November 21, 2011

More on Gaslighting

I've been mulling over my post on Gaslighting, and wanting to write a big post tying it all in with how I perceive the women of the Catholic Church are gaslit by the hierarchy, particularly when it comes to the seeking of roles for women in that power-structure. Stay tuned for that. Obviously, there is a larger reason I'm still mulling this all over, dear readers.

But then, this post today sent me back into accessing my own personal situation. Anyone who has ever been in any sort of abusive relationship with a parent, boss or lover should definitely take the time to read the entire thing. It's incredibly eye-opening and well-written. And now I'm dying to re-watch Rosemary's Baby.

Some specific points about my experience with gaslighting. One thing I found that was done to me quite effectively was the use of my own words— as they would pertain to any negative mental state or character flaw I perceived about myself at a given moment in time — to be used over and over again as ammunition and turned into defining traits.  And of course, they must be true — because I myself had said these things about myself! So at one time I had remarked that in my teenage years, I had had difficulty admitting when I was wrong, but had worked hard on overcoming it. These words would later be used to prove that I  "could never admit when I was wrong." It was now one of my defining traits. Similarly, I had been reading a book on cognitive behavior, and remarked that sometimes "my thought patterns didn't reflect the true situation." This would be used as evidence whenever we were having any sort of disagreement that I was "delusional" or "distorting things." Over and over these words were thrown at me like heavy knives...chosen carefully, because they had come from my own mouth at one time. Combined with a family history of mental illness, it wasn't hard to slowly convince me that I was "unstable." This is how gaslighting works.

I can really understand the misogyny involved in this sort of abuse — “You need a power differential (patriarchy, for example) for true gaslighting – it relies on power and stereotypes.”(Captain Awkward, from her blog)  In a typical heteronormative abuse model, for example, this form of emotional abuse is often levied against women by men, and it works precisely because of prejudices about femininity and masculinity — that women are nervous, hysterical, less prone to intelligent reasoning, and need protected and corrected by a rational man who is not swayed by his emotions. (Ahem, Catholic Church, Catholic Church!!!) Which is what makes it so shocking to me that another woman, a lover would do this to me. But the power differential was something that was clear from the beginning, a red-flag if you will.

I'm grateful for the year-and-a-half of therapy that has helped me in healing and reclaiming my spirit. The road is long, but I believe healing is possible.

November 17, 2011


It's been three months since my break-up with The Nurse, and I'm still accessing the damage, as it seems. While reading one of my favorite blogs, I ran across an article that stopped me dead, about a term I hadn't heard before: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term “gaslighting” comes from the play Gas Light and its film adaptations. In those works a character uses a variety of tricks, including turning the gas lamps lower than normal, to convince his spouse that she is crazy.

So there is a name, a name for what could bring me from the height of self-confidence to the depths of suicidal depression — to the shock of all of my closest friends — in just a few short years. When I read this list, I saw myself clearly in it. From the very very beginning, where I was repeatedly humiliated in public, but it was brushed off as me being "overly sensitive"  to more recently where repeated negative messages were used to try to re-write my narrative — gaslighting slowly destroyed my confidence in myself and in my own sanity. The good news is, I'm not crazy. And, if you see yourself in this list, you probably aren't either.

Signs of gaslighting include:
1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself
2. You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4. You're always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend,, boss.
5. You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
6. You frequently make excuses for your partner's behavior to friends and family.
7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
13. You feel as though you can't do anything right.
14. You wonder if you are a "good enough" girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.

Part of the gaslighting effect is thinking that no one will believe your story, that the abuse never happened. I have been told that I am crazy for so long, I have started to believe it. And I'm not trying to smear anyone's name — just honestly speak my truth and acknowledge it, for my own healing.  I'm just trying to get back to that very different person I used to be — the self-assured woman I was when I met The Nurse who would never have let myself be bullied. I am working on forgiving myself as's still a long road. But having a name for this is so helpful.

November 09, 2011

Long weekend

I've got my apartment to myself tonight. The kids are off with their dad and on this blustery and cold rainy day, I'll be enjoying a little downtime. I'll also be packing my suitcase for my long weekend away with The Librarian. I hope I'm feeling better — my doctor just prescribed a new allergy medicine that I'm picking up tonight that I hope takes care of this god-awful itching I've had for weeks now. It's truly horrible. I hope it doesn't make me too...sedated. A sedated date is no fun! So, between this weird itchy anxiety and my nervousness about this weekend, my heart is beating pretty quickly. Ca-thud, ca-thud, ca- thud! I'm all nerves right now! I guess I would say...I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to getting out of town and spending time with a lovely woman I hope to get to know better. Oh, and she has a 4-legged roommate that I can snuggle with a little too and fill up a little of the dog-shaped hole in my heart. That will be nice. Somehow, all of this feels healing to me, because I'm feeling totally trusting right now, and I don't really see any reason not to despite being so hurt in the past. I think that's a really good sign. I still believe in the innate goodness of most people. And when I think about The Librarian and this weekend together, I feel peaceful.

November 07, 2011

5 years

Dear Delle,

There have been long periods where I had felt like I had lost my connection with you...wondered if you were simply 'at rest,' or focusing your spiritual energy elsewhere — like on Ramona whom I would expect you would be watching over ceaselessly. But lately I have heard your voice vividly, loudly even, so I know you are still with me. Maybe more so because of the struggles and heartbreaks that I have been through — that I know you could relate to so very well. I remember fondly our conversations about men and I wish I had the chance to come out to you before you died...but I know you read it in my knew I think, what I wanted to tell you. You were just that...intuitive.

I'm really grateful that you are with me still...and I know you weren't keen on me referring to you as my "spiritual mother," (ok, ok...SISTER!), but you were the same age as my bio-mother after all. Please continue to pray for me on my journey. I will think long and hard about what it is that I am looking for next time before I write you any "lists," because I know you will give me whatever I ask for. Thank for all of the valuable lessons, even the ones learned the hard way. Sometimes there is no other way to learn, especially for stubborn bitches like us, eh? But I got it, I got it now.

I finally watched "For Colored Girls." I don't think Tyler Perry fucked it up too bad at all — you would have really liked the screenplay. I should probably buy it because I'm surely going to be watching it over and over, even if it is damned depressing! Wish I had the poster that hung in front of your door...or any of your art for that matter. More pieces of you in my life, because I miss you so much.

I know now that the times where I couldn't feel you in my life is because I had also lost myself. I had given myself away, just like the woman in blue. Can you believe that shit? After all I'd already been through? I know you can't. I can't either. I don't know how shit like that happens .... I was blindsided in a moment of terrible weakness. But I'm getting my act together, I promise. Not since that scandalous high school boy have I let someone drag me so damn low. I promised I'd never let that happen to me again...but here I am, picking up the pieces again. I will do whatever I have to do to protect myself and heal. Still I rise, Still I rise!

The good news: I'm surrounding myself with goodness. Quality people who are just: nice. Gentle. Peaceful. Kind. Oh, how I have longed for simple kindness for so long. I am learning that it is not something you should have to beg for! It should just come naturally. I am trusting that good things are on the horizon for me, so please keep praying for me Delle! My heart is remarkably resilient, I am finding. Or maybe I am just that romantic fool who refuses to give up on the notion of 'happily ever after.' Sigh.

The girls remember and talk about you often. Big M is in high school now and Little M is in 5th grade. Please also keep them in your prayers as they struggle with all of the challenges of adolescence.
And I'll be praying for Ramona and Gregory too.

All my love,

November 06, 2011

Alla my stuff

Someone almost walked off wid alla my stuff. Those were the exact lines that came into my mind this week after I stumbled into a trap set for me.

the whole time it waznt a spirit took my stuff / waz a(wo)man whose ego walked round like Rodan's shadow / waz a (wo)man faster n my innocence / waz a lover i made too much room for almost run off wit alla my stuff.

I kicked myself hard for a day or two for falling right into the trap set for me, for the Big Bad Bully is intent on only one thing: getting a reaction out of me. And I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. The goal was to get a reaction out of me — and I reacted — with all the hurt and anger that was apparently right there on the surface. It was easy after that, to paint me as "unglued" and "crazy." Just as she'd done to many of her exes before me. Surely I should have learned some lessons from the exes-painted-as-crazy-and-or-obsessed that had come before me. Don't play her game.

i want my stuff back / my rhytums & my voice / open my mouth / & let me talk ya outta throwin my shit in the sewar

I'm grateful for a strong support system that can help me find the tools to navigate a new world where I need to protect myself from bullying behavior, and get control of my own need to react to provocations. It's so important to learn that what we share with a lover has got to be a managed and equal transference of energy, love, spirit, and gifts that bring growth to each other. You can give and give and give ... but you can't give away all of your stuff.

my stuff is the anonymous ripped off treasure of the year / did you know somebody almost got away wit me / me in a plastic bag under their arm / me danglin on a string of personal carelessness / i'm spattered wit mud & city rain....

My stuff is a that wasn't recognized or valued, most importantly by myself. You can't give yourself away without your own permission, after all. I'm grateful that grace continues to show me things in a new and beautiful light, accept my own shortcomings, admit my own mistakes and learn from them and step boldly forward with a heart full of hope.

* with credit to Ntozake Shange from her poem 'somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff'

November 01, 2011


A little push-back came through from the Obama administration today when the Department of Health and Human Services revoked a long-standing grant to the Conference of Catholic Bishops that had previously been in awarded for it's work on human trafficking. The gov't decided that ultimately, despite the good work the agency was doing, their refusal to refer rape victims for reproductive services was not in the best interest of the victims — and their needs could be better met by other agencies without such hangups.

While the Church believes that "all sexual encounters be open to life," in the words of Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the Catholic Bishops, it is naive at best to expect the government to contract with an organization that has a serious and controversial limitation supported by a belief system that is not even held by the majority of it's own church members.

I remember when I was in 7th or 8th grade and we had do a persuasive speech project and stand before the class. The deacon's daughter gave a speech on abortion, and argued the point about rape — stating that it was clearly not the unborn child's fault, and therefore, the "child" should not be punished. It sounded totally logical, of course — but didn't take into account the trauma that a rape victim experiences. I'm guessing that most of our 7th grade class couldn't conceptualize that kind of pain. But now that I'm older...I know a few more things about myself and even about some of the kids I grew up with. I know that some of the girls I went to school with were family members. Raped. I know that I had blocked out my own sexual abuse and wouldn't remember it until I was 17 years old. I know that as a mother...and a child who was raised by a single-parent....every child should feel wanted. And I know that while abortion is certainly not the best case scenario, it's also not "intrinsically evil" in every circumstance.

October 28, 2011

101 Things About Anima Sola — Updated

1. I carried around a picture of Anima Sola for many years.
2. I finally decided to get it tattooed on my right arm.
3. Anima Sola means "Lonely Soul." It represents the soul in purgatory.
4. My real name is Valency.
5. It is pronounced VAL--en--cee.
5. I was named after a character from a made-for-TV movie that aired the year I was born, called The People.
6. The People starred William Shatner.
7. The movie was based on the sci-fi book series by Zenna Henderson.
8. A college professor of mine gave me a copy of the book. I lost interest about half-way through.
9. The character Valency was an alien.
10. I was born in San Francisco in 1972.
11. My parents were hippies. They were married 2 weeks after I was born.
12. They divorced when I was 6. I was raised by my father.
13. I have a younger brother, with a completely "normal" name. Also, a half-sister and half-brother from my Mom's remarriage.
14. My mom is a red-head. I have brown hair like my dad, but I got my mom's freckles.
15. I get a sun-burn after about 15 minutes in the sun.
16. I went to six schools between Kindergarten and 1st grade.
17. I skipped 2nd grade. But then I got put back toward the end of the year because we got a new principal who didn't believe in grade skipping. I transferred to a Catholic school.
18. I had 10 years of Catholic school, the last 4 at an all-girls Catholic high school.
19. I begged my dad to send me to the all-girls school, because I was sick of boys.
20. After high-school, I took a year off to follow the Grateful Dead. I hitch-hiked with two girlfriends to New Jersey. We went to a truck stop in Indiana and got a ride with a trucker. He ditched us in Ohio when he realized we weren't "those" kind of girls. We got another ride with a real gentleman.
21. I imagined I was a whirling dervish when I danced at Dead shows.
22. If I could relive any time from my past, it would be following The Dead that summer.
23. I got married when I was 23. It lasted for 10 years.
24. Part of the reason my marriage ended was that I realized that I was a lesbian.
25. My mom and her mom are also lesbians.
26. I wonder which one of my two daughters might be a lesbian.
27. I was also a practicing pagan for 15 years. I started attending a Catholic church again to get the parishioner discount in order to send my oldest daughter to Kindergarten at the parish school.
28. I was hooked when I heard Delle Chatman give the Gospel and Homily one Sunday morning. I knew that my parish had gone renegade!
29. When I heard Delle speak, I cried. I swore I saw a halo above her head. I knew I had found a spiritual home and that I had to get to know this woman.
30. She became a spiritual-mother to me.
31. I began this blog in her memory. She told me that she thought I was very talented and should write more. She passed away in 2006 after a 4-year battle with Ovarian Cancer.
32. The tagline for this blog, "Your chains are broken darling, so why are you still standing here," I heard Delle say to me a few months after her death.
33. I don't often hear the voices of dead people, so I took this as an important message.
34. I am a graphic designer by trade, but I also have a few articles published.
35. I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer when I was in high school.
36. I inherited my artistic ability from my mother. She can draw a straight line without a ruler, perfectly.
37. It took me nine years to get my BA in Graphic Design. I worked and went to school part time, and took time off whilst having children. I scheduled my second child to be born during summer break.
38. Both of my children's names start with the letter M. I didn't do that on purpose.
39. I'm single...still searching for my soulmate. I'm a little weary from the search, but my heart, I have found, is pretty resilient.
40. I refer to my house as "The Estrogen House of Doom." Me, 2 girls and 2 female cats. Need I say more?
41. We generate an enormous amount of laundry, which is my absolute least favorite chore. I don't mind the washing part, but the folding and putting away part is horrid. Matching all-white socks will be my punishment in hell.
42. Along with the smell of tar. If I'm going to hell, there will be lots of burning tar.
43. I think I'm going to heaven, along with everyone else I love.
44. Otherwise heaven would not be "perfect."
45. A grade school teacher told me that Heaven IS perfect, and that if everyone I love wasn't there, then it meant I didn't really love them. I knew she was full of it when I was 9.
46. I've never stopped questioning authority. I have a finely-tuned bullshit detector.
47. Though in recent years, I've put up with more bullshit from those that I love than I should have. I've got a bit of a "suffering saint" complex.
48. Although I attend a Catholic church, I consider myself "christo-pagan." I don't image a solely male Deity, and I am keenly tuned into the wheel of the year. But I also feel a deep connection to the Mass, the saints, and the rituals of the Church.
49. Most pagans and most Catholics don't see how I can reconcile the two belief systems. I found it to be quite easy and natural.
50. I haven't found any religion that has a monopoly on truth. But seeds of truth lie in all of them.
51. I fainted when I got my first Holy Communion when I was 9. Some of my friends joke that this makes me a "mystic saint." I'm no saint, but I definitely tend toward mysticism.
52. I don't think I would continue to worship in the Catholic church if not for the many like-minded people I have encountered in my parish, particularly gay families and advocates for women's roles in the church.
53. I am a hard-core lefty. As in, I am left-handed and politically far left.
54. I worked as a graphic designer for the Communist Party for 3 years. I didn't join the party though, because I'm not THAT far left. I found their philosophy to be naive.
55. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. I voted for a Republican once for Governor. My vote was validated when the Governor halted executions in our state. I am firmly against the death penalty.
56. I worry a lot about the state of our world, and what sort of future my children will have. I hope that they won't have to struggle as hard as I have had to.
57. Editing this list is harder than I thought it would be. I'm removing a lot of references to my ex-girlfriend and our life together — I truly believed we'd get married someday. Alas, we were not meant to be.
58. I'm going to turn 40 next year, and I'm still hoping that it's not to late to find my happily-ever-after. Call me a romantic sucker.
59. When I was a baby, I went to Hawaii and lived in a tree house for about a month. I'm not kidding. Did I mention that my parents were hippies?
60. The only time I have left the U.S. has been to go to Canada. World travel is on my list-of-things-to-do-while-I'm still-young-enough-to enjoy-it. Did I mention that I'll be 40 next year. Sigh.
61. I would like to visit India, Ireland and Paris, just off the top of my head.
62. I believe in Reincarnation. I have had Past-Life Regression, and it revealed two past lives.
63. I don't like to exercise. But I enjoy biking. Lately I've started biking to work, which I can convince myself is "commuting," not "exercise."
64. I have a rather large collection of sea glass from Lake Michigan.
65. I also collect crosses and Mary's. I love Catholic kitsch.
66. In addition to the Anima Sola tattoo, I have two others. The first one is a blue crescent moon with a sunburst over it. The other one is a pink and blue closed lotus flower, which symbolizes transformation.
67. I don't wear earrings or have any piercings because I am allergic to nickel.
68. I have a fetish for finding out about people's allergies, particularly if they are lethal.
69. I also have an odd fascination of cults and Free-masonry.
70. I think I would get a Masters of Theology degree if I thought it wouldn't be a total waste of money.
71. I think I'm very lucky to have found my passion in life and the ability to follow it (thus far).
72. Money isn't very important to me. It would be great not to struggle financially, but I can think of dozens of things that I value more than money.
73. My favorite magazine is Adbusters. For years I fantasized about moving to Vancouver and becoming the Art Director for Adbusters. Now I think that Vancouver is too far and too cold.
74. I am a total type-geek. I can usually point out fonts by name when I see them, and wax poetic about typographical characteristics. I am wild about em dashes. I'm told that Emily Dickinson had a thing for them too.
75. I designed my own font and named it after my daughters. It is a lowercase only font called "m & m."
76. I've always been a total cat person, but after adopting a dog with my ex-girlfriend, The Nurse, I crave and miss the dog every day. I may have been converted.
77. In addition to converting me to being a dog person, I will give The Nurse credit for steering me toward another passion — singing with Aria, an LGBTQA choir that has brought me more joy than I can express.
78. I had an evil-step-mother. She was married to my dad for 3 years. She used to give me the finger when no one was looking when I was 7 years old.
79. I swear a lot. My parents didn't care if we swore, and I ended up with a mouth like a truck-driver. I tell my kids that I don't mind an occasional bad word so long as it's in the right context: you can swear if you drop a jar of mayonnaise on your foot, but you can't call someone a name.
80. When I'm alone, I see it as an opportunity to sneak a hot bath. There are few pleasure in life as fine as a hot bath.
81. In winter, I take a hot bath almost every day. I can't stand being cold.
82. Although I hate the cold, I think Chicago is the best city that I've ever been too. The only other city I've seriously entertained living in is Boston — which is arguably colder.
83. Whenever I'm in Boston, I visit Salem, Mass. I have the odd sense that I've lived there before in another lifetime. The first time I was in Boston, I walked all around the city by myself (which is not at all on any kind of grid) and somehow knew I couldn't get lost there. In Salem I felt the same way.
84. Music is one of the most important things in my life. Nothing grounds me better or feeds my soul in the same way that music does.
85. I already have the music picked out that I want played/sung at my funeral.
86. I am increasingly fascinated with death, but not at all in a morbid way. I am interested in death as a process and spiritual transformation — something that we all must surrender to someday. I am more afraid of losing the people I love than I am of my own death.
87. I think that I must have been Middle Eastern in another life, because I could eat middle eastern food every day.
88. I also love sushi. And Ethiopian food.
89. I can't stand the taste of anything grape or cherry flavored. It reminds me of cough-syrup.
90. But I like real grapes and real cherries.
91. I'm allergic to red wine, but I drink it anyway. Some types don't affect me while others give me a 24-hour migraine that begins after just a few sips. I continue to experiment.
92. If I'm drinking hard liquor, it's likely Vodka. Anything other than Russian Vodka is swill.
93. I am very opinionated and I talk too much. But I strive not to be judgmental. I've learned over the years how to admit when I'm wrong, too.
94. I am very smart. Most of my friends are even smarter.
95. I pray every day. God answers, always. I've had strong faith since I was a small child, though neither of my parents were religious. My grandma used to take me to church with her occasionally when I was little. When I was 7, I asked my dad if I could become Catholic, and signed up for CCD classes.
96. I don't exercise every day. I wish I did. It's a personal failing of mine that I hope to remedy sometime before I keel over. I keep telling myself that if I just do it, I may grow to enjoy it. But I seldom do it.
97. If I had to guess, I would say that I'll probably die of Cancer. It runs in my family.
98. Family is pretty important to me. There are a lot of things that I hope to pass down to my kids. I'm pretty traditional in that regard.
99. I was born on the cusp of Taurus and Gemini. I thought I was a Gemini my whole life, with clearly more Gemini traits. But as I get older, I see quite a bit of Taurus too.
100. I can't really believe that I'm in my late 30s. I still feel like I did when I was about 17 most of the time.
101. I am fabulous.

October 26, 2011


I'm watching closely the story out of Minnesota, where the Archbishop there has put the church's tax-exempt status at risk by ordering all of the local dioceses to organize committees to act as political advocates against a constitutional amendment to legalize gay marriage on the state ballot. It's a sad state of affairs when an issue that is not endorsed by lay Catholics (only 35% support a ban according to a recent poll) is deemed the number one issue that must dominate all resources. I seriously would like to know how they can continue to claim to operate as a church with tax-exempt status, while simultaneously operating a grassroots political campaign. Constitution anyone?

October 24, 2011

The PhDs

Two out of three PhDs agree — it's time for AnimaSola to start dating. The kind of casual dating where you are broadening your horizons and getting to know people slowly, and letting them get to know you. The kind of dating where you arrive at a restaurant holding hands, linger over dinner, stare into each others eyes — but don't necessarily leave together. The kind of dating where I can be totally selfish and choosy, really focusing on the type of person I might want to get to know better, opening myself up to wide circle.

There are two women I am seeing right now...both PhDs...both beautiful, smart, intoxicating....but so very different too. One I know very well already, the other I'm just getting to know...but I'm still not ready to be exclusive with anyone. I think this might be the healthiest way I've approached dating in awhile (ever?), but I will have to see if I can maintain it. In the past I've found it too complex and felt too emotionally conflicted to date more than one person. I think the trick is to not rush into anything too intimate and to just keep things very casual.

But, of course, intimacy is where the prize lay. It's what we crave, on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. But I think it's wise not to rush into that intimate relationship — both with a new lover and the same could be said religiously. It's all about building relationship. How many people blindly follow a religion and really don't feel connected to their God? Are these the same people who stay in dead relationships out of a sense of duty? Not to mention, I have to be sure that I have the goods to deliver myself before I can connect with someone else in that way, first and foremost.

So, as in my spiritual life where I have dipped into many spiritual wells in search for truth, I am now applying the same philosophy to my romantic life: cast a wide net in search of a soulmate. Don't rush things with the first person who comes along, as has been my past history. I'm hoping that I will have the same kind of romantic success that I've had spiritually — at the very least, it should be an interesting journey.

October 20, 2011

'Kick Me'

How can a day begin so great, and end so terrible? I swear, sometimes it feels as if the universe itself is conspiring against me. Are you out there God, it's me, Anima Sola? I mean...really?
I think I'm too nice for my own good. I need to stand up for myself a little better. At work, in my love life, with my kids...I am the one always left holding the bag. I must be some sort of glutton for punishment -- or a super-submissive who is begging to be punished. Please 'kick me,' but wait till I'm down. Wait till I've jumped through the hoops first. Wait till I've exhausted myself....THEN, please, 'kick me.' I'll do anything you ask of me...anything at all to show you that I deserve it.

I am getting out of town for the weekend, and not a moment too soon. A change of scenery might provide the shift that I'm needing. I need to break free from ... EVERYTHING and just clear my head and heart. What a better way to do that than an Halloween party in a college town?

October 17, 2011

Love is my religion — part II

My blog has gotten off-track, as is wont to happen when one's emotions are in a bit of a tailspin. So I've been digging through my archives and looking for bits of my own wisdom to set me right again.
It's difficult to write about spiritual matters when your Spirit is wounded. Conversely, I also found it hard to write when I was deeply in love, because I wanted to focus all of my spiritual energy into my relationship. It takes an enormous amount of balance for me to effectively write about my spiritual life. Right now, I'm praying for the desire to embrace forgiveness, as my priest suggested. Anger kills my ability to effectively write about spiritual matters — except to point out the obvious: that it is a chain that binds me until I choose to release myself from it. I have all of this emotion, much of it negative, and I'm directing it all inward right now. Of course, this has manifested as physical illness (I'm not going to go into the details). I truly feel possessed by demons!

Amazingly, I still have managed to maintain some logical perspective. I know most of my suffering is self-wrought. But I also know that I had few good choices about some things and when an animal is wounded, it will take a protective stance. I don't regret my decisions — I just regret that I had to make them at all. I know that I have an enormous amount of love inside of me, beneath the anger and the hurt that will eventually break free again — because my nature is loving and kind and eventually, forgiving. I know it's there, because I've been able to tap into it time and again for the people all around me who are hurting and suffering to a much deeper extent than I am. And they seem drawn to me. I am cognizant of that fact -- that I am drawing in people who are hurt and needy right now. Helping them is probably where my own salvation and recovery lies — because we teach what we most need to learn. As I teach them to love themselves and change the negative voices in their heads, I remember that I too need to listen to love inside and let go of the anger and repair the hurt.

October 16, 2011

2 months

I found myself sobbing today, and it took me by surprise — until I realized the date. It has been exactly 2 months since The Nurse and I broke up, and my body was reminding me of that painful day. I know that it will get easier in time, but until then I am in this sort of painful limbo. I've become an expert recluse and fooler of my friends. I am "ok," I tell them, and for the most part I am. I mean, what I am going through is not unlike what anyone goes through during a painful breakup. Yet everywhere I go, people ask me if The Nurse and I have reunited yet! "No," I tell them, "we've really ended our relationship this time. We don't even speak to each other anymore, actually." It's a fair question, I concede. The last year of our relationship certainly was dramatic.

I just hate this whole fucking experience. I wish this didn't have to suck so much. Today I'm feel raw and just so sad about it all. What a fucking sad situation! That when we see each other, we don't even speak! Just so much pain there. Not to mention the dozen or so songs that are now blacklisted for me. Totally ruined. You will not see my fingers fly faster to change the station than if Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros Home or, god forbid, Patty Griffin's Heavenly Day comes on. To hear even half a verse would be sure death. My iPod is now a war zone full of dangerous landmines. On the bright side, this has forced me to seek out all new music, because I cannot live a day without music.
I've been sick for two weeks, my defenses are down. I'm feeling weak and just so pissed off at myself for putting myself in a situation that has caused me such heartbreak.
At least I'm getting out of town next week. Maybe some distance will help me out.

October 07, 2011


When I woke up this morning, the anniversary was present in my mind. I'm not absolutely certain of the exact date, but it's been about a year since I grabbed all the narcotics from my lingerie drawer and locked myself in the bathroom, huddled on the floor, praying and trying to muster up the willpower to not take them and end my life. I wasn't alone in the apartment that day, or I might not be here today. The Nurse was on the other end of that bathroom door and was able to break through my spiral of thoughts just long enough for me to go running into the neighborhood, and finally to seek help. It was the second time in my life — and the first time since I was a young teenager — that I had been brought to the brink of suicide.

Perhaps it was some kind of karma — Atonement — that on the one year anniversary of that incident I would find myself on the other end of the door today. A good friend had been talking about his lows and his struggles for days, and had even started talking about suicide from a "philosophical perspective." "If I feel like ending my life," he argued, "why can't I do it without judgement and shame?" I chimed in that it was because "life was fucking precious, even in the struggle," and he softened and convinced me that he wasn't really considering it. But just one day later, he was on the floor, clutching a bottle of Hydrocodone and a bottle of Valium — the exact same combination of pills I had held in my hand exactly a year to the day earlier. ( I later checked my diary to confirm the date).

They say that God works in mysterious ways. I was able to calm my friend. He was actually very rational — having gone through bouts of suicide and depression all of his life. He knew that he needed to see his doctor, adjust his medication, get through the really tough times he's been going through, keep reaching out to friends. And I was reminded how far I have come in the last year, from clutching my own handful of pills and ruminating about throwing myself in front of a speeding L train to being more grounded and feeling safe again. The abuse of my childhood has left a wound that can leave me devastated in an instant when the right triggers come along. I am thankful that a year later, I was strong enough to be there for another person and was sincere when I said that life felt precious — such a difference a year can make.

October 05, 2011

Chin up

As much as I've been whining and in my "poor me" heartbroken state these days — out of the blue today a woman I've known for some time told me that she had been thinking of asking me out (despite some things that would probably make a relationship not a good idea). Nevertheless, it was a nice to hear that she considered me "kind, smart and beautiful." Sigh. Keep your chin up, girlie.

October 04, 2011

Missed You

I have to admit, I'm long overdue for re-writing 101 Things about AnimaSola. Look for that soon. And when I do, I'm sure one of those things will be that I am absolutely obsessed with the 'missed connections' section on craigslist. They are hilarious...and yes, I'm that "15 watt bulb of glimmering hope" that believes anything this romantic could actually happen.

The Saturday night rapists

When we were leaving family therapy, Little M tugged at my shirt and said, "Mom, look at the sign. For a minute I thought it said 'the rapists' instead of therapists."
I told her that it was something that many others had noted before about the profession.

I put on my new silver dress and purple lace stockings, fixed my hair and makeup and put on my new little suede boots. It wasn't so bad, heading out alone. In no time, I would be surrounded by women — find a friend. Have a drink. Have another. The bar fills up. I find a friend — a therapist by trade. She tells that "the first person you have sex with, I'm not gonna lie — it's gonna be really hard. I cried all night afterward, the first time after my breakup with ____. But it's got to be done. Just turn off your emotions. "

I'm shaken by what I see as some really fucked-up advice by someone who comes across as pretty emotionally dead to me. Really? Is this what needs to be done? I need to have emotionless sex with a woman I pick up in a bar to get over my ex? Is this the only way? And then I'll cry all night? And this will help me? I fail to see the logic. This sounds like something utterly damaging — and something that would make me miss her even more.

Not that I'm pretending to be above it. Not that it hasn't occurred to me or that I haven't walked down that road in the past. I'm not a saint. Maybe I just know better now. Maybe I'd just rather feel this kind of pain — the pain of loneliness and heartbreak — than that kind of pain — the pain of emptiness and loveless cheap sex. You can't get rid of your emotions — well, actually, you can — but I don't want to. It's the best thing about me. So I'd rather just feel whatever I need to until it heals after it's due time. And that sucks -- but you can't fuck it away in someone else's arms. You'd just be damaging yourself more, and probably another person as well.

Leaving the bar, I head to a birthday party. Champagne. Wine. Cake. Flirting. But who are we kidding? Any woman who would be interested in me is exactly the kind of woman I would want nothing to do with right now. Attracted to someone going through a breakup? What's wrong with you? I don't want to be rescued, I don't want to be comforted, I don't want anything, really. Maybe I just want to be told how hot I look in this new dress — because it doesn't get any better than this ladies! This is all I've got! But that's all I can presence for a few hours, a conversation over drinks, and then it's time to call it a night.

September 30, 2011

future cat lady?

I'm healing slowly, but I know that there is a part of my heart that is dead now. I feel somewhat untouchable. If anyone attempts to flirt with me — looks deeply into my eyes — they can't even see me. And I don't really even care. I'm just so...heartbroken. Whoever gets me won't get my heart, at least anytime soon. But I don't want to repeat old cycles where I ended up with people who got a "dead version" of me. It's hard to balance loneliness/heartbreak/lust/healing.

After exchanging emails with J the other day...I avoided her when I saw her again at the L this morning. I'm just...not wanting to start anything with her. She deserves someone way better than the hot mess that I am right now!

But on a positive note, my girls are relived that I have gotten myself out of the unhealthy relationship spiral I was caught in, and can finally focus on them. Of course, I will never reveal that the final blowup was in defense of my oldest daughter — that is too much pressure for a child bear — but I'm proud that I finally stood up for her. Big M is going to her first Homecoming game and dance this weekend — and asked a girl as her date. She's definitely curious about girls, thought it may just be a phase for her. She's become active in GLSN and other high school clubs, and is getting all A's so far. We've made a lot of headway in our family therapy sessions towards strengthening family communication and building trust. Single parenting is such a difficult job! I so wish that I had a partner, but I now realize that I am on my own for the long haul...and I'm proud so far of the job I'm doing. Things could definitely be worse. It's really amazing the amount of responsibility they have both taken on, and how well we are all working together under less than ideal circumstances. But I think that it is bringing us closer, because to make it all work, it requires a much higher level of communication.

I'm trying to keep busy — to stave off the loneliness. The weekends when the kids are away are the difficult times. I'm planning on getting some new kittens this weekend to fill the huge dog-shaped hole in my heart. I find myself actually looking down the block some (most) days hoping to catch a glimpse of Olive out for a walk...all while I'm also hoping to avoid The Nurse. And I've given myself permission to skip out on some school functions that would just make my heart hurt more. There's really no requirement that I put myself through that. Maybe someday it won't hurt so bad to be in the same room, making small talk and drinking cocktails and moving around the room awkwardly — but I'm just not able. I've got a new dress, and I plan on wearing it weekend. Fake it until you make it. I'm going to look fucking amazing, going to a couple of events and parties — and maybe I'll actually buy into it and change my attitude. The truth is: maybe I'm just too old for the single scene. It's so...bizarre. I'm not sure how to navigate it and I'm not sure I want to. Geez, what the hell has happened to me? I used to love going out! Now I'd really just love to curl up on the couch with my new cats.

September 28, 2011

Cry Cry Cry

I'm just blogging up a storm these past few days...I guess the floodgates have opened. Writing is certainly helping me process things. Last night I sat and re-read a year's worth of journal entries. Wow. It really drove home the cycle that I was stuck in, the issues that were present, and the need for my relationship to end with The Nurse. Anytime someone puts major deal-breaker conditions on your relationship that you cannot meet, it's time to move on. I couldn't make my children disappear, it's as simple as that.

I've been listening to this song nonstop for days:

And speaking of re-reading through things as a form of process, I came across this old posting today from when The Nurse and were first dating...and so happy. Her comment is even there. I realize that so much of this blog is a history of our relationship — perhaps in time I will have the strength to re-read it all.

So, what am I to think now about the notion of soulmate? I don't know. I just don't. Is it a Hollywood construct? Am I a fool? I know that I believed it with my whole heart...and I want to be a believer, even if that is foolish. Perhaps the fool's life is the happier one. Giving up completely on love — I know too many people who have chosen that path and I don't want to resemble them...but I can admit that I have felt the strong pull to throw in the towel. I mean, heartbreak sucks. Really sucks. But I don't know who I would be then. I wouldn't be me anymore. I would lose some vital part of myself if I gave up that dream. At what age do people finally become so jaded that they just say, "fuck it"?


So I was standing at the L this morning, remembering this girl that I had gone out on a couple of dates with during one of my extended breakups with The Nurse this year. We had clicked on many levels and I remembered when I told her rather callously via email that I was getting back together with The Nurse that she believed I was "worth waiting for." Just then, I looked up and there she was, standing there on the L platform. Unbelievable serendipity! I hadn't seen her in about 4 months — she honestly looked better than ever. The platform was crowded, the train was pulling in and she was engrossed in her book and headphones....I tried to make eye-contact but she didn't see me (or pretended not to) and before I knew it, we were both swept up in the crowd. We ended up kind of close to each other on the train — but considering I was such an asshat to her, I decided not to approach her awkwardly on the train.

I'm really not any more available than I was when I went out with her the first time -- I still need to let go of The Nurse completely if I want a real relationship with any one new. But if J really meant that I was worth waiting for — than I'm not going to regret the email I just sent her.

September 26, 2011


Dear AnimaSola,
I know that you are feeling a deep sense of shame about your depression and where you have let yourself end up emotionally, particularly after having the strength to come out as a lesbian and leave your 10-year marriage behind — but I forgive you. And really, you are so much better than you were a year ago. A year ago was the real low point for you. You and The Nurse went through this whole last year on-again and off-again just so that you could both be a little more okay with letting each other go I think. At least not suicidal, right? Sigh. But you know it was about so much more than the breakup. It's deep issues you've got in there: Yearning for family. Sexual abuse. Abandonment by your mother. So much loss. But this relationship too, has taken a toll on your self-esteem. You were doing all the dreaming for a future that only you wanted. That was certainly clear after you both moved out of your dream apartment last Fall. It was clear that there was no love for your children in her heart — and something very far from love directed at your teenager. You knew that you could never marry a woman who didn't love your children. It's so heartbreaking to even put that into writing, but you both need to face that truth, so that you can heal.

I know you are in deep pain. I know how much it hurts to see The Nurse, her daughter — and oh, the dog you adopted together. How your heart aches for the damned dog! Maybe because her love was so...unconditional, you miss her so. You have permission to avoid as many sporting events, school socials and church gatherings as you need to. You are not required to go to most of these things --but you are required to take care of your heart. You are not required to try to be friends. Right now, that would be asking the impossible. You are not required to put up any fronts for anyone. Protect yourself in anyway you need to. Block/restrict whoever you need to on Facebook. Limit your exposure to postings that might upset you. It doesn't make you a bad person that you are not capable of putting on a false front for the world and pretending to be friends with your ex when you are truly heartbroken. It took you 9 months to get over your last relationship, before The Nurse, so you know it will take some time. Give yourself all the time you need.

When the new girl you don't really know tells you that you have beautiful eyes — you say thank you but you don't pursue it, because you know it's not time yet. Not for anything real. There have been times in your life that you've shared single nights with such women — and men — just to let the loneliness pass away for a moment, just to feel beautiful — just to feel...but did you really feel anything at all? No. You have only ever felt connected within relationship — so that is what you will wait for again. But, of course, you know better than to look for it. It will just come when the time is right again.

It's so odd that you haven't given up on love yet. Heartbroken, crushed, defeated, lying on the couch for days and sobbing and still — still! You're dreaming about future love! You have always believed that it is out there, waiting for you: a true partnership, someone to share your life with and grow old with. And here you are, on the brink of 40 — alone and still dreaming! That is pretty powerful!

Be really good to yourself. Try to eat a little more. Try to keep biking through the Fall. Keep singing! Push yourself really hard to call friends and keep asking people if you can come over and just hang out -- its so good for you, even though it's so hard and I know you'd rather be alone. Keep processing the hard emotions. Don't shut down. Keep exploring new hobbies and rekindling old ones. Connect. Pray. Enjoy bonding time with your girls. Get new pets. And forgive yourself. You fell in love and tried so hard — I know you did. It's okay. I still love you and you are worthy of love and someday, I know that your dreams will come true.
All my love,

September 24, 2011


This post was originally written on 10/28/10 -- but I never had the guts to publish it at the time. But after reading what I wrote today and then stumbling upon this unpublished post from almost exactly a year ago, I realized that it's all connected, and it's time to set it free. This was obviously written from a place of deep pain and depression -- one that I am again trying to navigate, as I find way out of the relationship that had utterly destroyed every bit of my self-esteem. I don't blame anyone but myself for that, to be clear. I was weak at the start, and a year after writing this post, I'm somewhat more grounded after a year of hard work and therapy. Anyway, here it is.
"I'm an effigy, a parody of who I appear to be, put your flaming torches under me."
~ Natalie Merchant

Anima Sola returned home today, succumbing to the familiar flames that define her existence. She has run back here, screaming as if a madwoman, haunted by the words that ring in her ears still, words that can never be taken back. Ever yearning for "family," instead she finds it's wreckage at her feet. She will not utter the word, she dare not, but it cries to escape her lips: soulmate....

It seems like she had only just left this place — realizing her chains were broken — yet the fates have demanded her return here. She cannot resist, for she is empty now, broken. She knows that this place is all that remains for her, and indeed, it is all that exists. The earthly world holds no promise for the lonely soul — only the purifying flames of purgatory can cleanse her of this pain now.

And she is ready for this destruction, it's power so complete that she has had no choice but to totally surrender to it. Proud, to feel every piercing and agonizing blow — even the ones that draw the breath away from her and leave her begging for mercy — because there was a time when she would not allow herself to feel these things at all, and she knows the consequences of such repression.

Feeling this pain is the only choice now. And so with with her eyes fixed heavenward, not knowing the time of her emancipation, she succumbs to the flames, indefinitely, and with faith.

Nursing my wounds

I've been avoiding writing about my breakup with The Nurse. First, because I know that she sometimes reads this blog, but mostly because the pain of it all has been locked deep away inside of me. I haven't cried about it, since we broke up a month-and-a-half-ago. I've tried not to feel much at all. And I don't want to bash her, or the relationship here -- I just need a safe space to feel something. I'm still in such a haze about it all -- really, I went into complete survival mode. I'm not going to rehash any of the details....just accept that I'm starting to tap into the deep pain of losing the girl that I had hoped to marry, of wasting 4 1/2 years of my life on someone who didn't love me, and that although we spent the better part of a year in an agonizing stalemate, in the end it felt like she let me go with effortless ease and abandonment. I wish I could run to the ends of the earth and deposit myself safely in hermitage alone where I could deal with all that is swirling in my heart. It's going to take me a long time to heal this. I still think of her when I wake and when I go to bed -- even though I know she has already replaced me in her life. It doesn't comfort me to know that her friends called me "the best" that she had dated, because I know her pattern, and I know my own. I can't look back for her -- who has utterly destroyed my heart in such a way. I wasn't "the one," wasn't good enough. I've got to learn to be good enough for just myself and love myself anyway. Never has this animasola felt the conscious weight of her chains and chosen to hold on tight to them. Purgatorio. But why? Why can't I just let it go? How long must I torment myself over this?

September 10, 2011

Can they tell?

So, I went to a training seminar today in order to be certified as a volunteer with the Archdiocese of Chicago; this will allow them to run a background check on me so that I can volunteer around my child's school for classroom activities and school functions. While I knew that the VIRTUS training was centered around child sexual abuse, I guess I hadn't prepared myself mentally or emotionally. As the seminar began, I panned the room and wondered -- I am the only adult in here who is an abuse survivor? Later, as I choked back tears and wiped away the few the rolled down my burning cheeks as the child victims told stories of their pain and suffering in the videos we watched -- I wondered if anyone was noticing. It was definitely a tough couple of hours for me to get through. I managed to pull it together, before the "table discussion" portion after each of the two videos -- but wow, I really couldn't wait to get out of there. Afterward, I couldn't help but reflect on some of what I had learned in the videos and apply it to my own life and experiences. As was noted, victims of abuse often have difficulty with lasting relationships. Well, here I am, nearly 40 years old, another failed relationship at my feet. I don't know if I can say that I'm doing any worse than my peers though. People everywhere seem to have trouble with relationships, for all manner of reasons. Still, I didn't see myself as going into my 40's as a single gal -- I had hoped to be more settled by now. The video pointed out that victims of abuse are unable to trust because the ability to trust has been fundamentally damaged. Perhaps that is why I have been drawn both to other abuse survivors and/or abusive/toxic/addicts. In any case, it left me in a melancholy state for the rest of the day. I do know that I fundamentally believe that most people are good. I have learned to trust my intuition -- which is the most important thing any abuse survivor can do -- trust themselves. There are things that I will likely always struggle with -- like being alone and feeling safe: I remind myself that I am never truly alone -- God is with me always. Being given tools to help protect other children from abuse was empowering and worthwhile -- and on some level, healing. It was nice to be in a room full of adults on a mission to protect children from the predators out there who our children probably already know and trust.

August 19, 2011

"Stocking" is the new planking

I just submitted this photo to a new website called "stocking is the new planking." It's from last Halloween where my co-workers and I dressed up as stock photos.

July 01, 2011


I've always prided myself on being a fast-walker; while others casually are strolling down the sidewalk, I'm usually zipping by at my own swift pace. This briskness carries over into many aspects of my life — I wouldn't call it "road rage" but I'm not a very patient driver. I also tend to zip past people in my thought processes (I'm told it's a family trait), often leaving friends and lovers frustrated when I push ahead with ideas that they're still trying to unpack.

So when a freak accident left me with a foot injury that would temporarily put a serious dent in both my foot and my swiftness, I wasn't surprised to get the sympathy of most of my dear friends. But one of my very close friends knowingly pointed out that the universe had delivered me a serious message. I knew she was alluding to The Law of Attraction, but really, was she trying to say that I sabotaged a weekend that I had been looking forward to for several weeks — maybe even all year? Pride weekend? What kind of masochist did she think I was?

Tonight I as I walked home from the train station after work, I took each step very slowly. This was my first big walk home from the train and I knew that I'd need to keep a slow pace with my bad foot. Babysteps. This journey was going to take 3-4 times longer than it usually did. I began to ponder the meaning of "taking babysteps," — the phrase itself. Ah, yes, that is what I was doing, literally and perhaps what I needed to be doing in other areas of my life as well. There are many ways to reach a goal, but plowing ahead full steam seldom gets us what we want, though it might seem the most direct route. But it just doesn't take into account all the nuances of life — the spiral.

The spiral journey, the labyrinth. When I have walked a labyrinth, I have walked it slowly — deliberately, trusting that I would eventually reach the center and then back out again. Such is the life journey: just as we gain some understanding, we become confused by other things. Just as some relationships deepen, others fade; Just as trust builds with someone special, you may feel the sting of betrayal with another. There is a constant give and take, an ebb and flow. This is the sacred journey we are all on — and the essence of the deepest yearning within us. Within the spiral is the yearning to be understood by another, loved and accepted for who you truly are: known and loved unconditionally. At the edges of the spiral, we all must let go of all that is treasured: surrender.

So for today, I will try keep my focus on making small micro-changes in my life, instead of rushing toward completing huge goals.

June 14, 2011

Go Big or Go Home

So after more than a full year of sitting useless in the basement, I finally managed to get my bicycle to the shop and repaired. The push I needed may have come from Jupiter, which began it's transit through my sign of Taurus on June 11, and continues for a little over a year. Jupiter's motto: Go Big or Go Home. And Taurus: Get Practical. Combine these two things and look for BIG change for anyone with Taurus in their stars in the coming year. It's time to Go Big or Go Home and get motivated by your vision of tangible results. "Practical realism," multiplied by the size of Jupiter is the order of the day, for the next year.
I'm feeling like I've got Jupiter size ovaries lately -- pretty confident and ready to make decisions about things in my life that need making. I'm all about RESULTS lately.
I've gotten really clear within myself over the last couple of months about my desires and goals and needs -- which has meant making some painful but needed decisions. Again, maybe not as forthcoming without the final push of Jupiter.
I also made it back to church, which I haven't been to in weeks, just in time for Pentecost, which filled me to the brim with Spirit. How do I know this? Tears, of course. A grace I always recognize and accept lovingly, even though it leaves me stripped bare. The Spirit also has the motto of "Go Big or Go Home," I think.
My girls are off of school now -- Big M is leaving for leadership camp in Michigan for 3 weeks and Little M will be going to Theater Day Camp here in the city. I'm looking forward to this winding down time for them to concentrate on non-academic summer things before the next wave of "school" hits. So important for their overall well-being and growth. And I need that too! This summer I'm bound and determined to spend more time conquering the hula-hoop! Maybe I'll squeeze in a family camping trip in August. How I would love to get away and hit the road. Where would Jupiter go?

May 11, 2011

It bears repeating

A good friend asked me yesterday about my once published "list of standards." I had to dig through the archive to find them, but re-reading them was cathartic. As I first wrote, this list may seem like a no-brainer for many, but I continue to struggle with a few items. I'm happy to say that that in the past few years, I've overcome a few key trouble spots on this list.
If your relationship falls within the "unhealthy" column, it may be time for a change.

In a healthy relationship, you:

• Treat each other with respect
• Feel secure and comfortable
• Are not violent with each other
• Can resolve conflicts satisfactorily
• Enjoy the time you spend together
• Support one another
• Take interest in one another's lives: health, family, work, etc.
• Have privacy in the relationship
• Can trust each other
• Are each sexual by choice
• Communicate clearly and openly
• Have letters, phone calls, and e-mail that are your own
• Make healthy decisions about alcohol or other drugs
• Encourage other friendships
• Are honest about your past and present sexual activity if the relationship is intimate
• Know that most people in your life are happy about the relationship
• Have more good times in the relationship than bad

In an unhealthy relationship, one or both of you:

• Try to control or manipulate the other
• Make the other feel bad about her-/himself
• Ridicule or call names
• Dictate how the other dresses
• Do not make time for each other
• Criticize the other's friends
• Are afraid of the other's temper
• Discourage the other from being close with anyone else
• Ignore each other when one is speaking
• Are overly possessive or get jealous about ordinary behavior
• Criticize or support others in criticizing people with your gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or other personal attribute
• Control the other's money or other resources (e.g., car)
• Harm or threaten to harm children, family, pets, or objects of personal value
• Push, grab, hit, punch, or throw objects
• Use physical force or threats to prevent the other from leaving

March 21, 2011

The Obstruction

In times of great transition, I often turn to the I Ching, a tradition passed down to me by my father. I bought my own Book of Changes in my early 20's and have logged each and every roll of the coins that has been done since, even for my friends. When you roll the coins, you usually end up with two numbers, your main number which gives you the passage to look up which describes the heart of your situation, and the changing lines number, which shows one possible future. It's amazing to look through the history of my "logs" and cross-reference whether a particular number has ever come up before, and to note the date, and recall what might have been going on in my life at that particular time.

This past 6 months has been one of the most difficult stretches of my life, and I'm more than a little ashamed to say, that I didn't weather the storms like a strong oak, rooted in the strength that many perceive that I possess. Instead, I bent and broke and spiraled into a very dark place a more than a few moments of true life or death crisis. Thankfully, I was able to get help, and am here to today to write about it, and to somehow forgive myself (hopefully) for not having the fortitude that I should.

When I found myself turning to the I Ching last September, as everything in my life seemed to be crashing down around me, I rolled a 39 with no changing lines, which represents a fixed situation. This hexagram is called Obstruction, and is represented by "a dangerous abyss lying before us, and a steep inaccessible mountain rising behind us. We are surrounded by obstacles." As I read further, it was clear that I had many personal obstacles that I needed to focus on overcoming. Because the obstacles are represented by things that do not move (a mountain and an abyss), a hint lies in how to overcome these obstacles. Change and movement are necessary. One must travel around the obstacles.

Some time passed, I had broken up with The Nurse in October, moved out of our shared apartment, gotten into therapy, and set about trying to conquer my inner obstacles. But as I took two steps forward, I took one step back. Healthy boundaries remained an issue in my relationships. I was still not rooted, the next storm would surely blow me away. In January, I turned to the I Ching again, and to my shock, I rolled a 39 again.
I scanned the log — this had never happened before, two exact rolls in sequence. "The Obstruction" remained.

Would I ever get around the mountain that lay before me? Cross the abyss? Did I even have the courage to try? I knew that I had to start being true to myself, to have the courage to let go and to start over again. That I am worthy of love, of family, of belonging. That someone will understand me. And that I am strong enough to stand on my own, and be a "strong oak."

On March 5, I turned again to the I Ching, and at last, I had a new passage, this time with changing lines. The first passage was 15, Modesty, which speaks of the qualities of inner strength and how that shines forth in people of strong character. The changing lines was 31, Wooing and speaks of attraction and the difference between seduction and courtship -- something that struck me as particularly poignant. I was longing for what I had lost: love, partnership, family.

The only words I can think of to close this blog are the lyrics of, Amazing Grace,....was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see.....

January 21, 2011

How To Be Alone

Happy Friday everyone! It's bitter cold in Chicago and hibernation seems to be on my mind. I've found myself spending more and more time alone — something I've resisted fiercely as a natural extrovert, but am now learning to lean into, if not embrace. And I simply adore this video. It may even help me turn me into a reformed extrovert. Or an introvert? Enjoy!

January 20, 2011

Spirit clock

Spiritual lessons come in their own time. Hard lessons and hard-fought battles, internal an external, cannot be rushed through. So has been the course of my life at it's greatest times of transition and growth. Like a great wheel, the spirit clock moves slowly but carefully, forcing me to feel things I'd rather not, forcing me to into darkness and painful places that need examining and reexamining. The spirit clock winds around familiar bends, familiar sorrows that also remind me of how I survived, how the paths were once made clear. Bitterness tempts me, but hope prevails.
Remembering, first, while so much growth is internal — must be felt so deeply and personally — I am never alone. There are other along my way that who will share bits of compassion and who will challenge me further and who will push me to choose what stays and what goes. Growth does not come with out letting go of so many things — death is the door we cannot avoid but must embrace if we are to find new life.
I see with new but familiar eyes, where the clock now rests. With an open heart, I re-ask the questions and re-pray prayers I thought were once answered, with a faith undeterred. Love is everywhere.