Being a “born again christian,” I was a virgin when married at 22, and expected my in laws to be the loving people they claimed to be because ‘god is love.’ Although I challenged their immodest opinions about my ‘too short’ skirts, we were close and Chuck and I visited their home most weekends, washing our laundry, while renting an apartment an hour away. Being an RN, teaching at Cincinnati’s nursing school, I was excited to be able to bring home a foster preemie baby from the nursery, my husband and I being emergency certified. Our first daughter Erin loved having a baby sister whom we named Toby. But my in laws did not love Toby. Toby was biracial and not allowed to be in the same living space with the rest of the family. “Of course, we are friends with the black people, but they are not (good enough) to be part of the family,” my in laws would say. Looking back, I am a bit horrified that I went along, allowing Toby to be only in the lower level of their home, where Chuck and I slept. When my father-in-law spoke to me alone in their kitchen, he said something like: “How could you disrespect your mother-in-law’s feelings about Toby; she’s from Mississippi.” I replied, “How could you not love an innocent baby no matter what color they are?” with angry tears forming a barrier to his angry voice. That was in the seventies. (Seven years later, my mother-in-law apologized, admitting that she had been wrong.) I have been married 3 more times, after Chuck came out as homosexual six years into our ‘christian’ marriage, which faith we have gladly left behind, myself doing so during my second marriage which ended amicably as did my third. My fourth marriage father-in-law walked me down the Rose Inn aisle to my soul mate Gregory. I was well-accepted as being helpful to their struggling son on his way to a divorce from his ten year marriage. I was happy to become step mom of his ten year old daughter Sara, but not to be the brunt of his accusations that I was having affairs and not telling him. His distrust ripped open the pain of my heart to angry-sad sobs, deeply buried, unaware of their existence in me; leading me to primal therapy, healing me to where I am more able to authentically love Gregory and mySelf despite his lies and anger escalating when I left him after being together six years. During our long separation, before our divorce, my in-laws were purported to not like me anymore. In 2006, Gregory apologized for all the lies and verbal abuse, and has expressed his appreciation for my love many times since. I had consistently reached out to Gregory with birthday phone calls and holiday cards, since 1998 when I had left, because I will always love him as Van Gogh stated: “Love is eternal: its aspects may change but not its essence.” Therefore, I showed up at my in laws door one day in 2010, unannounced, apprehensive, yet they wholeheartedly welcomed me. In.
NEVER AGAIN will I see daddy dying in 1977 birth another baby see bloody menstrual cycle own a home although two were sold pay federal taxes to support wars retire at 65…now 67 believe in a religion keep secrets…they tear you apart be afraid to Feel my Feelings: will I ever use the F word feel ashamed of my tears which I rub into my cheeks as natural moisturizer. hate my mother speak in anger feel guilty for dancing drive over 75mph, maybe party hardy (hehsheheshe) be judgmental love sparingly miss 10:43(am or pm), saying I love you, which time is now. will I forget your love for me daddy. You are in my heart never (again) truly gone.
“You know what I mean?” I hear Marcus, my client say about every two sentences. I hear other clients say this common phrase frequently, as well as my eldest daughter and other family and friends. Sometimes I point it out, hearing that they were not aware of doing so. I ask them what they make of this. I guess I want someone to understand is the common answer. Recently, I have become more aware of hearing how basic and frequent is this need….how most of us are feeling insecure in that we need to repeat, ‘you know what I mean’ over and over again. Just this month, a new client, Debbie, began to cry, saying “Sorry.” I hear this apology for crying on TV frequently. I wonder how often I have said ‘sorry’ for crying in the past, as I no longer hear myself saying it in the present. While growing up in the 50s and 60s, I remember having one dream repeatedly: me sliding down the hill on my butt, next to our garage, with my head landing inside a sack of flour. When my head emerged, my dad would be washing off my long Pinocchio-nose with a washcloth. That dream fell away in my young adult hood, as I continued to question my strict born again religious upbringing; my dad encouraging me to question my mother’s insistent faith although he believed the same bible more liberally. I can still see my16 year old self ascending the basement stairs into our kitchen, telling my dad how I was realizing how great it is to be a unique human being who could hear myself. Still, I was too insecure to trust my own feelings and beliefs which my 10 year old voice questioned and fought with my mother. I needed my parents love and approval too much…that it wasn’t until 1984, when I am 38, that I let go of religion and began my long trek back to my spiritual self. Yes, my parent’s house was never locked, which tradition I continue to this day in an apartment located five miles outside the city of Ithaca, NY. And, I live alone. But, to ask a question in a large group, say at a workshop; my heart still pounds loudly as a kettle drum. No longer a snare drum. Yes, three years ago, I asked a stranger, a six-foot-husky truck driver to give my bike with a flat-tire and me (life, I first typed) a lift ten miles back…realizing too late that the passenger door was broken, so there was no way out if this man decided to take advantage of me. But, more often than not I trusted the Universe to keep me safe…I attribute this trust to my dad whom I could always depend on to do what he said he would do for me…to write in many letters that he loves me, although he was too afraid to say it to me in person. Yes, I cheer my granddaughters with yelling enthusiasm (from greek, en+theos = in god) as they play soccer despite my son-in-law saying he wishes me to not be so loud because his friends make judgmental comments. But, can I trust that my eldest daughter loves me when she ignores my phone calls and says she doesn’t trust me with her vulnerable feelings, like my clients do? Yes, now I can shed a tear or two with my clients as I say, “I’m glad I no longer get angry, because I carried anger for way too long.” But, can I say “I love you” to my clients. After 20 years, I now do. Yes, I believe ‘they know what I mean.’
It’s 1984. I am 38 years old. I finally have the courage to not only listen to my 10 year old voice that tells me it is not true what the bible says: that you will go to hell if you do not accept jesus as your savior, but also to take action to leave my family’s religion. Then, I could sing with John Lennon, imagining a world without religion, where we can be one, in love. It was scarier to hear my 12 year old daughter tell me that I will go to hell by leaving this soul-crushing belief of the bible. We both have tears caressing our cheeks, as she looks piercingly into my eyes from her upper bunk bed. Overcoming the fear of being rejected by my family and friends was hard enough, but the repercussions linger as years later in 1998, I am at a greyhound bus station’s restroom seeing a mother threatening to hit her 4 year old daughter if she doesn’t wash her hands. I want to speak as I glare from the doorway, “Please don’t yell at her: I know you may be tired, but you are scaring her and she deserves to be treated respectfully, as much as you do.” I am fearfully silent, and ashamed. Back on the bus, I see a father swat his son on the head, as I turn around and speak again only with my disapproving sad-blue eyes. I chide myself and promise to speak up the next time I see a scared child. While hiking one day, I see a mother walking way ahead of a crying 4-5 year old who is wailing, “Wait for me mommy!” I catch up to the mother and say something like, you know your daughter feels afraid that you will abandon her when you walk so far ahead. She picks up her daughter and surprises me with, “I didn’t realize she would feel that way.” I continue to hike with a lighter skip in my step. That same year of 1998, my then 6 year old granddaughter called me from California, after calling her mom in Baltimore, to get my phone number. She was visiting her other grandmother, whom had sent her to her room when she cried. She asked me to tell her grandmother Ruth that it’s okay to cry and she shouldn’t have to go to her bedroom. I was thrilled that she was courageous enough to put action into her right to cry without shame. By the 21st century, I intervene with parents, strangers in public places, feeling confident in everyone’s right to protect children. In 2013, I become a first-time actress in a local play called: PARENT STORIES. I monologue a story my ‘son-in-law’ tells me at our 2012 birthday restaurant dinner. His 8 year old son Kii was playing outdoors with his 5 year old friend where they found a coin. When it was time to leave for home, Kii began to cry when his dad said he should let his friend take the coin because he was younger. Kii shouted through his tears, “But I found the coin!” His dad said something like, “It’s not worth crying about,” to which Kii cried louder: “I’ll cry when I am 8 and I will cry when I am 21!” A month or so later after the play performance that I felt scared to be in, I met the married couple, Sarah and Godfrey, who directed Parent Stories at another play called Gypsy. Sarah emailed me a couple of days later: Godfrey was crying at Gypsy and she had said to him, “Don’t cry honey,” to which Godfrey replied, “I’ll cry when I’m 46 and I’ll cry when I’m 84.”
In the past, I would feel embarrassed to pick up pennies off the ground, yet I would often place them in my pocket with a feeling of pride as I rehearsed in my head, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” I sometimes wonder if I have saved $100 dollars over my six decade lifetime. I was not so lucky with finding paper money. In the eighties, I traveled with a coworker to the local airport, where in the parking lot we both glimpsed a green paper under a nearby car. Toni kept the $10 bill because he claimed he saw it first, and I knew he needed the money more than I did, maybe. It wasn’t until 2007 when my ex-sister-in-law paid my airfare (because I could not afford it at the time) that I was able to travel to Brasil where she lived and is a native. I had not seen her or been in touch by phone for over ten years, so I was extremely delighted and surprised that she made such a generous offer! Also, surprisingly, she had never seen one of the seven wonders of the world, Iguacu Falls, located on the borders of Brasil and Argentina. That was my one wish-request to experience during my visit. While on the Argentinian side of the Iguacu half-mile horseshoe spectacular waterfalls, where butterflies of various colors landed on us, we were about to go to lunch when I told Agda I was not sure I had enough Pesos left to pay for the restaurant buffet. Within that minute, I looked down to the pavement and picked up a rolled up wad of paper. Unrolling it revealed 70 pesos, the equivalent of 20-25 dollars! “Oh god, oh god, oh god,” erupted from my mouth as I threw my arms in the air, thanking the DOU (Design of the Universe which I call the DOU, sounds like Tao, yes?). I had never found bills on the ground, ever! It was then easy for me to pay for both of our lunches as I excitedly reveled in the synchronicity of the Universal Design to take care of me. Agda’s laughter joined in with the timing, cashing in on her free meal.
The first 12 days of August 2013 I traveled with my eldest daughter Erin and eldest granddaughter Denali to Alaska, a trip I’d originally planned to take only with Denali as a graduation gift from high school. It is a chance to bond with her as I feel my dad’s spirit within her and we have been very close during her growing up. She spends most of her time with her parents, as it ought to be, so I cherish our times alone. As plans progressed, Erin asked if she could go along. Wanting to have a closer relationship with her as well, I agreed as long as she paid her way, myself not having abundant financial resources. We made our ticket reservations in January and as time drew closer for our departure, Denali shared her excitement with me several times. I was excited too, both of us having some wonderings of how the three of us would fair. Denali chose to go to Denali National Park because her mom was pregnant with her while volunteering for the Student Conservation Assn. in Alaska; it was 1992 when Erin and I backpacked in Denali National Park while I visited for 9 days… so she named her daughter Hannah Denali, myself being the only one to call her Denali and not Hannah. We camped and hiked in Denali National Park for five days, and although Erin and Denali took up a faster pace, I kept up with them except when I chose to stop and look closer at a bear paw print, a wild flower, or a sand bar forming the shape of a heart. We also enjoyed a boat trip into the Kenai Fjord National Park to see harbor seals, otters, whale spouts, etc. and eat fresh halibut at the only restaurant in Resurrection Bay. As the days progressed I noticed that Denali and Erin usually paired off on the trails, in the stores, museums and even chose to sleep together in the Naughty Otter’s hostel’s one double bed. Still, we had fun, played rummy at our picnic table, and slept together when tenting which kept us warm in more than one way. By the 11th day, I could not hold my tears back as I wrote in my journal, but kept them to myself, knowing “these tears always win” as the new Alicia Keyes song sings. So, when they chose to sit separately from me at Anchorage Airport for our return home, Denali noticed that I was blowing my nose and asked me, “Are you reading (tears now) something sad? (11:11am)” I answered something like not really; I’m okay. (My family is familiar with healing tears.) I walked into the rest room and sobbed and sobbed as I sat on the toilet. I connected with seeing myself alone with my feelings because my mother never wanted me, being a child of rape. (I am very glad I am here!) Mom and I never had the mother-daughter-bond Denali and Erin have until a few months before she died. I was holding my mother’s hand when I heard her last words, “I love you too.”
For some years now I have noticed that when I look at the clock, the numbers have more often been 11:11, 3:33, 5:55, 12:34, etc. and even more frequently 1:43am or pm…or like this morning I wake to 7:43am. I remember that two days ago with two different psychotherapy clients, my first glance at the clock is 12:43pm, then later 2:43pm. I can’t resist pointing the first time out to Katy, who recognizes its meaning numerically as I love you (1:43, or 12:43 as I, 2 love you). My second client Michele, does not make this connection with 2:43pm. When I give hints of 1 letter, 4 letters, 3 letters, Michele smiles with the recognition of “I love you,” which I translate to ‘we love you.’ Michele’s excitement is catching as she reveals that she has noticed for some time synchronous numbers like 3:33, 4:44, 10:10, etc. on her clock and had attached fear to them as being spooky; whereas I feel them as the DOU’s (Design Of the Universe, I use instead of god) support of my journey of EVOLving LOVE – a deeper and truer love. I am becoming more synchronous with the Universe’s Design that we are here to EVOLve into knowing how to truly love. (Notice the capitalized letters backwards in the word EVOLve, or the sentence written by the word EVOLution backwards in the mirror, as no-it-u-love!) This is a keepsake more and more precious to me. Michele and I hug goodbye as she says how happy she is to know now that this synchronicity of time is positive for her. A genuine smile. And why my first daughter Erin’s homemade card for my 37th birthday (she then 12) hangs next to my computer, and her tin engraved “To Mom, the ice cream lover, Love, Erin” sits on the top of the thermostat. My second daughter, Megan’s pottery bowl made at age 7 and soap dish at 9, utilized ever since in my bathroom, having moved 3 times since made by Megan’s child-loving hands. The love note my first granddaughter Denali (age 12) wrote in bed while over-nighting with me and left to be discovered by me in my bedside phone message notebook, now scotch-taped to my filing cabinet, next to second granddaughter Riley’s (age 10) love email note. This month, July 2013, my third granddaughter Emily (age 9) and I spontaneously wrote a story EVERYBODY REMEMBERS, together in my journal, where she wrote something she likes to remember, then I would write what I like to remember, back and forth. Several melted my heart, but one I will keep for love’s sake: “I like to remember how god made me so nice.” The love of a child is most precious to me as are the 100 or more letters my daddy wrote to me while in college and the first years of my marriage. One resides on the top of my printer as a constant reminder to appreciate his exponential love for me, his adopted daughter, his name on my birth certificate. The carved out willow-whistle he made for me (at age 10?) sits on top of a bookcase I see every time I walk out the front door. Most people will say that family photos are what they would save if their house flooded or was on fire. I’d like to, but my kitchen, hallway, bathroom and bedroom walls are papered with countless family photos – how will I choose what to keep? Like the fireflies I’d catch (age 10?) and place on my ring finger, flashing, then flying away.
I have been running late all of my life, even though I am prompt to most of my commitments or appointments. My boyfriend Wilson and I have a routine of him emailing me before he goes to bed near 10pm, and me responding in the morning before I go to work. It is a comfort like being read a bedtime story, knowing he is okay and he still loves me. He lives in Connecticut and me in NY, and we like this form of communication instead of daily phone calls or texts as we have spent most weekends together since we met nearly three months ago. This past week he missed two evening emails, so I call him to see if he is okay; (and to help myself feel okay) in his prompt return phone call he tells me that it has been “too hectic” or he is “too tired” to remember if he has emailed me. I am aware that the “baby girl” (an endearment he calls me and that I love) inside me is being triggered into how I was afraid of losing the loving closeness between me and my dad after I learned in an angry fight with my mother that he is not my biological father when I was 16. In my twenties I asked my mother about the whereabouts of my biological dad and met him twice, he choosing his wife over contact with me. In my thirties I ran 36 marathons in 36 months, a national woman’s record in the USA. When I would hit “the notorious wall” at mile 20 of the 26.2 miles I would invariably ask myself, “Why are you doing this Diane? This is crazy,” and most times I would walk much of those last 6 miles. The invariable answer in my head would be, “for the recognition.” It was not until my forties that I took the time to reread the 100 or so letters my dad sent to me while in college and newly married, my most valuable possession to this day, other than photographs of my family. In one of those letters he asks why I have not been demonstrative as he has a need for affection, as we all do. It is with tears at this moment that I filter out some of the pain, grief of not remembering how I answered his letter, and knowing that neither of us were brave enough to talk to each other about this. In my fifties, “too late” in life, I become aware of how very sad I am that our fears are reflected in the glass door between dad and I that never had the chance to be opened as he died suddenly of a heart attack at the young age of 60 when I was 31. This week I read in the book Wild Comfort: “Almost all the happy moments take place in a pause, a slowing down from job and routine:…in my notes, there’s an odd relationship between happiness and sadness, which makes me wonder whether these are opposing emotions after all, or if the opposite of happiness might be something else – meaninglessness, maybe or emptiness.” I find that I love my dad (and mySELF) more every time my tears flow. Today in my sixties, I am rereading the last paragraph of dad’s letter dated 4/4/67: “It is a beautiful day. Use your eyes to see what He has given us and be thankful. Whatever I may do, whatever I may be, I sure do love you to the extent of my capabilities.” As dad’s words create tears, I ask myself: Am I running late on tears? for fears? Yet, I know in my heart of hearts that daddy, you get first prize for loving me the best. So far. Later. In my next life I will race to tell you face-to-face: I love you.
As I wrote last month in TRYING AGAIN, I will now tell you what happened after I said “I love you” to the man that I met at Stardust ballroom weekend only two weeks before. He lives five hours from me in a renovated farm house on Main Street of Portland, Connecticut where several acres of farmland borders his home; seems unusual to have farming on Main Street of a city doesn’t it? Well, falling in love so quickly is VERY unusual too, especially after four marriages and living alone and no boyfriend for nearly eight years. His name is Wilson, also unusual. As is his willingness to drive five hours to be with me now four out of six weekends that we have known each other. I have driven to his home only one weekend. What would we do without a car? I suppose we could have taken a bus but we both have jobs and there are no trains to Ithaca, NY. Not so long ago, my grandmother rode her horse and buggy into Ithaca to pick up groceries. She never learned to drive, but my grandfather did buy a 1940 Ford truck before I was born, or soon after, I am not sure. I am sure of the joke I was told about him driving down the middle of the road as he said he paid taxes for both sides. And I am sure I recall the sad story my mother told about Grammy having to be back at the precise time grandpa told her that he would leave Ithaca to drive home to Willseyville, fourteen miles away or he would leave her there. Without a horse or a car or a truck. I am of the generation where cars are THE way to get places, although I am incredulous that some courageous Ithacans ride their bicycles even in the winter. That’s unusual too, although in the 21st century there are bike lanes provided if you don’t mind breathing car exhaust that now has a great deal to do with the global warming problem. Just last year, a tornado took down some of a forest and damaged a couple homes just outside of Ithaca where tornados are unusual, in fact it may well be the first, only hurricanes have landed here on an unusual occasion. I love mother earth and father sky so I have bought a second hand Moped to ride six miles to work, instead of using my Jeep Liberty. I hope some day I won’t need a car, not because I am too old to drive, but because it’s unusual to be in LOVE to that extent.