Catching up

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I’ve been a bit distracted lately. I’ll readily admit that. I’ve kind of had my hands full. When we returned home from Paris, I knew we had another work related trip a little less than two months later. The time away made me really not want to travel again, so I opted to stay home instead with my son instead of going to Las Vegas. Some people might think that’s crazy, but I really didn’t want to leave him again, and be away from him. Besides, the day we would have left would have been my birthday and I really didn’t want to do that.

So instead, I’ve been home with my son on my own since Sunday. Things haven’t been easy at times, but we’re managing. I’m happier that we’re keeping his schedule, and having some kiddo time to myself. But it’s been hard too. I’m definitely worn a bit thin and my nerves are frayed.

My husband comes home tonight, and I’m relieved because I really need an extra set of hands. Plus it’s pretty obvious how much my son misses him. He’s been calling for him around the house and it breaks my heart to tell him that daddy’s not around right now. But that changes tonight and I’m so excited to see the look on their faces.

Foto Friday – Storm Clouds

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Happy Foto Friday, everyone! Today we continue our cloud series. The very first thing that I began to photograph obsessively when I first got into photography was the sky. I was obsessed. After a while, though, I branched out into other things. But recently, a summer storm whipped through and in the early evening the sun was setting as the sky cleared. I stood out on my deck and shot these as the sky lit up like fire. Enjoy!

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#WhyIStayed

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Give me the keys!

I awoke to a dense weight pinning me down, hands grasping thick swatches of my hair tightly. He slammed my head down against the ground several times as he tried to rouse me from my slumber. In the darkness, I couldn’t see his face, but I knew it was him, my boyfriend, the man who claimed to love me, had finally crossed over from the emotional and verbal abuse into the physical realm. The waves of realization washed over me like a stormy sea, each new horrific thought choking out the air in my rational mind.

I tried to cry out, but he cupped his hand over my mouth to keep me quiet. He pressed his fingers tight into my jaw, hissing for me to give him the keys to the car, which he was unknowingly pressing into my leg as he sat hard over my hips. Luckily, (or maybe not so much), my ability to acquiesce to this request was impossible because of how he pinned me down.

We were camping when it finally happened. I was just out of high school, readying myself for a summer of fun with my friends before leaving for college in the fall. My brother and I shared a tent, and my friends slept in another not far away. My boyfriend decided to stay up, I realize now to get high. He was tweaked out on something, who knows what. His habit was becoming more and more costly. But I thought by refusing to acknowledge it, as we had been taught to do in our alcoholic family.

I don’t remember the exact details after that. I know I didn’t give him the keys, and that he slammed my head down a number of times into the hard ground until the noise finally woke up my brother. The commotion also stirred my friends.

The thing I had always thought about domestic violence was that people would be so horrified to witness it happening that they would jump in to help save the victim, standing by her side and helping her leave the abusive relationship. I imagined the aggressor being arrested, shamed by his behavior so publicly that he’d disappear from my life forever. The naivete of such ideas are almost laughable.

At some point, we all left the camp site, ending up in the parking lot of a gas station, arguing. My friends, both fierce feminists, stood so far away from me, I could feel the depth of my own damage down to the core of my being. My brother seemed to sense it too, and I felt ashamed that he was witnessing my failings so publicly. I asked my friends if they thought I should leave him, and neither of them said yes. The decision to stay was mine, I realized, but no one had any vested interest in telling me how much worse things would get if I stayed.

Instead, what happened in the parking lot of a truck stop gas station in the summer in 1998, was that I realized how alone I was. I saw then how damaged everyone knew I was, how I would never do any better than this man, who I was now bound to. The friendships fell away, the respect from my brother died, and I was left to my silent spiral into hell alone.

It wasn’t the last time he’d put his hands on me. But it was the first time he’d gotten away with it. I could sense it in him, the power he was feeding, he enjoyed it. His violence became more refined, more precise after that. His manipulations were more cunning, his control more absolute. It wasn’t until he stole money from my family, on camera, that they finally intervened. Had he failed to do this, I wonder if they’d ever have done anything to help me. I realize with each passing day of estrangement that no one would have. It wasn’t until their own interests were compromised that they finally took an interest. The people who claimed to love me, who were supposed to be there for me, would have easily let me die at this man’s hands as long as it never affected their bottom line.

It would take me years to recover, to learn my worth, to find my strength and my backbone. It was in my healing that I saw that the people who stood idly by and said nothing were as complicit in my boyfriend’s abuse as he was. It’s hard to have love for anyone who would so willingly let me come to harm. If you’re reading this, and you’re in a similar situation, don’t wait for a hero. They don’t come when you need them. Be your own fucking hero, because you have to be. It’s not your fault if someone hurts you and it’s not your fault if the people around you don’t give a shit. But, you can escape, you can live, and you can move on. You don’t deserve it. I promise.

Damage

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For as long as I can remember, I have always had this unshakable knowledge that I was damaged. I don’t know why or when this discovery was actually made. But, even as a child, I was always aware particularly when interacting with other children, that I was different.

The circumstances of my birth, my “origin story” are sordid and full of the worst kind of soap opera style dramatics. There’s a theory that the maternal experiences can leave an imprint on the genetic material passed onto the next generation. Could it be that most of my issues are, at least partly based, in the previous generations messed up behavior? There certainly is enough bad behavior to go around.

And yes, I realize that there’s a huge element of personal responsibility. I acknowledge as given that my brain is wired wrong. I’ve known that for pretty much my whole life. Each day is a struggle to overcome that bad wiring, but knowing that it is there is truly half of the battle. My abuse was more subtle, harder to explain to people who weren’t there, enmeshment and manipulation are not always perceived as the invasive quiet damaging factors as the physical damage I also endured. The expectation for me to be the responsible party in a household of extremely damaged, and chemically addicted adults was conveyed in very real terms at a very young age.

My home life was alternating between two sides of the same coin, wanting to resist the damaging experience, and failing, and wishing for “normalcy” which was an impossibility. We attended church for a while when I was small, and I remember the promises made during the services, that God was always with us, could hear our prayers and performed miracles.

Each night I prayed silently to myself, laying awake in bed while the chaos spun just outside the door. I wanted desperately to feel the closeness to a higher power that people at church promised was possible, if my heart was open and pure. But as hard as I prayed, trying everything I could think of to feel something, I always came up wanting. The emptiness that filled that void still haunts me. I understood in those moments, when you wish for something, dropping the coin deep down into the well, aching to hear the satisfying splash, the tinkling as the coin banks off the walls, sometimes you only hear nothing, feel nothing. That’s my experience of God.

I don’t want to say that a higher power doesn’t exist, or take away the value it serves for the lucky faithful who have experienced it. I can say that it never worked out for me. And in the darkest parts of my life, I came to the very real understanding that I was truly alone. And all the prayer in the world couldn’t help me undo the damage.

Foto Friday – Storm Clouds

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Happy Foto Friday, everyone! Today we continue our cloud series. The very first thing that I began to photograph obsessively when I first got into photography was the sky. I was obsessed. After a while, though, I branched out into other things. But recently, a summer storm whipped through and in the early evening the sun was setting as the sky cleared. I stood out on my deck and shot these as the sky lit up like fire. Enjoy!

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Ziplining For The Win!

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I had been wanting to try ziplining ever since I saw the billboard advertising the park near my house was opening a course. The problem was that most of my friends, including my husband, are afraid of heights. I found one friend who was fearless enough to try it with me and we set the date.

Although we had more elaborate plans, (breakfast & mimosas) my son’s spiked fever the night before left me fearing I’d have to cancel altogether. But after some advil and cosleeping, he awoke in the morning cooler and more like his normal self. I met my friend in the park and we set off to the office to check in.

The park was buzzing with activity, the morning air was warm but not too muggy. People were milling around, waiting for our session to begin. The safety brief and instructions were delivered by a young man, about my age, with a beard and jovial sense of humor. Among our session were a few couples, a bachelorette party, and some parents and kids. We set to the training course, which seemed daunting at first, but really was meant to familiarize us with the safety procedures.

The course began with going to the various locations throughout the park, entering the daily code on the door to keep people who haven’t been safety briefed out. We ascended the ladder to the platform for each location, always harnessed in for safety. Then attached to the zipline and made our way across each obstacle.

We were surprised at how many other obstacles they had for us, expecting I guess to just zipline across the park a million times. The obstacles were really challenging though, suspended wooden panel bridges that required at least some stability and upper body strength to hold onto. A few ended with what they call the “Tarzan Swing” which involves a semi-free fall into a rope netting that you must then climb back up. These were the harder ones, but really fun.

The best part, though was the actual zipline, an exhilarating straight shot across the tranquil pond, over the heads of passing kayakers, into a bed of soft mulch. Of course, afterward, there’s the obligatory shoe emptying and brushing off of the mulch from our clothing.

It took about 90 minutes to complete the course. I wish there had been more to do, because I felt like I could have gone all day long. I’m hoping to go back again soon, and seeking any more volunteers who are willing to come along with me.

The Blunder Years

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I was in a bad way when I left for college. That much is clear. I was knee deep in an emotionally, and at times physically, abusive relationship. It became clearer by the day that no one in my life really cared enough about me to help me get out of it. Like most things, the worst of it was ignored, or danced around like the great pink elephant in the room with a black eye and an eating disorder.

It was through a process of sheer denial that I think I even got through the first few weeks of my first semester. I had kept up illusions long enough at orientation to dupe people into thinking I was a normal, well-adjusted, if not eccentric young adult, with absolutely no real problems at all. That did not last long once school actually started.

If I were to catalog it day by day, it would read like a slow descent into hell. But for the sake of brevity and the desire to not rub too much salt in the wounds that are slowly healing, I put myself into increasingly self destructive situations that I am, to this day, still remarking how miraculous it was that I managed to survive.

I was not the kind of person you wanted to be friends with in those days. Although there were some people I was able to glomp on to, the majority of people in my life at that time were equally destructive (both to self and others), unlikable, and desperate. It made for some literal strange bedfellows. The shame of it has overcome me for more than a decade. The worst parts, I’m still not able to truly admit in front of other people or even to myself. It is in these moments I feel the true depth of the damage I did.

I envy people who can look back on their college days with moist-eyed nostalgia. I had some good moments, don’t get me wrong, but the overall experience was probably the darkest part of my life. Still, it’s listed on my linkedin page as part of my profile, so I get occasional updates and notifications about the activities, reunions or mentions in the news.

Recently a woman who I’ve never met began mentioning my alma mater in some press articles she was publishing about women’s colleges. She “friended” me and sent me the links, with a note about how my college was mentioned. I’m hoping that she wasn’t just sending them to me, since her messages were rather generic, and had nothing to do with my major or field of study, nor did it have anything with my current field of employment.

This stranger’s messages irritated me on a level I can’t quite understand. She doesn’t know me, nor could she understand how traumatic my time there truly was. But her persistence in messaging me about these articles rubs me the wrong way. How can I express this to someone who I don’t know? It’s still too raw for me, and honestly, it’s none of her business. I’ve decided to simply stop replying to her messages for now and try to work out the damage I did to myself in due time.

Foto Friday – Storm Clouds

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Happy Foto Friday, everyone! Today we continue our cloud series. The very first thing that I began to photograph obsessively when I first got into photography was the sky. I was obsessed. After a while, though, I branched out into other things. But recently, a summer storm whipped through and in the early evening the sun was setting as the sky cleared. I stood out on my deck and shot these as the sky lit up like fire. Enjoy!

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Sciencey thoughts

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I’m not really religious. I’m not sure about the soul, or what happens after you die. I’ve searched for answers and always come up wanting. But there are some things in science that sort of make sense. Concepts related to energy, chemistry, biology, space and time, those touch on my understanding of myself and my humanity.

The only evidence of a soul that I can reckon is the way I feel being around different kinds of people. Some people light me up in a way, make me feel happy, creative, charged up. Others complete exhaust me, leaving me feel drained, dejected, frustrated and sad. It’s as if some people shared or took valence electrons, or something.

I was talking with a friend about photography, and we happened on the topic of selfies. Although I’m a photographer, and have done portrait photography professionally for years, I’m still quite bad at taking photos of myself. I can do better if there’s someone else taking them. But living in a generation defined by the self-image, I’m a little outside that skill set.

There’s some concept I read about that matter in space changes simply by being observed. Perhaps the same is true for me. When I take pictures of other people, I try to form a bond of sorts. Having the camera in the middle is just incidental. However, if I’m in front of the lens, and no one else is there to shoot it, for me, I’m just, well, artificial. The differentiation between the illusion and the genuine thing is a nuance at best, but the pictures where I’m truly happy are the best.

I’ve heard enough about the theory of infinite variable coexisting universes, as one way of explaining the way things are, to begin to subscribe to the ideas. If there’s one concept that appeals to the indecisive Libra in me, it’s the knowledge, that in the alternate universes that exist opposite mine, the decision I just made was reverse, and the consequences are spilling out like ripples across the pond, like increasing concentric circles, expanding ever more as they drift away. The impact of each choice mirrored through every possible scenario until, maybe, in one perfect place it all fits together and I’m happy.

I read somewhere, maybe even fictionally, that they tested this theory, shooting a laser at a material in which the reflected image was the infinite variances that existed ad infinitum. It was postulated that not only was this proof of their existence, but also gave rise to the idea that these multiverses exist on top of each other, perhaps creating a reason for a thing like black holes and dark matter to begin with.

If this is true, in my mind, I imagine that there must be huge buildups of energy where overlapping areas are high. The just out of reach scenario playing out a mere few universal layers away, and yet does the body know it? Can we sense each other on these other planes? If certain elements are drawn to each other in chemical bonding, so too could we not sense those individuals or elements that draw us in on our own plane of existence? Could our desires for people just be the culmination of better overall success rates as determined by the infinite universal average?

Sometimes, maybe the planes run so parallel, they lay perfectly flat over another. In the synchronicity, do we sense the deja vu effect of experiencing something twice because we really are? That we stand so close to the mirror, we can reach out and touch its reflection. The pan-dimensional high five.

While I don’t know if humanity or any life is in possession of a soul, I can say that I believe existence is bigger than what can be contained in a single lifetime. If we ascribe to the big bang theory (the science thing, not the tv show), the universe began with an explosion, and the expansion from that central point can be seen as ground zero for the dawn of this age. All the matter in the universe has shot out in all directions from this central point, determined by a lot of science, but probably as simple as where is the epicenter of universal gravity. It is thought that the universe will continue to expand from that point until it runs out, and then, in the vacuum be drawn back in as the universe collapses in on itself.

And then what?

Well, the process that the big bang theory postulates sounds like it can be measured in a metric of big bangs, because something happens before and after, right? Things don’t just not exist, do they? So, for me, this process sounds an awful lot like taking a breath, only on a ludicrously large scale. That all the matter that exists, may in fact, not be destroyed, but converted into energy. And it is in that energy, we find all things, including the breath of life, but also wind, sunlight, fire. I wonder if it is possible that on a universal scale, that all the energy has a set limit, that truly if all things are interconnected, for every single action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Perhaps, even on the smallest, barely noticeable scale, each bit of energy I consume or produce has its effect somewhere else in the world, based solely on maintaining the delicate balance of chaos.

But as with all things, nothing is constant, and eventually the universe will hit the end, run out of steam, and then collapse back in on itself. And perhaps in the drawing back in, the pressure will become too great, and it will explode back out again. This time, a whole new set of variations and universes to run the numbers out into infinity. Another roll of the dice, another chance.

 

Back in the swing

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So much has changed in our little guy in the short time we were gone. He seems stronger, smarter, articulating better, more compliant but at the same time, more defiant. These small differences are just amazing to witness, as the steadily sloping bell curve of his awesomeness reaches an apex.

We had a great day. My husband took him to the park in the morning to run off some energy, then they came home for lunch and naptime. In the afternoon, they went back out together, this time to the pool, before we all went out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

I must say how surprised I was that our little guy was so well behaved. Normally, when we go out, his patience wears out way before the food comes, and he always insists on being let out of the high chair. It always ends with me eating cold food, if any at all, and wondering why we even bother to torture ourselves with this ritual.

But this time was different. He went willingly into the chair, and colored the children’s menu blissfully, snacking on the occasional animal cracker. Then he discovered the restaurant’s soundtrack, which I will admit is catchy. He began bopping in his chair along with the music, happy as a clam, and his giggle was infectious. As our food arrived, we were all laughing together and grooving in our chairs.

I cut up his kid’s meal for him, which he was hungry enough to do some pretty good damage to. He managed his meal and I was able to eat mine as well. For the first time, I think ever, we had a real family meal, each of us eating our own food at the same time. And this, my friends, my dear readers, is what I have been waiting for. Not just over the week we were gone; I have been waiting for this moment since the day he was born. The apex moment of quintessential family history. The first family meal. The best possible reward for returning to our lives. I won’t soon forget it.

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