Saturday, November 14, 2015

Heart-Sore, Heart-Sick, Heart-Broken- Levels of Grief

Grief, sadness, despair-  they affect us all in different ways, creeping into our souls and affecting every part of us, from how we eat and sleep, to the choices we make in the future. Some pains are so debilitating that we are stopped in our tracks, unable to move forward. Others rock us to our core, but ease a little day by day and allow recovery at a quicker pace. Coping mechanisms help, friends and words of loving support help more.  For me to sort through these experiences, I've found that it helps to be a little clearer in "labeling" the kind of pain I'm experiencing. And so I began using different phrasings to elaborate on levels of grief.

When I found that my partner of 6+ years had been lying to me, cheating on me, and living another life, I was heart-broken.  That is to say, the bottom fell out of everything I knew and I was a pit of despair, disbelief and raw pain.  I felt like I had been dragged across a giant cheese-grater, tearing holes in every part of me. Betrayal engulfed me.  I not only lost him, and was losing my place to live, I lost my spiritual faith that there was a greater good supporting me.  I had no focus, no future.  I called my mother and said that if they would let me, I would move into my parents' basement, get a menial food service job to help pay bills, and take care of them as best I could, until we all aged into obscurity.  I gave up on everything.  It was only when they accepted some portion of my offer, and steps began falling into place to remove me from my life in LA and relocate me to the East Coast, that a tiny voice began to rebel and fight for the life I had.  By that point, too much ground had been lost and I was carried by the tide of events, out of my 2 decade world of friends and habits and into an strange new place.  I would wake in the dark basement bedroom of my parents' home, tears on a pillow from weeping in my sleep.  I did not know how I could recover.  I just woke up each day, out of necessity to pee and find a job, and I kept blindly going one step after another.

Still gob-smacked from the pain of loss and relocation, I did begin to move forward, a bit, in North Carolina.  I secured a job, not in food service (which I know nothing about) but instead in animal care in a vet's office. That in and of itself shows that recovery was already happening.  As much as I swore that I could not care about life as I once did, I could not let go of my passion for animal welfare.  I did not love my job. In fact, most days I absolutely hated the stress of it.  The hours were long, the pay sub-standard, and I went home mentally, emotionally and physically drained.  But it gave me a reason to get up (other than needing to pee.)  I found my own living residence.  I had few friends, but I had some. I had no social life, but I read a lot of books.  I tried re-engaging my spirituality, not very successfully.  There was, for the first time in my life, no ocean for me to sit and watch (and the ocean is a great source of peace and strength for me, so this was devastating).  My apartment was on the dark side of a mountain, so no sunbeams came into warm my body or light my hopes. There was no place to go dance (another intrinsic avenue of healing).  At night, when the demons came to whisper in my ear, I had no defenses.   I was drinking heavily, cutting occasionally.  I was heart-sick.   Unable to say "This one thing is wrong", but I was trapped in an all-encompassing and overwhelming unchanging pattern of disrepair that seemed to have no solution. I trudged on, one day after another, with not much belief of improving my situation.  Only a small spark of hope kept me trying to better my situation.  Hope was so foreign and unrecognizable, I didn't even call it that at the time.  I just knew that something had to give.  Either it would get better, or my cutting would go too deeply one night.  I wasn't sure at the time which I wanted more.

But then came a job offer, and another relocation.  This had perks, as it was a job in my field, in a new state, with warmer temperatures and a home that had large windows for sun to shine in.  Somehow, I had turned a corner.  I was no longer sick or despairing, just anxious to make my new life work.   That was early Summer of this year.  Things have been much better, and I'm pleased to report that I'm doing fairly well, alive and kicking, trying to respark my magic, my hopes, and even my romantic opportunities.  Which leads me to my last category...

Two months after arriving in this town, I found a club where I would go dancing, much to my heart's delight.  And there, I met a boy.  A sweet faced boy who was not my usual type, but upon conversation, I discovered to be charming, witty, and very unlike the stereotypical natives.   We began with a few tentative dates, to sushi, to the aquarium.  We shared pumpkin carving, and Halloween movies.  We laughed, we kissed... I tried to be slower in approach, but I emote with all the subtlety of a bulldozer. Not sure if I wanted this to become a serious long term thing, we had a conversation in which critical bits of information came to light that made it clear that I should no longer pursue the relationship.  It hurt like hell.  I had been so happy for 6-8 weeks after nearly 3 years of darkness.  I didn't want to let go, but I knew it was best.  (god, that sounds SO much like a cliche,  so fake, and yet my bloggy friends, it is true.)  I saw what was there. I saw the potential for happiness, and I saw the potential for disaster. It might be "good", but it could not provide what I was really craving, and worse case scenario, it had some small echos of my relationship with my ex, which is what sent me on this multi-year trip through the underworld to begin with.  For my greater good, and for the health of my continuing recovery, I let go. Endings suck, and I wept, but I was only heart-bruised... heart-sore.   No devastating despair.  No suicidal thoughts.  OK, I haven't eaten a decent meal in a week, and have probably drunk my body weight in cheap beer, but these are triflings of pain compared to 2012.  I'll lick these wounds clean, and be better for it.

It's so easy for an Internet meme to tell us to "Love like [we've] never been hurt" but the actual practice is much more challenging.  Still, I'm trying to put all the broken and sick parts behind me and open myself for the idea that rebirth is in process and healing is 3 steps forward/2 steps back (god, another cliche).   Yes, I'm still sore.  Still bruised, not just from this latest encounter, but from the whole experience, LA to here.  But I'm progressing through these levels of grief and making my way back to something new.

Author's Note:  I've been working on this post for a few days now, and thought it was mostly done... until last night, when Paris was so tragically torn apart by terrorist attacks.   Obviously, each person's response is different.  Perhaps you lost someone in these attacks and are heart-broken.  Perhaps you are worn down, unable to get through another day in such a violent world, trudging heart-sick from one news report to another. Perhaps your heart-pain manifests in anger, resentment, or a complete lack of ability to respond in any way just now.   Whatever your level of grief, however this violence affected you, please be kind and compassionate with yourselves, with others. Love and support to Paris.  Je t'aime.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Love Letter

My gods, beautiful, how I miss you.  The smell and sound of you.  The calm and endless love you surround me with.  Beautiful lover, how am I surviving the days so far from your embrace?

Remember our cold mornings together?  Chilled in the early air, I lay there, wrapped in blankets while you crashed sweet nothings in my ear, the taste of you still on my lips, salty and raw.  I want to take you into me, know you intimately, feel your timeless tug and surge and relentless pounding rhythm. You are sex and life and fierce endless force.  You are the edges of the earth, the blue along the horizon, the home of long ago dragons.  You are everything and I am lost so far from you.

Inside you is everything I hold most dear and in your presence I can be nothing but honestly myself, weeping, laughing, struggling, floating. With you, I am buoyed up, sucked under, alive and encircled and whole.  I never know how to give back to you all you offer me.  I never know how to show my passions for you completely.  I feel like a poser, a poor and unimaginative lover who gives meaningless chocolates at Valentine's day and forgets to gift you with daily gestures of my deeper heart.  And yet, never have I felt you faulted me for that.  Never have I left our time together feeling ashamed or incomplete or incompetent.  Always you gift me with your confidence, your strength, your love.  Always you leave me feeling whole and alive.  You are my greatest lover.

If I could, I would throw myself into your arms, tangle myself in your kelp beds like a disoriented otter, until each inch of my body was wrapped in your sinewy embrace, and there, blue faced, smothered in passion, I would gladly breathe my last.  I want to drown in you.

Without you, life is tasteless, save for the tracks of salt tears leave as they roll across my lips.  I miss you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

On the passing of Robin Williams

As someone long diagnosed with depression, as someone who has spent time in a hospital after a suicide attempt, this tragedy just hits a little too close to the heart for me to process right now. I will just say Rest well Oh Captain. You made me laugh and cry. You transported me with your performances. You changed the world. I’m sorry that in those last dark moments you lost sight of that. You are irreplaceable. You will be missed.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Anniversary Update

On the longest day of the year of 2013, our intrepid adventurer set forth on a cross country trek.  Her Penske was packed with memories, regrets and 9 cats.  Her heart, heavy; her soul, saddle sore. With a Solstice moon and a concerned mother to lead her, she spent 5 long days putting miles between her latest failure and her heart-sick self. Meaning that one year ago TODAY, she arrived in North Carolina to begin her "new life."

*   *    *   *

I'd love to tell you that every day since then has been positive, that I'm healed and happy.  But I like to keep this blog an actual representation of my life, not a flowery illusion of what I'd like my life to look like.  And recovery takes time...  three steps forward, two steps back.  Behavioral tendencies that have lasted a lifetime don't get suddenly retrained in a month.  Back-slides happen, patterns repeat.  Auto-pilot is a dangerous way to drive through life, but it's damn easy to slip into.

Then again, I've always been my toughest critic... so let me take a moment to focus on the positive.  I AM DOING IT.  Every morning I get up, whether I write in a journal, take a long hike in the mountains, show up  at my job, or pay off a little more debt, I am taking a step on this new path.  Building a new foundation takes an irritatingly long time, especially when you start deeply in a hole (emotionally and financially) as I did.  But the key is showing up, and I'm still doing that.

I'm learning to listen to and trust my intuition again.  I'm still not great about taking action in accordance with the little voice in my head, but at least I've stopped dismissing it.  My faith in my gods is shaken and distant, but I still have an altar.  After weeks of feeling stuck, yesterday I took the time to change out all the candles and incense, switching from woodsy dusky scents to bright florals and fruits, and WHAM suddenly I could smell the arrival of Summer in my home.  For a moment, my heat and passion were re-ignited along with candle wicks, and I went to bed with a sense of hope instead of with a body weary from dread and resignation.

Today, I'm working a half-day, so I have the morning to drink a hot cup of tea, snuggle with the kitties, center myself and reflect.  I can hear the wind outside shaking the multitude of vibrant green leaves in my front yard.  I will fold the clean laundry, and sort out which bills can be paid out of the paycheck that comes tomorrow. I will try to put together a list of the ways in which my life is better than it was a year ago.

I cry less.  That's a start.
I'm surrounded by kindness.  That's good too.
I can breathe in moist, clean air, juicy with the smells of raw nature.  That always make me smile.

Los Angeles is like that friend we all have.... the one talks a little too loud, who takes a little too much energy.  The one who always makes the conversation about her, but then leaves you to pick up the lunch tab.  And yet, now that she is missing from my life, I find she has left a hole there is no filler for.

The High Country however, is a wall flower.  Prettier than she realizes, she sits quietly along the sidelines of the gym dance and waits for you to initiate contact.  She's hard to get to know, but if you can get her talking in a one-on-one conversation, you can watch her eyes light up, be seduced by her soft giggle, and realize there's a lot more there than seems at first glance.

Re-reading those descriptions, I realize that I'm a lot more LA than I ever will be North Carolina.  I'm pretty sure this is only a temporary destination for me, a rest stop on the highway where I refuel and recover, but while I'm here, I'm striving to make friends with the shy girl, learn what I can from her secrets, heal the wounds I acquired living in the flashy big city.  There's a gentleness here that allows time for recovery, and if I can just drop into that slow, Southern rhythm, I just might be able to be compassionate and patient with my own learning curve.

One year later, I'm not where I wanted to be.  I'm not where I thought I would be.  But I'm not dead... not even overwhelmed right now.  Just moving slowly forward.  It's a quiet anniversary, but it is not a sad one.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Because Constant Fear & Shame Sucks #yesallwomen

Since leaving LA, I've grown more and more attached to the glittering city that was once my home.  I feel its heat, its hurts, its majesty from across the country, largely through on-line communications with West Coast friends. So althoughtI live atop a western NC mountain, the shooting at UCSB hit close to home and heart.

The #yesallwomen twitter string opened up even deeper wounds, as I read the brave flood of ugly truths that poured out.  Women everywhere revealed tales of abuse and shame at the hands of misogynistic society.  As I read, my own bitter stories began to bubble to the surface, but I could not find the words or strength to add my voice to the call for change.  As I speculated on these thoughts, I became aware that the longer I hid them, the greater my shame became and that by hiding behind other brave voices, I was in my own way contributing to the problem.  So here I am now, trying to get naked in words. 

I started bartering my sexuality early.  I knew there was power in it, knew I housed some wanted commodity and that attention and "affection" could be bought with a well-timed glance and seductive smile.  And hey, I like sex, so I figured it was a win-win situation to use what I had to get a moment's good feeling.  However, I made poor choices often and frequently the interactions left me not feeling loved, but used, empty and ashamed.  As a wounded soul, I attracted abusers and addicts like moths to a flame and I put out many times to avoid physical threat or angry confrontation.  Not exactly consent, but not what I would call "rape", for I did have some choice in the matter, even if my choices were sometimes made under duress.  I blamed myself when I got hurt, for I knew that I was playing a dangerous and stupid game.  Then came THAT night.

I was at a weekend event, in my college town, with a group of role playing/re-creationists.  In that environment, if you are female, you can have all the attention and alcohol you desire, and I was at home being the belle of the ball and having my pick of flirtations.  This was only a small gathering, around Winter Solstice, and the holiday energy was high and playful.  A male friend of mine kept my cup full of one intoxicant after the next and before I realized, I was beyond drunk.  It is one of the few times I can say that I drank to black out and beyond.  My unconscious form was taken to my cabin, on the outskirts of the campground, where I was staying alone, and my friends took shifts watching over me, as my body heaved out the poisons.  There was a man, never before seen at one of our local events.  No one knew him prior to the weekend, but he seemed a convivial fellow, harmless even.  So when he offered to take a shift watching the unconscious girl, my friends (who were also intoxicated, sleepy and no doubt tired of babysitting a drunk) let him. 

When I came to at some dark silent moment of night, this man was on top and inside me.  Bile rose in my throat, not just because of the alcohol.  "I'm going to be sick," I managed to croak out, and he took one hand off my hips and turned my head to the side so I could vomit off the edge of the bed, all while he continued his thrusting.  He told me that I was beautiful, that he'd watched me all night, and that I needed to let him finish.  I "owed" him that after being "such a tease" all night, when he was "kind enough" to take a shift watching over me.  Weakened, incapacitated, ill, I had no choice but to comply.

When he'd had his orgasm, he pulled out, redressed, was "kind enough" to make sure I wasn't going to fall asleep again (and I wasn' that point, I wasn't sure I would ever be able to sleep again) then he took his leave.  I crumpled to the floor in a puddle of my own filth and shame, and cried.

I told only a few of my closest friends what happened, and even then, a close female friend, while angry for me, commented that hopefully, I'd learned my lesson about drinking too much. 

No one urged me to take legal action. 

No one, not even me, called it rape (at that time.) It was just what happened to pretty and promiscuous girls who did dumb things. 

Did I make bad choices that night?  Hell yes, I did.   Did I "deserve" to be raped while unconscious?  No, I did not... but I didn't come to that truth for many years. 

I take responsibility for my actions that night.  I understand that I contributed to the events that occurred, BUT  being pretty and flirtatious is not consent.  Being unable to say "no" is not consent.  Having a vagina IS NOT CONSENT. 

No... #notallmen would have made this choice.  But the fact that one did, and NO ONE around me (including myself) fathomed the whole disgusting injustice and impropriety of those actions speaks of a sickness in our culture.  #Yesallwomen have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies.  #Yesallwomen deserve to live a life free of constant fear.  #Yesallwomen should proudly call for change.  The dark time of living in shame for being female needs to stop.

 #Yesallwomen have some similar sad story. This is just one of mine.  But if we are to cure this illness, then the stories must be told.  The dark must be brought to healing light. 

I will not live in shame anymore. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lesser than...

My competitive spirit can at times be a blessing.  It pushes me past that first wall of "I can't" and tells me that many others can, so why don't I sack up and become one of those.  It makes me want to excel at work and be the best in my job that I can.  It makes me want to be the best daughter I can, so that I will continue to be the favorite, over the dog and cats (who have much easier jobs, lower expectations of performance and cost a lot less to feed than I do...  And yes, I am so neurotic that I do have sibling rivalry with the parents' pets.)

But sometimes, that urge to compete just leaves me with the overwhelming feeling of having the wind knocked out of my sails.  Sometimes, no matter what I do, I can't help feeling like I can never tow the line being set by those around me.  Every "not good enough" button gets hit and I collapse, defeated.

That's where I am these days. Mired in "not enough".

I understand that "not enough" is the bane of most human existence, that we all battle those demons regularly. I comprehend that there are many "tools" to help fight those feelings.  Writing, talk therapy, meditation have all been suggested as healing (although the last one is a mine-field for me.  I suck so badly at meditation, stilling the monkey mind chatter.  When I try to meditate, I fail so miserably that it only exacerbates the "not enough".  I begin to focus on how completely inept I am at meditating, and it becomes an exercise in self-flagellation. )  So here I am, writing, in hopes of performing some exorcism and coming out the other side with a sense of self again.

Of course, I fear that these words will be used against me.  That my ex will read these pages and use them as some bolster to his delusional "holier than thou" attitude of pity he has towards the fact that I'm still angry at him (and thus in his mind, a lesser person, incapable of healing and moving on.) I worry that people whose opinions I do care about will read this and thing "Jeez, that Teece is a pretty fucked-up little cookie.  I had no idea she was so broken or neurotic. Seriously?  Sibling rivalry with pets?"  I am concerned that my mother will read this and try to put band-aids on gangrenous soul wounds by sending a sappy and well-meant text message about how much she and my father love me.  (Seriously Mom, don't.  I love you, thanks for the thought, but don't.  Ok?  Thanks)

So why am I writing here?  In the blogosphere where everyone can read this?  Who am I writing for?  Me.  Then why not just journal?  I did... didn't help.  Why put it out here?  Because, I cannot hide.  Writing words where only I can see them is tantamount to covering my feelings in a veil of shame, and it leaves me ... hollow.   I am who I am and while I may not always love it, I sure as shit don't want to get in the habit of hiding it.  Because demons, like mushrooms, grow big and bold when left covered in shit and hidden in the dark.  And I am a fan of neither demons, nor mushrooms.

This is part seasonal-depression.  I know that, on some cerebral level.  It happens every February and has for decades now.  Hell, all of January - May can be a fairly toxic time for me, but I've been working on it for years, and I've usually got it shortened down to just February, maybe March.   It also doesn't help that work is becoming wretched and that I feel stalled out, if not completely thwarted, in pursuing my career.  Add to that the fact that the extreme cold and precipitation have kept me from exercising outside as much as I would, and I'm now dealing with more (and nastier) migraines as well as an uncomfortable layer of wintery body fat.  This is a perfect storm of feeling crappy and lesser than, and since I have the ability to see that, I should (in theory) be able to say "Fuck you emotional black hole, I will not fall into you."  But that's not how black holes work, people... they have an intense amount of gravity sucking action and avoiding them is damn near impossible (unless you are on the USS Enterprise and Scotty is in the engine room, in which case, you have just the last minute burst of speed to be safe.  Darn you Sci-Fi for building my unrealistic hopes of redemption.)

So what do I do to combat the "lesser than" of my everyday life?  Well, when I finish writing this, I will take my ass outside where it is lovely and sunny and the hiking is incredible.  I will try to fill my quiet moments with nourishing food and loving thoughts, or at least interesting books.  I will look for new jobs and try not to be overwhelmed with the reasons why I probably can't have them. And I will just keep showing up, I guess.  At the journal, at this blog, at the daily occurrences of my life. It is a damn slow and boring way to move forward, that has no magic, no instant gratification, no "great transformation."  It leaves me feeling ordinary and unimpressively human, but it is the only tool I have right now, the only way forward I can see.

I don't know when I got so boring, so mundane.  Somewhere over the last 7 years the powerhouse giggling magic girl disappeared, and I miss her so fucking much. If she were here, I think she would know what to do.  So I guess, I'm just going to go outside looking for her.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Time Marches- a general FYI update

Been missing my blog, and so I popped on to re-read and was horrified to see when I last wrote.  How have this many months gotten away from me?

Since last I dipped into these pages, life has incurred the inevitable ups and downs.  I will try to briefly sum up.

Ups:  I found a job working at a vet's office in a little college town in the "high country".  Was able to move out of my parents' basement and into an adorable little place of my own. It's two bedroom/2 bath, built into the hillside of a mountain in a beautiful but tiny resort town that is only a few miles away from where I work. This is all just right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the hiking is stunning.  I am currently experiencing my first Winter ever of living in a land where it snows... often.  The cats have coped well with the move, and enjoy being able to watch deer and bunnies feeding in the yard.  There is light in my windows, fire in the fireplace, and gorgeous scenery outside.

Downs:  The vet's office job is not really highlighting my skills, teaching me anything new or completely paying all my bills (I still have so much debt from my life in LA that I'm trying to pay off, on top of all the new costs of living.) Additionally, the office has a lot of politics and is getting to be pretty uncomfortable.  I'm still strapped for cash most of the time and were it not for my incredible parents' generosity, I'd be starving most weeks.  Snow, while beautiful to look at when it falls, is not always fun to drive in, and when it begins to get slushy and muddy, it's just plain nasty to deal with.  Plus, a large part of my job is walking dogs during the course of my day... which means being outside, in temps that have gotten as low as -45 ("real feel" temp with wind chill factor.  The actual temp that day was only -12, if I remember correctly.)

I have made one real friend here.  She too has a love for marine mammals, has an interest in educational outreach, is terribly over-degreed for the job we share (she's got a Masters in Marine Bio) and has spent time living in Hawaii. Not to mention that she has a wonderfully dry sense of humor, and a fondness for paranormal romance novels, wine and margaritas.  We keep each other sane at the office.

After 6 months of celibacy hiding out in my mountain retreat, I also figured it was time to stop avoiding all men and put myself back out in the scene.  I began attempting dating again.  I really was just trolling online for my usual cougar fodder, but ended up meeting someone quite unique.  He was raised in So Cal, shares my intense passion for the ocean, and he's *gasp* older than me. That's all I'm willing to say on the matter at this time.  Given my history, I'm playing this hand closer to the chest... but I will say that I'm smiling more, and enjoying being wooed.

In short, I am in all ways, back in the game.  Moving forward.  Seeking strength in self and the energies of the dark winter forest that surrounds me.   May 2014 be a year of positive changes and re-imagined dreams for us all.