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Archive for the ‘just life’ Category

What’s so important about closure?  Over the years I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it–and I must admit they use phrases that I find somewhat perplexing—all the talk about ending or finishing things.  I’m beginning to wonder why we need or even want that.

I’ve been thinking about this thing of closure quite a bit the last few weeks–probably because in a few more–I’m headed to Cairo to get some “closure”. At least that’s how folks talk about it with me. But the truth of the matter is–I don’t want to close that chapter in my life. If anything, I’d like to expand upon it–or at least be able to  relive it in some meaningful way.

So, I’m coming to the conclusion that despite all the hype about the need to bring closure to things in our lives whether it’s a death of a loved one, an unexpected and unwanted move or change in our lives–I think we’re thinking about it all wrong.

Yesterday, my daughter Heather was telling me about a blog she stumbled on in which a lady wrote about cleaning up other people’s trash that had blown into her yard. http://aninchofgray.blogspot.com/2012/01/dont-throw-your-trash-in-my-backyard.html  It’s a very insightful post made all the more meaningful that even though it starts off talking about wrapping paper that drifted into her yard–it ends up talking about a tragedy her family experienced the past year–the accidental drowning of her 12 year old son. In her view–her need to reach out to the world beyond her personal loss and grief–she was inadvertently spreading  her family’s “trash” of their  tragedy all over other people’s lives.

As I read her post–her personal loss can’t help but touch the reader. Even though you don’t know her (I certainly don’t) you can’t help but feel like you’ve been invited in to the most intimate struggle whirling around–if not plaguing–her mind. And you feel–at least I did–it’s a bit uncomfortable sitting in the front row observing and vicariously taking part in her heartbreak. Indeed, one phrase in her blog popped out at me….”Maybe you are having sympathy fatigue and wishing you could read something here about spray paint or dumpster diving or the annoying way Tim chews”.  Then it struck me: this mother  isn’t seeking closure–she’s embracing what happened–indeed she’s opening up–not closing this chapter of her life.

I’ve never lost a child.  Came too damn close to losing several–but I was fortunate and my children’s lives were spared. But they will bear the scars of their accidents and the consequences of those accidents for the rest of their lives.  As I think about all the people who I’ve shared the story with of their accidents and the other significant things that have happened in my life (I guess the trash I carry with me)—–I can’t help but come to the conclusion this reaching out to other people has nothing to do with closure.  To be honest-I don’t want closure and even though these experiences were tough they are the most memorable despite being difficult things that have happened in my lfie. I want to open them up–I want to relive the memories, rejoice in the blessings and miracles, revisit the good times as well as the bad, embrace the meaningfulness of my life and the lives of those close to me.

I think we have it all wrong. Closure means saying good-bye; it means giving something up; it means ending something. That’s not what I want. I want to invite you in and say, “Look, see, this is what my life has been.  These are the people and experiences that make up the fibers and tapestry of my life.”  I’m opening the door and inviting you into the inner chamber of my life. I want to share with you who I am and what is important in my life.

When you think about it–when we do that with each other it’s such a gift of intimacy and trust. So, if that’s what closure is all about–bring it on!

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I’m tired ALL THE TIME.

I’m bored A GOOD DEAL OF THE TIME.

There’s not much that interests me right now. OTHER THAN BEING AROUND HEATHER AND DANNY’S FAMILIES.

I REALLY DO LOVE being with Heather and the kids but I can’t help but feel that I put more stress on her.  At least at times. And I think I play “mommy discipline with the kids” too much which they probably don’t like and maybe Dwight and Heather don’t like a lot either.  I don’t want to get the wrong kind of relationship going with the grandkids–I love them to death and want it to be an unconditional “I LOVE YOU FROM INFINITY AND BEYOND” message they get from grandma.  But sometimes they do things that the disciplinarian reflex in me just takes over.  And I don’t want to “PO” Heather and Dwight for interferring in their parenting with the kids. Mostly they’re REALLY good, loving, intelligent kids who don’t need grandma ragging on them.

Danny was asking me the other day if I was going to come and stay at their place.  Maybe it’s time to transition over there for a bit and wear out my welcome there. Well, after Autumn makes her debut and Bob and Esther have gotten all the grandma and grandpa time they need for a bit and the space is available.

Work doesn’t excite me. I must admit I LOVED what I was doing in Egypt. It didn’t feel like work. It was fun; it was my passion; I could see it making a difference.  I LOVED my team. The people I work with here are nice but….it’s not the same. I don’t feel that passion. And I wonder about what I’m doing making any difference.  I LOVED the literacy work in Egypt and I’m not doing anything with that here.  I feel that what I learned from that experience is being sucked right out of me from lack of application.

So.  I need something to jumpstart my life these days.

I’m going to start working out with a trainer this coming Sunday. Once a week. Can’t afford it but as I figure it–can’t afford NOT to do it.  But…that will probably only affect the “I’m tired all the time” issue.

I’m going to try and start having dinners with old friends every now and then.  Can only afford so much of that though. But I think connecting with old friends will make me feel less like a hanger-oner in my daughter’s home and life.

Although, maybe this is just what being 60 feels like.

 

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They talk about coming out of the closet when you’re gay as being hard.  Well, folks, there’s another confession that might be even harder. And the stigma that goes along with it has repercussions you can’t imagine.  I’ve seen it happen in the lives of people I’ve known over the years. And I read about it in the press regularly. I don’t understand why people react the way they do but…it’s a fact of life.  So, it’s not without a considerable amount of self reflection of the impact this might create in my life that I write my next sentence.

(Gulp….Exhale)….

I was sexually abused as a child.

It was during my divorce with the help of my therapist that I finally came to grips with what happened to me. The details don’t matter–although it’s VERY important to me that the world knows it WAS NOT my father who abused me. But like in so many cases of sexual assault with a child it was a family member who I should have been able to trust who abused me.

It’s also important to understand it wasn’t one of these situations where it was a repressed memory in which I might have been manipulated by my therapist into “remembering” something that really didn’t happen and he planted the seed of this memory. No, sadly, I carried these memories for years.  It was something I remembered and coped with throughout my childhood, teen years and finally adult world. The whole experience marked me for life.  Abuse is something that’s almost impossible to overcome.

I was reading an article my son posted on Facebook yesterday about the whiplash that has impacted the lives of the lawyers who defended the largest  group of boys molested by priests in a class action suit against the Catholic church.  One of the lawyers told the press “What happens to kids when they’re abused and what happens to their brains when they are abused is something that we don’t know how to fix.” (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gxDxEIP-onf-8jsSzHwzft6j0W2wD9IE7KM80) The article was about the impact defending their clients had on the lives of their lawyers. Hearing their stories and learning what the abuse did to their clients was traumatizing to many of the lawyers. They had breakdowns, divorced, left their profession–they just couldn’t cope. Somewhat akin to the impact of second-hand smoke–I call it the second-hand abuse syndrome.

Reading this article brought it all back to me again.

And I believe it–I do think it impacts the way your brain functions.  It affected so many of the relationships I had in my life–even with women. I learned during therapy that it can be a root cause to the life-long struggle I’ve had with my weight.  Women who’ve been sexually abused often try to hide themselves behind extra weight in an attempt to make themselves as unattractive as possible to avoid the attention of men–even those men they WANT to have a relationship with.  I’ve had sleeping problems all my life that ebb and flow based on the stress I’m under–another tell-tale sign of abuse.  Children of abuse–particularly women–have horrible trust issues and can overcompensate in social situations by behaviors that some consider inappropriate. I know that when I begin to feel overwhelmed I talk more and more. And even though I know it’s happening and want to SHUT-UP  I can’t–it’s like a snow ball rolling down a hill that just can’t be stopped.  Even though today I KNOW and understand what’s happening I’m not in the driver’s seat it’s a force that seems to be stronger than me.

I remember as a child how I would disassociate when I’d begin to get overwhelmed–I think a therapist would tell me that what I did was really depersonalization–in which I’d watch what was happening to me as if I was standing outside my own body–but the point is it was a common coping mechanism children of abuse use. I’d also go into a “slow motion” kind of flow–it’s hard to explain what this is like but when I began to share all these memories with my therapist he steered me to a book that described my coping mechanisms to a “T”.

Used to be whenever anything got too much for me–feeling overwhelmed by the demands of school, or the tasks at work, or the stress in my marriage–I’d slip into these states of self-protection that I used as a small child when I needed something to help me deal with the unwelcome advances of my molester.  As I got older I found I turned to these mechanisms less–until my divorce that is.  During my separation and divorce I found I was getting reacquainted with those old “friends”–and whether I wanted to invite them back or not they helped me cope through a particularly traumatic period in my life.

I think recovery from abuse–all kinds of abuse–is much like recovery from alcoholism.  You don’t recover.  You never get over it. But you make a daily commitment to move forward and beat those forces that haunt you.  And you try to forget.

Before my mother died I confronted her about what happened. When we talked she knew the truth of what I was saying and never doubted what I shared with her. And even though she said she was sorry we both knew there was nothing that could be done about it. I’m sure she lived with her own constellation of regrets. She thought she was leaving us in a safe place but it wasn’t. I wasn’t angry at her–indeed I felt considerable compassion for her and wondered how much of my own life history was a shared one with my mother. And to be honest, I don’t know if there were overt signs about the abuse and if my parents had looked more carefully if they could have figured out what was happening. There was so much less awareness then compared with today about abuse–maybe they just didn’t know what to look for.

But we do today.

And so I’m sharing this very difficult confession with you today in hopes that anyone who reads this and has a small child in their life who they love beyond infinity will take all due diligence to build a protective cocoon around those precious jewels.

  • Don’t assume that all your family members are trustworthy.
  • Don’t assume it’s only men who molest children.
  • Don’t assume your children will tell you when they are being threatened.
  • Don’t assume it won’t happen in your family.

Take steps TODAY to protect them from something that could be a horrible horrible force in their life.  It’s YOUR JOB to protect your children. DON’T WAIT–tomorrow may be too late.

Kathy Smedley (http://www.protectkids.com/abuse/abusesigns.htm) shares a list of possible physical and behavioral indicators of child sexual abuse, some of which are:

  • Waking up during the night sweating, screaming or shaking with nightmares.
  • Masturbating excessively.
  • Showing unusually aggressive behavior toward family members, friends, toys, and pets.
  • Complaining of pain while urinating or having a bowel movement, or exhibiting symptoms of genital infections such as offensive odors, or symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Having symptoms indicating evidence of physical traumas to the genital or anal area.
  • Beginning wetting the bed.
  • Experiencing a loss of appetite or other eating problems, including unexplained gagging.
  • Showing unusual fear of a certain place or location.
  • Developing frequent unexplained health problems.
  • Engaging in persistent sexual play with friends, toys or pets.
  • Having unexplained periods of panic, which may be flashbacks from the abuse.
  • Regressing to behaviors too young for the stage of development they already achieved.
  • Initiating sophisticated sexual behaviors.
  • Indicating a sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person.
  • Engaging in self-mutilations, such as sticking themselves with pins or cutting themselves.
  • Withdrawing from previously enjoyable activities, like school or school performance change.
  • Asking an unusual amount of questions about human sexuality.

The following links are good sources to go to to learn more about the signs of abuse and how to protect your children.

http://www.sandf.org/articles/Signs.asp

http://www.essortment.com/all/signsofsexual_rxxy.htm

http://www.stopitnow.com/warnings

http://www.child-abuse-effects.com/sexual-abuse-signs.html

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Freedom of Choice

Folks you really need to read this post.  It’s going to be controversial for some of you but I think you all should read it. It’s insightful.  It’s liberating.  It’s refreshing.  It brings me hope. And it’s just not the post itself it’s the comments that people make in response to it.  http://www.scarymommy.com/gay-marriage/#comment-49681

I believe in choice around a wide range of issues from what political party you belong to and how you vote, to the religion you choose, to whether to have an abortion or not, or who you marry. Choice is an uncomfortable subject for many people who want to keep choices clean and simple–to a black and white response to the myriad number of things we have going on in our lives that are not that easy to categorize or navigate.  More importantly, offering choice means that people have options to do things that you don’t like or agree with. Therefore, you can not control the decisions that others make and how their decisions impact social movements and the social fabric of a country and culture.  So, it becomes a very threatening concept.

There are no easy answers to any of this.  And it’s a painful experience to watch the process unfold as people vote for people who represent them in the political forums of the world that make the legal decisions that support choice or kill it dead. And I hope if the day ever comes when I have to support that you have the right to make a choice on something I don’t believe in I will fight to the bitter end to allow you to have that freedom in your life.  This is my promise to you whomever you are–even if you don’t hold out the same promise to me.

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I am beginning to wonder why stress in my life follows me around like a devoted little puppy dog.  I’ve made excuses for years that it’s having so many kids and living in other cultures than my own and that my job is SO stressful since it’s so political. And, I’ve convinced myself that these are the underlying reasons for all that out-of-control feeling that is increasingly becoming the constant companion in my life.  But lately, I’m really beginning to challenge the veracity of those reasons.

But the day of reckoning has come and I really need to face the fact:  yes, the puppy does follow me around but it’s not because of those reasons.  There’s no doubt these things are all true and contribute to a chaotic life style. But, no, it’s not those things.  It’s because of all the bones and doggie biscuits that I drop behind me to keep the little fellow chasing after me.

And what, may I ask” I hear you say, “just what are those bones and biscuits that you drop?”

Well, upon some serious self-reflection and psycho-analysis these are the conclusions that I’ve reluctantly come to admit.

  • I have a really hard time focusing. So many things seem like a really good idea to me (and they ARE good ideas) that I chase after one thing and then another.
  • I’m disorganized. I try to organize my life, my office, my papers–but it’s a never-ending task that is bigger than all my endless efforts to contain it.
  • I can’t remember things. Not only does this make me forget important things (like commitments) but it also makes it almost impossible for me to remember all how I’ve tried to organize things.
  • I over commit. I don’t like to let people down and I am particular reluctant to let people down when they ARE down…it’s hard to walk away when someone just needs a friend to listen to them.
  • I waste time. And I waste other people’s time.  It’s hard for me to really gauge the time constraints on people’s time and when I’m trespassing on their precious moments to focus, and organize and meet their commitments.
  • I have difficulty prioritizing and triaging the tasks in my life.  Everything think about everything I need to accomplish in a day, a week, a month as being created equal and it’s not.
  • I have a lot of trouble getting closure.  This is closely linked to my problem with focusing and certainly contributes to the vast array of half-baked things I do but it’s a much deeper issue than just taking on too much–it’s about closing doors and finalizing things that I just can’t face letting go of.
  • I’m lazy.  To those who know me well this may seem surprising because I’m generally know as a hard worker and as someone who is more than willing to take on my share of the workload. But deep in my soul is this aversion to WORK.

It’s not easy to come out of the closet on this personal trait–and failing. But as painful as this self-deprecating admission is…I don’t think I”m ever going to get rid of my companion and de=stress until I accept it’s me and not my circumstances.

So, I’m just asking–would anyone like a really cute puppy?  He’s house-broken.  And he’s free to a good home.  And I have lots of bones and biscuits I can give you free. Just give me a call at 1-STRESS FREE.

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I have a really good friend here in Egypt.  Her name is Kellie. She and her husband are missionaries working for the SDA church in Cairo. Joel, her husband, is the treasurer of the local union and Kellie finds an assortment of good works to volunteer at of interesting and challenging things including teaching English and math at a local Sudanese refugee school. I think her plans include volunteering with my friend Laila in Garbage City in Cairo this year but whatever she does–she engages full throttle and makes a difference.

Although they don’t earn much even by local standards they live really well. I’m continually amazed at the way Kellie manages to stretch their meager monthly allowance–not only providing really well for their daily needs but also sponsoring around 15 students at the local school run by the church.  Despite the 10:1 differential in our monthly salaries I suspect they generally eat better than I do—better meals, better prepared–and certainly with better company since I generally eat by myself on most nights.

So, whenever we get the chance Kellie and Joel come and become my weekend guests.  We prepare food and eat meals made of things they can’t afford to buy full of cheese, sour and fresh cream, cream cheese, pickles, diet soda, potato chips, ice cream–you name it.  If it’s bad for you—well then it’s on our menu. We also do a marathon DVD watch–all the latest movies from side aching and pants wetting comedies, to tear jerking touchy feely dramas to the action packed thriller. But mostly we talk and bond even closer than we already are. Each time they come it’s a real treat for me and they leave me wanting more of their gentle, easy-going company.

So, with Eid upon us again and a lapse of several months since we last got together we arranged to spend part of the long weekend together. And not unlike previous visits–we ate until our stomachs ached (she makes a darn good apple pie–need to get her recipe–what a fantastic crust), crunched on popcorn as we chuckled through “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and the “Waking of Ned Devine” (you gotta watch this movie–it’s a classic English (well really Irish) comedy in the ranks of the Full Monty).  And we talked.

A good deal of my conversation centered on the problems I’ve been having getting my landlord to fix things that are breaking down in the apartment.  Before I left on my home leave the AC kept breaking and I kept losing my water because of broken pipes.  Since coming back there seems to be a problem with the water heaters–the one for the kitchen doesn’t heat the water hot anymore and I have to flick the switch to the plug on and off for a bit until it finally kicks in.  A big nuisance to say the least but more worrisome is the reason behind why it’s shorting out.

And then there’s the on-going toilet problems.  They continually run. This bothers me a lot in large part because Egypt is a country where fresh water is a real concern.  So, toilets that continually run and lose precious water is more than an annoyance. It’s akin to a crime in my opinion.  But all my efforts to get the toilets fixed have netted very little improvement.

So, just before Kellie and Joel were preparing to leave to go back to their side of Cairo (and their own set of apartment woes) Kellie says to me, “ah, Diane since you might be having some guests coming before too long I should warn you there’s a bit of a toilet problem in the bathroom by the guest bedroom.”   In her effort to explain what was wrong she says to me, “And, what’s that thing beside the toilet…what do you do with it?”

“Oh” I says…”it’s a bidet.  Haven’t you seen one before?”

“No” says Kellie.  “How do you use it?

Well, to be perfectly honest–I haven’t ever used one–including the one in my own home–so I don’t really know.  So, together we decide we are going to google “How to use a bidet?” and clear up any confusion we may have on exactly how to use one.  And we did.

And for you all NOT in the know like Kellie and I were–you straddle them folks.  And according to your preference you either face towards the controls–or back up to them.  For one of the most enlightening and entertaining discussions on how to use a bidet the correct way….you can’t beat The Poop Report written by Colen Bowell. (Hey, I am NOT making this up!!)  I’ve copied the link to his explanation here for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy!

http://www.poopreport.com/Consumer/Content/Bidet/bidet.html

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Many times I wonder if I fit in my own society anymore. I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with the debate that goes on around me. And I increasingly see that I am forced to take a stand on issues that are left of center because the right of the political debate is leaning out so far in extreme.  And if life is about navigating your way along a route–walking down a street to some unknown destination–then I think I’m on the side that is less traveled. Indeed, I often wonder if I’m walking pretty much on my own much of the time.

I listen to the dialogue around issues important to me and my heart breaks. Sometimes I shudder in fear over the mean spirited exchanges that take place between the different parties and groups and wonder where we are headed as a people, as a country, as a world. The recent polarization over the health care debate in the US is just one among many things that I watched from afar that caused me great consternation. It was clear that those who “have” really have almost no concerns about the many who “don’t have”.  Sometimes it seemed like they blamed the less fortunate for reasons that are no fault of their own.

I recently participated in a thread on facebook about the man in Florida who plans to burn the Koran on the anniversary of September 11. The discussion evolved into one that addressed more broadly the way targeted groups have been discriminated and mistreated against over the centuries.  Seemed to me some of the contributors challenged whether or not what is happening today is really that different–and even that bad–given the way societies and cultures “operate”.

It was clear from reading the comments folks were pretty much on one side or the other–there really was no middle of the road position. Sadly, the discourse became so vitriolic–the person who initiated it eventually removed it from her page. I must confess the mean and hurtful comments that some wrote was a reaction I found somewhat symbolic of the mean-spiritedness that burning a holy book represents.

I think the majority of folks around the world would agree that September 11 is date that will reign in infamy in history because of the actions driven by hatred and bigotry of a small group who were misguided and thought that what they were doing was following God’s will. No doubt this man in Florida believes he won’t be killing anyone like the terrorists did on September 11–he’s just making a symbolic statement by destroying something he believes is evil.  But mark my words–if he follows through with his intentions and there are folks who are hurt or killed because of what he does–he is no less culpable than if he pulled the trigger on a gun and shot someone to death.

Sadly, the man in Florida is himself symbolic of a growing class of people who see the world only through their own lens and who make no attempt to try and see things through the eyes of the “other”.  And a world that’s driven primarily by self preservation and one’s sole interpretation of the meaning of life, one’s religion, one’s world view—is a world that does not bode well for anyone’s self preservation and future.

I supposed there are many who would argue my world view has been tainted by the places I’ve lived and the cultures I’ve come to know. If, by chance, that is true then I guess all I have to say is thank God I was given the opportunity to experience something beyond myself and my small corner of the world. And if this experience means I am destined to walk alone on my side of the street–well, then bring it on.

One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is that at some point  in our lives we all have to decide where we’re headed and how we’re going to get there.  So, tell me, which side of the street are you on?

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