The Burdens of Victimhood

That’s the thing with being a victim, in my case one of physical and emotional abuse and neglect. I spent my childhood being overwhelmed with feelings of fear, hurt, betrayal, blame, confusion and uncertainty. So if, say, your mom came to you and told you she was raped, impregnated and made to marry your dad to keep him from being drafted, what the hell are you supposed to do with that?

I couldn’t fathom it even though I’d seen my dad kick and punch my sister, startled at him slapping me in the face. I didn’t have the room or resources to fully grasp her trauma too. I was too busy loving and hating my dad. I see now I’d forgiven him each assault, but not myself for being unlovable and failing to protect my sister. My mom’s revelation upset me enough to where I became her compatriot in anger and bitterness at the world for our suffering, but not enough to truly help her.

We spoke to others of our close relationship, which automatically pinned Jill and Dad together and against us, but we spent most of our time reopening wounds. It was unhealthy and unsustainable. As time went by, I had the sneaking suspicion we’d swapped roles, me as “mom,” she as “daughter.”

A Rapist’s Daughter


My dad raped my mom. He got her pregnant so they’d have to marry. It was 1965 and my grandmother wanted to keep him out of Vietnam. She colluded with him or told him to commit this act. It worked. My mom became pregnant, so she and my dad married in December. Jill was born the following July. My sister and I are rapist’s daughters.

I know this because my mom told me when I was a teenager. I don’t remember my exact age. I don’t remember my reaction. I hope I was outraged and showed proper sympathy and concern for her. A part of me was angry with her. My dad abused my sister and me. I’d lived in fear of him my whole life. Still, I loved him and sought his love and attention. On some primitive level I was jealous that he beat Jill. He hit me, but ignored and neglected me more. Beating her showed he was scared of her and what she was capable of. He couldn’t be bothered with me. And so started the pattern of loving and wanting the love of unavailable men.

I was mad at my mom for adding to my burden of being an abuser’s daughter. Now I was a rapist’s daughter. And I still loved him. I do love him.

Summer of Love


I found our new home this weekend. I drove down to Maryland Thursday, stayed with Greg, looked at the apartment complexes I made appointments to see, chose the best one for us, and drove back Sunday.

This was a huge deal. I spent several years homebound due to severe anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks. My teeth, body, mind, and marriage rotted from the disabling fear to leave the house, and this weekend I drove over twelve hours to a different state and back alone for the first time. And I enjoyed it!

I can’t explain the freedom I felt in not being scared or nervous during this trip. I even took a faster, easier way to 390S, forgoing the myriad right and left turns through town by hopping on the highway. Each time I completed another stage of the trip, I (and the kitties via ESP) congratulated myself out loud. I need to approach life the same way. Focus on one step at a time, savor the accomplishment of making it, then focus on the next step.

I remember forcing myself to walk up the street from our house (the now ex’s and mine) to the local library to pick up books on hold when we lived in Colorado. It couldn’t have been more than a few hundred feet away, but I believed everyone was staring at me through their windows in the houses I passed. Staring and seeing how ugly and horrible a person I was inside and out as I consciously counted my breath–inhale for four, hold for seven, exhale for eight–to keep from succumbing to a severe panic attack.

I dreaded the few times I had to drive during this period. Stoplights were a constant source of terror. If I had to stop at a red light and was sandwiched between two cars (no easy way to escape), I’d struggle to focus on my breath or a song or voice on the radio, and count the change I kept in a small compartment by the steering wheel until the light turned green. If I had to drive through road construction where they placed concrete “borders,” I had to fight the strong urge to crash into them. If I drove on a bridge, I had to fight the desire to drive off of it.

I remembered all of this as I drove to Maryland and back this weekend. I drove past concrete borders and over bridges, and a flicker of fear arose that in remembering, I’d conjure up those impulses. The faintest shadow passed over me. I let it come, and then let it go. And I sang along to the radio.

When You Miss the Ex

You know you’re desperate when you miss the Ex. Yes, over the past several months I’ve entertained thoughts of reuniting with my ex-husband, that I still love him and that he might still love me, the older, yet “newer” me. I’m more “me,” a “me” I’m learning to like, respect, and treat with care. I fantasize that we’d meet again over drinks, maybe dinner, and he’d see the woman he thought he’d married. I’d dazzle him with my honesty and awareness and confidence (non-existent just yesterday, I know). I’d bask once again in his intelligence, sense of humor, and easy laughter as we discussed politics, music, food, movies, travel, jobs, and more.

Never mind that he’s given no indication that he wants to see me again. That he might have remarried. That he cheated on me during our marriage. That he knew I was suicidal the night he told me he wanted a divorce, and didn’t tell anyone. That I almost killed myself a week later and landed in the psych ward for six days. That he manipulated me, blamed me for everything, abandoned the kitties and me, refused to help maintain the house, and dragged out the divorce for almost three years, leaving me crippled with debt.

It’s the crippling debt, along with chronic illness and imminent loss of alimony that brought about this impossible dream. Impossible because he wants no part of it, and because I deserve better.

Please Don’t Feed the Beast

I had the day off from work yesterday, and a list of “to-dos” to, um, do. I slept instead. Weighed down by the pressures of readying for my fourth move in five years, it all became too much, and I escaped into sleep. When awake, my mind went to work bashing me for procrastinating on important tasks, tasks meant to propel me forward into a “better life.” For being 47 and still not “living,” just existing and surviving. For letting RA, rainy weather, nagging depression, and past experiences chase me under the covers.

In spite of myself, I regained some traction by mid-afternoon. I rebounded on my mini-trampoline for an hour, made a green smoothie and raw broccoli soup, read, meditated, did ab and calves work, journaled, cleaned the litter boxes, set out work clothes and prepped coffee for today. I even listened to some 80s music and tried to write here. The last words I wrote were, “I can’t do this.” Jesus, we’re hard on ourselves! And though it’s not as easy as just telling ourselves, “Let go of the past. Live in the now. Focus on this moment. Don’t worry about the future,” that’s what I did. And it worked for about five hours, enough time to care for myself, if not for me, for the cats.

Yes, I’m back to living for the cats.

They Shoot Pacifists, Don’t They? Part II



I know war is embedded in our culture. So was slavery. So are racism, sexism and many other -isms. Do we not try to abolish those forms of violence in our society? So why remain silent about this particular act of violence? Why is war equated with patriotism and God (“Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war”) and being a good Christian?

Christianity and patriotism aren’t equal, at least according to Christ’s teachings and crucifixion. To be a Christian used to mean being a radical. Early Christians were persecuted and executed for their beliefs and pacifist stance, as Jesus was. To be a Christian is not supposed to be easy, and not just because faith is tested in times of trial. To be a Christian is to carry the cross as Jesus did. Allegiance with Jesus takes precedence over that of your country.

Now so-called Christians paint pacifists, as radical–naive, God- and country-hating wimps who negate the sacrifices made by soldiers with the freedoms attained by them. And who’s to blame for this enormous shift in defining what it means to be a Christian disciple? Church leaders and the nonexistent separation of Church and State.


They Shoot Pacifists, Don’t They?

“Pacifists are people who are happy to let you die defending their right to deny you your right to defend yourself.” – Milo Yiannopolous

I saw this quote while perusing Pinterest yesterday. I rarely comment on pins but was compelled to write, “False,” under this one. I got a response shortly thereafter. I’d share it verbatim but both it and my second response have since disappeared. In a nutshell, I was told how easy it is to forget those who sacrificed themselves so that I might have a better life. My response? “Who says I forgot?”

To me, being a vegan meant being a pacifist. It was a natural progression. Not all vegans are pacifists and obviously, there are non-vegan pacifists, though I don’t understand how you can be one without the other. Non-pacifists and non-vegans lob similar non-sensical retorts, though. I get it. My value system differs from the majority, the status quo, and it makes people uncomfortable. Afraid. Fear is behind it all. And since we resist change and self-awareness and self-scrutiny–for fear we won’t like what we find–we lash out at those who differ.

Thus are born gross generalizations masquerading as fact, like Mr. Yiannopolous’s quote. As with non-vegans’ comments veered to make vegans out to be less compassionate (“Plants are living things, too”), anti-pacifists seek to turn pacifists into selfish, unpatriotic, Godless elitists. Because pacifists oppose all forms of violence, because we seek the ideal of peace on Earth, we are characterized as exercising our freedoms atop mounds of forsaken dead soldiers. War is imbedded in our culture, they say. There’s no going back, so stop preaching your “pie in the sky,” idealist gibberish.

To be continued…







All the Things I Cannot Say


(Photo: L’esprit de Solitude)

So what kind of writer do I want to be? A paid one! Besides that, though, I have no idea. The problem is I have too many ideas. I want to write about chronic illness, aging in our society, love, sex, mental illness, healthcare, veganism, all forms of social injustice, religion and politics. I want to write my memoirs, fiction, short stories, creative non-fiction essays, a one-woman play, and film a documentary. Where do I begin?

I don’t remember it being this hard when I started this blog four years ago. Of course, I was taking Effexor and, more importantly, Klonopin. I’m glad to be off of them because they’d stopped working, but I miss how I felt when they worked, especially the Klonopin. I miss being able to focus on one subject, having a mind not overwhelmed by worry and ruminations. And I miss Peggy, my therapist during the divorce years. No matter how bad things got, I knew I had my weekly appointment with her to talk it out. She was my biggest fan. She told me I could film a documentary–even said I could get the male film star I envisioned for the dream sequence I’d written! Told me I would write my memoir, act in a Shakespeare play, sing in a coffee house, travel the world, graduate from college, find healthy and long-lasting love. It was a physical pain being unable to afford seeing her anymore.

It’s isolating and lonely being a divorced older woman with no children and chronic illness. And to have lost that one person everyone should have in their life, that one person who understands you, listens, cheers you on, helps you see the good in yourself, the promise in life. Somehow I have to become that person for myself now. I’m all I have, and it scares me.

Making Lists vs. Taking Risks


So here’s the deal–I’m a 47-year-old divorced woman with RA, no college degree, $20,000 in debt, three aging cats, dwindling retirement savings, a car payment and part-time cashier job whose alimony ends in eight months. No surprise, then, that my mind fills with angst and worry like a stopped-up toilet the moment I wake up each morning. So much so that I can’t focus on one aspect of my life at a time, much less write about it. I haven’t stopped writing, actually. I journal daily, though it’s become more a series of lists than ruminations.

Take last night’s pre-bedtime entry: “27 May 2017. Saturday (insert sunshine emoticon). Off to bed soon…I wrote/posted on my blog again today 🙂 Walked 🙂 P/u’d groceries @ TJ’s 🙂 Returned magazine to library 🙂 M/y/r’d (meditated/yoga’d/rebounded) 🙂 Read 🙂 LBs’d (cleaned litter boxes; I’ve created my own style of shorthand) 🙂 Took out trash 🙂 Paid bill 🙂 Did small laundry 🙂 Watched some Twin Peaks 🙂 Discovered turquoise vegan hair dye 🙂 Did ab work 🙂 Made 3 smoothies 🙂 Prepped work clothes & coffee for tomorrow 🙂 Oil pulled :)”

I started this nightly ritual to remind myself that I do more than I give myself credit for, especially on days when I’m plagued with increased RA fatigue and pain. Nothing wrong with doing this, of course, but lists do not a writer’s life make. This task helps empty my mind before bed, end the day on a positive note, and allows me to give myself a pat on the back for trying again. It’s not enough, but I’m scared of doing more. Not just because I’ll fail, but because I’ll use up my finite energy reserves creating and have nothing for the physically demanding but necessary part-time cashier job.

Such are the fears of a woman on her own living with chronic illness.

The Forty-Seven Year Itch


(photo: New York Lovers)

My friend, Greg, and I belatedly celebrated my birthday in New York City a few weekends ago. I couldn’t afford it, but couldn’t afford not to go. Thank you, Discover card. I flew to Baltimore on a Thursday. We enjoyed a late lunch at my favorite vegan joint, Great Sage, then browsed the other Conscious Corner establishments. Back at his house, we soaked up the balmy air and a couple White Russians on his back patio before calling it a night.

On Friday we took a late morning train to Union Station. Thanks to the Happy Cow app and on-the-nose directions from a native New Yorker kitted out in Yankees activewear, we made our way to The Pennsy and the first of several fine vegan food establishments, The Cinnamon Snail. I was home…as at home as I’d ever be for someone who’s never felt like she belonged anywhere.

Our hotel was a short five block walk from the station and except for one Uber ride, we walked everywhere those three days. Greg booked me my own room with the best bed I’ve ever slept in and stunning views of the Empire State Building. I sang along with Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! that night AND Sally Field in The Glass Menagerie on Sunday. An embarrassment of riches! I was bitten by the acting bug again. Feasted on.

I feasted on Korean bibimbap twice at Franchia Vegan Cafe, a stone’s throw from the hotel, where we chatted with the actress who played one of the witches in Wicked on Broadway. We twice trekked almost thirty blocks to indulge in Delice & Sarrisin’s decadent vegan French fare in Greenwich Village. Of course, we dined at Candle79. Enjoyed cocktails and live music at the sumptuous lounge in the hotel we stayed in last time. Wonderful like our past NYC weekends, and not particularly extraordinary, except that it was.

For this time I made a promise to myself that I would move there by age fifty. That’s a little less than three years from now. I’ve wanted to live there since high school. Since I sang the entire Evita soundtrack into a jumprope handle at the age of ten. Since I performed one of Hermione’s monologues from The Winter’s Tale in my Shakespeare class around age 40. Since I read David Foster Wallace for the first time. Since I wrote that essay about my childhood for English class. And since I started this blog.

I know I can write and audition and act anywhere, and I shouldn’t shelve these desires, and, more importantly, the work, until I get there. That’s why I’m forcing myself to write again, every day, no matter how badly, no matter how difficult. It’s not fun. I’ve so much to say, I don’t know where to begin. I have no idea where it might lead, only that it’s become a persistent itch that needs to be scratched.

I’ve survived enough heartbreak and pain not to fear death. What I fear is wasting the rest of my days just existing. Right now I don’t care if no one wants to read or hear what I have to say. It’s enough that I want to say it again.