The Things We Learn

And so it goes, recovery. Shane forgives, why can’t I? We spent time together watching his son play in his basketball tournament winning by a landslide. But more sweetly was time with Shane after my regretful expression of long standing anger which had built up over time. 

Shane’s voice sounded dry and some ground needs making up. The call this morning started with the same coolness, but ended with ‘love you,’ something he had left out of the last few calls. We will resume our monthly lunch dates, though his office is on the other side of the city.

There hasn’t been lunch dates the last few years because after three hospital stays in one year, fear had grown in my belly. Even shopping at the grocery store brought uneasiness, anxiety, and ungroundedness.

As health restored, and internal bleeding became better controlled by the daily high potent antacid, my bravery at doing more increases. That long ago stomach stapling caused severe complications due to the newness of the procedure putting my life at risk over the loss of so much blood.

Though one ER doctor pressed for blood transfusions, another suggested recovery was possible without it, Over the 4 day stay a few years back, I managed to improve without the transfusions. But at home full recovery took many months to heal the internal opening made by the surgeon in ’85.

Eating often caused debilitating pain for hours afterwards. Now that things are more stable, lunch dates might be a very good way to again spend some time with my busy son. He sounded happy to hear of resuming our lunches. So mending occurs on all levels. 

So often my own sufferings are kept to a minimum when it comes to relaying them to my sons. Why burden them? Yet being factual is also necessary, which means being upfront about challenges. 

Things we learn along the way…



photo by Patricia

Temps dip to 10 degrees but I’m not discouraged. Time springs forward this weekend, and sleep already is balancing out with enough hours together to get those REM’s in. Health feels restored, even working in the studio has resumed with happy hours whittling by as sun pours in upon my shoulder.

Improved sleep might have to do with more light and longer days, or enough time passing so that my son once again began calling on his way to work. The break was needed as so much kept pouring out me we both needed a break. The excess was written, not sent, now it can be deleted.

Sometimes the lava flows. It would be much better to see him regularly if he manages to fit us in with his busy workload, social engagements, kids here there and everywhere. My fear is that someday he will look back and wish he did.

Calls on the way to work keep me posted on all the little details in his life, but it isn’t the same as being together in a relaxed environment where these things can be discussed as they come up, and in a gentle, more loving way.

Hopefully he will take me up on the offer of Sunday’s here, bringing the kids with him. Memories of Sundays at Grandma’s are so sustaining. My older brother, more like a father at the time, brought donuts and the Sunday paper. Never will the look of complete joy on my Grandmother’s face be forgotten.



photo by Patricia

March madness, usually a term reserved for basketball but one coined for the change in my brain chemicals. More sunshine mixes them like an egg beater, with outlandish decisions made irrationally.

The sun called me out to walk in the snow, bending over a few times to pack a snowball and throw it. After the sweaty walk, the patio beckoned with the comfort of an Adirondack chair facing full, March warm sun. Off came the hat and after unzipping my coat, my body soaked in the heat and healing rays.

Oh, to unwind after the struggle through winter. The release. The feeling of living again that unfolds without force. My body and brain together as one in sync. The longing for that feeling of well-being, with bare feet on the patio cement watching flowers grow.

But first the haywire movement through March, even April, till my brain quiets and evens out. After winter’s fall to sinking depths, the chaos of coming up is yet to come, but has started, both welcomed and worried over.



All three grand-kids were supposed to come Wednesday, but because my return email to Shane was still sending a message of pain, he stayed home till his wife returned then went to work. And that was OK with me. Samuel seemed mad at me, but Samuel has been part of the problem.

A man that would skirt confrontation at any cost, transgressions by Shane’s wife against me were supported by him rather than challenged. Which gave her more license to take advantage, and mistreat me. She had power and control, I had none, even about being treated with respect. Treat me however you want, I have no say, and no one to back me.

Instead of asking Samuel what was wrong Wednesday, I went about my day unperturbed. Showing respect for myself asks that others respect me too. His use of rejecting me as a passive way to get me on board with continuing to sell myself for peace at any cost won’t sway me this time. I have had enough.

But it was hard. It is still hard because wanting to contact Shane continues. I think he needs to respond. It is his turn.

Change is hard, growing pains hurt. Shifts in behavior are more tiring than over-doing it physically. The glands on both sides of my neck pop out under stress, and there they are. Do the things that restore, a hot bath, the elliptical trainer, meditation, and my favorite movies. Signs of well-being slowly return. Maybe when sleep returns to adequate amounts I’ll be able to work in my studio, but not yet. 

I have felt stifled since the day ten years ago when Shane brought his new wife into my home to read a letter listing all my faults and infractions. The length was such she never did get to the end of it,

It was the same day my mother went into the hospital for the last time before dying. I was already an anxious wreak, not sleeping, up most nights stuffing slabs of thickly buttered white bread into my mouth. White bread is a no no any other time.  

Yes, she was a new wife. Yes, I’m a hard nut to crack, because you hurt me I clam up. And she had hurt me. And she does not handle things outright, instead concocting medical issues that express her pain, and her need for attention, and control.

Most of what was said that day is forgotten. But one thing bore into me, ‘Seeing grand-children is a privilege, not a right.’

Samuel thanked her for coming.

That has been the dysfunction ever since. I don’t see it clearing up anytime soon, or ever on her part. But I don’t need to be disrespected out of guilt from being a bad parent.

Until recently, if you asked, I could tell you every bad, awful mistake I ever made with Shane. Lately I have begun thinking of the sacrifices, hard work, and love. Whatever my foibles, I deserve respect, rather than being used like a puppet by a girl who can’t find her way, shredding me like tattered paper in the process with her willfulness.  

The hold on me these past ten years has mirrored Tom’s hold on me in years prior, from childhood to middle age.

To finally break free from the grip of put-downs by another, leading me to believe the put-downs, is a giant leap of growth to be celebrated, cherished, and proud of. It will take work and mindfulness not to get sucked under, and to remain upright.

It is interesting that no matter how isolated or protected you make your life, there is nowhere to run. 


My Passion

It is exhausting erecting boundaries where there has been none. My body feels limp, tired,, and as if run over by a train. The back and forth with my son, knowing that one of his responses was written at three in the morning, has also kept me up in the middle of each night with worry about him.

Worry about him, juggled with the need to take a stand for myself and say, NO! No I will not be talked into taking all the blame so that everybody else can feel good. I need to live and be able to care for myself too.

And somewhere along the line, he needs to find the voice to speak up to his own wife who takes, and takes, and takes. I am tired of her laziness trampling all over me. She is a very spoiled girl in her thirties. 

Exhausting. Until the day of my death, speaking up will come hard. It feels foreign and wrong. When a voice is stolen, it does not come back, not without a superhuman amount of effort coupled with exhaustion, and many, many tears.

Like a muscle unused it remains limp and weak. All the years of my life, I’ve watched others express anger in the moment. The longing for that consumed me with jealousy. Others hear anger from another naturally, as if unfazed and expected. When you’re hurt you say ouch. When I’m hurt, I stuff it.

To do otherwise will continue to be hard. To know when enough is enough, and take a stand is hard. Especially with those I love so much, but with anyone. It has always been that way since the day I was silenced at eight years old.

Telling Seth Danny fucked me as a little girl of eight? No one came to help. No one came to stop it. No one helped me heal Talking about it even now 60 years later with brothers who didn’t abuse me is not allowed. I have no family other than my sons, grand-children, and Samuel.

Writing my feelings is my air. Writing is how I keep alive as a whole human being.


The Bane of My Existence

Night after night, sleep won’t come, or it comes then wakefulness from 3 AM on. Feelings of hate flood in towards the girl, now grown woman, who has caused so much pain over the years… my daughter-in-law. I feel mistreated and taken advantage of.

That has been the circle of feelings swirling for her since she graduated from high-school and began finding her voice. And the voice much mimicked the treatment I grew up from John, who is Tom in the book.

Never any surface talk or resolution of problems. Just an undertow of ways to take me down. I have supported her from the beginning, especially in financial ways, but in oh so many other ways. Too much perhaps because it feels like my real name is doormat..

For Shane’s graduation gift from college we gave him hundreds of dollars to return to Spain to visit his host family. She ‘borrowed’ money from Shane to go, which of course was never paid back. So she went on our dime.

She came to me in my little kitchen before their wedding proclaiming that these days the groom’s family helps pay for weddings. I shut down like a clam. I couldn’t even look at her. That disconnect and discord lasted a long time, because shoving down feelings causes that to happen.

And that is what this is about. When feeling hurt, misused, and taken advantage of, I shut down, then become cold and distant. So whatever the beginnings to the issue was, it all becomes my fault because I lack her charm in people relationships. This affects my relationship with my son as I clam up and become cold to him too, even more so.

In the ten years since their marriage, my ability to speak up has not improved, even when she keeps my newest grand-son from me because on that day I did speak up.

After seven hours of a crying baby, left with me when she returned to work, I handed him to her in tears saying, “He can’t come back until he can take a bottle.” He immediately grabbed onto her breast suckling furiously. 

She was taken aback, responding, “I know he missed me,” as if that were all it was. 

What I didn’t say was, ‘No, he was hungry! Babies at three months need rest, cuddling, warmth, and FOOD.’

She hadn’t trained him to take a bottle, and even if she did she had been unsuccessful at pumping milk. She arrived that day opening a can of formula for the first time. It was a recipe for disaster before the day began.

Speaking up to her caused two years of retaliation. He never did come back. He doesn’t know me, or anyone else. She left her job staying at home with a story about my incompetence which forced her to give up the job. So she had to keep him away me to keep her story true. 

Unexposed to others, including us, coupled with allowing him to have his own way by use of tantrums, she has created a two year old terror who bites, pinches, hits and grabs at anyone or everything he wants. He is very unpleasant to be around. And more than all that, two years of joy have been stolen from me.

Now she needs me due to a jury duty summons. I tried to care for him, but he is a little monster. After 5 hours of  tantrums and howling, her return to pick him up was a huge relief. Shane and I are at least talking about it. They are suggesting he come regularly for shorter periods once a week. But do I want to face this tyrant and do the work? Can it be turned around?

A few years back they moved to a bigger house. After our $5,000 gift for their new home to help with closing costs etc.. she immediately updated her already over-sized cell phone to one so big it barely fits in her pocket. And she bought new designer glasses after making statements around us about needing new glasses because it’s been two years.

She must believe we are a bank. If she registers a complaint, we will pay.  

This latest try at babysitting him has upset me greatly. It didn’t have to be like this. Had he been brought early on, and she’d gotten over herself, he would not be biting, slapping, and throwing himself down so hard on the floor that he hurts himself. We could have bonded. Now I wonder if it is too late. She created a monster with her petulance.

And, I should have spoken up more. Even if it didn’t bring the desired results, that of spending time with our grand-son, at least I would have made my position and feelings clear. But I did not know how. I do not know how now. 

There is something here that keeps coming back hard. My inability to speak up. And every time she manipulates a situation to her liking, I harbor resentment and pain. For years it affected my attitude and closeness with Shane.

I have worked very hard to overcome the tendency to withdraw, and becoming cold and distant. It has taken every bit of energy I possess. It also seemed with little or no success. But maybe there has been some success because we are talking. 

My tolerance of abusiveness from others keeps me awake nights, and stuck. It goes right to my core of pain, and cannot seem to be resolved. The only way to find peace is to stuff my feelings and accept my brokenness?  Because speaking up is not something that happens easily with me. It takes writing, then more writing, crying, and more crying. But eventually the words do come. Eventually some growth occurs. 


Afraid to write? Fear of feeling the truth of what is there? Yet it is as necessary as breathing, the quest to go down below all the garbage and see what’s there. A place kept hidden even from myself.

Fear. Anxiety. Worry. That needs to be felt before moving deeper. Tick off the problems one by one, a wise voice assigning either a solution or acceptance. Yet the stomach curdles with doubt and confusion because for much there are no answers.

Living with the flow and combination of complexities is not my forte. Is it anybody’s? The release and containment of tension, pain, pleasures, and peaceful moments exist at once. How do you make room for it all?

Wouldn’t it be luxurious to be like cat, arching her back against the chair, stretching her full length with delight and abandon? Must we be humans with all this in our heads? Or maybe it is just my head stuffed with too much.

There is so much I’m powerless to do anything about. And there it sits unfixed. So do what you can for you. Part of that today was printing up an affirmation suggested by this author’s post.

When my rat brain starts up at 3 AM about unresolved problems, this affirmation was tried. Maybe eventually it will help. 

I am beautiful, smart, and kind. I am worthy of love.