PEACE

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Peace, in-between the strange things my body goes through, spinning me around with pain, fear and confusion, blessed peace. I sit on the patio watching Mama Dove come back to her nest after her babies flew off.

“I know how you feel,” I tell her, remembering the years of loss after my children did exactly what I raised them to do…leave the nest.

But she’s back on the nest and at first I wonder at her mourning. I understand. You get used to tending to others needs and it becomes your need. That’s why I tend plants.

Samuel had a worker here recently washing the gutters. He moved my 6 foot cherry tomato plant on the patio. The poor thing had gently rested its tall branches, beginning to bear fruit, against the house wall. It collapsed when he pulled it out of its delicate position. When he put it back it was all bent oddly and twisted.

We fought. I cried real tears, wiping them off my cheek surprised at my emotion over a tomato plant! I loved that plant with care, sitting on the deck steps next to it tenderly watching the lacy intricate blossoms become tiny green balls, anticipating the taste of a little warm tomato on my tongue.  

And now he ruined it. Up came the old rage, only now the rage has fizzled into something else. It is not rage, it is an old haunt of terrible loss and sadness, almost gagging me with its heaviness. A loved person took something precious that is mine from me. At first it was my body.

One of the assailants, Chet, stole off with my pony.

He laughed as he explained , “I had to give him carrots because he wouldn’t move.”

My stomach retched as I pictured poor little Tony with his crippled feet standing still as this heavier mean person kicked him in the belly and pulled on his tender mouth with the bit.

Mom let  another assailant, the most tortuous one, Tom, ride my horse when I wasn’t home.

Laughing, she said, “He reared up and then bucked him off!” And her merriment cut like a saber though my gut. 

My old, gentle, sweet horse bucked him off? A well of satisfaction arose inside me, but evoked a much greater sorrow of betrayal and worry over my poor old quiet horse. That horse had never bucked, not once. And I could not imagine him provoked enough to do that unless treated with great cruelty and ignorance. 

This morning the Dove is still sitting in the nest and she is not mourning, she is laying eggs again. Her mate comes back from the forest nearby with a twig or piece of grape-vine, landing on her back. Beak to beak he gives her the foraged building material which she carefully tucks in below her belly making the nest new again. This process is repeated all morning. 

I cannot believe my luck! To watch this wondrous cycle again? I sip coffee waking gently as the hummers go to and fro from the feeder, birds back and forth to their feeder, also close-by, the chipmunks running ‘round and ‘round the lavender bush, so funny in their antics, and I feel at peace, I am at peace. And I will lavish in it because it won’t last.

How my senses can be overwhelmed here at home? But so much life and activity. I do the things that sustain me and my body. I walk. I bike the canal, a good hour of flat, shaded biking that oils my joints, all along the canal which looks like someone threw diamonds on the water when the sun is out. But I am basically alone.

That is when it comes to girlfriends. I have one who assures me that we are friends for life, the one who shoots barbs in a sweet voice. I used to be her ‘best’ friend when I said nothing about how that hurt, like I needed armor when around her. After I spoke up about it, she never calls or emails. I have initiated our get-together’s. I am tempted to do it today.

But maybe it is better not to fill the gaps with someone like that. Why disrupt my peace? I need places within open and ready. I will meet someone who has the depth not to be petty and childish. One who can dig deep into their past to fix it, not act it out with others till the day they die.

It is a better choice to be my own best friend, which I am learning to do. And the peace is sustaining in all ways. I sleep really well. No easy feat for me, after years of waking in the nights watching late night comedy or 3 am news. I am sleeping. I look in the mirror and like who I see, appreciating my strengths and gifts.

I think of the years when I pushed myself to succeed, and damage that caused to my body and nervous system. I wanted to succeed like I saw others succeed. But others had not spent a childhood being tortured. I do not think that’s an understatement.

How else to describe being chained up while others do horrible things to your body, things which sometimes your body reacted to with pleasure because that’s how bodies are made? The chains are made from confusion and shame. That confusion would taint and prohibit any sensual pleasure for the rest of my life. The only safe touch I feel is with my massage therapist.

But once I worked with Raymond, and he suggested that I work towards a career, there was no stopping me. I bought the heavy nursing books, and did exceedingly well the first semester. I dropped out after starting the second semester, my clinical nursing instructor scaring me out. Raymond couldn’t believe it. He seemed to have as much invested in my success as I did. He too could feel his job was satisfying if I succeeded, or why else push me so much?

And that is when I had my first panic attack. I had to succeed finally at something.

I called Raymond in tears, “I dropped out. I feel like I’m going to die.”

“Let the feelings come,” he said.

We made an appointment. I felt his advice was ludicrous. 

“Can you go to another school?” he asked after I sat down.

But why? Why couldn’t I be happy with being me? And appreciate how being tortured fucks up a child. Why couldn’t I learn to be loving with the grown woman who had suffered so much? Why couldn’t he work with me to learn that, and not push me into something which would weaken my immune system permanently?

Well, because, there are things such as bills, living expenses and two sons to put through college.

Yes, I feel now I did all I could, and succeeded. It paid the way through my son’s college years, but at such an expense to my body. It wiped me out, and drained my adrenals. I don’t regret it. Once started I just had to finish. I had to finally finish something no matter the expense.

I went back year two, after taking a year to work as a home health aide, then as an aide in a hospital. At the start of year two, I dropped out again. I went to the office of the lead instructor wanting back in again, so torn. She was a much gentler nursing instructor who assured me I could do it, and that she would be my clinical instructor this time around.

Another instructor also encouraged me. They had noticed when my head bowed down during a film about sexual abuse in the the darkened classroom and surmised I’d been a victim. I hadn’t realized I had made such an impact or been noticed. They also noticed my compassion towards patients and hard work, and wanted me back in. I bought my books yet again, that makes three times, and I finished.

I don’t have to go anywhere anymore, or be anything, I can just be. And that’s OK. It is OK to be still, to be quiet, not to push— that sometimes being productive comes with quieting my mind and body. After surviving so much, I need rest. I have to keep reminding myself, it is OK… just to be, and enjoy peace when I have it.

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TRUST

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Buying a car should be fun. I said to my son Shane, “I will just enjoy the process.”

I ended up in tears feeling lied to, not a new feeling. I expect that from others. The world is a dangerous place. What do you want? How will you hurt me? What will you take? What are you really up to? What real meaning lies behind your words as I study your face for incongruities?

I am a studier. I have always been a face studier because it was important to know when my mother’s drinking turned her to the other side, a place where I’d hide in my bedroom away from her because she became someone I did not know or could trust.

Telling me you’re Christian does not allay my fears either, though with Harry the salesman it did help as I stared directly into his eyes that did not waver. I sat in church once, back row, trying to find a community of safe people to belong in. I heard an older lady in front of me gossiping about another women further ahead.

I felt so scared going into a new place among so many people I didn’t know until I heard her saying unkind things about the women in front. I believed anyone Christian was so godly and had to be so much better than me. At that moment I realized that was not so. Just going to church regularly does make you better or good, one has to work at it. All of us do.

It is hard to learn about the world if you’re too scared to go out and be in it. And for much of my adult life I hid out at home. Now I’m not hiding, I just like being home.

After signing the papers we walk down to the payment center.

“Patricia, I like to see my customers excited, happy, driving away smiling, and you’re not,” he says and I’m taken aback because usually no one bothers digging deeper past my reserves, walls and barriers.

I thought a few moments, deciding whether to share how my session went the day before with the finance person, and decided Harry was worth the effort and the risk.

“Well, I am upset. Carl explained your service plan which I was tempted to purchase but he neglected to tell me the most important difference between the GM plan and yours, that there was a hundred dollar charge each time I use it. He gave many excuses for not mentioning it but never an apology. If my son hadn’t told me to ask about a deductible I never would have known,” I said, tears falling without my permission, starting to shake with emotion just by talking about it.

He jumps in about Carl barely letting me finish, “Carl is not with it. Did you see his special chair?” he asks.

“No,” I answer.

“He has many challenges, has had back surgeries, and is in constant pain. He cannot even lift his child. His pain medication was increased and lately he is just out of it,” he relays.

And I immediately feel remorse for Carl’s sufferings and possibly adding to them, and a great depth of sadness for what was stolen in my youth, trust.

Samuel had said earlier in the day when I was so flustered and upset about feeling lied to and tricked, “Just let it go.”

I responded, “I can’t. It hurts, and stirs things up.You know I have trust issues. Something is fishy, not right. And I couldn’t sleep in the night because of it.”

I found out later, after Shane encouraged me to call Carl, that he really did forget to mention it when I voiced my displeasure about leaving out such an important fact, the most important fact. Only I didn’t believe him then, partly due to the lack of a real apology. When others make a mistake and hedge, adding excuse after excuse, my aggravation increases. Just apologize, I’ll accept it. Apologize and do what you can to rectify the mistake.

From Carl I had gotten, “Am I bad?” (I didn’t think that was funny) “I thought I had. I didn’t use my menu like I usually do, etc.” Never simply, “I am so sorry! I cannot believe I forgot, but I did forget and I am so very sorry.” 

I sensed Carl was a decent, good person. I could see his eyes reddened by working hard and lack of sleep. He had relayed that often in the night he would get up because something he forgot at work kept him awake. He had to get up to write it down before getting back to sleep.

But the negligence of leaving out such an important fact made me doubt him. How could someone leave that out unless intentionally? My thoughts ran with buy the plan then get screwed.  

I had asked Carl on the phone, “Did you do it on purpose?”

“No Patricia,” he had said, “I did not. We are honest.”

Which I interpret as exactly the opposite. 

I hadn’t meant to tell my life story to a car salesman, but Harry kept at me and broke me down with his relentless need to see me happy, or maybe more so his incessant need to be liked and not hated as the vulture sales-man. He was also worried that I’d ruin his impeccable record because he was paid by his rating not by commission.

I did feel for him, but did I have to stay put and have the suggested cup of coffee while he went to do something? I knew what he was doing after the fact. He went to talk to Carl.

“What’s the deal?” he had asked Carl, “She said you didn’t tell her about the deductible and then didn’t apologize.”

“I thought I had told them,” he relayed to Harry.

Nope. If the word deductible popped up Samuel and I would have hopped on it like tics on a dog. But the man truly forgot, as hard as that is to believe. I’m crying on the curb with Harry as I explained my trust issues or lack of them. I was so tired I just wanted to go home, but I stayed and we talked.

Life is messy, talking to people is messy. Others have sensitivities and feelings too like Harry. He told me of his diabetic scare and almost death experience due to a septic infection after a groin injury, and not that long ago. And briefly glossed over being very obese until learning of his severe diabetes. He didn’t mean to try to talk me into the chocolate chip cookie I said no to three times. He just likes to see someone enjoy one since he can’t.

Oh, I so get that! When I’m curbing my unhealthy tendencies I still love cooking shows or watching Samuel eat things I choose not to. 

So because of Harry’s persistence in trying to figure out my reticence and sharing those details about Carl, my darkness lifted. Staying and working through the fray with a person who really cared, and did not lie, gave me back my peace… with Harry, the dealership and with Carl. The experience was exhausting and stressful. Shopping is usually fun, but this one was not. I am glad to only do it every ten years or so. Phew!

GRAND-KIDS

Into the little pool!

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We are birds, the towels our wings!

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We are airplanes, the towels our landing strips!

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Now we are rockets landing on the moon!

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NaNa, can we go in the big pool? They become my lifeguard helpers and save swimmer after swimmer, capsized boaters, even a kayak!

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She is using her life preserver ring to bring in a swimmer she had to save!

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Ignite their imagination with just one spark and away they go!

HORSES

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My mother may not have offered dance classes, but she did allow me to have a horse in the backyard. She had her friend put up electric wire from the garage to the side yard turning it into a pasture.

The first animal I had was a pony, but I kept it down the road at the old barn behind Grandma’s house. I stayed overnight in the winter at Grandma’s so I could carry buckets of water to the barn from the house because the nights would freeze the water. It had to be replaced frequently. I trudged through the snow and back before the bus came.

No one monitored my goings on, how I took care of it, fed it, nothing. I did it all on my own, tethering it to a post with a chain in the meadow during the day, and keeping him in the barn at night where the cows once were barred in. 

Then she allowed me to trade up for my horse and keep her right at home. I gathered corncobs from the neighboring field after the farmer had harvested, filling up wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow. I paid for the hay and straw with my babysitting money. 

My ponies and horse made my childhood livable filling it with wonder and miracle… During later years, while raising the boys, I bought my horse Missy, and a pony for Shane, Joey. We had many pleasurable rides together. But once Shane became an adolescent turning teenager, he then wanted rides on things with motors. I became a solo rider, and that was OK too…