1.20.20

Progress Report:

If my social calendar is any indication, I’m benefiting from the intention I set for My Last Chance Midlife Make-It: Regular lunch dates, comedy club weekends, cooking, crafting, old repairs “I’m meaning to do” … DONE!

The bullet journal is the key. It’s so simple. Annoyingly simple. I’ve thought about bullet journaling since the craze began. It appeals to every piece of me: LISTS, LISTS, checking off LISTS. LISTS, colorful LISTS. Organized LISTS, LISTS, LISTS!

Look at everything I’ve done! Marinate in delicious minutia! How I adore you, shimmering pens. Leaves and glitter climb columns of beautiful lists, lists, lists! Oh, the euphoria of checking off LISTS!

DO WHAT YOU LIKE. For the love of all that’s holy, what are you waiting for?! It’d be amusing if it weren’t so annoying. It would be infuriating if it weren’t so fun!

I’m seeing old friends, making plans, making food, watching less TV. I’ve joined a Book Club! I’ve always wanted to. I read a lot. I’m constantly asking friends or family to read this tome or that so we can talk about it. No one bites. Or a tepid response to something that inspired me is so deflating, I don’t ask again.

A girl from belly dance invited me to her group last year. She lives in BFE Suburbia. The last thing I want is to navigate some paltry transit extension out there – in the dark, cruel middle of winter – and, worse, try to get home again later, when even downtown options can be limited. At last, I got noisy on the group page. Week after week, I asked if anyone would be willing to hop off the freeway, pick me up from someplace I can bus to, and hop back on. It worked.

I’m loud. I’M NOT QUIET. Fear and insincerity yield nothing. Everyone knows this, but living it is something else. I have a voice, goddamnit. I need a ride.

Thank you!

It’s going to be wonderful! The book, right up my alley. The women, just who I was looking for. Mothers, daughters, lawyers, hippie dippies, and at least one miscreant.

So far, so good. Thank you, Hindsight 2020.

Oh! New glasses. (Check!) Restored to 2020 Vision, I can see behind; I can see ahead.

Ta Da!

We talk so much of resolutions and goals, but what are you proud of about 2019? What’s on your Ta Da List?

I’ve written about mine extensively. It’s the work of my life, the reason I started this blog, but it wasn’t until 2019 that I really saw results. I saw improvement, but I hadn’t yet managed to sustain it, or found a way out of my pattern: crisis/recovery/crisis/recovery.  It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s how my family relates.

I see it now, the shift. I believe in it. I’m so encouraged and excited by that! Time and again, I’ve met with resistance, rejection, assault, attack, or heartache and upset, and I’ve responded with strength and calm.

My biggest success is the biggest loss, but it was my biggest trigger – my mom – and I DID IT! Poorly, but I did it. That was a toddling argument, full of mistakes and regret. Falling everywhere, bumping, crying, anger, re-centering and starting again, in one stilted conversation. If given the opportunity, I could build mutual trust with her. We could get better at discussions of thorny or painful issues. I could build a real relationship between us, with depth and substance. I understand, too, that it’s not available. She won’t.

Acceptance was the huge Ta Da for me in 2019. I can’t force it. I love us both enough not to ask again. The sorrow, of course, is that I feel hollow and unsatisfied by such a superficial connection, and it’s the only other option to shunning. The sole interaction they permit feels uneasy to me, inauthentic, like being loved with an asterisk.

But love it is. Just as Mom doesn’t have the right erase my origin story, I can’t pretend that love isn’t love when it doesn’t behave exactly like I want it to. For now, I can appreciate that. I accept her limits for our relationship, but meaningful acceptance of this quasi-“love” from my family is beyond my skill set for now. It makes me mad. I want to open my heart to it, but I’m not there yet. Layers…

Perhaps I’ll always feel second-class. It’s still love, the only way they know how. Today, it’s insulting. “Isn’t it a shame?” they condescend. “If only she’d stop causing so much trouble, we could welcome her.” I just won’t receive their embrace. Tsk, tsk.

As for their religious estimation of me, “pearls before swine” sums it up, but I don’t mind them seeing me as Esau, tossing my birthright for sin. We both feel superior in that regard, which is sad, really, and antithetical to love, but I can only handle so much. It’s unfathomable to me how they refuse to examine their thoughts. It’s positively willful, but they don’t see the action verb in their behavior. They’re so used to believing without thinking that they’re blind to the blinders they wear.

There’s a song in Book of Mormon Musical, in which the missionaries dance to a wonderfully irreverent tune about those dreaded, creeping questions. Before allowing themselves to complete any thought, they interrupt with the chorus. “TURN IT OFF!”

I know plenty of Mormons who think for themselves. I know countless intellectually curious, courageous individuals who explore truth on their terms and land in their own place on the spectrum of orthodoxy, but my family is culty. Gross.

Look down on me, then. We share that.

Our problems are behavioral, not theological, but I can see how that refusal to look deeply at an issue came from our religious culture. I believe, too, in genetic memory. Studies show that trauma alters genes, which are then transmitted to subsequent generations. When we feel history in our bones, we really do!

I’ve found a lot of understanding and healing in that notion, and when I sit in it, I feel my ancestors. They’re in my blood, pumping and alive. Whether they’re angelic or not (They are), they’re now.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” -William Faulker

I don’t think we’re doomed by genetic memory. In the context of ancestry, we’re all the perpetrator and the victim, and I believe we can heal our spirits and bodies in real time. For me, it’s overwhelming and so fulfilling to consider recovery in a larger framework, one that challenges my understanding of time. The cosmos itself offers too much discovery to bend my mind to, that tells me time isn’t linear. Time is both real and unreal. Can I heal the past? Yes. I’m healing me, and the past is never dead.
healing hurts

Headlong into Hindsight 2020!

It’s here! It’s here! It’s actually happening!

Did anyone else do that? Set an intention for Hindsight 2020, when they’d have all their shit figured out? Well, I did, and I marked it a long time ago. Like, 20 years or more.

The confluence of midlife and that symbolic cliché struck me long before I knew what a bitch this shift would really be. I mean, I knew it would be. My early life was painful. I knew it would be the work of my life to process all that.

I planned to have it done by next month, haha! The weird thing is, I do.

2019 was the first successful hard year I’ve had. It was productive. There were so many opportunities to state feelings of upset, anger, and fear without freaking out, and I did.

The thing I have that I didn’t before is confidence. I trust myself for the first time.

The sexual violence I experienced during festival season, culminating in Burning Man, was a trauma I only just released… last week. I didn’t realize how much of it I was still carrying around until I wasn’t.

I’ll never allow predators to remain again. I know it, because I don’t apologize anymore for my limit. I don’t question anymore if I’m worth walking away from people who don’t honor my boundaries. My safety’s not negotiable.

It’s not asking too much. Refusing another chance – when your needs have been stated and ignored, multiple times – is normal. It’s called Healthy Boundaries.

“Actions speak louder than words.” Listen, dummy!

(It takes time to learn a foreign language, and quite literally, boundaries are not my native tongue. It is what it is. I got it now. I probably have an accent that gives away my place of origin, but that’s fine.)

“Fool me once, shame on you… twice, shame on me” is too reactionary. The benefit of the doubt might enrich us both. Show me it was a slip-up, not the norm. Or don’t, but that tells me about you, not me. I’m not shamed by that.

I legit did not know that. I couldn’t connect it to emotional truth, that I really am allowed to call disrespect by its name, and walk away.

believe them

I’ll give one chance more. Fix it or confirm it. Your choice.

“Disregard those who disregard.” That’s my MO. No guilt or guess-work.

Y’all, I know my boundaries for the first time. Take that in. It’s life-altering.

Kids who grow up with abuse have to love the person(s) hurting them. Boundaries don’t form there. I forgive myself for being a perfect target, because I didn’t create the circumstances that made me a victim.

It’s weird that it took me so long. I knew what I knew what I knew… but not really. I knew what I didn’t want. I had an idea what I did. But real boundaries? I just didn’t have any. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what they were. I was ruled by fear of what I didn’t want to repeat, and terror of being found out: I can’t do better. (I’m not worthy of better!)

Well, I am. Let’s build something!

Now, the only thing keeping me from the future of my dreams is inertia. And that’s a big one for me. I’m lazy. I could blame my luxurious, indolent Taurus. I could blame a life of vigilant anxiety. (You hunker down and dip your toe in, never swimming freely.) Yeah, sure, all the things. I could blame. But I’m staring down 50. It’s now. Holy shit!

I’ve joked for decades, “My epitaph will read, ‘Lovingly gave half her life to sleep.'” If I don’t get up now, I will die never having truly committed to any life. I’m sitting, waiting for it, watching. Get UP and make it!

I feel myself very clearly looking behind me at a wild, manic, amazing first half. I see me – oh, wow – aching for that girl, understanding her, cringing and regretting her, LOVING her. I’m so strong! I survived! I fought like hell not to stick my head in the sand that shields my family from reality. I’d rather kill myself than hide from the truth. I LOVE THAT ABOUT ME. I stared down death to live honestly.

What I see now is courage. I had strength without the tools to voice it in meaningful ways. I was screaming for my very life, and that’s how it felt. What I see now is power expressing itself weakly, and it will again, but not as often, and not blindly.

I’m not as afraid as I was, even two years ago. I think that’s about where the shift took place in space and time. The last two years. In other words, now.

I see myself pivoting, with intention, 180 degrees, to look out on a tabula rasa. Its blankness doesn’t scare me. I don’t have to control right this second what might happen out there. I’m going to make what I make, and I’m excited! I want to start walking, now.

A sad truth of this change has been the adjustment of several relationships. Unfortunately, young Christie’s friends aren’t used to this middle-aged lady’s insight. I built those friendships when I was sick, and those patterns of interaction don’t work for me anymore. I’m not operating from weakness, and I’m not apologizing.

I had to leave a decades-old friendship last year. I sent a card six months later for her birthday, a love letter, really. She called. I answered, glad to put it to rest and move on, only to have her start up with justifications and explanations, and a complete lack of awareness. She was still in a fight that didn’t matter anymore. I tried to work through it – I believe in working through it – but we were talking in circles. At the end of the day she confirmed what I saw for the first time six months prior: a woman who will not share responsibility for misunderstandings. I owned my shit and wouldn’t let her off the hook for hers. I deserve friends who apologize when they’re wrong, of their own volition. I do.

She can’t. She’s not sorry. She’s comfortable in a world where I blame myself for the behavior of others. “I’m fucked up. What do I know?”

Not anymore. Level up.

I had no idea she needed to be “the healthy one” until I got better. In 22 years, we had two fights. After the first, I acquiesced (apologizing without reciprocation) because I needed her and didn’t know my worth, so I couldn’t recognize that she didn’t either. After last year’s argument, I couldn’t stay in a friendship that won’t grow with me.

I love her so much, and I know she’s out there with no clue why our friendship is over. She actually thinks it’s because we had a fight. She needs me weak, and if given the opportunity, she’d go over the minutia again, to prove her point under the guise of resolving things, when it’s long-since moot.

That friend is the keeper of my youth and beauty, of joyful exuberance, freedom, and fun! I’m still fun, can’t help it, but it’s different. I’m fun, with edge. And I love my edge! It’s wicked and sharp, still silly and laughing at my own expense, but not… young anymore. Anyway, the pictures in my mind of this sweet friend and me are footloose and fancy free, if anything ever was. We pranced through mountains singing, and swam in glacial lakes – head underwater three times or it doesn’t count – not a care in the world. She’s a hallmark of an unpolluted era. She holds my innocence, and I love her forever.

Moose Falls

Some badass chick I used to know ~ 1995

kayaking Hoback

Adventure Duo! ~ 1995

I wrote about the friendship that changed after Burning Man, the couple I introduced who got married out there and then hung out on Zafod’s art car after he assaulted me. It doesn’t hurt anymore to accept them at their level. They were friends of long standing that I thought of as intimates, but I see now a childish eagerness to make family of peripheral community. They’re friends. Their values are different from mine. Okay.

I like them. I enjoy them. I’ll seek them out at every gathering. I invest nothing more.

One more important friendship is in 2019’s crucible, on the verge of moving from sister to drinking buddy. We’re in process, and I think we’ll be okay, but my new boundaries are being met with a resistance familiar to me now. The equalizing of power imbalances doesn’t feel as hopeful and thrilling to others as it does me, it seems.

“I’m changing,” I told her. “Keep up or don’t.”

I have no delusions that my patterns and problems will go away, but I’m a different person. EMDR is hard. I hate/love it. I’m hoping to love/hate it soon, but one year in, I still can’t sleep soundly the night of a session. It’s disruptive to a brain!

I have gods-honest panic attacks now, not just the white-knuckle, jaw-clenching stranglehold I’ve had on the day-to-day. On one hand, I prefer it. It feels more honest, less monster under the bed. “Okay, you’re real. Let’s face this down and really talk to it.” On the other hand, panic attacks fucking suck.

I asked my therapist if I’m having fits now because growing new neuro-pathways has basically turned me into a toddler. He said yes, haha! It feels like it. It eases my mind a little to think of them as the tantrums of helpless child because, well, it amuses me, and because a phase is less menacing than a condition.

I don’t have a panic disorder. I have control issues, sure, but I inherited those from a scary childhood. I expect it to settle, because I also feel, for the first time, like a mature adult who can handle her shit without losing it.

I DARED, and I’m so glad I did. I see real results from intense therapy.

(Sometimes, when my practitioner passes over the hand buzzers, I still see them coming at me in slow motion. It’s the craziest thing, like I can watch how I used to “pop out,” but I stay in my body now. It makes me feel faint, and I sense my whole body, the fluttering in my gut, the tingling and numbness in my limbs of staying put instead of running away.) (At this point, as a kid, I just started screaming god-knows-what stream of consciousness, and by age 7-8, I was being mocked for how “smart” I was. I couldn’t stop the violence, but I could get in your head.)

I’m not afraid of that screaming thing in me anymore. It kept me alive. It’s the same warrior that made me willing to stare this down, and put it to rest. Real strength is nascent in me yet, but I trust it. I believe it. I can do it. I am.

It’s not my fault what happened to me, but it’s my responsibility now.
go bravelyLooking forward, the only thing I have to confront (that has nothing to do with cPTSD) is that lazy streak. I have to muster up some self-discipline! I got no time left. If I keep sitting, I will actually die waiting for my life to happen.

So, to that end, here are my plans:

Get my ESL certification in preparation for moving to Bolivia to teach English.

Finish my recovery. (Unlike Donald Trump, my bone spurs were real. You don’t get out of Vietnam. You get surgery.)

gross foot

It was so swollen under the bandages, I have to slough that skin entirely. The peeling!

Keep up Afro-Brazilian drum lessons until I can…

Return to yoga and dance!

Audition for Samba Fogo drum corps.

Restring my guitar and start online lessons.

Participate in SLC’s 3rd annual Rock Camp for Womyn.

Build the E11 Temple again (Hindsight 2020 theme!) and join an art installation crew.

Tarot… Actually learn the deck, and do readings at E11.

Cook something healthy at least once a week, for the love! (I’m skinny fat.)

Oh. BULLET JOURNAL! Why have I never done that? Oh, yeah. I’m not busy enough to need a planner. But I love lists, and I love pretty things. Boom, done. Bullet journal.

Write short blog posts. 😆

The end.

Cured!

gentle power

I didn’t believe quiet strength was available to me until 2019.

(P.S. Two fights in 22 years? [222!] … Ignoring my experience and intuition is my Achilles heel. “I’m tripping myself up” repeating old patterns of unhealthy relationships. Foot metaphors? [I fixed my toe, and relationships are changing.] I love synchronicities, and that’s too coincidental not to notice. *hi, angels*)
repeat repair

2019

I love symbolism, and what could be more refreshing than New Years to hit reset and start again on the things you didn’t do last year? (I’ve been swearing I’d be “fluent” on the didgeridoo for, what, 10 years?)

I place a lot of importance on New Year’s review. This has a been a hell of a year for it.

It started in 2017, when Jax and I broke up. Finally, I knew something about my future: I was never having children. It was sobering and surprising, and so freeing!

A year later, I ran into my favorite old flame – best lover/real emotional affection/worst match – and persuaded him to see me again. We’ve been together now for months.

I’ve never had a carefree relationship. It isn’t superficial. It just doesn’t have to mean everything. I don’t have to understand it. In other words, I don’t have a picture in my head of how this will look in the future, and it’s fantastic! I’ve never had that.

I love him. I’m loving him so much better than I did before. We’re happy.

He’s a ski photographer. Christmas and New Years are his bread and butter, so we parted company two weeks ago and haven’t spoken. We texted once. I invited him to a New Year’s celebration – he is the person I want to kiss right now – but he declined. He had to work New Year’s Day. I expected as much, and went alone.

It’s perfectly equal with Galen, what we want from each other, how we feel about each other, what we offer each other. I can’t say enough how different this is from anything I’ve felt or experienced in my life.

So that’s the biggest thing from 2018, this free, authentic feeling of being with someone purely, not because I have a goal or fear in mind – or in the back of my mind. It feels so good to love someone! I don’t think I appreciated how desperate and selfish my love has been in the past. I was aware, but… yeah, you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s wonderful to love him so wholly.

****

I quit smoking two months ago. I bought a Vape for the holidays, so I wouldn’t go around bumming drunk drags at parties, or walk to a convenience store and buy a pack. (You know that hangover. “Ah shit! Now I have to finish these cigarettes!” Maybe you could throw them out, but I hate waste, throwing away my money, and regret – for the day down the road I wish I hadn’t thrown those cigarettes away.)

The Vape did it! I’m smoke-free and more confident than ever before that I’ll stay that way. Just bring it to any party and you’re set. That melon-flavored metal cylinder accompanies me only when drinking, and I’m perfectly satisfied. Problem solved.

I’ve lapsed on my cooking. Of course, that’s my #1 plan for 2019. Get back into trying new recipes and healthy meals (i.e. lose weight). Galen’s good for that (vegetarian/solar home cook) but, like I said, I got the holidays off from him.

It’s the worst binge, maybe ever. For two weeks straight, every day, everything I can eat, all day, and no real food or fiber. I’ve actually thrown up, actually morphed from Binge Eating Disorder to Bulimia, except I didn’t mean to puke. I just made myself so sick, up it came. So gross. Wow, my life.

I imagine if I hadn’t held onto to Skinny-Is-My-Superpower for so long, I might have figured out some form of food discipline before now? I can’t say. I only know I didn’t. And it’s only gotten worse. Binge Eating Disorder doesn’t sit still, so now I have to make it better. That’s it. Skinny is officially no longer a freebie for me, but I’m more concerned, like any midlifer, with the rest of my life, with comfort, energy, and longevity.

And, let’s be honest, good diet is the last piece of living peacefully with Fibromyalgia. DO IT. If you’re not doing everything in your power to manage your pain, shut up. When you’ve exhausted every option with total integrity and effort, bitch all you want.

Til then, binge less. As a treat. Enjoy it. Accept it. Move on. In 2019, I will binge no more than once a month. Ooh! I just got punch-in-the-gut panic. I can do it.

****

I can’t believe we’re only a year away from 2020. For a decade, I’ve been excited for Hindsight 2020. What a time for review! I feel so lucky to be newbie-middle-aged at this epic symbolic time. I’m young enough to get back into shape and stay that way. (Figure out in therapy this year how to really face Binge Eating Disorder…)

I’m young enough to regain and retain my youthful beauty, and old enough to know that that’s not what matters in my life, but something I enjoy. Thank god I get to!

I have a 5-yr plan for the first time in my life. Penny will be my family for the next 2-5 years. Then I’ll be 50. Fit, brave, happy, free, and ready to TRAVEL.

I’m finishing the process of getting out of debt. (In 2018, my student loan fell to ZERO!!!) I’m not planning to travel much in the next few years. Instead, I’ll save, dream, and plan. I think I’ll drive cross-country with a friend first, then live in South America for at least a year, to teach and travel.

I’ll definitely be in Brazil for Carnival sometime in the next 5 or 6 years. I started doing Samba a couple of months ago. I’m not bad. I’m not good yet, but I will be!

Oh! Be careful what you wish for! I always wanted to join Samba Fogo, Salt Lake’s world-class Afro-Brazilian drum and dance company. (Our founder is 2018’s International Samba Competition winner. This is for real.) In 2018, I did!

I’m in Ala, which means “We.” It’s the community branch of Samba Fogo, and Alas exist all over Brazil, so it’s part of the cultural tradition. We’re performing at the Samba Queen contest this month, and at the annual show in April, which I’ve been attending for years. It’s in that audience that I first began to dream of being on their stage. And now I am.

****

2018 was tough. I came down hard with some boundaries that I’m not second-guessing anymore. I made cuts. I didn’t have the emotional wherewithal to write about it as it was happening. I just did it.

My circle has grown much smaller, and my family’s pretty much out. I never thought I’d fail there, but I have to love myself enough to make unapologetic choices for my safety, even when my mom lectures me in a Christmas card about the need to forgive.

I have. I forgive and forgive, but I continue to be disrespected and disregarded. I give myself permission to leave, whether that’s demonized or not. I don’t need them to understand or stop gossiping about what a bad, withholding person that makes me.

Am I adulting?! Not around them. In their company, I’m everything they say I am.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about etymology, specifically the phrase, “You make me sick.” Most of us are guilty of projecting on someone in that way. I’ve been asking myself lately, “Why do we say that?” “What a strange way to blame someone.”

Why? Because the feeling is one of illness!

It was always there. My family makes me sick. No one respects my boundaries, so I get pissed and pissy, and the cycle roars on. I have a role, but it’s a family act. I’m the screaming, suicidal girl. They scapegoat me for all our problems, because I make the most noise.

When I was young I said all the time, “You think when I leave, everything will be great. It won’t. Just you wait.”

It didn’t. I didn’t start it. I was born into malfunction, but it’s my fault now. All of it.

I’m a symptom, but for them I’m to blame.

So I can’t be around them. It’s sad, but it’s the right thing to do. I act like a child. I hate myself. I hate them. I don’t sleep for weeks. I binge. I trigger mom (who’s already triggered anticipating family togetherness, so she jumps on my buttons).

The rest of them are openly bigoted, dutifully silent, or subtly cutting. (I hate it when people skirt responsibility for “jokes” that hurt. “I was kidding.” Bullshit. You’re cruel.) They don’t care that hate-mongering hurts me. I’m just being difficult.

We’re sick. A family is only as healthy as its sickest member, and I actually get sick with them. 2019 is about respecting all of my health and honoring it, even when my family calls me a horrible person, even when I want to hit three fast food joints in a row.

I ache for the loss of a treasured, long-time friendship, and the bruising of another, but I’ve changed. Things have changed. Twenty and thirty years ago, I’d tolerate nearly anything not to jeopardize relationships that replaced family, but I won’t now.

Without intending any shift in dynamics, that’s what’s taken place. It ended one relationship, inasmuch as I’ve made peace with allowing that friendship to belong to its time and place, love her always, and move on without her.

Another friendship is dinged, badly, and the aftermath remains to be seen, though I can say she’ll always be in my future and vice versa. There’s assurance in that, but sorrow knowing that I might be disappointed forever by what I get back: nothing in the present. Never a text, never a phone call, rarely an answer to same, not even acknowledgment.

It’s so rude. I don’t deserve scraps. Not even social decorum for your best friend?

I give more. It’s reasonable to ask for more. I may not get it. History wouldn’t say so.

It’s sad.

Holding on to what no longer serves us is immature, and I’m not. I’m 45 years old. I’m kind of a bitch and I’m a good person. I’m whole and complex, and I don’t want to spend my time with assholes who piss me off.

I want to have fun. I’m smart, deep, compassionate, impatient, intense, and FUN.

Happy New Year.

halfway bitches
women over 40

Skinny Was My Superpower

And I ate everything!

I learned that some girls in my school had what they called “The Christie’s Thigh Diet,” because my legs didn’t “splat” when I sat down in my cheerleading outfit.

So I ate more. To show off.

Well, 40+ happens to everyone, ha! I bought a car on September 1st and gained 19 lbs. in 4 months. (9 years on a bike, and damned proud!)

I am 5’5(+)” and 159.6 lbs! I think 5 lbs/mo. is healthy weightloss. I’d like to reach 130 by Summer, and stay there this time.

When I got home from Spain last year I was 129 lbs. But, you know, being held captive and fed once a day will do that to you. I told my best friend that “The Brian and Chrissy [forced] Diet” was more effective than the one those girls named after me in high school, and at least one good thing had come from the trip.

But my visit triggered dormant PTSD, which triggered a loooong binge, and I ate everything. I finally got it under control after 6 months or so and held steady at 140-145, not minding if I did or didn’t lose weight.

So that’s what I’m doing this New Year’s. Diet and exercise, like everyone else. I don’t mind being average. 🙂

And quit smoking. (For good! 20 YEARS in May! Unacceptable.)

I quit Diet Pepsi in October! Hey!

I expect Salt Lake Power Yoga to bring me back to my athletic body and relieve the newly unremitting pain of Fibromyalgia. (Since Spring, 2015 was spent in constant pain, with a week to 10 days off here and there. It was aching, exhausting, and extremely challenging to retain my signature enthusiasm. Before this year, I never considered medication. Now I’m studying.) (It seems awful. I really hope to keep it natural, and controlled.)

I have to say, I hide weight well. It’s pretty evenly distributed. It’s like everything just puffed. I got as much back fat as I did boobs but they fill an A cup now, so there’s that.

Oh, guess what else happened in 2015? Psoriasis. *sigh*

Coconut oil seems to help, but I’m still finding new patches every so often (since November). I’m hoping to avoid steroids or immune suppressors.

I’ll continue djembe lessons and drum for dance classes. I’m joining a guitar class on the 13th. I’m anxious. That’s what began my journey with Fibro 4 years ago. Refamiliarizing myself with chords and frets, I developed pain in my left wrist until it seized up to the point of requiring a cortisone injection to move freely again without screaming agony that woke me up nights. Other joints joined in, but only the left big toe needed cortisone. None of those joints is 100% now, and that wrist is particularly moody, but not unbearable.

I have to try. I want to play and sing! I want to write shitty music.

Life is strange. I would have thought it untenable, my reality. My body hurts. I’m tired and lack endurance. Aching like I do – worse and worse, in ever-new muscles and junctions, then finding scaly patches of goddamned skin that spread and won’t go away – is very frustrating. And I like my life. Huh. tough

Everyone has something. Some people have lots of somethings.

Okay.

Hope you’re rollin’ with it and having a good time, too.
Blessings in 2016.blessing

Happy One-Year Blogiversary! A Review:

Have I accomplished the goal I set with this blog?

I’ve chosen estrangement from my parents. That feels like failure, so I’m inclined to answer, “No.” However, my stress set-point is reduced. Knowing I expect nothing from them has calmed me down. I still get depressed; I still get annoyed; I’m still attitudinal. I’m less defeated. Until I sent that letter to dad after Thanksgiving, I still hoped to someday be included in the circle of things/people they accept/love. Now I don’t. Nothing’s changed. Any change took place more than a year ago, when I realized, “Holy crap, I’ve been delusional. They’ve never accepted me and they never will.” Once dad saw that I would never tow the line, I became second-class, a stepdaughter. Mom is silent. I am the former Mormon whose disapproving family merely tolerates her. Somehow, writing them off, literally, put me at ease. It’s profoundly sad, but it’s done. Now I can heal.

I feel like I’m lying to myself, that the only true healing is reintegration with them. Maybe that’s the lie. I don’t know how I feel about my progress. I guess I’ll tell the story.

****

In November 2011, I was fired from a job I worked for over 5 years. It was a very untoward sacking, and I didn’t handle it well. I had a breakdown and called my mother for support. She panicked, hearing only my “attack” voice, and began attacking me. We have never communicated successfully, peacefully, or even kindly. Since I was born, it was war or walking on eggshells. Offended, and out of habit, I did, then, attack her. She went crazy. It actually scared me. She was speaking nonsense. It was so strange and confusing it shocked me out of our pattern, fight to the death. (In my youth, I won by getting smacked around. “When you lose your temper, you lose,” she advised me, not intending irony. “Brain over braun,” I gloated. I remember taunting her that she had to hit me because she couldn’t outwit a 6 year old.)

On this day in November 2011, I realized for the first time, “Wow. I cannot turn to my mother for comfort. She has none to give.” It was ultimately softening as to my lifelong strife with her. She is at wit’s end at all times. There’s no comfort, even for herself. I was sad for her, and ashamed for taking so long to notice that my continued demands on her were chipping away at her sanity.

I was disappointed in myself. I have wonderful support. I couldn’t be satisfied by my mother’s past attempts to help me, because I wasn’t satisfied by her understanding of me. And I didn’t trust her. Anymore, she can’t even try to help. She’s… different. She’s old. She doesn’t have to do this anymore! It was actually one of the most freeing, loving moments of my life. At the time, I was in such a state that I simply got off the phone quickly and called my best friend, as I should have done in the first place.

Then the texts started. Mom has generational electronic anxiety. She’d never texted me before. The messages were vile. They were crazy! I asked her to stop. She didn’t. I called and explained precisely what I wrote above, that I understand now something I’ve never seen before. “I was wrong to keep coming to you. I’m so sorry.” But she wasn’t listening. She was screaming more disturbing, frightening things than she’s ever said before. In our long violent history, she’s hung up on me innumerable times, often rightfully so. This was the first I’d hung up on her. The texts kept coming. I took the bait, and three days of verbal volleys ensued.

Finally, I sent an apology to mom for participating in the latest battle, and promised it was the last. I told her I loved her, but wouldn’t be speaking to her for now. “I have to set new boundaries in order to avoid falling into our traps.” She mocked my new-found maturity, finding it “interesting that [I] would set these boundaries without first consulting [her].” (“Personal boundaries don’t require consensus!”) My friend forbade me reply.

(I saved the exchanges for weeks, rereading and reliving them until my friend insisted I delete them. I needed my proof and righteousness so badly I’d let it kill my soul, but she loves me too much to watch me choose my demons over my truth.)

I called dad. “Obviously, you’re privy to what’s been going on. I want to apologize for my participation in it. I was wrong, and I’m done. I tried to explain it to mom, but she can’t hear it right now so I want you to understand that this time is different. I see things in a way I never have before.” I explained the life-altering epiphany I had, that she has no comfort to spare and I was hurting, even damaging her by continuing to demand it. “I’m telling you, this will never happen again. I’m sorry it took so long for me to see.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Thanks, dad. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Christmas 2011

I was nervous, but excited to see my mom. I felt, like I said, a new softness for her. I regret the years I’ve made her pay for the abuse that started my life and shaped the way I see the world. She made very serious mistakes that caused me real, lasting harm, but I see in the lines on her face how deeply she regrets her choices. I’m her greatest heartache. That makes me sad. She’s just a little girl with a cold, disapproving father (spare-the-rod sort), who’s known since she was twelve that she was depressed, whose life ran away from her, whose anxiety took over in the form of blinding rages against her mouthiest child. (No, I will not shut up!) I hate to say it, but I pity her. I love her so much and I admire what she survived. I admire her convictions. I admire her intent to live a righteous life. She is the least hypocritical Mormon out there. She lives her life quietly, honestly, honorably, by the credo, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” She is self-sufficient and shy, and loves the Church for reminding her to extend a hand of service to her fellowman. She’s just the well-meaningest thing you ever saw. I feel so bad for her.

At dinner, my father and brother in-law started throwing out hypothetical situations with which to hate homosexuals. I hate my sister’s husband for this change in my family, and I am endlessly disappointed in my father for not noticing, and participating. We didn’t spend all of our time judging others before Dan appeared. Now it’s all they talk about! My sister married a good ol’ boy from Mississippi, who told her when they were engaged that he left his home because he didn’t want to raise his family around black people. Now, we’re from the potato part of Idaho, not the neo-Nazi part, but a boy that far away wouldn’t know to make the distinction. He handpicked Idaho for reasons of complexion. Once there, he found the Mormon church. I’m ashamed of how easy it was for a weak white man to find empowerment in the priesthood, as well as a pretty girl who survived a turbulent family by disappearing into the woodwork, a properly opinionless woman.

You might think, knowing me as you do, that I disliked him from the beginning. Well, yes, I did. I was bratty and snide. But I grew up. I began to appreciate his talent with animals. Mostly, I came to respect how much he adored my sister’s growing family. My biological father didn’t care if I lived or died, as far as I knew, and it meant the world to me that my nieces knew their daddy loved them. I thanked him again and again for that, and for being a good provider. I went out of my way to use specifics and make it personal. My sister is happy, and I’m grateful. I gave my brother in-law thoughtful presents, like Church magazines on Daddy Daughter Dates and a framed black-and-white I took of his beloved golden retriever, Maggie. I took endless photos of him and his daughters laughing and playing. He’s never spoken to me, except to make fun of me once in front of his buddy. (I didn’t know that Bear Lake is one body of water straddling Utah and Idaho and not 2 lakes with the same name.)

One time, I drove my brother and I to Mel and Dan’s for Easter dinner. “Every time we’re there,” I complained. “He’s going on about another group he hates.”

“You don’t know him,” he responded, annoyed. was in junior high then. “You haven’t been here for a long time.”

“Fair enough,” I replied. “I haven’t.” Maybe he was right.

Walking through the door, we were met with Dan’s voice. “Well, I don’t know about you,” he jeered, “but I wouldn’t want to live next to a bunch of Jews either.”

I shot my brother a look.

“Don’t!” he ordered.

“Mmm hm.” I walked off, sanctimonious.

No, I never liked my sister’s husband. It is with much chagrin that I think of my girls learning his values. But it is in this that I find purpose. That’s what Fun Aunt Christie is for! Someday, somehow, they might see, “There is another view.”

Christmas 2011 was different. It was never so egregious as to take place at the dinner table, or if it started to, dad would joke, “Watch out for Christie.” (Hilarious.) Til now, it had always been conversation I could avoid or disagree with in a passing manner. I knew Dan would rather I just shut up, but I had a job to do. And for heaven’s sake – literally! – can we not talk about hatred on the night of our dear Savior’s birth? You call him your Lord and yet you seem to forget the very message of his life: To love the OTHER. This is the holiday! Get it? HOLY DAY. And you use it to advance hatred? I expect as little from that Klan member Dan, but not my dad. I sat in silence for as long as I could, but I just kept thinking, “What if one of my nieces is gay? What if a little heart is breaking right now? What if someone at this table at this second is just dying inside?” I don’t think any of my nieces is gay, but that’s not the point. It’s not okay to teach that, ever. At Christmas, it’s downright sinful.

And I was embarrassed! My brand new, young sister-in-law was meeting us for the first time, together. This is Christmas here. This is who you married.

I was adversarial, I won’t deny. I didn’t yell, but I was self-righteous. “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! I cannot believe [such and such]…”

(Dad argued that a gay urbanite would be more likely to die in the Alaskan bush than a straight city-sweller. I think sexual orientation has no bearing on adaptability, but in our dictatorship family, dissent is not allowed.)

I’d never seen my dad so angry. He’s very mild-mannered, but he was hateful. “You can call me a bigot if you want, Christie,” he snapped, “but that’s how I feel.” Whoa. I never saw my father as a bigot, until he accused me of calling him one. That’s what bigots do. My sister’s husband is a bigot, racist, sexist, all of it. My father’s just a guy from another generation who’s only ever known people who look, think, and act like him.

(I consider my restraint heroic for never having screamed at him, “How do you not see that your brother, the tap-dancing rancher, is GAAAAAAAAAAY!???) (I admire and love my uncle more and more. Faithful practicing Mormon, celibate, never-married, one of the most pleasant, generous, loving people I know. A kind, joyful man. And fabulous.)

My folks left after dinner. Mom thanked me for their gift. Dad wouldn’t speak to me.

Before bed, my sister pulled me aside. “Christie,” she started, “I don’t know how to say this.” My stomach dropped to my toes. “Don’t go to mom anymore.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“She can’t handle it anymore.”

“I know. What are you talking about?” I asked again. “Oh.”

It all made sense now, dad’s hostility. He didn’t believe me when I shared my epiphany, or if he had, he didn’t care. He was still mad at me, and talking about it behind my back to the rest of the family. They get together, decide what my behavior means, and tell me about it during the holidays.

“You can come to me,” my sister offered.

“I’m the one who said I wouldn’t turn to her anymore.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she cut me off.

“Melanie, you just said I could come to you…”

“Go to bed, Christie,” Dan ordered me from upstairs.

“My sister and I are just fine,” I told him, turning back to my conversation. “Melanie, you can’t unload misinformation on me and then not listen to my perspective.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she said again.

“Are you even listening to yourself? ‘Come to me. I don’t want to hear it.'”

“I’m not as smart as you, Christie.” (Such an unfair cop-out!)

“Wait,” I pleaded. “It didn’t happen like that. I told dad I wouldn’t go to mom anymore – and I haven’t – so there’s no point in you saying it now.”

“CHRISTIE!” Dan roared.

“I’m having a conversation with my sister,” I stopped him.

“NO!” he screamed. “SHUT UP, you BITCH!” My face must have betrayed shock. “You are a bitch!” he doubled-down.

(I was surprised. At his behavior. That brand new sister in-law was behind the door he was standing next to, and all four of my young nieces were sleeping in the living room. I could see them!) (Oh, and all strong women are called bitch. Idiot.)

“My sister and I are working this out just fine,” I sneered. “Thanks.”

He charged down the stairs with his fists clenched, chest pushed out, face purple, and veins bulging. Melanie jumped out from behind me and held him back. The whole time he’s screaming, “Shut up, you bitch! You’re a bitch! Shut up!”

“All I’ve ever said to you is thank you,” I yelled. “Thank you for being a good provider! My nieces know their daddy loves them! Thank you! All I’ve ever said is thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Again and again, a mantra.

“Shut UP! Shut up! Don’t you ever shut up? Shut up, you BITCH! You’re a bitch!”

Melanie finally screamed, “DAN!” and broke his gaze from me. He wanted to kill me. He wanted me to know he could.

I ran upstairs. I cried all night, had my brother take me to the bus stop in the morning. “I don’t mean to put words in your mouth,” I said to him, “but I wouldn’t mind if you told Dan that you don’t appreciate him talking to your sister like that.” (He didn’t.)

Later, instant messaging, Melanie denied that Dan ever attacked me. Then, when proof forced her to admit it, she excused him.

“His veins bulge all the time. And you didn’t seem scared.” (So it’s okay?!)

I reminded her that I grew up beaten and learned Fight over Flight, to the death. I remember two times specifically as a small girl that I believed I was going to die, once while watching my arm turn blue and once running down the street in stocking feet in the rain. I didn’t get far. Flight fails. Stand your ground and show no fear.

New Year’s 2012

I began having a strange cluster of health problems and pain that ultimately resulted in a diagnosis in March of auto-immune disease, but not before going under anesthesia for tests. I reported a reaction to Sudafed when I was a baby. The doctor wanted to know what happened, and I couldn’t tell him. He wouldn’t put me under until he knew, so I called my parents. They, of course, screened the call so I left a detailed message. And another. And another. Finally, I said, “I understand. I won’t answer when I see it’s you, but it’s very important that I get this information. Please leave me a message. Thank you.” NOTHING.

I left one last very stern but calm message. “How long are you going to shut me out? This has gone on long enough!” I scolded them. “I require medical treatment and I cannot proceed without information that you have. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Within an hour I received a breezy voice mail with the info I needed and not a hint of acknowledgement of having ignored my pleas for weeks.

We never spoke again.

Thanksgiving 2012

My parents have held Thanksgiving for my immediate family at their new house in Twin Falls, ID, for years. I didn’t have a car so I rode with my aunt to Thanksgiving at Grandma’s in Pocatello. I’ve been the only representative from our branch for years, so I had no expectation of seeing anyone last year other than cousins and my beloved grandmother.

Imagine my surprise when, days before the holiday, I received a text from my sister. “Mom, dad, Ren and Alicia (brother and sister in-law) are coming over after dinner at Grandma’s. You’re more than welcome to come.” I was sick. (And astonished. In what world am I welcome in that house? WHAT COLOR IS THE SKY ON YOUR PLANET?!) I was only just beginning to look at the pain from the year before. Whenever that anger and heartache would boil, I just looked away. That’s not my style. I believe only by facing our fears can we hope to understand, learn from, or conquer them. This one was so big I gave myself permission to pretend it didn’t exist. It worked. And then that first anniversary was here. I had to look. I was furious. I allowed myself to seethe. I know me, and I know anger is part of my process, but I was terrified to see those people. I was too bottled up, too disgusted to see them. This was a holiday, a time to celebrate gratitude and grannies, not a time to explode.

I sought the council of my best friend. “What do I do? I can’t talk to them! I can’t face them!”

“Stick to your Grandma,” she advised me.

“I can do that.”

Wednesday night, I had total insomnia. Thanksgiving Day I was fairly twitching with fear and lack of sleep, but doing okay. I was enjoying the company of my cousins and nieces and feeling like maybe I’d worried for nothing. Coming down the stairs, however, I realized that dad and I would be bottle-necked alone and I began to panic. In my mind, I was running. Looking back, it feels like I had tunnel-vision on the bottom of those stairs. My dad elbowed me in the side and laughed, “You still not talkin’ to us? Har har.”

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!!!

I flipped around, finger in his face. “You owe me an apology!” I yelled under my breath. “You accused me of calling you a bigot. I have never called you a name in my life!” No one was the wiser and I took a seat with an uncle’s family rather than with my own.

I didn’t sleep again that night. I didn’t sleep for sixty hours straight.

I wrote my dad a letter apologizing for snapping at him. “I’ve learned that anger is easier to feel than pain and that pretty much sums up the first half of my life,” I wrote. “I really want a better second half.” I told him that 2012 had been one of the most difficult and rewarding years of my life, “and I did it completely alone, without support from my family and very little communication. I must conclude, then, that I’m better off that way for now. May it bring peace for all of us. I love you both.”

****

I don’t know. I’m still in it, I guess, far from forgiveness. I look at what I just wrote and think, “Is this just more evidence-gathering?” Am I just arguing my case to an obliging faceless, virtual public? “I’m RIGHT!” Is that all this is? It might be.

Or… Is this out of me at last? I’m the kind who has to tell the whole story until I’ve worked it all out. I try to be conscious of that dangerous place where you switch from working it out to rehearsing the script. I’m not even close to getting stuck in this. Right? I feel like I’m barely beginning to look at it. I was so raw last year, I couldn’t even think about it. It took more than a year to process the indignity of how I was fired! I only started looking at the holiday collapse of my family during the holidays. I think I’m gonna cut myself a break and say it all this once without judgment, without questioning my own motives. That’s my experience of what happened. There. It can only get further and further behind me.

Cluck like a chicken if you read all that, ha! That’s alright. I wrote it for me. Now I’m done.
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