Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Transitions? Closing Time.

I'm so slow.

My wonderfully intuitive cousin Lori shared one of her posts with me, marking the transition of her beautiful daughter to a new stage in life.  The post included a couple photos of Tessa, conscious of being on a threshold and meeting what comes next with joy.  It's wonderful to see the freedom that radiates from her.

Lori ended with an invitation to share our own transitions.  And a music video for the song by Semisonic, "Closing Time."

It was when I started packing that I realized that I do, too, have a transition to share.

We are exactly four years along in the living-separately phase of the divorce.  Making it official is coming r-e-a-l-l-y slowly, duh, but it is coming.  I only just got around to attending the divorce parenting class mandated by our county.  In one of the mercifully few break-into-groups moments one woman said incredulously to me:  "Wait a minute!  You've been in this divorce process for 4 years??? (I've been rereading an old diary, from 2008, when I first acknowledged to myself that it was going to happen.  Then there were at least 2 years ahead of that where I was trying to decide what would be the best course of action.  So, this has been a real slo-mo divorce.)

This may be the last time I stay in the apartment.  In the four years we've done a lot of tweaking of the schedule where the parents have been the ones switching back and forth.  It's gotten old, but the apartment is too small for the boys to stay for a week.  And the rents have gone up so it now costs more than our home mortgage.

A few months ago I was fed up ready and said it was time for him to find a place that would be his.  It was no longer working for us to share the house.  I was tired of coming home to find I was having to step around and move his stuff in order to live.  I'm tired of him operating his business from there, so that even when the house is "mine", he's still in it, working.

Gary has found a place that he can afford that is big enough for the kids to live with him.   He can have his business there.  It's a houseboat at a moorage on one of the islands in the middle of the Columbia.  He's given notice at the apartment and wants to be out by next week.  Since the schedule we've stabilized into had me here every other weekend, it looks like I'm at Closing Time too.

As I pack to leave I'm taking out a heavier load--the extra clothes I've kept in drawers, a number of my books, my toiletries.  I'll be at the house full time now; the boys with me one week, and with Gary the other.  No more packing and moving every other week.  We may have to do some more schedule-tweaking.  Logistics are going to be different.  The apartment is only about 10 blocks away from Connor's school, and it's in the heart of uptown with ready access to public transportation.  That's not easy to give up.

So big changes are afoot, but it's time to get to that other shoe.  Get divorced, already.  Get it done.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Well-Intentioned Trip to California

Tues 912

At the apt at last for some solitude.  I’m stretched pretty thin and grateful for some actual quiet.  It’s odd, because it’s not as if it was that loud at Mom and Dad’s.  And it’s not as if the boys really misbehaved all that much, or even that my parents (particularly my mom) did.  So it’s a little odd that the boys would be saying that she had driven them crazy.

So, all of the elements of a very weird trip:

The nightmare getting out of here.  The suspense and the checking to see if our plane would be flying at all.  The drive to the airport with the trouble beforehand where the car (a Subaru, but with rain, not snow tires) could not get up our driveway and Gary/Connor had to put on chains.  Then one of the chains broke or something and it was scraping all 3 miles down the steep road to the bridge.  The airport more empty than I’d ever seen it, which I’d hoped was a good sign, but turned out to be bad since there were no restaurants open and the boys were hungry.  Our flight delayed a half hour and moved to another gate.  Getting boarded, only to find out that we were going to sit in a tin can for an hour and a half, as we had to be de-iced and were second in line.  Then we sat there for 3 with no food service, although the flight attendants offered us water.  Arriving in San Jose at 1am after some of the worst turbulence the boys have ever experienced, and up close to the worst I have.  Then Dad had told David we were coming, so so much for the element of surprising David for his 50th birthday.  I guess he felt more comfortable having some company waiting with him at the airport and he thought it was too late for my mom.  He went to pick us up around 11, which  seems a little odd on my dad’s part because I texted him when the imminent departure was revealed as a false start and a cruel practical joke.  (We had to put our seat backs and tray tables up and stow our carry-on--to push back 6 feet from the gate!)  At 930pm--our original departure time was 755--I texted him to tell him that the de-icer had run out of solution and had to go get more, which would take about 30 minutes, after which they’d have to take another 45 minutes to de-ice us.  I don’t know why he didn’t figure out that the earliest we’d be leaving the ground at that point would be 11:00.  Yet he said he and David had been at the San Jose Airport since 11.  I might have been able to spell it out more but I buttoned my ‘lip’ because when I texted him saying that I felt like I’d died and gone to hell he texted back, “Keep a stiff upper lip." And, "This too shall pass."  So at that point I decided, “OK.  I’m miserable, there’s no end in sight, and you’re telling me how I should be taking this?  Fine.  I don’t feel like texting you any more.”  And I didn’t, other than an update at 1050 saying that we still had about another 20 minutes of the 45 minute de-icing process.  At that time they were probably at their airport in San Jose.  But still, he should have been able to figure out that we hadn’t even left.  But maybe if he hadn’t been sending me irritating platitudes I would have kept texting him and he’d have had a bit more of a clue.  He probably has no idea how obnoxious that was.

A short trip curtailed further, as well as the reserves the boys and I were in possession of:  In a perfect world we would have gotten there before it was too late Saturday.  Hell, in a perfect world my brothers' birthday wouldn’t have been the same weekend as Connor’s competition  (which was canceled anyway) so we could have had an earlier flight.  We’d have been rested when we got up on Sunday and would have had enough time to go bowling or something before David came over for dinner.  Maybe the boys would have awakened early enough yesterday that we’d have had time to go do something.

My dad said several times that he felt bad because they’d “forgotten” how to entertain kids.  I told him that it wasn’t about them being entertained; it was the circumstances.  It was a quick trip to begin with, and had been severely impacted by the storm in Portland that kept us from getting to San Jose at a reasonable time, leaving very tired and depleted boys, who then slept in so late that there wasn’t really time to do anything else.

Circumstances unfavorable to connection and me feeling a sense of responsibility for them connecting:  Sadly, they don’t have the kind of relationship with my parents where they want to be with them for their own sake.  My parents don’t have an attraction for them where they are happy just being in their company and would be motivated to get up earlier specifically to have more time with them.  So, in a way, their staying in bed was evidence of that.  And it would seem that the solution would be for me to go in there and get them up to force them to go out and pretend to have lots to say and pretend to want to be in their company.  And I think that’s the dilemma that I felt weighed down by:  knowing that my parents are wanting to connect with the boys, and knowing that what they’re looking for isn’t really optional; if the boys don’t have the kind of feeling toward them which would make that all come naturally, they then expect them to pretend.  How my kids feel about my parents becomes about whether or not THEY (the kids) are good people, because GOOD people LOVE their grandparents, and their not feeling particularly loving feelings or desire to be in the company of their grandparents means they must be bad people.  So if you don’t have those feelings inside of you you’d better conjure them up as an act of will, and to the extent you fail to fool yourself is the extent to which you are weak-willed and contemptible.

At least I don’t feel that K and J’s kids can one-up mine at all as far as pretending to feel compatibility and coziness with my parents.  In fact, I think that my parents, my mom in particular, are inclined to attribute coldness and indifference to them, but it’s not really fair that they do.

Remembering something that a guy I knew in high school said once:  “Courtesy is given, respect is earned.”

So the timing of the trip was horrible.  The boys had to leave in the middle of a rare snowstorm and they’d have just as soon stayed in town and enjoyed.  Especially since school was closed yesterday.  So, it’s like all this cool stuff happened that they missed because of going to Calif, where they were tired and cranky most of the time.  And then they were even crankier because they wanted to enjoy being snowed in.

Then there was all this history homework that Scott had because he’d failed to realize that what he was doing in class he was also supposed to be doing at home; and what he had done in class was spend all his time on 1or 2 elements out of about 10.  He had some major catching up to do.

We hadn’t completed everything by the time we left for the airport (and it had taken a huge effort and lots of his rage lashing against me to get as much done as we did), and we wasted great big shitloads of time cramped on the plane.  He didn’t want to do any of it at my mom and dad’s.  And since a lot of it was poster stuff, it needed to wait until he got home.  I suppose he could have finished up the final draft of his Vikings project, but there just weren’t that many waking hours.

So, I just feel kind of bad about all of this.  I feel bad that the trip timing screwed things up for the boys; I feel bad that they missed what would have been really fun for them; I feel bad for my parents who would really like to connect with them and don’t have the capacity to be introspective about what they need to do to make connection possible (and come from a background that would put the burden on the boys and blame them if connection isn’t forthcoming); it was definitely stressful for me to never be sure whether or not it would spiral out of control between the two of them, especially with the aforementioned ordeal and late hours in getting there.  It was just another trip that didn’t line up right for there to be good experiences, and in the absence of good feelings I’m afraid it’s easier to think badly of my boys, and more particularly Scott.  And Scott sometimes makes it easy for people to think badly of him.  

It seems we’ve had a run of disappointing trips to California.

And it wasn’t for lack of their trying, either.  They really wanted to have some fun things to do with the boys.  And while it seems like the boys were inclined to blame them, THEY, the BOYS were the ones who stayed in bed and so didn’t leave time for anything else.  And me, I simply didn’t have the energy to not only just sweep them out of bed, but create the atmosphere that would sweep away their resentment and help them to at least keep an open mind.

I understand that both boys don’t understand the bigger context of their discontent, which is that our already short trip had been significantly shortened further, as had our  resilience in just getting there. There simply wasn't time to do some things that might have made for some better memories.

But then the coup de grace was finding a message from his English teacher Allie saying Scott had not done any of the classwork that they’d been working on for a week in their research project.  So, in the past 2 weeks, there’s been an issue with Scott’s math that required a struggle, the stuff with history, and now THIS?  So when I sent an email in response to Allie’s I copied his science teacher Carolyn too because god knows what else is lurking out there that he’s supposed to have completed and hasn’t. 

I got that message just before getting on the return flight to Portland and decided it would be best to wait before talking about it with him.    Then when we’d landed and were driving home Scott started freaking out in the car about how he had too much to do, hates school, doesn’t want to go to school.  Then once we got home he was demanding that I go talk to him in the bedroom and once I was in there he was crying and saying he had too much to do and I was feeling like I was going insane.  I was actually becoming impatient with him and wanting him to just buck up because he was wasting his time with crying and wailing.  I tried to point out that the longer we stayed in there the shorter was his time to get it done and that he needed to just get started and he’d feel better if he did.  So I didn’t bring up the Allie stuff, and didn’t even bring it up this morning.  But, I sure as hell do wonder what it was he was doing in class if they were doing all this research that was supposed to be going into his folder and his was “empty”.  Did he look like he was working, I asked in the email I sent this morning.  What on earth was he doing when everyone else is working, if they have stuff to show for it and he does not?  At least with the history class he did have pages and pages of notes, even if they were only answering one question instead of about 6 or 7.  At least it looks like he was doing something.  What was he doing in Allie’s class, and how did she not notice he’d got nothin’?  And, is it asking too much of her to ask her to monitor him and see how he’s doing with these classwork assignments?  If nothing else it seems like this is an indicator that you can’t just assume without checking that he is accomplishing something meaningful.  And it certainly warrants more questions:  why did this happen?  Did he not understand the assignment?  Did he not understand it was part of a bigger assignment?

I forgot to mention that he’d also hurt his foot climbing a fence at the high school by my parents’ house and was off-and-on complaining about it.  He said something about feeling like he had to go to the doctor.  There was some mild swelling.  He’d been able to get back to my parents'.  And while he insisted on using crutches (my parents happened to have some), he wasn’t using them all the time, and he’d do some fooling around with Connor that I don’t think he could have done if he’d injured it seriously.  Just watching how he used it unconsciously when he wasn’t thinking about it kind of told me it wasn’t seriously hurt.  But periodically he’d think about it and say he couldn’t go to school with it.  At one point he said that Gary always takes him to the doctor when he gets hurt  (Gary tends to overreact). 

He was a basket case last night.  Kept saying he couldn't go back to school with a hurt foot.  And he said I wasn’t being myself, either.  That I wasn’t talking to him the way I usually do.  And I’m not sure if it was because I was just so depleted that I couldn’t take him to the place where he seems to regain his equilibrium—in other words a failure of ability on my part—or if he really needed ‘buck up’ kind of talk.  Because he was hurting himself by spending all of that time crying when he could have taken a big chunk out of what he had to do if he’d just get started.  It was a vicious cycle, I think, where he realized that the crying was keeping him from doing what would make him feel better, and that very fact—that he was crying and not getting started—made him want to cry more and made it harder to get started.  I think he was really looking for me to help him find a way to where he COULD get started, but with an easier heart—rather than the will-driven, stomach lurching starting when everything in his body is screaming against it.  I have a lot of sympathy for that, and in fact, wonder if that’s analogous to what’s going on with me where I can’t seem to get started exercising and finishing up this divorce stuff. 

It really would have been so much kinder to have had our flight canceled, well before we left to drive to the airport.

P.S.  I actually was proud of my sons.  They bore up well under the ordeal of the flight to California and didn't make things worse for themselves or others around them.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Another possibility

My counselor suggests this one:  Doldrums as Protective Screen

In other words, awful as this period in my life feels, it's a firewall to shield me from something worse.

Or, it's like the wall of background radiation from the Big Bang, beyond which humans have been unable to penetrate.

It does have a bedrocky feel.

In the world of insight psychology the theory is that the obstacles to living fully are the very defenses we put up in order to adapt to a demanding world when we were newly conscious beings.  We warped ourselves in order to placate those we were dependent upon for survival.  (Additionally, those we were warping ourselves to please were themselves warped by their own adaptations.  So we adapt to their adaptations.)  (Not all of us were subservient; some of us warped ourselves in order to defy those we were dependent upon.  I myself was too afraid of pain to be heroic)

If I'm understanding Shannon correctly, my decision to go-along meant leaving my Soul behind. Feeling deadened is in some ways preferable to feeling the full significance of the realization that those we depend upon are fallible and untrustworthy.  Apparently knowing fully just how capricious my guardians were was so terrible that I had to protect myself from that knowledge by blaming myself whenever our paths crossed.  I had to sacrifice myself in favor of them, and whatever it was I did in myself to account for that set up patterns in my behavior that doomed me to repeating the same patterns over and over.

And it's true that there seemed to be a cyclical, patterned, almost pre-ordained predictability to my relationships (especially romantic) that were infuriating, yet implacable.  In order to keep the people I loved, I had to be different from who I really was.

So, maybe the Doldrums is about returning to an experience which was a consequence of having renounced my True Self in order to get along with those who needed it of me in order that they could live comfortably within themselves.  According to the theory, my next developmental task is to feel the feelings that I avoided feeling by opting for deadening instead.  Which I have no idea how to do.  I have no idea how to access feelings that hypothetically would have destroyed me to feel as an infant and so hypothetically this preverbal self opted to deny herSelf in order to survive.

In some ways it sounds like so much shit.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

So is there a cause?

I'm three years now into the separation from my husband.  Maybe that's a cause of the doldrums, lingering in this limbo.

We're tinkering with the rotation, where he and I switch between the house and an apartment while our sons stay in the house. For a while making the change on a weekly basis seemed too often; it seemed I was packing and moving constantly.  So we expanded the times between to two weeks.  It was easier on me, but the boys began to complain.  Part of the issue, they said, is that they felt they were spending far more time with Gary than me.  And it's more than a matter of perception; they are right.  Gary has kept his home office, so even when he lives at the apartment, he is at the house daily.  When I'm at the apartment I'm at the apartment.  This has been especially noticeable in the summer months when the boys are home from school.  Now that school has started there should be some mitigation since they're gone when he's there.

We decided to speak to their perceptions of the lopsidedness with a 9 days Debora-on and 5 days Gary-on schedule.  I have every-other Tuesday off from work, and thought if I had every-other Saturday through Tues at the apartment I'd get my break from parenting, but still be there with them during the important parts of the week.

This is just a stopgap.  There are other reasons the Debora and Gary shuffle hasn't been working optimally and I'm eager to address that by having the boys begin to be the ones who rotate.  I think after three years of separation they're prepared.  The apartment, however, is a one-bedroom, and is too small for them to spend a week at a time.  The rent has increased, and a two-bedroom within the building is out of reach for Gary.  It's too bad, since it's just down the street from Connor's high school.  That has worked well.

So Gary needs to find a place that's big enough for the three of them two weeks a month.  He's talking about looking in the area of Scott's school, since the light rail nearby would make it convenient to Connor's school as well.

Before he can find the place he has to have a dependable income.  And there's the rub.  For at least a year I have been paying the mortgage and household expenses on one place and the rent on the other.  He is self-employed and is getting his health insurance from my employment.  This hasn't left much discretionary income and I have grown weary of it.

So it's likely that this is another source of the stuck feeling.

Gradually this is putting the squeeze on me. The discomfort of doing nothing is becoming equal-or-greater to the discomfort of dealing with the legal minutiae of divorce.  It took so much effort just to do the separation that I've basically been resting these past 3 years, and gathering for the next step.

Two of my friends have passed me by in gathering their resolve, getting their legal ducks and docs in a row, and finalizing their divorces.  They've been kind enough to share the benefit of their experiences so I'm not totally reinventing the wheel.

It's painful how long it took for me to go online and find the website to download the appropriate papers (Filing For Dissolution (Divorce), Co-Petitioners, Cases With Children--form 9A) Eventually I got them printed and slowly I've been filling them out.  I'm allergic to legalese and the tedium of wading through. Currently I'm hung up on the child support worksheets.  I realize it'll probably be me that pays support since I have the greater income.  But how do we calculate his when it's so capricious?

This is why it's taking me years.

And maybe it's what's sucking the life out of me, so that while I long to write, I can't.  I feel like someone at a party who opens her mouth, pauses, then closes it again.  I have the desire to say something, only to find a vacancy.  My private writings, my diaries, bear witness.


Monday, September 2, 2013


1.  A belt of calms and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans;  noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days of weeks

2.  A state of inactivity or stagnation, as in business or art

3.  A dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits

All in a hot and copper sky,The bloody Sun, at noon,Right up above the mast did stand,No bigger than the Moon.Day after day, day after day,We stuck, no breath no motion;As idle as a painted shipUpon a painted ocean.
          Samuel Taylor Coleridge:  Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

After setting that down yesterday I found myself in the same frustrating paralysis I find myself in today, and indeed have been for months.  The winds of inspiration aren't blowing and I put up my sail only to see it sag dispiritedly.

Dead in the water.

My writing has come to a standstill and I can barely muster the energy to read books or keep up with the news.  Facebook is the path of least resistance.

I remember reading somewhere that a key to ending writer's block is to describe the bricks of the cell one is imprisoned in.  Brick by brick.

The Truth shall set you free.

Maybe I can take that literally.

So maybe I can generate a little wind by Telling The Truth about what life is like in the Doldrums.  it's not an original thought.  My counselor Shannon suggested it.

The trouble is, this is where I usually fall silent.  So maybe this will be the first Truth of the Doldrums.  A great big Void.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Miss...

I so miss blogging, regularly.  I miss being able to count on days with blocks of time to fill with my writing and uninterrupted thinking.  

Even when I was an at-home mom and during the school year could count on, with some exceptions, 5 days a week of about 6 hours' alone time, that time seemed to slip through my fingers.  

Now, other than weekends, I have one day off every other week, as I work my .9 FTE schedule (72 hrs every two weeks, vs 80).  I left a job that had unhealthy dynamics for one with more professional boundaries, but in doing so had to increase hours to get the least costly health insurance option; also I had to let go of three day weekends since I came in to a large organization with no seniority and all the Mondays and Fridays off were taken.

Funny, the choices that so often mimic the alternatives of The Little Mermaid:  to be with the one she loved she had to adopt legs, which hurt her with every step.  When I'm a more enlightened person will choices be less fraught, less conflicted?

We're right at 3 years of our separation, my still-husband and I.  I've needed this long rest to gather for the next step, which is to finalize and legalize the dissolution of this marriage.  Hopefully it won't be too difficult, since Oregon is a no-fault state and I'm fine with a 50/50 split of our assets.  The holy grail is to be able to do this without lawyers, just the filing fee.  (But you've got to start looking at the forms you've downloaded, Debora!)

Our situation is financially complicated in that Gary does not have a regular benefitted job.  He's worked very hard since his layoff to generate a steady income, but has not yet found traction.  Thus he can't afford his own household and so I'm supporting two, and we're dipping into savings to stay afloat.  This isn't sustainable, and at some point I fear I'm going to have to withdraw my assistance.  It would be so much easier if he was already self-supporting.

I've learned a lot in these past 6 years as I approached the decision to separate from Gary.  Six years ago I would have thought I was going to still be together with him as a (unhappy) couple, trying to live with the misery and largely blaming myself.  I had been trained for such a life my entire childhood:  doing what it took to belong and blaming myself when I felt bad.

The trouble was, I could see the negative effects it was having on Connor and Scott, and it was breaking my heart.  They were beginning to behave like angry children, and I feared for their future.

What seems very interesting is that I’ve learned a lot from what I’ve been able to not-do, that is, when it’s come to my boys, I’ve been able to refrain from putting the obstacles in their path that would have forced them to adapt (except for the bad marriage obstacle.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t spare them that, and they’ve probably had to make adaptations that are not good for them.  I suppose one of my hopes of having separated from Gary so they can really see the components of what made our marriage bad, is that they can clearly see—what makes communication and relationships go bad…and that it’s not them.  It’s continuously being up against someone who throws obstacles in front of being True, and who doesn’t take responsibility and instead blames).  It’s interesting I could do for my boys what I couldn’t do for me; although in doing it for my boys I was instructed in how to do it for me.  That’s true.  At every step that I was pressurred to teach my boys to turn on themselves and shut themselves down in the same way I’d been taught to turn on myself and shut myself down, I couldn’t do it.  Or if I gave way to the pressure it felt so bad that I had to back away from it and tell them I was sorry, because I was.  It was Wrong.

I miss following blogs.  I miss my cousins', my friends from far away, the friends I've never met.  I miss the thrill of recognition of  kindred souls, who have allowed their minds to run free.

Monday, November 19, 2012


“…but now, when I think back to all that happened afterward, I get angry.  Because she may indeed have felt sorry, but regret is not repentance, and that is what we have not seen in Beulah, repentance that owns its part—that is, like the Word tells us, at once sorrow and self-knowledge and a changing of the mind.  (emphases mine)  
Fire In Beulah by Rilla Askew

My intentions went awry.  Too early to shop at Good Will for the pants I need for work tomorrow, so I retreat to the apartment to write.  Pants I used to fit into easily now don’t.  Shit.  And I’m really not eating that much.  I do drink regularly, though, and I’ve wondered more than once that if I quit I’d naturally lose some weight.

Rereading last night the events surrounding Scott’s birth.  There's a lot to forgive there.

Martha and I talked a little at breakfast about Family as a sacralized notion.  I don’t really like the word, ‘notion’, but I don’t know what to call an abstraction that has become sacralized (god, have I been using that word a lot.).  An Article of Faith, maybe.  I think it is from that perspective that my father is coming  as he plans the Orcas Island family trip next summer.   I suppose that’s why divorce is so frowned on in his world.  It’s because it besmirches the abstraction of Marriage as another article of sanctity.   

It’s funny to think of these ideas of Marriage, Family, God, Country as a sort of pantheon of Beliefs which I get an image of as being a smooth front presented to the world.  What goes on behind those fronts is another matter altogether.

My insistence is that what’s inside match the front, so that the bunny is solid chocolate, not hollow.  I live with people who are determined that it is the exterior that counts; it’s more important than how anyone inside feels.  “We are a happy family, and that’s an order!” is kind of the imperative.  If you don’t FEEL happy within the bubble, then there’s something wrong—with YOU.  You are morally bereft if you don’t participate in the happy family, by trying to make others happy, and being happy yourself.  And if you’re not happy, then it’s selfish to let anyone know, because part of making other people happy is doing a good job of convincing them that you are.

I can just see how the worlds collide.  The abstractions that underpin Family, Marriage, God, Church, Country contain lots of unwritten rules about what is a trespass.  My dad felt trespassed by Connor’s innocent use of the word “balls”.  Some cherished notion of sanctity was violated.  Somewhere it is (un)written that there are Words that are inherently bad, so bad, that anyone who says them is  polluted.  And that he, as Elder/Grandfather, has been dishonored because 'the word' was said in his presence.  Thus ‘respect your elders’ was violated.  Honor thy mother and thy father.  

It seems that there are those who take advantage of the Sanctity of Family and Marriage and operate manipulatively under cover.  My grandfather comes to mind—he used the umbrella of Family to operate like a jerk, and have it tolerated, because of the sanctity of Father.  He used the abstraction to get his own way with impunity, because to oppose him was to damage the institution.  It appears that in each family bubble, there are some who feel free to run rampant and not apply the same rules to themselves as they apply to others.  

It seems like there are a whole lot more families that are in the hollow bunny brand of family, than the solid.  I want the solid.  I want to be with my parents and enjoy it, not because I’m supposed to, but because I do.  

Whistle-blowers are often mistreated.  It’s easy to see why:  they have undercut an illusion that all is well.  People are mad at them for undermining their delusions, not at whatever it is the whistle-blower has uncovered.  The Secretary of Defense of the United States, Donald Rumsfeld, was small enough to publicly name the soldier who did the right thing and turned in the pictures at Abu Ghraib.   The soldier is now a pariah in his home town and can't go home.

I suppose in a way, that’s what I've been spending years coming to terms with and what has fueled my writing.  I’m working through a realization that my family wants a hollow bunny, and I want a solid one.  And me living from a solid-bunny world in their hollow-bunny one is bound to cause some discord.  I think all my life I’ve realized that there are certain abstractions I’m supposed to be living, and there are feelings about them I’m supposed to be feeling that I’m not.  (I remember  as a very young child admitting to myself that I didn’t ‘love’ God.  I felt so sad, and so bad when I let myself know that.).  (I also remember, as a college student, having an awareness that I may have to ‘leave’ my family; that the life I was choosing would be unacceptable to them and they may cut me off.)  I guess as a very young child it didn’t take long to realize that it was best to go along and pretend.  Then I felt unworthy when my feelings didn’t match what I was supposed to be feeling:  worshipping God?  Prayer? 

One solution was to try to conjure up an intellectualization of what ‘worship’ feels like; what ‘loving god’ feels like, what ‘patriotism’ feels like, and then ‘feel’ them through will power.  In my quiet moments of self-honesty I found they weren’t enough to sustain me, these ‘feelings’ that required such energy to maintain.

An exception was the time that I embraced fundamentalist Christianity.  This time the feelings felt realer, and I was surrounded by a lot of others to help me keep on feeling them.  I wonder if that really is what happened when we moved to Virginia, was that I lost that support system—and that indeed was the spring from which I drew my feeling of relationship with God.  I hadn’t believed it, because that was the explanation of my family:  without the church, that church, basically my religiosity would go away.  At 14 years old, I thought that my relationship with God was enough, and should be.  My relationship with God shouldn’t depend on a certain group of people.  That was how I saw it.  This is the first time I’ve ever quite understood the significance of that group.  I do remember having an episode in Virginia of what I called, a ‘satanic attack’, where the core of my feelings about god were shaken.  (I’d started reading the Old Testament, which was pretty harsh.  And when I realized that the white people who came and exterminated the people they found on this continent were using the very rationale that the Israelites had used to invade Canaan--in fact, god gave them that rationale--, I was horrified.  I couldn’t reconcile this.  That may have been my first experience of my faith being shaken by some element of moral contradiction in the bible, and I was wary about threats ever since.  I remember in Northglenn in social studies a unit on interpersonal discussion and feeling so afraid that listening to others in the way we were being encouraged to do would cause me to lose my faith.)

 In Virginia I reached out by calling a Nazarene church to talk with the pastor's wife “Mrs. Brown”.  She was very kind and gave me the name of a girl my age I could call to talk to.  I talked with each of them, Mrs. Brown more than once, I think.  And then I was coming out of the office that had the phone (back in the days where they were connected to the wall) and my father happened to be passing at that moment and he wanted to know what I was doing in there.  Maybe it wasn’t an accident.  Maybe he’d actually heard me talking.  Maybe he even heard what I was saying; I don’t remember what it was, now.  When I told him I was talking on the phone he asked who with and I told him “my Friend”.  I don’t remember at which point I went to hug him and he pushed me away and told me he didn’t understand me.  And the sound in his voice said he didn’t want to, either.  It sounded like a giving up.  It was that kind of “I just don’t understand you.”  I’m appreciating a little the situation the 14 yr old me was in.  Just moved from a place she loved, with friends who loved her too, and a support system for her developing spirituality.  The days were long in Virginia and pretty unbroken, except for some trips over to my parents’ friends’ house to use their pool, or to use the pool at the military base nearby.  A lot of book reading and television.  Some babysitting—the mother kind of Bohemian who introduced me to Siddhartha and gave it to me to read.  I didn’t, because it scared me. > So I was bored and shaken by the old testament stuff I was reading and struggling alone to come up with the answers to the questions that were being raised.  I was judging myself for how I was feeling, and I felt like I’d lost my connection to god.  My father indicated that he thought I was to blame for my loneliness because I’d “never made an effort” to go and meet some people my age in the neighborhood of the house we were living in.   We were renting someone else’s home, which had forbidden areas that we’d never had before.  We were only to be there for the summer, then my father was going to Viet Nam and we were going to Colorado to live and be near grandparents and relatives. 

I realize now that my father was probably hurt when he found me on the phone.  I’d reached out to a stranger instead of him.  He couldn’t understand that; and he treated it as if I’d done something wrong.  He pushed a vulnerable and confused 14 year old away from him and never ever returned to say he was sorry.  He probably thought I was the one who should be sorry.

Anyway, that was the context where I did have a ‘satanic attack’ which basically was a sort of peaking of psychic pain and I would cry and cry.  I can see now that my parents thought that the church in New York had scared me, and that I thought the literal devil was coming to get me.  I think that’s what I said when I went to their room in the middle of the night after crying and crying alone for a while.  I did reach out to them then, and I think I said, something like ‘he’s’ –I can’t remember the exact words.  Maybe I said ‘he’ was ‘tempting’ me, or ‘testing’ me.  I almost get hold of the word, and then it disappears..  It wasn’t my word, it was the word or words in a small booklet I’d read by an evangelist.  I kept it in my little diary; wonder if that’s still there.  Maybe it was, ‘testing’.  Maybe it was ‘trying to tempt me away.’  They wanted to know who and I said, ‘Satan’.  So they probably didn’t realize I was feeling under attack at a spiritual, core beliefs level—not a literal devil.  That would make the things my dad said at some point make sense; where he criticized the church I’d given my heart to, said that God doesn’t want us to be ‘scared’.  He thought the church had ‘scared’ me with visions of hell.  That misunderstanding intensified my isolation.

I’m just realizing how very alone I felt, and actually was.  But that was when I started seriously writing.    Some enduring part of me was born in that time.

I should probably pause here and go over to Good Will which is surely open now.

Before I go, though, I remember that that time felt like a very terrible time to me.  I felt forsaken by god.  The doubts I was feeling were tearing me.  I remember finding bible verses that gave comfort; I read religious books.  Bought one at Walgreen’s bookstore:  “How to Find Peace With God” by Billy Graham.  I bought another; can’t remember its name.  For a while I looked back on that time as a sort of standard to measure psychic pain against.  I saw it as having been, really, really bad and I feared ever feeling that way again.

It’s true my relationship with god was never quite the same, though I tried to make it be for quite a number of years before I gave it up.  When I did surrender, it was actually like a physical sensation.  I remember having read in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” about Phaedrus having felt a ‘slipping’ inside.  That was how I characterized the sensation inside me.

Perhaps what I had nearly 6 years ago was one of those experiences—a peaking of psychic pain, a satanic attack.  It came after a while of thinking I could make things work with Gary; with his mother.  For a while I believed I could cover myself with a membrane where their behavior wouldn’t penetrate and wound.  If I could make myself impermeable to the things that were making me so miserable with them—their expectations, their demands that they get their own way and be able to act with impunity and expect me to be the one who would give way, and betray no hint that it was their demands I was giving way to—if I could do that, then at least 50% of the conflicts we were having would be gone.  I thought I could do it then.  In fact, I was ready to stop counseling.  I thought I’d achieved what I’d come into counseling for.  I thought I’d achieved what I was lacking—some inner serenity and a certain ability to slow time to observe in slow-motion what was happening so I didn’t have my options limited by my reactions.  I blamed myself for that.  I began to realize that I had to become nearly enlightened to be around them.  So that if Gary treated me as if I’d just done something wrong when I hadn’t, rather than react I might be able to say, “would you like to restate that?” or something artfully deflecting.  Or I might be able to say, “What are you really wanting?” or “what are you mad at?”

I guess those were my choices to paths for staying.  Go numb, or get enlightened.  Let Gary have the privilege he seems to be claiming, and his mother claims—the right to never have their actions questioned while they did things that were hurtful in service to themselves.

He honestly doesn’t seem to think that it’s an unreasonable demand, not even request, that someone else see the world so perfectly through his eyes that they would behave as if they were him.  He doesn’t seem to see that it's not reasonable to treat questions like challenges—mutiny, even.  Or criticism.  And he doesn’t seem to realize that these are the things that caused the erosion of the bonds that tied me to him.  And, Marriage, Husband, Family, as sacred abstractions aren’t enough to keep me in it.

And so that puts me at odds with people who see the Institution as primary, and that people exist to serve the institution, and not the other way around.

Perhaps this is part of the next evolution of culture.  That’s why the quote from “Fire In Beulah” appealed so much to me.  If institutions and Religion and God and Family and Marriage  and Church are meant to keep human beings together, paradoxically, they are perpetuating separateness.  Because the much vaunted ‘forgiveness’ (which is usually demanded of the victim with no demands on the perpetrator) really only works when it’s a meeting and unity of two.  It’s the self-knowledge, repentance, and genuine sorrow of the one who owns what they’ve done and sees what effect it has on someone else that initiates a process of opening hearts and restoration of unity.  I was thinking about going to the grocery store a little later and wanting to go through the self-serve check-out to avoid meeting whats-his-face snotty checker when I was reminded of an odd encounter I had years ago at a mountain shop that used to be at the Uptown Center.  It was a family-owned business.  I think it might have been a misunderstanding between a son and me where we had sharp words.  I think I walked away—it had to do with my crampons, they were in that shop for some reason.  Maybe to get new strapping.  Maybe I asked when they’d be ready and he assumed I was criticizing him because they weren’t ready already.  I think I paused outside of the store, then went back in.  Perhaps I realized the nature of the misunderstanding; something made it seem like a good thing to turn around and go back in.  I think I did it right away.  I don’t think I just came back later to get the crampons.  And we both had a genuinely smiling reconciliation where he admitted his mistake and I mine.  There was real joy, real unity there with a stranger I never saw again.  But I realize that to be so honest, and vulnerable--that’s what’s demanded of the new humanity.  Evolution has funneled humans into community in order to survive, and religion is a mechanism that evolved to keep humans in community (if tribally).  Ironically at this point it perpetuates separateness.  I had more oneness in the moment with the guy in the outdoor store than I’ve had with people who are supposed to be close to me:  Dad, Mom, Gary, Gary’s mom.  That’s not to say that those moments of true meeting and forgiveness haven’t happened with my own family, but they didn’t keep happening.   They were the exception.  What's unspoken is, ‘we can’t bear to see what we’ve done, and so we’re going to blame you if you try to make us, and what we want from you is that you forgive us without our having to see what we’ve done or participate with you in the forgiveness process.’

I suppose the best I can do is live my solid-bunny world within their hollow-bunny world, and have faith that I will be able to deal with the fall-out.  And I'll cherish a hope that I can find other solid-bunny people who want their relationships to be authentic.