hurting kids is not okay.

Once, when I was 5, I woke up from a nap and couldn’t find my mom. I was devastated. I convinced myself she died, and found a photograph of her, a pair of her earrings, and I think maybe a handkerchief. I quickly erected a Mommy Shrine and sobbed, because I’d never see my mother again. After 3 minutes, I wept, and laid my smiling, beautiful mommy to rest. In my sock drawer.

Eventually I went to the garage. My dad was cleaning it out. He went, “what’s wrong with you?” And I broke down and wailed, “Mommy is gone and I’ll never ever see her again!! She left me! All alone!!” And started crying uncontrollably. “What?! What are you talking about?? Your mother went to the store. She’ll be back in an hour. Get out of here. Go play in the basement.” Said my easily annoyed dad. (It was 1977, that’s just how people talked to their kids. My 2 year old brother was often tied to the swingsset on a leash. For example.)

I’ve always told that story because it makes me laugh now – and thus a lifetime of anxiety was born. But I also remember how beyond utterly devastated I was, for 10-15 minutes, thinking I’d never see my mom again. That I’d never find her. She’d never tuck me in again. No more hugs. No more home cooked meals; I’d never seen my dad cook…how would we eat??

She was gone. It was terrifying and my 5 year old mind literally didn’t know how to process it.

I’m thinking about that, with these children who are separated from their moms and dads, with no way of processing what’s happening. And no dad to roll his eyes and tell them to get over it. And no mom to come home eventually and go, “That’s silly. Of course I’d never leave you.” And no hugs. That happened 41 years ago and I still remember it like yesterday. And I have resources and have had therapy. That’s how horrifying it was…I wasn’t being hurt by my country, I wasn’t begging asylum out of fear for my life…my mom came back and made dinner and we watched M*A*S*H. I can joke about it today, I’m okay. But it devastated me in that moment so much it’s stuck with me, the real deep fear, for the rest of my life.

I think about that and what these babies are experiencing. I don’t anticipate jokes or relief in their futures. I don’t.

This is not okay. It’s not. THIS IS A BIPARTISAN/MULTI-RELIGION NOT OKAY. it is NOT. Okay.

Okay? (Say yes. It. is. not. okay.) The end.

god is a vitamin.

My doctor consistently tells me I’m low on the D. Don’t make sexist jokes, I mean Vitamin D. Okay, fine. Make your sexist jokes, because those are occasionally funny but usually get you blocked. My point is: I’ve realized, since sitting in the sun a lot these past few weeks, I actually am feeling less cranky. Less judge-y. Less jump-to-conclusions-y. More able to let things roll off me. I still have a lot of sarcastic thoughts and Are You Flippin’ KIDDING Me??? feelings about what happened March through the beginning of June as well as leading up to that period, the sheer gall of some kinds of men (and women) in the world. The need to deny the truth, to enable certain behaviors and stay in certain patterns, because that is what’s known and it’s not safe but has the illusion of safe, which I’m now learning is more important to many people than freedom, even people who talk a good game about being free and giving and receiving love; they just aren’t really able to walk their talk.

I’ve had a terrible time with some people’s lack of self-reflection and awareness, which are the foundations of hypocrisy, but their ability to do a good job of pretending to have it and having to watch other people high five them for things that are not the truth. I have such a hard time with this.

But other than that…mostly? I’m pretty good, and fairly confident I’ll be able to stay in this lane with maybe only a few slides here and there but no more sharp wrong turns. No matter what happens from here on out. I’ve got a couple of story ideas I’m going to flesh out…one I think is going to be a very very short story, and the other I want to keep short but maybe flesh out later into something longer. And I’ve gotten distracted (by GOOD things, like pool days and time with my family and a day trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains to see someone I think the world of)…so I haven’t gotten around to printing out my fairy tale so I can edit and flesh that out. I will.

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Find good ones to run with a long time. The short time runs are for learning purposes.

My sweet friend Angie (the person I think the world of) was slightly worried about my last blog post. (Please go read Angie’s blog, too…first, because she writes better than me and second, she has far more important thinks about the world to share). I think my uncle’s (natural) death followed on the heels of two high profile suicides just threw me into a really pensive, melancholy state. I apologize if I worried anyone else…I’m not going to lie: I do struggle with dark moments. I take risks with being really open about it, because I know other people do too.

I often wish I were more of a person who just la-dee-dah-ed her way through life, skipping gaily along, pointing out the pretty wildflowers to all the pouty weeds, but I am not wired like that. I see people on social media just posting cutesy, happy things…only positive happy happy. There was a point I just couldn’t look at any of it without sneering. I’m sorry, but I sneered at your stuff if you are one of these people. It didn’t mean I didn’t love you; it was just…the shadows were heavy, and my sneering was strong. I like cute and happy. But I also understand the emo posts. In fact, I feel them a little bit more pointedly. Dancing with Shadows is something I’ve done a lot throughout my life, and the Light portion of my soul automatically reaches out whenever She sees someone else dancing with theirs. The trick, I think, is to dance for a little…then convince the Shadows it’s time for bed. The Light is coming.

There was a woman on Twitter the other day who posted THIS about how important it is, in healing, not to bypass the darkness and shadows; that these are just as essential to spiritual growth as our love and light. I think about the story of Jesus of Nazareth wandering the desert, being confronted by Satan, and there’s such a deep metaphysical truth in that story – it wasn’t until Jesus fought the darkness and the shadows, got to really know and understand their nature, that he was ready for his purpose here. It’s not fun, sitting in the darkness. It’s not fun, the psychic pain the shadows poke us with. But it’s important. It’s important to know and understand yours. To be strong, which grows the empath muscles in our souls.

I hate the word “empath,” because like “narcissist” it’s just thrown around so much…and like narcissists I suspect there may be a spectrum to empath-ness. Everybody is on the narcissism spectrum and everyone is on the empath spectrum…someone like, I don’t know, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? He’s someone who probably was way low on the narcissism spectrum and way high on the empath one. Then there’s Donald Trump, Dr. King’s polar opposite.

But I’m fine. One of the things I love about Angie is her deep faith and connection to God. I can’t remember if I’ve written about this on this new writing location, but as a child I used to have long, one-sided conversations with God. I can’t remember about what now, but I do remember singing some Christmas carols to God once, just because I felt like God would like those.

I often forget God. I get so wrapped up in whatever stress I’m working through or major WTF?! experience I’m having that I forget: oh yeah…I can go to God and say, “Here, God. This is too much for me. You do it.” And God will.

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I once went to a psychic named Marion who knew a lot of stuff about me, and predicted a lot of things about me that came true. She didn’t advertise; you had to know someone who knew her to ask for a reading from her. We taped it, but I’ve lost the tapes now. And the notes she took as she talked to me and gave for me to consider after. Marion told me I’d meet someone from St. Louis one day, a dark-skinned friend I’ve known for longer than I realize, and we’d have so much to talk about. (Miss M’s dad is dark-skinned and from St. Louis.) She knew my first job would be in Arizona, and that I’d end up in Georgia. She knew I’d spend a lot of my life translating for people. All have come true. She said I also have a gift, and that I should write, that one day I would write something that would be very good. That has not come true, except on blogs. And not the very good part.

At any rate. Marion was of God. She said we all have the ability to connect to God, but we don’t. And we have angels. (I have two who stick with me – a young man and an older woman – both, she told me, were in God’s family…the young man is especially protective of me.)

I think there are people with gifts like Marion’s (not me, and if she’s correct and I do have it? I don’t want it, thanks). We use only so much of our brains; what if portions of it are able to tap into physical aspects of the world we aren’t aware of? I think 99% of people who claim they have some sort of ability are charlatans and/or crazy – I was once friends with one, is why. But you occasionally may run into the real deal. Or even have a brief moment of tapping into some portion of your brain you aren’t familiar with, and have an experience yourself.

Therein lies God, I think. Or the Universe, if you prefer that. Or the Great Maw. Whatever.

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I don’t have a problem with atheists in general, as long as they’re not gigantic twats. I’ve met very very religious twats and very very non-religious twats. Think and decide for yourself, whatever you want. Just don’t be a twat. Is my motto. I’m not going to tell an atheist they’re wrong about what they have to say, because most of them are quite logical (which I appreciate) and very funny (which I also appreciate). But please don’t laugh off my experiences and feelings with a big “whatevs.” That’s not how we connect. Ditto all you fundamentalist whatevers out there – just because that’s how YOU see God doesn’t make it true. Arrogance bothers me. A lot.

I think what’s mostly true is that we all have problems. We all have fears, longings, wants, needs we can’t meet for whatever reason, disappointments, hurts, bad experiences, mistakes we’re still beating ourselves up about. And we all have things that make us laugh and people who remind us the world is okay, we are loved despite ourselves. At least I hope everybody has people like that. At least one.

Therein lies The Universe. In those things.

So. I’m thinking about God today, and what happens to us after…this. Not because I want to find out, but because I miss my dad. And I’m feeling nostalgia for what could have been but was never meant to be. I’m reflecting on some of crappy choices and how I handled it, and wishing I’d said some things I didn’t and not said some things I did. I’d ask, at this point, for a big gigantic eraser for it all, but then I think that’s missing the point.

It’s been a long journey, since I packed up and moved to this apartment I’m typing from. Three years as of Friday, and I just signed another 13 month lease here, so that’s one more year in this small home, one more year I’m going to figure it out some more. This year will be good, because I **think** I’ve extracted the bad influences, finally.  But wow. Three years..Miss M was 6 years old when we moved here, she’ll celebrate her 10th year on Earth here. I’ve changed jobs, for the better. I’ve had some really happy, fun times here – lovely, good people with positive energy in my home…and I’ve had some really touch-and-go moments, some nights on my living room floor in the fetal position, moaning for psychic relief. Three years. I’ve kicked three people out of my life for good. I’ve been taken advantage of, lied to, but also…learned quite a lot about myself, the nature of people (particularly men), and just generally been woke. To life, and what matters. Three years. (Three is a mystical number – Pythagoreans believed it was the first true number. It represents past, present, future…birth, life, death…beginning, middle, end…father, son, holy ghost…Jesus rose from the dead on the 3rd day…in mystic Kabbalah, the soul has 3 parts…there are 3 paths to salvation in Hinduism…ancient druids believed the Goddess had 3 forms: Maiden, Mature Woman, Crone…across all human religions, 3 is the number of the Divine, in other words. FINGERS CROSSED. I wish I had the ability to cross three fingers.)

Even the most painful, rage-filled moments can be blessings. (This does not make me less sarcastic about them, or make me not regret my choices when it comes to certain people I’ve tossed out. I don’t throw away people…until they show me they’re rotting.)

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Does this post feel like it’s all over the place? I feel like it is. Love, love, love…then: it’s okay to throw out human garbage. Dance with the shadows…oh but choose Light. Mystical, divine…but crap some people suck. Listen: I’m a work in progress, not God. But I think I’m going to start having some more talks to God. Note I wrote “to,” because God never answers me. Which is good! Because then I might be schizophrenic. But I also think I’m going to meditate. This is easier, as everything is, when Miss M is at her dad’s for a few days.

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Here’s a flawed, very good man. With his girl, who’d grow up needing a lot of sunshine.

Speaking of dads, Happy Fathers Day. There are really, really good men out there. We’ve been blessed with several…imperfect, flawed men. But men who tell the truth, don’t take advantage of other people, are who and what they say they are publicly and privately…all things that are integral to having integrity and living a good life as gently as possible, without too many horrible things befalling it. Which is the best way to live, I’m finding. Knowing famous people or being one isn’t it. Having a lot of money would certainly be nice in terms of less stress, but knowing you’re truly loved and wanted is better.

 

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I don’t know. Maybe it just comes down to how much Vitamin D you have in your system. God is in sunshine, and sunshine has Vitamin D, and so maybe just get as much sun as you can, and make sure you’ve got plenty of vitamin D in you. God is a vitamin. Maybe.

 

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They will. And so will you.

find your luff pup pup

So. I’m going to start writing about dads and uncles and death and other sad things, but I promise this ends on an uplifting note.

Father’s Day is around the corner, and I usually do think about my dad a lot that day, his birthday (October 23), and his death day (February 12). I think about him in between, too, because sometimes in my really sad or WTF moments, I ask the Universe to please let my dad come visit me. I like to think his presence is around me, listening, and quietly guiding me.

Quick background for those who don’t know me or this story:

My dad died in his sleep one afternoon while we were all at work. He’d been working a job as a night shift manager for a technology company and he’d come home as usual about 8 AM, made himself something to eat, checked email, and then went to bed with the History Channel on. He had congestive heart disease, was on gobs of medication for it, and had just had his regular check up about a week earlier in which he’d been given the thumbs up; everything looked great. But everything was not, because his heart stopped while he slept. He was only 54 years old.

At 9:30 that night when he still hadn’t gotten up, my mom went into his bedroom to wake him up and immediately knew. I was upstairs writing, and she asked me to try to wake him up. This wasn’t a fun task, because my dad was not a fun person to wake up (by the way: neither am I). When I walked into the room, I also immediately knew. It was just too quiet. There was activity but HE was too quiet.

***

I’ve had a lot of traumatic things and people happen to me in the years since, but I don’t think anything will ever compare to that moment. It’s been almost 20 years now, and I think not only am I still grieving him, I’m still recovering from that moment. It’s not just the loss of my father I grieve, it’s the loss of what could have been. All that needed to be said and never was. All that we needed to fix and didn’t.

My dad was a complicated man, but he was a great storyteller with a big laugh and a funny way of sneezing and a very gruff and strict personality that hid a very gentle, big heart. He missed his calling as a lawyer – his degree was in political science, but he’d have made a terrible politician; the necessary evils would have eaten right through his soul. Because he taught me integrity. I think that’s the biggest gift my dad gave me: a very deep sense of right and wrong, and integrity. I know when I’m doing something that’s wrong, that lacks integrity because the guilt I feel overwhelms me and everything I do. I spend a lot of time overthinking and over analyzing, over focusing on the thing or the person I’m participating in the integrity-less activity. I get really, really judge-y, of myself and the other person if another person is involved. I get angry. I feel out of sorts. Off kilter. The only way to stop is to remove that person from my life. So I can re-balance.

My mom and dad struggled in their marriage because of my dad’s anger and drinking. Mostly his drinking. It’s something I’m hyper aware of – how much I drink. At certain times in my life, I’ve turned to alcohol as a self-medication. Something that blurs the sharp edges of whatever it is. But I’m painfully aware of my family’s history – my dad’s father and all of his brothers except one were what we’d probably classify today as alcoholics. Calvin, the one brother of my grandfather’s who made it out of his 50s alive, always said it was because he chose not to drink. He spent his life being ostracized a bit by his brothers; not out meanness or pettiness, but simply because he’d be a drag…they liked to drink, and he didn’t so they didn’t invite him anywhere, not realizing it hurt.

***

My dad’s brother Joey died this week. That’s probably why I’m writing this…Joey’s death plus the deaths of two people I never knew. Joey lived far away and I wasn’t close to him. But a few years ago, he started calling my brother and me, and I couldn’t…I just couldn’t talk much. Partly because like all men on that side of my family, Joey liked to talk. And talk. And talk. And talk and talk and talk. But mostly because on my end of the phone, I’d be in tears. I could hear my dad’s voice in his. When I saw him on a 2010 visit to the Poconos, where my dad’s family is from, I could also see my dad in his face, his eyes and facial expressions. I wish I’d talked to him more now…today, having been through what I’ve been through over the last 3 years? I would have talked to him. Or at least texted.

Joey struggled with alcoholism as well. Magically, he made it to his 60s. But still died too soon, too young. But he also had a huge heart, a heart of gold. When I was little girl, I was shy around him, afraid of his beard. Today, I find it hard to resist a man with a beard…but my dad didn’t have one, and I think his just freaked me out – 1970s Uncle Joey was a bit of a hippie. But I can’t think of a single man on my dad’s side of my family who doesn’t melt around little girls. They’re tough on the boys. But they melt around little girls. (Patriarchy…but I’m letting it slide, because I’m a bad feminist.)

On my 2nd Christmas, Joey gave me a big stuffed dog. I named him Luff Pup Pup, because the tag on him said “Love Pup,” and apparently that’s how I pronounced love and he was a Love Pup pup. It made sense to my little brain, and that’s all that mattered. At any rate, Luff Pup Pup is still with me. His eyes are gone, except for one white button that I sewed on as an eye replacement (because I couldn’t find black or brown buttons in my mom’s sewing kit and he looked blind but at least he had eyes again). His ears chewed up by my dog Sassy, who’s long gone yet has left this legacy behind as a touchable memory. He had a belly button, a tail, and a big black nose, and a red tongue in 1974, but by 1984 these were all gone. Ripped off, chewed off, loved off. Luff Pup Pup is my Velveteen Rabbit – he’s real because he’s loved. He’s soaked up buckets of my tears, patiently laid beneath my sleeping body or head, or in held tight in my arms. He’s been shoved under beds, into closets, into attics in boxes. He’s lived in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Illinois, Arizona, and Georgia. Traveled to Florida and other various states. Now he belongs to Miss M, who often asks for him when she’s scared. That’s his magical gift: helping scared and sad children feel better at night, so they can sleep and not feel alone.

So I’m thinking about my dad and my uncle. How they’re all together now. With their parents Joe and Hannah. And their little sister Kathy, who died when she was 2 or 3 – she wandered down the lane to my great Uncle Calvin’s farm pond and fell in. By the time Calvin heard her and got to the pond, it was too late. It may be why the men on that side of my family have such soft hearts around little girls. They feel the need to protect and save them.

Now, none of them need to be protected or saved. No more sadness, no more pain. Just quiet and peace. It sounds lovely, yes?

***

I think my dad struggled with depression – my mom found him in the bathroom once with some disturbing items that indicated he was making a really hard decision. I’m so thankful he chose to stay, even though the way he eventually left has left holes in my heart that will never really fill.

Depression isn’t bad. It’s very very normal; in fact, I have talked to and read and heard so many stories from so many people who struggle with it, that I actually think it’s abnormal NOT to have depression. Depression is simply an imbalance of brain chemicals, that’s all. I take two medicines every day to regulate my blood pressure; why is that not a stigma but anti-depressants are? This is odd thinking. I struggle with it. I anticipate Miss M struggling with it. I look at people who are always positive and happy, and I wonder about them…if it’s real, how blessed they are. But I often wonder how many people just fake it for the world. Because they’re afraid the world will reject them if they’re honest.

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Anthony Bourdain died, of apparent suicide. Yesterday I ended what I wrote with a reflection on Kate Spade’s apparent suicide. Today it’s Anthony Bourdain. I liked this person’s spirit so much, and I wish he could have liked his spirit as much as I did. Because when I saw this news, I cried. I felt sad about Kate Spade, but I cried over Anthony. It was too much. Too much. Because life is really rough and hard, with a lot of sadness and pain. But there are also such good moments to it. When someone really makes you laugh or feel incredibly loved. Watching or reading a story or listening to songs that let you know you aren’t alone, this is all hard but also normal. When you find someone who sees you, really sees you. And likes you just as you are – you don’t have to change anything about yourself for them. They don’t want to fix you, they just like to be with you.

There are people in the world who are Luff Pup Pups, you just have to find them…or wait because more often than not they’ll either find you or you will both stumble upon each other.

I watched the movie La La Land last night and wept at the end, and at the part where they both say they’ll always love each other. And they did. That’s what real love feels and looks like: you’re happy for someone, you want them to have their dreams come true and be happy, even if you’re not part of it. That’s how I know I love D and not the man who hurt me and pushed me into doing something and being someone I’m not.  I’ve been reflecting on that for the last couple of weeks…I thought I loved that person, but that wasn’t love; that was need, and need is really really fucked up. Don’t ever get so attached to the idea of someone you need them more than you love them. I would like D to be happy and safe, no matter what. That’s how you know. The mere fact someone exists in the world, helps you feel more safe and less sad, and even if you can’t be part of their whole life, you want their whole life to be happy. That’s how you know.

It’s magic to find your Luff Pup Pup. It helps the world feel better. Luff Pup Pups help us know we aren’t alone, there are guides here who can help you navigate and when they can’t they can at least just sit with you so you’re not as frightened or sad. And then stay. Don’t leave until Fate or God or Old Age or whatever decides it’s your time, Someone or Something will let you know. Stay with us. And if you need a Luff Pup Pup, Miss M and I will be happy to share ours with you. Or help you find one.

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My Velveteen Rabbit.

heart holes.

I was going to write a post about social media and how it changes us. But I’m scrapping that to write about pain and how it changes us.

This is complicated. Because here’s the thing: hurt people hurt people. Damaged people can’t NOT damage other people. Vicious cycle.

I hate the term triggered. Triggered = an image, words, sensations, scenes that cause someone to relive horrible life experiences. I wish we had a different word for this. First, because it’s a gun-related word and I hate guns and associating guns with a mental health issue just feels like a bad idea. Second, because people who actually ENJOY triggering other people and actively seek out people to do this to love the word and dance impishly about sing-songing it when they’re successful. I really hate it when assholes do that, and those are the kinds of people who probably just need to be rounded up, put on a plane, and dropped off on a deserted island so they can Lord of the Flies each other.

Most of us have experienced pain at different levels in our lives. If you’re very fortunate, you’ll have been raised by two people who made mistakes but did their very best at raising you, and you’ll experience heart break and betrayal and loss like we all do but come out of it philosophical and not hurting anyone else too badly because of what you’ve experienced because you had two relatively decent human beings in your life who taught you how to brush off other people’s malignancies and go on. Or maybe you didn’t have two examples, but one really good one, somewhere in your life.

What’s really fun about being human is that sometimes you can even have all that but your family’s particular dysfunctions have taught you some really crappy coping behaviors. Combine that with child- and young adulthood trauma, throw in some really weak boundaries because of it, add pinch of a failed relationship and a heaping tablespoon of loss and grief, sprinkle with toxic social media culture and some poor decisions, top with a couple of human coyotes, then cook in a boiling hot volcano for a few years…and there you go. Easily triggered person climbing a monstrous volcano, falling about 500 feet every time they scale 600. And if the people who love them are dealing with their own traumas and crap and monstrous volcanic setbacks? Well, that’s a tasty recipe, isn’t it.

Some people’s traumas are easy to see and feel compassion for – experiencing something horrific like being raped and beaten and left clinging to life, surviving only because a Good Samaritan called 911 is something most of us can feel sympathy for and forgive easily if we upset them unknowingly and they explain why. Some people go to war and watch their buddies and innocent children get blown to bits right in front of them. There are people walking around in this country right now who watched people jump from the 110th story of one of the World Trade Center towers, and they wake up at least 100 times a year from screaming nightmares. I’d say a good 99.5% of decent people would hear any of those scenarios and feel compassion and sympathy for people suffering from them. If they said or did something that freaked a person out, bringing back bad memories or feelings or sensations from that life experience, 99.5% of people would profusely apologize and quickly adjust their behavior to make sure they didn’t do that again.

But what about very quiet abuse? What about emotional abuse like gaslighting or verbal abuse like control?  What about a person who has such crappy personal boundaries because of their family’s dysfunctions that, over and over, throughout their life, they’ve allowed inappropriate people in and each time that person’s trust has been betrayed to the point they even doubt themselves when they speak up? Listen, some families are completely dysfunctional. I work with them from time to time – these are the people who have fascinating stories for Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil episodes and the rest of us are enthralled and very thankful we didn’t end up in that clan. My college roommate’s father drank himself to sleep every night and her mother screamed at them non-stop, dinner was hit or miss, and took pills to sleep every night leaving them to their own devices.  Every morning she just knew she had to get up, get dressed, get her little sister up and dressed, make breakfast and lunch for both of them, and get them on the bus to school because school was the only way out of that kind of life for herself and her sister, she instinctively knew. She was SEVEN. That’s pretty obvious dysfunction and I’d say most of us look at people like that as pretty amazing for making it out alive and okay and functioning from that situation because they actually are. But the vast majority of us  grow up with “normal” dysfunctions, dysfunctions the rest of the world shrugs its shoulders at and goes, “Life isn’t supposed to be easy. Toughen up, buttercup.” It does not make our experiences less traumatic, though. Just differently traumatic. Kind of like the tail side of a coin.

Because here’s the thing about that kind of abuse: it’s very real, but you can’t see it. Sometimes you can’t even define it. Often you know something is off, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You just know two and two isn’t adding up. Or what you were told and what you’re seeing aren’t clicking. It keeps happening, until finally you explode and then are told you’re being mean or overthinking or paranoid or hysterical or psychotic. And then what if it this is coming from people who also tell you they love you, but continue to do things that cause you to explode. Would that garner compassion or sympathy from many people? Probably not. Particularly if a person views themselves as someone who’s strong and overcome a lot of trauma themselves. Toughen up, buttercup. We all have it rough, you’re not unique. (But we are unique. Each and every one of us.)

Let me tell you a story from my childhood.

One summer before I went to 4th grade, there were two little neighbor boys who were hurting me. They were calling me names and one of them finally hauled off and hit me, hard, on purpose. I told my mom, who went next door to let his mom know what the boys were doing. The boy who hit me stood there and denied denied denied. His mom believed him. As a grown up mother now, I get it. I get why you have to believe your child. But there I was, standing there shaking and in tears. He was fine and very calm, denying. And because his mother was asking leading question after leading question, I finally just said he hadn’t done what I said he’d done. He hadn’t hit me or called me names. Right now, in my memory, I can see the satisfaction on both their faces. All of us standing there, lying to each other, only two of us satisfied with the results of telling a lie.

Later, I told my mom I’d lied and he had done what I said. Of course she was upset and embarrassed; why had I said he’d done that and then said he didn’t? It’s hard enough to explain emotional abuse to people when you’re an adult don’t even know when it’s happening, but as a child all I could say was “I don’t know.” Fortunately, my mom believed me, because she’d seen how shaky I’d been and how upset…and maybe she’d had a similar experience as a child, and so she got it. So the only thing she could tell me, at that point, was to not do that again. Be strong, stand up for myself. If I’m telling the truth, say it and don’t back down.

My entire life, I’ve ignored my mom’s advice. My entire life. Even going forward with my own parents at times. With friends. With lovers. With strangers. While driving. (Okay fine, usually not while driving.)

I’ve backed down. Because it’s easier. Because it’s more peaceful. Because it makes the other person feel better. Because it’s easier. Because it’s easier. Because it’s easier. Because then I won’t be alone. Because then they won’t leave. Because I don’t like when this happens or that happens, or it hurts to see this or it really hurts when they let me down or when they said that thing or did this other thing, that hurt. But it’s just easier. It’s easier. Because it’s easier.

I’m reading a book right now called Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore, and in one part of the book, he writes about how the main character Milo says something to Suzie (aka Death) who he’s getting know. She asks him after he comes back from one life what he’ll miss the most about that life and he thought about the sleazy life he’d just lived. “Christmas,” he said. “That was my favorite.” But his favorite thing about that life was actually a girl named Peanut, backstage at Ozzfest. And Suzie “let him get away with it. That’s how people make friends.”

But we all do this, at work, at home, in old friendships. Not just at the beginning. Because it’s easier. I think.

But what it does is it causes trauma, and then I’ve got to wade through things other people do, unintentionally and unthinkingly, that upset me. “You don’t sound crazy or dumb. Too many screwed up men have touched your life. It is understandable.” Words by a friend when I talked to her about a trigger from this morning and how I handled it. Later, I went into Linked In because an email alerted me I was being searched, and I saw something else that was a trigger. Then, I started to think about Event A back in June 2015 that led to Event B which led to C then D then E then F then G…etc and so forth. I’m not perfect, I fuck up all the time in how I handle things. I hurt other people. Hurt people hurt people. So now I’m being made to pay for the damage that caused me damage that caused me to cause damage. Vicious cycle. But it’s fine. It’s cool. Toughen up, butter cup. I’ve dealt with people like this my entire life. See previous story.

But you know what I’m doing today that’s different than I did prior to 2015? I’m speaking up about it. When it happens. I’m not keeping it in and letting it fester. When someone does something that bothers me, I say: This bothered me. And then I watch carefully how they respond.

Even with Miss M’s dad…do you know how much changing I did for him? How much backing down I did with him? There is a list of reasons for why Miss M’s dad and I shouldn’t ever live under the same roof again…the number one reason on that list is Invalidation. And it’s not like I’m not guilty of that, too. I’m the biggest eye roller and invalidator of men I know. But it’s no good to do that in a marriage or other love relationship. You have to be the other person’s biggest fan, even when you want to gouge their eyes out. You have to be their screamiest cheerleader; if they write a book or a poem or build a car from scratch or get a new job, you should let the world know if you’re on social media. And if you’re not, you should take them out to dinner and let the waitstaff know. If they clean the kitchen, you should thank them out loud. If they finally pay off a debt, you should high five them.

Instead, what we do is invalidate each other when we speak up with a need or a hurt or a concern. We blame the other person for their own feelings. We tell them they’re over-reacting, or overthinking, or hindering them, or making them feel insecure. We refuse to just say: I’m sorry. I didn’t think that would create that reaction in you. I’ll do better next time. And then…put action to our words. Even if it’s hard. Because you know what else is easier besides just backing down? Continuing to do things we like, even when we know it upsets a person we love deeply. And that’s reason number 2 Miss M’s dad and I can’t ever live together again – he sincerely needed me to do certain things and be a certain way, and it hurt him every time I chose not to do that thing or be that way. And that caused me an enormous amount of anger and stress and resentment. And it caused him to hyper-criticize me. And eventually there were explosions. And then…silence. And that, darling grasshoppers, is how a relationship death spirals. It is a testament to the healing power of love that we still view ourselves as a team when it comes to Miss M, that he gives me his opinions and on my end of the phone I flip him the bird. That we are friends in spite of the fact I never made the photo memory album on Snapfish he wanted of Miss M’s first grade year and summer but didn’t want to make himself because he likes to boss other people around…and that he now just sighs and accepts that sometimes I’m just not going to say a word but no I’m not doing that because. BECAUSE. There is still love. But I cannot live with him again. Love relationships are very hard, because we all come in with baggage.

Since leaving my marriage, I’ve ended a friendship with a mentally unstable woman who wasn’t well, and made me very uncomfortable…many times. I’ve ended a friendship with a married man who wanted things from me I didn’t want to give him and he scared the shit out of me to retaliate. I’ve ended a friendship that could have been really sweet and supportive and at times was, but started out wrong and was mostly to help the friend’s egoic needs rather than be a give-and-take situation and therefore off-and-on toxic because of that, and toxic beyond belief at the end. I will not go back to any of these friendships and don’t believe any of them want to know me anymore either and agree that’s for the best. And here I am writing about mental health and compassion, but please know I’m also not saying we have to subject ourselves over and over to people who aren’t firmly planted in reality or want to take advantage of us. It is okay to throw away people who are doing that. But if I genuinely love someone, I back down. A lot. One day, maybe I’ll find someone who will back down for me.

Yesterday, Kate Spade apparently took her own life. Today, once again, we’re all talking about the importance of not stigmatizing each other’s unique brain chemistries and balances. Tomorrow, we’ll all go back to invalidating each other and backing down and continuing to do things that upset our loved ones and then keep doing them because it’s easier. We’ll let our damage rule our emotions and punch holes in our hearts. Because it’s just easier. (But it’s really not.)

heartbreaks2

techno-anxiety camp.

It’s my ex-ish husband’s week with our daughter. She’s at day camps on those weeks, but I take her in the mornings because he’s got a long commute. She gets herself up and dressed, and then I swing by to get her, but he’s got to be on the road by 7:00 am. So what’s cool about 9 year olds is they’re legally allowed to be left alone for up to 2 hours at a time in the state of Georgia, at a parent’s discretion and depending on the child’s maturity level. We never leave her that long because he and I both have 21st century anxiety about it, but I will say it’s nice that I can go grocery shopping now without her tagging along begging for crap. I bet I spend about $50 less a week on food because of that. And the apron strings are loosening…I’m watching how helpless so many kids are these days, and do not want. Miss M is about to be thrown into the grown up deep end of the pool. Another year or so. Welcome to Reality, love bug.

I love the day camp she’s at right now. It’s where she went to before and after school care last year. One of the teachers, Ms. Lizette, is simply amazing. She’s someone who genuinely loves children…she listens to them talk about the things they’re interested in, then comes up with old school plans for how to make those things happen. Example: M loves drama, singing, and being the center of attention. The three girls M pals around with at the camp also love drama and being the center of attention, but not singing. So Ms. Lizette said: well, girls, how about a news cast? Each of you can take turns being the center of attention, and you can be as dramatic as you like – the news is pretty full of drama. So that’s what they’re working on right now: M is writing a script with one of the girls and the other two are building a news set with cardboard and other recycle/reuse materials Ms. Lizette has brought in. They’re in rehearsals right now, but go live on Friday. And every day for the rest of the summer, they will have a morning and afternoon newscast. M isn’t attending the day camp every week this summer, but that’s okay, Ms. Lizette told her. She’s the special guest anchor when she’s there, and an original producer and creator of KBN News. It’s her brainchild.

These kinds of things make my heart want to burst.

Ms. Lizette is at this place when I drop M off at 8ish AM and she’s there when M’s dad picks her up at 6ish PM. I have no idea how someone her age (I estimate she’s in her 50s or 60s) has this much energy, but this is clearly her passion and calling. I was thinking…how is it that many teachers also have a passion and calling to work with children, but are utterly exhausted by the end of May? Yet Lizette does this, 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM, Monday through Friday, all 12 months of the year. HOW?? My only answer is: data and testing. Lizette’s job isn’t on the line if test scores plummet because there are no tests. And Lizette doesn’t have to follow a set curriculum. Or constantly adhere to the latest research-based learning schemes created by people who only work with theoretical children; Lizette’s practices are all tried and true practices kids did prior to technology and government-driven ego contests took over: imagination and play and fun and how to be a good friend and citizen talks. And also…maybe because babies and little kids don’t pack heat, she also doesn’t really have to worry about bullets and crap either. That probably eliminates at least 50% of stress.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/5362269/Super-Mom
This is basically how I picture Ms. Lizette, most days of the week. Photo credit: Super Mom by Dave Cox

Lizette is also one of those firm but loving people. She loves kids, but she will NOT be putting up with any girl B.S. (because girls are full of girl b.s….boys too, but their b.s. is slightly less histrionic). So sometimes M’s dad will pick her up and I’ll get a tearful phone call from her about how mean Ms. Lizette was today…last time it was: Tomorrow is supposed to be Bring Your Device Day but Ms. Lizette cancelled it because we didn’t earn it! That is sooo RUDE, Mommy! Tell Ms. Lizette she’s NOT allowed to be rude to kids! 

Which makes me laugh and laugh, because my child has known me for 9.5 years now and when have I ever sided with kids?? Never, that’s when. Not in school/learning situations where adults have to corral massive amounts of children, at least. Not in today’s atmosphere when parents let kids be in charge more often than not. Children are any society’s most significant natural resource, its highest potential for progress and success. I think about the teenagers fighting rich, powerful NRA lobbyists to make high schools safe places right now, and I know: today’s children are going to save this country. If the adults currently running it don’t burn it to the ground first. And we don’t end up with an orange-hued dictator.

But the flip side of that coin is that children are also crazy. Before the age of 16. Children are crazy. They will exist on candy and ice cream and pizza, swim all day long, watch inappropriate YouTube channels involving pranks that can kill them, destroy an entire kitchen within an hour making various vats of slime, and the word NO makes most of them start behaving like Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist. It is entirely possible to raise a modern day Joan of Arc…but it is also very likely you’ll churn out an Anne Coulter too, if you let them believe their own hype.

At any rate, I love Ms. Lizette and wish we’d just put her in this day camp every other week. She’s going to a cheer and drama camp, an art camp, and a sports camp…but I think we should have just signed her up to hang out with Ms. Lizette every other week. It’s like Little Women, where Jo and her sisters write/produce/costume design/perform their own plays and stories, and every little girl should have those memories, because technology is robbing us of them now.

*****

I’ve signed another 13 month lease at my apartment complex. This is the last one, I’ve told them. They’ve officially priced me out after this. Also, their dumpster has been broken for over 6 months now and they have gigantic free form dumpsters sitting in the parking lot. I love it here, but it’s kind of annoying every time I come home and see that and think about how much of my paycheck they take every month…I could be living in a huge 2 story house for that much.

So why don’t you, Amy? I hear imaginary, non-existent Readers ask. Well, here’s why: because while I can afford the mortgage on a big 2 story house, I couldn’t afford the electric bill on one, or if the a/c broke I couldn’t afford to fix it. And I don’t want to mow a lawn, or clean 2 stories of rooms every weekend…I have a hard enough time cleaning a tiny 2 bedroom apartment. And also I like the pool here, which when I hit publish on this, I’m about to go sit by with a book. That’s why.

***

So here’s how my anxiety works: on Monday, I decided to take a break from technology. I left my phone in the apartment and walked to the pool with a book, two towels, sunscreen, and a bottle of water. I sat in the pool and read. I took a brief nap in the sun. I swam for a bit. I sat in the pool pondering all that I’ve been through over the last 3 years and particularly the last 3 months. I decided some things. Then I took another nap in the sun. I read 3 chapters of my book.

About two, two and a half hours in, I realized: holy shit, no one can contact me right now. My phone is in my apartment. C is working next to the Braves Stadium (C’s commute is from where we live to Cobb County, which in Atlanta traffic is basically the equivalent of working out of state every day…but his office overlooks the Braves ball field, so there’s that). If there was an emergency at day camp, say my Miss M and one of her dramatic fellow news anchors decided to punch each other in the eyeballs, nobody could reach me. They could call C, but he’d be like 2 hours away. And I’d look like a bad mom. I know how education professionals think when they can’t reach the mom.

So I was thoroughly enjoying my technology-free time by the pool, and really didn’t want to leave. Like ever. Like I wanted to sleep there all night, it was that fabulous. But I had to be near a phone. And if I’m near a phone, then I’ll probably go look at Facebook to see what’s happening with my friends and family…or I’ll get on Twitter to see what ass crazy thing Donald has done now. Or I’ll look at Pinterest. Or Instagram. Or something. I’ll check email.

It’s just non-stop. Technology is changing us, and not always for the better. I think it’s made me more anxious. I don’t remember being this anxious even five years ago. I’ve always had anxiety…I just don’t remember having THIS much anxiety. And social media can be depressing.

I had a brief discussion with another Twitter user about it yesterday, and I have more to say but no time right now. I’ll share tomorrow if I don’t forget I started blogging again. The reason I haven’t posted for six days is because I forgot I started blogging again. I’ve been trying to work up the energy to focus on either working on the dark fairy tale I started here months ago, or start writing a new story. I had a five hour lunch with my friend Becky yesterday, and she completely encouraged me to write whatever the hell I want, whatever story I want to tell. We talked about the toxic friendship I just ended, and she high fived me for going after him out loud on Twitter. (The anger has cleared and so now my inner guilt trip critic is taking over, and I’m reflecting on what I said and shouldn’t have, what I said and damn straight it needed to be put out there, and what I wish I’d said but now if I go back and say it it makes him look like what he insinuated about me was true but mostly he’s just not worth my energy at this point.)

She reflected on some things I told her about what I did (because I’m not an angel in this), and said while my own choices weren’t stellar, he is most certainly a self-centered asshole addicted to drama. Drama is great story fodder, and yes to what Anne Lamott said about getting to write about what happens to you and if people want you to write warmly about them they should have behaved better. So I’ve got some story ideas, and I’m fine with him writing stories that paint me as a bad person…if he’s okay with me writing rebuttals to those stories with the truth because I feel very confident one could take every single bad thing I’ve done over the last 3 years in regards to this person, carefully lay them out and line them all up, and then do the same with what he’s done, and his line will stretch at LEAST fifty miles longer than mine. I’d very confidently bet one whole month’s rent on that.

But Becky also says you can get great stories out of just living a boring life, too. She told me two highly entertaining stories about her dog and a preacher/house contractor that I totally would pay to read and I hope she gets busy on writing them.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh! Right. Tomorrow I’m going to write about social media and technology and how it’s changing us – the effect it’s had on me – and what’s good vs bad about it. If I remember I have a blog. But right now, I’m going to skim-edit this entry, try to pick a better title for it (current working title: “today.”), hit publish, and then go to the pool. With my phone this time. Because technology is insidious and I have anxiety without the Wonder Woman patience of Ms. Lizette.

unfocused.

This will be another rambling, unfocused blog entry I’m writing just to write. I keep telling myself that, eventually, I will have a focus. I will have a focused thing to write about, a topic that will lend itself to its own hashtag that will go viral on Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet and bring me readers who are lovely and sane and really real and people I’d totally meet for a misty morning nature trail hike and then coffee and a light breakfast, or for a fun dinner and wine and maybe a blues club afterward. I know these people exist in the world. I have met a handful of lovely stars and hearts from the Internet, people who’ve seen me at my worst and not judged me and because they know my heart.

So. Because I want to write but have no focus, usually what I like to do when this happens instead of just ramble about nothing is just answer a bunch of pointless questions about myself. Which, on the surface, is incredibly narcissistic and navel-gazer-y, I know. But I encourage everyone to do it, because it’s also incredibly fun and self-soothing AND you self-therapy sometimes. Therapy ain’t cheap, so any time you can find a coupon for it, I say: go for it.

blog survey

1- Amy

2- 46 (this is the sad part…that I am 46 and still fill out these surveys)

3-Three fears: death by plane crash, death by fiery plane crash, death by fiery plane crash into an ocean and not dying immediately but dying in the mouth of JAWS.

4-Three things I love: Miss M, cool sunny mornings outside, people who see you at your worst and love and keep you anyway.

5-Four turn ons: swarthy smart and kind men, deep/throaty laughs, the smell of patchouli/coffee/books, thoughtful surprises, when someone sends me a poem or a song that made them think of me. That was five, but I don’t always play by the rules.

6-Four turn offs: hypocrites, cheaters, liars, manipulators, fake people. Five again, but I like the number 5 better than 4 anyway.

7-My best friend: I don’t really have a best friend. I would like one, though.

8-Sexual orientation: A friend of mine says sexuality is fluid, and I kind of agree. Actually, she says there’s a spectrum, and some people are way on the heterosexual end and others are way on the homosexual end, but most people fall somewhere in between or further to one side or another. I will just say I’m not on either end of this spectrum.

9-My best first date: This is ridiculous, as there is no such thing. It takes at LEAST 20 dates to really get a good feel for who someone is and what they’re about.

10-How tall: I’m officially 510″. But at the doctor’s office lately I’ve been 5’9″ and once I was 5’8″. If this keeps up, they’re not going to let me on the big kid rides at parking lot carnivals.

11-What do I miss: this one is loaded. I miss the old me. I shared some old Facebook posts with my love D, from a time I felt I was happiest, and most at ease with being on the Internet and sharing myself openly. He said I still sound very much like that person. But I don’t FEEL like her anymore. And that’s what I miss.

12-What time were I born: Well, first, survey creator, this is poor English and that drives me nuts. Second, I was born on a Wednesday (child of woe, and this is very true) at 3:20 in the afternoon. Or 3:10. Or 3:15. After 3 pm, but before 3:30. Definitely before Happy Hour.

13-Favorite color: I have three…green, blue, and purple. One day when I have my own little house, I want three rooms in each of those colors. Just like at the White House. Except there’s no purple room at the White House. And I’d like there also not to be a crazy orange man in my little White House.

14-Do I have a crush: On a celebrity? I have lots of those. On a person: he knows who he is. I crush on him hard, every day.

15-Favorite quote: I don’t really have a favorite quote, but lately I’m loving Sylvester McNutt’s thoughts about life. Who are these wise men and women who write these quote-memes that help me navigate through the highs and lows? Nikkita Gill, Atticus, Horacio Jones, Yrsa Ward-Daley, Nayyirah Waheed, Renata Suzuki…they’re so wise.

sylvester mcnutt
current and pertinent.

16-Favorite place: there’s a spot I like to sit in, on a nature trail I often walk. It’s far back on the trail, near a big pond with fish and turtles and ducks, and if I can pull myself out of bed early enough on a morning I don’t have Miss M, I can go sit there by the pond thinking, with the animals, and pretend Walt Whitman is nearby writing poems about the world while God and I talk about how to be better.

But I also love lonely, quiet beaches. And my bed.

17-Favorite food: I like all the food. This is part of my problem.

18-Do I use sarcasm: What?? ME?! Noooo! *eye roll*

19-What am I listening to right now: I wish I could put a really cool song here, but it’s a YouTube episode of Strange Stories from the ER that my 9 year old is suddenly obsessed with. I hope it’s because she wants to become a doctor and save lives, but I have a sinking feeling it’s just because she’s inherited my schadenfreude.

20-First thing I notice in new person: Whether or not they may be from Russia. After that, their openness or lack thereof.

21 & 22 & 23 & 24-Shoe size/eye color: I’m not sure why anyone would want to know any of this, but 9/10 and brown and bottle blonde and jeans/yoga pants.

25-Prank call: yes, when I was in high school. We’d call pizza places and order pizzas for neighbors, then hide in the bushes giggling ourselves sick. This was pre-Caller ID, pre-technology. Nowadays, teenagers seem to just hang out on social media gossiping and calling each other names or trying to find a way to be the next reality show star. They don’t even know the joys of going into the local supermarket and rearranging all of the canned mandarin oranges with all of the canned carrots. The 21st century makes me very sad.

26- except whoever did this can’t speak English or count, so it’s 27- The meaning behind my URL: I like fairy tales, I’m a girl, stuff has happened to me, this is my story…Once upon a girl, there was a time…(it makes sense to me, and that’s all that matters).

28-Favorite movie: The Wizard of Oz. To understand me is to understand this movie.

29&30- Favorite song/band: I don’t really have one of either. My ring tone on my phone is Somewhere Over the Rainbow, if that helps. When people laugh at me when it goes off, I know that person and I are not tribe.

31-How I feel right now: A mixture of things. A little shell shocked by life. But also pretty positive – summer vacation has begun for me, I’ve kicked a really toxic person out of my life AND I’m deeply disinterested in anything they are saying or doing now, and so…positive. But also scared it’s all going to cave in on me again.

32-Someone I love: Miss M, always. I have so many people I love in my life, blessings. It’s partly why I’m always scared it’ll all cave in on me again.

33-My current relationship status: loved, but from afar.

34-My relationship with my parents: I hope my dad is still around me, I miss him. I also find him easier to hang out with now that he’s not lecturing me all the time. I love my mom very much, even though she’s a Trump fan.

35-Favorite holiday: Halloween is fun, and Thanksgiving is about gratitude and family. So those two.

36-Tattoo/piercing: I think I may get a tattoo this summer or fall. I want a small mermaid tail and/or the Sanskrit symbol for God. Piercings: I have 3 holes in each ear (okay fine, 4 if you count where the sound goes in)…only 2 work now, and I only use one consistently every day.

Which sums up pretty much how I do everything.

Can I close this out with a meme I saw on Facebook today that I really really love, that feels really really true for me? And then I have to go take Miss M swimming, because god forbid we not get started on pool time IMMEDIATELY.

give yourself time
everything good takes time.

 

dark fairy tales and etc.

Elizabeth Gilbert says that memoir is actually far less intimate than fiction writing. Isn’t that interesting? Writers actually reveal more of themselves when they write fiction than they do when writing memoir. Because you get to write about the things that happened to you, I’m going to. But I’m not stupid. Naive yes, but stupid no. I know the legal parameters and consequences involved when doing that. And that is where my love of fairy tales comes into play.

Fairy tales have so much: good and evil, magic, mystery, adventure, romance. So I was re-reading the (horribly shitty) draft of the dark fairy tale I posted here a few months ago, and it does seem to have the basics of the story I want to weave. I haven’t had a lot of time to really focus on it lately. But I have some more quiet time coming up and I can give it more attention. I’m going to print it off, edit, make some plot and character notes, and off and away I’ll go.

Meanwhile, there’s the pool, and a possible trip to a cabin on a lake with my family, and about ten books in my To Read queue I want to get to. A busy, good summer ahead, with a couple of projects to keep me busy (always a good idea). My daughter and I are adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet and are going to take some hikes on local nature trails, do lots of swimming, and try yoga and belly dancing together this summer. What’s cool about having a 9 year old, I’m finding, is she can do STUFF now. I can share some of my favorite bad 90s rom-coms I love with her: Hope Floats, Music and Lyrics (okay fine that’s 2007, but BARELY out of the 90s), Notting Hill, My Best Friend’s Wedding, While You Were Sleeping, Muriel’s Wedding, Never Been Kissed…she’s already addicted to Clueless. And other movies that I just love with all of me: Forrest Gump, The Color Purple, Legends of the Fall, Practical Magic, Titanic, Groundhog Day, Edward Scissorhands, Braveheart, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dances With Wolves…I mean, clearly we’ve got Movie Nights at Home covered.

I took her to see Solo the other night. Meh. And she slept through half of it. I think the Star Wars stories with female leads are simply better now. More Leia, less Luke. Why are movie dates so expensive?! $28 for two tickets, $25 for one popcorn/drink. Crazy. Movie night at home is so much better, plus less people to wade through and process. The theater we saw Solo at had reclining seats. The man sitting next to me took his shoes off and brought a blanket with him…I mean what?? Also, he used the arm rest between us. I vowed if he tried to use my shoulder as a pillow, I would poke one of his eyes out with an elbow. I am really really beginning to avoid strangers more and more. Other people exist in the world, and it is not all about YOU, strangers in movie theaters.

On the other hand, I can’t wait to take her to some concerts. And outdoor Shakespeare in a park! Or Shakespeare in general. And some plays. And some concerts she likes. I thoroughly enjoy my daughter’s company at these things. And I like talking to her afterwards, to see her perspective on what she experienced.

I feel like this is an incredibly bland, boring blog entry. It’s entirely possible it’s bland and boring because so am I these days. I am over drama and people who thrive on it. My last complete rage was Saturday, when that calmed down I vowed to never allow another human being to disrupt my inner peace like that ever again; I have spent the last 3 years being scared, crying my eyes out over a selfish person, and being made to feel used rather than wanted. I have said my piece, and I am focused on doing what is best for me now. And what do I want right now? I want quiet. I want peace. I want to work through my darkness and bring forth the light again. The best (and only way) I know how to do that is to write. And I write openly and publicly because I just do. This is how I’ve always done it, and I’m not going to stop because someone else gets their panties in a wad about it. I was advised, in the past, over and over: nobody owes anyone else a thing. And so I’m putting that advice to good use now and focusing on writing in a way that makes ME happy.

When I was writing blogs in 2014, I was completely able to do this…I never thought: is XX reading this?? Or: if I say this, could XX feel this? Or: who cares about this?? I just wrote. Because I felt like it. In my head, I created an imaginary person, someone I’d like to hang out with very much, and I wrote to that person. That was my audience: an imaginary person that didn’t actually exist, but if they did we’d be BFFs and they’d read everything I wrote and high five me. I’m having a hard time finding that person again. And the girl who wrote that 2014 blog.

My boyfriend says I sound just the same as I did back then. So maybe it’s that I no longer FEEL the same. I have been skittish since late 2015. Now my skittish is skittish. I like people (who don’t take off their shoes and bring blankets to movie theaters), but I understand the darkness of people now, and how their darkness can bring out your own. And what that does to a person. I know what it has done to me. I don’t feel like myself anymore. It makes it hard to find (an imaginary) muse, and to feel free as I write. Which, again, is why this may be my most boring, bland blog.

Oh wait! I thought of something to write about that’s not bland…can I say one more thing before I sign off (I’m not actually asking, that was rhetorical)?

Being a woman is scary. I once was followed for about 4 blocks in Midtown Atlanta by a man who “just wanted to talk to me.” There was no one else around and I made it very clear I did not want to talk to HIM. Yet he continued, and kept following me, until I reached the main road where a female police officer was standing on the sidewalk…I practically ran to up to her to ask directions to the theatre. And the man disappeared.

Online, I have learned there are men in the world who deeply hate women, and some of them hide this very well. Others just do it anonymously, the coward’s way out: the other day on the Internet, I had a scary man with a scary @ name retweet and reply and quote tweet some of what I said…none of what he was attacking me about had absolutely anything to do with him; it didn’t involve him at all. My real face and name is attached to whatever I say there, so I think it takes a special kind of coward to verbally attack someone from an anonymous account. The person I was interacting with was male…and he wasn’t attacked. So you can imagine what narratives my brain can run with on that. Whatever the case, male misogynists are on both sides of the political aisle, and they are all horrible people. I find gamers to be particularly plagued with this problem, and women are regularly attacked online for expressing emotion, opinion, or telling our stories. There’s a reason the #MeToo movement is so huge; women have been dealing with crap like this for eons. Don’t even get me started on what black women have had to put up with, still do.

I’ve read very well-written, thoughtful pieces by men about the hardships women face online…and then these very men are often discovered to be guilty of that which they have protested and judged. Men are interesting like that…is it their ability to compartmentalize so thoroughly, they can’t see the log in their own eye? I don’t know. I love several. I have a good handful of men in my life who are very, very good men, so this is not a diatribe against all men. I’m just stating what I have experienced at the hands (fingers?) of men on the Internet (100% on Twitter, by the way) and have observed happening to other women.

So I fight back verbally now. If I catch bad behavior by a man, I’ll call it out. I am ONLY interested in interacting with and hearing from decent men, who deeply and truly respect women. Men who quote Bible verses then retweet a porn video? Bye, Felipe, you’re one sick puppy. Men who write about protecting women online then go on the attack against one? See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya. My boyfriend hates blocking people; I don’t have a problem with it. Blocking and wall building are my two special magical talents, and I like to use them freely on that particular social media website. It is very very bad there. Very bad. I’ve said (20,000 times, I’m told) I hate that place and am leaving. I’ve even been encouraged to delete my account by certain icky men there. The fastest way to get me NOT to do something is to tell me to do it, though. But mostly I don’t because I was fine there for a very long time. I let one dweeb in, then another, then a true sociopath, Donald Trump gets elected, and BAM. Now I’m doing regular battle with bored psychos who hate women. Crazy. But I’m tough. I’M not quitting.

I know I could easily get rid of them by just quoting happy happy peace peace friendly cute puppy gifs and memes. Be completely boring. But I want to write again, and I’ve Google researched it: writers HAVE to have a Twitter. And, like Mara Wilson observed in her excellently written article about this particular website, I genuinely like SOME people there. It has brought me some very good people–two women friends and a lovely gentle soul in Los Angeles who writes poetry and has been quietly supportive for a steady three years of utter nonsense from me. I met a man I love deeply there. These aren’t just patient people, they are people who don’t seem to have rules or unspoken expectations for conformity from me to the friendship. And those are the best kinds. I find.

Where was I? I think I’m completely off tracked now…writing, dark fairy tale, 90s movies, weird theater people, misogynists on social media. I have no idea how to wrap this up. I think I just felt like typing thoughts out. And thus goes my brain.

Wait! Here. Here is a summary of my Memorial Day, 2018. I had delicious shrimp teriyaki and mango boba tea, bought sunflowers to foil the rainy day, there were sweet memories, and tie dye shoes were made (plus one shirt destroyed), and one crazy picture of the love of my life was taken – quirky gifts I am occasionally left to find when I open my phone.

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I’m gonna be okay. I just need to be tough and THWACK! at the hyenas out there, and get to a point where I just completely and utterly and totally ignore their whining and yapping. But mostly: write. Writing always makes me feel better, even if what I write makes no sense to anyone else (secret: I’m not writing for anybody here but me) (…and an imaginary muse, if I can think one up).

The end.

well.

Let’s try this anew. Fresh. I’m a big believer in fresh starts. Because fresh is awesome. 

Allow me to reintroduce myself. This is my story and then I shall be off and running once more here.

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I’ve been writing since Mrs. Tippie chose my story about an owl family and shared it with my 2nd grade classmates, declaring it “one of the finest stories” she’d ever read. Mrs. Tippie failed at teaching me how to borrow and regroup in Math, but she is one of the catalytic reasons I continue to express myself best via written word to this day.

Since then, I have written middle school sappy romances involving boy bands and various muscle-y superheroes and emo soap opera stars I desperately wished would love me. I have a stack of journals full of my progress (and many times DEgress) through life as a young adult to (as my 9 year old daughter calls it) a middle-aged woman. In 2005, I discovered blogging. Over the years, I have maintained (and abandoned) numerous blogs.

     In 2015, I separated from my husband and my daughter and I moved to an apartment. I met two men who flipped my world upside down  in bad ways, and eventually in 2017 I gave up writing altogether.
    While I firmly subscribe to the belief that bad people do good things and good people do bad things, that we are all a mixture of light and dark, and I am certainly no exception, I’m also healing from some really terrible people I let in over the last few years. Whenever I’ve struggled with hard things and weird feelings and anger and sorrow and fear and just general “wtf is wrong with the world and other people??” thoughts, the one thing that always helped me work through icks like that is words – reading other people’s and writing my own. Because stories heal us. They connect and teach us, and help us examine ourselves. And they heal us. Even when they connect us to bad people. Those teach us, too. Because we are made of stories.
    And that’s mine.
anne l

30 things.

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what i feel like doing.

I’ve lost interest in the fairy tale I started. Therein lies my problem as a writer: I don’t put my butt in my chair every day as St. Anne Lamott commands. I have a bitter, bad attitude about it and Life throws up in my face. All the time. And I move on. But I’ll keep it and maybe one day I’ll read what I’ve written again, and I’ll be gripped to finish it up.

Have I mentioned I have Russians in my statcounter here? I have Russians in my statcounter hits. Moscow and St. Petersburg. And China. It’s fine. It makes me feel very dangerous and spy-like. I probably should have worked for the CIA anyway, with my love of researching the bizarre.

I just felt like updating this blog. I have nothing important to say. No real dramas to report on. The sociopath on Twitter has gone dormant again. You know, how viruses do. My life is even keeled these days, and relatively drama-free. I like it like that.

Here is a meme of self-indulgent drivel I’ve seen floating around the social media sphere. I will answer as many as I can, have time for, and/or feel like. Let’s be intimate, in a one-sided way:

30 things

Five ways to win my heart:

hand-picked flowers

texting or calling me for no reason other than to say you’re thinking about me

following through on what you say you’ll do

making me laugh, and letting me use you as a human pillow whenever I’m tired or sad.

….I’m high maintenance emotionally, but not financially.

Something I feel strongly about: Guns. I’m done talking. I’m done listening to the NRA talking points and propaganda. I have one talking point, and only one: STOP KILLING KIDS STOP THE MASS SHOOTINGS. The end. Shut up about mental health. Shut up about people killing people. Shut up about knives and cars and other dangerous people killers. Guns are killing mass amounts of adults but more importantly children. Teachers are now first responders being trained in tourniquet application and taught how to determine a gunned down child’s likelihood of survival so they can determine who to focus on if they’re helping the wounded. The gun fetishists’ response? Arm teachers, train them to be sharp shooters. We have not just lost our way, we have lost our damn minds. ENOUGH. Keep your stupid hand guns and your hunting rifles. But assault rifle time is over. I’m going to work to help ban them. F your 2nd amendment “right.” It does not supersede my and my child’s right to stay alive. ENOUGH.

A book I love: Anything by Anne Lamott. Glenn Doyle’s LOVE WARRIOR. These are my heroes.

Bullet my WHOLE day? I’ll do this in a separate blog post some day. Plus, I’ve only been up since 9 AM and it’s not even 2 pm.

Things I want to say to an ex: Oh, I pretty much just say them in blog entries or Twitter subtweets. I don’t have a problem airing my dirty laundry, though I am getting a lot more selective about when, how, and where I do it.

My views on mainstream music: uuuhhh, it’s good? Anything that’s not misogynistic rap. angry heavy metal, or twangy country is thumbs up in my book. I prefer sad songs in minor keys though. Here’s a link to a song that represents the kind of woe-is-me, thoughtful music I’m drawn to.

Five pet peeves: oooh, that is hard. JUST five. Okay…hypocrites, liars, Trump apologizers, men who leave the toilet seat up, and sneer-y people. Sneer-y people are the worst, but hypocrites and liars are the worstest.

What I ate today: so far a cinnamon raisin bagel and coffee. Later, I’ll have a Black Forest ham sandwich. I’m pretty boring with the food.

How important education is: pretty damn important. Look at who got into the White House. The need for compare/contrast skills and has reached critical levels. Being able to infer, evaluate, critically analyze information. Crucial these days.

First ten songs from my favorite Spotify list:

True Colors by Cyndi Lauper

Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics

Lovergirl by Teena Marie

True by Spandau Ballet

Satellite by Guster

Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby by Cigarettes After Sex

Eye in the Sky by The Alan Parsons Project

Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri

I Lost Everything by Sam Cooke

Yesterday by The Beatles

My family: …can be dysfunctional, but I would take a bullet for any one of them. Family is everything. There are some families with people in them you MUST stay away from, for your own sanity and safety. My immediate family does not have those kinds. I love them with all of me. Except my mom needs to turn off FOX News and start using her critical thinking skills.

Five guys I find attractive: Okay, so before I write this list, I want to just say–what attracts me to a man (or woman, for that matter) isn’t really looks. Like, Brock O’Hurn and Idris Elba are on my Holy God, Mother Nature! list of men I would NOT deny, simply based on the visceral reaction my ovaries have every time I see a picture of either of them. But ultimately, what makes me fall in love with someone is their brain, their humor, their heart, their character, and their skills in bed. The end. Anything else is just icing.

Here’s my 5 attractive people: Brock O’Hurn, Idris Elba, David Harbour, Gerald Butler, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I like my men like I like my steaks: seasoned and juicy.

(I’m sorry. I hope you weren’t planning steak for dinner.)

Opinion about my body: sigh. I mean, I like my shouders. Otherwise, it just needs a lot of work. But I’m too tired. And distracted.

What I wore today: Right now I’m still in my pajamas. Grey pants, T-back spaghetti straps black shirt. Comfy. Later, I’ll throw on some jeans or yoga pants and a long t-shirt. I don’t go for fashionable, I go for “could I also take a nap in this if necessary?” able.

Does my zodiac sign fit me: I’m Pisces, and yes. It does. Like I’m double triple squared Pisces with a Pisces rising. I’m so Pisces I put the Pi in the Sces. Somewhere in an ancient Greek zodiac almanac, an ancient Greek astrologer predicted I would one day walk this Earth, thus proving all of their Pisces astrological sign descriptions. I know there are people in the world who are skeptics and laugh cynically at this stuff, because I am friends with many of them. But they are wrong about this Pisces. Sorry, but you are. You are wrong, so just deal with it and sit there and be wrong in your wrongness. I am actually a Pisces. Yes.

A “what if…” I think about: What if…I won $900 million in the lottery tomorrow? What if…I could go back to school and get a new career in one year or less? What if…there’s a military coup 3 months from now? What if…I need to leave the country and I still haven’t updated my passport? (I got a lotta “what if…”s.)

Something I’m proud of: my little girl. My ability to have a total, emotionally irrational and angry meltdown and then pull it right back together and do better.

A problem I’ve had: oh, we’d be here all day. I’m just going to go with…I need to stick to a budget better. A LOT better.

Five items I lust after: a new duvet insert, a weekly maid, a daily meal service, a new car (I’d accept a 2015-ish model, used but in great condition), and a cheaper apartment with more square footage but wood floors/granite countertops.

How I hope my future will be: happy, peaceful, and content. Maybe with travel adventures now and then.

My academics: Bachelors and Masters and School of Life.

Five words/phrases that make me laugh: I’m going to come back to this another day. I literally can’t think of any right now.

Something I’m currently worried about: my daughter is having a hard time at school, and with self-esteem. My guilt levels about the self-esteem are sky high. My mama bear levels about the school thing are overwhelming.

Things I like/dislike about me:

Like–I’m kind (kind is very different than nice, by the way…I used to be nice. I still am too nice to a certain degree. But now I aim for kind…what is the appropriate response here? Gentleness? Compassion? Anger? Kindness isn’t necessarily nice.)

Dislike–still working on my overthinking/over-analyzing issues.

A quote I try to live by:

I have two, actually. the first one is something I have to constantly come back to and remind myself–this is happening again because you didn’t learn the first time. The second goes with the first, in that I have a horrible, really bad, terribly awful time just trusting the process. And the third is just something I saw awhile ago in one of my random Internet forages and it’s stuck with me, partly because every advice giver I’ve ever talked to or read stuff by (including the Dalai Lama himself) has said the path to peace is, well, stop giving a fuck. But I think I disagree. There ARE some things in life you should give a fuck about. But be selective because the path to peace is really to stop giving a fuck…about things that simply don’t matter.

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Somewhere I’d like to live/visit:

Live–a quiet cabin in the mountains. With a hot tub.

Visit–I want to go to Wales, specifically to Cardiff, which is where my paternal great-great grandmother immigrated from.

Five weird things I like:

when someone plays with my hair

people watching (I like to try to figure out their background stories)

research (give me some basic info and I will start digging…on my own, I start researching many different things, sometimes just randomly typing whatever pops in my brain into Google)

I’m obsessed with mermaids (for someone who wants to live in a mountain cabin…I’d be fine with a beach house too…as long as it has a hot tub)

peeling sunburn skin and other things off skin–dried liquid eyeliner, face masks…it’s the weirdest thing about me, I say

Something I’m excited about: Summer. I can’t wait for sleep-ins and pool time.

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i think this about myself all the time. usually i lean wildly naive. but i have occasional moments of dangerous intelligence–more and more i am simply unwilling to put up with other humans’ bullshit.

the bitter wall: a story of love’s betrayal, part one.

THAT is a brainful of a title for a mere blog entry, I apologize. But I’ve gotten my bathroom cleaned, my grocery shopping done, my job-work prepped for next week, and so I’m self-exploring today, and of all the overly dramatic titles I came up with, it was the most forthright.

Are you interested in a dark fairy tale? I’ve been working on it since this morning. It originally started as a navel-gazing, whiny reflection on a past hurt, a this-is-why-I-build-walls-dammit blog entry that got wieldy and really, really dumb. Then I suddenly felt like writing a dark fairy tale semi-based on it, and now here I am. It’s long and very much in shitty first draft form so some parts may be confusing or ramble-y with odd word phrasing and/or word choice. Occasionally my inner spell checker starts drunk-typing and writes pore instead of pour and the like. And you’d need some time. Do you have time? Are fairy tales super cliche? But I mean seriously, there’s a fucked up evil wizard and a betrayed sorceress in it and everything.

(…….seven hours later edit: I have to break this up into parts. I’ll post the other parts tomorrow and whenever I finish them.)

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sorceress blog
Source: Tattoodo.com https://www.tattoodo.com/a/2016/09/never-get-lost-with-vegvisir-tattoos/

Once upon a time, there lived a sorceress. She was neither bad nor good; in fact, she really didn’t understand her magic or how to use it. In moments she did use it, it was simply to conjure a new fantastic flower she remembered once catching a glimpse of from an idea of a long-forgotten dream of a traveling, sleeping faerie nearby. Or she used it to sing to her bees, to encourage them to grow new trees dripping with inexplicable fruit that could feed armies, and soften long-hardened hearts with the sweetness of their juices. The Sorceress passed her time singing and dancing alone, sometimes in glittering garbs made from silk spun by fat worms under Harvest Moons, sometimes offering her pure, naked skin to the Sun god or the Moon goddess, glowing with their light as her wild dark hair teased and kissed dewy air.

Without inhibition or shame, she made fierce and free love to the gods and goddesses of wind and fire, rain and thunder, happily giving them her sighs and moans and deep throaty laughter with all the the other offerings from her Garden. Because though it was a hidden thing, her magical, mystic Garden, in truth the Sorceress had no known enemies. In fact, had one informed her of the reaches of her power, the Sorceress would have laughed a hearty laugh to hear of it, to learn she possessed magical skills that were near goddess-like. There were times, though, when she had quiet and thoughtful moments and tried hard to remember a Time Before, prior to when she’d arrived in her garden. She found she couldn’t remember being born, growing up, or how she had arrived to be in her garden. She could remember nothing except being alive and creating flowers and dancing and plotting with the bees, making love to her gods and goddesses choreographing grateful rituals of hedonistic dances for the abundance which sustained her. Because to the Sorceress, she was merely a gardener. She simply tended her plants with love, convincing the weeds by loving them to love each plant they grew near exactly as she did, that there was no reason at all for any living creature or plant in the world to kill or steal from each other; for the Sorceress it was simply impossible that anything in the world was incapable of living in beauty and harmony. And so in her garden everything flourished together with abandon because that was all she ever imagined and whatever she imagined passed into being.

Thus, whenever someone new and strange did stumble upon her and her home, she welcomed them into her garden without guile, bringing wine she’d pressed herself from dripping honeysuckle, feeding them enormous grapes from her own fingers, and wiping the juices that dripped from their corners of their lips slowly and seductively with her own tongue, teasing her guests until they squirmed with desire for her. The Sorceress would softly coax their deepest longings or dreams they’d long forgotten, from their hearts, then reach for either her flute or harp and quietly begin a song created only for her gobsmacked visitor, male and female alike, as she wove gentle tendrils of peace and love into his or her being, until they climaxed in waves and were exhausted and spent, drifting away on a patch of soft grass, with nothing but her garden’s soft, warm breeze wrapping them into a deep, satisfying sleep.

(I bet right now you’re going: Amy, the hell? How is THIS a dark fairy tale? That kind of starts further down, but not full-on dark until Part Two. Also: stop interrupting my dark fairy tale.) 

Indeed, the Sorceress and her garden were legend. Both traveling peddlers and battle-scarred knights who knew of her and had somehow managed to stumble onto her mythological Eden would awake on its soft grasses at the edge of it at least once on their many journeys. Some would even pluck a rose or two as either a souvenir or proof or both, then boast of their fortune at taverns where they rested. There, still reeling from her touch, they would tell stories or sing songs or recite smitten, drunken poems of sleeping under her trees while being caressed by gentle, warm breezes even in the middle of frozen blizzards. They told stories of smelling sweet grasses and honey, of dreaming impossible images filled with colors they could no longer find words to describe. Some who’d woken and bravely wandered even further into her magical space often tried to detail, to anyone willing to listen, the swiftness of the sparkling tails that swept softly past their faces or behind their backs by the hundreds, and swore they felt gentle fingers tracing their brows, drawing mysterious and protective sigils onto their foreheads then their shoulders and chests and backs while a faraway voice hummed lullabies to them, sweet songs they recognized as the very ones their mothers had once sung to them long ago, while they nursed at full, silken breasts dripping with rich, sugary milk.

They’d hold up the souvenirs they’d stolen for their audiences, roses that never withered or died, that stayed ever red or white or yellow or pink, with ethereal glows that seemed to emanate deep from their stamens, as their listeners stared in slack-jawed disbelief, yet determined by an inexplicable pull to experience it all for themselves one day.

Eventually, though, the Sorceress’ visitors would eventually come to doubt their memories as they grew into bedridden old men, broken by war and life and thousands of nightmares they’d created for themselves out of millions of nightmares they’d cast upon innocents they’d pillaged and raped.

Surely their impressions were merely the dreams of lost, war-torn soldiers wandering long from home, building fantasies around themselves to mend mutilated minds gone mad from both the loss of innocence and the taking of it. They would die, mere shadows of the giant warriors they’d once been, now withered and bald and toothless and wrinkled old men mumbling fantasy stories of a Sorceress and a garden, their voices cracking and bitter and tired, weeping of their craving to return to its safe warmth, as they clung to a vague hope that the recollections they had of silky hair caressing their sleeping eyelids had, indeed, been real. They begged silent deities their ravaged bodies, now as dry as leather and forever covered in dank sweat that sat and crusted between their wrinkles did truly once feel soft lips trailing the entire lengths of their bodies, creating shivers that once sent their minds reeling in swirls of indescribable ecstasy. They would often cry out in their sleep into cavernous, black nights silent of echoes, nights that were ever increasing in their lengths, their bony fingers beginning to scratch at the corners of the the life and breath the old knights clutched at desperately, sobbing at the memories of feeling pleasures that now came to them in thin wisps, that they would never have again now that life was leaving their weakening bodies.

All the while grime-covered grandchildren wiped at runny noses as they sat spellbound on the floor near their grandfathers’ deathbeds, listening intently as they poked sticks into crackling fires and listlessly stirred boiling kettles of broth concocted for their dying grandfathers because it was the only thing old men could keep down, and their witch-like grandmothers had told them to do it and they knew their angry, lice-covered mothers would take the switch to them mercilessly if they didn’t. The children all knew these tales weren’t real at all, because the dead roses their grandfathers clung to were black and withered things, just like the world outside of them. Yet they were pretty tales to think of, and they thought maybe when they were bigger themselves they would escape this life and go out into the world to become bards or peddlers, and weave them into songs or stories to tell in front fires on their travels and perhaps earn an extra coin or even a kiss from a maiden they might pretend was their very own Sorceress.

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source: The Dockyards http://thedockyards.com/

     There were, once upon a time in this same land, fretful wizards who saw the beauty and power of the Sorceress’ magic – they glimpsed, in the choking smoke splutters from their spell-castings, her enchanted flowers and streams of glittering waterfalls with mermaids that splashed in rainbow pools and unicorns and the elusive Pegasus of lore that ate from her fingers, that allowed her, and only her, to tame them and ride them, barebacked, into inky night skies glittering with stars and wisps of clouds, softly snorting as she combed their manes with her deft fingers, untangling the barbs and massaging their neck muscles of knots. The visions blinded the wizards, awoke lecherous lusts to understand the Sorceress and her magic, so they could use it in their own spells. The most talented wizards knew how to cast dark spells of furious magic that made them rich men, bringing creatures of mystic forests to their knees in supplication, and offering them fantastic treasures which incurred them favor and honor with kings and lords. Yet even their most powerful magic always seemed to lack the kind of true strength they suspected existed in the world, dominance that rightfully ought to belong to them, and only them. The wizards deepest needs were hungers that often matted far down in the nethermost caverns of the murkiest parts of their souls, the bottom of black abysses. So the wizards were never quite sure what their desires actually were, but sensed if they could just possess the right magic, the kind of power only known to gods and goddesses, they would finally be able to access their every need, wishes even their own souls were unaware of, and their dominance would be realized, and quite permanent.

The most dynamic and efficacious of these wizards was a very nondescript, gap-toothed yet unattractive, pale man who often woke paralyzed by fear and hate.

His name was Stephan the Forgotten, and he didn’t know it, but the hovel of a hut in which he existed touched the very tips of the Sorceress’ garden he’d begun to spend his every hour seeking fitfully, both awake and dreaming.

Stephan lived alone, his tiny pigpen of a home covered in soot from the constant fire that burned in the center of his one-room home, a black kettle on it always, filled either with Stephan’s dinner of bland stew or a foul concoction of a spell that Stephan would sell to lords and ladies, kings and knights, serfs and commoners alike…who he bartered with never mattered to Stephan, as long as he was paid and tales of his magical abilities were spread far and wide. His coffers were always filled either with gold or bread and, once in awhile, an oh-so desperate farmer in danger of being evicted from his own hovel, would bring him one of his somewhat comely but filthy daughters so Stephan could terrorize, torture, beat, and rape her of her virginity and innocence before discarding her in a village somewhere far from all she knew, to a life of whoring, which is all Stephan truly believed women were worthy of. Stephan did this regularly to the peasants of the valley in which he existed, from the village he lived in but also villages near and far, in exchange for a drop of dark hope from his kettle, a bottle to be drunk under a new moon after slaughtering a pig or a cow and bringing that as well to Stephan. In exchange, he gave them promised magic that next season’s crops would produce more than they had this season, and thus the lord would allow them to stay on a bit longer, continuing to eke out any bit of existence he possibly could, even though he would turn over almost all of it to the lord of the manor in the castle high above his pathetic existence.

For the kings and knights, lords and ladies, Stephan wove spells that shrouded their dreams with images of spices from exotic places, or promises of lost relics from the Holy Land, of triumphant battles that would win them the hand of a princess along with a noble title and all the land and riches that came with it. Stephan wove spells that gave them even more riches, even greater glory, bigger castles with deeper moats and the strongest weapons. In return, they filled Stephan’s hovel with jewels and gold coins he added to wooden boxes he buried in the dirt floor beneath his hut, boxes so spilling with rubies and emeralds and pearls that Stephan was constantly carving new wood into more boxes.

Ladies who found Stephan’s unusual looks strangely enchanting wove him intricate tapestries by their own hand. Some of these bore simplistic pictures of mundane life, others attempted to seduce him with bawdy depictions of ladies sucking the appendages of men who looked very much like Stephan, lying in amazing positions with their legs wide open to be probed with the men’s stiff members which were often the size and width of oak trees. These he hid away in piles in a separate, much smaller hut that leaned to the right which allowed the rain to run off it in rivers and kept the contents it sheltered safe and dry. Inside, next to the tapestries, were also dented goblets and shimmering fabrics and ancient coins with strange-looking rulers adorning one side…all from the Holy Land that a rowdy, drunken group of Knights Templar had once brought him, in exchange for vials of heady-smelling oils laced with spells of greatness and promises to make their seed the most virile, bringing them male heirs who would continue building their families’ wealth, ensuring their names endured for centuries, long after they were dead and forgotten.

Stephan had been proposed to by queens and princesses and duchesses and ladies-in-waiting. He had been offered the bodies of the fairest of maidens, had been kissed alluringly, with the supple and teasing tongues of widely desired beauties who possessed eyes of all colors, lashes as long as horse mane’s, and hair like sunshine or black as night or red as sunsets. But he denied them all, deferring politely and shyly, preferring instead to secretly release his vulgar needs into the holes that existed between the legs of the greasy-haired, dirt- and manure-covered daughters of the serfs who surrounded him.

For Stephan the Forgotten was completely and most utterly disinterested in love; his visitors would never know the story of when he was a young wizard just learning magic, of the day he’d met his witch, a wily and weak but pretty witch he’d discovered hiding in a nunnery, cloaking herself in holy water and crucifixes to avoid the villagers intent on burning her at a stake for her evil deeds. Rivulets of copper brown curls hid beneath her wimple and veil, utterly bewitching him the night she’d first let him have her, shaking them around her shoulders, covering her full breasts and taut, pointing nipple she would demand over and over he bite until she screamed in pain.

Soon after finding her, Stephan left the apprenticeship of the hunched over, acrimonious wizard who had already begun to bore him with his teachings of paltry, insignificant magic mere traveling peddlers used to steal petty bits of coins from their stinking audiences. He whisked his enchanting find away from the nunnery into a cold wintry night, after placing the nuns under a simple but long sleeping spell. Stephan believed the Witch’s words, wild promises she’d woven in his brain, pictures of a life filled with brawny lads and dutiful lasses she’d gift to him from her womb and a lifetime of fucking and magic and stealing from both the rich and the poor, which all left him dizzy with her hedonistic visions and completely, utterly besotted and seduced.

As they traveled from village to village, beguiling peasants of their food and what little riches they’d saved, Stephan and his witch plotted the kind of castle they would build together with their magic, magic they’d continue to learn and grow by their own cleverness. They dreamt of the power they’d cultivate and wield, together, over peasants and nobility alike. Stephan would lie with her under trees in forests, broken twigs digging deep into his back creating painful but pleasing welts as the Witch writhed on top of him, her eyes taking on a sharp hunger for something he instinctively knew had nothing to do with him. When she fell asleep under his cloak, her head resting on one of his thin, hairless forearms, he would spend most of the night just watching her sleep, his throat dry and parched from pleasing her, his eyes swimming in tears of disbelief, wondering how he’d fallen upon such a creature. He did not think he would survive without her, and could not imagine how he had reached the age he had without ever knowing she existed with him in the world.

Each time he thought of their couplings now, Stephan’s face contorted in pain and disgust. His devotion to the Witch had been stupid, his heart weak and too trusting. He’d taken her at her word when they arrived at the moat surrounding the castle of that region’s richest lord. The Witch promised Stephan she simply wished to visit the lord of the manor to enamor him, and relieve him of some of his jewels and gold. These were treasures they’d been seeking for many months together, the very riches they’d been dreaming of that would bring them so much closer to their destiny.

Three nights later, his witch returned, informing him a secret enchantment spell she had begun working on long before he’d rescued her from her villagers and the nunnery had worked. The grey castle’s lord had become enraptured with her, he had requested her hand in marriage, and she had accepted. Giggling, the Witch had then opened both hands so Stephan could see the lord’s dark and wet heart wiggling as it beat against her fingers. Then his witch had kissed his forehead, straightened his most errant lock with a bloodied thumb and forefinger, skipped a charming little dance to a ballad only she could hear, and she had spun away from him on one of her barefoot heels, the very heel he had licked with abandon a mere fortnight before. The Witch left Stephan stunned and alone, the now chilly and dark forest frozen and engulfing him, its small animals frozen too, warily watching him, their insides instinctively stinging with an ancient, inborn caution that caused their paws to quiver, their fur to stand straight up from its skin, and their lungs to cease their intake of air until the wizard moved and they knew in which opposite direction to run. Every living thing surrounding Stephan in that moment knew: this was a wounded Wizard, haphazardly trained, and one cast without warning into a dank cave of loss and despair, where the most dangerous of magic was always formed. Creatures as small as hummingbirds had only to make the fatal mistake of flying too close to one of these kinds of warped magic makers once to forever serve as cautionary tales that wove themselves into the genetic memories of each one of their descendants’ bodies.

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The Great Chasm by jbrown67 source: Deviant Art https://jbrown67.deviantart.com/art/Great-Chasm-335031553

     For years after her goodbye, Stephan stayed where The Witch took her leave of him. His body and mind ached with rage and loneliness, desperate to touch his Witch just one more time, yearning to feel her blazing breath on his loins, to release himself one last time into the muggy depths of the nebulous and mossy cave between her legs. As soon as he could, one last time, he thought he might take his dagger and plunge it into her wicked heart as soon as the last drop of his seed left him and settled into her black, deceptive depths. Then he envisioned turning it on himself, to end his tortured existence, in the hopes they would end up together forever, somewhere in the abysses of the Underworld.

He decided to live in the trunk of the ancient oak under which she’d announced her betrayal. He carved out its guts with both magic and his own sinew, setting up an alter when he finished, dedicating it and his soul to Gwynn ap Nudd, god of fallen warriors and the hunt, but adding his own dark and wicked twist by infusing his offerings to the god with the rotting hearts of the forest’s reptiles and barnacle-geese for which he traveled for miles, once every three months, by foot and enormous, winged dragons he conjured from the fiery depths of Earth, until he reached the rocky beach pounded infinitely by furious, salty waves where the barnacle-geeslings hatched and he could capture, kill, and rip out their innards by the hundreds for the most evil of his blackest concoctions.

All for the perverse love of a corrupt witch.

After ten years had passed, Stephan finally not only understood but also accepted his love had been used, twisted to suit the Witch’s deepest desires and dreams. By then, he had conjured demons and the darkest of the Underworld’s gods. When visited by black magic’s most perverted goddesses, he always drew forth his dagger and lunged at them; all feminine energy was suspicious, lewd to Stephan. He had no use of it. His power had grown in ways he never once imagined it ever could; yet his witch remained impossibly steadfast to her dark lord in his grey castle atop the hill overlooking the shadowy depths of Stephan’s oak den. Each night, he slept in a chair he’d fashioned from twisted birch branches, which he carefully placed so he could stare at the window behind which he’d watch their bodies cavort, swapping sweat and saliva and the lord’s vile seed and the Witch’s foul secretions that leaked between her legs. Stephan sat, each night, watching every act of fornication, and his heart turned black. To be betrayed and rejected was hurtful enough. To know this clumsy bear of a mere mortal had such control over something that belonged to him, created a searing pain deep in his colon. He vowed to make the lord pay for his thievery, and his Witch for her treachery.

As his power grew, so did the blackness choking his heart. But his witch knew; for every night she watched him watching her. Her glittering, green eyes stared at Stephan with calculated consideration from under the lord’s thick, hairy back as the wide shoulders moved over her, back and forth. The Witch watched Stephan watch her; she stared back at him from over the lord’s muscled shoulders, a look of slightly bored but interested caution on her face, daring him to try it, daring him to kill her, and take her lord too.

Each night, Stephan silently accepted the Witch’s challenge again and again, his tortured screams keeping the nocturnal animals well away from his tree as he raced around its inside circumference, mixing dried and poisonous weeds and the bones of real and mythical creatures that killed with his bare hands then eaten their flesh and ground their remains into powders, forever in search of a way to do it, a way he could end her, and stop his pain.

The more powerful and clever he became, the more Stephan knew he would never be able to bring himself to do it. That meant her magic was far more powerful than his own, even as it increased with formidable darkness and evil, night by night, in all its increasingly dangerous power.

And for that, Stephan both loved and hated The Witch. He had never been so powerful, yet so weak.

After ten years of this, Stephan finally felt it was time. He could bear their nightly ruttings no more, could no longer breathe the rancid air of the forest around him. He gathered up his Book of Shadows, its pages covered with blood and soot and wrinkled from splashes of strange, wet mixtures Stephan had concocted seeking rage and revenge. He packed his most powerful and precious magical tools into skins he’d made from stags and bears he’d slaughtered by magic, pushed down his years of raging thoughts and vengeful plans, hushed them sternly as they protested, promising them they’d one day have their time again soon.

And then Stephan the Forgotten left. To start some a new life, promising he would forget her until he could make her his again. He took out a dark spell he’d worked on for three years, knowing from a nightmare this time would come, a binding spell to make himself as forgotten as she had made him feel the night she left. As he walked away from his oak tree, he could hear the Witch laughing at him. Coward, she whispered, Where go ye? Why leave now, after all this time? Pathetic chitty-faced afterling of a weak manYou’ll be back for more, eventually. The bile rose in Stephan’s throat, because he would be. But she was wrong; he would forget her until the time was right. He’d forgotten his boyhood, and his mother. He’d forgotten a dirty peasant girl he’d once fancied he loved for making him a man, and by leaving this haunted place, turning his back on the Witch’s obscene couplings with a man he could never be, he’d amass the riches they’d planned by himself. He’d forget she existed, but not what she’d done. And for a very long time, he did.

Until the day he arrived at a peaceful, strangely happy and well-fed, well-kept village of peasants nestled in a valley owned by a renowned Knight just home from, and made wealthy by, the Crusades, who was favored by the King, all of which was as far removed as could possibly be from his tortured oak tree, from his witch’s mocking laughter, from the shadows of her hairy lord’s grey castle. It was here, in this quiet little village, that Stephan the Forgotten, a most powerful wizard most studied and learned in the darkest of the Dark Arts, both indebted to and in command of demons and dark gods of the Underworld, decided to begin his forgetting and build a modest, straw-thatched hut from which to live and continue to grow his dark magic while beguiling the lord of the manor, his peasants, and every nobleman and lady who ever passed his way of their riches. And he chose to start his plan, to build his cottage at the edge of a garden he didn’t know existed. A garden with magic far greater than his, magic Stephan the Forgotten would one day attempt to harness, a garden he began to listen with great interest in as visitors began to frequent his hovel for his potions and tell him of, a garden that possessed a beautiful Sorceress with great power that could help him win back his Witch, a Sorceress who he lived for quite a very long time unaware was, in fact, living right in his very own backyard.

(end Part One.)

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