All posts by Dianea Kohl

CHANGING your MIND with AWARENESS

 

I leave my new-used jeep at Taber Street Auto to be inspected and walk to Wegman’s for my favorite warm-hot bagel of the day. I pass by what I assume is a homeless man, a large backpack strapped to his back. I read “SEEKing Human Kindness” blackened in bold letters on a cardboard sign held to his side.

I may be 100 feet ahead of him when I change my mind from bagels to walking back to whom I learn is Steven. I ask if he is homeless and needs some help. He says he is trying to get back home to San Diego, California.

I tell him, “I like your sign a lot!” and for once in my life I do not ask WHY he chose those words. Later, I realized I was more engaged with his kind eyes underneath a red bandana. I gave him 5 dollars and wished him well.

While writing at Wegmans, saying “Yum” out loud to my hot sesame bagel, I remember that I did not bring the license plates I am transferring to my new used jeep. “Oh shit!” pops out like my automatic transmission in the third of six gears.

When I arrive home, I easily remove the screws to place CRYBABE on the front and back of my jeep COMPASS, changing my mindful direction from feeling disappointed in my forgetfulness to pride for screwing on the plates myself.

 

Part II –    Over the years, decades, it seems I have changed my mind like the movement of a snail. Thirty-eight years is too long to free myself of our family’s religious addiction – controlled by fear of hell if you do not accept Jesus as your savior. Finally, I could no longer believe in the literal biblical ‘truth’ that love can be felt while engaged with fear.

Still, the trauma of not trusting my own feelings and therefore truth super-imposed itself like a scar, not being able to accept ‘prayer’ as a positive, because prayers in church were built on rote phrases like: in Jesus name, thy will be done, or I am not worthy, a song I played on the piano by memory.

Spring of 2022 I reached for a book I had begun in 1996 and set back on the bookshelf, after reading a few untouching paragraphs. This year Larry Dossey, MD pumps my heart with truths that allow me to say I pray, like for safe journeys which I have asked for throughout the years. And, with many greatfullnesses!

“Love released. Without it, prayers don’t dissolve…prayers are not something I do or say, but something I feel…It’s what we are,” writes Larry in Prayer is Good Medicine. Walt Whitman wrote, “children are prayer,” because of their genuineness and innocence.

TOOLS…for the body and heart

I am married to a carpenter, and he is married to a Marriage and Family Therapist. Our tools are hammers and communication skills, gathering arguments as if speaking different languages. I often feel helpless.

I want the windows undressed, without curtains, lots of light to walk naked in, not caring if the neighbors see our senior bodies, which are in good shape by most standards as if that matters.

During our nearly two years together, I’ve pushed and pulled to be allowed to scrape off the creamy window glaze applied by the previous renters. Argued. Cajoled. Insisted and persisted.

When Dave skillfully uses his hammer to take down the first plywood and foam over one of the six glazed back porch windows, he tells me he likes the new light shining in, wanting to see the birds, while riding his stationary exercise bike.

Because we have a commuter marriage, we alternate weekends: he driving from Depew to Ithaca, and me driving from Ithaca to Depew for another round of persuasion to free up another window; he arguing for privacy and me for light.

I gladly scrape off the creamy glaze using “elbow grease,” which builds up my triceps of determination, no ease to please. The razor blade held in the utility knife needs to be replaced often as it becomes dull like arguing but what I view as encouraging the benefits of seeing wildlife or enjoying a brighter kitchen.

One window per month draws out the process, finding it easier to use just the razor blade, instead of it being inside the utility knife. By the weekend of window number five, Dave offers a longer-handle tool that holds the razor blade more securely, making me job as scraper, or is it as scrapper, a thankful bit easier.

I find my happiness growing as each of the nine individual panes of each window is freed to the daylight. But my greatest happiness is hearing Dave say, “Thanks for changing my mind. I really like seeing my bird feeder, and the kitchen does need more light, and sometimes I can see the moon at night.”

Learning PATIENCE and humility the HARD way

 

Patience…I say to myself and out loud to my family and friends when asked what I get out of being married five times, especially now married to a carpenter who has never been in psychotherapy, and I am a Marriage and Family Therapist.

Patience…I tell myself while attempting to become a writer since the late nineties after receiving a 65 in English as a freshman at Cornell University in 1965. I’ve self-published seven books since 1999, after receiving many rejections from various publishers. No one wants to read how crying makes me happy. More loving.

I graduated from Cornell Nursing School with a bachelor’s degree in 1969 and worked with many patients in a variety of departments: pediatrics, obstetrics, medical, public health. Finally, I spent five years on a psychiatric unit, while married to my second husband. At that time, I was propelled to leave my religious addiction and ignorance of trying to persuade space scientists the validity of the bible’s creation theory – an embarrassment I can relate to those believing Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen.

My first husband came out as gay. My second died. But it was while with my fourth husband that I was cast into vulnerability big time as did my hospitalization as a patient with a fractured skull, having been hit head on by a bicyclist while running in September darkness.

Although I have EVOLved (note capitalized letters seen backwards) a great deal throughout my 75 years, I still am not good enough to be published in the reader’s write section of The SUN, having made a submission every month since the year 2000. That’s 256 essays of learning humility the hard way.

Digging your TEETH into LOVE

My mouth is full of cavities repaired with silver and gold; a crown or two (for a goddess?). Root canals have been offered up to avoid extractions – but my holistic dentist concedes easily to my wishes after acupuncture needles are placed for numbing the pain of the drill.

Being 75 I am greatfull to not have had to follow my mother and grandmother’s gum-steps to false teeth, although I enjoyed the scary laughter when Grammy pushed her false teeth out at me as a child, for fun.

Although I do not have dental insurance, I can afford yearly cleanings and repair; but choose to smooth the rough edges of fillings chipping off like eroding mountains, saving my money for traveling to a new unknown country once a year. With very limited retirement funds and years, who cares if my one front tooth lays over another – my niece says it gives me character.

Don’t get me wrong: I care about my appearance possibly more than most my age, as I still wear clothes I wore in the 70s, not being shrunken from 5’9” and gifted with only a few gray hairs like my mother who died at age 80 with maybe a dozen gray hairs. I use anti-wrinkle cream daily along with 20 minutes of yoga.

Health is my #1 priority as an old saying goes, “Health is Wealth,” which I read at Wegman’s this week on a man’s T-shirt, which this stranger allows me to photograph. (I never have seen this saying on a shirt before). But sinking my teeth into writing Our Love Story of the first two years of my 5th marriage, showing day-to-day dialogues struggling to grow more loving, is the gift I treasure most. More painful than the 3 extractions that provide more spaciousness in my mouth so I can be seen as braver by speaking up for myself, an opening of my heart which I treasure more than silver or gold.

 

 

 

The BUS of trust

(Intro: In choosing which scenario to write for “The Bus of Trust” I became reflective on how much trust we all invoke daily when traveling the highways, remembering my scary bus ride from Ithaca, NY to Los Vegas, Nevada as a single woman of 52, writing a half page before switching to a pleasant memory of my childhood.)

My memory involves my mother and sister and brother, usually it would be about my dad whom I loved many times more. I am not riding the yellow school bus to school, but to Robert Treman State Park every Monday during the summers. Now, as I write I can feel the special sadness of white privilege during my elementary school years: my mother preparing a picnic lunch, us in our swimsuits, waiting at the bottom of the stairs of our middle-class home, for the Bethel Grove Community “swim bus.” Only white occupants.

Ithaca is Gorges is a familiar bumper sticker because of the many gorges’ magnificent waterfalls, two of which create natural swimming pools where one can swim at the foot of waterfalls where lifeguards watch you dive. At Treman Park one can carefully walk along the narrow edge only wide enough for one’s toes, as the waterfall showers you.

Most summers I would tight walk with the help of tiny finger holes, tip toeing until the ledge disappears, falling into the refreshingly clean water. Yes, I am proud to say I have held this gorgeous waterfall close to my body most years as I did last summer when turning 75, smiling brightly as I did as a kid licking the Sugar Daddy my mother bought for her three children, just before stepping back on the yellow school bus, aiming for (my other) home.

 

 

 

COOKING up memories of mom

 

My mother died in 2002, but she makes her presence known at this year’s Christmas eve dinner as I say: It’s so clear in my memory how mom, a’ born-again’ christian, vehemently said, “If I had a rifle, I’d kill Kevin,” my son-in-law whom I love and who sits beside me, because he impregnated my daughter out-of-wedlock.

Still, I miss mom’s cooking, as I often tell others, she’s the best pie maker, and I had even encouraged her to open a pie bakery, as a no pie-in-the-sky idea.

As a child, I picked thumb-sized black caps from the bushes surrounding the pond in our back field, for mom to make blackberry pie! UUUMMMM. Yet, my favorite pie became her rhubarb which I tried to duplicate without much success. Her pastry was always flaky (like her😊) and light…as she placed her bowl of flour and Crisco vegetable shortening under the kitchen faucet, adding just the right amount of water she never measured.

As I reminisce about 2021 Christmas eve dinner cooked by my first-born, Erin –  scrumptious, scalloped potatoes baked with Swiss chard, alongside garlic-chive-fresh ginger roasted carrots dressed in raw almonds, added to the most tender tenderloin – I still long for mom’s apple pie.

BIKING as a path to winning…

 

I could tell you that my dad repainted a secondhand two-wheeler for my Christmas present when I was a child. 😊

I could tell you I pushed two-wheeler seats, to see my two daughters fly and balance on their own. 😊😊

I could tell you that all three of us bicycled in several national parks during our 1986 cross-country trip in a rusty Dodge van whose odometer read over 150,000 miles. 😊😊😊

I could tell you I have bicycled 100 miles around Cayuga Lake eight years in a row raising over $1000 each year for Aids Work. 😊😊😊😊

I could tell you how I bicycle over ten miles with my friend Carol on the Black Diamond Trail of Ithaca, NY the summer of 2021 at age 75. 😊😊😊😊😊

But it was a bicyclist hitting me in the middle of my forehead – in the middle of darkness – as I was running up Ellis Hollow Road that woke me up. A fractured skull with multiple facial fractures, hospitalized me for ten days.

While being a ‘confident’ athlete running for the average runner and a professional Marriage and Family Therapist, I was smacked in the face with vulnerability. (During 1983, 84, and 85, I ran 36 marathons in 36 months, how crazy is that? creating a national record for women at the time.)

I needed to ask my two daughters to hold my hand, my eldest (20), the night before surgery. My second daughter, Megan, (17), the night of my surgery. I was no longer the ‘strong’ one – I needed help of the strongest kind: LOVE.

A love founded on the special LOVE my dad chose to give me growing up by adopting me as his own from birth.

A LOVE I am still learning to PAY FORWARD, winning over those miles on my feet and bicycle.

In-To-Me-I-See

I am paid to be intimate with my psychotherapy clients – even with words – In-to-me-I-see. Which I was deprived of as a child of the fifties, essentially forced to believe the born-again crap that I would go to hell if I didn’t accept Jesus as my savior.

My dad was way ahead of his time despite our family’s religious addiction barrier, by being the more emotionally connected nurturer than my mother as she never wanted me, being a child of rape.

While in college, dad wrote me weekly intimate letters about his feelings, like not feeling loved by mom, his wife, yet was always being supportive of me: his card, written 11/1/65 is a good example where he writes a list of 12 things: “Just a quick note to let you know: 3) That I am very proud of you, 9) That you make comments and ask questions in ‘Bible’ and are not afraid to think and ask and how happy I am about that, 12) that I love you.” Yet, we were afraid to say I love you out loud to one another before he died of a sudden heart attack at the young age of 60, a sadness that continues throughout the Cosmos, a flower I plant yearly to honor him, being an astronomer.

Fast forward to raising my two daughters while still attending church, wiggling my way out slowly but surely of their misleading tunnel vision, keeping me from trusting my heart. I finally left in 1984 (how fitting😊) when my girls were 9 and 12, listening to myself, although still being a difficult longer-than-I’d-like road to shed societal and church intrenched shame to talk about sex.

Presently, my younger daughter, the mother of two of my granddaughters is embarrassed to acknowledge that her 75-year-old mother makes love with her husband, or to see his beautiful nakedness alone in a photo in our bedroom like a Renoir statute in a museum. This summer they visit me for my 75th birthday celebration, where her husband confronts me in front of their daughters, as to how I make it difficult to be close to my daughter, because I do not respect her feelings to take the photo down when they visit. I express my struggle as to whose feelings to respect, hers, or mine, but the photo being in my home, I chose to risk her rejection, to be true to myself. Trust and respect myself.

That same weekend, I ask my 19-year-old granddaughter what she felt about our family discussion. She readily replies, “It was good; it bears reflection.” Gladly, my relationship with my daughter continues to grow purer love during my October weekend visit, where they live near Boston.

This past October weekend before Halloween, after our lovemaking, my expressive husband says how “fantastic,” and “incredible,” and “I love you so much.” I say, “I love you right back!” Later, during our evening phone call you tell me how loving we were that morning, how “intimate;” the first time he has ever used that word after being spiritually married for a year.

Feeling a deeper connection, as I do when volunteering to stack chopped wood for an 86-year-old stranger who lives a few miles down the road, a pile I had bike-ridden by all summer, wondering whether to knock on his door, or just begin stacking. I choose the latter, and eventually a man ambles out on the deck using a cane, asking if I need a pair of gloves.

“No thanks, I like to feel the wood,” I smile.

 

CONCERTS that make us FEEL

      Growing up in a religiously addicted family, we were not allowed to go to the movies, the theater, or to dance – to be tempted by worldly pleasures. Concerts are out of the question, unless they are of classical music, which I do enjoy. But none of them are outstanding in memory like those I attend in my seventies. My present husband has widened my world by buying tickets to see the band, Chicago, music I had loved only on vinyl.

2021, at Buffalo, New York’s Art Park outdoors, chairs on the lawn, is where I dance in the aisles. Dave is new to dancing, needing me to beg him to dance, not believing me when I say he is a natural-born dancer. Let’s have fun!

After a few beers and others dancing near the stage, Dave joins me as we dance closely, slowly, and sensually to You Are the Inspiration – my tears blinking in the moonlight, our huge smiles lifting to the trombonist, saxophonist, trumpeter, drummer, and guitarist. I am in heaven.

Unlike, a hell of a John Fogerty concert at Woodstock’s Memorial Park a month later. Under a roofed open amphitheater, the extreme loudness blurs the lyrics, hurts my eardrums, beating my chest as if I am the drum. So, we walk out under the stars where the music does not batter our bodies while I dance alone, until a slow dance, until raindrops force us back under the roofed arena. I dance in the aisles until an usher directs me and other dancers to sit down. Our fun is ruined like my mother’s outlandish rules.

I tell Dave, “I am so glad we went to hear Chicago first, otherwise maybe I would have made a concerted effort not to attend anymore concerts.

 

BEING STUBBORN throughout my life

 

It is my 75th birthday today, happy to be a stubborn child, my born-again mother having dubbed me: Francis the Talking Mule, a frequent criticism, back then feeling humiliated.

Now, I triumph, after four marriages, I am spiritually married to a man who voted for Trump; I must be stubborn. For love. He admits to coming from a “culture of lying,” maybe why he could accept over 10,000 fact-checked lies while lauding economic tariffs for China. After the January sixth assault on the Capitol, he says he would not vote for Trump again. Whew!

So WHY did I fall in love with a Trumpster-carpenter, who has never been in psychotherapy when I have been for many years as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Because I want to pay my dad’s love forward?

Or continue to advocate for a HEALTHY REALTIONSHIP SKILLS course at our local high school after 30 years? Still not implemented. I have a stubborn spirit is all I can say! Conceived by rape in Bremerhoffen, Germany, while my mother served as a nurse in the US Army during WWII, given my non-biological dad who signed my birth certificate (loving me exceptionally well as he did his two biological children), given a doctor who refused to abort me at 5 months gestation, and given a dad who would not give me up for adoption as my mother considered.

I am greatfull beyond words, music, dance. Loving my very first skydive, not letting fear stop me from flying free. To celebrate being me. I felt some fear the day before, but surprisingly, as I stepped into the two-seater plane, I feel peaceful the 20-minute ride to 10,000 feet and jumping into the cold sunny air. I ask to fly through a cloud like a bird with no cares.

The best part of my 75th birthday is 12 family members below catching my happiness feeling loved: “Hi Everybody!”  I shout gleefully as I lap dance Conor, my cute 26-year-old tandem guide as we land on Mother Earth, softly.

Without me asking, my husband video tapes, and photographs this most memorable event, creates a tailgate from his truck laden with treats and drinks, saying, “You’re something else.”

Some days later, he is not finished, planning our first zipline adventure in a Pocono Forest, presenting obstacles scarier than the skydive, my physical strength tested, my bare hands holding onto the cable. No gloves. No callouses.

“Will you ever grow up?” I hear. As well as moans and groans of pleasure while making love, which we give with each other’s hands and passionate kisses, weekends when we are together as we are in a commuter marriage currently.

On the actual day of my birthday, the 30th of August, I visit South Hill cemetery to give thanks to my dad for being the bestest loving dad, next to whom my ashes will be buried one day.

When the mail lady arrives, I open my door, walk to receive my mail, saying it’s my birthday today. 75. It can’t be she says: “You’re beautiful!” It’s the first time we’ve met; I learn her name is Joy. She learns I am a therapist, and readily says, “people expect me to be joyful, so I put on a façade. Sometimes I need to cry.”

I tell her that I give my books away for free if she would like one. “Yes, I would, how can you be giving me something on your birthday?” I run to find a copy of TEARS ARE TRUE LOVE…waiting to be known. Although I look forward to birthday dinner with my oldest daughter, Erin, I am stubbornly happy, smiling like the Rose of Sharon blossom, or maybe like a smooth silky Moon flower in my garden, at this moment as I walk away from the mail lady!