“I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway… Let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves.”
―C. JoyBell C.
Why Isn’t There?
“Why isn’t there a commandment to “honor thy children” or at least one to “not abuse thy children”? The notion that we must honor our parents causes many people to bury their real feelings and set aside their own needs in order to have a relationship with people they would otherwise not associate with. Parents, like anyone else, need to earn respect and honor, and honoring parents who are negative and abusive is not only impossible, but extremely self-abusive. Perhaps, as with anything else, honoring our parents starts with honoring ourselves. For many adult children, honoring themselves means not having anything to do with one or both of their parents.” ―Beverly Engel
Learning To Love Our Bodies
I’ve been meaning to share this blog for quite some time now. It breaks my heart that any child would ask if raisins are fattening. I openly admit to having an image problem, but I can tell you that it did not start until I left gymnastics and it didn’t begin at home. In fact, I never saw anything wrong with myself physically (except for obvious things that all girls find issue with at one time in their life or another) until people started pointing my flaws out left and right. All of a sudden, I was avoiding mirrors and wouldn’t purchase new clothes.
As women, we make this worse. Instead of building each other up, we tear each other down. It’s disgusting and I don’t want to be a part of that. If I think someone is beautiful, be it inner or outer beauty (occasionally it is both, but not all the time,), then I find absolutely nothing wrong with saying it. That doesn’t mean I want to be in a relationship with them, it simply means I’m not blind.
Zero and Double Zero are not sizes, even if that’s your “natural weight”. It should not be anyone’s goal of perfection because perfection is an illusion. Be yourself. Be comfortable in the skin you’re in because you’re going to be in that skin for a very long time. Be kind to yourself and try to achieve self-acceptance, because it’s so much easier than “perfection”.
I Ain’t Goin’ Down
Once Upon A Time…
Once upon a time, in an extremely bizarre reality, I was in a relationship I should not have been in. The warning signs were there, but some people burn so brightly that you don’t seem to notice you’re going up in flames and turning to ash. Immensely large red flares of danger were being sent up so I wouldn’t get burned. Did that stop anything? Not so much.
He was the quintessential “bad boy”, complete with a Harley Davidson collection (the actual motorcycles, not memorabilia.), tattoos, multiple drug addictions, and a one million foot yacht chock full of issues. Maybe the maternal, nurturing aspect of me wanted to fix or heal him. I don’t know, but whatever it is, I’m thankful every single day that it is no longer a part of my life.
Initially there was no reaction or emotion from me towards him. He was just a guy, a guy all kinds of women fell for, but I prided myself on not adding myself to the throng of fools. Until one day, when I was seemingly drawn in like a moth to a flame. Except I wasn’t a moth, I was a butterfly, and yet, I suddenly had to have him. The pull was intense. He was crazy about me; The only person who challenged him, who questioned everything, and who was not impressed by anything. The problems though, they were simmering under the surface, just waiting to come out, one by one.
They started relatively early. I had never been told I was “too skinny” before. Even as a former gymnast that had experienced bouts of bulimia on & off for about two years after realizing that I’d never be an Olympic anything. I did not consider myself “too skinny” or “too” anything, really. I had the mouth of a Marine on leave, a writing career that had taken off in an amazing way, and a guy who told me he loved me, but to this day probably doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Someone send that man a dictionary. You’ll find him in there, somewhere very close to the word “Douchebag”, providing you’ve opted for a Webster’s upgrade.
His job allowed me the independence and space that I like in a relationship. I can’t have someone in my face 24/7, nagging, and standing over my shoulder like a watch dog. It drives me insane. He respected that, until the possessiveness became more than just one or two phone calls a day. At first it simply seemed like he was going out of his way to surprise me and brighten aspects of my life, but that wasn’t it, not at all.
The man could spit out promises just as quickly as he broke them, I just didn’t know he was trying to break me in the process.
The criticism I endured throughout the course of this relationship was actually harsher than what I dealt with from my family, and even though I had a comeback for everything he said, the words still haunt me… I went from being vibrant, smart, confident, & 100% in control to depressed, unhappy, paranoid, angry, & jealous. I was reduced to questioning why I was somehow not good enough for him. It was irrational and insane. Logically there was always an inner voice telling me “He’s not good enough for you. What are you doing?! This man is poison. Tell him to go to hell and walk away.”
I remember crying one night to my best friend at the time, after a particularly shitty thing he’d lied about. Here I was, the strongest, toughest, most direct chick people knew, asking “Why would he lie to me like that? Why would he lie about something so important? Why aren’t I good enough for him?” I was devastated by the pathological way in which he’d lie.
My best friend consoled me quietly, basically saying she didn’t know why he had lied or why he would, but eventually, months later, she told me I was “Too smart, too pretty, and all around way too good for the likes of him!” She meant it. She’d had enough of him hurting me. She was furious that he would hurt me in such a manner and then behave as if all was right in the world, and her anger continued to fuel when he showed up at a work event we all attended with a married woman on his arm. “A friend”, he’d called her. More like a drug supplier he’d hooked up with. He was spiraling and wanted to take me with him, but I would not allow that.
For the record, I was already ass deep in alligators when I realized just how big an issue the drugs actually were because they weren’t an issue at the onset. It went from being an old football injury to being an all-consuming, problem-inducing, complete lack of grip on reality. It started out small, as many addictions do, and escalated until it had to be confronted. I did not condone it in any way and refused to support the habit. I was not going to be in a relationship with an addict, period. I was the catalyst to get him into rehab, explaining in list formation all that he would lose if he did not get clean. But as most people can tell you, 30 days in rehab will detox you, it might even get you to talk about why you got into it in the first place, but it’s every single day after leaving a protected environment that matters most. If you have people that love & support you, you have a greater chance at remaining sober. You might slip up, recovery is going to be a constant for the rest of your life, but the effort you put forth is SO important. However, if you return to the exact same lifestyle and friends you had during the height of your illness, it will revert you right back into it at some point, especially if you have no real desire to be clean, no willpower, and no real desire to live. It’s a way of committing suicide slowly, secretly hoping that one day it’ll all be over and you don’t personally have to do the heavy lifting, or deal with the aftermath.
Part of what saddens me about the relationship itself is that I defended, protected, and shielded this man. I was the epitome of devoted and loyal to the Nth degree. My love was genuine, and yet I was constantly criticized, going as far as to be told that I wasn’t good enough to be introduced to his parents, who for years, he told me were dead (I’d later find out he only wished they were.), because of our differing religions. Who the hell were these people? England’s Monarchy?! How isolated and ignorant were they to think their religion was the only one that existed in this world?! This was not the first time someone had taken issue with my religion and tried to make me feel guilty for it. I was considered “not Jewish enough” by one guy’s family, and now I was being made to feel like I was somehow inappropriate and shameful.
Suddenly, after years of knowing our religions were different, it became this big issue, and we fought about it a lot. Would I be willing to convert to Roman Catholicism for him? HELL NO. Would I sign a pre-nup? Whoa, where the hell did THAT come from?! You want to marry me, you’ve asked, I’ve accepted, but now you’re afraid I suddenly want to be with you for financial gain? Seriously?! Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always taken care of myself. He knew that. I don’t expect a man to pay for my lifestyle. I’m fully capable of making my own money, buying my own clothes, jewelry, etc. I think you should want to take care of your partner and be a provider, but relationships are give and take. I did not expect to just sit on my ass and be given anything, so I waffled back and forth on that little tidbit.
The ever present “Would you please eat?!” grated on my nerves. He’d bring me food for several years of our relationship, but not in a loving, caring, concerned way (I do like it when I’m sick and a guy has the sense to bring me soup or Italian food. There’s something very nurturing about that.), but in an extremely controlling manner. As soon as I gained about 15 pounds from this constant influx of food, I was suddenly told the exact opposite. Now I wasn’t thin enough, I was becoming the woman who he didn’t want anyone else looking at. What was so shameful about being curvy? He’d have a fit whenever we’d be somewhere and someone else would check me out. I was not the one doing the looking, yet he was suddenly paranoid that anyone who checked me out was somehow going to end up in my bed. It was eye-rollingly ridiculous.
He’d do something shitty, and I’d be “rewarded” with jewelry or flowers, sometimes both, depending on the situation. It got to a point where I began to loathe the pink & purple roses I loved so much. To this day if someone sends me roses, I cringe inside. He would promise to be somewhere I needed him to be, but was almost always off feeding his drug habit, or as I would later find out through a friend, a habit for other women.
It was demanded upon me that I be 100% faithful. That was not a problem because I’d never cheated on someone before and wasn’t about to start, but because he was the one doing all the cheating, he started having people follow me to find out what I was doing every time I left the house. Stalker much?! It was sick. It was also an excuse.
I’d had enough after confronting someone he often had tail me, and I put my foot down. I’m not big on ultimatums, but he needed to hear what his behavior was doing, that it was unhealthy and damaging, and completely unwarranted and unacceptable. It came down to this: He needed to return to rehab, fully commit to it, and he then needed to be clean & sober for a year before I would agree to marriage. It was high time for him to prove that he was worthy of me, not the other way around.
He went to rehab for a few months, coming back apologetic, and for a while things were simply tense. We talked, but clearly he was refusing to hear me. He was about to do something he’d probably been considering for quite some time, and simply hadn’t been man enough to say to my face. The ring on my finger probably made me believe a slew of lies I was actually too smart to actually buy into in the first place, but there was something slightly blinding & intoxicating about it. But the truth of the matter is, it was just plain toxic.
The problem with relationships slowly turning abusive is that, initially, we think we’re in the right relationship with the right person, until suddenly we’re not.
For years after this relationship ended I’d hear “Oh, LET IT GO!” whenever I mentioned how hurt, angry, or betrayed I felt, as if emotions could be turned off like a faucet. How could I not feel all of those things?! Saying “I love you” is not a cure all. Actions speak louder than words. His actions were atrocious.
With a ring still solidly on my finger, he married someone else, just weeks after saying we were good and moving in the right direction, that he was trying. I had to find out via an announcement his new wife was sending to friends & family. He would go on to have several children with her pretty quickly, each time choosing names we had decided on for our future offspring. That was the icing on the cake. I seriously worried about my ability to be around him in any capacity after that, so I disengaged. I made sure that whenever he’d be around, I would not be present. Hurting someone you claim to love in such a manner is vile, but to then go on living your life as if said loved one never existed is even worse. I started to think I was losing my mind. If it had not been for the fact that I knew the relationship had occurred, and exactly what I had endured, I’d have felt like I was being erased.
He & I continue to have mutual friends. I’ve stopped speaking to all, but three of them because I’m tired of hearing the lies. “He asked about you.”, “He hopes you’re all right. He just wants you to be happy.”, “He cares about you.” PLEASE! He never cared in the first place, it was a fucking game to him. No matter how many times I would ask these friends not to relay anything he said about me, it would come up in conversation, until I finally changed my phone number and said “No more.”
Not one to eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, I have gone out of my way to avoid him since all of this went down. In truth, I have nothing to be embarrassed about. I didn’t do anything wrong, except believe in a person I shouldn’t have given the time of day to, but hey, we all make mistakes. Avoiding him is my way of remaining a healthy, non-toxic human-being. I know that eventually, at some point, we will run into one another, and I pray that I am not carrying a loaded weapon that day or wearing particularly high heels because even though people tell me I’m not a damaging, harmful person to be around, and that I’d never willingly hurt someone, I cannot promise that the desire to harm him won’t be there. Some of the rage goes away with time, but any time the relationship is mentioned or I come across something from that time period, I am flooded with everything I thought I’d already moved past. For me, that lets me know the damage runs deep. It does not, nor will it ever, mean that I care about him. I don’t. I wouldn’t spit on this man if he was on fire.
Once I no longer love/respect someone, my emotions will often turn to pity, anger (at myself & the other person involved), & my anger is a burning rage that can simmer and bubble for years until it is truly out of my system. If the anger is unjustified, it eventually dwindles and the flames put out, but if it IS justified, stay the hell out of my way. I can go from zero to bitch in about half a second.
Unfortunately, there are so many different kinds of abuse in the world, that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint if you are the abused or the abuser. Sometimes you are simultaneously both, even if you don’t intend to be.
Writing this makes me feel a bit like I’m back in Psych class, but I’ve been revisiting certain things lately, which is why I am writing about such a personal, private matter, but if what I’m saying helps even one person get out of a toxic relationship, then that’s important and necessary.
If you’re in any kind of relationship where your words and feelings are being defined in an incorrect manner, where you are constantly insulted, and berated, it is time to take a closer look at this relationship. Thinking this person is “the best you can do”, having low, little, or no self-esteem, or coming from a “people pleasing” type of family are all potential signs you’ve probably overlooked. Most people do. When you’ve been taught that everything around you is “normal” and a part of your daily life, you stop questioning things. You begin to lose your inner voice. Once you lose your inner voice, you start to become everything the abuser has defined you as. Your thoughts, feelings, actions, everything is now completely defined by someone else. Moreover, you question yourself and promise yourself you’ll be better for them, that you will do everything right, not realizing that your life is your own, it is not owned by someone else.
Believe it or not, I am a product of abuse. Not just from the relationship I am talking about, but from my childhood. I am very forthcoming about that fact when approached, but generally I keep such things to myself. However, when a person comes to me and needs help, I am the first person to listen, and the first to say something.
For many, many years I handled the abuse (verbal, emotional, and physical) by throwing myself into my writing and my singing. One day I snapped, I’d had enough. I was 100% committed in the fact that I’d kill the other person and spend my life in jail, but I believed in my cause because I was protecting two other people. I took the brunt of everything so they wouldn’t have to. To this day, one of those people denies that 99% of the abuse ever occurred. It must be nice living in such a warped bubble of false memories, but I know what I lived, I know what I saw, and it is sad for me to see this person deny the abuse and become the abuser themselves. If you correct this person, or disagree with them, they will say YOU are abusing THEM. It’s a vicious cycle, however, I know that by standing up and saying ENOUGH, and being committed to putting a stop to it, that I did the right thing. If I hadn’t, I’d be in jail right now. Or worse.
People are often shocked to learn that I’ve been through such things. I don’t deny being strong and confident, and I don’t deny that I will say something is wrong when it is wrong, regardless of who is saying it. I will admit to being wrong on the rare occasion that I am. But I will not allow myself to live a life of abuse. I won’t allow someone to define me, to disrespect me, to use me, to tell me what I think, to tell me where to go, or tell me what I am allowed to do. When someone behaves that way around me, I am very happy to show them the door. I know I deserve better.
I look for different things in people now, and I always pay attention to my intuition. It is an immense part of who I am. If someone or something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If something feels innately wrong, re-evaluate it and follow your instincts. Intuition will never lie to you, but the heart will. If your relationship involves young children, get out NOW. You do not want your child/children to be affected by the abuse inflicted upon their mother in front of them. I know people that have stayed in these relationships because they believed that taking their children out of the home during the formative years was the worst possible thing they could do. It’s not. The worst thing you can do is stay and allow them to think that what they’re hearing, seeing, and living is normal. If you get out early enough, you will save yourself and your child/children a fortune in therapy bills.
Once upon a time, I was a moron. It won’t happen again, because I am firmly committed to not allowing it. No one defines me, except me.
*If you need help getting out of an abusive/unhealthy relationship or are living with domestic violence and don’t know where to turn please go to any of the following organizations for assistance: http://soarinri.org/ http://leavingabuse.com/, http://www.thehotline.org/, http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/, http://www.teendvmonth.org/, etc.
Do not be afraid to search the Internet and Yellow Pages for additional resources available to you in your area/country. If your abuser uses the same computer, always be sure to delete your browsing history to protect yourself from additional harm, or go to the library if available and search for information there.*
“Once Upon A Time”, and all material herein, unless otherwise indicated and credited to its owner(s), is copyright © 2013 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Editor’s Note: This is about two relationships that I combined into one story. It’s about a 70/30 split between the two. I was engaged to both of them. I can say in clear truth that the second person was a far better person than the first, and he did not verbally or emotionally abuse me. He simply wasn’t the right person for me because we wanted different things. He thought I wanted a lifestyle, which was not the case. I do not believe in giving up love, respect, loyalty, and fidelity for “things”. He wanted the “little woman” at home raising the kids in the amazing house, and yes, he would have been a great provider and a good father, but he didn’t realize that meant he’d have to be loyal, committed, and most importantly, faithful. I won’t settle for a half-life, no one should.
An Important Issue
I was really inspired by this. It IS disgusting how women are publicly shamed for this, as if they’re doing something obscene (and I’m not talking about nursing your ten year old!). I know women who’ve been asked to leave places where they couldn’t have been more discrete about feeding their fussy newborns. The attitude that we should all “be at home” is so caveman-ish to me. I think this is an excellent video and I hope everyone will share it with mothers and friends.
*This story really touched my heart. Growing up, even though both of my parents were at the dinner table each night, I always felt disconnected from our massive extended family. The only people who were around were close family friends, my Grandparents, and my Aunt. I have since lost both of my parents and the closest family members (physically, not emotionally) are about 100 miles away. I have no sense of community, I have no support when the going gets tougher than tough because everyone is out-of-state or out of the country, and those that are physically closest simply do not care to be present in my life. People talk to me on the phone and they e-mail me on occasion, but that’s not a consistent relationship.
I have been assured by my best friend and my Aunt that when I get married and have kids, I will have a sense of community. I hope that they’re right. In the meantime, I think this story sheds some light on military families and the sacrifices they make. I have family & friends that have served this country and as we make our way towards the 4th of July, stories like this that make me proud to be an American. My sense of community though, that’s still a work in progress.*
When God Created Mothers
When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said. “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”
And God said, “Have you read the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts…all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands.”
The angel shook her head slowly and said. “Six pairs of hands….no way.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems.” God remarked. “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”
“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel. God nodded.
“One pair that sees through closed doors whenever she asks, ‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t, but what she has to know, and of course the ones in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say. ‘I understand and I love you’, without so much as uttering a word.”
“God,” said the angel touching his sleeve gently, “Get some rest tomorrow….”
“I can’t,” said God, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick, can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger, and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower.”
The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.
“But tough!” said God excitedly. “You can imagine what this mother can do or endure.”
“Can it think?”
“Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.
Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.
“There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model.”
“It’s not a leak,” said the Lord, “It’s a tear.”
“What’s it for?”
“It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
“You are a genius, ” said the angel.
Somberly, God said, “I didn’t put it there.”
Happy Mother’s Day to any and all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, and pet mothers reading this.
My Writing Roots
We all start somewhere, especially in terms of writing. My roots are steeped in tradition in the sense that I come from a family well versed with the written and spoken word. I, myself, have a way with words. There’s not a lot I won’t say. I’m direct, I have no time for bullshit, I speak the exact same way that I write, but I wasn’t always like that.
At an extremely young age, I was painfully shy and introverted. My extroverted self only “came out to play” when she was completely comfortable with those around her. There had to be a measure of trust, and even still, I held back a lot. Today, I am an introverted extrovert, but I’m also an extremely dominant personality. I can’t even begin to count the times the word “intimidating” has been used to describe me. The people that know me best know that I’m actually not like that, but it’s something I can turn on in an instant. We all have built-in mechanisms we use when dealing with others. If I have to amp up my intimidation factor, I go with it. Dumbing myself down and playing the pathetic card aren’t things I do very well, which is probably one of the reasons I’m single. What can I say? I didn’t major in drama, and I’m not an actress. To quote another Scorpio woman, “I’ve never faked it for a man, and I’m not going to fake it for anyone else.” Exactly.
I started writing as an alternative form of communication. I’d been given a school assignment at the time and I put it off for as long as humanly possible, until my mother was finally clued in that this assignment was way past due, and my Mom, God Rest & Bless Her Soul, was not the type to let her kids fail. She also never sugarcoated anything. If I had no talent in any area, she’d tell me not to quit my day job. If I had talent in an area, she was the first person to tell me to run with it. More parents should be that way.
I was convinced I did not have the ability to do said assignment, but my mother said “Honey, you’re over-thinking this. Just write what you think and write what you feel. If someone doesn’t like it, that’s their problem. You’ve still done the assignment and given it your best.” It was a very simple, honest statement, but it was as if she’d opened some kind of gateway for me, and in many respects, I know that she did. How many parents ever tell their children to say what they think and feel?! None that I know, but she opened a door that day, a door that has always remained wide open for me. I’ve been writing ever since.
I might have been kind of raw initially, but that grew into talent and ability very quickly. People commented on it, people took notice, and I started winning small awards. I was known for the fact that I was a writer, and I was also known for the fact that keeping my mouth shut when a voice needed to be heard wasn’t high on my list of priorities.
As I previously said, I was quiet, shy, and observant. Most writers are great observers of others, as well as observers of behavior and body language. I immediately realized that people responded to my opinionated take on all things, and I went with it. That eventually led to me operating my own “by-subscription-only” publication. It was not a magazine, but it wasn’t a flimsy joke either. A year into that project I was faced with a decision, realizing I could not run two publications simultaneously, and soon found myself the founder & President of a non-profit fan organization specializing in an individual’s athletic career (and at this point, I say “athlete” with a very thinly veiled cough. I’m not naming names. If I did, you’d throw rotting fruit at his house. I’m actually all for that, really. I’d be happy to give you his name and address. Ok, so I’m actually too classy to do that, but I’d still love to see someone hit him with an over-ripe tomato, or 400.).
I did everything from dealing with fans one-on-one, to handling personal appearances. Public & Fan Relations is no joke. I was also responsible for a fan based publication, which went out to roughly three thousand people all over the world at a time at its height (yeah, the post office loved me!). Sounds like no big deal, but it is, especially when you have to write more than half of it, do the layout and design, approve everything for print, and take it all by hand to the copier yourself. I had gotten to the point where I was turning people down because membership was out of control. If someone hadn’t said to me one day “You’re far too talented to be working for the likes of this asshole. You need to be doing your own thing, promoting yourself and your own work.”, I might still be in that job, which is still one of the most under-appreciated, but mind-blowingly amazing things I have ever created and done.
I did not have staff assisting me with any of that work. Not unless you count the fact that a handful of people submitted work, photos, and art for the publication, most of which had to be re-written, re-vamped, heavily edited, etc. And don’t get me started on all of the fan mail, because I answered all of it, every single bit of correspondence, myself. Not in a “form letter” kind of way, but in the most personal, professional way I knew how. I would never have been able to grow if it had not been for the fans, for word of mouth, for people being hooked on the work I produced. The work was mine. Every single second of hard work was mine, and mine alone, and in turn, people tried copying it. Many took my hard work and did exactly that without offering me so much as a “Would this be ok?”, and they quickly found out that the word “copyright” isn’t a lame or tame expression, it means “I own this, don’t F!@# with it.” True writers and artists do not appreciate or respect theft of their work. Plagiarizing someone else’s hard work because you yourself possess not an ounce of talent is cowardly, pathetic, and a host of other things I am lady enough not to say here.
After many, many years of this work, which resulted in carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, and ulcers, I then went through a series of personal & professional loss, and I had to take a step back. That step turned out to be a huge step away, a step I needed. It was a huge turning point.
Time doesn’t heal everything, but it can certainly help you see clearer than you’ve ever seen, to the point where you say “I’m done.” The only difference is, I meant it. I was done being unappreciated, I was done with the severe lack of respect, I was done catering to people who only wanted to get closer to what I had earned. It’s an extremely unattractive thing, riding someone else’s coat-tails. I went from being a sought after friend & advisor to having just a handful of people left in the world that I valued. More would continue to slip away, but after a while, you no longer think about it any more. It’s done, it’s the past, and I don’t spend a lot of time looking back.
At that particular point in time I chose a different career path and even started writing a book about my experiences in the new career. I had a lot of things I wanted to accomplish there, and only in the last year did I discover that someone else came up with a similar idea and is now turning a profit on it, which just goes to show you that there’s some truth to the saying “Everything under the sun has already been thought of.”, and yet, I am still fiercely protective of my work and ideas. I’m a writer, I have to be.
I shelved the book after getting my degree, not because I couldn’t finish it, but because my father was losing what would be a 15 year battle with cancer. I couldn’t write, constantly be at the hospital, constantly care for my mother, and maintain a decent level of sanity. The day I got a phone call from an Emergency Room physician telling me to get to the hospital immediately, I was prepared for the worst.
I stood there with my family, my father out like a light in cardiac care recovery, as a doctor quietly told me that the cancer they THOUGHT they had gotten through multiple operations, through several rounds of radiation, and the experimental treatment that landed him in the hospital for over a month that didn’t rid him of cancer, but brought all of his heart problems to light, had spread throughout his body. She was a fine physician, truly, but the next year and a half was hell on my father & my family. In the middle of all this, my Mom became sicker than she had originally been, so it was a constant back & forth. I was pretty sure I’d never write again, and at that point, I didn’t care.
I knew for quite some time that I was going to lose my father young. I always knew he would never see me get my degree (I graduated between semesters so that I could be close at hand, just in case.), that he’d never walk me down the aisle, that he’d never get to see his Grandchildren. I’d known this to the depth of my soul for a very long time, and yet the morning the phone call came, I was prepared and unprepared, all in the same breath. When I had gotten the final notice that it was time to move him to hospice, I fought like a vicious animal over it, I refused to do it, until he finally agreed that it was time, he’d had enough. By then he could no longer speak, the only person who understood him was me, and it was an extremely upsetting time for all of us.
Right about that time I picked up a newly released CD at my local Target and these incredible lyrics popped right out at me from the CD jacket. I read them to my Mom and said “Do you think I could write the eulogy? Would that be ok?” Traditionally at Jewish funerals, even the most relaxed, laid back ones, the only person who speaks is the Rabbi. I’ve always found it cold, a bit phoney, especially if the Rabbi doesn’t truly know the deceased, and I wanted to do something that I knew would honor my father when he eventually did pass away. It took me about two months to piece it together, and the night before the funeral I was up until way past my bedtime putting the finishing touches on it. It’s truly one of the finest things I have ever written, and I know I not only made my father proud that day, but I pretty much brought the house down. People who’ve known me my entire life came up to me afterwards and said “I had no idea you could write like that!”
I remember e-mailing my best friend a copy and she was so floored by what I’d written. Unable to be present herself for the funeral, we immediately made plans for her to be present for the unveiling the following year, not knowing that my mother would pass away five months later, making her even more intent on being present, because she knew & loved my mother.
I gave the eulogy at my mother’s funeral as well. A cousin I don’t really speak to came up to me afterwards and said “Ypu have a real gift, you should do something with it.” Yeah, because my incredibly expensive degree is just plain useless!! Backwards comments are so insulting. For my parents’ unveiling, I gave an 11 page speech to my best friends (my brother’s & my own) and the few family members that deigned to show up who I share blood with, and not much else. My Aunt being the exception in the family, we’re very close and I love & respect her. I absolutely adore my Rabbi as well, and he has been an immense support from day one. He too encourages my progress as a writer.
It was right around that time that I started praying more than usual. I would often say “Mom, send me an idea I can work with. Send me something we’d both love to read.” My Mom was the person I shared books, music, movies, and TV with. We’d fight over books, we loved so many of the same things, and sometimes she’d read something and say “You could do this. You’ve got what it takes. Don’t box yourself in to a genre, you’re better than a lot of what’s out there.” Sometimes I wrote that off as my Mom being my Mom, and simply being proud of her daughter and believing in me, but eventually I did start believing that she was right. Most of the time, she was, so why couldn’t she be right about this as well?
One day, a tiny idea blossomed inside my head. I shook it off, but it became persistent and it was my mother’s voice basically saying “I like this. You can write it. Start typing, here’s an idea, see what you can do with it.”
I spent a lot of time after that writing, researching, and four months in I presented the first few chapters to my Aunt for her opinion, and because I desperately needed feedback I could trust, feedback not my own. She liked 90% of it and recommended some minor changes. A few months later I was back with the changes she had recommended and the additional chapters I’d been working on. She loved it, every bit of it, and said “You need to finish this. If I was flipping through this book in Barnes & Noble, I would buy it, and so would a lot of other people.”
Like my mother, my Aunt isn’t into the sugarcoating. If I lack the talent, I’m told I lack the talent, whereas when I’ve got it, I am encouraged to keep on pursuing it. She’s been that way with me my entire life, she’s never played games with my emotions or bullshitted me, so I respect her advice and value her opinion.
Book 1 has since received an official title, and despite being in re-writes, it will eventually be ready to be shopped around. When you begin a book and it’s not a stand-alone novel, it’s important to do the groundwork for future novels, and to think about the back story to your characters. I’ve got most of the series story-boarded out and I continue to write and do research on where the story will take you, what you will learn about each character, all while taking you on a believable adventure that you can get lost in. I, personally, prefer stories that, while fiction, are still pretty honest in the telling. There is a LOT of truth in the first book and in each of the books I have started writing chapters to. In many respects, these books are therapeutic in how they have helped me write out my anger and hostility about certain things, but also tell a story I believe in.
Writing hasn’t just given me my voice and a great deal of strength & confidence, but it’s also how I met my best friend, and many other friends that I am close to and would do anything for.
Marion found me through a mutual acquaintance when I was doing Public & Fan Relations. Four years into our friendship (this was before e-mail became so huge, believe it or not we actually wrote *gasp* letters to one another. And by “letter” I mean 6-20 page letters on a weekly basis. Marion blames me for the length, apparently I’ve got a lot to say. LOL.), she & her sister, who I am also friends with, flew here, though I was living in another state at the time, and spent a week visiting. We did everything from shop, goof off, laugh, enjoy great food, and I took them to the original Yankee Stadium where we took in their first official baseball game. It was a great week, despite the serious late July/early August heat/humidity, and we have been friends from day one. I have other friends that have also come in to my life through my writing and remained my friends through thick & thin, not caring what career change I may have made at any given time, but caring about who I am as a person, and knowing that at the end of the day, I say what I mean and I mean what I say, and that I am there for them no matter what, that my love and support will not waver. I can travel to a lot of places in this world and I have family in those countries, people who I’ve known for so long that they are closer to me than blood, and I think that’s a fabulous thing. Writing has gifted me with a lot, and I will always be grateful to my Mom for giving me the confidence to realize that this gift was in my arsenal.
So there you have it, my writing roots. Trust me when I say that as a writer, no matter what we may write about, we tell some of the best (true) stories.