Missing You

 

I miss my morning email from you, like a big hug from far away.

I miss the thrill that it gives me, the lift to my spirits

I miss your eloquence, your intelligence and your point of view

I miss your stories of everyday activities, dearly held dreams and even your darkest fears.

I miss the connection, the history and what we’ve built together.

I miss the knowing, the laughing and the encouraging.

I miss the reminiscing of happy days, the sharing of hopes and dreams,

seeking out our truths, discovering life is not always what it seems.

I miss you, every bit and part and piece of you. Like an addict without her drug,

I feel your absence like a painful wound; darkness where light used to live.

I’d almost forgotten what life was like before I met you.

I’ve become addicted to your wit, your humor and your unique perspective; your point of view.

I crave the conversation, the debate, the exploration of thoughts and philosophy of living.

As with most creatures rare and beautiful, you seek solitude and safety when the world becomes too much;

too much noise, too much pain, too many voices, too much chaos.

I know you are hurting and I wish I could make it all go away.

But you are there and I am here, you walking your path and I, on mine.

I can’t promise I’ll be here forever, no more than you can promise me.

But I know we’ll meet again one day.

Maybe not this at this time and in this place,

perhaps not in this body and not with this face.

I found you once before and I truly wish no more

than to find you once again.

I miss you

and wonder

do you miss me, too?

 

 

Deja Vu/Vuja De

It was a year ago, around this time on the calendar when I finally admitted to myself and to my psychiatrist that everything was most definitely NOT fine and a change of venue was in order. My doctor, being the good doctor that he is, referred me for psych evaluation and an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) to deal with the immediate concerns and to eventually get my mood rightened and myself back to the land of brilliant Technicolor, instead of the shades of black in the world I was living in. Well, fast forward a little over a year and guess what? I’m back in the same place, with the same therapists and doctors, cafeteria style lunches and rooms with uncomfortable chairs, lots of Kleenex boxes and people with stories, like me and very much unlike me. My immediate thought upon having to tell my doctor YET AGAIN that I was losing my s**t was not one of “Atta Girl!” but more like, “Seriously? Didn’t we JUST do this?? WTF is wrong with you, loser??” because my first thoughts are always from a place of extreme judgment and an unrealistic goal of perfection, no matter the circumstance.

Now, I wouldn’t say that to my worst enemy anymore than I would say it to someone who was doing another round of chemo or radiation in an effort to destroy that which is trying to destroy them. Treatment is treatment; the disease may differ, the course of treatment may differ but the goal is the same, to provide relief of symptoms and improve the health of the individual, thus improving the quality of life. Mental health is really no different, although much less one size fits all. Mental illness and those who battle depression, mania and other disorders are as different and varied as any selection of human beings can be; one person’s burden is another’s blessing. There is no absolute 100% guaranteed course of treatment and whatever course is selected, the patient must be able and willing to follow subscribed course of treatment, which often if not always includes eliminating substance (pick a poison, alcohol included) abuse and implementing a medication program that includes a cocktail (pardon the pun) of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers and perhaps a little Antabuse thrown in for the hard core alcoholics. The patient must be willing to give up those self-medicating methods and switch to the psych meds, which usually come with a hefty side of side effects, weight gain being at the top of the list and covering all manner of ailments including, but not limited to: psychosis, permanent facial and/or body tics, blindness, headaches and possibly (of course) death by suicide, because some of these drugs have induced suicidal tendencies in certain groups, such as adolescents and the elderly. Go figure. Seems kind of counter-intuitive, but every rose has its thorn, as we learned from Guns ‘n Roses/Poison.

If you’re still reading and still awake, I commend you. 

Back to the present time – I am back in the land of black and bleh, trying to find my way to the light and a coherent, relatively calm mind so that I can make some decisions that will hopefully keep me from having to return again at this time next year. I have a great many decisions to make at some point in time and I want to choose wisely and make choices that are good for me and my health. It’s easy for me to say that (I’ve said it over and over again) but the execution is where I falter. I guess if I’m thinking about what I SHOULD do instead of what I NEED to do, that could lead me to an unwise choice.

For all of you who have sent happy thoughts, well wishes and in reached out to me in general, I want you to know I feel the love. Seriously. Those of you who are thinking about me but haven’t reached out, I assure you, I still feel the love. You are the difference between me giving up or carrying on; your belief in me is my sword of truth, fighting against the lies and untruths that hold my spirit hostage, trapped in a dark and dismal mind. Your love and support brings a light to the darkness, a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow to come back to the land of the living and love. I have talked to many people who have no family, no friends and oftentimes it is because their mental illness/addiction issues have exhausted the supply of people willing to lend a hand or support that person. Some people have a limited time only offer of assistance and once that window is closed, there are no more. I understand the reasoning behind this; if you are trying to save a drowning person, but don’t know how to swim yourself, you will both most certainly drown. Dealing with mental illness is neither pretty, Facebook post-worthy or fun. It tests  your limits, your love and your own mental stability. It’s like a fire you can’t get too close to or you end up with some pretty serious burns. It’s a rollercoaster ride you don’t remember buying a ticket to ride, a storm that was born of sunny skies and fluffy clouds; sunny and bright one minute, dark and destructive the next. It can tear apart the closest family, take away your best friend and leave a wake of destruction miles wide and years long. Knowing this makes you and your continued support all the more precious and appreciated.

Shooting thoughts of love and gratitude to you. Wish we were there (Half Moon Bay)

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On Loss and Carrying On

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Today marks yet another anniversary of my dear friend JJ passing away and this year, the passing of other, more well-known people has added to the sense of loss. David Bowie, Prince and too many others to mention have left this earth and moved on but not without leaving an imprint on our hearts and in our souls. I will still hear songs by Bowie and Prince, just as I will replay conversations I’ve had with JJ. I still hear my father’s voice when I’m lost and seeking guidance and hear my mother’s voice when I’m doing something that I know would cause her concern and/or anxiety, so in that way, they live on because I will not forget. I will not let the sense of grief and loss keep me from living the life I know they all (well, maybe not specifically D.B. & Prince) would want me to. I believe strongly that we are all interconnected and the more I try to be solitary, aside from everyone else, the more I realize that’s not really possible. What my loved one goes through, I am emotionally right there by their side; when someone is angry and hurting, those feelings project out of them and I feel as though a barrage of emotionally-charged arrows are heading straight for me, like heat-seeking missiles. When I am with someone who is depressed, I cannot help but feel for them; I have been there, I know the way and I know how dark it becomes. I can tell myself it is their problem, their burden to bear and logically it is. But there is a voice that tells me that if I am able to help, I should. If I have a light to give this person to help them find their way through the darkness, how can I not offer it? If I bring happiness or even a temporary relief of a great burden or guilt, does that not benefit me as well?

Prince and David Bowie are part of the soundtrack of my life and they will call to mind the times I’ve had, good, bad and amazing with my friends, my family and you, my dear readers. I will do my best to cherish the good times and not let the loss overshadow the gifts that I’ve been given. When all else fails, I’ll put on their music and just dance.

That’s how I’ll get through this thing called life.

Scotland -Part III

The day after Christmas 2015 found me at the airport, excited, tired and ready to be on my way back to Scotland. I had arrived at the airport at an unreasonably early hour (per my request) and had thoughts of my previous two visits and wondered what this visit would bring. I’d been there all alone, with eyes wide and full of wonderment for my birthday in December 2014, met someone in July that multiplied the happiness, the pleasure of traveling and exploring, not only Scotland, but our personalities, our experiences, hopes and dreams, fears and flights of fancy. I didn’t think I could be happier than I was on my first visit, but the second visit changed all that. What would the third visit bring? Would it be even better or would I have raised my expectations so high that they couldn’t help but fall short? These questions swirled around in my mind as I walked the airport, burning nervous energy and trying to fill my mind with something other than those unanswerable questions.

Well, it’s now almost the end of January and I’ve been back about 3 weeks and I have to say, this time was such an incredible experience. I couldn’t have scripted a better visit, traveling and exploring again, but this time, with hours in the car, talking about nothing and everything at once; taking photos like a mad tourist while speeding down the highways and two-lane roads. Sometimes the only car as far as the eye could see, with endless stretches of gorgeous landscapes, skies full of strange clouds I’d never seen back at home; sunsets and sunrises so beautiful, it takes my breath away each and every day. Being so far away from everything and everyone I know, I found myself. I found the calm I’d always prayed for, the serenity I didn’t think existed and the ability to live fully in the moment, not looking back in regret and not looking forward with fear and anxiety. This couldn’t have been possible without the company I was keeping; I have been a solitary creature by choice most of my life but this was comfortable, effortless and I had the feeling that all was right with the world.

That being said, returning to reality is rarely effortless or comfortable and this time was no exception; the higher you are, the harder you fall. The dizzying heights I had occupied while in Scotland gave way to the deepest depths and dark days (and nights) while my spirit tried to break free of the shackles of everyday life and return to the freedom and wide-open spaces I’d flown; now seemingly a dream I had dreamt. Remembering the calm and trying to get that thought to translate to feeling isn’t the easiest or most natural thing for me to do; I am more prone to go worst case scenario and lock the memory away, for the pain of being away from such bliss is too much to delve into. But this is a new year and the time for change is always, so I am embracing my pain, along with the pleasure the memory holds. Bittersweet is a flavor we’re all familiar with and while it’s not something I’d want to taste at every meal, it’s one of the flavors of life, so it will make an appearance from time to time. Every piece of pain contains a lesson, something learned or experienced that will last far longer than the original discomfort that bore it. It’s easy to say and hard to remember when it happens, but it is a choice. I choose to take the bitter with the sweet, the pain with the pleasure and the heart break with the bliss.

I choose to get up and try again. I choose to belief this, too shall pass. I choose to believe that I will return to Scotland, hopefully again and again, until I am an old lady tottering along with a cane, telling my grandchildren about my time in Scotland over and over again, until they can tell the stories themselves, word for word.

 

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Swim

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim”Tyler Knott Gregson

My big little brother sent me this quote via Pinterest and as always, it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, as if in answer to the questions I’ve been yelling at the Universe lately. I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy many things because I have been solely focused on trying to cope using ways that (obviously) have lost a degree of effectiveness. I have been so focused on just “keeping it together” that I have turned blind to simple things that I had once remembered to seek out; tiny moments of everyday miracles happening all around me. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly, a baby is born far too early and fights to draw each breath, yet he fights, and he lives. People die, yet their spirit and the essence of who they were live on; the deaf can hear, the wounded heal and rise to fight another day. A mother does the impossible everyday, bringing food to the table, keeping her children safe yet aware of the dangers in this world. A father works himself into an early grave so that his children can have a better life than he did. So many miracles, unnoticed when I’m so deep into myself, my “troubles” and my rollercoaster of emotions that are as much a part of me as my curly hair and my tattoos. Living with mental illness, addiction and temptation are my trifecta of Troubles. But there is so much more to the world, to me, to what I want to accomplish and who I wish to become. As with anything, I must adjust, adapt and/or accept what is happens to me, around me and within me, but that doesn’t mean that I should disregard the beautiful insanity that is my world. A world where people are still my friends, even after I have proven myself to be less than perfect and wholly human, a world where a man knows me, good and bad, happy and sad, sane and mad and still loves me. Where I have a son who has every reason to begrudge me happiness, yet wishes it for me abundantly and repeatedly; where a friend sees the crisis and helps in the the best way possible, giving me sanctuary from stress, mental exhaustion and emotional bankruptcy….next stop Complete Shutdown. I was able to avoid that next stop and it’s due solely to my friend’s generosity, which I will try to repay, but can’t imagine how I will be able to.

These last few days have been an effort to get back into the River that is Life and swim, just for the sheer joy of it. Spending time being creative, whether it’s writing, coloring with crayons or just seeking out beauty and capturing it in a photo, stealing a moment in time and keeping it forever, unchanged and unspoiled. Just walking through a park, on a trail, really looking at the trees, majestic and tall, decorated in Autumn’s colors and waving to me with the crisp morning wind shaking their leaves. This brings me back; this slowly cleanses away the grime and dust of depression, that black dog who creeps in and lies on your chest until you know you will never rise again. Nature fights that, gives you light and beauty and life, but we need to be aware, to reach out to it and let its goodness in.

Oh – and swim. Just for the love and the sheer joy of it.

 

A Walk to Remember

Yesterday I participated in the Out of Darkness walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). This is the second year I have walked and both years I have been overwhelmed by the emotions that accompany me on it. There is so much love in the crowd, not just for the loved ones they have lost but for those they wish to keep alive and protect against such a destructive, secretive and shameful act. I say shameful because that is how society (in general) sees it; a coward’s way out, not thinking of those who are left behind, selfish. What they don’t understand and should thank God they don’t, is the pain. The unrelenting pain of simply being alive; the thoughts that drive one to believe it IS hopeless and NO ONE cares, there is no other way and this is THE ANSWER. Depression to me is a magnifying glass to the tiny imperfections and doubts every person has; those who do not suffer from it can put those doubts into perspective, focus on the positive and realize it’s all pretty much good. When under the influence of depression, there is no perspective, no light, no tunnel, no nothing but blackness and sense of doom. This is why it’s so important to be vigilant with our loved ones, family members, friends and even people we just know. Our society seems to encourage independence and if you know me at all, you know I’m all about independence but there is a time and a place for everything and when dealing with depression, independence should take a back seat to seeking help and triage. Get talking with someone, whether in a phone call, Skype, tin cans attached by string, smoke signals, Morse code or Ham radio; the way in which communication takes place is not important, only that it happens.

The men and women of our military are coming home and the numbers of suicides by service members is growing and that is a number we cannot afford to rise any further; these men and women have put themselves in harms way for their country, for us. We need to be there for them. I’m not speaking of the government, although that is the obvious choice, if our world was fair and just and if their priorities didn’t begin and end with their benefit, the stroking of their egos and caring for their own personal agendas. I’m speaking of you and me, Joe Citizen. We can donate to causes that we know support them, we can spend time volunteering, writing letters, sending care packages and being a thorn in the side of the government until they do the right thing, recognize they have a mental health epidemic and get off their fat, entitled asses and take some action.

Sorry – bit of a rant there, but it is something that I have witnessed first hand; the devastation resulting from lack of action and heads deeply buried in sand or up their collective asses. The damage to families, friends, fellow service members and society in general is impossible to grade or measure, as the ripple effect will continue through lifetimes yet to come. Children who will be born without a father to raise them, a father will never get the chance to walk his daughter down the aisle, a mother will have to bury her child, a son will know mother only from stories and photos; this all doesn’t have to happen. We can get OUR heads out into the sunshine, take a deep breath and try in whatever way we are able to fight the good fight against not only suicide, but mental illness left untreated, people suffering because they are afraid of the shame and ridicule associated with mental illness STILL. For God’s sake, it’s almost 2016 and although we can clone sheep, genetically modify food and update our Facebook status every 3 seconds, we still cannot come to the place where we treat mental illness like it is – an illness. Not a personal choice, a personality flaw or a bad strand of DNA, it is an illness just like any other. Cancer used to have the same sort of stigma attached to it but we’ve gotten past that. I would like to write someday that we have gotten past all the negativity surrounding those who suffer with depression, anxiety, mania and all the other flavors of mental illness. We are not to blame and we cannot simply think happy thoughts, suck it up and put on my big girl panties or just get over it. Tell someone who is suicidal to “Get over it” and they will, just not in the way you had in mind.

This walk is a walk to remember; to remember those we have lost, to remember that it effects people of all walks of life, races, religions, social and economic classes and levels of intelligence. This is what its name implies, bringing the issue and those who suffer out of the darkness and into the light.

For more information on mental health in general please visit NAMI.

For more information on our service men and women, please check out the Wounded Warrior Project. Sorry – I tried to add links but couldn’t make it happen.

Thanks for stopping by!

THE SPIRIT AND THE FLESH

“There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.”
― Mark Twain

I have written before about my adventures in dating, men and everything that comes with that whole endeavor. Since I quit drinking, I have been trying to re-set my moral compass and live a life that is based on truth and honesty. This seems like it would be pretty straightforward: just stay away from certain people (unhappily married men), places (bars, dating sites, back seats of cars) and things (alcohol mostly). I have been doing very well at staying away from the places and things, but the people – let’s just say I haven’t been as successful. Not to say that I am carrying on or having an affair with someone, but there are a few men that I cannot avoid and by necessity must interact with them. I can literally feel the desire coming off them in waves; they are almost angry in their desperation to be recognized, to be loved and to be heard. Not to say that their wives ignore them or don’t love them; they just have gotten comfortable with each other and no longer have that spark, that passion that was so prevalent in the early days of their relationship. Maybe that’s just the way things work when one has been married for so many years, but I digress…

I have been talking to this one guy off and on for quite some time and to say there is chemistry between us would be like saying the sun is slightly warm and a little bright. There is a crackling of energy when we get too close, there is an overwhelming urge to just grab him and kiss him until his lips fall off. It has nothing to do with intellect, reason or anything sane and/or logical; it’s simply a very primal part that is not concerned at all with cause and effect, morals or anything other than I WANT THAT. I have done a fairly good job of keeping that part of me heavily sedated and shut away from the front of my mind, but certain times, people and places make me realize I am fooling myself if I think I’m totally in control of it because I am most certainly NOT.

I believe that anytime we try to better ourselves, something (or someone) will come along and attempt to divert our course. It does not necessarily even have to be an outside source; it can just be our own thoughts. Those cognitive distortions I love so much. That voice in my head that tells me I’d better grab that guy because he’s probably the best I could hope for, as no sane guy would take on a relationship with me. Above all else, the voice that tells me that I am not worthy of love. Those thoughts and that voice have always led me down a dark path to a place of depression, shame and sadness. I know this!!! So why when it speaks, do I immediately believe it still?? Why can’t the positive messages I send myself have the intensity of the negative?

A Christian may say that Satan is trying to get me to lose faith; a psychiatrist might say that it’s due to my childhood; a good friend would say that it’s just a part of figuring out who we are and finding our own personal truths. I say it’s something much simpler – the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I cannot deny the power of attraction, the pull of desire and the sweetness of stolen kisses, but I can certainly try. I know I have been and will continue to attempt to better myself, to control that part of me that is searching for instant gratification, validation and yes, even something as simple as the human touch. Whether I will be “successful” depends largely on what I discover about myself, about love and about what truths are revealed to me. What I do know is that I’m worthy of love, real love and if I have to wait another 20 years to find it, so be it. For now, I will just be aware that if I were to find myself alone with this guy, all of my best intentions would evaporate as soon as my lips touched his and there would be no turning back. For now, I will keep my distance and try to align my thoughts with my goals and my heart’s desire.

Seeking Purity At Some Point

“O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet”.
-Saint Augustine

I couldn’t agree more. I have the desire to be pure; to think pure, loving thoughts and fill my days with gratitude and working in service of others but at the same time, I am reluctant to let go of my old ways. Critical, never pleased, always finding fault, judging harshly (not just others, but myself included) and holding grudges.

I have some serious issues that I haven’t even begun to work out regarding my ex-friend/roommate/leech and the whole experience with feeling like a ghost in my own house; not having a voice, being trapped in a situation by my own inability to just speak up and draw a damn line. A boundary line so that people know they can only go so far and the rest of the way is PRIVATE PROPERTY. NO TRESPASSING. As I said, I have not even begun to deal with all of this but I can tell you that it is slowly oozing into my current life, back into my thoughts and coloring the experiences I’ve had and continue to have. Mostly because it’s unresolved and so like a rotting corpse in a body of water, it will eventually bob up to the surface, all it’s ugliness and buried secrets exposed. This doesn’t keep me from saying that others should seek counseling; others are stuck in the past and need to WORK THROUGH IT so they can GET OVER IT and MOVE ON. If only I could take my own advice on that front.

I know there will come a point at which I will have no other choice than to deal with it; it will damage me, damage my relationships and take me down a road of darkness that I have no desire to travel again. It’s so scary to know that is what is in store if I continue to ignore it, but it’s terrifying to open that Pandora’s Box and let out all the hurt, sense of betrayal, rage at myself for being weak and easily manipulated, for “keeping my word” while I lost my sense of self. What good does it do to keep your word in an agreement that basically guarantees you are going to be far worse off than when you started while your “business partner/best friend” walks away without a scratch; a brief inconvenience of having to move house and life goes on with no real marks or scars?

If I am to become pure, I have to forgive myself, him, and let go of all the negative, hurtful, black-hearted, broken hearted wishes of revenge and karma returned one-thousandfold.

So yeah, I guess you could say that I want to be pure, but certainly not right now.

I am Anita’s Daughter

My mother has been my hero, my dearest friend and my biggest fan. She was also the one who was (unfortunately) the recipient of my rage, toxic mood swings, the childish behavior. She has witnessed first-hand the destructive powers of the demons that dwell in my unquiet, brilliant, mad, mad mind. She has seen me through thick and thin, even when I have tried to hide the dark times, the times when there was no light, no way out of the darkness. Her faith, unconditional love and absolute refusal to give up on me are the only reasons I am here today, alive and relatively well. Mom did not allow me to feel sorry for myself, nor did she allow me to use my “magical mad mind” to be an excuse for not realizing my potential. She could see the woman I had the potential to be, she knew the gifts that had been bestowed upon me and believed I had strength in me that would carry me through whatever life gave me, so long as I kept faith.

I have said before that she was the strongest woman I have ever known and that still holds true. Sadly, dementia came in with silent steps and stole her away from all of us. Slowly at first, leaving us with questions that had no answers, until one day, I was not recognizable as Michelle or even as her daughter. But even with that diagnosis, my mother remained loving, caring, gentle and pleasant to all those around her. We don’t know what happens to our loved ones who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or any other memory-related disease/disorder, but I prayed that she was in a good place within her memories. Now I know that she is where all God’s faithful children go, where she will be reunited with those who have gone before her. You can call it Heaven, call it The Other Side, call it whatever you like, but I know that all of the sacrifice, all of the turning of the other cheek, the prayers, the sleepless nights and the rosaries and penance she offered up are now being returned to her on a grand scale. She believed with all of her heart and soul that by living a good life here on Earth, she would be rewarded in the afterlife. I can’t say that I understood that philosophy growing up, but as I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I tend to think I understand a little better now. It’s not even so much about going to Heaven, but is more about looking within to discover your riches; extending your hand, not in asking or demanding something, but in giving. Giving comfort, giving the touch of human kindness; living by the Golden Rule –
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
That means when you see someone who is having an absolutely horrific day, instead of jumping to judgment *hugely guilty of that, I am* give that person the benefit of the doubt; they had a hard day, lost a loved one, found out they have cancer or just feel like they are unloved. Make the effort to put yourself in that person’s place and know that the last thing they need is to be judged. They need understanding, compassion and yes, even love. Not to say that you need to go up to the person and be all, “Hey baby – how ‘bout I rock your world and make you forget all your troubles??? but just to think of sending them love, peace, calm and acceptance. It sounds like cheesy, new-age goofy stuff, whatever. The bottom line is – it works.

I can’t tell you how many of my friends who met Mom told me that I was so lucky to have such a loving, accepting mother. They were not so fortunate; their mothers competed against them, made them a real-life Cinderella (without the ball, the fairy godmother and prince) or punished them for being beautiful, intelligent and kind. Seems like one of those Grimm fairy tales, but I have witnessed such interactions and always feel so sorry not only for my friend, but for her mother, who I think may be simply repeating what her mother did to her. My mom was a breath of fresh air to these girls and her kindness is remembered to this day. Not to say that Mom was a saint; she had a wicked temper, a sharp tongue when needed and rue the idiot who thought he could mess with her children, any of us. I remember her telling me that she had that same response when anyone messed with her brothers. I guess I take after Mom in more ways than I had thought. That fierceness is born out of love, absolute, unconditional and pure. There is no substitute, nothing can take its place; it can’t be faked, it is something that comes from within.

Money can’t make it, power can’t take it, hate can’t break it. Let us not forsake it.
Love.
Love is all we need.
Love is what I think of when I remember Mom;
Love is the legacy she left us all.
Share it, speak it, tuck it in your heart and keep it.

Mom was the best example of what true faith, unconditional love and a mother’s devotion looks like, lives like and loves like. If I can be a shadow of what she was, my life will be an absolute success. I will strive to be more loving, less judgmental; I will strive to find forgiveness, not only for others, but for myself. I will continue to learn what it means to be a good person and not turn my eyes when I see someone in need. I won’t be perfect, I won’t always bite my tongue or hold back those snarky thoughts, but I will make the effort. When it seems the task is too great, I will remember you, Mom. I will remember your sacrifices, your strength of belief, your faith in God and your family. I may falter, I may find myself off course and I may even fall, but then I will remember that I am Anita’s daughter and I will get back on my feet, dust myself off and keep moving forward. I know you are with me, your words are in my mind, your love is in my heart. I am never alone.

Foolish Me

 

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. –Chinese proverb

 

This weekend I experienced a painful reminder as to why I chose to distance myself from a couple who I can call friends, in the broadest sense of the term. I’m sure that most of you have encountered couples like these two; they are married, have a kid and seem to be making a good go of it, until they’re not.

Regardless of a reason, they have regularly scheduled Matrimonial Death Matches (Rounds 1 through 1 Million and counting), they go all out; screaming, blaming, throwing stuff, hitting and in general, tearing each other apart. That in itself is bad enough, but then they go outside their relationship and drag other people in, make them a part of the swirling mass of dysfunction and inability to take ownership of their part of the catastrophic event that is their relationship. Take sides, bash the other person (when they are not around to hear it or have the opportunity to respond to such poisonous barbs) but just when you think they are going to do everyone a favor and divorce, SURPRISE! They are back together, ready to work it out or even better, last week’s fight is a distant memory and now if you are the friend who agreed with those poisonous barbs, the other half of this Marriage from Hell is now angry with you for “taking HIS/HER side” and begins assaulting you with guilt-inducing declarations such as “I thought you were my FRIEND!” and “I TRUSTED YOU!! I thought you UNDERSTOOD how horrible/abusive/mean he/she is to me” and so on. Well, the reason why I’m putting you through all of this (assuming you’re still reading) is because about 5 years ago, I was the stupid person who was trying to befriend both parties and when they say that no good deed goes unpunished, I think of those times. Thankfully, I lived to regret every minute I spent with them. Fate finally smiled on me when I moved out of that neighborhood and out of their lives. Or so I thought.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I received a message from Mr. X, telling me that he had missed me all these years and wanted to meet up with me. Against my better judgment, I did meet up with him, had dinner, caught up on current events and found out that he was going through a separation from the little missus of about two weeks, at the time. At any rate, we met, we talked, we ate, no biggie. Until yesterday, when I received a message from Mrs. X, basically telling me that she had FOUND OUT about us. Seriously? OK, Nancy Drew – do tell. What exactly did you find out, all by your little self? That your husband is unhappy with you? Check. That the two of you are insane, in the clinical sense? Check. That you both can’t keep your toxic waste in your own little corner of Hell on Earth? Check.  I listened to her for about 30 minutes, until I began to realize that she was basically seeking a free “counseling” session, where she tells me her side of the sordid tale and I’m supposed to bash him and tell her she’s an angel for putting up with him as long as she has….yeah, that’s going to happen right after I get married to Liam Neeson….so, basically NEVER. (NOTE TO LIAM: I would marry you in a heartbeat, so in case you are interested, ignore the part where I said NEVER, just so we are clear). I wished her the best of luck with everything, asked her to please tell her husband to forget I ever lived, forget my number, my e-mail address and for her to do the same and NEVER contact me again. I then said a silent prayer for their child and hung up.

BAM! All at once, I realized (again) how incredibly toxic that couple is for me. Not saying that they aren’t good people, or they’re not loving parents; I don’t know if they are good, bad or indifferent, I just know that when I get around them, things tend to go badly for me. Much like the rescuer that gets pulled underwater by the drowning swimmer, my desire to save them is not strong enough to keep both of us above water. I walk away from conversations with them feeling like I have been drained of energy and happiness and in their place darkness and despair have taken up residence. Back in the day, I would wash those feelings away with a bottle or two of wine, but that’s no longer an option. It’s not a good feeling, especially when trying to stay away from alcohol and dark places in the mind. I know better than to ignore that voice that tells me to stay away, don’t answer the phone, don’t reply to that e-mail, etc. I guess sometimes I just need these painful reminders to keep me on track, keep me focused on me and remind me why when it comes to friends, I will choose quality over quantity any day. Better to have one true friend than 100 energy vampires, masquerading as friends, feeding off your good energy, your happiness and the rewards of years of hard work.

Like the proverb says, Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. You won’t get a third chance.