me sad. However…

What I’ve learned all my life dealing with mental illness (in my family and my own experience): people judge you for everything you do and say once you’re under that label, you will lose friends constantly due to behavior you can curb and can’t control, and there are times when the pain is so intense no one else can possibly gauge how you feel or help you with just words.

All one can do is keep going, which makes things all the more difficult because even though everyone likes to say “help is available” or even we like to tell someone glum the bland statement “You need help” and the ever so useless “things will get better”, they don’t have a clue how to go about helping anyone, or themselves. Not unless you open up. AND even then not unless someone is there to listen. To just be there to listen! I’ve often been asked, “How can I help you?” whenever I’ve felt so down I might as well be crawling.

The answer is fairly simple: “Don’t do anything but be there.”

Playing a supportive role takes doing nothing and comes with a lot of “don’t do this” rules. Like don’t judge. As well as one very important “be” and that is: be gentle.

You thought I was about to say “be understanding” didn’t you?

Being gentle to someone in pain takes a special kindness, far better even than attempting to understand. When someone is in physical pain, or suffering from a bleeding wound, would you be tough with them? Soothing the illness helps ease. We want to transform “disease” to “ease” — the depression can’t go away, no one can make it disappear, but we can make the ways we endure it easier by simply helping each other reach peace.

But.

What happens when “being there” is not enough? I don’t think I can answer that for anyone else, yet even I find myself trying to come up with answers for and why and because.

So I write like I do when I think out loud to myself.

The path to emotional wellness is also a physical health issue fraught with so many ups and downs, I’m surprised anyone survives it. Few folks truly feel inclined to believe a person who eventually turns to suicide to end their constant suffering (not that I’m condoning it, mind you!) justifiably did it to truly end their true suffering.  What many don’t realize is that depression is long term suffering, especially since any kind of depression isn’t just simply explained away as a case of the blues.

I believe when suicides happen, individuals are in deep pain as serious as with any disease. Robin Williams was an actor whose struggles to keep sober and to combat his constant manic ups and downs wore him out. Even though he loved his family and friends, I am thinking that most likely he just wanted that constant pain to end. I’m sad that he died and lost the fight, just like I am broken-hearted over anyone who finally succumbs to any other fatal disease.

Because, believe it or not, depression kills. Depression, more so than experimenting with recreational drugs or what-not, leads people to numb their pain with alcohol and other substances. Whether or not you stay alive, it kills you, eats you up. You can have every luxury in the world and still have that unreasonable, unexplained black emptiness erasing you inside.

I don’t need to list suicide statistics to tell you how much of a problem this violent way to end life is in this country, especially among men, impacts so many families and friends. It’s a kind of death that continues to cause far more pain than any other passing, mainly because it is unnatural for a living being to turn against one’s own need for self-preservation. A person may decide to act on their need to end their pain, but the body itself will still fight on instinct to survive everything you put it through.

I’m no stranger to suicide attempts myself, but it’s never the longing to die, only to end pain that was at the heart of every attempt I ever made. Just so we’re clear, I am not telling you I’m suicidal now! But Robin’s death brings up all those dark memories, and makes me think of people who are suffering as I write these words, and I weep many nights just thinking how helpless I am to fight against my own depression, let alone help anyone else with theirs. Yet it is because I’ve suffered, I know there is a need to lend a shoulder to cry on for someone else, even if they may not actually be crying out loud.

It’s not an easy thing to witness someone in pain as you stand by, but if you knew how good it does to help that other person stand on their own, you’d do it time and time again.

I think it’s the basis of strength.

There are times I wish I could turn back time… or be there for just one more person before they shut off the clock.

So what keeps me ‘ticking’?

Most times I am outside of myself, aware that there are lives all around me not in pain who are simply alive, and it is that life I am grateful for being there. Animals especially surround me everywhere I go. This summer’s filled with life in my neck of the woods.

And I have many, many beautiful pictures to show you… coming soon.

I’m coming in out of the darkness.

My Fight to Save My Cat


Fighting to save my cat has been like fighting to save my own life. As I struggle to improve my health, he has gotten sick, and I don’t know why he is sick or how he got sick. It could be something small, easy to solve, or it could be an illness that is more complicated, requiring expensive surgery, something that could take his life. So far, in the six years we’ve been together, every little thing I’ve done to save his life has worked. When I rescued him, he rescued me. If I lose him, I will lose everything. I will be gone. He’s my last connection to life. He is my life. He is my baby.  He’s all I have.  I have no children.  I have no boyfriend.  I have no steady circle of friends who gather at my doorstep.  I only have him.  And he keeps me going.  He saves my life everyday.

I have been very depressed for many months now.  Mr. Snuggles has kept my spirits up a great deal — a very big job for a cat to do!  I have digestion problems galore related to the depression.  I withdraw from people while I concentrate on getting better, all the while he is at my side, and we drink the same water, share the same bed, play every morning, cuddle every night.  Yet could how I feel be killing him?

How can I save my cat?  What is wrong with him? I’ve already taken my cat to a vet and have followed her advice.  My cat has not been able to poop in many days. It started early in July when I noticed he stopped eating. It’s not like him. Mr. Snuggles loves food as much as he loves water. He likes to eat and drink whenever he sees me eat and drink, so we share our meals together. I don’t give him any of my own food, he has his own, he just follows me, always my shadow, always next to me. So whenever his behavior changes, it’s very obvious, and he “tells” me whenever he’s not feeling well. I knew right away his body wasn’t working right. He vocally alerts me whenever it comes to problems with his litter box routine. Even though this time he still pees regularly, and he’s not in pain, straining to poo is uncomfortable, usually a sign he ate something he can’t pass like my hair or pieces of fabric like string. This time nothing showed up, nothing came out, all a mystery.

Too many days passed, and after a week, we made a visit to the vet for a solution. I didn’t tell anyone how upset I was for fear I would jinx things. I seriously feared for Mr. Snuggles’ life. As we killed time in the waiting room, the people ahead of us had to make the decision to put down their six-month-old puppy because they could not afford the surgery required to save its life. I was too freaked out to go into the room they were in. I waited until another room was free to ease my panic. The next folks to come in were a cute Korean couple with a kitten who could be Mr. Snuggles’ mini-me. Adult black cat and black kitten shared the same golden-green eyes, and Mr. Snuggles cheerfully mewed at the kitten in such a way that had us all laughing. It made me forget about the puppy and gave me hope. ‘Maybe Snuggles needs a little brother or sister,’ I thought as his name was called by the assistant and we made our way to see who would be Mr. Snuggles’ doctor.

As usual, Mr. Snuggles takes the vet appointment in stride, plopping down and making himself home anywhere. He doesn’t even mind it when he’s examined (but if I do it, he squirms and fights me). The vet’s diagnosis was that he was simply constipated, so I felt that the visit was a relief, yet even though I spent a lot a money for it, I’d pay anything to keep my baby happy and healthy. So we took her advice, within two days he did his duty. Not to be too graphic, but his poop was large and full of hair.  His last bowel movement was a normal soft brown.  But ever since the bad constipation, he’s become anorexic.

I wondered if perhaps he’s afraid of becoming constipated again. He’s active and happy, drinks plenty of water but will not drink or eat on his own, he needs me to encourage him. He became accustomed to me syringing him water and force feeding him. Weening him from this became a pain in the ass. For a little while he started to eat on his own. I walked away and ignored him to get him to eat on his own. It worked. However, I’ve had to water down wet food to get him to eat. He likes to eat soupy food now. Hard food is a thing of the past. It’s of no mind. The wet food is better for his digestion anyway. But he stopped eating altogether again when he stopped pooping once more.

To get him to poop again, I re-started a laxative the vet prescribed that worked before, but after a week and a half, nothing is working. Mr. Snuggles’ backside is greasy and wet.  What is going on?  I’ve examined his anus, there’s no irritation there or anything coming out of it.  I called the vet and tried the laxative as a lubricant (it’s made of cod liver oil and used both orally and analy). Kitty hated me using a Q-tip to get in there.  I also used belly massage techniques given to me to help ease his bowels.  I don’t know what else to do but go back to the vet, yet I have no more money to keep going back and forth.  What do I do?  Am I going to lose Mr. Snuggles?

This morning he woke me up, all bright-eyed and extra-loving, and curled up close to my face and neck as if nothing is wrong, as if to tell me everything is going to be okay. He pushes his nose into my cheek and purrs so loud it seems to shake the entire bed. I put my hand over his belly. I feel him shiver a little. I worry that he feels cold, but then I realize I feel cold. It’s supposed to be the tail end of July, one of the hottest weeks of the year, yet it’s 50 degrees out and we live in the shade. It feels like autumn has closed in early. Are we alive here in bed together? Yes. More alive than ever.

We’re more alive together because all we have to live for is each other for as long as we’ve got and for the most of it, the best.  And because he is worth it.

Mourning Friendship

How can anyone who claims to love me and wish me well break my heart? I’m not the kind of friend who rejects. I believe in the good in people, I do what I can to support my friends, forgive them their faults, believe in them when they don’t even believe in their self, stand with them while they face their obstacles, and listen to them on the phone during their states of distress. I’ve been there from the beginning, been there when at their worst and best, endured their temper, hugged them even when they stank, kissed their dirty cheeks, even cleaned their faces and bodies when they’ve been sick. I have lied next to them while they couldn’t sleep, wept with them when they were hurt, and wished I could be there where ever they are when they have suffered all lone far away from me, leaving me feeling helpless and distressed over them. I’ve sacrificed my own health and comfort to make sure my friends are well, and I do not ask for anything in return, only that we remain friends, stay in touch, somehow…

But then there are times when I am the one who is in distress. I have my terrible moments of overwhelming emotion, and it is during these times when I ask for support I find out who are my true friends, or at least those who are truly the strong and helpful. As a rule, I do not turn to my friends for psychiatric support. I’ve dealt with my fair share of mental illness long enough to know not to lean too much on the shoulders of those who are not emotionally equipped to handle someone struggling with a traumatic episode they barely have a grip on, but what about moral support? What about sending soothing messages of hope? When I am in need of hope, I’m not asking my friends to fix my situation, and I’m certainly not begging them for their complete, immediate attention. Yet if they were in my shoes, I would drop everything, get on the phone, or the internet and start communicating to make sure they know I’m on their side.

I know what it is like to rough it alone. What it’s like to be attacked, have my life almost taken from me, and lie alone in the hospital without a visit from friend or family, and be treated better by strangers than any friend or family during the worst times of my life. Surviving traumas like that made me strong, and made me passionate about never letting it happen to my friends. Screw that. To anyone I come across. I have a huge heart. I see someone, human or animal, suffering anywhere and I get involved. It may not always be wise, and a few times I have been taken advantage of, but I care very much and I never let anyone play with my heart.

I like to think that my friends are just as strong. Some of them very much are and I am proud to have made such very powerful, heroic friends, yet no matter how much some of them aspire to, they don’t live up to the virtues of friendship that we all should put into practice. It makes me wonder if some people really know what it is to be a friend.

It confuses me whenever a friend decides to no longer be friends with me, does not matter what the reason, and they always end the relationship with a situational inappropriate oxymoronic statement like “best wishes” and “I really love you” and “I’m doing this because I worry over you” or “I have to do this not because you’re a loyal friend, but because you need help”, all of which are excuses sugar-coated to make the friend doing the rejecting feel better.  No one who really wants you to get help will abandon you in your moments of need.  I’m not stupid. I know what they are really saying. It makes the heart-break feel all the more cruel.  It should tempt me into hating the people who foolishly say these things, who may even truly believe they are being sincere, but I surprise myself at how not angry I am at them.

I believe sometimes people like to believe in the worse possible state of health when it comes to viewing me, especially when I have a diagnosis of an emotional disorder, one that flares up during a stressful circumstance, but not just any stressful one. The danger of being open about my condition is people tend to panic over it, they worry about triggering you into a bad emotional state, but it’s not you that they are afraid of, it’s the illness, they really don’t know what it is like to live with it, they’ve only read about it, or maybe they remember something they have gone through with you and that memory has built up over the years. I don’t know how these things start, yet I’ve dealt with them before, and some people don’t see me for me, they just start seeing the illness and paint any emotional reaction from me as part of my being unhealthy.

One of the friends who just broke away from me knew ahead of time that a friend of mine was going to suddenly dump me.  Anticipating my resulting breakdown, she was quick to write her “I have to cut you off because I need only healthy relationships in my life” and “I’m doing this for your own good” letter.  I was not surprised.  It has happened to me before and I was prepared for such a reaction.  Some friends only want to be around when you are feeling well.  They can’t take the stress of watching you go through something bad.  Shame on them?  Perhaps.  I just think it’s unnecessary.

Unlike other kinds of illness, a mental illness you never heal from, it’s a condition you have to regulate. People fear the loss of control of their mind, just as much as they fear something like demonic possession, and they have no idea if your possible loss of control will lead to harm. People have rejected me out of fearing I will do things I have no history of, they don’t trust me when I tell them the extent of my crazy and think I’m hiding something scary, and when I do share I’m accused of using my disability as a crutch, especially whenever I really do have an episode and someone swears I have ignored them intentionally.

My heartache is that, no matter what good I try to do, and no matter how hard I love, when I get overwhelmed it seems to threaten any good I’ve done for my friends. A great relationship can be ruined in seconds after my friend witnesses me go through a meltdown. Or it can cement our relationship forever, as long as they realize I’m not asking them to be my nurse!

Yet I’m torn as to what to do. I have a lot of love and there is much I have wanted to do with my life.  I have held myself back from doing things I love for fear of being discredited due to my illness and being ridiculed, especially when my insight and lifestyle is controversal.  Living as a Solitary Witch has not always been satisfying for me. I have the passion of a priestess. I want to extend my friendship to the entire human community.  I want to write about what I know and experience.

Yet how can I help anyone when people view me as an unhealthy over emotional monster?

And why am I singled out? Am I that horrible? Have I really been the kind of person who is worthy of such rejection? Do I need to be institutionalized? (I found out I don’t have to be, thank the Gods) I tried to find out, reached out to my doctors, got the help I needed, and the friends who gave me the moral support I needed assured me I’m the same good ol Valentina I’ve always been for them, so what gives? Are, then, some people I love just defective at receiving the love I give? Why do they want to believe I’m not worth their time?

When something does not make sense, I obsess over why it happened. When I cannot find the reason, I weep over the senselessness of it. The senselessness of it is an ignoble violence as real as a bullet hitting the body of an innocent bystander.

And for some people to say, right after you’ve been hit with a broken heart, “your pain will pass” is like them patting your bleeding heart with a restaurant napkin as if it were merely a paper cut. For you, it’s a dire emergency, for someone else, it’s all about “you’ll get over it soon” and the saying of it is their way to encourage it to happen faster so we can all get back to fair weather talk and sharing cute kitteh photos again.

I’m not saying I have an over abundance of fair weather friends, I just have some friends who want fair weather between us all the time, and they would rather I keep my darker emotions to myself. However, even though it takes a lot of trust, and trust takes more involvement, I would rather my friends open up to me and share with me what is going on, dark or not, so when the time comes they can know to come to me if they need support. So I am an open book. I expose myself. You can always tell what page my picture is on. You can read my Facebook or Twitter and look-see and go, “Okay. So that is how Val looks and feels like today” as if it’s my own weather channel.

But… I’m now realizing that it’s not wise to do that anymore. My friends are getting scared off. I’m sharing too much emotional crap. My policy of being so open is influencing them to think I’m all kinds of unhealthy. I suppose writing down my every intimate, twisted, bizarre thought is alarming, albeit I don’t have an exterior monologue like that!

It is time for me to edit and update what I write to truly reflect only who I am on the outside.

How superficial.

Do you want me to be like that? To breeze through your lives like I’m made of  perfume and smoke and smiles and small talk lounging at some neon-lit bar… Because that’s what I liken a lot of social media to, like sitting at those seedy meeting places that can sometimes bore me to death, where people never have anything intelligent to say, only sometimes, but it’s all about meeting people to hook up with in the end anyway. Not interested here.

I only came here to dance.

But it’s impossible sometimes to dance alone. Especially when someone has suddenly stolen the music out from under you. “I’m doing this for your own good,” a voice over pipes in, “I’m taking your favorite song away. I know you loved it a lot, yet I’m pulling the plug. I don’t care how much you loved it. Was it the song or the dance that made you smile everyday anyway? Well, it doesn’t matter to me, I don’t care, you can always find another song, and I only wish you well…”

People destroy things they do not understand have so much value to someone else. They do not even understand what is really being valued. Assumption is the mother of all mistakes.

A friend of mine, someone I consider my personal hero, assumed I am obsessed with him, so he broke his friendship with me thinking that it was the best thing to do for my mental health. He blamed it on his lack of time to give and that he only wished me well. But he failed to really ask me what it was I wanted or even what it was I valued about him. His information about me is askew, much of it likely based on a past when I had a crush on him, and he has yet to give himself the real opportunity to know me as I am now. I’ve been a loyal, supportive friend, been there through many of his ups and downs, and he has hurt me more than he has done good for me by breaking away.

But I live for love. My policy is to pour love over anyone and anything that hurts me unnecessarily. It’ll only hurt me more to feed it with anger.  However, I am sad. I have a right to grieve over a senseless loss of a friendship.  Yet I am not sad that he’s hurt me.  I’m sad for him.  He has chosen to reject one of his most faithful friends.  And I’m sad that he thinks that I care for him in an unhealthy way.

His sudden break from me was a sword shard to my heart, and I screamed and screamed, and my screaming face and shaking body must have been one frightening sight. Imagine if I was in the middle of the street with a real stab wound, freaking everyone out who saw me, my blood squirting out all over the place, me creating a huge mess, people running away screaming at the sight, my neighbors helplessly looking on and frantically calling 911.  If that were the case, I would have immediate help.  A wound like that gives no doubt for help, but since it’s emotional, it can be seen as a cry for attention, or some would see it as an emotional manipulation on my part to get my friend to come back.  But what good would that do?

I would not want to cast a love spell to bring back any of my ex-lovers.  Why?  Because to do so would be forcing someone against their will to be with me.  Do you know what happens when you force someone to be with you?  You do not convince them to love you.  They will resent you for manipulating them to act against what they desired.  When someone gives up their desires to please you, it’s an emotional imprisonment, and not something I would want to do to someone I care about.  I want someone to be my friend or lover out of joy, not out of obligation and resentment.

So, if somehow I did or said something to make it seem like I was holding emotional power over a friend, and they break away from me thinking I am manipulating them, there is something going on I do not know about, something I really do need to fix.  How can I help?  What can I do?  But when I’m not given the tools to smooth the way between friends, I cannot do anything but wait for it all to be over, suffer the pain, and treat myself with love, praying all the while that somehow time will be on my side.

I do not like living knowing that anyone does not want to be my friend because they think I have mistreated them.  I am not a creature of malice.

The kind of attention I give my friends is the kind of attention I think is awesome, yet some people may think it’s weird. I have read about friendships in literature, especially heroic epics where friends really go to the deep ends for each other, and the friendships that took place in literary history where writers shared beautiful correspondences… I had hoped to encourage that kind of relationship with the friend who lost me because our rapport was always spot on when it came to discussions on magic and heroism.

My hurt is a hollow kind of hurt, a hole in my heart. I can walk, eat, breathe, do what I can to live, but for a long while I anticipate doing things all half-assed.  I was separated from him for seven years before.  I once thought that I had to break away from him because he had moved away to another city, had a wife, a temple, and therefore didn’t have any room in his life for me anymore.  I thought saying good-bye would make my mental health better, yet I made my life worse.

Missing that friendship felt like, at least to me, always missing a part of myself, like blurring out a big chunk of my memory that I really could not successfully shut out, yet the constant practice of attempting to shut it out kept my body tense and produced migraines.  He was never someone that I had wanted to strap onto me with some force to make it fit against me against his will, but even now, with him pulled away, he was this nice, warm blanket of a friendship that made me feel confident, like no matter where he is in the world, knowing he’s out there and still my buddy, we’re friends taking on the world together.

And that when we meet again, we’d share the worlds we’ve ruled, have a party, and clink goblets with the Gods. *sigh*

Instead of that vision, I’m left in mourning, mourning-knowing that I won’t have that friendship. And that I’ve waited, looked forward to meeting him again, supported and cheered him on from a distance for so long for nothing. The thought of him not wanting my friendship tries to kill me, but I won’t let it. It wants me to get bitter, but I resist that with all my might.

I only love, and love, and love some more, and stubbornly call everyone who rejects me the same way all a bunch of fools. Oh, and if people do not like how I am choosing to get over this by writing about it here, in this way, they can eat it!

This is my story. My heart. Me.

Postcard #31: Looking for Heart’s Ease

I’m writing in the dark, or more like from out of the darkness, tonight in a lonely place, where I feel like everything I love is disappearing…

For awhile I will forget about it, but the second a shadow falls, a flash of hope or memory caresses my cheek, and it begins again. It is a tired, worn out, annoying love story that clings to me like a coat of mud I can never quite wash completely off. Like the tea stain old age spot under my right eye. In the shape of a horse it is, a stain so strong my dermatologist couldn’t even burn it off with the laser. Stubborn symbol refuses to let go of me — so I accept it — a tattoo the Goddess gave me. Like the other new mark under my generous chin, yet another sign that the Crone is coming, youthful times are getting shorter just as my strands of silver hair are growing longer. I am liking the new hair color, however, but that will soon change, too. I plan on dying my locks a deep crimson soon.

Everyday I am more aware things and people are fading. My loves are leaving. My new neighbors are strangers. I’m not adjusting well to this next set of circumstances. I don’t mind change — if only it could come in small doses! It seems all the things that give me joy are doomed to sink away into places I cannot follow. I want to offer them my life to extend theirs. I’ve already lived forty-one years, that’s more than some people already have, and I need to be free of this constant pain. But, no. Nope. You can’t go walk deep back into the woods to die yet, Valentina. You still belong to this world. You are loved more than you know. But why, oh, WHY aren’t they here?!

I’m also reminded too well that my Aunt Sylette died at an early age, just a few years away now from my age. Although I’m told I have no signs of fatal illness, there are times when my heart hurts like a burning coal and my blood is like fire, everything boiling within me in a tearful rage that forces me to the ground and makes me think I’ll just die! It’s all normal, the doctors say. Just sit back, relax, breathe, accept what’s happening, let it go, it’s only natural…

I look for my heart’s-ease in simple things. The best things. My pillows, tea, poetry, art, reading the blogs of friends, and Mr. Snuggles. His nose pushes into my face a lot these days. He licks at my tears, head-butts me to get up and out of bed, and gives me a look of concern that no human can make, one of innocent longing, pure and sweet and of complete understanding. Unconditional devotion, the kind I give back to him. If it weren’t for him, I would not leave the apartment. I carry him on my shoulder like a baby and sing to him, sing to keep from crying, and laugh in the sunshine to hide my swollen eyes from my neighbors. I’m okay, I say, when I want to tell the entire world, help me out of these feelings!

There is no escape, you know.

So it is best to do what I can with my life and make some use of my time. Once again the summer brings things to do. The trees and wildlife call me to volunteer. Last night I saved a toad from a swift and sure death in the middle of the road…

It peed on me, but I paid it no mind, cupped it in my hand and hummed to it as I carried it back into a deeper, wetter part of the woods closer to my place.  But before I deposited it where the other toads like to hang out, I paused to snap a photo of us together. Every summer the toads and frogs are a common sight here. I get to see them grow bigger as the season grows long, and, yes, I weep when they are gone, too. I weep for every thing that comes and goes by. Why?

I’ve been like this for as long as I’ve been alive. I remember the day when I learned that not every creature likes it when I try to rescue it. When I was four years old, I tried to save a group of army ants from getting crushed on the sidewalk. I picked a handful of them up and a dozen of them all bit into my hand. For a moment I felt more shock than pain. I stood there staring at the ants digging into my skin. The first thought I had: So that’s what those shapes in front of their heads are for! and I ran screaming home because all those little jaws felt like pieces of glass slicing into me. Before an adult could get to me, I tried to pull off a few of the ants and, even in pain, I did not want to harm the creatures. Trying to pull them off made them bite into me deeper! Then when I could not bear the pain, I pulled too hard on some of their bodies, only to discover their heads and jaws still clamped on tightly to my skin.

Before I could get all the way home, a neighbor saw me fall into the grass. He and his wife took one look at me and a series of events happened afterward so fast, I don’t quite remember how it all ended, but the man knew what to do to get those stubborn army ants off me. He stuck my hand into steaming hot water, almost hotter than I could stand. In seconds my mother was there, and we took off to the hospital, yet I needed only a few stitches on my left ring finger. I still have a slight scar to remind me of my misadventure.

Sometimes I still feel that sense of sorrow and betrayal like I did with those army ants. I want to reach out and protect all living things, but some things are not supposed to be within my care.

I just pray that my simple act of caring from a distance is enough, that my tears will buy some future happiness, and my worries repaid by my friends keeping themselves safe. I do not want to imagine life without someone I love. It would be the death of me. Like a part of me dies again right now just thinking about it. I do not want to be all doom and gloom, but… for once I will be a little selfish and say that there are times I feel like my joy was stolen from me all because my emotions are too much, they scare people I love away from me, and I am afraid to see them for fear of breaking down in front of them.

So, from this distance, I breathe slowly and move on. I give my love freely and as much as I would to someone who cannot be here. Every creature, every plant, every person I come across I just give them that love that isn’t accepted by someone faraway. That’s what I have to do. That’s what I’ve been doing for years. It is what I plan on doing for the rest of my life, just so I can stay alive, and not spoil my life on something hopeless. The work — the art — what I’m meant to do and why I’m here — sometimes I feel it is worth more than my own personal happiness.

Like yesterday, after I could not stop myself from crying, I paused to sob underneath a linden tree. The flowers of the tree soon stopped me from weeping. The spirit of the tree itself had a healing power to it, and my instinct was to put my face into the flowers, rub my eyes with its heart-shaped leaves, and hug at the bark. Yes, I’m that kind of person, and I didn’t care who saw me. When I had sufficiently lost my sadness for some time, I thanked the tree and left an offering of strands of my hair.

A few feet away from me I saw another woman crying, no, sobbing loudly. She had just got off the phone talking to whomever, sighed, wiped at her eyes with her sleeve, and was about to put earplugs in to listen to some music. By her accent I could tell she was Thai. I felt the urge to ask her what was wrong, so I did. She immediately, and exaggeratedly, bobbed her head up and down to reassure me that everything was alright, but she was lying. So, boldly, I said, “I know you’re missing someone, just like I am, but I want to tell you it will get better.” I gave her a hug with my eyes, and smiled as I started to cry again. Oh, and the tears gushed out of her, too! I put a hand over my heart as if I were holding it back from bursting out as she squeaked out a meek thank you and I left her to her music.

I surprised myself I had said what I did. I told her what I had wanted to hear myself. I gave her heart ease and that made me feel better for a little while, good enough to weep with a joy in my heavy heart, reminding myself that, yes, it will be okay, somehow, more than okay, it will get better, and I won’t have to say good-bye anymore soon.

Postcard #23: Bad Egg?

Sometimes I feel like the softest egg in the basket…

Yet somehow I manage to never quite break, I only seem to. My cracks glue back together whenever someone else’s cruel remarks are overpowered whenever I remember the kindness and thoughtfulness of you.

I have something to confess this week. No matter how bright I paint my world and try to put on a strong face, I have episodes of grief and pain that would disturb you, my most lovely friends. I occasionally write about my pain and it doesn’t always relieve it. I fear that dishing it out too much in public just creates an image of me writhing daily in agony and feeling sorry for myself. I could delve into the many ways in which I struggle with mental illness, but that, too, would decorate my personality as one without credibility.

Who wants to believe in someone who is crazy?

I have thought about this long and hard, especially as I write about how I’ve used therapeutic magic (more on that later) to aid me every day during the difficulties I face. I have successfully adjusted my moods, yet I still have to sway backwards according to the amounts of stress I experience. When too much is too much, I’ve had enough and I give. Actually, I bend.

I have often felt embarrassed whenever I let the dark side of me rage and wail. I lose myself in a cloud of sobs, I can’t talk, I sink to my knees, nothing has meaning, I hyperventilate til I am dizzy, I faint with overwhelming passion, and my heart races to the point of attack. My whole body gives in to despair. I am frightening to behold, like a banshee. This seems to last forever whenever it happens. Like one’s life flashing before the eyes in the moment before death, yet I am left quite alive, surrounded by helpful nurses and doctors, but even they regard me with fear mixed with exasperation.

Even on medication and practicing meditation, the flood gates have to be let open in order for me to readjust — letting go means letting myself go wild, but safely, checking myself into a hospital when I feel an episode coming on — I know to turn to professionals when the need arises. I don’t call friends or family to help me. They are not equipped to assist me. All of you would be hurt to see me in pain. I want to spare you from seeing me go berserk. Sometimes its a back-and-forth thing, I cannot predict exactly what will trigger something deep inside me enough to send me into the ER. My fear is usually I will have a heart attack or I will, in a fit of blind anger or sorrow, accidentally hurt myself or someone else in my desperation to relieve the pain.

Does this make me a bad person? Have I now become untrustworthy? Will I still be a reliable narrator? How valid of a Witch am I now, now that you know I have a disability?

In the wee hours Tuesday morning, I cracked. After weeks of enduring pressures from family, health conditions I can’t control at this time, and debts I cannot pay off right now, it just happened, I cracked and did not bounce back. Usually I can distract myself, but there are times when there is no escaping it. The explosion will happen, the bottom bursts.

The final straw was pulled by my father and placed on my back to break me. My father has always criticized me for my weight. Yet Monday night he decided to add more to his repertoire of usual insults concerning my body, he called me pathetic, and that he has “given up” on me. He thinks I do nothing, have no ambition or cares, that I don’t amount to anything, but worse than that, he is ashamed of me. When I asked to come visit him at the veteran’s home, he scoffs, “I don’t want anyone to see I have such a fat daughter!” When we went out to the casino, he made it a habit to put me down in public. People laughed out of nervousness at us — this old, withered man yelling at his chubby daughter who made excuses for him — we must have seemed like some kind of cartoon.

I bit my tongue. The sorrow flooded my mind as the night passed. This is where those feelings of abandonment, un-acceptance, and self-loathing came from, the seed that grew into the problems I’ve had in my relationships with men, the awful gift my father gave me when he made my mother his mistress and I was born his bastard. Perhaps the real shame he has is that my existence is evidence that he cheated on his wife, proof he was never faithful. Now that he’s at a point where he is closer to holding hands with death, he ends up hating anyone who helps him because those of us who assist him are just additional reminders that he is losing his independence. He hits me where it hurts the most obvious — the one place he’s always been able to punch hardest — my big gut — and then when I get upset he says he calls me pathetic and fat and ugly out of “concern” — really? Sorry, Dad, it’s abuse.

He’s not helping me. He’s driving me crazy. And I let him get to me, but I did not show him my crazy. After the casino fiasco, I rushed myself into the ER, howling like a lame coyote, dropping to my knees, looking as pathetic as Humpty-Dumpty after his fall.

How the hell is anyone gonna put me back together again?

Um, one person.

Me.

I did not really need the help of the doctor, but the hospital is the safest place to be observed in case anything should go wrong. The first thing they wonder is if I’m drunk or stoned, next they take away all of my belongings and put me in a room void of anything I could hurt myself with. The room is empty, boring, there is nothing to do, everything is white, and, no, it’s not padded, and I was not put into a straight jacket. It’s not romantic or frightening, it’s just a room. The bed is flat, uncomfortable, but you can scream all you need to in there without disturbing anyone which is a blessing. There should be more rooms like that around. A real kind of “panic room” made for panicking inside so you won’t wake your neighbors while undergoing a manic episode.

I liken this kind of hospital room to a meditation room, a place to find your peace when everything else has failed to help you create peace of mind. It’s always made me laugh that nearby there is another room called “Spirit Office” that makes me think there’s a place in the hospital where spirits go for coffee breaks in between healing people and helping souls depart!

I’m sure it has a practical use and doesn’t have anything to do with the kind of spirits this Witch deals with, yet it makes me laugh whenever I’m feeling bad. What is a “Spirit Office” anyway? I’ll have to Google it. (It’s actually an office for Chaplins, stationed 24/7 for spiritual services, duh)

After a three-hour stint in the white room, I raged myself into a calm. My cracks no longer seemed so bad and I was sent home. For these last two days I’ve been resting. Meanwhile, I’ve also been writing…

I am not sure if I always have the clarity and strength to write boldly enough about the subjects I aspire to write about. I want to assure you that, for the most part, I’m pretty damn normal! Yet I can also equally assure you I’m weird, too. Weird enough to have a unique perspective on things… However I do deal with insecurities that hold me back. I want to be sure I’m up to the task. I write from my heart, not always from my head. My words get messy and metaphoric. My opinion may not be very logical, or maybe I am selling myself short.

I’ve examined the blogs of other Witches and have found that blog writing is a very personal, informal kind of writing, one step upward from journal writing. It’s not magazine writing, yet it can have that style. It’s up to the writer. Lately, in my writing offline, I have been busy composing articles that aim to please other people, not myself, and I’ve gotten stuck trying to write in a way that makes sense to them, or what I think will be their kind of logic because I highly respect their principles and expertise. Yet I’ve come to the decision that this restricts my creativity and blocks my voice. No offense to my friends who write the way they like to, but I, too, have my own way, and despite a desperate part of me that longs for approval and acceptance (just like I long for that from my father, understand) I really have to be myself with all of you.

I think, cracks and all, you’ll still love me tomorrow.