Saturday, December 07, 2013

Ice Siege in the Holler: A Diary

Thursday (preparation): Doom, gloom, and catastrophe is all over the airwaves and online. We're going to be buried under three feet of solid ice. It's the new Ice Age, and it's starting in central Arkansas. The reports I read actually said that we were gonna have some sleet and "wintry mix" and then it was going to be so cold that it wouldn't melt for a few days. The behavior of other people in the area is where I came up with that first scenario.

Bella has a madrigal dinner tonight, in which she is playing the queen. It's not cancelled. It's cold and rainy, but not yet quite cold enough for sleet, though temps are dropping steadily. I take a sedative and head to Wal-Mart for a few perishable groceries, having already been tipped off that Kroger's shelves were bare. There is not a single loaf of bread (not that we eat a loaf of bread a month, but I'm thinking if the power goes out there're at least PB&Js to be had) on the shelves, and precious few eggs. I am missing my hens.

Instead of buying food, I buy the components of food and pray the electricity won't go out. Baking and cooking provides something to do if we're housebound, at least. Right? I stop at Dollar General after a mentally harrowing 30 minute wait in a Wal-Mart checkout line and buy what is literally their last loaf of bread. Get home, realize we won't likely use it, and toss it in the freezer.

Go to Bella's madrigal dinner, it's very cold and rainy, but the performance is a hoot, and she is fantastic. We hurry home, let the dogs out for one last potty, and hunker down for ICEAMAGEDDON. The sleet begins late at night.

Friday: I wake up at my usual ridiculous early time, and there's already ice everywhere. Down in the holler, I know it's worse than up top. Later in the morning, I need something out of my car, and have to pour hot water along the seal of the door to get it to open because it's frozen shut. The forecast is worse than ever, the National Weather Service is going nuts about WINTER STORM DEON. I bake chia nut bars. They look like barf but are tasty (in that way that lets you know it's HEALTHY--you know what I mean) and filling. I bake blueberry bread. It has no nutritional value aside from blueberries and calories, and is delicious. We eat an entire loaf over the course of the day. We eat chili and crackers and watch movies. Bella paints, I read. Cabin fever sets in. I let Bella stay up ridiculously late to watch City of Bones, which we agree sucks muchly. I go to bed with the useless cat, who's been allowed inside for the duration of below-freezing temps. I watch all of  "The Blacklist." I sleep fitfully.

Saturday:  Conditions down in the holler unchanged. Now we're bored silly. Even the cat sat in the windowsill for awhile before getting back in my bed. There is zero possibility of negotiating my long, steep, curvy, very much frozen solid driveway. All day long there is a running debate with the boyfriend over whether or not he could make it over here. As much as I'd like to see him, we decide not to risk his hide. I cook a country breakfast at 1:00 p.m., which is when Bella gets up. I bake brownies. We eat them all over the course of the day. We're coming out of this weighing 400 pounds, I'm sure.

At approximately 9:00 p.m. I call my mother, who lives in town, to see how they're handling the boredom of being housebound, and find out that the rest of the world outside the holler IS DRIVING AROUND DOING THINGS. Stores are open. Our mail ran. (I know this because Bella went stir crazy and climbed the hill and got it.) The forecast has now been slightly amended, which means they still have no idea what's happening, but apocalypse by ice has apparently been taken off the table. Donna N. still refuses to give me her recipe for scones, or I'd have made those to go with the strawberry jam I made.

My frozen driveway mocks me, and I fear I'm going slightly mad. Will update as situation continues.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day... Just Happy, Nothing Else. ODD.

I'm crying happy tears as I write this. It's going to sound odd given that my daughter is now ten years old, but today is the first good Mother's Day I've ever had, going all the way back to the one when I was pregnant.

It's not because I don't have the most amazing, wonderful child any mother could ask for, because I do. She is nothing short of a gift from God, a blessing that never stops. Last year, we were freshly grieving the loss of the father in our little family, and it just didn't feel very good. Celebrating Mom just meant remembering that Dad was gone... forever. So we didn't. It's still with us, but we're healing now.

Every year before that, and I mean every. Single. Year, there was a bipolar crisis of some sort on Mother's Day, since it just happens to fall at the height of bipolar manic season. Alex bought gifts, often for every mom in his and my family, and I almost always got flowers from his mom, and taken to lunch by my mom, and all that, but there was never time to celebrate or even relax, because there was always a disaster happening. Always. And that required my full attention.

So today, it felt warm, good, and slightly unsettling when I woke, after having been allowed to sleep in, to the smells of butter and bacon. Of course my first response was to yell, "WHAT'S BURNING?" because it never occurred to my sleepy brain that someone besides me was cooking in the morning. I got a "YOU STAY PUT!" in response, so I did. My daughter showed up in my bedroom a couple of minutes later with a plateful of eggs and sharp cheddar, scrambled in butter, thick slabs of bacon, and an ice-cold glass of fresh raw milk. Which she sat and watched me eat every bite of, to make SURE it was really good. It was, but even if it hadn't been, I certainly would've pretended, because when someone is WATCHING you eat something they cooked for you, the only response is, "MMMMMMM!!" Fortunately, she's an excellent cook.

Then came, "Presents? Time for presents?" while bouncing up and down. I love how much she loves to give. We share that, and can barely make it to Christmas for the anticipation of giving people our little gifts. So yes, presents! There was a musical card, a gorgeous bromeliad that is the perfect hue for the living room, and a precious little palm that I love (a few weeks ago, in Home Depot, I had admired some plants and mentioned how very much I love architectural plants, but we couldn't afford them just now)...and even a card from the dogs. All of them.

Then she asked me what else I want. And I hugged her, thanked her for my best Mother's Day ever, and let the tears slip, and said, "I can't think of a thing. I have it ALL."

And so I do.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

PTSD: Mischief Managed



That's my mom. She's VERY supportive, as you can see.


As many of you know, I've been hearing this diagnosis for months now--maybe a year or more, even. I'm not sure, because I just put it right out of my mind every time, because that's ridiculous, right? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? That is something that soldiers get, from the chronic stress of being shot at night and day, or being in explosions, or seeing their friends killed. Not from being... well... me. It just felt presumptuous, or something. But my GP has been saying it the longest. "Belinda, you're dealing with a good deal of PTSD after everything you've been through." I should have listened to him, because he also treated Alex, and he's been in on EVERYTHING. And then there was the therapist who saw both Alex and myself, and the two of us jointly. "Belinda, it sounds like you have PTSD." Nah, I'll be fine--I'm doing so much better already, see? Watch me spin these plates!

Because I "overshare," but moreso because so often, things I've "overshared" here have helped others with similar problems, I want to talk about this. My overriding symptom is a tremendous anxiety/panic, that manifests in tachycardia, sudden and instant all-over sweating, flushed skin, nose and eyes dripping like faucets, lightheadedness, and that classic feeling of "impending doom," when there is ZERO emotional stimulus happening, and I don't, intellectually, feel panicked, anxious, or even upset about ANYTHING. It was always the worst upon waking, and I wasn't getting much sleep to begin with. I felt like I was having a heart attack, and of course, that fear made all the symptoms worse...it was misery.

At first, I would just wake up and immediately hit the treadmill, without even getting dressed or anything. It felt like I had adrenaline poisoning that HAD to be worked off. Sometimes it seemed to help. Sometimes. It felt better than doing nothing. Then over the course of a year or more I just took benzos. Xanax or Klonopin, low doses, 2-4 times a day. Xanax ER worked really well for me, but my insurance wouldn't cover it, and $200/month for one prescription just wasn't something I could sustain. Plus, I was just treating symptoms and not addressing the cause. Which I was NOT acknowledging as PTSD.  So my GP started running heart tests on me, "to rule things out." He knew there was nothing wrong with my heart, but he's not the kind of doctor to not listen to his patient's concerns. When those tests turned up nothing and I was still complaining about my heart, he referred me to a cardiac specialist and a neurologist.

Guess what they both said at our initial consults? "It sounds a lot like PTSD." The neurologist recommended Buspar to "reboot [my] neurophysical responses," did some tests, then told me to get finished with the cardiologist before seeing her again.  She wore jeans and cowboy boots, so I took her very seriously. My cardiologist looks like a more-handsome Don Cheadle, so I took him VERY seriously. He ran tons of tests, including a 24/7 heart monitor, which was the only thing that turned up anything out of the ordinary, that "anything" being exactly what I'd described--periods of sudden racing, pounding heartbeats for no apparent reason. I had more tests, which were normal. I have not yet had my followup with him, but I've gotten letters saying as much.

In the meantime, I had still been seeing my wonderfully patient and thorough GP, who is some kind of Norman Rockwell throwback to the "family doctor" of some ago time. He sits down and TALKS to you, refuses to see pharmaceutical reps during office hours, and won't have any drug-branded products in his offices. And he's a ginger. I love him. Anyway. Going at it from the anxiety angle, we'd tried a few of the antidepressants (starting with the neurologist-recommended Buspar) that are used for anxiety disorders, but without success. Just like all other anti-depressants, they had the unfortunate side effect, in me, of ...wait for it ...CAUSING PANIC ATTACKS.  Yeah. The anti-crazy drugs make me crazy. So I'd just kept taking the benzodiazepines, and they were getting less and less effective.

This brings us to a couple of weeks ago, when I was sitting in my GP's office, shaking and crying and begging for help. I had made an appointment with a psychiatrist, because I recognized that something was going on with my brain, but it was going to be weeks and weeks before I could get in. In the meantime, I was dying. Or at least that's how it felt. He said (I paraphrase, because I didn't take notes), "Belinda, you have lived for over a decade under constant fire. Maybe not from bullets, but it might as well have been. Your brain and your body are now conditioned to respond to every little bit of stress in a certain way, and absent a real-time crisis, you're just eating yourself up from the inside. We have to do something--you can't go on like this."

And that's when he pulled out (what was to me, anyway) the big guns: a class of drugs known as atypical antipsychotics. Which made me go, "NUH-UH," because while I might be a little crazy, I'm definitely not psychotic. ALEX took those drugs, and he was capital-C Crazy. But then I realized that he never had a psychotic episode in his life, and HE didn't balk at the label.  And intellectually, I knew that this class of drugs is seeing a LOT of off-label use. I still said no, because I'm smart like that. So Doc wrote me another prescription for Klonopin, and said to call him back in TWO WEEKS, no less, if I wasn't remarkably better. And off I tottered to the pharmacy... and when they brought me my prescription, it was two prescriptions: the one I'd been expecting, and the other that I'd refused. Tricky, tricky Doc! So after a lengthy discussion with the pharmacist, who assured me that it was a small dose, and that, as the doctor said, it would only be temporary, I went ahead and took it home, where I reflected upon it some more.

And then, as bloggers are wont to do, I took the issue and crowd-sourced it. Albeit more privately, with a select group that I knew had experience both with this drug and with anxiety disorders. For once in the history of the Internet, the response was entirely unanimous: TAKE THE MEDICINE. It's temporary, it will help you, and (paraphrased) you're being kind of stupid about this whole thing.

So I started that night. Two weeks later, the relief I'm getting is phenomenal, and I wish I'd done this an age ago. And if you are reading this and have lived the kind of stuff I've lived, know that it's impacting you. I held it together amazingly well for a number of years, but after all was said and done, it caught up with me, in spades. I WAS living under a hail of bullets and explosions, to the metaphorical point that every sudden or loud noise sent me crashing to the ground with my hands over my head. I'm still a bit twitchy, but I absolutely believe that I AM, in the words of Doc, restoring my brain to factory settings. And even though I know it's temporary, a this point, at this level of relief, I don't think I'd care if I were told to take this medicine for the rest of my life.

Heck, maybe I'll even get away from the house. Living with Alex, I really couldn't get away, nor could I have people over. Afterwards, that mindset was pretty much all I knew. Even when I DID begin a new relationship with a man, it was with someone who was "safe" in that he didn't live here, was a bit emotionally unavailable, and was of an age that made it pretty well a sure thing not to last. That wasn't an accident, I don't believe. My subconscious operates on a HIGHLY EFFICIENT LEVEL. Be afraid. But do come visit, or let's go out, shall we? I think I can safely promise not to cower underneath a table at any point unless an actual air-raid siren goes off.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Maybe Yes Begins With Maybe

Maybe it's time, you know? Maybe, at long last, I start in on the enormous backlog of Things I Need and Things I Want, and stop making excuses, and start checking them off. For the most part, a lot of these things have been trying to practically fall into my lap, if only I weren't standing up and facing the other direction. In other words, I may not even need to start out saying "yes," as much as to just stop saying "no."

"No," you see, has become a habit. A defense mechanism that I have come to use, over the course of years, to protect myself, and more importantly, my family. No, I can't have company, I'm needed. No, I can't spend time with friends, I have to stay here. No, I can't go on that trip that I planned all year, because I have to deal with this crisis, because I'm the only one who will. No, I don't have time to finish that book, or even to tend my website, because my attentions are demanded elsewhere. No, no, no... thank you for thinking of me, but I can't.

All anyone has to do is glance back through the last dozen entries here and see the snapshots in time that sum up the wild emotional-tsunami-driven ride of the last few years of my life. The one thing I opened myself up for was a relationship that started (and ultimately, ended, at least in one sense) with "no." I denied myself at least 6 months, maybe more, of quality companionship because of my Armor of No. I preferred being alone to taking a chance on what turned out to be something that did me good and for which I have zero regrets.

But if you go back even farther in the archives, you can pretty much see how this response formed, and how it became so ingrained. I don't really need to say more about it here, because it's all there. There was literally no one else who could handle the... issues that had to be handled. No one but me. Not when it came down to the nitty-gritty. I DID have help, from both family and professionals, for the bigger stuff, but the day-to-day heavy lifting was all mine. I didn't really have any choice. And so it began, and so it became ingrained.

"No" is easy. "No" is safe. "No" insulates and protects... unfortunately, "no" also isolates and alienates. I lost friends--good friends who just became weary of being seemingly rejected time after time. It got to the point (and many of you can attest to this) that I couldn't even talk on the phone. I was alone long before I was alone, and after a while, it became my default setting, comfortable in its familiarity, secure and safe, like my own little metaphorical hobbit-hole.

"Yes" is scary. "Yes" is risky. "Yes" means putting yourself out there, exposing vulnerabilities, and taking chances. All things with which I used to be, once upon a time, supremely comfortable. I have a lot of things that are needing a "yes" from me. But after all this time, it's extremely daunting. I can't promise I'll be able to follow through with a solid  "YES!" every time. But I can start with "maybe," and then move on to "probably," and hopefully in short order to "yes."

Yes, I will accept help from others.

Yes, I will submit my chapters for editorial review.

Yes, I will resume the posting here that has meant so much to me.

Yes, I will have my chickens. (That one makes me smile.)

Yes, I will actively seek more artistic earning opportunities.

Yes, I will allow a well-intentioned gentleman or two to lavish me with courtly blandishments.

Yes, I will use more phrases like "courtly blandishments" in blog posts.

Yes, I will have parties. At MY home. I will return my home to the warm, inviting place that it was once upon a time (when it was located elsewhere and was 100% mine), when friends felt comfortable gathering and socializing and eating delicious things and laughing and talking and laughing some more.

Yes, yes, yes. But let's start with... maybe. Probably. Yes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SWF Seeks.

That's not even an incomplete sentence. I'm definitely seeking... something. But what? Peace, comfort, security, pretty much all the same things I've been seeking for the last ten or twelve years. I had it briefly (if you can call a year plus "brief") with my Cowboy, and though we've given it another go, and been on-again, off-again since the last update here, and though he is still very much a part of my life, and I hope always will be, since we do care about and love each other and wish happiness for the other... we just can't make the long-distance thing work. So I think that it is safe to say that I am now very much "single." I'm not feeling any great drive to do anything to change that, but I do need to change something, or somethings.

The feeling of solitude grows overwhelming at times. Stephen was always there for me and did (and does) the best he could to support and help where I needed it, and God knows when he was here, he was a beast of productivity and instigated upgrades that are still continuing around this property and in my life, and revived my own motivation, setting it on track so that it belongs to me now. And I'm keeping it going. I thank him for that. Like I said, he was always there for me, but "there" was, ultimately, just too far away. As it turns out, and as we knew the first time we did the breakup thing, we work beautifully together, and not so great apart. I haven't seen him since September, and though we talked about another visit soon, the logistics just aren't there. So we're back (Yes, AGAIN) to friend status, which is something I hope to never lose.

 But dear Lord, I need... something. Something HERE. Something real, something tangible, something I can't even yet identify. Single parenting SUCKS, and I am in awe of all of you who have been doing it for years--it's killing me not having backup, another pair of hands, another voice to comfort, praise, scold when necessary, and show love to a child who desperately needs it, on a daily basis. I won't fall into the trap of grabbing the first stable-looking man who glances my way just because my daughter misses having a father, but I can't deny the fact that I feel a pressure on HER part that I do not feel for myself. I have all the time in the world, and am happy in my own company, and enjoy the freedom of being able to have all kinds of friends and talk to men freely as friends and even be flattered by their flirting without concerns of having someone cross a line of disrespect to my boyfriend. It's kind of liberating... in a melancholy sort of way. I am definitely not celebrating the dissolution of our relationship, Stephen's and mine, but I am at peace with my decision, as I believe he is also with his, since it was just not going anywhere as it was. We miss each other, but really? We were already missing each other, and we're still only a phone call away at any time. I hope he finds ultimate happiness in whatever life has in store for him... and I hope that I do to. I'd settle, based on my last few years, for reasonable happiness. Contentment. Peace.

I keep coming back to that word... peace. It's all I really want. Whether alone or with someone else, I need calm, stability, the assurance of knowing what is coming next, a lack of strife... peace. I need to show my daughter that we are powerful women, that we can achieve this on our own, and that anyone we choose to allow into our lives should live up to this standard. It's so little to ask. I have always considered myself "low-maintenance" as far as relationships go. I don't ask for much from friends or romantic interests at all. Just be honest with me, loyal to me, and love me like I love you. Simple. If you INSIST on paying off my mortgage, and twist my arm, well, I guess I'll let you. I'm just saying that you don't HAVE to in order for me to be happy. (But seriously--any takers on the mortgage thing? No? FINE.)

 I cried tonight for about 5 minutes. There has been an overwrought series of events happening the last few days with which I have had to deal by myself (duh, who else is here?), and for a moment, it just became too much. That, and this stupid new medicine the neurologist put me on is wrecking me, and I think I need to quit. But I cried, good, loud, pitiful sobs, I wiped my tears, and I got on with myself. Because I AM strong. And my daughter is, too, in her way, and will only grow stronger. And for now, I seek. I don't know what, but I am supremely confident that I'll know it when I see it.

And for those of you who keep asking: I write. A lot. The "bones of a book," as a dear friend once referred to some of my storytelling in this space, are growing flesh, and I daresay muscle. At this point there is as much re-writing as there is writing, so often days or weeks of work disappears in a flash, but the progress seems to be in the right direction. I've never seen another writer doing precisely what I'm doing, so it may be a colossal failure. We won't know if I don't try, though, and it's been a long time coming. This may be exactly the reason I need time alone, though it sure would be nice to have someone on the next sofa over to bounce ideas off, to read a phrase to here and there, to check the authenticity of some of the voices...it would be nice to have a solid someone for that dedication page. Well, besides my mother, who made me who I am, with the help of my father, through sheer badassery.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Where I Lay Down Some Straight Talk On Politics And Offend No One

Yes, it can be done. Watch me.

Election day has finally come and gone, and the people have spoken. This time, individuals won out over huge, moneyed corporate interests, which honestly sort of astonished me, because I thought the Koch Bros. had this thing bought and paid for. Turns out that people on both sides of the aisle largely ignored all that advertising, which is encouraging. We're learning. There is a pretty nice balance at the moment between "red and blue" when you look at the big picture, WHICH IS GOOD. We want that. As much as we act like we hate each other, Liberals/Progressives and Conservatives are forever locked into a symbiotic relationship that CANNOT be broken, or we all die. Dead. As a society, I mean. Not, you know, individually, though I won't rule that out because no one knows what will go down come the Zombie Apocalypse.

There have been  numerous brain studies which illustrate the fundamental differences between the way that a progressive thinker operates and the way that a conservative thinker operates. There are important distinctions, and learning about this is what helped me to love a whole lot more people and welcome more diversity into my own personal "society." Conservatives have a heightened fear-center, which makes them highly resistant to change, while Liberals show high activity in areas that deal with resolving conflict, which makes them more likely to not just wonder what that button does, but to push it and find out. You can see why these two groups NEED each other. This symbiosis goes back to our Paleolithic ancestors and beyond, and is the reason that any of us are even here today. Without the progressives in the tribe, hunter/gatherers would've died out when they depleted their natural resources (kind of like we're doing now, *ahem*), and without conservatives in the tribe, the whole lot may just have been eaten by giant paleolithic bears (laser-bears, if it was in Canada) when they set forth all willy-nilly to find the next place to set up a home.

Conservative or Liberal, you NEED that person on the opposite side of the spectrum. This is why our American system of checks and balances, for the most part, works. Without progressivism, we get nowhere. Without conservatism, we risk going too far too fast. As much as you may think that if only YOUR party were in control of EVERYTHING, that things would be just peachy, that just isn't the case. Without Progressives/Liberals, societal growth would come to a screeching halt, stagnate, and just... die. We MUST progress to succeed and grow. Likewise, without Conservatives to provide some caution and restraint, societal growth would blow up like crazy and before you know it we're all dead by sentient nanobots. Or Daleks. Whatever. Trust me, it's gonna be some whacky liberal scientists who unleash the virus that causes the Zombie Apocalypse, and it's gonna be Conservative corporate interests who fund the research and cover up the results. I know things.

My point is, we NEED each other. All of us. So quitcher bellyachin', and get involved with your neighbor of opposing ideology, and fix stuff together. I'm talking to you, Congress. Well, and everyone else. But mainly Congress.

I would leave you with a seed of an idea: Whatever the MAIN driving force was for you during this election cycle--the thing that really motivated you... take that issue and make it YOURS. Own it. Work for it. On the local level. On the ground. In your own community. Be the change that you want to see in the world. Even small things can make a huge difference, whatever the cause, for or against--green energy, women's & children's issues, ecology, economic reform, health care reform, social security, climate change, lack of poodle representation in local government, WHATEVER. Get involved and make stuff happen. And if you get stuck? Take a look across the aisle, and see what your "enemy" might have to offer. You could surprise everyone.

It's going to be OK.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Restrained

I want permission to be angry. I have made tremendous strides in the last year in regaining myself, and yet--there is still what feels like a clogged pressure valve somewhere that is impeding my ultimate progress. I am being restrained.

Things have come to light since Alex's death about which I have every right to be furious. To vent. To rage, even, if such is my wont, and through that process, to achieve some catharsis. As much as I knew was wrong, the things I did not know, while not shocking, have been like continuing punches in the gut as they've been discovered, via the cleansing of computer files, the sorting of financial records, phone and e-mail logs, etc. Just horrifying. And here's the thing: You do not speak ill of the dead. Surely there comes a point at which that "rule" tips, but I don't know what that point is.

Don't get me wrong: I am beyond being hurt by Alex, or being angry with him. Our relationship had evolved into something totally different, and non-intimate, in every sense of that word (you cannot have any sort of real relationship without trust, and trustworthiness was absent on one side of the equation for oh, such a long time), years ago, so I was fairly insulated against most of that by the time our marriage was "officially" over (which, in my view, was the night I left). That kind of pointless enmity accomplished nothing before his death, and it accomplishes nothing now. But just plain ANGRY? Yes. Angry at a level of betrayal I would never have imagined a decade ago, that, yes--but also, fury at being silenced about it out of something that I am surely imposing upon myself... a sense of propriety, loyalty to my child, kindness to his family, embarrassment at having been in the middle of it all and being fooled so well and so thoroughly. Whatever it is.

Of all considerations, Bella is of course number one. And she, like me, is learning more and more of the truth, through discoveries of her own that I cannot prevent or predict. But there are things that she does not know... there are things that almost no one knows, because they are just too outrageously awful to consider, much less to dwell on. Someday, she will likely know a lot of it. Now is not that time. I must protect her sweet innocence as much as I can, and I find that the conversation regarding her father now is much the same as it has been all her life. I don't know why he did that, Baby. He was sick. No, that's not an excuse, and yes, he still made his own choices. It's complicated. He loved you. Same refrain as always, because it's still all I have to offer, as always.

And here's the catch to THAT: As this daughter's mother, I have a responsibility to her to assure that she knows, that she really understands, that all of this horror that I have been minimizing, excusing, even hiding, for years, is NOT OKAY. Not EVER, not for ANY REASON. She has to be allowed to understand that it is permissible to love her father and still know that his was not a model to be emulated or duplicated of what it is to be a proper man, husband, or, sadly, even a father. She needs to be able to pick the good and shining qualities that he imparted to her apart from the wreckage that he left in his wake through constant betrayals of trust. I have to raise a young woman who will look for, and expect, and DEMAND, a completely different standard than the one set for her through living example, both by the father who failed the test and the mother who kept re-setting the curve lower and lower. She deserves better.

So far, though it is, I am painfully aware, early, she has as good a handle on this as you could possibly expect--probably because she had lived it. At least I hope that is the way it's working. She knows that she can absolutely trust me, no matter what. And know this, Universe: I now have a zero tolerance policy for being lied to. No three strikes, no second chances. Not anymore. There will never, ever again, be a time in my life when I will discovery an infidelity, on the part of a trusted partner, of any magnitude and not respond instantly, decisively, and with extreme prejudice. Not any shape or form of a lie will be tolerated. I just cannot go through that any more--I won't. One thing that my family instilled in me my whole life was that you do not lie. You just don't do it. How I managed to become someone who tolerated lying, I do not know. And that frightens me, because if my daughter ever asks me "why," I am not going to have an answer. Love? Delusion? Hope? Denial? It doesn't really matter, does it?

Ultimately, I think that that is part of what is killing me a little inside right now. If you know me even a little bit, you know that I am an open book. Transparent. That the way I process things is to spill my guts, usually in writing... to pour it out on a page and let others who have experience to offer share that with me. Just to get it OUT OF ME, even if no one responds. That is a critical piece of who I am, and the stifling that I'm feeling right now just seems so... dishonest. Yes, I put up with a lot of dishonesty, but I was never, ever dishonest myself. I was accused of it--in every way, from having my motives questioned in irrational, rage-fueled tantrums, to being accused during a court proceeding of having an affair. I can stand firm in the knowledge that I never betrayed a trust. That I am faithful, and that I am honest.

Wait. Let's walk that back a step. Because that's not entirely the truth, is it? Because being honest isn't JUST about not lying, is it? And let's face it, I might not have ever lied to anyone, but I sure as heck kept quiet about some very not-right stuff. And that in itself is not right. It wasn't right that I was put in a POSITION to feel as though I needed to do that, it wasn't right for me to FEEL that I needed to do that, and it wasn't right for me to DO that. Not really. Because even if those "lies of omission" didn't hurt a single other person, they hurt ME. And they still are. That is just not who I am, and the longer I suppress that, the more it hurts me, and interferes with forward progress. I have become close to someone who has helped me to recognize this "withholding" trait I've developed as a defense mechanism over the years, and I truly believe that I have come almost fully 180 degrees in shedding that reflex. Of course, only having people in your life who you can trust makes that a lot easier, but still. It was sort of a shocking revelation to me, Miss Truthiness Poster Girl, that I was, in my own way, harboring a less-than-genuine personality tic, and I'm grateful to the one who pointed it out along the way, and grateful to be rid of it.

Which brings me back, full circle, to where I started, but I realize now that I don't actually want permission to be angry. I want permission to be HONEST. Now I just have to figure out who grants that to me, and go about getting it. I don't need to be able to fill the world full of sordid details--God, that would hurt worse, I think--but I need to be able to say, once and for all, "This is how it really was, and how it really was, was wrong."

I have a life to get on with; a life which is looking pretty wonderful and full of beautiful potential right now, in which I am surrounded only by solid, dependable, amazing people... let's go get that, shall we? It's right there for the taking.