Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Papillon D'amour is moving - has moved - an admission of sorts of the changes I personally have gone through.  The space here, like a cultivating cocoon, has served it's initial purpose.

So I move, the writings and the message they carry - of love, life and hope - to a new locale, a new  home:

Thank you for being here with me.   I'll meet you there now.

Peace and love,

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sex, Part 2: The Competition and Innocence Lost

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience
in which you really stop to look fear in the face... 
Do the thing you think you cannot do.
~  Eleanor Roosevelt 

When it comes to sex, the light, breezy side of titillating topics are easy and can be fun to banter over.  The darker, hurtful, character-diminishing topics, however, are not -- like sexual intimacy and the alcoholic relationship.  Give it a moment to digest.  Sexual intimacy in an alcoholic relationship is a provocative, perplexing, lonely topic.  It is also an important issue that carries personal secrets and social stigma with it.  Secrets of shame, guilt, embarrassment, anxiety and fear, and for some, even physical violence which can prevent an individual from attaining personal freedom, serenity and happiness. Secrets that can cause unintended strain or harm to an otherwise healthy individual or relationship for a long time.

I began writing this specific essay in June, 2015, shortly before I spoke to an international audience in Atlanta.  I successfully got through dry-run rehearsals and the talk itself, but writing about it took nearly a year.  Why?  Fear.  Seeing select personal experiences in black and white remains scary sometimes.  My inner Eleanor is still a rookie when it comes to openly discussing sensitive topics, like sex.

Releasing those inner-most secrets, vulnerabilities, or worse, my culpabailities, makes my stomach quake and I inherently run from the keyboard direct to the refrigerator.  Speaking in front of that audience in 2015, however, was 100% safe.  I was assured the attendees had genuine interest, perhaps shared or similar experience about the topic as well. They would not or did not ridicule, criticize, or judge me.  Instead, they listened, heard, understood, and optimally were helped by my presentation. Why not adopt this same mindset for the written word?  That makes too much sense for someone who, like me, has experienced betrayed trust, ridicule, criticism, judgement, even abuse in various ways throughout life, areas in which I am not fully healed.  There was added safety in speaking, because I knew it wasn't being recorded.  Whatever I said wouldn't come back to taunt or hurt me.  So just don't do it, you may be thinking.  That's counter productive to my recovery progress and the dual intention to carry the message to help others find their way toward healing, mending and moving forward in a healthier, whole way.   You have to put yourself out-on-the-limb.

Sexual intimacy and the alcoholic relationship isn't openly discussed let alone spoken about very often.  Yet, like addiction itself, it needs to be.  As the former wife and widow of an alcoholic, let me preface this:  sexual intimacy with your partner is one of the many casualties that occurs in the relationship.  My hope is that this entry will build my confidence in discussing a gorilla in the room of alcoholic marriages, partnerships, intimate relationships, etc. and in so doing, ease the heartache of others out there who feel the same and are also afraid to talk about it.  In order to recover we must remove the cloak of terror, shame and guilt and get the truth out there to help others along with ourselves.

This shifted sex talk is different from the first one I wrote.  That was the widow perspective, following the death of her beloved spouse still raw in the agony of grief. This latest stance is from the wife of an active alcoholic; they are the same person -- me.  The erosion of sexual intimacy is based on equal deterioration of physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy; generated by the booze, the increasing dependency of it, and the disease of alcoholism itself.   The intimacy I missed is what I last wrote about relating to sex.  We genuinely did have all that for a period in our years together; then there was the period when the bottle ruled and with it the inevitable decline of sexual intimacy -- intimacy period.

We learn in time that it is not subjects which are controversial, 
but the manner in which we communicate about them 
and the elements of personal blame we add to them in anger.
~ The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage

Nearly every Thursday night, for two years, I attended a meeting where I was the only non-alcoholic in the room.  Every few months, the topic of sex came around as part of the discussion curriculum.  The first time it did, I wiggled in my seat, my stomach churning in disgust, embarrassment, frustration and overall dis-ease with the subject.  Straight from the mouths of recovering drunks, I was hearing some of my experiences with Boomer.  Tales of their objectification of women, using partners for sex on their terms, when they wanted it, the way they wanted it, and the verbal abuse they'd inflict on the people they 'loved'.  I heard about porn and the fixation with it, physical abuse, and of course infidelity.

What squirmed me wasn't so much the affirmation of what they did or experienced themselves (some alcoholics are victims of sexual abuse, which lead them down the drinking path), but the realization of my own culpability, distorted as it was, in how much I played along; including being a drinking buddy, dressing or behaving seductively beyond my comfort level, because I was so lonesome for the man I loved who was trapped in a deep relationship with a bottle and I was desperate to hold his attention at almost any cost.

If her past were your past, her pain your pain, 
her consciousness your consciousness, 
you would think and act exactly as she does.
With this realization comes forgiveness, compassion and peace.
~ Eckhart Tolle

In the disease of alcoholism, as the loved one of someone who compulsively drinks, you are in constant competition with the booze, and the booze always wins, until recovery intervenes.  When it comes to sex in an alcoholic relationship there are two prime competitors:  First is the booze, second is fantasy.  Be it porn, a paramour, even the past -- your past, their past, the past relationship with your partner before it got so bad, fantasies of another life.  These are the chronic competitors you are up against.

There were times I was so overwhelmed and repulsed by all of it, the idea of sexual intimacy was such a turnoff that I acted out.  I faked  headaches, pretended to be asleep or ensured I got up extra-early in effort to avoid any hungover sexual advances by my husband.  I used sex with my spouse as a source of reward or punishment.  If he drank, no sex.  If he abstained from drinking, maybe sex, or I'd tell him I'd think about it as a manipulative power-play.  At times I kept my appearance dowdy and subconsciously gained weight, in an attempt to not have to do it with him.  This is what spouses in alcoholic marriages/partnerships do.  This is how I was equally culpable to the misery and chaos in our sexually intimate life.  The fact that I too, play a part in it is the last thing I ever want to admit.  Yet recovery requires you to do so, thoroughly examine your part if you want to heal. 

An oddity to be familiar with is when impotence begets the alcoholic, a frequent condition of excessive alcohol abuse.  He can't get it up anymore, and wants to blame you for it; another example of the mind games associated with denial and the breakdown of intimacy in an alcoholic relationship. I experienced such verbal berating.  I was told I wasn't 'fun' anymore when I didn't engage or respond to his advances.  I sometimes worried if his behavior would turn physically aggressive or violent, recalling  a first-date incident when I was 25 where the guy tried to force himself on me in his car.

On numerous occasions I caught my late spouse leering at me through the bathroom door, like some sexual predator, while I showered. For me, this specific behavior felt exceptionally violating.  You see, it prompted another memory.  When I was 13-years-old, I was sexually accosted by a stranger.  I was walking through a residential neighborhood on my way to meet my mother at work, when a large, burly, unkempt man driving a rundown pick-up truck, pulled up along side me on the road.  With a friendly quiet tone, he asked me for directions.  The space between the street and the sidewalk where I was walking prevented me from hearing him. I took a few steps toward the truck, asking him to repeat what he said.  He didn't respond a word, instead exposed himself while jerking-off.  As quickly as I dashed back to the sidewalk to run away the stranger drove off.  That memory haunted me for the first time, when my alcoholic spouse wanted me to watch him masturbate -- as a lesson in how to get him off.  When the regular shower leering began the horrific memory and accompanied anxiety about it was reignited.

These are examples of the sexual morphing persona that occurs to an otherwise gentle, kind, loving soul.  For me, they precipitate past experiences which frightened me to the point of burying them as a secret for 40 years, denying my own naivete and stolen innocence.

Physical connection is crucial to emotional intimacy.
  When there's no physical intimacy
 it isn't too long before the emotional intimacy goes too.
~  Kimberly Graham

At the end of Boomer's life, our sexually intimate relationship ceased to exist.  What I longed for in that first sex-talk post was what I had been missing with him for a long, long, time.  We regained and sustained emotional and loving affection as best we could, but the competition -- his growing alcohol dependency, fantasy, and my secret of unhealed sexual experiences was always too fierce to be beaten and in the end won.

The good news, is that this need not be the end of your road, your story, your history with the loved one and the disease you are in competition with.  For me, I had to learn to love me and all I have gone through to fully comprehend I wasn't alone, am not alone in the silent pain I have carried.  I am neither to blame or at fault, nor am I defined by what happened to me.  As of this update, I am preparing to speak in public again about sex and intimacy in an alcoholic relationship -- the fourth time since 2015.  It does get easier, that's the power of healing through releasing secrets.

In darkness, love, and light, I am reinforced by Carl Jung's words. My open truth sets me free.  May it guide you as well.

(updated 7/19/17)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

360: Tapping Out Full Circle on Sunset Place

The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery,
there comes a leap in consciousness,
call it intuition or what you will,
and the solution comes to you and you don't know how or why.
~  Albert Einstein

Love...Hope...Despair...Loneliness...Fear...Loss...Sorrow...Panic... Sanctuary...Hope, again ...Healing...Recovery...Discovery...Love. 

My paternal grandfather died in 1982.  His wife, my beloved grandmother, who joined him this past October - at the astounding age of 97 - lived, until the day she died, in the house they bought together 50 years ago.   Her home, their home, was my home too.   My Midwest roots are planted in her front and back yards.  Their charming cottage in downtown, Downers Grove, IL was the one constant in my life growing-up. Gram's house was always home-base, changing ever-so little in all those years, except the size of the surrounding trees, and the ruptured gash to the aluminum siding caused by me when I was 19, or rather my car door, rolling down the driveway the corner of the house stopping it, creating the gash.  It's still there.  I love that.  Grams's house was sanctuary.  It was nostalgic.   A loving anchor for my heart, something I constantly craved growing-up amid chronic chaos, confusion, and unwanted change (read:  Little Girl).  But Gram was of another generation, one that wasn't as open to change of any kind, was risk averse, where playing it safe meant protection, yet it also meant limitation of life experience.

When Boomer died, the second most common question I was asked, following, "How are you?" was, "When are you moving back to Chicago?"   Presumptive, isn't it?    Which in theory, would make sense given the back-story of how I came to live in Florida, with Boomer, to begin with (read:  Florida).  But what those well-intended inquirers didn't know or understand, was that staying in Florida, was for a time a safe place, the right place, and the best place for me.  

I remember a week after Boomer died, having a meeting with realtor Sandra, who we bought the house through. "How's the market?" I asked, "I want to sell and get the hell out of here."   Sandra coaxed me off the premature, exaggerated, emotional trauma ledge with the reality that the real estate market, while improved from a year-and-a-half earlier, still had a long way to go.  Then I learned  grief experts advise making no major changes, especially to your address, for at least one year after the loss of a close loved one, primarily because you're such an unpredictably emotional (sometimes irrational) hot mess.  Also, at the time for me, Florida's sunny, warm winters helped keep my physical core temperature up, an odd physical effect I experienced from the shock and trauma of grief -- bone chills -- lasting many months.  Add to that the absence of answers to realistic, common-sense questions like:   Where will I go?   What will I do?   I kept drawing a blank.  If I have no answers, then that is the answer -- don't go anywhere -- not yet.  Stay put.   The expert advice now made sense.  It was too overwhelming to figure out all at once what to do now.  After all, admittedly, I already lived the running-away-from-my-problems approach to life in the hastened relocation to Florida.  I needed time, and in due-course the answers, including whether or not to move, along with the appropriate actions and location would come.  Bit by bit, things evolved in my head and my heart;  I was emerging out of the mental-fog of grief and the small next action-steps continued to present themselves (read:  Partings).   It was increasingly evident, I was growing mentally ready to change my address and was busy applying the lessons learned from past mistakes in preparing to do so.

...and then finally something inside you says it's time to get on to the next thing...
...but if you also know that there is simply no more steam in the pressure cooker 
and that's it's the very best you can do for now -- well?
I think this means that you are done.  
~  Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Sitting at the dining table last July, Martha, a friend, who also happens to be a realtor said, "Shannon, can I ask you a question?" "Always," I replied.  "Are you running?" she asked. It was the most honest and direct question I'd heard in a while.  Appreciating the unabashed up-frontness of it, with emphatic confidence I answered, "No."   "I've asked myself that question too," I continued, "and I am 100% certain, I am not running."  "Good," she replied, "I don't think you are either. I've watched you, and you're ready.  It's time."   It was time and those were  Boomer's words too (read:  3 Little Words) - again - affirming approval through my friend who was now also my real estate agent .  

What Martha observed in me and what I was also feeling inside was that I had emotionally evolved full-circle in the Spanish-style bungalow on Sunset Place and it was time to go and create new life experiences beyond  the ever-lingering shadow of Boomer.  It's also how I am different from my Grandmother, and how different I am from when I first moved to Florida.   Boomer and I hustled the purchase of that house with misguided feelings of love and hope; feelings that within weeks of moving-in quickly turned into despair, loneliness and fear (read:  Reality). Then came Boomer's untimely death, 17 months later, and the emotions of loss, sorrow and panic took over. Throughout the last three years, I have moved along the rails of the circle where the house was my protective sanctuary, providing the space for renewing hope, fostering personal and spiritual healing, recovery, discovery and new-found love -- both for myself and with another (read:  L.G.).  I'd now made it the full 360-degrees.  

Casa for Sale - 2015
The For Sale sign went in the yard on August 18th. "I'm selling the Casa," I said to my friend, Kathleen.  With a mild, breathless gasp she proclaimed, "It's the last thing!"   Hmmm, why yes, it is.  It's the last thing that directly kept me tethered to Boomer and my life with him and I was voluntarily severing the cord. Within the month, an offer was received -- make that two offers.  Though they both fell through for issues unrelated to me or the house itself, the 3rd and lasting offer came the end of September.  All-in-all, quite quick.  Another validation that it was time.

In the months leading up to the sale closing date, my eagerness and willingness to move grew stronger.  At times I was anxious and impatient, usually when the buyers had a delay, three to be exact.  As my father pointed out, something I hadn't considered, is that I am ambitious.  That ambition can also get the best of me, through impatience.    Yet, throughout the process I was learning more lessons too; for example, do not accept sale contingencies when trying to sell a house.  I'd never done this before, sell and buy a property at the same time. Sheesh! It's an exasperating pain-in-the-butt.   In truth, what I was welcoming was Einstein's leap of consciousness; the acceptance that my intuition was telling me that my environment had become a shadow of an old life, and a history that was fading away in practical function and purpose and I was wanting and ready for what's next.  As I continue to discover more about me, and what makes me tick, having a supporting thriving environment matters too. Casa SMO, as I'd come to call the house on Sunset Place, had gone the full 360-degrees with me and was now tapped out (read:  Intersection).    Like an adolescent growing up and out of their shoes, I had mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and purposefully outgrown the house. Unlike my dear, sweet, role-model of a Grandmother, I had come full circle too and was now a different person as a result.   
Residual gift - 2016

I left a residual gift (right) and welcome note for the new owners of Casa SMO with well-wishing thoughts for a future full of loving memories.  The gift was something I'd originally given Boomer many years before, a bittersweet remnant of the life we shared and lost.  After the moving truck pulled out of the driveway, down the street and out of sight,  I sat in my car, parked in front of the house for a few moments alone.  I said good-bye and thank you,  "I won't be coming back," I declared, "We're done here."

While Chicago, and Downers Grove in particular, will always be my home, going back there is still not part of the plan.

It's no use going back to yesterday,
because I was a different person then.  
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Guilt and the Drama Addict

He knew that under the tall grass of an apparently untamed future
 the steel rails of fear and habit were already laid.
What he suddenly could't bear, with every cell in his body, 
was to act out the destiny prepared for him by his past,
and slide obediently along those rails, 
contemplating bitterly all the routes he would rather have taken.
~ Edward St. Aubyn, Some Hope

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.
~ Rumi

I woke this morning with Shirley on my mind and an odd vacant feeling in my spirit.  Shirley is a dynamo; exuberant, direct, and when I first met her, she was making a phenomenal recovery from a stroke.   I'd heard so much about Shirley prior to meeting her; how she made a difference in the lives of the people she professionally helped.  Meeting her was social - over dinner -  more than a year ago, shortly after the passing of her son -- who was in his fifties when he died -- from alcoholism.    The night we met, I expressed my condolences for her loss, and asked how she was doing.  "I'm doing just fine," she said, "my hope is that my son's death helped save someone else."   BAM!   In that singularly clear statement, she hit me with an empathetic arrow straight to my heart -- a purpose, out of what too often feels like senseless tragedy (read: Reality).
Birthday Boomer (45) - 2001

Today would have been Boomer's 60th birthday -- and by social conventions, a milestone birthday of sorts.  Yet, it was Shirley and her declaration of purpose-filled hope that I reflected on.  I wonder how many lives, in the circling ripples of Boomer's life, have been saved as a result of his own passing -- which for him, was the only possible outcome.  It's a difficult truth (read: Bowing).

Experience has taught me there's nothing, neither emotionally nor spiritually healthy, to be gained in relentless pontificating and fantasizing of all the lost possibilities when a loved one dies and every perceived milestone comes around the calendar time and again.  However, those milestones can be primary triggers to perpetually reminisce and once-again enshrine the dead, or moreover, highlight your unresolved pain for dramatic effect and resurrected sympathy.   I'm not that woman.  Though once upon a time, I was.  Still as I paid mindful attention to the vacancy of spirit I was feeling, guilt had been doing push-ups all night and seized this opportunity to pounce:
What's wrong with you?
Why don't you feel sorrowful today?
Don't you miss Boomer?
Where's your sense of duty?  
Why aren't you reminiscing all over social media -- passive aggressively soliciting sympathy comments full of emoji hearts and hugs?
What if...?  What might have been?   ...could have been? ... should have been?  
Answer me, DAMMIT!!  

Guilt is nasty, mean and mischievous.  What I've uncovered about myself in the last few years is that I am a bit of a recovering drama addict.  Guilt knows this and intentionally feeds on this hidden part of me; it's a part of me that isn't fully eradicated.  That hallowed feeling I felt is the space that has been created by fully knowing and achieving the healing balance of what to hold on to and what to let go of -- including Boomer.  Chronic emotional strain-and-drain drama are heavy rocks that I've let go of.  However, in my multi-faceted humanness I'm not fully immune to the predatory ways of guilt and a day like today is prime meat.  And for a while, guilt got me good. 

What I realize is that days like today, I sometimes subconsciously resist admitting or accepting - again -  that I am OK. This mindset invites the drama addict in.   Truthfully, I am beyond OK.  I'm pretty terrific.  I do not miss Boomer in ways I did not so long ago.  That days like today, commemorating a personal sentiment can and have become regular every days.  No drama, no fanfare, no embellished emotion required.  A quiet fondness is present and I go about my day.  Guilt hates that. So does the Drama Addict.   But isn't that what healing and recovery is all about?  Hell yeah.  Guilt and the mindset of a drama addict don't understand this. Too bad. My personal mission to heal and grow beyond the tragedies of heart and of life mean more to me than staying put, or to continually pander for attentive sympathy.  For the most part I have and continue to accomplish my mission.   Gratefully, I had the wherewithal to phone a friend and talk it through -- quashing the guilt, sending the drama addict back to the gallows.  Hopefully, for the last time.   You see, of the lives I hope Boomer's death has saved, I believe one of them is my own (read:  Maya).

Thank you Boomer.  You were never fond of your birthday anyway (read:  Free Bird).   Suffice it to say, today was a win-win.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


"There is a voice inside of you that whispers all day long,
 ‘I feel this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.’ 
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend or wise man can decide what’s right for you
 — just listen to the voice that speaks inside."
~  Shel Silverstein

"SMO?" "Hey, SMO?"  I stepped out from behind the garage where I'd been clearing out debris:  weeds, overgrown branches, etc., and see Boomer sticking his head out the back door.   Donning garden gloves, straw hat, sunglasses, drenched in insect repellent and sweat, and a few hours into my daily escape from booze, isolation, despair and chaos, I answered, "Yeah?"  I often spent up to six hours at a time outside, in the yard,  taking out my frustration and sadness over what was going on inside.  "I was thinking...," he said, as I walked closer to the door to hear him, "...since you're not wearing the sapphire ring I gave you, we can sell it.  Probably get $1,000 for it."  "What?" dumbfounded by what I heard and the seemingly come-from-nowhereness of it, "ABSOLUTELY NOT."  "Well, you never wear it anymore...," 

Something happened several months ago.  There was a shift. Something was oddly different -- awkward -- about this shift.   Every time, every single time, I was outside, in the back of the house, near the yard and garage, for whatever reason:  taking out the trash, watering plants, coming and going from the car, you name it.  This miserable vignette between Boomer and I replayed, word-for-word, emotion-for-emotion.  It was on continuous loop, like the scary nightmare you have in your sleep;  you wake up, shake it off, close your eyes and it picks up right where you left off.  Over and over and over, I felt like I was being haunted, posthumously reliving it with him.  Why?  I detested the very arrogance of his sarcastic idea; angry and hurt -- again-- by another distorted, exaggerated, false accusation.  Proof once again, how sick he was and was progressing.  Never mind, his Rolex watch, notably more valuable than the petite ring he spoke of;  the watch which he never wore any more, always complained about the poor time it kept, and beloved so much that he opted to leave it laying on the floor in the corner of a closet.  Oh, yes, sure, but let's sell my ring.  What's going on?  Why was this memory front and center, relentlessly waiting for me in the back of the house, nearly 4 years after it happened.  Was it another one of those progress, healing, moving-forward kind of energy shifts I'd so often been told about and personally have experienced throughout the time since Boomer died, masqueraded this time, in a less-than-pleasant memory?   I kept asking, but was getting no answers to the questions.  

"Denise, that's a beautiful necklace,"  I said to my friend, of the artisan design around her neck, with it's hearty diamond centered in the custom pendant.  "Thank you.  It was a parting gift," she whimsically replied with a wink. "Parting gift?  Oh, I see."  Following a divorce, Denise redesigned her wedding ring.  There it was, an answer.  Well, the beginning of an answer.  

What Boomer fabricated in thought 4 years ago was now reality.  I wasn't wearing the ring anymore, neither of them, the sapphire ring nor the engagement ring and wedding band.  They had migrated from left hand, to right hand to a drawer of my jewelry case.   Doing my own redesign, as Denise did,  was one idea, and a regular suggestion from others.  As I conducted value due diligence, I laughed at Boomer's grandiose valuation;  the sapphire ring wasn't nearly as valuable as he presumed.  Then the whispers of action, reminiscent of Boomer's words (read:  3 Little Words), clarity of intention and purpose but with an expanded depth of understanding evolved over a three-month period.    

I was parting.  I was healing.  I was letting go.  I was changing.  I was moving on.  I was ready.  It was time, and Boomer -- through the memory of that horrible, pain-filled exchange that afternoon in the backyard -- was encouraging me to do so.  First, I parted with his chair (read: Leopard Chair ), selling it to a lovely couple who live on Sanibel Island.  I wasn't sitting on its edge like I use to, and I didn't "need" it anymore.  Now it was just taking up space, it was time to part with it.      

Next came the jewelry.  I struggled with what to do. What I garnered from alot of soul-searching, faith-seeking, logic-reasoning, value-quoting, and design-estimating was that I had changed.  The jewelry didn't represent me anymore -- who I've become, what my values are today (read:  Life on E).  So I chose to sell it all.  It wasn't easy, nor was it a rush to judgement.  I am still a sentimentalist and I feared that selling the most monetarily expensive items Boomer gave me was somehow a rejection of the love he had for me and the material ways in which he tried to express it. Which is precisely what he eluded to that day in backyard.  Honestly, there was also a little part of that little girl in me who thinks I'll never have another diamond ring or earrings again -- ever.   But it was Boomer, who was helping me make this decision to sell.  He sees I don't need them, and selling them is another step toward freedom of emotional bondage brought about from disease and death and the lingering legal bill, 2 1/2 years later, I still needed needed to pay as a result.  

As the selling day got closer, I started having second-thoughts, afraid I was a making a mistake.  I needed an extra umph of courage and strength. So I put on all the jewelry two days before I was scheduled to drive across the state to meet the dealer buying it.  A last hurrah, final farewell wearing if you will.  It all felt different, weird different.  The diamond earrings I'd worn every day, since he gave them to me on my 40th birthday, now hurt in my ears.  The rings were uncomfortable on my fingers -- left and right hand.  It was creepy, yet affirming at the same time that I was doing the right thing, for the right reasons, in the right way, at the right time. It was time to part and yes, I was ready.   

The protective healing gods were with me that Tuesday morning, like Moses parting the sea:  clearing the roads of traffic during rush hour, providing all green lights, even no waiting in the drive-thu for road coffee. All systems were go for parting.  It was, believe it or not, an unsettling quiet, easy, peaceful experience and as I drove across I-75 to the east coast of Florida, known as alligator alley, I cried -- tears of both good-bye and hello -- so completely awake to the fact I was doing exactly the right thing.  By the end of the week, I had the legal bill paid and had parted ways with the attorney (read:  P.T.S.D).  I closed doors to the past.  I parted ways with an old way of thinking, believing and behaving.

A month later, Boomer resurfaced, "Do it,"  I started hearing, "I always said, 'I wish they were bigger.' Go ahead, do it.  You deserve it."  So I did it.  I bought myself a parting gift -- for my birthday --  a new pair of diamond earrings.  They're double the size of the pair Boomer gave me; I wear them all the time.  

The partings continue, including a fresh round of all the embodiment... I'm selling my house.

And I thought selling the jewelry was tough...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Oh Anger, How I Attach Thee In Pain

Nobody can hurt me without my permission.
~  Mahatma Gandhi

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
~ Buddha

"Well, you're lucky he died," sarcastically spouted the woman.  I'll call her Charice.  Her acid-filled, vengeful retort followed my reply to her question, "What happened to your husband?"   

Charice is angry, pissed, enraged.  Her husband is an active alcoholic and is getting worse.  Right now, she hates him.  Her declaration, "I hate him," emotes an anger so volatile any fellow human she has conversation with is at risk of experiencing her stinging, piercing, paining verbal wrath.  Her spew of hurtful, thoughtless, vengeful, harmful words are like that of  a semi-automatic weapon, firing off at every innocent, unsuspecting human within her path.  And if you do not engage in a reciprocal dialog of a commiserating nature, watch out.  She doesn't want empathy, sympathy or guidance, not yet anyway.  She doesn't want suggestions or advice.  She can't hear you.  What Charice wants, right now,  is relief.   Living with an active alcoholic is a pressure-cooker on monumental proportions and what she's seeking is an outlet to release some of the pressure, in order to cope, if only for a little while.  Charice is so blindly consumed with what's happening in her home, with her husband, with her life that she can't see or hear, yet, what's happening to her, personally.  She too, like the alcoholic,  is turning into someone not very attractive, loveable or even likeable.  Right now, all she wants, thinks she wants, is validation that her uncontrollable anger is justified.  Her anger is justified; alcoholism and living with it sucks (read: Reality).  It's a cunning, baffling, powerfully dreadful disease.  The uncontrollable part of Charice's anger however, is not justified, it's an excuse, and it's common and frequent at an early-advancing stage.

This is the disease of alcoholism -- the family disease -- and how in one way, it affects, in this case, a spouse.

"The Face" of anger, despair, loneliness - 2009
How do I know?    Charice is me -- was me -- not too many years ago.  Though I like to believe not to the intense extreme she exhibited toward me.  For me, I seethed in my anger silently, spewed to those closest too me, but never about what was really going on (read:  Florida).  I lashed out uncontrollably about non-issues.  Moreover, my silent suffering generated physical manifestations of discomfort and what humbly came to be known as, "The Face."  I could cut you with a look.  The look of anger, despair, loneliness and most significantly reluctant admission of powerlessness.

The book, The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage, talks about coping with our anger:   "What alcoholism is doing to us gives rise to resentment.  Resentment creates anger, and our anger must be dealt with, for our own health and growth... otherwise it can have two undesirable consequences:  1.  We suppress the anger, turning it back into ourselves to fester, which can make us sick, mentally and physically.  2.  We 'take out' our feelings on others... ."    I did the anger dance with both examples one and two.  In my suppression efforts, I gained a bunch of weight, ate and slept miserably, had migraines almost daily, gave myself tendinitis, turned cold, distant and unfriendly, among other kookiness.  With my close allies, I either isolated in keeping my pain-filled secrets (read:  Maya ) or I dominated all conversations to lament about all my woes, who's to blame for them, everything except the drinking and the disease infiltrating and destroying my (our) life.    

Hurt people hurt people.  The irony is how my anger, no matter how warranted or justified, continued to only hurt me, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, along with every one of my relationships.  When I began to look at my anger, and address the feelings I had, things began to change -- that thing was me.   My husband didn't, but I did.  How?

These questions, from The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage, were my beginning guideposts in helping me to get help, and in so doing I helped improve the climate at home, and in all my relationships.  As my anger diminished, love restored, and compassion grew exponentially, even though Boomer drank more and never stopped:
  1. Have I really accepted the fact that I cannot control another person's drinking?  Am I willing to carry this acceptance a step further and admit I am powerless over anyone but myself?
  2. Do I realize that the alcoholic is an individual?  That the alcoholic has habit patterns, characteristics and ways of reacting to daily happenings that are different from mine and from other people's?
  3. Can I believe that these individual qualities were established by the alcoholic's heritage, early training, experience and contacts throughout life?  
  4. Can I realize that my trying to change the alcoholic only brings resistance in the form of hostility or hidden resentment?
  5. If I do realize this, can I justify my criticism and condemnation of the alcoholic?  
  6. Will I try to overcome my resentment that arises when the alcoholic refuses to be and do what I want the alcoholic to do?  
  7. Will I try to teach myself to stop trying to make the alcoholic over?  
What's also important to note, the above queries are applicable to everyone, who cares for, and is concerned about an alcoholic in their lives -- not just a spouse.

As a result of the efforts I have and continue to put forth for myself, I'm happy to say, "The Face" doesn't exist in ways it use to.  Whew.  Further, the zing I felt in hearing, "Well, you're lucky he died," was just that -- a bee sting.  It wasn't personal.  It was misdirected, pressure-cooked anger talking.  My silent internal reaction was, "OUCH! That hurt.  Wow, she's is soooo angry and in alot of pain.  Reminds me of me back in the day."    My external response was nothing; I offered Charice a hug instead.  That's the power of recovery from the family disease of alcoholism.  I'm free of that victimization I carried and am increasingly immune to the opinions and actions of others -- especially the alcoholics in my life.

I'm so grateful I got to where I am.  I hope Charice gets there too.

Don't Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you.
  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.
 When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, 
you won't be the victim of needless suffering.
~  Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

Friday, June 26, 2015

Love Rules Hypocrisy Drools

 ~  Judge Anthony Kennedy, on behalf of the U.S. Supreme Court

My empathetic cup runneth over with joy today for the historic ruling favoring marriage equality for all U.S. citizens.  Judge Kennedy's poetic reflection in the closing paragraph of this milestone ruling speaks to the heart of the matter -- love -- and all it encompasses:  fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.   Family by no means is limited to blood lines.  Too often, the blood line family is devoid or severely fractured of these fundamentals.  I've witnessed it.  I've experienced it.  

What makes my heart dance and sing today is the giant leap of progress that the right of love is now legally available for a community of human beings that have sacrificed much, including the loss of love from family, in declaring their love for someone other -- another gender.  A community of people who have been alienated, excluded, shut-out, shut-down, ignored, discounted and rejected -- because they're different.

As a heterosexual woman, my empathy and support of equality and dignity on love for my fellow humans, specifically the lgbt population, became impenetrably favorable in 2005, when I personally was socially rejected, the first time, because Boomer and I were not "married."   One late Saturday night,  I sat, alone, in a hospital waiting room -- waiting -- for 4 1/2 hours while Boomer lay in a bed in an e.r. exam room (Read:  Maya Called It).  I repeatedly asked the hospital employee at the admission desk to see him, how he was, what was happening, etc.  I tried every creative approach I could think of to get information or to get to be by his side, each time I heard, "Are you his wife?"  "No, I'm his girlfriend."  "I'm sorry, if you're not family, I can't help you."  That hurt.  Eight years in a devoted, loving, sacrificing relationship, yet only a "girlfriend" in society's view, meant bupkis.    The upside, and the downside, was Boomer too was pleading with hospital staff for me to be with him.  It took 4 1/2 hours before the hospital, in the middle of the night, finally let me be with him.  He was released 1 1/2 later.    

Ironically, fast forward to November 2012, now three years married, I only waited 30-minutes to be by Boomer's side for what would be the remaining days of his life (Read:  My Man).  Yet, at a memorial for Boomer,  I felt the hurtful discounting sting again in a eulogy that merely acknowledged our relationship for the 3 years we were married, ignoring the other 12 of our relationship.

I get why this is such a magnificent achievement today and I am so happy about it.   I know Boomer is too.   I loathe hypocrisy.  When we love, really love, we give our all -- no matter what.  While I am no longer married due to death, my love for Boomer does indeed endure.   Everyone deserves that equal dignity of honor, acknowledgement and respect -- no matter what, no matter who (Read: Woman of Significance).  It is so, at long last, ordered.