Emotional Rollercoaster

Alone

In the middle of a crowded room

Silent voices scream for recognition

Fear

Twists guts into compressed clay

Paralyzing limbs, numbing throats

Degradation

Fills the ears of the emotionally injured

Ruining scarce moments of hard-fought joy

Depression

Carries sinking hearts into oblivion

Erasing memories of happiness felt

Hands

Reach out, begging for salvation

Yearning for one sign of love

Answers

Arrive in rain-soaked clouds

Pouring down tears of understanding

Compassion

Clears the night of unmasked terrors

Awakening remnants of esteem, long forgotten

Joy

Blooms in multi-colored bursts of words

Spoken, thoughts shared, kindnesses felt

Light

Seeps into crevices of the heart

Obliterating shards of self-doubt

Happiness

Explodes in multicolored bursts

Opening souls to welcoming voices

Surrounded

Encased

Enfolded

Alone no more

Raging Insanity

“Never again would they dare to call me insane,” Joe Witherspoon said as he rubbed his hands rapidly down his thighs.

“Why do you say that?” Steve’s forehead wrinkled with curiosity.

Joe slapped his hands on the table in front of them, causing their coffee mugs to rattle. “Come on. You know what really happened, don’t you?”

Steve stared into his friend’s deep blue eyes, wondering if the doctors were right about Joe’s emotional status.  “I’ve heard Sarah’s version, but never yours.”

Sighing, Joe picked up his mug and brought it carefully to his mouth, his shaky hands causing the hot liquid to spill.  Not noticing the drops falling to the table, Joe allowed the steam to caress his face as he inhaled deeply, drawing the soothing aroma into his trembling body.  “I’m not insane.  I never have been.  Sarah made up all that nonsense about me throwing that butcher knife at her.”  He sipped cautiously, staring into Steve’s eyes for confirmation.

“You admitted in court that you threw the knife.” Steve leaned forward, his eyes focused on Joe’s.

“So what?  I was drugged out and so I have little recollection of whether or not I did. It might have been you that threw it, for all I know.”  Joe placed his cup on the kitchen table, and took a minuscule bite of a freshly made chocolate chip cookie.

“Sarah was shaking like a leaf.  It took a strong sedative to calm her down.”

“She’s the nervous type,” Joe responded as he meticulously scraped crumbs into his open palm which he then poured into his mouth. He brushed his hands together, then resumed rubbing his thighs. “She’s nuts, you know.  Sarah can’t sit still for more than a few minutes and never sleeps.  And she lies.  She makes me so mad.  Sometimes I feel like strangling her.  She tells her friends that I’m nuts.  I’ve heard her.  She goes downstairs when she thinks I’m sleeping.  She calls everyone she knows and makes up stories about me.  That’s why people think I did it.  That I was trying to kill her.”  Joe stood and began pacing the floor.  Three steps to the sink, four to the back door, two to the refrigerator, one to the table, and then start all over again.  “Sisters shouldn’t do that.  Sisters shouldn’t do that.  Sisters shouldn’t do that,” he chanted.

“Settle down, Joe.  You’re making me nervous with all that walking,” Steve said.

“Can’t do it.  Once my feet get moving, I can’t stop them.”

“Did you take your meds this morning?”

“Don’t need ‘em.  Doc says I’m cured, remember?”  Joe’s speed picked up to a trot.  His hands twisted into knots, then untwisted, then twisted again, in time to his steps.

Steve quietly stood and then walking backwards, moved toward the kitchen door, never turning his back on his friend.

“I never did it,” Joe intoned.  “I never threw that knife, but I wanted to, I tell you.  She makes me so mad.  So mad.  I hate her!  I hate that lying woman!”  Now pounding his forehead as intensely as splitting logs, he moaned with each blow of his hands.

Steve tiptoed out of the room, barely breathing for fear of distracting the crazed man.  Joe dialed 911.  When the operator answered, he explained the situation.  When told to leave the house immediately, he complied.

Standing out in the freezing Seattle rain, Steve watched as the police arrived, followed shortly thereafter by an ambulance.  After knocking at the door and receiving no response, the officers entered the house, guns drawn.  Within minutes, one of the officers stood at the door.  He signaled the waiting paramedics, who grabbed their medical kits, clipboards, and the gurney before going inside.

Steve felt sorry for Joe.  Joe had struggled with mental illness since his teenage years and had been hospitalized several times.  When on the proper medications, Joe seemed like any other guy.  Without the drugs, he went ballistic, with superman strength and fearsome rages.

Within minutes the paramedics guided the gurney out the front door toward the waiting ambulance.  One had his hand on Joe’s right arm, patting him as one would a dog.

“Don’t call me insane,” Joe whispered. “Don’t ever call me insane again.  I swore that no one would ever dare to call me insane again.”

Tears ran down Steve’s face.  He knew that Joe couldn’t control the obsessive rages, but it scared him.  Sarah, too.  After Joe threw that butcher knife at her, she packed her bags and moved to New York, swearing to never return.  Shaking his head, Steve walked back into the home and tidied the table and counters.  He rubbed and rubbed and rubbed some more, trying to erase the remnants of Joe’s craziness.

 

 

Me Time

Even when I was a little kid I understood the value of time spent alone. Family life, for me, seemed confusing and chaotic. I struggled with my place in the dynamics of everyday life. I knew that I was less-than my older brother who was revered by my mother. When my sister was born, now I was less-than both of my siblings.

I loved being by myself. As a small child, it meant being out on the front porch, standing there, do nothing other than watching whatever transpired in the neighborhood. I didn’t play with dolls, probably because the only ones I had were kept stored in my parent’s closet on a high shelf.

I didn’t read yet and no one read to me. I didn’t go to school until kindergarten-age, and only then because my parents thought I was dumb. Interestingly enough, school reinforced that opinion as I was the most backward kid in the class, even through fifth grade.

The one toy that meant the most to me, that allowed me precious “me time” was my mother’s cookie tin of mismatched buttons. I played with them for hours, day after day. I sorted them by size and color, by shape and by how many holes in the center. Then I’d dump them back in the tin and start all over. I spent hours doing this, day after day, all year long.

In the winter I played on the kitchen floor while my mother napped. I the summer I took them outside and sat on the grass. It’s amazing that I am still not sorting buttons today as I found it both comforting and relaxing.

I have progressed from those early days it terms of what I enjoy doing in my free time. I love shopping. I can spend an hour easily roaming through stores, buying little to nothing. I am a great sale-shopper and almost never buy something that isn’t discounted.

I love looking at styles, brands, colors. I love trying on clothes, especially now that I have lost a significant amount of weight. I love feeling the fabrics and imaging them against my skin. I can tell by that action alone whether or not I would like something.

I love reading. I mostly read contemporary fiction, but I also branch into fantasy, Young Adult, and on rare occasions when a book is recommended by a friend, nonfiction.

What I love about reading is that it takes you into stories, into characters’ lives, into places where you have probably never gone and never will. It allows you to follow in another’s skin, seeing, feeling, tasting all the things that they experience. It’s an out-of-your world journey. I can spend hours reading.

I love exercising, especially swimming. When I am in the water swimming lap after lap, my entire body relaxes into the feet of water streaming over my body. The ritual of traversing the pool, turning, doing it again and again and again is a special time for me. It is something that I do alone. Well, not entirely as there are other swimmers in the pool, but I am unencumbered by family, by needs, by demands. It is just me.

I get the same rush from the elliptical, the stationary bike, the machines. It is me challenging myself to do more, to be stronger, to last longer. And it gives me time to think, if I want, or I can watch whatever TV program is available.

If I didn’t love writing, I wouldn’t have this blog. There is something calming about putting thoughts into the written word. It gives me an opportunity to analyze where I’ve been and where I’m going. It often gives new perspectives into my past which then form my present and future.

At times, when I am writing fiction, it brings me deep into my character’s life. I get to see what she sees, hear what she hears, feel her emotions. Her confusion as she navigates her world. Her delight when something redeeming occurs. Her perceptions of where she fits in her world. Yes, I can alter those dimensions, and often I do, but I also allow her to take charge of my fingers.

Me Time is important to me. It allows me to pause, evaluate, and reorganize myself. It gives me a sense of peace in what can be, at times, a disorderly world. It reinforces who I was, who I am, who I will become.

I cherish those moments.

I also love being with my family and with friends, but those experiences are different. There you fit into a mold, one that sometimes others have crafted for you. You play the mother, wife, friend game, participating in conversations that sometimes move past your realm of experience. This is where Me Time comes in handy, for when things are out of my control, even in a crowd, I can step back and allow my thoughts to roam free.

My trust in Me Time was formulated when I was quite small. It has sustained me ever since. It is a treasure that I hope everyone shares.

My Wishes, Over Time

When I was a child, my dreams were three-fold: happiness, safety, and love. I don’t remember the specifics as it’s been far too many years, but I felt as if I lacked all three.

Early pictures of me show a sulky, sad, miserable little girl. Did I look that way because I didn’t get something that I wanted at that moment in time, or does my downturned mouth reflect the general state of my being? In my mind, it was the latter. I can’t recall much laughter, but that is no surprise since those years have disappeared from my collective memory.

Looking back, I should have been happy, for aren’t little kids bundles of joy? Don’t kids love to giggle and run about yelling like banshees?

Shouldn’t I have felt safe because I lived with my family? If so, why do I recall fear of punishment as the strongest emotion?

And love. Everyone deserves love. I’m sure that my parents loved me, for if they didn’t, wouldn’t they have given me up for adoption or sent me away to live with relatives? They didn’t do those things, so there must have been some positive feelings toward me. The problem is, I don’t recall being loved. I don’t recall hugs or kisses or sitting on laps or walking hand-in-hand.

A flaw in my memory? Most likely.

As a kid, my world expanded, and so did my dreams. I still yearned for the big three, but I added in pleasing my teacher and having friends as major goals. The problem was that I was not a good student and so seldom earned praise from the strict sisters that were my teachers in the Catholic School.

I did my work to the best of my ability, but it was never good enough. Because I wasn’t earning A grades, I was often held after school to clean blackboards! (Could this be why I am asthmatic?) When I got home I was punished once again. Logically, then this made me fearful. Double punishment for every poor grade.

Did it inspire me to do better? Maybe, but remember, I was already working as hard as I could!

And let’s not forget having a friend! Because I was shy, I was not the type that was included when kids went out to play. Add on top of that the fact that I wore faded, hand-me-down uniforms that made me stand out as poor. Then there is the issue of grades, as no one wants to spend time with the dumb kid in class.

Added to that was the fact that, because I got poor grades, I usually spent lunch in the tutoring room, sitting in silence while a stern nun oversaw my efforts to complete work. Sometimes she helped, but most of the time she chided.

So, no friends.

There were material things that I wished for. A new bike. A Barbie doll. Roller skates. To play on my brother’s baseball and football teams.  Store-bought clothes and shoes that fit.

I eventually saved up enough money to buy myself a bike, but I never got the doll. A relative gave me skates and I never had brand new clothes. I did get new shoes every other year, which meant that the first they were too big and the second they fit, but were now scuffed.

While I was good at sports, I couldn’t play on teams. This was back in the 1960s and there were few, if any, teams for girls. So that dream did not become a reality until I was in high school.

As a teenager my dreams did not change much. I hung onto the big three and having a friend. I still yearned for the positive attention from my teachers, and because I had finally learned how to read well enough to get good grades, I was often considered the star student.

I still wanted store-bought clothes, and was able to buy myself a doctor’s shirt (yes, that was a style!) and my dad no longer made me wear oxford shoes. Because my feet had quit growing, I also had shoes that fit!

Relatives gave me clothes. It was considerate of them to do this, but there were too problems: they were a few sizes too small as I was fat and the styles were old-fashioned and not appealing to a teen. My mom, who was an excellent seamstress, picked apart the clothes and remade them into matching skirts and vests. Beautiful, but not what girls wore.

Now I wanted a boyfriend. My first, real-life boy who would ask me out for a date. Who would hold my hand and be proud to walk with me. No kissing. I wasn’t ready for that yet. But I didn’t know how to be attractive to boys, so I went dateless until my senior year when I asked the young man who lived across the street to take me to my prom.

He was a nice guy. Not real smart, but he had inherited a duplex from his mother and lived alone. He had a job as a mailman, so he had a reliable income. He was fair looking, but so was I, so we fit together.

We dated for a year, so I had a boyfriend for a year. But because he was a man, he wanted more out of the relationship than I was prepared to give. When I went away to college and found out that intelligent, curious young men found me attractive, that earlier relationship died and quick death.

In college I had bigger dreams. By now I was well aware of the world and dreamt of travel. Thanks to campus organizations I went camping in the forests, walked along beaches and stood next to a massive earthquake-caused crack in the earth. I marched in protest of the Vietnam War and participated in sit-ins with hundreds of young people.

I met a wealthy young man whose parents gave him tickets to the theater and to the opera and ballet, so I got exposed to cultural events that inspired me to see more.

My eyes were opened to all the possibilities that existed in the world and expended my dreams to include many of them, even those well beyond my financial reach.

I like to think that my earlier wishes guided my decision-making throughout my life. For example, I always held teachers in high regard, admired them for both their dedication and ability. That’s not to say that I was disappointed when a teacher was indifferent or incompetent.

Since I first attended school, I claimed that I wanted to be a teacher. That was an unwavering goal, even though I was distracted by economic factors that caused me to postpone achieving that goal until I was a parent myself. Once I became a teacher, I was determined to be not just a good one, but a great one. I hope that I was.

My desire to be both safe and loved led me to my husband who fulfills both those dreams. There has never been a time in our relationship when those feelings have been threatened. He is my rock.

My desire to have friends solidified as I have gotten older. I have made good friends through writing conferences, book clubs, soccer, the senior center and church.  I am no longer lonely, although I still have problems in a crowd. Once I break through the crowd to find one friendly face, I am okay.

To summarize, throughout my life my basic dreams remained the same. As I aged, more blended in, expanding my wishes in profound and interesting ways. And as I accomplished goals, I never forgot where I was as a child, how important it was for me to feel happy, safe and loved.