3, 2, 1… #MeToo

I gave an interview a couple of days ago.

On camera.

Scared shitless and shaking, anxiety riding me like a cowboy strapped to an 8-second bull.

But I did it.

One of the local TV stations had posted to Facebook on Monday that they were looking for people willing to share their stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault, all in light of Alyssa Milano’s viral Twitter #metoo, where women and men could come forward about their experiences.

I messaged them about my story that night, and didn’t think much more about it.

Tuesday morning rolled around, & I received a message back, from a reporter at the studio, wanting to know if I’d be willing to talk, on camera about my experience, to possibly help others.

Before I could psyche myself out of it, I said yes.

It was awkward, and uncomfortable, being in front of the camera, and talking about it brought my anxiety back full force, & I’ve been having major issues with it ever since.

Especially since my mom caught just the tail end of the interview on the news…and texted me, wondering what it was for…

When I told her why I’d done it, all she said was “Got ya,” and immediately changed the subject.

Because to this day, we still don’t discuss it.

Another reason for my anxiety to flare.

I hate how I looked on camera, as though I was almost ready to burst into tears… I wasn’t, it was just my nerves were so taut, I was strung so tight I was surprised I didn’t make snapping noises when I walked.

But I did it.

I finally spoke publicly about my assault. 

And that counts for something.

#metoo

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Beloved Nephew

Today, I am going to attempt to define the indefinable – the relationship between myself and my Beloved Nephew.

I’ve had many people question me, as has he, on the type of relationship it is, because we don’t actually share familial genetic ties. And there are some things I’d like to set straight.

 First off, there is not now, there has never been, nor will there ever be, any type of romantic relationship between my nephew and me. This is not something that is even remotely possible, as we are family, even if we are not bound by blood. I am The Aunt, and he is The Nephew. Period. So anyone thinking anything of the sort, needs to immediately stop.

The Nephew and I originally met through his mom, Midnite, who became my heart’s sister. We met through a group that we both used to study in, & ended up best friends for many years, until she passed away from cancer in 2009. It was during our friendship that BN started calling me The Aunt. 

Since neither of them had any blood relatives in North Dakota, I adopted them into my family. They were truly the first of my Chosen Family, & came along with me & mine for holidays, whether to my house, or to my parents, it didn’t matter, as my parents always have said “With Love, there’s always room for more”.

When Midnite passed, BN and I held each other together. If not for each other, I’m not really sure either one of us would have made it through the grieving process sane. It was pretty rock bottom for both of us.

We spent a lot of time hanging out, listening to music, talking, crying & laughing. My kids starting referring to him as their brother. My ex-husband (who I was still married to at the time), didn’t even mind that he came over & hung out at the house all the time, & he hated pretty much everyone.

When I went through my divorce in 2011, BN was my rock, listening for hours on end while I cried about feeling like a failure, tortured myself about wondering whether I’d ever find love again, and bitched about all the reasons I knew the divorce was the right thing. He backed me up every step of the way, told me I was stupid for putting myself down, & comforted me with ice cream when necessary.

Beloved Nephew is my soul mate, in most senses of that word. 

He understands me in ways that most do not. I can talk to him about anything, and everything. And he can do the same with me. There is never any judgment on either side, only unconditional love.

There are nights when we sit on the phone and “game” – meaning, he plays his game, I play mine, & we talk over the phone. We’re not online, just on the phone, talking about whatever. Sometimes we’re playing the same game, sometimes not, but it doesn’t matter.

Other nights, we can be talking on the phone & doing completely mundane, household things. One night I was washing dishes & he was making himself supper – at 11:30 at night, because we always talk late at night after he gets off his shift at the nursing home where he works. There were moments of complete, comfortable silence, while we each went about our tasks. Silence that I broke to tell him that “You know, if I was doing this on the phone with anyone else, they’d hang up on me, thinking I was ignoring them”.

But it’s true, just knowing that he’s on the other end of the phone, even if we don’t speak, some nights – that’s enough. Strange, but true.

We discussed this on the phone last night (before I fell asleep on him, sorry ’bout that, Nephew!), and neither of us can ever remember a time that we’ve been angry at each other. 

Not ever in all the years we’ve known each other.

That’s just weird, even for me.

If Beloved Nephew were to fall in love tomorrow, I’d stand at his side & be his “Best Wo-Man” at the wedding, after, of course, making sure that the Significant Other was worthy of his magnificence.

If I were to fall in love tomorrow, I’d want him to be my Best Man. 

BN knows things about me that no one else does, simply because he’s been there, through hell and back, with me. Through some of the worst shit I’ve endured in my life, he was always there. 

He’s also helped me celebrate some of the best things to ever happen to me in my life, like being published – not once, not even twice, but three damn times. Once for poetry, once for a photograph, & once a whole blog post.

The same as I’ve done for him.

I’ve watched him grow since his mother’s passing, into a strong, confident, capable, compassionate & brilliant young man.

And even though he now lives across the country, we still talk at least 3 times a week, and sometimes more. He is my best friend, and an irreplaceable piece of my heart.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to put the totality of our relationship into words. People just don’t get it. 

BN is family.

He is Best Friend.

He is Soul Mate, without the romance.

He gets it.

So, in the end, I guess that’s what really matters. He gets it – just as he understands me, I understand him. 

And the rest…doesn’t really matter, does it?

Heartbeat

This evening was beautiful.

I spent some time outside, knowing it was probably going to be one of the few, really nice days left of the fall weather.

I mowed, & planted my lily bulbs for next spring.

I got back in touch with the heartbeat of the earth, and with my own.

And while I was working my hands in the dirt…I was thinking about “Things”.

How many “things” I have.

How many I care about.

Whether I care about “things” at all.

And I came to a conclusion.

The only things I truly Care about…

All have a heartbeat.

My family, chosen and blood, my friends, my 2 cats.

Everything else can be replaced.

But not the heartbeats.

Those are finite.

I’ve lost a few of those over the years, and a handful just within the last couple of years. They are irreplaceable. Gone forever, they exist now only in my memories, and in the memories of the others whose lives they touched.

And, sometimes it hurts, knowing that the only way I can connect to the heartbeats I love so much is through the phone.

This is why I’ve thought about moving closer to my Beloved Nephew.

At least being there, I know I’d be near someone who truly wanted me to be there. Someone who values my heartbeat as much as I value his. As Chosen Family, and my best friend, our friendship is one of those irreplaceable things I cherish.

And here… Well, after everything that’s happened here, I do have a couple of good friends, but no romantic life… and pretty much only painful reminders of heartbreak and rejection. Not exactly a rousing endorsement to stay.

So, I’m going to pack my heartbeat up in cotton, and pad it against breakage for the coming cold months. I’ll work on savoring the moments I get to have with those I cherish, even if it’s only over the phone, and get rid of a few “things” I no longer need.

There’s plenty I can do without.

Getting To It and Leaving It

Yesterday I worked on my kitchen.

I’ve been tearing it apart for days, preparing to repaint, ripping off wallpaper, scrubbing walls, repairing busted plaster, cleaning up old grease & fuzz (can we all say GREASE FIRE?? Geezus) off the tops of the double oven & cupboards.

And, after 10 hours of painting, cleaning blinds from the windows, moving fridge & stove repeatedly, I ended up with this.

It might not look like much difference, but it really is.  It’s now all a soft, dove gray, except right behind the sink, where I’m working today to put the back splash.

Far from finished, but I’m getting to it. There’s a lot more painting to be done. The cabinets will be getting painted as well, but the doors have to be removed, the pulls taken off & replaced. And I’m doing it alone, so it takes time.

And….. I had a phone call yesterday that – fucked me up for a while.

My mom called.

I have such trouble typing this, because I haven’t really let myself deal emotionally with it, yet. And I can’t allow it to take me over right now, either. So I have to push it down, bury it in a box deep in the back of my brain, for now… Until I can think about it without losing my shit.

My mom’s baby brother’s cancer is back.

My Uncle J’s esophageal cancer, which we all thought was in remission. has come back – with a vengeance. It has spread. To lungs, back, bone.

There’s a period at the end of that sentence.

I’m leaving that for now.

I can’t.

My head is so full of pain and rage about this… And I can’t.

I won’t.

I won’t let the pain and rage win.

I’m going back to the kitchen.

Fuck this.

The Good, The Bad, &The Guilt

Today has been…all three.

The Good: I volunteered earlier this week to do a “Parade of Homes” this morning for the local Builders Association, taking tickets, welcoming people to one of the houses on the tour, for a 4-hour stint. 

I and another of my coworkers were paired together, and we had fun, chatting with the folks that showed up, even though it was cold, sitting at a table in the house’s open garage (a brisk 46 degrees, with a nice breeze dancing in from one corner occasionally, thanks!). We had a pretty steady stream of people from the opening time of 10, and were supposed to be relieved by our replacement at 1pm.

The Bad: Our replacement never showed.

About 1:45, we finally got ahold of the organizer of the volunteers, & let her know that we couldn’t stay anymore (my coworker had a child that wasn’t feeling well, & I had other plans as well for my afternoon) , & she was very gracious & thankful that we’d even stayed that long.

So, we packed it in, & left.

When I got home, I started working on my kitchen again. I’m preparing to re-paint, & need to scrub walls, so went & bought a cheap sponge mop at the dollar store, along with a degreaser spray for the walls. 

Then, I decided it was time to clean my ferret, Vinnie’s cage, & give him a bath.

Bath given, I turned him loose on the floor, & started cleaning his cage. He usually runs around like a Tasmanian devil possessed after a bath while I clean his cage. 

Not today.

The Guilt: While replacing the newspapers at the bottom of his cage, after scrubbing, I heard a strange noise in the kitchen.  It sounded like he’d gotten stuck somewhere, & was scrabbling, trying to get out.

He wasn’t stuck.

He was by the cat’s water bucket.

And his back legs were not working.

His back feet were twitching, like he was trying to make them work…but he couldn’t get his hindquarters up off the floor to work like normal.

And I hadn’t noticed when it set him on the floor in the towel.

He was fine just yesterday, what happened?!? 

How could I not notice there was something wrong?

Did he fall somewhere in his cage?

He hasn’t been out of his cage for the last couple of days, and it’s a large, 3-level cage that stands 6 feet tall. He could’ve gotten stuck in the wire-works, somewhere….

And I didn’t see it.

Ferrets are relatively quiet animals, not making much noise, Vinnie quieter than most, he hardly even chatters when he’s excited.

But, how did I not notice this??

Many domesticated ferrets die of cancer as well…

Is this it??

I feel horrible, guilty, and sad.

I know, that if there’s no visible improvement by the beginning of the week, that I’ll have to take him to the vet.

I’m pretty positive that there won’t be improvement. Things like this usually don’t work that way.

You can figure out the logical conclusion.

And that makes this guilt even worse.

Excuse me, I have children to call…


My Love

There are so many ways to love, it staggers the imagination to even contemplate.

I’ve learned, over the years, to never take any scrap of it for granted.

Too many loves lost.

A sister of the heart, taken too soon by cancer.

Lovers, who left me reeling in the wake of their departures.

Ex-husbands who withdrew their affections, leaving their own scars on my soul as they were cut from my heart and life.

Friends, whose deaths were painful reminders that you have to LIVE each moment you have with them, so that you can be the remaining living testament and monument of their life.

This is why I don’t hide my love for others.

This is why I tell the people that I care about, that I love them. 

Because we all need to know.

We need to know that someone loves us.

Without limitation, without obligation, unconditionally, loves us.

When I talk to my Beloved Nephew, my kids, my parents… I always end the call with “I love you”.

Always.

Because I want them to know.

If something were to happen, I want them to remember that our last conversation ended that way.

With Love.

With other friends, it’s more difficult… Awkward, because, some get it tangled up with the sentiment of being “in love”.

The two are not the same.

I am not “in love” with anyone right now, because that has to be reciprocal. It involves knowing someone else well enough to know that that other person has you in their heart the same way you have them in yours. It involves passion as well as compassion. It involves the desire to remain with that one person as a partner.

No one wants me in that way.

But there are plenty of people I love.

If I could tell them…

And while I might not say the exact words out loud…there are other ways to express it.

A teasing text, a “drive safe”, a “sleep well”, a concerned question as to their well-being… All of this and more are ways to show them I love them.

I just wish they’d let me say the words without freaking out. If I could explain, maybe, and yet…I know it’ll end up the same as always. And I’ll be left with the shadow of them disappearing into the distance again.

Because my love seems to be frightening in its intensity, even though it really isn’t. It is given unconditionally, with no expectation of reciprocity. Whether they love me back or not…doesn’t really matter.

I’d still be here for them.

Because that’s who I am.

It kills me over and over, but I die willingly each time. Because love is worth the pain.

I’ve seen both sides.

Love is so worth it.

In talking to the Beloved Nephew tonight, we discussed this post, and I came out with something I had to add.

Unconditional love, by my definition, means that you love someone enough to want only the best for the person you care about – even if that does not involve you.

It might be painful, but that’s not the point. The point is, that the person you love, gets what they need, and that you are happy for them because this means they’ll be better for it. And if that means their life moves away from yours…it doesn’t mean you love them any less…it means you love them enough to give them up. 

To watch someone attain their heart’s desire, their goal, their next step in life, whatever it us – and to cheer them on in their endeavor, this is love. To support them emotionally as they strive for their goal, this is love.

To step back – if they need you to – to walk away – if they need you to – this too is love. Even when it burns.

Babies are born inherently selfish. They have to be in order to survive. They have to reach out and demand everything from those around them just to live and thrive.

Unconditional love is not something we’re born with.

It is something we learn.

It is something we have to be given, in order to give it away.

And, I’ve found, that those I’ve met who understand the true meaning of unconditional love, don’t always come from conventional upbringings.

They don’t always come from the perfect 2 parent households.

But – they always come from a life where someone, somewhere in their life, gave them unconditional love.

They were taught how to love that way.

So, they know how to love that way.

I was taught by many throughout my life. Family, friends, children, lovers…they all showed me in different ways about different facets of love.

So many ways to love.

So many people I love.

I just wish they all understood my love.

Fearless #FamChallenge

Beloved Nephew and I are doing a writing challenge for a little while, to get the creative forces moving. This is my first installment.

*******************†********************

I’ve found myself wishing lately that I could live my life fearlessly, as I used to be able to…

To not have to worry about things constantly, to feel the constriction of anxiety wrapping itself around my chest and throat.

To be able to simply get up and go when I want to, where I want to, without fretting about how I’m going to get there, is it going to be crowded and dangerous, will I get lost, what if something does happen, then what?

I used to be able to live like that.

I sit here, shaking my head and ruefully laughing under my breath, remembering how crazy it seems now…

On a whim, I would pack up my daughters, toss overnight bags in my car, and we would drive 12 hours to Iowa.

Yes, on a whim.

We would make pit stops at the various “scenic stops” along the way, play, take pictures, get out of the car for a few minutes, chase each other around like hooligans…then back into the car, and down the road we’d go.

We always stayed with family at the other end, even if it was on a couch, or in a sleeping bag on the floor, but it didn’t matter to me, or to the girls, we all loved the away time, & getting to see Gramma, the aunts, uncles & cousins.

Visiting, I called it.

Escaping…is a little more accurate.

Luckily, gas was much cheaper back then, & my girls were happy little travelers, loving our “road trips”.  They ate healthy food from relatives with as much gusto as the junk food from gas stations. And would help clean up any mess they made with our stay before we left again.

Irresponsible, some would call it.

Free-spirited, others would say.

Young…is the terminology I use.

But, I’m not so young, anymore.

Still… I live alone now… And my weekends belong to just me once again. 

Maybe I need to “plan” a Fearless Weekend… And get the Hell out of Dodge.

Get in my pickup, pack an overnight bag, and drive…somewhere…other than here.

Hmm…

*wanders off humming to self and grinning from ear to ear*