Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pondering pain and gain

"Guess I've waited long enough, hoping it might be something other than what it was."

At my annual routine mammogram appointment, I got the usual clipboard of forms to fill out. I'm not sure any doctor I've ever seen has so much as glanced at the forms, especially the long lists of symptoms and medical conditions. They usually just ask what I'm there to see them about.

I'm not quite sure why mammogram forms would have diagrams of a unisex pseudo-person, front and back views, along with about seven faces from smiley to frowny, asking me to evaluate my pain and circle where it hurt. But since it did, I circled a frowning face that equated to considerable pain. Then, on the rear-facing person-image, I started by circling my lower back. Then I circled both sides of the neck. I circled both arms and both hands. And for good measure, I drew a big circle around all the other circles, essentially circling the whole body from the lower back up.

I didn't expect the mammogram technician to comment, and she didn't. She just mashed by breasts four different ways and imaged them. One image didn't satisfy her so I had my left breast remashed.

The technology has improved since my first mammogram but that's not saying much. The bar was set pretty low. Maybe along the way the radiologists realized that breasts didn't need to be quite as flat as pancakes to visualize a mass.

I wore a t-short and my workout shorts under my blue jean skirt to the appointment so I could go straight on to the fitness center for my daily four miles. Walking isn't supposed to hurt your lower back, but I can feel the weak spot in lumbar disks L4-L5 where I had a laminectomy for a ruptured disk almost 20 years ago. It's just a nagging ache really, so I walk through it.

I have fairly new Reeboks that I bought at Sam's a few months ago, but just today I though about looking for a pair with more support. When we were in Yellowstone last month, I felt noticeably better on the days I wore my Vasques. Don't even ask why I wore my Adidas on the second day, by the end of which I felt almost crippled. I had my hikers in the car, but after we parked and went in search of cappuccino, I never took the time to go back to the parking lot and change into them.

Bead making of course is the biggest culprit in the neck, arm and hand pain I live with. I'm constantly tweaking the ergonomics of my work bench setup. Removing the elbow rests with the bean bags has surprisingly alleviated some of my arm pain. I've raised the torch on a stack of porcelain tiles and bought a huger C-clamp to hold it all steady. The one thing I haven't been able to change (yet) is the way I tilt my neck to see around the flame to the left side of the bead. (I hold the mandrel in my left hand so the right side of the bead is easy to see.)

Of course in this shot the bead is cold and the torch is unlit.

This is where the magic happens. Now you know. If I'd planned to take these I might have cleaned up my bench. Might. Have.

As long as we're coming out here, this is some of my glass.

Back and front views of my kilns (yes, that's more glass and some of my frit).

Fan that makes it possible to not die while torching in the summer, with tool and more frit visible.

So there you are, a little ad hoc studio tour. Next time, the oxygen, fuel tank, ventilation system and fire extinguisher. All in place, I promise.

I watched all of Season 1 of Prime Suspect in two days. Each of the six seasons, except for Season 4, has one story arc only, in two 2-hour parts. (Season 4 has three separate stories.) After I finished Part 1 of Season 1, I did my usual spoiler outing and searched for the full plot summary. I like knowing whodunnit.

I have to admit I was surprised because it was the first suspect who I thought had been grassed up by the lads to deflect scrutiny on corruption in the force. The force wasn't whistle clean, but the corruption seemed to mostly be along the lines of sleeping with the prostitutes who were their informants. It was just coincidental that a couple of these hookers happened to be murdered.

Before I launch into the next installment of my story about despair and redemption (sounds compelling, no?) I wanted to share this photo of Dolce, my daughter's rescue boxer. You may remember how Dolce looked, less than a month ago, when my daughter got here. If you don't, and you aren't squeamish about seeing a criminally emaciated dog, you can see her before pictures in my September 5 post.

It's just amazing what a little food and love can do. Soon this princess will be stout enough to endure a month a heartworm treatment and then she will be ready to find her forever home. I imagine that will be a bittersweet day, but this is the 31st boxer my daughter has fostered and 28 have moved on to new loving families.

I know it's hard. I felt a twinge when Elmer was adopted from Sugar Land Animal Services and just Wednesday Harley left with a nice lady. Lily is gone too. I'll see if anyone else got lucky when I go over today. I'm torn between wanting to cuddle Dominic or hear that he too found a good forever home. You can see more Sugar Land Animal Services' adoptable kittehs on Petfinder.

Back in time, I may have hit the nadir of my sorrow on Nine Eleven, 2001, but there was no bounce, no spring-back. I was on the bottom on the ocean and my spirits dug deep into the sea floor and made a temporary home there. I didn't like it down there, it was dark and cold and oh so wet, but there didn't seem to be a damn thing I could do about it. Or more truthfully, everything I tried to do to gain some buoyancy, to decompress, to surface and float, didn't help worth a damn.

When I wrote back to Marty after he sent his open letter about the terrorist attacks, I closed it by saying, I love you, Marty - I love your compassion.

He replied.
Liz, thank you.... the saddest thought of all is that our friends and loved ones who died Tuesday could eventually be considered among the luckiest of us. I think we aren't done with the tragedy, and I fear that raw emotion will only compound it. I know you understand that.

The bitterest part of this for me - so far - is the effect this will have on air travel cost and inconvenience and, therefore, on my ability to be with my sons or with Mary or with all of those cherished people I left behind. I was so glib a year ago, to say I could live here and simply afford to fly myself or others back and forth for visits.

And thank you for saying you love me and my compassion... you're nothing if not consistently sweet, especially considering how prickly I get.

Hope you and the girls are well.....
And after that, there didn't seem to be anything more to say. I didn't write again.

Instead I wrote to my mom, who was concerned about my unwell-being but baffled and frustrated that I was mired in it so deeply, a sentiment shared by almost everyone who knew my situation.
I'm seeing an energy healer. I'm trying to go out. I'm showing up for work every day. I'm not trying to make anyone else sad. But I have few people I can talk honestly too. I am in a crisis and it feels like no one hears me and the responsibilities feel overwhelming. But I am fighting to the best of my ability.

I know that I don't have to stop loving him to let him go. I can always have love in my heart for him.

Thanks for caring Mom. Sorry to be the cause of more pain. There's enough of that in the world right now without mine.
And a few days later I wrote again.
I don't know whether or not I will write to him again. I love him, and I don't really know how to make my heart stop loving him, or if I even want to stop - but I know I have to learn to cope with not being his partner in life. Being on speaking terms helps to a degree, but I still have to figure out a way to let go of the ever-present heartache, the feeling of the tears always ready to come.
I was living in the pool of tears.

And if that wasn't enough, I was having a rough time with my kids. I only asked them to keep the common areas of the house tidy but I came home to books and papers and socks on the floor, chips and crumbs on the computer desk, drinking glasses and dirty plates wherever. They were good kids, with nice friends, doing well in school, but to me they showed utter disrespect.

For the first time ever I asked my ex-husband to take the girls for a while. He resisted at first, then agreed.
I think it might be good and yet they are unhappy about it and feel like I am throwing them out. I can understand that, and it makes me feel terrible too. I truly am at my wits end - not because they are bad kids, because I have no energy for discipline and no heart to be a mom when the house is so out of control.
Near the end of September, 12 years ago this week in fact, they went to stay with their dad.

I wrote to my mom again.
I'm ashamed to say it was a relief because I stayed in bed all evening and didn't feel guilty because I knew they were in a healthier place. On the whole I hope this break will help in the bigger picture.

You'll be glad to know that Marty is no longer part of the equation. I don't want him back and I don't want to contact him again. I just want to get out of this dark place and finish raising my kids and feel well enough again to someday maybe have a real relationship again. I suppose he was a wake-up call in my life, to look at what shaky ground I was standing on and rediscover the real priorities in my life, my children.

I have made so many mistakes in my life. And I am terrified because I belong to nobody now and there is no one to care about me and take care of me.

Marty was right. I do need to stand on my two feet. I feel like I was faking it badly for a long time. No wonder I loved going over to his place where it felt safe and peaceful and clean and organized - I was running away from my own messy life - as represented by the chaos at home and the troubled relationship with my kids.

So much to grieve about and try to set straight.

I guess I have to remember that I don't have to fix it all in one minute or one day. Because if I look at the big picture it is overwhelming and that is what puts me in despair and sends me to bed.

Unless I can snuff the disabling panic, I can barely take the baby steps I need to take, including making myself eat something besides yogurt and oatmeal. The intensity of the physical lassitude and helplessness and acute anxiety beats me into submission, no matter how many times I resolve that I am going to beat this and that everything will be OK again soon.

All I want is to give my kids the security I had as a child that my parents would take care of me. I have burdened them so much with my being so uncertain and sad and fearful and physically weak and my inability to stay out of bed enough. So many things I have screwed up in my lifetime.

And I hope this is the absolute bottom and that once things get better they will stay better for a long time.
If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

Days passed.
I wonder if my kids can even distinguish between respect and disrespect. I think they often treat me disrespectfully. I have not been able to summon the strength to discipline them. The ranting and railing and door slamming and belligerence and sulking wear me down.

Anyway, I'm trying to take one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how I am going to live the next 5, 10, 20 or 40 years, I'll just try to accomplish enough in this present day to not go under water.
Funny, there's that water analogy again.

I reactivated my personal ad. I used a photo that a friend had taken of me with Marty. I was in love and I looked radiant. I cropped him out.
I wonder if I should even be doing this because I know I am not healed. I feel more anger toward Marty than I did before but I still compare all men to him in terms of how we clicked in the beginning.
In early October, after almost a month of silence, Marty sent me a note. The subject line was, you look beautiful.
Hi, Liz.... That's a very nice photo of you on your profile - and very familiar looking. Dare I guess when it was taken?

I hope you're well and happy - and thanks again for your notes last month....
Without a nanosecond of hesitation I picked up the phone and dialed his number.

"What was it like
How did it feel
It's so hard to tell if it was real
I know I was there but with every day
It slips away

And I feel like a passing glance
That you never gave a chance
Baby that's not right
What was it like

What did you say
What did I hear
When did it start to disappear
I know you were there
You know that too
What did we do

'Cause I feel like a big mistake
That you managed to not quite make
And just walk away
What did you say

Guess I've waited long enough
Hoping it might be something
Other than what it was

You took something that felt so good
And crushed it because you could
One summer night
What was it like?"

(Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gary Burr, What Was it Like)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The over-commitment blues

"I got my mind set on you, I got my mind set on you."

I didn't wind up going to Fort Worth last weekend. I was feeling a lot of anxiety about all the things I'd taken on, and I decided it was ridiculous to allow all of these volunteer activities - that I am doing ostensibly because I want to - to cause me so much stress.

Something had to go and the Fort Worth trip was the biggest time commitment, so I bowed out. It was a struggle because although I knew it would be hard, sometimes pushing yourself and doing something hard winds up being truly rewarding. All things considered though, it just wasn't worth the anxiety - and the 600 mile round trip drive.

So I mailed a box of beads to the studio, to arrive in time for the Beads of Courage Bead Challenge, including the Dream Beads. I'm happy with Minnie, Buzz is recognizable, and the Stormtrooper, well, I said I'd try.

When I emailed the studio my regrets, I mentioned that I'd be in Fort Worth in October and got a lovely response.

If you can make it on Saturday 10/12 you will intersect with Arts Goggle in Fort Worth. It will be a big event for us at the studio. We will have demonstration lampworking, most likely boro, glassblowing, a pumpkin patch, and live music on the side of the studio. It is a free to attend event and always a lot of fun on a mad and crazy day. I hope you can make it. I'll be there in the mix and look forward to meeting you!

I have a friend who said he wants to try a stormtrooper helmet bead and perhaps we can come up with something for the request. I appreciate what you've been able to do.

A couple of days later when my box arrived, I got an even lovelier note.


I have no way to thank you adequately. Your package arrived just now and I have unpacked it. I didn't expect all the donation beads you sent along as well. You have done much to help our studio make this a successful event.

We got started late on planning for this and I was afraid it was going to be sparse on the sponsor a bead table as many of my current lampworker students are pretty new at the craft and the heavy lifting was falling to just a few of us. You have done so much.

Thank you again for everything!

Do please stop by on October 12th if you can coming through Fort Worth. We all look forward to meeting you.

In the end I had a lovely weekend. I spent Friday with Neil and we did some pre-shopping for Technology Day.

Neil has declared October 4 to be Technology Day, the day we come out of the dark ages of tube TVs and VCRs. In addition to an iPhone and an iPad, Neil is going to whip out the credit card and we are getting a state-of-the-art TV and whatever else you need to record shows and stream instant videos. We both need new computers but that may have to wait for a second Technology Day. I might look at new cameras though.

Friday night we went to dinner with friends at Underbelly, a good time and a unique dining experience. We couldn't get a reservation, but decided to take a chance anyway, and were seated, no waiting, at the community table, apparently a new trend in trendy restaurants. We shared a family style entree of Crispy Whole Bycatch, Shrimp, Onions, Tomatoes, Thai Curry Broth. Bycatch we found out is whatever other fish might be in the nets when the main catch is hauled in.

We had tapas first, each picking one item to share (although honestly I'd rather have had all my Seared Gulf Shrimp, Charred Corn, Korean Red Chile to myself). Neil's Wagyu, Sweet Potato Noodle, Cold Broth, Egg was delicious though. Brent ordered Wagyu Beef Skewers, Soba Salad, Bulgogi and Bobby chose Roasted Eggplant, Tahini Vinaigrette, Hummus.

The Bycatch came as four whole fish, lightly breaded and baked, and the fish just fell away from the bones. There were more shrimp, tomatoes and fresh figs in the sauce. We saved room for desert, which we shared. Vinegar Pie, Salt Brittle and Honey Panna Cotta, Chocolate Shell, Cocoa Nib, Peppercorn Ice Cream. The world definitely needs more Peppercorn Ice Cream.

Saturday I wrote my artist-to-artist feature article for Glass Bead Evolution to meet the Monday deadline that I'd had dropped in my lap a week ago. I'd done the artist interview a few days earlier, let the ideas mature in my brain while deliberately not thinking about them, and the article pretty much wrote itself really.

Before I sent it off I asked Neil to give it a read-through, and Mr. Hairy Eyeball only made three comments, and one was a typo. The other were two sentences that I re-wrote, including the lede. It's out of my hands now, and I'm happy about that.

Sunday I made beads and when Neil got home we took our first walk of the year around the lake. It's not quite cool enough yet to be truly enjoyable, but go we did.

I've been diligent about walking on the treadmill at the community fitness center four or five times a week. Today I watched the final episode of Season Six of Foyle's War (or Nine if you count the way the Brits do). The timing is interesting because we're in the midst of watching Season Seven (or Nine) on Masterpiece Theater right now and this coming Sunday will be the final episode. I hope Foyle doesn't retire for a fourth time and they don't wait three years to make the next season. Michael Kitchen isn't getting any younger and it's such a phenomenally well-done show.

I think I'll start Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren tomorrow.

I'm in a rut with my beads again, but it's sort of a comfortable one. I'm working on another bead challenge and testing new frit blends and running through my repertoire of old standards. I'm still making a lot of my painted fish series beads, plus my pleasted, winged silver glass beads, my long tapered barrel beads, a few sugar skulls and I may pull out some skeleton keys and make a few pumpkins for my October shows.

It's hard to believe that October is almost here and September is almost over. Wasn't it just August?

August rolled into September in 2001, without relief from heat or heartache. On Labor Day weekend I broke my self-imposed vow of silence and called Marty. He didn't answer and I didn't leave a message.

On the Tuesday after Labor Day, Houston's headline news was that his company was being bought by a competitor headquartered in California. The handwriting on the wall said that he'd be transferred or let go within the next few months. That would make it easier for me, right?

I continued to wrestle with whether or not to hold out an olive branch. I wrote to my mom.
I tried to call him once last night about 8, but he wasn't home. By 9, I was already falling asleep (this terrible fatigue). Also, I started to have doubts about calling him on a day that he may be in a bit of shock (maybe, if he didn't already know about it).

Anyway, I know it shouldn't be any of my concern. But he is still very present in my mind and heart, even as I try to push him out. And a tiny part of me believes that I am still present in his. I know you would say, if I was right, then he'd call me.

But in some relationships, one person is more stubborn and proud and will never make the first overture. And for me, it isn't that hard to reach out and say, hey, can we talk about this, can we get past this and be friends again.
I tried calling Marty again, once on Tuesday night and once on Wednesday night - no answer.
Just the act of dialing and listening to the phone ring is so emotional for me that I can empathize with how hard it would also be for him. After trying once, I have no energy left to call a second time in one evening. But men are more stoic about handling grief, I think, so not calling is clearly the path of least resistance for him.
My mom and my friends continued to try to persuade me to let it go. I'm stubborn.

I tried his office number on Thursday about 6. He usually worked at least that late. It rolled to voice mail too. I didn't try again later, I was so tired by 8 I couldn't deal with it.
Maybe I'll try again, maybe not. I'd truly like to let it go and be past it, but I'm not. I can push the thoughts out, but the ache in my heart won't desist. I keep thinking that if we could have a dialog, it would do one of two things - reopen the lines of communication or finally convince me that it is terminally hopeless.

Right now it just feels like unfinished business. Maybe it always will. I just wonder why the universe won't let me forget, and whether that means that Marty hasn't forgotten.

My therapist keeps saying it isn't about me, it is about him and the way he seeks intimacy but when he finds it, he feels suffocated - which is why he would choose to love an invulnerable and remote woman like Mary, or continue to seek someone just like her on the Internet, someone who keeps him guessing how much he really means to her.

I could never be that woman.

Anyway, isn't it all moot, since I am virtually sure he will be leaving Houston within the next several months.

So why does it matter a damn whether I call him or not?
In the end I chickened out of calling again and sent him this note on Friday. It was September 7.
May I offer an olive branch?

You’ve been in my thoughts - especially since the news broke. I hope everything will work out OK for you.

I’d like to stay in touch with you, Marty, just as a friend. It troubles me still that we parted with so much anger.

More than anything, I’d just like for there to be peace between us.

I hope you might feel the same.
He replied on September 8, a long note. condensed here.
I appreciate your olive branches. Yes, it's sad that we parted with so much anger, but I have pretty well put that behind me. I don't know what it means to go on as friends, given where we went together and how it did end, but if you mean letting go of the anger and being willing to talk should we ever run into each other at the mall or somewhere, I'm certainly willing to do that. Life's too short and there are too many other issues to hang on to anger. You're a good person and I wish you well.

The news is troubling. For me, the betrayal is personal, too - I was excited enough about the opportunity to leave behind my children and almost everyone else who means anything to me and come to stinky, steamy, lousy-with-obnoxious-Texans Houston.

Professional judgment aside, I just don't see myself moving to Palo Alto even if I'm invited. It's 1,500 MORE miles and two more time zones between me and the boys. I can't say never. Moving to Palo Alto for continued employment is more attractive than being unemployed in Houston, but it's not a happy prospect.

On a more positive note, my divorce is finally all but final. We did arrive at a settlement, and it does feel more peaceful to have that resolved.

Take care, Liz. I hope you and the girls are all well and happy....
I don't know what I expected. It could have been worse but it could have been so much better. I posted my thoughts.
So against all the caring advice in the world, I held out the olive branch. In return, he wrote me a very nice letter. In it, he says that I'm a good person and he wishes me well. But it's also very clear that he has put his feelings for me behind him, as I have been unable to do with mine for him.

I acknowledge that it has become an obsession with me. Until I find some meaning in this pain, I will never be whole. It isn't just about finding someone to love me again, it is about wondering whether I will ever be able to love with so much intensity again.

I'm still processing my feelings about this. I should feel some relief - it accomplished what I thought my goal was - to reopen the lines of communication and find a more graceful and dignified way to part. But I feel no relief (although no additional pain, at least). I'm pretty much where I was.
On September 9, I sent him this response.
Thank you for your letter - it means a lot to me that you are still willing to share a little of your life with me.

You'd probably find Palo Alto a rather beautiful (if a bit pricey) place to live, especially compared to your grim impression of Houston.

Marty, in many ways, I actually envy you the possibility. I wish I could go too - go home – if I could just figure out where that would be. I'm so afraid sometimes that I will live and die here.

My girls are fine. I've spent a lot of time over the past weeks reading, thinking, writing and spending time with them.

I guess by staying in touch as friends I wasn't envisioning anything specific beyond an occasional e-mail. I have wanted very much to talk to you at times, but I've stayed away, believing that was what you wanted. Now I hope that wasn't a mistake too. Please don't ever question what you meant to me.

It is late and I'm tired, and I'm not sure I should even be saying this much, so I will close here for now.
On September 10, I wrote this to a friend.
Thank you for continuing to remind me there is an end somewhere ahead. I wake up sad every day and I feel like I'm not making any progress. I'm trying to identify what I am still stuck on. I thought it was his anger at the end, but he said he was pretty well past the anger now - but he also sounded pretty well past the relationship too.

And I'm not.

I don't think I am addicted to turmoil or pain or conflict. I know I have to move on. I feel weak and ashamed of my inability so far to steel myself to do so. Even writing about it now still feels like that much more self-indulgent whining.

Since my latest contact with him, it is clear that there is not going to be a happy ending, and while in many ways it's better to know, it's also still a very, very bitter pill. He wrote me a nice letter, but he closed it by saying he hopes the girls and I are well and happy. How the fuck could he think I could be well and happy at this point? Does he have so little compassion and sincerity that he thinks what happened meant so little to me?

There's a part of me that wants to tell him how I really feel - but I know it would serve no purpose other than to put us right back into the anger that I found so intolerable. So I have to let it go, as it is, and stop looking back or thinking that this is one of the things I can change.
And then, the next day was Nine Eleven.

"I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you

But it's gonna take money
A whole lotta spending money
It's gonna take plenty of money
To do it right, child

It's gonna take time
A whole lot of precious time
It's gonna take patience and time,
To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it
To do it right, child

And this time I know it's for real
The feelings that I feel
I know if I put my mind to it
I know that I really can do it

I got my mind set on you
Set on you
I got my mind set on you
Set on you

Set on you
Set on you

(George Harrison)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Embracing the teenage me

"And I never dreamed I would have to lay down my torch for you like this."

My father was fond of saying, better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and leave no doubt about it.

I was a quiet kid. Self-conscious and short on self-esteem.

As a baby (I'm told) I was secure and happy. I had big smiles for friendly strangers. When I toddled, my mom would have to chase me all about the park, while envying the moms of contented babes sifting sand in the sandbox.

I liked looking at things. When we went shopping I was always meandering, exploring, investigating. My mom said she was going to write a book called Waiting for Elizabeth.

Something happened somewhere along the line to squelch my bubbles. Whatever it was, I've either blocked a traumatic memory or it happened insidiously over a long period of time. My money's on the latter, but who knows.

I had girlfriends in elementary school, but they were never the girls my mom approved of. Sarah was the first to wear go-go boots and her mom was kooky. Evelyn was untidy and her mom was an indifferent housekeeper.

Mom wanted me to be best friends with the daughters of her good friends. Marsha and Jackie. Marsha already had a best friend and I was always the third wheel. Jackie and I just didn't have much in common.

That's P.S. 144 in Forest Hills, NY. I could see the top left corner of the four-story building from my bedroom window.

Then, in seventh grade, I went to Hunter College High School in Manhattan. Hunter was a school for gifted girls. You had to be in the top 10th percentile on the Iowa tests to be eligible to take the entrance test for Hunter. And then only the top 10 percent of the top 10th percentile were accepted.

The summer before I started at Hunter I began to suffer from anxiety. We had toured the building on 68th and Lexington and I found it all quite intimidating, especially the dingy basement locker room. If my memory serves, some classes, such as the stupidly required home economics, were taught down there too.

There was no question of my not going to Hunter, not that anyone asked me. It was like private school but it was public school, i.e., it was free to attend. My mom said it was an opportunity handed to us on a silver platter.

That is HCHS, at least the building it was housed in in 1966-1970. It was part of the Hunter College campus, which occupied a full city block, from Lexington to Park Avenue. We had to walk through a dark tunnel from the creepy high school basement to go into the college cafeteria at lunchtime.

That summer before 7th grade I went to summer camp, which we called sleep-away camp. The camp season was eight weeks long, but I didn't adjust well to life in a bunkhouse with a bunch of 12-year-old girls. Girls who were boy crazy and who set the alarm clock for 2 a.m. so they could get up and raid the boys bunkhouse.

I was a late bloomer. The girls all talked trash about their moms while I missed mine. I hated the showers with the crawly spiders and bugs. I wanted my room at home, with our clean bathroom and my bed and my books and my little color Zenith and my cat.

At the end of the first week of camp I called my parents and asked to come home.

I was dumbfounded when my mom said no.

I can see it from my mom's point of view now, sort of. She enjoyed her life during the summer, going to the beach club with her friends. Going out to lunch and the theater. She didn't want a pre-teen around, cramping her style. She looked forward to some freedom from responsibility, from the extra cooking, laundry, housework. It's understandable.

And it's damnable. I never thought I wouldn't be welcome at home. That it really wasn't my home, just a place I stayed. It rocked the terrain of my existence. Solid ground fell away.

For the next two weeks I wrote daily letters begging to come home. I hated the regimentation of camp, being made to swim or play basketball when what I wanted to do was to finish the painting of the squirrel I had started in arts and crafts. I moped and I felt sorry for myself, and none of that made me popular with the other girls.

The fourth weekend of camp was visitors weekend. The week before, I made my regular weekly call asking to come home. My mom said, if I would write happy letters for a week, then, if I still wanted to come home, my parents would take me home with them after visitors weekend.

So I wrote happy letters for a week and I packed up my stuff. And my parents came, and I told them I still wanted to come home. My mom's response was, but you sounded so happy in your letters.

They did take me home though. My mom sulked and pouted, but I was just ecstatic about sleeping in my own bed.

I was never bored. I had neighborhood friends, who weren't lucky or rich enough to go to sleep-away camp. I had books and magazines and TV shows and I sometimes went to the beach club with my mom and her friends, but mostly I stayed home. I would have been perfectly happy if my mom hadn't branded me with the stigma of the girl who was different. The girl who didn't fit in. The girl who had something wrong with her. The girl who dropped out of summer camp.

It was a burden that I carried for many years.

I went to Hunter for six years, from seventh grade through my senior year of high school. If I'd gone to Russell Sage Junior High and Forest Hills High, I would have been one of the smarter kids. At Hunter, I was just average. Middle-of-the-pack.

I was surrounded by girls who were brilliant. A few were neurotic and odd, but many were outgoing and confident and comfortable and talented. They wrote, they drew, they acted, they sang, they played guitar and they were so many things that I wasn't.

I was ill-at-ease. I felt like I didn't quite belong, like I was there by mistake. I did OK in my classes but, except for English, my grades were unexceptional. I stayed on the sidelines. I looked on. I wasn't about to speak and leave no doubt that I was a fool.

I was thin as a marsh bird, probably even anorexic, although anorexia was largely unheard of then. I was pale. We spent a Christmas holiday in Acapulco and I not only got sunburned, I had an allergic reaction to the sunburn that caused a rash, nausea, fever and chills. After that I avoided the sun.

I remember having a lot of anxiety, a lot of stomach aches. I missed a week of 10th grade chemistry early in the term, and never quite caught up, which put the kibosh on my future career as a rocket scientist. Although I'd loved 9th grade biology, I ducked physics, an 11th grade elective, after my chemistry washout.

I don't look back at those Hunter years as a happy time. I had friends but socializing was hard because we lived all over the five boroughs and came from wildly diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. There was no dropping in at one another's houses. Weekend dates had to be planned and required bus rides and subway rides. There were sleep-overs, but I still wasn't sleeping over.

I didn't have a best friend. No one picked me first to sit with on the proverbial bus trip.

Facebook has been a belated saving grace. I've reconnected with some of the girls I knew at Hunter and it has given me new insight into the teenage me. I wasn't even sure anyone would remember me. I've learned that they not only do, they remember small details. And the greatest surprise has been the warmth with which they remember me.

We've had common experiences in the years that passed since we knew each other when. We've come out about our clandestine vulnerabilities and self-doubts, shared our prouder accomplishments, and acknowledged the stones in the roads that we traversed along the way to here and now.

And just a few days ago, I misted up when my friend April signed off a Facebook chat, saying, love you forever Liz!
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
August 2001 is a blur in my memory. Marty had turned on a dime and walked. I had to find a way to move forward without him.

I don't think I had accepted that it was over, really over.

I wrote to my mom.
I can't pretend I have no hopes that he will call me again one day. I just know I can no longer do one single thing about it. Maybe he will make some progress in self-understanding, maybe he will learn something about forgiveness. Anything is possible.

It is even possible that some of the painful things I said about him and sent to him, which have a grain of truth in almost every one, will in some subtle way free him to face them and move past them - even if it has nothing to do with him returning to me. Maybe that is the reason I was in his life to begin with.

And now maybe I can figure out why he was in my life to begin with. What lessons can I take away from this?
On the support forum I posted.
How does one forget something that was so great, that felt filled with potential? And why I am so unconvinced that he hasn't already forgotten, buried it all under a mountain of anger?

It's just going to take time to retrain my brain not to keep wondering what is in his head and heart. (Does he ever think about me? Does he miss the closeness we shared? What is he doing right now?) Because of how good the good parts were, I keep coming back to the hope that one day he will stop thinking about Marty and Mary and will think about Marty and Liz.
As bad as I felt, I was only beginning my slide. I was still a long way from bottoming out.

In my writing, I negotiated. Negotiation is one of the stages of grief.
For him and me there could be no going back. We've lost the beautiful innocence and trust. Perhaps if he eventually puts her behind him, he will free his heart to love again. And I think I have enough compassion and forgiveness within me to believe that with time and patience and commitment it would be theoretically possible to get past this.

I look at it this way. At some level he was ready to move forward at the time we met. I gave him everything he had so craved from her - the attention, the affection, the understanding, the passion. He loved it - but because of the ways he has been hurt by life - love that is gentle and kind is alien to him. He is drawn to a woman who is distant and detached and invulnerable - which may be all he thinks he is deserving of.

So he began to see it as my neediness, not as my love for him and my desire to give, that I wanted him and was available for him. He sees his own neediness reflected in my vulnerability - and it scares him shitless. So he pushes away the love that is kind and gentle and looks for the familiar anxiety he experiences with her ambivalence and rejection.

My heart still goes out to this man, who chooses pain and loneliness and grief. I know he has a huge amount of work ahead if he is ever going to save himself. And I still have a vestige of faith that the love he once expressed for me exists yet. Only time will obliterate (or prove) that faith.

My job now, though, is to let him do the work. The only way anything could ever work would be if he wanted it to enough to come to me. And the fringe benefit is that, by steeling myself to do nothing ever again, I am positioning and empowering myself to heal whether or not he ever reestablishes contact.
I had put my personal ad back online. I went on a couple of dates, then realized I wasn't ready to think about other men and hid it again.

And then, three weeks after Marty told me he was still in love with Mary, I saw that his personal ad was back online.

In a weird way, after the initial shock, I saw it as a sign of hope. It told me that his re-commitment to Mary was not rock solid. Could that mean I still had a chance? But what did that say about his character?

On the message board I spoke of my struggle.
I feel so ashamed. People have real sorrow in their lives. I had a two-month relationship with a man who is so needy and unhealthy that he professes profound love and promises me forever - with another woman in his heart. And then, after he pushes me away for her, I find out he's surfing the net again for dates.

So, why do I even give a shit about this man? When am I going to stop aching 24/7? Even my dreams are my enemies. He comes back in dreams. My therapist said we can re-script our dreams. She said, ask him why he keeps coming back. So I did, and he said, it's because I can't get you out of my heart. Well, that obviously is a crock.

I want so much to let this go, put it behind me and move on with my life. More than anything, I'd just like to restore peace between us. But it would take two, and I am clueless where his head and heart have wandered.
And to my mom I wrote this.
I know I should despise him and mistrust him and want him to stay as far away from my life as possible - but I don't. I just don't know how to erase him from my thoughts. I want to, but he comes back - every night - in my dreams. (Maybe that's why all I want to do is sleep.)

I tell myself, Liz, it is over, it is SO over. When will I begin to believe it? Why is it that I think even the obsessive thoughts have meaning, that the universe would not keep Marty so present in my heart if Marty had truly removed me from his? Where is the line between intuition and delusion?

And why the hell do I think that talking to him would make any difference?

It isn't as though we could ever go back.
The question that now began to dominate my nights and my days was whether or not to contact him.
I talked to my therapist yesterday, and she said, if calling him is something I need to do, then I need to do it and put it behind me. She is concerned that it will open up the old wound, but the way I feel, the wound is still wide open. I don't think I could feel any worse than I do.

I have no peace now. Being quiet has not gained me any peace. Maybe talking would. I know nothing.

I miss your smell and your style and your pure abiding way
Miss your approach to life and your body in my bed
Miss your take on anything and the music you would play
Miss cracking up and wrestling our debriefs at end of day

These are things that I miss
These are not times for the weak of heart
These are the days of raw despondence
And I never dreamed I would have
To lay down my torch for you like this

One step, one prayer, I soldier on
Simulating moving on

I miss your warmth and the thought of us bringing up our kids
And the part of you that walks with your stick-tied handkerchief

These are things that I miss
These are not times for the weak of heart
These are the days of raw despondence
And I never dreamed I would have
To lay down my torch for you like this."

(Alanis Morissette, Torch)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Making pediatric cancer history

"There's a part of me that prays, I'll wake up some sweet day, over you."

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

I painted my toenails gold because the ribbon color for all childhood cancer is gold.

Please forgive the quick iPhone selfie.

To recognize and honor those who are fighting pediatric cancer, across the country there are Beads of Courage events planned, where bead makers get together at studios to make beads and the public is invited to see demos and learn more about the BOC program. BOC provides beads for cancer treatment milestones, empowering each affected child a tangible way to remember and tell the story of their treatment journey.

On Friday I made 30 peace sign beads for BOC. I used a lot of my shorts and leftover bits of stringer and twisty, going for that random '60s tie-dye look.

Another quick and dirty iPhone shot.

The only Texas BOC event is in Fort Worth on Sept. 21, at SiNaCa Studios, and you know, you don't have to twist my arm very much to go to Fort Worth and see this little butterbean.

Poor Butterbean has a monster mosquito bite on his sweet face.

I'd already signed up to be on the Tucson team "from a distance" and hadn't fully decided to go to Fort Worth, but I asked one of the BOC coordinators if I could be on both teams. She emailed the Fort Worth studio and within hours I got the nicest note from the studio, enthusiastically inviting me to join them and telling me they'd have a torch for me to work on for as much of the day as I wanted to spend there.

As of now, i'm on the fence about going. It's Butterbean's weekend with his dad, but maybe we can get him back early and I can get in some more hugs and kisses and hear him giggle.

Also, I have an unanticipated tight deadline for an article I've been asked to write for Glass Bead Evolution.

I have to laugh, because I heard from Ashley, the BOC coordinator, again last Friday. She had asked the studio for four Dream Beads, but there was only one of the request beads, a seashell, that anyone at the studio felt able to make.

She asked me if I could make the other three Dream Beads.
For Ethan, a white and black Stormtrooper from Star Wars.

For Anna, Minnie Mouse with a hot pink bow on her head. Minnie wears a hot pink dress with white polka dots along with hot pink heels.

For Tucker, his favorite hero, Buzz Lightyear.
I hate to say no. I want to be superwoman, I want to be known as the girl who can make any bead.

Here's what I said.
I want to say yes so badly. I can try. If they don't have to be sculptural, I can definitely do Minnie Mouse in relief on a base bead. I had to look up Storm Trooper and Buzz Lightyear. Can it just be their heads/faces? That would be a lot easier for me.
Ashley responded.
Oh how awesome! Yes, you can do them on a base bead, don't have to be sculptural. Let me know what you come up with and I'll call in some backup if need be.

So on Tuesday, here is what I am going to be attempting to make. In hot glass.

Wish me luck. I'm gonna need it. Pictures soon.

If there was a day in my life that I could do over, it would be Friday, Aug.3, 2001, the morning after Marty said he couldn't be with me. I'm not saying things would have turned out differently or even that things didn't turn out for the best in the long run anyway. I just could have spared myself the most profound remorse, shame, guilt and grief in the short run.

In pain and confusion, I turned to Robin, as my good friend, for support. On instant messenger I told him everything, about Mary, about Marty telling me that he was a good writer and that I was a needy woman. To the last comment, Robin responded, has he looked in a mirror lately?

Robin suggested (and I didn't disagree) that Marty was drawn to unavailability and drama and afraid of intimacy and commitment. Robin also made the comment that a narcissist always wakes up with his lover. I said that Marty had been careless with my heart.

Robin kept reiterating that I was worthy and deserving of real love, that Marty wasn't worth it and that someone else better would come along. I kept saying that it wasn't about finding someone else, it was about me being OK, just me. I assured Robin I wasn't giving up all hope. I even made a joke about not having to shave my legs every day.

But here is the unutterably stupid thing I did next. I logged the chat and sent it to Marty. I don't know what insanity prompted my action, a sleepless night, shock, anguish, vindictiveness? It had something to do with the messy way our conversation had gone the night before, when I was a sobbing hot mess. In some madly misguided way, I was trying to tell him that I would be fine. No matter that that was a lie, I wanted him to think so.

He was livid. He fired this at me.
Liz, what the HELL did you hope to accomplish by sending me this???

You tell me you can be strong, but then you show me this.... this indulgent litany and his fawning drivel. He’s still in love with you, Liz, that’s crystal clear - and under the circumstances, what he has to say about you and me is full of shit and self-serving in its own way.

Enjoy that.... because after reading this crap, how on earth do you expect me to ever rejoin you and be comfortable with having him in OUR life?????

You wrote a few interesting e-mails of your own, and one message I recall distinctly was, “Marty, I’m tired of being the responsible one.... I want to stay with you... etc etc etc.” It was wonderful, and I loved it.... it was anesthetic at a time when I was hurting. Don’t accuse me of being reckless with your heart when you were so willing to plunge in yourself.

Jesus..... You two are a pair. Have a nice life.
Before I could stop reeling, he fired again.
After all is said and done, I guess you and Robin should understand more than either of you admits what it’s like to live the fantasy life of a long distance relationship. Pretty hard to let go, isn’t it, despite the lonely days and nights?

Obviously, the two of you never did, so both of you can stop your sanctimonious prattling about how MARTY must be afraid of intimacy because he’s pushing you away for Mary. Bullshit. Marty’s had real intimacy, and I’m still drawn to the woman who shared it with me.

Liz, you’ll get over the pain - but not if you keep taking narcotics of the sort Robin’s pushing!!

We’ve had some sensitive conversations that should have stayed between us - you should know better than to think someone who’s still in love with you is going to be an objective sounding board, and I’d hope you’d respect me AND your once/future lovers by keeping our sensitive conversations between the two of us.

I can’t pretend I don’t have or never had feelings for you. But this little landscape in your world is too bizarre for me to feel like living there.
I told my boss that I wasn't feeling went, went home and spend the afternoon in bed.

Re-reading what Marty said today, more, objectively, some of the sting I felt then is missing from his words. At the time, they were unbearable. Have a nice life. I couldn't get past that. Between the devil and the deep blue sea, I had expunged what slender hope I might have buoyed myself up with.

If I'd been a little clearer-headed, I might have absorbed his other words, I can’t pretend I don’t have or never had feelings for you.

All I could see was the egregiousness of my crime through his eyes.

Late that evening, I wrote him a letter of penitence.
You have every right to be furious with me.

I acknowledge the enormity of the wrongness of my actions. I breached privacy and trust by examining what happened between you and me with someone else in intimate detail.

I insufferably compounded the heinousness of that transgression by sending the chat log to you in an act of selfish egotism and heartless vindictiveness and utter disregard for every principle I try to live by.
I'm not a bad writer myself really, although perhaps the adjectives were aggrandized and the self-flagellation overdrawn.

I continued.
Yes. It was drivel and full of shit and self-serving crap - all of it. I have been so determinedly blind to what you saw so clearly. Robin is still in love with me and I am not and never again will be in love with him. And what kind of unbiased counsel can he ever give me as a friend under the circumstances?

(Any more than you should pay the least bit of heed to any evaluation of your psyche I have ever made, because of my own conflicted agenda).

You also are dead right in saying I was willing to plunge in to a reckless relationship - yes, I was. What I said was this: "For once, I don't want to be the sensible one. Marty, if you want me to stay with you, I will. I want the rest too, though, the love, the happiness, the relationship."

I took a huge risk and I did it with conscious carelessness for my own heart. The prize, the promise, seemed worth the gamble.

I have to now accept that I have earned your disrespect and disgust. I would give anything to take today back and do it over, better.

How can I ask you to forgive me when I am miles and miles away from being able to forgive myself?
That was Friday night. I didn't have the courage to look at my email again until Sunday night, when I got this.
Okay.... Liz. Start by forgiving yourself. Stand up on your own two feet. You can do it. You can fucking FLY - if you want to. You don't need to be dependent on anyone. Not even me. Start there. The rest will be easy.
None of it was easy.

I muscled on through the following bitter days.

On the support message board, after getting his last note, I posted.
I have not responded. I am fighting the need to keep the contact going.

I know it is a slender thread to hang hope on.

But he did keep the dialog going.

He did react with emotion and not intellect.

The opposite of love is not hate but indifference.

So, if he doesn't give a rat’s ass, why would he react so vehemently?

And if he is attracted to drama, well I have sure created drama - although not necessarily a healthy sort.
I was barely functioning. I woke up with panic waves and a profound sense of loss, and I carried the heartache around with me all day. The only time I didn't hurt was when I was asleep.
Does it get better? Sure. I know I won't always feel like this. I also know that it may be months before I feel whole again. Crawling out of the muck, centimeter by centimeter, takes a while.
About a week after Marty's last note, after much deliberation and vacillation, I sent him a reply. I wanted to let my last e-mail to him not be a hysterical one. I wanted to let him know that I had begun the process of self-forgiveness. I wanted to reclaim a little strength after my last semi-groveling message.

Before I sent my note to Marty, I sent this one to my mom (who was adamant that I should put Marty behind me and never look back).
I'm leaving it totally open, no response required. I say my piece. Then I focus on other things. Leave the door cracked about as much as it was cracked but don't go back and tap on it again any time soon.
This was my letter to Marty.
Landscapes can be changed. Mine, yours ...

It is paradoxical that some of your anger was about my relationship with a once - but not future - lover. Both he and I have let go of the romance. It is possible for Eros to metamorphose into Agape.

I do know that I crossed boundary lines in sharing what I shared. I'm human too. Perhaps nothing is unforgivable (except not learning from our mistakes), and anything that impels one to strive to be a better person is not a wasted experience.

So, I am working on self-forgiveness and standing on my own two feet. Figuring out the differences between being emotionally needy and being a lovely and hungry soul.

Marty, I hope that you are okay. It would mean something to me to know that you are able to get past the anger. I'd still like to think you remember me in our happiest times, as I will remember you.

That's all.
I expected no reply, and I got none. This is the beginning of my story.

"I put a candle in the window
Then take a picture from the wall
Avoid all the places we'd go
Then wait around on your call

There's a part of me that wishes
All my dreams come true
And a part of me that prays
That I'll wake up someday over you

I throw a penny in the river
Thinking that I'll bring you home
Then throw another right behind her
Hopin' that you don't

There's a part of me that wishes
That all my dreams come true
And a part of me that prays
I'll wake up some sweet day over you."

(Tony Arata, performed by Suzy Bogguss)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cats in cages

"But life has lost its mystery, love is blind and it cannot find me."

This is Nick.

Nick is one of the cats I've gotten to know at Sugar Land Animal Services, where I started volunteering last month.

He never wants to come out of his cage, but when you take him out he's ever so gentle and loves to be held.

Here are Dominic, Noah and Lollipop. Dominic is a playful kitten, Noah is a grown cat who gets along with all the other cats. Lollipop is a young girl and a bit skittish.

Now meet Harley, a friendly fluffy marmalade boy, Lilly, who likes all the other cats and loves to look out windows, and Kelsey, who would sit on my lap the whole time I'm there, if I let her.

Jack, Kit Kat and Lola are next. Jack lost an eye but he's a gentle, happy guy. Kit Kat is a beautiful sweet tortoiseshell. Lola. Well Lola is scared to death and has some issues. She's beautiful and I'm working with her and making progress. I tell her, she needs a better attitude or she'll never find a new family.

Lastly, for now, this is Elmer. He's my favorite. He's a high-energy, rambunctious, inquisitive kitten. The minute I come into the room, he's jumping out of his skin to come out and play. He doesn't stay still long enough to get a good picture. He's really very cute, has normal kitten proportions, and doesn't have giant legs and a pin head.

Elmer is growing up in a cage, which makes me sad. He needs to be adopted and have a home to grow up in. I keep thinking and hoping someone will take him, because he really is just so cute, even though the day I come in and he's been adopted, I'll be a little bit sad too.

This volunteer gig is much harder than the SPCA because there is much less turnover, especially of the older cats, and even the youngsters like Dominic and Lollipop and Elmer aren't being snapped up. People pick six-week-old kittens to adopt. I understand that, I really do, no one said life is fair.

It's just that I'm getting attached to this gang. I feel invested in their well-being. I worry because some of the cats are sneezing. Often the sneezing cats are gone by my next visit, and new cats have moved into their spots. Maybe they are in another building being treated, but so far most are not seen again. I could ask what happened to them, but I suspect, in this case, knowing would be worse than not knowing.

We have two cats. Two cats is the right number for us. I can't even bring Elmer, or any of the shelter cats, home for a few nights. The shelter would allow it, but I can't risk exposing our cat boys to germs. Respiratory infections run rampant in shelters and symptom-less cats can be carriers.

2001. Late July. After Marty received the package of his love letters and cards from the remote Mary, and asked me for space, to maintain a measure of sanity and to stem my rising panic, I turned to writing. I wasn't blogging then, but I was posting on a message board.
I feel kicked in the heart. Objectively I know it may not be the end, and taking a few days of space doesn't have to mean he won't choose to be with me in the end.

This decision is not a simple one. Even if they decide they still want to be together, he is here and she is there and unless something has changed greatly, they are not going to be near each other any more than when they decided to part in March.

Some people wonder why I would even want him to come back after he did this, loving me passionately for weeks and then pushing me away overnight. But I love him and, for me, that means I can forgive him and let him come back and love him forever if he does.
After we talked on Sunday, I didn't hear anything for 48 hours from the man who had called me and written to me of his love, many times every day, for months.

I continued to post about it.
The hardest thing for me to do is give someone space, because that requires doing nothing.

I am one who processes by talking, talking, talking.

What I want to do is scream for instant gratification/reassurance/anything.
Marty's first contact was an e-mail, a very strange one, casual, chatty, as if we were barely more than acquaintances. Almost as an afterthought, he said this.
Well, I talked with Mary last night. Long, sometimes tearful conversation on both sides.... more about that in person or on the phone soon, okay?
He did address the note, Dear Lizzie, and signed it, Love Martin. I chose to take that as a good sign.

You might have thought I was clutching at straws. You would have been dead right.

I wrote back.
I am glad that you called Mary. One way or another, all this heartache and emotional limbo needs to be resolved and that was the first step.
On the message board I posted.
If I wasn't a person with depression, I might be serene in my faith that we are right together and that he will come back to me in the end. A time to deliberate should not rock the very foundation of my existence - as it has.

I do not blame Marty 100 percent for the pain by any means. His silence triggered all my own personal crap - feelings of insecurity and unworthiness.

A healthy, whole person might have said, to hell with you, how dare you do this to me, I deserve better, please get out of my life. And the person would have been fully justified.

I told him that I was unwilling to be a placeholder or a consolation prize, that when he decided, whatever he decided, he needs to be clear and committed to honor his own decision.

I meant it - just as I meant every other word I ever said to this man. Maybe I am really strong, beneath the damage and the scars.
We met. We talked. He said he was torn. Torn. That was the word he used.

I asked him, did you tell her about me? He said, yes. I was glad because if he had said, no, I'd have seen him as being dishonest with her and that would have made me see him as a different person than I had seen him as.

We decided to continue to see each other, not to resume where we left off (last week, when we were in love) but, to use his words, to have fun, very carefully, which is what we should probably have done in the first place.

A lot of people counseled me not to see him until he made a decision. I wasn't that strong. I thought it would ease me to see him sometimes. And there was always the hope that when he was with me it would be harder to deny the joint need and attraction and desire.

I posted some more.
What we had was very, very good, and even though all we had was weeks - not a lot, compared to a years-long relationship - we also had the promise of something more substantial to come. I felt it. I believe he felt it.
We went out on Saturday. The unspoken rule was, let's have fun, another first date.
Not that I plan on any intimacy. I think his own honor would not let him permit himself to go down that road without knowing it was an irretractable commitment. But we had something a lot deeper than mere lust happening between us.
We went to see The Pirates of Penzance. Gilbert and Sullivan also have a comic opera called Patience. Marty bought me a mug with the logo on it. He bought himself one too. How far was I stretching to see that as a good sign?

The evening was bittersweet. I kept a smile glued on my face. He held my hand at dinner, and walking around, and in the car on the way home. When he left, he said, I had a great time. I said, I did too. He said, I'll call you.

He didn't kiss me.

More days passed.

I strove to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.
I definitely feel he is controlling me with this silence and distance. But I have no choice. I have to wait. That means go on living my life and give him space and time to work on his own issues. And it is the only way - whether he chooses me or not - you can't make a heart love.

I am building a stern resolve to start acting like a grown up again. I am taking back some control. Giving him time and space - not contacting him - is an act of love and sacrifice.

Each time I manage to not call him, he has contacted me. Each time I have contacted him, it has left me feeling emptier because I am not getting what I am looking for (which would be, Liz, I've been a fool, I miss you and want you madly.)

I can see some positives here even. For one, it would trivialize all our feelings of love if Marty pushed me away to make a serious life-changing choice and did it without taking sufficient time to be clear and certain.
I sound so reasonable and mature, don't I?

Then I got this humdinger from Marty.
More talk with Mary.... We miss each other and we’re still in love, I think.... but we still don’t know what we can do about it.... It’s a hell of a long commute for a Saturday night date. I’m sorry, Lizzy... Talking with her feels better than not talking with her did in some ways, but it only replaces grief with a familiar anxiety.
I only saw those four words. We're still in love.

I didn't handle it well. I questioned, accused, bargained. I cried and he cried.

So much for reason and maturity, huh?

I asked him about the letter he'd once written to me about Mary, the one about the story of Ruth. The one where he said (among other things) this.
Even after a years-long relationship, I was a non-entity to her children, her parents, sisters, most of her workmates. To be a dirty little secret in her life after so much time together was very painful and frustrating.
He said, I was angry at her.

He said, I'm a good writer.

He said I can't see you now. because when I talk to her I feel like I am cheating on you, and when I see you I feel like I am cheating on her.

He said, you're a very needy woman.

And I said, you're a very needy man.

If only I had left it there. But I didn't. The next day, in pain and confusion, I did something that violated privacy and boundaries, something that expunged any glimmer of a chance that things would come out right.

Because I still wanted this man to choose me.
How do I truly release that hope today? I guess my heart will know when it is time.

"I've been romanced dined and danced
Crazy nights and wild times
But my life has lost its mystery
Love is blind and it cannot find me

I'm blowing away
Shadows take my love and leave
I'm blowing away
Shadows keep taking my love and leaving me

And I have cast aside my foolish pride
And I'm going down for the last time
And I have searched this earth
And I've sailed these seas
Love is blind and it cannot find me

I'm blowing away
Shadows take my love and leave
I'm blowing away
Shadows keep taking my love and leaving me
You keep taking my love and leaving me."

(Eric Kaz)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering nine eleven

"If you needed me, I would come to you, I would swim the sea for to ease your pain"

Nine Eleven. Two Thousand and One.

It's one of those days you remember, like the day JFK was assassinated, or the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded. You know exactly where you were and what you were doing.

In 1963, was in Mrs. Warner's classroom ant P.S. 144 in Forest Hills, New York, when someone came in to tell the teacher that Kennedy had been shot. I was too young to grasp what it meant, but I remember we turned on the classroom TV. And when I got home, my mom was watching a portable TV in the dining room, and crying. The TV was on all week. If you knew my family, you'd know how exceptional that was.

I was at work, in 1986, in Houston, Texas when my admin came in to tell me that her sister had called and said, the space shuttle blew up. It was almost as hard to grasp what had just happened, as we watched that soon to be familiar video of the blast replayed, those two plumes from the solid rocket boosters spiraling away from the massive detonation.

I was at work in 2001 too, when a friend instant messaged me to say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. In my mind, I pictured a small private plane hitting the North Tower, not a 757. I'm not sure it is possible, even now, twelve years later, to completely grasp the horrors of that day as they unfolded. We can absorb the facts as we know them, but how can anyone claim to comprehend that which is so despicably unfathomable?

I was in my own private hell that day, the hell I'd been living in since August 2, the day my relationship with Marty went down in smoke and ash. That day, September 11, may have been (or become) the nadir of my despair, because on that day I would have traded places with someone in the WTC who wanted a life.

If something so terrible could happen in the world and Marty not come to me, then it was undeniably over. Not that I had been denying it, but somehow this cosmic tragedy drove home the magnitude of the gulf between us.

Hope is a funny thing though. You can douse it with kerosene and light it afire, you can clobber the bejesus out of it with a baseball bat, but like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, it resurrects itself, it finds that crack in the sidewalk and germinates again to seek the sunlight.

On September 14, Marty wrote an open letter to a long distribution list of people and included me (but no one named Mary, I looked). He knew some of the people who were in the WTC and were unaccounted for. I was so moved by what he said.
Perhaps whoever did this despicable act has their own set of sad stories - senseless deaths of friends or family, lingering anger fanned into murderous flames... Anger breeds anger, death breeds death. Pray for them all, and pray that we break this vicious cycle.
It was a sentiment I had also been trying to express, but it was not generally well received. Most people wanted retribution. I replied.
Your letter brought me to tears - but something brings me to tears on a hourly basis since Tuesday morning.

New York City is the city of my birth. I attended high school on Lexington Avenue and 46th Street. I was married in the World Trade Center. But sentimentality pales in the face of this monstrous, incomprehensible horror and the sorrow-laden aftermath.

I am so stirred by your beautiful words. You get it. It is as Gandhi said, human kind has to get out of violence only through nonviolence. Counter-hatred only increases the surface as well as the depth of hatred. Hatred can be overcome only by love. And it is as Francis Bacon said, "in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy."

As moved as I am by the stories of people bonding together and showing solidarity and wanting to give in whatever ways they can, I'm profoundly saddened by the vitriolic rage against the spiritually ill perpetrators, the blind passion for retribution and the prospect of more bloodshed, of war.

I have never believed in an eye for an eye. People say we can't lie down and play dead. I don't know what is right.

Maybe, like Hemingway, I need to make a separate peace. Like the old spiritual, I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside, I ain't gonna study war no more.
My feelings haven't changed. On this day, September 11, 2013, may we be granted peace.

I've fast-forwarded a bit.

2001. I'm trying to remember how I felt when Marty told me he was grieving for Mary, the aloof, unavailable Mary, she who kept him at a distance and had him questioning what he really meant to her.

Flustered? Perturbed? Anxious? Angry? Sad?

So much for passion without baggage. He'd just dumped an elephant-sized steamship trunk right smack in the middle of our love affair.

But mostly what I remember feeling was compassion. I told him, it's understandable that you're homesick, it hasn't been that long, moving away across the country is a huge thing.

I know I didn't see it as the end of us. He loved me, right?

And he continued to tell me that, every day, in email, in phone calls, in person.

For another month.

I'll summarize the highlights. Here are some of the things he wrote.
You said it before: It will only get better and better. And it’s already sublime!!

Yes, I am hopelessly in love with you, Liz

Love your notes - love you.... xxxooo.... Marty

I’m so in love with you.... :-)

Sure is nice doing e-mails with you! And thanks again for a beautiful evening at the Woodlands... what a wonderful, warm memory!! xxxooo

All my love... M

Mmmmmmmm...... Love you, too, Sweetheart.... xxxxxxxooooooooo

(Did I mention that I love you??)

You are, of course, as fair to me as a sunny, warm day on the water with a steady 15-knot breeze. Our sails are voluptuously full and sparkling against a cobalt sky as we glance up to check their shape, the boat is stepping along nicely, the sun is warm on our backs, and we are at least a thousand miles from the nearest care.... Come sail with me!

I love you, too, darling.... thanks! xxxxoooo.... M

Oh, Liz.... I love your gentle spirit and how tender you are with my heart. I have this warm, wonderful feeling when I think of you waking me before you left last night. You made me feel so loved and cared for, so peaceful....

I do love you so, my Lizzy.... I can’t wait to see you later! xxxoooo.... Your Marty

Hey there.... Love you, darling.... can’t wait to see you!

I love it when you call me angel, darling! xxooo

Hey, lover.... I love you, too.... xxxxoooo

Hello, Angel..... (Do I get to call you that, too? It sounds sweeter when you say it to me....)
Notice there are no more effusive epistles about dawns and Venus shining down on us, and bridges and unfinished business, no more rambling, hyperbolic purple prose. I commented about that and evoked some weak effort.
The great classics touch my heart almost the way you do - tenderly, soothing, moving me to the depths of my soul that don’t often see the light of day. Or night. Moonlight. Moonlight would be sufficient - silver light over peaceful fields of hay and hedgerows of maple and scrub oak, with a soft, cool breeze. A night that caresses my skin like my sweet, new lover.....

I need a retreat.... I need you, my loving Liz..... Passionately, Your Marty

Mmmmmmy my, how you mmmmmmmelt mmmmmmme....... xxxooo

I’m still basking, too - looking back at last night makes me a little misty. It was a beautiful evening.

Talk to you later, my angel.... xxxxooooo.... Your lover Marty
We continued to go out, with friends, on dates, and we continued to make time for intimacy. I stayed over at his place when I could, a bit of a challenge with my 13- and 17-year-old children.

It was the tail end of July when the sky started caving.

Marty didn't have much interest in sports but I had gotten baseball tickets and we were meeting some of my friends at the ballpark. My kids were away for the weekend.

He came to my house to pick me up. I didn't immediately sense anything wrong. I asked him if I should bring a bag and plan to go home with him from the game.

He said, I need space. Those three dreaded words that sound the death knell of a relationship

He had gotten, in the afternoon mail, a package from Mary. It contained cards, letters that they'd sent each other, photos of them together. Other mementos, ticket stubs, whatever.

Could it be a gesture of closure for her, I asked. My heart punching blood through my veins. Maybe she had met someone else?

He explained. After they had quarreled in the past, he would send her a box of letters, tapes of music they'd listened to together, pictures, to remind her how great things had been. (Sublime even?) And she would come back.

Now she was sending him the same message.

Teary-eyed, he told me, I can't get her out of my heart, I can't bear to think about her with another man.

So we didn't go to the ballgame. He fell asleep on my sofa (extreme emotion is exhausting) and I sat outside on my back deck, feeling heartsick and scared and defeated and resigned and hopeful, a melange of contradictions.

After a while he woke up. He hadn't eaten, so I made some dinner. Ravioli, pasta sauce, maybe a salad. We ate, he hungrily, me swallowing past a constriction in my throat. We listened to music. We sang along to James Taylor, for fuck's sake.

I didn't cry.

He said it was a nice evening after all. About 10 p.m. he left and I went to bed and slept for 12 hours.

He called me once on Sunday, said we'd talk later. I called him late Sunday, when he hadn't called back. I asked if we were over. He said, no, we're not over, we're hurting, but we're not over. And he said, I do love you.

But how in holy hell can you love one woman when you can't get another woman out of your heart?

It seems you can't. It was the last time he said those words to me.

And it all felt so familiar. Like it was inevitable, like the euphoric happiness and joy were inescapably bound to end up in the most excruciating and profound anguish.

Like there was no other way the story, with me in a starring role, could possibly have ended.

"If I needed you, would you come to me
Would you come to me for to ease my pain
If you needed me, I would come to you
I would swim the sea for to ease your pain

Well the night's forlorn and the morning's born
And the morning's born with the lights of love
And you'll miss sunrise if you close your eyes
And that would break my heart in two

If I needed you, would you come to me
Would you come to me for to ease my pain
If you needed me, I would come to you
I would swim the sea for to ease your pain."

(Townes Van Zandt)

Monday, September 9, 2013

A ribbon and a challenge

"The heart will bring you home again, the heart does not forget."

Celebrating success. I won third place in the State Fair of Texas Creative Arts Flamework Bead Category.

Sounds impressive, doesn't it?! I may have to go to the Fair for the first time ever, just to see my ribbon.

For the life of me, I don't know why I didn't take a photo of my entry. In fact, I can't remember which bead I sent. I just picked out a bead, filled out a form, wrote a check for $4, and mailed it to meet a short deadline.

On July 21, I got this note from Sam Hibler of Dream Fire Glass in San Antonio. I know her through ISGB and I'm on her studio mailing list.
I just wanted to make you aware of this opportunity. I know it is very short notice.The Grapevine Bead Society worked very hard to get a Flamework Bead Catagory and they need more people to apply to keep this category available. I was ask to let my students and subscriber know.

July 26 applications are due and must be in the hands of the folks of the Creative Arts Dept. for the State Fair of Texas. We need at least 10 applications entered to keep the Flamework Bead category available for future fairs. Check out for all the details.
The website was mammoth. I spent some time on it and emailed Sam back.
Hey Sam - that's quite a website. I'm lost. Where is the Flamework Bead category? Is this an art exhibit entry? It's not a booth space, right?
She got right back to me.
Liz - I was as lost as you are. You have to look at the application form online. You enter a bead and then they win state fair ribbons. No booth. Look on page 3 of link below. Catogory C140. Good luck if you enter!
I'm happy. Even if there were just 10 entries, I'm happy.

The State Fair runs Sept. 27 - Oct. 20. Weather should be nice in October.

I just completed Heather Trimlet's 40-bead challenge. A group of us are doing it and it's been fun to watch everyone's progress.

Here are the rules:

Choose two colors of highly contrasting opaque glass. Use only these two colors. Heat and gravity are your only tools. Make 40 beads, about 1/2”–5/8” in diameter, using dots only as a decorative element, melting all dots in. Make only 5-6 beads at a time and take a break, work over a series of days.

I chose Tongue Pink and Silver Brown for my two colors. Here's my completed set.

I'm also experimenting with my photography. I moved my photo set-up to have room for better lighting. I just tried that silver background (a page of scrapbook paper from the craft store). Not sure how I feel about it yet. I might look for some frosted clear glass to lay over it.

Just because it was so much fun, we're starting a second challenge round, same rules but using three colors. I'm going with Silver Pink, Nyx and Red Copper Green.

And now, back to that euphoric, innocent, ill-fated, star-crossed summer of '01. After knowing of my existence on the planet for 16 days and having met me in person 8 days earlier, Marty told me he loved me. It was insanity.

If felt great. And it felt terrifying.

If I remember right, after spending that first night with him, I went home for a few hours on Sunday, then I went back to his place. He asked if I had had lunch and I said no, so I sat at his little kitchen table and he stood at the small center island and made me a turkey sandwich.

I said, I wasn't used to having someone fix me lunch and do you know what he said? He said, get used to it.

He also told me a story. The events took place more than 20 years earlier, after he'd been married just a short time. He and his wife were working for a big utility company in upstate New York. Marty had an opportunity to go to graduate school on a scholarship, along with the offer of a teaching assistant position with a small salary. It would have meant moving to a different city and living on less money for at least a couple of years. His wife was adamantly opposed and (according to Marty) told him, if you go, then this marriage is over.

He said, it was a new marriage, I didn't want to give up on it, so I didn't go.

There were tears in his eyes, damn it.

How could my heart not go out to him? When I would have gone anywhere with him at any time.

On Monday he wrote me this amazing, creative work of writing. I've abridged it. Seriously.
I fell out of bed this morning.

Well, what I really mean is that I got out of bed and immediately fell in love with you all over again. I peeked through the blinds and saw another beautiful dawn shaping up, a sliver moon, and (I think) Venus glowing down on us.

Countless mornings, I have awakened with nothing but longing - longing to share the dawn with a soulmate, longing to look in my heart and find the same kind of warm glow - and an ache because the kindest love I could find in my life was ever across some huge gulf. So many barriers, so many issues.... so much sadness wherever I looked.

Today the longing is still there, but the ache is gone, replaced by joy and anticipation because you are here and you make me feel so loved. Longing and joy make wonderful harmony, Lizzy - and it makes me positively giddy to think you want me, too. Yes, I long for you - I think that's one of love's gifts, and I hope we never lose that.

For now, suffice to say that you are the most incredibly wonderful surprise I have ever had.

And, yes, I do remember the story of Ruth. The question you voice is one of the haunting ones about my long and otherwise loving, formative relationship with Mary. I stayed in that relationship longer than most men would have, I think, believing she wanted to be with me but had her own issues and baggage to clear before she could.

There were so many qualifications, so many other people and needs in her life that feel like they crowded me out. I came away questioning how much I really meant to her. It also hurt to let go of the good parts, but it was time. I cared deeply for her, and as long as we were in the same town it was just very hard to let go.

Enough of that. I consider that relationship a bridge. It's part of how I got here. But it wasn't going anywhere, and I am.

And I love where I am... You are such a gift, Lizzy - my own wonderful surprise.
I literally hurt from happiness.

He wrote to me again that Monday.
Darling Lizzy,

The mere thought of you makes my heart sing and my face smile... Thank you for finding my life and sharing yourself so deeply with me! I have fallen hopelessly and madly for you.

Your lover... your Marty
On Tuesday he wrote this.
Good morning, Love...

I was thinking of you this morning (but then I think about you pretty much all the time!) when I was getting dressed and had my new Sarah M CD on. What a mellow, romantic collection! Her voice is so sublime, and so are the compositions. I’m afraid if you were there and that music were on we might both be late for work.

Can’t wait to talk with you later. Hugs, kisses, caresses, tender glances, smiles.... and more....
I played into it.
Marty, my angel, make me late for work ... please ...
Wednesday brought this from him.
It means so much to me that you're there to listen. Thank you for your presence and your touches and your quiet, peaceful voice. I do hear it through the noise... and I do feel loved. I hope you feel my love as well, darling.... stay with me, please..... I want you.

Your Marty
I wrote back.
I will be there as much as I can, as long as you want me to be there. I want to say so much more. I understand so much more.
Then there was Thursday. (I promise, this doesn't go on much longer but this one is a powerhouse. Even condensed.)
What wakes me early?

My unfinished business, a chorus of aches, tapping on my window, shaking me (gently or sometimes not so) by the shoulder, splashing cool water on my face and bidding me rise before the sun. Most mornings, they are hauntings, ghosts of another day's, another year's sad news - or phantoms born of anxiety over some coming day's war.

But today, my Liz, today.... It is still dark outside, but there is something rising, bright and warm, emerging here in my heart and flowing through my body. We are not finished either - thank God....

Thank you for life, darling Lizzy.... Thank you. I am so in love with you....

Yours.... truly. Your Marty
Sometime during this week he asked me to tell him I loved him. What made me do it? I'll never know.

I had this crazy, other-worldly sense that we hadn't just connected by chance, that we had a history together, that we had somehow recognized each other rather than just meeting for the first time.

I was in some ramped-up, breathless, chaotic, hysterical, romantic state. I remember thinking I'd be glad when the intensity deescalated a bit so I could relax and really enjoy the relationship.

On Friday I wrote this note to him.
I am so happy that you call me to say good morning every day. And hearing you say "I love you" – and being able to tell you "I love you" - is exquisite and joyous and overwhelming.

I am thinking about you, sweet Marty. I am seeing you as you stood in your kitchen in your sweats and made me a turkey sandwich, which may be the exact moment I truly fell in love with you.
Sunday he wrote this.
You are so beautiful, Lizzy, and I am so pleased with how you fit into my life! Let me sleep with your image in my dreams, if not with you!

I love you, my sweetheart.... forever yours.... Marty
Marty's oldest son came from New York for a long-planned visit. After he left to go home, something shifted slightly, subtly.

Marty wrote this.
Hello, my angel....

I'm doing better, I think, at seeing children off - which is to say I think calming thoughts through the tears now.

But when the sadness of this kind of goodbye takes hold, all of my losses and goodbyes and loneliness parade in, singing their melancholy chorus. It's almost like my fatherhood stopped evolving the day I moved out of the house, so I'm still bearing the guilt and sadness of wanting the divorce enough to cause my children pain. I have to do better at peeling the issues apart from each other and looking forward.

Meanwhile, I am more grateful than you know, my Lizzy, for the way you already touch my heart and lift my soul. I love you!
We were now about a month into the relationship. Things were about to take a sharp left turn.

One night, pretty much out of the blue, Marty told me he was grieving. For his sons. For New York. For Mary.

It was another month, however, before our relationship completely self-destructed.

"Go to sleep my darling
Lay down upon your bed
May the rhymes of childhood songs
Dance inside your head

When night time falls around you
I know that you're afraid
But the heart will bring you home again
The heart is built that way

The heart will bring you home again
It hasn't failed us yet
The heart will bring you home again
The heart does not forget

So close your eyes my darling
Close your eyes and dream
The world is full of promises
And love is all it seems

Yes, there will be the hard roads
Lead us all astray
But the heart will bring you home again
The heart is built that way

The sun will rise my darling
Glisten off the streets
So close your eyes and believe in love
And feel safe inside your dreams

'Cause no one's going to harm you
Or carry you away
But the heart will bring you home again
The heart is built that way

The heart will bring you home again
It hasn't failed us yet
The heart will bring you home again
The heart does not forget

The heart does not forget."

(Greg Trooper, Tom Russell, The Heart)