“There are few advantages in life that one can have that are more helpful than to be underestimated.” Steve Edwards, Prosecutor, Preservationist,
I am having a struggle today. I hesitate to write about it because in comparison to people I know, (and basically the whole rest of this seemingly Godforsaken world) I have many blessings to count. Matter of fact, I’ve been counting them all week since Monday when I found out my driver’s license was suspended. Guess what? Even motherf@#%ing GHANDI had a blue day. I’m having one, and I’m going to throw a leash around it and take it for a $#@damn walk.
First, let me tell you a little sad story from childhood to set the tone, and also because I will refer back to it later as a metaphor for all of my #wompwompwomp, aka Muc, short for most unfortunate circumstances. Nobody has immunity.
One day, while playing at a neighbor’s, a dog came up to me from behind, put his happy little paws up on my shoulders and festively started hopping. “Weeeee!” thought my lonely innocent young child mind, “Cha cha cha cha cha ChA!” And I gleefully giggled in delight as me and my little buddy conga’d our way across the yard, that is until the mother came out, wiping her hands on an apron as if she had been whisked away from baking , and yelled over to me, “Valerie, don’t you let that dog do that to you!” in her perfect New England accent. In that moment my joy melted into shame. I was only 6 ,and I didn’t know that the dog was trying to hump me, or what that even was. I just knew that it was wrong. This memory is crystal clear. A most unfortunate circumstance, indeed.
While I have made great strides in my recovery lately, I am not without trials. I feel a country song welling up in me. A very awkward country song.
Let’s talk about stuff you should not play with due to the risk of painful consequences, shall we? Number one, horny dogs. This applies to both the canine and human variety. Number two, Poison Ivy. Especially if you are highly allergic with a natural flair for the dramatic, like me.
I had brought a bunch of sticks and dead vines home from the farm to create my next sculptural project. I was enamored with the way the vines coiled and threw myself into placing them just so, thinking they really added something special, like little decorative flourishes. I was all kinds of up in it, let me tell you. I spent an entire day happily enjoying my work and giving thanks to God for all the good feels.
Later, I began to itch. Mind you, I had just come off a round of Prednisone and antibiotics for a nasty infected itchy rash caused by holly leaves. I hate to feel itchy more than I hate puking. At least when you throw up you feel some relief. The only thing that would quell my discomfort and very vocal misery was another trip to the Dr’s office and another round of steroids, this time with a Cortizone shot. When I realized I had been playing with Poison Ivy, (yes, even the dead vines contain the oil that causes the reaction…who knew?) I felt the same kind of shameful embarrassment that I had as that naive child, and when telling my boyfriend what I had done I said, “I may as well have been rubbing the f@#$ing sh!% all over myself! I’m just gonna go find me a horny dog now and conga around the neighborhood!” to which he laughed. Humor helps me keep from pity-partying-till-I-puke, and ain’t NOBODY wanna see that, especially while burdened with an itchy rash!
During this time, my Mom had another surgery to remove a small tumor in her bladder, I fiercely battled my fear and Anxiety, realized I was doing a job that did not utilize any of my skills, and questioned how I was going to make ends meet. Then there was the Wonder Woman-shielding against the crazy-making chaos of a certain family member who was telling me I needed to see an allergist, because I’m probably allergic to everything, like her. Um, no. Just some plants and her lack of boundaries and verbal abuse, thank you very much.
I now hate oral steroids or any kind, for that matter, because they made me angsty and super snacky, like The Hungry Hungry Hippo. I’m still working through my vanity issues, so feeling like a big ol’ fatty didn’t help matters. What could be a better time to give myself bangs? Oh yeah. I went there. My awesome hair stylist did her best to fix my mess, but despite her magic skills, at the end of the day it was just me. With. BANGS. I had sworn them off years ago, realizing I did not have the face for them. This is how I knew I was not myself. It was another most unfortunate circumstance- Fatty Bananas with bangs, no steady income, getting my Moms will done the day before her surgery, driving a car on it’s last leg, 80 miles round trip to the farm and back several times a week, and struggling to get out of bed. The bangs, though. Ugh. At least I was getting out of bed.
Then Monday happened. I have not been able to drive for a week now. My dear friend is dying in hospice. I’ve been consumed with thoughts of her and the pain that her family and friends are dealing with. I have wanted so much to hold her hand and send her off with my love. Feeling helpless is not a good place for a person with Complex PTSD. The resulting avalanche of triggers has left me paralyzed. Warrior down, people!F#@*!
It is just my luck that I answered a question on my license renewal form honestly, never realizing it would raise a red flag that would entail having two Drs fill out paperwork that has been denied two times now because neither Dr knew anything about that ONE time I dozed off at a traffic light. I called the DMV and they said all they need is a note faxed on letterhead corroborating the date and that I am no threat as a driver. (Glad they can’t consult with my daughter, who thinks I suck at almost everything.) I was told to call them as soon as she faxed it and everything would be cleared up. I made this known, at first, by a call to her office, and followed it up with an email. It is now Friday and I have yet to speak with her directly. Not for lack of trying, as you can imagine. Several calls a day and a few more emails and today after trying FOUR times it went straight to voicemail. This is my psychiatrist! She of all people knows that feeling helpless is my biggest trigger!
I finally sent one last email today, saying that I was no longer apologizing for inconveniencing her, for the consequences weigh much heavier for me, and that her refusal to take my calls or do the right thing and call me, was very disappointing and unprofessional. Then I asked the DMV how she could back me up on the date if I never told her about it, but they said it didn’t matter, because they just need her to write the note to put in my file. They said it should be simple for her to do. As of 5:46 today (Friday) they have received nothing.
To top it all off, the one thing that I had to get excited about was a complete bust. Seven inches of snow predicted last night and we got nothing. A frigid cold slap in the face! An opportunity to see my horse and the farm in the snow, because Smithfield did get some, squashed. Unable to do the only thing that sustains me through rough times, I am officially at my limit. I want to go to sleep until all of this cruelly unnecessary trigger BS passes. I want so much to be rid of these afflictions.
I can do nothing other than realize that healing is a journey, and it’s fine to shutter down in order to save myself from the storm. And looking on the bright side, it’s a good thing that I can’t drive right now, because if I went to the Walmart and had to fight to get those stupid #@$!%$#@&%$#@× plastic bags open, while the stupid #@!$^&^$#@× register tells me to “please bag your items”, that would surely be the end of me.
Hello, little black cloud. Goodbye, will to decline the pity party invitation. But $#@! it. “V” is also for VENT, and I am already starting to feel better.
Where do I begin? No, seriously. I have had this book to write all my life. I was given the title, as if by magic, from the mouth of my 4 year old child, 13 years ago.. It was brilliantly absurd and I knew when I asked her to repeat it that it was a gift from an angel, and I got the chills. Of course I immediately wrote it down. It has taken me all this time to get to this place. I started this blog as a means to get myself in the habit of writing. It has been a wonderful outlet for me, but I decided that now is when to begin writing my book. I am writing this as a warm up, a way of working through this last niggling remnant of fear. Also, I am trying to determine where I should start.
The greatest thing about blogging is that there is no pressure. It was the best step for me as a longtime journal writer who never wrote continuously in one at a time, but several. One journal may contain a small period of time, but from beginning to end it can span a decade or more. It seems sort of schizophrenic, but it came naturally to me. I have never been one to do things a certain way just because I was taught that it was the only way, or the “right” way. I realize that is simply the hallmark of being an artist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t second guess myself. I am a walking paradox of angular plushness.
My life is very much like the bunch of sticks and limbs that were recently woven to create a sculptural sanctuary in Jacob’s Woods, at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. The idea came to me out of the blue at the end of December as I looked around at the land that was being cleared to make way for a new pasture with different forage for the animals. The cut trees and limbs were being placed in a long line of brush piles that would serve as a sanctuary for other small, wild animals. As a college student working as an intern at MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Arts, I was greatly inspired by an artist whose installation I worked on, who was a sculptor of sticks. There was this small clearing in the brush that spoke to me. I set to work one day, and over 8 separate days, I arrived at sunrise to work until there was barely any light left.
I just now realized that I am using my blog as a distraction today, but in doing so I fully believe it will propel me toward making this critical first big step. Beginning to write my book does not, after all, have to start at the beginning of the story.
Who, me? Distracted? 😁
It started as an archway that began to morph and undulate with a dimensional curve that became a small tunnel/entryway into a cozy little nest of a space. It was quickly identified as a sacred undertaking that was divinely inspired. The frenzied delight from which I couldn’t wait to return to in creating this structure filled me with intense joy and satisfaction. On the second day in, blissed out in the solitude of my surroundings, I found myself frustrated over the sticks that would refuse to bend and ended up breaking, believing them to be an impediment to the flow of it all, and cursing each one. It was messy, and very organic, not perfect and streamlined. Then a voice came to me and said, “There are no broken pieces.” In that moment I was overcome with emotion and awe as I was shown the significance of each limb, stick, and twig that I had so carefully and deliberately woven with love, knowing that it was to become something of great magnitude. It was a symbol for the creation of me, every life experience and the way they shaped me, represented like arteries in a vein. Some of us have messier lives than others, and I’m here to represent.
ar·ter·y/ˈärdərē/Learn to pronouncenounplural noun: arteries
- any of the muscular-walled tubes forming part of the circulation system by which blood (mainly that which has been oxygenated) is conveyed from the heart to all parts of the body.
- an important route in a system of roads, rivers, or railroad lines.
God was showing me that what I considered broken pieces were part of a greater system that created the strength and shining light in me that He considered His own brilliant work of art. When I was asked what I would name it, I had no answer. I figured the name would come to me, which it did.
I had continued to build around the space inside and after a particularly exhausting day, found myself curled up on the forest bed, giving thanks and meditating on the deep meaning of it all. That is when I realized that I was in The WOMB. The totality of the significance of it all absolutely felt like a rebirth. I became the stick. Every awful thing that has happened to me in my life, all of what I’ve considered little deaths, are the very things that have paved the way for me to fulfill my purpose in helping others to find their way out of darkness. When a stick broke, I tucked it in. It was a part of the process.
This is all of us. It is about looking beyond what we have perceived as being broken to the greater understanding that we are all a work in progress. Death is not just about a door closing. Every little death, those circumstances we thought had broken us, has the ability to open new doors. It is my experience that once I leaned into whatever each moment had to offer, in complete, unwavering faith, it became easier and easier to hear the voice that would guide me toward becoming everything I am meant to be, sharing my gifts with the world and seeing the masterpiece in myself that God sees. There are an infanitesimal number of doors from which we can choose to open. We may hear the siren’s song and be fooled along the way, but it is The Almighty who whispers in our ear to tell us to try another door.
P. S. Giving birth is exhausting.
About twenty three years ago, I worked as a horse trainer apprentice and barn manager at a Quarter Horse farm. I had answered a classified ad in the paper after my job as lead singer in a house band aboard a dinner cruise ship had just ended. I went from dressing fancy six nights a week, and getting paid well to live a Diva lifestyle, to five days a week, twelve hour days, dirty and dead tired, for $25 a day. Horses equaled happiness, and I was spiraling into Depression after losing my job, my dog, and all hope for the success of my crumbling marriage at the time. I felt defeated, and it seemed like a miracle that might help revive me.
On my first day, I was one of fifteen women who came out to vie for this position. We were set to task with the work increasing in difficulty, as if it were a competition to see who was the toughest. The old man singled me out and tried to break me like he did his horses. He would stand over me and bark belittling criticisms at me, as if I were at Marine bootcamp. His wife found me in a stall, crying and shaking.
I confided about my marriage and Depression. She told me her own similar story. She told me that her husband was only trying to toughen me up, and if I really wanted the job, to hang in there. Dreams come true. He was her happy ending. At the end of the week, I got the job.
I had walked into a familiar landmine when I dusted myself off that first day, and felt the determination to prove myself to this man who was wickedly abusive to me. I wanted a father figure so badly that I sought his approval, like a monkey swinging to the next vine, convinced that I could re-create the one I never had. It turned out to be both heaven and hell. But there were horses, and I loved them.
There was a beautiful, pedigreed chestnut mare there named Honey, who was in foal. I had held the twitch on her lip the day she was force-bred to a well-known, blue-ribbon stallion whose name I can’t remember. There are lots of memories I have tried to block out from my time there. But Honey was special, sweet, and silly.
Fast forward to now. There is a horse named Honey who has returned to Mill Swamp after being away for ten years. She was a special horse to Steve, and her return was a welcome surprise. Honey is a registered Paint mare, all white, with a large chestnut colored spot on her right flank and belly. She has crystal clear blue eyes like large marbles. I had the pleasure of riding her on Sunday.
That is the back story to a story I have been attempting to tell for two days. It has continued to disappear or fall apart so many times that I’ve lost count! I didn’t consider sharing it until I saw a friend make a comment to Steve on Facebook, saying that Honey came there for a reason. Suddenly, I recalled my experience earlier in the day and put all the pieces together, knowing that I was part of Honey’s reason for coming back.
I realize that sounds self-agrandizing. Maybe that is why I have struggled to put what I want to say about Honey and what her being there means, into words. Honey present and Honey previous connected in a very cool way to show me something extremely valuable.
I had shown up, thinking I would ride Shunk, but he was in endurance prep mode with another rider, so that is how I met Honey. I had no reservations about riding this new horse, who apparently is not considered to be a comfortable ride, by those who knew her from her earlier days. When I met her she felt familiar to me. She had a special sweetness about her. As I was riding, a memory and lots of long-buried feelings came flooding back to me as I thought about old Honey. It was a traumatic experience that had been filed away because the cumulative awful things that had happened to me during my time at Clark Quarter Horses had such a negative impact, that this one event had to be forgotten for my sanity’s sake.
Part of me was enjoying the connection to Steve’s Honey as we took a leisurely ride, while my mind replayed a certain day’s unfortunate events.
Flashback to a weekend alone at the Quarter Horse farm, when I was left in charge while they were away at a horse show. It was evening, and the mares had not come in. There was a long rectangular fenced area that lead to 4 different pastures, with a small gate connecting each one. Usually they were all there at feeding time, ready to go back to their stalls. I saddled up and rode out to gently herd them back. I was walking behind them when something spooked my horse, making her leap into a canter, and causing the eight or nine mares to charge through the gate at the same time, in a frenzy. I watched as Honey got impaled by the fence post. I managed to get her to the barn and put her in cross ties while I called the vet. I was terrified that she may lose her baby or not survive herself, and felt so guilty. When I looked at the huge, gaping hole, bigger than a baseball, and saw the level of distress she was in, I almost lost it. All I wanted to do was comfort and console her, and tell her how sorry I was. If anything happened to her or her foal, I would be in big trouble.
After what seemed like forever, the vet arrived. I can’t remember anything else, except that Honey and foal were going to be alright, but intense daily cleaning was necessary.
My body did not respond to this trigger, although I was feeling all the fear and sadness that would usually cripple me. By the ride’s end, I had watched the footage of that traumatic event play out vividly in my mind, but I forgave myself instead of self-loathing. It was so empowering, taking my demon slaying to a whole new level. I thanked both Honey’s to myself, for their role in bringing this memory out of the shadows and into the light. It was Sunday, and this was my church. I pondered the immense significance of the day’s events the whole way home.
Later, “Honey obviously came back for a reason” became clear to me. Honey’s one chestnut spot is in the exact location where dear old Honey had been wounded by the post.
So, she did come back for a good reason, through time and space, to give me the closure and strength I needed to continue shining a light in all my dark places. She had a perfect, beautiful and healthy foal and lived happily-ever-after. (because they moved away from that horrible man, and his wife was soon to folllow).
This picture of my daughter and I was sent to me today out of the blue. It is from a photo shoot we did with a photographer friend titled 15/51. I’ve never seen this image, and it came to me as I was trying to tell someone how joyful I feel. The way it so perfectly illustrates the lightness of being I feel takes my breath away.
This past week I have experienced such miraculous synchronicities that have altered my consciousness. I’m still reeling. The rapid manifestation of blessings and the magnitude of their impact is stunning.
The significance of coincidence is that it’s a serendipitous energy frequency, a means by which to wrap our heads around the connections between seemingly random occurrences. To me such happenings are Divinely ordered.
All my life I have struggled to feel worthy. Now, I know without a doubt that I AM. I absolutely deserve these amazing gifts that have been presented to me. I made a decision that I would combat all of my negative self-talk with love. I decided to reject the toxic energy of those who have no respect for my boundaries or themselves. I know that I have suffered long enough and I won’t let anything stand in the way of my happiness and success. I have dulled my spark and doubted myself for the last time. I’m not saying I am suddenly super-human and will never feel anxious or depressed again, or be triggered. I just refuse to give myself over to defeat. I will not make excuses anymore for anything I do or don’t do.
I know exactly where I’m headed and I don’t need anyone to tell me how or when I should arrive.
Also un-bridled joy!
I have never not called my mother at midnight on New Years Eve to wish her a Happy New Year. It’s our ritual. To my recollection my teen daughter has never not sent a message or a snap chat since she has been spending this time away from me.
These days it’s nothing but time away. I have way too much time to allow her insistence that this has never felt like her home to settle into my heart and carve yet another reminder of my many shortcomings as her mother.
As full of chaos and abuse our previous home was, it was her home. Though the roof was literally caving in, and I was held prisoner there, believing the lie that I would have nothing but the door hitting me in the ass if I left, it was where she had been raised by two parents who loved her very much, but only in the way they knew best. It was chaos, abuse, loud yelling, name-calling, undermining, criticising, cheating, lying, bullying, and control by fear which lead to a complete mental breakdown for me.
I remained a prisoner there for six years after the separation. I had no steady income, just the same part time job I’d had since giving birth and devoting most of my time to being a hands on mother. I was convinced by my ex that he did not have the money to pay for me to live on my own with, and that he would lose the house. I was always being worn down by some excuse as to why I could not leave, until finally I resigned myself to the fact. I was soon consoled by a new relationship full of promise, with someone I had known since high school, who my daughter already knew and loved.
It took him six years to be in a position to buy another home after his divorce. Prior to that I had put myself out on a limb and began looking at small apartments where just my daughter and I could live. I had no idea how I could pass the credit check, let alone pay for the application, but it was empowering, and it gave Bella hope for stability and a fresh new beginning for us both.
The home we were so desperate to leave was my very first home. It was over a hundred years old and needed many upgrades and some work, but the potential was great. My parents and I set to tearing down ugly wood paneling and painting all the walls, removing ugly wallpaper from the kitchen and eventually tearing up nasty carpeting, replacing some, and buffing the beautiful hardwood floors downstairs. It was me and my family that put any money into that home. For years it was a lovely home given a personal touch of style that is uniquely my own. As the years passed and the baby came, the house began to reflect the decay in my marriage, and so many broken things went untended to that I simply gave up. I was also repeatedly told that it was not my house, because I didn’t pay for it, so I started to make mine and Bella’s room our sanctuary. It was about survival, about pretending things weren’t really all that bad. Maybe that is what helped my child to adapt to such an unhealthy environment.
When the time came to start looking for a new home with my boyfriend, I was so full of joy. Even Bella was excited to think of a nice new home and a fresh start. She was with us when we visited the last house, which became our home with her absolute approval. I could not believe that not only was I finally divorced, but I would be moving into a beautiful new home with the love of my life.
I assumed we would be married soon and I would have the life I’d always dreamed of. I have neither of those things. The fresh start I’d longed for with my child only became a hellish nightmare as she was resentful at having to share me, and her mental health was exacerbated by trauma at school which instigated a downhill slide I have yet to recover from and am still seeking her help for. That window grows smaller every day.
I have my own very dysfunctional family, a sister who is off the rails Bipolar or Borderline, who can be so evil that she goes out of her way to hurt both my daughter and I, with empty threats, foul slander, and attempts at physical abuse, going so far as to threaten to throw my child through a glass door, prompting my therapist to have CPS investigate.
This relationship between my boyfriend and I has been my saving grace. (although using the term”boyfriend” is profoundly unnerving after 8 years together) Each year I fantasize about the proposal and imagine us dancing in our beautiful back yard, surrounded by all our friends, with the moonlight making everything glow. The Harvest Moon. We’ve been in this house for two years now. For Christmas his mother gave us monogrammed napkins. They are lovely, but I am not a Fulcher.
I am just his Betsy.
I still feel like a wanderer, not tethered to anywhere or anyone. I wrecked my car the other day, about a mile from home. I had been very tired, emotionally and physically after a long but invigorating horse ride, and I had to keep myself from dozing off all the way home. I don’t know what happened, but I awoke to the sound of my car crashing into another then being struck from behind. I felt my neck move forward and then back as if in slow motion, then I remember accidentally hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake. I was out of it. A man came to check on me and said his car was fine, barely a scratch, nothing he’d want to file a report on. He asked if I wanted to get checked out, but said I seemed fine. I asked him about calling the police to get a report for my insurance company but that is when he disappeared. I just drove myself home in a daze with my front bumper and passenger headlight dangling.
I feel trapped in such a state of depression and hopelesness ever since. Prior to this I’d had my PTSD AND Depression under control and had even been socializing and enjoying friends over the holiday. It has been two days since this happened and I have not wanted to talk to anyone and I hide under my covers crying, and feeling very lost. Somethimg happened to me that has me feeling totaled, like my car that I cannot afford to replace.
Happy Horn o’ plenty to ya. Thanksgiving they call it, alleged to be a day of gratitude for life’s abundance. Family comes together and blessings are spoken over tables filled with food that will have you over-stuffed or near comatose within the hour.
Wanna know how I feel about this day? I HATE IT. I hate the obligation to cook, the lack of any involvement from my snarky, selfish, and oppositional child, the guilt trip over not inviting her father, the pressure to bake. I could go on.
Currently my rageful teen, who just threw a bunch of newspapers at me before telling me to “f” off, is upset because I don’t have money to give her to buy gifts for her friends, and somehow it is my fault that she lost her job. (As you can well imagine, EVERYTHING is my fault!) She is mouthing off to my 87 yr old mother who is trying to gently calm her by sweetly reminding her how very much she is loved, in spite of her behavior.
The kid proclaims ” I HATE HOLIDAYS” ! and storms off while I continue to baste, whisk, mix, re-heat, and cook. I got to thinking and realized that I was the one responsible for setting the tone of this day.
It began with a trigger that happened on Monday and snowballed into Wednesday evening, culminating in an almost child-like meltdown complete with running to my room, shouting and crying about how “over it” (parenting a child who triggers me the same way her Dad does) I am, and dramatically throwing myself on the bed, pounding my fists in complete frustration. It was my first Anxiety attack in a month or so, and it blew in like a summer storm.
Fortunately my boyfriend (a term I hate using for my partner of eight yrs; my soulmate, my lover, my best-friend, my handler etc. ) is at the ready, and follows me to lay beside me and in his sweet, soothing voice, whisper reassuring and comforting words of love, while rubbing my back and shoulders. I was a snotty mess, so he left to bring me a tissue. I wiped my nose, put my head back in the pillows and my devoted cat took her place on me, like I am her egg to hatch. I love them both so much for this.
I wake up a bit dazed, not knowing what day or time it is, as if I’d been Rip Van Winkle-ing for days. I had drifted off to a much needed recovery nap as if tended to by angels (and unicorns!) and woke up feeling a renewed sense of patience and determination.
Then it was over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house I went, successfully compartmentalizing my anger with my ex, who had stoked the fires with his suggestion that “Maybe I could get a holiday job”. A sore subject as, A) after giving birth and embarking upon full time motherhood as we had agreed, I was constantly bombarded with the suggestion that I get off my ass and contribute, and B) I was doing the same thing then as now, working as a freelance Makeup Artist, a known feast or famine pursuit, but one that enables me to take care of my child’s needs as well as my own mental health. So…
In giving my teen wolf some space and keeping it together, I was rewarded with a hand-written note from her, declaring that she was sorry and she did not want to fight, but enjoy a happy day as a family, which we did. Glad we pulled it off. Glad that day was last week.
(I’m hoping the duck lips and bird flips will mortify her as an adult.)